2 June 1995

Call for new standards

DESPITE the rapid development of the foliar disease ascochyta on beans this spring (Arable, Apr 14), a seed standard is still necessary.

"It is clear that infection can come from volunteers, soil and trash, blowing in from up to a kilometre away. But we need an integrated strategy to combat that, including seed standards," argues PBICs Mike Bearman.

Clean seed, possibly with thiram seed treatment, is a vital starting point, even if it has to be backed up with careful cultivations and the possible use of protectant fungicide sprays, he says.

But statutory certification should be deregulated, he maintains. A marketing standard, policed by MAFF officials, would be cheaper and less bureaucratic.

The current system costs £150/sample. "It is a very expensive and unnecessary burden on the seed trade and breeders. No other European breeders have that cost, so its making us less competitive."

MAFF is receptive to the idea, he says, provided other bodies agree. "The NFU accepts the trade can do the testing, but its looking for approval of competence. I can accept that, provided it isnt more onerous than the current process."

The marketing standard would retain the same limits on infection as the current certification standard – 1% in C2 seed, 0.1% in C1, and one infected seed in 1000 for basic seed. It could be in place by this autumn, says Mr Bearman.

&#8226 Current infection levels could jeopardise seed supplies unless a hot, dry summer keeps the disease off the seed.

"There might be real problems with the availability of some varieties this autumn," says Mr Bearman. &#42

Charles Abel