A variety is a set of related individuals within the same plant species, forming an artificial population used for agriculture. Open-pollinated varieties are a type of variety that comes from the multiplication by free-pollination of a set of individuals. It results in a high genetic diversity that leads them to be evolutive.
Natural selection and farmer’s breeding could improve their local adaptation and their value of use. These varieties are particularly adapted to agroecological practices because their high level of intrapopulation diversity increases their resistance to stressful pedoclimatic conditions and bioagressions. They are an important lever of diversity and resilience of agrosystems. Moreover their reproduction mode makes them compatible with an on-farm seed production, thereby enabling farmers to be independent regarding seed production and the improvement of their varieties.
Those varieties were commonly produced and used until the green revolution of the 1960s. Today they are facing regulatory threat because to be marketed they must be listed in the official catalogue of varieties. To be registered, they must meet the Distinctness-uniformity-Stability criteria (DUS), meaning that they have to be distinct from well-known varieties, uniform and stable from one generation to another that is biologically contrary to what they are. The recognition of those varieties is a political issue carried by social movements such as « Réseau Semences Paysannes » in France.
References to explore
Ceccarelli S., Grando S. 2007. Decentralized-participatory plant breeding : an example of demand driven research. Euphytica 155(3), pp 349–360. last visited 10/04/2020.
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.