Friday Funny – try eating this 'crop' threatened by 'climate change'

Apparently, all that work in selective crop breeding won’t overcome ‘climate change’

This is the headline and story summary from Eurekalert:

Crop species may be more vulnerable to climate change than we thought
A new study by a Wits University scientist has overturned a long-standing hypothesis about plant speciation (the formation of new and distinct species in the course of evolution), suggesting that agricultural crops could be more vulnerable to climate change than was previously thought.

I’m thinking they’d test this on actual crops, like corn, wheat, soybeans, or the like, crops we consume and that are important to economies. That would make sense, right? But then, I remembered that this is about ‘climate change’, where nothing makes much sense anymore.

From the University of the Witwatersrand:

New study on plant speciation

A new study by a Wits University scientist has overturned a long-standing hypothesis about plant speciation (the formation of new and distinct species in the course of evolution), suggesting that agricultural crops could be more vulnerable to climate change than was previously thought.

Unlike humans and most other animals, plants can tolerate multiple copies of their genes – in fact some plants, called polyploids, can have more than 50 duplicates of their genomes in every cell. Scientists used to think that these extra genomes helped polyploids survive in new and extreme environments, like the tropics or the Arctic, promoting the establishment of new species.

However, when Dr Kelsey Glennon of the Wits School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences and a team of international collaborators tested this long-standing hypothesis, they found that, more often than not, polyploids shared the same habitats as their close relatives with normal genome sizes.

“This means that environmental factors do not play a large role in the establishment of new plant species and that maybe other factors, like the ability to spread your seeds to new locations with similar habitats, are more important,” said Glennon.

“This study has implications for agriculture and climate change because all of our important crops are polyploids and they might not be much better at adapting to changing climate than their wild relatives if they live in similar climates.”

Glennon’s study also provides an alternative explanation for why plants are so diverse in places like the Cape where the climate has been stable for hundreds of thousands of years. Although her study examined plant species from North America and Europe only, she is looking forward to testing her hypotheses using South African plants.

Glennon’s paper has been published in Ecology Letters, a flagship journal for broad-scale ecology research.

Creosote bush flower 

Image: Output for Larrea tridentata (creosote bush) diploid and polyploid populations that shows that both ploidies share similar climate habitats, but differ in how they share that climate.

About Dr Kelsey Glennon

Dr Kelsey Glennon is a Carnegie Postdoctoral Fellow in Climate Change Research in the School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences and the Global Change and Sustainability Research Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. She became interested in plant genetics while volunteering in the Hunter Lab at Salisbury University in her second year of college. She pursued a PhD at George Washington University in Washington, DC, studying plant hybridisation, its effects on species boundaries, and resulting conservation issues. Dr Glennon came to Wits University from a prestigious NSF Bioinformatics Fellowship at Syracuse University in New York. She is currently doing active field research on baobab trees in Limpopo Province and the medicinally important plant imphepho (Helichrysum odoratissimum).

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Mmmmm, creosote.

Never mind the fact that we don’t eat it nor is it considered a “crop”, it seems quite a leap of logic to me to think that the creosote bush, something that has hardly any cross-breeding, selective enhancement, or other improvements to its genetic makeup to enhance yields and make it more palatable for human consumption would serve as a credible model for the highly modified and coddled crops in use today.

Unless of course, our new climate overlords expect us to be eating creosote in the future. I can’t wait for those protests over “GMO creosote”.

I wonder if the author of this study realized how many periods of climate change the King Clone creosote bush has gone through, in the Mojave desert, no less?

King Clone is thought to be the oldest Creosote bush ring in the Mojave Desert. The ring is estimated to be 11,700 years old. It is considered one of the oldest living organisms on Earth. This single clonal colony plant of Larrea tridentata reaches up to 67 feet (20 m) in diameter, with an average diameter of 45 feet (14 m).

I wonder how it survived the Roman Period “megadrought” found in the USA southwest?

Looks tasty, doesn’t it? Somewhere, Norman Borlaug is ROTFL.

