PLANT BREEDING NEWS

EDITION 172

31 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  International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) changes its name to Bioversity International to reflect new strategy
1.02  2006 World Food Prize winners opened Brazil’s “closed lands”
1.03  Iowa State University to study impacts of more energy from agriculture
1.04  Research is needed to make biofuels sustainable
1.05  Namibia turns to Jatropha for fuel
1.06  Rice institute takes aim at poverty in Asia and Africa
1.07  Senadhira Rice Research Award for 2006
1.08  Egypt shows record rice yields in 2005
1.09  IRD works on RYMV resistance in rice
1.10  Improved maize, wheat varieties lower farmers’ risks
1.11  Nepal Hill Maize Research Project reaches out to Nepal’s poorest farmers with new varieties
1.12  CIMMYT researchers say participatory research supports their achievements
1.13  DuPont and CIMMYT announce $1.3 million maize collaboration for Africa
1.14  Asia farmers developing better mungbean
1.15  Adding value to cassava for starch markets
1.16  Genome Mapping Facility opens at the University of Missouri-Columbia
1.17  U.S. National Science Foundation supports 24 new projects to get at the root of how genes control plant growth
1.18  Challenges still lay ahead for lupin breeding
1.19  Indonesia works on agarwood
1.20  Uganda 'needs biotech law' to save banana sector
1.21  Genome archaeology illuminates the genetic engineering debate
1.22  Efficacy of a special screened greenhouse in reducing maize outcrossing
1.23  Pollinators help one-third of world's crop production
1.24  Philippines gene bank damaged by typhoon
1.25  Reflections on the first meeting of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
1.26  Impacts of genetic bottlenecks on soybean genome diversity
1.27  BT corn – a solution to mycotoxin contamination
1.28  CSIRO research indicates that insect-resistant cotton may also be water efficient
1.29  Research tracks, controls fruit vitamin C levels
1.30  Plant acid contributes to blight resistance
1.31  "Where Will This Crop Grow?" - A computer program can now tell us
1.32  Gene switch makes crops drought-resistant when needed
1.33  Purdue University's new biochip may help create more productive crop varieties
1.34  NSF awards UGA $4.1 million grant to study so-called 'jumping genes' in maize
1.35  Sunflower speciation highlights roles for transposable elements in evolution
1.36  Rice protein change makes crop virus resistant
1.37  Rye protein shown to bind to ice
1.38  Update 6-2006 of FAO-BiotechNews (Selected articles).

2.  PUBLICATIONS
2.01  New report available from Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology and NASDA workshop on peaceful coexistence among growers of GE, conventional and organic crops
2.02  National Academies advisory: Native African vegetables
2.03  Intellectual Property Management in Health and Agricultural Innovation: A Handbook of Best Practices

3.  WEB RESOURCES
3.01  Global Facilitation Unit for Underutilized Species: What's going on in the area of underutilized species?
3.02  The soybean breeder’s toolbox

4  GRANTS AVAILABLE
(None submitted)

5  POSITION ANNOUNCEMENTS
(None submitted)

6  MEETINGS, COURSES AND WORKSHOPS

7  EDITOR'S NOTES

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1.  NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH NOTES

1.01  International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) changes its name to Bioversity International to reflect new strategy

Rome, Italy
October 13, 2006
Special Message from the Director General, Dr Emile Frison

I am pleased to inform you that the Board of Trustees of the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) has recently selected and approved a new name for the organization - "Bioversity International" or "Bioversity" for short.

Bioversity International echoes our new strategy, which focuses on improving people’s lives through biodiversity research. The new name will take effect from 1st December 2006.

IPGRI’s agenda has evolved over the past 10 years. At the end of 2004, IPGRI developed a new strategy entitled 'Diversity for Well-being: Making the Most of Agricultural Biodiversity'. IPGRI then decided to review ways to better reflect its focus and work through its branding, which includes a name change.

In particular, IPGRI’s new strategy recognizes the following changes:
-IPGRI no longer focuses just on plants but on biodiversity that can benefit people. IPGRI will continue to have its core strengths in plants but will apply its skills and knowledge to a broader range of biodiversity for improving people’s well-being.
-Our new strategy focuses on people and their livelihoods rather than on genetic resources per se. The paradigm has shifted from one in which our success is measured by the achievement of conservation targets to one where impact on people’s well-being is the yard-stick.
-IPGRI has moved from a focus on ex situ conservation of plant genetic resources to a wider agenda including the use of biodiversity to improve livelihoods. 
-IPGRI has taken a stronger international role in supporting decisions and policies that impact on better conservation and use of biodiversity. 

I would like to thank many of our donors, partners and colleagues who contributed towards the surveys we conducted over the last year. The surveys were an important input into how IPGRI can better portray its strategic focus.

I look forward to our new focus having a positive impact and leading to new opportunities to improve the lives of people around the world.

Yours sincerely

Emile Frison

New strategy: http://www.ipgri.cgiar.org/Publications/1066/new%20strategy.pdf

Source: SeedQuest.com

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1.02  2006 World Food Prize winners opened Brazil’s “closed lands”

Recipients recognized for fostering “one of the great achievements of agricultural science in the 20th century”

Washington, DC
The recipients of the 2006 World Food Prize were announced June 15 at a ceremony at the U.S. State Department featuring Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr. Norman E. Borlaug and hosted by the Hon. Josette Sheeran Shiner, Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs.

World Food Prize Foundation President Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn announced that the three men who will share the 2006 World Food Prize are:
-former Brazil Minister of Agriculture H.E. Alysson Paolinelli
-former Technical Director of EMBRAPA Cerrado Research Center Mr. Edson Lobato, both of Brazil
-Washington Representative of the IRI Research Institute, Dr. A. Colin McClung of the United States.

The $250,000 World Food Prize was established in 1986 by Dr. Borlaug. Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, it was created to be the foremost international award for achievements that significantly increase the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.

Ambassador Quinn noted that this year marks the first time in its twenty-year history that the World Food Prize will be awarded to three recipients. Lobato and Paolinelli are the first World Food Prize Laureates from Brazil, while McClung is the eleventh Laureate from the United States. Quinn added that the 2006 recipients each played a vital role in transforming the Cerrado – a region of vast, once infertile tropical high plains stretching across Brazil – into highly productive cropland. Though they worked independently of one another, in different decades and in different fields, their collective efforts over the past 50 years have unlocked Brazil’s tremendous potential for food production. Their advancements in soil science and policy leadership made agricultural development possible in the Cerrado, a region named from Portuguese words meaning “closed, inaccessible land.”

“This increased agricultural production has helped improve economic and social conditions in Brazil, while their research continues to promote agricultural development and poverty alleviation in other tropical and sub-tropical countries throughout the world,” said Quinn. Quinn noted that from 1970 to 2000 Brazil’s agricultural production more than tripled while its area of cultivated land grew less than 1.5 times.

Dr. Borlaug, who is credited with saving more than one billion lives as the Father of the Green Revolution, called the development of the Cerrado “one of the great achievements of agricultural science in the 20th century, which has transformed a wasteland into one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world.”

The World Food Prize will be formally presented at a ceremony on October 19, 2006 at the Iowa State Capitol Building in Des Moines. The ceremony will be held as part of the World Food Prize International Symposium, entitled “The Green Revolution Redux: Can We Replicate the Single Greatest Period of Food Production in All Human History?” Follow the links for more information about the Symposium and Laureate Award Ceremony.

Laureates’ Achievement

Dr. A. Colin McClung’s pioneering soil fertility research in the 1950s analyzed the complexity of Cerrado soils and showed that a transformation of the region was possible. His work uncovered an innovative soil improvement process to correct the drastic nutrient depletion of the Cerrado and counteract aluminum toxicity in the region’s highly acidic soils. Dr. McClung concluded that, with a combination of lime, micronutrients and traditional fertilizer, the Cerrado could be made suitable for production of crops as diverse as coffee, soybeans, citrus and corn.

His findings paved the way for agricultural development in the Cerrado in the 1970s under the direction of H.E. Alysson Paolinelli. Beginning his career as Secretary of Agriculture in the state of Minas Gerais in the early 1970s, Paolinelli created a new model for rural credit and other development programs. He envisioned and oversaw the creation of the institutional and financial infrastructure that enabled crop and livestock production to flourish in the Cerrado. His focus on the Cerrado continued as Minister of Agriculture from 1974 to 1979, when he was instrumental in establishing the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA) to provide a national system of research, technical, and administrative support to farmers and agribusinesses. Paolinelli also provided leadership in establishing the Cerrado Research Center as part of EMBRAPA in 1975. This center’s work, in concert with that of other organizations and businesses, set the stage for the Cerrado’s continued development into an agricultural powerhouse of the 21st century.

Mr. Edson Lobato was a leader in evaluating and carrying out studies of Cerrado soil fertility and agricultural production, further expanding upon the work of McClung and Paolinelli. During the course of his 30-year career as an agronomy engineer and administrator at EMBRAPA (1974 to 2004), Lobato led Cerrado soil fertility and agronomy research as it expanded to include soil microbiology, soil management, and crop management. The success of Lobato’s diligence and leadership, coupled with the efforts of his colleagues, allowed for an expansion of agricultural development on the Cerrado.

BACKGROUND ON Brazil’s Cerrado Region
From only 200,000 hectares of arable land in 1955, the Cerrado had well over 40 million hectares in cultivation by the year 2005. The phenomenal achievement of transforming the infertile Cerrado region into highly productive land over a span of fifty years, the world’s single largest increase in farmland since the settlement of the U.S. Midwest, has been hailed as a far-reaching milestone in agricultural science.
The Cerrado is an arid brush savanna stretching over 120 million hectares across central Brazil from the western plains to the northeastern coast. With soils characterized by high acidity and aluminum levels that are toxic to most crops, Brazilian farmers had long referred to the area as campos cerrados – “closed land,” with little promise for sustaining production.

The Cerrado’s potential was first unlocked by applications of lime and phosphate-rich fertilizers, which together reduced acidity and improved fertility in the soil. Initial tests by Colin McClung in the 1950s dramatically increased yields of a variety of crops within one growing season. Later agronomy research and extension work with farmers was led by Edson Lobato. His efforts and those of his colleagues further refined fertilizer and soil nutrient applications in the Cerrado.

The promise of improved soils spurred nationwide reforms of agricultural research and extension programs on the federal and state levels. Organized under Minister of Agriculture Alysson Paolinelli, Brazil’s federal agricultural research organization EMBRAPA has emerged as a global leader for improving degraded tropical soils and breeding enhanced crops. EMBRAPA is the source of 30 percent of all public research in Latin America, and it maintains strong partnerships with research institutions and universities internationally.

With improved soil chemistry and the support of flexible research institutions, plant scientists in Brazil have developed high-yielding crop varieties for the Cerrado that are more tolerant of aluminum toxicity and acquire soil micronutrients more effectively. In recent years, agronomists have also refined no-till or direct planting technologies, reducing environmental degradation and maintaining higher levels of soil organic matter.

The Cerrado region now provides 54 percent of all soybeans harvested in Brazil, 28 percent of the country’s corn, and 59 percent of its coffee. Cerrado agriculture has also diversified to include rice, cotton, cassava, and sugar. For all crops, average yields in the Cerrado are higher than in other areas, with harvests reaching 4.8 tons per hectare of soybeans and 11 tons per hectare of corn. In addition, the Cerrado supports 55 percent of Brazil’s beef industry.

The increased production of a variety of crops and livestock has made food more available and more affordable in Brazil. In the past 25 years, food prices have steadily dropped by an average of 5 percent annually. At the same time, the standard of living for many rural communities has been enhanced, with life-quality indicators rising 47 percent from 1970 through the 1990s.

