5 February 2007

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

Clair H. Hershey, Editor

Archived issues available at: FAO Plant Breeding Newsletter.


1.01  Texas A&M chair, fellowship named in honor of Norman Borlaug
1.02  Drought tolerant maize benefits African farmers
1.03  Africa's farmers will have room to grow
1.04  Rice research hub for greater Mekong opens in Laos
1.05  Expanded lab gives Australian plant breeders a quality edge
1.06  U.S. National Science Foundation provides $14 million to advance research in comparative genomics of economically important plants
1.07  Sugarcane for biofuels research kicks off in Brazil
1.08  Plants point the way to coping with climate change
1.09  Study explores the effect of genetically modified crops on developing countries
1.10  Gene flow in the common bean Phaseolus
1.11  A highly efficient 'genetically modified gene-deletor' system to remove all functional transgenes from pollen, seed or both
1.12  Peru: native potatoes in the limelight
1.13  European Space Agency launches new project to protect biodiversity
1.14  From varietal improvement to impoverishment: what is the reality?
1.15  Ancient genes used to produce salt-tolerant wheat
1.16  Wheat can fatally starve insect predators
1.17  Devastating fungal pathogen spreads from eastern Africa to Yemen
1.18  Wheat lines that resisted virulent stem rust last season have now succumbed
1.19  Crop scientists strive to improve the fitness of wheat for 21st century demands
1.20  Root feeding of fusaric acid: a quick method of testing chickpea genotypes for Fusarium wilt resistance (Cicer arietinum)
1.21  Whitefly spreads emerging plant viruses
1.22  Whiteflies and plant viruses can help each other to speed up biological invasion
1.23  Technology reduces gossypol in cottonseed
1.24  Orange cauliflower gene eyed as nutrition booster
1.25  Pinto bean resists viral diseases
1.26  First GM eggplant soon to be commercially grown in the Philippines
1.27  Efficient tissue culture protocol for wild eggplants
1.28  Continued funding for the tomato sequence project
1.29  Genetic mapping of finger millet
1.30  Coffee --  That’s sucrose to the taste buds
1.31  Triploid papaya – potential uses in breeding and fruit production
1.32  Improving crop plants through genomics
1.33  Molecular markers make their mark in plant breeding
1.34  GCP Latest News Alerts

2.01  An Introduction to Plant Breeding
2.02  Results from the FAO Biotechnology Forum: Background and dialogue on selected issues

3.01  Web resources from: underutilized-species@CGIAR.ORG

(None submitted)

5.01  Executive Director, The UC Davis Seed Biotechnology Center
5.02  Geneticist (Plants), USDA/ARS - Plant Science Research Unit, Raleigh, North Carolina
5.03  Plant genomics summer internships – University of Missouri





1.01  Texas A&M chair, fellowship named in honor of Norman Borlaug

New Orleans, Louisiana
Texas A&M University Agriculture and Monsanto Company have announced the creation of the Borlaug-Monsanto Chair for Plant Breeding and International Crop Improvement. The chair is named in honor of Dr. Norman Borlaug, who won the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize for his work in plant breeding.

Funding for the chair comes from a $2.5 million endowment from Monsanto.

The announcement came Jan. 9 at the Beltwide Cotton Conferences in New Orleans.

Of the endowment, $2 million will be used to fund the Borlaug-Monsanto Chair. Borlaug is a distinguished professor of international agriculture at Texas A&M.

The remaining $500,000 will endow an assistantship fund to support graduate-level research by young scientists pursuing careers in plant breeding, cotton crop improvement and production. These assistantships will also be used to support cotton research focused on crop improvement and production systems in the U.S.

"As father of the ‘Green Revolution,' Borlaug taught the world how to use agricultural technology to save lives and improve living conditions," said Dr. Robert Fraley, chief technology officer for Monsanto Company.

"Plant breeding was the engine for this tremendous change. We are honored to work with Borlaug and Texas A&M University to promote additional plant breeding research that will help farmers produce food, fiber and fuel to meet growing world demand."

"We consider this a tremendous opportunity to continue Dr. Borlaug's legacy," said Dr. Elsa Murano, vice chancellor and dean of agriculture at Texas A&M. "This will enhance our academic programs enormously, and it will make significant contributions to science through its research capabilities."

"This wonderful gift from Monsanto will enable the Borlaug Institute, Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Texas Agricultural Experiment Station and Texas Cooperative Extension to realize the vision of Dr. Borlaug for world service in agricultural science," said Dr. Edwin Price, associate vice chancellor and director of the Norman E. Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Texas A&M.

"For me, it's one of the most important steps forward in linking international agriculture and agricultural research with Dr. Borlaug's vision," he said.

"There is little doubt that this will position Texas A&M to better research and improve our training of students for the Texas cotton industry," said Dr. David Baltensperger, head of the soil and crop science department at Texas A&M.

Borlaug earned a bachelor's degree in forestry from the University of Minnesota in 1937. He worked for the U.S. Forestry Service in Massachusetts and Idaho before and after graduation, and then returned to the University of Minnesota to earn a master's degree in 1939 and a doctorate in 1942.

He began working as a geneticist and plant pathologist for the Cooperative Wheat Research and Production program in Mexico in 1944. In that capacity, he organized and directed the program, which was a joint undertaking by the Mexican government and the Rockefeller Foundation.

This program involved scientific research in genetics, plant pathology, entomology, agronomy and science and cereal technology.

His work centered on increasing and diversifying crop yields in regions of the world where agriculture was less developed than in the U.S., therefore being instrumental in the so-called "Green Revolution" in the 1960s.

In 1970, Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize for the development of high-yielding wheat varieties. He also was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 and the Presidential World without Hunger Medal in 1985. He also received the National Medal of Science from President George Bush in 2005.

The scientist who fills the chair position will be expected to:
- Lead in creating an international agricultural research capability, particularly in plant breeding, at Texas A&M.

- Teach courses in international agricultural development and food security.
- Work with agricultural scientists around the world.
- Lead and guide junior faculty and scientists in international agricultural research and scholarship.
- Represent Texas A&M agricultural research throughout the world.

Writer: Edith Chenault

10 January 2007

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1.02  Drought tolerant maize benefits African farmers

Three decades of research into drought tolerant maize by CIMMYT and a very strong set of partnerships has made a difference in the lives of African farmers

El Batán, Mexico
Three decades of research into drought tolerant maize by CIMMYT and a very strong set of partnerships has made a difference in the lives of African farmers. That achievement has been recognized by the awarding to CIMMYT of the 2006 CGIAR King Baudouin Award.

It began with a small experiment to try to improve the lowland tropical maize population called Tuxpeno for drought tolerance in Mexico in the 1970s. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) started to invest in more significant research around drought tolerant maize in 1986. In the mid-1990s, the focus of the work moved to Africa - to the most challenging maize growing environments world-wide: southern and eastern Africa, where maize is a source of food and livelihoods for some 250 million people.

Today, sufficient seed has been produced to plant over 2.5 million hectares of land in eastern and southern Africa with new varieties that produce more maize both when dry spells occur and under good conditions. The road in-between involved the building of a large partnership with donors, national agricultural research programs, extension programs, small-scale seed producers, community seed producers and individual farmers; developing new ways of screening germplasm in real world conditions; and enhancing farmer-participatory methods to select the best and disseminate the best.

CIMMYT and its partners employed novel methodologies in breeding that were pro-poor according to Marianne Bänziger, the director of CIMMYT’s Global Maize Program.

“Traditional varieties have been developed with fertilizer applied under good rainfall conditions. CIMMYT took a completely different route,” she says. “We took the varieties; we exposed thousands of them to very severe stress conditions - drought, low soil fertility. We selected the best. We brought them to farmers and farmers told us which ones they liked.”

The projects invested in over 25 fully-equipped managed-stress screening sites and more than 120 testing sites owned and operated by national programs. A network was established involving CIMMYT, public National Agricultural Research Systems (NARSs), and the private sector to systematically test new varieties and hybrids from all providers for the constraints most relevant to smallholder farmers in eastern and southern Africa. This network recently provided proof that the stress breeding approach works. In a simple comparison between all maize hybrids from CIMMYT’s stress breeding approach and a similar number of hybrids developed by reputable private companies using the traditional approaches-using 83 hybrids, 65 randomly-stressed locations across eastern and southern Africa, and 3 years of evaluation-the results demonstrated that, under production circumstances most similar to those of resource-poor farmers in Africa (that is, at yield levels of 1–5 tons per hectare), the CIMMYT varieties yielded on average 20% more in the most difficult conditions and 5% more under favorable conditions. Among these the best stress-tolerant hybrids increased yields as much as 100% under drought, showing the great potential contained in maize genetic resources.

The final selection was done through a participatory methodology called the “mother-baby” trial system, in which farmers managed some “baby” plots in their own fields while NGOs, researchers and extension staff conducted a “mother trial” in the center of their community. This way farmers could see how potential varieties actually performed under local conditions.

As a result, more than 50 open-pollinated and hybrid varieties have been disseminated to public and private partners, NARSs, NGOs and seed companies, for seed production and dissemination to farmers. “None of this success would have been possible without the collaboration of many dedicated researchers, NGO and extension staff from the public and private sector.” says Bänziger. “They were the ones evaluating varieties under diverse conditions with farmers. They also started to adopt the new breeding methods in their own programs, developing their own varieties, engaging in seed production and tackling the challenge of getting seed to farmers.”

The story is not finished. CIMMYT researchers are sure the genetic diversity in maize is sufficient to push the drought tolerance in new maize varieties significantly further. “Yield gains are such that with every year of research we can add another 100 kg of grain under drought,” says Bänziger. The greatest challenge is to incorporate these gains into adapted varieties and get the seed to the farmers who need it most - a tremendous task and opportunity given the looming threats of climate change.

Source: CIMMYT E-News, vol 3 no. 12, December 2006 via
December 2006

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1.03  Africa's farmers will have room to grow

Enhanced, drought-tolerant maize will give African farmers options, even with global warming

NAIROBI, Kenya, 29 Jan 2007 -- A vital research program that has already had significant impact on the lives of African farmers will accelerate its work for their benefit, thanks to new funding from one of the world’s most important philanthropic organizations, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The research also marks the forging of a strong, new partnership between the developing world’s premier research organizations dedicated to improving the livelihoods of farm families who rely on maize-the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).

The two centers will team with research partners in eleven of Africa’s most maize-dependent and drought-affected countries.

More than a quarter of a billion Africans depend on maize as their staple food, often eating a quarter kilo or more of maize and maize products every day. Any disruption in the supply of maize, either at the farm level or to the markets, has destructive consequences for the most vulnerable. Unpredictable rainfall, recurring drought, and loss of soil fertility have all made the maize harvests in Africa uncertain. Today, many farm families cannot grow enough food to last the year and do not have income to buy food. Accepting donated food aid is often the only way to survive. This robs families of their dignity and shackles development.

For more than a decade, CIMMYT and IITA, working in cooperation with a wide range of partners in countries throughout sub-Saharan Africa, have been developing solutions, in particular maize that can produce even during drought, for farm families who depend on maize for their food security and livelihoods. Farmers themselves participate in the breeding process, providing land for test plots and screening, and scoring potential new varieties. Thanks to the combined efforts of national agricultural research systems, non-government organizations, and seed companies in several African nations, up to a million hectares are now sown to new, drought-tolerant varieties, giving farmers a 25-30% boost in yield.

But there is much more potential to be realized for farmers in the region, potential that can raise farm families from below subsistence to annual surplus. That will give them the option to sell surpluses to the rapidly growing urban markets or to devote some of their land to other crops, in particular crops which contribute to restoring soil fertility and enhancing incomes. In either case the farmer’s overall risk is lessened and life and livelihoods improved.

"With every year of research that we do now and in the future, we can add to a drought-affected fields another 100 kilograms of maize," says Marianne Bänziger, Director of CIMMYT’s Global Maize Program, "That means more maize for farming families to eat or sell when conditions are toughest."

CIMMYT and IITA will combine their expertise in working with maize farmers in varying agro-ecologies across the continent and will draw from the genetic resources (maize seeds) held in their two substantial germplasm banks to make this research program truly pan-African.

The vision of the new work is to generate maize varieties which are much hardier when drought hits. Doubling the yield of adapted maize varieties under drought is the ambitious goal for the next 10 years and is possible because of the huge, natural, genetic variation in maize and new scientific methods that permit better use of this variation. New varieties of drought tolerant maize will play a significant part in mitigating the potentially disastrous consequences for the crop that could result from global warming.

"The importance of this work to sub-Saharan Africa and its people cannot be overemphasized," says Romano Kiome, Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture of Kenya. "It is heartening that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has recognized it and sees the long-term vision of this project as part of their strategy to help Africa’s development."

