February 6, 2018
Those involved in crop production agriculture will quickly recognize the benefits of always starting a production cycle with quality seed. The facts are no different in Nicaragua. We battle against climate, disease and viruses. For any crop to have a healthy start, it needs every advantage it can get.
At La Semilla (translates to “The Seed”) one area of primary focus is improving the quality of seed that producers in our province of Nicaragua are planting.
First off, we investigate and source varieties with the appropriate qualities needed for predictable yield results in Carazo. Varieties are then evaluated in local growing conditions in a couple of distinct micro-climates to assess their qualities. Varieties then need to pass the criteria for marketing – size and color of the grain is very important in both local and international markets.
Second, we contract the propagation of selected varieties with certain growers trained to ensure quality and genetic purity.
Third, after harvest, the grain needs to be managed to maintain germination percentage and vigor. In a tropical climate, that means maintaining low temperature and low humidity. Although possible at the farm level, it’s difficult to ensure the conditions needed to assure quality. Because of the volume of seed we use, and because we want to promote varietal purity, we keep our seed sources under our own storage management. In past growing cycles, this meant contacting cold storage facilities that met our storage standard for temperature and humidity. Difficult to find for our needs.
In 2017, we constructed a cold storage room within one of our warehouses. We now have an insulated, sealed room where the air conditioner maintains a cool 17C and the dehumidifier keeps the humidity at a steady 55%. With these conditions, we can keep germination rates high, and keep insect pests contolled as well.
Again, quality seed is foundational to establishing a profitable crop. A good part of our time and financial resources are invested in teaching the advantages of quality seed. It’s common here in Nicaragua to not source and plant quality seed. Factors influencing this decision are lack of funds, lack of access to credit, and a tradition of planting a grain from a previous harvest. To achieve higher and more predictable yields, growers need to invest in their crops. Our agronomists host many workshops in the more than 40 communities where we work to help change these traditions relating to planting. Slowly we are seeing results as growers switch seed sources and realize bigger harvests. Beginning in 2018, we will step up the standard one more notch to produce and market certified seed. The Nicaraguan agriculture agencies of IPSA and INTA will ensure our compliance with internationally recognized seed standards. Nicaraguan farmers will be the benefactors!