10 October 2005

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

Clair H. Hershey, Editor

A NOTE ABOUT FORMAT: Many subscribers have written that they have been unable to use the internal document hyperlinks (to jump to specific articles) in the past few issues of the newsletter. This appears to be an unanticipated result of an update of Cornell’s e-mail system, and I will continue to work at finding a solution.

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


1.01    Venezuela joins the global efforts for breeding water-saving and drought tolerant rice
1.02    Southern African network for biosciences launched
1.03    Formation of Barley Breeding Australia to double the size of Australia's barley industry
1.04    Cornell University tapped for regional Sun Grant hub to use $8 million in U.S. funds to spearhead next green revolution
1.05    Scottish Crop Research Institute and Dundee University receive E.U. grant to investigate natural resistance of several important crop plants
1.06    CSIRO cotton breeders win innovation award
1.07    ICRISAT, partners identify new research priorities
1.08    Biodiversity loss poses grave threat to human health
1.09    China holds top aquatic vegetable gene bank
1.10    A single gene controls a key difference between maize and its wild ancestors
1.11    Medicinal plants - time to harness the potential of neglected genetic resources?
1.12    Corn ancestor’s pollen studied
1.13    Genetic improvement for tolerance to phosphorus deficiency in rice
1.14    Thai breeders develop GM breeds of jasmine rice tolerant to flooding, bacterial leaf blight and leaf blast
1.15    UCR biochemist goes to Washington with high-protein corn
1.16    Australian breeders develop new phytophthora root rot resistant variety by crossing chickpea with a wild cousin
1.17    Super resistance to tackle biggest wheat disease
1.18    Higher rice yields with no extra water
1.19    Why does salinity pose such a difficult problem for plant breeders?
1.20    ’Defender’ is first commercial potato in the United States to resist late blight
1.21    New kidney bean germplasm line resists common bacterial blight disease
1.22    Hybrid grass may prove to be valuable fuel source
1.23    New high sugar grass released
1.24    Paper recounts research on salinity-tolerant plants
1.25    Fungus confers salt resistance to plants
1.26    Washington State University researchers find a key to plant growth
1.27    Plant genes 'offer safer option for GM crop research'
1.28    QTL detection and application to plant breeding
1.29    CSIRO's gene silencing granted US patent
1.30    Salt-tolerance gene could lead to higher rice yields
1.31    How many genes influence plant growth?
1.32    Haploid cell lines in sugar beet breeding
1.33    New strain of wheat rust appears in Africa
1.34    Role of plant gene in heat tolerance studied
1.35    Findings on Mexico maize released
1.36    Mexican maize transgenes issue examined
1.37    Molecular marker development for carrot sugar types.
1.38    FAO-BiotechNews: excerpts from Update 9-2005
1.39    FAO-BiotechNews: excerpts from Update 10-2005

2.01    Free genetics statistics software - GenStat Discovery Edition (DE)
2.02    Marker assisted selective breeding
2.03    Setting breeding objectives and developing seed systems with farmers --- A handbook for practical use in participatory plant breeding projects

3.01    "Gramene" database facilitates global agricultural research
3.02    CAB Abstracts archive available for searching on CAB Direct
3.03    CSREES (USDA) projection about ag employment opportunities.

(None posted)

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1.01  Venezuela joins the global efforts for breeding water-saving and drought tolerant rice

Thaura Ghneim (1), Alejandro Pieters(1), Iris Pérez Almeida(2), Gelis Torrealba(3), César Martinez(4), Mathias Lorieux(4), Joe Tohme(4).

(1)Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas. Apdo. 21827. Caracas, Venezuela.,
(2)Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Agrícolas. CENIAP. Apdo. 4653. Maracay, Edo. Aragua 2101A, Venezuela.
(3)Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Agrícolas. Apdo N°14. Zona Postal 2312 Edo. Guárico, Venezuela.
(4)Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical. A.A 6713, Cali, Colombia.,

Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) countries do not escape the world-wide concerns about drought and its effects on rice cultivation. In this region, rice is cultivated mainly under irrigated conditions. Although, per capita water availability in LAC is the highest among continents this advantage is decreasing (FAO, 1994). In the recent past, rice cultivation in several LAC countries had water shortage problems. In Venezuela, for example, inadequate water availability in the main producing areas, resulting from a three year drought, affected paddy production in the last two years (FAO 2004). Thus it appears that- similarly to other regions of the globe- the stability of rice production in LAC countries will depend on the development and adoption of strategies that allow using water more efficiently in irrigation schemes.

Recently, Venezuela joined the global efforts for breeding water saving and drought tolerant rice. Last January, our research team constituted by plant physiologists, plant breeders, and molecular biologists from the Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas (Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research, IVIC,, the Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Agrícolas (National Institute for Agricultural Research, INIA,, and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT, initiated a research project which long-term goal is to identify and breed rice cultivars with a higher water use efficiency and able to tolerate drought.

Our research strategy consists in three phases: (i) characterize the drought tolerance of various rice cultivars, (ii) identify the most important traits associated to drought tolerance in these cultivars, and (iii) develop genetic maps and identify quantitative trait loci (QTL) associated to drought tolerance. For this, we are screening accessions from Venezuelan germplasm, constituted mainly by lowland varieties, in order to identify new donors exhibiting stable performance under water stress, with good yield potential and having different drought tolerance mechanisms that can bring potential new genes/QTLs into the breeding pool. These accessions represent traditional and novel Oryza sativa materials from Venezuelan germplasm; their responses to water-shortage have not been characterized previously.

In addition to local germplasm, we are evaluating Oryza glaberrima (IRGC accession 103544) and Oryza sativa cv. Caiapo, in order to establish their potential as donors/recipients in drought-breeding programs. The characterization of these materials will also be useful for determining the suitability of a Caiapo x O. glaberrima mapping population-developed by CIAT- for the identification of drought-related QTLs.  Oryza glaberrima is the native cultivated rice in West Africa. Some accessions of this species, as well as some lines derived from its crossings with O. sativa (NERICA lines), exhibit enhanced tolerance to several abiotic stresses including drought (JIRCAS 2003; Fujii et al., 2004). Caiapo is a tropical japonica commercial variety developed by the Brazilian rice program for upland conditions (EMBRAPA 1997)), and has been reported as moderately tolerant to drought (Pinheiro 2003). The Caiapo x O. glaberrima population consists of 93 chromosome segment substitution lines (CSSLs) which represent 95% introgression of O. glaberrima (IRGC accession 103544) genome into Caiapo genetic background. A genetic map for this population is already available (Lorieux, pers. comm.). CSSL will be evaluated for yield and selected drought-related traits exhibiting significant contrast between parents. 

The genetic materials included in the study might exhibit different mechanisms important in determining tolerance to water stress (i.e. osmotic adjustment, stomata adjustment or deep root systems), thus potentially we will have the opportunity to identify and map different traits.

Developing drought-tolerant or water-saving cultivars -through molecular breeding- is considered one of the most effective strategies for enhancing water use efficiency in rice cultivation. Several lines of evidence indicate good possibilities for rice. Rice varieties that are better able to tolerate drought are known, and several putative traits that confer drought tolerance to rice have been identified. Furthermore, genotypic variation for several of these traits has been reported. However, drought tolerance is a complex trait, controlled by the interaction of many genes, as it involves several physiological, biochemical, phenological, and morphological mechanisms. This polygenic nature of drought tolerance implies that several genetic regions must be manipulated simultaneously to have a significant impact on crop performance under water-limited conditions. QTL mapping offers an opportunity to identify these regions or loci conferring tolerance to drought.

However, the breeding of new materials with enhanced drought tolerance could take a long time. Our step-by-step approach offers the opportunity to identify in the short-term local cultivars that can perform better under reduced irrigation. The cultivation of these materials can be promoted to reduce- in the short-term- water use. This approach also represent an advantage for breeding new materials, as these varieties already show adaptation to local conditions, yield and grain quality that are acceptable to producers.

In Venezuela, the molecular characterization of rice cultivars has been very limited. Genotyping of the cultivars included in this study-which represent 8 of the varieties most cultivated in the country- is of great importance not only for the work being carried out in our project, but also because it will offer molecular information to other areas of research, to plant breeders and also to the seed industry.

The collaboration of CIAT in the project is helping to strengthen personnel capacities in the country in the area of biotechnology, through training of students and researchers. At the same time, IVIC and INIA are exchanging expertise in crop physiology and biochemistry, and plant breeding.  We are looking forward to establish collaboration links with other research institutes, both national and international, in this area of research. In the next months, we are launching a web-site ( containing information about the project, training opportunities, publications, etc.

Financing support for this project is through a 2004-2006 grant from the Venezuelan Fondo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología FONACIT (National Science and Technology Fund), dependent of Ministerio de Ciencia y Tecnología MCT (Science and Technology Ministry).

Contributed by Thaura Ghneim
Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas, Caracas

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1.02  Southern African network for biosciences launched

Talent Ngandwe
[LUSAKA] Efforts to build capacity for biological research in southern Africa were given a boost this month with the creation of the Southern African Network for Biosciences (SANBio).

The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and South Africa's Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) formally launched the network in Tshwane (formerly Pretoria) on 5 August.

SANBio will bring together researchers and institutions from 12 countries across the region and encourage them to pool their knowledge and resources. It will focus on research relating to agriculture, human and animal health, the environment and industry.

The network was created as part of NEPAD's African Biosciences Initiative, which aims to build regional networks of 'centres of research excellence'.

The network's hub for southern Africa will be in South Africa. Other hubs being developed are Egypt (for north Africa), Kenya (east and central Africa) and Senegal (west Africa).

Members of SANBio will be drawn from Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, the Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Namibia will chair the network's steering committee for the next year.

Source: SciDev.Net
22 August 2005

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1.03   Formation of Barley Breeding Australia to double the size of Australia's barley industry

Formation of Barley Breeding Australia (BBA) by GRDC, the Western Australia Department of Agriculture, Sout Australia Research & Development Institute, New South Wales and Victorian Departments of Primary Industries and Fisheries and the University of Adelaide will double the size of Australia's 6.6 million tonne barley industry to satisfy demand increases by 2020. 

GRDC has outlined its plan for consolidation of grains R&D that is a key to delivering the anticipated massive growth. 

Terry Enright, GRDC Chairman, said aligning plant breeding programs across Australia would deliver better varieties faster and was a way that we could position the industry better to meet this challenge and maximize returns.

"We face a constantly changing grains industry and we need to move quickly, positively and differently to keep ahead of our competition," Mr Enright said.

21 September 2005

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1.04  Cornell University tapped for regional Sun Grant hub to use $8 million in U.S. funds to spearhead next green revolution

Ithaca, New York

In a time of skyrocketing gasoline prices and concerns over global warming, Cornell University is helping to spearhead the next green revolution by using plants to produce energy, industrial chemicals and green materials.

Awarded more than $8.2 million in federal funding over four years through the recent signing of the federal Transportation Bill, Cornell has been tapped by the federal government as one of five Sun Grant Centers of Excellence -- regional hubs that will take the lead in researching the use of plant biomass in energy and chemical production; for education and outreach activities; and for soliciting and funding proposals that focus on using renewable agricultural resources to produce heat, electricity, biofuels, natural products, such as biopesticides and bioherbicides, and industrial chemicals.

"With our global community entering a less certain oil future, over the next 10 to 25 years, there will be a major transition to agricultural-based bio-industries," said Larry Walker, professor of biological and environmental engineering at Cornell and director of the institute.

Cornell, the land-grant university of New York state, is the lead university for the Northeast Sun Grant Institute of Excellence, which serves 14 states and the District of Columbia, from Maine to Maryland to Michigan. That makes Cornell one of only two universities in the nation, along with Oregon State University, now designated by the federal government in all of the four categories of land, sea, space and sun grant institutions.

"Genomics, nanobiotechnology and breakthroughs in molecular biology, genetics and biological engineering have opened up a broad spectrum of opportunities and challenges for manipulating microbial and plant systems to produce novel organic compounds and to meet part of the U.S. and world energy needs," said Walker. "Opportunities abound for integrating these advances in engineering and science into regional, national and global efforts to develop sustainable industries and communities."

Involving at least two dozen Cornell faculty members, the institute was established in 2004 at Cornell. But it was not until the passing of the Transportation Bill in August that the institute was given the funding needed to solicit and award competitive grants to regional land-grant universities to work in partnership with industry, governmental agencies, communities, private entrepreneurs and others stakeholders for bringing the bio-economy to the region.

