Key research and development information was taken directly to hundreds of potato growers and other industry members across Australia in 2013, in a successful year of R&D-related activities arranged by AUSVEG as part of the Potato Industry Extension Program.
“In what is a challenging time for the Australian potato industry, the high level of support that the Potato Industry Extension Program has received throughout the year demonstrates growers’ eagerness to learn about new R&D findings that could help to boost their productivity and competitiveness,” says Luke Raggatt, AUSVEG special projects coordinator.
AUSVEG is Australia’s leading horticultural body representing more than 2,000 potato growers. “Support for this important initiative has continued to climb this year, with the R&D workshops and field days held across the country proving a particular hit,” says Ra,ggatt.
In 2013, AUSVEG hosted nine potato R&D workshops and field days across Australia as part of the program’s activities, and produced a raft of material including fact sheets, e-newsletters and articles for Potatoes Australia magazine. Key potato R&D information was also showcased at several industry events, including the AUSVEG National Convention and the Simplot Potato Futures workshops held in Tasmania.
“More than 500 industry members have now taken part in the various potato R&D events that have been held since the program commenced in January 2012, indicating a strong appetite for new R&D information that will produce practical benefits,” continues Raggatt.
Leading potato experts from around Australia and abroad have engaged in this year’s activities, discussing key production issues such as crop nutrition and fertilizer application, pest and disease management strategies, alternative farming practices, and emerging technologies.
Regular feedback from Australian potato growers and agronomists, obtained by AUSVEG, suggests that knowledge and uptake of beneficial R&D findings is rising as a result of the program, which is seen as a vital source of new information within the industry.
“More and more growers are getting onboard with the program’s activities to enhance their understanding of new farming approaches. This is extremely positive, as it will help keep the Australian potato industry at the forefront of 21st century potato production,” says Raggatt. “With a new potato growing season underway, AUSVEG will continue to extend the reach of potato R&D information, to ensure that potato producers are in a strong position to tackle some of the key challenges they face.”
Pakistan’s modern-day seed industry is much to the credit of the World Bank-aided project, which took place from 1976 to 1981. This project established seed institutional arrangements at the national and provincial levels.
The country’s current seed production system is backed up by a strong public research and crop improvement program. Due to lack of incentives, the private sector has not yet shown the desired interests in crop breeding or the release of new varieties. However, some efforts are visible in the national private sector to invest in hybrid seed production of corn and sorghum crops.
Pakistan has a strong seed production base as well as diverse and ideal agro-climatic zones for producing high-quality seeds of several tropical, temperate and sub-tropical crops at competitive prices. Yet, 20 percent of the estimated seed requirement of various crops is met by four public, more than 700 national and five multi-national seed companies. Seed requirements of hybrid corn, vegetables and fodders—both hybrids and open-pollinated—are met by the imported seeds.
Over the past three decades, these multi-national seed companies have built up a core of competent and experienced staff, yet these companies have not invested in local research and breeding programs.
In spite of their more than 30 years of presence in the country, these companies continue to import hybrid seeds from different countries around the world. This deficiency is costing the county millions of dollars on import seed of various crops.
National private sector seed companies mostly concentrate on production of open-pollinated varieties. The bulk of hybrid seed for crops like corn, sunflower, canola, forage, sorghum and vegetables is imported from a number of Asian, European, North African, North American and Australian seed companies. However, as previously stated, the private sector has recently demonstrated local production of hybrid seed of cotton, corn and sorghum but to commercialize hybrid seed production, support and encouragement from the Pakistan government will be necessary.
—Syed Irfan Ahmad, Pakistan Seed News
As 2014 begins, the Seed Association of the Americas has several main goals that will form the basis of its work over the next number of months.
The SAA held its fourth annual Seed Congress last fall in Punta del Este, Uruguay, attended by more than 280 key industry stakeholders from 15 countries in North and South America, during which it decided on its course for the coming year and the challenges ahead—the main ones including issues surrounding biotechnology (specifically low-level presence), phytosanitary issues, seed treatments and protection of intellectual property.
“SAA has a huge commitment to dealing with LLP, and we have been recognized by governments in North and South America as the perfect partner representing the industry when addressing LLP issues both at the technical and regulatory level,” says Diego Risso, secretary-general of the SAA. Associations like ASTA and CSTA have been active in discussion regarding LLP. These discussions have contributed to coordinating and aligning positions with the International Seed Federation.
Phytosanitary issues have been a major trade barrier in some countries, and the SAA supports regulations based on sound science. “We think phytosanitary regulations should exist because they are crucial for safe trade, but we demand that regulations should be based on science,” says Risso. “Just as each country is studying the best regulations regarding seed treatment, SAA has also identified this issue as a priority. SAA created a specific working group to deal with these particular challenges. An action plan was drafted in 2013 and, in 2014, we [are starting] to execute it.”
In the past, SAA has worked closely with government regulators. It intends to do the same for the issue of seed treatment and protection of intellectual property.
—Seed Association of the Americas