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 How algae could save plants from themselves
11.05.2016 | Carnegie Institution for Science

nachricht Biofeedback system designed to control photosynthetic lighting
10.05.2016 | American Society for Horticultural Science

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: Worldwide Success of Tyrolean Wastewater Treatment Technology

A biological and energy-efficient process, developed and patented by the University of Innsbruck, converts nitrogen compounds in wastewater treatment facilities into harmless atmospheric nitrogen gas. This innovative technology is now being refined and marketed jointly with the United States’ DC Water and Sewer Authority (DC Water). The largest DEMON®-system in a wastewater treatment plant is currently being built in Washington, DC.

The DEMON®-system was developed and patented by the University of Innsbruck 11 years ago. Today this successful technology has been implemented in about 70...

Im Focus: Computational high-throughput screening finds hard magnets containing less rare earth elements

Permanent magnets are very important for technologies of the future like electromobility and renewable energy, and rare earth elements (REE) are necessary for their manufacture. The Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials IWM in Freiburg, Germany, has now succeeded in identifying promising approaches and materials for new permanent magnets through use of an in-house simulation process based on high-throughput screening (HTS). The team was able to improve magnetic properties this way and at the same time replaced REE with elements that are less expensive and readily available. The results were published in the online technical journal “Scientific Reports”.

The starting point for IWM researchers Wolfgang Körner, Georg Krugel, and Christian Elsässer was a neodymium-iron-nitrogen compound based on a type of...

Im Focus: Atomic precision: technologies for the next-but-one generation of microchips

In the Beyond EUV project, the Fraunhofer Institutes for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen and for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF in Jena are developing key technologies for the manufacture of a new generation of microchips using EUV radiation at a wavelength of 6.7 nm. The resulting structures are barely thicker than single atoms, and they make it possible to produce extremely integrated circuits for such items as wearables or mind-controlled prosthetic limbs.

In 1965 Gordon Moore formulated the law that came to be named after him, which states that the complexity of integrated circuits doubles every one to two...

Im Focus: Researchers demonstrate size quantization of Dirac fermions in graphene

Characterization of high-quality material reveals important details relevant to next generation nanoelectronic devices

Quantum mechanics is the field of physics governing the behavior of things on atomic scales, where things work very differently from our everyday world.

Im Focus: Graphene: A quantum of current

When current comes in discrete packages: Viennese scientists unravel the quantum properties of the carbon material graphene

In 2010 the Nobel Prize in physics was awarded for the discovery of the exceptional material graphene, which consists of a single layer of carbon atoms...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Networking 4.0: International Laser Technology Congress AKL’16 Shows New Ways of Cooperations

24.05.2016 | Event News

Challenges of rural labor markets

20.05.2016 | Event News

International expert meeting “Health Business Connect” in France

19.05.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Fast, stretchy circuits could yield new wave of wearable electronics

30.05.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Roadmap for better protection of Borneo’s cats and small carnivores

30.05.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Rosetta’s comet contains ingredients for life

30.05.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>