Forage Seed Production in Thailand

                               Chaisang Phaikaew  Sopon Chinveroj  Chirawat Khemsawat

 

There are developments in the dairy and beef fattening sectors, which require the availability of better quality forages, to reduce use of expensive concentrate feed. Thus, high demand of forage seed is needed to meet with the expansion of meat and milk production, which have a good prospect to increase amount of seed production in Thailand.

 

  Village farmers on contract to the Thai Department of Livestock Development (DLD) produce 70-80% of the forage seeds, while the remainder is produced on DLD stations. More than 1,200 tons of forage seed were produced in Thailand in 1995. Amount of seed production by DLD has decreased since 1996, due to the decreasing demand from government projects and the government policy to transfer the production and marketing roles to the private sector and farmers. However, farmer seed production still remains in high amount due to high demand of seed in the market. Seed ordering to DLD this year was very high at 804 tons from 5,544 farmers, for dairy and beef production, especially for producing forages to feed beef cattle in the new government project.

 

            In 2003, the seed producing farmer groups had united to establish Thai Pasture Seed Producers Club.  They will organize the plan of seed production, including the amount, kind, area planted and marketing of seed. At beginning, the government (DLD) will support the group in terms of seed quality control, marketing, packaging and storage. Most farmers who produced pasture seed for sale are in northeast and north Thailand.

 

The major species are Ruzi, Purple guinea, Atratum and Plicatulum grasses, and Hamata stylo, Stylo184 and Cavalcade legumes. Mulato grass, the new Hybrid Brachiaria (Brachiaria hybrido cv. Mulato) was produced by farmers in 18 provinces in 2004. The Mulato grass has been produced for export to Latin America and U.S.A.

 

 There is a good prospect to increase commercial forage seed production within Thailand and to develop international trade links between countries in the SE Asian region and the tropical region countries.

 

         

 

Picture 5. Ruzi (Brachiaria ruziziensis) seed has been produced in large        

                quantity due to good germination and its high demand.

 

 

 

Introduction

 

Forage seed production in Thailand has expanded steadily over the past thirty years to reach an annual production of over 1,200 tons in 1995 (Hare, 1993; Phaikaew, 1997; Phaikaew and Hare, 1998). In 1995, grass seed made up most of the production with Brachiaria ruzizensis (ruzi grass) and Panicum maximum cv. Purple guinea (Purple guinea) accounting for 904 and 138 tons of seed, respectively. Stylosanthes hamata cv. Verano was the major legume produced, with 150 tons being harvested in 1995.  Other forage seed, produced in smaller quantities, included Paspalum plicatulum, forage sorghum, Setaria sphacelata, Andropogon gayanus, Brachiaria decumbens, Panicum maximum cv. Hamil and cv. Common, Stylosanthes guianensis cv. Graham, Macroptilium atropurpureum cv. Siratro, Desmanthus virgatus, pigeon peas, Arachis pintoi, Chamaecrista rotundifolia and Aeschynomene Americana.

 

Forage seed production under DLD quota

 

 

Figure 1. Forage grass and legume seed produced by farmers and forage stations in Thailand during 1992-2002, under government quota.

 

Village farmers on contract to the Department of Livestock Development (DLD) produced 80% of the forage seeds (certified seed) in 1995, the remainder of the seed was produced on DLD animal nutrition research centers and forage stations in Thailand (Phaikaew, 1997; Shelton and Phaikaew 1999). The amount of grass and legume seed produced in Thailand during 1995-2005 is shown in Figure1.

The amount of seed production by the Thai government has decreased since 1996. This decrease was due to the decreasing demand from government projects and the government policy to gradually transfer the production and marketing role to the private sector (Phaikaew et al 1997).

In 1996, there was evidence that direct selling forage seed from farmer to farmer was increasing.  Panit-uttra et al. (1997) reported on a survey of forage seed sales of 115 farmers in Prayuen District, Khon Kaen, Thailand, which is one of the big farmers in seed producing areas (Table 2).  Quota sales of Ruzi grass seeds to the Department of Livestock Development (DLD) accounted for only 30% of the total sales of Ruzi seeds of the farmers.  The proportion of seeds of Purple guinea and Verano stylo sold to DLD were higher at 69 and 83%, respectively.  The remaining seeds were sold directly by farmers to other livestock farmers and seed merchants.  This shows that the amount of forage seeds produced by farmers is much higher than the amount bought by the government.  The amount of above quota seeds for all of Thailand is not known but it appears that the total quantity of seed produced by farmers has not decreased although the quota from government has been reduced.

 

Table 2. Amount of forage seed sale of 115 farmers from Prayuen District,

                 Khon Kaen, Thailand during the year 1996 (Panit-uttra et al., 1997).

 

Farmer

Seed Buyer (kg)

Proportion Sale

Seed

DLD

Others

to DLD (%)

Ruzi

13,247

31,676

30

Purple guinea

3,185

1,455

69

Verano Stylo

7,885

1,593

83

Total

24,317

34,724

41

 

While the role of the Thai government in buying certified seed from the farmers is decreasing, DLD has increased the range of forage species produced on station and by farmer (Table 3).  Due to high demand of new grass species, such as Paspalum atratum, and new legumes, such as Stylo 184 and Cavalcade Centurion, seed production of these species have been produced in large quantity since 1997 and 1998. 

      

     Picture 6. Seed field of Purple guinea  grass

 

Table 3.  Amount of forage seed (tons) produced by DLD, Thailand in 2005.           

