1950 Oat certification
1955 Nematology and Crop Zoology
1956 Analytical Chemistry
1959 Barley certification
1964:1974 Plant Varieties and Seeds Act : Plant Breeders Rights
1967:1981 Pathogen-free potato propagation : micropropagation
1989 Information Technology
During the war, a large increase in the distribution of potato cyst nematode was observed in Scotland and this resulted in the setting up of a section specifically to investigate this pest. This section was originally located in laboratories at Newbattle to the south of Edinburgh but was integrated on to the East Craigs site in 1955. Also during the war, the Department set up an office in Glasgow to investigate the epidemiology and control of pests of grain, dried fruit and imported bulk materials. Other sub-offices were later established in Edinburgh and Perth. This Food Infestation Control Section had a small analytical chemistry laboratory integrated within its Glasgow office to provide advice on chemical methods for insect control and to monitor the effectiveness of such control measures. This laboratory moved to East Craigs in 1956 and was the nucleus of the pesticide section which has expanded to become a well equipped modern analytical laboratory engaged in the measurement of pesticide residues in a wide variety of foodstuffs and environmental samples. The entomology offices within the infestation control section gradually merged and in 1985 the Glasgow office was finally closed and the remaining staff moved to East Craigs. Since all of the major food infestation control problems had been resolved and the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949 was now in abeyance, the section’s purpose was largely fulfilled and it was disbanded in 1990.
In 1949, a crop zoology section sited at Dalkeith was established to work in close association with local authorities on control of rats and mice and other agricultural pests. This moved to East Craigs in 1955, and was the predecessor of the Wildlife Management Section which exists today to provide information and advice on the control of vertebrates important to Scottish agriculture, e.g. foxes, rabbits, geese and wildfowl.
A certification scheme for oats was set up in 1950, to be followed in 1959 by a similar scheme for barley crops. The work of SASA in the original areas of seed testing, plant variety registration, seed and planting stock certification, and plant health, has been greatly influenced by 2 events: the introduction of the Plant Varieties and Seeds Act 1964, and the UK entry into the then European Community. Regulations made under the Plant Varieties and Seeds Act make it an offence to sell seed of a plant variety not entered on a Member State’s National List or on a Common Catalogue published in the Official Journal of the European Communities. Furthermore, the Plant Breeders’ Rights Regulations allow breeders to claim royalties on seed or planting stock marketed within the period of their rights. New varieties presented for such rights and National Listing must be tested for distinctness, uniformity and stability (DUS) and, for some crops, for value for cultivation and use (VCU). Characteristics to be used for distinguishing and describing varieties have had to be established, and methods whereby their stability and the uniformity of breeders’ stock may be judged. These requirements vary with the genetic structure and breeding mechanism of the crop species.
A scheme for the building-up of virus-tested potato clones from single mother plants was introduced in 1948 and by the 1950s provided a very effective control of mild and latent virus infections. More recently, means have been sought to reduce the incidence of non-viral diseases; in particular the bacterial disease, blackleg and the fungal diseases, gangrene and skin spot. Tuber-borne infection is prevented initially through the use of new propagation techniques. In 1967 disease free tubers were propagated from healthy stem cutting material. Since 1981 this has largely been superseded by micropropagation under controlled conditions on a synthetic growing medium. Regardless of the freedom from disease of the original plant material, a critical feature is how long this health can be maintained under farm conditions. Monitoring the health of these stocks, and investigating the mechanisms whereby infections survive and spread, continue to feature in the work of SASA. Contributions to potato health have also been made by investigations and development of chemical methods for disease control.
During this early period ‘East Craigs’ was variously referred to as Scientific Services, the Official Seed Testing Station, Scientific Services (Agriculture) and Agricultural Scientific Services. The East Craigs farm was used for field trials and post-control seed plots from the 1920s onwards. In the late 1960s when it became apparent that the UK would finally be allowed to join the EU, the management at East Craigs realised that the farm would not be big enough to carry out all the support work needed for the EU seeds regime. Enquiries were made about purchasing the farm immediately to the north of East Craigs but by this time the Local Authority had zoned it for housing to accommodate the increasing demand for new housing in the City. Fortuitously, three farms owned by Gogarburn Hospital, Gogarbank, Overgogar and Roddinglaw became available as they were surplus to the Hospital’s requirements. SASA initially took over Gogarbank and Overgogar farms (c. 1970) and merged them into one unit called Gogarbank Farm, although the farm HQ is actually based at Overgogar. Roddinglaw Farm, most of which lay to the north of the railway line was merged into Gogarbank Farm in about 1972 but the old Roddinglaw steading, and its associated farm workers houses, was sold privately. All three farms had been in permanent grassland since the Second World War and a lot of work was needed to restore and even out the fertility and improve the drainage to make them suitable for field trials. At the same time, some modifications were made to field boundaries in order to get more regular shapes. The fields on the west side of the farm had to be substantially reorganised when the M8 extension was built in the 1990s.
In the late 1980s, SASA was proactive in the development of its own software applications to support its many activities. The first of these was a seed testing database (OSIS), developed in 1989-90, and followed by a database to support the Pesticide Usage Survey (NSPPU) in 1991-92. Following a decision to decommission the SOCS mainframe, the application supporting cereal seed certification (CCI) was ported to SASA and became CCMS. Another key application developed by SASA’s IT Section was the SASA Job Information and Management System (JIMS) which provides detailed information on job activities and costs. While this was going on the SASA IT Section began to develop a Local Area Network making computers available to the majority of staff. By 2005 practically all staff are IT-proficient and much recording and analysis is now done online.
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