COBRA in ITALY_2013/2014

Gaining experience through exchange with breeders and farmers: approaches of participatory selection of field pea in Italy 
L. Pecetti, P. Annicchiarico, M. Romani, CRA-FLC, Lodi, Italy

     In 2013 and 2014, CRA-FLC Lodi carried out an activity of participatory selection of field pea (Pisum sativum L.) in collaboration with the Italian Association of Organic Agriculture (AIAB) and the University of Perugia. This was probably the first experience of this kind on the species, which was chosen as grain legume of great potential for Italian environments, with considerable interest as protein source for organic livestock and with a variable response to organic conditions such as to justify the selection of varieties with specific adaptation to this use.
     The activity involved a total of 17 organic farmers in the two years, many of them participating in both years. Several farmers came from livestock farms with feed self-production. The process of evaluation/selection was conducted separately in Lodi (involving farmers from northern Italy) and Perugia (with farmers from central Italy) to account for possible differences in response of the germplasm to the sub-continental climate of Lodi and to the transition climate of Perugia, as well as for possible differences in requirements/criteria for selection of farmers in the two areas.
     The first year (2013) was used mainly to develop the tools for the task, namely: i) a questionnaire to assess the importance attributed as possible selection criterion to each character included in a wide preliminary range; and ii) a synthetic system of evaluation of the material in the field, using a visual score attributed to each test plot.
     In 2014, the aim of the study was twofold. The first goal was to apply the synthetic visual score to a set of over 300 lines (deriving from three inter-connected crosses) in an advanced stage of selection, sown in the two sites. The material encompassed both lines obtained from singleseed descent (SSD), that is, advanced from one generation to the next without deliberate selection, and lines obtained from evolutionary selection in conditions of low winter temperatures or spring drought. Evolutionary mixtures arising from both conditions, as well as ‘mechanical’ mixtures of pure lines were also included among the tested germplasm. The second goal was to analyze the importance attributed to the various characters, to define selection indices from the character scores.
     The weight of each character in an index was determined by the mean score for the character given by each group of farmers. Some characters were considered important as selection criteria in both geographical areas, while others were included in the index for only one area. The synthetic visual score was also included in the indices.
     Some professional breeders (from public and private sectors) were asked to use, in the two sites, the same methods of judgment used by farmers and to provide their scores of selection priorities to verify similarities or differences with those produced by groups of farmers.
     The results obtained showed that differences of opinion can be observed not only between breeders and farmers but also between farmers whose experience grew in diversified environmental conditions. Characters such as total biomass, tolerance to ascochyta or seed colour were considered more important by breeders than by farmers but, at the same time, greater attention was paid to adversities such as lodging and diseases by farmers from northern Italy than from central Italy.
     Based on a combination of grain yield and/or defined selection indices, over 30 promising lines were identified that were sown again in both locations last autumn to be evaluated during the 2014-15 season along with the best evolutionary mixtures and best mixtures of pure lines. In Table 1 an example is reported of the various selection criteria applied to the lines deriving from one of the crosses. Further data will provide information on the relative value of different selection criteria, on any advantage of evolutionary selection over conventional breeding (SSD), as well as on possible differences between pure lines and line mixtures.

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