APSA, ISTA raise bar for seed quality management, vigour testing

BANGKOK: Some of the latest international seed quality testing, laboratory and inventory management principles, methods and expertise were propagated during a seminar and workshop co-organized recently by the Asia and Pacific Seed Association (APSA) and International Seed Testing Association (ISTA).

Held 17-18 February in Bangkok, the 2020 Seed Quality Management (SQM) Seminar was joined by more than 100 participants. It was proceeded by the 2020 Seed Vigour Testing Workshop 19-21 February.  

Seminar participants represented more than 40 organizations from: Thailand, the Philippines, Hong Kong, China, South Korea, Japan, Australia, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, France, the UK and the US.

They included managers, assistants and other personnel working in seed testing laboratories, Quality Assurance and supply-chain, inventory and marketing departments at private companies, government agencies and research institutes. 

Held at the Centara Grand at Central Plaza Ladprao, Bangkok, the SQM seminar was presided over by Thailand Department of Agriculture Director-General Dr Surmsuk Salakpetch and APSA Vice President Mr Wichai Laocharoenpornkul, who both emphasized the importance of seed quality standards in their respective welcome remarks.

“We are pleased to welcome all of you here concerned with seed quality management, and those of you who know how important it is to deliver quality seeds to farmers,” said Mr. Wichai. “This is in fact the first time APSA and ISTA are collaborating to co-organize this type of capacity-building workshop, which aims to deliver timely, valuable and practical knowledge and experience to our members and other industry stakeholders.”

Mr. Wichai went on to note that the seminar directly supports APSA’s official mission: “To ensure sustainable agriculture through the production and trade of quality seeds for the world”

Likewise, the Dept of Agriculture’s Dr. Sermsuk affirmed that capacity-building in seed quality management aligns with the Thai government’s strategy to develop and position the Kingdom as a regional quality seed hub.   

She affirmed that prioritizing international seed testing methods, protocol and certification standards would be a key driver of seed sector development – at the national, regional and global levels.

“Without quality seeds, our breeders and farmers cannot produce sufficient quantity and quality of crops, she said, before going on to outline some of the parameters used to define seed quality.  

“Quality seed is a term we hear often, but what does it mean? For technical and commercial people here, there are specific, quantifiable and measurable parameters, such as germination rate, moisture content, physical purity, shelf life, seed health and seed vigour, to name the main ones”

The last one -- seed vigour – would be emphasized during the seminar and subsequent workshop, she confirmed.  

The ensuing two-day agenda featured a dozen presentations and interactive round table discussions led and facilitated by eight seed quality experts. Among them were four senior members of ISTA’s Vigour Committee, who focused on technical and laboratory aspects:

  • Dr Alison A. Powell (Chair of ISTA Seed Vigour Committee and lecturer at the University of Aberdeen in the UK)

  • Mrs Marie-Helene Wagner (Co-chair of ISTA Seed Vigour Committee and researcher at GEVES-SNES in France)

  • Mr Tim Loeffler (ISTA Vigour Committee member and … at Bayer Crop Science in the US)

  • Dr Stan Matthews (ISTA Vigour Committee member and lecturer at the University of Aberdeen, UK)

Discussions on commercial, research and marketing aspects were led by:

  • Malavika Dadlani (Former Joint Director of Research and Head, Division of Seed Science and Technology, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi)

  • Dr Rob Pronk (Global Marketing Manager, INCOTEC Group BV)

  • Dr Sumitra Kantrong (Chiatai Seeds, and Chair of APSA’s Working Group of Integrated Vegetable Seed Companies)

  • Dr Kanokwan Chodchoey (APSA Executive Director, and previous regional Quality Lead at a leading multinational seed company)

Following the conclusion of the seminar, the four reps from ISTA’s Vigour Committee stayed on in Bangkok to lead the 2020 Vigour Testing Workshop for a group of about 40 participants.

The three-day workshop was hosted at the Seed Testing Laboratory and Certification building, which is part of the Department of Agriculture’s Seed Research & Development Division near Kasetsart University in Bangkok.

In her welcome remarks, the Director of Thailand's Seed Research and Development Division, Ms. Chuntana Kongnakhon thanked ISTA and APSA for collaborating with the Dept of Agriculture to create such a valuable capacity-building opportunity.

She then went on to outline the her laboratory’s primary function and scope.

“This lab provides seed testing services for the public and private sector. In accordance with ISTA rules and the Thai seed law, we are equipped to conduct four main types of seed tests for the issuing of seed analysis certificates. These include viability, or the standard germination or tetrazolium test; moisture content; other seed determination or physical purity, as well as testing for seed vigour.”

Under the guidance, tutelage and oversite of ISTA Vigour Committee members, workshop participants got practical hands- on experience for sampling, testing and analyzing various field crop and vegetable seed samples in accordance with ISTA rules and protocal for four common Vigour Testing methods:

  • Acelerated Ageing (AA)

  • Radicle Emergence (RE)

  • Controlled Deteriation (CD)

  • Electrical Conductivity (EC)

Speaking to Asian Seed following the conclusion of the Workshop, ISTA Vigour Committee Chair, Dr. Allison Powell expressed satisfaction with the smooth cooperation among APSA, ISTA and Thailand's Department of Agriculture, affirming that a high bar has been set for future events.

She said she was especially impressed with diversity of participants and the overall level of enthusiasm and engagement:

“It was really good to get such a diverse range of participants -- the wide range of countries represented, and the different fields people came from, from marketing to seed analysists. And they were all very enthusiastic and engaged, asking lots of questions. They also provided a lot of interesting comments, insights and ideas. For example, there was talk about implementing vigour testing within their molecular breeding R&D and within their own production lines,” she said.

“I’ve never seen discussion groups go so well. They really interacted well. Overall this went well and look forward to future collaborations between ISTA and APSA,” she added. 

Soundbites from the interview with Dr. Powell, as well as other speakers at the Seminar and Workshop will be featured in APSA’s upcoming podcast, to be linked from APSA's February 2020 newsletter. 

Moreover, presentations are available in digital format on APSA’s website, exclusively for seminar and workshop participants, and will be made available for APSA members at a later date. Please email kuna@apsaseed.org for access or more information.