- Conserving and Sharing Taro Genetic Resources for the Benefit of Global Taro Cultivation: A Core Contribution of the Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees. The first line of defence against Taro Leaf Blight, among other things.
- Female access to fertile land and other inputs in Zambia: why women get lower yields. Because they’re stuck with the poorer soils. I’m assuming there was some control for maize variety, but the damn thing is behind a paywall. LATER: Yeah, they controlled for hybrid vs open pollinated variety.
- Towards a dialogue of sustainable agriculture and end-times theology in the United States: insights from the historical ecology of nineteenth century millennial communes. In other news, it has become necessary to reconcile the apocalypse with sustainability.
- Population genomic analyses of the chocolate tree, Theobroma cacao L., provide insights into its domestication process. Domestication was both good and bad.
- The use and domestication of Theobroma cacao during the mid-Holocene in the upper Amazon. Archaeology says domestication in western Amazon in line with above (somewhere in Ecuador?), but earlier than thought.
- DNA methylation footprints during soybean domestication and improvement. Differentially methylated regions are particularly genetically diverse.
- Major domestication-related phenotypes in indica rice are due to loss of miRNA-mediated laccase silencing. Not so much the genes, as their regulation.
- Phylogenetic patterns and phenotypic profiles of the species of plants and mammals farmed for food. Plants and animals are different.
- Botanic Gardens Complement Agricultural Gene Bank in Collecting and Conserving Plant Genetic Diversity. 6000 taxa in 68 crop genera are in botanic gardens. Check out the rest of the special edition of Biopreservation and Biobanking on agricultural genebanks.
- Plants: Crop diversity pre‐breeding technologies as agrarian care co‐opted? Pre-breeding ignores farmers’ knowledge.
- The Open Source Seed Licence: A novel approach to safeguarding access to plant germplasm. Seeds will find a way.
- When too much isn’t enough: Does current food production meet global nutritional needs? No: grow more food and vegetables.
- Breeding and genomics status in faba bean (Vicia faba). Plenty of diversity to be still used. Pass the chianti.
- QTL Mapping of Resistance to Bean Weevil in Common Bean. Based on a cross between the susceptible Zambian landrace Solwezi and the resistant breeding line AO-1012-29-3-3A. But which Solwezi? I hope there’s a DOI in the actual paper for those who get through the paywall.
- Spatial Multivariate Cluster Analysis for Defining Target Population of Environments in West Africa for Yam Breeding. 7 mega-environments identified, but what I want to know is if any are under-represented in terms of material in the genebank.
- Economic shifts in agricultural production and trade due to climate change. Under mitigation scenarios trade networks for agricultural commodities get more distributed, and possibly therefore more stable. So that’s another reason to mitigate C emissions, you know, apart from saving the planet.
Speaking of vanilla, as I was elsewhere … A very odd story caught my eye.
Obvious clickbait, right. I mean, vanilla came originally from Mexico, as any fule kno. The photo, of highly ordinary vanilla pods in a very modern plastic basket confirmed my suspicions. The caption:
Although long considered a product that originated in ancient Mexico, vanilla — which is extracted from beans such as these — was used by Middle Easterners around 3,600 years ago, a new study finds.
Well dodgy, but not exactly wrong. Not exactly.
My first thought was that maybe the archaeologists had fooled themselves. After all, pure vanillin is a byproduct of the degeneration of lignin. Maybe a bit of decomposing wood contaminated the juglets in which the stuff was found. But no. The truth is even more interesting, and hidden deep in Science News’ account.
For a start, the juglets also contained traces of olive oil. And while plain vanilla usually signifies the species Vanilla planifolia, there are, in fact more than 100 different species around the world. Vanessa Linares, the archaeologist who identified the compounds, refers to “the vanilla orchid” in an abstract of her research. In fact, she compared the compounds she found with those produced by other species of Vanilla, and suggests that it could have come from one of three different species.
After a close study of vanilla orchid plants, three different species were identified as possible sources for vanilla exploitation in antiquity: V. polylepsis [sic] Summerh (central east Africa), V. albidia Blume (India), and V. abundiflora J.J. Sm. (southeast Asia).
I think, under the circumstances, I might have written “a vanilla orchid”.
Anyway, parsimony suggests (to me) it was V. polylepis from east Africa which, although apparently showy and widespread, was not described formally until 1951. If it did travel from east Africa to the Levant, that is impressive enough. Even more so is that the people who traded it 4000 years ago knew how to undertake the painstaking fermentation that is the secret to the odour and flavour of natural vanilla. The pods barely smell, and certainly not of vanilla.
So yes, not quite what Science News was trying to sell, but pretty interesting all the same. And a project for some enterprising breeder in east Africa: Domesticate your local vanilla.
- Courtesy of Bioversity, useful summary of agricultural biodiversity events at the CBD COP, starting in a few days.
- The USDA National Plant Germplasm System, justified.
- The ancient symbolism of celery. Spoiler alert: death.
- A breeding professor calls for a major change in breeding. Spoiler alert: productivity is not enough.
- What’s the next açaí? And will it save the Amazon?
- Saving threatened species. Spoiler alert: seeds are not enough.
- 9000 years of maize history, decoded.
- The Access to Seeds Index 2019 report for South and Southeast Asia is out. Spoiler alert: I feel a guest post coming on.
- UK supermarket to stock salsify.
I know I Nibbled it yesterday, but this twitter thread on a possible new date for the eruption of Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii is too good not to highlight a bit more. It all started a few days ago with a newly uncovered graffito.
- The Plant Treaty tries to enhance itself: the story so far.
- CIMMYT gets a podcast. Here’s one on blue maize.
- The Vavilov collection put to good use. Again.
- “Cow farts cause more climate change than cars.” Not really. Here comes the science, by way of a Twitter thread, of all things.
- The Pompeii eruption: August, or October? Here comes the archaeobotany, among other things, by way of a Twitter thread, of all things.
- It was World Apple Day or somesuch, so here’s two canonical feel-good heirloom apple stories.
- Fancy an open-access special issue of Biopreservation and Biobanking? Too nerdy? It’s on agricultural genebanks… Yeah, I thought you might.