Cereals National Listing


The National List system was adopted in 1973 following the UK entry into the European Community. It applies to the main agricultural and vegetable species and ensures that no seed of a prescribed species may be marketed in the UK unless the variety is on a UK list or the EU Common Catalogue. 

The National List system, together with seed certification and labelling:

  • ensures that seeds of a variety are sold under one name;
  • ensures that named varieties offered to growers are distinct and possess identifiable and lasting characters;
  • assures that the seed purchased in the Community has been tested according to common standard; and 
  • ensures a market within the Community for seed producers. 

Once a valid application for National Listing is accepted, seed of the variety will be requested for official tests and trials designed to assess whether the variety is distinct, uniform and stable (DUS) and, in the case of agricultural crops, whether it has value for cultivation and use (VCU). Varieties meeting these criteria are eligible for National Listing.


The plant variety shall be clearly distinguishable, by one or more important characteristics, from any other plant variety.


The plant variety shall be such that the plants of which it is composed are similar or genetically identical as regards to the characteristics, examined.


The plant variety shall continue to exhibit its essential characteristics after successive reproductions.

Value for cultivation and use

The agronomic characters of the plant variety shall in comparison with the qualities of other plant varieties in a National List, show a clear improvement either as regards crop farming or the use made of the harvested crops or of products produced from these crops. The qualities of the plant variety shall for this purpose be taken as a whole, and inferiority in respect of certain characteristics may be offset by other favourable characteristics.

The duration of DUS tests and VCU trials is a minimum of 2 years.

On completion of the appropriate DUS tests and VCU trials the variety will be considered by inter-departmental Technical Committees to ascertain whether the requirements for National Listing have been met. Where the Technical Committees are satisfied that the variety meets the criteria then a proposal to add the variety to the UK National List will be published in the NL Gazette. The Scottish Government is responsible for NL VCU trials in Scotland and the trials are supervised by SASA.

For further information contact: Seed Certification Branch.

Cereal Identification

The Seed Certification Branch provides services for identifying dry or growing material. This may be done by electrophoresis, aleurone test, grain or whole plant identification. We also provide independent crop inspections out-with the certification system on request.

For further information on varietal identification contact Bob Sunter or Gillian Liddle.

For further information on independent crop inspections contact Margaret Hislop.

The Cereal Cultivar Collection held at SASA was originally created in the late 1960s for UK distinctness, uniformity and stability (DUS) tests. The collection contains over 5000 cultivars (predominantly wheat, barley and oats). It contains both registered and commercially obsolete cultivars and landraces/traditional varieties - see our Scottish Landraces pages for more information. Small quantities of seed of ex-National Listed varieties and landrace varieties may be supplied on request. Please contact Genetic.Resources@sasa.gsi.gov.uk

Varietal Descriptions

Seed Certification Branch is responsible for producing varietal descriptions and varietal keys both of which are used during crop inspections.

Varietal descriptions of all the major cereal varieties grown in Scotland can be viewed and printed from the Agricultural Crop Variety Databases (see links in the SASA Resources box).  The descriptions cover the main taxonomic characteristics, which are used during crop inspections. These are updated on a yearly basis.

Varietal keys are used to distinguish different varieties and are mainly used for varietal identification and training of crop inspectors. These are updated on a yearly basis and can be found under "Resources" in the Scottish Cereal Variety Databases (for barley, wheat and oats only).

For further information please contact Susan McFarlane.