Enduring Seeds: Native American Agriculture and Wild Plant Conservation / Edition 1

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As biological diversity continues to shrink at an alarming rate, the loss of plant species poses a threat seemingly less visible than the loss of animals but in many ways more critical. In this book, one of America's leading ethnobotanists warns about our loss of natural vegetation and plant diversity while providing insights into traditional Native agricultural practices in the Americas. Gary Paul Nabhan here reveals the rich diversity of plants found in tropical forests and their contribution to modern crops, then tells how this diversity is being lost to agriculture and lumbering. He then relates "local parables" of Native American agriculture—from wild rice in the Great Lakes region to wild gourds in Florida—that convey the urgency of this situation and demonstrate the need for saving the seeds of endangered plants. Nabhan stresses the need for maintaining a wide gene pool, not only for the survival of these species but also for the preservation of genetic strains that can help scientists breed more resilient varieties of other plants. Enduring Seeds is a book that no one concerned with our environment can afford to ignore. It clearly shows us that, as agribusiness increasingly limits the food on our table, a richer harvest can be had by preserving ancient ways. This edition features a new foreword by Miguel Altieri, one of today's leading spokesmen for sustainable agriculture and the preservation of indigenous farming methods.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This collection of essays from one of the foremost ethnobotanists in the United States is an enjoyable and intriguing documentation of a field of conservation generally ignored by the environmental mainstream: the preservation of gene pools from ancient domesticated and semi-domesticated plants." —GreenWave.com"A rich, complex book-wise, personal, and beautifully written." —Sierra "A gem of a book: scientifically sound, ethical, full of interesting and timely information about one of the paramount yet neglected environmental issues of our times." —Garden "A stirring report about lost and almost-lost plants, and one which Indians and non-Indians alike would be wise to heed." —Native Americas"Extremely thorough researched . . . written with an accessible and easy-to-read style . . . a must for all teachers, lecturers, and students studying indigenous farming practices with a view to their conservation and who wish to understand the importance of sustainable ecosystems to modern agriculture." —Geography
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Few of us are familiar with the Okeechobee gourd of the wild sunflower Helianthus exilus , yet these plants are the source of improved garden squash and sunflowers. We need to draw on wild plants for certain qualitiesresistance to disease, insect and drought, tolerance to salt in the soil; the current rate of vegetation destruction in diminishing the availabiity of wild plant resources. Nabhan, assistant director of Phoenix's Desert Botanical Garden and author of The Desert Smells Like Rain , here discusses desert ecology, native American agriculture and wild seed conservation. He looks at centuries of plant culture in the Southwest and takes us to dry tropical forests of Central America where seed agriculture probably originated. Nabhan focuses on specific crops: wild rice, sunflowers, gourds and the ``factory'' turkey; the latter exemplifies a shallow gene pool (Indians bred turkeys selectively for feathers). Nabhan also reports on seed-conservation groups and their efforts to re-introduce old seeds into the ecosystem. This is for readers interested in ecology, especially for gardeners, farmers, botanists. (Mar.)
Library Journal
This unusual book presents the history of and the principles behind Native American farming methods. Those generally forgotten methods, still observable in scattered locations, especially in Latin America, are fading as the people and cultures that have maintained them through the centuries dwindle. With their demise we are losing the plants themselves: cultivated plants adapted to local conditions, together with their wild relatives (allowed to grow in and near the fields) with which they occasionally cross and gain genetic diversity. A detailed warning as to the consequences of losing this genetic stock can be found in Carolyn Jabs's The Heirloom Gardener ( LJ 7/84). Nabhan's readable account explains how and why we have arrived at this point.-- Annette Aiello, Smithsonian Tropical Research Inst., Panama
Gretel Ehrlich
Gary Nabhan, ethnobotanist, storyteller, cultural historian, Johnny Appleseed, is a seer and celebrant of the cultivated plant world before its defilement by modern agriculture. His interests and insights are as diverse as the wild seeds he gathers. Not only does he write beautifully about what he knows, he also goes out into the fields of native peoples, collecting and conserving indigenous seeds, returning them to communities from which they have been lost. In words and actions, Nabhan aims to preserve no less than 'the remaining riches of the living world' and in so doing is a candidate for sainthood.
Sierra Magazine
A rich, complex book-wise, personal, and beautifully written.
Garden Magazine
A gem of a book: scientifically sound, ethical, full of interesting and timely information about one of the paramount yet neglected environmental issues of our times. Garden magazine).
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780816522590
  • Publisher: University of Arizona Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2002
  • Edition description: 1ST UNIVER
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 225
  • Sales rank: 934,773
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

A MacArthur Fellow and recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society for Conservation Biology, Gary Paul Nabhan is Director of the Center for Sustainable Environments at Northern Arizona University.

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Table of Contents

Prologue: Enduring Seeds - The Sacred Lotus and the Common Bean
Ch. 1 The Flowering of Diversity 3
Ch. 2 Diversity Lost: The Wet and the Dry Tropics 17
Ch. 3 Fields Infused with Wildness 31
Ch. 4 Invisible Erosion: The Rise and Fall of Native Farming 46
Ch. 5 A Spirit Earthly Enough: Locally Adapted Crops and Persistent Cultures 66
Ch. 6 New and Old Ways of Saving: Botanical Gardens, Seed Banks, Heritage Farms, and Biosphere Reserves 86
Ch. 7 Wild-Rice: The Endangered, the Sacred, and the Tamed 109
Ch. 8 The Exile and the Holy Anomaly: Wild American Sunflowers 124
Ch. 9 Lost Gourds and Spent Soils on the Shores of Okeechobee 135
Ch. 10 Drowning in a Shallow Gene Pool: The Factory Turkey 156
Ch. 11 Harvest Time: Northern Plains Agricultural Change 175
Ch. 12 Turning Foxholes into Compost Heaps, Shooting Ranges into Shelterbelts 188
Bibliographic Essays 199
Literature Cited 205
Index 219
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