- Resequencing of 683 common bean genotypes identifies yield component trait associations across a north–south cline. There’s a fairly straightforward way to select for larger beans as a key component of yield.
- Is the USDA core collection of common bean representative of genetic diversity of the species, as assessed by SNP diversity? Not as much as it could be.
- Diversity, use and production of farmers’ varieties of common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L., Fabaceae) in southwestern and northeastern Ethiopia. There are more varieties per household in places where the overall number of varieties per community was lower.
- Rapid customization of Solanaceae fruit crops for urban agriculture. Gene editing for shorter tomatoes.
- The home field advantage of modern plant breeding. Public breeding programs should go for specialist varieties that perform reliably in narrow environments.
- Thinking Outside of the Cereal Box: Breeding Underutilized (Pseudo)Cereals for Improved Human Nutrition. The next quinoa awaits its 15 minutes.
- Experimental Cultivation of Eastern North America’s Lost Crops: Insights into Agricultural Practice and Yield Potential. There’s life in the old crops yet. And that’s before gene editing.
- Time for a paradigm shift in the use of plant genetic resources. Genotype everything.
- Using whole-genome SNP data to reconstruct a large multi-generation pedigree in apple germplasm. 3 early modern cultivars had a disproportionate impact on modern apples.
- Machine Learning Reveals Spatiotemporal Genome Evolution in Asian Rice Domestication. The indica and japonica sub-species have exchanged a lot of genetic material at different times, and you get different answers to the question of domestication depending on which bits you look at.
- Genetic Analysis of the Transition from Wild to Domesticated Cotton (G. hirsutum L.). There are fibre quality genes in the subgenome from the parent with unspinnable fibre. Go figure.
- A Comparative Study of Modern and Heirloom Wheat on Indicators of Gastrointestinal Health. Not much difference.
- Target Capture Sequencing Unravels Rubus Evolution. The taxonomy needs work. You don’t say.
- Expansion of the cassava brown streak pandemic in Uganda revealed by annual field survey data for 2004 to 2017. The history of a disease outbreak in excruciating detail.
- Crop prices and the individual decision to migrate. Decrease in the price of coffee in Vietnam (but not rice, which is mainly used for household consumption rather than export) resulted in increased chance of migration, but only for individuals of lower education.
- The contribution of ‘chitoumou’, the edible caterpillar Cirina butyrospermi, to the food security of smallholder farmers in southwestern Burkina Faso. It’s significant, but only during the caterpillar season. I guess they don’t keep. I spot an opportunity. Yeah, you guessed it, gene editing.
- Ex Situ Conservation of Potato [Solanum Section Petota (Solanaceae)] Genetic Resources in Genebanks. The only review of the subject you’ll need. Until the next one.
- Editorial Essay: An update on progress towards Aichi Biodiversity Target 11. Not bad, but the difficult stuff remains difficult. One of several interesting papers.
- The History of Farm Foxes Undermines the Animal Domestication Syndrome. Those Russian foxes were already pretty tame. Here’s a Twitter tread from one of the authors that lays it all out.
- Developing fruit tree portfolios that link agriculture more effectively with nutrition and health: a new approach for providing year-round micronutrients to smallholder farmers. 11 species can address micronutrient gaps.
- Plant Polyploidy: Origin, Evolution, and Its Influence on Crop Domestication. Extreme events and disasters drive polyploidy, which drives diversification at various levels, which facilitates domestication.
- Spectral Reflectance Indices and Physiological Parameters in Quinoa under Contrasting Irrigation Regimes. Phenotyping for drought tolerance from space.
- Asian Crop Dispersal in Africa and Late Holocene Human Adaptation to Tropical Environments. Via NE Africa always something new.
- Invited review: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, agriculture, and food — A case of shifting cultivation and history. The IPCC could have done a better job of synthesizing the data on the impact of climate change on crops and livestock.
- Seed comparative genomics in three coffee species identify desiccation tolerance mechanisms in intermediate seeds. Whole bunch of genes involved.
- Capturing genetic diversity – an assessment of the nation’s gene bank in securing Duroc pigs. Genebank doing a pretty good job in this case.
