Archive for the ‘alternative protein source’ Category

 EPPO Reporting Service no. 11 – 2022  Num. article: 2022/244

First record of sweet potato chlorotic stunt virus in the Netherlands

The NPPO of the Netherlands recently informed the EPPO Secretariat of the first finding of sweet potato chlorotic stunt virus (Crinivirus, SPCSV – EU Annexes) in sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) plants on its territory. SPCSV was found in September 2022 in two open fields in Noord-Brabant province (11.83 and 4.72 ha) and one in Limburg province (0.5 ha). The official survey was part of the Euphresco project ‘Phytosanitary risks of newly introduced crops’ (PRONC). Tracing back investigations to the origin of the finding showed that the sweet potato slips used for planting originated from a company in another EU Member State. Sweet potato is a new crop in the Netherlands. During the survey, plants with and without virus symptoms were sampled and tested. SPCSV was identified in several plants with virus-like symptoms (e.g. vein banding, discoloration, rings, dots). Additionally, in several of these symptomatic plants a second, non-EU listed, virus was identified: sweet potato virus G (Potyvirus, SPVG00). The mixed infection may have increased the severity of the observed symptoms.

Official phytosanitary measures have been taken. The companies have to report to the NPPO when all tubers of the Ipomoea batatas plants have been harvested and the total quantity thereof. All infected lots should be stored in a traceable manner, separately from other harvested lots. Only sales for consumption/industry are allowed, otherwise the lots have to be destroyed. The companies should report when the infected lots are sold or destroyed. The lots must be sold/destroyed before 31 March 2023. 

The pest status of sweet potato chlorotic stunt virus in the Netherlands is officially declared as: Transient, actionable, under eradication.


NPPO of the Netherlands (2022-10). https://english.nvwa.nl/topics/pest-reporting/pest-reports

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National Geographic


Ancient grains and “orphan crops” like fonio and amaranth have advantages for farmers and consumers

By Andrea Stone
for National Geographic

Once as popular as corn in Mexico, amaranth was more or less forgotten for centuries before its recent revival there and in other countries. Now, the crop’s edible seeds could be “the new quinoa.”

That is, unless teff—a tiny grass seed eaten in Ethiopia for millennia—becomes “the next quinoa.”

Then again, the “next quinoa” might just be fonio, a hardy cereal that’s been grown for thousands of years in West Africa.

Ever since quinoa was rediscovered a decade ago—launching a worldwide craze for the Andean grain that sent prices soaring so high that many Bolivians are now unable to afford their own staple crop—farmers, foodies, and marketers have been hunting for other forgotten “orphan crops” with global market potential.

There’s a lot more at stake than food fads. As the global population grows, climate change eats at farm yields, and food becomes more processed and less nutritious, sustainable agriculture advocates are looking to the past for healthy ways to feed the nine billion people expected to inhabit the world by 2050. (Read “Food Ark” in National Geographic magazine.)

They’re increasingly turning to grains that have been the basis of subsistence farmers’ diets in Africa, South Asia, and Central and South America since the time of earliest agriculture. Because such grains adapted to grow on marginal land without irrigation, pesticides, or fertilizers, they are often more resilient than modern commodity crops are.

And the grains have undergone little if any genetic tinkering, which is appealing to the growing organic and non-genetically modified food markets. Another selling point: These nutrient-rich, often gluten-free grains are considered by many health experts to be “superfoods” that can help people lose weight and live longer.

Benefits for Producers, Consumers

Take fonio. As the cost of imported rice has risen, a Senegalese nonprofit group called Environmental Development Action in the Third World is trying to expand the market in sub-Saharan Africa for this drought-resistant, protein-rich cereal, the continent’s oldest.

Though cultivated for more than 5,000 years, fonio is rarely eaten by city dwellers, who prefer wheat or rice. Yet the translucent, gluten-free grain—which has been found in ancient Egyptian tombs and is considered “the seed of the universe” in Mali’s mythology—can survive drought and needs no fertilizers.

Those qualities make fonio a good crop for developing nations in West Africa and elsewhere that are dealing with the fallout from climate change, which has withered or drowned crops as extreme weather events have multiplied.

Consumers in industrialized nations have their own reasons for trying heritage grains. Millet, sorghum, wild rice, and teff contain no gluten, a big selling point at a time when wheat intolerance and celiac disease are on the rise.

Ancient wheats such as spelt (also called farro), Khorasan, einkorn, and emmer also rate lower on the glycemic index, which measures how carbohydrates raise blood glucose. They also provide more protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals than commonly available grains do.

