4 June 2007

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

Clair H. Hershey, Editor

Archived issues available at: FAO Plant Breeding Newsletter


1.01  Nurturing a rare breed: The Plant Breeding Academy at the Seed Biotechnology Center, UC Davis
1.02  INGER to revitalize global sharing of rice breeding and genetic resources
1.03  The CNAP Artemisia Research Project
1.04  Winter Cereals Pre-Breeding Alliance established to promote collaboration among Australian cereal pre-breeders
1.05  Indonesia develops new rice varieties to fight bacterial blight
1.06  Seed Health Laboratory at CIMMYT to gain ISO certification
1.07  Efforts to fight hunger in Africa by preserving seeds and boosting research into improved crop varieties
1.08  Supreme Court of India lifts temporary ban on field trials of GM crops
1.09  Genetic diversity is key to solving future global challenges
1.10  Global genebanks need funds
1.11  Global Crop Diversity Trust receives £10 million investment from UK's Department for International Development
1.12  Climate change threatens wild relatives of key crops
1.13  Spud origin controversy solved
1.14  Collection of cassava farmer-varieties from Kenya and Tanzania for baseline diversity assessment using SNPs
1.15  Scientists seek useful traits in wild cottons
1.16  Protecting cassava from the brown streak virus
1.17  New knowledge improves rice quality, could help poor farmers boost income
1.18  Transgenic potato varieties developed by the University of Wisconsin are resistant to natural infestation of the Indonesian race of Phytophthora infestans
1.19  Michigan State University professor developing hybrid turfgrass varieties with resistance to dollar spot, snow mold, drought
1.20  Genetically modified chicory brings hope to African malaria patients
1.21  Plants that produce more vitamin C may result from UCLA-Dartmouth discovery
1.22  Nature surrenders flowery secrets to international team
1.23  Automation of DNA marker analysis for molecular breeding
1.24  Iowa State scientists demonstrate first use of nanotechnology to enter plant cells
1.25  Advancing the application of genomics technologies for the selection and development of high quality grains, including wheat and barley
1.26  New gene technology may improve corn traits, says the U.S. National Corn Growers Association
1.27  Plants tag insect herbivores with an alarm
1.28  Discovery of new, non-GMO CLEARFIELD gene for sunflower breeding
1.29  University of Nebraska advances dicamba-resistance research
1.30  Chromatin and Monsanto announce agreement to advance gene stacking technology
1.31  Research identifies protein that signals flowering in squash plants

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

(None submitted)

(None submitted)

5.01  Postdoctoral position on “Quantitative genetics of garden rose architecture: architectural analysis and genetic determinism”
5.02  Assistant professor position in the area of tree fruit genetics and breeding available in the department of Horticulture at Clemson University
5.03  Associate in Research position available in the laboratory of Dr Amit Dhingra at Washington State University
5.04  Pasture Plant Breeder - Leadership potential - Unique Opportunity
5.05  Central Mexico Research Leader, Chapala Area of Central Mexico
5.06  Test Plot Supervisor, Strawberry Breeding, San Quintin, Baja California, Mexico





1.01  Nurturing a rare breed: The Plant Breeding Academy at the Seed Biotechnology Center, UC Davis

by Dr. Kent Bradford and Dr. Allen van Deynze, Seed Biotechnology Center, University of California, Davis

Classical plant breeders improve crops by crossing plants with desired traits and selecting the best offspring over multiple generations. Breeding is simply accelerated, but targeted, evolution that resulted in the diversity, productivity, and quality of our agricultural crops.

Classical breeding is far from being obsolete, but the number of academic programs engaged in plant breeding has decreased consistently in the U.S. as private companies have become more active in plant breeding. Since the number of graduate students being trained in plant breeding has declined while the seed industry’s demand for them has increased, there is currently a shortage of trained breeders.

“There are, however, many people who are currently involved in plant breeding and could direct breeding programs if they had a deeper knowledge of genetics, statistics, or breeding theory and methods,” said Kent Bradford, professor of seed biology and director of the Seed Biotechnology Center at UC Davis. The Seed Biotechnology Center established the Plant Breeding Academy to address the reduced numbers of breeders being trained. It provides an opportunity for current industry personnel to develop skills that will enable them to become independent breeders or more valuable contributors to large breeding programs. Professor of genetics Larry Teuber and Professor of pomology Doug Shaw, both from UC Davis, and Professor of horticulture Todd Wehner from North Carolina State University are the primary instructors.

“Offering the academy through UC Davis lets our plant breeders share their experience with this extramural clientele,” said Bradford. “It also exposes the participants to the wide range of expertise available at UC Davis and other universities.”

The international academy is modeled on professional MBA programs that allow participants to continue in their current jobs. Participants meet for three six-day weeks per year over two years, and the number of participants is limited to provide a personalized learning environment.

“This course really addresses the shortfalls of many university programs, which offer few options to working professionals who want to advance their skills,” explains Joel Canestrino, a participant of the academy and employee of Magnus Kahl Seeds.

The first session of the academy started in fall 2006; the next group of participants will begin in fall 2008. The Seed Biotechnology Center also offers short courses on seed biology, production, and quality as well as on breeding with molecular markers.

Look for details on upcoming events at the center’s Web site at

This article appeared originally in The Leaflet, Spring 2007, a publication of the Department of Plant Sciences of the University of California, Davis, and is reproduced here with permission.

Source the SeedQuest Forum

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1.02  INGER to revitalize global sharing of rice breeding and genetic resources

Revitalization was the buzzword and the underpinning theme at the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) meeting of the International Network for Genetic Evaluation of Rice (INGER) held from 8-11 May, in Bangkok, Thailand.

Rising to today's daunting challenge of exchanging rice breeding materials amid complex intellectual property regimes and dwindling resources were representatives from 17 countries in Asia and Africa, 3 CGIAR centers (IRRI, WARDA, ICARDA), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Welcoming them were Thailand's Rice Department Director General Mr. Surapong Pransilapa and IRRI Program 1 Leader Dr. David Mackill, who both stressed the need to strengthen collaboration among rice scientists in order to realize further increases in rice productivity. Dr. S.P. Tiwari, deputy director general of the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) and a special participant at the meeting, congratulated INGER for facilitating the release of at least 667 varieties in 62 countries, a contribution valued at US$1.67 billion or an average of US$52 million each year since INGER's establishment in 1975.

To update the INGER TAC on the breeding resources to expect from IRRI, Plant Breeding, Genetics and Biotechnology (PBGB) Division Head Dr. Darshan Brar presented the state of the art on rice breeding, and IRRI Program 5 Leader Dr. Hei Leung discussed possible applications of DNA bar-coding and association genetics in INGER. Specific objectives of IRRI breeding programs and networks were discussed by Drs. Arvind Kumar, R.K. Singh, K.K. Jena, and Dave Mackill.

Global developments were reviewed on rice breeding material exchange by INGER Coordinator Dr. Ed Redoña, on data management and use of the Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA) by T.T. Chang Genetic Resources Center Head Dr. Ruaraidh Sackville Hamilton, and on a Global Initiative on Plant Breeding (GIPB) by FAO Senior Officer Dr. Elcio Guimarães. INGER's contributions, in terms of direct varietal releases and in increasing the diversity of parental materials in NARES breeding programs, were repeatedly underscored in the country reports from Asia to Africa. The photo above shows an intense but collegial small group discussion that focused on specific issues that facilitated the streamlining of INGER activities according to the needs and thrusts of the different national programs and CG centers.

Key outputs of the meeting were the realignment of INGER nurseries and activities according to the needs and priorities of NARES and CG centers, refinement of INGER's operational mechanisms, heightened NARES awareness on the SMTA and its positive implications for global germplasm exchange, and identification of key areas for improvement such as the use of IT for expediting seed requests, submission and analysis of data, and generation and dissemination of reports. The need to infuse a new science dimension to INGER's activities was also emphasized. TAC members pledged to nominate more entries to INGER in order to increase NARES-to-NARES sharing and use of rice breeding materials that have been INGER's hallmark during the past 32 years.

Hailed as one of the most successful and enduring partnership among NARES and CG centers, INGER has played a vital role in facilitating the continued spread of modern rice varieties, thus sustaining the gains of the Green Revolution. Coordinated by Dr. Ed Redoña since September 2006, INGER is positioning itself into becoming the model and leading global network for the multilateral sharing of breeding and genetic resources and related information in the modern era. The plans formulated will be presented for approval at the next meeting of the Council for Partnership on Rice Research in Asia (CORRA), INGER's Steering Committee.


Contributed by Edilberto Redoña (IRRI)

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1.03  The CNAP Artemisia Research Project

A sustainable supply of artemisinin from high yield Artemisia annua

Principal Investigator:  Professor Dianna Bowles
Co-Investigator:  Professor Ian Graham
Project Manager:  Dr Maggie Smallwood

Project update number 1, Spring 2007
Welcome to the first E-update on the CNAP Artemisia Research Project. This project was launched last year with the aim of using fast-track breeding technologies to create, non-GM artemisia cultivars with increased artemisinin yields. We plan to issue these updates twice a year over the project’s duration, keeping stakeholders informed on progress and developments. You can read a shortened version of the newsletter below but visit our website to read the whole thing or download a pdf;

Introducing the project
We are applying fast-track breeding technologies to Artemisia annua with the aim of creating new, non-GM cultivars with higher artemisinin yields. Those unfamiliar with the project can read more about the rationale behind it.

Scientific strategy
Find out how the project aims to use state-of the-art genomic and analytical technologies to screen many thousands of artemisia plants in a programme that represents a step change over previous breeding efforts.

Project establishment
In the first phase of the project the research capability required for this major scientific endeavour has been established, with the appointment of over 20 scientists, the commissioning of major items of equipment and the development of data management systems.

The Artemisinin Consortium is formed
This project has joined forces with the Medicines for Malaria Venture and the Institute of One World Health, coordinating efforts to secure affordable supplies of artemisinin as the Artemisinin Consortium.

The project is actively communicating its aims and objectives to stakeholders and wider audiences with press coverage and presentations at workshops and conferences.  Visit the website to view our programme.

To contact the project please email:

Contributed by Elspeth Bartlet
External Communications Manager
The CNAP Artemisia Research Project

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1.04  Winter Cereals Pre-Breeding Alliance established to promote collaboration among Australian cereal pre-breeders

A new industry forum – the Australian Winter Cereals Pre-Breeding Alliance (AWCPA) – has been established to promote collaboration and cooperation among cereal pre-breeders.

The Alliance’s objective is to maximise the national pre-breeding effort and shorten the time frame between genetic enhancement and the development of new, improved crop varieties.

The Alliance was established by a steering committee representing major pre-breeding organisations, including CSIRO, MPBCRC, VAWCRC, SARDI, and DAFWA.

The committee is seeking support from all Australian researchers working in this area.

The Committee affirmed the scope and principles of the Alliance at a meeting on 19th March in Adelaide.

