Database of the certified organic seeds registered in each member state of the European Union (data updated within 1st July 2012)
At least 1.8 million hectares of main cereal species are under organic management (including in-conversion areas). As some of the world’s large cereal producers (such as India, China and the Russian Federation) did not provide land use details, it can be assumed that the area is larger than shown here . Comparing this figure with FAO’s figure for the world’s harvested cereal area of 384 million hectares , 0.5 percent of the total cereal area is under organic management.
Oat is one of the most suitable cereal species for organic farming . As it has low requirements on growing conditions, it is a suitable crop for organic farming in Central Europe . There is a relatively wide range of use of oat. Naked oat is a suitable food crop . Common oat is mostly used as a fodder crop . It is the second most frequent crop (just after bread wheat) in the Czech organic farming system. The common oat growing area represents 5,000 hectares and its average yield rate represents 2.5 t/ha .
The paragraph above indicates a lower productivity of the organically grown cereal crop stands. A deficiency of certified organic seeds and a serious necessity of an application of own farm saved seed are the factors that might provoke it. For this reason, a question of quality in various provenances of seed is to be answered in this chapter.
2. Legislation of use of seed in organic farming
The Council Regulation (EC) No. 834/2007 of the 28th of June 2007, and the Commission Regulation (EC) No. 889/2008, of the 5th of September 2008, are the most important European legislative instructions addressing organic farming, and are binding for all member states of the European Union. They lay down the law to solely use organic seeds in order to establish organic crop stands. The seed must originate from plants being grown in compliance with the organic farming rules for at least one generation. Seed multiplication is an extremely difficult process. The reproduction crop stand and seed must meet the requirements of the seed certification and authorization procedure as conventional plants and seed do, but organic farming does not allow the use of any pesticides or mineral nitrogenous fertilizers, etc. Organic farmers may use certified organic seeds or farm seed in order to establish the crop stand. They may also apply for an exception (derogation) and use the conventional untreated seed.
2.1. Farm saved seed use
Use of the farm seeds (the seeds produced at a own organic farm) is allowed and any obligatory application for authorization is not required. A farmer should, however, take into account that repeated application of the farm seeds may have a negative effect on the yield rate and health of the crop stand. If the farm seeds of a registered variety are used, a farmer must pay fees to the owner of the breeding rights. Such fees are lower than the standard price for the license (it is even included in the price for the certified organic seeds). The fees (which are usually obligatory but reasonable) for the application of the farm seeds and potato seedlings are not obligatory for small farmers. Moreover, each member state of the European Union has regularized the amount of the fees with legislative regulations.
2.2. Conventional seed use
If there are not any organic seeds available, or left from the previous farming years, seeds coming from the conventional crop stands are allowed. Anyway, the seed needn't be treated with any plant treatment, which are not allowed by the organic farming regulation. An application for an exception to be made,regarding the use of the conventional seeds within the organic farming system, is considered and granted by a public authority (it is usually an accredited organisational unit of the Czech Ministry of Agriculture). The total amount of exceptions tends to be limited, but there is a deficiency of the organic seeds available on the market.
2.3. Information on the availability of the certified organic seeds
Each member state of the European Union is obliged to set up „a database of organic seeds“ (Database). A producer or a supplier of the organic seeds is obliged to insert all the varieties into the Database (the variety missing in the Database is considered as an unavailable variety). Before registering the variety (i. e. inserting it into the Database), the farmer has to provide proof at a review he was put under. The control system must comply with the regulations of the European Union. Moreover, the farmer must prove his seeds meet all the legislative requirements for reproductive material. Data inserted into the Database are regularly updated. There is a list of the obligatory items: the scientific name of the species and variety, the supplier’s name and contact, the country which the variety has been registered in, the date the seeds have been available from, the amount of seeds, the name and number code of the control institution which has executed the least control and has issued the certificate on the organic seeds and potato seedlings. If the variety is missing in the official Database, an exception can be granted and the conventional seeds are allowed to be applied. Each member state of the European Union has set up its own database. There is a list of the certified organic seeds databases available in EU member states (Table 1).
