Seed generally refers to grain intended for planting, while grain is the term for sale into the marketplace as food, feed or fuel. Quality has different meanings, depending on whether it is grain being characterized for sale as food, feed or fuel, or for use as seed to plant. For example, marketplace quality characteristics include colour, shape, size, uniformity, and freedom from debris. These are grading factors for which the Canadian Grain Commission has designated allowable levels. Conversely, quality characteristics of seed intended for planting include germination, vigour, freedom from weed seeds, genetic purity and the level of seed-borne disease. This fact sheet will focus on the importance of seed-borne diseases in cereals.
Planting cereal seed that is free of seed-borne pathogens is the primary means of limiting the introduction of pathogens, especially new pathogens, into a field. Planting infected seed may also result in widespread distribution of disease within the crop, and allows for an increased number of initial infection sites from which the disease can spread.
The consequence of planting infected seed depends on the pathogen in question. For those diseases that are primarily soil or residue-borne, planting infected seed is less important. The greatest concern is for those diseases where the pathogen is not commonly established in all soils, such as Fusarium graminearum.
For more information on seed testing and information on pathogens and guidelines for individual diseases please refer to our complete fact sheet on seed borne diseases in cereal crops.
Download the entire Seed Quality and Borne Diseases of Cereal Crops fact sheet (PDF)