- Palaeogenomics of Upper Palaeolithic to Neolithic European hunter-gatherers. Farmers may have pushed hunter-gatherers to the northern edge of Europe while also in mixing with them.
- Identification and exploitation of wild rye (Secale spp.) during the early Neolithic in the Middle Euphrates valley. Those Europeans on the move — both farmers and hunter-gatherers — would have been familiar with wild rye, but that’s pretty much gone from the Fertile Crescent now.
- Caribbean Deep-Time Culinary Worlds Revealed by Ancient Food Starches: Beyond the Dominant Narratives. But enough about Europe. It wasn’t always all about cassava in the pre-colonial, and indeed colonial, Caribbean…
- Reuniting the Three Sisters: collaborative science with Native growers to improve soil and community health. …as there was also the maize/beans/squash system in that part of the world, and may well be again.
- Understanding Early Modern Beer: An Interdisciplinary Case-Study. Something else that could come back is early modern Irish beer, and I’d be there for that.
- Forgotten forest relics: Apple trees (Malus spp.) in eastern U.S. forests. Old abandoned orchards, and escapes therefrom, could have lots of interesting apple diversity. Early modern American cider, anyone?
- Building a feral future: Open questions in crop ferality. And it’s not just apples. It’s a whole movement in fact.
- Resynthesized Rapeseed (Brassica napus): Breeding and Genomics. Sure, we can rebuild it, we have the technology. But will it go feral on us again?
Brainfood: Why measure genetic diversity?
- Genetic diversity goals and targets have improved, but remain insufficient for clear implementation of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework. The struggle to ensure recognition of the importance of measuring genetic diversity is real, despite the available tools. And despite the range of uses to which the results can be put, as illustrated in the following papers.
- DNA barcoding markers provide insight into species discrimination, genetic diversity and phylogenetic relationships of yam (Dioscorea spp.). Measuring genetic diversity can help you tell species apart.
- Genetic diversity and population structure of barley landraces from Southern Ethiopia’s Gumer district: Utilization for breeding and conservation. Measuring genetic diversity can help you decide what’s new and what to use in breeding.
- Management of genetic erosion: The (successful) case study of the pear (Pyrus communis L.) germplasm of the Lazio region (Italy). Measuring genetic diversity can help you detect genetic erosion and figure out what to do about it.
- Genetic and Pomological Determination of the Trueness-to-Type of Sweet Cherry Cultivars in the German National Fruit Genebank. Measuring genetic diversity can help you fix mistakes in genebanks.
- Genetic diversity and local adaption of alfalfa populations (Medicago sativa L.) under long-term grazing. Measuring genetic diversity can help you identify adaptive genes.
- A common resequencing-based genetic marker data set for global maize diversity. Measuring genetic diversity can help you pinpoint useful flowering genes.
- Genome-wide association study of variation in cooking time among common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) accessions using Diversity Arrays Technology markers. Measuring genetic diversity can help you identify carbon-friendly genes.
- Dissecting the genetic architecture of leaf morphology traits in mungbean (Vigna radiata (L.) Wizcek) using genome-wide association study. Measuring genetic diversity can help you find plants with nice leaves.
- Genetic Diversity Strategy for the Management and Use of Rubber Genetic Resources: More than 1,000 Wild and Cultivated Accessions in a 100-Genotype Core Collection. Measuring genetic diversity can help you go from over 1000 accessions to under 100.
- Sustainable seed harvesting in wild plant populations. Measuring genetic diversity can help you model optimal germplasm collecting strategies.
- Genetics of randomly bred cats support the cradle of cat domestication being in the Near East. Measuring genetic diversity can tell you where the cat was domesticated.
- Bacterial species diversity of traditionally ripened sheep legs from the Faroe Islands (skerpikjøt). Measuring genetic diversity can help you figure out how to ripen sheep legs properly.
Nibbles: Mugumu, Gates, Fixation, OSA, USDA, Panicum, Digitaria, Britgrub, Wheat, ICRISAT, Svalbard
- Blog post on the importance of the mugumu tree in Kikuyu culture.
- Alas, no sign of mugumu trees on the Kenyan farm visited by Bill Gates recently. But there were chickens, drought-tolerant maize and mobile phones…
- …and there may soon be crops engineered for nitrogen fixation too, if his foundation’s project with the University of Cambridge comes through.
