Seed certification is a regulatory process designed to maintain and make available high-quality seeds and propagating material of superior crop varieties, grown and distributed to ensure genetic identity and purity. A well-organized seed certification system helps in maintaining the identity and purity of varieties, establishing, and maintaining reasonable standards of seed quality, and facilitating the production of seeds of specified quality.
Nepal has two systems to ensure seed quality: the seed certification system and the truthful labeling system. The seed certification system includes breeder seed, foundation seed, certified seed, and improved seed, each with its own specific requirements and tags. The truthful labeling system includes breeder seed, source seed, label seed, and improved seed. The seed certification process involves several phases, including scrutiny of applications, inspection of seed fields, rejection of fields, harvesting and transportation, scheduling of certification, seed sampling, tagging, and sealing, a seed analysis report, seed standards of genetic purity, seed standards for insect damage, seed moisture content, refusal of certification, and validity of certification.
Nepal faces challenges in maintaining seed purity due to limited access to certified seeds, a lack of infrastructure, weak enforcement, and difficulties in maintaining seed purity. However, opportunities exist to improve the system, such as by adopting emerging technologies, strengthening infrastructure, public-private partnerships, farmer-centered approaches, capacity building, and regional cooperation.
Keywords: Seed certification, Quality assurance, Genetic identity, Genetic purity, Truthful labeling system, Seed standards, Refusal of certification, Validity of certification
Table of Contents
Seed certification is a regulatory process designed to maintain and make available to farmers high-quality seeds and propagating material of superior crop varieties, grown and distributed to ensure genetic identity and purity. It also ensures other factors, including the absence of weeds and disease, analytical purity, and viability. Seed certification is a quality assurance system whereby seed intended for marketing is subjected to official control and inspection. The major objective of seed certification is to ensure the genuineness and quality of the seed for the purchaser. A well-organized seed certification system helps accomplish the following three primary objectives:
1. Establish and maintain reasonable standards of seed quality.
2. Facilitate the production of seeds of specified quality.
3. Maintain the identity and purity of varieties.
The seed quality in Nepal is assured by two systems.
1. Seed certification system
2. Truthful labeling system
Classes of seeds:
Seed certification system Truthful labeling system
Seed certification system:
In the seed certification system, certifying agencies closely supervise all the activities related to seed production, processing, and marketing. Seed producers and traders, along with the certifying agency, are responsible for the seed’s quality. A seed certifying agency affixes a tag to the seed containers of different classes.
i) Breeder seed:
Breeder seed is directly controlled by the plant breeder of the breeding program that developed the seed or the institution involved in the seed development. It is available in small quantities. Breeder seeds must have 100% genetic and physical purity, with no weed seeds, diseases, or pests. If the breeder seed is to be stored, then it must be tagged. It has a tag with a brown background and is written in black and signed by the breeder who developed the seed.
ii) Foundation seed:
Foundation seed is produced from breeder seed under the supervision of a seed production specialist. This type of seed is produced by the person, institution, or agency that has obtained permission from NARC. Foundation seed must have a genetic purity of 98%, a physical purity of more than 95%, and a minimum germination rate of 80–85%. It has a tag with a white background and is written in black and signed by the seed certifying officer and seed producer.
iii) Certified seed:
Certified seed is produced from foundation seed under the supervision of a seed specialist. Such a type of seed is produced by a person, cooperative, or institution that has taken permission from a government farm, research center, or other authorized body. It has a tag with a white background, is written in blue with a blue band on the left side of the label, and is signed by the seed certifying officer and seed producer.
iv) Improved seed:
This type of seed is produced either using foundation seed or certified seed under the supervision of a seed producer or seed specialist. Improved seed is used for the commercial production of crops and is produced in large quantities. It has a tag with a yellow background and is written in black, signed by the seed certifying officer and seed producer.
