DISEASE LEVELS on spring crop seed stocks appear to be low, despite difficult conditions last harvest according to results from seed tests.

That could allow growers to reconsider the need for seed treatments, says NIAB’s Jane Thomas.

Loose smut and leaf stripe are at very low levels on spring barley, she says. “And there’s isn’t a huge amount of fusarium on seed either, despite the weather conditions at harvest.”

Fusarium is less of a problem on spring crops anyway, she says. “Being drilled into warmer seed-beds allows the crop to grow away from any infection.”

With no major cereal disease concern, growers might be tempted to sow untreated seed, she says. “Getting home-saved seed tested is important,” she adds. “Seed-borne diseases aren’t visual at this stage. You can’t be sure about the health of the seed unless you’ve had a test done.”

But spending around 7.50/ha (3/acre) on a seed treatment, such as Raxil, Anchor, Beret Gold or Syngenta”s new Aurigen Gold is good value, says Masstock’s David Neale. “You don’t know what field conditions will be like.”

Don’t forget manganese either, he adds. “Manganese deficiency is a big issue on spring barley. Light soils are more prone to it, and establishment will suffer if seed isn’t treated.

“There are new formulations of manganese on the market now, which are more flowable than their predecessors.”

Growers must get beans tested this season, warns Dr Thomas. “Incidence of ascochyta is higher than usual, so seed stocks must be checked. Some won’t be usable.”

Nematode should also be tested for. “It’s around. Sowing infected seed is a recipe for disaster.”

Pea crops, particularly those aimed at premium markets, should be treated to prevent sample quality deteriorating, advises Mr Neale.

“Wakil XL is the best choice for high value crops. It does cost more, but covers all the main disease concerns, including downy mildew, which these varieties are very susceptible to.”

Leaf and pod spot, as well as ascochyta, are the threats to pea crops. “It’s all about peace of mind. Seed treatments are inexpensive compared to the penalties of some of these diseases.”