- High-resolution silkworm pan-genome provides genetic insights into artificial selection and ecological adaptation. The silkworm was domesticated 5000 years ago in the middle Yellow River (along with millets?), but was improved independently and in different directions in China and Japan.
- The genomic history and global expansion of domestic donkeys. The donkey was domesticated in the Horn of Africa 7000 years ago and then developed in different directions in Africa and Eurasia.
- Your horse is a donkey! Identifying domesticated equids from Western Iberia using collagen fingerprinting. Turns out you can tell horses and donkeys apart easily and cheaply from ancient collagen in archaeological remains.
- Genetics of randomly bred cats support the cradle of cat domestication being in the Near East. Humans were domesticated by cats in the eastern Mediterranean basin about 12,000 years ago.
- The history of the domestic cat in Central Europe. Wait, the Near Eastern wildcat, from which all domestic cats are derived, could have been in central Europe before the Neolithic.
- Missing puzzle piece for the origins of domestic chickens. Recent dating of chicken domestication from archaeological remains in Thailand at 1650–1250 BC underestimates the timescale. By a lot.
- Was the Fishing Village of Lepenski Vir Built by Europe’s First Farmers? And did they have cats?
- Shamanism at the transition from foraging to farming in Southwest Asia: sacra, ritual, and performance at Neolithic WF16 (southern Jordan). You need shamans to help you cope with all that animal domestication.
- Contributions of black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia L.) to livelihoods of peri-urban dwellers in the Free State Province of South Africa. Wait, black locusts are not animals? Hmm, they do seem to have some things in common with cats though.
Well, who isn’t right? Anyway, point is, the Coalition for Conservation Genetics has you covered with a dedicated website of resources in support of the CBD’s COP15. Extremely useful.
- Genetic diversity loss in the Anthropocene. Don’t get excited, I don’t think the method translates to cultivated species, but fancy maths says we’ve lost on average 10% of the genetic diversity within species.
- A graphical causal model for resolving species identity effects and biodiversity–ecosystem function correlations. Yeah, but don’t forget that species level diversity is important too. Or rather, diversity of functional traits among species.
- Cereal species mixtures: an ancient practice with potential for climate resilience. A review. Species level diversity in the same farmer’s field is being forgotten, and that’s bad.
- Microbiomes in agroecosystem: Diversity, function and assembly mechanisms. Even soil microbial diversity is important…
- Association analyses of host genetics, root-colonizing microbes, and plant phenotypes under different nitrogen conditions in maize. …but the effects of soil microbial diversity can get quite complicated, and interact with the genetic diversity of crop plants. Which we may or may not have lost an average 10% of.
- Direct and indirect effects of management and landscape on biological pest control and crop pest infestation in apple orchards. Yeah, but species diversity can be bad too.
As we’ve noted a couple of times here, the INCREASE project (Intelligent Collections of Food Legumes Genetic Resources for European Agrofood Systems) includes a fantastic citizen science component. If you’re interested in taking part, registration for the third phase opens in a few days.
Last week’s The Economist has a nice piece in its Graphic Detail section on how climate change is affecting yields of some crops so much that farmers in many parts of the world will be increasingly tempted — if not compelled — to switch to different crops.
Even if more climate-resilient varieties of the crops farmers are currently growing come on-line, along with better agronomic practices, it may in some cases just be easier and more profitable to grow something else, says the article.
Like breadfruit, it adds, cheekily. Before concluding, rather more constructively, that, given the uncertainties involved, farmers should “learn about a wide variety of crops.”
I’d have liked to share a chart or two here, but the licensing paywall is steep, so I’ll just point to the four studies that the article references. Unlike The Economist, though, I’ll actually give the full titles, and link to the papers — Brainfood-style.
- Climate analogues suggest limited potential for intensification of production on current croplands under climate change. Major cereals are going to take a significant hit over much of their area of cultivation by 2050.
- Climate impacts on global agriculture emerge earlier in new generation of climate and crop models. Newer crop and climate models are generally more pessimistic that older ones.
- Increased food production and reduced water use through optimized crop distribution. Shifting crops around in a clever way would feed an extra 850 million people while saving water.
- Matches and mismatches between the global distribution of major food crops and climate suitability. The match between where 12 crops actually grow and where they grow best is not optimal, but stronger in richer parts of the world.
LATER: Actually, let me add another one to the list, not in the piece in The Economist but also relevant, and complemented by a useful Q&A with one of the authors.
- Relocating croplands could drastically reduce the environmental impacts of global food production. Moving crops to where they do best decreases their carbon, biodiversity, and irrigation water footprint.