The Northeast Sun Grant Initiative will focus on biopower -- energy produced from renewable biomass for heat and electricity; biofuels -- liquid and gaseous transportation fuels, such as bioethanol and biodiesel, made from biomass resources; and bioproducts -- chemicals and materials that are traditionally made from petroleum-based resources but will be made from biomass. In each of these strategic areas, initiatives will involve feedstock development, conversion processes, systems integration and biomass public policy issues.

Currently, less than 10 percent of chemicals and commodities and less than 5 percent of U.S. energy supplies are derived from agriculturally based resources, Walker pointed out.

"Our vision is to rethink how many of the material needs of society can be met by using renewable agriculturally based raw materials," Walker said, noting that Cornell is an ideal location for the Northeast Sun Grant Institute because "it is one of very few institutions in the world that can bring together so many physical and life scientists, engineers and social scientists with the talent and interest in sustainable development, or that has access to so many bright young minds."

The Sun Grant centers not only will promote the development of bio-based energy technologies but also environmental sustainability as well as boost the economic vitality and diversity of rural communities, said Walker. He praised New York's congressional representatives -- Sherwood Boehlert, Maurice Hinchey and Jerome Nadler as well as U.S. Senators Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer -- for their support of funding for the consortium. Gov. George Pataki's Washington office was also helpful in the political process, he said.

Michael Hoffman, director of the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station, said: "Funding of the Sun Grant is truly great news for Cornell, the Northeast and the nation. The Sun Grant is well positioned to help us diversify our energy supply portfolio, more important now then ever before, and generate a multitude of new natural products and industrial chemicals. We see many economic and environmental benefits for New York state farms and communities thanks to the Sun Grant."

The Northeast Sun Grant Institute at Cornell serves a region that includes the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia. The other regional Sun Grant Centers of Excellence are at Oregon State University-Corvallis; University of Tennessee-Knoxville; Oklahoma State University, Stillwater; and South Dakota State University-Brookings.

Campus bio-energy and bioproducts projects:

With more than 400 life scientists at Cornell, a multitude of bio-energy and bioproducts projects are already under way on campus. They include:
-pretreating switch grass and alfafa to improve their enzyme conversion to fermentable sugars;
-engineering enzymes that are more effective in converting cellulose derived from herbaceous crops and grasses into fermentable sugars to be converted into industrial chemicals;
-developing molecular ecology techniques to prospect for novel industrial enzymes and microorganisms from extreme environments;
-engineering plants to effectively produce important industrial enzymes and industrial compounds;
-applying nanofabrication and single-molecule confinement methods to investigate molecular mechanisms of important industrial enzymes;
-enhancing ethanol tolerance and production in yeast through understanding and manipulating membrane restructuring;
-converting dairy manure-derived biogas from anaerobic digestion to produce electricity, hydrogen and heat on dairy farms;
-utilizing used vegetable oil from restaurants to replace diesel fuel for vehicles;
-investigating the technical and economic constraints of using digester and landfill gases to operate fuel cells;
-developing environmentally friendly bioherbicides to control plant-pathogenic bacteria and fungi;
-screening molecules for novel compounds in diverse organisms for their genetic capacity to synthesize some important families of natural products, such as antibiotics and insecticides;
-developing microbial biopesticides through combined approaches of genetic engineering, fermentation optimization and process engineering; and
-testing the burning of grass pellets as a biofuel.

Many Cornell graduate students are involved in carrying out these research activities through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Multidisciplinary Graduate and Education Training Program for bio-based industries.
By Susan S. Lang

21 September 2005

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1.05  Scottish Crop Research Institute and Dundee University receive E.U. grant to investigate natural resistance of several important crop plants

Invergowrie, Scotland
Scientists from the Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI) and Dundee University have been jointly awarded £1.25M from the EU to investigate the natural resistance of several important crop plants to potentially devastating plant diseases. 

The team, led by Drs. Robbie Waugh, Glenn Bryan, Paul Birch, David Marshall (SCRI) and Andy Flavell (Dundee), will use state of the art molecular technologies to identify the specific variants of genes that contribute towards resistance to diseases such as late blight on potatoes and scald on barley that annually cause hundreds of millions of pounds of damage worldwide.  They then aim to translate their discoveries into new breeding lines of potato, wheat and barley by developing both germplasm and diagnostic tools that can be used by plant breeders to improve resistance in the commercial crops. 

At the moment, many common crop varieties require the application of large amounts of pesticides and fungicides throughout the growing season to protect the crop from disease.  While this practice has been immensely successful in improving crop yield and quality, serious concerns have been raised about the impact it has on both the environment and the consumer. 

The most attractive and sustainable solution to this problem is to develop varieties containing natural resistance as they can then protect themselves against attack.  This is particularly important in the organic sector where the application of many agrochemicals is prohibited. 

By identifying the genes and understanding the mechanisms involved in the infection process and which result in a plant being either resistant or susceptible, the research will identify new sources of natural disease resistance and develop diagnostics that will help plant breeders mobilise this resistance into new varieties for the farmer. 

SCRI increases knowledge in plant and environmental sciences. The research is focussed on plants to improve the understanding of processes that regulate their growth and response to pests, pathogens and the environment. This includes understanding genetics to breed crops with improved quality and nutritional value as fast as possible. By understanding the plant’s response to pests and diseases and how they react to the soil, air and water around them, environmentally friendly methods of protecting crops from the ravages of pests, diseases and weeds can be designed.

SCRI is grant-aided by the Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department (SEERAD) and has charitable status. It is one of five Scottish Agricultural and Biological Research Institutes (SABRIs) which, together with those of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, form the agricultural and food research service of the UK

28 September 2005

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1.06  CSIRO cotton breeders win innovation award

CSIRO Plant Industry's cotton breeding team on 6 September, won Innovate Australia's Australian Government Prize for Rural Innovation from hundreds of rural innovation contenders Australia-wide.

Presented at Parliament House in Canberra by the Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon. Mark Vaile, the award for excellence in rural research and development was accepted by Dr Jeremy Burdon, Chief of CSIRO Plant Industry.

“Our cotton breeding team, currently led by Dr Greg Constable in Narrabri, have been at the forefront of their area of research for over twenty years and it is wonderful to see them acknowledged,” says Dr Burdon.

“Every year they produce new regionally adapted cotton varieties with higher yields, better quality fibre and improved pest and disease resistance – last season 14 new varieties were released.”

The team also led the introduction of GM insect resistant cotton, both Ingard® and Bollgard® II, into Australia with the latter now reducing pesticide use by over 80 per cent.

The Rewards from Innovation night celebrated 16 short listed innovations which included not only CSIRO Plant Industry's cotton breeding team, but also the cotton industry's Best Management Practice program.

Each innovation contending the award provided benefits to the Australian community, the economy, human health and lifestyle, international standing and the sustainability of rural industries.

“Support and partnership with the cotton industry including growers, the Cotton Research and Development Corporation, the Australian Cotton Cooperative Research Centre and organisations including Cotton Seed Distributors have made our cotton breeding work possible,” Dr Burdon says.

“It is estimated that every dollar invested into our cotton breeding research returns $86 to the Australian cotton industry.”

A review of the CSIRO's cotton breeding and biotechnology program by three international experts in 2004 also confirmed it as one of the most successful of its type in the world.

9 September 2005

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1.07  ICRISAT, partners identify new research priorities

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) recently organized a consultation meeting with the partners of the Hybrid Parents Research Consortia to identify new research priorities. The Consortia plans to strengthen linkages with the industry and markets, and attract entrepreneurs to produce value-added products from sorghum and pearl millet.

Three consortia are each devoted to research on sorghum, pearl millet, and pigeonpea . The thrust areas for renewed research and partnership identified at the consultation meeting are (1) improved grain yields; resistance to shoot fly, grain mold and aphids; diversify hybrids parents for post-rainy season adaptation; and strengthen the development of sweet stalk sorghum for ethanol production; 2) develop pearl millet hybrids for less endowed regions such as western Rajasthan; continue the development of hybrids resistant to downy mildew; and develop hybrid parents and hybrids for fodder use; 3) develop pigeonpea hybrids with improved seed color and cooking quality; resistance to pod borer, Fusarium wilt and sterility mosaic virus; and reduce the cost of hybrid seed production; and 4) find more alternate uses for sorghum and pearl millet in their respective industries.

For more information, contact S Gopikrishna Warrier, Media Officer, at Visit ICRISAT at

From CropBiotech Update 9 September 2005:
Contributed by Margaret Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics

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1.08  Biodiversity loss 'poses grave threat to human health'

Ehsan Masood
[GALWAY] The continued loss of biological diversity threatens human health as well as the survival of wild species, delegates at an international conference heard yesterday (23 August).

If species continue to decline in number at the present rate, pharmaceutical companies will find it harder to develop new drugs and agriculture will lose an irreplaceable source of potential new crops.

This warning came from Eric Chivian, director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School, United States.

He was speaking at the COHAB 2005 conference of scientists and government officials, who were meeting in Galway, Ireland, to discuss how the loss of biodiversity could affect people's health.

"We are incredibly lucky to be alive right now … because we have been tampering with the Earth's life support systems in ways we do not understand," said Chivian. "Do not underestimate me when I say that we are in deep, deep trouble."

Hamdallah Zedan, executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) secretariat, echoed this message. He said that with species becoming extinct at up to 1,000-times the natural rate, humankind is cutting off a lifeline to its future.

About 80 per cent of people in developing countries rely on traditional plant-based medicines for basic healthcare, and three-quarters of the world's top-selling prescription drugs include ingredients derived from plant extracts, he noted.

Zedan announced that the CBD secretariat has teamed up with the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) in Italy to raise awareness of the importance of biodiversity among agricultural researchers and nutritionists.

IPGRI's director-general Emile Frison told SciDev.Net that the partnership will include a major research initiative exploring links between biodiversity and nutrition.

"We don't have much hard data on developing countries. There are big gaps in our knowledge," he said. "For example, we need to know the precise benefits to people in the developing world of what is called dietary diversity."

Studies in Europe and the United States, he said, show that people who eat a wide range of foods live longer and have a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

The conference was sponsored by corporations, conservation groups and the biodiversity divisions of UN agencies. They include the World Conservation Union, Glaxo SmithKline, the UN Global Environment Facility, the UN Development Programme and the World Health Organization.

One of their collective aims is to influence a meeting of world leaders that will take place next month in New York City, United States. The meeting will track progress and commit new funds towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of eight targets intended to halve world poverty by 2015.

One goal is to ensure environmental sustainability, but slowing down the rate of biodiversity loss is not mentioned explicitly ­ which has upset many conservationists.

Many of the conference delegates reiterated concerns that some of the measures being suggested to meet MDG poverty targets (such as building more roads and expanding agriculture) could accelerate biodiversity loss (see Protecting biodiversity 'may clash with pursuit of MDGs').

"Environmental sustainability cannot happen in isolation to other sectors of society," Zedan said. "We need a much more holistic approach."

Source: SciDev.Net
24 August 2005

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1.09  China holds top aquatic vegetable gene bank

Jia Hepeng
[BEIJING] China is home to the world's largest gene bank for aquatic vegetables, a seminar heard last week.

The repository, which holds more than 1,700 wild and cultivated specimens from 13 kinds of aquatic vegetables, is based in the city of Wuhan and run by the Wuhan Institute of Vegetable Science.

Liu Yuping, a scientist at the Wuhan Vegetable Research Institute says that the 13 vegetables ­ which include lotus, water bamboo, taro, water celery, water chestnut and watercress ­ are the most frequently planted aquatic vegetables in the world. Eleven of them come from China.

Aquatic vegetables are favourite foods in southern parts of China. In Wuhan, where more of the vegetables are produced than anywhere else in the country, 500,000 hectares of them are planted each year, yielding 500,000 tons of produce worth 1 billion yuan (US$123.46 million).

Liu says aquatic vegetables are "environmentally friendly": they suffer from few diseases and pests and can be grown without chemical fertilizers.

He says the institute is seeking to embark on research collaborations to determine what genes lie behind some of these attractive traits, such as resistance to pests. The information could be used to improve other crops.

He adds that they would also like to map the genetic sequences of some of the species, but that this will be more difficult because of the large sums of money required.

The Wuhan Institute of Vegetable Science has been developing the gene bank for 15 years.

