SeedSAT aims to help national agricultural sectors foster the growth of healthy seed systems.
We start with a vision of a healthy seed system as one in which farmers grow modern varieties of crops that have product profiles responsive to market and consumer demands. Farmers need these varieties to be adapted to their environments so that they can produce high yields despite annual and seasonal swings in abiotic and biotic stresses. Farmers can only reap the full value of superior varieties when trusted suppliers provide the demanded amount of quality seed when and where it is needed.
Mature seed systems deliver a regular stream of domestically-bred and imported crop varieties at a pace that matches market demand and that gives farmers choices for seeds of different varieties from branded suppliers who consistently provide quality seed. This last mile step in the seed system requires that competition to supply the market and accountability for quality exist from the retail point of sale of seed back through:
- Seed distributors responding to orders from agro-dealers and primary cooperatives;
- Public and private producers of different classes of commercial seed who respond to the seed demand from farmers that is aggregated by distributors;
- Public and private producers of the early generation who must bulk breeder and foundation seed two to three years before commercial planting seed is grown;
- Breeders whose research programs are built around reliable market demand, have strong product profiles, modern breeding techniques, and vital attention paid to seed producibility.
Healthy seed systems require a blend of public and private support because many crops would be neglected in a purely private seed system, including a wide range of staple cereals, legumes, oilseeds, root-tuber-banana species, and forage and fodder crops whose R&D, varietal maintenance, and early generation seed multiplication that are not yet profitable for private companies.
National leaders have also constructed food and agricultural policy and institutions to prioritize public ownership and management of crop R&D, along with seed production and distribution judged strategic to national agricultural transformation and economic development. Healthy seed systems also require public investment to improve smallholder access to good seed of new varieties in both normal and emergency situations through public, private, and non-profit organizations. Seed subsidies should be used carefully, if at all, to temporarily bridge market failures for short periods of time, and in non-emergency settings should always provide quality-assured seed with crop species and varietal choices available to farmers and distributors alike. Subsidies that rely mainly on public sector distribution channels have too often created distortions that slow the development of mature seed systems.
The international public institutions for agricultural research and development in the CGIAR system were built to address global public interests and gaps in national agricultural research systems.
The CG centers continue to play central roles in establishing and maintaining germplasm collections, developing crop varieties to improve yields under evolving regional and global abiotic and biotic stresses, and serving as platforms to address emergency and evolving regional and global challenges to crop productivity.