The Drivers for Change
In an environment where there is a continuous cost-price squeeze on agricultural production, there is a need for research funds to be used as effectively as possible in developing new commercial varieties.

Pre-breeding is an area of significant public investment, with annual expenditure estimated at between $70–80 million*. In the past there has been fragmentation and duplication of research efforts, as well as an overvaluation of Intellectual Property (IP).

Complex IP arrangements have inhibited collaboration and access to new technologies, while in the case of GM, there is a lack of a clear pathway to market.

* Ross W. Fellowes, Report on Pre-Breeding R&D for Winter Cereals, March 2006

The scope of pre-breeding R&D covered by the Alliance includes:
-gene discovery and functional genomics, including the tools of transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomics
-establishment of marker-trait associations
-linked/diagnostic marker identification
-marker validation
-any other breeding tools for selecting relevant gene(s) to develop improved parental stocks; and
-for GM traits, production of transformed parents, ready for use in breeding programs.

Key principles
Pre-breeding activities within the Alliance are framed by principles which:
1. Are market driven by the grains supply and value chains including end-users, growers and breeders.
2. Are focussed on the traits that will generate maximum benefit for the Australian grains industry.
3. Allow breeding programs non-exclusive, equitable access to public-funded pre-breeding research to ensure the maximum benefit to the Australian grains industry.
4. Provide simple IP protection and management arrangements that encourage rapid uptake of R&D outputs by breeding programs. 
5. Foster communication, collaboration and coordination between institutions, to minimise unnecessary duplication and fragmentation, and maximise overall progress. 
6. Encourage relationships that provide ready access to R&D outputs developed overseas including R&D outputs from the private sector. 
7. Include mechanisms for recognising and rewarding performance consistent with Alliance principles.

IP issues
A working group has been set up to review IP arrangements in the pre-breeding domain. The IP Working Group has met regularly since September 2006 and has focussed on developing an IP ‘access and benefit sharing model’ to support the Alliance’s overall objectives, consistent with Principles 3, 4 and 7.

Rather than ‘reinventing the wheel’, this Group will draw on existing models developed in areas related to pre-breeding, including those used by Barley Breeding Australia and by the Australian Winter Cereals Molecular Marker Program (AWCMMP). Proposed features include:
-Access and benefit sharing principles to be set out in a Memorandum of Understanding.
-By analogy with the AWCMMP model, IP could be categorised into different classes, with different treatment for each class. The AWCMMP has three classes:
–i.Collaborative IP,
–ii.AWCMMP Germplasm, and
–iii. Commercial IP.
-The access arrangements must be simple, for example, a standard MTA should be developed and used.
-For technologies developed by public/industry funds only, access should be open – recipients of germplasm and other pre-breeding IP should be obliged to share their research results with other participants. 
-For technologies developed using either a mixture of public/industry and private sector funds or private sector funds alone, commercial imperatives need to be accommodated and these may restrict the degree to which pre-breeding IP can be shared openly with other participants.

A minimum requirement is that all activities in the pre-breeding area are disclosed. Side-deals must be transparent.

Trait prioritisation and collaboration meetings
During the Alliance’s establishment, a report on wheat pre-breeding and breeding objectives was prepared by Ross Fellowes and Don Marshall. The initial findings were tabled at a meeting in Adelaide in July 2006 and the report was finalised in September 2006. Feedback from the prebreeding community has been considered together with feedback on trait and marker priorities from Barley Breeding Australia, and from the Wheat Breeders' Alliance.

At the Steering Committee meeting on 19th March in Adelaide, the following traits areas were identified as the first candidates for a series of discussion groups:
-Drought/water-use efficiency
-Quality issues in wheat

Discussion groups will now meet through 2007 to define a clear strategy for future research in each area, with short, medium, and long term objectives. These meetings will be inclusive. The Alliance will publish details and will invite those with interest and expertise in these areas to participate.

Jeremy Burdon
Original document:

Source: Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) via
17 April, 2007

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1.05  Indonesia develops new rice varieties to fight bacterial blight

Bacterial blight (BB) disease of rice is caused by Xanthomonas oryzae. It is one of the most important diseases of rice in most of the rice growing countries. The Indonesian Agricultural Biotechnology and Genetic Resources Research Institute, in collaboration with the Indonesian Institute for Rice Research, the West Java Assessment Institute for Agricultural Technology and the Agricultural Office of Cianjur, has developed by conventional breeding methods new rice varieties with improved tolerance to BB, the Angke and Code varieties.

“With the using of superior varieties as Angke and Code, Indonesia will have a big opportunity to increase the national rice production and also meet the government target for rice self sufficiency,” said Dr. Sutrisno, Head of Indonesian Agricultural Biotechnology and Genetic Resources Research Institute.

Visit or contact Elfa Hermawan at for more information.

Source: Indonesian Agency for Agricultural Research and Development (IAARD) via
11 May 2007

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1.06  Seed Health Laboratory at CIMMYT to gain ISO certification.

The Seed Health Laboratory, part of CIMMYT’s Seed Inspection and Distribution Unit (SIDU) has become the first in the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) to gain International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certification.

For the past 10 months there has been a little extra edge at the Seed Health Laboratory at the CIMMYT campus in El Batán, Mexico. Everything every researcher and technician did when handling maize and wheat seeds was being scrutinized in the minutest detail by inspection teams from the Mexican Accreditation Entity (EMA) for the ISO. “It was sometimes tense, but I knew our procedures were already at a high level, so I wasn’t really worried,” says Monica Mezzalama, head of SIDU.

The routine shipment and reception of maize and wheat seed samples is the life blood of a global breeding center like CIMMYT. Its crop improvement research means breeding new types of seed that can enhance the livelihoods and food security of farm families in the developing world. You can improve all the seed you want at an experiment station, but eventually you have to ship seed for testing by farmers and national research programs outside of the country where the breeding was done. Also, given that CIMMYT holds the world’s largest collection of maize and wheat germplasm in trust in its genetic resources center, each year it sends hundreds of shipments of seed from those stores to breeders and other researchers from around the world, in response to their requests for samples.

Seed can carry pathogens­viruses, bacteria, or fungi­that reduce the viability of the seed itself or prevent the plants from growing well. When seed is consumed directly as food or feed, seed-borne organisms may cause chemical changes, degrade seed contents, or release powerful toxins that can harm humans and livestock. In the best of cases, food is simply wasted; in the worst, famine or poisoning can result. Certain seed-borne pathogens are endemic to specific areas of the world; great efforts are made to confine them and not allow their spread.

In 1989 CIMMYT established an independent Seed Health Laboratory and in 2004 the seed inspection and distribution unit (SIDU) to handle the inspection and shipment of seed, essentially ensuring that no seed with disease pathogens on board enters the center’s breeding programs or leaves its premises for other destinations. All CGIAR research centers with crop genetic resource collections produce and distribute seed from breeding trials or from their genebanks. All maintain their own, stringent standards and have shared their experiences. Until recently, seed health standards at CIMMYT were self-imposed, in cooperation with the government of Mexico. The implementation of free trade agreements between Mexico and other countries­particularly the USA and Canada­brought a commitment from Mexico to ensure that all seed originating from the country conformed to international norms.

The ISO is the world's largest developer of standards. ISO standards have important economic and social repercussions, making a positive difference not just to organizations for whom they solve basic problems in production and distribution, but to society as a whole. Mexico adopted ISO standards for seed movement, to be administered by EMA. For CIMMYT it is the ISO/IEC 17025-2005 General requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories. “We knew all along that our seed health procedures were the best,” says Masa Iwanaga, CIMMYT Director General. “But having the toughest outside inspection in the world confirm what we knew is very gratifying, not only for us but for our partners in more than an hundred countries.”

More information Monica Mezzalana, Head, SIDU (

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

Contributed by Rodomiro Ortiz

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1.07  Efforts to fight hunger in Africa by preserving seeds and boosting research into improved crop varieties

by Michael Malakata, SciDev.Net

In the face of impending climate change, many fear that Africa already the world's poorest continent will be hit hardest in its ability to produce food.

Success in preventing food shortages in Africa will be achieved only if farmers maintain a wealth of seed diversity that can cope with ever-changing rainfall patterns.

In recognition of this, new initiatives are emerging that will hopefully bring about a green revolution, and ensure food security in Africa.

Starting from seeds
Seed banks have been identified as part of the solution. They preserve seed diversity, and can provide the raw genetic material to develop improved plant varieties.

In April this year, the Global Crop Diversity Trust and the United Nations Foundation announced a joint initiative to safeguard 21 of the world's most critical foods crops by preserving their seeds.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation whose five year plan aims to provide African farmers with improved and adaptable crop varieties has emerged as a major source of funding for the initiative, putting forward US$37.5 million in grants.

The initiative will cover many 'orphan' crops important to the poor but largely neglected in modern plant breeding such as sorghum, millet, yam, cassava and cowpea.

The initiative will also fund a comprehensive global information system that will allow plant breeders everywhere to search gene banks worldwide including existing banks in Ethiopia, Rwanda and the southern Africa region for traits needed to combat new diseases and cope with climate change.

"The initiative will secure at-risk collections [of important food crops] in poor countries and document their astonishing diversity, making it available to meet the food needs of the poor," said Cary Fowler, executive director of Global Crop Diversity Trust.

Bumper crops
Current initiatives are not just about saving current crops there are also plans to improve them.

A new partnership between the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation has allocated US$150 million to improving seeds including cassava, millet and sorghum through conventional breeding to increase their yields and make them suitable for Africa's unpredictable rainfall patterns.

This work will decrease farmers' dependence on hybrid maize seeds, which need sufficient rainfall to grow and already do not yield enough maize.

The partnership is working with policymakers in African governments, nongovernmental organisations, African centres of excellence and donors to bring about a green revolution.

At the Rockefeller Foundation meeting on biotechnology, breeding and seed systems for African crops on 26 March this year, Venancio Massingue, Mozambican minister of science and technology said, "Seed breeding is key to the modernisation of our economies through agriculture, and to providing jobs both in rural and urban areas." "This is why science improves the lives of people."

Drought tolerant crop varieties are already starting to emerge. Mick Mwala, head of the University of Zambia's crop sciences department, says they have already come up with new wheat varieties that are drought tolerant.

One of the partnership's two initiatives, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, will help breed improved seeds and distribute fertilisers to improve soil health in Africa, as well as supporting projects to improve water resources and the distribution of farm produce to the market.

The second initiative, the Programme for Africa's Seeds System, will help distribute these improved seeds and adaptable crop varieties to smallholders.

Chemical controversy
Scientists involved in the initiatives believe that improving seeds to resist drought and using fertiliser are the most effective ways of ensuring a good harvest.

But this approach has caused a stand off with Africa-based nongovernmental organisations who claim that Western countries are pushing for a corporate-controlled, chemical system of agriculture in Africa.

