How to select good planting seeds for your farm

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As a farmer, you may experience low crops yields despite following proper agronomic practices in managing your crops. One cause for low harvests could be low quality planting seeds. The recycled and uncertified planting materials you source from your neighbors and local traders can cost you a whole harvest.

How do you choose the best planting seeds for your farm? Price and brand of the supplier should not be the only considerations. In this blog learn other key factors to consider while choosing the best-certified vegetables, flower, beans or potato seeds for your farm.

Factors to consider choosing quality planting seeds for your farm

Why do you need to buy certified seeds from one of the listed seed companies in Kenya? The following list has considerations for choosing best planting seeds. It includes your farm location, seed variety features, and supplier reputation among others.

Agro-ecological zone

Buy a suitable seed for the agro-ecological zone (AEZ) in which your farm is situated. This zoning is determined by prevalent climatic conditions, soil characteristics, and elevation. According to the FAO zoning system, there are 8 agro-ecological zones in Kenya. By knowing your location, choose a seed variety that is most suitable for your area using a seed selection tool such as Mbeguchoice

Seed Variety Features

Seed Companies breed better seed varieties to suit market needs every year.  These improvements include the growing time and post-harvest qualities. The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) approves those varieties for breeding and commercialization in the country. As a farmer, Buy a seed variety that has features closest to your buyer or market expectations. This makes sure you will have a ready market and fetch make more profits by growing what the market needs.

Some characteristics of good quality seed you should look into are;

  • High Yield potential; this is the total yields you can get per acre e.g., 90 kg bags/acre if ample rainfall and crop nutrients are available and proper agronomic practices are observed.   A seed with higher Yield potential is desirable
  • Days to maturity; these are days it will take to harvest your product after planting. In areas with rain stress. Commercial farmers prefer shorter mature periods for higher profits.
  • Product qualities; different varieties have different market qualities such as thick skin, susceptibility to bruising, colour, longer shelf life among others. To make this choice, consider the reason you are farming. Is it for commercial or subsistence reason? if you are farming for the market go for a feature that promises the highest marketability.
  • Open-pollinated (OPV) vs hybrid seed varieties.  To note is OPV seeds can be replanted to the third season and has a relatively lower yield than hybrid seeds.

Resistances or Tolerances

Though this is part of plant features above, it’s such a critical factor for yield and profitability. Climate change is a major threat to agricultural production today. It affects the severity and frequency of floods, droughts or pest’s infestations on your farm. To fight those threats, plant a modified seed variety with tolerance to droughts, floods or specific pests and diseases.

When shopping for certified seed, get one that has desired tolerance e.g drought tolerance/fast-maturing seeds as insurance for successful growth to maturity. This will cushion you from possible crop failure to either excessive rainfall, long dry periods, resistant weeds, diseases or pests.

Supplier reputation

A strong seed company brand shows wide acceptance and adoption of her quality seeds. Though companies spend heavily in marketing, you should not fall for that. Consider feedback from other farmers in your region and extension officer’s recommendations. Where company profiles are available online seek for consumer ratings and reviews for a truer picture of the company’s reputation.

Package size

To cater to various farmer needs, seed Companies offer seeds in various pack sizes. The supplier enjoys higher profitability, whereas the farmer can afford quality seeds to his need. While shopping for best seed variety, consider an appropriate package you can afford and suits your current needs.

 Buying seeds for a specific need saves you money. Besides, you avoid wastage where seeds under your care might expire or end up destroyed by pests. For instance, in Kenya seed market, vegetables like spinach, kales cabbages and onion seeds are packed in packets of 10, 25, 50, 100, 250 and 500 grams. A kitchen garden farmer growing kales on one sack may just buy 10 grams to avoid wastage. A commercial greenhouse farmer can buy several 500-gram tins.

Price and government subsidies

Though Cost is not among the key considerations, affordability is a choice factor between seeds of two similar features. 

Given the importance of certified seed and fertilizer, government and NGOs intervene in the formal seed market through subsidies. The goal is to make seeds affordable to low-income earners. You can benefit from accessing certified seed and save money.

To enjoy higher value you’re your money, consider buying your seeds in bulk before the planting season sets in.

Accredited supplier

There are manty seed companies in Kenya. Yet, you find the seed market flooded with counterfeit and fake seeds. To access the quality ones buy only from an authorized or accredited agrovet shop (wholesaler/retailer) only. You can find one by a displayed banner or KEPHIS ECS certificates of accreditation in their premises.  Buying from a credible regional supplier has additional advantages like access to input credit, crop insurance and free transport to your farm.

Where to Buy certified seeds

If you are looking for planting seed for sale, start by an online seed selection platform or mobile app to determine which seeds are most suitable for your area. If you are in Kenya or Uganda you can use the mbegu choice free app by the seed traders association.

Always buy your farm inputs from a reputable supplier or order them online on am e-commerce site you can have the goods traced back to the seed company. Another tip to get genuine seeds is to send a message to the seed company to check on the package authenticity and validity.

Reasons you should not plant uncertified seeds include;

Planting quality seeds will reduce your farming costs in crop management and give you higher crop yields. However, as a farmer, you may be duped by unscrupulous traders to buy fake or counterfeit see. Fake seeds are poor in quality and they have poor yields just like uncertified seeds as expressed below.

  • You might plant outdated seed varieties that cannot stand current diseases, pests, and soil and weather conditions. This makes you vulnerable to crop failure due to weather or pest stress.
  • Your seeds are unsuitable for your agro-ecological zone. (e.g. planting a lowland seed variety in a highland region)
  • You have second-generation hybrid seeds whose productivity decline after each harvest. Hence you should be buying fresh seed each season.
  • You are propagating Open-pollinated variety (OPV) seeds that can only be replanted to the third season. You must buy fresh seeds in the fourth season.

Samuel K

Samuel is the founder and senior agribusiness development consultant at Agcenture. He can be reached at skibicho@agcenture.com

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2 Responses

  1. June 19, 2020

    […] what you sow, the quality of yields you will harvest is a direct result of seeds you plant.  But how do you select the most suitable certified seed for your farm for highest yields?  Farmers in Kenya can choose the most suitable seed varieties tailored to their region. This is by […]

  2. March 14, 2021

    […] Read Next; How to select good planting seeds for your farm […]

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