Ozark Outdoors

Sustainable food supply depends on plant biodiversity

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The Rock Grape can be found in the Ozarks region of Missour and Arkansas. The plant is probably the easiest of the nativei grapes to identify because of its  creeping stems, and broad leaves. The plant is usually less than 36 inches tall but it can get taller.It can be quite abundant on undisturbed gravel bars along Ozarks rivers and streams.

The Rock Grape can be found in the Ozarks region of Missour and Arkansas. The plant is probably the easiest of the nativei grapes to identify because of its creeping stems, and broad leaves. The plant is usually less than 36 inches tall but it can get taller.It can be quite abundant on undisturbed gravel bars along Ozarks rivers and streams.

The sustainability of a safe food supply for everyone has never been more obvious – or more vital to the Ozarks.

At 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 17, at Temple Hall, Room 002 , you can hear Prof. Laszlo Kovacs, Department of Biology at Missouri State University, discuss how how sustainable food production relies on natural plant biodiversity. Kovacs’ topic, “A Missouri Perspective on Global Climate Change,” examines the unprecedented challenge for agriculture, which can only be met with the cultivation of novel, resilient plant varieties.

The development of such varieties relies on genes derived from wild relatives of crop species that have adapted to the stress exerted by local environment, pests and pathogens. Climate chaos combined with man-made changes to the environment has severely impacted native plant communities as well as our own, undermining the very resource that holds the key for sustainable food production in the future.

An example of such a vanishing genetic resource is the rock grape (Vitis rupestris), a wild plant that is nearly extinct in its natural range across North America – but which still thrives in the Ozarks. It is known by many common names, including July, sand, sugar, beach, bush, currant, ingar and mountain grape. It is useful for breeding several French-American hybrid varietals as well as for root stocks.

In the lab at the College of  Natural and Applied Sciences, research is ongoing to study the DNA markers in extant natural populations of this plant to find clues that explain the species’ predicament and to guide conservation efforts to save it from extinction.

Sponsored by NCAS, this free event is open to the community as well as students.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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