Rescuing the ICARDA genebank

Another important CGIAR genebank with over 41,000 Triticeae accessions at the International Center for Agriculture Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA) housed in Aleppo, Syria has been lost from the turmoil in that region…

Err, no, of course not. I thought this story was better known than such a statement implies. Maybe this will help.

Moving the goalposts

We’ve mostly (though not entirely) steered clear of the Xylella crisis in Italy, because it all seems to futile. I was in Puglia earlier this summer and it was heartbreaking to see entire olive groves dead and dying, and for what? Because of fear and mistrust all around, and an absolute absence of any kind of societal solidarity. So the recent news that the infected zone continues to march steadily up Italy’s heel was in many respects inevitable.

The disease is now threatening plant nurseries, which may be even more important economically than those majestic old olive trees, because they supply huge amounts of grapevines for export. And what do the nurseries say? That “a lack of effective action on the part of regional authorities is responsible for the spread of Xylella, which is now unfairly forcing a crucial economic sector to shut down or move”. On the one hand, they’re absolutely right. On the other, they think that plant nurseries should be exempt from the controls because “no Xyella-infected plants have ever been identified in plant nurseries”.

To which, pessimist that I am, I would add only “Yet”.

Brainfood: Quinoa boom, Diet affordability, Insect boom and bust, Organic & pests, Maize agroforestry, Landraces, Wheat roots, Conservation costs, Sustainable intensification, Defences & domestication, Polyploid niches, Mexican CWR, Danish apples, Diversity proxies, Grassland nutrient hotspots

R you interested in species distribution models?

If you always wanted to do species distribution modelling, it’s your lucky day. Let Robert Hijmans and Jane Elith take you by the hand.

This document provides an introduction to species distribution modeling with R. Species distribution modeling (SDM) is also known under other names including climate envelope-modeling, habitat modeling, and (environmental or ecological) niche-modeling. The aim of SDM is to estimate the similarity of the conditions at any site to the conditions at the locations of known occurrence (and perhaps of non-occurrence) of a phenomenon. A common application of this method is to predict species ranges with climate data as predictors.

Heritage cereals anyone?

In the middle of my recently completed magnum opus on wheat and bread, I got a message from Shelley at Against the Grain Farms in Canada. They’ve been working on restoring old varieties of wheat and barley for the past 31 years and they’re looking to contact farmers and researchers who would like to collaborate in some participatory plant breeding.