Economic Botany

, Volume 50, Issue 1, pp 26–39 | Cite as

The dynamics of crop infraspecific diversity: A conceptual framework at the farmer level 1

  • Mauricio R. Bellon


There is an increasing concern over the loss of germplasm diversity in areas of crop domestication. Nevertheless in these areas many farmers continue to maintain a pool of varieties, many of them landraces, despite the fact that they have also incorporated improved varieties, and that some landraces have been eliminated. This paper provides a framework for analyzing the decision of a farmer to maintain, incorporate or discard a variety from his/her repertoire of varieties of one crop. It is based on an analysis of the roles that crop infraspecific diversity can play in a farmer’s well-being, how these roles change, the limits to these changes, and some predictions and suggestions derived from this framework.

Key Words

crop infraspecific diversity fanner’s decision-making in situ conservation 

La Dinámica de la Diversidad Infraespecífica: Un Marco Conceptual a Nivel del Agricultor


Existe una gran preocupación por la pérdida de diversidad de germoplasma en las áreas de domesticatión de los cultivos. Sin embargo muchos agricultures en estas áreas continúan sembrando y mantiendo un acervo de distintas variedades, muchas de ellas criollas, aúm cuando han incorporado a éste variedades mejoradas, y a pesar de que algunas variedades criollas ya no se utilizan. Este articulo presenta un marco de referenda para analizar la decisión por parte de un agricultor de mantener, incorporar o eliminar una variedad del acervo que de éstas se conserva. Se basa en un andlisis de los papeles que la diversidad infraespecffica puede jugar en el bienestar de un agricultor, cómo estos papeles cambian, así como los límites a estos cambios. También presenta algunas predicciones y sugerencias derivadas de este marco de referenda.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Literature Cited