Most of the vegetables are conserved as plants, replanted annually in open fields. Reproducing them asexually allows the researchers to ensure the genes of the different plants don't mix, preserving their genetic identity.

Source: SciDev.Net
19 August 2005

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1.10  A single gene controls a key difference between maize and its wild ancestors

Madison, Wisconsin

One of the greatest agricultural and evolutionary puzzles is the origin of maize - and part of the answer may lie in a plot of corn on the western edge of Madison, where a hybrid crop gives new life to ancient genetic material.

While many biologists argue that teosinte, a wild Mexican grass, is the progenitor of maize, others believe that the differences between teosinte and maize are too complex to have arisen through natural mutation or human selection. One of the most significant inconsistencies between the two plants is that teosinte kernels are locked in a hardened casing and have to be cracked like walnuts, while maize kernels are exposed on the surface of the ear.

However, a team led by a University of Wisconsin-Madison geneticist has demonstrated that a single gene, called tga1, controls kernel casing. And beyond implications for the study of maize evolution, the results are evidence that modest alterations in single genes can cause dramatic changes in the way traits are expressed, the team wrote in the August issue of the journal Nature.

"What really interests me is how traits evolve," says John Doebley, the professor of genetics who led the study. "How did changes in genes cause the diversity of life to arise on earth? The corn and teosinte model is an excellent system to investigate this question."

While Doebley has laboratory facilities on campus, he is equally at home in the field plots at the West Madison Agricultural Research Station where he raises second-generation hybrids of teosinte and maize. He studies the inheritance of different traits in the hybrids and uses genetic tools to identify the genes involved, applying highly advanced technology to an ancient species.

The history of corn is closely intertwined with the history of humans in the New World, says Doebley. "In the Americas, corn - which was first domesticated in southern Mexico - fueled the societies and the cultures that developed. Without corn, the societies of the new world would have been completely different."

However, the genetic changes that occurred during the domestication of corn have been a controversial issue in the field of evolutionary biology, Doebley says. "Some argue that evolution works like building up a sandstone cliff with lots of tiny grains deposited over a very long time. Others believe that there may be big boulders set into that cliff - or that evolutionary changes may result from single genes with very big effects."

In fact, Doebley says that his team's findings "fit exactly with the idea that a single gene change, or a small number of changes, could be sufficient to make teosinte a useful food crop, and in a relatively short amount of time." He adds that it is likely that a change in just one amino acid within the gene was enough to cause the key event, and ultimately influence human society in the new world.

The process of maize evolution might have begun with humans growing teosinte as a food source - although an inefficient one, says Doebley. "And then in the fields popped up a new mutation that changed the tga1 gene and reduced the kernel casings," he says. "Humans then would have applied artificial selection, and soon almost every plant they grew would have had the exposed kernels."

Although the results published in Nature shed light on one great mystery, there is much still to learn. Doebley and colleagues at six institutions are almost halfway through a five-year project to study the molecular and functional diversity of the maize genome. At $10 million, the National Science Foundation grant that supports the project is one of the largest awards ever given for plant research. Doebley is trying to identify which genes ancient farmers selected for their crops. In a recent paper published in the journal Science, the team presented analysis indicating that 2 to 4 percent of the genes in the maize genome experienced artificial selection.

Doebley's team for the Nature paper included Huai Wang, a current postdoctoral student; Qiong Zhao, a current graduate student; Yves Vigouroux, a former postdoctoral student; Kirsten Bomblies and Lewis Lukens, former graduate students; Tina Nussbaum-Wagler, a research specialist; and Bailin Li and Mariana Faller, researchers at the DuPont corporation.

The work is funded by the National Institutes of Health, NSF, the United States Department of Agriculture and the state of Wisconsin.

31 August 2005

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1.11  Medicinal plants - time to harness the potential of neglected genetic resources?

The development of synthetic drugs and antibiotics in the 20th century has revolutionised the treatment of many human and animal diseases. However, over 90% of the developing worlds population continues to rely heavily on herbal medicines to meet their healthcare needs. Elsewhere, particularly in Europe and North America, the popularity of herbal medicines is increasing. Even within modern medicine, plants play a crucial role as a source of leads and raw material for some of the most important drugs available today. But are we really exploiting their full potential?

This subject is the focus of the August issue of the journal Plant Genetic Resources: Characterization and Utilization, which is devoted to discussing the cultivation, processing, and in vitro propagation of medicinal plants.

If you would like more information, a copy of the press release can be found at:

Contributed by Halina Dawson
Editor, Plant Breeding Abstracts

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1.12  Corn ancestor’s pollen studied

Today's corn was developed from a domesticated version of teosinte, a wild grass. Teosinte originated from Mexico, and is still being grown there in close proximity to corn. Since maize to maize gene flow is well documented, scientists ask if maize to teosinte gene flow is possible and if teosinte pollen can travel to corn crops. Donald and colleagues from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station start the investigation by exploring "Some physical properties of teosinte (Zea mays subsp. parviglumis) pollen." Their work appears in the latest issue of the Journal of Experimental Botany.

Researchers measured properties of pollen, such as water potential, settling speed, germination versus water content, drying rates, and calculated pollen wall conductance. They found that the smaller size of teosinte pollen could allow it to travel longer distances from the source. However, they also found that teosinte pollen is 30-50% more susceptible to dessication, which would lessen the likelihood of teosinte outcrossing into conventional maize varieties.

The data can be helpful in establishing the main factors influencing the degree and the direction of pollination between teosinte populations and between maize and teosinte. Researchers also surmise that their findings can increase current understanding of the gene-flow process in Mexico and Central America, where teosinte and maize populations are still being grown near each other, and flower together.

Subscribers to the Journal of Experimental Botany can read the article at Other readers can take a look at the abstract at

From CropBiotech Update 23 September 2005:
Contributed by Margaret Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics

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1.13  Genetic improvement for tolerance to phosphorus deficiency in rice

Ping Wu
Phosphorus (P) is an essential macronutrient for crops. Most phosphorus (P) compounds exist as either insoluble inorganic phosphate (Pi) or organic phosphate; however, the availability of Pi and the use efficiency of P fertilizers applied to the crops are extremely low in most of soils. The use of P fertilizer is unsustainable and causes soil and water pollution. Phosphorus is also a nonrenewable resource. By some estimates, world resources of inexpensive P may be depleted by 20501. Consequently, improvement of Pi uptake and use by crops is critical for economic, humanitarian, and environmental reasons.

Plants have developed many physiological and biochemical systems of adaptation to Pi-deficiency stress. Thousands of genes, including many transcription factors, can simultaneously be regulated by Pi-deficiency stress in rice2, indicating that plant adaptation to Pi-deficiency is systemic. Based on biochemical and transcriptional analysis, several adaptation systems have been revealed, including enhanced uptake ability through activation of high affinity transporters and adaptative root development; induction of phosphate scavenging and recycling enzymes; induction of alternative pathways of cytosolic glycolysis; induction of tonoplast H+-pumping pyrophosphatase; and alternative pathways of respiratory electron transport. The fact that many of the molecular and biochemical changes in response to Pi-deficiency occur in synchrony suggests that the genes involved are coordinately expressed and share a common regulatory system. A specific Pi-signaling pathway and regulation system in rice has been revealed3, which makes it scientifically feasible to modify some key regulator(s) controlled by the specific Pi-signaling pathway to enhance the uptake and use efficiency of Pi through genetic engineering.

We found a transcription factor, with a Pi-deficiency responsive bHLH domain, in rice roots obtained from a cDNA library constructed by the Suppression Subtractive Hybridization (SSH) method. We cloned the gene, designated OsPTF1 (Oryza sative L. phosphate transcription factor), from an indica landrace rice variety Kasalath, which is Pi-deficiency tolerant. Using Agrobacterium-mediated transformation, we introduced the transcription factor into Oryza sativa cv. Nipponbare, which is sensitive to Pi-deficiency. Our experiments demonstrated that transgenic rice overexpressing OsPTF1 under the control of CaMV 35S showed enhanced tolerance to Pi-deficiency under both solution culture and soil experiments4 When grown in Pi-deficient conditions, the genetically modified (GM) rice plants produced longer roots and higher root biomass. About 30 percent more phosphate was absorbed by the GM rice plants than the wild type rice plants in the same environment.

To investigate the downstream genes regulated by OsPTF1, a microarray analysis was performed using rice whole genome oligo chips. Total RNA was extracted from 15d-old seedlings of the GM rice plants and the wild-type seedlings under Pi-supplied condition (10 mg Pi L-1). The sampling design is based on the fact that the plant PHO genes are induced only under Pi-deficiency condition­if the PHO genes can be induced under Pi-supplied conditions in the GM rice plants, then the overexpressed OsPTF1 should function in the induction. Quantitative PCR was used to confirm the differentially-expressed genes identified by the microarray analysis.

A high degree of concordance (r = 0.87) was observed between the results generated by the two methods. The microarray data showed that 158 genes, with a ratio greater than 2-fold in roots and/or in shoots, were found to be regulated by the overexpression of OsPTF1. The function-classified genes include nutrient transporters and metabolism, carbon metabolism, transcription factors, ATP-binding protein, oxidoreductase, protease, disease resistance protein, RNase, H+-transporting ATPase, vacuolar H+-pyrophosphatase, senescence-associated protein, receptor-like kinase, and several cytochrome P450 genes. Many "function unknown" or putative genes were strongly up- and down-regulated by overexpression of OsPTF1. Some of them did not respond to Pi-starvation4. The remarkable induction of the PHO genes, like RNS1 and H+-transporting ATPase, in the GM rice plants under Pi-supplied condition strongly suggests that overexpression of OsPTF1 triggers a rescue system in response to Pi-starvation and plays a role in the increased tolerance to Pi-deficiency.

The bypass pathways, which replace Pi-requiring and adenylate-requiring enzymes using pyrophosphate-dependent and NADP-dependent enzymes, are considered important in maintaining carbon flux under Pi-starvation. Phosphoenolpyruvate (PEP) plays a central role in the modification of carbon and energy metabolism in response to Pi-starvation. In the cytosol, PEP can be converted to pyruvate catalyzed by pyruvate kinase (PK) or to oxaloacetate (OAA) catalyzed by PEP carboxylase (PEPC). The latter has been suggested to be a Pi-starvation induced bypass to preserve Pi. In this study, we did not find the gene for PEPC to be regulated, but a gene for PEP carboxykinase was up-regulated by Pi-starvation and overexpression of OsPTF1 in the shoots. PEP carboxykinase catalyzes the conversion of phosphate and OAA to PEP and CO2. The results suggest that the stimulation of recycling of the original metabolic pathways should be important in alleviating Pi-deficiency conditions, which was enhanced by the overexpression of OsPTF1.

Cloning of OsPTF1 may speed up the molecular breeding program for crops with enhanced tolerance to Pi-deficiency; because OsPTF1 was derived from rice rather than a different plant species, new rice varieties containing the modified gene could be developed by combining traditional breeding with molecular techniques. This study provides evidence that modification of a key regulator involved in the Pi-signaling pathway may exploit the potential ability of plants to more efficiently uptake Pi in growth medium and utilize Pi in plants.

Acknowledgements The author’s research is supported by the Key Basic Research Special Foundation of China, Special Program of Rice Functional Genomics of China, National Education Ministry of China, and Science and Technology Bureau of Zhejiang province.

1. Vance C P et al. (2003) Phosphorus acquisition and use: Critical adaptations by plants for securing a nonrenewable resource. New Phytologist 157, 423-447
2. Wasaki J et al. (2003) Transcriptomic analysis of metabolic changes by phosphorus stress in rice plant roots. Plant, cell and Environment 26, 1515-1523
3. Hou XL et al. (2005) Regulation of the expression of OsIPS1 and OsIPS2 in rice via systemic and local Pi signaling and hormones. Plant Cell and Environment 28: 353-364
4. Yi KK et al. (2005) OsPTF1, a novel transcription factor involved in tolerance to phosphate starvation in rice (Oryza sativa L.). Plant Physiology, online
Ping Wu
State Key Lab. of Plant Physiology and Biochemistry
College of Life Science, Zhejiang University
Hangzhou, 310029, China

Source: ISB News Report
September 2005

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1.14  Thai breeders develop GM breeds of jasmine rice tolerant to flooding, bacterial leaf blight and leaf blast

Bangkok, Thailand
By Pongpen Sutharoj, The Nation via Checkbiotech

To improve rice quality and yields, the National Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (Biotec) has developed new breeds of jasmine rice that are tolerant of drought, pests and disease.

