New livestock diversity information system is here, almost

With about 20% of the world’s local farm animal breeds currently at risk of extinction, urgent action is needed to safeguard livestock diversity. This event will showcase the launch of an updated FAO tool, called the Domestic Animal Diversity Information System, or DAD-IS, that countries can use to monitor animal genetic resources that are important for food and agriculture. Containing information on 8,800 breeds of livestock and poultry across the world, the new DAD-IS platform can be used to measure SDG progress, create attractive graphics and tables for internal reporting purposes or export data for scientific analysis.

Sounds great, and you can see all the details on the recent webcast from FAO. But it’s still the old version that’s online, damn it. So when are we going to see (or hear) all the new bells and whistles? Well, as it happens, a member of the audience asked that very same question, and the answer is about 1:29 hours (sic) in: Monday, 27 November. How am I going to get through the weekend? Stay tuned for the results of my road test.

Reviewing plant conservation in the Anthropocene

An interesting review is just out by the Grand Old Man of plant conservation (or one of them), Vernon Heywood, under the title Plant conservation in the Anthropocene – challenges and future prospects. It’s a long read, but worth it, and thanks go to the Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences for funding open access.

One bit that struck me in particular comes at the bottom of page 13 of the PDF version, where Prof. Heywood compares the status of ex situ conservation in wild and cultivated species:

Protected Area systems were one conspicuous exception but for other areas, such as ex situ conservation, no attempt was made to put in place the necessary global institutional structure. This contrasts with the situation for agriculture and forestry which when faced with the widespread erosion of genetic diversity in crops, a gene bank system and appropriate protocols for the collection, storage and access to seed was developed by organizations such as the FAO, CGIAR and IBPGR (now Bioversity International) and a number of national and regional gene banks were also created. For ex situ conservation of wild species, no serious efforts were made to address the issue of capacity and it was left to botanic gardens to attempt to take on the role of ex situ conservation of plants although in most cases without the necessary staff, support or finance (Heywood, 2009). Spain was one of the few countries — in fact a pioneer — to recognize this need and the environment agencies of some autonomous governments helped to create or support seed banks in some botanic gardens or other centres. Even more critical is the situation for the conservation of target species in situ for which no dedicated institutional arrangements have been put in place with the consequence that the relevant 2020 targets are unlikely to be met.

While fair enough as far as it goes, this seems to me to ignore the work of the Millennium Seed Bank at Kew in supporting partnerships for ex situ conservation of wild plant species around the world, and indeed also downplays the successes of botanical gardens, and their networking arrangements under Botanic Gardens Conservation International.

Ex-FBI guy on the trail of lost apples

David Benscoter spent 24 years mastering his skills as an investigator, breaking cases on bank robberies and political corruption for the F.B.I. and the I.R.S. Now, he’s taking a bite out of a different kind of problem — lost apples. Apples have long been a hot commodity for the people of Washington, but in recent years, many orchards have been left abandoned. As orchards are neglected, many varieties of apples are being lost to culinary culture. Benscoter is bringing them back. So far, the apple investigator has given new life to three lost varieties: the Nero, the Arkansas Beauty and the Dickinson.

Brainfood: Banana diversity, Cacao and CC, Coffee and CC, Zosya diversity, Certification, Genetic surrogates, Potato diversity, Food sovereignty, Swiss wheat, Seed storage, Golden potato