Guidelines for using home-saved cereals seed

The recent fall in cereal prices may tempt more growers to home-save seed this coming season to cut costs, and by following several simple steps, farmers can produce high-quality seed.

When drilling a crop to produce home-saved or farm-saved seed, ideally start with certified seed, says Chris Brown of Anglia Grain Services. He recommends drilling C1 seed.

Home-saved seed stats

The latest estimates from the BSPB are that the area of the crop that is drilled using farm-saved seed is:

  • Wheat 45%
  • Winter barley (excluding hybrid area) 32%
  • Spring barley 34%
  • Oats 32%
  • Oilseed rape (excluding hybrid area) 50%

The key is to pick the cleanest fields with the lowest weed population and consider the previous crop.

He advises growers to avoid growing wheat seed on fields in a close rotation containing barley, and vice versa.

See also: Home-saved seed helps save a packet

“In particular, farmers get caught out when ploughing land after barley as an entry for winter oilseed rape,” he says.

“Chances are when ploughing the oilseed rape stubble the following year a lot of barley volunteers come to the surface [having laid dormant in the soil for a year] and end up growing as volunteers in early-sown wheat crops,” Mr Brown adds.

Ensure the drill is cleaned between varieties to avoid any carryover, he advises.

Similarly, cleaning the combine between varieties to maintain purity of the crop is important. “Cleanliness of the combine is where it can go wrong with carryover of the previous field,” he says.

Growers can also hand-rouge the chosen block, but shouldn’t use glyphosate herbicides. Once harvested, consider where the grain is being stored and that it is readily accessible for sowing, says Mr Brown.

He advises testing the crop after harvest and says nine times out of 10 a simple, rapid seed viability test is sufficient.

“If it is a tricky harvest, or the grain gets wet and is dried, a germination test is advisable by a reputable laboratory to check for any damage,” he says.

He adds that if growers are planning to use a single-purpose dressing, no further testing is needed as the treatment will deal with any disease problems.

“Finally, use a professional seed dressing company. Ideally go for a service offering gravity separation with sieve and aspiration to clean and treat seed,” he says.

All users of farm-saved seed need to pay a British Society of Plant Breeders (BSPB) royality to protect the health, quality and integrity of seed supply and to promote the future investment by plant breeders in the development of improved varieties.

Key point to stay within the law when using home-saved seed

  • It is against the law to transfer farm-saved seed from one holding to another for sowing. Any transaction – whether free, bartered or charged – constitutes a transfer of ownership and this is against the law.
  • It is against the law to establish a commercial crop using farm-saved seed from a hybrid variety without the breeder’s consent. Furthermore, it makes no agronomic or economic sense to farm-save hybrid varieties because the resulting crop will segregate to produce variable offspring, reduced yields and loss of agronomic characters.
  • Always check the full name of the variety that you want to declare for royalty payment, such as KWS Santiago and SY Venture. Varieties are shown on a list in alphabetical order, including the prefix, so you need to look for KWS Cassia and not ‘Cassia’. If you still cannot find the variety on the list, contact BSPB on 01353 653 209 or email
  • If topping up seed for drilling with some grain from your own harvest, declare the area sown with top-up seed to the BSPB in the usual way. BSPB will then invoice you for the farm-saved seed payment for the variety and area sown.
  • It is against the law to use any bought-in grain to establish a crop. By law, farm-saved seed must be sown by the business that produced the previous crop. Certified seed must have been sown to establish the initial crop.