15 August 2005

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

Clair H. Hershey, Editor

Archived issues available at: (NOTE: cut and paste link if it does not work directly)


1.01    ' US$15 billion needed' for African crop research
1.02    African Molecular Marker Applications Network (AMMANET) discusses use of Marker Assisted Selection to improve crops
1.03    Study shows worldwide adoption of CIMMYT varieties
1.04    National barley breeding program to help Australian industry meet expected demand increases by 2020
1.05    Virus resistance key to expansion of pulse industry in northern New South Wales
1.06    India urged to revamp top crop research body
1.07    U.S. Department of Agriculture proposes fee increase for plant variety protection certificates
1.08    GM crops lead to herbicide-resistant weed in UK
1.09    'No evidence' GM genes are still in local Mexican maize
1.10    The genetic origins of corn on the cob
1.11    Beating world hunger: the return of 'neglected' crops
1.12    Paper examines naked maize grain origins
1.13    GM plant produces non-GM watermelon
1.14    Some corn hybrids show promise for high-temperature drying
1.15    Genetic discovery could lead to drought-resistant plants
1.16    Down the road with new Roundup Ready alfalfa
1.17    Enriched lysine plants to fight malnutrition
1.18    A whole genome approach to marker discovery in lettuce
1.19    New high sugar grass released
1.20    Potential control of cassava mosaic disease with antisense RNAs
1.21    Traditional breeding yields new rice
1.22    IR-maize to be launched in Kenya
1.23    Work begins on better, bigger wheat
1.24    ARS To help improve cassava
1.25    Vitamin aids plant immune system as well
1.26    Research compares GM, conventional potato varieties
1.27    Study looks at divergence of seed size
1.28    Suppressed gene delays tomato ripening
1.29    Undergraduate plant research at University of California Riverside
1.30    A new molecule discovered in the battle between plants and disease
1.31    Trapping genes that control flower development
1.32    International research team announces finished rice genome
1.33    E-mail conference on biotechnology and genetic resources
1.34    Selected articles from Checkbiotech

2.01    Cartagena Protocol reports now available in all six official UN languages
2.02    FAO book on fodder oats
2.03    Proceedings of FAO Rice Conference
2.04    Abiotic Stresses: Plant Resistance Through Breeding and Molecular Approaches
2.05    Hybrid Vegetable Development
2.06    Flower Seeds: Biology and Technology
2.07    Plant Diversity and Evolution:Genotypic and Phenotypic Variation in Higher Plants
2.08    OECD - Consensus document on new varieties of alfalfa and other temperate forage legumes
2.09    Rice blast proceedings
2.10    Projections about ag employment opportunities

(None reported)

(None reported)

(None reported)





1.01  'US$15 billion needed' for African crop research

Talent Ngandwe
[LUSAKA] Some US$15 billion will need to be spent on agricultural research in sub-Saharan Africa over the next 20 years if efforts to tackle hunger and malnutrition are to succeed, says the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

In a report released yesterday (12 August), the US-based institute recommended policies to increase food security on the continent.

To project how the number of malnourished children could change by 2025, IFPRI compared different policy scenarios.

Under the 'pessimistic' scenario, in which investment declines and HIV/AIDS continues to grip sub-Saharan Africa, the number of children affected was predicted to increase to 55.1 million from the 1997 figure of 32.7 million.

A 'business as usual' scenario, in which current policies persist, would also see child malnutrition increasing, to 39.3 million.

But under the 'vision' scenario, the figure would drop to 9.4 milllion, which would more than meet the UN Millennium Development Goal of halving, by 2015, the proportion of children who are malnourished.

Achieving this 'vision' would, however, require "dramatic increases" in funding for agricultural research and other sectors such as irrigation, road building and the provision of clean water.

IFPRI's report says sub-Saharan Africa would need US$15 billion of investment in crop research by 2025 to increase yields. It recommends investment in both conventional breeding and biotechnology.

Although the report says that genetically modified crops have the potential to alleviate hunger in Africa, it acknowledges that some countries are reluctant to adopt the technology. Other biotechnologies, such as tissue culture and using molecular techniques to accelerate conventional crop breeding, should still be pursued, it says.

"Drastic changes must also take place in the way research and extension are carried out in Africa," it adds, highlighting the need for agricultural extension officers to increase farmers' knowledge about sustainable pest management and fertiliser use, especially in semi-arid areas.

The report also calls for stronger links between universities and government research institutions, as well as the establishment of better networks for the exchange of technical information within Africa and outside the region.

Mark Rosegrant, the report's lead author, told SciDev.Net that public-private partnerships will be essential if biotechnology is to take off in African agricultural research.

"Rather than leaving it to the private sector alone, public companies in Africa should get involved in biotechnology research and genetic modification," he said.

The report points out that as African governments' spending on crop research has declined, private-sector involvement in crop research has not greatly increased.

It says that in 1995, private sector investments in developed countries amounted to 55 per cent of the total in agricultural research and development ­ whereas in the same year, private sector investments in developing countries were just 5.5 per cent of total spending.

In addition to boosting investment in crop research, the report calls for more funding to improve education, supplies of drinking water, irrigation and rural roads.

"Our findings reveal that an additional US$4.7 billion per year in investments above 'business as usual' investment levels, along with appropriate policy changes, would enable Africa to confront child malnutrition as effectively as the rest of the developing world," says Rosegrant.

The report says that donor assistance to African agricultural research has declined as a result of priorities shifting towards environmental protection, health and education.

Link to full IFPRI report

12 August 2005

(Return to Contents)


1.02  African Molecular Marker Applications Network (AMMANET) discusses use of Marker Assisted Selection to improve crops

The African Molecular Marker Applications Network (AMMANET) members recently met in Nairobi to strategize on how to use DNA Molecular Marker technology to improve crops in Africa.

Issues of crop pests, diseases and yields were discussed, with the participants agreeing that MAS [Marker Assisted Selection] could be applied efficiently and cost-effectively to solve some of the problems. They identified bananas, beans, cassava, cowpeas, maize, millet, rice and sorghum as some of the priority crops to concentrate their activities on. Smaller groups were formed to work on each crop.

Dr Richard Edema, the newly elected coordinator of the group and a Molecular Plant Virologist in the Department of Crop Science, Makerere University, Uganda, told Crop Biotech Update that AMMANET’s main goal is to share resources, synergies, and exchange information on crop improvement initiatives on the continent. “This is the only way to eliminate duplication of efforts that has led to huge waste of resources on the continent,” he emphasized.

AMMANET, which is currently funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, has over 100 members from seventeen countries in Africa, including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Egypt, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Mozambique, and Rwanda among others. Dr. Jedidah W. Danson a member of AMMANET secretariat and a Molecular Biologist with CIMMYT’s African Livelihoods Program, said the organization with will work closely with National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS), Regional organizations like Biosciences Eastern and Central Africa (BECA), Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Africa (ASARECA), African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), the CGIAR centers, and other relevant international bodies to fulfill their objectives.

For more information contact Daniel Otunge of KBIC visit AMMANET website:

29 July 2005

(Return to Contents)


1.03   Study shows worldwide adoption of CIMMYT varieties

"Impacts of international wheat breeding research in the developing world, 1988-2002" reported that the extensive use of germplasm by public and private breeding programs from the Mexico-based International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), combined with the widespread adoption of CIMMYT-derived varieties has generated enormous benefits. Estimates showed that benefits associated with the use of CIMMYT-derived germplasm range from US$ 0.5 to 1.5 billion.

The report, authored by M.A. Lantican, H.J. Dubin, and M.L. Morris, updates the findings of two earlier studies and extends the coverage to include many countries in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. It noted that while CIMMYT invests only about US$ 9-11 million (in 2002) each year in wheat improvement research, "the returns to investment in international wheat breeding research in general and in CIMMYT's wheat breeding program in particular are clearly huge."

View the full report at

From CropBiotech Update 29 July 2005:
Contributed by Margaret E. Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics. Cornell University

(Return to Contents)


1.04  National barley breeding program to help Australian industry meet expected demand increases by 2020

The Grains Research & Development Corporation (GRDC) is collaborating with key research organisations through a national barley breeding program to help industry meet expected demand increases by 2020.

According to GRDC Managing Director, Peter Reading, Barley Breeding Australia (BBA) will help Australia’s 6.6 million tonne barley industry more than double production, increase average yields and expand the growing area from 3.3 million hectares to 5 - 5.3 Mha by 2020.

“BBA will co-ordinate the development and release of new varieties, ensuring there are appropriate protocols and will endorse new varieties in consultation with Barley Australia.

“BBA will take strategic direction from Australia’s multi-billion dollar barley industry, which had a farm-gate value of $1.5 billion in 2004/05,” Mr Reading said.

28 July 2005

(Return to Contents)


1.05  Virus resistance key to expansion of pulse industry in northern New South Wales

July 29, 2005

Varieties with virus resistance will be the key to the expansion of the pulse industry in northern New South Wales.

New South Wales Department of Primary Industries Tamworth researcher Joop van Leur says all pulse crops in the north are vulnerable to virus infection and this is standing in the way of industry growth.

"Australia's northern grains region is characterised by frequent summer rains that make summer crops possible but also provide the virus inoculum with ample opportunity to survive and allow virus vectors - like aphids - to build up before the start of the winter cropping season," Mr van Leur said.

"The presence of inoculum and vectors, as well as relatively mild winter temperatures, mean pulse crops in the northern region are more likely to be exposed to virus epidemics than crops in other parts of Australia."

