Improved seeds production: To increase yield

Improved seeds are of paramount importance for boosting agricultural production. However, most farmers, especially of developing countries, are unable to use such seeds due to their unavailability and ignorance

Though agriculture is still the major occupation of the people of many countries, especially of the developing and least developed ones, there is an insufficient agricultural production in these countries mainly due to the retention of age-old practices. Actually, increasing agricultural production relies largely on improved seeds and their availability.

Since its inception in 1945, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has emphasized on the use of improved seeds for farming. Today, it has been proved that the key to rapid increase in crop production and productivity is through the production and use of improved seeds.

While some countries have good investment programmes, others have been assisted by the international agricultural research centers. Still others have developed programs for evaluating different varieties of crops.

In response to requests from its member nations, FAO implemented the Seed Improvement and Development Programme (SIDP) in the mid-seventies. Several countries and international organizations have assisted SIDP.

The main objectives of SIDP are to assist developing and least developed countries and to establish and operate improved seed programmes apart from mobilizing multilateral and bilateral resources for this purpose.

After the inception of SIDP, several seed projects with millions of US dollars were operated in several countries. Many persons were trained in various seed technology activities. Several textbooks, technical guidelines, information materials and video films were issued in the Arabic, Chinese, English, French and Spanish languages.

SIDP also introduced a Computerized Seed Information System (SIS) with subsystem on the national seed activities of selected countries, the crop varieties of different species in some countries and institutions involved in seed exchange. Other subsystem contained thousands of addresses of seed institutions in some countries and the production of seed equipment by some major producers worldwide apart from planning a subsystem on plant genetic resource.

In 1957, FAO started the world seed campaign in which 79 countries and territories participated. This campaign, which culminated in 1961, made farming communities and the general public more aware of the contribution that improved seeds can make to agricultural development. The establishment of the International Agricultural Research Centers can be considered as an outcome of this campaign.

Constraints in many seed programmes stem directly from the lack of trained technical personnel. Training of seed technologies and analysis is, therefore, important. Despite some efforts, improved seeds production and distribution are not well developed in North Africa and West Asia, especially for food legume, pasture and forage crops. The status of seed programmes is not uniform in all countries.

Lack of seeds of improved varieties at the farmers’ level is still one of the constraints to increased productivity in many countries, especially in developing and least developed countries. In most of these countries, subsistence farmers lack access to improved seeds due to the concerned governments’ negligence.

Some North African and West Asian countries are unable to utilize the results of crop improvement work carried out at the national and international level.

Still in many countries quality controls systems are inadequate or even do not exist. Therefore, complication has arisen to distribute improved seeds. Due to technical and financial resources, many least developed countries are unable to set up comprehensive government controlled seed certification programs. Recognizing this and wishing to promote the interstate movement of seeds by farmers, FAO in the past planned to develop a model of an alternative system for quality control. Such a program would see the production of what FAO calls quality declared seeds less expensive than certified ones but still of a good quality. Also, the technical guidelines for standards and procedures for the production of quality declared seed was prepared.

Nowadays, only a few developing and least developed countries implement realistic national programs for improved seeds despite efforts from the concerned governments and donors. Actually, FAO has organized a series of technical meeting in Asia and Africa on the plan and implementation of seed programs.

Such meetings have been organized to promote the technical cooperation on a sub-regional basis and to define, within the context of development plans, seed policies’ for the preparation of national and regional seed programs. Also, FAO has promoted joint actions on a variety of development of seeds production by both the public and private sectors with the hope that each country will have in operation viable seed enterprises and secured supplies of seeds.

Improved seeds are of paramount importance for boosting agricultural production. However, most farmers, especially of developing and least developed countries, are unable to use such seeds due to their unavailability and ignorance. Efforts are needed from both the national and international organizations to strengthen national capabilities to produce improved seeds in order to increase the agricultural yield in most countries, especially in developing and least developed ones.