Roots and tubers to the rescue

The latest Seed Systems newsletter from the Alliance of Bioversity & CIAT has an interesting roundup of examples of the role of root and tuber crops in crisis situations:

  1. Uganda: Refugee, host communities find relief and stability in orange-fleshed sweet potato
  2. Mozambique: Reaching humanitarian and neglected places with the nutritious and resilient sweetpotato: The case of the Cyclone Idai in Manica and Sofala Provinces, Mozambique
  3. Madagascar: Anti-malnutrition initiative targeting drought-affected populations exceeds expectations in 18 months
  4. Cameroon: Relief group travels hundreds of kilometers to feed school children in Cameroon, braving roadblocks to grow orange-fleshed sweet potato in conflict-affected areas
  5. Haiti: Improving the sweet potato seed system in a challenging humanitarian environment
  6. Ethiopia: Discovering hope: Potato and sweetpotato technology transforming lives in drought and conflict-affected Ethiopia
  7. DRC: IITA and CIP provide Eastern DRC relief efforts with RTB planting materials
  8. Philippines: Crop resistance and household resilience – The case of cassava and sweetpotato during super-typhoon Ompong in the Philippines
  9. Ecuador: Efforts of researchers and other stakeholders to manage an unfolding epidemic: Lessons from potato purple top in Ecuador

I think we may have included some of these in recent Nibbles and Brainfoods, but it’s nice to have them all together.

Liberating heirlooms

Jeremy’s latest Eat This Newsletter has a dissection of the recent piece on heirlooms from The Guardian that we Nibbled a couple of days back. Plus a whole bunch of other interesting stuff, from food riots to Peruvian limes. Read it!

Intellectual property rights and heirloom seed savers are doing their best to keep things just the way they are, but is that a good thing? The heirlooms of today were created to meet the needs of yesterday, and that’s fine for people who still have those needs. But where are the breeders meeting the needs of non-industrial growers today? They are around, of course, but Chris Smith, writing in The Guardian, thinks seedsavers should stop obsessing over heirloom seeds and let plants change.

He definitely has a point. Laser-like focus on variety preservation does block the possibility of adaptive change to new circumstances. But anyone who know how to keep an open-pollinated variety pure already knows enough to cultivate more diversity and select from that, if they choose to. A farmer like Chris Smith has the land and the inclination to do both, and it doesn’t seem to stop the seed enterprises with which he is associated from offering presumably true-to-type heirloom varieties. I suppose what I am saying is to let a thousand flowers bloom. Preserve the old varieties and use them, with perhaps a pinch of commercial and genebank varieties in the mix, to create and select tomorrow’s heirlooms.

Brainfood: Maize, Chickpea, CWR, Canola, Coconut, Avocado, Eggplant, Carrot, Watermelon, Citrus, Potato, Pearl millet, Roses

Brainfood: Silvopastoral systems, Livestock sustainability, Brachiaria in Brazil, European haymaking, German Black Pied cattle, Mallards, Pollinators, Metabarcoding

  1. Global meta-analysis reveals overall benefits of silvopastoral systems for biodiversity. They’re not bad on their own, but the best thing for biodiversity would be to integrate silvopastoral systems with protected areas.
  2. Priority areas for investment in more sustainable and climate-resilient livestock systems. India, Brazil, China, Pakistan and Sudan, apparently.
  3. Farming cattle in the tropics: Transnational science and industrializing pastures in Brazil. But would investment in Brachiaria-based silvopastoral systems in Brazil be a good thing? I guess it depends.
  4. Country Perspectives on Hay-Making Landscapes as Part of the European Agricultural Heritage. No Brachiaria in sight.
  5. Genomic diversity and relationship analyses of endangered German Black Pied cattle (DSN) to 68 other taurine breeds based on whole-genome sequencing. It has a small population, but this ancestor of the Holstein is still pretty diverse. No word on whether it likes Brachiaria.
  6. The meaning of wild: Genetic and adaptive consequences from large-scale releases of domestic mallards. “Wild is not singular.” Let that sink in while you contemplate your mallard-based silvopastoral system.
  7. Key tropical crops at risk from pollinator loss due to climate change and land use. I’m sure the right silvopastoral systems would be great for pollinators.
  8. eDNA metabarcoding of avocado flowers: ‘Hass’ it got potential to survey arthropods in food production systems? Yes it does. So now we can monitor the performance of those silvopastoral systems pretty easily.

An apple a day…

Good question. The answer?

It’s all part of a very nice exhibit at the Museum Koenig in Bonn on biodiversity research.

Great to see agricultural research get a look-in.

But pity there was nothing on genebanks, and indeed no call to action. There’s a whole website in Germany about “edible landscapes” that offers ideas about what to do to help preserve fruit diversity. And also shops in and around Bonn that boast about selling lots of apple varieties, including less well known one.