(The) CGIAR is/are making a big push to elicit input on the new Strategy and Results Framework (SRF). You know the drill: a barrage of surveymonkeys, blogposts, tweets, Facebook posts, targeted emails, webinars, e-consultations, you name it, is coming your way. For all I know they’ll be knocking on doors in carefully selected neighbourhoods around the world. I’m always a little ambivalent when research organizations ask for help in prioritizing their work. On the one hand, it’s always good to ask. On the other, you’d have thought they would know by now.

Anyway, the outcomes of CGIAR’s work are now listed as:

1. Reduced poverty
2. Improved food and nutrition security for health
3. Improved natural resources systems and ecosystems services

And it is good to see the importance of the international genebanks in achieving these system-level outcomes recognized in the section of the SRF describing the particular niche of CGIAR:

The CGIAR community holds in trust globally unique genetic resources for a subset of agriculturally significant species of central importance to sustaining and advancing productivity and yield stability for the world’s smallholders in the 21st century.

Less good, however, to note that use of genetic diversity is thought to only contribute to the reduced poverty outcome, and then only via increased agricultural productivity. Sorry about the poor quality of the image showing this below, click on it to improve it a bit, but it wasn’t that much better in the original document:

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 2.21.27 PM

There are “cross-cutting topics of global importance– women and youth; climate change; and capacity development — will systematically strengthen and build coherence in research across all domains and Intermediate Development Outcomes (IDOs).” Should not conservation and sustainable use of agricultural biodiversity be one of these? Maybe I’ll respond to one of those tweets from @CGIAR.


Moroccan medicinal mint tea

by Luigi Guarino on November 19, 2014

photo (34)

That’s me on the right in Rabat last week, having a post-prandial drink with Dr Ahmed Amri, head of the ICARDA genebank. I post the photo (taken by my colleague Charlotte Lusty) by way of explanation for the lack of blogging lately, and also as an excuse to link to the beta version of Kew’s Medicinal Plant Names Service, which I have just become aware of. You see that bit of greenery on the tea tray? It’s a plant that’s sometimes added to mint tea in Morocco during the winter. It’s called “absinthe” there. If you want to know the Latin name, you can look it up here.


The share of nutrition-sensitive investments in agriculture, social protection, water, sanitation and hygiene, education, and women’s empowerment programs needs to expand. The success of these sectors is important for nutrition improvement but they could do much more for nutrition while furthering their own goals. From the available evidence, the authors suggest that nutrition-sensitive expenditures are currently a small percentage of expenditures in these sectors. Partly this is because nutrition allies in the different sectors may not know what to do to make their nutrition programs more nutrition sensitive or why it is in their interests to do so…

That’s from the synopsis of the just-released Global Nutrition Report, the first of its kind. Their point is perhaps illustrated by another just-released report, this one on diabetes. When you finally manage to click through to the bit on prevention, there’s very little on diet, let alone the role of the food system as a whole.



Maize field day in Mexico

16 November 2014

Dr Denise Costich, head of the CIMMYT maize genebank (MGB) sent out a very compelling invitation a couple of days back: Attached is the official invitation to our field day, to be held next Friday, 21 November, starting at 10:00 AM at the Toluca Station (please note the change of date). We are showcasing our […]

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Brainfood: Basil resistance, Maize quality & drought, Benin sorghum, Swedish farm size, E European grapevives, Lebanese olives, Brazilian sheep, Sudanese cattle, Egyptian bean rhizobia, Barley origins, Intercropping

10 November 2014

Selecting basil genotypes with resistance against downy mildew. Only the exotic basils were any good. I will resist the temptation to make Fawlty Towers jokes. High grain quality accessions within a maize drought tolerant core collection. Not so much a core collection, rather a set of local and exotic drought-tolerant varieties put together in the […]

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Rosa Kambuou remembered

7 November 2014

More appreciation of the late Rosa Naipo Kambuou and her work on the diversity of the Pacific’s crops, especially banana.

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Another use for taro leaves

6 November 2014

This is a new one on me. Hanging out on Instagram, I came across this photo by Bea Misa Crisostomo, self-confessed “plant bore.” Anishi– fermented gabi (taro leaves) from India. With finger marks A photo posted by Bea Misa Crisostomo (@beatbeatrice) on Oct 10, 2014 at 10:35am PDT Had never heard of fermented taro leaves made […]

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Outstanding Papers in Plant Genetic Resources 2014

6 November 2014

…early this month the Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) has selected the paper ‘Improving Hierarchical Clustering of Genotypic Data via Principal Component Analysis’ for the 2014 award for ‘Outstanding Papers in Plant Genetic Resources’. The paper is the result of a collaboration between Biometris and the Centre for Genetic Resources, the Netherlands (CGN): “The […]

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Lots of old book illustrations now online

5 November 2014

A Yahoo research fellow at Georgetown University, Kalev Leetaru, extracted over 14 million images from 2 million Internet Archive public domain eBooks that span over 500 years of content. Because we have OCR’d the books, we have now been able to attach about 500 words before and after each image. This means you can now […]

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