29 July 2005

(Return to Contents)


1.06  India urged to revamp top crop research body

T. V. Padma
[NEW DELHI] For the second time this year, a committee appointed by the Indian government has urged it to restructure the country's main crop research body.

The committee made its recommendations regarding the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) in a report submitted to the agriculture ministry in July.

It said many ICAR scientists believed that "for all practical purposes the organisation had become bureaucratic and centralised".

ICAR coordinates agricultural research, education and training across India. It acts as a central repository of information, communicates with equivalent agencies in other countries, and helps to bring the applications of research findings to farmers.

The scientists said the ICAR headquarters in Delhi micromanaged its various institutes and "did not seem to inspire the confidence" of institute directors and staff.

The committee was chaired by Raghunath Mashelkar, director-general of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

In January, another committee, led by M. S. Swaminathan, chair of the National Farmers Commission and head of ICAR from 1972 to 1979, submitted its own report to India's Planning Commission.

It also said bureaucracy was a problem, adding that "the political and administrative tinkering with the staff selection process leads to [the recruitment of] subordinate scientists, rather than scintillating ones".

While Swaminathan's committee was tasked with recommending ways of improving India's entire agricultural research sector, of which ICAR is just a part, Mashelkar's focused specifically on ICAR.

Among the problems reported are delays in distributing grants and research permits, as well as the multiple levels of permission needed for project activities, or even simple foreign travel to attend conferences.

It recommended that scientists ­ not bureaucrats ­ should have a greater say in how ICAR is run, and that the council should be more project-minded, with clearly defined goals, timelines, and ways of monitoring progress.

The "multiple command and control centres should be done away with," the committee recommended, saying directors of the institutes should report directly to the ICAR director general, instead of to several deputies and assistants, which leads to enormous red tape.

It also suggested that, like CSIR and the space and atomic energy agencies, ICAR be headed by India's prime minister instead of the agriculture minister.

The committee believes that putting the prime minister at the head of the council would help integrate India's economic and agricultural policies.

Senior ICAR officials privately admit some restructuring is necessary. But they reject the call for ICAR to remodel itself to be more like the CSIR.

This would mean fostering more public-private partnerships and getting rid of several senior posts in the council to trim its size.

ICAR "desperately needs" a revamp, agrees Suman Sahai, head of Gene Campaign, a non-governmental organisation that works with Indian farmers.

Sahai says the council's leadership has recently "shown itself to be incapable of rising to the challenges of the agrarian crisis in India or the future anticipated challenges of climate change".

But, points out Sahai, ICAR cannot follow the model of CSIR as the two have completely different mandates.

ICAR's role is to coordinate agricultural research and promote rural development, while CSIR promotes scientific and industrial research and development, often involving private-sector participation.

"Service to the farmers, and not commercial profits, is the key goal of ICAR and there is sometimes a conflict between industry and small and marginal farmers," points out Sahai. "Bureaucrats and controversial private sector companies should be kept out."

In January, the Swaminathan committee warned that a "serious crisis is developing in agricultural research … The scientific strength is dwindling, with the result that a critical mass of scientific effort is lacking in many projects."

It recommended setting up a 'National Board for Strategic Research in Agriculture', that would act as an umbrella organisation and coordinate the several government agencies that fund research in overlapping areas of plant and animal sciences.

This overlap has led to the duplication of efforts, in biotechnology for instance, alongside serious gaps in research in fields such as post-harvest technology.

2 August 2005

 (Return to Contents)


1.07  U.S. Department of Agriculture proposes fee increase for plant variety protection certificates

Washington, DC
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) today announced that it is proposing a fee increase for its Plant Variety Protection Office.

The proposed rule will increase the general fees for application, search, and certificate issuance by approximately 20 percent. In addition, other fees and services listed in the general fee schedule will also be increased. Supplemental fees, which were established in May 2005, will not be affected by this proposal. The current general fees, last increased in February 2003, are no longer adequate to cover current program obligations. The PVP Act of 1970, as amended, requires that reasonable fees be collected in order to maintain the program.

The proposed action will amend regulations related to voucher seed samples. The proposal will permit seed samples to be submitted directly to the public repository, allowing for electronic submission of applications. A list of the proposed fee increases and direct seed deposit procedures may be found at

The proposed rule will be published in the July 15 Federal Register ( USDA/AMS proposes to increase Plant Variety Protection Office application, search, and certificate issuance fees by 20 percent).

For further information, contact Paul Zankowski, Commissioner, Plant Variety Protection Office, Rm. # 401, National Agricultural Library Building, 10301 Baltimore Blvd., Beltsville MD 20705, or via e-mail at:
15 July 2005

(Return to Contents)


1.08  GM crops lead to herbicide-resistant weed in UK
British agricultural scientists have found that a genetically modified (GM) variant of rapeseed has cross-fertilized with local wild charlock plants, creating a herbicide-resistant weed in the process. The transformation of a plain charlock into a herbicide-resistant weed is something scientists had thought to be virtually impossible. The resulting charlock plants, which showed no ill-effects after treatment with a normally lethal herbicide, were discovered among many other unaffected plants in a field that had been used to grow GM rapeseed as part of the British governments three-year trials of GM crops.

While British officials were quick to downplay to discovery as insignificant in the larger view of millions of unaffected plants, other experts aren't so sure. Ecological geneticist Brian Johnson, a member of the UK's scientific group assessing the farm trials, told reporters, "You only need one event in several million. As soon as it has taken place the new plant has a huge selective advantage. That plant will multiply rapidly."

What especially worries environmentalists is that because millions of charlock seeds can remain in the soil for 20-30 years before germination, it would be nearly impossible to remove any of the genetically modified strains. Potential problems such as these are what led many other European Union representatives, especially the French and Greek delegations, to seek an outright ban on GM rapeseed.

Sources:,2763,1535428,00.html and
August 2, 2005

Contributed by Elcio Guimaraes

(Return to Contents)


1.09  'No evidence' GM genes are still in local Mexican maize

Luisa Massarani
Research published today (9 August) says that there is no evidence to support controversial claims made in 2001 that genetically modified (GM) maize had 'contaminated' local varieties of the crop in Mexico.

In 2001, Nature published research showing that genes from GM maize had entered wild maize in the Mexican state of Oaxaca despite the country not allowing GM maize to be grown at the time (see GM maize found 'contaminating' wild strains).

Although the journallater disowned the paper, its authors, David Quist and Ignacio Chapela of the University of California at Berkeley, stood by their claim that one per cent of wild maize cobs contained genes from GM crops (see Nature backtracks over GM maize controversy).

The following year, the Mexican government confirmed that genes from GM plants had indeed contaminated wild varieties (see Mexico confirms GM maize contamination).

But in the first peer-reviewed follow-up to Quist and Chapela's study, researchers say that they found no evidence of genes from GM maize in more than 150,000 seeds taken from 870 plants in Oaxaca in 2003 and 2004.

The authors, led by Allison Snow of Ohio State University, United States, sampled seeds from 125 fields in Oaxaca.

"We conclude that transgenic maize seeds were absent or extremely rare in the sampled field," they write in today's online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

One of Snow's co-authors is Exequiel Ezcurra, of Mexico's Environment and Natural Resources Secretariat. In 2002, Ezcurra told the Mexican newspaper La Reforma that "genetic contamination of wild Mexican varieties is taking place".

At the time it was thought that GM maize imported from the United States and planted in Mexico without authorisation was the source of the genes.

Fears arose that this 'contamination' would threaten the genetic diversity of wild maize varieties, for which Mexico is the origin and centre of diversity.

Snow and colleagues (including Ezcurra) now write, however, that their results "suggest that many concerns about unwanted or unknown effects of this process can be discounted at present, at least within the sampled region".

They accept that GM genes might have been present in 2001 but say they might have since disappeared.

Chapela says he welcomes the research but says it raises more questions than it gives answers.

"It is very difficult to believe that the contamination we found in 2001 had gone by 2003-2004," he told SciDev.Net. "I don't believe that is something that happens in biology ­ ever."

Snow's team points out that "evidence that genes are rare or absent in the sampled area should not be extrapolated to other regions of Mexico without quantitative data, nor is the current situation likely to remain static".

Reference: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

9 August 2005

(Return to Contents)


1.10   The genetic origins of corn on the cob

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
New gene plays central role in plant architecture and crop domestication
In 1909, while harvesting a typical corn crop (Zea mays) in Illinois, a field worker noticed a plant so unusual that it was initially believed to be a new species. Its "peculiarly shaped ear" was "laid aside as a curiosity" and the specimen was designated Zea ramosa (from the Latin ramosus, "having many branches"). Due to the alteration of a single gene, later named ramosa1, both the ear and the tassel of the plant were more highly branched than usual, leading to loose, crooked kernel rows and to a tassel that was far bushier than the tops of normal corn plants.

Now, researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York have isolated the ramosa1 gene and shown how it controls the arrangement and length of flower-bearing branches in corn, related cereal crops, and ornamental grasses. The study indicates that during the domestication of corn from its wild ancestor (teosinte), early farmers selected plants with special versions of the ramosa1 gene that suppressed branching in the ear, leading to the straight rows of kernels and the compact ears of modern-day corn on the cob. The findings are described in the July 24 advance online edition of the journal Nature.

"We've shown that corn and related grasses have either none, some, or a lot of ramosa1 gene activity, and that these different levels of activity have a big impact on the architecture of the plants," says Dr. Robert Martienssen of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, who led the study. "The ramosa1 gene appears to be a key player in the domestication of corn, and we've shown that it acts by signaling cells to form short rather than long branches," says Martienssen, who was joined in the study by lead author Dr. Erik Vollbrecht, now at Iowa State University.

