Variety registration is a prerequisite for the commercial marketing of seed of agricultural plant and vegetable varieties. It plays a key role in ensuring the supply of high-quality seed and planting material of healthy, high-quality and high-performing varieties for agricultural use. In addition, variety registration contributes significantly to consumer protection.
The relevant EU directives in the field of plant varieties, such as Directive 2002/53/EC, Directive 2002/55/EC, Directive 2003/90/EC and Directive 2003/91/EC have been transposed into national law by the Seed Act 1997, the Seed Regulation 2006, the Seed Genetic Engineering Regulation 2001, as well as other regulations concerning plant varieties and the "Methods for Seed and Plant Varieties - Guidelines for Variety Testing".
The methods contain the technical details of the testing and are continuously adapted according to the state of the art in science and technology. These variety trials are coordinated by AGES on behalf of the Federal Office for Food Safety (BAES). The trials are carried out by AGES's own trial stations and by authorised trial providers.
The application for variety registration starts the registration procedure and takes, depending on the crop, two to three years for new varieties of agricultural plant species and vegetable species due to the multi-year tests. In these field trials and laboratory tests, the candidate varieties are evaluated in terms of their characteristics in comparison to already registered varieties.
A total of 320 to 360 domestic and foreign breeding lines and variety candidates of about 25 different crop species are applied for registration in Austria every year. At the end of the testing period, depending on the type of crop, about 10 to 30 percent of the originally applied candidate varieties fulfil the requirements for registration.
These varieties are entered in the Austrian List of Varieties, published with their value characteristics in the Austrian Descriptive List of Varieties in case of agricultural species and announced in the Official Journal of the European Communities (Common Catalogue of Varieties of Agricultural Plant Species,). Varieties of vegetable species listed in Austria are also announced in the Official Journal of the European Communities (Common Catalogue of Varieties of Vegetable Species, "EU Catalogues of Varieties")
The new registrations are already used in the next testing season together with proven and market significant varieties as new reference varieties for the next year's candidates.
There are simplified registration procedures for conservation varieties (EHS) of agricultural plant species and vegetable species as well as for vegetable varieties bred for cultivation under special conditions (BBS).
The variety registration authority (BAES) shall approve a variety according to § 46 (1, 2) SaatG, if
- it is distinct, uniform and stable in the DUS Testing (Distinctness, Uniformity and Stability), and
- it is of national value for cultivation and use in the VCU Testing (Value for Cultivation and use) - exception: vegetables, turf grasses and herbage components – and
- it has a variety denomination, which can be entered in the variety list.
As regards vegetable species, the DUS testing report and the existence of a registrable variety denomination are the basis for the decision to register a variety.
Concerning agricultural plant species, in addition to the DUS testing and a registrable variety denomination, the determination of the national value for cultivation and use by means of the VCU testing is necessary. The Variety Registration Commission (SZK) opines about the granting of the national value of cultivation and use based on results of the VCU testing report and on the relevant comments received form the applicants.
The vote of the Variety Registration Commission is to be regarded as recommendation for the Variety Registration Authority (BAES), but not binding.
Registration of conservation varieties (EHS)
In order to improve the conservation of plant genetic resources in the agricultural environment (in situ), Directive 2008/62/EC was adopted by the European Commission on 20 June 2008. This provides exemptions in regards to the registration of certain national varieties and other varieties adapted to local and regional conditions and threatened by genetic erosion, as well as for the marketing of seed or seed potatoes of these varieties. These conservation varieties may be accepted without official DUS and VCU testing.
The applicant has to submit a detailed botanical description. In the registration procedure, in particular the results of non-official testing as well as knowledge gained on the basis of practical experience during cultivation, propagation and use shall be taken into account (§ 56 (5) Seed Act). Furthermore, the denomination of conservation varieties, if known before 25 May 2000, may deviate from the provisions of Regulation (EC) No. 930/2000.