“Eventually, the Cerrado technology, or one similar to it, will move into the llanos in Colombia and Venezuela and hopefully, into central and southern Africa where similar soil problems are found,” said Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and World Food Prize Founder Dr. Norman E. Borlaug. “This will bring tens of millions of additional acres, previously marginal for agriculture, into high-yield agriculture. Hundreds of millions of people will benefit from this work.”

Source: SeedQuest.com
19 October 2006

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1.03  Iowa State University to study impacts of more energy from agriculture

Ames, Iowa
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has provided $275,000 in research funding to the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at Iowa State University to provide estimates of the impact on farmers, consumers and international trade from increased energy production from agriculture.
 
“This research is critical for national leaders who are making decisions about investments in renewable fuels,” said Bruce Babcock, director of CARD and professor of economics. “Right now people are asking how high the price of corn is going to go and what higher corn prices mean for the competitiveness of U.S. livestock producers and our ability to meet export demand. This research will help to provide answers to these questions.”

Currently, estimates of how much energy can be obtained from agricultural sources are based simply on projections of trends and estimates of current and planned biofuel facilities. The approach taken by CARD analysts and collaborators will be to calculate the break-even prices of energy feedstocks and then use these prices to determine the amount of feedstock that will be produced in the long run.

For example, for any given price of crude oil, the expected market value for unleaded gasoline can be calculated. The analysts can find the market price that would make E85 ethanol an equal substitute to gasoline for flex-fuel vehicle owners. Using this ethanol price, they can calculate the corn price that ethanol facilities can pay while still covering their costs of production. Then they can estimate how much corn U.S. agriculture would produce at the given corn price.

With this method, the analysts intend to estimate supply curves for cellulosic feedstock and biodiesel derived from oilseeds, as well as for corn-based ethanol. The resulting information should be useful in determining which agricultural energy sources would be profitable to develop under a given set of incentives and energy prices and which resources would not be profitable for energy development under those conditions.

The project also includes an assessment of how shifts of agricultural commodities to energy sources might affect trade and what the implications may be of financial investment in ethanol and biodiesel facilities for income and employment in rural America.

Source: SeedQuest.com
26 October 2006

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1.04  Research is needed to make biofuels sustainable

Policies in favour of biofuels ­ made from maize, sugar cane or other plant matter ­ need to take into account their full environmental impact, writes Jeffrey McNeely in this article.

He calls for better science and a bigger role for genetic modification of plants to make biofuel production more efficient and environmentally sound.

The European Union recently called for biofuels to meet 5.75 per cent of transportation needs by 2010. McNeely calls this a "classic good news – bad news story".

He points out that using ethanol in place of oil reduces total carbon dioxide emissions by only 13 per cent. In addition, he says, the grain needed to fill the tank of a large 4-wheel drive vehicle with ethanol fuel could feed one person for a year.

Much of Europe's demand for biofuel will come from Brazil and South-East Asia, where sugarcane, soybean and oil palm plantations are replacing rainforests.

More research is needed to understand how nature produces energy, says McNeely, and the public should be open to the advantages that biotechnology could bring.

A Swiss company, for example, is working on a genetically engineered maize that can help convert itself into ethanol.

In addition, fuel-efficiency standards should be raised as an immediate step towards reducing dependency on oil.

Source: BBC Online via SciDev.net
29 September 2006

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1.05  Namibia turns to Jatropha for fuel

Jatropha curcas has been grown in Namibia for decades. Soon, its oils can be added to diesel and used by farmers to run their tractors and generators. It may also replace paraffin, which is used for cooking and lighting. Jatropha plants do not require irrigation, and nuts, from which the oil is extracted, can be harvested in the third year after planting. All these make the plant an attractive source of fuel, and, according to an article in The Namibian, have prompted the government to establish a Bio-Oil Energy committee to see to it that about 63,000 hectares of the bush can be planted by 2013 to earn this new agro-industry N$189 million a year.

Blending Jatropha oil with diesel is now common practice in southern Africa. In line with developing the industry, member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are embarking on a regional strategy to use bio-fuels like Jatropha, maize, and sugar on a larger scale.

Read the complete story at http://allafrica.com/stories/200609050449.html.

From CropBiotech Update 8 September 2006:

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

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1.06  Rice institute takes aim at poverty in Asia and Africa

[NEW DELHI] The main research institute devoted to the world's most important crop will fundamentally change its approach in order to reduce poverty in Africa and Asia.

Robert Ziegler, director-general of the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), announced the plans at the International Rice Congress in Delhi yesterday (9 October).

Instead of investing in the most intensive farming systems to boost overall production, he said the institute would focus on lifting people out of poverty by investing in "difficult rain-fed environments".

Rice farmers who depend on rain rather than irrigation are most likely to be poor, and are also more vulnerable to droughts and floods.

Ziegler unveiled a five-point strategy that will aim to alleviate poverty, improve human health and nutrition, protect the environment, improve access to information and conserve genetic resources.

"If we want to do something about poverty, it is clear that we must invest in rice," he said, pointing out that about 90 per cent of the world's rice is produced and consumed in Asia, where more than two-thirds of the world's poor live.

He said IRRI would also invest in sub-Saharan Africa, the "other major concentration of poverty".

Indian crop scientist M. S. Swaminathan says rice will be increasingly important in the coming decades because it is so versatile and can grow at many latitudes and altitudes.

"[It] can become the anchor of food security in a world confronted with the challenge of climate change," he says.

Swaminathan led India's Green Revolution, a boost in wheat production that was driven by the introduction of high-yielding varieties from Mexico in the 1960s. He said global rice production would need to rise from 600 million tonnes today to 800 million tonnes by 2025 to meet the needs of a rising human population.

This would require new high-yield and stress-resistant rice varieties, he said, adding that farmers could improve incomes and nutrition by combining rice and livestock farming with aquaculture.

But efforts to boost rice production face several challenges, such as competition for water from growing urban populations, impending climate change, diminishing funding from Asian donors and a declining number of rice researchers.

Researchers at IRRI are currently working on four major research projects to develop better varieties of rice.

These include varieties that tolerate drought; that trap nitrogen from the air and convert it into protein; and that grow bigger and faster (see Plan to boost rice photosynthesis with inserted genes).
T. V. Padma

Source: SciDev.net
10 October 2006

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1.07  Senadhira Rice Research Award for 2006

New Delhi, India - In 1977, a promising rice breeder named M.A. Salam began his career at the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI). Almost 30 years on, he is one of the country's most influential agricultural scientists, with rice varieties he has helped develop grown on over 4 million hectares--more than one-third of Bangladesh's entire rice-growing area.

Dr. Salam, now chief scientific officer and head of BRRI's Plant Breeding Division, today received the Senadhira Rice Research Award for 2006 at a ceremony at the International Rice Congress in New Delhi, India. He won the award for his outstanding contributions to the development of varieties for the rainfed lowlands of Bangladesh.

Ren Wang, deputy director general for research at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), noted that Dr. Salam--who studied for his Ph.D. at IRRI in 1985-88--has devoted his career to the service of Bangladeshi rice farmers, in particular those in marginal and difficult production areas.

"Dr. Salam offers an excellent example of how international support for agricultural research directly benefits the national agricultural research systems, such as that of Bangladesh," said Dr. Wang.

As well as co-developing popular rice variety BR11--currently grown on more than 2 million hectares in Bangladesh--Dr. Salam had a strong hand in breeding 16 other varieties. These included several varieties for deepwater rice areas, one of which allowed farmers in low-lying areas to grow dry-season rice and thus dramatically increase their production. Dr. Salam is also involved in breeding submergence-tolerant, arsenic-tolerant, and iron-rich rice, as well as salt-tolerant rice varieties for coastal areas.

Just as important, Dr. Salam pioneered the use of farmer participatory breeding in evaluating breeding lines for unfavorable environments. This approach, in which scientists work hand-in-hand with farmers to choose promising lines, has advanced the development of varieties for saline and stagnant water conditions.

The award is named after Dharmawansa Senadhira, one of IRRI's most successful rice breeders, who tragically died in a traffic accident in Bangladesh in 1998.

IRRI has also announced the 2006 winners of the International Rice Research Notes (IRRN) Best Article Awards. IRRN celebrates its 30th birthday this year and, according to Dr. Wang, is one of IRRI's most important publications. "IRRN offers an important opportunity for rice researchers in developing countries to connect with each other and publish their own findings," he said. "As a forum for sharing information, IRRN helps advance rice-related knowledge and technology."

This year's winners, in five categories, are listed below. For more information about IRRN, visit www.irri.org/irrn.
Crop management and physiology. Contribution of on-farm assessment of improved varieties and crop management to yield of deepwater rice
A. Ghosh and B.N. Singh, Central Rice Research Institute, Cuttack, India (December 2005)

-Soil, nutrient, and water management. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi associated with upland rice in a rotational shifting cultivation system
S. Youpensuk and N. Yimyam, Graduate School, Saisamorn Lumyong, Biology Department, Faculty of Science, Chiang Mai University; B. Rerkasem, Agronomy Department, Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand; and B. Dell, School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology, Murdoch University, Perth 6150, Australia (December 2005)

-Pest science and management. Endo- and ectoparasites of the Philippine rice field rat, Rattus tanezumi Temminck, on PhilRice farms
M.M. Antolin, R.C. Joshi, L.S. Sebastian, L.V. Marquez, and U.G. Duque, Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), Maligaya, Muñoz, Nueva Ecija 3119; and C.J. Domingo, College of Veterinary Science and Medicine, Central Luzon State University, Muñoz, Nueva Ecija 3120, Philippines (June 2006)

-Genetic resources. Dhanrasi, a new lowland rice variety with Oryza rufipogon genes for improving yield potential and resistance to biotic stresses
T. Ram, Directorate of Rice Research (DRR), Rajendranagar, Hyderabad; N.D. Majumder, Indian Institute of Pulses Research, Kanpur; and B. Mishra, DRR, Rajendranagar, Hyderabad 500030, India (June 2006)

-Agricultural engineering. Effect of hermetic storage in the super bag on seed quality and milled rice quality of different varieties in Bac Lieu, Vietnam

Diep Chan Ben, Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Bac Lieu Province; Phan Van Liem and Nguyen Tam Dao, Bac Lieu Seed Center, Bac Lieu Province, Vietnam; M. Gummert and J.F. Rickman, IRRI (December 2006)
Contact: Duncan Macintosh
d.macintosh@cgiar.org

Source: EurekAlert.org
9 October 2006

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1.08  Egypt shows record rice yields in 2005

Egypt has achieved record rice yields with newly-developed hybrid rice varieties developed locally under a project led by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). These varieties, which include SK 2034 and SK 2046, outperformed the best local varieties by 20-30 percent. These hybrids are intended to help Egypt produce more rice with less water and less land.

The project is implemented by the Cairo Agricultural Research Center and the Rice Research and Training Center (RRTC). Rice yields have risen indeed, thanks to training, as well as improved crop management (ICM). The latter includes practices such as setting planting dates to expose crops to higher solar radiation, optimizing seeding density, balanced plant nutrition, and careful water management.

Read the complete press release at http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000387/index.html.

From CropBiotech Update 8 September 2006:

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

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1.09  IRD works on RYMV resistance in rice

France's Institut de Recherche pour le Developpement (IRD) is currently working on rice varieties engineered to be resistant to Rice Yellow Mottle Virus (RYMV). RYMV causes considerable yield losses. Prevention measures have been implemented to limit the spread of the disease, but IRD has found that the use of resistant varieties results in the greatest reduction in RYMV damage.

