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In southern Mali and throughout the semiarid tropics, small-scale family farmers are faced with the challenge of producing adequate harvests in difficult biophysical and socioeconomic environments. Professional plant breeders have had much difficulty developing modern varieties that outperform farmers’ traditional varieties in these environments, in part because of an incomplete understanding of why farmers choose the varieties they grow. Improved understanding of farmers’ varietal choices can contribute to collaboration between farmers and formal plant breeders. Based on a 15-month field study in Dissan, Mali, we examine farmer's choices among their traditional sorghum varieties in terms of one or more than one variety, and short-cycle or long-cycle varieties, and the interaction between these two choices. Results support our general hypothesis that farmers choose varieties to optimize outputs in the face of variation in the growing environment and in human managed inputs such as labor and tools.


Copyright 2006 Springer Verlag

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Publication Title

Human Ecology

Published Citation

Lacy, Scott, David Cleveland, and Daniela Soleri (2006) “Farmer choice of sorghum varieties in southern Mali: Managing Unpredictable Growing Environments and Resources.” Human Ecology. 34.3.



Peer Reviewed