7 June 2005

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

Clair H. Hershey, Editor

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1.01   BTI researcher gets NSF grant to create mutant maize lines for research
1.02   Rising ozone pollution 'threatens crop yields'
1.03   Impacts of strengthened intellectual property rights regimes on the plant breeding industry in developing countries
1.04   Arab and South American nations to share science
1.05   UN calls for more support for S & T, agriculture
1.06   "Who Decides? GM crops in the developing world" - A Panos report
1.07   Failure to maintain global crop diversity is emerging as a major threat to U.S. agriculture
1.08   Seed banks are a sound investment
1.09   Scientists trace corn ancestry from ancient grass to modern crop
1.10   Less popular crops key to solving hunger, meeting reports
1.11   'Potato Park' to protect native knowledge on potato
1.12   Researchers discover new longer-living flower
1.13   Wild grasses and man-made wheats advance research capabilities
1.14   New "waxy" wheat being tested for public release
1.15   Texas A&M University researchers work toward hardy, stress resistant corns
1.16   An alternative strategy for sustainable pest resistance in genetically enhanced crops
1.17   Scientists identify genes responsible for 'black rot' disease in vegetables
1.18   Wheatgrass factors to boost salt tolerance in wheat
1.19   ICRISAT releases virus-resistant pigeonpea
1.20   CIMMYT introduces improved maize in NW India
1.21   New hybrid maize fights weed in Kenya
1.22   Researchers find gene that may be at the root of potato blight
1.23   Protective power of proline for salt stress
1.24   Global effort to tackle wheat genome sequencing
1.25   New range of plant DNA libraries provides massive boost to world's plant researchers
1.26   Study: plants use dual defense system to fight pathogens
1.27   Use of DNA barcodes to identify flowering plants
1.28   Selected articles from Checkbiotech

2.01   Crop genetic resources: an economic appraisal

3.01   Conference 13 of the FAO Electronic Forum on Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture

4.01   The Asian Rice Foundation USA

5.01   Trait Discovery Team Leader, Corn Yield WUE Program





1.01  BTI researcher gets NSF grant to create mutant maize lines for research

ITHACA, N.Y. -- A Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) researcher at Cornell University has received a grant to help assemble a unique database of DNA mutations in maize (corn).

The project not only will allow researchers to study the effects of knocking out the function of single genes, one at a time, but also will create seeds for each mutation, or disrupted gene. The seeds will be made widely available to researchers.

The new maize lines could one day lead to plants with tailor-made properties, such as higher protein or vitamin content or easier-to-digest starch for ethanol production.

Funded by a new five-year, $3.8 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, the project will generate some 10,000 lines in maize, each lacking a single gene and its function, says Thomas Brutnell, the principal investigator, a researcher at BTI and an adjunct assistant professor of plant biology at Cornell. Brutnell shares the award with two
Iowa State University researchers and will use $1.9 million in his Cornell lab.

Brutnell and colleagues will develop lines of maize that have a piece of DNA that can be moved from one part of the plant's genetic sequence, or genome, to another. Called transposons, or jumping genes, these mobile pieces of DNA knock out the function of genes they jump into, thereby mutating the genetic makeup. What is unique about this collection is that a single gene will be disrupted in each line while the 50,000 or so other genes are kept exactly the same from seed to seed. A missing gene may alter processes in ways that are easily visible to the naked eye or through biochemical or physiological analysis. Such experimentation will give researchers a better understanding of the relationships between specific genes and complex plant systems.

The database will be invaluable to academic researchers interested in how specific genes are involved in basic developmental or physiological processes, as well as to biotechnology industry scientists seeking to create maize plants with enhanced properties for agriculture or industry, Brutnell says.

"This is going to be the only resource of its kind, a sequence-indexed library that allows researchers to do a database search for a DNA sequence and identify a single line of maize with a single disruption in the genome," says Brutnell, who notes that the project could expand the understanding of the functions of about 20 percent of the maize plant's entire genome.

Once scientists have identified a maize mutant from the online library, they will be able to order kernels with that specific knockout gene. Researchers can then grow plants to identify the function of the gene they are interested in.

The maize kernels will be donated to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's
Maize Genetics Cooperative Stock Center, a national clearinghouse where scientists will be able to obtain the seeds for their experiments.

"A good chunk of this project is developing a community resource," Brutnell says. By providing these lines to the community, researchers with a wide range of interests and goals will have access to genetically unique seeds. For instance, researchers could use these lines to identify genes that make starch that is easier for enzymes to digest. Since ethanol is produced from maize starch, such a refinement could lead to cheaper ethanol. In terms of nutrition, researchers might target a gene that blocks an enzyme used in the pathway that processes beta carotene, or vitamin A, thereby creating a maize plant rich in the vitamin.

The project is especially important given the breadth of uses for maize, Brutnell adds. "If you walk into a grocery store, 80 percent of the products on the shelves contain maize, in the form of starch, sugar, meal or oil," he says. "It's a $23 billion-a-year industry in the
U.S. alone."

Brutnell's colleagues include Erik Vollbrecht and Volker Brendel, both in the Department of Genetics, Development and Cell Biology at
Iowa State University in Ames; Brendel is also in the Department of Statistics.

The NSF grant, awarded by the Plant Genome Research Program, is designed to promote infrastructure for conducting genomics research in such major crop plants as maize.

4 May 2005

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1.02  Rising ozone pollution 'threatens crop yields'

Global food security could be threatened by ozone pollution close to the Earth's surface, according to initial results of a study presented at the UK Royal Society on 26-27 April.

Previously, greenhouse studies suggested that higher concentrations of carbon dioxide from urban pollution might increase crop yields. But these studies ignored the role of ozone ­ increased by traffic fumes, for example ­ near the ground, despite the gas being known to interfere with plant growth.

Stephen Long of the
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, United States looked at what future pollution levels could mean for crop yields in open-air studies of 22 varieties of soya bean.

The experiments mimicked carbon dioxide and ozone levels predicted for the year 2050. Preliminary results suggest that yields would fall by as much as 10 per cent.

John Porter, an ecologist at
Denmark's Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University who attended the London meeting, agrees that ozone will be a threat to crops, particularly in rapidly industrialising countries such as China and India.

Ozone levels are predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to rise most in the
Middle East, in northern parts of South Asia and in China ­ one of the largest producers of soya beans.

By 2050, urban pollution is expected to increase ozone levels near the ground by at least 25 per cent in

Link to full article in Nature

5 May 2005

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1.03  Impacts of strengthened intellectual property rights regimes on the plant breeding industry in developing countries

 N.P. Louwaars, R. Tripp, D. Eaton, V. Henson-Apollonio, R. Hu, M. Mendoza, F. Muhhuku, S. Pal & J. Wekundah
Wageningen University

The most common mechanism in five developing countries (China, Colombia, India, Kenya and Uganda) to protect varieties in the plant breeding industry is hybridization. Other mechanisms include seed laws, contract law, brands and trademarks. This was the finding of a study commissioned by the World Bank on strengthening Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in the plant breeding industry and its effect on agriculture in developing countries.

The study assessed initial experiences with strengthened IPRs in developing country agriculture. It analyzed the design, management and impacts of various IPR instruments applied to plant breeding in five developing countries. Various issues were covered such as the implementation of IPR regimes, changes in public and private plant breeding, and changes for farmers.

Indicators, according to the study, that are unlikely to wait for a rapid formation and efficient enforcement of the IPR regime types are political realities, limitations in administrative resources, and varied economic incentives in developing countries.

Study in PDF format:

Source:CropBiotech Net

, via
27 May 2005

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1.04  Arab and South American nations to share science

[CAIRO] South American and Arab countries have pledged to increase cooperation in science and technology. The plans were outlined in a declaration made at the first South American-Arab Summit, held on 10-11 May in
Brasilia, Brazil.

The main aim of the summit was to emphasise the importance of and opportunities for economic, social, technical, scientific and cultural cooperation between the two groups of nations.

The Arab and South American nations said they would create a Scientific and Technological Development Program. This would initially focus scientific cooperation on desertification, management of water resources, irrigated agriculture, biotechnology and genetic engineering, climate forecasting, and cattle herding.

"The scientific issues in the declaration are very good ones and deal with specific areas of common interest, but more planned work is needed," says Hassan Abdel Aal Moawad, professor of microbial biotechnology and former president of Mubarak City for Scientific Research and Technology Applications, Alexandria, Egypt.

Moawad told SciDev.Net that a network of research centres and a database of scientists in both regions should be created to enhance collaborative research and improve the overall scientific performance in the two regions. 

He pointed out that there are about 12 million people of Arab origin living in
South America who could act as a bridge between the two regions in all fields, including science and technology.

Among the scientists from Arab countries now living in
South America is Egyptian-born Nagib Nassar, a professor of genetics at the University of Brasilia, who moved to Brazil in 1974.

Nassar told SciDev.Net that there is a lot of potential for scientific cooperation between Arab and South American countries.
Brazil, for instance, could contribute to alleviating food shortages in Egypt by offering expertise in agricultural sciences, he said.

