One thing I’ve held an interest in for years is the preservation of bloodlines, and plant lines in agriculture.
That is why I respect the efforts of groups such as Rare Breeds Canada (rarebreedscanada.org). I understand certain breeds have risen to prominence today because they excel under current conditions for raising them.
But it also quite clear there are movements within consumers themselves and within the industry on a larger scale, seen clearly in the direction being taken by a number of restaurant chains, to look for product coming out of alternate production systems.
Alternate production systems may well be better suited to animal breeds, or crop systems, which today are not widely raised.
Maintaining important bloodlines and crop strains because they might one day find favour again just makes too much sense not to do.
It is much the same thinking for me in terms of native species.
The world is lessened each time a species is lost.
With extinction the ability to draw on the specific traits of the species are gone forever.
We sometimes tend to forget our common crops today originated from wild species of plants at one time.
Ditto for our domestic animals.
Maintaining native species is very much a way to bank genetic material which may one day have properties we find a way to utilize in important ways, whether it is to transfer a trait which might introduce salinity tolerance into an existing farm crop, or whether some compound in the plant is found to be medicinal. The potential of future science to utilize plants and animals today not seen as useful is certainly there, but can only be achieved if the plants and animals are preserved.
Preservation of native species starts with awareness and having solid legislation to ensure protection, which is where government plays a role.
So it is a positive each year when the Saskatchewan government proclaims Native Prairie Appreciation Week, this year June 12-18.
A government release noted Native Prairie Appreciation Week is unique to Saskatchewan and is celebrated each year in partnership with Saskatchewan Prairie Conservation Action Plan (SK PCAP). The week is dedicated to raising awareness and appreciation of our native prairie ecosystems.
“Saskatchewan agriculture producers recognize the role they play as stewards of the land,” said Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart in the release. “As stewards, they understand the importance of protecting our native prairie plant and wildlife for future generations by using sustainable land management practices.”
“Native grasslands are an important part of our province, and that is why their conservation is a priority,” said Environment Minister Herb Cox in the same release. “Native prairie ecosystems sustain healthy fish and wildlife populations and contribute to the quality of life in Saskatchewan.”
“Ranchers, producers and land managers provide suitable habitat for many species at risk as a result of responsible land stewardship,” SK PCAP Manager Kayla Balderson Burak said. “They play an important role in the conservation and sustainable management of these diverse prairie landscapes.”
Who knows, the plant species such efforts protect today, could be important in ways not yet thought of in the years ahead.
Calvin Daniels is Assistant Editor with Yorkton This Week.