Chapter 3: Seed Specifications
Quality seed is a critical component to success. Specifying "certified" seed assures quality because it must meet certain standards for germination and purity; certification also provides some assurance of genetic quality.
Some native seed species are not available as certified seed. Seed quality can still be ascertained by examining percent germination and percent purity; this information is required for any seed sold in Alaska.
The true cost of seed can be determined by multiplying the percent germination by the percent purity, which equals Pure Live Seed (PLS). PLS is then multiplied by the price per pound. These calculations can increase the accuracy of bid comparisons. All seed sold or used in the state of Alaska must also be free of noxious weeds. This is noted on seed tags, along with germination and purity.
The seed mixes presented in this manual have been carefully developed and are based on results from trials throughout the state. Give careful prior consideration to any deviation from the recommendations. If problems occur or questions arise regarding seed, call the Alaska Plant Materials Center at (907) 745-4469. Seed stored on site should be kept cool, dry, and in rodent-free areas.
The term “certified seed” can cause confusion because it is used to describe two different issues:
The official use of the term Certified seed (with a capital C) is to describe seed that has been grown under the rules of the Seed Certification Program. This is a program that denotes, for lack of a better term, the pedigree of the named cultivar; i.e. ‘Arctared’ red fescue. Much like the pedigree of a registered canine, it simply states that the seed is from a defined source. Also, to be Certified seed, it must have been produced under the rules of the certification agency. Certified seed is the usual commercial category of seed. Its ancestry can be traced back to Registered Class or Foundation Class and Breeder seed. In addition, the Certified seed must meet variable standards of purity and germination. These standards are marketing tools and a means of verifying authenticity of a seed source. ‘Arctared’ red fescue can be sold as Certified or common — in fact, all the Alaska developed varieties or cultivars can be sold as either Certified or common.
Seed can also be certified (without a capital C) to be free of weeds or as meeting a minimum germination standard. This has nothing to do with pedigree protection or variety identification — it simply indicates the quality of the seed. In other words, the buyer knows quality but has no assurance of type (other than species).
Certified seed should be used when available. Seed produced in Alaska is easy to trace to origin. Therefore, if Alaska-produced seed is used, it’s likely that it is from its stated origin. It may be common (uncertified) ‘Arctared’, but it is still ‘Arctared’. Minimum purities and germination should always be stated with orders. Common seed is a usable product and may be used to meet demands. Common seed should meet Certified standards with regard to germination and purity, but even these may need to be relaxed to acquire sufficient material for a large job. Lower germination rates can be overcome by increasing seeding rates. Lower purities, however, should be very carefully considered as weeds can be very problematic.
Other Certification Classes
Many new native seed sources are being developed in Alaska. For the most part, these will not be sold as Certified seed. They may carry the following designations: Source Identified, Tested, or Selected. These classes will be in keeping with the Certification system and standards of germination and purity will be enforced, but the term Certified seed will not apply. These classes are referred to as being Pre-certified Class.