PLANT BREEDING NEWS

EDITION 166

30 April 2006

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

Clair H. Hershey, Editor

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  The power of seeds (Norman Borlaug)
1.02  A national workshop on “Sustaining plant breeding as a vital national capacity for the future of U.S. agriculture”
1.03  Global Initiative for plant breeding capacity building
1.04  Summary reports on strategies to strengthen national plant breeding capacity
1.05  Africa maize stress project reviewed
1.06  WARDA scientist wins rice prize
1.07  Ethiopian bills for plant breeder’s rights and biodiversity
1.08  CIMMYT brings the best in wheat
1.09  Africa Maize Stress Project develops maize varieties tolerant to drought, low soil fertility, Striga weed, and endemic pests and diseases
1.10  Breeding wheat varieties for the future
1.11  University of California, Berkeley joins Africa Biofortified Sorghum (ABS) project
1.12  Cataloguing wheat DNA will lead to quicker breeding
1.13  Aiming at a never-ending supply of rice
1.14  MSU researchers shake out basis for rice domestication
1.15  New initiative may lead to better peanuts
1.16  Plants give pests sock in the gut
1.17  Botanical gardens not just 'pretty places'
1.18  Global actors, markets and rules driving the diffusion of GM crops in developing countries
1.19  Genetic markers point toward low linolenic acid soybeans
1.20  Bacterial gene could help crops beat the heat of global warming, say University of Florida research
1.21  Kenya advances on GM cotton
1.22  US$3m for global survey of how science helps farming
1.23  10-year CLIMA breeding program makes grasspea a safe animal feed
1.24  Association among pollen grain features to maximise reproductive fitness: A study in Dianthus species
1.25  CIMMYT develops herbicide resistant maize hybrids
1.26  Papaya ripening genes identified
1.27  Research analyzes wild rice diversity
1.28  Selection of potato lines resistant to multiple pathogens
1.29  Silicon transporter identified in rice
1.30  CIAT identifies a more nutritious cassava variety
1.31  Selections from Update 2-2006 of FAO-BiotechNews

2.  PUBLICATIONS
2.01  Economic impact of transgenic crops in developing countries
2.02  The first decade of genetically engineered crops in the United States
2.03  Laboratory protocols: CIMMYT Applied Molecular Genetics Laboratory
2.04  IPGRI publication on molecular markers for genebank management and crop breeding

3.  WEB RESOURCES
3.01  Proceedings of 43 years of Gamma Field Symposia available on-line

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  The power of seeds

(A SeedQuest editorial by Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, Father of the Green Revolution, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate)

During my lifetime, seed technology has been the catalyst that has averted mass starvation on planet Earth. At today’s 6.4 billion, the world’s population is four times the 1.6 billion people who lived when I was born in 1914. How many more can the earth feed without destroying the forests and wildlife habitat? The answer hinges on the extent of a continuing stream of ever-more-powerful seeds, based on focused research, until population stabilizes.

Of course, we all know that to stay ahead of the “population monster” requires more than seeds alone. It requires essential policy changes at the highest levels of governments plus improved production technologies: mineral was well as organic fertilizers, better tillage practices, more-efficient irrigation, and weed control. But, without the catalyst­the power of seeds­better policies and production technologies will not be enough.

Let me describe a few examples of positive results from focused research.
I first started serious work on seed technology in 1944 as a Rockefeller Foundation scientist with the cooperative Government of Mexico-Rockefeller Foundation agricultural research program. Even with imported foodgrains at the time, many Mexicans were hungry. Based on the wheat and maize (corn) varieties that we developed, and while population continued a brisk increase, Mexico became self-sufficient in foodgrains by the mid-1950s.

In the mid-1960s, India and Pakistan were experiencing hunger, and two provinces in northeast India suffered famine, even while millions of tons annually of food aid, mostly wheat, were imported. Malthusian thought was re-awakening. Two widely read books at the time contended, in effect, “Let’s write off India, it’s hopeless; let’s only provide our food aid to countries that have a chance.” With the power of the high-yielding seeds and production technologies that we introduced, together with improved policies, Pakistan in 1968 and India in 1974 became self-sufficient in foodgrains and they have essentially remained so.

Though few people outside the country knew it, China during the Cultural Revolution experienced widespread hunger and famine. Many millions starved. At the time of my first trip to China, in 1974, universities were closed, food was rationed, things were miserable. On my more than 12 trips, I witnessed remarkable progress. Although population has increased by nearly 50 percent, to 1.3 billion, most Chinese today are well fed and enjoy a much higher standard of living, thanks to the power of seeds as the catalyst. In the early 1970s, China acquired from Pakistan some of our “Mexican” short-strawed, high-yielding wheat seeds. China also benefited from improved varieties of rice provided by the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines. But China’s overall success resulted from sound national research that provided a continuous stream of better seeds and production technologies, accompanied by a set of policies that support increased production.

The positive experiences in Mexico, India, Pakistan and China result, largely, from the catalytic power of three seeds: wheat, rice and maize. Many other countries of Asia, the Middle East and Latin America also benefited from these improved seeds. But, what about Africa?

Sub-Saharan Africa is my greatest worry. In most of the area, maize is more important than either wheat or rice. High-yielding, disease-resistant quality protein maize (QPM), based on research, is an important development for many African families who have little milk, eggs or meat because of animal diseases and poverty. The protein quality of QPM is close to that of skim milk, resulting in improved health.

What is required for sub-Saharan Africa, in addition to better seeds of wheat, rice and maize, I believe, is focused research to enhance yields and quality of some of the “orphan crops” that are important in the diets of Africans: cassava, sweet potatoes, sorghum and millet, lentils and cowpeas, among others.

More generally, for planet Earth’s growing population, both conventional and biotechnology research on food crops and livestock, both private- and public-sector funded, is absolutely essential to provide ever-more-powerful seeds as well as a continuing stream of improved technology to energize the catalytic power of seeds.

****************
Learn more about Dr. Borlaug's work and ideas in his authorized biography:

The Man Who Fed the World: Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Norman Borlaug and His Battle to End World Hunger by Leon Hesser

Durban House Press
ISBN: 1-930754-90-6.
250 pages. $24.95

SeedQuest.com will publish excerpts from Dr. Borlaug's biography in September 2006

Source: SeedQuest.com
April 2006

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1.02  A national workshop on “Sustaining plant breeding as a vital national capacity for the future of U.S. agriculture”

Save the date to save plant breeding!  See the announcement below, and spread the word. – AMT

8-9 February 2007, Raleigh, NC

Co-hosted by the Departments of Crop Science and Horticultural Science North Carolina State University

The national investment in plant breeding is declining. Is this cause for concern?  What are constructive responses? The Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee is being organized as a permanent forum for leadership regarding this and other issues, problems, and opportunities of long-term strategic importance to the public and private plant breeding profession and to the U.S. national plant breeding effort as a whole.

Participants in this national workshop will:
1) organize the Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee, including first election of officers; and,
2) provide the Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee with guidance for its initial work.
Keynote speakers will look at plant breeding in the context of our national goals for agriculture:
-Excellence in science and technology.
-A competitive agricultural system in the global economy
-A safe and secure food and fiber system
-A healthy, well-nourished population
-Harmony between agriculture and the environment
-Economic opportunity for rural areas; and quality of life for all Americans.

Working groups will analyze plant breeding’s role and key partners for each goal, and formulate action plans for positive effect on future plant breeding capacity to support these national goals.  

To be on the list for workshop announcement updates, email to: athro@csrees.usda.gov.

Target participants include:
-U.S. public and private sector plant breeders, all crops 
-Students of plant breeding
-Multi-disciplinary colleagues interested in the future of plant breeding.

This is a U.S.-oriented committee, but the organizers expect it to be a relevant model for colleagues in other countries.

The Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee is multi-state committee SCC 80, approved by the Southern Association of Agricultural Experiment Station Directors through Sept. 2015.  The Administrative Advisor is Mark Hussey, Texas A&M University.  The CSREES/USDA liaison is Ann Marie Thro.

Contributed by Ann Marie Thro
CSREES/USDA
athro@csrees.usda.gov

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1.03  Global Initiative for plant breeding capacity building

FAO has been assessing national plant breeding and biotechnology capacity around the world.  The results of this work are helping to identify opportunities and gaps to strengthen national capacity to use plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA).  This coming June (12-14), in Madrid, Spain, during the first meeting of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (IT), FAO and partners will launch an initiative called “The Global Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building” (GIPB).  It is proposed as a partnership of public and private sector parties from both North and South, working in concert through a ‘lightweight coordination mechanism”.  GIPB’s goal is to enhance the capacity of developing countries to improve their agriculture through sustainable utilization of PGRFA using better breeding and seed delivery systems.  GIPB is proposed to operate with an independent work programme under the policy guidance of the Governing Body of the IT.  The GIPB focuses on enhancing the use of plant genetic resources; therefore it will complement the existing Global Crop Diversity Trust.  The Trust, also reporting to the Treaty, focuses on ensuring conservation of major collections of PGRFA.
 
For additional information please contact Eric Kueneman (eric.kueneman@fao.org) or Elcio P. Guimaraes (elcio.guimaraes@fao.org).

Contributed by Elcio Guimaraes
AGPC/FAO
Elcio.Guimaraes@fao.org

Look at our new plant breeding and biotechnology network site www.abneta.org

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1.04  Summary reports on strategies to strengthen national plant breeding capacity

FAO, in partnership with CIMMYT and ICARDA, carried out three national workshops in Central Asia (Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan) with the objective to design strategies to strengthen national plant breeding and associated biotechnology capacity.  Following the national events a regional workshop was held in Almaty,  Kazakhstan.  The results of these workshops are indicating that the main issues to strengthen the region’s capacity are:
-investments in plant breeding and applications of biotechnology tools;
-capacity building through post-graduation programmes and short specific training, including hands-on activities, and genetic resources information;
-documentation, characterization and exchange, main for crops that fall outside the CGIAR mandate crops.

Drafts summary reports of these events can be found at: http://apps3.fao.org/wiews/wiews.jsp

Contributed by Elcio Guimaraes
AGPC/FAO
Elcio.Guimaraes@fao.org

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1.05  Africa maize stress project reviewed

The Africa Maize Stress Project (AMS) is developing maize varieties tolerant to drought, low soil fertility, Striga weed, and endemic pests and diseases. In a recently completed review by a three-member panel from the German Corporation for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) the AMS was termed a "flagship project." According to team leader Dr. Manfed van Eckert, the reviewers recognized qualities that could serve as a model for similar multi-faceted projects in Africa. Among these were the "excellent working relations with national partners, and the Eastern and Central African Maize and Wheat (ECAMAW) Research Network."

