Last week’s The Economist has a nice piece in its Graphic Detail section on how climate change is affecting yields of some crops so much that farmers in many parts of the world will be increasingly tempted — if not compelled — to switch to different crops.
Even if more climate-resilient varieties of the crops farmers are currently growing come on-line, along with better agronomic practices, it may in some cases just be easier and more profitable to grow something else, says the article.
Like breadfruit, it adds, cheekily. Before concluding, rather more constructively, that, given the uncertainties involved, farmers should “learn about a wide variety of crops.”
I’d have liked to share a chart or two here, but the licensing paywall is steep, so I’ll just point to the four studies that the article references. Unlike The Economist, though, I’ll actually give the full titles, and link to the papers — Brainfood-style.
- Climate analogues suggest limited potential for intensification of production on current croplands under climate change. Major cereals are going to take a significant hit over much of their area of cultivation by 2050.
- Climate impacts on global agriculture emerge earlier in new generation of climate and crop models. Newer crop and climate models are generally more pessimistic that older ones.
- Increased food production and reduced water use through optimized crop distribution. Shifting crops around in a clever way would feed an extra 850 million people while saving water.
- Matches and mismatches between the global distribution of major food crops and climate suitability. The match between where 12 crops actually grow and where they grow best is not optimal, but stronger in richer parts of the world.
LATER: Actually, let me add another one to the list, not in the piece in The Economist but also relevant, and complemented by a useful Q&A with one of the authors.
- Relocating croplands could drastically reduce the environmental impacts of global food production. Moving crops to where they do best decreases their carbon, biodiversity, and irrigation water footprint.
- India decides to export millets. How about conserving them?
- India releases a new coconut. How about new millets?
- Bhutan BOLDly studies its seed systems. Maybe even including some millets.
- Bangladesh revives floating gardens. No millets.
- Coffee gets an international breeding network. Do millets have one?
- Israel‘s and New Zealand‘s genebanks make the news. How about millet genebanks?
- Thiamine improves in vitro propagation of sweetpotato [Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam.] – confirmed with a wide range of genotypes. Getting there, keep tweaking…
- Minimizing the deleterious effects of endophytes in plant shoot tip cryopreservation. Something else to tweak.
- Ex Situ Conservation of Plant Genetic Resources: An Overview of Chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) and Lentil (Lens culinaris Medik.) Worldwide Collections. Thankfully not much in vitro and cryo involved. The main tweak necessary is to share more characterization data with breeders.
- Data, Duplication, and Decentralisation: Gene Bank Management in the 1980s and 1990s. Ah, but do calls for more data also reflect attempts to cut costs and build political bridges? And would that be so bad?
- EURISCO update 2023: the European Search Catalogue for Plant Genetic Resources, a pillar for documentation of genebank material. Arguably, Eurisco tries to do all of the above, and pretty well.
- Bioinformatic Extraction of Functional Genetic Diversity from Heterogeneous Germplasm Collections for Crop Improvement. You need fancy maths to make sense of all that data. And use it.
- Research Status and Trends of Agrobiodiversity and Traditional Knowledge Based on Bibliometric Analysis (1992–Mid-2022). Not much traditional knowledge in those databases, though, eh? That would be one hell of a tweak.
- Species-tailored sampling guidelines remain an efficient method to conserve genetic diversity ex situ: A study on threatened oaks. Meanwhile, some people are still trying to figure out the best way to tweak sampling strategies to add diversity to genebanks. Spoiler alert: you need data on individual species.
- Collecting critically endangered cliff plants using a drone-based sampling manipulator. You also need drones.
- Application of Geographical Information System for PGR Management. One thing you can do with all that data is map stuff. So at least the drones know where to go.
- Incorporating evolutionary and threat processes into crop wild relatives conservation. The only thing that’s missing from this is traditional knowledge. And maybe drones.
- Conserving species’ evolutionary potential and history: opportunities under the new post-2020 global biodiversity framework. All these data will allow us to measure how well we’re doing. And whether we can ask for cryotanks, drones, and better databases.
- Remember the book on ancient Mesopotamian cookery in the last Nibbles? Ok well here’s a website on Vegetable Oils And Animal Fats In Early Urban Societies Of Syro-Mesopotamia. Esoteric? Moi?
- To come back down to earth, you could always read this hot take on the AGRA rebranding.
- Couldn’t be more down to earth than community seedbanks, aka seed libraries.
- The seeds of Dipteryx odorata will make your head float.
- The latest news from the Musa Germplasm Information System may float your boat. It did mine. But I’m into esoterica, didn’t you know?
- Nothing esoteric about wild peanuts any more.