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April 2018

Since the endophytes meeting took place in December, some members of the seed trade have provided their thoughts on endophytes.  Some of the information provided gives answers to key points brought up at the meeting.


Concerns raised since the meeting

  • Endophytes in imported grasses should be investigated further for the potential benefits of a biological control option for our grassland.

  • Before a sanctioned introduction, it must be considered that we are dealing with the introduction of a biological control organism and we should not forget the instances where this has gone spectacularly wrong.

    We cannot reverse the decision to endorse this species in the same way that a chemical can be subsequently banned.

  • Effect on soil food web- will there be a toxic effect on decomposition processes; saprophytic bacteria and fungi, arthropods such as springtails? Earthworms?

  • Cost of extra testing, trialling, running of dual stocks of grass seed with and without endophytes.

  • Toxicity on non-target species and bioaccumulation in non-target species such as carabid beetles, a natural predator of slugs and many other pest larva.

  • Not impeding colonization and development of mycorrhiza fungi. This single fungal species is responsible for at least a third of all humus production and the largest stable carbon sink in our soil.

  • The effect endophytes could have on the attraction and retention of beneficial insects within the thousands of hectares of grass margins planted over the past few years. These were specifically planted as a habitat for insect species.

  • Feeding trials in US on grazing cattle. – The threshold for alkaloids are well established for both sheep and cattle and this material should be comprehensively reviewed prior to any decision being taken.

  • Endophyte exposure with pregnant mares needs to be 100% prevented.


Information Sharing

Answers to question brought up in the SASA Endophytes meeting.

Q.  "Safe” grazing trials appear to be only for sheep, with little or no work on cattle grazing?

A.  There have also been done feeding trials in US on grazing cattle. – The threshold for alkaloids are well established for both sheep and cattle.


Q.  Equine use clearly causes major questions – can breeders really say that they have endophytes that do not harm (expensive) horses?

A.  We recommend that there should be 0% ergovaline in hay for feeding horses especially pregnant mares this is important


Q.  Do the alkaloids kill the pests or just prevent them eating so that they basically starve to death?

A.  It is different from alkaloid to alkaloid. In ryegrass endophyte there is an alkaloid called peramine. It is not toxic to mammals but repeals insects. The alkaloid ergovaline which can be found both in ryegrass and tall fescue endophytes can kill insects and harm mammals. The alkaloid loline found in our endophyte “Happe” is nontoxic to mammals but toxic to insects. I think if insects are feeding on endophyte infected grass they will leave the field (if they can fly!) and find food somewhere else.


Q.  Do they work in the establishment phase only, or are they continuously protecting the plant. i.e. do they wear off over a period of time?

A.  The endophyte will stay in the grass as long as the grass is living.


Q.  Should the 5% level of endophytes present be changed to another %age?

A.  5% or less is a safe level for livestock generally but not pregnant mares which have zero tolerance. In DK they consider safe levels to be 10% in tall fescue and 15% in PRG. Generally when grown in mixtures the toxins will be diluted.


Q.  Is there work on the damage caused to other “beneficial” soil organisms?

A.  The endophyte is not living in the soil or the roots and only lolines are water soluble and could therefore be translocated to the roots. – There are some reports that there can be an effect on nematodes – but it is not well proven.


Q.  Is there statistically significant information on yields and nitrogen uptake? Some appear to be both lower and higher yielding.

A.  I have not seen any studies comparing the yields from different endophytes in the same grass varieties. We normally only see differences in yields when using endophytes if there has been an attack of leaf eating insects. In New Zealand we have seen 30-40% more yield in the second harvest year in this way. If there is no stress from insect attack or drought normally we don’t expect to see any differences.


Q.  Is the genetic transfer vertical (within a plant) or can it be horizontal (say from a root to another touching root)?

A.  Endophytes in grass are only transmitted by seed.


Q.  Is a plant with endophyte exactly the same as a plant without endophyte under DUS? Widely different views held on this!

