Syrian agricultural stats

You may remember a post some time back on an atlas of agriculture in Bhutan. Now here’s an on-line database of governorate-level agricultural statistics for Syria. Maybe not as nice as an atlas, but still pretty useful for planning agricultural biodiversity conservation. Especially as there is time-series data going back to 1985, which could be used to identify areas of genetic erosion through the (admittedly imperfect) proxy of decreasing total acreage. But when will agricultural statisticians and census-takers start collecting data on numbers of varieties, at least of staple crops?

Accessing biodiversity in Brazil

Brazil has new procedures in place (called Sisbio) to issue licences to collect biodiversity for teaching and research, according to an article on SciDevNet. They are supposed to make the whole access system much easier to navigate. And faster: what used to take up to two years should now take 45 days at most. This bit struck me in particular:

Scientists will eventually be able to use Sisbio to access satellite images of potential research areas and gauge research activity in areas so they can better plan their research.

Climate change and wine

Over at CABI’s blog there’s a great post summarizing some recent research on the possible effects of climate change on the wine industry. The grapevine is very sensitive to temperature and rainfall, making it a useful indicator of environmental change. Predictably, there will be both winners and losers among the traditional wine growing areas. Not quite sure how the average consumer will come out of it, but wine bores will have a whole new area of expertise to get to grips with.

Mapping food and drink

I think we can all agree that it is better for all concerned – from farmers to consumers – for there to be lots of different types of beer. Problem is, some of these beers will be hard to find, and that means that they might not last in the market. Fear not: the Beer Mapping Project will show you where to go for your favourite amber nectar, at least if you live in the US. Here’s an article about the man behind the project, and the same author has also done a review of other food mapping sites here.

Crop wild relatives underused

Are crop wild relatives (CWR) more trouble than they’re worth? There are certainly significant challenges involved in including them in breeding programmes, but you’d have thought that between the new molecular tools that are now out there, the greater numbers of CWR accessions in genebanks, and all the information about how useful CWRs can be, breeders would be falling over themselves to make those kinky inter-specific crosses. Well, according to a major review by our friends at Bioversity International (the outfit formerly known as the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute), the use of CWRs in breeding programmes has been steadily increasing in the past 20 years, but probably not as much as might have been expected. There’s been a number of papers recently on CWRs. This paper, also from Bioversity, looks at in situ conservation of CWR. Check out this for a discussion on the definition of the term, and, from some of the same people, there’s this overview of conservation and use of CWR, using a specific example. Here’s an example of conservation assessment and priority-setting for the wild relatives of the peanut. For a discussion of the possible effects of climate change on these species, see this.