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India is one of the major agriculture-based countries in the world. Globally, it stands fourth in GM crop cultivation. Around 500 registered seed companies are in India and a huge variety of different crop seeds are being produced every year for domestic use and export.

Production, processing and marketing of good quality seeds are of primary importance for any seed company. In this context, SGS established a state of the art seed testing laboratory in 2008 at Hyderabad, the seed capital of India, to serve the seed industry with various analytical services. The response from seed companies is encouraging in the first year. Major players are currently associated with us for various seed and crop services. Currently, the seed lab in Hyderabad offers following testing services:

  • Germination test: The seed is grown on different media under controlled conditions for stipulated period and seed technologists assess the germination percentage.
  • Physical purity test: The working sample is sorted into pure seed, inert matter, weed seed and other crop seeds. Then the proportions are expressed as percentages by weight and OCS by number basis.
  • Seed moisture test: Loss of weight against actual weight that occurs during drying in hot air oven is calculated as the percentage by weight moisture content.
  • Vigor test (Accelerated aging, cold test and cool germination): This is a more sensitive index of seed quality than the standard germination test and is used to test the capacity of the seed how it will perform under stressed conditions in the field and for storage estimation.
  • Tetrazolium (TZ) test: This is a rapid chemical test to determine the viability of seeds. Apart from this, certain other services like seed sampling and seed storage studies are also offered to the seed industry. Currently, we serve 36 Indian seed companies and one each from Srilanka and Thailand. To date 14 field crop and 18 vegetable crop seeds are tested for various parameters.

Seed testing laboratory at Hyderabad

In response to the need of our seed customers for rapid and advanced DNA tests, our DNA lab facility situated at Ahmedabad developed certain unique methods for seed testing besides the existing DNA services to agri/food exporters and traders since 2005. The laboratory also provides analytical services on regulatory field trials of Genetically Modified (GM) events. Currently, the SGS Biotechnology laboratory offers following testing services to transgenic and non transgenic seed producing customers:

  • GMO test: These are P35S- and TNOS-based qualitative and quantitative tests to determine the genetically modified seeds/plants.
  • GMO event test: This test enables us to identify the specific GM events.
  • GMO method validation: This test is part of regulatory field trial and is required by the transgenic seed producing companies who seek regulatory permits to commercialize a GM event.
  • Hybrid seed genetic purity test: This DNA fingerprint technology based method determines the hybridity of seeds and admixture of noxious seeds.
  • Seed pathogen test: This is a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) based test to screen the presence of pathogens like bacteria, fungus, nematodes in seed/plant samples.
  • Virus test: Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) based virus test for seed potato and tissue culture plants. Biotechnology laboratory at Ahmedabad

Following a survey and feedback from various customers, SGS India learned that scientific validation studies are required for key test parameters but often conventional methods are still followed. As a result, recently we have designed a validation study of hybrid seed genetic purity test by DNA fingerprint technology against the conventional grow out-test (GOT).

Assessment of hybrid seed genetic purity is one of the most important quality control components in hybrid seed production. Traditionally, it has been the practice to carry out a GOT based on morphological traits for assessment of genetic purity of seeds. GOT is time-consuming (it takes one full growing season for completion), space-demanding and often does not allow the unequivocal identification of genotypes.

To overcome this constraint, SGS has conducted a field-based validation trial in collaboration with certain seed companies. All major crops like rice, sunflower, chilly and tomato hybrid seeds were supplied by the seed companies were subjected field GOT trials. The submitted seed lots are sampled uniformly and divide into two samples. One part is used for conducting GOT trials in field and the other part is subjected to DNA test in the lab. The results of the two tests are compared and interpreted to establish the reliability and accuracy of DNA test.

GOT field trials at Hyderabad

In one year, we have established a sound analytical facility of seed services. The SGS Seed Lab in Hyderabad is pursuing ISO 17025:2005 accreditation and eventually ISTA accreditation. The seed lab plans to expand its service to tissue culture plant certification in the future. The biotech laboratory was recently recognized by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India which regulates the GMO field trials. This recognition will speed up our future plans to conduct regulated GM field trials and other GMO related services.

Apart from this, SGS India continues to focus on other field related activities such as Good Laboratory Practices/Good Agricultural Practices (GLP/GAP) field trials for agrochemical evaluation, Insect Resistance Management (IRM) audits, crop survey/audits and contract research on molecular biology for advanced crop breeding.

For more details on Seed and Crop Services in India please contact:

Dr. Sudhir K Gupta
Director of Agriculture & Food Service

SGS
t: +91 22 2579 8421
Website: www.sgs.com/agriculture

About SGS

The SGS Group is the global leader and innovator in inspection, verification, testing and certification services. Founded in 1878, SGS is recognized as the global benchmark in quality and integrity. With more than 56,000 employees, SGS operates a network of over 1,000 offices and laboratories around the world.