A.  There is no difference in the morphology of plants with and without endophytes.



March 2018

Endophytes in Grasses 20 December 2017


1.         In attendance-

Gerry Hall                 (Chair) Seeds & Plant  Varieties

Scottish Government

Carol Scott                Seeds & Plant Variety Policy

Scottish Government

Graham Hall              Seeds & Plant Variety Policy

Scottish Government

Russell Thomson        Herbage Trial Specialist, SASA

Scottish Government

Rebecca Miller            Veterinary Advisor

Scottish Government

Mhairi Dawson

Barenbrug UK

Paddy Jack

DLF Seeds

John Heaphy


William Flemming


Ben Wixey


David Cunningham      Director, Seed Merchant

Dods of Haddington

Andrew Best

Watson Seeds

Stan Whitaker

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH)

David Lawson             Grassland Specialist



2.         Purpose of the meeting:

To share and collect information on Endophytes in grasses, to assist the Scottish Government in making an informed decision as to whether or not there is a need to amend the Protocols and Procedures under the  National (List of Varieties) Seed Regulations 2001 and / or the legislation for the Seed Marketing Regulations[1] to cater for endophytes.


3.         Background

Although the Scottish Government holds some information on endophytes, some of it appears to be conflicting, and some raises further questions.  To obtain a balanced and clearer picture, the Scottish Government asked a cross section of individuals, seed trade members and other stakeholder organisations to attend this ‘listen and share’ session. 

The meeting took place at the Scottish Government’s SASA building at Roddinglaw.  A short introduction on the purpose of the meeting was provided by Gerry Hall, (GH).  After an around the table of introductions from the attendees, GH provided a short introduction together with some background as to why the Scottish Government was interested to learn more about Endophytes in grasses.

The following provides a brief summary of the points made.  The note has been circulated to all who attended for their approval before being placed on the Scottish Government website.


4.         Endophytes in Grasses – an Overview

  • Endophytes are organisms that can live within a plant without causing apparent disease.They can aid that plant in a number of ways.

  • Some endophytes can produce alkaloids that can deter grazing Insects, but at the same time potentially pose a risk to the environment and livestock.

  • Uncertainty over the evidence required to indicate a level at which an endophyte producing an alkaloid is safe.

  • Responsibility for the safety of endophytes and their “release” into the environment, still needs to be established within UK Government and the Devolved Authorities.


5.         The Discussion

GH asked for those attending to share their knowledge of endophytes.  He also requested that attendees ask questions of the group in any area where their endophyte experience could be enhanced.


  • National Listing can be refused if there is evidence that a variety is harmful to the environment.

  • There is currently a requirement in the VCU procedures (Ryegrasses, Timothy, Festulolium, Tall and Meadow Fescue VCU Procedures Harvest 2017, para B.2.6)) that “all seed submitted must be free of inoculated ryegrass endophyte”.

  • As the seed submission for both VCU and DUS is currently from the same seed sample, the DUS test should also be carried out on seed which is free of inoculated endophyte.However, seed found to contain greater than 5% infection must be further tested to establish the endophyte viability with the potential of rejection depending upon the test outcome (Procedures reference as above).

  • Information received to date from other UK Government Departments suggests that it is unlikely that a risk assessment will need to take place for the introduction of endophytes.

  • Changes to the labelling requirements in the Seed Marketing legislation would be required if it was decided that information should be added to certification labels to indicate the percentage level of the endophyte in the seed lot.


Q.  GH asked if the attendees thought the 5% VCU requirement was an acceptable level for National Listing, given that for an endophyte to be effective it will be required to be present in much higher levels.

A.  The group consensus was that the standards would need to be revised to take account of the level of endophytes needed to be effective if used within seed for a purpose.


Q.  What standards are currently in place in New Zealand for endophyte presence grasses?

A.  Endophyte level in each seed stock is tested.  Seed lots are marketed with a declaration of the percentage endophyte presence but it was unclear whether this is an actual figure or a minimum standard. (The suggestion was that a seed stock would need to have an endophyte level of 70%-plus to be effective and fit-for-purpose.)


DUS Testing

Q.  is there a difference in the expression of DUS characteristics of a variety if it contains endophytes?

A.  GH- the CPVO carried out an experiment, where comparison tests conducted in 3 different EU countries with varieties with and without endophytes, and no differences were noted.