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vigilantfish

Gee, I wonder how wheat crops will fare when the climate ‘changes’? Oh, wait… different varieties have already been bred to grow in a wide range of climatic conditions.
I guess we’re too stupid to be able to continue using rational solutions. Actually, given the recent focus and conclusions of so many scientIFic studies, perhaps, worryingly, we are becoming that stupid. Aaargh!

Dave

This is some hard charging science.
“….could be more vulnerable.”
It’s worse than we thought.

Add the University of the Witwatersrand to the list of universities that publish annoying press releases. I went to their site to figure out what units belong on the X-Y graphics above, but all the information in the press release is here.
I’ll assume the X and Y are in meters, and then the shading is the strength of the creosote scent measured by the scientist’s pet dog.
I’ll pretend the dashed line and solid line don’t exist.

Tim Churchill

“A new study by a Wits University scientist”
Was the T deliberately left off the name of the university?

Ljh

The claim that the climate of the Western Cape has been stable for hundreds of thousands of years is absurd. The tiny, but phenomenally rich, floral kingdom found there, is presently the recipient of winter rainfall brought by the westerly wind belt shifting north and kept dry by prevailing southeasterly trade winds in summer. At the end of the last Ice Age it received exclusively summer rainfall with a period in between when it received both, all within thirteen thousand years.

Paul Westhaver

Let’s say I am biologist. I need money for my research. Assume I am not quite a scientist, more a scientist-in-training or a scientist-wanna-be. Let us also say that there are gobs of money lying around for anything that can be associated with global warming. OK heck… why not? I might just come up with a study, about something, like my favorite bush, so I can have a travel budget and get some graduate students to carry my stuff and I get to do talks! Like David Suzuki! Yeah, that’s the ticket!
Yeah, Bushes they are threatened… that’s the word, yeah threatened, by ah… climate change. Yeah….Oh mann, I can see the academic prizes being hung around my neck by my admirers.
Sweet!

cnxtim

It lacks the essential emotive angle,
I have tried to marshal support for the creosote plant BUT – its just not in the penguin or polar bear class at all.
And i suspect that if it lasted this long, it could also survive any outlandish hypothesis, even AGW.

I have zero expertise in climate science, but nearly 60 years experience in gardening, most of that in the Mojave desert. Creosote is a very interesting plant, but has nothing to do with food. It grows so slowly, that it isn’t of any use for anything – animals don’t even eat it. It is highly flamable, and easily damaged by fire and motorized vehicles, but it survives remarkably anyway.
As for food crops, all that is really necessary is abundant and low cost energy to deal with almost any climate change imaginable. Green houses and subterranean farms would be effective almost everywhere. The climate hysterics insist on attempting to pour two quarts of liquid into a one quart container – and call it “science.”

NoFixedAddress

Further proof that climate ‘science’ and reality cannot co-exist.

Tom J

Let’s not be quite so sarcastic. According to Wikipedia:
‘In 2005, Health Canada issued a warning to consumers to avoid using the leaves of Larrea species because of the risk of damage to the liver and kidneys.’
Ok, see, there’s lots of people in this world who could safely consume this plant because we know there’s lots of people in this world who don’t have livers and kidneys. Would anybody here wish to take away a tasty, juicy, delectable food source that people without livers and kidneys could potentially enjoy? See, it is a valuable food crop after all – if you don’t have a liver or a kidney.
Or a brain.

Rick

Some scientists are having difficulty ‘separating the wheat from the creosote’.

Patrick

Creosote bush? I used to live in the High Desert area of Southern California where the creosote bush thrives in summer daytime temperatures exceeding 115F while dropping to about 70F at night. Now, that’s climate change!

Alan Robertson

vigilantfish says:
February 21, 2014 at 6:12 am
Gee, I wonder how wheat crops will fare when the climate ‘changes’? Oh, wait… different varieties have already been bred to grow in a wide range of climatic conditions.
________________________
My favorite lefty told me the other day that modern wheat varieties, which grows shorter and produce greater yields, have been assigned the name “frankenwheat” among the trendy health- conscious greenies because it makes you fat. Since she weighs twice as much as me, I didn’t pop off and say “any port in a storm”.

