ACI Seed’s R&D, PDS and Product Portfolio team jointly conducted preliminary yield trials of 50 exotic hybrid maize varieties of 6 foreign principal companies in the last rabi2017-18 and kharif-I 2018 season. Participatory Varietal Selection (PVS) trials were conducted to validate and include new exotic hybrid maize varieties into the seed-production stream by farmers. Another reason was to speed up replacement of old and obsolete maize varieties by farmer-preferred new high-yielding varieties. Primarily seven new varieties were recommended for Bangladesh’s environment and were evaluated in this research involving smallholder farmers in Chuadanga, Manikganj, Bogura, Rangpur, Natore, Rajshahi, Lalmonirhat, Nilphamari, Dinajpur and Thakurgaon districts. Collaborating farmers preferred the varieties from the PVS trials that yielded on average 5–10% more grain than local market leading checks. Greater yield advantage from new varieties over local market leading checks was reported. The PVS research showed the possibility of ensuring economic security of smallholder farmers as new high-yielding varieties gave an additional 1.0–2.0 tons of grain per ha.
The PVS also provides opportunities for farmers to take into account varietal performance during the entire crop growth period and also for assessing important post-harvest traits. Through these opportunities, farmers learn how to strike a balance between various traits, which ultimately leads to adoption or non-adoption. Farmers’ preference ranking in this research was useful and complementary in most cases for detecting yield potential as well as other traits of economic importance that contribute to farmer acceptance/adoption. The ranking of maize varieties by farmers close to maturity closely matched with grain yield data. It is interesting that farmers’ best-ranked varieties were also the highest yielding. Farmers’ preference ranking becomes more effective when several varieties in the trial produce competitive yield performance. In that context, farmers resort to discriminate among varieties, considering traits other than yield and phenotypic appeal in choosing varieties. It is noteworthy that these varieties have started replacing some of the old and obsolete varieties in the trial area. Noticeable yield advantage plays a decisive role in the uptake and adoption of new crop varieties by farmers. It is still challenging to replace most popular old improved maize varieties because of their established seed and marketing systems. This is an important finding from on-farm participatory research that can benefit the ACI Seed and needs proper attention to address sustainable seed business at large.
These participatory research programs were directly instructed and monitored by the Head of Business of ACI Seed, Mr. Sudhir Chandra Nath and executed by Mr. Ahmad Al Farooq, Sr. Breeder; Dr. Mohammad Muhebbullah Ibne Hoque, PDS Manager; Mr. Golam Mostafa, Portfolio Manager (Maize & Potato) and their team members in the field.