Slow Food arrives

The Slow Food movement 20 years old this year. It is having its annual showcase in Italy this week. Slow Food “aims to promote traditional farming techniques and products, to counter the spread of factory farming.” Its potential as a means of promoting neglected and underutilized species is clear, but I wish there were some tangible success stories from developing countries.

Altering the almighty alpaca

There’s an alpaca improvement project based at the Munay Paq’ocha laboratory (“beautiful alpaca” in Quechua) in a place called Macusani in the highlands of southern Peru where they measure follicle density, fibre diameter and elasticity and use the data to choose the best parents for their breeding programme. The BBC is there. See also this piece on the use of microchips to track the alpaca herd.

Exploring edible biodiversity

I’ve lost track of the number of articles like this one I’ve seen over the years; a guide to the wealth of edible species out there in some part of the world, this time the Bong State recreation Area in Wisconsin, USA. Do they raise awareness of diversity in either agriculture or the diet? No idea, but they are fun to do, fun to write about, and in this case even fun to read.

Idaho farmers discover green manure

Members of the Blackfoot people in the state of Idaho have pioneered the use of oriental mustard as a green manure, growing it on potato fields to combat weeds, erosion and pests and diseases. Now a trial with the University of Idaho is extending the opportunity to mainstream farmers in the potato state. John Taberna, a Blackfoot seed distributor, says that oriental mustard (possibly Brassica juncea, but the article doesn’t say and I’m just guessing) has a fungicidal effect, in addition to other benefits of green manures. The tribe’s business council agreed to reduce pesticide use by 15% over the next 20 years, and the green manure is part of that effort.

Urbi et orbi

The latest issue of CTA’s wonderful ICT Update is all about urban agriculture, and has a couple of examples of the application of GIS. I’ve always wondered whether urban areas act as “magnets” for PGR, people bringing their crops and varieties along when they migrate to the city and growing them in micro-environments, and/or as “winnowers” of the varieties available in the immediate vicinity, urban dwellers mostly focusing on the convenient and commercial. We even did an inconclusive study on sweet potato in Nairobi trying to look at this. Is genetic diversity much considered in urban agriculture circles?