- One hundred important questions facing plant science: an international perspective. How do we leverage existing genetic diversity to create climate-resilient crops? is only number 3 you say? I’ll take it. And in fact that broad question gets deconstructed in questions 36-71. Now, let’s see how today’s haul of papers relates to that, shall we?
- A strategy for the next decade to address data deficiency in neglected biodiversity. Well, yeah, easy one, clearly you need data to conserve the crop wild relatives that could help you breed those climate-resilient crops.
- Post-2020 biodiversity framework challenged by cropland expansion in protected areas. Apart from anything else, that data would tell you which CWR in protected areas are threatened with cropland expansion, and said CWR could help you with breeding crops that could limit cropland expansion by increasing production on existing cropland. Could, could, could…
- Global Maps of Agricultural Expansion Potential at a 300 m Resolution. That cropland expansion might do less damage in some places than others. Still with me?
- Increased probability of hot and dry weather extremes during the growing season threatens global crop yields. Right, that’s why those CWR might come in useful. Assuming you can still find them with all that cropland expansion.
- Divergent impacts of crop diversity on caloric and economic yield stability. At the state level within the USA, crop species diversity is positively associated with yield stability when yield is measured in $ but negatively when measured in calories. Now do it for genetic diversity.
- Role of staple cereals in human nutrition: Separating the wheat from the chaff in the infodemics age. The benefits of those climate-resilient, more nutritious crops need to be better communicated.
- Simple solutions for complex problems? What is missing in agriculture for nutrition interventions. What does nutritious mean anyway?
- “Whose demand?” The co-construction of markets, demand and gender in development-oriented crop breeding. Who is it that wants those climate-resilient, nutritious crops anyway?
- Take-home message: leveraging existing genetic diversity to create climate-resilient crops might be the easy part.
Brainfood: Traits & environment, Acacia growth, Local extinction risk, Lebanese CWR priorities, Malawi CWR payments, Bread wheat origins, Wild lettuce, Ethiopian forages, Editing forages
- Why can’t we predict traits from the environment? Because plants are not collections of independent, isolated traits. All the more reason to study, understand and protect wild plants of economic importance, as the following papers show.
- Differential climatic conditions drive growth of Acacia tortilis tree in its range edges in Africa and Asia. Case in point of the above. Makes germplasm evaluation really hard.
- Understanding local plant extinctions before it is too late: bridging evolutionary genomics with global ecology. Modelling based on the genomic offset (GO) method and the mutations–area relationship (MAR) can help better predict the risk of extinction of different populations.
- Crop wild relatives in Lebanon: mapping the distribution of Poaceae and Fabaceae priority taxa for conservation planning. Bekaa and Baalbak have the highest diversity and the SW the most gaps.
- Community-Level Incentive Mechanisms for the Conservation of Crop Wild Relatives: A Malawi Case Study. Paying communities to conserve crop wild relatives could work and be relatively cheap. Waiting to see this being applied in the Bekaa.
- Population genomics unravels the Holocene history of bread wheat and its relatives. Yeah but crop wild relatives really held back bread wheat domestication. So maybe the Bekaa owes everyone else.
- New insights gained from collections of wild Lactuca relatives in the gene bank of the Institute of Evolution, University of Haifa. Maybe they can gain an insight into how to make lettuce taste of something. And I wonder what environmental variable that will be associated with.
- Climate change and land-use change impacts on future availability of forage grass species for Ethiopian dairy systems. Two forages will do better under climate change, one worse. Assuming a lot of stuff.
- Application of CRISPR/Cas9 technology in forages. But plants are not collections of independent, isolated traits, right?
A couple of hot takes. Maybe I’ll circle back with the missing nuance when I have more time.
From the World Bank: Coming Together to Address the Global Food Crisis
Take home message: Food insecurity was already on the rise because of climate change before the pandemic and the Ukraine war, and it will continue to worsen through 2027. To boost food and nutrition security, the World Bank is scaling up both short- and long-term responses in 4 priority areas: 1. Support production and producers; 2. Facilitate increased trade in food and agriculture inputs; 3. Support vulnerable households; 4. Invest in sustainable food and nutrition security. No word specifically on crop diversity or genebanks.
It’s possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and make our food systems more resilient and adapt to climate change. But doing so requires a major transformation of how we produce, distribute and consume food.
From the IPCC: AR6 Synthesis Report Climate Change 2023
Take home message: While food, land, and water systems are being severely impacted by climate change, they are also a source of solutions, for mitigation, for adaptation and to build resilience and reduce inequity. No word specifically on crop diversity or genebanks.
A.3.2 Effectiveness of adaptation in reducing climate risks is documented for specific contexts, sectors and regions (high confidence). Examples of effective adaptation options include: cultivar improvements, on-farm water management and storage, soil moisture conservation, irrigation, agroforestry, community-based adaptation, farm and landscape level diversification in agriculture, sustainable land management approaches, use of agroecological principles and practices and other approaches that work with natural processes (high confidence)…
Here’s CGIAR’s take. No word specifically on crop diversity or genebanks.
And no, AI was not used in the preparation of this invaluable blogpost.
Nibbles: ICRISAT breeding, India climate change, Seed catalogues, Karabakh horse
- New ICRISAT varieties of sorghum, pearl millet and pigeonpea are doing well in drought-hit Kenya. For now, at least: something to keep an eye on. Genebanks and breeding to the rescue?
- It’s behind a Times of India paywall, alas, but this seems to be an article about the effects of a very warm February on wheat, vegetables and grapes in that country.
- Spring is coming to the northern hemisphere, so of course The New Yorker has a piece on the allure of seed catalogues. I hope there are drought-tolerant and heat-resistant varieties in there. And that they’re clearly labelled as such.
- Meanwhile, oblivious of it all, AramcoWorld has an elegiac piece on the revival of the Karabakh horse in Azerbaijan. Beautiful plumage.
Nibbles: Vavilov, Argentine genebank, Millennium Seed Bank, Indian millets, Community seedbank, Creative finance, Healthy diets, African agriculture
- The Living Library of Resilience is a great name for what Nikolai Vavilov put together, and this longish piece from Maria Popova at The Marginalian is a great tribute to a great man.
- Vavilov’s example is being followed in Argentina, it seems, with the establishment of another genebank, in Corrientes.
- The Millennium Seed Bank reaches an important milestone. Vavilov would be proud.
- Can’t help thinking Vavilov would also wholeheartedly approve of grassroots Indian efforts to bring back millets, as usefully summarized The Locavore. Could have said a bit more about genebanks, though.
- Even genebanks like that of farmers such as Manas Ranjan Sahu. You don’t have to run an institute like Vavilov to build a genebank.
- The Global Alliance for the Future of Food and Transformational Investing in Food Systems Initiative (TIFS) have a report out on Mobilizing Money and Movements: Creative Finance for Food Systems Transformation. No genebanks in there either, alas, but there could so easily have been.
- FAO says billions of people in the world cannot afford a healthy diet, and it has the data to prove it. Does that mean genebanks are not doing their job (eg on nutrient dense orphan crops)? Or doing it too well (eg on the major calorie-rich staples)?
- African worthies say that we need to ramp up investment in the adaptation of agriculture on the continent to climate change. I hope that will include investment in Living Libraries of Resilience that conserve all manner of interesting local crops and varieties. And creative finance for them of course.