Some Arab countries such as
Libya began sending undergraduate students to Brazil in the 1980s, creating a large base of technicians with experience of Brazilian science, Nassar added.

The declaration emphasises the "urgent need" to coordinate cooperation programmes in the two region's leading universities and research centres and to promote exchange visits of scientists.

It also states that Arab and South American countries are committed to protecting intellectual property rights, while "recognising that intellectual property protection should not prevent developing countries from access to basic science and technology, and from taking measures to promote national development, particularly concerning public health policies".

It calls for "active and generous" support from the international community for efforts to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other epidemics, in particular those affecting

Brasilia summit was convened by Brazil's president Luiz Inacio da Silva and attended by representatives of 22 Arab and 12 South American nations, including 15 heads of state. It was co-chaired by da Silva and by the Algerian president, Abdelaziz Buteflika.

Source: SciDev.Net
23 May 2005

Contributed by Ortiz, Rodomiro (CIMMYT)

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1.05  UN calls for more support for S & T, agriculture

Research and development need more support to further address poverty-related problems in agriculture, as well as in health, natural resource and environmental management, energy, and climate. This was forwarded by a United Nations special report entitled "In larger freedom: towards development, security and human rights for all" by Secretary General Kofi Annan. It also stated that worldwide support can bring about economic development and enable developing countries to devise solutions to their own problems.

For agriculture and the environment, increasing food output and incomes and natural resource management were recommended. In line with these, the report proposed several activities such as forest replanting, policy reforms, training in farm practices, and improved access to transport, water, sanitation, and modern energy services.
The other highlighted areas for emphasis were agricultural research, biodiversity, climate change, desertification, equitable trading systems, increasing food output and income, and science and technology for development.

Two particular priorities for science and technology were presented. The first is to "mount a major global initiative" on tropical diseases research, and second, to provide additional support to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) for its researches on tropical agriculture.

The report will be part of the Millennium Review Summit on September 2005, which will evaluate the progress of attaining the Millennium Development Goals.
See CGIAR's Story of the Month at, and the UN report at

Source: CropBiotech Update
22 April 2005:

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

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1.06  "Who Decides? GM crops in the developing world" - A Panos report

London, United Kingdom
Government decisions about genetically modified (GM) food are having far-reaching consequences on food production and farmers, the environment and possibly even human health. Scientific evidence of the long-term impact of GM crops remains inconclusive, and media coverage is often polarised between the pro-GM industry lobby and anti-GM campaigners.

A new Panos report, The GM Debate – Who Decides?, asks who has access to the people with the power to decide, who is being left out of the GM debate, and explores how the media is covering the GM controversy.

The Panos Report The GM Debate - Who Decides? explores how decisions are made about GM food crops in five developing countries -
Brazil, India, Kenya, Thailand and Zambia - by drawing on current research and interviews with more than 100 people.

Who really decides?

Our case studies demonstrate that the framework for decision-making on GM crops varies considerably between countries, according to specific political, economic, agricultural and environmental contexts. Opinions, even among common interest groups, are not homogeneous across the developing world.

Despite these differences, it is possible to draw some broad conclusions about how governments in developing countries make decisions, and who has access to decision-makers:

GM technology is regulated by agencies within ministries of agriculture, commerce, science and environment. Parliaments mostly - though not always - have a large role in deciding the content of new laws.

Different groups of citizens vary in their access to different parts of the policy-making process. Scientists, international donors, the biotechnology industry and groups representing commercial farmers tend to have good access to ministries of agriculture, commerce and science.

Scientists are involved in most stages of the decision-making process and tend to have good access to decision-makers across all policy areas.

Consumer groups and other NGOs are more successful at accessing ministries of environment and public health, and sympathetic MPs, than the often more powerful ministries of agriculture, commerce and science.

What's the media's role?

Accurate and balanced media coverage is crucial to the GM debate. The case studies found that:

The quality of media coverage and debate was higher in countries with a longer tradition of multiparty systems of government, an active civil society and a tradition of independent media.

There is a lack of analytical (or investigative) reporting; most of the news articles, for example, were based on announcements from government sources.

External groups clearly influence media coverage in many countries. Biotechnology companies carry out public relations work, and anti-GM NGOs also make themselves heard in the media.

The views of farmers, particularly small-scale, are rarely reflected in the media.

Full report in PDF format: The GM Debate - Who Decides? (1.08MB)
Case studies: Brazil | India | Kenya | Thailand | Zambia

3 June 2005

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1.07  Failure to maintain global crop diversity is emerging as a major threat to U.S. agriculture

Rome, Italy and Washington, DC

New study finds crop genebanks around the world critical in fight against plant diseases now afflicting key U.S. crops

Seeking to avert billions of dollars in crop damage from a variety of new and re-emerging plant pathogens, U.S. agriculture experts are combing the globe for disease-resistant crop varieties. But a new report released today warns that crop genebanks around the world that may hold the necessary genetic resources are suffering from under funding and neglect, jeopardizing the future of farming in the
U.S. and globally.

The report, “ Safeguarding the Future of U.S. Agriculture: The Need to Conserve Threatened Collections of Crop Diversity Worldwide”, published by the University of California Genetic Resources Conservation Program, points to deteriorating conditions in the world’s crop genebanks as a major threat to U.S. agriculture, which is already losing at least $20 to $33 billion each year to plant pests and disease.

“In an age when all the world’s agriculture is interconnected­whether by trade, the exchange of crop genetic resources amongst plant breeders or the spread of disease­the economic vitality of US agriculture and, indeed, global food security are inextricably linked to the fate of crop genebanks,” said Dr. Calvin Qualset, a plant genetics expert at the University of California-Davis and co-author of the report.

US Agriculture Needs New Sources of Disease Resistance

The report notes that nearly every major
US crop is battling a plethora of new or re-emerging pests against which it has little to no resistance. In each case, biologists are searching through US and international genebank collections to find genes for disease resistance that can be bred into new crop varieties. These include:

Soybean: A fungus that causes a rust disease is now invading US soybean fields. It can cause yield losses of up to 80 percent, threatening an $18 billion harvest.

-Potato: Potato blight of the type that caused the Irish potato famine has re-emerged to threaten the American potato industry where it is already destroying $400 million worth of potatoes each year.

US corn production, worth $30 billion annually, is facing multiple assaults from several diseases, including some that are capable of crossing borders with ease and have recently emerged here.

-Wheat: Fusarium head blight, or scab, has already caused $3 billion in damage to the
US wheat and barley industries.

-Apple: The $1.8 billion US apple industry is vulnerable to destructive bacteria that cause fire blight disease. The bacteria are becoming resistant to anti-biotic pesticides that once controlled them.

-Citrus: All types of citrus cultivated in the
US, where they generate $2 billion annually, are vulnerable to citrus canker and citrus blight.

The report notes that crop genebanks are also invaluable to
US agriculture because they provide American farmers with access to new crop varieties to meet changing consumer demands. Higher incomes are spurring demands for higher quality foods; an aging population wants healthier foods; surging demand for organics has made organic food production an $11 billion industry in the United States; and a growing ethnic population is seeking out produce once rarely grown on American farms. In each case, staying abreast of the market requires access to genetic diversity.

These same genebanks are essential to improving agriculture and thus aiding economic development in poor countries, and to jumpstarting farming after natural disasters or wars. Today, genebank resources are helping to rebuild agriculture in
Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in countries devastated by the Asian tsunami of December 2004.

Another recent study illustrates just how central genebanks have become in the ongoing effort to breed improved crop varieties. The study reports that of 600,000 requests for 10 key crops distributed by the US National Plant Germplasm System in the 1990s, two-thirds sought specific traits. Thirty-seven percent of these were requested in a search for pathogen resistance or tolerance; 14 percent for tolerance to environmental stresses; 17 percent for traits to improve quality; and 12 percent for traits that improve yield.

“Whether to fight crop diseases, stay abreast of changing markets, or aid international reconstruction and development, agriculture requires the broadest possible access to crop diversity,” said report co-author Henry Shands, Director of the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service in Fort Collins, Colorado. “This diversity is being lost at an alarming rate­in farmers’ fields, in the wild, and now in the very institutions meant to protect them.”

Rescuing Crop Diversity
There is growing evidence that crop genebanks around the world face mounting stress. The Qualset-Shands report notes that only 35 of the 1 470 genebanks around the world meet international standards for managing long-term conservation, and more than 1 million of the 6 million samples held in these collections are degenerating. For example, field collections of apple in Kazakhstan­the crop’s center of origin­are imperiled by disease and environmental stress; a power failure in Cameroon destroyed a collection of root and tuber crops important to food security in Africa; a valuable collection of wheat, potato and other crops held in Russia is largely inaccessible because of lack of funds to translate and computerize data; and China’s National Citrus Germplasm Repository has lost up to 60 percent of its collection.

