Climate change and wine

Over at CABI’s blog there’s a great post summarizing some recent research on the possible effects of climate change on the wine industry. The grapevine is very sensitive to temperature and rainfall, making it a useful indicator of environmental change. Predictably, there will be both winners and losers among the traditional wine growing areas. Not quite sure how the average consumer will come out of it, but wine bores will have a whole new area of expertise to get to grips with.

Late blight origins

Ask anyone working in plant genetic resources for an example of the importance of growing genetically diverse crops and chances are that sooner or later they’ll mention the Irish potato famine, caused by the late blight fungus Phytophtora infestans in the 1840s. But for such an important – and iconic – disease, it is amazing how what we think we know about it keeps changing. There’s been a re-think recently about which strain of the fungus actually caused the outbreak in Ireland. And now there’s DNA work to figure out where the pathogen came from. The debate on that point seems now to have been decided in favour of the Andes.

White grapes are mutants

Thought that would get your attention. Actually, what the research summarized here revealed was that a couple of genes mutated independently thousands of years ago in the ancestor of the modern grapevine, whose berries were red. The resulting white variety proved to be the ancestor of almost all of the 3000 or so white grape varieties we have today. This discovery from CSIRO will apparently be useful in marker-assisted breeding.

Peppers fight flab

It seems that capsaicin, the stuff that gives hot peppers their zing, prevents immature fat cells developing into the fully-fledged sort. At least in laboratory experiments – but at levels not unlike those found in the stomachs of people who’ve just eaten a Thai meal. So, rather than jogging today, I’m going for a curry.

Unchaining cassava in Africa

Via “Timbuktu Chronicles,” a fascinating blog by Emeka Okafor about African entrepreneurship and innovation, comes a link of a 2005 Common Fund for Commodities paper on the development of the market for cassava in Africa. The bottom line seems to be that the commodity chain needs to be strengthened and supported by appropriate and sustainable services. Given the cassava boom that has been sweeping Nigeria of late, that may in fact have happened since the paper was written. Other recent entries on Emeka’s blog look at honey and community genebanks. This RSS feed is going straight into my reader.