Trade information by mobile

Between the Common Catalogue on one side and regulations on the entry of new agricultural products on the other, it does sometimes seem like the EU just doesn’t want farmers to grow diverse crops, either within its borders or indeed anywhere else on Earth. Anyway, on the latter issue, maybe one of the answers is for developing world farmers to trade more among themselves. One of the bottlenecks to that, of course, is the availability of price and other information. So it was really interesting to read in The Economist about tradenet, an internet application developed by a software company out of Ghana that enables users to exchange market information, including by SMS text messages. Mobile telephony is of course expanding at tremendous speed in Africa. Tradenet is basically a sort of eBay for agricultural products, where you can put in your bid by cell phone. And more. Listen to this: “we will incorporate the ability to generate digital maps of your country with overlays of pricing for commodities, as well as include key markets in neighboring countries, where you can zoom or pan around vector maps.” Cool or what?

Pharaonic medicine

Not much detail in this press release from the University of Manchester, but the idea to document what plants were used – and how – by the ancient Egyptians for medicinal purposes sounds great.

Assisted migration

Would you move a species threatened by climate change to an area where it isn’t currently found but where the new climate suits it better? That’s “assisted migration,” and the lively debate around it is described by Carl Zimmer in the New York Times here. He quotes a thorough review of the ecological and evolutionary responses to climate change which may be found online as a pdf here. It seems to me that assisted migration is likely to be feasible for only a small number of wild species, but what about crops? Making threatened crops and landraces available to farmers in more suitable climates sounds like a pretty good idea to me.

Latin cooking

This piece on the polyphenolic content of yearba mate (llex paraguariensis), a tea-like drink traditionally consumed in South America by pouring boiling water onto leaves held in a seasoned gourd, led me to this interesting-sounding book on Hispanic foods in general. Polyphenols are antioxidants and the food industry wants to add them to juices and teas.