- Speaking of maize, here’s a nice illustrated story of how the Organic Seed Alliance is helping farmers grow their own tortilla corn in the Pacific Northwest.
- To generalize and contextualize the above, read this USDA e-book on plant collections and climate change.
- Dr Giedre Motuzaite Matuzeviciute just got a grant to study broomcorn millet domestication and dispersal in Central Asia. There may be lessons for present-day adaptation to climate change, says the blurb.
- There are probably lessons about adaptation to climate change also to be had from Kew’s work on fonio and other traditional crops in Guinea.
- I wonder if Kew boffins are also working on bere, perry and other endangered British foods though.
- It’s always nice to see someone first learn about genebanks, and how they can help with the whole climate change thing.
- Meanwhile, in India, ICRISAT gets a stamp, which however doesn’t look very much like India or ICRISAT to me. Plenty of broomcorn millet in its genebank, by the way.
- Plenty of seeds from the ICRISAT genebank in Svalbard, as Asmund Asdal will no doubt point out on 10 February.
Food diversity, every day
Yet another thoroughly satisfying Eat This Newsletter from Jeremy. Here are two snippets on crop diversity, but there’s lots more…
Talking about Eating to Extinction
Dan Saladino’s book Eating to Extinction has justifiably won all sorts of awards since it came out about 18 months ago. Capitalising on that and the interest more generally in vanishing foods and ingredients, Dan and his chums put together a Food Diversity Day on 13 January. I was unable to watch any of it for a host of reasons, but a post by Patricia Bixler Reber on her marvellous Researching Food History website reminded me that all of it is now online. There’s probably enough there to keep you busy for a good long while, and if there isn’t, Researching Food History is always good for a suggestion or two. I’d already booked for one on 31 January that promises to be a bit of a myth-buster (and that may yet become an episode).
Preserving Potato Diversity
Dan Saladino doesn’t devote an awful lot of space to the always-humble potato, which is by no means a criticism; there is so much more to be concerned about. But I suspect he is well aware of some of the more exotic potatoes of the Andes and beyond, with their colourful flesh and skin. Diverse efforts to promote these varieties, by encouraging high-end restaurants as much as low-grade snacks, have had some success in Peru. The latest brings Ecuador into the fold, with crisps/chips made from ancestral varieties known locally as black heart and red heart. The tubers are grown by a collective of 180 small farmers, who are guaranteed a stable price for their crop. I hope they use some of that cash to improve their family nutrition.
And if you’re a gardener with a hankering for some creative potato diversity of your own, I highly commend true potato seed; read a bit about it thanks to Modern Farmer.
Nibbles: Eating to Extinction, Livestock Conservancy, Pastoral diversification, Donkeys, ICARDA, USDA, Native Seeds/SEARCH, Duragna, Baked bean bread, Kenosha Potato Project, Landrace marketing, Gene editing
- All the videos from the recent Eating to Extinction event in London celebrating food diversity.
- If you want to eat rare breeds or their products, the Livestock Conservancy has a website for you.
- ILRI policy brief on how pastoral systems can usefully diversify.
- The BBC rounds up the history of the domestication of the donkey without, alas, mentioning the Livestock Conservancy or pastoral diversification. Spoiler alert: ancient Roman donkeys were really big.
- NPR interviews the manager of the ICARDA genebank in Lebanon.
- Local Oregon paper visits the USDA genebank in Pullman.
- It’s the turn of the Native Seed/SEARCH genebank to feature in the news.
- Want to know what “duragna” is? This press release from Cornell will explain all. I think we included the original paper in a recent Brainfood, but I can’t be bothered checking. Anyway, trust me, it’s interesting. Spoiler alert: it has to do with cereal diversity.
- Brits told to grow more faba beans and use them to make bread. Census takers not available for comment.
- Fascinating project on the history of saffron cultivation in eastern England. Now that would spice up all that faba bean bread.
- The Kenosha Potato Project deconstructed to within an inch of its life by Modern Farmer. We’ve blogged about this innovative breeding project here before, have a look. Ah no, I just have, and in fact we haven’t, though we have blogged about William Whitson, an independent tuber breeder, who is however a long-time member of KPP.
- Meanwhile, in Peru, local potato landraces are finding a new market via chips/crisps. Pretty sure we’ve blogged about this too. We are so on the ball.
- Gene editing for conservation? Yes, why not? But nothing on crop and livestock species in this succinct explainer, alas.