Removal of Fusarium graminearum from the Alberta Pest Control Act
Q. Why has Fusarium graminearum (Fg.) been removed as a pest from the Alberta Pest Control Act?
A. Fusarium graminearum was first added to the Alberta Pest Control Regulation in 1999 as a measure to prevent the establishment of the pathogen that, at the time, was deemed to be the main causal pathogen in Fusarium Head Blight (FHB). Since then, there are many reasons that a legislation change is necessary:
- The disease is now endemic, with the Canadian Grain Commission reporting that nearly all crop districts in Alberta have had FHB detected in harvest samples. This has resulted in the necessary change from disease prevention to management.
- In the past decade, corn has become an established crop throughout Alberta for both silage and grazing purposes. Although corn itself is relatively unaffected by the pathogen, corn can be a source of the pathogen. The old legislation did not address other sources of infection, but rather hinged on a single source of infection – seed.
- Research has shown a change in the pathogen responsible for Fusarium Head Blight and the resulting dangerous mycotoxin known as DON. FHB and DON are caused by other pathogens in addition to Fusarium graminearum. Therefore, legislation that only focuses on one source of infection by a single pathogen is no longer relevant, and may in fact give the crop industry a false sense of security.
Q.What does the legislation change mean to seed cleaning plant staff and boards of directors?
A. There will likely not be a drastic change in day to day operations due to the legislation amendment. However, the provincial board of directors would encourage every plant board and management team to adopt or continue to do the following:
- Have a policy that requires growers to test their seed for Fusarium species. This will likely not be a change for many plants – keep up the good work. (Please note in the past, testing was only focused on F. graminearum; there could be recommendations to test for other Fusarium species as well as Fusarium graminearum.)
- Communicate and work closely with the appropriate Ag Service Board/ local pest inspector to develop guidelines and policies relating to “sensible” infection levels that should be utilized for seed in any given area, as there is no longer a zero tolerance for infection.
- Educate yourself and others regarding fusarium head blight beyond only seed infection. Recognize that FHB mitigation involves a multi-pronged approach, including, but not limited to the utilization of high-quality seed. Many resources are being developed to assist the crop sector value chain to ensure information is readily available.
Q. I sell screenings for feed purposes, now buyers may think Fusarium will be more prevalent. How do I address feed buyers’ concerns?
A. The old legislation did not address Fusarium levels in grain destined for any use other than for seed purposes. The legislation amendment changes nothing here. It has always been a recommendation for end-use buyers to always check the levels of the mycotoxin, DON, at an accredited grain testing lab. The Alberta Fusarium Management Plan refers to safe levels of DON for grain/feed uses on page 6. Here is a link to the document: Alberta Fusarium Management Plan. Also note that the aforementioned document states that “Lightweight, shriveled, fusarium-damaged kernels (FDK) may contain high concentrations of DON”. Therefore, screening products including dust could have toxic levels of DON. If marketing a screening product, act accordingly.
Q. How can I show leadership in FHB mitigation now that there is no regulation forcing farmers to test their seed?
A. Developing and/or maintaining a plant policy that requires all seed to be tested for fusarium species is a good start. Farmers have been getting a Fusarium test in the past as it was required by regulation, hence requiring that this practise continue is not changing the habits of your customers. Before the legislation change, some farmers tested because they HAD to. Now farmers will test because they NEED to. Remaining engaged in the developments relating to FHB mitigation will also assist in your co-op seed plant remaining a conduit for factual positive information.
Q. Explain how the SEED SMART TM pen. Program may play a role in assisting with building and maintaining a culture of seed testing.
A. Alberta Seed Processors (ASP) started the SEED SMART Program several years ago with the mission of instilling the practice of seed testing as an indispensable agronomic practice. It was, and still is, the goal of the program for every seed lot to be tested for at least germination and fusarium – regardless of the regulatory environment. ASP believes that seed testing makes sound agronomic sense, and is a practice that is vital to successful crop management. Farmers using farm-saved seed are advised to obtain a seed test including a minimum of germination and fusarium. Even though germination is required for seed certification purposes, and fusarium and other seed health factors are at the discretion of the seed seller, the SEED SMART program encourages seed buyers to ask for a certificate of analysis with tests required for certification as well as fusarium. More information on the seed smart program, including the benefits of obtaining tests beyond germination and fusarium can be found at SEED SMART.