Cereals pp 395-414 | Cite as

Participatory Plant Breeding

  • S. Ceccarelli
  • S. Grando
Part of the Handbook of Plant Breeding book series (HBPB, volume 3)


It is widely recognized that conventional plant breeding has been more beneficial to farmers in high potential environments or those who could profitably modify their environment to suit new cultivars than to the poorest farmers who could not afford to modify their environment through the application of additional inputs and could not risk the replacement of their traditional, well-known, and reliable varieties. As a consequence, low yields, crop failures, malnutrition, famine, and eventually poverty still affect a large proportion of humanity. Participatory plant breeding (PPB) is seen by several scientists as a way to overcome the limitations of conventional breeding by offering farmers the possibility to decide which varieties better suit their needs and conditions without exposing the household to any risk during the selection progress. PPB exploits the potential gains of breeding for specific adaptation through decentralized selection, defined as selection in the target environment, and is the ultimate conceptual consequence of a positive interpretation of genotype × environment interactions. The chapter describes a model of PPB in which genetic variability is generated by breeders, selection is conducted jointly by breeders, farmers, and extension specialists in a number of target environments, and the best selections are used in further cycles of recombination and selection. Therefore, from a scientific viewpoint, the process is similar to a conventional breeding program with three main differences, namely (a) testing and selection take place on-farm rather than on-station, (b) key decisions are made jointly by farmers and breeder, and (c) the process can be independently implemented in a large number of locations. Farmers handle the first phases of seed multiplication of promising breeding material in village-based seed production systems. The model has the following advantages: the varieties reach the release phase earlier than in conventional breeding, the release and seed multiplication concentrate on varieties known to be acceptable by farmers, biodiversity increases because different varieties are selected in different locations, the varieties fit the agronomic management that farmers are familiar with and can afford, and, therefore, the varieties can be beneficial to poor farmers. These advantages are particularly relevant to developing countries where large investments in plant breeding have not resulted in production increases, especially in marginal environments. In addition to the economical benefits, participatory research has a number of psychological, moral, and ethical benefits which are the consequence of a progressive empowerment of the farmers’ communities; these benefits affect sectors of their life beyond the agricultural aspects. In conclusion, PPB, as a case of demand-driven research, gives voice to farmers, including those who have been traditionally the most marginalized such as the women, and elevates local knowledge to the role of science.


Pure Line Breeding Material Target Environment Variety Release Participatory Plant Breeding 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors thank the several hundreds farmers who make their knowledge freely available, and the several researchers extension staff and NGOs who made this work possible, and several donors who have supported PPB at ICARDA. These include the OPEC Fund for International Development, the Governments of Italy and Denmark, der Bundesminister für Wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit (BMZ, Germany), the International Development Research Centre (IDRC, Canada), the System Wide Program on Participatory Research and Gender Analysis (SWP PRGA), and the Water and Food Challenge Program of the CGIAR.


