21 December 2004

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

Clair H. Hershey, Editor

EDITOR’S NOTE FOR THIS EDITION:  Due to problems with my normal link to the mailserver, this edition will not have hyperlinks between the CONTENTS page and the text of each article. If you would like an MS Word version of the newsletter, with the links, please write to me at My apologies for any inconvenience.  HAPPY HOLIDAYS!


1.01 Rice fields of Asia to benefit from a "doubly green revolution"
1.02 Leading development experts call for renewed focus on rice
1.03 Making sense of patent rules for plant varieties
1.04 Assessing and attributing the benefits from varietal improvement research in Brazil
1.05 Department of Agriculture of The Philippines targets one million hectares of hybrid
1.06 Plant breeding in Western Canada
1.07 Revision of safety rules delays Kenya's GM maize
1.08 Kenya imports BT cotton for trials
1.09 First known case of a glyphosate-resistant ragweed
1.10 Genetic gains to help wheat producers stop Septoria leaf blotch
1.11 New varieties of centipede grass using germplasm from China
1.12 Gene in corn plants that may have paved the way for development of maize
1.13 Evolving role of genebanks
1.14 GRDC-supported research finds ways to make future varieties tolerant to pre-harvest sprouting
1.15 Wheat variety responses to stripe rust
1.16 Carrots come in purple, too
1.17 An apple a day may keep Alzheimer’s at bay
1.18 ICRISAT to assist RP legume industry
1.19 New index possible for screening salt tolerant rice lines
1.20 University of Toledo scientists engineer flower to thrive in below-freezing temperatures
1.21 Rubisco without the Calvin cycle improves the carbon efficiency of developing green seeds
1.22 Rice genome is decoded; now expect new varieties to crop up
1.23 New technique to generate GM wheat
1.24 In-house fungus corn’s new defense
1.25 Strawberries get scientific treatment
1.26 Lower enzyme level found to increase corn’s drought tolerance
1.27 Update 12-2004 of FAO-BiotechNews

2.01 Genetic Improvement of Cacao

3.01 Cereal News Bulletin
3.02 Conference 12 of the FAO Electronic Forum on Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture

(None submitted)

(None submitted)





1.01  Rice fields of Asia to benefit from a "doubly green revolution"

The Philippine-based
International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) said the new technologies in rice farming simultaneously reduce inappropriate use of pesticides, increase harvest and boost the income of farmers.

Ronald P. Cantrell, IRRI director general, described their research strategy for the 21st century as "breeding improved rice varieties with durable disease resistance while developing innovative, sustainable cropping systems."

In an international conference on agricultural research held in Mexico last October 25 & 29, Cantrell told global experts that a "doubly green revolution" in the rice fields of Asia has already commenced.

"IRRI and its partners in
Asia have already enjoyed noteworthy successes with environment-friendly technologies for improving rice productivity and poor farmers' lives," Cantrell noted.

The concept of a "doubly green revolution" was first put forward by former Rockefeller Foundation head, Gordon Conway, in a 1997 book by that name.

Conway argued the world needs a doubly green revolution that would be even more productive than the first Green Revolution, and must ensure the conservation of natural resources and protect the environment.

Half of the modern rice varieties released in South and
Southeast Asia over the last 38 years resulted, at least partly, from work by IRRI and its partners.

Cantrell added the global rice harvest has more than doubled in that period, and raced slightly ahead of population growth.

Larger harvests per capita have helped to drive down world rice prices by 80 percent over the past 20 years, he noted.

Poor consumers, IRRI said, have benefited lower prices of their staple food, their single largest expense item, and farmers have enjoyed lower unit costs and higher profits.

At the national level, IRRI stressed that Asians have achieved food security.

In the
Philippines, sustaining the growth of the agricultural sector through the full implementation of the Agricultural Modernization Act is part of the 10-point agenda of the Arroyo government.

Cantrell, however, pointed out that the campaign started in the first Green Revolution is not yet finished.

The drive, he said helped stave off hunger to a significant extent on two continents, but an estimated 800 million people still do not have access to sufficient food to meet their needs, and millions of farmers remain trapped in poverty."

Cantrell said IRRI has learned some important lessons over the last 40 years, and modern technologies can be environmentally sensitive if they are designed and used with the benefit of modern ecological knowledge.

"IRRI is committed to ensuring a cleaner, greener environment," Cantrell stressed.

He cited four environmentally focused IRRI research achievements which include one study in
China that confirmed the key role crop biodiversity can play in helping farmers improve their lives while protecting the environment and their families' health.

In 1997, IRRI scientists and collaborators in
Yunnan started experiments on inter-planting to control the devastating rice blast fungus while at the same time reducing fungicide use.

Two years later, farmers averaged US$280 more net income per hectare compared to growing hybrids alone.

In 2000, the New York Times described the project as one of the largest agricultural experiments ever.

To date, farmer across 10 Chinese provinces interplant nearly one million hectares, achieving better plant protection with minimal fungicide use and preserving popular traditional varieties.

After about 10 years of development and study, IRRI is now promoting a simple site-specific nutrient management (SSNM) technique by which farmers feed the rice plant nutrients only when needed, when nutrients in indigenous resources- soil, water, crop residues and manure-are less than optimal.

The benefits from SSNM significantly multiply when improved management of phosphorus and potassium is included.

Today, SSNM is being evaluated by extension workers and farmers in some 20 locations in the
Philippines, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

Each location represents an are of intensive rice farming on more than 100,000 hectares with similar soil characteristics and cropping systems.

Cantrell noted that as farmers across the rice-producing would join IRRI in the doubly green revolution drive, food security will greatly and significantly improve for millions of impoverished people.

The Philippine STAR via
21 November 2004

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1.02   Leading development experts call for renewed focus on rice

Brussels, Belgium
Rice is essential to winning the battle against world hunger, and global leaders must consider the use of innovative technologies to meet the needs of the world's growing population. This is according to representatives from the
Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), the European Parliament as well as the winner of the 2004 World Food Prize (the equivalent of Nobel Prize for Agriculture).

Speaking at an event organised by CropLife International* to commemorate the UN's International Year of Rice**, several leaders in development and agriculture research called upon the international community to take urgent action to increase production, ensure environmental sustainability and enhance nutrition of rice - the world's most important crop and "one of the most protected food commodities in world trade," according to Nirj Deva, MEP.

Over half of the 840 million people suffering from chronic hunger live in areas dependent on rice production for food, income and employment. Growth in rice yields is slowing, and is already falling behind population growth.

"Plant science technologies are necessary to increase rice yields and create new rice varieties," according to Christian Verschueren, Director General of CropLife International. "Crop protection products help rice farmers control pests, diseases and weeds. In addition, CropLife International's leading companies are assisting with mapping the rice genome and are researching rice varieties that are resistant to insect pests and diseases. They have also supported the development of "Golden Rice" to help combat childhood blindness in developing countries."

"Innovative technologies will become increasingly critical to ensure the sustainable development of rice-based production systems," said Mahmoud Solh, Director, Plant Protection and Production Division at the FAO.

Dr. Monty Jones, 2004 World Food Prize Laureate and Executive Secretary of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) explained how NERICA*** (New Rice for Africa) rice varieties have been developed using plant breeding technologies, and have the potential to benefit over 20 million rice farmers and 240 million consumers in West Africa alone. High-yielding rice ideally suited for poor African farmers, NERICA also promises to help reduce the region's high rice import bills. A 25% adoption of NERICA would lead to savings of $100 million a year.

"Every nation is confronted by critical issues related to the application of science and technology...The success of NERICA is just one illustration of the value of this approach in combating hunger and poverty in
Africa," stated Dr. Jones. "The development challenges facing Africa are well known but they must be kept in mind to sustain motivation in the face of other distractions faced by decision-makers. The life-threatening conditions of rural Africans must compete with the seemingly more compelling demands for protecting the way of life of Northern agricultural producers and processes."

