Heritage Crops

FOR a changing Climate

Climate uncertainty is affecting food production around the world and here in Canada.

Agricultural biodiversity holds the key to future food security

Crop biodiversity is in decline as conventional agriculture focuses on just a few plant species.  Within these species, there can be thousands of varieties, the product of farmers and growers as they tested and adapted crops to suit their local climates and food systems over millennia.  The gene pool of these plants provides options for a diverse food system and the potential for resilience in the face of changing climates. 

Sadly, these heritage (or heirloom) varieties are being lost at an alarming rate, with estimates of up to 75% of them having disappeared over the past 100 years (Seeds of Diversity).  Of the remaining varieties, only a very few are available from local seed companies.  Our food system is becoming more dependent on fewer and fewer varieties, and this exposes us all to greater climate risks, poorer diets, and increasing food insecurity.

Diffuse Adaptation

One important way to build resilience and adaptation to change and to lower the risk of major crop failures and high food prices is to grow a diversity of varieties of a crop in a variety of ways and places. This “many-eggs-in-many-baskets” approach diffuses the risk to climate uncertainty and extremes, potentially engages many growers, fosters innovation and helps conserve crop biological diversity. In simple terms this approach can be called diffuse adaptation, and like an insurance plan spreads the risk, and encourages forward thinking.

 

Home grown food security

Extreme weather and unpredicatable climates threaten food security.  Heritage varieties are an important part of our agricultural heritage and critical to future food sustainability. The rich genetic diversity held within heritage varieties is the product of thousands of years of plant breeding and seed saving by people around the world.

Potatoes for a Changing Climate

Potatoes are easy to grow and as such can be part of a strategy of locally grown, food security.

Learning from Northern Growers

Potatoes are easy to grow and as such can be part of a strategy of locally grown, food security.

Plant-Based Protein

Edible legumes are an important source of high-quality protein, especially in their dry form. Food self-sufficiency and sustainability are vital during this time of climate and weather extremes. Dried beans can be an excellent protein source easily grown at home.  The Heritage Bean Project

Introducing the Heritage Bean Project:  Grow your own protein

In collaboration with Seeds of Diversity, the Crop-Climate Project is starting  a Heritage Beans: Diversity and Climate Change project.  The objectives of this project are:

  • to ensure that Canadian heritage bean and other suitable varieties are more widely known, available and grown.
  • to test varieties under a wide rage of climates and cultural conditions and share this knowledge widely.
  • to acquire, develop and share knowledge for each variety, including biological characteristics cultural practices and appropriate weather and climate attributes.

 

Featured Blog Post:

Potatoes In Northern Climates

Potatoes In Northern Climates

Potatoes are an easy to grow staple for northern people and with rising temperatures and lengthening growing seasons have the potential to be a key element of food sustainability. We are investigating the practice of growing potatoes in difficult northern climates...

Kashmir Bean: Mountain Bounty

Kashmir Bean: Mountain Bounty

Kashmir conjures up visions of monstrous mountains covered in snow at the top of the world, and certainly does not call up a picture of beans. Yet according to one source Kashmir heritage beans are the most widely used variety in India! Who could resist trying this...

Recent Blog Posts

Potatoes In Northern Climates

Potatoes In Northern Climates

Potatoes are an easy to grow staple for northern people and with rising temperatures and lengthening growing seasons have the potential to be a key element of food sustainability. We are investigating the practice of growing potatoes in difficult northern climates...

Xico – Black Bean Bounty

Xico – Black Bean Bounty

Part of a series on growing heritage bean varieties for local food sustainability. Figure 1. At centre, a row of closely planted Xico bushes with pink flower (bottom of photo), Edamame (soy beans) to the left and various pole beans to the right. Dense planting...

Spanish Pinta: one early bean

Spanish Pinta: one early bean

Several years ago, I bought an attractive speckled bean in a local grocery store in Villanova, in Catalunya (Catalonia, Spain). Villanova is a small rural and vacation town about 45 minutes along the coast from Barcelona (Figure 1). When I asked the shop attendant if...

Giant Heritage Bean from Vancouver Island

Giant Heritage Bean from Vancouver Island

Tiny gifts can bring huge surprises. Let me tell you about an incredible bean with a 70-year history on Canada’s Vancouver Island… a story of saving and growing bean seeds in one community for decades and an excellent example of the “Many eggs in many baskets”...