Nibbles: Data storage, CG reform, Tequila, Seed saving trifecta, ROI, Jeremy

  • A Svalbard for data, in Svalbard.
  • IPES-Food critiques OneCGIAR as being insufficiently decentralized, context-specific, agroecological, and power-equitable.
  • Tequila FAQ. Probably need a shot after the above.
  • Seed saving made easy; maybe too easy.
  • The above, applied, in the Pacific.
  • The above, applied, everywhere.
  • The ROI of conservation. In situ only, alas.
  • Jeremy’s latest newsletter: Brazilian agribusiness, boycotts & slavery, cashew boom, peanut crash, Jay Rayner’s suggestions. Do subscribe.

One Reply to “Nibbles: Data storage, CG reform, Tequila, Seed saving trifecta, ROI, Jeremy”

  1. The IPES-Food report is bizarre. Strip away the verbal packing and it complains of: “…the disproportionate power of a handful of actors to control the purse strings and set the global agricultural development agenda”. Yet, in giving bad advice to the CGIAR, this `handful of actors’ is exactly what IPES is trying to impose. IPES-Food is currently funded by four foundations only: the Daniel and Nina Carasso Foundation [Danone Foods]; the Open Societies Foundation [Soros]; the Fondation Charles Leopold Mayer pour le Progrès de l’Homme; and the 11th Hour Foundation [Schmidt Family (Google money)]. Why should this narrow funding base be allowed to dictate future research for agricultural development?
    Suspect funding aside, the technical core of the report seems to be an urgently-needed `paradigm shift’ towards agroecological systems building on `resilience through crop/species diversity’ [resilience has been defined as the propensity of a system to retain its organizational structure and productivity following a perturbation]. But IPES is ignoring real ecology here, as there are many examples of resilient yet monodominant vegetation, including appropriate models for monocultures.
    The most biodiverse systems are the least able to resist perturbations – viz. coral reefs and tropical rainforests – very slight change can wreck them. In contrast, the most resilient vegetation, of the tough species that can overcome perturbation, can be monodominant – that is, not diverse at all. Example are legion: Alnus on scree slope, Bromus tectorum in the USA, Phragmites all over the place, Spartina on coastal mud flats, sea-grass meadows (e.g. Thalassia), Rhizophora mangroves, Macrocystis kelp, tree-line vegetation, Imperata cylindrica, Pemphis scrub, large-seeded tropical monodominant trees (e.g. Mora excelsa), and very many more.
    The general pattern seems to be that highly selective environmental factors of various kinds select out one (highly adapted) plant species to dominate. As this exists commonly in practice there can be no evolutionary theory that can refute it (although the `agroecological paradigm’ tries, but fails, to do so).
    Of particular relevance for cereal cropping is the monodominant heritage provided by the wild ancestors of the earliest annual cereals []. The resilience of these cereals seems to come from the ability to bury seed as a protection against seasonal fire. As this was a rare adaptation (to escape perturbation), it allowed the wild ancestors to grow as monodominants (but imposed the costly need on modern cereals for tilling and seed planting to closely mimic nature in order to maintain monodominance).
    It is possible that IPES is, out of ignorance, confusing the socio-economic reasons for very diverse tropical home gardens with the ecologically-rational reasons for monodominant field crops (such as rice). But IPES should go back to the drawing-board: its take on `ecological’ is plain wrong. Interestingly, apart from getting the ecology wrong, the report has strong echoes of the NGO RAFI’s attacks on the CGIAR of more than thirty years ago.

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