Quinoa alone has seen a fivefold rise in consumption in the past five years, according to the Whole Grains Council, an industry group. Chia, the seeds of a Latin American herb once known mainly as a novelty item that grew “fur” on terracotta “pets,” is gaining in popularity on kitchen tables as a topper for yogurt, cereal, and salads.

Sales of amaranth are soaring as well. The seeds have plenty of calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium, as well as protein and fiber. Yet the grain disappeared in Mexico five centuries ago, after Spanish conquistadors and the Catholic Church banned it because it was mixed with human blood in Aztec rituals.

Now, efforts are under way in Mexico, which was recently declared the world’s most obese country by the United Nations, to reintroduce the gluten-free seeds in hopes of encouraging a more healthy and sustainable diet.

Plants like amaranth are “resilient to drought, high temperatures, and disease, so they might be the crops of the future,” says Danielle Nierenberg, president of Food Tank, a think tank focused on sustainability. “It’s a case of where going forward means we need to go back.”

Nierenberg says many local, ancient grains were originally neglected by the so-called green revolution of the mid-20th century, which promoted hybrid commodity crops that “grew faster, grew bigger, and produced more yield.” With their relatively low yields, the ancient foods just couldn’t keep up.

Diversifying for Doomsday

Today, the world has more than 50,000 edible plants, yet just three commodity crops—rice, maize, and wheat—provide 60 percent of the plant-derived calories we eat. With such heavy reliance on so few foods, the consequences of crop failures due to disease, drought, floods, and other catastrophes that could be driven or exacerbated by climate change mean more food insecurity for the planet.

“This narrow food basket cannot sustain ever-growing populations,” says Stefano Padulosi of Bioversity International, a global research organization that helps smallholder farms grow and market neglected and underutilized species. “We must diversify.”

That impulse fueled the founding of Norway’s Svalbard Global Seed Vault, nicknamed the “Doomsday Seed Vault,” a repository deep inside an Arctic mountain that has set itself the ambitious mission of safeguarding seeds from every known species on Earth. (See “Doomsday Seed Vault’s New Adds: ‘Space Beer’ Barley, Brazil Beans.”)

Besides preserving common varieties, the vault has sought ancient seeds and wild crops that are particularly resilient to harsh conditions, which could come in handy in a worst-case scenario. For now, the seeds are being kept safely in the deep freeze.

Native American Rice

For North American Indians working to conserve and cultivate heirloom seeds that are closely linked to their history, identity, and health, the mission is more local but no less urgent.

Tribes in the American Midwest and Southwest are “reclaiming their own cultural resources as a way to deal with contemporary problems” like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, says Craig Hassel, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota’s Department of Food Science and Nutrition.

He works with the Anishinaabe nations of Minnesota, which, like other native tribes, suffer from some chronic diseases that were virtually unknown before they were exposed to European foods.

In recent years, the tribes have reached out to plant scientists at the University of Minnesota to relay concerns about the threat of genetically modified varieties of manoomin, their ancient wild rice. Manoomin is integral to Anishinaabe culture; their creation story tells of prophecies that instructed the tribes to move west in search of food that grows upon the water, like rice.

In 2007, Minnesota adopted legislation mandating research and an environmental impact statement before any field release of genetically modified organisms near tribal lands.

The move was welcomed not only by native peoples but also by their artisanal-minded clients, including the Common Roots Café and the Wedge Community Coop, both in Minneapolis.

Hassel, an extension nutritionist, understands the yearning for what he calls “food sovereignty” over the food supply.

“When Western science comes in,” Hassel says, “the response almost universally among indigenous communities is, ‘How can you perfect what is already perfect?'”

Jeff Hertrick contributed to this report.

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Could Insects Feed the Hungry World of Tomorrow?, BBC, July 10

More and more of the world is clamouring for protein. But our land and water resources are coming under increasing strain to farm enough beef, pork and chicken to feed everyone who wants to eat it. The answer might be wriggling around our feet: insects.

The practice of eating insects is age-old, with around two billion of us already deriving at least part of our diet from them. But in modern developed societies bugs are often shunned. As nations become richer, the traditional culinary route has been to consume more fast food and choice restaurant cuts, ignoring the valuable nutrition in insects such as mealworms and locusts.

But in an internet-connected age, knowledge about the science of insect protein production has spread. Andrew Brentano, co-founder of Tiny Farms in California’s Silicon Valley, believes there is growing attention around the issue of making edible bugs a significant food source of the future.

This could be particularly useful for developing countries, but Brentano says richer countries could also benefit from this alternative protein source – insects can be farmed in a relatively small space, even in a densely crowded city.

Andrew Brentano spoke to BBC Future at SXSW Interactive in Austin Texas.

Additional video and stills: Courtesy Tiny Farms Inc and BBC News archive

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