6 I EUROPEAN SEED I EUROPEAN-SEED.COM F or two decades, a central theme in the agricultural world discourse is the looming challenge of feeding the ever-growing world population. Historically, these chal- lenges were resolved by increasing the area of cultivated land - a solution that is no longer viable on a significant scale. Much of the attention is centred on ways of increasing crop yield on the available land, and it is increasingly important that each seed planted by the farmer will successfully mature and yield. To this end, safeguarding seed quality is among the first steps toward a satisfying yield. While the benefits of seed quality to the end user, i.e. the farmer and grower, are straightforward, how seed quality is defined, measured, and maintained is more complex. The objective of this article is to outline the importance of seed testing and its place in the framework of defining and maintaining seed quality. CERTIFIED SEED The importance of seed quality and consequently the need to control and monitor it is not new and was long recognized by governments and industry. This need prompted the development of national seed laws and international seed schemes for seed certification. Chief among these officialdoms internationally is the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Seed Schemes that is ratified by 58 member countries. Other major regional seed certification entities include: • Europe: the European Union seed regulations are captured by 12 different directives of the European Commission and are followed by the 27 European Union states. • North America certification is voluntary and organized by the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA); • Africa: Seed rules are harmonized by several regional organizations including the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Communaute Economique et Monetaire de l’Afrique Centrale (CEMAC); • In Asia and Latin America seed rules are evolving and vary among countries. The seed certification schemes and regulations consist of structured quality assurance processes applied to those vari- eties that are officially recognized as distinct, uniform, and stable. Some of the certification criteria addresses verification of varietal identity and varietal purity standards, previous crop- ping, isolation, and satisfactory conditions for the production and processing of basic and certified seed. These conditions are corroborated by field inspection and post-control tests. All these steps and conditions are designed to guaranty high quality seed. However, to assure quality the seed is required to further undergo laboratory seed testing, that is, seed quality assessment against set standards. WHAT IS SEED TESTING? Seed testing describes procedures intended to characterize the physiological, genetic, and physical attributes of seed and enable informed decisions during research and development, seed pro- duction, and along supply chains and trade. SAFEGUARDING SEED QUALITY AS A FIRST STEP TOWARDS A SATISFYING YIELD. BY: BENI KAUFMAN SEED TESTING Beni Kaufman