31 August 2006

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

Clair H. Hershey, Editor

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


1.01  Crop Science features Golden Anniversary Symposium papers
1.02  DOE to invest $250 million in new bioenergy centers
1.03  Africa Rice Congress adopts far-reaching resolutions and bestows first congressional honor on Dr Nwanze
1.04  Australian research aims to boost rice production
1.05  Better barley breeding
1.06  Improving cassava for enhancing yield, minimizing pest losses and creating wealth in sub-Saharan Africa
1.07  Canadian born and raised flowers: native species in the spotlight for new plant breeding
1.08  Potential adoption and management of insect-resistant potato in Peru, and implications for genetically engineered potato
1.09  Agriculture and tropical conservation: rethinking old ide
1.10  Super blackcurrants with boosted vitamin C
1.11  Insect resistant cowpeas are being developed by CSIRO Plant Industry to help provide a more reliable food crop for sub-Saharan Africa
1.12  Researchers outline recipe for African rice revolution
1.13  Managing risk: genetics are key to rice yield, quality and risk potential
1.14  Improved tolerance to waterlogging and dryland salinity in wheat
1.15  Metal homeostasis research in plants will lead to nutrient-rich food and higher yielding crops
1.16  Overdominant quantitative trait loci for yield and fitness in tomato
1.17  Breeding soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr] for resistance to cyst nematodes (Heterodera glycines Ichinohe)
1.18  Plan to boost rice photosynthesis with inserted genes
1.19  GM maize protects chickens from deadly virus
1.20  Gene discovery could lead to flood-resistant rice
1.21  Researchers develop flood-tolerant California rice
1.22  Selected  articles from Checkbiotech

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5.01  Brazilian student at the Botucatu campus of UNESP is looking for an opportunity to spend some time with a research program in the USA





1.01  Crop Science features Golden Anniversary Symposium papers

The September-October issue of Crop Science ( features eight papers from CSSA’s Golden Anniversary Symposium, which took place during the 2005 Annual Meetings. The following relate closely to the field of plant breeding:

Improving lives: 50 years of crop breeding, genetics, and cytology, by P.S. Baenziger, W.K. Russell, G.L. Graef, and B.T. Campbell

Seeds: the delivery system for crop science, by D.M TeKrony

Genetic tools from nature and the nature of genetic tools, by R.L. Phillips

Plant genetic resources conservation and utilization: the accomplishments and future of a societal insurance policy, by P. Gepts

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1.02  DOE to invest $250 million in new bioenergy centers

Basic genomics research on the development of biofuels to be accelerated
Joliet, IL -- U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Samuel W. Bodman announced today that DOE will spend $250 million to establish and operate two new Bioenergy Research Centers to accelerate basic research on the development of cellulosic ethanol and other biofuels. The Secretary made the announcement with Congressman Jerry Weller (IL-11th), local officials and biofuels stakeholders during a visit to Channahon, IL.

"This is an important step toward our goal of replacing 30 percent of transportation fuels with biofuels by 2030," Secretary Bodman said. "The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct) calls for the creation of new programs to improve the technology and reduce the cost of biofuels production. The mission of these centers is to accelerate research that leads to breakthroughs in basic science to make biofuels a cost-effective alternative to fossil fuels."

Four billion gallons of ethanol were produced this year, mainly from corn. EPAct requires that by 2012, at least 7.5 billion gallons per year of renewable fuel be blended into the nation's fuel supply. To meet these goals, future biofuels production will require the use of more diverse feedstocks including cellulosic material such as agricultural residues, grasses and other inedible plants.

Universities, national laboratories, nonprofit organizations and private firms are eligible to compete for an award to establish and operate a center. Awards, based on evaluation by scientific peer review, will be announced next summer. The centers are expected to begin work in 2008 and will be fully operational by 2009.

The centers' mission will be to conduct systems biology research on microbes and plants, with the goal of harnessing nature's own powerful mechanisms for producing energy from sunlight. A major focus will be on understanding how to reengineer biological processes for more efficient conversion of plant fiber, or cellulose, into ethanol, a substitute for gasoline.

The announcement of the Bioenergy Research Centers initiative culminates a six-year-long effort by the DOE Office of Science to lay the foundation for breakthroughs in systems biology for the cost-effective production of renewable energy. In early July, DOE's Office of Science issued a joint biofuels research agenda with the Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy titled Breaking the Biological Barriers to Cellulosic Ethanol. The report provides a detailed roadmap for cellulosic ethanol research, identifying key roadblocks and areas where scientific breakthroughs are needed.

The proposal deadline for this funding opportunity is February 1, 2007. DOE's Office of Science will provide $25 million in the first year for the establishment of each center and up to $25 million per year for the following four years to support the operations of each center - for a total award of up to $125 million per center. Additional details on the funding opportunity and the centers' objectives are available at:

DOE began supporting pioneering research on microbes and microbial communities in 2000, with the objective of tapping microorganisms' powerful and diverse capabilities to produce renewable energy, clean up the environment and manage atmospheric carbon. This research has been supported by the Genomics: GTL program in the Office of Science. Since initiating the Human Genome Project in 1986, DOE has played a major role in advancing modern biotechnology, and the department's recent research on microbes for energy production builds on those advances.

Today's announcement is part of a series of events highlighting the first anniversary of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which President Bush signed on August 8, 2005. A kickoff event was held in Washington, D.C., with Secretary Bodman and two Chairmen of Congressional Committees, Senator Pete Domenici and Congressman Joe Barton. Later today, Secretary Bodman will travel to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he will visit the Clipper Wind Manufacturing Facility and discuss the importance of wind and other forms of renewable energy to our nation's energy security. In addition to the production tax credits for renewable energy, including wind, in the Energy Policy Act, President Bush's Advanced Energy Initiative significantly increases the government's investment in research and development to bring more affordable renewable energy to market. The Advanced Energy Initiative proposes a 13 percent increase in wind research and development in DOE, to a total of $44 million.

DOE's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the nation and helps ensure U.S. world leadership across a broad range of scientific disciplines. The Office of Science supports a diverse portfolio of research at more than 300 colleges and universities nationwide, manages 10 world-class national laboratories with unmatched capabilities for solving complex interdisciplinary scientific problems, and builds and operates the world's finest suite of scientific facilities and instruments used annually by more than 19,000 researchers to extend the frontiers of all areas of science.

Contact: Jeff Sherwood
DOE/US Department of Energy

2 August 2006

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1.03  Africa Rice Congress adopts far-reaching resolutions and bestows first congressional honor on Dr Nwanze

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
At the just concluded Africa Rice Congress in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, organized by the Africa Rice Center (WARDA) under the aegis of the Tanzanian Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Cooperatives, a set of strategic resolutions were adopted that have far-reaching implications for the future of rice research and development in Africa.

Resolutions of the First Africa Rice Congress:

-This Congress resolves that, given that Africa has to import almost 50% of the rice it needs and that demand is increasing at the rate of 6% per year, rice should be one of the cornerstones of a Green Revolution for Africa that anticipates the needs of future populations.

