PLANT BREEDING NEWS

EDITION 147
27 May 2004

An Electronic Newsletter of Applied Plant Breeding
Sponsored by FAO and Cornell University

Clair H. Hershey, Editor

CONTENTS

1.  NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH NOTES
1.01 The Gene Revolution and the Poor
1.02 Biodiversity Laws Alienate and Criminalize Taxonomists
1.03 Accessing Genetic Resources through International Law
1.04 Genetic Barrier to Self-pollination Identified
1.05 Monsanto, USDA-ARS and University of Illinois Join Forces to Map Location of Rust Resistance Genes in Soybean Genome
1.06 New Traits Developed in Summer Annual Forages
1.07 Metabolic Engineering with Dof1 Transcription Factor in Plants: Improved Nitrogen Assimilation and Growth Under Low-nitrogen Conditions
1.08 Brazil Maps Arabica Coffee Genome to Improve Quality
1.09 Domesticated Tree Crops May be the 'Future of Forestry'
1.10 New Low-coumarin Sweet Clover Only a Few Years Away
1.11 The Philippines to Export Hybrid Rice Seed to Parts of Asia, Africa
1.12 New Disease Resistant Sunflower Available
1.13 Gene Firm Pioneers Desert Crops
1.14 Maxygen Subsidiary Verdia Announces Discovery and Improvement of Glyphosate Tolerance Gene
1.15 Improving the Nutritional Value of Fruits and Vegetables
1.16 New Queensland DPI Tomato with High Lycopene Levels May be Just What the Doctor Orders
1.17  New Line of Soybeans Developed for Breeders has Higher Amount of Oleic Acid
1.18 Super-healthy Cress Created
1.19 Monsanto Scrubs Transgenic Wheat
1.20 Biotech Foods Keep Coming Despite Monsanto Setback
1.21 Most EU Feed Now Labeled as Containing GMOs
1.22 U.S. Crop Seeds Contaminated
1.23 Boosting Conservation and Sustainable Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources in South East Europe

2.  PUBLICATIONS
2.01  Genetic Improvement of Cacao
2.02  Banana Improvement: Cellular, Molecular Biology, and Induced Mutations

3.  ABSTRACTS FROM SELECTED RECENT JOURNAL ARTICLES
3.01 Participatory Plant Breeding Research: Opportunities and Challenges for the International Crop Improvement System
3.02 Evaluation of Selection Strategies for Wheat Adaptation across Water Regimes
3.03 Genetic Diversity in Cowpea [Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp.] as Revealed by RAPD Markers
3.04 Accessing Genetic Resources: International Law Establishes Multilateral System
3.05 Assessing Genetic Potential in Germplasm Collections of Crop Plants by Marker-Trait Association: a Case Study for Potatoes with Quantitative Variation of Resistance to Late Blight and Maturity Type
3.06 A Field Study of Pollen-mediated Gene Flow from Mediterranean GM Rice to Conventional Rice and the Red Rice Weed
3.07 An Integrated Genetic Linkage Map of Pepper (Capsicum spp.)
3.08 Genetic Diversity in Cultivated Plants -- Loss or Stability?

4  GRANTS AVAILABLE
4.01 Call for Submissions for the Seed Awards

5  MEETINGS, COURSES AND WORKSHOPS

6  EDITOR'S NOTES

NEW SECTION
This edition of Plant Breeding News includes a new section -- ABSTRACTS FROM SELECTED RECENT JOURNAL ARTICLES. While this is not meant to be a comprehensive indexing service, we hope to highlight a few articles each month that meet some of the following criteria:

- Broad relevance across species/regions
- Landmark research for a given species
- Broad research reviews
- Exceptional scale of research (multiple years/sites)
- Breakthrough findings/technologies
- Broad collaborative research across institutions
- Significant research in under-represented crops/regions

We hope to expand this section to include a broader array of journals, especially some that may not be as easily accessible. Please provide your feedback to me at chh23@cornell.edu, on ways to improve this section, or with suggestions for articles to include.

TEXT HYPERLINKS
In last month's newsletter we introduced text hyperlinks to allow readers to more easily access specific articles. Based on subscriber responses, this feature is highly appreciated by those whose system allows it to function properly. Unfortunately, about one quarter of those who responded were unable to use the links. We will continue to work at making this feature more broadly available to readers. Any suggestions will be appreciated.

(See additional notes at end of newsletter)

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1.  NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH NOTES
1.01 THE GENE REVOLUTION AND THE POOR

The gene revolution has great potential for the poor but is no panacea, says the FAO Annual Report, Rome, Italy
 
Only a few countries are benefiting so far - food crops of the poor need more attention
 
Biotechnology holds great promise for agriculture in developing countries, but so far only farmers in a few developing countries are reaping these benefits, FAO said in its annual report 'The State of Food and Agriculture 2003-04', released today.

Basic food crops of the poor such as cassava, potato, rice and wheat receive little attention by scientists, FAO said.

"Neither the private nor the public sector has invested significantly in new genetic technologies for the so-called 'orphan crops' such as cowpea, millet, sorghum and tef that are critical for the food supply and livelihoods of the world's poorest people," said FAO Director-General Dr Jacques Diouf.

"Other barriers that prevent the poor from accessing and fully benefiting from modern biotechnology include inadequate regulatory procedures, complex intellectual property issues, poorly functioning markets and seed delivery systems, and weak domestic plant breeding capacity," he added.

Biotechnology, one of the tools of the gene revolution, is much more than genetically modified organisms (GMOs), sometimes also called transgenic organisms.

While the potential benefits and risks of GMOs need to be carefully assessed case by case, the controversy surrounding transgenics should not distract from the potential offered by other applications of biotechnology such as genomics, marker-assisted breeding and animal vaccines, FAO said.

Food and income needed for an additional 2 billion people

Agriculture will have to sustain an additional 2 billion people over the next 30 years from an increasingly fragile natural resource base. The challenge is to develop technologies that combine several objectives - increase yields and reduce costs, protect the environment, address consumer concerns for food safety and quality, enhance rural livelihoods and food security, FAO said.

Agricultural research can lift people out of poverty, by boosting agricultural incomes and reducing food prices.

More than 70 percent of the world's poor still live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their survival. Agricultural research - including biotechnology - holds an important key to meeting their needs.

Biotechnology should complement - not replace - conventional agricultural technologies, FAO said. Biotechnology can speed up conventional breeding programmes and may offer solutions where conventional methods fail.

It can provide farmers with disease-free planting materials and develop crops that resist pests and diseases, reducing use of chemicals that harm the environment and human health. It can provide diagnostic tools and vaccines that help control devastating animal diseases. It can improve the nutritional quality of staple foods such as rice and cassava and create new products for health and industrial uses.

But poor farmers can only benefit from biotechnology products if they "have access to them on profitable terms," the report said. "Thus far, these conditions are only being met in a handful of developing countries."

Neglected crops

Research and commercialization data on transgenic crops show that many crops and traits of interest to the poor are being neglected.

"There are no major public- or private-sector programmes to tackle the critical problems of the poor or targeting crops and animals that they rely on," the report said.

A large part of the private-sector investment is concentrated on just four crops: cotton, maize, canola and soybean.
 
Six countries (Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, South Africa and the US), four crops (maize, soybean, canola/rapeseed and cotton) and two traits (insect resistance and herbicide tolerance) accounted for 99 percent of the global area planted in transgenic crops in 2003, the report said.

Where the research money goes

One of the key constraints many developing countries are facing in adopting and adapting biotechnology innovations is their lack of agricultural research capacity particularly in plant and animal breeding, FAO said.

The private-sector research dominates global biotechnology. The world's top ten transnational bioscience corporations spend nearly $3 billion per year on agricultural biotechnology research and development. Private biotech research in most developing countries is negligible.

Brazil, China and India, which have the largest public agricultural research programmes in developing countries, spend less than half a billion dollars each annually.

The largest international public supplier of agricultural technologies, the CGIAR, has a total annual budget of only about $300 million for crop improvement.

Transgenic crops - an economic success

In the few developing countries where transgenic crops have been introduced, small farmers have gained economically and the use of toxic agro-chemicals has been reduced, FAO said.

"Transgenic crops have delivered large economic benefits to farmers in some areas of the world over the past seven years," the report said. In several cases, per hectare gains have been large when compared with almost any other technological innovation introduced over the past few decades.

In China, for example, more than four million small farmers are growing insect-resistant cotton on about 30 percent of the country's total cotton area. Yields for insect-resistant cotton were about 20 percent higher than for conventional varieties and pesticide costs were around 70 percent lower.

Pesticide use was reduced by an estimated 78 000 tonnes in 2001, an amount equal to about one-quarter of the total quantity of chemical pesticides used in China. As a result, cotton farmers experienced fewer pesticide poisonings than those growing conventional varieties.

Even though transgenic crops have been delivered through the private sector in most cases, the benefits have been widely distributed among industry, farmers and consumers.

"This suggests that the monopoly position engendered by intellectual property protection does not automatically lead to excessive industry profits," the report said.

Effects on human health and the environment

The scientific evidence concerning the environmental and health impacts of genetic engineering is still emerging, the report said.

"Scientists generally agree that the transgenic crops currently being grown and the foods derived from them are safe to eat, although little is known about their long-term effects," said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf.

"There is less scientific agreement on the environmental impacts of transgenic crops. The legitimate concerns for the safety of each transgenic product must be addressed prior to its release. Careful monitoring of the post-release effects of these products is essential," Diouf said.

FAO recommends a case-by-case evaluation that considers the potential benefits and risks of individual transgenic crops.

The report says that, while some benefits have been observed, adverse environmental effects have not been detected in commercial production. Continued monitoring is needed, FAO stressed.

The report stresses the need for science-based biosafety assessments.

"Where crops have not been cleared through biosafety risk assessments, a greater risk of harmful environmental consequences exists. Unauthorized varieties may not provide farmers with the expected level of pest control, leading to continued need for chemical pesticides and a greater risk of the development of pest resistance."

Furthermore, neither private companies nor public research institutes can be expected to develop transgenic crops for poor producers in countries that lack reliable, transparent regulatory procedures.

The FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission has agreed on principles and guidelines for assessing health risks related to foods derived from modern biotechnology.

Members of the International Plant Protection Convention are developing guidelines for pest-risk analysis for living modified organisms. These agreements can help harmonize regulatory procedures globally.

Source: SeedQuest.com

17 May 2004

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1.02   BIODIVERSITY LAWS ALIENATE AND CRIMINALIZE TAXONOMISTS

Laws established following the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to control bioprospecting are hampering conservation science in biodiversity-rich countries.

By restricting all biodiversity-related research not just that with a commercial angle conservation science suffers, argues Rohan Pethiyagoda in this letter to Nature. He cites the US$200 charged under India's Biological Diversity Act for applications for government approval to access biological resources as being prohibitively expensive for taxonomists.

The International Union of Biological Sciences has resolved to promote activities that enhance scientific input to the CBD process. But for biologists in developing countries, it remains to be seen whether the CBD's negative side effects outweigh its benefits.

