‘Farmers who use certified seeds get substantially greater yields’

31Mar 2022
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
‘Farmers who use certified seeds get substantially greater yields’

​​​​​​​FARMS that are planted with certified cassava stems sourced from cassava seed entrepreneurs produce on average nearly 40 percent more than fields planted with farmer-saved seeds (uncertified), according to a recent research conducted by cassava seed system team.

The team consists of experts from International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Tanzania Agriculture Research Institute (TARI) and other partners in Tanzania.

The study found that farmers who used certified seeds got substantially greater yields than farmers who used recycled seeds (uncertified). It showed that a farmer can get an additional of seven tonnes per hectare only by using the certified cassava stems.

Rudolph Shirima, a Plant Virologist at IITA Tanzania who is part of the research team said: “In the Eastern Zone, farmers who had planted certified seed got 34 percent greater yields than those who had planted recycled seed of the same variety.

In the Lake Zone, the difference was even greater, and yields of the Mkombozi from certified seed were 42 percent more than those who had used recycled seed of the same variety.”

He said the research team measured cassava yields in the fields of 36 farmers in the Eastern Zone (growing variety Kiroba) and 36 farmers in the Lake Zone (growing variety Mkombozi). In each zone, half of the farmers had used recycled seed (uncertified) and half had used certified seed for comparison.

Moreover, Shirima explained that these yield increases translate to profit gains per hectare of 1,030,600/- (US$445) for Kiroba and 678,600/- (US$293) for Mkombozi.

He said these studies reveal the importance of quality planting material, the value of planting material certification, and the necessity for farmers to purchase certified cassava planting material to avoid yield losses and the associated threats to food insecurity.

‘As healthy cassava planting material flows through the steadily expanding modernized seed system in Tanzania, millions of smallholder farmers stand to benefit from improved yields and new income generation opportunities.

This will have a vital positive impact on food security, and underlines how Tanzania is taking great strides in transforming its agricultural economy through the development of the cassava sub-sector,” he noted.

Cassava is one of the crops that are powering the engine of agricultural development in Tanzania. In the latest breakthrough, ‘certified seed’ (certified planting material) produced by smallholder seed producers has been shown to deliver huge yield benefits to farmers, helping them to produce more food as well as increase their incomes.

In Tanzania, cassava is consumed daily in different forms, including roasted, fried, and boiled roots, and porridge prepared from flour. Also, its nutritious leaves are highly popular as a vegetable.

The crop grows well in almost all parts of the country but is badly affected by two viral diseases: cassava brown streak disease (CBSD) and cassava mosaic disease (CMD), which are spread through infected planting material and by a tiny insect vector-the whitefly.

These diseases cause large reductions in yield and can spoil the roots.

To curb the effects of these diseases, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in collaboration with Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA), the Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) and the Tanzania Official Seed Certification Institute (TOSCI) work closely with the Ministry of Agriculture to develop improved disease-resistant varieties and reinforce the development of an economically sustainable seed system.

A key aim is to help farmers get high quality disease-free planting material of the best new varieties.

Cassava seed system development work in Tanzania was supported from 2017-2021 through the Project ‘Building and Economically Sustainable Seed System for Cassava in Tanzania’ (BEST) and is currently being supported by the ‘Building a Sustainable Integrated Cassava Seed System-II’ (BASICS-II) Project, both funded through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.