Human Ecology

, Volume 45, Issue 1, pp 37–51 | Cite as

Old Crop, New Society: Persistence and Change of Tartary Buckwheat Farming in Yunnan, China

  • Mary Temple Saunders Bulan
  • Joshua L. Posner
  • Duoyi Peng
  • Eve Emshwiller
  • Xinhui Wang
  • Junfang Li
  • David Stoltenberg
  • Randy Stoecker


Traditional agricultural systems are important for crop genetic resources conservation. Many scholars have addressed the problem of traditional cultivar replacement by modern varieties, but few have investigated the entire loss of traditional crops from farming systems. Our prior research suggested that tartary buckwheat (Fagopyrum tataricum (L.) Gaertn.) agriculture is rapidly decreasing in Yunnan China, the center of the crop’s origin and an important repository of on-farm genetic diversity. Using interdisciplinary methodology to determine whether the crop is indeed in decline and evaluate reasons behind planting trends, we found a combination of interacting agroecological, socio-cultural, and institutional factors influence tartary buckwheat planting in Yunnan. Farmer ethnicity, presence of a commercial market for the crop, and government agricultural policy were particularly important. Low commercial value of the crop compared to other alternatives, reduction of available farmland, and labor shortages were major reasons cited for crop abandonment. Despite an overall reduction in tartary buckwheat planting across a wide spectrum of farms, we also found the crop retains subsistence, rotational and cultural value for many Yunnan farmers. We conclude that although Yunnan farms are increasingly managed commercially rather than for subsistence, tartary buckwheat will continue to occupy a niche in the agricultural landscape.


Traditional agriculture Crop diversity Genetic resources conservation Getartary buckwheat Yunnan, China 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary Temple Saunders Bulan
    • 1
  • Joshua L. Posner
    • 2
  • Duoyi Peng
    • 3
  • Eve Emshwiller
    • 4
  • Xinhui Wang
    • 3
  • Junfang Li
    • 3
  • David Stoltenberg
    • 2
  • Randy Stoecker
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Environmental StudiesWarren Wilson CollegeAshevilleUSA
  2. 2.Deparment of AgronomyUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  3. 3.Development Research InstituteYunnan UniversityKunmingChina
  4. 4.Department of BotanyUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  5. 5.Department of Community and Environmental SociologyUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA

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