In a signed statement, several nongovernmental organisations such as Ethiopia's Africa Biodiversity Network, Uganda's Centre for Development Initiative, the Kenya Organic Agriculture Network and Kenya Genetically Modified Organisms Concerned attending this year's African Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya (25 January), rejected the Gates-Rockefeller initiative.

They called the initiative a "new foreign system that will encourage Africa's land and water to be privatised for growing inappropriate crops for export, biofuels and carbon sinks, instead of food for African people".

But Roy Steiner, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's senior programmes officer, told SciDev.Net that the foundation's focus is to bring about a sustainable green revolution through seed breeding and improvement in Africa.

"We need to find ways to interact with small scale farmers. It is a long road but we have to make progress. The possibility is there and the potential is there," he said.

People power
Another obstacle to the success of these initiatives is the scarcity of qualified African scientists to create these new seed varieties.

Africa faces problems with funds to train enough scientists, and to provide them with attractive salaries and contracts.

Brain drain is also decreasing the size of the science community many qualified scientists have already migrated to greener pastures.

The Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) is trying to address this problem.

The organisation made up of 12 eastern and southern African universities, led by Zimbabwe's African University and Kenya's Kenyatta University will launch an initiative in August this year to provide postgraduate programmes in agriculture-related fields such as aquaculture and fisheries, agricultural resource economics, food science and nutrition and dryland resource management.

They hope to secure financial resources to support more scientists to masters and docterate degree level. Those scientists graduating under RUFORUM-sponsored programmes will be given jobs in research institutions, boosting research capacity.

The development is part of current efforts by African higher learning institutions to build capacity for Africa within Africa.

RUFORUM regional coordinator, Adipala Ekwamu, said the 12 African universities are collaborating to accelerate agricultural research and biotechnology development in Africa. Up until now, RUFORUM had been supporting training in agriculture-related fields only to a masters degree level.

"We need a new institutional framework to make universities more responsive to emerging challenges in the region and to respond to those challenges in a national and regional development paradigm," said Ekwamu.

The success of RUFORUM's initiative, however, still depends on how much African policymakers support the organisation financially, he said.

"We are not asking for gigantic funding but a little that will keep our programmes moving. Sixty per cent of our scientists in the region will soon retire and so we need funding to continue training more," Ekwamu said.

Seeking support
So far ministers from Malawi and Mozambique have publicly said they are in support of science and technology as the only means to improve people's lives.

Massingue said his government has set aside over US$30 million for seed and fertiliser distribution, and will work side by side with RUFORUM to increase the amount of research and training for scientists.

Kainja Kaluluma, Malawian Minister of Women and Child Development, said science and technology is "our engine in national development and the Malawian government will support scientists" and that the government would give increased support to research, technology and training.

In an era where economies are driven by scientific and technological developments, no single country in African can ignore science and still expect to thrive.

The continent of Africa has the basics land and water to produce enough food for its people. Combined with initiatives to train scientists, develop seeds and improve farmer's access to this technology with support from African policymakers the battle against hunger in Africa could be won.

22 May 2007

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1.08  Supreme Court of India lifts temporary ban on field trials of GM crops

New Delhi, India
The Supreme Court of India has lifted an eight-month temporary ban on field trials of genetically-modified food crops on 8th May 2007. With this judgment, farmers will have more choices of Bt cotton varieties suited for local agro-climatic conditions. The ruling will also allow resuming the approval of filed trials for various crops such as brinjal, mustard, rice, maize, potato, tomato, okra and groundnut.

Referring to the Supreme Court judgment on the field trials of GM crops, the Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests, Mr Namo Narayan Meena, said the entire research activities of the country which have been at a standstill will get momentum, and that the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) will be able to work speedily. Mr Meena assured the members of the Consultative Committee of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) that along with treating agricultural biotechnology as a priority area for investments, priority will be given to proper risk assessment and to appropriate measures to mitigate its adverse impacts.

Source: CropBiotech Update via
11 May 2007

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1.09  Genetic diversity is key to solving future global challenges

Left unprotected, genetic resources will be lost forever

Boston, Massachussets

The Dupont company today urged the world's largest gathering of biotechnology leaders to ensure the availability of the genetic material needed to develop crops that will meet the unforeseen challenges of future generations.

"Biotechnology will help us develop solutions to challenges that we have yet to imagine, but the potential will be limited without access to historic genetic resources," said Stephen Smith, a DuPont scientist and leading expert on plant genetic diversity, at the BIO 2007 International Convention.

DuPont was one of the first companies to pledge $1 million to the Global Crop Diversity Trust, an international fund charged with securing long-term funding for the support of genebanks and crop genetic diversity collections throughout the world. Just recently, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged their support for the Trust's mission with a $30 million grant and the government of Norway raised its donation to $15 million.

"The conservation and availability of crop diversity is absolutely critical to assuring an abundant and affordable food supply for people everywhere," said Cary Fowler, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust. "If we continue to neglect crop genetic diversity, it will be lost forever."

Founded in 2001 by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and Bioversity International, on behalf of the Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research (CGIAR), the Trust is raising a $260 million endowment to maintain the world's most critical germplasm for agricultural crops as well as building the capacity of crucial collections in developing countries.

"As researchers in the public and private sector gain a better understanding of the genetic language of crops, we will be better suited to use the latest biotech tools, such as genomics and molecular markers, to develop solutions to the challenges of future generations," said Smith. "If plant genetic resources are not properly conserved, it will be like learning how to read and then going to the library to find no books on the shelves."

Funding from the Global Crop Diversity Trust will support the operations of a "doomsday vault" built into the permafrost in the Norwegian Arctic that will have the capacity to store three million seed samples, representing a vast range of genetic variety from the world's key crops. The complex is intended to safeguard the global food supply in the event of disaster.

The mission of the Global Crop Diversity Trust is to ensure the conservation and availability of crop diversity for food security worldwide. An independent international organization, established through a partnership between the CGIAR and FAO, the Trust is the only organization working worldwide to solve this problem.

DuPont is a science-based products and services company.

More news about the Global Crop Diversity Trust

7 May 2007

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1.10  Global genebanks need funds

Guaranteed funding for the world's genebanks is essential to preserve biodiversity and secure food supplies, says Jan Valkoun.

Today (22 May), on International Day of Biodiversity, plant diversity around the world is under threat from modern crop improvement, habitat loss and disasters, both natural and man-made.

Genebanks can conserve rich gene pools and help feed the world, but they must secure continued funding if they are to survive.

Since the beginnings of agriculture some 10,000 years ago farmers have not only grown crops, but also intuitively bred them and produced seed. Indeed, they have long exploited rich genetic diversity to adapt to drought, heat and disease or pest resistance by creating new farmers' varieties, or 'landraces'.

Genetic diversity is conserved in wild relatives that still survive today in 'centres of origin', most of which are located in the developing world.

Landraces and crop wild relatives provide an invaluable source of genetic material for improving crops and securing global food supplies.

Indeed, collection missions ­ where the seeds of wild relatives and landraces are collected from natural populations, farmers' fields and market places to store in genebanks ­ have long made biological diversity readily available to modern plant breeders, researchers and farmers.

But both wild relatives and landraces across the globe have been severely eroded over the past 100 years by habitat loss and replacement with improved crop varieties, respectively.

A safety net
Concerns about the rapid loss of indigenous crop genetic diversity in the 1960s–1980s led to a global effort ­ coordinated by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and supported by the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and national programs ­ to collect crop wild relatives and landraces in ex situ genebanks across the world.

According to the FAO, there are now about 1,500 genebanks worldwide ­ storing 6.5 million plant samples.

These are strategic global assets that provide a safety net against the loss of valuable germplasm.

Wars and natural disasters, for example, can pose major threats to plant collections in some developing countries. Much-needed crop diversity was lost during the wars in Burundi, Cambodia, Rwanda, and Somalia. National genebanks were looted and destroyed during the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

In September 2006, Typhoon Xangsane damaged about 70 per cent of the 46,000 genetic materials stored in the Philippines' National Plant Genetic Resources Laboratory genebank.

In such cases, duplicate seed held in ex situ genebanks is crucial to restoring crop diversity in farmers' fields and original collections.

Nearly 700,000 samples of crops, forages and trees are held in CGIAR's genebanks. One of its largest collections ­ nearly 135,000 samples of cereals and food and forage legumes ­ is held at the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) in Syria. This is particularly important because of its focus on crop improvement targeted at low-input and stress-affected farming systems in developing countries.

Some 100,000 of ICARDA's samples originate from Asia and Africa, with over 3,000 from Afghanistan and 1,000 from Iraq. Already, a number of seed samples have been multiplied and sent back to Afghanistan to begin restoring the country's crop diversity. And the centre plans to repatriate complete sets to both countries once adequate facilities for seed storage become available.

A funding gap
But not all genebanks are so well equipped.

The FAO claims a large number are in a state of "rapid deterioration". Some genebanks have closed, others have problems with physical facilities and equipment and many have a large backlog of plant samples that need regenerating.

International treaties and other agreements have attempted to rectify the situation For example, both the FAO Global Plan of Action ­ adopted by 150 countries in 1996 ­ and the 2001 International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture promote ex situ plant collections to preserve biodiversity.

But such agreements failed to provide the permanent funding needed for their implementation. The CGIAR genebanks have also been constrained by severe budget cuts ­ funding from the centres' core budget has dropped by 50 per cent since 1994.

Financial support of the world's genebanks must be made a global priority.

In 2004, the Global Crop Diversity Trust was established as an international financial mechanism for ensuring long-term conservation and availability of plant genetic resources.

To this end, it has facilitated the construction of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway. The vault, due to be completed in September 2007, is intended to provide the ultimate safety net, capable of storing some three million seed samples. The Global Trust is committed to assisting developing countries prepare and transport seeds to this remote Arctic genebank.

Diverse donors have thus far pledged US$115 million to the Global Trust.

It has taken a lot of time and effort to develop a global framework for conserving plant genetic diversity for the long-term. But for it to ultimately succeed, it is now imperative that the Global Trust generates sufficient funds to support the agreed activities of the global genebank system in perpetuity.

This will require active involvement from governments around the world, CGIAR centres, donors and other major players in crop diversity conservation.

Jan Valkoun was head of the Genetic Resources Unit at ICARDA in Aleppo, Syria from 19892006.

Source: SciDev.Net
22 May 2007

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1.11  Global Crop Diversity Trust receives £10 million investment from UK's Department for International Development

London, United Kingdom
Banking seeds to secure essential food crops for the world’s growing population and changing climate received a £10 million investment from the Department for International Development, Barry Gardiner, Minister for Biodiversity, announced today.

The assistance is part of the Department for International Development’s aim of fighting global poverty and hunger in the world’s poorest countries.

The new funding, over four years, will help the Global Crop Diversity Trust (GCDT) bank hundreds of thousands of staple food seeds for the world’s 21 major food crops such as wheat, barley, rice and maize, that will help fight hunger in the developing world.

