Craig Nelson Vice President, Eurofins BioDiagnostics

Craig has over 26 years of seed industry involvement, having a wide breadth of experiences working for everything from a multinational industry leader to a privately held startup seed testing laboratory. He has experience in seed research and product development, agronomy services, quality assurance testing and management of genetic purity testing laboratories. Craig has degrees in agricultural economics from Purdue University and agronomy from the University of Kentucky. He is also a Certified Crop Adviser.

There are many important reasons to use a genetic purity test within a quality assurance testing program.

Plant breeders spend years testing and trialing to determine which crosses will produce a hybrid with the most sought-after characteristics. A genetic purity test serves as an important quality checkpoint to make sure that the cross happened as expected, and that a seed lot does not have contamination in the form of self-pollination or outcrossing.

Whether you’re a plant breeder, seed producer or retailer, conducting genetic purity testing is in your best interest. Genetic quality problems can be present in a seed lot and if genetic purity testing has not been conducted, a seed producer will not have all of the information that they will need to make good decisions related to the actual quality of the seed lot.

While it’s true that genetic purity is not a required component of a seed tag, genetically pure seed is important to the grower. If selfing is present at a high enough level the stunted, poor-yielding inbred plants can affect the performance of the crop. If off-types are present, the result can be plants that stand out visually (tall offtypes), and maturity differences that can cause moisture and other performance issues in the field.

Despite its importance, myths abound regarding genetic purity testing. One is, “If I don’t see a problem visually in the field, then my purity should be good.” Just because you can’t actually see a problem, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Often it’s the non-visual, genetic component that can make a big difference in the performance of the seed lot.

Another common myth is that if a transgenic seed lot’s trait purity is high, genetic purity should also be good, so why do this additional testing? The truth is that these are two entirely separate quality tests. Even if a seed lot has no trait contamination, there is no guarantee that the genetic purity will also be high.

When you offer a seed product for sale, you’re putting your reputation on the line. A quality seed product is one with all of the essential components, good germination, strong vigor, plants that grow well and produce high-yielding quality grain or fruit and also have the essential genetics that were breed into the hybrid.

Don’t let your customers be your eyes in the field identifying your problems. Information is power — be sure you have all of the data.