Why Can’t We Farm These Foods Yet?

Why Can’t We Farm These Foods Yet?

Thanks to Brilliant for supporting this episode
of SciShow. Go to Brilliant.org/SciShow to learn more. [ intro ] Food, glorious food. We need it to live, and stuff. But for many people, it’s more than that
— a hobby, a pastime, a passion. Farms and businesses work hard to satisfy the commercial and cultural needs of foodies
the world over. But not everything can be plunked down in
the ground and picked a few months later, or grown happily
in a tank. Some foodstuffs just aren’t that cooperative. No matter how much we want them, the science of these plants, animals, and fungi is at odds with the demand. Take huckleberries for example. They’re kind of a big deal in the Pacific
Northwest of the United States, as flocks of people head out into the woods
every summer looking to fill their baskets with the sweet
and juicy berries. They are in such demand that huckleberry picking
season is now a regulated event in some areas to help make
sure there’s enough fruit to go around. You see, these berries have a reputation of being difficult to grow in a farm setting. The soil conditions need to be just right. If you’re trying to grow them, . Additionally, in the wild, huckleberry grows
at high elevations. This environment provides an insulating cover
of snow to help protect the plant during the sub-zero temperatures of winter. Without this insulation phenomenon at lower
elevations, the plants simply freeze. And it’s hard to replicate these conditions
in other climates. Like, imagine carting in a bunch of fake snow, then keeping it frozen. Not to mention, they just grow painfully slow. it can take up to 15 years after planting
seeds or cuttings to yield harvestable fruit. But maybe we’re approaching them all wrong. After all, indigenous peoples have been cultivating
huckleberry crops for centuries — by managing the wild plants. They were the ones who taught early European
arrivals to North America how to forage for the ripe berries. And over time this practice of foraging, cooking,
and preserving evolved into the high-demand craze that we
see every year. At least here in Montana! Researchers have been working on creating
a domestic variant of the huckleberry by cross-breeding it with certain strains
of blueberries, which are closely related to huckleberries. These cultivars would be able to thrive in
a variety of ecological settings, making it more likely that the number of crops
could rise to meet the demand. But until that happens, the huckleberry will remain a treat for dedicated
berry-hunters. And only at certain times of the year. And that’s not the only luxury food product
in high demand. According to sushi lovers, n othing beats the flavor of bluefin tuna. In 2019, a single large tuna in Japan sold
for over three million dollars! Since these fish are only found in the wild, high demand has led to high prices and overfishing
— landing the bluefin on the endangered species
list. We can’t grow these fish in hatcheries yet, because bluefin tuna have a complex life cycle,
making them very difficult to farm. They are a really big fish. Like, over three meters long and averaging
two hundred fifty kilograms big. They’re fast-swimming, migratory fish, meaning their natural habitat is much, much
bigger than any tank. They need to swim to develop properly. Plus, they’re predators at the top of the
food chain, so it also takes a lot of energy to produce
the animals they like to snack on. So the mature adults are difficult to care
for, to say the least. But even as tiny free-floating larvae, they are difficult to maintain. A study published in 1991, for example, showed when larvae of one species of bluefin
tuna are packed in tightly, they grow more slowly, and fewer of them survive. That study actually looked at conditions in
the wild, but with an eye toward what would happen in
a tank — though measures could also be taken to avoid
such issues. Also, larvae may be little, but their heads
take up most of their size, so they’re… a little top heavy. So tank conditions need to be just right to
prevent them from literally sinking and actually getting hurt when they hit the
bottom. Because of their size, it can take up to 8 years for them to reach
sexual maturity and spawn more fish. And fish in captivity often experience reproductive
issues. Researchers in the EU and the US are trying
to overcome this issue by manipulating the fish’s own growth hormones
to induce reproduction. If we can’t establish captive populations
to keep up with demand, overfishing is likely to continue — which
could be bad news for this fishy favorite. Other high demand foods are at risk of becoming
endangered, too. The truffle is the poster child of expensive
luxury foods. Some varieties of truffle can sell for hundreds
of dollars per ounce. But this fungus could go the way of the dodo
unless we figure out how to grow it ourselves. See, truffles aren’t like the mushrooms
you’re probably familiar with. They grow underground in close proximity to
the root systems of trees, usually hardwoods. They are mycorrhizal species, which means they have a symbiotic relationship
with the trees in which they exchange nutrients and aid each other’s growth. But humans haven’t been doing a good job
of caring for this fungus. Because deforestation and climate change are major threats to the forests across southern
Europe that truffles call home in the wild. And they’re costly and difficult to grow
in a farm setting, mostly because it takes time to grow a fungus
with such a complex life history. One researcher in the UK harvested his first
truffle almost 10 years after planting the holly oak
tree that would develop a relationship with the fungi. However, there might be a small silver lining
to the role that climate change has taken. Even though the native habitats of truffle
fungi are being destroyed, areas in more northerly forests in Europe may be growing more amenable to these species. Given time, the ecosystem changes from climate
change might just provide the opportunity for truffles to move to brand new habitats. Our demand for these foodstuffs outstrips
the supply. It seems unlikely that sushi fans or huckleberry
lovers will let them go any time soon, so we may need to apply some clever science
in order to cultivate them. In addition to farming, though, this may be the incentive we need to preserve
native habitats for the survival of all species — including the delicious ones. Because after all, isn’t biodiversity the
spice of life? Outro:
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100 thoughts on “Why Can’t We Farm These Foods Yet?

