PhytoNOTE #16

Fight climate change with plant varieties and pooled intelligence

Image by Klaus Hausmann, pixabay

Genetic diversity enables us to breed new varieties of yeast, algea, plants or animals.

While farmers use specific varieties to improve yield and resistance, adapt to a different, more adverse environment and to increase the content of certain plant actives (polyphenols, carotenoids etc), companies use varieties to differentiate from competitors.

To give an example: A tomato extract manufacturer can differentiate through a "proprietary, exotic tomato breed", responsible for the product’s special characteristics, while a popular beer brand relates its famous taste to the "brand’s special yeast".

A registered varieties is protected for 25 years, however, the way is long: “Breeding of a plant variety can take up to 10 years and typically costs several 100 000s of Euros per new registration”, says Dr. Urs Fischer, managing Director of PharmaPlant, a sister company of red otc.

Dr. Fischer explains that “first, seeds or seedlings from different, often worldwide, origins are researched for different valuable characteristics. Two or more traits from different plants (aka parents) are then combined in their offspring. Once an individual with a favorable set of traits is selected, a lengthy process assures that the entire offspring carries uniformly the same characteristics. To accelerate the process, in vitro methods, biotechnology, indoor farming and genetic markers can be used.”

While so far the main aim of breeding was yield, in the future and with accelerated climate change, the aim might be to assure food supply by making varieties more resilient to stress.

Agriculture is extremely vulnerable to climate change. Increasing temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns affect yield and active ingredients; foster weed and pest proliferation, causing production declines. Today, we already see the effect of climate change on agriculture and while demand for herbs is growing. It is highly likely that in the future, sourcing high quality herbal raw materials will become more and more difficult due to the negative effects of climate change.

During the 10th Botanical Congress, “Botanicals & Planet Earth, 2022,” presented virtually by the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), a panel of botanical industry stakeholders described the impacts they’re seeing in their line of work. "Weather patterns are breaking down, and that’s leading to less quality and consistency in our botanicals.” said Rachel Doty

"Climate change is a sector-wide problem, and we shouldn’t look at it as an area of competition. We need to put our intelligence together.” says @Jon von Enden, head of sustainability and supply chains for MartinBauer.