In a recently published paper in The Plant Journal, researchers have found that the Rymv1 gene is the best candidate for resistance to the virus. IRD has already transferred the gene by crossing it into agronomically important varieties, which they have given to various national institutions in the Ivory Coast, Senegal, and Madagascar; and international research institutions such as the African Rice Center (WARDA) for them to use in variety selection programs.

IRD scientists are also studying RYMV strains and the molecular mechanisms of plant resistance or susceptibility on the basis of direct interactions between the rice protein and that of the virus. Another strategy developed by the IRD involves introducing part of the viral genes into the plant genome, with the aim of inducing resistance to RYMV.
Read the complete press release at http://www.ird.fr/fr/actualites/fiches/2006/fas247.pdf.

Source: CropBiotech Update 22 September 2006:

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

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1.10  Improved maize, wheat varieties lower farmers’ risks

Modern maize and wheat varieties not only increase maximum yields in developing countries but add to farmers' incomes by assuring more reliable yields than traditional varieties. "By reducing the fluctuations in maize and wheat grain yields, scientists have played a vital role in making modern crop technology attractive, accessible, and beneficial to farmers and consumers around the globe," says Douglas Gollin, an associate professor of economics in Williams College, Massachusetts, USA.

Gollin analyzed changes in national-level yield stability for wheat and maize across developing countries and related them directly to the diffusion of modern varieties. His study shows that "over the past 40 years, there has actually been a decline in the relative variability of grain yields." This finding, says Gollin, disproves critics' views that farmers are exposed to greater risks due to the variability in yield of modern varieties.

The study on "Impacts of international research on inter-temporal yield stability in what and maize: an economic assessment" can be downloaded from http://www.cimmyt.org/english/docs/impacts/ImpIntlResIntertemp.pdf. A news feature by John Dixon is available at http://www.cimmyt.org/english/wps/news/2006/jul/steadyasShegoes.htm .

From CropBiotech Update 4 August 2006:

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

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1.11  Nepal Hill Maize Research Project reaches out to Nepal’s poorest farmers with new varieties

The Nepal Hill Maize Research Project, supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), reaches out to Nepal’s poorest farmers with new varieties and farming practices selected by the farmers themselves.

Coca Cola, arguably the world’s most ubiquitous commercial beverage, has not yet reached the villagers and farmers who live on top of the cloud-shrouded hills of eastern Nepal. That’s how remote they are. There is a road, but it is 600 meters below in the valley and the only way in and out of the village is via a precarious, rubble-strewn and sometimes terrifyingly steep foot-path. Everything must be carried up and down this track on people’s backs. Here the staple food for centuries has been maize but many farmers in the region cannot grow enough maize to last the year. Their needs have provided a focus for work in which CIMMYT, the Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC), SDC, and other partners, reach these “unreached” people.

One of them is Bissnu Maya. She is a single mother of three who farms 0.6 hectares of terraced land on the steep slopes. She is a very good farmer but it takes every penny she earns to make sure her children can go to school. “With education they can get jobs and have a better life,” she says. Bissnu Maya is a ‘dalit’; the poorest of the poor in Nepal, an untouchable often shunned by better-born villagers. Nevertheless, her tiny farm is a marvel. She grows maize, millet, tomatoes, and cucumbers on her land. She has a water buffalo, two cows, some chickens, and goats. A year ago electricity came to the village and now she has a small radio and a light bulb. What she has not had until now is enough maize to last the year. The traditional varieties have small ears, one per plant, and the maize plants themselves grow very tall and often fall down in the wind, not only reducing the maize yield but also damaging the intercropped plants below them.

Maya agreed to help in participatory evaluations of maize varieties developed with material from CIMMYT and NARC that could overcome the main barriers to production on her land. She uses some of her land for a demonstration plot of the variety she has selected as the best replacement for her traditional maize. It is shorter with a sturdier stalk, has two large ears per plant and matures earlier than the maize she has been used to growing. On top of that the new variety stays green after the maize is mature, so it makes a better feed for her livestock.

The project has intentionally focused on women farmers and those who cannot produce enough food to feed their families, testing and promoting technologies that can be implemented by the farmers themselves. While the initial trials are conduced at the NARC research station at Pakhribas, an hour’s drive away once you reach the road in the valley, vital research work is conducted with farmers like Maya on their farms. In the past recommendations about varieties and agricultural practices were based on trials conducted exclusively at research stations, rarely taking into account the real world in which the hill farmers like Maya live and work. “Even on-farm research tended to try to create conditions on farms that matched the research stations, rather than finding solutions to existing farm problems,” says CIMMYT’s Memo Ortiz-Ferrara, who leads the project.

The new approach has helped farmers choose more appropriate varieties based on their own criteria from a “basket of choices” (5-10 varieties are offered in one season). It has also helped to expand areas growing new varieties on one hand, and improve crop management practices on the other. Depending on the location, farmers have observed 20-50% higher grain yield with the new varieties.

“Now I have enough and can sell some surplus to pay for my children’s education,” Bissnu says.

 The second phase of the project is just coming to an end and an evaluation team has begun a series of in depth interviews with participating researchers and farmers to determine the overall impact.

Participatory research is a vital part of many CIMMYT projects around the world (see the companion story: CIMMYT researchers say participatory research supports their achievements).

Source: CIMMYT E-News, vol 3 no. 9, September 2006 via SeedQuest.com
September, 2006

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1.12  CIMMYT researchers say participatory research supports their achievements

El Batán, Mexico
Source: CIMMYT E-News, vol 3 no. 9, September 2006
Farmers participate in a significant portion of CIMMYT research and technology testing, according to center researchers, and the scientists believe this makes their efforts more effective.

The combined budgets of 19 CIMMYT projects cited by their principal investigators in a 2004 survey as including participatory research components exceeded US$9 million­roughly a quarter of the center’s total budget at the time. “Not all that money was spent on participatory activities, but the figure bespeaks a significant investment,” says Nina Lilja, Agricultural Economist in the on Participatory Research and CGIAR Systemwide Program Gender Analysis for Technology Development and Institutional Innovation (PRGA Program).

This conclusion was one outcome of a study* on participatory research at CIMMYT by Lilja and Mauricio Bellon, Director, Diversity for Livelihoods Program, International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI), and former Human Ecologist at CIMMYT. “Nearly all respondents felt that the use of participatory approaches had been worthwhile and most believed participatory methods had added value to the research,” says Lilja. “In support of this, many respondents provided evidence of project achievements through use of participatory approaches.”

Participatory research­particularly where farmers help evaluate and promote new crop varieties or farming practices­have been used increasingly in CIMMYT research in recent years. This study represents the first-ever analysis of participatory approaches, from the perspective of center researchers. Through the 2004 survey, the scientists reported on projects they considered as having a participatory component. The range of the study was broad: there was great variation in the types and characteristics of participatory research for which researchers provided information. The survey allowed characterization of the projects, but not further critical analysis of the quality or the appropriateness of the methods applied nor an objective assessment of impacts. Information was received for 19 projects from 18 scientists­15 male, 3 female; 5 social scientists, 13 biophysical scientists. Sixteen of the projects involved farmer-participatory research; three targeted national-program scientists and seed agronomists. Most of the projects covered work in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia; only two had activities in Latin America. About a third of the projects involved participatory testing of crop varieties or production practices; the remainder involved focus group activities or stakeholder meetings.

The issues most frequently addressed via participatory methods related to increasing productivity and understanding farmers’ needs and constraints. “Participatory research at CIMMYT was largely of the functional type­that is, aimed at improving the efficiency and relevance of the research, rather than specifically to empower farmers,” says Bellon. “Also, there was an overall lack of awareness of multiple beneficiaries or of differential effects owing to gender. None of the respondents had been trained previously in participatory methods.”

Two major recommendations of this report for adding value to CIMMYT’s participatory research efforts are to
(1) create a more conducive environment within the center for scientists to share experiences and learn from each other, and
(2) better document outcomes and impacts of the center’s participatory research.
Study in PDF format: http://www.cimmyt.org/english/docs/impacts/analysisParticipaResProj.pdf
For further information, contact John Dixon

Source: SeedQuest.com
September, 2006

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1.13  DuPont and CIMMYT announce $1.3 million maize collaboration for Africa

Public-private partnership to speed product development

Des Moines, Iowa
DuPont and the global wheat and maize improvement center, CIMMYT, today announced a $1.3 million research, product development and technical support collaboration for Africa.

Over the next three years researchers at DuPont subsidiary Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., and CIMMYT will work together to develop novel traits to improve production agriculture and address food challenges in developing countries globally.

Africa, where an estimated 200 million people are undernourished and 33 million children suffer from famine, is a primary target for this work. The initial research projects will focus on maize nitrogen utilization to increase and stabilize maize yields with subsequent research projects on drought tolerance, Striga tolerance and protein enhancement.

“Production agriculture improvements are the first steps to solving economic and health problems in Africa,” said Masa Iwanaga, CIMMYT director general. “With the right products for the diverse African growing environments, there is enormous potential to turn the existing situation around.”

The collaboration will help bring crop solutions to Africa sooner.

“Together we can do much more for Africa and other developing countries than either of us could have done on our own,” said William S. Niebur, vice president, DuPont Crop Genetics Research & Development. “CIMMYT has a fantastic track record of putting science to work for the people who need it most. Combined with our cutting-edge technology and know how, we’re going to make significant progress in a relatively short time.”

Global Importance of Strong Plant Breeding Activity

Numerous studies have shown agriculture to be the most effective driver of growth in the world’s poorest countries. Raising agricultural productivity is essential for reducing rural poverty and enhancing food security. Few countries have developed diversified economies without first achieving growth in agriculture.
Maize breeding and agriculture in developing nations is, at best, in a similar condition to that of the U.S. during the 1920s-1940s when growers were averaging approximately two to three tons per hectare, said Iwanaga.

“Most of the world’s poor rely on agriculture for income and sustenance,” said Iwanaga. “Globally, there is enough food for everyone. However, locally, hundreds of millions of people lack the resources to grow or buy enough food. Many cannot grow crops in environmentally safe ways.”

This reality couldn’t be more evident than in Africa. Agricultural production for the continent is increasing at slightly more than 2 percent per year, while the annual population increase is more than 3 percent annually. Farming is becoming simultaneously less productive and more damaging to natural resource biodiversity as most production increases have come from taking more land into cultivation. The whole continent of Africa currently produces less maize than the state of Iowa*.

African soils have declined in fertility over the past 30 years because the ground has been repeatedly farmed without the adequate replacement of plant nutrients. Farmers in Eastern and Southern Africa apply 10 to 15 times less nitrogen fertilizer to crops than their counterparts in developed countries. Fertilizer costs can be as much as three to five times higher than those seen in the United States or Europe, which is a barrier to cash strapped farmers. African average maize yields continue at around the same low levels they have been for at least 30 years. At the 2006 African Fertilizer Summit in Abuja, African Heads of State reiterated that solving fertility challenges is the catalyst needed for an African Green Revolution.

Agricultural Solutions

The collaboration between CIMMYT and Pioneer brings together the latest tools, technologies and insights to develop better maize hybrids and critical traits that will help growers combat environmental challenges, improve the protein quality in maize as well as open new avenues for income generation.

“We have made and continue to make incredible gains through genetics and plant breeding, combined with new molecular approaches. With the new tools, technologies and information available today, this important public – private partnership will achieve increased productivity and better products for global maize farmers,” said Niebur.
The collaboration’s goal is to develop maize hybrids that offer significantly increased yields in nitrogen stressed situations in Africa. While these hybrids will not eliminate the need for fertilizer entirely, they have the potential to significantly improve productivity in fertility stressed areas, such as those typically found in marginalized subsistence farming areas. Nitrogen use efficiency screening trials were planted in Africa by CIMMYT in 2005 and will continue over the next three years.

