White grapes are mutants

Thought that would get your attention. Actually, what the research summarized here revealed was that a couple of genes mutated independently thousands of years ago in the ancestor of the modern grapevine, whose berries were red. The resulting white variety proved to be the ancestor of almost all of the 3000 or so white grape varieties we have today. This discovery from CSIRO will apparently be useful in marker-assisted breeding.

Big banana boosts incomes

From Malaysia, news that a new banana variety called Pisang Sekaki has improved the lot of growers on Sebatik Island. Pisang Sekaki means “one-foot” banana and was apparently developed especially for the banana cracker market. The new variety has also increased job opportunities at the nearby cracker-producing factory.

Brazil to market biodiversity

Under an Environment Ministry initiative in Brazil research groups have selected 775 species to encourage production and hopefully develop major markets. Read about it here:

Five books will be published this year, each dedicated to one of the five major regions of Brazil, containing the knowledge that has been accumulated about these “plants of the future”. Seminars for the business community will be held to spread the word about the potential of these plants, which are ornamental or used to produce foods, beverages, medicines, oils and perfumes.

Olive oil spreads

There’s increasing recognition around the world that olive oil, as a key component of the so-called Mediterranean diet, is really good for you. The latest news is about its effect on ulcers. So obviously the traditional growing countries are trying to expand cultivation and production. But as this article points out, that’s not always so easy. Pity there’s nothing in the piece on varieties, though.