Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The Terra Ficaria Prize: preserving and managing the plant world

19.01.2007
Cassava and all clonally propagated plants (reproduced from cuttings) allow farmers the possibility of selecting and propagating the best plants in their fields.

However, these copies of plants, made over several generations, bring a major risk: a reduction in genetic diversity, which can in turn lead to the loss of the plant's adaptability to its environment. Nevertheless, Amerindian communities have managed to preserve the biodiversity of the cassava they have been growing for thousands of years. The research conducted by Doyle McKey's team thus centred on observing and modelling cropping practices in Amazonia.

Clonal and sexual propagation, not forgetting ants…

"We already had a hunch about these good cropping methods, as a result of studies by anthropologists", Doyle McKey says right away. What was needed were field observations. With his students, he thus spent time with cassava farmers in Guyana and French Guiana proving that the hunch was right. The Amerindians combine reproduction from cuttings (clonal propagation) and from seed (sexual propagation) in their cassava plots. They let plants obtained from seed grow among others obtained from cuttings, before choosing the most vigorous, which they then include in their clone reserve.

Ants play a far from negligible role too, spreading cassava seeds through the soil. This applies to both wild populations of parent plants and the Amerinidian cassava fields. "A seed bank develops a few centimetres below the soil surface and remains dormant during the fallow period," says Doyle McKey, "after slash-and-burn, the seeds from the previous crop cycle germinate and a new genotype may be added to the clone reserve".

In Africa and Vanuatu

This mixed cassava reproduction system led researchers from CIRAD and the CNRS along various lines of study: ethnobotany and ecology in the field, followed by genetics to characterize the existing diversity and understand its dynamics. Research is now under way in Africa to compare the Amerinidian results with those obtained on different soils and with other cropping practices. Have African cassava growers developed similar practices of incorporating the results of sexual reproduction?

Doyle McKey is due to launch a research project on cassava in Vanuatu in July 2007, in conjunction with Vincent Lebot, who knows the country and its plant diversity well. Again, the aim will be to study the know-how held by farmers, who have a long tradition of growing other clonally propagated plants such as taro and yam. The scientists involved hope to find clues to how to maintain biodiversity in areas in which clonally propagated crops have been introduced. As Doyle McKey concludes, "it is up to us to find the synergy between our various observations and develop the clonally propagated crop reproduction method".

Doyle McKey teaches at the University of Montpellier II and works with the CEFE (Centre d’écologie fonctionnelle et évolutive) at the CNRS and with the CIRAD "Management of Genetic Resources and Social Dynamics" Research Unit.

Vincent Lebot is a researcher with the CIRAD "Genetic Improvement of Vegetatively Propagated Crops" Research Unit.

Jean-Louis Noyer is a researcher with the "Polymorphisms of Interest in Agriculture" Joint Research Unit (UMR PIA)

Helen Burford | alfa
Further information:
http://www.cirad.fr/en/presse/communique.php?id=240

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht The future of crop engineering
08.12.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie

nachricht Maize pest exploits plant defense compounds to protect itself
28.11.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie

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: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

Im Focus: Virtual Reality for Bacteria

An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications

Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...

Im Focus: A space-time sensor for light-matter interactions

Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.

The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...

Im Focus: A transistor of graphene nanoribbons

Transistors based on carbon nanostructures: what sounds like a futuristic dream could be reality in just a few years' time. An international research team working with Empa has now succeeded in producing nanotransistors from graphene ribbons that are only a few atoms wide, as reported in the current issue of the trade journal "Nature Communications."

Graphene ribbons that are only a few atoms wide, so-called graphene nanoribbons, have special electrical properties that make them promising candidates for the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

Blockchain is becoming more important in the energy market

05.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Making fuel out of thick air

08.12.2017 | Life Sciences

Rules for superconductivity mirrored in 'excitonic insulator'

08.12.2017 | Information Technology

Smartphone case offers blood glucose monitoring on the go

08.12.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>