CIMMYT and IITA will continue to use both participatory breeding strategies and drought-stress screening, combined with the new techniques of marker-assisted selection, to improve the efficiency of breeding. The scientists will also analyze bottlenecks in seed systems and identify high-priority areas for future poverty-reducing investments. Finally, work will greatly expand partnerships with national agricultural research systems, non-government organizations, seed companies, and other development initiatives in the region to ensure positive impacts for resource-poor farmers.
For more information please contact:
Wilfred Mwangi
Project Leader
CIMMYT Nairobi
Tel: 254-20-7224600
Paula Bramel
Deputy Director General Research for Development
IITA Dar es Salaam
Tel: 255-754-781318

Contact: David Mowbray
International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)

29 January 2007

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1.04  Rice research hub for greater Mekong opens in Laos

The countries of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Yunnan province of People's Republic of China comprise the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), considered as one of the most important rice bowls in Asia. It is also one of the hardest hit by age-old problems of pests, diseases, floods, and drought.

For the first time in its history, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has established a Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) office to coordinate efforts to help farmers in the region deal with production problems and improve their lives. Lao Minister for Agriculture and Forestry Sitaheng Rasphone and IRRI Director General Dr. Robert Ziegler signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the establishment of the new GMS office in Vientiane, Laos on 12 January.

"Working with the national research programs of the GMS, we have developed a research strategy to reduce crop losses from floods, drought, and pests, while improving the yield potential and management efficiency of the most popular rice varieties," Dr. Ziegler said. "IRRI's most recent success in this area was the discovery of a gene that enables rice to survive complete submergence for 2 weeks. The gene is being introduced to several popular rice varieties, including a variety of Lao sticky rice."

To read the press release, visit

Source: CropBiotech Update
26 January 2007

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics
Cornell University

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1.05  Expanded lab gives Australian plant breeders a quality edge

Queensland, Australia
Queensland now has a major national research laboratory to provide quality tests for the products of most field crops grown in Australia.

A Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F) senior research scientist Glen Fox said an amalgamation of staff and equipment at three existing laboratories in Toowoomba was now providing Australian plant breeders with services not previously available.

Mr Fox said the laboratory was the first of its kind in Australia to handle such a diverse portfolio of grain and pulse crops.

He said the change was a result of amalgamating the Australian Malting Barley Centre, Barley Quality Laboratory and the Wheat Quality Laboratory to form the Queensland Grains Research Laboratory.

The expanded laboratory would remain at the Leslie Research Centre in Toowoomba.

Mr Fox said to demonstrate a commitment to providing a quality service, the new combined facility would operate under a single Quality Management System and attain full accreditation in the near future.

He said the expanded laboratory meant support for DPI&F plant breeders of almost all Australian field crops grown in the  Grains Research and Development Corporation’s northern region.

“We can now quickly provide information for plant breeders on the suitability of the products of their experimental lines for end uses.

“For example, we can rank grain from experimental barley lines on its suitability for malting, brewing and feed markets, or wheat for milling, feed, bread, or specialist niche uses such as yellow alkaline noodles and sponge and dough bread.

“A major new initiative for the Wheat end products group within this Laboratory is a new collaborative GRDC project between the DPI&F and CSIRO on sponge and dough bread,” Mr Fox said. 

“This new project is an important example of pre-breeding research that will deliver benefits to all Australian wheat breeding programs.

“We will also be able to measure the grain quality of pulse crops, such as peanuts, soybeans and chickpeas,” he said.

Mr Fox said the change would mean an increase in the number of samples tested from the present 25,000 a year, and a faster turnaround of samples and results through access to additional equipment and skilled staff.

The Leslie Research Centre (formerly Queensland Wheat Research Institute) Wheat Quality Laboratory was opened in 1962 and the Barley Quality Laboratory opened 10 years later.

23 January 2007

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1.06  U.S. National Science Foundation provides $14 million to advance research in comparative genomics of economically important plants

Washington, DC
Scientists will find improved ways of studying the structure, function and evolution of the genomes of economically important plants, thanks to $14 million in new awards from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Resources to be developed include genomic sequences, genetic markers, maps and expressed sequence collections. These are much-needed tools for researchers working in areas as diverse as genome evolution and plant breeding.

Awardees will address scientific questions including the role of polyploidy in genome evolution, the genomic basis of speciation, and the relationships between cultivated plants and their weedy relatives.

"If the Plant Genome Research Program has been making the bricks that build a conceptual framework for the genomes of economically important crop plants, these projects will provide the mortar," said James Collins, NSF assistant director for biological sciences. "The impact of genomics in evolutionary, ecological and population studies of crop plants will be far-reaching."

Many crop plants have large, complex genomes that in some cases are "polyploid" - containing multiple genomes. Polyploidy is widespread in plants and animals, and can lead to dramatic changes in gene content and genome organization that are only just beginning to be understood.

A project led by researchers at Iowa State University will develop sequence and map resources to study polyploidy in cotton, while researchers at the University of Missouri will look at the impact of polyploidy on plant form in Brassica species, which includes plants such as canola and Brussels sprouts. Other projects at the University of Georgia and the University of Arizona will develop sequence resources to study genome organization in wheat and rice.

The outcomes from these projects will allow researchers to understand how extra copies of genes function in these plants, and how genomes from different sources can work together in a single plant.

The ever-growing collection of genome sequences is shedding light on the variation between individuals within a species. For example, in a forest of trees or a field of corn, there may be many versions of a particular gene, each with minor sequence differences. These sequence differences can sometimes have dramatic effects on growth and development.

Projects based at the University of California at Davis and Cornell University will catalog variants in pine trees and in maize, respectively, to allow researchers to link genetic variation with changes in gene function. This information could have applications in plant breeding.

More than half of the world's most cultivated crops have relatives that are invasive weeds, competing with the crop for nutrients and water and leading to reduced yields.

One example is red rice, a weedy form of rice that reduces the yields of cultivated rice by as much as 80 percent and contaminating harvests with its small red-coated grains. A project led by researchers at Washington University St. Louis will examine the regions of the red rice genome associated with weediness to find out whether it originated from the domesticated crop or if it was introduced as a weed from Asia.

A related project led by investigators at Michigan State University will investigate differences in gene expression in weedy and cultivated radishes to uncover which genes are associated with invasiveness.The outcomes of these projects could lead to a great understanding of how plants become weedy and invasive, and yield possible avenues for better selective control of weeds, scientists believe.

"The outcomes of this new program will tie together studies of the evolution of gene structure, function and regulation across the whole plant kingdom," said Collins.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, with an annual budget of $5.58 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 1,700 universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 40,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes nearly 10,000 new funding awards. The NSF also awards over $400 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

9 January 2007

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1.07  Sugarcane for biofuels research kicks off in Brazil

A US$2.25 million research initiative led by the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA) has kick-started in Brazil to improve the use of sugarcane for biofuel production. The project is funded by the Technological Innovation and New Management Approaches in Agricultural Research Program (Agrofuturo), with support from the Inter-American Bank of Development (BID) and the government of Brazil, and by the Studies and Projects Financing Entity (FINEP).

Main research lines include the genetic improvement of existing sugarcane varieties for improved resistance to the sugar cane giant borer, the principal pest for the crop in the north of Brazil, and for increased tolerance to drought. On their way are also efforts to identify bacteria capable of fixing atmospheric nitrogen to reduce the need of added chemical fertilizers, and to develop new biofertilizers containing bacterial extracts. Socio-economic and environmental studies on the potential impact of expanding sugarcane production are also included in the portfolio of projects.

Read the full news (in Portuguese) at

Source: CropBiotech Update
19 January 2007

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics
Cornell University

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1.08  Plants point the way to coping with climate change

Roses flowering at Christmas and snow-free ski resorts this winter suggest that climate change is already with us and our farmers and growers will need ways of adapting. Scientists studying how plants have naturally evolved to cope with the changing seasons of temperate climates have made a discovery that could help us to breed new varieties of crops, able to thrive in a changing climate.

The importance of the discovery is that it reveals how a species has developed different responses to different climates in a short period of time.

Researchers at the John Innes Centre (JIC), Norwich, UK have been examining how plants use the cold of winter to time their flowering for the relative warmth of spring. This process, called vernalization, varies even within the same plant species, depending on local climate. In Scandinavia, where winter temperatures can vary widely, the model plant, Arabidopsis has a slow vernalization response to prevent plants from being 'fooled' into flowering by a short mid-winter thaw. One particular gene, named FLC, delays flowering over the winter and the research team discovered how cold turns off FLC and what keeps it off during growth in spring. In the UK plants only need four weeks of cold to stably inactivate FLC, allowing plants to start their spring flowering early. Arabidopsis plants in Sweden have a mechanism that requires 14 straight weeks of winter cold before FLC is stably inactivated. This prevents the plants flowering only to be hit with another month of harsh winter weather.

Research leader at JIC, Professor Caroline Dean, explains: "We studied levels of the FLC gene in Arabidopsis plants from different parts of the world expecting to find regional variations that correlated with how much cold was required to switch FLC off. We discovered that FLC levels in autumn and the rate of reduction during the early phases of cold were quite similar in Arabidopsis plants from Edinburgh and N. Scandinavia . However, we found big variations in how much cold was required to achieve stable inactivation of FLC. FLC was stably silenced much faster in Edinburgh than it was in N. Scandinavia and a genetic analysis showed that differences in the FLC gene itself contributed to this variation."

Professor Dean said: "It looks like the variation in this mechanism to adapt the timing of flowering to different winter conditions has evolved extremely quickly. We hope that by understanding how plants have adapted to different climates it will give us a head-start in breeding crops able to cope with global warming."

The JIC scientists worked in collaboration with a team at the University of Southern California and were funded by the UK's main public funders of biological and environmental sciences, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Natural Environment Research Council.

Professor Julia Goodfellow, BBSRC Chief Executive, commented: "As well as working to prevent climate change we need to be able to harness natural methods to adapt food crops to cope with changed and hostile climates around the world. This is an example of how basic science can make a practical difference."

Contact: Matt Goode
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council

9 January 2007

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1.09  Study explores the effect of genetically modified crops on developing countries

A new study in the February issue of Current Anthropology explores how the arrival of genetically modified crops affects farmers in developing countries. Glenn Davis Stone (Washington University) studied the Warangal District of Andhra Pradesh in India, a key cotton growing area notorious for suicides by cotton farmers. In 2003 to 2005, market share of "Bt cotton" seeds rose from 12 percent to 62 percent in Warangal. Bt cotton is genetically modified to produce its own insecticide and has been claimed by its manufacturer as the fastest-adopted agricultural technology in history.

Monsanto, the firm behind Bt cotton, has interpreted the rapid spread of the modified strain as the result of farmer experimentation and management skill – similar to mechanisms that scholars cite to explain the spread of hybrid corn across American farms. But Stone's multiyear ethnography of Warangal cotton farmers shows an unexpected pattern of localized cotton seed fads in the district. He argues that, rather than a case of careful assessment and adoption, Warangal is plagued by a severe breakdown of the "skilling" process by which farmers normally hone their management practices.

"Warangal cotton farming offers a case study in ‘agricultural deskilling'," writes Stone. The seed fads had virtually no environmental basis, and farmers generally lacked recognition of what was actually being planted, a striking contrast to highly strategic seed selection processes in areas where technological change is learned and gradual. Interviews also provided consistent evidence that Warangal cotton farmers prefer trying new seeds – seeds without any background information whatsoever – to trying several strains on smaller, experimental scales and choosing one for long-term adoption.

The problem preceded Bt cotton, Stone points out; its root causes are reliance on hybrid seed, which must be repurchased every year, and a chaotic seed market in which products come and go at a furious pace and farmers often cannot tell what they are using. Farmer desire for novelty exacerbates the turnover of seeds in the market, Stone argues, and seed firms will frequently take seeds that have fallen out of favor, rename them, and resell with new marketing campaigns. For instance, one recent favorite seed in several villages is identical to four other seeds on the market.

Stone argues that the previously undocumented pattern of fads, in which each village lurches from seed to seed, reflects a breakdown of the process of "environmental learning," leaving farmers to rely purely on "social learning." Bt cotton was not the cause of this "deskilling," but in Warangal it has exacerbated the problem.

"On the surface, [Warangal] appears to be a dramatic case of successful adoption of an innovation," Stone explains. "However, a closer analysis of the dynamics of adoption shows that the pattern some see as an environmentally based change in agricultural practice actually continues the established pattern of socially driven fads arising in the virtual absence of environmental learning."

