With harvest season approaching, Wisconsin agriculture officials remind farmers to take extra care to keep treated seed out of harvested crops to avoid contaminating animal feed or grain.

“Many farmers rely on treated seed to protect their seedlings from insects and disease at planting. However, it is illegal for treated seed to be in the grain supply,” states Greg Helmbrecht, seed specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. “Seeds protected with an insecticide or fungicide treatment should be handled carefully to prevent contamination of products that may be used for animal feed or human food.”

There have been cases where treated seed was found in harvested grain and it became a costly mistake.

“We know of incidents where pesticide-treated seed has been found in harvested grain unloaded at a mill or a grain processing facility,” Helmbrecht said. “Once the brightly-colored seed is identified, just even a few grains, the entire truckload or storage bin is considered contaminated and unfortunately, it’s the farmer who usually ends up buying the contaminated product.”

Prior to harvest, take every precaution possible to prevent cross contamination of harvested grain with seed treated with insecticides or fungicides. Check gravity boxes, truck beds, wagons and all equipment that will be used to haul harvested grain, animal feed or forage especially if that piece of equipment was used to carry treated seed in the spring.

“Visual inspection isn’t enough when dealing with farm equipment and treated seed,” Helmbrecht said. “If equipment handles treated seed, the equipment should be thoroughly cleaned by pressure washing and then thoroughly inspected. If you can’t do that, avoid using that equipment to handle untreated seed or grain,” Helmbrecht said.

Borrowed equipment might also have some hidden seeds so Helmbrecht recommends asking what hauled prior to using the equipment for harvest.

Unused treated seed must be properly handled as well.

“Store unused treated seed securely and separately from grain storage areas so none of it gets into your grain inventory during harvest. Be sure that treated seed is not left in the open where birds or other animals can eat it and keep it away from animal feed,” Helmbrecht said. “Better yet, if you have surplus or unused treated seed, check with your seed supplier to return it or find out proper disposal instructions. “

A placard is available on the department’s website for farmers to print and post as a reminder to handle treated seed with great care and caution. Go to http://datcp.wi.gov then click ‘plants’ then ‘seed.’ Copies of the placard are also available from the seed program at 608-224-4596 or send an email to Greg Helmbrecht at greg.helmbrecht@wisconsin.gov.

“There is an increased awareness of food safety so everyone involved in the food supply chain needs to take steps to ensure that we maintain our high quality of food and feed,” Helmbrecht said.

Source: Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection