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ISTA Suggested Training Objectives for Seed Analysts

Introduction
At the ISTA seminar on Seed Analyst Training in 2009 it was agreed that ISTA would publish a set of objectives that laboratories could use as guidance when training seed analysts. The following objectives are not exhaustive or what ISTA requires a laboratory to do. They are however meant as a helpful checklist for laboratories that wish to develop a training course. The training objectives are given at two levels: 1) standard and 2) advanced.  

Timing of training
: Seed analysis is a specialised occupation, and some skills, such as seed identification and seed analytical purity take many years to develop. Therefore even after completing an advanced level course most candidates will need to practise and refine their skills by daily use, proficiency testing etc. The time that is taken to cover the different aspects of training will vary depending on circumstances for the analyst and the laboratory. However many of the skills need repetition in a work environment and a guideline would be that it takes about 1 year to achieve the standard level and a further year to complete the advanced level.  

As part of training the most difficult thing to master is the identification of crop and weed species by visual recognition. To help with this, new seed analysts need to create their own reference collections/herbariums. The time needed to develop seed identification skills will depend on the range of crop types being taught. Thus, training required for a laboratory testing only Zea mays will be different to a laboratory testing a wide range of species.  

Other elements that are not essential to training, but require study to become effective within a national seed testing system include legislation, national certification standards and QA.  

Information in support of training
: ISTA has a range of publications, including handbooks, which can provide support for training e.g. Seedling Evaluation Handbook, Sampling Handbook, and Moisture Handbook. All handbooks are detailed on the ISTA website and are available through the ISTA Secretariat.  In addition the ISTA website provides guidance on a number of issues.        



Suggested Training Objectives: Standard Level

Following training, seed analysts should be able to demonstrate that they:   
(1) have a satisfactory understanding of the theory behind different aspects of seed testing and
(2) can perform the practical skills to a satisfactory standard. In some cases this might involve participation in ISTA competency test rounds with the aim of achieving an overall ‘B’ rating in at least three test rounds.

A list of suggested topics for inclusion in a standard level training programme are given below.   

1.       Seed Biology
 
1.1     Theory:       an introduction to the plant kingdom; plant reproduction and seed development; seed anatomy and morphology.   

2.       Seed Quality
         
2.1    Theory:       an introduction to the components of seed quality; significance of seed quality nationally and internationally; an introduction to the International Seed Testing Association.   

3.       Sampling
 
3.1     Theory:       the importance of accurate seed lot sampling for seed testing; how to sample seed lots correctly; how to reduce the submitted sample to the required working sample size without bias, proper use of mixing and dividing equipment          
3.2     Practical:     laboratory sample division.   

4.       Purity Analysis
          
4.1      Theory:       what is pure seed; the equipment required for purity testing; internationally agreed methods for purity testing; conducting a purity test; the characteristics of seeds of different plant species; using seed description keys.          
4.2      Practical:    identification of selected crop and weed seeds; demonstration of mastery of purity testing.              
To help with the identification of crop and weed species by visual recognition, new seed analysts need to create their own reference collections of seeds.            

The time needed to develop seed identification skills will depend on the range of crop types being taught. Thus, training required for a laboratory only testing one or two species will be different to a laboratory testing all the species listed in Table 2A Part I of the ISTA Rules   

5.       Determination of Other Seeds by Number
 

5.1     Theory:       internationally agreed methods for determining other seeds by number; conducting an ‘other seeds by number’ test.          
5.2     Practical:     determination of other seeds by number   

6.       The Germination Test
 
6.1     Theory:       the process of seed germination; the equipment required for germination testing including proper use of counting heads, counting boards, germinators; internationally agreed methods for germination testing; conducting germination tests including seedling evaluation.
6.2     Practical:     germination testing of selected species. 




Suggested Training Objectives: Advanced Level   

Following training, seed analysts should be able to demonstrate that they: 
  
(1) have a satisfactory understanding of the theory behind different aspects of seed testing and
(2) can perform the practical skills to a satisfactory standard. In some cases this might involve participation in ISTA competency test rounds with the aim of achieving an overall ‘B’ rating in at least three test rounds.   A list of suggested topics for inclusion in an advanced level training programme are given below     

1.       Biochemical Test for Viability
          
1.1     Theory:       what is a viable seed; the equipment required for tetrazolium testing; internationally agreed methods for tetrazolium testing; conducting a tetrazolium test.          
1.2     Practical:     tetrazolium testing of selected species.   

2.       Determination of Moisture Content
          
2.1     Theory:       the relationship between water and seeds; the effects of seed moisture on seed quality; the equipment required for moisture testing; internationally agreed methods for moisture testing; conducting a moisture test.          
2.2     Practical:     moisture testing of selected species.   

3.       Weight Determination
          
3.1     Theory:       why seed weight may differ among and within seed lots; the equipment required for seed weight determination; internationally agreed methods for seed weight determination; conducting a seed weight determination.          
3.2     Practical:     seed weight determination of selected species.   

4.       Seed Vigour Testing
          
4.1     Theory:       what is seed vigour; how vigour differences may occur among seed lots; the significance of seed vigour for seed for sowing, storage and transport; the equipment required for seed vigour testing; internationally agreed methods for seed vigour testing; conducting seed vigour tests.          
4.2     Practical:     seed vigour testing of selected species.   

5.       Reporting/Certificates
          
5.1     Theory:       the purpose of seed analysis certificates; the ISTA Orange International Seed Lot Certificate and Blue International Seed Sample Certificate; information required for an ISTA Certificate; entering data onto an ISTA Certificate.          
5.2     Practical:     completion of ISTA seed analysis certificates.   

6.       Seed Laboratory Quality System
 
6.1     Theory:       what is seed quality assurance; requirements for a seed laboratory quality system; quality assurance for sampling, the purity analysis, determination of other seeds by numbers, the germination test, the tetrazolium test, the moisture test, seed weight determination, seed vigour testing, seed analysis certificates, training tasks for analyst, internal audit process, proficiency testing methodology.  


 


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