Wild about grains and global warming

This makes me wonder, since most of the world’s food supply is from cultivated grains, as opposed to wild ones, and since yields have been increasing thanks to selective breeding programs, fertilizer use, and better farming practices, where’s the problem?

From the University of Haifa, Wild cereals threatened by global warming:

wild-emmer-wheat-smallWheats and barleys are the staple food for humans and animal feed around the world, and their wild progenitors have undergone genetic changes over the last 28 years that imply a risk for crop improvement and food production, reveals a new study. “The earliness in flowering time and genetic changes that are taking place in these important progenitor wild cereals, most likely due to global warming, can negatively affect the wild progenitors. These changes could thereby indirectly deteriorate food production,” says Prof. Eviatar Nevo of the Insitute of Evolution at the University of Haifa who directed the study.

Wheats are the universal cereals of Old World agriculture.The progenitors, wild emmer wheat and wild barley, which originated in the Near East, provide the genetic basis for ameliorating wheat and barley cultivars, which as earlier studies have shown, are themselves under constant genetic erosion and increasing susceptibility to environmental stresses.

The new study set out to examine whether the wild cereal progenitors are undergoing evolutionary changes due to climate change that would impact future food production. It was was headed by Prof. Nevo, along with Dr. Yong-Bi Fu from Canada, and Drs.Beiles, Pavlicek and Tavasi, and Miss Khalifa from the University of Haifa’s Institute of Evolution, and recently published in the prestigious scientific journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” (PNAS).

Ten wild emmer wheat and ten wild barley populations from different climates and habitats across Israel were sampled first in 1980 and then again at the same sites in 2008 and grown in a common greenhouse. The results indicated that over the relatively short period of 28 years, all 20 wild cereal populations examined, without exception, showed a dramatic change in flowering time. All populations sampled in 2008 flowered, on average, about 10 days earlier than those sampled in 1980. “These cereal progenitors are adapting their time of flowering to escape the heat,” Prof. Nevo explains. The study also found that the genetic diversity of the 2008 sample is for the most part significantly reduced, but some new drought-adapted variants appeared that could be used for crop improvement. “The ongoing global warming in Israel is the only likely factor that could have caused earliness in flowering and genetic turnover across the range of wild cereals in Israel. This indicates that they are under environmental stress which may erode their future survival,” says Prof. Nevo. “Multiple effects of the global warming phenomenon have been observed in many species of plants and animals,” he adds. “But this study is pioneering in showing its infuence on flowering and genetic changes in wild cereals. These changes threaten the best genetic resource for crop improvement and thereby may damage food production.”

A number of species did show positive adaptive changes resulting from global warming, such as earliness in flowering or migration into cooler regions. “But overall,” says Prof. Nevo, “the genetic resources of these critical wild cereals are undergoing rapid erosion – and cannot be dismissed as a concern for future generations. Wild emmer wheat is the world’s most important genetic resource for wheat improvement, and it is up to us to preserve it. We are utilizing our gene bank at the Institute of Evolution for transforming genes of interest to the crop. However, a much more extensive effort needs to be made to keep the natural populations thriving, by preventing urbanization and global warming from eliminating them”.

[UPDATE] I trust Anthony won’t mind my expanding on this a bit.

Man, I hate garbage studies like this. I go to look at the temperatures they are using. Of course it’s paywalled, but the Supplementary Online Information (SOI) is here. Figure S4 in the SOI shows the temperatures that they used.

There are several strange things about this figure. One is that the title says “Fig. S4. The mean annual temperatures over nine stations in Israel (Source: Goldreich 2010),” but the left axis says “Mean (min temp.) deg.”. Which is it? Well, I went to look at the GISS data, and near as I can tell … it’s neither. Here’s what GISS has for Jerusalem, versus what they say:

Note that the temperatures according to GISS are about two degrees cooler than according to Nevo et al. Also, GISS never heard of most of those sites, and has very, very different values for the sites in common, with different years missing and much less data. For example, the R2 between their Jerusalem data and the GISS data shown above is a pathetic 0.25 … Why? I haven’t a clue.

Shabby, shabby work. Their figures don’t even agree with themselves, much less with external data.

w.

 

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72 Responses to Wild about grains and global warming

  1. Ric Werme says:

    All populations sampled in 2008 flowered, on average, about 10 days earlier than those sampled in 1980. “These cereal progenitors are adapting their time of flowering to escape the heat,”

    That or taking advantage of the longer growing season. 1980, of course, was the last “local minimum” when the PDO flipped positive.

    However, a much more extensive effort needs to be made to keep the natural populations thriving, by preventing urbanization and global warming from eliminating them”

    I’m not clear how preventing urbanization keeps populations thriving. In the US, suburbia is not good terrain for wild grains. Perhaps he meant to reduce the urban population without increasing it elsewhere. A new dimension to the climate change wars….

  2. “most likely due to global warming,”

    If I had made such an assertion and left it dangling unsupported, as Prof. Nevo has done above, I would have been sent packing from my PhD defence. Or from any of the journals to which I submitted work for publication. This kind of assertion, however, runs rampant in the climate meme department, and is the major difference I see in ‘science’ over the last twenty years or so. What makes it “most likely”? The answer to that question is completely absent, and, unfortunately the most central to the issue, yet Nevo escapes through the back door without the slightest hint of an explanation. I honestly can’t figure out how people get away with stuff like this…yes, pal review, yadda yadda, but how??

