A seed has life within it, in which it gives life and grow in to something useful for everyday life. Starting from the creation of human being, the seed contains and becomes a full human. It is just incredible how it works the same as in plants. The little thing becomes something very important to ensure the existence of living things. For this reason, the seed is a primary basis for human sustenance.
It is necessary to have a number of improved varieties released so that seed production becomes successful. The quality of seed used by farmers will affect the productivity of crops. As a result it is important to ensure that farmers are using good quality seeds which are not affected by diseases, have adequate viability or germination and higher purity percentage (< than 95%) etc. so that productivity might not be affected.
The Regulatory Services Department of Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) held a work shop on seed inspection services on 2 June, 2017 at MOA conference hall, Asmara, which was facilitated by Dr. Tesfamicheal Abraham from Hamelmalo College of Agriculture. It was attended by participants from National Agricultural Research Institution (NARI), Hamelmalo College of Agriculture (HAC), Agricultural Extension Department (AED), Regulatory Services Department (RSD) and other agricultural sectors.
Mr. Tecleab Mesghena, Director General of RSD, underlined that the aim of the workshop was ensuring the competence of the seed, because we cannot produce anything without seed, cannot produce a yield. It is even more important than fertilizers and pesticides to ensure the crop production. Therefore, before we focus on other things there should be a great focus on ensuring the quality of seed. The quality and variety of the seed determines the quality and quantity of the crops.
Several topics have been discussed including deterioration of improved varieties, guidelines and procedures for release; stages in the evaluation of varieties; diseases and insect pests; socio economic analysis; characteristics on varieties to be released; the DUS (distinctness uniformity stability) test and schematic presentation for release.
Some challenges were also mentioned. One of the challenges for the release of varieties is insufficient number of improved varieties released. Few released varieties are available that make seed production not efficient and the released varieties are used for longer period of time (3-5 years is standard). Another challenge is continuous evaluation and availability of varieties on the pipe line for release. The ministry has annual performance evaluation and has decided to strengthen this evaluation; and focusing on keeping the competence of the seed.
Most importantly the future plans of MOA in seed inspection is to ensure coordination among researchers, extension and regulatory aspects of the seed sector, including at the Zoba level and conduct training activities to build seed inspection capacities of inspectors; undertake proper seed inspection activities in Zobas; and establish and strengthen seed certification programs at Zoba and headquarter levels (avoid seed distribution without the seed duly certified by RSD).
The outcomes of variety performance evaluation was presented by a senior researcher in plant breeding and genetics, Mr.Negusse Abraha, which was prepared by national release committee team members. The committee prepared a report about the accepted and non-accepted seed varieties starting from 1998 up to 2016, also the procedures of giving names to the selected seeds. The main objective is to undertake performance evaluation of the crop varieties that were distributed for seed multiplication purposes (certified seed) for the 2015 and 2016 cropping season.
The national release committee comprises team members from different institutions with diverse profession, in which the team in collaboration with Zoba and sub Zoba extension organized field visit and did variety performance evaluation twice. Fields planted with improved varieties were visited and evaluated in Zobas Maekel, Dabub, Angela and Gash Barka and data was collected, analyzed and report was compiled and submitted.
The committee also have recommendations according to seed inspection in order to generate great amount of yield. Recommendations like training on basic seed production techniques should be given to researchers, farmers and extension workers so that quality seed could be produced. The training could help them in using proper crop management techniques, rouging operation, site selection, labelling, isolation distance etc. It is very important that farmers use supplementary irrigation, water harvesting techniques such as tied-ridges, terracing, …etc. for moisture availability improvement and better performance of the varieties. In addition, Varietal purification and maintenance should continue by research institutions in order to maintain the identity and genetic purity of the varieties.
Similarly, seed distribution needs to pass through Regulatory Service Department in order to check its genetic purity; Seed distribution and other inputs should be given on time to avoid delays in planting time that negatively affect the performance of the crop. Also seed mixtures should be avoided at the time of harvesting and threshing using machines or labour. Care should be taken to avoid mixtures during threshing: threshing one variety at a time and cleaning the thresher before threshing another variety.
Likewise, the recommended varieties to be distributed to farmers in different Zobas have to be free from pests, diseases and weeds. This needs great attention; otherwise, there will be a continuous introduction of pests from Zoba to Zoba, which will be very difficult to control in the future.
The results of performance evaluation, particularly the accepted and the rejected varieties, should be communicated to AED; so that AED could inform concerned Zobas accordingly. Seed collected from rejected fields should not be used as seed source. The responsible research institutes (NARI/HAC) could be used as clean seed source for seed multiplication purposes. Besides, follow up of seed multiplication fields by Zoba extension staff was not satisfactory. At last, Zoba Seed Unit and Zoba Inspectorate have to work jointly on monitoring of seed multiplication activities in their region.
All in all, these recommendations were taken as important factors in enhancing the project by the committee and already have plans to work together in achieving its goals. The committee of seed inspection decided to scrutinize the capability of the seed constantly, because the seed is a living thing. Living things grow, get old and die. For this reason continuous inspection is needed. If the seed died it should be removed in order to ensure production of yields. The committee took the first step to make the project successful by discussing the shortcomings and finding a way to handle them.