Source: SciDev.Net

13 May 2004

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1.03  ACCESSING GENETIC RESOURCES THROUGH INTERNATIONAL LAW

The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (PGRFA), soon to become an international law, will define the rules for access and benefit-sharing associated with most genetic resources of major food crops. While it has its ambiguities and problems in the text, it "provides the international community of researchers, plant breeders, and farmers with an opportunity to foster cooperation and further the conservation and use of plant genetic resources." This is the conclusion of Cary Fowler in an article entitled "Accessing genetic resources: international law establishes multilateral system" published in the journal Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution (Vol. 51, 2004).

Fowler said that the PGRFA framework will have served its purpose if the legal instrument is used to "create a new and healthy culture when it comes to the exchange of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture." The task then shifts to implementation and trust building.
The international treaty will govern access to most materials from gene banks as well as from in-situ and on-farm sources. The text of the treaty can be found at http://www.fao.org.
For more information, email Cary Fowler at c.fowler@cgiar.org.

Source: Crop BiotechUpdate

Contributed by Margaret Smith mes25@cornell.edu
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1.04  GENETIC BARRIER TO SELF-POLLINATION IDENTIFIED

 Many flowering plants prevent inbreeding and increase genetic diversity by a process called self-incompatibility, in which pollination fails to set seed if the pollen is identified as its own by the pistil. A research team, led by Teh-hui Kao, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Penn State, has announced, in a paper published in the May 20 issue of Nature, the discovery of a gene of petunias that controls pollen function in self-incompatibility. This discovery completes a critical missing link in the understanding of how self-incompatibility works. Ten years ago, Kao announced, in another paper published in Nature, the identification of the gene, called the S-RNase gene (S for self-incompatibility), that controls pistil function in self-incompatibility. "This male component turned out to be much more elusive than the pistil component," says Kao. "Our team, as well as others, has worked for the past ten years to find it." The recently identified gene, named PiSLF (for Petunia inflata S-locus F-box), encodes a new member of a large family of F-box proteins that are known to mediate protein degradation in diverse organisms, including animals, plants and yeast.

While a species may have as many as 50 or 60 different S-alleles, each plant has only two of them, one inherited from each parent. An allele is one of a number of possible variants of a particular gene; for example, two alleles exist for each of the three genes that determine eye color in humans. Pollen grains are haploid, meaning that they contain only a single set of chromosomes, and thus each pollen grain contains only one of the two S-alleles of the parent plant. The pistil, on the other hand, is diploid, meaning that it has two sets of chromosomes (one from each parent) and therefore has both S-alleles of the parent plant. During pollination, if the S-allele of the pollen does not match either of the two S-alleles in the pistil, the pollen will germinate on the surface of the pistil to produce pollen tubes, which will then grow through the pistil to the ovary to effect fertilization. However, if the S-allele of the pollen matches either of the two S-alleles in the pistil, growth of the pollen tube is stopped about one third of the way to the ovary, preventing fertilization. Triggering this self-incompatibility response requires an interaction between the product of an S-allele produced in pollen and the product of a genetic counterpart produced in the pistil. To identify the pollen component in self-incompatibility, the team examined the DNA sequence of a chromosomal region containing the S2-allele of the S-RNase gene (the previously identified pistil component for plants containing the specific S-locus allele that is labeled S2). "The gene controlling the pollen function must be very closely linked to the S-RNase gene to prevent recombination," says Kao. "Otherwise, recombination between these two genes would cause the breakdown of self-incompatibility, which has never been observed in nature"

After identifying the PiSLF gene, located approximately 161 kb from the S-RNase gene, Kao's team had to demonstrate that the gene was indeed the pollen component of self-incompatibility. "Other labs have found similar genes in the vicinity of the S-RNase gene in various other species" he says. "But proximity alone is insufficient to show the relationship." They took advantage of a phenomenon known as competitive interaction to demonstrate the function of the PiSLF gene in self-incompatibility. It has been known for some time that if pollen has two different S-alleles (which could result when the chromosomal region containing the pollen S-allele is duplicated in a plant), the pollen fails to function in self-incompatibility and thus cannot be rejected by any plant pistil. However, pollen with two identical S-alleles (again resulting from duplication of the pollen S-allele) remains functional in self-incompatibility. The team carried out three sets of experiments. In one set, the S2-allele of PiSLF was introduced into plants of S1S1 genotype plants containing two identical S-locus genes of a type labeled S1 - via standard plant transformation techniques. For each transgenic plant generated, half of the pollen produced contained the endogenous (originating from within the plant) pollen S1-allele plus the PiSLF2 transgene (a gene that is introduced from a source outside the plant), whereas the other half only contained the endogenous pollen S1-allele. If PiSLF is the pollen component, the pollen that contained PiSLF2 should contain two different pollen S-alleles, S1 from the endogenous gene and S2 from the transgene, and based on competitive interaction, should fail to function in self-incompatibility. However, the pollen that contained only the endogenous pollen S1-allele should function normally. Thus, the prediction was that the transgenic plants would set seeds upon self-pollination (i.e., becoming self-compatible) and that all the resulting progeny should inherit the PiSLF2 transgene. The results from this set of experiments, as well as from two other sets using different genotypes of plants as recipient of PiSLF2, were completely in agreement with the prediction based on competitive interaction and based on the assumption that PiSLF is the pollen component.

The team that made this discovery consisted of five graduate students, Paja Sijacic, Xi Wang, Andrea L. Skirpan, Yan Wang and Peter E. Dowd, and a postdoctoral scholar, Andrew G. McCubbin. In addition, a research scientist, Shihshieh Huang, at Monsanto (a former graduate student of Kao's group) participated in the project as a collaborator.

This discovery could have commercial application for hybrid seed production in crop plants, such as corn and soy bean, that have lost self-incompatibility. Raising hybrid seed has been one of the major goals of horticultural and agricultural practice, because hybrid plants are more productive (due to hybrid vigor) and more uniform in quality than plants derived from self-pollination or random pollination. To raise hybrid seed, self-pollination and sib-pollination (pollination by a plant of the same hybrid) must be circumvented. One method is hand emasculation of the line used as female parent, which is then naturally cross-pollinated by pollen from the line serving as male parent and planted in an adjacent row. However, this process is very labor intensive and invariably expensive. If the crop plants can be made self-incompatible by the introduction of the genes controlling self-incompatibility, then all seeds produced will be hybrids resulting from cross-pollination between two different lines. This would facilitate the production and increase the yield of hybrid seed and, at the same time, reduce the labor costs.

Source: EurekAlert.com
19 May 2004

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1.05  MONSANTO, USDA-ARS AND UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS JOIN FORCES TO MAP LOCATION OF RUST RESISTANCE GENES IN SOYBEAN GENOME

St. Louis, Missouri
 A new agreement between the public and private sector is expected to generate a greater understanding of soybean rust, a devastating disease that impacts soybean yields in many growing areas outside of North America.  The agreement is expected to provide plant breeders with a new ability to select for rust resistance more accurately and more efficiently.

The agreement between Monsanto Company, the University of Illinois and the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), will first work to identify the location of rust resistance genes within the soybean genome using genetic markers.

"Recent advances of soybean rust in Argentina and Brazil make this one of the most destructive diseases of soybean and we must prepare for the possibility of rust in the U.S. by developing management options including resistant varieties," says Glen L. Hartman, plant pathologist with the USDA- Agricultural Research Service.

Robb Fraley, Monsanto's chief technology officer and executive vice president, announced the research collaboration during a weekend awards ceremony at the University of Illinois, where he was presented with an alumnus Career Achievement Award.

Monsanto and the University of Illinois scientists plan to publish the information in a scientific journal so plant breeders have access to the important data. Ultimately, the parties also plan to use the information to enhance their respective breeding capabilities with the goal of someday developing soybean lines that are resistant to strains of the yield-robbing disease.

"Monsanto is proud to be a part of this important research initiative and help develop ways to address the problems soybean farmers face in their fields," said Marlin Edwards, Monsanto's Lead of Breeding Technology. "Soybean rust is a real threat to the productivity of soybean growers around the world. We hope that our work with the University of Illinois and the USDA will lead to a better understanding of the disease, and improve our ability to quickly respond to U.S. soybean producers should this devastating disease enter the U.S."

"What we learn from this research will be critical in our search for additional and perhaps more effective genes for rust resistance," said Randall Nelson, USDA-ARS research geneticist and curator of the USDA Soybean Germplasm Collection."

"This is a perfect example of a partnership between the public and private sector to address a threat to Illinois and U.S. agricultural production," said Steven G. Pueppke, Associate Dean for Research and Director of the National Soybean Research Laboratory.

As part of the agreement, Monsanto will be responsible for using genetic markers to map rust resistance in germplasm developed by ARS that has known genes for rust resistance. Scientists often use genetic markers as a tag to identify the specific location of a genetic trait on a chromosome. By tagging the desired trait, plant breeders can breed plants more efficiently and more accurately.

ARS scientists will be determining the rust reactions of the soybean lines in high-level containment facilities located in Frederick, Md. Monsanto also will provide funding to support the rust screening activity.
 
About Soybean Rust

Soybean rust (Phakopsora pachyrhizi) is a wind-borne fungal disease that attacks a soybean plant's foliage resulting in early leaf drop, thus hampering pod setting and development, as well as reducing yields. The disease was first discovered in Asia in the early 1900's and different strains of the disease are found throughout the world today -- including Africa, Asia, Australia and South America. Many plant pathologists expect that the disease will someday impact North American soybean production.

Currently, growers around the world use fungicides to control the outbreak of the disease in their fields. The amount of damage the disease causes depends on how early infection occurs during the plant's growth cycle. Typically, estimates on how much damage the disease causes vary by country. Some researchers have reported that the disease has resulted in crop loss rates ranging between 10 and 80 percent.

Source: SeedQuest.com
May 17, 2004

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1.06  NEW TRAITS DEVELOPED IN SUMMER ANNUAL FORAGES

Manhattan, Kansas
 
Two new traits that have been bred into some types of summer annual forages give producers more choices in the types of forages they can grow. The traits have been developed by researchers in several states for grazing, haying and silage.

Research done by Texas A&M University in 2002 showed forages that incorporated photo period-sensitive (PPS) and brown mid-rib (BMR) traits generally produced better yields than did corn silage. Both traits have been developed in sorghum, sorghum-sudan grass and hybrid pearl millet. The BMR trait can also be found in corn.

"The PPS and BMR traits have shown to have advantages over the favorite roughage source of corn silage," said Ron Hale, livestock specialist for Kansas StateUniversityResearch and Extension in southwest Kansas.

Research into these traits has been conducted in several states. Texas A&M has been the leader over the last few years, with a large number of varieties and types, water use efficiency and some feedlot and grazing work. Kansas State has studied comparisons of summer annual forages for a number of years at various locations across the state. Oklahoma State University, Purdue University, the University of Wisconsin and the United States Department of Agriculture Dairy Forage Research Center have also researched PPS and BMR traits.

The PPS trait is sensitive to sunlight and as days grow shorter (less than 12 hours), plants with this trait go from the vegetative phase of their life cycle to the reproductive phase. Plants with the PPS trait have shown higher forage growth, which is a strong attribute to the plants.

The downside of the PPS trait, however, is that the growth of the plant is dependent upon the lignin content to hold the plant up. Lignin reduces digestibility of the plants.

