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Traditionally when a farmer harvested a crop some of it would be saved as seed for planting in the next rain season. When a farmer noticed that a neighbor had good beans, he would request for some to plant.

Farmers select seed for different reasons such as good taste, resistance to disease, yield capacity, nutritional value, and drought tolerance, among others. Crop production is largely about seed selection and development by farmers and plant breeders in order to come up with good harvests.

The traditional practice of saving seed or getting free seed from friends and relatives is however disappearing with the arrival of quality seed of superior varieties from professional seed breeders and seed companies.

We were taught in biology that a seed is formed when female (ovule) and male gametes (pollen) unite in a process called fertilization. In plants this is sexual reproduction. Some plants are self-pollinated while others are cross pollinated. The offspring (seed) may have characteristics similar to the parent plants.

In some cases, the offspring may not be so identical to the parent plants. Plant breeders select pollen from plants with particular characteristics and transfer it to other well identified plants to come up with the seed of the desired quality. Another form of seed formation is described as asexual propagation and it involves the use of vegetative parts to perpetuate a new plant. Cassava, sweet potatoes and bananas are propagated in this way.

Vegetative propagation has the best chance of producing a crop that is identical to the parent plant. Some plants obtained from vegetative parts are called clones. Sometimes breeders unite separate stems to produce grafted plants.

Nowadays due to markets demands and the need to increase agricultural production and household food security, farmers are compelled to get the best seed. Yet not all farmers can make hybrid seed, nor can all of them produce clones for such crops as coffee. They cannot unite a scion to a root stock to come up with a grafted plant. So, to meet the present-day varied food demands, farmers must have a budget for buying seed.

As we begin this rainy season, many crop farmers across the country are preparing to plant seeds. Seeds are a major input in crop production. If the seeds are of poor quality, the farmer will not get high yields even if the soil is good and the rainfall plentiful. For centuries, farmers have planted seeds preserved from the previous harvest, based on yield performance, taste, and appearance.

Today, however, farmers are faced with new challenges, including a rapidly growing population to feed, malnutrition, depleted soils, climate change resulting in unreliable weather patterns and crop diseases, loss of bio-diversity, and man’s destruction of the natural environment. The new crop production challenges point to the urgent need for different approaches and new technologies especially with regard to seed selection.

In an effort to find a solution to the challenges, scientists in our national agricultural research stations and elsewhere have come up with improved seed varieties that are resistant to disease, more nutritious, high yielding, and tolerant to drought and poor soils. We also have a few seed companies that supply good seeds to farmers’ shops. There are, however, some fake seeds on the market and farmers have got to watch out.

Good quality seeds are rather expensive and hardly within the means of most smallholder farmers, but the benefits of planting good, clean seeds by far outweigh the perceived high cost of the seeds. Farmers can avoid buying fake seeds if they seek guidance of their area agricultural extension workers or buy from reputable companies like Agroking Uganda limited.

They must also take interest in the expiry date of the seeds and any other literature that goes with it like the breeder’s guidelines for successful planting. The seeds might be good, but if they are planted late in the rain season, the farmer may lose them in the next dry season.

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