Fusarium head blight (FHB) is well established in Ontario, Manitoba and Eastern Saskatchewan grain crops. Also called scab, this disease has now moved into western Saskatchewan and parts of Alberta as well. Alberta has a Fusarium graminearium management plan which defines a prevention and control strategy.  FHB is caused by Fusarium graminearum, a fungus that produces a mycotoxin called deoxynivalenol (DON), also known as vomitoxin. Seed infected with DON cannot be sold into the food market and can cause serious health problems if fed to livestock.

There are a number of tests for fusarium, and each has a specific purpose. This bulletin lists three main tests and what they should be used for.

For more information on fusarium-related tests, please see our bulletins on the fusarium DNA test, and fusarium testing FAQ.

Fusarium Plate Test & PCR Test

To test for the presence of F. graminearum on your seed, there are two tests.  

The Canadian Grain Commission plate test:

  • Five-day test.
  • Gives a percentage of F. graminearum found in each sample to 0.5%.
  • Is an excellent follow-up for the fusarium DNA test.

The PCR test:

  • Two-day test.
  • Detects the presence of the DNA of F. graminearum in a sample but does not provide a quantitative result.

NOTE: These tests will not tell you if your seed contains vomitoxin in quantities high enough to be hazardous to animals (please see DON test, below).

Negative results from either of these tests mean that you can:

  • get your grain cleaned at any seed cleaning plant in Alberta.
  • sell your grain for seed in Alberta.

Positive results mean that:

  • your grain cannot be sold for seed in Alberta.
  • the grain could be used for feed or sold out of the province (see below).

NOTE: Keep in mind that F. graminearum may be non-viable on the seed sample, or it may have been present on the seed surface and killed during the bleach treatment routinely used as part of the plate testing method. Our Technical Help Line is available for further assistance in interpreting test results.DON Test (Vomitoxin)

A DON test is used when you want to check your grain for the presence of DON, or vomitoxin.

  • One-day test.
  • Uses an ELISA (enzyme-linked imunosorbent assay) method to detect the DON mycotoxin.
  • Provides you with the amount of the mycotoxin present in the sample, expressed in parts per million (ppm).

NOTE: The ELISA test will not tell you if F. graminearum is present on your seed. 

Negative results:

  • are an indication that if F. graminearum or F. culmorum are present in your grain, they were not producing mycotoxins at the time of the test. (Both species can produce DON.)

Positive results:

  • do not identify which species of fusarium is causing DON production, or if the fungus is still viable. (Because DON is a chemical produced by a fungus, it will not disappear, even if the fungus is no longer living.)

Positive DON Test results do not necessarily mean your grain cannot be used for feed. Please see Fusarium Testing FAQ.

Submitting a Sample

Please click here for complete information on how to submit seed for testing.