Source: SeedQuest.com
19 October 2006

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1.14  Asia farmers developing better mungbean

With prices of meat higher in developing countries, especially in Asia, consumers will be turning more and more to alternative sources of protein. Legumes are a good source of such nutrients, and mungbean, in particular, has 24% easily digestible protein, high iron content, and significant amounts of calcium, phosphorus, and some essential vitamins.
Mungbean is also abundant in many Asian countries. Scientists in South Asia, in a project supported by the World Vegetable Center, 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. After three years of field trials and laboratory work, 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. Other varietal features developed were large shiny seeds and resistance to thrips and mungbean yellow mosaic virus.

Scientists now aim to work with farmers to produce mungbean varieties with better drought tolerance for use in marginal and semi-arid situations. Also in the offing are research projects on management of insects such as pod borer, white fly, and weevils; and the control of diseases such as leaf spot and powdery mildew.

Read the complete feature at http://www.avrdc.org/news/06Mungbean_fastfood.html.

Source: CropBiotech Update 22 September 2006:

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

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1.15  Adding value to cassava for starch markets

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), many developing countries could strengthen their rural economies by converting more cassava, a relatively cheap raw material, into high-value starches. "Compared to starches derived from most other plants, it has greater clarity and viscosity, and it's very stable in acidic food products. It also has excellent properties for use in non-food products, such as pharmaceuticals and thermobioplastics," said Danilo Mejia, an agricultural engineer with FAO's Agricultural Support Systems Division.

The key to cassava's future in global and domestic starch markets, FAO says, will be improvements in efficiency and quality, and a reduction in production costs. For a model of successful cassava starch industry development, African and Latin American countries should turn to Thailand, the world's top producer. The country now uses about 50 percent of its annual cassava root production to extract some two million tons of starch. Half of it goes to domestic food and non-food industries, while the rest are exported, increasingly in the form of higher-value modified starch for specialized applications. The country is also exploring the use of starch as raw material for production of bioethanol.

For the complete article, the readers can access: http://www.fao.org/WAICENT/FAOINFO/AGRICULT/ magazine/0610sp1.htm.

Source: CropBiotech Update October 2006

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1.16  Genome Mapping Facility opens at the University of Missouri-Columbia

Columbia, Missouri
U.S. Senators Kit Bond and Jim Talent celebrated the opening of the Genome Mapping Facility at the University of Missouri-Columbia at today’s ribbon cutting.

“Investing time and money in the life sciences is not just about investing in institutions, it is about investing in our students, our faculty, our health, jobs, our economy, our future, and our power to solve real problems of real people,” said Senator Bond. “Biotechnology is bringing hope to those in the developing world by providing crops that are more tolerant of drought and more resistant to insects and weeds. Your work here on the soybean genome will further our knowledge in this area and help our farmers to be more productive and the crops that they grow to be healthier.”

“The University of Missouri is a leader in agriculture science and technology,” said Sen. Talent, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “The research conducted here on soybeans is vital for the continued improvement of the crop. Additionally, the federal funds invested in this project will bring benefits to our state's economy and to producer's bottom line. The research we do today is a vital step in creating the new products that will sustain the agriculture and food industry of tomorrow.”

Bond and Talent joined Congressman Kenny Hulshof, University and agriculture officials at today’s ribbon cutting. The Senators praised the opening of the Genome Mapping Facility, which is an expansion of the National Center for Soybean Biotechnology (NCSB). The new facility will allow NCSB scientists to play a national leadership role in mapping of the soybean genome and to develop improved soybean varieties to keep Missouri farmers on the cutting edge.

As strong supporters of NCSB’s vision Bond and Talent have secured federal funds for the NCSB building and research programs. The Genome Mapping Facility also benefited from a more than $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

Bond and Talent praised the University of Missouri for its commitment and leadership in the life sciences. The Senators have worked with scientists, producers, academic and business leaders across the state in efforts to make Missouri a biotechnology corridor.

Source: SeedQuest.com
3 October 2006

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1.17  U.S. National Science Foundation supports 24 new projects to get at the root of how genes control plant growth

Washington, DC
Genome-enabled plant biology extends knowledge from model systems to economically important crops and development of novel genomic research tools

The National Science Foundation (NSF) made 24 new awards totaling $72.5 million in the ninth year of its Plant Genome Research Program (PGRP). The 2- to 5- year awards--ranging from $600,000 to $6.6 million--support research and tools to further knowledge about the genomes of economically important crop plants such as potato, poplar and corn, and will also reveal how networks of genes control basic plant processes.

"It is exciting to see the impact of genomics in new areas of plant biology, research and education" said James Collins, head of the NSF's Biological Sciences Directorate. "These innovative new projects will provide the basic discoveries leading to a greater understanding of how variations in plant genomes manifest as changes in growth and development in a range of environments. New discoveries improve the quality and yield of crops plants, and in the long term, lead to innovations that will support the bio-based economy of the 21st Century".

The wealth of genomic knowledge and tools generated over the past 8 years of the PGRP will now enable researchers to uncover networks of genes that regulate plant development in response to environmental signals such as light, for example:

To potentially broaden the geographic growing range of crops, which is in part controlled by available sunlight, researchers at Dartmouth College are investigating how gene networks in Brassica, a genus of plants that includes broccoli, cauliflower and mustard, function to detect light cues and trigger floral development.
Scientists at Oregon State University will study the relationship between a plant's gene networks, its molecular machinery and light absorption using the recently reported rice and poplar tree genome sequences as guides.
So-called "model plants" typically have "no frills" genomes and a short lifecycle that make basic genetic studies feasible. Information from model plants can then be exploited to better understand more complex crop plants. Two such examples are rice, a model for the cereals, and barrel medic, a model for legumes, a plant family that includes soybeans, peanuts, peas and alfalfa. Several new PGRP-supported projects will extend the knowledge gained from the sequenced genomes of rice and barrel medic, for example:

The genomes of the cultivated rice species and its wild ancestral relative vary considerably. Investigators at Cornell University have found that introducing certain "wild genes" into the cultivated species confers superior performance for a variety of traits, including flowering time, seed size and seed number. They will further examine how different combinations of variant genes leads to enhanced qualities, or so-called "hybrid vigor."

Comparative genome tools developed by researchers at the University of California, Davis, will enable researchers to rapidly pinpoint genes for disease resistance in legumes using the barrel medic genome sequence as a reference. Among others, these tools will be used to study chickpea, cowpea and pigeonpea--important staple crops in India and Africa--through a developing country collaboration with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics in India.

Established in 1998 as part of the coordinated National Plant Genome Initiative by the Interagency Working Group on Plant Genomes of the National Science and Technology Council, the PGRP has a long-term goal of uncovering basic biological principles that will advance our understanding of the structure and function of genomes of plants of economic importance.

The new awards, made to 43 institutions in 30 states, include 10 international collaborations. First-time PGRP award recipients include Duke University, South Dakota State University, Tuskegee University and the University of Arkansas

Source: SeedQuest.com
3 October 2006

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1.18  Challenges still lay ahead for lupin breeding

Western Australia
Significant genetic improvements have been made in Western Australia narrow leafed lupins since the 1970s, but challenges still lay ahead, according to Department of Agriculture and Food lupin breeder Dr Bevan Buirchell.

He told the recent GRDC supported Australian Agronomy Conference in Perth that herbicide resistant weeds and competition from increased global soybean production were major challenges confronting Western Australia's lupin industry.

Dr Buirchell said research on more herbicide tolerant varieties would continue, as would a focus on thinning lupin hulls, which made up 25 per cent of the lupin and had to be removed for aquaculture.

The unique dietary fibre and antioxidant components of lupins could also be exploited.

"Improvements in grain quality are achievable within limits, but how much this can benefit the industry depends on how well we interpret market signals from sectors likely to pay premiums," he said.

Source: SeedQuest.com
26 October 2006

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1.19  Indonesia works on agarwood

After work on clones of agarwood-producing trees, Yupi Isnaini of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Tropical Biology (SEAMEO BIOTROP), Indonesia has isolated three clones of Aquilaria trees that produce more resin than conventional clones. Isnaini is also working on obtaining fungal isolates and formulating media concentrations that can speed up production of agarwood resin.

Agarwood refers to the resin-impregnated wood that grows predominantly in the rain forests of Southeast Asia. Agarwood is formed in response to fungal infection and this resin can stop or slow down fungal growth. The resin has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine, and is important to the perfume industry in the Middle East, India, Europe, and Malaysia.

For more information, send an email to yupi@biotrop.org. For more details, contact dewisuryani@biotrop.org, or visit http://www.indobic.or.id.

From CropBiotech Update 4 August 2006:

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

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1.20  Uganda 'needs biotech law' to save banana sector

[KAMPALA] An official in Uganda's agriculture ministry has expressed concern that policymakers are not keeping pace with scientific efforts to control a disease threatening the country's main cash crop.

Opolot Okasai, commissioner for crop production and marketing, told SciDev.Net yesterday (10 October) that banana bacterial wilt could cost Uganda US$6-8 billion in the next 5-10 years.

Uganda's National Agricultural Research Organisation and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture are working together to develop a transgenic banana that can resist the disease.

Okasai says the scientists are likely to achieve this in the next few years. But the transgenic bananas will not reach Ugandan farmers until regulations are put in place.

"There is no sign that our parliament will enact a law to allow, oversee and protect biotechnology," he says.

The bacterial wilt is highly destructive, wiping out up to 90 per cent of bananas on many of the farms affected by recent outbreaks.

It arrived in Uganda in 2001 and spread rapidly to nearly all banana-growing regions. Since then it has also reached the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Tanzania.

The disease is currently under control in ten districts in southwestern Uganda, thanks to communities sterilising farm equipment and a ban on the transport of banana planting material between districts, says Okasai.

But according to Okasai: "The most effective way to combat the disease is via genetic engineering. This calls for an expedited legal and policy environment to put into effect the scientific solutions visibly coming up."

Ugandan and Belgian scientists have already genetically modified bananas to resist another serious disease called black sigatoka. They plan to test them in confined trials at facilities being constructed at the Kawanda Agricultural Research Institute.

"We expect results from this research to contribute immensely to the scientific fight against banana bacterial wilt," says Arthur Makara a biosafety desk officer at Uganda National Council for Science and Technology.

Peter Wamboga-Mugirya

Source: SciDev.net
11 October 2006

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1.21  Genome archaeology illuminates the genetic engineering debate

New Brunswick/Piscataway, N.J. -- Genome Research's cover story for Oct. 2 tells a tale of "genome archaeology" by genetic researchers who dug deeply into the long history of maize and rice. Their resulting insights into plant genomic evolution may well fuel the fires of the genetically modified organism (GMO) controversy.

"Our findings elucidate an active evolutionary process in which nature inserts genes much like modern biotechnologists do. Now we must reassess the allegations that biotechnologists perform 'unnatural acts,' thereby creating 'Frankenfoods,'" said Professor Joachim Messing, project leader and director of the Waksman Institute of Microbiology at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

By comparing corresponding segments of two maize (corn) chromosomes with each other, and then to a corresponding segment of rice, project scientists reconstructed a genetic history replete with "reconfiguration and reshuffling, reminiscent of working with Lego blocks," Messing said.

Public awareness groups have argued that genetic engineering of crops deviates from "natural processes" when biotechnologists insert genes at seemingly random places, altering the normal order of genes in the genome. The view of genes being fixed in their position in the genome is largely based on studies in animal genomes. In contrast to those studies, however, the authors show that plant genomes evolved from a far more dynamic structure than previously believed.

Maize dominates domestic agriculture, where approximately 9 billion bushels are produced annually at a value of $30 billion. Corn is an important dietary staple in much of the third world and a bio-fuel source; rice is the primary dietary staple for more than half the world's population.

