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Beer will be getting more expensive with climate change

Beer will be getting more expensive with climate change

If you crave a pint (or two) at the end of a hard day, brace yourself: Climate change is poised to make your favourite lager, ale or IPA more scarce and pricey.

On current trends, a crescendo of heatwaves and droughts will periodically cause sharp declines in barley yields, a crucial ingredient in most beer, according to a study published recently.

“Decreases in the global supply of barley lead to proportionally larger decreases in barley used to make beer,” said lead author Dabo Guan, a professor of climate change economics and the University of East Anglia in Britain.

Only the highest quality grain – less than 20% – is used to make beer, with most of the rest used as feedstock.

“High-quality barley is even more sensitive to extreme weather events linked to climate change,” Guan said.

During severe climate events, global beer consumption would decline by 16%, or nearly 30 billion litres – equal to all the beer quaffed each year in the United States, Guan and an international team of researchers reported in the journal Nature Plants.

Beer prices in the wake of these disruptive weather events would, on average, double.

By volume, beer is by far the most popular alcoholic drink in the world, with nearly 200 billion litres produced in 2017.

Some countries will get hit harder by beer shortages and higher bar tabs than others, the study found.

In China – whose 1.3 billion people collectively down more brew than any other nation – consumption would fall by a staggering 4.3 billion litres in a bad year.

Britain would also get thirsty during a severe barley crunch, with consumption dropping by up to 1.3 billion litres, and the price of a pint doubling.

Per capita, most of the top-20 beer-drinking nations are in Europe, along with the United States, New Zealand and Australia.

Keep calm, have a beer

Guan and colleagues calculated the impact of severe weather events under different future climate scenarios – ranging from a sharp reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to our current “business as usual” trajectory – on yields in the world’s 34 most important barley-growing regions.

An extreme weather year was defined as one with both heatwaves and drought – in a barley region during growing season – more severe than once-a-century events before global warming began.

From 2010 to the end of the century, they found, there will be 17 such events if humanity manages to cap global warming under 2°C, and 139 if current rates of carbon pollution persist.

The next step was to estimate how these “barley supply shocks” would affect the production and price of beer in each region.

In a climate-addled world where staple crops such as wheat, corn, soybeans and rice are predicted to decline in yield and nutritional value, pressure will likely mount to use barley as a source of food rather than to make brew.

“Climate change may undermine the availability, stability and access to ‘luxury’ goods,” said Guan.

At the same time, the “cross-cultural appreciation of beer” is deep and widespread, he noted.

“There is little doubt that for millions of people around the world, the climate impact on beer availability and price will add insult to injury,” he said.

As the adage goes, “It’s all fun and games until the beer runs out.”

The top exporters of barley are Australia, France, Russia, Ukraine and Argentina, with many European countries filling out the top 20.

The biggest importers are China, Saudi Arabia and Iran, with three top brewing nations – Netherlands, Belgium and Japan – just behind. – AFP Relaxnews

Increasing CO2 in air alters nutritional value of rice

Increasing CO2 in air alters nutritional value of rice

Rice is the primary food source for more than three billion people around the world. Many are unable to afford a diverse and nutritious diet that includes complete protein, grains, fruits and vegetables. They rely heavily on more affordable cereal crops, including rice, for most of their calories.

(The University of Washington) research focuses on health risks associated with climate variability and change. In a recently published study (May 23, Science Advances) we worked with scientists from Australia, China, Japan, and the United States to assess how the rising carbon dioxide concentrations that are fuelling climate change could alter the nutritional value of rice.

We conducted field studies in Asia for multiple genetically diverse rice lines, analysing how rising concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere altered levels of protein, micro-nutrients and B vitamins.

Our data showed for the first time that rice grown at the concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide which scientists expect the world to reach by 2100 has lower levels of four key B vitamins. These findings also support research from other field studies showing rice grown under such conditions contains less protein, iron and zinc, which are important in foetal and early child development.

These changes could have a disproportionate impact on maternal and child health in the poorest rice-dependent countries, including Bangladesh and Cambodia.

