Providing smallholder farmers access to high-quality seeds of improved varieties of horticultural crops is fundamental to increasing productivity and incomes. In humid tropical regions, traditional seed production and storage methods without temperature and moisture control result in rapid deterioration of seed quality. Enabling seed companies to dry, store, and package seeds of improved varieties helps provide farmers with sources of high-quality seeds.
In Bangladesh seed industries, traditional sun drying and dry room/cold storage methods lead to a rapid deterioration of the quality of agricultural seeds, resulting in large postharvest losses and susceptibility to mold, fungal and insect infestations. Bangladeshi seed companies estimate that they lose 5-10 percent or more of their seeds, worth tens of millions of dollars, due to poor drying. The high cost and unreliable quality of improved, high-yielding, stress-tolerant seed varieties is a major reason why less than half of Bangladeshi farmers buy commercial horticultural seeds. Insufficient drying also impacts agricultural food products, such as groundnuts and chilies, leading to rapid deterioration after harvest and increased risk of aflatoxin development.
A Horticulture Innovation Lab team, led by Johan Van Asbrouck of Rhino Research, is addressing the challenges of drying seeds and commodities in hot, humid climates by following the “dry chain” concept. The team is promoting the commercial adoption of drying beads technology in Bangladesh for both seeds and processed food products. Technology adoption by major Bangladeshi seed producers and agricultural processors will speed its diffusion through commercial channels to small-scale farmers. This creates the foundation for diffusion and large-scale adoption of advanced drying technologies in Bangladeshi agriculture.