Current status of Stylosanthes seed production in southern India

Nagaratna Biradar, Vinod Kumar, B.V. Rajanikant


India is a significant producer of seed of Stylosanthes spp. (stylo), mainly S. hamata. Most of this seed is produced by villagers and small farmers in the Anantapur district, Andhra Pradesh, southern India. This is one of the poorest
regions in the State, with harsh climatic conditions, poor, zinc-deficient soils, and, in the stylo seed production area, farm sizes averaging less than 2 ha. An informal network of seed traders markets the stylo seed within a 25−30 km radius and, via the next level of traders, to other parts of India. A survey in this area in 2002/03 indicated that stylo seed production in 2001 was about 800 t from more than 400 ha. A second survey, conducted in 2012, showed that the stylo seed production area had declined to 150 ha, with annual seed production of about 300 t. Most of the decline had occurred since 2007, when the purchase of seed for watershed rehabilitation in the States of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh was discontinued. In addition to the loss of this major market, other factors influencing the reduction in stylo seed production included: the low price of stylo seed compared with groundnut (the crop mainly competing for land use); sales of land for other purposes, and diversion of one area as a Special Economic Zone; reduced availability and increased costs of labor, particularly after the establishment in 2005 of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Agency , which provided an attractive employment option for rural workers; lack of technical support; and, in one village, delay in payment. Poor seed quality was another issue constraining prices. Despite these challenges, many farmers in the region remain positive and would continue to produce stylo seed, if profitability could be improved.

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