One potential solution, according to the report, lies in the newly created Global Crop Diversity Trust, an independent, international organization that was established in 2004 to support crop diversity conservation over the long term. Initiated by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), the Trust is building a $260 million endowment through donations from national governments, philanthropic foundations, and private corporations. The first priority of the Trust is to rescue collections that are at risk today. The governments of
Cape Verde, Colombia, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Jordan, Mali, Mauritius, Morocco, Peru, Samoa, Serbia and Montenegro, Sweden, Syria, Togo, and Tonga have so far signed on as supporters of the Trust. The government of Ethiopia, one of the poorest countries in the world, recently donated $50,000 to the Trust endowment. The Trust has raised about $56 million so far.

“We need to be collecting, conserving, and growing out seeds from around the world because in many cases, the only places plant breeders will be able to find particular genes or combinations of genes will be genebank collections,” said Dr. Peter Raven, director of the Missouri Botanical Garden and a National Medal of Science recipient for his work in plant diversity. “Today’s farmers rely on such a narrow range of crop varieties that many valuable ones just aren’t being cultivated anymore. And if they’re not saved in a genebank, they may be lost forever, to the great detriment of agriculture and human food security.”

28 February 2005

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1.08  Seed banks are a sound investment

Syria is home to the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), which maintains a collection of 131,000 seeds of plants eaten throughout West and Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa.

The seed bank has used these samples to rebuild crop diversity in war-torn countries, such as
Afghanistan, whose own seed bank was looted in 2002 (see Looters threaten Afghanistan's agriculture).

But with the
United States calling Syria a sponsor of terrorism, concern is growing that US sanctions and the threat of military action could disrupt ICARDA's work. One solution, says this editorial in Nature, is to increase support for the Global Crop Diversity Trust.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research set up the trust to fund more gene banks worldwide (see Multi-million dollar fund banks on crop diversity). However, the trust needs US$260 million to preserve seeds used globally and to improve seed bank storage facilities.

With only 35 of the world's 1,460 seed banks meeting international standards for long-term seed storage, and nearly one-fifth of their seeds degenerating, supporting the trust's efforts to protect crop diversity and global food security would be a small price to pay says the editorial.

2 June 2005

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1.09  Scientists trace corn ancestry from ancient grass to modern crop

Washington, DC
Researchers have identified corn genes that were preferentially selected by Native Americans during the course of the plant's domestication from its grassy relative, teosinte, (pronounced "tA-O-'sin-tE") to the single-stalked, large-eared plant we know today.  The study revealed that of the 59,000 total genes in the corn genome, approximately 1,200 were preferentially targeted for selection during its domestication.

The study, by University of California, Irvine's Brandon Gaut and his colleagues, appears in the May 27 issue of the journal, Science.

Understandably, a primary goal of  teosinte domestication was to improve the ear and its kernels.  A teosinte ear is only 2 to 3 inches long with five to 12 kernels­compare that to corn's 12-inch ear that boasts 500 or more kernels!  Teosinte kernels are also encased in a hard coating, allowing them to survive the digestive tracks of birds and grazing mammals for better dispersal in the wild.  But, for humans, the tooth-cracking coating was undesirable so it was selectively reduced…and reduced…and reduced…until all that remains is the annoying bit of paper-thin, translucent tissue that sometimes sticks between the teeth when one munches corn on the cob.

To analyze the genes of modern corn and its ancestral teosinte, Gaut and his coworkers used relatively new genomic techniques to determine the DNA sequence of 700 gene bits in the two plants and used "population genetics," the study of genetic variation, to compare them.

"These results will provide important insights to modern corn breeders in their quest to establish hardier, higher-yielding corn plants," said Gaut.  "The scientific approach will also be useful in the study of other domesticated organisms, plants and animals alike."

This work generally confirms the idea that corn went through a "population bottleneck," or a period when a significant portion of corn’s genetic diversity was lost, which typically marks a domestication event.  Calculations using these data reveal that fewer than 3,500 teosinte plants may have contributed to the genetic diversity in modern corn.

Between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago, Native Americans living in what is now
Mexico began domesticating teosinte, or the "grain of the gods," as the name has been interpreted to mean. Scientists cannot yet say how long this domestication process took, but they do know that around 4,500 years ago, a plant recognizable as today's corn was present across the Americas.

So, thousands of years before Gregor Mendel postulated his theories on genetics and heredity, indigenous Americans were breeding corn to select for desirable traits. By selectively breeding each generation, ancient farmers drastically changed teosinte's appearance, yield, grain quality and survivability­culminating in today's "corn." In fact, teosinte is so unlike modern corn, 19th century botanists did not even consider the two to be related.

"This is a very exciting finding," said Jane Silverthorne of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) biology directorate, which funded the project. "We are beginning to have a much clearer picture of what happened to the genes responsible for the structure of today’s corn plant."

A broad understanding of the genes present in modern-day corn will provide a foundation for improving it as well as its cousin cereal crops.  Target goals include yield increases, improved insect and pathogen resistance, enhanced environmental adaptability, and improved nutritional value. To that end, sequencing the entire genome of corn is also critical to improving the crop and its value in human subsistence. To that end, sequencing the entire genome of corn is also critical to improving the crop and its value in human subsistence.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), nearly 12 billion bushels of corn were harvested in the
United States in 2004, which will be used for a diverse array of products including livestock feed, ethanol and plastic consumer items, as well as food. The National Corn Growers Association reported that 2003 corn exports were valued at $4.5 billion.

Supported by NSF's Plant Genome Research Program, this collaborative project included Gaut and co-workers at the
University of California, Irvine, together with scientists from the USDA-Agricultural Research Service, the University of Missouri and the University of Wisconsin. NSF is part of an interagency program along with the U.S. Department of Energy and the USDA that plans to support the sequencing of the corn genome over the next three years.

27 May 2005

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1.10  Less popular crops key to solving hunger, meeting reports

More research on neglected but nutritious crops can be the solution to hunger. This is according to agriculture and biodiversity experts who met during the International Consultation on the Role of Biodiversity in Achieving the United Nations Millenium Development Goal of Freedom from Hunger and Poverty held in
Chennai, India. They also said that a more varied selection of native crops can provide greater dietary diversity. Some examples of these crops are varieties of millet in Asia; quinoa, canihua, and amaranth in South America; and green leafy vegetables in Africa.

This undertaking is believed not only to address the first UN Millenium Development Goal to "reduce by half the number of people who suffer from hunger", but also two others: to reduce infant mortality and the number of women who die in childbirth.
The meeting was organized by the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute and Global Facilitation Unit for Underutilized Species, both from
Rome, with the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation from Chennai. Recommendations from the meeting are being finalized to be part of UN's review on the progress of its Millenium Development Goals in September.

For more news, visit For information regarding the meeting, see

Source: CropBiotech Update
29 April 2005:

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

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1.11  'Potato Park' to protect native knowledge on potato

The Centro Internacional de la Papa (CIP) or International Potato Center has signed an agreement with local farmers from Cusco, Peru to start a 'potato park' to house CIP's germplasm collection, which includes domesticated and wild potato varieties. This agreement is the first of its kind to be signed by
Peru and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).
The document intends to preserve Peruvian farmers' local knowledge on cultivating more than 2,000 varieties of native potatoes. These practices are selected and domesticated ancient technologies from as far back as the pre-Inca times.
The Association for Nature and Sustainable Development stands for the six rural communities comprising the park. According to Alejandro Argumedo, its associate director, "Biological diversity is best rooted in its natural environment and managed by indigenous peoples who know it best." He sees the concept of the park fit to be followed by other indigenous communities.
For more information, visit

Source: CropBiotech Update
6 May 2005:

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

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1.12  Researchers discover new longer-living flower

Penn State researchers have discovered an extraordinary new flower that lives longer than an ordinary one. Named Elegance Silver by the researchers, the plant could be the Superman of the flower world.

Elegance Silver is a Regal Pelargonium, a very beautiful flower that is used as a flowering houseplant, and belongs to the genus Pelargonium, the same genus as geraniums. It has a glistening white flower with two burgundy feathers on the top two petals. In terms of flower shape and size, Elegance Silver resembles geraniums. The major differences are the palette of flower colors, symmetry of petals and the highly serrated leaves of the regal.

"It's unique because of its floral longevity and physiological attributes," said Dr. Richard Craig, professor emeritus, Department of Horticulture at
Penn State. This super flower is a result of almost 30 years of plant breeding.

Through hybridization and genetic selection, Craig was able to achieve this unique flower. Hybrids are produced when pollen from one flower is taken and used to pollinate another with different genetic qualities. This leads to the dominant traits of the two parents being passed on to a new plant. Researchers used forceps to extract the pollen from one parent by hand and used it to fertilize another parent.

"It's like a roll of the dice," Craig said. "You can only hope for the best when breeding regals. Sometimes you'll get lucky and breed the perfect plant, and sometimes the plant you breed will be useless."

This time the dice rolled in Craig's favor. However, he would not have known about the plant's special longevity had he not cut some of Elegance Silver's flowers and placed them in a vase. He wanted to share the flower he bred with his grandchildren, who were visiting him from
Chicago. Craig was surprised to see that the flowers were still in an acceptable condition after 14 days of being in the vase.

