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Crowdsourcing oca improvement

by Luigi Guarino on March 17, 2015

As any breeder will tell you at least once during any conversation you may have with them, crop improvement is a numbers game. Which makes it a very hard game for the so-called minor crops. Not enough money and not enough people limit the sheer number of crosses that can be made and new plants that can be evaluated, so progress is slow. Enter the internet: “Thanks to social media and the internet, amateur breeders can swap huge amounts of information.” That’s Owen, a breeder of ocas and other things tuberous down in Cornwall, as featured a couple of days ago in the gardening section of The Guardian. If you’d like to help the world develop day-length neutral oca varieties, you can follow Owen on Facebook and Twitter and join his Guild of Oca Breeders.



Prioritizing FAO’s food composition work

by Luigi Guarino on March 15, 2015

Via the International Network of Food Data Systems (INFOODS) discussion list we hear from FAO’s Ruth Charrondiere that:

…FAO’s “Medium Term Plan 2014-17 (reviewed) and Programme of Work and Budget 2016-17″ … states on p.21: “Nutrition: in realigning and strengthening work on nutrition in follow-up to ICN2,1 reduce work on nutrition education curricular development and some food composition work.” (emphasis added)

This came as a surprise, apparently, because

…the evaluation of FAO’s role and work in nutrition of 2011 recommended exactly the contrary: see p.14 and recommendation 7.

Part of that recommendation was for

…FAO to build capacity at the regional and sub-regional levels, encourage regional collaboration to support countries (especially focal countries) to collect and analyse food composition data that is demanded by end-users for ensuring the nutrition sensitivity of policies and programme interventions.

Which seems very sensible. A good part of the food composition data work, of course, has focused on within-crop diversity in nutritional quality, which is why this proposed reduction is of interest to us here. Or maybe the powers that be at FAO are simply declaring victory, having decided that they have achieved what they wanted in this area. Anyway, you get to have your say, because

In order to know which part of our work is the least relevant for countries, and thus could be de-emphasized, I designed a survey which I hope many of you will complete ASAP. Please disseminate it widely also to colleagues who work on food composition.

  1. That would be the 2nd International Conference on Nutrition, held in November last year. []


International Year of Quinoa officially over

10 March 2015

FAO has just published a very glossy volume, somewhat unnecessarily prosaically entitled “State of the art report on quinoa around the world in 2013.” I guess it signals the official end of the International Year of Quinoa. There are chapters on all the things you’d expect, including genetic resources, that one authored by some old […]

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Brainfood: Biodiversity and health, Medieval cattle, African livestock sustainability, Filipino rice, Coffee breeding, Land-sparing conundrum, Scrapie resistant goats, Ass-like equid evolution, GS in livestock breeding, Eucalypt diversity & drought, Ecosystem services of organic ag

9 March 2015

Relationships between agrobiodiversity, dietary diversity and nutritional status in Tanzania. It’s really complicated. Microsatellite genotyping of medieval cattle from central Italy suggests an old origin of Chianina and Romagnola cattle. DNA from a couple of cattle breeds from central Italy shows remarkable similarities with that from thousand-old bones from an archaeological site in the same […]

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The cost-benefit of Australian genebanks

6 March 2015

We’ve now received a copy of the 2007 report to the Steering Committee of Australia’s National Genetic Resource Centre entitled “Benefit-cost analysis of the proposed National Genetic Resources Centre,” as trailed in an earlier post. That’s the one that was said to posit a return on investment of 119:1 for the Australian pastures genebank. It […]

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Genetic Resources in Crop Breeding course in the offing

5 March 2015

A course on genetic resources for plant breeding is being organized at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Alnarp, Sweden. The person responsible is Prof. Rodomiro Ortíz, who has a huge amount of experience in the field, with a wide variety of crops. It’ll be in August, and the deadline for applications is April […]

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UC Davis Plant Breeding Symposium coming soon

4 March 2015

The 2015 UC Davis Plant Breeding Symposium will take place on April 10. The topic is “Challenges in Plant Breeding: Past, Present, and Future.” There’s an interesting lineup of invited speakers, and “[t]his year is the first time that students have the chance of presenting their research during the symposium.” We’ve been promised a summary […]

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Australia’s very valuable new pastures genebank

3 March 2015

A video has just surfaced about the Australian Pastures Genebank, courtesy of the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), starring my mate Steve Hughes. Here are the headline numbers: 70K accessions, 2K species, collected over 60 years, ROI 119:1. Say what? Return on investment in a genebank of over 100 to 1? How come I’ve […]

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