In field studies carried out in China and Japan, the rice that was grown in air with elevated CO2 concentrations contained significant nutrition losses. Photo: AP

Carbon dioxide and plant growth

Plants obtain the carbon they need to grow primarily from carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, and draw other required nutrients from the soil. Human activities – mainly fossil fuel combustion and deforestation – raised atmospheric CO2 concentrations from about 280 parts per million during pre-industrial times to 410 parts per million today.

If global emission rates continue on their current path, atmospheric CO2 concentrations could reach over 1,200 parts per million by 2100 (including methane and other greenhouse gas emissions).

Higher concentrations of CO2 are generally acknowledged to stimulate plant photosynthesis and growth. This effect could make the cereal crops that remain the world’s most important sources of food – such as rice, wheat and corn – more productive, although recent research suggests that predicting impacts on plant growth is complex.

Concentrations of minerals critical for human health, particularly iron and zinc, do not change in unison with CO2 concentrations. Current understanding of plant physiology suggests that major cereal crops – particularly rice and wheat – respond to higher CO2 concentrations by synthesising more carbohydrates (starches and sugars) and less protein, and by reducing the quantity of minerals in their grains.

About 600 million people, mostly in South-East Asia, get more than half of their daily calories and protein directly from rice. Photo: AP

Importance of micro-nutrients

Worldwide, approximately 815 million people are food-insecure, meaning that they do not have reliable access to sufficient quantities of safe, nutritious and affordable food. Even more people – approximately two billion – have deficiencies of important micro-nutrients such as iron, iodine and zinc.

Insufficient dietary iron can lead to iron-deficiency anaemia, a condition in which there are too few red blood cells in the body to carry oxygen. This is the most common type of anaemia. It can cause fatigue, shortness of breath or chest pain, and can lead to serious complications, such as heart failure and developmental delays in children.

Zinc deficiencies are characterised by loss of appetite and a diminished sense of smell, impaired wound healing, and a weakened immune function. Zinc also supports growth and development, so sufficient dietary intake is important for pregnant women and growing children.

Higher carbon concentrations in plants reduce nitrogen amounts in plant tissue, which is critical for the formation of B vitamins. Different B vitamins are required for key functions in the body, such as regulating the nervous system, turning food into energy, and fighting infections. Folate, a B vitamin, reduces the risk of birth defects when consumed by pregnant women.

Significant nutrition losses

We carried out our field studies in China and Japan, where we grew different strains of rice outdoors. To simulate higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations, we used Free-Air CO2 Enrichment, which blows CO2 over fields to maintain concentrations that are expected later in the century. Control fields experience similar conditions except for the higher CO2 concentrations.

On average, the rice that we grew in air with elevated CO2 concentrations contained 17% less vitamin B1 (thiamine) than rice grown under current CO2 concentrations; 17% less vitamin B2 (riboflavin); 13% less vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid); and 30% less vitamin B9 (folate). Our study is the first to identify that concentrations of B vitamins in rice are reduced with higher CO2.

We also found average reductions of 10% in protein, 8% in iron and 5% in zinc. We found no change in levels of vitamin B6 or calcium. The only increase we found was in vitamin E levels for most strains.

Worsening world hunger

At present, about 600 million people – mostly in South-East Asia – get more than half of their daily calories and protein directly from rice. If nothing is done, the declines we found would likely worsen the overall burden of undernutrition. They also could affect early childhood development through impacts that include worsened effects from diarrhoeal disease and malaria.

The potential health risks associated with CO2-induced nutritional deficits are directly correlated to the lowest overall gross domestic product per capita. This suggests that such changes would have serious potential consequences for countries already struggling with poverty and undernutrition. Few people would associate fossil fuel combustion and deforestation with the nutritional content of rice, but our research clearly shows one way in which emitting fossil fuels could worsen world hunger challenges.

Climate change and other key plants

Unfortunately, today there is no entity at the federal, state or business level in the United States that provides long-term funding to evaluate how rising CO2 levels could affect plant chemistry and nutritional quality.