Elegance Silver is much less sensitive to ethylene compared to other regals, according to Dr. Hye-Ji Kim who conducted the physiological research as part of her dissertation. Small amounts of ethylene cause petals to separate and also to wilt. The reduced sensitivity to ethylene allows the flowers to retain their vitality for a much longer time. Elegance Silver was later found to produce many more flowers over an extended period of time than other regals.

"There are no other known regal cultivars that have both," added Craig.

Penn State researcher introduced Elegance Silver into his breeding program after he discovered it was quite different from other plants. The original seedling was used to start a new group of plants.

The University applied for a plant patent for Elegance Silver filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Additional protection is being sought internationally. A license was given to Oglevee Ltd. of Connellsville, Pa., which has produced Penn State's other patented geraniums and regals for many years. The first plants will become available to flower growers in fall 2005 and to consumers next spring.

5 May 2005

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1.13  Wild grasses and man-made wheats advance research capabilities

AMARILLO – Getting resistance to the latest biotype of greenbug or rust in wheat may require some bridge building.

Dr. Jackie Rudd, associate professor at the Texas A&M University System Agricultural Research and
Extension Center and state wheat breeder, is looking at wild grass species and synthetic wheats for possible solutions.

"We're looking for new unique sources of resistance to various biotic and abiotic stresses," Rudd said. "I'm being forced to find broader gene pools to bring in the genetic variability I believe is necessary for the gene pool here."

Karnal bunt, new races of Hessian fly, new leaf rust, stripe rust and Russian wheat aphid, as well as the need for more drought tolerance present challenges, he said. Progress in traditional breeding has been slow due to limited genetic variability for these traits.

Two projects growing in the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station greenhouses in
Vernon and Bushland are designed to increase the genetic variability. These projects are being funded by the Texas Wheat Producers Board.

"My preference is to cross wheat with wheat," Rudd said. "The best chance for success is to cross High Plains wheat with High Plains wheat. But to get genetic variability, you cross state lines or even into other countries. The next step would be to cross species, if the desired traits can't be obtained in a wheat-to-wheat cross."

A wild grass collection being mined for its genetics has 716 lines of wheat relative species. The grasses originated in
Turkey and were collected in 1992 as a joint project between Texas A&M University and Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maiz y Trigo, (The International Maise and Wheat Improvement Center) better known as CIMMYT.

"This is a gold mine of untapped genetics," Rudd said. "They can be tapped directly through laboratory crosses, but it is difficult."

The researcher must pollinate from a wild species to a hexaploid wheat and then rescue and nurture the developing embryo to get a plant, he said. Hexaploid wheat has three genomes or sets of chromosomes. This is the makeup of the typical bread wheat.

After such a cross, the initial plant will have genetic abnormalities. A series of crosses back to the hexaploid wheat is necessary before the desired trait from the wild species is expressed without any genetic abnormalities.

The second part of Rudd's research, working with synthetic or man-made hexaploid wheats, provides a more accessible bridge to the wild species, he said.

Most synthetic hexaploid wheats are crosses between Durum (pasta-type) wheat, which has two genomes or sets of chromosomes, and Aegilops Tauchii or goat grass, Rudd said.

The synthetic hexaploid made from this initial cross is generally wild and unuseable, except as a bridge to the wild species, he said.

"Valuable genetics are lost in the direct cross with the wild grass due to genetic abnormalities," Rudd said. "With synthetic hexaploids, the full compliment of wild relative genes is available for selection."

Researchers in Bushland and
Vernon are studying synthetic hexaploids already developed through CIMMYT. Crosses between Texas winter wheat and 117 CIMMYT synthetics have already been made and another 1,100 crosses are expected to be made available to U.S. researchers, he said.

"We want to look at them for the forage characteristics they may offer, which have not been evaluated," Rudd said. "They have been shown to have large, strong seed for rapid stand establishment and early growth in the fall."

These synthetic spring wheat varieties must be backcrossed to make them winter wheats, he said. Then they can be looked at for other characteristics.

"If we find something useful in the wild, we may make a synthetic hexaploid from it, or directly cross into wheat," Rudd said.

"Through traditional genetic variability we've been able to gain 1 percent a year in grain yield," he said. "Can we double our genetic gain by doubling our variability?"

CIMMYT predicted that within a few years, more than one-half of its advance lines of wheat will trace back to a synthetic wheat. And that's from a project started less than 20 years ago, in a world where breeders spend up to 15 years trying to get a desired trait in a line of wheat.

3 May 2005

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1.14  New "waxy" wheat being tested for public release

ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists are field-testing a soft white spring wheat whose starch could open the door to novel food uses. That's the hope of Craig Morris, a cereal chemist who developed the new wheat, called Penawawa-X, at the ARS Western Wheat Quality Laboratory at
Pullman, Washington.

In that and other Pacific Northwest states, soft white wheat is typically grown for making cookies, cakes, udon noodles, flatbreads and other Asian or Middle Eastern baked goods. The wheat's starch consists of two kinds of glucose polymer: a branched form called amylopectin, and a straight-chain form called amylose.

According to Morris, who directs the ARS lab, Penawawa-X would be one of the first commercial, soft white spring wheats with 100-percent amylopectin starch, a trait known as "full-waxy." As such, it forms a paste at lower temperatures and swells with more water than regular or partially waxy wheat starches (those containing less than 25 percent amylose).

Waxy starch gels also do not lose water upon exposure to freezing and thawing. Food-bodying agents, shelf-life extenders and shortening replacement are some potential uses envisioned for full-waxy starches, including those from rice, corn and barley.

Morris developed Penawawa-X using conventional plant breeding techniques that enabled him to combine three deficient forms of the gene for granule-bound starch synthase (GBSS), the enzyme responsible for making amylose. Since the deficient forms can't make GBSS, no amylose is made either. Besides novel food uses, the full-waxy starch may have industrial applications, perhaps in adhesives.

To identify possible uses, Morris' lab sent dozens of samples of Penawawa-X wheat to bakers, millers, food companies and others. Under an ARS cooperative research and development agreement, one company is exploring commercial use of the wheat's starch, flour, bran and other components.

Multistate field trials are now under way to generate yield and other data necessary to register Penawawa-X in the journal Crop Science and to publicly release it.

ARS is the
U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.

25 May 2005

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1.15  Texas A&M University researchers work toward hardy, stress resistant corns

Lubbock, Texas
A collaborative corn breeding project under way at the Texas A&M University System Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Lubbock is paving the way for hardy, stress-resistant corns that yield well under demanding growing conditions.

"We are making good progress in breeding less thirsty, drought-resistant food and field corns that can resist heat, insects and aflatoxin," said Wenwei Xu, Texas Agricultural Experiment Station corn breeder, who holds a joint appointment with Texas Tech University. "Corn lines bred to survive and thrive in
West Texas can be useful in other parts of the world."

The project employs the expertise of plant breeders, geneticists, entomologists, plant pathologists, soil specialists, irrigation engineers, plant ecologists and Extension agents who represent two universities and USDA's Agricultural Research Service in three states.

The scientists grow corn breeding lines and populations under well-defined soil moisture conditions by controlling irrigation and making selections based on a series of positive characteristics.

"We know that under drought conditions, drought-tolerant plants employ several mechanisms – such as strong root systems and hydraulic lift," Xu said. "Some of our work centers on transferring the genes responsible for these traits from tropical germplasm into temperate corn lines bred to perform and yield well under West Texas' sometimes harsh growing conditions."

West Texas is a hot and dry environment. Even with irrigation supplementing rainfall, crops are subject to drought stress. In their field evaluations, the researchers noticed that some corns were able to cope with this stress while others simply couldn't.

"We think this is due to a phenomenon known as hydraulic lift. Some plants are able to lift moisture from their deep roots up to the shallow roots just under the soil surface, and release the moisture into the soil," Xu said.

"Corn roots can penetrate to a depth of several feet. But 80 percent of their roots are concentrated in the top foot of soil. Plants that can lift moisture from their deep roots to their shallow roots at night can better withstand drought conditions."

This lifted moisture keeps the shallow roots functioning, which improves the plant's ability to absorb crucial soil nutrients. The researchers found that the most drought tolerant hybrids had the greatest hydraulic lift capacity, and produced more grain under moisture stress because their better root systems allowed the plants to recover quickly once drought stress was relieved.

The researchers are also seeking corns that can resist insect pests and plant disease – another part of the multiple-stress resistance package.

"We are also selecting for resistance to corn earworms, spider mites, and aflatoxin," Xu said. "Our hybrids have significantly less aflatoxin compared to commercial hybrids, and similar yield. Aflatoxin contamination degrades grain quality and market price, and determines whether the grain can be sold as food or livestock feed."

The process of transferring superior genes from tropical germplasm into existing temperate corn lines is called "introgression." It isn't easy work.

Crossing tropical and temperate corn germplasm requires hand pollination in the field and greenhouse. Fortunately, greenhouses and nurseries in
Texas and Hawaii enable the researchers to produce two generations of corn lines each year.

Crosses of tropical and temperate corn, and their offspring, are then evaluated for multiple stress resistance in field trials at more than 10 locations across
Texas. Only the best of these plants are selected as breeding candidates.