AMS is supported by Germany's Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), and the Rockefeller Foundation, and works with national agricultural research systems (NARS), NGOs, and seed companies in 10 eastern and central African countries. Other partners in the project include the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Institute (CIMMYT), the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), and national research programs.

The GTZ team recommended that in its next phase, AMS advance current activities "investigate sustainable financing options for maize breeding programs in the region." For more information contact Alpha Diallo at a.diallo@cgiar.org.

From CropBiotech Update 21 April 2006

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics
Cornell University
mes25@cornell.edu

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1.06  WARDA scientist wins rice prize

Dr. Moussa Sié, Lowland Rice Breeder from the Africa Rice Center (WARDA) , has been chosen as one of the two laureates of the 2006 Fukui International Koshihikari Rice Prize of Japan in recognition of his significant contributions to rice production in sub-Saharan Africa. Dr Sié shares the prize with Dr. Akihiko Ando from Brazil, who has contributed to rice breeding by using radiation-induced mutations.

Dr. Sié has over 20 years experience in the selection and improvement of rice varieties, with particular emphasis on rain-fed systems; and is credited with the development of several high-yielding and multiple stress-resistant rice varieties. He was also instrumental in extending WARDA's upland New Rice for Africa (NERICA) rice breakthrough to lowlands - one of the most complex rice ecologies in the world.

Key to Dr Sié's success was the unique R&D partnership model forged between WARDA and the national programs of West African countries through the ROCARIZ rice network, which facilitated the shuttle-breeding approach to accelerate the selection process and achieve wide adaptability of the Lowland NERICAs.

Read the complete release at http://www.warda.org/warda1/
main/newsrelease/newsrel-sie-mar06.htm
. For more information, e-mail warda@cgiar.org, or visit http://www.warda.org.

From CropBiotech Update 10 March 2006

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics
Cornell University
mes25@cornell.edu

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1.07  Ethiopian bills for plant breeder’s rights and biodiversity

The House of Peoples' Representatives of Ethiopia recently endorsed two bills: the Plant Breeders' Right and the Genetic Resources and Community Knowledge and Rights. The Plant Breeders' Right bill aims to enable the private sector to release new plant varieties suitable for the local ecosystems and environmental conditions of the country, and will encourage private investment and facilitate the utilization of crop varieties developed abroad. The bill was presented by the Rural Development and the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Standing committees of the House.

The Bill Providing for Genetic Resources and Community Knowledge and Rights is set to provide protection of Ethiopia's genetic resources, as well to facilitate the expansion of investment and the equitable share of the benefits of utilizing local genetic resources.

The bill was presented by the Rural Development, Legal, Information and Cultural Affairs Standing Committees. Member of the Committee indicated that community knowledge and recognition given for community resources would have immense contribution for the protection and preservation the genetic resources of the country.

For more information visit: http://www.ena.gov.et/default.asp?CatId=6&NewsId=191992

From CropBiotech Update 10 March 2006

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics
Cornell University
mes25@cornell.edu

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1.08  CIMMYT brings the best in wheat

Scientists talk wheat at the place where the green revolution began

Prominent players in global wheat research­hailing from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe and about 20 countries in between­arrived at Ciudad Obregón, Mexico in late March to chart a course for wheat research in the developing world for the coming decade.

Approximately 130 participants attended the weeklong “International Symposium on Wheat Yield Potential: Challenges to International Wheat Breeding,” sponsored by CIMMYT and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

“This symposium has been a tremendous opportunity for sharing ideas and learning right across the world’s wheat research fraternity,” concludes Tony Fischer, ACIAR Program Advisor for South Asia. “The representation from both the developing and the developed world is very good and we once again see that in the developing world innovation system CIMMYT continues to play a huge leadership role.”

“The original purpose,” says symposium organizer and CIMMYT wheat physiologist Matthew Reynolds, “was to disseminate new technologies that would improve the efficiency of wheat breeding in lesser developed countries. We achieved that and much more. We delivered the results of our ACIAR project on early generation selection and improved understanding of the fundamental constraints to yield potential, but then went on to a wide range of very topical subjects covered by top experts in the field.”

The meeting opened with a keynote address by Dr. Norman Borlaug entitled “Personal Reflections of 62 Years of Fighting Hunger.” Following the warmly received address, the symposium got down to business with a series of 40 technical presentations. A poster session addressing wheat breeding and production (and related constraints) in 17 countries ensured that NARS perspectives were well represented. The concluding day of the meeting was devoted to breakout and reporting sessions to define wheat research initiatives and explore the roles of CIMMYT, advanced research institutes, and NARS in putting the plans into action.

CIMMYT held a similar meeting nearly ten years ago to the day, which focused primarily on increasing yield potential, breeding for drought, and the use of molecular tools. While these items, particularly water use efficiency, remain high on CIMMYT’s agenda, the symposium participants observed that the world wheat situation and agriculture generally is rapidly changing, and consequently, new priorities have emerged. NARS representatives flagged high priority issues such as conservation agriculture, the need for higher quality wheat bred for specific food and industrial uses, and breeding with climate change in mind, notably heat stress.

“There were a number of exciting new ideas that emerged from this symposium, says Hans Braun, Director of the CIMMYT Wheat Program, “all of which depend on ever closer links between scientists in the international wheat community. In our final sessions we crystallized these into research thrusts that we would like to incorporate into our existing program.”

Braun said three major areas cited for more intensive research emerged from the interactions:

-Integration of physiological trait-based approaches into conventional breeding schemes to advance progress on complex traits associated with yield and stress adaptation. This entails dissecting yield into its physiological components and using conceptual models to increase the likelihood of combining complementary genes to capture the desired trait. CIMMYT terms this use of physiological markers physiological breeding or “smart crossing.”

-More systematic characterization of target environments than in the past. Combining comprehensive environment data with CIMMYT’s exceptional and extensive phenotypic data of genotypes will greatly expand our knowledge about genotype x environment interaction. This will be further catalyzed by new tools and methodologies in the areas of geographic information systems, advanced statistics, modeling, and bioinformatics.

-Conservation agriculture (CA) was strongly endorsed as a strategy for buffering the adverse effects of environment on crop yields, especially in the face of climate change and reduced water resources. This is in addition to CA’s role in stabilizing the natural resource base and reducing long-term dependence on agro-chemical inputs.

© 2006 CIMMYT
The CIMMYT E-News is published monthly by the CIMMYT Corporate Communications group.

Source: CIMMYT E-News, vol 3 no. 3, March 2006

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1.09  Africa Maize Stress Project develops maize varieties tolerant to drought, low soil fertility, Striga weed, and endemic pests and diseases

The Africa Maize Stress Project (AMS) is developing maize varieties tolerant to drought, low soil fertility, Striga weed, and endemic pests and diseases. In a recently completed review by a three-member panel from the German Corporation for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) the AMS was termed a “flagship project.” According to team leader Dr. Manfed van Eckert, the reviewers recognized qualities that could serve as a model for similar multi-faceted projects in Africa. Among these were the “excellent working relations with national partners, and the Eastern and Central African Maize and Wheat (ECAMAW) Research Network.”

AMS is supported by Germany's Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), and the Rockefeller Foundation, and works with national agricultural research systems (NARS), NGOs, and seed companies in 10 eastern and central African countries. Other partners in the project include the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Institute (CIMMYT), the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), and national research programs.

The GTZ team recommended that in its next phase, AMS advance current activities “investigate sustainable financing options for maize breeding programs in the region.” For more information contact Alpha Diallo at a.diallo@cgiar.org

Source CropBiotech Update, via SeedQuest.com
21 April 2006

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1.10  Breeding wheat varieties for the future

London, United Kingdom
A low-nitrogen, high-energy wheat for biofuels, varieties with improved resistance to septoria and fusarium ear blight, and research that has already delivered results on fighting orange wheat blossom midge, were amongst the topics reviewed at a recent HGCA plant breeders seminar.

The event was organised by HGCA to review and disseminate results from a number of the on-going wheat breeding research projects which they partially fund, many through the Defra-sponsored Sustainable Arable LINK programme

The 'GREEN grain' project is looking at wheat as an energy source for feed, potable alcohol or bioethanol where high-energy, low-protein grain is advantageous.

"The project will test the hypothesis that wheat genotypes with low nitrogen storage in stems and grains will show halved nitrogen fertiliser requirements, and will produce grain of higher value for the feed and bioethanol industries," said Professor Graham Jellis, HGCA's director of research.

Projects are investigating resistance in varieties to a number of different diseases including soil-borne cereal mosaic virus, fusarium ear blight and mycotoxins, and septoria.

"Although much of this work is geared towards securing the long-term future of farming, it can provide answers for today," said Professor Jellis. "Results from the project looking at wheat varieties resistant to orange wheat blossom midge have already been passed to growers through the HGCA Recommended List."

"An HGCA review looking at the areas of research favoured by growers showed strong endorsement for plant breeding, both for what it can offer in helping with the issues of today, and in addressing the challenges facing farming in the coming years," said Professor Jellis.

Source: SeedQuest.com
13 April 2006

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1.11  University of California, Berkeley joins Africa Biofortified Sorghum (ABS) project

Berkeley, California
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, are joining an ambitious project to improve nutrition for 300 million people in Africa who rely on sorghum as a principal source of food.

The Africa Biofortified Sorghum (ABS) project is funded by a $17.6 million grant from the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative to Africa Harvest Biotechnology Foundation International, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting hunger and poverty in Africa.

"Our goal is to develop sorghum that will provide increased calories and needed protein in the diet of African consumers," said Bob B. Buchanan, UC Berkeley professor of plant and microbial biology and one of the lead scientists on the project. "We are extremely happy to offer our expertise and materials for this important project for the public good."

The announcement of UC Berkeley's participation was made from Nairobi, Kenya, today (Monday, April 10) by project leader Florence Wambugu. "All the project consortium members are delighted that researchers from UC Berkeley will be joining the team," said Wambugu, who is a plant pathologist and CEO of Africa Harvest. "Their contribution will provide a second avenue to ensure success in achieving the important goal of increasing digestibility of sorghum."

The Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative is supporting nutritional improvement of four staple crops - sorghum, cassava, bananas and rice - as one of its 14 "grand challenges" projects that focus on using science and technology to dramatically improve health in the world's poorest countries. The initiative is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

In June 2005, the initiative awarded $16.94 million to Africa Harvest to head a consortium of public and private research institutes for the ABS project. The Gates Foundation has just supplemented this amount with $627,932 to fund the work of Buchanan and co-researcher Peggy G. Lemaux, UC Berkeley Cooperative Extension specialist in plant and microbial biology.

The two will address the digestibility portion of the sorghum project, basing their work on studies they have been conducting for over a decade in their laboratories. Their work will complement approaches being pursued by other ABS consortium members.

Sorghum is the sixth-most planted crop in the world and has long been a staple in many regions of Africa and Asia. It is valued for its resiliency, growing well in dry, hot climates and on poor soils, but it lacks high levels of vitamins and minerals and is difficult to digest, especially when cooked.

Buchanan and Lemaux expect their sorghum seed to have enhanced protein and starch digestibility so people can obtain improved nutritional value from sorghum consumption. The researchers will achieve this improvement by increasing the levels of two proteins naturally present in the starchy part of the grain. These two proteins are part of the NADP-thioredoxin (Trx) system, an oxidation-reduction system that occurs naturally in all living organisms.

"By breaking disulfide (S-S) bonds of certain storage proteins in the sorghum grain, the introduced Trx proteins are expected to make previously indigestible protein and starch available for digestion," said Buchanan, who has worked with these proteins for over three decades. The researchers will also introduce another protein into the grain that will increase levels of three protein building blocks-- lysine, threonine and tryptophan -- that are currently present at low levels in sorghum.

The improved sorghum varieties developed by UC Berkeley scientists will be bred with varieties now under development by the ABS project for improved vitamin and mineral content, and then incorporated by classical breeding into varieties of importance to Africa.

Negotiations for UC Berkeley to join the consortium of companies, agencies and universities working on the sorghum project were led by Peter Schuerman, associate director in the Industry Alliances Office, which is part of the campus's Office of Intellectual Property and Industry Research Alliances (IPIRA).

"Berkeley is increasing our impact on society through strategic relationships that maximize social benefit," Schuerman said. "This agreement is part of a continuing program at Berkeley - the socially responsible licensing initiative - to use the university's knowledge, expertise and resources to address critical unaddressed social problems."

Now in its third year, the initiative has thus far yielded more than 10 separate agreements that address the needs of the developing world. "I think it's a moral imperative for land-grant institutions that have basic research that happens to have societal application to expeditiously translate it into goods and services for the public," said Carol Mimura, IPIRA's assistant vice chancellor. "Public-private partnerships of this sort are important because they bring resources to problems where traditional market drivers do not exist."

For more information on the Grand Challenges in Global Health Initiative, see: http://www.grandchallengesgh.org/subcontent.aspx?SecID=413
Africa Biofortified Sorghum project's Web site is at: http://supersorghum.org/index.htm

By Liese Greensfelder

Source: SeedQuest.com
10 April 2006

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1.12  Cataloguing wheat DNA will lead to quicker breeding

A group of public wheat breeders and scientists from the Southeast have been awarded $5 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The funds are earmarked to make using DNA technology a routine part of wheat breeding nationwide.

A group of public wheat breeders and scientists from the Southeast have been awarded $5 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The funds are earmarked to make using DNA technology a routine part of wheat breeding nationwide.

The project involves wheat scientists from Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia.

Mapping traits
"This grant gives us the opportunity to map a lot of very important wheat traits that aren't available at the present time," said Jerry Johnson, head of the small grains breeding program in the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. "The DNA markers will allow us to develop wheat cultivars much more efficiently and quickly."

Using traditional breeding methods, it can be up to 10 years from the time a researcher begins crossbreeding plants before a farmer can plant the new variety.

"With a lot of traits, we have to wait until we've grown out several plant generations to truly verify that we have the trait in the new cross," Johnson said.

"Having DNA markers will allow us to verify these traits earlier and will greatly improve breeding efficiency," he said. "It will also allow us to combine pest resistance more effectively to improve new varieties."

Built-in resistance
For the project, the research team will focus on identifying wheat genes that resist diseases like powdery mildew, leaf rust, stripe rust and fusarium head blight. All of these diseases affect wheat in the Southeast. Powdery mildew alone causes annual crop losses of 10 percent to 30 percent in this region.

As a result of the grant project, U.S. wheat breeders will have access to more than 80,000 DNA analyses per year. Breeders can then use these markers to precisely select genes that improve quality or provide resistance to pathogens and pests.

USDA genotyping labs will provide the molecular analysis required to deploy the targeted genes into breeding lines. The genetic information will then be stored in national databases. Seed stocks will be deposited in the USDA Small Grain Collection.

This will provide long-term, public access to the genetic information for wheat breeders and researchers worldwide, Johnson said.

For the sake of pizza and cookies
The wheat research team will also work to identify genes known to produce wheat with superior milling and baking qualities.

"The continuous improvement of U.S. varieties is essential to produce better bread, cookies and pasta products," Johnson said. "New releases also help U.S.-grown wheat compete internationally."

UGA wheat breeders have released more than 35 new varieties geared to help growers fight pests and produce high-quality, high-yield wheat. Johnson's breeding program at UGA released two new varieties last year and will release two more this year.

Besides the DNA technology, the project also includes an outreach effort. Information about the new DNA marker technology will be shared with growers and the public. An educational program will be geared to attract students to agriculture.

"We will train the students in molecular and traditional breeding technologies," Johnson said. "Hopefully, their interest will be sparked and they'll become our nation's future wheat breeders."

By Sharon Omahen, University of Georgia
Athens, Georgia

Source: Georgia Faces via SeedQuest.com
31 March 2006

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1.13  Aiming at a never-ending supply of rice

College, Laguna, The Philippines
Did it ever occur to you where rice came from?
Myths tell us that as early as 4000 years ago, the Chinese cultivated rice and later it was introduced to India, where the natives saw this plant and started tinkering this crop for food.

Much later, this rice trekked all the way to America through a certain ship captain who docked in Charleston South Carolina harbor. The man who received it planted it and in 1726, the place harboring it started to export rice. Today, in various parts of the globe, rice has flourished and has become a basic staple food to many.

In the Philippines and in most of Asian countries, rice is part of the day's main meals, 365 days a year.

Aiming at a never-ending supply of rice is not just a simplistic "Let's plant rice today and harvest in 120 days." There's more to it than meets the eye.

Dr. Robert Zeigler1, Director-General of Los Baños, Laguna-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), says that 10 to 20 years from now, IRRI will be facing head-on four major challenges. These are poverty alleviation, sustaining and maintaining the environment, human health and nutrition, and scientific capacity to address these challenges.

Alleviating poverty and maintaining human health
Rice is grown by farmers mostly from rainfed areas which are prone to erratic rainfall, flooding, and ironically, drought. And even if rice would grow and produce grains, the yield would barely enable the farmers to survive until the next cropping.

However, with the present "revolution in genomics" Zeigler says that much can be done to make rainfed areas more productive. To reduce poverty, Zeigler says that other cash crops need to b e explored. "…we look on the revolution in genomics being a tool to allow us to provide flexibility to farmers and get them out of that poverty trap."

Moreover, large areas in Asia have been reported to be malnourished. By using biotechnology, scientists can enrich the nutritional value of the crop and address malnutrition.

Sustaining environment
Rice farming needs a lot of water, nutrients, protection from pests, etc. Science's part in lightening the load of rice farming on the environment is to find measures to reduce water, nutrient, chemicals, and green gases emissions so that these will not be too damaging on the environment.

Water-saving technologies, nutrient uptake, and environmentally-friendly pest management practices can be explored. Zeigler points out that "The real challenge than is to understand how to get farmers to go to their fields and monitor their crops; there are many alternatives to their time and the opportunity costs of some of the intensive management systems are going to be a challenge to us."

Scientific capacity
Aiming at a never-ending supply of rice for the peoples of Asia is an intricate goal. Zeigler opines that policy issues and concerns "are completely interwoven" with poverty, human nutrition/health, environment, and scientific factors. Thus, "there's a tremendous opportunity and it is absolutely essential for the technical scientist to work very closely with the economists, social scientists, and policy specialists to make sure that we get our technical solutions right so they fit within the policy context and therefore would stand a much better probability of being adopted."

(1) From his paper presented during the SEARCA International Conference on "Agricultural and Rural Development in Asia: Ideas, Paradigms, and Policies Three Decades After" held on 10-11 November 2005 in Makati City, Philippines.
by Lorna C. Malicsi, Knowledge Management Unit

Source: SEARCA Policy Brief Series 2005-10, via SeedQuest.com
12 April 2006

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1.14  MSU researchers shake out basis for rice domestication

Michigan State University scientists have identified the genetic mutation that reduces grain shattering during rice domestication research that will improve production of the crop that feeds more than half of the world's population.

In an article on the cover of the March 31 edition of Science Magazine, MSU scientists, led by Tao Sang, associate professor of plant biology, identify for the first time the genetic mutation for the reduction of shattering, a key step in the domestication of all cereal crops including corn and wheat.

The researchers were able to pinpoint and confirm that a single base pair mutation in DNA causing an amino acid change in a protein led to non-shattering rice varieties. This slight change in DNA prevented mature rice grains from easily falling from stalks to allow a more effective field harvest. In essence, humans several thousand years ago unknowingly practiced de facto gene selection by planting varieties with this trait.

Shattering in cereal crops refers to grains easily falling off of plants. The shattering trait of the wild forerunners of rice and cereals prevents effective field harvest and is undesirable for cultivation.

"What we can learn from historical plant domestication will benefit our ongoing and future effort to domesticate energy crops that will be equally important to the long-term sustainability of our society," Sang said. "It is remarkable how the earliest farmers could have selected a single mutation in DNA to develop a major food crop of the world."

The researchers first determined which chromosomal regions contained the mutations selected for rice domestication. Chromosome 4 was pegged as being responsible primarily for the reduction of shattering.

"Several hundred hours were spent in the greenhouses where we had to shake the plants and record the various degrees of shattering," Sang said. "Even with all the advances in technology, a careful firsthand observation proves to be essential for biological research."

The researchers then developed a new method for rapid and cost-effective DNA isolation to clone a gene from the chromosomal region. Changbao Li, research associate in plant biology, invented a process that increased the speed of DNA isolation and allowed researchers to efficiently complete the screening of 12,000 seedlings.

"This technical innovation will greatly speed up genetic research for plants since it saved us time and money, yet delivered accurate results," Sang said.

