If there’s one thing wheat farmers agree on, it is the importance of sowing high-quality seeds. More than 50 farmers in Tajikistan last week attended an FAO field day where new wheat varieties were introduced – part of a project to improve access to high-quality seeds by producing them right in Tajikistan.

The FAO project – funded by the Government of Austria – is being undertaken in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture of Tajikistan and the Seed Association of Tajikistan. It provides technical support to strengthen the capacity of seed farms and small-scale farmers to produce high-quality seed for wheat, the country’s staple food crop. It will also cover pulses, oilseed and fodder crops.

Farmers who participated in the field day learned about new varieties of wheat from the L. Murodov Seed Farm in Hisor District. Agriculture and extension specialists, representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture and the District Department of Agriculture also participated. The objectives of establishing and maintaining demonstration plots were explained.

“The project has a wide impact on improving livelihoods of the rural population,” said FAO Representative in Tajikistan Viorel Gutu. “Over four years the project has managed to cover about 2,000 beneficiaries who not only receives improved seed varieties, but also trained on early-generation seed production and sharing seeds between households in the community. This is the key achievement of the project that assures sustainability of the outputs.”

Support provided to the national wheat breeding program allowed the development of new, high-yielding varieties that are resistant to diseases – especially wheat rusts – tolerant to Tajikistan’s climate, and have good grain quality for baking the traditional tandyr nan bread.

“ The new varieties are resistant to diseases, tolerant
to Tajikistan’s climate, and have good grain quality
for baking the traditional tandyr nan bread. ”

“The project team covered a wide range of issues, contributing to the project goals,” said FAO plant production and protection officer Hafiz Muminjanov. “Those goals include improving the legal framework for the seed sector, and developing a national strategy and seed standards.”

Muminjanov underlined that seed specialists at pilot farms and advanced small-scale farmers are now well trained on maintenance breeding and high-quality seed production.

Thriving at high elevations
Starting in 2016, demonstration plots were set up in the mountainous Roghun district – 2,000 meters above sea level – to show the new wheat varieties. These plots also serve as a tool for selecting the varieties best adapted to higher elevations and continuous low temperatures.

Maintenance breeding is an important step in production of high-quality seeds. In 2014-15, maintenance breeding of eight wheat varieties was started at L. Murodov Seed Farm. For the 2015-16 cropping season, nine varieties were selected, and for 2016-17, 10 have been included.

Workshop on seed policy
A workshop on seed sector development will take place in Dushanbe tomorrow (16 May). A draft concept document will be discussed, revised and agreed upon. Deputy Minister of Agriculture Jamila Saidova will participate, as well as Jurakhon Azizov, head of the Ministry’s Seed Department, and FAO experts.