A Complex and Technical Production
Seed quality starts with the growers’ plots. Good knowledge of cultivation practices ensures a production of raw (farm gate) seeds of maximum quality. This is the reason why in France, growers who multiply seeds receive technical assistance meant to help them plan and organize their main production steps and thus secure a successful crop.
The cooperation among the various actors must be complete, in order not to alter the quality of the end product. The actors must also strictly observe the technical regulations on seed production, inspection, and certification, established by the SEMAE-SOC
A Specific Production
Maize seed production differs from food/feed maize production in that it involves specific operations and equipment, as well as a significant workload per hectare.
As a central player in the entire mechanism, the grower is the pivot of the production process. They are also fully responsible for the quality of the seeds they produce. From isolation to harvest, the grower will step in at every stage, backed by the industry professionals.
Throughout the production process, the grower is responsible for the sanitary condition of their field, in accordance with the effective regulations on the environmental, social or phytosanitary aspects.
Brief overview of the main stages of seed maize production:
In order to produce a hybrid, the male and female parent plantings must be timed in such a way, that a sufficient pollination window is secured at silking. To achieve this, the grower who multiplies the seeds will follow a protocol provided by the technician of the seed company, regarding the date and layout of the planting. Planting quality (soil preparation, sowing, row spacing, etc) is a decisive factor in the subsequent development of the production.
Another key step in the “crop quality circuit” is plant thinning – an operation that the grower performs on both the male and female rows throughout the crop development, in order to clear the field of any potential off-types. Thinning is a precise activity that requires careful checking of the purity of each plot, before detasseling.
Male Plant Removal
To guarantee varietal purity, the producer will eliminate all male plants, as recommended by the seed company technician, before harvesting the female plants.
Detasseling is a decisive stage in maize seed production. It consists in removing all the tassels of the female plants before pollen emission, both mechanically and manually. The multiplication grower permanently monitors the physiological progress of the plants and relies on the technical recommendations made by the seed company when scheduling the necessary operations.
To carry out these operations, he makes sure that he has the necessary “upstream” human, and mechanical, means. In addition, it is the grower who trains and oversees the detasseling personnel.
The grower will authorise as much mechanical and manual detasseling as needed.
The seed company will indicate the harvest date to the grower, according to the specific features of the variety being grown. The grower will commit to observe the harvest date, deliver the entire harvest to the company, and ensure seed lot identification prior to the delivery.
Maize is harvested as whole ears, using specific equipment, and then it is immediately taken into ventilated silos before being taken over by the plant.
A Contract-based Production
Each maize seed crop is subject to a mandatory contract regarding the multiplication of the SEMAE-certified seeds, signed by the grower and the seed company that is authorised to carry out the inspections. The contract itself is also certified by the SEMAE.
By signing the contract, the grower commits to observe the provisions of a specific agreement regarding the maize seed production, namely:
- to produce and store the maize seeds in strict compliance with the technical instructions provided by the union and/or the contracting company;
- to plant the exact area specified in the contract without interfering with any neighbouring seed crop fields, while also observing the isolation distances;
- to maintain their seed production field in proper cultivation condition;
- to allow the authorised crop inspectors, the technicians of the contracting company, and the SOC personnel to carry out checks of the standing crop;
- to deliver the entire harvest covered by the contract;
- to observe all other stipulations mentioned on the back of the contract.
The growers’ observance of the Technical Regulation will enable them to have a compliant production.
The contract signature is also binding to the seed company, which will undertake to:
- provide the grower with all the necessary technical instructions;
- supply the basic seeds in a timely manner;
- receive the entire harvest upon delivery by the grower;
- observe various other provisions stipulated on the back of the contract.
The contract provisions are correlated with a series of interprofessional recommendations made within the F.N.P.S.M.S.
Production Rules for a Permanent Quality Plan
The technical oversight of the growers is one of the tasks of the F.N.P.S.M.S. interprofessional organization. In addition to its formal and operation-oriented role, the organization works hard to ensure that everyone understands their role within the production chain. This communication work is critical, given the number and diversity of the actors that step in throughout the production process.
It is vital for the actors to understand how their roles interconnect, so that top performance is maintained within each link of the chain.
The well-known high-quality of the French-produced seeds is also a result of strict and regular inspections.
The regular inspections help create a particularly strong monitoring chain, where all the production stages are taken stock of, so that every operation and every actor can be identified if necessary. This traceability is crucial and represents a trust factor to seed breeders.
The “Permanent Quality Plan” has been set by the stakeholders in order to encourage exchange and collaboration.
 GNIS – Groupement National Interprofessionel des Semences et Plants = the French Interprofessional Organisation for Seeds and Plants
SOC – Service Officiel de Contrôle et de Certification = the Official Inspection and Certification Service