Strangely, in another part of India, a very different history of Bt cotton has led to an improvement in agricultural skilling. In Gujarat, the loss of corporate control over the Bt technology has led to an increased involvement of farmers in local breeding, and an apparent increase in knowledge-based innovation.

Stone, Glenn Davis, "Agricultural Deskilling and the Spread of Genetically Modified Cotton in Warangal." Current Anthropology 48:67-103.
Contact: Suzanne Wu
University of Chicago Press Journals

25 January 2007

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1.10  Gene flow in the common bean Phaseolus

The common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) is predominantly a self-pollinating species. However, varying degrees of outcrossing may occur contributing to gene flow between varieties. To quantify gene flow, Brazilian researchers at the Federal University of Viçosa tested the rates of outcrossing between common bean cultivars using the purple-flowered 'Diamante Negro' and the white-flowered 'Talisma' varieties. These were planted in concentric square plots with 'Diamante Negro' in the center plots. Offsprings of 'Talisma' with purple flowers indicate outcrossing.

The researchers found that the highest outcrossing rate between the common bean varieties is 0.136% at a distance of 0.5 m between the cultivars. The natural outcrossing rate was practically zero beyond a distance of 3.25 m. The researchers wrote that their data may help address biosafety concerns when transgenic varieties become available on the market in the future.

The abstract, with links to the full paper for subscribers, is available at

Source: CropBiotech Update
5 January 2007

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics
Cornell University

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1.11  A highly efficient 'genetically modified gene-deletor' system to remove all functional transgenes from pollen, seed or both

'GM-gene-deletor': fused loxP-FRT recognition sequences dramatically improve the efficiency of FLP or CRE recombinase on transgene excision from pollen and seed of tobacco plants

Keming Luo, Hui Duan, Degang Zhao, Xuelian Zheng, Wei Deng, Yongqin Chen, C. Neal Stewart Jr, Richard McAvoy, Xiangning Jiang, Yanhong Wu, Aigong He, Yan Pei, Yi Li

Pollen- and seed-mediated transgene flow is a concern in plant biotechnology. We report here a highly efficient 'genetically modified (GM)-gene-deletor' system to remove all functional transgenes from pollen, seed or both. With the three pollen- and/or seed-specific gene promoters tested, the phage CRE/loxP or yeast FLP/FRT system alone was inefficient in excising transgenes from tobacco pollen and/or seed, with no transgenic event having 100% efficiency. When loxP-FRT fusion sequences were used as recognition sites, simultaneous expression of both FLP and CRE reduced the average excision efficiency, but the expression of FLP or CRE alone increased the average excision efficiency, with many transgenic events being 100% efficient based on more than 25 000 T1 progeny examined per event. The 'GM-gene-deletor' reported here may be used to produce 'non-transgenic' pollen and/or seed from transgenic plants and to provide a bioconfinement tool for transgenic crops and perennials, with special applicability towards vegetatively propagated plants and trees.

Source: Plant Biotechnology Journal, Blackwell Synergy, via
January 2007

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1.12  Peru: native potatoes in the limelight

Peru has been bestowed with more than three thousand varieties of native potatoes, which represents a comparative advantage that the country should be developing. Since native potato varieties require particular climatic and agro-ecological conditions, most of them could not be grown outside the Peruvian Andes, making these potatoes unique to Peru. "It is not possible to compete internationally with the white potato," pointed out André Deavux, Coordinator of the regional project Papa Andina, of the International Potato Center; hence, efforts to promote native potatoes have started through the project Innovation and Competitiveness for the Peruvian Potato (INCOPA in Spanish). Under INCOPA, Papa Andina has been helping to link the native potato producers with other parts of the produce chain to ensure higher quality in native potatoes, with added value and oriented to specific markets.

To

Source: CropBiotech Update
26 January 2007

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics
Cornell University

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1.13  European Space Agency launches new project to protect biodiversity

The world's biodiversity is vanishing at an unprecedented rate – around 100 species every day – due to factors such as land use change and pollution. Addressing this threat, world governments agreed through the UN Convention on Biological Diversity to reduce significantly the current rate of biodiversity loss by 2010. To support this initiative, the European Space Agency (ESA) has kicked off its new DIVERSITY project.
Biodiversity, the variety of life including ecosystems, species, populations and genes, is of grave importance for sustaining the planet’s six billion people. The loss of biodiversity threatens our food supplies, energy and medicines. For instance, up to 80% of the world's population currently relies on plant and animal-based medicines for their primary health care needs. The sustainable use of biodiversity’s components will not only save ecosystems and species, but it may also save the foods and medicines of tomorrow.

"The United Nations Convention on Biodiversity (UNCBD) agreed on a set of headline indicators to assess the progress made towards this target. DIVERSITY will make a contribution to the required monitoring efforts that will help us to determine whether we are making progress and which management and policy measures are most effective and thereby support decision-making," the UNCBD Secretariat Robert Höft said. 

DIVERSITY project services and products are being developed to relate to the different areas where Earth observation (EO) technology may contribute to the conservation and monitoring activities of the different actors involved in UNCBD in Central America. ESA has identified four main users: the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Secretariat of the UNCBD, the Centro American Commission for Environment and Development (CCAD) and MarViva.

Based on the initial user requirements, the following products and services will be generated covering the entire Centro American region, one of the main biodiversity reserves in our planet: Mesoamerican biological corridor change detection maps; coral reef maps; ocean water quality monitoring services; and mangrove maps. The projects will also investigate wildlife migration processes from the Galapagos Islands to Cocos Island. Finally, the project will provide a global map of dry lands based on existing global datasets to the UNCBD.

The DIVERSITY project, developed under ESA's Data User Element (DUE) programme, is being carried out in collaboration with the UNCBD Secretariat and UNESCO, which, in addition to being a user, is also the main coordinator between the users and contractors selected by ESA.

"With this activity, ESA and UNESCO are aiming to derive a working methodology," UNESCO’s Mario Hernandez said. "We plan to start deriving biodiversity indicators, which means that for the first time we will go one step further in Earth observation measurements – ‘from space to place’."
MarViva, a non-governmental organisation working to promote a more sustainable use of coastal and marine resources in oceanic and coastal areas in Latin America and the Caribbean, will use various DIVERSITY products and services to study the Galapagos and Cocos Islands in the Tropical Eastern Pacific Marine Corridor.

"We have the responsibility to use these products correctly and to offer this valuable information to key organisations and decision makers for their goal of improving the quality of life, keeping the tremendous diversity of the region protected and making sustainable use of our marine resources, for our future generations," MarViva’s Michael Rothschild said.

Because the development of these products requires different expertise, a consortium of four organisations – GeoVille Austria (prime contractor), Norway’s Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center, the UK’s Marine Spatial Ecology Lab and France’s Collecte Localisation Satellites – has been chosen to take the leading role in the technical development of the services and products.

"DIVERSITY responds directly to key concerns expressed through the Convention process regarding the future integrity of natural ecosystems, the survival of species and the goods and services they offer to humankind," the UNCBD’s Höft said. "It also demonstrates the responsible role of the private sector in offering tools and services for the benefit of the global community."

Contact: Mariangela D'Acunto
European Space Agency

9 January 2007

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1.14  From varietal improvement to impoverishment: what is the reality?

Fewer crop species, fewer cultivated varieties per species, less diversity within each variety are three "symptoms" of the erosion of biodiversity in cultivated plots. It is commonly assumed that the massive use of improved varieties instead of local varieties and anthropic pressure are the prime culprits behind this impoverishment. Is this a cliché or reality? The only way to find out is to monitor the changes in crop genetic resources. This has now been done for local rice varieties in Guinea, a reserve country for the genetic diversity within the two cultivated rice species: Oryza glaberrima from Africa and O. sativa from Asia.

Are local rice varieties disappearing? What strategies are required to conserve them? CIRAD and its African partners have been working in Guinea since 2000 to find answers to those questions. Their research has been conducted on several levels.

Stable or even slightly greater diversity
On a national level, the researchers inventoried the common names of the varieties used by farmers between 1996 and 2001. This meant surveying almost 1700 farms in 79 villages. Furthermore, in 2003, samples were collected from six villages in Maritime Guinea and compared, using molecular markers, with samples taken by a survey mission to the same village in 1980 and kept in cold storage in Montpellier ever since. The results obtained ran counter to the alarmist vision of genetic erosion. The number of rice varieties and genetic diversity were stable, or had even increased slightly. Since 1996, when improved varieties were introduced, the number of varieties, which varied from 4 to 40 depending on the village and the region, had increased by 10%. There had thus not been any loss of local varieties in Guinea.

The substantial varietal diversity observed is typical of subsistence agriculture: more than 80% of the varieties grown were local. Each village could thus allow for the range of prevailing agroecological conditions and different uses of rice. However, almost 90% of the varieties inventoried were only grown by a small number of farmers, and despite the observed diversity, these "minor" varieties are now under strong threat of extinction. Moreover, there was not only diversity in terms of the number of varieties, but also within each of those varieties. Each variety was the sum of a large number of pure lines, and the proportion of those lines varied from one farm to another. This "multi-line" structure can be put down to how the farmers manage their rice varieties, ie frequent exchanges and replacement of varieties and seeds, and cropping and seed production practices that favour genetic mixes and recombination.

50% of the genetic wealth of varieties in a village held on a single farm
As regards preserving the diversity within each local variety, in situ conservation on farms, which is compatible with agricultural development, looks like the only feasible option. In fact, it would be impossible to sample all the lines that make up a variety and keep them ex situ, for instance in a cryobank. The researchers working on the study thus characterized the varieties grown in Maritime Guinea, in two villages with contrasting production systems. To this end, they used descriptors combining common names and molecular markers (short DNA sequences). The results showed that a single village may hold the equivalent of 70% of regional diversity. On a more detailed analysis level, a large farm may hold 50% of the genetic wealth of a village. As a result, a small number of villages and farms is therefore sufficient to cover the genetic diversity of a whole region such as Maritime Guinea. This type of structure could eventually be extended to cover the whole of the country.

19 January 2007

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1.15  Ancient genes used to produce salt-tolerant wheat

Two recently discovered genes from an ancient wheat variety have led to a major advance in breeding new salt-tolerant varieties.

In a recent set of papers published in the journal Plant Physiology researchers describe the two genes – known as Nax1 and Nax2. The genes work by excluding salt from different parts of the plant: one from the roots, the other from the leaves. The discovery of the two genes is the subject of international patents.

“The two genes originally came from a wheat ancestor, Triticum monococcum,” says research team leader, CSIRO Plant Industry’s Dr Rana Munns. “They were unwittingly crossed into a durum wheat line about 35 years ago and are normally not present in any modern wheat.”

“Over six per cent of the world’s arable land is affected by salinity. Salt tolerant crops can provide farmers with income for remediation, as well as helping to stabilise soil from wind and water erosion.”

The project began when the CSIRO team used a highly accurate selection method – based on their understanding of how plants tolerate salt – to identify wheat varieties that could cope with higher salinity. They were particularly interested in the premium-priced durum wheat, which is much more salt-sensitive than bread wheat.

“We screened a hundred durum wheats from the Australian Winter Cereals Collection at Tamworth, which contains tens of thousands of wheat types,” Dr Munns says. “Highlighting the fact that the science of plant breeding sometimes relies on an element of good fortune, we were lucky to find the durum variety with the ancient genes straight away, otherwise we might have been looking for years.”

The team used their knowledge of the two genes to construct molecular markers, which are now in use in CSIRO’s wheat breeding program. A durum wheat variety as salt-tolerant as bread wheat is in advanced field trials and could be commercially available in three years. Even better durum wheats are in development and the program has been expanded to include bread wheat.

“Bread wheat is quite tolerant to salt, but we think it too can be improved. Our aim is to eventually produce wheats able, like barley, to grow in highly saline soils,” Dr Munns says.

Over six per cent of the world’s arable land is affected by salinity. Salt tolerant crops can provide farmers with income for remediation, as well as helping to stabilise soil from wind and water erosion.

The research is a collaborative project between CSIRO, the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, the University of Adelaide and the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics, with support from the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and the CRC for Plant-based Management of Dryland Salinity.
1 February 2007

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1.16  Wheat can fatally starve insect predators

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A newly identified wheat gene produces proteins that appear to attack the stomach lining of a crop-destroying fly larvae so that the bugs starve to death.

The gene's role in creating resistance to Hessian flies was a surprise to U.S. Department of Agriculture and Purdue University researchers, discoverers of the gene and its function. They made the finding as they investigated new, long-term methods to protect wheat from insect damage.

"This is a different kind of defense than we were expecting," said Christie Williams, a USDA-Agricultural Research Service scientist and Purdue Department of Entomology adjunct assistant professor. "Usually we expect the plant to fortify its cell walls or make poisons to use against insects and pathogens."

