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Lose Biodiversity, Increase Diseases?

Category(-ies): Plant Conservation , Plants, Food and Medicine

Thank you again to Claire Thompson, UBC BG work-study student, for contributing to Etaerio.

For the first time ever, scientists have linked a rise in infectious diseases with biodiversity loss and extinction. A team of seven researchers reviewed studies on newly discovered diseases, and have shown that emergence or reemergence of many diseases is linked to biodiversity loss. From one study in Amazonian Peru, it was found that the loss of structural diversity among trees resulting from deforestation caused higher densities of mosquitoes that transmit malaria. EPA Researcher Montira Pongsiri suggests that these findings may mark the beginning of a movement to bring epidemiology and ecology together.

Links and resources:

Posted by Daniel Mosquin at 3:35 PM


The Japanese Art of Gourmet Apples

Category(-ies): Botanical Art , Plants, Food and Medicine

Thank you to Claire Thompson, a UBC Botanical Garden work-study student, for providing this write-up. Claire writes:

The $150 apple? This article highlights photographer Jane Stevens' exploration of the Japanese craft of gourmet apple farming. Developed in the 19th century, this labour-intensive technique involves the meticulous work of farmers to produce the biggest and most beautiful apples. Farmers will tend to apples up to 12 times before cultivation, hand turning and using specialized techniques to increase their sugar content and produce delicious and uniform fruits for sale in Japanese markets.

From the University of Cincinnati Magazine, continue reading: Perfect to the Core.

Posted by Daniel Mosquin at 3:47 PM


"A Guardian of Grasses"

Category(-ies): Plant Discoveries , Plants, Food and Medicine

Researchers from Purdue University and the USDA's Agricultural Research Service have discovered that many of the world's grass food crops (e.g., corn, barley, rice, rye) depend on the Hm1 gene or one of its homologues (genes similar in structure and evolutionary origin) to prevent death from a leaf blight and mold disease caused by the fungus Cochliobolus carbonum race 1 (CCR1). As the abstract for the scientific article states, "Given the devastating ability of CCR1 to kill maize, these findings imply that the evolution and/or geographical distribution of grasses may have been constrained if Hm1 did not emerge."

Grasses' Guardian Gene Found via the USDA's Agricultural Research Service.

Sindhu et al. 2008. A guardian of grasses: Specific origin and conservation of a unique disease-resistance gene in the grass lineage. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA. 105(5): 1762-1767. 10.1073/pnas.0711406105

Posted by Daniel Mosquin at 3:37 PM


Bamboo, Rats and Famine

Category(-ies): Plants, Food and Medicine

Flowering of a ubiquitous bamboo, Melocanna baccifera, in the Indian state of Mizoram occurs in roughly fifty year cycles. This mass flowering event results in the production of innumerable bamboo seeds and, subsequently, a boom in the population of rats. The mass population of rats eat more than the bamboo seeds, however — food crops are devastated causing famine and political unrest.

Bracing for a famine caused by rats via the BBC (April 2007)

Bamboo puts India on famine alert via the BBC (October, 2004)

Indian farmers braced for rat plague via the Telegraph (May, 2007)

Bamboo in Mizoram via the Bamboo Development Agency

Posted by Daniel Mosquin at 9:47 AM


Svalbard International Seed Vault

Category(-ies): Plant Conservation , Plants, Food and Medicine

The design for the Svalbard International Seed Vault, a “Living Fort Knox”, has recently been shared. Three million seed samples of the world's agricultural crops will be stored in the Arctic vault, due to be completed in 2008. The vault will be The seed vault will be built inside a mountain on Spitsbergen, an island one thousand kilometres north of mainland Norway.

Thank you to Stannous F and Aussiebob@UBC Botanical Garden Forums for suggesting the link!

Posted by Daniel Mosquin at 5:06 PM


Discoveries from the Past

Category(-ies): Plants, Food and Medicine

The study of a 252 year old text on the plants of Ambon (an Indonesian island) has resulted in the discovery of a new potential antibiotic. The (increasingly rare) atun tree (Atuna racemosa) of Indonesia contains a compound that has been shown to kill certain types of methicillin-resistant bacteria.

17th-Century Remedy; 21st-Century Potency from The New York Times

Thanks to David Brownstein for sending along the link!

Posted by Daniel Mosquin at 11:06 AM


Woolly Weed Whackers

Category(-ies): Plants, Food and Medicine

How does one suppress weeds, improve the soil and save money in a vineyard? The answer might be sheep.

Vintners' Solution to Weeds: an Attack by Mild Animals from the Los Angeles Times

Thanks to “Junglekeeper” on the UBC Botanical Garden Forums for pointing out this story.

Posted by Daniel Mosquin at 4:14 PM


Venezuela Pushing Organic Agriculture

Category(-ies): Plants, Food and Medicine

How Green Is That Garden?With Oil Revenue, Venezuela is Pushing Organic Agriculture. Via E/The Environmental Magazine.

Posted by Daniel Mosquin at 1:07 PM


Doomsday Seed Bank

Category(-ies): Plant Conservation , Plants, Food and Medicine , Snippets

One hundred countries have backed a “doomsday seed vault”, deep inside a frozen arctic mountain on the Norwegian island of Svalbard. The vault, guarded by polar bears and steel airlock doors, is planned to contain seeds of all the world's crops, as an insurance against global catastrophe.

Work Begins on Arctic Seed Vault – BBC

Fort Knox For Seeds via The Little Garden weblog.

Posted by Daniel Mosquin at 10:17 PM


Ripe for Change: Agriculture's Tipping Point

Category(-ies): Climate Change , Plants, Food and Medicine

“Conventional and sustainable agriculture have long debated the question: what kind of agriculture works best for both people and nature? Then suddenly, as in any good drama, while the forces of good and evil are having it out, something happens to raise the stakes. Now, lumbering onto center stage comes a real monster, global warming, and the conflict shifts from being about how we feed ourselves to whether we survive at all.”

Ripe for Change: Agriculture's Tipping Point, an essay from Claire Hope Cummings for World Watch Magazine

Posted by Daniel Mosquin at 11:16 AM