There is a practise where ‘grains’ are sold to farmers instead of ‘seeds’, and when this is done, the eventual yield would not meet the expected outcomes. To be clear, what is called a seed, can qualify as ordinary grains when it has been merely saved from harvests by either a farmer or trader.
Such grains will germinate quite all right, but without giving the same output as actual seeds, for instance, giving one tonne per hectare instead of ten tonnes. Those referred to as actual seeds, are supposed to have gone through a special breeding process, which is done to ensure it delivers one or a combination of values such as disease resistance, pest resistance, herbicide tolerance, and more importantly for many; higher yields.
“It may be difficult to differentiate between a seed or a grain, and it is a lot harder to tell where there have been adulterations or counterfeits are being sold to farmers,” said Kabir Ademoh, local coordinator, Seed for Change. “What needs to be done is reaching out to farmers, educating and introducing them to quality seeds through competent companies”.
Garbage in, garbage out, this aptly describes the outcome when either ‘fake’ seeds or adulterated fertilisers are used on any farm. In Nigeria today, there appears to be a dearth of knowledge among farmers, on getting authentic, hybrid, and appropriate seeds. The same knowledge gap exists in the purchase and utilisation of other farm inputs and agro inputs. As noted by members of the panel on ‘The Role of Quality Inputs’, during this year’s agribusiness and food security summit, unless urgent actions are taken to address this, there will be a significant effect on food production in the country, and it is not likely to be a positive one.
“Seed is very important as far as crop productivity is concerned,” reiterated Ekum Ojogu, an Agricultural Development and Food Security Expert at the National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC). “For you to get improved yields, seeds contribute between 45 and 50 per cent of yield.”
As Ojogu explained during the summit, when a farmer “gets it wrong from the seed perspective, productivity will be equally wrong”. If one brings a grain of maize and a seed of maize, it will be difficult to differentiate, and this according to him is why regulating the seed sector is important, so that what farmers plant is not grain but seed.
He also highlighted what is described as a challenge in the sector, where early generation seeds are not giving the right productivity, on account of dearth in research. “Over time varietal improvements have not been done,” he said.
However, all hope is not lost as Ojugu explained that; in the end, if a farmer gets seeds which do not meet what the company that produced it promised, they can go to NASC offices in any geopolitical zone and such a seed company can be prosecuted.
In the end, proper knowledge on farm practices also matters, as Ademoh noted, “It is one thing to sell good inputs to farmers, and another for it to be properly utilized.”
“When farmers have any problem on the farm, they blame the seeds,” said Wanger Akaazua, operations manager, Afri Agri. “There are hybrid seeds with varying resistance to diseases, but most farmers don’t care to know the type of seed they are buying in the first place, so they could buy a seed and grow it in the wrong way.”
According to him, most farmers use chemicals as they please, worsened by chemical store attendants who do not know better. A farmer could ask for a chemical that can kill weeds, and whereas such a farmer is looking for a systemic herbicide, due to lack of knowledge, they are given anything to spray and may not get the desired results. The knowledge gap as he notes, is huge limitation that needs to be addressed on the side of farmers, and even those they rely on for information within their immediate environments.