Says Vollbrecht, "We solved this enduring puzzle by combining classical and modern molecular genetics. The former included our use of transposable elements or 'jumping genes'--discovered at Cold Spring Harbor by [Nobel laureate] Barbara McClintock--to 'tag' the ramosa1 gene. That enabled us to isolate the gene and determine its DNA sequence for a variety of other experiments."

"As corn was being domesticated, farmers selected a larger and larger ear with more and more rows of kernels, based on the activity of genes other than ramosa1. But we suspect that as the ear got larger, it needed special alleles of ramosa1 to prevent the extra rows from forming branches instead of kernels," says Martienssen. "There may have been other reasons for selecting an unbranched ear, including the interaction with other genes that were subsequently lost during domestication, but we don't yet know if this is the case."

The study reveals that plants with more ramosa1 activity (e.g. typical corn) tend to have fewer branches, shorter branches, and fewer flowers whereas plants with less ramosa1 activity (e.g. sorghum, rice, and the ramosa corn variety described above) tend to have more branches, longer branches, and more flowers.

"We also looked at a popular ornamental grass that grows outside my office and found the same result. It has a spiky top like corn, so we were delighted to find that they have similar profiles of ramosa1 activity," says Martienssen.

The study was funded by the National Science Foundation, the USDA, and the Life Sciences Research Foundation.

24 July 2005

(Return to Contents)


1.11  Beating world hunger: the return of 'neglected' crops

T. V. Padma
For many centuries, farmers in southern India's Kolli Hills grew nearly 30 varieties of millet. But during the past three decades, the cereal fields were replanted with cassava and sago palms, as more and more farms agreed to supply starch for local producers of processed food.

Today, millet is not grown there, and local communities instead eat government-distributed rice, which although sold at a discount price is less nutritious.

Far away in the Andes of South America, traditionally cultivated grains such as quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) and amaranth (Amaranthus caudatus) are a natural source of protein and iron. Like native potato varieties however, they are seen as 'poor people's food' and are being replaced by noodles and rice.

Similarly, sub-Saharan Africa is endowed with almost 1,000 types of leafy vegetable and fruit rich in micronutrients. But again, these are not considered fashionable to eat ­ unlike exotic, imported cabbages ­ so are disappearing from the African landscape.

Nor have any of these crops featured much in modern agricultural research, even though ­ given their nutritional value ­ they could contribute to food security and poverty alleviation.

Shrinking food basket
Since the early 20th century, people have relied increasingly on a select few plants for food, with about half of the world's calorie intake coming from just three crops ­ rice, wheat and maize.

According to the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) based in Rome, Italy, at least 7,000 plant species could be cultivated for food, but only 150 crops are grown commercially.

"The world increasingly relies on a shrinking food basket of a few crops to fulfil the dietary needs of its people," agrees M. S. Swaminathan, a leading Indian crop expert and chair of the M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), which focuses on sustainable agriculture and rural development.

Traditionally, crop research has paid little attention to species that are important to a community or region, but not in international markets.

"Underused species important for agricultural biodiversity have not been the subject of international research and development," warns Rodney Cooke, director of the technical advisory commission at the Rome-based International Fund for Agricultural Development.

Neglected crops and hidden hunger
To address this, IPGRI launched a project in 2001 to incorporate these 'neglected' crops into ongoing research activities throughout the developing world. The current focus is on millets in India and Nepal; medicinal plants in Egypt and Yemen; grains in Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru; and leafy vegetables in Africa.

In April 2005, IPGRI, the Global Facilitation Unit for Underutilized Species and MSSRF held a meeting on agricultural biodiversity in Chennai, India.

Participants agreed that increasing research on neglected crops could improve nutrition among poor people and help achieve the UN Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of people suffering from hunger by 2015 (see Neglected crops 'crucial' to beating hunger).

They warned that interpreting the goal as meaning that each person gets more food ignores the fact that malnutrition is also about people not getting enough micronutrients, vitamins and minerals ­ a problem described as "hidden hunger".

IPGRI estimates that 150 million children ­ 27 per cent of the world's child population ­ are underweight, with malnutrition contributing to at least half of the 10.4 million child deaths each year.

Vitamin A deficiency, which can cause blindness, afflicts 120 million children a year, of whom 250,000 to 500,000 go blind. Some two billion people are anaemic because of iron deficiency.

In the past, these deficiencies were tackled through food fortification programmes, but these cannot be replicated in remote rural areas, points out IPGRI director-general Emile Frisson. "Dietary diversity is the way forward," he says.

Back to the fields
Together with local partners in the South, IPGRI is returning several neglected crops to the fields.

One partner, Bolivia's Foundation for the Promotion and Research of Andean Products (PROINPA) is working with farmers to improve crops, food security and sustainability. Various types of local potatoes, roots, grains, cereals, legumes, vegetables and fruits are researched, grown, processed into food products and promoted.

In India, MSSRF is collaborating with IPGRI and the International Fund for Agricultural Development to re-establish the traditional role of millets in the farming system and local diet.

Like the Kolli Hill dwellers, poor communities in Ballia village in Orissa, eastern India, grew a variety of millets 30 years ago. This all changed when an irrigation project allowed intensive rice cultivation with two or three crops in a year. As rice demanded more labour, nobody could be spared to grow the millets.

During drought or when food resources are scarce, people in Kolli or Ballia who cannot afford to buy food through the public distribution system survive on rice stored for sowing during the next crop cycle. This can in turn lead to problems buying seed for the next season.

No grain, no gain
MSSRF is helping these communities build their own village 'grain banks' to store both rice and millet. Local community groups manage an initial reserve of the grains for members to borrow from during times of need. The 'loans' must be returned as grain, along with grain 'interest'.

Farmers in Kolli say the grain banks are helping to conserve traditional millet varieties that were in danger of being lost.

Meanwhile, Kenya is witnessing renewed interest in local vegetables.

"Ironically, as Africa grapples with nutrition problems, it is endowed with a high diversity of underused fruits and vegetables that are rich in micronutrients," says Ruth Oniang'o, founder of the Rural Outreach Program, a Kenyan non-profit organisation that promotes African leafy vegetables to improve the nutritional status and livelihoods of vulnerable groups, especially women and children. .

Since 2001, IPGRI ­ with support from the International Development Research Centre in Canada ­ has launched major public awareness campaigns, trained farmers to grow leafy vegetables in clean conditions and worked with a marketing expert in Kenya on how to attract new customers.

A local NGO, Family Concerns, distributes the farmers' produce to Kenya's largest supermarket chain.

Oniang'o says there is an urgent need to increase research on nutrition and crop genetics, and to improve seed storage facilities, and processing and marketing of African leafy vegetables.

From fields to supermarkets
It is not enough to encourage local farmers to grow their traditional crops. Successful marketing is just as important for creating sustainable livelihoods.

Take yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius), a succulent root from Peru that was once eaten by farmers to quench their thirst. Twenty years ago, yacon was not included in Peru's crop statistics and was absent from its supermarket shelves.

In the 1980s Japanese scientists found the roots were high in a low-calorie sugar called oligofructose, which could be used in an energising drink, while the leaves contained a compound that lowered blood sugar and could be useful for diabetics. As news of the findings spread in the late 1990s, demand increased. Today, yacon is available in Peruvian supermarkets.

Elsewhere others are working hard to create demand for farmers' products.

Gerardo Jorge Blajos of PROINPA says that in Bolivia school breakfasts now use up to 120 tonnes of quinoa flour every year and about 30,000 nursing mothers get three kilograms of quinoa every month from government-funded programmes.

Overcoming the obstacles
But despite these initiatives, small farmers growing crops outside the mainstream find it difficult to enter international markets.

Yacon may be enjoying a renaissance in Peru, but it cannot be sold in Europe. The European Union's Novel Foods Regulation states that foods not present in the EU before 1997 must be proved to be free of allergenic, toxic and other hazards before they can be sold. Yacon farmers simply do not have the resources to supply exhaustive data.

In fact, the only exotic plant product that has been allowed into Europe since that legislation came in is the juice of the noni fruit (Morinda citrifolia), which is marketed by a large US company that was able to supply extensive food safety evidence.

"Pioneering small companies in developing countries are losing out," says Michael Hermann from IPGRI's regional office for the Americas, in Colombia.

He adds that while those promoting exotic foods must increasingly accommodate legitimate food safety concerns and generate data needed for their acceptance in target markets, the high burden of proof has discouraged investment in supply chains and in market development.

Making neglected crops a sustainable option
Participants at the Chennai meeting called for action to conserve agricultural diversity and to make better use of it to improve food security, nutrition and incomes for the rural poor in developing countries.

As well as more research on traditional crops, they recommended that policies to preserve them be integrated into national development plans, and food and nutrition security programmes, especially those providing food aid and school meals.

Getting neglected crops back on the menu is important, they said, but so is ensuring that the poor get a fair share of any commercial benefits that arise from exploiting these genetic resources.

Some of the ongoing efforts have shown the way forward. The Kolli Hill millet farmers have taken an interest in conserving their local varieties, bringing more area under millet cultivation and improving yields by using traditional breeding methods.

Incomes have increased, in part because the farmers grow millet without using chemicals. A local company is working with the farmers to export their millet as organically grown food, for which there is considerable demand in the West.