K-State's Hale said forages that contain the PPS trait have a higher yield potential and better water use efficiency than does corn for silage, which may make using forages with PPS more feasible and economical to use. With the high lignin content in PPS plants, however, the energy content is lower than with corn silage.

That can be fixed when feeding PPS forages by supplementing them with grain, he said.

The brown mid-rib (BMR) trait has the opposite effect on a plant from plants containing the PPS trait. Plants containing the BMR trait have 25 to 50 percent lower lignin content than non-BMR forages.

That means improved energy and digestibility of BMR-containing forages compared with forages that do not contain the BMR trait, Hale said.

"This trait may be good for growing and dairy rations because any improvement in energy and digestibility has a big impact," said Hale. "The rate of gain in cattle feed BMRs may be equal or better than corn silage."

The drawback to the BMR trait is that there is lower forage growth than with forages containing the PPS trait, as well as lodging problems associated with the lower lignin content.

Texas A & M University has tested varieties that are more resistant to lodging than others.

"The improved quality of the BMR (forages) and higher production of the PPS (forages) provide viable alternatives for corn silage," said Hale. "This could be especially true in western Kansas where many of the feedlots and dairies rely on silage and where the aquifer water levels have been declining."

For more information contact local Kansas State Research and Extension Offices.

K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus in Manhattan.

Source: SeedQuest.com
May 14, 2004

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1.07  METABOLIC ENGINEERING WITH Dof1 TRANSCRIPTION FACTOR IN PLANTS: IMPROVED NITROGEN ASSIMILATION AND GROWTH UNDER LOW-NITROGEN CONDITIONS

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 10.1073/pnas.0402267101
Utilization of transcription factors might be a powerful approach to modification of metabolism for a generation of crops having superior characteristics because a single transcription factor frequently regulates coordinated expression of a set of key genes for respective pathways. Here, we apply the plant-specific Dof1 transcription factor to improve nitrogen assimilation, the essential metabolism including the primary assimilation of ammonia to carbon skeletons to biosynthesize amino acids and other organic compounds involving nitrogen in plants. Expressing Dof1 induced the up-regulation of genes encoding enzymes for carbon skeleton production, a marked increase of amino acid contents, and a reduction of the glucose level in transgenic Arabidopsis.

The results suggest cooperative modification of carbon and nitrogen metabolisms on the basis of their intimate link. Furthermore, elementary analysis revealed that the nitrogen content increased in the Dof1 transgenic plants (c44fd.jpg30%), indicating promotion of net nitrogen assimilation. Most significantly, the Dof1 transgenic plants exhibit improved growth under low-nitrogen conditions, an agronomically important trait. These results highlight the great utility of transcription factors in engineering metabolism in plants.

The complete article is accessible to PNAS subscribers at
http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/0402267101v1?etoc

Source: SeedQuest.com
11 May 2004

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1.08  BRAZIL MAPS ARABICA COFFEE GENOME TO IMPROVE QUALITY

http://www.forbes.com/business/newswire/2004/04/20/rtr1338370.html
 
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (Reuters) - Brazilian scientists finished mapping
the arabica coffee genome with the aim of raising the tree's resistance to
disease and harsh weather and improving quality, a research leader said on
Tuesday.

A coffee genome is made up of 11 chromosomes which are packed with genes
and form a blueprint for the beverage's taste, texture, flavor and other
qualities.

During the past two years, scientists from Brazil, the world's biggest
coffee grower and exporter, produced 200,000 genetic sequences from which
35,000 genes were identified. Many of the genes recur in roots, branches
and leaves of coffee trees.

"The object is to improve coffee quality and yields by protecting trees
from disease and weather," project coordinator Alan Carvalho Andrade of
the government's Agricultural Research Agency (Embrapa) told Reuters.  "We
can now start with coffee institutions, the functional phase which is
about how to use the data bank on the 35,000 genes to improve coffee
quality," he added.  Andrade said it was uncertain how long it would take
to start commercial production of improved coffee varieties.

Researchers have estimated that cost savings of between 50 and 100 percent
could be made on herbicides, pesticides and other crop chemicals, and that
productivity could be raised by between 30 and 50 percent.
Sao Paulo's research foundation (Fapesp) helped coordinate the coffee
genome project which cost 6 million reais (US$2.05 million) and was funded
by the National Coffee Development Fund (Funcafe).

The coffee genetic data bank also contains information about conillon
(robusta) coffee varieties, which account for about 30 percent of
Brazilian coffee output, although their genetic sequences have not been
separately mapped, Andrade added.  In Parana, the state's agronomic
institute is researching the development of genetically modified (GMO)
coffee beans which resist stronger herbicides.  Brazilian researchers have
already genetically mapped sugarcane as well as Xylella fastidiosa, a
bacterium that attacks orange trees.  Research is also being conducted
into mapping witches' broom fungus that sharply reduced cocoa output in
Brazil in the 1990s.
 
Source: AgBioView
20 April 2004

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1.09  DOMESTICATED TREE CROPS  MAY BE THE FUTURE OF FORESTRY'
 
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The trees of the future may stem from advances in gene discovery research at Purdue University that could lead to domesticated trees, the forestry equivalent of crop plants like corn and soybeans.

"I think this is the future of forestry," said Richard Meilan, an associate professor of molecular physiology with Purdue's Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration Center who has demonstrated a way to rapidly identify genes in poplar trees and determine their function.

 "Our goal in gene discovery is to domesticate trees, just like we have domesticated corn over the past 5,000 years," he said. "If we can produce trees for specific purposes, like making furniture or plywood, and intensively manage those trees like agricultural row crops, we can make more efficient use of our limited land resources without treading on wilderness areas."

Identifying gene function is the first step in eventually developing trees with many ideal characteristics, such as insect resistance, improved wood properties or delayed flower production, and then producing multiple trees with those traits, he said.

Meilan and his colleagues used two related techniques known as "gene trapping" and "enhancer trapping" to identify genes in this study. He reported the application of these techniques in the current issue of the journal Plant Physiology.

While these techniques have previously been used to identify gene function in Arabidopsis, a common research plant, this is the first time these methods have been used in any type of tree, he said.

Gene and enhancer trapping are alternatives to classical approaches in developmental genetics, the field of biology that determines which genes activate various processes and pathways in living organisms.

Classical approaches typically require the production of numerous mutant plants and the identification of genes responsible for traits that differ between mutant and normal plants. This can be a long and laborious process - especially in plants such as trees, which have life spans ranging from decades to hundreds of years.

Gene and enhancer trapping remove the need to produce mutant plants and instead identify genes based solely on their activity patterns. These methods rely on the insertion of a foreign piece of DNA, called a "trap vector," at random throughout the genome. This trap vector has a unique DNA sequence and carries a gene called GUS, which results in a blue color when activated.

When the trap vector lands near or next to a plant gene, GUS is expressed in the same manner as its neighboring gene. For example, if GUS lands beside a gene active only in the veins of the plant's leaves, then GUS will be active only in those areas, producing a blue color in the veins.

Researchers can pinpoint where in the genome the trap vector landed since the vector has a known DNA sequence. This allows them to home in on the gene responsible for the trait - in the example above, a gene active in the veins.

Of the two methods, gene trapping is more specific than enhancer trapping, but both are effective in locating genes of interest throughout the genome, Meilan said

Once a gene that controls a desired trait is identified, Meilan said, scientists could manipulate that gene's activity and, for example, produce a tree that flowers at a different time than other trees of the same species. Scientists also could transfer genes of interest, such as genes for insect resistance, into trees that don't have them.

Meilan's current goal is to identify the genes responsible for root development in trees, making it possible for foresters and nursery managers to propagate trees that, through conventional breeding, have attained a desirable set of characteristics.

Currently, the nursery and forestry industries rely on conventional breeding - mating male and female trees with ideal growth characteristics, sowing their seeds and planting out seedlings. However, ideal parents are no guarantee that the next generation of trees will exhibit the same traits.

"The problem with conventional breeding is that you get a mix of the traits from the two parents, so for whatever qualities you're looking for, even if the parent plants have many highly desirable traits, their offspring may not exhibit all of the characteristics the parents have," Meilan said.

A solution, he said, is to find a way to propagate trees without the need for conventional breeding.

"With houseplants, you can take a cutting, put it in water, and it will root. That's called vegetative propagation," Meilan said.

"You can't do that with most trees. If you take a branch off of a walnut tree and stick it in water, it won't develop roots. We'd like to find the genes that cause root initiation so we can develop trees we could propagate, just like houseplants."

This would allow for the production of uniform fields of trees, all with the same suite of desirable characteristics, Meilan said.

The potential to engineer trees and other plants with valuable characteristics is not without controversy, and critics point out the risk of contaminating wild stands of trees with pollen from plants carrying novel genes. An answer to those critics, however, could lie within the process of gene discovery itself, Meilan said.

"If we're domesticating trees, it probably won't be for their flowers; it's for the wood. And if we can propagate them vegetatively, we won't need them to flower," he said. "To prevent gene flow, we could develop transgenic trees that don't flower or that flower at an unusual time.

"This would allow us to achieve what's known as 'bioconfinement' - preventing a gene you've introduced from escaping into the wild."

Meilan said he sees tree domestication as a partial solution to the myriad problems associated with human population growth, such as loss of agricultural lands, encroachment on wildlife areas and increased consumption of natural resources.

"I'm not suggesting that we have genetically engineered trees growing in all our national forests," he said. "But this kind of technology could allow us to increase our yields and create tailor-made trees to meet society's demands for forestry products without encroaching on wilderness areas."

The next step in Meilan's research will involve taking genes he identifies through gene and enhancer trapping, transferring those genes to trees that lack the desired trait and determining whether the trait is acquired.

Also contributing to this research were Andrew Groover, Joseph R. Fontana and Gayle Dupper with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service Institute of Forest Genetics; Caiping Ma and Steven Strauss with Oregon State University; and Robert Martienssen with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York.

Funding was partially provided by industrial members of the Tree Genetic Engineering Research Cooperative, sponsored by the National Science Foundation's Industry/University Cooperative Research Center, and the U.S. Department of Energy's Biomass Program through contract with Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

Writer: Jennifer Cutraro, (765) 496-2050, jcutraro@purdue.edu

Source: Rick Meilan, (765) 496-2287, rmeilan@fnr.purdue.edu

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722; Beth Forbes, forbes@purdue.edu
Agriculture News Page
 
Source: EurekAlert.com
May 10, 2004

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1.10  NEW LOW-COUMARIN SWEET CLOVER ONLY A FEW YEARS AWAY

A new low-coumarin sweet clover could be in the hands of Texas beef producers in three or four years.

"These new sweet clovers will not cause bleeding disorders in livestock and will produce high-quality grazing and hay due to fine stems," said Dr. Ray Smith, Texas Agricultural Experiment Station legume breeder.

Smith, working with forage researcher Dr. Gerald Evers, began the breeding program in 1999. Both researchers are based at the Texas A&M University System Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Overton.

Sweet clovers are well adapted to the alkaline soils and climate of Central Texas. Several varieties were regularly grown throughout the region until the 1950s.

Sweet clover had some drawbacks, such as a thick main stem that limited digestibility and slowed drying when cut for hay, and a high coumarin content.

Coumarin is a fragrant crystalline compound found in several plant species, including tonka beans and sweet clovers that is widely used in perfumes.

