PLANT BREEDING NEWS

EDITION 178

7 May 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

CONTENTS

1.  NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH NOTES
1.01  Beachell and Borlaug, two giants of the American Society of Agronomy's first century
1.02  K. B. Saxena: One man's quest for the high-yield pigeon pea
1.03  Monty Jones: Rice-breeder joins world leaders
1.04  Tamil Nadu Agricultural University researchers develop new high-yielding, drought resistant rice variety
1.05  Nepali farmers gain more from improved local rice varieties
1.06  New research agreement to boost rice production, avoid food shortages in Indonesia
1.07  New hybrid rice in India
1.08  New oil palm planting material for Malaysia
1.09  China has potential to become world's largest market for GM crops
1.10  University of the Philippines Los Baños ready to market biotechnologies and improved varieties
1.11  Experts in agriculture, health to discuss biofortification for Africa
1.12  Malawi: small farmers benefit from cassava project
1.13  ICAR identifies five new improved rice varieties
1.14  ICRISAT hybrid pigeonpea to boost production of pulse crop
1.15  Agricultural Biotechnology Network in Africa (ABNETA)
1.16  The Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM)
1.17  NERICA contributes to record rice harvest in Africa
1.18  EMBRAPA develops new soybean varieties
1.19  Farmers get more from CIMMYT durum wheat
1.20  High yield potential, shuttle breeding, genetic diversity, and a new international wheat improvement strategy
1.21  Delivering health benefits through new cereal grains - CSIRO is developing healthier high resistant starch wheats
1.22  Assessing and designing strategies to strengthen regional plant breeding and associated biotechnology capacity in the Caucasus
1.23  How hi-tech nuclear science is feeding the poor
1.24  DuPont to help meet growing demand for plant breeders - Partnership with Purdue University develops scientists to address global demand for grain
1.25  Looking for greener pastures in Australia: A$6 million boost for pasture genetics
1.26  US Department of Agriculture hosts specialty crop research wor kshop
1.27  Structuring European plant genomics research
1.28  Unveiling rice's DNA under Intellectual Property Rights regime
1.29  West Africa to boost food crops with biotechnology
1.30  Mexican farmers sign GM maize treaty with Monsanto
1.31  Gates Foundation funds efforts to rescue 95 percent of the world's endangered critical crop biodiversity
1.32  Dinosaurs and crop diversity: how great is the loss?
1.33  Drilling down into diversity: DNA fingerprinting for crop plants
1.34  Australian sunflowers are newest addition to major U.S. seed bank
1.35  Classification of Peruvian highland maize races using plant traits
1.36  Wheat midge resistance in upcoming varieties in Canada
1.37  Why some aphids can't stand the heat
1.38  Research on grey mould offers possible breakthrough in tomato cultivation
1.39  Towards identification of photoperiod genes in cotton
1.40  In vitro breeding of Brassica for metal phytoextraction
1.41  Cassava varieties bred with resistance to Cassava Brown Streak Disease
1.42  Amino acids profile in cassava, its  interspecific hybrid and progenies
1.43  Prompt progress made against a new threat to watermelon
1.44  Barley gene find could mean more beer per bushel
1.45  Scientists unlock secret of what makes plants flower
1.46  Scientists turn genetic keys to unlock bioenergy in switchgrass
1.47  Fungus responsible for Africa's deadly maize identified
1.48  Gene controlling rice grain size and weight identified
1.49  Cornell researchers zero in on genes that turn a plant's ability to self-pollinate on and off -- a potential boon for hybrids
1.50  Intragenic vectors for gene transfer without foreign DNA
1.51  Single dominant gene controls chlorophyll content in rice
1.52  Update 3-2007 of FAO-BiotechNews

2.  PUBLICATIONS
2.01  Biplot analysis and plant breeding
2.02  1000 plant diseases mapped by CABI
2.03  Intellectual property management in health and agricultural innovation
2.04  Sahelian Droughts: A Partial Agronomic Solution

3.  WEB RESOURCES
3.01  New lupin website is a one stop shop: www.lupins.org
3.02  Underutilized species – revised website

4  GRANTS AVAILABLE
4.01  SACC Canola and Hesperaloe/Desert Crop RFA Issued

5  POSITION ANNOUNCEMENTS
5.01  Research Manager, Farming Systems Research Group, UC Davis
5.02  Plant and Animal Systems, Plant Science, Program Specialist

6  MEETINGS, COURSES AND WORKSHOPS

7  EDITOR'S NOTES

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1.  NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH NOTES

1.01  Beachell and Borlaug, two giants of the American Society of Agronomy's first century

In Celebration of 100 Years of ASA -- Centennial Papers

Murray H. Milford (mmilford@suddenlink.net ) and E. C. A. Runge
Dep. of Soil and Crop Sciences, Texas A&M Univ., College Station, TX 77843-2474

ABSTRACT
On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the American Society of Agronomy, it is appropriate that recognition be given to two men: Henry M. Beachell, internationally recognized and most long-lived 73-yr member, until his death in December 2006; and to Norman E. Borlaug, who without doubt, is the most widely acclaimed of the Society's members. Both men had scientific accomplishments that were crucial to the Green Revolutions associated with the production of rice (Oryza sativa L.) (Beachell) and wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) (Borlaug). Their professional careers have much in common and their interactions with each other had significant impact on the careers of both. The purposes of this paper are to gain insight into their thinking and to highlight the accomplishments that make them the most well-known agronomists of the Society's first 100 yr.

Published in Agron J 99:595-598 (2007)
DOI: 10.2134/agronj2007.0004
© 2007 American Society of Agronomy

Contributed by Rodomiro Ortiz
R.ORTIZ@CGIAR.ORG

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1.02  K. B. Saxena: One man's quest for the high-yield pigeon pea

Forget wheat or rice. For plant breeder K. B. Saxena, the top crop has always been pigeon pea ­ the main source of protein for over a billion people in the developing world and a vital cash crop for multitudes of smallholders in Africa, the Caribbean and India.

Saxena helped create nearly a dozen improved varieties of this hardy plant over three decades, but his holy grail was a high-yield hybrid for the poor farmer.

Two years ago the Indian researcher and his team at ICRISAT (the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics) finally achieved their goal.

The length of Saxena's quest is mostly due to peculiarities of legumes that meant creating the sterile plants needed for breeding was frustratingly difficult. The researcher's work was also hampered by ICRISAT's budgetary problems in the late 1990s.

Yet Saxena has now achieved hybrids that yield up to 48 per cent more than popular varieties. Meanwhile, fellow plant breeder M. S. Swaminathan is ensuring the seed reaches subsistence farmers through a programme that teaches their wives to produce the hybrids from ICRISAT seeds.

Link to article in Science
Reference: Science, 316, 196 (2007)

Source: SciDev.net
16 April 2007

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1.03  Monty Jones: Rice-breeder joins world leaders

A Sierra Leone scientist has been voted among the world's most influential people by the US Time magazine

Monty Jones helped develop a new form of rice, known as Nerica - short for New Rice for Africa - which increases yields by up to 50%.

Nerica is seen as one reason why Africa's harvest of rice - a staple food in much of the continent - has been rising in recent years.

Mr Jones is one of just five Africans on this year's list of 100 names.

Nerica combines the hardiness of traditional African strains with the productivity of Asian varieties.

Rice is the staple food across much of West Africa but much of it is imported. On Thursday, it was announced that African rice production had grown for the sixth year running. Africa Rice Center director Papa Abdoulaye Seck says Nerica is a major reason.
Some of the biggest increases in rice production were in Mali and Burkina Faso - among the first countries to introduce Nerica, he says.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6625931.stm

Contributed by Rodomiro Ortiz (CIMMYT)
R.ORTIZ@CGIAR.ORG

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1.04  Tamil Nadu Agricultural University researchers develop new high-yielding, drought resistant rice variety

Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India
Researchers from the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) have developed a new variety of rice that is high-yielding, drought resistant and suitable for rain-fed areas. This new variety can yield up to 3.7 tons per hectare.

Conventional and molecular breeding methods following a novel participatory approach were both used to come up with this variety, said Dr. T S Raveendran, Director of Center for Plant Breeding and Genetics, TNAU.

Dr. Ravendeen added that a ‘super hybrid rice’ needs to be developed that is resistant to the ‘rice tungro virus disease’ and new rice cultivars that are suitable for making ‘idly’, an Indian bread.

Link to full article on Chennai Online.
Other news from Tamil Nadu Agricultural University

Source: Chennai Online via SeedQuest.com
4 May 2007

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1.05  Nepali farmers gain more from improved local rice varieties

Ten years after the introduction of a rice breeding project in Begnas, Nepal, Nepali farmers are growing their own rice and successfully improving local varieties by cross-breeding. The global project, coordinated by the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI, now known as Bioversity International), aims to help farmers find ways to conserve local varieties of crops in the face of a global trend of relying increasingly on “modern” varieties bred to survive in diverse growing conditions.

Nepali farmers were able to develop a new variety of Pokhareli Jethobudho rice, a local variety prized for its soft texture and unique aroma and taste. However, it has problems with “lodging” (falling over) and is susceptible to neck blast disease. By selective breeding, six lines of Jethobudho were chosen for their outstanding qualities. These lines will now become the basis of all future Jethobudho grown in the area.

http://www.idrc.ca/reports/ev-110870-201-1-DO_TOPIC.html

Source: CropBiotech Update via SeedQuest.com
20 April 2007

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1.06  New research agreement to boost rice production, avoid food shortages in Indonesia

The world's largest Muslim nation, Indonesia has been struggling for several years to increase its rice production

Jakarta, Indonesia – Efforts by Indonesia to avoid food shortages by increasing its rice production have received an important boost with the signing of a new agreement to help the nation's millions of poor rice farmers with new technologies.

Senior officials and scientists of the Indonesian Agency for Agricultural Research and Development (IAARD), and other agencies of the Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture, signed the three-year agreement with the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) on March 23 in Jakarta.

The world's largest Muslim nation, Indonesia has been struggling for several years to increase its rice production. Shortages could trigger price rises, possibly sparking protests and unrest.

"It will be very challenging to lift Indonesian rice production to the levels requested by the government," IRRI's deputy director general for research, Ren Wang, said in Jakarta. The Indonesian government has indicated it wants to see an additional 2 million tons of rice produced in 2007 and 5 percent growth in national rice production each year after that.

"With world rice production growing at less than 2 percent annually, it's increasingly difficult for countries such as Indonesia to boost production beyond 2 to 3 percent," Dr. Wang explained.

But with international rice prices at a ten-year high – after doubling in the past two years – and world rice reserves slumping to a 30-year low, there is enormous pressure on rice-importing countries such as Indonesia to try to achieve self-sufficiency. Dr. Wang said that such gains had been achieved before, noting that Indonesia achieved self-sufficiency in rice in 1984.

Between 1955 and 1965, Indonesia had the lowest rate of growth in rice yields (0.2 percent per year) and rice production (1.2 percent) of any major rice producer in Asia. However, between 1965 and 1985, it had the highest rates of growth (4.1 percent and 5.6 percent, respectively), with a dramatic spurt of 7.2 percent annual growth of output between 1977 and 1984.[1]

Rice production in Indonesia grew by nearly two and a half times between 1968 and 1989, from less than 12 to over 29 million metric tons. Most of this expansion occurred during the second of these two decades, when average rice yields increased from 2.8 to 4.2 tons per hectare.

The area planted to rice expanded by only about 1 million hectares during each decade, so most of the output gain was attributed to intensive increases in productivity rather than to extensive expansion of rice land. "These gains show very clearly what can be achieved with the right rice policies in place to encourage the growth of rice output," Dr. Wang said.

"Because of the importance of Indonesia as the world's fifth largest nation and its vital strategic role in Asia, it's crucial that its rice sector continue to develop and move ahead," he emphasized. "We all need to work together to channel the latest technologies to Indonesian rice farmers to help them reach the goals set by the government – if we fail, the price could be very high indeed."

The new agreement between Indonesia and IRRI focuses on three key areas: support for the Indonesian government's Rice Production Increase Program, collaborative research, and human resource development.

Support efforts will include the development of improved rice varieties with high yield potential, grain quality, and resistance to pests; the development of a national strategy and framework for hybrid rice; and the development of improved rice varieties that can tolerate submergence, drought, and low-temperature damage in high-elevation areas.

Collaborative research will include the strengthening of research capacity for the development and safe use of transgenic rice in Indonesia, improving grain quality and the nutritional value of rice using functional genomics and molecular breeding, and special emphasis on drought, disease resistance, and poor soils.

Capacity building will focus on postgraduate degree training, on-the-job or intern training, scientist exchange, short courses, and in-country training.

Contact: Duncan Macintosh
d.macintosh@cgiar.org
International Rice Research Institute

Source: EurekAlert.org
3 April 2007

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1.07  New hybrid rice in India

Researchers from the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) have developed a new variety of rice that is high-yielding, drought resistant and suitable for rain-fed areas.  This new variety can yield up to 3.7 tons per hectare.  Conventional and molecular breeding methods following a novel participatory approach were both used to come up with this variety, said Dr. T S Raveendran, Director of Center for Plant Breeding and Genetics, TNAU.  Dr. Ravendeen added that a 'super hybrid rice' needs to be developed that is resistant to the 'rice tungro virus disease' and new rice cultivars that are suitable for making 'idly', an Indian bread.
The full article is available at: http://www.chennaionline.com/colnews/newsitem.asp?NEWSID=%7B142DC6D7-5ED0-408B-A1F4-27AF9B1197FA%7D&CATEGORYNAME=TAMNA .

From CropBiotech Update 4 May 2007:

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

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1.08  New oil palm planting material for Malaysia

Kumpulan Guthrie Bhd, one of the main oil palm players in Malaysia made a breakthrough by producing new planting material which is a clone between Dura and Pisifera. The launch of the bi-clonal Dura and Pisifera (DxP) was officiated by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. DxP was developed using top performing duras and pisiferas in the form of clones compared to normal DxP that came from combination of many parental palms. The production of bi-clonal DxP is less capital intensive than producing pure clones. This gives local planters access to superior planting materials that produce higher yield at lower cost. Guthrie is also looking into advancing the knowledge in oil palm, as well as improving the competitive edge of Malaysia as a major palm oil producer. The company will explore diversification in palm oil uses, such as producing palm puree from palm fruits. This research will be undertaken by the Universiti Teknologi Mara.

For more information write to Mahaletchumy Arujanan, Executive Director of the Malaysian Biotechnology Information Centre (MABIC) at maha@bic.org.my.

From CropBiotech Update 4 May 2007:

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

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1.09  China has potential to become world's largest market for GM crops

Dublin, Ireland
One of the key sectors in China is agriculture. China has been doing extensive research and development on its own GM crops in order to build up a competitive place in this market as it develops throughout the world.

In the recent past, GM cotton was approved in China and is doing quite well in the market, although still a new market. Recently the Chinese government held a meeting that could prove to be the most important GM crop related meeting to happen in the world: a meeting to approve commercial production of GM rice, a very important crop in China.

Assuming GM rice is approved as expected, China has potential to become the largest market for GM crops in the world in the not so distant future.

This report is based on over 70 primary interviews, and significant secondary research, all conducted in China.

For more information visit http://www.researchandmarkets.com/reports/c53420

Source: SeedQuest.com
5 April 2007

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1.10  University of the Philippines Los Baños ready to market biotechnologies and improved varieties

The Philippines
State-run University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) recently said that it has more than 70 products and technologies ready for marketing.

