- Salt-Tolerant Crops: Time to Deliver. Sure, breeding for salt tolerance using crop wild relatives is great, but have you tried just domesticating salt-tolerant wild species?
- Wild and cultivated comestible plant species in the Gulf of Mexico: phylogenetic patterns and convergence of type of use. No word on how many are salt-tolerant.
- Underutilized plants increase biodiversity, improve food and nutrition security, reduce malnutrition, and enhance human health and well-being. Let’s put them back on the plate! No word on how many are salt-tolerant.
- Indigenous crop diversity maintained despite the introduction of major global crops in an African centre of agrobiodiversity. If you want local crop diversity in Highland Ethiopia, look for it on the farms of the poorest. No word on how many are “underutilized”.
- The role of minor cereals in food and nutrition security in Bangladesh: constraints to sustainable production. Low yields, apparently. I think it could do with having aromatic grains. If only there was a way to make that happen…
- De novo creation of popcorn-like fragrant foxtail millet. Yeah, sometimes neither the crop not its wild relatives has the genes for it. Still, if you can edit in aroma, why not salt-tolerance?
- Global Genepool Conservation and Use Strategy for Dioscorea (Yam). I wonder how many of these 27 wild species could usefully be domesticated. Or are salt-tolerant.
- Towards conservation and sustainable use of an indigenous crop: A large partnership network enabled the genetic diversity assessment of 1539 fonio (Digitaria exilis) accessions. This is how you start to undo underutilization. I’m sure someone will edit it next.
- Diversity Assessment of Winged Bean [Psophocarpus tetragonolobus (L.) DC.] Accessions from IITA Genebank. Same as above, but with one hundredth as many accessions. I guess winged bean is even more underutilized than fonio.
- The forgotten giant of the Pacific: a review on giant taro (Alocasia macrorrhizos (L.) G.Don). Sad to say it doesn’t seem to be salt-tolerant. Maybe it’s aromatic, though. Or could be gene-edited to become so. Wouldn’t that be something.
- Retracing the center of origin and evolutionary history of nutmeg Myristica fragrans, an emblematic spice tree species. No need for editing, let’s just conserve the really diverse populations of the North Moluccas.
- Demographic history and distinct selection signatures of two domestication genes in mungbean. Domesticating the mungbean wasn’t all that easy. Hope it’s easier for some random salt-tolerant wild species.
- A plausible screening approach for moisture stress tolerance in finger millet (Eleusine coracana L.) germplasm accessions using membership function value at the seedling stage. Will it work on fonio? Or salt-tolerance?
- Adoption and impact of improved amaranth cultivars in Tanzania using DNA fingerprinting. So can we stop calling it underutilized? And start gene-editing it for aroma?
At the International Congress of Genetics in New Delhi in 1983, I stressed the need for a conservation continuum, beginning with revitalizing conservation of domesticated plants by farm families in all countries, and extending to the establishment of an international genetic resource repository maintained under permafrost conditions. Since then, thanks to the spread of participatory breeding and knowledge-management systems involving scientists and local communities, on-farm conservation and gene banks have become integral parts of national biodiversity conservation strategies. For example, there are now over 125,000 genetic strains of rice, of which over 100,000 are in a cryogenic gene bank maintained by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines. This gene pool is invaluable for adapting one of the world’s most important cereal grains to the consequences of global climate change.
Si monumentum requiris circumspice.
Meet Tom Barse, a Maryland farmer and brewer:
We used to sell hops to local breweries until we opened Milkhouse Brewery at Stillpoint Farm, in 2013, where we now use all of the hops we grow. A few years back, at an agricultural conference at Linganore Wine Cellars, I met Dr. Ray Ediger, a retired veterinarian living in Utica in Frederick County. He told me about an old hop plant growing on his farm that had been there for years, and wanted to know if I was interested in checking it out.
