Published online by Cambridge University Press: 17 January 2011
In areas with less favourable conditions for agriculture, informal seed systems permit gene flow through pollen to play a crucial role in the development of new varieties. An important factor with great impact on cross-pollination is the plant breeding system, but so far this is little studied within the context of low-input farming systems. This research studied the chances of cross-pollination within and between rice fields in The Gambia. Size and time of flowering were measured for 28 rice fields in one village. The level of mixture was measured in 90 seed lots of rice collected from four villages. Based on the results, we suggest that in general cross-pollination between different rice genotypes occurs more often within fields than between fields. No clear relationship was found between the level of within-field mixture and socio-economic status of farmers. Some comparison was made with millet, which allowed the identification of various factors influencing pollen flow between different genotypes. Effective pollen flow (between genotypes) is a function of a number of factors, such as the rate of cross-pollination of a crop, number of off-types within fields, variety distinctiveness, farmer expert knowledge, length and reliability of the rainy season, growth duration of different varieties, availability of fields, pest pressure and number of varieties grown per field or per farmer. We hypothesize that a low cross-pollination rate is more favourable for the development of new varieties in farmer fields than a high cross-pollination rate.