Scientific Publication

Linking participatory plant breeding to the seed supply system


There is a strong link between formal plant breeding and seed supply. In developed countries, it was the emergence of systematic plant breeding that generated new named varieties and stimulated organized seed multiplication and marketing by commercial companies. In developing countries likewise, the experience of the 'yGreen Revolution' in the 1960's led to the establishment in the following decade of national seed projects which could deliver the products of plant breeding more effectively from breeder to farmer. The provision of a secure conduit leading from research to agriculture remains a major justification for formal seed systems. The limitations of formal breeding approaches have been recognized in recent years, especially for crops grown in marginal and diverse environments, where farmers' requirements are more complex. This has prompted interest in alternative participatory plant breeding strategies in which farmers can play an active role in the selection process. There has been a parallel recognition of the role of the informal seed sector, as the major seed supplier in many crops and areas where the regular sale of seed by formal organizations is difficult. The question which arise therefore is-How do participatory breeding approaches relate to both formal and informal seed systems? The purpose of this paper is to examine the technical, regulatory and policy aspects of this question, with emphasis on the following issues: The nature and definition of participatory plant breeding (PPB) outputs, Maintaining the identity and integrity of PPB outputs The relevance of official variety evaluation and registration procedures Maximizing the diffusion and impact of PPB outputs Innovative seed supply systems linked to PPB activities The role of policy in facilitating alternative seed delivery systems The synthesis of this discussion is that PPB initiatives must be linked to a secure diffusion strategy within and beyond the participating communities if the technical and social benefits of this approach are to be fully realized. National policies relating to seeds and regulatory frameworks must also take account of this approach to avoid downstream constraints