Decentralized participatory plant breeding
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Ceccarelli, Salvatore; Grando, Stefania. 2004. Decentralized participatory plant breeding. Paper presented at the International Congress "In the Wake of the Double Helix", Bologna, Italy, 27-31 May 2003. Bologna, Italy: Avenue media.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/75682
It is widely recognized that conventional plant breeding has been more beneficial to farmers in high potential environments or those who could profitably modify their environment to suit new cultivars, than to the poorest farmers who could not afford to modify their environment through the application of additional inputs and could not risk the replacement of their traditional, well-known and reliable varieties. As a consequence, low yields, crop failures, malnutrition, famine, and eventually poverty are still affecting a large proportion of humanity. Participatory plant breeding is seen by several scientists as a way to overcome the limitations of conventional breeding by offering farmers the possibility of deciding which varieties better suit their needs and conditions without exposing the household to any risk. Participatory plant breeding exploits the potential gains of breeding for specific adaptation through decentralized selection, defined as selection in the target environment, and is the ultimate conceptual consequence of a positive interpretation of genotype x environment interactions. This article describes a model of participatory plant breeding in which genetic variability is generated by professional breeders, selection is conducted jointly by breeders, extension specialists and farmers in a number of target environments, and the best selections are used by breeders in further cycles of recombination. Farmers handle the first phases of seed multiplication of promising breeding material in village-based seed production systems. The model has the following advantages: (i) varieties reach the release phase earlier than in conventional breeding; (ii) the release and seed multiplication concentrate on varieties known to be acceptable by farmers; (iii) it increases biodiversity because different varieties are selected in different locations; (iv) varieties fit to the agronomic management that farmers are familiar with and can afford and therefore can be beneficial to poor farmers. These advantages are particularly relevant to developing countries where large investments in plant breeding have not resulted in production increases, especially in marginal environments.