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Candide Cuttings: Crocus Breakthrough, Castle Talks and Irrigation Prospects

Published on 15th March 2019

Crocus Breakthrough

A recent study has unearthed the genetic lineage of Crocus savitus, the species that produces saffron, the most expensive spice in the world.

The evolutionary origin of the saffron crocus has been discussed for the best part of the last century. As a hybrid species, C.savitus is sterile and can only be propagated through its bulbs, resulting in offspring that are clones.

By sequencing the genome and by using specialist techniques to compare chromosomes, scientists have discovered that the saffron crocus is a hybrid of Crocus cartwrightianus, a species native to Greece and Crete.

The discovery offers a route for the recreation of saffron crocus from C.cartwrightianus. This would expand its gene pool, increasing the species’ resilience to threats like a disease.

Traded for over four millennia, saffron is likely to have originated in Iran, a country that now produces 90% of the world’s supply. Read more about crocuses, or croci, here.

Kilkenny Free Talks

Kilkenny Castle has announced the schedule for its Free Garden Talks Series 2019.

Celebrating 50 years in the care of The Office of Public Works, the talks will cover a variety of topics and run from the 26th of March until the 7th of May.

Speakers include Neil Porteus, the curator of the Mount Stewart garden and Seamus O'Brien, curator of the National Botanic Gardens at Kilmacurragh.

Organic expert, Klaus Laitenberger will share the secrets of great vegetable growing, while gardeners Assumpta Broomfield and Paul Cutler will present a talk to celebrate the work of creator and plantswoman of Altamont gardens in Carlow, Corona North.

The programme will conclude with a workshop from Park Foreman Colm Manga, on ‘The Trees of Kilkenny Castle.’

Tickets are free and can be found on their website.

Irrigation Prospects

The Environment Agency has published an initial prediction for irrigation prospects across crucial crop growing areas in the UK, based on the latest weather predictions and hydrological conditions.

Most of the country was drier than usual in the six months running up to 2019. The latest three- month Met Office forecast has no clear signal on whether rainfall will be below or above average. High temperatures are expected to dominate.

Most of the UK has ‘moderate’ irrigation prospects, meaning that they have low water levels. Only Kent, South London and East Sussex have ‘good’ prospects, meaning that water levels are average and above and are expected to be safe.

The prospects for East Anglia are the least encouraging and are currently set at moderate to poor, meaning restrictions to the abstraction from surface and groundwater are probable.

The Environment Agency will be updating these prospects into the spring.

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