  1. Go to http://Brilliant.org/SciShow to try out Brilliant’s Daily Challenges. The first 200 subscribers get 20% off an annual Premium subscription.

  2. I was so shocked that you guys remembered to include Huckleberries in this list, but then I remembered you literally live in Missoula lol
    If you ever decide to go Huckleberry picking I'd recommend visiting Hungry Horse, by the dam's bank and near the glacier melts

  3. My parents' land in the deep south originally had one blueberry bush. Now, that bush is larger than some trees and there are multiple huckleberry bushes, beautyberries, and a whole viney, thorny grove(?) of dewberries. We didn't plant any of it either lol.

  4. Now I understand the expression "I'll be your hucklberry" a bit better. I knew it meant having a unique and usefull skill set for a situation, but now I see why they chose hucklberry as it requires a unique and specific situation to thrive.

  5. Just a bit confused, both, huckleberries and truffels are both farmed in switzerland. I mean ye, truffels are soon to be harvested, as the trees were planted years ago. And the huckleberries are actually difficult to farm, but it's possible (in my region a farmer bought land in a former swamp, just to grow the huckleberries. Unfortunately, exactly this area had the wrong composition. So he had to put all plants into pots, in the open field XD Second venture was more careful examined, and got the right soil though)

  6. My sisters huckleberry picking efforts this summer were yielding something like a pint per hour. I think unless you value your time very low, those are some very expensive berries, lol.

  7. All these problems are man-made and instead of thinking about how to curb out numbers, we instead think about making the Earth bigger.

  8. That would be a whole movie if you start to talk about tropical fruits. Like Jabuticaba, not only takes 15 to 20 years for a tree to start to produce, once plucked it spoils in less than a week.

  9. Once again you manage to blame everything on "climate change" without a single source cited or a single scientific paper referenced to allow your viewers to verify your "facts"
    Stop pushing the climate change hoax on your more gullible viewers.

  10. Whenever I visited Montana as a kid, I always looked forward to three things: Going-to-the-Sun Road, catch-and-cook Rainbow Trout, and Huckleberry syrup on pancakes.

  11. "This fish sells for millions of dollars.."

    Me: "I have discovered a passion for fishing!"

    Me after seeing the size of the fish: "Ok maybe fishing isn't for me."

  12. Has anybody considered growing rice in marshes rye in ditches or wheat in fields.Seriously take picture's of huckleberry growing see if it has vassal plants and farm it on the mountains.And ask those "scientists" are you the same dill funks who cannot find crops that fair well in the mountains? Reilly?

  13. Brazil nuts are also un farmiable because it requires a certain spices of bee for polynation and tha bee needs a specific Type of orchid for nectar and mating and a pecairy to knaw through the outside shell to release the nutlets, pluss the tree's can nat Grow in cold climate or in deserts, and it grows up to 500ft tall which make it dangerous difficult for people to harvest the fruit. It iz amazing one of a few plants that has to wild growen and wild harvested crops people Use in cooking and economic exporting .

  14. Practitioners in Germany held activities at the Munich Marienplatzch on August 24, 2019, introducing the benefits of Falun Gong, and exposing the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) crime of harvesting organs from living Falun Gong practitioners. Many people had the opportunity to learn about what's happening and signed a petition in support of Falun Gong.

  15. Truffles can be grown and are being grown on "farms" do more research. You can buy trees inoculated with truffles spawn on the roots. Hazlenuts will produce after 5yrs oak trees 7yrs.
    Yes it take time but they are growing them production style. 2 or 3 farms in Oregon have had their first harvest last year.

  16. Why don’t they just hire the SciCraft Minecraft server (They make the best most efficient Minecraft farms ever for everything that is renewable)

  17. To me, the common theme seems to be that it would take decades or more from starting a farm to getting it productive.
    Maybe the problem is that our lifespan is too short?

  18. I‘ve been planting humans and I still don‘t have any humans growing.. am I doing something wrong? I feel like I need to keep them alive?

  19. you are pronouncing fungi and larvae extremely wrong my dude. also, can we not add more growth hormones to our meat or make cross breeds that serve function but not nutrition? let's get on board with seasonal, fresh produce, like our ancestors ate.

