Seed testing assists in determining the quality of seeds by closely examining their health, genetics and germination capacity. The Starke Ayres seed testing laboratory is among the testing facilities that have been certified by the International Seed Testing Association (ISTA) with the scope of accreditation being seed sampling, germination and purity.
ISTA is a global authority in the field of seed technology, and is home to experienced seed analysts and scientists. It has been promoting research and the dissemination of knowledge since its foundation in 1924.
The association’s aim is to achieve globally standardised methods in the field of seed testing by developing and publishing internationally agreed-on regulations that will result in a uniform approach to seed-quality evaluation. Its member laboratories in over 80 countries are then expected to adhere to the set guidelines, which encompass seed sampling and testing, accreditation of laboratories, promoting research and providing international seed analysis certificates.
“Being ISTA accredited is being internationally recognised. It shows that your lab is competent, your staff are competent, and your results are repeatable and reliable. It gives you the necessary confidence. The development of standard seed testing methods facilitates the trade of quality seeds, and makes a valuable contribution to food security,” says Starke Ayres Quality Assurance Manager, Dr Gwen Koning.
It takes about three to five years for a laboratory to become ready for its first ISTA accreditation. The process is divided into two components: systems and technical. The systems part entails compiling the necessary documentation and records required for the ISTA accreditation review. So sufficient time is required to gather the required documents and technical expertise. The technical component involves following the correct procedures and practices for sampling and conducting tests.
Once a lab is accredited, it maintains its certification status with regular audits conducted every three years to evaluate the systems and technical processes. “Auditors will give you feedback and list substantial non-conformities which should be addressed as soon as possible, and non-substantial non-conformities, which are minor and may be addressed over a longer period of time” says Dr Koning.
There are many ways in which stakeholders in the seed supply chain can benefit from the prestige of ISTA accreditation. According to the ISTA Accreditation Programme, certified laboratories receive formal recognition and remain up to date on the latest testing methods. Seed sellers can build on the accreditation to promote their business and increase acceptance of their seed lots. Seed buyers are given the assurance that the quality of ISTA-certified seed lots corresponds with the results on the test reports and meets the import standards of several countries around the world.
The standardised ISTA seed testing methods are internationally recognised and allow enterprises in the seed trade to acquire certification that facilitates the movement of seeds across borders, making the ISTA certificate a valuable passport to the international market.
Starke Ayres' current ISTA certificate for the seed testing laboratory: