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Speaking about Speaking of Food

by Luigi Guarino on October 19, 2014

This special issue, “Speaking of Food: Connecting basic and applied plant science,” aims to provide concrete examples of how a wide range of basic plant science, the types of scientific studies commonly published in AJB, are relevant for the future of food. This Special Issue was inspired by Elizabeth A. Kellogg’s 2012 Presidential Address to the Botanical Society of America, and resulted in part from a symposium and colloquium by the same name that took place at the 2013 Botany meetings in New Orleans, LA. The issue editors are grateful to the Botanical Society of America, the American Society of Plant Taxonomists, and the Torrey Botanical Society for support of this work.

Special issue of the American Journal of Botany, that is. Alas, only one of the papers, the one on strawberries, is open access, though.

Fig. 1. Approximate geographic distribution of Fragaria species and ploidy. Due to uncertainty over species boundaries, the six endemic Chinese species are designated as diploids (F. chinensis, F. pentaphylla) or tetraploids (F. corymbosa, F. gracilis, F. moupinensis, F. tibetica). Data sources include the GBIF data portal (GBIF, 2014), the “Wild Strawberry” Dimensions of Biodiversity US-China project website (Ashman et al., 2014), published distribution maps (Staudt, 1999a, 1999b, 2003b, 2005, 2006, 2008; Staudt and Dickoré, 2001; Chukhina, 2008; Staudt and Olbricht, 2008; Rousseau-Gueutin et al., 2009), and base map (Shorthouse, 2010).

Fig. 1. Approximate geographic distribution of Fragaria species and ploidy. Due to uncertainty over species boundaries, the six endemic Chinese species are designated as diploids (F. chinensis, F. pentaphylla) or tetraploids (F. corymbosa, F. gracilis, F. moupinensis, F. tibetica). Data sources include the GBIF data portal (GBIF, 2014), the “Wild Strawberry” Dimensions of Biodiversity US-China project website (Ashman et al., 2014), published distribution maps (Staudt, 1999a, 1999b, 2003b, 2005, 2006, 2008; Staudt and Dickoré, 2001; Chukhina, 2008; Staudt and Olbricht, 2008; Rousseau-Gueutin et al., 2009), and base map (Shorthouse, 2010).

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We’re trying something new for us this week. Dr Geo Coppens co-authored an interesting paper1 recently which brings together a number of our concerns: domestication, diversity, crop wild relatives, spatial analysis… He’s written quite a long piece about his research, which we’ll publish here in three instalments. This is the second instalment. Here’s the first, in case you missed it.

To investigate the origin of cultivated cotton in the New World, we also had to define the distribution of the wild precursors, which meant distinguishing True Wild Cotton (TWC) populations from feral (secondarily wild) populations. We first defined five categories: (1) TWC populations, which were described as such by cotton experts with consistent ecological and/or morphological criteria; (2) wild/feral cottons, reported to grow in protected areas and/or forming relatively dense populations in secondary vegetation; (3) feral plants living in anthropogenic habitats (field and road margins); (4) cultivated perennial cottons; and (5) plants of indeterminate status. We then organized our extensive dataset of locality information from herbaria and genebanks in the same way as Russian nesting dolls.

Avoiding the problematic comparisons between consecutive categories, we first modelled G. hirsutum distribution based on the whole sample, then reducing the sample to ‘feral’+‘wild/feral’ + TWC , then to ‘wild/feral’+TWC, and finally to TWC alone. Thus, we could see that the distribution model (we used the Maxent software for niche modelling) was not significantly affected by the successive removals of specimens classified as indeterminate, cultivated, or feral. Only the model based on TWC populations diverged very clearly, their distribution being severely restricted to a few coastal habitats, in northern Yucatán and in the Caribbean, from Venezuela to Florida (Figures 1 and 2).

Figure 1. Distribution and climate model of perennial forms of G. hirsutum in Mesoamerica and the Caribbean (global sample). Climate suitability is indicated by background color from unfavorable (no color) to marginal (dark green) or increasingly favorable (light green and warmer colors).

Figure 1. Distribution and climate model of perennial forms of G. hirsutum in Mesoamerica and the Caribbean (global sample). Climate suitability is indicated by background colour from unfavorable (no colour) to marginal (dark green) or increasingly favourable (light green and warmer colours).

Figure 2. Climate model for truly wild cotton (TWC) distribution. Climate suitability as in Fig.1. A. Gulf of Mexico. B. Florida and western Greater Antilles. C. Venezuela and eastern Caribbean.

Figure 2. Climate model for truly wild cotton (TWC) distribution. Climate suitability as in Fig.1. A. Gulf of Mexico. B. Florida and western Greater Antilles. C. Venezuela and eastern Caribbean.

A principal component analysis on climatic parameters confirmed the absence of clear differences among the climatic niches of cultivated, feral, and ‘wild/feral’ populations, contrasting strikingly with that of TWC populations, restricted to the most arid coastal environments. The TWC habitat’s harsh conditions are quite certainly related to the fact that “Gossypium is xerophytic and that even its most mesophytic members are intolerant of competition, particularly in the seedling stage” (Hutchinson, 1954). The proximity to the sea plays a role itself, for these “extreme outpost plants” (Sauer, 1967). Indeed, as Fryxell (1979) puts it, wild tetraploid cottons are strand plants adapted to mobile shorelines, with impermeable seeds adapted to salt water diffusion. The instability of their habitat “is in itself highly stable” and very ancient, so “that the pioneers are simultaneously old residents”.

Extrapolating this TWC climatic model to South America and Polynesia points towards places where other wild representatives of tetraploid Gossypium species have been reported, which gives a strong example of niche conservatism. Thus, the distribution model has perfectly captured those conditions that are related to both biotic and abiotic constraints for the development of TWC populations.

To be continued…

Footnotes:
  1. Coppens d’Eeckenbrugge, G., & Lacape, J. (2014). Distribution and Differentiation of Wild, Feral, and Cultivated Populations of Perennial Upland Cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) in Mesoamerica and the Caribbean PLoS ONE, 9 (9) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0107458 []

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Rocking the cassava genome

by Luigi Guarino on October 18, 2014

One is of course over the moon about the publication of the cassava genome, with its now de rigueur amusing representation of the relationship between it and the genomes of other species, in this case in the shape of a cluster of tubers. But could not the Nature Communications editor have been a little more careful about those species names in one of the other figures?

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Nagoya and the Plant Treaty

17 October 2014

As we celebrate (or whatever) the coming into force of the Nagoya Protocol, I think it’s worth reminding ourselves that in the agricultural sector there has been an Access & Benefit Sharing system in place for a while, under the “Plant Treaty,” for that subset of biodiversity which is plant genetic resources for food and […]

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Domestication and distribution: comparing the niches of wild, feral and cultivated tetraploid cottons

17 October 2014

We’re trying something new for us this week. Dr Geo Coppens co-authored an interesting paper1 recently which brings together a number of our concerns: domestication, diversity, crop wild relatives, spatial analysis… He’s written quite a long piece about his research, which we’ll publish here in three instalments, over the next few days days, starting today. […]

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Svalbard gets more seeds

16 October 2014

Happy World Food Day!

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Historical maize information online

14 October 2014

The core set of the Races of Maize volumes were a result of investigations by Maize Geneticists and were published by the National Research Council, National Academy of Sciences between 1952 and 1963. The set represents a unique source of information, which characterizes and describes the races of maize and their respective geographic origins. These […]

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Brainfood: Biogeoinformatics, FGR review, Lesser pulses, Slovak orchards, Wheat evaluation network, Iranian olives, Beans & FIGS, Blasted rice, Tibetan pigs, Alpine grass, Development as freedom

13 October 2014

Biogeoinformatics of livestock genomic resources. Don’t forget the “geo” bit. Goes for plants as well! Utilization and transfer of forest genetic resources: A global review. They’ve been going on for 200 years, but we’ll need provenance trials and conventional breeding more than ever in the future. Phytosanitary risks involved in tree germplasm movement are now […]

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Brainfood: Polyculture services, Apple resistance, Clover seed storage, Oil palm diversity, Alternative foods in Italy, Oregano chemicals, Pig diversity, IPR and indigenous people

6 October 2014

Do polycultures promote win-wins or trade-offs in agricultural ecosystem services? A meta-analysis. Yes, at least if the services in question are per-plant yield and biocontrol. Susceptibility of apple genotypes from European genetic resources to fire blight (Erwinia amylovora). 3 of 40 were resistant. Effect of sulphuric acid scarification on seed accessions of cluster clover (Trifolium […]

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