Selected Publications - Abstract

Smale, Melinda, Daniela Soleri, David A. Cleveland, Dominique Louette, Elizabeth B. Rice, José-Louis Blanco, and Alfonso Aguirre. (1998) Collaborative Plant Breeding as an Incentive for On-Farm Conservation of Genetic Resources: Economic Issues from Studies in Mexico. In Farmers, Gene Banks, and Crop Breeding: Economic Analyses of Diversity in Wheat, Maize, and Rice. Melinda Smale, editor. Pp. 239-257. Boston, Massachusetts: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Collaborative or participatory plant breeding (CPB) uses the skills and experience of both farmer-breeders and professional plant breeders to improve crop plants. The extent of participation by farmer- and professional breeders varies by case and includes, for example, the identification of characteristics for improvement, choice of varieties, and revision of seed intrapopulation selection practices. Although the long term goals of CPB will clearly depend upon the participants, some have proposed it as a means of supporting on-farm conservation by linking agricultural development with the diversity of crop genetic resources. Proponents of this approach argue that while professional plant breeders have conventionally sought to develop fewer varieties adapted to a wider geographic range of locations, participatory breeding can support the maintenance of more diverse, locally-adapted plant populations. The biological validity of this proposition will need to be tested. For economists, a fundamental question concerns farmers' incentives to engage in such efforts. Examining this question will require the investigation of issues such as (1) the effectiveness of farmers' methods of seed selection and management, (2) the nature of the informal seed supply systems that would enable the benefits of locally improved varieties to spread among farmers, and (3) farmer's own perceptions of what can be accomplished. This chapter outlines these issues, citing evidence from case studies of maize farming in Mexico. In each, biological and social factors are inexorably intertwined and failure to consider one or the other set of factors leads to an incomplete assessment of the system of interest.