Friday, July 26, 2013

Wild Crop Cousins

"Wild cousins of 32 crops including wheat and sugarcane could add as much in $196 billion of value at the farm-gate level by boosting yields and resilience, according to research by PWC for Kew Royal Botanic Gardens.

The current value to farm crops from higher productivity and disease and stress resistance derived from wild relatives is now estimated at $42 billion for 29 of the world’s most important food crops and $68 billion when corn, soybeans and sugarcane are included, PWC wrote in an e-mailed report today.

Kew has set up the Millennium Seed Bank partnership to prepare for future climate change, and aims to store seed from 25 percent of the world’s plants suitable for saving by 2020. Between 60,000 to 100,000 plant species face a threat of extinction, according to Kew.

"Adapting agriculture to climate change is one of the most urgent challenges of our time," Ruth Eastwood, coordinator for Kew’s Crop Wild Relatives Project, was cited as saying in the statement. "Crop wild relatives are already being used to make improvements to our food crops right now, but they are underutilized."

These seed banks will be invaluable in my opinion.  Some seedsmen are having difficulty finding any seed that does not contain glyphosate.  When it rains, is it raining glyphosate?  The readings I am seeing tells me yes it is.

If you find pure seed, where can you grow it so it won't become contaminated?  I am not sure that is possible.  I am getting more and more questions from the public about GMO's and I can't answer their questions.  I can encourage them to shop at Farmer's Markets and produce all the food they can, even in a small garden.  Many won't take the time to do it like you and I do so they are dependent upon the food system to supply their food.

Seed banks will be very important to our children and grandchildren.

Learn more about growing food and how food is grown.  It behooves us to not take our food for granted.

Ed Winkle


  1. Monsanto won't like you for posting this!

  2. From wiki:

    In 2007 glyphosate was the most used herbicide in the United States agricultural sector, with 180 to 185 million pounds (82,000 to 84,000 tonnes) applied, and the second most used in home and garden market where users applied 5 to 8 million pounds (2,300 to 3,600 tonnes); additionally industry, commerce and government applied 13 to 15 million pounds (5,900 to 6,800 tonnes)

    That's alot! Too much of just about anything causes problems. One app per acre is enough, 2-4 apps on the same acre is not a best mgmt practice.

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  4. Farmers seem sure that if our current system fails us, Monsanto or others can lead us into a better one.

    It's obvious to me we rely on any one system too much when it seems to work so well.

    I am more interested about the real science behind it and it's long term sustainability.

    We've discussed organic to 90% GMO on this blog this week. Should we be somewhere in the middle of those two systems?

  5. Maybe farmers should take more ownership of where they want to go rather than letting such companies "lead" them. At least for the part they can control, such as farming practices. It would be good for their PR too, because the general public seems to be unaware of the massive shift to no-till or other conservation methods most farmers are using.

    A shift toward "organic farming" methods such as mechanical weeding, which does not cause resistance or tolerance and does not have any negative impact on the environment, is inevitable in the long term, and is really the only sustainable weeding technique. It won't happen before robotics advances make it possible and cheap enough, but it's tech companies and ag universities are already working on it. It will mean more trips in the field, so these will need to be lightweight solutions so they do not cause soil compaction. It also means that fuel needs to be revisited, because diesel is already expensive and polluting and unsustainable as it is with a reduced number of trips. Liquid hydrogen would probably be the best replacement, as its only emission is water, and it can be obtained from a number of sources such as cracking water (H2O) or biomethane or natural gas (CH4). The former seems to be the most sustainable and less polluting, especially if you live near the ocean.

    As for genetic engineering, it will be hard to reverse the damages that biotech companies have done to their own technology with their greedy practices. But I believe it has a future in agriculture, as long as it is driven by the needs of farmers and consumers rather than the wants of these corporations. I am watching closely what is happening on the wheat and stem rust front for Africa and Australia, for instance. I am not too keen on the trend to add amino acids or other nutrients to "enrich" the food, such as Golden Rice, as I think a diverse diet is preferable, but I am open, and it may still be a good idea for specific issues such as introducing true vitamin B12 in some crops for vegans.

    So yes, whether you call it organic or not, some of these practices will make their way to conventional farming, for the good of all.

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