North Dakota Foundation Seedstocks


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Production of Breeder and Foundation Seed


  1. Increase, maintain and distribute genetically pure seed of new and established crop cultivars.
  2. Coordinate the Foundation Seedstocks program within North Dakota and with other states or countries.
  3. Develop and evaluate improved systems of foundation seed increase and distribution.


An objective of the North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station (NDAES) is to develop and release new, improved crop cultivars that possess good quality characteristics as well as high yield potential and diverse pest resistance. Adequate supplies of seed with good varietal purity of the best adapted cultivars also must be maintained for the farmers and the commercial seed industry in North Dakota. Careful supervision of seed production through all generations is a continuous process especially in light of the NDAES policy to protect all new cultivars under the Plant Variety Protection Act.

As the Plant Breeders, in cooperation with other NDSU and USDA scientists in several disciplines, attempt to rapidly develop and release new cultivars, careful increase of breeder's seedstocks is essential. Close observation, good management and continued purification by the Foundation Seedstocks Project is essential to coordinate these seed increases through the Agronomy Seed Farm and the Research & Extension Centers (REC) in North Dakota. When necessary, more rapid increases also may be accomplished through the use of winter nurseries at southern production sites (including Florida, Texas, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and New Zealand). Seed increases at such locations have been made during the winter months for the past 25 years. Additionally, the requirements for the production of low disease level edible dry bean seed, forages, and other crops may require seed increases in the Pacific Northwest or other western states.

When a decision is made by the NDAES to release a new variety, it is essential to rapidly produce Certified seed of newly introduced cultivars in adequate amounts to supply the seed needs of the North Dakota seed industry and the North Dakota farmer at reasonable prices. That initial increase from Foundation seed to the Registered and Certified classes of seed is accomplished through the ND Seed Increase Program. Foundation seed is offered to the County Crop Improvement Associations throughout the state as well as the ND Agricultural Association. Those organizations grow the crop under contract with a certified seed grower and make the resulting seed available to their members. Central leadership, as provided through the Foundation Seed Project, is essential for effective coordination and efficiency in the program.

Maintaining adequate quantities of breeder and foundation seed throughout the life of a cultivar is an important and necessary function of a foundation seed program. Germplasm from diverse origins may confer low level sterility under certain environments which, when incorporated into current cultivars, may result in outcrossing. Segregation, varied mutation rates and mechanical mixtures also require continual repurification of seed sources. Such a program is a combined effort of the Foundation Seed Project, the Agronomy Seed Farm and the REC to provide a continuous program.

The Foundation Seedstocks Project is a self-supporting NDSU program and receives no General Fund support from the State Budget. Financial support is derived from four sources: 1) a levy on Foundation seed of established cultivars sold by the Agronomy Seed Farm and the REC; 2) a 1-year surcharge on the release of new varieties; 3) sale of seed grown under contract with the Project; and 4) reimbursements from the NDSU Research Foundation for certain activities on their behalf pertaining to seed. Levies and surcharge rates are established by a committee representing the NDAES Director, the REC and the Extension Service.

Present Status:

The Foundation Seedstocks Project, in conjunction with the Agronomy Seed Farm and REC Directors, determines the quantity of foundation seed for established cultivars that will be required to satisfy seed needs for the next growing season. In addition, seed requirements for new experimental cultivars are determined. REC land for foundation seed production (up to 3,750 acres) is usually available at the several sites; namely, the Agronomy Seed Farm at Casselton as well as the REC at Carrington, Hettinger, Langdon, Minot and Williston. If additional seed is required, seed production contracts may be arranged with experienced certified seed growers near one of the REC. In 2011, seed production by the Foundation Seedstocks Project and the REC will include 12 or more different crop species totaling more than 50 different cultivars.

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