Rice stories

The BBC World Service is broadcasting a series of four programmes on the rice cultures of Asia, called Rice Bowl Tales. Starts 28 February, but if you miss it, it seems like the series has already aired on Radio National, and if you follow the link I’ve just given, you should be able to listen online or download audio files.

Etruscan cattle

A new study tries to disentangle the mystery of the origin of the Etruscans by looking at the genetics of the cattle currently found in the area of central Italy which takes its name from that ancient civilization, Tuscany (or is it the other way around?). It turns out that, unlike cattle from other parts of Italy, cattle from the Etruscan lands shows genetic affinities with Anatolian breeds. According to the Italian researchers, the Etruscans came to Italy from Turkey, and they did so by sea. I wonder if it will be possible to recover DNA from the remains of ancient Etruscan cattle…

British landraces

Maria Scholten has written to us with some interesting websites about British landraces. She says that as Brussels prepares a new directive on the conservation of agricultural landraces, it is important to have some idea about the landraces that still survive even in countries like the UK with a highly industrialized agriculture, and the efforts underway to conserve them.

  1. a sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia) landrace from the eighteenth century and one grown, tested and promoted by sainfoin enthusiast Robin Hill
  2. an English native red clover landrace marketed by a local British seed company
  3. a barley, probably introduced by the Vikings, being researched for marketing potential on Orkney
  4. a group of organic growers on Shetland working to maintain Shetland “aets” and bere barley, the historical cereals of Shetland

Thanks, Maria!

Core blimey!

I spent the last few days in Portesham, Dorset (thanks, Lorna and Geoff!), which made it all the more weird to come across this article reprinted in a newspaper in Dubai, where I had to transit for a few hours on the way out there. But it does show that you can still discover (or re-discover) new things even in such a well-researched crop as apples in the UK. Of course, for every upbeat story, there’s a depressing one.

Pharaonic medicine

Not much detail in this press release from the University of Manchester, but the idea to document what plants were used – and how – by the ancient Egyptians for medicinal purposes sounds great.