My latest over at the work blog is about forages, their genebanks, and my mother-in-law. Cows get a lot of bad press these days. They are blamed for climate change and deforestation and even unhealthy diets, as if it’s their
Our friends at ICRISAT have been busy describing their pearl millet collection, and their latest offering is a thorough analysis of the geographic distribution of morphological traits. That follows, among other things, a general review of the collection, and an
Our vault, where we store over 20,000 varieties of rare and heirloom seeds is critical to that mission. And the vault is failing. It has a crack in the floor, which could potentially lead to unstable temperatures and structural instability.
So you’re telling me that sixteenth century Italian gardeners selected long, thin squashes from among those brought back to Europe from the Americas (actually two different places in the Americas) in conscious imitation of the bottle gourds...
It’s hard to be a hipster these days. No sooner are you told that your quinoa habit is ruining the livelihoods of Bolivian farmers, that news comes along that your guacamole is contributing to deforestation in Mexico. Fortunately, data, and
My latest from the work blog: There seems to be a bit of an issue over at the Olympics with fast food marketing, but if athletes in Rio, or indeed spectators, want a simple, cheap meal that’s also healthy, and...
On 21 October 2013, the Italian phytosanitary service notified the European Commission (EC) that the plant pathogen Xylella fastidiosa had been detected in olive trees near Gallipoli, a tourist destination in Italy's southern region of Apulia (1). This xylem-limited bacterium is spread by insect vectors and causes disease in crops such as grapevines, citrus, coffee, and almond; various ornamentals; and trees such as oaks, elms, and sycamores. Because of the risks of X. fastidiosa being introduced, established, and spread throughout Europe, this species is a regulated quarantine pest. Yet, X. fastidiosa has been left unchecked and has marched northward, leaving destruction in its wake (see the photo) (2). The establishment of X. fastidiosa in Italy has been an agricultural, environmental, political, and cultural disaster.
The threat of X. fastidiosa to European and Mediterranean agriculture, forests, and ecosystems goes beyond specific crops such as grapevines or citrus. The current host range of this bacterium includes more than 300 plant species (3). Most of these species support some degree of pathogen multiplication without expressing symptoms. Susceptible hosts infected with X. fastidiosa often show disease symptoms only after months or years, although epidemics can spread fast and be devastating.
A phylogenetic study has shown that the genotype in Italy was likely introduced via contaminated plant material from Costa Rica (3). Several X. fastidiosa-infected coffee plants from Costa Rica have been intercepted at European ports since 2014, supporting this hypothesis (4). As a response, the EC in February 2014 approved European Union (EU) emergency measures aimed at preventing the introduction and spread of X. fastidiosa. Since May 2015, the import of coffee plants from Costa Rica and Honduras into the EU has been forbidden. Limiting the introduction of insect vectors is considered an easier task, but this is not possible for X. fastidiosa because any xylem-sap-sucking insect species can be a potential vector. Europe has few sharpshooter leafhopper species, the most important group of vectors in the Americas. However, various endemic spittlebug species (froghoppers) are also potential vectors of X. fastidiosa (3).
Trade is an important pathway in the introduction of plant pests and pathogens (5), and X. fastidiosa-infected plant material has likely been introduced via European ports on a regular basis. Given that biological and environmental conditions in Europe support X. fastidiosainfection, the question arises why the pathogen has not been reported previously. One possible explanation is that limited surveillance efforts missed previous introductions. Monitoring was one component of the EU emergency measures. After the French authorities started a systematic monitoring program for X. fastidiosa in 2014, they found 250 distinct infected areas in Corsica and several in the French Riviera. However, no disease epidemic has yet been noted in France, and the genotype of X. fastidiosa differs from that found in Italy.
Heady days for ancient DNA researchers. There have been two major papers in the past month looking at the DNA of Neolithic farmers. Back in June, a huge research consortium published “The genetic structure of the world’s first farmers” as
It’s clearly the season for major reports. Hot on the heels of AGRA’s status report on African agriculture, and IFPRI’s look at agricultural reasearch in Africa, both of which we Nibbled recently, there’s an IDS-Oxfam study into the effects of
A recent paper reported on the discovery of a bit of the barley genome where an allele from the wild relative, when homozygous, confers a 30% yield advantage over a popular German variety under saline conditions.1 That of course is
By now, of course, you know the difference between a true zucchini and a cocozelle. In the course of researching that little gem, I came across one of the stranger byways in the annals of pumpkin science.
To mark the IUCN World Conservation Congress, which starts tomorrow with a visit by President Obama, I have a post over at the work blog arguing (well, implying) that the biodiversity conservation community has got itself into a tangle dividing
Thanks a lot to Susan Bragdon for summarizing her latest paper for us. The Quaker United Nations Office has released a paper by Chelsea Smith and myself looking at the relationship between intellectual property (IP) and small scale farmer innovation.
I’ve been looking for an excuse to play around with the Database of Places, Language, Culture and Environment (D-PLACE), which “contains cultural, linguistic, environmental and geographic information for over 1400 human...
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