Coumarin itself is not toxic to ruminants. But when sweet clover hay is not dried properly and becomes moldy, coumarin converts to dicoumarol, a compound similar to modern blood thinners. Cattle eating dicoumarol-contaminated hay can experience internal bleeding, which can be fatal severe enough in some cases to result in death.

Smith began the program with hand and bee-cage crosses between Denta and Emerald sweet clovers in March through May 2001. Denta is a low-coumarin cultivar of biennial white sweet clover, but because it is a biennial, it is poorly adapted to Texas. Emerald is a fine- and multi-stemmed white sweet clover but has a high-coumarin content, Smith said.

Bee-cage crosses are just what they sound like. Bumblebees are released inside a closed container with both species of plants. The bees naturally cross-pollinate the plants.

"They do a much better job than we can do by hand," said Indre Pemberton, research associate who worked on the project.

The seedlings were grown for 60 days and tested for coumarin content. Hybrids between Denta and Emerald were identified by the presence of coumarin.

From 338 hand crosses, 36 hybrids were identified; 47 hybrids were identified from bee-cage crosses. These resulting hybrids were self-pollinated in a greenhouse and about 240,000 seed were produced.

From the resulting seedlings, Smith evaluated 10,500 plants.

"Our objective was to initiate a simultaneous screen for low-coumarin, fine-stem or multiple-stem trait, and annual growth habit," Smith said.

With so many plants to evaluate, Smith had to develop techniques to rapidly screen for multiple-stem trait and low-coumarin content.

From a preliminary study, he learned to identify the multiple-stem trait in young sweet clover seedlings. This was done by looking for tiny stems emerging from the first leaf juncture of the immature plant. Smith then used sodium hydroxide solution a single drop per leaf to chemically change the coumarin in leaf sample into a compound that glowed under ultraviolet light. The test made it relatively easy to distinguish between plants that had high- or low-coumarin content.

About 500 plants made passed both the low-coumarin and multiple-stem tests. In order to speed up the program, these crosses were planted in a greenhouse under artificial lighting in November 2002. More plants were discarded because of severe powdery mildew infection and/or general low vigor or failure to flower, reducing the selections to 143 plants. These 143 clovers were planted near Thrall on blackland soils, and the evaluation process continues.

Why Central Texas trials instead of East Texas where Smith is based?

"Sweet clover is more adapted to Central Texas than to East Texas," explained Dr. Charles Long, resident director of research at the Overton center.

"The Experiment Station is a statewide organization. This project is an excellent example of how research based in one part of the state may benefit producers in other regions."

Source: SeedQuest.com
May 18, 2004

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1.11  THE PHILIPPINES TO EXPORT HYBRID RICE SEED TO PARTS OF ASIA, AFRICA

Manila, The Philippines
 
The Philippines is planning to export hybrid rice seed to other Asian countries, such as Japan and Malaysia, and to parts of Africa next year.

According to Henry Lim Bon Liong, head of a firm that grows hybrid rice seeds, an additional area of 200,000 to 300,000 hectares would have to be planted with hybrid rice before the Philippines could export neighboring countries.

"This of course will be done after we have stabilized the domestic production and we have enough rice buffer stocks," said Lim, president of SL Agritech Corp.

He told the INQUIRER that attaining rice self-sufficiency could be done next year if the government helps in securing arable land that could be cultivated with the hybrid rice seeds.

Even though there are already four hybrid rice distributors in the market, there is still not enough supply to satisfy the growing requirements of local farmers, Lim said.

The distributors include Monsanto Philippines, Bayer Crop Science Philippines and the Philippine Rice Research Institute.

Lim's firm brought to the Philippines the hybrid rice seed technology from China. SL Agritech Corp. perfected the technology, increasing the yield from an average of 4 metric tons per hectare to 9 metric tons per hectare.

Chinese scientist Dr. Yuan Long Ping developed the hybrid rice, which now feeds the entire Chinese population.

The Department of Agriculture is now pushing the hybrid rice seed technology and has been subsidizing half the price the hybrid seeds which are sold for P2,400 per bag.

Agriculture Secretary Luis P. Lorenzo Jr. in interview said that the hybrid rice technology could be the answer to the country's rice problem.

Lorenzo said that with the technology, he hopes to cut down the country's rice imports that has cost the government P10 to P15 billion.

But some local farmers are not keen on using hybrid rice seeds. Cultivating hybrid rice, they said, is too expensive.

But according to Lim, the "higher yields" would offset the cost of cultivating hybrid rice.

Philippine Daily Inquirer via SEARCA Biotechnology Information Center

Source: SeedQuest.com
3 May 2004

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1.12  NEW DISEASE RESISTANT SUNFLOWER AVAILABLE

ARS News Service,USDA
 
Sunflower breeders seeking new "ammunition" against the fungus Sclerotinia sclerotiorum can now find it in three new disease-resistant germplasm lines dubbed "RHA 439," "RH 440" and "HA 441." Scientists with the Agricultural Research Service and North Dakota State University at Fargo and Carrington, N.D., cooperatively developed, tested and released the germplasm lines.

Sclerotinia causes two diseases in sunflower--stalk rot and head rot. During peak years, such as occurred in 1999, outbreaks of the two diseases in U.S. sunflower crops can cause $100 million in losses. Sclerotinia head rot occurs less often than stalk rot, but it's just as destructive. Sunflower heads infected with the disease can disintegrate before their seed can be harvested.

New commercial cultivars bred from the resistant sunflower lines should suffer far less damage from the fungus, according to Tom Gulya, a plant pathologist at the Sunflower Research Unit, part of ARS' Red River Valley Agricultural Research Center in Fargo.

In nursery trials there and in Carrington, the average incidence of head rot disease that the scientists observed in the three germplasm lines was 16, 33 and 8 percent, respectively, for RHA 439, RH 440 and HA 441. This compared to 58 percent for four commercial cultivars used for comparison.

Gulya and Jerry Miller, a geneticist at the Sunflower Research Unit, used conventional breeding techniques to develop the sunflower lines' improved resistance to head rot. Although the seed yields compared well with those of the commercial cultivars, the germplasm lines aren't intended for stand-alone use. Breeders seeking to develop new cultivars from them will also have to incorporate high oleic acid content and other agronomic traits that growers need.

 Source: SeedQuest.com
11 May 2004

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1.13  GENE FIRM PIONEERS DESERT CROPS

An American company that claims to use 'eco-friendly' genetics to develop crops that thrive in salt-rich soils and hibernate in conditions of extreme cold or drought has been floated on the London stock market.

Instead of transferring genes between unrelated species of plant, FuturaGene scientists are striving to increase crop yields by amplifying the effect of genes already present within the target crops that protect plants from natural environmental stresses.

The scientists, from the universities of Purdue, Arizona, and Illinois, argue that their technology overcomes consumer unease about genetically modified crops by avoiding the introduction of foreign genes into plant species.

Link to full news story in The Guardian

Source: SciDev.net
21 May 2004

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1.14  MAXYGEN SUBSIDIARY VERDIA ANNOUNCES DISCOVERY AND IMPROVEMENT OF GLYPHOSATE TOLERANCE GENE

Redwood City, Calif. May 20, 2004 Verdia Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Maxygen, Inc. (Nasdaq: MAXY), announced today the publication in the journal Science of a study that describes the successful development of a novel glyphosate-resistant crop trait by scientists at Verdia and Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of DuPont (NYSE: DD). The report details the use of Maxygen's MolecularBreeding directed evolution platform to develop enzymes exhibiting glyphosate N-acetyltransferase (GAT) activity that confer glyphosate tolerance to plants. This improvement in enzyme activity may provide an alternative strategy for supporting glyphosate use on major crops such as corn, soybean and cotton.

The study, entitled "Discovery and Directed Evolution of a Glyphosate Tolerance Gene," was performed by Verdia under the direction of Linda Castle, Ph.D., Product Development Group Leader at Verdia and senior author on the study. The study will be featured in the May 21, 2004 issue of Science.

Glyphosate is one of the most commonly used herbicides on many food and non-food crops. The value and importance of glyphosate stems from its effectiveness, low cost and low environmental impact. In 2002, the annual worldwide sales of glyphosate totaled $3.4 billion and global sales of herbicide-tolerant seed and traits was $2.2 billion according to Cropnosis Limited.

Scientists at Verdia used microbial diversity collections to discover a family of genes, called gat genes, exhibiting a very low level of the desired novel enzymatic activity. This activity was then improved using the MolecularBreeding directed evolution platform. Eleven iterations of DNAShuffling recombination resulted in nearly a 10,000 fold improvement in enzyme activity over the parental enzymes. The ability to improve enzyme activity using the MolecularBreeding directed evolution platform outpaced and outperformed traditional means to modify genes and proteins that typically attempt to predict sequence-function relations.

"The increase in activity would never have been possible to achieve using traditional technologies to improve genes such as random mutagenesis and rational design," said Linda Castle, Ph.D. "This demonstration of improved glyphosate tolerance should be applicable to many crops. Further, this study validates our ability to create novel commercial opportunities in crop protection and plant quality traits for ourselves and our partners."

"I am extremely proud of the scientific accomplishments that Maxygen and Verdia have made," said Russell Howard, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of Maxygen. "Our MolecularBreeding directed evolution platform continues to deliver success in creating valuable commercial properties in genes and proteins for novel business applications."

Source: EurekAlert.com
21 May 2004

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1.15  IMPROVING THE NUTRITIONAL VALUE OF FRUITS AND VEGETABLES

Texas A&M University's Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center's to focus on improving nutritional value of fruits and vegetables through partnerships between plant breeders and medical researchers.

"Foods for Health" will be the theme for Texas A&M University's Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center's meeting here June 6-8. The meeting will focus on research aimed at improving the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables through partnerships between plant breeders and medical researchers.

"With the epidemic of childhood obesity, the high number of cancer-related deaths, and other diet-related diseases, there is an urgent need for products that will aid in prevention of the ailments our society seems to suffer from," said Dr. Leonard Pike, center director.

Registration and a research showcase will be 3-6 p.m. June 6 at the Crowne Plaza-Houston Medical Center Houston Room. Research from genetics to post- harvest techniques will be on display with many of the researchers on hand to discuss the efforts.

Also on display will be products with new and enhanced levels of phytochemicals, including several varieties of carrots, melons, mild/sweet onions and peppers. New technology and nutraceuticals related to foods for health will be on exhibit as well.

On June 7, sessions will be at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Children's Nutrition Research Center at the Baylor College of Medicine.

Dr. Steve Abrams, professor of pediatrics at the children's research center, will talk about osteoporosis as a pediatric disease and why kids need calcium to form bones. Dr. Arthur Beaudet, the children's center's department of molecular and human genetics chair, will talk about the importance of folic acid.

Research updates will be given throughout the day by the genetics team, the health benefits team, and the food processing and quality team. A tour of the children's nutrition center featuring the eating-behavior lab, the metabolic kitchen, plant physiology lab and 11th floor greenhouse will conclude the day's sessions at 3-5 p.m. June 7.

The annual Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center's dinner will be at 6:30 p.m. at Trevisio, on the top floor of the John P. McGovern Texas Medical Center Commons Building.

The center's Industry Advisory Committee will meet on June 8 to review and discuss research activities.