  3. Brian H says:

    OMG. Occam & I say the likely cause of earlier flowering is a genetic trigger that responds to warmth and other correlates of the start of growing season. Some funding agency(cies) has (have) FAR too much money to burn (probably rushing to spend everything before budget y/e).

    Flimsy, pathetic junk in print.

  4. Robert Schapiro says:

    This article is ridiculous. To suggest that global warming is now wiping out ancient grains misses a glaring point – The climate is always changing from glacial to interglacial periods and any species that can’t adapt to these changes would have disappeared a long time ago. So how did these grains get to be ancient? Obviously by adapting! Earlier flowering is a perfect adaption to the warmer climate that ended a decade ago. No doubt the next 28 years will reveal a return to late flowering which will panic a new crop of pseudo scientists all over again.

  5. Bob says:

    So, we have an example of plants in a narrow geographic region adapting (evolving?) to weather patterns (and arguably, changing climatic conditions) and the Institute of Evolution is worried about genes not remaining static? Did they compare historical gene differences from other warm periods or do they assume that these plants have not evolved or their evolution has ceased? If wild grain genetic material were that important, I’m sure folks would be cultivating it and storing the seeds.

  6. Ian W says:

    So if we are to understand things correctly, a very small change in temperature has led to flowering times 10 days earlier over ~30 years? Perhaps this may be a reaction to changes in the comparative frequencies in sunlight such as the changes in ultra-violet. Surely, the fact that these changes have been so fast though is more likely to be epigenetic than genetic? 30 years is only 30 generations which unless there was a mass ‘die off’ would not appear to allow a large genetic change.

  7. Nerd says:

    The interesting thing about GMO wheat is that they may be worse than the original ones for our health. http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/saturated-fat/wheat-belly/ For people with heart disease or/and diabetes, wheat flour based foods are the worst ones to eat…

  8. ozspeaksup says:

    PNAS must have had need of page filler. calling this research?
    every plant in my garden changes time of sprouting yearly, the overnight temps and rain etc all have a bearing.
    the heat claim will take a beating right now.
    snow in Damascus lebanon etc gore must be nearby?

    and funny how the GM green revolution crowd forced farmers to ditch their OLD heritage grains to grow hybrid hidependency fertiliser etc crops.
    so they lost heaps of seriously good genetic stock for the greed of corporations.
    and now those same companies TAKE natural hardy adapted grains to tinker and claim as their own.

  9. Chuck L says:

    I’d say this study is on par with the one that suggests man will get smaller as a result of global warming.

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/02/23/they-shrink-horses-dont-they/

    And my reaction today is the same as it was then:

    Really?

  10. Brian H says:

    To all above, except Ian W., who gets it, there is no need or justification to invoke “adapting” or “evolving”. An internal trigger, as I posted above, that responds to regionally relevant clues and cues is far more parsimonious and likely.

    If anything, evolutionary pressure is currently reinforcing the survival value of that trigger.

  11. evanmjones says:

    Where is Lysenko when you need him?

  12. Oldseadog says:

    Here in Falkirk my snowdrops have flowered about a week later than four years ago, and it has been milder this winter than the last two.
    Maybe they are reacting to the weather.
    Or the climate.
    Or the rainfall.
    Where can I apply to for a research grant?

  13. Steve Keohane says:

    I don’t see the warming in Israel*, Eliat:
    http://climate.unur.com/ghcn-v2/622/40199-zoomed.png
    Y-axis is 10-60°C
    *Maybe it’s the tele-connected ‘Global Warming’ that is causing the effects they see. /sarc

  14. mwhite says:

    “which as earlier studies have shown, are themselves under constant genetic erosion and increasing susceptibility to environmental stresses.”

    Yet they have survived several million years worth of glacial to interglacial climaticc shifts.

  15. d says:

    “These changes could thereby indirectly deteriorate food production” is my favorite line. “Could”, “may” , ” most likely due too”, are all over this article. Just one more example of how anyone can make money if you do any “research” on global warming

  16. dtbronzich says:

    Everyone has brought up great points so far. This isn’t a science paper, it’s an op/ed piece.
    Israel is an awfully small region to select for a study on grain, and what about cross pollination with non native modern species? How do you find a pristine sample that hasn’t been modified by monsanto? This article speaks of “genetic erosion” but offers no proof, instead just launches into blooming times, a natural process unlinked to genetic damage……….This article is rubbish on many different levels. It’s a page 4e column filler in a local paper.

  17. kelly b says:

    “Ten wild emmer wheat and ten wild barley populations from different climates and habitats across Israel were sampled first in 1980 and then again at the same sites in 2008 and grown in a common greenhouse.”

    what about the grains still in the “wild”

  18. DirkH says:

    Brian H says:
    February 26, 2012 at 5:41 am
    “To all above, except Ian W., who gets it, there is no need or justification to invoke “adapting” or “evolving”. An internal trigger, as I posted above, that responds to regionally relevant clues and cues is far more parsimonious and likely. ”

    Yes. The plant species have survived warm periods before. They have genetic programming genetic programs to handle that and activate it when needed.

  19. Jim Cripwell says:

    Prof. Nevo writes “most likely due to global warming”

    Shades of Tom Lehrer’s Vatican Rag. “First you get down on your knees,…………and Genuflec, Genuflec, Genuflec, Gebuflec.”

  20. bubbagyro says:

    As a scientist who has been a reviewer for major publications, I would have rejected this paper for a variety of reasons. Poor science, poor writing. ‘Nuff said.

