Right from the start

Seed represents potential yield. It makes sense to protect it from day one. 

A crop under threat


Seed treatments are an important layer of protection for cereals, soybeans and pulse crops during the critical establishment phase. They guard against seed and soil-borne diseases and insects regardless of conditions. Check out the bite-size insights below to learn how to protect your crop’s yield right from the start.


You don’t know what you don’t know – until you get your seed tested for germination quality and vigour. A lab test will also help you detect disease that may be lurking on the surface of your seed.


Your next opportunity is to get your seed lots tested about six weeks before seeding. A lot can happen as temperatures and moisture levels fluctuate during months in storage. Test each seed lot (every 20 tonnes) separately.


Germination tests measure how many seeds will grow in ideal conditions.


Vigour tests measure how well the seed will perform under stressful conditions. You can have 99% germ and 80% vigour, and as soon as the seed faces stress, it underperforms.


Look for a vigour result of at least 85% or look for a new seed source.

Seedling blights and stem root rots show up in cereals across the Prairies each year. Although we associate disease with moist or wet conditions, the truth is that different diseases thrive in different conditions as shown below. Adding a seed treatment helps protect your seed and yield potential and gives your seed the additional vigour required to overcome stressful conditions and produce even emergence.



Soil Moisture






C.Sativus (Common Root, Spot Blotch)

Fusarium C. Sativus







Pythium Rhizoctonia

Once you’ve got Fusarium head blight (FHB) it’s tough to eliminate. But you have three key opportunities to make sure it doesn’t take hold in your cereal crop.


1.     Test your seed – If a seed lot is found to have a high Fusarium percentage, particularly the Graminearum strain, seedlings may not emerge at all, or they could die, causing poor plant stands. If the seed has more than 5% Graminearum or 14% other seed-borne species, do not use it. If it shows up at a smaller percentage, apply a seed treatment.

2.     Plan for fungicide – Key Fusarium infection time is the beginning of flowering in wheat. If you’re concerned about FHB, monitor conditions. Warmth and humidity for two to three days in a row at the beginning of flowering can lead to spore spread. Optimal spray timing is when the first flower in the middle of the head is beginning to emerge. This has been shown to give the broadest window to hit the majority of acres at the right time.

3.     Manage for the future – Plan your rotation to include a two-year break between susceptible crops to help break down the disease cycle.

Cargill agronomists report a rise in the occurrence of smuts last year. Smut can be a significant threat to cereal production, as yield losses are directly related to the percentage of diseased tillers. If 10% of the plants in a field have smut, there will be a 10% yield loss. Some types of smut affect grain quality, and maltsters generally have zero tolerance for smutted barley.


Farmers may see two types of smuts on the Prairies. Covered smut (common bunt) is externally seed-borne, meaning spores from diseased plant heads attach to the surface of healthy seeds. It thrives when seeding into cold soil in late fall and early spring. True loose smut (loose smut) is internally seed-borne, meaning it spreads when infected seed is planted. It thrives in cool, wet July weather.


Possible cause: The seeds planted this year were contaminated.


Prevention: Get your seed tested at a lab before deciding to plant it. If there’s 1-5% smut in the seed, get it treated. If there’s more than 5% smut, get new seed. Barley has particularly low resistance to this disease, so treating it is always a good idea.


Possible cause: Poor seed treatment or seed coverage


Prevention: Check your seed treatment product label to see what it offers. Not all are registered for smut control, but Western Canadian farmers have a number to choose from. There are no foliar fungicide products registered for smut. Even with the best seed treatment product, you’ll lose control if coverage is poor. A properly calibrated auger and applicator ensure you’re not over- or under-treating your seed. Cargill offers a service that will bring a mobile Storm Pro Mobile Seed Treater right to your farm to treat your seed for you.

Wireworms like free-draining soils with medium texture. Their activity picks up at the same time the crop is emerging and becoming active, threatening young, vulnerable plants. The wireworm population can grow to more than 1 million in an acre. Adult click beetles emerge in early spring and breed at about 10°C. Larvae emerge later in the crop but post little threat until the next spring.


Since they prefer to lay their eggs where there is dense vegetation, freshly broken ground can have a higher population of wireworms. Each larva can feed on up to two cereal seeds and together can take down up to 50% of a field. They feed on small roots and stems of young plants below ground. You likely won’t see the problem until it’s too late.


Increase time between cereal crops. Wireworms can go up to two years without food and can survive off humus in the soil. That’s why an extended rotation can be important. Rotate cereals with pulses and canola, which wireworms don’t tend to feed on extensively. No cereal on cereal, or your wireworm population will grow.


Cereals are generally seeded at ½-2 inches deep, and growers will sometimes seed even deeper than 2 in. I recommend seeding at the shallower end to keep your crop ahead of the pest. Worms move up in the soil profile as conditions warm so shallow-seeded crops that can emerge and establish quickly have an advantage. 


Use a seed treatment for suppression. Once the crop has established you can’t do much to protect it from wireworms, so at a minimum, you’ll want to apply an insecticide seed treatment.

Get set for success


Want to ensure you’re protecting your crop’s yield potential right from the start? Here’s what you need to know.

The right solution for your seed

Use our decision tree to decide on the seed protection that's right for you.

How to manage seed-borne disease in cereals

Watch as Syngenta Seedcare Technical Lead Ted Labun walks through the basics of seed-borne diseases in cereal crops. (And he does it in the rain!)

Wireworms on the Canadian Prairies

Learn more about the life cycle and habits of wireworms, and find out if they're showing up in fields near you.

Applying seed treatment with Storm Seed Treater a “no-brainer”

Even, effective application is the final key to ensuring your seed treatment provides that important initial layer of protection for your crop against early season threats. Using a service like Cargill’s Storm Pro Mobile Seed Treater  takes the guesswork out of seed treatment. A properly calibrated auger and applicator ensure that you’re not over- or under-treating your seed. It does take some forward planning, so if you’ve had issues with seed treatment performance in the past, call your agronomist when you book your seed. We can bring the seed treater to you to ensure your seed is ready to go when you are.

Watch to see why our customers say booking on-farm seed treatment is a “no-brainer.”


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Book your seed treatment today

Don’t wait until spring to make sure your seed is covered! Request a quote on the seed treatment of your choice from your Cargill location.

Always read and follow label directions.