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Saving seeds for sowing success

Global importance of local seed saving efforts to be detailed at Unity College forum

Dr. Mary Saunders Bulan

The importance of developing robus local seed-saving networks

The importance of developing robust local seed-saving networks will be the topic of the next in the Fishbowl colloquium series at Unity College.

Dr. Mary Saunders Bulan, who serves as Assistant Professor of Sustainable Agricultural Enterprise and director of McKay Farm & Research Station at Unity College, will present “Farmer Conservation of Crop Genetic Resources: Lessons from Traditional Buckwheat Farmers in Yunnan, China.”

The program is noon to 12:30 Thursday, March 10, in Parsons Wing Room 204 of the Student Activities Center.

Bulan studied a diverse agricultural landscape in Yunnan Province, China, for her PhD research, investigating the effects of ethnic culture, government policy, economic markets, and mountain geography on the population genetics of tartary buckwheat.

In her presentation, she will briefly describe the research and discuss the importance of robust local seed systems worldwide, with implications for Maine farms.

Bulan’s work has led to collaborations with local organizations interested in on-farm seed selection and production including MOFGA, Fedco, and Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

“The crops that we depend on for food and fiber all originated in traditional farming communities around the world,” Bulan said. “Many communities continue to cultivate traditional varieties and maintain local seed networks. Traditional varieties serve an important role in local culture and food security, and are also valuable ‘raw materials’ for plant breeding.”

“The study demonstrates the importance of local seed systems in preservation and maintenance of an important regional crop,” Unity College President Dr. Melik Peter Khoury said of Bulan’s research. “But more than that, Dr. Bulan’s study gets to the heart of sustainability science. She is not just talking about seeds; she’s talking about community, communications, earth sciences, and more, all of which must be integrated to make a valuable system work for humanity.”

“It’s also interesting that, although this crop is not widely used for food, it was once used rather widely by Acadian people in Maine hundreds of years ago,” Khoury said. “So while Dr. Bulan’s research took place in the People’s Republic of China, it has applications globally, including nearby in China, Maine.”

Unity Fishbowl Talks is a colloquium series for Unity College faculty and invited outside speakers to discuss ideas on pedagogy and to present their scholarly work.

These discussions and presentations address the need for a trans-disciplinary forum for teaching efforts at Unity College and also provide an interdisciplinary forum for discussions on research. It is at this intersection of teaching and research goals where speakers can make the most impact on Unity College students. A light lunch is offered prior to Fishbowl, and coffee and discussion follow the talk in the student center.

Fishbowl is generously sponsored by the Teaching Discussion Group and the Office of the President.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016