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Farmers’ Bounty

Farmers’ Bounty: Locating Crop Diversity in the Contemporary World

Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 352
  • Book Info
    Farmers’ Bounty
    Book Description:

    Biological diversity is as crucial in agriculture as it is in nature, and it is equally important to the economic health of both industrial and nonindustrial societies. This book offers a sweeping assessment of crop diversity and the potential for its preservation. Stephen B. Brush develops a framework for investigating biological diversity in agriculture that focuses on the knowledge and practice of farmers, and he shows how this human ecology perspective can be applied to three global issues that affect crop resources.Brush defines the dimensions of crop diversity and outlines the essential questions surrounding it. He describes the techniques used to maintain diversity in major crops of three cradles of agriculture in which he has worked: potatoes in the Peruvian Andes, maize in Mexico, and wheat in Turkey. Finally, he explores the policy issues surrounding genetic erosion of crop varieties, conservation of crop diversity, and ownership of genetic resources.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13014-0
    Subjects: General Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables and Figures
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  6. 1 Encountering Crop Diversity
    (pp. 1-18)

    The diversity of crops is testimony to individual and collective creativity. The myriad forms of simple grains, fruits, and tubers are a singular human accomplishment and measure of social identity. As early as the fourth century B.C.E., Theophrastus (1916) described the distinguishing characters and geographic origin of the major wheat types of the Mediterranean area—hard and soft, naked and hulled, fall- or spring-sown, short season and long, Libyan, Pontic, Thracian, Assyrian, Egyptian, Sicilian. Since the latter half of the nineteenth century, the scope of crop diversity has become even clearer through systematic collection, recovery, conservation, and genetic analysis. Darwin...

  7. 2 A Naturalist’s View of Crop Diversity
    (pp. 19-45)

    Human knowledge about plants reaches across time and culture. Collectively, human cultures recognize tens of thousands of species of plants, thousands of edible plant species, hundreds of crops, and hundreds of thousands of varieties of crop species. Arguably there is no collective realm of human knowledge about plants that is more elaborate than the last level in this sequence. This knowledge is the means whereby distinct varieties of crops are identified and described, and this knowledge is the basis for selection, property, and exchange among farmers, crop breeders, and consumers. Recognition and management of crop varieties are part of a...

  8. 3 The Measure of Crop Diversity
    (pp. 46-69)

    Careful seed selection has been an imperative of human survival for three hundred generations, since people first developed the arts of producing food rather than gathering it. The similarity of routines and goals of seed selection overlays a pair of scientific puzzles that have challenged us for over a hundred years. Why is there so much variation within crop species, and why is this variation distributed unevenly among farming regions? Specifically, why are there 125,000 distinct types of wheat, 90,000 rice types, and 30,000 potato types (Plucknett et al. 1987), and why is the diversity of each of these crops...

  9. 4 Crop and Society in Centers of Diversity
    (pp. 70-97)

    The development of agriculture is one of the defining moments of human experience. Within a blink of human history, people in Asia, Africa, and the Americas began to produce food rather than to hunt and gather, and we are today the inheritors of changes wrought at that threshold. Between six thousand and ten thousand years ago, people in vastly different environments — dry mountains of Southwest Asia, humid tropics of Southeast Asia, steep Andean valleys—crossed the dividing line separating food production from hunting and gathering. Agriculture prepared the foundations of modern life: permanent settlements, economic specialization, written records, and large...

  10. 5 The Ethnoecology of Crop Diversity in Andean Potato Agriculture
    (pp. 98-126)

    The profusion of species and genotypes in centers of crop origins plays a dual role in modern science and agriculture. Diversity is a resource that crop scientists and farmers use to improve yields and meet the demands of increased population and changing environments. Diversity is also a key to understanding the ecology and evolution of crops and societies. Crops are both cultural and biological entities that have been shaped by hundreds of generations of farmers. In turn, crop plants have shaped cultures and landscapes. Understanding how farming cultures nurture crop diversity is obviously important to success in interpreting crop ecology...