Scientists have long known that the number of chromosomes among some plant species has changed over time, with some evolutionary phases showing four, six, eight or more sets. "Maize, for example, began with four sets of chromosomes about five million years ago and eventually trimmed down to the set of two that we see today," Messing said.

With these duplications and reductions, genes in chromosome segments can be lost, replicated or shifted over to other chromosomes, Messing explained. As a consequence, plant genomes today contain rearranged segments and many duplicated regions with corresponding sets of genes. In the maize genome, genes were apparently lost in some parts and new "stuffer" pieces (intervals between genes) inserted so that the corresponding segments became different in size.

The researchers found that about 10 percent of the genes in the maize segments were missing completely in rice, and about 20 percent were in new positions. Within the maize segments, genes appear to be very mobile: 20 to 25 percent have "jumped" to other locations in the genome during the course of evolution. Two-thirds of the original genes from the ancestral four sets of chromosomes have disappeared completely. Corresponding genes wound up in completely different locations within the genome and have likely undergone changes in how they affect biological operations.

"The research, conducted by an international collaboration of scientists, will help scientists and farmers improve these significant crops and gain new and important insights in the evolution of the grass species in general," Messing said.

"The vast pool of genetic material in plants can be an important resource from which biotechnology can draw genes for insertion into an array of plants, generating unique genomes not achievable by conventional breeding," Messing said. "We could engineer plants to provide a more sustainable, healthy and productive source of food, while reducing the environmental impacts of their cultivation."

This undertaking included teams from the University of Arizona, University of Georgia, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, The Institute for Genomic Research, the Broad Institute at MIT and Harvard, Institute of Bioinformatics at the GSF-Center for Environment and Health in Germany, and the Plant Genome Initiative at Rutgers.

Contact: Joseph Blumberg
blumberg@ur.rutgers.edu
732-932-7084 x652
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey

Source: EurekAlert.org
3 October 2006

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1.22  Efficacy of a special screened greenhouse in reducing maize outcrossing

ABSTRACT
Gene flow via pollen dispersal leading to the escape of transgenes is a potential concern associated with the introduction of transgenic plants. Therefore, it is necessary to clarify the relationship between pollen dispersal and outcrossing rate for strict biosafety management during risk assessment. Maize (Zea mays) is one of the crops most at risk for gene leakage via pollen flow into the environment. Here, we report the results of a cross-pollination field investigation using maize varieties showing a xenia effect with tricolor kernels, which allowed us to designate a pollen donor with natural outcrossing and one with reduced outcrossing (via a screened greenhouse) in the same experimental field at the same time. Although a previous study showed that a special screened greenhouse covered by 1-mm single fine mesh may be effective in reducing outcrossing in maize, we used 1-mm duplex fine mesh to reduce further the possibility of outcrossing. We report how a special screened greenhouse covered by 1-mm duplex fine mesh reduced pollen dispersal, and affected the outcrossing rate of non-genetically modified (GM) yellow maize in the greenhouse and white maize outside the greenhouse, compared to natural outcrossing.

Original paper: http://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/plantbiotechnology/23/4/387/_pdf

Shin Watanabea, Tsunenori Sanoa, Hiroshi Kamada, Hiroshi Ezura*
Gene Research Center, University of Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8572, Japan
*ezura@gene.tsukuba.ac.jp

Source: Plant Biotechnology Journal via SeedQuest.com
October, 2006

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1.23  Pollinators help one-third of world's crop production

Berkeley, CA, USA
Pollinators such as bees, birds and bats affect 35 percent of the world's crop production, increasing the output of 87 of the leading food crops worldwide, finds a new study published today (Wednesday, Oct. 25), in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences and co-authored by a conservation biologist at the University of California, Berkeley.

The study is the first global estimate of crop production that is reliant upon animal pollination. It comes one week after a National Research Council (NRC) report detailed the troubling decline in populations of key North American pollinators, which help spread the pollen needed for fertilization of such crops as fruits, vegetables, nuts, spices and oilseed.

Of particular concern in the NRC report was the decline of the honey bee, a species introduced from Europe and a critical pollinator for California's almond industry. The report pointed out that it takes about 1.4 million colonies of honey bees to pollinate 550,000 acres of this state's almond trees.

In an effort to better understand how dependent crop production is upon pollinators worldwide, an international research team led by Alexandra-Maria Klein, an agroecologist from the University of Goettingen in Germany, conducted an extensive review of scientific studies from 200 countries and for 115 of the leading global crops.

Claire Kremen, an assistant professor at UC Berkeley's Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, is co-author of this new study.

"There's a widely stated phrase in agriculture that you can thank a pollinator for one out of three bites of food you eat," said Kremen, who is also a member of the Committee on Status of Pollinators that produced the NRC report and leader of a group at the National Center for Ecological and Analysis and Synthesis that co-sponsored the work. "However, it wasn't clear where that calculation came from, so we set out to do a more thorough and reproducible estimate, and we wanted to look at the impact on a global scale."

What the researchers found fell in line with the dictum to which Kremen referred. Out of the 115 crops studied, 87 depend to some degree upon animal pollination, accounting for one-third of crop production globally. Of those crops, 13 are entirely reliant upon animal pollinators, 30 are greatly dependent and 27 are moderately dependent.

The crops that did not rely upon animal pollination were mainly staple crops such as wheat, corn and rice.

The NRC report notes that honey bees in North America have been decimated by infestations of parasitic mites that were inadvertently introduced to the United States. In addition, honey bees are battling antibiotic-resistant pathogens and competition from Africanized honey bees.

Kremen added that honey bees, particularly ones in the wild versus those in managed hives, are negatively impacted by habitat loss and a variety of non-sustainable farming practices. These impacts also affect native species of wild bees. There are 4,000 species of native bees in North America alone.

"We've replaced pollination services formerly provided by diverse groups of wild bees with domesticated honey bees," said Kremen, who recently co-authored another study showing that wild bees interacting with honey bees can lead to a five-fold increase in pollination efficiency. "The problem is, if we don't protect the wild pollinators, we don't have a backup plan."

Kremen suggested an approach to a more sustainable form of agriculture, one that de-emphasizes the use of synthetic fertilizers and builds in more of a reliance on natural ecosystems.

Some changes may involve mere tweaks to current practices, such as allowing weeds and native plants to grow and prosper along the border of the primary crop, she said. Such non-crop plants, which are currently killed off by herbicides, can sustain a variety of wild bee species when the primary crops are not in bloom.

Another change could be to switch from flood irrigation, which drowns bee species that nest in the ground, to spray irrigation when feasible, said Kremen.

The study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B highlights what is at stake if steps to improve pollinator biodiversity are not taken.

"Passion fruits in Brazil are hand-pollinated through expensive day-laborers as the natural pollinators, carpenter bees, are hardly available because of high insecticide use in the agricultural fields and the destruction of the natural habitats," said lead author Klein.

Klein said that in the cities of Brazil, the high prices for fruits and vegetables are pushing people to turn to less healthy alternatives, including fatty meats and sugar products. As a result, she said, obesity rates seem to be rising.

"The stability of crop yields not only depends on pollination, but also on further ecosystem services," Klein added. "Therefore, we need landscapes carefully managed for a diversity of functionally important groups of organisms that sustain many important ecosystem services such as pollination, pest, pathogen and weed control, and decomposition."

This study was also supported by the Sixth European Union Framework program.
By Sarah Yang, Media Relations

Source: EurekAlert.org
25 October 2006

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1.24  Philippines gene bank damaged by typhoon

Manila, The Philippines
The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has extended the facilities of its International Rice Genebank to the National Plant Genetic Resources Laboratory (NPGRL) in the Institute of Plant Breeding, University of the Philippines Los Baños (IPB-UPLB) to temporarily store its medium-term germplasm collections of major Philippine agricultural crops after typhoon Milenyo damaged its genebank facilities.

These crops consist of cereals, food legumes, forage/pasture, plantation/industrial, root crops, medicinal plants and spices, fruit trees, nut trees, ornamentals, small fruits, botanical collection, vegetables, and unclassified recent introductions.

As of October 2002, a total of 45,978 germplasms were stored in the NPGRL genebank until Milenyo struck.

Prof. Tess Borromeo and researcher Nestor Altoveros of IPB revealed that 70 percent of the genetic materials (350 accessions) stored in the NPGRL were damaged by floodwaters and mud, while 100 percent of the laboratory's root crop collections were buried in mud.

On the other hand, an "optimistic estimate" indicated that 5 percent of the laboratory's total seed collections were also damaged.

More importantly, floodwater and mud flows rendered inoperational four convirons (controlled environment facilities where germplasm collections are stored), without which the germplasm will lose their long-term viability.

These convirons or cold storage facilities, including a standby generator, sustained damages estimated at P20 million.

IPB Crop Science Cluster Director Jose E. Hernandez expects the NPGRL facilities to be back in normal operation within 11 to 12 months. "We also expect a minimum of 1 month before electric supply to IPB returns to normal."

Ruaraidh Sackville Hamilton, the head of the IRRI Genebank said, "We are committed to doing everything we can to help our local colleagues get through this difficult period. Genebanks are fundamental to a country's ability to feed itself and maintain its agricultural productivity."

The NPGRL, one of the component units of the Institute of Plant Breeding (IPB), College of Agriculture , University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), maintains these germplasm collections and serves as the national center in plant genetic resources activities.

It aims to provide IPB and the national crop improvement programs a broad range of genetic materials for breeding of superior crop varieties and help minimize the rapid erosion of natural variability existing in cultivated species and their wild relatives.

The NPGRL, established on 12 November 1976 by Presidential Decree 1046-A, is the world base collection center for germplasm of winged bean (Psophocarpus tetragonolobus), snake gourd (Trichosanthes spp.), bitter groud (Momordica charantia), and wax gourd (Benincasa hispida). It also holds the duplicate world collection of mungbean (Vigna radiata), the Asian collection of tomato (Lycopersicon lycopersicum), and the world's largest collection of Musa balbisiana (banana).

The NPGRL conserves for national posterity the endemic and introduced plant genetic resources; provides plant breeding projects in the national research system with a broad genetic base for crop improvement; and monitors and coordinates national efforts in the collection, conservation, utilization, and exchange of plant genetic resources.
Link: http://www.malaya.com.ph/oct20/agri1.htm

Source: Malaya Online Edition via SeedQuest.com
October 20, 2006

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

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

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.

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

Source: SeedQuest.com
October 2006

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1.26  Impacts of genetic bottlenecks on soybean genome diversity

Edited by Steven D. Tanksley, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
ABSTRACT
Soybean has undergone several genetic bottlenecks. These include domestication in Asia to produce numerous Asian landraces, introduction of relatively few landraces to North America, and then selective breeding over the past 75 years. It is presumed that these three human-mediated events have reduced genetic diversity. We sequenced 111 fragments from 102 genes in four soybean populations representing the populations before and after genetic bottlenecks. We show that soybean has lost many rare sequence variants and has undergone numerous allele frequency changes throughout its history. Although soybean genetic diversity has been eroded by human selection after domestication, it is notable that modern cultivars have retained 72% of the sequence diversity present in the Asian landraces but lost 79% of rare alleles (frequency 0.10) found in the Asian landraces. Simulations indicated that the diversity lost through the genetic bottlenecks of introduction and plant breeding was mostly due to the small number of Asian introductions and not the artificial selection subsequently imposed by selective breeding. The bottleneck with the most impact was domestication; when the low sequence diversity present in the wild species was halved, 81% of the rare alleles were lost, and 60% of the genes exhibited evidence of significant allele frequency changes.

