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Crop diversity is needed today for tomorrow's food security and nutrition – Phys.org

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by The Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture

Bean diversity at the CGIAR gene bank in Colombia. Credit: Neil Palmer / CIAT

Although scientists have been ringing bells for more than 100 years about the decline of crop diversity in agriculture, questions about the magnitude, causes, and significance of this loss remain unanswered.

A team of 15 scientists from a wide range of research centers and universities set out 18 months ago to answer these persisting questions, resulting in the largest review ever conducted of evidence about change in crop diversity over time worldwide. The team reviewed hundreds of primary literature sources published over the last 80 years that examine potential crop diversity loss, also called “genetic erosion”. The global collaborative effort found that 95% of all studies reported diversity change, and almost 80% found evidence of loss.

Economic, agricultural, technological, climatic, and political changes during the last 100 years have together led to the decline or disappearance of diversity important to agriculture, both from cultivated fields and from wild habitats. Much of the crop diversity that remains continues to face the threat of erosion or even extinction, while also becoming more homogenous across local landscapes and around the world.

“The global picture that emerges from our review is that of enormous loss over a relatively short period of time of traditional agricultural diversity, which was nurtured by many cultures around the world over the last 10,000 years,” said lead author Colin Khoury, Senior Director for Science and Conservation at San Diego Botanic Garden and research scientist at the Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). “Yet the picture also provides hope, as considerable crop diversity persists, and because it shows that agriculture can be re-diversified.”

Khoury collaborated with scientists at international and national agricultural research centers in the U.S., Colombia, Germany, Italy, Mexico, and Peru, as well as universities including El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (Chiapas, Mexico), Ohio State University, Saint Louis University, the University of Arizona, the University of California at Davis, the University of Cambridge, and the University of Illinois to carry out the study, which published in New Phytologist as a Tansley review. This review series was named after the famous English botanist and ecologist Arthur Tansley, who coined the term ecosystem in 1935.

Crop diversity is a critically important resource for agriculture and for human nutrition. This diversity keeps crops productive as they face pests and diseases, provides resilience during extreme weather and other shocks and offers the potential to adapt to changing climates and meet new market demands. In contributing to crop productivity and also to dietary diversity, it underpins food security and nutrition.

“The magnitude of crop diversity loss we have seen in some regions of the world underscores the importance of conserving this diversity outside of these ecosystems as well as within them,” said Luigi Guarino, Director of Science at the Crop Trust, and one of the study’s authors. “Collections of crop diversity such as those in agricultural genebanks and botanic gardens can mitigate local and regional losses, enable the future reestablishment of diversity on farms, and preserve the availability of crops for future use by all. We need to strengthen these repositories and duplicate unique collections in other locations to insure against the risk of loss,” he said.

There are approximately 1,750 genebanks worldwide, maintaining over seven million samples of crop diversity, with , universities, nonprofits, community seed banks, and local conservation networks further contributing to ex-situ conservation. However, more work is needed to conserve the full range of diversity at risk of disappearing from farmers’ fields and, in the case of crop wild relatives, the wild progenitors and cousins of cultivated plants, from grasslands, forests and other natural habitats.

The study analyzed the change in the diversity of traditional crop varieties, or landraces, cultivated on farms; of modern crop cultivars in agriculture; of crop wild relatives in their natural habitats; and of crop genetic resources held in ex situ conservation repositories. The extent of change over time in these environments, while considerable, varied by crop, location, and analytical approach.

“The good news is that while we found evidence of enormous diversity loss over the past decades in each of the environments we studied, we also saw significant maintenance of that diversity in some contexts, and even marked increases in specific instances,” said Stephen Brush, second author for the study and Professor Emeritus of Human Ecology and former Master Adviser for International Agricultural Development at UC Davis.

Diversity of traditional crops remains high on farms and in gardens where landraces are valued for their unique agricultural and societal uses. One-third of the 139 studies of changes in traditional crop varieties reported the maintenance of this diversity over time, and almost one-quarter found evidence for the appearance of new diversity. Also, crop breeders have made significant strides toward diversifying modern crop cultivars in recent decades.

“For crop diversity to continue evolving alongside pests and diseases, in response to climate change, and to meet demands for improved that provide both economic products and ecological services, we need to redouble support for conservation efforts in situ, or in the field, as well as ex situ,” said co-author Allison Miller, Member and Principal Investigator at the Danforth Plant Science Center and Professor of Biology at Saint Louis University.

“In reviewing global change in the that underpins everyone’s food security and nutrition, it’s obvious that there has been major loss, but also that the tools, methods, and knowledge exist to stop its further erosion,” said Khoury. “It is a matter of priorities and resources. To go a major step further and start to reverse the diversity trend, though, is a much bigger task. It requires no less than reframing our food systems, and even the societies they nourish, as -supportive processes.”


