Organic seed production-Issues and strategies

L Meghachandra Singh
Contd from previous issue
A five pronged approach may be initiated in the North Eastern region to cope with the supply of organic seed production and supply. This would not only help in increasing the organic agriculture but would also make organic seed industry as a profitable enterprise for the small farmers of the region.
1. Identification of crops and seed collection from natural farms/forests.
According to the National Centre for Organic Farming (2006), out of 2.6 million hectares under organic certification in the country, 2.5 m ha is from wild forest area. The North East region accounts for hardly 4,400 ha. However, because of the rich flora, many produce in North East could be collected from the jungles rather than plantation. This provides the scope for seed collection of wild germplasms and cultivating them under natural or organic conditions for domestic sowing. These would not only reduce the cost of seed but other inputs through less input requirements. Constraints with it is that it would hold good only with limited crop species which are mostly medicinal plants, perennial spices and tree species. However, with time and high global market competition, there is always a high possibility of change in demand structure. Thus, a rigorous and continuous breeding programme is also required. For other crops too, there could be a necessity to breed suitable varieties for the different conditions and different tastes.
2. Collection and identification of organically grown/can be grown culti-vars/landraces/conventional varieties through surveys.
As being practiced now in most of the organic farms, use of the conventional seeds without chemical seed treatments for a strictly specific derogation period of 3-4 years could lead to simultaneous development of organic system. This could be more successful with the locally adapted specific varieties, cultivars and land races. The limiting factors could be the tastes and qualities of such varieties particularly in response to the high export competition that might arise. Thus, it has to be strictly limited for the specific derogation period only, during which other alternative and sustainable system should have been developed.
3. Introduction and development of organic varieties through participatory approach of organic growers.
Evaluation of the introduced organic seeds and their multiplication remain one of the immediate possible ways out to make organic farming a successful enterprise in this region having widely diverse conditions. This would hold good for vegetables where local investment is too low. The only way in making it more and quick success is participatory selection and seed production of such varieties. The local varieties may also be improved for market quality aspects where such commodities have to be exported. All these improvements particularly, selection are to be carried out through farmers participatory approach.
4. Strengthening of organic certifiers for organic seeds.
As no seed certifier exists in the region, organic certification of seeds could not only enable the organic farmers to use quality seeds but also pave ways for earnings through seed markets. As quality seed has been the limiting factor in any farming activity, organic seed production programme has to be taken up simultaneously with the organic farming programme.
Under the present seed production system in the north eastern region, seed certification is almost nil and most of the local farmers use saved seeds only except for vegetable hybrids. This makes the certified organic seed production almost impossible and the only way out remains to be use of own saved seeds or seed certification by the organic certifiers. (To be contd)