  1. Altieri, M. A., andL. C. Merrick. 1987.In situ conservation of crop genetic resources through maintenance of traditional farming systems. Economic Botany 41:86–96.Google Scholar
  2. Bellon, M. R. 1991. The ethnoecology of maize variety management: a case study from Mexico. Human Ecology 19:389–418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. —. 1995. Farmers’ knowledge and sustainable agroecosystem management: an operational definition and an example. Human Organization 54: 263–272.Google Scholar
  4. —, andS. B. Brush. 1994. Keepers of maize in Chiapas, Mexico. Economic Botany 48:196–209.Google Scholar
  5. —, andJ. E. Taylor. 1993. Farmer soil taxonomy and technology adoption. Economic Development and Cultural Change 41:764–786.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bennett, J. W. 1976. Anticipation, adaptation, and the concept of culture in anthropology. Science 192:847–853.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Berlin, B., D. E. Breedlove, andR. H. Raven. 1974. Principles of Tzeltal plant classification: an introduction to botanical ethnography of a Mayanspeaking community in highland Chiapas. Academic Press, New York.Google Scholar
  8. Boster, J. 1983. A comparison of the diversity of Jivaroan gardens with that of the tropical forest. Human Ecology 11:47–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brush, S. B. 1980. Estrategias agricolas tradicionales en las zonas montanosas de América Latina. Pages 65–76in A. R. Novoa and J. L. Posner, eds., Agricultura de ladera en América Tropical. Turrialba, CATIE, Costa Rica.Google Scholar
  10. —. 1991. A farmer-based approach to conserving crop germplasm. Economic Botany 45:153–165.Google Scholar
  11. —. 1992. Ethnoecology, biodiversity and modernization in Andean potato agriculture. Journal of Ethnobiology 12:161–185.Google Scholar
  12. —. 1995.In situ conservation of landraces in centers of crop diversity. Crop Science 35:346–354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. —,H. J. Carney, andZ. Huaman. 1981. Dynamics of Andean potato agriculture. Economic Botany 35:70–88.Google Scholar
  14. —,J. E. Taylor, and M. R. Bellon. 1992. Biological diversity and technology adoption in Andean potato agriculture. Journal of Development Economics 39:365–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. CEPAL (Comisión Económica para América Latina). 1982. Economía campesina y agriculture empresarial. Siglo Veintiuno Editores, México, D.EGoogle Scholar
  16. CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research). 1994. Partners in selection: bean breeders and women bean experts in Rwanda. Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  17. Clawson, D. L. 1985. Harvest security and intraspecific diversity in traditional tropical agriculture. Economy Botany 39:56–67.Google Scholar
  18. Conklin, H. C. 1957. Hanunóo agriculture: a report on an integral system of shifting cultivation in the Philippines. FAO Forestry Development Paper No. 12, Rome.Google Scholar
  19. de Janvry, A., M. Fafchamps, andE. Sadoulet. 1991. Peasant household behavior with missing markets-some paradoxes explained.Economic Journal 101:1400–1417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dennis, J. V. 1987. Farmer management of rice variety diversity in northern Thailand. Unpublished Ph. D. dissertation, Cornell University. Michigan. University Microfilms, Ann Arbor.Google Scholar
  21. Donald, C. M., andJ. Hamblin. 1983. The convergent evolution of annual seed crops in agriculture. Advances in Agronomy36:97–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Feder, G., R. E. Just, andD. Zilberman. 1985. Adoption of agricultural innovations in developing countries: a survey. Economic Development and Cultural Change 33:255–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Fleuret, P., andA. Fleuret. 1980. Nutrition, consumption and agricultural change. Human Organization 39:250–260.Google Scholar
  24. Frankel, O. H. 1970. Genetic conservation of plants useful to man. Biological Conservation 2:162–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Glass, E. H., andH. D. Thurston. 1978. Traditional and modern crop protection in perspective. Bioscience 28:109–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hames, R. 1983. Monoculture, polyculture and polyvariety in tropical forest swidden cultivation.Human Ecology 11:16–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Harlan, J. R. 1992. Crops and man.2nd ed., American Society of Agronomy, Madison.Google Scholar
  28. Hawkes, J. R. 1983. The diversity of crop plants. Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA.Google Scholar
  29. Hernandez X., E. 1985. Maize and the greater Southwest. Economic Botany 39:416–430.Google Scholar
  30. IPGRI (International Plant Genetic Resources Institute). 1993. Diversity for development: the strategy of the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute. International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, Rome.Google Scholar
  31. Johnson, A. 1972. Individuality and experimentation in traditional agriculture. Human Ecology 1:149–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. —. 1974. Ethnoecology and planting practices in a swidden agricultural system. American Ethnologist 1:87–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Just, R. E., andD. Zilberman. 1983. Stochastic structure, farm size, and technology adoption in developing agriculture. Oxford Economic Papers 35: 307–328.Google Scholar