Alan Robertson

pimf- “grow shorter”

Stephen Richards

Wits School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences
You sure this isn’t the famous wits-end university of high quality idiots. It’s great to see how they added the word environment to the list just to ensure plenty of AGW grant money.

John Law

Half-Wits!

Alan Robertson

Creosote leaves used to be sold in health food stores (and might still be- don’t know.)
The word was that the leaves, while toxic in inappropriate amounts, de- toxed or otherwise masked the traces of THC in the human body. Scuttlebutt had it that the feds banned its use for that reason.

Big Don

I don’t understand how the conclusion of the study was reached. If the polyploid and diploid variants of a given genome were living in the same environment, wouldn’t you expect them to resemble one another? What would be the driver for one plant to morph into something else? Wouldn’t it be a better experiment to look for species in neighboring, yet contrasting environments (Mountain tops vs. low valley at the base, for example) to see if there are polyploids that have similar genomes, yet have quite different adaptations?

David Jones

This cannot be a “proper” scientific study. She nowhere mentions what the climate models predict (ooops, sorry! project) will happen to yields. Can’t do a scientific study with computer models!
sarc off/

Nigel in Waterloo

Maybe all those polyploids will kick-in when the climate starts changing? Perhaps we need to fund more studies on this?
Oh wait…Mission accomplished!!

Admad

May I proclaim the discovery of the new sub-species, Homo Fatuus?

Tom J

Alan Robertson
February 21, 2014 at 6:59 am
says:
‘The word was that the leaves, while toxic in inappropriate amounts, de- toxed or otherwise masked the traces of THC in the human body.’
Well, Colorado and Washington State just eliminated any imaginable commercial use for this plant.

Matt Skaggs

No link to the paper, but I’m guessing that a fairly straightforward study of the population dynamics of polyploids morphed via press release into a study that “has overturned a long-standing hypothesis about plant speciation” and “means that environmental factors do not play a large role in the establishment of new plant species.” The latter is a ridiculously long reach given all the recent work elucidating how edaphic specialization can drive speciation.

What happens when plant/crop-ignorant climate change artists start speculating.
Anyone with half a brain nows that global warming would help, not hurt, plant life, especially with an abundant supply of CO2. Ane WE control where those plants seeds go, not Nature, and if we need to move some species to a higher latitude, big deal.

KevinM

I was certain the creaosote link would take me to Monty Python’s Mr Creosote.

Robert W Turner

Right, we were thinking in Kansas of switching out wheat for coffee in preparation for climate change but then remembered we don’t live in the same fantasy world as these clowns.

Mike M

” …other factors, like the ability to spread your seeds to new locations with similar habitats, are more important,” said Glennon.” Wouldn’t more extreme weather do just that with a … tumbleweed? Hmmm?

Bradprop1

I guess if this “scientist” did a study on dogs using cats; she would feel her conclusions were also valid. And they wonder why they are losing the PR battle!

chinook

Why all the hand-wringing over every little thing pertaining to climate change obsession? Has anyone done a study of the propensity of climate alarmists and enviromentals to having OCD, since it appears they all have a severe case of it?
It wasn’t that long ago when the Laurentide Ice Sheet existed where my house is now. Back then there couldn’t have been very much in the way of flora and fauna in my neighborhood, living under the ice sheet and miraculously we now have flora/fauna in abundance, seemingly no worse for the wear.

