THE ROLE OF QUALITY SEED IN RICE PRODUCTION - A CASE STUDY OF THE DAWHENYA IRRIGATION SCHEME
Rice, which is considered as one of the most agriculturally significant crops in the world, responsible for providing two thirds of the total calorie intake of more than 3 billion people in Asia and one third of the total calorie intake of mainly 1.5 billion people in Africa and Latin America is plagued by many difficulties in production particularly in developing countries. Though its consumption is on the rise in Ghana, domestic production has been reported to be disproportionate to consumption demands. The low domestic production figures are linked to the fact that many Ghanaian farmers cultivate with seeds that are of low quality. Since the rehabilitation of the Dawhenya irrigation scheme, by the Korean International Development Agency (KOICA) between 2011 and 2013 which cost $3.6 million, the site has been facing declining yields in rice production with the project average yield falling from 6.7 tons per hectare to 5.2 tons per hectare within 3 cropping seasons. The dip in yield figures was attributed to many factors such as bad agronomic practices, high irrigation charges, the quality of water used in the cultivation of the crop and the unavailability of quality seeds. This study therefore aimed at examining the role that quality seeds used by farmers at the Dawhenya irrigation scheme play in the perceived decline by weighing the quality of the seeds physically, conducting germination percentage tests, moisture content and seed health status with that of the criteria recommended by International bodies. The mindset of the farmers was first evaluated to know their perception on what the actual cause of declining yield at the site is. Samples of the seeds of 30 randomly selected farmers were then taken to the National Seed Testing Laboratory at Pokuase for the quality tests of the seeds. The analysis showed that the seeds used by the farmers (Farmer saved seeds) at the site was up to the required standards and in some cases above the standards in most areas of quality. It was therefore concluded that the quality of the seeds used in the cultivation of rice at the site was not a factor that contributed to the perceived decline at the site and that the perception of the farmers which was largely attributed to the high cost of production of the commodity may be the cause of the yield decline in their respective fields at the Dawhenya Irrigation Scheme. Implications of this study may be that when steps are taken to reduce the cost of production of rice at this site, production of the commodity would rise and consequently improve the numbers of rice production in the country.