MONTE VISTA, Colo. — Most people think of plant breeders as scientists working in university greenhouses, but many more people are involved in creating, evaluating, and releasing a new fruit or vegetable variety. In the San Luis Valley, potato growers play a vital role in the breeding process as they agree to try a new advanced selection. Participatory plant breeding better incorporates the perspectives of end users into the varietal development process. This means that the process of participatory plant breeding seeks input not only from professional plant breeders, but also from growers, shippers, processors, marketers, and consumers.
Recently, some plant breeding efforts have moved towards a global approach. This allows breeding program to “do more with less” by decreasing redundancy, increasing the exchange of materials, and creating a central decision-making authority for plant breeding decisions. However, this approach has shortfalls, such as limiting adaptation breeding; it is impossible to create a plant variety that will perform equally well in all soil types, geographic locations, or nutrient management strategies. Additionally, this approach devalues user feedback, as it is unrealistic to survey all of the people who use the variety and incorporate their ideas into a breeding strategy.
Therefore, a participatory breeding model may be a better choice in some circumstances. This includes environments where a crop is grown in a central region or location instead of spread equally throughout a much larger area. It is also practical in instances where end users demand a combination of multiple traits. Thinking of potatoes, this could mean good yield, disease resistance, uniform size, an adequate dormancy, and an attractive taste and appearance that consumers want. Finally, participatory plant breeding is useful when the needs of the end users are continually changing. Continuing with the example of potatoes, this could include the market demanding B-sized potatoes with yellow flesh or processors looking for a narrower size range of chipping potatoes.
The participation part of participatory plant breeding is a continuum of different levels of interaction with a plant breeder. This may mean collaborating and providing feedback on the germplasm evaluation process, the locations where testing and selection takes place, and the stages at which commercial growers are involved. Most importantly, participatory breeding requires growers to be engaged, provide feedback, and communicate ideas to the plant breeder.
Want to engage in participatory potato plant breeding in the San Luis Valley? You can:
- Attend field day or the plant breeding open house
- Stop by the research center, especially during planting and harvest. The breeding and selection program can show you how we choose and evaluate new varieties.
- Follow the SLVRC on Facebook to learn what the breeding program is doing
- Visit potatoes.colostate.edu/potato-breeding to learn about the advanced selections available for grower evaluation
- Grow and provide feedback on an advanced selection.
— Trina Zavislan, Colorado Potato Administrative Committee
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