Jim Gibbons appointed President of Irish Seed Trade Association.

Jim Gibbons has been recently appointed as the new President of the Irish Seed Trade Association (ISTA) following a recent AGM. Jim will serve a two-year term as ISTA President, and takes over from John Dalton of Chancellors Mills, Kilkenny.

Technical Manager of Germinal Ireland for over 25 years, Jim is well accustomed to the challenges that lie ahead for the tillage industry.

The Irish Seed Trade Association (ISTA) represents multipliers, producers and distributors of certified seed in Ireland. Its role is to promote the use of certified seed in tillage, forage and grassland crops and to ensure the best varieties of seed are made available to Irish farmers. Jim is keen to promote the important role of ISTA for the gain of tillage farmers and growers throughout the country. “Within my term as President of ISTA I want to ensure that the Irish Seed Trade Association continues to support the efforts of ensuring that the best available varieties, produced to the highest possible standards are available. Seed is the bedrock for our production systems so this is critical to ensure the continued success of Irish Agriculture”.

John Dalton will serve as outgoing Vice-President, along with the new incoming Vice-President Phil Meaney of Glanbia.


Certified Seed Focus in this weeks IFJ

The 3rd edition of the Certified Seed Focus will be in this week’s Farmers Journal compiled in association with the Irish Seed Trade Association (ISTA). This time around it looks at the increasing pressure farmers are coming under controlling weeds due to the increasing number of problem species. We talk to 3 farmers from around the country who take appropriate steps to keep out problems such as wild oats, sterile brome, meadow brome, canary grass, blackgrass, etc.

Role of Certified Seed

The feature highlights how Certified Seed operates zero tolerance through a higher voluntary standard for most of these grasses and also examines other factors such as machinery and how they can carry in problems with them. The Focus takes a look at seed treatments; where they have come from and how they have evolved to what we use today.

Lots to read and a must see for all tillage farmers and growers this Thursday.

Harvesting seed crops for Certification

Harvest stages of Certified Seed, whole barley seed.

This is our third article on the Certification Seed process. We’ve taken a look at Inspection and Rogueing, which is the removal of unwanted plants by hand from the crop, and Crop Trials to observe the characteristics of crops and varieties and how they react to the Irish environment under Irish growing conditions. In this piece Former President of ISTA Tom Bryan takes us through the process of harvesting outlining the key actions that need to be taken to ensure the seed collected is fit for certification.

After the crop has come to the end of its growing cycle, including thorough audits by Department of Agriculture (DAFM) representatives and the agronomists of the Seed Processors, the harvest period begins.

It is extremely important that every effort is made during the harvesting of the seed crops to retain the following which are the cornerstones of quality Irish certified seed:

  • Varietal Purity.
  • Freedom from invasive species (Wild oats, Brome and Canary Grass etc.)
  • Germination.

When to harvest
Harvest generally occurs from July to October and it is important not to delay harvest once the crop has ripened. When ripe, winter cereals are easy to thresh, and harvest can begin at moisture levels as high as 20%, although generally very little is harvested above 18% moisture.

A germination as low as 85% is acceptable but it is recommended that >98% should be the target at harvest. Harvest and handling is of particular importance for malting barley.

Before harvesting begins
There are a number of key activities that the grower must action. The grower must:

  • Ensure that the seed crops have not been desiccated through the use of any pesticide e.g. Glyphosate containing products.
  • Give adequate notice of intention to harvest (i.e. 24 hours’ notice) to the Seed Processor. The harvesting of Seed crops may be carried out when the required notice is given.
  • Ensure that all harvesting machinery and trailers for transporting the seed have been thoroughly cleaned out.
  • Ensure harvesting of seed crops will be supervised, if possible on a spot-check basis, by Department of Agriculture personnel.
  • Take care to ensure that there will be no contamination from any source of the seed grain if it has to be stored in the farmyard awaiting collection.

Harvesting underway
When operating the combine harvester, the driver has a bird’s eye view of the seed crop and, with due care and attention to detail, the operator aims to prevent any unwanted weed seeds or other contaminants entering into the harvested seed grains. This requires concentration and vigilance, which our expert seed growers, have in abundance.

The first run around the outer headlands of the field should be discarded when harvesting the crop. This is best practice for species purity reasons and will also further aid the cleaning out process of the combine.

Lodging can be a problem and it is recommended that these patches are also excluded when harvesting to prevent the possibility of reduced germination and the subsequent rejection of the sample.

