Nibbles: Food tree, Wild chocolate, Cacao, Cassava in Africa, Indigenous ABS, Abbasid food, Valuing trees

  1. Gastropod episode on The Fruit that Could Save the World. Any guesses what that might be?
  2. Atlas Obscura podcast on an apparently now famous wild-harvested chocolate from Bolivia. But how wild is it really?
  3. BBC podcast on cacao for balance.
  4. Forbes touts an African cassava revolution. What, no podcast?
  5. Very interesting piece from the ever reliable Modern Farmer on how a small seed company called Fedco Seeds designated a bunch of maize landraces as “indigenously stewarded,” and are paying 10% of what they make from the sale of their seeds to a pooled Indigenous fund which goes to support a local, multi-tribal project called Nibezun. A sort of mini-MLS? Definitely worth a podcast. Any takers?
  6. A long but rewarding article in New Lines Magazine describes medieval cookbooks from the Abbasid caliphate. The recipes make up for the somewhat stilted podcast.
  7. BGCI publication on how the Morton Arboretum works out whether it should be growing a particular population or species of tree. The trick is to quantify 5 types of “value”: environmental, evolutionary, genetic diversity, horticultural, conservation. Though one could also consider hostorical/cultural, educational and economic value as well. I suspect in the end it comes down to whether it looks nice in an available gap. If I were to do a podcast on this, I’d test it out with the tree in the first of these Nibbles.

What will AI ever do for us?

Ever since ChatGPT hit the internet a few weeks ago AI has been all over what we are now obliged to call the discourse, so I figured I’d wade in. Jumping in right at the deep end, I asked it the following: Which barley genebank accessions are the most drought tolerant? Here’s what I got.

Determining the most drought-tolerant barley genebank accessions would require a comprehensive analysis of multiple factors, such as yield performance, physiological traits, genetic diversity, and environmental adaptation. However, there are some barley genebank accessions that have been reported to exhibit high levels of drought tolerance based on various studies and evaluations. Here are a few examples:

  1. CI 9835: This barley accession from Ethiopia has shown high levels of drought tolerance in several studies. It has been found to maintain high yields and exhibit drought avoidance traits such as early maturity and reduced plant height.
  2. Himalaya 10: This Indian barley accession has demonstrated good drought tolerance and yield stability in multiple environments. It has also been found to possess traits such as deep rooting, reduced stomatal conductance, and high water use efficiency.
  3. Hordeum vulgare L. subsp. spontaneum: This wild barley subspecies from Israel has been found to possess high levels of genetic diversity and adaptability to harsh environments, including drought-prone areas. It has also been shown to possess traits such as deep roots, reduced leaf area, and efficient water uptake.

These are just a few examples, and there are likely many other barley genebank accessions that exhibit high levels of drought tolerance. The specific characteristics that contribute to drought tolerance can vary depending on the accession and the environment, so it is important to evaluate multiple traits and consider multiple environments when assessing drought tolerance in barley genebank accessions.

I mean, that’s not too bad I guess, as far as it goes. CI 9835 is a bona fide genebank accession, and it is from Ethiopia. But I can’t locate a study which highlighted it as being particularly drought tolerant. Himalaya 10 is an elite hulless barley, not a genebank accessions, and from Tibet rather than India, but it does seem to be drought tolerant. As for wild barley, some accessions do have potential.

I then tried Consensus, which is a sort of AI-driven Google Scholar type thing. Like Scholar, it returned a bunch of papers evaluating different barleys for drought tolerance, which one could obviously scour for specific accessions. But, intriguingly, it also provides a sort of summary of what it found:

These studies suggest that STI, GMP, MP indices, two wild Iranian genotypes, and early seedling stage accessions are the most drought-tolerant barley genebank accessions.

Which unfortunately is not much use, let’s be honest. For now. It’s in beta, so it will no doubt get better.

So someone tackling the problem from scratch has a place to start, but clearly what we need next is a way to apply AI directly to genebank databases. Or even for AI to understand a bit better what a genebank accessions is.

Brainfood: Human diversity, Wild rye, Caribbean cassava, Three Sisters, Old beer, Old apples, Feral crops, Crop resynthesis

Dams, damn dams, and accessions

Every once in a while a new dam dataset crops up. Dam, not damn. Well, maybe damn as well. Anyway, when that happens, I feel compelled to mash it up with accession locality data. Because if I don’t do it, who will?

The new dataset is the Global Dam Tracker, and you can download it and everything of course. It’s pretty easy to then upload it to Google Earth and play around with it. Including combining it with data on wild Oryza accessions from Genesys, for example.

On this map, the dams are shown in blue and wild rice accessions in red.

You can zoom in if you’re worried about the long-term in situ future of any given population.

Not for the first time, I wonder about the feasibility of one day automatically and in real time combining data from multiple potential stressors, including dams, to predict the risk of genetic erosion around the world. Something that AI should be able to do, surely?

Brainfood: Seed imaging, Disease imaging, Seed traits, Irvingia shape, Mexican tomatoes, Fine cacao, Wine tourism, Wild peas