Seed Testing & Certification

The sale of most agricultural and horticultural seeds is controlled through a series of seeds regulations dealing with cereals, fodder crops, oil and fibre crops, beet seeds, and vegetables respectively. These regulations are part of an EU-wide framework which ensures that seeds meet the same quality standards wherever they are sold in the European Union.

The standards which must be met by most kinds of seed include varietal purity (trueness to type), analytical purity (a measure of gross contamination), freedom from weeds and germination. There are many other standards such as moisture content or freedom from a particular disease which apply to individual kinds of seed.

All seeds subject to the regulations (except vegetables, which can be sold as Standard Seed) have to be officially certified and can only be sold in labelled containers which preserve the integrity of the seed inside. The certification process requires that the seed be tested to ensure that it meets all the standards that apply to it. Some of these tests are made on the crop and some are made on the harvested seed. Many of the tests are carried out by members of the seed industry who are licensed for this work by Scottish Ministers.

Certification of cereal seed is the responsibility of Cereals Section. All other kinds of seed eg fodder crops, oilseeds etc are dealt with by the Herbage and Vegetable Section. The Official Seed Testing Station is responsible for testing harvested seed, both for the various certification schemes and for the information of farmers and growers. All three of the Sections provide training for licensed persons such as crop inspectors, seed samplers and seed analysts.

For further information on farm saved seed please visit the British Society of Plant Breeders (BSPB) website or download the BSPB FAQs document.

Beet, Fodder, Oil & Fibre and Vegetables

The Seed Certification and Variety Testing branches at SASA advise UK Government Departments on a range of plant variety and seeds matters and undertake statutory work in variety registration and certification. Variety Certification and supporting functions are outlined below in more detail. 


The branches advise and liase with the Scottish Government Policy Branches and other UK departments on aspects of certification, enforcement, seeds regulations, and related plant varieties and seeds matters.

Staff represent the interests of both the UK and Scotland at EU and other international meetings.


The branches are responsible for the certification of seed of all species covered by the Beet, Fodder, Oil and Fibre, and Vegetable Seeds Regulations in Scotland.

The main crops grown for seed in Scotland include Field Peas, Field Beans, Timothy, Perennial Ryegrass, Oil Seed (Swede and Turnip) Rape and various other Brassica species.

Scientific advice and support is provided to the Scottish Government on enforcement of non-cereal seeds regulations.

Advice on the above Seeds regulations are provided to the industry

For further information contact


The branches organise seed sampling training courses for the seed trade and Scottish Government officials, and they administer and maintain the register of licensed and official seed samplers in Scotland.

For further information contact  


Seed Legislation, Conservation Variety definition, Mixtures for Environmental Use & Waste Seed.

Cereals Certification

For information on Seed Certification and Brexit see the Seeds EU Exit guidance page


Crop Certification Schemes exist to protect farmers buying the seed, to ensure that the product they receive meets certain quality standards. The current UK Cereal Scheme incorporates several quality control mechanisms, including official testing to ensure that the seed meets prescribed standards for germination, freedom from weeds, and varietal identity and purity. 

SASA is the Certifying Authority for Scotland, and cereal seed certification in Scotland is managed by the Cereals Section and other species, such as grasses and oil seeds by the Herbage and Vegetable Section.

The EU requires that all cereal seed that is marketed for growing as crops must meet the standards in Directive 66/402/EEC. This in turn is incorporated into UK (and now Scottish) law through the Cereal Seed (Scotland) Regulations (see the Office of Public Sector Information OPSI).  Please see the following:

  • The Cereal Seed (Scotland) Regulation 2005 SI No. 2005
  • The Cereal Seed (Scotland) and Fodder Plant Seed (Scotland) (Amendment) Regulation 2006 SSI No. 448
  • The Seeds (Scotland) (Amendments for Tests and Trials Etc.) Regulations 2007 SSI No. 224
  • The Seed (Registration, Licensing and Enforcement) (Scotland) Regulations 2006 SSI No. 313

There are electronic copies of some of the Forms that are required for the certification process, together with guidance notes for their completion. Paper copies can be obtained from, and should be returned to:

    Cereal Certification
    Roddinglaw Road
    EH12 9FJ

Information on weight certified and areas approved, are available at Facts & Figures.

View a selection of recent Seed Certification Letters or check out the Fees, Forms & Guidance section. These contain general guidance, information and advice on a number of certification topics. New Seed Certification Letters will be published on this site as they are issued.  You can also access the Public Register and Scottish General Licences.

View a summary of the of Enforcement and Certification Control samples 2016/17

View a summary of the results of the 2016 Seed Certification / MySEEDS survey.