In order for effective research to come to fruition, it needs to be complimented by proper, risk-based regulatory frameworks, effective technology transfer mechanisms and and market-based distribution systems in rural areas.

"Research can only produce real results if there is an enabling, predictable, robust and consistent regulatory framework that listens to good science. We also need proper infrastructures to ensure that these technologies can be transferred and distributed, particularly for the benefit smallholder farmers," stated Christian Verschueren.


CropLife International is the global federation representing the plant science industry. It supports a network of regional and national associations in 88 countries, and is led by companies such as BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, FMC, Monsanto, Sumitomo and Syngenta. CropLife International promotes the benefits of crop protection and biotechnology products, their importance to sustainable agriculture and food production, and their responsible use through stewardship activities.

2004 is being celebrated as the "International Year of Rice." The recognition of a commodity with an International Year is an unprecedented step in the history of the United Nations. A number of governments and institutions have come together to focus attention on rice at events being held around the world. For more information on the International Year of Rice, visit the FAO dedicated webpage at
NERICA rice varieties were developed by crossing African and Asian rice species. They combine the best attributes of both species. Some benefits include:
* Higher yields: NERICA rice varieties can produce over 50 per cent more grain than current varieties when cultivated with traditional rain-fed systems without fertilizer.
* Faster maturity: NERICA varieties mature 30 to 50 days earlier than current varieties.
* Enhanced nutrition: The new rice is substantially richer in protein.
* Disease and drought tolerance.
* Insect resistance: the new varieties can resist some of the most damaging insect pests in west Africa.
* Increased vigour: NERICA varieties can out-compete weeds for space, sunlight, water and nutrients.
More information can be found at:

December 8, 2004

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1.03  Making sense of patent rules for plant varieties

Development of intellectual property rules means that new plant varieties are no longer openly available for use — a situation that some in developing countries have raised concerns about. The World Trade Organisation's agreement on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights (TRIPS), for instance, ensures that a patent owner's permission must be granted before patented products can be imported.

In this article in Science, Bonwoo Koo and colleagues review the variety of plant-related intellectual property legislation practised worldwide. The authors discuss direct patenting of plants or plant products (such as seeds), and approaches that allow 'benefit sharing' — in which both those who preserve or develop the resource (for example, plant breeders and farmers) enter into a mutually beneficial agreement with those wanting to use the resources (such as researchers). They also analyse the policy of 'sui generis' systems of protection — created on a case by case basis — that allow plant breeders to control the commercialisation of their plant varieties.

The broad scope of international treaties means that countries can each implement them in different ways, thus "tailoring legislation" to local circumstances, say the authors. They add that rich countries are more restricted by intellectual property legislation than are poor countries. The authors also believe that the development of intellectual property rights legislation does not threaten crop research or commercialisation of new varieties in developing countries.

Link to full article by Bonwoo Koo et al in Science
Reference: Science 306, 1295 (2004)

22 November 2004

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1.04  Assessing and attributing the benefits from varietal improvement research in Brazil
IFPRI Research Report 136
by Philip G. Pardey, Julian M. Alston, Connie Chan-Kang, Eduardo C. Magalhaes, and Stephen A.Vosti

This report provides a detailed economic assessment of the magnitude and sources of the economic benefits to Brazil since the early 1980s from varietal improvements in upland rice, edible beans, and soybeans. The authors pay particular attention to isolating the benefits from genetic improvement, which they distinguish from other factors that change grain yield or quality. They use detailed information on the genetic and breeding histories of each crop and the institutional arrangements for crop-improvement research in
Brazil to estimate the benefits attributable to the research done by the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa) and by other Brazilian agencies. They capture international spill-in effects as well. The authors also provide more general insight into the importance of addressing attribution questions in evaluating public research investments, develop some methods for doing so, and illustrate how to apply them.

The abstract and report are available for download in PDF format as an entire document or by chapter.

Full Report
(PDF 490K)
Table of Contents, List of Tables, List of Figures, Foreword, Acknowledgments, and Summary
(PDF 60K)
Chapter 1: Introduction
(PDF 37K)
Chapter 2: Market and Research Contexts
(PDF 103K)
Chapter 3: Economic Evaluation of Varietal Change
(PDF 115K)
Chapter 4: Evaluation Elements: Data Details, Results, and Interpretation
(PDF 175K)
Chapter 5: Conclusion
(PDF 25K)
(PDF 59K)
(PDF 40K)
Report Covers
(PDF 232K)

December 15, 2004

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1.05  Department of Agriculture of The Philippines targets one million hectares of hybrid rice by 2007

The Philippines is targeting to have one million hectares planted to hybrid rice by 2007, the
Department of Agriculture (DA) on Monday said.

In the International Rice Forum held at the Philippine Trade and
Training Center, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said the target is expected to yield six million metric tons (MT) of palay at an estimated seed budget of P1.2 billion.

"For this crop year, the DA is looking at 200,500 hectares of hybrid-rice lands which will be expanded to 250,000 hectares in the May to October season next year, and 350,000 hectares in the November 2005 to April 2006 season," Yap said.

Philippines is fourth, following China, India and Vietnam, in hybrid-rice production.

"At present, 500,000 hectares are planted to hybrid rice, which is seen to widen next year to 530,000 hectares with an average yield of 6MT to 6.2MT per hectare.

The DA's rice program aims to further expand rice hectarage by 1.2 million hectares every year."

The Philippine agriculture sector grew by 6.8 percent in the first three quarter s of the year, grossing P588 billion for farmers, buoyed up by the 7.2-percent growth in the crops sector, which comprised almost half of the total agricultural output for the period.

Palay production rose 14 percent, while corn output jumped by 22.5 percent.

Yap also said the department is now tapping industry groups, such as PhilConGrains, a group of rice millers and traders, to serve as credit intermediaries or conduits of farmers to modernize rice production and trading, with seed funding from the Land Bank of the Philippines.

We are also asking for the support of the local government units for counterpart subsidy in the expansion of the DA's certified seed program to include low land rain fed, saline-prone and cool-elevated areas," he added.

Meanwhile, crop diversification will be promoted through the "Palayamanan program," which will train farmers to plant short-maturing crops, such as vegetables, after rice, and in livelihood programs.

The official also announced that systems for the rice intensification-a rice-production technology being advocated by nongovernment organizations in small rice areas particularly organic rice for export-will also receive DA assistance.

He said a credit program to provide operating, marketing, expansion and infrastructure capital to rice millers, traders, wholesalers and input suppliers is in the wirks with the help of Landbank, Quedancor and the Agriculture Credit and Policy Council.

Yap added that he and his counterparts from Iran, Thailand, Vietnam and the United States have also agreed in principle on technology exchange to achieve food security and political stability in the Asian region.

Philippines Today via
1 December 2004

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1.06  Plant breeding in Western Canada

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Bi-weekly Bulletin
Volume 17 Number 17

Agriculture, and plant breeding specifically, is being impacted by numerous forces for change. From a supply side, the advent of innovative technology and more sophisticated scientific knowledge are opening up new possibilities for plant breeders and increasing the speed at which new varieties enter the marketplace. As well, profitability, provided through Plant Breeders’ Rights, invites greater participation from the private sector. On the demand side, customer requirements for products that meet end-user needs for quality, safety and other attributes are becoming more specific. The customer is increasingly demanding a system that can deliver to smaller, targeted, niche markets at the same time as it delivers high-quality bulk commodities.