Q.  Do other countries carry out DUS testing with endophytes?

A.  Carol Scott – in the CPVO protocol DUS testing has to be carried out without endophytes.


Testing and information available
  • No testing at sites in the UK

  • Information on alkaloid-producing endophytes so far appears to be based on tests in the field on grazing sheep.

  • No information on any other livestock.

  • P J to look into tests carried out in New Zealand on some of DLF’s varieties on cattle and will report back his findings.

  • D L – dangers of classing all endophytes as the same. Cases should be reviewed on a one-to-one basis.


Environmental Issues
  • Where seed contains an endophyte which has an effect on insects, it can either kill them directly or deter them as being barely palatable, potentially causing starvation.

  • Endophyte levels [in seed stocks] can decline in storage, if the conditions are not correct.

  • Once the endophyte level has dropped below the critical level the seed can be marketed as “normal” endophytes-free seed.

  • The group knew of no available data that indicates how long a seed stock can be stored, and at what rates the reduction of endophyte levels may occur.

  • The optimum storage conditions for the prevention of endophyte reduction are unknown by members of the group.

  • Stan Whitaker (SW) indicated that, if endophytes stay within an agricultural field, there should not be an issue.However, if grasses with endophytes spread into wild meadows, this could be cause for concern.

  • If endophytes kill insects either directly or indirectly, it could cause food source problems in different species in the food chain egg birds.

  • Endophytes that control insects could reduce the amount of chemicals being used.

  • Is an endophyte really needed to control insect damage in the UK?

  • It was noted that in some areas of New Zealand grass cannot be grown without endophytes controlling the insect population so they have a real need for them. In many cases in New Zealand, the endophyte presence is considered to be as important as the grass variety.

  • Concerns were raised whether the alkaloid from an endophyte can be passed through a grazing insect into a predator in the food chain. The group was not aware of any information concerning potential toxic bio-accumulation as a result of endophyte presence in grasses.


Q  Do all endophytes target/affect the same insect species?

A.  Different endophytes target/affect different insect species.


Are there Any Risks to Livestock?
  • Rebecca Miller (veterinary Advisor for the SG) expressed concern over an article she had read on the possibility of poisoning to horses and other UK grazing mammal species. [2]

  • Without proper research, there is not enough evidence to support the use of endophytes that produce some alkaloids.

  • The Scottish Government has not been able to source enough evidence to show what, or how, animals are affected by the alkaloids produced by endophytes in grasses.


Q.  David Cunningham (DC) asked if any testing has been carried out in Scotland, to date on the possible benefits and dangers of endophytes producing alkaloids that deter insects?  DC also asked if there was any information from testing within the UK on the effects of these alkaloids on beneficial insects and the effect on mychorisha.

A.  As far as the attendees are aware, testing has only been carried out in New Zealand in fields with grazing sheep.


Looking Forward
  • At present, there is no clear market for endophytes in the UK.

  • However, the SG should stay open minded as endophytes could be useful in the future.

  • More information is needed to allow for informed decision making.

  • Should endophytes become part of the certification requirements?

  • It was suggested that the UK should have a standard testing procedure for certified seed originating from countries where endophytes are known to be present. It doesn’t have to be expensive.

  • Possibility of DNA markers for checking varieties (of grass and / or endophytes) when marketing.

  • More work and knowledge required on the effects endophytes can have on the environment.


Next Meeting

A date for the next meeting will follow soon, other question have recently arisen since the minutes have been circulated and these will be tabled at the next meeting.



[1] The Beet Seed (Scotland) (No2) Regulations 2010,   The Cereal Seed (Scotland) Regulations 2005, The Fodder Plant Seed (Scotland) Regulations 2005,  The Oil & Fibre Plant Seed (Scotland) Regulations 2004, The Vegetable Seed Regulations 1993                                            

[2] NB, Searches on the internet  by SASA, cites considerable evidence of the effects to horses and some other grazing stock through endophyte-related poisoning, particularly in the USA



February 2018

Consultation on Fees for Seed Testing, Seed certification and Associated Seed Functions 2018

The Scottish Government has conducted its annual review of the seed testing, seed certification and associated seed functions with the view of providing a full cost recover.

