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Potato diversity at height: Multiple dimensions of farmer-driven in-situ conservation in the Andes

De Haan, Stef (2009):
Potato diversity at height: Multiple dimensions of farmer-driven in-situ conservation in the Andes
PhD thesis. (Wageningen: Wageningen University)


It is possible to distinguish between two types of in-situ conservation of crop genetic resources: farmer-driven and externally driven, and in this thesis it is the first type that is the subject of study. This type refers to the persistence of potato genetic resources in areas where everyday practices of farmers maintain diversity on-farm. In the thesis the species, morphological and molecular diversity of Andean potatoes in Huancavelica is treated at different scales of conservation: farmer family, community, geographically distanced, regional, in-situ and ex-situ subpopulations. The results show that farmers in Huancavelica maintain high levels of diversity. The thesis also investigates the indigenous biosystematics of potatoes (folk taxonomy, folk descriptors and nomenclature), as well as the annual spatial management of potatoes (cropping and labor calendars, field scattering practices, and genotype by environmental management). It is suggested that farmers conduct annual spatial management by deploying combined tolerance and resistance traits imbedded in particular cultivar combinations in order to confront the predominant biotic and abiotic stresses present in different agroecologies. Three specific dimensions of potato land use were researched in order to gain insights into possible contemporary changes affecting the in-situ conservation of potato genetic resources: land use tendencies, rotation designs and their intensity, and sectoral fallowing systems. Farmer seed systems can be conceived as an overlay of crop genetic diversity determining its temporal and spatial patterning and the thesis investigates the relation between selected farmer seed system components (storage, health and procurement) and infraspecific diversity of potato in Huancavelica. The role of biodiverse potatoes within the human diet in Huancavelica is also looked into. As part of the conclusion the implications for externally driven R&D oriented in-situ conservation efforts seeking to support dynamic and ongoing farmer-driven conservation are discussed. It is argued that the science and practice of R&D oriented in-situ conservation lag behind the policy commitments to its implementation and that institutional learning from diverse projects already implemented throughout the Andes and the diffusion of key lessons is essential for the success of future interventions.

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