Evolution, plant breeding and biodiversity

Salvatore Ceccarelli


This paper deals with changes in biodiversity during the course of evolution, plant domestication and plant breeding. It shows than man has had a strong influence on the progressive decrease of biodiversity, unconscious at first and deliberate in modern times. The decrease in biodiversity in the agricultures of the North causes a severe threat to food security and is in contrasts with the conservation of biodiversity which is part of the culture of several populations in the South. The concluding section of the paper shows that man could have guided evolution in a different way and shows an example of participatory plant breeding, a type of breeding which is done in collaboration with farmers and is based on selection for specific adaptation. Even though participatory plant breeding has been practiced for only about 20 years and by relatively few groups, the effects on both biodiversity and crop production are impressive. Eventually the paper shows how participatory plant breeding can be developed into ‘evolutionary plant breeding’ to cope in a dynamic way with climate changes.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.12895/jaeid.20091/2.28