  21. DirkH says:

    I’m confused, the press release says some of the species undergo genetic erosion and a loss of genetic diversity. But the release doesn’t say how they found out. Did they sequence the genomes of the specimen? Did they check for epigenetic changes (methylation pattern)?

  22. JP says:

    One can make statistics fit their own way of thinking. Here in Northern Indiana or Southwest Michigan, one can look at any number of growing seasons the last 30 years where crops flowered late. Rainfall, as well as late spring frost are to blame. And even during periods of warmer weather during the planting season farmers many times are late getting their crops planted due to rains.

    But the Upper Mississippi Valley isn’t the world. Perhaps we could look at the flowering of hop plants in Washington or the Hallertauer region of Bavaria. But, then again things like sunlight and precipitation can affect how quickly hop plants grow.

    Finally, hybrid drought resistant grains grow very well under hot, dry conditions. But, all it takes is one severe late spring frost to destroy thousands of acres of wheat and barley fields. A cool, damps summer could also reduce their yields by as much as 30%.

  23. commieBob says:

    This calls for another study. ;-)

    What happened during previous warm periods (MWP for instance)? That which is happening now is not unprecedented. ie. If the grains are undergoing a genetic change due to global warming, the same thing probably happened during the MWP. If it didn’t, then we can’t blame any changes on warming per se.

    What we do know is that genes move between domesticated plants and wild plants. If wild plants are undergoing rapid genetic change, it is likely that it is because of the local density of domestic grain.Wild Crop Relatives – Genomic and Breeding Resources: Oilseeds By Chittaranjan Kole

  24. bubbagyro says:

    JP:
    Not only those points you make, but also soil trace elemental composition grossly determines outcomes. For example, boron deficiency in soil, which is not replenished by fallowing or supplementation, will greatly influence yields. Essential elements such as magnesium are also rate limiting and influence growth and yield. There is no effort in the paper to assess total composition of soils to isolate these many variables. Not that they could, BTW. What happens when you have more variables than equations? As we have seen with the warm-earthers, very creative storytelling—nothing else.

    Next we can mention co-existing organisms, beneficial and maleficent, such as nematodes and bacteria, that are parasitic, or symbiotic, or synergistic (e.g. nitrogen-fixing bacteria).

    Next, I can imagine polar bears evolving wings so they can fly away from ice-free areas to Antarctica! I can imagine it, therefore it is possible! This is what I call iPod-Google Think.

  25. Bill Illis says:

    US Corn and Wheat prices going back to 1850 – nominal and real adjusted for CPI.

    Wars have an influence, the Russian crop failures of the early 1970s cause a large increase, sometimes irrational exuberance takes over the market. Otherwise, technology is slowly driving the cost down in real inflation-adjusted terms. Not really much of a climate effect, maybe the 1930s.

    http://img24.imageshack.us/img24/1465/cornwheatnominalprices1.png

    http://img600.imageshack.us/img600/6817/cornwheatrealprices1850.png

  26. More Soylent Green! says:

    I guess the climate has always been the same, at least since these species of wild grains first appeared?

  27. pat says:

    He lost this case as soon as he introduced the “green house”.

  28. Jere Krischel says:

    The real problem is that humans shouldn’t be eating wheat.

    http://www.wheatbellyblog.com/

    Now, if we can use all that extra grain, and raise a bunch of healthy livestock (I know, grass fed cow is best), maybe we can convert the world to a healthy animal fat and protein diet.

  29. commieBob says:

    Jere Krischel says:
    February 26, 2012 at 8:40 am

    The real problem is that humans shouldn’t be eating wheat.

    The author of Wheat Belly isn’t the only one saying we shouldn’t be eating wheat. Wheat and rice are beginning to cause horrible problems in India. Times of India

  30. john s says:

    To argue about the findings of this study is to miss the point. Thirty years ago when i was in University there was a great deal of concern in some circles regarding the loss of wild grains. However, there was no support for research in the area, hence no money. This is an old cause, looking to cash in on the global warming bonanza, just like two thirds of the (previously) orphan scientific fields of study. All they added to the 30 year old concern were the words ‘global warming’.
    I was at the local university a while back and was amused and dismayed to find uncoming lectures on topics from psychology to biology and aboriginal studies (humanities?), all related to global warminging in one way or another. I suppose it should be no surprise. With an ever increasing population of clueless grad students struggling to find theses, global warming is like a catch-all for the uninspired. A catch-all with tons of money no less!

  31. Matt G says:

    Comparing one years crop (1980) with another years (2008) has nothing to do with global warming or even representive of the local climate. One years crop is affected by weather during the growing season that year and has very little to do with anything else. Comparing samples between 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 would give very different results depending on the weather affecting the crop. Then to speculate global warming will wipe out crops based on just 2 different years cherry picked from one country, is just science at it’s worse.