  20. Maybe the way we farm is why these organisms are not able to be cultivated, easily. Sounds like food forests may be the answer to the specialty fungi and plants, and establishing large areas of marine reserves, like national parks are the best way to grow out the tuna. Less than 2% of the ocean is a protected. Also, doesn’t it make food that can only be eaten a certain time of year that much better?

  21. The native PNW huckleberry can be cultivated (pinkish/red berries) and is currently working towards full berry gardens for their production! It requires a lot of old growth cedar stumps/fallen logs though…

  22. obviously adapted to other forms of this symbiotic relationship most likely with ammonia the natural forming bacteria that eats dead stuff in the water.

  23. Over 40% of the plastics in the oceans are from the fishing industry. Stop eating fish….and recycle your plastic straws and bags.

  24. Most deforestation is to support animal agriculture…. Think truffles and biodiversity is important? Stop eating corpses of animals, forcefully bred into exsistance, so they can take up this land, and be exploited for money.

  25. Brazil nuts are very difficult to farm. The trees are huge and slow-growing and can only be pollinated by bumblebees and other bees with large bodies. The fruits with the nuts inside take 14 months to fully develop after being pollinated and, when they finally fall off the tree from a height of 80 to 160 feet, can easily kill people or badly damage equipment that they land on.

  26. Im really not interested in your libtarded propaganda. There is no such thing as "climate change", as least not in the way you alarmists are trying to hoax everyone into believing. Secondly, why are you giving native americans any credit at all for farming huckleberries? You just said we cant do it today but you want to give a primitive third world crapheap of a people credit?

  27. It's not just the somewhat more exotic food species. By some estimates, since the 1900s 75% of plant diversity has been lost as farmers favor high-yield genetically uniform crops over local or regional varieties. Nearly a third of livestock breeds are at risk of extinction. This trend towards monoculture has more dire consequences than simply losing those great-tasting tomatoes your grandfather used to grow. It also makes our food supply more vulnerable to pests and diseases. Currently 99% of banana exports are one variety, the Cavendish banana, which is at risk from a fungus that has recently spread to South America.

  28. Raw bluefin tastes like rare steak with butter, and pro tip for those allergic to shellfish: swap shellfish for halibut, it has the same taste and texture.

  29. Some acorns are edible. We don’t bother selecting for them because folks wouldn’t make money from it in a single lifetime.

  30. I know some shroom harvesters who absolutely despise rakers because they destroy the truffle beds.
    If you ever go hunting truffles, please learn the correct way to harvest them, and NEVER use a rake.

  31. I'm not surprised the US has the republican party running the EPA right now. It's "burn it to the ground and make as much money as you can, while wasting most of it." The propped up economies that have been made by fake industry demands in foreign countries is abominable. Apple makes crap products that fail to last more than one commercial upgrade cycle; this intentional manufacturing to "fail" without making the product recyclable is complete idiocy and unsustainable, and with the propped up price of a "quality" product being absolute commercial propaganda, it's hard for me to say Steve Jobs knew anything about sustainablility. I'd wager it was too expensive to even look into – it would mean he would have to stop marketing for artificial demand and fake "upgrades".

    Sustainability in business has to face the same kind of scrutiny as we have for our food. Apple is completely toxic to the sustainability of our future. You can claim it's for quality assurances, but history already says that Apple really does not care — especially when they try to legislate repair companies as "general store" artifacts of mining ghost towns, where store credit and fee schedules bankrupted miners and is the very example of toxic industry and moral corruption. There is no quality control, only profit and exploitation management. There is not ONE single innovation from apple to create an ecologically sustainable business model.

  32. We also think curiosity is an important part of life, that is why is episode is sponsored by curiosity stream.
    i expected this hank.

  33. Hello, Humans.
    “Why don’t you try sticking your head up your ass? See if it fits.” – Tony Montana. (Scarface 1983)


  34. I really want to learn more about how we can protect and cultivate natural parks and ocean environments to be able to prop up these species and develop a market and culture that can go out and forage for things like huckleberries, paw paw, truffles, blue fin tuna. I think the original blueberries were similar and tomatoes as well, where they were difficult to farm and could only be picked in the wild. What is it called when you sort of holistically culture different plants and animals in he wild for human consumption. Please do a video on this 🙂

  35. But……Bluefin Tuna are being farmed in Japan, and have been for a while now. How could you research all the problems related to farming BluefIn, and not see any of the articles talking about the Bluefin Being farmed already in Japan…..heres a link to an article talking about how fully farmed Japanese Bluefin Tuna are ready to be sold outside of Japan.


  36. There are a few farms in southern Australia that are farming tuffles. Mainly Tasmania & Victoria. They are usually mixed farming businesses, not just truffles.

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