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.

You are likely reading this article around the middle of April, so many of you may be focused on something that grabs my attention during this time of year, taxes! Yes, it is the inevitable annual process of gathering all of our W-2s, 1099s, receipts and charitable contribution documentation, then working through the unenviable task of defining what our financial contribution to our various governing bodies will be. While pondering the mortgage interest credit, my mind drifted off into thinking about how taxes are somewhat analogous to seed testing quality information.

This might seem like a stretch, but stay with me. There are certain components of a tax return that are always required such as your Social Security identification number, the number of dependents you claim and the amount of income you earned as reported on your W-2. It’s the same with seed labeling laws, which require the seed seller be identified with contact information, the germination percent be listed along with the test date and a physical seed purity and noxious weed analysis be documented, along with a list of any seed treatments that have been applied to the seed.

Both of these processes have components that are required for completion. There are also components to both processes that might not be required but are critically important. When considering completion of tax returns many of us rely on various processes to help mitigate our tax liability. We participate in tax-deferred savings plans, such as a 401K or an IRA to help reduce our tax load. Or, we itemize our deductions to identify the various expenses that we incurred to help reduce our tax liability. We give generously to our churches and charitable organizations not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because we can receive a tax deduction for this good deed. These good tax planning practices are analogous to having a complete set of seed testing results to help us have a clear picture of the quality of our seed lots.

While germination and physical seed purity are vital pieces of information and required to be listed on all seed labels, what about the genetic purity of the seed lot? Is the variety or hybrid correct for what is stated on the label? Do seed producers and retailers know if any unwanted transgenic events have contaminated their seed lot? Have they completed an adventitious presence (AP) test? If the seed should contain a genetic trait, such as insect resistance or herbicide tolerance, have these quality assays been performed and reported?

And what about the seed treatment, has it been applied appropriately within the chemical manufacturer’s specifications so as not to over or under apply the active ingredient? Then, don’t neglect the seed health of your seed lot; have you completed a screening for any pathogens that could affect the quality of your seed lot?

It may seem like a lot of additional testing that is not required, so why make the investment in dollars and time to complete all this non-required testing? Well, just like with your tax return, the goal is to have the most complete representation of the process, be it the seed lots that you are preparing to market to your customers or your personal finance representation to the government. If any of the pieces are missing you could be in for a problem, in the form of customer complaints and potentially lost sales opportunities or in the case of the IRS, the dreaded audit.

So when you are thinking about the testing you need for your seed lot, I urge you to consider how you compiled your tax return and be sure not to forget to complete the seed treatment loading rate analysis. Could that be tax deductible … hmmm?