This year, the Irish Seed Trade Association’s (ISTA) members will implement a higher voluntary standard for cover crop seed, meaning that it will be tested for grass weeds and if weeds are found then the seed will not enter the system.

To give some background to this, most cover crop seeds are imported. Many of these are imported as straights and are mixed here in Ireland.

Ireland has very high standards when it comes to seed and cereal seed in particular which has a zero tolerance for grass weeds.

Other countries have tolerances for grass weeds in seed, so it is not guaranteed that they are free of weed seeds.

ISTA is now extending its high standards to cover crop seed. It is implementing a voluntary standard which will see batches of these cover crop seeds tested for blackgrass and other grass weeds before they are sent to Ireland.

A 3kg seed search will be carried out on each seed lot being imported. It will have an orange certificate when it arrives in Ireland and only seed which has zero blackgrass in the test will be used for cover crop seed in Ireland.

Seeds, which adhere to this voluntary standard will be marked with a label as can be seen in Figure 1 and a sticker as can be seen in Figure 2.

It is important to note that not all cover crop seed will adhere to this standard, so farmers need to check that the seed that they are purchasing carries this label.

Grass weeds are a serious risk to the viability of tillage farms, so taking as many steps as possible to keep them at bay is important. Grass weeds can enter farms through machinery and birds and, of course, seed, so reducing the risk of planting grass weeds in seed is a good step to take to reduce risk.