Brainfood – Nutrition Edition: Sweet potato double, Seaweed, Fruits & vegetables, Chickpeas, African Indigenous crops, Vegetables, Grapes, Meat

Brainfood: Vanilla diversity, Moth bean diversity, Lablab genome, Wheat allergens, Strampelli, Core collections, Collection structure, ITK, Sambal diversity

Nibbles: Transformation, MAHARISHI, Pastoralists and climate change, Utopian okra, Landrace breeding, Ghana genebank, Indian community seedbank, Rice pan-genome, Perennial rice

  1. Towards resilient and sustainable agri-food systems. Summary report from the FORSEE Series of Töpfer Müller Gaßner GmbH (TMG). Take home message: We need an internationally agreed framework for agri-food systems transformation that reduces the externalities of the current systems. But how?
  2. Chair Summary and Meeting Outcome of the G20 Meeting of Agricultural Chief Scientists 2023. “We highlight the importance of locally adapted crops for the transition towards resilient agriculture and food systems, enhancing agricultural diversity, and improving food security and nutrition.” And that includes the wonderfully named Millets And OtHer Ancient GRains International ReSearcH Initiative (MAHARISHI). Ah, so that’s how.
  3. Are pastoralists and their livestock to blame for climate change? Spoiler alert: It’s complicated, but no. And here’s a digest of resources from the Land Portal explaining they can be part of sustainable and resilient agri-food systems.
  4. The Utopian Seed Project is developing more climate-resilient okra in the southern USA.
  5. Joseph Lofthouse, Julia Dakin, Shane Simonsen and Simon Gooder — interviewed here about landrace-based breeding — would approve of utopian okra.
  6. Plenty of landraces in the Ghana national genebank, according to this mainstream media article.
  7. Also plenty of landraces in India’s community seedbanks.
  8. Professor Zhang Jianwei at the National Key Laboratory of Crop Genetic Improvement, Huazhong Agricultural University has built an rice pan-genome database based on 16 (landraces presumably) accessions representing all the major sub-populations. The technical details are here. Rice sustainability and resilience no doubt beckons. Okra next?
  9. No, perennial rice next, apparently.

Nibbles: Singapore genebank, Tianjin genebank, Food system transformation, ENCORE biodiversity tool, Italian olive troubles, Agroecology map, Indian millets

  1. Nice write-up of the Singapore Botanic Gardens Seed Bank, which opened back in 2019 to not much fanfare.
  2. The Tianjin Agricultural Germplasm Resources Bank has just opened, to much fanfare.
  3. The Global Alliance for the Future of Food has a report out on Beacons of Hope: Stories of Food Systems Transformation During COVID-19. All far downstream from genebanks, but crop diversity makes an appearance in the form of Rwanda’s Gardens for Health International, for example.
  4. The ENCORE tool, created by Natural Capital Finance Alliance and UNEP-WCMC, can help assess any potential risks to natural capital which may be caused by planned investments by financial institutions. Well, now there’s a biodiversity module. Where’s the agrobiodiversity module though?
  5. Speaking of natural capital, Italy’s olive harvest is threatened by more than that nasty Xylella disease.
  6. Is agroecology an answer to all the gloom and doom? I don’t know, but here’s a map of the experiences of people who think so.
  7. India definitely thinks millets are an answer.

The cost of tomatoes

I don’t know whether the article in The Media Line1 a few days ago entitled “Israeli Scientists Develop Drought-Resistant Tomatoes in Response to Climate Change” was based on a press release. But if it wasn’t, it’s a pretty good catch, given the paper on which it is based is called “Epistatic QTLs for yield heterosis in tomato.”2

Anyway, what the authors of the paper did was cross a wild tomato with a cultivated one, which conjured up about 1,500 different progenies, each with a different bit of wild genome. They then figured out which of those bits of genome were good at allowing their possessor to grow well with less water than normal.

According to our Trusted Mideast News source:

The study found that two specific areas in the plant’s genome lead to a 20%-50% increase in the overall yield in both regular and dry conditions. The overall size of the plant also was improved.

According to the researchers, the findings demonstrate the effectiveness of using wild species to enhance agricultural output. They could also prove to be widely applicable to other plants in the future.

Which got me thinking. Effective, sure. But how long did it take? Digging a little deeper revealed that the work relied on a genome of the wild tomato Solanum pennellii that was published in 2017. But that’s not where it all started:

…we sequenced and assembled the accession LA5240 (LYC1722) of the wild tomato species Solanum pennellii, an accession that was identified spuriously. Unlike the Solanum pennellii accession LA0716, for which we have previously generated a high quality draft genome, the accession LA5240 does not appear to exhibit any dwarfed, necrotic leaf phenotype when introgressed into modern tomato cultivars.

And that LA0716 was sequenced in 2014.

So our new climate-change-proof tomato was almost 10 years in the making and relied on a “spuriously” identified accession. Well done and all, but gosh, I hope the next one is easier.

Oh, and here’s a nice detail to close. The LA in LA5204? It stands for “Lost Accession.” What’s the story there, I wonder?

  1. Strap line: Trusted Mideast News. []
  2. It’s part of the PNAS Special Feature: Harnessing Crop Diversity. []