Inspired by this initiative a local government agency in the Kolli Hill area is trying to promote such similar activities elsewhere in the area.

5 August 2005

(Return to Contents)


1.12  Paper examines naked maize grain origins

Corn's ancestor, the wild Mexican grass teosinte, features encased kernels that are hard to remove, cook, and eat. Somewhere along the way, the kernels were freed, and corn grew on the surface of the ear, making it an easy-to-consume food source, and becoming today's maize. The steps, genetic or otherwise, which led to the change, were regarded as an evolutionary mystery, until Huai Wang of the University of Wisconsin and colleagues looked into "The origin of the naked grains of maize." The results of their work appear in the latest issue of Nature.

Armed with the maize genetic map, physical maps for maize inbreds B73 and Mo17, and the rice physical map, scientists set out to develop a set of molecular markers near tga1, which they found was to be the single controlling gene of maize domestication. Teosinte's Tga1, or teosinte glume architecture, was different from its maize counterpart by only one amino acid. With more experiments involving blotting, hybridization, and PCR, scientists also mapped tga1 expression, which was strong in immature ears, weak in husks, and nowhere in other corn tissues.

Nature subscribers can access the full article at .
Other readers can take a look at the preview at .

From CropBiotech Update 5 August 2005:
Contributed by Margaret E. Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics. Cornell University

(Return to Contents)


1.13   GM plant produces non-GM watermelon

Wagdy Sawahel
A combination of genetic modification and traditional plant grafting techniques can help watermelon crops resist a potent plant virus without introducing foreign genes into the fruit, say researchers.

The method could be applied to other crops, such as cucumber and melon, which the virus can also damage.

Instead of genetically modifying an entire watermelon plant, the team of Korean biotechnologists modified only the 'rootstock', a kind of underground stem, to which seedlings of commercial watermelon varieties are grafted. This produced fruit that contained no foreign genes, avoiding some of the often-controversial issues relating to genetically modified crops.

The findings were published online in Plant Cell Reports on 15 June.

Seedlings of commercial watermelon species tend to be grafted to hardier, wild watermelon rootstocks that are better able to resist infection.

But even robust rootstock is vulnerable to a virus found in soil, called the 'cucumber green mottle mosaic virus'. The virus causes the plant's leaves to turn yellow and makes the fruit rot.

The researchers say that because genes conferring resistance to the virus do not exist in nature, traditional plant breeding cannot solve the problem.

To create a resistant plant, they inserted a viral gene into watermelon rootstock.

One in ten of the modified rootstocks were resistant to infection.

The researchers say that it is unclear how the inserted viral gene protects the watermelon. One potential mechanism is 'gene silencing', in which the production of a viral protein in the modified plant stops it being made in the virus. As a result, the virus cannot reproduce.

Fernan Lambein, of the Institute for Plant Biotechnology for Developing Countries in Belgium, told SciDev.Net that the study supports the use of grafting to grow plants that are susceptible to this type of infection.

Lambein added that although grafting is time-consuming and requires substantial technical experience, developing countries such as Brazil, China, Egypt and Mexico must give the technique more attention if they are to keep their position in the international watermelon market.

He also said the technique is economical for poor farmers in developing countries as they do not have to buy chemicals to kill the virus, an expense that can be as high as US$875 per hectare. In addition, the technique uses less fertiliser, increases yield and produces high-quality fruit.

Lambein said small-scale farmers who are unable to graft their own seedlings could use pre-grafted seedlings.

Link to article in Plant Cell Reports

Reference: Plant Cell Reports doi:10.1007/s00299-005-0946-8

26 July 2005

(Return to Contents)


1.14   Some corn hybrids show promise for high-temperature drying

Urbana, Illinois
Drying corn at too high a temperature can damage starch and make it difficult to extract, but research at the University of Illinois suggests that certain corn hybrids might be more resistant to high temperatures.

"So it looks like resistance to high temperature may well be a genetically controlled trait," said Steven Eckhoff, University of Illinois agricultural and biological engineer. This means hybrids might be developed that can be dried at high temperatures--a clear economic advantage for producers.

"As a producer, I want to dry my corn at as high a temperature as I'm allowed to use," Eckhoff said. "The higher I can dry at, the faster my throughput is, the lower my cost.

"I call drying temperature the wild card in terms of grain quality," he added. "You can do everything else right, but your work can be destroyed in an instant with too high of a drying temperature."

The goal of Eckhoff's research is to determine the magnitude of the effect of drying temperature on starch extractability, and to determine if sensitivity to drying temperature varies by hybrid. Eckhoff chose 12 hybrids in cooperation with researchers at Pioneer's Champaign Research Center for his study.

Moisture content of the corn plays an equally important part in this process, so corn harvested at 35 percent and 22 percent moisture content was dried at temperatures of 230 F and 77 F.

"We found that the responses were different for different hybrids," he said.

Starch yield loss was highest when corn with high moisture content was dried at high temperatures. But the loss ranged from 4.6 percent to 12.7 percent, depending upon the hybrid.

Although drying corn with low moisture content at low temperatures proved best for starch extractability, when certain hybrids with low moisture content were dried at both high and low temperatures, starch extractability was comparable.

This research shows promise for developing hybrids that can be dried at higher temperatures. The next step is to look at the effect of drying at multiple (15-25) locations to determine how much this characteristic is influenced by environment and how much is genetics. But coordinating such a large study poses its share of logistics problems, said Eckhoff.

"You have one shot at drying every year," he explained. "You want to bring in samples from multiple locations and you have to have enough dryers to dry them all down about the same time. Coordinating that is almost impossible."

So Eckhoff set out to make an inexpensive dryer that could be used on location at farms and test fields. He attached a standard funnel to the barrel of a commercial heat gun using black pipe. A mesh screen, stretched across the top of the funnel, holds several layers of corn. A thermocouple is placed directly below the corn and is attached to a data recorder, to read and record the temperature.

After trying several heat guns, he found one that had a fairly sensitive temperature control. Researchers were able to keep the temperature stable and use it for sample preparation.

"It still needs to be worked on, but it's not bad," said Eckhoff. "And it gave us samples of 600 to 700 grams, which was plenty for the starch yield testing we needed to do."

The system certainly paid off in terms of results. "We think this research shows there is potential to produce high yielding hybrids that have high starch extractability at a high drying temperature," Eckhoff concluded. "That would be the best of all worlds."
Author: Leanne Lucas

28 July 2005

(Return to Contents)


1.15  Genetic discovery could lead to drought-resistant plants

Toronto, Ontario
New knowledge of how plants "breathe" may help us breed and select plants that would better survive scorching summers, says a University of Toronto study.

The paper, which offers the first example of a gene that controls how leaves close their surface pores, appears in the July 12 issue of Current Biology. "It's very exciting," says University of Toronto botany professor and senior author Malcolm Campbell. "This is a gene that helps regulate carbon dioxide uptake. If plants are the Earth's lungs, we've just discovered a key piece of information about how the Earth breathes."

The pores on the surface of plant leaves, called stomata, function like little mouths that open and close in response to cues such as light, temperature, and water availability. Using mouse-ear cress, a relative of mustard, cabbage and radish plants, Campbell and co-authors from University of Toronto and the University of Lancaster compared the cooling rates of plants with normal, high and low levels of gene activity. From their data, they were able to link the gene to plant exhalation.

The discovery is another step in understanding how plants respond to their environment. In hot temperatures, plants keep their mouths "shut" longer than usual, to avoid losing gases and water through evaporation. However, they must open their stomata at some point, both to pick up carbon dioxide needed for photosynthesis and to release oxygen back into the atmosphere. This new information will be important to plant breeders looking to improve crop resistance to drought, as well as to those seeking to understand plants' evolutionary responses to climate, says Campbell.

"These genes are of paramount importance. They allow plants to adapt to changes in light, carbon and water availability. Ultimately, they shape the flux of carbon and water throughout entire ecosystems and affect the carbon cycle on a global-scale." The study was supported by the University of Toronto, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council of the U.K.

18 July 2005

(Return to Contents)


1.16  Down the road with new Roundup Ready alfalfa

Lincoln, Nebraska
After years of testing, evaluating, and regulating, Roundup Ready® alfalfa finally has been approved. There is only enough seed for about 75,000 acres nationwide this fall, but greater availability is expected for next spring.
Roundup Ready alfalfa will only be in top-of-the-line varieties, which should limit yield drag. This was an issue for some when Roundup Ready soybeans were introduced.
Where will Roundup Ready alfalfa fit best? Well obviously, if you consistently have problems with weeds when establishing new stands, this will easily solve the problem. More often, though, I expect Roundup Ready alfalfa to help solve special problems like bluegrass in irrigated alfalfa or mustards and downy brome in spring growth. It also may help with curly dock or late season waterhemp or summer grasses like foxtail, crabgrass, and sandburs.
Because of the cost -- the tech fee is $2.50 per pound or $125 extra for a 50 lb bag of seed -- Roundup Ready alfalfa will be most suitable for use in higher value situations like dairy or horse hay. By eliminating weeds, it will be easier for growers to produce this hay and capitalize on these cash hay markets.
Roundup Ready also should help extend stand life by eliminating weeds, especially winter annual weeds, that hurt alfalfa stands the most. Roundup Ready alfalfa will not be right for everyone. Each grower will need to examine his or her situation and then decide if the investment is worth it.
Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist

Source: CropWatch via
1 August 2005

(Return to Contents)


1.17  Enriched lysine plants to fight malnutrition

Basel, Switzerland
By Shelley Jambresic, Checkbiotech
One billion people worldwide are suffering from malnutrition. Due to the high demand for energy and essential nutrients, infants and children are at particular risk of undernutrition, but supplemented plants may offer a solution. In a recent review in the Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research, Doctors Renato Rodriguez Ferreira, Vanderlei Aparecido Varisi, Lyndel Wayne Meinhardt, Peter John Lea and Ricardo Antunes Azevedo took a closer look at the production of high-lysine crops.