Online registration, due by May 24, is available at http://vic.tamu.edu. For more information, call (979) 862-4521.

Source: SeedQuest.com
May 6, 2004

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1.16 NEW QUEENSLAND DPI TOMATO WITH HIGH LYCOPENE LEVELS MAY BE JUST WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERS

Consumers can look forward to a new tomato that not only looks and tastes good but could also have health benefits.

Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries physiologist Tim O'Hare of Gatton said medical research was showing that diets rich in a food chemical called lycopene could reduce the risks of prostate cancer, an increasingly important health issue for men.

Dr. O'Hare said while lycopene was a powerful antioxidant it also gave tomatoes their red colour.

He said as a result of the health research findings he was working with horticulturist Des McGrath to develop a tomato variety with a much higher lycopene content than current commercial varieties.

"We now have experimental lines with three times the lycopene levels of normal tomatoes," he said.

"The stumbling block is that the lines are unacceptable for commercial production because of brittle stems, poor germination and low yields."

Dr O'Hare said they were investigating a novel approach based on whole plant physiology to overcome these drawbacks.

"If our approach works, we will have developed a tomato plant that is identical to normal tomatoes in every way apart from having three times the lycopene level."

He said the high lycopene tomato could then be used as a parent for crossing into varieties with characteristics that suited growers, processors and consumers.

Dr O'Hare said there were other fruits that contained lycopene such as guava, watermelon and pink grapefruit, but at much lower concentrations than tomatoes.

"Almost all the lycopene in our diet comes from fresh tomatoes or products like tomato paste, sauce or canned tomatoes.

He said the reported health benefits of lycopene came partly from its ability to reduce cell damage thought to eventually cause prostate cancer and other health problems.

He said the initial experimental work to establish a suitable high-lycopene parent line would be done at Gatton and Bowen.

Trials were underway, with preliminary results looking promising.

Source: SeedQuest.com
May 18, 2004

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1.17 NEW LINE OF SOYBEANS DEVELOPED FOR BREEDERS HAS HIGHER AMOUNT OF OLEIC ACID

Oil from tomorrow's soybeans--for salad dressing, cooking oil or margarine--might have higher levels of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats than today's soybean oils.

In particular, a line of soybeans developed for breeders and known by the designation N98-4445A has a higher amount of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that helps keep soy cooking oils stable even when used for frying foods at high temperatures.

The soybeans' low level of polyunsaturated fats helps sidestep problems those fats can cause, such as off-odors.

What's more, the improved ratio of monounsaturated to polyunsaturated fats is expected to reduce the need for hydrogenation, a process that helps stabilize vegetable oils but, at the same time, creates unwanted trans fats.

ARS scientists in Raleigh, N.C., developed the promising new breeding line of soybeans.

USDA-ARS Soybean and Nitrogen Fixation Research Laboratory, Raleigh, NC.

USDA/ARS Food & Nutrition Research Brief

Source:SeedQuest.com
May 17, 2004

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1.18 SUPER-HEALTHY CRESS CREATED

United Kingdom
 
The humble cress has never been so wholesome. UK researchers have modified the plant so that it produces health-promoting chemicals that are more commonly found in eggs and fish.

The chemicals in question are polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) called omega-3 and omega-6. Both types of molecule help regulate blood pressure, modify the immune response and aid cell signalling. Omega-3 fatty acids are also thought to aid brain development, and help protect adults from heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

"It's important to get a healthy balance of the two," says Baoxiu Qi from Bristol University in Britain. His team created the new cress strain by adding three genes from algae and mushroom species that produce these PUFAs naturally. They report their results in Nature Biotechnology(1).

Although the lab-grown crop is unlikely ever to be eaten, it proves that plants can be genetically tweaked to produce these fatty acids. And it paves the way for future generations of healthier vegetables and other foods.

Plants like this could be consumed directly by humans, or enter the food chain after being fed to animals, says dietician Catherine Collins from St. Georges Hospital, London. "We're increasingly seeing a move towards functional foods with added health benefits."

The fats of life

Our bodies cannot make omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids, so they have to be obtained from our diet. Poultry and eggs are good sources of omega-6; cereals and cold-water fish such as salmon, halibut and sardines yield omega-3.

But fish stocks are declining, prices are rising and many are worried that fish contain unhealthily high levels of toxins, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxins.

So researchers are searching for other convenient foods that contain both types of PUFA. British supermarkets have recently begun marketing PUFA-rich chicken eggs, produced by poultry fed on cereal rich in omega-3. Qi and his team hope their method will provide palatable vegetarian options.

Wind of change

PUFA-rich plants could have another important benefit: they might make cows belch less. The fatty acids help block methane production in cow stomachs, and could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions if used in animal feed.

It is a serious issue, says Qi. As food ferments in the animal's stomach, hydrogen is produced, which reacts with carbon to produce methane. Although the exhaled gas accounts for less than 3% of total greenhouse gas emissions in fossil-fuel burning countries, such as Britain and the United States, it makes up nearly 40% of emissions in agricultural New Zealand.

References

1. Qi, B. et al. Nature Biotechnol. Advance Online Publication, doi:10.1038/nbt972 (2004). © Nature News Service / Macmillan Magazines Ltd 2004

Source: SeedQuest.com
May 17, 2004

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1.19 MONSANTO SCRUBS TRANSGENIC WHEAT

Farmers' fears spell doom for project worth millions.
http://www.nature.com/nsu/040510/040510-3.html

- Nature, 12 May 2004, MICHAEL HOPKIN

The biotechnology giant Monsanto has abandoned plans to launch genetically
modified wheat strains onto the world market. The company says the
decision is a response to resistance to the technology among North
American wheat farmers.

"As a result of dialogue with wheat industry leaders, we recognize the
business opportunities with wheat are less attractive relative to
Monsanto's other commercial priorities," executive vice-president Carl
Casale says in a statement.

In 1997, Monsanto began developing wheat that allows farmers to treat
fields with Monsanto's Roundup herbicide without damaging the crop. In the
past year alone the Missouri-based company has spent almost US$5 million
on the project.

But industry groups fear that the hostility to transgenic food,
particularly among European consumers, will damage the lucrative export
market. In 1999-2000, around half of the 5.5 million tonnes of US wheat
exports went to Europe and Japan.

Consumer choice

Anti-transgenic lobbyists have hailed the U-turn as a victory for consumer
choice. "It's not just a victory for campaigners," says Sue Mayer of UK
campaign group Genewatch. "The message has ultimately come from ordinary
people."

Monsanto says that by using Roundup herbicide together with transgenic
wheat farmers can boost their yields by 5-15%. But although yields may go
up, exporters fear that revenues would plummet, as European food producers
have insisted that they do not want transgenic grain.

"It is one of the clearest and most dramatic examples of the
[biotechnology] industry's failure to convince people about their
product," says Mayer. And yields can just as easily be increased using
traditional breeding methods, she argues.

The decision was purely commercial, and not a move away from transgenic
technology in general, says Colin Merritt, Monsanto's UK biotechnology
director. Since 1997, the amount of land devoted to spring wheat in the
United States and Canada has declined by a quarter.

Monsanto says that it will now "realign" its US$500-million annual
research and development budget to accelerate development of its
transgenic cotton, maize and oilseed rape crops. It is expected to market
these crops predominantly in the United States and the developing world.

But the company remains hopeful that attitudes to genetically modified
wheat will change. "We will continue to monitor the wheat industry's
desire for crop improvements to determine if and when it might be
practical to move forward with a biotech wheat product," Casale says in
his statement.

Source: AgBioView
11 May 2004

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1.20  BIOTECH FOODS KEEP COMING DESPITE MONSANTO SETBACK

While opponents of genetically modified, or GMO, crops and foods around
the world celebrated Monsanto Co.'s decision on Monday to shelve its
launch of the world's first GMO wheat, food industry analysts note that
other biotech food crops continue to edge closer to commercialization.

Next in line is Syngenta, a Basel, Switzerland-based seed and biotech
crop-engineering company that rivals Monsanto. The company has its own GMO
wheat variety slated for release as early as 2007. It also has a
genetically modified banana it plans to launch in 2006.

Syngenta says it is undeterred because its biotech projects have more of a
consumer and food company appeal. Monsanto's wheat is dubbed Roundup Ready
because it would allow farmers to spray Roundup weedkiller on fields
without hurting the crop, but it would offer no benefit to the consumer.

"In the olden days, we were selling the benefits of biotech crops to
farmers," said Syngenta spokesman Chris Novak. "Today you do need to be
able to communicate that there is a benefit to the technology beyond what
farmers may be getting. You need to be talking to the food companies as
well as consumers."

Indeed, food industry officials said on Tuesday that the acceptance of GMO
foods is less a question of science than it is of marketing.

"How consumers see the benefits affecting them is what will make the
difference," said Stephanie Childs, spokeswoman for the Grocery
Manufacturers of America.

GMO fruits and veggies

The GMO successes to date have been seen in just a few crops, including
soybeans, corn, canola and cotton.

Those crops have been modified to resist insects, diseases and
weedkillers, but are mainly used to produce animal feeds, food additives,
industrial compounds or fiber.

But if it makes it into the marketplace, Syngenta's "stay ripe" banana
genetically engineered to ripen slowly would join a handful of GMO crops
specifically targeted for direct human consumption.

A GMO papaya is a fruit already available on grocers' stands. It was
engineered by Cornell University and the University of Hawaii to resist
the ringspot plant disease. Genetically modified squash is also already on
store shelves.

Still in the product pipeline is a GMO tomato engineered with a yeast gene
to improve juice quality and vine life by specialists at Purdue University
and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Scientists are also tinkering with
strawberries, lettuce and other fruits and vegetables.

"There is a lot of stuff out there," said Lisa Dry, a spokeswoman for the
Biotechnology Industry Organization.

Biotech fruits and vegetables may have an easier path to acceptance
because as whole foods they can be easily segregated from conventional
offerings.

Wheat, on the other hand, is usually blended for protein, gluten and other
traits sought by flour millers. So it would have been nearly impossible to
keep biotech wheat segregated from conventional supplies, grain handlers
had said.

That fact helped doom Monsanto's plan as some key foreign buyers like
Japan said they would not buy any U.S. wheat at all if Monsanto released
its biotech wheat into the countryside. U.S. farmers were also very
reluctant to take that risk.

Syngenta's efforts to introduce its transgenic wheat are expected to
encounter similar problems as anti-biotech forces are already lined up
against the product.

"Any genetically modified wheat carries with it the same issues. We're
going to have the same problem," said Todd Leake, a spokesman for the
Western Organizations Resource Council, a seven-state coalition of farmers
and environmentalists.

Syngenta halted field trials in Germany earlier this month after biotech
activists destroyed the firm's test plots there.

"Hopefully those who favor biotech wheat will take this chance to develop
the customer acceptance component that has to be found before anything is
released," said North American Millers' Association vice president Jim
Bair. "Clearly, the market wasn't ready for Monsanto's."

http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/techinnovations/2004-05-12-biotech-foods_x.htm

Source: AgBioView
12 May 2004

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1.21  MOST EU FEED NOW LABELED AS CONTAINING GMOs

The decision by Monsanto to shelve the launch of its genetically modified (GMO) wheat may have been applauded by green groups, but Europe's feed producers say they have little choice but to use GMO ingredients because non-biotech supplies are running out fast.

