Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


From varietal improvement to impoverishment: what is the reality?

Fewer crop species, fewer cultivated varieties per species, less diversity within each variety are three "symptoms" of the erosion of biodiversity in cultivated plots.
It is commonly assumed that the massive use of improved varieties instead of local varieties and anthropic pressure are the prime culprits behind this impoverishment. Is this a cliché or reality? The only way to find out is to monitor the changes in crop genetic resources. This has now been done for local rice varieties in Guinea, a reserve country for the genetic diversity within the two cultivated rice species: Oryza glaberrima from Africa and O. sativa from Asia.

Are local rice varieties disappearing? What strategies are required to conserve them? CIRAD and its African partners have been working in Guinea since 2000 to find answers to those questions. Their research has been conducted on several levels.

Stable or even slightly greater diversity

On a national level, the researchers inventoried the common names of the varieties used by farmers between 1996 and 2001. This meant surveying almost 1700 farms in 79 villages. Furthermore, in 2003, samples were collected from six villages in Maritime Guinea and compared, using molecular markers, with samples taken by a survey mission to the same village in 1980 and kept in cold storage in Montpellier ever since. The results obtained ran counter to the alarmist vision of genetic erosion. The number of rice varieties and genetic diversity were stable, or had even increased slightly. Since 1996, when improved varieties were introduced, the number of varieties, which varied from 4 to 40 depending on the village and the region, had increased by 10%. There had thus not been any loss of local varieties in Guinea.

The substantial varietal diversity observed is typical of subsistence agriculture: more than 80% of the varieties grown were local. Each village could thus allow for the range of prevailing agroecological conditions and different uses of rice. However, almost 90% of the varieties inventoried were only grown by a small number of farmers, and despite the observed diversity, these "minor" varieties are now under strong threat of extinction. Moreover, there was not only diversity in terms of the number of varieties, but also within each of those varieties. Each variety was the sum of a large number of pure lines, and the proportion of those lines varied from one farm to another. This "multi-line" structure can be put down to how the farmers manage their rice varieties, ie frequent exchanges and replacement of varieties and seeds, and cropping and seed production practices that favour genetic mixes and recombination.

50% of the genetic wealth of varieties in a village held on a single farm

As regards preserving the diversity within each local variety, in situ conservation on farms, which is compatible with agricultural development, looks like the only feasible option. In fact, it would be impossible to sample all the lines that make up a variety and keep them ex situ, for instance in a cryobank. The researchers working on the study thus characterized the varieties grown in Maritime Guinea, in two villages with contrasting production systems. To this end, they used descriptors combining common names and molecular markers (short DNA sequences). The results showed that a single village may hold the equivalent of 70% of regional diversity. On a more detailed analysis level, a large farm may hold 50% of the genetic wealth of a village. As a result, a small number of villages and farms is therefore sufficient to cover the genetic diversity of a whole region such as Maritime Guinea. This type of structure could eventually be extended to cover the whole of the country.

Helen Burford | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Forest Management Yields Higher Productivity through Biodiversity
14.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Farming with forests
23.09.2016 | University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES)

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>