About one third of the world's children are affected by symptoms of protein and vitamin malnutrition such as: developmental and growth retardation, increased risk of infection and higher risk of death and blindness. Therefore, one of the challenges has been the production of crops containing higher concentrations of essential amino acids, such as lysine. However, apart from protein enriched maize currently commercially available, the release of high-protein crops has not yet occurred.

The quest for protein enriched crops arises with the problem that humans cannot synthesize all amino acids on their own, and therefore must obtain some from their diet. Humans need nine essential amino acids, such as lysine, methionine, threonine or isoleucine that they cannot produce on their own.

The amount of essential amino acids, along with how well a protein can be digested, determine its nutritional quality for humans.

"Lysine is one of the most limiting amino acids in plants consumed by humans," explained Dr. Azevedo from Departamento de Genetica in Sao Paulo, Brazil in the Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research. In western societies, meat is the main source of essential amino acids such as lysine.

"However, in developing countries the main, and sometimes only source, are plants," Dr.
Azevedo further said.

In addition, in many developing countries, these plants that Dr. Azevedo referred to constitute practically the entire diet of an average person. Compounding the problem is that the grains from these plants lack lysine, which causes malnutrition symptoms.

In order to decrease the problem of malnutrition, various studies have been carried out to obtain a better understanding of the biosynthesis of lysine. The overall aim in the end was to be able to construct genetically engineered plants producing higher amounts of lysine in their seeds.

Several strategies have been developed for the production of high-lysine plants. The conventional, long-term plant breeding programs – a simple and traditional, but effective approach - have been used to select plants with improved protein quality. Perhaps the most significant finding through this approach was the naturally occurring high-lysine maize mutant, opaque-2. However, field studies eventually showed that these high-lysine maize varieties were not productive enough for agricultural uses.

"The correlation between nutritional quality and yield has been a serious issue over the years, since the two factors appear to be negatively correlated," Dr. Azevedo told the Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research. "Unfortunately, the high-lysine mutants exhibited undesirable agronomic characteristics."

Only more recently, in 1999 Gaziola et al. partially overcame the negative traits with the development of a genetically engineered quality protein maize. "These new maize hybrids have been designated QPM (quality protein maize) and several hybrids were produced and introduced into the market", said Dr. Azevedo. "However, the widespread use of these varieties has not been as fast as initially expected."

Despite the better agronomical quality, research led by Dr. Azevedo’s laboratory described in 2001 that the engineering of the lysine biosynthesis in plants did not lead to lysine production in the seeds, rather in the leaves. Furthermore, the modified genes also showed to have an effect on the biosynthesis of other amino acids and enzymatic activities.

Various studies with lysine producing plants include the production of alternative maize mutants, as well as other important cereal crops such as rice, barely and sorghum. Such high-lysine plants could be more useful in terms of commercial use, while also decreasing the incidence of malnutrition and undernutrition in developing countries.

"In 1997, when reviewing the aspartate metabolic pathway, we hoped that in five years high-lysine transgenic crop plants would be available to farmers," explained Dr. Azevedo.

Still, apart from the QPM lines, very little else in the way of high-lysine crops is available nowadays. Dr. Azevedo suggested in the Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research, "Perhaps recent legislations and general concern about the use of modified genetic organisms have been the major setback regarding the release of such crops."

Ferreira et al. Are high-lysine cereal crops still a challenge? Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research. 2005

Source: Checkbiotech via
11 August 2005

(Return to Contents)


1.18  A whole genome approach to marker discovery in lettuce

Davis, California
The Seed Biotechnology Center at UC Davis and and Dr. Richard Michelmore, Director of the UC Davis Genome Center, are partnering with an industry consortium to develop microarray-based tools for DNA marker discovery. With these tools approximately 25,000 lettuce genes will be simultaneously screened for diversity in breeding germplasm. The resulting markers will be validated to develop high density maps to identify and manipulate loci linked to important traits in lettuce. This project will directly benefit the lettuce industry by providing new tools (high throughput molecular markers, SNPs) to improve lettuce.

The Marker Discovery project is offering a Postdoctorate Fellowship.  For more information go to:

10 August 2005

(Return to Contents)


1.19  New high sugar grass released

Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) is the main grass species used for feeding cattle and sheep in temperate regions. Research at the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research (IGER) has shown that increasing the water-soluble carbohydrate (sugar) concentration of perennial ryegrass alters nitrogen partitioning in the rumen and so reduces the amount of nitrogen excreted to the environment. The sugar grass concept works by providing the rumen micro-organisms with an improved balance of nutrients in freshly ingested herbage which helps their growth. These organisms are digested later by gastric processes when they pass into the abomasum (or true stomach) and their digestion products are taken up from the small intestine. Increasing the sugar content of the herbage also leads to a reduction in fibre content of the grass, thereby increasing intake. If improved nitrogen use efficiency in the rumen and increase forage intake is sufficiently large, these two characteristics of high sugar grasses lead to improving milk production and liveweight gain in ruminants as well as environmental benefit. AberStar is a high sugar variety newly recommended for use in the UK in 2005. In an experiment at IGER, its mean sugar content over 21 harvests during 3 harvest years was 246 compared with  191 g/kg of dry matter for the old IGER variety S23. It had the highest value for in vitro digestibility under simulated grazing of all the varieties in UK National List trials. 

AberStar resulted from a programme of research and breeding at IGER funded by both government sources (Defra and BBSRC) and private industry (Germinal Holdings Ltd.).

Contributed by Peter Wilkins

(Return to Contents)


1.20  Potential control of cassava mosaic disease with antisense RNAs

Peng Zhang, Hervé Vanderschuren, Johannes Fütterer and Wilhelm Gruissem. 2005. Resistance to cassava mosaic disease in transgenic cassava expressing antisense RNAs targeting virus replication genes. Plant Biotechnology Journal  3:385-397.

African cassava mosaic virus (ACMV) is a major contributor to cassava mosaic disease (CMD), the economically most important and devastating disease of cassava in Africa. We have developed transgenic cassava plants with increased ACMV resistance using improved antisense RNA technology by targeting the viral mRNAs of Rep (AC1), TrAP (AC2) and REn (AC3). Viral DNA replication assays in detached leaves demonstrated that replication of two ACMV isolates was strongly reduced or inhibited in most transgenic lines. After ACMV infection of plants using biolistic inoculation, several lines remained symptomless at lower infection pressure (100 ng viral DNA/plant). Symptom development was reduced and attenuated even at higher DNA doses. Transgenic ACMV-resistant plants had significantly reduced viral DNA accumulation in their infected leaves. Short sense and antisense RNAs specific to AC1 were identified in transgenic lines expressing AC1 antisense RNA, suggesting that the short RNAs mediate interference by post-transcriptional gene silencing. Our results demonstrate that resistance to ACMV infection of cassava can be achieved with high efficacy by expressing antisense RNAs against viral mRNAs encoding essential non-structural proteins, providing a new tool to combat CMD in Africa.

(Return to Contents)


1.21  Traditional breeding yields new rice
Recent traditional breeding work has yielded a new variety of rice that is heavier with seeds, but not too tall to fall or rot in the rain. Motoyuki Ashikari of Nagoya University, and colleagues published their work, " Cytokinin Oxidase Regulates Rice Grain Production," in the journal Science.

Researchers scoured through the rice genome, investigating areas that influenced seed productivity. They singled out Gn1a, which codes for cytokinin oxidase/dehydrogenase, an enzyme that degrades the plant hormone cytokinin. An inactive Gn1a gene keeps the hormone intact, and allows it to accumulate in the plant - this, in turn, pushes a plant to produce more seeds.

Scientists screened the DNA of thousands of plants, some of them well known for producing many seeds, and others tending to be short, in order to select the best plants to cross with each other. A successful cross finally yielded the desired breed.
Read the press release at

From CropBiotech Update 1 July 2005:
Contributed by Margaret E. Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics. Cornell University

(Return to Contents)


1.22   IR-maize to be launched in Kenya

July 5th, 2005 will mark the first day that Imidazolinone-Resistant maize (IR-maize), or the Clearfield system, will be Kenya. Eight years of research will culminate in a launch in Kisumu, Kenya, and in a ceremony to be presided over by Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) Director Dr. Romano Kiome.

IR-maize, developed by breeding, allows farmers to use herbicides that will protect the crop from Striga , a parasitic weed that has caused major problems for Sub-Saharan African farmers for over 70 years. Various control methods have been exercised over the years, but none have been effective in attacking the weed before its emergence. The new technology does exactly that: by treating seed and/or soil with imidazolinone herbicides, germinating Striga is killed before it can infect maize roots, and remaining seeds of the weed are destroyed, reducing weed numbers dramatically.

From CropBiotech Update 1 July 2005:
Contributed by Margaret E. Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics. Cornell University

(Return to Contents)


1.23  Work begins on better, bigger wheat

Work has begun on a new wheat variety that will combine the best of East and West - that is, the British and Mexican types, to increase yield and sustainability of agriculture in the United Kingdom (UK). This is being carried out by scientists at UK's University of Nottingham, in cooperation with the International Center for Wheat and Maize Improvement (CIMMYT). Funding support is provided by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC ).