-This Congress seeks to transform the low level of available scientific expertise in sub-Saharan Africa where there are only 83 scientists per million people, compared with 1100 scientists per million in industrialized countries and 785 per million in Asia, and the Congress resolves that for the Green Revolution to succeed in Africa, a new capacity-building program focusing on the development of a multi-disciplinary cadre of scientists and extensionists is urgently needed.

-This Congress resolves that to accelerate farmer adoption of New Rices for Africa (NERICA) varieties and other improved technologies, concerted actions by a broad partnership including governments, research institutions, NGOs, the private sector, local, regional and international organizations are needed. The Congress recognizes the value of micro-financing and participatory learning as powerful means both for technology dissemination and for developing appropriate infrastructure to improve access to seeds, fertilizers, mechanization and market systems.

-The Congress is deeply appreciative of the support and hospitality of the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania. It recognizes the role played by the Africa Rice Center (WARDA), not only in African agriculture and, therefore, in the continent’s economic growth but also in providing leadership in rice science and development. Desirous, therefore, of the necessity for the Center to continue to provide such leadership in rice development in Africa, the Congress resolves and urges all stakeholders to maintain the Center’s identity, as previously resolved by the WARDA Council of Ministers in September 2005 and the National Experts Committee in June 2006, and to strengthen its capacity for the welfare of African rice farmers.

Congressional Honor for Dr Nwanze
Prof. Richard Musangi, Chair of the Committee of Eminent Persons of the Africa Rice Congress bestowed the Congressional Honor on Dr Kanayo F. Nwanze, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to rice research and development in Africa during his term as the Director General of the Africa Rice Center (WARDA) from 1996 to 2006.

7 August 2006

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1.04  Australian research aims to boost rice production

Researchers at Southern Cross University in New South Wales, Australia will spend the next three years developing high quality cold-tolerant rice varieties that could save Australia's rice industry up to $60 million a year.

SCU's Centre for Plant Conservation Genetics has received grants from the Australia Research Council (ARC) and the Rural Industries Research Development Corporation (RIRDC) for two research projects looking at the genetic components of rice.

Director of the Centre for Plant Conservation Genetics Professor Robert Henry said the first project, funded through an ARC Linkage Grant and in partnership with the NSW Department of Primary Industries, would look at the starch properties of rice.
"The discoveries will be of value for the model crop, rice, and for other cereal and food crops. There are human health benefits from the availability of technologies to combine desirable nutritional traits and attractiveness to consumers," Professor Henry said. "For example, when you look at a rice grain in most varieties the preferred grain is translucent, but some varieties are susceptible to being chalky, and that is genetically determined. We will be trying to identify the genes associated with key production and quality traits." He said the project would also look at developing a single test which would map the genetic make-up of different rice varieties.

In the past two years, the Centre for Plant Conservation Genetics has discovered the gene that makes rice fragrant and the gene that controls the gelatinisation temperature of rice. Other genes have been identified that control the height of the plant (which leads to higher yield) and disease resistance.

Centre for Plant Conservation Genetics research scientist Dr Dan Waters said at present individual tests had to be carried out to determine what genes were present in each variety. "We want to be able to map what is in the different varieties using a single test, which will identify more than one gene," Dr Waters said.

The second project, funded by RIRDC, is designed to help the Australian rice industry minimise the yield loss as a result of cold temperatures. "As the rice is growing the critical stage in its development is just when it's forming pollen. Temperatures below about 18 degrees Celsius start to damage the pollen and stop it developing, which leads to sterility. Sterile plants do not produce rice seed and so yields are lowered," Dr Waters said.

"What is known is that different varieties of rice have different levels of tolerance.This project is all about determining what the genetic control is for cold tolerance."Dr Waters said once the gene was isolated it would allow for the efficient breeding of cold-tolerant varieties.

In Australia rice is grown as a summer crop in the southern part of NSW, near the Victorian border. While it is generally hot during the growing period, occasional cold fronts lead to cold damage. “Three out of four years it is a huge problem. Rice yield losses due to low temperature cost the Australian rice industry up to $60 million," he said. The three-year project will be completed at the Centre for Plant Conservation Genetics at SCU's Lismore campus and at the Yanco Agricultural Institute in Leeton, NSW.

Contributed by Emma Evans
Centre for Plant Conservation Genetics
Southern Cross University

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1.05  Better barley breeding

Grains Research and Development Corporation: The Crop Doctor
Many Western Australian barley growers, when learning Barley Breeding Australia (BBA) officially started on July 1, may question the merit of changing a system that has produced some good varieties, and that at best, life will go on the same.

But there are big expectations that BBA, the name for a new national barley breeding program, will provide growers better varieties with market demand.

As part of the change, six state barley breeding programs will be replaced by three regionally managed nodes focusing on breeding barley based on market demand and agronomics, such as rainfall and soil types.

In other words, the Western Australia based western node could be breeding barleys for acid to neutral soils regardless of which state they are ultimately planted. Similarly, the south eastern node, based in South Australia, could be breeding for alkaline to neutral soils found in Western Australia.

Australia's 8 million tonne barley industry needs to significantly increase production, lifting average yields from 2.1 t/ha to 2.6 t/ha and expanding the growing area from 3.8 million hectares to above 5Mha to satisfy demand projected in 2020.

To ensure it gets the market end of the barley breeding equation right BBA will consult with peak industry body Barley Australia, which includes maltsters, marketers and bulk handlers.

A whole of industry approach to barley breeding will not only bring in national expertise but also ensure WA's export customers receive the barley they want and, in turn, enable their customers to provide a consistent product.

The Department of Agriculture and Food will manage the western node, University of Adelaide the south eastern and Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries the northern.

These agencies will also be represented on the BBA advisory board along with the Grains Research and Development Corporation and New South Wales and Victorian Department of Primary Industries.

The final outcome of BBA should be better targeted barley breeding to ensure Australia's barleys are preferentially demanded by markets, which is what it is all about.

While life may go on the same, this system will make a good one even better.

Further Information: Leecia Angus, Tel 02 6272 5525

The Crop Doctor is GRDC Managing Director, Peter Reading

Source: SciDev.Net via
18 August 2006

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1.06  Improving cassava for enhancing yield, minimizing pest losses and creating wealth in sub-Saharan Africa

Cassava was brought to Africa by the Portuguese at the end of the 16th Century and today should be regarded among the two top staples of the continent. However the crop faces many challenges because it may be affected by biotic stresses and end-user demands. Cassava can be a source of income by adding-value through domestic agro-processing or as raw material for the local industry. This article provides an overview of cassava improvement through crop breeding, especially for cassava mosaic disease and bacterial blight, and biological control of pests such as cassava mealybug and green mite. The achievements in the genetic enhancement of the crop or its eco-friendly plant health management result from using genetic resources of the crop or biological control agents brought from the South American center of origin of cassava. Without these research-for-development successes brought cassava output cassava production would be 50% or less in Africa, i.e., over 13 million t year-1 of dry cassava, enough to meet the calorie requirements of 65 million people in sub-Saharan Africa. In recent years, cassava changed rural landscapes, and this poor farmer’s crop became a pacesetter of African rural development. Cassava post-harvest processing may be a major vehicle for job creation and poverty reduction in rural areas. The accomplishments of cassava research-for-development in, and for Africa ensued from a strategy that considers producing locally, minimizing risks and creating wealth.