The Variety Registration Authority shall decide on the application for registration of a conservation variety.
For each conservation variety of a plant species, a maximum quantity (ranging from 0.3% to 0.5%, depending on the plant species, or for an area of 100 hectares) as well as for all conservation varieties of the species concerned, a total quantity (not exceeding 10% of the seed used annually in the plant species concerned) shall be fixed for the marketing of seed or seed potatoes. The seed or seed potatoes shall be marketed in a region of origin determined by the Variety Registration Authority, the Federal Office for Food Safety (BAES).
The maximum quantities of seed of conservation varieties permitted for Austria can be found in the Austrian Variety List.
As of 15 January 2021, 32 conservation varieties of agricultural plant species are registered in Austria. In the Austrian List of Varieties, these are marked by means of a footnote for the plant species concerned.
Registration of vegetable landraces, of local or regional varieties threatened by genetic erosion, and of vegetable varieties bred for cultivating under particular conditions (BBS)
On 26 November 2009, the European Commission adopted Directive 2009/145/EC. It includes derogations for the registration of vegetable varieties and other varieties traditionally cultivated in particular regions and threatened by genetic erosion (conservation varieties), as well as vegetable varieties which in themselves are of no value for cultivation for commercial purposes but which are bred for cultivating under particular conditions (also called garden or amateur varieties), and for the marketing of seed of these varieties. As with agricultural plant species, this is a simplified registration procedure. If provided that the applicant submits a sufficient description and supplementary information to the application for registration, official DUS and VCU testing is waived. The denominations of conservation varieties and garden or amateur varieties, if known before 25 May 2000, may deviate from the provisions of Regulation (EC) No 930/2000.
Seed of conservation varieties may be marketed only in the specified region of origin. In the case of vegetable varieties bred for cultivation under special conditions, there are no territorial restrictions, but the marketing of the seed must take place in small packages.
As of 15 January 2021 in Austria no conservation varieties but 134 vegetable varieties bred for cultivation under special conditions are registered.
Application for Variety Registration and Seed Submissions for the DUS and the VCU Testing
The application documents and seed consignments must be submitted in due time. Applications for variety registration may be submitted by post or by e-mail. In addition to the single application for variety registration, applications for VCU testing must be submitted separately for each testing year (with the exception of perennial forage plants). Applications for VCU testing should preferably be submitted by e-mail.
Documents: Application for variety registration
Application for variety denomination (submission is independent of the application for variety registration; however, it must be submitted to the authority at least one year before registration)
Documents: Application for one-year VCU testing
Federal Office for Food Safety
phone: +43 (0)5 0555-34901
The total costs for a variety registration includes the following components:
- Application fee
- DUS testing fee (two-year test)
- VCU testing fee (crop-specific for a two- or three-year testing period)
- Fee for the VCU testing report
The currently valid fees can be found in the Tariff List for the Variety Regulation.
The procedure for variety registration is concluded with a positive or negative decision. If the application for variety registration is granted, the variety is to be listed in the Austrian Variety List (§65 SaatG). Thereby the species and variety denomination, applicant, breeder, start of variety registration, etc. are entered in the Variety List.
In the Austrian Descriptive List of Varieties, the registered agricultural varieties are described in terms of their cultivation, disease and quality characteristics.
An appeal may be lodged against a negative decision. The Federal Administrative Court decides on the appeal procedure.
According to § 59 SaatG, the variety registration is valid until the end of the tenth of the calendar year following the registration; e.g. in the case of an registration on 21.12.2026, the variety registration ends on 31.12.2030.
An early termination of the variety registration is possible by the applicant if he requests the deletion from the variety list. In the event of expiry or requested cancellation, an extension period for the recognition or registration and marketing of seed shall be granted until 30 June of the third year following the expiry of the variety registration, in order to allow the marketing of residual seed. In the case of ex officio cancellation of the variety regtistration, the extension period does not generally apply.
