PLANT BREEDING NEWS

EDITION 171

1 October 2006


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

Clair H. Hershey, Editor
chh23@cornell.edu

Archived issues available at: FAO Plant Breeding Newsletter.


CONTENTS

1.  NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH NOTES
1.01  FAO Director-General appeals for second Green Revolution: Vast effort needed to feed billions and safeguard the environment
1.02  Partnership forged to spur Africa's green revolution
1.03  Transforming sub-Saharan Africa's rice production through rice research
1.04  Marker-assisted breeding comes of age
1.05  Are genomic technologies the answer to world hunger?
1.06  The maize with the beans inside: QPM gathers a following in Kenya
1.07  Biodiversity: galvanizing decision-makers into action
1.08  Reflections on the first meeting of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
1.09  Washington University researchers determine that rice was domesticated independently at least twice
1.10  Legume genome evolution viewed through the Medicago truncatula and Lotus japonicus genomes
1.11  Researchers characterise germplasm of the Australian Lupin Collection to give lupin breeding programs better access to novel traits
1.12  Cost-benefit ratios and the purpose of seed collections
1.13  Mungbean varieties give new meaning to “fast food”
1.14  Battle continues against leaf rust in oats
1.15  UGA scientists engineer root-knot nematode resistance
1.16  The first tree genome is published: Poplar holds promise as renewable bioenergy resource
1.17  Characterization of capsaicin synthase and identification of its gene (csy1) for pungency factor capsaicin in pepper
1.18  New field data supports development of more nitrogen efficient crops that promise to benefit farmers and the environment
1.19  Pollen-mediated gene flow in maize in real situations of coexistence

2.  PUBLICATIONS
2.01  CABI to publish ground-breaking reference book: The Encyclopedia of Seeds
2.02  New book published:   Plant Conservation Genetics
2.03  FAO’s AGORA initiative widens access to agricultural research by more countries


3.  WEB RESOURCES
3.01  Smithsonian offers new tropical biodiversity data and tools on the Web
3.02  CGIAR Virtual Library Opened
3.03  The Seed Biology Place

4  GRANTS AVAILABLE
4.01  Announcement of International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) Vavilov-Frankel Fellowships for 2007
4.02  Rockefeller Travel Grants Available for International Plant and Genome Conference XV
4.03  Scholarship in Plant Breeding Available to MSc Graduates

5  POSITION ANNOUNCEMENTS
5.01  Assistant Professor, Plant Evolutionary Genomics, University of California, Riverside
5.02  Assistant Professor ,Wheat Breeding and Genetics, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Michigan State University

6  MEETINGS, COURSES AND WORKSHOPS

7  EDITOR'S NOTES

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1.  NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH NOTES

1.01  FAO Director-General appeals for second Green Revolution: Vast effort needed to feed billions and safeguard the environment

Rome, Italy and San Francisco, California

FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf today called for a second Green Revolution to feed the world’s growing population while preserving natural resources and the environment.

Addressing a meeting of the World Affairs Council of Northern California in San Francisco, Dr Diouf said: “In the next few decades, a major international effort is needed to feed the world when the population soars from six to nine billion. We might call it a second Green Revolution.”

The San Francisco-based World Affairs Council of Northern California, which has 10 000 members, is one of the United States’ leading non-governmental fora for discussion and debate of international affairs.

The original Green Revolution of the Fifties and Sixties doubled world food production by bringing the power of science to agriculture, but “relied on the lavish use of inputs such as water, fertilizer and pesticides,” Dr Diouf said.

“The task ahead may well prove harder,” he continued. “We not only need to grow an extra one billion tonnes of cereals a year by 2050 - within the lifetimes of our children and grandchildren – but do so from a diminishing resource base of land and water in many of the world’s regions, and in an environment increasingly threatened by global warming and climate change.”

FAO, as the United Nations specialized agency for food and agriculture, looked set to have a fundamental role in helping bring about such a revolution, Dr Diouf said. The place to start was at village level and in developing countries themselves, he added.

“Investing in agriculture is usually low in the order of priorities of politicians, typically more interested in short-term returns,” Dr Diouf said. “But we can no longer afford such neglect – our future depends on it.”

Concrete signs

“However… there are concrete signs towards this direction at both national and international levels. For example, African leaders have decided to raise the share of their national budgets allocated to food and agriculture to 10%. The World Bank’s declining trend in lending for agriculture and rural development is now reversing,” Dr Diouf observed.

Dr Diouf noted that 100 million people faced forced migration as a consequence of advancing desertification and soil degradation while water reserves had started to run low in key grain production areas such as India and China.

“The new Green Revolution will be less about introducing new, high-performance varieties of wheat or rice, important as they are, and much more about making wiser and more efficient use of the natural resources available to us,” Dr Diouf said.

For example, tests organized by FAO in a number of developing countries since 2000 had shown that yield increases of up to 30 percent could be achieved through Integrated Crop Management (ICM), or improved crop management techniques.

“It may sound incredible but we actually can save water and grow more food at the same time,” the Director-General added.

The key to increasing production while safeguarding natural resources lay in environmentally sustainable agricultural development, he said, adding:

“We must face the fact that the destinies of developing and developed countries are intertwined in a globalized world. Crucial challenges clearly lie ahead, and FAO will continue to spare no effort in helping to meet them.”

Source: SeedQuest.com
13 September 2006

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1.02  Partnership forged to spur Africa's green revolution

The partnership will target farm productivity in Africa
Kimani Chege and Wagdy Sawahel

A partnership between two key donor agencies aims to spark an African 'green revolution' by addressing farm productivity and training the next generation of agricultural scientists.

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa will address the key issues of soil fertility, irrigation, farm management practices and financing as well as access to markets and new seeds.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation will initially invest US$150 million in a programme to improve seed varieties in areas with harsh environmental conditions, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Program for Africa's Seed Systems (PASS), based in Nairobi, Kenya, will invest in national programmes that use local crop breeding techniques to develop seeds that are more resistant to pests, diseases, local rainfall patterns and soil properties.

PASS will also invest in graduate-level education in Africa to train the next generation of crop breeders and agricultural scientists, and in improving rural transport infrastructure to help farmers get hold of better seeds.

Masa Iwanaga, director general of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), stressed the importance of infrastructure, saying it will take more than investing in agriculture to spark an African 'green revolution'.

"Sub-Saharan Africa does not have the physical infrastructure or institutional capacity that made the green revolution possible elsewhere," he told SciDev.Net.

"Yes, agriculture can lead economic growth in those countries, but attention must be paid to natural resource management, improved infrastructure, favourable policies, and access to markets and off-farm income," says Iwanaga.

In a press release, Bill Gates ­ co-chair of the Gates Foundation ­ envisioned African entrepreneurs starting seed companies to supply small farmers. The foundation also wants agro-dealers to reach more small farmers with improved farm inputs and farm management practices.

Source: SciDev.net
15 September 2006

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1.03  Transforming sub-Saharan Africa's rice production through rice research

Following the Africa Rice Congress hosted by the Africa Rice Center (WARDA) on July 31- August 4, 2006 in Dar es Salaam Tanzania, we invited WARDA to contribute a story highlighting the importance of rice research to improve the livelihoods of poor people in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Although most of the world’s rice is produced and consumed in Asia, demand for it is soaring in Africa. Rice has become a major source of calories not only for the affluent, but also for the urban and rural poor in many parts of the continent. Its availability and price have become major determinants of the welfare of the poorest African consumers.

Rice production in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), though rising from 8.6 million tonnes of paddy (unhulled) rice in 1980 to 12.6 million tonnes in 2005, has not kept pace with demand. As a result, the quantity imported yearly by the region increased from 2.5 million tonnes in 1980 to 7.2 million tonnes in 2005. SSA spends more than US$1.5 billion in foreign exchange every year for its rice imports.

In the short term, rice imports may serve to bridge the gap in rice supply. But their increasing market share (40–45 percent of the total rice supply) reveals the region’s high dependency on external supplies for one of its staple foods. More than 30 percent of the internationally traded rice goes to Africa.

There is growing concern about the foreign currency drain resulting from massive rice imports, the marginalization of the local rice sector, and the food security implications of dependency on fluctuating world market prices and supply chains for this staple food. The situation is particularly worrying because the international rice market is relatively small, accounting for only 4-6 percent of the total rice produced globally.

Can sub-Saharan Africa substantially reduce its rice imports?
Rice production in SSA is dominated by subsistence, smallholder farmers who have limited access to markets, no equipment other than hand-held tools and limited use of inputs. The average rice yield in the sub-continent is the lowest in the world – 1.4 tonnes per hectare compared to Asia's average of 4 tonnes (more than 6 tonnes in China).

However, rice is successfully and economically produced in a wide range of agroecologies in SSA. In Mali, f or example, rice yields have increased steadily in the Office du Niger Project. In Madagascar, where per capita rice consumption is among the highest in the world, most of the rice consumed is homegrown. Nigeria, which has all the agro-ecological zones suitable for rice cultivation, has the potential to become a major rice granary.

In SSA , the lowland rice ecology consists of 20–50 million hectares. If only 2 million hectares of this area were used to grow rice, producing an average yield of 3 tonnes per hectare, W est Africa could easily stop its costly rice imports. Technologies to achieve this potential are now reaching African farmers.

Impact of rice research in sub-Saharan Africa
According to recent impact assessment studies, rice research by national and international organizations is making a big difference in Africa, where rice is mostly grown by women.

A study conducted in 2003 by T.J. Dalton and R.G. Guei in seven West African rice-producing countries showed that a bout 100 improved rice varieties were released from 1980 to 2000, generating sizable gains in rice productivity. A bout 40 percent of the total rice area in SSA is planted with improved varieties, which are concentrated particularly in the irrigated and mangrove rice areas.

Rice variety improvement contributed, on average, US$375 million per year to the region’s economy and possibly as much as $850 million. O verall, improved varieties have increased net revenues by $93 per hectare, with the highest gains in irrigated and rainfed lowland ecologies. T he returns to investment in rice research now exceed 20 percent annually.

The study also revealed that, without variety improvement, the regional balance-of-payment deficit for rice imports would have been 40 percent higher. And it would have been necessary to bring an additional 658,000 hectares of land under rice cultivation to maintain current levels of consumption.

The International Network for the Genetic Evaluation of Rice (INGER)- Africa, based at the Africa Rice Center (WARDA), has contributed importantly to this success. INGER- Africa promotes genetic diversity for different ecosystems through the exchange, evaluation and utilization of improved breeding materials originating from worldwide sources.

The New Rice for Africa (NERICA), developed by WARDA and its partners, is a well-known breakthrough. It is considered one of the major recent advances in rice variety improvement.

There are many reports of NERICA’s positive impact on farmers’ livelihood across SSA, from Guinea to Uganda. According to s ocio-economic impact studies carried out in Benin by WARDA and its national partner, NERICA adoption contributed to the following impacts:

-Child school enrollment rose by 3 percent in farm families adopting NERICAs
-School retention rate increased by 3 percent
-School expenditure per child increased by about 5,000 CFA ($8)
-Frequency of child sickness declined by 2 percent
-Frequency of hospital attendance when sick rose by 5 percent
-Health expenditures per sick child increased by about 7,000 CFA ($12)
-When these modest impacts are extrapolated across the region’s entire rice sector, then the value of the agricultural research that led to the development of NERICAs becomes very significant.
-Impact studies also reveal that rice research contributes effectively to the realization of almost all the Millennium Development Goals, including halving poverty and hunger, promoting education, improving health, reducing child mortality, empowering women and ensuring environmental sustainability.