"By tracing the breeding of rice and identifying the genetic mutations, the researchers have opened new doors to the science community that benefit the world through a more effective use of the land and water used to grow rice," said Rich Triemer, chairperson of the Department of Plant Biology.

"These findings will improve yields to a crop that is the staple food for more than half of the world's population. Our scientists are continuing the legacy started by William Beal more than one hundred years ago of using plant research to benefit the world," he said.

The article, "Rice Domestication by Reducing Shattering," was published today in Science Express an electronic publication designed to get important papers quickly in front of the scientific community prior to being published in Science. Science is the world's leading journal of original scientific research, global news, and commentary and is published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Contact: Michael Steger, stegerm@msu.edu; Sue Nichols, nichols@msu.edu; or Tao Sang:, sang@msu.edu

Source: EurekAlert.org
30 March 2006

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1.15  New initiative may lead to better peanuts

Washington, DC
The researchers, with ARS’ Wheat, Peanut and Other Field Crops Research Unit, are joining the Oklahoma Peanut Commission and state research and extension professionals in a new, wide-ranging program to produce disease-resistant plants with tasty, fresh and healthful peanuts for consumers.

Plant pathologist Hassan Melouk and biologist Kelly Chenault lead the ARS team. According to their research leader, Dave Porter, the new program fortifies and expands the ARS unit's efforts to enhance, through breeding, peanut plants' genetic diversity, and to develop superior peanut products.

The new initiative, which was started in response to recent declines in peanut production in southern Plains states, can help growers meet an increasing demand for peanuts through economical, sustainable and environmentally compatible management strategies, as well as spur improved crop production that allows for less pesticide use and greater product value, quality and safety, according to Porter.

This united effort will benefit from the continuation of Melouk's work on combining traits of peanut plants that resist diseases with those that boost oleic acid content. Studies have shown that oleic acid--which staves off deterioration and gives peanut products longer shelf life--may promote a lower risk of coronary heart disease.

Melouk is working with peanut lines from Bolivia and Ecuador that resist Sclerotinia blight and may be a boon to breeding in the United States. His previous work with Oklahoma State and Texas A&M universities generated cultivars that resist the blight. Some of the cultivars also produce oil with high oleic acid content.

The new initiative will also benefit from Chenault’s breakthroughs on the genetic front with disease-resistant peanut plants. Her goal is to someday integrate disease-resistance genes into susceptible peanut varieties.

Read more about the research in the April issue of Agricultural Research magazine, available online at:
http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/apr06/peanut0406.htm

ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
Luis Pons, lpons@ars.usda.gov
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in Stillwater, Okla., are an integral part of a new initiative to improve the peanut.

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

Source: SeedQuest.com
10 April 2006

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1.16  Plants give pests sock in the gut

A novel enzyme in corn helps the plants defend themselves from voracious caterpillars by disrupting the insects' ability to digest food, and ultimately killing them, according to researchers. The enzyme could be used in tandem with other biological pesticides such as the Bt toxin to prevent the pests from developing resistance and making the toxin more effective.

"The enzyme is found in insect-resistant strains of corn, and it breaks down proteins and peptides in the insects' gut. It is a unique active defense against herbivory," says Dawn Luthe, professor of plant stress biology at Penn State.

Luthe and researchers at Mississippi State University have since developed several lines of corn resistant to multiple pests, using conventional plant breeding and insect-resistant strains of corn from Antigua.

Researchers have found that when caterpillars fed on the insect-resistant plants, one enzyme -- Mir1-CP or maize insect resistance cysteine protease, in particular --accumulated at the feeding site within an hour of the caterpillar's feeding and continued to accumulate at the site for several days.

"Upon isolation and purification of the enzyme, we found that Mir1-CP binds to chitin, a major component of insects and fungi," says Luthe. "Physiological tests show that caterpillars have impaired nutrient utilization when they eat the enzyme. They just can't convert what they eat into body mass."

Luthe presented the findings at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society today (March 30) in Atlanta.

With the help of antibodies specific to the enzyme, the researchers were able to determine that Mir1-CP is made in the vascular bundles, or strands of conducting vessels in the stem and leaves of a plant. Luthe thinks that when an insect starts feeding, the enzyme is probably transported to vascular tissue that conducts sugars and other metabolic products upward from the leaves, as well as to the soft tissue found in leaves and stem.

Though it is still unclear whether the transport of Mir1-CP is a specific response to the insect feeding, studies show that maize tissue that naturally expresses Mir1-CP causes a 50 percent inhibition in caterpillar growth. Transgenic black Mexican sweet corn cells that express Mir1-CP inhibit caterpillar growth by 70 percent, Luthe says.

Mir1-CP is harmful to caterpillars mainly because of its damaging effect on their peritrophic matrix. This is a membrane that lines the gut of most insects and aids digestion. It also protects the insects from being invaded by microorganisms and parasites through the food they eat.

At the heart of the matrix is a protein called the insect intestinal mucin, or IIM. It is very similar to the mucus layer in animals and is vital for nutrient utilization because it helps the flow of nutrients into the food gut.

The researchers tested the permeability of the matrix using blue dextran, a fermented sugar solution commonly used as a molecular size marker. Results showed that Mir1-CP created holes in the matrix.

To replicate the test in vivo, the researchers fed caterpillars with plants susceptible to the insects and those resistant to them. Results indicate that after seven days, the level of both IIM and IIM messenger RNA in insects that were feeding on the resistant plants had fallen significantly.

"If the IIM is being degraded by the enzyme, pieces of it should not appear in the fecal pellets of the insect," notes the Penn State researcher.

When used in conjunction with the Bt-toxin, a low dose of Mir1-CP was able to achieve a very high mortality rate in the insects, as well as an extremely low growth rate.

"In the long run, the enzyme degrades the insect's peritrophic matrix and retards the caterpillar's ability to generate a new one," says Luthe.

The research has potential global implications in generating a cheap and highly effective way of controlling crop pests.

Other authors of the paper include Tibor Pechan, Srinidi Mohan, Renuka Shivaji, Lorena Lopez, Alberto Camas, Erin Bassford, Seval Ozkan, Peter Ma, all at Mississippi State University; and W. Paul Williams, U.S.D.A.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Science Foundation funded this study.
Contact: Amitabh Avasthi
axa47@psu.edu

Source: EurekAlert.org
30 March 2006

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1.17  Botanical gardens not just 'pretty places'

Botanical gardens play an often unrecognised role in international development ­ from supplying medicinal plants to HIV/AIDS patients to improving urban food security ­ according to a report published today (20 April).

The report by Botanic Gardens Conservation International argues that botanical gardens are uniquely placed to use plant diversity to contribute to human wellbeing.

"We feel it is both a practical and ethical imperative that botanic gardens are encouraged and enabled to link plant conservation with improvements to human wellbeing," says Suzanne Sharrock, the organisation's public awareness director.

"We hope the report will help to build support for them ­ especially in developing countries."

The report stresses that many botanical gardens have a strong research emphasis, and are involved in developing plants for use in agriculture and healthcare.

The Kisantu Botanic Garden in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, has conducted research to extend the shelf life of mangosteen fruit. Ghana's Aburi Botanical Garden has been improving access to herbal medicines by helping local communities to set up medicinal gardens.

While it is possible that displaying plant diversity in such centres could slightly increase the risk of samples being taken by unscrupulous researchers, Sharrock believes that research benefits provided by the gardens greatly outweigh such risks.

"Being able to produce plant material in a sustainable way is likely to empower communities and reduce such biopiracy, rather than promoting it," she told SciDev.Net.

The report also notes botanical gardens' role in plant conservation. Many globally threatened species are represented in their living collections and seed banks.

Botanic Gardens Conservation International is the largest professional body representing 800 botanical gardens in 120 countries.

Source: SciDev.Net
20 April 2006

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1.18  Global actors, markets and rules driving the diffusion of GM crops in developing countries

The adoption of the technology of genetic modification (GM) in developing countries is shaped by a number of players, which include multinational corporations, scientists, farmers, consumers, and anti-globalization and environmental NGOs; and is also influenced by global and national markets and by international and national rules on intellectual property rights and biosafety. Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, of Harvard University, explores some of the policy issues for developing countries related to the introduction of GM crops, and argues that developing economies should develop policy approaches that are specific to their own unique set of circumstances. Her essay, entitled “Introduction: Global actors, markets and rules driving the diffusion of genetically modified (GM) crops in developing countries”, is published in the second issue of the International Journal of Technology and Globalisation 2006 - Vol. 2, No.1/2  pp. 1 - 11.

While crop breeding and improvement have traditionally been public sector initiatives, several factors have contributed to provide powerful market incentives to the private sector of developed countries to invest in agriculture in the last two decades. These factors include: scientific advances in molecular biology; changes in the legislation, in particular with regards to property right protection; and the availability of large US seed markets for maize, soy, canola, and cotton. As a result, the first biotech crops that were commercialized are mainly crops suitable for temperate zones, and industrialized countries currently account for 65% of the total area planted with biotech crops. However, Argentina is the second country in terms of biotech crop production, and diffusion is rapid in Brazil, China, and India, countries which are investing heavily on crops and traits that fit their local priorities and requirements.

Efforts to develop crops tailored to suit local needs, and aimed at the local markets of developing nations for the benefit of resource-poor farmers, “cannot depend entirely on national public sector efforts alone” argues Fukuda-Parr. The author adds that “public-private partnership, building regulatory and IPR enforcement mechanisms, and having the right kind of IPR regimes globally are all critical.”

ABSTRACT
The theme of this special issue – genetically modified (GM) crops – goes to the heart of the process of globalisation, technology and development. This introductory essay explains how this new technology is being driven by the actors (multinational corporations), markets (large global markets) and rules (intellectual property) of globalisation. But it is also shaped by the other national and global actors (farmers, research scientists, anti-globalisation and environmental NGOs), markets (national priorities) and rules (national biosafety). The papers in this issue address some policy questions for developing countries: markets that are too small for corporate sector, or to be kept GM free, or dominated by monopoly products; the rules of intellectual property rights and the enforcement of biosafety regulation. Developing countries need to develop policy approaches that are specific to its own unique set of circumstances.

www.inderscience.com/search/index.php?action=record&rec_id=9123&prevQuery=&ps=10&m=or

Source: CropBiotech Update via SeedQuest.com
April 21, 2006

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1.19  Genetic markers point toward low linolenic acid soybeans

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in the Plant Genetics Research Unit at Columbia, Mo., are improving soybean oil’s longevity--and marketability--by lowering its linolenic acid content.