Speaking at the Banking of the Billionth Seed event in Wakehurst as part of the UN’s International Day for Biodiversity, Mr Gardiner said: “More than 30 million people in Africa will not have enough food to eat this year. Fighting hunger is one of the greatest challenges facing the world now and over the coming decades. In an increasingly unpredictable climate with a growing population, pressure on global agriculture will only continue to grow.

“Protecting and maintaining a wide variety of food crops through seed banks, making sure that farmers have the raw materials to adapt and improve crops, is essential in meeting these challenges.”

Gareth Thomas, the Minister for International Development said: “It is a scandal that millions of people go hungry every day because there isn’t a regular supply of basic food items such as rice. That is why the UK is working with research groups in the UK and abroad to collect seeds that can be used in times of scarcity. This initiative will help ensure some of the poorest people in the world don’t go to work or to school on an empty stomach.”

Cary Fowler, Executive Secretary of the Trust, said: “The support of the UK will make a major impact. Conserving crop diversity is a long term investment, which yields huge returns in human well-being, yet many governments are unwilling to make such long term commitments. The Trust welcomes the UK's support, sharing our vision and becoming the largest country donor so far."

The Trust provides an essential global role supporting the long term development and maintenance of seed banks that help preserve crops for farmers in the poorest countries in the world. Seed banks can be vulnerable to conflict and natural disasters and the Trust has set up the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in the Arctic as the ultimate safety net for global crop diversity.

Conserving the right type of crop for the right climate and production of the right foods is not technologically complex but is an immense task; for example there are more than 100,000 different varieties of wheat, a global staple food. Reliable funding to the world’s seed banks will help to maintain the diversity of crops, help share information amongst seed banks and make their services available to those who most need it.

22 May 2007

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1.12  Climate change threatens wild relatives of key crops

At risk are vital genetic resources for resisting drought, pests

ROME, ITALY (22 May 2007) -- Wild relatives of plants such as the potato and the peanut are at risk of extinction, threatening a valuable source of genes that are necessary to boost the ability of cultivated crops to resist pests and tolerate drought, according to a new study released today by scientists of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). The culprit is climate change, the researchers said.

According to the study, in the next 50 years as many as 61 percent of the 51 wild peanut species analyzed and 12 percent of the 108 wild potato species analyzed could become extinct as the result of climate change. Most of those that remained would be confined to much smaller areas, further eroding their capacity to survive. The study also examined wild relatives of cowpea, a nutritious legume farmed widely in Africa. It found that only two of 48 species might disappear. However, the authors predict that most wild cowpeas will decline in numbers because climatic changes will push them out of many areas they currently inhabit.

"Our results would indicate that the survival of many species of crop wild relatives, not just wild potato, peanuts and cowpea, are likely to be seriously threatened even with the most conservative estimates regarding the magnitude of climate change," said the study’s lead author, Andy Jarvis, who is an agricultural geographer working at two CGIAR-supported centers – the Colombia-based International Center for Tropical Agriculture and Bioversity International, with headquarters in Rome. "There is an urgent need to collect and store the seeds of wild relatives in crop diversity collections before they disappear. At the moment, existing collections are conserving only a fraction of the diversity of wild species that are out there."

Extinction of crop wild relatives threatens food production because they contain genes for traits such as pest resistance and drought tolerance, which plant breeders use to improve the performance of cultivated varieties. The reliance on wild relatives to improve their cultivated cousins on the farm is expected to intensify as climate change makes it too hot, too cold, too wet or too dry for many existing crop varieties to continue producing at their current levels.

The results of the study were announced on International Biodiversity Day, organized by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

Jarvis and his colleagues looked specifically at the effects of climate change on the three crops in Africa and South America. The scientists focused on the two continents because this allowed them to consider how known populations of wild plants would fare in a wide variety of growing conditions. They found the impact of climate change is likely to be more pronounced in some species than in others but that, in general, all three groups of species would suffer.

Though not apparent to the average consumer, the wild relatives of crops play an important role in food production. All food crops originated from wild plants. But when they were domesticated, their genetic variation was narrowed significantly as farmers carefully selected plants with traits such as those related to taste and appearance as well as to yield. When trouble arises on the farm­attacks by pests or disease or, more recently, stressful growing conditions caused by climate change­breeders tend to dip back into the gene pool of the robust wild relatives in search of traits that will allow the domesticated variety to overcome the threat.

In recent years, genes available in wild relatives have helped breeders develop new types of domesticated potatoes that can fight devastating potato blight and new types of wheat more likely to survive drought conditions. Wild relatives of the peanut have helped breeders provide farmers with varieties that can survive a plant pest known as the root knot nematode, and resist a disease called early leaf spot. In fact, according to the report, more than half of new domesticated peanut varieties developed in the last five years have incorporated traits from wild relatives. Cowpea wild relatives are known to be a reservoir of genes that could confer resistance to major insect pests. In the US alone, the value of the improved yield and quality derived from wild species is estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Jarvis said the vulnerability of a wild plant to climate change can depend on its ability to adapt by, for example, extending its range as warming in its native regions becomes too hot to handle. One reason wild peanut plants appear to be so vulnerable to climate change is they are largely found in flat lands and would have to migrate a long way to reach cooler climates, a predicament exacerbated by the fact that peanuts bury their seeds underground, a meter or less from the parent plant. That limits the speed at which seeds can move into more favorable climates. By contrast, plants in mountainous locations could theoretically survive by extending their range slightly up a slope, even by only a few meters, to find cooler weather. What scientists must do, Jarvis said, is identify which wild relatives are most likely to suffer from climate change and give them priority for conservation.

"The irony here is that plant breeders will be relying on wild relatives more than ever as they work to develop domesticated crops that can adapt to changing climate conditions," said Annie Lane, the coordinator of a global project on crop wild relatives led by Bioversity International. "Yet because of climate change, we could end up losing a significant amount of these critical genetic resources at precisely the time they are most needed to maintain agricultural production.

Research that identifies crop wild relatives threatened by climate change is part of a broader CGIAR effort to anticipate and blunt the effects of global warming on agriculture. In the local, national, and international policy arenas, CGIAR researchers are generating innovative options to foster adaptation to climate change. In addition, new research at CGIAR-supported centers focuses on understanding the impacts of shifting climate patterns on natural resources, such as water, fisheries, and forests, and on planning for improved management of these resources to meet the needs of growing populations as the climate changes.
Jeff Haskins

21 May 2007

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1.13  Spud origin controversy solved

Andean, Chilean, or both? Crop science, biotechnology solve long-disputed debate over origin of the European potato

MADISON, WI, MARCH 21, 2007 – Molecular studies recently revealed new genetic information concerning the long-disputed origin of the “European potato.” Scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of La Laguna, and the International Potato Center used genetic markers to prove that the remnants of the earliest known landraces of the European potato are of Andean and Chilean origin. They report their findings in the May-June 2007 issue of Crop Science.

“European potatoes,” the cultivated potatoes first appearing in Europe and later spreading worldwide, were first recorded outside of the Americas in 1567 on the Canary Islands Archipelago. Today, scientists believe that the remnant landraces of these early potatoes still grow in on the Canary Islands.

For years, researchers have debated the birthplace of the European potato. While some scientists hypothesized that landrace introductions originated in the Andes, others believed that the introductions came from Chile. While there are multiple lines of evidence to support each theory, the Andean introduction hypothesis stems from the belief that the Canary Islands landraces are solely of Andean origin. Although almost all current European potatoes have Chilean traits, the Andean hypothesis supposed that these potatoes arose from crosses with Chilean potatoes as breeding stock after the Irish potato famine in the 1840s.

Using molecular markers, the scientists found that the Canary Island landraces possessed both Andean and Chilean types, as well as possible hybrids of the two.

“In combination with other historical, molecular, agronomic, and crossing data, these findings support a hypothesis of multiple early introductions of both Andean and Chilean germplasm to the Canary Islands and to Europe,” said Dr. David Spooner, co-author of the Crop Science study.

Spooner and others speculate that the early European potato was selected from Chilean introductions before the 1840s because they were better able to reproduce in long-day conditions, in contrast to Andean potatoes that were short-day adapted.

“The results of these studies are of interest not only to evolutionists but also for breeders. Years of effort were made to artificially recreate the European potato from Andean landraces yet it may have originated from Chile,” said Spooner. “If the true origin of the European potato was from Chile, rather from the Andes, it shows the value of plant evolutionary studies to understand and complement breeding programs”.

Spooner and other scientists now plan to further investigate the origin of the European potato from DNA extracted from herbarium specimens of cultivated potatoes collected in Europe before 1845.

“The results of these studies are providing data to rewrite the history of the cultivated potato and will aid breeders to better interpret the true pedigrees of our modern potato,” said Spooner.
Contact: Sara Uttech

15 May 2007

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1.14  Collection of cassava farmer-varieties from Kenya and Tanzania for baseline diversity assessment using SNPs

Morag Ferguson1, James Gethi2, Geoffrey Mkamilo3, Robert Kawuki4 and Godfrey Kawa5

 International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, P.O. Box 30709, Nairobi, Kenya2 Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), Katumani, P.O. Box 340, Machakos, Kenya3 Root and Tuber Research Program, Naliendele Agricultural Research Institute, P.O. Box 509, Mtwara, Tanzania.4 Biosciences Eastern and Central Africa (BecA), P.O. Box 30709, Nairobi, Kenya5 IITA-Tanzania, c/o Sugarcane Research Institute (SRI), Tumbi- Kibaha, Coast Region

A project being implemented by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and funded by FAO, aims at assessing the utility of single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers for establishing baselines of, and monitoring, cassava genetic diversity in the field. As part of this project, two collection missions were undertaken to collect and sample cassava diversity from farmer’s fields, in south-eastern Kenya and south-western Tanzania. The collection missions were done in collaboration with Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), Katumani, and the Agricultural Research Institute (ARI), Mtwara, Tanzania.

In Kenya the collection was undertaken from 23rd to 27th October 2006 in the coastal region of Kwale district specifically targeting the Lunga-lunga and Kinango regions bordering Tanzania. This area was selected as it had not been well-sampled previously and yet it is believed to be endemic to the devastating cassava brown streak disease (CBSD). It was therefore hoped that it may harbour useful cassava diversity. Forty-four cassava genotypes including two wild species were collected. During the collection mission, a questionnaire to capture agronomic information about the variety, surrounding environmental characteristics, and farmer’s perceptions on the variety was completed. At each location where a putative unique variety was found, stem cuttings (3-4 nodes) were made, labelled and placed in perforated polythene bags.  Additionally, young leaf tissues were collected, labelled, enclosed in aluminium foil and immediately placed on dry ice for subsequent SNP analysis. The collected stakes have been planted at KARI- Mtwapa, Mombasa, where further observations will be done.  Leaf samples have been taken to IITA-Nairobi, where they will be assessed for genotypic diversity using Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs).