But CO2-induced changes have significant implications, ranging from medicinal plants to nutrition, food safety and food allergies. Given the potential impacts, which may already be occurring, there is a clear and urgent need to invest in this research.

It is also critical to identify options for avoiding or lessening these risks, from traditional plant breeding to genetic modification to supplements.

Rising CO2 concentrations are driving climate change. What role these emissions will play in altering all aspects of plant biology, including the nutritional quality of the crops that we use for food, feed, fibre and fuel, remains to be determined. – AP/The Conversation/Kristie Ebi


Kristie Ebi is professor of Global Health and Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, University of Washington.
How extreme summer heat affects your body and brain

How extreme summer heat affects your body and brain

By the year 2050, temperatures will top 100 degrees Fahrenheit far more frequently.

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By the year 2050, temperatures will top 100 degrees Fahrenheit far more frequently.
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REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

As the mercury creeps up over the summer, it gets harder to do anything other than curl up inside an air-conditioned room or dive into the ocean.

If you’ve noticed that recent summers have felt particularly hot, you’re not wrong. The past four years have been the hottest four on record around the globe, with this year tracking to be the fourth hottest year ever. Heat in 2018 has already set all kinds of records, including the hottest temperature ever measured in Africa and the hottest overnight temperature ever recorded.

Unfortunately, that trend is expected to continue.

As humans continue to pump greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, more of the heat that our world absorbs from the sun gets trapped, raising the world’s average temperature and triggering other changes.

By 2050, cities in the US and around the world are expected to see a skyrocketing number of days with temperatures topping 100 degrees, and temperatures are projected to climb even higher by 2100. New York City, which has an annual average of zero days above 100 degrees Fahrenheit now, is expected to see 11 days like that per year by 2050 and 30 such days by 2100. Houston, which currently sees two days that top 100, is expected to get 30 such days by 2050 and 76 by 2100.

That heat isn’t just uncomfortable. The warming has serious effects on people’s physical health, mental well-being, and cognitive ability.

Here’s what science tells us about how extreme heat affects the body and brain.


Heat causes heat exhaustion, which can be dangerous.

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REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

Stepping outside on a July or August day can feel like a physical blow. The longer you spend in the heat, the more serious the effects on your body can be.

First, increased body temperature can start to cause heavy sweating, clammy skin, dehydration, tiredness, headache, dizziness, nausea, cramps, and a quick, weak pulse.

Someone in this state should move to cool place, sip water, and take a cool bath or put cool wet cloths on their body. If these symptoms last longer than an hour, worsen, or if a person is vomiting, then they need medical help, according to the CDC.


Once a person gets hot enough, they can develop heat stroke.

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REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Once body temperature rises to 103 Farenheit or higher, a person starts to suffer from heat stroke, which can be a fatal medical emergency.

Symptoms of this include many of the signs of heat exhaustion, though a person with heat stroke may have a fast, strong pulse; feel confusion; and may be losing consciousness. They also may stop sweating.

People suffering from heat stroke need to be cooled immediately. In that situation, don’t give a person anything to drink. Move them to a cool place, put cool cloths on them or put them in a cool bath, and call 911.


Extreme heat makes us dumber.

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REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

If you’ve ever felt like the heat puts your brain into a fog – a sensation like that in a steam room, where it’s hard to breathe, much less think clearly – you’re not alone.

A number of studies show that as temperatures climb, we perform more slowly and more inaccurately on cognitive tests. This phenomenon affects everyone from students taking standardized tests to office workers trying to get through the day.


Heat causes air pollution and air quality to get worse, which makes it harder to breathe and leads to disease.

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REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

Ever noticed how you see more air quality alert days in the summer? Get ready for more.

On hot days, heat from the sun causes pollutants to react with atmospheric gases to form ozone. The hotter it is, the more ozone pollution is produced. Plus, still air on hot days causes smog to stick around.

One 2008 study found that for every degree Celsius the temperature rises, ozone pollution can be expected to kill an additional 22,000 people around the world via respiratory illness, asthma, and emphysema.

