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Quality soil and seed are two of the most important farming inputs. High yields and good produce can be achieved only when soil and seeds are used wisely. For this it is necessary to test soil and seed to find out what needs to be added to optimize them. Keeping this in mind, the government has set up a large number of testing labs for various types of soil and seed. Here are a few details on soil fertility maps, testing labs and seed distribution centres.

Seed Testing

In India, farmers themselves produce a large majority of the seeds sown. The Indian seed industry consists of a national level organization called the National Seeds Corporation (External website that opens in a new window) (NSC) and seed corporations (External website that opens in a new window) in every State. The National Seeds Corporation, which is under the control of the Ministry of Agriculture, undertakes production, processing and marketing of agricultural seeds. These seeds include a variety of cereals, pulses, oilseed, fodder, fibre and vegetable crops.

National Seeds Corporation or NSC has been involved in the formulation of seed certification standards. The seeds produced by NSC are evaluated for quality standards by independent seed certification agencies as well as its own International Seed Testing Association (External website that opens in a new window) accredited seed-testing laboratory. National Seeds Corporation has helped state seeds corporations and agricultural universities set up seed testing laboratories in different parts of the country.

Seed testing laboratories (External website that opens in a new window) are involved in checking the compatibility of different varieties of seeds with local soil and other farming conditions. There is a wide range of tests that can be carried out on seeds. Most seeds are usually tested for germination and vigour, diseases, purity, genetic traits and general seed health for quality assurance. Seeds for export need to be tested to check if they meet fixed quality standards. Seeds that are imported are tested for their suitability to Indian climatic conditions and tolerance to local diseases and pests. Many seed testing laboratories in India are also involved in developing hybrid varieties of seeds, which lead to an increase in crop productivity.

In 2005, the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation (External website that opens in a new window) of the Ministry of Agriculture (External website that opens in a new window) founded the National Seed Research and Training Centre (External website that opens in a new window) (NSRTC) in Varanasi. The main reason for the creation of this body was to have a separate seed quality control laboratory, which would serve as the Central Seed Testing Laboratory (External website that opens in a new window).  This laboratory is meant to act as a referral lab when disputes arise in a court of law with regard to quality of seed.

Production and Distribution of Seeds

The National Seeds Policy of 2002 (External website that opens in a new window), stresses the importance of providing farmers enough superior quality seed on time to meet the country’s food security needs. State Agriculture Universities (External website that opens in a new window) and Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) Institutes (External website that opens in a new window) have the primary responsibility for production of breeder seed as per the requirements of the respective States. Each State is entrusted with the task of undertaking advance planning and preparing a perspective plan for seed production and distribution.

State seed farms have been set up in all States to multiply high yielding varieties of seed and distribute them to farmers. These seed farms also provide training to farmers through field demonstrations. Here farmers learn about modern sowing procedures and other techniques to ensure optimum crop productivity. The seed policy also promotes 'Seed Village Scheme' to facilitate production and timely availability of seeds of desired crops/varieties at the local level. States have also set up seed banks in non-traditional areas to meet the demand for seeds during natural calamities, shortfall in seed production and other emergency situations.

Under the National Seeds Policy, public sector seed producing agencies have free access to breeder seeds. Private seed manufacturers can only access breeder seeds subject to certain terms and conditions of the Government of India. Some public sector seed companies that are involved in the production and distribution of seeds are the National Seed Corporation (External website that opens in a new window), State Farms Corporation of India (External website that opens in a new window) and the State Seed Corporations (External website that opens in a new window).  State seed corporations also provide information on various hybrid high yield variety (HYV) seeds in the country.

Selection of the right variety of seed is extremely important when it comes to the cultivation of a crop. Different seeds behave differently according to the soil, climate, irrigation and other inputs of an area. A variety of seed that produces a quality crop and fetches a premium price in one region may be totally rejected in another region. This rejection may sometimes occur over districts and even through villages. Since, every farmer aims to get the maximum return for his produce, prudent selection of the seed variety is vital.

For example, SG-84 is a variety of groundnut seed that grows very well in the loamy soils of Punjab. However, if planted in a dry State like Odisha, the seed will just not grow. This does not mean that groundnut cannot be grown in Odisha. All that farmers in Odisha have to do is use a different type of seed. The 'Jawan' is a variety of groundnut seed that thrives in the climate and soils of Odisha and fetches a big price for farmers in the region. Similarly, there are varieties of seeds for other crops that are tailored to grow in specific regions. For details on the type of seed suitable to the region you live in, one may dial the Kisan Call Centre (External website that opens in a new window) at 1551.

Source: National Portal Content Management Team, Reviewed on: 28-03-2011