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Abstract, Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, 2005

Organic and low-input farmers often plant seed varieties that have been selected under conventional practices, traditionally including high inputs of artificial fertilizers, crop protection chemicals and/or water. In addition, these crops are often selected in environments that may or may not represent the local environment of the farmer. An evolutionary participatory breeding (EPB) method emphasizes the utilization of natural selection in combination with site-specific farmer selection in early segregating generations of a heterogeneous crop population. EPB is a combination of two specific breeding methods, evolutionary breeding and participatory plant breeding. Evolutionary breeding has been shown to increase yield, disease resistance, genetic diversity and adaptability of a crop population over time. It is based on a mass selection technique used by farmers for over 10,000 years of crop improvement. Participatory plant breeding programs originated in developing countries to meet the needs of low-input, small-scale farmers in marginal environments who were often overlooked by conventional crop breeders. The EPB method is an efficient breeding system uniquely suited to improving crop varieties for the low-input and organic farmer. The EPB method utilizes the skills and knowledge of both breeders and farmers to develop heterogeneous landrace populations, and is an effective breeding method for both traditional and modern farmers throughout the world.

Key words: plant breeding, bulk breeding, sustainable agriculture, landrace, yield, disease, quality, ecological agriculture