Around 40 biotechnologies and bio-products, six improved varieties of cassava, two improved varieties of corn, 15 improved varieties of fruits, two lines of hibiscus, two agricultural kits, and two cheese-making technologies are already "mature and developed," said UPLB Vice-Chancellor for Research and Extension Enrico Supangco in a statement.

These products and technologies are intended to improve productivity and efficiency in agriculture and enhance the quality of life. They consist of products of biotechnology; crop and varietal improvement; crop production, dairy technologies; farm mechanization; feeds and animal nutrition; germplasm conservation and tissue culture technologies; irrigation and drainage, pest management technologies; plant breeding protocols; postharvest technologies; social development technologies; and waste product utilization and by-product processing.

Mr. Supangco said the different technologies and products offer key users, particularly farmers, diverse benefits in terms of cost of production, time, energy, and others. Other technologies provide models and frameworks for community development.

Licensing is the most common strategy employed by the university in commercializing technologies.

"At present, seven licensed agreements have been committed by UPLB, six are being processed and one is operational," Mr. Supangco said.

The different college units and research institutions serve as the marketplace of these technologies and products, where people can find what suit their needs.

Sales and royalty fees generated from these products and technologies are used to pay the staff, purchase vital supplies, and pay overhead costs, Mr. Supangco said.

More news from UPLB

Source: SEAMEO SEARCA via SeedQuest.com
12 April 2007

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1.11  Experts in agriculture, health to discuss biofortification for Africa

Biofortification -- breeding crops with higher levels of vitamins and minerals is the key topic in a regional workshop this week in Mombasa, attended by scientists, policymakers, and other leaders in African agriculture and health. During the workshop participants will discuss the latest research on biofortification and identify strategies to develop biofortified crops in Africa and integrate biofortification into national agricultural and health policy agendas. The workshop is co-hosted by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) and HarvestPlus, an international research program that seeks to reduce micronutrient malnutrition by harnessing agricultural technology to breed staple crops for better nutrition.

Much of Africa's rural poor can only afford a diet based mostly on staple crops, which are generally low in micronutrients, particularly iron, zinc, and Vitamin A. As a result, more than a third of the population of Sub-Saharan Africa suffers the debilitating effects of micronutrient malnutrition, or diets deficient in essential vitamins and minerals. Biofortification expands the role of agriculture by using it as a tool for public health.

"Addressing micronutrient malnutrition requires a paradigm shift," said Howarth Bouis, director of HarvestPlus. "Agricultural research needs to move beyond increasing productivity to improving food quality as well. In this way, biofortification can play a critical role in improving health."

Readers can access the press release at http://www.ifpri.org/pressrel/2006/20060502.asp.

From CropBiotech Update 4 May 2007:

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

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1.12  Malawi: small farmers benefit from cassava project

A project to produce high-yielding cassava for processing into industrial starch is raising the income of small scale farmers of the Masinda Club Factory, while also benefiting farmers from neighboring villages from their sales of raw cassava roots for processing. Farmers were trained, among other things, in cassava production, processing, factory management, and environmental sanitation.

Established in 2003 with an initial capacity to produce four tons of industrial starch monthly, the factory now produces 20 tons, and it has facilitated an increase of about 38.42% in cassava production after two years of operations. Following the example of the Masinda Club Factory, several companies are establishing similar cassava treatment factories in the country.
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The initiative, a public- public partnership, is lead by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in collaboration with the Southern African Root Crops Research Network (IITA/SARRNET), with funding from USAID.
Read more at: http://www.iita.org/cms/details/news_feature_details.aspx?articleid=986&zoneid=342

Source: Crop Biotech Update
12 April 2007

Contributed by Elcio Guimaraes

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1.13  ICAR identifies five new improved rice varieties

The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has identified five new improved varieties and hybrid of rice for release in different agro-climatic regions of the country. It includes four new improved varieties and one hybrid of rice. Pusa 1460 (IET 18990) a new variant of Pusa Basmati 1 will yield 37 q/ha is developed by pyramiding bacterial leaf blight (BLB) resistance genes (xa13 & Xa21) in the background of Pusa Basmati 1 through marker assisted backcross breeding. Similarly, RP BIO 226 (IET 19046) which is improved variety and provides an alternative for popular fine-grained variety Samba Mahsuri. Other includes two rice varieties MTU 1075 (IET 18482) and UPR 2870 (IET 17544) and mid-early duration hybrid rice HRI-152 is developed to best suit in cropping pattern viz. rice-wheat, thus increasing productivity of both the crops.

For detail: http://www.icar.org.in/pr/20042007.htm
Contact: b.choudhary@isaaa.org

From CropBiotech Update 4 May 2007:

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

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1.14  ICRISAT hybrid pigeonpea to boost production of pulse crop

The low productivity of pigeonpea remains a major concern of many countries that consume this pulse crop (legume). A new hybrid pigeonpea technology, developed by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and partners offers a hope of starting a pulse crop revolution in India and other developing countries by substantially increasing pigeonpea production.

The new hybrid technology is based on the cytoplasmic male-sterility (CMS) system. Male-sterile plants are those that do not have functional male sex organs. For hybrid production to be successful, it requires a female plant in which no viable pollen grains are borne. A simple way to establish a female line for hybrid seed production is to identify or create a line that is unable to produce viable pollen. This male-sterile line is therefore unable to self-pollinate, and seed formation is dependent upon pollen from the other male fertile line. So far the progress in the mission of enhancing the productivity of pigeonpea has been very encouraging and the team at ICRISAT is confident that the reality of commercial hybrids is just around the corner.

The news article is available at http://www.icrisat.org/Media/2007/media6.htm.

From CropBiotech Update 4 April 2007

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

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1.15  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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1.16  The Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM)

The Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) is an initiative by a consortium of 12 universities in east and southern Africa to develop and strengthen human resource capacity for inter-disciplinary problem-solving. It achieves its goal through grants programmes to support research and to address rural (agricultural) development issues, especially community and smallholder farmer needs.

RUFORUM’s mission is to foster innovativeness and adaptive capacity of universities engaged in agricultural and rural development to develop and sustain high quality in training, innovative and impact oriented research, and collaboration.
http://www.ruforum.org/

Contributed by Elcio Guimaraes

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1.17  NERICA contributes to record rice harvest in Africa

According to the latest figures from the FAO Rice Market Monitor, the paddy production in Africa has gone up for the 6th consecutive year, reaching 21.6 million tonnes in 2006 ­ 6% above 2005 ­ and NERICA has been identified as a major factor in this growth.

Attributing the record harvest to favorable weather conditions and “the positive effects of the adoption of NERICA rice varieties,” the FAO Monitor adds that substantial production increases were reported in Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo.

It goes on to state that “gains were spectacular in Burkina Faso, where production rose by 102% to 189,175 tonnes. Production also rose extensively in Mali, which harvested over 1 million tonnes in 2006, up from 946, 000 tonnes in 2005, as excellent growing conditions boosted yields.”

“We do not think that it is just a coincidence that Burkina Faso and Mali have had these spectacular successes. They were the first countries to evaluate and release the lowland NERICA varieties developed recently by the Africa Rice Center (WARDA) in close association with national programs,” said Dr Papa Abdoulaye Seck, WARDA Director General.

Describing the recent surge in demand for NERICA seed in Nigeria, Dr Seck said that WARDA has been informed that the country was able to reduce its rice imports in 2005 by over 800,000 tonnes, thanks to the strong measures taken by the Nigerian Government to increase domestic rice production and decrease rice imports. Nigeria is the largest importer of rice in the world.

West Africa is not the only region where NERICA is performing spectacularly. The varieties have leapfrogged from Guinea to Uganda in Eastern Africa, where they are blazing a new trail of success.

WARDA has just been informed by the Uganda Agricultural Productivity Enhancement Program (APEP), supported by the USAID that more than 16,000 refugee families from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi residing in Uganda are set to grow NERICA. This initiative is being supported by APEP-USAID and the Ugandan government to address the food security problem and raise incomes from their produce.

In addition, 750 Ugandan farmers, who were displaced by the civil conflicts, have been trained in NERICA production as part of a training-of-trainers program with support from APEP-USAID. Also in Uganda, Japan and FAO have launched a US$ 1 million project to promote NERICA for which WARDA is providing the technical support.

“NERICA is also being increasingly used in agricultural rehabilitation efforts in post-conflict countries, such as Sierra Leone, Liberia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda,” said Dr Seck, explaining that the African Rice Initiative (ARI), managed by WARDA, is frequently approached for NERICA seeds to assist in such efforts.

“We are, therefore, exploring with all our partners a sustainable strategy to address the ever-increasing demand for NERICA seeds across sub-Saharan Africa,” Dr Seck added.

3 May 2007

Contributed by Rodomiro Ortiz (CIMMYT)
R.ORTIZ@CGIAR.ORG

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1.18  EMBRAPA develops new soybean varieties

EMBRAPA, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation presented this week in the event "Dia de campo" two new transgenic soybean varieties, Gisele RR and Juliana RR, and two new conventional varieties, Graciosa and Princesa. The new lines were developed by the research team Convênio Cerrados, and will be available in the market next year. Graciosa has very high tolerance to attack by nematodes.
José Américo Rodrigues, president of the Brazilian Association of Seed and Seedling Producers (Abrasem) highlioghted the importance of the use of certified seeds to ensure high production yields, and to reduce phytosanitary and biosafety risks.
More information in
http://www.embrapa.br/noticias/banco_de_noticias/2007/abril/foldernoticia.2007-04-09.3971798158/noticia.2007-04-11.3923153115/mostra_noticia

From CropBiotech Update 12 April 2007:

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

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1.19  Farmers get more from CIMMYT durum wheat

Here is a piece of good news for durum wheat farmers around the world. The International Wheat and Maize Improvement Center (CIMMYT) has been breeding new durum lines that are disease-resistant and of high quality. The CIMMYT team realized that farmers in developing countries need high quality and marketable grain for them to improve their livelihoods.

Breeding itself is a cyclical process of combination and selection until the breeder is satisfied that all required characteristics have been incorporated into the new wheat plants. The first goal was to develop leaf rust resistance in durum wheat. After the CIMMYT team accomplished this feat, they focused on enhancing the performance of the wheat varieties under drought stress and incorporating resistance to other diseases. Next is making the best possible wheat varieties from all other perspectives - including the yield, color and quality of the gluten in durum wheat grains. The best durum wheat lines in the CIMMYT breeding station will then be sent to national programs for evaluation.

Read more on durum wheat at http://www.cimmyt.org/english/wps/news/2007/mar/yieldBack.htm.

From CropBiotech Update 4 April 2007

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

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1.20  High yield potential, shuttle breeding, genetic diversity, and a new international wheat improvement strategy

Euphytica DOI 10.1007/s10681-007-9375-9

Rodomiro Ortiz (1), Richard Trethowan(1), Guillermo Ortiz Ferrara(2), Masa Iwanaga(1), John H. Dodds(1), Jonathan H. Crouch(1), Jose Crossa(1) and Hans-Joachim Braun (3)

(1)Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maíz y Trigo (CIMMYT), Apdo. Postal 6-641, 06600 Mexico, DF, Mexico
(2)CIMMYT, Katmandu, Nepal
(3)CIMMYT, Ankara, Turkey

Published online: 16 February 2007

Abstract
The main elements of the international wheat improvement program of the Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maíz y Trigo (CIMMYT), also known as the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, have been shuttle breeding at two contrasting locations in Mexico, wide adaptation, durable rust and Septoria resistances, international multisite testing, and the appropriate use of genetic variation to enhance yield gains of subsequently produced lines. Such an approach yielded successes known collectively as the Green Revolution. However, at the beginning of the 21st century, this “cultivar assembly line” approach needs fine tuning to address crop needs under increasingly adopted resource conserving practices, as well as those related to nutritional requirements of the end-users. International wheat improvement will therefore focus on the targeting of traits in respective mega-environments, and the use of participatory methods, especially in marginal environments. The main features of this wheat improvement strategy include the introduction of new and novel sources of genetic variation through wild species, landraces, and, potentially, the use of transgenes for intractable traits. This variation will be combined using international shuttle breeding, and increased breeding efficiency will be achieved through marker-aided methods, more targeted use of crop physiology, plant genetics, biostatistics, and bioinformatics. Likewise, CIMMYT will increase its focus on the needs of end-users by emphasizing regional efforts in participatory research and client-oriented plant breeding.

Contributed by Rodomiro Ortiz (CIMMYT)
R.ORTIZ@CGIAR.ORG

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1.21  Delivering health benefits through new cereal grains - CSIRO is developing healthier high resistant starch wheats

Australia
New cereal grains with high levels of resistant starch could improve bowel health and prevent large bowel disease, according to research presented in America today by CSIRO scientist Dr David Topping.

Resistant starch is the fraction of starch that escapes digestion in the small intestine and is ultimately digested in the large bowel.

Why is that important? Dr Topping, a Senior Scientist with CSIRO Food Futures and Preventative Health National Research Flagships, says many westernised populations have low fibre intakes, which not only affect ‘regularity’ but also can heighten risk for several serious non-infectious large bowel diseases.

Dr Topping says resistant starch intakes appear to be low in most affluent industrialised countries. This is a matter of concern and increasing its consumption by modifying the resistant starch content in consumer foods is an important strategy to improve public health.

In his presentation to the Conference on Gastrointestinal Function in Chicago today, Dr Topping will explain how resistant starch contributes to total dietary fibre and its importance in promoting large bowel health.

He will also elaborate on the new high resistant starch, or amylose, cereals being developed by the Food Futures Flagship and its partners with the potential to provide benefits in the areas of bowel health, diabetes and obesity.

“Cereals with high amylose have the potential to be important components of foods with a low glycaemic index, and with favourable attributes that promote bowel health and potentially reduce the risk of colorectal cancer,” Dr Topping says.

“The Food Futures Flagship is developing new wheat varieties to meet the community’s emerging health needs,” says the Flagship’s Director, Dr Bruce Lee. “These high-RS wheats produce nutritionally significant levels of RS and can be incorporated into breads, cereals and other foods.”

The Flagship’s research in this area is an example of the successful collaboration of industry partners together with multi-disciplinary scientific expertise drawn from CSIRO Human Nutrition, CSIRO Plant Industry and Food Science Australia – a joint venture between CSIRO and the Victorian Government.

Source: SeedQuest.com
20 April 2007

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1.22  Assessing and designing strategies to strengthen regional plant breeding and associated biotechnology capacity in the Caucasus: a workshop report

The report on the workshop held in Tbilisi, Georgia on February 21-22, 2007 is now available online.

Participants of the regional workshop represented the three Caucasus countries namely Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

Among the issues discussed, capacity building on plant breeding was ranked as top priority.

The scope of capacity building goes from short-term training on specific breeding techniques to improve the educational level of the scientists. Access to information, mechanisms to exchange national and regional information, and facilities to promote the first two came in second.

These will strengthen the countries capacity to use plant genetic resources. Other priority issues were the lack of seed production and distribution system at the national levels; long-term support and planning of breeding programs; raising awareness regarding the importance of plant genetic resources conservation and use; and strengthening linkages between universities and research institutes.

Read the complete report on the workshop, “Assessing and Designing Strategies to Strengthen Regional Plant Breeding and Associated Biotechnology Capacity in the Caucasus” at http://apps3.fao.org/wiews/docs/Workshop%20Draft%20Report%2004%20Regional%20230207.pdf .
To read more: http://www.fao.org/biotech/news_list.asp?thexpand=1&cat=131.

Source: CropBiotech Update via SeedQuest.com
20 April 2007

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1.23  How hi-tech nuclear science is feeding the poor

Rome, Italy
The hi-tech and often baffling field of nuclear technology may seem a world away from the poorest developing world farmers and families struggling to make a dollar a day.

