Breeding Taylor-Made Varieties for Your Area and Needs
A newly published book worth reading for small holders. Book: My life with plants – A journey to new ways of breeding garden varieties. By Richard W. Gibson. Printed by the Conrad Press in 2020. ISBN: 978-1-913567-42-2
Participatory Plant Breeding is a relatively recent initiative aimed at diverse farming and climatic situations which rely on crops being developed to suite individual regions.
PPB was largely introduced because millions of farmers around the world have fallen ‘outside’ the remit of the conventional plant breeding programs of the ‘Green Revolution.’ These breeding aims were directed at ‘broad adaptability’ of crops to yield well in a range of environments using genetically uniform varieties, relying on a program of agrichemical fertilisers and sprays.
PPB is the development of a plant breeding program, a collaboration between breeders and farmers, which may include marketers, processors, consumers, and policy makers. The breeding aims carry attributes beyond yield and disease resistance to also include taste, nutrition and cooking quality, time of ripening, storage, the use of crop residues such as straw for animals, composting, and more.
It relies on open pollinated seeds as breeding material. Seed saving is a standard practice in many countries and thus farmers are reliant upon their varieties to breed true to type year on year.
Although PPB is aimed at non-industrialised, low input and small scale agriculture, none-the-less it is appropriate in industrialised countries. There are still many small scale farms in Europe with diverse climates where these and organic, biodynamic and natural farming practices require seeds which are suited to their type of farming.
Even though PPB is scarcely used in the UK there are a few examples in Europe where it is being worked with for organic crop suitability. No doubt it can play a useful role in the UK as conservation and amateur varieties begin to find their place in farmer’s fields too.
PPB seeks to
•Build farmer skills to enhance farmer selection and seed production efforts.
•Increase production and profitability of crop production through the development and enhanced adoption of suitable, usually improved, varieties.
•Provide benefits to a specific type of user, or to deliberately address the needs of a broader range of users.
Example of PPB in Europe for organic suitability. See
SEEDS THAT GIVE Participatory Plant Breeding, By Ronnie Vernooy
IDRC/2003-01-01 International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada.