Seeds are the unsung heroes of agriculture, and modern varieties provide beneficial traits such as drought tolerance and cooking quality. Some varieties are even designed to provide a platform with which to provide other products, such as seed treatments conferring additional insect and disease protection.
The lack of modern varieties, particularly in developing countries, is a major constraint on smallholder productivity. A commonly quoted figure of 35% penetration of modern varieties in Africa is probably an overestimate and the real figure is closer to 20-25%. As an example there are no modern varieties used on 6 million hectares of sorghum in Mali and the situation is similar for groundnuts.