1. “Unlike humans and most other animals, plants can tolerate multiple copies of their genes – in fact some plants, called polyploids, can have more than 50 duplicates of their genomes in every cell. Scientists used to think that these extra genomes helped polyploids survive in new and extreme environments, like the tropics or the Arctic, promoting the establishment of new species.”
The hypothesis USED to be that Polyploids used their extra genomes to survive.
Note you can test this theory by using ANY Polyploid, not just edible ones. The hypothesis tested was a hypothesis About POLYPLOIDS. so to falsesify that theory you only need to pick a polyploid.
2. However, when Dr Kelsey Glennon of the Wits School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences and a team of international collaborators tested this long-standing hypothesis, they found that, more often than not, polyploids shared the same habitats as their close relatives with normal genome sizes.
in other words it is NOT the extra genomes that help polyploids survive.
3.“This means that environmental factors do not play a large role in the establishment of new plant species and that maybe other factors, like the ability to spread your seeds to new locations with similar habitats, are more important,” said Glennon.
So comments about how well cresote survive are NOT ON POINT. The hyopthesis was that polyploids survive BECAUSE they can use the extra genome to adapt to a changing environment.
The study was focused on that hypothesis. They looked at a polyploid. theory tested, falsified as you who follow popper would describe.
So what IMPLICATIONS does that have for us.
4.“This study has implications for agriculture and climate change because all of our important crops are polyploids and they might not be much better at adapting to changing climate than their wild relatives if they live in similar climates.”
Nothing about GMOs. Just a simple explanation.
A) we used to think polyploids extra genome would help them survive.
B) we tested that by looking at a polyploid.
C) we found that extra genome didn’t help.
D) our food is polyploid, we cannot count on the extra genome to make them more survivable.
Finally, if you think that polyploids we eat are somehow special, if you think their extra genome will make them more survivable, then you can go prove that.

King Clone is a piker to Pando’s arguable one million years.
http://discovermagazine.com/1993/oct/thetremblinggian285

Tim Clark

“Robert W Turner says:
February 21, 2014 at 7:45 am”
OMG!!
Please don’t tell me we’ll have to start growing heat resistant TEXASS varieties in Kansas. We have enough weeds now.
http://varietytesting.tamu.edu/wheat/

After reading commentary and comments attributed to Dr Kelsey Glennon ….. my only thoughts were, …… just another published article about a study based on “circular reasoning and junk science”.

“This study has implications for agriculture and climate change because all of our important crops are polyploids and they might not be much better at adapting to changing climate than their wild relatives if they live in similar climates.”
Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution, always worked in the country and region where he was developing his new varieties. For example, when developing wheat varieties for Mexico, he lived there himself (often in places where there were no roads or tractors), and selectively bred cultivars that would survive at higher altitudes and in lower regions, so that Mexico was able to grow wheat year round, and in areas where wheat had not survived before. He also observed the kinds of rust that appeared and bred for resistance. That is the whole point of modern agricultural varieties.
It is very intensive, on-site field work, and was always opposed by the environmental activists who complained and campaigned about possible contamination of local species, etc.. The usual. Dr. Borlaug wanted to get to Africa to divert famines quickly, as he had done in Mexico, but the environmentalists protested and successfully attacked his funders. He needed to be on site to do his work.
This woman claiming that locally developed seed cannot adjust to climate change is ignoring the entire process of developing cereals for a particular area in real time. But many real scientists are carrying on this work and suffering persecution and smears from Greenpeace and sustainability activists. It may be that her work is supposed to contribute fodder to worthless legislation outlawing good locally developed high yield strains, on grounds that the are “not sustainable.”

lemiere jacques

climatology will not be able to adapt to climate change

Gotta give her some credit. I don’t see that she used any models but on the ground data and in the field field work.

Tim Clark

“Steven Mosher says:
February 21, 2014 at 8:24 am”
Noone is arguing the ploidy influence, it’s completely IRRELEVANT. The discussion regards the BS in this line:
“suggesting that agricultural crops could be more vulnerable to climate change than was previously thought.”
It suggests no such thing AT ALL. Humans manipulate the ploidy to make varieties that are more suitable to the environment desired. The varieties in Texas are grown at an average temperture of 3+ degrees relative to Kansas. They grow wheat in Mexico. We’ll survive.
Natural genetic selection takes hundreds of years.
“This study has implications for agriculture and climate change because all of our important crops are polyploids and they might not be much better at adapting to changing climate than their wild relatives if they live in similar climates.”
Well heck yes, you idiots. If it warms up, plant breeders will perform another green revolution. Doh!
Stick with your temperature reconstructions, Mosh.

