INSIDERSSeed Health & TestingDespite COVID, Contra-Season Seed Testing Goes On

Despite COVID, Contra-Season Seed Testing Goes On


As I write this, I am currently in Chile with two of our other team members — Ioana Stroe and Joel Wenaus — doing our annual contra-season work. #TeamChile2021, as we’re now called on Twitter, made the trip here on Jan. 30.

Needless to say, travelling today is a far cry from what is was before the pandemic. In 2020, we had to leave Chile early due to the lockdown. We have been making this trip annually for over 10 years to bring contra-season canola back to Canada.

Travelling this time around involved much planning which began in early November. Being an essential service and needing to be in Chile meant consistently watching both Chilean and Canadian rules around border closures, flight availability and of course COVID protocols.

Upon arrival we had to quarantine for two weeks and take COVID tests. We are elated to back here with the wonderful people we have come to know and love. The work is getting done, but as of right now we do not know how we are going to get home to Canada. Travel is still fraught with challenges.

Due to new restrictions, our flight home was cancelled and as of right now our only option may be to fly to the United States in April once our work is complete, find a connecting flight to Canada from there, and then face another quarantine upon arrival in Canada.

Except for the challenges posed by COVID, Chile is as we remember it. The people of Chile are resilient and have gone out of their way to ensure our safety and theirs as we carry out our work.

Our biggest hurdle was getting here. We had to ensure our documents were clear and concise and also had to ensure our COVID tests were no older than 72 hours before our last departure. We arrived in São Paulo 40 hours after leaving Edmonton. Airports were deserted, making for a somewhat eerie travel experience totally unlike our harried journey home in March of last year. I definitely do not recommend traveling at the moment unless it is an absolute necessity.

Our host Eduardo de la Sotta of Curimapu has been a great support and Brian McNaughton from Alberta’s HyTech production is here as well. Brian made the trip down a week before us.

We are very much looking forward to a successful time here and are eager to keep you informed as we conduct sampling, processing, testing and documentation for hybrid canola seed companies multiplying seed for distribution in the spring.

Stay safe everyone.

Sarah Foster
President and Senior Seed Analyst, 20/20 Seed Labs - Sarah Foster is a registered seed technologist, senior seed analyst and president of 20/20 Seed Labs — a company she started in 1989 that provides testing services for all crop kinds, including extensive quality and seed health analysis, molecular testing and accredited crop inspection. Involved in the seed industry since the late 1970s, Foster studied and qualified as an accredited seed analyst at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany in Cambridge, England. Her work experience includes seven years with Sharps Seed International (Advanta) in the United Kingdom, and five years with the United Grain Growers in Edmonton after immigrating to Canada in 1984.