77 posts · 76,021 views
Gathering nuggets of information about agricultural biodiversity, widely construed. Some people call it agrobiodiversity.
Why are there no perennial grain crops? That’s the provocative question posed by a recent paper in Evolutionary Applications written by three scientists working at The Land Institute. Whose institutional mission, of course, is to breed just this sort of crop, on the assumption that they “could reduce soil erosion while maintaining production of food [...]... Read more »
Van Tassel, D., DeHaan, L., & Cox, T. (2010) Missing domesticated plant forms: can artificial selection fill the gap?. Evolutionary Applications. DOI: 10.1111/j.1752-4571.2010.00132.x
It must have sounded like a great idea at the time. Uganda’s Kibale National Park (KNP) is scenic, diverse, important for the largest bit of mid-elevation tropical rainforest remaining in East Africa it contains, with its primates — and short of cash. But it also has wild robusta coffee (Coffea canephora) in its forest, and [...]... Read more »
LILIEHOLM, R., & WEATHERLY, W. (2010) Kibale Forest Wild Coffee: Challenges to Market-Based Conservation in Africa. Conservation Biology. DOI: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2010.01527.x
Something just in from our occasional contributor Jacob van Etten.
Climate change will shift the limits of the suitable areas of many wild animals and plants, including crop wild relatives. Some species may adapt by gradually moving into areas which resemble their current home area. In other cases, no bridges exist to connect old and new [...]... Read more »
Gilman, S., Urban, M., Tewksbury, J., Gilchrist, G., & Holt, R. (2010) A framework for community interactions under climate change. Trends in Ecology . DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2010.03.002
One of the arguments in the organic-can-feed-the-world oh-no-it-can’t ding dong is about the total yield of organic versus non-organic. Organic yields are generally lower. One reason might be that, with a few exceptions, mainstream commercial and public-good breeders do not regard organic agriculture as a market worth serving. The increase in yield of, say, [...]... Read more »
JONES, H., CLARKE, S., HAIGH, Z., PEARCE, H., & WOLFE, M. (2010) The effect of the year of wheat variety release on productivity and stability of performance on two organic and two non-organic farms. The Journal of Agricultural Science, 148(03), 303. DOI: 10.1017/s0021859610000146
A somewhat cryptic comment a few days ago on a year-old post on domestication eventually led us to an intriguing 2007 article in The Times which we unaccountably seem to have missed the first time around. The article quotes liberally from a Journal of Archaeological Science paper which puts forward something of an unorthodox take [...]... Read more »
KEREM, Z., LEVYADUN, S., GOPHER, A., WEINBERG, P., & ABBO, S. (2007) Chickpea domestication in the Neolithic Levant through the nutritional perspective. Journal of Archaeological Science, 34(8), 1289-1293. DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2006.10.025
The average agricultural research paper describes some kind of formal experiment, whether in the lab or the research station or even farmers’ fields, and that is as it should be. To know if something really works, you need to be able to keep everything else the same. But there are experiments going on all the [...]... Read more »
Page, S., Karanja, D., Mbwaga, A., Letayo, E., & Nsemwa, L. (2010) The underlying cause of the 2009 sorghum failure in Kongwa district and its implications for Tanzania’s vulnerability to climate change. Food Security. DOI: 10.1007/s12571-010-0059-2
We are happy to publish this contribution from our reader Donald R. Strong of the Department of Evolution and Ecology, University of California, Davis.
Thailand is a cornucopia of agricultural biodiversity. Western visitors like me are astounded by the numbers of kinds, and sheer volume, of fruits and vegetables offered from the densely packed food carts [...]... Read more »
Amekawa, Y. (2010) Rethinking Sustainable Agriculture in Thailand: A Governance Perspective. Journal of Sustainable Agriculture, 34(4), 389-416. DOI: 10.1080/10440041003680254
It is well known that plant populations do best when they grow close to where they originally came from. A myriad reciprocal transplant experiments going back decades attests to the power of local adaptation. But how close is close? The question is of very real practical importance if you’re trying to restore a habitat. By [...]... Read more »
Travis, S., & Grace, J. (2010) Predicting performance for ecological restoration: a case study using Spartina alterniflora. Ecological Applications, 20(1), 192-204. DOI: 10.1890/08-1443.1
A reply to Walck & Dixon from Brian Forde-Lloyd, Nigel Maxted and Luigi Guarino.
In Walck and Dixon’s opinion (Nature 462: 721, 2009) it’s ‘time to future-proof plants in storage’, but how novel and useful is this idea? Few would argue with the principle that we need to maximise the range of genetic diversity conserved ex [...]... Read more »
The standard litany against the Green Revolution is that it failed to banish hunger because the technologies it ushered in were no use to small peasant farmers. Farmers with access to cash and good land did well, but poorer farmers on marginal land got nothing out of the revolution, and if they did somehow [...]... Read more »
Harwood, J. (2009) Peasant Friendly Plant Breeding and the Early Years of the Green Revolution in Mexico. Agricultural History, 83(3), 384-410. DOI: 10.3098/ah.2009.83.3.384
Slow Food is against standardization, right? Slow Food is for diversity, right? Well, sort of. That is certainly the rhetoric, but a paper by Ariane Lotti in Agriculture and Human Values suggests that the practice can be rather different.
