Pulse diversity in India measured, precisely

by Luigi Guarino on December 7, 2016

I won’t argue, but I would like to know where the number comes from. Maybe it’s the number of accessions in the Indian genebank?

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Choosing the right things to measure in agriculture

by Luigi Guarino on December 7, 2016

How do you “shift the focus from feeding people to nourishing them”? According to a recent short article in Nature, there are ten things to do, and one of the, fixing metrics,

Take, for example, maize (corn). The trend is to convert much of what is (over-)produced into starch and sugar. In conventional agricultural analysis, the improvements in yield per hectare per year in intensive maize-production systems are usually presented as the main indicator of success. More maize for fewer dollars up-front is also considered an important contribution to food security.

The shortcomings of such a narrow focus is something we’ve talked about here before.

Calories are, of course, part of nutrition, but by no means the most important part over the long run. We have tables of recommended daily allowances for macronutrients like Calories (or their proxies) and for micronutrients. We could calculate nutrients per Calorie for different kinds of produce. We could even try to express productivity as the percentage of the RDA for all nutrients that would be provided by some area of land. We could do lots of things more sensible — and more difficult — than Calories per hectare.

Indeed we could.

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Biodiversity from Cancun to London

by Luigi Guarino on December 6, 2016

The 13th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity in going on right now in Cancun, Mexico, and the theme is mainstreaming biodiversity for well-being. The CGIAR centres are there both collectively and individually, mainstreaming away like mad, for example, on the agricultural side. But as I browsed through the draft decisions, what I was struck by was the repeated mention of biodiversity in cities:

6. [The COP] [a]lso encourages Parties, other Governments, relevant organizations and funding agencies to promote and support further research on health-biodiversity linkages and related socioeconomic considerations, including, inter alia, on the following issues:

(e) The contribution of biodiversity and the natural environment, including protected areas, in promoting mental health, particularly in urban areas

I’m not sure if urban biodiversity is a relatively new focus for the CBD, but it must offer lots of opportunities for mainstreaming. Cities are, after all, where most people live, so if you were going to make biodiversity part of as many people’s lives as possible, cities would be a good place to start. I bet crop wild relatives are not often seen as one such opportunity, and yet a website I’ve recently come across would suggest otherwise.

The London Tree Map shows the location of 700,000 street trees all over that particular metropolis. That includes a number of wild relatives of cultivated fruits, such as apples and pears.

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I don’t know about you, but a street lined with different wild apple species would do wonders for my mental health.

Anyway, there’s more coming out of Cancun every day, including a Declaration, and there’s a whole Twitter account for you to follow if you want to keep up to date.

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Smallholders are bigger than you imagine

30 November 2016

There’s an awful lot of talk about smallholder farmers and how they hold the keys to food security. Talk, but not a lot of solid data. So I was intrigued to discover a new paper1 that maps smallholdings and estimates their “contributions to global food production”. Bottom line: [S]mallholder-dominated systems are home to more than […]

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Why mixtures do well

30 November 2016

I bring you a nice photo, and even nicer quote, from Salvatore Ceccarelli’s Facebook page today. Salvatore has blogged for us in the past about his work on variety mixtures. In 2008, at ICARDA, we dusted off the old idea of evolutionary breeding to bring biodiversity back into farming systems. We made large, widely diverse […]

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Re-establishing ICARDA’s genebank

29 November 2016

One of the reasons I’ve been a bit behind with my blogging in the past month or so is that I’ve been doing a lot of travelling. It shouldn’t matter, you can blog from any hotel room with a half decent wifi connection of course, but the reality is that it can be difficult to […]

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Coconuts in the news

28 November 2016

Hot on the heels of my own short recent piece on the subject of the threats faced by coconuts, which took its inspiration from a Bloomberg article, comes a little note in The Atlantic, and a much fuller and better illustrated take on the story by someone who really knows the crop, Roland Bourdeix of […]

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CBN Variety Showcase organizer gets podcast treatment

28 November 2016

You remember our recent short blog post on the Culinary Breeding Network’s Variety Showcase? Well, you can now hear all about it on Jeremy’s latest Eat this Podcast, in which he talks to Lane Selman, the organizer. Want a teaser? How’s this? Many vegetables don’t taste of anything much these days, but whose fault is […]

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Brainfood: Sustainable ag, American ag diversity, Valpolicella and CC, Heritage textiles

28 November 2016

Diversification, Yield and a New Agricultural Revolution: Problems and Prospects. It’s not about the yield. Spatiotemporal Patterns of Field Crop Diversity in the United States, 1870–2012. It peaked in 1960. Like Elvis. Resistance and resilience to changing climate of Tuscany and Valpolicella wine grape growing regions in Italy. Should they ever decide to move those […]

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