Sunday, March 01, 2009

Agricultural Food Research "USA ARS - BARC & NAL"Needs Stimulating

I have written, I suppose rather obtusely given the lack of any progress, on the need for fundamental, basic agricultural research of the infrastructure science variety. As a friend remarked recently, there have been no new food crops added to our menu in around 10,000 years. We therefore have to find ways to make what we have work with whatever the climate situation is at our time in history. But instead of funding this research in the next generation of food, we ignore the entire issue. Our National Agricultural Research Center , BARC, has lost almost half of its researchers in the last 20 years, and we continue to do nothing. Our National Agricultural Library, NAL, cannot even purchase foreign science journals to see what the rest of the world is doing. For some strange reason, we as a people think everything we need to know is on Google and that new crops can be had within an 18 month granting cycle at a university. We have lost our minds and soon, perhaps, our productive sources of food. I wonder if anyone is listening?

AGRICULTURE: World needs to breed climate-proof crops, experts say (Friday, February 27, 2009) The world has very little time left to develop new seed varieties to tackle climate change and stave off food shortages that could affect billions, experts said. People in Africa and Asia are most at risk from a lack of climate-proof crops, they said, speaking yesterday on the first anniversary of the opening of a "doomsday" seed vault on the island of Spitsbergen in the Norwegian Arctic. The vault, cut from icy rock 600 miles from the North Pole, opened on Feb. 26, 2008, and has doubled its holdings to 200 million seeds in the past year, representing 400,000 varieties. It is meant to be a fail-safe for national collections and to serve as a sort of Noah's Ark in case of a disaster such as nuclear war. The bank has the capacity to hold about 4.5 million samples, or 2 billion seeds. "We need some tremendous advances," said David Battisti, an atmospheric sciences professor at the University of Washington. "The whole world will be stressed at the same time" because of global warming. Crops can take a decade to breed and test. And crops cannot simply be moved to new areas as the climate warms because soils, pests, insect pollinators, daylight hours and other factors differ even if temperatures seem suitable (Alister Doyle, Reuters, Feb. 25). -- KJH

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