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Dialogues on challenges facing the varietal turnover in Seed Accelerator Meet

Varanasi, India - April 22, 2024 Key stakeholders of the national seed systems formalized a National Seed Accelerator Network to foster collaboration between seed scaling institutions and breeding networks to expedite early generation seed linkage, multiplication, and supply of quality-assured seeds.

IRRI South Asia Regional Centre(ISARC) recently hosted a strategic engagement, Seed Accelerator Meet 1.0 which served as a platform for the key stakeholders to convene and have dialogues on persistent challenges facing the seed systems in South Asia.

Across the region, agricultural innovation faces a formidable challenge: the stagnation of varietal turnover in rice cultivation. Despite the continuous efforts of numerous breeding institutions, only a select few varieties dominate the seed chain, hindering the adoption of newer, potentially superior varieties. This stagnation limits the impact of breeding programs and undermines farmers' access to improved seeds and technologies.

In response to these challenges, IRRI and its partners devised a comprehensive demand-based Market segment and product-driven “One Rice Breeding strategy” to accelerate varietal turnover and enhance seed access among smallholder farmers. Central to this strategy is the meticulous evaluation of new products across different market segments and breeding pipelines through rigorous on-farm testing. By employing the TRICOT(Triadic Comparison of Technologies) layout, replicated trials provide invaluable insights into product performance, genetic gains, and relative advantages over existing varieties or benchmarks.

Facilitated by the Robust Seed System unit of ISARC, this meeting included discussions on collaboration with stakeholders like ICAR-SAU-KVK networks and NGOs to identify high-performing varieties and promote their adoption through seed production and large-scale demonstrations, empowering farmers and fostering sustainable development. Discussions also delved into the potential of community-led seed enterprises. The overarching goal was to inform the redesign of existing programs and policies better to serve the needs of farmers and seed stakeholders, ultimately enhancing seed systems across the country.

The event also saw the launch of a Seed Product Diary which includes information and data on genetic gains, benchmarks, and advantages over local varieties and will enable seed businesses to make well-informed decisions regarding the integration of new products into their supply chains.

Seed Accelerator Meet 1.0 signifies a significant step in South Asian agricultural innovation, fostering collaboration and knowledge-sharing to drive varietal turnover and sustainable agricultural development in the region. Events like these serve as catalysts for innovation, paving the way for a more resilient and sustainable agricultural future in the region.

*The event was supported through the CGIAR SeedEqual Initiative. The research results and findings also included critical outcomes and insights through several other key projects like BMGF- Accelerated Genetic Gain in Rice and USAID-Bayer-ScaleDirect supporting large-scale on-farm testings of products (rice inbreds) across diverse market segments suitable for transplanted (particularly in rainfed unfavorable ecosystems) and most recently introduced key direct seeded systems.*