Most often, organic farming focuses on the improvement of management practices such as nutrient application and pest control, and very seldom deals with variety improvement or breeding. Because it has been dependent on commercially-available varieties developed under conventional high-input methods, traits are expressed resulting in low yields that are commonly attributed to organic farming practices rather than to the adaptability of the cultivar to the system. A research program in the Philippines involving several regions and institutions has pioneered in the evaluation and improvement of varieties through breeding under low-input organic conditions. After making several crosses, pedigree selection, replicated yield and on-farm trials, promising and potential varieties were developed and identified in squash, cucumber, lettuce and yardlong bean. The most promising yield advantages over the respective check varieties ranged up to 47% in squash, 31% in yardlong bean, 42% in lettuce, and 43% in cucumber. Pest and disease resistance were also considered during the selection process, and top performers were moderately to highly resistant. General acceptability in appearance, taste and marketability provided additional selection criteria for considering the top performers and potential varieties. Commercial varieties developed and performing well under conventional high-input methods were mostly not suitable under organic low-input conditions. Hence, breeding under organic low-input conditions is a must to achieve high yield in organic farming systems.
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