Plant Breeding: A Case from Syria
Conventional modern plant breeding has been recognized to be 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 make the necessary modifications. As a consequence, low yields, crop failures, malnutrition and poverty affect a large proportion of humanity.
The reason for the relative low degree of success of plant breeding in marginal environments has to be largely attributed to the widespread use of research stations for the selection, and often for the testing work (centralized nonparticipatory breeding). Therefore, several cycles of selection, during which the breeder decides what to select and what to discard, are conducted in a relatively uniform environment and controlled condition. This has little in common with the target environments characterized by heterogeneous conditions and complex interplay of factors. Centralized breeding becomes “participatory” when, for example, farmers are invited to the research station(s) to express their opinion about the breeding material.
Several data indicate that when the differences between selection environment and target environment are large, genotype x environment (GXE) interaction effects are generated. Thus, the lines performing well in the selection environment perform poorly in the target environment, and vice versa (Ceccarelli, 1989). Apparently, an obvious solution to this problem is to conduct selection in the target environment, a strategy defined as decentralized breeding (Ceccarelli et al., 1994, 1996).