SASA has been involved in various aspects of variety work from its earliest days. Initially limited to important Scottish crops of the early 20th century such as turnips, swedes, fodder grasses, clover and of course potatoes, the enactment of the Plant Varieties and Seeds Act in 1964 encouraged the development of private sector plant breeding by introducing Plant Breeders Rights to the UK. Accession to the EEC in 1972 saw a further increase in the need for variety testing with the predecessor of SASA becoming one of the UK test centres for potatoes, cereals, fodder crops and vegetables. Further rationalisation in the 1980s, aimed at removing duplication of effort within the UK, resulted in SASA being the sole UK test centre for vegetables. (UK variety testing is co-ordinated by the Plant Variety Rights and Seeds Office (PVS), which is part of the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) based in Cambridge). SASA also tests a number of what are known as “Agricultural” crops, covered by different legislation than vegetables and in the case of potatoes, requiring further agronomic tests called Value for Cultivation and Use (VCU) trials.
SASA Variety Testing also undertakes a programme of Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) funded Independent Variety Trials (IVT) for potatoes which provides “independent resistance data for pests, diseases and pathogens deemed to be of high importance/threat to our national potato crop”.
As a result of its long involvement with DUS, VCU & IVT, SASA Variety Testing has built up a unique series of well-characterised reference collections of its test crops stretching back more than 40 years and constituting a very substantial genetic resource. We also host the Scottish Landrace Protection Scheme which functions as a “safety-net” for locally adapted and traditional Scottish genetic resources by storing this material and making it available both to the original donors in case of harvest failure, as well as the wider research and breeding communities.