Five ancient (and new) drought-tolerant grains could help feed a warming world
Published: October 3, 2022
Category: Regenerative Agriculture, The Non-GMO Blog
Mono-cropping has neglected thousands of plant varieties with traits offering resilience against drought, epidemics, and natural disasters. Rice, wheat, and corn represent half the world’s calories, but increase soil erosion, plant-borne disease, and more. Four ancient crops and one new one—highly nutritious and drought-resistant—offer hope for our global warming crisis.
Amaranth, whose seeds resemble buckwheat or quinoa, contains all nine essential amino acids. Forbidden by Spanish colonizers to grow it, the Aztec and Mayans saved seeds for generations from the weed that survived. Now, Indigenous farmers in Guatemala, Mexico, and the U.S. are regenerating cultivation.
Fonio, a millet-like grain grown in west Africa, was known as the food of kings and chiefs. Gluten-free, low-glycemic, and successful in poor soil, it’s an important nutrition source for health conditions. Senegalese chef Pierre Thiam incorporates it in high-end restaurants using his African-sourced fonio brand Yolélé.
West African cowpeas, grown in the U.S. as “southern peas” or “black-eyed peas,” contain seeds, leaves, and pods that are good protein sources. At Tennessee State University, Matthew Blair is studying to introduce them in Latin America, as an alternative to pinto and black beans.
The root vegetable taro, native to tropical Polynesia and southeast Asia, is being adapted to grow in temperate regions as those countries’ climates get hotter. Chris Smith of the Utopian Seed Project (North Carolina) works with a team to grow eight taro varieties. It takes work, he said “to build that community and desire for that crop” when transplanting across the world.
Kernza, developed from an intermediate wheat grass, was introduced in 2019 as a perennial cereal crop that could become an alternative to annual crops like wheat—minimizing environmental impacts of grain production. Today nearly 4,000 acres of kernza are grown in Minnesota, Kansas, and Montana.
Source: The Guardian
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Organic & Non-GMO Insights October 2022