The first of the weed grasses present in Irish cereals could have occurred as a result of imported seed, according to Barry O’Reilly of the Department of Agriculture.

Speaking at the Teagasc National Crops forum, the Department representative highlighted the major differences in the cereal seed certification processes in Ireland and the remainder of Europe.

According to O’Reilly the standards for seed certification are laid down under EU directives, these directives set down minimum seed standards based on variety, species purity, seed quality and minimum germination levels.

However, despite these strict stipulations, he said there are no European standards in the growing crop for species purity, which he said could potentially lead to the introduction of weed grasses in imported seeds to Ireland.

The Department official added that this is not the case in Ireland where minimum standards for the growing crop are set at 99.99% purity.

There is no zero tolerance, there is no standards set down on species purity in the growing crop in Europe, but in Ireland we set down a minimum standard of 99.99%.

In many of the European countries only the minimum standards are applied so there is always the risk of bringing in these grass weeds with imported seeds.

O’Reilly added that presently Ireland is the only European country where the competent authority (Department of Agriculture) carries out seed certification.

“We are the only European country left where seed certification is carried out by the competent authority, we are in a unique situation, in most other EU countries it is carried out by the third party under supervision,” he said.

He added that Ireland is also in an unique position as only first germination seed is used.

Ireland’s zero tolerance to weed grasses

According to O’Reilly, Ireland also has specific standards in relation to weed seeds and there is currently a zero tolerance policy to the presence of Wild Oats and Sterile Broom in crops destined for certified seed.

“If they are Wild Oats or Sterile Broom found in the growing crop the seed is rejected, it is as simple as that.”

Ireland has standards that are in excess of the EU directives, which have been in place for the past number of years.

O’Reilly added that if Black Grass becomes a major problem, the Department will take a similar approach to Wild Oats and Sterile Broom.