Tomatos for biodiversity: a workshop to build the network

More than thirty people from ten institutions and organizations participated on August 25 in the remote workshop “Towards participatory tomato breeding”, organized by Bioleft. Producers, breeders, gardeners, seed growers and researchers from six districts shared how they work with tomato seeds and what needs they face in the chain from planting to post-sale. The meeting showed an enormous willingness to collaborate to build a network of distribution, testing and participatory breeding of open seeds, which will contribute to recover and promote diversity in genetic material and provide seeds suitable for different types of soils and agricultural practices.

Breeders from the universities of Buenos Aires, Rosario, La Plata, Cuyo and the INTA units of La Consulta (Mendoza) and Río Negro talked with producers from the Unión de Trabajadores de la Tierra (UTT), the Movimiento de Trabajadores Excluidos (MTE), and the social economy and fair trade network Caracoles y Hormigas (Snails and Ants). A representative of the Agricultural Development area of the Municipality of Almirante Brown also participated. The Bioleft team presented its proposal to promote open seed exchange, participatory breeding and biodiversity.

Challenges for agro-ecology

It was a very rich exchange. It began with a trigger question: What are the challenges of tomato production in agroecology? Horticulturists Juan Martín Richter, Maritsa Puma from UTT, Wildo Elizaguirre from MTE, Lucas Chapanagua Campos from Caracoles y Hormigas, and Alex Edleson, from Constelación seed company -which provides organic, agroecological and biodynamic seeds- shared their main concerns: post-harvest duration, health, resistance to salinity and different types of stress, among others. There was consensus that these characteristics, together with higher yields, could be traits to be pursued. They were enthusiastic about integrating participatory breeding projects to help them obtain better results in these areas.

For their part, breeders from the universities of Buenos Aires, Rosario, La Plata and Cuyo shared their progress in projects for the recovery of old varieties, as well as other breeding projects associated with fruit size, resistance and post-harvest life, and made their seeds available for participatory evaluation.

An upcoming meeting was agreed upon to establish an evaluation network, determine the variables to be observed and the working methodology for these trials. The aim is to achieve a virtuous circle: that public breeding institutions and producers can collaboratively produce seeds suited to the needs of agroecological production needs, to create a robust and diverse circuit of open seeds: knowledge that germinates and bears fruit.