These changes have brought with them many issues that the industry must address, such as the need for variety registration reform, an updated seed and grain quality assurance system, changing roles for industry and government, regulatory flexibility, and intellectual property protection. This issue of the Bi-weekly Bulletin highlights some of the ongoing changes affecting plant breeding.

Plant breeding, simply defined, is the development of plant lines better suited for human purposes. It is the discovery or creation of genetic variation in a plant species and the selection from within that variation of plants with desirable traits that can be inherited in a stable fashion. Plant breeders, along with pedigreed seed producers and the seed trade form the seed sector.

Plant breeders can have many educational backgrounds; however most plant breeders have either a PhD or a M.Sc. in plant breeding, plus experience. In
Canada, the Canadian Seed Growers’ Association provides official recognition for all plant breeders, associate plant breeders and variety maintainers.

[Editor’s note: This long article continues with the following topics. See web site below for complete article]

Seed Sector Review
Prairie Registration Recommending Committee for Grain
Variety Registration

26 November 2004

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1.07  Revision of safety rules delays Kenya's GM maize

[NAIROBI] The introduction of genetically modified (GM) maize to Kenya is likely to be delayed by two years to 2010 following revisions to safety regulations for the Insect Resistant Maize for Africa (IRMA) project.

The revisions, made public at a meeting of stakeholders in
Nairobi on 9 December, are intended to bring the project in line with national and international standards by giving greater attention to threats that the release of GM maize could pose to the environment and human health.

"It became clear that regulatory issues were not exhaustively covered in the original project plan," said Stephen Mugo, IRMA's project manager.
Mugo said the revised rules are intended to be compliant with existing Kenyan regulations — which allow research on GM crops but not their sale — while being stringent enough to anticipate any changes to the law.

A group drawn from the IRMA project and the government regulator, the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service, decided on the changes. As well as revising safety standards, they updated plans relating to plant breeding, facilities and permits, and the social and economic implications of introducing GM maize to Kenyan farmers.

The IRMA project is a joint venture between the Kenyan government and international research institutes. It aims to develop a variety of maize able to resist attack by stem borers, major insect pests.

It is expected to cost US$6,670,000 during the next five years with the bulk of the funding coming from the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture. The Rockefeller Foundation is also a donor.

The project's GM maize was initially scheduled to be distributed to farmers in 2008, but, according to Mugo, the revised safety standards means this will be delayed until 2010. As a result, widespread distribution will only be achieved by 2011.

Joe DeVries of the Rockefeller Foundation said he hoped extra regulations would not slow the pace of the project. "It is clear that [this type of GM] maize has been tested and proven to work elsewhere hence there is no need for unnecessary regulations," he added.

Each year, stem borers are responsible for crop losses of up to 12 per cent, amounting to US$76 million in lost harvests. The IRMA project, which began five years ago, aims to create both conventional and transgenic maize varieties to resist the pest. The GM plants, incorporating genetic material from a bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis, are referred to as Bt maize.

The research is being done by scientists from the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute and the International Maize and
Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico.

The project's first line of the Bt maize has been tested in the biosafety greenhouse that was officially opened earlier this year (see
US$12 million greenhouse signals Kenyan GM commitment). Approval for open field-testing is being sought from the government. If it is obtained, these tests will take place early next year.

14 December 2004
Source: SciDev.Net

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1.08  Kenya imports BT cotton for trials

Kenya has imported Bt cottonseed from the United States for field trials. Dr Charles
Waturu, Kenya Agricultural Research Institute’s (KARI) Thika Center director, said that Bt cotton, which has a gene that is resistant to stalk-borer, is expected to reduce pesticide spraying from five to two times. “Of all the input in cotton, 32 percent is channeled to pest control, and the Bt cotton will lead to a reduced number of pesticide spray until harvest time,” he said.

The trials are about to start at KARI farms in central
Kenya. The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) has inspected the trial sites and has given the go-ahead for the project.

Currently, cotton is grown on approximately 2.5 million hectares in
Africa, most of which comprises small plots of less than five hectares. The introduction of Bt cotton on the continent has the potential of dramatically increasing yields among the smallholder farmers.

The National Biotechnology Committee approved the application for Bt cotton only last year.

For more information, contact Daniel Otunge of the Kenya Biotechnology Information Center KBIC at

Source: CropBiotech Net via
10 December 2004

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1.09  First known case of a glyphosate-resistant ragweed

Columbia, Missouri
Missouri has the first known case of a summer annual weed resistant to the popular glyphosate line of herbicides.

Reid Smeda, University of Missouri weed scientist, discussed the finding this week during the annual convention of the North Central Weed Science Society in
Columbus, Ohio.

The resistant weeds, a biotype of common ragweed, were found in a 20-acre field in central
Missouri. Plants from the field, examined by Smeda and by officials of Monsanto Company, were found to be resistant to 10 times the rate of glyphosate herbicide that normally controls common ragweed. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto Roundup herbicides as well as other brands.

“While our yearlong investigation has led us to conclude that resistance has occurred in this particular field, there have been no other complaints,” Smeda said. Common ragweed is the third biotype in the
United States to develop resistance to glyphosate, which has been used commercially for more than 30 years. Resistance also has been discovered within biotypes of the weeds marestail and ryegrass.

“This case of ragweed is significant in that it is the first time a summer annual has developed resistance to glyphosate,” Smeda said. Marestail and ryegrass are winter annuals.

The development of these resistant weeds, as with other cases of weed resistance throughout history, is chiefly due to continual use of one weed-control strategy, Smeda said. It was found in a field with a history of continual soybean production and the repeated use of glyphosate in glyphosate-resistant soybean varieties.

Smeda will discuss proper weed control strategies to manage resistance with farmers and pesticide applicators at meetings throughout the winter.

December 14, 2004

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1.10  Genetic gains to help wheat producers stop Septoria leaf blotch

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Wheat researchers have made advances in the genetics behind resistance to Septoria leaf blotch, spurring the development of new wheat varieties to help growers reduce losses from the common disease.

"We have identified sources of high-level resistance to Septoria leaf blotch and investigated the inheritance of this resistance," says Dr. Anita Brûlé-Babel, Professor of Plant Science and wheat breeder at the University of Manitoba (U of M). "This will allow wheat breeders in
Western Canada to develop new wheat varieties that carry this resistance, providing a sustainable solution to wheat growers."

Septoria leaf blotch has been one of southern
Manitoba's major leaf diseases since it appeared in the area in the 1990-1991 crop year. The emergence of the stubble-borne disease is attributed in part to the adoption of conservation management practices that leave crop residues on the soil surface.

"Residue-borne diseases are responsible for millions of dollars in lost revenue annually for our wheat industry," says Brûlé-Babel. "The most economical method of reducing these losses is to incorporate genetic resistance into commercial wheat varieties - that's what ultimately will be the payoff of the research progress we're seeing today." New varieties carrying the resistance are expected over the next three to five years.

The progress was driven in part by the investment of western wheat farmers through the Wheat Check-off Fund, administered by
Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF). The Check-off supports breeding-related tan spot research at the U of M. These farmer dollars drew matching funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), which has been used to support the Septoria leaf blotch project.

"Because WGRF is considered an industry partner, my collaborator, Dr. Lakhdar Lamari, and I were able to apply through NSERC to match those dollars for other industry-oriented research," says Brûlé-Babel. Through NSERC, the university has matched nearly all Check-off funds it has received since 1995.

The Septoria leaf blotch project included two main components, conducted by graduate students. As part of his PhD work, Curt McCartney, with the additional collaboration of Dr. Daryl Somers at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Cereal Research Centre, identified the chromosome location of a resistance gene that has been labelled "Stb7." Researchers also identified three "molecular markers" that signal the presence of this resistance.

