- 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.
Nibbles: Brazil agroforestry, US sweet potatoes, Egypt sweet potatoes, Regenerative Carlsberg, Plant Pandemic Studies, The Dawn of Everything, Allianz biodiversity report
- Saleseforce is funding work by CIFOR-ICRAF to help diversify agriculture in the Brazilian state of Pará by growing more nutritious fruit trees in agroforestry systems.
- USDA researchers are breeding sweet potatoes that are better able to deal with weeds. No word on how they do in agroforestry systems.
- I wonder if those weed-resistant sweet potatoes would find a market in Egypt.
- Beer “giant” Carlsberg says it’s going all-in on regenerative barley growing practices. Looking forward to seeing hops agroforestry systems.
- The British Society for Plant Pathology has a series of really engaging Plant Pandemic Studies, including for some crops that do well in agroforestry systems.
- The Dawn of Everything, by David Graeber and David Wengrow, is getting a lot of attention, including for its thesis that agriculture began in the Fertile Crescent as somewhat ad hoc, experimental, diverging, complementary and interacting lowland and highland agroforestry systems, and did not always lead to inequality and hierarchy. With a nice map.
- And finally, here’s a report from Allianz on why the financial sector should care about biodiversity-friendly agricultural systems (pace David Wood), like maybe, but not only, agroforestry.
Nibbles: Spanish wine, Wild bananas, African tree seeds, Ancient Foodways, Coffee genotyping, Barbados genebank, Modern plant breeding myths, Yam seeds, Climate funding for food systems
- There’s a piece in The Guardian on how Spanish wine makers are fighting climate change by going back to old grape varieties like estaladiña.
- Maybe the same will happen with bananas, and its wild relatives could help? If so, it’s good we have this nifty catalogue.
- A pan-African tree seed platform is in the making, thanks to CIFOR-ICRAF and IKI funding. Where’s the catalogue?
- Here’s a video from the University of Wisconsin-Madison on A New Way of Teaching Ancient Foodways.
- And a video from USDA on their work on genotyping coffee collections.
- Meanwhile, Barbados is still thinking about building a genebank.
- The Genetic Literacy Project does some myth-busting (or tries to): have modern varieties decreased the diversity within crops, are contemporary plant varieties really not suitable for low-input farming, and is improving agricultural practices enough without plant breeding? Take a wild guess.
- Yam researchers in Benin have their own take on improving agricultural practices.
- More climate funding should go to food system transformation, says the Global Alliance for the Future of Food in a report. Those Spanish winemakers — and everyone else above — would probably agree.
Want to generate a 33x return on investment?
Using an 8% discount rate, the net present value of the costs of… [X] …is estimated at $61 billion for the next 35 years, while the net present benefits in terms of net economic surplus (the sum of consumer and producer surplus) are estimated at $2.1 trillion.
Wow, that’s a pretty good deal, what could X possibly be? Oh lookie here, turns out X is agricultural R&D. According to a report by assorted boffins from the Copenhagen Consensus Center and IFPRI, that is.
Bjorn Lomborg of said CCC has a dcent go at summarizing the report in a recent op-ed, though the framing as Green Revolution 2.0 seems a little tired to me.
Research published this week by Copenhagen Consensus demonstrates that the world will only need to spend a small amount more each year to generate vast benefits. It estimates the additional cost of R&D this decade is about $5.5 billion annually—a relatively small sum, less even than Americans spend on ice cream every year.
This investment will generate better seeds and high-yield crops that can also better handle weather changes like those we will see from climate change. Creating bigger and more resilient harvests will benefit farmers and producing more food will help consumers with lower prices.
The report doesn’t go into exactly what the $61 billion ought to be spent on, but I hope genebanks turn out to be on the list.
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.