PLANT BREEDING NEWS

EDITION 177

2 April 2007

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

Clair H. Hershey, Editor
chh23@cornell.edu

Archived issues available at: FAO Plant Breeding Newsletter
For a copy of this newsletter as an MS Word attachment, contact the editor.

CONTENTS

1.  NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH NOTES
1.01  Insect resistant maize for Africa (IRMA) II project
1.02  New seed initiative for maize in Africa
1.03  Mozambique aims to lead 'green revolution'
1.04  Nerica rice introduced in Central African Republic
1.05  Cassava improvement: challenges and impacts
1.06  Colombia approves GM corn
1.07  California Rice Commission supports moratorium on field testing of all GM rice cultivars
1.08  Development of a West African yam Dioscorea spp. core collection
1.09  New system to boost biodiversity access in Brazil
1.10  'Indefinite funding' safeguards biodiversity of rice
1.11  New phytophthora research to speed up plant protection
1.12  More accurate assessments of the environmental risks associated with the release of disease-resistant plants
1.13  Deadly wheat fungus threatens world's breadbaskets
1.14  Africa: working towards aflatoxin-resistant groundnut varieties
1.15  Bacterial virus gene confers disease resistance in tall fescue grass
1.16  Aphid-resistant barley now available
1.17  Challenges and opportunities for crop protection
1.18  Scientists genetically engineer tomatoes with enhanced folate content
1.19  Adding more “oomph” to cucumber DNA
1.20  Giving vegetables more flavor, nutrients, and color
1.21  Gene found to lower apple acidity
1.22  Breeding crops for reduced-tillage management in the intensive, rice-wheat systems of South Asia
1.23  Researchers learn what sparks plant growth
1.24  Plant size morphs dramatically as scientists tinker with outer layer
1.25  Finding the white wine difference
1.26  Scientists pinpoint proteins that direct plant growth and development
1.27  Researchers argue that cisgenic plants are similar to traditionally-bred plants
1.28  Scientists uncover how poppies prevent inbreeding
1.29  Genetic modification turns plant virus into delivery vehicle for green-friendly insecticide, say UF researchers
1.30  Biofuels: promises and constraints
1.31  Bioenergy and agriculture: promises and challenges
1.32  Gene sequencing advance will aid in biomass-to-biofuels conversion
1.33  New success in engineering plant oils
1.34  Crops feel the heat as the world warms
1.35  New technologies coming too fast for Indian farmers in key cotton-growing area

2.  PUBLICATIONS
2.01  GM crops: The first ten years – global socio-economic and environmental impacts
2.02  Chickpea Breeding and Management
2.03  Some wild growing fruits, nuts and edible plants of the western Himalayas
2.04  GMOs in Crop Production: FAO Expert Consultation
2.05  Some recent plant breeding-related publications

3.  WEB RESOURCES
3.01  New online guide for identifying the world's seeds and fruits
3.02  DOE JGI releases enhanced Genome Data Management System IMG 2.1 marking 2-year anniversary
3.03  Biologists develop large gene dataset for rice plant
3.04  Biologists produce global map of plant biodiversity
3.05  Plant Management Network launches agricultural web search

4  GRANTS AVAILABLE
4.01  Graduate Fellowship Program RFA Posted by CSREES/USDA

5  NEW ORGANIZATIONS AND SERVICES
5.01  CropGen International commences operations
5.02  Agricultural Biotechnology Network in Africa (ABNETA)
5.03  African universities link up to offer 'regional PhDs'
5.04  China launches biosafety research centre
5.05  Pulse Breeding Australia, a new pulse joint venture, will deliver better varieties faster

6  MEETINGS, COURSES AND WORKSHOPS

7  EDITOR'S NOTES

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1.  NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH NOTES

1.01  Insect resistant maize for Africa (IRMA) II project

The second phase of the Insect Resistant Maize for Africa (IRMA) Project has been launched by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI). The project aims at producing stem borer resistant, locally-adapted maize varieties for various Kenyan agro-ecological zones using conventional and biotechnology-mediated approaches. Some of the outputs of the program include the introduction of Bt maize for testing in Kenya, release of insect-resistant maize hybrids and characterizations of non-target organisms in maize systems.

To read more, visit http://www.africancrops.net/News/march07/index.htm or contact Stephen Mugo at s.mugo@cgiar.org.

From CropBiotech Update
30 March 2007

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

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1.02  New seed initiative for maize in Africa

The New Seed Initiative for Maize in Africa (NSIMA) Project has been helping small-scale farmers obtain superior and high-quality seeds. By using high-quality seeds, agricultural productivity is greatly improved. The project fostered the development of improved and adapted maize varieties with the National Maize Breeding Programmes in seven Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries and funded the breeding activities of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)-Harare. Several new maize breeding lines, open-pollinated varieties and hybrids have been released into the seed sector.

To read more, visit http://www.africancrops.net/News/march07/index.htm or contact John MacRobert at j.macrobert@cgiar.org.

From CropBiotech Update
30 March 2007

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

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1.03  Mozambique aims to lead 'green revolution'

Science and innovation will be used to improve crops in Mozambique

Michael Malakata
[MAPUTO] Mozambique aims to lead a green revolution in sub-Saharan Africa by using science to improve crop varieties, and by boosting innovation.

Opening the conference Biotechnology, Breeding and Seed Systems for African Crops in Maputo, Mozambique, yesterday (26 March), Mozambique's Minister of Science and Technology declared that a green revolution is needed for development in the region.

"Incorporating science in agriculture in Mozambique is key to the modernisation of the economy and to provide jobs in rural and urban areas. This is why science improves the lives of people," said Venancio Massingue.

He said his country’s bid to bring about a green revolution would only be possible if scientists breed high-yielding varieties of crops to relieve hunger in rural areas.

Mozambique has set aside over US$30 million dollars for seed and fertiliser distribution, and the government is looking for private sector partnerships to widen the seed programme.

Last week, Mozambican president Armando Guebuza declared that his government is striving toward a green revolution to improve and diversify agriculture and increase food production.

Calisto Bias, director of the Mozambique National Institute of Agricultural Research, said research plays an important role in the development and promotion of new agricultural products.

"The use of improved seeds is quite small in Mozambique and Africa in general. Seed companies always complain about the small market compared to the cost of production," said Bias.

Rajiv Shah, director of Agricultural Development and Financial Services at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, told SciDev.Net that some of the US$150 million invested in the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa programme will be used to improve seeds and soil health in Africa (see Partnership forged to spur Africa's green revolution).

Source: SciDev.net
27 March 2007

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1.04  Nerica rice introduced in Central African Republic

Since the decline of cassava production in the 1990s, rice has been used as an alternative source of food in Central African Republic. Ten NERICA varieties were acquired from Benin Republic and three more were selected for introduction to farmers due to their better yield, resistance to disease and early maturity.

NERICA varieties showed resistance to drought and various diseases. More experiments are needed to collect dependable data on the performance of the rice varieties during periods of long rains.

To read more, visit http://www.africancrops.net/News/march07/index.htm or contact Koma D. Ben-Bala at  kd_bbala@yahoo.co.uk.

From CropBiotech Update
30 March 2007

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

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1.05  Cassava improvement: challenges and impacts

Nassar, N.M.A. and R. Ortiz. 2007. J. Agric. Sci. 145:163-171.

Cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) is one of the two most important food crops in sub-Saharan Africa. This area accounts for most of the root harvest worldwide, followed by Asia and Latin America – the centre of origin for Manihot species. In Africa and Latin America, cassava is mostly used for human consumption, while in Asia and parts of Latin America, cassava is mostly used for the production of animal feed and starch-based products. Cassava is regarded as a crop adapted to drought-prone environments, where cereals and other crops do not thrive, and it also grows well in poor soil. There are about 100 wild Manihot species, which provide an important genetic endowment for cassava breeding. Professional cassava breeding started in the 20th century and was spurred on by increasing population demands. The main breeding goals are high yield per unit area, particularly in marginal or pest-prone environments. The most notable results from cassava breeding are seen today in sub-Saharan Africa, where it has been transformed from a poor man’s crop to an urban food. Long-term research by many international and national partners has led to breeding high-yielding cassava cultivars that increased crop yields up to 40%. Manipulation of genes from wild species has let to new cultivars that resist prevailing diseases and pests, allowing the avoidance of large-scale famine in sub-Saharan Africa. Cassava improvement continues to tap genetic variation through conventional breeding (including the use of wild species) and biotechnology, because many pathogens still take their toll and occasionally epidemics affect farmer fields significantly. However, new sources of variation are needed to genetically enhance the nutritional quality of this important food crop in Africa and other areas in the tropics of the developing world.

Contributed by Rodomiro Ortiz, CIMMYT
r.ortiz@cgiar.org

For further information on this paper please contact Nagib Nassar (nagnassa@rudah.com.br)
For further information on Manihot species in general, consult www.geneconserve.pro.br

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1.06  Colombia approves GM corn

Two varieties of GM corn will be grown in Colombia
[BOGOTÁ] Colombia has allowed genetically modified (GM) corn to enter its borders for the first time, and will authorise plantations of other GM products later in the year.

The Colombian Institute of Agriculture (ICA) approved one hundred kilograms of GM corn for import last month, half of which is resistant to a herbicide and the other half to insects.

Andrés F. Arias, from the Ministry of Agriculture, says growers from four regions of Colombia ­ Córdoba, Huila, Sucre and Tolima ­ will be allowed to buy the seeds.

Ana Luisa Diaz, of ICA, told SciDev.Net that authorisation has been given only to regions where the Institute has done controlled biosafety assessments.

The ICA will conduct follow-up biosafety studies of the seed from planting until harvest.

The ICA later approved the import of two other varieties of GM corn, both resistant to insects, for use in the Caribbean region of the country. The quantity imported will based on the interest expressed by farmers in the region.

At a meeting this week (3 March) Arias also announced approval of semi-commercial plantations of GM cassava, rice, roses, sugarcane and coffee later this year, with commercial approval to be granted in 2008.

But some are concerned about the developments. German Velez, from the non-governmental organisation Grupo Semillas says, "The biosafety policies and rules in this country are nonsense."

Velez is concerned that the GM products will cross-pollinate and therefore alter the natural species of these plants. He pointed to a case in México, where he says natural corn has been contaminated by GM corn.

"These technologies have been designed for big agricultural companies and won’t benefit the poor," he said. However, he acknowledged that studies have not yet determined GM products' effect on human health.

Arias defended GM products, saying they increase crop production per hectare and therefore boost farmers' incomes while reducing pressure on natural ecosystems.

Osiris Ocando, from Agro-Bio, a non-profit organisation, applauded the government's decision. She hoped Colombian farmers could make use of a wide variety of GM corn seeds, as it is "essential that the Colombian agricultural sector is able to use modern technology to enhance its competitiveness".

Colombia is one of the 22 countries to have planted GM seeds. Of its cotton plantations, 41 per cent (22.7 hectares) are the GM variety Bt.

Lisbeth Fog

Source: SciDev.net
7 March 2007

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1.07  California Rice Commission supports moratorium on field testing of all GM rice cultivars

Sacramento, California
Following mounting concern over the discovery of trace levels of genetic material unapproved for commercialization in long grain rice seed outside of California, the California Rice Commission voted this morning to support a moratorium “on the field testing of all genetically modified (GM) rice cultivars in the State of California for the 2007 crop, and for future crops, until such time as research protocol and safeguards are acceptable to the California Rice Commission."

It is the position of the industry that a moratorium on GM field testing in California would allow for an opportunity to evaluate federal regulations that safeguard the rice industry.

Following the August discovery of GM traits in long grain rice produced in southern rice growing states, the California rice industry undertook a comprehensive review of the impacts on markets and potential impacts on commercially grown rice in the state.

The announcement by APHIS within recent weeks that two additional GM traits had been discovered in a variety of long grain rice, the California rice industry voted for a moratorium to evaluate the federal regulations that are the basis for all GM rice research in the state.

“Based on the events of the last few months, it is clear that the federal regulatory process is not working for rice,” commented Frank Rehermann, Chair of the CRC Board and a rice producer in Live Oak, California. “It is imperative that those systems are evaluated and approved.”

California has tested is public seed four times since August, all with non-detect results for Liberty Link varieties LL601, LL62 and LL06. None of the GM events in question are present in California, and commercial production of GM rice is currently not occurring in California or elsewhere in the U.S.

As a precautionary move to further reassure it markets of the integrity of state’s rice, the AB 2622 Advisory Board, as authorized by the California Rice Certification Act, has adopted the requirement that all California rice variety owners submit samples for laboratory testing and confirm a non-detect status to approve those varieties for production in California during the 2007 crop year.

California already has the strongest body of law in the U.S. to address market concerns. Passed in 2000, the California Rice Certification Act provides direction and establishes measures that enable the industry to regulate new rice variety introductions and research within the state.

On August 18, 2006, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that trace amounts of regulated, genetically engineered (GE) rice were found in samples taken from commercially produced long grain rice. The trace amounts in question have only been identified in Southern long grain rice, in a variety that is not present in California.

The California rice industry is based in the Sacramento Valley. Each year, California rice producers plant and harvest over 500,000 acres of rice, contributing a half-billion dollars to the economy and providing habitat and fodder for 235 species of wildlife along the Pacific Flyway. The California Rice Commission represents the 2,500 growers and handlers who farm and process rice in the state annually.

Source: SeedQuest.com
15 March 2007

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1.08  Development of a West African yam Dioscorea spp. core collection

V. Mahalakshmi, Q. Ng, J. Atalobhor, D. Ogunsola, M. Lawson and R. Ortiz. 2007. Genet. Resour. Crop Evol. DOI 10.1007/s10722-006-9203-4

Abstract
Yams (Dioscorea spp.) are important crops in some West African locations. The West African yam collections held at the IITA were characterized using the standard descriptor list for this crop (IPGRI/IITA. 1997. Descriptors for yam (Dioscorea spp.). International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Ibadan, Nigeria/International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, Rome, Italy) to assess the extent of diversity and develop a core collection employing 77 out of 86 descriptors and the Shannon–Weaver diversity index. The core collection consists of 391 accessions (13% of entire collection). It represents all the six cultivated and two wild Dioscorea taxa. The appropriateness of the procedure was confirmed by comparing the mean and diversity distributions of 11 (out of 13) quantitative traits. This article explains the relevance of this core collection of yams for West Africa yam cropping and improvement.

Contributed by Rodomiro Ortiz, CIMMYT
r.ortiz@cgiar.org
For further information on this paper please contact Rodomiro Ortiz

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1.09  New system to boost biodiversity access in Brazil

[RIO DE JANEIRO] The Brazilian government has announced a new system that will issue licences to collect biological material for scientific research and teaching purposes more quickly.

Previously, licences for the collection of plants, animals and other biological materials in Brazil took up to two years to be processed in the most complicated cases. The new Biodiversity Authorization and Information System (Sisbio) allows licences to be granted up to 45 days after application via the Internet.

According to the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Natural Resources (IBAMA) ­ the organisation responsible for Sisbio ­ the simplest cases could be resolved within seven days.

However, applications will require more detailed evaluation if they involve studies in conservation areas or caves, species at risk of extinction, the import or export of biological material and collection of vertebrates exceeding a set quota.

