Buying forage seed this year? Ask for the seed testing certificate

twelve digits The numbers on a certified seed certificate provide 
a wealth of information on the seed and its source

Reading Time: 3 minutes

“If you are thinking of seeding pasture or hay this year, and want to make sure you don’t bring any difficult-to-control weeds into your field, then set yourself up for success by purchasing high-quality forage seed,” says Stephanie Kosinski, forage specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development. “Be sure to ask for a copy of the seed testing certificate before you buy your forage seed. This way, you know exactly what you are getting.”

A seed testing certificate is a certificate that contains valuable information about the seed you are buying. The certificate is available with every lot of seed graded in Canada and is issued under the authority of the Canada Seeds Act.

The seed testing certificate contains a seed testing certificate number, which is assigned by an accredited laboratory and some authorized establishments, and a 12-digit crop certificate number, assigned by the Canadian Seed Growers’ Association, for the classes of pedigreed seed. It is not present for common seed. The crop certificate number gives the following information:

  • The first two digits represent the year in which the crop was produced.
  • The third digit identifies the location of the grower who produced the seed. For example, if the third number is eight, the seed was produced in Alberta.
  • The fourth through ninth digits identify the grower who produced the seed.
  • The 10th digit identifies the pedigreed class of the seed. For example, if the 10th number is four, the seed falls in the certified class.
  • The 11th and 12th digits are assigned by the Canadian Seed Growers Association.
  • Seed sealing number (i.e. lot number) — this is a number assigned by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the registered seed establishment or the vendor of common seed.
  • Crop kind — in the case of pedigreed seed, the variety name is also included (i.e. for certified class and higher).
  • Grade (e.g. Canada Certified No. 1, Common No. 1 etc.).
  • Sample size — grading is based on 25 grams according to the grade table.
  • Amount and name(s) of prohibited, primary and secondary noxious weeds, other weeds and seeds of other crops. Both Latin and common names are included, except for the other weeds category. The Weed Control Act and Regulations is provincial legislation that may prohibit weed species in Alberta that are not necessarily prohibited by the federal act.
  • Per cent pure seed, other crops, weed seeds and inert matter. Per cent germination, hard seeds (applicable to legume seeds) and pure living seeds. Hard legume seeds are included in the per cent germination even though they do not germinate during a germination test.
  • Place and date of analysis, as well as name of the seed analyst. All seed certificates must be signed and stamped by a seed analyst to be official.

“Seed testing certificates should be read carefully before making a final decision about which seed lot to purchase,” says Kosinski. “A copy of the information from the certificate should be filed with your field records.

Seed tags

“All graded seed for sale will have an official seed sealing tag attached. If not, you should get an invoice with the same information. Official seed tags may be issued by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency or by authorized establishments.”

The tag gives the following information:

  • Crop kind: e.g. alfalfa.
  • Variety: e.g. Algonquin. Variety names are applicable only to certified or higher classes of seed, but not to common seed.
  • Grade and class of seed: e.g. Canada Certified No. 1.
  • Crop certificate number, applicable to certified or higher classes of seed, but not to common seed (see notes above).
  • Seed sealing number, seed from each lot of seed has a different number.

“Reading the seed testing certificate before buying forage seed is vital to ensuring you are purchasing high-quality forage seed,” adds Kosinski. “This way, you can evaluate purity, germination and find out what other seeds are present. You know exactly what you are getting.

“If you don’t get the seed testing certificate, then keep the seed tag with your field records in case a problem relating to the seed arises. By referring to the crop certificate and the seed sealing certificate numbers on the tag, it is possible to trace the place of origin and the seed testing certificates of the seed.”

For more information on purchasing high-quality forage seed, check out the How to Purchase High Quality Forage Seed factsheet (Agdex 120/45-1) from Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development ( or contact the Ag-Info Centre at 310-FARM (3276).

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