Non-ozone air pollution linked to warmer weather will also increase rates of lung cancer, allergies and asthma, and cardiovascular disease.

A 2017 study found that air pollution already kills 9 million people every year. So as temperature increases, that death toll will rise.


Abnormally high temperatures can cause suicide rates to spike.

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REUTERS/Roosevelt Cassio

A study published this month in the journal Nature Climate Change reported that a 1-degree-Celsius rise in average monthly temperature was associated with an increase in the monthly suicide rate. In the US, that increase was about .7%, and in Mexico it was 2%.

By 2050, the study authors concluded, this will likely lead to 14,000 additional suicides in the US, though they say there could be as many as 26,050 more.


Hotter weather causes mental well-being to deteriorate.

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Getty Images/Spencer Platt

Many of us might associate the transition from winter to summer with a positive mood, but it seems the heat can wear us down over time.

The authors of that same study on the link between climate and suicide also analyzed more than 600 million tweets, and found that people were more likely to express depressive feelings as temperatures rose.


Warmer weather makes allergies and asthma even worse.

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REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

When spring arrives every year, allergy sufferers feel it in their noses, throats, sinuses, eyes, and more. Spring pollen season now begins earlier in the year, and the growing season for allergenic pollen like ragweed has gotten longer.

More carbon dioxide in the air also increases pollen levels.

All of this leads to more sneezing and sniffling for for allergy sufferers – and these allergy symptoms can also make dangerous asthma attacks more frequent.


Heat waves are the deadliest form of extreme weather, responsible for more deaths in the US every year than the combined effects of hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, earthquakes, and floods.

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REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

A study published last year in the journal Nature Climate Change found that 30% of the world is already exposed to heat that’s intense enough to kill people for 20 or more days each year. That level of intensity is defined using a heat index that takes into account temperature and humidity; above 104 degrees Farenheit (40 degrees C ), organs swell and cells start to break down.

In 2010, more than 10,000 people did in a Moscow heat wave. In 2003, some estimates say a European summer heat wave killed up to 70,000.

The tick bites that make people allergic to red meat and dairy may also increase heart disease risk

The tick bites that make people allergic to red meat and dairy may also increase heart disease risk

  • Lone Star ticks spread an allergy to red meat and products derived from animals.
  • People who develop this allergy may also become more likely to develop heart disease, according to a new study.
  • Though these ticks have commonly been found in the Southeast, they are spreading north and west as climate gets warmer.

The allergy that people can develop after being bitten by Lone Star ticks already sounded bad enough.

These ticks can spread an allergy to a sugar compound called alpha-galactose, often referred to as an alpha-gal allergy. Because this compound is found in mammal meat, people often refer to this as a red meat allergy. Some people with this allergy also react to other products from mammals – including dairy, animal byproducts that appear in gel-cap pills, and medications containing antibodies derived from animals.

Now a recent study from researchers at the University of Virginia found that people who developed this allergy have a higher risk for heart disease.

These are still preliminary findings, but they imply the possibility that negative health effects spread by these ticks may be even more widespread than previously thought.

A hidden heart risk

It’s important to understand one of the puzzling aspects of this red meat allergy in order to understand why the findings of the new study will be so important to follow up on.

In a normal allergy, if someone’s body is sensitized to a substance, they’ll react to it. This is the case for a number of people with alpha-gal allergies – if they eat a burger or anything else with alpha-gal in it, they’ll later have a severe reaction, including potentially life-threatening anaphylactic shock. But a number of people who are sensitized to alpha-gal don’t have allergic symptoms.

No one understands why. (We’ll return to why this is so significant.)

steak

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Shutterstock

For the new study, researchers examined the heart health of 118 patients – not a big number for a study like this, which is one of the reasons more research on the topic is needed.

About 26% of the group was sensitive to alpha-gal. These patients had an average of about 30% more plaque built up around their hearts, which can narrow arteries and lead to a heart attack or stroke. The plaque in these patients was also more likely to be formed in a way that can increase heart disease risk, according to the study.

