Sunday, 30 November 2008

Great balls of vegetation

When not intoxicated with chicha another thing very noticeable in Cochabamba are the large numbers of little balls of vegetation that attach themselves to overhead electricity wires. I had never seen anything like it before. I also noticed the same 'balls' on some species of tree and initially thought it might be some type of witches broom but they were easily removed. After some enquiry and speculation it turns out they are some type of epiphyte belonging to the Bromeliaceae family (Tillandsia spp.) and apparently on Annex 3 of CITES!

Saturday, 29 November 2008

The Chicha Boys

It comes close to a pint of the black stuff on a Saturday afternoon down the pub, with the lads and a live game on telly. I've just spent the afternoon in Cochabamba sampling a variety of chicha with a cosmopolitan group. All were made from maize and blended with wine but I have been told that I can get chicha made from amaranth and quinoa around town also. Chicha crawl here I come!

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Healthy Food for All

The Healthy Food for All (HFfA) is an all Ireland, multiagency initiative which seeks to combat food poverty by promoting access, availability and affordability of healthy food for low-income groups on the island of Ireland. The Healthy Food for All Initiative was established in 2004, based on the findings of the research report Food Poverty and Policy, which was published by Combat Poverty, Crosscare and Society of St Vincent de Paul.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Coming home to roost

A newly published study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found that years of intensive inbreeding in commercial chickens has resulted in 50% or more of the genetic diversity in ancestral chicken breeds being absent in commercial pure lines. Alarming!

Blight on the landscape

While browsing in a bookshop I picked up a copy of 'Twelve Diseases that Changed the World' by Irwin Sherman. As a former plant pathologist and someone who has worked on Phytophthora, I was somewhat surprised to see that a plant disease had made it on to the list and the Irish potato famine at that. I'd been expecting a list of human diseases. After my surprise subsided I started to wonder how anyone actually works out the extent of these horrendous events and can list them in order of impact. Was the potato famine really the plant disease that had the greatest impact globally or is it only thought to be because those affected, or influenced, by it are the ones usually writing the history? I don't really know the answer to that but, deaths aside, I suppose the Irish potato famine would be hard to surpass in terms of how it shaped society, politics and culture.

The shape of things to come

My colleague Luigi over at the Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog has brought my attention to a wee bit of common sense in the EU.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Fort Eochla

The photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand specilaises in the most amazing aerial photographs. This one is of Dun Eochla fort on Inishmore Island, County Galway, built centuries ago on this island some 30 miles off the Irish coast. For centuries, the inhabitants of the Aran Islands have helped keep the soil fertile by regularly spreading a mixture of sand and seaweed on the rock to produce the thin layer of humus needed for farming. To protect their plots from wind erosion, the islanders have built a vast network of almost 7,500miles of low walls, which give the land the appearance of a vast mosaic. But how did he get up there? Certainly wasn't Ryanair.
Check out more of his incredible images here.

Urban tsunami coming to a field near you

LOCAL authorities need to stop planning on a piecemeal basis and start protecting "green infrastructure", such as parks, farmland and drinking water supplies close to cities, a leading ecologist has said. Read more.