Instead, the researchers found that a specific protein, called HFR-3, one of a group of substances called lectins, is capable of binding with a carbohydrate complex in the Hessian fly larvae. The lectin acts as a key to the carbohydrate structure, known as a chitin.

When the larvae attack a resistant plant, the plant's lectin production quickly increases by as much as 3,000 times. The larvae then ingest the lectin. This interaction probably damages the larvae's chitin-rich mid-gut lining so that it can't absorb nutrients from the plant, causing the insects starve, Williams said.

Some Hessian fly larvae, which are called virulent, are capable of ridding their bodies of lectin and surviving. Avirulent larvae are unable to deactivate the lectin.

However, the researchers believe that plants resistant to Hessian fly invasions may make several strains of lectins in response to virulent larvae, Williams said.

Results of the study are published in the January issue of the journal Molecular Plant Pathology.

Researchers also discovered that not only do lectins damage the insect's mid-stomach, the lectins also taste bad and have some toxicity.

"By studying these different wheat genes, we're starting to put together a bigger picture of how Hessian fly–wheat interactions trigger resistance in the plant," Williams said. "We think that some of this has to do with the plant producing enough lectin that it just becomes so unpalatable that the insects can't feed and they starve to death."

Wheat plants that produce few or no lectins that bind to chitin are susceptible to Hessian fly larvae attack, she said. In addition, some virulent larvae can reprogram plant development so that cells in leaves and the base of the plant where the insects feed pump out nutrients favored by the insect. If this happens then even the weak, avirulent larvae on the same leaf have a chance to survive.

The researchers discovered that Hessian fly larvae reprogramming of resistant plant cells only occurs at sites where the insects attack. The study also revealed that increased numbers of larvae on a plant caused a parallel increase in lectin. This shows that wheat plant responses to these insects are localized and take less energy than a more global resistance response.

"Figuring out some of the ways that a plant is able to respond to insects with resistance will be useful in crop breeding programs," Williams said. "We're finding compounds like this chitin-binding lectin that don't cost the plant much to produce, unlike producing poisons and stronger walls. Those inducible defenses use a lot of a plant's energy that could be used toward growth and reproduction."

The scientists currently are looking for regulatory regions in Hessian fly-susceptible wheat genes that might act as vehicles to carry lectin or a toxin into plants to halt the virulent insects, Williams said. The regulatory regions, or promoters, would be from genes that the fly larvae ordinarily manipulate so plants will produce useful nutrients for the insect. Instead, the promoter would be hooked up to a lectin or toxin gene and inserted into the cells. When larvae manipulate the promoter, they would receive gut-altering lectin instead of nutrients.

To advance their investigation into developing more resistant plants, the researchers are beginning work on a single microchip that would be an array of genes from both the Hessian fly and wheat. This will allow the scientists to study insect-plant interactions. Knowing the timing and location of those interactions would enable the scientists to use the promoter tactic only in the vegetative parts of the wheat plant rather than in the head or grain portions. This will protect the grain quality and the consumer.

"Once we understand which genes are active and the timing of the interactions, we can really understand what the insect says to the plant and how the plant responds," Williams said.

The Hessian fly, which German mercenaries apparently introduced into North America during the Revolutionary War, causes catastrophic losses if not controlled by resistant plants. During the 1980s the state of Georgia suffered $28 million in lost wheat in one year after the fly overcame the plants' resistance gene used in the area at the time.

The Hessian fly is particularly insidious because it actually can control the wheat plant's development.

The adult fly lays eggs on the plant leaves. After the eggs hatch, the resulting tiny, red larvae crawl down to the base of the wheat where they feed on the plant. If the plant isn't resistant to the insect, the larvae inject chemicals from their saliva into the plant that completely alter the wheat's physiology and growth.

The other researchers on this study were USDA postdoctoral students Kurt Saltzmann and David Puthoff, Purdue graduate students Marcelo Giovanini and Martin Gonzalo, and Purdue professor of agronomy Herbert Ohm.

The USDA Agricultural Research Service Crop Production and Pest Control Research Unit and the Ministry of Education of Brazil CAPES Programme provided support for the study.

Writer: Susan A. Steeves,
Agriculture News Page

10 January 2007

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1.17  Devastating fungal pathogen spreads from eastern Africa to Yemen

El Batan, Mexico and Aleppo, Syria
A new form of stem rust, a virulent wheat disease, has jumped from eastern Africa and is now infecting wheat in Yemen in the Arabian Peninsula.

Researchers with the Global Rust Initiative (GRI) and the Agricultural Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA-ARS) have confirmed conclusively the existence of the disease in Yemen. There is also evidence that the disease has spread into Sudan but more tests are needed to confirm the finding. Until this discovery, this new strain of stem rust, known as Ug99, had only been seen in Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia.

The last major epidemic of stem rust occurred in North America in the early 1950s, when a strain of stem rust destroyed as much as 40 percent of the continent's spring wheat crop. Out of this crisis came a new form of international cooperation among wheat scientists worldwide, spearheaded by Nobel laureate wheat scientist Norman Borlaug. This international alliance of scientists led to the development of wheat varieties which resisted the onslaught of stem rust for more than four decades. But in 1999, a new strain of stem rust was discovered in Uganda and Kenya capable of destroying most previously disease-resistant wheat varieties.

A year and a half ago geographic information systems specialists working at CIMMYT plotted the probable trajectory of the fungus, whose spores can travel large distances on the wind. The wind models predicted that if the fungus crossed from eastern Africa to the Arabian Peninsula it could easily spread to the vast wheat-growing areas of North Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan and India.

There is precedence for this, from a virulent strain of another wheat disease, called yellow rust, which emerged in eastern Africa in the late 1980s. Once it appeared in Yemen, it took just four years to reach wheat fields of South Asia. On its way, this new strain of yellow rust caused major wheat losses in Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, exceeding USD 1 billion in value. There is every reason to believe the new Ug99 strain of stem rust represents a much greater risk to world wheat production. Annual losses of as much as USD 3 billion in Africa, the Middle East and south Asia alone are possible.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), countries in the predicted, immediate pathway grow more than 65 million hectares of wheat, accounting for 25 percent of the global wheat harvest. "If we don't control this stem rust threat," says ME Tusneem, Chairman of Pakistan's Agriculture Research Council, "it will have a major impact on food security, especially since global wheat stocks are at a historic low."

Experiments conducted over the past two years by international researchers in the Global Rust Initiative in Kenya and Ethiopia demonstrate clearly that most of the world's wheat varieties are susceptible to the new Ug99 strain of stem rust. "This is a problem that goes far beyond wheat production in developing countries," warns Borlaug. "The rust pathogen needs no passport to cross national boundaries. Sooner or later Ug99 will be found throughout the world, including in North America, Europe, Australia and South America."

GRI scientists have already identified promising experimental wheat materials with resistance to Ug99. But from the first breeding trials to growing new, rust-resistant varieties in farmers' fields on millions of hectares takes time and a massive effort.

"If we fail to contain Ug99 it could bring calamity to tens of millions of farmers and hundreds of millions of consumers," says Nobel Laureate Borlaug. "We know what to do and how to do it. All we need are the financial resources, scientific cooperation and political will to contain this threat to world food security."

The Global Rust Initiative aims to find solutions that can prevent a potential wheat disaster and is a partnership of international agricultural research centers, national research programs and advanced research institutes. It is currently funded by the Canadian International development Agency (CIDA), the USDA Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR). In-kind contributions from the Kenya Agriculture Research Institute (KARI) and the Ethiopian Institute of Agriculture Research (EIAR) have enabled field research with Ug99.

16 January 2007

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1.18  Wheat lines that resisted virulent stem rust last season have now succumbed

Threat level rising

El Batán, Mexico
Wheat lines that resisted virulent stem rust last season have now succumbed.

Observations from wheat rust screening trials in Kenya indicate even more of the world’s wheat is at risk from a stem rust attack than originally thought. Scientists from CIMMYT and its partners, studying wheat planted at the Njoro Agriculture Research Centre, report that more than 85% of sample wheats, including cultivars from the major wheat producing regions of the world, have succumbed to the stem rust known as Ug99. Most importantly some wheat lines which showed resistance to Ug99 stem rust a year ago now appear to be susceptible to the disease.

In August, 2005 an expert panel raised the first alarm about the new, virulent form of stem rust that could devastate world wheat crops. These new observations could mean the threat to the global wheat harvest is now significantly greater.

The Njoro Research Centre is in an area of Kenya where the virulent form of stem rust fungus is endemic. For the past three years scientists have used the station to expose wheat to the disease to see which is susceptible and most importantly, which is not. In March of 2006 more than 11000 different types of wheat and relatives of wheat from all over the world were planted and exposed to the fungus.

Studies are still underway to clarify the situation but it appears that at least one of the major stem rust resistance genes that has protected many of the world’s wheats for decades is no longer effective against the rust fungus at Njoro. This new development enhances the significance of what is already recognized as a dangerous threat to future global wheat harvests.

Wheat grows on more than 200 million hectares in both the developed and the developing world and the new data indicate that very little of that area is planted to varieties which resist the stem rust found at Njoro. Though stem rust may not be able to thrive in all parts of the world, scientists estimate that well over half of the total wheat area could suffer rust epidemics if susceptible varieties planted there are exposed to the pathogen.

“I was shocked at what I saw this season,” says Rick Ward, coordinator of the CIMMYT-ICARDA led Global Rust Initiative. “Essentially we have to find a way to replace all of the world’s wheat.”

Stem rust is one of the most dreaded of all plant diseases. In the mid-1950s it wiped out up to 40% of the North American spring wheat crop. Thanks in large part to the wheat breeding work of Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Dr. Norman Borlaug and those who followed him, the disease has not been a significant threat for almost half a century. Breeders combined several sources of resistance to the fungus into new varieties of wheat. Unfortunately, over time, the rust pathogen evolved and mutated and in 1999 scientists found a strain in Uganda (Ug99) that could bypass much of that resistance. The spores of the Ug99 fungus can travel great distances on the wind. The pathogen has already spread from Uganda into Kenya and Ethiopia. An outbreak of yellow rust originated in the same region of eastern Africa and eventually spread across the Arabian Peninsula and into the major wheat-growing areas of India and Pakistan. Studies of wind patterns in the region have led scientists to conclude that the new pathogen will eventually threaten wheat crops on a global scale.

CIMMYT and the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), together with partners such as the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) are leading a global effort to characterize the rust pathogen; to track its spread and to find new sources of resistance to the disease and breed them into new wheats. This is especially important to farmers in the developing world who have little access to fungicides that could help reduce the damage.

“The good news is that some samples at Njoro did resist the fungus,” says CIMMYT wheat scientist, Ravi Singh. “That has given us a good place to start.” In fact Njoro is also the site where potential resistant breeding lines are now undergoing test.

Source: CIMMYT E-News, vol 3 no. 12, December 2006 via
December 2006

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1.19  Crop scientists strive to improve the fitness of wheat for 21st century demands

Norwich, United Kingdom
Crop scientists are to showcase cutting edge research that will improve the fitness of wheat for 21st century demands. Scientists at the John Innes Centre in Norwich will provide a snapshot of the latest research to fight major diseases, combat fungicide resistance and improve yield and grain quality at a meeting for plant breeders today.

“Research done today will determine the availability of fitter, more environmentally friendly varieties tomorrow”, said Professor James Brown, who will introduce the meeting. “To reduce fungicide use, control disease, produce novel varieties and fit crop production to the available growing conditions major advances in our genetic understanding of wheat are needed. These advances will be pioneered at the John Innes Centre in close collaboration with breeders”.

The meeting will also feature emerging problems for other cereals, such as Ramularia, which has become a major pathogen of barley. Ramulia can cause yield losses of up to 35 per cent.

The future challenges to researchers are clear: “The wheat genome is five times the size of the human genome and the challenge of understanding gene function is immense.

“But ultimately it will facilitate breeding for specific traits and improvements, and even allow predictive models to be developed to search for optimal combinations”, said Professor Brown.

Dr Richard Summers, head of cereal breeding at RAGT Seeds, will lead a session at the meeting. He said that “although we have been cultivating wheat for around 12,000 years, there are still large gaps in our understanding. The research being carried out at John Innes can fill some of those gaps and answer current problems to help us breed better varieties.”

