2 April 1999

Quality assurance fails to cover seed

By Allan Wright

CEREAL quality assurance schemes offer too little control over seed quality, Valerie Cockerell from the Scottish Agricultural Science Agency told the Crop Protection in Northern Britain conference in Dundee last week.

"There is no control over the quality of farm-saved seed used and growers need retain only details from the original certification lot," she said.

Maltsters are reporting problems with the varietal purity of crops grown from home-saved seed, she claimed. "If low-quality seed is used there can be grain quality failure with loss of malting premium and extra haulage and marketing costs."

Trials at SASA show both germination and purity shortcomings. "In 1996, 10% of farm-saved seed failed to meet the EU minimum standard for germination. A study of weed seed contamination found 0.6 weed seeds a kg in certified seed but 96.7 in farm-saved seed.

But the use of farm-saved seed need not be excluded if further guidance is given within the assurance scheme standards, she said. "Imposing a limit on the number of generations a grower can produce from original certified seed, and specifying the seed tests or field examinations required to provide evidence of the quality of home-saved seed would be an appropriate starting point," said Ms Cockerell.

SQC chairman, David Houghton, said farm-saved seed had been discussed within the organisation and with maltsters. "The maltsters did not see varietal purity as a big enough problem to merit action. I think our members use farm-saved seed responsibly. My own practice is to use farm-saved for only one year before reverting to certified seed. But it is an issue we will keep under review and if there is a demand from our customers for tighter standards then we will apply them," said Mr Houghton.