Molecular markers are pieces of DNA that repeated analysis shows are closely linked to the presence of genes that control a specific trait. The advantage is that these markers are much easier to identify than the genes themselves, making them a powerful selection tool for breeders.

"As a result of this work, we have made great progress in understanding the genetics of resistance and how to incorporate it into commercial cultivars," says Brûlé-Babel. "Developing those cultivars and getting them out to farmers is now just a matter of time and resources."

In the second component of the project, MSc. student Ardelle Grieger investigated and described the pathogen race profile in
Western Canada of the causal agent of Septoria leaf blotch and documented the differences in the infection process between resistant and susceptible wheat genotypes.

"This component helped us learn more about the status of the disease in the field, and how it infects the plant. This will help us to design the best solutions," says Brûlé-Babel. "The first step was to identify and characterize the different isolates of the pathogen in the field, and to look at genetic variation, difference in virulence patterns, and the infection process."

The producer-funded Wheat Check-off Fund, administered by WGRF, allocates more than $3 million annually to wheat breeding programs in
Western Canada.

24 November  2004

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1.11  New varieties of centipede grass using germplasm from China

University of Georgia
Turf scientists at the University of Georgia are breeding new varieties of centipede grass using germ plasm collected from the grass's homeland, China.

In 1999, Wayne Hanna, a researcher with the UGA College of Agricultural and
Environmental Sciences, spent 23 days in the most rural areas of
China collecting centipede samples.

Earl Elsner, former director of the Georgia Seed Development Commission, accompanied Hanna. Their trip was funded by a $50,000 grant from The Turfgrass Group and Patten Seed Company.

Since the collection trip five years ago, Hanna has used the germ plasm to develop two new experimental varieties, a winter-hardy centipede and a shade-tolerant centipede. The shade-tolerant variety, which can withstand 40-percent continuous shade, should be available to the public in three to five years.

Centipede grass first came to the
United States in 1918, Hanna said. It's known for its ability to grow on sandy and poor soils. "It will grow where very little else will grow," Hanna said.

While in
China, Hanna relied heavily on advice from the local people. Even though centipede is native to China, it was a chore for the researchers to find samples. "The buffalo eat the centipede seed heads down. So we had to search for samples under small trees, in thorny bushes and on cliffs where they can't reach," he said. "We were able to find it along streambanks and trails and in rice patty levees where buffalo walk. Centipede grass was scattered all over China by the buffalos."

The researchers targeted collection sites in shady areas and along the coastal salt marshes. "These samples can be used to breed new varieties with shade and drought tolerance," Hanna said.

Each night Hanna turned his hotel room into a makeshift lab. He dried the grass samples on the lampshade, threshed the grass and careful placed the samples in labeled collection bags.

These collection bags were later inspected at the airport, taken to
Washington, D.C., and returned to Hanna at his UGA lab in Tifton, Ga.

Germplasm now available to all scientists
The UGA research team collected centipede samples from 53 sites in
China. They were helped on the trip by Nanjiang Botanical Gardens researcher Jianxiu Liu, with whom they shared the collected samples.

"We now have germ plasm for our research and for the (U.S. Department of Agriculture) national seed bank," Hanna said. "And we have the Chinese people to thank for the success of our trip.
17 December 2004

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1.12  Gene in corn plants that may have paved the way for development of maize

Biologists at the
University of California, San Diego have identified a gene that appears to have been a critical trait in allowing the earliest plant breeders 7,000 years ago to transform teosinte, a wild grass that grows in the Mexican Sierra Madre, into maize, the world’s third most planted crop after rice and wheat.

In a paper that appears in the December 2 issue of the journal Nature, the scientists report their discovery of a gene that regulates the development of secondary branching in plants, presumably permitting the highly branched, bushy teosinte plant to be transformed into the stalk-like modern maize.

The researchers say the presence of numerous variants of this gene in teosinte, but only one variant of the gene in all inbred varieties of modern maize, provides tantalizing evidence that Mesoamerican crop breeders most likely used this trait in combination with a small number of other traits to selectively transform teosinte to maize, one of the landmark events in the development of modern agriculture.

“What we know is that this gene is critical for branching to take place in maize, including the branches that give rise to the ears of corn,” says Robert J. Schmidt, a professor of biology at UCSD who headed the research team. “And we presume that there was something unusual in the morphology that these early farmers selected from the wild teosinte that made it easier for them to plant, grow or harvest their crops.

This gene will give us some important new clues to what genetic traits these plant breeders focused on when they transformed teosinte to maize. In a broader context, it is quite possible that the same gene in other plant species is equally essential to the overall architecture that a particular plant assumes by programming the very cells that produce new branches.”

The gene cloned by the scientists is called barren stalk1 because when the gene product is absent a relatively barren stalk results—one with leaves, but without secondary branches. In maize, these secondary branches include the female reproductive parts of the plant—or ears of corn—and the male reproductive organ, or tassel, the multiple branched crown at the top of the plant.

Teosinte has numerous tassels and tiny ears in its highly branched architecture, while maize has only one tassel and much fewer, but much larger, ears. This suggests that the limitations to branching imposed by some combination of the barren stalk1 and other genes that were selected for by the early plant breeders allowed the early genetic mutants of teosinte to concentrate more of the plant’s resources into producing bigger ears that could be harvested.

The recessive mutation leading to barren stalks in corn plants was first identified in 1928 from seeds collected in
South America by early maize geneticists. Because the mutation so dramatically affected the reproductive parts of the plants, and because the development of maize involved changes in the architecture of the teosinte plant, Schmidt realized that the mutation was important and set about to study the genetic and developmental basis of the mutation further with Matthew Ritter and Christopher Padilla, two former graduate students in his laboratory.

The isolation of the barren stalk1 gene and the discovery that it was responsible for this recessive mutation was subsequently made by Andrea Gallavotti, a postdoctoral fellow in Schmidt’s laboratory. Other coauthors of the paper include Ritter, now at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo; M. Enrico Pe’ of the University of Milan; Junko Kyozuka of the University of Tokyo; Robert Meeley of DuPont subsidiary, Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc.; and Qiong Zhao and John Doebley of the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Doebley, a professor of genetics at Madison and an expert in the evolution of teosinte to maize, was intrigued by the realization that the barren stalk1 gene was located in one of five regions of the maize genome known to be important in the breeding of teosinte to maize. With the help of his graduate student, Qiong Zhao, the two scientists found that many variants of the gene exist in teosinte, yet only one was incorporated into modern maize inbreds. This led them to conclude that targeted selection of this particular barren stalk1 variant by humans was likely an important addition to the traits responsible for the development of modern maize.

“This gene seems to have been the target of human selection,” says Doebley. “The fact that humans preferred some allelic form of this gene over others is a smoking gun. But we don’t have the direct proof yet. We need to do some follow up studies to see if this gene was really involved.”

The project was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health

2 December 2004

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1.13  Evolving role of genebanks

Genebanks as repositories of plant genetic resources need to adapt to the changing demands of different clients and the fast developing field of molecular genetics. Hence, it is necessary to readjust the value assigned to genetic resources and find new ways of better exploiting them. This is the main raised by paper on "The Evolving Role of Genebanks in the Fast Developing Field of Molecular Genetics" released by the International Plant Genetics Resources Institute and edited by M. Carmen de Vicente.

Clients are now seeking expertise from traditional breeding to molecular biology and genomics. This requires a broader range of services and staff that can transcend various disciplines. Several issues should therefore be addressed, such as the attributes that a genebank should maintain, the convenience of networking to outsource certain types of expertise and procedures, the gap this situation may create among genebanks, and the benefits genebanks offer in countries with varying levels of development.

The paper suggests that regional networks be established with the aim of characterizing the germplasm of specific crops through molecular markers. Such networks would facilitate the use of the most appropriate tools, reduce costs for individual parties and improve strategies for conservation and use.

