- All-Africa Summit on Diversifying Food Systems with African Traditional Vegetables to Increase Health, Nutrition and Wealth. New dates! 25-28 January 2021.
- “How do you like Cocoa and Coffee? Saving crops, protecting culture, sustaining livelihoods.” Online event, 8 September. Register here.
- How the US prairies got wheat, a soil classification, tree shelter belts and weeds from the Russian steppes, thanks to Mennonite farmers and emigre Jewish scientists. Entertaining podcast on what sounds like a fascinating book. Oh and there’s a video too. Nice Vavilov anecdote.
- History of Spices 101.
- Quick summary of coconut research and development in Tanzania.
- A genebank gets off the ground in Jordan.
- How the mosquito Aedes aegypti got domesticated. Yeah, domesticated.
- Texas and Georgia move into jamón ibérico: acorns off the menu, “pecans, peanuts and sunflower” on. Hilarity ensues.
- The USDA National Plant Germplasm System gets a new database. Go crazy.
- Meanwhile, Cultivariable publishes his latest evaluation data on the USDA potato germplasm (see “Evaluation Year”). Will it find its way into the above-mentioned database?
- Seed security response during COVID-19: building on evidence and orienting to the future. First and foremost, support farmers save their seeds.
- Blended finance for agriculture: exploring the constraints and possibilities of combining financial instruments for sustainable transitions. How about supporting farmers save their seeds?
- Dynamic conservation of genetic resources: Rematriation of the maize landrace Jala. Genebanks helping farmers save their seeds.
- Molecular Parallelism Underlies Convergent Highland Adaptation of Maize Landraces. Early farmers saving their maize seeds in the Mexican highlands eventually helped out farmers in the Andean highlands. With GIF goodness.
- Open access to genetic sequence data maximizes value to scientists, farmers, and society. How will it help farmers save their seeds?
- Applying Knowledge of Southern Seed Savers to Community-Based Agricultural Biodiversity Conservation Practice. The people saving and swapping seeds in the Ozarks respond to films, need how-to manuals, and could be a tad more diverse. I suspect this is not just true in Arkansas.
- Characterization of wheat germplasm conserved in the Indian National Genebank and establishment of a composite core collection. Farmers trying to save their seeds rejoice.
- Heritable epigenetic diversity for conservation and utilization of epigenetic germplasm resources of clonal East African Highland banana (EAHB) accessions. Hey, it’s not just seeds. Methylation patterns follow geography but not morphology in a genetically uniform group of vegetatively propagated cultivars.
- Blind spots in global soil biodiversity and ecosystem function research. Not now, soil biodiversity, I’m too busy dealing with seeds.
- Narrow genetic base shapes population structure and linkage disequilibrium in an industrial oilseed crop, Brassica carinata A. Braun. Landraces of Ethiopian mustard and improved lines cluster in separate groups, but overall diversity is low. Not enough seeds saved, perhaps?
- High-Throughput Genome-Wide Genotyping To Optimize the Use of Natural Genetic Resources in the Grassland Species Perennial Ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.). Only possible because of saved seeds.
- Presence of resveratrol in wild Arachis species adds new value to this overlooked genetic resource. I hope we’ve saved enough seeds.
- Main Challenges and Actions Needed to Improve Conservation and Sustainable Use of Our Crop Wild Relatives. It’s quite difficult — and insufficient — to save the seeds of wild species, but we should do it nevertheless.
- Influence of diversity and intensification level on vulnerability, resilience and robustness of agricultural systems. Why we should all save seeds.
- Important job opening at USDA running the Ames Plant Introduction Station. 50,000 accessions, people.
- Online database on the effectiveness of protected areas.
- 100-year seed experiment kicks off.
- Towards more sustainable sugarcane in India. Spoiler alert: juice, not molasses.
- The Neolithic temples of Malta were used to worship food.
- The “fish pepper” of Black Chesapeake homegardens lost, and found..
- News clip on the USDA central genebank at Ft Collins.
- Invest 50 mins in learning about eucalypts.
AGRA and the Gates Foundation have now reacted to the white paper by Timothy Wise entitled “Failing Africa’s Farmers: An Impact Assessment of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.” We recently Nibbled a report based on the study put out by a group of NGOs.
Wise’s paper suggests that AGRA has been changing its impact targets to make itself look better, and that in any case there has been…
…slow productivity growth, no significant increases in food security or small-farmer incomes in the target countries, and worsening hunger.
It then calls for a change in approach, jettisoning the Green Revolution model and embracing agroecology1. In reply, AGRA calls the research “not professional and ethical,” does some ad hominem, says it is doing its own thoroughgoing evaluation, refers to its annual reports and basket of indicators (some of which it admits have changed over time, but for good reasons) for evidence of impact, and points out that some things it can’t control anyway. The Gates Foundation stands by AGRA in its own response.
The disagreement about what’s needed is powerfully encapsulated by Million Belay, of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa:
We are told that our seeds are old and have little capacity to give us food and they have to be hybridized and genetically modified to be of use; we are told that what we need is more calories and we need to focus on seeds of few crops; we are told that we are not using our land effectively and it should be given to those who can do a better job of it; we are told that our knowledge about farming is backward and we need to modernize with knowledge from the West … we are told, we need business to invest billions of dollars, and without these saviors from the North, we cannot feed ourselves. Our world is defined simply by producing more, not in having healthy, nutritious and culturally appropriate food, produced without harming the environment.
I expect this will run and run. It already has.
- Perennial vegetables: A neglected resource for biodiversity, carbon sequestration, and nutrition. Over 600 perennial veggies on 6% of global vegetable cropland.
- Genomic Evidences Support an Independent History of Grapevine Domestication in the Levant. Separate from what happened in the Caucasus, that is.
- Distribution, prevalence and severity of damages caused by nematodes on yam (Dioscorea rotundata) in Nigeria. A quarter of tubers and half of heaps showed nematode symptoms.
- Maize long-term genetic progress explains current dominance over sorghum in Argentina. Follow the money.
- Phenotypic and physiological responses to salt exposure in Sorghum reveal diversity among domesticated landraces. Salinity tolerance was acquired early but then lost in some geographic regions where it wasn’t needed. See what happens when you invest in a crop?
- Massive haplotypes underlie ecotypic differentiation in sunflowers. It’s the recombination-suppressing inversions, stupid.
- GlobalFungi, a global database of fungal occurrences from high-throughput-sequencing metabarcoding studies. Cool. Do landraces of a crop next.
- The earliest domestic cat on the Silk Road. Coincided with rapid urbanization in the 9th century.
- Native American gene flow into Polynesia predating Easter Island settlement. Yeah, but did Americans go west of their own accord or in Polynesian boats? And did they have sweetpotatoes with them? And cats?
- Genetic markers associated with seed longevity and vitamin E in diverse Aus rice varieties. 5 markers on 4 chromosomes.
- Biogeoinformatics for the management of Farm Animal Genetic Resources (FAnGR). Software for monitoring erosion and detecting locally adapted genotypes. Plus preserve traditional practices.
- Computing on Phenotypic Descriptions for Candidate Gene Discovery and Crop Improvement. Casually talk about a plant in the field –> fancy math –> the plant’s genotype.
- Data synthesis for crop variety evaluation. A review. Focus on ranking. Oh, to mash it up with the above.
- Scenarios for Global Aquaculture and Its Role in Human Nutrition. For aquaculture to contribute to nutrition it needs enabling trade and economic policies. Well I never.