The meeting is being held today at the John Innes Centre. Abstracts can be viewed at:

31 January 2007

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1.20  Root feeding of fusaric acid: a quick method of testing chickpea genotypes for Fusarium wilt resistance (Cicer arietinum)

R. L. Ravikumar and D.Ratna Babu
Department of Genetics and Plant Breeding
University of Agricultural Sciences
Dharwad 580 005, India

The in situ experiment on chickpea seedlings demonstrated that FA causes complete death of the seedlings within 4-5 days from treatment at more than 25 ppm. The symptoms were characterized by yellowing and necrosis and breakage of foliage parts (knock-down effect) at the crown area that lead to death of foliage and seedlings. At 15 ppm, the FA causes necrotic lesions and death earlier in early wilters compared to late wilters and resistant genotypes. The wilting and death of the seedlings occurred in all the replicated seedlings on the 6th day in early wilters and on 9th day in all the seedlings of late wilting genotypes. None of the seedlings of resistant genotypes showed wilting symptoms before 12days. Even under green house, pot culture and/or wilt sick plots, it is difficult to differentiate early wilters, late wilters and resistant genotypes In this study, the classification of genotypes based on the seedling reaction to Fusaric acid differentiate early wilters,  late  wilters and resistant genotypes effectively.

Contributed by R L Ravikumar
Associate Professor, Dept. of Genetics and Plant Breeding
University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad 580 005, Karnataka, India

For the complete paper, contact Dr. Ravikumar

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1.21  Whitefly spreads emerging plant viruses

St. Paul, Minn. (January 18, 2007) -- A tiny whitefly is responsible for spreading a group of plant viruses that cause devastating disease on food, fiber, and ornamental crops, say plant pathologists with The American Phytopathological Society (APS).

According to Judith Brown, professor of plant sciences at the University of Arizona's Department of Plant Sciences, the whitefly, Bemisia tabaci (B. tabaci), is the exclusive insect vector (transmitter) for a large group of emerging plant viruses that infect several hundred plant species worldwide. "Once considered an obscure whitefly, B. tabaci is now among the most invasive and economically damaging insects to agriculture, spanning food and fiber crops, and certain nursery grown ornamentals, with the ability to infest more than 500 plant species," she said.

This whitefly and the plant viruses it transmits are no longer restricted to their native habitats or contained by natural geographic boundaries. "The increased importance of new and emerging plant viral pathogens is directly related to the adaptive capacity of B. tabaci and its ability to exploit agricultural systems," Brown said. B. tabaci has proven difficult to control partly because of its tendency to develop insecticide resistance.

"As the population levels of the whitefly B. tabaci continue to remain robust, new species of plant viruses will continue to emerge and cause damaging diseases in food and fiber crops," Brown said.

Early virus and vector detection, information about their distribution and host range, and knowledge about the mode of virus transmission by this whitefly are essential for managing the emerging plant viruses and the vector populations. Continued research to learn more about the biology and genetics of both the plant viruses and the whitefly is also needed.

Contact: Amy Steigman
American Phytopathological Society

18 January 2007

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1.22  Whiteflies and plant viruses can help each other to speed up biological invasion

An invasive whitefly has developed mutualistic relationships with the plant viruses it transmits and is able to increase its population much faster on virus-infected plants than on healthy plants, whereas its indigenous counterpart is unable to do so, according to the new research carried out at Zhejiang University and Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, China.

Twenty years ago in 1986 in the USA, Florida experienced outbreaks of what is now known as whitefly (Bemisia tabaci) biotype "B," first in greenhouse poinsettia, then in a wide range of vegetable, ornamental and field crops. Soon similar outbreaks were seen in other States within the USA and many other countries around the world. The outbreaks of the B whitefly have often been followed by pandemics of a group of plant viruses called begomoviruses on crops such as tomato and tobacco. These viruses are transmitted by this whitefly. In many countries and regions, including China, the outbreaks of the B whitefly have also seen the gradual disappearance of some native whitefly biotypes.

Many scientists around the world have been investigating why the B whitefly is so invasive. It is now widely accepted that the B whitefly is most likely to have originated from the Mediterranean/North Africa region, and its recent widespread invasion has been assisted by the worldwide flower trade. The question remains how this pest can increase so rapidly and displace native biotypes of whitefly after it has been transported to new localities.

The research compared development, survival, fecundity and population increase of the invasive B whitefly and an indigenous whitefly (called ZHJ1) on both virus-infected and healthy tobacco plants. Compared to its performance on healthy plants, the invasive B whitefly had higher fecundity and longevity by 12 and 6 fold when feeding on plants infected by one virus, and by 18 and 7 fold when feeding on plants infected by another virus. Population density of the B whitefly on virus-infected plants reached 2-13 times that on healthy plants in 56 days. No doubt increase of infectious whiteflies will in turn speed up virus pandemics. In contrast, the indigenous whitefly performed similarly on healthy and virus-infected plants.

"This is the first study that shows an invasive insect has such a mutualistic relationship with the viruses it transmits, whereas its indigenous counterpart does not," said Professor Shu-Sheng Liu, corresponding author of the study, from the Institute of Insect Sciences, Zhejiang University. "We believe that the mutualism between the B whitefly and the viruses may contribute to the ability of the B whitefly to both invade and displace indigenous whiteflies, as well as causing disease pandemics of the viruses associated with this vector."

The study also shows that infection of the whiteflies per se has limited effects on the survival and fecundity of the vectors, and the B whitefly acquires the benefits through feeding on the virus-infected plants. Thus the mutualism is indirect. The researchers believe that this kind of mutualism may exist in many circumstances and should receive more attention in the research and management of biological invasions.

Citation: Jiu M, Zhou XP, Tong L, Xu J, Yang X et al (2007) Vector-virus mutualism accelerates population increase of an invasive whitefly. PLoS ONE 2(1): e182. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000182.

Contact: Shan Ling

30 January 2007

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1.23  Technology reduces gossypol in cottonseed

ARS News Service
Genetic technology developed by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists and cooperators suggests that cottonseed could one day become a significant source of low-cost protein for the developing world.

The research team, headed by Keerti Rathore at the Institute for Plant Genomics and Biotechnology, Texas A&M University, and ARS chemists Robert D. Stipanovic and Lorraine S. Puckhaber in College Station, Texas, found a way to genetically reduce the amount of the natural toxin known as gossypol in cottonseed.

Stipanovic and Puckhaber are with the ARS Cotton Pathology Research Unit, part of Southern Plains Agricultural Research Center in College Station.

The research team showed that by coupling what's known as RNA interference technology, or RNAi, with a seed-specific gene promoter, it's possible to significantly reduce gossypol levels within cottonseed and not reduce the levels of gossypol and related compounds in the foliage. The presence of these compounds in the foliage helps protect the plant from attack by insects.

Gossypol is a toxic pigment that can be safely ingested only by ruminant animals with complex stomachs, so most of the nutritious meal produced during cottonseed processing is currently sold as cattle feed.

Use of the RNAi technology to develop new cotton lines could lead to plants with low enough gossypol levels in the seed that the 44 million metric tons of cottonseed produced yearly could be used to provide roughly 10 million metric tons of protein. This would help meet the total protein needs of almost a half billion people.

In addition, U.S. consumers craving a new and nutritious snack food could soon be reaching for crunchy "TAMU nuts," which were developed at Texas A&M over 20 years ago. Reduced-gossypol cotton seeds have a nutty flavor and crunch.

The research was published in a recent edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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

12 January 2007

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1.24  Orange cauliflower gene eyed as nutrition booster

Washington, DC
Can a gene from an orange cauliflower found three decades ago be the key to making food crops more nutritious?

Quite possibly, according to Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist Li Li. She's using cauliflower to identify genes and define molecular mechanisms that regulate nutrients in plant-based foods.

Li, a molecular biologist at the ARS U.S. Plant, Soil and Nutrition Laboratory (PSNL) in Ithaca, N.Y., is making significant headway using this gene--dubbed "Or" for the color orange--to induce high levels of beta-carotene in food crops. She and colleagues at Cornell University isolated the gene last year.

The research may make a huge impact on vitamin A deficiency, which has been reported to affect some 250 million children worldwide, according to Li. That's because beta-carotene, which gives orange carrots their color, is a carotenoid--fruit-and-vegetable compounds that the body converts into essential vitamins and uses as antioxidants beneficial to health. Humans convert it into vitamin A.

Li added that, in cauliflower, Or--which she described as a semi-dominant gene mutation--promotes high beta-carotene accumulation in various plant tissues that normally don't have carotenoids. These studies can help researchers understand how carotenoid synthesis and accumulation are regulated in plants. This, in turn, can lead to strategies for increasing carotenoid content in food crops for improving human nutrition and health, she said.

The Or gene originates from an orange cauliflower plant found in a Canadian field nearly 30 years ago. ARS and Cornell scientists in Ithaca have been studying its genetics for about eight years.

Li's current work, which is partially detailed in the December issue of the publication Plant Cell, is part of a concentrated strategy at PSNL to apply genomics and related disciplines toward improving the nutritional quality and disease resistance of important food crops.

Read more about the research in the January 2007 issue of Agricultural Research magazine, online at:

ARS is the USDA's chief scientific research agency.

ARS News Service
Luis Pons

17 January 2007

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1.25  Pinto bean resists viral diseases

A new pinto bean named "Quincy" that can resist the attack of the bean common mosaic virus (BCMV) and the bean common mosaic necrosis virus (BCMNV) has been developed by researchers at the United States Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Washington State University-Prosser. The cultivar harbors two genes, I and bc-22, which confer resistance to the two viruses. However, this pinto bean also has its weak spot - it is susceptible to Uromyces appendiculatus, the fungus that causes bean rust disease.

Read the news article at

Source: CropBiotech Update
19 January 2007

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics
Cornell University

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1.26  First GM eggplant soon to be commercially grown in the Philippines

Manila, The Philippines
Thanks to India, the Philippine vegetable industry will soon include genetically modified (GM) eggplant as one of the prized food crops.

Said to be the first GM eggplant in South and Southeast Asia, the new pest-resistant eggplant was developed by the Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (Mahyco) based in Jaina, India.

It was introduced in the Philippines three years ago and it is now in the final stage of trial in greenhouse at the University of the Philippine Los Baños - Institute of Plant Breeding (UPLB-IPB).

By the early part of this year, trials will shift outside the greenhouse, although still in a limited scale. In the succeeding year, it will undergo multicoation trials in various parts of the country.  Studies in India indicated that GM eggplant’s resistant to the eggplant fruit and shoot borer (EFSB), the crop’s most destructive pest.

Losses range from 50 to 70 percent, about the same as in the Philippines, according to Dr. Bharst Char, principal scientist at Mahyco.

He reported the progress of India’s Bt (Bacillus thuringensis) eggplant program at the Third Asian Biotechnology Conference held recently in Manila.

Dr. Char said that all the Bt eggplant hybrids they have developed have higher percentage of marketable yield as compared to their non-Bt counterpart, local and commercial checks.

The success of the project in the Philippines augurs well for the eggplant industry, which is widely grown in the Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Central Visayas and Western Visayas.

Eggplant has edged out tomato as the number one Philippine vegetable fruit crop, UPLB-IBP’s Dr. Desiree Hautas reported.

By Rudy A. Fernandez

Source: The Philippine STAR via
25 January 2007

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1.27  Efficient tissue culture protocol for wild eggplants

Japanese researchers Yuzuri Iwamoto and Hiroshi Ezura have reported a more efficient protocol for protoplast regeneration using leaves, cotyledons, and hypocotyls of four wild eggplant species. They also presented the first successful regeneration of the wild species Solanum scabrum from protoplasts. The researchers believe that the protocol may help in performing somatic hybridization in eggplants, a technique that will allow the transfer of desirable characters of wild species to the cultivated varieties.

Wild eggplants are highly resistant to soil-borne wilt diseases such as Fusarium wilt and Verticillum wilt. Because of this, they have been identified as possible sources of disease resistance genes that may be used to improve the cultivated eggplant, S. melongena. Wild species are currently often used as rootstocks, where cultivated varieties are grafted to prevent them from getting soil borne diseases during eggplant propagation. Iwamoto and Ezura wrote that their improved protocol may aid in the development of disease-resistant eggplant varieties and avoid the need for grafting during propagation.

The article is available at .

Source: CropBiotech Update
5 January 2007

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics
Cornell University

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1.28  Continued funding for the tomato sequence project

Cornell University and the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research receive $1.8 million from National Science Foundation to continue tomato sequence project

Ithaca, New York
An international project led by Cornell University and the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research (BTI) at Cornell has received $1.8 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to continue sequencing the tomato genome and to create a database of genomic sequences and information on the tomato and related plants.

The grant for the International Tomato Sequencing Project, a collaboration of researchers from nine other countries, will enable U.S. researchers to continue their work. In 2004 the NSF provided $4 million for the U.S. part of the research.