3. Production of cereal seeds - An example from the Czech Republic
An increasing number of existing organic farms indicates that certified organic farming has been becoming more and more attractive. The number of Czech organic farms amounts to 3,920 and the organic farms cover a total area of 482,927 ha which represents 11.40 % of the whole agricultural land area . Arable land, nevertheless, covers only 12.27 % of the total area (it means 59,281 ha). The above-mentioned data reflect an unsuitable structure of the organic farming. It has arisen from the previous setting of subventional instruments but also the fact that the arable land farming has always been very difficult and required specific knowledge.
The total area of land where the organic cereals are grown amounts to almost 30,000 ha. Bread wheat is the most frequent cereal species grown in accordance with the organic farming principles in the Czech Republic. In 2010, it covered 8,872 ha of the organic land and represented 22 % of all the organically grown cereal species in the Czech Republic . Although it belongs to the most demanding cereal species, it is able to provide an even higher yield rate than the other organically grown cereal species (e. g. bread wheat – 3.26 t.ha-1, spelt wheat – 2.91 t.ha-1, rye – 2.82 t.ha-1, barley – 2.82 t.ha-1, oat – 2.54 t.ha-1, triticale – 2.95 t.ha-1; all the above-mentioned yield rate values were measured in 2010).
3.1. Supply of organic seeds in the Czech Republic
Data concerning the structure of multiplication crop stands, certified seed and the range of seed at the market, were obtained from the Department of seed and planting materials of the Central Institute for Supervising and Testing in Agriculture and the Ministry of Agriculture of the Czech Republic.
Between 2008/09 and 2010/11 there was a gradual increase in the land area used for organic cereal seed production. Nevertheless, they represented 1.5 % (349 ha) of the total organic land area in 2009 in the Czech Republic. Regarding the average model seeding rate of 220 kg.ha-1, we would need 5,008 t of seed to plant the entire area of cereals in a particular year. In 2009, the average grain yield of organic cereals in the Czech Republic represented 2.94 t.ha-1. It means we would need a multiplication area of 1,703 ha providing that 100% of the seed were certified as organic seed. In 2009, seed were reproduced on 20.5% of the required land area. It is unrealistic that 100% of grown seed will be certified as organic. A comparison between the allowed multiplication land surface and amounts of allowed winter wheat seed shows that the major part of harvested seed have not been certified as organic seed in 2009 (Table 2). In the same year, 90.95 t of the winter wheat seed were certified as organic. However, this winter wheat was grown on 125 ha of land. It means that the major part of the harvested material did not meet the requirements of the seed certification procedure (same as the major part of the other cereal species). The range of the reproduced organic cereal species is very narrow. The growing of the suitable varieties on the local farm land and under local climatic conditions is strongly limited, because of limited organic seed availability.
Since 2009, organic farmers have asked for permit to use a lot of conventional untreated seed. In 2009, 398 exceptions for 1,664 t of seed were granted (Table 3). Except for the certified organic seed (Table 2) and conventional untreated seed (Table 3), the organic farmers also used their own (saved) seed in order to establish the crop stands. There is not enough information on the applied amount of farm saved seed. Therefore, the following model amount of seeds was used for 2009: amount of certified organic seed = 281 t/seeding rate of 0.22 t.ha-1 = 1,277 ha of the seeded surface; amount of conventional untreated seed = 1,664 t/seeding rate of 0.22 t.ha-1 = 7,564 ha of the sown surface. The area of grown cereals represented 22,762 ha - 1,227 ha - 7,564 ha = 13,971 ha where the farm saved seed were used. The share of each seed type is presented in Figure 1.
The use of organic seed becomes more important in many European countries thanks to the legislative measures and increasing demand for the organic products . It is, nevertheless, one of the most developing parts of organic agriculture . However, the total supply of organic seed is still quite low. The high proportion of common farm seed coming from repeated seeding contributes to a reduction of the yield rate of the crop stands . The seed certification process is very demanding, as the organic seed undergo the review of the Central Institute for Supervising and Testing in Agriculture of organic farming , but organic farming regulations do not allow the use of any pesticides, etc. .
