PVS for Specialist Growers/Gardeners

In developed countries, commercial seed companies commonly use on-farm participatory varietal selection (PVS) trials to compare their new varieties with other commercial varieties. However, they seldom seem to report them, perhaps for commercial reasons and because it is so commonplace.

But PVS also occurs there with agricultural universities, research stations and not-for-profit organisations often along with specialist users, especially in North America and continental Europe, and these do commonly report it. Here are a few examples.

FarmFolk CityFolk in British Columbia, Canada, describes on its website how it organises citizen seed trials (= PVS) to test different vegetable varieties, mainly for small organic farms/ farmers.

FarmFolk CityFolk on-farm in British Columbia. Credit: FarmFolk CityFolk

The American community science ADAPT program, part of the Seed Savers Exchange movement also organises trials of heritage varieties of crops:

‘Have you ever wanted to help select the new varieties that are introduced in the Seed Savers Exchange catalog each year? This is your chance! Every year, our in-house Evaluation Program documents several hundred varieties from the collection, many of which are outstanding in their performance and flavor. Through the ADAPT program, you provide input to help our Evaluation Program select the best of these varieties to introduce into our catalog. All you have to do is grow three varieties of a single crop type side-by-side and rank them on key characteristics. It’s that simple. Using your feedback, we’ll determine which varieties proved most popular and use this information to decide what to introduce in our seed catalog.’

It links with SEEDLINKED, a US-based website that provides a ‘user-friendly interface and a smartphone app’ to allow users to track and share data.

The Culinary Breeding Network is another US-based project building ‘communities of plant breeders, seed growers, farmers, produce buyers, chefs and other stakeholders to improve quality in vegetables, fruits and grains’.

“Culinary Breeding Network events aim to break down the wall between eaters and breeders by offering unique opportunities to see and taste new and in-development vegetable and grain cultivars, share opinions, and be an active participant in the breeding process. By helping plant eaters, plant buyers, and plant breeders get to know one another, we’re working towards a future of delicious, beautiful, resilient, and diverse crops.”

The Network began in 2011, when Lane Selman, a Professor of Practice at Oregon State University, observed chefs and plant breeders sharing knowledge during a taste test of nine different sweet pepper varieties, and it has progressed from there.

These examples give an idea of how PVS contributes in developed countries and their websites usefully include links to further examples.


However, none of them seem to focus on the millions of ordinary small gardeners wanting to know which one or two varieties of each plant type they should buy, of the thousands of varieties offered for sale in catalogues, websites etc. The challenge of how PVS can be used to help achieve this appears unsolved (unless someone out there has the answer; if so, please contact me!). Read about this here.