- Genetic diversity of oolong tea (Camellia sinensis) germplasms based on the nanofluidic array of single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers. It’s not all the same.
- Tapping Pennisetum violaceum, a wild relative of pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum), for resistance to blast (caused by Magnaporthe grisea) and rust (caused by Puccinia substriata var. indica). Out of 305 accessions, one was resistant to both diseases. IP21711 if you must know. A few more were resistant to one or the other disease.
- Can Diets Be Healthy, Sustainable, and Equitable? No, and they’ll be difficult to change, but the “burden of change should not be solely placed on the consumer’s ability to make healthy choices.”
According to IFPRI, “2019 saw increasing attention to the intersections of food systems and environmental sustainability throughout the year,” and I thing they’re probably right. That makes it increasingly difficult to keep track of what’s going on. Fortunately, they took the trouble of providing a useful summary in their last newsletter of the year. Do read the whole newsletter, and subscribe, but here’s their list of 2019 research highlights.
Healthy diets from sustainable food systems
The EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health published a study in January outlining how to sustainably feed a future population of 10 billion people a healthy diet. IFPRI Director General Shenggen Fan served as a Commissioner for the report and provided his key takeaways in a video message and blog post.
Seizing the momentum for agriculture and nutrition
In February, IFPRI and CABI published Agriculture for Improved Nutrition: Seizing the Momentum reviewing the latest findings, results from on-the-ground programs and interventions, and recent policy experiences from countries around the world that are forging the agriculture and nutrition sectors closer together. The book launch was hosted by IFPRI and accompanied by a three-part blog series, beginning with a post by the book’s editors.
Over 100 million people faced acute hunger in 2018
According to the Global Report on Food Crises 2019 released in April, more than 113 million people across 53 countries experienced acute hunger in 2018 driven primarily by conflict and insecurity, climate shocks, and economic turbulence. A mid-year update to the report published in September provided revised numbers on current global food crises.
Increasing CO2 levels and projected climate change reduce nutrient content
A study published in The Lancet Planetary Health in July estimated that the combined effects of projected increases in atmospheric CO2 will reduce the global availability of nutrients by 19.5 percent for protein, 14.4 percent for iron, and 14.6 percent for zinc relative to expected technology and market gains by 2050.
Global hunger still on the rise for third year in a row
More than 820 million people did not have enough to eat in 2018, over 9 million more than in 2017. This was the third year of increase in a row according to the annual State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2019 report launched in July. IFPRI and FAO hosted a discussion on the key findings of the report.
UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children report explores the changing face of malnutrition
For the first time in 20 years, UNICEF’s flagship report released in October examined the issue of children, food, and nutrition, providing a fresh perspective on a rapidly evolving challenge. It found that despite progress in the past two decades, one third of children under age 5 are malnourished and two thirds are at risk of malnutrition and hidden hunger because of the poor quality of their diets.
The global food system delivers the wrong prices of healthy and unhealthy foods
An article published in The Journal of Nutrition in November assessed the relative caloric prices for different food categories across 176 countries and found that prices vary systematically across countries and partially explain international differences in the prevalences of undernutrition and overweight adults. In an IFPRI blog post, the paper’s authors noted that as countries develop, their food systems get better at providing healthier foods cheaply, but they also get better at providing unhealthier foods cheaply.
Assessing the affordability of the EAT–Lancet reference diet
A study published in November in The Lancet Global Health used food price and household income data of 159 countries to estimate affordability of the benchmark diets recommended in the EAT-Lancet Commission report. The conclusion is that the reference diet costs a small fraction of average incomes in high-income countries but is not affordable for the world’s poor: to improve diets for them, some combination of higher income, nutritional assistance, and lower prices would be needed.
- Food Access Deficiencies in Sub-saharan Africa: Prevalence and Implications for Agricultural Interventions. Income doesn’t necessarily translate into better nutrition, but keeping livestock does. Happy New Year.
- The commonness of rarity: Global and future distribution of rarity across land plants. Rare species are especially vulnerable to climate and land use change.
- Exploring on-farm agro-biodiversity: a study case of vegetable landraces from Puglia region (Italy). High vegetable landrace diversity may be linked to poor soils and distance from urban centres.
