‘Substandard seeds, adulterated inputs threaten farm yields, food security’

• As agro-scientists, breeders suggest war forward
Head, Agro-Economy Desk, FEMI IBIROGBA writes that because inputs are proportionally related to outputs in food cultivation, adulterated seeds, seedlings and other substandard inputs contribute to low average yield per hectare across ecological zones in the country, and food security is, therefore, threatened.
Low investments in seed breeding by the government and private sector operators have created a huge gap between demand and supply of quality seeds, seedlings and other inputs such as agrochemicals.Researchers have found that Nigeria is 320,000 metric tonnes deficient in quality seed availability, apart from seedlings and other inputs.

This creates a loophole for adulteration, circulation of disease-infested and old variety of seeds and seedlings, as well as substandard agrochemicals and other farm inputs. And available improved seeds appear too expensive for the majority of farmers.Poor purchasing power of the older generation of farmers as a result of their little or no disposal incomes have also compounded the cycle of poverty, for improved, disease-resistant and high-yielding varieties that could guarantee sustainable outputs per hectare are often out of the reach of the farmers.

Most farmers plant grains as seeds, according to plant breeders, which have lost their genetic trait potential as a result over-use. This also trickles down on the larger economy, forcing the country to spend billions of naira per annum on importation of food and raw materials. Rice, tomato paste, fish and vegetable oil are chief among the imported foods.Substandard agro-chemicals, including fertilizer, herbicides and insecticides, also have far damaging effects on the quality, quantity and profitability of farm products.

The menace and effects
Speaking with The Guardian on this, Prof. Lateef Sanni, Deputy Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta (FUNAAB), said substandard seeds, seedlings, and other inputs such as agro-chemicals could contribute to low yield per hectare if used by farmers.He said: “They will affect plant size, canopy and root formation, thereby causing poor quality outputs. Harvest of low yield will result in non-profitable production. This will reduce income of farmers and encourage hunger in the land. It is advisable to use standard, quality and pure seedlings. Farmers should adhere strictly to instructions on the use of agro-chemicals.” 

Prof Kolawole Adebayo, also FUNAAB, said the sale and use of substandard goods are a menace on at least two counts. “First, it does not do what the buyer expects it to do; therefore, wasting money and valuable time. Secondly, it distorts the logistics of farm activities. If you are expected to administer a chemical three weeks after planting your crop and you do, but applied a substandard chemical, it is a case of double jeopardy. The use of substandard products is a sure way to failure. Garbage in, garbage out,” he said.

President of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Alhaji Ibrahim Kabir, explained to The Guardian that when the farmer does not have ready access to certified seeds and chemical inputs, he uses what is available in the open market, which is, often times, adulterated, saying, “It is better to seek advice on seeds and agro-chemical inputs when anyone embarks on agriculture as a business.”

The AFAN president said farmers would otherwise suffer all kinds of setbacks, including low yield per hectare if such advice is not sought.He explained that “If, for example, a farmer uses ordinary grains of corn/maize instead of certified seeds, he might get even less than the traditional two tonnes per hectare of maize that is the obtainable, averagely, in Nigeria today.”On the poor seeds, Prof. Samuel Olakojo, a plant breeder at the Institute of Agricultural Research and Training (IAR&T) said, “Substandard seeds and seedlings are not genetically pure, and the pedigree cannot be traced. They are not from a known genetic source, and the agronomic and nutritional components will not be uniformed.”

While on the field, he added, the morphological characteristics differ within the population. Flowering days, plant height, physiological maturity, yield and responses to mineral uptake from the soil are often very poor. The effects, Olakojo said, include but not limited to poor germination and low plant population per unit area; loss incurred from use of labour, chemicals, farm maintenance and so on, which cannot be recovered due to low plant population occasions by substandard seed; poor yield; low return and alteration in nutritional quality such as protein, starch and other mineral components, especially if it is maize.

Effects of substandard chemical is similar, the scientist said. These chemicals become substandard when low active ingredients are found in them; when they have expired; when they are adulterated or when they are not properly stored by the guiding principles of storage. “For example, some should be in brown bottles to avoid sunlight, some must be stored on pallets, and some cannot be stored in metal containers where heat is generated,” Olakojo explained.

Poor efficacy in the control of weed, pests, diseases, and targeted production stresses; waste of resources by re-applying; crop failure when the golden rule is passed, that is, when control is of no good effect again; emergence of new genotypes and breed of pests and diseases that are chemical-resistant; total crop failure or crop loss in storage and threats to national food/nutrition security are some of the consequences, he explained.

