And speaking of intellectual property, Spicy IP reports that the Indian National Plant Variety Register has finally set up shop, more than five years after the legislation was first proposed. The Register is an essential prelude to protection for modern plant varieties, and although initially limited to 12 species, including three of the four biggies, there are plans to extend it further. The Union for the Protection of Plant Varieties (UPOV) has always staunchly maintained that registration systems in and of themselves do nothing to promote genetic erosion and the loss of agricultural biodiversity. That may be so where the government continues to permit the informal seed sector to flourish and where the companies who register most varieties do not push them aggressively even in unsuitable areas. I don’t know how India will fare, but I have my doubts, and I would certainly expect some losses of traditional and older varieties.
I think WWF came up with a really powerful idea with their “climate witnesses.” These are ordinary people around the world who WWF has asked to act as spokespeople, a kind of warning system for climate change, and advocates for action. One is an old Kikuyu cattle-keeper, who spoke up at the recent climate change conference in Nairobi about the changes he has been experiencing. Makes me wonder if we in the agrobiodiversity community could link up with WWF and use this existing network to highlight specifically how climate change is affecting crops and crop wild relatives. Or do we perhaps need “genetic erosion witnesses” of our own?
An insecticide based on fungal spores is devastating locusts in a trial in Mauritania, says a report from Reuters. The spores — dubbed Green Muscle — come from a species called Metarhizium anisopliae, whose locusticidal properties have been known since 1989. Green Muscle’s proponents have been waiting since 1998 for an opportunity to test it in the field, but have been thwarted by a lack of gregarious locusts.
The test showed that Green Muscle works well, with an added bonus that the weakened young locusts are a magnet for predators of all kinds, who despatch them even before the fungus has done its work. The treatment was developed by scientists at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture and the good folks at FAO have said that if the Mauritania test is a success they will adopt it for widespread use in Africa.
A seminar organized by the Nairobi Stock Exchange suggested that “sorghum, cassava, soy beans, palm oil and Jathropha curcas, are the five crops that will run agri-business this century.” Be afraid. Be very afraid.
The GlobWetland project uses remote sensing and GIS to address the threats faced by the world’s wetlands. Do we know how many crop wild relatives are found in wetlands? Or even how threats to wetlands affect genetic diversity in adjacent agricultural areas? I think plant genetic resources people and the ecosystem conservation crowd need to link up a bit more, and I can’t help thinking that wetlands might be pretty good meeting ground.