CEREAL GROWERS could be needlessly spending money on fungicide dressings for seed, according to the Home-Grown Cereals Authority.

Over 90% of wheat seed sown in the UK is routinely treated with fungicide as an insurance measure against a range of seed-borne diseases.

“This is not always justified on health grounds,” said HGCA director of research Graham Jellis.

New methods of testing seed for a range of diseases can now be used by growers, especially the growing number who use farm-saved seed, and could help save a costly seed treatment.

“There are growing environmental concerns about using pesticides routinely without assessing risk and cost-benefit,” pointed out Prof Jellis.

The new fast and accurate seed-testing techniques, developed with HGCA funding, have reduced the turn-round time for seed testing to a couple of days.

This allows greater freedom for farmers to decide on the need for treatment, which treatments are suitable and whether costs could be saved without yield loss by sowing untreated seed, said the HGCA.

The new HGCA ‘Wheat seed health and seed-borne diseases guide‘ has more information on using seed treatments in wheat.