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Disseminating new seed in Nepal

nepal545On 28 April 2011, a one-day roaming day seminar on Wheat Seed Production and Rust Disease Management in Nepal attracted 51 farmers interested in quality seed production, and raising wheat production and profitability through adopting new wheat varieties resistant to wheat diseases and rusts.

The event was organized by the Plant Pathology Division, Agri-Botany Division, and the Gene Bank of Nepal Agriculture Research Council (NARC), District Agriculture Development Office, Kavrepalanchok in collaboration with CIMMYT.

The objectives of the day were to:

(1) Generate awareness of the new agronomically superior Ug99 and yellow rust resistant varieties among farmers
(2) Involve farmers in the participatory selection of varieties
(3) Generate awareness about proper wheat production technology
(4) To plan for quality seed production and its dissemination for the next crop cycle.

The event took place in the village Chandeni VDC, Juhanetar, Kavrepalanchok, district Kabre, where there are three mother-baby trials of eight wheat varieties, including CIMMYT’s newly-developed agronomicaly superior Ug99 resistant varieties, a few rust resistant varieties from NARC, and WK1204 the farmer-preferred variety.

Madan Bhatta, NARC wheat breeder, opened the event with an explanation of the importance of new resistant varieties, especially with the emergence of new rust virulence, such as that of Ug99, and the strategy being followed for fast track release and dissemination of these varieties. Arun Joshi, CIMMYT wheat breeder, then explained to farmers about CIMMYT’s mission in development and promotion of agronomically superior rust-resistant wheat varieties among farmers in collaboration with NARC and other stakeholders. Next, a team of scientists from NARC, CIMMYT, and state extension department officials took farmers around the wheat plots and introduced each variety to the group, detailing the characteristics, qualities, and differences among them. Every attendee received an informative sheet that included varietal information such as maturity duration, yield potential, and resistance to diseases, which they carried throughout the presentation, eagerly making additional notes.

Following the introduction of the varieties, NARC scientists Sarala Sharma and D.B. Thapa explained the steps involved in participatory selection. Farmers were then divided into three groups and asked to score the wheat varieties they saw in the mother trial according to their own preference. The variety Munal and Danphe emerged as the favorite varieties. Overall, greater grain and straw yield, disease resistance, maturity duration, and grain physical quality were given high preference by farmers.

All farmers expressed a deep interest in growing new varieties in the next crop cycle and said that they expect around a 10 percent higher yield from the selected varieties compared to the local variety, Gautam. To offer additional assurance, agronomy expert Jagat Devi Ranjit gave the participants few tips on how to produce good yields using modern wheat production technology. Several participants inquired about how long the seed can be maintained without any loss in its characteristics, so CIMMYT wheat breeder Arun Joshi explained the general principles of quality seed production and NARC Entomologist Y.P. Giri then explained the principles of pest control and safer seed storage. Also, three leaders from active farmers’ cooperatives attended the field-day and encouraged the participants to start their own farmers’ cooperatives, sharing experiences and expertise. Progressive farmers Prahlad Lamsal and Tiran Nepal, who had only read about these organizations in newspapers, were excited to learn that a farmers’ seed production cooperative can be established in their village.

Overall, the roaming day helped with selection of farmer-identified preferred varieties; improved farmer understanding of the importance of resistant varieties and seed dissemination; planning for new variety promotion for the next crop cycle; and increased interest for further collaboration between farmers, scientists, and development agencies.