News

Recognized Canadian Pedigreed Grading Capability

Illinois Crop Improvement is proud to announce that as of January 27, 2017 it will be listed as an officially-recognized seed lab by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for grading purposes. Congratulations to the Seed Lab (Recognized foreign laboratory number 3010) and RST Steve Beals for achieving the recognition and for continuing to expand the services we can offer our customers. Contact Steve Beals directly for more information at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Click here to view our authorization letter. (March 2017)

 

Matt Raymond Registered Seed Technologist

Congratulations to Matt Raymond, Field Services Director, for completing the written and practical tests necessary to become a Registered Genetic Technologist through the Society of Commercial Seed Technologist. Matt was already a Certified Genetic Technologist and has now achieved the Registered status with the SCST. Contact Matt Raymond directly for all of your genetic testing needs at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. (March 2017)

Puerto Rico Farm Review

I recently visited the Illinois Crop Improvement Association Puerto Rico Research Farm with Doug Miller, Chief Executive Officer of ICIA. This was my first visit to the farm and as a Board member of ICIA, interested in learning more about the activities happening there.

Doug had a very full 3 day schedule prepared for us. Upon initial welcomes first thing in the morning, I was impressed with the extremely friendly staff at the site. During the morning staff meeting, it became very evident the desire to work together to meet the expectations of each and every research project on the farm. What a great team!

A visit to the lab gave an insight into the equipment used for evaluation of seed samples, plant diagnostics, and tissue sampling, handling, and drying requirements for clients.

As we traveled out to the production area, I noted how clean the plots were…excellent weed control, careful monitoring of irrigation activities, timely planting, spraying and harvesting, insect monitoring, and fungicide applications….all very professionally done. A lot of pride and “ownership” was evident as I visited with staff members about their activities. This is just what I would want if I had a project there!

Even though it was a short visit, I could see why ICIA has the client base and projects that are completed there. I heard numerous comments relating to clients being very pleased with the service, timeliness, updates, results and data collected for them. It was quite impressive, and the staff told me they were willing and ready to do more! What a great opportunity for new clients! Doug tells me that he has a standing invitation open to anyone who is interested in visiting the farm, whether for research or to just understand what ICIA has to offer. I would recommend contacting him and taking him up on the invite…you will be glad you did! - Dale Wehmeyer, Wehmeyer Seed Company (Feb 2017)

Seed ID for Palmer amaranth

It is a misnomer that Palmer amaranth can be definitively identified by visual analysis of the seed. The NRCS website lists 49 Amaranthus species. Other weedy members of the genus include smooth pigweed, prostrate pigweed and waterhemp. All amaranths have similar seed morphology requiring additional analysis to definitively differentiate seed to the species level. 

However, seed analysts are being asked to analyze samples of feed, seed, and other agricultural commodities originating from areas where Palmer amaranth is common. Currently the seedling growout method is the most readily available technique for identification to the species level. Molecular testing of leaf tissue samples can be performed (University of Illinois) and the direct testing of Amaranthus seeds appears promising but is still under development (California Department of Food & Agriculture). Time, space and cost make any identification technique an added investment to seed testing. Click here for the rest of the article. (Oct 2016)  Amaranth growout pricing here.

Growouts

We are proud to report that corn growouts are in good shape this year. Hannah Hudson, Operations Manager, visited the farm last week and sent back good news along with the following pictures. For those of you that have been sharing with us stories of insect damage at your locations we ask that you not condemn the entire island. We have reason to be proud and are "tooting our own horn" so to speak.

Illinois Crop Improvement's Winter Farm is committed to delivering the best quality possible. And we are having another successful season of corn, sorghum, soybean, sunflower, peanut, dry bean and spring grains work on the island. As a member driven not-for-profit organization we strive to improve for the benefit of our customers. I am proud of the leadership the team has shown and I invite you to see for yourself what we can deliver. Click here to view photos of Puerto Rico's Winter Farm!