"Investigating the physiological and genetic mechanisms of corn's stress resistance can be pretty slow work," Xu said. "To speed it up, we use molecular marker-assisted selection in the breeding process. By using molecular mapping and molecular markers, we can do a better job of identifying and introducing genes that impart positive traits."

This collaboration and hard work resulted in the release of inbred corn lines in 2003 and 2004. These lines – Tx202, Tx203, Tx204, Tx205 – have unique characteristics such as drought and heat tolerance, earworm resistance and high yields.

The project has also produced advanced breeding lines and experimental hybrids that are highly resistant to earworms and yield as well as commercial hybrids. Better insect resistance enables producers to use fewer pesticides and may open the door for production of value-added, organic corn.

The research is funded by the Texas Corn Producers Board, the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District No. 1, the Texas Water Development Board, the Texas Department of Agriculture's Integrated Pest Management program, and industry. Some of the work is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service pre-harvest control of aflatoxin program and the Germplasm Enhancement of Maize (GEM) project.

GEM is a cooperative effort of USDA's Agricultural Research Service, land-grant universities and ag industry. It allows scientists to share access to new public and private corn germplasms.

"By diversifying the pool of corn germplasm available to public and private breeders, we can accelerate the process of developing productive, early-season corn hybrids with multiple stress resistance," Xu concluded. "This could lead to hardier, higher-value commercial corns for producers and the food and feed industries.

19 May 2005

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1.16  An alternative strategy for sustainable pest resistance in genetically enhanced crops

Researchers report the development of a genetically engineered crop providing long-term resistance against many insect species. The Bt gene, which has already been incorporated into potatoes, cotton, and corn, enables a plant to produce an insecticide. But researchers fear that heavy use of commercial pesticides containing Bt will breed resistant bugs. Paul Christou and colleagues modified the Bt gene to make it more difficult for insects to evolve resistance. The researchers fused the original Bt gene with a gene segment called RB, enabling the Bt toxin bind to more types of molecules in the insects' gut, making it more lethal. Rice and corn plants with this BtRB fusion gene were shown to be more toxic to a wider range of insects than plants with Bt alone. Corn plants producing low levels of BtRB killed 75% of stem borer larvae, compared with 17% in Bt-only plants. Bt-resistant cotton leaf worm was highly susceptible to BtRB plants; 90% of larvae died within 9 days. BtRB was not toxic to all insects, with no effect on the cereal aphid Rhopalosiphum padi. The authors say further tests are necessary to make certain BtRB crops are not toxic or allergenic in humans.

Source: PNAS Online via
16 May 2005

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1.17  Scientists identify genes responsible for 'black rot' disease in vegetables

Cold Spring Harbor, New York

Large-scale comparative and functional genomics study characterizes bacterial pathogen responsible for major vegetable crop losses worldwide.

Scientists at four major genomics and plant pathology laboratories in
China have collaborated on a project to characterize the causative agent of "black rot" disease, which is the most serious disease of vegetable crops worldwide. Their study, which represents the largest comparative and functional genomics screen for a plant or animal bacterial pathogen to date, is published online today in the journal Genome Research.

"Black rot" is caused by the pathogenic bacterium Xanthomonas campestris pathovar campestris (or Xcc). Under favorable conditions (high humidity and temperature), Xcc infects vegetable crops by spreading through the plants' vascular tissues, turning the veins in their leaves yellow and black, and causing V-shaped lesions along the margins of the leaves. All vegetables in the crucifer family, including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, mustard, radish, rutabaga, and turnip, are potential hosts for Xcc. The model plant Arabidopsis thaliana is also susceptible to Xcc infection. Surprisingly, however, some wild cruciferous weed species do not manifest the characteristic symptoms of "black rot" disease when infected.

To date, there is no effective treatment for Xcc infection, so in hopes of developing a treatment, scientists at four Chinese institutions (the Institute of Microbiology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Chinese National Human Genome Center at Shanghai, Guangxi University, and the Chinese National Human Genome Center at Beijing) have focused their efforts on characterizing the genes responsible for Xcc pathogenicity. In their study published today, the investigators describe the identification of 75 different genes responsible for Xcc virulence. These genes appear to belong to 13 different functional categories or related metabolic pathways. The researchers hope that the molecular characterization of these pathogenicity-related genes will lead to the development of a treatment for "black rot" disease.

Employing whole-genome comparative genomic approaches, the authors sequenced the complete genome of an Xcc strain that was isolated from an infected cauliflower plant in
England during the 1950's. They then compared this sequence to a previously published sequence from a cabbage-derived Xcc strain. Although the gene content of the two strains was very similar, the authors identified several genes located on strain-specific chromosomal elements that were unique to each strain. In addition, there were dramatic differences in the genomic arrangement of the two strains; the scientists identified significant rearrangements between the genomes, including major translocations, inversions, insertions, and deletions.

In order to functionally characterize Xcc and identify genes implicated in its pathogenicity, the researchers then screened an Xcc transposon insertional mutant library in its host plant (cabbage). They screened a total of 16,512 Xcc mutants on individual cabbage plants and, of these, 172 proved to be non-pathogenic. Upon further characterization of the 172 non-pathogenic mutants, the researchers came up with a non-redundant list of 75 genes or non-coding regions that are involved in Xcc pathogenicity.

Interestingly, the researchers identified three genes that were implicated in pathogenicity but that were not present in the previously described Xcc genomic sequence. To test the biological implications of this observation, they inoculated five different vegetable species with the three mutants corresponding to these strain-specific genes, and they observed significant differences in the response of each host species to infection. The authors point out that these findings highlight the role of genome dynamics in the evolution of pathogenicity in Xcc in response to different host species.

16 May 2005

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1.18  Wheatgrass factors to boost salt tolerance in wheat

Research in Western Australia has found promising characteristics in tall wheatgrass that will be introduced to commercial wheat varieties in order to substantially improve their tolerance to salinity.

Salinity is a major stress factor for wheat that can significantly impact on yield however University of Western Australia PhD student, Daniel Mullan, in collaboration with the WA Department of Agriculture and with the support of growers and the Australian Government through the GRDC, has identified salt tolerance characteristics in tall wheatgrass (Lophopyrum) that may feature prominently in breeding programs aimed at combating Australia's increasing problems with salinity.

Mr Mullan says one chromosome from tall wheatgrass was identified as being responsible for an approximate 50% reduction in sodium and chloride concentration in leaves of wheat lines when grown in 40% sea water.

Mr Mullan says traditional cross-breeding strategies and the development of new molecular technologies have been used to incorporate small chromosome segments containing the ion exclusion mechanisms employed by tall wheatgrass into bread wheat.

This means plants respond better to salt with the potential of retaining the quality and agronomic attributes of Australian wheat. Mr Mullan says there is potential for salt-tolerant wheats to provide sufficient yields in some of the areas affected by salinity that would otherwise be unsuitable, or at least unprofitable, for cropping. According to Salt Control SA, a staggering 421,000 hectares of South Australian agricultural land will be affected by salinity by 2020.

Breeding for salinity tolerance involves the combining of many traits. However, with further research and analysis, Mr Mullan's plant lines containing wheatgrass genes will ultimately contribute to salt tolerance of Australian wheat. The material is still at the pre-breeding stage, but will soon be ready for inclusion in larger breeding programs with the possibility of contributing to salt tolerance of Australian wheats within 5-10 years.

31 May 2005

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1.19  ICRISAT releases virus-resistant pigeonpea

Pigeonpea is a major crop in India, and is an important protein supplement in the vegetarian diet. It is, however, also susceptible to a number of diseases, including the pigeonpea sterility mosaic virus (PPSMV), or "green plague." PPSMV-infected plants no longer produce flowers and pods, leading to losses amounting to about $300 million annually in
India and Nepal.

The International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has recommended the release of pigeonpea variety ICP 7035, a landrace cultivar highly resistant to PPSMV. The release is a joint effort of the research led by ICRISAT and
University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, and is supported by the Department for International Development (DFID) of the UK Government.

ICP 7035 has excellent resistance to PPSMV and tolerance to wilt, two major pigeonpea diseases in
India. It is also 8.8 % sugar, so that it can be as sweet as garden peas; and has high amounts of anthocyanins, making it a potential antioxidant.

For further information, contact Dr KB Saxena at or Dr P Lavakumar at

Source: CropBiotech Update
6 May 2005:

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

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1.20  CIMMYT introduces improved maize in NW India

A new maize hybrid promising early maturity and more protein could prove beneficial to India's small farmers, through increased harvests and improved nutritional quality. This hybrid was developed by the Indian Council for Agricultural Resources (ICAR), with the aid of the
International Center for Wheat and Maize Research (CIMMYT).

According to ICAR plant breeder Raman Babu, this new hybrid can help those living in northwestern
India, where most are dependent on maize for food. It is a cross between CIMMYT's quality protein maize developed in the 1980s and Vivek Hybrid-9, a popular hybrid grown in nine Indian states.

CIMMYT contributed the donor lines, methodology, molecular markers, and technical guidance while Babu performed the research.

