Current status and prospects of tomato seed production and distribution in Uganda

Tusiime, Sharon Mbabazi
Major Professor
Gail R. Nonnecke
Committee Member
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Tomato is an important vegetable and contributes to food security, income and improved livelihoods to small-landholder farmers across Uganda and in the Kamuli District. Studies to establish the current status and prospects of producing, processing, distributing, and maintaining quality tomato seed in Uganda are needed to assist small-landholder farmers increase tomato yield. Research presented in this dissertation utilized value chain analysis, controlled laboratory experiments, surveys, and face-to-face interviews to complete specific objectives.

The first study mapped out the tomato seed value chain for Uganda, identified key participants, their roles, and indicated presence, partial or absence of linkages between value chain participants. Key participant roles ranged from regulation and certification by the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), seed breeding and multiplication by National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO), seed related research by Makerere University (MAK), seed importation and conditioning (private seed companies), seed sales (distributors), and seed users (small-landholder farmers). Linkages were found between MAAIF, and private seed companies, and distributors and between NARO, and private seed companies. Results from the subobjective indicated that during seed conditioning processes by seed companies, germination was the overall goal for seed quality and all tomato seeds were imported into Uganda, and Kenya. Kenyan-parent companies completed more seed quality tests on imported seed than Ugandan-parent companies. Seed companies in Uganda only tested for germination and depended on the seed exporting country to conduct any additional seed quality tests. Ugandan-parent companies were challenged with inadequate supervision from the seed regulatory body (MAAIF) in addition to limited access to the latest seed conditioning and quality testing technology.

The second study evaluated tomato seed management practices among small-landholder farmers and in- and out- of school youth (part of youth entrepreneurship program). Results indicated that tomato production was dominated by male farmers and within both groups, most farmers grew non-hybrid cultivar Rio-Grande and did not save tomato seed because primarily they mostly did not know how to save seed. Most tomato growers (83.3% adults and 81% youth) received knowledge about seed saving from fellow farmers. Of those tomato growers saving seed, most did not track which tomato cultivars they saved. Most farmers (50% adults and 83% youth) did not ferment their mixture of pulp and tomato seed after seed extraction. Farmers who conducted fermentation completed the process in one day. Farmers dried and stored tomato seed using locally available materials without considering the effect of these materials on tomato seed quality. Wood ash was the most common seed treatment and farmers who used fungicides did not use protective clothing or gear.

Study three evaluated the quality of tomato seed available in the Kamuli District. Results indicated that tomato seed obtained from companies and distributors had the highest germination, seedling dry weight, and vigor index II compared to seed obtained from small-landholder farmers. Although the seed density (floating or sinking) of tomato seeds did not impact overall germination, floated seeds resulted into more dead seed. Overall, floated seeds produced higher seedling dry weights and vigor index II compared to seeds that sank, which was unexpected. Within farmer seed, seed density (floating and sinking) did not impact seedling vigor implying that these procedures might not be valuable to farmers especially after seed has been dried and stored. However, farmers could still utilize seed density procedures explained in this study to separate high-quality from low- quality seed during the seed extraction process and before storage.

The fourth study determined effective seed drying materials and environments and storage containers for small-landholder farmers in Uganda. Results indicated that drying tomato seed using the 19-L high-density polyethylene round pails (bucket dryers) and in the greenhouse, as opposed to open sun, resulted in better germination and vigor. Using woven polypropylene bags and newspaper to dry tomato seed resulted into more normal seedlings, while a stainless-steel plate negatively impacted germination. Storing tomato seed using the 30-micron, non-perforated high-density polythene bag and Mylar ziplock bag resulted into the lowest seed moisture content compared to the 500-mL recycled soda bottle and white high-density polyethylene container with lid.

Research from this dissertation provides the following recommendations to improve the tomato seed system in Uganda. The goal is to have timely and efficient distribution of high-quality tomato seed for tomato farmers, including small-landholder farmers in Uganda. The Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries of Uganda should implement the national seed policy to ensure regulation of the tomato seed industry; NARO should train small-landholder farmers on seed multiplication to increase quantities of foundation seed and utilize seed management practices for local tomato production and seed companies should enhance seed conditioning to produce high-quality tomato seed.