In Ethiopia, quality seed of improved varieties is the least expensive and most critical input for the sustainable production of wheat, a strategic food security crop grown by some 4.7 million households on 1.7 million hectares. Because wheat is self-pollinated, farmers can save and replant seed from their harvests for several years, without the variety losing its genetic identity. At the same time, recommended seed rates for wheat (150 to 200 kilograms per hectare) are significantly higher than those for tef (15 kg/ha) or maize (25 kg/ha), so some 255,000 tons of seed is required to sow Ethiopia's entire wheat area each year. Most of this still comes from informal seed systems; only four seed enterprises (ESE, ASE, OSE and SNNPSE) currently produce certified seed of various crops and they lack the capacity to supply enough high quality seed for the nation's approximately 20 million households. In collaboration with the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) and through the USAID-funded project "Seed multiplication and delivery of high-yielding rust resistant bread and durum wheat varieties to Ethiopian farmers," the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) is working to increase wheat farmers access to affordable, certified seed of improved varieties that are high-yielding and also feature durable resistance to the rust diseases. Approaches pursued include the fast-track evaluation and release of improved varieties, the pre-release or accelerated seed multiplication of released wheat varieties through formal and informal seed systems, and demonstrations and scaling up of improved wheat varieties. This paper describes best practices to address seed shortages faced by wheat farmers in 53 woredas.
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Seed is a basic, vital and central input in agriculture and in all farming systems. Timely availability of quality seeds of varieties/hybrids adapted to to different agro-climatic conditions and in sufficient quantity at affordable prices is a measure of the strength and health of an agricultural economy. Sustained increase in agricultural production requires a continuous development of improved crop varieties/hybrids, an efficient system of production, and a means of distribution to farmers. India is one of the few countries where the seed sector has advanced in parallel with the agricultural production. However, the availability of quality seed of improved varieties and hybrids is grossly inadequate and is a major constraint to enhanced production. Studies made by several workers (Gadwal 2003, Patil et al 2004, Hanchinal et al. 2007) clearly indicate that with high-volume low-value seeds, such as wheat, groundnut, soybean and chickpea, 80% of the cropping area is sown with farm-saved seeds of old and obsolete varieties During last few decades, a number of high yielding disease and pest resistant varieties/hybrids in different crops had 10 to 40% yield superiority over local cultivars. With the exception of high-value low-volume seeds, seed production of low-value high-volume crops is generally left to public sector agencies. The bulky nature of most self pollinated crops, and lack of adequate investment on infrastructure means low remuneration. Although there is enough breeder seed production in most of the high volume crops, further seed multiplication through the foundation and certified seed stages are major constraints to the availability of quality seed. The present rate of seed replacement (SRR) for such crops is 6 to 8%. There is a need to increase SRR to 25 to 30% in varieties and obviously 100% for hybrids. To increase the productivity of low-value high-volume crops farmers need to have access to improved seeds of the right type, at the right time, at the right place and at a reasonable price. For supply of such seeds, both the informal seed sector (farmer managed seed systems) and the formal seed system (seed enterprises) need to be engaged. The informal seed sector is often highly effective in reaching isolated, inaccessible, small holder areas and is a sound opportunity for entrepreneurs to gradually evolve into the formal enterprises Wheat, the most important food crop of world and backbone of global food security, belongs to the highvolume low-value seed group. Of the total area sown to both hexaploid bread wheat and tetraploid durum and emmer wheat worldwide, 44% (95 m ha) is in Asia. Of this,62 m ha are located in just three countries viz. China, India, and Pakistan (Table 1 and Figure 1). Food security and production stability are of paramount importance in most Asian countries, given that the majority of farmers are poor. The wheat rusts have historically been major biotic constraints both in Asia and the rest of the world. Stem rust has been under control since the beginning of the green revolution in South and West Asia in the 1960s. Leaf rust and stripe rust continue to be major threats to production over approximately 60 (63%) and 43 (46%) m ha, respectively, in Asia. Although, the timely application of fungicides can provide adequate control, their use adds to production costs and they are considered environmentally unsafe. Growing resistant cultivars is thus the most effective and efficient control strategy, as it has no cost to farmers and is environmentally safe. Rapid evolution of races with new virulences, or combinations of virulences, dictate a need for discovery and deployment of new resistance genes and/or resistance gene combinations.