  11. 6 The Farmer’s Place in Crop Evolution: Selection and Management
    (pp. 127-152)

    Two broad periods divide the modern inquiry about crop evolution. The first period lasted a century, from the mid-nineteenth century, when Darwin cataloged the diversity of domesticate crops and animals and De Candolle sought to identify regions of crop origins, to the mid-1960s, when the success of the Green Revolution signaled the importance of crop genetic resources and darkened their future in centers of diversity. At the midpoint of the first period, around 1920, the beginning of genetics and concerted crop improvement provided a backdrop to inquiries about crop evolution. Two general themes dominated this initial period: (1) where, how,...

  12. 7 Genetic Erosion of Crop Populations in Centers of Diversity: A Revision
    (pp. 153-174)

    Because domestication occurred in relatively limited areas and over a few generations, it created a genetic bottleneck that restricted the flow of naturally diverse germplasm from wild ancestors into crops. Nevertheless, overcoming this bottleneck and the accumulation of biological diversity in crop species following domestication are long-term and well-documented trends of crop evolution. The gradual addition of variation created rich pools of diversity during the innumerable generations of farming and the diffusion of crops away from their original homelands. Thus, crop evolution produced results within domesticated species that are similar to diversity between species arising from natural evolution in such...

  13. 8 The Ecology of Crop Diversity
    (pp. 175-193)

    Resting on an analogy between crops and natural communities such as forests, the concept of genetic erosion in agriculture is deceptively simple. The concept rests on sound and firmly established connections between species’ numbers, area, and habitat diversity. Like old growth forests falling beneath chain saws, traditional crops are swept aside by the tides of modernization—new technology, markets, and cultural homogenization. Crop replacement in Vavilov centers, like deforestation in the tropics, results in the loss of rare and endemic plants and perhaps the total disappearance of ancient populations and gene complexes. As noted in the previous chapter, it has...

  14. 9 Maintaining Crop Diversity On-Farm and Off
    (pp. 194-218)

    Collecting and experimentation are companions of the human fascination with plant diversity, and in many places the sporadic, individual search for exotic plants has been followed by more purposeful and organized efforts. Gardens exist everywhere to nurture and observe the results of plant collecting. Tribal shamans, professors, and royal gardeners have all been entrusted to protect and manage exotic and everyday plants that have been collected for display, study, and use. Posey (1985) reports that the Kayapó Indians of the Brazilian Amazon maintain gardens of crop varieties and medicinal plants. Salick, Cellinese, and Knapp (1997) found that Amuesha shamans’ gardens...

  15. 10 Rights over Genetic Resources and the Demise of the Biological Commons
    (pp. 219-255)

    The synthesis between Darwinian evolution and Mendelian genetics (Huxley 1942) transformed biological science and quickly impacted applied botany, particularly the nascent area of crop breeding. Understanding inheritance opened new approaches to crop improvement based on controlled crosses of pureline varieties (Poehlman 1995), and fusion with Darwinism fundamentally altered the perception of crop diversity and evolution. The synthesis pointed the way to a more systematic collection and use of genetic resources. After 1900, crop improvement programs took advantage of not only the understanding of the principles of inheritance but also the recognition that crop variation across environments and between populations is...

  16. (pp. 256-286)

    The Neolithic legacy of crop diversity in Vavilov centers is a dynamic system of protean human and biological components rather than a static inventory of genes or varieties. The evolution of both crops and cultures makes it all but impossible for the contemporary societies in Vavilov centers to be the same cultures or have the same crop inventories as those in Neolithic times. Likewise, it is improbable that today’s farmers or their crops are direct, lineal descendants of those times. Nevertheless, successive farming cultures in Vavilov centers have sustained the crop evolutionary system that began with domestication. The biological components...

  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 287-318)
  18. Index
    (pp. 319-327)