Full article available at:

Contributed by Rodomiro Ortiz

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1.07  Canadian born and raised flowers: native species in the spotlight for new plant breeding

Guelph, Canada
More Canadian-grown flowers may soon be sprouting in local greenhouses, thanks to a new breeding program for native species being developed at the University of Guelph.

Prof. Al Sullivan, Department of Plant Agriculture, is developing a breeding program specifically for flowers indigenous to Canada. He says once established, it will help the nation’s horticulture markets gain a unique competitive advantage by raising native plants.

“Most of the flower cultivars being grown in Canada are produced somewhere else in the world,” says Sullivan. “If we had our own breeding program, we could breed and license our own plants in Canada and obtain the benefits of having developed the products locally.”

Sullivan says because other countries produce the plants, they are able to grow the latest varieties and ship the remainder to outside buyers including Canada. This scheme means Canadians don’t get first crack at the newest plants, and a complicated (often expensive) system for tracking royalties ensues as they get involved in sub-licensing and co-ownership strategies with other buying countries.

A home-grown breeding program would be an important step towards gaining a more economical hold on local and export sales, says Sullivan.

While some Canadian nurseries already market native species, Sullivan says these plants are typically harvested right from nature and sold without further genetic improvements. He is working to change this approach by gathering more information on the native plants and breeding to ensure their continuous supply with enhanced characteristics such as improved flower size and colour, shelf life and drought resistance.

First, because information on native plants is so scarce, Sullivan and his team have been assessing different native species to learn more about their potential commercial value. In the past three years, they have studied 40 different plants for qualities such as management and growing characteristics, propagation potential, physical characteristics and disease and pest resistance.

Sullivan is focusing on plants that require low inputs for water, light and nutrient intake. These allow growers to reduce their energy inputs and are ideal when selling to consumers in city settings with little water availability and shaded backyards. Sullivan foresees developing management profiles for each species so growers can manage the plants with better success.

Sullivan is also using his information to breed better native plants, using two different approaches. In the first, he inter-crosses superior plants he finds in nature and selects the best plants from each generation. As the plants are improved they can be released for the marketplace, at any generation. He’s hoping to try an approach used in corn to produce hybrids and take advantage of the breeding technique to enhance species vigour and control uniformity. In both approaches, Sullivan has the commercial greenhouse market as the end goal.

Down the road, Sullivan is focused on improving propagation techniques for these species, and even looking to micro-propagation, which can shorten generation time and help produce millions of plants faster.

“With this program, growers can refine the species to develop optimized growing schemes that best suit their specific market and needs,” says Sullivan. “Then we can offer Canadians a more competitive product, grown specifically for Canadian consumers.”

Others involved in this research include Profs. Theo Blom, Bernard Grodzinski, and Praveen Saxena and masters student Mary Jane Clark, all of Department of Plant Agriculture.

This research is sponsored by Flowers Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the Canadian Ornamental Plant Foundation.

University of Guelph via Agnet Aug. 4/06 - II
Alicia Roberts

4 August 2006

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1.08  Potential adoption and management of insect-resistant potato in Peru, and implications for genetically engineered potato

Environmental Biosafety Research 4(2005) 179-188
J. Juijs, M. Martinet, F. de Mendiburu and M. Ghislain

This paper analyzes some important issues surrounding possible deployment of genetically engineered (GE) insect-resistant potato in Peru, based on a large farmer survey held in Peru in 2003. We found that the formal seed system plays a limited role compared with the informal seed system, especially for smallholder farmers. Although 97% of smallholder farmers would buy seed of an insect-resistant variety, a majority would buy it only once every 2 to 4 years. Survey data show that farmers would be willing to pay a premium of 50% on seed cost for insect resistant varieties. Paying price premiums of 25% to 50%, farmers would still increase either net income, assuming insect resistance is high and pesticide use will be strongly reduced. Of all farmers, 55% indicated preference for insect-resistant potato in varieties other than their current varieties. The survey indicates that smallholder farmers are interested to experiment with new varieties and have a positive perception of improved varieties. Based on these findings, and considering the difficulties implementing existing biosafety regulatory systems such as those in place in the U.S. and E.U., we propose to develop a variety-based segregation system to separate GE from conventionally bred potatoes. In such a system, which would embrace the spread of GE potatoes through informal seed systems, only a limited number of sterile varieties would be introduced that are easily distinguishable from conventional varieties.

Contributed by Marc Ghislain
CIP, Lima, Peru

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1.09  Agriculture and tropical conservation: rethinking old ideas

Ann Arbor, Mich. -- It's a long-held view in conservation circles that rural peasant activities are at odds with efforts to preserve biodiversity in the tropics. In fact, the opposite is often true, argue University of Michigan researchers John Vandermeer and Ivette Perfecto.

Combining case studies with ecological theory, Vandermeer and Perfecto found that the peasant farming practices encouraged by grassroots movements such as Brazil's Landless Workers Movement, Mexico's Zapatistas or the international Via Campesina actually support conservation, while the practices of extremely wealthy landowners often undermine it. The researchers will present their findings Aug. 8 in two symposia at the Ecological Society of America meeting in Memphis, Tenn.

"When you talk to peasant producers in tropical areas, they're usually surprised when they hear that conservationists think that they're the enemies of conservation," said Vandermeer, who is the Margaret Davis Collegiate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. "They love their farms and all the plants and animals in the area, and they see that it's the big, rich landowners who come in and cut all the trees down and turn the land into cattle pastures. So the standard litany doesn't ring true to them."

Vandermeer and Perfecto reviewed studies of biodiversity in the Atlantic coast rainforest of Brazil, a region that is unusual in having areas of tremendous biological variety adjacent to highly developed, industrialized areas.

"The area has some of the highest biodiversity in the world, but it all occurs in fragments of forest," Vandermeer said. In one study the researchers examined, a Brazilian scientist documented in a single river valley 28,000 separate forest fragments, where vulnerable species such as muriqui monkeys live. Vandermeer and Perfecto combined observations such as these with current ecological theory.

"We know that a lot of organisms typically live in a fragmented state in nature, with subpopulations scattered around an area," Vandermeer said. Disease or predators may wipe out a particular subpopulation, but migrants from nearby subpopulations come in and establish a new subpopulation. "We now think that most high diversity situations operate this way, with a continual process of local extinction and re-migration. When you couple that ecological theory with the observation of highly fragmented forests in the Atlantic coast rainforest, the real question is not how much forest is left, but what's between those patches that are left, and will it support the necessary migrations from patch to patch as local extinctions occur, which they inevitably do?"