For further information on seed certification, please contact Gerry Hall  for cereals or George Campbell for non-cereal species at

Training courses for certification include crop inspections and sampling - contact for more information. 

For information on seed testing, please visit the section on the Official Seed Testing Station (OSTS) or contact

There are separate Authorities responsible for the certification process in England, Wales DEFRA and Northern Ireland. 


Cereals Disclosure Statement

Handling procedures for information received in relation to the certification of true seeds have been designed to take into account legislative developments, particularly the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 and the Data Protection Act 1998.  Applicants should be aware that from the seed year 2008 onwards it is the certifying authority's intention to release details of all seed lots to BSPB, on request.

The following statement will now appear on the SDG 7 (application for certification) form: "The Certifying Authority is bound by current disclosure legislation which includes the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 and the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004. Details of all seed lots certified in Scotland will be subject to release to BSPB. For further information on the disclosure policy, please see the Guidance Notes or the SASA web site." 

The following statement will appear on all other forms: "The Certifying Authority is bound by current disclosure legislation which includes the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 and the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004. For further information on the disclosure policy, please see the Guidance Notes (or the SASA web site)."

The certifying authority may be required to release information, including some personal data and commercial information, if requested under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 or the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.  The certifying authority will not permit any unlawful breach of confidentiality nor permit breach of obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998.

Applicants should also note that information supplied on seed certification forms will be used by SASA and other branches of the Scottish Government Rural Directorate for the purpose of determining the application, for enforcement purposes and for research and statistical purposes. Information may also be shared / exchanged with other Certifying Authorities for verifying applications and for enforcement purposes.


Cereals - Facts & Figures

Cereal section has collated the following statistics regarding Passed Crops for Certification in Scotland and Weights of Seed Certified in Scotland. 

Seed Lot Statistics

Weights of Seed Certified in Scotland for the seed years 2005-2006 to 2007-2008.   For further information please contact Bob Sunter or Gillian Liddle at

There are also comparisons of Passed Crop Areas for the years 1999 to 2001 and Seed Lot Weights for the years 1998 to 2002, which are displayed in graphs.

View the Seed Lots statistics.

Crops Statistics

Passed Crops Area (hectares) & Number by Variety, Category and Level for Certification in Scotland for the years 2005-2007. For further information please contact Margaret Hislop or Moray Anderson at

View the Crops Statistics.

Fees, Forms & Guidance

This area contains forms to be completed for Certification.


Fees are payable for Certification, and a list is available here.

Forms & Guidance

These forms are accompanied with the appropriate Guidance notes for completion. Please note that these forms are in Adobe Acrobat format, and may be completed electronically, but must NOT be returned to SASA electronically. For paper copies of these forms and for forms that are not available electronically please contact Margaret Hislop at for all forms.

Seed Certification Letters

These are circulated to all Registered merchants, processors, packers and other interested parties in Scotland. They are issued as the situation demands, to provide advice to firms who certify in Scotland about latest Certification developments as well as general information and guidance. Some of the more recent Letters and Guidance can be accessed below.

For further information on these letters, please contact Gerry Hall at


Contacts - Seed Certification Branch

Cereals Branch address: Cereals Branch, SASA, Roddinglaw Road, Edinburgh, EH12 9FJ

Mike Parker - see also Staff Directory page
Head of Cereal Section :
Tel: 0131 244 8856

Bob Sunter
Certification Manager (Seeds) :
Tel: 0131 244 8815

Margaret Hislop
Certification Manager (Crops) :
Tel:  0131 244 8838

Susan McFarlane
Cereal Taxonomist
Tel:  0131 244 8930

Tel:  0131 244 8833 

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 at

For further information on independent crop inspections contact Margaret Hislop at

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

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 at

Official Seed Testing Station (OSTS)

The Official Seed Testing Station for Scotland (OSTS), SASA is the principle centre for seed testing and seed quality information in Scotland.  The OSTS is accredited to both the International Seed Testing Association (ISTA) and UKAS to ISO 17025:2005.  

The OSTS offers a wide range of laboratory tests that provide practical and reliable information for seed processors, merchants and growers on the quality of seed intended for sowing. Tests are made in carefully controlled conditions by trained and experienced analysts, using internationally approved methods. 

Our accreditation is limited to those activities described on our UKAS schedule of accreditation, see our [QA page].

Seed Certification

The OSTS undertakes some of the official testing of seed intended for certification.  Legislation allows for private seed testing laboratories to carry out official tests for certification provided they meet the licensing requirements defined in Seeds Regulations.  The OSTS monitors all official tests made in licensed seed testing stations.

Seed for Export

The OSTS issues Phytosanitary Certificates on behalf of Scottish Ministers for Seed Exports.

