Iowa Seed Law must be followed on prevented planting acres: IDALS advisory on cover crop seed

July 9, 2019 1:44 PM
Blog Post

Unfavorable planting conditions this spring commonly delayed, and in some cases, prevented crop planting. Producers looking to plant a cover crop to meet the requirements of their insurance coverage must work with their insurer on the details of the policy, and also be mindful of the legal requirements for selling and buying agricultural seed, which includes cover crop seed.

Buying grain from an elevator for the purpose of planting is not legal, because almost all seed varieties have some form of intellectual property protection that restricts the use and sale of the variety under the federal Plant Variety Protection Act (PVP). Violations of this act can lead to significant fines for both the seller and the buyer. And, the grain likely contains patent-protected traits. Thus, it is also illegal to plant or sell grain out of a bin, often referred to as “brown bagging” or “bin-run” seed.

Finally, all agricultural seed sold in Iowa and surrounding states must be properly tested, labeled and permitted.

The distribution of uncleaned grain as seed can also substantially add to farmers’ weed seed banks as well as clog the planter. The Illinois Crop Improvement Association recently collected a sample of the screenings from a small batch of feed oats and had a Registered Seed Technologist (RST) analyze its content. The results, representing the potential weed seed in approximately five bushels of feed oats, include 4,106 green foxtail seeds, 957 yellow foxtail seeds and 91 lambsquarter seeds, among a variety of other crop and weed seeds found in the sample.

If farmers are buying seed to sow on their land, IDALS offers the following advice:

  • Make sure the seed has a full seed label.
  • Confirm the seed has been tested for noxious weed seeds, including Palmer amaranth.
  • Make sure that it is a legal sale by asking the seller if they have the legal authority to sell the product, especially important if the seed is labeled “variety not stated” (VNS).
  • Ask about the variety of seed. A variety protected by the Plant Variety Protection Act must be sold by variety name and may be required to be sold as a class of certified seed.

If a farmer or business would like to sell agricultural seed in Iowa, please contact IDALS about the permitting process as well as record keeping and seed sample retention requirements, or (515) 725-1470.


Mark Licht Associate Professor

Dr. Mark Licht is an associate professor and extension cropping systems specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. His extension, research and teaching program is focused on how to holistically manage Iowa cropping systems to achieve productivity, profitability and en...