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Collaborative Plant Breeding for Organic Agricultural Systems in Developed Countries

Author(s): Julie C. Dawson | Pierre Rivière | Jean-François Berthellot | Florent Mercier | Patrick de Kochko | Nathalie Galic | Sophie Pin | Estelle Serpolay | Mathieu Thomas | Simon Giuliano | Isabelle Goldringer

Journal: Sustainability
ISSN 2071-1050

Volume: 3;
Issue: 8;
Start page: 1206;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: farmer varieties | genetic diversity | in situ conservation | organic agriculture | participatory plant breeding

Because organic systems present complex environmental stress, plant breeders may either target very focused regions for different varieties, or create heterogeneous populations which can then evolve specific adaptation through on-farm cultivation and selection. This often leads to participatory plant breeding (PPB) strategies which take advantage of the specific knowledge of farmers. Participatory selection requires increased commitment and engagement on the part of the farmers and researchers. Projects may begin as researcher initiatives with farmer participation or farmer initiatives with researcher participation and over time evolve into true collaborations. These projects are difficult to plan in advance because by nature they change to respond to the priorities and interests of the collaborators. Projects need to provide relevant information and analysis in a time-frame that is meaningful for farmers, while remaining scientifically rigorous and innovative. This paper presents two specific studies: the first was a researcher-designed experiment that assessed the potential adaptation of landraces to organic systems through on-farm cultivation and farmer selection. The second is a farmer-led plant breeding project to select bread wheat for organic systems in France. Over the course of these two projects, many discussions among farmers, researchers and farmers associations led to the development of methods that fit the objectives of those involved. This type of project is no longer researcher-led or farmer-led but instead an equal collaboration. Results from the two research projects and the strategy developed for an ongoing collaborative plant breeding project are discussed.
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