Book Chapter

Toolbox for Working with Root, Tuber, and Banana Seed Systems

Root, tuber, and banana (RT&B) crops are critical for global food security. They are vegetatively propagated crops (VPCs) sharing common features: low reproductive rates, bulky planting materials, and vulnerability to accumulating and spreading pathogens and pests through seed. These crops are difficult to breed, so new varieties may be released slowly relative to new emerging threats. VPC seed systems are complex and face several challenges: poor-quality seed of existing varieties, low adoption rates of improved varieties, and slow varietal turnover, limiting yield increases and farmers’ ability to adapt to new threats and opportunities. Addressing these challenges requires first identifying key knowledge gaps on seed systems to guide research for development in a holistic and coherent way. Working together across 10 crops and 26 countries in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America, the CGIAR seed systems research community has developed a “Toolbox for Working with Root, Tuber, and Banana Seed Systems,” which introduces 11 tools and a glossary to address four major gaps: (1) capturing the demand characteristics of different types of farmers; (2) identifying effective seed delivery pathways; (3) ensuring seed health and stopping the spread of disease; and (4) designing effective policies and regulations. We describe the toolbox and its creation and validation across 76 crop-and-country use cases, and illustrate how the tools, applied individually or in combination, are addressing the key knowledge gaps in RT&B seed systems. The tool developers are actively working to scale the toolbox, including identifying new partners and models for collaboration, developing new tools, and supporting new applications in VPCs, as well as for fruit, vegetable, grain, and pulse seed systems.