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 poor seed choice. This is where you plant low-quality recycled seeds and uncertified seeds sourced from neighbours and local traders.

How do you choose the best-certified seed to plant in 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 seed and settle on the most appropriate variety for any crop type (maize, beans, and vegetables) for your farm. These considerations include your farm location, seed variety features, and supplier reputation among others.

Farm Location

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 areas 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.  These improvements include the growing time and post-harvest qualities. As a farmer should get a seed variety whose characteristics are closest to your buyer expectations. This ensures you have an available market upon harvesting. By growing what the market needs you might fetch higher prices.

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

  • high Yield potential; this is the total harvest you can get per acre (90 kg bags/acre) if ample rainfall and crop nutrients are available and proper agronomic practises 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) or 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. Warmer and wetter habitats affect your plant productivity. To fight these threats, we modify seed varieties to build their tolerance against 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 reputations

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

With the market flooded with counterfeit and fake seeds, to access quality ones buy yours from an authorized agro dealer (wholesaler/retailer) only. You can find one by through displayed banners and 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

Planting certified seed will guarantee you cheaper costs in crop management, higher and quality 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.

Consider using an online seed selection platform to determine which seeds are most suitable for your area. 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;

  • 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 Kibicho is passionate about profitable and safe agriculture as a tool for wealth creation and food security. He is the founder of Agcenture and consults in market systems development (MSD), program management and result measurement, monitoring and evaluation for sustainable agriculture & rural development projects.

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1 Response

  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 […]

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