Pre-requisites for a rice revolution in sub-Saharan Africa
Improved agricultural technologies, however effective, will not by themselves bring about a rice revolution in SSA. The Africa Rice Congress held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, from July 31 to August 4, 2006, underlined that to transform the region’s rice sector, governments must institute policies that guarantee prices; create access to credit, inputs and markets; and put in place safety nets and subsidies to support vulnerable groups, particularly women farmers. Such policies will give farmers incentives to adopt improved technologies that can raise their incomes and lift them out of poverty.

Rice in Africa – Fast facts
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Rice is a staple food for SSA’s rapidly growing population, whose rice consumption increased annually by 4.4 percent from 1961 to 2003. 
-Rice is the region’s fourth most important cereal in terms of production (after sorghum, maize and millet). 
-Rice occupies 10 percent of the total land under cereals and contributes 15 percent of total cereal production in SSA. 
-About 20 million farmers in SSA grow rice, and about 100 million people depend on it for their livelihoods. 
-From 1985 to 2003, the region’s rice production increased at an annual rate of 4 percent, compared to only 2.4 and 2.5 percent for maize and sorghum, respectively.
-Rice is grown on 8.5 million hectares in SSA, equal to 5.5 percent of the global rice area. Almost all of the region’s 38 countries grow rice, but two, Nigeria and Madagascar, account for 60 percent of the rice land. Nine other countries grow rice on more than 100,000 hectares, including Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire.
-Africa is the only continent where the two species of cultivated rice – Oryza glaberrima (African rice) and Oryza sativa (Asian rice) – are grown.
-The most widely grown rice species, Oryza sativa, is originally from Asia and was introduced in Africa only about 450 years ago. It is high-yielding and responds well to inputs but is not well adapted to African conditions.
-The less well-known rice species, Oryza glaberrima, was domesticated in the Niger River Delta over 3,500 years ago. It is well adapted to African farming conditions but generally has lower yield potential.

Source: Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), via SeedQuest.com
September, 2006

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1.04  Marker-assisted breeding comes of age

Editorial by Charles Pick, Business Development Manager, DNA LandMarks Inc.
An article* posted here on SeedQuest last year declared the 10th anniversary for marker-assisted selection.  In the article, scientists from Pioneer Hi-Bred described how, in the early days, they were quite happy to screen 10,000 plants a year with DNA markers.  Today they routinely screen over 1 million plants annually.  Furthermore, they felt they had only seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of this technology’s potential.

In fact genetic markers go back further than 10 years.  In plants the technology started to develop in the 1980’s.  Even in those seminal days, scientists understood the tremendous potential that existed in mapping the genomes of living organisms.  Primarily they were excited about the possibility to find genes of interest and then track them reliably through generations of crosses.

Over the past two decades, there have been many advances and applications of markers in plant breeding.  There are countless markers that have been found closely linked to traits of interest and these are now used to screen plants for disease resistance, quality characteristics, etc.  Markers are also routinely used for fingerprinting lines both as part of breeding work and for variety protection once material is commercially released.

Yet for all of the work that has been done, marker technology has remained relatively obscure to the general public.  Ask someone on the street what they think of GMOs and not only will they know what you are talking about but they will probably have a strong opinion either pro or con on the technology.  Ask the same person what they think of marker-assisted breeding and they will just look at you quizzically.

However, a revolution seems to be in progress.  These days genetic markers are receiving considerably more attention.  Recent presentations by both Monsanto and Dupont /Pioneer have trumpeted marker-assisted breeding as a key plank in their R&D strategy.  Some of these presentations even refer to it as a “new technology”.  In a July article** in the Washington Post, long time GMO foe Jeremy Rifkin wrote with cautious optimism about the “new frontier” of genomics and how it will render genetic engineering “obsolete”.

So why are people only now discovering the importance of a technology that has been with us for about 20 years?  The two main reasons are the cost of the technology and the complexity of the traits being sought.

In some ways genetic marker technology has mirrored computer technology in its development arc.  Each development cycle reduces costs dramatically while at the same time increasing the power of the technology.  Isolating DNA from plant tissue was once a cumbersome affair and seemed as much alchemy as true science.  Likewise, early DNA markers were mostly based on RFLP (restriction fragment length polymorphism) technology which was slow and expensive to run.

Today tiny leaf disks can be clipped from breeding nurseries scattered around the globe, dried and shipped to a high-throughput lab for DNA robotic extraction and analysis.  Detection methods have evolved to the point where only very small amounts of template DNA are required and changes as small as a single nucleotide can be detected.  Furthermore, thousands of these reactions can be run in parallel.  All of these changes have resulted in the reaction costs dropping from several dollars to several cents each.  Such dramatic cost reductions have not only made marker-assisted breeding economically feasible, it has become strategically imperative to keep companies competitive.

The second factor in marker technology’s rise in prominence has to do with trait complexity.  To understand why this is important, we first need to look at genetic engineering.  This technology is very effective at moving single gene traits from one organism to another.  Today it is also routine to “stack” a number of these traits into a single variety.  Despite Jeremy Rifkin’s predictions, genetic engineering is still an important tool in agricultural biotechnology and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future.

However, most important agronomic traits (e.g. yield, drought tolerance, nitrogen use efficiency) are not controlled by a single gene.  Instead they are run by complex interactions amongst numerous genes.  Not only are these traits dependent on the presence of the right alleles of these genes, but in most cases the levels of expression of the genes are also key to obtaining the best possible performance.

Genetic engineering technology has not evolved to the point where these complex, multigenic traits can be reliably spliced from one organism to another.  However by using genetic markers it is possible to analyze the various genetic components that contribute to a complex trait.  These components are unique loci in the genome and analyzing their individual contribution to a trait is known as quantitative trait loci or QTL analysis.

QTL analysis is where the greatest potential of marker technology lies.  This is why leading agricultural biotech companies are starting to talk up their marker programs to customers and the investment community.  We have reached a confluence point of cost and technology that will allow us to manage very complex and highly valuable traits.  By using genetic markers, researchers and breeders will be able to find rare combinations of alleles at multiple loci that deliver maximum genetic performance.  Plant breeding has always been a numbers game.  Genetic markers will serve to better the breeders’ odds tremendously.

* Key agricultural productivity technology arrives at 10-year milestone: marker-assisted selection has revolutionized how scientists increase crop performance with native crop genes
** Beyond genetically modified crops

Charles Pick can be reached at pickc@dnalandmarks.ca

Source: SeedQuest.com (editorial, Sept. 2006)

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1.05  Are genomic technologies the answer to world hunger?

Genomic technologies may have the potential to alleviate food insecurity and food shortages around the world. Researchers believe that biotechnology has the potential to improve the nutritional content of food crops and, crucially, resistance to insects and disease. This could lead to improved yields of food crops for both human and animal consumption. Researchers are also working on 'molecular farming' – production of pharmaceutical products in plants, with the potential to revolutionise vaccination procedures. However, these technologies are only likely to impact on world hunger if there is effective and efficient exchange of knowledge and experience through partnerships.

A keynote speaker at the ESRC Innogen Centre's Annual Conference to be held on 5th-6th September at Regent's College, London warns of a caveat to this enthusiasm for the introduction of genomic technologies. Dr Simon Best, Chairman of the Board of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid tropics (ICRISAT) highlights the need for greater and more efficient collaboration between the public and private sectors involved in this research. The Director of Development Partnerships for the International Potato Centre (CIP), Dr. Roger Cortbaoui, echoes these arguments saying there is a need to construct, "useful partnerships and networks including with the private sector" in an industry where basic research is dominated by public funded research centres.

Others argue that even greater private-public interactions are not sufficient. Dr Andy Hall, from the Maastricht Economic and Social Research and Training Centre on Innovation and Technology, believes members of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) such as ICRISAT and CIP, are "struggling to deal with its limitations". Dr Hall argues for a strengthening of interactions with communities and society in general. Prof. Paul Richards of Wageningen University, says that not enough attention is being placed on involving the poor in decisions and research on the role of genomic technologies in dealing with food insecurity. The importance of these voices is explained by other speakers at the conference who highlight the complex negotiation of priorities by the different groups involved in these research decisions that usually exclude the poor who ought to benefit most as end users of these products.

These issues and more will be discussed at the ESRC Innogen Centre's annual conference entitled 'Genomics for Development: The Life Sciences and Poverty Reduction' to be held at Regent's College, London on 5th-6th September 2006.

Contact Alexandra Saxon/Annika Howard at ESRC
alexandra.saxon@esrc.ac.uk / annika.howard@esrc.ac.uk

Contact: Rebecca Hanlin
r.e.hanlin@sms.ed.ac.uk
Economic & Social Research Council

Source: EurkeAlert.org
1 September 2006

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1.06  The maize with the beans inside: QPM gathers a following in Kenya

Kenya
Farmers of the village of Kathaka Kaome in Embu district near Mount Kenya are saying that quality protein maize (QPM) is as nutritious as Githeri­a local dish made from maize and beans.

At a farmer field day on 24 July 2006, Samuel Kinyua Mwitari, the chairperson of Nthambo Murimi Mwaro (Nthambo’s Best Farmer) Self-help Group, has turned out in his best pinstripe suit. He stands next to his plot of maize plants­with husks pulled back revealing mature, full, healthy cobs­to tell the 180 farmers present all they need to know about quality protein maize (QPM).

Five other farmers, including the Group’s Secretary, Susan Njeru, are also on hand to inform farmers from Kathaka Kaome and neighboring villages about the new maize and its nutritional benefits. “Personally, I won’t be planting any other maize!” she declares. “And I want to advise everybody to plant QPM for the betterment of their families.”

Embu is among the first four districts in Kenya’s Central Province to host QPM promotion trials. The districts lie on the moist upper and dry lower slopes of Mt. Kenya, where maize is a major dietary staple. Inhabitants boil whole dry kernels with beans to make githeri, a popular local dish. But the price of beans and other pulses has climbed steadily in recent years, and diets in poorer households are increasingly maize-based. Serious protein malnutrition is now common in weaning babies, whose staple is maize porridge.

Quality protein maize grain contains enhanced levels of the essential amino acids lysine and tryptophan, along with other characteristics that make more of its protein useful to humans or farm animals. It has 90% of the nutritive value of milk, and can stem or reverse protein malnutrition. Resource-poor farmers who cannot afford supplements can use QPM in swine or poultry feeds to increase the animals’ growth and productivity.

The QPM varieties being promoted­products of 30 years of research involving CIMMYT maize breeders and others­are indistinguishable from normal maize in appearance, and mill and store just as well. Does QPM taste better than normal maize? At the recent field day in Embu the farmers said they preferred the taste, texture, and appearance of githeri made with the QPM.

