Certified seed opens the doors to new opportunities for success. When producers buy certified seed they are getting the “blue tag” guarantee, which actually means quite a bit. First is the obvious standard that comes with certified seed: a minimum of 85 percent germination. Along with the benefits of traceability, which is becoming more and more important to the public and consumers, certified seed leads to greater marketing opportunities for the producer.
There are fewer risks with using certified seed; you always know what you are planting. According to the Government of Saskatchewan, before certified seed is available to the farmer to purchase, it goes through a timely and costly development process. Breeders go through a germplasm resource base selecting and evaluating the right characteristics, taking more than a decade. From there, thousands and thousands of lines are reviewed in selecting the right genetics to breed into the germplasm based on height, disease package, standability, harvestability, etc. and to have enough breeder seed to begin seed multiplication can take an additional seven years. After this lengthy process, a few varieties are selected and put through the Canadian registration process.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada states that the required regulatory amendment typically takes up to two years to complete the registration process, ensuring each variety is equal or better to a “check” variety based on three merits:
- Agronomy examined by breeders, agronomists, and seed companies based on nine traits: yield, maturity, height, lodging, TKW, etc.
- Disease examined by pathologists and molecular biologists based on seven diseases: FHB, leaf rust, stem rust, smut, bunt, etc.
- Quality examined by cereal chemists, milling reps, and marketing people based on 32 parameters: grade, protein, kernel wt., eight flour quality tests, eight bake tests, four farinograph tests, baker tests, and six noodle tests.
Once a variety is selected for registration, it goes through the commercialized production stage for roughly four years: breeder seed, select, foundation, registered, and finally to certified seed where it is available for the farmer.
Why should you grow certified seed? There are a number of reasons why a farmer should grow certified seede, but the most important is certainty. The Canadian Seed Growers’ Association says that Canadian farmers who plant certified seed are providing better quality grains and oilseeds, are creating new marketing opportunities for crops, are managing their risk, and have access to new varieties that are bred for success. Surprisingly though, research scientists Surya Acharya and Jamie Larsen with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, say that the most important reason is the investment back into the breeding program. With the Canadian model, the only way money goes back into research and demand for the breeders is from royalties on certified seed.
According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, UPOV 91 will soon be introduced, which is an act that contains new elements that provide stronger protection for plant breeders than any of the previous conventions. This will strengthen plant breeding and investment into Canadian R&D, giving Canadian farmers more access to new and innovative seed varieties, which could enhance crop yield and improve disease protection.