MARCH 2018: There’s a plethora of leads, developments and information covered in our monthly seed industry news briefs, from India, Japan, Malaysia, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Uganda, Zambia, California and then some. The scope includes quality seed investment, production, phytosanitary measures, seed banks, research, weather, climate, and then some.
Asia, Pacific & International
Norway ‘Doomsday Seed Vault’ turns 10 with a million varieties
To mark its 10th anniversary, the Svalbard Seed Vault on a remote arctic island in Norway has processed a deposit of 70,000 new crop varieties from numerous institutions around the world. The latest deposit brings the total number of seed varieties kept at the germplasm preservation facility to more than a million. As reported in the press, the new deposits include rice, wheat, maize, black eyed pea, sorghum, pearl millet, Bambara groundnut and pigeon pea – many from APSA territory countries.
Study: Resilient wildflowers store seeds underground
A UC Davis study recently published in the journal Ecology highlights an interesting mechanism that wildflowers use to remain resilient across erratic seasons and harsh climates: Just as people tend to save more during hard economic times, so do some plants store their own seeds in the ground. Phys.org reports on the study which looked at soil core seed banks, comparing wildflower and grass population trends across several seasons.
La Nina cited for extreme winter in Japan, wet summer in Australia
Al Jazeera reports on what has been described as the coldest winter in Japan in 32 years, which is thought to be linked to La Nina. The climatic phenomenon has also been used to explain flooding taking place in Australia. Also mentioned in the article are reports ant8icipating more wet weather in parts of India and Thailand this yer. Asian Seed has reported extensively on weather, climate and cropping trends in the region, most recently in a Climate Crop Loss Report featured in our current issue (click here).
Malaysian, Chinese investors to convert Uganda into biofuel-based economy
The Observer Uganda reports that a consortium of 21 Malaysian, and six Chinese companies will lead a private-public-partnership to develop the biofuel industry in the African nation. The US$70 billion project, which will see the cultivation of Jatropha Curcas seeds for the purpose of producing biofuel en masse, will be modelled on a build-operate-transfer agreement in which the Ugandan government will take over the project after 25 years. It was reported that the project will be developed on 240 blocks in 120 districts, each measuring 10 sq. km and accommodating 1,000 farmers. A total of 1.8 million jobs are expected to be created from the PPP.
Indian seed firm to set up multi-million-dollar seed processing site in Zambia
The Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation has reported that the African Development Bank is engaged in discussions with a major Indian seed firm to develop a multi-million-dollar seed processing facility in the African country. The project would be in line with Zambia’s “out-grower” scheme.
India looks to meet EU demand for certified seeds
The state of Telengana plans to export more quality seeds to European countries, especially Germany. State officials recently met with German scientists and seed certification experts to discuss plans to increase output and export of certified seeds, reports Telangana Today. The Indian state reportedly supplies 60% of Indian seed needs, and last year exported 1,700 tonnes of certified seed, mostly to the Philippines, Egypt and Sudan.
Australian aid reinforces Vietnamese vegetable prosperity for women, minorities
For the past four years, the Australian Center for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) has been leading efforts to reduce poverty and improve nutrition in north-western Vietnam. Backed by A$2.3 million the capacity-building project involves training women and ethnic minorities to grow economically viable vegetables to increase their incomes. In addition to encouraging off-season cultivation, the ACIAR officers have also addressed increasing capacity and knowledge in soil nutrition and pest management to ensure optimal harvests. ABC Australia reports.
Australian researchers reinforce Lao veg farmers with pesticide safety training
Backed by the Crawford Fund, pesticide experts from Australia have been engaging with vegetable farmers in Southern Laos to increase their knowledge and capacity on the safe use of chemicals to manage an increasing threat from pests. According to a report by ABC Australia, researchers from the University of Sydney and Charles Sturt University, had received approval from the Dept of Agriculture in Vientiane to take initial steps in the campaign.
Food companies in Myanmar, Cambodia to trial US soybeans
14 tonnes of food-grade soybeans from the American states of North Dakota and Minnesota have been shipped to Myanmar and Cambodia for food processing production trials. As reported by the Asian American Press, the shipment is part of a project supported by the USDA and the American Soybean Association to meet growing demand for quality soybeans in Myanmar and Cambodia, who will evaluate the soy for use in production of soy milk and tofu.
Quality seed planting cited as reason for higher Vietnamese rice prices
Vietnam’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Ha Cong Tuan credited Vietnam’s relatively higher rice prices in the first few months of this year to the planting of high quality seeds, reports Asia News Network. Addressing a monthly meeting of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Tuan said that the country had planted high quality seeds over the last several years to account for 80% of total planted area dedicated to paddy. Vietnamese rice prices were cited as high as $475 per tonne. However, according to another report, they were at around $410-$420, compared to $395-$410 for Thai rice, and $419-423 for Indian rice.
