Seed World

Ric Dunkle Updates on Phytosanitary Issues Popping Up

When working on importing, exporting or even producing seed outside of the U.S., phytosanitary concerns can pop up. Keeping up-to-date on what other regulatory bodies are concerned with in terms of phytosanitary concerns can help keep businesses and the U.S. ahead of the curve. According to Ric Dunkle, there’s a few things to be aware of in 2023.

“On the general side in the phytosanitary world, there’s much more of an emphasis being placed on molecular seed health testing to get your seed certified for export or re-export,” says Dunkle, senior director of seed health and trade at the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA). “The problem is that technology is so sensitive, that they can pick up very faint traces of a particular pathogen.”

Due to the sensitivity of the test, ASTA and other associations are having to address the issue of biological relevance — especially because the regulatory world is rather black and white. If a pathogen is detected with your seed, it won’t be certified or it will be rejected at the port of entry, Dunkle says.

In addition, diagnostics are becoming ever-increasingly important to the phytosanitary world, according to Dunkle. Why? Particularly for discussions and new research projects.

As an example, he uses the issue of high plains virus, which is affecting corn, sweet corn and popcorn varieties.

“The government of Chile placed those infections under what we call official control and recently issued an emergency rule that now requires seed being exported to Chile to be certified free from high plains virus,” Dunkle says. “It sounds simple, but it’s a lot more complicated than that. We have high plains virus pretty much throughout corn production areas in the U.S.”

With Chile being so important to areas of the U.S., Canada and Europe due to counter season production, Dunkle says that this is posing challenges for the development of new varieties., as molecular testing of small seed lots is an issue.

“How can you effectively test those?” he asks. “We’re looking at some other options for that.”

Make sure to listen to Dunkle’s full interview above to hear about other phytosanitary updates from ASTA.