PLANT BREEDING NEWS

EDITION 162

20 December 2005

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

Clair H. Hershey, Editor

Best wishes for the holidays, from the editor and advisory board. Thank you to all who contributed to the newsletter’s success in 2005!

Archived issues available at: http://www.fao.org/WAICENT/FAOINFO/AGRICULT/AGP/AGPC/doc/services/pbn.html (NOTE: cut and paste link if it does not work directly)

CONTENTS

1.  NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH NOTES
1.01  New approaches needed for agriculture in the developing world
1.02  Open source biotechnology alliance for international agriculture
1.03  New maps reveal true extent of human footprint on Earth
1.04  Rice improvement and poverty reduction
1.05  University of Illinois corn breeder John W. Dudley to be honored at International Plant Breeding Symposium
1.06  Yield enhancement and stability are targets of new crop research agreement
1.07  Hybrid rice saves the Philippines US$ 23.25 million from rice importation
1.08  Bolivia released the first upland rice variety originated from population improvement
1.09  Canada needs strong variety development research, says the Western Grains Research Foundation
1.10  Pigeonpea back in China
1.11  Cornell University and Indian Council of Agricultural Research sign new agreement for agricultural development
1.12  Kazakhstan and Siberia connect with CIMMYT to improve their wheat
1.13  CIMMYT and partners in Nepal make progress against foliar blight in wheat
1.14  Swiss vote for ban on GM cultivation
1.15  China leads in research of genetically modified plants
1.16  Fishing for the origins of genome complexity: deciphering a paradox of evolution
1.17  KU Leuven: Center for Conservation of Vegetatively Propagated Plants
1.18  Research maps maize gene diversity
1.19  Animal gene renders tobacco resistant to parasitic weed
1.20  USDA identifies rice lines that resist straighthead disease
1.21  Millet gets mildew defense from within
1.22  Lr19 resistance in wheat becomes susceptible to Puccinia triticina in India
1.23  Selection of spelt varieties for organic production underway in New South Wales
1.24  ARS progresses on anti-aphid soy
1.25  CSIRO researchers are investigating how to use genes to produce larger seeds across a wide range of crops
1.26  Anyway you slice it, tomatoes cut through drought with new gene
1.27  Gene reported to confer drought tolerance
1.28  Expanding the pool of PCR-based markers for oat
1.29  Cancer, genes and broccoli - study of genetic differences in cancer protection
1.30  Global push to decipher potato DNA code
1.31  Alabama A&M University scientists eliminate major peanut allergen
1.32  Iowa State University plant scientist leads national effort to use metabolomics to unlock gene functions
1.33  Double fertilisation in flowering plants in the context of plant breeding
1.34  Study finds that nutritionally enhanced rice reduces iron deficiency
1.35  Update 12-2005 of FAO-BiotechNews (excerpts)
1.36  CheckBiotech.org: links to selected articles

2.  PUBLICATIONS
2.01  Triticale Improvement and Production

3.  WEB RESOURCES
3.01  Redesigned U.S. National Agricultural Library website brings fresh look, swift access
3.02  The Sesame and Safflower Newsletter No. 20

4  GRANTS AVAILABLE
(None submitted)
 
5  POSITION ANNOUNCEMENTS
(None submitted)
 
6  MEETINGS, COURSES AND WORKSHOPS

7  EDITOR'S NOTES

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1.  NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH NOTES

1.01 New approaches needed for agriculture in the developing world

Enhancing agricultural productivity in developing countries requires new approaches that provide incentives and funding mechanisms that will translate new innovations in plant science into concrete benefits for poor farmers. This was articulated by Deborah Delmer of the Rockefeller Foundation in "Agriculture in the developing world: Connecting innovations in plant research to downstream applications", published online by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

Delmer analyzes the constraints and opportunities presented by the challenge to translate new discoveries in plant sciences into successes in agriculture for the benefit of the poor. In particular, she notes the lack of systems that promote and reward efforts to "create a strong interface between fundamental and applied research in support of global agriculture."

View the full paper online at http://www.pnas.org through its open access option. Email Deborah Delmer at ddelmer@rockfound.org.

Source: CropBiotech Update, 3 November 2005
Contributed by Margaret Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics
Cornell University

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1.02  Open source biotechnology alliance for international agriculture

 CAMBIA & IRRI (The International Rice Research Institute) announced a major joint venture to advance the BiOS Initiative - a new strategy that will galvanize agricultural research focused on poverty alleviation and hunger reduction. The venture is catalyzed by a 2.55M USD grant to CAMBIA from The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway.

The BiOS Initiative – Biological Innovation for Open Society- is often called Open Source Biotechnology. The BiOS model has resonance with the Open Source software movement, famous for such successful efforts as Linux. Open Source software has spurred faster innovation, greater community participation, and new robust business models that break monopolies and foster fair competition. BiOS targets parallel challenges that limit the effective use of modern life sciences in agriculture to only a few multinational corporations.

"New technologies are increasingly tangled in complex webs of patent and other legal rights, and are usually tailored for wealthy countries and well-heeled scientists," said IRRI's Director General, Robert Zeigler. "Half the world depends on rice as a staple food – but this also means half the world's potential innovators could be brought to bear on the challenges of rice production, given the right toolkits – and the rights to use them".

In the joint work, CAMBIA's Patent Lens, already one of the most comprehensive costfree full-text patent databases in the world, will be extended to include patents in major rice-growing countries, including China, Korea, and India. These same countries are growing powerhouses of innovation, poised to play lead roles in the next generation of biological problem solving.

The Patent Lens will also develop analyses and foster the capacity in the developing world to create patent maps of the key emerging technologies that could be constrained by complex intellectual property rights worldwide, including the rice genome itself. These patent 'landscapes' will be used to guide the development of improved technology toolkits in a new, inclusive manner.

Says Richard Jefferson, CAMBIA's CEO, "It's not so much about getting access to old patented technology – it's about forging collaborations to develop better, more powerful tools within a 'protected commons' to get different problem solvers to the table."

These could for example be tools for precise, natural genetic enhancements, using non-GM approaches (for example, homologous recombination), new plant breeding methods such as marker assisted selection, or even true breeding hybrids of crop species that would allow farmers in developing countries to use hybrid seed year after year. Adds Jefferson, "Scientists and farmers need better options for problem solving, that meet their priorities, work within their constraints, build on their ingenuity, and maintain their independence; this is what BiOS is all about."

IRRI, an autonomous international institute based in Los Banos, The Philippines, is one of the foundation institutions of the CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research), and is dedicated to improving the lives and livelihoods of resource poor rice producers and consumers worldwide.

IRRI has been at the forefront of rice research for almost thirty years, delivering new rice varieties and practices to rice farmers throughout Asia and the developing world. Now, rice has become the model system for grain crops worldwide, with its entire DNA sequence known; but the 'mining' – and patenting - of this genetic resource and the possibility that the tools to improve it could be restricted by broad patents has raised legitimate concerns that must be met head-on.

CAMBIA, based in Canberra Australia, is an independent non-profit institute that invents and shares enabling technologies and new practices for life sciences and intellectual property management to further social equity.

CAMBIA is the founder of the BiOS Initiative (www.bios.net), the Patent Lens (www.patentlens.net) and the online collaboration platform BioForge (www.bioforge.net). CAMBIA published the first explicit 'open source' biotechnology toolkit in the Journal "Nature" in February 2005. Included in that publication was the technology 'TransBacter' in which the technique of plant gene transfer by Agrobacterium, covered by hundreds of patents, was bypassed using other symbiotic bacteria to add beneficial genes to rice and other plants. This and other technologies have been made freely available under BiOS licenses.

Work by IRRI, CAMBIA scientists, and others in an online collaboration community, will optimize this process and other open source enabling technologies, ensuring their availability to scientists throughout the developed and developing world.

CAMBIA: Dr Richard Jefferson, CEO, r.jefferson@cambia.org
Contact: Stephanie Goodrick (s.goodrick@cambia.org)

Source: EurekAlert.org
7-Dec-2005

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1.03  New maps reveal true extent of human footprint on Earth

SAN FRANCISCO - As global populations swell, farmers are cultivating more and more land in a desperate bid to keep pace with the ever-intensifying needs of humans.

As a result, agricultural activity now dominates more than a third of the Earth's landscape and has emerged as one of the central forces of global environmental change, say scientists at the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Navin Ramankutty, an assistant scientist at SAGE, says, "the real question is: how can we continue to produce food from the land while preventing negative environmental consequences such as deforestation, water pollution and soil erosion?"

To better understand that crucial trade-off, Ramankutty and other SAGE researchers are tracking the changing patterns of agricultural land use around the world, including a look at related factors such as global crop yields and fertilizer use. Distilling that information into computer-generated maps, the scientists will present their early findings during the fall meeting (Dec. 5-9, 2005) of the American Geophysical Union.

"In the act of making these maps we are asking: where is the human footprint on the Earth?" says Amato Evan, a SAGE researcher who merged available census and satellite data to create visuals reflecting the reach of pasture and croplands worldwide. Chad Monfreda, a graduate student at SAGE, is similarly mapping the location, range and yields of over 150 individual crops reared around the planet.

The exercise is already beginning to cast light on some emerging trends. Countries such as Argentina and Brazil, for instance, have increasingly cleared forests to grow soybean, a legume that has never been a traditional crop of Latin America. Scientists say the surge in soybean production there has a lot to do with the booming demand for soy all the way at the other end of the world - in China. Meanwhile, Monfreda notes, long-time soybean farmers in the U.S. - the world's top soybean producer - are growing increasingly insecure about their place in the global market.

But scientists risk missing important regional and local trends by taking only a global approach to land use change. "There is still a large 'disconnect' between global, top-down views of changing planetary conditions, and the local, bottom-up perspective of how humans affect and live in a changing environment," says Jonathan Foley, director of SAGE.

To help bridge that gap, SAGE researchers are working towards a new "Earth Collaboratory," an unprecedented Internet-based data bank that would simultaneously draw on the knowledge of global scientists, local environmentalists and everyday citizens. Adds Foley: "[The Collaboratory] will truly be a brave new experiment that effectively bridges science, decision-making and real-world environmental practice - collectively envisioning a new way to live sustainably."

For more on SAGE's work on global land use and land cover, visit www.sage.wisc.edu/iamdata.
Contact: Navin Ramankutty
nramanku@wisc.edu
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Source: EurekAlert.org
5 December 2005

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1.04  Rice improvement and poverty reduction

While the world's trading nations remain deadlocked on how to move ahead with agricultural reforms that could benefit the poor farmers of the developing world, research just published has confirmed details of a proven strategy to reduce poverty in the planet's two most populous countries, China and India.

The research shows that, in 1999, for every US$1 million invested at the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), more than 800 and 15,000 rural poor were lifted above the poverty line in China and India, respectively. It also confirmed that such poverty reduction effects were even larger in the earlier years of the Green Revolution.

Presented in a peer-reviewed paper in the November issue of the journal Agricultural Economics, the research is robust confirmation of the very positive impact of rice research on poverty alleviation. "This research is important because it provides solid, additional evidence that should give all poor rice farmers hope because we know now that by providing them with new technologies via rice research we can lift them out of poverty," said IRRI Director General Robert S. Zeigler.

The paper's lead author, Dr. Shenggen Fan, works at IRRI's sister institute, the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). In his paper, Dr. Fan said: "The results indicate that rice varietal improvement research has contributed tremendously to increases in rice production, accounting for 14 to 24 percent of the total production value over the last two decades in both countries. Rice research has also helped reduce large numbers of rural poor and IRRI played a crucial role in these successes."

Dr. Fan explained that new technology resulting from agricultural research can help to alleviate poverty in several ways. First, following the releases of new and improved varieties, farmers can produce more output at the same cost (or, conversely, the same level of output at a lower cost), which directly improves farmers' income.

Second, the diffusion of modern varieties results in lower food prices, as demonstrated in several studies. This is critical given that the poorest people spend a large share of their income on food.

Third, the productivity consequences of improved varieties resulted in greater demand for labor and wages. For example, earlier research found that the poor benefited from new technology as a result of greater employment opportunities as well as the upward pressure on wage rates in the labor market.

Explaining the large difference in impact between the 15,000 lifted out of poverty in India and the 800 in China, Dr. Fan said this was because China had already achieved rapid and very large reductions in poverty before 1999. "But the overall total reduction in rural poor through rice research in China has been much larger than in India," if looked at over the past 20 years instead of just 1999.

"Ending poverty among the world's poor is an enormously complex and challenging task," Dr. Zeigler emphasized. "But it's very important that we recognize what strategies really do have an impact so we can focus our resources on such techniques, and rice research is clearly one of these."

Dr. Fan's research follows earlier work by IRRI that showed that, in the four decades from 1961 to 2000, while the population of Asia's developing nations more than doubled, from 1.6 billion to 3.4 billion, efforts to avert famine resulted in the land area devoted to rice expanding by 30 percent, from 107 million hectares to 139 million hectares.

Rice production grew by an impressive 170 percent, from 199 million tonnes in 1961 to 540 million tonnes in 2000, thanks largely to the introduction of improved rice varieties. This unprecedented yield improvement not only helped millions avoid starvation but also saved thousands of hectares of fragile natural habitats from falling under the plow to create new rice fields.

