It has close working relationship among seed growers, agricultural research, extension and regulatory agencies. Its headquarters are on the South Dakota State University campus in Brookings. The secretary-manager, a member of the University staff, has a research appointment from the SD Agricultural Experiment Station through the College of Agricultural and Biological Sciences Plant Science Department.
Operating policies of the SDCIA are the direct responsibility of its elected board of directors, while daily operations are carried out by three University staff members- directed by the manager. Part-time field inspectors are hired during inspection season. Extension agents in each county are the local contacts for certification and Crop Improvement Association activities.
Seed certification in South Dakota is based on both genetic and mechanical standards. SDCIA's Certification Committee forwards recommendations to the State Certification Board, which sets standards for the state. The certification program is funded by fees paid by participants.
The purpose of Seed Certification is to maintain and make available to the public sources of high quality seeds and propagating materials of superior varieties so grown and distributed as to insure genetic identity.
Varieties eligible for certification have resulted either from natural selection or through systematic plant breeding techniques. In either case, without a planned method for maintaining genetic purity, there is grave danger of losing varietal identity.
Varietal purity is the first consideration in Seed Certification, but other factors such as weeds, diseases, viability, mechanical purity, and grading are also important.
Seed Certification is designed to maintain not only the genetic purity of superior crop varieties but also reasonable standards of seed condition and quality.
Certified seed provides correct variety identity and assures varietal purity. The variety (cultivar) for which certified seed is to be produced must first be accepted for certification. Acceptance is based on data and information that must show the variety to be distinct or novel in one or more respects. Varieties for certification may be developed by public or private plant breeders.
The first seed of a new variety is grown under supervision of the plant breeder and is called Breeder's seed. Breeder's seed is turned over to the Association's Foundation Seed Stocks Division at SDSU and is planted to produce the Foundation seed class. Early generations of increase are limited in amount, and seed is normally available only to SDCIA Group 1 growers to produce the Registered class. Certified seed, which is the seed of commerce, is then produced from either Foundation or Registered seed.
All classes to be certified must be produced in accordance with South Dakota Seed Certification Standards. These Standards comply with those of AOSCA, of which SDCIA is a member. Growers wishing to produce Certified Seed apply to SDCIA, which provides certification services. The crop is inspected while it is growing in the field. Harvesting and conditioning must be done in a manner to prevent contamination and mixtures.
Seed samples are laboratory inspected at SDSU. After all requirements are met, certification labels are issued for attachment to the seed containers, or bulk transfer certificates are issued for bulk seed lots. Anyone buying Certified seed is assured that it is the variety stated on the label and has a high degree of purity.