  32. u.k.(us) says:

    Bob says:
    February 26, 2012 at 5:20 am
    …..”If wild grain genetic material were that important, I’m sure folks would be cultivating it and storing the seeds.
    ======================
    Just as an FYI, someone already thought of that.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Svalbard_Global_Seed_Vault

    “The Svalbard Global Seed Vault (Norwegian: Svalbard globale frøhvelv) is a secure seedbank located on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen near the town of Longyearbyen in the remote Arctic Svalbard archipelago, about 1,300 kilometres (810 mi) from the North Pole.[1] The facility preserves a wide variety of plant seeds in an underground cavern………………”

  33. EH says:

    Absolutely right, Canuckland! I wonder where the strong defense of EVOLUTION is by many scientists who subscribe to it? Such folks can’t accept the reality of evolution, apparently. With constant interference in the mechanisims of evolution to “correct” what EVOLVES, no matter what the state of the climate, man dooms himself. When will the press begin to challenge the “possibilities” of the AGW propogandizers of every stripe, including SO CALLED CLIMATE SCIENTISTS, as to the fallacy of their conclusions, which they openly state as “most likely…”, or “may…”, or “could…”, “is estimated…”?

  34. DirkH says:

    john s says:
    February 26, 2012 at 9:32 am
    “All they added to the 30 year old concern were the words ‘global warming’.”

    Very well explained here.

  35. pk says:

    these guys don’t seem to realize just how big wheat is. wheat makes coal look puny in the railroad world. and most “civilians” don’t realize just how big or important it is because it is shipped in cars and trucks that are covered so they don’t know just what is moving.

    having lived in “wheat country” for the formative years of my life i would speculate that if a shorter growing cycle is being deliberately bred into the various wheats its’ to reduce the exposure to hail damage.

    C

  36. sophocles says:

    I have a cherry tree. It was planted in 1987. In 1993, it flowered for the first time. Now it flowers about 7 to 10 days earlier than it first did. It certainly doesn’t look environmentally stressed: it’s still growing vigorously, flowering profusely and has plentiful foliage with what appear to my untrained eye to be healthy leaves.

    Auckland (NZ) is too far south to grow viable banana trees. They will grow, but up to a couple of decades ago, they tended to be stunted and set very little fruit. Although I’m not a trained botanist, I’ve always regarded these characteristics to be because the plant was environmentally stressed.

    In recent years, I have noticed banana trees growing more vigorously to much greater heights and setting much more fruit. Admittedly, the bananas are still small, but they are now edible. Is this environmental stress?

    Perhaps my cherry tree’s earlier flowering is because it can? We certainly haven’t had any late hard frosts over the last decade … which would stress it. Perhaps the greater growth of the banana palms and their improved setting of fruit is because they can.

    Perhaps plants maintain their own timetables by responding to light, CO2 and temperature changes? Perhaps this global warming is actually good for plants.

  37. Brian H says:

    Domestic wheat has a larger genome than humans. There’re lots of tricks hidden in there!

  38. Willis Eschenbach says:

    I’ve added an update to the head post.

    w.

  39. higley7 says:

    ““The ongoing global warming in Israel is THE ONLY LIKELY FACTOR that could have caused earliness in flowering and genetic turnover across the range of wild cereals in Israel. ” [capitals, mine]

    These are blithering idiots! They have no right to claim to know anything about plants!

    Higher CO2 makes many plants more temperature tolerant and able to grow and bloom earlier than otherwise. In addition, they are more efficient with water and nutrient utilization!

    The fact that they focus single-mindedly on global warming indicates to me either a poor education and lack of mature thinking, or a political agenda—they tied it to global warming and supported the agenda, so more funding please.

    In the UK, flowering plants have been flowering 2 weeks earlier than previously and, as the temperature has not changed from the time when they bloomed “normally,” the only change is in the CO2 supply. Duh!

  40. higley7 says:

    The authors seem to suggest that a constant input of original genetic material is needed for good crops. Since, when? Are our corn crops going to disappear if Zea mays disappeared? I think not—it’s not like they are quantum-entangled or such.

    They also, as has been alluded to above, seem to think that gene pools are static. So, shall we ask where they gained their education in molecular biology, population genetics, and genetic drift? Maybe they only read the first chapter and decided they had enough buzz words to suit them.

  41. Philip Bradley says:

    I live in a similar climate to Israel (Perth Western Australia, we are perhaps 2C to 3C warmer than TA), and have what we call grass verges along two sides of my house.

    I can tell you categorically that water availability is what determines when grasses grow in this climate. Temperatures have little effect.

    If the study’s finding of earlier flowering is sound then I would look at changes in water availability, specifically groundwater availability. I know Israel draws a lot of groundwater from wells.

  42. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    Why couldn’t it be that the increased atmospheric CO₂ is making them sprout faster? If it is making plants grow faster at other stages, why not at the germination stage? Why wouldn’t the extra plant food signal to the seed it’s a good time to start sprouting, even if it is still slightly cooler than the same time of year in 1980 when there was less atmospheric plant food?

  43. Philip Bradley says:

    Brian H says:
    February 26, 2012 at 5:41 am
    “To all above, except Ian W., who gets it, there is no need or justification to invoke “adapting” or “evolving”. An internal trigger, as I posted above, that responds to regionally relevant clues and cues is far more parsimonious and likely. ”

    I agree, and a rather startling error from an ‘Institute of Evolution’.

    The grasses would have evolved a very long time ago to respond to climactic changes over a number of seasons by flowering earlier or later.

    Indeed, the speed with which they do this and the range of flowering times would be an interesting indicator of past climate variation.

  44. higley7 said @ February 26, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    The authors seem to suggest that a constant input of original genetic material is needed for good crops. Since, when? Are our corn crops going to disappear if Zea mays disappeared? I think not—it’s not like they are quantum-entangled or such.

