Organic Agriculture

, 1:127

Diversity of different farmer and modern wheat varieties cultivated in contrasting organic farming conditions in western Europe and implications for European seed and variety legislation

  • Estelle Serpolay
  • Julie C. Dawson
  • Veronique Chable
  • Edith Lammerts Van Bueren
  • Aart Osman
  • Silvio Pino
  • Donato Silveri
  • Isabelle Goldringer
Original research paper


The importance of genetic diversity in cultivated varieties for organic and low-input agriculture has attracted increasing attention in recent years, with a need to identify relevant sources of diversity and strategies for incorporating diversity in plant breeding for organic systems. However, the regulatory system in many countries, particularly in the European Union, restricts the varieties available to farmers to those registered in an official catalogue, and most countries require varieties to go through official tests under conventional management, which has resulted in a lack of suitable varieties available to organic farmers. This study characterized a sample of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) landraces, historic varieties and varietal mixtures currently of interest to organic farmers in a diverse range of organic conditions on farms in Italy, France and the Netherlands. These varieties were assessed for individual plant and spike characteristics and compared to modern registered wheat varieties grown under the same on-farm conditions. Significant differences in mean values were found among varieties for many plant and spike traits, as well as significant variety-by-environment interactions. There were often similar levels of intra-varietal variability between farmer and modern varieties, indicating that the strong selection for genetic homogeneity to meet regulatory criteria has little impact on the phenotypic variability of certain traits when assessed on-farm. Several farmer varieties had high values of traits related to productivity outside their region of origin, which underlines the need for experimentation with diverse types of varieties in order to find and develop appropriate varieties for organic systems.


Conservation varieties Farmer varieties Genetic diversity Phenotypic variability Organic agriculture Seed regulations 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science & Business Media BV 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Estelle Serpolay
    • 1
  • Julie C. Dawson
    • 2
  • Veronique Chable
    • 1
  • Edith Lammerts Van Bueren
    • 3
  • Aart Osman
    • 3
  • Silvio Pino
    • 4
  • Donato Silveri
    • 5
  • Isabelle Goldringer
    • 2
  1. 1.INRA SAD PaysageRennesFrance
  2. 2.UMR de Génétique VégétaleINRA–Univ Paris-Sud–CNRS–AgroParisTechGif-sur-YvetteFrance
  3. 3.Louis Bolk InstituuteDriebergenthe Netherlands
  4. 4.IGSA StrampelliLonigoItaly
  5. 5.ARSSA Ufficio Operativo Territoriale di SulmonaSulmonaItaly

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