If forest patches are separated by barren pastures or fields of single crops, such as soybeans, then monkeys, birds, and other forest animals probably won't travel through them to repopulate areas where extinction has occurred. But that's not the case if the intervening areas are traditional "agroforests"---farms where fruit and timber trees share space with other crops, Vandermeer said. "That's the kind of agriculture that's friendly to biodiversity, and that's the kind of agriculture that peasant farmers actually do."

Vandermeer and Perfecto, a professor of natural resources and environment, visited agroforests in the Pontal de Paranapanema region of Brazil, where landless peasants organized by Catholic priests established homesteads in the 1950s and 1960s. There, the researchers saw evidence that the farms do indeed serve as thoroughfares for migrating animals. "These farmers actually have monkeys that come through their farms," Vandermeer said.

The U-M scientists and their collaborator Jefferson Ferreira Lima of Brazil's Instituto de Pesquisas Ecologicas also spoke with members of the Landless Workers' Movement (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra, or MST), which is a member of the international peasant organization Via Campesina. "It's a political movement, but it's very pro-conservation, and they specifically understand what they're doing by creating a new kind of agriculture based on small producers using organic or semi-organic methodologies on farms with trees," Vandermeer said.

With these groups encouraging such biodiversity-friendly practices, Vandermeer said, "I think conservationists and rural peasant movements ought to be friends."

Contact: Nancy Ross-Flanigan
University of Michigan

8 August 2006

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1.10  Super blackcurrants with boosted vitamin C

Scientists are working with the company behind the popular British fruit drink Ribena to boost the vitamin C content of blackcurrants in a move that would be a major benefit to consumers and farmers. Researchers have tracked the production and storage of vitamin C in blackcurrant bushes and are now studying the factors that determine the levels of the nutrient in the fruit. Working out how to boost the vitamin C content of blackcurrants would help to promote consumption of the vital nutrient and also improve juice quality.

The scientists, based at the Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI) and East Malling Research in Kent, UK, have used tracers to identify where and when vitamin C is produced in blackcurrant bushes and how it moves throughout the plant. Using different strains of blackcurrant plant the team can compare and analyse how the vitamin accumulates in the blackcurrant fruit as well as the limiting factors.

To date the research has discovered that starch that accumulates after the berries have been harvested plays a key role in determining vitamin C production the following year. The scientists are now adjusting carbohydrate levels across the entire plant to alter starch deposits to explore how this affects vitamin levels and fruit quality.

Dr Robert Hancock, the research leader at SCRI, said: "Understanding how and when vitamin C is produced and accumulates in the blackcurrant plants has clear benefits for the consumer. We can grow crops that produce juice that will have higher levels of vitamin C and a better taste. Vitamin C is vital to tissue growth and repair and gives a big boost to the immune system but because it dissolves in water the body cannot store it.

"We need to eat vitamin C rich food every day but people just do not get enough. Blackcurrants contain more vitamin C than oranges so boosting that even further can only be a good thing. Blackcurrant production has soared in the UK in the last few years as demand has rocketed across Europe. If we can help to improve the crop we can give UK farmers a better, sustainable product to sell that will ensure they have a competitive edge."

The project has another two years to run and there are still some key questions to be explored. Dr Hancock explained: "We have explored whether vitamin production takes place in the leaves or the blackcurrant fruit and answered important questions about why levels drop off as fruit ripens, just when we are about to eat it. Now we want to develop the techniques and knowledge we need to accelerate the breeding of super blackcurrant bushes."

The team have received £1.2M in funding through the Horticulture LINK programme. This has contributions from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), GlaxoSmithKline, the Horticulture Development Council and the Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department (SEERAD).

Professor Nigel Brown, Director of Science and Technology at BBSRC, the UK's main public funder of research in the life sciences, commented: "BBSRC is a strong supporter of this type of research where basic plant science can help to improve the dietary and health benefits of popular foodstuffs. This is an example of how collaboration between different research groups with public and commercial research funding can produce real benefits for consumers, producers and the UK food industry."

An article on this research appears in the July 2006 issue of Business, the quarterly research highlights magazine of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

The botanical name for the blackcurrant is Ribes nigrum.

Each blackcurrant bush takes three years to grow before a first full harvest.

The blackcurrant varieties used by GlaxoSmithKline to produce the fruit drink Ribena were bred at Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI).

It has been estimated that SCRI-bred blackcurrants account for more than 50 per cent of the global crop, and new varieties are launched most years.

SCRI's blackcurrants are all named after mountains in Scotland, so you will find Ben Hope, Ben Tirran and Ben Alder grown throughout the UK and beyond.

Blackcurrants are especially rich in vitamin C and, weight for weight, contain more than three times as much as an orange.

Contact: Matt Goode
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council

31 July 2006

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1.11  Insect resistant cowpeas are being developed by CSIRO Plant Industry to help provide a more reliable food crop for sub-Saharan Africa

More than 200 million people in this region use cowpeas as a major source of protein.

One serious pest that plagues cowpeas is the legume pod borer that often reduces yield by more than 80 percent.

Useful levels of pest resistance have not been found in the extensive collections of cowpeas and related species, but gene technology may be able to help.

Dr TJ Higgins (photo) and his CSIRO Plant Industry Canberra-based team are international experts in genetically modifying legumes. They have developed a system to introduce new genes into cowpeas so that genes for ‘built-in' protection can be incorporated.

The team is now looking to incorporate Bt genes, the same class of genes that protect GM cotton from Helicoverpa caterpillars, to provide protection against pod-borers in cowpeas.

This research is supported by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation and grants from the Rockefeller Foundation.

Full article in PDF format:

Source: CSIRO Plant Industry e-newsletter issue 14, winter 2006 via
August 2006

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1.12  Researchers outline recipe for African rice revolution

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
by Mun-Keat Looi, SciDev.Net
Africa's 'green revolution' will hinge on homegrown rice, said researchers and policy analysts at the first African Rice Congress in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania last week.

Delegates agreed resolutions calling for more research aimed at developing improved varieties and boosting rice production in Africa.

They urged governments to support their rice farmers, instead of becoming increasingly dependent on foreign supplies.

Sub-Saharan Africa imports almost half of its rice, and demand is increasing by six per cent each year.

The conference emphasised the need to increase the number of rice scientists in sub-Saharan Africa through incentives and training.

A spokesperson for the Africa Rice Center (WARDA), which organised the meeting, says the centre will strengthen its training of rice scientists and technicians in collaboration with Cornell University in the United States.

Delegates also said that plant breeding and biotechnology programmes such as those run by the Rockefeller Foundation in East Africa should be extended to West and Central Africa.

To increase production, they emphasised the importance of developing low-cost agricultural machinery, such as rice threshers, that are appropriate to farming conditions in Africa.

Delegates said that the success of the New Rice for Africa (NERICA) varieties ­ bred from high-yielding Asian rice and African rice that thrives in harsh conditions ­ showed the benefit of conserving Africa's rice diversity in gene banks.

Nguu Van Nguyen, secretary of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's International Rice Commission, welcomes the resolutions but says much effort will be needed to make Africa self-sufficient in rice production.

He emphasised the importance of developing irrigation systems to support rice farming.

