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Report on seed born diseases in organic seed and propagation material

Micheloni, C.; Plakolm, G. and Schärer, H. (2007) Report on seed born diseases in organic seed and propagation material. EEC 2092/91 (Organic Revision Project Reports), no. D 5.1. Associazione Italiana Agricoltura Biologica (AIAB), Rome.

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Summary

The key questions which will be addressed in this report are:
• Are seed born diseases an important factor that prevents seed companies from producing organic seeds and organic farmers from using them?
• Which seed treatments are available in organic farming? Which treatments are or will be acceptable? To which degree are they effective?
• Are the thresholds for seed born diseases different among Member States? Can this cause unfair competition among farmers and seed producers?
• How did the health status of organic seed change in the last years?
The main answers may be synthesized as follows:
• Seed born diseases are an important factor influencing seed production and seed use in organic agriculture, but they are not the only obstacle that exists at the moment.
• Awareness on the importance of seed health has increased considerably; “conventional” organizations such as ISF (International Seed Federation) or ISTA (International Seed Testing Association) give statements on seed health and seed treatments for organic agriculture.
• In the last 5 to 10 years several methods and products of non-synthetic seed treatments (physical, microbiological, plant-based etc.) have been successfully tested on different host-parasite combinations and are potentially available for use in organic farming. However, there are no general treatments available that are effective for all host-pathogen combinations.
• Due to the importance of seed health in organic agriculture, it is important that organically acceptable seed treatments are identified and authorized in organic seed production. This would assure organic producers reliable seeds for their farming operations.
• Besides legal restrictions for quarantine diseases on seeds, most of the Member States have legal thresholds for seed born diseases, which however apply almost exclusively to cereals. For vegetables and legumes, Member States only have general statements on seed health.
• Thresholds for seed born diseases in cereals vary between Member States. This may cause distortion in seed trade and use as one country may allow the import (from another MS) of seeds that do not fulfill certification limits in the importing country, but that are fully certifiable in the MS where they are produced.
• Data on the status of organic seed health is available in few countries only. It would be very helpful if the MS kept annual records of the organic seed-lots’ health status as it would allow to monitor the presence of seed born diseases and risks and act consequently on the seeds and the crops. In general, available data for cereals does not show a clear trend of seed health development but rather highlights the influence of climatic condition. There also appears to be a general spreading of Tilletia caries, which may increase with lower control levels, especially with of-farm seed production. Spreading of seed-born diseases is greater in organic farming since few control measures are available.
Recommendations for development of the legal basis for organic seed production:
• Seed quality refers not only to purity and germination parameters but also to aspects of seed health.
• Seed health in organic production is of crucial importance as healthy seeds are the basis for successful production, especially in organic farming systems, where less efficient plant protection agents are available for managing plant diseases and prevention is the main key of success.
• There is a need to define and regulate which seed treatments can be permitted in organic farming (methods and products should be listed in the revised EU Reg. 2092/91 in annex II B)
• In order to increase the availability of organic seeds and their assortment in terms of varieties, seed treatments (accepted in organic agriculture) should be made possible.
• It would be advisable that all treatments which the seeds are subjected to are declared on the label.
• Thresholds for seed born diseases in organic seeds must be strict and harmonized among Member States in order to avoid the spread of seed born diseases, difficult to manage in organic farming. Such thresholds must be based on sound scientific basis.
• Organic seed-lots’ health status should be monitored on a yearly basis by seed health authorities.


EPrint Type:Report
Keywords:seed; treatments; diseases; health; quality
Subjects: Crop husbandry > Crop health, quality, protection
Values, standards and certification > Regulation
Research affiliation: European Union > Organic Revision
Switzerland > FiBL - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Switzerland > Plant Protection and Biodiversity
Austria > HBLFA Raumberg-Gumpenstein
Netherlands > Louis Bolk Institute
UK > Univ. Aberystwyth > Institute for Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS)
Denmark > Other organizations
Related Links:http://www.organic-revision.org/
Deposited By: Padel, Dr Susanne
ID Code:10937
Deposited On:16 Jul 2007
Last Modified:12 Apr 2010 07:35
Document Language:English
Status:Published
Refereed:Not peer-reviewed

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