New rules have also been established to collect, capture, transport, receive and send Brazilian biological material through other countries.

Scientists say the previous licensing system was too severe and 'criminalised' scientific activities.

According to Marcos Tavares, from the University of São Paulo Zoological Museum and a member of the Brazilian Society for the Progress of Science, IBAMA's permission was required for a teacher to gather species in a field with students.

"The new system represents a huge improvement due to its rapidity and the transparency offered…which will provoke a positive impact in scientific studies," Tavares told SciDev.Net.

Scientists will eventually be able to use Sisbio to access satellite images of potential research areas and gauge research activity in areas so they can better plan their research.

Sisbio established on 2 March is the result of more than a year of debate between IBAMA and the Sisbio Technical Advisory Committee, composed of government members and representatives of scientific associations.

Rômulo Mello, IBAMA's director of Fauna and Fishing Resources, says the new system reconciles the interests of both scientific community and IBAMA.

"[IBAMA's] goal is to allow scientific knowledge improvement with the smallest environmental impact possible and to inhibit biopiracy," said Mello.

Source: SciDev.net
12 March 2007

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1.10  'Indefinite funding' safeguards biodiversity of rice

2.7 billion people rely on rice as their major source of food

Katherine Nightingale
An agreement between a crop trust fund and the International Rice Research Institute announced today (12 March) could safeguard the biodiversity of rice.

Under the agreement, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) will invest US$400,000 annually in its Genetic Resources Center in the Philippines, while the Global Crop Diversity Trust will donate US$200,000. The pledges allow for interest rate fluctuations and will remain in force 'indefinitely'.

The Genetic Resources Center already houses more than 100,000 samples of rice from 110 countries representing about 60 per cent of the world's varieties. The agreement will ensure that long-term storage systems are maintained and new technology is developed.

"Genetic resources such as these are the key to addressing many global problems," Robert Ziegler, director-general of IRRI, told SciDev.Net.

"They give us the tools to store and develop 'climate-ready' varieties of rice, which will be of great use when environments, particularly in the developing world, are affected by climate change."

The IRRI resource already helps many communities to avert food shortages. After the 2004 Asian tsunami, IRRI provided farmers whose land had been submerged by seawater with a variety of rice capable of growing in salty soil.

"Developing country plant breeders and scientists are by far the largest users of the IRRI collection," says Cary Fowler, executive secretary of the Global Crop Diversity Trust. "For the first time, the conservation and future availability of a major crop collection has been secured forever."

Mike Gale of the UK-based John Innes Centre says similar agreements should be arranged for other crops. "We must establish a global system of gene banks covering the key accessions of all crop species and ensure their future too," he said.

Calestous Juma, former executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, welcomed the agreement but warned it "should not be used to cultivate complacency about supporting and expanding gene banks".

The IRRI rice bank will also contribute to a Norwegian government initiative, which aims to secure the biodiversity of the world's major food crops by preserving different varieties of seeds.

The IRRI collection will be duplicated and transferred to the Svalbard International Seed Vault, a gene bank in the Arctic that will hold the seeds of every known crop variety.

Source: SciDev.net
12 March 2007

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1.11  New phytophthora research to speed up plant protection

Wooster, Ohio
A new way of characterizing partial resistance to one of the most devastating soybean diseases may enable germplasm companies to incorporate effective genes more quickly into plant lines that are the most beneficial to growers.

Ohio State University plant pathologists and soybean breeders are teaming up with researchers from the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute and the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences at Virginia Polytechnic Institute to study the mechanisms of partial resistance to Phytophthora sojae – the pathogen that causes Phytophthora root and stem rot. With a five-year, $6.74 million National Science Foundation grant, the team is evaluating 289 genetic lines from a Virginia plant population to identify those with partial resistance. The researchers are using microarray chips – technology that produces an instant readout of which genes might be most useful in producing germplasm with high levels of partial resistance.

Anne Dorrance, an Ohio State plant pathologist with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, said that using microarray chips produces a more informative result than the standard marker technology.

“A standard marker amplifies a region in a genome where resistance is expressed, and then maps that area. At most, we know where the region is but not what the mechanisms are that control this trait,” said Dorrance. “With microarray chips, we can map over 30,000 genes at the same time and know instantly which genes are involved in partial resistance and which are not. It allows us to more quickly target which genes are important for companies to incorporate in their germplasm and get it into the hands of growers faster.”

The technology also enables researchers to better understand the mechanisms of gene expression and how partial resistance to Phytophthora works. Dorrance, who also holds a partial Ohio State University Extension appointment, said that partial resistance is more durable, more consistent and more effective in controlling Phytophthora than single resistance genes alone. A combination of the two will give growers the best protection.

“The 'R' genes only have a certain life span. Using these R-genes wisely will get the longest length of time out of genes, but eventually plants with just R-gene resistance will no longer be effective against the disease,” said Dorrance. “High levels of partial resistance helps maintain yields across disease pressures and disease locations. Of course we continue to identify R-genes because if you have both partial and R-gene resistance in a plant, you aren’t going to see losses to Phytophthora.”

Single-resistance genes, like the newly discovered Rps8, work by killing the pathogen before it ever has a chance to establish in the plant. However, if the pathogen is not detected by the resistant gene, then that gene becomes ineffective and the plant succumbs to disease.

“It’s the reason why so many single-resistant gene packages, specifically Rps1a, Rps1b, Rps1c, Rps1k, Rps3a and Rps6, are no longer able to control Phytophthora in many Ohio fields,” said Dorrance.

Partial resistance genes allow Phytophthora to colonize a soybean plant, but only to a certain extent, keeping the disease at bay and preventing it from killing the plant as long as resistance is high enough.

“Partial resistance basically means that the pathogen has little effect on the plant once it has grown up and out of the ground,” said Dorrance. “Partial resistance varieties can be very effective, sometimes having a 30 percent difference in yields compared to soybean plants that have no resistance to Phytophthora at all, depending on the disease pressure.”

One advantage of partial resistance genes is that, unlike single-resistance genes, they are not race specific, meaning that partial resistance works against any Phytophthora isolate that exists. The result is partially resistant soybean cultivars that yield consistently, no matter what race of Phytophthora may be present in a particular field.

Phytophthora is a major problem in Midwest states that have heavy clay soils, such as Ohio. Heavy rains saturate the soil producing areas with standing water, which provides an outlet for the pathogen to infect plant roots. This water mold grows in the roots and into the plant stem, eventually killing the plant. Economic losses to Phytophthora can be as high as $120 million in any given year, with yield reductions ranging from five to 30 bushels per acre depending on variety.

Source: SeedQuest.com
5 March 2007

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1.12  More accurate assessments of the environmental risks associated with the release of disease-resistant plants

Australia
More accurate assessments of the environmental risks associated with the release of disease-resistant plants are now possible following CSIRO’s development of a new framework that identifies potential weed pests.

CSIRO Plant Industry scientist, Dr Bob Godfree, says knowing the risks is crucial to ensuring both natural and agricultural environments are protected against the threat of plants which could become invasive.

“The new framework is a very exciting development,” Dr Godfree says. “It will allow us to capture information that has been difficult to obtain previously and it has major positive implications for both the agricultural and natural resource management industries.”

“The framework has been used to assess the ‘weediness’ of white clover resistant to the disease Clover Yellow Vein Potyvirus in a variety of environments and accurately predicted where the plants would most successfully establish.”He says disease is sometimes the major natural factor keeping certain plants from eventually dominating a particular environment.

“If that limiting factor is removed, plants bred for agricultural purposes can very quickly spread and reduce biological diversity in the natural environments of an area. It is therefore really important that such plants undergo trials to determine if they pose a threat.”

The conceptual framework developed by Dr Godfree provides an accurate picture of the risk presented by a particular plant to a particular environment.

“Plants will respond differently given different environmental conditions and we have found we can identify environments where disease-resistant plants have a better chance of over-running local plant populations.”

The framework has been used to assess the ‘weediness’ of white clover resistant to the disease Clover Yellow Vein Potyvirus in a variety of environments and accurately predicted where the plants would most successfully establish.

“From this information we are able to formulate strategies to manage the release of plants and prevent them from becoming invasive pests in natural environments,” Dr Godfree says.

His findings were published recently in the respected science journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research was supported by Dairy Australia.

ReferencesRobert C. Godfree*,, Peter H. Thrall, and Andrew G. Young
Published online before print February 13, 2007, 10.1073/pnas.0608356104 PNAS | February 20, 2007 | vol. 104 | no. 8 | 2756-2760

Source: SeedQuest.com
8 March 2007

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1.13  Deadly wheat fungus threatens world's breadbaskets

Erik Stokstad Science 30 March 2007:
Vol. 315. no. 5820, pp. 1786 - 1787

New mutations have put an old killer back on the map. As it spreads, breeders are racing to develop resistant plants

Wheat stem rust, Puccinia graminis, is back, and it's more dangerous than ever before. In 1999, a new race of the fungus was discovered in Uganda that can defeat the resistance of most varieties of wheat. The fungus spread in northeast Africa for several years while researchers scrambled for funds to study it. In January, pathologists announced that it had jumped the Red Sea into the Arabian Peninsula--on a path to the major wheat-growing regions of Asia. Compounding matters, a new mutation turned up late last year that enables the fungus to infect even more kinds of wheat. "This is the most virulent strain we've seen in 50 years," says Kay Simmons, the national program leader for plant genetics and grain crops at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

While pathologists nervously track the spread of the disease, breeders have ramped up their search for varieties that can survive it. Already, they've had initial success with two that might help Ethiopian farmers. But it can take years to complete field-testing and generate enough seed to distribute to farmers. With much of the world in need of resistant varieties, the challenge is enormous, says wheat breeder Rick Ward, who coordinates the Global Rust Initiative.

Most worrying was that this new race--dubbed Ug99--could even kill wheat plants outfitted with the resistance gene Sr31. Still, he says, a few new races had turned up in the past decades without causing epidemics. And Ug99 didn't come back the next year. "If it shows up just for 1 year, you can't make any major commitment. It's hard to justify," Singh says.

So far, about 90% of the 12,000 lines tested are susceptible to Ug99. That includes all the major wheat cultivars of the Middle East and west Asia. At least 80% of the 200 varieties sent from the United States can't cope with infection. The situation is even more dire for Egypt, Iran, and other countries in immediate peril. More bad news arrived last December. Tests on sentinel plots by GRI-funded researchers revealed that Ug99 had mutated. Testing at a USDA laboratory in St. Paul, Minnesota, showed that the new race can now also defeat Sr24, another key source of genetic resistance. "That was the worst case scenario," says USDA plant pathologist Yue Jin, who did the work. "It's increased the worldwide vulnerability incredibly." Right now, this identification may only be done in midwinter in Minnesota, so that any spores that might escape will be killed by the temperatures. Researchers are hopeful, however, that the recent sequencing of the Puccinia genome will speed development of diagnostic tools that can be easily used in Africa.

Fungicides can help control the damage from Puccinia, and GRI will begin trials in June to figure out the best way to use them. But chemical treatments are too expensive for many farmers in the developing world, Singh says, so plant breeding is the primary strategy.

Two new kinds of wheat have shown promise in Ethiopia. "The yields are very favorable, comparable to the commercial varieties," says Tsedeke Abate, director general of the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research in Addis Ababa, where a half-dozen scientists are working full-time on Ug99. The immediate challenge is to grow enough seed from these resistant strains to distribute to Ethiopian farmers

Now, that success must be replicated for other regions. Singh says it's important to come up with resistant varieties for countries that aren't yet infected. Planting those before an epidemic strikes could help slow the spread of the disease. Egypt, for example, has vast tracts of wheat. If stem rust infects those crops, they will send enormous quantities of spores throughout the Middle East and toward west Asia. It's a tight race, as several observers suspect that Ug99 could start reaching Egypt later this year.

Despite the world's initial slow response, Borlaug, who turned 93 last week and is battling lymphoma, says he is optimistic that the fungus will be beaten again.

Excerpts from the article in Science, by the editor, PBN-L
Submitted by Rodomiro Ortiz
CIMMYT
R.ORTIZ@CGIAR.ORG

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1.14  Africa: working towards aflatoxin-resistant groundnut varieties

Montpellier, France
Groundnut is of undeniable nutritional importance in the Sahel countries, where few crops have as many nutritional or financial advantages. However, it is susceptible to aflatoxin, a highly toxic substance produced by the fungus Aspergillus flavus. Infection is favoured by water stress towards the end of the cycle, and African regions regularly hit by drought, such as Senegal, Niger and Mali, are thus at particular risk. This brings serious health risks, such as liver cancer, as local populations may consume large quantities of contaminated products. Moreover, with the tightening of European health regulations, the export value of groundnut has dropped considerably, which means a financial risk for the countries concerned. To reverse this trend, it is vital to prevent contamination in the field and at every stage of marketing.

However, until now, varietal breeding programmes have failed to develop groundnut cultivars that are aflatoxin resistant and at the same time have high agronomic potential. In an attempt to find a solution, researchers are studying how the plant's resistance mechanisms work in the event of drought. To this end, a European project entitled "New tools for groundnut aflatoxin control in Sahel Africa", headed by CIRAD, has just been completed. In particular, it enabled the development of methodologies for improving varietal screening and growing groundnut under rainfed conditions, to reduce aflatoxin contamination both in the field and postharvest.

Groundnut seed ripening rate: a key criterion
Two reference varieties were chosen for study: a cultivar that gives average yields under drought conditions but has good aflatoxin resistance, and another that is higher-yielding but more susceptible to the fungus. Both varieties are widely distributed in Senegal and a large part of sub-Sahelian Africa. The approach taken consisted in studying them under different environmental conditions: under water stress, in the field, in glasshouses, etc. The researchers studied the varieties on an agronomic and physiological, and also biochemical and molecular, level.

One of the main results of the project concerned seed ripening rate: this is a key criterion in groundnut tolerance of aflatoxin contamination. Short-cycle varieties that produce small seeds that ripen quickly are more resistant. Moreover, water stress towards the end of the cycle disrupts the lipid metabolism of the susceptible cultivar more than that of the resistant cultivar. Fatty acid composition differs depending on whether or not the variety is aflatoxin-resistant, and the fatty acid metabolism can thus be assumed to be another parameter linked to groundnut resistance mechanisms prior to harvest.

With a view to groundnut varietal improvement, five genes of interest in terms of aflatoxin resistance were identified, cloned and studied. For most of them, this was the first time they had been sequenced and studied in groundnut. Some are involved in the lipid metabolism. The results suggest that groundnut has cell protection mechanisms to limit damage due to the dry season. Moreover, once water is available again, the crop has repair mechanisms. A study of expression of these five genes showed that they were all regulated by the water deficit. Moreover, transgenesis techniques are available for groundnut that could be used to integrate them into the varieties to be improved.

Good agricultural practice to prevent contamination
Furthermore, varieties with improved drought resistance have been developed from an aflatoxin-resistant parent and are currently being disseminated within the production zone. Various studies of good practices that may control contamination before and after harvest have been conducted in conjunction with farmers. They revealed a change in product degradation as it makes its way along the production chain. As a result, the researchers opted to set up a contamination risk analysis system, based on the "from farm to fork" concept, at every stage of the production chain, from production to marketing. In particular, the system concerns the choice of variety, treating crop storage facilities against infestation and the effect of using quicklime or manure to control infestation.

