Serving as the source of dozens of wheat and oat varieties, the SDSU College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences plays an integral role in producing certified crop seeds for public use. Purchasing these certified seeds generates a reinvestment into the system, allowing for new varieties to be developed in the future. However, without Plant Variety Protection (PVP) with Title V, these seeds can potentially be sold illegally, harming the sustenance of the system.
From Breeding to Sale
The certified seed production process spans 8-10 years, including initial breeding and selection, multiple years of testing in a range of environments and a final scale-up of the seed to commercial quantities.
After an SDSU spring wheat, winter wheat or oat breeder develops a variety, the seed is placed in crop performance trials, which compare the new varieties with current commercial cultivars for agronomic traits, disease resistance, seed composition and yield and end-use characteristics such as milling and baking properties.
Following evaluation of the variety’s performance, the SDSU Variety Release Committee determines if the seed volume should be increased with the intent of releasing the variety for future sale or discontinued. Upon committee approval, Foundation Seed increases breeder seed in field sizes from 1-100 acres over two years, depending on the crop and potential market.
Once the committee approves the named variety for public release by Foundation Seed, members of the South Dakota Crop Improvement Association (SDCIA) produce certified classes of the seed, which can then be sold to SDCIA members and other producers. Fields used for this production must receive inspection, and the resulting certified seed is tested and labeled before becoming available for anyone to plant.
Plant Variety Protection
When certified seed is approved for public release, a 12-month window opens to file a Plant Variety Protection (PVP) application for the named variety. PVP with Title V provides legal protection to developers, as the protected variety can only be sold by the official variety name as a class of certified seed.
The PVP process proves especially important to the sustenance of the SDSU plant breeding program, Foundation Seed and the SDCIA. With PVP, private companies or individuals cannot legally sell protected, named varieties without the owner’s permission and certification. If an infraction of PVP arises, the SDCIA and SDSU consult with a law firm to investigate, and based upon the findings, legal action may initiate against the violators.
Growing the Industry
Funding for equipment, research and land used for the seed production process originates from royalty fees, which are paid by anyone purchasing certified seed. These fees circulate back into the system to continue the development of new varieties suitable for South Dakota climates and soils.
“A small plot combine with all of the necessities that make work more efficient and data collection more accurate will cost about the same as a full size combine,” Neal Foster, Executive Director of the SDCIA, said. “The royalty system has allowed for the upgrades and replacement of much of the breeding programs equipment from tractors, seeding equipment and combines.”
PVP protects the royalty fees, as seed sold illegally does not return any funds back into the variety development pipeline.
“The monies generated through the royalty system are critical to keep these breeding programs going and providing better varieties for both producers and consumers,” Foster said.
As a result of the negative implications of illegal sales, purchasing seed from reputable dealers becomes an integral piece to protecting funding of breeding programs such as SDSU’s and safeguarding land from the introduction of new weeds and pests.
“A producer growing a commodity should recognize the importance of purchasing only seed that has been through the certification process,” SDCIA past board chairman Bryan Jorgensen said.
Through meeting seed purity and quality standards, the certification process allows producers to rest easy knowing their certified seed is clean, traceable and ready to plant.
“Buying seed that has gone through the certification process gives the grower access to superior genetics, which will maximize all of the other inputs the grower has to use to grow the crop,” Jorgensen said. “In short, certified seed pays!”