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Serving: MN

Minnesota Crop Improvement seed lab receives USDA accreditation

Paula Mohr Chase Mowry with seed scale monitor
STANDARDIZED STEPS: Chase Mowry, seed lab manager for the Minnesota Crop Improvement Association, along with other staff, worked on requirements to gain USDA accreditation. Writing detailed standard operating procedures for all lab practices, including use of this seed scale monitor, were required.
The MCIA lab also can test seed headed for Canadian markets.

The Minnesota Crop Improvement Association seed laboratory on the University of Minnesota St. Paul campus has been accredited by the USDA Accredited Seed Laboratory program.

Gaining ASL accreditation highlights the accuracy, quality and reliability of test reports and other quality- and compliance-related services offered by MCIA.

“We wanted to have a quality management system to uplift the status of our lab to national and international standards so we can be of greater service to our customers,” says Fawad Shah, MCIA president and chief executive officer.

MCIA offers certification and quality assurance services to a wide array of agricultural and food product producers and handlers. Products certified by MCIA include field crop seed, turf seed, sod, native plant seed, noxious weed seed-free forage and mulch, identity-preserved grains for specialty grain markets, as well as organic crops, livestock and food products. MCIA also provides customized quality assurance services such as field inspections, seed and grain facility evaluations, third-party audits, and on-site evaluations. The association also produces and distributes foundation seed of publicly developed crop varieties and serves as the marketing agent for licensing varieties developed at the University of Minnesota.

Paula Mohrcalendar on door of germinator at MCIA lab

ALL ON PAPER: Every step to evaluate seed germination is recorded in the MCIA lab. For example, a calendar is on the door of each germinator. Internal temperatures are checked daily by staff and noted.

Shah says accreditation had been a goal since the lab reopened in 2016. Despite challenges posed by the pandemic, MCIA lab staff worked through and completed all accreditation requirements, which mostly consisted of detailing standard operating procedures for all seed-related services.

Shah asked USDA about having a virtual audit since USDA officials were under travel restrictions and could not conduct an in-person audit. USDA granted the request and conducted a virtual audit, with the understanding that an in-person audit would be completed later.

The USDA ASL program is a voluntary user fee-based program for seed testing laboratories, administrated by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. U.S. seed laboratories that participate in the ASL program are also recognized by the Canadian government as equivalent to laboratories certified by the Canadian Food and Inspection Agency.

One of the key advantages of ASL accreditation for seed laboratory customers will be easier access to foreign markets: Seed analysis certificates from participating laboratories can now be used to gain admission to most foreign markets that require official testing.

Paula MohrMCIA registered seed technologist Sam Banks and lab manager Chase Mowry check samples of black oats for germination

VISUAL EVALUATON: MCIA registered seed technologist Sam Banks (left) and lab manager Chase Mowry check samples of black oats for germination. The lab offers a wide variety of tests that help determine seed quality, such as germination and physical purity. Other services include testing for crop and weed contaminants, varietal verification, vigor, seed count and herbicide tolerance.

Recently, MCIA completed the USDA-administered Canadian Seed Grader Program requirement. In combination, the two programs offer yet another valued-added benefit for MCIA’s customers: Seed tested at MCIA may now be moved into Canadian markets without the need for additional testing and grading in Canada. As a result, MCIA’s customers will enjoy savings of both time and money.

For more information on MCIA and its services, visit

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