3.2. Preference and expectations of the Czech organic farmers related to seeds
A questionnaire survey was carried out between 2009 and 2010; 329 questionnaires were sent to organic farmers working on arable land, of which 42% were sent back. The farmers were asked to answer nine questions. The questionnaires were converted into electronic versions and assessed by the contingency tables in the Excel program.
A further part of the questionnaire aimed to find out how organic farmers find and gather information on seeds. The main information resources are as follow: the internet, consultancy, from the Association of Organic Farmers and seed companies. The official database of the certified organic seed (http://www.ukzuz.cz/Folders/2295-1-Ekologicke+osivo.aspx) is also frequently used by the organic farmers (Table 4). The obligation to document the absence of the certified organic seed when applying for a exception in the conventional untreated seed use, is one of the important reasons. Most of the organic farmers (75% of the farms) would prefer the certified organic seed if the supply was sufficient and prices favourable (Table 4). Only 14% of the farms explicitly prefer conventional untreated seed. The suitability of varieties and transport distance are other reasons for the farm saved seed preference (Table 4).
|Suitability of varieties||16||Yes, I use the database||51||Yes, I would||75|
|Seed price||37||Yes, I sometimes use||16||No, I would not||14|
|Transport distance||18||I know but I do not use||20||I do not know||11|
|Supply||24||I have no access||7|
4. Quality of organic seed – Results of experiments
Data and outcomes being analysed in this chapter have resulted from the trials executed by the authors, and they are described in detail below. They are based on A) results of standard seed laboratory test (biological traits and health), B) results of the field trials.
Used varieties and seed provenances are described in Table 5. Three categories of seeds were collected in the Czech Republic: the certified organic seeds (O), the conventional untreated seeds (C) and the organic farm seeds (Farm seed I., Farm seed II.). The following cereals species were tested in the research trials and analysed: bread wheat (
Field trials were sown during the experimental years 2010 and 2011 in a randomized, complete block design on organic certified trial field in two locations in Prague (Czech University of Life Sciences Prague; Crop Research Institute in Prague) and in Ceske Budejovice (University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice). The seeding rate was adjusted for a density of 350 germinable grains per m2. Rows were 125 mm wide. The plots were treated in compliance with European legislation - European Council Regulation (EC) No. 834/2007 and European Commission Regulation (EC) No. 889/2008.
|Naked oat||Saul||Organic certified (EC), conventional untreated (C), Farm saved seed from better growing conditions (Farm seed I.), Farm saved seed from worse growing conditions (Farm seed II.)|
|Bread wheat||SW Kadrilj|
Characteristics of the trial stations: The Czech University of Life Sciences Prague (50°04´N,14°62´E): warm and mid-dry climate, soil type - brown soil, kind of soil - loamy clay soil, altitude of 295 m. The Crop Research Institute in Prague - Ruzyne (50°08´N,14°30´E): warm mid-dry climate, soil type - degraded chernozem, kind of soil - clay and loamy soil, altitude of 340 m. The University of South Bohemia in Ceske Budejovice (48°98´N,14°45´E): Mild warm climate, soil type – pseudogley cambisols, kind of soil - loamy sand soil, altitude of 388 m.
Analyses of seed contamination with fungi (before seeding and after harvest): The method of isolation of micromycets inside an cultivation media was applied in order to evaluate the rate of grain contamination with microscopic fungi. A universal cultivation media - PDA (Potato Dextrose Agar - HiMedia) was used in the experiment. Incubation lasted from seven to ten days and it was run in a dark room and in a temperature of 20oC. Each sample was repeated five times, there were ten grains included in each repetition. Mixed colonies were cleaned and sorted before the determination, clean isolates of fungi were determined, therefore. The number of isolated colonies was visually determined, the determination of micromycets was executed with microscopes and it was based on the microscopical morphological traits.
