Misidentification by farmers of the crop varieties they grow: Lessons from DNA fingerprinting of wheat in Ethiopia.
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Accurate identification of crop varieties grown by farmers is crucial, among others, for crop management, food security and varietal development and dissemination purposes. One may expect varietal identification to be more challenging in the context of developing countries where literacy and education are limited and informal seed systems and seed recycling are common. This paper evaluates the extent to which smallholder farmers misidentify their wheat varieties in Ethiopia and explores the associated factors and their implications. The study uses data from a nationally representative wheat growing sample household survey and DNA fingerprinting of seed samples from 3,884 wheat plots in major wheat growing zones of Ethiopia. 28-34% of the farmers correctly identified their wheat varieties. Correct identification was positively associated with farmer education and seed purchases from trusted sources (cooperatives or known farmers) and negatively associated with seed recycling. Farmers' varietal identification thereby is problematic and leads to erroneous results in adoption and impact assessments. DNA fingerprinting can enhance varietal identification but remains mute in the identification of contextual and explanatory factors. Thus, combining household survey and DNA fingerprinting approaches is needed for reliable varietal adoption and impact assessments, and generate useful knowledge to inform policy recommendations related to varietal replacement and seed systems development.
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