certified industrial hemp seeds

AOSCA Certified Hemp Seed Varieties

Previously on the International Hemp blog, we’ve talked about the importance of “certified seed.” However industrial hemp has only been cultivated in the United States since the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill. While hemp was cultivated in colonial America through the mid 20th century, it didn’t develop alongside like other staple crops of the agriculture industry, like corn, wheat, and soy. So the question remains – has there been enough time for seed certifying agencies, like the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA), to certify hemp seed varieties for use in U.S. commercial agriculture?

The answer is yes!

States like Colorado and Kentucky have been at the forefront of both hemp farming and research, working with commercial varieties, such as those that are certified by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development on the OECD Seed Schemes. This includes the Polish varieties we’ve licensed and imported from the Institute of Natural Fibers and Medicinal Plants, Bialobzreskie and Henola.

Over the last few years, we’ve worked with the Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) in cooperation with vested AOSCA member, the Colorado Seed Growers Association (CSGA), to grow Bialobzreskie and Henola here in Colorado for certified seed production. This certification process also ensures THC compliance and varietal purity.

The approved certified seed program through CDA is a four-part process:

1. First, Acceptance by the Variety Review Board. (CSGA or AOSCA)

2. Statewide testing of the genetics for THC content and validation of the variety description by the CDA.

3. Seed produced by a Colorado Seed Growers Association member in accordance with AOSCA standards or an approved seed certifying agency.

4. Individual seed packages being tagged with “CDA Approved Certified Seed” tags.

Has there been enough time for seed certifying agencies, like the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA), to certify hemp seed varieties for use in U.S. commercial agriculture?

California Crop Improvement Association

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Hemp Crop Standards

Hemp certification will not be available until we receive approval from regulatory agencies.

(Cannabis sativa)

GENERAL STANDARDS — The standards on this sheet are in part condensed and apply to Hemp. For greater detail and additional provisions, see the General Standards. All production of hemp is subject to registration, license application and approval by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and the County Agricultural Commissioner in whose county the crop is grown. Only varieties of hemp approved by the California Crop Improvement Association are eligible for certification . The size of an hemp research area or production field may be determined by the regulatory authorities in California.

PLANTING STOCK — In most varieties Breeder seed must be planted to produce Foundation seed, Foundation seed must be planted to produce Registered seed, and Registered seed must be planted to produce Certified seed. Nursery propagation for plants intended for cannabidiol (CBD) production and processing in California will be certified by generations instead of seed classes.

APPLICATION — Applications should be submitted electronically on CCIA’s website (Application to grow and certify seed) as soon as possible and no later than four (4) weeks after planting. New applicants should contact the CCIA office for instructions on obtaining access to the online application system. Applicants must attach to the application the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) test results of the crop that produced the planting stock or propagules.

FIELD ELIGIBILITY — Crops should not be grown on land where remnant seed from a previous crop may germinate and produce volunteers that may cause contamination. Crops for Foundation and Registered classes of industrial hemp seed must not be grown on land that produced another crop of industrial hemp in the previous 3 years. Crops for Certified class seed must not be grown on land that had a crop of any Cannabis spp. in the preceding 2 years. The presence of Broomrape (Orobanche spp.) in an industrial hemp field shall be cause for rejection (see prohibited and restricted noxious weeds list in the General Standards).

ISOLATION — The area, density, stage of maturity and location of any Cannabis sativa L. plants is an important factor in cross pollination and therefore must be noted in the Field Inspection Report for consideration in determining certification status. There shall not be any Cannabis sativa L. plants within 330 feet of the inspected crop. However, not more than 4 plants per acre of harmful contaminants shall be permitted beyond 330 feet within the isolation distance of the inspected crop. The required isolation must be present prior to flowering and crop inspection.

The minimum isolation distances between a field of hemp and fields of other crops prior to flowering and field inspection are presented in Table 1. If Dioecious male plants within the seed production field start flowering before removal from field, all plants around them should be destroyed for a radius of 10 feet for Foundation and 6 feet for Registered seed crops. All fields or portions of fields intended for certification must have a definite boundary such as a fence, ditch, roadway, levee, or barren strip at least ten (10) feet wide.

Table 1. Minimum Isolation Distances between Inspected Industrial Hemp and Other Crops

– Dioecious variety of Industrial Hemp
– Non-certified crops of Industrial Hemp

– Other monoecious varieties
– Lower certified class seed crop of same variety

FIELD INSPECTION — It is the grower’s responsibility to ensure that the field is inspected by the CCIA field inspector at least once prior to swathing or harvesting, except in the case of Foundation and Registered and Certified monoecious types and unisexual female hybrids, and Foundation dioecious types, in which two inspections are required. Seed from a field that is cut, swathed or harvested prior to field inspection is not eligible for certification.

Fields must be inspected at a stage of growth when varietal purity is best determined, typically during flowering. Fields not inspected at the proper stage for best determination of varietal purity may be rejected. The first inspection for all classes of monoecious types must be made just before or at early flowering. First inspection for all classes of dioecious types must be made after flowering when male plants are beginning to senesce. Second inspection for all classes of monoecious types, and the Foundation class of dioecious types must be made when seeds are well forming. Isolation areas will be inspected for volunteer industrial hemp plants on each inspection.

