New blog on all things genebanks

by Luigi Guarino on July 30, 2016

Did I mention I also have a work blog, focusing on genebanky stuff? The latest post is about Pokémon Go. Yeah, I know, but trust me, it makes sense. Hopefully.

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Ancient agricultural DNA everywhere

by Luigi Guarino on July 19, 2016

Heady days for ancient DNA researchers. There have been two major papers in the past month looking at the DNA of Neolithic farmers. Back in June, a huge research consortium published “The genetic structure of the world’s first farmers” as a preprint in bioRxiv, with subsequent write-up in Nature. And now a different huge consortium comes out with “Early Neolithic genomes from the eastern Fertile Crescent,” in Science. That also got widely picked up.

Don’t ask me why two separate research groups need to be working on basically the same problem, in basically the same way. I suppose they’re using somewhat different methods on different material. I really couldn’t tell you whether it would have been better to pool the material, or standardize the methods, or indeed both. Maybe someone out there will tell us. In any case, it’s reassuring, I suppose, that the two studies came to broadly similar conclusions, namely that there were genetic differences among early farmers, and that genetically distinct people from different parts of the Fertile Crescent migrated north into Europe and eastwards further into Asia. Which in turn suggests to some that the origins of agriculture may be described as “federal”:

Different and genetically distinct populations were all engaged in this same general project, albeit exchanging ideas with each or other or sometimes coming up with the same idea independently.

Meanwhile, sequencing of DNA from a 6000-year-old barley from the Dead Sea shows close similarity with varieties still grown in the southern Levant and Egypt. Intriguing to speculate whether a similar study of material from the Zagros Mountains would show a parallel pattern to the human DNA. But will it need a different group of researchers to do it.

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One for the birds

11 July 2016

There’s a great set of photographs on the Facebook page of Leo Sebastian, Regional Program Leader, Southeast Asia at CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, based in Los Baños, Philippines. It’s entitled Birds in Rice Selection, and the idea behind it is pretty simple: How about using birds to select for […]

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Brainfood: African land use, Sorghum double, NUS trifecta, Grape hybrids, Sunflower genome, Fungi, Tree dispersal

11 July 2016

Africa’s Land System Trajectories 1980–2005. Biomass harvest increase has mainly come from expansion, save in the north and south. Status, genetic diversity and gaps in sorghum germplasm from South Asia conserved at ICRISAT genebank. Still a lot of work to do. Indirect estimates reveal the potential of transgene flow in the crop–wild–weed Sorghum bicolor complex […]

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The biodiversity of beer

5 July 2016

We are extremely grateful to Ove Fosså, President of the Slow Food Ark of Taste commission in Norway, for this contribution, inspired by a recent Facebook post of his. We hope it is the first of many. Beer is a fermented beverage usually made from just water, barley, hops and yeasts. That simple recipe can, […]

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Brainfood: Med diet, Rice relatives, Local breeds, NGS, Extremophiles, Farmers’ rights, Wild foods

4 July 2016

Prototypical versus contemporary Mediterranean Diet. They’re basically the same. Development of Oryza sativa L. by Oryza punctata Kotschy ex Steud. monosomic addition lines with high value traits by interspecific hybridization. A very distant relative finally succumbs. Local breeds – rural heritage or new market opportunities? Colliding views on the conservation and sustainable use of landraces. […]

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Plant Conservation and the SDGs

1 July 2016

Dr Sarada Krishnan of the Denver Botanic Gardens kindly sent us this summary of the Global Partnership for Plant Conservation’s conference on Plant Conservation and the Sustainable Development Goals, mentioned yesterday on the blog. Many thanks, Sarada. If many readers want more details on one or two topics in particular, we can perhaps ask her […]

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Plant conservation boffins discuss the Sustainable Development Goals

30 June 2016

Things have been a little busy hereabouts, what with one thing and another, so we seem to have neglected to remind our readers of the Global Partnership for Plant Conservation’s conference on Plant Conservation and the Sustainable Development Goals at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Shame on us. Anyway, participants have been quite busy on Twitter, […]

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