This means that being sensitive to alpha-gal might indicate a person is significantly more likely to develop heart disease, even if they don’t have allergic reactions after eating meat.

This is significant because a lot more people may be sensitive to alpha-gal than are aware of it. Around 20% of people in Central Virginia and the Southeast may have some alpha-gal sensitivity without showing signs of the meat allergy, according to a UVA news release.

In other words, even the people who escape the meat allergy symptoms might be more likely to suffer from heart disease. This may be because they continue to eat meat thinking there’s no reason to avoid it, but that alpha-gal sensitivity in their bodies makes them react more poorly to it. More research is needed to know for sure.

But either way, this is more indication that tick bites are even more harmful than most people think.

Could these be the crops of the future?

Could these be the crops of the future?

Around the world, there are between 300,000 and 500,000 plant species, of which 50,000 are edible. Of these, around 7,000 plants have been cultivated for human consumption. But today, fewer than 20 crops account for more than 90% of global food production. And of these, three major crops – rice, wheat and maize – represent 60% of the world’s seven billion denizens’ energy intake, according to data from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

This has resulted in a monotonous, homogeneous diet devoid of many of the plants that used to form the culinary landscape of most communities. And it has sprung another concern: according to the FAO, an increasing number of the global population is being fed on diets that are energy-rich but nutrient-poor, with more than two billion people likely to be affected by one or more micronutrient deficiencies. Conversely, around 2.5 billion people are consuming excess calories (including some with insufficient nutrition).

“We need to put nutrition at the heart of our food systems now and for generations to come. Malaysians are increasingly adopting a global diet that is energy-rich and nutrient-poor. These diets are linked with an increase in the incidence of non-communicable diet-related diseases (NCDs). The double burden of over and undernutrition is a major concern globally and a ticking time bomb for the Malaysian health system,” says Professor Sayed Azam-Ali, CEO of Crops For The Future (CFF), which is affiliated with the University of Nottingham Malaysia.

Professor Sayed Azam Ali, Crops for the Future, underutilised crops

Professor Sayed Azam-Ali says there is an urgent need to look at how underutilised crops can be used to diversify diets, reduce reliance on imported food and be utilised in future climates as they have proven to be climate-change resilient.

“Attention should be shifted towards policies and food systems that support the quality of food, and not solely its quantity. We have failed to consider the role underutilised crops can play in achieving this diversification of diet and the huge economic and societal benefits that locally sourced underutilised crops can bring to Malaysia,” he says.

CFF, which is in Semenyih, is the world’s first research centre dedicated to underutilised crops. The centre’s FoodPlus programme tests underutilised crops – determining their nutritional content, ability to withstand climate change and also how these crops can be developed into viable food products.

What are underutilised crops?

But you’re probably asking the question – just what are underutilised crops? Underutilised crops are crops that are native to certain countries or regions but are grown on a small scale with knowledge about its use limited to the communities that grow them. Vegetables like the winged bean (four-angled bean) native to Papua New Guinea, proso millet which is grown in Asia and Africa, and the ancient Central American amaranth are examples of underutilised crops that are considered highly nutritious but have somehow escaped widespread cultivation.

“The small crops are generally grown locally. They might be quite important locally, but they’ve never broken out into the rest of the world. But if you added them up, every country has got a lot of these local crops. And some of those local crops cross boundaries and regions, but they’re all under the radar, because they’re all small crops in local communities and generally they’re not high commercial value crops,” says Prof Sayed.

According to him, there is a very tangible need to examine how underutilised crops can be incorporated into local agriculture, as a means to reduce the reliance on food imports as well as to add to a varied diet. This is hugely important in Malaysia where the country’s 2015 food import bill was RM45bil, largely spent on fresh and frozen fruits, vegetables and meat from 120 countries, according to an article in The Star.

Bambara groundnuts, Crops for the Future, underutilised crops

The Bambara groundnuts cultivated by CFF are grown about 3km away from the research centre. The groundnuts are tested for their nutritional content, ability to withstand climate change and are also developed into other food products like Bambara flour.