Winter Farm

Our Winter Farm continues to impress customers, neighbors and visitors. Plantings are on schedule and growout readings started before Thanksgiving for customers with early growout requests. While on the farm I added more photos to my DropBox account so you can see for yourself the investments we have made in quality. Come see what I am talking about! Click here. (December 2014)

IL Crop Receives Continued Program Recognition in BRS BQMS Program

Illinois Crop Improvement Association, Inc. has been granted Continued Program Recognition in the USDA/APHIS Biotechnology Regulatory Services (BRS) Biotechnology Quality Management System (BQMS) Program. This was made possible through a BQMS surveillance audit report voluntarily submitted by Illinois Crop Improvement. The surveillance audit report is part of continuous improvement processes at Illinois Crop Improvement and all of the organizations successfully participating in the program. The BQMS Program helps organizations meet quality objectives by analyzing process control points, facilitating third party audits and providing clarity of expectations through training, guidelines, assessments and reviews. To learn more about the BQMS Program, visit the USDA/APHIS site here.(Oct. 2014)

U.S. Grains Council 2015/2016 Corn Harvest Quality Report 

The US Grains Council posted the 2015-2016 Corn Harvest Quality Report (http://www.grains.org/).

Per the acknowledgement page of the report "The Council is indebted to the Illinois Crop Improvement Association’s Identity Preserved Grain Laboratory (IPG Lab) and Champaign-Danville Grain Inspection (CDGI) for providing the corn quality testing services." The following is a direct link to the report: here http://grains.org/sites/default/files/HarvestReport-20151216.pdf

Invitation to Winter Farm

Dear Seed Industry, I want to let you know how proud I am of our winter farm...see why here. (July 2014)

Call for Transparency Among National Plant Diagnostic Network Regions

Illinois Crop is asking for more transparency among the regions of the National Plant Diagnostic Network to ensure accurate diagnosis of submitted samples. This letter was forwarded today to the National Program leader by the Director of the Illinois Plant Clinic.

To Whom It May Concern,

The Illinois Crop Improvement Association is accredited under the USDA-APHIS National Seed Health System for the field inspection of seed crops during the growing season. Our accreditation is valid for all sites and locations throughout Illinois and Puerto Rico, where we have a winter farm and station. As part of our accreditation inspectors submit plant samples to the University of Illinois Plant Clinic or the University of Puerto Rico pathology lab.

When the pathologist at the University of Puerto Rico is out, due to travel and education duties, samples are sent under permit to the University of Illinois Laboratory. During a recent meeting at the University of Illinois Lab it came to my attention that the plant disease diagnostics network does not allow access to laboratory results outside of their region. While the diagnosis of diseases on corn and soybean samples from Puerto Rico has not yielded any exotic or unknown pests I believe it is important to allow regions to share pathology and pest information. There is an active shipping channel between the US Mainland, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Florida during the fall and spring. Plant breeders and parent seed producers produce more than one generation of seed per calendar year using the afore mentioned winter locations.

It is counterintuitive to me to restrict access to data among regions with active exchange of seed. The lack of information could pose a risk to the corn and soybean industry for the US and around the world. I encourage the decision makers in this policy to consider opening the database among regions to address an active seed channel. Thank you. (Sept. 2014)

Doug Miller CEO, Illinois Crop Improvement Association

National Seed Health System Field Inspection Organization

Illinois Crop Improvement Continues Educational Tours

Local college students in and around the Champaign-Urbana area have long had the advantage of visiting Illinois Crop Improvement Association, Inc. located in Research Park. The history and purpose of the organization is first on the agenda followed by a tour of the various certification, lab and greenhouse facilities. “The only thing we can’t show them directly is our Puerto Rico Winter Farm” says CEO Doug Miller. Pictures of off-types, seed increases and sunshine pales in comparison to being just off the Caribbean Sea in January and February. Students are often surprised that Illinois Crop works in a tropical location with Illinois exotics such as cotton and peanut. The Directors of the Seed Lab, Field Services and Identity Preserved Grain Lab take turns discussing scientific procedures and rules for seed testing. It is a good experience for students and hosts. Students learn and the hosts learn how to present their role in the seed and grain industry. Some of the “tourists” come back as part-time student workers. “Ag kids are the best” says CEO Doug Miller, “dependable and eager to learn about different roles in agriculture.” It’s a win-win relationship.

According to Don Bergfield, Parkland College, “The reason I schedule a tour of Illinois Crop Improvement Association every semester is that I feel it is important that the students see the connection between seed production, seed quality, seed purity, genetic purity, grain quality and end use. With all the activity at Illinois Crop my students get a sense of the diversity of agriculture that is related to each seed and how important it is to agriculture! From germination to trait testing to field inspection to certification it all has a very important role in keeping agriculture strong. Students also have an opportunity to see the hands on testing and get an idea of possible careers related to the seed industry. I remember very well my trip as a student to Illinois Crop and with all the added services and activities going on now, 35 years later, it is just as relevant as it was then!”

