Participatory Varietal Selection
and Participatory Plant Breeding: The Last 10 Years
Growing new varieties produced by plant breeding is an attractive option for farmers. The varieties yield more grain; and the only additional labor needed is for harvesting this extra grain. Farmers in more favorable areas have benefited the most from modern plant breeding while those cultivating more marginal lands have suffered from a dearth of suitable, new varieties. Even in the more productive environments, plant breeding has often resulted in low on-farm varietal diversity, and benefits have been lower than were possible because obsolete cultivars are all too commonly grown.
Making plant breeding more market-oriented can help solve diverse problems. The new varieties are more likely to better meet farmers’ particular needs for specific environments. Market-oriented plant breeding increases the speed of varietal replacement and often increases on-farm varietal diversity.
Public-sector plant breeders particularly in developing countries have not used market-oriented approaches. Instead, a linear process of research and extension has been almost universally adopted, where breeders first develop, test and release new varieties, with limited involvement of farmers, and the extension services that promote them. In contrast, the private sector has long used market research where farmers test potential new varieties before their commercialization. Research and extension overlap because testing creates a demand for the successful new varieties.