Empowering farmers through participatory plant breeding: An initiative of the green foundation
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Ramprasad, Vanaja; Shibu, M.P.. 2001. Empowering farmers through participatory plant breeding: An initiative of the green foundation . In: An exchange of experiences from South and South East Asia: Proceedings of the international symposium on Participatory plant breeding and participatory plant genetic resources enhancement, Pokhara, Nepal, 1-5 May 2000 . Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), Participatory Research and Gender Analysis (PRGA), Program Coordination Office, Cali, CO. p.97-104.
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In the so-called difficult environments, institutional plant breeding appears to be a failure, mainly because breeding is directed at increasing yields in more favorable environments. Although the improved varieties have broad adaptability, under varied marginal environments, they do not express their yield potential or they do not satisfy other user requirements. In any environment, the potential of a plant is controlled by the interaction of its genetic composition with the environment. This involves adaptation of the plant lo both physical environments (climate, soil, abiotic and biotic stress) and the socioeconomic environment (user concerns, consumers' preferences, economic status, markets, etc.). After the introduction of high-yielding varieties and hybrids during the green Revolution in India, hundreds of landrace. And indigenous varieties have become extinct or on the verge of extinction, largely because they have not been considered economical to grow under the present market economy. Despite this, small-scale farmers in marginal environments continue to grow a mixture of crops and varieties as a buffer against temporal and spatial variation to cope with stress factors. It has been a lime-tested practice by farmers to continue to select their next generation of seed. Thereby modifying the genetic characteristics of the crops. Tapping into This practice .and empowering farmers to improve their crops has now come to be referred to as "participatory plant breeding." Conservation of plant genetic resources has been initiated by the green Foundation, working in the dry land regions of South India. As a means of empowering farmers, the Green Foundation has conserved several varieties of staple food crops', like finger millet and rice, on-farm. Using the gene pool available to Them, farmers have selected varieties, based on a set Of criteria, for varietal purification, as a first step towards participatory plant breeding. This paper describes the process of varietal selection for improvement of local cultivars and the upgrading of farmers' skills as independent seed produces.
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