Most soybeans contain high levels of linolenic acid, which has double chemical bonds that break down in the presence of air, heat and light, according to molecular biologist Kristin Bilyeu at Columbia. This is a troublesome trait for producers and consumers who want durable, shelf-stable food.

Soy oil is often partially hydrogenated to reduce linolenic acid. Hydrogenation increases products’ shelf life and stability, but produces trans fats (also called trans fatty acids), which several studies have linked to high cholesterol and heart disease.

With growing public awareness and new laws requiring food labels to list trans fats, the food oil industry would welcome an alternative to hydrogenated oils. Could low-linolenic soybeans provide the solution?

With colleagues from ARS and Iowa State University (ISU), Bilyeu has developed molecular markers that identify specific mutations in three genes which can be used in plant breeding programs to lower soy oil’s linolenic acid content. Oil from the low-linolenic soybeans does not require hydrogenation.

Walter Fehr of ISU and James Wilcox, formerly with ARS, identified the low-linolenic soybean lines in mutant plants that Bilyeu used to identify the mutant genes and develop the molecular markers.

Usually, soybean breeders depend on random segregation of the three genes for low-linolenic acid. Using these new markers will improve the identification of soybean genotypes for low linolenic acid content. Eventually, Bilyeu hopes the breeding process will result in stable, nutritious beans for the food oil industry.

The QualiSoy Initiative, under the auspices of the United Soybean Board, is helping to bring seed companies, processors, and food manufacturers together to expand the market for low-linolenic soybean oil. This oil would create a competitive advantage for growers and allow food manufacturers and vendors to market long-lasting products without compromising their nutritional value.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific research agency.
Washington, DC

ARS News Service
Laura McGinnis, lmcginnis@ars.usda.gov

Source: SeedQuest.com
31 March 2006

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1.20  Bacterial gene could help crops beat the heat of global warming, say University of Florida researchers

Gainesville, Florida
Though E. coli bacteria are notorious for making people sick, a University of Florida study shows that a gene found in the microbes can keep plants healthy by improving their resistance to heat stress – a discovery that may help researchers develop food crops that withstand harsh climates and global warming.

Tobacco plants carrying the gene thrived after spending a week in nonstop 95-degree heat, said Bala Rathinasabapathi, an associate professor of horticultural sciences with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.  The gene poses no threat to human health.

Researchers believe the plants were unusually resilient because they contained up to four times the normal amounts of vitamin B-5 and one of its components, the amino acid beta-alanine, he said.

The UF study appears in the March issue of the journal Plant Molecular Biology.

“We’re already researching the gene’s effect on tomatoes and lettuce, which are economically important to Florida and vulnerable to heat,” said Rathinasabapathi, who co-authored the study with graduate student Walid Fouad. “Large-scale application is several years away but we believe this technology will be practical and affordable. It’s certainly needed.”

Up to 20 percent of the world’s food crop is lost to heat stress each year, he said. That figure is likely to increase if predictions of future global warming prove correct.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, many scientists believe the Earth’s average surface temperatures will increase by up to 10 degrees in the next century.

Besides fighting crop loss, the gene could enable farmers in tropical and subtropical areas to grow a wider variety of foods, Rathinasabapathi said.

The connection between the gene and heat tolerance was discovered by accident, as researchers tried to learn how plants make beta-alanine. The process is well understood in bacteria, so the researchers decided to take a gene that helps regulate beta-alanine production in E. coli and observe its effects in plants.

They transferred the gene to tobacco, a species popular in genetic research. During an experiment on heat stress, Fouad was surprised to find plants carrying the gene were taller than their ordinary counterparts.

“We hypothesized that the plants grew taller and larger under higher than optimal temperatures because something associated with the gene protected them from heat,” Rathinasabapathi said. “One possibility was that the large amounts of beta-alanine and vitamin B-5 they were producing played a role.”

In the current study, researchers found tobacco plants modified with the gene contained four times as much beta-alanine and vitamin B-5 as ordinary tobacco plants. And modified plants exposed to 95-degree heat for one week weighed almost twice as much as ordinary plants grown under the same conditions.

But when the modified plants were kept at temperatures typical for tobacco farming – about 75 degrees – they grew at the same rate as their ordinary counterparts.

“The practical applications for this gene may be limited to situations where crops will be exposed to temperatures of 90 degrees or more,” Rathinasabapathi said. “We’re conducting follow-up studies to learn more about how the gene works, so we can maximize its benefits.”

The UF study marks one of the few times a plant’s metabolic system has been successfully changed with genetic engineering, said Ulrich Genschel, a junior group leader at the genetics department of the Weihenstephan Center of Life Sciences in Freising, Germany, part of the Technical University of Munich.

The findings suggest beta-alanine helps plants tolerate heat but it may play a supporting role, he said. Plants use beta-alanine to make other substances – such as vitamin B-5 – and one of them could provide the actual protection.

“In any case, this work emphasizes the importance of the biochemical pathway involved in vitamin B-5 production,” said Genschel, who studies vitamin B-5 production in plants and microbes. “It will be interesting to see what else the authors discover about the role of beta-alanine in plants.”

Source: SeedQuest.com
March 30, 2006

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1.21  Kenya advances on GM cotton

Michael Ouma
The Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) is currently conducting confined field trials of insect resistant genetically modified (GM) cotton with the Bt gene Cry1Ac. The four-month-long trials are being used to measure economic impacts and the Bt gene's effectiveness against bollworm pests. The article says that several biosafety measures have put in place at the test site; the test field is separated from other cotton fields by a 500 meter separation distance, and all of the material from the test will be incinerated on-site. Members of Kenya's National Biosafety Committee and the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) will inspect the site periodically. The article reports that cotton production has fallen dramatically in Kenya over the past years, from 70,000 bales in 1986 to just 20,000 in 2000, with insect pests "the main factor" behind the drop-off. [According to a related article (Crop Biotech Update; April 21), Kenyan members of parliament (MPs) from the House committees on "Agriculture, Lands, and Natural Resources" and "Education, Research, Science, and Technology" recently visited the GM test site. The MPs "expressed their commitment to key biotechnology and biosafety legislation once it's brought to Parliament to help speed up the process of introducing improved seeds to local farmers."] The article can be viewed online at the link below.
http://allafrica.com/stories/200604190511.html

Source:East African Business Week

Contributed by Elcio Guimaraes
FAO/AGPC
Elcio.Guimaraes@fao.org

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1.22  US$3m for global survey of how science helps farming

A global effort to assess how science can improve agriculture has received a US$3 million boost thanks to a grant made by the World Bank last week (29 March).

The International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) will evaluate the relevance and effectiveness of different agricultural technologies, from traditional irrigation techniques to genetically modified crops.

"We need to make informed decisions now in order to meet the future needs of growing populations and changing diets, and to improve the health and wellbeing of poor people," said project director Robert Watson in a press release.

"These decisions must also protect the environment and ensure broad-based economic growth," added Watson, who is the World Bank's chief scientist.

The three-year project aims to give policymakers robust information on how science can improve agriculture and contribute to sustainable development.

It will assess the impacts of new and existing technologies, highlight key uncertainties and risks, and identify priorities for research and investment.

The project, which involves governments, researchers, businesses and civil society groups from around the world, will produce global and regional reports in much the same way as the recent Millennium Ecosystem Assessment ­ which Watson co-chaired (see Healthy ecosystems 'critical in fight against poverty').

Its initial reports will be made public by the end of 2007.
The new grant from the World Bank's Global Environment Facility will be supplemented with US$7.5 million from other donor agencies, including the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Shivaji Pandey, chair of FAO working group on biotechnology, says more political commitment is needed to make science and technology integral to development strategies.
He told SciDev.Net that developing countries should invest more in agricultural research and technology development because of their high rates of return.
Related links:
- International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD)
- World Bank's IAASTD project information
- Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
by Wagdy Sawahel

Source: SciDev.Net via SeedQuest.com
6 April 2006

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1.23  10-year CLIMA breeding program makes grasspea a safe animal feed

Western Australia
A high protein, low cost grain legume, known as grasspea, will push into drought prone and waterlogged areas of Western Australia for the first time after the release of Australia’s first commercial variety, Ceora.

A resilient, drought tolerant feed and forage crop, it can be planted late in autumn, meaning growers can let weeds emerge at the break of season and spray them off, before seeding Ceora.

Its release marks the end of a 10-year breeding program to make Ceora a safe animal feed by reducing levels of the neurotoxin ODAP, which naturally occurs in the Lathyrus genus, which includes grasspea.

With ODAP levels in Ceora well within animal safety limits, researcher on the Centre for Legumes in Mediterranean Agriculture (CLIMA) project, Colin Hanbury explained that Western Australia's animal and grain producers could now access some of the crop’s many agronomic advantages.

“Grasspea is a common food source in drought-stricken environments of Ethiopia, North Africa and the Indian sub-continent, so it’s well adapted to marginal conditions.

“It’s also much more tolerant to waterlogging than existing grain legumes and so growers can introduce valuable rotations to enrich soils in such areas for the first time,” Dr Hanbury said.

When used as a green manure in Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia (DAFWA) trials, grasspea lifted subsequent cereal yields by up to 20 per cent.

Dr Hanbury reassured growers that Ceora’s poisonous past was well behind it, with Grains Research and Development Corporation, Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation and CLIMA supported research reducing ODAP levels to a quarter of the recognised 0.2 per cent safe level.

“CSIRO trials showed sheep liveweight gain per kilogram was greater than on lupins, while non-ruminants, such as pigs and poultry, could be safely fed Ceora,” he said.

Dongara graingrower, Chris Gillam, bulked up Ceora last season on alkaline (pH 7.0) soils that received 400mm of growing season rainfall.

“It established quite easily in our zone at a seeding rate of about 35-40kg/ha and displayed good early vigour which, because of the plant’s prostrate growth, meant it competed well with weeds and could block them out.

“We had a very good growing season, but were hampered by sclerotinia disease and so growers should avoid following canola too closely in the rotation. We harvested 1.5 t/ha, despite the disease,” Mr Gillam said.

Seed, which was also bulked-up under irrigation at Manjimup, is now available from The Seed Group and Coorow Seeds. A farmnote on growing Ceora in Western Australia (No 58, 2005) is now available through CLIMA and DAFWA.