The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) is supporting the development and deployment of locally adapted QPM, in a project led by CIMMYT agronomist Dennis Friesen. “The Kenya Agricultural Research Institute has been our main partner in adapting QPM to local environments and identifying farmer-preferred cultivars,” says Friesen. “We are also working with the Catholic Relief Services, which has strong grassroots linkages, the Catholic Diocese of Embu, and the Kenya Ministry of Agriculture, to promote QPM on the ground.”

The QPM dissemination work fits the aims of the Catholic Diocese of Embu, according to CDE chief extension officer, John Namu Munene: “We at the diocese realize we have a responsibility to participate in efforts that improve the lives of our people.” Addressing farmers at the field day, he praised QPM: “Even without beans, with this maize your githeri is full of protein.”

Johnson Irungu, the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) officer overseeing the dissemination project, says he is happy with the acceptance of QPM among farmers, but is quick to add that seed availability will be critical to sustaining the momentum. The QPM trait is recessive­meaning that if the maize is planted close to non-QPM varieties and is fertilized by their pollen, the quality trait will be lost. Farmers must therefore buy certified QPM seed each season or avoid sowing nearby or at the same time as neighboring, non-QPM maize fields. Embu Self-Help Group members are well-versed in this special requirement and advise fellow farmers on how to preserve the trait. As Susan Njeru explained to a group of farmers: “If you want to recycle QPM you have to harvest the cobs that you will use for seed from the center of your field, and keep them separate.”

CIMMYT has supported two local seed companies, Western Seed Company and Freshco Ltd, with training in QPM seed production and quality assurance, essential for sustainability. They are producing seed of an extra-early, drought-tolerant, open-pollinated QPM variety and two QPM hybrids for sale starting in 2007. Both companies sent their representatives several hundred kilometers to Embu to attend the field day.

Source: CIMMYT E-news vol 3 no 8
31 August 2006

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1.07  Biodiversity: galvanizing decision-makers into action

Montpellier, France
The diversity of life on Earth is shrinking at an unprecedented rate on every level, from gene to landscape. The scientific community now sees this as self-evident, but to date, it has largely failed to attract sufficient political attention to generate enough funding or trigger operations to tackle the crisis. This is what prompted the idea of setting up an international structure of scientific experts on biodiversity. The final declaration made at the conference on "Biodiversity: Science and Governance", held in Paris in January 2005, called for the launch of international talks on setting up such a structure.

Why has society failed to act in response to this biodiversity crisis? Biodiversity is one of the cornerstones of sustainable development, notably by virtue of the ecological services it renders. Moreover, it is a public asset under the sovereignty of individual countries, which complicates matters somewhat. Lastly, given the complexity of the subject itself and the overlaps between biodiversity and human society, the scientific community working on the issue is itself diverse and still highly fragmented. This is why it is now vital to compile the available information, knowledge and know-how, and set up a group of experts capable of achieving a usable overview of the situation. The aim is to support decisions to be made in favour of the preservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. This was the view expressed by nineteen authors in an article in the latest issue of the journal Nature, dated 20 July 2006*. This type of structure already exists for climate change issues, with the Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Climate Change.

Towards an international panel of experts in biodiversity
Talks with a view to setting up an ad hoc structure on biodiversity began early in 2006. They are being led by an International Steering Committee of scientists, government representatives and representatives of international, intergovernmental or nongovernmental organizations and UN specialist bodies. At the request of the French ministries concerned, the Institut français de la biodiversité was chosen to manage and coordinate the Executive Secretariat, and Didier Babin, a researcher with the CIRAD Forestry Department, was appointed Executive Secretary.

Is such a structure really essential? What form will it take? What are the organizational options that would satisfy requirements? The talks should provide answers to all these questions. To this end, it is necessary to identify, define and assess the gaps and requirements that exist at the interface between biodiversity science and decision-making processes. The first step in the talks will be to establish a picture of how decisions are made concerning biodiversity: categories of decision-makers, decision-making methods, traditional knowledge, local practices, exchanges of knowledge, technology transfers, etc.

Pinpointing and solving the problems of transferring knowledge to support decisions
The existing scientific expertise mechanisms (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Climate Change, etc) and their usefulness in terms of decision-making are also due to be analysed. To study the sucesses and failures as regards preserving biodiversity, the Executive Secretariat will be consulting the key stakeholders (people, organizations, governments, private sector, international decision-making bodies). The aim is to pinpoint and solve the problems concerning the transfer of knowledge to support decisions. Various case studies will fuel the assessment: how expertise is mobilized in response to crises such as bird flu, invasive species, fishery management, etc.

This first stage is due to be completed in October 2006. Subsequently, at the start of 2007, a second round of talks will be organized on a global level, based on the results of the first round. Following this second round, the International Steering Committee will be making a series of recommendations and proposals on setting up the structure, to be examined in June 2007.

Source: CIRAD via SeedQuest.com
1 September 2006

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1.08  Reflections on the first meeting of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

The first meeting of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture does not sound like a source of cliff-hanger thrills, but it was. Not until 5 in the morning on the last day, after an all-night negotiating session, did delegates finally agree the text of a contract that will govern the movement of samples of plant genetic resources. With that in place, the way is clear for farmers and plant breeders to get access to the biodiversity they need to adapt agriculture to meet unforeseen future challenges.

Historically, the world has depended, and continues to depend, on genetic resources from elsewhere. In the 1920s a Russian relative of wheat donated resistance to a fungal disease that threatened the entire US harvest. A new virulent race of that disease recently emerged and the solution will also almost certainly be found in varieties from somewhere else. In recent years the flow of material among breeders and farmers has dwindled considerably. The Treaty loosens the regulatory log-jam by establishing a multi-lateral system for access and benefit-sharing. A single variety may have hundreds of ancestors from scores of countries in its pedigree. Rather than having to sign scores of bilateral agreements, contracting parties sign up to the Treaty. That gives them facilitated access to the plant genetic resources held by all the other contracting parties.

Possibly the most important of these plant genetic resources are held in the genebanks of the Centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). There are more than 650,000 accessions, with a preponderance of the farmers' varieties and wild relatives that are such a rich source of sought-after traits. The Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA), agreed early that Friday morning, sets the terms and conditions for the use of these and other materials under the Treaty. Most notably, the SMTA establishes that any variety that uses any material derived from the multilateral system is, by definition, a "product". If that product is commercialized, a payment of 1.1% of net sales goes into the Treaty's fund, to support conservation and research in developing countries. The payment is compulsory if the new variety is not available for further use in research and breeding and voluntary if it is available.

An important and innovative aspect of the Treaty is the recognition of a third-party beneficiary with a legal interest in its enforcement. The SMTA is an agreement between provider and recipient of the material, not among the contracting parties of the Treaty, but the monetary benefits flow to an international fund. FAO (the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), acting as the third-party beneficiary, has the right to bring legal action on behalf of the Treaty parties in cases of suspected infringement.

Infringement will itself be easier to police, thanks to the simple definition of a product and to the plans for an integrated information system that will not only accumulate and share information about the resources -- one of the non-monetary benefits envisaged by the Treaty -- but will also make it easier to track which samples were distributed to whom.

The meeting was a huge success. Negotiators were willing to compromise on the level of payments, for example, and each side moved to meet the other. The seed industry, which some sceptics were saying before the meeting would scupper any chance of agreement, proved very constructive. So there is cause to be hopeful, and we need it.

Swollen shoot disease of cacao, palm leafhopper, banana bacterial wilt, Asian soybean rust, clover-root weevil, UG99 race of wheat rust; newly virulent pests and diseases are battering at humanity’s food supply. Developed nations can choose to afford plant protection chemicals, if they are available and effective. For poor farmers in developing countries, genetic resources are one of the few assets they can use to secure their food supply. With the International Treaty now in place, plant genetic resources will once again be able to play a central role in improving agriculture and securing our food supply for the future.

Editorial by Dr. Emile Frison, Director General, International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI)

http://www.seedquest.com/forum/f/FrisonEmile/06sept.htm)

Dr. Emile Frison can be reached at e.frison@cgiar.org

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1.09  Washington University researchers determine that rice was domesticated independently at least twice

St. Louis, Missouri
Biologists from Washington University in St. Louis and their collaborators from Taiwan have examined the DNA sequence family tree of rice varieties and have determined that the crop was domesticated independently at least twice in various Asian locales.

Jason Londo, Washington University in Arts & Sciences biology doctoral candidate, and his adviser, Barbara A. Schaal, Ph.D., Washington University Spencer T. Olin Professor of Biology in Arts & Sciences, ran genetic tests of more than 300 types of rice, including both wild and domesticated, and found genetic markers that reveal the two major rice types grown today were first grown by humans in India and Myanmar and Thailand (Oryza sativa indica) and in areas in southern China (Oryza sativa japonica).

A paper describing the research was published in the June 20, 2006 issue of the Proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

"We chose samples across the entire range of rice and looked for DNA sequences that were shared by both wild and domesticated types," said Londo. "These two major groups clustered out by geography."

DNA is comprised of vast, varied combinations of chemical subunits known as base pairs. Londo, Schaal and their collaborators concentrated on finding genetic markers shared by both cultivated and wild rice types that ranged from 800 to 1,300 base pairs.

Cultivated rice has a genetic signature that defines it as cultivated, Schaal explained.

"What you do is go out and sample all the wild rice across regions and you look for that signature in the wild," said Schaal, who has done similar work with cassava and Jocote (a tropical fruit). "You find that the unique signature of cultivated rice is only found in certain geographic regions. And that's how you make the determination of where it came from."

Schaal said that she was surprised and "delighted" by their results. "People have moved rice around so much and the crop crosses with its wild ancestors pretty readily, so I was fully prepared to see no domestication signal whatsoever,," Schaal said.

"I would have expected to see clustering of the cultivated rice, but I was delighted to see geographical clustering of the wild rice. I was thrilled that there was even genetic structure in the wild rice."

In contrast to rice, other staple crops such as wheat, barley and corn appears to have been domesticated just once in history.

Rice is the largest staple crop for human consumption, supplying 20 percent of caloric content for the world.

By finding the geographic origins of rice, researchers can consider ways to improve the crop's nutritional value and disease resistance, which in turn can help impoverished populations in Asia and elsewhere that rely heavily on the crop.

A third type of rice might have originated independently in India, but the researchers can't be certain, said Londo, because "with two of the gene networks we see sharp similarities, but with a third one that emerges from the data we don't have enough resolution."

Londo expects to find even more evidence for differing geographic domestication. He said that by using the database that they've gathered, they could design a sampling to target specialty rices such as the aromatic rices basmati and jasmine.

For instance, one direction that the researchers are going is Thailand, where the Karen tribe has been using multiple landraces of rice for many hundreds of years, Landraces are localized varieties of rice that have been cultivated by traditional methods and have been passed down many generations, Schaal said. "We're going to try to find out how landrace varieties change after domestication. These landraces are ancient varieties, which are high in genetic diversity, thus valuable to breeders looking for new traits."

