Enhancing Seed Production of Regionally Adapted Crops in the Southeastern Farmer Seed System

Project Overview

LS19-315
Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2019: $310,537.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2022
Grant Recipient: University of Florida
Region: Southern
State: Florida
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Hector Perez
University of Florida

Commodities

  • Agronomic: peas (field, cowpeas)
  • Vegetables: beans, cabbages, cucurbits
  • Additional Plants: native plants, milkweed

Practices

  • Crop Production: seed saving
  • Education and Training: decision support system, extension, focus group, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: business planning, risk management

    Proposal abstract:

    Seeds represent the fundamental basis of agricultural productivity and secure food systems. Farmers depend on an array of seed producers to provide the planting materials necessary for meeting the food, fuel, fiber, natural resource conservation and plant-based aesthetics demands of the United States. However, seed production in the U.S. occurs predominantly outside of the Southeastern region. Seed availability is often limited to protected varieties displaying broad adaptability and national or global acceptance. These varieties often require substantial inputs to maintain long-term productivity. Alternatively, a sustainable agricultural system seeks to provide affordable, high-quality, regionally appropriate seeds from diverse crops.

    The Southeastern region lacks significant seed production, seed research, and varietal improvement when compared to other regions of the country. Yet significant demand exists in the Southeastern region for increased seed production of regionally adapted varieties and research leading to improved seed production practices. Here, we propose a systems-based research project informed and participated in by Southeastern farmers.

    The project addresses principal barriers to entry into seed production markets: 1. Producing and maintaining high quality seeds in hot, humid environments and 2. Decision-making factors that determine whether farmers are likely to adopt novel yet established practices and technologies. Our robust outreach component consisting of farmer managed on-farm trials and field days, educational sessions via the Southern Seed School in a Day platform, networking at farmer-based conferences, and accessible online learning tools will share results and practices throughout the Southeastern region.

    We expect our project will enhance Southeastern farmer seed systems by: Enabling small and medium sized farmers to control and improve seed production and storage, identify potential barriers that limit adoption of new seed production technology and practices, improving potential profitability through seed production, educating limited resource farmers throughout the region on new seed production methods, and contributing to ongoing efforts to establish a Southeastern seed network.

    Our project can increase sustainability in several ways. First, farmers with knowledge of new seed production practices can apply this to many emerging crop varieties thereby promoting crop diversification. In fact, the most fundamental ability to produce high quality seeds in the Southeast opens itself to a broad range of possibilities for plant breeding, varietal trials, expanded production, and exploration of unique markets and potentially profitable crop, forage, and edible culinary seeds. Second, we promote farmer success by exposing them to prove technologies that maintain high seed quality throughout the seed production chain. Third, by incorporating farmer managed on-farm trials we provide site specific information related to stand establishment and seedling vigor of previously treated seeds. This type of trial structure considers real world variability in production systems, which is of paramount importance given the hot, humid conditions and excessively drained, nutrient-poor, sandy soils of the Southeastern coastal plain. Fourth, farmers can expand use of regionally adapted varieties and, in turn, reduce the need for intensive inputs. Finally, farmers can apply new methods that reduce post-harvest seed losses to a variety of crops in their systems.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Our main objective is to examine the feasibility of applying scalable, cost-conscious seed production technologies that maintain high seed quality.

    • Assess relationships between fruit/seed phenology and physiological aspects of seed development to identify harvest timing thresholds for maintenance of seed quality.
    • Compare dessicant-based drying technologies that maintain quality of crop seeds produced in warm, humid environments.
    • Develop a socio-ecological model of farmer decision-making that accounts for the roles of economic factors, farmer expertise, known and unknown risks, and potential benefits.
    • Perform quantitative economic and risk analyses that examine the economic feasibility of new production methods for selected crop seeds.
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.