A variety is a set of related individuals within the same species, with a set of common characteristics, forming an artificial population used for agricultural production. Population varieties are made up of a set of individuals with varied genotypes and a broad genetic base, made up of individuals expressing similar phenotypes but with a high degree of genetic variability. They are generally selected in the field by farmers and propagated by open pollination without forced self-fertilization. Their characteristics therefore change according to variations in local environmental conditions. These varieties were commonly produced and used until the green revolution of the 1960s in Europe and the rest of the world, but were abandoned mainly for reasons of productivity and industrial processing.
The genetic diversity offered by population varieties and their mode of reproduction by open pollination give them the particularity of being evolutionary. Through natural selection and selection by the farmer, population varieties have the capacity to improve over generations according to the objectives defined by the farmer and the environmental constraints to which they are subject. They are particularly well-suited to agro-ecological production methods because they retain a high level of diversity, giving them the ability to adapt to stressful soil and climate conditions and to pests and diseases. They are an important lever for the diversity and resilience of agrosystems. What’s more, the way they reproduce makes them compatible with on-farm production, giving farmers autonomy in terms of seed production and variety improvement.
References to explore
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Döring T.F., Knapp S., Kovacs G., Murphy K., Wolfe M.S. 2011. Evolutionary plant breeding in Cereals—Into a new era. Sustainability 3(12), pp 1944–1971. doi.org/10.3390/su3101944. last visited 10/04/2020.
Geves. DUS ans VCUS : the core of variety testing. last visited10/04/2020.
Hajjar R., Jarvis D.I., Gemmill-Herren B. 2008. The utility of crop genetic diversity in maintaining ecosystem services. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 123, pp 261–270. doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2007.08.003. last visited 10/04/2020.
Pixley K., Bänziger M. 2001. Open-pollinated maize varieties : a backward step or valuable option for farmers ? Seventh Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Maize Conference 11th – 15th February,, pp. 22-28. last visited 10/04/2020.
Rivière P., Goldringer I., Berthellot J.F., Galic N., Pin S., De Kochko P., Dawson J.C. 2015. Response to farmer mass selection in early generation progeny of bread wheat landrace crosses. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems First, Volume 30, Issue 2, April 2015 , pp. 190-201.