CERTIFIED SEED OR FSS?

Certified seed or FSS? Which option is better? Which choice is more beneficial for you? We encourage you to read the article below on this subject.

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All the authors write that the productivity of plants and the profitability of crop is determined by the quality of seed. The quality of seed must be considered in two aspect. First, if this seed meets the special requirements of health and quality. Second, if it provides biological progress for a given environment of plants cultivation.

Like most of the farmers, I use a common practice to buy a small quantity of certified seed and, in the next few years, use a harvested material for sowing. The aim of such action is to improve the profitability of crop by decreasing the costs of sowing, however very few farmers collect data and calculate if this method really leads to success. If you want to have clean seeds, you must do negative selection on the field to get clean harvest; then you must take care of the harvested seeds to avoid losing their health and vitality. I decided to do the sums for checking.

Is FSS really cheaper?

The price of certified seed is definitely higher (twice higher) than the price of commercial ones. So, if I sow the harvested material instead of selling the seeds e.g. for animal feed, for 900 PLN per tonne, then I will save at least just as much money, because I won’t buy the certified seed. But whether is that certainly so? If I want to sow harvested seed comparable to certified one, I should clean it first. Why? Because otherwise I may have to use more seed dressing, which is expensive; moreover, the impurities will significantly aggravate adhesion of the seed dressing, so the seed will be more threatened from illnesses. In such situation I would have to increase the sowing rate by 10-15 %. Good seed dressing is a basis of success. Naturally, I add to the costs my or employee’s working time, energy and depreciation of machinery. Since I plant a variety protected with PBR, I have to add the FSS fee which equals 50% of royalty. If I add up the direct costs I will find out that they are really lower than the price of certified seed by about 120 PL per hectare. I will not receive the premium for areas sown under certified seed (100 PLN per hectare) because I used FSS, but despite this I saved 20 PLN.

Let’s see what will happen next. Will I improve profitability of crop by sowing harvested seed? To check that, I divided my field into equal halves and sowed the second half with certified seed for 220 PLN per quintal. The conditions on both halves are the same: no humps or holes, well planed soil, identical fertilisation and other agrotechnical operations. By sight, the cereal on both halves was looking similarly so I made up a balance by weighing the harvest. It turned out that on the half sowed with certified seed I harvested 3% of seed more than on the half sowed with FSS, which is about 1,35 quintal per hectare (and about 121 PLN per hectare) more. The lesson is that sowing FSS I saved no money but worked hard with cleaning and seed dressing. It is said that if you try hard you can get an increase of harvest from certified seed by 10-15 % – a lot of money! But the worst is that I lost several hundred zlotys of premium which I would have received if I had sown more certified seed.

Specification

Harvested seed

Certified seed

The assumptions such as desirable seeding density and average harvest depend on various factors, e.g. soil, sowing date or microclimate. Desirable seeding density of health plants per 1 m2 = 310 pcs.
Average harvest of triticale = 45 dt per hectare.
Sowing parameters both harvested and certified seed are identical:
– the weight of 1 000 seeds = 40 g
– the germination capacity = 90%
– the amount of sowing = 138 kg/ha
The market price of  100 kg of seed

90.00 PLN

219.30 PLN

Unit values in PLN per 1 ha

Costs: with a minus sign / Additional benefits: with a plus sign

Cost of seed

-124.20

-302.60

Cost of cleaning
and 10% waste

-15.20

0

Seed dressing

-27.60

0

FSS fee
(farmers’ privilege)

-15.30

0

The premium for areas sown under certified seed

0

+100.00

Increase of harvest
3% = 1,35 dt

0

+121.50

Costs of sowing
in total

-182.30

-81.10

The quantity and quality of future harvest depend on genetics in 50%; in case of some species it is even 90%. The resources of arable land are decreasing not only in Poland but worldwide. Therefore, we should improve the financial result by the crop efficiency, not by the crop area. So why does a statistical Polish farmer harvest crops lower by one third than a farmer in Germany or France, even though all of them use a comparable amount of mineral fertilisers? This is because a statistical farmer in Czech Republic, Germany, France or Sweden sows certified seed on 50-80% of his arable land, while a statistical farmer in Poland – slightly more than 10%.

