The Office of Indiana State Chemist at Purdue University has restructured its seed section so it can more effectively determine seed marketers’ compliance with Indiana law through product inspection and testing. Don Robison, who has been hired as the OISC’s new seed administrator, has about 30 years of experience in the seed and fertilizer business in Indiana, Missouri and Colorado. He replaces Larry Nees, who retired after 41 years at the OISC, 39 as seed administrator.
Jessica McVay has been promoted to seed laboratory coordinator. She is a Purdue graduate who has been with the OISC since 2012. Prior to her newly appointed role, McVay attained the technical title of registered seed technologist based on her experience and passing two national seed testing examinations. In addition to seed laboratory coordinator, McVay serves as the OISC feed microscopist, also a technical position.
Nees had handled both responsibilities, but they were divided to enable the OISC to hire highly competent applicants required separately of each role so the office can best respond to changes in federal regulations, international standards, seed industry practices and technology, said State Chemist and Seed Commissioner Robert Waltz.
Jessica McVay has been promoted to seed laboratory coordinator at the Office of Indiana State Chemist. She also serves as the OISC feed microscopist. (Purdue Agricultural Communication photo/Tom Campbell)
“It’s a new way for us to improve our level of services to our clients and improve our own internal competencies,” Waltz said. “There are many changes in tools and technology within the seed industry that result in new areas of training that our staff need. We must make sure we have the competencies required of us.”
As an example, Robison noted that cover crops have been growing in popularity in recent years and that their use will be given greater regulatory scrutiny in the near future because of their role in protecting the environment, including water and soil. His family farm in Greenwood uses them. The OISC can analyze cover crop seed packages to ensure that claims on labels, such as germination rates, are true and to detect the presence of weed seeds.
“If you think you’re planting radishes and you have thistle seed or amaranth seed mixed in, that’s not good,” Robison said.
Some farmers sell seeds directly to other farmers, forgoing a seed company and knowingly or unwittingly violating Indiana seed law. That, Robison said, presents potential problems involving seed quality.
“We’re seeing seed mixes for cover crops in the marketplace that have never been through a seedsman’s hands, that aren’t tested or cleaned and not labeled,” he said. “It is important to know your source of seed and to be assured that as a farmer or consumer you are getting quality seed.”
Clients of the OISC’s seed division include seed companies throughout Indiana and national companies that want to sell their seed products in Indiana.
“Our ultimate goal is to help our regulated clients deliver good products,” Waltz said.
The Office of Indiana State Chemist is charged with administering several agricultural laws involving animal feeds, fertilizers, pesticides and seeds to ensure truth-in-labeling, food safety, user safety and protection of the environment. In addition to a seed administrator, the office includes a pesticide administrator, feed administrator and fertilizer administrator.