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Quality Seed: Need for sustainable development of farming system

Dr. S.N. VASUDEVAN

Professor and University Head, Dept. of Seed Science & Technology

 University of Agricultural Sciences, Raichur

                                                vasumanasa@rediffmail.com

 

The seed being a biological input plays a pivotal role in the development of agriculture. Among the inputs used by the farmers, seed is most basic, crucial, critical, vital and probably the cheapest agricultural input. It forms only small part of the total cultivation expenses and play an important role in crop production not only to get higher yield but also to obtain high monetary returns.

Seed is considered as seminal importance in agriculture, because it is the most important catalyst for realizing the potentiality of other inputs and to make them cost effective, hence without good seed the investment on fertilizer, water, pesticides and other inputs will not pay the required dividends. Seed improves the agricultural economy of a country, as agriculture continued to be the backbone of the Indian economy, by contributing 20.4 % of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Therefore, good agriculture depends upon good seed and vice versa and without seeds man could not have developed agriculture. Seeds largely determine the success of modern farming as other management and cultural practices come into play only after the germination and establishment of seeds and seedlings in the field.

Characteristics of Quality Seed

1)       Cultivar purity (Genetical quality)

 

2)       Physical purity (Analytical quality)

 

3)       Germination and Vigour (Physiological quality)

 

       4)  Freedom from seed borne diseases and pests (Health quality)

 

 

 1) Cultivar purity (Genetical quality)

             This refers to the trueness to type or species / cultivar purity. An improved variety has certain unique characters of economic importance such as high productivity, disease resistance, adaptability to unfavorable weather conditions, high grain or fruit quality etc. It is also expected to posses certain diagnostic characters which distinguish it from other varieties. If the seed possess all the genetic qualities that breeder has placed in the variety, it is said to be genetically pure. The genetic purity has direct effect on ultimate yields. If there is any deterioration in the genetic makeup of the variety during seed multiplication and distribution cycle, there would definitely be proportionate decrease in its performance e.g. yield, disease resistance, etc. It is, therefore, necessary to ensure genetic purity during production cycles. Genetic purity of a seed crop is maintained by isolation of seed crop by a specified distance from crops of other varieties / contaminants. This helps in avoiding undesirable cross pollination or physical mixture at the time of harvesting and threshing.

 

 2) Physical purity

             The physical purity means that farmers should sow only pure seed not any kind of mixture of other crop seed, weed seed, insert matter, broken seed less than half in size, soil and dust particles, chaff etc. The physical purity of seed is improved by seed conditioning during which all the undesirable contaminant and immature shriveled seeds are removed.

  3) Germination and Vigour

             Seed germination refers to the ability of a seed when planted under normal conditions to give rise to a normal seedling. Germination potential of a seeds determines seedlings emergence, crop stand and ultimately the yield.

               Seed vigour is the sum total of those properties of the seed which determine the   level of activity and performance of the seed or seed lot during germination and seedling emergence. Both of these have profound effect upon the ultimate yield and also determines the planting value of the seed. The seed germination deteriorates during handling and storage of seeds. Therefore, seed must be dried to safe moisture content and should be stored in areas which have low relative humidity and temperature i.e. cool and dry  condition.

    4) Seed health

          The seeds which are free from seed borne diseases not only help in raising disease free crop but also help in checking further spread of the diseases. Seed infested with pests will lose viability very fast during storage and will become unfit for planting within a very short time. The health of the seeds can be maintained by employing suitable prophylactic control measures during seed production and proper seed storage and seed treatment with fungicides. The insect infestation during storage can be controlled by proper fumigation and / or seed treatments.

          If the seed lot possess high genetic purity and high germination percentage and a minimum of inert matter, weed seeds, other crop seeds and are free from diseases, it is said to be of high quality. If it is lacking in any of these, it is said to be of low quality. In order to achieve desirable seed qualities as mentioned above, it is necessary that the organizations and institutions responsible for seed production, processing, storage, and distribution should review periodically and assess their internal quality control system, besides seeking support from statutory functionaries such as Seed Certification Agency, Seed Law Enforcement Authority, Seed Testing Laboratory etc., which are integral part of the seed quality control systems in India.

