A biological framework for understanding farmers' plant breeding

David A. Cleveland, Daniela Soleri, Steven E. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


We present a framework for understanding farmer plant breeding (including both choice of varieties and populations and plant selection) in terms of the basic biological model of scientific plant breeding, focusing on three key components of that model: 1) genetic variation, 2) environmental variation and variation of genotype-by-environment interaction, and 3) plant selection. For each of these concepts we suggest questions for research on farmers' plant breeding (farmers' knowledge, practice, and crop varieties and growing environments). A sample of recent research shows a range of explicit and implicit answers to these questions which are often contradictory, suggesting that generalizations based on experience with specific varieties, environments or farmers may not be valid. They also suggest that farmers' practice reflects an understanding of their crop varieties and populations that is in many ways fundamentally similar to that of plant breeders; yet, is also different, in part because the details of their experiences are different. Further research based on this framework should be valuable for participatory or collaborative plant breeding that is currently being proposed to reunite farmer and scientific plant breeding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)377-394
Number of pages18
JournalEconomic Botany
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2000


  • Collaborative plant breeding
  • Farmer crop varieties
  • Farmer plant breeding
  • Genetic variation
  • Genotype-by-environment interaction
  • Landraces
  • Plant selection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science
  • Horticulture


Dive into the research topics of 'A biological framework for understanding farmers' plant breeding'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this