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Planting material : what strategy for planters ? : DxP seed is not only DxP seed

Durand-Gasselin T., Baskett P., Jacquemard J.C., Cochard B.. 2006. In : IOPRI. International Oil Palm Conference (IOPC), Bali, Indonesia, 19-23 June 2006. s.l. : s.n., 12 p.. International Oil Palm Conference, 2006-06-19/2006-06-23, Bali (Indonésie).

For a tropical plant, the oil palm commodity chain includes the peculiarity of possessing a major seed production sector for reasons that are primarily genetic. Planters are always concerned about the reliability and value of the material they plant. Most oil palm plantations (around 70%) belong to large agroindustrial enterprises, but family smallholdings are also developing strongly and are in the majority in numerous countries. However, access to seeds and to information on seeds is not organized in the same way for agro-industries as for smallholders, especially if the latter are in isolated locations. In fact, it is difficult to organize seed distribution to smallholders, and very often they will depend on agro-industry strategy or middlemen networks for their own plantation. Another peculiarity of the oil palm seed market is, despite state or public organization attempts to organize the market, the virtual total absence of guarantees for buyers. It is difficult, if not impossible, to evaluate the quality of the research conducted by breeders. Have commercial seeds, based on scientific criteria, such as yield components, resistance to diseases, to drought, to altitude, to low temperatures, been really developed on these criteria with well-defined and adapted experimental designs? In addition, the seed production strategies, necessary for transferring genetic progress observed in research stations into the commercial seeds, are not all reliable. And, last but not least, the technical quality of production can lead to a not inconsiderable percentage of weak seeds due to uncontrolled pollen contamination. The only guarantee today comes from the relationships of confidence established year after year between breeders/distributors and growers. In this respect, the initial strategy for agro-industry is very often to diversify supply sources in order to guarantee their plantations an "average" value. In a second step, these groups almost always aim to become seed producers themselves. To that end, they can either link-up with breeders to acquire production licences, or if they are seeking greater independence they may attempt to procure parent material and become breeders in their own right. In either case, they must take on a major risk of ending up with a planting material that might not perform well, as the different materials available on the market display substantial production differences that can exceed 20%. In such a case, the very future of a major industrial group could be jeopardized. In these fields, research can lead to some proposals: to help public institutions to define a seed certification policy, molecular biology offers some interesting prospects for certifying seed quality (contamination rates and genetic origin), and social science could develop effective communication methods towards planters.

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