Teagasc tillage specialists are predicting a significant rise in Ireland’s cereal acreage during the season ahead and questions have arisen about the supply of certified seed.

Meanwhile, input costs on farms have been highlighted across the grain sector over recent weeks.

These include the procurement of certified seed, the production and verification of which was discussed at the most recent Teagasc Tillage Edge podcast.

Certified seed crops

Seed crops in Ireland are grown on the basis of a contract entered into between the seed agent and the grower.

Gerry Lohan, from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) seed division, said:

“Once all the contracts have been signed up, the seed agents will send the department a list of the growers involved.

“The various crops are then allocated to the team of inspectors. There are 23 inspectors around the country ranging in location from Donegal to Wexford. But we have inspectors in most counties,” he added.

There are three crop inspections in total. The first is a preliminary visit with the focus on the verification of the labels used on the seed supplied to the grower.

The second visit constitutes the main inspection.

Lohan continued: “This takes place after the intended seed crop has passed the ear emergence stage. It centres very much on the verification of the variety and its purity.

“Wild oats, blackgrass and sterile brome levels are also checked within the crop at that stage. There is zero tolerance for these three specific weeds within a seed crop.

 “The final check verifies that the crop is fit to be harvested. The final crop is either passed or rejected at this stage,” he explained.

Standards for seed operations

In terms of the cleanliness of combines and trailers, seed growers are advised to discard (for seed purposes) the first load coming off the combine, so as to ensure that the machine is thoroughly cleared out.

Seedtech’s Tim O’Donovan also participated in the podcast. He confirmed that the company operates a passport system when it comes to the delivery of seed from the grower.

He said: “Seed assemblers have staff that will go out to check on both combines and trailers. No loads of basic and pre-basic seed will come into our yards without a thorough combine check.

“All trailers come direct from the field to our yard.”

Both contributors to the podcast then discussed the comprehensive series of checks and testing procedures that guarantees full traceability, quality and purity, where the supply of certified seed to the commercial grower is concerned.    

Certified seed must have a proven germination rate of at least 85%.

The good news for Irish cereal growers is that accredited seed supplies available in the wake of the 2021 harvest have an average germination rate that exceeds 90%.

The fungicide dressing applied to certified seed will be determined by the seedling disease threat identified on the back of pathology tests. Again, these are carried out as part of the normal certification process.