Ever reached for a handful of seed just to check the color, the plumpness of the kernels or feel the smoothness of the seed coat?
It’s the farmer’s equivalent of kicking the tires before making a major purchase.
It’s fairly easy to go for a test drive before buying a new vehicle, but it’s not as easy when buying seed. And there’s a lot more riding on that seed as far as an investment goes. Using Certified Seed can help.
WHAT’S BEHIND THE TAG?
There’s a lot that goes into Certified Seed quality. A seed crop can only be grown on land that is approved for the purpose and produced according to standards set by the Canadian Seed Growers Association (CSGA). Crops are inspected by trained Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) personnel to ensure they meet those standards.
Once the seed crop has met field standards, it must be “conditioned” to meet pedigreed seed standards. Conditioning involves the removal of impurities, weed seeds, foreign material, undersized or damaged seeds, so that the remaining seed meets strict standards set by the federal government.
Only those plants authorized and accredited by CFIA can condition Pedigreed Seed, and all Pedigreed Seed must be conditioned. The Certified Seed tag cannot be applied until the seed meets all the standards. And once the tag is on, the seed must be stored in authorized Bulk Storage Facilities.
There is third party verification that all the standards are being met at each step. Seed growers must be qualified to grow higher generations of seed; seed conditioning plants must meet and maintain standards set by the Canadian Seed Institute (CSI) and CFIA; crops must be grown according to standards set by CSGA; seed labs and analysts must meet standards set by CSI, CFIA and the Commercial Seed Analysts Association; seed plant operators, graders, samplers and seed lab technicians must all be trained, licensed and accredited by CFIA and audited by CSI.
ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
But that’s not the end of the story. A lot can happen to that seed after the tag is applied and before it is planted the following season.
If the farmer is buying seed from the seed grower, the chain of custody is usually unbroken. However, if that seed is being purchased from a different retailer, it may have been subjected to a number of additional steps that may not be monitored as closely as the manufacturing process. The seed has been transported; stored in different bins; may have been treated or blended, or had other chemicals applied. A misstep at any level may mean that Certified Seed won’t perform as expected. It might not even be Certified Seed any longer.
How do you know? Ask your retailer.
Find out where that seed has been since the Certified Tag was applied. When was it grown? Where has it been stored? What treatments have been applied and when? What are the latest test results? If the retailer doesn’t know, buy your seed elsewhere.
Learn about the seed’s history before you buy — and you won’t have to kick the tires.