Central American wheat varieties have bigger and more fertile ears, while the UK varieties have smaller ears, and increased capacity for photosynthesis. Through comparative genetics, developmental biology, and plant physiology, the researchers hope to find what genes allow Mexican wheat to have bigger ears. This will hopefully allow them to produce a new, improved UK variety which will not need extra water or fertilizer.
Read more at,, and

From CropBiotech Update 8 July 2005:
Contributed by Margaret E. Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics. Cornell University

(Return to Contents)


1.24  ARS To help improve cassava

The Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) chief scientific research agency, will soon contribute to the improvement of cassava, one of the African continent's most important food crops. With ARS molecular biologist Edgar B. Cahoon, the project aims to increase the cassava root's vitamin A and E content.

Cassava is a major food source for most Africans, and is the fourth most important crop in the world. Its root is low in protein and several micronutrients, however, so the new project seeks to develop modified roots with higher levels of zinc, iron, protein, and vitamins A and E. It also hopes to produce cassava with longer shelf life and resistance to geminivirus infection. Development of the product will take place in the United States, and will be tested for nutrient content and field stability and safety in Africa.

The project, called "BioCassava Plus," is a 10-institution wide endeavor, and is one of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's program grants in its "Grand Challenges in Global Health" initiative.

For more information, visit

From CropBiotech Update 15 July 2005:
Contributed by Margaret E. Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics. Cornell University

(Return to Contents)


1.25 Vitamin aids plant immune system as well

Thiamine, or Vitamin B1, is a potent compound useful in maintaining the immune system of humans. Spraying it on plants, however, can also contribute to the plant immune system, and it is this new property of thiamine that Il-Pyung Ahn and colleagues from the Seoul National University explore in "Vitamin B1 Functions as an Activator of Plant Disease Resistance." Their findings appear in this month's Plant Physiology.

Researchers found that thiamine induces systemic acquired resistance (SAR) in plants, which enhances resistance to many, but not all fungal, bacterial, and viral pathogens. By spraying thiamine on rice, Arabidopsis, and cucumber, among other crops, and inoculating the plants with the pathogens, the researchers found that the incidence of viral and bacterial infections amongst the plants was much lower. For instance, thiamine treatment of the rice cultivar Nakdong also induced resistance to the compatible bacterial leaf blight pathogen Xanthomonas oryzae pv oryzae strain.

The effect of thiamine spraying lasted for as long as 15 days for the plants. These findings provide a new way by which scientists could develop strategies for the control of plant diseases.

Read more in this month's Plant Physiology at The article appears on pp. 1505-1515 of the journal.

From CropBiotech Update 22 July 2005:
Contributed by Margaret E. Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics. Cornell University

(Return to Contents)


1.26  Research compares GM, conventional potato varieties

An article in this month's Plant Physiology reports on the "Comparison of Tuber Proteomes of Potato Varieties, Landraces, and Genetically Modified Lines," a study conducted by Satu J. Lehesranta and colleagues of the University of Kuopio, Finland. Using 2-dimensional protein electrophoresis, researchers compared 32 non-genetically modified (GM) genotypes, 21 tetraploid cultivars, 8 landraces, and 3 diploid lines.

Researchers found that only 9 out of 730 proteins showed significant differences between GM lines and their controls. There was much less variation between GM lines and their non-GM controls, compared with that found between different varieties and landraces. Moreover, no new proteins unique to individual GM lines were observed; thus, there was no evidence for any major changes in protein pattern in the GM lines tested.

Read more in this month's Plant Physiology at The article appears on pp. 1690-1699 of the journal.

From CropBiotech Update 22 July 2005:
Contributed by Margaret E. Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics. Cornell University

(Return to Contents)


1.27  Study looks at divergence of seed size

Angela T. Moles of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis of the United States, and colleagues determine the "Factors that shape seed mass evolution" through statistical analysis of data from present-day species, as well as those available from paleobotanical literature. Their findings appear in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences online.

It was not until 85 million years ago that seed sizes changed dramatically, resulting in seeds greater in size by as much as 11 orders of magnitude compared with their ancestors, or even with their present-day cousins. To determine what factors led to such diversity in seed size, researchers used seed mass data from 12,987 seed plant species, 318 of which were gymnosperms, and 12,669 of which were angiosperms. Using a statistical technique called correlated divergence analysis, and factoring in various aspects of plant growth, including growth form, temperature, precipitation, and leaf area index, among others, they found that difference in seed mass have arisen mainly due to evolutionary divergence in growth form.

Researchers also found that species with unassisted dispersal or wind dispersal had smaller seeds than species dispersed by animals or water. They also confirmed that herbs and grasses generally make smaller seeds than shrubs, which generally make smaller seeds than trees or vines.

For more information, download the article at

From CropBiotech Update 29 July 2005:
Contributed by Margaret E. Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics. Cornell University

(Return to Contents)


1.28  Suppressed gene delays tomato ripening

When Tzann-Wei Wang and colleagues of the University of Waterloo, Canada suppressed the activity of deoxyhypusine synthase (DHS) in tomato plants, they found that the tomato fruits did not ripen as quickly as their conventional counterparts, and that, at higher levels of suppression, plants were sterile or had changes in plant structure. Their work, “Antisense Suppression of Deoxyhypusine Synthase in Tomato Delays Fruit Softening and Alters Growth and Development,” appears in this month’s Plant Physiology.

DHS is an enzyme present in eukaryotic cells, and participates in reactions that activate other enzymes, which in turn initiate protein translation. Researchers found, through RNA blotting, that the enzyme family activated by DHS likewise increased in expression as fruits began to age and soften.

Researchers suppressed the activity of DHS by expressing part of the enzyme’s untranslated region in tomato, resulting in antisense gene control for the plant. With much lower DHS activity in the transgenic tomato, researchers found that 1) transgenic fruits ripened normally, but exhibited delayed post-harvest softening and aging; 2) transgenic plants under strong DHS suppression were also male sterile and did not produce fruit; and 3) these same plants had larger, thicker leaves with higher levels of chlorophyll.

Read more in this month’s Plant Physiology. The article appears on pp. 1372-1382 of the journal.

Source: CropBiotech Net via
22 July 2005

(Return to Contents)


1.29  Undergraduate plant research at University of California Riverside

Eleven undergraduate students from across the nation do plant research at UCR

Contributed by Kathy Barton
U. California, Riverside
(Return to Contents)


1.30  A new molecule discovered in the battle between plants and disease

Pullman, Washington
Washington State University researcher's findings could help crops fend off disease.
Scientists at Washington State University in Pullman have discovered a molecule that plays a role in the battle plants must win against bacteria and fungi that would eat them for lunch.

The group led by Professor Clarence A. "Bud" Ryan isolated a small protein called Pep1 that appears to act like a hormone, signaling to the rest of the plant to raise its defenses at the first sign of an infection.

They also discovered the receptor protein to which Pep1 binds to exert its protective effects.

Pep1 was isolated from the plant Arabidopsis thaliana, which is a species favored by investigators for attributes that facilitate experimentation, but the same molecule is found in crop species such as canola, soybean, potato, tomato, rice, and poplar.

Therefore, further work on Pep1 and its receptor could lead to a general increase in the resistance of crops to pathogens, which could greatly benefit farmers.

Already, the researchers have used the Pep1 gene to increase the resistance of Arabidopsis plants to a fungal pathogen called Pythium irregulare.

These findings will be presented July 20, at 11:20 at the ASPB meeting at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center in Seattle, WA.

The abstract, #9183, is below:
Presenter: Huffaker, Alisa
Authors: Huffaker, Alisa (A); Pearce, Gregory (A); Ryan, Clarence, A (A);
Affiliations: (A): Institute of Biological Chemistry, Washington State University
Title: A novel peptide signal, AtPep1, regulates pathogen defense in Arabidopsis

AtPep1 is a 23 amino acid peptide that was isolated from Arabidopsis thaliana (G. Pearce, A. Huffaker, C.A. Ryan, submitted). The peptide is encoded by a gene at the locus At5g64900 and is derived from the carboxyl terminus of a 92 amino acid precursor, proAtPep1, a scenario commonly found in both animal and plant peptide precursors. No physiological role was known for AtPep1, and a function was sought in Arabidopsis by incubating plants under a variety of conditions and monitoring expression of the proAtPep1 gene. Cold and dehydration stress and exposure to ABA or MeSA did not affect the expression of proAtPep1, but wounding, exposing plants to methyl jasmonate (MeJA), or supplying plants with the AtPep1 peptide through cut petioles induced expression of the gene. Also expressed in response to AtPep1 were the PDF1.2 gene (a plant defensin) and the PR-1 gene, (a pathogenesis-related gene). Two wound-related genes, LOX2 and VSP2, were not induced by AtPep1. Supplying AtPep1 to jasmonate-deficient fad3-2 fad7-2 fad8 mutant plants did not induce the proAtPep1, PDF1.2 or PR-1 genes, indicating that AtPep1 signaling involves the octadecanoid pathway. AtPep1 induction of defense genes in excised Arabidopsis leaves was inhibited by DPI, implicating the generation of H2O2 in the signaling pathway. Constitutively overexpressing the proAtPep1 gene in Arabidopsis induced a constitutive activation of PDF1.2, PR-1, and tyrosine amino transferase (TAT3) genes, but not the expression of LOX2 or VSP2 genes. The transgenic plants were more resistant toward the oomycete root pathogen Pythium irregulare than wild-type plants, evidenced by a more robust leaf and root growth upon infection. ProAtPep1 belongs to a seven member gene family in Arabidopsis with tissue-specific paralogs that exhibit differential expression profiles. Orthologs of the proAtPep1 gene have been identified in important crop species including canola, soybean, potato, tomato, rice and poplar.