That IRRI research team, led by senior economist Dr. Mahabub Hossain, also found that the total annual gains from the adoption of these modern varieties now stands at $10.8 billion – an astounding figure considering that it is many times the total investment in rice research made over the same 40-year period by IRRI and its many partners in the national agricultural research and extension systems of Asia's rice-producing nations.

Providing further evidence is an independent study of the impact of improved rice varieties and other crops over the past 40 years that showed they have significantly reduced prices for poor consumers, saved thousands of hectares of forests from being turned into farmland, and reduced the number of malnourished children.

The research, led by respected American economist Dr. Robert Evenson from Yale University, was the first major attempt to assess the economic impact of improved crop varieties, not just rice but also other important food staples such as wheat, maize, barley, cassava, and potato. Dr. Hans Gregersen, the head of a panel that reviewed the research, described the study by Dr. Evenson and his huge team of researchers as a "milestone" and a "monumental effort."

Dr. Evenson and his team found that the development of improved rice varieties between 1970 and 1995 had substantial impact in four major areas. Their findings indicate that, were it not for the development of improved varieties,

-Rice prices for consumers could have been up to 41 percent higher.
-Rice-producing nations would be importing up to 8 percent more food.
-Millions of hectares of forests and other fragile ecosystems would have been lost.
-Between 1.5 and 2 percent more children would have been malnourished in developing countries. This seemingly small figure in percentage terms translates into millions of better-fed children in actual terms.

However, Dr. Fan warns in his research conclusions that most of these benefits are the results of research conducted in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. For both China and India, the increase in experimental yield slowed down in the 1990s.

"One of the reasons is a lack of agricultural research investment at both the national and international levels," he warns. "The budget of the International Rice Research Institute has also been severely cut in recent years. IRRI's budget of $32.6 million in 2000 was the lowest in 20 years, and was only 63 percent of its peak of $51.6 million (measured in 2000 prices) in 1990."

IRRI Director General Dr. Zeigler said that, unfortunately, this trend has continued until this year. "In 2005, IRRI continued to receive cuts in donor funding. We hope that this new research will help us finally turn this trend around so we can continue to help the world's poor rice farmers and consumers achieve better lives."

Title: National and international agricultural research and rural poverty: the case of rice research in India and China
Authors: Fan, SG; Chan-Kang, C; Qian, KM; Krishnaiah, K
Source: Agricultural Economics, 33 (3): 369-379 Suppl. S Nov. 2005

For information, contact Duncan Macintosh, IRRI, d.macintosh@cgiar.org or Johnny Goloyugo at j.goloyugo@cgiar.org  IRRI Home (www.irri.org).

Soure: EurekAlert.org
16 December2005

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1.05  University of Illinois corn breeder John W. Dudley to be honored at International Plant Breeding Symposium

Urbana, Illinois
Plant breeding scientists from around world will gather in Mexico City during Aug. 20-25, 2006 for the First International Plant Breeding Symposium, which will honor John W. Dudley, emeritus professor of plant genetics at the University of Illinois (U of I).

The sessions will assess the state of the science of plant breeding and examine the future prospects for the field. The event is being organized by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Iowa State University, Monsanto, and Pioneer Hi-Bred International.

Prior to his retirement, Dudley was the inaugural holder of the Renessen Endowed Chair in Corn Quality Trait Breeding and Genetics. He is most well known for his research on the long-term selection of corn for protein and oil at the U of I. Other work has focused on improvement in yield and disease resistance, use of quantitative genetics in plant breeding and on applications of biotechnology to plant improvement.

Dudley has published more than 155 scientific papers and served on the editorial boards of the journal Crop Science and The Brazilian Journal of Genetics. He has received the DeKalb Crop Sciences Distinguished Career Award, the National Commercial Council of Plant Breeders Award, the Crop Science Research Award and the National Agri-Marketing Association award for contributions to Agricultural Science.

He is a fellow of the American Society of Agronomy, the Crop Science Society of America, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He also served as associate head of the Department of Crop Sciences at the U of I.

Details on the seminar and full registration information are available on the Internet at www.intlplantbreeding.com. (see also announcement also in “Meetings” section of this newsletter)

Source: SeedQuest.com
8 December 2005

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1.06  Yield enhancement and stability are targets of new crop research agreement

Adelaide, Australia
Yield enhancement and stability are targets of new crop research agreement between The Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics and Pioneer Hi-Bred International

The Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics Pty Ltd (ACPFG), based in Adelaide, signed a research collaboration agreement focusing on yield enhancement and stability in crops with Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., headquartered in Johnston, Iowa, USA.

Improving plant productivity, including the ability to cope with abiotic (environmental) stresses such as drought and nitrogen limitations, is a target for the new collaborative program. The overall goal is to provide farmers with
better crop varieties.

"This is an excellent opportunity for the scientists in both organisations to develop outcomes relevant to the Australian wheat and barley industries and the US maize and soybean industry," said Professor Peter Langridge, Chief Executive Officer of the ACPFG.

"Increasing harvestable yield for our farmer customers is still the main focus of our research at Pioneer. This collaboration will help us to learn more about plant development and productivity under drought and nitrogen stress and allow us to bring dramatically improved products to market in the near future," said Bill Niebur, Vice President of Crop Genetics Research and Development at Pioneer.

The terms of the agreement give the ACPFG commercial rights to the collaboration's research outcomes in wheat and barley, while Pioneer will have commercial rights in maize and soybeans. Each will have commercial rights in
other crops such as rice and sorghum.

"There is considerable scientific synergy between Pioneer and the ACPFG and we expect that this will be an important collaborative program that will grow into new areas over time," Professor Langridge said.

It is estimated that at least a dozen new scientists will work at the ACPFG as a result of the new collaboration, reinforcing the ACPFG's position as an internationally recognised crop genomics research facility and one of the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.

The ACPFG is based at the University of Adelaide's Waite Campus. It was founded in 2002, primarily with funds from the Australian Research Council, Grain Research Development Council and South Australian government.

"We're particularly pleased because this deal is the first major agreement with a large US commercial company for the ACPFG, a great achievement given we've been operating for less than three years," Professor Langridge said.

Source: SeedQuest.com
7 December 2005

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1.07  Hybrid rice saves the Philippines US$ 23.25 million from rice importation

Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija, The Philippines
A staggering amount of US$ 23.25 million has been saved from rice importation by the government’s hybrid rice commercialization program, a study of the Philippine Rice Research Institute [PhilRice] showed.

Led by Flordeliza H. Bordey, Dr. Leonardo A. Gonzales and PhilRice executive director Dr. Leo S. Sebastian, PhilRice researchers observed that government investments on the hybrid rice commercialization have incurred financial and economic benefit-cost ratios of 1.56 and 1.13, respectively.

These findings suggest that the benefits from hybrid rice derived by the country have outweighed the costs of the program.

Covering the period from 2002 wet season to 2004 dry season, the study showed that hybrid rice production is now one of the best options to increase farm productivity and income among the technologies available today. On-farm data show that it can increase yield by 8 to 14 percent, as more hybrid rice farmers harvest 5 tons a hectare (t/ha) and above than inbred rice farmers.

However, although hybrid rice performance is generally superior over inbred rice in terms of yield, this performance varies from place to place, the researchers said. This implies the location specificity of hybrid rice technology.

Thus, the researchers suggest it would be better to promote the existing hybrid rice varieties in more suitable areas like Isabela, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur and Nueva Ecija. However, research and development for location-specific crop management practices, and adaptation trials of new hybrid rice varieties could be done in less suitable areas.

It was also observed that hybrid rice has a price advantage of around 25 centavos per kilogram over inbred rice, indicating a good market acceptability of milled hybrid rice due to its good eating quality. However, the researchers said this phenomenon is unique in the Philippines as price of hybrid rice in other countries are usually discounted because of poor quality.

In effect, breeding of better hybrid rice varieties that are high-yielding and have good eating quality is necessary to preserve this price advantage and encourage more farmers to plant hybrid rice. However, strict implementation of grain standards should be done to ensure that incentives from marketing of quality rice will trickle down to the farm level, the PhilRice researchers stressed.

It was also observed that although production cost for hybrid rice increased due to higher seed, fertilizer, pesticide and labor costs, the difference in production cost per cavan has narrowed as hybrid farmers have become more familiar with the technology. This resulted in higher net income from hybrid rice production than from inbred rice.

Even without seed subsidy, net income from hybrid rice was observed to be higher specifically during dry seasons when photosynthetic activity of the plants is high. This shows that although subsidy played an important role in the initial adoption process, its gradual phase-out can be programmed now, since farmers would still have incentives to use hybrid rice even without the subsidy.

Aside from impacts on farm productivity and income, hybrid rice promotion also created sequential adoption of other component technologies in rice production that have been ignored in the past. For one, farmers are fast-learning that 20 to 25 kg of seeds is enough to plant a hectare using transplanted method of crop establishment. In addition, farmers now also adopt synchronous planting, use of 400 sq m seedbeds, as well as straight and row planting. Hybrid rice use has also encouraged farmers to use organic fertilizers specifically in the seedbeds.

The government has played an important role in the initial dissemination of hybrid rice technology and its investments had paid-off because its efforts had already created a certain demand for the technology, the researchers said. This opportunity can now be taken by the private sector to lead in the next phase of hybrid rice commercialization as the government moves away from its commercialization activities.

As a result, government resources that would be freed from these activities could be allocated in research, extension and technical assistance to farmers, the researchers said.

Source: SeedQuest.com
November 23, 2005

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1.08  Bolivia released the first upland rice variety originated from population improvement

Roger Taboada (1), René Guzman (2), Juana Viruez (2), Victor Hugo Callaú (2). Marc Châtel (3), Yolima Ospina (3), Francisco. Rodriguez (3), Victor Hugo Lozano (3)

Rice in Bolivia is of undoubted importance as part of the basic diet.  Rice consumption, now 35kg annually per capita, continues rising.  The State of Santa Cruz, which is the main rice producer in the country, uses the conventional mechanized system.  Santa Cruz possesses an area of approximately 75%, and 80% of the earnings of the country’s total production.  Other production systems such as the slash and burn system is employed in other production states.  Rice production in Bolivia is for auto consumption and for internal markets.

The growth of the rice sector in Bolivia is limited due to the lack of more productive varieties for each production system.  The rice breeding program led by the Centro de Investigacion Agricola Tropical (CIAT Santa Cruz-Bolivia) is seeking to provide producers with more adapted and productive rice varieties.  Among the most recent achievements of this programme is the release of a new rice variety for the upland system manual and the mechanised.  This is the first rice variety developed within the framework of Bolivia and the population improvement project of the Centro de Cooperación Internacional en Investigación Agrícola para el Desarrollo (CIRAD Montpellier-Francia) and the Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT, Palmira-Colombia).

This new variety was originated from the PCT-4 population and is labelled with the code PCT-4\0\0\1>S2-1584-4-M-5-M-6-M-M.  Its development was achieved thanks to the population improvement work of the CIRAD/CIAT.  The line was selected in the Estación Experimental La Libertad, Villavicencio, Colombia, in the first cycle of recombination of the PCT-4.  To the formation of the PCT-4 population the following genetic varieties/lines contributed: IRAT 104, IRAT 257, Batatais, IRAT 199, Ligero, IR53167, A8-394, 5 lines of the plant breeding programme of the CIAT and the japonica population CNA-IRAT A.  Fertile plants were selected in the population PCT-4 to derive segregating lines through pedigree.  Advanced lines were sent to Bolivia for performance evaluation under local conditions.

At CIAT Santa Cruz the line PCT-4\0\0\1>S2-1584-4-M-5-M-6-M-M was evaluated for agronomic traits and it was identified as well adapted to both the manual and the mechanized system.  The variety’s qualities such as tolerance to drought and good yield were important features for small farmers because it allows crop rotation in the same area during one single year.  These qualities also allow trading the harvest material at better rates since during the beginning of the harvesting season there is not much rice in the market.

The public sector, represented by CIAT Santa Cruz, and the private rice sector are joining efforts to release the new variety in 2006.  Seed multiplication fields, field days and technical workshops are taking place during 2005.
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1. CIAT resercher in Santa-Cruz until 2003. Currently working in the Asociación de Productores de Arroz (ASPAR) Address: Calle Humberto Vasquez M. No 58 "A". Santa cruz de la Sierra – Bolivia.  rogertaboada@hotmail.com

2. Researchers of the Centro de Investigación Agrícola Tropical (CIAT) Address: Avenida Ejercito Nal. Nº 131, c.c. 247 Santa Cruz de la Sierra – Bolivia  juanitavj@hotmail.com  e   www.ciatbo.org

3. Reserchers for the joint project between the Centro de Cooperación Internacional en Investigación Agrícola para el Desarrollo (CIRAD Montpellier-Francia) and the  Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT Palmira-Colombia). Address: Apartado Aereo 6713. Cali. Colombia. m.chatel@cgiar.org   and   y.ospina@cgiar.org

Submitted by Elcio Guimaraes
AGPC/FAO

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1.09  Canada needs strong variety development research, says the Western Grains Research Foundation

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Public research to develop new varieties of crops is an outstanding investment that should be strengthened to help farmers succeed and to ensure a competitive Canadian agriculture and agri-food industry.

