Agricultural plant species and vegetable species sometimes have a very large number of varieties. These differ from each other, for example, in their botanical characteristics, disease tolerances, yield performance and quality characteristics. In themselves, they are homogeneous and do not change in botanical characteristics over the years.
High-performing, tested agricultural varieties, along with perfect, healthy seed and planting material and diverse plant genetic resources, are the foundations for the production of high-quality plant and animal foods. Since they are at the beginning of the food chain, their verification brings safety for humans and animals. Together with the Federal Office for Food Safety (BAES), we contribute to this by implementing important sovereign control and examination tasks for agricultural varieties. In the Austrian List of Varieties, there are about 1,000 varieties of agricultural plant species and about 250 varieties of vegetable species, with annual fluctuations. These are also registered in the Common Catalogue of Varieties of the EU.
Variety approval is a prerequisite for the commercial sale of seed of agricultural plant and vegetable species.
The variety approval authority of first instance is the Federal Office for Food Safety (BAES). New varieties of agricultural plant species meet the approval criteria if they are
- is distinct, homogeneous and stable in the register test, and
- has land cultural value in the value test (exception: vegetables, turf grasses and herbage components) and
- a variety denomination which can be entered in the variety list has been announced.
For the approval of vegetable varieties, the requirement of land cultural value is not applicable.
Further information on the variety approval procedure in Austria can be found here.
Register testing covers numerous botanical-morphological plant and grain characteristics and is carried out according to internationally established testing guidelines (International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, UPOV). Register testing lasts two years and is conducted at one to two locations according to species-specific, internationally agreed testing protocols. The summarized results result in a Technical Test Report as well as in a morphological description of the variety (UPOV variety description).
Importance of the register test
The criteria of register testing distinctness, uniformity and stability are basic requirements for a functioning variety and seed system. Through systematic maintenance breeding, the breeder ensures that the variety remains homogeneous and stable, according to its morphological description. This also serves to ensure the verifiability of the variety in subsequent, larger-scale propagation projects and thus contributes to consumer protection (protection against deception). In most European and many non-European countries, the register testing criteria are collected and checked in a similar way.
The register examination is also a basic requirement for the granting of plant variety protection.
The value test is aimed at the cultivation value, the land value of a variety, and lasts two to three years, depending on the type of crop. A three-year test period exists for winter wheat, winter durum, spring durum, winter rapeseed (for varieties that fall below a defined index value), potato, sugarbeet, clovers, alfalfa and forage grasses. The value test is carried out at several locations. The location and number of test sites depend on the cultivation distribution of the crop type.
A variety has land value if it is better in all its value-determining characteristics than the comparable approved varieties. An improvement can be given if the test variety is above the performance of the most valuable approved variety in an important value property such as an agronomic criterion, in an essential resistance characteristic, in yield or in certain quality parameters, or if the value-determining characteristics are combined more favorably. Thus, at least in one cultivation region, "the best" approved variety must be outperformed in this overall consideration; the cultivation regions are delineated differently for the plant species. This way of interpreting the land cultural value promotes diversification and regionalization of the assortment.
Value testing is conducted according to the procedures set forth in the "Methods for Seeds and Varieties - Guidelines for Variety Value Testing." The variety tests are designed at each site as exact trials with repetition of the test elements and random arrangement of the plots. Influences on variety behavior due to soil differences in the trial field can be compensated by the random distribution of the plots. The conduct of the variety trials should otherwise be as close to practice as possible. In order to be able to assess variety reactions to diseases, fungicides are not used or are used only in part of the trials.
Quality aspects are an integral part of the approval process. Major analyses concern milling and baking quality in common wheat and spelt, suitability for pasta production in durum wheat, bread rye quality in rye, brewing and feed value in barley, feed value in oats, grain grading in grain corn. For protein crops and fodder crops they concern the crude protein content, for oil crops the oil content and for grain rape still the glucosinolate content. In the case of sugar beet, the sugar content and technological suitability are investigated, and in the case of potatoes, suitability as table potatoes, processing potatoes or starch potatoes.
The summarized results form the variety evaluation report (WP report). On the basis of this report, the Variety Approval Commission (§ 66 (2) SaatG) proposes to the authority the approval or non-approval of varieties. The commission consists of plant cultivation experts from the nine Chambers of Agriculture, breeding experts, experts from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Regions and Water Management (BML) and the Federal Office for Food Safety.
The final decision on registration lies with the Federal Office for Food Safety after examination of all registration requirements. New registrations are entered in the Austrian List of Varieties, identified with their characteristics in the Descriptive List of Varieties and reported promptly for entry in the EU catalogs of varieties.
