Seed Certification

Seed Certification


a set of measures used to check the quality of seeds in the course of their production, procurement, storage, and preparation for planting. Seed certification is one of the principal elements of a planned seed-growing system in the USSR; it consists of state measures (carried out by seed-testing inspectors) and measures implemented at individual farms and at storage centers. Seedcertification is of great practical importance, because it improves the planting qualities of seeds and supplies agricultural regions with seeds of the required quality.

The world’s first seed-testing station was organized in 1869 by the German scientist F. Nobbe in Tharandt (Saxony). Similar agencies were formed soon afterward in Austria, Denmark, Sweden, and other countries. The first seed-testing station in Russia was organized in St. Petersburg in 1877 by the botanist A. F. Batalin at the Central Botanical Garden (now the Botanical Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR). In 1881 a seed-testing station was organized in the department of general agriculture at the Petrovskoe Farming and Forestry Academy (now the K. A. Timiriazev Moscow Agricultural Academy). Another such station was established in 1897 by the Kiev Society for the Encouragement of Agriculture and Rural Industry. Other stations were subsequently set up in different parts of Russia by various agricultural societies, local storehouses, and experimental organizations in Dnepropetrovsk (1907), Voronezh (1911), Moscow (1912), and other cities. There were 50 seed-testing stations in Russia by 1917.

The first legislative act on seed certification was the decree On State Control of Seeds in Trading Enterprises, which was issued by the Council of People’s Commissars of the Ukrainian SSR in 1926. Similar decrees were issued in the RSFSR in 1928 and in Transcaucasia in 1930. All seed-testing agencies were combined in 1932 into a single system directed by the All-Union State Seed Inspectorate of the People’s Commissariat of Agriculture of the USSR. In 1934 it was specified that all crops were to be sown solely with seeds tested for germinating power.

In 1940 there were 3,126 seed-testing agencies, most of which were laboratories. In 1965 these laboratories were reorganized into state seed inspectorates headed by the State Seed Inspectorate of the Ministry of Agriculture of the USSR. As of Jan. 1, 1974, 3,281 inspection agencies, including 3,118 regional ones, were in operation in the USSR. They test the quality of seeds of all crops except cotton, whose seeds are tested by special stations and laboratories attached to ginneries. The agencies also check on compliance with the regulations for seed growing at kolkhozes and sovkhozes. Sugar-beet seeds are analyzed by laboratories at sugar refineries. Seed-testing agencies and farms, which use the same standard method, are furnished with modern equipment that permits the mechanization and automation of analysis.

The state seed inspectorates check for purity, germinating power, viability, infection, weight (per 1,000 seeds), and moisture content. Evaluation is based on two to four analyses of three average samples taken from a seed batch or control unit (the maximum number of seeds from which samples are taken). Seeds are also evaluated for their color, odor, presence or absence of mold, and other characteristics to determine whether they have undergone any changes during maturation, harvesting, and storage. The inspectorates then issue a certificate of quality-standardized seeds for those seeds that have been approved. The certificate indicates whether the seeds satisfy the class I, class 2, or class 3 sowing standard. Only class 1 seeds may be used for seed-breeding plots; a special state standard has been established for elite and superelite seeds. The document of certification is valid for four months for grains, pulse crops, and oil crops and for six to eight months for vegetables, melons, and feed root crops. The results of seed analysis are sent to farms; they identify uncertified seeds, that is, those that may not be planted. The state seed inspectorates also verify the authenticity of varieties.

State seed certification is supplemented by farm control measures, whose main objectives are to prevent the use of improper seed-growing technology, to organize proper storage of seed stock, to prepare seeds for sowing, and to verify the sowing qualities of seeds after drying, sorting, and storage.

Seed certification is organized similarly in other socialist countries. Seed-testing laboratories of the ministries of agriculture investigate the quality of seeds that are sold to and planted on state and cooperative farms. In capitalist countries only those seeds grown for commercial purposes are subject to certification. Governmental seed-testing laboratories, which are regional in jurisdiction, are responsible for the accuracy of the results of only the tested samples and not for all the seeds. The laboratories are not involved in the organization of seed growing.

Various seed-testing agencies are united in the International Seed Testing Association (ISTA), which was founded in 1924. Both seed-testing agencies and individual scientists are members of the ISTA. The State Seed Inspectorate of the Ministry of Agriculture of the USSR and the seed-science laboratories of the All-Union Institute of Plant Growing have been members of the association since 1965. ISTA sponsors triennial congresses on methods of seed analysis; the last congress was held in Warsaw in 1974. ISTA has published works on seed certification and an information bulletin since 1925.


Firsova, M. K. Semennoi kontrol’, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1969.
Gosudarstvennye standarty SSSR: Semena i posadochnyi material sel’skokhoziaistvennykh kul’tur. Moscow, 1973.


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