    ROFL! Interesting that you chose Zea mays for your example — it’s er… anthropogenic. I wonder if the alarmists would be fighting tooth and nail to prevent its use were it developed today, rather than thousands of years ago.

  45. Philip Bradley says:
    February 26, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    Brian H says:
    February 26, 2012 at 5:41 am
    “To all above, except Ian W., who gets it, there is no need or justification to invoke “adapting” or “evolving”. An internal trigger, as I posted above, that responds to regionally relevant clues and cues is far more parsimonious and likely. ”

    I agree, and a rather startling error from an ‘Institute of Evolution’.

    The grasses would have evolved a very long time ago to respond to climactic changes over a number of seasons by flowering earlier or later.

    Indeed, the speed with which they do this and the range of flowering times would be an interesting indicator of past climate variation.

    The presence of betaine in grasses would be an indicator also — of colder conditions. While originally extracted from beets (hence its name) this substance confers cold resistance. We have used the extract here in Tasmania to confer frost resistance in buckwheat and other crops. All muck and mystery and unscientific according to some around here just because it wasn’t a synthetic from Monsanto, but there you go.

  46. johanna says:

    The term ‘genetic erosion’ means what? Have they lost some chromosomes or something? Note the elision of A Bad Thing (erosion) with ‘genetic’ to create A Scary Concept.

    As PPs have said, where is the evidence that they have identified meaningful changes to the genomes of these plants over 30 years? And if they did identify them, where is the causation trail that leads to rising temperatures as the sole cause (assuming the temperatures did rise significantly, which is also debatable).

    This is not a study; it’s a colander.

  47. johanna said @ February 26, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    This is not a study; it’s a colander.

    Respectfully disagree. They appear to have flushed any useful information down the drain, rather than retaining it; an inverse colander perhaps?

  48. Philip Bradley says:

    The term ‘genetic erosion’ means what?

    It means loss of genetic diversity.

    I agree about the new scary term, replacing a widely used and perfectly acceptable, but not scary enough, existing term.

    I think I’ll coin the term ‘Gramscian Science’ to describe this.

  49. Philip Bradley said @ February 26, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    The term ‘genetic erosion’ means what?

    It means loss of genetic diversity.

    I agree about the new scary term, replacing a widely used and perfectly acceptable, but not scary enough, existing term.

    I think I’ll coin the term ‘Gramscian Science’ to describe this.

    And that loss is usually taken to mean the displacement of heirloom varieties by modern hybrids, not loss of genes in a particular strain.

    Care to explain what you mean by ‘Gramscian Science’? That went rather over my head… What on earth have chickpeas to do with this?

  50. RACookPE1978 says:

    Lettuce assume that this paper is correct: That certain “genes” have been (selectively advanced and retarded) due to changes in the earth’s global (average) temperature (but only as measured at this one location.)

    Then, since temperature HAVE increased since the mid-1850’s, these “researchers” MUST establish that

    (1) the changes noted are solely and uniquely due to changes in temperture and NOT due to those measured changes in CO2, water, humidity, night time high temperature/low temperatures,mid-day high/low temperatures changes, fertilizer, and cloud cover/humidity that have occurred since 1850 at that location ….

    (2) the(rate of) changes supposedly discovered STOPPED occurring when temperature stopped increasing in 2000. Further, since these “researchers” supposedly detected a change in genetic structure was caused by a change in temperature, then the rate of change in those genetic changes must track temperature (since 1850 – or their baseline). That is, did the changes slow when temps dropped between 1940 and 1970? Did the rate increase between 1915 and 1940?

    Or did they just find a single change? And then extrapolate that single change to global warming?

  51. Rational Db8 (used to post as Rational Debate) says:

    Wait a second – They start off repeatedly talking as if early flower is a BAD THING. Then at the end of the article it is mentioned as being one of the positive or beneficial changes? WUWT???

    Also, it sounds as if the 28 year old seed was grown in the same greenhouse at the same time as the new seed…. if so, and this coming from vague and quite possibly incorrect memory, I was under the impression that old seed no matter how well stored typically degrades with time and is less robust in terms of early growth, flowering, etc.??

    Now, if I’m off on that base assumption, e.g., that both sets of seed were being grown together, then we’d have to see the actual study, but I’d like to know how they managed to accurately control for differences in soil nutrients, CO2 levels, watering, etc., etc.

  52. Byron says:

    (Sarc on)
    The same grains flower six months earlier when grown in the southern hemisphere so that must mean…………..Oh no ! It`s worse than We thought , THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE MUST BE WARMING FASTER !!!!
    (Sarc off)

    Or it could just be , as previous commenters have suggested , that plants are genetically “programed” to react to changing conditions , AS DO ALL LIVING THINGS because every “old” species that has exists MUST have survived the the Younger Dryas cold period and the holocene optimum , nevermind previous glacials and interglacials . Nevermind that the difference in the flowering times between old and new seed could simply be down to the obvious that regardless of how well it is stored , seed is still fertillized plant ovum and that it changes over time as it is still alive but dormant ….NOT inanimate .

  53. Rational Db8 (used to post as Rational Debate) said @ February 26, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Wait a second – They start off repeatedly talking as if early flower is a BAD THING. Then at the end of the article it is mentioned as being one of the positive or beneficial changes? WUWT???

    Yeah… go figure :-) In any absolute sense, early (or late) flowering is neither good, nor bad. Early flowering means a longer growing season and for many crops that equates to higher yield. If flowering occurs while there are frosts, then early flowering is a bad idea. Many crop flowers are sensitive to being frozen. It’s a horses for courses thing.

