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11. Crops and Horticulture

CROPS

SEED CERTIFICATION SCHEME

Seed certification is a quality assurance system whereby seed intended for marketing is subject to official control and inspection. At its simplest, the system certifies that a sack, packet or box of seed contains what it says on the label and that the seed was produced, inspected and graded, in accordance with the requirements of a Certification Scheme. The immediate objective of seed certification is to supply high quality seed to farmers and other growers, which is true to identity, high in purity and germination capacity and free from certain pests and diseases. Seed quality is most important in crop production, as high quality seed is essential for good crop yields and good returns, and minimises the likelihood of crop failure. Seed of barley, oats, wheat, triticale, field beans, oilseed rape and seed potatoes were certified in 2009.

The Seed Certification Scheme is an official system supported by EU and national legislation and International protocols to ensure that seed is produced, multiplied and marketed according to predetermined standards and systems, while maintaining the genetic integrity of the product. It is part of a wider system of international trade incorporating plant breeding, plant breeder's rights, plant genetic resources and biodiversity. Under EU and Irish law, it is illegal to market uncertified seed.

There are seven EU Seeds Directives, which provide for common standards for seed certification across the EU Member States, and, in general, the free movement of certified seed. The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is the designated authority for implementing the Seed Certification Scheme in Ireland.

Production of certified seed of combinable crops requires the establishment of a contract between the grower and the seed merchant. Certain conditions are stipulated regarding the suitability of the site for growing a seed crop. Seed production is overseen by official inspections and sampling during the field, seed intake, packaging and labelling phases of production. Contracts are not required in the case of seed potatoes but growers must apply to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food before crops are planted. Land to be used for seed potatoes must be officially soil sampled and tested for potato cyst nematodes (PCN) in advance of planting the crop. Both growing crops and harvested tubers must pass official inspections before seed is certified.

The initial source material for seed potatoes is produced by meristem tip culture under laboratory conditions in order to minimise disease levels. The first generation ('mini-tubers') are produced in a glasshouse and these are subsequently multiplied over a number of generations in the field to produce seed for growing commercial ware crops. Mini-tubers are produced at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Tops Potato Centre in Raphoe, Co Donegal and may also be imported. Under EU legislation (Decision 2004/03/EC) Ireland is one of a small number of areas within the EU officially recognized as a High Grade Seed Area for seed potatoes because the country is currently free from a number of significant potato diseases that occur in other Member States. Under this legislation, only 'Pre-basic' (White Label with purple stripe) and 'Basic' (White Label) seed potatoes can be marketed in Ireland

Further information can be obtained from Crop Policy, Production and Safety Division, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Administration Building, Backweston Campus, Celbridge, Co Kildare. Tel: 01 5058811 

VARIETY REGISTRATIONS

Under EU legislation only seed of varieties, which are registered in the Irish National Catalogue of Agricultural Plant Varieties or in the EU Common Catalogue may be marketed here, and all seed marketed, including grass seed mixtures must be officially certified. Varieties to be included in the National Catalogue must be tested under official control and in accordance with EU requirements.

The National Catalogue of Agricultural Plant Varieties is published annually. Further information can be obtained from Crop Policy, Production and Safety Division, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Administration Building, Backweston Campus, Celbridge, Co Kildare. Tel 01 5058811

SEED TESTING SERVICE

Farmers and merchants may have seeds tested for purity and germination and weed seed content, moisture content, biochemical test for viability, hectolitre weight etc., at the Department's Seed Testing Laboratory. A fee is charged for these tests.

Tests for a number of quarantine organisms are also carried out at the Plant Health Laboratory in Backweston.

Further information can be obtained from the Seed Testing Laboratory, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Backweston Campus, Backweston, Celbridge, Co Kildare. Tel: 01 6157521

CROP VARIETY EVALUATION PROGRAMME

In accordance with both EU Directives and national legislation the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Food is the competent authority in Ireland to carry out V.C.U. (Value for Cultivation and Use) trials for crop varieties. New varieties showing superior merit are given positive V.C.U. status.

These trials, called National List (NL) Trials are carried out over a minimum of two years; mainly at the Department's Crop Variety Evaluation Centres at Backweston Farm (Headquarters), Moorepark, Athenry, Kildalton and Raphoe. Varieties meeting acceptable standards for both VCU (and DUS*) are eligible for registration in the National Catalogue of Agricultural Plant Varieties.
*DUS (Distinct, Uniform, Stable) tests are only carried out in Ireland on potato varieties, generally homebred.