Within the consultation, the findings of the review show that a price increase of 3% is needed for all certification and associated fees except for seed testing fees which need to rise by 8%.  The proposed changes  to the fees are published  within the consultation and we are looking for comments from companies and individuals on the proposed changes to the fees.

Please use the link below to access the consultation and provided feedback on its findings.


Seed Sorting


November 2017

Changes to The Fodder Plant Seed (Scotland) Regulations 2005


Taxonomic Botanists look at species identification / naming from time to time in light of new research and new techniques for determining the similarity or differences in plant species, and this can result in some plants regarded as different species being grouped together as the same species, or groups of a species being split into two species.

The general International standard for identifying plants by International organisations and such like comes from the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) database. They look at all the recent research work carried out on naming plant species.


The Change

Recent investigation into a species of Ryegrass has led to GRIN making a name change in their database for Lolium x boucheanum Kunth, which is now to be recognised as  Lolium x hybridum Hausskn.  The International Seed Testing Association (ISTA) and EU Commission have made a similar changes.

Commission Implementing Directive (EU) 2016/2109 will be transposed into Scottish legislation, and as of the 1 January 2018, all invoices, labels etc. will require to use the new botanical name Lolium x boucheanum Hausskn.

Minor Amendment to Seed Testing Fees

An error occurred in the fee in The Seed (Fees etc.) (Scotland) Regulations 2017 under Schedule 2 B (ii).

The Seed (Fees etc.) (Scotland) Regulations 2016 had prescribed a fee of £7.63, payable by a licensed seed testing station in respect of an official examination of seed.  The Seed (Fees etc.) (Scotland) Regulations 2017 revoked and replaced those regulations reducing the applicable fee to £7.50.  This instrument reinstates the fee at £7.63.

Seed Testing


September 2016

Changes to the Seed Marketing and Seed Potato Legislation in Scotland

Seeds and Potatoes


Seed and seed potato certification is a European Community requirement to ensure that farmers and growers purchase recognised varieties of a known minimum quality.  Seeds, seed potatoes and crops of the main agricultural and vegetable species can only be marketed in the EU if the variety is listed either on a National List or the EU Common Catalogue.  Further to this they require to be examined and certified as meeting specified minimum EC standards.  These standards include purity (a specified standard for the number of weeds and other non-seed matter allowed); varietal purity (the seed / crop is all one varietal type); and germination.  Amongst other requirements, there is also a need for the containers to be sealed and labelled to prevent the tampering of the seed.

The Changes

The European Commission has made amendments to seed marketing and seed potato directives and Scottish Government is now required to implement these changes into our own domestic legislation.

Hybrid Spring Swede Rape

Commission Implementing Directive 2016/11 has amended the oil and fibre plant seed marketing directive, to allow for a reduced varietal purity standard for certified seed, which includes hybrid varieties of spring and winter swede rape.  The current 90% standard no longer reflects the special technical features of modern breeding methodology or the limitations in seed production of hybrid spring swede rape.

Swede PictureSeed Schemes established by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development have reviewed the varietal purity standards, and propose that the purity standards for hybrid spring swede rape for certified seed be reduced from 90% to 85%.  The EU agreed to accept these international standards, and the proposal was adopted by the Commission and Member States in January 2016.  Scottish Government is required to transpose the Directive change into our own domestic legislation by 31st December 2016.

The reduced varietal purity for hybrid spring swede rape is a relaxation in the standard and therefore causes the growers of this crop no additional burden.  The majority of Scottish rape seed is winter varieties (99%).  Spring varieties are mainly exported for biofuels, with a very small amount processed in Scotland for edible oil.

Official Assigned Unique Serial Number on Each Official Label

Commission Implementing Directives 2016/317 and 2016/320 –  all seeds and seed potatoes being marketed must have an official label attached to the container.  An official label provides details of the seed or seed potatoes being sold, and also allows for an audit trail, since merchants are required to log official label / seed lot details.Seed Label

Recently, in Europe there have been a number of cases of fraudulent use of official labels.  The Commission wants to ensure that competent authorities have systems in place that allow for better control and recording of the printing, distribution and use of individual official labels by seed and seed potato operators.  By introducing the requirement of an official assigned unique serial number on each official label, the security and ability to track seed lots will improve.