EU feed makers on Wednesday said they are being forced to label nearly all of their products as containing GMO because of their heavy reliance on imported soybean meal, almost all of which is genetically engineered, and because of a lack of cheaper alternatives.

EU rules introduced last month stipulate that feed with a GMO content of more than 0.9 percent must be labelled as containing traces of GMO.

"We can face serious legal consequences if GMO ingredients are found in feed labelled as GMO-free. As we need soymeal for a protein ingredient this is just simply going to be GMO if it comes from the main exporting countries, so we must label GMO to protect ourselves," one German feed maker said.

"The only way to get soymeal in the volumes we need would be from parts of Brazil...(but) most Brazilian output is also GMO these days," he added.

Close to 80 percent of soybean output in the United States -- the world's top grower -- is genetically engineered.

And while Argentina also grows mostly GMO soybeans, Brazil, for years Europe's primary source of non-GMO soybeans, is growing more biotech varieties every year.

Feed makers say that because imported material might pick up transgenic material along the supply chain, labelling produce as containing GMO material was the safest option.

"Soymeal has to be regarded as GMO unless we have such (non-GMO) guarantees. We simply cannot afford the cost of getting them, or of testing every load of soy we get," the feed maker said.

UK feed ingredient buyers had similar woes.

"Importers are concerned because there are so many elements in the supply chain that are out of their control," Paul Rooke of the UK feed trade body the AIC said.

U.S. biotech group Monsanto said on Monday that it had abandoned plans to introduce the world's first GMO wheat after indications it might not be well received.

France Labels Early

In France, around 90 percent of all animal feed produced there must be labelled as containing GMOs because of the widespread use of GMO soymeal, which feed makers say is an indispensable protein source.

"There is only a little feed that does not contain GMOs," said Alain Decrop, president of French animal feed makers' group SNIA.

But Decrop stressed that many feed makers in France had long anticipated the stringent new regulations and had been labelling produce as 'contains GMOs' for the last two years.

Avoiding soymeal in feed would be difficult, he said, because it is the main protein source and other sources, such as rapeseed or sunflower, are only available in limited volumes.

"There is no alternative," Decrop said.

Products such as meat, milk or eggs obtained from animals fed with GMO produce do not have to be labelled, EU legislation states.

Source: SeedQuest.com
May 13, 2004

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1.22  U.S. CROP SEEDS CONTAMINATED

A new Union of Concerned Scientists report, Gone to Seed, shows that
traditional crop seeds are contaminated with DNA from genetically engineered
(GE) crops. Laboratory testing of traditional (non-GE) corn, soybeans, and
canola reveals the presence of DNA from commercial GE crops. These findings
suggest that current federal standards are inadequate to protect our seed
supply from engineered contaminants, including DNA from crops engineered to
produce pharmaceuticals and industrial chemicals. Urge the U.S. Department
of Agriculture to amend federal regulations to explicitly protect the seed
supply from contamination by engineered pharmaceutical and industrial crops.

Source: http://www.ucsaction.org/

Contributed by Leo van Zanten leo@grolink.com
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1.23  BOOSTING CONSERVATION AND SUSTAINABLE UTILIZATION OF PLANT GENETIC RESOURCES IN SOUTH EAST EUROPE

An ambitious 10-year program for boosting conservation and sustainable utilization plant genetic resources in South East Europe is to be launched in July 2004 with the financial and technical help of Sweden.

The decision to launch the South East European Development Network (SEEDNet) was made unanimously by a nine-member SEEDNet Regional Interim Committee during its first session held in Skopje Macedonia on 5-6 April, 2004. The meeting was attended by representatives from Sweden and the European Cooperative Programme for Crop Plant Genetic Resources (ECP/GR) Coordinator Lorenzo Maggioni from Rome.

In a landmark decision, the network unanimously extended a mandate to Slovenia to represent the interests of SEEDNet partners in the European Union, following Slovenias accession, in order to ensure that the European sub-region is able to share the benefits of EU projects in the field of PGR.

SEEDNet's ruling body also decided to establish a network website under a recognizable domain name in order to ensure the free flow of information among stakeholders and partners in the region as well as to serve as an information gateway to the global PGR community.

The primary objective of SEEDNet is to contribute to the long-term conservation and sustainable utilization of the diversity of PGR within the region through a well co-ordinated network of functional national programmes.

The network, which assembles nine institutions from eight partners (Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia), is expected to provide much needed long-term support to national activities and regional cooperation initiatives relating to Plant Genetic Resources (PGR).

In June, all nine partner institutions are expected to sign an Agreement with the Swedish Biodiversity Center (CBM), as the executing agency, based on which the implementation of the programme will begin according to objectives, strategies and activities laid down by the Committee for the first three years. Technical services for SEEDNet activities will also be provided for by the Nordic Gene Bank.

Backing the program financially is the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) which shall make available SEK 32 000 000 for the SEEDNet activities in the first phase of the programme that lasts until June 2007.

Following the launch of the programme, the first meeting of the SEEDNet Regional Steering Committee is to be held in Banja Luka during the first week of July 2004.

For additional information, please contact:

Ms Eva Thörn, SEEDNet coordinator
e-mail:
eva.thorn@cbm.slu.se
Swedish Biodiversity Center - CBM
Box 41, 230 53 Alnarp
Sweden

Ms Gordana Popsimonova, RIC Chairperson
e-mail: g.popsimonova@pops.org.mk
Institute of Agriculture, Blvd Aleksandar Makedonski bb
1000 Skopje
Republic of Macedonia
tel:++389 2 323 09 10
fax:++389 2 311 42 83

Contributed by Vladimir Pekic, National coordinator for European Cooperative Programme for Crop Plant Genetic Resources Networks (ECP/GR) - Serbia and Montenegro.
vpekic@mrizp.co.yu

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2  PUBLICATIONS

2.01  GENETIC IMPROVEMENT OF CACAO

The Portuguese book 'Melhoramento Genetico do Cacaueiro' is being translated into English with support from FAO in order to serve a wider audience. It will be available on the Internet later this year and we will advise the PBNL network. The contact is Peter Griffee of FAO (peter.griffee@fao.org). Here is the English abstract:

Author Dias L.A.S. (Ed.).
Title Genetic Improvement of Cacao.
Source Editora Folha de Vicosa Ltda. xii + 578 pp. Translation by Cornelia Elisabeth Abreu-Reichart, Vicosa, M.G., Brazil; aided by the Editor and Peter Griffee of FAO and supported by FAO.

Abstract In world literature to date there has been no work which deals exclusively with cacao genetic improvement. Until now, all initiatives in this respect have not gone beyond chapters inserted in books on the crop's agronomy or on genetic improvement of species in general. This work, on the contrary, offers to be the first book which treats the subject exclusively and in depth; unique in the world. The original is in Portuguese and mostly by Brazilian scientists. Much of it is universally applicable to tree species, but it is focused on questions and solutions on Brazilian cacao cultivation. The objectives which drove the initiative were: i) to make available the accumulated knowledge to all the scientific community; ii) fuel the debate on the subject for all interested sectors (scientists, extension workers, students and producers, and iii) more visibility to the scientific data on the subject, which otherwise would be restricted to a group of national and international scientists who work in a few cacao research institutions around the world. This translation will greatly amplify accessibility globally.

The collaborators are renowned international scientists in their specialties; all belonging to research institutions of national or international prestige. They were encouraged to give light to innovations on the state of the art of cacao improvement. Conceived to be encompassing and, at the same time, as profound as possible, the work is highlighted by its logical sequence and clarity of the themes developed in its 13 chapters. In Ch. 1, the principal aspects of cultivation and the strategies of environmental improvement are presented. In order to overcome the crisis which assails the cacao economy, it deals with the socio-economic panorama that predicts changes of attitude of producers, researchers and institutions. Chs. 2, 3, 4 e 5 basically cover, the collection, conservation and rational use of genetic resources of Theobroma, the genus to which cacao (Theobroma cacao L.) belongs. The diversity in Theobroma is focussed in Ch.2 with a view to improvement by incorporation of genes from wild species into the genetic make up of the cultivated one. Ch. 3 presents a new scenario for the origin and distribution of cacao, with important reflections on the collection and conservation of germplasm. The ecology of natural populations in its most diverse aspects is dealt with in Ch. 4. How to collect, conserve, evaluate, characterize and use germplasm saved are topics developed in Ch. 5.

From Ch. 6 onwards the book focuses on the actual genetic improvement. For the first time, the methodology de mixed mathematical models is introduced to cacao breeding, with a view to making it more precise and efficient. Chs. 7 and 8 cover the state of the art of resistance to diseases, in particular witches' broom, emphasizing the heredity mechanism and the biochemical and physiological bases of this resistance. Asexual breeding is highlighted and covered in Ch. 9. The introduction of molecular markers in breeding and the possibilities open for these new tools are reported in Ch. 10. Another grey area, never really covered in cacao breeding, (Ch. 11) is research. In Ch. 12, breeding success is illustrated by the comparative results of improved cultivars against traditional ones. Finally, Ch. 13 capitalizes on all improvement aspects, harmoniously integrating sexual and asexual improvement and biotechnology to project the future of breeding programmes.

Contributed by Peter Griffee of FAO (peter.griffee@fao.org)

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2.02  BANANA IMPROVEMENT: CELLULAR, MOLECULAR BIOLOGY, AND INDUCED MUTATIONS

S. Mohan Jain and R. Swennen (eds.)2004
Science Publishers, Inc., Enfield (NH, USA
ISBN 1-57808-340-0

This reference book is a joint publication of FAO/IAEA and INIBAP and will
be very useful to international researchers engaged in banana genetic
improvement. On request, this book is available free of cost. Contact:
s.m.jain@iaea.org

Contributed by: Mohan Jain
s.m.jain@iaea.org

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3.  ABSTRACTS FROM SELECTED RECENT JOURNAL ARTICLES


3.01  PARTICIPATORY PLANT BREEDING RESEARCH: OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES FOR THE INTERNATIONAL CROP IMPROVEMENT SYSTEM

Euphytica
136 (1): 21-35, 2004
Michael L. Morris, Mauricio R. Bellon

Abstract

This paper describes the current state of international plant breeding research and explains why the centralized global approach to germplasm improvement that was so successful in the past is today being transformed by the incorporation of decentralized local breeding methods designed to better incorporate the perspective of end users into the varietal development process. It describes international breeding efforts for major crops and identifies factors that have contributed to the success of the international breeding system; discusses shortcomings of the global approach to plant breeding and explains why future successes will depend critically on researchers' ability to incorporate the knowledge and preferences of technology users; reviews a number of farmer participatory research methods that are currently being tested by plant breeding programs throughout the developing world; describes synergies that can potentially be achieved by linking centralized global and decentralized local breeding models; and discusses technical, economic, and institutional challenges that will have to be overcome to integrate end user-based participatory approaches into the international plant breeding system.