The results of this work are already being applied through an operation to develop a quality groundnut production chain in Senegal. The approach taken is participatory and based on analysing market demand (local industry, the export market, etc). One of the aims is to implement a system of fair contracts between producers' organizations and the private sector, so as to optimize market value. The operation is being led by CIRAD, in partnership with the main Senegalese producers' organization (ASPRODEB), with European Union funding.

Source: SeedQuest.com
15 March 2007

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1.15  Bacterial virus gene confers disease resistance in tall fescue grass

Raleigh, North Carolina
Researchers at North Carolina State University have discovered that inserting a specific gene from a bacterial virus into tall fescue grass makes the grass resistant to two of its biggest enemies.

The NC State researchers showed that the inserted gene – the T4 lysozyme gene, a gene found in bacteriophages, or bacterial viruses – conferred high resistance to gray leaf spot disease in six of 13 experimental grasses. Three of the six resistant grasses also showed high resistance to brown patch disease. These two diseases are arguably the most important – and severe – fungal diseases affecting tall fescue grass.

The finding has the potential to have wide applications in engineering resistance to a variety of fungal diseases in not only tall fescue grass – the most widely planted turfgrass in North Carolina and a commonly utilized grass in the southeastern United States – but various other crops.

A paper describing the study was published in the February edition of Transgenic Research.

The collaborative research involves four faculty members: Dr. Ron Qu in the Department of Crop Science, Drs. H. David Shew and Lane Tredway from the Department of Plant Pathology, and Dr. Eric Miller, in the Department of Microbiology. The research was mainly performed by Dr. Shujie Dong, a post-doctoral researcher who was a graduate student of Qu’s, with assistance from two other scientists in Qu’s lab – Drs. Jianli Lu and Elumalai Sivamani.

About half of the turfgrass planted in North Carolina – one million acres – is tall fescue grass, a cool-season grass that has a high tolerance for the heat and drought of North Carolina summers, Tredway says. It is ubiquitous in the Southeast, found on lawns, golf courses and commercial acreages.

Gray leaf spot disease is caused by the Magnaporthe grisea fungus, the pathogen that also causes rice blast – the major disease of rice plants. Gray leaf spot causes round or oval tan spots that turn gray when there’s high humidity. It infects blades to make the grasses die rapidly.

Brown patch disease, caused by the soil-dwelling fungus Rhizoctonia solani, a major pest to various plant species, brings about circular, brown lesions on grass. Lawns with brown patch disease appear wilted, even if watered sufficiently, the researchers say.

Miller, the microbiologist, says that the bacterial viruses exist widely in different environments, and produce an array of products that are harmful to bacteria; as viruses attempt to spread, which they need to do in order to survive and thrive, the T4 lysozyme gene produces the enzymes that chew through the bacterial cell walls.

Miller says that the lysozyme now made by the grass does essentially the same thing to a fungus when it tries to infect, thereby providing anti-fungal properties in tall fescue and allowing the grass to withstand fungal disease.

Tredway says the benefits of potential applications may be felt economically and environmentally.

“A lot of money is spent on fungicides, which also have an impact on the environment,” he said. “Disease-resistant plants have the potential to reduce those economic and environmental impacts for many years.”

Qu says that future research will replicate this experiment in the field, rather than just in the lab, and that other disease resistance genes show anti-fungal properties in tall fescue. He also hopes to study how the group’s genetically altered plants interact with other important fungal diseases to further test their anti-fungal mettle.

Much of the work was funded by NC State’s Center for Turfgrass Environmental Research and Education and the Turfgrass Council of North Carolina.
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Expression of the Bacteriophage T4 Lysozyme Gene in Tall Fescue Confers Resistance to Gray Leaf Spot and Brown Patch Diseases
Authors: Shujie Dong, H. David Shew, Lane P. Tredway, Jianli Lu, Elumalai Sivamani, Eric S. Miller and Rongda Qu, North Carolina State University
Published: February 2007 in Transgenic Research

ABSTRACT
Tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) is an important turf and forage grass species worldwide. Fungal diseases present a major limitation in the maintenance of tall fescue lawns, landscapes, and forage fields. Two severe fungal diseases of tall fescue are brown patch, caused by Rhizoctonia solani, and gray leaf spot, caused by Magnaporthe grisea. These diseases are often major problems of other turfgrass species as well. In efforts to obtain tall fescue plants resistant to these diseases, we introduced the bacteriophage T4 lysozyme gene into tall fescue through Agrobacterium-mediated genetic transformation. In replicated experiments under controlled environments conducive to disease development, 6 of 13 transgenic events showed high resistance to inoculation of a mixture of two M. grisea isolates from tall fescue. Three of these six resistant plants also displayed significant resistance to an R. solani isolate from tall fescue. Thus, we have demonstrated that the bacteriophage T4 lysozyme gene confers resistance to both gray leaf spot and brown patch diseases in transgenic tall fescue plants. The gene may have wide applications in engineered fungal disease resistance in various crops.
Entire publication at http://www.springerlink.com/content/82u1382762466n1v/

Source: SeedQuest.com
15 March 2007

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1.16  Aphid-resistant barley now available

The United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) and collaborators released two new varieties of barley that are resistant to all known types of Russian wheat aphid (RWA). The aphid has halted barley production in parts of eastern Colorado and Wyoming, and in parts of western Nebraska and Kansas. The new varieties, 'Sidney' and 'Stoneham', were developed by crossing an RWA-resistant barley material to a feed variety that was bred for drought-susceptible eastern Colorado but has been wiped out by the RWA.

To read more: http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2007/070319.htm

From CropBiotech Update
23 March 2007:

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

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1.17  Challenges and opportunities for crop protection

In the recent Bayer CropScience Fungicide Symposium, experts from the Research and Development sector and the European agriculture discussed the challenges and opportunities involved in fungicide use. Global warming and its repercussions for all areas of the agricultural sector was the recurrent theme in the presentations. Global warming is changing the face of agriculture, and how plant pathogens spread disease.

According to John Lucas from Rothamsted Research Institute, United Kingdom, scientists are not the only ones who must adapt to the spread of diseases into new regions and their much greater potential for expansion. Plants, which are greatly affected by global warming, should be made adaptable as well. Lucas sees opportunities in genetic engineering. Tomato or potato plants, for example, could be equipped with properties to make them resistant against fungi.

Other major topics in the symposium include the displacement of today's agricultural regions in Europe, the higher infection rate of cereal crops because of the warmer climate, and changes in agricultural economies, with focus on bioenergy crops and sustainable raw materials.

Read the news article at http://www.bayercropscience.com/bayer/cropscience/cscms.nsf/id/EN_2007-NST-008?open&ccm=400 .

From CropBiotech Update
30 March 2007

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

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1.18  Scientists genetically engineer tomatoes with enhanced folate content

Leafy greens and beans aren't the only foods that pack a punch of folate, the vitamin essential for a healthy start to pregnancy.

Researchers now have used genetic engineering--manipulating an organism's genes--to make tomatoes with a full day's worth of the nutrient in a single serving. The scientists published their results in this week's online edition of the journal PNAS, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"This could potentially be beneficial worldwide," said Andrew Hanson, a plant biochemist at the University of Florida at Gainesville who developed the tomato along with colleague Jesse Gregory. "Now that we've shown it works in tomatoes, we can work on applying it to cereals and crops for less developed countries where folate deficiencies are a very serious problem."

Folate is one of the most vital nutrients for the human body's growth and development, which is why folate-rich diets are typically suggested for women planning a pregnancy or who are pregnant. Without it, cell division would not be possible because the nutrient plays an essential role in both the production of nucleotides--the building blocks of DNA--and many other essential metabolic processes.

Deficiencies of the nutrient have been linked to birth defects, slow growth rates and other developmental problems in children, as well as numerous health issues in adults, such as anemia.

"Folate deficiency is a major nutritional deficiency, especially in the developing world," said Parag Chitnis, program director in the National Science Foundation's Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, which funded the research. "This research provides the proof-of-concept for the natural addition of folate to diet through enhancement of the folate content of fruits and vegetables."

The vitamin is commonly found in leafy green vegetables like spinach, but few people eat enough produce to get the suggested amount of folate. So, in 1998, the Food and Drug Administration made it mandatory that many grain productssuch as rice, flour and cornmeal be enriched with a synthetic form of folate known as folic acid.

Folate deficiencies remain a problem in many underdeveloped countries, however, where adding folic acid is impractical or simply too expensive.

"There are even folate deficiency issues in Europe, where addition of folic acid to foods has not been very widely practiced," Gregory said. "Theoretically, you could bypass this whole problem by ensuring that the folate is already present in the food."

Will doctors be recommending a healthy dose of salsa for would-be pregnant women anytime soon? Probably not, the researchers say.

"It can take years to get a genetically-engineered food plant approved by the FDA," Hanson said. "But before that is even a question, there are many more studies to be done--including a better look at how the overall product is affected by this alteration."

And there is another hurdle the researchers must clear. Boosting the production of folate in tomatoes involved increasing the level of another chemical in the plant, pteridine. Little is known about this chemical, which is found in virtually all fruits and vegetables.

Source: SeedQuest.com
5 March 2007

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1.19  Adding more “oomph” to cucumber DNA

Jack Staub, a plant geneticist with the United States Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service is trying to add more spice to the genetic makeup of the cucumber. Apparently, the cucumber suffers from an overly narrow genetic base, which makes it vulnerable to plant pathogens and natural diseases.

Staub's strategy is to infuse the cucumber's DNA with more wild character. He and a cooperating Chinese scientist have already successfully crossed an unusual wild cucumber species from China with a domestic one. This wild cucumber possesses resistance to gummy stem blight and, possibly, to nematodes and certain viruses. Staub is also eyeing wild melons, a cousin of cucumber, as a source of valuable genes for drought resistance and other traits.

Read the news article at http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2007/070302.htm.

Source: CropBiotech Update
9 March 2007:

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

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1.20  Giving vegetables more flavor, nutrients, and color

The magazine of the US Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service features carrots, potatoes, and onions that are getting a boost from scientists. Yellow, red, deep-orange, purple, and even white carrots are being developed at Vegetable Crops Research Unit in Madison, Wisconsin. Researchers aim to create a multi-pigmented carrot that naturally contains several antioxidants, such as lycopene, lutein, and anthocyanin.

Factors like potato variety, production site, and production method, are being investigated on how these influence the taste of baked potatoes. Research is directed at creating a baked potato which needs less seasoning. Scientists are also working on potatoes that are loaded with more potassium and antioxidants, including phenolic compounds such as chlorogenic and caffeic acid-and salicylic and p-coumaric acids.

Researchers are pinpointing the genetic differences between sweet onions and carbohydrate-dense ones to eventually come up with onions that are mild in taste but full of these heart-healthy nutrients.

Read the full article published in the March 2007 issue of Agricultural Research magazine at http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/mar07/veggies0307.htm.

Source: CropBiotech Update
9 March 2007:

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

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1.21  Gene found to lower apple acidity

A gene called Mal-DDNA was found to be differentially expressed in apples with different acidity. Previously, almost nothing is known about apple fruit acidity at the molecular level.

The report from a group of researchers in the Shandong Agricultural University and the Liaoning Institute of Fruit Tree Science in China, describes the successful screening of Mal-DDNA by bulk segregant analysis. Using real-time PCR analysis, Mal-DDNA was found to be transcribed in low-acid fruits at both early and ripe stages of hybrids from 'Toki' and 'Fuji' apple varieties.  There was no observed transcription in high- and mid-acid fruits.

The difference between low and mid to high acid fruits on Mal-DDNA transcripts was determined by RNA gel-blot hybridization. The researchers suggest that the gene exists as a single copy, as determined by Southern blot.

For the abstract, with links to the full paper, please visit http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.plaphy.2007.01.010.

From CropBiotech Update
30 March 2007

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

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1.22  Breeding crops for reduced-tillage management in the intensive, rice-wheat systems of South Asia

A. K. Joshi, R. Chand, B. Arun, R. P. Singh and Rodomiro Ortiz. 2007. Euphytica 153:135-151.

Abstract  The importance of reduced tillage in sustainable agriculture is well recognized. Reduced-tillage practices (which may or may not involve retention of crop residues) and their effects differ from those of conventional tillage in several ways: soil physical properties; shifts in host–weed competition; soil moisture availability (especially when sowing deeply or under stubble); and the emergence of pathogen populations that survive on crop residues. There may be a need for genotypes suited to special forms of mechanization (e.g. direct seeding into residues) and to agronomic conditions such as allelopathy, as well as specific issues relating to problem soils. This article examines issues and breeding targets for researchers who seek to improve crops for reduced-tillage systems. Most of the examples used pertain to wheat, but we also refer to other crops. Our primary claim is that new breeding initiatives are needed to introgress favourable traits into wheat and other crops in areas where reduced or zero-tillage is being adopted. Key traits include faster emergence, faster decomposition, and the ability to germinate when deep seeded (so that crops compete with weeds and use available moisture more efficiently). Enhancement of resistance to new pathogens and insect pests surviving on crop residues must also be given attention. In addition to focusing on new traits, breeders need to assess germplasm and breeding populations under reduced tillage. Farmer participatory approaches can also enhance the effectiveness of cultivar development and selection in environments where farmers’ links with technology providers are weak. Finally, modern breeding tools may also play a substantial role in future efforts to develop adapted crop genotypes for reduced tillage.

Contributed by Rodomiro Ortiz, CIMMYT
r.ortiz@cgiar.org

For further information on this paper please contact Rodomiro Ortiz

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1.23  Researchers learn what sparks plant growth

A secret long held by plants has been revealed by Howard Hughes Medical Institute researchers. The new discovery, which builds on more than a decade of painstaking surveillance of cellular communication between different types of plant tissues, shows clearly for the first time how plants "decide" to grow.

The research, conducted by Sigal Savaldi-Goldstein and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator Joanne Chory at The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, puts to rest a century-old debate over which tissue system in plants drives and restricts cell growth.

"Our work exposes the presence of cell-cell communication during growth, from the epidermis to the inner layers. Such a mode of communication is important for plants to maintain a coherent and coordinated growth of the shoot," said Savaldi-Goldstein, a postdoctoral fellow in Chory’s lab.

Chory’s research group is interested in identifying the mechanisms by which plants alter their shape and size in response to changes in their environment. Chory studies Arabidopsis, a member of the mustard family that is to plant biologists what the mouse is to mammalian geneticists.

"How do organisms decide when to grow and when to stop growing? These questions are especially important in plants because they are rooted in the ground and must alter their shape and size in response to their local environment. Thus, it’s a question of survival," added Chory. "It took us 10 years to develop the tools to ask the question. It is very satisfying for me to see the results."

Roots and shoots are a plant’s two major organ systems. For this study, published in the March 8, 2007, issue of the journal Nature, the scientists examined shoots and the three layers of tissues that make up the shoot system: the epidermis, which is the waxy, protective skin; the mesophyl tissue, which contains the plant’s chloroplasts­cells that conduct photosynthesis; and the vascular tissue through which water and nutrients are transported.