Tom continues, “I went out to Ray’s farm and was amazed to see this enormous hop plant that had taken over his chicken coop, fence, and other farm buildings. Fellow hop growers Brad Humbert, Del Hayes, and I went out and picked some of the hops in early October – which is extremely late for a harvest in Maryland.
We thought we had something pretty cool, so working with Janna Howley and Kevin Atticks at Grow and Fortify we were able to get a USDA/MDA grant to research the hop and make beer. We donated the germplasm to the USDA plant bank and have received a USDA PI number (plant introduction).
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a genebank accession number quoted on a commercial product like that. Thanks to Dr Peter Bretting of USDA for the headsup.
LATER: Oh yes I have :)
Jeremy’s latest Eat This Newsletter has three — count them — pieces on rice. Here’s one of them. Do check out the others too though.
Rice by Any Other Name
Sometimes, I read an article and I marvel at the erudition it contains even when I cannot fully understand it. So it was with Deepa Reddy’s deep dive into Rice names & Memory work. She makes a strong case for the importance of names that describe Indian farmer varieties of rice and tell us more about them, but of course without any familiarity for the language much of the story was lost on me. One tidbit I picked up on: “Njavara with its potent medicinal value is ‘wild water grass,’ like the ‘Nivara’ of the old texts.” Oryza nivara is one of rice’s closest wild relatives. Is Njavara that wild relative, or a cultivar that resembles, or something else entirely?
The article contains a lot more in the intersection of agriculture, anthropology and ethnography and one bit that I hope to see explored further. The rice festival on which Deepa Reddy reported included a demonstration of the importance of memorisation to oral tradition, “by having a few young children recite, from top-to-bottom and entirely from memory, all the hundred-odd names of rices revived, conserved, and now grown in Tamil Nadu by local farmers”. She goes on to say:
Such memory practices and names do a lot more than just remind and entice; they help us understand the still vast array of heritage rices by telling us something about them, helping us to get to know them, remember them, choose between them, and by such methods safeguard them for all the time to come.
Yes, but what are the mnemonics that the children use? A memory palace for rice?
- Biodiversity: Concepts, Patterns, Trends, and Perspectives. It may not be the sixth mass extinction, but it’s still bad, and we’re to blame. Interestingly for such a high-level review, genetic diversity of domesticated species is actually mentioned.
- Seeds of knowledge: paving the way to integrated historical and conservation science research. Conserving the genetic diversity of domesticated species needs to combine history and science.
- Maize and precolonial Africa. Maize contributed to slavery. History indeed.
- Agriculture in the Ancient Maya Lowlands (Part 1): Paleoethnobotanical Residues and New Perspectives on Plant Management. There was more diversity than formerly thought, at various levels. So not just history, but archaeology as well?
- Current agricultural diversification strategies are already agroecological. Ancient Maya Lowland agriculture sounds very agroecological.
- Earliest curry in Southeast Asia and the global spice trade 2000 years ago. Yes, definitely archaeology is needed too.
- Co-conserving Indigenous and local knowledge systems with seeds. Conserving the genetic diversity of domesticated species needs to combine traditional knowledge and seeds.
- Culture and agricultural biodiversity conservation. Conserving the genetic diversity of domesticated species needs to combine culture and policy.
- What plant breeding may (and may not) look like in 2050? Using the genetic diversity of domesticated species needs to increase selection intensity. Citizen science to the rescue?
- Conventional breeding of Pacific Island staple crops: A paradox. Using the genetic diversity of domesticated species needs to increase in the Pacific. And fast.
- Unlocking the inherent potential of plant genetic resources: food security and climate adaptation strategy in Fiji and the Pacific. Maybe selection intensity is not the thing in the Pacific.
- What Can Be Learned by a Synoptic Review of Plant Disease Epidemics and Outbreaks Published in 2021? Using the genetic diversity of domesticated species needs to increase. Very fast.
- Apulian Autochthonous Olive Germplasm: A Promising Resource to Restore Cultivation in Xylella fastidiosa-Infected Areas. Using the genetic diversity of domesticated species is increasing.