A Phytosanitary Certificate (Phyto) is required for most seed exports regardless of species, shipment size, and country of destination. In order to obtain the Phyto, seeds must have a Visual Inspection performed. Depending on your location this inspection may be called a Phyto Exam, Phyto Test, Seed Health Exam, or Pest & Disease (P&D) test.
The Visual Inspection is the physical exam of plants or plant products, including seed, using the unaided eye or a lens. It is designed to visually detect pests or contaminants without further testing or processing. Inspection of the entire seed lot is ideal but not always feasible therefore inspections are usually performed on a representative sample.
Contaminants inspected for are; live pests, pathogens, disease symptoms, soil, plant debris, and weed seeds. This inspection ensures the shipment meets specific phytosanitary requirements of the importing country at the time of inspection.
Visual Inspection standards are initially set by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC.) It is then the responsibility of the National Plant Protection Organizations (e.g.; USDA/PPQ) to establish and maintain an export certification system that facilitates these rules. The guidelines set by USDA/ PPQ are often regulated locally by state and/or county officials.
While the inspection can seem burdensome when you're in a hurry to move seed, it is extremely important for both imports and exports to have this screening process to prevent the introduction or spread of quarantine pests in your country or region which can be detrimental to current and future crops.
Check out these sites for more information on Visual Inspections:
International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures | Guidelines for Inspection (ISPM 23)
USDA | Export Program Manual
National Seed Health System (NSHS) | Seed Crop Phytosanitary Visual Inspection Procedures
For more information contact AgCultured Consulting LLC.