Seed Breeding and the role of Agriculture Technology

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According to estimates, the global seed market size is expected to reach a value of $86.8 billion by 2026. There is a steady rise in the demand for seeds driven by Asia – particularly India and China. Factors such as limited land availability, growing population, and increased demand for sustainably cultivated food grains make it challenging for farmers to maintain the quality of the crop yield and increase their returns.

With improved food security demands that call for higher productivity, there is a greater need for seed breeding. Producers are looking for seeds with desirable cultivation traits such as resistance to diseases and insects, tolerance to heat or soil salinity, greater yield, aesthetics, etc., making seed breeding vital for ensuring seed security, driving the continued growth in yields, and improving global food security.

The crippling challenges of seed breeding

The success of a seed breeding system is dependent on a productive and efficient crop breeding system, characterized by the following factors:

Improved seeds for quality production

Farmers today grapple with numerous external factors negatively affecting seed production. This includes challenges such as

seed breeding to overcome biotic stressors

Biotic stressors increasing disease/pest pressure on the new cropping systems

seed breeding to overcome climatic changes

Climate changes are a result of heat, floods, drought, etc.


Degradation and erosion of soil


Lowering water table and depleting surface water


Nutrient deficiencies

Farmers must be armed with data-informed seed road maps and strategies to tackle these challenges.

For profitable seed production, there needs to be a greater focus on:


Reducing the time to release new varieties

Seed companies must invest in advanced technologies and tools that can speed up the seed breeding process and enable them to identify and develop high-performing varieties quickly. This may include the use of genomics, data analytics, and other innovative approaches that can help seed companies streamline their seed breeding programs and make more informed decisions about which varieties to pursue. By reducing the time to release new varieties, seed companies can not only stay ahead of the competition but also ensure that farmers have access to the latest and most productive seed options, ultimately leading to higher yields and profitability for both the farmers and seed companies.


Deploying easy-to-use hybrids

Deploying easy-to-use hybrids is essential to ensure that farmers can take full advantage of the latest seed technologies and maximize their yields. Seed companies must focus on developing and distributing hybrids that are high-performing and easy to implement. This may include developing hybrids that are adapted to local growing conditions, easy to plant and maintain, and have clear instructions and guidelines for optimal use. By deploying easy-to-use hybrids, seed companies can help farmers increase their productivity and profitability, while also building sustainable and climate-smart agricultural systems.


Improving seed scale-up rapidly

Improving seed scale-up rapidly is critical to meet the growing demand for high-quality and high-performing seed varieties. To achieve this, seed companies must invest in innovative technologies and strategies that can help them rapidly scale up their seed breeding and distribution capabilities. This may include developing more efficient and cost-effective production methods, leveraging automation and digitization, and partnering with local farmers and communities to promote sustainable seed systems.


Greater investment by seed companies

Seed companies must ensure increased investments to set up robust and high-performing seed breeding programs and ensure round-the-clock ROI. This makes business and logical sense for the seed companies as they would want to invest in highly productive varieties as demanded by the farmers


Hybrid producibility of seeds

This requires intensive research and development (R&D) effort in the production stage to eliminate poor hybrids (think: seed varieties that are free from admixtures or other seeds, low pest resistance, etc.). Additionally, farmers need access to real-time seed information regarding seed yield, quality, size, height, standability, disease and pest reaction, etc., to cultivate suitable varieties. This process is extremely time-consuming


Greater adherence to compliance

There is a greater need for seed companies to adhere to compliance laws governing national and regional regulations. These laws typically affect the cost of seeds and the speed to market of various varieties


Technical capacity of seed companies

The technical capacity of smaller seed companies needs improvement to ensure across-the-board seed benefits throughout the food ecosystem. Smaller seed companies need support with proper training, technical backstopping, and easy access to timely information relating to hybrid performance, producibility, descriptors, etc.


Early Generation Seeds (EGS)

There needs to be a mechanism set up for breeder seeds as foundation seeds do not generate revenue for seed companies immediately. That said, Early Generation Seeds are expensive to produce as they require higher quality assurance and maintenance and may require hand pollination.


Quality Assurance and Quality Control (QA/QC)

A high-quality seed is characterized by genetic purity (where the seed is free from admixtures), physical purity and physiological quality (seeds with high vigor and germination capability), and seed health (ensuring high-quality seeds at cost-effective measures). 

Strategic use of Agtech to beat key challenges in seed production

With the seed market projected to grow at a CAGR of 6.6% between 2022 and 2027, it is clear that the seed production cycle is rapidly evolving. Several factors are driving this change, such as an increase in the seed replacement rate, the advent of breeding technologies, and the widespread availability of hybrid seeds. Digital farming and the right tech stack can positively impact the process of seed breeding. It can enable farmers to engage in effective planning, research, and preparation for quality seed breeding.

Digital decision support tools that promote smart farming with predictive intelligence are powered by wide-ranging emerging technologies of remote sensors, big data, machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), satellite monitoring of crops, and the Internet of Things (IoT). Farmers can make the most of their produce and lay the foundation for precision agriculture, overcoming seed production challenges in the process and gaining the trust of their customers.

One such tech-first tool that delivers seed breeding benefits for seed producers on all counts is Cropin. It empowers farmers and seed companies to:

Reduce the cost of trialing and tracking 
Use digital farming to advance the trialing process
Leverage different, data-rich reports and analytics for performance monitoring
Use traceability as evidence for compliance with regulations

A seed system's success depends on a productive and efficient crop breeding system with amplified seed produce supported by high-yielding varieties, stress-tolerant cultivars, and strict adherence to local and national regulations.

Want a winning recipe for high-quality (and profitable) seed production?

Start with seed breeding as the primary and most vital ingredient supported by state-of-the-art modern agricultural technology.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is seed breeding?

Seed breeding is the process of developing new plant varieties through controlled cross-pollination to achieve specific desired traits such as yield, disease resistance, and quality.

How does seed breeding differ from genetic engineering?

Seed breeding involves the traditional method of cross-pollinating plants to create new varieties, while genetic modification involves directly altering the DNA of a plant to introduce new traits.

What are the benefits of seed breeding?

Seed breeding can lead to the development of new crop varieties that are more resistant to disease, pests, and environmental stressors, resulting in higher yields and improved food security. It can also lead to the development of crops with improved nutritional content and taste.

How long does seed breeding take?

The time it takes to breed a new crop variety depends on the crop and the desired traits. It can take anywhere from a few years to several decades to breed a new variety.

What are the challenges of seed breeding?

One of the main challenges of seed breeding is the need to maintain genetic diversity in the breeding population, as well as the need to ensure that the new varieties are adapted to local growing conditions. Seed breeding can also be time-consuming and costly.

How does technology impact seed breeding?

Technology impacts seed breeding by increasing the speed and precision of the breeding process. The use of modern tools such as DNA sequencing and marker-assisted selection has allowed breeders to identify and select desired traits, resulting in the development of new crop varieties at a faster pace. Additionally, precision agriculture techniques have also helped to optimize breeding programs to enhance the performance of new varieties in specific regions.

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