That is the message Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF) is delivering to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) as part of cross-country consultations by the department to update priorities for agriculture and agri-food research.

The farmer funded and directed WGRF is the largest funding partner in AAFC variety development research. This spring, WGRF reached a new five-year partnership with AAFC that represents a $40 million investment in wheat and barley breeding programs.

"There is no simpler test of value in agriculture than what a farmer plants," says Dr. Keith Degenhardt, a Hughenden, Alta., producer and Chair of WGRF. "Producers only grow crop varieties they know make sense for their operations and that meet clear market demands. Canada needs strong variety development research to provide this critical anchor to all of our production and market success."

With genetics established as a primary battleground for agriculture competitiveness around the world, this research has never been more important to protect the multi-billion-dollar markets Canadian agriculture has earned, and to both create and capitalize on emerging opportunities, says Degenhardt. "A key component to building a healthy farming environment is a crop breeding system that ensures farmers continue to maintain access to new varieties with as little impedance as possible."

Farmers rely heavily on public research to deliver a regular turnover of varieties with the yield, quality, disease and pest resistance, and other characteristics necessary to meet increasingly sophisticated production and market demands.

Variety development research is also crucial to drive innovations important to the Canadian public, such as lowering the use of pesticides and other agricultural inputs, improving environmentally sustainable production and protecting food safety.

This research is also the anchor of innovation - it provides the tailored characteristics needed to add value and both develop and capture new market opportunities.

"There is arguably no better public research investment than variety development to help our farmers and to make sure we get the most benefit - economically, socially and environmentally - from our agriculture and agri-food industry," says Degenhardt.

WGRF is made up of 18 diverse agricultural organizations representing the vast majority of Prairie crop producers. The major funding sources it administers are the Wheat and Barley Check-off Funds, which for the past decade have been invested in research to develop new wheat and barley varieties.

Under WGRF's renewed partnership with AAFC, the department will invest $24.5 million in wheat research and $3.15 million for barley over the next five years, and WGRF will provide an additional $12.5 million. The agreement, which is renewable for an additional five years, follows the original WGRF-AAFC 10-year agreement signed in 1994.

WGRF would like to see the AAFC commitment to this research extended and strengthened, says Lanette Kuchenski, WGRF Executive Director. "The WGRF partnership with AAFC in funding this research has been an outstanding success. We would like to see the variety development effort not only be maintained, but increased to further capitalize on the proven high returns and fundamental role of this research."

Recently, WGRF commissioned an independent study to examine the return on investment from the past 10 years of Wheat and Barley Check-off investment in wheat and barley variety development programs.

The study, lead by University of Saskatchewan agricultural economists Dr. Hartley Furtan and Dr. Richard Gray, identified a minimum four-to-one return on investment for wheat breeding and 12-to-one return for barley breeding (the higher barley return is due to the smaller acres of barley). The results support the findings of many economic studies of variety development research conducted over the years, which consistently show major returns that are arguably the highest and most consistent among any area of agricultural research.

More information on WGRF and the Wheat and Barley Check-off Funds is available at www.westerngrains.com.

Source: SeedQuest.com
21 November 2005

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1.10  Pigeonpea back in China

Pigeonpea is an essential ingredient in Indian cooking. Next door in China, however, pigeonpea is used to hold up the soil in mountainous regions, and to rear insects. When the latter industry collapsed, pigeonpea cultivation decreased in Chinese farmlands.

With help from the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), China has once again started to cultivate improved varieties of the crop. Work started back in 1997, when they were first tested in selected locations in the country. Today, pigeonpea is estimated to be grown on around 50,000 acres in China alone. Strong research programs on the crop have also been established by the Institute of Resources Insects of the Chinese Academy of Forestry in Kunming, Yunnan and at Guangxi Academy of Agriculture Sciences (GxAAS), Nanning, Guangxi.

According to Dr William Dar, Director General of ICRISAT, the impact of the institute's varieties in China recognizes the significance of pigeonpea as a crop with many useful qualities. Among others, it can also be used as animal fodder, which is important to the rural economy in Southern China.

For further information, contact Dr KB Saxena at k.saxena@cgiar.org.

 Source: CropBiotech Update 11 November 2005
Contributed by Margaret Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics
Cornell University

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1.11  Cornell University and Indian Council of Agricultural Research sign new agreement for agricultural development

Ithaca, New York
Exchanging scientific information freely, forging cooperative research, hosting Indian executives, students and faculty, and sharing agricultural biotechnology to promote the development and use of drought- and pest-resistant crops. These were just a few of the collaborations that were strengthened when Susan A. Henry, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) at Cornell University, signed a renewed memorandum of understanding with officials representing the Indian Council of Agricultural Research on Dec. 12.

The agreement was signed during a visit to Cornell by Indian senior executives and government officials on the board of the newly formed Knowledge Initiative in Agricultural Education, Teaching, Research, Service and Commercial Linkages (KIA).

"KIA is an initiative, signed between U.S. President George Bush and India's Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh in July, that provides momentum to re-energize the longstanding tradition of knowledge exchange between the two countries," said Ronnie Coffman, director of International Programs in CALS.

"We at Cornell are incredibly fortunate that Cornell is so high on the KIA team's list for collaborations that the delegation chose to visit only Cornell on this trip," added Coffman.

The Indian team members visited labs and faculty members associated with Cornell's Institute for Genomic Diversity, Department of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell Cooperative Extension, organic agriculture, Mann Library, Veterinary College, rice mapping, poultry program, food retail program, Food Science Incubator and Cornell Center for Technology, Enterprise and Commercialization.

"We are very active in agricultural research in India, and renewing a memo of understanding with them builds on our more than 50 years of Cornell-India collaborations concerning agricultural education and research," said K.V. Raman, associate director of international programs in CALS.

Among Cornell-India links are:
-extension/outreach services to Indian farmers on agricultural technologies;
-an international agriculture course that sends 50 Cornell students to India each January to tour with Indian agricultural students and faculty;
-the Agri/Food Business Management Program and the Food Retail Executive Program that bring high-level Indian policy planners, food industry CEOs and faculty to Cornell each year;
-National biotechnology symposia, conducted with the government of India, to inform Indian stakeholders with emerging trends in global biotechnology;
-the Rice-Wheat Consortium and System for Rice Intensification programs to promote rice and wheat production in India;
-the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project to address such issues as pest control, drought and intellectual property technology management in India.

Many of these programs are in collaboration with Sathguru Management Consultants, an India-based firm that represents CALS in India.

Source: SeedQuest.com
13 December 2005

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1.12  Kazakhstan and Siberia connect with CIMMYT to improve their wheat

El Batán, Mexico
Wheat exchange network breeds new life into varietal development: Kazakhstan and Siberia connect with CIMMYT to improve their wheat

Grigoriy Sereda, Head of the Breeding Department at the Central Kazakhstan Agricultural Research Center, is nothing if not direct. “The future of our breeding program relies on KASIB. Without it, germplasm exchange would be nonexistent. And without germplasm exchange, crop breeding cannot move forward.”

KASIB, the Kazakhstan-Siberia Network for Spring Wheat Improvement, was established in 2000 as the brainchild of CIMMYT regional representative Alexei Morgounov. In the former Soviet Union, there was considerable seed exchange among the republics and interactions among breeders and crop research institutes. But after the break-up of the U.S.S.R., many scientists found themselves isolated professionally and with little access to breeding lines from outside sources. Through KASIB, CIMMYT, with modest funding from GTZ, a German development agency, and the International Cooperation for Agricultural Research in Central Asia and the Caucasus, endeavored to rectify the situation.

The principles of the network are simple: participants share breeding lines and data and abide by a Wheat Workers Code of Ethics (a declaration by the U.S. National Wheat Improvement Committee). Aside from active exchange and evaluation of experimental lines, the network publishes trial results and proceedings from an annual meeting where scientists from participating institutions present and discuss their work.

Each of the 17 participating institutions submits 2-4 recent varieties or breeding lines to CIMMYT’s Kazakhstan office, where seed for the trials and the field books are prepared and distributed to cooperators in April, prior to planting. The trials are grown at the diverse sites with three replications. Data from trials are submitted to CIMMYT, where they are summarized, published in Russian and English, and distributed to cooperators and others. The trials are a key source of lines and varieties carrying important traits such as drought tolerance, disease resistance (primarily to leaf rust and septoria leaf blotch), and improved grain quality.

Illustrating the point, in 2000 northern Kazakhstan and Siberia suffered a leaf rust outbreak, Morgounov recounts. None of the 80 modern varieties and lines being tested showed resistance to the pathogen. This clearly indicated a pressing need for the breeders to address, and one for which CIMMYT was well equipped to assist.

Another facet of KASIB is an innovative shuttle breeding program between the network and CIMMYT-Mexico. Following several years of trials, says CIMMYT wheat breeder Richard Trethowan, scientists in the network select elite local lines and varieties with promising agronomic or quality traits and send seed to Mexico to be crossed with CIMMYT materials that possess leaf rust resistance and other locally-desirable traits, such as a tall profile and photoperiod sensitivity. The lines are crossed with a Kazakh parent or to another Kazakh or Canadian line and returned to Kazakhstan and Siberia for additional breeding to ensure adaptation to local environments.

Once adapted, Trethowen continues, the line can then be sent back to Mexico for further crossing and improvement, hence the term shuttle. The system not only allows incorporation of traits not found in the region’s wheat, but accelerates breeding by allowing multiple cycles per year. The first full cycle of the shuttle was completed in 2004, with the first advanced lines reaching Mexico. Trethowen credits KASIB for enabling the approach to be applied in Central Asia and for benefits that accrue to CIMMYT wheat research through the added genetic diversity introduced from Kazakh and Siberian lines­diversity that may well serve farmers elsewhere in the developing world.

For Sereda, KASIB has breathed fresh life into his work: for example, he has received more than 200 entries to plant through the network and has selected about 60 for crosses. He is particularly enthused about the experimental wheats from CIMMYT’s wide-cross research­derived from crosses with wild relatives of wheat­received through the KASIB-CIMMYT shuttle. After 35 years of plant breeding, the wide-cross collection brings an entirely new tool on which to focus his vast experience. And he thanks KASIB meetings and publications for providing a forum to share his knowledge and more quickly move improved wheats to the farmers of Kazakhstan.

Source: CIMMYT E-News, vol 2 no. 11, November 2005, via SeedQuest.com
November, 2005

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1.13  CIMMYT and partners in Nepal make progress against foliar blight in wheat

El Batán, Mexico
CIMMYT and partners in Nepal have identified new sources of genetic resistance to a disease that makes wheat plants looks as though they have been through a drought. The symptoms of foliar blight result from fungal infections, either spot blotch or the less well-known but related tan spot. These pathogens dry the wheat plant and shrivel grain. In the warm areas of South Asia, that appearance can lead farmers to blame drought rather than an infection. By “knowing the enemy,” as CIMMYT partner Ram Sharma puts it, it is easier to win the fight against the disease.

CIMMYT pathologist Etienne Duveiller and Sharma, who have both done work on the pathogens, have found an effective method to select for resistance: finding wheat with a heavy grain weight, early maturity, and resistance to both pathogens. Wheat that carries these three traits together makes for wheat with higher resistance. Through regional collaborative trials in South Asia, they have bred and identified wheat lines that look promising. While better than anything previously seen in the area, these wheats can still suffer up to 35% yield losses­and have a huge impact on resource poor farmers who grow their wheat for food, as most do in Nepal.

When the temperature soars to 26-28°C, however, no wheat can resist the disease. This is why it is so important to find wheat that matures early to avoid the abrupt rise in temperature accompanied by hot winds in late March and April. This becomes difficult as most farmers in the region are delayed planting wheat as they wait for their rice harvest to finish and the paddies to dry up.

In addition to genetic resistance, solutions can come in the form of good management. Surface seeding, when seed is broadcast on the mud directly after the rice harvest, allows earlier planting and gives the wheat crop a jump start on the heat. Crop rotation and soil nutrients are important because healthy soils help the crop resist the disease. Also, Duveiller and Sharma have found that wheat is better able to withstand the disease with proper soil moisture.

The CIMMYT-Nepal team expects that these new sources of resistance, coupled with good management practices, will limit the destructiveness of this disease. They know it can be done­foliar blight has already been substantially reduced in areas of South Asia such as Bangladesh through better wheat varieties. The challenge is to sustain progressive control of this threat across the warm wheat growing areas of South Asia.

Source: CIMMYT E-News, vol 2 no. 11, November 2005, via SeedQuest.com
November, 2005

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1.14  Swiss vote for ban on GM cultivation

Switzerland has agreed to support a five-year ban on the commercial cultivation of genetically modified crops. In a referendum on a moratorium on biotechnology in Swiss agriculture, 55.6% of Swiss voters supported the ban until November 27, 2010.

EuropaBio, the European Union (EU) association for bioindustries, said that although the ban concerns only the commercial cultivation of GM crops, the impact will indirectly affect investment in research and innovation, as well as lessen crop alternatives for farmers.

For more information on the ban, visit http://www.europabio.org.

