Seed Production/Quality Assurance
Production of high-quality seed is fundamental to modern agriculture. Most annual crops are established each season from seeds, and seed quality can have a major impact on potential crop yield. Seeds can serve as the delivery system not only for improved genetics but also for new planting and production methods and crop protection strategies that improve the overall efficiency of agriculture and reduce its environmental impact.
The purity of any commercial product propagated by seed begins with the genetic purity of the seed planted. Genetic purity standards have been established by state seed laws and seed certification agencies to assure growers that the seed they buy is accurately labeled with the correct crop and variety. Seed purity standards also specify the percentage of contamination by seeds or genetic material of other varieties or species. The physical purity of seed refers to the presence and identity of weed seeds, and the percentage of other materials such as dirt or plant residues. In addition, the germination capacity of the seed in a standard test must be shown on the label. In some cases, seeds must also be tested for the presence of seed-borne diseases, and hybridity tests are conducted to confirm parentage in hybrid seed.
Production of high quality seed is an exacting task. Seed producers take many steps to protect genetic integrity, including ensuring the integrity of their planting seed, properly identifying and labeling plants and fields, planting seeds on clean land which has not been used to grow the same crop in the recent past, removing rogue plants, or plants which are not true to the variety’s characteristics, and employing physical isolation – via mesh cages, distance isolation, time isolation or hand pollination – to ensure that pollination only occurs among plants of the desired variety.