Truthful labeling system:
It is a mandatory system of seed quality assurance in which the activities related to seed production, processing, and marketing are supervised by the breeder himself or related company officers. Seed producers or traders must be responsible for the quality of the seed they deal with.
i) Breeder seed:
Breeder seed is produced by the company, cooperative, or institution that has granted permission for varietal development. Breeder seeds should be genetically 100% pure and free from weed seeds, diseases, and pests. Seed can be stored with the joint signature of the breeder, a representative of the related institution, and the certifying agency. It has a tag with a brown background and is written in black.
ii) Source seed:
Source seed is the progeny of breeder seed. Source seed is produced by private seed companies, institutions, agencies, or individuals who have taken permission for seed production, under the supervision of seed specialists from private companies, institutions, or cooperatives. It must have a genetic purity of 98%, a physical purity of more than 95%, and a minimum germination rate of 80–85%. It has a tag with a white background and is written in black, signed by the seed producer.
iii) Label seed:
Label seed is produced by seed companies, institutions, or individuals who have taken permission for varietal development. Label seed is produced by using source seed under the supervision and control of a seed specialist from a private company or institution. It must have a genetic purity of 98%, a physical purity of more than 80%, and a minimum germination percent of 80% with inert material of less than 2%. It has a tag with a white background and is written in blue.
iv) Improved seed:
Improved seed is produced in large quantities for commercial production under the supervision of the producer. The quality and standard of seed are maintained and produced as required by the pollination behavior of crops. It has a tag with a yellow background and is written in black, signed by the producer, processor, and seed specialist involved.
The logo of the seed company must be maintained during seed storage.
Label information includes:
1. Crop and Variety
2. Seed class
3. Lot number
4. Year of production
5. Recommended domain
6. Date of seed testing
7. Seed standard (purity, germination, moisture, and content)
9. Name and dose of chemicals used, if any.
10. Name, logo, and signature of the producer
11. Name, logo, and signature of the certifying agency
Phases of seed certification:
Scrutiny of the application:
The SQCC requires receipt of the application to verify the variety is eligible for seed certification and that the sources of seed are authentic and meet the conditions mentioned in the minimum seed certification standards.
Inspection of seed fields:
At appropriate stages of crop growth, for isolation, proceeding crop requirements, and other specific operations, there is a need for a good piece of land that meets the conditions as per the minimum standard for certification.
Rejection to the field:
Immediately, after the conclusion of the inspection season, all reports on problem fields should be grouped and evaluated. The director of seed certification can make a preliminary determination on what action needs to be taken. The action should be communicated to the grower immediately, with a copy to the concerned inspector.
Harvesting, threshing, and transportation
Seed crops meeting the seed standards for the certification shall be harvested, threshed, and transported to the seed processing plant following the guidelines issued by the certification agency. During these operations, seed producers will take all the precautions necessary to safeguard the seed from admixture and other causes of seed deterioration.
Scheduling of certification
The certification agency shall prepare and communicate the seed processing and packaging schedule to all certified seed producers soon after the certification of seed crops at the field stage. Thus, seed producers shall adhere to the schedule specified by the certification agency. However, the rescheduling may be accepted by the certification agency at the request of seed producers on genuine grounds.
A sample at the seed processing plant of all the seed lots thus needs the agency’s tag, a submitted sample, a working sample, and a seed testing laboratory for testing purity, germination, mixture, other crops, weed seeds, etc. If a lot fails to meet the standard, then retesting should be done to ensure no error has occurred.
Tagging and sealing
Upon receiving a satisfactory report from the office of the seed testing laboratory, tagging and sealing should be done under the supervision of the agency. The fixing of tags and seals on containers completes the process of certification.
Seed Analysis Report
The seed testing laboratory analyzes the seed samples following the prescribed procedure and delivers the seed analysis report to the certification agency within 30 days from the date of receipt of the samples.
Seed standards of genetic purity
All the certified seed lots shall conform to the minimum standards for genetic purity prescribed.
1. Foundation seed = 99 % genetic purity
2. Certified seed = 95% genetic purity
Seed Standards for Insect Damage
A seed lot under certification shall not have apparent or visible evidence of damage by insects for both Foundation and Certified seed classes above 1.0% for the seeds of maize and legumes and 0.50% for the seeds other than maize and legumes.
Seed moisture content
Seed standards in respect of seed moisture shall be met at the time of packing the seed.
Refusal of Certification
The certification agency has the authority to refuse certification of any seed production field or any seed lot that does not conform to the minimum standards prescribed for the particular crop, either for the field or for the seed, or both.
Validity of Certification
The validity period shall be nine months from the date of the test at the time of initial certification. The validity period could be further extended for 6 months provided that the re-tested seed conforms to the prescribed standards in respect of physical purity, germination, and insect damage for all seeds except vegetative propagating material, for which lots shall be re-examined for seed standards specified for the respective crop. A seed lot will be eligible for an extension of the validity period as long as it conforms to the prescribed standards.