In The News: Cottonseed certification protocols vary across states, crops
Ron Smith, the editor of Southwest Farm Press, recently noted observations on cotton seed certification by Jason Woodward, a Texas Tech Department of Plant and Soil Science Associate Professor of Plant Pathology with joint appointment with Texas AgriLife Extension. Woodward spoke at January's Beltwide Cotton Conferences in New Orleans. In addition to offering the latest cotton market, production, and policy updates, the national meeting also provided a showcase for new products and services.
Cotton has the dubious distinction of having no national variety board to oversee seed certification standards, unlike some other crops. Although cotton was one of the earliest crops for which the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies developed certification standards, the association currently "does not administer a National Variety Board for cotton, as it does for some crops," according to the organization's website.
"Varieties enter into certification programs through a process conducted by individual seed certification agencies in those states where cotton is commonly grown," its website notes. "AOSCA member agencies provide certification for seed that is grown following long-standing standards adopted for cotton. Member agencies from one coast to the other in the United States provide certification and inspection services for this important crop."
Jason Woodward, an associate professor of plant pathology with joint appointment with Texas AgriLife Extension in Texas Tech's Department of Plant and Soil Science, says, "We see a lot of differences across the industry." A key issue in standardized certification across the cotton belt, he says, is to monitor seedborne pathogens, "which are a significant threat to the cotton seed industry."
Woodward says he was not overly familiar with seed certification issues, but that he and Shawn Wade, Plains Cotton Growers, recently conducted a survey to evaluate seed certification procedures across the country.
"Seed certification requirements vary across states and crops," he says. "Varieties enter into certification programs that are conducted by individual state seed certification agencies." Those include state Departments of Agriculture and Crop Improvement Associations, often affiliated with Land Grant Universities. Crop value, Woodward says, is a factor in the level of certification. Tolerances are at the discretion of seed companies.
The industry should be concerned, he says, about thresholds permitted for pathogens such as bacterial blight. He questions whether germination tests, which may include the typical germination evaluations as well as a cool-warm vigor index, should not look more closely at non-germinated seed to determine if microbes are associated with germination failures. "Should these low vigor seed be catalogued?"
An industry standard would add a level of assurance of pathogen-free cotton seed. In seed production fields, certifiers or inspectors are often in the field, but the frequency is not standardized across the cotton belt. "Timing of inspections is important," Woodward says. Fields with disease-related issues are scrutinized, but he would go a step further. "A best management practice of zero tolerance, rejecting fields where diseases caused by seedborne pathogens are identified," would be a good option.
CONTACT: Eric Hequet, Department Chair, Department of Plant and Soil Science, Texas Tech University at (806) 742-2838 or firstname.lastname@example.org
0113NM16 / Editor's Note: For a full text version of the Southwest Farm Press story, click http://southwestfarmpress.com/cotton/cottonseed-certification-protocols-vary-state-state?page=2