How do you convince farmers to adopt new crop varieties, encouraging them to shift from older less productive varieties that are more prone to pests and disease? Introducing varieties that are developed on research stations is often problematic – they may not have been tested in ‘real world’ conditions and thus may fail to win the confidence of farmers who remain unconvinced about their efficacy.
One potential means of encouraging farmer confidence in new varieties is Participatory Varietal Selection (PVS), providing farmers a choice of crop varieties which are matched to their specific needs. PVS schemes throughout the world, across multiple farming systems, are generating impressive results and the approach is now being applied in Morocco through the EU-IFAD initiative, managed by ICARDA (within the frame of the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes) and targeting strengthened wheat-legume production systems across North Africa and West Asia.
More than 40 participants – farmers, extentionists, and researchers – came from across the country to evaluate advanced lines of chickpea and lentil produced by ICARDA. A total of 25 elite advanced lines, planted at a farm in the Romani Region, were introduced by researchers from ICARDA and Morocco’s Institut National de la Recherhe Agronomique (INRA), who described their main characteristics.
Farmers were asked to rate the lines and expressed preferences for the delivery of particular seeds. The event also provided an opportunity to interact directly with researchers and describe some of the problems they were encountering – in particular the parasitic weed ‘orobanche’ which is a significant threat to faba bean and winter chickpea yields.
Some have also expressed a desire for improved machine ‘harvestability’ to save time and costs’ and ICARDA scientists, through the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes, are now breeding crops that are helping to achieve this - chickpea, lentil, and faba bean varieties of an appropriate height which are also resistant to pod drops and pod shattering. The best-performing lines will be proposed for registration by the national program after confirmation of their adaptation to other locations in Morocco.