Lack of quality planting material to blame for poor crop yields

Public and private sectors in agriculture must strengthen channels of supplying high quality crop plating materials to small-scale farmers for maximum yields.

In addition, access to information on markets and available varieties would improve production of traditional and contemporary foods that can withstand climate chance effects and other shortcomings.

A new food production research dubbed Seed systems small-holder farmers use, says at least 90.2 per cent of small-holder farmers source planting seeds, grains, tubers among others from informal sources.

The sources include own stock, borrowing from relatives and neighbours, and other local markets. 

The study found these informal sources are to blame for low crop production in study countries-Kenya, Malawi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Zimbabwe and South Sudan.

From the 9,660 cases under scrutiny, 40 crops were sampled. About half of the farmers got their seeds and other planting materials from local markets as opposed to those relying on agro-dealers.

“Seeds can be the conduit for moving new varieties, giving farmers access to more productive, yield-enhancing traits. New seed is linked to strategies for raising nutrition, as with bio-fortified varieties selected for elevated micro-nutrient levels,” the report says.

Besides, materials from the agro-certified suppliers have been improved to do well in relatively poor soils and stressful weather conditions.

Damages

Sourcing planting materials informally increases chances of of reduced yields because cross-pollination in one's shamba is unlikely to give a productive 'hybrid', the report says.

The formal sector must broaden its scope of reach to improve accessibility of planting materials to the farmers wherever they are, the study recommends.

“Even for their designated crops (maize and horticultural crops), formal sector outlets can rarely cover the full zones of farmer need. For example, only 23 per cent of farmers in Nzaui, Kenya, were within one hour walk of a formal agro-dealer outlet. Seed enterprises may be reluctant to serve remote areas too,” the report says.

The informal planting material distribution channels handle the bulk of the small-holder farmers. The sector can be formalised by governments and their partners helping the farmers improve the quality of the seeds already available as well as strengthening marketing and information systems.

Proper harvest storage can also prevent seed and gain loses, which may even eat up to 30 per cent of the yield.

However, farmers should not be limited in information access at this time when more than 86 per cent of its population owns mobile telephones. Many information outlets give support to farmers through short message services and standby calls.

 

Some of the crops that were in focus include sorghum, maize, cowpea, green grams, millet, rice, groundnuts, cassava, bananas, sweet and Irish potatoes, common beans, among others.