See the full paper at

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith, Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

Source: CropBiotech Update
19 November 2004:

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1.14  GRDC-supported research finds ways to make future varieties tolerant to pre-harvest sprouting

Pre-harvest sprouting (PHS) is the most common cause of downgrading of grain at delivery due to weather damage.

PHS is caused when grain is exposed to prolonged wet conditions at the later stages of ripening or when mature, but still in head in the field.

A decade of Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) supported research has investigated the causes of the defect, developed reliable screening methods and found ways of making future varieties tolerant to PHS.

The GRDC is supporting breeders to produce varieties with appropriate quality and agronomic characteristics and free of underlying genetic defects predisposing them to PHS.

16 December 2004

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1.15  Wheat variety responses to stripe rust

Cereal Rust Update, Volume 2 number 4, University of Sydney, Plant Breeding Institute
University of Sydney
Plant Breeding Institute
Cereal Rust Laboratory
 by Colin
Wellings, Harbans Bariana and Robert Park

The stripe rust epidemic throughout the majority of Australian wheat growing regions in 2004 has prompted the question of variety reaction to the disease. Expected variety responses for eastern
Australia wheats were circulated in several reports, the most recent being Cereal Rust Report Volume 1, Issue 5 (January 2004). In general, varieties have performed to expectation in 2004. The pathotype survey has, to date, shown no evidence of change in the pathogen population and in general, the relative rankings of variety response to stripe rust have not altered appreciably.

Document in PDF format:

December, 2004

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1.16 Carrots come in purple, too

Colors can mean nutrition, too, as researchers with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Vegetable Crops Research Unit in Madison, Wisconsin proved recently, with their new line of conventionally-bred rainbow carrots. The bright vegetables now come in yellow, dark orange, bright red, and even purple.

Yellow carrots owe their color to xanthophylls, compounds that have been linked to good eye health. Lycopene, a carotene found in tomato, has been shown to prevent certain types of cancer, and gives the carrots their bright red blush. Purple carrots carry anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants that can guard the body's cells from the destructive effects of free radicals.

Read the full article at

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith, Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

Source: CropBiotech Update
19 November 2004:

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1.17 An apple a day may keep Alzheimer’s at bay

Not only the apple, but other fruits and vegetables rich in
antioxidants may delay or even prevent Alzheimer's disease, Cornell University scientists report in the Dec. 1 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Quercetin, a potent antioxidant, appears to protect brain cells against oxidative stress, a tissue-damaging process associated with Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative disorders. It is concentrated in the skin of red apples, and is also present in onions, blueberries, and cranberries

In the latest experiments, scientists treated rat brain cells with varying concentrations of either quercetin or vitamin C. The cells were then exposed to hydrogen peroxide to simulate the type of oxidative cell damage that is believed to occur with Alzheimer's. These results were then compared to brain cells that were similarly exposed to hydrogen peroxide but were not pre-treated with antioxidants.

Brain cells that were treated with quercetin had significantly less damage to both cellular proteins and DNA than the cells treated with vitamin C and the cells that were not exposed to antioxidants. This demonstrates quercetin's stronger protective effect against neurotoxicity, according to the researchers.

Studies on the influence of diet on brain cell health have already been conducted since 2002. In one experiment, mice with genetic defects similar to Alzheimer's disease were fed apple juice, then put in a maze to test their memory. Mice that had the Alzheimer's-like defect were forgetful and explored the same corridors repeatedly. After drinking apple juice, their memories improved so much that they performed nearly as well as normal mice. Normal mice who drank apple juice improved even more. Mice who drank too much apple juice did not benefit in the experiment, and actually had trouble in the maze.

Read the original press release at

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith, Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

Source: CropBiotech Update
19 November 2004:

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1.18 ICRISAT to assist RP legume industry

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad, India and the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD) have joined forces on a project that aims to enhance the adoption of ICRISAT-bred legumes and associated technologies.
With a grant from the Philippine government, ICRISAT will provide the seeds of improved legume varieties, particularly peanut, chickpea, and pigeonpea; technical advice for the use of the technology; and training of project staff. PCARRD, on the other hand, will provide institutional support for project planning, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation.

For further information, contact Dr. CLL Gowda at

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith, Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

Source: CropBiotech Update
26 November 2004:

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1.19 New index possible for screening salt tolerant rice lines

The concentration of
glycinebetaine, a molecule produced in plants in response to salt stress, may be used as a rapid biochemical index for the screening of new salt-tolerant lines of rice. Suriyan Cha-um of the
National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology and colleagues discuss this finding in an article in the latest issue of Science Asia.

Glycinebetaine (Glybet) is involved in plant stress responses to extreme salt, drought, temperature, and light conditions. Studies have shown that Glybet acts as an osmoprotective agent by stabilizing both the quaternary structures of proteins and the highly ordered structure of membranes against the adverse effects of salinity and water-deficit.

Using Thai jasmine rice seedlings, researchers found that betaine aldehyde dehydrogenase (BADH), a key enzyme in the Glybet synthesis pathway, showed progressive elevation during the first four days after growth under salt-stress conditions (342 mM NaCl), but gradually decreased thereafter (days 6-8). This increase in BADH activity was accompanied by an accumulation of Glybet. In contrast, the BADH activity and Glybet content of control seedlings (0 mM NaCl) remained at a low and constant level during the same 8-day interval.

Significant reductions in the concentrations of chlorophyll a, chlorophyll b, total chlorophyll, and total carotenoid content of salt-stressed seedlings were also observed with increasing exposure time to salt-stressed conditions.

Glybet accumulation in rice seedlings is consistent with the known defense response in plants, and assaying BADH activity and/or Glybet accumulation may be further used in screening for salt-tolerant varieties of rice.

Download the complete article, "Biochemical and Physiological Responses of Thai Jasmine Rice to Salt Stress," at

Source: CropBiotech Updatevia AgBioView
17 December 2004

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1.20 University of Toledo scientists engineer flower to thrive in below-freezing temperatures

Toledo, Ohio

A team of researchers at the
University of Toledo has created petunias that survive in temperatures so low that other flowers curl up and die in two hours.

The team of plant scientists, including Stephen Goldman, R.V. Sairam, and Parani Madasamy, say this is only the beginning of the freeze-tolerant flower species they can create. By inserting a gene from a weed that doesn't mind the cold, the plants thrive in temperatures as low as 22 degrees Fahrenheit.

"We can transform pretty much any crop using this gene," said Mr. Sairam, assistant director of UT's
Plant Science Research Center.

The genetic alteration also confers drought and salinity tolerance, said Mr. Madasamy, who performed the hands-on work in the project. He is a research assistant professor in the
Plant Science Research Center.

The group hopes the work will benefit northwest
Ohio greenhouse growers.

"The second-largest cost in the greenhouse industry is utilities," said Mr. Goldman, director of the
Plant Science Research Center. "When you're competing with people out of Florida and out of California, it's a big thing."

Freeze-tolerant plants might allow growers to reduce spring growing temperatures by 10 to 20 degrees.

"That sounds really interesting" said Gene Klotz, owner of Klotz Flower Farm on
Napoleon Road in Bowling Green. "The cost of heating wasn't such a big factor a few years ago. Now the cost, I would say, is at least 35 percent, maybe even a little more. Where, before, we could look at maybe 10 percent.

"What I don't now for sure is, how well will the plant grow at those temperatures?" Mr. Klotz said. If growth slows down in the cold, the benefit could diminish.

And at the moment, the researchers can't answer that question. The petunias will be tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which funded the research, to see how low the plants can go, how well they grow, and how long they can survive at reduced temperatures.

Despite these open questions, the UT researchers already are talking to two
California growers.