Advantages of Quality Seed

·   Reduce seed rate per acre

·   It ensures precision planting

·   Uniform and early germination in the field.

·   Excellent crop having adequate plant population and uniform growth

·   Production of healthy and vigourous seedlings

·   Easy cultivation

·   Mature at a time there by harvesting is easier through mechanical means.

·   More than 20 to 25 per cent higher yield can be obtained compared to farmers saved

   Seed.

·   Fetches high market value.

It is now well recognized all over the world that seed is a vital input for enhancing and stabilizing agricultural production and increasing the food availability to feed the growing population in our country as well as the world.

               The advancement in genetic improvement and production technology of various food and industrial crops will be useful only when the fruits of this research reach the farmers. It has been said that time and money spent on plant breeding is waste if the seed of improved crop plants are not made available to the farmers for planting in their fields. The Green Revolution in our country witnessed during late sixties and early seventies has been possible only due to the introduction and selection of seeds of high yielding varieties of wheat and rice and the availability of the seeds to a very large number of farmers. Further increase in food production has to come through the use of high yielding varieties / hybrids and other inputs like irrigation, fertilizer use and mechanization of the pre and post harvest technologies as increasing land area under crops is limited.

      Improved seed is a catalyst for making other inputs cost-effective. Other inputs like fertilizer, irrigation, insecticide and weedicide will be responsive only if quality seed has been used. In India food production has increased more than fourfold from 50 million tones 250 million tonnes over the last 60 years. One of the reasons for this tremendous achievement is the increased availability of high quality seeds of improved varieties. The demand for quality seed increased to 14 lakh tonnes in 2011-12 from 2 lakh tonnes during 1970 – 71. The requirement of quality seed in this millennium would touch 25 lakh tonnes in order to produce 350 million tonnes of food grains to feed 1.5 billion Indians.

Status of quality seed in India

      In India, availability of quality seed is only 15- 20 per cent of the total seed used for sowing every year. More than 75 per cent of total seed sown in our country is produced by farmers. Hence, large' area under food grain crop is still sown with seeds saved by formers. Experimental evidences shown that cereal crops give 25-30 per cent less yield per ha when farmers use their own saved seed, It is estimated that about 20-30 million tonnes of food grains may be added in our total production through the use of quality seed of improved varieties and hybrids, So the pace of progress in food production therefore, will largely depend upon the speed with which we are able to multiply and market good quality seeds of high yielding varieties / hybrids at an affordable price and at required time and place to the farming community.


FIGURE 1; The local and formal systems of farmers' seed supply:
two parallel functioning systems with relatively little interaction

http://www.fao.org/docrep/007/y5703e/y5703e00.gif

Applications of seed biotechnology for sustainable agriculture:

Good seeds are still the key input of agricultural output and the current century will be a “SEED CENTURY” in agriculture, because it is the vehicle for biotechnological innovations that will reach farmers. With advancement in agriculture biotechnology farmers in the world have moved several steps forward. They now access the latest scientific technologies in the seeds they sow. There are seeds that have built in protection against harmful insects. Other seeds protect the plant against herbicides and weedicides, enabling the farmers to efficiently get rid of weeds while spraying herbicides which retain a healthy crop. Yet other seeds (aerobic rice seeds) enable crops to grow with less water, a boon in these times of climate change, erratic weather and scarce irrigation. In the light of the above, Seed biotechnology provides opportunities for developing a productive, sustainable agriculture system limiting the adverse environmental impact of the production systems and improved weed management. Quality improvement of crop plants is an important area in which seed biotechnology can contribute significantly. In a country like India, where malnutrition is still a major problem, superior quality of the produce like golden rice assumes great significance for nutritional security. So it is to conclude that the quality seeds are the prime need for sustainable development of farming system in the ever green revolution required for Indian agriculture.

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