Sequencing the tomato genome is the first step in creating the comprehensive International Solanaceae Genomics Project (SOL) Genomics Network database. This will tie together maps and genomes of all plants in the Solanaceae family, also called nightshades, which includes the potato, eggplant, pepper and petunia and is closely related to coffee from the Rubiaceae family.

The public database will help researchers ask fundamental questions: Have changes from a common ancestor brought about the attributes of crop species? What are the functions of specific genes? How has domestication changed genes? Which plants might be good candidates for genetically engineered improvements for growing crops?

Cornell researchers are close to completing a toolkit of resources about tomato and solanaceae species (some currently available in the database) to make the sequencing possible. These resources include genetic maps, DNA libraries, individual gene sequences, DNA markers and associated information, comparative mapping data to go from one species to another as sequences are added, and tools to query and search this information.

"The intention is to create an entirely public database," said the project's principal investigator, James Giovannoni (photo), a plant microbiologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agriculture Research Station and BTI, both based at Cornell, and an adjunct professor in Cornell's Department of Plant Biology. As information is released, it is put online, he said.

In sequencing the 12 chromosomes that comprise the tomato's genome, researchers from each of the nine other countries in the project (China, France, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Spain, Netherlands and the United Kingdom) will sequence one chromosome, with U.S. researchers sequencing three. As sequences are completed, they will be analyzed by researchers in the laboratory of Steven Tanksley, co-principal investigator and Cornell's Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor of Plant Breeding. The database is housed in Tanksley's lab.

Because it is difficult and expensive to sequences all of a species' genome, the researchers will just focus on gene-rich areas at the end of each chromosome, where 80 to 90 percent of the genes reside.

Lukas Mueller, a senior research associate in plant breeding and genetics at Cornell, and Joyce Van Eck, a senior research associate at BTI, are co-principal investigators on the project.
By Krishna Ramanujan

1 February 2007

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1.29  Genetic mapping of finger millet

Four types of molecular markers were used to obtain the genetic map of the polyploid finger millet (Eleusine coracana subsp. coracana), an important cereal crop in East Africa and Southern India. Finger millet is grown mainly by subsistence farmers and serves as a food security crop because of its high-nutritional value and excellent storage qualities. To date most varieties of finger millet are from germplasm selections as there are very few breeding activities on the crop. Hybridization between cultivated types or between wild and cultivated types may have potential in improving finger millet.

The construction of the genetic map by an international group of researchers provided the first step toward mapping traits of agronomic importance. Mathews Dida and colleagues utilized several types of molecular markers to generate the genetic map from plants derived by crossing the wild progenitor of finger millet and an elite cultivar. The researchers believe that the map will ultimately help in transferring useful traits such as blast resistance, lodging resistance, drought tolerance, and nutritional value, in finger millet breeding programs.

The complete paper published by the journal Theoretical and Applied Genetics, can be accessed by subscribers at .

Source: CropBiotech Update
12 January 2007

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics
Cornell University

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1.30  Coffee --  That’s sucrose to the taste buds

When somebody tells you to wake up and smell the coffee, he might as well be referring to sucrose in coffee beans that releases several aroma and flavor precursors during roasting. Sucrose plays a vital role in coffee organoleptic quality, and recently, a team of scientists from CIRAD and the Agricultural Institute of Paraná in Brazil has identified the genes responsible for sucrose accumulation in coffee beans.

Their work showed that an enzyme, sucrose synthetase, is responsible for sucrose accumulation in coffee (Coffea arabica) beans. Sucrose synthetase exists in the form of at least two similar proteins with the same biological function - isoforms -, but which are coded by two different genes: SUS1 and SUS2. Isoform SUS2 is responsible for sucrose accumulation in coffee beans, while isoform SUS1 seems to be involved in sucrose breakdown and thus in energy production. The researchers also examined the relationship between shading, which is known to improve coffee quality, and the activities of sucrose metabolism enzymes.

Read the press release at

Source: CropBiotech Update
26 January 2007

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics
Cornell University

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1.31  Triploid papaya – potential uses in breeding and fruit production

Triploid (with one extra set of chromosomes) papayas that were derived through anther culture may be used for direct exploitation in commercial fruit production, said researchers in Japan and Kenya. The group of T. Etoh studied the characteristics of 26 anther derived papaya strains and compared them with commercial papaya cultivar 'Wonder blight', which is diploid.

Etoh and his group determined that triploid papayas produce fruits that are relatively heavier than the commercial diploid papaya. The fruits are also seedless. The triploids were observed to produce plants that are dwarf, semi-dwarf or tall. The dwarf and semi-dwarf strains are those that were observed to produce high yields. Combined with their short stature, these strains make harvesting the fruits manageable.

The paper published by the journal Scientia Horticulturae. The abstract, with links to the full paper for subscribers, can be accessed at

Source: CropBiotech Update
2 February 2007

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics
Cornell University

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1.32  Improving crop plants through genomics

Washington, DC
In 1968, genomics breakthroughs at ARS’s U.S. Plant, Soil, and Nutrition Laboratory (PSNL) in Ithaca, New York, earned the U.S. Department of Agriculture its only Nobel Prize to date. Biochemist Robert Holley received the award for being part of the team that first determined the structure and nucleotide sequence of transfer RNA.

Today, PSNL scientists are building on Holley’s legacy, applying genomics and related sciences such as proteomics and molecular genetics to improve the nutritional value of leading crops. The ARS researchers, whose labs are located on Cornell University’s main campus, are also out to boost crop plants’ resistance to disease and their tolerance to soils lacking nutrients or containing toxic amounts of metals. And two PSNL scientists are now part of major efforts to map and sequence the genomes of tomato and maize.

Number Crunchers
A pivotal moment in PSNL’s genomics research occurred 5 years ago, when David J. Schneider was hired as one of ARS’s first computational biologists-experts at integrating computer science with biological research. He and molecular biologist Samuel W. Cartinhour have since helped make computational and molecular biology critical components of the lab’s work.

“We are combining computational and bench-based biological research to help solve complex problems in agriculture,” says Schneider.

Schneider and Cartinhour apply this interdisciplinary approach to their research on plant diseases. Says Schneider, “We’re studying disease development from the pathogen’s perspective.”

They’re using the bacterial pathogen Pseudomonas syringae DC3000 as a model system for studying virulence-related genes and pathways. “We’re relying on statistical physics, computer science, and complex-systems theory to identify regions in a pathogen’s genome that help regulate gene expression,” says Cartinhour. “We’re showing that there’s a real role for number-crunching in genomics.”

Tomato’s Genes
Among other projects at Ithaca is one led by molecular biologists James J. Giovannoni and Li Li, who are using tomato and cauliflower as models for improving crops’ nutritional qualities.

Five years ago, Giovannoni and colleagues reported the discovery of RIN, a tomato gene that regulates ethylene, a plant hormone that stimulates ripening. This landmark finding raised the possibility of both growing better tasting tomatoes that meet commercial shelf-life needs and genetically manipulating ripening in other fruits, such as melon and strawberry.

Recently, Giovannoni and colleagues cloned tomato’s green-ripe (GR) gene, which inhibits the plant’s ripening responses to ethylene. The gene greatly affects fruit development while exerting minimal influence on other plant tissues.

“This may help control ethylene’s effects on ripening-and bring about longer shelf-life and better quality-while retaining ethylene’s desirable effects, such as disease resistance, on other plant tissues,” he says. “It makes it possible to control ripening in fruit while maintaining normal plant vigor.”

Giovannoni has also helped discover two genes that regulate fruit’s response to light, and he’s found that these genes-LeCOP1LIKE and HIGH-PIGMENT 1-can be manipulated to alter fruit quality and nutritional value.

Today, his team is using microarray, or gene-chip, technology, which enables quick examination of thousands of genes in a single experiment. One significant study showed how microarrays can help characterize gene expression in tomato-related fruit species, such as pepper and eggplant, for which genomic resources are either currently unavailable or limited.

The fruits studied are part of the plant family Solanaceae, which-with more than 3,000 members-is the most important vegetable family. “We showed that tomato microarrays can be used to characterize gene expression in four of the most important Solanaceae crop species,” says Giovannoni.

Giovannoni is also contributing to the Tomato Sequencing Project. Undertaken by a consortium involving scientists from 10 countries, this effort is part of an even larger initiative: The International Solanaceae Genome Project: Systems Approach to Diversity and Adaptation.

Cauliflower and Beta-Carotene
Meanwhile, Li is using cauliflower as a model system to identify genes and define molecular mechanisms regulating the content, quality, and availability of nutrients in plant-based foods.

She’s focusing on carotenoids, the fruit-and-vegetable compounds that the body converts into essential vitamins and uses as antioxidants for cancer prevention. She’s using a cauliflower gene, dubbed “Or” for the color orange, to induce accumulation of high levels of beta-carotene in food crops.

The human body uses beta-carotene, the carotenoid that gives carrots their color, to make vitamin A. “Our work is important, as vitamin A deficiency has been reported to affect some 250 million children worldwide,” says Li.

She says the Or gene promotes high beta-carotene accumulation in various tissues in the cauliflower plant that normally don’t have carotenoids. “It can help us understand how carotenoid synthesis and accumulation are regulated in plants and in turn can help us better understand the health benefits of carotenoids.”

The Maize Genome
PSNL’s genomics work includes development of statistical and genetic tools for identifying natural variation in agronomically important traits in maize. Scientists are also contributing to the genome sequencing of maize.

Plant geneticist Edward S. Buckler is working with ARS plant geneticists Michael McMullen in the Plant Genetics Research Unit at Columbia, Missouri, and Jim Holland in the Plant Science Research Unit at Raleigh, North Carolina, and Stephen Kresovich, director of Cornell’s Institute for Genomic Diversity.

“We’re analyzing many related families of corn as well as unrelated, genetically diverse corn lines,” says Buckler. “We are looking for genes and novel alleles, or variations, that control maize’s complex quantitative traits, such as yield, flower development, and seed quality.

“By using this approach, the best genetic variants can be discovered, and their position within the genome can be resolved to a single gene,” he adds. “This can help us identify genes that can spur a wide array of traits, such as kernel quality, nutritional content, and tolerance of soil-related stresses.”

PSNL computational biologist Doreen H. Ware, who works at the nonprofit Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, is contributing genome annotation and bioinformatic tools to the sequencing of the maize genome. This project is being funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), USDA, and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Tolerating Bad Soil
Plant physiologist Leon V. Kochian, research leader of PSNL’s Plant, Soil, and Nutrition Research Unit, is using similar genomic and molecular genetic techniques in work-partially funded by NSF-to improve crop-plant cultivation on marginal, and even highly acidic, soils that limit crop production worldwide.

With the genomic tools used on maize and rice-some of which are being developed by Buckler and Ware-Kochian and his team have identified genes and associated mechanisms that help plants tolerate soil acidity and toxic metals.

We’ve zeroed in on aluminum tolerance in maize and sorghum,” Kochian says. “Aluminum is what limits root-system growth in acid soils. These crops are ideal for this project because in sorghum, aluminum tolerance is a simple trait, while in maize, the tolerance is complex.”

Kochian’s group and researchers at Brazil’s EMBRAPA Maize and Sorghum Research Center have cloned Alt SB, the major sorghum aluminum-tolerance gene. And recently, he and colleagues confirmed the importance of a gene called AtALMT1 to aluminum tolerance in Arabidopsis. They also found that a second, still unidentified, gene plays a major role in that plant’s aluminum tolerance in acidic soil.

Targeting Insect Vectors
In PSNL’s Plant Protection Research Unit, plant pathologist Stewart Gray is using genomics to find genes that regulate plant virus transmission by insect vectors.

He’s focused on how aphids transmit barley yellow dwarf and potato leafroll, the most economically important viruses of wheat, barley, oats, and potatoes worldwide. “We want to identify both the virus genes and the aphid genes that regulate transmission of the virus between insect and host,” says Gray.

Recently, Gray identified and characterized the two virus genes that regulate how a virus moves through its aphid vector. Now his group is out to identify the corresponding genes in aphids regulating the insects’ interaction with the virus.

Also, Gray and Iowa State University scientists are determining the complete nucleotide sequences of up to 100 biologically important barley yellow dwarf and cereal yellow dwarf isolates from around the world. His lab is also part of a scientific consortium that’s sequencing the aphid genome.

Meanwhile, Holley’s legacy will continue on into the lab’s future. Planning is under way to transform the PSNL into the Robert W. Holley Center for Agriculture and Health. This center would house all PSNL scientists within a new, $40 million building.

By Luis Pons, Agricultural Research Service Information Staff.

