Genetic Diversity Matters: A Field Exploration of 695 Carrot Varieties;Nitrogen & Ammonia:From the Industrial Revolution to a Future Nitrogen Economy;

Come Explore the Unknown!   
By Zoom:  at  
In Person: Room 1111 Genetics Biotech Center, 425 Henry Mall, Madison.
For January 5, 2022            
Hi WN@TL Fans,
In the summer between 4th and 5th grade my Grandpa Deutsch let me work with him on his vegetable garden in the backyard of a rental property he owned on Lincoln Ave that backed up to the Illinois Central spur in Dixon IL.  We sowed and we hoed and we growed green beans, wax beans, leaf lettuce, cabbage, snap peas, beets, turnips, rutabagas, white potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, sweet corn, acorn squash, butternut squash, hubbard squash, mixed gourds, and pumpkins.  It was a big garden.
There were two more root crops in the garden. Grandpa also show me how to sow a few radish seeds in with the carrot seeds, which we scattered in beds the width of the span of a garden rake, rather than in rows.  Radish seedlings popped up faster than any other plant, and they marked out the bed.  They were a kind of nurse crop because the germination of the carrot seeds was so slow, stretched out, and sporadic.  The Cherry Belles and the Scarlet Globes would be done and gone in 30 days, and left behind were the bright green wisps of Nantes Coreless seedlings.  It took all summer for the spindly carrot-tops to grow to size enough to seize.  Toward the end of August came the times of the tines, the miracle of the digging forking prying the astonishingly orange carrots out of the black soil; harvesting green onions, sweet potatoes, even red radishes paled in comparison.
Nine summers later I worked mowing roads for Lee County, an ironic job for a biology major, but one that let me be impressed for the first time of how a fetch of Queen Anne’s lace in full flower could etch a line of white across a stretch of highway cutting through the prairie.  Queen Anne’s lace, I was to learn in my plant taxonomy class, was the same species as carrot, but introduced as a weed from Europe.
I then went on a carrot horticultural hiatus until summer of 1979, when as a freshly-graduated summer intern from UW-Platteville with a degree in botany I worked for Ferry Morse Seed Company northeast of Sun Prairie. One day I found myself in the muck fields near Randolph, weeding carrots by hoe, by hand, by fingers, nearly by tweezers.
I know of no other crop so fastidious in its culture, so demanding of its bed of soft soil.  Furthermore, to my knowledge the carrot is the only crop that has both a cake and a provitamin named after it, too.  But the gist of the story this week is not its singularities, but rather it is carrots in all their diversities, in the wild, in the farmer’s fields, in the breeders’ plots.
Plus, we will have a carrot cake from Lane’s Bakery. 🎉
On January 5, Jenyne Loarca of the Department of Horticulture will use carrots to help us see more clearly the origins, the genetics, and the roles crops play in our lives and on our lands.  Jenyne’s talk is entitled “Genetic Diversity Matters:  A Field Exploration of 695 Carrot Varieties.”
Description:  In this talk we’ll explore humans’ connection with preserving plant life. An impressive 70% of the food we eat is derived from plants, and most plants are grown from seeds. As humans, we’ve had a deep connection with seeds throughout our history. Humans have been saving and cultivating seeds for tens of thousands of years. 

The first large-scale institutionalized practice of seed saving began with the first ‘seed library’ only 125 years ago. The U.S. gene bank carries seed from 695 rainbow carrot varieties, collected from 60 countries all around the world.  We used this diverse collection to study traits that are important to carrot growers and to determine the genetic basis of these traits.
Using carrots as a case-study, we will explore why the genetic diversity in this carrot collection isfoundational for vegetable breeders to create new varieties of carrot that are farmer-friendly and fun to eat.

We will explore the idea of seed as a ‘genetic resource’ and seed-saving as genetic conservation work. We will discuss the importance of seed saving, the role that gardeners and researchers play in preserving genetic diversity, and the importance of genetic diversity to climate resilience and our uncertain future.

On January 12 John Berry of Chemistry will lay out new options for harnessing energy from ammonia with his talk, “Nitrogen & Ammonia:  From the Industrial Revolution to a Future Nitrogen Economy.”
Could ammonia become a replacement for fossil fuels in generating electricity?  See the recent story here and the video here on Professor Berry’s research.
Description:  The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) saw over 140 countries pledge to reach zero-carbon emissions, prompting an important question of how the global energy economy can realistically be decarbonized. 
The alternative to a carbon-based energy economy is an economy centered around a different element. Research in the Berry Lab at the University of Wisconsin – Madison Department of Chemistry is exploring the possibility of a Nitrogen Economy, based on interconversions between dinitrogen and ammonia. 
This presentation will review the basic chemistry of nitrogen and ammonia from a historical standpoint, focusing on the use of ammonia in agriculture, and also as a promising zero-carbon fuel. A look toward future applications will be presented outlining the key technologies necessary to sustain a zero-carbon Nitrogen Economy.

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Remember, we’ve now shifted to Hybrid so we can both Zoom and gather in one Room—Room 1111 Genetics Biotech Center, 425 Henry Mall, Madison WI.  
Hope to see you soon at Wednesday Nite @ The Lab!
Tom Zinnen
Biotechnology Center & Division of Extension, Wisconsin 4-H
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