    Also, it sounds as if the 28 year old seed was grown in the same greenhouse at the same time as the new seed…. if so, and this coming from vague and quite possibly incorrect memory, I was under the impression that old seed no matter how well stored typically degrades with time and is less robust in terms of early growth, flowering, etc.??

    Seed at optimum moisture content and sufficiently low temperature can be kept for a very long time indeed. I have been having problems obtaining my favourite cauliflower seed and it’s a bit of a pain generating seed, so I have stashed some. There’s a good into to the topic here:

    http://www.seedcontainers.net/a_guide_to_long-term_seed_preservation.html

  54. Byron said @ February 26, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    (Sarc on)
    The same grains flower six months earlier when grown in the southern hemisphere so that must mean…………..Oh no ! It`s worse than We thought , THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE MUST BE WARMING FASTER !!!!
    (Sarc off)

    Thanks for the laugh mate :-)

  55. Ian H says:

    What annoys me most about this is the “heads I win tails you lose” aspect of he conclusions.

    We see here plants adapting well to (apparently) increased temperatures by flowering earlier to take advantage of the longer growing season. It is being reported as potentially dangerous genetic change threatening the viability of these crops. OUR FOOD SUPPLY IS AT RISK!!!!

    So what would the conclusion have been if the plants did not flower earlier? Do you think they would have said ” these plants are unaffected by climate change so our food supply is safe”. No? Perhaps you suspect like me that the conclusion would have been more along the lines of “these plants failed to adapt rapidly enough to increased temperatures showing that they will not be able to handle rapid climate change”. OUR FOOD SUPPLY IS AT RISK!!!! Indeed I suspect this is the conclusion the study was designed to elicit and the business about genetic change is a somewhat weak last minute replacement when the results didn’t quite come out as expected.

    “Heads I win, tails you lose”. No matter what happened in the experiment it would have been spun as evidence of a potential climate catastrophe.

  56. John Kettlewell says:

    Here’s the release with contact info which the above direct UofH link does not: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-02/uoh-wna022312.php

    here’s a report, only 14 pages, I came across on a quick Bing of “wild cereal flowering” from Journal of Experimental Biology: http://www.niab.com/uploads/files/Cockram_2007.pdf

  57. John Kettlewell said @ February 26, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    here’s a report, only 14 pages, I came across on a quick Bing of “wild cereal flowering” from Journal of Experimental Biology: http://www.niab.com/uploads/files/Cockram_2007.pdf

    Thanks; that was interesting. I had no idea that early wild cereals were biennial :-)

  58. Kasuha says:

    Well… it actually takes just one bad year for something like that to happen. One bad year with a large heat wave at exactly the right time which prevents most of the “late” flowering wheat to reproduce, and next year almost all what’s left flowers 10 days earlier. Something like 1998 comes onto mind, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be the one, we all know heat waves can come anytime. You even don’t need any net warming for that.

  59. David Cage says:

    How about the equally likely possibility they were adapting to the dramatic changes in water usage in the area and not the temperature anyway. This is one thing I keep on hearing about how you have to mention temperature and climate change to fund a study even if you think the cause is something else.

  60. Philip Bradley says:

    What I mean by ‘Gramscian Science’ is the use of non-neutral words and phrases in scientific publications to influence and frame the debate, or manipulate the debate toward some political goal.

    For example, replacing the fairly harmless sounding ‘climate change’ with the scary sounding ‘climate chaos’.

    Most regulars here know the climate is a chaotic system, but it sounds bad to the manonthestreet.

  61. Philip Bradley said @ February 26, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    What I mean by ‘Gramscian Science’ is the use of non-neutral words and phrases in scientific publications to influence and frame the debate, or manipulate the debate toward some political goal.

    Thanks Philip. Gits can be a bit thick sometimes.

  62. John Marshall says:

    Does this research show that climates change, as we know that they do, or that plants adapt to their environment, as we know they do, or what?

    Not the most productive piece of work.

  63. Mickey Reno says:

    Follow the money. These guys know if they wave their hands around while warning about CAGW they stand a much better chance of being funded.

  64. AC says:

    I’ve only skimmed, but I’m getting a “what’s the point?” feeling on all this. I once heard a envrio person claim that 10K+ years ago man lived on like 1000’s of grains and today he lives on 20 world wide…. hrm… maybe because those 20 were easy to domesticate? And then the “we don’t want modified food” people tick me off because they are all like ‘we want it natural’ well ever since the ag revolution of abotu 10K years ago, it hasn’t be ‘natural’ mankind had modifed through selective breeding and later GM for more desirable traits in his food.
    What is my point? I’m not sure I have one either I guess. :)

  65. aaron says:

    So, no mention of growth, repoduction rate, and yield.

  66. MarkW says:

    ozspeaksup says:
    February 26, 2012 at 5:29 am

    How pray tell, did the GM crowd “force” farmers to give up the grains that they used to plant?
    Did govt pass a law outlawing the use of historic grains or something?

  67. MarkW said @ February 27, 2012 at 9:46 am

    ozspeaksup says:
    February 26, 2012 at 5:29 am

    How pray tell, did the GM crowd “force” farmers to give up the grains that they used to plant?
    Did govt pass a law outlawing the use of historic grains or something?

    No, but plants are promiscuous. If bees, or wind carry patented genes into your crop, you break the law when you save your own seed. If your market is for GMO-free produce, you lose your market.