Source: January 2007 issue of Agricultural Research magazine via
12 January 2007

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1.33  Molecular markers make their mark in plant breeding

Applying molecular markers to plant breeding can significantly reduce the time and cost of developing new varieties.

The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) is therefore encouraging the development of molecular markers through its $3.1 million annual investment in the Australian Winter Cereals Molecular Marker Program (AWCMMP).

AWCMMP is a national R&D effort using the latest molecular marker techniques to improve the Australian grain industry’s productivity and sustainability. It currently features wheat and barley components.

Outcomes are used by plant breeders, including those associated with the WA Department of Agriculture and Food who used molecular markers to produce acid tolerant breeding lines of the malting barley varieties Baudin and Hamelin.

AWCMMP Advisory Committee Chairman and GRDC Western Panel member, Professor Richard Oliver said molecular markers identified a gene’s presence directly from a leaf or grain sample without having to resort to years of costly testing across numerous sites.

This technology is changing the way breeding programs operate and will provide significant efficiency and productivity improvements.

Australian plant breeders prioritise the traits for which molecular markers are developed and implemented and the GRDC has therefore developed a framework for a co-ordinated wheat and barley breeding strategy.

The technology is most commonly applied in marker assisted breeding, which enables accelerated back crossing, pyramiding genes, analysing and selecting quantitative traits, identifying hybrids, selecting resistance to pests and diseases not present in the country or region and analysing alien chromosome segments.

Molecular markers are also used in variety identification through DNA fingerprinting and have been invaluable tools for fundamental studies to improve our understanding of genome structure and behaviour.

The Crop Doctor is GRDC Managing Director, Peter Reading

Source: GRDC's The Crop Doctor via
24 January 2007

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1.34  GCP Latest News Alerts

National Science Foundation Provides $14 Million To Advance Research in Comparative Genomics
2007-01-12 13:44:08
The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) has granted US$14 million in funding for projects to find improved ways of studying the structure,... Visit Here

Deadline to Submit GCP Fellowship Applications: 31 January 2007-01-11 13:03:26
The GCP would like to remind potential applicants that the call for applications for the 2007 GCP Fellowships Programme will close on 31 January 20... Visit Here

New BioJobs Blog Publishes Job, Post-doc, and Other Research/Academic Openings Worldwide 2007-01-03 08:02:22
A newly-created blog called BioJobs regularly publishes new job, post-doc, and other research/academic openings from all over the world. Over... Visit Here

New Fellowship Opportunties Posted to CIMMYT’s Training Webpage 2007-01-02 08:28:55
The following training opportunities were recently posted on CIMMYT's training website: FELLOWSHIP OPPORTUNITIES 1) International Foundation for Sc... Visit Here

Call for Papers for the 11th International Conference on Agricultural Biotechnologies: New Frontiers and Products – Economics, Policies and Science 2007-01-18 08:01:46
The International Consortium on Agricultural Biotechnology Research (ICABR) is announcing a call for papers for the 11th International Conference... Visit Here

International Atomic Energy Agency Seeks Crop Scientist/Plant Nutritionist 2007-01-18 07:02:39
View this announcement in a PDF Position and Grade: Crop Scientist/Plant Nutritionist (P-4) Organizational Unit: Soil and Water Manageme... Visit Here

Job Opening: CIMMYT Maize Scientists in Pathology and Entomology 2007-01-15 08:31:25
The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) is seeking applications from innovative, self-motivated, scientifically outstanding... Visit Here

Fellowship and Professional Development Bulletin--From CIMMYT's Training Programme 2007-01-31 11:07:36
Below are some new and some soon-closing fellowship opportunities that have been added to the CIMMYT training web and intranet. FELLOWSHIP OPPORTUNITIES 1) C...Visit Here

Call Opened for GCP Travel Grants 2007-01-30 14:46:18
The call for GCP Travel Grants is open from 1 February to 28 February 2007. Please view the Travel Grants page for more information on application... Visit Here

4th Solanacea Genome Workshop to be held 9-13 September 2007 2007-01-29 08:16:32
The 4th Solanacea Genome Workshop 2007 will take place from September 9-13, 2007 in Jeju Island, Korea. The workshop will focus on how to apply... Visit Here

Rice Breeding Course: Laying the Foundation for the Second Green Revolution to be held 20-31 August 2007 2007-01-29 08:14:59
The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) will be offering “Rice Breeding Course: Laying the Foundation for the Second Green Revolution”... Visit Here

“From Basic Genomics to Systems Biology” Conference to be held 2-4 May 2007 2007-01-29 08:12:47
The conference “From Basic Genomics to Systems Biology” will be held on May 2-4, 2007 in Ghent, Belgium. Sessions will focus on: control of plant... Visit Here Policy Brief: Agricultural technology transfer to developing countries and the public sector 2007-01-29 08:09:57
Agricultural technologies and knowledge have, until recently, largely been created and disseminated by public institutions. But over the past... Visit Here

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2.01  An Introduction to Plant Breeding

Blackwell Publishing

By: Jack Brown (University of Idaho) and Peter Caligari (Universidad de Talca)

Plants have been successfully selectively bred for thousands of years, culminating in incredible yields, quality, resistance and so on that we see in our modern day crops and ornamental plants. In recent years the techniques used have been rapidly advanced and refined to include molecular, cell and genetic techniques.

An Introduction to Plant Breeding provides comprehensive coverage of the whole area of plant breeding. Covering modes of reproduction in plants, breeding objectives and schemes, genetics, predictions, selection, alternative techniques and practical considerations. Each chapter is carefully laid out in a student friendly way and includes questions for the reader. The book is essential reading for all those studying, teaching and researching plant breeding.

Table of Contents
Chapter 1 - Introduction.
Chapter 2 - Modes of reproduction and types of cultivar.
Chapter 3 - Breeding objectives.
Chapter 4 - Breeding schemes.
Chapter 5 - Genetics and plant breeding.
Chapter 6 - Predictions.
Chapter 7 - Selection.
Chapter 8 - Alternative techniques
Chapter 9 - Practical considerations.

About the Authors
Peter Caligari, Director of the Institute of Plant Biology and Biotechnology, University of Talca, Chile.

Jack Brown, Professor of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Department of Plant, Soil and Entomological Sciences, University of Idaho, USA.

US / Canada: $99.99
Europe / Rest of World: £45.00
Australia / New Zealand: A$149.00

ISBN: 9781405133449
ISBN10: 1405133449
Publication Dates
USA: Mar 2007
Rest of World: Mar 2007
Australia: May 2007
384 pages, 275 illustrations.

Further details can be found on the Blackwell Publishing website: .

Contributed by Simon Joyce

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2.02  Results from the FAO Biotechnology Forum: Background and dialogue on selected issues

Dear Forum Members,
We're happy to inform you that FAO Research and Technology Paper 11, entitled "Results from the FAO Biotechnology Forum: Background and dialogue on selected issues", by J. Ruane and A. Sonnino, has now been published. The 152-page book can also be freely downloaded from the web at (917 KB).

The book presents the background and summary documents from a series of six moderated e-mail conferences (numbers 7-12) hosted by the FAO Biotechnology Forum from 2002 to 2005, relating to agricultural biotechnology for the crop, forestry, animal, fisheries and agro-industry sectors in developing countries. Three of the six conferences focused on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), dealing with gene flow from GM to non-GM populations; regulation of GMOs; and participation of the rural people in decision-making regarding GMOs. Two conferences covered the entire range of biotechnology tools (including GMOs), dealing with the role and focus of biotechnology in the agricultural research agenda and, secondly, applications of biotechnology in food processing. The remaining conference dealt with molecular marker-assisted selection.

The Executive Summary of the publication is reproduced below.

If you wish to receive a free hardcopy version of the publication, please contact to request a copy, providing your full postal address. We welcome any comments you might have on the book – send them to

This is the third publication from the Forum, following - FAO. 2001. Agricultural biotechnology for developing countries - results of an electronic forum. FAO Research and Technology Paper No. 8. Contains the Background and Summary Documents from Conferences 1-6. Available, in English, Spanish and Chinese, at

- FAO. 2006. The role of biotechnology in exploring and protecting agricultural genetic resources. Containing the Background and Summary Document from Conference 13, plus papers from a workshop held as part of the build up to the conference - available at

Forwarded from John Ruane
FAO Biotechnology Forum Administrator
Forum website
FAO Biotechnology website

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3.01  Web resources from: underutilized-species@CGIAR.ORG

Below is a list of the latest items posted on the home page ( of GFU's web site

- Second International Agarwood Conference
- 2007 International Symposium on Medicinal and Nutraceutical Plants
- First International Symposium on Breadfruit Research and Development, April 16-19, 2007
- Global Scientific Challenges: Perspectives from Young Scientists -
An international conference celebrating 75 years of ICSU

- 5th International Symposium on New Crops and Uses: their role in a rapidly changing world
- 5th European Association for South-East Asian Studies (EuroSEAS) Conference, Naples 2007
- Second PROTA International Workshop and Investors' Forum
- Tenth International Congress of Ethnobiology in Cusco Peru (ICE 2007)

- Plant genetic resources and seeds Policies, conservation and use - Ethiopia, September 17 – October 12, 2007
- Conservation & sustainable use of plant genetic resources in agriculture - The Netherlands, May 21 – June 29, 2007
- Enhancing agrobiodiversity use: markets and chains - The Netherlands, 21 May – 1 June 2007

- The Rainforest Plant Database
- Forest Research Programme
- LinKS Project - Gender, Biodiversity and local knowledge systems for food security
- Fair Trade Federation
- World IVs - World Indigenous Vegetables (AVRDC)
- European Fair Trade Association
- Australian Tropical Foods
- IPDEV - Impacts of the IPR Rules on Sustainable Development
- Bioversity International Publication Overview on Neglected and Underutilized Species
- NUS Media Gallery - Photo and Video Gallery
- AGROnomy - portFOLIO: Benefiting from an Improved Agricultural Portfolio in Asia
- ECP/GR - Minor Crops Network (1995-2003)
- RUAF Foundation


- GFU banner 06 - enabling deployment of underutilized species
- Saving the bottle gourd
- Back by popular demand: The benefits of traditional vegetables - One Community's story
- Pearl Millet: A Hardy Staple for the World’s Drylands
- Underutilized and Underexploited Horticultural Crops - Vol.1
- Alternative Field Crops Manual
- Unleashing the Genius of the Genome to Feed the Developing World
- Impacts of the IPR Rules on Sustainable Development Workpackage 3 - Assessing the Applicability of Geographical Indications as a Means to Improve Environmental Quality in Affected Ecosystems and the Competitiveness of Agricultural Products

- Small Steps Towards Abundance: Crops for a More Sustainable Agriculture
- Supping At God's Table: A Handbook for the Domestication of Wild Trees for Food and Fodder
- Loroco, el condimento escondido
- Chia - Rediscovering a Forgotten Crop of the Aztecs
- Local Innovations using Traditional Vegetables to Improve Soil Quality

- Harvesting nuts, improving lives in Brazil

- Under-Utilized Tropical Fruits of Thailand

- Biofortification, biodiversity and diet: A search for complementary applications against poverty and malnutrition
- Aidemet Ong: Aide au Développement de la Médecine Traditionnelle.
- Using Our Traditions – A Herbal and Nutritional Guide for Kenyan Families

The Features section deals with a project in Mali that tries to improve the working conditions of herbalists
read the story in French and in English

New projects and many experts to be found in one of our databases
- National Strategic Research Initiative for Tropical fruit development
- Agro-folio: Benefiting from an Improved Agricultural Portfolio in Asia
- Income generation for extratevistas/smallholders in the Amazon Region and Costa Rica by selling indigenous fruits to international markets

comments, feedback and contributions are as usual very much welcome!
Global Facilitation Unit for Underutilized Species
Rome, Italy

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5.01  Executive Director, The UC Davis Seed Biotechnology Center

The UC Davis Seed Biotechnology Center is a focal point for interaction between the seed industry and the research and educational resources of the University of California, Davis. It coordinates research to address problems of interest to the seed industry and provides continuing education in seed biology and technology. Its mission is to mobilize the research, educational and outreach resources of the University of California, in partnership with the seed and plant biotechnology industries, to facilitate discovery and commercialization of new seed technologies for agricultural and consumer benefit.

The Executive Director is responsible for providing leadership in the ongoing development and implementation of building a premier entrepreneurial research and education program.  The incumbent is responsible and is accountable for the strategic planning and implementation of the overall operation and evaluation of programs and activities that support the Center’s mission, goals, and partnership objectives to increase its capacity to serve as a link between academic research, education programs, and the commercialization of new agricultural technologies.

