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International Seed Testing Association
International Seed Testing Association
Richtiarkade 18
8304 Wallisellen, CH
+41 44 838 60 00
International Seed Testing Association

Seed Health Committee


  • To develop and validate methods for Seed Health Testing, and to review current methods for required updates.
  • To organise Seed Health Proficiency Tests for accredited laboratories and volunteers to monitor their ability to detect seed-borne pathogens.
  • To organise workshops and trainings on Seed Health Testing.
  • To develop and update the ISTA Reference Pest List.


  • Seed health is crucial in avoiding pest spreads, which is a key factor for sustainable plant production.

The Seed Health Committee (SHC) consists of 14 members from 13 countries. Each member serves on a sub-committee within their area of expertise.

  • Proficiency Testing and Quality Assurance

    This sub-committee organises, manages and directs the Seed Health Proficiency Test Program and the Quality Assurance Program. All aaboratories accredited by ISTA in seed health are required to participate in Proficiency Tests (PTs). Laboratories which are not ISTA Accredited are welcome to participate in PTs as volunteers. This group works closely with the ISTA Proficiency Test Committee and ISTA Accreditation auditors. This group also collaborates with the Statistics Committee for guidelines for the organisation and statistical analysis of PTs.

  • Method Validation

    This sub-committee manages the SHC Method Validation Program. The group reviews current methods for required updates, proposes methods for new or emerging pathogens, reviews test plans for new methods or updates to current methods, and reviews method validation reports. All Seed Health Methods are periodically reviewed, updated and revalidated as necessary. This group cooperates with the International Seed Health Initiative (ISHI) vegetable working group to design new methods and organise validation test rounds. This group also collaborates with the Statistics Committee to set up guidelines for the organisation and statistical analysis of comparative tests for method validation.

    The Method Validation sub-committee is organised based on major pathogen groups: mycology, bacteriology, virology and nematology. Working groups welcome the participation of any analyst experienced in the testing methods under validation.

    Contact the Seed Health Committee if you are interested in collaboration.

  • Terminology related to seed-associated microorganisms
    1. The primary purpose in understanding associations between seeds and microorganisms is to assess the risk of disease that might result from transporting and planting seeds.
    2. That risk may pertain to the crop grown from the seeds, or to subsequent crops of the same species or other species that are grown in the same place.
    3. For the purposes of characterizing the association and the risk, several categories may be used:
      • Seedborne – organisms that accompany seeds (internally, externally, or as propagules mixed with seed) and can be transported with seeds
      • Seed-transmitted – seedborne pathogens that pass from seed to plant, causing infection of the plant
      • Seed is a pathway – seedborne pathogens that can be introduced and established in new geographic areas as a result of planting seeds (seed transmission is not necessarily determined)
      • Seed pathway not proven – pathogens for which there is no convincing evidence for seed as a means for introduction and establishment.
      • Seed is not a pathway – evidence exists to suggest that seed does not pose a risk for introduction and establishment. 


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