The IAR&T breeder said, “As a matter of fact, the effects of substandard seeds and chemicals are not different from the effects of substandard drugs in human medicine and healthcare. It is also a criminal offence in Nigeria. The seed law, however, takes care of it among active players.” Mr Ayoola FATONA, Head of Agric and Micro Insurance/National Coordinator, Leadway Assurance, said use of poor quality inputs by farmers remains a big challenge to the food security efforts in the country. This, he pointed out, is of special concern to smallholder farmers as they neither have the buying power nor the testing instruments to verify the authenticity of the inputs.

“There is a direct link between quality inputs and the use intensity by farmers. Therefore, farmers’ perception of higher quality of farm inputs leads to a lower application rate if the production elasticity of the farm input is low. On the other hand, the true quality of farm inputs affects farmers’ use intensity only through perceived quality. Farmers, therefore, who believe that the quality of farm input is low usually compensate by increasing the total weight of the input use, which may have negative impact on the quality of the output of the agricultural produce,” he explains.

Dr Akin Oloniruha, a former provost of Ahmadu Bello University College of Agriculture, Kabba, Kogi State, said the potential yields of crop plants are in their genetic compositions, and the farmer only needs to provide an enabling environment for the seeds to actualise their genetic potentialities. “We can safely say that that the greatest factor influencing yield is the quality of seeds and seedlings. Where sub-standard planting materials are used, the farmer cannot get optimum yield,” he said.
Oloniruha said that farmers use sub-standard seeds due to various reasons, among which are high cost of good quality seeds; good seeds not being readily available; and ignorance and adulteration by unscrupulous seed marketers.

“We have to step up our advocacy and enlightenment for farmers to use good quality seeds, while the National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC) should not relent in weeding out marketers of sub-standard seeds who are in every corner of the country,” he advised.Fertiliser, he added, is a good soil enhancer to complement naturally nutrients in the soil. When properly used, it has the capacity to boost crop yield tremendously, but when improperly used, it has deleterious consequences on crops and soils.

David Ayodele, an agro-business consultant, said, “Quality of seeds are often taken for granted, but can make or break the harvest.One of farmers’ most critical management decisions is the selection of seed source and variety, he explained to The Guardian. “The cost of seed stocks usually is less than five to 10 per cent of the total production cost. Yet, seed stocks can affect the yield potential of a crop more than any other input factor. Faced with limited options, most smallholder farmers are often forced to rely on low-quality seeds, which produce low yields,” he lamented.

A professor of seed science/technology and Head of Department of Plant Breeding and Seed Technology, FUNAAB, Moruf Adebisi, explained to The Guardian that substandard seeds are called fake seeds, which are labelled as quality seeds in the market.The watchword in seed industry is quality, he added, and there are about 13 seed quality indicators that seeds should have. If there is a negation in any of the these, such seeds become substandard and when such seeds are sown, they give rise to weak seedlings and yields.

“As such, substandard seeds and seedlings should be discouraged in agriculture. Negative effects of such substandard inputs are erratic and poor germination; low vigour of crops to withstand field stresses; high disease and insect infestation; crop poor tolerance level to climatic factors; non-uniformity in field establishment and high weed fecundity, all affecting yield outputs.Based on the foregoing, he advised farmers to look for improved and quality seeds as planting materials despite the cost, for these seeds have good potential for good performance in terms of yield per unit area.Substandard agrochemicals, Prof. Adebisi said, would have ineffective potencies and would not give maximum results on application. Such a farm, he added, would not benefit from such application and eventual poor plant growth due to attack of diseases and pests, weed invasion, as well as nutrient deficiency would be the undesirable outcome.

“Therefore, to improve crop yield per hectare, farmers should source their farm inputs from accredited agro-input dealers in their respective communities,” he advised.The Executive Director of the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN), Ibadan, Oyo State, Dr Olayiwola Olubamiwa, listed effects of substandard pesticides, insecticides, fungicides (agro-chemicals) as ineffectiveness in the control of target pests and diseases; injury to plants; increased prevalence of pests and disease attacks; stunted growth to plants; death of plants; reduction in farm income and profit margins and low marketability of farm produce, among others.

Olubamiwa said effects of substandard seeds/seedlings would include low germination of seeds and/or plant survival rate; slow and stunted growth of plants; poor adaptation of new plants to environment/field; poor resistance to drought and other environmental stress; reduced productivity per hectare; reduction in the number and size of pods produced (in cocoa) and reduction in the farmers’ income.Managing Director of the Lower Niger River Basin Development Authority, Ilorin, Mr Adeniyi Aremu, said weed management is one of the factors affecting yield per hectare, and use of substandard herbicides for weed control would result in ineffective weed control, leading to increased weed/crop competition, harbour for disease and pest, weed resistance to subsequent herbicide application and adverse effects on the crop.On substandard seeds and seedlings, Aremu said germination percentage would be low, hence plant population density would be affected. “The lower the plant density, the lower the yield,” he said. “All this will sum up to reduction in food yield per hectare.”

In this article:
food securityLateef Sanni
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