Exploring edible biodiversity

I’ve lost track of the number of articles like this one I’ve seen over the years; a guide to the wealth of edible species out there in some part of the world, this time the Bong State recreation Area in Wisconsin, USA. Do they raise awareness of diversity in either agriculture or the diet? No idea, but they are fun to do, fun to write about, and in this case even fun to read.

Linking the agri to the cultural

FAO’s Globally Important Agriculture Heritage Systems (GIAHS) initiative is a potentially really cool way of linking agricultural and cultural heritage. They’ll be having a forum about it in Rome later this month. This will contribute to the development of projects in the following places:

  1. the Inca farming systems of the Peruvian Andes
  2. the oases of the Maghreb countries
  3. the integrated rice-fish system in China
  4. the Ifugao rice terraces systems in the Philippines
  5. Chiloé Island, one of the world centres of origin of potatoes

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.