Yet nuclear methods applied to agriculture are enabling millions of these farmers to grow more crops and rear healthier livestock. Since most of the world's 854 million hungry people live in rural areas where agriculture is the main livelihood, such technology can have a direct impact on poverty and hunger.

In addition, despite public concern over nuclear technology, such methods have passed rigorous safety checks – in fact they increase the safety of food while benefiting the environment.

Since 1964, FAO and the International Atomic Energy Agency have harnessed such technology to help promote food security, through the Vienna-based Joint FAO/IAEA Programme.

“Nuclear technology defies the senses; people cannot touch, smell or feel the material, and this often evokes a fear of such methods,” says Gabriele Voigt, Director of the Agency’s Laboratories at Seibersdorf, outside Vienna, a nerve-centre of research and training.

“The irony is that such technology can make food safer and benefit the environment, while ensuring the hungriest are fed. We’re opening a magic door and the positive impacts are clear.”

Creating better crops
For example, scientists use a method called irradiation to create crop varieties that are more disease-resistant and grow better in poor soils, a massive benefit to countries across drought-prone Africa, where the poorest farmers try to survive on the most marginal lands.

Food also can be made safer through irradiation, which destroys bacteria such as E.coli and salmonella in foods, while leaving no radioactive traces. The safety and effectiveness of this method has been declared by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, an international standards body administered by FAO and the World Health Organization, which comprises government-designated experts.

Irradiation as a post-harvest treatment for horticultural products also benefits the environment – it provides a safer alternative to methyl bromide, which the large majority of countries have agreed to phase out by 2010 due to its harmful impact on the ozone layer.

Nuclear techniques can also be used to detect excessive pesticide or veterinary drug residues in food and monitor implementation of good agricultural and veterinary practices.

There are numerous other areas where nuclear technology helps the environment. For example, one technique suppresses, or in some situations even eradicates, insect pests by the systematic release of sterilized males of the species – a type of birth control. This reduces the need for chemical pesticides that can harm other organisms and soils. Another example involves a nuclear technique that measures water storage and tracks water and nutrients in soil, reducing wastage of these valuable commodities.

Two agencies better than one
Qu Liang, Director of the Joint Programme, says: “This is one of the best examples of effective cooperation between two UN agencies, with a direct combination of agricultural expertise and nuclear science.

“In its simplest terms, FAO can provide practical information from the field, for example reporting the effects of soil erosion on crops and ultimately the local people, and the IAEA can apply the scientific expertise on how we might address it.”

The Joint FAO/IAEA Programme works with member countries in researching and introducing new crop varieties, pest treatments or food-testing methods among other things.

It also trains scientists from developing countries each year at its lab at Seibersdorf, near Vienna, who then return to their countries to put appropriate nuclear methods into practice.

Mr Liang adds: “We investigate, give advice, guidance and training to international scientists, and help coordinate early efforts to implement work. But it is for countries to take up these projects and maintain them well into the future.

“We can generate a lot of interest and political will by showing the potential economic benefits, which helps persuade governments to invest in it.”

Source: SeedQuest.com
20 April 2007

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1.24  DuPont to help meet growing demand for plant breeders - Partnership with Purdue University develops scientists to address global demand for grain

Des Moines, Iowa
DuPont today announced a $150,000 pledge to Purdue University to help graduate students with an interest in plant breeding and genetics research.

"The potential for solutions from crop genetics research to meet global demands for food, feed, fuel and materials continues to grow," said William S. Niebur, vice president, DuPont Crop Genetics Research and Development. "This presents a tremendous opportunity for highly trained, well-educated plant breeders and scientists to be on the cutting edge of significant research."

Beginning this year, DuPont will provide two, $25,000 fellowships to support graduate students in the Department of Agronomy at Purdue. The fellowships, which will be administered by DuPont subsidiary Pioneer Hi-Bred International, are renewable each year through 2009. Purdue also will provide matching funds for a total of $300,000 over three years.

"The world has come to recognize the incredible potential for plant genetics to help solve global challenges," said Niebur. "We need to make sure we have the best and brightest working to develop these solutions."

Earlier this year, DuPont announced the expansion of its research capacity and addition of more than 400 positions, primarily focused on seed and biotechnology research, including plant breeding.

Research and educational programs in Purdue's Department of Agronomy center on four broad areas of emphasis, including genetic improvement of economic crops and crop systems, and plant nutrition.

"Educating successive generations of plant breeders and geneticists depends on our ability to continue to provide excellent scientific and educational programs," said Craig Beyrouty, Agronomy Department Head at Purdue. "This support from DuPont will extend and complement our capacity to provide highly educated and trained plant breeders for the future."

Source: SeedQuest.com
11 April 2007

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1.25  Looking for greener pastures in Australia: A$6 million boost for pasture genetics

Bundoora, Victoria, Australia
Australian researchers are helping to change the pasture breeding industry’s entire approach to forage crop improvement.

The research, which focuses on the discovery of genetic markers in perennial ryegrass and white clover, will receive a A$6 million boost, bringing the total investment to A$11 million.

The Molecular Plant Breeding Cooperative Research Centre’s CEO Dr Glenn Tong says the project brings pasture breeding in line with many of our major food crops such as wheat.

“We have been applying our knowledge of genetics to human food crops for many years now, but in pastures it has proven more difficult,” he says.

“Today I am pleased to say that our researchers are starting to turn this situation around. We now have a good genetic understanding of quality and disease resistance – both traits of major importance to industry.”

“Based on this success, we have decided to expand the research to look at other important traits such as heat tolerance, improved digestibility and energy content.”

The project, which is supported by Dairy Australia, Meat and Livestock Australia and the Geoffrey Gardiner Dairy Foundation, is good news for the $24 billion dairy, lamb and beef industries.

By producing forages for better animal nutrition the CRC hopes that large-scale improvements of dairy and meat production will be possible.

These improvements will also assist the production of high quality and healthy foods, leading to nutritional and health benefits for consumers.

In the past, forage breeding programs relied on visual and chemical characteristics of individual plants to determine whether they were suitable for breeding.

The introduction of more efficient genetic maker-based breeding has been slow because, like animals, ryegrass and clover must breed with another individual; a process known as ‘outcrossing’.

Each time the plant cross-pollinates the genes get jumbled, making it difficult for breeders to keep track of which genes are in which plant.

Now, with the assistance of gene technology, researchers can scan the genome for natural variation between genes, and locate genetic markers that indicate the presence of key characteristics.

The process is an extremely efficient and powerful means of plant selection.

Dr Tong says a thorough knowledge of the ryegrass genome has now been achieved, and white clover genome research is also advancing rapidly.

“We already have a proof of concept trial underway and we hope to see these gene marker tools being used to produce new varieties within the next four years.”

The research is being conducted at the CRC’s Victorian node at the Victorian Department of Primary Industries facilities in Bundoora and Hamilton.

The Molecular Plant Breeding CRC is a Cooperative Research Centre established under the Australian Government's Cooperative Research Centres Program.


Source: SeedQuest.com
3 May 2007

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1.26  US Department of Agriculture hosts specialty crop research workshop

Washington, DC
USDA Under Secretaries Gale Buchanan and Bruce Knight addressed academic, industry and federal specialty crop stakeholders at a specialty crops research workshop hosted by USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES) and Agricultural Research Service (ARS).

"U.S. specialty crop producers and processors face challenges from foreign competition, environmental regulations, consumer concerns about health and product quality, and escalating production costs," Buchanan said. "As highlighted by the meetings this week, advanced solutions to mechanization and harvesting issues are critical. These are all challenges agricultural research can help solve."

The workshop focused on identifying engineering science and technology industry research needs and developing a research agenda to meet those needs. Automation, robotics, precision agriculture, sensors and other advanced technologies are needed to help producers and the specialty crop industry become more efficient, productive and sustainable.

In response to these challenges, the Bush administration is recommending in the 2007 Farm Bill the establishment of a Specialty Crop Research Initiative, supported by $100 million in annual mandatory funding to provide science-based tools for the specialty crop industry. The Specialty Crop Research Initiative will address:

-conducting fundamental research in plant breeding, genetics and genomics to improve crop characteristics such as product appearance, environmental responses and tolerances, nutrient management and pest and disease management, as well as safety, quality, yield, taste and shelf life;

-optimizing production by developing more technologically efficient and effective application of water, nutrients and pesticides to reduce energy use and improve production efficiency;

-developing new innovations and technology to enhance mechanization, thus reducing reliance on labor; and

-improving production efficiency, productivity and profitability over the long term.

The farm bill proposal also calls for increasing assistance for specialty crop growers through an array of changes that will enhance their ability to compete in the marketplace. These initiatives include expanding mandatory funding for the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC) program and the Market Access Program. TASC assists U.S. food and agricultural organizations by funding projects that address sanitary, phytosanitary and technical barriers that prohibit or threaten the export of U.S. specialty crops. The Market Access Program assists in the creation, expansion and maintenance of foreign markets for U.S. agricultural products.

"Clearly agriculture faces challenges in 2007 and in the years ahead," Knight said. "But the measures put forth in this proposal will help us meet those challenges. It establishes parameters and policies that will enable American agriculture and individual farmers and ranchers to grow and prosper."

CSREES advances knowledge for agriculture, the environment, human health and well-being, and communities by supporting research, education, and extension programs in the Land-Grant University System and other partner organizations. For more information, visit http://www.csrees.usda.gov .

ARS is the principal scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Visit http://www.ars.usda.gov for more information.

Source: SeedQuest.com
26 April 2007

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1.27  Structuring European plant genomics research

Brussels, Belgium
Europe has a long tradition of innovation in food production, leading to significant breakthroughs in yield increase and quality improvement in European crops. The expected growth of the human population and the increase of the average level of welfare in the coming decades will impose an increasing demand for food, feed and energy. At the same time, there is a growing awareness of the potential impacts on the environment and the need to develop sustainable production systems for water, fertiliser, herbicide and pesticide use.

Collaborative research efforts and joint investments in large-scale technologies will create the critical mass that Europe needs in order to sustain its competitiveness in this area. This will facilitate a stepping up from national to multilateral coordination, thereby reducing redundancy and maximising the returns on investments in plant sciences.

To address these ambitions, the ERA-NET Plant Genomics (ERA-PG) was launched in 2004 with coordination funding of €2.2 million for 4 years from the EU’s Sixth Framework Programme. It was one of the first networks to receive funding under the ERA-NET scheme which seeks to strengthen the European Research Area (ERA).

ERA-PG is coordinated by NGI/NWO from the Netherlands, drawing its original partners from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, and the UK. Since then, the network has been enlarged to encompass Bulgaria, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and Israel.

ERA-PG started with a large information gathering exercise which mapped out the landscape of research activities and the economic impact of plant genomics. Researchers and science policy-makers were brought together to build common ground for joint strategic and to perform a study leading to the development of common framework mechanisms and best practices. In February 2006, ERA-PG launched its first joint call for research with a budget of over €30 million, receiving more than 100 pre-proposals. This was one of the largest ERA-NET coordinated research programmes.

Source: EPSO News 1 via SeedQuest.com
May 3, 2007

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1.28  Unveiling rice's DNA under Intellectual Property Rights regime

College, Laguna, The Philippines
There is a brand new manual to guide rice researchers in their work. This manual not only embodies the nearly polished complete DNA sequence of the rice genome, which carries the instructions or blueprint for developing a rice plant. The rapid progress made in the Human Genome Sequencing Project (HGP) in the United States in 1998 inspired Japan to initiate a similar project by sequencing the variety, Nippon bare, a Japonica or temperate type of rice. Under Japan’s leadership, Brazil, China, Taiwan, France, India, Korea, Thailand, United Kingdom, and the United States participated in the project called International Rice Genome Sequencing Project (IRGSP). IRGSP implemented the rice genome sequencing in 2004.China, in another public sector effort, tackled the genome of one parent of the super hybrid rice, an Indica or tropical type, just like what is commonly grown in the Philippines.

Into the fray
The study of the rice genome reveals new information that can also impact on maize, wheat, and other cereals. The potential economic and business windfall from the rice genome sequencing project immediately drew giant seed companies into the fray. For example, Monsanto and Syngenta, two of the world’s largest agbiotech companies, both sequenced Nippon bare. Monsanto quickly shared their draft sequence with the public, while Syngenta has applied for patents for its sequence data.

Describing genome sequence
The manual describes the genome sequence that bears all the information needed by the rice plant to complete its life cycle. That is why the rice genome sequence can greatly help scientists in determining the genes that are important for adaptation, good grain quality, high yield, and other desirable characteristics. Why certain rice varieties are better than others is due to the differences in their genes. Genes are like words or group of letters with meanings. They are groups of DNA bases that produce certain proteins or enzymes, which are the building blocks and tools for assembling, maintaining and eventually breaking down the rice plant. The draft genome sequences have already yielded 37,000 predicted genes, majority of which give strong clues on their specific roles, if not directly attributed to certain traits. For instance, clusters of resistance genes are found in chromosomes 11and 12. These resistance genes now serve as good candidate genes or entry points in investigating the defense mechanisms against microbial pathogens and insect pests.

The distinct rice types sequenced would greatly facilitate the development of DNA markers for traits with no candidate genes. DNA markers are sites in the genome where two varieties differ. Because of the wide divergence between the Indica and Japonica rice types, their DNA sequences differ in many points in the genome. Hence, it will be easier for researchers to develop DNA markers based on this variation, and use them in locating the genes of traits of interest in the genome. Before the genome sequence was assembled, locating a gene had an accuracy of several mega bases. But now, it is at the kilo base level. It is analogous to finding a house given only the provincial address versus knowing the exact barangay. The rice genome sequence, if written as a book, would take up the equivalent of two sets of encyclopedias with 30,000 pages each, and two years and four months to read aloud the entire sequence of the rice genome without stopping.

Functional genetics and IPR
We are now at the functional genomics stage in which scientists are trying to understand the function of the predicted genes in plant growth, development, defense, and demise. At the moment, the contention in the rice genome sequencing is Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) and its impact on publicly funded research. IPRs grant holders all the legal rights to the property they created, prevent others from taking advantage of their ingenuity, encourage their continuing innovativeness and creativity, and assure the world of a flow of useful, informative, and intellectual works for development. Syngenta, the so-called “genome giant,” has applied for IPRs for vital rice gene sequences. Specifically, its 323-page application,WO03000904A2/3, claims monopoly control of DNA that regulates flowering development, flower formation, whole plant architecture, and flower timing in rice in up to 115 countries.Some groups fear that if Syngenta is granted this monopoly rights, the gene sequences may no longer be freely available to the international development community. It may also result in undue restrictions and license charges, as well as constraints upon further research. Efforts by Syngenta to monopolize control over rice, or make Oryza sativa as Oryza syngenta, may hamper the drive towards food security and eradicating hunger, critics say.

PhilRice unfazed
“PhilRice should not be fazed by these developments,” said Atty.Ronilo A. Beronio, deputy executive director and head of PhiRice’s Intellectual Property Management Office. “The sequencing of the rice genome and patenting it by private corporations should even facilitate rice breeding”. He said that the aim of IPR is not to withhold information from the public. Even if private multinationals have patents over several rice gene sequences, the protection is only granted in exchange for full disclosure of the invention, which will then be added to the publicly available literature. “Navigating the patent waters’ is even a lot easier now with the existence of patent databases in the Internet. If scientists know the patented sequence, he can build around the patent, improve on it, or create new inventions without reinventing the wheel,” he added.