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3.02 EVALUATION OF SELECTION STRATEGIES FOR WHEAT ADAPTATION ACROSS WATER REGIMES

Euphytica
135 (3): 361-371, 2004

F.M. Kirigwi, M. van Ginkel, R. Trethowan, R.G. Sears, S. Rajaram, G.M. Paulsen

Abstract

Drought frequently constrains production of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), but development of tolerant cultivars is hampered by low heritability for drought tolerance and a lack of effective selection strategies. Our objective was to identify an optimum selection regime for wheat in drought-prone environments. Six-hundred entries derived from 10 crosses were developed by selection under continuous high moisture, alternating high with low moisture, alternating low with high moisture, and continuous low moisture conditions for five generations. The selections were evaluated in two low-yield, a medium-yield, and a high-yield environment in the Yaqui Valley, Sonora, Mexico. The mean performance of entries derived from a particular selection regime was dependant on the stress level of the evaluation environment. Lines developed and selected under continuous high moisture and continuous low-moisture regimes produced the highest mean yields in the low moisture evaluation environment. There was no relationship between continuous selection under either high yielding conditions or low yielding conditions and the mean performance of the resultant lines in their respective high and low yielding evaluation environments. The mean yield of lines selected using the alternating high/low moisture regime as well as the five highest yielding lines were superior in the HY environment, and had similar performance with other regimes under the low yielding evaluation environment. Our results indicate that alternating selection between high and low yielding environments is the most effective way to develop wheat germplasm adapted to environments where intermittent drought occurs.

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3.03 GENETIC DIVERSITY IN COWPEA [Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp.] AS REVEALED BY RAPD MARKERS

Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution
51 (5): 539-550, August 2004

Fana Sylla Ba, Remy S. Pasquet, Paul Gepts

Abstract

The present study, using RAPD analysis, was undertaken to characterize genetic variation in domesticated cowpea and its wild progenitor, as well as their relationships. The materials used consisted of 26 domesticated accessions, including accessions from each of the five cultivar-group, and 30 wild/weedy accessions, including accessions from West, East and southern Africa. A total of 28 primers generated 202 RAPD bands. One hundred and eight bands were polymorphic among the domesticated compared to 181 among wild/weedy cowpea accessions. Wild accessions were more diverse in East Africa, which is the likely area of origin of V. unguiculata var. spontanea. Var. spontanea is supposed to have spread westward and southward, with a loss of variability, loss counterbalanceed in southern Africa by introgressions with local perennial subspecies. Although the variabilty of domesticated cowpea was the highest ever recorded, cultivar-groups were poorly resolved, and several results obtained with isozyme data were not confirmed here. However primitive cultivars were more diverse than evolved cultivars, which still suggests two consecutive bottlenecks within domesticated cowpea evolution. As isozymes and AFLP markers, although with a larger number of markers, RAPD data confirmed the single domestication hypothesis, the gap between wild and domesticated cowpea, and the widespread introgression phenomena between wild and domesticated cowpea.

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3.04  ACCESSING GENETIC RESOURCES: INTERNATIONAL LAW ESTABLISHES MULTILATERAL SYSTEM

Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution
51 (6): 609-620, September 2004

Cary Fowler

Abstract

The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture is rapidly gathering sufficient ratifications to become international law. Once it enters into force, it will define the rules for access and benefit-sharing associated with most genetic resources of major food crops. This paper explains how the new Multilateral System established by the Treaty will work, and points out a number of ambiguities and problems in the text. Despite these shortcomings, the Treaty provides the international community of researchers, plant breeders, and farmers with an opportunity to foster cooperation and further the conservation and use of plant genetic resources.

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3.05 ASSESSING GENETIC POTENTIAL IN GERMPLASM COLLECTIONS OF CROP PLANTS BY MARKER-TRAIT ASSOCIATION: A CASE STUDY FOR POTATOES WITH QUANTITATIVE VARIATION OF RESISTANCE TO LATE BLIGHT AND MATURITY TYPE

Molecular Breeding
13 (1): 93-102, January 2004

Christiane Gebhardt, Agim Ballvora, Birgit Walkemeier, Petra Oberhagemann, Konrad Schüler

Abstract

Genetic diversity of crop plants resulting from breeding and selection is preserved in gene banks. Utilization of such materials for further crop improvement depends on knowledge of agronomic performance and useful traits, which is usually obtained by phenotypic evaluation. Associations between DNA markers and agronomic characters in collections of crop plants would (i) allow assessment of the genetic potential of specific genotypes prior to phenotypic evaluation, (ii) identify superior trait alleles in germplasm collections, (iii) facilitate high resolution QTL mapping and (iv) validate candidate genes responsible for quantitative agronomic characters. The feasibility of association mapping was tested in a gene bank collection of 600 potato cultivars bred between 1850 and 1990 in different countries. The cultivars were genotyped with five DNA markers linked to previously mapped QTL for resistance to late blight and plant maturity. Specific DNA fragments were tested for association with these quantitative characters based on passport evaluation data. Highly significant association with QTL for resistance to late blight and plant maturity was detected with PCR markers specific for R1, a major gene for resistance to late blight, and anonymous PCR markers flanking the R1 locus at 0.2 Centimorgan genetic distance. The marker alleles associated with increased resistance and later plant maturity were traced to an introgression from the wild species S. demissum. These DNA markers are the first marker that are diagnostic for quantitative agronomic characters in a large collection of cultivars.

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3.06 A FIELD STUDY OF POLLEN-MEDIATED GENE FLOW FROM MEDITERRANEAN GM RICE TO CONVENTIONAL RICE AND THE RED RICE WEED
 
Molecular Breeding
13 (1): 103-112, January 2004

J. Messeguer, V. Marfà, M.M. Català, E. Guiderdoni, E. Melé

Abstract

The objective of this study was to assess the frequency of pollen-mediated gene flow from a transgenic rice line, harbouring the gusA and the bar genes encoding respectively, ²-glucuronidase and phosphinothricin acetyl transferase as markers, to the red rice weed and conventional rice in the Spanish japonica cultivar Senia. A circular field trial design was set up to investigate the influence of the wind on the frequency of pollination of red rice and conventional rice recipient plants with the transgenic pollen. Frequencies of gene flow based on detection of herbicide resistant, GUS positive seedlings among seed progenies of recipient plants averaged over all wind directions were 0.036 ± 0.006% and 0.086 ± 0.007 for red rice and conventional rice, respectively. However, for both red rice and conventional rice, a clear asymmetric distribution was observed with pollination frequency favoured in plants placed under the local prevailing winds. Southern analyses confirmed the hemizygous status and the origin of the transgenes in progenies of surviving, GUS positive plants. Gene flow detected in conventional rice planted at 1, 2, 5 and 10 m distance revealed a clear decrease with increasing distance which was less dramatic under the prevailing wind direction. Consequences of these findings for containment of gene flow from transgenic rice crops to the red rice weed are discussed. The precise determination of the local wind conditions at flowering time and pollination day time appear to be of primary importance for setting up suitable isolation distances.

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3.07 AN INTEGRATED GENTIIC LINKAGE MAP OF PEPPER (Capsicum spp.)

Molecular Breeding
13 (3): 251-261, April 2004

Ilan Paran, Jeroen Rouppe van der Voort, Véronique Lefebvre, Molly Jahn, Laurie Landry, Marco van Schriek, Bahattin Tanyolac, Carole Caranta, Arnon Ben Chaim, Kevin Livingstone, Alain Palloix, Johan Peleman

Abstract

An integrated genetic map of pepper including 6 distinct progenies and consisting of 2262 markers covering 1832 cM was constructed using pooled data from six individual maps by the Keygene proprietary software package INT_MAP. The map included: 1528 AFLP, 440 RFLP, 288 RAPD and several known gene sequences, isozymes and morphological markers. In total, 320 anchor markers (common markers in at least two individual maps) were used for map integration. Most anchor markers (265) were common to two maps, while 27, 26 and 5 markers were common to three, four and five maps, respectively. Map integration improved the average marker density in the genome to 1 marker per 0.8 cM compared to 1 marker per 2.1 cM in the most dense individual map. In addition, the number of gaps of at least 10 cM between adjacent markers was reduced in the integrated map. Although marker density and genome coverage were improved in the integrated map, several small linkage groups remained, indicating that further marker saturation will be needed in order to obtain a full coverage of the pepper genome. The integrated map can be used as a reference for future mapping studies in Capsicum and to improve the utilization of molecular markers for pepper breeding.

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3.08 GENETIC DIVERSITY IN CULTIVATED PLANTS -- LOSS OR STABILITY?

TAG Theoretical and Applied Genetics
Volume 108, Number 8
Date:  May 2004
Pages: 1466-1472
E. K. Khlestkina, X. Q. Huang, F. J.-B. Quenum, S. Chebotar, M. S. Röder and A. Börner

Abstract

Human activities like urbanisation, the replacement of traditional agriculture systems by modern industrial methods or the introduction of modern high-yielding varieties may pose a danger to the biological diversity. Using microsatellite markers, we analysed samples of cultivated wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) collected over an interval of 4050 years in four comparable geographical regions of Europe and Asia. No significant differences in both the total number of alleles per locus and in the PIC values were detected when the material collected in the repeated collection missions in all four regions were compared. About two-thirds of the alleles were common to both collection periods, while one-third represented collection mission-specific alleles. These findings demonstrate that an allele flow took place during the adaptation of traditional agriculture to modern systems, whereas the level of genetic diversity was not significantly influenced.

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4  GRANTS AVAILABLE

4.01 CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS FOR THE SEED AWARDS

Do you have an innovative or entrepreneurial idea for a partnership project that may contribute to sustainable development? A new concept that brings together people and organisations from different backgrounds? A project that enables partners to pool their human and financial resources, experience, local knowledge and connections? That allows partners to meet goals they could not reach working by themselves?

A new initiative is ready to help you implement your ideas and make them a success. The Seed Initiative (Supporting Entrepreneurs for Environment and Development) is a joint effort by a network of international organisations - from global organisations such as IUCN, UNEP and UNDP to national organisations such as Development Alternatives and LEAD Pakistan, who are passionate about promoting the entrepreneurial spirit of partnerships for sustainable development at grassroots level. They have launched the Seed Initiative to recognise new partnership approaches and encourage entrepreneurs to take action for environment and development.

One element of the Seed Initiative is the biennial Seed Awards - an international competition to seek out your most promising innovative or entrepreneurial ideas for action through partnership, and to help you make those ideas work. The award itself is not monetary but a comprehensive, individually-designed package of support, training, connections and facilitated access to funders, to give winning partnerships every prospect of success.

Who should apply?

We welcome innovative or entrepreneurial ideas from any group in the process of planning and setting up a partnership project that:

--involves at least three partner organisations from different stakeholder groups;
--relates to the three pillars of sustainable development: environmental, social, and economic, and has the potential to contribute towards the Millennium Development Goals and/or the Johannesburg Summit Plan of Implementation;
--displays entrepreneurship in its broadest sense, by the private sector and/or others and is driven by the local actors, such as micro, small and medium sized enterprises (SMMEs) or others;
--helps to demonstrate innovative ways of doing business through partnerships - "business as unusual" - and has the potential to serve as inspiration to others;
--has a draft business plan and has partners that have already agreed in principle to work together.

Deadline and further information

Submissions are being accepted from May 1st 2004 with the final deadline of August 15th 2004. Early submission is highly recommended as this may allow initial feedback to be given to help you improve your application.