Plant Variety Protection and Register Examination
In the case of new plant varieties, plant variety protection confers an exclusive right to produce and market propagating material. This right is established for a limited period of time upon registration in the plant variety protection register. The right is granted to breeders upon application and is valid for a maximum of 25 years (except for trees, vines, hops and potatoes: 30 years).
Entitlement to the grant of plant variety protection currently exists in Austria for all species. Plant variety protection is established by registration in the Plant Variety Protection Register. This is kept by the Federal Office for Food Safety (BAES). The examination of the register is a prerequisite for the granting of plant variety protection as well as for the approval of varieties.
Conservation and BBGS varieties
In the EU, all varieties of agricultural plant species are subject to an approval and registration process. However, in its Link 22 Directive 2008/62/EC, the EU allows derogations for the approval of landraces (= conservation varieties, EHS) and other varieties that are adapted to natural local and regional conditions and are threatened by genetic erosion and possible loss. This also applies to the marketing of seed and seed potatoes of these conservation varieties.
An analogous directive (Directive 2009/145/EC) also exists for the cultivation of special vegetable varieties (= cultivated varieties/ varieties bred under special conditions, BBGS) for 37 species such as carrot, rhubarb, asparagus, spinach or tomato.
Both guidelines have been fully implemented in Austria in terms of content. The Austrian List of Varieties (ÖSL) currently lists 16 agricultural and 87 vegetable BBGS. There are also constantly more varieties in this simplified approval procedure. The special position of these conservation and BBGS varieties for environmentally friendly and biodiversity-promoting production, which is desired by the EU, is also reflected in the reduced requirements (e.g. no value/register testing) for these varieties and the significantly lower costs for variety approval.
In the processing of applications, all EHS or BBGS determine whether the variety in question is a "genetic resource" within the meaning of the Regulation. In all assessments carried out so far, the varieties presented have been granted this status.
Equal quantities of agricultural conservation varieties may be marketed in Austria as of conventional varieties undergoing the approval procedure. For winter wheat, for example, this seed quantity amounts to a maximum of 173,900 kg seed/year per conservation variety and is capped at ten percent of the national seed volume. This means that for this crop type, about 5,800 tons of seed/year can be marketed for sowing about 35,000 hectares. Seed of vegetable BBGS varieties may be marketed in small packages in unlimited quantities. So far, the maximum quantity of seed of agricultural conservation varieties (EHS) has never been exhausted in Austria.
Comparison of fees
|Approval procedure||Application processing||Register examination||Value testing||Test report||Total approval||Annual listing in ÖSL|
|Winter wheat, normal-V||225,55||1.142,36||3.214,83||169,80||4.752,54||23,36|
|Winter wheat, EHS-V||225,55||0||0||0||225,55||23,36|
|Vegetables, Normal-V||132,04||1.100 - 2.000||0||0||max. approx. 2,132||23,36|
Costs in € for the approval of a plant variety in Austria
The complete current Plant Variety Order Fee Tariff 2021 can be found here.
Common catalogs of varieties of the EU
The Common Catalogue of Varieties of Agricultural Plant Spe cies is published on the basis of Article 17 of Link 20 Council Directive 2002/53/EC of 13 June 2002. The Common Catalogue of Varieties of Vegetable Species is published on the basis of Article 17 of Council Directive 2002/55/EC of 13 June 2002 on the marketing of vegetable seed. In accordance with the entry into force of the Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA Agreement), the Common Catalogues of Varieties also contain the varieties of the EFTA States, provided that they comply with the Agreement. Furthermore, the Common Catalogues of Varieties also contain Swiss varieties which meet the requirements.
The varieties mentioned in the Common Catalogues of Varieties are not subject to any marketing restrictions in the territory of the entire EEA, except in the cases provided for (ex-notices, genetically modified varieties, conservation varieties). National variety approval and entry in a national variety list are prerequisites for inclusion of varieties in the Common Catalogues of Varieties.
The Common Catalogue of Varieties of Agricultural Plant Species was first published on July 21, 1975, and the Common Catalogue of Varieties of Vegetable Species was first published on June 29, 1972. According to the notifications of the member states, additions are made on an ongoing basis. In addition, new complete editions are produced at regular intervals.
Benefits of new varieties
Breeding advances are a critical success factor in the production chain from farm to fork. The benefits of new valuable varieties can be seen:
1) For agriculture in more sustainable production due to improved resistance to storage, diseases and pests, further in more favorable nutrient utilization, better quality, higher yield or more safety in production. Restrictions on the use of mineral fertilizers, growth regulators and fungicides are also possible.
2) For consumers, in improved nutritional or taste characteristics of the final product.
3) For the national economy in more profitable production and processing through higher yields, as well as in environmentally friendly land management through reduced use of fertilizers, chemical pesticides and growth regulators by using nutrient-efficient, disease-resistant and stable varieties.