Source: SeedQuest.com
5 April 2006

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1.24  Association among pollen grain features to maximise reproductive fitness: A study in Dianthus species

Tejaswini, Department of Genetics and Plant Breeding, G.K.V.K., University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore 560064

Summary
Components of pollen fitness and variability result in non-random fertilisation with respect to pollen genotype.  Variability in pollen fitness may be due to several factors of which pollen grain size, germination capacity and pollen tube growth rate are the major components.  The study taken up in Dianthus spp. reveals interrelationship among these components so as to maximise the probability of reproductive success of an individual pollen genotype. Association between pollen germination percentage and pollen tube growth rate was positive so as to harness the energy incurred by the parental genotype in production of pollen grains.

Introduction
Evolution tends to maximise and favor those characters that support survival.  In sexually reproducing organisms, those features that help to maximise individual’s offspring production are selected for.   Consequently, evolution has the tendency to shape those features associated with reproduction in such a way as to maximise individual’s reproductive fitness.  Fruit and seed set are the two important indicators of the reproductive success of plants. Reproductive success depends on pre-pollination as well as post pollination strategies of an individual. Number of pollen grains produced, mechanisms of pollen transfer, mechanisms evolved to attract pollinator can be considered as pre pollination strategies of plant contributing for its reproductive fitness.  Similarly, size of pollen grains, germination percentage and pollen tube growth rate can be considered as important post pollination strategies of plant towards its reproductive fitness.  Variation among plants within species is observed for pollen grain size, germination percentage and pollen tube growth rate.

The present study tries to evaluate the interrelation among size, germination percentage and pollen tube growth rate to understand the process of maximisation for reproductive fitness in the post pollination stage.
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For additional information or a copy of the complete paper, contact:

Dr. Tejaswini, Scientist, Division of Ornamental Crops, Indian Institute of Horticultural Research, Hessaraghatta Lake Post, Bangalore 560089.  e-mail: hittalu@bgl.vsnl.net.in

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1.25  CIMMYT develops herbicide resistant maize hybrids

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), in collaboration with public and private partners, has developed and tested 26 Imidazolinone-resistant (IR) 3-Way maize hybrids, across 18 sites in several sub-Saharan African countries. These hybrids are available to National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) and seed companies in eastern and southern Africa companies for inclusion into trials to decide on variety registration, release, and eventual commercialization in various sub-Saharan African countries.

Imidazolinone-resistance (IR) is a natural form of herbicide resistance originally discovered in mutation-derived populations. Imidazolinone herbicides possess high biological potency at low application rates, and thus are an attractive alternative for weed control. The seed of IR-hybrids coated with Imidazolinone offers an effective protection against Striga, a flowering parasitic plant with devastating effects on crop production in sub-Saharan Africa. In trials, IR-hybrids show a 50% increase in yield and provide close to 100% Striga control. Without Imidazolinone seed treatment, the same hybrids can be commercialized in non-Striga affected areas.

For more information write to Ms. Ebby Irungu (e.irungu@cgiar.org) or visit: http://www.africancrops.net/ striga/CIMMYT-IR-Maize-Hybrids.pdf

From CropBiotech Update 24 February 2006

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics
Cornell University
mes25@cornell.edu

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1.26  Papaya ripening genes identified

Papaya is an important fruit for the tropics, where it is used in both the food and cosmetics industries. As a result, studies are on the way on the the papaya's genome, in order to identify candidate genes that may be used to improve the nutritional quality of papaya through marker-assisted breeding or genetic engineering. Luke C. Devitt and colleagues of the Queensland Agricultural Biotechnology Center contribute their findings as they report the "Discovery of genes associated with fruit ripening in Carica papaya using expressed sequence tags." Their work appears in a recent issue of Plant Science.

To identify genes involved in papaya fruit ripening, researchers generated a total of 1171 expressed sequence tags (ESTs) from clones of two independent fruit cDNA libraries derived from yellow and red-fleshed fruit varieties. ESTs are short DNA fragments of expressed genes. They have been used extensively and effectively in a number of fruit species as a tool for rapid gene discovery.

Researchers found that the most abundant gene sequences isolated were those coding for the enzymes chitinase, which breaks down chitin; 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid (ACC) oxidase, which controls the release of ethylene in plants; catalase, which breaks down harmful hydrogen peroxide into hydrogen and water; and methionine synthase, which processes amino acids. Researchers also found putative genes contributing to fruit softening, among them cell wall hydrolases, cell membrane hydrolases, and ethylene synthesis and regulation sequences. By comparing ESTs with gene sequences in other plant species, researchers identified expressed papaya genes which could play a role in fruit aroma and color.

Subscribers to Plant Science can read the complete article at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.plantsci.2005.09.003.

From CropBiotech Update 24 February 2006

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics
Cornell University
mes25@cornell.edu

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1.27  Research analyzes wild rice diversity

Rice is an important crop to many economies worldwide, but is constantly plagued by fungal diseases and insect pests. To protect rice varieties, scientists turn to the crop's wild relatives, which harbour genes that may protect their domesticated counterparts from destruction and damage. One such wild rice is Oryza granulata, which has genes for immunity against bacterial blight, and for tolerance to shade and seasonal drought. O. granulata, however, is difficult to cross with cultivated rice, and is threatened with extinction due to disturbance of its habitat. To contribute to conservation efforts for O. granulata, Wei Qian and colleagues of the Chinese Academy of Sciences carried out studies on the "Genetic diversity in accessions of wild rice Oryza granulata from South and Southeast Asia." Their work appears in a recent issue of Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution.

The scientists used Random Amplification of Polymorphic DNA PCR (RAPD-PCR) to assess the genetic variability among 23 accessions of O. granulata collected from main distribution areas worldwide. RAPD-PCR makes use of short primers which anneal to an organism's genome at random. This PCR technique generates hundreds of sequences of different lengths, which in turn generate a DNA or profile that can differentiate within and between species. The authors report that RAPD-PCR analysis of Oryza granulata reveals moderate to high levels of genetic variation in the wild rice species. The researchers thus suggested that population studies should be done to further research in wild rice conservation, a feat which could be achieved by international cooperation amongst rice geneticists.

Subscribers to Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution can read the complete article at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10722-004-6691-y.

From CropBiotech Update 17 March 2006

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics
Cornell University
mes25@cornell.edu

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1.28  Selection of potato lines resistant to multiple pathogens

Potatoes rank number four in the list of world food crops (after rice, wheat and maize), and are grown worldwide. Potatoes are however affected by numerous diseases, which threaten potato crop production, in particular by small-scale, resource-poor farmers in developing countries who lack access to chemical controls and certified disease-free seeds. Classical breeding for resistance to pathogens involves the identification of resistance genes, often harboured by wild relatives of cultivated species. These genes are introgressed into cultivars by crossing the "donor parent", which carries the resistance gene, to the "recipient parent" to be improved. The resulting progeny is then repeatedly backcrossed to the "recipient parent" to remove unwanted genes carried by the "donor parent". Knowledge of the genetic position of the desirable traits and of closely linked DNA-based markers allows the targeting of specific genes for introgression, and provides a fast track to increase genetic gain in crop breeding programs. This technique is known as marker assisted selection.

Researchers at the Max-Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research have developed potato lines that harbor multiple resistance genes by marker assisted selection, described in the report "Marker-assisted combination of major genes for pathogen resistance". The article is published in the Online First section of the journal Theoretical Applied Genetics. The lines generated are resistant to four important potato pathogens: the Potato Virus Y, the soilborne fungus Synchytrium endobioticum (responsible for potato wart), and the root cyst nematodes Globodera rostochiensis and Globodera pallida. The selected plants can be used as sources of multiple resistance, and they are available from the IPK (Institut für Pflanzengenetik und Kulturpflanzenforschung) potato germplasm bank maintained at 18190 Groß-Lüsewitz, Germany.

Subscribers to Theoretical and Applied Genetics may access the PDF file of the article "Marker-assisted combination of major genes for pathogen resistance" at: http://www.springerlink.com/media/99a0hcptrm6rtg4vkyvm/contributions/x/4/5/4/x45451t272267m25.pdf

From CropBiotech Update 24 March 2006

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics
Cornell University
mes25@cornell.edu

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1.29  Silicon transporter identified in rice

Silicon is the second most abundant element present on the earth's crust, and is a very important element for plants. Silicon benefits plants in many ways: it improves the rate of absorption of many important plant nutrients; it decreases susceptibility to attack by fungal pathogen and insects by stimulating the plant's defense mechanisms and by contributing to the strength and thickness of cell walls; it helps plants to grow on the presence of salt and heavy metals contaminants; and it protects the plant against damage from UV rays. Silicon has been used for centuries in agriculture as a fungicide, mainly in the form of horsetail extract.

Plants differ however widely in their silicon content, and this difference is related to varying abilities of different species to take up silicon from soil through their roots. Although silicon can represent 5% and above of the dry weight of grasses, such as rice, most dicotyledonous plants, which comprise many important crops, are unable to accumulate silicon at levels sufficient to be beneficial. How do plants absorb silicon? Until now, scientists have been unable to answer this question. This week, a collaborative effort between researchers belonging to several research institutions in Japan has provided a major breakthrough in the field of plant silicon. The team describes the first gene important for silicon uptake to be identified in higher plants: Low silicon rice1 or Lsi1. Their report, entitled "A silicon transporter in rice" is published in the latest issue of the scientific journal Nature.

Rice plants with reduced or impaired Lsi1 gene activity are very susceptible to attack by pathogens and insects, and have a severely reduced grain yield (1/10 of the yield of non- mutants). The authors show that the Lsi1 gene encodes a protein that is localized in the membrane of root cells and is necessary for the uptake of silicon. This discovery will have tremendous implications for agriculture, as it opens the way to crop improvement initiatives aimed at providing important food crops with the tool required to absorb silicon.

To read the first paragraph of the article "A silicon transporter in rice" access: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/
v440/n7084/abs/nature04590.html


From CropBiotech Update 31 March 2006

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics
Cornell University
mes25@cornell.edu

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1.30  CIAT identifies a more nutritious cassava variety

Scientists in the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) have identified Col 2436, an improved variety of yuca (cassava)with about three more times protein content in roots compared to normal varieties, combined with twice the amount in provitamin-A carotenoids. Therefore, this variety can be of incalculable value to improve the nutrition of many rural communities, especially in Africa, where cassava is the main food crop. The variety can also be used for the production of feeds, as it will reduce the need for protein additives.

Contact Hernan Ceballos for more information at h.ceballos@cgiar.org. Read more at http://www.ciat.cgiar.org/yuca/inicio.htm.