According to § 60 SaatG, the BAES has to extend the registration (on application of the former applicant for variety registration) for a maximum of 10 years if the following conditions are fulfilled:
- Cultivation and market importance
By means of the VCU Testing, the national value for cultivation and use of new varieties is determined in accordance with the Seed Act 1997 as a prerequisite for registration. In the process, agronomic criteria, yield as well as quality parameters for the processing industry and resistance properties are evaluated for the most sustainable and environmentally friendly production of these varieties. It is important to note that the cultivation, yield, disease and quality characteristics of the candidate varieties are compared with those of already registered varieties.
The variety evaluation takes two to three years and is carried out according to the cultivation importance of the plant species and the objective requirements on trial areas of AGES or by authorised companies at several locations. Only then is it possible to receive reliable results for assessing the national value for cultivation and use.
In recent years, the examination period for a number of plant species has been reduced to two years.
|2-year test||spring oats, winter and spring rye, spring soft wheat, winter and spring spelt, winter and spring barley, winter triticale, spring triticale, maize, sorghum, sudan grass, panic millet, westerwold ryegrass, pea, alexandrine clover, incarnate clover, persian clover, field bean, seed vetch, phacelia, oil radish, winter and spring rape (for forage use), turnip rape, caraway, buckwheat, soybean, sunflower, yellow mustard and brown mustard (for green use)|
|3-year test||winter wheat, winter durum, summer spring durum, grain rape, beta beet, potato|
If the data situation does not yet permit a sufficient assessment of the candidates after the regular testing period, e.g. in the case of very different results in the two test years, the assessment may be continued for another year.
According to § 58 (1) SaatG, the variety registration test must be continued until a reliable assessment of the applied variety is possible.
VCU testing under the conditions of organic farming
Organic VCU testing: A separate trial series on exclusively organically managed trial sites is currently only available for winter wheat. Important variety characteristics for organic farming such as weed competition, coverage and growth height measurements at the beginning and in the middle of the shooting phase, or tests on common bunt resistance, are examined additional to the VCU testing.
Organic sites in the testing network: In the case of arable crops that are also represented in organic farming with relevant acreage shares, but without new varieties developed specifically for organic farming, some of the variety trials are carried out on organic sites. This concerns, for example, the crops winter rye, winter triticale, spring oats, potato or soybean. In the testing reports, yield performance under organic conditions is cited separately.
Intercrop tests: For some legume species, oil crops and commercial crops such as lupins, peas, field beans, alexandrine clover, incarnate clover, persian clover, rape, white mustard or linseed, VCU testing as main crop (grain or fodder use) or as intercrop is possible, depending on the use indicated on the Technical Questionnaire. For other species of these crop groups, only the use as intercrop (green use) is provided for the VCU testing: seed vetch, pannonian vetch, shaggy vetch, phacelia, oil radish, turnip rape, buckwheat, black mustard or brown mustard.
The DUS testing lasts two years and is carried out at one or two locations. It covers numerous botanical-morphological plant and grain characteristics. The summarised results lead to a technical testing report and a botanical variety description.
A variety is distinct (Distinctness) if its plants differ in at least one characteristic from plants of any other variety of a contracting or member state (§ 47 SaatG, simplified).
A variety is uniform (Uniformity) if its plants, apart from a few deviations, are sufficiently identical in regards to the relevant characteristics (§ 48 SaatG, simplified).
A variety is stable (Stability) if its relevant characteristics remain unchanged after repeated propagation (§ 49 SaatG, simplified).
These criteria of distinctness, uniformity (homogeneity) and stability appear to be less relevant for practical agriculture, but they are basic requirements for a functioning variety and seed system and are carried out in a similar way in most European and many non-European countries. Through systematic maintenance breeding, the breeder ensures that the variety remains uniform and stable.
In Austria, in addition to the Seed Act 1997 as part of the variety registration, the DUS testing is also regulated in the Plant Variety Protection Act 2001 as part of the plant variety protection procedure.