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Abstract, International Journal of Agriculture Innovations and Research, 2018

Poor and erratic rainfall, poor chemical soil fertility and low water holding capacity of widely spread sandy soils are major constraints in the pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum (L.) R. Brown) cropping system of the West African Sahel. These factors lead to poor seedlings germination and vigour, and in turn low yields. Since the early growth stages determine final crop performance under Sahelian conditions, improvements should focus on this time span critical for final crop performance. Lack of financial resources and skills often prevent Sahelian farmers from adopting many of the existing solutions to improve crop performance such as seed treatments, mineral fertiliser and application of irrigation. Due to short growing period and labour constraints at sowing, Sahelian farmers partly practise dry sowing. However, this practice is associated with a high risk of crop failure due to regularly occurring early droughts. Re-sowing might then be constrained by seed and labour availability. Urgently needed is a cheap technology based on locally available resources that reduces seed needs, increases early seedling vigour and reduces the crop failure risk. Seedball might be such a technology. Seedball is an easy and affordable “seed-pelleting” technique that combines indigenous local materials such as sand, loam, water and seeds in a gravimetric ratio to enhance seedling establishment. Amendments such as fertiliser or pesticides can be added depending on target preferences and local problems. Our evaluation shows that seedballs have the potential to improve the Sahelian pearl millet cropping systems since the technology is mainly based on local resources and thus, can be adapted to local needs by individuals through added nutrient additives such as mineral fertilisers and wood ash. Additionally, seedball production does not conflict with other pre-seasonal labour loads or gender issues, and is coupled with low financial demands.

Keywords – Dry Planting, Dry Sowing, Germination Constraints, Local Resources, Seedling Emergence, Seedling Vigour.