The Food and Agriculture Organization is also working with the Rockefeller Foundation-funded African Rice Initiative to scale up dissemination of NERICA seeds throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

9 August 2006

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1.13  Managing risk: genetics are key to rice yield, quality and risk potential

Stuttgart, Arkansas
When selecting seed to plant, farmers should consider what can go wrong during the growing season and think in terms of managing risk, Rick Cartwright told visitors to the Rice Research and Extension Center here Wednesday, Aug. 9.

Cartwright, a plant pathologist, and other University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture scientists discussed research programs that impact the production, processing and marketing of rice and soybeans.

"The most fundamental factor in agriculture is good genetics," Cartwright said. "Genetics determine the risk potential of a seed variety as well as yield and quality potential."

In fields where red rice has become a stubborn weed problem, herbicide resistant Clearfield varieties are a good choice, Cartwright said. If the sheath blight fungus has found a home in a field, Rice Tec hybrids are among those rated as more genetically resistant to damage.

Rice breeder Dr. James Gibbons and Cartwright said Cybonnet should be planted more than it has been since seed became available in 2005, because it has good risk management potential as well as high yield and quality potential.

Cybonnet was developed in the U of A Division of Agriculture breeding program based at Stuttgart. Among Arkansas adapted varieties, Cybonnet has the best genetic potential in two key areas of milling yield and blast disease resistance, and it produces consistently high yields in all Arkansas rice environments, Gibbons and Cartwright said.

Wells, another high yielding Arkansas variety and the most widely planted in the state, is also a good choice for risk management, but it has weaknesses that increase risk for some growers. Wells is superior to Cybonnet for sheath blight tolerance, but Cybonnet is more resistant to the rice blast fungus.

Production practices are also part of the risk management mindset, Cartwright said.

Farmers who have skimped on potash (potassium) in their fertilizer to save money have exposed themselves to the risk of stem rot, which weakens stems and can cause lodging, Cartwright said. Potash is recommended for silt loam and sandy loam soils with low soil test levels for potassium for several reasons, including resistance to stem rot.

Annual variety performance tests by the Division of Agriculture provide an objective measure of yield, quality and risk management potential under Arkansas conditions. Variety trial results for rice, cotton, soybeans, small grains, corn and grain sorghum are available online at or from county offices of the Cooperative Extension Service.

11 August 2006

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1.14  Improved tolerance to waterlogging and dryland salinity in wheat

Improved tolerance to waterlogging and dryland salinity has been achieved by introducing into the wheat genome all seven chromosomes from sea barley grass.
The GRDC-supported research, conducted by the Co-operative Research Centre for Plant-based Management of Dryland Salinity, has demonstrated wild species, such as sea barley grass, can be crossed with wheat.
Project leader, Dr Tim Colmer said it was a huge step forward and work is underway to see whether it could lead to a new cereal in itself.
In the long term, Dr Colmer hopes the research leads to the development of a high quality wheat variety that can be grown on saline land.
"In Western Australia alone, waterlogging and salinity adversely affects 1.8 million hectares of crops and pastures," he said.

Contact: Dr Tim Colmer

August 10, 2006

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1.15  Metal homeostasis research in plants will lead to nutrient-rich food and higher yielding crops

Boston, Massachusets
Findings could also lead to crops tolerant to cadmium contaminants in soil

Deficiencies of micronutrients such as Iron and Zinc commonly limit plant growth and crop yields. Dartmouth College Professor Mary Lou Guerinot is conducting research to better understand the mechanisms of micronutrient uptake, distribution and regulation.

Guerinot's findings are making it feasible to engineer nutrient-rich plants better able to grow in soils now considered marginal and to increase crop biomass in soils now in cultivation. Guerinot presented her findings today at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) in the Hynes Convention Center, Boston.

Most people rely on plants for their dietary source of micronutrients. Therefore, plants engineered to be better sources of essential elements would offer humans improved nutrition. For example, over three billion people worldwide suffer from Iron and/or Zinc deficiencies. Food consumption studies suggest that doubling the Iron in rice can increase the Iron intake of the poor by 50 percent. Rice is a staple food in many of the countries with widespread Iron deficiencies in human diets.

Guerinot's lab has previously identified the essential Iron transporter responsible for Iron uptake from the soil. This Iron transporter is IRT1. In addition to transporting iron, IRT1 can also transport Manganese, Zinc, Cobalt and Cadmium. Thus, any attempts to increase Iron uptake via IRT1 must consider the transport of unwanted substrates such as Cadmium.

Industrial, mining, and agricultural activities, particularly the excessive use of phosphate fertilizers, have led to high levels of Cadmium contamination at many locations worldwide. Utilizing DNA shuffling and heterologous expression in yeast, Guerinot and her colleagues isolated alleles of IRT1 that no longer facilitate the accumulation of Cadmium yet retain the crucial ability to transport Iron. When the engineered IRT1 alleles are expressed in plants that no longer express a wild type copy of IRT1, the engineered allele allows these plants to take up iron and renders them resistant to Cadmium. Transgenic seedlings have Cadmium levels similar to that of IRT1 loss of function plants, demonstrating that Cadmium transport through IRT1 has been eliminated. Furthermore, these plants have twice as much Iron as wild type plants when grown in the presence of Cadmium.

While the ability to quantify the amount of particular metals present in various plant tissues has proved very informative, Guerinot said she and her colleagues would also like to be able to see where the metals are distributed within various plant organs.

"We have used X-ray fluorescence microtomography to determine, in vivo, the spatial distribution of metals in Arabidopsis seed. Examination of various mutants is shedding light on which transporters influence the distribution of important nutrients such as Iron in the seed. Such information should aid the development of nutrient-rich seed, beneficially affecting human nutrition and health. This research should also lead to agronomic benefits such as increased seedling vigor, higher crop yields and resistance to disease," Guerinot said.

Guerinot collaborated with researchers from the University of Chicago and Purdue University on this research. This research has been supported by the National Science Foundation Directorate for Biological Sciences Plant Genome Research Program.

7 August 2006

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1.16  Overdominant quantitative trait loci for yield and fitness in tomato

Yaniv Semel, Jonathan Nissenbaum, Naama Menda, Michael Zinder, Uri Krieger, Noa Issman, Tzili Pleban, Zachary Lippman, Amit Gur, and Dani Zamir
Institute of Plant Sciences and Genetics, Faculty of Agriculture, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Edited by Susan R. Wessler, University of Georgia, Athens, GA

Heterosis, or hybrid vigor, is a major genetic force that contributes to world food production. The genetic basis of heterosis is not clear, and the importance of loci with overdominant (ODO) effects is debated. One problem has been the use of whole-genome segregating populations, where interactions often mask the effects of individual loci. To assess the contribution of ODO to heterosis in the absence of epistasis, we carried out quantitative genetic and phenotypic analyses on a population of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) introgression lines (ILs), which carry single marker-defined chromosome segments from the distantly related wild species Solanum pennellii. The ILs revealed 841 quantitative trait loci (QTL) for 35 diverse traits measured in the field on homozygous and heterozygous plants. ILs showing greater reproductive fitness were characterized by the prevalence of ODO QTL, which were virtually absent for the nonreproductive traits. ODO can result from true ODO due to allelic interactions of a single gene or from pseudoODO that involves linked loci with dominant alleles in repulsion. The fact that we detected dominant and recessive QTL for all phenotypic categories but ODO only for the reproductive traits indicates that pseudoODO due to random linkage is unlikely to explain heterosis in the ILs. Thus, we favor the true ODO model involving a single functional Mendelian locus. We propose that the alliance of ODO QTL with higher reproductive fitness was selected for in evolution and was domesticated by man to improve yields of crop plants.

