Nibbles: CAAS genebank, VACS, Opportunity crops, Ross-Ibarra, Canary sweetpotatoes, Land Institute crowdsourcing, BBC seed podcast

  1. The Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences genebank fills some gaps.
  2. I wonder if any of those new accessions are “opportunity crops.”
  3. Because they are sorely needed, for example in Africa.
  4. Which is not to say working on staples like maize isn’t cool. Just ask Jeffrey Ross-Ibarra.
  5. Working on sweet potato can also be, well, sweet. Case in point: gorgeous book on the varieties of the Canaries.
  6. There’s an opportunity to help the Land Institute with its research on perennial crops.
  7. And yes, seeds are indeed alive. Just ask CAAS.

One Reply to “Nibbles: CAAS genebank, VACS, Opportunity crops, Ross-Ibarra, Canary sweetpotatoes, Land Institute crowdsourcing, BBC seed podcast”

  1. Items 2 and 3 of Fresh Nibbles: “sorely needed … in Africa”.

    Both these heavily promote Africa’s own `underexploited’ crops and reject the introduced crops wheat, maize and rice. This comes in the wake of a US State Department media blitz on “Vision for Adapted Crops and Soils (VACS) in Africa”, putting Africa’s own crops at the centre of research and development needed for food security and supported by an initial $150 million dollars.

    There seems to be the belief that indigenous crops are `locally adapted’ and therefore somehow more nutritious and otherwise better than introduced crops. Much is made of my word `agrobiodiversity’ but entirely leaving out the high importance of indigenous pests and disease agrobiodiversity. The result is a colossal ecological error.

    Indigenous crops are disadapted: they are in contact with co-evolved pests and diseases in near wild relatives. Escape from this restraint is simple: introduce crops to other continents where co-evolved pests and disease do not exist (and thanks to efficient quarantine, may never make recontact). This is what the US depended on with its huge efforts on Plant Introduction (PI numbers, since changed to Plant Inventory). This was massively successful and allowed the US to become a crop export Titan (with Canada and Australia). But, hey, we don’t want countries to do as we did but to do what we say, which is promoting African countries to grow indigenous disease-ridden crops and not exporting anything.

    The technical bit is that crop introduction escapes co-evolved pests and diseases (biotic constraints) while moving the crop to an equivalent abiotic environment of a suitable `agroecological zone’ (similar abiotic conditions): much used by the CGIAR (and plantation crop growers all over the place and most tropical timber plantations). It’s the main driver of tropical crop and forestry success, worth perhaps a trillion dollars. Fat chance of that with the current US State Department attempts to protect US exports (all those big tropical cities to feed).

    And, of course, the fastest way to diversify crop production for insurance against damage is by crop introduction. You may even develop a good export industry, for example, soybean from Brazil.

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