    Here in Tasmania we initially went with a moratorium on GMO for widely grown crops while we evaluated what was happening elsewhere on the planet. Then a few years later, a trial of canola was approved. A few weeks after the seed was delivered to the farm where the crop was to be grown, several patches of that GMO crop were found growing by the roadside. Notably the accidental spills were near farms growing canola for markets that demand GMO-free.

    So, it’s a bit more complicated than many armchair critics realise. But then so is life…

  68. johanna says:

    AC says:
    February 27, 2012 at 8:54 am

    I’ve only skimmed, but I’m getting a “what’s the point?” feeling on all this. I once heard a envrio person claim that 10K+ years ago man lived on like 1000′s of grains and today he lives on 20 world wide…. hrm… maybe because those 20 were easy to domesticate? And then the “we don’t want modified food” people tick me off because they are all like ‘we want it natural’ well ever since the ag revolution of abotu 10K years ago, it hasn’t be ‘natural’ mankind had modifed through selective breeding and later GM for more desirable traits in his food.
    What is my point? I’m not sure I have one either I guess. :)
    —————————————————
    Au contraire, AC, you have made some valuable and relevant points :)

    People who run the ‘we used to live on thousands of grains’ line fail to mention that we used to die by 35, often from starvation, as well. However, I encourage environmentalists who subscribe to this view to start subsisting only on the wild grains that grow within walking distance of where they live. Please.

    As you point out, improving food yields has been the cornerstone of human development. I really wish that the people who espouse the romanticised view of our primitive past would just go somewhere and live it. There are two possible outcomes, and neither of them involves an ongoing commitment to this nonsense once it has been tried.

  69. E.M.Smith says:

    Saving Seed is both very easy and far harder than folks think. Saving GMO contamination free seed can be nearly impossible in some places (and it IS contamination).

    Each plant has a different seed durability. Some are called ‘recalcitrant’, meaning that they will not let go of their water and dry out. Most fruit trees are like that. A recalcitrant seed usually has to be planted the very next planting season or it dies. They can not be frozen or saved for long. (SOME can be preserved in a flash liquid nitrogen freeze, but not well, nor easily).

    Others, like onions, dry well, but can be kept for only one year at room temperature. More under refrigeration. Others like lentils can keep dried for a very long time ( I have some that were saved at room temperature for 16 years and still had good germination).

    Putting THOSE seeds into a seed vault under refrigeration is a good idea. (SOME keep best frozen, some refrigerated). I’ve been storing seeds for a few decades now and most of them have kept well for a decade when frozen in a jar. (You must keep them DRY while frozen or refrigerated). Even then, as you go beyond a decade or two some variation is lost. The ‘grow out’ from a 20 year frozen sample will NOT have the same mix of individuals…

    Then there are the things, like potatoes, where the tuber is the “seed” and also hard to store…

    Now, after a ‘reasonable’ storage time of, say, 5 to 10 years in the freezer, you go to do a ‘grow out’.

    Each plant has a different risk of contamination from others. Some have “self fertile” flowers that never open so have little risk. Some beans are like that. Others have open flowers and you must worry ‘how close’ is the nearest similar species (but different variety). Common ‘risk’ distances are in the 1 to 2 MILE range. So if you are growing squash in your back yard, ANY neighbor inside a mile or two radius with a different variety can contaminate your seeds… For ‘wind pollinated plants’ like corn, the speed of the wind is what matters. 10 miles or more may be needed to keep purity of type. Now think about that a minute. PiR^2 area. Roughly 314 Square Miles around your plot must be “not corn”.

    Now this would not matter much were it not for the insidious laws passed to hand ownership of the world genetic heritage over to Monsanto and the likes. So if ANY GMO gene gets into YOUR carefully preserved heirloom seeds YOU are held guilty of theft of intellectual property and your seed stock must be destroyed. Never mind that it was you who suffered the insult of invasion and damage to your work… And no, they don’t go and sort out the “good heirloom seeds” so you can keep a founders stock to restart. It ALL gets destroyed. Sometimes a lifetime of work.

    Now put those two together:

    You MUST grow out the heirloom to maintain it. Growing it out is likely to destroy it.

    Have a nice day…

    BTW, I eat a fair amount of GMO stuff most likely. I’m not fanatic and don’t go out of my way to avoid it. With that said, there are some very real risks in it. Just 2 of many:

    1) Many have a insecticide gene in them (BT gene). Unlike external pesticides, you can not wash off a substance that is INSIDE the whole plant. What happens if someone develops an allergy to the BT Toxin? Well, hope they don’t need to eat… (Folks can develop allergies to anything to which they are frequently exposed. Prior to this, few people ate the same pesticide every day of their life…)

    2) The GMO Gene is “shotgunned” into the genome with a “locked on” gene. This is done in a very sloppy way. The “theory” was “one gene, one protein”, but we now know that is not true. So we cram this into exiting genes, then lock on that gene and anything else that is stuck onto it in the process. As we now know that one strip of DNA is more like a hologram and may make several different proteins, we also know that now we may also be making a bunch of different proteins and / or broken some others. Testing is NOT required to show if this causes any toxin genes to get “locked on” (and many plants make self protective toxins. Potato, for example, makes solanine when exposed to sun and it can and does make you sick). All that is required is that the plant grows. (MOST don’t, which also means we know a lot of the insertions cause lethal damage to the plant embryo. A huge number are ‘changed’ and what ever lives is grown…) So we are not making carefully crafted KNOWN or CHOSEN changes. We are randomly causing “crap to happen” while locking ON one desired gene. We have no idea what the results to health might be.