Freely available online through the PNAS open access option:

Source: Source: Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences of the United States of America, via
23 August 2006

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1.17  Breeding soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr] for resistance to cyst nematodes (Heterodera glycines Ichinohe)

Worldwide, soybean seed is a major source of protein for animal feed and oil for human consumption.  It supplies approximately 65% protein meal and 25% of the edible oil (Golbitz, 2001).  World soybean production in 2002 was 185 million metric tons.  Diseases have suppressed soybean yield, soybean cyst nematode (SCN) especially continue to cause significant yield losses.  Recent estimates indicate losses nearly 9 million metric tons worldwide in 1998 and 7.6 million metric tons in the USA (Wrather et al., 2003). SCN causes yield reductions by feeding on plant nutrients, retarding root growth, and inhibiting Bradyrhizobium nodulation.

Primarily, resistant cultivars reduce yield losses to SCN and are environmentally friendly and economical.  Development of productive cultivars with SCN resistance is a major goal of several soybean breeding programs.  These efforts are providing cultivars that may yield up to 56% more than susceptible cultivars in SCN infested fields especially in the USA.  Soybean growers in this country have increased their profits by 400 million dollars merely from growing cultivar Forrest resistant to SCN races 1 and 3.  However, resistant germplasm can impose selection pressure favoring the reproduction of more aggressive individuals in the nematode population, rendering once useful germplasm no longer effective in reduction of soybean cyst nematode population density. 

More than 100 sources of resistance are available in soybean (Arelli et al., 2000), however, current publicly available cultivars in USA trace their resistance primarily to Plant Introductions (PIs) 548402 (Peking) and/or 88788 (Diers and Arelli, 1999).  The SCN has adapted to both the sources of resistance.  Recently, the soybean cultivar Hartwig, resistance derived primarily from PI 437654, was released.  This source of resistance is being widely incorporated into soybean cultivars because of its broad resistance to multiple nematode populations. Breeding programs in China, Brazil, Argentina and Mid-Southern USA are utilizing Hartwig for developing SCN resistant cultivars. Predominantly, resistant cultivars in the Northern USA utilize PI 88788 as the source of nematode resistance. But new nematode populations with virulence on Hartwig and most other resistant sources in soybean have been recently found in USA.  We have identified genetically unrelated plant introductions using cluster analysis and these include PIs 567516C, 438489B, 567286, 89772 and 567568A.  Potentially some of them may have resistance genes different from Peking, PI 88788 and PI 437654.

Our breeding procedures include advancing the progenies through modified bulk, single seed/or pod descent (SSD) and/or backcross methods.  To minimize the number of years required for cultivar development most often we use off-season nurseries in Costa Rica and Puerto Rico.

We identify nematode resistance plants in F4 or F5 using both marker-assisted selection and greenhouse bioassays.  We have developed more reliable method of greenhouse bioassay to confirm SCN resistance and it is being used (Arelli et al., 1991).  A recent publication has revised the methodology (Niblack et al, 2004).  Marker assisted selection of resistant plants includes simple sequence repeat markers tagged to SCN resistance that are used in a PCR based protocol.  We routinely use Satt 309, Satt 632, Satt 168, and Satt 001 to track most important resistance genes rhg1, Rhg4 and Rhg5.  Seed from selected resistant plants are progeny tested in the F5 or F6 for agronomic evaluation including reaction to most important fungal pathogens.  Uniform progenies with desired level of homozygosity are bulked for yield evaluation that include preliminary, advanced and USDA Uniform Regional Yield trials before these are released (Arelli et al., 2006).

In conclusion, resistant cultivars reduce yield losses. We are characterizing new sources of resistance and identifying new resistance genes.  These will be more effective for providing durable resistance and will not infringe existing patents.  Finally, effective management practices will extend the life of resistant cultivars by slowing down the shifts in nematode populations.

Arelli, P.R., K.W. Matson, and S.C. Anand. 1991.  A rapid method for inoculating  soybean seedlings with Heterodera glycines.  Plant Disease 75:594-595.
Arelli, P.R., D.A. Sleper, P. Yue, and J.A. Wilcox.  2000.  Soybean reaction to Races 1 and 2 of Heterodera glycines. Crop Science40:824-826.
Arelli, P.R., L.D. Young, and A. Mengistu.  2006.  Registration of high yielding and multiple-disease-resistant soybean germplasm JTN-5503.  Crop Science (In press).
Diers, B.W. and P.R. Arelli.  1999.  Management of parasitic nematodes of soybean through genetic resistance.  P. 300-306.  In H.E. Kauffman (ed.). Proc. World Soybean Res. Conf., 6th Chicago, IL. 4-7 Aug. 1999.
Golbitz, P.  2001. Soya & oil seed Bluebook.  (Soya-Tech, Inc., Bar Harbor, ME).
Niblack, T.L., P.R. Arelli, G.R. Noel, C.H. Opperman, J., Orf, D.P. Schmitt, J.G. Shannon, and G.L. Tylka.  2004.  A revised classification scheme for genetically diverse populations of Heterodera glycines.  J. Nematol. 34:270-288.
Wrather, J. A., S.R. Koenning, and T.R. Anderson.  2003.  Effect of diseases on soybean yields in the United States and Ontario (1999-2002). Online. Plant Health Progress doi:10.1094/PHP-2003-0325-01-RV. 

Contributed by Prakash R. Arelli
USDA-ARS Mid South Area
Crop Genetics & Production Research Unit
Jackson, TN  (USA)

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1.18  Plan to boost rice photosynthesis with inserted genes

Mike Shanahan, SciDev.Net
Scientists have announced plans to radically boost rice yields, warning that unless production increases millions of people could fall back into poverty.

Delegates who met at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines this month (17-21 July) said they hope to manipulate the crop's genetics to enable it to grow faster and bigger.

Traditional methods of increasing rice production ­ such as crossing different varieties ­ have been pushed to the limits of what is scientifically possible. But now that researchers have sequenced rice's entire genetic code, more advanced approaches could become available.

Key to the strategy discussed at the workshop is a difference in the way that rice and other plants convert sunlight and carbon dioxide into sugar for growth ­ a process called photosynthesis.

 Rice photosynthesis is less efficient than that of some other plants such as maize that use an extra chemical process for capturing carbon dioxide.

The researchers say it should be possible to transfer this process to rice by inserting genes from maize or from wild relatives of rice that also use it.

