Saturday, 15 February 2014
Grand Ballroom A (Hyatt Regency Chicago)
Geography is important in genetically improving crops. The selection of environments to breed and the characterization of target environments for which crops are bred determine to a high extent the success of breeding programmes. In research for smallholder farmers, who often work in more marginal and therefore more temporally and spatially variable environments, this is even more critical. Plant breeders, however, often rely on intuition to select trial sites or to analyze crop responses to particular environmental conditions and to weight the importance of particular stresses on plants in agriculture. This can lead to suboptimal investments. Climate change can be expected to exacerbate this problem. Therefore, more geographical research is needed to guide plant breeding. I review the literature on (1) climate variability and climate change and its impact on crops and (2) geographical methods to support plant breeding. I describe a framework to determine and iteratively update and improve the spatial arrangements to optimize participatory-evolutionary breeding programmes (“what to select for where”). I suggest that mobile technology and crowdsourcing approaches can help to gather more detailed information about specific niches in complex landscapes where crops are grown and the response of crops to specific environmental conditions.