, Volume 77, Issue 3, pp 205–219 | Cite as

Specific adaptation and breeding for marginal conditions

  • Salvatore Ceccarelli


Breeding has been very successful in generating cultivars that in favorable environments, and together with large use of fertilizer and chemical control of weeds, pest and diseases, have increased agricultural production several fold. Today the environmental impact of high input agriculture in more favorable environments causes growing concern. By contrast, the impact of breeding in marginal environments has been elusive. The paper discusses evidence showing that the use of breeding principles developed for, and successfully applied, in favorable environments may be the main reason for the lack of breeding progress in marginal environments. Very little breeding work has actually been done in marginal environments, although the theory of correlated responses to selection indicates that selection conducted in good environments or in well-managed experiment stations is not expected to be very efficient when genotype by environment interactions of a cross-over type exist. The assumptions that heritability is higher under good conditions and that there is a carry-over effect of high yield potential are not supported by experimental evidence. If the target environment is below the cross-over point, selection has to be conducted for specific adaptation to that environment. The concept of wide adaptation has more a geographical than an environmental meaning, and it reduces genetic diversity and increases genetic vulnerability. Eventually the issue of genetic heterogeneity versus genetic uniformity is discussed in relation to specific adaptation to marginal environments.

Key words

Hordeum vulgare barley genotype by environment interaction landraces low-input agriculture specific adaptation sustainability 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1974

Authors and Affiliations

  • Salvatore Ceccarelli
    • 1
  1. 1.The International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA)AleppoSyria

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