Source: SeedQuest.com
7 September 2006

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1.10  Legume genome evolution viewed through the Medicago truncatula and Lotus japonicus genomes

ABSTRACT
Genome sequencing of the model legumes, Medicago truncatula and Lotusjaponicus, provides an opportunity for large-scale sequence-basedcomparison of two genomes in the same plant family. Here wereport synteny comparisons between these species, includingdetails about chromosome relationships, large-scale syntenyblocks, microsynteny within blocks, and genome regions lackingclear correspondence. The Lotus and Medicago genomes share a minimum of 10 large-scale synteny blocks, each with substantial collinearity and frequently extending the length of whole chromosome arms. The proportion of genes syntenic and collinear within each synteny block is relatively homogeneous. Medicago-Lotus comparisons also indicate similar and largely homogeneous gene densities, although gene-containing regions in Mt occupy 20-30% more space than Lj counterparts, primarily because of larger numbers of Mt retrotransposons. Because the interpretation of genome comparisons is complicated by large-scale genome duplications, we describe synteny, synonymous substitutions and phylogenetic analyses to identify and date a probable whole-genome duplication event. There is no direct evidence for any recent large-scale genome duplication in either Medicago or Lotus but instead a duplication predating speciation. Phylogenetic comparisons place this duplication within the Rosid I clade, clearly after the split between legumes and Salicaceae (poplar).

Steven B. Cannon, Lieven Sterck, Stephane Rombauts, Shusei Sato, Foo Cheung, Jérôme Gouzy, Xiaohong Wang, Joann Mudge, Jayprakash Vasdewani, Thomas Scheix, Manuel Spannagl, Erin Monaghan, Christine Nicholson, Sean J. Humphray, Heiko Schoof, Klaus F. X. Mayer, Jane Rogers, Francis Quétier, Giles E. Oldroyd, Frédéric Debellé, Douglas R. Cook, Ernest F. Retzel, Bruce A. Roe, Christopher D. Town, Satoshi Tabata, Yves Van de Peer, and Nevin D. Young

Link: http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/0603228103v1?etoc

Source: Proceedings ot the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America via SeedQuest.com
26 September 2006

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1.11  Researchers characterise germplasm of the Australian Lupin Collection to give lupin breeding programs better access to novel traits

Western Australia
Wild lupins flowering herald more than just the arrival of spring.

They indicate the start of the most robust evaluation yet of the genetic secrets held within the Australian Lupin Collection (ALC) at the Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia (DAFWA).

As part of the evaluation, highly skilled Western Australian researchers, working through the Centre for Legumes in Mediterranean Agriculture (CLIMA) partnership, have begun to group representative samples of the 2000 lupin lines held in the ALC.

While the ALC has already been tapped for sources of resistance to anthracnose, phomopsis and pleiochaeta root rot (PRR), creation of a core collection will cut down the time it takes lupin breeders to identify important traits for crop improvement.

Supported by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), the project began last year on the ALC’s 1300 different narrow leafed lupins and through DNA fingerprinting, created a core sample of 120 wild narrow leafed lupin accessions.

This core sample, representing the range of genetic diversity across the collection, is flowering at the University of Western Australia (UWA) Shenton Park field station.

CLIMA researcher Dr Fucheng Shan said the core would firstly be evaluated for yield and then quality and resistance to diseases such as Brown Spot, PRR and seed transmission of Cucumber Mosaic Virus.

“We will evaluate the core for 18 biotic and 21 quality characteristics which have been prioritised by lupin breeders,” Dr Shan said.

“The characterised germplasm will give lupin breeding programs better access to novel traits that will allow development of superior new cultivars to benefit the Australian lupin industry.”

Dr Shan said representative core collections would also be developed from the Yellow, Albus and Pearl lupin collections within the ALC.

The ALC, built up since 1958 from local collecting missions abroad and germplasm imports from overseas breeding programs, is the most comprehensive lupin collection in the world and includes a substantial representation of nearly all other lupin species from the Mediterranean area and North Africa.

Other researchers working on the collection include Dr Jon Clements (UWA and DAFWA) and James Ponds, a PhD student from UWA.

Dr Clements said while there had been previous morphological and geographical evaluation of subsets of the ALC in the early 1990s, this was the first time it had been attempted using combined morphology and DNA techniques.

Source: SeedQuest.com
20 September 2006

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1.12  Cost-benefit ratios and the purpose of seed collections

Rome, Italy
The best stamp collections and the worst genebanks have a lot in common. Neither get used for the purpose for which they were intended.

Last year, America's biggest investment fund manager, Bill Gross, shelled out $3 million to acquire the one stamp he needed to complete his personal collection of 19th century U.S. postage stamps. He won't be pasting it on a postcard. Valuable stamps don't circulate.

Frozen in a genebank, seed collections are about as useful but considerably less valuable than Mr. Gross's stamps. Used in plant breeding programs, they have considerably more value. But this doesn't mean that it is easy to place a precise economic value on this genetic resource. The value it has is realized in the crop varieties planted in farmers' fields. It is not expressed inside a freezer. Either farmers have crop varieties that withstand pests, diseases, floods, droughts and heat waves, or they don't. Either they grow varieties that produce adequate yields, or they don't and perhaps people go hungry as a consequence. All these things depend on whether the requisite genetic traits exist and whether plant breeders have access to them, or not.

While not all the benefits of crop diversity can be reduced to monetary measurements, some can, and thus, with a bit of difficulty, it is possible to talk about the cost-benefit ratio of conserving crop diversity and making it available for use.

Like clay to a sculptor or water to a fireman, the value of genetic resources is best understood in relation to the result of its use.

A Miserable Looking Wheat
In 1948, Jack Harlan - plant explorer, archaeobotanist, geneticist, breeder, and all of 30 years old - strode into one of the more remote corners of the world, a Kurdish area of Turkey in Southeast Anatolia. There, understanding that looks can be deceiving, he collected a number of samples of different crops, including what he described as a "hopelessly useless" wheat. This particular one entered the U.S. genetic resources system as Plant Introduction No. 178383, its seeds dutifully stored in the genebank. Fifteen years later this miserable wheat rescued farmers in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. from disaster, when an outbreak of the disease 'stripe rust' threatened to decimate their wheat fields. It quickly entered the pedigrees of virtually all varieties grown there. The gain to productivity has been calculated at millions of dollars annually. One crop. One disease. One sample. A few seeds collected at small expense - Harlan traveled simply, often on donkey - and conserved in the genebank at an annual cost of less than a dollar. The cost benefit ratio: many thousands to one. The absolute monetary benefit: probably greater than the sum needed to conserve all wheat diversity in perpetuity.

Every crop has a similar story. Most crops have many. Consider a few examples of the returns on investment:
-Every dollar spent on all wheat research at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Mexico, has generated $27 in benefits when measured only from the resistance it has produced for one disease (leaf rust) in one type of wheat (spring bread wheat). This is a benefit of $5.36 billion (in 1990 dollars).
-Armineh Zohrabian and colleagues writing in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics calculated that the value of adding a single sample to the U.S. soybean collection simply to search for resistance to a single pest would likely exceed costs (collection, conservation and screening) 36-61 times over. The estimate is conservative, of course, because samples can be screened and used for multiple traits.
-Similarly, Robert Evenson of Yale University and Douglas Gollin of Williams College traced the flow of genetic resources at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) into new varieties released and grown in developing countries. They estimated that adding an additional 1000 samples to IRRI's genebank would generate an annual stream of benefits to poor farmers of $325 million. Contrast this with the amount that would be needed in an endowment to conserve 1000 samples in perpetuity: $10,580. But, the Global Crop Diversity Trust is not in the stamp collection business. We also intend to endow the costs of periodic multiplication of the seed and distribution to researchers and breeders, forever. The total cost then comes to $61,770. In other words, a one-time expenditure of less than $100,000 ends up producing annual benefits of $325 million.

Counting the Uncountable
As stunning as these figures appear, they fail to capture the full benefit or value of crop diversity. One can calculate the impact on food production of growing a disease resistant crop variety as opposed to growing one that is susceptible. And one can place an economic value on the differential. But, not everything that counts can be counted, as Einstein once pointed out. The genetic resources in genebanks do not simply provide disease resistance, they underpin the ability of the crop to be a crop. What is the real value of wheat? Not some extra bushels of wheat, but wheat itself. How can one put a dollar figure on crop diversity's irreplaceable role in underpinning agriculture and human civilization? Perhaps it's best not to try. Instead, think of crop diversity as a "public good," as simply part of the infrastructure of human society. It's worth more than money.

From Civilization to the Environment. Lloyd Evans, plant physiologist, past president of the Australian Academy of Science, and author of Feeding the Ten Billion, notes that historically - since the dawn of agriculture - the easiest and most common way of producing more food was to cut down more trees and expand the amount of land under cultivation. Today, we understand this to be a particularly costly strategy, particularly when genetics can substitute for the chainsaw.

If, therefore, we seek to understand the true value of crop diversity, one thing we must do is consider agriculture's role in the larger ecosystem. Productive agricultural systems provide benefits to the environment: fewer trees cut down, less pesticide residue in soils, rivers and people.

These are only two, albeit huge, non-quantifiable benefits society reaps from having - and using - collections of crop genetic resources. There are still more.

Scientific knowledge itself is one. Genebank collections are the basis for a great deal of basic biological research - a survey of the journals Crop Science, Euphytica, Plant Breeding and Theoretical and Applied Genetics found that 23% of the articles were based on research conducted with materials from crop genebanks.

Finally, there is what economists would term the "insurance" value. Crop diversity collected, conserved and made available to plant breeders and researchers, functions as an insurance policy against future pests and diseases, the impact of climate change, and constraints to supplies of energy and water. It is easy enough to calculate the cost of this insurance premium - it's the bill for maintaining genebank collections of crop diversity. But, calculating the value of this service is simply impossible. The bargain is obvious.

Are genebanks biological stamp collections? Unfortunately, some are. But genetic resources are not stamps. Some people may get pleasure from knowing that thousands of distinct types of wheat are tucked away in a genebank, much as Bill Gross is doubtless happy simply knowing that his stamps are safe and sound in his collection.

However, the Trust is working to take collections far beyond "safe and sound." The greatest and most enduring value of crop diversity is derived when genebank collections are linked with research and plant breeding efforts. This mixture creates cost-benefit ratios that Mr. Gross, in his day job as America's biggest investment fund manager, would find absolutely breathtaking.
TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE SUBJECT
Dudnick, N.S., I. Thormann and T. Hodgkin (2001) "The Extent and Use of Plant Genetic Resources in Research: A literature survey." Crop Science. Vol. 41, No. 1.

Koo, B., P. Pardey, B. Wright, et al. (2004) Saving Seeds: The Economics of Conserving Crop Genetic Resources Ex Situ in the Future Harvest Centres of the CGIAR. CABI Publishing.

Smale, M. and B. Koo (eds.) (December 2003) What is a Genebank Worth? Biotechnology and Genetic Resource Policies, Briefs 7-12. International Food Policy Research Institute, International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, and the System-Wide Genetic Resources Programme (of the CGIAR).

http://www.ifpri.org/pubs/rag/br1002.pdf

Source: The Global Crop Diversity Trust via SeedQuest.com
22 September 2006

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1.13  Mungbean varieties give new meaning to “fast food”

Tainan, Taiwan
New varieties of mungbean are providing a fast food for south Asia that is not only highly nutritious, but can be squeezed into a vacant niche in between other major food crops.

