Seed Certification

The Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies, (AOSCA) is dedicated to assisting clients in the production, identification, distribution and promotion of certified classes of seed and other crop propagation materials. Established in 1919 as the International Crop Improvement Association, AOSCA’s membership includes Seed Certifying Agencies across the US, and Global membership including Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

The purpose of seed certification is to preserve genetic purity and varietal identity. It is an official AOSCA-agency program enabling seed companies to market genetically pure seed. Certification services are available for field crops, turf grasses, vegetables, fruits, vegetatively propagated species, woody plants and forbs. Once seed has been certified, it qualifies for the official “blue” certified seed tag and meets state, federal and international seed law requirements.

Requirements for producing certified seed are crop specific, and include land history, the use of eligible seed stock, field inspections to assure variety identity, purity, and isolation, and finally, seed standards. 

Four seed classes:

  • Breeder seed – seed directly controlled by the originating or sponsoring plant breeding organization.
  • Foundation seed – the progeny of Breeder or Foundation seed handled to maintain specific genetic purity and varietal identity.
  • Registered seed – the progeny of Breeder or Foundation seed handled to maintain satisfactory genetic purity and varietal identity.
  • Certified seed – the progeny of Breeder, Foundation or Registered seed handled to maintain satisfactory genetic purity and varietal identity.
The program provides:
  • Coordinated, professional and unbiased field inspections and laboratory testing. Many agencies may provide approval of conditioning plants.
  • An unbiased record system for use in meeting state, federal and international seed law requirements.
  • Seed buyers with assurance that the designated seed has met purity standards related to a known description across seed lots and years of production.
There is a vested member agency in each state to carry out the seed certification program.  Each agency will have a state specific set of standards that abide by AOSCA’s minimum requirements. Use the “Contact Us” to find the seed certification agency that serves your area.

Additional Certification Requirements

AOSCA has responded to advancements being made in the development of new traits by adopting the AOSCA Additional Certification Requirements (ACR) program. Variety owners and developers now have the option of requiring additional testing to confirm the presence of non-visual traits as part of the certification eligibility determination.

Field inspections are an important part of the seed certification process and utilize visual characteristics to verify varietal identity and purity. It is increasingly common for new crop traits not to express themselves in a manner that can be verified by a visual inspection. This often requires specialized testing to confirm that the trait is present by using trait testing protocols and standards developed by the trait developer, not AOSCA. Confirmation of the presence of the trait may be important to both the seed supplier and the seed consumer, but the expense and testing timelines of quantitative trait testing can be an impediment to getting seed to market for some crops.

The variety owner utilizing the ACR program specifies what test is to be used, when it is administered and by whom, as well as the standard to be met if the seed is to qualify for a class of Certified seed. The ACR documents outline the process for requesting additional requirements on existing varieties or new developments, or the additional requirement can also be identified in the variety description.

While non-visual traits, whether developed through conventional plant breeding techniques or genetic modification, are the most obvious reasons for selecting an ACR, they are not the only potential use of the program. If a variety owner wants to require a more stringent land history, a greater isolation distance, or the verification of an input application during the growing season, those would be possible with the use of an ACR. It is important to note that an ACR may not be used to test for the absence of a trait, nor can it set a standard lower than published AOSCA or individual seed certifying agency standards.

ACR program procedures and related information can be accessed through the following link to the AOSCA website. Variety owners and developers are also strongly encouraged to contact their local seed certifying agency if they are considering an ACR. The seed certifying agency can assist them in evaluating the practical aspects of applying the ACR and the additional costs that might be associated with it.

Additional Certification Requirements Procedures

Additional Certification Requirements Form