During the last decade, Chory has made a number of significant discoveries involving a key family of plant hormones called brassinosteroids, as well as the receptors for the hormones and the genetic factors that regulate production and uptake of the hormone in the different layers of plant tissues. According to Chory, brassinolide is a potent growth hormone involved in the plant’s response to light. Such responses, which include adjusting plant growth to reach light or strengthening stems to support leaves, are central to plant survival. Brassinosteroid biosynthesis has become a critically important area of plant biology research with significant implications for commercial agriculture.

"It’s been a matter of some debate for a very long time if one of these tissue layers controls plant growth or if all three layers have to work together," Chory said. "Our paper shows very clearly that the epidermis is in control­in both driving and restricting growth. In addition, our studies show that the cells in the epidermis "talk" to the cells in the inner layers, communicating that they too should expand."

Savaldi-Goldstein made the discovery that the signal for growth originates in the epidermis by experimenting with dwarf Arabidopsis plants and the expression of brassinosteroids in the outer and inner layers of the shoot. When brassinosteroid hormone was expressed and taken up by receptors in the epidermis, dwarf plants grew to their full size. Savaldi-Goldstein and Chory also found that when a gene is expressed in the epidermis that inactivates brassinosteroid, the plant restricts growth. Thus, cell signaling began in the epidermis and followed into the inner layers of tissue, directing those cells to grow or to restrict growth.

The outer epidermis, which helps plants retain water and regulate the exchange of gases, clearly plays the role of environmental sentinel, communicating to plant tissues when conditions are right to seize the day for growth or hold back under less opportune conditions. More study is needed to determine all of the cues that spark the intimate dialogue between the cells of the epidermis and the inner cells of the shoot.

"Our study says that the major target tissue in the shoot for steroid hormones is the epidermis. Our results also show that these hormones act locally. As similar studies are done for other plant hormones and in other organs, such as the root, we will know the major sites of action of each plant hormone and will be able to make models to predict how they work together to give rise to the tremendous diversity of shape and form found in the flowering plants," said Chory.

For the moment, the research is an important addition to the fundamental knowledge of plant growth and survival. But the research and the work to follow have much broader implications.

"If we want to feed over nine billion people by the year 2050, then understanding the basic mechanics of plant growth is required," said Chory. "This knowledge will ultimately lead to our ability to increase yield, while decreasing the need for fertilizer and pesticides."

Contact: Jim Keeley
keeleyj@hhmi.org
Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Source:EurekAlert.org
7 March 2007

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1.24  Plant size morphs dramatically as scientists tinker with outer layer

LA JOLLA, CA – Jack's magical beans may have produced beanstalks that grew and grew into the sky, but something about normal, run-of-the-mill plants limits their reach upward. For more than a century, scientists have tried to find out which part of the plant both drives and curbs growth: is it a shoot's outer waxy layer? Its inner layer studded with chloroplasts? Or the vascular system that moves nutrients and water? The answer could have great implications for modern agriculture, which desires a modern magical bean or two.

Now, in the March 8 issue of the journal Nature, researchers in the Plant Biology Laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies provide the answer. They succeeded in making tiny plants big and big plants tiny by controlling growth signals emanating from the plant's outer layer, its epidermis.

These findings could eventually be used by agronomists to manipulate plant growth pathways to maximize crop yield, or even reduce leaf size or leaf angle in plants that need to be spaced closely together, says the study's lead author, Joanne Chory, Ph.D., professor and director of the Plant Biology Laboratory and investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Chory and her laboratory team have spent years helping to define how a plant "knows" when to grow and when to stop – which is a "big question in developmental biology," she says. For their experiments, they rely on the model system Arabidopsis thaliana, a small plant related to cabbage and mustard whose genome has been decoded. Over the years, the researchers have built up a whole tool kit, learning how to add and subtract genes in order to determine form and function. Among their discoveries is a class of dwarf plants whose size is about one-tenth the size of a single leaf of the full-sized plant.

Over the past decade, Chory's laboratory and others have shown that these dwarf plants are defective in making or responding to a steroid hormone called brassinolide. Among the genes identified was the plant steroid receptor, BRI1 ("bry-one") that is activated by the steroid. The dwarfed Arabidopsis doesn't express BRI1 at all, unlike normal Arabidopsis, which expresses BRI1 on both the outer waxy, protective epidermis (covering the whole leaf and shoot), and the inner sub-epidermal layer, which contains the chloroplasts that conduct photosynthesis.

In the current study, first author Sigal Savaldi-Goldstein, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher in the Plant Biology Laboratory, and Charles Peto, an electron microscopy specialist in the Laboratory of Neuronal Structure and Function, conducted a series of experiments that addressed an old debated question: what tissues of the leaf drive or restrict growth? The answer was simple: the epidermis is in control.

They found that when they drive the expression of the BRI1 receptor in the epidermis of a dwarf Arabidopsis, while leaving the sub-epidermal layer as it was (without BRI1 receptors), the tiny plant morphed into a full-sized plant. In the second set of experiments, they used an enzyme to break down the steroid hormones in the epidermis, and found that a normal sized plant shrunk into a dwarf. "These are simple experiments, but it took 10 years of work in order for us to be able to ask this question," Chory says.

"A second remarkable finding from the study is that "cells in the outer layer talk to the cells in the inner layers, telling them when to grow or to stop growing. This communication is very important to the life of a plant, which can't move and so must have a coordinated system to respond to a changing environment," explains Savaldi-Goldstein.

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The Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to fundamental discoveries in the life sciences, the improvement of human health and the training of future generations of researchers. Jonas Salk, M.D., whose polio vaccine all but eradicated the crippling disease poliomyelitis in 1955, opened the Institute in 1965 with a gift of land from the City of San Diego and the financial support of the March of Dimes.

Contact: Gina Kirchweger
Kirchweger@salk.edu

Source: EurekAlert.org
7 March 2007

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1.25  Finding the white wine difference

A CSIRO research team has pinpointed the genetic difference between red (or black) and white grapes – a discovery which could lead to the production of new varieties of grapes and ultimately new wines.

While white wine has ancient origins – residue of white wine was found in the tomb of the Egyptian king, Tutankhamun – researchers know that the ancestors of modern grapes were all red.

What they did not know was how the change from red to white berries came about.

CSIRO researchers, working in the Cooperative Research Centre for Viticulture, have found the genetic mutations that occurred thousands of years ago to give us white grapes.

“A complete understanding of the two genes that control grape colour will also be useful in a practical sense.”

“Researchers in Japan have shown that one particular gene, which controls production of anthocyanin, the red pigment in grape skins, was mutated in white varieties,” says team leader Dr Mandy Walker from CSIRO Plant Industry’s Adelaide laboratory.

“By closely studying part of a red grapevine chromosome carrying the genes for red colour and comparing it to a white variety chromosome, we found a second similar gene involved in the grape colour pathway that was also different in white varieties.

“Our research suggests that extremely rare and independent mutations in two genes produced a single white grapevine that was the parent of almost all of the world’s white grape varieties. If only one gene had been mutated, most grapes would still be red and we would not have the more than 3000 white grape cultivars available today.”

A complete understanding of the two genes that control grape colour will also be useful in a practical sense.

“We have been able to produce a marker that can be used in future vine breeding to predict berry colour in seedlings, without waiting two to three years for them to grow into mature vines and produce fruit. The marker gives us a highly accurate way of selecting for berry colour traits when breeding grapevines,” Dr Walker says.

“The discovery also has great potential for producing interesting and exciting new varieties with novel colours in the future, through genetic modification. One of the areas of future study is to determine if these two genes control the amount of red pigment made, so the colour of grapes can be improved.”

This research was conducted by the CRC for Viticulture and CSIRO and is supported by the Grape and Wine Research and Development Corporation.

References
AR Walker, E Lee, J Bogs, DAJ McDavid, MR Thomas and SP Robinson. White grapes arose through mutation of two similar and adjacent regulatory genes. This work is published in The Plant Journal (2007), 49, 772-785, www.blackwell-synergy.com/loi/TPJ  [external link].
 
Source: EurekAlert.org
2 March 2007

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1.26  Scientists pinpoint proteins that direct plant growth and development

West Lafayette, Indiana
An international team of researchers has discovered that two types of plant proteins are at work in the transport of an important growth hormone, a finding that could have applications in creating plants with specific characteristics.

Previously thought to function independently, the two types of proteins were shown to comprise mechanisms that work both cooperatively and synergistically, depending upon their location in the plant. Together they control the movement of auxin, a hormone that, among other functions, regulates plant architecture, tissue development and flowering time.

The documentation of how these two mechanisms work together has direct applications in designing crops suitable for biofuel and ethanol production or for creating ornamentals with certain desirable traits, like developing more flowers.

"This is a major step in understanding auxin transport, which is vital to every aspect of plant growth and development," said Angus Murphy, the professor of horticulture and landscape architecture at Purdue University who led the team.

Murphy said results of the study, published last month in The Plant Cell, have already been applied and have been used to create plants with larger root structures.

"This study gives us another important tool in our toolbox," he said. "Before, we would modify plants one gene at a time, but now we realize why this approach has not worked very well. We now see that there are two elements of control to keep in mind, just as amplified sound is best controlled by modulating gain from the microphone and amplifier output to the speakers."

A first way in which the finding could be directly applied would be in developing crops with more usable biomass for the production of ethanol or other biofuels, which are renewable fuels derived from recently-living organisms like plants. Reengineering the complex cellular machinery of plants to increase biofuel yields requires alterations of their cell walls, which provide plants with much of their strength and rigidity. Altered plant architecture can help compensate for this weakness and enhance the production of tissue most suitable for biofuel feedstocks.

"Scientists will be able to use information from this study to better manipulate plant architecture using a combinatorial approach," Murphy said. "If you want more productive materials for biofuel production, architectural changes will be required to make it work. For example, when plastic body panels were invented for cars, they couldn't just replace the steel. The designers had to change the manner in which the panels were supported and attached to the frame. That is similar to how we have to think about the effects that modifications will have on the plant as a whole."

These transport proteins lie in a plant cell's exterior membrane where they coordinate movement of different substances into and out of the cell. Murphy's team found that the two transport proteins, called PINs and PGPs, work on their own or interactively depending upon the plant tissue involved. Multiple types of each protein also often work together in specific, tissue-dependent ways.

In the model plant Arabidopsis, there are eight PIN proteins and 21 PGPs. This provides nearly endless pairings to control the transport of auxin throughout the plants' various tissues, Murphy said.

The research also should have important implications in horticulture.

For example, the team's findings might be used to produce ornamentals that do not need pruning or that have larger root systems to support more vegetation, he said. Such plants would require less labor, energy and - with larger roots - less fertilizer, Murphy said.

The team's findings could have applications in food crops, but Murphy said he hasn't pursued such work due to some concerns over eating genetically modified foods.

"We're focusing on biofuels and ornamentals because everybody loves to drive their car, and people don't eat their flowers," he said.

Murphy's research was funded by the National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Energy, and the Biotechnology and Biological Research Council of the United Kingdom. Cooperating educational facilities include the University of Tubingen, Germany; The Basel-Zurich Plant Science Center at the University of Zurich, Switzerland; and the RIKEN Plant Science Center in Kanagawa, Japan. Murphy continues to study auxin transport as well as the role and importance of individual PIN and PGP protein pairings.

ABSTRACT
Interactions among PIN-FORMED and P-Glycoprotein Auxin Transporters in Arabidopsis[W]
Joshua J. Blakesleea, Anindita Bandyopadhyaya, Ok Ran Leea, Jozef Mravecb, Boosaree Titapiwatanakuna, Michael Sauerb, Srinivas N. Makama, Yan Chenga, Rodolphe Bouchardc, Jii Adamecd, Markus Geislerc, Akitomo Nagashimae, Tatsuya Sakaie, Enrico Martinoiac, Jii Frimlb, Wendy Ann Peera and Angus S. Murphy

Directional transport of the phytohormone auxin is established primarily at the point of cellular efflux and is required for the establishment and maintenance of plant polarity. Studies in whole plants and heterologous systems indicate that PIN-FORMED (PIN) and P-glycoprotein (PGP) transport proteins mediate the cellular efflux of natural and synthetic auxins. However, aromatic anion transport resulting from PGP and PIN expression in nonplant systems was also found to lack the high level of substrate specificity seen in planta. Furthermore, previous reports that PGP19 stabilizes PIN1 on the plasma membrane suggested that PIN-PGP interactions might regulate polar auxin efflux. Here, we show that PGP1 and PGP19 colocalized with PIN1 in the shoot apex in Arabidopsis thaliana and with PIN1 and PIN2 in root tissues. Specific PGP-PIN interactions were seen in yeast two-hybrid and coimmunoprecipitation assays. PIN-PGP interactions appeared to enhance transport activity and, to a greater extent, substrate/inhibitor specificities when coexpressed in heterologous systems. By contrast, no interactions between PGPs and the AUXIN1 influx carrier were observed. Phenotypes of pin and pgp mutants suggest discrete functional roles in auxin transport, but pin pgp mutants exhibited phenotypes that are both additive and synergistic. These results suggest that PINs and PGPs characterize coordinated, independent auxin transport mechanisms but also function interactively in a tissue-specific manner.

Source: SeedQuest.com
26 March 2007

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1.27  Researchers argue that cisgenic plants are similar to traditionally-bred plants

Cisgenic plants are bred by introducing genes from the crop plants themselves or from crossable species using marker-free transformation techniques. By adopting this breeding process called ‘cisgenesis’, plant breeders can produce cultivars that are equivalent to classically-bred plants, said researchers in the Netherlands.

The researchers, Evert Jacobsen and Henk Schouten, mentioned that cisgenesis is comparable to the induced translocation method of improving plants. In induced translocation, the insertion site of the genes is a priori unknown like in cisgenesis. Thus, Jacobsen and Schouten recommend that plants derived through cisgenesis be treated similar to traditionally-bred plants and exempted from GMO regulations. The researchers note that they have successfully tested cisgenesis in breeding disease resistant apple and potato cultivars.

The complete review paper published by the journal Trends in Biotechnology can be accessed by subscribers at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tibtech.2007.03.008
###
Cisgenesis strongly improves introgression breeding and induced translocation breeding of plants
Evert Jacobsen(1,3) and Henk J. Schouten(2)
(1) Wageningen University and Research Centre, Laboratory of Plant Breeding, P.O. Box 386, 6700 AJ Wageningen, The Netherlands
(2) Plant Research International, P.O. Box 16, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands
(3) Transforum Agribusiness & Rural Areas, Louis Pasteurlaan 6, 2700 AB Zoetermeer, The Netherlands
Trends in Biotechnology
doi:10.1016/j.tibtech.2007.03.008

ABSTRACT
There are two ways for genetic improvement in classical plant breeding: crossing and mutation. Plant varieties can also be improved through genetic modification; however, the present GMO regulations are based on risk assessments with the transgenes coming from non-crossable species. Nowadays, DNA sequence information of crop plants facilitates the isolation of cisgenes, which are genes from crop plants themselves or from crossable species. The increasing number of these isolated genes, and the development of transformation protocols that do not leave marker genes behind, provide an opportunity to improve plant breeding while remaining within the gene pool of the classical breeder. Compared with induced translocation and introgression breeding, cisgenesis is an improvement for gene transfer from crossable plants: it is a one-step gene transfer without linkage drag of other genes, whereas induced translocation and introgression breeding are multiple step gene transfer methods with linkage drag. The similarity of the genes used in cisgenesis compared with classical breeding is a compelling argument to treat cisgenic plants as classically bred plants. In the case of the classical breeding method induced translocation breeding, the insertion site of the genes is a priori unknown, as it is in cisgenesis. This provides another argument to treat cisgenic plants as classically bred plants, by exempting cisgenesis of plants from the GMO legislations.

