Citation Carrillo-Reche J, Vallejo-Marín M & Quilliam R (2018) Quantifying the potential of 'on-farm' seed priming to increase crop performance in developing countries. A meta-analysis. Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 38 (6), Art. No.: 64. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13593-018-0536-0
Abstract Low-input agriculture in marginal areas of developing countries faces considerable challenges during crop development. A key stage in crop growth is seed germination, which is often constrained by abiotic factors such as low water potential, high temperatures and soil crusting, which can result in poor establishment. This is exacerbated by low soil fertility, salinity, drought, pests and diseases, which ultimately leads to reduced yields. Over the last 20 years, the potential of 'on-farm' seed priming, a traditional, low-cost technique, consisting of soaking seeds in water prior to sowing, has been applied to different crops and conditions with varying degrees of success. To understand the significance of this potentially transformative agronomic strategy, we have conducted a global meta-analysis of on-farm seed priming by quantifying (i) the rate of emergence, (ii) final emergence and (iii) total yield from 44 published papers on 17 crops across 10 countries. Our results show that on-farm seed priming has a significantly positive effect on crop performance: seeds emerge 22% faster, with an increased final emergence of 11%, with total yields 21% higher than conventionally sown seeds. Furthermore, sub-group analyses demonstrated that on-farm seed priming is more advantageous under stressful abiotic conditions with case studies categorized as being either 'nutrient deficient', 'salinity-stressed' or 'dry climates' gaining the highest yield improvements (22–28%). On-farm seed priming can be particularly beneficial to resource-poor farmers working in low-input agricultural systems where yield potential is limited by intrinsically stressed agronomic environments. Here, we demonstrate for the first time that on-farm seed priming is perfectly adapted to local situations in developing countries. Our results provide the evidence that on-farm seed priming could be effectively adopted by resource-poor farmers as a strategy to increase food security in some of the most marginal agricultural areas.