Seeds shared and saved

“When you save your own seeds, you can pick from the best plants and produce varieties that work well on your land,” he says. “You can maintain the background of genetic diversity, while adapting it to what works best for you.”

Own up, you thought that was a quote from an admittedly articulate local farmer sharing indigenous knowledge, didn’t you? Well, it was, except that this farmer has a PhD and farms in North Carolina in the US. Heritage and heirloom seeds are a big and growing deal over there, and this article in The Independent Weekly is a good account of the whys and wherefores of seed saving and sharing in industrialized countries.

Ethiopian herbs promoted

The Ethiopian Biodiversity Conservation Institute has reported on a variety of efforts to conserve and make better use of medicinal plants. Lots of interesting snippets of information, and some ideas others may find worthwhile. Head on over to for the story. The Institute has a web site here, with medicinal plants here. There’s also one for the Institute of Biodiversity Conservation and Research. I can’t figure out the relationship between the two.

CABI blogs seed storage

“Hand picked…and carefully sorted” is where CABI’s content specialists go to blog. I came across it only when they linked to our water hyacinth story of a couple of weeks back, but it looks like it’s been going since November last year at least. Exploring the plant sciences stuff, I came across two pieces on seed conservation which make an interesting juxtaposition: this entry on indigenous methods of seed conservation in Bangladesh, which includes a CABI video, and this on the Svalbard International Seed Vault. Entries often have links to CABI publications and there is an RSS feed. Really great stuff.

More tea, vicar?

You may remember an earlier – somewhat facetious – post on a possible threat to tea diversity in China. Now, from CropBiotech Update, there’s a summary of a far from facetious review paper on tea breeding in that country. Turns out that the China National Germplasm Tea Repositories can count on some 3000 tea germplasm accessions, and that over 200 improved varieties have been released. Some quite advanced biotechnological approaches are being used to speed up breeding. One of the things the researchers are looking at is developing cultivars with low or no caffeine, using RNAi. Personally, I think caffeine-free tea and coffee, like alcohol-free beer, are a bit like a one-legged man at a butt-kicking contest: useless. But the technology is cool.