The new rice breeds are the result of a research project on rice genomes. Understanding the rice genome will help scientists to develop new rice varieties with traits such as higher yield, improved nutrition content, and better resistance to diseases and pests.

Biotec’s director Morakot Tanticharoen said the centre’s researchers had applied information from the International Rice Genome Sequencing Project, which cracked the genome of the Japanese aromatic rice Nipponbare, to develop new breeds of Thai rice.

The International Rice Genome Sequencing Project is a collaborative project among 10 nations to break the genetic code of rice. Thailand is also one of the participants, along with the United States, Japan, Canada, Taiwan, South Korea, Britain, France, Brazil and India.

The results of the study have been put in the public domain, so any country can use them in its own developments.

Morakot said the researchers used the information to further develop jasmine rice. Even though the rice genome information in the project is based on Japanese rice, she said the genome information could also be adapted to other species including jasmine rice, as the DNA structures of individual rice species do not vary greatly.

The centre has studied sequence data from the project to develop a new breed of rice that can resist flooding, a major problem for rice farmers as it causes damage and loss of productivity.

Morakot said the new breed has already been tested in many provinces and the result was satisfactory. “We found that our new breed can resist flooding well. It offers higher productivity at 303 kilograms per rai, compared to the old breed that provides only 50 kilograms per rai,” she said.

In addition to flood tolerance, the centre has also developed two other breeds of jasmine rice.

They can resist bacterial leaf blight and leaf blast disease, which are major threats.

The director said the two breeds were also being tested. However, to further improve jasmine rice, the team is now working to combine three key traits - resistance to drought, bacterial leaf blight, and leaf blast disease - into one breed so the new breed could tolerate every situation. The project is likely to move into field trials next year.

From the study of rice genomes, Morakot said the research team could also understand the DNA sequence of jasmine rice that offered its unique fragrance.

“From this knowledge we can develop a process to turn rice with no fragrance into fragrant rice,” she said.

The centre has submitted a patent registration for the process and it’s now waiting for approval. The centre also plans further study on rice genomes to give rice special qualities, for example finding genes related to the quality of rice when cooked in different ways.

This, Morakot said, would bring more added value to Thai rice for export.

© 2000 Nation Multimedia Group

2 September 2005

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1.15  UCR biochemist goes to Washington with high-protein corn

Daniel Gallie’s findings propose a useful approach to feed the world’s growing population

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Corn with twice its usual content of protein and oil and about half its usual carbohydrate content is what Daniel Gallie, professor of biochemistry, will present at a congressional seminar in Washington, D.C., this week.

Because his research holds promise for efficiently feeding high-protein corn to people and livestock all over the world, Gallie has been invited to speak to an audience of congressional staff in the Longworth House Office Building of the U.S. House of Representatives. His 45-minute presentation is scheduled for 10 a.m., Sept. 23.

The National Coalition for Food and Agricultural Research, a broad-based coalition of agricultural producers, science societies and universities, is sponsoring the seminar.

In the United States, the vast majority of corn – nearly 65 percent – is used to feed animals for meat production. Much of the remainder is exported to other countries for feeding animals or made into corn sweeteners or fuel alcohol. Corn, the most widely produced feed grain in the United States, accounts for more than 90 percent of total value and production of feed grains in the country, with around 80 million acres of land planted with corn.

Gallie’s research on doubling the protein content of corn grain adds significant value to the crop, benefiting corn producers. Moreover, his technology nearly doubles corn oil, the most valuable content of corn grain, and significantly increases the grain’s value. Corn is processed also into other food and industrial products such as starch, sweeteners, beverage and industrial alcohol, and fuel ethanol.

“Nearly 800 million people in the world suffer from protein-energy malnutrition, which is a leading cause of death in children in developing countries, many of which already produce corn as a major cereal crop,” said Gallie. “A significant fraction of the world’s population, particularly in developing countries, has no access to meat as a protein source, and has to rely on plant sources such as grain. The new corn we have developed has two embryos in its kernel, which is what doubles the content of protein and oil and reduces the starch content. It could provide a good source of protein for those that depend on grain as their primary source of nutrients.”

Every corn kernel results from a flower on an ear of corn, Gallie explained. Initially the ear produces a pair of flowers for every kernel. But then one of the sister flowers undergoes abortion, resulting in one flower for each kernel. Gallie’s research group has developed technology that essentially rescues the aborted flower, resulting in two kernels that are fused together. “Despite the fusion, the kernels are not bigger,” Gallie said. “It’s basically the same corn, except that it is protein-rich and starch-poor – something that, if applied to sweet corn, would appeal to a large number of weight-conscious people in this country who are interested in low-carb diets and who normally avoid corn in their diets.”

Gallie and his colleagues published their work last year in The Plant Journal. Though their research focused on feed corn, the technology can easily be applied to sweet corn, a sugar-rich mutant strain of regular corn.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Science Foundation, and the California Agricultural Experiment Station funded the research.

Details of the study:
Flowers in the corn ear develop in pairs but one from each pair aborts before pollination can occur. Because of the role cytokinin, a plant hormone, plays in preventing organ death, Gallie’s research group introduced a gene that enabled production of cytokinin, thus rescuing the flowers. The kernels produced from pairs of flowers fused into a single normal-sized kernel that contained two embryos and a smaller endosperm, the food storage tissue that provides nutrients to the developing embryo. Because the embryo contains the majority of protein and oil, two embryos in the kernel doubles the protein and oil content in corn grain. The nutritional value of the grain improves also because the size of the endosperm, which contains most of the carbohydrates, is reduced.

20 September 2005

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1.16  Australian breeders develop new phytophthora root rot resistant variety by crossing chickpea with a wild cousin

Australia’s chickpea growers could enjoy higher yields from a new phytophthora root rot resistant variety developed by crossing chickpea with a wild cousin and this is just one possible way wild relatives can improve crops.

Although chickpea can bring $A450 per tonne in Western Australia, it is often ravaged by disease.

One such disease is phytophthora root rot, which, according to Ted Knights, chickpea breeder at Tamworth Agriculture Institute, seriously threatens Australia’s chickpea industry, with an estimated 100,000 hectares at risk this year.

“Affected areas could suffer yield losses greater than 20 per cent at the regional level in any one year and above 50 per cent at the grower level,” Mr Knights said.

Working through the Centre for Legumes in Mediterranean Agriculture (CLIMA) at the University of Western Australia, Fucheng Shan (photo) and colleagues have studied all known annual wild relatives of cultivated chickpea from the world’s gene banks to transfer a more diverse genetic heritage into commercial crops.

Supported by the Grains Research and Development Corporation, CLIMA has characterised the international family of about 200 annual wild Cicer accessions using DNA markers.

“Knowledge of where these wild species grow and their diversity has, effectively, mapped global ‘hot spots’, making further collection and future research easier,” Dr Shan said.

Dr Shan noted that the low genetic variation of chickpea, which is the unique cultivated Cicer species, is one reason why global chickpea yield improvement has been slower than in cereals.

“This reinforces the necessity to introduce valuable genes from its wild relatives.

“Successful crop improvement depends on genetic diversity of germplasm.

“Characterising the world’s wild Cicer collections, using DNA markers, showed they have much wider genetic variation and are potential gene donors to help chickpea win its battle against pests, diseases and other constraints,” Dr Shan said.

14 September 2005

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1.17  Super resistance to tackle biggest wheat disease

Canberra, Australia
From CSIRO Plant Industry - e-newsletter Issue 11

Without rust resistant wheat varieties the Australian wheat industry would lose up to $300 million per year in lost production due to rust infection. CSIRO Plant Industry’s Dr Rohit Mago (photo) has located four rust resistance genes that he will use together to breed a super stem rust-resistant wheat – at least four times more rust resistant than existing varieties. With four resistance genes working together it is unlikely that a new strain of rust will develop that will be strong enough to counter all four resistance genes at once.

Dr Mago’s Canberra based research located the genes with ‘markers’, allowing breeders to more quickly and easily identify if their new wheat variety has the rust resistance genes or not. Markers are critical when using multiple genes as you can’t rely on testing the plant for resistance by exposing it to rust as any one of the genes could provide initial resistance. Three of the rust resistance genes were previously associated with negative yield and quality traits, but their new versions appear to not have these drawbacks.

Dr Mago has already bred plants with different combinations of two resistance genes and now hopes to combine three and four genes in the one wheat breeding line.

This collaborative research is supported by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), Waite Institute in Adelaide, South Australia and the Plant Breeding Institute in Cobbitty, New South Wales.

PDF version:

Scientific reference
Mago, R., et al (2005). Development of PCR markers for the selection of wheat stem rust resistance genes Sr24 and Sr26 in diverse wheat germplasm. Theoretical and Applied Genetics, Vol: 111, Issue: 3

Produced by CSIRO Plant Industry Communication Group 2005

12 September 2005

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1.18  Higher rice yields with no extra water

Canberra, Australia
From CSIRO Plant Industry - e-newsletter Issue 11

Annual rice production losses due to cold are 5 to 10 per cent, or $44 million, and when cold snaps occur about every 4 years losses soar to up to 40 per cent. Water is used to buffer cold-sensitive rice against cold – a cold tolerant rice variety could reduce this water use.

CSIRO Plant Industry research in Canberra has shown cold snaps prevent sugar in rice being transported to the pollen. Pollen development is then aborted and without pollen no grain is produced. There is a 1-2 day opportunity for sugar to be transported from a layer surrounding the pollen to the pollen itself. If a cold snap occurs then, there is no further chance for sugar to get to the pollen to allow it to grow.

Dr Rudy Dolferus (photo) has found a gene that produces a hormone that can prevent the development of one of the enzymes that moves sugar to pollen. In conventional rice more of this hormone is produced when it is cold, but in cold tolerant rice the hormone’s levels remain the same – allowing the enzyme to develop.

Why this gene behaves differently is now being investigated. If there is a difference in the gene then DNA markers that flag its location can be identified – speeding up the delivery of a cold tolerant rice variety.

This research was supported by the Rice Cooperative Research Centre.

PDF version:

Produced by CSIRO Plant Industry Communication Group 2005

12 September 2005

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1.19  Why does salinity pose such a difficult problem for plant breeders?

Brighton, United Kingdom

Saline soils and salt water have become more and more dominant through the centuries, and naturally occurring salt-affected soils are estimated to cover a billion hectares worldwide. Scientists are thus trying to duplicate – but to little success – what Nature has done for some trees, shrubs, grasses, and herbs: allow plants to be salt-tolerant. In light of this problem, T.J. Flowers and S.A. Flowers of the University of Sussex ask, “Why does salinity pose such a difficult problem for plant breeders?” Their review appears in the September issue of the Agricultural Water Management journal.

Salt-tolerance, as it turns out, is a very complex genetic trait. In the article, researchers recount most of the molecular mechanisms underlying plant defenses against salty soils or water. This is accomplished by the presence of organic compounds in plant cell cytoplasm, such as glycinebetaine, mannitol and proline. Salt tolerance also depends on plant morphology, compartmentation and compatible solutes, regulation of plant transpiration, control of ion movement, plant cell membrane characteristics, tolerating high Na/K ratios in the cytoplasm, and salt glands. With these many factors, the authors expect that salt tolerance would depend on the action of many genes.

With the rather daunting tasks ahead for bioengineers seeking to produce salt tolerant plants, researchers recommend that plant breeders “invest in other avenues such as the manipulation of ion excretion from leaves through salt glands, the use of physiological traits in breeding programs, and the domestication of halophytes.”

Subscribers to ScienceDirect can read the complete article at

9 September 2005

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1.20  ’Defender’ is first commercial potato in the United States to resist late blight

Aberdeen, Idaho

Source: USDA/ARS Food & Nutrition Research Brief
Defender, a long, white-skinned potato from ARS and university potato breeders, is the first commercial potato in the United States to resist late blight, one of the worst potato diseases worldwide

Long, white-skinned potatoes in the produce section of your supermarket might be "Defender"­the only commercially grown potato in the United States today with tubers and leaves that fend off late blight disease. Worldwide, late blight is generally regarded as one of the worst diseases of potatoes.

Besides starring as a fresh-market potato, Defender also can be processed into frozen products. ARS scientists in the Small Grains and Potato Germplasm Research Unit , Aberdeen, Idaho, and the Vegetable and Forage Crop Research Unit, Prosser, Washington, worked with university colleagues to in Idaho, Oregon and Washington develop this superior spud. They put it through more than a decade of rigorous outdoor tests before making it available to growers, processors, potato-seed companies and others last year.

