Seed Consortium promises sustainable seed system for postrainy sorghum in Maharashtra, India

Seed Consortium promises sustainable seed system for postrainy sorghum in Maharashtra, India

A model seed system facilitated by a Seed Consortium will mean more produce, greater incomes and enhanced livelihoods for farmers growing postrainy season sorghum in Maharashtra.

A model seed system facilitated by a Seed Consortium will mean more produce, greater incomes and enhanced livelihoods for farmers growing postrainy season sorghum in Maharashtra.

For the past 25 years, attempts to disseminate seeds of improved sorghum cultivars to farmers in Maharashtra State of India have been met with low adoption rates and consequently low productivity. A newly formed Seed Consortium combining the expertise of ICRISAT and private and public partners promises to bring hope to smallholder farmers in the State and make available improved sorghum seed for the postrainy season.

July 23 was a significant day in the lives of smallholder farmers in Maharashtra. It marked the formation of a Seed Consortium that will develop a sustainable seed system for easy access and availability to farmers of improved sorghum seed for the postrainy season. It will also pave the way for the development of a consensus roadmap to enhance the adoption rate of improved varieties by ensuring greater seed production, procurement and marketing.

Officials from the Department of Agriculture, Maharashtra; State Agriculture Universities; and ICRISAT who participated in the workshop.

Officials from the Department of Agriculture, Maharashtra; State Agriculture Universities; and ICRISAT who participated in the workshop.

The formation of the consortium was the highlight of the workshop on “Sustainable postrainy sorghum seed systems development” held in Pune, Maharashtra. In his opening address during the workshop, Mr RB Deshmukh, advisor to the Dryland Agriculture Mission, Government of Maharashtra commended efforts by ICRISAT and partner institutions in transferring improved cultivars and management technologies to over 33,000 farmers in the last four years, leading to a 40% increase in production.

In Maharashtra, hybrids are the cultivar of choice in the rainy season and adoption by farmers reaches up to 95%, while open-pollinated varieties are preferred in the postrainy season. About 2.9 m ha is sown to postrainy season sorghum with average productivity being as low as 0.5 t ha-1. The major seed source for postrainy season sorghum is the farmer’s own saved seed of cultivars and local landraces like Maldandi, Barshizoot andDagadi. Private and public sector seed companies are not

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interested in production and marketing of improved open pollinated cultivars due to economic considerations.

During the workshop, private and public sector seed companies shared their views on production of different varieties of seed and their future plans. Seed produced by the private sector meets less than 10% of the State’s seed needs; the major share being that of the age-old variety M35-1.

ICRISAT’s Ch Ravinder Reddy (Coordinator, Seed Systems) presented the way forward with concrete action plans for developing a postrainy season seed system for Maharashtra, emphasizing on the denotification of obsolete varieties, an increase in seed replacement ratio, and calling for a greater role for public and private sector partners in the multiplication and marketing of improved varieties. Presentations were also made on existing seed systems in Maharashtra and seed availability and access by the farmers (SR Gadakh) and HOPE project outcomes and partnership for scaling up and early adoption studies (BVS Reddy, A Ashok Kumar and N Nagaraj).

Mr SS Adsul, Director of Extension and Mr JN Deshmukh, Director, Seed Quality Control, Government of Maharashtra, responded positively to the proposed action plan, recommended the denotification of obsolete varieties, and suggested that the state seed corporation (Mahabeej) work with State Agriculture Universities to obtain breeder/foundation seed of improved varieties for seed production and distribution.

Ch Ravinder Reddy presenting the action plan for seed systems in Maharashtra.

Ch Ravinder Reddy presenting the action plan for seed systems in Maharashtra.

The workshop recommended the development of a model seed system with private-public seed sector partnership to produce and disseminate improved seed varieties to meet the requirements of 3 m ha in three years. The Department of Agriculture agreed to extend support to the Seed Consortium to sustain the

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The workshop was organized by the CGIAR Research Program on DrylandCereals, ICRISAT and its partners, the Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth (MPKV), and the Marathwada

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Krishi Vidyapeeth (MKV), Maharashtra. The Seed Consortium will comprise of ICRISAT, the Directorate of Sorghum Research, MPKV, MKV, private and public sector seed companies, the Commissioner of Agriculture (Department of Agriculture), Government of Maharashtra, and farmer representatives. This activity is part of the HOPE project which falls under the CGIAR Research Program on DrylandCereals.