Source: American Society of Plant Biologists via
19 July 2005

(Return to Contents)


1.31  Trapping genes that control flower development

Scientists use molecular "gene trap" to identify dozens of genes involved in the regulation of flower development

Identifying genes based on patterns of gene expression in specific organs or at specific stages of development is a useful approach to improving our understanding of complex biological processes. Scientists Vivian Irish at Yale University in Connecticut, Rob Martienssen at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, and their colleagues used a strategy known as "gene trapping" to identify numerous genes involved in the regulation of flower development in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. The research is reported in a paper by Nakayama et al. in the September issue of The Plant Cell. The gene trap technique involves genetic transformation of Arabidopsis plants with a reporter gene whose activity is visualized in a simple assay, leading to the rapid identification of genes that show specific patterns of expression. In this case, the researchers isolated 80 different gene trap Arabidopsis lines identifying genes that show distinct patterns of expression in flower petals and/or stamens (the pollen-bearing organs). The research is one of the first large-scale gene trap studies in the area of flower development, and provides extensive information on many genes likely to have critical roles in this essential stage of plant reproduction.

Genes provide the blueprints for proteins that carry out the functions of living cells. In any particular organ or tissue at any particular stage of development, gene activity may be "on" (expressing the messenger RNA transcripts that lead to production of the corresponding protein) or "off" (no expression). Examining gene expression patterns therefore provides information on gene function. Gene trapping is an alternative to methods such as DNA microarray analysis for the detection of differentially expressed genes, and has the advantage of identifying subtle differences in expression patterns within target organs. For example, genes expressed only in stamen tissue during the early stages of pollen development are likely to have an important function in controlling pollen formation.

The gene trap technique used by Drs. Irish and Martienssen involved genetic transformation of Arabidopsis plants with the reporter gene -glucuronidase (GUS) lacking an external promoter sequence to drive gene expression. Each transformation event leads to insertion of the GUS gene at a random site within the plant genome. All endogenous genes contain promoter sequences that determine where and when they will be expressed in an organism. The reporter GUS gene, lacking its own promoter, will only be expressed and produce the GUS protein if it happens to be inserted into the plant genome in the immediate vicinity of an endogenous gene promoter. GUS activity is assayed in transformed plants by treating harvested seedlings with a stain that turns blue in the presence of GUS. Successful "gene trapped" plants will show the characteristic blue stain in specific patterns in the organs or tissues of interest. The endogenous gene corresponding to the trapped promoter can be fished out of the genome and sequenced based on its proximity to the inserted reporter gene. Further experiments can then be conducted, for example, to examine the expression of the native gene in wild type plants and to investigate gene function by creating mutant plants that either lack expression of or overproduce the native protein.

As noted by Dr. Martienssen "gene traps are powerful tools to examine both gene expression and gene function in animal and plant systems. Large scale studies like this are going to provide valuable information concerning regulatory networks and target genes". Dr. Irish added "using the gene trapping strategy, we have identified a host of new genes involved in floral development, as well as illuminating some of the processes involved in establishing different tissues and organs. This general approach is very effective in providing novel insights into development that are not easily gleaned using other available techniques."

Many of the trapped genes were sequenced and identified, giving clues about how they might function in petal and stamen development. Floral organ development depends on appropriate specification and differentiation of the unique organ identities (e.g. petals, stamens, ovules). An interesting aspect of this research is the finding that the expression of many trapped genes is restricted to particular subdomains of the proximodistal axis of petals and stamens, implying that intensive regulation of patterning along this axis is critical for floral organ development.

This research is an excellent example of how modern molecular biology techniques help to increase our understanding of complex biological processes.

The research paper cited in this report is available at the following link:

Source: EurekAlert .com
29 July 2005

(Return to Contents)


1.32  Researchers report complete rice genome sequence

Rice feeds more than half of the world's human population. Estimates indicate that the agricultural yield of rice will need to be increased by some 30% over the next two decades to meet projected increased demands. In the August 11 issue of the journal Nature, members of a 10-nation International Rice Genome Sequencing Project (IRGSP) report a highly accurate or "finished" map-based DNA sequence of the entire rice genome. The completed rice genome sequence, which reveals some 37,500 genes on the 12 chromosomes of rice, provides the raw material for many studies aimed at improving the agricultural yield of the world's most important food source.

Moreover, because the rice genome is closely related to that of other major cereal grasses--including corn, wheat, barley, rye, sorghum, and millet--the complete rice genome sequence is an extraordinarily useful resource for identifying genes of interest in a number of different crop plants that collectively supply two-third's of humanity's food supply.

"This study revealed thousands of genetic markers or signposts in the rice genome that are of immediate use to plant breeders and others working to improve rice agriculture," says Dr. W. Richard McCombie of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, a co-leader of the study.

"This is also the first finished genome sequence we have from any crop plant, so rice is now a great model for how to use genome sequence information to improve many other aspects of agriculture," says McCombie, who adds that several programs are already under way to study the structure and function of rice genes as well as agriculturally relevant genetic variation among different varieties of rice.

The finished rice genome sequence builds upon earlier draft sequences published by the private companies Monsanto and Syngenta. Robin Buell, lead investigator of The Institute of Genomic Research's portion of the project, calls this a "nice model of a public-private partnership" and added that by donating their genome sequences to the IRGSP, the companies saved the public consortium both time and money.

By enabling scientists to identify genes that underlie agriculturally important traits, a previous IRGSP-generated rough draft of the rice genome sequence--made publicly available in 2002--has already spurred both biotechnological and conventional plant breeding approaches to increasing rice yields. The newly-reported, finished rice genome sequence has the potential to greatly accelerate these efforts.

"The genetic map will greatly speed the hunt for genes that increase yield, protect against disease and pests, or provide drought-resistance in rice and other cereal crops," says Buell.

Formally established in 1998, the Japanese-led International Rice Genome Sequencing Project comprises researchers from 32 institutions in Japan, China, India, Thailand, Taiwan, Brazil, France, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Major U.S. funding for the project was from the National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Agriculture-Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, U.S. Department of Energy, and the Rockefeller Foundation. U.S. Efforts were coordinated by the National Plant Genome Initiative.

Participating U.S. institutions were Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the University of Arizona, Rutgers University, The Institute for Genomic Research, Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Brookhaven National Laboratory, and Cornell University.

Images are available on request. Detailed information about the IRGSP is at

Members of the IRGSP available for comment include: W. Richard McCombie, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Long Island, New York
Robin Buell, The Institute for Genomic Research, Rockville, Maryland
Susan McCouch, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
Takuji Sasaki, National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, Ibaraki, Japan

10 August 2005

(Return to Contents)


1.33. E-mail conference on biotechnology and genetic resources

The FAO e-mail conference entitled "The role of biotechnology for the characterisation and conservation of crop, forest, animal and fishery genetic resources in developing countries" is now finished. It ran from 6 June to 3 July 2005, about 650 people subscribed and 127 messages were posted, from people in 38 different countries. Over 60% of messages came from developing countries. Of the biotechnologies discussed, most focus was on molecular markers with much less emphasis on cryopreservation or in vitro culture. Discussions covered a wide range of issues relevant to crop, forest, animal and fishery genetic resources, such as the potential role or value that markers have for prioritising populations for conservation purposes or for characterising different populations; advantages and disadvantages of different marker systems; potential importance of DNA banks; international collaboration and capacity building; and low cost options for tissue culture. The messages are available at or can be requested as a single e-mail (size 184 KB) from

Source: Update 8-2005 of FAO-BiotechNews

(Return to Contents)


1.34  Selected articles from Checkbiotech

Below is a list of articles from Checkbiotech journalists, relating to plant genetic improvement

Subterranean biotechnology

Transgenic corn field trials in Bavaria to provide insight

Genetically engineered alfalfa and lettuce provide healthy pigs

Fighting against cervical cancer, tobacco raises hope

Rice learning to cope with salinity

The Meridian Institute keeping the world up to date

A big step in understanding plant growth and development

TransBacter: Gene transfer by open sourcery?

GM bill fails in German Parliament

Switzerlands biotechnology debate grows

'Birth control' enabling field trials

New hopes for genetic engineering in Europe

A corporate group in panic

Mastitis is a dead duck

Submittted by Robert Derham
Editor, Checkbiotech

(Return to Contents)



2.01  Cartagena Protocol reports now available in all six official UN languages

The report of the 2nd meeting of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (COP-MOP/2), that took place from 30 May to 3 June 2005 in Montreal, Canada, is now available in all six official UN languages (i.e. Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish).

See document UNEP/CBD/BS/COP-MOP/2/15 at

In addition, the 19-page report of the 1st meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group of Legal and Technical Experts on Liability and Redress in the Context of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, held on 25-27 May 2005 in Montreal, Canada, is also available on the same webpage in these six languages (document UNEP/CBD/BS/COP-MOP/2/11).

Contact if requiring further information.

20 July 2005

(Return to Contents)


2.02  FAO book on fodder oats

As part of the FAO Plant Production and Protection Series, FAO's Crop and Grassland Service has just published "Fodder oats: A world overview", edited by J.M. Suttie and S.G. Reynolds.

