What you need to know about farm-saved seed from combinable crops

If you grow cereals or oilseed rape and use the harvested seed to establish a subsequent crop, it is called farm-saved seed (FSS). This guidance explains the rules, including the payments required, and provides top tips for success.

Why grow farm-saved seed?

Farm-saved seed forms a substantial proportion of the market. It delivers many advantages to farmers, such as:

  • A relatively low-cost source of seed
  • Control over seed quality/provenance/treatment
  • Seed available for early drilling (no delays)

Cereal ear in Warwickshire (July 2021)

Top tips for growing farm-saved seed

If you plan to farm-save seed, it is worth investing a little extra in the crop. Good quality seed is the starting point in cereal production, so it is important to give seed crops the best opportunity to deliver optimum yield and quality.

Top tips for growing farm-saved seed
Farmer throwing a shovel of cereal grains

Seedborne diseases of cereals

It is important to understand the quality of cereal seed intended for drilling, especially the presence of seedborne diseases. This page includes the tests and thresholds available for certified, farm-saved and organic seed sources of wheat and barley.

Seedborne diseases of cereals: tests and thresholds
Bunt balls (left) and healthy grain (right)

Seed-health tests: Germination, viability and vigour

A crop’s development starts before growth stage 0 – with the production of seed on the parent plant. It is important to understand seed-lot health because it influences approaches to storage and drilling. Find out about the factors that affect seed health and the laboratory tests for germination, vigour and viability available.

Seed-health tests: Germination, viability and vigour in cereals and oilseeds
A man handles grain

Farm-saved seed payments

Introduced into UK law, farm-saved seed payments contribute toward plant breeding and varietal development. Made to the British Society of Plant Breeders (BPSB), payments apply to eligible varieties that have been planted on a farmer’s own land using seed harvested from their own holdings (managed as the same business). The BSPB collects royalties on FSS for oats, barley, triticale, wheat and oilseed rape, in addition to several other combinable crops. Payments are made at the point of sowing (unless already paid by a processor). Farm-saved seed must not be marketed, purchased, given or transferred to another business for re-planting.

Farm-saved seed differs from officially certified seed, which meets specific conditions and controls for sale – relating to, for example, germination capacity, varietal identity/purity and contaminant levels. 

The farm saved seed legislation excludes hybrid varieties, so they may not be farm saved. Hybrid varieties produce variable offspring when farm-saved, altering their characteristics and yield potential. 

Combinable crops payment rates and eligible varieties (BSPB web page) BSPB information on farm-saved seed for growers UK government farm-saved seed pages


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