Certified Seed Quality assurances of varietal purity, germination and freedom from impurities are just a few reasons why certified seed represents a good value proposition for farmers. STARTING BEST WITH THE 48 www.seed.ab.ca | Advancing Seed in Alberta KNOW what you grow. Rob Graf believes the old adage not only holds true for summing up the value of certified seed, but it is even more important in today’s world of ever-improving genetics. “With certified seed, there are very definite and deliberate procedures put in place to make sure that within relatively tight tolerances the variety that's being purchased is true to type,” says Graf, an Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada research scientist and wheat breeder at the Lethbridge Research and Development Centre in Alberta. It’s these requirements, he adds, that ensure producers get the enhanced traits they expect when they purchase a specific variety of certified seed. Improvements in such areas as yield, pest resistance and drought tolerance can take millions of dollars and years of R&D, and it is only through certified seed that they can be reliably accessed. “I’m a wheat breeder, and we're constantly looking at developing varieties with higher yields and good agronomic characteristics and improved disease resistance,” says Graf. “Pedigreed seed is the avenue by which you can legally acquire seed which has these new genetics.” Ron Markert is a certified seed producer in Vulcan, Alta. The president of Markert Seeds Ltd., who also serves on the Canadian Seed Growers’ Association (CSGA) board, says those who grow and process pedigreed seed are always striving to provide growers with the highest performing products. “If you want to keep on top of the game now in farming, you have to have the best of everything in terms of genetics,” Markert says. “Margins are very tight in the agricultural sector and you have to be as efficient as you can. One way to do that is to seed the best genetics. Newer varieties can offer a higher yield, disease resistance, insect tolerance and many other agronomic characteristics that will help increase your bottom line.” “As growers of certified seed… we are expected to meet very stringent standards, rules and regulations to ensure that the purity of that variety is maintained,” Markert adds. “Farmers are after a quality product, so if we can't deliver that, they won't continue to buy." How is Certified Seed Produced According to the CSGA website, the pedigree of a certified seed crop is documented on paper from the breeding establishment to commercial sale. Testing by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) accredited seed labs is used to confirm the seed purity and germination of all certified seed crops. Pedigreed seed producers must follow strict standards for isolation distances and land-use history, as well as maximum levels of off-type varieties, other crop kinds and weeds. Years of planning which crop will be planted where is also required, as well as cleaning seeders and combines between plots and fields, cleaning augers and storage facilities between varieties, and weeding and roguing plots and fields to remove off-types and weeds from the pedigreed seed crop. In the field, third-party inspections overseen by CFIA verify the isolation of the seed crop and that it was produced from a higher-level progeny. The absence of volunteer crops and off- type varieties is also confirmed. In addition, random sampling is conducted in pedigreed seed processing plants to ensure seeds are free from weeds and other crop kinds. “We’re constantly looking at developing varieties with higher yields, good agronomic characteristics and improved disease resistance.” —Rob Graf