Pulse School

Is Your Seed Up to Snuff?

How confident are you that your pea and lentil seed is not limiting yield potential before you even put it in the ground?

With rising acres leading to a shortage of certified seed, there are serious concerns about the quality of the seed that will be used this spring.

Sarah Foster of 20/20 Seed Labs joins our own Kelvin Heppner for this Pulse School episode, offering an in-depth look at pulse germination and disease testing, as well as physical and chemical seed damage.

If possible, buy certified seed. If that’s not an option, a germination test is the first line of defence against planting poor seed, she says.

Germination rates for both lentils and peas should exceed 80 percent — above 85 percent is preferred, explains Foster.

From there, she suggests having a fungal screen done to determine disease levels, showing an example of bin-run lentil seed testing positive for ascochyta, anthracnose and fusarium.

“Beyond five percent of ascochyta and anthracnose, I wouldn’t consider using it for seed,” says Foster. She recommends always treating seed, as the pathogens listed above — as well as others like pythium and aphanomyces — may not be present in the seed, but are likely hanging around in the soil.

Related: Top 5 Tips for a Great Lentil Crop

As she demonstrates, treating a highly-diseased sample will reduce infection but won’t make up for poor germination.

Using pea samples submitted to 20/20’s lab, Foster shows how mechanical damage from handling can reduce germination levels. Damaged seeds will leach sugars and starches, serving as a food source for pythium.

Pre-harvest weed control can also cause chemical injury to seed, which she explains often exhibits itself in short, thickened primary roots, with extra branching and firming of secondary roots.