Seed, seedlings or potatoes sets must come from reliable, trusted sources. Plant varieties are commonly and extensively described in the catalogues of breeding companies. An independent description of the characteristics of a given variety is carried out by a state institution, the Central Plant Variety Testing Centre (COBORU), which tests and registers plant varieties.
The results of the comparison of varieties, in terms of selected traits within the framework of the Porejester Experimentation of Varieties, are published on the website coboru.pl/DR . On the other hand, the places of sale of seed/planting material of a specific variety are most often not directly provided on the breeders’ websites, they are also known to regional representatives of plant breeding companies. In the case of some plant species, such as potato, the current “Seedling sales information bank for the respective growing season” is posted on ihar.edu.pl. Most agricultural supply outlets sell seed and planting stock. However, it is important that it is in its original packaging and has a so-called “plant passport” – a label with an individual serial number, which informs us of the degree of certification, confirms the quality and the release of this seed lot by the State Plant Protection and Seed Inspection.
Seed/planting material can come from professional producers, from the farm’s own reproduction or from a neighbour – once the necessary formalities have been met. Actual knowledge of the seed and planting material makes it possible to compare varieties and choose the optimal ones for the conditions and needs of the farm. The most important thing is its safety, so that it is not infected with diseases or pests, does not contain weed seeds – especially invasive plants, and that it is obtained legally and suitable for use without breaking the law (e.g. non-GMO). It is very important that the declared variety of the crop is in line with reality, as this can affect the overall effectiveness of the crop (e.g. winter seeds instead of spring seeds, or a fodder variety of a cereal declared as a consumption quality crop).
Documenting the purchase of seed, or planting material, is good practice as it allows:
- to reconstruct information, even after many years, about which varieties we have grown. If we have other records of e.g. resistance of plants of a given variety to pathogens, ripening time, yield level – we can determine whether this variety met our expectations and maybe return to its cultivation, if it is still in the register of varieties and there is market demand for it. If not, consider which variety of a particular species and with which characteristics better than the variety previously grown you are looking for,
- obtain a subsidy for 1 ha of arable land sown or planted with seed of the “elite” or “certified” category, under de minimis aid. The condition is the submission of a relevant application to a local branch of the Agricultural Market Agency by the required deadline. An annex to the application is an invoice confirming the purchase of a specified quantity of certified seed,
- prove, in the event of a claim, the origin of the material, which may be the necessary evidence to allow compensation in the event of any problems caused by the manufacturer.
A simple way of documenting the purchase of seed, or planting stock, and its quality is, in addition to collecting purchase documents, to collect even individual labels – plant passports – which indicate, in addition to the degree of certification: the weight of one thousand seeds (kernels), calibre (potato), germination strength and the name and active substance of the seed dressing. Information on the seed’s maturity and germination capacity significantly helps to accurately determine the correct seed sowing rate or weight of tubers to be planted. Current cultivation recommendations very often specify the sowing of seeds not in seed weight per hectare, but in units per unit area, which makes it possible to optimise its use.
The use of uncertified seed/seed/ tubers or cuttings, or material of unknown origin, carries a high risk of crop failure. In such a situation, even if we have purchased material of the variety we were looking for, we have no guarantee that it is not already outgrown – degenerated or contaminated with another variety. We can expect that the plants of this ‘variety’ will yield less well quantitatively and qualitatively due to, for example, infestation of seeds, cuttings or tubers by fungal and viral diseases, genetic changes (including cross-breeding) and the selective influence of cultivation (e.g. deterioration of plant canopy alignment). The phenomenon of defoliation also applies to the seeds of intercrop and catch crop species. This is important if their cultivation is to bring the expected agri-environmental benefits in the crop rotation of the farm in question, and not just temporary financial assistance related to one or another form of subsidy. In the case of the purchase of presumed seed or planting material of heterozygous varieties (hybrid varieties – F1) of unknown origin, the risk of their cultivation failing increases significantly. The reason for this is that the plants obtained from the first self-propagation (i.e. the F2 generation) no longer show the proper heterosis effect, and the losses in yield and yield quality can – depending on the species – be significant. Maize is a particularly glaring example. In addition, hybrid and synthetic varieties are not covered by the so-called ‘agricultural derogation’, which means that they can only be sown from certified seed.