Behind the Scenes with Quality Assurance

Getting to Know Sakata Seed America

Any seed that carries Sakata’s name must be reliable, high performing and top quality. The quality assurance team is a vital part of making sure that our seed is always at its best.

Good quality seed does not just happen. It is a product of good production practices and top-notch quality analysis. Here at Sakata Seed America, we work hard to ensure that our products live up to your expectations. Any seed that carries Sakata’s name must be reliable, high performing, and top quality. The quality assurance team is a vital part of making sure that our seed is always at its best.

Sakata Seed America has two quality assurance facilities, both in California. One is located in Morgan Hill and the other is at our research farm in Salinas. Several full-time positions are devoted solely to quality assurance and several other employees manage quality assurance and research activities. We also use outside vendors to expand our quality assurance capabilities.

Path to Excellence

There is a lot of behind the scenes work that goes into providing quality seed, but the end results are well worth the effort. Our quality assurance manager, Tom Day, is an expert in plant pathology and genetic purity testing. Sakata has benefited from his expertise for the last 25 years. He says that producing high quality seed begins with selecting varieties that perform well and then following that up with good seed production and conditioning practices. “Along the process and as the final step, quality control testing assures that we have seed that meets our specifications. We have established specifications for everything from seed moisture content to germination rate, only lots meeting these specifications are sold,” Day explains. Having set specifications is a benefit to the customer because they set the standard for what to expect in seed performance, no matter what the seed crop conditions are that year. If the crops of a specific cultivar fail to meet the specification for germination, for instance, it is either not offered that year or measures are taken to bring the seed lots up to specifications.

When Sakata is figuring out their production numbers, they have to figure in that the quality assurance department will need a portion of seeds from each seed crop for testing. These seeds go through a rigorous testing process. Analysts assess seeds for moisture, germination, vigor, physical purity, genetic purity, hybridity and seed health (the presence of seed-transmitted pathogens). Each test is an important part of making sure that a product will be reliable. Day gives the example of selling a customer high germinating seed without knowing genetic purity. The high germination is a plus, but if the seed lot is highly contaminated with inbreds and impurities, the customer’s investment of time and money goes to waste when the seed underperforms. Quality assurance procedures help to avoid this problem.

The testing process takes anywhere from ten days to three months, depending upon which tests are required for a species. Cultivars that require seed health testing, especially for bacterial pathogens, often require the most lead time. Recent advances in DNA testing have revolutionized genetic purity testing, but in some cases field growouts are still required to ensure that the customer will have no surprises.

Maintaining Genetic Purity

Growers often have the opinion that a cultivar can only be trusted for so many years, but it can really be indefinitely if stock seed maintenance is done correctly. Day feels that good stock seed maintenance practices, combined with continual testing to check for human errors goes a long way towards keeping varieties pure. Sakata also takes other precautions. They never go back to their commercial seed lines to get parent seed for future production. Keeping stock seed separate is a necessity. The company also uses a strict selection criterion to keep seed lines true.

Sakata’s seeds go through a long process to make sure that they meet our high standards. Thanks to our quality assurance team, you can count on high performance and reliability from any seeds that bear our name.