The Agronomists, Ep 14: Kelly Turkington and Robyne Bowness Davidson on seedling diseases

For this episode of The Agronomists, we’re hanging in Alberta with two crop experts. Yes, it’s cold. It’s dark. But we’re going to have fun!

From seed to seedling, the early window of crop establishment is your one chance to set up the crop for success. Joining host Lyndsey Smith for this discussion are Kelly Turkington with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and Robyne Bowness Davidson with Alberta Agriculture, to discuss seedling issues of cereals and pulses.


  • Lyndsey’s internet is a bit in and out, but that’s ok. Nothing like acknowledging the realness of our stream, and the realness of everyday life. Fix rural internet already, internet gods. OK?
  • Aphanomyces : hard to say, much harder to control
  • Of course, Wheat Pete has a question about early seeding, especially when it comes to controlling the drought. Yes — get it in!

CLIP 1: Pulse School: Identifying Seed Borne Diseases & What To Do With Seed Test Results

  • Most diseases that attack pulses are seed-borne. Get that seed tested!
  • If we sent our seed in for testing in the fall, should we test again in the spring? Bowness Davidson says no, as diseases that will cause issues will be there in the fall already. Turkington says look at the year, first.
  • FHB is a big one in wheat, you guys. Keep watch.
  • Since we are on such tight rotations…this causes seed disease issues, for sure.
  • Seed treatments: what do we have for efficacy? Bowness Davidson says with the root-rot complexes we have, our seed treatments work quite well. Numerous seed treatments from numerous different companies. BUT, we have to do all the steps, correctly.
  • The problem with aphanomyces…we don’t have the right tools in the tool box to control it, yet.

CLIP 2: Wheat School: Application is the Key to Seed Treatment Effectiveness

  • Seed treatment is expensive, but the duo agrees its worth it.
  • Turkington says if ergot is the issue, a seed treatment isn’t the right place to try and control it.
  • Pollination factor for ergot…especially on the open florette crops
  • Scouting is important from the moment you put the seed in the ground, until the moment you harvest it, says Bowness Davidson. The knowledge you can gain is invaluable.
  • Good seed, good depth, the right field — use those best management practices!
  • Know what is in your field.
  • Not planting peas for six to eight years — that’s an immense amount of time. Let’s try to control aphanomyces as much as we can. You can rotate your pulses though!
  • Fusarium (FHB) is off the Pest Act in Alberta. Access to more varieties and research, says Turkington.
  • Can you apply too much seed treatment that would actually hurt the germination of that seed? Bowness Davidson says not likely. The rate would have to be very very high, but you are mostly just hurting your pocketbook.
  • Same question for inoculants. The answer: it is definitely something you should be checking out for. They are a living thing that is ever changing! Check with your seed company. Although, it’s not very common.

CLIP 3: Wheat School: Getting to the root cause of a poor germination test

  • When is it time to source a new seed lot? Bowness Davidson says if 10 per cent of your seed is coming back with storage moulds, it’s time. Same goes for mechanical or chemical damage.
  • Turkington says you need to look at what the germination and vigour tests are showing, but agrees with what Bowness Davidson says.
  • The upcoming years are going to include intercropping. Flixpea, for the win! (Lyndsey prefers lustard — a lentil/mustard intercrop).

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