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Abstract, Cogent Food & Agriculture, 2016

Smallholder sugarcane production sector is under researched and underdeveloped with limited industrial link and support. The objectives of this study were to assess the current state of sugarcane production, farmers’ perceived production constraints and preferred traits, and to collect germplasm grown by smallholder farmers in southern Ethiopia for strategic breeding and conservation. The study was conducted across 16 administrative zones, 28 districts and 56 peasant associations involving 560 smallholder sugarcane growers in southern Ethiopia using a participatory rural appraisal approach. Sugarcane genetic resources were collected through structured sampling. Findings from this study indicated that monocropping was identified as the predominant sugarcane farming system. Respondent farmers prioritized drought tolerance (21%), increased cane yield (20%), early maturity (18%), marketability (17%), and high biomass (14%) as the top preferred traits of sugarcane. Ninety diverse sugarcane landraces were collected from homesteads of smallholder farmers. Findings from this study would serve as baseline information towards sugarcane research and development emphasizing the constraints and preferences of smallholder sugarcane growers in Ethiopia or similar agro-ecologies. This is the first study to report farmers preferred traits and constraints, and genetic resources of sugarcane under smallholder farming systems in Ethiopia.