Link to full text for subscribers

Source: Science Direct via SeedQuest.com
March 2007

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1.28  Scientists uncover how poppies prevent inbreeding

United Kingdom
Scientists at the University of Birmingham have uncovered how the field poppy prevents self-pollination, a form of inbreeding that if unchecked would result in a shrinking gene pool and unhealthy offspring. The researchers, led by Professor Vernonica Franklin-Tong, have found that the poppy use a common 'enzyme switch', phosphorylation, as one of its key weapons to prevent self-pollination. The work is a significant step in understanding a key mechanism in plant biology and could provide a major boost for plant breeders.

Most flowering plants run the risk of pollinating themselves, rather than receiving pollen from another plant via an insect. The basic anatomy of many plants means pollen sacs are situated right next to the female reproductive parts. Accidental self-fertilization is a real risk. When a flowering plant is pollinated the pollen germinates and develops a pollen tube which grows through the stigma and female tissues and then enters the plant's ovary to effect fertilization. The Birmingham team, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), has found that when genetically identical pollen comes into contact with the field poppy's stigma, it triggers several chemical signals for inhibiting growth of the pollen tube. With tube growth halted fertilization cannot take place.

By adding phosphate to key enzymes involved in pollen tube development the plant effectively stops the pollen tube from growing, explains Professor Franklin-Tong at the University's School of Biosciences.

"Most plants require pollen from another plant to successfully pollinate. Accidental self-pollination would lead to unhealthy and less successful offspring. To avoid this plants need robust ways to stop self-pollinating activity," says Franklin-Tong.

"Our research has found that the field poppy has developed a particularly successful way of doing this. Pollen tubes require high metabolic activity, so inhibiting a key enzyme involved in driving these "high metabolism" processes is a very successful way of stopping pollen tube growth."

A better understanding of plant mechanisms against self-pollination could improve plant breeding. The possibility of selectively switching the self-pollination control on or off could make it much easier and cheaper to produce hybrid plants and seed.

Professor Franklin-Tong comments: "At the moment plant breeders must use expensive and time-consuming manual techniques to ensure new strains of plants do not self-pollinate. This is to ensure the traits they want come from both parent plants. If we could switch on the mechanism to guard against self-pollination we could drastically reduce the cost and time of developing new plant varieties."

The news item on this page is copyright by the organization where it originated - Fair use notice

Source: Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) via: SeedQuest.com
26 March 26

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1.29  Genetic modification turns plant virus into delivery vehicle for green-friendly insecticide, say UF researchers

GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- A plant-destroying virus farmers call one of their worst enemies may soon be an ally in the fight against crop pests and mosquitoes, say University of Florida researchers.

Scientists genetically modified tobacco mosaic virus so that it produces a natural, environmentally friendly insecticide, turning the pathogen into a microscopic chemical factory, said Dov Borovsky, an entomologist with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. The modified virus is almost completely harmless to plants and simply produces the insecticide.

Plants inoculated with the virus quickly accumulate enough of the insecticide to kill insect pests that consume their leaves, said Borovsky, who works at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory in Vero Beach and is affiliated with UF’s Genetics Institute. Once harvested, the plants can be processed to make mosquito control products.

A study using the modified virus in tobacco plants was published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. An extract from the plants was used to kill mosquito larvae. The study was conducted by a research team that included personnel from UF, the University of Virginia and the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium.

The chemical, known as trypsin-modulating oostatic factor, or TMOF, stops insects from producing a crucial digestive enzyme called trypsin, he said. Like tobacco mosaic virus, TMOF has no effect on people. But it can cause insects to starve to death, unable to draw nutrients from food.

“The virus has a very broad host range so it can be used for very many plants,” he said. “You can’t use it for monocotyledonous plants like corns and grasses. But many of the other broad leafed plants, including many fruits and vegetables, could potentially be used with it.”

Because the virus multiplies, only a small dose is needed in each plant to get the job started. Viruses reproduce by injecting their nucleic acid into the host organism’s cells, then directing the cell machinery to make components needed for new virus particles. Finally, the components assemble themselves and leave, seeking new cells to infect.

The virus reproduces well in plants, but it cannot replicate itself from one generation of plant to another, Powell said. Because crop plants inoculated with the virus will not pass along the TMOF-making properties to their seeds, farmers would need to inoculate their crops each year.

Crop pests proven vulnerable to TMOF include the tobacco budworm and citrus root weevil, Powell said. Mosquitoes and several other blood-feeding insects are also susceptible.

To make mosquito control agents, plants that had accumulated large amounts of TMOF would be processed to extract the chemical and reduce it to a powder, he said. The powder could be used in sprays to kill adult mosquitoes, and mixed into baits that target mosquito larvae, which live in standing water and eat decaying plant material.

Sources:
Dov Borovsky – contact Tom Nordlie, tnordlie@ufl
Charles Powell, capowell@ifas.ufl.edu

Submitted by: B. Treat
(excerpted by the editor, PBN-L)
IFAS
Univ. of Florida
btreat@ufl.edu

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1.30  Biofuels: promises and constraints

Volume 10 Number 02, 09 February 2007
Eastern and Central Africa Programme for Agricultural Policy Analysis (ECAPAPA)
A Programme of the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa

Concerns about energy supply, national security, climate change, and economic development crowd the public policy agendas of most countries around the world and dominate international dialogues. Political instability in many oil exporting countries threatens the steady supply of fossil fuel to importing countries, while diminishing oil reserves cause more environmentally damaging techniques to be employed in order to extract oil from less accessible sources. These factors, along with the rising demand for energy combine to raise oil prices, thus creating a significant drain on foreign exchange in developed and developing countries alike. Kara Laney of the International Food and Agricultural Trade Policy Council (IPC), in a discussion paper puts forward the potential benefits of bio-fuels as well as their plausible drawbacks and an overview of policy issues related to bio-fuels.

For a full version of this paper, visit: www.agritrade.org

Michael Waithaka
Programme Coordinator, ECAPAPA
ecapapa@asareca.org

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

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1.31  Bioenergy and agriculture: promises and challenges

Ortiz, R., J.H. Crouch, M. Iwanaga, K. Sayre, M. Warburton, J.L. Araus, J. Dixon, M. Bohn, B.V.S. Reddy, S. Ramesh and S.P. Wani. IFPRI 2020 Vision, Focus 14, Brief 7 of 12 December 2006.

Converting agriculture to produce energy as well as food has become an important and well-funded global research goal as petroleum reserves fall and fuel prices rise. But the use of crop biomass – as a raw material for bioenergy production may compete with food and feed supplies and remove valuable plant residues that help sustain soil productivity and structure and avoid erosion. Agricultural research can mitigate these trade-offs by enhancing the biomass traits of dual-purpose food crops, developing new biomass crops for marginal lands where there is less competition with food crops, and developing sustainable livestock management systems that are less dependent on biomass residuals for feeds. Agronomists will need to define the minimum thresholds of crop residues for sustainable production in particular farming systems, especially in low-yields rainfed systems (that produce less than 5-6 metric tons of grain and straw per hectare), and to establish the level of additional residues that may be removed for other purposes, including biofuel production. Enhanced root growth offers another avenue for maintaining soil organic matter. Agricultural research can also help improve the energy efficiency of biomass crops, enhancing their value as renewable energy sources with low net carbon emissions.

Contributed by Rodomiro Ortiz, CIMMYT
r.ortiz@cgiar.org

For further information on this paper please contact Rodomiro Ortiz

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1.32  Gene sequencing advance will aid in biomass-to-biofuels conversion

MADISON - A collaborative research project between the U.S. Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) and the Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute has advanced the quest for efficient conversion of plant biomass to fuels and chemicals.

"We have sequenced and assembled the complete genome of Pichia stipitis, a native xylose-fermenting yeast," says Thomas Jeffries, research microbiologist at FPL and a professor of bacteriology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The results of this research project will be published in the scientific journal Nature Biotechnology in April, and the report is currently available online at http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/vaop/ncurrent/index.html.

The sequencing of P. stipitis marks an important step toward the efficient production of biofuels because the yeast can efficiently ferment xylose, a main component of plant lignocellulose. Xylose fermentation is vital to economically converting plant biomass to fuels and chemicals such as ethanol.

"A better understanding of the genetic structure of this yeast allows us to determine how specific genes are used in fermentation and then reengineer them to perform other desired functions," says Jeffries.

For example, Jeffries explains that the fermentation of both glucose and xylose is critical to efficient bioconversion because xylose is so abundant in hardwoods and agricultural residues. However, when glucose is present, the fermentation of xylose by P. stipitis is repressed. Using their knowledge of the genetic makeup of the yeast, researchers will be able to alter the expression of the genes so that both glucose and xylose are fermented simultaneously. This will increase the efficiency, and improve the economic viability, of the process.

The U.S. Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory, with its mission to conserve and extend the country's wood resources, is a partner in the Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative, an effort launched by the UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences to accelerate the development of bioenergy resources. FPL scientists have been studying P. stipitis for 20 years and in that time have isolated and characterized several genes, developed improved strains, and recently licensed technology to a biotech firm for commercial development.

"We are very proud of Tom's research and the breakthroughs he and his colleagues continue to make," says FPL Directory Chris Risbrudt. "Publication in a journal of such importance to the scientific community demonstrates the capability of FPL's researchers and our status as a world-class facility."

"The genetic blueprint reported in this paper will be at the foundation of new biofuels technology that will be developed under the auspices of the Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative," reports Tim Donohue, professor of bacteriology.

"It will have benefits in making ethanol production from plant sugars more efficient in the short term and it is likely to help develop long-term bioenergy solutions that help Wisconsin assume a position of leadership in the rapidly growing biofuels economy."

Contact: Thomas Jeffries
twjeffri@wisc.edu
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Source: EurekAlert.org
6 March 2007

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1.33  New success in engineering plant oils

Technique could yield materials to replace petrochemicals and more nutritious edible oils
UPTON, NY -- Using genetic manipulation to modify the activity of a plant enzyme, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory have converted an unsaturated oil in the seeds of a temperate plant to the more saturated kind usually found in tropical plants. The research will be published online by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) the week of March 5, 2007.

While conversion of an unsaturated oil to an oil with increased saturated fatty acid levels may not sound like a boon to those conscious about consuming unsaturated fats, "the development of new plant seed oils has several potential biotechnological applications," said Brookhaven biochemist John Shanklin, lead author on the paper.

For one thing, the new tropical-like oil has properties more like margarine than do temperate oils, but without the trans fatty acids commonly found in margarine products. Furthermore, engineered oils could be used to produce feedstocks for industrial processes in place of those currently obtained from petrochemicals. Shanklin also suggests that the genetic manipulation could work in the reverse to allow scientists to engineer more heart-healthy food oils.

"Scientists have known for a long time that the ratio of saturated to unsaturated fatty acids plays a key role in plants' ability to adapt to different climates, but to change this ratio specifically in seed oils without changing the climate is an interesting challenge," remarked Shanklin. "Our group sought to gain a better understanding of the enzymes and metabolic pathways that produce these oils to find ways to manipulate the accumulation of fats using genetic techniques."

The researchers focused on an enzyme known as KASII that normally elongates fatty acid chains by adding two carbon atoms. The longer 18-carbon chains are more likely to be acted on by enzymes that desaturate the fat. So the scientists hypothesized that if they could prevent the chain lengthening by reducing the levels of KASII, they could decrease the likelihood of desaturation and increase the level of saturated fats in the plant seeds.

Their hypothesis was supported by the fact that scientists had previously identified a plant with a mutated KASII that showed reduced enzyme activity, and these plants were able to accumulate more saturated fats than was normal. So the Brookhaven team set out to reduce KASII activity with the use of RNA-interference (RNAi) to see if they could further increase the level of saturation in plant seed oils.

The Brookhaven scientists performed their experiments on Arabidopsis, a plant commonly used in research. Like other plants from temperate climates (e.g., canola, soybean, and sunflower), Arabidopsis contains predominantly 18-carbon unsaturated fatty acids in its seed oil. Tropical plants, in contrast (e.g. palm), contain higher proportions (approximately 50 percent) of 16-carbon saturated fatty acids.

The results were surprising. The genetic manipulations that reduced KASII activity resulted in a seven-fold increase in 16-carbon unsaturated fatty acids ­ up to an unprecedented 53 percent ­ in the temperate Arabidopsis plant seed oils.

"These results demonstrate that manipulation of a single enzyme's activity is sufficient to convert the seed oil composition of Arabidopsis from that of a typical temperate pant to that of a tropical palm-like oil," Shanklin said. "It is fascinating ­ and potentially very useful ­ to know that we can change the oil composition so drastically by simple specific changes in seed oil metabolism, and that this process can occur independently from the adaptation to either tropical or temperate climates."

For example, such a technique could lead to the engineering of temperate crop plants to produce saturated oils as renewable feedstocks for industrial processes. Such renewable resources could help reduce dependence on petroleum.

Conversely, methods to increase the activity of KASII, and therefore the production of 18-carbon desaturated plant oils, may provide a useful strategy to limit the accumulation of saturated fatty acids in edible oils, leading to more healthful nutrition.
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http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.0611141104
Contact: Karen McNulty Walsh
kmcnulty@bnl.gov
DOE/Brookhaven National Laboratory

Source: EurekAlert.org
5 March 2007

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1.34  Crops feel the heat as the world warms

Stanford, Calif. -- Over a span of two decades, warming temperatures have caused annual losses of roughly $5 billion for major food crops, according to a new study by researchers at the Carnegie Institution and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

From 1981-2002, warming reduced the combined production of wheat, corn, and barley­cereal grains that form the foundation of much of the world’s diet­by 40 million metric tons per year. The study, which will be published March 16 in the online journal Environmental Research Letters, demonstrates that this decline is due to human-caused increases in global temperatures.

"Most people tend to think of climate change as something that will impact the future," said Christopher Field, co-author on the study and director of Carnegie’s Department of Global Ecology in Stanford, Calif. "But this study shows that warming over the past two decades has already had real effects on global food supply."

The study is the first to estimate how much global food production has already been affected by climate change. Field and David Lobell, lead author of the study and a researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, compared yield figures from the Food and Agriculture Organization with average temperatures and precipitation in the major growing regions.

They found that, on average, global yields for several of the crops responded negatively to warmer temperatures, with yields dropping by about 3-5 percent for every 1 degree F increase. Average global temperatures increased by about 0.7 degrees F during the study period, with even larger changes in several regions.

"Though the impacts are relatively small compared to the technological yield gains over the same period, the results demonstrate that negative impacts are already occurring," said Lobell.

The researchers focused on the six most widely grown crops in the world: wheat, rice, maize (corn), soybeans, barley and sorghum­a genus of about 30 species of grass raised for grain. These crops occupy more than 40 percent of the world’s cropland, and account for at least 55 percent of non-meat calories consumed by humans. They also contribute more than 70 percent of the world’s animal feed.

