Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sustainable seed systems for roots and tuber crops

Sustainable seeds systems in the vegetatively propagated crops (VPCs) such as banana and plantain and root crops including cassava and yam are not well developed as farmers mostly tend to reuse their planting material and the private sector had not been keen to get involved.

This was one of the key issues scientists under the roots and tubers program discussed on day2 of R4D Week in a session led by Robert Asieudu, IITA R4D Director in charge of the program.

Pheneas Ntwaruhunga, coordinator of the Southern Africa Root Crops Research Network (SARRNET) that is hosted and implemented by IITA, started off the discussions by briefing on the outcome of a workshop on seed systems organized under the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

He said the work defined the starting point of a sustainable seed system as the development of high-yielding, disease-resistant varieties where breeding agencies such as IITA play a critical role. It must be followed by an efficient multiplication and distribution systems to ensure that the beneficiaries get the seeds.

He said other issues included certification of the seeds, affordability, and a good coordination mechanism for all aspects of the seed systems.

Antonio Lopez-Montes, IITA yam breeder, called for caution when establishing seed systems, saying they must be farmer-driven and not imposed. "When there is a market demand for farmers' produce, they will realize the value of investing in increasing production by acquiring among others high-yielding varieties."

He also said the farmers can be trained on how to use part of their field to grow seeds and that they should be made aware that seed production is a profitable business.

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