- Measuring Forest Biodiversity Status and Changes Globally. Combines biodiversity significance and intactness, and comes up with not that many places.
- Escaping the perfect storm of simultaneous climate change impacts on agriculture and marine fisheries. Business as usual means 90% of world’s population will see declines in both agricultural and fisheries production.
- Potential for smart food products in rural Myanmar: use of millets and pigeonpea to fill the nutrition gap. 2 weeks of inclusion had positive effect on wasting, stunting and underweight.
- Super-Pangenome by Integrating the Wild Side of a Species for Accelerated Crop Improvement. Add up species pangenomes for a whole genepool. Would be cool to grow it.
- Plant Pest Impact Metric System (PPIMS): Framework and guidelines for a common set of metrics to classify and prioritise plant pests. Host crop value, market access, feasibility of management and reversibility are the most important ones.
- A new source of root-knot nematode resistance from Arachis stenosperma incorporated into allotetraploid peanut (Arachis hypogaea). You have to cross it with another wild relative first.
- The impact of sample selection strategies on genetic diversity and representativeness in germplasm bank collections. Different approaches to making cores tested with maize data from Seeds of Discovery.
- Affordability of the EAT–Lancet reference diet: a global analysis. US$2.84 per day, or more than household per capita income for at least 1.58 billion people.
- Allelochemicals targeted to balance competing selections in African agroecosystems. Levels of tannins in sorghum correlated with taste receptor variant in humans and presence of sparrows.
- Genetic Architecture of Chilling Tolerance in Sorghum Dissected with a Nested Association Mapping Population. Chilling tolerance associated with low tannin and short stature. No word on the role of sparrows.
- Characterization of Genetic Diversity Conserved in the Gene Bank for Dutch Cattle Breeds. Almost optimized, at least for bulls.
- Modelling crop diversification and association effects in agricultural systems. Intercrop, people!
- Cooking up Diverse Diets: Advancing Biodiversity in Food and Agriculture through Collaborations with Chefs. Yeah, yeah, chefs are great. Now show me the data.
- Multivariate analysis and selection criteria for identification of African rice (Oryza glaberrima) for genetic improvement of indica rice cultivars. Go for high number of productive tillers and early maturity.
- Strategies for Sustainable Use of Indigenous Cattle Genetic Resources in Southern Africa. Not just genetic improvement: also need better nutrition, healthcare, marketing, and infrastructure; integration and empowerment of women and youth; and capacity building, regulatory, and policy frameworks. Not unlike crops, really.
- Population structure of Miscanthus sacchariflorus reveals two major polyploidization events, tetraploid-mediated unidirectional introgression from diploid M. sinensis, and diversity centred around the Yellow Sea. The centre of origin in under water.
- Remote sensing for agricultural applications: A meta-review. Yeah, yeah. Call me when you have a way of distinguishing landraces from modern varieties.
- Genetic Diversity of Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas L. Lam) Germplasms Collected Worldwide Using Chloroplast SSR Markers. 500 is not enough.
- Seed germination and storage studies in seed-fertile Musa indandamanensis and its conservation. Intermediate.
- Cultivated olive diversification at local and regional scales: evidence from the genetic characterization of French genetic resources. Areas with unexpected frosts have been, paradoxically, good for olive diversity.
- Genetic diversity of Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) throughout West Africa. Corresponds to river basins. Well there’s a shocker.
- Protecting half of the planet could directly affect over one billion people. Add lowest-footprint pixels to PAs until you get to 50% coverage of each ecoregion, then count how many people live in PAs, for good or ill.
- Food Access Deficiencies in Sub-saharan Africa: Prevalence and Implications for Agricultural Interventions. Livestock helps, higher income not necessarily.
- Can a speed breeding approach accelerate genetic gain in pigeonpea? I’m going to guess yes.
- Hypoallergen Peanut Lines Identified Through Large-Scale Phenotyping of Global Diversity Panel: Providing Hope Toward Addressing One of the Major Global Food Safety Concerns. Lots of diversity to play with.
- Revolturas: resisting multinational seed corporations and legal seed regimes through seed-saving practices and activism in Colombia. Everybody’s at it.