Front Range Seed Analysts
1994 Seed Forum Volume 8 Number 3
THOUGHTS FROM THE FRONT RANGE: By Jim Bruce
Much of the thoughts of the members of the FRSA lately have been centered around training of seed analysts, whether focusing on the developing correspondence course we are involved with or the planning of the International Flower Seed Workshop we will be putting on in 1997. Both are of great significance to the seed and seed testing industry not only for training of future seed analysts, but in updating current analysts' skills to become more proficient in their field and in keeping abreast of the ever changing role of the seed analyst in the seed industry.
Many questions arise as to what an analyst needs in the way of skills and training to carry on the daily work routine required of the analyst as well as the knowledge to pass either the Registered Seed Technologist or the Certified Seed AnaW examinations. Some analysts only perform purity and noxious exams, others are germination analysts, and many perform all seed tests depending upon the type of laboratory they are employed in. Some directors or managers of seed laboratories see seed testing as a science, others an art, while others take the view as a *scientific art". Each view of seed testing dictates differing thought as to what knowledge the analyst needs. I have been told in the past that the "expert" seed analyst is one who performs the purity examination and is adept at seed identification. This area, I am told, is where the "real science" lay. I have also heard that anyone can perform the germination tests. After all, doesn't the germination analyst just count seeds or seedlings all day? (I personally evaluate seedlings, but that may reflect some degree of training. But then, that's why we're talking about training).
Just what kind of training is needed for purity or for germination? Do we slant our training to each division of testing or do we train an overall analyst? Obviously these questions have been around for a long time and will remain so. The SCST has traditionally slanted their RST examination toward the seed trade across the continent and the "rounded" analyst. The SCST recognizes the need for knowing the identification of a broad range of species so to better serve their customers; their own companies and the seed industry in general. The AOSA has gone the route of specialization as either a purity or germination analyst and regionalizes the seeds dealt with, serving the local seed trade and the needs of their state.
I personally like the all-round analyst approach as well as the view that seed analysis is a scientific art. In my own workings as either a purity or germination analyst, I have many times been thankful for the knowledge I have gained from both sides of seed testing. I cannot imagine working either side of the line without the benefits of the knowledge gained from cross-training in both purity and germination.
The same visual art of identification pertains to germihation planting when finding a weed or other crop on your planting board and removing it as when a purity analyst finds a weed or other crop in his/her working sample and separates A from the pure seed. Without some cross-training, would the germination analyst miss incidental seeds, empty florets, etc. and plant them as pure seed? At present, working at the NSSL, I deal only with germination. Much of my time is spent cleaning up 'germ only" samples. Without the technique of separating seeds on a purity board which I gained during my purity training. I could never clean up samples with the efficiency needed to perform this duty accurately and with the timeliness that would make it cost effective. Here again, would I be able to tell whether I was working with the right species or that there were incidental species within the sample without having had some purity training?
Generally, external seed and plant characteristics are taught to the purity analyst, while the internal structure and embryo development are learned by the germination analyst. But internal characteristics and development affect purity also. Internal development influences the overall shape of the seed and sometimes its resultant texture with appendages have an influence on germination or maybe that could be stated in reverse as germination being the reason for certain structures and texture. Let's not forget the purity rules, many of which are based upon research on the germinability of seeds. This is especially true of the section dealing with inert matter firom seeds of weed plants. Then of course there is the determination of ryegrass species by the fluorescence of the mots. Doesn't the purity analyst have to germinate the seed for this determination?
Truely, I cannot imagine not receiving a rounded education in seed analysis and calling myself a seed analyst. To come to an understanding of the complexities of the seed itself, one needs to gain the knowledge of all aspects of seeds and seed testing. This is especially true in this modem age of intemational agriculture. A time when seeds are not always locally produced and shipment of seed occurs between countries and continents as well as between states.
Training benefits the analysts knowledge and understanding of the commodity which they are dealing with, seeds. It benefits the analyst's work efficiency as well as giving the analyst the professionalism he/she needs. Most of all it benefits the seed trade. The companies and customers reap the harvest of a trained analyst in the accuracy and reliability of the reports going out and the information they contain.
back to archive index