Saturday, May 8, 2010

From multi resistant drugs to multi resistant plants

I have always been critical about the increasing monoculture in agriculture. The combination of powerful herbicides and special herbicide resistant crop has on one side increased yield, on the other side reduced the diversity of available crop strains.

Similar to the way some diseases adjust to our drugs and become resistant, it seems multi- herbicide resistant plants are now also becoming a problem:

This should come to little surprise for anybody who knows a bit of history of modern agriculture. There are other examples of monoculture and how evolution and adaption of nature in the end puts the harvest at risk. The most prominent example to day is the Banana:

Modern bananas are not as sweet as they used to be in the first half of the 20th century. The then dominant Gros Michael banana essentially was extinct due to monoculture and the emergence of a fungus, killing this plant. This happened before the 1960ies, so not many people can remember this today. I have never eaten a Gros Michael banana myself, so I can only cite other sources that claim that Gros Michael was a better tasting fruit than the Cavendish variety we are eating today. The Cavendish is resistant to the fungus that killed Gros Michael, but reportedly not as sweet and creamy.

Here more about the history of the banana:

To come back to the beginning of this blog, the emergence of multi-resistant plants should alert all farmers. Growing a variety of different strains should become a priority again.

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