Paweł Kochański

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(this article was published in print in monthly journal ”Wiadomości Rolnicze Polska” no. 07-08/2012)

Choosing the right variety and buying certified seed of this variety are probably the most important decisions in production of winter crops. Let us analyze carefully all the features of each variety to select the most appropriate one to the specific agricultural and climatic conditions, using the method of negative selection. If there is usually a lack of snow cover in winter, we should definitely resign from varieties of low resistance to frost. Otherwise we risk survival of our future harvest. If we are planning to minimize fertiliser on rye soil, do not choose the highly-yielding varieties with high nutritional requirements. The newest plant varieties offer higher productivity and resistance to lodging, as well as better healthiness. The pathogens don’t wait; new types appear unceasingly and attack crops more and more effectively.  The best resistance to plant diseases characterises “young” varieties. For that reason it is worth to exchange seed every 2-3 years. It is possible then to keep the crop in good healthiness and save the costs of spraying chemicals.

The seed, contrary to mineral fertilisers, plant protection products or fuel, is a specific means in agricultural production. A farmer who has appropriate knowledge, with all reasonable care, is able to produce seed of decent quality on his own, for the needs of his farm. I emphasise: only for the needs of his farm, because to produce seed for sale to the other farmers he shall fulfil additional formal requirements e.g. registration in Main Inspectorate of Plant Health And Seed Inspection (Poland), obtaining a licence from the Breeder, reporting the plantation and double certification of seed. Certified seed is a means of production much cheaper than fertilisers and spraying chemicals, because its impact on the volume and quality of harvest is bigger than increasing the level of fertilisation. I will try to convince you that certified seed, apparently more expensive, for the majority of farms is cheaper than sowing the harvested material.

Certified seed is characterised by high quality parameters that shall be controlled by public services. Buying the seed with an official blue label we can be sure of the quality of this means of production. If it does not meet the standards or is inconsistent with the offer made by the seller, we can complain the seed just as any other good. Complaints should be submitted to the seller on a basis of the proof of purchase. The best solution is to check the seed already at the time of purchase and, if there is any objection, complain immediately, not only at the time of sowing or during the growing. Buying the seed, it is also worth to ask to see or to get a copy of a document for the certification of seed after laboratory evaluation.

In Poland there is still increasing the number of producers of certified seed who impose on themselves the rigour to meet the highest quality requirements for basic seed. This should be an example for others. In some regions access to certified seed may be difficult because of poorly developed distribution network. Well, it’s our own fault. Tragically small exchange of seed over the last two decades, which 10 years ago was 10 % and currently 12%, caused the lack of interest of private retail sector in trade in certified seed – the sellers were worried that a lot of certified seed would remain unsold after a sowing season. Many seed companies and shops were liquidated. Therefore, it is worth to order certified seed of the specific variety at the seller significantly earlier. On-line selling with direct delivery to a farm is also getting more and more popular. We can definitely say that with the increase of interest in certified seed “white spots” on the map of Poland will shrink.

The price of certified seed, in spite of appearances, is not high. Of course, the costs of production, transportation and margin result in a price 2-3 times higher than in case of feed grain, but the benefits are relatively bigger: taking advantage of biological progress, the guarantee of high quality and identity of a variety, possibility of precise sowing adjusted to the place, homogenous and healthy crop, lower cost of plant protection (by 1 spraying), higher weight and quality of harvest.