Promising varieties from the NL trials are advanced to Recommended List (RL) Trials, which take a minimum 3-year period. These trials are carried out at the above centres and on selected commercial farms as recommended by Teagasc Development Officers. Varieties included in combined National / Recommended List trials must be tested for a minimum of 3 years before they can be considered for entry to the National Catalogue and the Recommended List.

Trials are currently undertaken for the following crops; Cereals (Wheat, Barley and Oats), Forage Maize, Herbages (Grass and Clover), Potatoes and Oilseed Rape.

Recommended Lists of the most outstanding varieties in trials are issued annually for the main crop species.

Further details can be obtained from Crop Policy, Production and Safety Division, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Administration Building, Backweston Campus, Celbridge, Co Kildare. Tel: 01 5058811 

PLANT GENETIC RESOURCES

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food provide financial aid towards the conservation and sustainable use of plant and animal genetic resources. A call for suitable projects is made annually.

The Department also maintains a genebank of old cereal and potato varieties and co-ordinates supports from EU and International Organisations aimed at conserving genetic resources.

Further details can be obtained from Crop Policy, Production and Safety Division, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Administration Building, Backweston Campus, Celbridge, Co Kildare. Tel: 01 5058811

POTATOES

REGISTRATION OF POTATO GROWERS AND POTATO PACKERS ACT

Under the Registration of Potato Growers and Potato Packers Acts, 1984 and 2004, every person who is a grower of potatoes for sale or a packer of potatoes for sale must register with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. A once-off registration fee of €19 is payable.

Potatoes may not be sold unless they have been grown by a registered grower and packed by a registered packer. A person may not sell potatoes in a package unless the package bears the registration number of both the registered grower and the registered packer.

Regulations made under the Act require both growers and packers to maintain detailed records of quantities sold/purchased. These records ensure that potatoes offered for sale at retail level can be traced back to individual growers or importers.

STANDARDS FOR SALE OF POTATOES

Potatoes sold or offered for sale must comply with the requirements of the Food Standards (Potatoes) Regulations. They must be of good quality, sold separately by variety and sold in the prescribed size ranges. Packages must be marked with the potato variety and the size range. Packaging must be able to absorb moisture and admit air. The Regulations do not apply to potatoes for processing or for export.

Further information can be obtained from Crop Policy, Production and Safety Division, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Administration Building, Backweston Campus, Celbridge, Co Kildare. Tel: 01 5058804

FRUIT AND VEGETABLES

SCHEME OF INVESTMENT AID FOR THE COMMERCIAL HORTICULTURE SECTOR

Grant aid is available under the Scheme of Investment Aid for the Development of the Commercial Horticulture Sector. The scheme aims to assist development of the horticulture sector, including beekeeping, by providing grant aid for capital investments in specialised plant and equipment. The scheme's objectives are to promote the diversification of on-farm activities; improve the quality of products; facilitate environmentally friendly practices and improve working conditions. The scheme is primarily aimed at those in rural areas who are engaged in production or are starting production projects.

Further information can be obtained from Crop Policy, Production and Safety Division, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Administration Building, Backweston Campus, Celbridge, Co Kildare. Tel: 01 5058600

PRODUCER ORGANISATIONS (POs)

A Producer Organisation is any legal entity, which is formed on the initiative of growers of fruit and vegetables, who undertake to market their production through the Producer Organisation structure.

To obtain recognition from this Department, a Producer Organisation must have a minimum of 5 members with a combined annual value of marketed production (VMP) of at least €100,000. A Producer Organisation can operate a 3 or 4 or 5 year operational programme (business plan) which must also receive prior approval from this Department. EU financial assistance is available to recognised Producer Organisations towards the eligible costs of implementing their approved operational programmes.

Further particulars may be obtained from Crop Policy, Production and Safety Division, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Administration Building, Backweston Campus, Celbridge, Co. Kildare. Tel: 01 5053578

CERTIFICATION SCHEME

A Certification Scheme is in operation for soft fruit planting material. A list is produced of certified producers of healthy stocks of recommended varieties of strawberries.

