Pedigreed Seed Industry

Pedigreed seed is genetically pure seed of a known variety, developed with unique characteristics such as disease resistance, or with special qualities for milling or malt markets. It is the role of the pedigreed seed industry and Saskatchewan Seed Growers to transfer that technology from the plant breeder to the commercial farmer. The term pedigreed means that the ancestry of the seed can be traced all the way back to the plant breeder who developed it. Pedigreed seed ensures specified germination for even emergence and productive stands. It contains uniform seed sizes, providing consistency in planting and crop performance. Optimum seed size encourages uniformity in the crop and promotes seedling vigour, high yields, and low disease levels to maintain crop health and minimal contamination from other crops or different varieties of the same crop. Freedom from other crop seeds, noxious weeds and other weed seeds is verified by federal regulations. This is accomplished by inspection of pedigreed seed crops by trained officers of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), administration of genetic crop purity standards by the Canadian Seed Growers Association (CSGA), and application of seed quality (germination and mechanical purity) standards of the Canada Seeds Act. The plant that processes the seed must meet accepted standards and practices monitored by the Canadian Seed Institute (CSI).

There are five classes of pedigreed seed: Breeder, Select, Foundation, Registered, and Certified. Breeder is the highest class, and is produced and maintained by the plant breeder; once this seed becomes available for multiplication, it is distributed to seed growers. Select, Foundation, and Registered are multiplication classes. Certified seed, the final pedigreed class, is the seed recommended for use by the commercial farmer. There are two stages in the production and identification of pedigreed seed. The first is the production of a pedigreed seed crop. If all the requirements for this are met, CSGA issues a Crop Certificate: this certifies that the crop meets the requirements for varietal purity and crop standards, and shows the pedigreed status. The second stage is the inspection of the seed by a licensed grader at a Registered Seed establishment to determine its eligibility for a grade under the Canada Seeds Act. Factors include germination, freedom from weed seeds and other crop kinds, and general quality. If the seed qualifies for an official grade, the licensed grader issues a label confirming the class of seed and the grade.

At each stage of pedigreed seed production, CSGA specifies the standards for isolation distances, land use history, maximum levels of off-types, and other crop kinds and weeds. CSGA maintains all the records of the seed crop, including where it was grown, who grew it, what other types of plants or seeds were found in the crop, its pedigreed status, and the destination of the seed. The Canadian Seed Growers Association, established in 1904, is recognized by the Canadian government as the sole seed pedigree issuing agency for all agricultural field crops in Canada (except potatoes). CSGA recognizes seven affiliated organizations in different regions of Canada.

The Saskatchewan Seed Growers Association (SSGA) is the affiliate recognized by the CSGA in this province. Formed in 1928, SSGA is incorporated as a non-profit organization, with the mandate to improve pedigreed seed production and usage within Saskatchewan. There are about 800 pedigreed seed growers in the province, producing an average of 425,000 acres of pedigreed seed annually. This represents more than a third of all the pedigreed seed acreage in Canada; nearly 40% of all the pedigreed wheat seed produced; more than half of all the lentil seed; half the pedigreed flax acres; a third of the canola and mustard seed; and nearly three-quarters of the pedigreed pulse seed production. The pedigreed seed industry is worth an estimated $390 million annually to the economy of the province.

Dave Akister

Further Reading

Smyth, S., P.W.B. Phillips and D. Spearin.2004. Value of the Pedigreed Seed Industry to the Saskatchewan Economy. Saskatoon: University of Saskatchewan, Department of Agriculture Economics.