ATA Turf Times – Dr. Jim Bostick, Executive Vice President, AL Crop Improvement & So. Seed Certification Assns.
The Southern Seed Certification Association, Inc. (hereafter called the Association or SSCA) is a non-profit organization incorporated under laws of the State of Alabama. It is designated as the official seed certifying agency for Alabama and Florida pursuant to laws of both States and is a member of the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA). SSCA’s seed certifying activities work under AOSCA’s standards and procedures which are specified in part 210.68 through 201.78 of the Federal Seed Act (7 U.S.C. 1561 (a) (24). SSCA is not a marketing agency but does issue certification labels and certificates based upon a presumption of accuracy of information provided to the agency and on conclusions reached by competent SSCA personnel employing accepted procedures of field and handling equipment inspections. Certification is limited to propagating material of officially recognized varieties that are grown and inspected so as to maintain varietal identity and genetic purity.
The purpose carried forth by SSCA is to maintain and make available to the public, through certification, high quality seeds and propagating materials of superior crop varieties so grown and distributed as to maintain genetic identity and purity. The word “seed” or “seeds” as used in SSCA’s program is understood to include all propagating material, such as seed, turfgrass (rolls, slabs, sprigs or plugs), cuttings or bulbs.
Some terminology unique to seed certification includes, but is not limited to the following four classes of seed:
- Breeder Seed (White Tag or Certificate)
Breeder seed of a new and novel variety developed in a plant breeding program are controlled by the owner of the variety and are used for the production of the next class of seed in The Certification Program which is Foundation Seed.
- Foundation Seed (White Tag or Certificate)
Foundation seed is the progeny of Breeder or Foundation seed produced under the control of the originator or sponsoring plant breeding institution, or person or appointed designee. Foundation seed are produced under procedures established by SSCA for the purpose of maintaining purity and identity.
- Registered Seed (Purple Tag or Certificate)
Registered seed are the progeny of Breeder or Foundation seed handled and produced under standards established by SSCA for the purpose of maintaining purity and identity.
- Certified Seed (Blue Tag or Certificate)
Certified seed are the progeny of Breeder, Foundation or Registered seed grown under standards established by SSCA for the purpose of maintaining purity and identity.
Establishment of Certification Standards
AOSCA establishes minimum certification standards for all crops under certification for all member certifying agencies. Each member agency may establish more stringent standards but not less stringent for any crop. AOSCA’s purpose is to maintain uniformity in certification programs across all member agencies. Certification standards are living documents subject to changes, revisions and updates as needs and practices of seed production are changed and modified as agricultural practices and technology advances. Our own SSCA Turfgrass Certification Standards have recently undergone a rather extensive review resulting in revisions that more clearly reflect our goals in the certification program. Inspectors have gone through training short courses that help refresh and redefine inspection techniques and turfgrass variety descriptors, that keep SSCA personnel abreast of new varieties and appropriate technology in the turfgrass industry.
Breeding programs are developing new varieties to answer the needs and request of the turfgrass consuming public. New varieties that are drought or shade tolerant have been developed for the homeowner market. Other varieties have been developed specifically for the sports turf or golf course market and are being produced through certification to maintain their desirable characteristics.
Our SSCA turfgrass certification program currently consist of approximately 4800 acres of production on 45 farms located all across Alabama and Florida. The certified production acreage is comprised of 4 types of grasses i.e., Bermuda, Paspalum, St. Augustine and Zoysia and over thirty grass varieties that can be found on our web site, www.ag.auburn.edu/ssca under Turf Directory.
Our Standards require at least 3 field inspections per calendar year of all of the turfgrass acreage within our certification program. During the inspection, the inspector is looking for the field to meet items prescribed in our standards which maintain quality such as adequate isolation distance, varietal mixtures or off-type grass and the presence of noxious weeds. The inspector carries wire mounted flags during the inspection. If areas in the field are found that do not meet certification standards, they are to be flagged so the producer can quickly correct the infraction in order to bring the field back into compliance for re-inspection prior to harvest. If the problem areas are extensive, the inspector may elect to reject that acreage from certification, in which case the producer will be notified of such decision prior to harvest.
Once the field(s) have successfully passed the 3 field inspections they are eligible to be harvested and marketed as certified turfgrass. At that time, SSCA will issue certification certificates to the producer for the field(s). To complete the certification process, the producers must complete a certification certificate for each order, stating the variety, date of harvest and the amount harvested. The certificate is to accompany the load as it is transported to the customer. If the certificate does not accompany the load, then the sod being delivered is not officially certified.
Summary of Turfgrass Certification Procedures:
- Review the Southern Seed Certification Association’s Standards and Regulations for Certified Turfgrass before planting a crop for certified production.
- Check the certification rules for a particular crop kind to determine if the field(s) intended for certified production meet requirements for previous crop history and isolation from other kinds and varieties and noncertifiable fields of the same variety.
- Thoroughly treat field(s) with an appropriate soil fumigant before planting a crop for certified production or employ the alternative method to fumigation as explained on page 8 of SSCA’s General Turf Standards.
- Plant Breeder, Foundation or Registered class propagating material of varieties that are eligible for certification or that will be submitted for eligibility determination before harvest for certification is allowed.
- Clean the planting equipment before planting each variety intended for Certification.
- Submit an Application for Field Inspection by appropriate due date of February 1 of each year.
- Rogue the field(s) of other crops, other varieties and noxious and inseparable weeds, if necessary.
- Be certain that the field(s) have been finally inspected by an SSCA representative before beginning harvest and understand any instructions or restrictions that may affect the manner of harvest.
- Clean all handling equipment and storage facilities before exposing them to Certifiable material. These include harvesters, planters, wagons, trucks, pallets, loaders, offloaders, etc.
- The certification process is complete only when turfgrass is properly identified with an approved Certification label, or a properly completed certification certificate accompanies shipment.
SSCA’s certification program is voluntary and available to all who want to participate and follow the established standards and regulations. Certification programs capture and extend plant breeding advancements to the general public that could be lost without such a system.READ THE ISSUE