by Roj Limbag & Al Nor Limbo
When the primary source of livelihood is farming, a farmer's greatest challenge is to increase farm productivity, as this determines the overall welfare from the limited landholding.
Productivity depends on the quality of soil, seed, and farming methods. Despite recent scientific advancements, a smallholder farmer lacks the capital needed or does not have access to such technologies. Moreover, despite the government's efforts to improve lives through agricultural programs, most smallholder farmers are limited to available choices and practices. As the world's major food producers, they need all the help they can get from the government and the private sector.
While soil condition and farming methods depend highly on farmer skill and experiences, having quality seeds relies on availability. According to IRRI, farmers use a high seed rate because of poor seed quality to compensate for losses from pests like birds, rats, and snails and to increase crop competition from weeds. This practice results in a high plant count and a dense crop stand. When plants stand too close together, the stems are often weak, resulting in lodging and yield loss during heading.
A feasible solution is to use certified seeds because of their quality - high in genetic purity, high in germination and vigor, and good quality (i.e., free from disease and damaged or immature seed). However, most farmers in rural areas do not have access to these varieties and are forced to use seeds from uncertified sources or a method called seed saving. While not ideal, a significant number of smallholder farmers embrace this kind of seed production.
Seed saving is the traditional way of using seeds from the plant for the subsequent cropping. A farmer usually stores a part of his harvest using plastic trunks or tanks placed inside the house or granary to protect it from pests, mold growth, and the adverse effects of moisture. Unfortunately, plastic trunks and tanks cannot provide ample protection because they are permeable to oxygen and moisture. Seeds are living organisms that even under optimal storage conditions, gradually deteriorate and eventually die due to exposure to the accumulation of oxygen (L.Colville, 2017). Therefore, the choice of container is essential because when not adequately sealed, seeds will absorb moisture resulting in damage and mold growth.
A farmer must use airtight containers to preserve the saved seeds for months. Some use airtight jars, but they are relatively heavy and vulnerable to breakage. Others may have tried using silica gel or desiccants, but these can only absorb moisture up to a specific level and may leak when they reach their maximum capacity.
A low-cost alternative solution is to use airtight or hermetic plastic liners such as the GrainPro Hermetic Bags. According to farmers who benefited from using these bags, they experienced a germination rate as high as 90%. Some farmers even store rice seeds for a year compared to regular sacks that develop molds as early as six months. (Full report here.)
Click photos to enlarge.
In another study conducted by Philrice, results show a germination rate of 86% when stored in hermetic bags compared to regular storage at only 74%, even when stored for nine months. In addition, seed vigor was at 66.22% using hermetic bags against 36.43% using traditional bags. Insects detected after the 9-month storage period recorded 8.42/kg on hermetic bags, while 147.84/kg on traditional bags. (Full report here.)
These airtight bags reduce both oxygen and water flow between the stored grain or seed and the outside atmosphere when properly sealed. In summary, a farmer may benefit from using these bags because they can:
- Extend the germination life of seeds for planting from 6 to 12 months,
- Preserve seed vigor,
- Control insect grain pests (without using chemicals),
- And minimize weight loss (no result data to back up)
Using certified quality seeds is the best option. However, when the alternative is to revert to seed saving, farmers can benefit from using the GrainPro Hermetic Bags. It can maintain seed quality in germination and vigor to improve yields and prevent losses which means more seeds to be used for the farmer. Furthermore, farmers may reuse the bags without additional investments in the next cropping season when not punctured or damaged.
Date Published: March 19, 2023