The tricot approach: an agile framework for decentralized on-farm testing supported by citizen science. A retrospective

Matching crop varieties to their target use context and user preferences is a challenge faced by many plant breeding programs serving smallholder agriculture. Numerous participatory approaches proposed by CGIAR and other research teams over the last four decades have attempted to capture farmers’ priorities/preferences and crop variety field performance in representative growing environments through experimental trials with higher external validity. Yet none have overcome the challenges of scalability, data validity and reliability, and difficulties in capturing socio-economic and environmental heterogeneity. Building on the strengths of these attempts, we developed a new data-generation approach, called triadic comparison of technology options (tricot). Tricot is a decentralized experimental approach supported by crowdsourced citizen science. In this article, we review the development, validation, and evolution of the tricot approach, through our own research results and reviewing the literature in which tricot approaches have been successfully applied. The first results indicated that tricot-aggregated farmer-led assessments contained information with adequate validity and that reliability could be achieved with a large sample. Costs were lower than current participatory approaches. Scaling the tricot approach into a large on-farm testing network successfully registered specific climatic effects of crop variety performance in representative growing environments. Tricot’s recent application in plant breeding networks in relation to decision-making has (i) advanced plant breeding lines recognizing socio-economic heterogeneity, and (ii) identified consumers’ preferences and market demands, generating alternative breeding design priorities. We review lessons learned from tricot applications that have enabled a large scaling effort, which should lead to stronger decision-making in crop improvement and increased use of improved varieties in smallholder agriculture.

Citation: de Sousa, K., van Etten, J., Manners, R., Abidin, E., Abdulmalik, R. O., Abolore, B., Acheremu, K., Angudubo, S., Aguilar, A., Arnaud, E., Babu, A., Barrios, M., Benavente, G., Boukar, O., Cairns, J. E., Carey, E., Daudi, H., Dawud, M., Edughaen, G., … Zaman-Allah, M. (2024). The tricot approach: an agile framework for decentralized on-farm testing supported by citizen science. A retrospective. In Agronomy for Sustainable Development (Vol. 44, Issue 1). Springer Science and Business Media LLC.