Author Topic: Resources on breeding for illiterate farmers  (Read 392 times)

Ocimum

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Resources on breeding for illiterate farmers
« on: 2019-11-19, 12:44:11 AM »
Farmers' breeding achieved most of the genetic improvement of todays, and it was mostly done by illiterate farmers I guess. However, since a few generations, extension services seem to undermine the traditional knowledge, and with the introduction of hybrids seed saving is strongly discouraged. The knowledge on breeding is therefore being lost.

Does anyone know of resources on plant breeding for illiterate farmers? Most books heavily rely on texts instead of drawings.

reed

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Re: Resources on breeding for illiterate farmers
« Reply #1 on: 2019-11-19, 06:30:50 AM »
I'm not sure there is much information on that. Actually I'm not convinced farmers or natives actually did plant breeding in the sense that we do. They didn't know about genetics or inheritance. I think it is more likely that once it was discovered that seeds could be purposely saved and planted that the simple act of doing that in a sense accelerated evolution. A seed that produced better was more likely to have it's genetics passed on. Climate of the specific area combined with cultural practices to accelerate it even more.

At some point however even thousands of years ago someone must have figured out that the best, most productive is what you should save, rather than eating them all. It might have been a hard decision at times, have another meal or save to plant. I wonder, especially in pre-colonial days who might have been in charge of the seeds to make sure they didn't get eaten by people or critters. How did they keep them dry and so on. I've tried to research it some but haven't found much about it.

I have big collection of material I downloaded from the Library of Congress on the war and victory garden campaigns from world wars 1 &2. Lots of pamphlets, newspaper and magazine advertisements, even text of radio PSAs and lots of great art work in posters. They cover what to grow for each region and how to preserve it, really interesting stuff. There is a lot of mention of the critical issue of seed supply, there were shortages and people were encouraged not to waste seeds but I think I only found one reference to saving seeds. By WW2 and after when we needed to feed Europe and Japan the chemical industry was really coming into prominence and lots of stuff about fertilizers and insecticides shows up.

Of course lots of people like my grandparents did save seeds during those times. I think the garden campaigns were directed more to an apparently already large percentage of the population that did not garden.  By 1900 working the soil and  growing your own food was already considered by many to be beneath them.


« Last Edit: 2019-11-19, 06:37:42 AM by reed »

Ocimum

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Re: Resources on breeding for illiterate farmers
« Reply #2 on: 2019-11-19, 08:27:10 AM »
Well, actually I have come across quite a few references on (illiterate) farmers who select and selected their own varieties. Like the corn cob with the biggest grains and most rows, the sorghum panicle of this shape and that type of grain, etc. Of course it was mostly mass selection instead of controlled hybridization, but with seed exchange gene flow occured. There are some interesting religious/rituals of seed exchange in different cultures by the way.

Ocimum

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Re: Resources on breeding for illiterate farmers
« Reply #3 on: 2019-11-19, 08:35:18 AM »
Now I get that my question is unclear:

I want resources like teaching material, or descriptions of projects on participatory breeding with illiterate farmers, if anything like this exists.

Steph S

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Re: Resources on breeding for illiterate farmers
« Reply #4 on: 2019-11-19, 01:19:40 PM »
I'm not sure that materials like books (or picture books) are all that relevant for the purpose you stated, basically re-introducing seed selection practices which have been lost, and/or imparting cross pollination skills or strategies to farmers with low literacy.   A program of this sort would necessarily involve in person discussions and hands on demonstrations, which takes the place of text materials.
In this country (Canada) where literacy levels are high, seed selection and saving workshops I've attended (sponsored by Bauta Family Initiative) have been hands on in the field,  and did not require any literacy of the participants nor depend on or use any textual materials.   Literacy requirements creep in I guess where a certain amount of clerical documentation is required of participants eg in farm-selection of varieties, but this surely wouldn't be necessary where the skills are lacking.  If weights and measurements are an essential part of the selection process, then some numeracy would have to be imparted for that purpose if it's lacking.
For learning that isn't face to face, I would have to say that videos have been extremely useful to me, to learn breeding skills like emasculating and pollinating tomato flowers.   Face to face hands on is probably the best, but video would certainly rate second best IMO, whether literate or not.    Then again you need gear to play videos, which might be as short as books in a low literacy community.

