- 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.
Nibbles: Robert Chambers, Zero Hunger, China genebank, Spanish bacteria, Harnessing diversity
- There’s a celebration of the thinking of Robert Chambers over at IDS Bulletin. He’s been advocating for participation in development and the importance of Indigenous knowledge, among other things, for 50 years.
- The Center on Global Food and Agriculture has a report out called “Defining the Path to Zero Hunger in an Equitable World” which basically tries to add humanitarian assistance to the old food-climate-biodiversity nexus. Crop diversity is nowhere to be found among the “catalyzing ideas,” but one of those is investing in “force multipliers,” and that includes agricultural research and development. Participatory agricultural research and development, presumably?
- Meanwhile, China has collected 124,000 crop diversity samples.
- And a Spanish microbiologist has collected 3,600 bacteria.
- The PNAS Special feature: Harnessing crop diversity, organized by Susan McCouch, Loren Rieseberg and Pamela Ronald, got a nice write-up in the latest Plant Science Research Weekly. But what would Robert Chambers say? Anyway, should I do a special Brainfood on it? Let me know in the comments, as the cool kids say.
Nibbles: Wild tomatoes, Ghana genebank, India livestock census, USDA coffee breeding, Native Americans & their horses
- It’s pretty rare to have a mainstream media piece on the use of crop wild relatives for climate change adaptation but here we have an example with tomato, so make the most of it. There’s an interesting wrinkle though, so more to come, time permitting.
- It’s even rarer to see a mainstream media piece on genebank staff getting trained. What’s going on out there?
- Not exactly mainstream media, but how many times have you seen an official government press release on its livestock censuses? Anyway, India’s last one was carried out in 2019 and covered 184 breeds of 16 species. Wonder where the data is.
- Speaking of government press releases, here’s one from USDA announcing that it has joined a coffee breeding network. Well, I for one think it’s important.
- And staying in the USA, you know how you read in mainstream textbooks that Native Americans got horses from retreating Spanish colonists after the Pueblo Revolt? And you know how Native Americans have been saying that’s not what they think happened? How rare is it that a scientific paper involving Indigenous authors overturns a mainstream historical narrative and is splashed all over the mainstream media? Very rare, that’s how rare.
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?