The project is ambitious. The specialists who met this month say it would take about four years to determine whether the technique is feasible and another 10-15 years until the first improved varieties are available.

Related article: Chinese scientists complete rice gene map

27 July 2006

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1.19  GM maize protects chickens from deadly virus

Mexican researchers have genetically modified maize to create an edible vaccine against Newcastle disease, a major killer of poultry in developing countries.

The scientists, who published their findings online in Transgenic Research on 12 August, hope their approach can help small-scale poultry farmers protect their flocks.

Vaccines against the disease that can be given to poultry on food already exist, but are not usually available in the small quantities required by single families or villages.

Octavio Guerrero-Andrade of the Center for Research and Advanced Studies (CINVESTAV) in Guanajuato and his colleagues inserted a gene from the Newcastle disease virus into maize DNA.

Chickens that ate the genetically modified (GM) maize produced antibodies against the virus. The maize provided a level of protection against infection comparable to that of commercial vaccines.

"The disease is important and a big killer," says Frands Dolberg of the Network for Smallholder Poultry Development, which works with partners in developing countries to promote poultry farming as a way of improving livelihoods.

"There is a big problem in delivering the vaccine to the many millions of poor poultry keepers around the world, and the GM maize could be a possibility," he told SciDev.Net.

Dolberg says that its success would depend on how accessible the GM maize was to poultry farmers.

But he points out that the poor, the landless and women ­ the main groups that keep poultry on a small scale in the South ­ generally struggle to access new technologies.

Link to full paper in Transgenic Research [220KB]
Wagdy Sawahel

18 August 2006

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1.20  Gene discovery could lead to flood-resistant rice

Hepeng Jia

Most rice does not tolerate being totally submerged

Scientists have identified a gene that enables rice to survive for up to two weeks underwater, raising the possibility of breeding varieties that can withstand what would otherwise be damaging floods.

A quarter of the world's rice grows in areas prone to flooding, which costs rice farmers in South and South-East Asia more than US$1 billion a year.

Although rice thrives in standing water, most varieties die within a week of being completely submerged. But others can tolerate being totally submerged for up to two weeks.

The researchers, who published their findings today (10 August) in Nature, studied the DNA of one such variety. They found it has a gene that intolerant varieties lack.

When they introduced the gene into a high-yielding rice variety grown widely in Asia, they found it kept its high yield but could also tolerate being totally submerged.

David Mackill of the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, and Pamela Ronald of the University of California in Davis, United States, led the international team.

Mackill told SciDev.Net that scientists would be able to crossbreed submergence-tolerant rice with varieties that are already popular with farmers.

Link to full paper in Nature
Link to related commentary article in Nature

10 August 2006

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1.21  Researchers develop flood-tolerant California rice

Submergence tolerance can be bred into any rice, offering relief to poor rice farmers worldwide, UCR researcher says

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Rice grown anywhere in the world soon could be made completely flood-tolerant because of new research by UC Riverside geneticists, done in collaboration with scientists at UC Davis and the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines. By gradually introducing into California rice "submergence tolerance," a property that enables rice to survive extreme flood conditions, the researchers show how potentially any variety of rice could be made to survive short-term floods that completely submerge the rice plant – a result benefiting rice farmers worldwide.

The researchers are the first to identify a small cluster of related genes responsible for providing a line of Indian rice with the capacity to survive complete submergence for more than two weeks. The researchers transferred this cluster of genes into California rice by first cross-pollinating the Indian and California rice and then continuing the cross breeding over several generations until all the Indian rice genes, except the cluster of genes needed for submergence tolerance, were gradually replaced with genes from the California rice. The result was California rice that can withstand floods in which the rice plant is completely submerged.

Study results appear in this month's issue of The Plant Cell.

In their work, led by Julia Bailey-Serres, a professor of genetics at UCR, the researchers evaluate two nearly genetically identical lines of California rice: the original submergence intolerant line and the new submergence tolerant line. A careful comparison of the two California rice lines showed that in the submergence tolerant line the rice plants orchestrate a number of cellular responses to submergence that are controlled by specific genes present in the submergence gene cluster. The researchers report that this cluster, which originated in the Indian rice and was bred into the California rice, is responsible for changes in cell metabolism and growth while the plant is submerged.

"One of the genes in the submergence gene cluster makes rice conserve the carbohydrate reserves in the plant leaves when the plant is submerged, resulting in a controlled growth for the plant," said Bailey-Serres, who is a member of UCR's Center for Plant Cell Biology. "Rice plants that lack this particular gene, however, are not able to conserve their carbohydrates. They end up with accelerated growth and ultimately exhaust themselves."

Flooding of croplands is a frequent natural disaster in many regions of the world, reducing crop productivity. While rice, the primary food for more than 3 billion people, thrives in standing water, it dies if it is completely submerged for more than four days. Water covering the rice plant reduces the plant's oxygen and carbon dioxide supplies, affecting photosynthesis and respiration. Submerged, the plants lack the gases needed to produce sugar for cellular energy, resulting in death if submergence persists beyond four days.

Bailey-Serres notes that access today to information about the rice genome – all the genetic material in the chromosomes of rice – has greatly accelerated progress in identifying specific genes that confer specific traits. "Currently, the International Rice Research Institute is actively crossing the submergence tolerant Indian rice with lines of rice that are widely grown in southeast Asia in order to produce new lines of rice that can grow in flood-prone areas," she said.

In the future, Bailey-Serres and colleagues plan to work on developing crops that are resistant to multiple stresses. "For example, we'd like to develop rice that is both submergence and salt tolerant," she said, "given that many flood-prone areas are a mixture of fresh and salt water."

Besides Bailey-Serres, Takeshi Fukao of UCR; and Kenong Xu and Pamela C. Ronald of UC Davis collaborated on the study, which was funded by grants from the United States Department of Agriculture and the United States Agency for International Development. Fukao is the first author of the research paper.

Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
University of California - Riverside

22 August 2006

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1.22  Selected  articles from Checkbiotech

Catalytic antibodies active in plants

Syngenta develops aphid-resistant soybeans

Light rice

Tomatoes to protect against the plague

GM debate continues in EU

France: Seventeen outdoor field tests with transgenic organisms

Despite worldwide growth Europe has little transgenic corn

Contributed by Robert Derham
Checkbiotech and Access Director
University of Basel

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5.01  Brazilian student at the Botucatu campus of UNESP is looking for an opportunity to spend some time with a research program in the USA

Carlos Alberto Raueri Demant

I´m a Brasilian Doctorate student of UNESP FCA  Botucatu SP  I´m working with breeding of castor bean , and we have a program of sandwich students, where Brasilian students pass part of the doctorate time working in a foreign institute to learn more about the culture he is working with. I´d like to know more about your work with castor bean , and know if you receive students there.

Our current program is breeding castor bean for high productivity with high oil content, small height, Fusarium and Amphobotrys resistance, and adaptation to mechanical harvest.

My intent is to be part of my doctorate work, continuing my Thesis or not , learning with American researcher and working with then for some months with an advisor.