You might find some information about programs or materials used here:
https://weseedchange.org/

Joseph Lofthouse

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Re: Resources on breeding for illiterate farmers
« Reply #5 on: 2019-11-19, 10:05:33 PM »
I have been doing illiterate plant breeding for some years now, ever since I realized that I could grow twice as much food if I didn't spend half my time keeping records. It was trivial to convert my plant breeding to illiterate. I never liked keeping records anyway. I rarely referred back to them. I can often tell who is the ancestor of a plant just by the phenotype. No records necessary.

The plant breeding meme that has been known since time immemorial is that 'Offspring tend to resemble their parents and grandparents'.

bill

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Re: Resources on breeding for illiterate farmers
« Reply #6 on: 2019-11-19, 11:46:50 PM »
It seems like the algorithm for naive plant breeding is pretty simple: save what you like best.  Is there really anything more to it?  I'm not sure what illustrations would be required.

Ocimum

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Re: Resources on breeding for illiterate farmers
« Reply #7 on: 2019-11-20, 02:05:39 AM »
It seems like the algorithm for naive plant breeding is pretty simple: save what you like best.  Is there really anything more to it?  I'm not sure what illustrations would be required.

One example where it helps to understand the processes, and where a drawing is necessary: You get a hybrid with GMS, the GMS is recessive, single gene.

What percentage of plants do not have a good fruit setting in F2 to F6? Edit: you want to transform this mostly inbreeding crop into a variety, and do not have access to the parental lines.
If you use mass selection,
in F2 you get 1/4 of sterile plants
F3 1/9
F4 1/16
F5 1/49 sterile plants
So in mass selection, it takes quite a while till you get a mostly fertile population.

By understanding and using the ear to row method for example, from F4 you get 0 sterile plants if you select well.
« Last Edit: 2019-11-20, 02:18:48 AM by Ocimum »

Ocimum

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Re: Resources on breeding for illiterate farmers
« Reply #8 on: 2019-11-20, 03:17:06 AM »

The plant breeding meme that has been known since time immemorial is that 'Offspring tend to resemble their parents and grandparents'.

That is a good one, thanks.
Do you know of a meme to understand why hybrids are uniform, and their descendents are not?

Gustav H. L.

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Re: Resources on breeding for illiterate farmers
« Reply #9 on: 2019-11-20, 04:46:33 AM »
That is a good one, thanks.
Do you know of a meme to understand why hybrids are uniform, and their descendents are not?

I think at that point you start getting into mendelian stuff. Part of the problem is that to even observe this effect you usually need to engage in more complex pollination control than simple isolation (the need for isolation of outbreeders where you're keeping multiple varieties is fairly readily observable though, even if you know nothing about why it is so).

If you have two traditional landraces of an outbreeder they are going to be fairly heterozygous already, and as such if you simply grow them next to each other, your F1 will be a mixture of heterogenous crossings and themselves somewhat variable parental true types; far from the homogenous F1 you see in a commercial cornfield. If you want a homozygous plant from a traditional landrace it'll be from an inbreeding crop, and you'll again have to resort to more advanced pollination control - manual cross-pollination.

Without going into medelian stuff, outside of just stating directly stating that "The F1 of two pure lines is uniform, F≥2 segregates", the closest meme I know is "Some traits can skip a generation" which touches on some of the same things, but not quite.

Ocimum

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Re: Resources on breeding for illiterate farmers
« Reply #10 on: 2019-11-20, 06:27:45 AM »
Gustav: Well, this is only when you still have the landraces available. In some crop, the whole seed-saving was disrupted with the aggressive promotion of hybrids by agricultural extension services.

The farmers, not knowing about mendelian stuff, save seeds, notice that the crop is bad, and get discouraged to save seed due to heterogeneity and some sterility.