With the price of meat well over what most people in the world can afford, looking for practical alternative sources of protein becomes a matter of survival.

Legumes with their high protein content are a great option. Mungbean in particular has 24% easily digestible protein, high iron content, and significant amounts of calcium, phosphorus, and some essential vitamins. It is also highly versatile - eaten as appetizing bean sprouts for salads and side dishes, sautéed, turned into noodles or delicious dhal, providing the base for exotic soups or even used as a mouth-watering bread filling.

Scientists in South Asia, in a project supported by the World Vegetable Center (AVRDC), looked at how mungbean production could be improved in the region not only to provide cheap protein but also to raise the income of farmers.

Through the project’s three-year multi-locational and multi-seasonal trials conducted in the region, Bangladesh and India were able to develop and release improved cultivars with high yields of 1.5 tonnes per hectare, maturing evenly in only 60-65 days. Such fast evenly maturing varieties are preferred because they can be grown in between other major crops and harvested before the onset of rains. Other varietal features developed were large shiny seeds and resistance to thrips and mungbean yellow mosaic virus.

Several improved mungbean varieties were developed and evaluated during the project including the World Vegetable Center's UPM 98 or Pant Mung-5 (photo); India’s SML 668, NM-92, Pusa Bold (Pusa Vishal); Bangladesh’s IPK-1040-94, BARImug 2 and BUmug 2; and Nepal’s VC 6372 (45-8-1). Most of these are now being distributed through seed dispersal and technology dissemination programs in the Indo-Gangetic Plains of South Asia.

For some of these varieties the benefits were very obvious. For instance, the extraordinary Pusha Vishal is an extra-short duration variety which matures in only 55 days and yields up to 43.3% over the traditional varieties. Pant Mung-5, on the other hand, is resistant to MYMV, Cercospora leaf spot, and Anthracnose diseases.

“The benefits of this project are currently being extended to some of the poorest areas of South Asia,” World Vegetable Center Director General Thomas Lumpkin said. Even so, he asks governments in South Asia to “support mungbean research and development activities, and help develop policies ensuring appropriate market price for mungbean and other legumes.”

The next task of the breeding programme will be to work with farmers to produce varieties with better drought tolerance for use in marginal and semi-arid situations. Farmers also need more research on management of insects such as pod borer, white fly and weevils and the control of diseases such as Cercospora leaf spot and powdery mildew.

Armed with new varieties from the World Vegetable Center, farmers are now much better able to take advantage of mungbeans in their cropping systems to grow healthy fast food.

Source: SeedQuest.com
September 2006

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1.14  Battle continues against leaf rust in oats

Queensland, Australia
New rust-resistant oat lines from North America will be introduced to Australia during the next few years to strengthen the Queensland forage oats breeding program.

Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries oat breeder, Bruce Winter, said he would soon start introducing a range of new breeding lines he had selected during a recent trip to the United States and Canada.

Mr Winter said Queensland and New South Wales graziers would benefit from the introduction of this germplasm through the release of new, leaf rust resistant varieties.

Mr Winter visited the key oat breeding programs in the US and Canada, looking for new sources of resistance to leaf rust, the major disease of forage oats in sub-tropical Australia.

“Leaf rust is a very aggressive disease and can cause significant yield loss in wetter seasons,” he said. 

“The disease has readily overcome the single resistance genes present in many older varieties.

“Leaf rust is very topical among North American researchers since several new races recently emerged and overcame the resistance in some popular varieties,” Mr Winter said.

He said the Queensland breeding program was constantly looking for new sources of resistance to this disease, and he identified a range of promising lines during this trip.

“These lines will be imported into Australia, evaluated under local conditions, and used for breeding of new varieties,” he said.

Mr Winter said although grain and forage oats were minor crops in Australia, the oat industry in North America was much larger, and much greater resources were invested in developing of new varieties.

He said a highlight of the trip was a visit with Dr James Chong in Winnipeg, Canada. 

Dr Chong had spent over 30 years looking for new sources of leaf rust resistance in the wild relatives of oat. New genes released from his program had been used in oat varieties all over the world.

“Forage oats are critically important to the grazing industries in Queensland and NSW,” Mr Winter said. 

“They are the main feed source for many farming operations during winter. Farmers often rely on forage oats for finishing livestock during this period.”

Mr Winter and research technician Richard Uebergang manage the forage oat breeding program at the Leslie Research Centre, Toowoomba.

“The project aims is to release commercial varieties with durable resistance to leaf rust and high forage yield, combined with good early vigour and late maturity.

“The breeding program receives funding support from Meat and Livestock Australia and Heritage Seeds, and all varieties released by the program are marketed by Heritage Seeds,” Mr Winter said.

Source: SeedQuest.com
4 September 2006

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1.15  UGA scientists engineer root-knot nematode resistance

Athens, Ga. – University of Georgia professor Richard Hussey has spent 20 years studying a worm-shaped parasite too small to see without a microscope. His discovery is vastly bigger. Hussey and his research team have found a way to halt the damage caused by one of the world's most destructive groups of plant pathogens.

Root-knot nematodes are the most economically important group of plant-parasitic nematodes worldwide, said Hussey, a distinguished research professor in plant pathology at the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

They attack nearly every food and fiber crop grown, about 2,000 plant species in all.

The nematode invades plant roots, and by feeding on the roots' cells, they cause the roots to grow large galls, or knots, damaging the crop and reducing its yields.

Working with assistant research scientist Guozhong Huang and research technician Rex Allen, Hussey discovered how to make plants resistant to root-knot nematode infection.

Eric Davis at North Carolina State University and Thomas Baum at Iowa State University also collaborated on the research.

The discovery "has the potential to revolutionize root-knot resistance in all crops," Hussey said.

The most cost-effective and sustainable management tactic for preventing root-knot nematode damage and reducing growers' losses, he said, is to develop resistant plants that prevent the nematode from feeding on the roots. Because root-knot nematode resistance doesn't come naturally in most crops, Hussey's group bioengineered their own.

The results of the study were published Sept. 26 in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Four common root-knot nematode species account for 95 percent of all infestations in agricultural land. By discovering a root-knot nematode parasitism gene that's essential for the nematode to infect crops, the scientists have developed a resistance gene effective against all four species.

Using a technique called RNA interference, the researchers have effectively turned the nematode's biology against itself. They genetically modified Arabidopsis, a model plant, to produce double-stranded RNA to knock out the specific parasitism gene in the nematode when it feeds on the plant roots.

This knocked out the parasitism gene in the nematode and disrupted its ability to infect plants.

"No natural root-knot resistance gene has this effective range of root-knot nematode resistance," Hussey said.

The researchers' efforts have been directed primarily at understanding the molecular tools the nematode uses to infect plants. This is a prerequisite for bioengineering durable resistance to these nematodes in crop plants.

Through this research, they've discovered the parasitism genes that make a nematode a plant parasite so it can attack and feed on crops, Huang said.

"Our results of in-plant RNA interference silencing of a parasitism gene in root-knot nematodes provides a way to develop crops with broad resistance to this destructive pathogen," Hussey said. "Equally important, our approach makes available a strategy for developing root-knot-nematode-resistant crops for which natural resistance genes do not exist."

Contact: Stephanie Schupska
schupska@uga.edu

Source: EurekAlert.org
27 September 2006

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1.16  The first tree genome is published: Poplar holds promise as renewable bioenergy resource

WALNUT CREEK, CA--Wood from a common tree may one day factor prominently in meeting transportation fuel needs, according to scientists whose research on the fast-growing poplar tree is featured on the cover of tomorrow's edition of the journal Science.

The article, highlighting the analysis of the first complete DNA sequence of a tree, the black cottonwood or Populus trichocarpa, lays the groundwork that may lead to the development of trees as an ideal "feedstock" for a new generation of biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol. The research is the result of a four-year scientific and technical effort, led by the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), uniting the efforts of 34 institutions from around the world, including the University of British Columbia, and Genome Canada; Umeå University, Sweden; and Ghent University, Belgium.

"Biofuels could provide a major answer to our energy needs by giving the United States a homegrown, environmentally friendlier alternative to imported oil," said DOE's Under Secretary for Science Dr. Raymond L. Orbach. "Fine-tuning plants for biofuels production is one of the keys to making biofuels economically viable and cost-effective. This research, employing the latest genomic technologies, is an important step on the road to developing practical, biologically-based substitutes for gasoline and other fossil fuels."

"Biofuels are not only attractive for their potential to cut reliance on oil imports but also their reduced environmental impact," said Dr. Gerald A. Tuskan, ORNL and DOE JGI researcher and lead author of the SCIENCE study.

"Biofuels emit fewer pollutants than fossil fuels such as gasoline. In addition, poplar and related plants are vital managers of atmospheric carbon. Trees store captured carbon dioxide in their leaves, branches, stems, and roots. This natural process provides opportunities to improve carbon removal from the air by producing trees that effectively shuttle and store more carbon below ground in their roots and the soil. Moreover, bioenergy crops re-absorb carbon dioxide emitted when biofuels are consumed, creating a cycle that is essentially carbon neutral."

Poplar's extraordinarily rapid growth, and its relatively compact genome size of 480 million nucleotide units, 40 times smaller than the genome of pine, are among the many features that led researchers to target poplar as a model crop for biofuels production.

"Under optimal conditions, poplars can add a dozen feet of growth each year and reach maturity in as few as four years, permitting selective breeding for large-scale sustainable plantation forestry," said Dr. Sam Foster of the U.S. Forest Service. "This rapid growth coupled with conversion of the lignocellulosic portion of the plant to ethanol has the potential to provide a renewable energy resource along with a reduction of greenhouse gases."

"The challenge of global warming requires global solutions," said Martin Godbout, President, Genome Canada. "The international consortium that successfully sequenced the poplar genome provides a model for great minds working together and serves as an example of how discovery science can be applied to current environmental problems facing humanity."

Among the major discoveries yielded from the poplar project is the identification of over 45,000 protein-coding genes, more than any other organism sequenced to date, approximately twice as many as present in the human genome (which has a genome six times larger than the poplar's). The research team identified 93 genes associated with the production of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin, the building blocks of plant cell walls. The biopolymers cellulose and hemicellulose constitute the most abundant organic materials on earth, which by enzymatic action, can be broken down into sugars that in turn can be fermented into alcohol and distilled to yield fuel-quality ethanol and other liquid fuels.

Poplar is the most complex genome to be sequenced and assembled by a single public sequencing facility and only the third plant to date to have its genome completely sequenced and published. The first, back in 2000, was the tiny weed, Arabidopsis thaliana, an important model for plant genetics. Rice was the second, two years ago. Populus trichocarpa is one of the tallest broadleaf hardwood trees in the western U.S., native to the Pacific coast from San Diego to Alaska. The sequenced DNA was isolated from a specimen collected along the banks of the Nisqually river in Washington State.

