Organic Participatory Plant Breeding Toolkit: Tools and training in participatory breeding projects for researchers and organic farmers


Coordinator: Jared Zystro, Organic Seed Alliance, Port Townsend, Washington
Stakeholders: Any farmer or agricultural researcher interested in participatory plant breeding as a tool for developing organic seed varieties.

Organic farmers need crop varieties that are adapted to the challenges of organic systems--varieties that can better access organic fertility sources, compete with weeds, and resist pests. Currently, almost no plant varieties have been bred specifically for organic systems. To increase organic farmers’ success, we must increase the number of varieties bred for organic systems.

Participatory plant breeding (PPB) is a highly effective breeding method, and a method that is well suited to organic systems. PPB involves a close collaboration between farmers and researchers, with much of the breeding work often done in the farmers’ fields. It enables farmers to select and adapt crop varieties to the specific environmental conditions of their regions and to the organic cultural practices that they use.

PPB can successfully leverage the strengths of all participants. However, many PPB projects are challenged by a lack of clear planning and communication. Farmers and university or industry based breeders are experts in their own fields, but may not have training in how to methodically assess the needs and capacities of all partners, how to work together in project planning, or how to maintain clear and timely communications.

To foster more successful organic PPB projects, we propose to create a breeding toolkit. The toolkit will include project blueprints, planning worksheets, participant needs and capacities worksheets, and case studies from PPB participants. The toolkit will be disseminated widely: at the 2012 Organic Seed Growers Conference (OSGC), through OSA’s website, and through eOrganic. To train individuals on how to use the toolkit we will present a workshop and webinar at the OSGC and on eOrganic respectively.

Our primary objective is to provide education and tools for farmers and researchers to succeed in participatory organic plant breeding projects.

This project will foster the improvement and widespread adoption of organic farming systems by increasing the number of varieties bred for organics. By providing a toolkit to simplify the PPB project planning process and guide the discussions of the participants, this project will increase the success of organic plant breeding projects, leading to more and higher quality varieties bred for organic agriculture.