Open access article: http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/0604379103v1?etoc

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

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1.27  BT corn – a solution to mycotoxin contamination

Mycotoxin contamination is a serious concern in maize production, as two of the most important mycotoxins, fumonisins and aflatoxins, are associated with various diseases in humans and animals. In addition, high levels of mycotoxins result in lower market gains due to livestock losses and higher corn rejection for food and feeds, resulting in huge annual losses to the sector worldwide.

Damage inflicted to crops by insect pests increases susceptibility to infection by fungal pathogens because wounds encourage colonization by fungal spores. Bt maize is modified with a gene toxic to common lepidopteran pests. Does the increased protection against insect pests also reduce the incidence of mycotoxins in the biotech crop? Felicia Wu, of the University of Pittsburgh, USA, compares mycotoxins levels in Bt and conventional maize in an article published in the latest issue of Information Systems for Biotechnology News Report, and reports the presence of significantly lower levels of mycotoxin concentrations in biotech maize.

The economic benefits of mycotoxin reduction would likely be more prominent in developed countries such as the United States, argues Wu, whereas in areas such as Latin America, northern China, and sub-Saharan Africa, where corn is a staple food, the health impacts would far outweigh the market gains.

The complete article "Mycotoxin Reduction in Bt Corn: Potential Economic, Health, and Regulatory Impacts" can be read at http://www.isb.vt.edu/news/2006/sep06.pdf

Source: CropBiotech Update 22 September 2006:

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

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1.28  CSIRO research indicates that insect-resistant cotton may also be water efficient

Australia
Preliminary results from CSIRO research in Narrabri have shown that genetically modified insect-resistant cotton may also be more water efficient.

Two years of field experiments by CSIRO Plant Industry's Mr Dirk Richards and Mr Stephen Yeates, show that under normal full irrigation, Bollgard® II cotton used ten per cent less water than an equivalent conventional variety and had higher yields.

Bollgard® II makes up most of the Australian cotton crop and has reduced pesticide use by up to 80 per cent.

Research is now optimising agronomic management of Bollgard® II as it tends to produce bolls earlier than conventional cotton because insect damage does not delay early crop growth.

Bollgard® II and conventional cotton extract soil water at a similar rate, but Bollgard® II has a more compact growing season so uses less water overall for the same or higher yields.

Bollgard® II had lower yields only when it was moisture stressed from peak flowering to the end of flowering when boll filling started.

Soil moisture stress applied to conventional cotton at the same time did not affect yield as much, due to later flowering and a better ability to compensate later in the season.

This research is helping growers fine tune their water management strategies for Bollgard® II.

This research is supported by the Cotton Research and Development Corporation and the Cotton Catchment Communities Cooperative Research Centre. More information: http://www.pi.csiro.au/enewsletter/PDF/PI_info_Bollgard.pdf

Source: CSIRO Plant Industry newsletter via SeedQuest.com
September, 2006

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1.29  Research tracks, controls fruit vitamin C levels

Vitamin C decreases the incidence of several important human disorders. It is an antioxidant as well; in L-ascorbic acid (L-AA) form, the vitamin improves the post-harvest properties of fruits. If Vitamin C levels could be increased in fruit species, both consumers and plants thus stand to benefit.

Mark W. Davey and colleagues take the first step in gaining "Genetic Control of Fruit Vitamin C Contents" as they identify three quantitative trait loci (QTL) in apple, which they found are linked to L-AA content of fruit flesh. The researchers, who hail from the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, report their findings in a recent issue of Plant Physiology.

Scientists analyzed the progeny derived from a cross between apple cultivars Telamon and Braeburn. They examined linkage maps of the apple parents, and after further analysis, found that: 1) Both parents had QTLs in the same location, which contributed to L-AA content; 2) One QTL in the Telamon parent co-localized with a QTL associated with flesh browning, confirming that L-AA levels are associated with fruit susceptibility to post-harvest browning; and 3) the QTLs identified are associated with molecular markers, which will facilitate the transfer of QTLs to other fruit varieties through marker assisted selection.

Subscribers to the journal can read the complete article at http://www.plantphysiol.org/cgi/reprint/142/1/343. Other readers can take a look at the abstract at http://www.plantphysiol.org/cgi/content/abstract/142/1/343.

Source: CropBiotech Update 22 September 2006:

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

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1.30  Plant acid contributes to blight resistance

Phytophthora blight is an important soil-borne fungal disease that affects pepper plants all over the world, and can wipe out pepper harvests. However, one Mexican accession, Capsicum annuum L. cv. 'Serrano Criollo de Morelos 334' (SCM), shows a high level of resistance against the blight. What is the basis of this resistance?

In a recent issue of Physiological and Molecular Plant Pathology, Motoko Ueedaa and colleagues from the National Institute of Vegetable and Tea Science (NIVTS), and Mie University, Japan, investigate the "Contribution of jasmonic acid to resistance against Phytophthora blight in Capsicum annuum cv. SCM334." Salicylic acid (SA) and jasmonic acid (JA) are plant hormones that contribute to plant defense responses to stresses such as wounding, ozone exposure, and insect or microbial attack.

To find out the extent of JA's participation in blight resistance, scientists grew the SCM cultivar along with a susceptible cultivar, California Wonder (CW). They then measured SA and JA levels, as well as gene expression patterns, during infestation with Phytophtora blight. Researchers found that JA levels increased in SCM immediately after infection with the pathogen; but, as time passed, JA levels decreased, and SA levels increased, accompanied by hypersensitive-response (HR). HS is a complex, early plant defense response that causes cell death at the site of pathogen penetration to restrict the spread of infection The researchers note that these patterns indicate that JA-mediated defense is crucial in the resistance of pepper plants to Phytophtora blight; they also note that the early appearance of JA, and SA's later accumulation, suggest that both hormones play a separate role in pepper's defense response.

Subscribers to the journal can download the complete article through http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pmpp.2005.12.002

From CropBiotech Update 4 August 2006:

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

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1.31  "Where Will This Crop Grow?" - A computer program can now tell us

Cali, Colombia
If raspberries can grow in Edinburgh, Scotland, will they grow in Bogotá, Colombia? A farmer asks "What crops can I plant on this field?" A plant breeder has just improved a new variety and wonders, "Where else would it grow as well as in site X?" The answers to these questions can be found through Homologue™, a computer program created at Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT).

"Homologue allows us to find different sites where a variety or crop will respond well," affirms William Díaz, of CIAT's Land Use Project, who worked on the program. "It also produces a map of probabilities where good results can be expected. This is useful for making decisions on introducing new species, conserving germplasm banks, or conducting participatory research in sites with similar conditions."

For the breeder, Homologue will produce a map of probable sites around the world where the variety will grow well.

Although directed at agricultural technicians and researchers, the program is very user-friendly, needing only a few basic data such as longitude, latitude, and, optionally, soil characteristics. It is the product of research begun more than two decades ago by Peter Jones, agricultural geographer; James Cock, genetic resources specialist; and other colleagues at CIAT's Land Use Project.

Dr Jones has already created two programs­FloraMap® and MarkSim®. The former locates sites of possible adaptation and helps in decision-making to conserve plant species and other useful organisms in the wild. The latter program simulates climates. The new program­Homologue­combines the two.

Homologue is already being applied in Colombia to locate sites where organic coffee with certain characteristics for the international market can be planted.

More information: http://gisweb.ciat.cgiar.org/homologue/

Source: SeedQuest.com
27 October 2006

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1.32  Gene switch makes crops drought-resistant when needed

St. Paul, Minnesota
David Dennis, president of the Canadian plant biotechnology firm Performance Plants, has reported the development of a "unique" new drought tolerance technology that relies on the introduction of a single transgene.Expression of the transgene "switches off" under non-drought conditions, so as to avoid negatively impacting plant yield during those times.

Dennis explained the technology last week in St. Paul, the U.S., at a symposium on the next generation of biotechnology, sponsored by the Canadian consulate, the Minnesota Agri-Growth Council, and the University of Minnesota.

He said his company's technology has proven successful in field tests with canola, petunias, and Arabidopsis, and it could increase crop yields by up to 25 percent under "tough" drought conditions.

The technology has gone through four years of field trials. Dennis said he expects it to become commercially available in genetically modified (GM) corn, lawn grass, and ornamental plants in three to four years. The technology should be incorporated into oil seed and other crops after that, he said. While effective, Dennis noted that the drought tolerance technology has its limits.

"If you get drought from the time you put seed in the ground, there's no way you can protect the plant. The plants need some water to grow. We are protecting them at the most sensitive time, when they are flowering," he said.

The article can be viewed online at http://pewagbiotech.org/newsroom/summaries/display.php3?NewsID=1025

Source: Agence France Presse via SeedQuest.com
2 October 2006

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1.33  Purdue University's new biochip may help create more productive crop varieties

West Lafayette, Indiana
Purdue University researchers have developed a biochip that measures the electrical activities of cells and is capable of obtaining 60 times more data in just one reading than is possible with current technology. In the near term, the biochip could speed scientific research, which could accelerate drug development for muscle and nerve disorders like epilepsy and help create more productive crop varieties.

"Instead of doing one experiment per day, as is often the case, this technology is automated and capable of performing hundreds of experiments in one day," said Marshall Porterfield, a professor of agricultural and biological engineering who leads the team developing the chip.

The device works by measuring the concentration of ions ­ tiny charged particles ­ as they enter and exit cells. The chip can record these concentrations in up to 16 living cells temporarily sealed within fluid-filled pores in the microchip. With four electrodes per cell, the chip delivers 64 simultaneous, continuous sources of data.

This additional data allows for a deeper understanding of cellular activity compared to current technology, which measures only one point outside one cell and cannot record simultaneously, Porterfield said. The chip also directly records ion concentrations without harming the cells, whereas present methods cannot directly detect specific ions, and cells being studied typically are destroyed in the process, he said. There are several advantages to retaining live cells, he said, such as being able to conduct additional tests or monitor them as they grow.

"The current technology being used in research labs is very slow and difficult," said Porterfield, who believes the new chip could help develop drugs for human disorders involving ion channel malfunction, such as epilepsy and chronic pain. About 15 percent of the drugs currently in development affect the activities of ion channels, he said, and their development is limited by the slower pace of current technology. The biochip would allow researchers to generate more data in a shorter time, thus speeding up the whole process of evaluating potential drugs and their different effects on ion channels.

Ion channels are particularly important in muscle and nerve cells, where they facilitate communication and the transfer of electrical signals from one cell to the next.

Within the 10-by-10 millimeter chip ­ roughly the size of a dime ­ cells are sealed inside 16 pyramidal pores, analyzed, and then can be removed intact. Since the technology does not kill the cells, it could be used to screen and identify different crop lines, Porterfield said.

"For example, let's say you were interested in developing corn varieties that need less fertilizer," he said. "If you had a library of genes that were associated with high nitrogen-use efficiency ­ thus making the plant need less nitrogen fertilizer ­ you could transform a group of maize cells with these genes and then screen each cell to determine the most efficient. Then you could raise the one that needed the least fertilizer, rather than putting a lot of different genes into hundreds of plants and waiting for them to grow, as is currently done."

In addition to the potential savings in time and money, Porterfield said the chip has allowed him to do research that would otherwise be impossible. He recently conducted a study on the "Vomit Comet," the nickname for a high-flying research plane used by NASA to briefly simulate zero gravity. The experiment analyzed gravity's effect on plant development, trying to solve the riddle of how a plant determines which way is "up."

"We conducted research with the chip while we were flying in parabolas over the Gulf of Mexico, going from two times Earth's gravity to zero gravity again and again," he said. "There is absolutely no way this experiment could have been done without this chip."

The current technology for analyzing cells' electrical activity, called "patch clamping," uses a tiny electrical probe viewed under a microscope. The technology garnered its inventors the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology in 1991.