East-West hybrid watermelon varieties a boon for Philippine farmers
A report in the Manila Bulletin highlights a case in point for the benefits of hybridization in the Philippines. Namely, one farmer who is now known as the “Watermelon King of Pangasinan” was able to send his four kids to school, and buy himself a nice tractor thanks to the impressive returns from growing East-West’s Sugar Ball hybrid variety, which is characterized for its large disease-resistant fruits.
Thailand ag authorities brace for drought despite plentiful rain, reserves
The Thai government is employing a number of measures to mitigate drought and its potentially costly implications for the agriculture sector this year. Among the proactive measures include the initiation of a full-fledged cloud seeding campaign initiated on March 1, which will be carried out through to October 31. Last year, Thailand and most other Southeast Asian countries suffered great weather-induced agricultural and economic losses losses, but mostly due to excess rain, flooding and storms. Water reserves in Thailand’s main reservoirs are reportedly now 40% higher than the same period last year. According to a report by the Thai Meteorological Department, February in Thailand was much cooler and wetter than the 30-year average for most of the country. Nonetheless, the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives is not taking any chances, having allocated a budget of 11.7 billion baht (US$ 373 million) to fund 18 projects aimed at drought monitoring, prevention and mitigation measures.
Quality Seed Training in Punjab
Some one hundred farmers and seed producers on February 20 took part in a quality seed production training session in Punjab, reports the Tribune India. Organized by the office of the Director (seeds) of Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), at the University Seed Farm in Naraingarh, the session included expert lectures and a field visit that focused on optimizing purity, quality and germination factors through best practices. The event was followed by a two-day rainy-season (kharif) crop “Research and Extension Specialists Workshop” on 21–22 February. Aso held at PAU, the workshop included four sessions dedicated to a number of relevant topics related to rainy season cropping, including climate change; insect and pest management; nutrition management; credit planning and agroforestry.
Canvass chariots to curb cotton contamination
The Gadwal Seed Men Association is using a community canvassing approach to address a cotton pest infestation that plagued the cotton-producing district in Telangana. As reported by the Hans India, the association organized four “chariots” to drive out and canvas in four cardinal directions in Gadwal, engaging farmers on best pest management practices to mitigate the threat of a costly “red insect”, presumably the red cotton stainer (Dysdercus cingulatus), a destructive pest, which feeds on cotton bolls and seeds, and contaminates the plant with a red fungus in the process.
Indian veg, fruit seeds increasing returns for Maldives growers
The Deccan Chronicle reports that Indian varieties of seedless watermelon, as well as bitter gourd, bottle gourd, brinjal and cucumber are proving a boon for farmers on the island of Vattaru in the Maldives. The varieties, which were developed by Kerala Agricultural University, were introduced to farmers since 2013 by an Indian civil engineer who observed that prevailing varieties at the time, which were largely imported from Europe were not as suitable as varieties in Kerala, which shares an identical climate to that of Vattaru island.
Satellites to save soil, seed quality in AP
Advanced mechanized farming, the use of smartphone apps, drones and satellites to monitor soil health are among the methodologies that State officials are implementing to improve seed quality in Andhra Pradesh. According to the Hindu Dot Com, a seed production unit has been established under cooperation between the state government and Iowa State University, with reinforcement from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Telangana cops nab 13 for dealing fake seeds
Nyoooz.com reports that Ramagundam Police on February 27 raided an undisclosed site at the Bellampally Government College of Mancherial District, where they seized more than half-a-tonne of spurious seeds, arresting 13 suspects in the process. The unidentified type of seeds were reportedly worth about 125,000 rupees. Also seized were several cars, mobile phones and cheques worth 363,000 rupees.
Punjab govt warns of spurious Bt seeds
In efforts to contain a whitefly infestation threatening cotton cropping in northwestern Indian, an official has warned farmers to beware of spurious Bt cotton seeds, and to only buy varieties endorsed by the Punjab Agriculture University, reports the Tribune India.
6,000 farmers in South India to preserve paddy for ‘natural’ seed bank
In an effort to preserve some 200 Indian paddy varieties, seeds have been distributed amongst 6,000 farmers throughout South India. The Hindu Dot Come reports that a farmer in AP’s Krishna district had collected the seeds from throughout India, and aims to build a seed bank of the seeds which will be multiplied using a so-called natural farming method called Jeevamrutam, which utilizes a concoction of cow dung and urine with water and jaggery in place of chemical fertilizers.
Karnataka couple preserves local varieties through seed bank initiative
The grassroots initiative of one Indian couple has yielded a seed collection of over 300 native Indian varieties, including everything from maize, millets, paddy and brinjal to okra, beans, pumpkin bottle gourd and tomatoes. The couple begin collecting native seeds from remote villages in 2006, and through farmer distribution networks, were able to multiply the seeds to preserve in their bank. The New Indian Express reports.
Castor seed acreage in India increases
According to a report by India Info Line Dot Com, the cultivation area for castor seed in India has risen year-on-year by nearly 3%, to 822,000 hectares. The average yield for the 2017-2018 growing season, is expected to be 1,738 kg/ha. In Gujurat production has been pinned at about 1.2 million tonnes, while that in Rajasthan has been pinned at 158,000 tonnes.
