Farmer’s seed sources and seed quality: 2. seed health

Document Type : Research Paper


Seed Section, ICARDA, P.O. Box 5466, Aleppo, Syria.


The study assessed the health quality of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) and
barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) seed samples collected from formal and informal
sector in Ethiopia and Syria. In Ethiopia, several seed-borne fungi were found on
wheat samples: Cochliobolus sativum, Fusarium avenaceum, F. graminearum,
F. nivale, F. poae and Septoria nodorum. C. sativum was predominant with 84% of
samples infected (frequency) and 1.85% mean infection level (rate) followed by
F. graminearum with 74% and 1.54%, respectively. Certified seed consistently
showed less infection for most seed-borne pathogens. In Syria, 68% and 14%,
respectively, of wheat samples were infected with common bunt (Tilletia spp) and
loose smut (Ustilago tritici). Mean loose smut infection rate was 0.79%. In barley,
85% of samples were infected with covered smut (Ustilago hordei) and 83% with
loose smut (Ustilago nuda). Mean loose smut infection rate was 18%. Wheat seed
health was better than of barley in terms of frequency and rate of infection. In
Ethiopia, significant difference (P<0.001) in infection levels was detected for most
pathogens from different seed sources, but not in Syria. There were significant
differences (P<0.001) in mean infection levels across regions and districts for both
crops in Ethiopia and Syria. All seed samples infected with loose smut of wheat or
barley were in excess of minimum standards for seed certification across West Asia
and North Africa, showing fundamental weaknesses in seed health from both
formal and informal sources. National seed programs should set realistic standards
and introduce routine testing to produce healthy seed.