Brainfood: 100 plant science questions, Biodiversity data, Cropland expansion double, CC & yields, Crop diversity & stability, Nutritious crops double, Feminist markets

Brainfood: Traits & environment, Acacia growth, Local extinction risk, Lebanese CWR priorities, Malawi CWR payments, Bread wheat origins, Wild lettuce, Ethiopian forages, Editing forages

Quick takes

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

  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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

  1. 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.
  2. Vavilov’s example is being followed in Argentina, it seems, with the establishment of another genebank, in Corrientes.
  3. The Millennium Seed Bank reaches an important milestone. Vavilov would be proud.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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)?
  8. 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.