Plant Sciences

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    Superweed amaranth: metaphor and the power of a threatening discourse
    (Springer Nature, 2022-09-09) Bétrisey, Florence; Boisvert, Valérie; Sumberg, James
    This paper analyses the use of metaphor in discourses around the “superweed” Palmer amaranth. Most weed scientists associated with the US public agricultural extension system dismiss the term superweed. However, together with the media, they indirectly encourage aggressive control practices by actively diffusing the framing of herbicide resistant Palmer amaranth as an existential threat that should be eradicated at any cost. We use argumentative discourse analysis to better understand this process. We analyze a corpus consisting of reports, policy briefs, and press releases produced by state extension services, as well as articles from professional and popular magazines and newspapers quoting extension specialists and/or public sector weed scientists or agronomists. We show how the superweed discourse is powered by negative metaphors, and legitimizes aggressive steps to eradicate the weed. This discourse reinforces the farmers’ techno-optimism master frame, contributes to deskilling of farmers and sidelines ethical concerns.
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    Community seed network in an era of climate change: dynamics of maize diversity in Yucatán, Mexico
    (Springer Nature, 2021-07-25) Fenzi, Marianna; Rogé, Paul; Cruz-Estrada, Angel; Tuxill, John; Jarvis, Devra
    Local seed systems remain the fundamental source of seeds for many crops in developing countries. Climate resilience for small holder farmers continues to depend largely on locally available seeds of traditional crop varieties. High rainfall events can have as significant an impact on crop production as increased temperatures and drought. This article analyzes the dynamics of maize diversity over 3 years in a farming community of Yucatán state, Mexico, where elevated levels of precipitation forced farmers in 2012 to reduce maize diversity in their plots. We study how farmers maintained their agroecosystem resilience through seed networks, examining the drivers influencing maize diversity and seed provisioning in the year preceding and following the 2012 climatic disturbance (2011–2013). We found that, under these challenging circumstances, farmers focused their efforts on their most reliable landraces, disregarding hybrids. We show that farmers were able to recover and restore the diversity usually cultivated in the community in the year following the critical climate event. The maize dynamic assessed in this study demonstrates the importance of community level conservation of crop diversity. Understanding farmer management strategies of agrobiodiversity, especially during a challenging climatic period, is necessary to promote a more tailored response to climate change in traditional farming systems.
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    Transforming a traditional commons-based seed system through collaborative networks of farmer seed-cooperatives and public breeding programs: the case of sorghum in Mali
    (Springer Nature, 2020-10-19) Rattunde, Fred; Weltzien, Eva; Sidibé, Mamourou; Diallo, Abdoulaye; Diallo, Bocar; vom Brocke, Kirsten; Nebié, Baloua; Touré, Aboubacar; Traoré, Yalaly; Sidibé, Amadou; Diallo, Chiaka; Diakité, Soriba; Bretaudeau, Alhousseïni
    Malian farmers’ traditional system for managing seed of sorghum, an indigenous crop of vital importance for food security and survival, can be conceptualized as a commons. Although this system maintains a wide range of varieties and helps ensure access to seed, its ability to create and widely disseminate new varieties to meet evolving opportunities and challenges is limited. A network of farmer groups, public breeding programs, and development organizations collaborating in decentralized creation and dissemination of sorghum varieties in Mali is examined regarding (1) how the network developed and what activities it conducts; (2) the resulting varietal diversity, varietal performance and organizational models; and (3) the elements of the traditional seed system that were maintained, strengthened or transformed. A single-case study approach was used that relies on published literature, official catalogues of released varieties and a database of farmer seed-cooperative requests for foundation seed. The functioning of the network and its varietal-, seed-, and organizational- outcomes are documented and the elements of the traditional sorghum seed system that are maintained or strengthened are analyzed. The evolution of the network’s reliance on commoning as a social process and its strengthening of core Seed Commons features are discussed with a view to the network’s contributions to targeted development outcomes and potential replicability. The case demonstrates how creating a framework for collaboration, enabling actors and organizations to take on collective responsibility while maintaining distributed decision-making at local level, opens opportunities for transforming farming- and food-systems towards sustainability and resilience.
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    “Whose demand?” The co-construction of markets, demand and gender in development-oriented crop breeding
    (Springer Nature, 2022-07-27) Tarjem, Ida Arff; Westengen, Ola Tveitereid; Wisborg, Poul; Glaab, Katharina
    Advancing women’s empowerment and gender equality in agriculture is a recognised development goal, also within crop breeding. Increasingly, breeding teams are expected to use ‘market-based’ approaches to design more ‘demand-led’ and ‘gender-responsive’ crop varieties. Based on an institutional ethnography that includes high-profile development-oriented breeding initiatives, we unpack these terms using perspectives from political agronomy and feminist science and technology studies. By conceptualising the market as an ongoing, relational performance made up of discourses, practices and human and nonhuman actors, we trace how the market is understood as an effective socioeconomic institution for soliciting demand, but also becomes a normative agenda. Construed as a demand variable, the relational and structural dimensions of gender are rendered less visible, which might strengthen rather than transform power relations’ status quo. On the other hand, a feminist science and technology perspective broadens the field of vision not only to the gendered dimensions of crop breeding, but also to the nonhuman actors, such as the crops and traits falling outside the market sphere of interest. By putting political agronomy and feminist science and technology studies into conversation, the article contributes to the development of a feminist political agronomy.
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    Increasing the resilience of plant immunity to a warming climate
    (Springer Nature, 2022-06-29) Kim, Jong Hum; Castroverde, Christian Danve M.; Huang, Shuai; Li, Chao; Hilleary, Richard; Seroka, Adam; Sohrabi, Reza; Medina-Yerena, Diana; Huot, Bethany; Wang, Jia; Nomura, Kinya; Marr, Sharon K.; Wildermuth, Mary C.; Chen, Tao; MacMicking, John D.; He, Sheng Yang
    Extreme weather conditions associated with climate change affect many aspects of plant and animal life, including the response to infectious diseases. Production of salicylic acid (SA), a central plant defence hormone is particularly vulnerable to suppression by short periods of hot weather above the normal plant growth temperature range via an unknown mechanism. Here we show that suppression of SA production in Arabidopsis thaliana at 28 °C is independent of PHYTOCHROME B8,9 (phyB) and EARLY FLOWERING 310 (ELF3), which regulate thermo-responsive plant growth and development. Instead, we found that formation of GUANYLATE BINDING PROTEIN-LIKE 3 (GBPL3) defence-activated biomolecular condensates (GDACs) was reduced at the higher growth temperature. The altered GDAC formation in vivo is linked to impaired recruitment of GBPL3 and SA-associated Mediator subunits to the promoters of CBP60g and SARD1, which encode master immune transcription factors. Unlike many other SA signalling components, including the SA receptor and biosynthetic genes, optimized CBP60g expression was sufficient to broadly restore SA production, basal immunity and effector-triggered immunity at the elevated growth temperature without significant growth trade-offs. CBP60g family transcription factors are widely conserved in plants. These results have implications for safeguarding the plant immune system as well as understanding the concept of the plant–pathogen–environment disease triangle and the emergence of new disease epidemics in a warming climate.