Atty. Beronio likewise said that although public R&D institutions may be confronted with a complex web of ownership and freedom-to-operate issues in the conduct of further R&D, this information makes researchers aware in advance of IPR issues pertaining to the technologies they are using. Not a stumbling block At the earliest opportunity, too, transparent and mutually favorable technology transfer arrangements can be made. This will preclude a future situation where a researcher scores a breakthrough, only to find out that he/she has no freedom to operate because of failure to address ownership issues on the technology components used. Thus, he said, researchers should not find IPRs as stumbling blocks to R&D. Instead, they should be a non-issue for institutions which have the capacity to understand IPR.

Balanced exploitation of new information
Dr. Leocadio S. Sebastian, PhilRice’s executive director, admitted that public sector R&D in the Philippines is passing through a challenging phase with advances in genomics under the current IPR regime. He said capacity-building in the institutional level would ensure a thorough understanding of the implications of IPRs on biotechnology and genomic research. “We in public sector institutions should act immediately, redefine our roles, and upgrade our expertise with new norms in R&D due to IPR”, Dr. Sebastian said. He further emphasized that crucial to achieving this objective is the presence of manpower, facility, and institutional policy frameworks among public sector institutions. This will ensure that science is done, and a balanced

By Gabriel O. Romero and Jane G. Payumo
PhilRice S&T Magazine Vol. 20 No. 2
April-June 2007 Issue
Source: Philippine Rice Research Institute via SeedQuest.com
24 April 2007

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1.29  West Africa to boost food crops with biotechnology

Banana production could benefit from biotechnology in West Africa, say scientists
Wagdy Sawahel

The 15 members of the Economic Community of West African States have agreed to use biotechnology to increase food production in the region.

Ministers of agriculture, environment, science and technology met to discuss the issues surrounding biotechnology in agriculture at a meeting held last week (28–30 March) in Accra, Ghana.

They adopted a regional action plan for biotechnology development for 2006–2010, which stresses the use of public-private partnerships to increase investment in biotechnology, and the need to put safety measures in place at national and regional levels.

The plan calls for a network of biotechnology experts to be established, and the promotion of networking between centres of excellence in biotechnology and the West and Central African Biosciences facility planned by the New Partnership for African Development.

The ministers also agreed to set up an independent fund for assessing the socio-economic impacts of using genetically modified (GM) organisms.

A regional policy for managing intellectual property rights to help with the acquisition, development and distribution of biotechnology knowledge and new technologies will also be developed.

But the meeting drew criticism from non-governmental organisations, scientists, farmers and consumer groups who met at a parallel meeting to criticise the 'biotech industry interference' in the process, and the lack of provision for GM-free zones.

However scientists contacted by SciDev.Net welcomed the plan.

Baboucarr Manneh, a Gambian researcher at the biotechnology unit of the Africa Rice Center in Benin, said it has the potential to improve agricultural productivity in West Africa.

He pointed to a number of biotechnology applications needed in West African countries, such as the use of antibodies and biopesticides against crop, animal and human diseases.

Manneh indicated the necessity of producing disease-free plants such as bananas, cassava and fruit trees, and plants resistant to environmental stresses.

He also highlighted the importance of improving the nutritional qualities of existing crop varieties and animal breeds.

To address public fears about biotechnology, the ministers agreed to establish a network of national information and communication units responsible for raising public awareness of biotechnology.

The Economic Community of West African States includes Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.

Source: SciDev.net
4 April 2007

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1.30  Mexican farmers sign GM maize treaty with Monsanto

[MEXICO CITY] Mexican farmers have signed an agreement with biotechnology giant Monsanto to buy and plant genetically modified (GM) maize.

According to the agreement signed earlier this month (18 April) by Mexico's National Confederation of Corn Growers (CNPAMM) affiliated with the umbrella agricultural association National Campesino Confederation Monsanto will provide Mexican producers with GM seeds, as well as initiate activities to protect native maize, including setting up a maize germplasm bank.

Many environmental and indigenous groups oppose the introduction of GM plants, fearing that it may contaminate native varieties of maize in the country.

Maize originated in Mexico and is home to 3,500 native varieties. It is the main food crop in Mexico, its production employing almost 12 million people.

The Mexican parliament's chamber of deputies has not yet approved regulations for the experimental sowing of GM plants as part of Mexico's biosecurity laws.

Francisco Lopez, Mexico's vice-minister for agriculture, said the regulations will be published in the coming weeks, and tests on GM maize will begin in the northern state of Sonora in August.

Carlos Salazar, president of CNPAMM, estimates that more than 90 per cent of small and medium growers will use GM seeds to improve productivity.

Jesus Madrazo, president of Monsanto Mexico, said the commercialisation of GM maize will begin in 2010, once the evaluation phases required by the biosecurity laws have been completed.

Arturo Barba

Source: SciDev.net
30 April 2007

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1.31  Gates Foundation funds efforts to rescue 95 percent of the world's endangered critical crop biodiversity

Historic effort to secure biodiversity of 21 most important crops includes many "orphan crops", critical to poor but often neglected by modern plant breeding

Rome, Italy
Recognizing that the fight against hunger cannot be won without securing fast-disappearing crop biodiversity, the Global Crop Diversity Trust and its partner the United Nations Foundation announced today a joint initiative to safeguard 21 of the world’s most critical food crops through securing their seeds. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is funding the initiative with a US$37.5 million grant, the largest crop biodiversity preservation grant ever made, which includes US$7.5 million in matching funds from the government of Norway. Among the crops covered are many "orphan crops" – crops particularly important to the poor but largely neglected by modern plant breeding, despite the need for high-yielding, nutritious varieties.

"This initiative will rescue the most globally important developing-country collections of the world’s 21 most important food crops," said Cary Fowler, Director of the Trust. "It will secure at-risk collections in poor countries and document their astonishing diversity, making it available to meet the food needs of the poor." The initiative will also help bolster implementation of the new Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources.

The unprecedented effort will secure over 95 percent of the endangered crop diversity held in developing country genebanks, many of which are under-funded and in disrepair. In addition, it will fund a comprehensive global information system that will allow plant breeders everywhere to search genebanks worldwide for traits needed to combat new diseases and cope with climate change.

"Our effort to help hundreds of millions of small farmers and their families overcome poverty and hunger rests in part on food security," said Sylvia Mathews Burwell, President of the Gates Foundation’s Global Development Program. "But there can be no food security without first securing the basis of our food production – the genetic diversity of every crop, in particular those most important to the poor that unfortunately are neglected by modern plant breeding. We invite others to join us in securing this resource of immeasurable value."

"By providing access to crop genetic information, plant breeders across Africa may be able to adapt their crops to varieties that will grow in different climate conditions. Investing in this future may help stave off potential catastrophic damage to some agricultural systems due to climate change. Not only will this partnership combat hunger and protect crop diversity, but it also helps nations prepare for the impacts of climate change," said Timothy E. Wirth, president of the United Nations Foundation.

The genetic diversity found within each crop is the raw material that enables plant breeders and farmers to develop higher yielding, more nutritious, and stress-resistant varieties. It is also the cornerstone of successful adaptation to climate change, providing the raw material for new "climate-ready" crop varieties. But much of this diversity, held in developing country gene banks, is threatened by decades of under-funding and neglect, as well as by wars and natural disasters.

"It is virtually impossible to exaggerate the importance of crop diversity. It is a vital part of the solution to many of the world’s great challenges, from environmental conservation to climate change and food security," said Norway’s Minister of International Development Erik Solheim. "Put simply, crop diversity allows us to grow food, and this partnership with the Gates Foundation provides an opportunity to meet a host of food security challenges far into the future."

Homes for Orphan Crops; Seed Database for Farmer’s Worldwide
Among the 21 priority crops covered by the Gates-funded initiative are many "orphan crops." Particularly important to the poor, these crops have been largely bypassed by modern plant breeding, despite the need for high-yielding, nutritious varieties. Some orphan crops, such as yam, cannot be grown from seeds, but need to be cultivated from cuttings, roots, or cell cultures, making their conservation more complex and expensive.

Therefore, the grant will finance research into inexpensive conservation techniques for such crops, including cassava, potato, sweet potato, yam, taro and coconut. These new technologies are expected to reduce conservation costs by 75 percent and improve the security of collections of such crops.

The initiative will also transform communications for plant-breeders and farmers around the world. It will fund an information system that will include 4,000,000 samples of more than 2,000 species of more than 150 crops­amounting to 85 percent of the diversity of all agricultural crops. The initiative will fund development of a state-of-the-art genebank management software system, enter at least 100,000 new samples into the database, and evaluate at least 50 priority collections for 100 different traits­thus uncovering hidden genetic resources.

"This is the largest grant to support crop diversity ever made. We can now foresee a time when orphan crops have secure homes, and when plant breeders across Africa have access to the same crop genetic information as do their counterparts in Europe and North America," Fowler said.

The new initiative also ensures that developing countries and international agricultural research centers will be able to send at least 450,000 distinct seed samples to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Carved into the Arctic permafrost in Svalbard, Norway, this depository of last resort for agricultural diversity is scheduled to open in March 2008.

Finally, of the total grant, US$15 million will go to the Trust’s endowment. Its proceeds will be used to maintain the collections of the 21 most important crops.

"Rescue and salvage operations are the beginning. The Trust’s endowment will ensure the health and availability of these collections in perpetuity," Fowler said.

For further information, visit www.croptrust.org, www.unfoundation.org and www.gatesfoundation.org .

Source: SeedQuest.com
20 April 2007

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1.32  Dinosaurs and crop diversity: how great is the loss?

Rome, Italy
How Great the Loss?
Adams' apple is extinct. And his beans are gone too. Both apple and bean varieties bearing the name of an early president of the United States have vanished. In fact, of the 7100 named varieties of apples growing in the U.S. in the 1800s, some 6800 are probably now extinct. Ninety-five percent of almost 600 garden bean varieties, 95% of more than 500 cabbage varieties, and 81% of 400 tomato varieties have also disappeared.

Simply to say that they have disappeared fails to convey the finality of the situation. "Death is one thing; an end to birth is something else," as biologists Soule and Wilcox once pointed out. For the Ansault pear, described by the leading fruit expert of the early 20th century as having flesh more "buttery" than any other pear and possessing a "rich sweet flavor, and a distinct but delicate perfume," there is no more birth. It's extinct.

Given the business the Trust is in, we are used to fielding one very natural but difficult question, "How much diversity has been lost?"

Percentages such as those just provided cannot give an accurate portrayal of the loss of crop diversity, or the loss of potentially important traits. The Adams apple may be extinct, but it was not the only red apple in the world. Red didn't disappear. Many - theoretically even all - the individual genes found in Adams apple could still exist, spread amongst the still-surviving varieties.

All plants are biologically related. Rice, wheat, and maize, for example, are grasses and as such are closely related. Darwin explained such connections with his theory of "common descent". We're all cousins. Indeed, chickens, as we just discovered, are related to the long-gone Tyrannosaurus rex. And you and I share genes with rice, wheat and the potted plant by the window. Perhaps as many as 50%. If this estimate is roughly accurate, then 50% of the genetic diversity of a crop will continue to exist no matter how many varieties are lost, as long as you and I are still alive.

So there's one admittedly mischievous answer to the question. No one seriously fears losing the ubiquitous genes shared by cabbages and kings, however. Losing genes associated with unique and potentially important characteristics in crops is an entirely different matter. This is the diversity that will enable crops to adapt to the challenges already present as well as to new and unknown threats that will inevitably arise.

In the 1900s, the commercialization and increasing globalization of agriculture, as well as the marketing and distribution of seeds by commercial and government agencies, combined to produce motive and method for the replacement of numerous diverse crop varieties with a smaller number of more genetically homogeneous, scientifically-bred varieties. Garrison Wilkes likened the process to "taking stones from the foundation in order to repair the roof." The new varieties unintentionally undermined the biological basis upon which they were built. Production leapt forward, but much crop diversity was lost, as noted by ample anecdotal accounts. But "because no one can say exactly how much diversity once existed, no one can say exactly how much has been lost historically," as FAO's first global assessment of the state of crop diversity pointed out,

Likewise we cannot say with precision how much has been saved. Three independent surveys of scientists undertaken in the 1980s and 1990s each concluded, however, that a high percentage of existing diversity of major crops has been collected and is in genebanks - as much as 95% for wheat, rice, maize and potato. Other crops are less well represented. Perhaps a fifth of sorghum diversity and up to half of sweet potato diversity remains to be collected and formally conserved.

Genebanks contain thousands of varieties that can no longer be found on anyone's farm. The social and environmental conditions that gave rise to them in the first place are quickly disappearing and are unlikely to reappear. It is fortunate that many varieties were collected and placed in managed collections, otherwise the extent of genetic erosion would have been far, far greater.

For the same reasons that so much diversity was lost in the last century, the remaining diversity found on farms today and not in genebanks would have to be considered seriously endangered. Only now, there is a new threat: climate change.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change paints a gloomy picture where up to 30% of earth's species will be at an increased risk of extinction as global temperatures rise. Profound climatic shifts will unavoidably exert pressure on the remaining crop diversity not yet safeguarded in genebanks, including the "wild relatives" of domesticated crops that have been an important source of disease and pest resistance and have even salvaged a number of our major crops.

The time has come to acknowledge both the old and familiar threats to crop diversity as well as the new challenges, collect samples of the remaining diversity, safeguard all of it in genebanks, and guard those banks.

Lost and Found
The honest answer to the question of how much diversity has been lost is "we just don't know". There was never a complete inventory of what there was "in the first place". The word "gene" has only been around since 1900; clearly we have no quantitative measures of the genetic diversity that existed before that.

We live in a world of wounds, as the ecologist Aldo Leopold once remarked. Both Adams apple and Tyrannosaurus rex have departed. But apple varieties are not the same as dinosaurs and therein lies a distinction worth pondering. The diversity of apples and other crops can be saved in a secure and lasting manner. The global system the Trust is helping develop will do just that, protecting the diversity that will enable crops to adapt to and survive future changes in the environment. Dinosaurs didn't have such a system, and they didn't stand a chance.

The important question is therefore not how much crop diversity has been lost - we'll never know - but how much still exists and what we are going to do about it. We can decide to get serious about conserving what's left, or follow the lead of T. rex and take our chances.

FAO. The State of the World's Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Rome: 1998.
http://www.fao.org/ag/AGP/AGPS/Pgrfa/pdf/swrfull.pdf
 
Guarino, Luigi. Approaches to Measuring Genetic Erosion. Bioversity International
http://apps3.fao.org/wiews/Prague/Paper3.jsp 
The Global Diversity Trust is an independent international organization whose mission is to ensure the long term conservation of crop diversity, the biological foundation for agriculture and food security.

Source: The Global Diversity Trust - Analysis and Reflections no. 8/2007 via SeedQuest.com
4 May 2007

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1.33  Drilling down into diversity: DNA fingerprinting for crop plants

El Batán, Mexico
The promise of using DNA tools to characterize heterogeneous populations of tropical crops is finally being realized, with help from CIMMYT and partners.

“In the lab where I’m working, we have a number of problems using SSR markers. I’m happy (now) that my problems are solved.” The words are those of Shirangi Imalka Samararatne, researcher in Sri Lanka’s Plant Genetic Resources Centre, after attending the training workshop “Molecular characterization of inbred lines and populations in maize” given in New Delhi, India, by CIMMYT scientists and collaborators during 1-3 April 2007.

Simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers are the tools of choice for molecular studies in many crop species. They require very little DNA to use but can also be misread, if the user does not have the experience to know what to look for, according to CIMMYT molecular geneticist and workshop lecturer Marilyn Warburton. “Moreover, in a population of diverse individuals, you can’t simply choose a single individual for DNA analysis to ‘fingerprint’ the entire population; you need to sample many individuals,” she says. “Participants in this course learned to run SSR markers on individuals and also on bulk samples containing DNA from 15 individuals, saving time and money in fingerprinting the population.”

