Plant Industry NC Seed Lab

N.C. Seed Lab

Contact: Seed Lab Supervisor 919-707-3736

The N.C. Seed Laboratory is directly responsible for providing laboratory testing for regulatory and service samples that are submitted by NCDA&CS field staff, producers, seed dealers, university researchers and consumers. The tests provide assurance to producers, gardeners and homeowners that seed offered for sale in the state are truthfully labeled as to the variety, germination and contamination.

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Plant Industry - Seed and Fertilizer Section

N.C. Seed Lab
The N.C. Seed Laboratory provides the following testing services:
  1. Purity Analyses - no cost to NC residents
  2. Germination Analyses - no cost to NC residents
  3. Tetrazolium Tests: $5.00 / 100 seed sample
    1. July 1 - November 1 - Limited to wheat, oats, barley and rye
    2. December 1 - June 30 - Limited to soybeans, corn and cotton
    3. Other samples for testing: Contact the NC Seed Lab Supervisor
  4. Endophyte Testing
    1. In-state testing of tall fescue and other grass seed tissues for presence of fungal endophytes.
      1. Seed: $15.00 / sample
      2. Plant tissue analysis: $15.00 / sample
      3. Seedlings requiring seedling production: $25.00 / sample
    2. Out-of-state testing of tall fescue and other grass seed tissues for presence of fungal endophytes.
      1. Seed: $35.00 / sample
      2. Plant tissue analysis: $25.00 / sample
      3. Seedlings requiring seedling production: $45.00 / sample
  5. Small Grain Seed Test for Loose Smut - $15.00 / sample.

Seed Sample Information and Forms

Seed Sampling Basics

  • The careful and deliberate sampling of seed is an important first step in determining the true characteristics of any seed lot.
  • The seed sample you take should be fully representative of the entire seed lot.  As such, when taking any sample, one should check for any signs of non-uniformity with the seed.
  • It is important to fully review the container or package and label information for the lot number, kind, variety, and any seed treatment.
  • For sampling small quantities of seed, it is often adequate to include 200-400 seed for testing.  This number provides an appropriate amount to provide true statistically-valid results.  Should the number of seed be limited, as many seed as possible should be sent without impacting your garden plans.
  • For sampling seed in bulk, free-flowing seed in bags, mini-bulk containers or bulk, a trier must be utilized for effective sampling.  The trier enables one to effectively sample all portion of a container or quantity being sampled. 
  • Hand sampling may be utilized when standard equipment is not available, especially for bulk products. If hand-sampling is utilized, the individual must reach to the bottom of the container in a swooping or scooping manner. 
  • Composite samples may be placed in fully sealed paper bags in a mailing envelope and submitted to the NC Seed Laboratory, NCDA&CS-Plant Industry Division, 1060 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1060.  Overnight deliveries may be submitted to NC Seed Laboratory, 216 West Jones Street, Raleigh, NC 27603.
  • Helpful information includes any of the following, if known:  Name and address of labeler, kind and variety, brand name, lot number, container weight and sample date. 
  • It is critical the name, address and email of the individual furnishing the information be provided. 

Note:  Presently there are no costs for purity and germination tests conducted for North Carolina Residents.

Endophyte Testing Service

A number of grasses, including tall fescue and perennial ryegrass, contain a fungal endophyte which has a beneficial relationship with the grass host. The tall fescue endophyte, Neotyphodium coenophialum (previously Acremonium coenophialum), lives exclusively inside plants, and can only be detected through laboratory analysis. This endophyte has been proven to give the grass insect, disease and mammal resistance. Though very beneficial to tall fescue plants, this endophyte produces chemicals which are toxic to a variety of animals. In North Carolina, fescue toxicosis is especially a problem in horses and cattle.

Most of the perennial ryegrass and tall fescue seed sold in North Carolina is used for lawn and turf purposes, where the presence of the Neotyphodium endophyte is beneficial. The perennial rygrass endophyte, Neotyphodium lolii, has a similar lifestyle to the tall fescue endophyte and is detected in the same way. The only way either endophyte is know to spread is through infected seed produced by infected plants.

When Should You Use The Testing Service?

