Participatory approaches for variety selection, breeding, ex-situ and in-situconservation of neglected crops in Malawi was initiated in 1998. The specific objective of the present study was to select diverse and productive sorghum lines adapted to local conditions and accepted by farmers and consumers at large using farmers’ knowledge and breeders’ scientific approach. Participatory rural appraisals (PRAs) were conducted on the major characteristics of sorghum landraces. This was done in village meetings by focused group discussions (FGDs), matrix ranking, and individual interviews. Participatory variety selection was applied to select diversified sorghum lines that possess farmer-preferred plant and grain traits. During the first season, male and female farmers were invited to research stations to select 20 accessions from a pool of 101 landraces. These 20 accessions were evaluated by farmers on community plots managed by them at several sites in different agroecological areas for two years. Selection was based primarily on agronomic traits such as time to maturity, height, drought tolerance, insect resistance, and grain yield. Protein content and genetic differences assessed by the breeders were also used as selection tools. Overall, the results of the present study showed that farmers’ characterization of several accessions combined with statistical, nutritional, and genetic analyses performed by the breeders has allowed selection of sorghum landraces that have out-performed breeder-developed lines on more than one criterion. These lines have been adopted by the farmers and are still being grown in many communities five years avec local release.
Key words: Participatory variety selection, Sorghum bicolor, Malawi, agrobiodiversity.
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