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More information:
Colin K. Khoury et al, Crop genetic erosion: understanding and responding to loss of crop diversity, New Phytologist (2021). DOI: 10.1111/nph.17733

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The Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture

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Crop diversity is needed today for tomorrow’s food security and nutrition (2021, October 20)
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Scientists observe total solar eclipse in Antarctica – Global Times

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Scientists from the Chilean Union Glacier Station observe a total solar eclipse in Antarctica, Dec. 4, 2021.Photo:Xinhua

 
Scientists from the Chilean Union Glacier Station observe a total solar eclipse in Antarctica, Dec. 4, 2021.Photo:Xinhua

Scientists from the Chilean Union Glacier Station observe a total solar eclipse in Antarctica, Dec. 4, 2021.Photo:Xinhua

 

Scientists from the Chilean Union Glacier Station observe a total solar eclipse in Antarctica, Dec. 4, 2021.Photo:Xinhua

Scientists from the Chilean Union Glacier Station observe a total solar eclipse in Antarctica, Dec. 4, 2021.Photo:Xinhua

 

Photo taken from Chilean Union Glacier Station in Antarctica on Dec. 4, 2021 shows a total solar eclipse.Photo:Xinhua

Photo taken from Chilean Union Glacier Station in Antarctica on Dec. 4, 2021 shows a total solar eclipse.Photo:Xinhua

 

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Dinosaur Tail Found In Chile Could Point To Discovery Of New Species – NDTV

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Paleontologists have discovered 80 percent of the dinosaur’s skeleton.

Santiago:

Chilean paleontologists on Wednesday presented their findings on a dinosaur discovered three years ago in Patagonia which they said had a highly unusual tail that has stumped researchers.

The remains of the Stegouros elengassen were discovered during excavations in 2018 at Cerro Guido, a site known to harbor numerous fossils, by a team who believed they were dealing with an already known species of dinosaur until they examined its tail.

“That was the main surprise,” said Alexander Vargas, one of the paleontologists. “This structure is absolutely amazing.”

“The tail was covered with seven pairs of osteoderms … producing a weapon absolutely different from anything we know in any dinosaur,” added the researcher during a presentation of the discovery at the University of Chile.

The osteoderms — structures of bony plaques located in the dermal layers of the skin – were aligned on either side of the tail, making it resemble a large fern.

Paleontologists have discovered 80 percent of the dinosaur’s skeleton and estimate that the animal lived in the area 71 to 74.9 million years ago. It was about two meters (almost seven feet) long, weighed 150 kilograms (330 pounds) and was a herbivore.

According to the scientists, who published their research in the journal Nature, the animal could represent a hitherto unknown lineage of armored dinosaur never seen in the southern hemisphere but already identified in the northern part of the continent.

“We don’t know why (the tail) evolved. We do know that within armored dinosaur groups there seems to be a tendency to independently develop different osteoderm-based defense mechanisms,” said Sergio Soto, another member of the team.

The Cerro Guido area, in the Las Chinas valley 3,000 km (1,800 miles) south of Santiago, stretches for 15 kilometers. Various rock outcrops contain numerous fossils.

The finds there allowed the scientists to surmise that present-day America and Antarctica were close to each other millions of years ago.

“There is strong evidence that there is a biogeographic link with other parts of the planet, in this case Antarctica and Australia, because we have two armored dinosaurs there closely related” to the Stegouros, said Soto.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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Chinese Rover Exploring What Appears to Be Cube-Shaped Object on Moon – Futurism

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There’s a Moon cube now! At least, it looks that way based on some intriguing photos from the Chinese lunar rover Yutu-2, released by the country’s space agency this week.

The photos show a distant object that looks like a perfect cube, and China say the rover is headed to check it out.

It’s worth worth noting a few caveats about the photo, spotted yesterday by space journalist Andrew Jones, who described the formation as a “cubic shape.” For one thing, the object is just a few pixels in the photo, meaning it could easily be some sort of optical illusion that’ll be a disappointment up close.

And China has struggled with lunar science communication in the past. In 2019, Yutu-2 “discovered” a “gel-like substance” on the lunar surface, but upon closer inspection it turned out to be, well, rocks. It also trumpeted the discover of a “shard” on the Moon earlier this year, but that turned out to just be another interesting rock. Did we mention that there’s not a lot other than rocks on the Moon?

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Jones, for his part, is managing expectations.

“So yeah, it’s not an obelisk or aliens, but certainly something to check out,” Jones tweeted in followup.

The idea of alien artifacts on the Moon runs deep in popular culture — remember that one scene in “2001: A Space Odyssey”? — but, needless to say, none have been found in reality.

The apparent cube sits in the Von Kármán crater, and China’s space program has been dubbed it, evocatively, the “mystery house.”

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Yutu-2 will spend two or three lunar days traveling to investigate the cube; lunar days are about 50 minutes longer than solar days on Earth.

Jones speculated that the object could be a boulder carved out by an asteroid impact, and posted a photo of a similarly sharply defined boulder found previously on the Moon’s surface.

CNET’s coverage of the most recent discovery agrees with Jones’ analysis, saying the most likely explanation is that the Moon cube is a boulder.

That’s not to say Yutu-2 hasn’t ever found anything cool. In 2019, CNET reported the rover discovered that the Moon’s surface was made of different materials than we previously thought, a discovery that could better predict how Earth’s internal layers might change over time.

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We’re not saying there isn’t weird stuff on the Moon. After all, we just recently found enough buried oxygen under its surface to sustain billions of people. But suffice it to say we aren’t holding our breath over Moon cube, and if it turns out to be anything other than a rock we’ll be really impressed.

More on space: Scientists Discover Enormous Black Hole Right Near Our Galaxy

Care about supporting clean energy adoption? Find out how much money (and planet!) you could save by switching to solar power at UnderstandSolar.com. By signing up through this link, Futurism.com may receive a small commission.

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