Source: CropBiotech Update 2 December 2005
Contributed by Margaret
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics
Cornell University

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1.15  China leads in research of genetically modified plants

Beijing, China
China has taken the lead among developing countries in the research of genetically modified (GM) plants, an expert has said.

China has been investing 100 million US dollars per year in the research of biotechnological plants since the beginning of this century, and the sum is expected to reach more than 500 million US dollars in 2005, said Shen Guifang, executive deputy director of China High-tech Industrialization Association and researcher of Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

At present, more than 60 versions of GM plants are approved for field trials and release, including China's staple crops -- rice, maize and wheat, as well as cotton, potato, tomato, soybean, peanut and rape, she said at the "Forum of Industrial Innovation and Agriculture Industrialization" held recently in Yinchuan, capital of northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

More than 30 versions of GM tomato, cotton, petunia and pimient o have been approved for commercial production. The leading GM plant in China is pest-resistant cotton covering 66 percent of cotton-growing areas, Shen said.

China developed 47 GM plants in 1996, including almost all the main food and for age plants. It has examined and approved 26 GM plants in terms of safety between 1997 and 1999, including 16 of pest-resistant type, nine of antiviral type and one of quality-improved type.

China ranks the fifth -- behind the United States, Argentina, Canada, Brazil - in the amount of genetically modified crops, saida World Health Organization report in June. Last year it had 3.70 million hectares planted, 5 percent of the total transgenic crop area of the world.

5 December 2005
Source: People's Daily Online via SeedQuest.com

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1.16  Fishing for the origins of genome complexity: deciphering a paradox of evolution

Biologists at Georgia Tech have provided scientific support for a controversial hypothesis that has divided the fields of evolutionary genomics and evolutionary developmental biology, popularly known as evo devo, for two years. Appearing in the December 2005 issue of Trends in Genetics, researchers find that the size and complexity of a species’ genome is not an evolutionary adaptation per se, but can result as simply a consequence of a reduction in a species’ effective population size.

“As a general rule, more complex organisms, like humans, have larger genomes than less complex ones,” said J. Todd Streelman, assistant professor in the School of Biology at the Georgia Institute of Technology and co-author of the study. “You might think this means that animals with the largest genomes are the most complex – and for the most part that would be right. But it’s not always true. There are some species of frogs and some amoeba that have much larger genomes than humans.”

To help explain this paradox, a pair of scientists from Indiana University and the University of Oregon published a hotly-contested hypothesis in 2003. It said that most of the mutations that arise in organisms are not advantageous and that the smaller a species effective population size (the number of individuals who contribute genes to the next generation), the larger the genome will be.

“We agreed with some of the criticisms of the hypothesis – that one had to remove the effects of confounding factors like body size and developmental rate,” said Streelman. “We were able to remove the effects of these confounding factors and test whether genome size is adaptive.”

Their test consisted of analyzing data from 1,043 species of fresh and saltwater ray-finned fish. Previous data on genetic variability had established that freshwater species have a smaller effective population size than their marine counterparts. If the hypothesis was correct, the genome size of these freshwater fish would be larger than that of the saltwater dwellers. It was.

Then they matched the data with estimates of heterozygosity, a measure of the genetic variation of a population. Again they found that species with a smaller effective population had larger genomes.

“We see a very strong negative linear relationship between genome size and the effective population size,” said Soojin Yi, assistant professor in the School of Biology and lead author of the study. “This observation tells us that the mutations that increase the genome tend to be slightly deleterious, because population genetic theories predict such a relationship.”

“The interesting thing here is that biological complexity may passively evolve,” said Yi. “We show that at the origins, it’s not adaptive mutations, but slightly bad ones that make the genome larger. But if you have a large genome, there is more genetic material to play with to make something useful. At first, maybe these mutations aren’t so good for your genome, but as they accumulate and conditions change through evolution, they could become more complex and more beneficial.”

Source: EurekAlert.org
15 December 2005

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1.17  KU Leuven: Center for Conservation of Vegetatively Propagated Plants

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (K.U.Leuven) in Flanders, Belgium has been established as the Global Centre of Excellence on Plant Cryobiology. It will be involved in the long-term conservation of vegetatively propagated plants. This was agreed upon by the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) and K.U.Leuven on 18 October 2005 to commemorate World Food Day. Conservation efforts will include tropical staples such as banana, taro, and cassava.

"This is a significant step forward in our efforts to conserve agricultural diversity," said Emile Frison, Director General of IPGRI. "The point, however, is not simply conservation. Breeders and farmers need the conserved material to adapt crops to meet challenges such as new pests and diseases."

Read more on K.U.Leuven at http://www.kuleuven.ac.be/english. IPGRI's release on the global center of excellence is at http://www.ipgri.cgiar.org/system/page.asp?frame=institute/pawareness.htm

Source: CropBiotech Update 28 October 2005
Contributed by Margaret Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics
Cornell University

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1.18  Research maps maize gene diversity

Maize was domesticated from the teosinte grass through a single domestication event which may be traced to southern Mexico. This occurred between 6000 to 9000 years ago, and resulted in the original landraces which were then spread throughout the Americas by Native Americans and adapted to a wide range of environmental conditions. But what gene, or genes were responsible for the improvement and domestication of maize?

Masanori Yamasaki of the University of Missouri, and colleagues, find their answer as they report that "A Large-Scale Screen for Artificial Selection in Maize Identifies Candidate Agronomic Loci for Domestication and Crop Improvement." Their work appears in the latest issue of Plant Cell.

By sequencing 1095 maize genes from a sample of 14 inbred lines, researchers chose 35 genes with zero sequence diversity as potential targets of selection. These 35 genes were then sequenced in a sample of diverse maize landraces and teosintes and tested for selection. Using two statistical tests, researchers identified eight candidate genes, with three domestication candidates (designated as AY108876, AY105060, and AY106371) and three improvement candidates (AY107195, AY110109, and AY108178). The eight genes, the researchers report, "have functions consistent with agronomic selection for nutritional quality, maturity, and productivity."

Subscribers to Plant Cell can read the complete article at http://www.plantcell.org/cgi/content/full/17/11/2859.

Source: CropBiotech Update 18 November 2005
Contributed by Margaret Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics
Cornell University

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1.19  Animal gene renders tobacco resistant to parasitic weed

Basel, Switzerland
The parasitic plant species Orobanche can cause enormous yield losses. Up to now, there are only few control measures that are successful and affordable. An American-Israeli research team has now been able to genetically engineer tobacco plants to enhance their resistance against Orobanche.

Parasitic plants heavily contribute to the weed problem for agriculture. Plants of the species Orobanche attack the roots of many crops and abstract water, nutrients and photosynthesis products from their host plant, and by so doing can cause enormous yield losses. Since the parasite is closely associated with the host root, its control is very difficult. Thus, crop species that are resistant to the parasite are in great demand.

James Westwood from the Virginia Tech, Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science in Blacksburg, USA, and his Israeli colleagues recently set out to render tobacco plants resistant to Orobanche. They published their work in the Journal Transgenic Research.

The research team genetically engineered tobacco plants so that they expressed a protein fragment, called sarcotoxin IA, from the flesh fly Sarcophaga peregrine. Sarcotoxin has toxic effects to several plant pathogenic bacteria and fungi.

Already in 1999, Radi Aly from the Agricultural Research Organiszation in Ramat Yishay, Israel, and his colleagues showed that transgenic tobacco plants producing sarcotoxin IA were less parasitized by Orobanche. Yet, resistance was not complete, perhaps due to the low production level of sarcotoxin IA.

Westwood has now combined the so called HMG2-promoter (a plant gene sequence that controls a natural plant defence response) with the sarcotoxin IA gene and found, that the transgenic tobacco plants showed parasitic resistance after O. aegyptiaca had penetrated the plant.

However, sarcotoxin IA confers only an intermediate level of resistance to Orobanche. Though the transgenic plants accumulated a higher biomass than untransformed plants when grown in soil infected with O. aegyptiaca, the added gene did not enable plants to completely avoid damage by the parasite.

Since the number of tubercles of O. aegyptiaca did not differ between transgenic and untransformed plants and parasite biomass was lower in genetically engineered plants, the researchers conclude that sarcotoxin IA first of all affects parasite growth after it has attached to the roots, and second, it does not inhibit the attachment itself.

The researchers write in their publication that the resistance level of the genetically engineered tobacco plants fall short of the levels that would be required for reducing Orobanche infestations in the field.

“We are in the very early stages of research on this line of resistance, and I don’t foresee any of our current generation of plants being planted in the field,” Dr. Westwood told Checkbiotech.

When plants armed with this resistance mechanism would be released, the development of possible resistant Orobanche populations might be a concern. Dr. Westwood answered, “I hypothesize that the sarcotoxin IA mechanism is acting as a general membrane disrupter, and resistance may be slow to develop against such a non-specific mechanism.”

But since resistance is always possible, the best strategy is to combine it with other resistance mechanisms, or effective control measures to further delay the emergence of resistant Orobanche populations.

The researchers are currently investigating the precise mechanism of action of sarcotoxin IA against Orobanche. Dr. Westwood said, “We think we can enhance the activity by modifying the protein, but again, we are in the first steps of this research and it is too early to say what resistance levels can be expected.”

If they are able to increase Orobanche resistance in tobacco plants enough, Dr. Westwood’ team will test it against other parasitic weeds to see if it is generally useful against them as well.

“Genetically engineered plants are not very different from the plants we encounter and consume every day,” explained Dr. Westwood about his research with transgenic plants. He further explained that nearly all crops would have been substantially modified over the years by conventional genetic breeding, in many cases with little knowledge or concern about unintended changes that may have been made along the way.

“When I think about the crop losses suffered due to parasitic plants, and that we still have few good tools to protect these crops, I think we must be open to new approaches.”

Hamamouch et al. A peptide from insets protects transgenic tobacco from a parasitic weed. Transgenic Research (2005) 14, pp. 227-236.

Link to the abstract:
http://www.checkbiotech.org/root/index.cfm?fuseaction=search&search=parasitic&doc_id=11865&start=1&fullsearch=0

By Katharina Schoebi, Checkbiotech
Contact: James H. Westwood,Virginia Tech, westwood@vt.edu

Source: SeedQuest.com
15 December 2005

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1.20  USDA identifies rice lines that resist straighthead disease

Scientists from the Agricultural Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture have identified rice breeding lines that resist straighthead disease.

Research geneticist Wengui Yan and colleagues analyzed the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rice Core Collection and were able to identify germplasm accessions that are very resistant to straighthead, a plant disease that causes the entire rice head to remain upright at maturity with sterile florets and reduced grain yield.

For more information, view the ARS release at http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr.

Source: CropBiotech Update 3 November 2005
Contributed by Margaret Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics
Cornell University

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1.21  Millet gets mildew defense from within

Pearl millet is the most drought tolerant of all domesticated cereals. It is widely grown, and its worst pest is downy mildew disease, which is caused by the fungus Sclerospora graminicola (Sacc.) Schroet. Control methods are ineffective, since the crop is grown under a wide range of environmental settings.

With a little outside help, Bejai R. Sarosh, and colleagues, of the University of Mysore, India document the "Elicitation of defense related enzymes and resistance by L-methionine in pearl millet against downy mildew disease caused by Sclerospora graminicola." Their work appears in the latest issue of the Journal of Plant Physiology and Biochemistry.

Researchers induced resistance to downy mildew by treating the crop with L-methionine. They then profiled the messenger RNA transcripts which accumulated, and found that a good number of defense response genes were being expressed due to the treatment.

Subscribers to the Journal of Plant Physiology and Biochemistry can access the complete article at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.plaphy.2005.06.009.

Source: CropBiotech Update 11 November 2005
Contributed by Margaret Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics
Cornell University

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1.22  Lr19 resistance in wheat becomes susceptible to Puccinia triticina in India

Lr19, a resistance gene originally transferred from _Agropyron elongatum_ to wheat (_Triticum aestivum_ L.), has remained effective worldwide against leaf rust (_Puccinia triticina_ Eriks.) except in Mexico (1). This report records a new pathotype of _P. triticina_ virulent on Lr19 from India.

From 2003 to 2004, 622 wheat leaf rust samples from 14 states were subjected to pathotype analysis. Samples were established on susceptible wheat cv. Agra Local, and pathotypes were identified on 3 sets of differentials following binomial nomenclature (3). Virulence on Lr19 (Agatha T4 line) was observed in approximately 2 percent of samples. These samples were picked from Lr19 (NIL), cvs. Ajit, Lal Bahadur, Local Red, Lok1, and Nirbhay from Karnataka and Gujarat states. All Lr19 virulent isolates were identical. The reference culture is being maintained on susceptible wheat cv. Agra Local and has also been put under long-term storage in a national repository at Flowerdale.

From 2004 to 2005, this pathotype was detected in 6.3 percent of samples from central and peninsular India. There is no wheat variety with Lr19 under cultivation in India, however, it is being used in wheat breeding programs targeted at building resistance against leaf and stem rusts. NIL's Lr19/Sr25 (LC25) and Lr19/Sr25 (82.2711) were also susceptible to this isolate, whereas Lr19/Sr25 (spring accession) was resistant. The new isolate, designated as 253R31 (77-8), appears to be close to the pathotype 109R31 (4) with additional virulence for Lr19. The avirulence/virulence formula of pathotype 253R31 is Lr9, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27ძ, 28, 29, 32, 36, 39, 41, 42, 43, 45/Lr1, 2a, 2b, 2c, 3, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14a, 14b, 14ab, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 22a, 22b, 30, 33, 34, 35, 37, 38, 40, 44, 48, and 49.