I´ll have funding from Brasil. Our department has funding for this, but we need to have an advisor in the other country, then make a work plan, make some tests and ask for the funds but it´s almost sure that we get it

Contact directly:
Carlos Alberto Rauer Demant

Forwarded by Anne Marie Thro

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Note: New announcements (listed first) may include some program details, while repeat announcements will include only basic information. Visit web sites for additional details


10-12 October 2006. Advancing renewable energy: an American rural renaissance. St. Louis, Missouri

The accelerated development and rapid commercialization of renewable energy technologies is a high national priority, and is central to President Bush's Advanced Energy Initiative, which seeks to change the way we power our cars, homes and businesses through alternative energy sources. As President Bush said in his State of the Union Address, "Keeping America competitive requires affordable energy. And here we have a serious problem: America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world. The best way to break this addiction is through technology."

Accelerating the development and use of alternative energy sources is not only a critical national security issue, but is key to maintaining America's economic competitiveness, as well as a tremendous opportunity for farmers, businesses, and rural communities across our nation.

To explore these opportunities, we invite you to join us in St. Louis, Missouri, on October 10-12, 2006, for Advancing Renewable Energy: An American Rural Renaissance. Jointly hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), this conference will bring together key stakeholders in biofuels, wind, and solar energy to:

-Identify major issues including partnership opportunities facing decision makers both within government and in the private sector.
-Identify critical pathways to rapid deployment of renewable energy technologies; identify bottlenecks; and make policy recommendations for resolving these issues.
-Examine policy incentives such as tax credits, loan guarantees, expedited approval processes, and other measures to increase certainty, reduce risk, and accelerate the deployment of new energy sources.
-Advance understanding of the opportunities and issues involved in the integration of distributed energy production into legacy systems.

DOE and USDA lead the federal effort on research, development, and commercialization of new energy sources. Senior policy and administrative personnel of both agencies will participate in the conference, as will leaders from the private sector, research, and business communities.

Advancing Renewable Energy presents a unique opportunity to meet with the leaders of the renewable energy sector at a critical moment of its development. Participants will include federal, state, and local officials; utility and energy company executives; investors; farmers; as well as members from non-governmental organizations.
We are confident that you will find Advancing Renewable Energy timely, useful, and provocative. We hope you are able to attend and participate.

For more information and to register for the conference, visit:

Contributed by Anne Marie Thro


5-11 November 2006 International symposium on integrating new technologies for striga control: towards ending the witch-hunt, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Sponsored by International Sorghum and Millet Collaborative Research Support Program (INTSORMIL), Purdue University and Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR).
Contact: Gebisa Ejeta, Purdue University, USA

The parasitic weed Striga (witchweed) is the scourge of agriculture in much of Africa, parts of Asia, and even in the United States. Striga attacks the major cereal grains and legumes in sub-Saharan Africa, on average halving the already very low yields of subsistence farmers. The Striga problem has been a major reason why crop productivity has remained at or below subsistence, leaving poor farmers with no way out of a situation that is only getting worse.

For many decades, research approaches on Striga targeted eradication, suppression, or breeding for host crops that support fewer emerged Striga plants. Decades of such efforts have led to few successes. More recently, basic research efforts that have focused on the more fundamental biology of the parasite and its association with its hosts have led to a far better understanding of the enemy. That understanding, in turn, led to series of successes in the field that are being expanded slowly throughout Africa.

Will these technologies be sustainable or will they fail? Highly successful weeds such as Striga have a tendency to evolve resistance to all types of control. Ways to circumvent these pitfalls need to be crafted. As no single method is likely to be perfect, it is clear that proven methods must be integrated with each other. However, integration is often an anathema to basic scientists who are taught to alter single variables at a time in their experiments. That is why we are bringing together key leaders in development of the new knowledge based control strategies-both those that have been successfully deployed in the field and those currently under development that show great promise. Bringing these experts together will allow discussion of strategies that can be integrated with each other to develop more durable and sustainable methods that will be useful for decades to come.

For major speakers, we have invited leaders in the field who have been supplying the basic biology, genetics, biochemistry, and molecular information that have offered insights and generated technologies for dealing with Striga.

Other scientists (molecular biologists, breeders, agronomists, and social scientists) who have been key in the fight against Striga are also invited to engage in structured panel discussions. Together with facilitators who are experts at stimulating people to integrate knowledge into practice, we hope this meeting will provide the forum for crafting new and creative suggestions for a series of integrated management packages that can render effective control of Striga.

The symposium is open to all scientists dealing with Striga who want to learn and share knowledge. Invited speakers will present lectures and lead discussions. All other participants are encouraged to present posters of their most recent findings and observations. See Forthcoming Meetings for contact details.'

Contributed by Gebisa Ejeta
Purdue University


13-17 November 2006. Cereal science and technology for feeding ten billion people: genomics era and beyond, Lleida, Spain. or


23-27 March 2007. 2nd International Conference on Plant Molecular Breeding (ICPMB), Sanya, Hainan, China.


* 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,

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

* 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 (
Conference website:

* 18-20 September 2006.The International Cotton Genome Initiative (ICGI) 2006 Research Conference, Blue Tree Park Hotel ( Brasília, D.F., Brazil. Details of the ICGI 2006 Research Conference will be posted on the ICGI website ( ) as they become available.

* 9-13 October 2006. Second International Rice Congress 2006 (IRC2006). New Delhi, India. Organized jointly by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the theme of this congress is "Science, technology, and trade for peace and prosperity". It comprises four major events: the 26th International Rice Research Conference (including e.g. a session on 'genetics and genomics' and workshops on hybrid rice and on genetically modified rice and biosafety issues); the 2nd International Rice Commerce Conference; the 2nd International Rice Technology and Cultural Exhibition; and the 2nd International Ministers' Round Table Meeting. See or contact for more information.

* 11-14 October 2006 Plant Genomics European Meetings, Venice, Italy.
Contact person:

* 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 or

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

* 4-22 November 2006. International training program on plant genetic resources and seeds: Policies, conservation and use, Karaj, Iran. For further information on the program please visit the websites of ICARDA: (see: Seed Systems Support), Wageningen International: (see: international education at Wageningen UR, courses), or the Generation Challenge Program: (see: capacity building corner, training courses

* 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 or visit the meeting website at

* 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-organized by CSREES, USDA; and by the Departments of Crop Science and Horticultural Science, North Carolina State University.
* 24-28 June 2007. The 9th International Pollination Symposium on Plant-Pollinator Relationships­Diversity in Action. Scheman Center, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. The Conference webpage can be viewed at:

* 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

* 9-14 September 2007. The World Cotton Research Conference-4, Lubbock, Texas, USA ( 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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Plant Breeding News is an electronic forum for the exchange of information and ideas about applied plant breeding and related fields. It is published every four to six weeks throughout the year.

The newsletter is managed by the editor and an advisory group consisting of Elcio Guimaraes (, Margaret Smith (, and Anne Marie Thro ( The editor will advise subscribers one to two weeks ahead of each edition, in order to set deadlines for contributions.

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