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Hybrid Varieties for Organic Cereals? Prospects and acceptance of hybrid breeding for organic production


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Arncken, Christine and Dierauer, Hansueli (2006) Hybrid Varieties for Organic Cereals? Prospects and acceptance of hybrid breeding for organic production. Final Report. Forschungsinstitut für biologischen Landbau (FiBL) CH-Frick .

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Hybrid breeding utilizes the advantages characterizing F1 plants in a targeted manner: Vigour, uniformity, and a combination of all dominant traits of the parental lines. It gives breeders secure licences, as farmers can not save seed from hybrid varieties with a view to replanting.
Regarding rye, the current advantages of hybrid varieties are primarily the higher yields but also improved resistances to lodging and sprouting. However, farmers can only benefit from higher yields if the limited market for organic rye in Switzerland can be expanded. The currently available hybrid rye varieties have higher susceptibility to leaf rust and ergot infections.
The criticism of hybrid breeding and hybrid varieties concerns four areas:
Firstly, the area of intrinsic quality: There are concerns, especially in the biodynamic movement, that continued inbreeding and pollen sterility as part of the breeding process will lead to losses regarding the more subtle ripening and nutritional qualities. This poses the question of adequate research methods. There is still considerable need for research.
Secondly, the area of socio-economics: The fact that seed from hybrid varieties can not be saved and replanted leads to greater dependence on breeders and seed producers on the part of the farmers. At present this is not regarded as a problem in Switzerland as most farmers purchase new seed every year in any case but in the long term it renders agriculture liable to corruption.
Thirdly, the ethical field: Some people have concerns regarding the breeders’ intervention into the flowering biology of the relevant cereal species. These interventions are at variance with the basic ethical-philosophical tenets of organic agriculture. Moreover, the fact that the hybrid varieties can not be saved and replanted effectively constitutes “patent protection” and promotes the ethically questionable change in meaning of seed from a cultural asset to a mere means of production.
Fourthly: Hybrid varieties of self-sterile plants (e.g. rye) are genetically more vulnerable to environmental influences which were not considered during selection. This point is less relevant as regards self-fertile plants (oilseed rape, barley, wheat) as even today’s pureline varieties are already very uniform. It must be noted that amongst all hybrid varieties which are based on male sterility many so-called “different” varieties may share the same cytoplasm. As the criticisms regarding dependencies and genetic vulnerability only concern the future and the ethical concerns are not shared by everyone, it is the quality issue which is of particular relevance regarding the pending decision on whether or not to ban hybrid varieties in organic bread cereal production in Switzerland. Further research is essential. However, if one is to wait for the relevant results before taking a decision, this will certainly be too late. It would be more realistic to integrate a review clause into a potential decision to refrain from the use of hybrid varieties.
Abstaining from the use of hybrid varieties in organic bread cereal production in Switzerland would give a clear signal to upstream and downstream sectors (breeders/trade and consumers respectively) that organic farming strives to consider long-term and future aspects of independence, quality, and diversity and that it would be ready to forego current agronomic advantages to this end. This would need to be clearly communicated to the trade sector when it comes to discussions on market prices.

EPrint Type:Report
Keywords:Anbautechnik einjährige Kulturen, Züchtungsbegleitforschung und Saatgutfragen, Biosaatgut, Hybridversuch, plant breeding, hybrid seed, inbreeding, Loss of diversity
Subjects: Crop husbandry > Production systems > Cereals, pulses and oilseeds
Crop husbandry > Breeding, genetics and propagation
Research affiliation: Switzerland > FiBL - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Switzerland > Soil Sciences
Related Links:http://www.fibl.org/forschung/anbautechnik-einjaehrig/index.php, https://orgprints.org/5097
Deposited By: Arncken, Christine
ID Code:8665
Deposited On:08 Jun 2006
Last Modified:12 Apr 2010 07:33
Document Language:English
Refereed:Not peer-reviewed
Additional Publishing Information:A German version of this report is available at www.orgprints.org/5097.

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