FAO’s Globally Important Agriculture Heritage Systems (GIAHS) initiative is a potentially really cool way of linking agricultural and cultural heritage. They’ll be having a forum about it in Rome later this month. This will contribute to the development of projects in the following places:
- the Inca farming systems of the Peruvian Andes
- the oases of the Maghreb countries
- the integrated rice-fish system in China
- the Ifugao rice terraces systems in the Philippines
- ChiloÃ© Island, one of the world centres of origin of potatoes
A paper in the Journal of Biogeography reports on the biggest ever microsatellite study of wild and cultivated olives in the Mediterranean. There is a cline in diversity from east to west, suggesting that perhaps the wild olive in the west is feral rather than truly wild, but this study suggests that the wild olive spread out of 7 RPOPs, orÂ reconstructed panmictic oleaster populations, in both eastern and western Mediterranean, possibly located in glacial refugia. Cultivated olives were domesticated in several RPOPs, and mediated geneflow in the wild species as they were spread around my humans. Has this business of glacial refugia been looked at for other cultivated trees in Europe?
The latest issue of CTA’s wonderful ICT Update is all about urban agriculture, and has a couple of examples of the application of GIS. I’ve always wondered whether urban areas act as “magnets” for PGR, people bringing their crops and varieties along when they migrate to the city and growing them in micro-environments, and/or as “winnowers” of the varieties available in the immediate vicinity, urban dwellers mostly focusing on the convenient and commercial. We even did an inconclusive studyÂ on sweet potato in Nairobi trying to look at this. Is genetic diversity much considered in urban agriculture circles?
The National Research Council in the US has published a report on the importance of pollinators for crop production funded by the Department of Agriculture, U.S. Geological Survey, National Academies and the Research Council’s Division on Earth and Life Studies and requested by The North American Pollinator Protection Campaign, representing agencies and organizations in the United States, Canada and Mexico. According to this story, “the report pointed out that in order to bear fruit, three-quarters of all flowering plants — including most food crops and some that provide fiber, drugs, and fuel — rely on pollinators for fertilization” and “a decline in pollinators may spell trouble for crops.” Well alrighty then. Among the recommendations:
- the Agriculture Department should increase research into pest management and bee breeding practices
- long-term studies must be done on the populations of wild bee species and some butterflies, bats and hummingbirds, and the United States should collaborate with Canada and Mexico to form a network of long-term monitoring projects
- landowners should take simple steps to make habitats more “pollinator friendly,” for instance by growing native plants
The International Centre for Underutilized Crops (ICUC) has a position paper on the use of biotechnology to promote and develop neglected and underutilized species. You can download it here. The study concludes that some biotechnologies, eg tissue culture and microproagation, have proved effective in enhancing the use of neglected species, but that others, eg DNA fingerprinting for genetic diversity studies, have resulted in only limited practical benefits. The risks associated with applying biotechnologies include centralization, intellectual property protection and the formation of genetic bottlenecks.