The hipster future of coffee starts with a genebank

by Luigi Guarino on February 13, 2016

I started a post a few days ago with a quote suggesting that all that commercial farmers are interested in is yield. So let’s balance that today with this:

Geisha in undoubtedly a luxury, but in one important way, it deserves the hype. It is the first coffee to be grown commercially just because it tastes good.

coffee 002We blogged about the journey of the remarkable coffee landrace called Geisha (or Gesha) a few years ago: from Ethiopia’s forests to the CATIE genebank in Costa Rica to the Peterson family farm in Panama to all over the world, or, more specifically, a hipster coffee shop in Taiwan. But Hanna Neuschwander‘s Coffee in the New Millennium tells the story at much greater length, not to mention with much greater skill. For example, I wish I had thought to describe hillside coffee plantations, with their neat, undulating rows of bushes, as “living corduroy.”

The piece ends with a neat juxtaposition between World Coffee Research’s monumental International Multi-location Variety Trials and the more geographically focussed, but no less ambitious, in its own way, effort by the Peterson family. They’re looking for a new Geisha among hundreds of other Ethiopian landraces they are now testing on their Panamanian farm. I only have one bone to pick with Ms Neuschwander: why not fully acknowledge the role of the genebank at CATIE in all this, rather than just referring, anonymously, to “a research facility in Costa Rica”?

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The International Committee is seeking proposals to host Harlan III and requests that interested groups consider the above factors in preparing a prospectus for the symposium, giving special attention to the potential financial requirements and sources of funding. For consideration for a symposium to be held in 2017, the prospectus should be received at UC Davis by April 15, 2016.

The Harlan Symposium is a very prestigious, not to say blog-worthy, event, and I’m sure people will be falling over themselves to host it.

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That’s some funny looking coffee

by Luigi Guarino on February 12, 2016

That apocalyptic video from Business Insider that we Nibbled earlier is silly in a number of ways, but someone should really have found better stock footage to illustrate small, family-run coffee farms.

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 10.18.18 AM

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Squashing that old old squash seeds story

by Luigi Guarino on February 12, 2016

As the story goes, some six years ago, during an archeological dig on the Menomonie Reservation, a clay ball was unearthed. It was clear that there was something inside of this clay ball and, when opened, what was found were squash seeds, carbon dated to 800 years old. Some of these seeds were planted and they grew and bore fruit.

You may remember that from an article we Nibbled last summer. Well, sadly, it ain’t so.

It’s a great story, said Kenton Lobe, an environmental studies professor at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, Manitoba. And though Lobe can attest to the size of the squash as grown for the last three years by his students at the university’s farm, the rest of the story is untrue, he said.

But the real story is still pretty cool.

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Organic boost

11 February 2016

Interesting news for everyone interested in organic agriculture, whatever exactly that might be. In India, the ministry of agriculture has decided to set up a research institution devoted to the subject, the National Organic Farming Research Institute (NOFRI). Setting up the institute in Sikkim assumes significance as it is the only state in the country […]

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It’s already happening

10 February 2016

It seems the majority of species examined are already affected by #climatechange Camille Parmesan #SpeciesOnTheMove pic.twitter.com/XzH7vZje8c — Otter Civet (@Ottercivet) February 9, 2016 That’s from a summary of 5 meta-analyses, covering 4000 species. Follow at #SpeciesOnTheMove.

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GRIN-Global hitting its stride

9 February 2016

A couple of months ago we announced that USDA had adopted a new genebank data management system, GRIN-Global. There was some question at that time about whether Portugal was on board as well, but that seems now to be the case. So the ever-growing list of GRIN-Global users is now as follows: CIMMYT, Maize Genebank […]

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Drying figs, breaking bread

9 February 2016

For commercial farmers and state bodies this kind of project currently lacks economic feasibility. But for community gardens, and people who have private gardens, there are other considerations. People who plant a tree in their private garden, or in a pot on their balcony, don’t need an industrial species. They would likely prefer a smaller […]

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Varietal diversity in pulse nutritional quality to be documented, maybe even used

8 February 2016

Good to see FAO taking the lead in pulling together nutritional data on pulses, in celebration of the International Year of Pulses. Especially since variety-level information will be sought, according to FAO Nutrition Officer Ruth Charrondière . …if a micronutrient deficiency is identified within a certain region or population, governments and nutritionists can pinpoint the […]

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The cider apple rules

8 February 2016

I really didn’t give the short piece on the conservation of cider apple varieties in England a second thought when it first came out on the BBC a few days ago. Hundreds of varieties of rare cider apples are being planted across England after being donated to the National Trust by a collector. … They […]

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