See the full news report on
For inquiries, contact Raman Babu ( or Ganesan Srinivasan (

Source: CropBiotech Update
6 May 2005:

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

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1.21  New hybrid maize fights weed in Kenya

Striga, a parasitic weed, has invaded approximately 200,000 hectares of Kenyan cropland, resulting in losses of about 800 million Kenyan shillings each year. The weed is a pest of cereal crops, particularly maize.
The most recent weapon in the fight against Striga is a new hybrid maize called Ua Kayongo, which is coated with the Strigaway herbicide. Ua Kayongo is Imazapyr Resistant maize (IR-maize), also known as the
Clearfield system, whose resistance is based on a naturally occurring herbicide resistance in maize, and which was later incorporated into Kenyan maize varieties by African plant breeders at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI). The African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), in partnership with several NGOs, research organizations, and seed companies, acts as distributor.
Ua Kayongo will be distributed to over 16,000 households, and AATF's partners will conduct several farmer field days and other activities, including a traveling workshop in June 2005.
For more information, contact the AATF at, or visit

Source: CropBiotech Update
13 May 2005:

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

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1.22  Researchers find gene that may be at the root of potato blight

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Researchers have found a gene they suspect plays an important role in triggering the blight that wiped out Ireland's potato crops a century-and-a-half ago.

And the pathogen that contains this gene still causes massive amounts of agricultural damage throughout the modern world– on the order of billions of dollars each year.

The scientists describe the gene, called Avr3a, in a study that appears online in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers call Avr3a an avirulence gene. This gene is the first avirulence gene identified from the plant pathogen that causes late blight, a devastating disease that can destroy fields of potato and tomato plants. Plant pathogens contain a diverse set of such avirulence genes which, depending on the plant variety, can either facilitate disease or trigger resistance.

Avr3a scouts a potato plant on the cellular level to determine whether the plant is a likely victim.

“This avirulence gene is kind of like a weapon that triggers a metal detector,” said Sophien Kamoun, a study co-author and an associate professor of plant pathology at Ohio State University 's Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster .

“If you take a gun through the metal detector at an airport, the alarms go off,” he said. “This gene (Avr3a) sends a signal alerting the plant that it is infected by the pathogen.”

Phytophthora infestans is the pathogen that causes late blight. For decades, controlling this disease has involved regular applications of agrochemicals, Kamoun said.

But some experts fear that the pathogen is making a comeback.

“Given the recent widespread occurrence of new fungicide-resistant strains of this pathogen, it could be considered a reemerging threat to global food security,” Kamoun said. “Disturbing reports predict that potato late blight could cause food shortages and hunger in several parts of the world.”

He added that the spread of P. infestans may hit developing nations particularly hard, as potatoes are a staple crop in many of these countries.

P. infestans belongs to a group of destructive pathogens called oomycetes. Oomycetes aren't easy to categorize – although they physically look like fungi, on a molecular level they more closely resemble algae.

Over the last 75 years, potato breeders have introduced at least a dozen late blight-resistant genes into the cultivated potato. The researchers looked at one of these genes, R3a.

Kamoun and his colleagues thought that if a potato plant contained R3a, that it could detect P. infestans manifestation by recognizing Avr3a and then ward off an impending disease. The R3a gene was discovered earlier this year by scientists at Wageningen University, The Netherlands.

In laboratory experiments on leaves from potato plants, the scientists found that the leaves containing the R3a gene successfully resisted late blight infection when exposed to P. infestans races that carried the Avr3a gene. However, some races of P. infestans with mutations in their Avr3a gene escaped the resistance response triggered by R3a.

Further laboratory analysis showed that when R3a detected Avr3a in a leaf cell, that plant cell died.

“This programmed cell death is how the plant keeps the pathogen from spreading to other cells,” Kamoun said. “Only a few cells die. It's one mechanism of defense some plants have.”

Until now, researchers knew little about P. infestans on the molecular level.

By studying Avr3a, R3a and similar genes, researchers may be able to determine what happens during the earliest stages of late blight infection.

“This study is a big step forward in late blight research,” Kamoun said. “Current strategies for managing late blight in potato and tomato crops are unsustainable and costly. In the
United States and other developed countries, the chronic use of chemicals to manage late blight reduces the profit margins of farmers and is not always successful.

“In developing countries, late blight also affects subsistence potato production,” he continued. For example, a late blight breakout in 2003 brought potato production to a halt in
Papua New Guinea , one of the few countries in the world that was previously free of the disease.

Agricultural problems caused by oomycetes don't stop with P. infestans. Related Phytophthora species cause root rot in soybean plants as well as sudden oak death, which is devastating stands of oak trees along
California 's coast and is present in at least three other states.

Kamoun conducted the multidisciplinary study with lead author Miles Armstrong and other researchers from the Scottish Crop Research Institute in Dundee; Jorunn Bos, a graduate student in plant pathology at Ohio State; the University of Warwick; and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Cambridge, all in the United Kingdom; and Wageningen University in The Netherlands.

The researchers received financial support for this work from the National Science Foundation Plant Genome Research Program, the Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

18 May 2005

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1.23  Protective power of proline for salt stress

 Revving up an amino acid that plants already contain might protect them from a host of environmental stresses, such as heat, salt, drought or herbicides, University of Nebraska-Lincoln research indicates.

University of Nebraska Plant Pathologist Marty Dickman and colleagues discovered a previously unrecognized protective power of proline, an amino acid, by chance while studying what regulates cell death in plants.

Proline is known for protecting plants against drought and salt stress by helping cells retain water. This research revealed a potentially much broader protective role for proline as a potent antioxidant that also inhibits cell death.

So far, the
Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources team has tested proline in the lab on an alfalfa fungus and a yeast with surprising results. When researchers added proline to the lab dishes containing the fungus or yeast, the organisms survived environmental stresses, including heat, ultraviolet light, salt, hydrogen peroxide and herbicide treatment.

While he's excited by the findings, which were published earlier this year in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, Dickman is cautious. He points out that what works in a fungus or yeast doesn't automatically translate to plants or animals.

"Our research suggests the potential value of proline as an antioxidant," Dickman said. "We want to be realistic but what we've seen so far suggests proline has a broader protective function than previously realized. That's motivation to expand our research into plants and animals."

Dickman's team made the proline discovery while working with a mutant form of a fungus that attacks alfalfa. The mutant contained a cancer-like gene that made it grow abnormally under certain conditions. In a nutritionally rich growth medium, the mutant grew normally but in a nutritionally sparse medium "it was messed up," he said.

The nutritionally rich growth medium was composed of vitamins and amino acids. Dickman wanted to know specifically which component restored normal growth in the mutant fungus. The team ruled out vitamins and a graduate student then tested 20 amino acids one at a time on the mutant fungus.

"We got lucky. One amino acid, proline, restored normal fungal growth," he said, "but we had no idea why."

To learn more, the IANR team grew the mutant fungus in the presence of known antioxidant compounds and then with proline. Antioxidants counteract cell damage caused by free radicals and other forms of toxic oxygen that damage cells through oxidation.

Proline had the same effect as the antioxidants. It restored normal growth and removed virtually all of the toxic oxygen. Scientists also found that proline prevented programmed cell death, or apotosis. In programmed cell death, cells essentially commit suicide as part of the cycle of cell replacement and disease or injury protection. When an organism is being attacked or stressed, damaged or old cells die to protect healthy cells.

In other experiments the team exposed a normal alfalfa fungus to life-threatening stressors including heat, salt, hydrogen peroxide or UV light. Without added proline, the fungus died. When it was added, the stressed fungus survived and programmed cell death ceased.

"We were pretty excited about this," Dickman said. "Even though this was in a fungus, we thought that if proline works, it could have a broader role than previously recognized."

To find out, Dickman tested proline in baker's yeast that had been treated with paraquat, a herbicide that kills plants by generating destructive toxic oxygen that kills cells. Results were the same: Yeast grown in the presence of paraquat died while yeast grown with paraquat and proline grew.

"We can impose various stresses from UV to paraquat and basically, what's lethal without proline grows just fine with it," Dickman said.

Dickman is beginning tests to determine whether proline has the same protective power in plants. He's also collaborating with UNL biochemist Don Becker on research to more specifically understand proline's protective mechanism.

If proline proves effective in further studies, "we might be able to generate plants with broad spectrum stress tolerance," Dickman said.

That's appealing because scientists might be able to simply boost the activity of an amino acid that's already present in plants to enhance their resistance to stresses. Typically in genetic engineering, scientists must look for to other organisms for genes with the desirable characteristics.

"A little bit of tweaking and we could have stress protection," Dickman said.

The National Science Foundation and the university's
Redox Biology Center helped fund his IANR Agricultural Research Division research.

24 May 2005

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1.24  Global effort to tackle wheat genome sequencing

Washington, DC
The first meeting of the international Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (WGSC) will take place May 31 in Bozeman, Mont. The group's kickoff meeting coincides with the International Triticeae Mapping Initiative (ITMI) Conference in
Bozeman May 29-31.

