, Volume 53, Issue 6, pp 1099-1113
Date: 17 Dec 2005

Farmers’ Perception and Genetic Erosion of Tetraploid Wheats Landraces in Ethiopia

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Abstract

Assessing genetic erosion has been suggested as the first priority in any major effort to arrest loss of genetic diversity. In Ethiopia, although it is generally accepted that significant amount of genetic erosion has occurred and is still occurring, there is little data on its amount and extent. Thus, this study is conducted to quantify the extent of genetic erosion in Ethiopian tetraploid wheat landraces and to identify major causes of genetic erosion. To this end, a field survey of 126 farmers, randomly selected over five districts in eastern, south-eastern and central highlands of Ethiopia during 2001/2002 and 2002/2003 main cropping seasons was undertaken. Questioner was used to collect primary data from farmers who are potentially rich sources of information on genetic erosion at the variety level. Additional data were collected through key informant interviewing. Moreover, resampling was made from Tulo, Chiro and Harar Zuriya districts in eastern Ethiopia. Analysis of history profiles from primary and secondary data indicated a reduction in the use of local varieties over years. Triticum polonicum and T. turgidum are becoming very localized, and therefore, they are under greater threat of extinction. Using the calculation scheme: gene erosion=100%−gene integrity, i.e., the still extant landraces, genetic erosion was calculated for the three different areas where resamplings were made. Genetic erosion of 100% was observed both in T. durum and T. dicoccon in Tulo district. Likewise, genetic erosion of 85.7, 100 and 77.8%, respectively, was calculated for T. durum, T. turgidum and T. dicoccon in Chiro district. In Harar Zuriya, a genetic erosion of 88.9% for T. durum and 100% both in T. turgidum and T. dicoccon was detected. Number of farmers growing landraces of tetraploid wheats drastically decreased in all surveyed areas in the past decades. Displacement of landraces by other crops was the prominent factor for ending landrace cultivation. Farmers’ preference to yield potential and cash crops subsequently reduced the chance of maintaining landraces. Institutional factors like access to credit and the extension advice have influenced farmers’ decision regarding cultivar choice. In all surveyed areas, the most important initial source of seed of improved wheat varieties is the seed credit from the Ministry of Agriculture which uses a ‘plant now, pay later’ scheme to promote the distribution of improved varieties and fertilizers. The problem of genetic erosion through inappropriate maintenance of ex situ collections was also recognized and discussed.