Combining genetic and climatic analyzes with the traditional knowledge of local farmers: this is 3D-breeding, an approach that has made it possible to double the accuracy of the selection of plants best suited to the climate.
It is the result of the work done in recent years by an international research group led by Matteo Dell'Acqua of the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna in Pisa and published in Communications Biology.
The researchers' work involved 1,165 farmers from the highlands of Ethiopia, a unique place for biological diversity, cultures and cultivation methods, from which we tried to identify the best varieties of wheat for the specificities of the various areas. An approach defined with the term of 3D-breeding that focuses on the analysis of data obtained from the cultivation of small plots of 4 different varieties of wheat among hundreds possible. At the end of the growing season, each farmer and each farmer is asked to evaluate the four varieties they have grown.
“These subsistence farmers - said Dell'Acqua - are real scientists, who experiment and choose the most suitable grains for their land from season to season. Their expertise and knowledge is an enormous resource for rigorous approaches aimed at improving sustainability and adaptation to climate change ”. Evaluations combined with genomic and climatic data to identify the best varieties made it possible to double the accuracy of this selection. "Agriculture is also made of culture - concluded the geneticist - and modern methods of scientific investigation, including the sequencing of crop DNA, allow us to enhance the contribution of traditional farmers in the conservation and promotion of diversity for agricultural production systems. and more resistant ".