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Guidance from BSPB on rules for cover crops


Status of cover crops under farm-saved seed rules

On behalf of the British Society of Plant Breeders (BSPB), I am writing to clarify the status of cover crops under current farm-saved seed (FSS) rules, and in particular to seek PGRO’s help in ensuring all growers are aware that use of eligible varieties in cover crop mixtures is subject to the same seed regulations and FSS rules as harvested crops.

Interest in the use of cover crops among arable farmers has increased recently in response to CAP greening requirements and as research has demonstrated the rotational benefits of cover crops for soil quality, reduced nutrient losses, and improved weed and disease management.

This renewed interest has been reflected in an increasing number of queries received by BSPB regarding the use of combinable crops such as peas, oats and barley in cover crop mixtures.

BSPB is therefore advising farmers that seeds regulations and farm-saved seed rules apply regardless of whether a crop is taken to harvest, and that when sowing a cover crop mixture which includes seed of PVR protected varieties, growers must use either new seed purchased from a licensed seed merchant or farm-saved seed produced on their own holding.

Under the FSS rules, farmers cannot sell, barter, exchange or in any other way transfer farm-saved seed between holdings. In addition, the use of eligible varieties as farm-saved seed in cover crops must be declared to BSPB and FSS payment made according to the proportion of eligible varieties in the mixture and the area sown.

A list of eligible varieties and payment rates by crop species is available on the FSS section of the BSPB web-site at: www.bspb.co.uk. Farmers can contact the BSPB helpline on 01353 653209 for advice.

Farmers purchasing new seed to use for cover crops should ensure that this is certified seed bought from a licensed seed merchant (for peas, oats and barley) or if they are buying a cover crop mixture which may include a combination of regulated and unregulated species, that the bag carries an official green label stating ‘mixture of seed for green cover’.

Ensuring all farmers understand the rules and contribute fairly for the economic benefits of using farm-saved seed is vital to safeguard future investment in UK-based plant breeding programmes.

I would be grateful therefore for any support PGRO can provide by advising your levy payers of the issues raised in this letter.

Please do not hesitate to contact BSPB if you have any questions about cover crops or any other aspect of the farm-saved seed system.

Dr Penny Maplestone
BSPB Chief Executive