H.M.I. Ahmed, B.R. Gregg, N.P. Louwaars
Maintaining crop production in terms of yield and product quality which give the farmer maximum return requires good seed which carries the genetic, physiological, and physical quality aspects. This does not happen by itself in nature. Good seed requires constant care to prevent loss of quality and to ensure high yield for farmers. The seed industry consists of a broad inter-meshing of different technical and organizational aspects, from variety breeding to seed production and quality control to conditioning, marketing, and delivery to farmers. This involves considerable outlay for investment and operating expenses, which requires the application of business approaches to operate cost-effectively and with good management. Even then, the seedsman can recover his investment only through either or both means: charging high prices for the seed, and/or selling large quantities of seed to many farmer customers. This also applies to underutilized crops. However, the low volume, which is often combined with difficulties inherent to the crops, severely limits the application of business and technology aspects to improve underutilized and minor crops. The need is for an improved seed system which can handle and distribute smaller quantities of seed while maintaining seed quality. Different forms of seed supply enterprise have been tried, but the need for good seed of underutilized crops still exists. Not one model can satisfy the needs of different farmer groups and crops as the seed supply system used must fit local conditions and needs. Two approaches towards meeting this need appear to have merit: 1) In a few cases, large seed companies which can recover operating costs from large volumes of main or major crop seed could handle small volumes of underutilized crop seed as a loss leader to provide complete services to farmer customers, and 2) A variation of the low-cost informal seed operation which obtains technical guidance and support could provide improved seed of underutilized crops locally. Effective linkages between farmers’ knowledge and scientific knowledge are key to the improvement of seed of underutilized crops. This accounts for opportunities for crop improvement and for improving seed availability and quality. The role of regulations must not be underestimated in the design and implementation of support to underutilized species.
Ahmed, H.M.I., Gregg, B.R. and Louwaars, N.P. (2009). SEED SYSTEMS FOR UNDERUTILIZED CROPS. Acta Hortic. 806, 459-464
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2009.806.57
orphan crops, minor crops, formal seed system, informal seed system, farmers¿ seed supply

Acta Horticulturae