TODAY -

Organic seed production - Issues and strategies
- Part 2 -

L Meghachandra Singh *



STRATEGIES AHEAD

The main bottleneck towards organic seed production in the North Eastern region remained to be the production and supply of quality seeds. Farmers in the region are facing this problem due to lack of formal seed system. Seed certification is also a process certification like that of organic produce.

A five pronged approach may be initiated in the North Eastern region to cope with the supply of organic seed production and supply. This would not only help in increasing the organic agriculture but would also make organic seed industry as a profitable enterprise for the small farmers of the region.

1. Identification of crops and seed collection from natural farms/forests.

According to the National Centre for Organic Farming (2006), out of 2.6 million hectares under organic certification in the country, 2.5 m ha is from wild forest area. The North East region accounts for hardly 4,400 ha. However, because of the rich flora, many produce in North East could be collected from the jungles rather than plantation.

This provides the scope for seed collection of wild germplasms and cultivating them under natural or organic conditions for domestic sowing. These would not only reduce the cost of seed but other inputs through less input requirements. Constraints with it is that it would hold good only with limited crop species which are mostly medicinal plants, perennial spices and tree species.

However, with time and high global market competition, there is always a high possibility of change in demand structure. Thus, a rigorous and continuous breeding programme is also required. For other crops too, there could be a necessity to breed suitable varieties for the different conditions and different tastes.

2. Collection and identification of organically grown/can be grown culti-vars/landraces/conventional varieties through surveys.

As being practiced now in most of the organic farms, use of the conventional seeds without chemical seed treatments for a strictly specific derogation period of 3-4 years could lead to simultaneous development of organic system. This could be more successful with the locally adapted specific varieties, cultivars and land races.

The limiting factors could be the tastes and qualities of such varieties particularly in response to the high export competition that might arise. Thus, it has to be strictly limited for the specific derogation period only, during which other alternative and sustainable system should have been developed.

3. Introduction and development of organic varieties through participatory approach of organic growers.

Evaluation of the introduced organic seeds and their multiplication remain one of the immediate possible ways out to make organic farming a successful enterprise in this region having widely diverse conditions. This would hold good for vegetables where local investment is too low. The only way in making it more and quick success is participatory selection and seed production of such varieties.

The local varieties may also be improved for market quality aspects where such commodities have to be exported. All these improvements particularly, selection are to be carried out through farmers participatory approach.

4. Strengthening of organic certifiers for organic seeds.

As no seed certifier exists in the region, organic certification of seeds could not only enable the organic farmers to use quality seeds but also pave ways for earnings through seed markets. As quality seed has been the limiting factor in any farming activity, organic seed production programme has to be taken up simultaneously with the organic farming programme.

Under the present seed production system in the north eastern region, seed certification is almost nil and most of the local farmers use saved seeds only except for vegetable hybrids. This makes the certified organic seed production almost impossible and the only way out remains to be use of own saved seeds or seed certification by the organic certifiers.

5. Proper crop/variety wise organic seed demand forecast in phase manner through planning of organic production programme by the organic farmers group/supporters.

Lack of proper demand forecast has been the major constraint in making any seed programme a success. Thus, implementing an organic seed productionprogramme would be much more risky not only because of the unpredictable demand of the diverse and small farmers' dominant system, but also for the much higher cost of production. Thus, in order to make the organic agriculture a success, a well-planned forecast of seed demands of different crops/varieties in advance could be only the way.

This is possible only when the market demand of organic produce could be well assessed and correctly predicted. If we have to develop specifically for particular organic varieties, it would require at least 4 to 5 years for selection of suitable varieties/landraces. Techniques like participatory breeding/selection approaches have been found helpful in reducing the varietal development duration.

Organic seed production, would therefore, be a thriving enterprise only when we can predict the demand well in advance.

TIPS ON CULTURAL REQUIREMENTS ON ORGANIC SEED PRODUCTION OF SOME IMPORTANT CROPS

As any planting material/seed comes, High biomass production, Deep rooting System, Fast initial growth, More leaf than wood (low C/N ratio) Nitrogen fixing, Non-host for related pest and diseases, No rhizomes,Easy and abundant seed formation under the purview of Seeds Acts and Rules, should have good seed quality i.e., high planting value whose criteria are well established under the conventional seeds (inorganic agriculture).

Thus, the major point of demarcation is that the conventional seed allow usage of inorganic materials/practices in its production and post production stages while organic seeds do not allow it. Production packages of organic seeds are similar to those of conventional seeds except that, in organic seed production, special requirements of organic farming are to be adhered to so that no inorganic residue or chemicals could be carried forward by using it.


To be continued ....


* L Meghachandra Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on November 24 2022.



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