Lotti, who’s something of an insider, analyzes one of Slow Food’s projects in detail and comes to [...]... Read more »
Lotti, A. (2009) The commoditization of products and taste: Slow Food and the conservation of agrobiodiversity. Agriculture and Human Values, 27(1), 71-83. DOI: 10.1007/s10460-009-9213-x
Just how far are we from the efficient and effective global system of genebanks that has been on the horizon since at least 1996? Maybe a little closer, thanks partly to efforts by the Global Crop Diversity Trust and Bioversity International to help all those myriad genebanks and their managers to forge a common [...]... Read more »
Khoury, C., Laliberté, B., & Guarino, L. (2010) Trends in ex situ conservation of plant genetic resources: a review of global crop and regional conservation strategies. Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution. DOI: 10.1007/s10722-010-9534-z
There’s a fascinating paper in last week’s Science Express from a heavyweight bunch of scientists and advisers in the UK, on “the challenge of feeding 9 billion people”. It makes some seriously interesting points, raising lots of questions (and far fewer answers, natch). And being as it is both very tightly written and behind [...]... Read more »
Godfray, H., Beddington, J., Crute, I., Haddad, L., Lawrence, D., Muir, J., Pretty, J., Robinson, S., Thomas, S., & Toulmin, C. (2010) Food Security: The Challenge of Feeding 9 Billion People. Science. DOI: 10.1126/science.1185383
I don’t know about you, but in my laziness I often catch myself making the assumption that a centre of crop origin is also one of crop diversity. That is of course sometimes the case, but by no means always, as Vavilov himself recognized. A recent open access paper in Diversity makes the point very [...]... Read more »
Clement, C., de Cristo-Araújo, M., d’Eeckenbrugge, G., Alves Pereira, A., & Picanço-Rodrigues, D. (2010) Origin and Domestication of Native Amazonian Crops. Diversity, 2(1), 72-106. DOI: 10.3390/d2010072
Speaking of evil plant breeders:
It is generally thought that continuous selection among crosses of genetically related cultivars has led to a narrowing of the genetic base of the crops on which modern agriculture is based, contributing to the genetic erosion of the crop gene pools on which breeding is based.
But this may be another faulty [...]... Read more »
Wouw, M., Hintum, T., Kik, C., Treuren, R., & Visser, B. (2010) Genetic diversity trends in twentieth century crop cultivars: a meta analysis. Theoretical and Applied Genetics. DOI: 10.1007/s00122-009-1252-6
Well, in terms of distance along the Earth’s surface, about 400 m per year on average, ranging from 80 m per year in mountainous regions to 1.26 km per year in deserts. That’s according to a new paper in Nature by Loarie et al. Compare that with figures of postglacial migration rates of ... Read more »
It is an incontestable fact that of 7100 named varieties of apples grown in the United States in the 1800s, 6800 are extinct, “no longer to be seen again” according to Cary Fowler.
Or, maybe not.
A press release gives an insight into a study on the Identification of Historic Apple Trees in the Southwestern United [...]... Read more »
Kanin J. Routson, Ann A. Reilley, Adam D. Henk, & Gayle M. Volk. (2009) Identification of Historic Apple Trees in the Southwestern United States and Implications for Conservation. Horticultural Science, 589-594. info:/
As the world discusses desertification and worries about the drought in East Africa, it’s as well to remember that it is livestock keepers that bear the brunt of these problems. A recent paper in Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment helps to quantify the size of the challenge.
It uses environmental and livelihoods data to map the [...]... Read more »
Cecchi, G., Wint, W., Shaw, A., Marletta, A., Mattioli, R., & Robinson, T. (2009) Geographic distribution and environmental characterization of livestock production systems in Eastern Africa. Agriculture, Ecosystems . DOI: 10.1016/j.agee.2009.08.011
A group of over 20 biodiversity experts from a slew of international conservation agencies have a paper out in Science bemoaning the state of the biodiversity indicators agreed in 2006. These indicators are important because they are supposed to be used to track progress towards fulfillment of the promise made by Parties under the Convention [...]... Read more »
Walpole, M., Almond, R., Besancon, C., Butchart, S., Campbell-Lendrum, D., Carr, G., Collen, B., Collette, L., Davidson, N., Dulloo, E.... (2009) Tracking Progress Toward the 2010 Biodiversity Target and Beyond. Science, 325(5947), 1503-1504. DOI: 10.1126/science.1175466
Good news for sun-loving Germans. By 2071-2080 parts of their country are going to have the climate that parts of Greece have now. That’s according to a paper in Plant Ecology which ran a bunch of climate change models for Europe. Have a look at the money map.
On the left are today’s Germany-like climates in [...]... Read more »
Bergmann, J., Pompe, S., Ohlemüller, R., Freiberg, M., Klotz, S., & Kühn, I. (2009) The Iberian Peninsula as a potential source for the plant species pool in Germany under projected climate change. Plant Ecology. DOI: 10.1007/s11258-009-9664-6
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