The 13-chapter book brings together information on the state of fodder oats worldwide, and is aimed mainly at agronomists and extension workers. Information from all regions of the world is provided by contributing authors who are regional experts in their field and particular attention is given to countries where fodder oats are, or are becoming, important in the smallholder sector.

The book also provides some information on breeding programmes in different regions, describing e.g. hybridisation, wide crossing and tissue culture in China.

See or contact to request a copy.

Source: FAO-BiotechNews  via
20 July 2005

(Return to Contents)


2.03  Proceedings of FAO Rice Conference

Rome, Italy
As part of the International Year of Rice, FAO organised the International Rice Conference on 12-13 February 2004 in Rome, Italy.

The main theme of the second day was "Sustainable rice-based production systems: Challenges and opportunities".

The International Rice Commission (IRC) has now published the 12 papers from this session (including e.g. "Potentials and limitations of biotechnology in rice" by R. Coffman, S.R. McCouch and R.W. Herdt), plus an introductory Overview section, as IRC Newsletter 53. The IRC works within the framework of FAO and currently has 61 member countries.

See or contact for more information.

Source: FAO-BiotechNews via
20 July 2005

(Return to Contents)


2.04  Abiotic Stresses: Plant Resistance Through Breeding and Molecular Approaches

Edited by Muhammad Ashraf, BSc, MSc, PhD

Professor and Head, Department of Botany, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan
Philip John Charles Harris, BSc, PhD, CBiol, FIBiol
Professor of Plant Science, School of Science and the Environment, Coventry University, Coventry, United Kingdom

2005, Haworth Press

Abiotic Stresses explores innovative methods for breeding new varieties of major crops with resistance to environmental stresses that limit crop production worldwide. Experts provide you with basic principles and techniques of plant breeding as well as work done in relation to improving resistance in specific important world food crops. This book supplies extensive bibliographies at the end of each chapter, as well as tables and figures that illustrate the research findings.

Abiotic Stresses is divided into two sections. In the first section, you will find:

-the general principles of breeding crops for stress resistance
-genetic engineering and molecular biology procedures for crop improvement for stress environments
-data on genome mapping and its implications for improving stress resistance in plants
-information about breeding for resistance/tolerance to salinity, drought, flooding, metals, low nutrient availability, high/low temperatures

The second section of this timely resource focuses on the efforts of acknowledged specialists who concentrated their efforts on important individual crops, such as:
-oilseed crops

This book fills a niche and interface in the available literature as it deals with all of the major stresses from a perspective of crop breeding, covering the latest advances in molecular breeding technology. Abiotic Stresses will help scientists and academics in botany, plant breeding, plant environmental stress studies, agriculture, and horticulture modify and improve breeding programs globally.

(Return to Contents)


2.05  Hybrid Vegetable Development

Haworth Press, 2005.
Edited by P. K. Singh, PhD, MSc
Research Officer, Sungro Seeds Limited, Shalimar Bagh, Delhi, India
S. K. Dasgupta, PhD, MSc
Senior Research Officer, Sungro Seeds Limited, Shalimar Bagh, Delhi, India
S. K. Tripathi, PhD, MSc
General Manager Research and Development, Sungro Seeds Limited, Shalimar Bagh, Delhi, India

Discover the latest concepts in breeding and development of hybrid vegetables with Hybrid Vegetable Development. Respected authorities share their views on the most recent trends and the techniques used for hybrid vegetable development in various vegetable crops. This one book could become your comprehensive source for all aspects of breeding, development, and seed production.

Hybrid Vegetable Development provides a huge volume of background information on eighteen of the most important world vegetable crops, including tomato, eggplant, hot pepper, bell pepper, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, onion, garden pea, and melons. Packed with helpful illustrations, diagrams, and tables, this book goes in-depth into hybrid development mechanisms, crop/floral biology, pollination control mechanisms genetics, breeding, and the exploitation of hybrid seed production on a commercial scale.

Hybrid Vegetable Development covers:
-crop biology
-pollination control mechanisms
-hybrid seed production
-maintenance of inbred/pure lines
-seed production of major vegetables
-detailed descriptions of the mechanisms in hybrid vegetable development
-the status of transgenic vegetables

Hybrid Vegetable Development is a valuable, comprehensive resource for agriculture industry experts and professionals, professors, and students.

(Return to Contents)


2.06  Flower Seeds: Biology and Technology

Edited by Miller B. McDonald and Francis Y. Kwong

Oxford University Press
0851999069, hardback, 384 pages
Mar 2005

This book has been written to provide a unique, much-needed resource of information on the biology and technology of flower seeds. The floral industry represents a significant proportion of agricultural income in several developed countries, particularly the U.S., Netherlands, and Japan. The diversity of flower seeds, as well as their form, function and biology, has hitherto daunted the production of a comprehensive treatment of the topic. However, in this volume, international authorities from academia and industry have been sought together to provide a comprehensive reference resource for both practitioners and students of seed science and technology and of ornamental horticulture.

Product Details
384 pages; 48 color plates, 30 halftones; 0-85199-906-9

About the Author(s)
Edited by Miller B. McDonald, Department of Horticulture and Crop Science, Ohio State University, and Francis Y. Kwong, PanAmerican Seed Company, West Chicago

(Return to Contents)


2.07  Plant Diversity and Evolution: Genotypic and Phenotypic Variation in Higher Plants

Edited by Robert J. Henry
Oxford University Press
0851999042, hardback, 340 pages
Mar 2005,  Out of Stock
Price: $120.00 (06)

An understanding of plant diversity at both the genome and phenome level is important for both biodiversity conservation and plant breeding. Recent advances in genomics have also resulted in a growth of the subject of plant functional genomics. This book brings these areas together, by reviewing aspects of plant evolution as it relates to variation in plant genomes and associated variations in plant phenomes. Topics covered include chloroplast and mitochondrial genomes, reticulate evolution. Polyploidy, population genetics within a species, the evolution of the flower, diversity in plant cell walls and in secondary metabolism, and the importance of plant diversity in ecology and agriculture. Contributors include leading authorities from Europe, the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand.

Product Details
340 pages; 47 line illus.; 0-85199-904-2
About the Author(s)
Edited by Robert J. Henry, Centre for Plant Conservation Genetics, Southern Cross University, Australia

(Return to Contents)


2.08  OECD - Consensus document on new varieties of alfalfa and other temperate forage legumes

The OECD Environment, Health and Safety Division has published the "Consensus document on compositional considerations for new varieties of alfalfa and other temperate forage legumes: Key feed nutrients, anti-nutrients and secondary plant metabolites". It is number 13 in its Series on the Safety of Novel Foods and Feeds. See or contact for more information.
Source: Update 8-2005 of FAO-BiotechNews

(Return to Contents)


2.09  Rice blast proceedings

As part of a collaborative strategic research program involving the West Africa Rice Development Association (WARDA - Africa Rice Center), among others, a workshop on "Strategic characterisation of blast pathogen diversity, key screening sites and host resistance" was held on 5 March 2003 in Accra, Ghana. Proceedings of the workshop, edited by Y. S , S. Sreenivasaprasad and S.K. Nutsugah, are now available, entitled "Rice blast in West Africa: Characterisation of pathogen diversity, key screening sites and host resistance". It includes the workshop report, full papers covering various presentations and useful appendices and "is intended to serve as a reference manual for scientists involved in rice blast research and management in Africa, particularly the West African region". Rice blast is an important disease caused by a fungus and is one of the major constraints to rice production. See or contact for more information. WARDA is one of the 15 research centres supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research.

Source: Update 8-2005 of FAO-BiotechNews

(Return to Contents)


2.10  Projections about ag employment opportunities

See the following web site for an attractive document with the most recent CSREES projection about ag employment opportunities.

Contributed by Ann Marie Thro

 (Return to Contents)



(None reported)
 (Return to Contents)



(None reported)

 (Return to Contents)



(None reported)

 (Return to Contents)



* 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

* 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

*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

*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

*28 October – 3 November 2005. The 23rd Biennial Meeting of the Bean Improvement Cooperative (BIC) will be held in conjunction with the North American Pulse Improvement Cooperative Meeting at the University of Delaware, Newark, DE. Local host Dr. Ed. Kee.  For more details, visit

Contributed by James D. Kelly, Michigan 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

* 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: The First International Meeting on Cassava Plant Breeding and Biotechnology, to be held in Brasilia, Brazil on the 1st-5th of December 2006, will be sponsored by the International Society of Food, Agriculture, and Environment of Helsinki, Finland. Its theme is Cassava Improvement to Improve Livelihoods in Sub-Saharan Africa and Northeastern Brazil. Sessions during the meeting will tackle such topics as wild species and landraces to enhance nutritional content, management of reproduction and propagation systems, biotechnology tools and methods for breeding the crop, and conservation of Manihot genetic resources. Proceedings will be published and distributed in March 2007, and will contain all articles presented in the meeting. For more details, email Dr. Nagib Nassar of the University of Brasilia at or visit the meeting website at
(Return to Contents)



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:    Please note that you may have to copy and paste this address to your web browser, since the link can be corrupted in some e-mail applications. 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.

Messages with attached files are not distributed on PBN-L for two important reasons. The first is that computer viruses and worms can be distributed in this manner. The second reason is that attached files cause problems for some e-mail systems.

PLEASE NOTE: Every month many newsletters are returned because they are undeliverable, for any one of a number of reasons. We try to keep the mailing list up to date, and also to avoid deleting addresses that are only temporarily inaccessible. If you miss a newsletter, write to me at and I will re-send it.

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.

(Return to Contents)