Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution

, Volume 59, Issue 6, pp 1147–1160 | Cite as

Farmers’ adoption of maize (Zea mays L.) hybrids and the persistence of landraces in Southwest China: implications for policy and breeding

  • Jingsong LiEmail author
  • Edith T. Lammerts van Bueren
  • Janice Jiggins
  • Cees Leeuwis
Research Article


This paper examines changes in the distribution of maize hybrids and landraces in the mountainous areas of southwest China over 1998–2008, farmers’ reasons for cultivar adoption and the implications for national policies in relation to seed production and breeding, based on baseline data and a survey conducted in Guangxi, Yunnan and Guizhou. The study traced the dynamic changes in the adoption of hybrids and landraces in farmers’ fields, explored how individual farmer’s choices can influence local landrace distribution, and investigated the space for conducive policy and innovative action for on-farm conservation of maize genetic resources. The research showed that although there is strong farmers’ interest in accessing modern maize hybrids, farmers also express strong reasons for maintaining at least some of the landraces that satisfy local agronomic context and social preferences. Farmers recognized that hybrids have a number of advantages but they also indicated some disadvantages of the current available hybrids e.g. with respect to seed quality, local adaptability, taste and cost of seeds, but also lack of information on the performances of the new hybrids. Based on farmers’ reasoning and experiences, the requirements have been identified for improving yield combined with local preferences (agronomic, cultural and socio-economic). The paper concludes by identifying options for how China might seek to develop resilient seed systems for smallholder farmers in poor areas, under changing climatical conditions and volatile markets. Participatory Plant Breeding is among the options considered for bringing farmers’ needs into conservation and breeding strategies for improving local adaptation.


Maize hybrids Maize landraces Plant breeding Southwest China Zea mays 





Participatory plant breeding


Semi-structured interviews



The authors thank Yiching Song for helpful discussion during the fieldwork and Junhui Li and Huan Yang for their assistance during data processing. The fieldwork was funded by a grant from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada.

Supplementary material

10722_2011_9750_MOESM1_ESM.doc (204 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 204 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jingsong Li
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Edith T. Lammerts van Bueren
    • 3
  • Janice Jiggins
    • 2
  • Cees Leeuwis
    • 2
  1. 1.Center for Chinese Agricultural PolicyChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.Communication and Innovation Studies GroupWageningen University, The NetherlandsWageningenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Wageningen UR Plant BreedingWageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands

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