Relearning Diversity

David Trammel's picture

Taking a lesson from the Incans.

"A seed for all seasons: can ancient methods future-proof food security in the Andes?"

"Historians believe what is now the world’s most widely grown cereal crop was first domesticated by people in modern-day Mexico about 10,000 years ago and subsequently spread south down the spine of the Andes to reach Peru about 6,000 years ago. Long before the climate crisis, these farmers’ ancestors adapted to growing crops in different niche ecosystems, from icy mountain peaks to sunny valleys.

“In this landscape it would be difficult to produce just one variety of one crop, because in one year you can have frosts, hail, droughts or torrential rain,” says Javier Llacsa Tacuri, an agrobiodiversity expert who manages a project to safeguard the farming techniques, which have been identified as one of a handful of globally important agricultural heritage systems.

“With a few varieties, you could not face a farming year, so the response is to have many varieties. The frosts and hailstorms have always occurred and their ancestors knew how to face them,” he says. With more than 180 native domesticated plant species and hundreds of varieties, Peru has one of the world’s richest diversity of crops."

Ken's picture

Corn is one of my favorite plants. The history of our co-evolution with corn is laid out by Michael Pollan in 'Botany of Desire' and it's fascinating. In fact, one of my premises is that the spread of corn through the Americas brought with it both spiritual and farming practices. - "Here's these seeds. Plant them this way. Sing these songs. This is how to store it. Here's how to prepare it. Delicious isn't it?"

As the corn spread into different climates, it evolved as it went. It's tricky for a plant to be that adaptable, but with corn being spread and selectively bred by people it has adapted to a crazy variety of growing conditions; from the high, dry Alta Plano to the Great Lakes and everywhere in between. You don't have to believe in plant divas or flower fairies to acknowledge there is a consciousness of some kind in Corn and that it is due respect, if not veneration.

I recommend 'Beautiful Corn' by Anthony Butard, as well as Pollan's book, if you are interested in this amazing plant.

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