The poplar project supports a broader DOE drive to accelerate research into biofuels production, under the Bush Administration's Advanced Energy Initiative. In August, the department announced it would spend $250 million over five years to establish and operate two new Bioenergy Research Centers. The DOE-supported research into biofuels is focusing on both plants and microbes, in an effort to discover new biotechnology-based methods of producing fuels from plant matter (biomass) cost-effectively.

Earlier this year DOE published a study summarizing the views of over fifty leading scientists in the field of biofuels research that expressed optimism about the prospects for finding cost-effective methods to produce fuels such as ethanol from cellulose in the not-too-distant future (Breaking the Biological Barriers to Cellulosic Ethanol, available at http://genomicsgtl.energy.gov/biofuels/b2bworkshop.shtml). Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman has set a departmental goal of replacing 30 percent of current transportation fuel demand with biofuels by 2030.

DOE scientists envision a future where vast poplar farms in regions such as the Pacific Northwest, the upper Midwest, and portions of the southeastern U.S. could provide a steady supply of tree biomass rich in cellulose that can be transformed by specialized biorefineries into fuels like ethanol. Other regions of the country might specialize in different "energy crops" suited to their particular climate and soil conditions, including such plants as switchgrass and willow. In addition, a large quantity of biofuels might be produced from agricultural and forestry waste.

A 2005 joint study by DOE and the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that the United States has enough agricultural and forestry land to support production of over one billion tons of biomass, which could provide enough liquid biofuels to replace over a third of current transportation fuel consumption, and still continue to meet food, feed, and export demands (Biomass as Feedstock for a Bioenergy and Bioproducts Industry: The Technical Feasibility of a Billion-Ton Annual Supply, available at http://feedstockreview.ornl.gov/pdf/billion_ton_vision.pdf).

The DOE Joint Genome Institute, supported by the DOE Office of Science, unites the expertise of five DOE national laboratories, Lawrence Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, and Pacific Northwest, along with the Stanford Human Genome Center to advance genomics in support of the DOE missions related to clean energy generation and environmental characterization and clean-up. DOE JGI's Walnut Creek, Calif. Production Genomics Facility provides integrated high-throughput sequencing and computational analysis that enable systems-based scientific approaches to these challenges. Additional information about DOE JGI can be found at: http://www.jgi.doe.gov/.

Contact: David Gilbert
gilbert21@llnl.gov
DOE/Joint Genome Institute

Source: EurekAlert.com
14 September 2006

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1.17  Characterization of capsaicin synthase and identification of its gene (csy1) for pungency factor capsaicin in pepper

ABSTRACT
Capsaicin is a unique alkaloid of the plant kingdom restricted to the genus Capsicum. Capsaicin is the pungency factor, a bioactive molecule of food and of medicinal importance. Capsaicin is useful as a counterirritant, antiarthritic, analgesic, antioxidant, and anticancer agent. Capsaicin biosynthesis involves condensation of vanillylamine and 8-methyl nonenoic acid, brought about by capsaicin synthase (CS). We found that CS activity correlated with genotype-specific capsaicin levels. We purified and characterized CS (~35 kDa). Immunolocalization studies confirmed that CS is specifically localized to the placental tissues of Capsicum fruits. Western blot analysis revealed concomitant enhancement of CS levels and capsaicin accumulation during fruit development. We determined the N-terminal amino acid sequence of purified CS, cloned the CS gene (csy1) and sequenced full-length cDNA (981 bp). The deduced amino acid sequence of CS from full-length cDNA was 38 kDa. Functionality of csy1 through heterologous expression in recombinant Escherichia coli was also demonstrated. Here we report the gene responsible for capsaicin biosynthesis, which is unique to Capsicum spp. With this information on the CS gene, speculation on the gene for pungency is unequivocally resolved. Our findings have implications in the regulation of capsaicin levels in Capsicum genotypes.

Source:
B. C. Narasimha Prasad, Vinod Kumar, H. B. Gururaj, R. Parimalan, P. Giridhar, and G. A. Ravishankar
Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences (PNAS)
September 5, 2006 | vol. 103 | no. 36 | 13315-13320
http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/103/36/13315?etoc

Via SeedQuest.com
5 September 2006

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1.18  New field data supports development of more nitrogen efficient crops that promise to benefit farmers and the environment

Davis, California
The end of summer marks the peak of "dead zone" season when vast swathes of coastal ocean waters become oxygen-starved and uninhabitable by marine life. Much of this problem is due to the presence of excess nutrients, primarily nitrogen, from agricultural fertilizer and industrial runoff. Bringing a sustainable solution to the dead zone problem, Arcadia Biosciences today announced that it has completed multiple field trials demonstrating Nitrogen Use Efficient (NUE) crops that achieve high yields and require 50% less nitrogen fertilizer than conventional crops.

According to the United Nations Environment Program, dead zones are one of the world's top environmental threats. The growth of dead zones in late spring is often accelerated by nitrogen fertilizer runoff, which promotes runaway algae growth in rivers and coastal waters. At the end of the growth cycle, decomposition of the dead algae depletes oxygen from the water, making it virtually uninhabitable by marine life. There are 146 dead zones worldwide, and more than 20 in the U.S. Each year a dead zone estimated at 8,000 square miles forms where the Mississippi River enters The Gulf of Mexico. In the Chesapeake Bay, the largest U.S. estuary, 40 percent of the principal waterway was recently classified as a dead zone. In an effort to reduce the nitrogen pollution that causes dead zones, state legislatures bordering the Chesapeake Bay have requested millions of dollars from State and Federal governments to fund conservation programs aimed at reduced use of nitrogen fertilizer.

Nitrogen fertilizer use has historically increased, and is expected to continue to do so, as agricultural production responds to rising world demand for food and energy.

Arcadia Biosciences' NUE technology allows crops to use nitrogen fertilizer much more efficiently. Arcadia  announced the demonstration of NUE technology in canola plants through a series of eight field trials performed over five growing seasons in three different areas.

In all field trials the NUE canola plants produced high yields with more than a 50% reduction in nitrogen fertilizer application.

Considering the increasing cost of nitrogen fertilizer, which is tied to the rising cost of natural gas, NUE technology gives farmers an economic incentive to reduce nitrogen fertilizer use. Reduction in fertilizer use can have a major positive impact on water quality, greenhouse gas emissions, and the amount of total energy used in agricultural production. The company is working on demonstrating NUE technology in other key crops such as corn, rice, and wheat, and has additional field trials underway.

"In contrast to subsidized conservation programs, NUE technology offers a sustainable way for farmers to reduce nitrogen inputs because it provides an economic incentive to use less fertilizer," said Eric Rey, president and CEO of Arcadia. "We've demonstrated the technology in multiple key agricultural crops and think that it offers a 'win-win' opportunity for farmers and the environment."

Based in Davis, California, with additional facilities in Seattle, Washington and Phoenix, Arizona, Arcadia Biosciences is an agricultural technology company focused on the development of agricultural products that improve the environment and enhance human health.

Source: SeedQuest.com
21 September 2006

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1.19  Pollen-mediated gene flow in maize in real situations of coexistence

Co-existence mapped for Bt, conventional maize

Most markets allow a 0.9% threshold of adventitious presence for genetically modified (GM) organisms. At what distance should GM crops be planted from conventional ones to keep within the threshold? In “Pollen-mediated gene flow in maize in real situations of coexistence”, Joaquima Messeguer and colleagues from various research institutions in Barcelona and Girona, Spain conduct the first study on cross-fertilization between Bt and conventional maize in real situations of coexistence in two regions in which Bt and conventional maize were cultivated. Their findings appear in the latest issue of Plant Biotechnology.

Scientists sampled maize from transgenic fields and analyzed them for the presence of GM DNA using the real-time quantification system-polymerase chain reaction (RTQ-PCR) technique. Researchers found that:
1) in general, the rate of cross-fertilization between GM and conventional plants was higher in the borders, with decreasing rates toward the center of the field;
2) In real conditions of coexistence and in cropping areas with smaller fields, the main factors that determined cross-pollination were the synchronicity of flowering and the distances between the donor and receptor fields;
3) By establishing an index on the two variables, a distance of about 20 m would be sufficient to maintain the 0.9% threshold.

Read the abstract of the article at
http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1467-7652.2006.00207.x
Subscribers to Plant Biotechnology can access the complete article through the same link.

Source: CropBiotech Update via SeedQuest.com
22 September 2006

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2  PUBLICATIONS

2.01  CABI to publish ground-breaking reference book: The Encyclopedia of Seeds

United Kingdom
The Encyclopedia of Seeds is the first authoritative reference work to give an extensive insight into all aspects of seed biology, seed technology and the uses of seeds, and will be published by CABI, on October 6 th 2006.

Edited by Michael Black, J Derek Bewley and Peter Halmer, The Encyclopedia of Seeds was launched at the International Horticulture Conference and Exhibition 2006 in Seoul , South Korea in August 2006, where it generated substantial attention. To date the book has received hundreds of pre-publication orders – an indication of the exceptional interest it has already stirred.

Major seed-science themes of the book include in-depth articles on: anatomy, structure, composition, pathology and the molecular biology, biochemistry, physiology, and ecology of development, dormancy and germination.

Alongside these are articles on seed technology: production and processing for crop cultivation – multiplication, conditioning, handling and storage; the testing of germination, purity, vigour and health; and treatments and enhancements such as priming, coating, disinfection, inoculation and chemical and biological protection.

A third main strand of articles describe the varied uses of seed as sources of food, feed, food additives and beverages, poisons, pharmacological and psychoactive substances, and fibres and other manufactured products.

As editor Michael Black describes it: “The grand aim of The Encyclopedia of Seeds is to weave together the latest fundamental biological knowledge about seeds with the principles of agricultural seed production, processing, storage and sowing, along with the food and industrial uses and the historical, economic and cultural roles of seeds.”

Editor Derek Bewley continues: “No one before has brought together such a comprehensive synthesis of seed science and technology learning into a single volume. We have worked hard to ensure that our book proves a valuable knowledge tool for everyone who works with seeds, and is interested in seeds – including not only basic and applied researchers, but people working in all parts of the seed industry.

And Editor Peter Halmer goes on to highlight the unique features of The Encyclopedia of Seeds: “We have kept in mind the needs of students and professionals in biological and agricultural sciences, in academia and commerce, as well as those who work in administrative, regulatory and other seed-related areas. So information is presented in an easily accessible format, to meet the needs of this wide range of readers. The contents are alphabetically arranged, fully indexed and cross-referenced, to connect related entries and guide readers to follow their individual pathways through the Encyclopedia.”

With contributions from 110 expert authors worldwide, the editors have created 560 authoritative articles, illustrated with tables, figures, maps, black-and-white and colour photographs, further reading matter and 670 supplementary definitions.

Trevor Nicholls, Chief Executive Officer, CABI said: “Here at CABI, we are always extremely interested in books which provide a platform not just to enhance the knowledge and research opportunities of our readers, but to help them be innovative and pioneering in their chosen fields. The Encyclopedia of Seeds is the only publication to cover all the major scientific themes and facets on the subjects of seeds and CABI is extremely excited to be the publisher of this ground-breaking book.”

