Much as we value soil fertility and sufficient rainfall for successful crop production, a lot of attention ought to be paid to the kind of seeds that we plant. Poor quality seeds will most likely result in low yields even if they are planted in good soils and there is sufficient rainfall. For centuries, mankind has been selecting, propagating, and preserving seeds on the basis of their desired characteristics.
They would be selected for the good taste of their fruits, for their large size or for their resilience in conditions of rain scarcity, pests, and diseases.
Plant breeders devote a lot of time in research stations crossing various crop types and obtaining new crop varieties, which have economically desirable characteristics.
They often do not come free and they are usually stocked in farmers’ shops from where they may be obtained. However, planting material for many of our crops such as sweet potatoes and cassava is got by vegetative propagation. The cuttings (clones) from the vines or stems from such crops can be planted to form new individual plants that are identical to the mother plants.
A farmer may obtain good planting material of such crops from a fellow farmer after establishing that there is no risk of spreading crop diseases such as cassava mosaic. Other types of crops whose planting material may be obtained in a similar way include bananas and Irish potatoes.
One of the ways in which farmers increase their knowledge about crop production is observing what happens in other people’s gardens.
A farmer should occasionally visit other farmers to know how they achieved success and what they did to overcome particular difficulties. Normally during such visits one notices various desirable crop characteristics such as plant height, yield or vigour.
Their success may not necessarily have been due to fertiliser use, natural fertility of the soil, or sufficient rains but rather on the kind of seeds that were planted. Given the importance of good seed to successful farming, farmers should take time to check the quality of whatever seeds and planting material they use.