  1. Annicchiarico, P., Bellah, F. and Chiari, T. (2005) Defining Subregions and Estimating Benefits for a Specific-Adaptation Strategy by Breeding Programs: A Case study. Crop Science 45, 1741–1749.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Annicchiarico, P., Bellah, F. and Chiari, T. (2006) Repeatable Genotype x Location Interaction and its Exploitation by Conventional and GIS-Based Cultivar Recommendation for Durum Wheat in Algeria. European Journal of Agronomy 24, 70–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ashby, J. A. and Lilja, N. (2004) Participatory Research: Does it Work? Evidence from Participatory Plant Breeding. In New Directions for a Diverse Planet. Proceedings of the 4th International Crop Science Congress. Brisbane, Australia, 26 September–1 October 2004. Available at
  4. Bellon, M. R. (2006) Crop Research to Benefit Poor Farmers in Marginal Areas of the Developing World: A Review of Technical Challenges and Tools. CAB Reviews: Perspectives in Agriculture, Veterinary Science, Nutrition and Natural Resources. Online ISSN 1749-8848.Google Scholar
  5. Ceccarelli, S. (1989) Wide Adaptation. How Wide? Euphytica 40, 197–205.Google Scholar
  6. Ceccarelli, S. (1996) Positive Interpretation of Genotype by Environment Interactions in Relation to Sustainability and Biodiversity. In: M. Cooper and G. L. Hammers (Eds.), Plant Adaptation and Crop Improvement. CAB International, Wallingford, UK, ICRISAT, Andra Pradesh, India, IRRI, Manila, Philippines. pp. 467–486.Google Scholar
  7. Ceccarelli, S. and Grando, S. (1997) Increasing the Efficiency of Breeding Through Farmer Participation. In: Ethics and Equity in Conservation and Use of Genetic Resources for Sustainable Food Security. Proceedings of a Workshop to Develop Guidelines for the CGIAR, April 21–25. Foz de Iguacu, Brazil, IPGRI; Rome, Italy, IPGRI. pp. 116–121.Google Scholar
  8. Ceccarelli, S. and Grando, S. (2002) Plant Breeding with Farmers Requires Testing the Assumptions of Conventional Plant Breeding: Lessons from the ICARDA Barley Program. In: D. A. Cleveland David and D. Soleri (Eds.), Farmers, Scientists and Plant Breeding: Integrating Knowledge and Practice. Wallingford, Oxon, UK: CAB I Publishing International. pp. 297–332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Ceccarelli, S. and Grando, S. (2005) Decentralized-Participatory Plant Breeding (pp. 145–156). In: R. Tuberosa, R. L. Phillips and M. Gale (Eds.), In the Wake of the Double Helix: From the Green Revolution to the Gene Revolution. Avenue Media, Bologna, Italy. pp. 145–156.Google Scholar
  10. Ceccarelli, S. and Grando, S. (2007) Decentralized-Participatory Plant Breeding: An Example of Demand Driven Research. Euphytica 155, 349–360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Ceccarelli, S., Grando, S., Tutwiler, R., Baha, J., Martini, A. M., Salahieh, H., Goodchild, A. and Michael, M. (2000) A Methodological Study on Participatory Barley Breeding. I. Selection Phase. Euphytica 111, 91–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Ceccarelli, S., Grando, S., Amri, A., Asaad, F. A., Benbelkacem, A., Harrabi, M., Maatougui, M., Mekni, M. S., Mimoun, H., El Einen, R. A., El Felah, M., El Sayed, A. F., Shreidi, A. S., and Yahyaoui, A. (2001) Decentralized and Participatory Plant Breeding for Marginal Environments. In: D. Cooper, T. Hodgink and C. Spillane (Eds.), Broadening the Genetic Base of Crop Production. CAB International. pp. 115–135.Google Scholar
  13. Ceccarelli, S., Grando, S., Singh, M., Michael, M., Shikho, A., Al Issa, M., Al Saleh, A., Kaleonjy, G., Al Ghanem, S. M., Al Hasan, A. L., Dalla, H., Basha, S. and Basha, T. (2003) A Methodological Study on Participatory Barley Breeding. II. Response to Selection. Euphytica 133, 185–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ceccarelli, S., Grando, S. and Baum, M. (2007) Participatory Plant Breeding in Water-Limited Environment. Experimental Agriculture 43, 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Di Falco, S. and Chavas, J. P. (2006) Crop Genetic Diversity, Farm Productivity and the Management of Environmental Risk in Rainfed Agriculture. European Review of Agricultural Economics 33, 289–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Eisemann, R. L., Cooper, M. and Woodruff, D. R. (1990) Beyond the Analytical Methodology: Better Interpretation and Exploitation of Genotype-by-Environment Interaction in Breeding. In: M. S. Kang (Ed.), Genotype-by-Environment Interaction and Plant Breeding. Department of Agron. Louisiana State Agric Experiment Stn, Baton Rouge, LA. pp. 108–117.Google Scholar
  17. Falconer, D. S. (1981) Introduction to Quantitative Genetics (2nd Edn.). Longman Group Ltd., London.Google Scholar
  18. Interdrought-II. The 2nd International Conference on Integrated Approaches to Sustain and Improve Plant Production Under Drought Stress; Rome, Italy, September 24-28, 2005. Conference Conclusions and Recommendations (, accessed 18 December, 2008)
  19. Lilja, N. and Aw-Hasaan, A. (2002) Benefits and costs of participatory barley breeding in Syria. A Background Paper to a Poster Presented at the 25th International Conference of IAAE, Durban, South Africa, August 16–22 2003.Google Scholar
  20. Mangione, D., Senni, S., Puccioni, M., Grando, S. and Ceccarelli, S. (2006) The Cost of Participatory Barley Breeding. Euphytica 150 (3), 289–306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Murphy, K. M., Campbell, K. G., Lyon, S. R. and Jones, S. S. (2007) Evidence of Varietal Adaptation to Organic Farming Systems. Field Crops Research 102, 172–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Reynolds, M. P. and Borlaug, N. E. (2006) Applying Innovations and New Technologies for International Collaborative Wheat Improvement. Journal of Agricultural Science 144, 95–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Rhoades, R. and Booth, R. (1982) Farmer-Back-To-Farmer: A Model for Generating Acceptable Agricultural Technology. Agricultural Administration 11, 127–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Schnell, F. W. (1982) A Synoptic sSudy of the Methods and Categories of Plant Breeding. Zeitshrift für Pflanzenzüchtung 89, 1–18.Google Scholar
  25. Simmonds, N. W. (1984) Decentralized Selection. Sugar Cane 6, 8–10.Google Scholar
  26. Simmonds, N. W. (1991) Selection for Local Adaptation in a Plant Breeding Programme. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 82, 363–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Singh, M., Malhotra, R. S., Ceccarelli, S., Sarker, A., Grando, S. and Erskine, W. (2003) Spatial Variability Models to Improve Dryland Field Trials. Experimental Agriculture 39, 1–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Soleri, D., Cleveland, D. A., Smith, S. E., Ceccarelli, S., Grando, S., Rana, R. B., Rijal, D. and Labrada, H. R. (2002) Understanding Farmers' Knowledge as the Basis for Collaboration with Plant Breeders: Methodological Development and Examples from Ongoing Research in Mexico, Syria, Cuba, and Nepal. In: D. A. Cleveland David and D. Soleri (Eds.), Farmers, Scientists and Plant Breeding: Integrating Knowledge and Practice. Wallingford, Oxon, UK: CAB I Publishing International. pp. 19–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Yan, W., Hunt, L. A., Qinglai S. and Szlavnics, Z. (2000) Cultivar Evaluation and Mega-Environment Investigation Based on the GGE Biplot. Crop Science 40, 597–605.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA)Syria

Personalised recommendations