Ramadhan Abdulla holds cassava on his farm in Tanzania.  © Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation/Jake Lyell
Ramadhan Abdulla holds cassava on his farm in Tanzania. © Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation/Jake Lyell

3 Insanely Important Crops You've Never Heard Of

Ramadhan Abdulla holds cassava on his farm in Tanzania.  © Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation/Jake Lyell
Ramadhan Abdulla holds cassava on his farm in Tanzania. © Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation/Jake Lyell

Everybody knows the names of plants we grow in the western worldour top five are corn, soybeans, hay (grass), wheat, and cotton. But there are crops around the world feeding millions of peopleand most of us have never even heard of them. Here's a roundup of some of the most interesting crops you likely haven't seen at the supermarket.

1. Cowpea

Farmers and cowpea merchants attend the PICS bag opening ceremony in Garko village in Kano State Nigeria on April 12, 2010. Photo © Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation/Akintunde Akinleye.

Scientific name: Vigna unguiculata.

Where it's grown: Sub-Saharan Africa, South America, Asia, and parts of North America.

Why it's a big deal: The cowpea is so nutritious and adaptable that NASA chose to study it as a plant to grow on space stations. The cowpea withstands heat, drought, poor soil, and shade, so it's adaptable to poor growing conditions. It's such a bad-ass plant that it will even improve poor soil if the roots are left in the soil to rot after harvesting.

Bonus trivia: Millions of African families sell their cowpea crops for a living, but weevil infestations can destroy up to half of each year's crop after it's harvested. In 2009, Purdue University delivered a simple solution to farmers doing battle with the weevil: the PICS bag (short for Purdue Improved Cowpea Storage), a three-layer sack that protects the crop from weevils. Purdue even filmed a sketch explaining how a simple bag can solve pest problems, without the need for post-harvest pesticides.

2. Pearl Millet

Franscica Ejaa separates the seeds from a finger millet flower in front of her house in Kenya. (Right: detail of ground finger millet seeds.) Photos © Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation/Frederic Courbet.

Scientific name: Pennisetum glaucum.

Where it's grown: India, plus the drylands of West and Central Africa.

Why it's a big deal: Pearl millet is a staple food for more than 90 million people in the driest parts of Africa and Asia. It's a cereal crop, but is super drought- and heat-tolerant, so it'll grow where maize and sorghum can't. It's also a very healthy food, providing protein, amino acids, iron, and zinc.

Bonus trivia: Even though pearl millet is an extremely nutritious food, there's a cultural stigma attached to it. In some areas it's considered "poor-man's food," so it's hard to market. This is a situation similar to what potatoes and even lobster faced in the U.S. years agoso attitudes can change.

3. Cassava

Ester Wanjiru Sami and her neighbor pose for a portrait in a field in Murango, Kenya where a variety of crops are growing in November 2011. They are holding freshly harvested cassava. Photo © Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation/Frederic Courbet.

Scientific name: Manihot esculenta Crantz.

Also known as: Yuca, manioc, and mandioca.

Where it's grown: Around the world; these 10 countries account for 75% of global production: Nigeria, Brazil, Thailand, Indonesia, Congo, Ghana, Tanzania, India, and Mozambique.

Why it's a big deal: Several studies say that cassava contributes more than any other single crop to household income. It's a staple food for 500 million people, who rely on it for caloriesand many farmers feed its leaves to animals as fodder. Cassava is also handy because you can leave it in the ground until you're ready to eat it. Hey, free food storage!

Why it may soon be a bigger deal: One bummer about cassava is that it's not a great source of nutrition. This is especially a problem for children, who receive only 4% of the vitamin A they need from a typical meal of standard cassava. A team of scientists developed BioCassava Plus, which beefs up the crop's beta-carotene content by 3,000% (the body converts beta-carotene to vitamin A), and its iron content by 400%.

Courtesy of Airpod
New Nap Pods—Complete with Alarm Clocks and Netflix—Set for A Trial Run at Airports This Summer
Courtesy of Airpod
Courtesy of Airpod

Sleepy travelers in Europe can soon be on the lookout for Airpods, self-contained capsules designed to help passengers relax in privacy.

For 15 euros per hour (roughly $18), travelers can charge their phones, store their luggage, and, yes, nap on a chair that reclines into a bed. The Airpods are also equipped with television screens and free streaming on Netflix, Travel + Leisure reports.

To keep things clean between uses, each Airpod uses LED lights to disinfect the space and a scent machine to manage any unfortunate odors.

The company's two Slovenian founders, Mihael Meolic and Grega Mrgole, expect to conduct a trial run of the service by placing 10 pods in EU airports late this summer. By early 2019, they expect to have 100 Airpods installed in airports around the world, though the company hasn't yet announced which EU airports will receive the first Airpods.

The company eventually plans to introduce an element of cryptocurrency to its service. Once 1000 Airpods are installed (which the company expects to happen by late 2019), customers can opt in to a "Partnership Program." With this program, participants can become sponsors of one specific Airpod unit and earn up to 80 percent of the profits it generates each month. The company's cryptocurrency—called an APOD token—is already on sale through the Airpod website.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

8 City Maps Rendered in the Styles of Famous Artists

Vincent van Gogh once famously said, "I dream my painting and I paint my dream." If at some point in his career he had dreamed up a map of Amsterdam, where he lived and derived much of his inspiration from, it may have looked something like the one below.

In a blog post from March, Credit Card Compare selected eight cities around the world and illustrated what their maps might look like if they had been created by the famous artists who have roots there.

The Andy Warhol-inspired map of New York City, for instance, is awash with primary colors, and the icons representing notable landmarks are rendered in his famous Pop Art style. Although Warhol grew up in Pittsburgh, he spent much of his career working in the Big Apple at his studio, dubbed "The Factory."

Another iconic and irreverent artist, Banksy, is the inspiration behind London's map. Considering that the public doesn't know Banksy's true identity, he remains something of an enigma. His street art, however, is recognizable around the world and commands exorbitant prices at auction. In an ode to urban art, clouds of spray paint and icons that are a bit rough around the edges adorn this map of England's capital.

For more art-inspired city maps, scroll through the photos below.

[h/t Credit Card Compare]


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