The plant's natural resistance to late blight allows growers to use either no fungicides­or much smaller amounts­to control the disease. This feature makes the potato ideal for conventional and organic farms alike.

7 September 2005

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1.21  New kidney bean germplasm line resists common bacterial blight disease

Washington, DC
ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
Jan Suszkiw, (301) 504-1630,

A new germplasm line dubbed "USDK-CBB-15" is now available for breeding new varieties of dark red kidney beans that can resist common bacterial blight.

Caused by the pathogen Xanthomonas axonopodis pv. phaseoli, bacterial blight is an endemic disease affecting bean crops east of the U.S. Continental Divide. Antibiotic treatment, clean-seed programs and sanitation are standard control measures. However, resistant crops are the key defense, according to Phil Miklas, a plant geneticist in the Agricultural Research Service's (ARS) Vegetable and Forage Crops Production Research Unit in Prosser, Wash.

In susceptible bean plants, the disease symptoms include large brown blotches with lemon-yellow borders on leaf surfaces and small, discolored seed in infected pods. Severe outbreaks can cause yield losses of up to 40 percent in susceptible crops.

Miklas developed USDK-CBB-15 using marker-assisted selection, a method of detecting inherited genes that speeds the screening of plants for desired traits such as disease resistance. USDK-CBB-15 is the product of kidney bean crosses that Miklas made to incorporate resistance genes from the Great Northern bean cultivar "Montana Number 5" and the breeding germplasm line XAN 159.

James Smith, in ARS' Crop Genetics and Products Research Unit at Stoneville, Miss., and Shree Singh, with the University of Idaho at Kimberly, collaborated with Miklas on the new kidney bean's development, testing and evaluation. They will post a registration notice with detailed information on USDK-CBB-15 in an upcoming issue of the journal Crop Science. Miklas is handling seed requests.

The United States is the sixth-leading producer of edible dry beans, generating farm sales of $451 million in 2001-03, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service. Per-capita consumption of edible dry beans is 6.8 pounds, according to ERS, with kidney beans finding favor in soups, salads, chili and other dishes. Beans are also an excellent source of antioxidants, fiber, protein, and vitamins for healthy diets, Miklas notes.

ARS is USDA's chief in-house scientific research agency.

22 September 2005

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1.22  Hybrid grass may prove to be valuable fuel source

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Giant Miscanthus (Miscanthus x giganteus), a hybrid grass that can grow 13 feet high, may be a valuable renewable fuel source for the future, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign say.

Stephen P. Long, a professor of crop sciences and of plant biology, recently took that message to Dublin, Ireland, where the British Association for the Advancement of Science sponsored the annual BA Festival of Science Sept. 3-10.

Closer to home, two of Long's doctoral students, Emily A. Heaton and Frank G. Dohleman, delivered their Miscanthus findings at the 49th annual Agronomy Day, held on campus Aug. 18 and attended by more than 1,100 visitors from across the Midwest.

"Forty percent of U.S. energy is used as electricity," Heaton said. "The easiest way to get electricity is using a solid fuel such as coal." Dry, leafless Miscanthus stems can be used as a solid fuel. The cool-weather-friendly perennial grass, sometimes referred to as elephant grass or E-grass, grows from an underground stem-like organ called a rhizome. Miscanthus, a crop native to Asia and a relative of sugarcane, drops its slender leaves in the winter, leaving behind tall bamboo-like stems that can be harvested in early spring and burned for fuel.

Rhizomatous grasses such as Miscanthus are very clean fuels, said Dohleman, who is studying for a doctorate in plant biology. Nutrients such as nitrogen are transferred to the rhizome to be saved until the next growing season, he said.

Burning Miscanthus produces only as much carbon dioxide as it removes from the air as it grows, said Heaton, who is seeking a doctorate in crop sciences. That balance means there is no net effect on atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, which is not the case with fossil fuels, she said.

Miscanthus also is a very efficient fuel, because the energy ratio of input to output is less than 0.2, Heaton said. In contrast, the ratios exceed 0.8 for ethanol and biodiesel from canola, which are other plant-derived energy sources.

Besides being a clean, efficient and renewable fuel source, Miscanthus also is remarkably easy to grow. Upon reaching maturity, Miscanthus has few needs as it outgrows weeds, requires little water and minimal fertilizer and thrives in untilled fields, Heaton said. In untilled fields, various wildlife species make their homes in the plant's leafy canopy and in the surrounding undisturbed soil.

Illinois researchers have found that Miscanthus grown in the state has greater crop yields than in Europe, where it has been used commercially for years, Long said. Full-grown plants produce 10-30 tons per acre dry weight each year. Miscanthus yields in lowland areas around the Alps, where the climate is similar to the Midwest, are at least 25 tons per acre dry weight, wrote Heaton and colleagues in a paper published in 2004 in the journal Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change.

Last year, Illinois researchers obtained 60 tons per hectare (2.47 acre), Long said at the BA Festival of Science.

Using a computer simulator, Heaton predicted that if just 10 percent of Illinois land mass was devoted to Miscanthus, it could provide 50 percent of Illinois electricity needs. Using Miscanthus for energy would not necessarily reduce energy costs in the short term, Heaton said, but there would be significant savings in carbon dioxide production.

The Illinois Miscanthus crop began three years ago when Heaton planted 400 Miscanthus rhizomes, which were generated from three rhizomes donated by the Turfgrass Program in the department of natural resources and environmental sciences. Because Miscanthus is sterile, cuttings of Miscanthus rhizomes must be used to create new plants.

Now in their third year, the three 33-by-33 feet Miscanthus plots at the intersection of South First Street and Airport Road in Savoy, Ill., are considered mature. Their 10-foot tall stems are twice as high as switchgrass, a prairie grass native to Illinois. Grown side by side, Miscanthus produces over twice as much biomass as switchgrass, Heaton said.

To investigate how Miscanthus is so productive, Dohleman and others take measurements of photosynthesis throughout the day. He measures the intensity of the sun and then places a leaf in a chamber, allowing him to measure the rate of photosynthesis depending upon ambient sunlight. Preliminary results show that Miscanthus has a 27 percent greater rate of photosynthesis at midday compared with switchgrass.

Nine different fields across the state are being used to help estimate Miscanthus productivity, Heaton said. Plots in Champaign and Christian counties each have more than 2 acres of Miscanthus, and DeKalb, Pike, Pope, Wayne, Fayette and Mason counties have smaller plots. Plots in Champaign County have shown the greatest yearly yields, according to Long's 2004 progress report to the Illinois Council on Food and Agricultural Research, which funded the experiments.

"It is my hope that Illinois will take the lead in renewable energy and that the state will benefit from that lead," Long said.

Other varieties of Miscanthus have been grown successfully in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. However, the giant Miscanthus being grown by the Illinois researchers has the greatest potential as a fuel source because of its high yields and because it is sterile and cannot become a weed, Heaton said. "Miscanthus sacchariflorus and some of the other fertile Miscanthus species can be quite invasive," she said.

At a research station near Hornum, Denmark, giant Miscanthus has been grown for 22 years in Europe's longest-running experimental field. The crop has never been invasive and rhizome spread has been no more than 1.5 meters (4.92 feet), said Uffe Jorgensen, senior scientist for the Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences.

The next step, Long said, is to demonstrate how Miscanthus goes from a plant to a power source. Existing U.S. power plants could be modified to use Miscanthus for fuel as in Europe, he said.

Long collaborates with researchers at the Institute of Genomic Biology to study whether Miscanthus could be converted to alcohol, which could be used as fuel.

27 September 2005

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1.23  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

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1.24  Paper recounts research on salinity-tolerant plants

Saline soils and salt water have become more and more dominant through the centuries, and naturally occurring salt-affected soils are estimated to cover a billion hectares worldwide. Scientists are thus trying to duplicate - but to little success - what Nature has done for some trees, shrubs, grasses, and herbs: allow plants to be salt-tolerant. In light of this problem, T.J. Flowers and S.A. Flowers of the University of Sussex ask, "Why does salinity pose such a difficult problem for plant breeders?" Their review appears in the September issue of the Agricultural Water Management journal

Salt-tolerance, as it turns out, is a very complex genetic trait. In the article, researchers recount most of the molecular mechanisms underlying plant defenses against salty soils or water. This is accomplished by the presence of organic compounds in plant cell cytoplasm, such as glycinebetaine, mannitol and proline. Salt tolerance also depends on plant morphology, compartmentation and compatible solutes, regulation of plant transpiration, control of ion movement, plant cell membrane characteristics, tolerating high Na/K ratios in the cytoplasm, and salt glands. With these many factors, the authors expect that salt tolerance would depend on the action of many genes.

With the rather daunting tasks ahead for bioengineers seeking to produce salt tolerant plants, researchers recommend that plant breeders "invest in other avenues such as the manipulation of ion excretion from leaves through salt glands, the use of physiological traits in breeding programs, and the domestication of halophytes."

Subscribers to ScienceDirect can read the complete article at

From CropBiotech Update 23 September 2005:
Contributed by Margaret Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics

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1.25 Fungus confers salt resistance to plants

The Indian Thar desert is home to Piriformospora indica, a plant-root-colonizing fungus recently found to promote plant growth. Its hosts include rice, wheat, and barley, and research has shown that "The endophytic fungus Piriformospora indica reprograms barley to salt-stress tolerance, disease resistance, and higher yield." Frank Waller of the University of Giessen, Germany and colleagues document their work in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences online.

Using barley as their model organism, researchers allowed P. indica to colonize roots, then subjected the plants to salt stress and disease stress. Among others, they found that P. indica colonizes root cells and enhances yield; roots show higher antioxidant capacity; and colonization induces systemic disease resistance, protecting barley leaves from other fungal infections.
Read the complete article at

From CropBiotech Update 23 September 2005:
Contributed by Margaret Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics

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1.26  Washington State University researchers find a key to plant growth

Pullman, Washington

Waist-high corn stalks laden with full-size ears; squash plants that don't sprawl over half your yard; a miniature tomato plant offering hefty red fruits to astronauts weary of freeze-dried food: these are just a few of the possibilities raised by new research at Washington State University.

Lead investigator B.W. (Joe) Poovaiah and research associate Liqun Du have discovered a way to control the ultimate size of a plant. By altering a specific gene, they were able to change the size of the plant that grew from an experimental seed. Different alterations led to different size plants, showing that plants might be "size-engineered" to fit the needs of growers.

Their findings are reported in this week's issue of the prestigious journal Nature. WSU has applied for a patent on the process.

Poovaiah said size-engineered plants could be a potent tool against worldwide hunger.

"Dwarf plants use less water and are more resistant to wind and rain damage than normal-size plants," he said. "They devote a greater proportion of their energy to producing seeds or fruit rather than stems and leaves."

He compares his findings to the development, in the 1960s, of semi- dwarf wheat varieties that boosted Third World wheat production in what became known as the "Green Revolution."

Poovaiah and Du worked primarily with Arabidopsis, a member of the mustard family, but have found similar genes with the same function in every plant they have examined, including important crop plants such as peas and rice.

In addition to large-scale agriculture, other potential uses for dwarf plants include ornamental horticulture, home gardens and even the greening of space. Some of Poovaiah's earlier funding came from NASA, to develop plants that will grow well -- but small -- within the confines of a spacecraft, as a way to provide both oxygen and fresh food during long missions.

The gene described in the Nature article directs the plant to make a protein, dubbed DWF1 (for "Dwarf 1"), that is involved in the production of a plant growth hormone. Poovaiah and Du showed that the normal form of DWF1 is needed, along with calcium and a calcium-binding protein called calmodulin, for a plant to attain its full normal size. When they modified the gene in one way, the plant topped out at less than half of normal height. Greater modification stunted the plant even further. Eliminating the gene (and hence the protein) resulted in a ground-hugging rosette of leaves with very little vertical growth.

The DWF1 gene is just one of many genes that Poovaiah's lab has identified that function in the "calcium messenger system" in plants.
Calcium has long been known to be crucial in animals for a wide range of processes, including muscle contraction and the generation of nerve impulses, but its functions in plant biology have been more elusive.

Over the past three decades, Poovaiah and his team have shown that calcium and calmodulin are just as important in the internal workings of plants.

