Seed Collection Practices in South-Asian or Developed Countries

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This chapter compiles a literature review on international experiences on seed, seedling, and propagules management including collection, production, supply, and distribution practices in other countries.

Seed collection systems

The tree germplasm supply systems consist of three major actors, namely the producers, distributors, and users. Tree seed production systems are characterized by the use of low-quality tree germplasm despite many recommendations to produce and grade tree seed to reflect its genetic worthiness to improve the productivity of woodlots, plantations, and agroforests. Tree germplasm is obtained from a variety of sources which include seed stands, plantations, and seed orchards. In many African and Asian countries, instead of collecting germplasm (seed) from seed zones based on geographic and climatic factors (elevation, latitude, and rainfall), the collection takes place from the most accessible trees without considering the quality of the trees. The result is reduced productivity of woodlots established using such germplasm.

The sources of tree germplasm are in most cases a) farmlands, b) plantations, and c) natural forests. In the Philippines 66 % of the tree seed are collected from remnant trees on farms, 13% each from plantations and natural forests (Koffa and Roshetko (1999)). In Indonesia, 44% of seed is collected exclusively from plantations, 36% from farmland, and 20% from both plantations and farmland (Roshetko and Mulawartnan 2008). In Kenya, farmland is the most common source of tree germplasm, followed by plantations, natural forests, and seed orchards (Mbora and Lilleso 2007; Lillesu et al. 2011).

Besides their seed collections, farmers also access germplasm through exchanges with neighbors and buying or receiving it free of charge from NGOs, governments, and private companies. In general, in most of the countries in Asia and Africa, a system that better estimates the tree germplasm demand and supply for making informed decisions does not exist.

When collecting tree seed from natural forests for planting, a rule of thumb is to collect seed from at least 25 mother trees. Furthermore, to reduce the chance of collecting seeds predominated by half-siblings, a 100m distance between seed trees is recommended (Dawson and Were 1997). For the same reason, there are also guidelines for collecting seed from farmland, plantations, and seed orchards (Mulawarman et al. 2003; Mbora and Lillesa 2007).

These recommendations are however not followed. In a study covering 71 nurseries in East Africa, Lengkeek et al. (2004) found that for each tree species, seeds used in the nurseries were collected from a mean of only six mother trees. In 22% of the cases, the seed used in the nurseries was from a single mother. trees. Namoto and Likoswe (2007) surveyed 43 nurseries in Malawi. They found that most nursery operators collected seed from between one and 26 mother trees, with a mean of just over four mother trees per nursery.

Koffa and Roshetko (1999) found that 60% of farmer seed specialists in Lantapan in the Philippines collected seed from only 1 to 5 trees. These same farmers were also observed to collect germplasm without consideration of the phenotypic appearance of the trees (Cacanindin 2010). To overcome these challenges, Mulawarman et al. (2003), and Lengkeek et al. (2004) suggested establishing local nursery or seed collector networks, through which germplasm could be mixed and exchanged as a way of increasing the genetic diversity within species.

For example, Nepal developed a tree planting zones system where planting sites with similar environmental conditions are grouped into zones (in some cases the same tree planting zone might appear physically separate) for which specific seed sources can be developed and thereby increase farmers planting success. The ‘tree planting zones’ can be recognized in the field by farmers and will be utilized where there is the greatest potential for seed demand. The system of ‘Tree Planting Zones’ will be part of a tree seed distribution system that will contribute to the improvement of the living conditions for the poor farmers (smallholders) in Nepal.

The farmer’s demand for fodder and fruit tree species in Nepal are of many species in small quantities, and the demand is, therefore, best fulfilled through a decentralized distribution carried out by farmer associations, seed cooperatives, and private suppliers. In the short term the demand will have to be fulfilled by collection from trees occurring on the’ fanneilSkIIN fields, while in the longer term the genetic potential of the species can be released through establishment – of simple and intermediate breeding seed orchards (Dhakal, L.P. et al. 2005).

Seedling production systems Typology of Nurseries:

Typology of Nurseries

Tree nurseries are an integral part of a germplasm supply system for tree species that are established from seedlings. There are four main nursery’s types that are commonly found in most countries: (i) state managed or central nurseries, (ii) private nurseries, (iii) community or farmer group nurseries and (iv) individual farmer nurseries.

There is no consensus over which nursery type is ideal. The advantages of group nurseries include an environment for learning in groups, exchanging ideas and disseminating information among the farmers, improved access to extension services, and improved and less expensive service provision (Garcia 2002; TLC 2006). Group nurseries have, however, additional transaction costs on group organization at the expense of productivity (Bohringer et al. 2003). Lack of coordination and poor nursery management are the main disadvantages of farmer-group nurseries.

Challenges in seedling production and Policy support:

Adequacy of government policies is a critical factor in germplasm supply systems. Place and Kindt (1997) observed weaknesses in policies on tree germplasm supply in sub-Saharan countries which include fragmentation of institutional mandates and functions, lack of coordination of planning, lack of information on germplasm demand for different species, and the poor and unstable funding environment of institutions involved in germplasm supply and utilization. For example, in southeast and east Asia, Harrison et al. (2008a) found that government policies tended to favour quantity over quality of the seedlings produced.

Farmer nurseries were set up to provide seedlings to support government afforestation programs in some Asian countries but many ceased operating with the termination of government tree planting activities because they lacked resources and were dependent on government contracts. The challenge of most nurseries closing after the end of projects has also been observed in Southern Africa (TLC 2006; Matenda et al. 2010). Most nursery operators face similar challenges in both Asia and Africa which include lack of market, low seed quality and inadequate funds. Harrison et al. (2008a) cited a number of initiatives and policies that governments can use to improve seedling production and financial viability of small-scale nursery operators in Southeast Asia.

