Brainfood: Gene mining, Using genebanks, Wild tomato hybrids, Domestication genes, Intensification, Cicer photoperiod, China ABS, Hybridization, Conservation vs livelihoods, Flax evolution, Clean cassava

Herbemont redux

When phylloxera broke out in Europe in the 1860s and 70s, many of the resistant hybrid vines in North America were uprooted and shipped across the Atlantic to save the European wine industry. The unfortunate consequence was that most plantings of Herbemont (and several other American varieties) were destroyed. In the 1920s, Prohibition disrupted winemaking in the US. When the industry took off again in the 1930s, tastes had changed and high-quality dry wines had fallen out of favor. When high-quality wine started to become popular again, in the latter half of the 20th century, European Vitis vinifera varieties were often emphasized at the expense of American varieties such as Herbemont. Just a handful of producers still make Herbemont wines. Thankfully, efforts are now underway to reintroduce and promote the Herbemont grape in several states across the South.

It now turns out, one place they might reintroduce it from is South Africa.

These two simple tests provide good preliminary evidence that the 95-year old Wynberg Village grapevine is probably an ancient clone of the true original Herbemont hybrid rootstock cultivar, which I believe is in real danger of becoming extinct for historical reasons.

Though of course there are also genebanks.

Historical plant exploration film comes to light

You may not have heard of USDA plant explorers David Fairchild and Palemon Howard Dorsett, but they are among those who have had the greatest impact on what we eat in the United States. Now a silent film of their 1925–26 collecting trip to Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Sumatra, and Java has been found by the National Agricultural Library (NAL).

Pretty stunning it is too.

Brainfood: Salinity tolerance, Intensification & sparing, CWR templates, Cacao identity, Soybean CWR, Soybean & CC, Cassava adoption, Indian cauliflower, Bambara groundnut, CC breeding, NUS, Banana access, Enset

Nibbles: I say potato, CATIE genebank, Wat, Teff war, Digitizing collections, Black History Month, Crop stats