The Breeder’s Seed component of the BASICS project is concerned with the three classes of cassava seeds—breeder, foundation, and commercial. Initial work is underway to produce breeder’s seed each year in order to supply foundation seed producers in Benue State, Nigeria, and the country’s southwest and South-South/southeast focus areas. The component also aims to implement a system of breeder’s seed production that has not been practiced before in Nigeria.
Over the four-year project, multiplication of breeder’s seed will be advanced by a novel technology, Semi-Autotrophic Hydroponic (SAH) technology. Already in use commercially in South America by SAHTECNO, SAH technology is an innovative system to rapidly and cost-effectively increase the multiplication rate of clonally propagated crops. The National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) lead the component, together with other key project partners: the National Agricultural Seeds Council, Catholic Relief Services, Context Network, and the UK’s Food and Environment Research Agency.
A key activity under the Breeder’s Seed component is to link seed farms of isolated breeders’ fields closely with the processor group and village seed nursery groups. This arrangement helps to provide disease-free and genetically pure planting material sourced from tissue culture, and which is being multiplied rapidly with SAH technology. This material is then further multiplied in isolation fields to create a sustainable, cost-effective system for the timely supply of breeders’ seed to foundation seed producers.
The component also links breeders’ seed production to crop improvement programs and variety demonstration trials. In this way, demand should grow for existing and new varieties in order to improve rates of variety replacement. The viability of a commercial cassava improvement program is greatly enhanced by how responsive the program is to both market demand and variety development by the national and IITA-based breeding programs.
When BASICS was launched in 2016, eight varieties had been identified for breeder’s seed production, and six more have since been identified as candidates for first tests of SAH and researcher-managed variety demonstrations.
For early generation seed, the focus is on cost recovery, not full commercialization. The sustainability of commercializing cassava seed will depend on the regular and transparent mechanisms by which downstream consumers buy and sell breeder’s seed. The Breeder’s Seed component is developing a blueprint for the commercialization and cost recovery of early generation seed production, and developing business plans for organized supply of breeder’s seeds at both IITA and NRCRI. Moreover, BASICS is exploring private sector partnerships that could to lead to a sustainable foundation seed multiplication network in order to meet commercial seed producers’ needs for planting material.
The Breeder’s Seed component is working toward two primary outcomes:
- A system of breeder’s seed production is established to provide high-quality planting material for foundation seed producers who are integrated into a sustainable cassava seed system. This would help to supply quality and quantity cassava stems to fulfill market demand and so meet the demands by processors and consumers.
- A pipeline of new varieties provides a continuous influx of improving cassava variety options for farmers and processors.