They include improving access to resources such as up to-date information, new and affordable technologies, availability and access to high. quality germplasm, and skills in.nursery management as well as financial management. They further pointed out that where smallholder farmers with low income form the bulk of the market, seedling producers should achieve low seedling prices by using appropriate low-cost production systems and tapping in on particular high-value tree species such as fruit trees.

Viability of nursery size:

Although nursery sizes vary across countries and ownership, Herbohn et al. (2011) indicated that a nursery producing 6,000 seedlings or more per annum could allow the operator to break even. An optimal nursery size that could provide livelihood benefits is one producing about 25,000 seedlings per annum. Very small nurseries would incur high seedling production costs and would probably not justify the expenditure required for durable infrastructure and certified seedling production (Herbohn et al. 2011). Besides these studies in Asia, there appears to be limited information on nursery viability sizes in the other countries in Africa and Latin America.

In China, after the decentralization of nursery management from the late 1970s, the state, collective and individual nurseries have operated differently with fluctuating production. Technology, infrastructure, and market competition are the key factors that influence production capacity. The state nurseries produce the greatest amount of tree seedlings with limited nursery size, followed by the collective nurseries, while the individual nurseries being constrained by technology and infrastructure that reduces their competitiveness in production. It is commonly found that state and collective nurseries are operated and managed by well-trained staff, most of whom have more than 10 years’ experience; moreover, these nurseries are equipped with greenhouse facilities with overhead irrigation systems, seedling pricking and hardening facilities, as well as connections with irrigation and shelter for germinated seedlings (He, et al. 2011).

Seed and seedling supply systems

One of the challenges faced by national seed centres that were established in many African countries was their inability to reach many farmers as a result of their central location (Aalbxk 1997; Koskela et al. 2010). It is estimated that these seed centres deliver less than 10 % of the farmers’ tree seed demands (Graudal and Lilleso 2007). In most countries, smallholder farmers are widely dispersed, making the distribution process expensive. Besides government agencies, NGOs play a major part in germplasm distribution in many countries.

Although their penetration is better than governments, they are not sustainable as their presence is often erratic. Cambodia’s tree seed supply and distribution system draws on the strengths of village seed supply systems, and private and central government partnerships. The communities manage seed sources and collect and sell seeds; the private sector links the seed communities to users through the market; and the government’s Forestry Administration provides the relevant legal framework and certification role (CTSP 2003; CTSP 2004), China has both the private sector and state germplasm supply systems (Ile ct al. 2012).

Although smaller than the government supply, individuals and farmer groups sell their germplasm directly to farmers without going through middlemen. Numerics are certified for quality by the forestry department like, in Indonesia, demand for tree germplasm in China is driven by the government’s large afforestation and reforestation programs. State numerics do not appear to crowd out the private players because they focus on tree species that are used in government afforestation and reforestation programs.

In contrast, private numerics focus on high-value tree species, including fruit, nuts, edible oils, fodder, and rubber (He et al. 2012). The overall development of the seedling supply system in China has undergone a transformation from a centralized system to more decentralized management, along with social and political changes. Before 1978, the nurseries were owned either by the state or by collectives (communes) that relied heavily on government subsidies, the government being the only customers buying seedlings. This central planning and command system for nursery management had restricted the alternative seedling sources and improvement of the seedling production system. The centralized production and distribution system resulted in low-quality germplasm and a limited range of species. In the commune system and collectivization of land use and production, the farmers had little incentive and interest in afforestation besides complying with the state authorities (He et al. 2011).

In the late 1970s, the Chinese government opened its markets and reformed the political-administrative system to solve food shortages and promote economic development. The decentralization reform has enabled the engagement of various forms of nurseries and created a hybrid system of state nursery operations, owned by the state but operated by individual contractors.

This system has provided much-needed support for smallholder access to high-quality planting materials and improved the effectiveness of nursery management. However, the monopoly of state nurseries as the major seedling supply system using its inherent technical, market, policy, and institutional advantages has limited the development of small-scale nurseries. This reform has improved the tree nursery operations and the development of the various types of nurseries. By introducing market mechanisms and devolving management control, the reform has overcome the problems of the centralized tree seedling production system, such as overreliance on state subsidies, low seedling quality, and low nursery profitability. With the diversification of the nursery types, the state nurseries continue to play a central role in providing high-quality planting materials for the development of small-scale forestry.

This is because state-sponsored afforestation is still one of the major forestry activities and is the biggest investment for tree planting in mountainous regions. Thus, to improve cost-effectiveness, the Chinese government has created a hybrid system for state nursery operations that has decentralized its operations but remains centralized in meeting its production goals. The market mechanism in the state nursery operation has shifted the government’s role from producer and buyer to a single role as a buyer. As a result, the government now exhibits more concern about quality and price rather than quantity and concentrates its attention on monitoring of quality and development of new species (He et al. 2011)

In contrast to the positive aspects of this hybrid system where nursery operations are decentralized but production goals are centralized, this system imposes technological and institutional constraints on the development of other forms of nurseries. In particular, the certification scheme restricts small-scale nursery operators from becoming engaged in formal seedling production and marketing; small-scale operators have to tie up with the state nurseries. Moreover, the hybrid system provides greater opportunity for state nurseries to monopolize the bidding of seedling production for state afforestation, which limits the participation of other nurseries. This institutional arrangement has restricted the effectiveness of tree seedling production. At an operational level, there is a clear need for supporting further meaningful decentralization in nursery development that will help to reflect the diverse needs of farmers in terms of species and technology (He et al. 2011).

Source: REDD+ Pakistan

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