Laboratory germination and energy of germination (before seeding and after harvest): 100 caryopses of each sample were used and repeated four times, they were put into plastic bowls with perforated caps, on wet folded filtration paper. The bowls were placed into a ventilated air-conditioned box where 20°C was the inside temperature. The energy of germination was assessed four days later (by counting of usual germinated caryopses). Laboratory germination was assessed by the same procedure eight days later.
Laboratory emergence and energy of emergence (before seeding and after harvest): 100 caryopses of each sample were put in coarse sand, 3 cm deep, four times. A 1 cm wide wet sand layer (characterised by 60% humidity) was placed at the bottom of the bowl. The caryopses were put onto the sand layer; they were slightly pressed and covered with dry sand. The laboratory emergence was determined at the temperature of 15°C. Seven days later, the energy of emergence was assessed, and 14 days later, the laboratory emergence was determined by deduction of the emerged caryopses.
The Statistica 9.0 (StatSoft. Inc., USA) program was used for statistical data analysis. Regression and correlation analyses provided the evaluation of interdependence. The comparison of varieties and their division into statistically different categories were provided by the
4.2. Oat (
Avena sativaL., Avena sativavar. nuda)
Results of the evaluation of the microscopical fungi occurrence on seeds, found out by isolation and cultivation of colonies on the cultivation media, are shown in Table 6. The seeds were most seriously affected by
The research was aimed also at the detection of the transmission of fungi micromycets onto the following seed generation. When studying and evaluating the first generation of seed,we found that the seed contamination rate was not influenced by the growing technology applied on the parent seed crop stands (Tables 6 and 7). As for the following seed generation (Tables 9 and 10), it was not significantly influenced by the seed origin –
The influence of seed health conditions on an expansion of diseases throughout the growing period has not yet been ascertained. No varieties or localities were affected by any diseases being caused by the pathogens we had determined on the seeds. They were not affected by any other pathogens being trasmitted by seeds either. The total rate of contamination of the caryopses with microscopical fungi was influenced by weather conditions during vegetation period. The year of 2010 had been wetter, which caused a higher rate of grain contamination. The hulled oat was more seriously contaminated than the naked oat; it was caused by a fact that the hulled oat caryopses get less dry, that makes ideal conditions for an expansion of the fungi pathogens . The strong rate of caryopses‘ contamination with
Our research has not ascertained any transmission of micromycets or pathogens onto the emerged plants or the following seed generation either. Such a finding is, nevertheless, relevant to oat which is extensive  and less bred than the other cereal species. The contamination of seeds with
|Farm saved seed||0.5±0.4a||1.4±0.6a||3.7±3.2a|
|Farm saved seed||0.9±1.0a||3.7±2.0a||3.3±2.6a|
4.3. Bread wheat (
The spring wheat cultivar SW Kadrilj registered in the Czech Republic has been selected as a model variety. The experiments aimed at the evaluation of selected diseases and seed quality were organised in 3 localities for 2 years (2010 and 2011). Experimental plots in particular localities were sown with seeds of different origin (organic certified, farm saved seed and conventional untreated) whose health state and quality is described in Tables 12 and 13.
|Farm saved seed||1.5±1.5a||2.6±0.5a|
Infestation of the seed used for seeding with
Variability within particular categories (locality, year and seed origin) was relatively high. Consequently, no significant differences within the categories were identified (Table 15). Nevertheless, we can observe that in grain harvested from plots sown with farm saved seed, the infestation with
In 2010 there was evaluated in addition to
A similar situation as in 2010 was observed in 2011, mainly as it concerns
|Farm saved seed||97±5a||98±3a||88±4a||91±2a||4.4±1.8a|
Differences among localities in seed quality parameters were not significant. Nevertheless, higher seed quality was determined in seed from CULS – locality Prague – Uhřiněves. In general, final values (germination and emergence) were higher than the energy of germination and energy of emergence, respectively. Different conditions during the vegetation period in 2010 and 2011 caused significant differences between the years. Higher germination and energy of germination was not manifested in higher energy of laboratory tested energy of emergence and emergence. Different origin of seed did not influence significantly seed quality parameters.
