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Scaling-up legume seed production and delivery for enhanced productivity and livelihoods of smallholder farmers

Ojiewo, C.O., Rubyogo, J.C., Akpo, E., Omoigui, L., Muricho, G. and Varshney, R.K.ORCID: 0000-0002-4562-9131 (2018) Scaling-up legume seed production and delivery for enhanced productivity and livelihoods of smallholder farmers. In: 2018 ASA and CSSA Meeting, 4 - 7 November 2018, Baltimore, MD


Private sector investment in legume seed business is challenged by several factors such as low seed multiplication rate; need for extra space, labor, time and efforts for more generations to move from breeder to certified seed; large seed size and thereby high seed rate, with cost implications for storage and transportation of seed. Some legume seeds are very fragile and easily damaged in storage and during transportation and deteriorate rapidly after harvest, especially if shelled. Large-scale seed production has limitations in calibration for mechanical harvesting and obtaining appropriate herbicides to control broad-leafed weeds. Most legumes are highly self-pollinating, making it possible for farmers to save and re-use their own seeds. Farmers therefore, obtain seed from informal sources, especially from local markets. A majority of smallholder legume farmers produce and consume or sell all their grain before the onset of planting season. A few farmers with alternative sources of income manage to hoard their produce for better future prices. The latter group then sells their grain in the market that is bought by the less fortunate farmers and planted as seed with challenges such as sorting losses, poor germination, low vigor and crop establishment. Solutions to these challenges, from the experiences gained through the Tropical Legumes Projects in various implementing countries include: increasing total legume seed production and availability through an integrated seed systems combining centralized and decentralized production; facilitating access to high-quality seeds of improved varieties through small seed packs; demand creation through value-chain support, demonstration trials, post-harvest handling including seed storage, business training and market linkages; reaching farmers ‘at last mile’ by bundling seed with other products, piggybacking on existing product supply channels such as fertilizers and pesticides; lowering costs of seeds through quality declared seed; and supporting emerging seed companies. Between 2007 and 2017, 657,582t of certified and quality declared seed of 301 improved market–preferred varieties of 6 legumes was produced by various project partners in 15 countries. Extrapolation of these data suggest that these varieties have been grown on at least 2.255 million ha while directly benefiting at least 10 million farmers.

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