Basing on the information gathered from the farmers during the collection mission, it was evident that: 1) farmers often grow more than one variety in a field 2) farmers can, within limits, identify the varieties they grow and remember the probable sources of the genotypes; and 3) cooking quality, early dry matter accumulation, drought tolerance, and pest and disease resistance, are some of the traits preferred by farmers.  This basic information is useful in designing cassava breeding schemes aimed at improving locally adapted cassava genotypes for the south-eastern coastal region of Kenya. 

In Tanzania, the collection mission was conducted from 16th -22nd November 2006 targeting the southern highlands of Tanzania. This area had not been sampled recently for cassava germplasm. The mission was conducted in collaboration with the Agricultural Research Institute (ARI) – Naliendele, Mtwara and Uyole, Mbeya, and IITA-Tanzania. Again forty-four cassava farmer varieties were collected. It is interesting to note that only local varieties were grown by farmers in the southern highlands of Tanzania, with Mwaya (also called Mkongomwaya or Mbegupole), being the most commonly grown variety.  Both formal and informal interactions with farmers established that fresh root yield under farm conditions is low (about 2 t/ha), as compared to the national average of 10t/ha.  This low yield may be due in part to the low genetic potential and or high susceptibility to biotic and abiotic stresses of the local varieties.  It was also evident that bitter, as opposed to sweet tasting varieties were preferred by farmers as they have less risk of being destroyed by animals (wild pigs, monkeys, goats) or uninvited guests! In addition to these collections, missions will also be undertaken in Uganda, and Mozambique. All the samples collected will form part of a study to assess the utility of SNPs in establishing baselines of diversity and monitoring diversity in cassava.

Contributed by Morag Ferguson

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1.15  Scientists seek useful traits in wild cottons

LUBBOCK - If you have Mom's smile, Dad's eyes and Grandpa's laugh, you might wonder what other traits you picked up from the genealogic fabric of the ol' family tree.

Scientists at the Texas A&M University System Agricultural Research and Extension at Lubbock are studying the family tree of cotton for much the same reason.

"Cotton genetic diversity has narrowed in recent years," said Dr. John Gannaway, Texas Agricultural Experiment Station cotton breeder. "Many of today's successful commercial varieties share common parents and grandparents.

"Many scientists believe today's varieties are flexible enough genetically to handle minor changes but lack enough diversity for really spectacular change. Aside from limiting fiber quality and yield potential, narrow genetics makes them more susceptible to insects and disease."

Gannaway and other scientists believe future progress in cotton breeding can only be achieved if sufficient genetic variability remains in global breeding stocks.

The mission of the center's Crops Genetic Research Facility is to investigate the potential of useful traits lying undiscovered in the gene pool or germplasm of obsolete and wild cottons contained in U.S., Russian and French cotton collections. These traits could help diversify the gene pool from which breeders draw new varieties in the future.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service facilities in College Station house one of three international collections of cottons. Another resides in France and another in Uzbekistan, in the former Soviet Union. Breeders worldwide are evaluating specimens from these collections and exchanging germplasm in their efforts to improve the cotton genome.

"These collections contain a wealth of genetic material," Gannaway said, "especially when you compare them to today's varieties. We are screening obsolete and wild cottons for useful traits such as insect and disease resistance, and drought, salt and cold tolerance.

Scientists at Lubbock obtain seed from global cotton collections in small lots, sometimes as few as 10 seeds per lot. Before their work advances, they must turn a few seeds into more by growing plants in an environmentally-controlled greenhouse.

Greenhouse manager and Experiment Station research assistant Leslie Wells supervises seed stocks from planting through harvest. His skill in making difficult cross pollinations is critical in developing new cotton lines, Gannaway said.

"Many of the cottons we grow for more seed are photoperiodic," Gannaway said. "They will only produce fruit and seed during the short days of temperate winter."

As these cottons grow and mature, scientists keep a log of their physical, or phenotypic, characteristics. Remember Mom's smile, Dad's eyes and Grandpa's laugh?

The lint, or fiber, these cottons produce is also measured, analyzed and recorded. The lint is hand-, saw- and roller-ginned, and then characterized using high volume instrumentation and the advanced fiber information analysis system.

The Lubbock scientists enter this information into a genetic database which they share with other scientists and the public. This database will complement the Texas A&M University System's cotton breeding program, Gannaway said. An overview of that program is online at .

Under Gannaway's guidance as lead researcher, Experiment Station research associate Jimmy Mabry and others conduct the greenhouse screening to make the database a reality.

Mabry grows cotton plants in PVC tubes, measuring the characteristics of their roots, shoots and leaves and comparing them to a group of control cottons. The data from these comparisons could help scientists discover which physical traits help impart drought resistance and make more accurate trait selections in the future.

Natalia Castillo, Experiment Station research assistant, screens cotton grown hydroponically . without soil . for salt tolerance. Seedlings are incrementally subjected to different concentrations of salt, which can reach 30,000 parts per million.

If cotton breeders can impart more salt tolerance to commercial varieties, farmers on the Texas High Plains could one day irrigate their crop from the Santa Rosa Aquifer . which lies underneath the heavily-tapped Ogallala Aquifer, Gannaway said.

"The Santa Rosa Aquifer is estimated to be 100 times larger than the Ogallala Aquifer, but it has a much higher concentration of dissolved salts," Gannaway said. "Salt tolerance could open up the Santa Rosa as an irrigation source."

Other Lubbock scientists are examining natural insect and disease resistance in obsolete and wild cottons. This resistance could lead to more "environmentally friendly" varieties that do not require harsh insecticides and fungicides to thrive in adverse conditions. Fiber from "greener" varieties may be more desirable with environmentally-savvy consumers, and help farmers reduce production costs without sacrificing yield or lint quality, Gannaway said.

Mark Arnold, Experiment Station research associate, and Monica Sheehan, Experiment Station research assistant, are screening cottons grown at Lubbock for thrips and Lygus bug resistance.

"Thrips are a serious cotton pest," Arnold said. "Thrips are very small. They can cause severe crop damage resulting in yield loss by feeding on the emerging leaves of cotton seedlings. Those leaves nurture the plant while it is establishing roots and gaining strength."

Treated seed and insecticides applied in the furrow at planting help farmers combat thrips, but these methods are expensive and often only provide a three-week window of protection against this hungry pest, Arnold said.

Arnold raises thrips on wheat, a favorite host plant, and forces them to move to neighboring cotton plants by killing the wheat with herbicide.

"This produces massive thrips pressure on the cotton plants, and results in a lot of damage to those first four true seedling leaves," he said. "We measure the leaf damage, identify cottons that show thrips resistance and subject those to further tests."

Sheehan raises Lygus bugs, a secondary pest of cotton, and confines their feeding to certain parts of cotton plants using bug cages. The amount of damage they inflict on cotton fruit and their ability to lay eggs for another generation are good indicators of Lygus resistance, said Sheehan, who hopes to intensify her experiment in 2007.

Raina King, a Texas Tech University graduate student, is working to develop 'cleaner' cottons that shed the small leaves (bracts) at the base of each boll a few days after flower blooms open.

Determining whether this trait is dominant, co-dominant or recessive and finding its DNA location could help breeders develop upland cottons that require less lint cleaning . producing cleaner fiber with less ginning costs, Gannaway said.

Scientists at the Crops Genetic Research Facility at Lubbock have been conducting their cotton research since 2004. The facility was completed and came on-line in 2003.

"We have developed several reliable methods for screening obsolete and wild cottons for several positive, heritable traits," Gannaway said. "The data from these experiments should give molecular breeders more tools to work with as they look for ways to diversify, improve and expand our cotton gene pool. That will benefit global breeding stocks and lead to varieties that are more flexible and productive."

Writer: Tim W. McAlavy ,
Contact: Dr. John Gannaway,

Source: via

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1.16  Protecting cassava from the brown streak virus

An improved variety of cassava
Millions of Africans rely on cassava, also known as manioc, to provide them with food through drought and war. This nutritious root tuber grows with minimal tending and in poor soil, even when other plants succumb to drought.

But in the past five years a virus the brown streak virus has spread throughout cassava crops in sub-Saharan Africa.

The virus destroys the root while the leaves stay healthy-looking so farmers don't realise that their entire crop has been ruined until harvest time.

The virus wipes out whole fields of plants; in Tanzania, cassava yields have fallen 50 to 80 per cent in the past five years, according to this New Scientist article.

Scientists from the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Tanzania suspect the virus is spread by people migrants, refugees or traders carrying infected cassava cuttings across Africa.

To tackle the problem, IITA researchers are developing new varieties of cassava through cross-breeding, and trials have shown that these successfully tolerate the virus.

To speed up the spread of these new varieties, the IITA is now training farmers in a new method to increase the number of cuttings obtained from each plant.

Link to full article in New Scientist

Source: New Scientist via
10 May 2007

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1.17  New knowledge improves rice quality, could help poor farmers boost income

Los Baños, Philippines
A major international initiative is being launched to try to boost the income of the world’s millions of poor rice farmers and at the same time provide consumers with more nutritious, better tasting food.

New scientific knowledge is allowing rice researchers to develop better quality rice varieties that could fetch a higher price from consumers, especially increasingly affluent rice consumers in Asia.

The main aim of the new International Network for Quality Rice is to help rice breeders around the world develop varieties with improved quality traits such as better taste, aroma, and cooking characteristics as well as higher levels of nutrition. Once provided to farmers, the new varieties are expected to command a higher price among consumers, especially those in Asia, who, as they become increasingly affluent, are seeking – and paying for – better quality food.

"Much of this research would not have been possible ten years ago because we simply did not have the knowledge or the understanding of quality that we do now," Robert S. Zeigler, the director general of the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute, said. "It really is a very exciting time to be involved in such research, especially because we can take the new scientific knowledge generated by activities such as the recent sequencing of the rice genome, and use it to improve the lives of the poor by providing either better quality food or increased income."

The quality rice network – which was formed electronically in 2006 – met for the first time last month during a three-day workshop entitled "Clearing Old Hurdles with New Science: Improving Rice Grain Quality" at IRRI. The event attracted 71 cereal chemists and other experts from more than 20 nations.

"It’s very clear from the great response we got to the workshop that rice quality is becoming a very hot topic in rice research almost everywhere," the convener and head of IRRI’s Grain Quality, Nutrition, and Postharvest Center, Melissa Fitzgerald, said. "Many of the issues we discussed may not have even been considered a few years ago, but, with the recent advances in molecular biology and exciting new areas such as metabolomics (the whole-genome assessment of metabolites), we can do things now that we could only dream about before."

During the workshop, the latest research was presented in several new areas, including:

-Breeding for better quality and genetically mapping specific quality traits in rice such as taste and aroma.
-The cooking and eating qualities of rice and how to measure sensory qualities more accurately.
-The role of important substances such as starch and amylose in cooking rice and how they are measured.

"IRRI is very fortunate to have a strong foundation of previous rice quality research to build on," Dr. Fitzgerald said. "We needed that to ensure we made the right decisions as we move into a whole new era of rice quality research."