In case of winter triticale, when we use certified seed, we can get e.g. 16% increase of yielding – so if the yielding was 3500 kg per hectare so far, we can harvest even by 550 kg per hectare more. 300 kg cover the difference of expense between certified seed and feed grain, so a quantifiable financial benefit equals 250 kg. Additionally, a farmer can apply for de minimis aid for using certified seed, which is 100 PLN per ha. We can say, it is a sin of Polish farmer against his own money to make apparently savings by not using certified seed. Why should we still harvest 3,5 tonnes rather than 7 tonnes per hectare?

The table  – comparison of costs of sowing certified seed and harvested seed

Specification

Certified seed

Harvested seed

The sowing rate

150 kg/ha

150 kg/ha

The price of 1 t

2000 PLN

500 PLN

The cost of seed sown on 1 ha

-300 PLN

-75 PLN

The cost of cleaning and seed dressing

cleaned and dressed

-52 PLN

FSS fee

no additional fee

-18 PLN

Total costs per 1 ha

-300 PLN

-145 PLN

The premium for areas sown under certified seed

+100 PLN

not applicable

Increase of harvest per 1 ha

+500 kg = +250 PLN

0 kg = 0 PLN

Final settlement of the costs

+50 PLN

-145 PLN

What quantity of seed should we sow? The matter seems simple. We should know if we want to harvest a lot of dirt and small grain or splendid crop and healthy grain. On drier soil of poor quality we will not get good harvest if the plant density is too high and the plants must compete for sunlight, water and food.  If the crop is too densely planted, it is more susceptible to fungal diseases or lodging. Although there are varieties where higher plant density does not cause dramatic changes of ears, it is not worth to sow 5 million of grains per 1 hectare. We should rather ask the Breeder or seller what is the recommended plant density for the variety concerned because the differences may be significant. For instance, apart from the desired plant density on the field (O), e.g. 350 pcs., we should know following parameters: the hundred seeds weight (MTZ), e.g. 39 g; the germination capacity (ZK), e.g. 95%; the seeds purity (CZ), e.g. 99%, and then calculate the sowing rate kg/ha = O x MTZ : ZK : CZ x 100. In our case it amounts to 145 kg/ha. These were the parameters of certified seed. If we do similar calculation for harvested seed, it may be as follows: MTZ = 43 g, ZK = 85%, CZ = 80%; then, to get the desired plant density, we should sow 222 kg/ha.

If, despite of the above economic and non-economic arguments, we decide to propagate again a part of our harvest, we should remember to prepare it first very well. First of all, it is not enough just to save a part of harvest. From the very beginning we should chose a part of our field for that purpose and look after it often, manually remove unwelcome plants from the plantation (e.g. weeds, other cereal species), precisely apply plant protection treatments and remember that in this case not quantity but quality of the harvest is the most important. During harvesting we should take care of cleanness of the harvester, trailers and the warehouse, to prevent contamination by other species or varieties.

Before sowing we should very carefully clean seed from any dust, husks or damaged grain; then the homogenous and clean seed must be further worked on a gravity table to get the seed of the highest germination capacity. It is only now that we shall start dressing the best part of seed. If we don’t clean it well before, we will use to much expensive dressing and have a very little success. The dressing wouldn’t be applied evenly and it wouldn’t cling to the surface of seed. The liquid dressings cling better then the powder ones. Visual check of the quality of dressing does not always work well because uneven colour of the dressed seed may result from differences in colour of the seed before dressing. The best solution is to use professional processors who have complete lines for seed preparation, who legally provide their services and hold a licence from Agencja Nasienna in order to prepare the material of a protected variety for customers for sowing or planting. For the service of seed preparation to be legal, the farmer (the customer) shall provide the processor with the variety name; moreover, the service shall be performed within the customer’s farm. If the preparation takes place outside the customer’s farm, both the farmer and the processor are obliged to evidence the service and identity of the variety, which means, among others, necessity of taking and keeping representative samples of the harvested seed.

Paweł Kochański

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(this article was published in print in biweekly magazine ”Agro Serwis” no 17, dated 1 September 2013)