Avoiding damage to the seeds during harvesting
Even minor damage to the seed can affect the ability of the seed to germinate. Cracked grains, skinned or partially-skinned grains, and grains killed through damage to the germ, cannot germinate properly in the subsequent C1 Seed crop.

When examining a barley seed sample for damage, look at individual grains not just a mass of grain. Always examine grain's back first and ignore the crease side. Severe cracking and germ damage are nearly always accompanied by a high degree of skinning (in barley).

  • The most common causes for this are:
  • Drum speed too high - only use the slowest drum speed that will effectively thresh the grain from the head. A higher drum speed is needed when harvesting crops not properly ripe and can cause serious grain damage.
  • An incorrectly-adjusted or warped concave - the initial header settings should have the concave set one notch wider for barley than for wheat. Check the setting frequently during the day. If the thresher drum speed is correct, concave adjustments should cope with the changes in temperature and other harvesting conditions met during the day.
  • The airflow may need to be increased slightly to obtain a clean sample.

It is essential that correct combining of the crop occurs as it is at this point that the potential seed crop can be irreversibly damaged. It is recommended that the grower should bring a sample of the threshed grain into his/her seed house to ascertain if the sample is acceptable and the crop is being threshed to the satisfaction of the purchaser.

Finally, post-harvest seed samples are checked for purity and quality and the seed grain makes its way to the Seed Processors. It’s this intricate process that guarantees the high standards expected of Irish Certified Seed.

For more information on Certified Cereal Seed production, see the Irish Seed Trade Association’s website.

ISTA Open Day 2016

Pictured are members of the Irish Seed Trade Association at an open day in Backweston, Celbridge, Co Kildare.  Photo O'Gorman Photography.

The Irish Seed Trade Association’s (ISTA) annual Open Day 2016 visited the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine cereal trials, on Wednesday last, June 29th at Backweston, Co Kildare. The cereal variety trials were the main attraction with 152 individual varieties from across Europe being evaluated in 2016.

There was a very large attendance at this years’ event with representatives from every aspect of cereal production including crop consultants, Department personnel, Teagasc tillage specialists, seed suppliers, cereal growers, agro chemical and animal feed suppliers and the malting industry.

ISTA Vice President, Jim Gibbons, commented on the critical role the Department and its cereal variety evaluation system plays in bringing new improved varieties to the market. Clodagh Whelan, AAI Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine (DAFM) commented on the trial work that is undertaken at various sites around the country including Moorepark, Kildalton and also on many commercial farms. Clodagh stated ‘the trial work that goes on at our various sites gives independent assurance that varieties we select and approve are the most suitable for growing in Ireland under our climatic conditions’.

New varieties are submitted annually to the Department of Agriculture for agronomic evaluation, known as VCU testing. Key parameters to be measured include crop yield, disease resistance, and grain quality. Having successfully completed this VCU process over a three-year period, the best new varieties are then added to the Recommended List and seed of same is propagated and brought to market for commercial use by Irish growers. In addition, quality tests are also carried out to help identify the most suitable varieties for use as malting barley, milling wheat or food-grade oats for example, all of which is vitally important to Ireland’s valuable food and drinks sector.

ISTA Vice President, Jim Gibbons closed proceedings by reiterating the importance of certified seed to Irish growers, ‘our trialling and evaluation system is among the best in the world and Irish farmers have the advantage of choosing from a list of certified varieties on the Irish Recommended list, that have undergone intensive trialling under our unique Irish conditions’.

Attendees at the Department site also got the opportunity to view the latest grass, forage maize, oilseed rape and bean varieties under evaluation.

The 152 cereal varieties under evaluation included - 39 winter wheat, 10 spring wheat, 31 winter barley, 45 spring barley, 12 winter oat, 14 spring oat and 1 triticale.

4th July 2016

ISTA Members and Farmer Open Days 2016

Irish Seed Trade members and farmer open days

The Irish Seed Trade Association members are currently preparing for a variety of open days. We have 16 members many of which operate independent crop trials and farm visits. Do come to one of the Farmer Open days, arranged with ISTA members, as they are well worth seeing.


