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ISTA’s Suggested Training Objectives for Seed Analysts

At the ISTA seminar on Seed Analyst Training in 2009 it was agreed that ISTA would publish a set of objectives that laboratories could use as guidance when training seed analysts. The objectives below are not exhaustive or required by ISTA; however, they are meant as a helpful checklist for laboratories that wish to develop a training course. The training objectives are given at two levels: standard and advanced.

Timing of training

Seed analysis is a specialised occupation, and some skills, such as seed identification and seed analytical purity take many years to develop. Therefore, even after completing an advanced level course most candidates will need to practise and refine their skills through daily use, proficiency testing, etc. The time taken to cover the different aspects of training will vary depending on circumstances for the analyst and the laboratory. However, many of the skills need repetition in a work environment and it should take about one year to achieve the standard level and a further year to complete the advanced level.

As part of training, the most difficult thing to master is the identification of crop and weed species by visual recognition. To help with this, new seed analysts need to create their own reference collections/herbaria. The time needed to develop seed identification skills will depend on the range of crop types being covered. Thus, training required in a laboratory testing only Zea mays will differ from a laboratory testing a wide range of species.   

Other elements that are not essential to training but require study to become effective within a national seed testing system, include legislation, national certification standards and quality assurance.   

Information in support of training

ISTA has a range of publications, including handbooks, which can provide support for training, e.g. Seedling Evaluation Handbook, Sampling Handbook and Moisture Handbook. All handbooks are detailed on the ISTA website and are available through the ISTA Secretariat. In addition, the ISTA website provides guidance on several issues. 

Suggested Training Objectives: Standard Level

Following training, seed analysts should be able to demonstrate that they:   

– have a satisfactory understanding of the theory behind different aspects of seed testing, and 
– can perform practical tasks to a satisfactory standard. In some cases, this might involve participation in ISTA competency test rounds with the aim of achieving an overall ‘B’ rating in at least three test rounds.

Suggested topics for inclusion in standard and advanced level training programmes are given below:      

1. Seed biology 
Theory: introduction to the plant kingdom; plant reproduction and seed development; seed anatomy and morphology.   

2. Seed quality
Theory: introduction to the components of seed quality; significance nationally and internationally; introduction to the International Seed Testing Association.   

3. Sampling
Theory: importance of accurate seed lot sampling for seed testing; how to sample seed lots correctly; how to reduce the submitted sample to the required working sample size without bias; proper use of mixing and dividing equipment.           
Practical: laboratory sample division.   

4. Purity analysis
Theory: what is pure seed; equipment required for purity testing; internationally agreed methods; conducting a purity test; characteristics of seeds of different plant species; using seed description keys.           
Practical: identification of selected crop and weed seeds; mastery of purity testing.

5. Determination of other seeds by number
Theory: internationally agreed methods; conducting an ‘other seeds by number’ test.           
Practical: determination of other seeds by number.   

6. Germination test
Theory: process of seed germination; equipment required for germination testing including proper use of counting heads, counting boards, germinators; internationally agreed methods; conducting germination tests including seedling evaluation. 
Practical: germination testing of selected species. 

Suggested Training Objectives: Advanced Level   

1. Biochemical test for viability
Theory: what is a viable seed; equipment required for tetrazolium testing; internationally agreed methods; conducting a tetrazolium test.           
Practical: tetrazolium testing of selected species.   

2. Determination of moisture content
Theory: relationship between water and seeds; effects of seed moisture on seed quality; equipment required for moisture testing; internationally agreed methods; conducting a moisture test.           
Practical: moisture testing of selected species.   

3. Weight determination
Theory: why seed weight may differ among and within seed lots; equipment required for seed weight determination; internationally agreed methods; conducting a seed weight determination.           
Practical: seed weight determination of selected species.   

4. Seed vigour testing
Theory: what is seed vigour; how vigour differences may occur among seed lots; the significance of seed vigour for seed for sowing, storage and transport; equipment required for seed vigour testing; internationally agreed methods; conducting seed vigour tests.           
Practical: seed vigour testing of selected species.   

5. Reporting/certificates
Theory: purpose of seed analysis certificates; ISTA Orange International Seed Lot Certificate and ISTA Blue International Seed Sample Certificate; information required for an ISTA certificate; entering data onto an ISTA certificate.           
Practical: completion of ISTA seed analysis certificates.   

6. Seed laboratory quality system
Theory: what is seed quality assurance; requirements for a seed laboratory quality system; quality assurance for sampling, purity analysis, determination of other seeds by numbers, germination testing, tetrazolium testing, moisture testing, seed weight determination, seed vigour testing, seed analysis certificates; training tasks for analysts, internal audit process, proficiency testing methodology.


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