More lentils: landraces

My dad phoned & let me know that babelfish has an even worse translation of those instructions…

The lenticchia it does not go held to I bathe. One advises to a choice to finger and taken care of a washing before the baking

We were also talking about the colours of the lentils. I believe that the reason they have such a variation is that the Norcia lentils are from a naturally-developed variety called a landrace. Because a landrace has a large genetic diversity, whatever they produce will also enjoy a variation of characteristics hence the different sizes, colours and markings on the lentils.

It’s worthwhile describing the distinction between Heritage varieties and landraces. Heritage varieties are bred to have characteristics stable across generations, and when people are talking about conserving genetic diversity by conserving Heritage varieties it’s about conserving many varieties. This is a good thing!

However landraces are a very different way of maintaining genetic diversity. They’re a population of plants that are grown in a particular region and which develop over time in that region. The defining characteristic is the location where they’re grown rather than any fixed physical or biochemical characteristic of individual plants. This makes them robust, and Zeven defines landraces as:

[a] landrace is a variety with a high capacity to tolerate biotic and abiotic stress, resulting in a high yield stability and an intermediate yield level under a low input agricultural system.

This is quite contrary to the agribusiness approach of breeding for specific characteristics that can only be grown in a high-input system, and whose produce are resources for the industrial food chain.

As a comparison, I note that various local landraces [of lentils] have evolved in several Italian regions compared to a total of 5 landraces across all crops in Scotland. In fact, Piergiovanni and Taranto list 44 landraces of lentil in Italy!

I’m having great fun reading through Raoul Robinson’s Return to resistance – Breeding Crops to Reduce Pesticide Dependence. When I first found the web pages, I thought Return to resistance was one of the anarchist grow-your-own pamphlets. It’s actually a thorough comparison between agricultural crop breeding and population crossing. Robinson’s main thesis is that a diverse population adapted to local conditions is better able to resist external shocks than a uniform population created by high technological forces. Aye, right, it’s not one of they anarchist pamphlets ;-)


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