New Crop Varieties: The Journey from Lab to Field – Registration
New Crop Varieties: The Journey from Lab to Field – Registration

New Crop Varieties: The Journey from Lab to Field – Registration

This is the ninth and final blog of the series of #LabToField, which set out to explain the annual cycle of variety development. Click here to read Part 1: Phytotrons, Part 2: Agriculture Greenhouses, Part 3: The U of S Seed Lab, Part 4: Seeding, Part 5: Data Collection, Part 6: Harvest, Part 7: Grains Innovation Lab, or Part 8: Seed Disposal.

Part 9: Registration

After years of varietal development, the most promising varieties are selected to begin the process of registering them for commercial use. Under Canadian legislation, the Seeds Act and Seeds Regulations govern the testing, inspection, quality, and sale of all seeds. This legislation ensures that all seeds, whether imported or developed domestically, are proven to be safe for production and consumption before they reach the fields of Canadian farmers. In this final blog of the #LabtoField series, we explore how newly developed crop varieties become registered seed for use in Canada.

Varietal Registration Testing

Variety testing and registration ensure that newly developed crop varieties are novel, distinguishable from existing varieties, and stable. Before new potential crop varieties can even enter into the public varietal registration trials, 1-2 years of field-scale trial data comparing the new variety to industry-standard varieties (also known as “checks”) must be provided by the developers. A new variety must at least meet the performance of the existing varieties to be considered for the registration trials. The intended end-use of the new crop determines what specific criteria the crop must meet or exceed to be considered for registration.

If the field trial results provided by the developer are better than or equal to existing varieties, a recommending committee will approve the variety to move forward into the official variety registration recommendation trials. These trials provide credible, scientific data on the performance of the new variety, and are overseen by an official trial coordinator who reports to the recommending committee. The locations of these trials are determined by the intended production region for the new varieties. Data gathered from these registration trials are used for the recommending committee’s final assessment.

Registration and Seed Multiplication

If the recommending committee finds the variety suitable, the next step for a variety is a recommendation for registration made to CFIA’s Variety Registration Office. This is accompanied by an application package for registration, the cost of which is covered by the developer. For a new cereal variety, the application fee is about $875.00. This application package includes a whole host of information including varietal name, breeding history, a seed sample, and a description of the variety including applicable characteristics. The CFIA reviews the application package, as well as plants the reference seed sample in the following field season. Based on the application package and planting, the CFIA decides whether or not to approve the variety for registration.

If approved, the variety undergoes seed-multiplication. This is a controlled process regulated by the Canadian Seed Growers Association (CSGA) to produce seed for sale. The process includes purity standards at each multiplication stage to ensure that the distinguishing characteristics of the variety remain throughout the process and exist in the final pedigreed variety. The length of time required for multiplication of seed will depend on the seed multiplication ratio of the crop, which is just a measure of how many seeds can be harvested from one plant. This multiplication process may take only a short while or multiple planting seasons depending on the crop.  

The End Result

While crop varietal registration is the last step in the development process, it can be a time-consuming and complex process. Meticulous testing of each new potential variety helps to ensure the safety and quality of Canadian crops and food. The result, the newly registered crop variety, helps to provide farmers with the tools they need to combat the ever-changing challenges of farming in Canada, from pests and diseases to climate changes to changing consumer preferences and a global increase in demand for food.

Over the last nine months, we have journeyed through the development of new crops in Canada, looking at each segment which makes up the variety development pipeline. I hope, after learning about this vital part of Canadian agriculture, the next time you drive by a farmers’ field you take a moment to think about the complex process of bringing the variety to development, and to thank the crop breeders, researchers, farmers, and other members of the agriculture industry who help to put food on our tables each and every day.