- One hundred important questions facing plant science: an international perspective. How do we leverage existing genetic diversity to create climate-resilient crops? is only number 3 you say? I’ll take it. And in fact that broad question gets deconstructed in questions 36-71. Now, let’s see how today’s haul of papers relates to that, shall we?
- A strategy for the next decade to address data deficiency in neglected biodiversity. Well, yeah, easy one, clearly you need data to conserve the crop wild relatives that could help you breed those climate-resilient crops.
- Post-2020 biodiversity framework challenged by cropland expansion in protected areas. Apart from anything else, that data would tell you which CWR in protected areas are threatened with cropland expansion, and said CWR could help you with breeding crops that could limit cropland expansion by increasing production on existing cropland. Could, could, could…
- Global Maps of Agricultural Expansion Potential at a 300 m Resolution. That cropland expansion might do less damage in some places than others. Still with me?
- Increased probability of hot and dry weather extremes during the growing season threatens global crop yields. Right, that’s why those CWR might come in useful. Assuming you can still find them with all that cropland expansion.
- Divergent impacts of crop diversity on caloric and economic yield stability. At the state level within the USA, crop species diversity is positively associated with yield stability when yield is measured in $ but negatively when measured in calories. Now do it for genetic diversity.
- Role of staple cereals in human nutrition: Separating the wheat from the chaff in the infodemics age. The benefits of those climate-resilient, more nutritious crops need to be better communicated.
- Simple solutions for complex problems? What is missing in agriculture for nutrition interventions. What does nutritious mean anyway?
- “Whose demand?” The co-construction of markets, demand and gender in development-oriented crop breeding. Who is it that wants those climate-resilient, nutritious crops anyway?
- Take-home message: leveraging existing genetic diversity to create climate-resilient crops might be the easy part.
Brainfood: Traits & environment, Acacia growth, Local extinction risk, Lebanese CWR priorities, Malawi CWR payments, Bread wheat origins, Wild lettuce, Ethiopian forages, Editing forages
- Why can’t we predict traits from the environment? Because plants are not collections of independent, isolated traits. All the more reason to study, understand and protect wild plants of economic importance, as the following papers show.
- Differential climatic conditions drive growth of Acacia tortilis tree in its range edges in Africa and Asia. Case in point of the above. Makes germplasm evaluation really hard.
- Understanding local plant extinctions before it is too late: bridging evolutionary genomics with global ecology. Modelling based on the genomic offset (GO) method and the mutations–area relationship (MAR) can help better predict the risk of extinction of different populations.
- Crop wild relatives in Lebanon: mapping the distribution of Poaceae and Fabaceae priority taxa for conservation planning. Bekaa and Baalbak have the highest diversity and the SW the most gaps.
- Community-Level Incentive Mechanisms for the Conservation of Crop Wild Relatives: A Malawi Case Study. Paying communities to conserve crop wild relatives could work and be relatively cheap. Waiting to see this being applied in the Bekaa.
- Population genomics unravels the Holocene history of bread wheat and its relatives. Yeah but crop wild relatives really held back bread wheat domestication. So maybe the Bekaa owes everyone else.
- New insights gained from collections of wild Lactuca relatives in the gene bank of the Institute of Evolution, University of Haifa. Maybe they can gain an insight into how to make lettuce taste of something. And I wonder what environmental variable that will be associated with.
- Climate change and land-use change impacts on future availability of forage grass species for Ethiopian dairy systems. Two forages will do better under climate change, one worse. Assuming a lot of stuff.
- Application of CRISPR/Cas9 technology in forages. But plants are not collections of independent, isolated traits, right?
Nibbles: Food tree, Wild chocolate, Cacao, Cassava in Africa, Indigenous ABS, Abbasid food, Valuing trees
- Gastropod episode on The Fruit that Could Save the World. Any guesses what that might be?
- Atlas Obscura podcast on an apparently now famous wild-harvested chocolate from Bolivia. But how wild is it really?
- BBC podcast on cacao for balance.
- Forbes touts an African cassava revolution. What, no podcast?
- Very interesting piece from the ever reliable Modern Farmer on how a small seed company called Fedco Seeds designated a bunch of maize landraces as “indigenously stewarded,” and are paying 10% of what they make from the sale of their seeds to a pooled Indigenous fund which goes to support a local, multi-tribal project called Nibezun. A sort of mini-MLS? Definitely worth a podcast. Any takers?
- A long but rewarding article in New Lines Magazine describes medieval cookbooks from the Abbasid caliphate. The recipes make up for the somewhat stilted podcast.
- BGCI publication on how the Morton Arboretum works out whether it should be growing a particular population or species of tree. The trick is to quantify 5 types of “value”: environmental, evolutionary, genetic diversity, horticultural, conservation. Though one could also consider hostorical/cultural, educational and economic value as well. I suspect in the end it comes down to whether it looks nice in an available gap. If I were to do a podcast on this, I’d test it out with the tree in the first of these Nibbles.
Brainfood: Human diversity, Wild rye, Caribbean cassava, Three Sisters, Old beer, Old apples, Feral crops, Crop resynthesis
- Palaeogenomics of Upper Palaeolithic to Neolithic European hunter-gatherers. Farmers may have pushed hunter-gatherers to the northern edge of Europe while also in mixing with them.
- Identification and exploitation of wild rye (Secale spp.) during the early Neolithic in the Middle Euphrates valley. Those Europeans on the move — both farmers and hunter-gatherers — would have been familiar with wild rye, but that’s pretty much gone from the Fertile Crescent now.
- Caribbean Deep-Time Culinary Worlds Revealed by Ancient Food Starches: Beyond the Dominant Narratives. But enough about Europe. It wasn’t always all about cassava in the pre-colonial, and indeed colonial, Caribbean…
- Reuniting the Three Sisters: collaborative science with Native growers to improve soil and community health. …as there was also the maize/beans/squash system in that part of the world, and may well be again.
- Understanding Early Modern Beer: An Interdisciplinary Case-Study. Something else that could come back is early modern Irish beer, and I’d be there for that.
- Forgotten forest relics: Apple trees (Malus spp.) in eastern U.S. forests. Old abandoned orchards, and escapes therefrom, could have lots of interesting apple diversity. Early modern American cider, anyone?
- Building a feral future: Open questions in crop ferality. And it’s not just apples. It’s a whole movement in fact.
- Resynthesized Rapeseed (Brassica napus): Breeding and Genomics. Sure, we can rebuild it, we have the technology. But will it go feral on us again?
Dams, damn dams, and accessions
Every once in a while a new dam dataset crops up. Dam, not damn. Well, maybe damn as well. Anyway, when that happens, I feel compelled to mash it up with accession locality data. Because if I don’t do it, who will?
The new dataset is the Global Dam Tracker, and you can download it and everything of course. It’s pretty easy to then upload it to Google Earth and play around with it. Including combining it with data on wild Oryza accessions from Genesys, for example.
On this map, the dams are shown in blue and wild rice accessions in red.
You can zoom in if you’re worried about the long-term in situ future of any given population.
Not for the first time, I wonder about the feasibility of one day automatically and in real time combining data from multiple potential stressors, including dams, to predict the risk of genetic erosion around the world. Something that AI should be able to do, surely?