2017–2018 set to be another record year for foodgrains production in India
The Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare estimates that India this year will have a record harvest for various types of foodgrains including rice, coarse cereals, maize, pulses, gram and urad. According to the department’s 2nd Advance Estimates, as reported by The Indian Awaaz Dot Com, this cropping year, the country’s foodgrains output will reach 277.49 million tonnes, which would be 2.37mn tonnes more than last year’s record based on data collected since 2003–2004. The report cites “near normal rainfall during monsoon 2017 and various policy inititives taken by the Government” as the main factor. The 2017–2018 estimate period is based on the government’s fiscal calendar which started on April 1, last year and ends on March 31, this year.
Winter water shortages expected to impact crop productivity
A rain deficit to the tune of 64% in the first 52 days of 2018 is causing concern for agriculture productivity of rain-fed crops in many parts of India, reports News By Tesapp Dot Com. According to the report, locales with highest deficits of rain and available water from January 1 to February 21 include Rajasthan, Odisha, Daman, Diu, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and the Narmada Basin.
New Agritech park in Hyderabad planned to open next year on 75 acres
A Telangana-backed organization is planning to establish an “Agritech Park” in Hyderabad by next year. The facility, which would facilitate incubation of activities focused on crop production techniques, crop management, farm mechanization and seed screening, would cost an estimated 250 million rupees (US$3.8 million)
IRRI international innovation center proposed for ‘Indian rice bowl’ state
Andhra Pradesh officials are engaged in discussions with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) to develop an international innovation center in the Indian state. United News of India reports that AP Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu had met with IRRI Director General Dr. Mathew Morell, along with other stakeholders early in March to discuss the plans, which will be based on a scientific report from IRRI outlining how the center will enable high quality paddy production at low cost.
Deadly seed-feeding fungus accidentally detected in Cambridge
Ergot, a toxic fungus that naturally grows on the seed head of grains and grasses in New Zealand was discovered accidentally on a dairy farm in Cambridge. When consumed, by livestock or humans, Ergot can enter the bloodstream and lead to gangrene and even death. Though initially undetected on the two-hectare paddock, a closer examination found as many as 120,0000 plants that had been detected, reports Stuff New Zealand.
Myrtle rust continues to pose threat to native NZ plants
The wind-borne fungal disease Myrtle rust was recently detected on a ramarama plant in North Taranaki. The detection fueled concerns that efforts to contain the disease, which was initially detected in the Pacific nation last year, have been insufficient, reports Stuff New Zealand.
Report proposes introduction of Samurai Wasps in face of stink bug threat
According to a report made by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, as reported in the New Zealand Herald, the country’s gross domestic product stands to be negatively impacted by as much as NZ$3.6 billion over the next 20 years should the brown marmorated stink bug establish itself in the country. The pest was recently detected in a shipment of Japanese automobiles, which were subsequently quarantined. The report, which was supported by the Ministry of Primary Industries, Horticulture New Zealand and other horticulture interest groups, said that an incursion of the foreign pest would reduce crop yields, increase costs for farmers and reduce export value for affected crops. The stink bug is a natural prey of the wasp, which decimates the former’s eggs.
Weevil to be used as biological agent to control invasive weed
Stuff New Zealand reports that the Rangitikei Horsestail Group will introduce populations of the English horsetail weevil as a biological control agent to address an invasive weed that tends to crowd out grass, pasture and crops – and which is also toxic to horses. The weed is native to the England, where it is not considered a pest due to natural enemies like the weevil, which is also from England. It is expected to take five years for the weevil to have an impact on the weed.
Wet winter, dry summer cited for vegetable shortage, inflation in NZ hort hub
The horticulture hub of Horowhenua on the North island has suffered great agriculture losses from adverse weather of the past 18 months, reports the New Zealand Herald. Weather extremes cited include excess rain, cyclone, heat and dry weather. For one grower, the losses were estimated at NZ$100,000 per week. The crops affected the most were lettuce, watermelon, pumpkin, broccoli and zucchini.
Seed, grain maize harvest underway in NZ
Key producers of both grain and seed maize have begun harvesting of what is expected to be above average yields of seed and grain maize in Gisborne, the East Coast and Wairoa, reports the Gisborne Herald. 40,000 tonnes of grain maize is expected to be harvested, whereas Corson Grain is reportedly expected to process 18,000 t; Also mentioned in the report, Pioneer planted 30% more crops this season, 40% of its harvest is slated for export and 60% to feed domestic demand.
Aus NPPO considering fumigation at origin requirement for thrips-prone produce
According to a report on Fresh Fruit Portal Dot Com, thrips-prone asparagus and pomegranate from Latin America are on the radar of the Australian Dept of Agriculture and Water Resources, who is considering making mandatory a requirement for fumigation with methyl bromide at country of origin. Australia considers 11 thrips species to be of quarantine concern, with three more species set to be added to the country’s regulated pest list.