To our knowledge, this is the 1st report of virulence on Lr19 from 2 states of India. On international rust differentials, it is designated as TGTTQ (2), and is different from CBJ/QQ (1), the other isolate reported virulent on Lr19 from Mexico. The Mexican isolate is avirulent on Lr1, 2a, 2b, 2c, 3ka, 16, 21, and 30 to which the Indian
isolate is virulent.

However, both isolates are avirulent on Lr9, 24, 26, 36, and Lr42. Among the wheat cultivars identified during the last 6 years, HD2824, HD2833, HD2864, HI1500, HS375, HUW 510, HW 2044, HW 5001, Lok 45, MACS 6145, MP4010, NW 2036, PBW 443, PBW 498, PBW 502, PBW 524, Raj 4037, UP 2565, VL 804, VL 829, and VL 832 and lines of wheat possessing Lr9, Lr23, Lr24, and Lr26 showed resistance to this pathotype. PBW 343, which occupies more than 5 million ha in India, is also resistant to this pathotype along with PBW 373.

An integrated strategy using a combination of diverse resistance genes, deployment of cultivars by using pathotype distribution data, slow rusting, and adult plant resistance is in place to curtail selection of new pathotypes and prevent rust epiphytotics.

References:
(1) J. Huerta-Espino and R. P. Singh. Plant Dis. 78:640,1994.
(2) D. V. Mc Vey et al. Plant Dis. 88:271, 2004.
(3) S. Nagarajan et al. Curr. Sci. 52:413, 1983.
(4) S. K. Nayar et al. Curr. Sci. 44:742, 1975.

Source: American Phytopathological Society, Plant Disease Notes, December 2005 [edited] < http://www.apsnet.org/pd/searchnotes/2005/PD-89-1360A.asp>
via SeedQuest.com
30 November 2005

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1.23  Selection of spelt varieties for organic production underway in New South Wales

New South Wales, Australia
Spelt is currently an important component of organic rotations in Australia’s winter rainfall zones. In Australia, organic spelt is currently processed for flour and further value-added into bread, licorice, spelt flakes, and pasta. In addition, spelt has benefits for livestock, both for grazing and as a stock feed supplement. Environmentally, spelt is well adapted to organic systems. In addition to having lower nutritional requirements than wheat, anecdotal evidence suggests that spelt was unaffected by stripe rust in 2004 when the disease was widespread throughout Australia and appears more tolerant of waterlogging and salt (Ground Cover, Issue 55, April/May, GRDC 2005).

The seeming adaptability of spelt suggests that it may have a role to play in Australian agricultural systems as climate change impacts on traditional cropping. However, the yield of spelt (and other alternative grains) is variable (2 -4.5 tonnes / Ha) with reported yields in Australia well below that of wheat, indicating that there is potential to improve yields either through crop selection and/or by improvements to crop nutrition. Yield benefits, however, must not compromise the superior nutritional value or other unique attributes of these grains.

Organic farmers in the Cootamundra area of NSW are currently growing a spelt variety which is a mixture of two older strains. No other varieties are available commercially and little is known about the adaptability of the Cootamundra variety. NSW DPI in conjunction with Cootamundra organic producers David and Mary Booth (Buronga Organics) set out to test the available germplasm to see whether other varieties are an improvement.

A small number of seeds of each of these lines have been growing for the past 5 months in the glasshouse at the EH Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation in Wagga Wagga. The harvested seed will be grown in the field next year. This is the beginning of the process to determine which of thevarieties has commercial potential.

As soon as sufficient seed is available, the best varieties will be evaluated on organic growers’ properties and on certified organic land at NSWDPI’s Yanco Agricultural Institute and at theRiverina Institute of TAFE’s National Environment Centre in Albury.

Quality and ‘organic’ performance are essential attributes
The 43 spelt genotypes grown in the glasshouse have exhibited a huge and interesting range of different characteristics. Some lines were early ‘spring’ types, others were ‘winter’ types. There were striking differences in plant height, degree of  tillering, leaf size and number, plant colour, and ear shape.

Organic growers require crop varieties that are deliberately bred to perform well in their production systems. Currently, organic farmers have to rely on varieties bred for high-input systems (fertiliser, herbicide, insecticide, etc.) which will not necessarily have the attributes most suited to the organic environment. Furthermore, organic growers really want varieties to be ‘bred organically’. That is, bred using traditional methods and without the use of more modern interventionist approaches such as, tissue culture, artificial mutagensis, or transgenics. It remains to be seen whether some breeding is required for Australian spelt but experience over the years in many crops worldwide has shown that breeding may be required to make long-term progress in yield. Perhaps the biggest challenge for organic spelt production is weed control, and having a variety which is very competitive against weeds will be essential.

An equally important aspect of spelt wheat is its grain and flour quality - which is different to normal bread wheat. The Bread Research Institute Australia Limited recently undertook are view of the health attributes of spelt for the Grains Research and Development Corporation(GRDC). They found that spelt has a similar composition to modern wheats - high in carbohydrates, low in fat, with good protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals.

Zinc levels however, can be up to twice as high in spelt as in modern wheats. Spelt may be higher in vitamin E activity and have a higher proportion of monounsaturated fats to the total fat content. However, the content of total and insoluble dietary fibre has been reported to be considerably lower in spelt than modern wheats (Griffins, T. 2005). A vital part of any selection process is to ensure that the quality of promising varieties retain these characteristics and meets the quality requirements of the spelt processors and consumers. Quality will be tested as soon as sufficient seed is generated from field trials.

A complete production package
As they say “the proof of the pudding is in the eating” and it is hoped to undertake extensive on-farm evaluations of the selected lines. Subject to the success of a pending funding application, future trials will evaluate agronomic and quality attributes of the spelt selections within organic crop rotations. This will include a time of planting and sowing rate / row spacing trial and the determination (and provision)of critical soil P and N levels for spelt under organic systems. The ultimate aim is to present organic producers with a comprehensive production package which provides them with a selection of high quality; higher yielding spelt lines and production strategies which are well adapted to their local organic management conditions.

It is likely that future spelt wheat varieties will not be the pure, uniform types we are currently used to. Organic growers will, in fact, require locally-adapted populations which suit their individual conditions and which continue to evolve under natural selection. The plant breeder’s job in this scenario is to produce the genetically-mixed populations by hybridisation and then let nature takes its course (along with a helping hand from the participatory organic growers). The end result will be ‘landraces’ - much like the crops of centuries past. So, it is back to the future!

For further information contact: Robyn Neeson at robyn.neeson@dpi.nsw.gov.au or Dr. DavidLuckett at david.luckett@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Source: Organic Newsletter Volume 2, issue 9, Sept-Nov 2005, via SeedQuest.com 6 December 2005

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1.24  ARS progresses on anti-aphid soy

The soybean aphid is a widespread pest of the crop, and, in high levels of infestation, can stunt soybean growth, disfigure leaves, and cause plants to die. Growers have hitherto fought the pest with insecticides, which add as much as $25 per acre to production costs.

Scientists from the Agricultural Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (ARS-USDA) have made considerable progress in finding a way to combat the pest. A team led by plant pathologist Glen Hartman and University of Illinois (UI) collaborators at Urbana have found that a single gene, called Rag1, can confer resistance to soybean aphid.

Researchers found the gene by screening 800 commercial cultivars and 3,000 germplasm accessions. They have already published their findings in the March 2005 issue of Crop Science, and since then have mapped the gene and its location on the resistant cultivar's genome. They have also identified marker regions, and devised technology to detect such markers, so that breeders may immediately identify resistant plants.

With current progress, high yielding cultivars expressing Rag1 may be available by 2008.

Read the complete article at:
http://crop.scijournals.org/cgi/content/full/45/2/639?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&author1=Hartman&andorexacttitle=and&andorexacttitleabs=and&andorexactfulltext=and&searchid=1131594020854_4380&stored_search=&FIRSTINDEX=0&sortspec=relevance&journalcode=cropsci .

Access the press release at http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/nov05/soy1105.htm

Source: CropBiotech Update 18 November 2005:
Contributed by Margaret Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics
Cornell University

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1.25  CSIRO researchers are investigating how to use genes to produce larger seeds across a wide range of crops

Australia
Following their discovery of two genes which control the size of plant seeds, CSIRO researchers are investigating how that knowledge can be used to produce larger seeds across a wide range of crops.

The two seed-size genes have been isolated in the model plant Arabidopsis and in initial tests, where the genes have been ‘turned down’, seed size has been reduced by up to 30 per cent.

The challenge now for the CSIRO team led by Dr Abed Chaudhury and Dr Ming Luo is to ‘turn up’ the activity of the genes to try and increase seed size.

'For farmers bigger seed means healthier crops, more productive farms and potentially higher returns,' Dr Chaudhury says.

The CSIRO team hopes to understand how the seed-size genes work and what they do to affect seed size.

'The genes we identified in Arabidopsis are likely to have equivalent counterparts in other plants, so what we learn from these genes and how they influence seed size may be applied to a whole suite of other plants.

Food like bread, pasta, rice, cornflakes, peanut butter, canola oil, margarine, soymilk and even coffee and chocolate are all made from seeds.

There is huge variation in seed size in different plants, from orchids, with seed the size of a speck of dust, right through to coconuts – the world’s largest seeds.

Plant breeders have long recognised the importance of larger seed in the production of food crops and have been breeding for the trait.

'Manufacturers and industry often pay a premium for large seeds like chickpeas or lentils, because they are easier to handle and are often preferred by consumers,' Dr Chaudhury says.

'Farmers prefer larger seeds because for certain crops, especially wheat and canola, large seeds mean more food for the seedling, early germination and vigorous plants that are more likely to produce higher yields.'

The CSIRO team hope to understand how the seed-size genes work and what they do to affect seed size.

'We’re also interested in a third gene that looks like it might be responsible for controlling the two other genes,' he says.

“Understanding how these genes operate in plants could help us find ways to develop plants that consistently produce larger seeds.”

This work is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, November 29 2005, vol. 102 no. 48, 17531-17536

Source: SeedQuest.com
9 December 2005

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1.26  Anyway you slice it, tomatoes cut through drought with new gene

College Station – New tomato research has its roots in yielding more food to feed more people, according to Dr. Kendal Hirschi about results announced today.

His team's study appears in today's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The team made tomato plants over-express the gene, AVP1, which resulted in stronger, larger root systems and that resulted in roots making better use of limited water, said Hirschi, a researcher at Texas A&M University's Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center and Baylor's College of Medicine.

"The gene gave us a better root system, and the root system could then take the adjustment to drought stress better and thus grow better," Hirschi said of the paper which details "a strategy to engineer drought-resistant crop plants."

For example, regular or control tomatoes used in the experiment suffered irreversible damage after five days without water, as opposed to the transgenic tomatoes, which began to show signs of damage after 13 days but rebounded completely as soon as they were watered, according to the study.

"This technology could ultimately be applied to all crops because it involves the over-expression of a gene found in all plants," said Dr. Roberto Gaxiola, a plant biologist at the University of Connecticut and the lead author of the study. "It has the potential to revolutionize agriculture and improve food production worldwide by addressing an increasing global concern: water scarcity."

Gaxiola's findings regarding the use of AVP1 in Arabidopsis to create hardier, more drought resistant plants were published in the journal Science in October, but the study described in the proceedings marks the first time the enhanced gene has been inserted in a commercially viable crop, he said.

The paper notes that drought conditions throughout the world each year carve out a huge amount of food production.

To overcome food shortages, the authors suggest, "it will be necessary to increase the productivity of land already under cultivation and to regain the use of arable land lost to scarce water supplies."

Hirschi and Gaxiola worked with Dr. Sunghun Park, also of the Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center.

"Our center is good at moving genes into the different plants," Hirschi said. "Dr. Park's job was to move this gene into the tomato."

Hirschi, who's main research focus is "boosting nutrients in plants to make them more nutritional for children," said the study now may be tried on other crops. Gaxiola said he already has additional studies under way to demonstrate how this technology applies to other commercial crops.

More information on this study can be found at http://www.pnas.org/

Writers: Kathleen Phillips, (979) 845-2872,ka-phillips@tamu.edu
Beth Krane, (860) 486-4656,beth.krane@uconn.edu
Contacts: Dr. Kendal Hirschi, (713) 798-7011,kendalh@bcm.edu
Dr. Roberto Gaxiola, (860) 486-5878, Roberto.gaxiola@uconn.edu

Source: EurekAlert.org
13 December 2005

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1.27  Gene reported to confer drought tolerance

Abscisic acid is a plant hormone that regulates growth, and transcription factors associated with a plant’s response to it play a key role in allowing plants to survive under drought stress. One such transcription factor is AREB1, and Yasunari Fujita and colleagues from Tsukuba, Japan find, from their research, that “AREB1 Is a Transcription Activator of Novel ABRE-Dependent ABA Signaling That Enhances Drought Stress Tolerance in Arabidopsis.”

