The Story of Soy by Christine du Bois 2018. Reaktion Books Ltd. Before encountering Christine du Bois’ book, The Story of Soy, I had little real idea about what soy was. OK, as a botanist I know it was a legume, Glycine max, I’d heard of – and used, occasionally too liberally! – soy sauce, and had enjoyed Bean Feast meat-substitute soy meals as a student, but I had no appreciation of quite how big soy was as a global phenomenon and business. I suppose recent news items such as “Soybean seedling diseases surge in Illinois” and “Quick Takes: Early...Continue reading Taking Glycine to the max!
Corner’s rule states that in woody plants, twigs (current-year shoots) with thicker stems support larger leaves. Larger leaf areas require thicker twigs for hydraulic and mechanical support, but a question remains as to why the pattern of thicker twigs resulting in larger leaves emerges, and also as to whether total leaf area should be partitioned into many small leaves or a few large leaves. Corner’s rule implies that larger twig leaf areas should be partitioned into larger sized leaves. Smith et al. verified Corner’s rule in six co-occurring and functionally similar species, finding that individual increases in leaf size correlate...Continue reading Revising Corner’s rule: how to best partition twig leaf area
“You know the cost of everything and the value of nothing,” was a common insult when I was a child. However, some environmentalists say that it’s a genuine problem. The World Forum on Natural Capital meeting today and tomorrow is going to attempt to change how we see the value of nature. They’ve put together an infographic to explain what they mean. This looks good, but there are some issues. What value do you put on Spirituality? There is more to assigning value than simply picking some numbers you like, but because some of the benefits are so intangible then...Continue reading What does a tree cost, and what is its value?
The Economist, not noted for its bleeding heart liberal tendencies, has a special report in the February 24th issue on feeding the world. The print edition asks Should we increase spending on agricultural research?, and the website has an online poll. Unsurprisingly, in both cases, the answer is yes. The report includes an interesting account of the history of the Broadbalk field at Rothamsted Research station: The 1.6-hectare (4-acre) Broadbalk field lies in the centre of Rothamsted farm, about 40km (25 miles) north of London. In 1847 the farm’s founder, Sir John Lawes, described its soil as a heavy loam...Continue reading Feeding the World – who pays?