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  ISTA Workshop on Quality Assurance in Seed Testing        
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Bangalore, India, 02 August – 12 August 2011

The ISTA accredited seed testing laboratory of the Indo-American Hybrid Seeds Pvt., Ltd., in Bangalore, India organised an ISTA Quality Assurance Workshop in August 2011. The interest to attend the workshop was overwhelming and 36 participants from eleven countries of Asia, Africa and Europe attended the five-day workshop. The participants represented Quality Assurance departments of the Seed Industry, Universities and Government agencies.The aim of the event was to present and discuss the basic principles of quality management. It focused on the needs of seed testing laboratories that wish to comply with the ISTA Accreditation Standard.  It was designed to be suitable for those preparing to attain ISTA Accreditation and for those aiming to maintain it.

The workshop was held in Bangalore in a hotel with suitable facilities and started with an introduction of all participants and their expectations of the workshop. The lectures were given by Rasha El-Khadem, head of the ISTA Accreditation Department, and Ronald Don, an ISTA technical auditor. Presentations on the first two days dealt with document control and management of equipment. This was followed by more detailed presentations about how to check whether riffle seed dividers or hand dividing leads to the suitable division of a composite sample.

Several possibilities were presented on how to check if containers are moisture proof and therefore suitable to hold samples intended for the moisture determination analysis. The determination of the water holding capacity of germination substrate was explained and information with regards to germination substrate checks in general was provided. 

The group visited the hosting laboratory and each participant was able to undertake four practical exercises (water holding capacity and pH measurement of germination paper; riffle/soil divider check and verification; check on hand dividing; and check of suitability of moisture proof containers). Some of the lectures and presentations were followed by group work. Detailed explanations were given with regards to the Purity and the Other Seed Determination Analysis. Participants practiced their knowledge by filling in work cards using data provided for both tests. The interest in storage of seed samples was very high and many questions were addressed and answered. A demonstration was given on how to use the Viability Equation Calculator downloadable from the UK Kew Gardens website to:
Participants were encouraged to use statistical and calculation tools that are freely for download from the ISTA website in the Germination toolbox and details were given on how to use them for:
  • Rounding results;
  • Checking replicate tolerances;
  • Ascertaining confidence limits for germination results;
  • Deciding on the result to report when germination retests have been carried out;
  • Calculating moisture content results; and
  • Calculating the water holding capacity of germination media.
ISTA’s Accreditation Scheme and the ISTA Proficiency Test Programme were presented and participants gained experience of completing ISTA Orange Certificates.  Detailed information was also given on conducting internal Audits. The requirements of the ISTA Accreditation Standard were discussed and how a checklist can be created was demonstrated. The demonstration SOP “Sample Mixing, Calibration of Seed Dividers and Operation of the Seed Divider Register” was used to develop a checklist for an internal Audit on the calibration of a soil/riffle divider. Participants working in groups had to perform this internal Audit while the auditees (both lecturers) performed the practical divider check. All auditors had also to conduct a closing meeting presenting their audit findings to the auditees and were thereafter given feedback on the audit they performed.   The raw data generated during the practical exercises in the host laboratory was evaluated and discussed with the participants. The variation observed especially in regards to hand division and the check of riffle/soil divider was much lower than expected by all, which motivated the entire group. The results of the moisture proof containers were evaluated after the staff of the host laboratory provided the weights of the seed stored for three days in the containers under different relative humidity and temperature conditions.
The botanical garden in Bangalore celebrated its annual Independence Day Horticultural Show and the participants enjoyed visiting the exhibition where our hosts had gained a first prize for their amazing floral landscaping display featuring Coleus, Geranium, Petunia and Zinnia plants. The Lalbagh Glass House was a good background for a group picture of participants. Admiring the different beautifully arranged plants and their colourful flowers, India’s agricultural potential became obvious.  The workshop dinner was held in the famous Bangalore Club and its magnificent grounds.  One a haven and reserve for aristocratic British colonials (Winston Churchill was once a member) the club is now open to Indians and offers an ideal venue for corporate events.    Around 30% of the participants have never participated in an ISTA workshop before. Sharing experience with other participants from seed testing stations was found to be valuable. The ISTA Secretariat received feedback forms of over 94% of the participants containing very positive comments and confirming that most of the expectations were fulfilled.   The laboratory staff of the Indo-American Hybrid Seeds Pvt., Ltd. have to be sincerely thanked for the success of the workshop.  They had put so many efforts into organising the workshop and provided continuous support during the workshop. Their contribution was very much appreciated by the lecturers and participants.


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