The workshop was hosted by the Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI). It was coordinated by IARI researcher B.M. Prasanna and sponsored by the Generation Challenge Program (GCP) of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), as part of a competitive grant project. The event drew 19 participants from 10 countries in Asia and Africa, with interest in a broad range of crops. Nine resource persons from 5 countries gave lectures, lab presentations, computer training, and hands-on practice.

Presentations covered DNA extraction, detection, and analysis methods, particularly for bulked samples. “The bulked method allows the analysis of relationships between entire plant populations and diversity levels within populations,” says Warburton. “For maize, this means useful DNA characterization of breeding populations, improved open-pollinated varieties, and even traditional maize landraces, in a single polymerase chain reaction (PCR) reaction­something previously not thought possible.” The PCR technique is used to make large numbers of copies of a minute sample of DNA for analysis.

One course participant, John Atoyebi, from Nigeria’s National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology, hopes to apply the approach to speed the certification and release of new, improved maize varieties for farmers in his country. The process currently involves several years of expensive field testing to prove a new variety is genetically distinct, uniform, and stable. “I’m working on the application of molecular tools, such as DNA fingerprinting, for germplasm identification to avoid duplication and for Nigeria’s variety release program. The course has fulfilled my expectations.”

“This course shows how CIMMYT is helping partners gain access to and master relevant, advanced technology whose applications ultimately benefit farmers,” says Warburton. “The GCP competitive grant project, scheduled to wrap up this year, will show how nearly one thousand maize populations migrated out of Latin America to the rest of the world, providing information about which populations should be used to improve maize breeding material around the world. Course participants who worked on maize will be able to compare their own breeding material to the ones in this study and determine which of the thousand could be incorporated into their program. Further training at CIMMYT is being looked at by some of the course participants through further funding from the GCP”

Source: CIMMYT E-News, vol 4 no. 4 - April 2007 via SeedQuest.com
April 2007

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1.34  Australian sunflowers are newest addition to major U.S. seed bank

Australia
Australian sunflowers are the newest addition to a major seed bank in the United States, helping researchers to find varieties that are resistant to diseases and insects that impact production around the world.

American botanist Gerard Seiler and pathologist Tom Gulya recently spent weeks travelling across the country collecting seeds, accompanied by Gary Kong from the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F).

Dr Kong used the trip to collect disease samples to help with research into rust pathogens being carried out by the DPI&F with support from the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and in close collaboration with Pacific Seeds.

"While sunflowers are only grown commercially in Queensland and northern New South Wales these days, there were small industries in WA, SA and Victoria many years ago," Dr Kong said.

"Some wild populations may have originated from commercial varieties. However, many populations are found in areas where sunflower has never been grown commercially and disease records suggest a history as old as 150 years."

Plant species growing in isolation and in different environments adapt and evolve over time and the US scientists are interested in the genetic diversity that may have developed in the Australian wild sunflower over the past 150 years.

"The ultimate aim of their trip is gene mining, to see what characteristics can be used to help breed new varieties with greater resistance to rust, other diseases and insect pests."

The seeds have been taken to the Northern Crops Research Institute in North Dakota, which is devoted entirely to sunflowers. The germplasm will then be lodged with the Northern Region Plant Introduction Station and will be freely available to sunflower breeders all over the world.

Dr Kong and his team will use the rust samples taken during the 10,000 km trip to continue building their database and understanding of the development of new races of the rust pathogen. This information is vital for research toward the development of sunflower varieties with longer-lasting resistance to the ever-changing rust disease.

Source: SeedQuest.com
20 April 2007

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1.35  Classification of Peruvian highland maize races using plant traits

Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution
DOI 10.1007/s10722-007-9224-7

R. Ortiz(1), José Crossa(1), Jorge Franco(2), Ricardo Sevilla (3) and Juan Burgueño(1)


(1)International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Apdo. Postal 6-641, Mexico, DF, Mexico
(2) Facultad de Agronomia, Universidad de la Republica Oriental del Uruguay, Avd. Garzon 780, CP 12900 Montevideo, Uruguay
(3) Universidad Nacional Agraria, Av. La Universidad s/n, La Molina, Lima, Peru

Published online: 18 April 2007

Abstract
The maize of Latin America, with its enormous diversity, has played an important role in the development of modern maize cultivars of the American continent. Peruvian highland maize shows a high degree of variation stemming from its history of cultivation by Andean farmers. Multivariate statistical methods for classifying accessions have become powerful tools for classifying genetic resources conservation and the formation of core subsets. This study has two objectives: (1) to use a numerical classification strategy for classifying eight Peruvian highland races of maize based on six vegetative traits evaluated in two years and (2) to compare this classification with the existing racial classification. The numerical classification maintained the main structure of the eight races, but reclassified parts of the races into new groups (Gi). The new groups are more separated and well defined with a decreasing accession within group × environment interaction. Most of the accessions from G1 are from Cusco Gigante, all of the accessions from G3 (except one) are from Confite Morocho, and all of the accessions from G7 are from Chullpi. Group G2 has four accessions from Huayleño and four accessions from Paro, whereas G4 has four accessions from Huayleño and five accessions from San Geronimo. Group G5 has accessions from four races, and G6 and G8 formed small groups with two and one accession each, respectively. These groups can be used for forming core subsets for the purpose of germplasm enhancement and assembling gene pools for further breeding.

Contributed by Rodomiro Ortiz (CIMMYT)
R.ORTIZ@CGIAR.ORG

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1.36  Wheat midge resistance in upcoming varieties in Canada

Wheat midge breakthrough aided by the Western Grains Research Foundation -
Sasktatoon, Saskatchewan

Four wheat varieties with resistance to wheat midge were recommended for registration at the variety registration meetings held recently in Saskatoon. The varieties promise to dramatically change how producers deal with this damaging pest. Presently, the only defense against high wheat midge numbers is a pesticide application.

Developed by wheat breeders from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Winnipeg and Swift Current, through the support of the Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF), three of the varieties are in the Canada Western Red Spring (CWRS) wheat class and one is in the Canada Western Extra Strong (CWES) wheat class.

“These numbered lines are still two to four years away from commercial production, but when available, they should save farmers a lot of time and money,” notes Lanette Kuchenski, Executive Director of the WGRF. “Western Canadian farmers should be proud that they aided the development of these breakthrough varieties through their support of the wheat and barley check-offs.”

Old American soft red winter wheat varieties were the source of the resistance trait. It has taken more than 15 years, but researchers have been able to move the trait into spring wheat varieties that also boast superior yield and agronomic traits.

The wheat midge resistance is produced by the early induction of two naturally occurring compounds within the wheat kernels – ferrulic acid and -comaric acid. Due to these compounds, wheat midge larvae are not able to develop when feeding on the immature kernels. These compounds dissipate by the time the crop has matured.

To prevent wheat midge from developing resistance to the gene controlling this trait, researchers and regulatory bodies are exploring the potential of mixing a small percentage of a susceptible wheat variety with the new resistant varieties. Called an interspersed refuge, this will allow some wheat midge to survive, thereby reducing the selection pressure for a resistant strain of midge. It will also allow wheat midge parasites to continue having a host. Currently, there is only one gene known which confers resistance to midge. Therefore, it is very important to protect this gene.

Wheat midge was first discovered in Western Canada back in the mid 80’s and has been a sporadic problem ever since. The insect caused losses in many parts of Saskatchewan and Manitoba in 2006. Damage by midge was the primary downgrading factor in these 2006 crops, and the pest is expected to cause economic losses over even a wider area this year.

Yield and grade losses from wheat midge are often dramatic. Producers have difficulty knowing which fields have wheat midge numbers that warrant spraying and the application window is short. Insecticide applications need to occur just as the crop is heading in order to be effective.

“Wheat varieties with built in resistance will be a major breakthrough for producers,” says Kuchenski. “The payback on the research investment should be dramatic.”

Source: SeedQuest.com
5 April 2007

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1.37  Why some aphids can't stand the heat

For pea aphids, the ability to go forth and multiply can depend on a single gene, according to new research.

An overheated aphid with a mutation in that gene can't reproduce.

The gene isn't even in the insect -- it's in tiny symbiotic bacteria housed inside special cells inside the aphid.

"It's the first time a mutation in a symbiont has been shown to have a huge impact on host ecology," said Nancy A. Moran, Regents' Professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at The University of Arizona in Tucson. "One version of the gene is good if the aphids experience heat, and the other version is good if they are in cool conditions."

Neither organism can survive on its own. The Buchnera aphidicola bacteria, which cannot live on their own, supply the aphids, Acyrthosiphon pisum, with essential nutrients.

UA researchers Helen E. Dunbar, a senior research specialist, Alex C. C. Wilson, now at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla., Nicole R. Ferguson, a member of UA's Undergraduate Biology Research Program, and Moran are publishing their findings in the May 2007 issue of PLoS Biology.

Their research paper is titled "Aphid Thermal Tolerance is Governed by a Point Mutation in Bacterial Symbionts." The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Howard Hughes Medical Institute provides funding for the UA's Undergraduate Biology Research Program.

Aphids reproduce asexually, so juveniles are clones of their mothers. The symbiotic bacteria are passed on from mother to child. Moran's lab maintains colonies of aphids, each descended from a single ancestral aphid mother.

The scientists found the heat-intolerant gene by accident.

Wilson, then a UA postdoctoral fellow in Moran's lab, was testing the response of some aphid and bacterial genes from one aphid colony. The bacteria's ibpA gene codes for a protein, called a heat-shock protein, that protects the cell's innards from thermal damage.

Wilson expected all the ibpA genes from one colony to be the same.

She was surprised that, after aphids were heated for four hours, some of their symbiotic bacteria produced about 100 times more of the ibpA-encoded heat-shock protein than others.

"It was a huge difference," Moran said.

A piece of DNA called a promoter switches the ibpA gene on or off. The scientists found some of the bacteria had a disabling mutation in their promoters. Those bacteria could no longer manufacture much of the protective heat-shock protein and were therefore killed by the heat treatment.

In another experiment, the researchers gave a 95 F (35 C) heat treatment to aphids whose bacteria carried the mutated promoter, the regular promoter and to Tucson aphids. For each group, the team measured production of a molecule, RNA, that codes for the protective heat-shock protein.

Tucson genes produced three times more RNA than the normal genes from lab colony aphids. The lab colony genes produced about 50 times more than did the genes carrying the mutated promoter.

Aphids proliferate in the summer, and their predator defense can expose them to additional heat.

"When one is bitten, it releases an alarm pheromone and the others all jump off the plant," Moran said. The ground can be more than 20 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the cool, shady plant.

To test the effect of heat on aphids themselves, the scientists subjected juveniles to 95 F (35 C) for four hours.

The heat-treated aphids hosting bacteria with mutated promoters lived, but didn't reproduce.

"The heat shock kills the bacteria very quickly, although it doesn't kill the aphid," Dunbar said. "But she's sterilized and doesn't have any babies."

The bacteria provide nutrients essential for aphid reproduction.

Conversely, aphids with bacteria with the mutated promoter reproduced faster at the temperatures, 60-68 F (15 - 20 C), at which aphids are maintained in the lab.

Results from wild aphids suggest the genetic makeup of a pea aphid's bacteria depends on climate. Bacteria from Tucson aphids all had heat-tolerant promoters. Bacteria from Michigan or New York state aphids were five to seven times more likely to have the heat-intolerant, mutated promoter.

The two promoters are barely different -- the heat-sensitive version has 10 adenine molecules in a row, and the other has 11.

"The presence or absence of one (adenine) has a huge effect on how well the host does, how well it can survive and reproduce at different temperatures," Moran said.

When a bacterial cell reproduces, a new DNA molecule is copied from the original. But the many adenine molecules in a row makes it easier for a mistake to delete or insert an adenine, causing a mutation, Moran said.

Pea aphids, native to Europe, are now found worldwide. Many other species of insects have similar symbiotic relationships with bacteria. Such easy-to-arise mutations in symbiotic bacteria could explain how some insect pests can expand into new environments, Moran and Dunbar said.

Moran's next step is working with researchers in Wisconsin to see how the bacterial gene variants affect aphids in the field.

###
Contact information:
Mari N. Jensen: mnjensen@email.arizona.edu
Helen Dunbar: dunbar@email.arizona.edu
Nancy Moran: nmoran@email.arizona.edu
Related Web sites:
The Moran Laboratory: http://eebweb.arizona.edu/faculty/moran
UA Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology: http://eebweb.arizona.edu
Center for Insect Science: http://cis.arl.arizona.edu
University of Arizona science news is online @ http://uanews.org/science

Source: EurekAlert.org
19 April 2007

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1.38  Research on grey mould offers possible breakthrough in tomato cultivation

Tomato growers are likely to soon be able to cultivate new tomato varieties without having to use pesticides against grey mould (Botrytis cinerea). This is the conclusion of the STW-sponsored thesis by Richard Finkers from Wageningen University, with which he hopes to earn his doctorate on 3 April 2007. Finkers designed highly efficient methods whereby tomato varieties can be resistant to grey mould. The leading company De Ruiter Seeds is already applying these methods in its breeding programme.

Finkers started off with wild tomato accessions that were resistant to grey mould. When crossing the resistant wild tomato Solanum habrochaites LYC4 with the susceptible S. lycopersicum cv. Moneymaker, he identified two areas with resistant genes in the DNA.

This, however, did not explain all the variations in resistance. With this in mind, Finkers next made a step-by-step scan of the entire genome of the wild tomato to identify locations that have an effect on resistance. Ten areas were found that accommodated resistance factors against grey mould. DNA-markers were then developed for each area to be able to track the presence of each resistance factor in breeding programmes.

With help of the DNA-markers, the identified areas can now be intentionally introgressed in the breeding programmes of De Ruiter Seeds, a Dutch company with a global reputation in the field. Using the DNA-markers, it expects to market new tomatoes that are resistant to grey mould in the near future. The new varieties will mean tomato growers will have to devote far less resources – or perhaps none at all – to combating B. cinerea.

An additional benefit of these new tomatoes is that they will be more suitable for closed glasshouse cultivation. This new type of glasshouse has a higher atmospheric humidity that actually increases the chance of grey mould activity. By providing tomato varieties resistant to grey mould, De Ruiter Seeds will fill a worldwide need that has long been around.

The research was partly financed by STW (the Technology and Sciences Association) and De Ruiter Seeds. As the developed knowledge obtained from this research has been patented, and therefore both protected and made accessible.

For more information: Richard Finkers richard.finkers@wur.nl

30 March 2007

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1.39  Towards identification of photoperiod genes in cotton

Induced mutations can be used to produce cotton without day-length sensitivity. This technique can allow wild and primitive cotton germplasm to be fully utilized in improvement programs. Most of the cotton exotic germplasm are photoperiod-sensitive that does not flower in long-day conditions of summer cultivations.

A group of researchers from the United States and Uzbekistan have presented conversion studies in cotton that turned photoperiod sensitive germplasm into day-neutral (where flowering is not affected by day-length). The researchers used 32P irradiation to derive the cotton mutants. The mutants were subsequently examined by using 250 microsatellite (SSR) primer pairs to determine patterns of mutation in the SSR loci.

It was found out that the induced mutagenesis both increased and decreased the allele sizes of SSRs in mutants with the higher mutation rate in SSRs containing dinucleotide motifs. The researchers have also determined that there was significant modification of mutants from their original wild types, with most mutants having improved agronomic qualities. The results may be useful in understanding photoperiod-related mutations, and can aid in the identification of photoperiodic flowering genes in cotton in the future.