    GMO may be a good idea some day, but as presently practiced, it has major risks that are being ignored. As someone prone to allergies, who has a specific food allergy, I’m not looking forward to the day that THAT protein gets added to some other grains without my knowledge…

    SO, back at the article:

    What they OUGHT to have done is sequenced the first grains, then sequenced the latter grains. Only THEN could they say if the genetics changed. They also ought to have grown plots of the original seeds (saved) along with the later seeds to compare. Further, specific checking for GMO or Domesticated genetic markers ought to have been done to rule out wind born genetic contamination unrelated to Global Warming.

    If nothing else, having the original genome on file would let us recreate it some day if needed. ( I’m not against genetic manipulation or creation of species ‘from scratch’, only the stupid way we do it now with a shotgun and field trials of the survivors…)

    My small guide to DIY seed saving is here:

    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2011/04/20/seed-saving/

    It’s not hard once you try it (at least for the easy closed flower types). Even if you don’t ‘grow your own’, just putting the commercial seed packages in a jar in the freezer lets you use one packet of seed for many years. So you don’t need to buy a new $3 packet of tomato seeds each year, since they usually have far more than the 3 or 4 seeds you need to get more tomatoes than one person can eat ;-)

    Also, on the “ate 1000 grains”: I doubt it.

    Most locations don’t have that many species. Folks in any one place would have a much more limited variety. For example, near me, each spring a sea of wild mustard and radishes bloom. Yellow flowers for mustard. White to Redish or purplish for radishes. There’s some “Foxtail” or wild barley. And a bit of wild oats. Not a lot else. (At least, not enough to make a meal of anything). I get more variety in my “7 grain bread” from WholeFoods…

    Humans from all over the planet in TOTAL might have used more, but any one population did not. So Mexicans had corn. South Americans had Amaranth. Asians millet (eventually rice). The Middle East has wheat and a bit more north barley and rye. We now all have all of them… Yeah, things like Sorghum are less common in the modern diet. As, too, is using the left overs of “greens” seeds (like mustard or radishes) as a grain. But nothing prevents you from doing it if you like. Most folks, though, find such seeds a bit “much” in the flavor department. (Many have toxic substances so only a little can be eaten, or, like mustards, tolerated… not all of us can ‘take the heat’ ;-) Probably it is the drop of Flax consumption that is the most problematic: it has high Omega-3 fatty acid content and helps prevent inflammation problems.

    So, no, the average ancient did not go out picking 1000 different kinds of seeds in one day and making bread from it… but they probably had some strange condiments ;-)

    BTW, Sorghum makes pretty mediocre beer, but many of the other grains are ‘not bad’ ….

  70. DirkH says:

    E.M.Smith says:
    February 28, 2012 at 1:47 am
    “Probably it is the drop of Flax consumption that is the most problematic: it has high Omega-3 fatty acid content and helps prevent inflammation problems.”

    THANKS Chiefio! I knew that flax oil contains some unsaturated oil but didn’t know it’s omega 3… Now I know how to put some omega 3 into the diet of my son (who refuses to eat fish).
    (And I crosschecked, wikipedia also says it’s omega 3)

  71. DirkH says:

    Philip Bradley says:
    February 26, 2012 at 1:14 pm
    “I live in a similar climate to Israel (Perth Western Australia, we are perhaps 2C to 3C warmer than TA), and have what we call grass verges along two sides of my house.”

    That means, compared to Israel, you are living in the post-apocalyptic future of CO2AGW.

    Are those motorcycle gangs still terrorizing the area? Have humans adapted?

  72. E.M.Smith says:

    DirkH says:
    February 28, 2012 at 2:54 am

    THANKS Chiefio! I knew that flax oil contains some unsaturated oil but didn’t know it’s omega 3… Now I know how to put some omega 3 into the diet of my son (who refuses to eat fish).

    You are most welcome! There are also Omega-3 enriched eggs in healthfood stores and some regular grocers. (Feed the flax to the chickens ;-)

    Also, while grains and seeds are rich in Omega-6 (and it is the 3/6 ratio the shifts inflammation so getting omega-6 down can be as useful as getting omega-3 up) the actual GRASS leaves are high in Omega-3. That means that “grass fed beef” is a better source as well. So a “grass feed beef hamburger” is on the menu too… (probably not a hard sell ;-)

    Free Range Chickens tend to eat grass to some extent, and bugs that eat grass, so it’s a small help as well.

    Also algae and similar can help (spirulina and such) so maybe a ‘green milkshake’ ;-)

    Basically, the trick, is that things that eat leaves and algae get more Omega-3 in them (thus the fish) and things that eat seeds get more Omega-6 in them (thus the modern problem where our 6/3 ratio is way high on 6 due to all the added grains and feeding our animals on grains).

    Oh, and while a bit expensive, both lamb and goat tend to be grass or browse (bushes) fed, not grain fed, so ‘a feature’…

    But by far the easiest way to do it is just a Flax Meal rich Muffin… slather jam on it and kids will down them by the dozen…

    You can even buy Flax Oil at health food stores, but it’s rather expensive. Fairly neutral flavor. Easy to ‘slip into things’… though I’d rather have a lamb chop and Flax Muffin ;-)

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