Working with international researchers, University of Florida scientists have developed a model that will help protect good seeds, which are necessary to plant healthy crops and determine what areas are at higher risk for unhealthy seeds.
In many parts of the world, people lack adequate access to nutritious food because there aren’t enough quality seeds for food production, said Karen Garrett, a plant pathology professor at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
“We model where the disease is likely to move next and the management strategies that are likely to be most helpful,” said Garrett, a co-author of a new study on how good and bad seeds get from one place to another.
In the newly published research, Garrett and one of her doctoral students, Kelsey Andersen — the lead author on the study — led a team of UF/IFAS researchers and colleagues in Uganda and the United Kingdom. The research team studied seed systems in Africa. Seed systems are composed of people and businesses that make seed available, and farmers who use that seed.
As a result of the research, scientists developed a model that will help them find seed-borne pathogens and provides recommendations for how to stop the pathogens from spreading.
“Good seed systems provide high-quality, disease-free seeds of good crop varieties, but good seed systems do not exist in many countries,” said Garrett, a faculty member in the UF/IFAS Institute for Sustainable Food Systems. “Seed systems are critical for making new, improved crop varieties available to farmers, but also can serve as major conduits for the spread of seed-borne pathogens if pathogens are not controlled.”
For the study, researchers investigated the seed system for several varieties of sweet potatoes in Uganda, where sweet potatoes are a reliable staple food and can be an important source of Vitamin A.