The Executive Director is accountable for and will:

-provide leadership and management for major gift fund-raising, strategic planning, operations and services, and outreach and communications in order to deliver and expand the Center’s programs and activities.

-take a leading role in establishing mutually beneficial collaborative relationships with intramural and extramural stakeholders, clientele and collaborators;

-work with the Center Academic Director and staff to design and implement programs and services that facilitate partnerships between UC Davis and the national and international seed and plant biotechnology industries.

For a detailed description go to: (VL#6917).  Submit curriculum vitae, a two-page letter of interest including salary expectations, and the names, addresses and contact information for a minimum of four references to:  DeeDee Kitterman, Chair, Search Committee, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, 150 Mrak Hall, University of California, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA  95616.  Position is open until filled.  To receive full consideration applications should be received by February 15, 2007.  For more information contact Sue Webster, Program Representative, Seed Biotechnology Center, at 530-754-7333 or at

Contributed by Susan Webster

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5.02  Geneticist (Plants), USDA/ARS - Plant Science Research Unit, Raleigh, North Carolina

Salary Range of $65,411 to $119,489 Per Year

The Plant Science Research Unit, Raleigh, North Carolina, is seeking a permanent full-time GENETICIST (PLANTS) , GS-12/13/14 to: (1) design, formulate, plan, coordinate, execute, and lead research for the Germplasm Enhancement of Maize (GEM) project to identify and develop maize germplasm that will aid in diversifying the genetic base of U.S. Crop production and add to global maize diversity; (2) identify, develop, and release high yielding maize lines with improved value for feed, food, and industrial use; and (3) serve as recognized expert and consultant in the area of maize genetics, and provide scientific leadership in that area, applying scientific findings, developments, and advances in maize germplasm development to solve critical and complex problems such as genetic uniformity and disease susceptibility. For details and application directions, see and click on ANN#: ARS-X7S-0041.  To have a printed copy mailed, call 919-515-2731.

  U.S. citizenship is required.
  Announcement closes 2/20/07.
  USDA/ARS is an equal opportunity employer and provider.

David Marshall
Research Leader & Professor
USDA/ARS - Plant Science Research Unit
1419 Gardner Hall, Dept Plant Pathology
North Carolina State University
Raleigh, NC 27695-7616

Forwarded by Ann Marie Thro

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5.03  Plant genomics summer internships – University of Missouri

Undergraduate summer internship program in Plant Genomics The University of Missouri has an extensive summer internship program that is open to all international and US undergraduate students.

It's time for undergraduates to apply to our summer internship program in Plant Genomics.  The program will run from June 10 - August 3 this year. It's not too late for students to apply for the program for this summer.  The deadline for applying for the PGI summer internship program is just around the corner: Feb 12.

Additional info is available at our website:

Sherry Flint-Garcia
USDA ARS, University of Missouri
Phone: 573-884-0116

Forwarded by Ann Marie Thro

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


21-22 February 2007. Seed Biology, Production & Quality Course. The Seed Biotechnology Center and UC Davis Extension will offer this unique two-day course for professionals in the seed industry, crop consultants and growers to expand and update their knowledge.  Participants will learn the fundamentals and the most current research information on seed development, production, harvesting, conditioning, storage, enhancement, and quality assessment.  Instructors include: Dr. Derek Bewley, University of Guelph, Dr. Hiro Nonogaki, Oregon State University and University of California, Davis’ Dr. Kent Bradford, Dr. Robert Gilbertson and Dr. Allen Van Deynze.  For more information and to register online, go to the SBC.  Questions?  Contact Sue Webster, Program Representative, Seed Biotechnology Center, at 530-754-7333 or at

Contributed by Susan Webster


23-25 April 2007. Targeting Science to Real Needs, a workshop of the GL-TTP ( Grain Legumes Technology Transfer Platform). Paris, France.

GL-TPP is a not-for-profit organisation that bridges the gap between research and industry to increase the production and quality of grain legumes worldwide. GL-TTP was initiated in 2005 by the EU Grain Legumes Integrated Project (GLIP) to ensure the exploitation of the project outputs by the grain legume industry.

Having a foot in both the research and industry worlds, GL-TTP is in an ideal position to identify the specific needs and constraints of grain legume breeders and channel the latest research results and technologies through an accelerated pipeline to the grain legume industry.

Objectives of the First GL-TTP Workshop
Reflecting the needs of grain legume breeders, the workshop will focus on the exploitation of genetic resources, and on the concrete use and integration of molecular technologies in breeding. The main themes addressed in this first workshop will be genetic diversity, disease resistance, abiotic stress tolerance and seed quality.

The workshop will consist of highly interactive sessions, where the specific needs and interests of grain legume breeders will be addressed through concrete examples of research application, training sessions, and direct transfer of genetic material. Most importantly, proposals will be brainstormed throughout the workshop to set up Research & Development and technology transfer projects in partnership between research scientists and plant breeders.

he primarily intended audience will be the GL-TTP members: mostly grain legume breeders that are eager to embrace new technologies and set up international networks to optimise their exploitation of genetic resources, and research scientists that are interested in interacting with industry and in setting up partnership for future R&D.

The workshop will be open to non-GL-TTP members interested in learning more about GL-TTP activities, or simply interested in hearing, and discussing with, some of our renowned guest contributors.

We look forward to welcoming you at the first GL-TTP workshop, on 23-25 April 2007, in Paris, France!

From Catherine Golstein

Forwarded by Ann Marie Thro


1-6 July 2007.  The 5th International Symposium on Molecular Breeding of Forage and Turf (MBFT2007), Sapporo, Japan. Register for the meeting and call for abstracts following the instruction available at

Genetics, genomics and breeding of forage, turf and energy crops will be presented.  Following topics will be included: Assessment of genetic diversity,  Discovery of novel genes involved target characters, Gene function and regulation, Genetic mapping, Molecular marker assisted selection, Comparative genomics , Bioinformatics, Proteomics and metabolomics, Plant-microbe interactions,Transgenic and risk assessment, Genetic improvement, Impacts on sustainability in grassland and lawn and renewable biomass energy. Important dates:
     Abstract Submission Deadline: 1 May 2007
     Early Registration Deadline: 1 May 2007
     Deadline for Online Registration: 5 June 2007

For further information, please contact: Prof. Toshihiko YAMADA,
    Field Science Center for Northern Biosphere, Hokkaido University,
    Kita 11 Nishi 10, Kita-ku, Sapporo 060-0811, Japan
    Phone & Fax: 11-706-3644   E-mail:

Contributed by Prof. Toshihiko YAMADA


20-31 August. 2007. Laying the Foundation for the Second Green Revolution, a rice breeding course, IRRI, the Philippines

One of the five core goals of the new IRRI Strategic Plan (2007-2015) is to develop the next generation of rice scientists.  This is particularly needed in the field of rice breeding.   The number of rice breeders has decreased over the years, and those that remain need to enrich their skills with the precision tools afforded by advances in rice genomics and information technology.  Meanwhile, breeding varieties that are adoptable by farmers remains a major challenge, along with the dwindling funds for breeding research.  This situation demands maximum impact from rice breeding using limited resources.

This training course aims to

-provide the participants with the theoretical knowledge on modern plant breeding methods and techniques;

-teach them planning and information management tools and experimental techniques and software for developing an efficient rice breeding program;

-give the participants the opportunity to share experiences and lessons with breeders from other programs;  and

-share to the participants the information on the latest developments relevant to modern rice breeding and the worldwide exchange of rice genetic resources.

The course will be coordinated by the Plant Breeding, Genetics and Biotechnology Division (PBGB) and facilitated by the Training Center of IRRI.  Modules will be developed mainly by IRRI scientists.

The training will use various approaches:  interactive lectures, group learning exercises and discussions, presentations on country/institutional breeding programs, post-training action plan development, field and laboratory visits, and a field trip to observe Philippine breeding programs.

Target Audience
The course is targeted at breeders and agronomists working on variety development or cultivar testing, and at research managers with responsibility for rice breeding programs in the public, private, and NGO sectors.

Course Content
-Introduction to breeding program planning exercise;
-Setting goals and identifying the target environment;
-Information management for pedigree breeding programs;
-Factors affecting the adoption of improved varieties;
-Factors affecting selection response;
-Choosing parents;
-Efficient approaches to pedigree and bulk selection;
-Managing plant breeding data with the International Rice Information System (IRIS);
-Quality evaluation;
-Screening for biotic stress tolerance;
-Screening for abiotic stress tolerance;
-Experimental designs for controlling field variability;
-Multi-environment trials – design and analysis;
-Participatory varietal selection and participatory plant breeding;
-Optimizing resource allocation in breeding and testing programs;
-QTL analysis and molecular marker-aided selection;
-International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) and worldwide exchange and utilization of rice genetic resources;
-Intellectual property rights/plant variety protection; and
-Development and presentation of action plans for increasing the impact of participants’ programs.

Admission Requirements
Candidates should be nominated by their employers (from public, private or NGO sectors) and must:
-Have taken courses in plant breeding and statistics;
-Be proficient in English;
-Be able to use a personal computer;
-Be physically fit as supported by a medical report;
-Be under 45 years old; and
-Present (in English language) the breeding activities of his/her institution and/or country.

Nomination and Selection
Participants shall be selected based on the:
-Relevance of the training to the candidate’s work;
-Background knowledge, training, and experience in plant breeding;
-Degree of current or future collaboration with IRRI research programs;
-Number of available course slots; and
-Availability of funding.

Cost of Training
Participants can be self-paying but would normally be sponsored by their own employers and/or international aid agencies.

Independent Planning Activity
Each participant will develop and present a plan for increasing the impact or efficiency of the breeding program of his/her institution/country, including envisioned future collaborative activities with IRRI.

Optional Activity on Information Management
Participants are encouraged to bring pedigree nursery information and other breeding data for analysis and inclusion in IRIS.  They may extend their stay at IRRI, at their own cost, to learn to use the IRIS breeders’ applications.

For additional information, contact
Dr. Edilberto D. Redoña
Course Coordinator, Plant Breeding, Genetics and Biotechnology Division
Dr. Noel P. Magor
Head, Training Center
International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)

Contributed by Edilberto D. Redoña
Senior Scientist (Plant Breeding) & Coordinator, INGER), IRRI


* 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,

* 8-9 February 2007. A national workshop on “Sustaining plant breeding as a vital national capacity for the future of U.S. agriculture,” Raleigh, NC. Co-organized by CSREES, USDA; and by the Departments of Crop Science and Horticultural Science, North Carolina State University.

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

* 26-29 March 2007. Biotechnology, Breeding, and Seed Systems for African Crops, Maputo, Mozambique. Co-hosted by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Instituto de Investigação Agrária de Moçambique (IIAM). More information at: .

* 21 May – 1 June 2007. Training course on "Promoting agrobiodiversity use: markets and chains" (Wageningen International)  Information and the application form can be found here " Enhancing agrobiodiversity use: markets and chains"
Application deadline is 21 April 2007.

* 1-3 April 2007. Course on Molecular Characterization of Inbred Lines and Populations in Maize, New Delhi, India. View this announcement in PDF.... Visit Here
Source: Generation Challenge Programme (GCP) Latest News Alerts GCP Home Page
17 November-11 December 2006

*10-16 June 2007. 7th International Symposium in the Series: Recent Advances in Plant Biotechnology (First Announcement),Stara Lesna, High Tatras, Slovak Republic; The Symposium Secretary Handles all queries regarding abstract submission, registration, accommodation and booking of air tickets for invited speakers:
Alena Gajdosova,  Institute of Plant Genetics and Biotechnology
Nitra, Slovak Republic
Phone:  + 421/37 73 36659
Fax:      + 421/37 73 36660

* 24-28 June 2007. The 9th International Pollination Symposium on Plant-Pollinator Relationships-Diversity in Action. Scheman Center, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. The official theme is: "Host-Pollinator Biology Relationships - Diversity in Action."
UPDATE: We’re pleased to announce that the website for the 9th International Pollination Symposium at Iowa State University has recently been updated:
The Symposium organizers are accepting poster submissions online at the website linked above until 1 March 2007.
Contributed by Jennifer J. Tabke

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

* 14-18 September 2008. The 12th International Lupin Conference, Perth, Western Australia

* 27-31 October 2007. 8th African Crop Science Society Conference, El Minia, Egypt--First Announcement and Call for Abstracts. The African Crop Science Society (ACSS) and Minia University announce the first call for abstracts for the 8th African Crop Science Society Conference, which will take place from 27-31 October 2007 in El-Minia, Egypt. The deadline for registration is 30 April 2007. For more complete information on registration and abstract submission, visit

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

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

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 We would especially like to see a broad participation from developing country programs and from those working on species outside the major food crops.

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