For full information about the Seed Awards, please see the Seed Website: http://seedinit.org

Seed Initiative Focal Point
Email: info@seedinit.org
Tel: +44 1865 202 669
Fax: +44 870 1319582

Contributed by Ann Marie Thro
athro@csrees.usda.gov

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5. MEETINGS, COURSES AND WORKSHOPS

* 7-11 June 2004, Dijon France : Fifth European Conference on Grain Legumes and Second International Conference on Legume Genomics and Genetics , "Legumes for the benefit of agriculture, nutrition and the environment: their genomics, their products, and their improvement". http://www.grainlegumes.com/default.asp?id_biblio=213

* 7-12 June 2004. 5th European Conference on Grain Legumes with the 2nd International Conference on Legume Genomics and Genetics, Legumes in Agriculture and the Impact of Genomics. Dijon, France. Contact: legconf2004@epoisses.inra.fr; URL:  http://www.grainlegumes.com

* 14-16 June 2004. Yields of Farmed Species: Constraints and Opportunities in the 21st Century. Sutton Bonington, UK. Contact: Prof Roger Sylvester-Bradley, ADAS Boxworth, Boxworth, Cambridge, CB3 8NN, UK; Tel: +44 (0)1954 268 253; Fax: +44 (0)1954 267 659; Email: roger.sylvester-bradley@adas.co.uk;
URL:  http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/biosciences/ah/yield_conf/index.html

* 20-26 June 2004: The 9th International Barley Genetics Symposium. Brno,
Czech Republic. Contact: Lenka Nedomova, Agricultural Research Institute
Kromeriz Ltd., Havlickova 2787, CZ - 767 01 Kromeriz, Czech Republic; Tel:
+420 (5) 7331 7166; Fax: +420 (5) 7333 9725;
Email:  ibgs@vukrom.cz; URL:  http://www.ibgs.cz/

* (NEW) 4 July to 4 November 2004
Vegetable production and Research Course offered in Africa
AVRDC - World Vegetable Center,  Regional Center for Africa is offering an intensive course on vegetable crop production and research from 4 July to 4 November 2004. This course, the 11th Regional Training Course on Vegetable Crops Production and Research, is directed toward professionals who undertake vegetable research and extension activities in Africa.

The course offers a balanced blend of classroom and field-oriented training with emphasis on addressing production constraints of priority vegetable crops for Africa. Topics will include crop production practices, pest and disease management, soil fertility management, seed production, experimental design and analysis, breeding, indigenous vegetables, human nutrition, and more.

The course will be conducted in English. More information and an application are available at the AVRDC website.

Dr. Mel O. Oluoch
Training Specialist

Contributed by Ann Marie Thro
athro@csrees.usda.gov

* 5-8 July, 2004: Campinas-SP (Brazil): III International Symposium on
Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Breeding Research and II Latin American
Symposium on the Production of Medicinal, Aromatic and Condiments Plants.
Info: Prof. Dr. Lin Chau Ming, Dept. Plant Production, Sector
Horticulture, Agronomical Sciences College, SP State University,
Botucatu-SP 18.603-970, Brazil. email: linming@fca.unesp.br

* 12-17 July 2004:  Cucurbitaceae 2004, 8th Meeting on Cucurbit Genetics
and Breeding. Olomouc, Czech Republic. Contact: A. Lebeda, Palacky
University, Faculty of Sciences, Department of Botany, Slechtitelu 11,
CZ-783 71 Olomouc-Holice, Czech Republic; Tel: +420 (5) 8563 4800; Fax:
+420 (5) 8524 1027; Email:  lebeda@prfholnt.upol.cz; URL:
http://www.cucurbitaceae.upol.cz/>

* 18-22 July 2004: 7th International Oat Conference . Helsinki, Finland.
Contact: Mrs. Pirjo Peltonen-Sainio, MTT, Agrifood Research Finland, Plant
Production Research, FIN-31600 Jokioinen, Finland; Tel: +358 (3) 4188
2451; Fax: +358 (3) 4188 2437;
Email: pirjo.peltonen-sainio@mtt.fi; URL: http://www.ioc2004.org/

* 18-23 July 2004: Plant Molecular Biology. Plymouth NH, USA .Contact:
Gordon Research Conferences, 3071 Route 138, Kingston, RI 02881, USA; Tel:
+1 (401) 783 4011; Fax: +1 (401) 783 7644; Email: grc@grcmail.grc.uri.edu;
 URL: http://www.grc.uri.edu/grc_home.htm

* 20-24 August 2004. XVIIIth International Congress on Sexual Plant Reproduction. Beijing, China. Contact: Dr Shu-Nong Bai, College of Life Sciences, Peking University, 5 Yiheyuan Road, Beijing, 100871, P.R. China; Tel: +86 (10) 6276 1444; Fax: +86 (10) 6275 1526; Shunongb@pku.edu.cn;  http://www.genetics.ac.cn/xywwz/news/2nd_xviii-spr_final.doc

* 6-9 September 2004): VIII International Symposium on Plum and Prune
Genetics, Breeding and Technology. Lofthus, Norway.  Info: Dr. Lars Sekse,
Plante Forsk - Norwegian Crops Research Institute, Ullensvang Research
Centre, 5781 Lofthus, Norway. Phone: (47)53671200, Fax: (47)53671201,
email:  lars.sekse@planteforsk.no web: http://www.planteforsk.no/

* 8-11 September  2004. Eucarpia XVII General Triennial Congress, Vienna,
Austria. Contact: P. Ruckenbauer, IFA Tulln, Dept. Biotechnology in Plant
Production, Konrad-Lorenz Str. 20, A-3430 Tulln, Austria; Tel: +43 (2272)
66280 201; Fax: +43 (2272) 66280 203;
Email: pruck@ifa-tulln.ac.at; URL:  http://www.eucarpia.org/

* 12-17 September 2004: V International Symposium on In Vitro Culture and
Horticultural Breeding. Debrecen (Hungary): Info: Dr. Mikl, Szent -
Gyorgyi A u. 4, PO Box 411, 2101 Godollo, Hungary. Phone: (36)28330600,
Fax: (36)28330482, email: silvercentrum@axelero.hu or efari@matavnet.hu,
web:  http://www.ivchb2004.org/

* 19-23 September 2004: 16th Annual Meeting of the Association
for the Advancement of Industrial Crops (AAIC) and New Uses Council,
Minneapolis, MN, USA. Theme 'Industrial Crops and Uses To Diversify
Agriculture'. For more information visit meetings section of the AAIC web
site at  www.aaic.org or contact Dr. Russ Gesch Tel: 320-589-3411 ext. 132
or E-mail: gesch@morris.ars.usda.gov
Submitted by Dr. Terry A. Coffelt, Research Geneticist, USDA-ARS-USWCL
Email: tcoffelt@uswcl.ars.ag.gov

* 27 September - 1 October 2004: 4th International Crop Science Congress.
Brisbane, Australia. Contact: PO Box 1280, Milton, QLD 4064, Australia;
Tel: +61 (7) 3858 5554; Fax: +61 (7) 3858 5583; Email: 4icsc04@im.com.au;
URL:  http://www.cropscience2004.com/

* 24-28 October, 2004: IV ISHS Symposium on Brassica and XIV Crucifer
Genetics Workshop. Daejon (Korea) Info: Prof. Dr. Yong Pyo Lim, Dept. of
Horticulture, Chungnam National University, Kung-Dong 220, Yusong-Gu,
Taejon 305-764, South Korea.  Phone: (82)428215739, Fax: (82)428231382,
email:  yplim@cnu.ac.kr

* 26-30 September 2004. 8th International Symposium on the Biosafety of Genetically Modified Organisms. Montpellier, France. Contact: Sophie Masliah, Lab. of Plant Cell and Molecular Biology, INRA. Versailles, 78026 Versailles Cedex, France; Tel: +33 (1) 3083 3730; Fax: +33 (1) 3087 3728; Email: isbgmo@versailles.inra.fr;
URL:  http://www.inra.fr/gmobiosafety/index.php

* (NEW)10-13 October 2004: International Cotton Genome Initiative (ICGI) biennial world-wide meeting, Hyderabad, India. Contact:  P. Vidyasagar // C/O Vibha Agrotech Limited // 501 Subhan Sirisampada Complex, Raj Bhavan Road  // Somajiguda, Hyderabad82 (A.P), INDIA // Phone: +91-40-23301473, 55620538 // E-mail: icgiindia2004@yahoo.co.in    URL: http://icgi.tamu.edu/meeting/2004/. Contributed by David M. Stelly, ICGI Chair (stelly@tamu.edu)

* 31 October 4 November 2004: Annual Meetings, American Society of
Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science Society of
America, Seattle, WA, USA. Contact: ASA-CSSA-SSSA, 677 S. Segoe Rd.,
Madison WI 53711, USA; Tel: +1 (608) 273 8080; Fax: +1 (608) 273 2021;
URL: http://www.agronomy.org/>

* 7-10 November 2004: International Conference: Post Harvest Fruit:
The Path to Success, Campus Lircay, Universidad de Talca, Talca, Chile.
fruits2004@utalca.cl

http://www.utalca.cl/congreso/postharvestfruit/index.htm (See complete conference description in January 2004 newsletter)

* 8-10 December 2004. ASTA's 34th Soybean Seed and 59th Corn & Sorghum Seed Conferences. Chicago, IL, USA Contact: 225, Reinekers Lane, Suite 650, Alexandria, VA, USA; Tel: +1 (703) 837 8140; Fax: +1 (703) 837 9365;
URL: http://www.amseed.com/

* 4 - 9 May 2005. 11th International Lupin Conference, Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. 1st Circular is available at: http://www.cucba.udg.mx/eventos/lupinus/lupinus.html. Contact: pgarcia@cucba.udg.mx
Submitted by George D. Hill, Secretary/Treasurer International Lupin Association (hill@inia.es). At our meetings we have usually had a substantial number of submissions from Plant Breeders.  I would expect that it will be the same at this meeting.

13-17 June 2005, Murcia (Spain): XIII International Symposium on Apricot Breeding and Culture.
Info: Dr. Felix Romojaro and Dr. Federico Dicenta, CEBAS-CSIC, PO Box 164, 30100 Espinardo (Murcia), Spain. Phone: (34)968396328 or (34)968396309, Fax: (34)968396213, email: apricot@cebas.csic.es  Symposium Secretariat: Viajes CajaMurcia, Gran Via Escultor Salzillo 5. Entlo. Dcha., 30004 Murcia, Spain. Phone: (34)968225476, Fax: (34)968223101, email: congresos@viajescajamurcia.com

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6.  EDITOR'S NOTES

Plant Breeding News is an electronic forum for the exchange of information
and ideas about applied plant breeding and related fields. It is published
every four to six weeks throughout the year.

The newsletter is managed by the editor and an advisory group consisting
of Elcio Guimaraes (elcio.guimaraes@fao.org), Margaret Smith
(mes25@cornell.edu), and Anne Marie Thro (athro@reeusda.gov). The editor
will advise subscribers one to two weeks ahead of each edition, in order
to set deadlines for contributions.

REVIEW PAST NEWSLETTERS ON THE WEB: Past issues of the Plant Breeding
Newsletter are now available on the web. The address is:
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Subscribers are encouraged to take an active part in making the newsletter
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species outside the major food crops.

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PLEASE NOTE: Every month many newsletters are returned because they are
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