In their paper, which appears in the latest issue of Plant Cell, researchers report that under normal growth conditions, the intact AREB1 gene is insufficient to induce the expression of genes. They thus created an activated form of the gene, called AREB1 QT, and over expressed it in Arabidopsis in the laboratory. Researchers found that the plants were hypersensitive to abscisic acid, and showed enhanced tolerance to drought. Plants without the gene were insensitive to abscisic acid, and displayed reduced survival under dehydration.

Subscribers to Plant Cell may read the complete article at
http://www.plantcell.org/cgi/content/full/17/12/3470.

Other readers may access the abstract at
http://www.plantcell.org/cgi/content/abstract/17/12/3470.

Source: http://www.isaaa.org/kc/ via AgBioView
9 December 2005

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1.28  Expanding the pool of PCR-based markers for oat

J.-L. Jannink and S. W. Gardner of Iowa State University present their work on “Expanding the Pool of PCR-Based Markers for Oat.” Their research appears in the latest issue of Crop Science.

There are only a few polymerase chain reaction (PCR)–based markers for oat, and the crop would benefit from such markers, as PCR is a less expensive alternative to current methods used to analyze, classify, and breed oat (such as restriction fragment length polymorphisms, or RFLP).
In their research, Jannink and Gardner design 32 markers based on oat sequence data available.

Subscribers to Crop Science can access the complete article, as well as the sequences of the markers, at http://crop.scijournals.org/cgi/reprint/45/6/2383.
Other readers may see the abstract at http://crop.scijournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/45/6/2383.
Source: CropBiotech Update

Source: SeedQuest.com
16 December 2005

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1.29  Cancer, genes and broccoli - study of genetic differences in cancer protection

United Kingdom
People who gain less protection from cancer by eating broccoli may be able to compensate for the difference in their genetic make-up by eating ‘super broccoli’, a variety with higher levels of the active plant chemical sulforaphane, or by eating larger portions.

Lead scientist on the new research, Professor Richard Mithen of the Institute of Food Research (IFR), said: “Eating a few portions of broccoli each week may help to reduce the risk of cancer. Some individuals, who lack a gene called GSTM1, appear to get less cancer protection from broccoli than those who have the gene.

“Our studies suggest that this may be because if you lack the gene you cannot retain any sulforaphane inside your body, it is all excreted within a few hours. However, if you consume larger portions of broccoli, or broccoli with higher levels of sulforaphane, such as the ‘super broccoli’, you may be able to retain as much sulforaphane in your body as those who have the gene. Eating larger portions may have additional benefits since broccoli is also a rich source of other vitamins and minerals”.

Broccoli is the main source of natural compound sulforaphane. It belongs to the crucifer family of plants which includes the brassica vegetables cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, and the closely related Chinese cabbage and turnips. Other crucifers include watercress and salad rocket. The most distinctive characteristic of crucifers is that their tissues contain high levels of glucosinolates. When they are eaten, glucosinolates are broken down to release isothiocyanates. There is a well established body of evidence to show that isothiocyanates are among the most potent dietary anticarcinogens known.

Sulforaphane is the main isothiocyanate derived from broccoli. ‘Super broccoli’ contains 3.4 times more sulforaphane than standard varieties. It has been developed by traditional plant breeding methods.

Fifty per cent of the population lack the GSTM1 gene. While these people may gain less cancer protection from consuming broccoli, it is likely that they gain more cancer protection from eating other types of crucifers, such as cabbages and Chinese cabbage. So the best advice is to eat a mixture of crucifers.

This research was funded by IFR’s Core Strategic Grant from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and by the University of Nottingham and Seminis Inc. It is part of ongoing research at IFR to identify the optimal levels of a range of food compounds for human health.

Full reference for the paper:
Glutathione S-transferase M1 polymorphism and metabolism of sulforaphane from standard and high-glucosinolate broccoli.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; 82: 1283: 2005

Source: SeedQuest.com
7 December  2005

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1.30  Global push to decipher potato DNA code

Christchurch, New Zealand
The nutritional value, colour and flavour of New Zealand’s potatoes can all be improved thanks to Crop & Food Research’s role in helping to sequence the potato genome by 2009.

Improvements could also be made to the environmental sustainability of crop production, says Jeanne Jacobs, who will lead our potato genomics research.

Crop & Food Research has taken up an invitation to join the international Potato Genome Sequencing Consortium and Dr Jacobs is already assisting in protocol development to ensure quality work by all parties.

The $36 million programme is led by Wageningen University and Research Centre in the Netherlands. Scientists at Wageningen and in China will each sequence two of the twelve potato chromosomes, while their colleagues at Crop & Food Research and in Scotland, Poland, Russia, Brazil, the US and India will each take one chromosome. The remaining chromosome will be sequenced by a group of laboratories in Austria, Finland and Ireland.

Knowledge of the full genome will provide huge opportunities to improve the potato crop – an important global crop with an increasing significance for developing countries.

“If you know exactly which part of the chromosome holds the genes for a particular trait, then you can precisely target crop improvements.

“The research will also yield genetic information important to the improvement of other vegetable crops that share some of their DNA sequences with potatoes,” says Dr Jacobs.

A complete sequence of any genome enables the use of the precision breeding technique developed by Crop & Food Research’s Tony Conner. Plants produced using this technique are, by definition, not transgenic. Only DNA already available to traditional plant breeders is used. The genes that cause a particular characteristic can be identified in potato germplasm banks and the best one selected to transfer precisely an improved quality into a new plant.

Source: Crop & Food Research's quarterly newsletter, issue 51, 2005, via SeedQuest.com
7 December 2005

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1.31  Alabama A&M University scientists eliminate major peanut allergen

Huntsville, Alabama
Food biotechnologists at Alabama A&M University have successfully eliminated a major peanut allergen that causes sometimes fatal reactions in many people throughout the world.

There are at least six distinct peanut allergens that pose problems in some people who eat peanuts or its derivatives, say Dr. Hortense Dodo (photo) (pronounced with long vowels) and research colleague Dr. Koffi Konan.   Using a process referred to as RNA Interference (RNAi), the scientists were able to transform peanut tissues and silence the Ara h2 allergen gene, thus eliminating one of the proteins which triggers allergic reactions. 

Dodo called peanut allergies the most deadly of the food allergies.  The Ara h2 allergen and other peanut allergens, for instance, are responsible for causing such symptoms as hives, swelling, respiratory problems, gastrointestinal difficulties and anaphylactic shock.

Peanuts represent a more than $4 billion industry, says Dodo, and they are a cheap source of high quality proteins, good fats, vitamins and minerals.  Moreover, the crop can be grown “almost anywhere,” she adds.

Why the increase in peanut allergies?
“The number of people experiencing allergic reactions to peanuts is increasing every year,” commented Dr. Dodo from one of her labs on the AAMU campus.   She noted that “more and more accidental deaths” occur as people unknowingly ingest foods that include peanut flour or oil. The tragic death last week of a 15-year-old Canadian girl is one such example.

Dodo says scientists are not really sure what is happening that is causing the rise in the number of new cases of peanut allergies each year.   Most of the cases involve young children, notes Dodo.  Some researchers suggest that statistics were not as prevalent in decades past.  Others point to a more sanitized lifestyle that has caused American immune systems to lose their bite.  But one thing seems certain, notes Dodo--peanut allergies are not as common in developing countries. 

Permanent eradication of peanut allergy
Admittedly, the road toward the development of allergen-free peanuts was a long and winding one.  Dodo and Konan say it took some time to refine a process that yielded a transgenic hypoallergenic peanut plant that produced seeds. The AAMU researchers applied the RNAi process, which could permanently eliminate allergens’ accumulation in peanut, and they finally saw a light at the end of the research tunnel in February 2005.

Since that time, Dodo and Konan have been growing subsequent generations of the transgenic plant and testing for the presence of the most potent peanut allergens, which theoretically should not re-occur.  In the world of peanut research, a generation could mean six months or longer.

Of course, other scientists are approaching the peanut allergy problems in a variety of ways, including the development of methods to treat the allergic patient.  Dodo and Konan, however, prefer to find solutions by looking directly at “the culprit”­the peanut itself.

“Our goal in developing a hypo-allergenic and allergen–free peanut is not to push people who are allergic to peanuts to eat them,” explains Dodo, “but to foster industry-wide use of the new peanut variety in processed foods that contain peanuts.   So, if a person allergic to peanuts accidentally eats such foods, doing so should not trigger a severe reaction or death.”

Studies are currently underway at AAMU, says Dodo, to determine if the new transgenic peanuts maintain their nutritional quality.  Dr. Dodo is looking for commercial partners

Source: SeedQuest.com
2 December 2005

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1.32  Iowa State University plant scientist leads national effort to use metabolomics to unlock gene functions

Ames, Iowa
 An Iowa State University plant scientist is leading a national research team that will develop a new tool to decipher the functions of plant genes. By advancing the understanding of biological processes, their work could define new ways to improve oils, starches and proteins from corn and soybeans.

The National Science Foundation recently awarded $1 million to fund the project, which is led by Basil Nikolau, professor of biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology and director of the Center for Designer Crops and the W.M. Keck Metabolomics Research Laboratory.

Nikolau and researchers from seven institutions will test the feasibility of using metabolomics to uncover the biological function of genes in Arabidopsis, a plant used as a model organism in research.

The Arabidopsis genome was the first plant genome completely sequenced, an accomplishment that has proven invaluable to understanding plant biology ­ including the biology of corn and soybeans. However, the functions of about one-third of the 25,000 genes in the Arabidopsis genome are still unknown.

"When we understand in detail how genes function to regulate biological processes in plants, we can develop foods and animal feeds that have better nutritional quality and crop-based sources for energy or industrial chemicals," Nikolau said.

The grant funds a two-year pilot project focused on deciphering the functions of 100 genes. The long-term goal is to establish an international consortium of research laboratories to further develop metabolomics as a tool in functional genomics.

Metabolomics uses sophisticated instruments to accurately measure, en masse, the biochemcials (metabolites) that make up an organism. Metabolites are the building blocks of all biological products, including those important to agriculture, like oils, sugars and proteins. Metabolism ­ the complex network of biochemical reactions that converts metabolites to final products ­ is determined by the organism's genetic blueprint or genome.

The research will be conducted at the interface between chemistry, biochemistry, genetics and bioinformatics. Researchers will generate metabolomics and genomics data, conduct statistical analyses, develop standards for identifying metabolites and complete biocomputational modeling  and representation of the data. This work will enable the research community to integrate metabolomics data with and decipher the function of genes in the biological network.

Other Iowa State researchers involved on the project are Julie Dickerson, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering; Philip Dixon, professor of statistics; George Kraus, University Professor of chemistry; Nicola Pohl, assistant professor of chemistry; and Eve Wurtele, professor of genetics, development and cell biology.

In addition, researchers from the following institutions are part of the consortium: University of California, Davis; Carnegie Institution, Stanford, Calif.; The Samuel Roberts Nobel Foundation, Ardmore, Okla.; Kansas State University, Manhattan; Washington State University, Pullman; and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg.

The project grew out of discussions last year among the scientists at the Third International Congress on Plant Metabolomics organized by Nikolau and colleagues and hosted by the Plant Sciences Institute at Iowa State.

"The grant builds upon Iowa State's leadership and success in metabolomics," Nikolau said. 

Last year, the university opened its $1.8 million W.M. Keck Metabolomics Research Laboratory. The laboratory is home to highly sophisticated separation and detection equipment that analyze a wide variety of metabolites and make it possible for researchers to conduct high-throughput microanalysis of metabolites in plant tissues. Research conducted in the laboratory is uncovering knowledge about genes important to the production of biorenewable feedstocks from crops, starch biosynthesis in corn and new phytochemicals in Echinacea that may boost the human immune system.

"Metabolomics could potentially reveal how the genome of an organism  controls and regulates the metabolism that maintains biological form and function," Nikolau said. "The applications of this fundamental research extend far and wide. From this type of basic knowledge comes technological innovations that can drive economic development

Source: SeedQuest.com
21 November 2005

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1.33  Double fertilisation in flowering plants in the context of plant breeding

Researchers in Cologne discover signals between plant embryos and their endosperm

A large portion of plant seeds is endosperm. It has the important task of nourishing the plant embryo during the early stages of its development. In flowering plants, there is a complicated double-fertilisation mechanism that arises among embryos and endosperm. They develop together into mature seeds. The exact process, and the communication between the two parts of the seeds, has been unclear to scientists. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research and the University of Cologne have, however, isolated a mutant where there is only one single fertilisation. In a recent online edition of the journal Nature Genetics (November 28, 2005) they explain that this single fertilisation, which creates an embryo, also triggers the development of endosperm, even when the central cell where endosperm develops is not fertilised.

The ovules of flowering plants are housed in a carpel. Pollen lands on the flower's stigma and forms a pollen tube. It then uses each one of its two sperm cells to fertilise the egg cell, from which the embryo hatches, and the central cell, where the endosperm grows. This double fertilisation is what is special to all flowering plants.