"They wanted this in poinsettias. They said this would be much bigger than a multi-million dollar" advance, if it worked, Mr. Sairam said.

While today's crop of freeze-baby petunias were made with a gene from a mustard-family weed called Aribidopsis, the researchers also have learned how to induce the petunia's own genes to prevent icy death.

By using a plant's own genes, Mr. Sairam says, the group hopes to overcome objections to genetic modification, which typically involves introducing genes from other species into a plant.

Finally, the plant could be altered so it wouldn't produce seed, allowing reproduction only through cuttings. That would eliminate transgenic pollen. Many worry that genetically altered pollen will allow uncontrolled genetic modification of related species in the environment.

But as promising as these developments sound, Tom Wardell, past president of the Toledo Area Flower and Vegetable Growers Association, and owner of Wardell's Farm Market in
Waterville, said there's no guarantee they'll get to growers soon, if they get there at all.

"I don't know if the seed companies are even going to be interested in something like that," Mr. Wardell said. "You can do a lot of things in a laboratory situation, but there's still a lot of steps to be taken."

Toledo Blade via
December 15, 2004

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1.21  Rubisco without the Calvin cycle improves the carbon efficiency of developing green seeds

Jörg Schwender, Fernando Goffman, John B. Ohlrogge & Yair Shachar-Hill
Plant Biology Department, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824, USA

Efficient storage of carbon in seeds is crucial to plant fitness and to agricultural productivity. Oil is a major reserve material in most seeds, and these oils provide the largest source of renewable reduced carbon chains available from nature. However, the conversion of carbohydrate to oil through glycolysis results in the loss of one-third of the carbon as CO2. Here we show that, in developing embryos of Brassica napus L. (oilseed rape), Rubisco (ribulose 1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase) acts without the Calvin cycle and in a previously undescribed metabolic context to increase the efficiency of carbon use during the formation of oil. In comparison with glycolysis, the metabolic conversion we describe provides 20% more acetyl-CoA for fatty-acid synthesis and results in 40% less loss of carbon as CO2. Our conclusions are based on measurements of mass balance, enzyme activity and stable isotope labelling, as well as an analysis of elementary flux modes.

Nature Volume 432 Number 7018 p. 779 - 782
Source: Agnet Dec 9/04 via
December 9, 2004

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1.22  Rice genome is decoded; now expect new varieties to crop up

An international team of scientists has completed the sequencing of the rice genome, an accomplishment that should lead to the development of new varieties of rice to meet different needs, including resistance to disease.

Takuji Sasaki of the National Institute of Agrobiological Science (left) presents farm minister Yoshinobu Shimamura with data on the sequencing of the rice genome at the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry.

Researcher Takuji Sasaki of the National Institute of Agrobiological Science and head of the Japanese team in the international effort, said Monday that scientists from 10 economies completed mapping some 370 million out of 390 million base pairs -- or 95 percent of the genome -- with an accuracy of 99.99 percent.

The team made the report to agriculture minister Yoshinobu Shimamura.

Analysts say they expect the research to contribute to the identification of useful genetic functions and lead to rapid improvement of crop varieties and an increase in food production.

The results could also be used for production of new varieties of maize and wheat that have similar features in their genetic maps to rice.

The rice used for the research was a Japanese variety called Nippon Bare, in which the researchers found an estimated 40,000 genes.

Japan took the lead in deciphering the rice genome in 1991 and continued to play a central role after the international joint research team began decoding the genome in 1998, and was responsible for studying six of the 12 chromosomes found in rice, team members said.

The international team declared in December 2002 that it had deciphered the genome after mapping 92 percent of it but has continued the project to map the remainder.

The researchers said they are the first to release the results of precise deciphering of the rice genome. The results have a margin of error of less than one-10,000th, the researchers said earlier.

The international team includes researchers from the
United States, Taiwan, Thailand, China, South Korea, India, France, Britain, Brazil and Japan.

GM corn, soybeans found growing wild

TSUKUBA, Ibaraki Pref. (Kyodo) Genetically modified corn and soybeans have been found growing wild near
Shimizu port in Shizuoka Prefecture, citizens' groups opposing GM foods said Monday.

The groups also said GM rapeseed has been found growing wild near
Fukuoka's Hakata port. Members of the groups suspect the plant was spilled during the transport process.

The discovery of GM rapeseed follows its detection at ports in
Ibaraki, Chiba, Kanagawa, Aichi, Mie and Hyogo prefectures.

"Corn and soybean seeds are less likely to disperse than rapeseed, and it's amazing that they grow wild," said Masaharu Kawata, a lecturer of chemical biology at
Yokkaichi University in Mie Prefecture.

Groups including Stop GM Seeds Network
Japan conducted the study by collecting the plants and testing them.

The GM corn includes genes that kill insects such as moth worms, while the GM soybeans are engineered to be more resistant to weed killer.

Source: - The Japan Times via
14 December 2004

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1.23 New technique to generate GM wheat

In "A reverse genetic,
nontransgenic approach to wheat crop improvement by TILLING," or targeting induced local lesions in genomes, Ann J Slade, and her colleagues of Anawah Inc., in Seattle, Washington introduce a technique that can identify new mutations in a polyploid plant, such as wheat, as well as uncover inherent variation within an organism's genome and eliminate the need to introduce a foreign DNA to get a new strain. The paper is published in the latest issue of Nature Biotechnology.

With TILLING, DNA from multiple individuals is pooled, and the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) is used to amplify a targeted region of the genome. The PCR product from the pool is heated and reannealed, allowing DNA strands from mutants and wild types to base pair with each other. The individuals composing the positive pools are sequenced to determine which individual carries the mutation, and further tests may be undertaken to reveal the nature of the mutation. Unlike conventional mutation breeding, TILLING provides a direct measure of mutations induced.

Slade identified 246 alleles of the waxy genes of wheat and was able to produce a new strain yielding large amounts of amylopectin in its grains. This full waxy wheat can be useful for making breads and pastas, as well as enhancing the strength and printing properties of paper products.

Read the abstract

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith, Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

Source: CropBiotech Update
10 December 2004:

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1.24  In-house fungus corn’s new defense

If endophytes are organisms that live in another living organism without harming or benefiting ther host, then Acremonium zeae is the latest exception. Once considered a benign fungus, Agricultural Research Service microbiologist Don Wicklow and University of Iowa scientist Jim Gloer recently showed that A. zeae can protect corn from Aspergillus flavus and Fusarium verticillioides.

Both A. flavus and F. verticillioides infect ripening corn kernels: Aspergillus contaminates corn crops with aflatoxin, which is harmful to both humans and livestock; while F. verticilliodes causes stalk rot. A. zeae, Wicklow and Gloer found, produces substances called pyrrocidines, which can disrupt activity of either pest. Wicklow conducted field studies to make sure the lab-based observations of A. zeae's antifungal activity are not the result of a natural corn defense or the byproduct of human error.

Further research may reveal another possible approach: inoculating corn seed with the endophyte as a living barrier against A. flavus and F. verticillioides.


Contributed by Margaret E. Smith, Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

Source: CropBiotech Update
10 December 2004:

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1.25 Strawberries get scientific treatment

flavor is essential to its selling power, and the compounds affecting such factors in strawberry were explored by Asaph Aharoni and colleagues, of Plant Research International in the Netherlands, in the paper "Gain and Loss of Fruit Flavor Compounds Produced by Wild and Cultivated Strawberry Species," available in this month's The Plant Cell.

The molecular mechanisms by which fruit flavor and aroma compounds are gained and lost during evolution and domestication are largely unknown. In the latest research, however, scientists found that wild and cultivated strawberries differ by very little at the genetic level, even as whole compounds are unique to either variety. Wild varieties contain olefinic monoterpenes and myrtenyl acetate, while cultivated strawberries contain the monoterpene linalool and the sesquiterpene nerolidol.

