Seed purity

A tetrazolium test on antelope bitterbrush Jan. 30 at the Idaho State Seed Lab in Boise.

Idaho seed companies soon could access a new selection of state-offered purity tests.

The Idaho State Department of Agriculture proposes the Legislature approve a new service and fee schedule for seed testing. The list of services offered, and how seed companies and other customers pay for them, was last updated in 2006. ISDA officials working in the state Seed Laboratory say the overhaul features new services added to meet current demands.

ISDA administers the Idaho Pure Seed Law, which governs procedures for the sale or distribution of seed in the state. The agency works to protect the purity of the state’s seed stock. Examples include trying to prevent the introduction of noxious weed seeds and other common weed seeds, and ensuring customers buy properly labeled seeds that meet purity standards.

The agency does not test seed purity solely for regulatory purposes. The state seed lab performs dozens of types of tests on hundreds of species. It receives “service” seed samples from Idaho and nine other western states, according to ISDA, which says about 93 percent are from Idaho seed companies.

“A lot of what we do is service testing to inform the customer,” said Carolyn Langley, ISDA principal seed analyst for purity testing.

Lab personnel work with crop seeds as well as seeds used for various purposes — from habitat restoration and post-fire rehabilitation to erosion control and post-construction roadside vegetation.

ISDA Lab Bureau Chief Dan Salmi said the proposed changes to ISDA’s lineup of available tests and related services are “more reflective of what we actually do as a service provider.” Since the current service and fee schedule was adopted, “customer demands have changed, requiring us to update our list of services.”

Stacy LaMastra, ISDA principal seed analyst for germination and soil testing, said the proposed new service and fee schedule reflects recent trends such as the industry seeking to test greater volumes to determine certified-seed qualification.

ISDA’s proposed new schedule adds a few new seed tests, such as for certified grains and noxious weed germination. It eliminates other tests, including some the lab hasn’t done in around 10 years, such as using ammonia to differentiate the identities of two fescue species and a bean-grading test that USDA-approved inspectors still perform.

A flat fee is charged for tests that appear on the approved schedule.

“Now, if we provide a test that is not on the list, the customers pay a $40-per-hour rate,” Salmi said. “With these changes, the customer would know the (fixed) cost of these tests because they would be on the list.”

The new schedule would not change fees for tests already listed as available, he said. New tests would be priced based on ISDA lab and labor costs.

Current fees range from $5 for a simple seed-identification test to $105 for a full-panel purity germination and tetrazolium test used for native plant species. Many tests cost $15 to $25 each.

If the Legislature approves the updated service and fee schedule, there would be more clarity as to which tests are offered, lab officials said.

“It definitely makes things more consistent for the lab and customers,” LaMastra said.

field reporter, SW Idaho and SE Oregon

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