From CropBiotech Update 21 April 2006

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics
Cornell University
mes25@cornell.edu

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1.31  Selections from Update 2-2006 of FAO-BiotechNews

The Coordinator of FAO-BiotechNews, 21-4-2006

1) FAO Biotechnology Glossary - Arabic translation
The FAO "Glossary of biotechnology for food and agriculture", published in 2001 as FAO Research and Technology Paper 9, has now been translated into Arabic, in a co-publishing partnership with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) University and under the patronage of H. H. Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, the UAE Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research. Apart from a translation of the over 3,000 terms and definitions contained in the English glossary, the 434-page publication also contains an additional English-Arabic vocabulary of biotechnology-related terms. The original English version of the glossary was co-authored by A. Zaid, H.G. Hughes, E. Porceddu and F. Nicholas and the Arabic translation was carried out by A. Zaid with editorial assistance by A. Abdeltawab. The publication will soon be made available at the multi-lingual biotechnology glossary website, http://www.fao.org/biotech/index_glossary.asp.

Contact sandra.tardioli@fao.org to request a copy.

2) National plant breeding and biotechnology surveys
FAO has been carrying out a global survey to assess plant breeding and related biotechnology capacity with the objective of designing strategies to strengthen national and regional abilities to use plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. A number of draft reports on national plant breeding and biotechnology surveys are now available on the web (for Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan). In addition, FAO, in collaboration with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), recently carried out a series of workshops in Central Asian countries on designing strategies to strengthen the sustainable use of plant genetic resources. Draft reports from the workshops held in Uzbekistan (6 April 2006) and Tajikistan (8 April 2006) are now available. For both the national surveys and the workshop reports, see the "what's new" section of http://apps3.fao.org/wiews/wiews.jsp or contact elcio.guimaraes@fao.org for more information.

7) Advance version of COP-8 decisions
An advance version of the decisions adopted by the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity at its 8th meeting (COP-8), that took place on 20-31 March 2006 in Curitiba, Brazil, is now available. The 272-page document, which is still subject to final editing and clearance, also refers to some biotechnology-related issues such as genetic use restriction technologies (GURTs), genetically modified trees and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. See http://www.biodiv.org/doc/meetings/cop/cop-08/cop-08-decision-advance-en.pdf (1.29 MB) or contact secretariat@biodiv.org for more information.

8) WIPO database – PatentScope

In April 2006, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) upgraded its online database, PatentScope, so that over 1.2 million international applications filed under WIPO's Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) from 1978 to the present are now available in fully searchable form for free consultation. The information may be searched in several ways e.g. using keywords (such as 'biotechnology' or 'et/biotechnology' [i.e. with the word biotechnology in the english title]), names of applicants or dates and complete documents may be printed or downloaded. Together with documents on each patent application (e.g. description, claims), the database gives access to information on the status of the application. PatentScope is a valuable technical resource as new technologies are often disclosed for the first time as international patent applications and the patent applications filed under the PCT system are typically those that inventors consider to be the most valuable and therefore worth patenting internationally. See http://www.wipo.int/patentscope/ or contact publicinf@wipo.int for more information. WIPO is one of the United Nations specialised agencies. It administers 23 international treaties dealing with different aspects of intellectual property protection and has 183 member nations.

9) WIPO-UNEP study on IPRs and benefit sharing
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recently published the "WIPO-UNEP study on the role of intellectual property rights in the sharing of benefits arising from the use of biological resources and associated traditional knowledge", prepared by A.K. Gupta. This 164-page publication uses 3 detailed case studies from Nigeria, India and Mali to consider the role of the existing intellectual property system in providing benefit-sharing mechanisms for local communities and individual innovators. The case study in Mali deals with a voluntary initiative for sharing benefits through the licensing, and possible commercialisation, of a cloned gene (Xa21) derived from a wild rice variety obtained from Mali, via international and national research centres. See http://www.wipo.int/tk/en/publications/769e_unep_tk.pdf or contact publicinf@wipo.int for more information.

11) IPGRI publication on molecular markers for genebank management
As part of its IPGRI Technical Bulletin series, the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) has recently published "Molecular markers for genebank management" by D. Spooner, R. van Treuren and M.C. de Vicente. The 126-page document includes discussion of the main marker techniques and their comparative qualities; applications of molecular techniques in genebank management and crop breeding; and current developments in molecular marker applications and future challenges that could result from these developments. See www.ipgri.cgiar.org/publications/pdf/1082.pdf (1.58 MB) or contact IPGRI@cgiar.org for more information. IPGRI Technical Bulletins are targeted at scientists and technicians managing genetic resources collections.

12) Manual of CIMMYT laboratory protocols
The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) has recently published "Laboratory protocols: CIMMYT Applied Molecular Genetics Laboratory. Third edition", edited by M. Warburton, M. William, A. McNab and D. Poland. According to the foreword, the primary motive for compiling and publishing this manual was to provide scientists, researchers, and students from national agricultural research systems, universities, and small private companies in developing countries, as well as advanced research institutions in the developed world, with a useful guide on the protocols currently in use in the Applied Molecular Genetics (AMG) Laboratory of CIMMYT's Applied Biotechnology Center. The main protocols currently in use there have to do with molecular marker technology and can be used for mapping, molecular marker assisted selection, and studies on genetic diversity. See http://www.cimmyt.org/english/docs/manual/protocols/abc_amgl.pdf (1.63 MB) or contact mwarburton@cgiar.org with any comments.

13) IFPRI brief on assessing the environmental impact of GM crops
As part of its IFPRI Issue Briefs series, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has published "Strategic Environmental Assessment: Assessing the environmental impact of biotechnology" by N.A. Linacre, J. Gaskell, M.W. Rosegrant, J. Falck-Zepeda, H. Quemada, M. Halsey and R. Birner. The 3-page brief discusses the need for systematic evaluation of environmental issues in the research and priority-setting process for genetically modified crops. See http://www.ifpri.org/pubs/ib/ib41.pdf (196 KB) or contact ifpri-ept@cgiar.org for more information.

14) Generation Challenge Programme: Capacity building corner
The Generation Challenge Programme (GCP) website has now been extended to include a "capacity building corner", containing information about GCP training events, fellowship and grant opportunities, and other human resource development activities in the fields of plant genetic resources, genomics and molecular breeding. The GCP is one of the Challenge Programmes approved by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and its aim is to "harness the rich global heritage of plant genetic resources and create a new generation of crops that meet the needs of resource-poor people". See http://www.generationcp.org/capcorner.php or contact j.nelson@cgiar.org for more information.

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2  PUBLICATIONS

2.01  Economic impact of transgenic crops in developing countries

ABSTRACT
Transgenic crops are being adopted rapidly at the global level, but only a few developing countries are growing them in significant quantities. Why are these crops so successful in some countries but not in others? Farm level profitability ultimately determines whether farmers adopt and retain a new technology, but this depends on much more than technical performance. Recent economic studies in developing countries find positive, but highly variable, economic returns to adopting transgenic crops. These studies confirm that institutional factors such as national agricultural research capacity, environmental and food safety regulations, intellectual property rights and agricultural input markets matter at least as much as the technology itself in determining the level and distribution of economic benefits.
PMID: 16522366

Full article can be downloaded from the website of AgBioWorld at http://www.agbioworld.org/pdf/raney.pdf
by Terri Raney
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
published in Current opinion in biotechnology 2006, 17:1-5

Source: SeedQuest.com
March, 2006

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2.02  The first decade of genetically engineered crops in the United States

Washington, DC
USDA/ERS Publication
The First Decade of Genetically Engineered Crops in the United States
By Jorge Fernandez-Cornejo and Margriet Caswell, with contributions from Lorraine Mitchell, Elise Golan, and Fred Kuchler
Economic Information Bulletin No. (EIB-11) 36pp, April 2006

Ten years after the first generation of genetically engineered (GE) varieties became commercially available, adoption of these varieties by U.S. farmers is widespread for major crops. Driven by farmers' expectations of higher yields, savings in management time, and lower pesticide costs, the adoption of corn, soybean, and cotton GE varieties has increased rapidly. Despite the benefits, however, environmental and consumer concerns may have limited acceptance of GE crops, particularly in Europe.

This report focuses on GE crops and their adoption in the United States over the past 10 years. It examines the three major stakeholders of agricultural biotechnology and finds that:
1. the pace of R&D activity by producers of GE seed (the seed firms and technology providers) has been rapid,
2. farmers have adopted some GE varieties widely and at a rapid rate and benefited from such adoption, and
3. the level of consumer concerns about foods that contain GE ingredients
varies by country, with European consumers being most concerned.

In this report (Chapters are in Adobe Acrobat PDF format):
- Report summary, 138 kb
- Abstract, Acknowledgments, Contents, and Summary, 99 kb
- Introduction, 57 kb
-Rapid Change and Pace of R&D Activity Characterize the Seed Industry and Technology Providers, 184 kb
-Adoption of GE Crops by U.S. Farmers Increases Steadily, 197 kb
-Consumer Demand Affects R&D, Adoption, and Marketing of GE-Derived Products, 104 kb
-Adoption Offers Market Benefits to Many Stakeholders, 135 kb
- References, 78 kb
Entire report, 543 kb

Source: SeedQuest.com
21 April 2006

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2.03  Laboratory protocols: CIMMYT Applied Molecular Genetics Laboratory

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) has recently published "Laboratory protocols: CIMMYT Applied Molecular Genetics Laboratory. Third edition", edited by M. Warburton, M. William, A. McNab and D. Poland.

According to the foreword, the primary motive for compiling and publishing this manual was to provide scientists, researchers, and students from national agricultural research systems, universities, and small private companies in developing countries, as well as advanced research institutions in the developed world, with a useful guide on the protocols currently in use in the Applied Molecular Genetics (AMG) Laboratory of CIMMYT's Applied Biotechnology Center.

The main protocols currently in use there have to do with molecular marker technology and can be used for mapping, molecular marker assisted selection, and studies on genetic diversity.

See http://www.cimmyt.org/english/docs/manual/protocols/abc_amgl.pdf (1.63 MB)
or contact mwarburton@cgiar.org with any comments.

Source: FAO-BiotechNews newsletter via SeedQuest.com
24 April 2006

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2.04  IPGRI publication on molecular markers for genebank management and crop breeding

As part of its IPGRI Technical Bulletin series, the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) has recently published "Molecular markers for genebank management" by D. Spooner, R. van Treuren and M.C. de Vicente.

