We must cultivate our garden

by Luigi Guarino on May 23, 2015

IMG_5907 (2)No better way to find out why — and how — than by reading The Seed Garden: The Art & Practice of Seed Saving. And I’m not just saying that because I just got my free copy. It really is a fabulous book, as beautiful as it is useful. Thank you, Seed Savers Exchange.


In the footsteps of Vavilov…

by Luigi Guarino on May 22, 2015

It is an invisible, apolitical band of dedicated researchers around the world who maintain these gene bank insurance policies. They walk in the footsteps of Vavilov, who died of starvation in prison during World War II, while his staff suffered a similar fate during the Siege of Leningrad rather than compromise the seeds they had saved for humanity.

Here are some members of that band.


Happy International Day of Biodiversity, everyone!


Catching up with CROPS 2015

by Luigi Guarino on May 21, 2015

The CROPS 2015 conference on Improving Agriculture Through Genomics in on. Actually it’s almost finished. Sorry. But you can read about the keynote. And follow what’s left on Twitter. Maybe someone will explain what’s wrong with China’s soybeans.


For all the soybeans in China

by Luigi Guarino on May 21, 2015

There’s a chart in last week’s issue of The Economist that really got my attention. Here it is:

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What in tarnation has been happening to soybean production in China? It looks really bad, especially compared to what’s happening to the other crops. And it’s important. Soybeans are now a big proportion of overall food imports.

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So is it that Chinese farmers are just growing less of the crop? Well, FAOStat says no, it’s that yields have been stagnating of late:


But this is a problem that, for example, the US and Brazil seem not to be having. It’s not as if Chinese breeders and gene-jockeys aren’t trying. And they have plenty of genetic diversity available. So what’s going on? Maybe one of our readers can explain.


Early modern maize

20 May 2015

There’s a controversy brewing over whether it is Shakespeare or Drake holding an ear of maize on the frontispiece of Gerard’s Herbal. But what I really want to know is what’s that other thing in his right hand.

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Brainfood: Prunus hybrids, Wild potato gaps, Agroecology & CC, German orchard loss, Downy mildew in millet, Googling birds, Legume genetic resources

18 May 2015

Development of a New Hybrid Between Prunus tomentosa Thunb. and Prunus salicina Lindl.. Prunus just keeps on giving. Ex Situ Conservation Priorities for the Wild Relatives of Potato (Solanum L. Section Petota). 32 out of 73 species, mostly in Peru. Agroecology and the design of climate change-resilient farming systems. Forget monocultures, go for “…crop diversification, […]

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Palmyra’s grapes

15 May 2015

Remember our discussion of Ruoppolo’s grapes? You know, the ones with the weirdly shaped berries and the confused synonymy? Well, something looking remarkably similar has just turned up in a tweet featuring a photo of a carving from Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site under threat in Syria. The grapes of wrath – beautiful stone […]

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Xylella fastidiosa not fastidious at all

13 May 2015

The NY Times is the latest media outlet to freak out about Italian olives. There’s quite a lot to freak out about. Xylella fastidiosa, the bacterium that is believed to have caused serious damage to perhaps a million trees in Puglia, Italy’s heel, can be spread widely by insects and attacks a wide range of […]

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British crop wild relatives on show

11 May 2015

I fear we may have omitted to mention that a selection of Britain’s crop wild relatives would feature in one of the gardens on show at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Malvern Spring Festival. This was the brainchild of the McLaughlin sisters, Caitlin and Tessa. Well, the show has come and gone, and the Genetic Conservation […]

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Brainfood: Chinese CWR, Black-bone goat, Agrobiodiversity & nutrition, Niger rice, Rabbit diversity, On farm, Adding value, Native Americans & Svalbard, USDA wheat core, Cooperatives & food security, Maize & CC

11 May 2015

China’s crop wild relatives: Diversity for agriculture and food security. 871 wild species related to crops important in China, some of them endemic and endangered. Black-bone goat: An investigation report on new genetic resource of farm animal. Out of China… Effects of agricultural biodiversity and seasonal rain on dietary adequacy and household food security in […]

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