Cereal seed health and seed treatment strategies


Cereals & Oilseeds
Project code:
01 January 1995 - 31 December 1995
AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds.
AHDB sector cost:
£18,663 from HGCA (Project no 0035/1/94)
Project leader:
N D Paveley1, W J Rennie2, J C Reeves3, M W Wray3, D D Slawson4, W S Clark5, V Cockerell3 and A G Mitchell3 1ADAS High Mowthorpe, Duggleby, Malton, North Yorkshire YO17 8BP 2Scottish Agricultural Science Agency, East Craigs, Edinburgh, EH12 8NJ 3NIAB, Huntingdon Road, Cambridge CB3 0LE 4Pesticides Safety Directorate, Mallard House, Kings Pool, 3 Peasholme Green, York YO1 2PX



About this project

The objectives of the Review were to:

  • Summarise the mechanisms by which cereal seed health is maintained through the use of fungicide seed treatments, seed certification and health testing
  • Examine how efficiently current seed health practice meets the needs of the industry
  • Summarise current understanding of the epidemiology and importance of seed-borne diseases of cereals
  • Review seed health and seed treatment practices in other countries and consider how they might be applied under UK conditions
  • Consider how existing knowledge, and future seed testing technologies and research information, might be used to improve the efficiency of cereal production
  • Identify alternative future strategies for the maintenance or improvement of cereal seed health, and the costs and risks associated with them

The current practice of routine cereal seed treatment developed during a period when organomercury treatments were available at negligible cost, and seed health testing was in most cases impractical as a guide for treatment and in the seed certification process. Routine seed treatment continues to maintain a stable supply of healthy seed, but a number of economic and technical circumstances, listed below, have changed, making it appropriate to carry out a review.

  • Seed treatments now represent a significant cost
  • A recent survey of the health status of UK cereal seed stocks has allowed the proportion of seed stocks free of seed-borne disease to be quantified
  • New research has shown the risk of soil-borne fusarium seedling blight to be small
  • The relationships between seed health test results and field expression of disease have been better defined for some key pathogens
  • DNA and immunoassay technologies are now being used routinely for the detection of pathogens in medicine, and are beginning to be applied in plant health