  34. Kirkby, A. V. T. 1973. The use of land and water resources in the past and present valley of Oaxaca. Memoirs of the Museum of Anthropology no. 5. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.Google Scholar
  35. Lambert, D. H. 1985. Swamp rice farming: the indigenous Pahang Malay agricultural system. Westview Press,Boulder.Google Scholar
  36. Lando, R. P., and S. Mak. 1994. Cambodian fanners decisionmaking in the choice of traditional rainfed lowland rice varieties.IRRI Research Paper Series 154.Google Scholar
  37. Lipton, M. 1968. The theory of the optimizing peasant. Journal of Development Studies 4:327–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Louette, D. 1994. Gestion traditionnelle de variétés de maïs dans la Réserve de la Biosphère Sierra de Manatlan (RBSM, états de Jalisco et Colima, Mexique) et conservationin situ des ressources génétiques de plantes cultivées. Thèse de Doctorat, Ecole Nationale Supérieure Agronomique de Montpellier, France.Google Scholar
  39. Mapes, C. 1987. El maíz entre los Purépechas de la cuenca del lago de Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, México. América Indígena 47:345–379.Google Scholar
  40. Montanez, C., andA. Warman. 1985. Los productores de maíz en México: restricciones y alternativas. Centro de Ecodesarrollo, México, D.F.Google Scholar
  41. Museo Nacional de Culturas Populares. 1982. El maíz: fundamento de la cultura popular mexicana. Secretaría de Educación Pública, México, D.F.Google Scholar
  42. NRC (National Research Council). 1993. Managing global genetic resources: agricultural crop issues and policies. National Academy Press, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  43. Oldfield, M. L., andJ. B. Alcorn. 1987. Conservation of traditional agroecosystems. Bioscience 37: 199–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Pearce, D. W., andR. K. Turner. 1990. Economics of natural resources and the environment. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.Google Scholar
  45. Perales, H. R. 1992. El autoconsumo en la agriculture de los Popolucas de Soteapan, Veracruz. Tesís de Maestría, Colegio de Postgraduados, Montecillos, Edo. de México.Google Scholar
  46. Plattner, S. 1989. Economic behavior in markets. Pages 209–221in S. Plattner, ed., Economic anthropology. Stanford University Press, Stanford.Google Scholar
  47. Plucknett, D. L., N. H. J. Smith, J. T. Williams, andN. M. Anishetty. 1987. Gene banks and the world’s food. Princeton University Press, Princeton.Google Scholar
  48. Poats, S. V.,M. Schmink, andA. Spring, eds. 1988. Gender issues in farming systems research and extension. Westview Press, Boulder.Google Scholar
  49. Quiros, C. F, S. B. Brush, D. S. Douches, K. S. Zimmerer, andG. Huestis. 1990. Biochemical and folk assessment of variability of Andean cultivated potatoes. Economic Botany 44:254–266.Google Scholar
  50. Richards, P. 1986. Coping with hunger: hazard and experiment in an African rice-farming system. Allen and Unwin, London.Google Scholar
  51. Roumasset, J. 1976. Rice and risk. North-Holland Press, Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  52. Smale, M., R. E. Just, andH. D. Leathers. 1994. Land allocation in HYV adoption models: an investigation of alternative explanations. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 76:534–546.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Soleri, D., andD. Cleveland. 1993. Hopi crop diversity and change. Journal of Ethnobiology 13: 203–231.Google Scholar
  54. Sperling, L., andM. E. Loevinsohn. 1993. The dynamics of adoption: distribution and mortality of bean varieties among small farmers in Rwanda. Agricultural Systems 41:441–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. —, —, andB. Ntabomvura. 1993. Rethinking the fanner’s role in plant breeding: local bean experts and on-station selection in Rwanda. Experimental Agriculture 29:509–519.Google Scholar
  56. Stark, O. 1982. Research on rural-to-urban migration in LDC’s: the confusion frontier and why we should pause to rethink afresh. World Development 10:63–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Sutlive, V. H. 1978. The Iban of Sarawak. AHM Publishing Co, Arlington Heights, VA.Google Scholar
  58. Wilkes, H. G. 1989a. Germplasm preservation: objectives and need. Pages 13–41in L. Knutson and A. K. Stoner, eds.,Diversity and germplasm preservation. Global imperatives. Kluwer Academic Press, The Netherlands.Google Scholar
  59. —. 1989b. Maize: domestication, racial evolution, and spread. Pages 440–455in D. R. Harris and G. D. Hillman, eds., Foraging and farming: the evolution of plant exploitation. Unwin-Hyman, London.Google Scholar
  60. Williams, J. T. 1988. Identifying and protecting the origins of our plants. Pages 240–247in E. O. Wilson, ed., Biodiversity. National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  61. Zimmerer, K. S., andD. S. Douches. 1991. Geographical approaches to native crop research and conservation: the partitioning of allelic diversity in Andean potatoes. Economic Botany 45:176–189.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mauricio R. Bellon
    • 1
  1. 1.Centro de EcologíaUniversidad National Autónoma de MéxicoMéxico D.F.México

Personalised recommendations