The international WGSC is a collaboration of scientists and of industry and government representatives who are dedicated to sequencing the wheat genome (wheat's entire collection of genes) for global benefits. Membership in the WSGC is open to any individual or organization that supports the organization's goals and objectives.

Conceived in 1989, the ITMI originally was a five-year effort to develop "restriction fragment length polymorphism" (RLFP) maps for crops of the Triticeae tribe, mainly wheat and barley. RFLPs -- a key tool in DNA fingerprinting -- are variations in DNA fragment banding patterns between different individuals of a species.

Wheat is the staple food for 40 percent of the world's population, providing 20 percent of the calories and 55 percent of the carbohydrates consumed. Sequencing of the wheat genome will result ultimately in more healthful and nutritious food that could lead to significant improvements in human and animal health.

The rice genome has been sequenced, and the maize genome sequencing project will begin later this year. Wheat, rice, and maize together provide about three-quarters of the calories and half of the protein required by the world's population.

"Now is the time to begin a concerted effort to sequence the genome of wheat, the last major world crop, which is grown on 17 percent of the world's cultivated land," said Bikram Gill, the U.S. co-chair of the WGSC. Gill is a University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at Kansas State University.

"Over the last decade, the wheat community has proven that the wheat genome is exploitable for marker development and map-based cloning. We now face the challenge of sequencing this complex genome to accelerate gene discovery and improve this major crop. As we have done in the past, we will rise to this challenge," said Catherine Feuillet, the European co-chair of the WGSC.

According to Dusti Fritz of the Kansas Wheat Commission, a sequenced wheat genome will provide the scientific foundation that is necessary for wheat producer profitability.

The Kansas Wheat Commission and
Kansas State University have spearheaded the effort to create an international consortium and will cover the start-up costs of the WGSC's Web services and executive director, Kellye Eversole.

A draft mission statement, white paper, and other materials are available on the international WGSC Web site at

13 May 2005

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1.25 New range of plant DNA libraries provides massive boost to world's plant researchers

Researchers at the University of Warwick's horticultural research arm Warwick HRI have created an extensive new range of libraries of plant DNA that will provide a massive boost to the world's plant researchers. The new collection of DNA libraries is the largest of its type in the world and will provide researchers with a unique resource.

Warwick researchers have set up a new spin out company "Warwick Plant Genomic Libraries Limited" to develop this powerful new resource for plant researchers. It will be of particular benefit to academic researchers, scientists working in agriculture and horticulture and also to pharmaceutical research teams interested in the medicinal properties of plants.

The new libraries have two key features that will make them particularly attractive to researchers. Firstly, there are genomic libraries from 20 different plant species, a far wider range than is available from other DNA library services. Secondly, the
Warwick researchers have been able to create plant DNA libraries with large and "unbiased" inserts that give the best possible representation of the DNA of each species. Genomic DNA libraries usually employ "restriction enzymes" to cut up the DNA but this method may preferentially select only certain regions of DNA and exclude other regions from the final plant "library". The techniques used by the Warwick researchers remove this limitation and make the plant's entire DNA available to researchers.

The new plant DNA libraries include:

Aloe Vera - a plant with interesting medicinal properties and a DNA structure made up of 16,000 megabases (by comparison a human's DNA structure consists of 3,000 megabases)

Catharanthus roseus - a plant which is the only source of two key drugs (vincristine and vinblastine) used in the treatment of a number of cancers.

The library also includes: Apple, Banana, Foxglove, Mint, Olive,
Orange, Pineapple, Evening Primrose, Strawberry, Sunflower, Cocoa, Coffee, Ginger, Ginkgo, Ginseng, Grape, Tea and Yew. The company can also create custom DNA libraries for other specific plant species that researchers wish to examine. Further details can be found on the new company's web site:

2 June 2005

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1.26  Study: plants use dual defense system to fight pathogens

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Researchers have uncovered the link between two biochemical pathways that plants use to defend themselves against pathogens – pathways that scientists have long believed worked independently of each other.

Knowing how these pathways of immunity work may one day help researchers breed plants that can better resist a variety of pathogens, said David Mackey, the study's lead author and an assistant professor of horticulture and crop science at Ohio State University.

He and his colleagues explain their findings in the current issue of the journal Cell.

The researchers infected Arabidopsis plants with a bacterial strain of Pseudomonas syringae, a bacterium that usually infects tomato crops. Both Arabidopsis, a plant of the mustard family, and P. syringae are models that researchers commonly use to conduct basic plant research.

One of the immune pathways that interested the researchers recognizes what they call pathogen-associated molecular patterns, or PAMPs. The PAMP pathway appears to be a plant's first line of defense against pathogenic attackers.

“The PAMP path induces a fairly weak immune response,” Mackey said. “Even so, there is growing evidence that suggests these kinds of responses are extremely important in restricting the growth of many pathogens.”

The other pathway uses disease-resistant proteins, or R-proteins, which can detect certain molecules, called effectors, that are secreted by pathogens. This pathway produces a stronger immune response than the PAMP pathway, Mackey said.

He and his colleagues found that the R-protein pathway steps in when PAMP is rendered useless by a pathogen.

Certain types of bacteria, including P. syringae, make a hypodermic needle-like structure that pierces the outermost membrane of a healthy plant or animal cell. The pathogen uses this conduit to send infectious effector proteins into the host cell.

While P. syringae injects about 40 different varieties of effector molecules into a plant cell, the researchers focused on the actions of two of these molecules – AvrRpt2 and AvrRpm1. Both target a protein key to Arabidopsis health­.

The scientists found that both of these effector molecules effectively shut down the PAMP pathway. But the plant's R-proteins detect this, and come to the rescue.

“The R-proteins detect the insidious activity by which the pathogen's effectors block the PAMP pathway,” Mackey said. “PAMP defense responses are probably often effective, but they may be blocked by the pathogen's effector proteins. If an R-protein recognizes a pathogen's presence, it usually induces a very strong immune response, in most cases stopping a would-be infection.

“This work further suggests that plants use an active, complex immune system to combat pathogens,” he said. “They have complicated surveillance systems that detect various infection-causing molecules and trigger defensive responses.”

A next step in this line of work is to look at other pathogen effector proteins and analyze their role in causing infections.

Mackey conducted the study with Ohio State colleagues Min Gab Kim, a graduate student in the department of plant cellular and molecular biology, and graduate student Luis da Cunha and post-doctoral fellow Aidan McFall, both in the department of horticulture and crop science; Youssef Belkhadir and Jeffrey Dangl, both with the department of biology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; and Sruti DebRoy, formerly of the U.S. Department of Energy Plant Research Laboratory at Michigan State University.

Funding for this work came from the National Science Foundation and the NSF's Arabidopsis Project; Ohio State's Ohio Agricultural and Research Development Center; and the U.S. Department of Energy.

2 June 2005

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1.27  Use of DNA barcodes to identify flowering plants

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

W. John Kress, Kenneth J. Wurdack, Elizabeth A. Zimmer, Lee A. Weigt, and Daniel H. Janzen|

Methods for identifying species by using short orthologous DNA sequences, known as "DNA barcodes," have been proposed and initiated to facilitate biodiversity studies, identify juveniles, associate sexes, and enhance forensic analyses. The cytochrome c oxidase 1 sequence, which has been found to be widely applicable in animal barcoding, is not appropriate for most species of plants because of a much slower rate of cytochrome c oxidase 1 gene evolution in higher plants than in animals. We therefore propose the nuclear internal transcribed spacer region and the plastid trnH-psbA intergenic spacer as potentially usable DNA regions for applying barcoding to flowering plants. The internal transcribed spacer is the most commonly sequenced locus used in plant phylogenetic investigations at the species level and shows high levels of interspecific divergence. The trnH-psbA spacer, although short ({approx} 450-bp), is the most variable plastid region in angiosperms and is easily amplified across a broad range of land plants. Comparison of the total plastid genomes of tobacco and deadly nightshade enhanced with trials on widely divergent angiosperm taxa, including closely related species in seven plant families and a group of species sampled from a local flora encompassing 50 plant families (for a total of 99 species, 80 genera, and 53 families), suggest that the sequences in this pair of loci have the potential to discriminate among the largest number of plant species for barcoding purposes.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

31 May 2005

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1.28  Selected articles from Checkbiotech

The following are links to some of the articles from Checkbiotech journalists, suggested by the editor, Robert. Derham, for PBN-L readers

Reports differ on coexistence of GM crops

Europe invited to work with HarvestPlus, root out malnutrition

Germany expands experimental cultivation of transgenic corn

Will potatoes help prevent hepatitis E?

Golden Rice speaks

Sugars are more than just sweet

Carrots prevent possums from giving birth

Easy on the eye

From toxin to cancer prevention

One weed you do not want to get rid of

Green light for transgenic maize in Portugal

Plants on prescription

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2.01  Crop genetic resources: an economic appraisal

Washington, DC
USDA/ERS Economic Information Bulletin No. 2 (EIB2) 47 pp, May 2005

By Kelly Day Rubenstein, Paul Heisey, Robbin Shoemaker, John Sullivan, and George Frisvold

Crop genetic resources are the basis of agricultural production, and significant economic benefits have resulted from their conservation and use. However, crop genetic resources are largely public goods, so private incentives for genetic resource conservation may fall short of achieving public objectives. Within the
U.S. germplasm system, certain crop collections lack sufficient diversity to reduce vulnerability to pests and diseases. Many such genetic resources lie outside the United States. This report examines the role of genetic resources, genetic diversity, and efforts to value genetic resources. The report also evaluates economic and institutional factors influencing the flow of genetic resources, including international agreements, and their significance for agricultural research and development in the United States.

