ICARDA’s Seed Systems, International Nurseries, and Seed Health team aim at developing a functional pluralistic and inclusive seed system operating across ‘open borders’ for easy movement of varieties and seeds.

It is involved in diverse and broad range of activities that collectively addresses seed system constraints working in an integrated, holistic approach with emphasis on emerging challenges in seed sector development. 

Significant  2021  developments in our work on seeds were:

Two major studies on wheat seed systems, varietal adoption and impacts in Turkey were published in 2021 and another for Uzbekistan was completed. The Turkish studies cover the entire variety development, release, licensing, and protection; seed production, quality assurance, and marketing; and the policies, institutions, laws, and regulatory frameworks governing them. The studies also estimate the level and determinants of varietal adoption and the associated livelihood impacts. Each chapter provides detailed analyses of the different topics and identifies major challenges and opportunities within the limits of their individual thematic focus. The studies make several recommendations for improving Turkey’s wheat sector, including strengthening formal academic education in seed sciences, tailoring policies and interventions to meet specific regional needs, and aligning domestic biodiversity practices with international conventions. The authors presented their findings and recommendations at two international webinars in November 2021.

The Odisha Pulse Mission aims to enhance nutritional security by strengthening village and formal seed systems for farmers’ preferred and new varieties of pulses in Odisha. By the end of July 2021, it reached 13,832 farmers across 14 districts, helped 126 farmer groups to manage seed hubs in project villages, and demonstrated technologies for the intensification of pulses, especially in rice fallows. A total of 4,200 hectares of rice fallows have been brought under pulse cultivation, leading to an estimated 33,000 quintals of additional production with an average incremental income of Rs13,626 per farmer. The project was funded by the Government of Odisha and supported by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and was successfully led by Dr. Nigamananda Swain and the ICARDA Odisha project team in coordination with Dr. Zewdie Bishaw and other stakeholders.

Through its FAO funded project, ‘Services to Support the Seed Multiplication Sector in Syria for the Season 2020/21,’ ICARDA supported smallholder farmers by providing seeds of improved wheat, barley, chickpea, and lentil varieties; establishing seed producers’ groups for sustainable local seed business; and strengthening the capacity of partners and farmers. In 2021, a total of 9.7 tons of wheat, barley, chickpea, and lentil seed was provided to 53 smallholder farmers (12 percent female) in three seed producers’ groups, together with agricultural inputs and operational costs for weed control, irrigation, harvesting, and processing. A total of 184 tons of wheat, barley, chickpea, and lentil was produced, representing a net profit of US$301.60, or 119.5 percent.

In addition to technical backstopping, a train-the-trainer course on community-based seed production and marketing was organized. The course included field days, a cross-learning tour, and formal training covering quality and healthy seed production, crop inspection, certification, and seed processing operations. A total of 250 participants attended, including development partners and high-level delegates from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and ICARDA.

Wheat is one of the key crop commodities of the African Development Bank’s Feed Africa Flagship, part of its Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) initiative. Implemented by ICARDA, the TAAT Wheat Compact (TWC) continued to provide technical support in scaling heat-tolerant wheat varieties in target African countries. TWC focused on creating awareness and a sense of urgency for wheat transformation through policy advocacy and the development of road maps for deploying agricultural innovations in target countries. Multi-stakeholder platforms, consisting of high-level inter-ministerial steering committees and technical committees, have been established to lead national wheat self-sufficiency agendas in target countries. As a result, wheat area expansion and increased wheat production have been observed in almost all project target countries. Ethiopia and Sudan are driving wheat self-sufficiency and other countries are making wheat a priority crop through national decrees. TWC success stories were featured in the 2021 high-level virtual dialogue, Feeding Africa: Leadership to Scale Up Successful Innovations. Also in 2021, a short documentary on TAAT beat over 3,700 nominations from 65 countries to win the “Best Video – Documentary” award at the 2021 Stevie International Business Awards.

In 2021, ICARDA’s International Nurseries team carried out seed production and distribution of about 575 sets, containing 11 trials of 7 mandate crops, and 1,619 elite lines to 103 cooperatives in 44 countries. Total cost recovery was through CGIAR Research Programs, projects, and country contributions.

ICARDA IN continues to benefit from its partnership with NARS through the release of improved cereal and legume varieties. These are preferred by farmers, because of their adaptation and agronomic traits, and by industry and consumers, because of their grain quality traits. In 2021, a total of 24 improved cereal and legume varieties were released in eight countries. These varieties included five spring bread, one durum and seven winter wheat, one barley, one faba bean, six chickpea, and three lentil varieties. It is anticipated that these varieties will contribute to food and nutritional security for smallholder farmers and support effective and efficient scaling.

During 2021, ICARDA seed health labs in Terbol, Lebanon, and Rabat, Morocco, analyzed 110,390 accessions for seed-borne pathogens and pests, including viruses, bacteria, fungi, nematodes, weeds, and storage insects. These accessions were tested in 48,404 samples and the results were collected from 567,975 diagnostic reactions. Also in 2021, seven standard operating procedures related to seed health testing at ICARDA were developed, covering legumes, wheat, and barley, as well as seed cleaning and disinfection, field and quarantine inspection, information management and certification, and capacity building.

Dr. Safaa Kumari, Head of ICARDA’s Seed Health Laboratory, actively promoted seed health in 2021. In November, she presented two lectures as part of a wheat management course for scientists in the Syrian General Organization of Seed Multiplication. She also presented a virtual lecture, “Safe movement of food and forage crops germplasm at ICARDA,” to more than 60 participants at an event organized by the Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority (ADAFSA). Another virtual lecture, on the importance of germplasm health in preventing the spread of pathogens and transboundary diseases, was given to around 120 experts and specialists, representing 19 countries, at an event led by the Khalifa International Date Palm Award and Agricultural Innovation.


ICARDA genebank in Morocco