"Participatory Plant Breeding" - An approach where farmers have opportunity to choose

Plant breeders had played pivot role for development of high yielding varieties in different crops. He undergoes the process variability development followed by vigorous selection processes to get the desired output. But a breeder's works according to his mind perspective and develops varieties that are high yielding and resistant to biotic and abiotic stresses. He works in isolation of farmers and is not able to look beyond these things and farmers other multitude preferences like storage, taste and cooking quality, ease in harvesting, earliness or fodder requirement. Therefore involvement of end users (farmer) is very critical for its easy adoption.

Since breeder and farmers are equipped with vat knowledge and skills, therefore, they can complement each other through Participatory Plant Breeding (PPB) Approach. In this approach farmers are involved in plant breeding activities at different stages of varietal development. Apart from collaboration between breeders and farmers; marketers, processors, consumers, policy makers (food security, health and nutrition, employment) are also involved at different steps. Farmer's involvement in PPB can start form defining breeding goals and priorities, providing/ selecting germplasm, organizing demonstration trials in their fields, selecting desired plant up to commercialization of the selected lines. In PPB
there is a close
researchers, with
often done
 In PPB, farmers are given a wide range of new cultivars to test for themselves in their own fields or can identify cultivars as parents of crosses. This approach enables selection of a variety to a specific area and environmental conditions. PPB is collaboration between breeding institutions and farmers that aims to develop cultivars relevant to farmers needs. The main difference between a participatory and conventional breeding program is that in PPB most of the early selections takes place on farm. Compared with conventional plant breeding, PPB is more likely to produce farmer-acceptable products, particularly for marginal environments.

Origin of participatory approach

The green revolution resulted in increase in food grain production in the country but the light of this revolution was only up to the farmers having bigger land holdings and in the more favourable agricultural environment conditions. Most low-resource farmers having smaller or marginal land holdings were not benefited from the green revolution varieties. The PPB is regional specific and hence is capable of reaching resource poor farmers. PPB involves learning by doing in farmers' field as well as in research stations and there is complementary role of farmers and breeders which is highly relevant when specific adaptation is sought.

Role of farmers and breeders in PPB

Both breeders and farmers complement each other in varietal development process. Farmers disseminated his hand on knowledge and needs, share his germplasm and fields and are involved in each and every step besides ready for earlier adoption of the material. On the other hand breeders introduce new genetic resources, do scientific evaluation, prepares for regional specific crosses and look for other key element like resistance or climate change produce. The approach leads to breeding and creating different types of plants. Researchers and farmers work together to create varieties of plants that are better adapted to local soils and weather patterns. This collaboration between researchers and farmers can help to speed up the development of new varieties from 10-15 year to 5-7 years.

Aim of PPB

The main scope of PPB is to provide benefit to specific types of farmers and environment.

The approach develops confidence in farmer for adoption of the new technique and hence leads to early adoption.

PPB improves the biodiversity and increase production and profitability of crop production

Build farmer skills to enhance farmer selection and seed production efforts.

Types of PPB

Participatory Plant Breeding is of two types:

1. Consultative or process type: In this type of PPB farmers' are consulted and involved at each and every stage starting from setting goals up to the development of the finished product. The main aim of this type of PPB is to empower farmers to develop skills in farmers.

Functional approach consists of getting better adapted crop varieties i.e. more closely tailored to small-scale farmers' needs, whereas, process approach aims to empower farmers to develop their skills as plant breeders. Belonging to these 2 types, some current PPB objectives are detailed below

2. Collaborative or Functional type: In this farmers are involved in field trials, either in their own fields or in research stations. Farmers are made available of the material and can undergo selection from it. This process ensures that the produce is produced under real environmental conditions.

Difference between PPB and conventional Breeding

Conventional plant Breeding Participatory Plant Breeding
Carried out by trained breeders Carried out by breeders, farmers, consumers or end users
Done in laboratory or controlled environment Done under both farmers field and research farms
Focuses on broad adaptability or capacity of a variety to produce high yield over a range of environment or years Focuses on individual environment and needs

Steps/activities in PPB

Set breeding objectives and identify parent material.

Decide the model (consultative/ collaborative).

  • Generate genetic variability.
  • Select variable populations to develop varieties.
  • Evaluating experimental varieties. Enter the best participatory plant breeding lines in participatory varietal selection trials.
  • Best variety identification focused on individuals need.
  • Popularization of new variety and its seed production.
Advantage of PPB

Participatory plant breeding makes use of the knowledge of the farmers and their priorities, thereby hastening the adoption of variety after its release. PPB can lead to earlier adoption of modern varieties, with no major additional costs

Since the germplasm and lines are tested in farmers' field so they are adapted to the region and its environment. Thereby, genotypes x environment interactions are used positively because breeding is done in the target environment.

The approach empowers farmers and allows rural communities to maintain genetic resources.

The approach effectively meets the user needs and provides higher degree of farmer satisfaction.

Since one parent in any cross is well adapted to the local environment, thereby, the impact of genotype x year interaction is probably reduced because local parental materials have adapted to local year-to-year variations.

Since it is region specific hence only a few crosses are made, so large F2 and F3 populations can be grown to increase the likelihood of selecting desirable segregants.

This approach creates great impact of farmer participatory research on biodiversity.

Studies on PPB by some authors

1. Adroda (2003) reported that to improve rice production for resource poor farmers in coastal saline areas in Bangladesh, availability of adaptable high yielding salinity tolerant rice varieties is a must. So, participatory varietal selection and PPB methods were adopted.

2. Gabriel et al.(2000) focused on participatory varietal selection and PPB for resistance to late blight involving farmer participation, use of local resources etc.

3. Christinck et al.(2000) suggested an alternative approach for collecting germplasm involving farmers in all stages of collection. The method was based on participatory rural appraisal approach such as interviews, group discussions, pair wise ranking and visual sharing of matters.

4. Joshi et al. (2001) released the first rice variety developed through a participatory plant breeding approach for mid to high altitude of Nepal.

5. Andrade et al. (1997) reported the benefits of users in selection and release of potato variety in Ecuador.

6. Sthapit et al. (1998) studied the possibilities of participatory plant breeding in breeding program for high hills of Nepal whereby, the author utilized farmer's knowledge for developing suitable varieties and enhancing diversity of rice gene pools.


1. Gabriel, J., Herbas, J., Magaly S. and Demetrio C. 2000. Participatory Plant Breeding: A New Challenge in the Generation and Appropriation of Potato Varieties by Farmers in Bolivia'. Working Document 22.

2. Joshi, K.D., Sthapit, B.R. and Witcombe, J.R. 2001. How narrowly are the products of decentralized breeding? The spread of rice varieties from a participatory plant breeding programme in Nepal. Euphytica 122: 589-597.

3. Sthapit, B.R., Joshi ,K.D., Rana, A.B. and Subedi ,A. 1998. Spread of Varieties from Participatory Plant Breeding in High Altitucle Viliciges of Nepal. Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development (LI-BIRD) pp. 1-21.

About Author / Additional Info:
Scientist Senior Scale working in wheat and barley breeding for Northern Hills of the country.