Potato seed systems.
Good quality seed is almost universally considered a requirement for high productivity in all potato production systems. Much of the yield gap currently constraining productivity in low-income countries is attributed to the poor quality of seed. Potato seed sector development is thus a major concern of governments, researchers, development agencies, and civil society organizations. Potato seed systems are often characterized as formal or informal, although the informal seed system is complex and particularly in low income countries there are many linkages between the two systems. Informal seed potato systems in the Andes have existed for centuries, and for a number of reasons often produce seed of relatively high quality. In other low-income countries, informal systems produce seed of variable and frequently poor quality, contributing to very large yield gaps, characteristic of those areas. In regions of high potato productivity (e.g., the USA and Europe), formal systems, with seed of certified high quality, are dominant, although some productions subsectors (e.g., organic producers) often use seed that is not certified. Efforts to implement formal seed systems in low-income countries have been largely unsuccessful; consequently the vast majority of low-resource potato farmers source their seed via the informal system. Sectors of the development community are pushing for alternative solutions, which generally involve some form of integrating formal and informal seed systems or semi-formal systems such as quality declared seed, and a policy structure that preserves farmers’ rights to save and trade seed. Given the role that seed quality is currently playing in the low yields of potato in low-income countries, which is not the case in wealthier parts of the world, the review focuses primarily on seed sector development in resource-poor areas.