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Seed health challenges in the smallholder informal seed system

Quenton Kritzinger: Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, University of Pretoria

<div>Seeds play an important role in the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in many countries, especially in Africa. The freshly harvested seed and/or on-farm stored seed are sold at informal markets for generation of income. Smallholder farmers usually cannot buy good quality certified seed for planting and rely on their own on-farm-saved seed or that obtained from other smallholder farmers for the next season’s production. The transfer of poor quality and possibly infected seed is largely uncontrolled. This seed often has reduced germination and seedling vigour, and is vulnerable to fungi, in both storage and the field, which may produce mycotoxins causing serious health complications in both animals and humans. Farmers use different containers (e.g. metal tanks, re-used maize meal sacks) and techniques (e.g. sun drying, seed mixed with ash) to store their seeds. However, fungal infestation of seed due to high temperatures and relative humidity can occur. Effective control and prevention strategies at the level of the smallholder farmer are required, which can be achieved by optimizing storage systems and assistance from trained extension officers. The seed health challenges existing within the smallholder seed system will be reviewed, with emphasis on the challenges faced during postharvest and storage. The negative impact of seed movement across borders due to poor implementation of regulations will also be discussed.</div>

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