Feed the world

The practice of wheat husbandry might not seem full of passion, intrigue and heartbreak, but in Viking in the Wheat Field: A Scientist’s Struggle to Preserve the World’s Harvest, Susan Dworkin details the very real drama constantly facing the global wheat industry, which provides 25 percent of the world’s calories—and which routinely comes close to losing them all. The “Viking” in question is conservationist Bent Skovmand, who reshaped the wheat germ-plasm industry from the 1970s until his death in 2007. Using his career as inspiration, Dworkin explores the history of cereal crops, wheat in particular, looking to the future of genetics as a possible cure for world hunger. Though it’s awash in acronyms and statistics (along with the occasional inscrutable tangent), Viking illuminates the stark necessity of retaining an evolutionary lead against time, disease and international pigheadedness.