A gene, named FaNES1, is responsible for the difference, and its protein product is found exclusively in the fruit of cultivated strawberry varieties. Although the gene is present in either variety, it is mutated in the wild variety, hence accounting for the difference in their flavors.

The study also sheds light on the molecular differences between wild and cultivated varieties of other soft fruits, especially those which contain terpenes, including some citrus species and the mango. The study may also be used to improve current fruit species and perhaps even strengthen their hold on the market.

Read the abstract

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith, Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

Source: CropBiotech Update
3 December 2004:

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1.26  Lower enzyme level found to increase corn’s drought tolerance

In a paper in the December Issue of The Plant Journal, Dr. Daniel R.
Gallie and his research team at the University of California, Riverside report that ACC synthase Expression Regulates Leaf Performance and Drought Tolerance in Maize.

ACC synthase is the enzyme responsible for producing ethylene, a hormone that regulates plant responses to environmental stresses, and initiates fruit ripening and leaf death, among other important functions.

In their experiments, Gallie and co-workers screened thousands of corn plants for naturally occurring mutants that were deficient in ACC synthase. The researchers isolated several such plants, and one in particular that produced substantially lower levels of ethylene. The mutant plant, they found, was more resistant to the effects of adverse environmental conditions, including drought. Researchers then engineered plants to produce less ACC synthase, thereby reducing the level of ethylene, and found that all the leaves of the altered plants contained higher levels of chlorophyll and leaf protein, and functioned better than control leaves.

For several years, Gallie said, a number of studies on global climate have predicted an increase in global temperature, and regional conditions of drought, which may have already begun. The findings by Gallie and his research team suggest that ethylene controls the level of leaf function under normal growth conditions, as well as during adverse environmental conditions.

For more information, visit

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith, Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

Source: CropBiotech Update
26 November 2004:

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1.27  Update 12-2004 of FAO-BiotechNews

(excerpted by the editor, PBN-L)

We hope you have found these Updates useful and interesting in 2004 and we wish you all the best for the coming year.

The Coordinator of FAO-BiotechNews, 17-12-2004
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
E-mail address:
FAO website
FAO Biotechnology website (in Arabic,
Chinese, English, French and Spanish)

*** NEWS *** (

1) FAO e-mail conference on public participation and GMOs – Background document

The background document for the FAO e-mail conference entitled "Public participation in decision-making regarding GMOs in developing countries: How to effectively involve rural people" is now available. The 12-page document gives a brief overview of the current status regarding GMOs in crops, forests, fisheries, livestock and agro-industry; discusses the decision-making areas where the public could be involved; provides a brief overview of some relevant international agreements and discusses some of the specificities regarding information access and participation for people in rural areas in developing countries. See or contact to request a copy of the document by e-mail. The e-mail conference runs from 17 January to 13 February 2005 and is hosted by the FAO Biotechnology Forum.

To join the Forum (and also register for the conference), send an e-mail to leaving the subject blank and entering only the following text on two separate lines: subscribe BIOTECH-L subscribe biotech-room4 Forum members wishing to register for the conference should leave out the first line of the above message.

4) First world conference on organic seed - report and proceedings

On 5-7 July 2004, the "First world conference on organic seed: Challenges and opportunities for organic and the seed industry" was held at FAO Headquarters, Rome, Italy, organised by FAO, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements and the International Seed Federation. There were eight plenary sessions including aspects ranging from seed production, propagation and quality, through harmonisation of standards and technical regulations, to economics and biodiversity aspects, and the co-existence between organic agriculture and GMOs was also addressed. The 19-page conference report and 188-page conference proceedings are now available. See or contact for more information.

12) Regional dialogue on IPRs, innovation and sustainable development

On 8-10 November 2004, a "Regional dialogue on intellectual property rights (IPRs), innovation and sustainable development" was held in Hong Kong, S.A.R., China, organised by the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development, the University of Hong Kong, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the International Development Research Centre. One of the five main issues discussed during the dialogue was biotechnology and the protection of plant varieties.

The draft meeting report and meeting documents, including "Fitting plant variety protection and biotechnological inventions in agriculture within the intellectual property framework: Challenges for developing countries" by S.K. Verma, are now available. See or contact for more information.

13) OECD - Consensus document on new varieties of barley

The OECD Environmental Health and Safety Division has just published the "Consensus document on compositional considerations for new varieties of barley (Hordeum vulgare L.): Key food and feed nutrients and anti-nutrients". It is number 12 in its Series on the Safety of Novel Foods and Feeds. See or contact for more information.

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2.01  Genetic Improvement of Cacao

The Brazilian book ‘Melhoramento Genético do Cacaueiro’ by Luiz Antônio dos Santos Dias, 2001 (xii + 578 pp.) has been translated into an English Internet version in EcoPort ( as ‘Genetic Improvement of Cacao’. The translation is by Cornelia Elisabeth Abreu-Reichart, Viçosa, M.G.,
Brazil; aided by the Editor and Peter Griffee, Senior Officer for Industrial Crops, of FAO’s Crop and Grassland Service (AGPC) and supported by FAO. In the translation the word ‘improvement’, in the Brazilian sense, has been used almost throughout as it is more encompassing than ‘breeding’. The work spans cacao improvement from the ancient Mayas and Aztecs through germplasm, conventional selection, gene banks and to modern biotechnological techniques. It was introduced to Peter by Elcio Guimarães, also a Senior Officer in AGPC. As Peter's home is Brazil he was able to see, at once, the extraordinary quality of this book in uniting multidisciplinary aspects of cacao and shortly after entered the Portuguese version into EcoPort.

The translation has been a lengthy task but lightened by the intense sense of collaboration and enthusiasm of all concerned. Some of the original diagrams have yet to be translated but this will be done shortly. We would like feed-back and alerts on any possible errors that you may notice. Please contact Luiz ( and Peter ( in such cases. For any comments on the EcoPort technology involved please contact Tonie Putter (, the creator of EcoPort. The following URL takes you to the cover - just click on "Table of Contents" and choose the section of interest or use the yellow scroll arrow. Each section is a maximum of 23 KB to facilitate those with slow connections. N.B.: Care with "Get full eArticle" as it is over 1.4 MB. At the end of the Table of Contents the Entities (plant, arthropod, fungus, location etc.), References and Glossary terms are listed as well as being linked in the text.

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 mostly by Brazilian scientists. Much of it is universally applicable to tree species, but it is focussed 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) give 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 specialities; 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 of 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 experimentation. 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, FAO/AGPC

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3.01  Cereal News Bulletin

Announcement of the first issue of the Cereals News Bulletin recently
published in the ECP/GR Cereals Network Web pages.

The Cereals News Bulletin is an initiative of the ECP/GR Cereals Network, in
order to exchange information on work related to cereals. The aim is to
inform and stimulate Network members and to raise public awareness.
The Bulletin is published exclusively on-line by the ECP/GR Secretariat and
includes contributions from Network members.

Contributed by Aixa Del Greco
Regional Office for Europe
International Plant Genetic Resources Institute – IPGRI

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3.02 Conference 12 of the FAO Electronic Forum on Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture

(excerpted by the editor,

We wish to announce that Conference 12 of the FAO Electronic Forum on Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture begins on 17 January and runs for four weeks, finishing on Sunday 13 February 2005. The title of the conference is "Public participation in decision-making regarding GMOs in developing countries: How to effectively involve rural people". The conference, as usual, is open to everyone, is free and will be moderated.

The purpose of this message is to provide you with the Background Document for the conference and to invite you to join.

