Once a seed crop has been harvested the produce is taken to a seed processing plant where it will be cleaned to remove weed seeds, chaff and other debris before being bagged, possibly chemically treated and delivered to farmers.
Before the seed can be certified it must be sampled by a licensed seed sampler and the sample must be tested to ensure that it meets minimum standards for purity and germination by either a licensed or an Official Seed Testing Station (OSTS). NIAB runs the OSTS for England and Wales and offers a full range of seed testing services.
NIAB receives samples of every seed lot that is being multiplied for further seed production and these are grown on in plots at our Cambridge site. These plots are examined regularly by experienced staff who assess the varietal purity of the plots. Should any problems be noted in a particular stock, we advise all companies who are multiplying that seed so they may take action to improve the stock if necessary.
NIAB also maintains a database of stock pedigrees that relates seed lots and crops to previous and subsequent generations
Seed certification is a large scale operation, with thousands of seed lots certified each year, covering hundreds of varieties of dozens of crop types. NIAB staff must be familiar with the characteristics of them all.