Many public-sector breeding programmes do not use explicit techniques to orient their programmes close to their clients' needs. Participatory techniques can be used to achieve high client orientation but these techniques do not have to involve farmers making selections during the segregating generations. This particularly applies when a sound initial market survey has been made or the learning from a participatory varietal selection (PVS) programme provides feedback to scientists. However, some published results on selection by farmers in the segregating generations (collaborative selection) indicate that it can produce appropriate varieties more effectively than less collaborative research. There is also evidence, from the few cases reported in the literature, that it is cost-effective. Alternative, less collaborative, approaches are also effective. Consultative forms of farmer participation, i.e. where farmers evaluate material grown by scientists, to aid selection in the segregating generations are more widely applicable because they demand fewer resources than collaborative methods. For more time-consuming tasks, such as in the selection of aromatic rice in segregating material, the most appropriate from of participation is contractual i.e., farmers are paid for their work. Mainly using examples from our research in Nepal, we present the particular circumstances in which the involvement of farmers in selection in the segregating generations is desirable or essential. These include: the occurrence of market failure (where the usual mechanisms of supply and demand have failed so there is no incentive to breed new varieties) and supply can only be met by actively involving farmers in the breeding process; when there are cost advantages to involving farmers – this is determined by the particular resources available to the institute undertaking the plant breeding research; when grain quality is both important and determined by a complex set of factors that are difficult to measure in the laboratory; when the objective is to learn in more detail about farmers' selection criteria to better orient the breeding programme to client needs; and when the goal is to empower farmers.
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