In humid Bangladesh, finding reliable vegetable seed can be a challenge — a situation that can ruin a crop before a farmer’s hard work even begins. But Bangladesh seed companies are rapidly adopting a new technology that can improve seed germination and plant vigor, through improved seed processing and storage. Called “drying beads,” this reusable tool can help seed companies provide farmers with higher quality seed, improving the local seed industry and helping farmers maximize the potential of their own hard work.
Many of the country’s leading vegetable seed companies have adopted drying beads through a multi-part training led by Rhino Research and supported by the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Horticulture, based at the University of California, Davis. Participating organizations include Lal Teer Seed Limited, Metal Seed, Getco, A. R. Malik & Co., Ispahani Agro Limited, Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation and others.
“We concluded that these beads are drying our seeds faster and deeper, obtaining a better quality that results in a longer storage potential, and all this with lesser costs,” said Tabith M. Awal of Lal Teer Seed Limited in Bangladesh. “Therefore Lal Teer made the executive decision to move ahead with implementing these beads for all our seeds and crops as soon as possible.”
This year, more than 200 tons of vegetable seed have been dried and stored with drying beads — helping an estimated 100,000 farmers in Bangladesh access quality seed.
Angelos Deltsidis and I traveled to Bangladesh in January for meetings related to a collaborative project we’re working on with the Nutrition Innovation Lab and other partners. While we were there, we had a chance to work with faculty and students at Bangladesh Agricultural University to build a chimney solar dryer for drying fresh produce.
Though I have been to Bangladesh many times before, this was my first time visiting Bangladesh Agricultural University and the nearby city of Mymensingh. As you can see in the photos, the weather was surprisingly cold during our visit!
A team from the Horticulture Innovation Lab recently led eight days of training in Bangladesh about improving postharvest practices for fruits, vegetables, grains and flowers. The residential training was part of the Feed the Future Bangladesh Agricultural Value Chain project led by Development Alternatives Incorporated (DAI) with funding from USAID/Bangladesh. The workshop’s audience was about 30 trainers, consultants, and other industry leaders in agriculture and food companies who wanted to learn how to reduce food losses and improve food quality across the value chain.
International team customizes training for local crops
The training focused on many of the most common horticultural crops in Bangladesh: eggplant (brinjal), tomato, pepper, cucumber, pumpkin, bitter gourd, pointed gourd, bottle gourd, potato, and mango. Additional sections of the training focused on grains, pulses and fresh-cut flowers.
Nearly every day began with members of the team going to local vegetable markets to buy sample produce for class activities. Without refrigeration in the hotel, fresh produce went bad quickly. On the second day of training, the whole class visited a farmer’s field to discuss best practices for harvest and to pick their own unblemished samples of eggplant, amaranth leaves and pointed gourd for the day’s demonstrations.
UC Davis postharvest specialists built an international team of experts for this training, including: Jingtair Siriphanich, Kietsuda Luengwilai, and Apita Bunsiri from Kasetsart University in Thailand; Md. Atiqur Rahmn from the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI); and Md. Younus Ali from the Bangladesh Jute Research Institute (BJRI). Michael Reid, Angelos Deltsidis, and Britta Hansen led the team from UC Davis, and were joined by Bangladeshi colleagues Amrita Mukherjee and Rezaul Islam.
For the article Felicia Alvarez, who covers the agriculture beat for the Davis community newspaper, interviewed students Brittany Pierce, Deirdre Griffin, and Belinda Richardson. She also talked to Elyssa Lewis, one of the UC Davis graduate students who manages the Trellis Fund for the Horticulture Innovation Lab, about how the program works.
The article is dramatic and entertaining, bringing readers along on the students’ journeys and into distant agricultural fields, beginning with:
They found themselves in Bangladesh, Malawi and Kenya.
…. After months of preparation, three students journeyed abroad to take a crack at agricultural problems in the developing world. These are their stories.
Though 14 students from multiple universities were selected to participate in this year’s Trellis Fund projects, this article focused on the individual experiences of just these three — all of whom returned from their trips abroad very recently. As I write this blog post, two students are traveling for Trellis projects right now, and six others are planning Trellis trips in the near future.
A partnership between university scientists and a private technology company has sprouted both new concepts and new tools that can help vegetable farmers in developing countries access better seeds.
For many smallholder farmers, buying and trading vegetable seeds can be risky. The benefits of purchasing seed can be high, with improved crop varieties offering disease resistance, increased vigor and improved taste. But the risks of receiving poor-quality seed are also significant, particularly in tropical climates. Seed will deteriorate rapidly if it is not properly dried and stored. The resulting poor germination reduces yields, which for vegetable farmers can mean staggered harvests and inconsistent crop quality.