The 126-page document includes discussion of the main marker techniques and their comparative qualities; applications of molecular techniques in genebank management and crop breeding; and current developments in molecular marker applications and future challenges that could result from these developments.

See www.ipgri.cgiar.org/publications/pdf/1082.pdf (1.58 MB) or contact IPGRI@cgiar.org for more information.
IPGRI Technical Bulletins are targeted at scientists and technicians managing genetic resources collections.

Source: SeedQuest.com
April 2006

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3.  WEB RESOURCES

3.01  Proceedings of 43 years of Gamma Field Symposia available on-line

The Institute of Radiation Breeding was established in 1960 and the activities are focused on the development of new strains of seed-propagated, vegetatively-propagated and woody crops through mutation by gamma ray irradiation in the Gamma Field, the Gamma Greenhouse and the Gamma Room in Japan.  Gamma Field Symposium, a symposium for mutation breeding, has been held every year since 1962.  We invited leading scientists with expertise in the area as lecturers who would provide information on a wide variety of related topics.  After the symposium, a booklet of proceedings "Gamma Field Symposia" was published in English.  Now, 43 volumes of the Gamma Field Symposia (Vol. 1 - 43) are placed on the Website of National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences ( http://www.nias.affrc.go.jp/eng/gfs/index.html). These themes include basic research on mutations, radiation technology, breeding technology, applied research by using mutations, and reviews."

Contributed by Hitoshi Nakagawa
Director, Institute of Radiation Breeding
National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences
JAPAN
ngene@affrc.go.jp

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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
.

NEW ANNOUNCEMENTS

31 May–2 June 2006. Biodiversity Conservation in Agriculture Symposium, Virginia TechCaribbean Center for Education and Research in Punta Cana, the Dominican Republic

Virginia Tech will host the Biodiversity Conservation in Agriculture Symposium at its Caribbean Center for Education and Research in Punta Cana, the Dominican Republic,. The symposium is designed to promote inclusion of biodiversity conservation objectives in agricultural development activities.

Internationally recognized experts will explain why biodiversity is important, review global biodiversity loss, and discuss how biodiversity conservation activities can be incorporated into agricultural activities ranging from aquaculture to livestock production and traditional row and tree crops. In addition, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will present a half-day program on USAID biodiversity conservation earmark requirements and how agricultural development projects can be designed to meet them.

Symposium speakers come from such organizations as the Rubenstein School of Environmental and Natural Resources, the World Conservation Union, Forest Trends and Ecoagriculture Partners, and the Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza.

The symposium is sponsored through two large USAID-funded projects that Virginia Tech manages, the Integrated Pest Management Collaborative Research Support Program and the Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management Collaborative Research Support Program. Additional support comes from the PUNTACANA Ecological Foundation, the PUNTACANA Resort and Club, and the Virginia Tech Office of International Research, Education, and Development.

Further information on the symposium is available by contacting Theo Dillaha at dillaha@vt.edu or at (540) 231-6813.
Contact: Susan Felker
sfelker@vt.edu

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* 31 July -1 August 2006, Grass Breeders’ Conference, Ames, IA.
Information available at http://www.plantbreeding.iastate.edu/gbc.html, or by contacting Charlie Brummer, brummer@iastate.edu or Shui-zhang Fei (sfei@iastate.edu).

Contributed by E. Charles Brummer
Forage Breeding and Genetics
Iowa State University
http://www.public.iastate.edu/~brummer

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* 8-9 February 2007. A national workshop on “Sustaining plant breeding as a vital national capacity for the future of U.S. agriculture,” Raleigh, NC.

Co-hosted by the Departments of Crop Science and Horticultural Science North Carolina State University

The national investment in plant breeding is declining. Is this cause for concern?  What are constructive responses? The Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee is being organized as a permanent forum for leadership regarding this and other issues, problems, and opportunities of long-term strategic importance to the public and private plant breeding profession and to the U.S. national plant breeding effort as a whole.

Participants in this national workshop will:
1) organize the Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee, including first election of officers; and,
2) provide the Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee with guidance for its initial work.
Keynote speakers will look at plant breeding in the context of our national goals for agriculture:
-Excellence in science and technology.
-A competitive agricultural system in the global economy
-A safe and secure food and fiber system
-A healthy, well-nourished population
-Harmony between agriculture and the environment
-Economic opportunity for rural areas; and quality of life for all Americans.

Working groups will analyze plant breeding’s role and key partners for each goal, and formulate action plans for positive effect on future plant breeding capacity to support these national goals.  

To be on the list for workshop announcement updates, email to: athro@csrees.usda.gov.

Target participants include:
-U.S. public and private sector plant breeders, all crops 
-Students of plant breeding
-Multi-disciplinary colleagues interested in the future of plant breeding.

This is a U.S.-oriented committee, but the organizers expect it to be a relevant model for colleagues in other countries.

The Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee is multi-state committee SCC 80, approved by the Southern Association of Agricultural Experiment Station Directors through Sept. 2015.  The Administrative Advisor is Mark Hussey, Texas A&M University.  The CSREES/USDA liaison is Ann Marie Thro.

Contributed by Ann Marie Thro
CSREES/USDA
athro@csrees.usda.gov

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* 24-28 June 2007. The 9th International Pollination Symposium on Plant-Pollinator Relationships­Diversity in Action. Scheman Center, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. Previously scheduled for July of 2006, it has been postponed for one year in order to secure better funding support for speakers and attendees, and to ensure good international participation.  It is expected to attract worldwide about 300 major scientists, their graduate students, and their postdoctoral fellows.   Apologies are extended for any inconvenience this may have created for you.  Please check back at the end of June, 2006, for final details on registration. The Conference webpage can be viewed at: http://www.ucs.iastate.edu/mnet/plantbee/home.html

The theme of the 9th Symposium and the sub-theme topics include a variety of areas that relate to gene flow, transgenes, mating system dynamics, molecular and statistical genetic advances, conservation of plant genetic resources as well as pollinators, gene bank management, and a variety of molecular methodologies utilizing a broad base of genetic information.  The Symposium will consist of one keynote speaker, four plenary speakers, 29 invited speakers, and about 300 participants who are expected to contribute between 150 to 175 individual posters. 

Sub-Theme I (Robert Thornburg): Floral Characteristics – Attraction and Rewards
Sub-theme II (John Nason): Impacts of Animal-Mediated Pollination on Gene Flow
Sub-theme III (Mark Widrlechner): Pollinators in Plant Genetic Resource Conservation & Enclosed Production Systems
Sub-theme IV (Mary Harris and Rick Hellmich): Pollinator Biology, Conservation & Protection

================

REPEAT ANNOUNCMENTS

* 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

* 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.

*27 – 29 May 2006.Incentives for supporting on-farm conservation, and augmentation of agro-biodiversity through farmers’ innovations and community participation:  An international consultation for learning from grassroots initiatives and institutional interventions, Indian Institute of Management, KLMDC, IIM, Ahmedabad, India. www.sristi.org/agrobioconf.html. Contact: Professor Anil K Gupta,Indian Institute of Management, Vastrapura. : anilg@iimahd.ernet.in. www.sristi.org/agrobioconf.html

*1-2 June 2006.:Patent protection of plant-related innovations:facts and issues (ISF International Seminar), Copenhagen.
For programme see http://www.worldseed.org/PatentSeminar/Programme.htm

* 19-23 June 2006. Training course on biotech crop commercialization, Manila, The Philippines The all-inclusive course fee is US$2,500.00  per participant, and will cover material and six nights of accommodation (including five days of specially catered meals). Cost of travel to and from the course venue in Manila, Philippines is not included. Full details and the pre-registration form to be emailed to <info@asiabiobusiness.com> are available at (< http://www.asiabiobusiness.com/images/manilaCourse_final.pdf>). Closing date for pre-registration is March 31, 2006. Registrants paying the registration fee by 31st April, 2006 will receive a discount of $150.

* 28 to 30 June 2006. EUCARPIA Meeting on Rye Genetics and Breeding, Rostock, Germany.
 Further information about the meeting can be found at http://www.eucarpia.org.

* 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

* 31 July – 4 August 2006. African Rice Congress, WARDA , Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Contact: Lawrence Narteh. http://www.warda.org/africa-rice-congress/

*8-10 August 2006. 7th Plant Genomics Conference, Heilongjiang University , Harbin, China. Contact: Rongtian Li, Zhenqiang Lu, Chunquan Ma. http://www.plantgenomics.cn

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

*16 - 19 August 2006.Tropical Crop Biotechnology Conference 2006, Cairns, Queensland, Australia.  Organized by: CSIRO Plant Industry. For more information: Contact: CSIRO Plant Industry s.mckell@uq.edu.au .Website: www.tcbc2006.com.au

* 20-25 August 2006. The International Plant Breeding Symposium, Sheraton “Centro Historico” Hotel, Mexico City. 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.

* 30 August – 1 September 2006. XIII EUCARPIA Biometrics in Plant Breeding Section Meeting, EUCARPIA , Zagreb, Croatia
Contact EUCARPIA Secretariat
Event Website
Links:
  Meeting Announcement (PDF)
Pre-registration Form (Word Document)

* 10-14 September 2006. First Symposium on Sunflower Industrial Uses. Udine University, Udine Province, Friuli Venezia Giulia Region, Italy.
  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)
 
* 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 (in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains).
Contact: Dr. Gerald Holmes, Department of Plant Pathology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7616, 919-515-9779 (gerald_holmes@ncsu.edu)
Conference website: 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.

* 11-14 October 2006 Plant Genomics European Meetings, Venice, Italy. http://www.distagenomics.unibo.it/plantgems/
Contact person: PGEM5@agrsci.unibo.it

* 14 - 18 October 2006. The 6th New Crops Symposium: Creating Markets for Economic Development of New Crops and New Uses, University Center for New Crops and Plant Products,The Hilton Gaslamp Quarter Hotel, San Diego, CA
Sponsored by: Association for the Advancement of Industrial Crops and Purdue www.aaic.org or www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop

* 9-12 November 2006. 7th Australasian Plant Virology Workshop. Rottnest Island, Perth, Western Australia.
For further information contact: Prof Mike Jones, Murdoch University, Perth 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/.

* 24-28 July 2007. The 9th International Pollination Symposium, Iowa State University (Note new dates, and see additional details in New Announcements, above). The official theme is: "Host-Pollinator Biology Relationships - Diversity in Action." For more information please visit http://www.ucs.iastate.edu/mnet/plantbee/home.html

* 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.

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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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