Control and certification
The certification of seed potatoes has two aims: to guarantee the quality of the seed potatoes for growers, and encourage the use of advances in plant breeding
The production of certified seed potatoes is a process which takes from 8 to 10 years. It begins with the in-vitro propagation stage, followed by a generation of propagation in a greenhouse, protected from external contamination in a disinfected substrate or in soilless cultivation.
These two first stages are followed by 6 to 8 generations of propagation in the field, in healthy conditions by specialist growers.
Throughout this process, the conditions set out in the Ministry of Agriculture regulations for inspection and certification, must be complied with. These regulations include the European Directives on trade (66/403) and plant health (2000/29).
The certification of seed potatoes focuses on two major factors:
· Identification of the variety;
· Health status.
Identification of the variety
In France, only those varieties registered in the National catalogue or in the European catalogue may be grown and certified. Inspection to identify the variety and to ensure it is true to type is compulsory. Inspection takes place right at the beginning, before in-vitro propagation, and then during subsequent generations.
In addition, the growers must comply with the strict regulations covering isolation and identification of the batches.
Health status is the other main factor in the certification of the seed potatoes.
France has areas where the soil and climate are eminently suitable for growing quality seed potatoes.
Several regions, where the climate is cool and damp, have the advantage of a healthy environment and soil and are recognised as being particularly disease-free. Wide open spaces and long crop rotations, usually between 7 and 8 years, help to maintain this situation.
Apart from this natural advantage, the growing of seed potatoes lends itself to being very strictly controlled:
One part of the system deals with complying with a genealogical scheme which provides for the use material from in-vitro propagation and a limited number of generations in the field.
The other part deals with inspection against potato pests and diseases at all stages in the propagation system.
There are two categories of these pests and diseases:
· Organisms which may be tolerated: quality-regulated harmful organisms;
· Organisms which cannot be tolerated: quarantine regulated pests and diseases
You can consult this site for descriptions of the diseases and pests which are considered as part of the certification process.
The crops of seed potatoes are inspected at all stages: soil analysis before planting, crop inspection, post harvest control, analysis of samples after harvesting.
In order to be certified, the seed potatoes must comply with the standards which apply in France.
All these inspections are recorded on score sheets and are finally collated in a computer database.
Finally, at the end of this long process, the certification procedure is completed when the seed potatoes are packed with tamper-evident closures and the official label is applied. This enables the batch of seed potatoes to be easily identified so that it can travel freely within the European Union. It also serves as a traceability document so that the history of the product can be known if there is a problem.
- Organization of production
- Rigourous production scheme
- Plant health inspection
- The "blue" certificate
The "blue certificate" from the official control and certification Service (SOC) shows that the inspection and traceability process has been complied with.
It is only awarded when all the results comply with the standards set by French regulations.
- French standards
French standards for certification are even more strict than the european Directives.