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Past, present and future criteria to breed crops for water-limited environments in West Africa

Dingkuhn M., Singh B.B., Clerget B., Chantereau J., Sultan B.. 2006. Agricultural Water Management, 80 (1-3) : p. 241-261.

Asia's Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s has largely bypassed West Africa, and "modern" (high-yielding, input responsive) germplasm for staple crops has found comparatively little adoption, except for systems that are have good access to markets and sufficient water resources. It is unlikely, however, that breeding objectives conserving traditional crop characteristics as found in extensive systems would have been more successful. The authors identify systems caught in the agricultural transition from subsistence to intensified, market-oriented production as the most important target for crop improvement, and provide examples of new breeding objectives for cowpea, sorghum and upland rice. In each of these cases, breeders, with the help of physiologists, have developed innovative plant-type concepts that combine improved yield potential and input responsiveness with specific traditional crop characteristics that remain essential during the agricultural transition. In the case of cowpea, dual-purpose varieties were developed that produce a good grain yield due to an erect plant habit, then produce new leaves enabling a second harvest of green foliage. For upland rice systems that are limited by labour (mainly needed to control weeds that abound due to shortened fallow periods), a weed competitive plant type was developed from Oryza sativa × Oryza glaberrima crosses. Lastly, sorghum breeders who had previously deselected photoperiod sensitivity are now re-inserting sensitivity into plants having "modern" architecture, in order to allow for flexible sowing dates while maintaining an agro-ecologically optimal time of flowering near the end of the wet season. The ecophysiological basis of these plant types, their place in current and future cropping systems, as well as the problem of under-funding for their realisation, are discussed. (Résumé d'auteur)

Mots-clés : critère de sélection; mauvaise herbe; compétition végétale; agriculture de transition; variété; amélioration des plantes; sorghum bicolor; vigna unguiculata; oryza sativa; afrique occidentale; riz de nappe

Thématique : Génétique et amélioration des plantes; Culture des plantes

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