The Essence of Quality Control at High Mowing
“Quality Control is the circulatory system of a seed company, where the seeds are constantly cycling their way through,” says Melanie Hernandez, our Germination Testing Specialist. Melanie oversees all the QC operations here at High Mowing Organic Seeds. Before joining us at High Mowing, she owned a certified organic transplant nursery outside Atlanta, GA, where she germinated millions of seeds. Now she spends her hours germinating seeds for an entirely different cause: to assist HMS in delivering the highest quality organic seeds to you, our valued customers.
Melanie tests all our incoming seed for germination and purity, and performs “cycle counts” every four to six months to assess changes in germination rates on all lots of inventoried seed. She also tests for GMOs and diseases on seed lots that we deem to be at risk. She works with outside labs when Phytosanitary Certificates and/or Blue Certificates are required for cross-border sales.
Incoming Contract Seed
September brings on the busy season in the lab when all of the “dirty” seed samples have begun to come in from our own farm and from contract growers. During harvest, a dirty seed sample straight from the field is brought or sent to the lab for a quick analysis to determine viability and how much cleaning is needed. Once a lot has been fully cleaned, it undergoes a full purity and germination test prior to packaging and sale.
Incoming Purchased Seed
Purchased seed is expected to arrive clean and viable, but we run all seed through our lab to confirm germination and purity anyways. A purity test looks at the percent of non-seed, which may include the following:
- Inert matter (dirt, chaff, etc)
- Other crop seeds (such as wheat seeds found in a radish crop)
- Weed seed
- Pure seed
Weed seeds must be identified to be sure a crop is not coming in with noxious weed seeds. Melanie takes visual notes as to whether the pure seeds are vibrant, dull, darkened, etc. Unlike many other seed companies, we have an onsite seed cleaning mill, so we have the rare opportunity to choose to further clean a seed lot in our mill to remove impurities and increase germination.
Regular Cycle Tests
Every six months (four months for onions and pelleted lettuce), each seed lot undergoes a new test to make certain it remains viable. Melanie has a complex testing schedule to ensure that every lot is tested and the updated germination rate is recorded in our database. Once the tests are complete in a given month, all packaged seed (above the mini-packet size) is relabeled with the new germination rate. If a lot fails the germination test during cycle counting, the seed is pulled from the shelf and either donated or destroyed. If it so happens that this seed was recently sold before we knew the germination rate had dropped, we replace the seed or issue credits.
QC is the Lifeblood of Our Seed Company
While the seeds themselves are important, it is the quality control program here at High Mowing that gives our company strength and vitality. Quality control helps ensure that we are always selling the highest quality organic seed available on the market.