Further particulars may be obtained from Crop Policy, Production and Safety Division, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Administration Building, Backweston Campus, Celbridge, Co Kildare. Tel: 01 5058885

EUROPEAN MARKETING STANDARDS FOR FRESH FRUIT AND VEGETABLES

European Community Marketing Standards exist for most fresh fruit and vegetables. The function of the standards is to ensure that regulated produce offered for sale is of acceptable quality and appropriately labelled. The standards apply to home-grown and imported products throughout the distribution chain as well as products being exported. The trader who sells or offers produce for sale is responsible for ensuring that produce complies with the relevant marketing standard. Department officials regularly inspect produce to ensure compliance with the standards. Requirements for traders as well as penalties for infringements of the standards are set down in the European Communities (Marketing Standards) (Crops and Oils) Regulations 2010 (S.I. No. 153 of 2010).

Details of the European Community Marketing Standards for fresh fruit and vegetables may be obtained from Crop Policy, Production and Safety Division, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Administration Building, Backweston Campus, Celbridge, Co Kildare. Tel: 01 5053578

CONTROL OF NOXIOUS WEEDS

Under the Noxious Weeds Act, 1936, it is an offence not to prevent the growth and spread of noxious weeds. Owners and occupiers of land must ensure that they abide by the provision in the act. Noxious weeds, which must be controlled, are ragwort, thistle, dock and wild oat.

For control methods, please contact the Local Teagasc Advisor or, alternatively, consult the Teagasc fact sheet on ragwort at www.teagasc.ie

AID SCHEMES

AID FOR STARCH USERS

This is an EU scheme under which eligible applicants can claim a Production Refund for the utilisation of starch produced from maize, wheat or rice. In Ireland the main users are in the papermaking and in the chemical industries.

SCHEME OF AID FOR DEHYDRATED FODDER

This is an EU scheme under which aid can be claimed by processors of dehydrated fodder i.e. grass dried in the form of meal or feed pellets. Ireland has a 5,000 tonne share of the annual EU quota.

Further information can be obtained from APS Section, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Johnstown Castle, Co. Wexford. Tel: 053 9163400

PROCESSING AID FOR FLAX AND HEMP GROWN FOR FIBRE

EU Regulations provide for processing aid for flax and hemp grown for fibre. A contract for processing must be concluded with a grower by the approved processor. Growers are required to include details of their flax and hemp crops on their Single Payment application. Before hemp can be grown a licence must be obtained from the Department of Health and Children.

Further information may be obtained from Crops Policy, Production and Safety Division, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Kildare Street, Dublin 2, Tel: 01 6072037

BEEKEEPING / HONEY

The beekeeping sector is regulated by EU and national legislation. Under this legislation, bees are subject to veterinary inspection for certain notifiable diseases. Currently these diseases are Foul Brood Disease (American and European), Small Hive Beetle and the Tropilaelaps mite. Beekeepers must notify this Department of all suspected outbreaks of any of these diseases in their bee-hives or colonies. Imports and exports of bees are subject to health certification at their place of origin in the exporting country and to checks at their place of destination in the importing country.

Grant aid towards specialist beekeeping facilities and equipment is available under the Scheme of Investment Aid for the Development of the Commercial Horticulture Sector.

Honey offered for sale to the consumer must comply with the European Communities (Marketing of Honey) Regulations 2003 (SI No. 367 of 2003). These regulations aim to ensure the honey is of acceptable quality and accurately labelled, especially in terms of origin. This Department carries out inspections to ensure compliance with these regulations and penalties are applied for infringements.

Beekeepers are encouraged to register with this Department for food hygiene purposes and are issued with a unique beekeeper registration number.

Teagasc provides an advisory and disease diagnostic service for beekeepers. Information is available from the Teagasc local offices network.

Further information can be obtained from Crop Policy, Production and Safety Division, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Administration Building, Backweston Campus, Celbridge, Co. Kildare. Tel: 01 5058804

PLANT HEALTH AND TRADE / FERTILISERS

MARKETING STANDARDS FOR FRESH FRUIT AND VEGETABLES

European Community Marketing Standards exist for a wide range of fresh fruit and vegetables. The function of the standards is to ensure that regulated produce offered to the consumer is of acceptable quality and accurately labelled. The standards concern quality, sizing, presentation and marking of regulated fresh produce. These standards apply to home-grown and imported products offered for sale at wholesale and retail levels throughout the country and to products being exported. Responsibility for ensuring that produce which is sold or offered for sale complies with the marketing standards lies with the trader. Department officials inspect produce to ensure that the standards are being observed. There are penalties for infringements of the marketing standards.

