Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Crop Narrowing

Here's an article about human stupidity: the shrinking number of crops grown in agriculture.  This is so obviously a bad idea that advice against it goes all the way back to "don't put all your eggs in one basket."  The more diverse an ecosystem, the healthier it is; the less diverse, the less healthy.  That's because pests and pathogens spread rapidly in dense populations, and worst of all in monocultures.  Furthermore, when lots of people plant the exact same cultivars across whole regions, anything that hits one can wipe out a huge portion of the produce.  When I was little we had a corn smut in Illinois, and lost about a third of the crop, because every field with the susceptible cultivar turned black and died.  I said, "That was stupid.  We should stop doing that so this doesn't happen again."  Decades later, the narrowing is even worse in some regards.

On the bright side, we haven't lost all diversity yet, and there are still influential levers within the reach of most people.  You can grow heirloom varieties, or buy them whenever you find them.  Creating a demand for wider diversity will encourage producers to sell it.  Just buying brown eggs helps, because it means stocking something like Rhode Island reds in addition to white leghorns.  Two is better than one.  If you can get pastured eggs from a mixed flock, so much the better.
Tags: food, gardening, news, science
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