-Abstract, Contents, and Summary
-Economic Values of Crop Genetic Resources
-Factors Influencing Trends in Crop Genetic Diversity
-Conservation of Plant Genetic Resources

Entire Document in PDF format (3,256 KB):

27 May 2005

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3.01 Conference 13 of the FAO Electronic Forum on Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture

Conference 13 of the FAO Electronic Forum on Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture begins on 6 June and runs for four weeks, finishing on
Sunday 3 July 2005. The title of the conference is "The role of biotechnology for the characterisation and conservation of crop, forest, animal and fishery genetic resources in developing countries". The conference, as usual, is open to everyone, is free and will be moderated.

The 16-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 genetic resources for food and agriculture is provided (Section 2), followed by more specific information regarding the current status of the genetic resources in the different food and agricultural sectors (Section 3). A brief description of relevant biotechnologies (such as molecular markers or cryopreservation and reproductive technologies) is then given (Section 4), followed by a discussion of some key issues and some questions that might be addressed in the e-mail conference (Section 5). References to articles mentioned in the document are listed in Section 6.

Please pass this information on to other colleagues that might be interested in joining the conference. As the Background Document sets the scene for the conference and highlights the elements to be discussed, it should be read carefully by members wishing to participate in the conference. The Background Document is available on the web – at


To subscribe, please send an e-mail message to leaving the subject blank and entering the one-line text message as follows:subscribe biotech-room1

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

Note, you must first be a member of the Forum to subscribe to the conference. If someone wishes to both join the Forum and subscribe to the conference, they should send an e-mail to leaving the subject blank and entering the following text on two separate lines: subscribe BIOTECH-L subscribe biotech-room1

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4.01  The Asian Rice Foundation USA

The Asian Rice Foundation USA is offering $3,500 scholarships for students studying rice.  More information at .
  Applications due
July 15, 2005.

Contributed by Russell Freed
Dept. Crop and Soil Sciences
Michigan State University

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5.01 Trait Discovery Team Leader, Corn Yield WUE Program

Contact:Holly Meyer, Sidick Meyer Group

Position based at Mystic, Connecticut, USA

Looking for an individual to lead research efforts in the area of drought tolerance and yield stability in corn through biotechnology.   The team leader will direct a molecular biology/ biochemistry research effort, and will coordinate plant transformation, crop testing, and genomics efforts aimed at increasing drought tolerance and yield stability in corn. Coordination of technical plans with business objectives is a key responsibility of the team leader.  The person will effectively balance financial and cross-functional resources to meet business needs and will actively participate in a leadership team accountable for lead discovery and yield product development. Exceptional people management skills will be utilized in team based structure; fostering personal development, and involvement of key technical experts on complex problems. 

A background in corn agronomics, physiology, biology, biotechnology product development and/or genomics technologies will be considered favorably in the decision making process. Experience in multiple areas of biochemistry, molecular biology and cell biology.  The minimum requirements for this position include a Ph.D. and seven years of experience in molecular biology, genetics, biochemistry or related discipline, or the equivalent. 

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* 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:

* 14-17 June 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:

* 4-8 JULY 2005. International Course: Molecular tools for improving crop tolerance to abiotic stress.
Location: Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Cientificas (IVIC),
Caracas, Venezuela.
Organizers: Dra. Thaura Ghneim (IVIC,
Venezuela), Dra. Iris Perez (INIA, Venezuela), Ana Maria`Perez (CIET-UNESCO, Venezuela).
Deadline for applications:
May 15th 2005.
Announcement (pdf) and application form (MS Word)
For more information e-mail: or
Contributed by Dra.
Iris Perez Almeida
Unidad de Biotecnolog br> CENIAP-INIA
Apdo 4653 Maracay 2101-A

* 17-20 August, 2005 Workshop Announcement: Plant Genomics in
China VI
The 6th Conference of Plant Genomics in China will be held from in Kunming. This symposium will emphasize new progress in plant genomics

* 20 August-
4 September 2005. GCP Training Program: Diversity/Breeding Course - in Thailand, Kamphaeng Saen Campus of the Kasetsart University. The GCP will continue its Training Program with the second of its courses in Analysis of Diversity and Molecular Breeding for NARS scientists.

Course Objectives:
1. Develop conceptual and practical skills in state-of-the-art tools for genetic diversity analysis, linkage mapping, QTL analysis and association mapping to facilitate marker-assisted breeding

2. Empower practitioners in
Asia region to use GCP knowledge, services and products.

3. Foster collaborations among participating scientists, the CGIAR, and other GCP Consortium members, including mechanisms for technical backstopping, re-training and problem solving in the region and establishment of a regional network.

* 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:

*September and October 2005. Workshops on cryopreservation in support of conservation of European plant genetic resources. Organized by IPGRI (
Rome, Italy) in collaboration with the partners of the CRYMCEPT project. Sponsored by the European Union Project mission.

The First Workshop will be hosted by the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (
Leuven, Belgium), 12-22 September 2005.

The Second Workshop will be hosted by the Institut de recherch0our le developpement (
Montpellier, France), 10-21 October 2005.

Application forms may be obtained from: Dr Ehsan Dulloo at, or at Applications must be received by
31 March 2005.

Contributed by Kakoli Ghosh

(NEW) 24-28 September 2005. Interdrought-II,
Rome. This is the 2nd International Conference on Integrated Approaches to Sustain and Improve Plant Production Under Drought Stress. This meeting contains an important component of genetics and breeding. Full information is now available on the conference web site at

Contributed by A. Blum
Chair, Interdrought-II

(NEW) 18-22 October 2005. Fourth International Food Legume Research Conference (IFLRC-IV) New
Delhi.“Food Legumes for Nutritional Security and Sustainable Agriculture,” Indian Society of Genetics and Plant. Dr. M. C. KHARKWAL, Organising Secretary.

Contributed byFred J. Muehlbauer
Washington State University

* 18-21 April 2006: The 13th Australasian Plant Breeding Conference -- Breeding for Success: Diversity in Action,
Christchurch Convention Center in Christchurch, New Zealand.
For more details, visit

* 2-6 July 2006,
Udine (Italy): IX International Conference on Grape Genetics and Breeding. Info: Prof. Enrico Peterlunger, Universit i Udine, Dip. di Scienze Agrarie e Ambientale, Via delle Scienze 208, 33100 Udine, Italy. Phone: (39)0432558629, Fax: (39)0432558603, email:

* 23-28 July 2006. The 9th International Pollination Symposium will be hosted at
Iowa State University, in the Scheman Building, part of the Iowa State Center of the Iowa State University campus.  The Hotel at Gateway Center in Ames, Iowa will be the headquarter hotel for conference attendees. The official theme of the 2006 International Pollination Symposium in cooperation with Iowa State University and the United States Department of Agriculture  Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) is: "Host-Pollinator Biology Relationships - Diversity in Action"
For more information please visit

Submitted by Jody Larson, symposium committee
Iowa State University

Additional Notes from Mark P. Widrlechner:
I've volunteered to help organize the sub-theme on pollinators in plant genetic resource conservation and enclosed production systems.  This will involve assembling a small group of interested colleagues who can serve as a sub-theme committee by identifying possible presenters for the oral and poster sessions and helping review the quality of proposed non-invited presentations as they are submitted.  Help will also be needed to ensure that all submissions to the Symposium Proceedings are well reviewed and edited.

1. If you would be interested in presenting the results of your research at the Symposium, or know of other good research that you think would be fitting, I'd very much like to hear from you.

2. If you would be interested in serving on the sub-theme committee or in serving on an editorial board, please do contact me.

3. If you know of any other individuals, who should be informed about this upcoming event, either let me know directly or forward this email to them and copy me. 

Your help in these matters would be MUCH appreciated. 

Mark P. Widrlechner
Iowa State University

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

* 11-15 September  2006,
San Remo (Italy): XXII International EUCARPIA Symposium - Section Ornamentals: Breeding for Beauty. Info: Dr. Tito Shiva or Dr. Antonio Mercuri, CRA Istituto Sperimentale per la Floricoltura, Corso degli Inglesi 508, 18038 San Remo (IM), Italy. Phone: (39)0184694846, Fax: (39)0184694856, email: web:

* 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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To subscribe to PBN-L: Send an e-mail message to: Leave the subject line blank and write SUBSCRIBE PBN-L (Important: use ALL CAPS). To unsubscribe: Send an e-mail message as above with the message UNSUBSCRIBE PBN-L. Lists of potential new subscribers are welcome. The editor will contact these persons; no one will be subscribed without their explicit permission.

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