Crop Biotech Update

Review Says Farmer Knowledge Key to Finding More Resilient Crops

September 30, 2020
Farmer citizen scientists trial varieties in Ethiopia. Photo Source: Alliance of Bioversity and International Center for Tropical Agriculture

In a review published in Frontiers in Plant Science, scientists emphasize the importance of combining the knowledge harbored by farmers of diverse crop varieties, often overlooked by scientists, with high-tech breeding done in laboratories. Authors led by Carlo Fadda from the Alliance of Bioversity International and Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) that farmers' knowledge and high-tech breeding to improve crops can be effectively combined to unlock more resilient and nutritious food supplies in the face of climate threats.

The Seeds for Needs approach, involving more than 40,000 farmers in 14 countries across Africa, Asia, and Central America provides an effective and cost-efficient way to improve and diversify smallholder seed systems through better information and access to a portfolio of adapted crops and varieties. The farmers have become citizen scientists evaluating and selecting varieties, providing critical feedback on the seeds that meet their needs.

Matteo Dell'Acqua, co-author of the study and geneticist at the Institute of Life Sciences, Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna, in Pisa in Italy, said that the approach shows the value of combining the most advanced genomics approaches with the traditional knowledge of farmer communities. He added that modern breeding and crowd-sourcing methods complement each other in supporting the local adaptation of farming systems to the impacts of climate change.

For more details, read the article on the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT website.

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