“For Malaysia, which is home to 5% of the world’s plant species, reliance on imported species is both risky and a missed opportunity to achieve national food and nutritional security from plants that can be grown here,” says Prof Sayed.

To that end, CFF’s FoodPlus programme is doing extensive research into two underutilised crops – the moringa tree and Bambara groundnuts, established as exemplar species for the project.

Moringa and Bambara groundnuts demystified

Moringa oleifera (the most widely cultivated species of the genus moringa) has been in recent years, dubbed the “miracle tree” for its multiple purported health benefits. Native to the Himalayas, it is also cultivated in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. It is also one of the few trees that is totally edible – from bark to leaves to flowers. The leaves are a good source of micro-nutrients, especially vitamins A, B and C and are reported to have minerals including calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron and zinc. They also contain essential amino acids. The drumstick-like fruits (which is how moringa got its common name) are popular among the Indian community, with India being the largest producer of moringa. Moringa leaves can enhance the nutritional value of daily meals, simply by adding the leaves to diets that are typically rich in starch.

moringa fruits

The moringa fruits are often incorporated into Indian dhals and curries. Photo: Forest & Kim Starr/Flickr

The Bambara groundnut (scientific name Vigna subterranea), meanwhile, is a legume commonly found in west Africa, but also grown in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and India. The groundnut is the third most important grain legume in Africa, but is predominantly grown by small-scale farmers, as it is known as a poor man’s crop. Bambara groundnuts contain up to 60% carbohydrate, 16% to 20% protein and low levels of oil (6% to 8%) and are a rich source of minerals and essential amino acids. According to Prof Sayed, the groundnut matches the recommended nutrient intake profile for optimum health.

Bambara groundnuts, underutilised crops

Bambara groundnuts are highly nutritious, but are known as a poor man’s crop.

“While they may not achieve the yields of major staples, underutilised crops often contain more vitamins, mineral nutrients and phytometabolites than found in cereals. It is especially significant that both the Bambara groundnut and moringa are already grown on a small scale in Malaysia. This means that they have the potential to be rapidly scaled-up to provide niche products that are nutritious and marketable,” says Prof Sayed.

Climate-change resilient crops

Both moringa and Bambara groundnut can easily be grown locally (both crops fix nitrogen in the soil and don’t require fertilisation) and are extremely resilient to climate change. This is crucial, as climate change has become an inevitable reality. In Malaysia, climate change predictions by Malaysia’s Second National Communication (NC2) indicate that temperatures will rise by at least 2°C by 2050. According to Prof Sayed, this means some existing local crops will be wiped out entirely.

“We’re on a ticking time bomb. Just think of Malaysia four degrees hotter, it’s not comfortable at all. But for plants, that is critical. If you take oil palm – it will grow, it will have trunks and leaves and stems, but it won’t have any fruit, because the flowering temperature is too high – it can’t survive. So you cut out the whole oil palm industry when this happens. We used to say if, but now we say when,” says Prof Sayed.

Bambara groundnuts, crops for the future, underutilised crops

Bambara groundnuts are drought-resistant and able to survive in much hotter, future climates.

His predictions echo the sentiments of researchers at the International Food Policy Research Institute who predict that major crops like corn and rice will face production declines as a result of climate change – a 24% drop for corn and an 11% drop for rice – by 2050.

It’s a frightening prospect but one that we must grow accustomed to and brace ourselves for, because it is coming.

“With climate change, our food supply chains become more exposed to risks. In large parts of the tropics, such as Malaysia, cultivation of the major crops is increasingly challenged by high temperatures and unpredictable rainfall patterns. We can’t solely depend on major crops, either grown here or imported, but must diversify our agricultural systems in a hotter, volatile world,” says Prof Sayed.

This is why there is an urgent need to promote and cultivate underutilised crops, which have proved to be tough and resilient through all the obstacles thrown at them.

