- Crop origins explain variation in global agricultural relevance. What explains which crops are most important globally? For seeds, an origin in seasonally dry regions. For root, leaf and herbaceous fruit crops, an origin in the aseasonal tropics. But if you account for all that, basically age.
- Linguistic diversity and conservation opportunities at UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Africa. There’s a correlation between linguistic and biological diversity. Has anyone done crop diversity and languages?
- Sparing or sharing land? Views from agricultural scientists. If you look at synergies between nature and nurture (as it were), and beyond crop yield, you realize it’s the wrong question.
- Can agroecology improve food security and nutrition? A review. Yes, in 78% of 55 cases. But will it scale? And does it need to? Anyway, at least it’s looking beyond yield.
- Global effects of land-use intensity on local pollinator biodiversity. Intensification is bad for pollinator biodiversity for most land uses, but cropland intensification is only bad in the tropics. Can’t help thinking this needs to be mashed up with the above.
- Crop breeding for a changing climate: integrating phenomics and genomics with bioinformatics. In particular, integrating the phenomics and genomics of landraces and wild relatives at the extremes of habitable ranges. Well, there’s a lot more to it than that, but this is what stuck with me.
- Comprehensive genotyping of a Brazilian cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) germplasm bank: insights into diversification and domestication. 54% duplicates out of 3354 clones, the remaining 1536 arranged in 5 ecoregional ancestral groups.
- A chromosome-level genome of a Kordofan melon illuminates the origin of domesticated watermelons. Not from southern Africa after all. Nice bit of work.
- Preliminary investigation of potent thiols in Cypriot wines made from indigenous grape varieties Xynisteri, Maratheftiko and Giannoudhi. Cypriot grapes are more drought tolerant than varieties grown in Australia, but produce the tastes Aussie wine drinkers really like.
- A morphometric approach to track opium poppy domestication. Fancy math says Swiss Neolithic farmers were involved in the domestication of the opium poppy. Enough to drive one to drink.
- Registration of GA-BatSten1 and GA-MagSten1, two induced allotetraploids derived from peanut wild relatives with superior resistance to leaf spots, rust, and root-knot nematode. Sequencing paying off.
- Extensive variation within the pan-genome of cultivated and wild sorghum. Sorghum next?
A big thank you to Colin Khoury, Julian Ramirez, Chrystian Sosa, and Dan Carver for this guest post, reminding us of the history of conservation gap analysis work at CIAT and other CGIAR centres during the past decade and more.
Maps have helped people find their way for at least 2500 years, so it’s no surprise that geographic methods have been part of the portfolio of tools used to try to understand patterns and distributions of crop diversity, and, more recently, crop genetic erosion, ever since these topics began to garner the interest of scientists and conservationists. Innovations in digital mapping tools, made possible by developments in computer processing and the internet, have enabled continual leaps in the power and efficiency of such methods throughout the past few decades.
CGIAR embraced geographic information system (GIS) research tools about as soon as they were developed. At the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the International Potato Center (CIP), the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI, now Bioversity International), and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), among others, scientists began to apply available GIS tools to genetic resources conservation, and then develop their own suite of methods, programs, and datasets, often in collaboration with national partners and academics (e.g. wild potatoes, peanuts, chile pepper, and peanut/potato/cowpea, as well as climate data). Some of these developments, such as FloraMap and DIVA-GIS (and more recently CAPFITOGEN, by other researchers), have been aimed at making these tools easier to use by those in genetic resources community without extensive GIS experience: an important effort toward greater accessibility, even if it has met with mixed success.
By the 2000s, crop wild relatives were gaining attention as important genetic resources for crop breeding, and would soon be specifically targeted for conservation both by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD’s Aichi Target 13), and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG Target 2.5). It was increasingly important, therefore, that conservation research tools were applied to these useful wild plants, and fortunate that the groundwork for GIS applications had already been laid by a decade or so of research. Through the second phase of a cross-CGIAR initiative called the Global Public Goods Project 2 (GPG2), run from 2007-2010, the distributions of the wild relatives of ten CGIAR mandate crops were mapped, with priorities for further collecting for ex situ conservation identified.
- An In Vitro–Ex Vitro Micropropagation System for Hemp. Hope it doesn’t drive down diversity, man.
- The genomes of ancient date palms germinated from 2,000 y old seeds. Interesting, sure, but let’s not call it “resurrection genomics,” shall we?
- Interpreting Diachronic Size Variation in Prehistoric Central Asian Cereal Grains. Parallel increases in size among different lineages at the edge of distributions.
- The first comprehensive archaeobotanical analysis of prehistoric agriculture in Kyrgyzstan. The above in context. Both summer and winter crops grown.
- The influence of ancient herders on soil development at Luxmanda, Mbulu Plateau, Tanzania. 3000 year old encampments still have richer soils. They must have been hotbeds of domestication, surely. Did they have the same things in Central Asia?
- Mass-kill hunting and Late Quaternary ecology: New insights into the ‘desert kite’ phenomenon in Arabia. I bet they had these things in East Africa and Central Asia too.
- Eight generations of native seed cultivation reduces plant fitness relative to the wild progenitor population. Evolution comes at you fast.
- Attaining the promise of plant gene editing at scale. Factor in gene editing with RNA viruses and developmental regulators, and it will come at you faster still. And no, absolutely nothing will go wrong, you wuss.
- Making Hybrids with the Wild Potato Solanum jamesii. But why fiddle about with bridging species and stuff when you can edit?
- Tomato Landraces Are Competitive with Commercial Varieties in Terms of Tolerance to Plant Pathogens—A Case Study of Hungarian Gene Bank Accessions on Organic Farms. Who needs editing?
- Edible mycorrhizal fungi of the world: What is their role in forest sustainability, food security, biocultural conservation and climate change? 970 of them!
- Panel discussion on cryopreservation in genebanks on 25 June, save the date!
- Forget cryo, what about a network of European network for the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources, in cultivation and in the wild? See who is interested. And express interest yourself.
- Germans launch Legacy Landscape Fund for biodiversity hotspots. European in situ PGR conservation network unavailable for comment. Let alone cryo genebanks.
- I wonder if that European on-farm conservation network will include the Completer grape, ideally in a monastery.
- Decolonizing coffee. Somebody want to write about religion and crops?
- Using wild plants in south and southeast Asia. Maybe they need a network too.
- Plant breeders say plant breeding is really important.