The 12-page Background Document aims to provide information that participants in the conference will find useful for the debate. After the Introduction section, a brief overview of the current status regarding GMOs in food and agriculture is provided (Section 2), followed by discussion of the decision-making areas where the public could be involved (Section 3). A brief overview of international agreements that are relevant to the topic is then given (Section 4). Some of the specificities regarding information access and participation for people in rural areas in developing countries are then discussed (Section 5). The questions that should be addressed in the conference are listed in Section 6 and, finally, references to articles mentioned in the document and abbreviations are provided in Section 7.

The Background Document is also available on the web – at

If you wish to join, you should subscribe yourself.

To subscribe, please send an e-mail message to leaving the subject blank and entering the one-line text message as follows: subscribe biotech-room4

No other text should be added to the message (e.g. mail signature).

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* 10-21 January 2005: Plant functional genomics and molecular genetics,
Santiago, Chile.
This practical and theoretical course, organised at the
University of Chile as part of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology's training programme, is divided in two parts. The first part (open to all interested persons that register, deadline 6 January) is a series of lectures given by invited speakers and the national faculty. The second part (limited to 14 students, that receive a fellowship from the organizer committee, deadline 30 November), is a practical course consisting of a series of experiments that will be developed by the students.
For more information: E-mail; Website:

* 9-11 February 2005: Workshop. The way forward to strengthen national plant breeding and biotechnology capacity. Organized by: FAO's Crop and Grassland Service, Rome, Italy

Objectives: (1) To present and discuss the results of the survey carried out to assess plant breeding and biotechnology capacities in selected countries; (2) to identify priority crops and ecologies to focus activities to strengthen national capacity to use plant genetic resources; (3) to help FAO design a strategy to strengthen national capacity to sustainably use plant genetic resources

Key points for discussion:
- Strategies to strengthen national plant breeding and biotechnology capacity
- Crop, country and/or regional strategy
- Balance between plant breeding and biotechnology
- How to achieve sustainability to use plant genetic resources
- Role of CG Centres
- Role of donor agencies
- Role of strong NARS
- Role of private sector
- Policies to enhance private sector investments
- Enabling policies for public and private actions
- Advice on future consultations

For more information: E-mail:

* 14-18 February 2005: 6th ISTA/FAO workshop on electrophoretic methods and PCR-techniques for variety verification and GMO detection, Kingston, Jamaica
This hands-on training workshop is for seed testing analysts from the Caribbean region. The aim is to train seed technicians in advanced methods for the verification of species, cultivars and hybrids as well as for qualitative and quantitative GMO detection.
For more information: E-mail:
; Website:
Organized by: Seeds and Plant Genetic Resources Service of FAO and the International Seed Testing Association

* 5-7 March 2005: The Role of Biotechnology for the Characterisation and Conservation of Crop, Forestry, Animal and Fishery Genetic Resources
International Workshop, Villa Gualino, Turin, Italy.
The workshop includes three sessions on the status of the world's agro-biodiversity; the use of biotechnology for conservation of genetic resources; and genetic characterisation of populations and its use in conservation decision-making. There is also a poster session and a session on the final results from the ECONOGENE project.
For more information:
Contact: Organising Secretariat
Organized by: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Fondazione per le Biotecnologie, the ECONOGENE project and the Società Italiana di Genetica Agraria.

Contributed by Elcio Guimaraes

* (NEW) 7-8 March 2005. The 41st
Illinois Corn Breeders School will be held March 7-8 at the Holiday Inn in Urbana, IL  This school is designed for commercial corn breeders.  Details can be found at:
Contributed by John Dudley,
Department of Crop Sciences,
University of IllinoisUC

* 29 March –
1 April 2005. Plant genetic resources of geographical and 'other' islands. Conservation, evaluation and use for plant breeding (Meeting of the EUCARPIA Section Genetic Resources), Castelsardo (North Sardinia), Italy
Info: S. Bullitta
Via Enrico de Nicola
07100 Sassari, Italy
Tel.: ++39 079 229332 Fax: ++39 079 229354
Download: First Announcement (MS Word)

* 18-21 April 2006: The 13th Australian Plant Breeding Conference -- Breeding for Success: Diversity in Action, Christchurch Convention Center in Christchurch, New Zealand.
For more details, visit, or email Helen Shrewsbury, Conference Secretariat, at

* 4 - 9 May 2005. 11th International Lupin Conference,
Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. 1st Circular is available at: Contact:
Submitted by George D. Hill, Secretary/Treasurer International Lupin Association ( 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.

* 6-10 June 2005. 5th International Triticeae Symposium held in
Prague, Czech Republic ( Contacts: Vojtech Holubec and Frantisek Hnilicka

* 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: Symposium Secretariat: Viajes CajaMurcia, Gran Via Escultor Salzillo 5. Entlo. Dcha., 30004 Murcia, Spain. Phone: (34)968225476, Fax: (34)968223101, email:

* (NEW)
June 14-17, 2005, Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia): II International Symposium on Sweetpotato and Cassava - 2ISSC. Info: Dr. Tan Swee Lian, MARDI, Rice & Industrial Crops Research Centre, PO Box 12301, 50774 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Phone: (60)389437516, Fax: (60)389425786, email: web:

* 16-19 June 2005: XI International Asparagus Symposium. Horst/Venlo (
Netherlands Info: Ir. Pierre Lavrijsen, Asparagus bv, PO Box 6219, 5960 AE Horst, Netherlands. Phone: (31)773979900, Fax: (31)773979909, email: or, web:

* August 2006: IX International Conference on Grape Genetics and Breeding, Udine (Italy): Info: Prof. Enrico Peterlunger, Università di Udine, Dip. di Produzione Vegetale e Tecnologie Agrarie, Via delle Scienze 208, 33100 Udine, Italy.
Phone: (39)0432558601, Fax: (39)0432558603, email:

* 13-19 August 2006: XXVII International Horticultural Congress, Seoul (Korea) web:

* 12-14 September 2005 Seeds and Breeds for the 21st Century, at Iowa State University -- A conference engaging diverse stakeholders interested in strengthening our public plant and animal breeding capacity.

The conference is announced by RAFI.  It is a follow up to a meeting held in 2003 in
Washington DC on the same subject.  The proceedings of the 2003 meeting are on the web site at   The contact person is Laura Lauffer, 919 542 6067
Please share this information with other plant breeders

* 12-16 September 2005: III International Symposium on Cucurbits. Townsville,
North QLD (Australia): Info: Dr. Gordon Rogers, Horticultural Research and Development, PO Box 552 Sutherland NSW 2232, Australia. Phone: (61)295270826, Fax: (61)295443782, email:

* 1-5 December 2006: Brazilian Cassava Conference,
Brasilia, Brazil. An International Conference on Cassava Plant Breeding, organized by Professors Nagib Nassar and Rodomiro Ortiz. The conference will discuss cassava breeding and food security in Sub-Saharan Africa, management of cassava reproduction systems, cassava polyploidization and chimera production, cassava genetic resources, and enriching cassava contents.
For more information, contact Prof. Nagib Nassar at or Dr. Rodomiro Ortiz at

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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 (, Margaret Smith (, and Anne Marie Thro ( 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: We will continue to improve the organization of archival issues of the newsletter. Readers who have suggestions about features they wish to see should contact the editor at

Subscribers are encouraged to take an active part in making the newsletter a useful communications tool. Contributions may be in such areas as: technical communications on key plant breeding issues; announcements of meetings, courses and electronic conferences; book announcements and reviews; web sites of special relevance to plant breeding; announcements of funding opportunities; requests to other readers for information and collaboration; and feature articles or discussion issues brought by subscribers. Suggestions on format and content are always welcome by the editor, at We would especially like to see a broad participation from developing country programs and from those working on species outside the major food crops.

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