Seed Labs a Critical Link in Ensuring Cover Crop Quality

No-tillers can be better informed about their seed purchases by requesting and reading the testing lab’s ‘report of analysis’ and learning more about testing rules.

Pictured Above: HIGH STANDARDS. Seed is germinated during tests at Agri Seed Testing in Salem, Ore. In addition to reading the bag label, no-tillers should ask retailers for, and learn how to read, the “report of analysis” generated by labs when cover crop seed is tested. This is a better gauge of what’s in the product

WHILE NO-TILLERS have long enjoyed the rigorous testing of corn, soybean and small grains seed they plant as cash crops, it can’t be said that cover crop seed enjoys that same status in the industry.

Cover crop seed can be tested by any one of the hundreds of public and private seed labs across the U.S., most of which are following protocols set by the Assn. of Official Seed Analysts (ASOA) that have been in place for many years. 

But labs testing the seed may or may not choose to be accredited and hold themselves to the most stringent industry standards. There also can be differences in how labs test seed, and there aren’t specific testing rules in place for every cover crop species.

Setting Standards

There are more than 200 labs in the U.S. that test agricultural seed, but only a small number are accredited. There are 14 labs accredited by the USDA’s Accredited Seed Laboratory program, and others accredited by the International Seed Testing Assn. (ISTA) or ISO 9001-2015.

AOSA is in charge of setting rules for seed testing in the U.S., but has no direct oversight of the labs themselves.


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John dobberstein2

John Dobberstein

John Dobberstein is senior editor of No-Till Farmer magazine and the e-newsletter Dryland No-TillerHe previously covered agriculture for the Tulsa World and worked for daily newspapers in Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Joseph, Mich. He graduated with a B.A. in journalism and political science from Central Michigan University.

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