Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type



This dissertation is an ethnographic analysis of a participatory plant breeding project in northwest Portugal. Participatory plant breeding (PPB) is a crop enhancement strategy that brings farmers and plant breeders together in the effort to conserve crop genetic resources in-situ, improve yield, and increase the overall agricultural sustainability in agriculture. One strategy in PPB calls for plant breeders to spend considerable time on working farms to understand better farmers’ knowledge and skill, and to survey the existing crop genetic diversity within the existing resource limitations on farms. Although there are clear social implications for PPB, the bulk of PPB evaluative literature focuses on narrow agronomic and technological goals. This dissertation widens the evaluative scope of existing research by drawing upon actor-network theory (ANT) and developing the notion of the edible landscape. The ethnography reveals how linkages between human and non-human actors are formed in the context of the VASO Project, a PPB project in Portugal where famers and plant breeders have been working on-farm to enhance local landraces of maize (Zea mays var. mays L.) for yield increases and other traits of interest. One key trait is bread flour yielding capacity and culinary quality of local white flint-type maize. Maize flour is used primarily to make flour for the traditional Portuguese bread, broa. When viewed from the perspective of food and edible landscape formation, a wide range of human and non-human actors well beyond the spaces of the farm are revealed as critical to the agronomic goals and social reproduction of the VASO project. These actors include traditional grain millers and broa bakers to name a few. Conservation of these actors and their livelihoods, as well as sustaining the linkages between them, are just as critical to in-situ maize crop diversity conservation and PPB as are the plants and genes themselves.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Mathewson, Kent