A user’s view of grassland biodiversity

Sniffing around on biofuels turned up this recent post — Polycultures — at a blog called Muck and Mystery. It gives a farmer’s view of how biodiversity helps him to produce more.

My focus for a couple of years has been on winter active species, those that don’t go dormant when it is cold and the days are short. At my latitude and altitude I can grow grasses year round if I have a good mix. It seldom freezes or snows. Right now my pastures still produce though most of my neighbors have brown swards of dormant grasses. They don’t produce as well as when the days are long, but the forage I produce in the dead of winter is valuable. It reduces the amount of stored forage needed to support my herd, or said another way, it raises my stocking rate. I produce more per acre over the year. With the same land area and inputs I get more production.

There’s no information about who Gary Jones is, or where he farms, but I like the tenor and content of this and a few other posts I read there. I’m adding him to my RSS reader.

India protects breeders’ and farmers’ rights

The first registrations are under way in India under the 2001 Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Act. The Act is India’s sui generis system for the protection of plant varieties as required under the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPs). As the name implies, however, the law also provides for the granting of Farmers’ Rights, following a vocal campaign by NGOs. There’s a good summary of the provisions here.

The Garden of Eden revisited

The Iraqi wetlands made famous by Wilfred Thesiger as the home of the Marsh Arabs and devastated by Saddam Hussein are apparently making a comeback, thanks to a UNEP “project to restore the network of watercourses which provided inhabitants with water for drinking and farming, and supported the region’s unique ecology.” I’m intrigued by that reference to agriculture. What did (do?) the Marsh Arabs farm? Rice, wheat, barley and millet, as it turns out, although there is apparently another group which specializes in raising the buffalo. But do they still have their traditional crop varieties and livestock breeds? If not, will it be possible to recover at least some of them from genebanks around the world? I hope someone is looking into this.

Coincidentally, from half a world away, comes an example of a genebank helping to restore an indigenous community’s crop genetic resources.

An insider’s view of sorghum in India

Prashant Mishra gives an Indian NGO’s perspective on sorghum and why many Indian farmers refer to it as Jowar Mata — Mother Sorghum. Even after the advances of the Green Revolution, sorghum thrives and sustains the very poorest people in marginal lands.

Protecting TK

There seems to have been a breakthrough – procedurally at any rate – at the WIPO discussions in Geneva on protecting traditional knowledge, folklore and expressions of culture (genetic resources are also on the table). Meanwhile, in Abuja, the Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo has launched a committee to boost research on traditional medicine.