The main value of this study, the authors said, was that it demonstrates a clear and simple correlation between temperature increases and crop yields at the global scale. However, Field and Lobell also used this information to further investigate the relationship between observed warming trends and agriculture.

"We assumed that farmers have not yet adapted to climate change­for example, by selecting new crop varieties to deal with climate change. If they have been adapting­something that is very difficult to measure­then the effects of warming may have been lower," explained Lobell.

Most experts believe that adaptation would lag several years behind climate trends, because it can be difficult to distinguish climate trends from natural variability. "A key moving forward is how well cropping systems can adapt to a warmer world. Investments in this area could potentially save billions of dollars and millions of lives," Lobell added.
###
The Carnegie Institution of Washington ( www.carnegieinstitution.org), a private nonprofit organization, has been a pioneering force in basic scientific research since 1902. It has six research departments: the Geophysical Laboratory and the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, both located in Washington, D.C.; The Observatories, in Pasadena, California, and Chile; the Department of Plant Biology and the Department of Global Ecology, in Stanford, California; and the Department of Embryology, in Baltimore, Maryland.
Contact: Christopher Field
cfield@globalecology.stanford.edu

Source: EurekAlert.org
16 March 2007

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1.35  New technologies coming too fast for Indian farmers in key cotton-growing area
[]
Farmers relying on word of mouth to choose cottonseed in place of experimental testing
[]
By Neil Schoenherr
The arrival of genetically modified crops has added another level of complexity to farming in the developing world, says a sociocultural anthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis.

Glenn D. Stone, Ph.D., professor of anthropology and of environmental studies, both in Arts & Sciences, at Washington University in St. Louis, has completed the first detailed anthropological fieldwork on these crops and the way they impact ­ and are impacted by ­ local culture.

The study, published in the February 2007 issue of Current Anthropology, focuses on cotton production in the Warangal District of Andhra Pradesh, India, one of the nation's key cotton-growing areas. There, Stone found several factors affecting farmers' ability to adjust to new developments by practical methods. Among them are the speed of change, the overwhelming number of choices in the seed market and the desire for novelty ­ all of which lead to lack of proper seed testing by farmers.

"There is a rapidity of change that the farmers just can't keep up with," Stone says. "They aren't able to digest new technologies as they come along. In Warangal, the pattern of change is dizzying. From 2003 to 2005, more than 125 different brands of cottonseed had been sold. But the seeds come and go. In 2005, there were 78 kinds being sold, but only 24 of those were around in 2003."

Bt cottonseed, genetically modified to produce its own insecticide, was introduced in India in 2002. Between 2003 and 2005, the market share of Bt seed ­ created through collaboration between Monsanto Co. and several Indian companies ­ rose to 62 percent from 12 percent.

Stone's research reveals that the increase resulted not from traditional farming methods of testing seed for efficacy, but from a pattern of "social learning" ­ farmers relying on word of mouth to choose seeds.

"Very few farmers were doing experimental testing, they were just using it because their neighbors were," Stone says. "There has been a breakdown in the process of farmers evaluating new seed technologies."

'De-skilling'
While Bt seed exacerbates the problem by creating yet another option, the farming troubles predate its introduction. In the late 1990s, there was an epidemic of farmer suicide in the Warangal District. Many farmers are deeply in debt and have been for generations.

Stone's study shows that the farmers' inability to recognize the varying seeds being sold at market contributes to those woes. The farmers' desire for novelty leads to rapid turnover in the seed market. Seed firms frequently take seeds that have become less popular, rename them and sell them with new marketing campaigns, Stone says.

"Many different brands are actually the same seed," he says. "Farmers can't recognize what they are getting. As a result, the farmers can't properly evaluate seeds. Instead, they ask their neighbors. Copying your neighbor isn't necessarily a bad thing; but in this case, everyone is copying everyone else, which results in fads, not testing."

Stone argues that the previously undocumented pattern of fads, in which each village moves from seed to seed, reflects a breakdown in "environmental learning," leaving farmers to rely on "social learning." Stone refers to this situation as "de-skilling."

"The bottom line is that the spread of Bt cotton doesn't so much reflect that it works for the farmers or that the farmers have tested it and found it to be a good technology," Stone says. "The spread more reflects the complete breakdown in the cotton cultivation system."

Source: EurekAlert.org
12 March 2007

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2  PUBLICATIONS

2.01  GM crops: The first ten years – global socio-economic and environmental impacts

After a decade of genetically modified (GM) technology, important positive socio-economic and environmental benefits have been realized despite a limited range of GM agronomic traits that have been commercialized in a small range of crops. The technology has resulted in improved productivity and profitability for about 8.5 million adopting farmers who have used it in over 87 million hectares in 2005.

by Graham Brookes and Peter Barfoot
PG Economics Ltd.
United Kingdom.

The report, published as Brief 36, by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), discusses the global context of GM crops, the farm level economic impact of GM crops, and environmental impact of the technology.

Full report:
www.isaaa.org/Resources/publications/briefs/36/download/isaaa-brief-36-2006.pdf

Source: CropBiotech Update via SeedQuest.com
30 March 2007

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2.02  Chickpea Breeding and Management

by S. S. Yadav, R. Redden, W. Chen and B. Sharma
Published by CABI, ISBN: 978-1-84593-213-8 (Hbk), 448 pp., publication date:  28 March 2007

Description:
The chickpea is an ancient crop that is still important in both developed and developing nations. This authoritative account by international experts covers all aspects of chickpea breeding and management, and the integrated pest management and biotechnology applications that are important to its improvement. With topics covered including origin and taxonomy, ecology, distribution and genetics, this book combines the many and varied research issues impacting on production and utilization of the chickpea crop on its journey from paddock to plate.

Readership: Advanced students in plant breeding and disease management, extension scientists and researchers in agronomy and plant pathology.

Contents:
Chapter 1:  History and origin of the chickpea (R.J. Redden and J.D. Berger)
Chapter 2:  Taxonomy of the genus Cicer revisited (L.J.G. van der Maesen et al)
Chapter 3:  The ecology of the chickpea (J.D. Berger and N.C. Turner)
Chapter 4:  Uses, consumption and utilization (S.S. Yadav et al)
Chapter 5:  Nutritional value of the chickpea (J.A. Wood and M.A.Grusak)
Chapter 6:  Anti-nutritional factors (M. Muzquiz and J.A. Wood)
Chapter 7:  Area, production and distribution (E.J. Knights et al)
Chapter 8:  Chickpea: Rhizobium management and nitrogen (F. Kantar et al) fixation
Chapter 9:  Chickpeas in cropping systems (A.F. Berrada et al)
Chapter 10:  Nutrition management in the chickpea (I.P.S. Ahlawat et al)
Chapter 11:  Weed management in chickpeas (J.P. Yenish)
Chapter 12:  Irrigation management in chickpeas (H.S. Sekhon and G. Singh)
Chapter 13:  Integrated crop production and management technology of chickpeas (S. Pande et al)
Chapter 14:  Commercial cultivation and profitability (A.A. Reddy et al)
Chapter 15:  Genetics and cytogenetics (D. McNeil et al)
Chapter 16:  Utilization of wild relatives (S. Abbo et al)
Chapter 17:  Biodiversity management in chickpeas (R.J. Redden et al)
Chapter 18:  Conventional breeding methods (P.M. Salimath et al)
Chapter 19:  Breeding achievements (P.M. Gaur et al)
Chapter 20:  Chickpea seed production (A.J.G. van Gastel et al)
Chapter 21:  Ciceromics: Advancement in genomics and recent molecular techniques (P.N. Rajesh et al)
Chapter 22:  Development of transgenics in chickpeas (K.E. McPhee et al)
Chapter 23:  Abiotic stresses (C. Toker et al)
Chapter 24:  Diseases and their management (G. Singh et al)
Chapter 25:  Host plant resistance and insect pest management in chickpea (H.C. Sharma et al)
Chapter 26:  Storage of chickpeas (C.J. Demianyk et al)
Chapter 27:  International trade (F. Dusunceli et al)
Chapter 28:  Crop simulation models for yield prediction (M.R. Anwar et al)
Chapter 29:  Chickpea farmers (J. Kumar et al)
Chapter 30:  Genotype by environment interaction and chickpea improvement (J.D. Berger et al)

Ordering information at: http://www.cabi.org/bk_BookDisplay.asp?PID=2006

Further information from:
Halina Dawson, CABI
h.dawson@cabi.org

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2.03  Some wild growing fruits, nuts and edible plants of the western Himalayas

This CD has basic information about 30 wild growing fruits, 11 wild growing nuts and 10 wild growing edible plants. The information is given in 203 Power Point slides.  The CD also has 152 pictures (88 of fruits, 22 of nuts and 36 of wild edible plants).

The CD is two formats viz. MS Power Point and Adobe Acrobat Reader so that those who do not use Power Point can also use it.

The CD is priced at US$15, which may be sent by Western Union Money Transfer.  If Western Union Money Transfer is not convenient for you, please send a personal check for US$20 to cover charge of clearing foreign checks. Please inform me when you post the check and I shall send your CD without waiting for the check to reach.Best regards,

Dr. Chiranjit Parmar
186/3 Jail Road
Mandi  HP  175001, INDIA
Phone: 01905-222810, 94181 - 81323
www.lesserknownindianplants.com

CONTENTS
About the author
Wild fruits
1. Wild Pear Shiara – Pyrus serotina
2. Kaphal – Myrica nagi
3. Lassora – Cordia oblique
4. Dheu – Artocarpus lakoocha
5. Wild Date – Phoenix sylvestris
6. Taryambal – Ficus roxburghii
7. Bael – Aegle marmelos
8. Wild sour pomegranate
9. Kashmal – Berberis aristata
10. Ghain – Eleagnus umbellate
11. Aakhe – Rubus ellipticus
12. Wild Apricot – Zardalu
13. Wild pear –Kainth – Pyrus pashia
14. Himalayan wild amla
15. Fegra – Ficus palmate
16. Wild Apricot – Chulli
17. Amlook – Diospyros tomentosa
18. Nalakhe – Rubus niveus
19. Wild Peach – Kateru
20. Karondu – Carissa spinarum
21. Wild Grape – Bhambti
22. Wild Peach – Aran
23. Wild Grape – Bhambay
24. Curry leaf plant – Himalayan strain
25. Prickly pear – Opuntia dillenii
26. Wild strawberry
27. Wild cape gooseberry
28. Hill banana
29. Kangu – Flacourtia sapida
30. Wild Apricot – Sarha

Wild Nuts
1. Pine nut – Pinus gerardiana
2. Thangi – Corylus jaquemonti
3. Horse chestnut – Aesculus indicus
4. Wild Walnut
5. Bahera – Terminalia
6. Bitter almond
7. Behmi – Prunus mira

Wild Growing Edible Plants:
1. Fegri – Ficus palmate
2. Lingad – Pteridium aquililium
3. Taradi – Dioscorea spp.
4. Chhoochh ka saag – Water hyacinth
5. Bathu – Chenopodium spp.
6. Lassora – Cordia oblique
7. Chooda ka saag -
8. Karyale – Bauhinia variegate
9. Chulai – Amaranthus spp.
10. Brawah – Rhododendron arboretum

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2.04  GMOs in Crop Production: FAO Expert Consultation

The Report and Selected Papers from the FAO Expert Consultation on 'Genetically Modified Organism in Crop Production and their Effects on the Environment: Methodologies for Monitoring and the Way Ahead' has been published. The Consultation recommended that all responsible deployment of GM crops needed to comprise the whole technology development process; from the pre-release risk assessment to biosafety considerations and post-release monitoring. Two distinct strategies were developed that could be used as the basis for efficient monitoring programmes. A continuous engagement of stakeholders is essential for the success of the process.  Read more at http://www.fao.org/waicent/FaoInfo/Agricult/AGP/AGPS/publ.htm

Submitted by Kakoli Ghosh
FAO/AGPS
Kakoli.Ghosh@fao.org

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2.05  Some recent plant breeding-related publications

Available from:
Agritech Consultants, Inc.
Email: Agritech@AgritechPublications.Com
Website: http://AgritechPublications.com

Genome Mapping and Molecular Breeding in Plants , Vol. 1
Cereals and Millets Series:
Kole, Chittaranjan (Ed.)
2007, XXIV, 349 p., 25 illus., 3 in color, Hardcover
Price: $229.00 + shipping ($8.00, U.S. or $20.00 Elsewhere)

Tropical Forest Genetics
Series: Tropical Forestry
Finkeldey, Reiner, Hattemer, Hans Heinrich
2007, XII, 316 p., 44 illus., Hardcover
Price: $169.00 + shipping ($8.00, U.S. or $20.00 Elsewhere)

Association Mapping in Plants
Oraguzie, N.C.; Rikkerink, E.H.A.; Gardiner, S.E.; Silva, H.N.d. (Eds.)
2007, IX, 277 p., 40 illus., Hardcover
Price: $129.00 + shipping ($8.00, U.S. or $20.00 Elsewhere)

Genetic Improvement of Solanaceous Crops
Volume 2 : Tomato
Editors :
M. K. Razdan: Department of Botany, University of Delhi, India
A. K. Mattoo: USDA, Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Beltsville, USA
December 2006; c.512 pages,
Price: $108.00 + shipping ($8.00, U.S. or $20.00 Elsewhere)

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3.  WEB RESOURCES

3.01  New online guide for identifying the world's seeds and fruits

Trying to identify the exotic Laelia orchid is one thing. Recognizing this rainforest resident based on its microscopic, dust-like seeds--among the tiniest in the plant kingdom--is quite another.

That's why scientists with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Beltsville, Md., have created a special online database, called the " Family Guide for Fruits and Seeds", for identifying the world's myriad seeds and fruits.

Seeds are what enable plants--even those rooted well in one spot--to disseminate their reproductive material over hundreds, if not thousands, of miles. That's impressive when considering the wide variety of plants we value and cherish, including agricultural crops that help feed and clothe us and the ornamental species that make our gardens dazzle.

But invasive plants--those ecologically destructive species that are spreading at an alarming rate in the United States and elsewhere--also derive a big boost from scattering seeds. Small and lightweight, seeds from invasive plants make the perfect stowaways, hitching rides in cargo and plant material traversing the globe.

It falls to regulatory agencies, like USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, to try to stop the entry and spread of noxious weeds into the country. The new seed database created by ARS will be a critical tool to aid their efforts, helping inspectors make tough and tricky seed identifications.

The guide was developed by Joseph Kirkbride, an ARS botanist who works at the Systematic Botany and Mycology Laboratory (SBML) in Beltsville.

Kirkbride, who manages the U.S. National Seed Herbarium housed within SBML, relied heavily on this collection and its more than 120,000 dried specimens when developing the interactive database.

According to Kirkbride, stopping seeds at their point of entry is one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways of keeping non-native plants in check.

