Seed Certification in South Africa

Seed certification is a legally sanctioned system for quality control of seed multiplication and production.

Simply put, this means we certify that a container (bag, packet, tin or box) of seed contains what it says on the label and meets the acceptable standards of seed viability and physical purity, but more specifically of the varietal purity and varietal identity of the seed.

We Have -

More than 320 trained and authorised private Seed Inspectors and Samplers.

A small, dedicated and professional team at the Secretariat.

A complete history of each lot on record.

We Verify -

More than 50 000 hectares of seed crops annually.

Seed lots produced on fields registered with SANSOR only.

The sources of the seed, i.e. breeder seed, through pre-basic to basic and certified seed.

We Use -

More than 90 control/check points as criteria.

Authorised private seed inspectors for field inspections.

A on-line database, as well as other record keeping systems.

We Certify -

Seed of a high and known quality according to the rules of the SA Seed Certification Scheme.

On average 3,000 seed lots per annum.

Varietal purity and – identity, as well as physical seed quality.

SANSOR’s role in seed certification

One of SANSOR’s major functions, as Designated Authority for Seed Certification in South Africa, is to manage and execute all functions pertaining to seed certification on behalf of government. This pertains to all National and International Seed Certification Schemes. For National Certification, we work according to the requirements as stipulated in the South African Seed Certification Scheme – click on this link to go to the page where the Scheme can be downloaded.

SANSOR’s role in seed certification

The fact that seed is sold by a registered business and / or an analysis report is available does not mean that that seed lot is certified. Certification of seed involves a complete control system from the release of the variety by the breeder thereof up to the eventual release of the seed to the producer. It occurs over several generations of propagation which usually takes up to three or four seasons.

During each of the various multiplication processes, complete control is performed, whereby each seed production unit is registered with SANSOR. SANSOR first checks the origin and certifiability of the parent seed of the variety concerned before the unit is accepted for seed production for certification. Plants are inspected by SANSOR trained and authorized inspectors at specific growth stages to determine, among other things, that the plants comply with the prescribed minimum requirements for varietal purity and identity. This includes aspects such as controlling isolation distances, previous cropping, volunteer plants, off-types, etc. which may compromise the varietal purity of the seed. For each inspection performed, a report is submitted to SANSOR which then records the finding. The inspection process is continuously monitored by SANSOR, as well as by officials of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD).

After the seed is harvested, it is processed and packaged. Again, there is total control to ensure that no mixing or contamination occurs. The containers in which the seed is packed are then labeled with prescribed information on labels provided by SANSOR. Seed certification is voluntary in South Africa except for a select few varieties.

How is certified seed distinguished from uncertified seed?

For certified seed, containers will have a blue label with the national coat of arms and the words SA CERTIFIED SEED: SANSOR printed on it. Each container is also sealed with a SANSOR seal with a unique identification number. The seed is then sampled by SANSOR trained and authorized samplers and analyzed by a registered seed testing laboratory to determine the germination and physical purity of the seed.

A post control sample is also planted out by the Variety Control Division of DALRRD to compare it with the reference sample of the variety. If the seed lot concerned meets all the minimum requirements of the Seed Certification Scheme, including those for varietal purity, then SANSOR will issue a Certificate to confirm its certification. The distinctive blue seal, blue label and accompanying certificate therefore serve as proof that a specific lot of seed has been certified in terms of the South African Seed Certification Scheme.

Why insist on certified seed?

By purchasing certified seed, the producer can have the peace of mind that the seed lot concerned has gone through more than 90 checkpoints before being offered for sale, that the production of the seed has been monitored and controlled by an independent body, that there is a complete production history on record and that the seed lot concerned complies with set minimum requirements. Certified seed is seed of a consistently high and known quality which is essential for risk management in modern day agriculture.