The past decade has seen considerable changes in the management of grass seed as growers moved away from open-field burning of postharvest residue. Current management practices generally include baling and removing straw residue followed by flail chopping any remaining residue. In some cases, specialized flail choppers are used on the full straw load. Some growers practice no-till planting. It is not clear what long-term effect these practices will have on development of blind seed disease. Weather's role is significant. Several consecutive years of wet weather during flowering could be highly favorable for disease development.
Surveys of blind seed disease conducted over the past decade have established the presence of a low level in Oregon. The recent appearance of a high level of blind seed in some fields of tall fescue indicates the potential for development of the disease. The greatest risk will come from residue management practices that leave large numbers of seeds in the field. Practices such as field cleaning or late harvesting in which considerable seed shatter occurs will only encourage the disease under favorable conditions.
Although significant yield losses are possible, it is important to keep in mind that there can be a significant drop in seed value at relatively low levels of infection. Germination rates below 90 percent can significantly reduce the value of the crop. Thus, the presence of only 5 to 10 percent blind seed can hurt profits.
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Original posting: October 2001.