4.4. Barley (
The spring barley variety Xanadu registered in the Czech Republic has been selected as a model variety. As in the case of spring wheat, the experiments aimed at the evaluation of the most important diseases and seed quality were organised in 2 experimental localities (Crop Research Institute Prague – CRI and Czech University of Life Sciences Prague – CULS) for 2 years (2010 and 2011). Experimental plots in both of the localities were sown with seed of different origin (organic certified, organic farm farm saved and conventional untreated) whose health and quality is described in Tables 16 and 17.
|Farm saved seed||0.4±0.3a||1.7±1.0a||0.8±0.9a|
|Farm saved seed||81±23a||92±8a||76±10a||81±9a|
Infestation of barley seed used for seeding with
In grain, harvested on both of the experimental localities, there were determined the same parameters as in seeds used for seeding. Obtained data are given in Tables 18 and 19 and in Figure 4. Variability within particular categories (locality, year and seed origin) was not high in
It is evident from the comparison of fungal infestation in harvested seed and seed used for seeding of different provenance (Figure 4), infestation of barley seed used for seeding with
Results of quality evaluation of harvested seed are given in Table 18. It is evident from these results, that the effect of locality and year on values of all of evaluated seed quality parameters was higher than the effect of the seed origin. The same situation was observed in the yield of harvested grain – effect of year and locality was relatively high and statistically significant, effect of the seed origin on yield of harvested grain was low.
The organic farming has been developing very fast worldwide. There has been, nevertheless, a serious deficiency of certified organic seeds of most of the crops in most of the countries. It also concerns the cereals belonging to the most frequent crops being grown on the organic farms.
There has been the longtime deficiency of the certified organic seeds in the Czech Republic too. The parcels intended for multiplication of seeds cover an insufficient area. Most of the seeds have not been certified because they are highly infected with the diseases transmitted by the seeds themselves. Strict norms for the organic seed certification process should be changed in the near future. Nowadays, the same norms are valid in the organic and conventional farming but any supportive instruments being applied by the conventional farming system are not permitted by the organic farming system (e. g. mineral fertilizers, pesticides, etc.).
The own farm saved seed or the conventional untreated seeds are usually used in order to establish the crop stand because there is a serious deficiency of certified organic seeds. However, the application of conventional untreated seeds does not comply with the organic farming principles. Therefore, the European Union currently started putting permanent pressure on the conventional untreated seeds to be limited. Therefore, if the deficiency of organic seeds persists, a percentage of the applied uncontrolled own farm saved seed is to increase.
Our trials aimed at the evaluation of the influence the seed provenance (the certified organic seeds, the conventional untreated seeds, the farm saved seed) had on the seed parameters and health. Four spring forms of cereals were tested (hulled and naked oat, bread wheat, and barley). The influence of the various seed provenance on the crop stand quality was particularly studied. Moreover, a possible effect of the various seed provenance on seed parameters and health of the following seed generation were also evaluated.
Study of the influence of biological characteristics on the following seed generation has shown that all the seed categories achieve a good-quality level. The seeds originating from certified organic seeds have the best biological characteristics of all. The oat seeds coming from the own farm saved seed had also good qualitative parameters. We have come to similar findings as for the health state of the crop stand. There is not any correlation between the intensity of seed infestation with pathogens and the health state of the following seed generation.
If the laws get more strict, or the conventional untreated seeds are absolutely forbidden by the organic farming system, the deficiency of the certified organic seeds will have to be compensated by the own farm saved seed supply. Anyway, the farm seeds must be reproduced on the parcels having good qualitative parameters and careful agrotechnological methods will be indispensable.
Supported by the Ministry of Agriculture of the Czech Republic – NAZV, Grant No. QI 91C123.