G2 The benefits of a mixed harvest

Food Security
  • Commercial seed producers want to persuade farmers that their new varieties will produce better and larger yields. Often they do; sometimes they do not.
  • However, if new varieties of crops replace all the traditional varieties, this could result in problems in the future. Traditional varieties of crops enable the farmer to produce some food whatever the conditions. Some will cope with drought, some with disease, some with flooding, some with poor infertile soils. New varieties usually only yield well under good conditions with fertile soils. They often yield very poorly in difficult conditions.
  • So experiment with new varieties, but keep some of the traditional varieties too.

Discussion 

  • Traditional varieties have been selected by farmers over hundreds of years to be adapted to the local environment. Though they may not yield as highly as new varieties, they can provide security in difficult times. Do farmers still preserve these? They are often lost when new varieties replace them.
  • Encourage farmers to discuss their own experiences and consider the local names and characteristics of the various varieties they know, not just of grain crops but of vegetables and fruits.
  • What has been the participants’ experience of using hybrid varieties (which need new seed to be bought each year) or other new varieties?
  • Emphasise that both new and traditional varieties have advantages and disadvantages and that farmers should experiment carefully. The total replacement of traditional varieties may carry considerable risks for farmers in the long term.