Scientists in Cologne, working with Arp Schnittger, have found a mutant of the plant Arabidopsis thaliana called cdc2. It has an altered pollen. Because of a failed cell division, the cdc2-plants develop pollen that has only one sperm cell instead of two. The researchers have now been exploring the question if whether, under these conditions, fertilisation is possible at all. It turned out that the mutated pollen can survive and even grow into a female partner. Once it has arrived there, the single sperm cell of the cdc2 pollen merges only with the egg cell and not with the central cell. This shows a hierarchy, never before discovered, in the fertilisation process of Arabidopsis.

The scientists made another astounding observation: although the central cell remained unfertilised, it began to develop endosperm. The researchers deduced that shortly after the egg cell was fertilised, a positive signal was sent out to its environment, which appears to be necessary for normal growth of an endosperm. Because the double fertilisation process can be genetically dissected, the existence of this mutant offers new possibilities to learn about the development of endosperm and the embryo in seeds. In the next few months, the researchers hope above all to find out how exactly the signal functions and what chemical reactions are behind it.

"Explaining the mechanism behind double fertilisation in flowering plants and early seed development is particularly interesting in the context of plant breeding," says Arp Schnittger, "because reproduction without fertilisation would be advantageous for many different kinds of breeding."

Source: EurekAlert.org
8 December 2005

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1.34  Study finds that nutritionally enhanced rice reduces iron deficiency

Los Banos, Philippines – Breeding rice with higher levels of iron can have an important impact on reducing micronutrient malnutrition, according to a new study in the Journal of Nutrition. The research, conducted by scientists from the Philippines and the United States, is a major step forward in the battle against iron deficiency, one of the developing world’s most debilitating and intractable public health problems affecting nearly 2 billion people.

The lead authors of the article, Dr. Jere Haas from the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University, Dr. John Beard and Dr. Laura E. Murray-Kolb from the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Pennsylvania State University,  Prof. Angelita del Mundo and Prof. Angelina Felix from the University of the Philippines Los Baños, and Dr. Glenn Gregorio from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), oversaw a study in which religious sisters in ten convents in the Philippines included the nutritionally enhanced rice in their diets. After 9 months, the women had significantly higher levels of total body iron in their blood. 

“This study documents a major breakthrough in the battle to prevent micronutrient malnutrition,” said Dr. Robert Zeigler, director general of IRRI. “These results are especially important for rice-eating regions of the world where more than 3 billion of the world’s poor and undernourished live.” 

The iron-dense variety of rice used in the research (known technically as IR68144-3B-2-2-3) was developed and grown at IRRI and then tested by an international team of researchers from Cornell University, Pennsylvania State University, the University of the Philippines Los Baños and IRRI. The research initiative was originally spearheaded and funded by the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), with support from the Asian Development Bank and the Micronutrient Initiative. HarvestPlus, an international, interdisciplinary research program focused on breeding crops for better nutrition and led by IFPRI and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), will continue to work with these research findings and partners to increase the level of nutrient density in rice to be even more effective. 

“We view this study as a ‘proof of concept,’” said Zeigler. “We now know that, if plants are bred with higher levels of iron and other micronutrients, they will improve the nutritional status of people who consume them.  This has dramatic implications.”

Through a process known as “biofortification,” plant breeders are developing staple foods with higher levels of essential micronutrients.  This study demonstrates that iron-biofortified rice can raise levels of stored iron in the body and can significantly contribute to reducing micronutrient malnutrition. 

“In the past, we relied on supplements and fortification to overcome vitamin and mineral deficiencies,” said Howarth Bouis, director of HarvestPlus. “Now we know that biofortification also works, giving us an additional tool in this crucial battle.”

The United Nations and other donors spend millions of dollars a year on iron supplements and other strategies to ease the enormous damage wreaked by iron deficiency and related conditions. Iron deficiency can affect a child's physical and mental development, and each year causes more than 60,000 maternal deaths during pregnancy and childbirth.  Recent statistics from the Micronutrients Initiative of Canada and the United Nations Children’s Fund indicate that more than half of the developing world’s children between 6 months and 2 years of age are iron-deficient during the critical period of their growth when brain development occurs.  Many of the worst affected are found among Asia's poorest, but iron deficiency is also widespread in Africa, affecting more than 80 percent of young children in some countries.

Nutritional experts correctly advise that the best solution is a balanced diet of fruit, vegetables and meat, but, for the very poor, such choices are simply not possible and so they depend predominantly on staple foods to stave off day-to-day hunger.  This is especially true in isolated rural areas where under-resourced and overstretched public health systems struggle to improve the overall nutrition of the world's poor through nutritional supplements. In these areas, commercially fortified foods also have difficulty making it into the mouths of the hungry and so malnutrition persists.

“The fact that biofortified foods can have an impact on nutritional status in humans is an enormously exciting breakthrough,” Zeigler noted. “It is time to shift the agricultural research agenda, and the rice research agenda in particular, away from quantity and toward better-quality food.  This may be the start of a nutritional revolution­a very appropriate follow-on from the Green Revolution and one that is desperately needed by millions of the world’s poor and undernourished.”

Contributed by Elcio Guimaraes
FAO/AGPC

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1.35 Update 12-2005 of FAO-BiotechNews (excerpts)

http://www.fao.org/biotech/news_list.asp?Cat=131

1) Biotechnology PAIA stakeholder survey - Please participate As part of an overall strategy of enhancing interdisciplinarity within FAO, a number of Priority Areas for Interdisciplinary Action (PAIAs) were identified a few years ago. One of these is biotechnology and a major role of the Biotechnology PAIA is to provide FAO Members and their institutions with factual, comprehensive and current information on international developments relating to biotechnology applications. This is done through, for example, the FAO Biotechnology website, the newsletter FAO-BiotechNews, and a series of e-mail conferences hosted by the FAO Biotechnology Forum. An evaluation of the Biotechnology PAIA is currently taking place and we would appreciate your inputs by filling out a web-based survey with 13 short questions. Deadline for inputs is 15 January 2006. Click on the survey (in English) at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=826421583778 or contact biotech-website@fao.org for more information.

2) Keynote address by FAO Director-General On the occasion of a conference held on 6 June 2005 in Copenhagen, Denmark to mark the 100-year anniversary of the Danish Guild of Agricultural Journalists (Dansk Landbrugspresse), the FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf delivered a keynote address which considered, among other issues, the on-going public debate on the potential and limits of biotechnology. See http://www.fao.org/english/dg/2005/den.htm or contact biotech-website@fao.org for more information.

6) REDBIO national case studies - Colombia REDBIO has been carrying out a series of case studies on the management of appropriate agricultural biotechnology for small producers in individual countries. The 53-page study for Colombia (by I. Schuler and L.A. Orozco), entitled "Manejo y gestión de la biotecnología agrícola apropiada para pequeños productores: Estudio de caso Colombia", has now been published. Studies have previously been published for Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru. REDBIO is the Technical Co-operation Network on Plant Biotechnology in Latin America and the Caribbean, based at the FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean in Santiago, Chile. See http://www.redbio.org/estud_casos.htm or contact juan.izquierdo@fao.org for more information.

7) Food barley improvement On 14-17 January 2002, FAO, the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) and the Institution de Recherche et Enseignement Supérieur Agricole (IRESA), Tunisia, organised an international workshop on "Food barley improvement" in Hammamet, Tunisia. Proceedings of the workshop, edited by S. Grando and H. Gómez Macpherson, are now available, entitled "Food barley: Importance, uses and local knowledge". During the workshop, participants presented the status of food barley in their respective countries, including descriptions of traditional and new uses of barley, varieties, research activities (e.g. use of hybridisation, mutation breeding and doubled haploids in Peru), and the importance of food barley as compared to feed and malting barley. See http://www.icarda.cgiar.org/Publications/Price_List/book3/food%20barley.pdf (1.13 MB) or contact ICARDA@cgiar.org for more information.

10) Socio-economic impacts of GURTs on indigenous and local communities On 23-27 January 2006, the 4th meeting of the "Ad Hoc Open-ended Inter-sessional Working Group on Article 8(j) and Related Provisions of the Convention on Biological Diversity" takes place in Granada, Spain. Item 10 of the provisional agenda is "Potential socio-economic impacts of genetic use restriction technologies on indigenous and local communities". Documents for the meeting are available at http://www.biodiv.org/doc/meeting.aspx?mtg=WG8J-04 (most are in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish) or contact secretariat@biodiv.org for more information. Article 8(j) of the Convention refers to traditional knowledge, innovations and practices and provides that: "Each contracting Party shall, as far as possible and as appropriate: Subject to national legislation, respect, preserve and maintain knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and promote their wider application with the approval and involvement of the holders of such knowledge, innovations and practices and encourage the equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of such knowledge, innovations and practices".

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1.36  CheckBiotech.org: Links to Selected Articles

Animal gene renders tobacco resistant to parasitic weed
Link to article

First ever GM plants approved in Germany
Link to article

Hepatitis B vaccination by eating a banana?
Link to article

When cells dispense
Link to article

Safe coexistence at 20 meters distance
Link to article

When food causes allergies
Link to article

The end of Kuenast's estates
Link to article

Microbicides and mucosal vaccines for HIV, Hepatitis B, Herpes Simplex -
illusion or reality
Link to article

‘Communicate to the public’
Link to article

The next wave of crops are materializing in BioValley
Link to article

Green biotech is still a tender plant in Germany
Link to article

Chewing against SARS
Link to article

Contributed by Robert.Derham@unibas.ch

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2  PUBLICATIONS

2.01  Triticale Improvement and Production

FAO just released the book called "Triticale Improvement and Production”. The following description is from the book’s preface

Triticale, the first successful "man made" cereal grain, was deliberately produced in 1875 by crossing wheat with rye. Since then, the evolution of this crop is the topic of keen interest for many plant scientists. According to the vision of early scientists, triticale, should combine the best characteristics of both parents: wheat's qualities for making various food products with rye’s robustness for adaptability to difficult soils, drought tolerance, cold hardiness, disease resistance, and low input requirements. The early excitement and publicity associated with triticale may appear to have exceeded the actual development of the crop. However, when we think about the thousand years during which most present major crops – such as wheat and rice – have evolved under domestication compared to the few years and modest effort devoted to triticale, we could argue that the results are quite remarkable. Modern triticale cultivars perform as well as the best common wheat cultivars wherever scientific research has been sustained. Furthermore, in certain types of marginal soils, triticale cultivars outyield the best wheat cultivars. For instance, research results in the drought-prone regions of North Africa have shown that triticale can be an excellent alternative crop to wheat and barley. In cold wet environments, the highly productive winter type triticale cultivars developed primarily in Poland are continuously expanding into most cereals-based systems in northern Europe.

Almost three million hectares of triticale are grown today in the world. Country triticale reports presented in this book clearly indicate that today this crop is accepted worldwide with its area expanding significantly, particularly in stress-prone ecologies. Data on cultivar release and area are imprecise due to the lack of information from some National Agricultural Research System (NARS) and sometimes to the confidentiality required by the private sector. Present information available at the International Wheat and Maize Research Centre (CIMMYT) shows that since the mid 1970s, more than 200 cultivars have been released in more than 30 countries.

Initial problems related to low seed fertility and seed plumpness have been solved and most current research focuses on improving its grain quality for various food and feed uses and on improving its adaptation to new areas. Food uses include bread, noodles, soft-wheat type products and malting. New alternatives for diversification have also emerged with the development of winter-type cultivars with higher forage biomass than spring cultivars. For these types substantial amount of biomass is available for grazing, cut forage, double purpose cultivation (firstly grazing or cut, then left for grain production), silage and hay production.

Triticale can certainly play a significant role in alleviating poverty for many needy families in some developing countries. Of particular interest is its good performance in stress environments and the diversified uses. However, as for any other crop, research efforts are still needed for improving adapted germplasm and determining best crop management practices for these difficult areas. This will necessitate the interventions of many key players. In this context, this book presents the state-of-the-art of triticale production in the world. The first chapter gives a comprehensive view on the history and evolution of triticale since its creation whereas authors in the second chapter present the improvement accomplished at CIMMYT where the largest triticale breeding program in the world is hosted. The world and agroecological-level distribution of Triticale, as well as its management as crop, is covered in chapter three. The book examines extensively the actual and potential uses of triticale products in human and animal diets in chapters four and five. It also presents marketing strategies developed by the private sector including practical examples on how triticale can compete with other cereal crops. Finally, the last section of the book presents the actual situation of triticale production and research status in thirteen countries, covering a very wide range of economic and scientific levels. Some of these country reports may be used as a model for those countries that are still in the embryonic stages of developing triticale technology.

While this book presents updated information on various aspects of triticale production, improvement, uses and marketing strategies in the world. It shows clearly that the triticale potential is yet to be exploited and that most of its future success depends on efforts and resources allocated to research and development. Realising this potential, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has rightly decided to bring out this publication hoping it will motivate researchers and policy makers commitment to further development of triticale in developing countries to enhance choices for farmers to diversify, increasing income and sustainability of relevant production systems.

