Participatory variety selection of improved food barley varieties
Barley (Hordeum vulgare) has a long history as a domesticated crop. It was one of the first to be adopted for cultivation and is now produced virtually worldwide (von Bothmer et al., 2003). In Ethiopia, barley is also one of the oldest cultivated crops (Harlan, 1969) and currently it is the fifth most important cereal crop next to teff, maize, wheat and sorghum with total area coverage of over 1 million hectares of land (CSA, 2007). Even though barley is produced on a vast area of land in the country, its productivity has never been above 1.3 t/ha, which is about half the world’s average productivity (Mulatu and Lakew, 2006). However, barley is the most desirable crop for food security in the highlands of Ethiopia where soil fertility has been declining as a result of soil erosion and continuous cultivation and other cereal crops do not perform well. Most farmers in the northern highlands of Gondar grow local varieties which have low yielding ability. Because of this, farmers grow barley with wheat as a mixed crop called ‘Duragna’, and currently the area covered by barley as a sole crop has declined (personal observation). Several improved varieties with their agronomic packages have been developed since barley improvement research began in Ethiopia in the 1950s (Mulatu and Lakew, 2006). However, most of these varieties have not been promoted and utilized by farmers, particularly in this area. Some of the reasons for this low adoption of improved varieties, as mentioned by Yirga et al. (1998), is the traditional top-down research and development process which lacks the participation of the ultimate users, the farmers, as well as the inaccessibility of improved varieties to the farming community. Therefore, the objective was to identify well adapted and high yielder improved food barley varieties with the participation of farmers.