"It requires a lot of know-how and hand-eye coordination," Porterfield said of patch clamping.

The chip, on the other hand, is automated and could be mass-produced in the future. Such a readily available chip could record reams more data than patch-clamping, he said.

Ion channels and pumps establish a difference in electrical potential across a cell's membrane, which cells use to create energy and transfer electrical signals. By quickly allowing ions in and out, they are useful for rapid cellular changes, the kind which occur in muscles, neurons and the release of insulin from pancreatic cells.

The chip currently can detect individual levels of different ions. Porterfield believes that with some modifications, however, the chip will be able to measure multiple ions at once and perform even more advanced functions such as electrically stimulating a cell with one electrode while recording the reaction with the remaining three.

Because ion channels are a prominent feature of the nervous system and elsewhere, they are a popular target for drugs. For example, lidocaine and Novocain target sodium-channels. In nature, some of the most potent venoms and toxins work by blocking these channels, including the venom of certain snakes and strychnine.

Porterfield's chip is technically classified as a "cell electrophysiology lab-on-a-chip." The device is further described in an article in the journal Sensors and Actuators, published online this month and scheduled to appear in the print edition in November.

Porterfield has been working on the biochip for almost two years and is currently working to expand its capabilities. The just-published study was funded by NASA and the Lilly Foundation.

Writer: Douglas M Main

ABSTRACT
A MEMS Fabricated Cell Electrophysiology Biochip for in Silico Calcium Measurements


For the last 50 years the state-of-the-art for studying electrophysiological activity of single cells has been based on an investigator using a single microprobe, and attempting to make relevant recordings, one cell at a time. Here we report the design, fabrication and characterization of a MEMS-based lab-on-a-chip system for measuring Ca2+ ion concentrations and currents around single cells. This device has been designed around specific science objectives of measuring real-time multidimensional calcium flux patterns around 16 Ceratopteris richardii fern spores in microgravity flight experiments and ground studies. The 16 microfluidic cell holding pores are 150 _m _ 150 _m each and have 4 Ag/AgCl electrodes leading into them. An SU-8 structural layer is used for insulation and packaging purposes. The in silico cell physiology lab is wire bonded onto a custom PCB for easy interface with a state-of-the-art data acquisition system. The electrodes are coated with a Ca2+ ion-selective membrane based on ETH-5234 ionophore and operated against an Ag/AgCl reference electrode. Characterization results have shown Nernst slopes of 30 mV/decade that were stable over a number of measurement cycles, and actual fern spore Ca2+ measurements have been recorded with high repeatability and reproducibility. While this work is focused on technology to enable basic research on C. richardii spores, we anticipate that this type of cell electrophysiology lab-on-a-chip will be broadly applied in biomedical and pharmacological research by making minor modifications to the electrode material and the measurement technique.

Source: SeedQuest.com
20 October 2006

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1.34  NSF awards UGA $4.1 million grant to study so-called 'jumping genes' in maize

Transposable elements, popularly called "jumping genes" when they were discovered more than half a century ago, are sequences of DNA that can move around chromosomes in a cell. At first thought to be molecular "junk," they are now recognized as important, even crucial parts of the blueprints of plants and animals.

The National Science Foundation has awarded a grant of $4.1 million to the University of Georgia to identify all the transposable elements (TE's) in maize and to generate an annotated database that will assist all future research in this crop plant crucial across the globe.

"The collective experiences of the team that will work on this puts us in a unique position," said Susan Wessler, Regents Professor of plant biology at UGA and principal investigator. "Maize is the organism of choice for understanding how TE's contribute to gene and genome evolution."

All information from the project, which is expected to take five years, will be made freely available to the Maize Genome Sequencing Project and to long-term repositories such as the Maize Genome Database.

"The scientific goals of this project and the familiarity of maize also provide outstanding opportunities for student training and for connections between the research community and the broader public," said Wessler. "This project will dedicate more than 15 percent of its resources to the development of web-based, traveling and local museum exhibits that describe the history of maize as a crop, as a model organism for research and as a key component for many Native American cultures."

To this end, collaborations have been established with the UGA Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. Botanic Garden.

Genomes differ dramatically in the percentage of TE's in their genomes. For instance, half of human DNA is transposable elements, while in some plants, the amount is more than 90 percent. About 80 percent of maize genomic DNA is derived from TE's.

The project also has an in-lab minority outreach component. Each participating institution has a commitment to the education of undergraduates, high school students and other members of the broader community, especially in the representation of under-represented groups.

Scientist Barbara McClintock discovered the first TE's in maize in 1948, work that led to her winning the Nobel Prize in 1983.
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Other principal investigators for the newly funded grant include, from UGA: Jeffrey Bennetzen, department of genetics and Kelly Dawe, departments of plant biology and genetics. Participating from the UGA Museum of Natural History is Byron Freeman. Other co-principal investigators include Nin Jiang of Michigan State University and Phillip SanMiguel of Purdue University.
Contact: Phil Williams
phil@franklin.uga.edu
University of Georgia

Soure: EurekAlert.org
25 October 2006

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1.35  Sunflower speciation highlights roles for transposable elements in evolution

In a finding that furthers our understanding of how hybridization may contribute to genome changes and the evolution of new species, researchers have found that the genomes of three sunflower species that arose in evolution as hybrids of the same two parental types have undergone a massive proliferation of genetic entities known as transposable elements. The findings are reported by Mark Ungerer and colleagues at Kansas State University and appear in the October 24th issue of the journal Current Biology, published by Cell Press.

Theory predicts that for diploid species--that is, those possessing two sets of chromosomes, like most animals and plants--the origin of new species through inter-species hybridization may be facilitated by rapid reorganization of genomes. Previous work on three independently derived hybrid sunflower species has validated this mode of speciation by documenting novel structural rearrangements in their chromosomes, as well as large-scale increases in nuclear DNA content. The nuclear-genome size differences between the hybrids and their parental taxa occur in spite of the fact that all species possess the same number of chromosomes and are diploids.

In the new work, the researchers have determined that the genome size differences between the hybrid and parental sunflower species are associated with a massive proliferation of transposable genetic elements that has occurred independently in the genome of each hybrid species. Transposable elements, made famous by Barbara McClintock in her study of their behavior in maize, are related to infectious retroviruses and are capable of multiplying and inserting themselves at different points throughout a host genome. They are found in virtually all eukaryotic genomes.

The new findings not only add an interesting twist to the origin of new sunflower species through hybridization, but also suggest that the sunflower system may emerge as an excellent model group for studying the natural forces influencing the activation and proliferation of transposable elements in plants. This is because in addition to their hybrid origins, each of the three hybrid species is adapted to, and evolved in, a so-called abiotically extreme environment--two of the species are found in desert environments, while the third is adapted to salt marshes. Both hybridization and abiotic stress have been implicated as natural agents of activation and proliferation of transposable elements.

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The researchers include Mark C. Ungerer, Suzanne C. Strakosh and Ying Zhen of Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. This work was funded by NSF EPSCoR and Kansas State University.

Ungerer et al.: "Correspondence: Genome expansion in three hybrid sunflower species is associated with retrotransposon proliferation." Publishing in Current Biology 16, R1-2, October 24, 2006. DOI 10.1016/j.cub.2006.09.020. www.current-biology.com

Contact: Heidi Hardman
hhardman@cell.com
Cell Press

Source: EurekAlert.org
23 October 2006

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1.36  Rice protein change makes crop virus resistant

Because the viral genome is so small, viruses often rely on host factors to assist them in infecting the host. One such factor is the eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4E (eIF4E), which interacts with the potyvirus VPg protein. VPg breaks host resistance to viruses. In plants, both eIF4E and eIF4G appear to play a significant role in plant/virus interactions. But if host factors are mutated and cannot be recognized by viral proteins, can plants remain resistant to viral infection?

Laurence Albar and colleagues try it out on rice, and report that "Mutations in the eIF(iso)4G translation initiation factor confer high resistance of rice to Rice yellow mottle virus." Their work is published in the latest issue of The Plant Journal. Researchers worked on rice resistance to the Rice yellow mottle virus (RYMV), a major pathogen of rice in Africa; as well as on the rice variety Gigante, which has a very high resistance to RYMV.

Researchers mapped the Gigante variety's genome to isolate the Rymv1 locus; this locus encodes a gene that contributes to the plant's resistance. The researchers then derived the corresponding gene from a rice variety susceptible to RYMV, and transferred it to the Gigante line. With the new gene, transgenic Gigante lost resistance to RYMV. Rymv1, the researchers found, encodes an isoform of eIF4G. This gene is mutated in Gigante, keeping it from interacting with viral proteins, and allowing the rice variety to be resistant to RYMV infections.

According to the researchers, this gene "is of outstanding interest as it is the only one controlling the high resistance of rice against RYMV that has been described so far." They now plan to do a wider analysis of Rymv1 diversity in rice varieties and their wild relatives, particularly those that are described as being resistant to RYMV. This can pave the way for eventual use of the genes in rice breeding programs.

Subscribers to The Plant Journal can read the complete article through http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-313X.2006.02792.x or http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1365-313X.2006.02792.x . Other readers can access the abstract through http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-313X.2006.02792.x .

Source: CropBiotech Update 15 September 2006:

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

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1.37  Rye protein shown to bind to ice

Plants that live in temperate and boreal regions have to be able to survive not only extreme temperatures, but also temperature fluctuations. In such regions, summer heat is severe, and winter cold is extreme; in the latter condition, ice crystals can form in plants, destroying cells by forcing water out of them and effectively dehydrating the plant. Freezing damage also renders plants more susceptible to pathogen attack.

Freezing-tolerant plants, which include some cereals, undergo cold acclimation, a gradual adaptation to cold but not freezing temperatures. In the process, the plants secrete antifreeze proteins (AFP) that inhibit the growth of ice crystals. Finding out what proteins keep plants frost-free can help scientists engineer other plants with cold acclimation. Mahmoud W.F. Yaish and colleagues of University of Waterloo, Canada report on "Cold-Active Winter Rye Glucanases with Ice-Binding Capacity" in the latest issue of Plant Physiology, where they characterize glucanases, pathogenesis-related proteins found in winter rye, to further examine the enzymes' roles and contributions to cold tolerance.

Glucanases were previously known to function in plant pathogen resistance, cell wall synthesis, and pollen development, but the current study shows that these enzymes can contribute to protecting plants from forming ice crystals in cold conditions. Scientists found this out by expressing two different glucanases in Escherichia coli, purifying the recombinant proteins, and assaying them for their hydrolytic and antifreeze activities in vitro. Glucanases, they surmised, have evolved not only to possess enzymatic activity in order to resist infection by pathogens; glucanases also inhibit the formation of large, potentially fatal ice crystals.

The next question to be addressed is whether glucanases also act as AFPs in other plant species, for which a better understanding of the additional roles that glucanases have in cold tolerance in planta is required.

Subscribers to the journal can read the complete article at http://www.plantphysiol.org/cgi/content/full/141/4/1459. Other readers can take a look at the abstract through http://www.plantphysiol.org/cgi/content/abstract/141/4/1459.

Source: CropBiotech Update 15 September 2006:

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

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1.38  Update 6-2006 of FAO-BiotechNews (Selected articles).

1) FAO Biotechnology Documents webpage updated

The annotated list of on-line documents available on the FAO Biotechnology ebsite has recently been updated. It currently provides over 150 web links o a wide range of freely-downloadable articles, books, meeting reports, proceedings and studies published by FAO, or prepared in collaboration with FAO, in recent years concerning biotechnology in food and agriculture. The webpage (http://www.fao.org/biotech/doc.asp) is available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French and Spanish and many of the documents are available in several languages. For more information, contact biotech-website@fao.org.