For the complete paper published by the Journal of Heredity, please visit http://jhered.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/esm007v1.

Source: CropBiotech Update via SeedQuest.com
20 April 2007

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1.40  In vitro breeding of Brassica for metal phytoextraction

Research on the use of several plant species for metal phytoextraction had been initiated in the past. Metal phytoextraction is the uptake of heavy metals, such as cadmium and lead, from contaminated soils to the aboveground parts of plants. The contaminants are then removed from the site by harvesting the plants.

Indian mustard, Brassica juncea, is among the plant species recognized to have potential for phytoextraction. Researchers in Switzerland recently have shown that in vitro breeding and somaclonal variation can be used to improve the potential of the plant species to extract and accumulate toxic metals. The researchers generated somaclonal variants of the Indian mustard from metal-tolerant callus cells.

The new phenotypes were found to have improved tolerance to cadmium, zinc and lead under hydrophonic conditions. These plants were able to extract cadmium and lead by up to six and four times higher than the control plants, respectively. The researchers concluded that the clones could be used to further assess metal accumulation and extraction properties in contaminated soils under real field conditions for phytoremediation purpose.

The abstract in Plant Cell Reports, with links to the full paper for journal subscribers, is at http://www.springerlink.com/content/p0p370n036253r80/.

From CropBiotech Update 4 April 2007

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

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1.41  Cassava varieties bred with resistance to Cassava Brown Streak Disease

Cassava varieties resistant to cassava brown streak disease (CBSD) have been developed by scientists at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in collaboration with their counterparts at the National Agricultural Research Systems in Tanzania. This is good news for African farmers who suffer as much as 80% yield losses in cassava production to CBSD. This dreaded root rot-causing disease has been ravaging the cassava belt in the Great Lake region.

Dr Edward Kanju, IITA cassava plant breeder, and Mr Haji Saleh, from the Ministry of Agriculture, Kizimbani, Zanzibar, say that "The farmers involved in the participatory breeding project 'drove' the government to officially release the CBSD field-resistant cultivars. The challenge is now to replace the susceptible plants with the newly released resistant varieties."
Read the full news article at http://www.iita.org/cms/details/news_details.aspx?articleid=1004&zoneid=81 .

From CropBiotech Update 4 May 2007:

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

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1.42  Amino acids profile in cassava, its interspecific hybrid and progenies

Abstract
Cassava roots have low protein content (0.7-2%). Amino-acids such as lysine and methionine are also low, whereas some research reports indicated the absence of methionine. The amino-acid profile of a cassava common cultivar and an interspecific hybrid -namely ICB 300, were analyzed by the computerized amino acid analizer Hitachi L-8500. The interspecific hybrid has 10-times more lysine and 3-times more methionine than the common cassava cultivar: lysine content was 0.010 g per 100 g in the common cassava cultivar while it reached 0.098 in the interspecific hybrid. Methionine in the common cassava cultivar was 0.014 g per 100 g whereas it reached 0.041 g per 100 g in the interspecific hybrid. Total amino acid content in the common cassava cultivar was 0.254 g per 100g viz. a viz. 1.664 g per 100g in the interspecific hybrid.   The genetic variability of the amino acid profile and quantity indicates the feasibility of selecting interspecific hybrids that are rich in both crude protein and amino acids. This is the first report on high true protein in cassava root.

Article available online at: http://www.geneconserve.pro.br/artigo_35.htm

Nagib M. A. Nassar(1) and Marcelo Vale de Sousa(2)
(1)Departamento de Genética e Morfología and
(2)Departamento de Biologia Celular respectively,
Universidade de Brasilia, Brasilia, Brazil

Contributed by Nagib Nassar
nagnassa@rudah.com.br

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1.43  Prompt progress made against a new threat to watermelon

Washington, DC
A keen eye, fast action, and a vast plant collection may help nip in the bud a potential widespread threat to watermelons.

Last July, plant pathologist Chandrasekar Kousik of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) U.S. Vegetable Laboratory in Charleston, S.C., was conducting field studies on a watermelon disease when he made a startling discovery: significant infestations of broad mites on watermelon plants.

Kousik knew that he had made a troublesome finding, as broad mites had never been reported on watermelon plants in the United States.

Broad mites, Polyphagotarsonemus latus, feed on at least 60 plant families. Cucumbers are highly susceptible to the mite, which on the watermelon plants was seen damaging tender leaves and growing tips. Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) is an important economic commodity grown in 44 states--most prominently in Florida, Georgia, Texas, California, Indiana, South Carolina and North Carolina.

The discovery inspired Kousik, fellow Vegetable Laboratory scientists Amnon Levi and Alvin Simmons, and Clemson University researchers to seek ways to use plants' natural resistance to fight off the mite.

They turned to a collection of wild watermelon--plants from different regions of the world--maintained by the ARS Plant Genetic Resources Conservation Unit in Griffin, Ga.

The researchers studied 219 plant accessions and ultimately chose six they regarded as having the best resistance potential against broad mites. Kousik then led greenhouse studies that confirmed this resistance in the six selected introductions by artificially infesting the candidate plants with broad mites that had been cultured on susceptible watermelon plants.

According to Kousik, these wild watermelon varieties may be useful as sources of natural genetic resistance during the development of commercial watermelon varieties that resist the mites.

Identifying and developing host-plant resistance to broad mites--which are usually controlled by pesticides that can also harm beneficial parasitoids and predators--are practices that fit well into environmentally friendly crop-protection strategies, according to Kousik.

ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
Luis Pons luis.pons@ars.usda.gov

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

Source: SeedQuest.com
11 April 2007

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1.44  Barley gene find could mean more beer per bushel

Bundoora, Victoria, Australia
Beer lovers and barley growers could soon be raising their glasses to Australian scientists who may have found a way to increase beer supply.

Researchers at the Molecular Plant Breeding CRC are looking for genes that protect barley from pre-harvest sprouting, a grain condition that causes substantial reductions in barley yield and significant economic losses for farmers.

Under prolonged wet or damp conditions, barley grains begin to germinate or ‘sprout’. Sometimes this happens while the crop is still standing, before the barley is harvested.

Pre-harvest sprouted barley is useless for beer making because the starch has been degraded and the grain can’t be malted.

Instead, farmers are forced to sell their grain in the considerably less profitable animal feed market, and beer drinkers are denied the ales and lagers for which Australian barley is known.

Ms Yumiko Bonnardeaux, a PhD student at the WA Department of Agriculture and Food, says that pre-harvest sprouting could be eradicated by breeding barley lines that contain ‘dormancy genes’.

Similar to the way bears hibernate in the winter and emerge in spring when the weather is warmer and food plentiful, the seeds of many plants have a mechanism which enables them to only germinate when the conditions are favourable for growth.

“Warm temperatures or rain can act as cues for seeds, telling them that the time is right for germination,” says Ms Bonnardeaux.

“But dormant seeds are prevented from germinating, even under the conditions that encourage germination.”

“The greater number of dormancy genes a barley plant has, the greater its resistance to pre-harvest sprouting.”

“The challenge is to develop barley grain that is dormant enough to withstand pre-harvest sprouting but not so deeply dormant that the grain doesn’t germinate during the malting.”

Ironically, Ms Bonnardeaux says, pre-harvest sprouting is a result of our own quest for the perfect beer.

“Over the years, farmers have continually selected and bred varieties with lower seed dormancy to provide grain that will germinate rapidly in the malthouse. As a result, malting varieties often have low dormancy and are more susceptible to preharvest sprouting.”

Ms Bonnardeaux has found pre-harvest sprouting to be a very complicated trait controlled by multiple genes and environmental factors.

“Depending on the environment, different genes controlling dormancy get switched on. That’s why grain from the same barley variety may have a different dormancy response depending on the site that it’s grown on.”

“This is also why it’s difficult for breeders to reliably predict which barley lines will have pre-harvest sprouting tolerance, as this can change from year to year.”

As a part of her PhD research, Ms Bonnardeaux has located regions of barley chromosomes that may contain previously unidentified dormancy genes. These have been tested extensively across different sites and over two seasons for pre-harvest sprouting.

Using the well studied plant Arabidopsis, or ‘Thale cress’, as a guide, she has identified several potential dormancy genes and is now mapping these in the same barley population.

“The next step is to find out whether these genes are located in chromosomal regions known to be involved in controlling dormancy in barley. This would identify whether these are candidate genes to do further research on.”

Once it is certain which genes confer the dormancy ability, molecular tests can be developed that predict which varieties have these genes. Plant breeders will then be able to develop varieties that are tolerant to pre-harvest sprouting.

The Molecular Plant Breeding CRC is a Cooperative Research Centre established under the Australian Government's CRC Program.

Source: SeedQuest.com
17 April 2007

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1.45  Scientists unlock secret of what makes plants flower

The study reveals the likely mechanism by which the Arabidopsis plant flowers in response to changes in day length. Earlier research had shown that plants' leaves perceived seasonal changes in day length, which triggers a long-distance signal to travel through the plant's vascular system from the leaf to the shoot apex, where flowering is induced. However, the identity of the long-distance signal remained unclear.

This new research, carried out by scientists at Imperial College London and the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne, has led to the proposal that this signal is a protein known as Flowering Locus T Protein (FT protein), which is produced in leaves by the Flowering Locus T gene (FT gene). It travels through the plant's vascular system to the shoot apex, where it activates other genes, causing the plant to flower. The research team were able to track the progress of the protein through the plant by tagging it with a green fluorescent protein originally isolated from jellyfish, allowing it to be detected in living tissues using highly sensitive microscope systems.

The team then grafted two plants together, only one of which contained the gene for the fluorescent version of FT. This allowed them to show conclusively that FT protein moved from where it was produced in the leaves of one plant, across into the other plant.

The FT protein is produced when the FT gene is switched on by another gene known as CONSTANS. This is a key gene expressed in leaves which reacts to changes in day length.

Dr Colin Turnbull from Imperial College London's Division of Biology, who carried out the research, said: "This could be a really important breakthrough in plant science. Since the 1930s when it first became clear that something was communicating the perception of changes in day length in leaves to the shoot apex, and causing flowering, scientists have been trying to work out exactly how this mechanism works.

"Over the past couple of years several labs made exciting discoveries all pointing to the FT gene being central to controlling flowering time. Now that we have been able to track FT protein moving from its source in leaves to its destination in the shoot tip, we have a plausible explanation for how plants respond to day length. Parallel work in Japan shows very similar mechanisms operating in rice, so there is immediate potential to translate research into practical benefits for food crops. The ability to control flowering is of enormous commercial significance across food and non-food species, for example extending production seasons or designing plants better adapted to changing climate."

Contact: Danielle Reeves
danielle.reeves@imperial.ac.uk
Imperial College London

Source: EurekAlert.org
19 April 2007

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1.46  Scientists turn genetic keys to unlock bioenergy in switchgrass

Washington, DC
Using genetic "snapshots" of switchgrass, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and collaborating scientists are gaining new insight into how this warm-season perennial plant could be harnessed as an ethanol resource.

The snapshots are actually fragments of genetic material called messenger RNA (mRNA), and they're like molecular workhorses that do the bidding of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). One key task is delivering instructions to make proteins.

Over the past few years, ARS molecular biologist Gautam Sarath and colleagues have generated tens of thousands of the mRNA snapshots depicting switchgrass from the moment it sprouts from seed to the time it girds itself for winter.

Determining the nucleotide sequences of the mRNA snapshots provides clues as to which genes have been turned on or shut off during such moments, according to Sarath, at the ARS Grain, Forage and Bioenergy Research Unit in Lincoln, Neb.

Since 2003, Sarath, Paul Twigg of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Christian Tobias, a molecular biologist with ARS in Albany, Calif., have determined the sequences of about 12,000 switchgrass gene fragments. At least 12 of them are associated with genes that regulate the production and deposition of lignin, the cementing agent that holds plant cell walls together.

Bioenergy producers are keen on loosening the grip of lignin so that more of the sugars locked within the cells of switchgrass can be fermented into ethanol. Currently, sugars from the starch of grain crops like corn are used. One possible approach is to conventionally breed or genetically engineer new varieties of the grass with a diminished capacity to produce lignin.

To speed the discovery of important genes besides those for lignin production, the ARS scientists submit the genetic fragments they amass to the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute in Walnut Creek, Calif. There, scientists employ state-of-the-art sequencers so that the fragments' identities and function can be more quickly determined through comparisons to the genomes of corn, rice and other grasses.

Learn more about this and other ARS bioenergy research in the April 2007 issue of Agricultural Research magazine, available online at: http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/apr07/grass0407.htm.

ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
Jan Suszkiw jan.suszkiw@ars.usda.gov

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

Source: SeedQuest.com
20 April 2007

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1.47  Fungus responsible for Africa's deadly maize identified

It's now clear that a poisonous strain of the fungus Aspergillus flavus, known as the "S" strain, is to blame for causing 125 food-related deaths in Kenya in 2004, according to research by an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plant pathologist and his colleagues.

The fungus, which produces invisible toxins that are known to be carcinogenic, had contaminated portions of the country's maize crop. This is the third time since 1981 that the so-called "Kenyan death fungus" has tainted the African nation's primary food staple with deadly levels of poisons.

Peter Cotty, an ARS scientist based in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Arizona in Tucson, and Claudia Probst, of the University of Arizona, worked with Henry Njapau of the Food and Drug Administration in College Park, Md., to investigate which Aspergillus strain was the culprit. Cotty is administratively part of the ARS Southern Regional Research Center in New Orleans, La.

The scientists' findings, reported in the current issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology, will be critical to researchers who are trying to devise methods for preventing future cases of fungal poisoning, or aflatoxicosis, in African maize.

Aflatoxins are natural poisons produced by certain fungi that belong to the genus Aspergillus. Health consequences related to consuming aflatoxin-contaminated foods include impaired growth, cancer and death.

These toxins can contaminate an array of crops including corn, cottonseed, peanuts and tree nuts. To ensure public safety, many countries, including the United States, have established maximum allowable levels for aflatoxin in farm products. Unfortunately, these standards do little to reduce the ingestion of locally grown, fungus-infested crops in small rural communities in Africa.

Through a special permit, the researchers were able to obtain samples of contaminated maize from affected Kenyan villages. After grinding the corn, they isolated the fungi and grew them in culture. Surprisingly, they found the "S" strain of A. flavus, a potent aflatoxin producer not previously known in Africa, to be the most prevalent source of toxins in the maize.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.
http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2007/070426.htm

By Erin Peabody
26 April 26 2007

Contributed by Ranajit Bandyopadhyay
IITA
R.Bandyopadhyay@CGIAR.ORG

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1.48  Gene controlling rice grain size and weight identified

A team of scientists led by Prof. Hongxuan of the National Key Laboratory of Plant Molecular Genetics, Shanghai Institute of Plant Physiology and Ecology, China, have successfully cloned a gene, GW2, which controls the size and weight of rice grains. Rice plants that lack a functional copy of GW2 produce bigger rice grains with more cells and wider spikelet hulls, which results in an increase in yield. GW2 acts by restricting the rate at which cells divide during the formation of the grain. As grain size is a critical agronomic quality, GW2 could therefore be an important tool for improving production. The research is reported in the latest issue of Nature Genetics.