In addition to controlling growth, Poovaiah says the calcium messenger system enables a plant to adjust to water stress, light, temperature and other environmental factors. In legumes, it also mediates the interactions between roots and bacteria that lead to the transfer of nitrogen from the air to the soil in a form that plants can use to build proteins and other compounds necessary for life. A gene that Poovaiah's lab discovered in 1995 has recently been shown to play a key role in this process, which is known as symbiotic nitrogen fixation.

Poovaiah is a professor in WSU's Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture and the Center for Integrated Biotechnology. The research described here was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and U.S. Department of Agriculture. More information and photographs about Poovaiah's work can be found at his web site,

28 September 2005

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1.27  Plant genes 'offer safer option for GM crop research'

Researchers have suggested a new way of genetically modifying crops that they say could reduce a key concern about their safety.

In most genetically modified crops created so far, researchers have inserted not only genes for traits such as insect resistance, but also a bacterial gene for antibiotic resistance. This allows them to confirm in laboratory tests that the inserted genes are present in the crop.

But this practice has raised concerns that the genes for antibiotic resistance, which come from bacteria, could find their way back into disease-causing bacteria, making them antibiotic resistant too. In the case of an infection with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, this could render conventional treatment with antibiotics ineffective.

Research published in Nature Biotechnology last week, however, shows that a plant gene can be used to confer antibiotic resistance instead, limiting the chances of antibiotic resistance spreading to wild bacteria.

The researchers say that how the plant gene does this is not yet clear, but preliminary tests have shown that inserting the plant antibiotic resistance gene into the bacterium E. coli does not make the bacterium resistant to the antibiotic.

Source: BBC Online / via
24 August 2005

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1.28  QTL detection and application to plant breeding

Motoyuki Ashikari and Makoto Matsuoka
QTL cloning for grain productivity and plant height
Rice (Oryza sativa L.) is a staple food and approximately 50% of the human population depends on rice as their main source of nutrition. In particular, it is the most important crop for people living in the monsoonal areas of Asia where rice has a long history of cultivation; it is deeply ingrained in the daily lives of Asian people.

Rice is a model monocot because it has the smallest genome size (390 Mb) among the major cereals, its genome is syntenic with the genomes of other cereals, and it can be transformed easily. As a result, The International Rice Genome Sequencing Project (IRGSP) was launched in 1998 to sequence the rice genome; the task was completed in 2004. These accomplishments and recent technological innovations have greatly facilitated gene cloning and provided a new breeding strategy for rice as well as for other major cereals.

In contrast to monogenic characteristics, such as disease and insect resistance, many important agronomic traits including yield, heading date, culm length, grain quality, and stress tolerance show continuous phenotypic variation. These complex traits usually are governed by a number of genes known as quantitative trait loci (QTLs) derived from natural variations. Although these polygenic characteristics, including QTLs, were previously very difficult to analyze using traditional plant breeding methods, recent progress in rice genomics has made it possible to search QTLs.

QTL analysis is a powerful approach to discover agronomically useful genes. Grain number and plant height are important traits that directly contribute to grain productivity. Why is plant height important for grain production? Dwarf rice and wheat varieties were developed by classical plant breeding methods, contributing to the green revolution in the 1960’s. Higher yields were obtained from these dwarf crops because their short stature reduced lodging from wind or rain1,2. Our lab has aimed to identify genes of QTLs for grain number, Gn1, and plant height, Ph1, not only to elucidate molecular mechanisms for grain productivity, but also to utilize these genes for breeding3.

A choice of parental lines that show wide phenotypic variation in the targeted traits is necessary for QTL analysis because QTL detection is based on natural allelic differences between parental lines. An indica rice variety, Habataki,and a japonica variety, Koshihikari, were chosen in QTL analysis since not only do they exhibit large differences in grain number and plant height, but also many molecular markers are available. QTL analysis using progenies from the cross with Habataki and Koshihikari revealed the presence of five QTLs for increasing grain number (Gn1-5) and four QTLs for plant height (Ph1-4). The most effective QTLs for grain number, Gn1, and plant height, Ph1, were chosen as targets for cloning.

QTL cloning is facilitated by using nearly isogenic lines (NILs) carrying only one target QTL, because NIL can eliminate the effects of other QTLs. By using a suitable NIL, the QTL of interest in the NIL can be treated as a single Mendelian factor. We produced the NIL-Gn1 and NIL-Ph1 lines carrying the Gn1 or Ph1 region from Habataki in the Koshihikari background and used these lines for cloning. Base on fine mapping analysis of QTL-Gn1, we found that Gn1 could be divided as two linked QTLs (QTL-Gn1a and QTL-Gn1b). We focused on the Gn1a, since it could be mapped between two molecular markers.

Positional cloning and molecular characterization revealed that Gn1a encodes a cytokinin oxidase/dehydrogenase, OsCKX2, an enzyme that degrades a phytohormone cytokinin. The OsCKX2 gene of Koshihikari and Habataki consists of four exons and three introns and encodes proteins of 565 or 563 amino acids, respectively. A comparison of the DNA sequences between the cultivars revealed several nucleotide changes, including a 16-bp deletion in the 5’-untranslated region, a 6-bp deletion in the first exon, and three nucleotide changes, resulting in amino acid variation in the first and fourth exon of the Habataki allele. Both OsCKX2 alleles of Habataki and Koshihikari encode an enzyme capable of degrading cytokinin. However, the expression level of OsCKX2 in Habataki was lower than in Koshihikari, resulting in less cytokinin accumulation in the inflorescence meristems of Habataki than Koshihikari. Cytokinin (CK) is known to influence various aspects of plant growth and development, including seed germination, apical dominance, leaf expansion, reproductive development, and delay of senescence. The reduced expression of OsCKX2 can explain the increased cytokinin accumulation, and hence, increased grain number. The semi-dominant inheritance of Gn1a is also consistent with the function of the OsCKX2 enzyme that degrades cytokinin.

On the other hand, Ph1 was located near the sd1 gene that encodes gibberellin 20-oxidase. Comparing the sequence of sd1 in the Habataki and Koshihikari alleles revealed that Habataki had a 383-bp deletion in the SD1 gene, which is the same mutation found in ‘IR8’, a variety that led to the green revolution in rice. This observation demonstrated that the short stature of Habataki mainly depends on the sd1 locus3.

QTL pyramiding breeding
QTL pyramiding is an efficient strategy for crop improvement. This strategy is based on the combination of desirable QTLs through conventional crossing using molecular markers. Once desirable QTLs are detected, a strategy for QTL pyramiding employs the use of NILs harboring only one target QTL. The NIL-QTLs are produced by backcrossing and marker selection. A parent line with a positive QTL is backcrossed with a recurrent parent lacking the QTL. Subsequently, a line that carries only a positive QTL region from the mother line in the recurrent parent genome background is selected by molecular markers. The NILs can be used to accurately evaluate the effect of each QTL individually. Once QTLs with important effects are identified in this manner, the appropriate NIL-QTLs are crossed to pyramid two or more QTLs in the same background. The two NILs, the NIL-Gn1 and NIL-sd1, carrying the Gn1 region or sd1 region from Habataki in the Koshihikari genome background, were produced by backcrossing with Koshihikari and using marker selection. We then derived a NIL-sd1+Gn1 plant with the two desirable QTL alleles derived from the cross NIL-Gn1 and NIL-sd1. The NIL-sd1+Gn1 has a high yielding, semi-dwarf phenotype (Fig.1)3.

Future outlook
Food shortage is one of the most serious global problems in this century. The world population is expanding rapidly due to a significant decline in mortality rates resulting from advancements in modern medicine and human health care, while the availability of land for cultivation has dramatically declined as the result of desertification caused by reckless deforestation and construction. The global population, now at 6.4 billion, is still growing rapidly and is projected to reach 8.9 billion people by 2050. Cereals are an important source of calories for humans, both by direct intake and as the main feed for livestock. Approximately 50% of the calories consumed by the world population originate from three cereals, rice (23%), wheat (17%), and maize (10%). To meet the expanding food demands of the rapidly growing world population, crop grain production will need to increase by 50% by 2025.

Now that genomic information and tools are available for rice, we have to apply these for human benefits. Today the cloning of genes and production of transgenic plants are common technologies utilized in plant science. Such technologies are very powerful and efficient strategies for producing ‘ideal’ crop plants. Actually, some transgenic crop plants with traits such as insect resistance and herbicide tolerance have already been commercialized. Despite concerns about the impact of GMOs on the environment and their safety to humans, we think transgenic crops are necessary to meet the demand for food in the near future. However, we should not ignore the conventional breeding approach­the QTL pyramiding approach results from a combination of recent crop genomics and conventional breeding, and it is efficient for crop breeding. We believe both strategies, GMO strategies and QTL pyramiding, are necessary and the cooperation of molecular geneticists and breeders is required to accomplish this goal.

1. Peng et al. (1999) Nature 400, 256–261
2. Sasaki et al. (2002) Nature 426, 701–702
3. Ashikari et al.(2005) Science 309, 741-745
Motoyuki Ashikari and Makoto Matsuoka
Bioscience and Biotechnology Center
Nagoya University, Nagoya 464-8601, Japan

Source: ISB News Report
September 2005

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1.29  CSIRO's gene silencing granted US patent

A CSIRO innovation for determining gene function quickly and with virtually 100 per cent efficiency has been granted a US patent clarifying its leadership position in the international gene silencing arena.

Hellsgate, named after one of its developers Dr Chris Helliwell, is a set of RNAi vectors that allow researchers to knock out the expression of hundreds to thousands of selected genes, one at a time.

“RNAi vectors are very hard to make, but with Hellsgate, which uses Gateway™ technology, you can make either one or up to 100 hairpin constructs from start to finish in just two days,” says CSIRO Plant Industry Business Development Manager Dr Bill Taylor.

The molecular tool is just one of a family of CSIRO-developed vectors designed to simplify the use of hairpinRNAi – CSIRO's gene silencing technology – in functional genomics and trait development and the first to be granted a US patent.

“We're seeing a lot of interest in Hellsgate and its vector-siblings, Stargate and Watergate, by the plant research community in particular with more than 2,000 distributed to research labs around the world,” says Dr Taylor.

“A major focus for many of these researchers is the discovery of genes responsible for key traits, such as resistance to pests and diseases or the ability to grow in hostile environments.

“Hellsgate is the technology of choice to confirm gene function so that breeding of new varieties can be based on genes with proven function.”

Dr Taylor says the effectiveness of the CSIRO invention is highlighted by the use of a Hellsgate vector by the Arabidopsis Genomic RNAi Knock-Out Line Analysis (AGRIKOLA) consortium.

The European research consortium is using the vectors to create a library of constructs for every gene in Arabidopsis, a small plant used extensively in research because of its short life cycle of 21 days.

Hairpin RNAi was discovered by CSIRO by a CSIRO Plant Industry team including Dr Peter Waterhouse and Dr Ming-Bo Wang, and is a highly efficient method of triggering gene silencing. 

The technology works through a natural surveillance system that detects and destroys double stranded RNA in cells. The Hellsgate vectors deliver double stranded hairpin RNA molecules corresponding to each selected gene, thereby destroying the messenger RNA for that gene and preventing its expression, silencing the gene.

CSIRO is actively licensing its RNAi technology for applications in research and the development of commercial products.

5 September 2005

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1.30  Salt-tolerance gene could lead to higher rice yields

By Zhang Jun, via Checkbiotech

A group of local scientists announced yesterday they have found and cloned a key genetic code in rice that is responsible for salt-tolerance - a breakthrough that could eventually lead to higher yields.

The group's findings were published on the online version of "Nature Genetics" - a UK-based scientific journal - on Sunday and the print issue will be published next month, scientists said.

"Hopefully, our research can speed up the country's development of high-yielding rice species," said Lin Hongxuan, a professor at the Shanghai Institute of Plant Physiology and Ecology - an arm of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Funded by both the central and Shanghai governments, Lin and more than 13 researchers and students spent the past five years completing the project, which they say is a key achievement in the country's agricultural development.

The group was also supported by researchers from the University of California. During the past five years, Lin and his companions traced the genetic material in six generations of a specially grown hybrid rice.

Each generation took around half a year to grow, Lin said.

By a technique called "precise location," they finally found and cloned the SKC1 gene, which is responsible for salt-tolerance in rice.

