Seed certification is a quality assurance system designed to ensure that seeds intended for sale is subject to control, inspection, and quality standards. It certifies that the seed conforms with what is on its label and has been produced in accordance with the certification scheme.
The objective is to provide high-quality seeds and prevent pests and diseases and maintain high standards of purity. Barley, oats, wheat, field beans, oilseed rape and seed potatoes and wheat and treacle are subject to certification.
The EU seed certification scheme is implemented by national legislation. It is part of a broader scheme of legislation incorporating plant breeding, plant breeding rights, plant genetic resources and biodiversity. It is illegal to market uncertified seeds under Irish and EU law.
The EU Seed Directives provide common standards through the EU. Correspondingly, there is provision for the free movement of seeds which are duly certified. The Department of Agriculture is the body in Ireland for certification.
Seed production is subject to official inspection and sampling , packaging and labelling process. In some cases a contract must be in place between the grower and seed merchant.
Contracts are not required for seed potatoes, but growers must apply to the Department before planting. Land used for seed potatoes must be officially sampled and tested for certain things before planting.
Growing crops and harvesting must comply with certain requirements before certification. Ireland is recognised as one of the relatively small number of areas within the EU for high-grade seed areas for seed potatoes due to freedom from certain diseases.
Under EU plant variety legislation, only varieties of seeds registered in the Irish National Catalogue or the Agricultural Plant Varieties or EU Common Catalogue may be marketed. All seeds, including grass seed mixes, must be officially certified.
Varieties in the catalogue must be tested under official control in accordance with the standards in the EU legislation.
The Department of Agriculture maintains seed testing facilities. Farmers and traders may have their seeds tested for purity and germination, seed content, moisture content, biochemical test viability, hectare litre weight and other factors. A fee is payable.
Under EU law, the Department of agriculture is the competent authority for carrying out value for cultivation and use trials on crop varieties.