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

  1. 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.
  2. Maybe the same will happen with bananas, and its wild relatives could help? If so, it’s good we have this nifty catalogue.
  3. A pan-African tree seed platform is in the making, thanks to CIFOR-ICRAF and IKI funding. Where’s the catalogue?
  4. Here’s a video from the University of Wisconsin-Madison on A New Way of Teaching Ancient Foodways.
  5. And a video from USDA on their work on genotyping coffee collections.
  6. Meanwhile, Barbados is still thinking about building a genebank.
  7. 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.
  8. Yam researchers in Benin have their own take on improving agricultural practices.
  9. 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

  1. Blog post on the importance of the mugumu tree in Kikuyu culture.
  2. 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…
  3. …and there may soon be crops engineered for nitrogen fixation too, if his foundation’s project with the University of Cambridge comes through.
  4. 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.
  5. To generalize and contextualize the above, read this USDA e-book on plant collections and climate change.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. I wonder if Kew boffins are also working on bere, perry and other endangered British foods though.
  9. It’s always nice to see someone first learn about genebanks, and how they can help with the whole climate change thing.
  10. 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.
  11. Plenty of seeds from the ICRISAT genebank in Svalbard, as Asmund Asdal will no doubt point out on 10 February.

Nibbles: Fonio commercialization, Naked barley, Food books, Ag decarbonization, Nepal NUS, Millets & women, Crop diversity video, Maize god, Cherokee genebank, CWR, Japan genebank

  1. A Nigerian company is pushing fonio as the next global super-food. What could possibly go wrong?
  2. Personally, I think naked barley has a better chance.
  3. Humanities scholars recommend their favourite new books on food systems. I bet there will soon be one on fonio.
  4. Food and agriculture analyst at the Breakthrough Institute pens whole essay on how there should be public investment in moving agriculture from productivity gains to decarbonization without mentioning fonio.
  5. Well Nepal has orphan crops of its own and doesn’t give a fig for your fonio.
  6. Blogpost highlights the role of women in the cultivation and conservation of millets in Tamil Nadu.
  7. ISSD Africa video on the advantages of growing a diversity of crops, especially under climate change. Fonio, anyone?
  8. What does maize have to do with turtles? Gather round, children…
  9. The Cherokee Nation’s genebank is open for business. Maize available. No turtles.
  10. Long article on collecting, conserving and using crop wild relatives, including by Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank. Could fonio do with some diversity from its wild relatives? I suspect it’s not a huge priority, but maybe it will become one.
  11. It’s unclear how much diversity of orphan crops is in Japan’s high-tech genebank, but I bet it’s quite a bit. Fonio, I’m not so sure though. Maybe someone will tell me.

Brainfood: Coconut in vitro, Clean cryo, Chickpea & lentil collections, Genebank data history, Eurisco update, Mining genebank data, TIK, Sampling strategy, Drones, GIS, Mexican CWR, Post-2020 biodiversity framework