When launched on October 6 th 2006, CABI will publish The Encyclopedia of Seeds at £185, however a pre-publication price of £140 is being offered. To place an order, please call +44(0)1491 829 400 or email orders@cabi.org quoting NEP or visit http://www.cabi-publishing.org/Bookshop/Index.asp.

Source: SeedQuest.com
19 September 2006

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2.02  New book published:   Plant Conservation Genetics

Edited by Robert J. Henry. The Haworth Press Inc. Binghamton, NY. 11 chapters. xii+ 180 pp. with Index. Soft Cover: ISBN: 978-1-56022-997-1 ISBN10: 1-56022-997-7, Hard Cover: ISBN: 978-1-56022-996-4 ISBN10: 1-56022-996-9

The conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources is of increasing importance globally. Plant Conservation Genetics addresses this issue by providing an extensive overview of this emerging area of science, exploring various practical strategies and the latest technology for conservation of plant biodiversity. Leading specialists and experts discuss topics ranging from the science’s foundations through every aspect of plant conservation genetics. This informative text includes several ex situ (outside of natural habitat) and in situ (inside of natural habitat) techniques for plant conservation useful for researchers, educators, and students.

Plant Conservation Genetics first reviews the importance, opportunities, and numerous advantages of this type of conservation, then explores various effective ex situ (for specific species) and in situ (for certain species on up to full ecosystems and habitats) techniques for conservation. Essential detailed information is presented on collection strategies, botanic gardens, DNA banks, biodiversity management, and genetic resources in seed banks. Each specialist reveals his or her personal experience of working in the field, allowing direct experience to illustrate and provide expert perspective on the key issues of plant conservation. The book is carefully referenced and includes tables and figures to enhance clarity of data.

Plant Conservation Genetics is a comprehensive desktop resource perfect for botanists, plant scientists, agricultural scientists, environmentalists, gardeners, and educators and students.

To purchase or to view additional information including complete table of contents, reviews and more:

http://www.haworthpress.com/store/Product.asp?sku=5546

Contributed by Emma Evans
Centre for Plant Conservation Genetics
Southern Cross University
emma.evans@scu.edu.au

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2.03  FAO’s AGORA initiative widens access to agricultural research by more countries

Rome, Italy
Over 100 of the world’s poorest countries will now be able to access leading food and agriculture journals for little or no cost with the launch of the second phase of the Global Online Research in Agriculture (AGORA) initiative, FAO announced today.

AGORA is a successful public-private partnership between FAO, 37 of the world’s leading science publishers and other key partners including the World Health Organization and Cornell University. Introduced in 2003 and providing access to 69 low-income countries, AGORA today expands to include universities, colleges, research institutes and government ministries as well as non-governmental organizations in an additional 37 lower-middle-income countries.

AGORA responds to the needs of thousands of students, researchers and academics in poorer countries, who continue to face challenges accessing up-to-date information which is vital to their work.

“We have seen from the first phase of this initiative that there is increasing demand for access to vital information by poorer countries. In less than three years, AGORA has already helped bridge the knowledge gap by providing 850 institutions access to over 900 journals in the areas of agriculture and related subjects,” notes Anton Mangstl, Director of FAO’s Library and Documentation Systems Division.

Under the second phase of AGORA launched today, 37 countries with a per capita GNP of between US$ 1000 and US$ 3000 will be eligible. Institutions wishing to register will have a three-month free trial period before they are asked to pay an annual subscription of US$ 1000. FAO will invest all subscription income into local training initiatives to help increase awareness and usage of AGORA amongst librarians and scientists.

“AGORA was an ambitious initiative from the beginning, but thanks to a very effective partnership between publishers and FAO we have made incredible headway with new institutions registering to join everyday,” said AGORA Publishing Coordinator, Maurice Long of the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers.

AGORA is making an important contribution to the achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals by providing essential information to improve the livelihoods of those who need it most.

Source: SeedQuest.com
27 September 2006

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3.  WEB RESOURCES

3.01  Smithsonian offers new tropical biodiversity data and tools on the Web

A new web site at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute will serve as a clearinghouse for all available STRI scientific data. In addition, the site offers a range of tools including: a GIS make-your-own-map service, and a Google-style species search engine. A Map Library offers maps, satellite images and aerial photographs of Panama and the region.

The site already links to a phenomenal amount of information including: Jackie Giacalone-Willis's mammal monitoring data from Barro Colorado Island, Dr. Annette Aiello's insect rearing records, Dr. Joe Wright’s plant phenology data, Bocas del Toro Station's photo-illustrated data base of organisms, the Tree Atlas for the Panama Canal Watershed and data from the Center for Tropical Forest Science’s long term forest dynamics plots, digital records for STRI's complete herbarium collection, as well as long term physical environment and biological monitoring data from the STRI Environmental Sciences Program. And more.

STRI will continue to leverage partnerships with Discover Life, the Inter-American Biodiversity Information Network (IABIN) and others to further our urgent goal of making data available on the web. Discover Life is an independent, non-profit web initiative created by John Pickering at the University of Georgia. Discover Life currently hosts STRI databases for tropical insects, herbarium collections and digital images.

Beginning in late 2006, STRI will become the coordinating institution for the ecosystems thematic network of the IABIN - a regional initiative designed to connect biodiversity databases throughout the Americas and the Caribbean, sponsored by the Organization of American States (OAS) and the World Bank.

The Bioinformatics Office will develop websites and host data for STRI-affiliated individual researchers or projects that do not have the resources to do it themselves. User comments are welcome, but please be patient, as some areas of the site are still under construction.

Access to the STRITM online photo data base is in the works, as is a major project to allow interactive searches of Eastern Pacific and Caribbean Shorefish.

New bioinformatics site: http://biogeodb.stri.si.edu/bioinformatics/ Enjoy!

Also check out our new canopy program site: http://www.stri.org/english/research/facilities/terrestrial/cranes/index.php

The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), a unit of the Smithsonian Institution, headquartered in Panama City, Panama, furthers our understanding of tropical nature and its importance to human welfare, trains students to conduct research in the tropics and promotes conservation by increasing public awareness of the beauty and importance of tropical ecosystems. www.stri.org

Contact: Steve Paton
patons@si.edu
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Source: EurekAlert.org
31 August 2006

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3.02  CGIAR Virtual Library Opened

The CGIAR Information Managers and ICT/KM Program are pleased to invite you to visit the new CGIAR Virtual Library - http://vlibrary.cgiar.org

Get instant access to research on agriculture, hunger, poverty, and the environment using a valuable new resource­the CGIAR Virtual Library. From just one search engine, tap into leading agricultural information databases, including the online libraries of all the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) centers. Use the CGVlibrary to discover resources, go directly to the full text of thousands of publications, and stay current on CGIAR research. Customselect databases you want to search or use the topic-based QuickSets preselected by CGIAR information specialists.

For further informtion contact CGVlibrary@cgiar.org

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3.03  The Seed Biology Place

www.seedbiology.de/index.html
The early stages of a plant’s life are the bailiwick of the Seed Biology Place, a primer from botanist Gerhard Leubner of Frieburg University in Germany. From the site’s 10 chapters, visitors can reap the latest information on seed evolution, dormancy, and other topics. Numerous diagrams will fertilize your understanding of seed anatomy and plant hormone’s role in germination. Chapters also sprout abundant links to abstracts and full-text articles by members of Leubner’s lab and other researchers.

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4.  GRANTS AVAILABLE

4.01  Announcement of International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) Vavilov-Frankel Fellowships for 2007

The Vavilov-Frankel Fellowships Fund aims to encourage the conservation and use of plant genetic resources in developing countries by awarding Fellowships to outstanding young researchers to carry out relevant innovative research at an advanced research institute outside their own country for a period of between three months and one year.

The Fellowships are supported by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), Australia and Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., United States, a DuPont Company.

The closing date for this year’s Fellowships is 6 November 2006. Download guidelines and the application form here.

Announcements, application forms and guidelines for preparation of research proposals are also available from IPGRI’s web site http://www.ipgri.cgiar.org/training/vavilov.htm . If you have any problem down-loading files or if you would like to have additional information on the Scheme, please contact Elisabetta Rossetti, contact point for the Fellowships, at e.rossetti@cgiar.org.

View the full announcement in PDF form.

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4.02  Rockefeller Travel Grants Available for International Plant and Genome Conference XV

The meeting will take place January 13-17, 2007 in San Diego, USA. The Rockefeller Foundation will support five scientists from Africa to attend the event. For more information on the grant, contact Dr. Katrien M. Devos, University of Georgia, Athens, USA, at kdevos@uga.edu. Application deadline is September 10, 2006. Other organizations offering travel grants can be viewed through http://www.intl-pag.org/15/15-grants.html. For the full announcement of the conference, visit http://www.intl-pag.org.

Source: CropBiotech Update 25 August 2006

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4.03  Scholarship in Plant Breeding Available to MSc Graduates

The African Centre for Crop Improvement at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa offers this prestigious scholarship to young, bright African scientists who are keen to make Plant Breeding their career. The aim of the ACCI is to train African plant breeders in African, on African crops. This involves 2 years study at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and 3 years field research in the students’ home countries at their home institution.

Applicants must:
-Be under 40 years of age;
-Possess a MSc in either Plant Breeding, Plant Genetics, Plant Pathology, Crop Science or Horticultural Science;
-Have a position in their home country – government scientist, NGO scientist or university lecturer;
-Be from one of the following countries: Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique, Namibia or South Africa.

For more information on how to apply, visit the Africancrops.net website.

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5.  POSITION ANNOUNCEMENTS

5.01  Faculty Position  Assistant Professor

Plant Evolutionary Genomics
University of California, Riverside

The Department of Botany & Plant Sciences at the University of California Riverside invites applications to fill a tenure-track 9-month position at the assistant professor level in Plant Evolutionary Genomics.  Possible areas of specialization include plant molecular population genetics, molecular evolution, genome evolution, evolutionary genetics, and comparative genomics.  The research could focus on topics such as, but not limited to, molecular analysis of adaptations, the nature and rate of evolutionary change in genes and genomes, molecular genetic analysis of plant speciation or plant domestication, hybridization, or evolution of invasiveness. 
Applicants interested in theory, modeling and data mining, as well as those conducting experimental or descriptive studies will be considered.  The candidate will hold a faculty position as well as a joint appointment in the Agricultural Experiment Station.  The successful candidate will be expected to establish and maintain a vigorous, innovative research program, and have a strong commitment to excellence in teaching at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.  The review of applications will begin November 15, 2006, with appointment as early as July 1, 2007.  Applicants must hold a Ph.D with a minimum of one year of postdoctoral experience.  Applications will be accepted until the position is filled.

Interested individuals should submit the following:  (1) a curriculum vitae, (2) a brief statement of research and teaching interests, (3) samples of relevant publications, and (4) have three letters of recommendation sent to:
Chair, Plant Evolutionary Genomics Search Committee
c/o Department of Botany and Plant Sciences
2118 Batchelor Hall
University of California, Riverside
Riverside, CA 92521-0124
Email: bpssearch@ucr.edu
FAX (951) 827-4437
Information about the Department is available at http://www.plantbiology.ucr.edu/ (see also http://www.cnas.ucr.edu/ and http://www.biology.ucr.edu/academic_programs/grad.html). The University of California, Riverside has an active career partner program, and is an Affirmative Action equal opportunity employer committed to excellence through diversity.

