- Variation in seed longevity among diverse Indica rice varieties. 8 major loci associated with seed longevity.
- Seeds and the Art of Genome Maintenance. Viability is about the DNA repair response. Snap.
- Are Mayan community forest reserves effective in fulfilling people’s needs and preserving tree species? Sure.
- The power of argument. People don’t respond to utilitarian arguments when it comes to biodiversity. In the Netherlands.
- Do modern hunter-gatherers live in marginal habitats? Nope. What can I tell ya?
- New evidence on concentration in seed markets. Not as bad as some people think.
- Climate change has likely already affected global food production. From 2003 to 2008, ~1% average reduction in consumable food calories in barley, cassava, maize, oil palm, rapeseed, rice, sorghum, soybean, sugarcane and wheat.
- Selection of Heat Tolerant Lablab. 6 out of 44 accessions form the WorldVeg genebank are heat tolerant.
- Counting the beans: quantifying the adoption of improved mungbean varieties in South Asia and Myanmar. 1.2 million farmers reached by WorldVeg varieties. Lablab next?
- Climate smart agricultural practices and gender differentiated nutrition outcome: An empirical evidence from Ethiopia. They work, but they’re better in combination.
- Pests and diseases of trees in Africa: A growing continental emergency. Into Africa…
- Genetics of adaptation in modern chicken. Not much of a domestication bottleneck; that came later.
- Multi-Trait Diverse Germplasm Sources from Mini Core Collection for Sorghum Improvement. From 40,000 in the genebank, to 242 in the mini-core, to 6 really cool ones (from Yemen, USA, China, Mozambique, and India x2 if you must know).
- Palaeogenomic insights into the origins of French grapevine diversity. Ancient DNA from 28 pips dating back to the Iron Age provides pretty good matches to grapes grown today.
- Global dataset shows geography and life form predict modern plant extinction and rediscovery. Almost 600 plants went extinct in modern times, at least, and I count about 20 crop wild relatives among them.
There’s a nice feature on the BBC on preparing rice cultivation for climate change. I’ve taken the liberty of dissecting out the bit about the IRRI genebank and the breeding work of Haiyan Xiong. Mainly because I found all the scrolling so annoying.
Farmers in China are acutely aware of the impact of water shortages. Population growth, increasing urbanisation and industrial water use are all making water shortages more common in China, says Haiyan Xiong, a postdoctoral researcher in plant sciences at the University of Cambridge. Water distribution is geographically uneven, with limited rainfall in northern China and seasonal droughts in southern China.
Much of China’s variable water supply is going to a single crop: rice. About 4,000 litres of water are needed to produce just one kilogram of rice, according to Xiong. Other estimates vary between about 2,500 and 5,000 litres. In China, irrigation for the crop accounts for about 70% of the total agricultural water use.
One response to this problem has been to look for types of rice that use less water. To this end, thousands of rice varieties are being preserved at the world’s largest rice gene bank, in the Philippines. These include enhanced varieties such as ‘scuba rice’, which can withstand flooding, and the drought-tolerant Sahod Ulan varieties being used by some Filipino farmers.
Xiong and her colleagues hope to combine genome editing with traditional breeding methods to create new drought-resistant varieties. But this is a challenge. “Due to the complexity of the genetic mechanism…not much progress has been made in improving rice drought resistance in China,” she says. “Very few genes can be used in actual production to improve the rice drought resistance.”
Yet the team have identified a single gene in upland rice, known as OsLG3, that’s linked to the length of rice grains as well as drought tolerance. Upland regions, which are dry and hilly, are a much harder environment to grow rice in than lowland paddy fields, and upland rice is usually of lower quality. So introducing the upland drought-tolerance gene into the more widely cultivated lowland rice could allow for the best of both worlds.
Another new type of rice bred for challenging conditions is known as Green Super Rice.
Chinese soil, especially in coastal provinces, naturally contains high amounts of salt, which can become even more concentrated in areas with low rainfall and high evaporation. When there’s too much salt in the soil, plants experience something known as osmotic stress. A large amount of water exits the plant’s cells, causing them to shrink suddenly. The process limits plant growth and productivity.
As with Xiong’s drought-tolerant upland-lowland rice, researchers have found genetic traits in rice varieties that can help Green Super Rice withstand high salt levels and osmotic stress. This often involves backcross breeding, in which genes associated with a desirable trait are bred into a second variety by hybridisation. So far, Green Super Rice appears to produce a high yield in addition to having a high salt tolerance. The hope is that this could open up coastal or other high-salt areas to rice growing.
The claim that khesari dal can cause lathyrism is increasingly being challenged by researchers who feel that the ban was not based on systemic research over a prolonged period.
So what’s the problem?
Sources in the FSSAI1 say that the ban has helped people associated with the import of other pulses such as toor dal2. “In the wake of drop in production of popular pulses ensuing imports, traders lobby is benefitted. (Shortage of pulses in India, increases prices, benefitting traders.) They would never want the ban lifted,” said one official on condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, research and breeding continue.
Made entirely with previously unreleased archival footage, THE SCIENTIST, THE IMPOSTER AND STALIN offers a rare immediacy to events that took place decades ago. It is both an engrossing story and a warning about the disastrous results of yoking science to politics.
Here’s the teaser.1
- Indigenous Grasses for Rehabilitating Degraded African Drylands. Promising results, but it’s not easy.
- Variability in the Global Proso Millet (Panicum miliaceum L.) Germplasm Collection Conserved at the ICRISAT Genebank. Asian, European and mixed clusters, based on morphology. Out of over 800 accessions, 3 (IPm 2069, IPm 2076 and IPm 2537) are rich in grain Fe, Zn, Ca, and protein.
- Household-specific targeting of agricultural advice via mobile phones: Feasibility of a minimum data approach for smallholder context. A little household data goes a long way. Includes crop diversity info?
- The genome of cowpea (Vigna unguiculata [L.] Walp.). There’s a gene for multiple organ gigantism.
- Reduced response diversity does not negatively impact wheat climate resilience. The suggestion that the statistical methods used were faulty means wheat may not be as in trouble in Europe as a previous paper suggested.
- Evaluating WorldClim Version 1 (1961–1990) as the Baseline for Sustainable Use of Forest and Environmental Resources in a Changing Climate. Maybe not as good as it might be. But what’s the alternative?
- Worldwide phylogeography and history of wheat genetic diversity. Three groups, with one (the Asian genepool) hardly used in breeding.
- Durum Wheat (Triticum durum Desf.): Origin, Cultivation and Potential Expansion in Sub-Saharan Africa. From the Ethiopian highlands and Saharan oases to the mainstream?
- Global mapping of cost‐effective microalgal biofuel production areas with minimal environmental impact. The dry coasts of N and E Africa, the Middle East, and western S America. But how minimal is minimal?
- From women’s empowerment to food security: Revisiting global discourses through a cross-country analysis. The patriarchy is resourceful.
- Genetic association with high‐resolution climate data reveals selection footprints in the genomes of barley landraces across the Iberian Peninsula. Cold temperature, late‐season frost occurrence and water availability have driven landrace genetic differentiation.