Livestock, lawn and turf, and seed producers who grow tall fescue should consider using the service when the following conditions occur:
1. You want to ensure the endophyte is present and viable for use as a biological control agent.

2. Symptoms of fescue toxicosis are observed in animals grazing tall fescue during the summer.

  • Poor gains
  • Unthrifty appearance
  • Rough hair coat
  • Low milk production
  • Elevated temperature or respiration rates
  • Standing in water or shade for long periods
Grazing Cow
3. Horses or other animals grazing tall fescue are having reproductive problems.  
Horse Grazing

4. You are establishing or renovating a pasture with your own or unlabeled seed.
5. You are producing tall fescue for seed.
6. You have renovated a pasture and you want to ensure that a thorough kill of the old pasture occured.


Sampling Procedure for Pastures and Lawns


1. Take at least 30 tillers per sample (Note: Tall fescue is a clump grass and each "stem" in the clump is called a tiller.) Take one and only one tiller from each plant selected. Remove the tiller with the root attached. Then remove roots and soil (see figure below on right) and place in a plastic bag. If sample will not be mailed that day, refrigerate sample until mailed. DO NOT FREEZE TISSUE! Do not select tillers that have flowers or seed heads. Make sure you correctly identify the plants as fescue or ryegrass.
Clump of Fescue
Tiller of Fescue
2. Limit the field, lawn or turf area to a maximum of 10 acres. Take a sample from which the seed lot, seeding date, and production practices are similar.

3. Take more samples in:

  • Fields greater than 10 acres
  • Fields originating from different seed lots or seeding dates
  • Fields with different management practices
4. Sample a field or area using the scheme below:
Field Sampling Pattern
5. For pastures, avoid sampling ditch banks, fence rows, and other non-typical areas in the field.
6. Avoid sampling during periods of rapid growth and after severe freezes.


Sampling Procedure for Seed

New crop seed, seed less than a year old, are examined with a seed stain test. If the fungus is detected, it is assumed to be viable. Turnaround time is about two weeks. The endophyte viability test is used for old crop seed, or seed more than a year old. The seed must be grown out, and the resulting plants are examined for viable fungus. Turnaround time is about 10 weeks.

Sampling Seed Fields

Take a random sample of seed, preferably after harvest. Include seed from many different fescue plants in the sample area. Seed taken from any given plant will produce the same results.

Sampling Bags of Seed

A single sample of seed should represent no more than 2,000 pounds of seed. For best results, take small sub-samples from several bags or from several areas within a given seed lot. A seed probe is the best way to obtain such samples. Mix these sub-samples and then take one (1) pint from the mixture to be mailed to the Endophyte Testing Service for analysis.


Type of 
In-State Out-of-State
Tissue Stain $15.00 $25.00
Seed Stain $15.00 $35.00
Viability Test
$25.00 $45.00

Packaging and Mailing Procedures 


Plant Tissue Samples
  1. Collect plant tissue samples, clean & place in a plastic bag.
  2. Mail to the laboratory in a padded envelope early in the week.
  3. If using USPS mail, address to :

           NCDA & CS 
           Plant Industry Division 
           Seed and Fertilizer Section 
           Endophyte Testing Service 
           1060 Mail Service Center 
           Raleigh, NC 27699

  4. If using FedEx, UPS, THL or other delivery, address to our physical address:

    NCDA & CS 
    Plant Industry Division 
    Seed and Fertilizer Section 
    Endophyte Testing Service 
    216 West Jones St. 
    Raleigh, NC 27603

Seed Samples

  1. Place seed samples in a plastic bag and mail in a padded envelope or box.
  2. Seed samples can be mailed any time of the week.



As soon as the results from the analysis are available they will be reported to the person who submitted the sample. Livestock producers should consult their local Cooperative Extension Agent for assistance in interpreting these results.  

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services Endophyte Testing Service is operated for livestock producers and seedsmen who wish to determine the approximate levels of Neotyphodium coenophialum (Acremonium coenophialum) in tall fescue seed or pastures. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services assumes no liability regarding animal performance, eventual fungus status of seed or pastures, or any private or commercial uses of reported results.