Before a new crop variety can be placed on the market, it must undergo a statutory testing process. Successful varieties are placed on a National List, or register of approved varieties.
National Listing rules are determined at EU level, and apply to all the major agricultural and horticultural crop species. Official trials are conducted, in most cases for a minimum of two years, to test each candidate variety for a range of characteristics which together determine its distinctness from other varieties, as well as its value to growers and end-users.
National Listing is rigorous and ensures that only varieties which are novel and distinct and which are a clear improvement over existing varieties may be added to the List and commercially released.
All varieties submitted for National Listing are assessed for Distinctness, Uniformity and Stability (DUS), in the same way as for the grant of PVR. For agricultural crops, National Listing also involves trials to establish a candidate variety’s Value for Cultivation and Use (VCU). This provides an independent assurance that only varieties with improved performance or end-use quality can be approved for commercial release.
Further non-statutory trials are then conducted each year to compare the agronomic performance and end-use quality of the best varieties. These independent trials provide the basis for detailed variety information and advice to growers and their customers.
Seed production and sale
For agricultural crops, the UK’s official seed certification system offers an independent assurance of quality to growers. Minimum standards apply for varietal identity, purity and germination capacity. In addition, strict limits apply to seed-borne diseases, and the presence of physical impurities such as weed seeds.
Around 9% of the UK arable area is used to multiply the parental seed stock from the plant breeder for the production of commercial grade certified seed. This involves several thousand individual crops, each grown under specific management regimes to ensure the purity and integrity of the resulting seed is maintained. To gain certification, every seed crop must undergo and pass crop inspections and seed quality and purity tests.
Seed certification underpins the health and purity status of the major arable crops in Britain. It offers an independent benchmark of quality on which buyers of seed and their customers depend.
Vegetable varieties are marketed as standard seed, which also has to meet prescribed criteria for variety identity and quality.
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