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Reportage vidéo Sélection participative blé durs bios. © INRA, Maya Press

Participative research to enable a dynamic organic durum wheat sector

The French production of organic durum wheat used to manufacture pasta is restricted by a lack of appropriate varieties, although demand continues to rise. To remove obstacles to meeting this demand, farmers, collection agencies, processors, consumers and INRA scientists have combined forces in the context of a participative breeding programme. Together, they have managed to breed the first varieties of organic durum wheat that meet  the needs of the short-channel artisan community and respond to the demands of the semolina industry.

By Patricia Léveillé - Vidéo : Maya press
Updated on 10/26/2016
Published on 07/13/2016

The French production of organic Participative breeding is an approach that aims to foster collaboration between farmers, scientists and sectoral actors in order to develop varieties that are better adapted to the diversity of their needs, to those of their regions and to different conditions of use. Thus, in 2001, a group of farmers asked INRA for access to its genetic resources, and the initiation of an evaluation and breeding programme on organic durum wheat varieties. Indeed, the varieties bred for conventional agriculture (that permits the application of chemical fertilisers) struggle to achieve a sufficient protein content under organic conditions that will allow them to be processed into semolina and then pasta. An initial participative diagnosis enabled the collective development of different specifications adapted to each sector and favouring their sustainability. The INRA scientists offered the farmers a range of genetic resources and provided support for breeding and evaluation stages on their farms, depending on their needs and constraints.

Agronomists, ecophysiologists, geneticists and sociologists.... the cross-disciplinarity of the scientists involved in these interactions with professionals enabled the collection and review of a broad diversity of breeding criteria. Regular field visits at key stages of cultivation provided opportunities for discussions where their expertise or skills were able to drive the project. Before and after harvest, the traits retained differed in some areas from others, depending on the needs and plans of the actors concerned. Thus, in the artisan sector, the need for a high protein content and typicality of the flavours sought for short channel use emerged as an important criteria, which also proved to be of interest to the semi-industrial sector.
In ten years, this community has succeeded in achieving several tangible results:

  • Participative breeding of the first French varieties adapted to the conditions of organic farming, with long stems, competing well with weeds, little susceptible to disease and with a satisfactory protein content.
  • Structuring of two operational sectors: artisanal/direct sale and short channel, semi-industrial:local sectors and long distribution channel.
  • Creation of an association (Sud Blé Dur AB) involving durum wheat producers in southern France, as well as collection agencies and processors. Development of equitable partnerships and transparent contractual arrangements: a fair and equitable sales price for each actor.
  • Production of technical benchmarks for sustainable arable cropping systems.
  • Creation of a national evaluation network for organic varieties, enabling their registration in the French catalogue.
  • Territorial dynamics: local supply of school canteens in Toulouse and in rural areas of pasta made using varieties bred by local farmers, rural tourism, cooking courses and school meals focused on durum wheat produced in the Aude region, etc.
Contact(s)
Scientific contact(s):

Associated Division(s):
Plant Biology and Breeding
Associated Centre(s):
Occitanie-Montpellier