Podcasts on Agricultural Biodiversity

One of the problems of casting your bread upon the waters with a blog like this is that we actually have no idea what you — the readers — already know about, what you want, and all that. So while some of you may respond to this item with a knowing, “Cool, podcasts, that’ll be fun” others may be thinking “Podcasts? What is he talking about”.

Rather than explain, I’ll just point you to this college’s explanation (which is both clear and useful) and say that podcasts are like internet radio for all. You download a podcast and can listen to it in one of several ways. You can also easily make your own podcasts for others to listen to, something I hope to try here before too long.

Now, to the meat of this post. Agroinnovations has a series of podcasts on agricultural biodiversity that may be interesting. I have not yet listened to any of them myself (too busy blogging about them) but the topics sound worthwhile: entomology, plant pathology, indigenous varieties, Andean crops and more.

So, if you are one of the Cool, podcasts types, and you get to them before I do, why not post a review here and let us all know what they are like?

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Crop wild relatives underused

Are crop wild relatives (CWR) more trouble than they’re worth? There are certainly significant challenges involved in including them in breeding programmes, but you’d have thought that between the new molecular tools that are now out there, the greater numbers of CWR accessions in genebanks, and all the information about how useful CWRs can be, breeders would be falling over themselves to make those kinky inter-specific crosses. Well, according to a major review by our friends at Bioversity International (the outfit formerly known as the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute), the use of CWRs in breeding programmes has been steadily increasing in the past 20 years, but probably not as much as might have been expected. There’s been a number of papers recently on CWRs. This paper, also from Bioversity, looks at in situ conservation of CWR. Check out this for a discussion on the definition of the term, and, from some of the same people, there’s this overview of conservation and use of CWR, using a specific example. Here’s an example of conservation assessment and priority-setting for the wild relatives of the peanut. For a discussion of the possible effects of climate change on these species, see this.

Brazil to market biodiversity

Under an Environment Ministry initiative in Brazil research groups have selected 775 species to encourage production and hopefully develop major markets. Read about it here:

Five books will be published this year, each dedicated to one of the five major regions of Brazil, containing the knowledge that has been accumulated about these “plants of the future”. Seminars for the business community will be held to spread the word about the potential of these plants, which are ornamental or used to produce foods, beverages, medicines, oils and perfumes.

Breeding info

Getting the new issue of CropBiotech Update in my inbox today, and noticing at least a couple of crop improvement items I would like to blog about at some stage, prompted a reflection on sources of information on the use of agricultural biodiversity in breeding.

Produced by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), you can get CropBiotech Update delivered by email once a week or check out the website here (where you can subscribe to an RSS feed or sign up for the email alerts). FAO also has a news service in biotechnology, which you can check out here. You can sign up for monthly email alerts, but I couldn’t see any RSS feeds, unfortunately.

Somewhat broader than either of these, but with some overlap, is Plant Breeding News, sponsored by FAO and Cornell University. You can sign up to the email alerts, consult the archives and learn how to contribute here. BIO-IPR is an irregular listserver produced by GRAIN. It focuses on PGR policy issues, and you can find out more about it here.

Finally, I just wanted to mention an example of a national-level agricultural research newsletter which provides information on breeding programmes, DIDINET News from the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) in Papua New Guinea. DIDINET stands for “Didiman/Didimeri Network” or a network for scientists and other stakeholders in the agriculture sector. There must be lots of other examples of such national newsletters. I wonder if someone has compiled a list.

And of course I haven’t mentioned the various ways the CGIAR Centres disseminate information about crop breeding, such as this one, for example. But maybe Jeremy will say something about that. He knows more about it than I do.

Too delicious

Q: When is potato diversity not potato diversity?
A: When it is in the hands of assorted experts.

Potato-Close-Up I hate to be pedantic here. (Actually, that’s a terrible lie; I love to be pedantic, especially about crops and food.) But if you look closely at the photograph, and you know your tubers, you’ll know that those aren’t potatoes in the picture. They are oca and mashua. Andean tubers, to be sure, but not potatoes. So who made this elemental error? None other than the good folks at the International Year of the Potato.

Worse, it’s on the page specifically addressed “Hey, kids!” (Lord how I love that exciting exclamation mark.) One could, of course, argue that the caption just happens to be underneath a photo of other Andean tubers. But that won’t wash. What we have here is a total and abject failure to know anything whatsoever about potatoes. How can kids! trust anything else on the page?

I’m sure that the International Year of the Potato will be a good thing, just as the International Year of Rice was a good thing. I’m equally sure someone will eventually detect this egregious and appalling error. In the meantime, just to be on the safe side, I snapped the page and am preserving it here for posterity.

And hey, potato people, my rates remain reasonable.