For many years, rice breeders have focused on developing varieties that would boost production and provide some insect and weed resistance to help farmers reduce their use of pesticides; quality was not a high priority. However, major new advances in rice research and Asia’s continuing economic development have created important new opportunities.

"These are the two key changes driving the whole process and making this research area so exciting," Dr. Zeigler said. "If we can link these two things together – our new and improved knowledge and understanding of rice quality with affluent-consumer desires for better rice – then it’s possible we can also help poor farmers improve their lives.

"This would be an outstanding example of using the latest in science to improve the lives of the poor, while satisfying the desires of the affluent," he added.

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is the world’s leading rice research and training center. Based in the Philippines and with offices in 10 other Asian countries, it is an autonomous, nonprofit institution focused on improving the well-being of present and future generations of rice farmers and consumers, particularly those with low incomes, while preserving natural resources. IRRI is one of 15 centers funded through the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), an association of public and private donor agencies. 

7 May 2007

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1.18  Transgenic potato varieties developed by the University of Wisconsin are resistant to natural infestation of the Indonesian race of Phytophthora infestans

Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project II (ABSPII) Southeast Asia Newsletter Vol.III No. 2

A confined trial of late blight resistant (LBR) potato at the Indonesian Vegetable Research Institute (IVEGRI) showed that the transgenic potato varieties developed by the University of Wisconsin are resistant to natural infestation of the Indonesian race of Phytophthora infestans, the causal organism of the blight disease.

There were 13 potato genotypes used in the confined trial, which include susceptible potato cultivars that were grown as border rows. These cultivars were planted between plots and surrounding the main plot. Insecticides were applied on the field when necessary to protect against insect infestation. No fungicide was used during the confined trial.

All plants of the susceptible cultivars succumbed to the disease during the confined trial. These cultivars (Atlantic, Granola, Katahdin control, and Merbabu) were severely infected two months after planting (MAP). Among the resistant genotypes, J103K7 was observed to be more resistant than SP951 and SP904. Among the transgenic lines, SP951 is more resistant than SP904. The wild species (Solanum bubocastanum) PT29, which is the source of resistance gene (RB gene) on SP951 and SP904, was confirmed to be the most resistant to P. infestans from Lembang.

Dr. Frank Shotkoski, Director of ABSPII visited the confined trial in February, together with members of the Indonesian Biosafety and Food Safety Technical Team (IBFSTT). The LBR Potato breeding team followed the requirements specified by the IBFSTT such as provisions for genetic and material confinement which aim to prevent gene flow and LBR potato material going out of the confined trial.
(M Herman)

April, 2007

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1.19  Michigan State University professor developing hybrid turfgrass varieties with resistance to dollar spot, snow mold, drought

East Lansing, Michigan
In the future, people who care for and enjoy using golf courses, sports fields and parks may be able to worry less about how cold weather and drought affect the grass at their favorite recreational areas. With the development of new turfgrass hybrids by Suleiman Bughrara, professor in the Michigan State University (MSU) Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, the turfgrass industry may grow greener and stronger than ever before.

Since beginning his work at MSU in 1999, Bughrara has blazed new trails. Or, sometimes, frozen them. Bughrara completed a comprehensive snow mold study of more than 4,000 cloned varieties of creeping bentgrass by simulating winter for each plant. Twenty bentgrass varieties showed significant resistance to snow mold, one of the most detrimental diseases challenging the turfgrass industry. A follow-up study found six of the 20 snow-mold-resistant clones also showed resistance to dollar spot, the other main turf-troubling disease.

“Bentgrass has all the right characteristics of great turf but shows susceptibility to dollar spot and snow mold,” Bughrara said. “We will continue our work to examine ways of crossbreeding aesthetically pleasing varieties, such as colonial bentgrass, to maximize disease resistance.”

Bughrara and his research team continue making discovery after exciting discovery in turfgrass breeding. His work also includes ryegrass and fescue. Working to unlock the mystery of drought tolerance, Bughrara is integrating Atlas fescue genes (from semiarid regions of Morocco) into the perennial ryegrass genome. The hybrids have shown high drought tolerance in greenhouse research. Field evaluations and molecular mapping are under way.

“This is exciting work,” Bughrara said. “We are the only university in the United States doing this type of genetic work to improve cold and drought tolerance and disease resistance in turfgrass breeding.”

Bughrara sees potential breakthroughs in how all plants are grown, especially food plants.

“With the right location on a gene, we can create hybrids for cold and drought tolerance in other crops as well. Wheat, corn and rice that need less water to thrive? It could change the entire landscape of our food systems,” Bughrara said.

Bughrara’s position and several of his research projects are funded by Project GREEEN (Generating Research and Extension to meet Economic and Environmental Needs), Michigan’s plant agriculture initiative housed at MSU.

Founded in 1997, Project GREEEN is a cooperative effort between plant-based commodities and businesses together with the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station, MSU Extension and the Michigan Department of Agriculture to advance Michigan’s economy through its plant-based agriculture. Its mission is to develop research and educational programs in response to industry needs, ensure and improve food safety, and protect and preserve the quality of the environment.

To learn more about Michigan’s plant agriculture initiative at MSU, visit

Copyright © SeedQuest - All rights reserved

30 May 2007

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1.20  Genetically modified chicory brings hope to African malaria patients

Wageningen, The Netherlands
Dafra Pharma International NV has commissioned Plant Research International (PRI) to start new research to optimize the production method of artemisinin via genetically modified chicory plants. This research should result in inexpensive, large-scale production of artemisinin under controllable conditions. Artemisinin is a basic raw material used in ACTs (Artemisinin based Combination Therapies), the latest generation and most effective antimalaria treatment according to the WHO (World Health Organization of the UN).

Dafra Pharma International NV, private market leader in ACTs in Africa, wants to use the results of this research to lower the price of the basic raw material to such an extent that its treatments of the African patient will soon cost no more than half a dollar.

Malaria and ACTs
According to the WHO some 300 to 500 million malaria cases are reported annually worldwide. Each year this results in the death of 1.5 to 2 million people, of which 90% occur in Africa. Malaria is the main cause of death in most African countries, more than HIV/Aids. The disease is in particular fatal for pregnant women (10 000 per year) and young children (3000 per day). Each 30 seconds a child under five dies of malaria in Africa.

And yet malaria is perfectly treatable. Rapid diagnosis and treatment with an ACT can cure a patient before the disease becomes life-threatening. Since the malaria parasite has become resistant to the older, more conventional antimalaria treatments such as chloroquine, SP etc., the WHO recommends ACTs as the first-line treatment in the African countries. Artemisinin, however, is an expensive plant extract. This means that an ACT these days easily costs ten times more than a treatment with e.g. chloroquine. ACTs are very expensive for the African patients. This means that the price of the ACTs, and thus the price of artemisinin, needs to drop sharply.

Biosynthetic production of artemisinin via plants The idea of producing molecules via genetic modification is not new.

Based on a Dutch patent Prof. Jay Keasling (Berkely University, California, USA) & One World Health already made the first steps in the biosynthetic production of a precursor of artemisinin. They introduced the genetic information for production of artemisinic acid (obtained from Artemisia annua) in yeast. Via genetic modification of microorganisms and via fermentation they hope to produce artemisinic acid on an industrial scale.

Earlier research by Plant Research International, commissioned by Dafra Pharma International NV, followed a different path along the same lines of thought, though not using microorganisms, but plants. The Wageningen research showed that chicory produces considerable amounts of sesquiterpene lactones which give the plant its bitter taste. The Wageningen scientists, headed by Prof. Harro Bouwmeester and Dr. Maurice Franssen, could demonstrate that the enzymes that in chicory are involved in the production of the bitter compounds are also capable of performing other reactions. Via a diversion of the biosynthesis of bitter compounds they intend to produce the chemical precursor for artemisinin (dihydroartemisinic acid) in the roots of chicory. The group of Prof. Bouwmeester has shown in a wide range of plant species that diversion of the biosynthesis of terpenes can be carried out very efficiently.

New research of Plant Research International, also for Dafra Pharma International NV, is now being initiated to see how the precursor of artemisinin can best be produced in chicory. Dafra Pharma International NV has the chemical expertise required for the conversion, after extraction, of the precursor into artemisinin that is directly suitable for the production of ACTs.

The Belgian-Netherlands research will run parallel with that of Prof. Keasling in the USA. In fact both studies are complementary, with the same human objective: the large-scale production of a biosynthetically produced artemisinin which should lead to inexpensive, but high-quality, effective and safe antimalaria treatments (ACTs) for Africa.

Industrial scaling up for humane cause
To free Africa from malaria - the slogan of World Malaria Day 2007 - some 400 million treatments per year will be needed. Plant Research International and Dafra Pharma International NV will therefore continue their close cooperation in the optimization of the biosynthesis technology for the industrial production of artemisinin.

In the context of this cooperation a patent assigned to Plant Research International will be sold to Dafra Pharma International NV. This will allow the use of the knowledge acquired by Plant Research International in a product-oriented process.

Plant Research International and Dafra Pharma International have chosen inulin chicory as artemisinin production platform because it contains some essential precursors and enzymes and is a well-established industrial crop for a.o. non-food applications, which means that the entire chain of large-scale agricultural production, including extraction, is already present, in Belgium as well as in the Netherlands.

Dr FH Jansen, R&D Director of Dafra Pharma International NV, states that it must be the objective of Dafra Pharma International NV to achieve inexpensive, large-scale industrial production of artemisinin under controllable conditions via the root of the chicory plant in three to five years time.

In the future this new inexpensive raw material should enable Dafra Pharma International NV to place its ACTs on the market for half a dollar per adult antimalarial treatment.

Dafra Pharma International NV is private-sector market leader in all Africa for Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies to cure malaria.

Plant Research International is part of Wageningen UR and is the most important Netherlands research institute for scientific research on plants.
The Plant Sciences Group of Wageningen UR is a collaboration of:
- Plant Research International B.V.
- Applied Plant Research (Praktijkonderzoek Plant & Omgeving B.V.)
- Wageningen University

8 May 2007

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1.21  Plants that produce more vitamin C may result from UCLA-Dartmouth discovery

UCLA and Dartmouth scientists have identified a crucial enzyme in plant vitamin C synthesis, which could lead to enhanced crops. The discovery now makes clear the entire 10-step process by which plants convert glucose into vitamin C, an important antioxidant in nature.

"If we can find ways to enhance the activity of this enzyme, it may be possible to engineer plants to make more vitamin C and produce better crops," said Steven Clarke, UCLA professor of chemistry and biochemistry, director of UCLA's Molecular Biology Institute and co-author of the research study, to be published as a 'Paper of the Week' in the Journal of Biological Chemistry and currently available online.

"We hit on gold," Clarke said, "because we now have a chance to improve human nutrition and to increase the resistance of plants to oxidative stress. Plants may grow better with more vitamin C, especially with more ozone in the atmosphere due to pollution."

