Sustainable Plant Breeding :A Participatory Methodology for CSA’s and Fresh Market Vegetable Producers in South Central WI

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2004: $9,969.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Grant Recipient: University of Wisconsin, Madison
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Brent McCown
University of Wisconsin, Madison

Annual Reports


  • Vegetables: beans, beets, carrots, onions, peppers, sweet corn, tomatoes


  • Production Systems: general crop production

    Proposal abstract:

    Sustainability of plant breeding, maintenance of genetic diversity, and socio-economic stability of seed stock are integral for the expansion of sustainable agriculture in the United States. Sustainable farmers are continually marginalized throughout public and private plant breeding research. They receive little to no benefit from contemporary research because their agro-ecological systems are highly variable and locally embedded, differing strongly from large-scale industrial high-input production systems that both private and university systems emphasize. Social networks, knowledge valuation, and institutional arrangements strongly influence how agricultural research is conducted. However, such social factors are often not addressed in sustainable agronomic research despite their strong impact on the long-term sustainability of farming systems. This project aims to contribute to the formation and evaluation of sustainable plant breeding systems in two ways 1. To establish a participatory methodology for sustainable plant breeding which addresses local environmental, social and economic needs, while retaining methodological generality; 2. To create a social network, knowledge formation process, and institutional framework for conducting future sustainable breeding research in South-central WI.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project is grounded in two long term outcomes: The actualization of a sustainable plant breeding system to meet the needs of sustainable farmers in the North Central region; and the creation of institutional ties between Wisconsin farmers, NGOs, the land grant university system, and small seed companies. Short and intermediate term changes are expected in the awareness and behavior of four stakeholder groups: CSAs and fresh market vegetable farmers, University of Wisconsin Madison researchers, two small seed companies, and an NGO.

    The project will increase farmer awareness about the redirection of university research for their needs. It will strengthen farmer ties to the university, contributing to the larger goal of farmer-oriented skill based workshops and research around identified farmer needs. Finally, this project will educate farmers on participatory and sustainable plant breeding and give them a breeding/seed production network with which to work. This project will educate university researchers on the need for breeding in sustainable systems and expose them to a model of participatory research/decision-making. It will facilitate an identification of barriers to involvement with sustainable farmers in WI. This project will educate researchers on potentials for seed dissemination, beyond large multinational seed companies, to whom most university research is oriented. Through involving graduate students, in sustainable breeding, this project impacts future research possibilities and methods. The outcomes for the non -governmental organization involved is increased awareness of public research, and increased knowledge about the problems vegetable farmers and university researchers encounter. It will allow them to better target areas of work in which there is farmer need but little university resources. This project aims to reconnect small seed companies with the university and to educate them on participatory research, and sustainable seed production, giving them options for expanded local business development. The success of reaching outcomes will be measured using qualitative methods including; Surveys, analysis of roundtable discussion and in-depth and semi-structured. Changes in participant perceptions of breeding and seed production, knowledge on participatory breeding, plans for future action and strength of ties between stakeholders will be monitored.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.