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.

Rapid agrobiodiversity surveys

This SciDevNet piece led me to this Nature article on the theory and practice of the Rapid Biological Inventory, “a quick, intensive taxonomic expedition designed to identify areas of particular biological, geological and cultural significance before development and exploitation take hold.”

Using satellite images, maps and other data, biologists target promising areas and then work with local scientists and students to walk existing and newly cut trails, recording the species they encounter. (…) In parallel with these are social inventories — surveys of the organisational structure of local communities and how they use the forest. The teams work with indigenous groups, government and local conservation organisations to deepen their understanding of the value of the surveyed areas.

I think the concept was pioneered by Conservation International, under the name Rapid Assessment Program, or RAP, but as far as I can see it hasn’t been applied to agricultural biodiversity, at least not explicitly. Seems to me one could come up with a pretty good “rapid agrodiversity assessment” methodology based on standard crop descriptors combined with traditional knowledge, wrapped up in a participatory rural appraisal (PRA) approach. Maybe someone already has?

Prioritizing African protected areas

This EU-funded project has looked at all the national parks and reserves in Africa and assessed the contribution each makes to conserving biodiversity as part of the overall system of protected areas. Really an incredible job. Mainly dealing with animals, however, so I wonder if something similar could be done with things like wild crop relatives or something. Also, could these techniques be applied to in situ crop conservation?

EU conserves sheep and goats

Not sure what to make of this. A European Research Headline piece of news gives some information about a project to use molecular genetics, socio-economics and geostatistics to decide which populations of sheep and goats are worth conserving. But the article doesn’t actually say anything about the project’s conclusions. And when I looked earlier today the project web site had not been updated since Agusut 2006. That’s annoying because the results could well be interesting and I’d really like to know how they analyzed the information and how they used it to advise policymakers.