A better knowledge of factors organizing crop genetic diversity in situ
increases the efficiency of diversity analyses and conservation strategies, and requires collaboration between social and biological disciplines. Four areas of anthropology may contribute to our understanding of the impact of social factors on crop diversity: ethnobotany, cultural, cognitive and social anthropology. So far, most collaborative studies have been based on ethnobotanical methods, focusing on farmers’ individual motivations and actions, and overlooking the effects of farmer’s social organization per se
. After reviewing common shortcomings in studies on sorghum and maize, this article analyzes how social anthropology, through the analysis of intermarriage, residence and seed inheritance practices, can contribute to studies on crop genetic diversity in situ
. Crop varieties are thus considered social objects and socially based sampling strategies can be developed. Such an approach is justified because seed exchange is built upon trust and as such seed systems are embedded in a pre-existing social structure and centripetally oriented as a function of farmers’ social identity. The strong analogy between farmers’ cultural differentiation and crop genetic differentiation, both submitted to the same vertical transmission processes, allows proposing a common methodological framework for social anthropology and crop population genetics, where the classical interaction between genetic and environmental factors, G × E, is replaced by a three-way interaction G × E × S, where “S” stands for the social differentiation factors.