Submitted by Norman Ellstrand
ellstrand@ucr.edu

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5.02  Position Announcement
Wheat Breeding and Genetics, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences,
 Michigan State University

Position:
The Department of Crop and Soil Sciences in the College of Agriculture and natural Resources at Michigan State University invites applications for a 12-month, tenure track Assistant Professor Position in the area of plant breeding and genetics.  The successful candidate will have research (75%) and teaching (25%) responsibilities, consistent with the missions of the appointment.  The position will be available January 1, 2007.

Responsibilities:
Rearch responsibilities will include basic and applied research in the area of winter wheat breeding and genetics. A major objective of the applied research will be the development of improved varieties of soft white and red wheats for Michigan. Current major components of the breeding program include performance, milling and baking quality, sprouting resistance, winterhardiness, and resistance to diseases and insects.

Support for this position has come from state and federal sources and through grants from the farmers and processing industries of the state.  A substantial “Soft white wheat research endowment” is being developed that will also provide financial support.  The incumbent will be expected to maintain close working relationships with the wheat utilization industries and farmers and to collaborate with geneticists, agronomists, plant pathologists, plant physiologists, and food scientists.  The incumbent will be expected to compete successfully for extramural funding and to maintain a broadly based program with both state and national foci.

Basic research activities will depend on the incumbent’s training, expertise and interest. They could include studies in any of the following areas: molecular, cellular, physiological or population genetics; cytogenetics; or quantitative genetic theory.  Publication of research results and the training of graduate students will be required.  The incumbent will teach an undergraduate course in plant genetics and will also have graduate teaching responsibilities.

Qualifications:
A doctoral degree in plant sciences with emphasis on plant breeding and genetics is required. Experience with cereal crops is preferred; postdoctoral experience is desirable.

Application:
Qualified individuals should submit a letter of application that discusses their research and teaching interests as well as their professional goals, along with resume, transcripts, and contact information for three references on-line to Ms. Darlene Johnson, johns146@msu.edu at the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI  48824.  For additional information contact Russ Freed at freed@msu.edu or 517-432-2214.  Deadline for application is November 10, 2006 or until a suitable candidate is identified. “MSU is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Institution”.

Contributed by Russell Freed
Michigan State University
http://www.msu.edu/~freed/

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

NEW ANNOUNCEMENTS

10-12 October 2006. Expert Consultation on: Germplasm Enhancement and Broadening the Genetic Base of Crop Varieties on-farm in Support of Sustainable Agriculture Production. Institute of Crop Sciences of Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing China. The consultation meeting is being organised by the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) and will be hosted by the Institute of Crop Sciences of Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), Beijing, China. IPGRI East Asia Office will provide all necessary assistance for making logistic arrangements for the meeting.

Background:
It is now increasingly accepted that future crop productivity increases can only be achieved sustainably through an increased use of PGRFA, including the wild relatives and exotic materials, using different approaches of plant breeding. Therefore, knowledge, access and use of diversity in cultivated and wild relatives are essential for broadening the genetic base of cultivars to sustain improvement. In the past, a great amount of diversity has been assembled ex situ and maintained in situ on farm. However, one of the major problems hindering the utilization of PGR is how to get the unadapted genetic diversity into a form that can be easily be used by breeders and farmers. Much available germplasm in the primary, secondary and tertiary genepools of crops is not in a form that most breeders can easily use. The advances made in technology can help in this process. Biotechnology will provide essential and innovative support to standard plant breeding in the years to come. Plant breeding utilizing genetic enhancement, and assisted by biotechnology, will be used in future to develop new intensive-culture crops from wild or weedy species, or from landraces and will also be used someday to allow old crops to produce new products.

Purpose of expert consultation:
This expert consultation is being convened to discuss:
1.Methodologies for pre-breeding/germplasm enhancement and broadening the genetic base of crop varieties in the past;
2.Need for initiating collaborative activities at global/regional level;
3.Identification of crops and partners for proposal development;
4.Agreement on key activities and framework for proposal development; and
5.Identification of suitable donors for funding.

For technical information, contact:
V. Ramanatha Rao
Senior Scientist, Facilitating Use of Genetic Resources, Understanding and Managing Biodiversity Pogramme, IPGRI-APO, Serdang, Malaysia. v.rao@cgiar.org
Prem Mathur
Scientist, Understanding and Managing Biodiversity Pogramme, IPGRI Office for South Asia, NASC complex, Pusa Campus, New Delhi, India. p.mathura@cgiar.org

For logistic arrangements, contact:
Zhang Zongwen
Coordinator, IPGRI East Asia Office, c/o Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing, China z.zhang@cgiar.org

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

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17-27 October 2006. Curso Internacional de Pre-Melhoramento de Plantas [International Course on Pre-Breeding of Plants], Brasilia, Brazil.  http://www.cenargen.embrapa.br/pre-melhoramento/Por/prog_por.htm

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

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[Editor’s note: The following announcement has been included in the past several editions of the newsletter. However, several people have sent reminders about the workshop, so additional details are given here.]
 
8 - 9 February 2007.Plant breeding: A vital capacity for U.S. national goals, Raleigh, NC, USA. http://www.plantbreedingworkshop.ncsu.edu

A national workshop

Second Announcement
Co-Organizers:
The Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES), USDA; and
The Departments of Crop Science and Horticultural Sciences, North Carolina State University

This workshop will establish the Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee as a long-term forum for leadership regarding issues, problems, and opportunities of strategic importance to the public- and private-sector U.S. national plant breeding effort. 

Workshop objectives
1) Develop an initial work plan to respond effectively to current challenges in the discipline;
2) Establish the Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee, including first election of officers.

Who should attend this workshop
-Both public- and private-sector plant breeders, at all career stages.
-Multidisciplinary colleagues and others interested in the future of plant breeding.
-Persons willing to be active participants:
Participants will be asked to commit to 1.5 days of active concentration and discussion.
-International participants are welcome.  This is a U.S.-oriented committee, but the organizers expect it to be a relevant model for other countries.   Information on status of plant breeding in other countries and international entities is relevant.  Posters on these subjects are welcome.

For more information about the workshop, contact:
Ann Marie Thro, CSREES, 1 202  401 6702, athro@csrees.usda.gov; or,
Tom Stalker, Crop Science Dept., NCSU, 1 919 513 2929, tom_stalker@ncsu.edu.

Venue
Workshop sessions will be at the Embassy Suites Hotel, 201 Harrison Oaks Boulevard, Cary, NC, 27513, Tel.:  919/677-1840.  The hotel is located across from the SAS Institute, and offers free shuttle service to the Raleigh Durham International Airport.

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10-12 October 2006. Expert Consultation on: Germplasm Enhancement and Broadening the Genetic Base of Crop Varieties on-farm in Support of Sustainable Agriculture Production. Institute of Crop Sciences of Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing China. The consultation meeting is being organised by the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) and will be hosted by the Institute of Crop Sciences of Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), Beijing, China. IPGRI East Asia Office will provide all necessary assistance for making logistic arrangements for the meeting.

Background:
It is now increasingly accepted that future crop productivity increases can only be achieved sustainably through an increased use of PGRFA, including the wild relatives and exotic materials, using different approaches of plant breeding. Therefore, knowledge, access and use of diversity in cultivated and wild relatives are essential for broadening the genetic base of cultivars to sustain improvement. In the past, a great amount of diversity has been assembled ex situ and maintained in situ on farm. However, one of the major problems hindering the utilization of PGR is how to get the unadapted genetic diversity into a form that can be easily be used by breeders and farmers. Much available germplasm in the primary, secondary and tertiary genepools of crops is not in a form that most breeders can easily use. The advances made in technology can help in this process. Biotechnology will provide essential and innovative support to standard plant breeding in the years to come. Plant breeding utilizing genetic enhancement, and assisted by biotechnology, will be used in future to develop new intensive-culture crops from wild or weedy species, or from landraces and will also be used someday to allow old crops to produce new products.

Purpose of expert consultation:
This expert consultation is being convened to discuss:
1.Methodologies for pre-breeding/germplasm enhancement and broadening the genetic base of crop varieties in the past;
2.Need for initiating collaborative activities at global/regional level;
3.Identification of crops and partners for proposal development;
4.Agreement on key activities and framework for proposal development; and
5.Identification of suitable donors for funding.

For technical information, contact:
V. Ramanatha Rao
Senior Scientist, Facilitating Use of Genetic Resources, Understanding and Managing Biodiversity Pogramme, IPGRI-APO, Serdang, Malaysia. v.rao@cgiar.org
Prem Mathur
Scientist, Understanding and Managing Biodiversity Pogramme, IPGRI Office for South Asia, NASC complex, Pusa Campus, New Delhi, India. p.mathura@cgiar.org

For logistic arrangements, contact:
Zhang Zongwen
Coordinator, IPGRI East Asia Office, c/o Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing, China z.zhang@cgiar.org

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

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REPEAT ANNOUNCEMENTS

* 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

* 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)
 
* 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 http://www.icar.org.in/irc2006/ or contact pramodag@vsnl.com for more information.

*10-12 October 2006. Advancing renewable energy: an American rural renaissance. St. Louis, Missouri. http://www.AdvancingRenewableEnergy.com.

* 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

* 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: gejeta@purdue.edu)
http://www.agry.purdue.edu/strigaconference/

* 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.

* 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: www.icarda.org (see: Seed Systems Support), Wageningen International: www.wi.wur.nl (see: international education at Wageningen UR, courses), or the Generation Challenge Program: www.generationcp.org (see: capacity building corner, training courses).

* 13-17 November 2006. Cereal science and technology for feeding ten billion people: genomics era and beyond, Lleida, Spain. www.eucarpia.com or joseluis.molina@irta.es.

* 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/.

* 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. http://www.plantbreedingworkshop.ncsu.edu/.

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

* 24-28 June 2007. The 9th International Pollination Symposium on Plant-Pollinator Relationships-Diversity in Action. Scheman Center, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. The official theme is: "Host-Pollinator Biology Relationships - Diversity in Action." The Conference webpage can be viewed at
http://www.ucs.iastate.edu/mnet/plantbee/home.html

[Editor’s note: Sept. 2006 update contributed by Jennifer J Tabke (tabke@iastate.edu)]
We’re pleased to announce that the website for the 9th International Pollination Symposium has been updated. Note: The Symposium organizers are now accepting poster submissions online at the website linked above. We are no longer accepting submissions for oral presentations.We hope to host you in Iowa next June!
The International Pollination Symposium Local Organizing Committee

* 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, Margaret Smith, and Anne Marie Thro. The editor will advise subscribers one to two weeks ahead of each edition, in order to set deadlines for contributions.

REVIEW PAST NEWSLETTERS ON THE WEB: Past issues of the Plant Breeding Newsletter are now available on the web. The address is: http://www.fao.org/WAICENT/FAOINFO/AGRICULT/AGP/AGPC/doc/services/pbn.html. 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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