“Both Bambara groundnut and moringa are excellent as they are drought-tolerant and able to yield in poor soils when other crops fail. One of the challenges of Malaysian soils is that many areas are too acidic and drought-prone for major crops. Because underutilised crops have had to adapt to such harsh conditions, they offer climate-resilient options for areas that are increasingly marginal for agriculture.

moringa tree, moringa fruit, underutilised crops, Crops for the Future

Moringa tree and fruit, which is commonly known as drumstick. The moringa tree is easy to cultivate and thrives even in hotter environments. Photo: VisualHunt/Cerlin Ng

“And we’ve got to find uses for that space – we don’t want idle land sitting around, but actually it’s not idle land, it’s just not suitable for the major crops. Let’s use it and make jobs for people, let’s produce things that are nutritious and resilient to the climate. Those are the plants that we should be looking at as our crops for the future,” says Prof Sayed.

Food development

CFF’s FoodPlus programme isn’t just limited to planting and cultivating moringa and Bambara groundnuts – it also looks at ways to expand these crops across the food chain from its raw form through to transforming it into nutritious food products that consumers can tap into.

“We can tell people that Bambara and moringa are good, but they don’t know the taste, it’s not familiar to them and the flavour may not be exciting to them. They won’t eat it. So FoodPlus has to change the mindset,” says Prof Sayed.

bambara murukku, underutilised crops

The bambara murukku is the FoodPlus programme’s most successful recipe so far, and incorporates the use of bambara flour in place of rice flour.

For the project, FoodPlus food technologist Tan Xin Lin researched and tested an extensive repertoire of dishes prepared using moringa and Bambara in many forms – from Bambara flour to moringa leaf powder. Tan found huge success in the traditional Indian snack murukku, which she successfully made using 100% Bambara groundnut flour in place of traditional rice flour. The murukku is crunchy and full of flavour, although perhaps slightly thicker than traditional iterations. Regardless, it has already found a firm fan in His Royal Highness Prince Charles who visited CFF last November and was very impressed by what he ate!

HRH Prince Charles, bambara murukku

HRH Prince Charles was a huge fan of the bambara murukku, which he tried on his visit to the CFF facility.

Tan has also successfully made Bambara milk (the nuts are soaked, ground, strained and boiled to make milk) which she incorporated into a velvety Bambara panna cotta. Some recipes, however, haven’t been quite as successful and require a mixture of traditional ingredients in combination with underutilised crops. Like scones, for example, which Tan concocted using 50% wheat flour and 50% Bambara flour.

“Both the Bambara groundnut and moringa have quite distinct and earthy flavours. We carry out frequent sensory analysis of the food products we develop to ensure its acceptance and palatability,” says Tan.

Bambara panna cotta, bambara milk

This soft, silken Bambara panna cotta is made using Bambara milk. The milk is created by soaking, grinding, straining and boiling the Bambara groundnuts.

The centre has also developed instant moringa soup sachets made with moringa leaves dried at low temperatures. The process preserves the micronutrients in moringa, and were developed with needy communities and aid missions in mind.

“The sachets can easily be transported to displaced communities with limited access to nutritious and tasty foods. We want to make ‘fast foods’ that are easily accessible as well as nutritious to wider communities,” says Tan.

On the nutritional front, Tan says incorporating underutilised crops into certain ingredients has shown to increase the total nutritional value of the finished product. Like moringa noodles, which she made using wheat flour and moringa powder.

“Based on our preliminary analysis, some of the micronutrients such as calcium, magnesium and potassium increases as moringa powder is added to the noodle mix,” she says.

moringa soup sachets, moringa, underutilised crops

Developed with displaced communities in mind, the instant moringa soup sachets are nutritious and only require water.

Interestingly, the products that CFF has developed can readily be utilised by entrepreneurs and commercial entities. “We make the prototype and whoever is interested can take it forward from here,” says Prof Sayed.

Ultimately, it is about joining the dots – cultivating climate-resilient underutilised crops in land that may not be viable for major crops, which in turn will reduce reliance on imported food and consequently, diversify local diets, whether that means consuming the crop in its original state or transforming it into cakes, cookies and soup.

“If we can get these foods that we know are nutritious – if we can get them marketable and desirable, these are the foods that we think the next generation should be celebrating in the future,” says Prof Sayed.

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