It is not just about producing seeds; quality check and assurance are paramount at every stage: Overview of IITA maize seed production and dissemination pathways

Successful crop production is linked to having the right seed, of the right quality, grown in the right environment and under the right conditions. Consequently, production of quality seed is paramount in ensuring a food secure future especially in sub Saharan Africa. However, to be effective, a viable partnership between researchers, farmers, and the private sector is needed. As vindicated by the IITA seed production and dissemination pathways, high quality improved maize seed from IITA’s breeding programs and private partners can be multiplied rapidly using novel technologies, and provided to industry and farmers throughout Africa in an efficient and effective manner.

Using a tailor-made barcoding system augmented with hard copy records, IITA ensures that the seed quality is assured right before the planting of the seed trials up to seed retrieval for export. Having been involved in the whole process, I was able to comprehend why it is pertinent to have an in-depth understanding of the link between improved seed production and provision of seed to the end users. This was particularly important in my career as part of a breeding program’s success is measured through utilization of its outputs by end users.

Susceptible lines ravashed by Fall Armyworm captured by Mpofu Taddias Prince

As earlier on mentioned, quality checks and assurance in seed production precedes planting. Information of genotypes to be advanced for seed production is first verified in the database and barcodes to be used in the seed production trials are assigned. At planting, a verification of plots with the field book is also done to avoid any errors in the whole process. During the growing season, a number of measures like roughing of off-types and diseased plants and prevention of contamination in pollination blocks are implemented and proper agronomic practices are carried out. All the plants are tagged with a barcode corresponding to the field layouts in the database. At harvesting, each genotype is bagged and 2 tags are put, one in the bag with the cobs and the other tied on the bag for redundancy purposes.

 The seed is then processed by means cleaning, shelling and oven drying to the desired moisture content. During this stage, data for parameters like yield, 1000 grain mass, moisture content among others is collected and analyzed. After analysis, quality check is done to ensure that only the seed meeting the moisture content standards among others, is advanced for either long-term or short-term cold storage. In cold storage, a serial number system is used in addition to barcodes to store and also retrieve the seed. In retrieving the seed, a request is processed through the online system and the seed are packaged through the seed processing unit then dispatched to the respective divisions or organizations (national and international partner organizations, government research stations and NGOs) across the world. If the seed is for export, the export permit is first processed before dispatch and records are kept in the online system.          

A closer look on the non-preference characteristics of the genotypes (recording the trichome density on leaf samples) as well as the FAW larvae feeding on the maize genotypes.  

I appreciate the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) for the continued support, both financially and career-wise. I also thank IITA for providing this learning platform for my continued growth.

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