ISTA Member


Wed 29th June 2016, 2pm Goldcrop
Contact: 021 4882800
On the farm of Podge and Ian Howard
Co. Meath
Wed 6th July 2016, 9.15am Seed Technology
Contact: 051 832814
Seedtech Office
Thurs 7th July 2016, 2pm Goldcrop
Contact: 021 4882800
On the farm of John Dunne
Co. Cork
Thurs 7th July 2016 Drummonds
Contact: 041 9838986
On the farm of Paddy Reynolds
Co. Louth
Thurs 7th July 2016, 5.30pm Drummonds
Contact: 041 9838986
Drummond Trials Open Day
Drummonds, Townrath, Drogheda

Focus on the highest yielding varieties of Barley,
Wheat, Oats, OS Rape and Beans in the North East.
Crop Nutrition and Fungicide programmes.
Machinery Demonstration, Cultivation Techniques.
RSA, discussion on current legislation.
Guest Speaker: Andy Doyle, IFJ. and ITLUS.

Crop trials: the road to certified seed

Aerial view of tillage crop trials for certified seed

In the second of our Certified Seed blogs, Irish Seed Trade Association (ISTA) member John Dunne tells us a bit about what’s been happening on the crop trial plots. Crop trials are another essential component of producing quality certified seed and this is the stage where we get to observe the characteristics of a broad array of crops and varieties, and how they react to the Irish environment under Irish growing conditions. To record correct observations crop trial sites are under constant scrutiny.

It has been quite a diverse year so far when just a couple of months ago we were witnessing flooding from extreme rainfall. At this stage of the year many crops have received their final spray applications before harvest and the spray season is beginning to wind down, however here’s a look back on what the 2015/16 trials have told us so far.Crop trials for producing certified seed

Winter Crops

Autumn 2015 was generally a very good one for establishing crops, seed quality was excellent and good ground conditions allowed timely establishment of uniform crops. Considering the record breaking rainfall that occurred in the following months, this excellent establishment was well needed.

Many crops were lost along the south coast due to exposure and fields in most areas suffered some waterlogging. Nevertheless, nature has a great ability to compensate. Winter wheat enjoyed a dry May which greatly reduced pressure from Septoria. Despite this, we must continue to seek out new wheat varieties which are more resistant to this devastating disease.

Winter barley probably suffered more than wheat as it is not as naturally hardy. Lack of spraying opportunities in the autumn also meant that Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus (BYDV) was more common in winter crops than we would like. Such autumn conditions further highlighted the advantages offered by new seed treatments such as Redigo Deter which will help to prevent BYDV infection and is also a useful anti-resistance strategy in dealing with increasing levels of pyrethroid resistance being observed in the range of insecticides currently used in Ireland. Winter barley plants have produced noticeably long ears where plant populations were low, this again shows that compared to spring sown crops, winter barley has much more time on its side to make up for problems during the growing season.

Winter Oilseed Rape crops established well in Autumn 2015. However, extremely high levels of Light Leaf Spot have been observed in trials. This is most likely due to the very wet and mild winter. Variety trials showed some of the best ever comparisons between varieties in terms of their resistance to the disease. Light Leaf Spot can only be controlled chemically in a preventative manner – therefore varietal resistance is one of the most important tools to control the disease.

Spring Crops

The wet winter also impacted on spring crops as in the majority of cases soil conditions remained too wet for sowing until April. This late sowing presented challenges such as potential yield reduction from a shorter growing season and increased pressure from BYDV.

BYDV has been observed at very high levels in all spring crops this year, especially in the south. Similar reports are coming from the UK. These high levels are most likely down to very heavy aphid pressure in April, although increasing levels of resistance to pyrethroid aphicides is now becoming a real concern – the results of this years’ aphid resistance testing should make interesting reading. Plant breeders are now also working on BYDV resistance as a new selection trait which could be of particular interest going forward.

There was great interest in spring beans again this year and despite the later planting season, the area sown is substantial and probably at least as big as last year. Grower confidence in the crop has been bolstered by the new protein aid scheme and the excellent crop yields that were achieved in 2015. The relatively poor grain prices currently on offer combined with a reasonable forward bean price of over €160/t make the bean crop more attractive to growers.

Bean crops are generally growing well, dry weather in May kept Chocolate Spot pressure low, although the current humid weather is very conducive to both Chocolate Spot and Downy Mildew.

Lessons learnt so far this growing season

  • Redigo Deter is becoming a “must” for protecting winter barley from BYDV.

  • Early nitrogen application to winter cereals is vital to keep plant numbers at an optimum level for maximum yield potential.

  • Timing is extremely important when applying Pyrethroids to cereals, especially when treating late sown spring cereals.

  • Very high Light Leaf Spot pressure in OSR this spring has shown great differences between varieties in terms of their disease resistance. It is very important to choose a variety with a high resistance rating as chemical control of this yield-robbing disease is limited.

