- Crop origins explain variation in global agricultural relevance. What explains which crops are most important globally? For seeds, an origin in seasonally dry regions. For root, leaf and herbaceous fruit crops, an origin in the aseasonal tropics. But if you account for all that, basically age.
- Linguistic diversity and conservation opportunities at UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Africa. There’s a correlation between linguistic and biological diversity. Has anyone done crop diversity and languages?
- Sparing or sharing land? Views from agricultural scientists. If you look at synergies between nature and nurture (as it were), and beyond crop yield, you realize it’s the wrong question.
- Can agroecology improve food security and nutrition? A review. Yes, in 78% of 55 cases. But will it scale? And does it need to? Anyway, at least it’s looking beyond yield.
- Global effects of land-use intensity on local pollinator biodiversity. Intensification is bad for pollinator biodiversity for most land uses, but cropland intensification is only bad in the tropics. Can’t help thinking this needs to be mashed up with the above.
- Crop breeding for a changing climate: integrating phenomics and genomics with bioinformatics. In particular, integrating the phenomics and genomics of landraces and wild relatives at the extremes of habitable ranges. Well, there’s a lot more to it than that, but this is what stuck with me.
- Comprehensive genotyping of a Brazilian cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) germplasm bank: insights into diversification and domestication. 54% duplicates out of 3354 clones, the remaining 1536 arranged in 5 ecoregional ancestral groups.
- A chromosome-level genome of a Kordofan melon illuminates the origin of domesticated watermelons. Not from southern Africa after all. Nice bit of work.
- Preliminary investigation of potent thiols in Cypriot wines made from indigenous grape varieties Xynisteri, Maratheftiko and Giannoudhi. Cypriot grapes are more drought tolerant than varieties grown in Australia, but produce the tastes Aussie wine drinkers really like.
- A morphometric approach to track opium poppy domestication. Fancy math says Swiss Neolithic farmers were involved in the domestication of the opium poppy. Enough to drive one to drink.
- Registration of GA-BatSten1 and GA-MagSten1, two induced allotetraploids derived from peanut wild relatives with superior resistance to leaf spots, rust, and root-knot nematode. Sequencing paying off.
- Extensive variation within the pan-genome of cultivated and wild sorghum. Sorghum next?
A big thank you to Colin Khoury, Julian Ramirez, Chrystian Sosa, and Dan Carver for this guest post, reminding us of the history of conservation gap analysis work at CIAT and other CGIAR centres during the past decade and more.
Maps have helped people find their way for at least 2500 years, so it’s no surprise that geographic methods have been part of the portfolio of tools used to try to understand patterns and distributions of crop diversity, and, more recently, crop genetic erosion, ever since these topics began to garner the interest of scientists and conservationists. Innovations in digital mapping tools, made possible by developments in computer processing and the internet, have enabled continual leaps in the power and efficiency of such methods throughout the past few decades.
CGIAR embraced geographic information system (GIS) research tools about as soon as they were developed. At the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the International Potato Center (CIP), the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI, now Bioversity International), and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), among others, scientists began to apply available GIS tools to genetic resources conservation, and then develop their own suite of methods, programs, and datasets, often in collaboration with national partners and academics (e.g. wild potatoes, peanuts, chile pepper, and peanut/potato/cowpea, as well as climate data). Some of these developments, such as FloraMap and DIVA-GIS (and more recently CAPFITOGEN, by other researchers), have been aimed at making these tools easier to use by those in genetic resources community without extensive GIS experience: an important effort toward greater accessibility, even if it has met with mixed success.
By the 2000s, crop wild relatives were gaining attention as important genetic resources for crop breeding, and would soon be specifically targeted for conservation both by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD’s Aichi Target 13), and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG Target 2.5). It was increasingly important, therefore, that conservation research tools were applied to these useful wild plants, and fortunate that the groundwork for GIS applications had already been laid by a decade or so of research. Through the second phase of a cross-CGIAR initiative called the Global Public Goods Project 2 (GPG2), run from 2007-2010, the distributions of the wild relatives of ten CGIAR mandate crops were mapped, with priorities for further collecting for ex situ conservation identified.
We’ve Nibbled Liveseed before, but I think it’s time for a little bit more. It’s an EU-funded Horizon 2020 project with the objective “…to improve transparency and competitiveness of the organic seed and breeding sector and encourage greater use of organic seed.”
Though the main focus is breeding, there is also some work on cultivar mixtures, which is actually what prompted this post. Because a nice poster by Emma Flipon (ITAB) and Véronique Chable (INRAE) has just been made available on “How to create diversified variety mixtures based on gene bank resources.”
Always great to see different ways of using genebanks, including ones that don’t necessarily include breeding.
- The recent evolutionary rescue of a staple crop depended on over half a century of global germplasm exchange. Sorghum in Haiti saved from pest by mixing up material from all over the place.
- Does crop genetic diversity support positive biodiversity effects under experimental drought? Not straightforwardly, at least for barley cultivar mixtures in pots.
- A Nutrition-Sensitive Agroecology Intervention in Rural Tanzania Increases Children’s Dietary Diversity and Household Food Security But Does Not Change Child Anthropometry: Results from a Cluster-Randomized Trial. Well at least it’s more straightforward than the above.
- The tepary bean genome provides insight into evolution and domestication under heat stress. Better heat adaptation than common bean, but less disease and pest resistance.
- The international political process around Digital Sequence Information under the Convention on Biological Diversity and the 2018–2020 intersessional period. Can’t take the above for granted.
- Practical consequences of digital sequence information (DSI) definitions and access and benefit‐sharing scenarios from a plant genebank’s perspective. Genebanks trying not to take the above for granted.
- Cryopreservation of Woody Crops: The Avocado Case. There’s been a breakthrough in shoot tip cryopreservation.
- Using Regulatory Flexibility to Address Market Informality in Seed Systems: A Global Study. Regulatory flexibility would certainly be a breakthrough for linking formal and informal seed systems. And, incidentally, not bad for DSI either.
- A recipe development process model designed to support a crop’s sensory qualities. When you want to make a recipe for a new ingredient (crop or heirloom variety), start with what makes the ingredient special, not with what might make the end-product special.
- Genetic diversity and population structure analysis in a large collection of white clover (Trifolium repens L.) germplasm worldwide. Native and introduced populations are genetically differentiated.
- Limited haplotype diversity underlies polygenic trait architecture across 70 years of wheat breeding. Crunch time for UK wheat breeders: continue shuffling within the existing diversity, or expand it?
- Molecular Parallelism Underlies Convergent Highland Adaptation of Maize Landraces. Adaptation to high altitude from the SW US to the Andes was due to wild genes from the Mexican highlands.
Dr Mike Jackson is retired now, after a long and very impactful career in plant genetic resources conservation. But he writes about that career, and a lot more besides, on his blog. And now there’s also a nice conversation with him on the Plant Breeding Stories podcast, focusing on his work on potato and rice.