ISSUE 2   May 20, 2010


The Canadian flax variety ‘CDC Triffid’ was genetically modified (GM) to be resistant to herbicides containing sulfonylurea. It was developed by the University of Saskatchewan Crop Development Centre senior research scientist Alan McHughen. The variety was registered with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in the mid-1990s. But European customers, who buy 60 percent of Canada's flax, indicated that they did not want to buy any GM flax. Canadian flax farmers and producer groups, afraid the Europeans would label all Canadian flax as contaminated, pushed for the elimination of CDC Triffid. The variety was subsequently deregistered in the spring of 2001. The flax variety was never grown commercially, but roughly 40 farmers from across the Canadian Prairies were multiplying seed in anticipation of future demand for the variety. After deregulation of the variety around 200,000 bushels of CDC Triffid flax seed was collected from farms across the Canadian Prairies and the flax was crushed.

On September 10th 2009 the European Union Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed reported finding the unapproved genetically modified flax variety (CDC Triffid) in food products in Germany. Further testing since that time has found the unapproved gene in other flax products and/or unprocessed flax seed.

The flax variety CDC Triffid (FP967 ), is not authorized for food or feed use in the European Union. The consequence is that any food product or flax seed which is tested and is found to be positive for FP967 cannot be marketed in the European Union and there is zero tolerance. Even if a very low level of contamination is detected, the product is not acceptable in Europe. The CDC Triffid GM issue is mainly of importance if flax seed will be exported to Europe. It is additionally important in organic production systems in the US, which also have a zero tolerance regarding GM flax.

There is a genetic test available with a construct-specific method for detection of FP967. The testing method is accredited and fully validated and is available and used by a number of testing labs both in Europe and North America. The test for the genetic modification of CDC Triffid flax was developed by Genetic ID Laboratories in USA and Europe.

The recommended option for Canadian producers to minimize risk of growing flax contaminated with Triffid is the planting of seed that has been tested for Triffid and shown to be negative. However, as not all seeds are tested, there is a chance that contamination is not detected.

If US producers are concerned about seed contaminated with the European unapproved GM trait, they could test their seed source, but this is fairly expensive.

More information about CDC Triffid flax and testing labs can be found on the Flax Council of Canada website at

The National Agricultural Statistics Service
is projecting 395,000 planted acres of flax in
North Dakota in 2010. This is a projected
increase of 100,000 acres compared with 2009.

Hans Kandel
Extension Agronomist broadleaf crops



Favorable conditions allowed for corn planting to get off to an early start this year, with 44% of the anticipated corn acreage in ND planted by the May 2nd USDA Crop, Livestock and Weather Report. This compared very favorably to 0% last year and 16% for the 5-year average. Unfortunately, the cool and wet weather during the first two weeks of May prevented further corn planting and has significantly delayed corn emergence. USDA reported this week (for the week ending May 2) that 58% of the corn crop had been planted but that only 17% had emerged. This compares to 60% planted and 12% emerged for the five-year average. The lack of emergence of most of the corn that was planted before the first week of May means that there are hundreds of thousands of corn acres where the seed has been in the ground for three or more weeks but has not yet emerged. This begs the questions, when is corn going to start emerging and should we be worried about the expensive seed that is in the soil awaiting warmer days?

In response to the first question, when there is sufficient moisture in the soil to allow the corn seed to germinate, like this year, the rate of emergence is dependent on soil temperature. Corn is a warm season crop and requires relatively warm weather for growth and development. In fact, there is little measureable growth in corn when the average daily temperature is below 50 degrees F. For this reason, a base temperature of 50 degrees F is used in calculating growing degree-days (GDDs) for corn. Corn requires about 120 GDDs from seeding until emergence. Our GDD accumulations this year have been dismal. For the state as a whole we are between 50 and 90 GDDs behind normal and depending on the region of the state up to 40 GDDs behind last year. Assuming a planting date of April 26th, to date (May 18th) Carrington has only accumulated 82 GDDs and Fargo 102 GDDs. Therefore, it should not be surprising that very little corn has emerged. With the arrival of warmer weather, we have been accumulating 10 to 14 GDDs per day. We should therefore begin to see much of the earlier planted corn emerging in the next few days if this warmer weather persists.

Now to the second question as to the status of seed that has been in the soil for three or more weeks. The longer the period between planting and emergence the greater the risk of diseases and insects damaging the seed and the emerging seedling. There are a number of pathogens that can damage or kill corn seeds and seedlings that are favored by cool, wet conditions like those we have experienced this month. Normally, however, we do not observe seed and seedling diseases in corn since corn seed is treated with fungicides. I could not find any definitive data on how long the effectiveness of these fungicides lasts. Most pathologists will tell you, however, that they provide at least two weeks of protection. Since emergence of early planted fields is taking more than three weeks this year, we may see some seed rots and seedling diseases particularly in the wetter parts of fields where disease activity will be the greatest. Wireworms, the cornseed maggot and white grubs can also cause losses especially before seedlings develop their nodal roots.

Cold temperature injury may also be a concern this year. This injury can occur when the corn seed is exposed to cold temperature for an extended time. Furthermore, when the dry seed imbibes cold water (some refer to this as it first drink of water) imbibitional injury may result. Cell membranes in the seed can rupture at low temperatures, causing cell contents to leak, providing a good source of food for pathogens. In addition to poor stands, cold injury or imbibitional may cause the mesocotyl to corkscrew or the coleoptile and true leaves to emerge from the side of the coleoptile. Plants that developed from these seedlings may be stunted and have distorted leaves and may also develop more slowly than normal plants. This can result in unevenness in the growth stages of plants within the field. Anything that impacts plant stands and evenness of emergence and/or plant size has the potential to negatively impact yields. Additional information with pictures of cold injury symptoms of corn seedlings can be found at:

(Diagnosing Chilling and Flooding Injury to Corn Prior to Emergence by Imad Saab and Steve Butzencan).

Joel Ransom
Extension Agronomist for Cereal Crops

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