Seed testing with SGS Canada

Seed testing with SGS Canada
Feb 23, 2021

Expert discusses standard and advanced methodology for seed testing and future seed diagnostics

By Ryan Ridley

Attendees of the 2020 Precision Agriculture Conference & Ag Technology Showcase listened in on Holly Gelech’s presentation ‘Seed Testing – Unique and Standardized Services in a Diverse Industry’ on day two of the three day event.

Gelech is Business Development Manager at SGS Canada, an inspection, verification, testing and certification company with roots in agriculture and food.

SGS is involved in several lines of agriculture and food business in Canada including soil analysis, greenhouse and field production laboratory analysis, forage and feed testing, as well as seed analysis, which was the focus of her presentation.

“In our business, germination is by far the largest test item that we conduct in our laboratory each and every day,” explains Gelech. “We follow the procedures given to us by the [Canadian Food Inspection Agency] – each seed lab will conduct a germination test the same way as we do it.”

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) provides the company with specific details on how to process a germination sample within its laboratory including substrata, temperature, duration, and replication.

“It’s very uniform – it’s almost like a factory in our laboratory when it comes to germination testing,” she adds.

Gelech examines the items included in a germination result report, which includes analysis of normal seedlings, abnormal seedlings, dead seeds, fresh seeds, and hard seeds, using several different sample examples.

“The other test that we conduct for the pedigreed seed industry is any seed that is distributed – whether it's in a small veggie pack, whether it’s a canola seed bag or a bulk product of cereal grains or pulses – a physical purity, otherwise known as mechanical purity, is to be conducted by an accredited laboratory,” says Gelech.

The company looks for weeds and classifies them into different categories based on CFIA’s Weed Seed Order.

“The third and final test that we do based off of CFIA’s methods and procedures is true loose smut and that’s specifically for barely,” she adds.

Moving into some advanced methodology, Gelech discusses a cool stress test, also known as vigor test, which she says is very important for western Canadian farmers.

This test provides information regarding the overall performance of seeds that are placed under low temperature stress.

“Keep in mind that a germination test is at absolutely ideal conditions – it’s at twenty degrees Celsius for cereal grains, twenty degrees Celsius for pulses – and that’s not the soil temperatures that are being seeded into,” explains Gelech.

Other advanced methodology discussed includes:

  • Clearfield confirm test to determine the tolerance of the sample to Imazamox herbicide treatment using a seed based germination assay, 
  • Fungal pathogen testing,
  • Dust off testing to quantify dust removed when standardized air flow is passed through the treated seed sample,
  • Grains analysis to assist breeders with new variety testing.

Looking into the future of seed diagnostics, Gelech notes several areas of excitement for the industry, including using Xray to review the internal structure in some crops that are difficult to germinate, and AI/machine learning for process improvement and remote inspection.

“Another area that we’re seeing [developments] is modernization by CFIA in future diagnostics. This is exciting because it aligns Canada more with the global market,” says Gelech. “Canada has its own seed testing rules while [all other countries] follows international seed testing standards, so we’re very interested in how that could change what we do in our operations.”

To learn more about seed testing in Canada, watch the below video with Gelech.


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