Forage seed

    Station

 Farmer

Total

Grasses

34.07

303.63

337.70

Brachiaria ruziziensis 

16.84

84.86

101.70

Panicum maximum TD58               

6.99

158.07

165.06

Paspalum atratum

2.98

40.53

43.51

Paspalum plicatulum

1.33

1.06

2.39

Chloris gayana

1.56

-

1.56

Other grasses

4.37

19.11

23.48

 

 

 

 

Legumes

4.79

29.96

34.75

Stylosanthes hamata cv.Verano 

0.87

18.28

19.15

S. guianensis CIAT184 (Thapra)

2.45

5.66

8.11

Centrosema pascuorum cv. Calvacade

0.53

6.02

6.55

Arachis pintoi

0.038

-

0.038

C. pascuorum cv. Bundy

0.26

-

0.26

Desmantus virgatus

0.64

-

0.64

TOTAL

38.86

333.59

372.45

Other grasses :  Setaria, Sorghum, Green panic, B. decumbens, and B.brizantha.

 

 

 

Research and evaluation of seed production of new species

 

In Thailand, if a new forage crop is being introduced to farmers for seed production, research on seed crop management is first conducted on station for 2-3 years, to determine its potential for commercial seed production. This includes: flowering characteristics and seed development, cutting and fertilizer management, harvesting techniques, seed processing and seed quality (Kowithayakorn and Phaikaew, 1993; Hare, 1993; Phaikaew and Polsen, 1993; Phaikaew and Stur, 1998; Phaikaew et al  1985, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1993, 1995; 2001a, 2001b, 2002a and 2002b).  This enables management practices to be developed and the average seed yield obtained in order to workout a price to offer to farmers for contract growing.

 

          In the last seven years, the Thai DLD started research on seed crop management of Paspalum atratum BRA 9610, Macroptilium gracile cv. Maldonado (Llanos macro), Centrosema pascuorum cv. Cavalcade (Centurion) and Stylosanthes guianensis CIAT 184 (ThaPra stylo). Issues researched included methods of establishment and harvesting, and suitable seed production technologies are now available for these species.

 

          If there is a demand for forage of new species then it is normal to go to existing seed producers to ask them whether or not they would like to try out a new seed crop.  The DLD has found that it is best to approach experienced seed growers for new seed crops.  Usually, the DLD asks 10-40 farmers to grow a new species. These farmers are very good operators and their fields are usually not too far from the research station, so that research officers can visit the crops regularly.  If the new species produce high seed yields in the villages and the farmers are happy with the crop, then production will expand in the following years, provided that there is a demand for seed.

 

       

         Picture 7. Seed field of Atratum (Paspalum atratum)

 

 

Examples of seed yield and seed quality of P.  atratum from various method of harvesting is shown in Table 4.

 

Table 4.  Seed yield  and seed quality of Paspalum atratum from various method of harvesting in the first year seed crop (Phaikaew et al., 2001a).

 

Seed harvesting methods

Seed

yield

(kg/ha)

Seed quality

Pure germinated

seed yield

(kg/ha)

Purity

(%)

1000 seed

weight (g)

Germi

-nation (%)

Shaking seed head 3 time/week

622c

92a

3.16 a

91a

519b

Covering with nylon net bag

1108a

87ab

3.15 a

90a

872 a

Standing net receptacle

945ab

92a

3.06 a

93a

813 a

Cut 10 days after flowering

680c

63d

2.12 a

59c

255 c

Cut 15 days after flowering

789bc

84b

2.57 b

87a

587b

Cut 20 days after flowering

341d

71c

2.47 b

79b

198 c

 

         The results of this experiment show the good potential to produce seed of  P. atratum.  DLD aims to increase the amount of P. atratum seed production from 15 tons in 1997 to 25 tons in1998.

 

 

 

Grass seed for export

 

Mulato grass, the new Hybrid Brachiaria (Brachiaria hybrido cv. Mulato) was produced by farmers in 18 provinces in 2004. The Mulato hybrid grass is produced for export to Latin America and U.S.A. Thai DLD commenced seed production trials on-station in 2000 and, because of the promising results, commenced on-farm trials in 2003 with 7 smallholder farmers near Khon Kaen.  On the strength of the results, Grupo Papalotla (Mexican seed company) provided a guaranteed market in 2004 that will allow 1600 farmers to plant 1000 hectares for seed production, primarily for export. A new hybrid (Mulato 2), which is very similar to Mulato has been produced by Ubon Ratchatani University and 105 farmers in 2004 to produce seed of Mulato 2. 

 

                      

                    Picture 8.  Village seed producer is tying seedhead of Mulato grass

                                      before harvesting seed by shaking method.

 

 

Future Development

 

            There are considerable demands for forage seeds which can not be met by in-country production in Southeast Asian countries (Hare and Phaikaew, 1999).  Thus, there is a good prospect to increase forage seed production within Thailand and to develop international trade links between countries in the SE Asian region by importing species which we find difficult to produce and exporting others that we can produce well.

             Challenge for future seed supply systems in Thailand is to gradually transfer the role of marketing to the private sector. There is a need to expand the range of species grown to service a wider range of markets, e.g. high quality forage for dairy production, salt tolerant forages, amenity roadside planting for recreation use, rehabilitation of degraded land, for turf and even ornamental use.

For this to be happen, Thailand has to select the most useful and widely adapted forage species to produce seed.  In addition, common seed quality standards, seed certification, storage and shipping guidelines must be developed.

 

 

 

 

 

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