- Why can’t we predict traits from the environment? Because plants are not collections of independent, isolated traits. All the more reason to study, understand and protect wild plants of economic importance, as the following papers show.
- Differential climatic conditions drive growth of Acacia tortilis tree in its range edges in Africa and Asia. Case in point of the above. Makes germplasm evaluation really hard.
- Understanding local plant extinctions before it is too late: bridging evolutionary genomics with global ecology. Modelling based on the genomic offset (GO) method and the mutations–area relationship (MAR) can help better predict the risk of extinction of different populations.
- Crop wild relatives in Lebanon: mapping the distribution of Poaceae and Fabaceae priority taxa for conservation planning. Bekaa and Baalbak have the highest diversity and the SW the most gaps.
- Community-Level Incentive Mechanisms for the Conservation of Crop Wild Relatives: A Malawi Case Study. Paying communities to conserve crop wild relatives could work and be relatively cheap. Waiting to see this being applied in the Bekaa.
- Population genomics unravels the Holocene history of bread wheat and its relatives. Yeah but crop wild relatives really held back bread wheat domestication. So maybe the Bekaa owes everyone else.
- New insights gained from collections of wild Lactuca relatives in the gene bank of the Institute of Evolution, University of Haifa. Maybe they can gain an insight into how to make lettuce taste of something. And I wonder what environmental variable that will be associated with.
- Climate change and land-use change impacts on future availability of forage grass species for Ethiopian dairy systems. Two forages will do better under climate change, one worse. Assuming a lot of stuff.
- Application of CRISPR/Cas9 technology in forages. But plants are not collections of independent, isolated traits, right?
A couple of hot takes. Maybe I’ll circle back with the missing nuance when I have more time.
From the World Bank: Coming Together to Address the Global Food Crisis
Take home message: Food insecurity was already on the rise because of climate change before the pandemic and the Ukraine war, and it will continue to worsen through 2027. To boost food and nutrition security, the World Bank is scaling up both short- and long-term responses in 4 priority areas: 1. Support production and producers; 2. Facilitate increased trade in food and agriculture inputs; 3. Support vulnerable households; 4. Invest in sustainable food and nutrition security. No word specifically on crop diversity or genebanks.
It’s possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and make our food systems more resilient and adapt to climate change. But doing so requires a major transformation of how we produce, distribute and consume food.
From the IPCC: AR6 Synthesis Report Climate Change 2023
Take home message: While food, land, and water systems are being severely impacted by climate change, they are also a source of solutions, for mitigation, for adaptation and to build resilience and reduce inequity. No word specifically on crop diversity or genebanks.
A.3.2 Effectiveness of adaptation in reducing climate risks is documented for specific contexts, sectors and regions (high confidence). Examples of effective adaptation options include: cultivar improvements, on-farm water management and storage, soil moisture conservation, irrigation, agroforestry, community-based adaptation, farm and landscape level diversification in agriculture, sustainable land management approaches, use of agroecological principles and practices and other approaches that work with natural processes (high confidence)…
Here’s CGIAR’s take. No word specifically on crop diversity or genebanks.
And no, AI was not used in the preparation of this invaluable blogpost.
Nibbles: Food tree, Wild chocolate, Cacao, Cassava in Africa, Indigenous ABS, Abbasid food, Valuing trees
- Gastropod episode on The Fruit that Could Save the World. Any guesses what that might be?
- Atlas Obscura podcast on an apparently now famous wild-harvested chocolate from Bolivia. But how wild is it really?
- BBC podcast on cacao for balance.
- Forbes touts an African cassava revolution. What, no podcast?
- Very interesting piece from the ever reliable Modern Farmer on how a small seed company called Fedco Seeds designated a bunch of maize landraces as “indigenously stewarded,” and are paying 10% of what they make from the sale of their seeds to a pooled Indigenous fund which goes to support a local, multi-tribal project called Nibezun. A sort of mini-MLS? Definitely worth a podcast. Any takers?
- A long but rewarding article in New Lines Magazine describes medieval cookbooks from the Abbasid caliphate. The recipes make up for the somewhat stilted podcast.
- BGCI publication on how the Morton Arboretum works out whether it should be growing a particular population or species of tree. The trick is to quantify 5 types of “value”: environmental, evolutionary, genetic diversity, horticultural, conservation. Though one could also consider hostorical/cultural, educational and economic value as well. I suspect in the end it comes down to whether it looks nice in an available gap. If I were to do a podcast on this, I’d test it out with the tree in the first of these Nibbles.
Going with the genebank workflows
I suspect everyone working in genebanks and other sorts of biorepositories will welcome the new book “Biodiversity Biobanking – a Handbook on Protocols and Practices” by Carolina Corrales and Jonas Astrin.
We compiled extensive information on … workflows from throughout most of the biodiversity and environmental biobanking communities. Publications, grey literature, and Internet sources were reviewed, and proven experts consulted. By linking to protocols and practices from many different types of biobanks we hope to inspire interdisciplinary approaches and interconnect biobankers, and to serve as an aggregated resource for incipient and thematically expanding biobanks. Maybe the compilation of practices can also contribute to processes of method validation and standardisation.
Brainfood: Seed imaging, Disease imaging, Seed traits, Irvingia shape, Mexican tomatoes, Fine cacao, Wine tourism, Wild peas
- Implication of high variance in germplasm characteristics. Last week’s Brainfood focused on genomic variation. This week, in contrast, we look at phenotyping. But not old school phenotyping, oh no. This paper, for example, uses fancy-ish, but not especially expensive, imaging.
- High-throughput imaging of powdery mildew resistance of the winter wheat collection hosted at the German Federal ex situ Genebank for Agricultural and Horticultural Crops. This paper uses somewhat fancier, and possibly more costly, imaging. Vorsprung durch Technik.
- Low availability of functional seed trait data from the tropics could negatively affect global macroecological studies, predictive models and plant conservation. Even embryos in seeds can be phenotyped.
- Agroforestry Trees’ Architecture as Evidence of Domestication: Case of African Mango Tree in the Dahomey Gap, West Africa. I wonder if one could describe the shape of tree crowns from space? I hope not, this work sounded like fun…
- Diversidad biocultural de tomate nativo en Oaxaca, México. Phenotype is socially constructed in tomato too.
- Who Defines Fine Chocolate? The Construction of Global Cocoa Quality Standards from Latin America. Can you standardise a social construct such as the flavour of chocolate, and would it help farmers? Maybe.
- Douro wine-tourism engaging consumers in nature conservation stewardship: An immersive biodiversity experience. How to make money out of a socially constructed phenotype.
- Natural range, habitats and populations of wild peas (Pisum L.). We should get out of our labs and look for wild peas in the oases of the Sahara Desert, the subalpine communities of Georgia, and the Asir Mts of Yemen. But will we know them when we see them?