Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Preserving biodiversity can be compatible with intensive agriculture

07.02.2013
Preserving genetically diverse local crops in areas where small-scale farms are rapidly modernizing is possible, according to a Penn State geographer, who is part of an international research project investigating the biodiversity of maize, or corn, in hotspots of Bolivia, Peru and Mexico.

Hotspots are areas where cultivation of peaches and other non-traditional crops has exploded over the past decade, noted Karl Zimmerer, professor and head of the Department of Geography, and where small-scale farms are often female-run and have been previously regarded as marginal to mainstream agriculture.

"Peach-growing in central Bolivia is a vitally important income-generating strategy, even while farmers also desire and succeed in producing their Andean maize, both for eating and seed, as well as some sale," said Zimmerer, whose findings were recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researcher analyzed small-scale farm, or smallholder, landscapes and their farming and livelihood practices, including labor migration and irrigation issues, from 2000 to 2010 over three areas within Bolivia's Valle Alto region. Farmers had low-to-moderate incomes by national standards.

Zimmerer and his colleagues surveyed land use among 174 smallholder households to assess production inputs and outputs of maize and peach crops. Among the factors they examined were farm-level management, varietal choices and water and soil management. Zimmerer designed this data collection and analysis to use with high-resolution satellite imagery and Geographic Information Systems. These techniques enabled him to create geographic models, maps and estimates of the areas devoted to intensified peach- and maize-growing.

Zimmerer also interviewed diverse groups of land users and officials to determine similarities and differences of perspectives on biodiversity in changing farming and food systems.

In addition to determining the compatibility of traditional plants, or landrace, diversity and intensified agriculture, Zimmerer also addressed important links between migrant communities and smallholder farms.

"Many of these farmers rely on money sent back home from relatives abroad, primarily in the United States and Spain," he said. "This money is key to the farmers' ability to run successful smallholder farms and grow high agrobiodiversity maize."

The farmers' families tend to become better educated, and local non-profit groups currently supporting food security, health, and agrobiodiversity see the migrants as potential major allies for their projects and policies they advocate, according to Zimmerer.

"Migrants are adept at global and other long-distance opportunities on the one hand, and still well aware of the value of their local agrobiodiversity traditions on the other hand," he said. "The migrant communities also are developing international outlets for these products. For example parched or toasted maize and a kind of popular fermented beverage from Bolivian maize are both readily available in Washington, D.C., and in northern Virginia, where there is a community of 60,000 Bolivians."

In recent years, several prominent summits on ecological concerns have identified biodiversity in agricultural ecosystems as a major sustainability issue with implications for food security, conservation, health and well-being and adaptation to such global concerns as climate change.

"Sustainable development is crucial in Bolivia and other places in hotspots worldwide," Zimmerer said, "since it's these landscapes and peoples' livelihoods there that will ultimately determine the fate of humankind's global centers of biodiversity and agrobiodiversity in particular--unequalled and unique types of many major food plants, as well as minor and increasingly familiar ones. Sustainable development means protecting the future of these environments through the social-ecological systems in which they exist and change."

Maize agriculture, for example, is both a subsistence crop -- ideal for helping to ensure food security, which is most important among the rural poor -- and a cash crop.

"Women farmers, food-preparers and small-scale commercial processors are vitally important as those responsible for a majority of the management and knowledge of the diverse types of maize," Zimmerer noted, "and they have the highest levels of expertise in this knowledge and management."

Zimmerer's project included activities with Bolivian non-governmental organizations, and faculty and institute colleagues at Penn State and the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Grants from the Biocomplexity and Human-Social Dynamics programs at the National Science Foundation supported the research.

Melissa Beattie-Moss | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.psu.edu

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Kakao in Monokultur verträgt Trockenheit besser als Kakao in Mischsystemen
18.09.2017 | Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

nachricht Ultrasound sensors make forage harvesters more reliable
28.08.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Zerstörungsfreie Prüfverfahren IZFP

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The fastest light-driven current source

Controlling electronic current is essential to modern electronics, as data and signals are transferred by streams of electrons which are controlled at high speed. Demands on transmission speeds are also increasing as technology develops. Scientists from the Chair of Laser Physics and the Chair of Applied Physics at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have succeeded in switching on a current with a desired direction in graphene using a single laser pulse within a femtosecond ¬¬ – a femtosecond corresponds to the millionth part of a billionth of a second. This is more than a thousand times faster compared to the most efficient transistors today.

Graphene is up to the job

Im Focus: LaserTAB: More efficient and precise contacts thanks to human-robot collaboration

At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.

Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Nerves control the body’s bacterial community

26.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Four elements make 2-D optical platform

26.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Goodbye, login. Hello, heart scan

26.09.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>