More information available at: http://english.cas.ac.cn/eng2003/news/detailnewsb.asp?InfoNo=26498
Read the abstract of the article: "A QTL for rice grain width and weight encodes a previously unknown RING-type E3 ubiquitin ligase" at: http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/ng2014.html

From CropBiotech Update 12 April 2007:

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

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1.49  Cornell researchers zero in on genes that turn a plant's ability to self-pollinate on and off -- a potential boon for hybrids

Ithaca, New York
Some plants need a partner to reproduce. Pollen from one plant pollinates the stigma of another, and a seed is formed. But other plants can self-pollinate, a handy survival mechanism for a lonely plant.

The ability to self-pollinate turns up in cultivated tomatoes and canola, among other important crops, and sometimes it can be a nuisance for plant breeders and seed producers who want to develop highly desirable hybrid varieties and produce hybrid seed on a commercial scale. To get hybrid seed, they plant two different varieties in the same field to allow them to cross-pollinate. But if one or both varieties can self-pollinate, workers must remove the pollen sacs (anthers) from the flowers by hand to prevent "selfing."

This is so labor-intensive that it is usually only done in countries where labor is cheap.

Now Cornell University researchers are zeroing in on genes that turn a plant's ability to self-pollinate on and off. Their work is described in the May 1 issue of the journal Current Biology and in the journal's online edition.

"The long-term goal is to understand how self-pollination is inhibited in self-incompatible plants, which are unable to self-pollinate because their stigmas can recognize and reject their own pollen. Then you could transfer this ability to any plant and use it to make hybrids," said June Nasrallah, the Barbara McClintock Professor of Plant Biology at Cornell.

Nasrallah's research group is working with Arabidopsis thaliana, a plant related to cabbage and mustard that is widely used in plant genetic research and whose genome has been sequenced. Previously, the group showed that two genes known as SCR and SRK are the key to self-incompatibility. SCR codes for a protein on the surface of pollen grains, and SRK codes for a receptor in the cell membranes of stigma cells. When these two proteins come from the same plant, the stigma rejects the pollen, and fertilization does not occur.

A. thaliana is highly self-fertile, but the Nasrallah group inserted SCR and SRK genes from another species, A. lyrata, which is self-incompatible, and created A. thaliana varieties that ranged from self-incompatible to "pseudo self-compatible," where a plant resists self-pollination for a while, but if it is not pollinated from another plant it will eventually accept its own pollen. In nature, pseudo self-compatibility is a best-of-two-worlds mating strategy, Nasrallah said, because it maintains the benefits of out-crossing while providing reproductive assurance when mates or pollinators are scarce.

In the latest research, Pei Liu, a postdoctoral researcher in Nasrallah's laboratory, and colleagues mapped the genomes of several varieties of transgenic A. thaliana in fine detail and isolated a gene known as PUB8 that seems to regulate the expression of SRK -- that is, whether or not it is turned on to manufacture its protein.

The PUB8 gene shows some variation from one variety of A. thaliana to another, i.e., the DNA sequence contains a few different bases here and there. The degree to which self-incompatibility is turned on in the plant seems to correlate with these variations. PUB8-mediated pseudo self-compatibility might have been a transitional phase in the evolutionary switch from self-incompatibility to selfing in A. thaliana, Nasrallah speculates.

PUB8 is very close to SCR and SRK on the genome. It is unusual to find a regulatory gene so close to the gene it regulates, the researchers noted. PUB8 is expressed in other parts of the plant and probably has other functions, they said, adding that still other genes are probably involved in self-incompatibility.

Co-authors of the paper, along with Pei and Nasrallah, are graduate student Susan Sherman-Broyles and Mikhail Nasrallah, Cornell professor of plant biology.

By Bill Steele

Source: SeedQuest.com
20 April 2007

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1.50  Intragenic vectors for gene transfer without foreign DNA

Intragenic vectors are the functional equivalents of vector components used in genetic engineering. These are referred to as intragenic because they come from the genome of a specific crop species (or related species to which it can be hybridized). Unlike ‘foreign’ DNA, their use for transferring genes between plants of the same species are expected not to raise similar ethical concerns in the GM debate as transfer of genes from unrelated species.

Elite cultivars can be further improved with this vector system and by using tools of molecular biology and plant transformation, says Anthony Conner and his group in New Zealand and the Netherlands. By using intragenic vectors, linkage drag is avoided and the resulting plants may also be considered non-transgenic.

Conner and his group reviewed the progress toward the development and use of intragenic vectors and the implications of their use for the genetic improvement of crops. Intragenic vectors have been assembled by replacing the Agrobacterium T-DNA by plant-derived transfer DNA (P-DNA), or by constructing plant derived T-DNA regions by adjoining two or more fragments from the same species.

The paper published by the journal Euphytica can be accessed by subscribers at http://www.springerlink.com/content/98314q74w8338t48/

Source: Crop Biotech Update
12 April 2007

Contributed by Elcio Guimaraes

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1.51  Single dominant gene controls chlorophyll content in rice

Past studies have shown that chlorophyll (Chl) content is positively correlated with photosynthetic rate and plant productivity. Thus, an approach that plant breeders has been considering is to increase the Chl content in crops to effect increase in biomass production and yield.

Recent research by a group of researchers at the Chongqing University revealed information that may be useful in understanding the control of Chl trait in rice. The Chinese researchers have analyzed the identified a single dominant gene, called Gc, that controls Chl content in rice. This observation is contrary to previous belief that the Chl content is a polygenic character and is controlled by many genes.

Introgression of the Gc gene from the rice mutant 'Chongqing 2' to the cultivar 'Zhenshan 97B' was performed by the researchers. The leaves of the progenies were determined to be 'dark green' and have 100% increase in Chl. The leaf coloration follows that of the 'Chongqing 2' parent. The researchers have also observed that the photosynthetic rate, biomass, and grain yield of the progenies also increased by 20%, 17% and 16%, respectively.

The complete article to be published in the Journal of Plant Physiology can be accessed by subscribers at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jplph.2006.11.006.

From CropBiotech Update 4 May 2007:

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

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1.52  Update 3-2007 of FAO-BiotechNews

(Selected articles by the editor, PBN-L)
Here is Update 3-2007 of FAO-BiotechNews, the 65th Update of this newsletter which was launched by FAO over five years ago. As usual, we welcome your feedback and encourage you to tell your colleagues about it. Instructions for subscribing (or unsubscribing) are given at the end of the Update. In addition, instructions for subscribing to the French, Russian or Spanish versions of this newsletter are also given at the end.

The Coordinator of FAO-BiotechNews, 13-4-2007
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
E-mail address: FAO-Biotech-News@fao.org
FAO website http://www.fao.org
FAO Biotechnology website http://www.fao.org/biotech/index.asp (in Arabic,
Chinese, English, French and Spanish)

*** NEWS *** ( http://www.fao.org/biotech/news_list.asp?thexpand=1&cat=131)

1) GMOs in crop production - Environmental effects
On 18-20 January 2005, FAO hosted an expert consultation in Rome, Italy, on "Genetically modified organisms in crop production and their effects on the environment: Methodologies for monitoring and the way ahead". Proceedings of the consultation, edited by K. Ghosh and P.C. Jepson, are now available on the web, consisting of the report plus a selection of papers presented by invited speakers. 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, and that a continuous engagement of stakeholders is essential for success of the process. Two distinct strategies were developed that could be used as the basis for efficient monitoring programmes. See http://www.fao.org/docrep/009/a0802e/a0802e00.htm or contact kakoli.ghosh@fao.org to request a copy.

3) CGRFA 11th Regular Session documents
The 11th Regular Session of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA) takes place on 11-15 June 2007 in Rome, Italy. Documents for the meeting are now available on the web, some of which are directly related to biotechnology, namely "Progress on the Draft Code of Conduct on Biotechnology as it relates to genetic resources for food and agriculture: policy issues, gaps and duplications" (document CGRFA-11/07/13); "Guiding principles for the development of CGIAR Centres' policies to address the possibility of unintentional presence of transgenes in ex situ collections" (document CGRFA-11/07/14 Rev.1); "The State of the World's Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture: Final Version" (document CGRFA-11/07/Inf.6); as well as a report from FAO providing an overview of the main activities being undertaken in six of FAO's Priority Areas for Inter-Disciplinary Action (PAIAs), including the Biotechnology PAIA, that are most relevant to the work of the CGRFA (document CGRFA-11/07/20.3). See http://www.fao.org/ag/cgrfa/cgrfa11.htm (documents will eventually be available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French and Spanish) or contact cgrfa@fao.org for more information.

5) Archives of e-mail conference on biotechnologies and water scarcity
The FAO moderated e-mail conference entitled "Coping with water scarcity in developing countries: What role for agricultural biotechnologies?" is now finished. It ran from 5 March to 1 April 2007, about 430 people subscribed and 78 messages were posted by 50 people in 24 different countries. About two thirds of the messages came from developing countries. Topics discussed included the development of drought tolerant crops, through marker-assisted selection or conventional breeding; genetic modification and alternatives to genetic modification in solving water scarcity; use of bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi inoculants; and the use of biotechnologies for treating wastewater to be used in agriculture. The messages are available at http://www.fao.org/biotech/logs/c14logs.htm or can be requested as a single e-mail (size 128 KB) from biotech-admin@fao.org 

9) Manual of seed handling in genebanks
As part of Bioversity International's Handbooks for Genebanks series, "Manual of seed handling in genebanks' by N.K. Rao, J. Hanson, M.E. Dulloo, K. Ghosh, D. Nowell and M. Larinde has just been published. Publication of the 147-page manual is a joint initiative of Bioversity International, FAO and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), sponsored in part by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA). The manual, which is accompanied by a self-learning module, is intended for genebank staff, especially technicians who handle orthodox seeds, and attempts to give simple explanations of procedures for the day-to-day management of seed-handing in genebanks. One of the many topics addressed in the manual is seed testing for inadvertent introduction of transgenes. See http://www.fao.org/waicent/FaoInfo/Agricult/AGP/AGPS/publ.htm (in English and French) or contact michael.larinde@fao.org for more information.

10) Plant breeding and biotechnology capacity in the Caucacus
On 21-22 February 2007, a regional workshop was held in Tbilisi, Georgia, on "Assessing and designing strategies to strengthen national plant breeding and biotechnology capacity in the Caucasus", organised by FAO in collaboration with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA). The 4-page report of the workshop is now available. See http://apps3.fao.org/wiews/docs/Workshop%20Draft%20Report%2004%20Regional%20230207.pdf or contact elcio.guimaraes@fao.org for more information.

12) FAO/IAEA Plant Breeding and Genetics Newsletter 18
The January 2007 newsletter from the Plant Breeding and Genetics Section of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture and the FAO/IAEA Agriculture and Biotechnology Laboratory is now available. This 20-page newsletter, issued twice a year, gives an overview of their past and upcoming events (meetings, training courses etc.), ongoing projects and publications. See http://www-naweb.iaea.org/nafa/pbg/public/pb-nl-18.pdf (706 KB) or contact k.allaf@iaea.org to request a copy.

16) GMO field trials in OECD countries
A new webpage of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has compiled links to websites of some OECD member countries and the European Commission containing publicly available information on field trials of transgenic organisms. See http://www.oecd.org/document/41/0,2340,en_2649_37437_38235049_1_1_1_37437,00.html or contact icgb@oecd.org for more information.

************
This newsletter contains news and event items that are relevant to applications of biotechnology in food and agriculture in developing countries. Its main focus is on the activities of FAO, of other United Nations agencies/bodies and of the 15 CGIAR research centres. Items from the newsletter may be reproduced, provided that the source (FAO-BiotechNews, http://www.fao.org/biotech/) is given.
Copyright FAO 2007

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2  PUBLICATIONS

2.01  Biplot analysis and plant breeding

A few years ago I published a book "GGE Biplot Analysis" (Yan and Kang, 2002, CRC Press). That book was well received and the GGE biplot analysis method described in that book was adopted by plant breeders worldwide.

After over 5 years' renovation and refinement, the biplot methodology becomes more complete, comprehensive, and mature. I have made the document that described these methods and developments available in the internet recently ( www.ggebiplot.com/biplot.htm), but few plant breeders know this. In my opinion, this is so far the most informative website on biplot analysis, genotype by environment interaction analysis, and plant breeding related data analysis, and there is Breeder's Kit in it. The site was developed on my own time and is not associated with any public or private entities.

Weikai Yan

#####

(Excerpts from the biplot website: www.ggebiplot.com/biplot.htm)
The biplot was originally proposed by Gabriel (1971) as graphical too to present results from principal component analysis (PCA). It is a scatter plot that graphically displays a rank-2 matrix by both the rows (entries) and columns (testers). "Bi" means "both". A rank-2 matrix is matrix that results from multiplying a matrix with 2 columns by another matrix with 2 rows. Most two-way tables are not a rank-2 matrix. However, if a two-way table can be sufficiently approximated by a rank-2 matrix, then it can be effectively investigated using a 2-D biplot. Likewise, a 3-D biplot can be used to effectively investigate a rank-3 matrix.

Graphical display is desirable, if not necessary, for fully understanding large datasets with complex interconnectedness and interactions.  Hence the saying "One picture is worth a thousand words." The GGE biplot methodology is by far the most powerful "picture" for visualizing large two-way tables, particularly those from agricultural and life science researches.

There is no argument among researchers whether biplot is useful in understanding their data. What limits the use of biplot by researchers is the availability of  user-friendly software. There are many macros in all major statistical packages. Their use requires considerable training, however. GGEbiplot is developed for all researchers, particularly for those who are not particularly trained in statistics and computer application.

CONTENT
Introduction to biplot analysis
Start GGEbiplot
GGEbiplot: function organization
Functions for VARIOUS types of data

Submitted by Weikai Yan
wyan@ggebiplot.com

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2.02  1000 plant diseases mapped by CABI

This month, April 2007, sees the publication of map number 1000 of Distribution Maps of Plant Diseases, the authoritative source for accurate data on the worldwide distribution of plant diseases of economic or quarantine importance, published by CABI in association with the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization (EPPO).

1st published in 1942, Distribution Maps of Plant Diseases is a respected, referenced source of distribution data, expertly compiled and validated and used by plant health organisations around the world. The maps cover important diseases affecting agriculture, horticulture and forestry. Two sets of 18 disease maps are produced each year, covering fungi, bacteria, viruses and nematodes, comprising mostly new maps and also some map revisions. Many maps have been revised following changes to taxonomy or distribution, some a number of times; the most revised map is currently Peronospora hyoscyami f.sp. tabacina (map no. 23), which was revised for the 10th time in 1998

Since April 2006, Distribution Maps of Plant Diseases as well as its sister product, Distribution Maps of Plant Pests (with maps of nearly 700 arthropod plant pest species), have also been available in electronic format with a complete and fully searchable electronic back file dating back over the 65 years of their publication.

And the 1000th disease species to be mapped is Oidium neolycopersici L. Kiss, a fungus commonly known as tomato powdery mildew, affecting the leaves and stems of, as the name suggests, mainly tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum). Severe infections caused by O. neolycopersici, especially if they start early in the growing season, lead to a reduction in fruit size and quality. Apparently, it was absent in Canada and the USA until the 1990s, but soon after its 1st detection on greenhouse tomatoes in Quebec, Canada, the pathogen spread rapidly from one region to another in North America, and it is now widespread in many states of Canada and the USA. This indicates that the fungus can be considered as an invasive species, as it can spread rapidly in new areas, where it sometimes causes economic damage. O. neolycopersici was only recently recognized as a distinct species of the Erysiphaceae during studies by Kiss et al., and this recent clarification has enabled us to accurately map this species now.

To celebrate the publication of map no. 1000, we have made this map open access.

