Friday, February 27, 2015

Seeds for Mankind

When I attended the "International Training Seminar on Sustainable Agriculture in an Environmental Perspective" in Sweden in 2003, we have several reading materials. Among them was "Seeds for Mankind", published by the International Seed Federation (ISF), May 2002.

(This photo from
The monograph is reader-friendly even for non-scientists. Good economic sense. For instance, its conclusion suggested that the public sector should refrain from being active in the competitive area… Governments should focus on their roles as regulators and developers of infrastructures..

Below was my summary of that good paper.

Seeds for mankind

Modern Plant Breeding
It is a two-step process: (a) creation of genetic variability, (b) selection of cultivars for specific purposes. It use the laws of heredity (discovered by Mendel, 1856) and statistics (developed by Fisher and Pearson, around 1860)

Objectives of Plant Breeding:

1. Productivity: about 30-60% of yield increases is due to genetic improvement Hardiness/Yield

2. Stability: show more adaptability than low-yielding older varieties

3. Diseases and Pest Resistance: by using existing resistance in species, and by genetic engineering

4. Biodiversity, in particular:
(a) Crop genetic diversity – bet. 6,000 to 7,000 new varieties are protectedannually in the UPOV member states,
(b) Biotape protection – preservation of places where species live

5. Product Quality, in particular:
(a) Technical quality processibility of the raw material,
(b) Food quality – ability of food to keep sensory characteristics and physical qualities under given conditions

6. Crop Management: for crop protection and minimizing soil tillage
Regional Adaptation: facilitate the introduction of new promising crops to other regions of the world.

Production and Marketing of High Quality Seed

Too often, new and better varieties released by plant breeders are not produced and commercialized to farmers.
Seed Production: maintain genetic quality, maintain seed viability and health
Seed Marketing: market research à seed promotion à seed pricing à seed distribution.

Main Actors of the Seed Chain

Basic research: both the public and private sectors
Varietal development: over the long-term, private sector should do this
Seed production, processing and marketing: private sector; govt. to improve infra, tax incentives, credit
Quality control: private seed companies with govt. supervision

See also:

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