-------------------
The book can be requested free of change from FAO by sending a request to Elcio Guimaraes (Elcio.Guimaraes@fao.org)

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3.  WEB RESOURCES

3.01  Redesigned U.S. National Agricultural Library website brings fresh look, swift access

Agricultural Research Service, USDA
Len Carey, lcarey@nal.usda.gov
The National Agricultural Library (NAL) has launched its redesigned website as a gateway connecting users swiftly with the services of NAL and with the billions of pages of agricultural information within NAL collections and information resources.

NAL is part of the Agricultural Research Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.

Designed with customer preferences in mind, the new NAL site brings a fresh look and faster access to the rich array of agriculture-related information available through NAL.

Visitors to the front page of the newly designed site can browse information on popular agricultural topics--from Animals and Livestock to Rural Community Development--supported by the NAL site's new navigational taxonomy. Each follow-on web page leads quickly to more carefully selected information, designed to answer questions frequently asked by visitors to the site and to NAL.

The site offers several web pages with information focused on the needs of specific audiences, including kids and teens, librarians and USDA employees.

Visitors can use other areas of the redesigned site to access NAL's most popular library services, see where NAL representatives are exhibiting or appearing, or get information about some of the most current concerns in agriculture.

NAL's website currently receives an average of 4.3 million "hits" each month from people seeking agricultural information. This usage is expected to increase in response to the site's user-friendly design, enhanced searching capabilities scheduled for early 2006, and the redesign of subsidiary sites during the next few months.

Through April 2006, NAL will introduce redesigned websites on food safety, water quality, invasive species, human nutrition, alternative farming systems, animal welfare and technology transfer. New searching capabilities will mean that NAL databases can be searched at the same time as NAL web pages.

The redesign of NAL's websites implements USDA web standards and meets U.S. Office of Management and Budget guidelines for focusing on customer needs.

Source: SeedQuest.com
1 December  2005

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3.02 The Sesame and Safflower Newsletter No. 20

The Sesame and Safflower Newsletter No. 20, 2005 is now on line and can be found at the following URL: http://ecoport.org/ep?SearchType=earticleView&earticleId=732

After twenty years of publication of the Newsletter nearly 500 scientific articles and reports on sesame and safflower have been published which represent important information on these crops which has reached around 500 experts from more than 50 countries.

Submitted by Peter Griffee (AGPC)
Peter.Griffee@fao.org

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6. MEETINGS, COURSES AND WORKSHOPS

Note: New announcements may include some program details, while repeat announcements will include only basic information. Visit web sites for additional details.
-----------------
* 2006-2008.  Plant Breeding Academy, University of California, Davis.

The University of California Seed Biotechnology Center would like to inform you of an exciting new course we are offering to teach the principles of plant breeding to seed industry personnel.

This two-year course addresses the reduced numbers of plant breeders being trained in academic programs. It is an opportunity for companies to invest in dedicated personnel who are currently involved in their own breeding programs, but lack the genetics and plant breeding background to direct a breeding program. Participants will meet at UC Davis for one week per quarter over two years (eight sessions) to allow participants to maintain their current positions while being involved in the course. 

Instruction begins Fall 2006 and runs through Summer 2008 (actual dates to be determined)

For more information: (530) 754-7333, email scwebster@ucdavis.edu, http://sbc.ucdavis.edu/Events/Plant_Breeding_Academy.htm

* 19-21 February 2006. The 3rd International Conference on Date Palm , Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The conference covers a wide range of topics including molecular and genetic engineering and post harvest and processing technologies. See http://www.cfs.uaeu.ac.ae/Conferences/ticdp/ or contact zaid@uaeu.ac.ae for more information.

* 21-24 February 2006. Third General Assembly of the West Africa Seed and Planting Material Network (WASNET), Palm Beach Hotel, Accra, Ghana. For more details contact the Coordinator of WASNET by email  at n.maroya@coraf.org or n.maroya@cgiar.org or send your request through the website http://www.wasnet.org

*(NEW)  6-7 March 2006. 42nd Annual Illinois Corn Breeder’s School, Urbana, Illinois.

You are invited to attend the annual Illinois Corn Breeder’s School to be held March 6-7, 2006 in Urbana, Illinois.  The School is open to commercial and public sector breeders or scientists interested in corn breeding.  A registration fee of $95.00 per person includes a copy of the proceedings and meals on Monday, March 6.  The School will be held at the Holiday Inn Hotel and Conference Center in Urbana, IL.  Further details about the meeting, lodging, and registration forms can be found at http://imbgl.cropsci.uiuc.edu/index.html.

The 2006 Corn Breeder’s School Program consists of three sessions and is designed to facilitate discussion and interaction among attendees. Visit the website or contact Steve Moose for the full program.

Session 1:  Maize Nitrogen Use Efficiency
Session 2:  Applied Genetics
Session 3:  Insect Resistance Traits

Submitted by Stephen Moose, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Maize Genomics
Department of Crop Sciences, University of Illinois
smoose@uiuc.edu

* 6-10 March 2006. Introduction to biosafety and risk assessment for the environmental release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs): Theoretical approach and scientific background, Treviso, Italy. Workshop organised by the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in collaboration with the Istituto Agronomico per l'Oltremare. Closing date for applications is 30 November 2005. See http://www.icgeb.org/MEETINGS/CRS06/6_10March.pdf or contact courses@icgeb.org for more information.

*(NEW) 14 -17 March  2006 CIMMYT Fusarium head blight workshop on Global Fusarium Initiative for International Collaboration, CIMMYT Headquarters, El Batan, Mexico.

Fusarium head blight (FHB) is a grave threat to sustainable wheat and barley production worldwide that requires an integrated research approach. The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) has been facilitating a Global Fusarium Initiative to provide a platform for international collaboration on Fusarium research, and facilitate information exchange, germplasm enhancement and the development of breeding methods and materials globally. To raise the profile of and consolidate these efforts, CIMMYT is organizing an international workshop supported by Japan-CIMMYT FHB project­the first in a series­that will highlight the importance of FHB, the status of collaborative efforts to address the disease, and future prospects for international collaboration developing specific consortiums.

For more information and to confirm your participation, please contact me by email (t.ban@cgiar.org). Also, for your reference, CIMMYT will convene an International Workshop on Increasing Wheat Yield Potential in CIMMYT-Obregon, Mexico on the next week March 20 to 24.

Contributed by Rodomiro Ortiz (r.ortiz@cgiar.org) and Tomohiro Ban (t.ban@cgiar.org), CIMMYT

* 22-24 March 2006. Detection of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and genetically modified food (GMF), Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. Regional practical training programme organised by the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka on behalf of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology. See http://www.icgeb.org/~bsafesrv/bsfn0510.htm#srilanka or contact profaperera@sltnet.lk for more information.

* 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 http://www.apbc.org.nz

* 27-29 April 2006. Joint IOBC Working Group conference "Breeding for inducible resistance against pests and diseases," Heraklio, Crete, Greece. Register and find additional information at http://www.unine.ch/bota/IOBC/. If there are questions, please contact: a.schmitt@bba.de or N.Birch@scri.sari.ac.uk

* 15-19 May 2006. Biosafety II: Practical course in evaluation of field releases of genetically modified plants,, Florence, Italy. Organised by the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in collaboration with the Istituto Agronomico per l'Oltremare. Closing date for applications is 30 January 2006. See http://www.icgeb.trieste.it/MEETINGS/CRS06/15_19maggio.pdf or contact courses@icgeb.org for more information.

* 2-6 July 2006. IX International Conference on Grape Genetics and Breeding, Udine (Italy), 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: peterlunger@uniud.it

* 23-28 July 2006. The 9th International Pollination Symposium, Iowa State University. The official theme is: "Host-Pollinator Biology Relationships - Diversity in Action." For more information please visit www.ucs.iastate.edu/PlantBee

* 13-19 August 2006: XXVII International Horticultural Congress, Seoul (Korea) web: www.ihc2006.org

* (NEW) 20-25 August 2006. The International Plant Breeding Symposium, Mexico City. The International Plant Breeding Symposium will be held at the Sheraton “Centro Historico” Hotel, Mexico City, 20-25 August 2006. The purpose of the symposium is to assess the state of the science and art of plant breeding and to examine future prospects. Organizers are CIMMYT, Iowa State University, Monsanto and Pioneer Hi-Bred International.The symposium will bring together scientists from diverse backgrounds and settings to share knowledge and experiences, establish likages, and thereby advance science and understanding. Symposium participants will define breeding methodologies to address the challenges facing global agriculture today. The program committee will lay out an exciting program with presentations and discussions focusing on those challenges, including:
-Field-based breeding for the world’s major row crops, with a particular emphasis on cultivar development.
-Genotype-by-environment interactions and consequences.
-Developing country agriculture and the role of crop breeding
-The education of plant breeders

Presentations by invited speakers will be published in a proceedings by Crop Science. More information is available at www.intlplantbreeding.com. If you are unable to register online please send an e-mail to: intlplantbreeding@cgiar.org.

Summarized from information contributed by  Rodomiro Ortiz, CIMMYT

* 9-14 September 2007. The World Cotton Research Conference-4, Lubbock, Texas, USA (http://www.icac.org). There is no cost of pre-registration and if you pre-register you will receive all the up-coming information on WCRC-4.171 researchers from over 20 countries have pre-registered as of today.

* (NEW) 10-14 September 2006. First Symposium on Sunflower Industrial Uses. Udine University, Udine Province, Friuli Venezia Giulia Region, Italy.

Our Symposium will deal with all food and industrial fields related to the use of sunflower oil, as well as agronomic and genetic improvements. The program will consist of 12 Plenary Sessions, each followed by a poster. After the Poster Session, there will be a choice of two Concurrent Workshops for you to attend. Instructions for preparing your poster and paper for publication in the proceedings will be given in the 2nd Announcement.
http://www.sunflowersymposium.org/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1
http://www.isa.cetiom.fr/1st%20ann%20Symposium%20Udine.htm
Sponsored by the International Sunflower Association (ISA)
Submitted by: Gian Paolo Vannozzi <gianpaolo.vannozzi@uniud.it>

* 11-15 September 2006. XXII International EUCARPIA Symposium - Section Ornamentals: Breeding for Beauty, San Remo (Italy). 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: a.mercuri@istflori.it web: www.istflori.it

*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 (gerald_holmes@ncsu.edu) (http://www.ncsu.edu/cucurbit2006)

* 18-20 September 2006.The International Cotton Genome Initiative (ICGI) 2006 Research Conference, Blue Tree Park Hotel (http://www.bluetree.com.br/index_ing.asp) Brasília, D.F., Brazil. Details of the ICGI 2006 Research Conference will be posted on the ICGI website (http://icgi.tamu.edu ) as they become available.

*(NEW) 9-12 November 2006. 7th Australasian Plant Virology Workshop. Rottnest Island, Perth, Western Australia.  The Workshop Series provides a forum for plant virologists from Australia and New Zealand  to meet on a regular basis in a small-sized  residential meeting, provide oral and poster updates on their recent research results, and discuss plant virology issues in depth in a congenial environment over 3 days devoted entirely to the subject.  Researchers working on phytoplasma and viroids (‘virus-like diseases’) are also encouraged to contribute and attend.

The research areas covered range from basic and molecular to ecological and applied.  The Workshop Series are open and researchers from other countries are welcome to attend and contribute.  Past workshops have been highly successful, and have a very high attendance rate from Australasian researchers in this discipline.  They are normally held every two years so as not to clash with the biennial meetings of the main parent organisation, the Australasian Phytopathology Society – APPS.
The topics to be covered include:

-New viruses, virus evolution and novel virus pathogens
-Virus biosecurity, quarantine and emerging virus threats
-Viroids and Phytoplasmas
-The latest in virus diagnostics and methodology
-Molecular biology of plant viruses
-Population genetics/taxonomy/phylogeny
-Host-pathogen interactions
-Host-vector relationships
-Progress with natural and synthetic virus resistance
-Commercialisation/applications of viral sequences
-Virus epidemiology
-Virus disease control
-Education and training, discipline development
-Southern Cross Virology Network
-Future Centre of Excellence in Plant Virology
-Open discussion

For further information contact: Prof Mike Jones, Murdoch University, Perth, W. Australia.
m.jones@murdoch.edu.au

* 1-5 December 2006: The First International Meeting on Cassava Plant Breeding and Biotechnology, to be held in Brasilia, Brazil. For more details, email Dr. Nagib Nassar of the University of Brasilia at nagnassa@rudah.com.br or visit the meeting website at http://www.geneconserve.pro.br/meeting/.

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7.  EDITOR'S NOTES

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

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

REVIEW PAST NEWSLETTERS ON THE WEB: Past issues of the Plant Breeding Newsletter are now available on the web. The address is: http://www.fao.org/WAICENT/FAOINFO/AGRICULT/AGP/AGPC/doc/services/pbn.html   Please note that you may have to copy and paste this address to your web browser, since the link can be corrupted in some e-mail applications. We will continue to improve the organization of archival issues of the newsletter. Readers who have suggestions about features they wish to see should contact the editor at chh23@cornell.edu.

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

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

PLEASE NOTE: Every month many newsletters are returned because they are undeliverable, for any one of a number of reasons. We try to keep the mailing list up to date, and also to avoid deleting addresses that are only temporarily inaccessible. If you miss a newsletter, write to me at chh23@cornell.edu and I will re-send it.

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

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