Our readers will be happy to know that two open access research papers authored by our scientists have recently been published:
Frison, E.A.; Cherfas, J.; Hodgkin, T. (2011)
Sustainability 3 (1) p. 238-253.
Agricultural biodiversity has hitherto been valued almost exclusively as a source of traits that can be used in scientific breeding programs to improve the productivity of crop varieties and livestock breeds. We argue that it can make a far greater contribution to increased productivity. In particular, a wider deployment of agricultural biodiversity is an essential component in the sustainable delivery of a more secure food supply. Diversity of kingdoms, species and genepools can increase the productivity of farming systems in a range of growing conditions, and more diverse farming systems are also generally more resilient in the face of perturbations, thus enhancing food security. Diversity can maintain and increase soil fertility and mitigate the impact of pests and diseases. Diversity of diet, founded on diverse farming systems, delivers better nutrition and greater health, with additional benefits for human productivity and livelihoods. Agricultural biodiversity will also be absolutely essential to cope with the predicted impacts of climate change, not simply as a source of traits but as the underpinnings of more resilient farm ecosystems. Many of the benefits of agricultural biodiversity are manifested at different ecological and human scales, and cut across political divisions, requiring a cross-sectoral approach to reassess the role of agricultural biodiversity in sustainable and secure food production.
Trognitz, B.; Scheldeman, X.; Hansel-Hohl, K.; Kuant, A.; Grebe, H.; Hermann, M. (2011)
PLoS ONE 6(1): e16056. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0016056
Significant cocoa production in the municipality of Waslala, Nicaragua, began in 1961. Since the 1980s, its economic importance to rural smallholders increased, and the region now contributes more than 50% of national cocoa bean production. This research aimed to assist local farmers to develop production of high-value cocoa based on optimal use of cacao biodiversity. Using microsatellite markers, the allelic composition and genetic structure of cacao was assessed from 44 representative plantings and two unmanaged trees. The population at Waslala consists of only three putative founder genotype spectra (lineages). Two (B and R) were introduced during the past 50 years and occur in >95% of all trees sampled, indicating high rates of outcrossing. Based on intermediate allelic diversity, there was large farm-to-farm multilocus genotypic variation. GIS analysis revealed unequal distribution of the genotype spectra, with R being frequent within a 2 km corridor along roads, and B at more remote sites with lower precipitation. The third lineage, Y, was detected in the two forest trees. For explaining the spatial stratification of the genotype spectra, both human intervention and a combination of management and selection driven by environmental conditions, appear responsible. Genotypes of individual trees were highly diverse across plantings, thus enabling selection for farm-specific qualities. On-farm populations can currently be most clearly recognized by the degree of the contribution of the three genotype spectra. Of two possible strategies for future development of cacao in Waslala, i.e. introducing more unrelated germplasm, or working with existing on-site diversity, the latter seems most appropriate. Superior genotypes could be selected by their specific composite genotype spectra as soon as associations with desired quality traits are established, and clonally multiplied. The two Y trees from the forest share a single multilocus genotype, possibly representing the Mayan, ‘ancient Criollo’ cacao.