Details of the standards prescribed for the various products may be obtained from Crop Policy, Production and Safety Division, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Administration Building, Backweston Campus, Celbridge, Co Kildare. Tel: 01 5058786

PLANT HEALTH AND TRADE/PESTICIDES

Ireland is free of many of the serious diseases and pests, which affect plants and crops, and consequently has a high standard of plant health. The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food operates controls under both national and EU legislation to maintain this high health status. Any unusual occurrence of disease or pest should be notified immediately to the Plant Protection Service of the Department.

EU RULES

A common system of plant health controls operates within the EU. A feature of this system is that material (certain plants, plant products and other objects), which are subject to these controls, must be inspected at production level to check compliance with the requirements that are laid down in respect of movement within the EU. Some of this material must be accompanied by a label, known as a plant passport, when being moved. This denotes eligibility for movement within the EU and specifically for movement into and within designated protected zones. Persons involved in the production and movement of relevant material must be registered with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and be authorised to issue plant passports, where appropriate. Material that is of non-EU origin and is subject to plant health controls may only be imported by registered importers and is subject to mandatory phytosanitary inspection upon entry into the EU.

Further information and application forms for registration may be obtained from Plant Trade Section, Crop Policy, Production and Safety Division, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Administration Building, Backweston Campus, Celbridge, Co Kildare. Tel: 01 5058885

PLANT PROTECTION AND BIOCIDAL PRODUCTS

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food maintains close co-operation with the Department of Health and Children, Department of the Environment and Local Government, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and the Health and Safety Authority in the operation of the various regulations.

REGISTRATION AND AUTHORISATION

Plant protection products, when correctly used, are a most valuable tool in crop production for controlling weeds, diseases and pests, enabling a good yield of top quality crops to be obtained. Biocides, when used correctly, provide effective means of disinfection and preservation of products, surfaces and materials in industry and in the home. However, being biologically active, plant protection products and biocidal products must be handled and used with care.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food operates statutory controls over all plant protection and biocidal products used in Ireland and only products notified under the European Communities (Classification, Packaging and Labeling of Plant Protection Products and Biocide Products) Regulations, 2001 or authorised or registered in accordance with the European Communities (Authorisation, Placing on the Market, Use and Control of Plant Protection Products) Regulations, 2003 or the European Communities (Authorisation, Placing on the Market, Use and Control of Biocidal Products) Regulations, 2001 can be used. Any use of plant protection and biocidal products which contravenes the related conditions which are listed on the product labels is an offence which is subject to prosecution.

Regular inspection by the Department is carried out to ensure that all plant protection and biocidal products that are marketed and used comply with the relevant EU regulations. Users of plant protection and biocidal products should follow the conditions of use on the label.

The Department publishes a list of plant protection products, which have been authorised, cleared, notified or granted permission to be marketed under the relevant Regulations.

RESIDUE LEVELS

It is illegal to market food products that contain higher levels of pesticides residues than the permitted maxima which are laid down by the relevant Regulations. The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food publishes an Annual report on Pesticide Residues in Food.

Further information can be obtained from Crop Policy, Production and Safety Division, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Administration Building, Backweston Campus, Celbridge, Co. Kildare. Tel: 01 5058885 and Pesticides Control Services, Backweston Agrilabs, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Backweston, Co Kildare. Tel: 01 6157552

GROUND LIMESTONE AND FERTILISERS

Legal standards are prescribed for the sale of ground limestone and fertilisers to ensure that farmers get the correct quality and formulation. The seller is required to give the purchaser a statement showing the analysis of the material. The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food carry out checks on material on sale and takes samples for official analysis. Appropriate action is taken in the event of breach of the Regulations.

ANALYTICAL SERVICE

Any farmer, who has reason to believe that a purchased ground limestone may be defective, can apply to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to have an official sample taken for analysis. Applications for official sampling/analysis should reach the Department within twenty-eight days of delivery of the material purchased and be accompanied by a fee of €6.35 in each case.

Further information can be obtained from Crop Policy, Production and Safety Division, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Administration Building, Backweston Campus, Celbridge, Co. Kildare. Tel: 01 5058766