- China and Pakistan to collaborate on ginger. Including exchange of germplasm, apparently.
- US doubles down on cover crops…
- …and pulses. No word on ginger.
- How Campbell doubled down on tomato breeding.
- Mapping farmland changes in Egypt. From space. Still waiting for that genetic erosion early warning system though…
- Our World in Data does global food. Genetic erosion next? Yeah, just dreaming here.
- Cool free book on Plant Food Processing Tools at Early Neolithic Göbekli Tepe.
- Digitizing a million herbarium specimens in Australia. How many crop wild relatives, I wonder?
- A coconut museum, but on Facebook. And a sort of museum of the plants themselves in India
- How to talk about mezcal using all the right words.
- A paean to the mango.
- Agriculture should be more “probiotic.” Mezcal, coconuts and mangoes would probably help.
- It kind of already is in the Andes.
- Seed saving in The Guardian.
- Seed saving in Nigeria.
- More seed saving needed in Zimbabwe.
- Save seeds instead of growing GMO crops? The “debate” continues…
- Is seed saving among the best-bet government interventions to fix our diets? Find out.
- Seed saving on rsmag.com, whatever that is.
- Will the new Oxford nature recovery centre look into seed saving, I wonder?
- Saving baobab seeds in Burkina Faso.
- We need joined-up food system thinking. Starting with seed saving?
I’m just back from a few weeks’ break in Kenya, where the big news was that over the holidays KFC ran out out chips (French fries). It was not a question of inadequate production, though. There are plenty of potatoes in Kenya.
The problem, apparently, was that potential local suppliers had not gone through KFC’s quality assurance process that makes sure “our food is safe for consumption by our customers”, the company’s East Africa chief executive Jacques Theunissen told the Standard newspaper.
So KFC ended up importing potatoes from Egypt, and ran into supply chain snarl-ups.
Makes you think. What’s the point of fancy breeding projects to boost local production, including by the likes of the International Potato Centre, based on decades of research, and using genetic resources painstakingly collected all over the Andes over many years, if in the end local growers get screwed over standards they don’t even know about?
Anyway, let me say a few words about what exactly it is I linked to above about potato collecting, because it really is worth having a look at.
Professor Jack Hawkes was a world-renowned potato and genetic resources expert who spent much of his professional life at the University of Birmingham. He made his first trip to South America in 1939 to collect wild and cultivated species of potato. And on this expedition and others that followed he made several 16 mm films, which have recently been converted to digital format, and become available to view more widely for the first time.
Dr Mike Jackson, no slouch at collecting potatoes himself, put the website together with help from Dr Abigail Amey, who wrote the narrative to accompany the films.
Happy new year.
Jeremy has his latest Eat This Newsletter out. Do subscribe if you’re minded to, there’s always great stuff there. Here’s a taster. To get the reference at the end, you’ll have to read the whole newsletter :)
In 1932, Nikolai Ivanovich Vavilov – the man who more or less invented the modern genebank and first understood the importance of crop diversity – visited Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He was there for the Sixth International Congress of Genetics and it was his final trip outside the USSR, because the forces of unreason were already pouring their poison into Stalin’s open ears.
Ninety years on, The Mann Library at Cornell has mounted an exhibit about Vavilov. Cultivating Silence: Nikolai Vavilov and the Suppression of Science in the Modern Era demonstrates the importance of Vavilov’s work and how he and genetics fell foul of Soviet science in the 1930s. I would be there if I possibly could. Instead, I’ll content myself with visiting The Mann’s Library’s online introduction to Vavilov and Cornell, a marvellous jumping-off point for anyone interested in the subject.
Oh, and, about that proletarian food movement…
- Overcoming racism in the twin spheres of conservation science and practice. Imagine.
- Getting accepted – Successful writing for scientific publication: a Research Primer for low- and middle-income countries. See above.
- A Performance Management System for Long-Term Germplasm Conservation in CGIAR Genebanks: Aiming for Quality, Efficiency and Improvement. Say what you do, do what you say, have someone verify it, correct it, improve it. Then repeat.
- Quinoa, potatoes, and llamas fueled emergent social complexity in the Lake Titicaca Basin of the Andes. Who needs maize, am I right?
- Harnessing root architecture to address global challenges. Something else for breeders to scour genebanks for.
- Evidence for host–microbiome co-evolution in apple. The genetic patterns in the endophytic microbiome of 11 wild and cultivated apple species mirrors the phylogenetic relationships among the species.
- Phylogenomic analysis points to a South American origin of Manihot and illuminates the primary gene pool of cassava. At least five wild species have contributed diversity to cassava. No word on microbiomes.
- Genetic Identification of the Local Mukodamashi Varieties of Foxtail Millet (Setaria italica (L.) P. Beauv) in Japan. Mukodamashi means “deceiving husband” and the legend is that when a wife makes dumplings from this millet variety, the husband mistakes them for rice cakes because the grains are white and sticky. Thing is though, it’s not just one variety.