For more on how ARS is helping nab troublesome weeds, see the latest issue of Agricultural Research magazine, available online at http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/mar07/seeds0307.htm.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.
ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
Erin Peabody erin.peabody@ars.usda.gov  

Source: SeedQuest.com
8 March 2007

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3.02  DOE JGI releases enhanced Genome Data Management System IMG 2.1 marking 2-year anniversary

WALNUT CREEK, CA -- As interest in the rising number of newly characterized microbial genomes mounts, powerful computational tools become critical for the management and analysis of these data to enable strategies for such challenges as harvesting the potential of carbon-neutral bioenergy sources and coping with global climate change.

The Integrated Microbial Genomes (IMG) data management system developed by the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI) addresses this challenge with the release of version 2.1. Released on the two-year anniversary of its launch, the content of IMG 2.1 is updated with new microbial genomes from National Center for Biotechnology Information’s (NCBI) Reference Sequence collection (RefSeq) latest release, Version 21. Other enhancements feature model eukaryotic genomes, including several well-characterized yeast species, and plasmids, the double-stranded circular DNA molecules independent of any sequenced microbes­significantly expanding the utility of the system for comparative genome analysis.

"Over two very productive years the community has adopted IMG as a mainstay genome analysis tool and have supported and contributed to the continuous growth and improvement of the system," said Nikos Kyrpides, head of DOE JGI’s Genome Biology program and IMG’s scientific lead.

In the last year alone, IMG’s contribution has been cited dozens of publications. Recently, an article in the Journal of Bacteriology (2007 Mar;189[6]:2477-86), featured research led by Kyrpides, Athanasios Lykidis, and other DOE JGI colleagues in which the genome sequence of Thermobifida fusca, a soil bacterium that is a major degrader of plant cell walls was generated and analyzed. Thermobifida has been used as a model organism for the study of secreted, heat-stable cellulases. These cellulases are among the growing portfolio of enzymes being explored for their potential to be incorporated into industrial-scale processes for the breakdown of cellulose to sugars that, in turn, can be ferment into ethanol and other biofuels.

"We continue to expand IMG’s functionality in response to the demand in the rapidly growing microbial genomics domain," said Victor Markowitz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Biological Data Management and Technology Center (BDMTC) head and IMG’s system development lead. "The outstanding computing and data management expertise and infrastructure at DOE’s national labs have contributed to our success to date and will sustain IMG’s future growth."

"While IMG is already used for teaching microbiology courses in several universities, we are now developing the necessary features and tutorials for incorporating IMG into DOE JGI’s educational outreach program," said Kyrpides.

"IMG has become a major resource my graduate course focusing on integrating genomics into microbial ecology research," said Mary Ann Moran of the Department of Marine Sciences at University of Georgia in Athens. "The students find the tools intuitive and easy to use, and I've developed a suite of exercises that makes use of the IMG’s various analysis capabilities."

"We are delighted that the new version of IMG incorporates the genomes of plasmids," said Anne Summers of the Department of Microbiology, also at the University of Georgia, "We picked IMG to become the ‘mobile genetic element home’ on the basis of its user-friendly cataloging of bacterial genomes and viruses, its commitment to ongoing development of its tools, and the fact that the developers are willing to work closely with the mobile genetic element community. We look forward to a continuing collaboration with IMG in making the plasmid component of their database a valuable tool, especially for the rapidly growing study of horizontal gene transfer and for applications in genetic engineering."

IMG 2.1 comprises a total of 2,782 genomes­661 bacterial, 34 archaeal, 24 eukaryotic genomes, 1,661 bacterial phages, and 402 plasmids. Among these genomes, 2,524 are finished and 258 are draft. Compared to version 2.0, IMG 2.1 contains 481 new public microbial, eukaryotic, and plasmid genomes. IMG 2.1 includes 108 finished and 94 draft genomes sequenced by DOE JGI, bringing this total to 202 microbial genomes generated in-house.
###
IMG, accessible to the public at http://img.jgi.doe.gov/, is the result of a collaboration between the DOE JGI and BDMTC. IMG is updated on a quarterly basis with new public and DOE JGI genomes. The next update is scheduled for June 1, 2007.

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

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

Source: EurekAlert.org
15 March 2007

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3.03  Biologists develop large gene dataset for rice plant

Leads to increased understanding of essential food crop
Scientists have reported development of a large dataset of gene sequences in rice. The information will lead to an increased understanding of how genes work in rice, an essential food for much of the world's population.

Plant biologist Blake Meyers at the University of Delaware and colleagues report their results in the March 11 on-line issue of the journal Nature Biotechnology.

Using advanced gene sequencing technologies and high-powered computer-based approaches, Meyers and colleagues examined both normal gene expression (via messenger ribonucleic acids, or mRNAs) as well as small ribonucleic acids (small RNAs) in rice.

The analysis of rice was based on gene sequences representing nearly 47 million mRNA molecules and three million small RNAs, a larger dataset than has been reported for any other plant species.

Small RNAs are considered one of most important discoveries in biotechnology in the last 10 years. Because they are so much smaller than mRNAs, small RNAs went unnoticed for many years, or were considered biologically unimportant, said Meyers.

Small RNAs are now known to play an important role in gene regulation, he said, adding that deficiencies in small RNA production can have a profound effect on development.

"Small RNAs also have been associated with other important biological processes, such as responses to stress," Meyers said. "Many of small RNAs in rice have related sequences in the many important cereal crop plants, including maize and wheat."

Research on small RNAs "is a leading edge in plant biotechnology," said Machi Dilworth, Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF)'s Division of Biological Infrastructure, which along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, funded the research. "This work will contribute to an understanding of the role of small RNAs in gene expression not only in rice, but in all plants."
###
NSF-PR 07-025
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.

Receive official NSF news electronically through the e-mail delivery and notification system, MyNSF (formerly the Custom News Service). To subscribe, visit http://www.nsf.gov/mynsf/ and fill in the information under "new users".

Contact: Cheryl Dybas
cdybas@nsf.gov
National Science Foundation

Source: EurekAlert.org
13 March 2007

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3.04  Biologists produce global map of plant biodiversity

By Kim McDonald
Biologists at the University of California, San Diego and the University of Bonn in Germany have produced a global map of estimated plant species richness. Covering several hundred thousand species, the scientists say their global map is the most extensive map of the distribution of biodiversity on Earth to date.

The map, which accompanies a study published in this week's early online issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, highlights areas of particular concern for conservation. It also, the scientists say, provides much needed assistance in gauging the likely impact of climate change on the services plants provide to humans.

Walter Jetz of UCSD and Holger Kreft of the University of Bonn sought in their study to determine how well the diversity, or the “richness,” of plant species could be predicted from environmental conditions alone.

“Plants provide important services to humans­such as ornaments, structure, food and bio-molecules that can be used for the development of drugs or alternative fuels­that increase in value with their richness,” says Jetz, an assistant professor of biology at UCSD and the senior author of the paper. “Tropical countries such as Ecuador or Colombia harbor by a factor 10 to 100 higher plant species richness than most parts of the United States or Europe. The question is, Why?”

While explorers to these tropical regions long ago recognized this increased diversity over more temperate regions, the general understanding among ecologists about this striking difference continues to be very limited.

“Given that we are far off from knowing the individual distributions of the world's 300,000 odd plant species,” says Jetz. “Holger Kreft and I investigated how well the richness of plants can be predicted from environmental conditions alone.”

Combining field-survey based species counts from over a thousand regions worldwide with high-resolution environmental data, the scientists were able to accurately capture the factors that promote high species richness of plants.

“This allowed us to estimate the richness of yet unsurveyed parts of the world,” says Jetz. “The global map of estimated plant species richness highlights areas of particular concern for conservation and provides much needed assistance in gauging the likely impact of climate change on the services plants provide to humans. It may also help to pinpoint areas that deserve further attention for the discovery of plants or drugs yet unknown to humanity.”

“Climate change may drive to extinction plants that hold important cures before we find them,” says Kreft, a biologist at the Nees Institute for Biodiversity of Plants at the University of Bonn. “Ecological research like ours that captures complex diversity - environment relationships on a global scale may assist in a small, but important way so that such a fatal potential failure can be averted.”

Source: SciDev.net
20 March 2007

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3.05  Plant Management Network launches agricultural web search

St. Paul, Minnesota
Looking for reliable agricultural and applied plant science information? Then you need PMN’s Institutional Search to easily find credible answers. This new search function is a collaboration of the Plant Management Network and its University Partners. Look for “Ag and Plant Science Info from Partner Institutions” under the “Search” tab at www.plantmanagementnetwork.org.

“The new search engine provides increased exposure for PMN’s Institutional Partners and greater usage of their online Extension publications and other agricultural information. And it shows the impact of each institution’s contribution to agricultural science and education to stakeholders,” said Miles Wimer, PMN’s director.

He added, “While the initial version of the new institutional portal is comprised of mainly land-grant universities in the U.S., it is hoped that additional partners from other universities and research institutions around the world will partner in this effort. Through this cooperation, everyone benefits: practitioners gain a centralized means to conveniently find quality information which, in turn, leads them to participating institutions that, thus, receive increased recognition, usage of their outreach materials, and traffic at their websites.”

PMN covers the range of plant science disciplines, including agronomy, crop science, ecology, entomology, forage management, forestry, horticulture, IPM, natural resources, nematology, plant pathology, range science, seed science, soil science, turf management, and weed science. Its primary audience of agricultural practitioners includes crop consultants, growers, extension educators, researchers, instructors, and students from around the globe.

Partner universities and research institutes also receive unlimited institutional access to all PMN subscription content including four peer-reviewed journals and many other electronic resources. For information on the PMN Partners Program, email partners@plantmanagementnetwork.org.

Source: SeedQuest.com
March, 2007

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4.  GRANTS AVAILABLE

4.01  Graduate Fellowship Program RFA Posted by CSREES/USDA

Soliciting applications for: 
(1)  Fellowships to train students for Master of Science and doctoral degrees in food and agricultural sciences in the Targeted Expertise Shortage Areas, and
(2)  for Special International Study or Thesis/Dissertation Research Travel Allowances (IRTA) for eligible USDA National Needs Fellows.

CSREES Announces the Availability of Grant Funds and Requests Applications for the Food and Agricultural Sciences National Needs Graduate and Postgraduate Fellowship Grants Program
Closing Date: June 1, 2007
Program Code: KK
Funding Opportunity Number:  USDA-CSREES-HEP-000526
Funds Available: $3.5 million
Submission Method: ELECTRONIC APPLICATIONS THROUGH WWW.GRANTS.GOV.

Contacts:
1)  Support (Electronic Application Process Issues) in Proposal Services Unit - CSREES - 202- 401- 5048 OR electronic@csrees.usda.gov
2)  Program Office (Programmatic Technical Issues) in National Needs Graduate Fellowship Grants Program - CSREES - 202-720-1973/2193 OR NNF@csrees.usda.gov. (The E-Mail option will be managed by several program personnel and is assured of a rapid response.)
See Program Brochure on the Internet at http://www.csrees.usda.gov/about/offices/pdfs/natl_needs.pdf.

More information and the RFA can be found at  http://www.csrees.usda.gov/fo/graduateandpostgraduatefellowshipsserd.html .

NOTES
Note 1: Postgraduate training will not be funded under this announcement.
Note: 2: All attachments must be submitted in portable document format (.pdf) for proposals submitted to this program announcement.

From:Audrey A. Trotman, Ph.D.
National Education Program Leader
Science and Education Resources Development
CSREES/USDA
via: Ann Marie Thro
ATHRO@CSREES.USDA.GOV

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5.  NEW ORGANIZATIONS AND SERVICES

5.01  CropGen International commences operations

CropGen International, an international consortium consulting on plant breeding, the application of molecular biology to plant breeding and the management  of and policy development for plant intellectual property, commenced operations in March. More information concerning CropGen International can be found at www.cropgeninternational.com

Paul Brennan, MAgSc, PhD
Consultant, Plant Breeding, Biotechnology and Plant IP
CropGen International
email    paul.brennan@bigpond.com
Phone  +61 2 6688 0245
Mobile  0407 66 22 42
PO Box 54,
Rock Valley,
Via Lismore NSW 2480
Australia
www.CropGenInternational.com

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5.02  Agricultural Biotechnology Network in Africa (ABNETA)

ABNETA has re-developed its website (www.abneta.org) to provide a better service to its members and stakeholders. We invite you to register with ABNETA and take advantage of this new opportunity.

Other than an improved News Page, a list of helpful How To's, and Links to useful sources of information, a Database has been built to facilitate networking among  research personnel, breeders, NGO’s, donors, and other stakeholders around Africa. You can store, display and search information about the interests, technical expertise and ongoing projects. This will help you to find researchers, breeders or other stakeholders working in a particular field, with a particular technique on a particular crop in different countries. It would then be possible to approach those experts to share ideas, request advice or to develop a collaborative project. The database also provides information on useful protocols, websites and will shortly include laboratory capacities.

We therefore invite you to take advantage of this new opportunity and register yourself or your organisation as a member of ABNETA in our database. We hope that you will find that through ABNETA you can both contribute to and gain a lot from the biotechnology and breeding community in Africa.

Registration is simple and free: go to http://www.abneta.org/site/pages/reg/index.php, click on the member type most relevant to you, and enter your information as requested. This may take about 5 - 10 minutes (depending on member type). If you find it takes longer you can always submit your profile and edit it at a convenient time. If you do register, we would also appreciate it if you let us know by emailing us writing ‘Plant Breeding News’ in the box at the end of the registration process so that we can track how our members came to join ABNETA.

ABNETA is run by the African Biotechnology Stakeholders’ Forum (ABSF) in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), with funding from FAO, USDA and the Wain Fund. For more information, please contact Dr David Priest on david.priest@fao.org.

Submitted by David Priest
david.priest@fao.org

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5.03  African universities link up to offer 'regional PhDs'

The degree programmes will speed up agricultural research

Michael Malakata
[MAPUTO] African universities are collaborating to develop degree programmes that will accelerate agricultural research and biotechnology development in Eastern and Southern Africa.

The announcement was made at a conference on biotechnology, breeding and seed systems in Maputo, Mozambique, this week (27 March).

The Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM), made up of 12 Eastern and Southern Africa universities, has developed doctoral programmes in dairy science, food science, plant breeding and biotechnology, research methodology and rural development, and crop improvement.

Adipala Ekwamu, RUFORUM's regional coordinator, says the degrees will be developed jointly by the universities and will involve roving tutors and web tutorials.

"These are regional PhDs," Ekwamu told SciDev.Net. "We are running these programmes to equip our scientists and fill the gaps that are being left by those fleeing for greener pastures."

After graduation, students will be given jobs in research institutions in the region to boost research capacity.

Universities involved include, among others, the University of Zambia, Malawi University, Makerere University, Africa University and the University of Zimbabwe.

Each programme will cost RUFORUM US$800,000. The programmes are sponsored by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) under its Sub-Saharan Africa Challenge Program and its Strengthening Capacity for Agricultural Research and Development in Africa.

FARA secretary general Monty Jones said Africa needs to train more scientists in agricultural research to make significant progress in scientific research.

"So many younger African scientists are coming up and they need further training in order for them to make progress," said Jones.

The training will be modelled on course-based systems in the United States, with mandatory publication in a peer-reviewed journal. The programmes will start in August this year.

The project is not part of the plans for networks of centres of excellence developed under the New Partnership for Africa's Development, but RUFORUM has the same objective of using collective action to build science and technology capacity to speed Africa's development.