4) In accordance with the precautionary principle, risks are to be minimized through a notification and testing procedure and possible negative effects on humans, animals and the environment are to be avoided.
New variety registrations 2021
On 22.12.2021, 80 new varieties of agricultural species and nine vegetable varieties were registered by the Federal Office for Food Safety in the Austrian List of Varieties and in the Descriptive List of Varieties.
Structure/content of the common catalogs of varieties
- Column 1: Variety. The Common Catalogs of Varieties are arranged by species. Within the species, the denominations are listed in alphabetical order. If seed of a variety is marketed with several variety denominations, a leading denomination has been chosen in the interest of simplification. All the information on the variety concerned is arranged around it.
- Column 2: EU country of registration. In most cases, a number is indicated after the country abbreviation. It designates the person responsible for maintenance breeding provided for by the country of approval. The breakdown is given in the annex. If an "x" is listed instead of this number, the country of approval provides for several persons responsible for maintenance breeding.
- Column 3: EFTA country of acceptance. Varieties of Iceland, Norway and Switzerland are listed here.
- Column 4: Remarks. This column contains information on ploidy, single or multiple germination, whether the variety is a hybrid variety or genetically modified variety, or whether there is a ban on marketing seed in a particular member state. In the case of deleted varieties, information is provided on any phase-out period granted for the recognition and marketing of the seed.
Online, a direct search query in the EU Common Catalogue of Varieties is possible. It is possible to search for varieties, conservation breeders and varieties per species. Variety characteristics or footnotes can also be called up.
The consolidated versions of the common catalogs and the published supplements can be found here.
Mycotoxin levels (mold toxin levels) - in corn generally caused by Fusarium infestation on the cob - have a negative impact on the possible uses of corn and corn products. In order to obtain an initial overview of the quality of the corn harvest before the main harvest, we conduct mycotoxin pre-harvest monitoring of grain corn together with the Austrian Chambers of Agriculture. A good way to reduce the risk of mycotoxins in grain maize is a suitable choice of varieties, see also Variety Classification Cob Rot(Descriptive List of Varieties - Maize). For the latest mycotoxin monitoring data, click here.
Skyway spring barley and SY Solar and KWS Amaris winter barley are new main brewing barleys
On January 17, 2023, the Malting Barley Committee met at the STAMAG Stadlauer Malzfabrik in Vienna. The committee includes representatives from malting and brewing industries, agricultural trade, barley breeders and seed companies, AGES and LK Niederösterreich.
It was agreed to include the spring barley varieties Skyway and SY Solar in the group of main brewing barleys. Skyway was approved in 2020, matures slightly later and is medium short stature. With a medium storage tendency, it shows a strong susceptibility to dwarfing. Skyway achieves high yields in all growing regions with very good grading, low protein content and below-average hectoliter weight. Since the variety produced good results in the large-scale brewing trials, it will be included in the group of main brewing barleys from this year. Its very high malt extract content is particularly advantageous for breweries. Sufficient seed is available for consumer cultivation. In addition to spring cultivation, Skyway is well suited for fall cultivation, where high yields are achieved.
SY Solar was released in 2021, matures medium-late and has good straw stability. Susceptibility to dwarf rust is very strong. Yields are very high in all growing areas with somewhat weaker grading. The low protein content and very high malt extract content as well as a favorable beta-glucan content are advantageous for malting. Since the variety produced good results in the large-scale brewing trials, it will be included in the group of main brewing barley as of this year. Sufficient seed is available for practical cultivation.
Skyway and SY Solar expand the existing range of Amidala, Avus, Ellinor and Leandra. The former main malting barleys Elektra, Laureate, Regency and RGT Planet will be phased out as malting barleys. Only small quantities will be adopted for malting.
There will be no large-scale brewing trials of any spring barley in 2023.
In winter barley, it was agreed to adopt the KWS Amaris variety as the main malting barley in 2022/23. This early-maturing barley is short-growing with a medium tendency to lodging and stem buckling. Susceptibility to powdery mildew is low and that to dwarf rust and net blotch is medium. Grain yield is average in dryland and weaker in wetland. Very high whole barley content is combined with medium-high protein content. As it produced good results in the small and large maltings, it received the approval of maltsters and brewers and will be included in the group of main brewing barleys from this year.
KWS Amaris expands the existing range of KWS Donau, Monroe and Sonja. No large brewing trial is planned for winter malting barley in 2023.
Piroska was tested in large brewing trials and approved in Austria in December 2022. The variety is under development and will be established as a main malting barley. Further malting trials are planned. Seed production is to be ramped up in the coming years.
Detailed information on the characteristics of the individual varieties can be found at: Cereals - Descriptive List of Varieties (baes.gv.at).
Last updated: 10.10.2023