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Heirloom crops and global warming

Summary:
The biggest near-term threat to human civilization from global warming is loss of fresh water and arable land for crops. It turns out that nature has confronted the challenges of increased temperature, increased salinity, disease resistance and violent weather. Recently, as strain of maize called “Jimmy Red corn” has been resurrected from a population bottleneck in which only two ears remained. Why should we care about Jimmy Red?“Jimmy Red dwindled because it’s not the kind of corn that is edible straight off the cob. It has to be dehydrated to extract its flavor and high oil content – ideal for making moonshine, but not valuable for large commercial farming.“Its value is in its genetics.“Heirloom grains, vegetables and fruits have developed traits

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The biggest near-term threat to human civilization from global warming is loss of fresh water and arable land for crops. It turns out that nature has confronted the challenges of increased temperature, increased salinity, disease resistance and violent weather.

Recently, as strain of maize called “Jimmy Red corn” has been resurrected from a population bottleneck in which only two ears remained. Why should we care about Jimmy Red?

“Jimmy Red dwindled because it’s not the kind of corn that is edible straight off the cob. It has to be dehydrated to extract its flavor and high oil content – ideal for making moonshine, but not valuable for large commercial farming.

“Its value is in its genetics.

“Heirloom grains, vegetables and fruits have developed traits that make them less vulnerable to climate change, Ward said, because they have been grown over hundreds of years in wildly different conditions.”

*snip*

“Ward has been growing Jimmy Red corn for a little more than a decade to better understand its viability and biosecurity, or how well it withstands disease. It can be grown with less water, Ward said, and requires less fertilization. Its root system is incredibly stable, making the plant less susceptible to falling over in storms – something Ward believes it developed from years of enduring strong coastal storms while growing on James Island, South Carolina.

“If the only plants that stay standing and bear fruit are the ones that (farmers) saved seed from, generations later, you have a plant with characteristics that withstand high winds,” Ward said.

“Knowing the genetic trait of Jimmy Red corn, Ward said, scientists can now breed that genetic code into other commercially grown corn varieties that have been susceptible to high winds.”

Not just corn, but grains vegetables and fruits that have been bred to harsher conditions over many generations can now be modified and cultivated to feed humanity in a harsher world.

Climate change and heirloom crops

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