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Status of cover crops under farm-saved seed rules

It is important that producers are aware of the status of cover crops under current farm-saved seed (FSS) rules. Particularly that the 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 The British Society of Plant Breeders (BSPB) regarding the use of combinable crops such as peas, oats and barley in cover crop mixtures

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

Under the FSS rules, producers 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.

Farmers purchasing new seed to use for cover crops should ensure that it 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’.

A list of eligible varieties and payment rates by crop species is available on the FSS section of the BSPB website. Producers can contact the BSPB helpline on 01353 653209 for advice.