Lin said soil with a high salt content can severely affect rice yields, particularly in some coastal areas and the country's northwest regions. Under extreme conditions, it can even reduce rice yields by more than 50 percent.

"Normally, it will take several years for agricultural experts to utilize the discovered gene to optimize rice species and to lift rice yields," Lin said.

He said it might be possible to use the breakthrough to create a genetically modified species of rice.

As the most important grain crop, rice sustains half of the world's population. Improving yields could solve world hunger problems.

According to Wang Guozhong, head of the Shanghai Agricultural Technology Service Center, the discovery will speed up efforts to lift rice yields in the country, although high salt levels aren't a problem for local farmers.

"The discovery is very enlightening and will help farmers increase rice yields in rural areas," he said.


13 September 2005

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1.31  How many genes influence plant growth?

Jena, Germany
Identification and characterization of genes contributing to quantitative traits is of utmost importance for plant breeding. Such genes are called quantitative trait loci (QTL). Scientists from the Department of Genetics & Evolution of the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology have now shown that a multitude of QTL influence growth of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Most of these QTL have only minor effect but interact in a complex fashion.

A random 210,000 base pair segment from the Arabidopsis genome was chosen to investigate the influence of allelic variation within this interval on plant growth rate. The interval was dissected in a series of crosses between near-isogenic Arabidopsis lines such that the progeny from each cross segregated in different, very small portion of the genome but not in the flanking regions. Plant growth was determined for more than 7,000 progeny from these crosses. Within this small 210,000 base pair genome segment, two growth rate QTL were identified and, in one case, the responsible gene was cloned. Furthermore, both QTL interacted with other (still unknown) genes in the genome, and phenotypic effects were reversed depending on the genetic background.

Therefore, very many genes, albeit mostly of moderate effect, determine the genetic architecture of complex traits like plant growth or crop yield. In this view, breeding success depends less on selecting single favorable genes but rather on finding the optimal combination of naturally occurring variation within a species.

Jürgen Kroymann, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology

Source: Newsletter PULSE-CE of the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology via
9 September 2005

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1.32  Haploid cell lines in sugar beet breeding

Gynogenic sugar beet haploid cell lines where obtained through ovule culture in a haplodiploidisation breeding program. N6 culture medium containing NAA and BA at 0.5and  0.2  mg/l respectively, 0.1% charcoal 6% sucrose and 0.8% agar was used for the initiation of the culture which were kept in dark at 27C. The haploid embryogenic callus were subcultured in N6 medium with the same hormonal composition but with only 3% sucrose. These lines being maintained for several years have kept their embryogenic capacity. These haploid cell lines are used in sugar beet double haploid plant, somatic embryo production and gene transfer studies with the doubling of microshoots/embryos' ploidy achieved by using invitro colchicine treatment.

Submitted by Nasrin Yavari 
SBSI Tissue Culture Lab

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1.33  New strain of wheat rust appears in Africa

Editor’s note: This article should call attention to the need for continuing support for strong, long-term breeding programmes, in order to solve problems such as this one, before economic losses become serious.

NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept. 8 - Biologists warned Thursday that a virulent new strain of a previously controlled plant disease had emerged in East Africa and could wipe out 10 percent of the world's wheat production if its spread is not halted.

Black spores on a stalk of wheat show the effects of the disease.

The disease, wheat rust, caused huge grain losses and even famines in the first half of the 20th century. The new strain was discovered in Uganda in 1999 and has since spread to Kenya and Ethiopia, damaging wheat crops there.

The fungus that causes wheat rust, Puccinia graminis, produces a rusty color on the stem of wheat and slowly destroys the plant. It was controlled in the late 1950's and 1960's through the groundbreaking work of Norman Borlaug, an American who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for developing high-yield grains that led to the green revolution.

Dr. Borlaug, now 91, spoke at a news conference on Thursday in Nairobi and called to draw attention to the new threat.

"Nobody's seen an epidemic for 50 years, nobody in this room except myself," he said. "Maybe we got too complacent."

After the new strain of fungus emerged - and was named Ug99, for Uganda 1999 - it seemed to disappear for a couple of years. It re-emerged in Kenya in 2001 and in Ethiopia two years later, said Ravi Singh, a plant pathologist with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, a nonprofit research group that convened an expert panel to study the resurgent disease. The panel's report, to which Dr. Borlaug contributed, was released at the news conference.

"It's spreading and that's why we're sounding the alarm now," Dr. Singh said.

The fungus is spread by spores carried by the wind or on the clothing of travelers. The panel's report warns that urgent action is needed if the world's wheat producers are to be spared. A 10 percent reduction in global wheat yield would mean a crop loss of 60 million tons, worth $9 billion, said Ronnie Coffman, chairman of the panel and a professor of plant breeding and genetics at Cornell University.

"It is only a matter of time before Ug99 reaches across the Saudi Arabian peninsula and into the Middle East, South Asia and, eventually, East Asia and the Americas," the report said.

A Global Rust Initiative has been set up in Nairobi to monitor the progress of the disease and begin the process of breeding and disseminating new resistant wheat varieties.

In the 1950's, wheat rust devastated crops in North America, affecting three-quarters of some varieties. Since then, scientists have worked to develop high-yielding varieties that resist ever-emerging diseases.

Wheat grown in East Africa had been resistant to the disease for the last 40 years. But the new strain has decimated local varieties.

Industrial farmers grow most of Kenya's wheat, and they have been spraying their crops several times a year to control the fungus. But wheat rust could have a devastating effect in countries like Ethiopia and India, where local farmers grow the bulk of the wheat, and chemicals might prove too costly.

Dr. Masa Iwanaga, the director general of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, said his organization had compiled 165,000 different genetic varieties of wheat over the years, giving scientists a head start in searching for strains resistant to the new variety.

Source: New York Times
9 September 2005

Contributed by Nilupa Gunaratna

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1.34  Role of plant gene in heat tolerance studied

The greatest problems of plants in tropical climates are drought and high temperature stress. The latter inhibits plant photosynthesis, disabling nutrient accumulation and stunting plant growth. Plants have been known to also accumulate certain chemical compounds under salinity, drought, and temperature stress.

One of these chemicals, glycinebetaine (GB), is the subject of a recent study, where Xinghong Yang and colleagues from the Chinese Academy of Sciences Plant Physiology report that the "Genetic Engineering of the Biosynthesis of Glycinebetaine Enhances Photosynthesis against High Temperature Stress in Transgenic Tobacco Plants." Their findings appear in the latest issue of Plant Physiology.

Scientists introduced the betaine aldehyde dehydrogenase (BADH) gene from spinach into tobacco cells, allowing the transgenic cells to produce GB. The plants started accumulating GB, and resulted in their increased tolerance to high temperature stress during growth. Plants, to some extent, were also able to assimilate carbon dioxide better than their wild-type counterparts at temperatures as high as 45C, showing that their photosynthetic pathway had not been greatly damaged by the heat stress.
The findings suggest a new function of GB in plants, in that it can protect photosynthesis against high temperatures. They likewise lend strength to the option of introducing BADH into plant cells in order to effect heat tolerance, a process which bypasses biosafety concerns, since the gene can come from a fellow plant.
Plant Physiology subscribers can access the full article at Other readers can access the abstract at

From CropBiotech Update 26 August 2005:
Contributed by Margaret Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics

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1.35  Findings on Mexico maize released

Sometime in 2000, scientists released research findings that stated that they had found evidence of genetically modified corn in maize landraces grown in Oaxaca, Mexico. This was significant, because transgenic maize has never been approved for cultivation in the country.

Five years later, S. S. Ortiz-Garcia and colleagues publish their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Their article, "Absence of detectable transgenes in local landraces of maize in Oaxaca, Mexico (2003-2004)," is published in the journal's latest electronic edition.

Researchers worked on 70 plants in 125 fields and 18 localities in the state of Oaxaca during 2003 and 2004. They performed the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) on DNA samples from 153,746 sampled maize seeds, screening for the 35s promoter of the cauliflower mosaic virus and the nopaline synthase terminator from Agrobacterium tumefaciens, with the PCR reaction optimized to detect at least 0.01% transgenic material. One or both of the transgene elements are present in all transgenic commercial varieties of maize.

PCR could not detect any transgenic sequences in the seeds sampled, and authors conclude that transgenic maize seeds were absent or extremely rare in the sampled fields. They, however, caution readers about the limitations of their research. For instance, their seed sampling may not have been thorough, and the samples could be less than representative of the local maize crop. They also caution readers from extrapolating the findings to other regions of Mexico, or from considering the current situation likely to remain unchanged.

For more information, download the article at

 From CropBiotech Update 9 September 2005:
Contributed by Margaret Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics

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1.36  Mexican maize transgenes issue examined

Since 2000, several studies have been undertaken in Mexico to track the presence of transgenes in the local conventional maize crop. Findings, however, have been mixed. In "Transgenes in Mexican maize: Desirability or inevitability?" Peter H. Raven of the Missouri Botanical Garden offers his opinion on these studies. His essay is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences online edition.

Raven underscores the importance of monitoring the presence and frequency of transgenes, but asks what social significance the results of such studies may have, both in the region concerned and in the world. He puts forth statements on decades-long studies of genetically modified organisms (GMO's), which have hitherto been found to pose no threat to human health and the environment.

He goes on to state that "the principles of population genetics certainly do not indicate that [the transgenes] would 'disrupt' the germplasm of the maize populations they might enter," and concludes that the introduction of transgenes presents no danger to maize populations in Mexico, or to the people of Mexico in general.

Raven also criticizes the lack of dissemination of agronomic information amongst farmers regarding GMO's, where not enough education has been given on the potential benefits of planting biotech crops "with the view of achieving higher levels of food production."

Read the complete article at

From CropBiotech Update 23 September 2005:
Contributed by Margaret Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics

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1.37  Molecular marker development for carrot sugar types.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed molecular markers that help identify the genotype of sugar types in carrot storage roots.

Phil Simon, professor of Department of Horticulture at UW-Madison and a member of USDA-ARS Vegetable Crops Research Unit, and scientist Yuan-Yeu Frank Yau, currently at UC-Berkeley Plant Gene Expression Center, authored the paper titled “Molecular Tagging and Selection for Sugar Type in Carrot Roots Using Co-dominant, PCR-based Marker,” which appears in the August issue of Molecular Breeding Journal.

Carrot is a major vegetable crop worldwide and is one of the few vegetable crops that accumulate free sugars. The sugar type plays an important role in the taste of carrots. Researchers have long known that the trait of sugar types in carrot roots is determined by a single dominant gene Rs. Rs/- carrot roots accumulate mostly reducing sugar (glucose and fructose), while rs/rs carrot roots accumulate mostly sucrose. The molecular mechanism was unclear until Simon’s research team identified the gene. Yuan-Yeu Frank Yau characterized the carrot acid soluble invertase isozyme II gene in the rs/rs carrot line and found that this gene was knocked out by an insertion, causing high sucrose accumulation in the roots.

Based on the insertion and the gene sequences, co-dominant markers were developed to differentiate the Rs/Rs, Rs/rs and rs/rs genotypes in carrot roots with simple PCR amplifications markers. As young as one-week old seedlings can be used as material for analysis using this method, whereas previously mature carrot roots were needed to make this evaluation. The markers have been used to evaluate the status of the Rs locus in diverse carrot populations and to predict and select the type of sugar accumulated in subsequent populations with complete accuracy.

As they mentioned in the paper, “one difficulty encountered in evaluating carrot germplasm for storage root traits is the small, fibrous root system that develops in wild carrot. Type of sugar stored, for example, often can’t be reliably measured since the woody nature of their roots complicates extractions.” These markers not only allow for the reliable evaluation of the type of sugar stored, but also serve as a very useful tool for carrot breeding programs and for seed contamination tests ran by seed companies.

Contributed by Pei-Lan Tsou
Researcher at UC-Berkeley, Plant Gene Expression Center

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1.38  FAO-BiotechNews: excerpts from Update 9-2005

FAO contribution to strengthening plant biotechnology in developing countries An international dialogue on "Agricultural and rural development in the 21st century: Lessons from the past and policies for the future" took place on 9-10 September 2005 in Beijing, China, jointly organised by FAO and the Ministry of Agriculture of China. For the 4th session, dedicated to "Frontiers of science for agriculture in the 21st century", a paper entitled "FAO contribution to strengthening plant biotechnology in developing countries" has been prepared by M. Solh and K. Ghosh from FAO's Plant Production and Protection Division. See or contact for more information.