Steph S

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Re: Resources on breeding for illiterate farmers
« Reply #11 on: 2019-11-20, 07:39:00 AM »
The work of dehybridizing CMS plants is not really suitable for the average farmer's field.   One of the things I've learned by volunteering on my friend's farm is the importance of fresh, viable seed.  The loss of 1/4 of your crop and land/labor/ferts investment (per your ratios) in the first year due to CMS in the gene pool would not be acceptable, as farmer income margins are way too tight.   Secondly, the dehybridization ratio for subsequent years is only valid if seed is saved from the entire crop.  This would never be the case in a farming enterprise.  Without advanced technology, there is no way of detecting the CMS allele and avoiding those plants when choosing which ones to save seed from.  So there is a random element introduced into the ratio, you might be able to mathematize by multiplying the fraction of crop seed saved by something else. .. either way I am pretty certain that the small fraction of plants used to collect seed would increase the uncertainty of success in reducing the allele frequency in the next generation.

So it may be necessary to explain CMS as a reason not to save hybrid seed, and to keep hybrids out of your fields in order to be able to save seeds.   I'm sure the availability of OP germplasm is different for specific crops, but dehybridizing CMS plants for seed would surely be a last resort.   At least in the context you've given, of farmers without literacy skills and resources.    There may be a genuine reason to undertake dehybridizing where the hybrid is the only known source of eg disease resistance traits, or considered a shortcut to isolate rare and desirable traits.  But this may be something best undertaken in isolation from your cash crop, to remove the CMS before introducing a population that carries the beneficial traits.   It's also a project that would be greatly simplified by the availability of high tech to test for the allele, so IMO, not suitable for the context you suggested.

Joseph Lofthouse

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Re: Resources on breeding for illiterate farmers
« Reply #12 on: 2019-11-20, 09:38:34 AM »
It is super easy to grow CMS crops, and not even be aware that you are growing them, as long as the population is genetically diverse enough to include some plants that are shedding pollen into the patch.

It is often super easy to observe CMS plants in the field. In many species, it is easily done by illiterate people with no equipment. Just look for defective flowers.

An example on my farm would be carrots. I started out my carrot landrace with some hybrids, and some open pollinated varieties. They grew wonderfully. When I learned about CMS, I looked at the carrot flowers. 70% of them were CMS which could be observed because the flowers lacked anthers. Even from 10 feet away, the flowers with anthers looked fuzzy, and were easy to distinguish from the smooth looking CMS flowers.

CMS manifests in brassica flowers as lacking anthers. Again, super easy to observe.

Sometimes pollen from an open pollinated family can replace the defective gene that caused CMS, and the line can be restored to full fertility.

I grow a line of squash that is segregating for male sterility. It is super easy to tell which are sterile, because the male flowers shrivel up immediately rather than opening.

The meme that some traits skip a generation, goes right along with offspring tend to resemble their parents and grandparents. Putting it all together would result in a meme of "Offspring tend to resemble their parents & grandparents, and some traits skip a generation."

« Last Edit: 2019-11-20, 09:55:51 AM by Joseph Lofthouse »

Joseph Lofthouse

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Re: Resources on breeding for illiterate farmers
« Reply #13 on: 2019-11-20, 09:48:44 AM »
CMS is an abbreviation for *Cytoplasmic* Male Sterility. It is inherited from the mitochondria, which is a maternal only inheritance. Thus Mendelian genetics may not apply. My strategy is that once CMS exists in a family, that it is a permanent condition.

CMS is only useful for out-crossing crops. Because, if you have an inbreeding crop with male sterility, then it isn't making pollen to self-pollinate, and since the flower structure isn't suitable for crossing, seeds aren't produced.

« Last Edit: 2019-11-20, 09:55:08 AM by Joseph Lofthouse »

Steph S

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Re: Resources on breeding for illiterate farmers
« Reply #14 on: 2019-11-20, 10:10:26 AM »
That is good to know about the easy ID of CMS carrots and squash.  :)  But it doesn't apply to all crops.

"Usually, late steps in pollen formation are impaired in CMS plants without affecting female organs or general flower architecture. But rarely, like in the ‘petaloid’ CMS system of Daucus carota (Dc) (Kitagawa et al., 1994; Linke et al., 1999; Nothnagel et al., 2000), is the whole composition of flowers altered, frequently showing homeotic‐like organ replacements."
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1046/j.1365-313X.2003.01703.x