Provisions in the Directives cover official assigned serial numbers for categories of certified seed  (2016/317) and for seed and seed potatoes which have an application for entry onto the national catalogues  (2016/320) (Test and Trials Seed).  The changes brought about by the Directives are required to be transposed into our seed potato and seed marketing regulations (which provide for beet, cereals, fodder, oil and fibre, and vegetables).

Transposition of Directives 2016/317 and 2016/320 into Scottish legislation will meet the EU requirement for an officially assigned serial number to be on UK certification labels.  Officially assigned serial numbers are already a labelling requirement throughout the UK, and have been since before the UK joined the EU.  Therefore no additional burdens are being introduced to the UK seed or farming industry.


This article is to inform the seed potato and seed marketing industry of the changes that the Commission has asked EU Member States to implement.  As the reduced varietal purity standard will not introduce any burden on hybrid spring swede rape growers, and official certification labels for seed potatoes and small seeds already have an official assigned unique serial number, the impact falls on the SG Policy Division of Agricultural and Rural Affairs to implement these amendments into our domestic legislation.

The Seeds (Miscellaneous Amendments) (Scotland) Regulations 2016 will fully implement the directives 2016/11, 2016/317 and 2016/320.  This Scottish Statutory Instrument will be laid in the Scottish Parliament in November 2016 and the 85% varietal purity standard for hybrid spring swede rape will come into force on the 31 December 2016.

Further Information

On this article, the Commission directives or the implementation of these directives can be obtained by e-mailing or calling Carol Scott

            e-mail:            Seeds&NationalList@gov.scot

            Telephone:    0300 244 9504


March 2015

No Fee Increases for Seed Certification or Seed Testing in 2015

A recent Scottish Government (SG) review on the costs for seed certification, seed testing and associated functions (courses, exams, licences etc.) has shown that there is no need to amend any fees in the Seed (Fees) (Scotland) Regulations 2014 or the Official Seed Testing Station for Scotland Certification Seed Testing Fees 2014.

Scottish Government is committed to maintaining a transparent and robust service for seed certification, seed testing and the functions associated with certification. Over the next couple of years with the help of Key Stakeholders and volunteers from the seed industry, we will review how we provide official supervision for licenced individuals, the courses and exams run by SASA and hope to find more cost effective ways to undertake these tasks, but at the same time retain the level of effectiveness without it being a burden to either party.

In 2015, SG are to set up a series of workshops that will give you the opportunity to review our possible options and hopefully contribute to one of your own. More information will be provided on the workshops via the web, e-mails and seed cert letters. SG hopes that you will be able to attend.



Latest Changes to Legislation

Council Decision 2003/17/EC provides a list of countries to be recognised for the application of the equivalence principle for importation of fodder plant seed, cereal seed, beet seed and seed of oil and fibre plants from third countries. General licences 2013/1 and 2013/2 have been issued by the Scottish Government to allow this provision to continue until 31 December 2017, unless revoked earlier by Scottish Ministers.

General Licence 2013/1: Cereal Seed, Fodder Plant Seed and Oil & Fibre Plant Seed - Equivilence of field inspections carroiesd out in third world countries

General Licence 2013/2: Beet Seed - Equivilence of field inspections carried out in third countries

General Licence 2013/3: Plant Varieties and Seeds Act 1964* - The Cereal Seed (Scotland) Regulations 2005

SASA - Guidance Notes and Seed Certification Information Letters - simplification of what the changes in policy/Regulations means for the certification scheme.


October 2013


BSPB have issued a Question and Answer Guide to frequently asked enquires on farm–saved seed. You can find it on the BSPB web site at http://www.bspb.co.uk/sg_userfiles/Farm-Saved_Seed_FAQs_FINAL_Aut13.pdf

Please check it out and remind yourself the regulations surrounding farm saved seed.

Policy - Any consultations or results of consultations