For more information about this product, including the processes involved in making the maps, how to get a free trial or subscribe, and for a full list of the species that are mapped in Distribution Maps of Plant Diseases, please go to http://www.cababstractsplus.org/DMPD

Allan Dodds dodds@ucr.edu

http://cabiblog.typepad.com/hand_picked/2007/04/1000_diseases_m.html
Source: CABI via SeedQuest.com
13 April 2007

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2.03  Intellectual property management in health and agricultural innovation

A free resource from MIHR and PIPRA
About the book
The IPHandbook is a comprehensive resource on current IP management issues and approaches. The book offers information and strategies for utilizing the power of both IP and the public domain for a diverse audience including policy makers, technology transfer professionals, licensing executives, and scientists.

Download sample chapters of the book in pdf format: IP Handbook-Sample Chapters.pdf

Contibuted by Anatole Krattiger
afk3@cornell.edu

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2.04  Sahelian Droughts: A Partial Agronomic Solution

Anthony E. Hall
Complete text available at: www.plantstress.com/Files/Sahel_Drought.pdf

Agricultural development in sub-Saharan Africa, cowpea  breeding, physiology and agronomy are discussed. This memoir  describes the development of a partial agronomic solution to  the droughts that have plagued the Sahel since 1968.

Contributed by Anthony Hall
Professor Emeritus
University of California Riverside
anthony.hall@ucr.edu

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3.  WEB RESOURCES

3.01  New lupin website is a one stop shop: www.lupins.org

Western Australia
A ‘one stop shop’ for lupin growers has come on-line where Western Australian growers can now access historic, agronomic, varietal and production information about lupins on the new website.

Upwards of 750,000 hectares of Western Australia is planted annually to lupins, making Western Australia the world’s biggest producer.

The website will be a valuable resource for growers, with valuable information about the $100 million lupin industry, from end products to growing tips.

The new website, www.lupins.org is dedicated to promoting lupins for:
-growers and agronomists looking for the latest lupin production knowledge;
-buyers of protein grains;
-processors requiring the highest nutritional value for food and feed, and
-educators looking for resources.
Developed by Pulse Western Australia, the website offers links to the most current information on all aspects of research, agronomy and end uses of lupins.

Grains Research and Development Corporation Manager, Pulse/Oilseed/Summer Crop Breeding, Brondwen MacLean said providing such detailed lupin industry information at a one-stop website, was an excellent tool, especially for growers.

Growers can review the many lupin varieties produced by breeding programs in Australia, Chile, Denmark, Germany, Poland, Russia, Ukraine and USA that have shown improved agronomic characteristics, particularly for yield and disease.

Ms MacLean said, for example, growers could now conveniently look at a table of varieties and review maturity times, anthracnose resistance, aphid resistance, metribuzin tolerance and grain protein levels.

Source: GRDC's The Crop Doctor via SeedQuest.com
4 April 2007

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3.02  Underutilized species – revised website

Opening GFU's web site you will notice that the menu is changed as we are adding new items.

A database "Underutilized Species" intends to provide information on specific species and is being compiled. It will grow over the next few months.

It includes basic data such as where does the species come from, where it grows and where is it used, projects, experts, documents, reference to important portals and other relevant links that will give you an entry point for your further search.

We look forward to hearing from you about anything you would like to see included (pictures, text, links etc) or improvements we could make to this section of GFU's portal as well as to the whole portal and the service GFU provides to its stakeholders striving to improve our service.

Source: Global Facilitation Unit (GFU) monthly news update
www.underutilized-species.org

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4.  GRANTS AVAILABLE

4.01  SACC Canola and Hesperaloe/Desert Crop RFA Issued

A new request for applications (RFA) was issued on Grants.gov Web site Friday April 28, for the Fiscal Year 2007 Supplemental and Alternative Crops Competitive Grants Program (SACC), Canola and Hesperaloe/Desert Crop research. ( See CSREES Update-- April 4, 2007.) SACC grants are made to develop and introduce income producing supplemental and alternative crops. The proposal deadline is close of business May 28, 2007, (5 p.m. eastern daylight time). Applications received after this deadline will not be considered for funding.

Contact James Parochetti, CSREES national program leader in the Plant and Animal Systems unit for Canola research information, and Carmela Bailey, CSREES national program leader for Plant and Animal Systems unit for Hesperaloe/Desert Crop research information

Contributed by Ann Marie Thro
CSREES, USDA
athro@csrees.usda.gov

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5.  POSITION ANNOUNCEMENTS

5.01  UC Davis Russell Ranch Sustainable Agriculture Facility Research Manager

The Research Manager is responsible for the management of, participation in, and coordination with crop production personnel, of research activities at the UC Davis Russell Ranch Sustainable Agriculture Facility [includes Sustainable Agriculture Farming Systems (SAFS) and Long Term Research on Agricultural Systems (LTRAS) projects], including core data collection, archiving and statistical analyses. The Research Manager works with Principal Investigators (PIs) to write reports to granting agencies and prepare papers for publication in scientific journals. The Research Manager schedules and coordinates group meetings, the annual field day, technical workshops and other outreach activities. He/She interacts closely with SAFS public information coordinator. The Research Manager works with PIs to develop grant proposals to ensure continuation of the project. The Research Manager is encouraged to pursue personal research interests within the framework of the SAFS project.  Salary is dependent on experience and ranges from $3,892 to $5,033 per month plus benefits.  Review of applications begins May 15, 2007.

Qualifications:
Ph.D. in agronomy, soil science, plant science, pest science or agroecology or related field.

Application:
Applications will include a CV, three relevant published papers and names and addresses (including telephone and email) of three references. Applications can be sent as hardcopy or electronically (preferred) to:

William R. Horwáth
3226 Plant and Environmental Science Building
Department of Land, Air and Water Resources
University of California
One Shields Ave.
Davis, CA 95616-8627
Tel: (530) 754-6029
Fax: (530) 752-1552
wrhorwath@ucdavis.edu

UC Davis is an affirmative action/equal employment opportunity employer and is dedicated to recruiting a diverse faculty community.  We welcome all qualified applicants to apply, including women, minorities, veterans, and individuals with disabilities.

Contributed by Steven Temple
Plant Sciences Dept.
UC Davis
srtemple@orvieto.ucdavis.edu

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5.02  Plant and Animal Systems, Plant Science, Program Specialist

The following vacancy announcement is now open:
Plant and Animal Systems
Plant Science
Program Specialist (Plant Science)
GS-0401-09/11
Promotion potential: GS-12

Closing date: 06/15/07
Who may apply: All U.S. Citizens
Announcement Number: CSREES-2007-0045

An individual with the following characteristics will flourish in this position:

* A plant science and/or IPM orientation;
* Written communication skills geared toward web and print publications;
* Program evaluation experience;
* Flexibility and adaptability;
* Ability to work with many different types of team members and partners; and
* Knowledge of and appreciation for the research, education, and extension missions of the land grant university system.

Please encourage qualified candidates to apply via the instructions provided. Those that have previously applied must re-apply to receive full consideration!

Please note that this is a new process for applying to CSREES positions.
You may use the following link to view and/or apply for this position:
http://jobsearch.usajobs.opm.gov/a9csrees.asp

In the key word search, type in the vacancy announcement number:
CSREES-2007-0045

Scroll down the page and select “yes” under Applicant Eligibility.  You will then click on “search for jobs” at the bottom of the page.  Clicking on the position title will launch the vacancy announcement.  You can select “apply online” at the bottom of the page to apply for the position.  You will then be taken to a screen that will allow you to either set up an account or input your account information if you have already registered.

Please note that even if you registered previously through the USDA QuickHire website, you will need to re-register through USAJobs.

Please contact me if you encounter any problems or have questions.

Tiffany Sample
Human Resources Specialist
USDA-Agricultural Research Service
tiffany.sample@ars.usda.gov

Contributed by Ann Marie Thro
CSREES, USDA
athro@csrees.usda.gov

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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 OR REVISED ANNOUNCEMENTS

*19-20 July 2007. Native Wildflower Seed Production Research Symposium
For information about this symposium hosted by the University of Florida on July 19-20, 2007 go to: www.wildflowersymposium.com.  Topics to be addressed include: genetics, production practices, pollination, harvesting, conditioning, storage, and wild-collected seed.

Source: Seed Biotechnology Center E-News, April 2007
Susan Webster Seed Biotechnology Center
University of California
scwebster@ucdavis.edu

+++++++++++

*14 – 23 August 2007. Advanced Course in Modern Breeding Techniques. Institute of Plant Biotechnology for Developing Countries in collaboration with the Global Partnership Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building (GIPB), Ghent University, Belgium A course for students, scientists, industry, involved in breeding. http://www.ipbo.UGent.be REGISTRATION DEADLINE : JUNE 15, 2007

Contents of the course
During this two weeks course the major topics in the field of Breeding and especially modern breeding will be covered, including the latest techniques in breeding, using molecular data as a tool. Next to the basics of plant breeding, the course will cover different kinds of markers and their use in breeding programs for fingerprinting, biodiversity, mapping of traits and QTL’s, incrossing of specific genes (wild or transgene into cultivars) and quality assessment.

In addition a section will also deal with the commercial aspects of “elite transgenic events” and their specific breeding strategies.

Also legal issues related to plant breeding, such as breeders rights will be discussed.

Chairman : Marc Van Montagu
Coordinators : Nancy Terryn, Godelieve Gheysen
Remark: as we can only accept 25 students, it is possible that we will have to refuse students.

For additional information on the content of the course, please contact Dr. Nancy Terryn at nancy.terryn@UGent.be

Contributed by Elcio Guimaraes

+++++++++

*17 – 19 September 2007. First International Symposium on Chili Anthracnose, Convention Center, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea. http://www.avrdc.org/anthracnose/index.html

On a worldwide basis, anthracnose is the single greatest economic constraint to chili and sweet pepper production. This disease is especially damaging to the important chili crops grown in tropical and subtropical areas of the world where it causes extensive pre- and post-harvest losses. Disease management practices are often inadequate and resistant varieties are not available. Identification of anthracnose resistance sources in Capsicum spp. during the past 10 years has triggered numerous efforts to introgress resistance into chili and sweet pepper lines and provided hope for development of resistant varieties and new management strategies. Problems encountered introgressing resistance into Capsicum annuum; complications due to chili anthracnose being incited by multiple Colletotrichum spp.; uncertainties of pathogen species identification; variation in the predominant pathogen species by location and changes over time; and observed breakdown of resistance sources in some locations will be discussed.

Contacts: Paul Gniffke, gniffke@avrdc.org and Dae-Geun Oh, daegeun@rda.go.kr

Contributed by Lowell L. Black, Plant Pathologist
Seminis Vegetable Seeds, Inc.
Lowell.Black@seminis.com
DeForest, WI, USA

++++++++

*17-20  September 2007. Translational Seed Biology: From Model Systems to Crop Improvement Symposium, UC Davis.
An international symposium focusing on the transfer of knowledge of seed biology developed through studies of model systems to improve the agricultural and nutritional value of crops will be held on September 17-20, 2007 at UC Davis.  This exciting symposium will include more than 35 distinguished speakers.  For more information, including registration, go to: Seed Symposium

Please contact Sue at: scwebster@ucdavis.edu for questions and comments.
Seed Biotechnology Center
University of California
Plant Reproductive Biology
Extension Center Drive
Davis CA 95616
phone: 530.754.7333
fax: 530.754.7222

++++++++++

*27- 31 October 2007. 8th African Crop Science Society Conference. Suzann Mubarak Center for Arts and Letters, Minia University Campus, El-Minia, Egypt.

Theme: Crop research, technology dissemination and adoption to increase food supply, and reducing hunger and poverty in Africa.

Organizers: African Crop Science Society (ACSS) and Faculty of Agriculture, Minia University, El-Minia, Egypt

NOTICE: We would like to inform you that the deadline for submission of complete papers for the conference has been extended by 4 weeks. The new deadline is now May 31, 2007. Author rules for writing the complete papers at http://www.acss2007.org/?t=rules. Submit an original and two printed copies of the manuscript as well an electronic version on 3.5 in diskette or CD computer word processing file (MS Word) To: Scientific Committee of 8th African Crop Science Society Conference, Faculty of Agriculture, Minia University, El-Minia, Egypt, ET-61517. In parallel to the hard copies, you can email the electronic version “as attached doc file”to: scicom@acss2007.org.

To date, we received more than 500 abstracts form 400 participants representing of 45 countries of 5 Continents.

The price for early registration before July 27 is US$180 for participant with paper and US$100 for auditor and accompanying person. Late registration after July 27 is US$200 participant with paper and US$120 for auditor and accompanying person.

For up-to-date information, kindly visit the 8th ACSS2007 website at: http://www.acss2007.org/.

Conference Topics: The general topics to be covered in the conference include: agronomy, horticulture, crop improvement and physiology, post harvest handling and food sciences, crop protection, rural socio-economics; and agricultural extension and education, agricultural economics, agricultural microbiology, crop genetics and biotechnology, agricultural chemistry, integration of livestock in crop production, soils and agricultural engineering sciences, water sciences, environmental sciences, biodiversity and natural resources management.

Contact Person:
Prof. Kasem Zaki Ahmed
Vice-President, ACSS, &
Chairperson, Local Organizing Committee.
8th African Crop Science Society Conference, 27-31 October 2007- El-Minia, Egypt, Faculty of Agriculture, Minia University, El-Minia, Egypt, ET-61517.
E-mail: orgcom@acss2007.org

Contributed by Prof. Kasem Zaki Ahmed

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

*3-7 March 2008. International Symposium “Underutilized Plants for food, nutrition, income and sustainable development,” Arusha, Tanzania. http://www.icuc-iwmi.org/Symposium2008/

Underutilized plants are species with under-exploited potential for contributing to food security and nutrition by combating ‘hidden hunger’ caused by micronutrient deficiencies; they often have medicinal properties and other multiple uses; they provide options for improved incomes to the poor, and for environmental services to the global community. These species collectively receive little attention from research, extension services, farmers, policy and decision makers, donors, technology providers and consumers.

++++++++++

*21-21 July 2008. Cassava: meeting the challenges of the new millennium. First scientific meeting of the Global Cassava Partnership – GCP-I, Institute of Plant Biotechnology for Developing Countries, Ghent University, Belgium. http://www.ipbo.ugent.be/cassava.html


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

*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%20COURSE%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

*30 July – 24 August 2007. Wheat Chemistry and Quality Improvement, CIMMYT headquarters in Mexico. For more details visit: http://www.cimmyt.org/english/wps/training/calendar.cfm or contact Petr Kosina p.kosina@CGIAR.ORG

*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

19-21 September 2007. New Approaches to Plant Breeding of Orphan Crops in Africa, Bern, Switzerland. http://www.botany.unibe.ch/deve/orphancrops/. Registration: until the end of April 2007 by email or fax to one of the organizers.
Dr. Zerihun Tadele  zerihun.tadele@ips.unibe.ch
Prof. Dr. Cris Kuhlemeier cris.kuhlemeier@ips.unibe.ch

*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 - 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.

*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.
(NOTE: see additional details above under NEW OR REVISED ANNOUNCEMENTS)
Sponsored by The African Crop Science Society (ACSS) and Minia University. (The deadline for registration was 30 April 2007). For more complete information 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. The address is: http://www.fao.org/WAICENT/FAOINFO/AGRICULT/AGP/AGPC/doc/services/pbn.html.   We will continue to improve the organization of archival issues of the newsletter. Readers who have suggestions about features they wish to see should contact the editor at chh23@cornell.edu.

RECEIVE THE NEWSLETTER AS AN MS WORD® ATTACHMENT
If you prefer to receive the newsletter as an MS Word attachment instead of 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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