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University of Manitoba Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences Department of Plant Science

How does a Participatory
Plant Breeding Program work?

Participatory plant breeding can take many forms and involve farmers at different stages in the breeding process. In our PPB program farmers are involved right from the beginning, starting with selection of parental lines. An experienced plant breeder makes the crosses, with farmers having direct input into which parents are used. Seed resulting from the initial cross is increased at the University of Manitoba then the segregating populations are distributed to farmers and farmers select within the same population for three years. Farmers choose the populations that they would like to grow based on the characteristics of the parental lines used to make the cross.

Early generation selection takes place in the participating farmer's field and selection decisions are made by the farmer. The populations are planted within their typical crop rotation and managed according to the same practices as the crop would be. After three years of on-farm selection, populations are tested in a common experiment to assess the agronomic and quality characteristics of the populations. In these trials farmer-selected populations are compared to each other and registered varieties.

Figure showing a traditional (formal) plant breeding program on left and the University of Manitoba's participatory breeding program on right. Adapted from "Participatory plant breeding with diverse wheat populations" by N. Fradgley, 2014. Organic Research Centre Elm Farm. 2014 Organic Producers' Conference.

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This page created January 2015.
Last update May 2016.