Planting cover crops is increasing in popularity each year. This isn’t surprising considering the benefits. Those potential benefits will be quickly negated, however, by the use of untested or unlabeled seed. Remember, all seed offered for sale or sold in North Dakota, regardless of purpose, must be properly tested and labeled. This is a requirement of both North Dakota seed law and of the Federal Seed Act. Without proof of testing, there is the potential of planting seed that may not germinate or planting seed contaminated with weeds which may take years to eradicate.
Another concern in purchasing seed for cover crop use is to ensure the seed meets all intellectual property rights protections. Many varieties of crops commonly used as cover crops are protected. For example, some rye in North Dakota can be sold “variety not stated” with two important exceptions, ND Dylan and ND Gardner. These NDSU varieties are protected under the Plant Variety Protection Act and Title V of the Federal Seed Act. This means ND Dylan and ND Gardner must be sold by variety name as a class of certified seed. An illegal sale of a protected variety can lead to a potential fine of $10,000.
Take advantage of the benefits of cover crops, but purchase legal seed which has been properly tested and labeled. If a label is not available from your seed supplier or is promised in the mail, it is not a legal sale and you have no assurance of product quality. Potentially, the seed may be protected or of questionable quality, all of which diminish the benefits of planting the crop.
In summary, all seed offered for sale or sold, must be labeled. Labels must contain specific information according to federal or state laws. If you are not certain how or whether a specific variety is protected by federal laws, please call the State Seed Department.