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 Increasingly severe disturbances weaken world's temperate forests
31.08.2015 | USDA Forest Service - Pacific Southwest Research Station

nachricht Sequencing of barley genome achieves new milestone
26.08.2015 | University of California - Riverside

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: Increasingly severe disturbances weaken world's temperate forests

Longer, more severe, and hotter droughts and a myriad of other threats, including diseases and more extensive and severe wildfires, are threatening to transform some of the world's temperate forests, a new study published in Science has found. Without informed management, some forests could convert to shrublands or grasslands within the coming decades.

"While we have been trying to manage for resilience of 20th century conditions, we realize now that we must prepare for transformations and attempt to ease...

Im Focus: OU astrophysicist and collaborators find supermassive black holes in quasar nearest Earth

A University of Oklahoma astrophysicist and his Chinese collaborator have found two supermassive black holes in Markarian 231, the nearest quasar to Earth, using observations from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

The discovery of two supermassive black holes--one larger one and a second, smaller one--are evidence of a binary black hole and suggests that supermassive...

Im Focus: What would a tsunami in the Mediterranean look like?

A team of European researchers have developed a model to simulate the impact of tsunamis generated by earthquakes and applied it to the Eastern Mediterranean. The results show how tsunami waves could hit and inundate coastal areas in southern Italy and Greece. The study is published today (27 August) in Ocean Science, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).

Though not as frequent as in the Pacific and Indian oceans, tsunamis also occur in the Mediterranean, mainly due to earthquakes generated when the African...

Im Focus: Self-healing landscape: landslides after earthquake

In mountainous regions earthquakes often cause strong landslides, which can be exacerbated by heavy rain. However, after an initial increase, the frequency of these mass wasting events, often enormous and dangerous, declines, in fact independently of meteorological events and aftershocks.

These new findings are presented by a German-Franco-Japanese team of geoscientists in the current issue of the journal Geology, under the lead of the GFZ...

Im Focus: FIC Proteins Send Bacteria Into Hibernation

Bacteria do not cease to amaze us with their survival strategies. A research team from the University of Basel's Biozentrum has now discovered how bacteria enter a sleep mode using a so-called FIC toxin. In the current issue of “Cell Reports”, the scientists describe the mechanism of action and also explain why their discovery provides new insights into the evolution of pathogens.

For many poisons there are antidotes which neutralize their toxic effect. Toxin-antitoxin systems in bacteria work in a similar manner: As long as a cell...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Networking conference in Heidelberg for outstanding mathematicians and computer scientists

20.08.2015 | Event News

Scientists meet in Münster for the world’s largest Chitin und Chitosan Conference

20.08.2015 | Event News

Large agribusiness management strategies

19.08.2015 | Event News

 
Latest News

Production research by Fraunhofer IAO honored with three awards at the ICPR 2015

31.08.2015 | Awards Funding

Single-Crystal Phosphors Suitable for Ultra-Bright, High-Power White Light Sources

31.08.2015 | Materials Sciences

Manchester Team Reveal New, Stable 2D Materials

31.08.2015 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>