So are soybeans sorted or not?

Readers may have seen press coverage of a paper in Science suggesting that a biotech tweak to photosynthesis has led to significant yield boosts in soybeans. The tweak involves getting leaves to respond more nimbly to changes in light intensity, including due to shading by other leaves. It has successfully increased biomass production in tobacco in the past: would it also increase seed yield in a food crop under field conditions?

Yes, by up to a third, said the headlines. Not so fast, said Merritt Khaipho-Burch on Twitter: we’re going to need many more and much better field trials before we’re convinced.

That got some push-back, basically saying those kinds of trials are too expensive to be a precondition of publication. But now one of the authors of the original study, Steven Burgess, has weighed in, also on Twitter, saying the criticism is valid, it’s all very complicated, and the paper is just a proof of principle at this stage.

Now to get the press to explain all that.

Brainfood: Convivial conservation, Resilient forests, Traditional industries, Wheat supplies, Food system transformation, Micronutrient security, Biotech promise, Ultra-processed food impacts, Sub-Saharan agriculture, Farmer risk management, Afro-Brazilian agriculture, Biodiversity funding

Nibbles: Algal genebank, Baking, Distilling, Ft Collins genebank, Community genebanks, Trinidad genebank, Agriculture & climate change, Nigerian coconuts, Organic agriculture

  1. Saving an algal germplasm collection in the US.
  2. Saving ancient grains via baking in Israel and distilling in Minnesota.
  3. Saving seeds (and more) in a famous genebank in Ft Collins, Colorado.
  4. Saving seeds in community genebanks in Nepal.
  5. Saving seeds for the community in Trinidad & Tobago.
  6. Saving agriculture from climate change in Hainan. Someone tell India.
  7. Saving the Nigerian coconut sector.
  8. Saving organic agriculture from politicians.

Nibbles: Pacific genebank, IPBES report, New mangoes, British apples, Greek landraces, Fonio, Space seeds, Macadamia cryo

  1. New Zealand supports SPC regional crops and trees genebank in a big way.
  2. Some of those trees are wild species that contribute to food security, and more must be done to conserve them.
  3. Some trees are crops of course, like mangoes, and scientists are doing their bit for them in the Philippines.
  4. Wait, isn’t it too early for the usual BBC saving-the-apple story? Usually comes in the autumn.
  5. Who needs genebanks when you can inscribe landraces in a National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
  6. Maybe try it with fonio next?
  7. Or just send seeds into space?
  8. Maybe including macadamia, or is space not cold enough for them?