Off-Types — Impurities and off-types should be rogued prior to field inspection. Any combination of impurities may be cause for rejection. An hemp crop for Certified Class, unless otherwise specified by the Breeder, must not exceed the limits of harmful contaminants (species that can cross
pollinate with the inspected crop), plants of other varieties or distinct types foreign to the variety being inspected, weeds or other crops with seeds that are difficult to separate from hemp seed (e.g. Hemp Nettle) as outlined in Table 2. The table indicates the maximum number of impurities and off-types permitted by CCIA in approximately 10,000 plants of the inspected crop. A field inspector will make at least 6 counts (10,000 plants each) or the equivalent to determine the number of impurities. The average of these counts must not exceed the maximum impurity standards presented in Table 2.

Table 2. Maximum Impurity and Off-type Standards.

Maximum impurities per 10,000 plants in Industrial Hemp seed crops

Inspected Crop Maximum number of
Dioecious Male
Plants Shedding Pollen
Maximum number of
Off-Types or Other Varieties
Dioecious type – Foundation 3
Dioecious type – Registered 10
Dioecious type – Certified 20
Monoecious type – Foundation 1 3
Monoecious type – Registered 2 10
Monoecious type – Certified 100 20

Weeds — Fields must be free of any prohibited noxious weeds. Restricted noxious weeds and common weeds difficult to separate must be controlled. Prohibited and Restricted noxious weeds are listed in the California Seed Law/CA Code of Regulations/Sections 3854 and 3855. See California Seed Law – Prohibited and Restricted Noxious Weed List.
Fields may be rejected due to unsatisfactory appearance caused by weeds, poor growth, poor stand, disease, insect damage, and any other condition that prevents accurate inspection or creates doubt as to identity of the variety.
A field inspection report will be available online for the applicant. If the field is approved, a certification number will be assigned. This number must be on all containers of seed before they leave the field. It is the responsibility of the applicant to make sure their field has been inspected before it is harvested.

HARVESTING — Harvesting is subject to the supervision of the County Agricultural Commissioner who must be contacted prior to harvest. Any seed moved out of the county for conditioning must be accompanied by an Inter-County or Inter-State Seed Transfer Certificate issued by the Commissioner.

CONDITIONING AND SAMPLING — Conditioning of seed for certification may be done only in facilities approved for this purpose by the CCIA. It is the responsibility of the applicant to determine if the plant is eligible before delivering seed for conditioning. Conditioning, sampling, reconditioning, and
blending will be conducted under the supervision of the County Agricultural Commissioner. Conditioning equipment must be free from contaminating seed to the satisfaction of the supervising inspector.

SEED INSPECTION — All seed must be sampled and tested after conditioning and the seed lot must meet or exceed seed certification standards for that crop. A seed lab using the Association of Official Seed Analysts (AOSA) “Rules for Testing Seeds” must test the sample. A Registered Seed Technologist must sign each lab analysis. In addition to AOSA rules, specific seed testing may be required to meet CCIA seed certification standards. Applicants must also submit THC test results of the seed crop to CCIA before the Seed Inspection Report is issued.

The conditioner is required to submit a 450 gram sample to the laboratory for analysis. (Submitted Sample Sizes for Certification). In some instances, varietal identity cannot be determined by visual seed inspections. Seed must be well screened and graded, bright in color, of good appearance and meet the following standards:

Pure seed 98.00% (Minimum)
Inert Matter* 2.00% (Maximum)
Other Crop Seed
– Foundation 0.10% (Maximum)
– Registered 0.03% (Maximum)
– Certified 0.08% (Maximum)
Other Varieties
– Foundation 0.005% (Maximum)
– Registered 0.01% (Maximum)
– Certified 0.05% (Maximum)
Other Kinds**
– Foundation 0.01% (Maximum)
– Registered 0.03% (Maximum)
– Certified 0.07% (Maximum)
Weed Seed 0.10% (Maximum)
Germination 80.00% (Minimum)

*Inert matter shall not include more than 0.5 per cent of material other than seed fragments of the variety under consideration.

**Other kinds shall not exceed 2 per lb. (454 grams) for Foundation, 6 for Registered, 10 for Certified.

The CCIA requires Reports of Analysis for initial certification to be dated no more than a maximum of six (6) months prior to the request for seed certification. The ‘Purity Analysis’ and ‘Germination’ must be conducted on the same laboratory seed sample and those results must be presented in a single Report of Analysis.

FINAL CERTIFICATION AND TAGGING — If the seed sample meets all standards a seed inspection report is issued. Before certification is complete, however, each container must have an official tag or label attached. Certified seed may be sold to a grower in bulk without tagging if a properly filled out Bulk Sale Certificate accompanies the shipment. The tags and Bulk Sale Certificates are issued by the California Crop Improvement Association.

Hemp certification will not be available until we receive approval from regulatory agencies.