wheat harvest

About Foundation Seed Program

The Foundation Seed Program

is a self supporting organization within the University. All costs of seed production are paid out of revenue generated from the sale of Foundation seed. The University provides the maintenance and utilities for the seed conditioning facility, and administrative oversight for accounting, payroll disbursement, and seed contract administration. The Foundation Seed Program seed conditioning facility is housed in the Foundation Seed Warehouse on the UC Davis campus at the Agronomy & Range Science field research headquarters. It is comprised of:

A seed conditioning plant: including 2 air screen cleaners, gravity table, conveyor belts, and miscellaneous portable equipment, optical grain and bean sorting capabilities and unloading conveyors;

A bulk seed storage facility: with two 40,000 cubic foot storage wings capable of storing 450 seed storage bins containing an inventory of over 1.7 million pounds; Warehousing and receiving office: including scales and direct computer linkage to seed inventories.


The facility is specifically designed for handling high quality, low volume seed stocks. It is a CCIA approved conditioning facility and capable of custom conditioning on a contract basis.

All other equipment used in seed production is either borrowed from another department or rented from Ag Services.


Foundation seed is allocated to approximately 200 growers. The majority of the seed is planted within the state of California. Seed is also planted in most of the western portion of the U.S., Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas and Washington.


In the seed certification system there are four classes of seed:

  • breeders
  • foundation
  • registered
  • certified

Foundation is the first generation produced from breeder's seed. It is also the first seed a grower can produce in the certification program. Producing foundation seed requires much more attention to detail than the next two generations, because it can determine the quality of the following generations. Each class of seed becomes an increase in volume of seed availability. Therefore, Foundation Seed handles a relatively small amount of many varieties of seed.

The Foundation Seed Program currently produces and maintains many of the crops and varieties used by the seed companies and growers in the current markets. With advance requests, the Foundation Seed Program will produce other older or niche lines or varieties requested by a seed company or grower.


When necessary, seed is allocated based on availability, demand, and supply in reserve and in accordance to conditions associated with each cultivar. Protected and patented materials are allocated only to licensed entities.

I. Applicant qualifications:

  1. Residents of California will be given first preference.
  2. Allocations will only be made to individuals or organizations that will use the foundation seed or materials for further increase.
  3. Preference will be given to requests from growers or distributors having seed production or propagation experience.

II. Additional criteria:

  1. Allocations may be made on a percentage basis, to regions or counties of the state, complying with the percentage of the crop being grown in those regions or counties.
  2. Allocations may be confined to a specific area, for crops such as lima beans that are adapted only to a small area of the state.

Foundation Seed Production

Foundation Seed is produced from basic seed stocks (breeder seed) initially supplied by the plant breeder following approval for release and approval to accept into the certification program. Sufficient foundation seed is produced annually to meet anticipated demand. Production sites include the University of California and contracted private properties throughout the State of California within the areas of adaptation for each respective cultivar. Production fields must at least meet Association of Official Seed Certifying Agency (AOSCA) and California Crop Improvement Association (CCIA) standards for isolation in time and space. Fields are inspected and rogued several times during production to remove off-types and maintain varietal purity and characteristics. New production may be planted in growouts to confirm trueness of type.