Shortage of Grain Seed Requires Exceptional Measures


<p>This year’s cool summer and rainy autumn spell shortage of good grain seed, in terms of both quantity and quality, next spring. The germination of lots tested at the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira has, so far, been good, but many unconditioned seed lots from packaging companies as well as samples sent in by farmers have had very poor germination. The biggest problems in germination were discovered in spring wheat and oat, but there were problems also in other cereals. Since also the stocks of seeds are very low at present, exceptional measures have to be taken.</p>

Evira tests the quality of seeds, inspects and supervises the seed production and makes sure that marketed seed lots satisfy the requirements set for certified seed. So far, the germination results of official samples from seed production have been good, meaning that on the basis of these findings, high-quality lots will be available for sowing next spring. The large majority of the examined barley samples were treated with fungiside, and nearly all of them satisfied the 85 per cent minimum requirement set for germination. The average germination of treated seed samples was 94 per cent and that of untreated samples 89 per cent.

The figures for oat lots were for treated seed 91 per cent and for untreated seed 92 per cent. Nearly all the examined spring wheat lots were treated with fungicide, and their average germination was 90 per cent. Eleven of the examined 75 samples of spring wheat did not satisfy the minimum requirement set for germination.

Large variety in samples sent in by packaging companies and farmers

Evira inspects also other than official samples. This autumn Evira has received more than the usual number of samples drawn from unconditioned seed lots from packaging companies as well as samples sent by farmers. The germination results vary extensively, and it is reflected also in the averages. The germination of the poorest samples is less than 50 per cent. The germination of one half of the untreated spring wheat seed samples is less than 75 per cent, and the same goes for every sixth oat sample. The germination is over 85 per cent in only one quarter of the untreated spring wheat seed samples and a little over one half in the treated ones.

These problems in germination are mainly due to difficult weather conditions during the past growing season. Farmers are advised to inspect the quality of their seedcorn or send it over for inspection as soon as possible in order to get a picture of the usability of seed saved on farms for next spring. 

Different options to solve the availability of seed are being considered

According to the seed sector, there will be shortage of seed next spring. Further, the stocks of seeds from previous years are exceptionally low, in particular in the case of barley and oat seed.

Harvesting conditions were very difficult this autumn, and part of the crops were left in the fields. At the time of harvesting early spring cereals, their quality was still good but there were big regional differences. There will be problems in the availability of spring wheat seed, in any case, and also shortage of oat and barley seed. In the case of special plants, it would seem that there will be a sufficient amount of turnip rape seed.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and Evira have, together with the seed sector, begun surveying the seed situation in order to be able to assess the need for various exceptional measures.

Seed may be imported from other Member States but this import will probably be restricted by the limited number of grain varieties that thrive in our Finnish conditions. Finland may apply for an exemption from the requirements set for minimum germination, in order to sell seed that does not meet the required 85 per cent limit. The Maintenance and Supply Security Centre will take a separate decision whether or not its stocks of seeds need to be opened.

Further information:
Sinikka Köylijärvi, Senior Researcher, Evira, tel. +358 (0)40 521 4761 (Seed laboratory)
Hanna Kortemaa, Head of Unit, Evira, tel. +358 (0)40 833 2486 (Supervision)

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