Mike Tremblay

“This means that environmental factors do not play a large role in the establishment of new plant species and that maybe other factors, like the ability to spread your seeds to new locations with similar habitats, are more important,” said Glennon.
It’s good to see a study that finally reaches a common-sense conclusion. I have been stating this every-time some study predicts that the warming in the arctic regions is going to mean the trees are going to start marching north.
“This study has implications for agriculture and climate change because all of our important crops are polyploids and they might not be much better at adapting to changing climate than their wild relatives if they live in similar climates.”
Unfortunately she believes that wild plants are much more capable of pulling up their roots and marching to new climates.
The ability of any living organism to adapt to changing environmental conditions is dependent, first and foremost, on their mobility – this is an indisputable fact. If you find it too warm move to a cooler location. Can’t find enough food, move to somewhere with more food. Some other organism is eating you, run to somewhere else. Plants move by seed dispersal – that is another indisputable fact – there are coconut trees growing in Scotland because their seeds traveled from the Caribbean on the North Atlantic Current, not because the trees marched/swam there.
Evolution of any organisms is dependent on their ability to adapt to the changing environmental conditions – if you can’t move out of danger, the organisms less able to adapt will die. If an entire species, with the exception of a few, cannot survive the change then the survivors pass their genetic ability to their progeny and the species adapts – this is the basic point Darwin made about Evolution and is the reason we have drug resistant bacteria, insecticide resistant bugs and herbicide resistant weeds.

Tamara

Steven Mosher, you said:
“However, when Dr Kelsey Glennon of the Wits School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences and a team of international collaborators tested this long-standing hypothesis, they found that, more often than not, polyploids shared the same habitats as their close relatives with normal genome sizes.
in other words it is NOT the extra genomes that help polyploids survive.”
Is this what you determined from reading the paper? I don’t see how this can be gleaned from the press release. To me it looks like the showed that the different pliodies are currently occupying the same habitat. That says nothing about whether, if stressed, one or the other ploidies might adapt differently. Did they demonstrate that the specimens they observed were living at the boundary of what might be considered their normal habitat, or that the area was changing in some significant way?
To use an oversimplified analogy, just because cows and sheep live in the same pasture, that doesn’t mean they would have equal success in all pastures.
Also, though it has been a while since I studied Evolutionary Biology, I don’t think there was a belief that polyploids had a guaranteed evolutionary advantage. They simply result in extra genetic chances, that may in very rare cases result in speciation. And the speciation is more likely to occur if the polyploid is isolated reproductively from other ploides. So, I don’t see how they can look at this one instance and say that polyploides offer no advantage. They would have to test that against the introduction of all types changes to the habitat – new predators/diseases, new climate (did they demonstrate that?), new competitors, etc.

Berényi Péter

Different varieties of cash crops are already adapted to a wide range of environments. That’s what the age old practice of selective crossbreeding is about.

Mike Tremblay

Berényi Péter says:
February 21, 2014 at 10:02 am
Different varieties of cash crops are already adapted to a wide range of environments. That’s what the age old practice of selective crossbreeding is about.
——————————————————————————————————————–
Don’t tell that to anyone who is opposed to GMO (genetically modified organisms).

Steven Hoffer

Dare I to even make the comment that while GMO as it is considered today is a relatively new process, mankind has been selecting the best plants for next year’s seed since before they even knew they were doing it?
Savage man once spread the best wheat from the harvest on the ground as an offering to his gods

Jimbo

“This study has implications for agriculture and climate change because all of our important crops are polyploids and they might not be much better at adapting to changing climate than their wild relatives if they live in similar climates.”

I have found out that

Creosote bush is the most drought-tolerant perennial plant of North America. It can live for at least 2 years with no water at all, by shedding its leaves and even shedding branches….. The extreme drought-tolerance of the leaves is due to several factors: the leaves are small with a low surface area for water loss (image 7), the leaf cuticle is very thick and waxy, and the high stomatal resistance……Creosote bush gains it name from the resinous odour of the leaves. In fact, these plants are natural chemical factories – they produce a wide range of compounds that protect them from damage by insects and pathogenic fungi and that also prevent them from being eaten by herbivores.

This is just like rice, the most important grain with regard to human nutrition and caloric intake. Next time I go to a Indian restaurant I will order a steaming bed of creosote bush with its aromatic resinous odour, to go with my chicken balti.