Technology for Agriculture (TECA) website FAO's Research and Technology Development Service has just launched a new "Technology for Agriculture" (TECA) website. It aims to improve "access to information and knowledge about available proven technologies in order to enhance their adoption in agriculture, livestock, fisheries and forestry" as, very often, established technologies are not well documented and experiences of their application are rarely adequately described. The website offers an array of tools including the TECA database currently containing over 500 entries organised in 8 different categories Biotechnology-related entries can be selected in the database by clicking on 'bioteca' in the 'Application' field. See (available in English, French and Spanish) or contact for more information.

FAO/IAEA Plant Breeding and Genetics Newsletter 15 The July 2005 newsletter from the Plant Breeding and Genetics Section of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture and the FAO/IAEA Agriculture and Biotechnology Laboratory is now available. The 19-page newsletter, issued twice a year, gives an overview of their past and upcoming events (meetings, training courses etc.), ongoing projects and publications. See (1.8 MB) or contact to request a copy.

IFPRI discussion paper on evaluating GM crop policies As part of its EPTD (Environment and Production Technology Division) Discussion Papers series, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has published "Analysis for biotechnology innovations using strategic environmental assessment (SEA)" by N.A. Linacre and co-authors. The paper considers use of SEA in a policy research and priority setting process regarding new technologies, taking genetically modified crops as an example. See or contact for more information.

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1.39  FAO-BiotechNews: excerpts from Update 10-2005

Public participation and GMOs - FAO e-conference summary document The summary document of the FAO e-mail conference entitled "Public participation in decision-making regarding GMOs in developing countries: How to effectively involve rural people" has now been published. The 12-page document provides a summary of the main issues discussed during this moderated e-mail conference, hosted by the FAO Biotechnology Forum from 17 January to 13 February 2005, based on the messages posted by 70 people from 35 different countries during the conference. The main topics discussed were if, and to what degree, the rural people of developing countries should participate in decision-making regarding GMOs; misinformation and the type and quality of information required by rural people; appropriate communication channels; costs of public participation; international agreements/guidelines; and scepticism about the public participation process. See or contact to request a copy.

Third session of plant genetic resources working group The 3rd Session of the Intergovernmental Technical Working Group on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITWG-PGR) takes place on 26-28 October 2005 at FAO Headquarters, Rome, Italy. One of the items on the provisional agenda is entitled "Guiding principles to address the possibility of unintended presence of transgenes in ex situ collections", for which the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) has prepared document CGRFA/WG-PGR-3/05/6. See the provisional agenda and documents (all will be available in Arabic, English, French and Spanish) at or contact for more information. The ITWG-PGR was established by the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture in 1997 to address issues specific to plant genetic resources for food and agriculture and is composed of a total of 27 Member Nations from the different world regions.

New on-line publication: La yuca en el tercer milenio The book entitled "La yuca en el tercer milenio: Sistemas modernos de produccion, procesamiento, utilizacion, comercializacion;, edited by B. Ospina and H. Ceballos, has recently been made available on the web. Produced by the Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT) and the Consorcio Latinoamericano para la Investigacion del Desarrollo de la Yuca (CLAYUCA), the 28-chapter book provides an update on advances in production, processing, commercialisation and use of cassava over the last three decades, covering also the area of biotechnology. See or contact for more information

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2.01  Free genetics statistics software - GenStat Discovery Edition (DE)

The GenStat Discovery Edition is a free version of GenStat developed by VSN International for use by not-for-profit research organizations, charities and educational institutes based in the developing world. To find out whether you qualify for the discovery edition, check out

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2.02  Marker assisted selective breeding

Prof. Joe Cummins gives the current state of play in how molecular genetic analysis can aid in selective breeding without genetic modification

This article can be found on the I-SIS website at
The Institute of Science in Society ( )

Contributed by Elcio Guimaraes

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2.03  Setting breeding objectives and developing seed systems with farmers --- A handbook for practical use in participatory plant breeding projects

Anja Christinck, Eva Weltzien and Volker Hoffmann
Contributing authors: Eva Weltzien, Kirsten vom Brocke, Louise Sperling, Fred Rattunde, Kirsten Probst, Volker Hoffmann, Mohan Dhamotharan and Anja Christinck.
Setting objectives and priorities is a crucial component of successful breeding programs as it determines the future course of action, maximizes chances for success and the impact achieved, and clarifies roles and responsibilities of partners.

A participatory plant breeding (PPB) program requires detailed and holistic understandings of the needs of the specific user groups it seeks to serve. This includes knowledge of the crop traits required for adaptation to prevalent agro-ecological conditions, the local production and seed distribution systems, and the quality requirements for each target group. Effectively setting priorities through assessment of key farmers’ needs has been one of the primary reasons for success from farmer participation in breeding programs.

However, methodologies on how to effectively work with farmers on setting objectives for a PPB program have only occasionally been described. This book is intended to help fill this gap.

This book provides frameworks for description and analysis of key topic areas. It provides a range of methods, approaches and communication tools for breeders and farmers to work together to identify target environments and user groups, analyse production and seed systems, identify key traits and set priorities. Furthermore, it offers practical advice on approaches for planning and implementing both participatory breeding and seed system development activities, summarizing practical experiences gained in PPB projects to date.

This book results from years of fruitful collaboration between PPB practitioners and communication experts that unite social and natural science perspectives. Basic concepts and methods for participatory plant breeding are outlined in ways that facilitate direct application.

The book provides valuable insights not only for plant breeders but also development workers who seek to encourage farmer innovations with regard to variety development. Biodiversity specialists involved in in situ management of plant genetic resources, as well as educators and trainers in the above mentioned fields will find useful tools and overviews.


The book has been published in cooperation with Margraf Publishers, Scientific Books (Weikersheim, Germany) and CTA (Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation, Wageningen, The Netherlands).

There are several possibilities for you to get the book:

1) Individuals from ACP member states (Africa, Caribbean, Pacific) can order a FREE copy from CTA. Please contact the CTA website for details ( The book may not yet be listed in the catalogue; in that case you could contact CTA by e-mail (

2) If you are not from an ACP member state, you have the possibility to buy the book from CTAs commercial distribution office, or from the main publisher (Margraf Publishers).

3) The regular price (from 1st October onwards) will be 28 EUROs plus shipment. For bulk orders, Margraf Publishers offer a 25% price reduction if you order 5-9 copies to be sent to one address, and a 30% price reduction if you order more than 10 copies. Please contact the website ( or get more information by e-mail (

Contributed by Anja Christinck, via ElcioGuimaraes

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3.01 "Gramene" database facilitates global agricultural research

Cold Spring Harbor, New York
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory researchers Lincoln Stein and Doreen Ware today announce the public release of Gramene version 19. The database provides agricultural researchers and plant breeders with invaluable biological and genomic information about rice and other grasses. Gramene's web interface facilitates access to genetic and physical maps, sequences, genes, proteins, genetic markers, mutants, QTLs, and published studies, and is used by researchers in more 100 countries. Gramene is a collaborative project between Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and the Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics at Cornell University.

Rice, maize, sorghum, wheat, barley and the other major cereal crops are mankind's most important source of calories. Rice is the first crop genome to be fully sequenced and is a model organism for research within the grasses. By using Gramene to explore the rice genome, which is comparatively small, researchers can identify agriculturally important genes in rice and similar genes in maize, wheat, and other grasses.

The name Gramene is based on the Latin, gramen, meaning "grass" and on the Grameen Bank, which makes loans to the rural poor in emerging economies.

New information, features, and tools are continually added to the Gramene database through quarterly releases in January, April, July and October. Gramene currently hosts the sequenced genome assembly of rice (japonica) and Arabidopsis, as well as a clone-based physical map and partially sequenced genome of maize. For comparative analyses between species, Gramene hosts more than 160 genetic/physical maps from more than 20 cereal species, and several million sequences from more than 60 datasets mapped to the rice genome. A recent addition to the Gramene toolbox is a "Mart" function, which allows researchers to carry out complex searches using an intuitive interface. Online tutorials help users to learn how to search the database.

In addition to offering specific scientific information, Gramene provides information and links of general interest including resources on plant genetics, bioinformatics, and important cereal species. For example, the Oryza (rice) and Zea (maize or corn) species pages have been completed, and other species are under development.

Gramene is a curated, free, web-accessible data resource for comparative genome analysis in the grasses. It is supported by the National Science Foundation and the USDA Agricultural Research Service and was previously funded by the USDA Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems. The database and the curated datasets are also freely available for local use and installation. For more information about Gramene, visit

7 October 2005

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3.02  CAB Abstracts archive available for searching on CAB Direct

CABI Publishing, the publishing arm of the not-for-profit organization CAB International, has recently released the CAB ABSTRACTS ARCHIVE, which is now available for searching on CAB DIRECT (

The ARCHIVE is a fully searchable, electronic database covering the scientific literature published worldwide in agriculture, veterinary science, nutrition and environmental sciences from the years 1910 to 1972. Produced by digitising printed abstract volumes and reindexing the records with modern terms, it also encompasses the entire run of printed volumes of "Plant Breeding Abstracts" between 1930-1971. These cover all aspects of breeding, genetics, taxonomy and evolution of crops, and other economically important plants. The ARCHIVE contains of wealth of published research material, much of it previously untapped with abstracts of leading scientific papers of the day plus other lesser known but important papers in harder to obtain publications. The ARCHIVE should also prove useful to researchers who are, for example, interested in charting the early research into our most important food crops or examining the development of sustainable farming practices during wartime.

In addition to being available on CAB DIRECT, the CAB ABSTRACTS ARCHIVE will be available on Ovid and SilverPlatter by the end of July 2005 and other platforms later in the year. Librarians and information managers can request an institutional free trial via the website, which provides access for all users at an institution for 30 days or longer.

For further information please contact Dr. Halina Dawson (, Editor of "Plant Breeding Abstracts", at CABI Publishing (

Submitted by Halina Dawson
Editor, Plant Breeding Abstracts

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3.03  CSREES (USDA) projection about ag employment opportunities

See the web site below for an attractive document with the most recent CSREES (USDA) projection about ag employment opportunities.

Of positive significance is that plant breeding is mentioned (as is animal breeding, albeit on a different page).  This is a change from the past five year projection in which only plant genomics and plant science were mentioned.

Contributed by Ann Marie Thro

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*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 by Fred 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, under the auspices of the ISHS Section Viticulture and the OIV. Info: Prof. Enrico Peterlunger, University of Udine, Dip. di Scienze Agrarie e Ambientale, Via delle Scienze 208, 33100 Udine, Italy. Phone: (39)0432558629, Fax: (39)0432558603, email:

Grape genetics has aroused a spectacular interest worldwide in recent years and is experiencing a renewal in objectives and strategies. We expect this symposium fosters scientists to exchange their experiences and promotes their cooperation in view of launching the ambitious project of grape whole genome sequencing.

Udine is located in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, the North-Eastern region of Italy, which is becoming a central area of the enlarged European Union. "A vineyard called Friuli" is a known refrain that reminds the strong vocation to viticulture of this region, that produces several of the most appreciated European white vines.

You are invited to join an active and open research community, that meets every 4th year to discuss topics related to grape genetics, breeding and biotechnology

Contributed by Bruce Reisch
N.Y.S. Agricultural Experiment Station  
Cornell University, Geneva, N.Y.

* 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:

*(NEW)17-21 September 2006. Cucurbitaceae 2006. Grove Park Inn Resort and Spa in Asheville, North Carolina, USA. Contact: Dr. Gerald Holmes, Department of Plant Pathology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7616, 919-515-9779 ( (

This meeting continues the tradition of Cucurbitaceae conferences held every four years in the USA.  It will include meetings of associated groups including the Cucurbit Crop Genetics Committee, the Cucurbit Genetics Cooperative, the National Melon Research Group, the National Watermelon Research Group, the Pickling Cucumber Improvement Committee, and the Squash Research Group.

Submitted by Todd C. Wehner
Department of Horticultural Science
North Carolina State University
*(NEW) 23 November 2005. The 5th International Rice Genetics Symposium, Manila, Philippines. Held every five years since 1985 by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the symposium will cover "a wide range of topics from classical genetics to the most advanced research on gene isolation and functional genomics. The symposium will provide an important forum for reviewing the latest advances in rice research and for in-depth discussion and exchange of information on classical genetics and genomics". See or contact for more information.

* 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

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

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