Poor crop establishment was identified as a major constraint on rainfed crop production by farmers in the tribal villages of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh served by the Krishak Bharati Cooperative (KRIBHCO) Indo-British Rainfed Farming Project (KRIBP). On-farm seed priming with water was chosen as a low cost, low risk intervention appropriate to the farmers' needs. In vitro screening of the effects of priming on the germination of seeds of local and improved varieties of maize, upland rice and chickpea provided ‘safe limits’ – the maximum length of time for which farmers should prime seeds and which, if exceeded, could lead to seed or seedling damage. Recommended safe limits were 24 h for maize and rice and 10 h for chickpea, with only minor varietal differences. These recommendations were then tested in on-station trials in Dahod, Gujarat. Farmer-managed trials were conducted for chickpea in three villages in the rabi (post-monsoon) season in 1995–96; for maize and upland rice in eight villages in the kharif (monsoon) season in 1996; and for maize and chickpea in 15 villages in the 1996–97 rabi season. Farmers modified these recommendations to ‘overnight’ for all three crops. Evaluation of the technology by farmers involved focus group discussions, matrix ranking exercises and two workshops.
Direct benefits in all three crops included faster emergence, better stands and a lower incidence of re-sowing, more vigorous plants, better drought tolerance, earlier flowering, earlier harvest and higher grain yield. Indirect benefits reported were earlier sowing of rabi crops because of the shorter duration of the preceding kharif crop, earlier harvesting of rabi crops that allowed earlier migration from the area, with better chance of obtaining off-season work, and increased willingness to use fertilizers because of reduced risk of crop failure. In matrix ranking exercises in four villages in the kharif 1996, 95% of farmers indicated that, even after only one exposure to the technology, they would prime seed in the following season. Similar exercises in four villages in rabi 1996–97 revealed that 100% of collaborating farmers intended to continue seed priming. From 21 villages, 246 farmers attended two workshops to share their experiences of seed priming and resolved to continue with the technology.
Harris, D.; Joshi, A.; Khan, P.A.; Gothkar, P.; Sodhi, P.S. On-farm seed priming in semi-arid agriculture: development and evaluation in maize, rice and chickpea in India using participatory methods. Experimental Agriculture (1999) 35 (1) 15-29.