For guidance on Seed Samples for Export (Phytosanitary Certificate Requirement) - Marian McEwan/ Valerie Cockerell, 0131 244 8879/8900

Submitting Seed Samples

Seed samples for certification testing must be drawn by official or licensed samplers. Correct completion of the form SDG5 submitted with the sample will ensure all required tests are completed.

Price Lists 

For further information on our training courses and research and development see the following pages:

Common Crop Names

Common names of crop and "other seed" species found in Scotland

Since the beginning of time man has assigned names to the organisms in their environment. Communication of these names among people from different regions in the world has proven to be very confusing considering all the language and cultural differences involved. Even communicating from one region to another within one country can be difficult. For this reason, scientists have agreed upon a system for naming organisms that is based primarily on Latin.

Whereas common names vary from country to country and even within regions of a country, Latin names are internationally acceptable. For example, Galium aparine is named "Cleavers" in the east of Scotland, "Sticky Willy" in the west and "Goose grass" in the Borders. This is the reason why our seed testing reports refer to Latin names of plant.

To help you interpret your reports see the Common Crop Names document which contains a table that gives a list of Latin names and Common names of crops and other seed species found in Scotland. We are interested in making this list as comprehensive as possible and if you know of a common name of a crop or weed found in your area of Scotland that is not included in our this list please contact

Seed Certification

SASA is the Certifying Authority for seed produced in Scotland. Prior to certification, seed of most crop species must be officially tested to ensure that certain minimum standards are met. In the UK these standards are defined in Seeds Regulations. In Scotland there are five sets of Seeds Regulations covering Cereal, Fodder, Oil & Fibre, Vegetable and Beet seeds. These regulations define both the minimum standards and Higher Voluntary Standards that apply in the UK.  Seed testing requirements are dependant on crop and category and are defined in Schedule 4 of each of five sets of Scottish Regulations. Most seed must meet standards for species purity, germination and other seed content.  Some may also have moisture or disease standards. The Tetrazolium test can only be used as an alternative to the full germination test on cereals seed.  For more information and restrictions on the application of Tetrazolium tests for Cereal Certification purposes follow the like below.

Further information is provided in the OSTS Price List for Certification Tests.

The OSTS undertakes some of the official testing of seed intended for certification and also supervises all official tests made in licensed seed testing stations. In this way, the high quality of Scottish certified seed is maintained.

Sampling seed for certification purposes must be done by either a Licensed sampler or an Official sampler following approved sampling procedures.

OSTS Price List for Certification Tests
Tetrazolium testing procedure for certificcation of cereals

Seed Sample Submission
Further information on Seed Certification requirements

Please remember that most kinds of agricultural seeds cannot be sold unless they have been officially certified.

Submitting Seed Samples

All other seed samples submitted for testing should be representative of the lot or bulk from which they are taken or the test result will not relate to the quality of the whole lot or bulk. To take a representative sample, select a number of small samples from several bags, or from different parts of the bulk.  If it is a very large bulk then it is better to sub-divide in to smaller lots and take a representative sample from each lot. Do not keep seed samples in warm or damp conditions prior to testing.

The OSTS can provide detailed information on seed sampling procedures and equipment.  Seed Sampling Courses are held each year at SASA.

Pre-addressed sample bags for non-certification tests can be supplied on request.

Contact: or telephone 0131 244 8908.

OSTS Contacts

For general seed testing enquiries and information on prices or further supplies of pre-addressed sample packets - email or telephone 0131 244 8908.

For advice on disease tests and interpretation of results - Valerie Cockerell (0131 244 8900), see also Staff Directory page.

For guidance on Seed Samples for Export (Phytosanitary Certificate Requirement) - Marian McEwan/Valerie Cockerell, 0131 244 8879/8900

Smarter Rules for Safer Food (Seeds Marketing)


The new Smarter Rules Safer Food (SRSF) package, is a set of EU regulations for the protection against animal disease and plant pests.  The package will modernise, simplify and improve existing health and safety standards for the agri-food chain.  The reason for you receiving this letter is that your business has been identified as having a specific interest in the trade of seed.

A transitional arrangement is being put in place for seed which are subject to marketing and certification requirements, and therefore you should note  - New plant passport requirements for seed with an Regulated Non Quarantine Pest)(RNQP) will not apply for any seed produced before 14 December 2019.

Scottish Government is working on getting the new requirements in place in time for the new growing season from June 2020.  Depending on the type of seed you trade in, you may need to register your business with the Certifying Authority at SASA.  Specific sector guidance for the registration and authorisation process will follow in the New Year.  In the meantime we would like to take this opportunity to provide you with a brief overview of SRSF and an insight to RNQPS and the possible need for Plant Passports.

Further information can be found [here].