Environment, Development and Sustainability

, Volume 15, Issue 6, pp 1405–1423 | Cite as

Coping with insularity: the need for crop genetic improvement to strengthen adaptation to climatic change and food security in the Pacific

  • Vincent Lebot


The capability of Pacific Island countries’ agriculture to adapt to climatic and environmental changes is analysed. After presenting key features of the region’s food cropping systems, findings of genetic diversity studies for the most important food crops are reviewed and their implications for adaptation are discussed. Biophysical and economic vulnerabilities of the food system are identified. For the major food crops, the needs for genetic improvement are detailed, and practical solutions for broadening genetic bases are suggested. The paper concludes by identifying areas for additional research on crops and agro-ecosystems adaptation aiming at increasing the flexibility of agriculture in the Pacific. In this region, plant breeding has to cope with the insularity constraints of the small island states. The new varieties need to satisfy farmers’ agronomic requirements in very diverse environments. However, because of genotype-by-environment interactions (G × E), it is difficult to identify a variety that would be accepted by most farmers on different islands. A new type of breeding programme with a pragmatic approach is therefore necessary. The geographical distribution of allelic diversity appears as a practical and cost-efficient solution.


Adaptation Breeding programmes Genetic vulnerability Root and tuber crops Vegeculture 



This study would not have been possible without the financial support of the ANR (Agence Nationale pour la Recherche, France) through the project “Végé-Culture” (no ANR-10-STRA-007). The manuscript was much improved by the suggestions of anonymous reviewers.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CIRAD-BIOS, UMR AGAPPort-VilaVanuatu, South Pacific

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