Forgotten crops in the limelight

The paper “Forgotten food crops in sub-Saharan Africa for healthy diets in a changing climate” by Maarten van Zonneveld, Roeland Kindt, Stepha McMullin, Enoch G. Achigan-Dako, Sognigbé N’Danikou, Wei-hsun Hsieh, Yann-rong Lin, and Ian K. Dawson has won the PNAS 2023 Cozzarelli Prize for the best paper of the year in Applied Biological, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. Here’s the abstract:

As the climate changes, major staple crop production in sub-Saharan Africa becomes increasingly vulnerable. Underutilized traditional food plants offer opportunities for diversifying cropping systems. In this study, the authors used climate niche modeling to assess the potential of 138 traditional food plants to diversify or replace staple crop production in sub-Saharan Africa by 2070. The authors report that staple crops may no longer be able to grow at approximately 10% of locations by 2070. Further, the authors identified 58 traditional crops that provide complementary micronutrient contents suitable for integration into staple cropping systems under current and projected climatic conditions. The results suggest that diversifying sub-Saharan African food production with underutilized crops could improve climate resilience and dietary health.

And here’s a video explaining the results:

Colorado State PGR course runs again

From Dr Pat Byrne, Professor Emeritus of Plant Breeding and Genetics at Colorado State University.

Colorado State University Online will offer 3 one-credit courses in Fall 2024 on Plant Genetic Resources Conservation and Use. Courses are targeted to the upper undergraduate/graduate student level and can be taken sequentially or independently. Course instructors are Dr Geoff Morris (CSU), Dr Davina Rhodes (CSU), and Dr Gayle Volk (USDA-ARS). The courses are as follows:

  • SOCR 501 – Plant Genetic Resources: Origins, Aug. 19 – Sep. 22. Discover the origins of plant genetic resources, their domestication and diversification, their genetic and genomic properties, and their vital role in global food systems.
  • SOCR 502 – Plant Genetic Resources: Conservation, Sept. 23-Oct. 27. Examine the role of genebanks in the global effort to conserve plant genetic resources. Explore each step from collection to storage, regeneration, and distribution.
  • SOCR 503 – Plant Genetic Resources: Discovery, Oct. 28-Dec. 8. Learn how breeders overcome the challenges of unadapted germplasm, how novel traits and genetic variants are discovered, and how they get from genebank to plant breeders, then on to farmers and consumers.

For more information on course content, fees, and registration, visit