Jimbo

We must do all we can to protect the Creosote bush from global warming. It needs all the help we can provide. Think too of the children.

The genetic and fossil evidence indicate that the Mojave creosote is a relative newcomer to our part of California. Eleven to 12,000 years ago, at the end of the Ice Age, this area would have been dominated by juniper woodland and lots of grass. As the climate became warmer and drier the junipers retreated to the nearby mountains, and a new plant, evolved from the Sonoran Desert form, appeared on the scene: our creosote bush. The newcomer was so successful in the competition for scarce water that it soon became the largest and most conspicuous plant of our desert landscape.
http://www.nps.gov/jotr/naturescience/creosote.htm

Jimbo

Ohhh Mosher, since you like observations and models here you go! The article said the following –

“suggesting that agricultural crops could be more vulnerable to climate change than was previously thought.”

We have dangerous, man-made global heating and noxious co2 belching for decades now. Here are the results and model projections. What do you think?

Abstract – May 2013
A Global Assessment of Long-Term Greening and Browning Trends in Pasture Lands Using the GIMMS LAI3g Dataset
Our results suggest that degradation of pasture lands is not a globally widespread phenomenon and, consistent with much of the terrestrial biosphere, there have been widespread increases in pasture productivity over the last 30 years.
http://www.mdpi.com/2072-4292/5/5/2492
————————————-
Abstract – 2013
P. B. Holden et. al.
A model-based constraint on CO2 fertilisation
Using output from a 671-member ensemble of transient GENIE simulations, we build an emulator of the change in atmospheric CO2 concentration change since the preindustrial period. We use this emulator to sample the 28-dimensional input parameter space. A Bayesian calibration of the emulator output suggests that the increase in gross primary productivity (GPP) in response to a doubling of CO2 from preindustrial values is very likely (90% confidence) to exceed 20%, with a most likely value of 40–60%. It is important to note that we do not represent all of the possible contributing mechanisms to the terrestrial sink. The missing processes are subsumed into our calibration of CO2 fertilisation, which therefore represents the combined effect of CO2 fertilisation and additional missing processes.
doi:10.5194/bg-10-339-201

Matt Skaggs

Mike Trembley wrote:
“The ability of any living organism to adapt to changing environmental conditions is dependent, first and foremost, on their mobility – this is an indisputable fact.”
Actually, you must have just made that up because it makes no sense. If you are talking about a phenotype, then you are wrong because plants don’t locomote but many can nevertheless accommodate changing conditions. If you are talking about a genotype, then you are hopelessly confused because moving to where the environment is the same as the one you used to thrive in is the opposite of adapting to changing environmental conditions. In short, neither plant phenotypes, nor plant genotypes, “adapt” by changing locations. What you meant to say is that during a glacial epoch, the survival of a species is often predicated upon an ability to follow equitable habitat as that habitat changes location.

tty

“This study has implications for agriculture and climate change because all of our important crops are polyploids and they might not be much better at adapting to changing climate than their wild relatives if they live in similar climates.”
Very true. We all know that wheat can’t be grown outside it’s natural distibution area in the Fertile Crescent, just like corn, which of course won’t flourish anywhere except in the Mexican highlands.

tty

“We must do all we can to protect the Creosote bush from global warming. It needs all the help we can provide.”
The Creosote bush is an interesting example of extreme adaptability, since the genus Larrea is otherwise only found in South America, in the deserts from Nazca to Patagonia. Sometime in the not too distant past a creosote-bush seed must have been brought north by some migrating bird and dropped somewhere in the South-West. Its’ offspring seems to have done rather well in their new continent and habitat

Mac the Knife

STOP THE PRESSES! MAJOR CLIMATE CHANGE ANNOUNCEMENT TO FOLLOW:
“The creosote bush might not be much better at adapting to climate change than any thing else!” says researcher at Utssa Matta WIts U.
Yeeeeooowww! Better start hoarding creosote and investing in creosote futures, right away!

Jeff

One.
Thin.
Wafer.
Hopefully when the CAGW farce implodes it won’t leave as much of a mess as Mr. Creosote…
(I thought they were going to blame it on the Bush….).