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 New gene for atrazine resistance identified in waterhemp
24.02.2017 | University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences

nachricht Researchers discover a new link to fight billion-dollar threat to soybean production
14.02.2017 | University of Missouri-Columbia

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: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>