5) Publication on biotechnology and genetic resources

The FAO publication entitled "The role of biotechnology in exploring and protecting agricultural genetic resources" is now available in HTML format. The book aims to provide an updated overview of the current status of the world's genetic resources for food and agriculture, of the use of biotechnology tools for characterizing and conserving these genetic resources, and of the many specific issues involved in applying them in developing countries. See the book at http://www.fao.org/docrep/009/a0399e/a0399e00.htm; an FAO news story (in Arabic, English, French and Spanish) about the book at http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000355/index.html or contact Charlotte.Lietaer@fao.org to request a copy.

6) AGORA initiative expanded

The Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture (AGORA) initiative was set up by FAO in 2003 together with major publishers to provide free or low-cost access to leading scientific journals in agriculture and related biological, environmental and social sciences to public institutions in developing countries. Originally dealing with 69 low-income countries, it has now been expanded in its second phase to include universities, colleges, research institutes and government ministries as well as non-governmental organisations in an additional 37 lower-middle income countries. The initiative provides access to over 900 journals, many dealing directly or indirectly with biotechnology. See http://www.aginternetwork.org/en/index.php (in Arabic, English, French or Spanish) or contact agora@fao.org for further information.

9) FAO/IAEA Plant Breeding and Genetics Newsletter 17

The July 2006 newsletter from the Plant Breeding and Genetics Section of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture and the FAO/IAEA Agriculture and Biotechnology Laboratory is now available. This 23-page newsletter, issued twice a year, gives an overview of their past and upcoming events (meetings, training courses etc.), ongoing projects and publications. See http://www-naweb.iaea.org/nafa/pbg/public/pb-nl-17.pdf (1.2 MB) or contact k.allaf@iaea.org to request a copy.

15) Molecular markers for allele mining - Workshop proceedings

On 22-26 August 2005, a workshop on "Molecular markers for allele mining" was organised by the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute on behalf of the Generation Challenge Programme and hosted by the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation in Chennai, India. Proceedings of the workshop (85 pages) have now
been published, edited by M.C. de Vicente and J.C. Glaszmann. See http://www.ipgri.cgiar.org/publications/pdf/1134.pdf (1 MB) or contact ipgri-publications@cgiar.org for more information.

16) GCP 2006 annual research meeting

The Generation Challenge Program (GCP) annual research meeting was held on 12-16 September 2006 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Presentations and posters from the meeting are now available on the web. See http://www.generationcp.org/arm.php?da=0653125 or contact k.lesnick@cgiar.org for more information. The GCP is one of the Challenge Programmes approved by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research and its aim is to "harness the rich global heritage of plant genetic resources and create a new generation of crops that meet the needs of resource-poor people".

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2  PUBLICATIONS

2.01  New report available from Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology and NASDA workshop on peaceful coexistence among growers of GE, conventional and organic crops

Washington, DC
In March 2006, the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) held a workshop that examined how growers of conventional, genetically engineered (GE), and organic crops can “peacefully coexist” in our ever-evolving marketplace.

The workshop, which took place in Boulder, Colorado was the second of three sponsored by the Pew Initiative and NASDA. Participants included representatives from state and federal governments; GE, conventional, and organic farmers; the European Union, seed companies, food processing and marketing companies, academia and the biotech industry. All gathered to identify potential options for advancing peaceful coexistence in the marketplace and to understand the existing and future roles of the public and private sectors in achieving this goal.

Highlights include:
-“Peaceful coexistence” can be described as the ability of conventional, GE and organic growers to effectively meet the specifications of their targeted and consumer markets and ensure a strong, vibrant, diverse agricultural economy.
-Growers of conventional and organic crops have at times been denied market access when unable to meet the contract or other market specifications.
-The lack of standardized, internationally accepted marketing standards, testing methodologies, and protocols pose a significant challenge to the smooth and efficient operation of both domestic and international agricultural marketing chains.
-State agricultural agencies are sometimes pressed to “pick sides” among GE, conventional, and organic production methods, but they believe all three production systems are critical to the economic viability and sustainability of U.S. agriculture.
-Overcoming the challenges and capitalizing on the opportunities provided by fostering “peaceful coexistence” will require a combination of market, research, farmer-to-farmer communication and Federal, state and local government efforts.

An overview of the conference agenda and the full paper from the workshop, entitled Peaceful Coexistence Among Growers Of: Genetically Engineered, Conventional and Organic Crops, can be viewed at: http://pewagbiotech.org/events/0301.

Additionally, proceedings from the first workshop on sharing confidential business information between state and federal agencies involved in agriculture biotechnology oversight, can be found at: http://pewagbiotech.org/events/1214.

Proceedings from the third workshop on issues relating to the federal regulatory system governing agricultural biotechnology, and the appropriate role for state agriculture agencies in that system, will be available in the near future.

The Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research project whose goal is to inform the public and policymakers on issues about genetically modified food and agricultural biotechnology, including its importance, as well as concerns about it and its regulation. It is supported by a grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts to the University of Richmond.

Source: SeedQuest.com
12 October 2006

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2.02  National Academies advisory: Native African vegetables

Sub-Saharan Africa is home to hundreds of indigenous vegetables -- most of them resilient enough to thrive in poor soil -- that have fed Africans for tens of thousands of years. These plants, however, receive little or no attention from the research community. LOST CROPS OF AFRICA, VOLUME II: VEGETABLES, new from the National Research Council, discusses how greater efforts to explore the potential of such vegetables could enhance food supplies and economies across the continent.
###
Advance copies will be available to reporters only beginning at 9 a.m. EST on Monday, Oct. 30. THE REPORT IS EMBARGOED AND NOT FOR PUBLIC RELEASE BEFORE 4 P.M. EST ON TUESDAY, OCT. 31. Reporters can obtain a copy by contacting the National Academies' Office of News and Public Information at tel. 202-Contact: Vanee Vines
NEWS@NAS.EDU
The National Academies

Source: EurekAlert.org
24 October 2006

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2.03  Intellectual Property Management in Health and Agricultural Innovation: A Handbook of Best Practices

edited by Anatole Krattiger, Richard T. Mahoney, Lita Nelsen, Jennifer A. Thomson, Alan B. Bennett, Kanikaram Satyanarayana, Gregory D. Graff, Carlos Fernandez and Stanley P. Kowalski

This unique book presents concepts and information in a simple, direct style. The chapters are prefaced with succinct, no-nonsense editorial overviews that highlight the contributors key points and place them in the context of evolving best practices and broader policies and strategies. The Handbook covers:

IP and Innovation in Health and Agriculture
The Tool Box
Global Access Licensing Practices
The Ins and Outs of Contracts
IP Policies, Strategies and Management Valuation, Commercialization and Spinouts
Special Cases (including Genomics, Bioprospecting and Building Networks)
National, Institutional and Topical Case Studies
and more

Visit www.ipHandbook.org to download sample chapters and pre-order the Handbook (to be published in spring 2007).

Contributed by Anatole Krattiger
anatole@bioDevelopments.org

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3.  WEB RESOURCES

3.01  Global Facilitation Unit for Underutilized Species: What's going on in the area of underutilized species?

The Global Facilitation Unit for Underutilized Species (GFU) is pleased to announce the publication of its re-styled website.

Upfront on the home page you will find the latest postings (documents, web sites, training and funding opportunities and announcements of upcoming events).

The information is thematically grouped into 11 different categories, and each posting is accompanied by a summary, key words, and other relevant information.

Several search functions have been included to make sure that you easily find what you are looking for.

A list of donors potentially interested to fund work on underutilized species has been compiled in a donor database along with other useful information for grant seekers.

A database on Who is doing What in the field of underutilized species targeting organizations, institutions, networks and individuals in the public and private sector is being looked after in order to facilitate improved networking and develop synergies amongst stakeholders.

You are given the opportunity to sign up and receive a regular email with the latest information and many more.
Visit www.underutilized-species.org

Contributed by Paul Bordoni
Global Facilitation Unit for Underutilized Species
Rome, Italy
underutilized-species@cgiar.org

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3.02  The soybean breeder’s toolbox

Scientists at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) recently unveiled an online database, which they hope soybean breeders, producers, and scientists will use in their research. "The Soybean Breeder's Toolbox" makes it easier to compare current soybean genetic maps and will allow study of maps from other legume species when they become available. Molecular markers on genetic map, and diseases and insects that attack soybean plants are only a few of the topics that can be sourced from the database. Also in the online toolkit are data associated with soybean quantitative traits, such as resistance of different soybean genotypes to biological and environmental stresses. The toolbox's linkage with other databases will also make it possible to combine information from other databases into a single report. The website is the new interface to SoyBase, a pioneering, ARS-supported plant-genetic database established in 1993.

Access the database at http://soybase.org/. View the complete press release at http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2006/060925.htm.

Source: CropBiotech Update 22 September 2006:

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

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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

UPDATE: Early registration deadline extended
. 8-9 February 2007. A national workshop on  Plant breeding:  A vital capacity for U.S. national goals, Raleigh, NC. Co-organized by the Departments of Crop Science and Horticultural Science, North Carolina State University; and by CSREES, USDA.  New early registration deadline:  Nov 30, 2006.  Additional information at:  http://www.plantbreedingworkshop.ncsu.edu/ Ann Marie Thro
CSREES,USDA
athro@csrees.usda.gov

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ESF-Wellcome Trust Conference: Crop Genomics, Trait Analysis and Breeding
8 - 11 November 2006 Wellcome Trust Genome Campus, Hinxton, UK
Source: via http://plantbreeding.com/

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Meeting on plant temperature stress for 2007

"Temperature Stress in Plants" will take place January 21-26, 2007 in Ventura, California. The program will cover the physiology, biochemistry, and genetics/genomics of plant responses to high and low temperatures. In addition to model species, important issues regarding agronomic, horticultural and ornamental species will be addressed. In order to be considered for an oral presentation, submit abstracts November 1, 2006. For more information, visit http://www.grc.uri.edu/programs/2007/tempstrs.htm.

Source: CropBiotech Update 22 September 2006:

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

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Rockefeller's Third General Meeting on "Biotechnology, Breeding, and Seed Systems for African Crops" to be held 26-29 March 2007

The third general meeting of the Rockefeller Foundation program on "Biotechnology, Breeding, and Seed Systems for African Crops" will be held March 26-29, 2007 in Maputo, Mozambique. Rockefeller Foundation grantees working on the genetic improvement of African crops and crop seed systems, as well as others who are interested in this work, are invited to attend. The meeting will be co-hosted by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Instituto de Investigação Agrária de Moçambique (IIAM). More information can be viewed online at the link below.

http://www.africancrops.net/rockefeller/icv3/

Source: Generation Challenge Program, http://www.generationcp.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


* 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

* 12 November 2006. The Crop Science Society of America annual meetings will be held in two
weeks Please note the following Sunday, 12 November workshop:

Public Plant and Animal Breeding
(http://crops.confex.com/crops/2006am/techprogram/D1130.HTM)
Sunday, 12 November 2006
1:30 PM-5:30 PM
Marriott Ballroom 1, Second Floor

Many of you will be arriving on Sunday but may not be fully aware of
this workshop. CSSA, along with several affiliated groups, is working
hard to develop more public and private support for plant (and animal)
breeding, and this workshop is part of this ongoing process.

* 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 onPlant breeding:  A vital capacity for U.S. national goals”. Raleigh, NC. Co-organized by CSREES, USDA; and by the Departments of Crop Science and Horticultural Science, North Carolina State University.  NOTE: EARLY REGISTRATION DEADLINE EXTENDED to Nov 30, 2006. 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 Relationships­Diversity 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

* 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.

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7.  EDITOR'S NOTES

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

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

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