Frozen olives

A paper in the Journal of Biogeography reports on the biggest ever microsatellite study of wild and cultivated olives in the Mediterranean. There is a cline in diversity from east to west, suggesting that perhaps the wild olive in the west is feral rather than truly wild, but this study suggests that the wild olive spread out of 7 RPOPs, or reconstructed panmictic oleaster populations, in both eastern and western Mediterranean, possibly located in glacial refugia. Cultivated olives were domesticated in several RPOPs, and mediated geneflow in the wild species as they were spread around my humans. Has this business of glacial refugia been looked at for other cultivated trees in Europe?

Idaho farmers discover green manure

Members of the Blackfoot people in the state of Idaho have pioneered the use of oriental mustard as a green manure, growing it on potato fields to combat weeds, erosion and pests and diseases. Now a trial with the University of Idaho is extending the opportunity to mainstream farmers in the potato state. John Taberna, a Blackfoot seed distributor, says that oriental mustard (possibly Brassica juncea, but the article doesn’t say and I’m just guessing) has a fungicidal effect, in addition to other benefits of green manures. The tribe’s business council agreed to reduce pesticide use by 15% over the next 20 years, and the green manure is part of that effort.

Eritrea preserves biodiversity

A report on African News Dimension discusses Eritrea’s efforts to preserve its biodiversity. While the article briefly mentions that “the ministries of Agriculture and Fisheries were given authority to establish protected areas in their capacity” it does not delve any deeper into agricultural biodiversity. And yet, for a country that ranks 124th in global GNP (yes, I know … all such measures are suspect) with an economy based on subsistence farming and 80% of the population involved in farming and herding, I would have thought agricultural biodiversity might be a higher priority.

Urbi et orbi

The latest issue of CTA’s wonderful ICT Update is all about urban agriculture, and has a couple of examples of the application of GIS. I’ve always wondered whether urban areas act as “magnets” for PGR, people bringing their crops and varieties along when they migrate to the city and growing them in micro-environments, and/or as “winnowers” of the varieties available in the immediate vicinity, urban dwellers mostly focusing on the convenient and commercial. We even did an inconclusive study on sweet potato in Nairobi trying to look at this. Is genetic diversity much considered in urban agriculture circles?

Stop press: crops need pollinators

The National Research Council in the US has published a report on the importance of pollinators for crop production funded by the Department of Agriculture, U.S. Geological Survey, National Academies and the Research Council’s Division on Earth and Life Studies and requested by The North American Pollinator Protection Campaign, representing agencies and organizations in the United States, Canada and Mexico. According to this story, “the report pointed out that in order to bear fruit, three-quarters of all flowering plants — including most food crops and some that provide fiber, drugs, and fuel — rely on pollinators for fertilization” and “a decline in pollinators may spell trouble for crops.” Well alrighty then. Among the recommendations:

  1. the Agriculture Department should increase research into pest management and bee breeding practices
  2. long-term studies must be done on the populations of wild bee species and some butterflies, bats and hummingbirds, and the United States should collaborate with Canada and Mexico to form a network of long-term monitoring projects
  3. landowners should take simple steps to make habitats more “pollinator friendly,” for instance by growing native plants