Carole Linster, a UCLA postdoctoral fellow in chemistry and biochemistry and lead author of the study, discovered the controlling enzyme, GDP-L-galactose phosphorylase, which serves as the biosynthetic pathway by which plants manufacture vitamin C.

"Our finding leads to attractive approaches for increasing the vitamin C content in plants," Linster said. "We now have two strategies to provide enhanced protection against oxidative damage: Stimulate the endogenous activity of the identified enzyme or engineer transgenic plants which overexpress the gene that encodes the enzyme."

When life on Earth began, there was almost no oxygen, Clarke noted.

"Two billion years ago, plants devised an efficient way to get sunlight to make sugar from carbon dioxide that produced oxygen as a waste product; that waste product probably killed off most of all living species at that time," Clarke said. "The only organisms that survived developed defenses against it, and one of the best defenses is vitamin C. Plants learned how to make vitamin C to protect themselves."

Prior to the new research, vitamin C may have been the most important small molecule whose biosynthetic pathway remained a mystery.

An essential vitamin for humans, vitamin C is also an important antioxidant for animals and plants. Humans do not have the ability to make vitamin C and get it from dietary sources, especially from plants. It was not until 1998 that a biosynthetic pathway was proposed to explain how plants make this compound. Research confirmed much of the pathway, although one crucial missing link continued to baffle scientists and remained unknown until this new research.

Clarke, who studies the biochemistry of aging, said the finding is an example of serendipity in science.

The research started as an effort to understand the role of a gene in Caenorhabditis elegans, a tiny worm used as a model for aging studies by Tara Gomez, a former UCLA undergraduate in Clarke's laboratory and now a graduate student at the California Institute of Technology. The gene's sequence suggested that it was related to a family of genes altered in cancer, known as HIT genes; these genes are studied in the laboratory of Charles Brenner at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center at Dartmouth Medical School.

Collaboration between Clarke's and Brenner's laboratories revealed a similarity between the worm gene and the product of the VTC2 gene of Arabidopsis thaliana, a small roadside plant. Mutations in this gene had been previously linked to low levels of vitamin C. Linster and Gomez were able to express and to purify the plant VTC2 enzyme from bacteria. The research team, led by Linster, produced the GDP-L-galactose substrate and reconstituted in test tubes the mysterious seventh step in vitamin C synthesis.

Clarke and Brenner liken the first six steps in vitamin C synthesis to a roadmap in which there are multiple possible routes from glucose to a variety of cellular compounds. Once the GDP-L-galactose compound takes the exit marked "VTC2," however, the atoms are reconfigured to make vitamin C. The remaining three steps, like a curving driveway, "require some turns but no real choices and no backing up," Brenner said.

The researchers are still studying what VTC2-related genes do in animals and how these genes may relate to aging and cancer.
The research was federally funded by the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences and the National Science Foundation, and by a fellowship Linster received from the government of Luxembourg.

The scientific team included UCLA researcher Lital Adler; Princeton undergraduate and former UCLA research assistant Brian D. Young; and Dartmouth researcher Kathryn Christensen.

Contact: Stuart Wolpert

23 May 2007

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1.22  Nature surrenders flowery secrets to international team

A new unifying theory for 'inflorescences'

The poet Dylan Thomas wrote, "The force that drives the green fuse drives the flower." Now, a team of international scientists has unlocked some of the secrets of that force: it has described the rules that govern how plants arrange flowers into branching structures, known in technical terms as ‘inflorescences.’ Nature has literally thousands of examples of inflorescences, which include the flower clusters of Mountain Ash, the tiny filigreed blossoms on Lilac and the stalkier inflorescences in Fireweed.

Published in the May 24 online edition of the journal Science, the team’s paper outlines the mathematical model, molecular genetics and evolutionary processes that work together to create inflorescences as different as Forget-Me-Not and Snapdragon.

"This is a unifying theory that provides an explanation for the diversity of inflorescences we see in nature," says Dr. Przemyslaw Prusinkiewicz, the paper’s lead author and a University of Calgary computer scientist. "It was thought that separate mechanisms explained the many differences in form and development of inflorescences in nature, but now we see that these are just facets of the same mechanism."

Dr. Lawrence Harder, a University of Calgary biologist and co-author of the paper, says one of their model’s key features is that it is able to anticipate regional variations in inflorescence structures and recognizes that some developmental patterns are impossible.

"What we’ve done here is to fit together fundamental science from different disciplines to create this exciting new theory," Harder says. "We can now say with more certainty why we have all this diversity that surrounds us; it’s also possible that our approach can be adapted to other fields."

A mathematical model that Prusinkiewicz developed has a unique property of producing diverse inflorescence structures with relatively small changes in input, and is a key element of the overall theory. Another is the work of molecular geneticist Dr. Enrico Coen of the United Kingdom’s John Innes Centre, who related Prusinkiewicz’s model to the action of plant genes.
Other co-authors include Brendan Lane, a University of Calgary computer science research associate, and Yvette Erasmus, a graduate student in the Institute of Molecular Plant Science in Edinburgh.

The team’s paper, "Evolution and Development of Inflorescence Architectures," will appear in the print version of Science on June 8.

Contact: Gregory Harris

24 May 2007

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1.23  Automation of DNA marker analysis for molecular breeding

DNA markers have helped a lot in speeding up several steps in the plant breeding process. Among its many applications include use in marker assisted selection for superior genotypes, and for checking for genotype uniformity.

DNA marker analysis can be automated to meet both the high-throughput and low cost requirement of many breeding programs, says researchers in Sweden and Denmark. The group presented the fully automated polymerase chain reaction system used in Svalof Weibull AB (SW) for evaluating barley and canola lines.

The system was presented to be capable of analyzing up to 2200 samples per day at a cost of 0,24 € per analysis for marker assisted selection and quality control of genetically modified organisms.

The complete paper with the detailed description of the SW system was published by the journal Plant Breeding and available for subscribers at .

Automation of DNA marker analysis for molecular breeding in crops: practical experience of a plant breeding company
C. Dayteg, Svalöf Weibull AB, SW Laboratory, SE-26181 Svalöv, Sweden
S. Tuvesson, Svalöf Weibull AB, SW Laboratory, SE-26181 Svalöv, Sweden
A. Merker, Department of Crop Science, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Box 44, SE-23053 Alnarp, Sweden
A. Jahoor, Plant and Soil Science Laboratory, Department of Agricultural Sciences, The Royal Veterinary and Agriculture University, Thorvaldssensvej 40, DK-1871 Fredriksberg, C, Copenhagen, Denmark and
A. Kolodinska-Brantestam, Department of Crop Science, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Box 44, SE-23053 Alnarp, Sweden
Plant Breeding (OnlineEarly Articles).

In modern plant breeding, DNA marker analyses are of increasing importance and, as the methods become more widely adopted, the capacity for high-throughput analyses at low cost is crucial for its practical use. Automation of the analysis processes is a way to meet these requirements. In order to achieve this, while keeping adequate flexibility in the analysis processes, Svalöf Weibull AB (SW) has developed a fully automated polymerase chain reaction system. It has been evaluated on barley and canola lines and is capable of analysing up to 2200 samples per day at a cost of 0,24 € per analysis for marker-assisted selection and quality control of genetically modified organisms. A detailed description of this system is given, and improvements to the throughput and applications are discussed.

Source: CropBiotech Update via
May 2007

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1.24  Iowa State scientists demonstrate first use of nanotechnology to enter plant cells

AMES, Iowa -- A team of Iowa State University plant scientists and materials chemists have successfully used nanotechnology to penetrate plant cell walls and simultaneously deliver a gene and a chemical that triggers its expression with controlled precision. Their breakthrough brings nanotechnology to plant biology and agricultural biotechnology, creating a powerful new tool for targeted delivery into plant cells.

The research, "Mesoporous Silica Nanoparticles Deliver DNA and Chemicals into Plants," is a highlighted article in the May issue of Nature Nanotechnology. The scientists are Kan Wang, professor of agronomy and director of the Center for Plant Transformation, Plant Sciences Institute; Victor Lin, professor of chemistry and senior scientist, U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory; Brian Trewyn, assistant scientist in chemistry; and Francois Torney, formerly a post-doctoral scientist in the Center for Plant Transformation and now a scientist with Biogemma, Clermond-Ferrand, France.

Currently, scientists can successfully introduce a gene into a plant cell. In a separate process, chemicals are used to activate the gene's function. The process is imprecise and the chemicals could be toxic to the plant.

"With the mesoporous nanoparticles, we can deliver two biogenic species at the same time," Wang said. "We can bring in a gene and induce it in a controlled manner at the same time and at the same location. That's never been done before."

The controlled release will improve the ability to study gene function in plants. And in the future, scientists could use the new technology to deliver imaging agents or chemicals inside cell walls. This would provide plant biologists with a window into intracellular events.

The Iowa State team, which has been working on the research in plants for less than three years, started with an Iowa State University proprietary technology developed previously by Lin's research group. It is a porous, silica nanoparticle system. Spherical in shape, the particles have arrays of independent porous channels. The channels form a honeycomb-like structure that can be filled with chemicals or molecules.

"One gram of this kind of material can have a total surface area of a football field, making it possible to carry a large payload," Trewyn said.

Lin's nanoparticle has a unique "capping" strategy that seals the chemical goods inside. In previous studies, his group successfully demonstrated that the caps can be chemically activated to pop open and release the cargo inside of animal cells. This unique feature provides total control for timing the delivery

The team's first attempt to use the porous silica nanoparticle to deliver DNA through the rigid wall of the plant cell was unsuccessful. The technology had worked more readily in animals cells because they don't have walls. The nanoparticles can enter animal cells through a process called endocytosis - the cell swallows or engulfs a molecule that is outside of it. The biologists attempted to mimic that process by removing the wall of the plant cell (called making protoplasts), forcing it to behave like an animal cell and swallow the nanoparticle. It didn't work.

They decided instead to modify the surface of the particle with a chemical coating.

"The team found a chemical we could use that made the nanoparticle look yummy to the plant cells so they would swallow the particles," Torney said.

It worked. The nanoparticles were swallowed by the plant protoplasts, which are a type of spherical plant cells without cell walls.

Most plant transformation, however, occurs with the use of a gene gun, not through endocytosis. In order to use the gene gun to introduce the nanoparticles to walled plant cells, the chemists made another clever modification on the particle surface. They synthesized even smaller gold particles to cap the nanoparticles. These "golden gates" not only prevented chemical leakage, but also added weight to the nanoparticles, enabling their delivery into the plant cell with the standard gene gun.

The biologists successfully used the technology to introduce DNA and chemicals to Arabidopsis, tobacco and corn plants.

"The most tremendous advantage is that you can deliver several things into a plant cell at the same time and release them whenever you want," Torney said.

