, Volume 122, Issue 3, pp 551-563

Participatory plant breeding with maize in Mexico and Honduras

  • Margaret E. SmithAffiliated withDepartment of Plant Breeding, Cornell University
  • , Fernando G. CastilloAffiliated withGenética, IRGP
  • , Francisco GómezAffiliated withDole Corporation

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Maize is a staple food crop in many developing countries. However, if seven major maize producing countries are excluded from this group, data indicate that only 34% of the maize area is planted with improved seed despite considerable effort invested in maize breeding. This has led researchers to investigate other options, such as farmer-participatory plant breeding, for delivering the benefits of plant breeding knowledge and technology to farmers in developing countries. This paper describes short-term results from participatory maize breeding studies in Mexico and Honduras. Results from three selection cycles in Mexico suggest that stratified mass selection without pollination control, with selections carried out by researchers in farmers' fields, may be effective at improving yield in farmers' local varieties. In Honduras, mass selection with pollination control, where selections were done by collaborating farmers in their own fields on their own varieties, showed trends (non-significant) towards yield improvement. Farmer selection seemed to offer the greatest yield benefit over experiment station selection on the farm with the lowest yield potential, suggesting that farmer-participatory approaches may be most advantageous in marginal environments where experiment station conditions differ most dramatically from farmers' conditions. These studies highlighted the importance of seed systems knowledge in designing participatory plant breeding programs. For cross-pollinated crops, they also highlighted the need to balance progress from selection and demands on farmers' time and labor in choosing breeding methods. Further work is needed to investigate farmer-participatory breeding approaches that can address post-harvest traits.

maize mass selection participatory plant breeding Zea mays L.