For more information contact Illinois Crop Improvement CEO Doug Miller at 217-359-4053. (Sept. 2014)

AACCI Molecular Markers Technical Committee and ILSI Brasil Host Workshop on Sampling and Detection For Seed Production

Illinois Crop Improvement CEO Doug Miller attended the AACC International Molecular Markers Technical Committee and ILSI Brasil Workshop in May. The AACC International Molecular Markers Technical Committee joined forces with ILSI Brasil to deliver a workshop in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on sampling and detection for seed production. Read the two page article from Cereal Foods World August, 2014 here. (2014)

GMO Rice Testing Rule Change Proposal in Arkansas for 2014-2015

Arkansas GMO Rice testing regulations continue to evolve. The October 2014 Rice Certification Rule Change Proposal includes information regarding testing, lot information, validation reports, out of state documents and bulk transfers. A copy of the current regulations is available on the Plant Board web page (specifically pages 44-46) here. For more information contact Scott Bray, Director, Plant Industry Division, Arkansas State Plant Board (501) 225-1598, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.,or James Chastain, Seed Certification Manager, Arkansas State Plant Board (501) 219-6346, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. (Oct. 2014)

BQMS Recognition of Illinois Crop Improvement

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Biotechnology Regulatory Services  (APHIS/BRS) has recognized one additional organization that has voluntarily established a Biotechnology Quality Management System (BQMS) to enhance compliance with the regulatory requirements for certain genetically engineered (GE) organisms. The organization is Illinois Crop Improvement Association, Inc., Juana Diaz, PR.

According to CEO Doug Miller “It is no small achievement and we are proud to have passed the BQMS audit.” The association’s management and staff understand that they are caretakers of their clients’ physical and intellectual property regardless of how it was developed. “Preserving and assuring the integrity of seeds, plants, and information” is what we do says Miller.

For a complete list of organizations that participate in the BQMS Program and have met program requirements visit: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/biotechnology/bqms_main.shtml

By voluntarily adopting a BQMS, an organization can improve the management of regulated imports, interstate movements, and field releases through the establishment of document and record control, effective training, and continuous improvement. The primary goal is to proactively facilitate compliance with APHIS regulations. Each organization’s BQMS has been verified through third-party audits as conforming to the BQMS Program Audit Standard. (see also Continued Program Recognition, 2014) 

A Word on Cold Tests

Cold Tests, Saturated Cold Tests and Pericarp Damage results help predict how seed will perform in extremely adverse growing conditions. Keep in mind that these are vigor tests and are not covered under AOSA rules or the tolerances used for standard germination testing. Vigor results do not appear on seed labels and with good reason. The AOSA, Association of Official Seed Analyst, has recommended procedures for vigor testing that the IL Crop Seed Lab follows. However, these tests put seed under extreme stress that can be akin to breaking bones to determine how much milk you drink. There are variations in the soil or media used by each lab and seed that is on the lower spectrum of seedling vigor generally show more variation. Higher seed vigor generally produces less variation in results within and among labs. Therefore, vigor results may vary from laboratory to laboratory and even from sample to sample. Sampling is very important. It is crucial to obtain a sample that represents the entire lot of seed. There are many other factors that can play into variation in results such as, but not limited to, the environmental conditions during the growing season, seed handling, storage conditions, and even genetics. But this is why companies run these kinds of tests for marketing and shipping decisions.

The IL Crop Seed Lab has seen an overall decrease in the vigor testing result averages for the 2012 seed crop, specifically in the saturated cold test and pericarp damage test. The overall average on saturated cold tests that have been tested in our lab has decreased from 72.2% last season to 67.2% this season. We have seen an increase in the amount of seed with moderate to heavy damage in the pericarp damage test. Growing conditions in 2012 led to more round seeds compared to flat seeds, and it is common to see a higher level of mechanical damage in round seed.

With 2013 planting pushing into May as a result of all the rain that most of us have been experiencing, the concern over extreme adverse conditions should lessen. Germinations should be close to the rate indicated on the seed label. Once the seed germinates and establishes a stand the vigor tests and their results can be forgotten until the new crop of seed comes in and the race to plant early begins again in the spring of 2014.

If you have any questions, or would like to talk more about vigor testing, please feel free to contact me, Steve Beals – IL Crop Seed Lab Director at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. (May 2013)

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