Open Days

The Irish Seed Trade are currently preparing for variety open days. The Irish Seed Trade is made up of 16 members many of which operate independent crop trials. If the opportunity arises to visit one of their open days, we would strongly encourage you to do so, as it is a truly great spectacle of a massive array of crops, demonstrating how they all perform individually under the same conditions. It’s a bit like getting a quiet word with the trainer before the horse runs!

2016 Irish Seed Trade Open Day

Irish Seed Trade Association’s (ISTA) 2016 Open Day to visit the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine cereal trials, will take place on Wednesday 29th June 2016 at the Department of Agriculture premises, Backweston, Celbridge, Co Kildare.

Attendees will be able to view the latest trial results from the crop varieties under evaluation; winter/spring barley, oats and wheat plus forage maize, oilseed rape and grass/clover varieties.

This yearly event brings together representatives from every aspect of cereal production including crop consultants, DAFM personnel, Teagasc tillage specialists, seed suppliers, cereal growers, Irish Farmers Association, agro chemical and animal feed suppliers, food and beverage related industries, feed and grain trade, flour millers, malting industry, agri-media, UCD graduates, and trade personnel from agribusiness sectors in Britain and Ireland.

This is a well-attended event each year as ISTA members get the opportunity to view varieties coming up for full recommendation on the Department of Agriculture Recommended List. It also offers the opportunity to view new varieties that have recently entered the evaluation process.

According to John Dalton, ISTA President, ‘this is a great opportunity to view the large array of crops under evaluation at the Department site in Backweston. It is our chance to evaluate potential varieties for the future and a demonstration of the investment undertaken by the Department to ensure growers have access to the best performing new varieties under Irish conditions’.

Production of Certified Seed: Inspections and Rogueing

Certified Seed Rogueing

Rogueing is in full swing at many seed production plants at this time of the year. Rogueing is the removal of any unwanted plants by hand from a crop and it is routine for both the Department of Food and the Marine (DAFM) and seed companies to carry out this process along with a number of other crop inspections, especially in seed crops. Regular crop inspections ensure the crop is extremely clean of both weeds and off-types and rogueing is just one procedure to ensure the purity of certified seed produced here in Ireland.

Simply put, off-types are plants that have varying characteristics. During the rogueing stage, characteristics observed are; the plants themselves, weed contamination and in the case of Oilseed Rape (OSR) the leaf shape is observed. OSR off-types tend to have a larger yellow leaf or have curled anthers as opposed to straight.

A clean field of barley, after rogueing.
A clean field of barley, after rogueing.

For cereal crops, regular crop inspections are carried out to identify weeds or wild oats that may be present in the field. When inspecting fields, it is important to inspect near hedgerows and around ESB poles. If there are any sheds present in the field, these areas may also be home to weeds or wild oats caused by the inability of the sprayer’s boom to get in close enough.

Carrying out regular inspections allows potential issues to be identified earlier and rectified quicker in the season. One of the most common weeds present in cereal crops are wild oats. Depending on the crop, wild oats can be sprayed for or rogued by hand.

As the rogueing process is carried out by hand, the practise usually involves a team of people walking in a linear line through the crop. Each roguer is responsible for 3 strips of oilseed rape or a 4 metre strip of cereal crops and as they walk at a slow pace through the crop, they continuously rogue off-types, looking behind occasionally to view the crop from a different angle to identify any missed plants. Each rogue plant identified is pulled and discarded. To ensure the team do not miss any off-types a team leader will walk at a slow pace behind to detect any missed plants.

The overall aim is to insure the quality and purity of the crop is at a superior level as these seed crops will be sold commercially. Stringent crop inspections and monitoring allows for the production of excellent quality crops in Ireland year after year. Additionally, it gives Irish farmers peace of mind when purchasing certified seed that has been produced to an excellent quality and purity standard.

Additional Information:

  • Rogueing is the removal of any unwanted plants by hand from a crop, these are then discarded in the field or bagged and removed from the field.
  • A Roguer is a person that works at removing off-types, weeds etc. from the field by hand.

Key considerations for crop inspections:

  1. Continually monitor the stage of the crop to judge optimum rogueing time.
  2. Note the level of off-types present to judge number of roguers required.
  3. Recruit a trained eye as experienced roguers are invaluable in identifying the off-types/weed species.
  4. A team leader should be present at all times to offer guidance to roguers and for spot checks.
  5. A clean crop at the end of rogueing process gives superior quality and purity to the seed.
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