At the end of the Maputo conference, scientists said more human resources were needed in agricultural science.

They also called for African systems of research and innovation to create better crop varieties that will improve food security.

Officially closing the conference, Gary Toenniessen, director of the Rockefeller Foundation, said it is only through human resource development that Africa is going to realise its dream of a green revolution.

"We should always emphasise the importance of training and human resource development in order to realise our goals," he said.

Source: SciDev.net
30 March 2007

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5.04  China launches biosafety research centre

Hepeng Jia
[BEIJING] China has announced a National Agricultural Biosafety Science Centre to fend off invasive species and trace the potential impacts of genetically modified crops.

The US$17.75 million centre is one of a dozen big science projects planned by the Chinese government. The plans were announced this week (25 February) by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), which is responsible for nearly all major investment from the central Chinese government.

The biosafety centre will comprise laboratories to investigate high-risk plant pathogens, insects and invasive plants, as well as quarantine facilities. It will be run by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) and is due to open in 2009.

Wu Kongming, a senior scientist at CAAS's Institute of Plant Protection, said the centre will provide a public platform for Chinese and foreign scientists to study biosafety issues related to agriculture.

"We usually only find [invasive species] when the species outbreak is on a large scale. But with the centre, suspicious samples from different regions could be frequently tested to reveal any threats," Wu told SciDev.Net.

He added that the centre's quarantined environment will ensure that research samples ­ often live organisms ­ cannot spread to natural environments.

Wu also highlighted the centre's important role in evaluating the impact of genetically modified crops on agriculture by recreating the environments in closed and controlled conditions.

All data obtained in the centre will be shared with agricultural scientists nationwide, according to a CAAS newsletter.

Besides the biosafety centre, NDRC plans to spend around US$860 million on 11 other large science projects in the next five years.

Some US$250 million will be put towards studying the microstructure of molecules and materials. A further US$86 million will be invested in the large aperture spherical telescope, the world's largest of its kind, which will investigate deep space and the early universe.

Source: SciDev.net
2 March 2007

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5.05  Pulse Breeding Australia, a new pulse joint venture, will deliver better varieties faster

Australia
-Joint venture coordinating Australian pulse breeding efforts
-Better pulse varieties delivered to Australian growers faster
-Improved efficiencies and pulse breeding outcomes

Producers are set to benefit greatly from the formation of an unincorporated joint venture aimed at delivering superior pulse varieties for the Australian grains industry.

Pulse Breeding Australia (PBA), launched today at the University of Adelaide, will coordinate Australia’s pulse breeding efforts and create a world-class breeding and germplasm enhancement program according to inaugural PBA chairman Peter Reading (photo).

Mr Reading, who is also managing director of the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), said the creation of PBA would help to underpin the sustainability of the Australian grains industry.

“Pulses are an important part of Australian grain production, both as export crops in their own right and as part of crop rotations,” he said. “The aim of PBA is to coordinate a cost-effective pulse breeding program that develops new, superior varieties more quickly for our farmers.

“Its focus will be on monitoring reliable market signals, accessing elite germplasm for breeding efforts and rapid adoption by Australian growers of new lentil, faba bean, chickpea and field pea varieties that have been developed for, and field-tested in, local conditions.

“The grains industry is excited by the potential of PBA to enable greater collaboration and resource sharing in pulse breeding to improve efficiencies and effectiveness.

“The GRDC strongly supports this joint venture as part of our objective to deliver to Australian growers better pulse varieties faster through a world-leading, cost-efficient breeding program.”

PBA is an unincorporated joint venture between the GRDC, Pulse Australia, the University of Adelaide, the SA Research and Development Institute (SARDI), the Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPIV), the NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSWDPI), the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (QDPI&F) and the Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia (DAFWA).

Coinciding with the launch was the announcement that PB Seeds Pty Ltd had been awarded a commercial licence which will provide ‘first option’ exclusive rights to a pipeline of lentil varieties developed through PBA until June 2011.

PB Seeds will enter a licence with DPIV and will collaborate with PBA to produce, promote and fast-track the adoption of future elite lentil varieties to help growers aximize their profitability. The licence rights will include two new lentil varieties which are targeted to be available to Australian producers in commercial quantities in 2009: CIP411, a red lentil suited to high-rainfall regions; and CIP415, a broadly adapted high-yielding red lentil.

“Innovative research is a foundation of the Australian grains industry’s growth and sustainability,” Mr Reading said. “The formation of PBA ensures that with regard to pulse breeding, Australia will remain at the cutting edge.”

Source: SeedQuest.com
15 March 2007

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6. MEETINGS, COURSES AND WORKSHOPS

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

NEW ANNOUNCEMENTS

30 July – 24 August 2007. Wheat Chemistry and Quality Improvement, CIMMYT headquarters in Mexico.
Course Costs: U$ 3,000.
Course Objective: To enhance knowledge of participants in theoretical and practical aspects associated with the improvement of grain compositional factors influencing the end-use quality of wheat.
Course Activities:
- Lectures on theoretical and practical aspects of wheat quality and quality improvement
- Laboratory sessions - the application of the methodology to select for quality traits relevant to breeding activities (segregating and advanced stage)
Areas covered during the course:
1 Trends in wheat production and consumption as related to end-use quality
2 Wheat type and classes – grain color, hardness, grades
3 End-use quality criteria - Industrial milling, quality for bread, flour noodles, soft wheat products, pasta and other durum products
4 Grain characteristics and end-use quality - Physical grain factors, Grain compositional factors, Experimental milling, Grain and flour quality characteristics, Dough Rheology, Baked and cooked products.

For more details visit: http://www.cimmyt.org/english/wps/training/calendar.cfm or contact Petr Kosina (p.kosina@cgair.org)

Contributed by Petr Kosina
CIMMYT
p.kosina@CGIAR.ORG

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19-21 September 2007. New Approaches to Plant Breeding of Orphan Crops in Africa, Bern, Switzerland.

Mission of the conference
Orphan crops, also referred as neglected or lost crops, are crops of high economic value in developing countries particularly in Africa. These crops include cereal crops (such as millet and tef), legumes (cow pea, grass pea and bambara groundnut), and root crops (cassava and sweet potato). Although orphan crops are vital for the livelihood of millions of resource-poor Africans, research in these crops is lagging behind that of major crops. To boost crop productivity and attain food self-sufficiency in Africa, research on orphan crops should get more attention.

In this important conference we will bring together scientists both from developed and developing countries and discuss techniques that could be implemented in a scheme of orphan crops improvement. In addition, future prospects and  feasibility of modern biotechnology in African agriculture will be addressed. Success stories will also be presented by prominent scientists.

http://www.botany.unibe.ch/deve/orphancrops/

Registration: until the end of April 2007 by email or fax to one of the organizers.
Organizers of the conference:
Dr. Zerihun Tadele
Institute of Plant Sciences
University of Bern
Altenbergrain 21
CH-3013 Bern, Switzerland
phone +41 31 631 49 54
fax +41 31 631 49 42
Email: zerihun.tadele@ips.unibe.ch
Prof. Dr. Cris Kuhlemeier
Institute of Plant Sciences
University of Bern
Altenbergrain 21
CH-3013 Bern, Switzerland
Email: cris.kuhlemeier@ips.unibe.ch

++++++++++++++

8 - 12 October 2007. The 10th Triennial Symposium of the International Society for Tropical Root Cops - Africa Branch (ISTRC-AB) will take place from in Maputo, Mozambique. The theme will be “Root and Tuber Crops for Poverty Alleviation through Science and Technology for Sustainable Development."
Pre-registration is avilable until 30 April 2007, abstracts are due on 1 May 2007, and full papers must be submitted by 31 July 2007.
Download the announcement and application here.


REPEAT ANNOUNCEMENTS

* 2006-2008.  Plant Breeding Academy, University of California, Davis.

The University of California Seed Biotechnology Center would like to inform you of an exciting new course we are offering to teach the principles of plant breeding to seed industry personnel.

This two-year course addresses the reduced numbers of plant breeders being trained in academic programs. It is an opportunity for companies to invest in dedicated personnel who are currently involved in their own breeding programs, but lack the genetics and plant breeding background to direct a breeding program. Participants will meet at UC Davis for one week per quarter over two years (eight sessions) to allow participants to maintain their current positions while being involved in the course. 

Instruction begins Fall 2006 and runs through Summer 2008 (actual dates to be determined)

For more information: (530) 754-7333, email scwebster@ucdavis.edu, http://sbc.ucdavis.edu/Events/Plant_Breeding_Academy.htm

*23-25 April 2007. Targeting Science to Real Needs, a workshop of the GL-TTP ( Grain Legumes Technology Transfer Platform). Paris, France.
From Catherine Golstein
c.golstein@prolea.com

*14 May - 1 June 2007. Rice: Research to production. A training course, Los Banos, Philippines http://www.training.irri.org/activities/documents/2007/RICE%20RESEARCH%20COUR SE%20FLYER%202007.pdf (67 KB) or contact IRRITraining@cgiar.org for more information.

* 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.

*21 May – 29 June 2007. Conservation & sustainable use of plant genetic resources in agriculture. Wageningen International, The Netherlands. Visit website:
Conservation & sustainable use of plant genetic resources in agriculture - The Netherlands, May 21 – June 29, 2007

*31 May – 3 June 2007. Symposium on Epistasis: Predicting Phenotypes and Evolutionary Trajectories. Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. Iowa's Annual Plant Sciences Institute Symposium will focus on Epistasis and Gene Interaction.
http://www.bb.iastate.edu/~gfst/phomepg.html.

*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
E-mail: alena.gajdosova@savba.sk

* 24-28 June 2007. The 9th International Pollination Symposium on Plant-Pollinator Relationships­Diversity in Action. Scheman Center, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. The official theme is: "Host-Pollinator Biology Relationships - Diversity in Action."
http://www.ucs.iastate.edu/mnet/plantbee/home.html
In response to recent events, organizers are arranging for special speakers to share information about Colony Collapse Disorder, an ailment increasingly in the news. In addition, a post-conference opportunity has been scheduled with Rod Peakall, co-author of the GenAlEx (short for 'Genetic Analysis in Excel'), a user-friendly cross-platform package for population genetic analysis that runs within Microsoft Excel™

*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   http://www.knt.co.jp/ec/2007/mbft/
For further information, please contact: Prof. Toshihiko YAMADA,
  yamada@fsc.hokudai.ac.jp
Contributed by Prof. Toshihiko YAMADA

*12-14 August 2008. International symposium on induced mutations in higher plants, Vienna, Austria. Organised by the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear http://www-naweb.iaea.org/nafa/pbg/news-pbg.html or contact p.lagoda@iaea.org for more information.

*12 – 16 August 2007. The Potato Association of America 91st Annual Meeting, Shilo Inn Conference Center in Idaho Falls, Idaho. http://www.conferences.uidaho.edu/PAA/ or contact:

*20-31 August 2007. Laying the Foundation for the Second Green Revolution, 2007 Rice Breeding Course, IRRI, the Philippines.

For additional information, contact
Dr. Edilberto D. Redoña
Course Coordinator, Plant Breeding, Genetics and Biotechnology Division
e.redona@cgiar.org
or
Dr. Noel P. Magor
Head, Training Center
IRRITraining@cgiar.org

*3-4 September 2007. 5th International Symposium on New Crops and Uses: their role in a rapidly changing world, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK.

For further information please contact:
Nikkie Hancock (E-mail: ngd@soton.ac.uk)
Colm Bowe (E-mail: CB13@soton.ac.uk)
Please downlowd the registration form

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

*17 Sept. – 12 Oct. 2007. Plant genetic resources and seeds: Policies conservation and use. Awassa, Ethiopia, 17-28 September; Debre Zeit, Ethiopia, 1-12 October 2007. Visit website:
Plant genetic resources and seeds Policies, conservation and use - Ethiopia, September 17 – October 12, 2007

*8-12 October 2007, Ca' Tron di Roncade, Italy. Evaluation of risk assessment dossiers for the deliberate release of genetically modified crops. A practical course organised by the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in collaboration with the Istituto Agronomico per l'Oltremare. Closing date for applications is 27 April 2007. See http://www.icgeb.org/MEETINGS/CRS07/BSF2_8_12_October.pdf or contact courses@icgeb.org for more information.

*8-19 October 2007. Molecular approaches in gene expression analysis for crop improvement, New Delhi, India. A theoretical and practical course organised by the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology. Closing date for applications is 15 May 2007. See http://www.icgeb.org/MEETINGS/CRS07/ND_8_19_October.pdf or contact shubha@icgeb.res.in for more information.

*9-14 October 2007. 4th International Rice Blast Conference, Hunan, China.
 More information at http://www.4thirbc.org.

*22-26 October 2007. VI Encuentro Latinoamericano y del Caribe de Biotecnologma Agropecuaria (REDBIO 2007), Viqa del Mar and Valparamso, Chile.. See http://www.redbio2007chile.cl/ or contact consultas@redbio2007chile.cl for more information.

* 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 http://www.africancrops.net/News/july06/acss8.htm

* 14-18 September 2008. The 12th International Lupin Conference, Fremantle, Western Australia conference@lupins.org. http://www.lupins.org/

*7-12 December 2008. International Conference on Legume Genomics and Genetics IV Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. http://www.ccg.unam.mx/iclgg4/

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7.  EDITOR'S NOTES

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

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

Subscribers are encouraged to take an active part in making the newsletter a useful communications tool. Contributions may be in such areas as: technical communications on key plant breeding issues; announcements of meetings, courses and electronic conferences; book announcements and reviews; web sites of special relevance to plant breeding; announcements of funding opportunities; requests to other readers for information and collaboration; and feature articles or discussion issues brought by subscribers. Suggestions on format and content are always welcome by the editor, at pbn-l@mailserv.fao.org. We would especially like to see a broad participation from developing country programs and from those working on species outside the major food crops.

Messages with attached files are not distributed on PBN-L for two important reasons. The first is that computer viruses and worms can be distributed in this manner. The second reason is that attached files cause problems for some e-mail systems.

PLEASE NOTE: Every month many newsletters are returned because they are undeliverable, for any one of a number of reasons. We try to keep the mailing list up to date, and also to avoid deleting addresses that are only temporarily inaccessible. If you miss a newsletter, write to me at chh23@cornell.edu and I will re-send it.

REVIEW PAST NEWSLETTERS ON THE WEB: Past issues of the Plant Breeding Newsletter are now available on the web at: http://www.fao.org/WAICENT/FAOINFO/AGRICULT/AGP/AGPC/doc/services/pbn.html. Readers who have suggestions about features they wish to see should contact the editor at chh23@cornell.edu.

RECEIVE THE NEWSLETTER AS AN MS WORD® ATTACHMENT
If you prefer to receive the newsletter as an MS Word attachment in addition to an e-mail text, please write the editor at chh23@cornell.edu and request this option.

TO SUBSCRIBE TO PBN-L: Send an e-mail message to: mailserv@mailserv.fao.org. Leave the subject line blank and write SUBSCRIBE PBN-L (Important: use ALL CAPS). To unsubscribe: Send an e-mail message as above with the message UNSUBSCRIBE PBN-L. Lists of potential new subscribers are welcome. The editor will contact these persons; no one will be subscribed without their explicit permission.

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