"Until now, you were at nature's mercy when you delivered a gene into a cell," Lin said. "There's been no precise control as to whether the cells will actually incorporate the gene and express the consequent protein. With this technology, we may be able to control the whole sequence in the future."

And once you get inside the plant cell wall, it opens up "whole new possibilities," Wang said.

"We really don't know what's going on inside the cell. We're on the outside looking in. This gets us inside where we can study the biology per se," Wang said.

The interdisciplinary research collaboration was funded and facilitated by Iowa State's Plant Sciences Institute. The institute sponsors Wang's work to develop a male-sterile, biopharmaceutical corn - the corn contains a therapeutic protein but does not produce pollen. The materials development and synthesis of the nanoparticles in Lin's laboratory was funded by the energy department and the National Science Foundation. Wang and Lin intend to continue their collaboration to further develop the technology and its applications in plants.

Victor Lin, Chemistry,
Kan Wang, Center for Plant Transformation, (
Francois Torney, Biogemma,
Brian Trewyn, Chemistry,
Teddi Barron, News Service,


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1.25  Advancing the application of genomics technologies for the selection and development of high quality grains, including wheat and barley

Eminent grains expert and molecular biologist Professor Rudi Appels (photo) has been awarded a Visiting Fellowship within the Food Futures Flagship to advance the application of genomics technologies for the selection and development of high quality grains, including wheat and barley.

A member of staff at Murdoch University where he currently heads up the Molecular Plant breeding CRC activities in Western Australia, Professor Appels will work within the Flagship’s Future Grains, Grain Based Foods and Feed theme, which is focused on researching new techniques in advanced genetics with the aim of delivering premium value in food and feeds for Australia’s agrifood industries.

Through this fellowship, Professor Appels will bring together the complementary expertise in CSIRO and Agricultural Research Western Australia (AWRA) to work with cereal researchers in Australia and internationally, and develop a program to determine the quality of grain required for specific end-products, such as breads, pastries and noodles.

Key aspects of the research are new developments and technologies in genomics as they apply to identifying genes and gene networks that control the expression of the desired attributes in the grains – the 'genomics of quality'.

“There are a number of quality attributes that are key determinants for the sale of our grain into export markets and it is crucial we continue to invest and research grain quality to maintain the competitive edge of Australian grain in these markets,” says Professor Appels.

“The new science of genomics research on complex species such as cereals has the potential to define entirely the genetic basis for end-use traits and how environmental factors interact with the genetic elements.”

“A consequence of success in this area is a capability to produce 'designer' varieties targeting niche markets that reward our producers for providing consistent and targeted quality attributes in the grain sold. In doing this, we will also work with cereal scientists from key export markets to understand better the specific technical requirements of those markets, especially those countries’ cultural preferences in taste, appearance and texture.”

“The research expertise available in Australia, especially in CSIRO and the Food Futures Flagship, provides a foundation on which to build a major research resource devoted to wheat quality improvement.”

Flagship Visiting Fellowships enable Australian-based researchers to undertake agreed collaborative projects under the auspices of the National Research Flagships program. The program has been allocated $A97 million over seven years under the Australian Government’s Backing Australia’s Ability - Building Our Future Through Science and Innovation package.

22 May 2007

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1.26  New gene technology may improve corn traits, says the U.S. National Corn Growers Association

St. Louis, Missouri
It took nearly 20 years for researchers to develop the first commercial genetically enhanced corn hybrids. The next generation of genetic technology may be developed in less than half that time.

“Mini-chromosome stacking” uses the plant’s DNA to simultaneously introduce multiple genetic traits into plants, reducing the time and cost required to develop and launch new products. The technology has several advantages over current genetic technology, says Nathan Fields, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) director of Research and Business Development.

“There’s no interference with the plant’s native genome, so the new traits can be delivered more precisely, with increased ability to regulate trait expression,” explains Fields. “Also, the technique makes it easier to identify a genetically modified trait.”

The mini-chromosome technology was developed at the University of Chicago. Chromatin Inc. is the exclusive licensee. Earlier this year, it was awarded a patent granting it exclusive rights for the mini-chromosome technology in plants. NCGA has been working with Chromatin to help develop the technology for agriculture and made an investment in the company in 2004.

This week Monsanto signed a non-exclusive agreement to use the technology in corn and other crops. Monsanto and Chromatin will conduct a three-year program to complete development of the technology.

Chromatin estimates that mini-chromosome technology could accelerate the timeline from research to commercial introduction for plants modified with a single trait by two to three years (25 percent to 40 percent). “The technology offers the chance for more reliable trait development because the new traits would be separate,” says Fields. “For the same reason, researchers may be able to speed up the development and introduction of new traits.”

24 May 2007

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1.27  Plants tag insect herbivores with an alarm

Rooted in place, plants can’t run from herbivores­but they can fight back. Sensing attack, plants frequently generate toxins, emit volatile chemicals to attract the pest’s natural enemies, or launch other defensive tactics.

Now, for the first time, researchers reporting in the June 2007 issue of Plant Physiology have identified a specific class of small peptide elicitors, or plant defense signals, that help plants react to insect attack.

In this colorful self-defense strategy, proteins already present in the plant are ingested by insect attackers. Digesting the proteins, the insects unwittingly convert this food into a peptide elicitor, which gets secreted back onto plants during later feedings. Recognizing the secreted elicitor as a kind of “SOS,” plants launch defensive chemistry. This defense discovery opens the door for the development and genetic manipulation of plants with improved protection against pests.

Although researchers have long known that some plants distinguish different insect attackers, this defensive behavior has proven difficult to describe at the molecular level. Exceedingly few model systems have been utilized to characterize the potential interactions between what researchers estimate to be at least four million insects and 230,000 flowering plant species. Moreover, highly active plant defense signals can occur at trace levels, too small to easily detect or isolate.

Still, scientists have determined that insect herbivory, mechanical damage, and pathogens such as bacteria and fungi can all set off a variety of peptide warning signals in plants, which respond by increasing phytohormones, particularly ethylene, jasmonic acid, or salicylic acid, that regulate defensive responses. But which peptide signals act as alarms­and how?

To address those questions, Dr. Eric Schmelz at the United States Department of Agriculture’s Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service in Gainesville, Florida, led a research team that spent three years systematically analyzing the biochemical response of cowpea (Vigna unguiculata), a legume, to herbivory and oral secretions of fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda), a general crop pest. During the extensive project, the researchers conducted over 10,000 leaf bioassays, testing for plant phytohormone production after exposure to successively fractionated insect oral secretions, among other experiments. Painstakingly collected just a few microliters at a time, the team tested approximately one full liter of caterpillar secretions.

As previously reported, the scientists identified and isolated an 11 amino acid peptide, inceptin, that plays a pivotal warning role in cowpea plants being attacked by the fall armyworm. Inceptin is part of a larger, essential enzyme, chloroplastic ATP synthase, in plants. When the fall armyworm feeds on cowpea, the insect ingests ATP synthase and breaks it down, releasing inceptin, which then becomes part of the armyworm’s oral secretions. When the worm next feeds on cowpea, trace amounts of inceptin recontact the wounded leaf and alerts plants to generate a burst of defensive phytohormones.

In the June issue of Plant Physiology, Schmelz and his USDA collaborators, including Sherry LeClere, Mark Carroll, Hans Alborn, and Peter Teal, take the analysis further. They confirm inceptin’s role as the dominant (and most stable) peptide in the cowpea’s defense to fall armyworm. In addition, the researchers identify two related but less abundant peptide fragments (Vu-GE+In and Vu-E+In) that provoke similar defense responses in cowpea and a third (Vu-In-A) with no apparent effect. They also show that inceptin-related peptides spark a consistent, sequential cascade of phytohormone increases in cowpea, beginning with jasmonic acid, followed by ethylene and, lastly, salicyclic acid. Finally, the researchers determine critical features of inceptin’s structure: To work as a plant defense signal, the peptide must contain a penultimate C-terminal aspartic acid, though the structure is considerably more flexible at its N-terminal. Notably, a number of the general characteristics of inceptin are similar to another known plant defensive peptide signal, systemin.

The new work challenges researchers to reconsider plant-insect interactions. “Scientists searching for defense elicitors need to realize those elicitors may not be synthesized by­or even exist within­the insect pest species,” Schmelz said. “Instead, the attacker’s proteases may interact with the host proteins, generating an elicitor.” Building on this work, Schmelz is now recruiting a post-doctoral scientist to help the team biochemically purify and identify the inceptin receptor from legumes.

The June issue of Plant Physiology will be the Legume Focus Issue. Published by the American Society of Plant Biologists, Plant Physiology is the world’s most frequently cited plant science journal.

The research paper cited in this report is available at the following link:

Source: American Society of Plant Biologists via
9 May 2007

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1.28  Discovery of new, non-GMO CLEARFIELD gene for sunflower breeding

Bismark, North Dakota
The BASF Company announced recently that its collaboration with Nidera Co. has resulted in the discovery of a new and superior non-GMO CLEARFIELD gene.

The announcement reports that the E gene or E factor will no longer be needed when breeding Clearfield sunflower. The release goes on to say that "this will make the breeding effort more efficient and effective."

The announcement indicates that the new gene will be available in early 2008 to seed companies with a Clearfield agreement.

Clearfield sunflower was introduced in 2000 with a resistant gene coming from wild sunflower.

Source: U.S. National Sunflower Association newsletter via
21 May 2007

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1.29  University of Nebraska advances dicamba-resistance research

Lincoln, Nebraska
In a project that began about a dozen years ago, University of Nebraska-Lincoln scientists discovered a gene that has been used to create broadleaf crops that tolerate spraying with the popular herbicide dicamba. Now, even as an industry partner is working to bring dicamba-resistant crops to market, these plant scientists are continuing to explore new and expanded uses for the technology they discovered.

The availability of dicamba-resistant crops means that farmers soon will have more options for controlling weeds in broadleaf crops such as soybeans, canola, cotton, tobacco and vegetables.

The UNL team, headed by biochemist Don Weeks, outlined its discoveries on the molecular, cellular and biochemical processes involved in creating dicamba-resistant crops in the May 25 issue of Science, the international weekly journal.

Dicamba-based herbicides, sold under trade names such as Banvil and Clarity, are relatively inexpensive and easy on the environment because the chemical disappears quickly in plants and soil. But like all broadleaf herbicides, dicamba kills broadleaf crops as well as their weedy cousins so its use presently is limited to corn and other grassy crops.

The UNL team identified soil bacteria that break down dicamba and isolated the gene responsible for imparting resistance. Plant Scientist Tom Clemente, head of the university's Plant Transformation Core Facility, helped the team insert this gene into a plant's chromosomes, successfully transferring dicamba resistance to the plant.

They also discovered that they could modify the gene to target the DNA of the plant chloroplast, where photosynthesis occurs. This approach has significant practical implications. Since chloroplast genes are inherited through the material side, not through male pollen, it eliminates the chance that resistance could inadvertently spread to other plants through pollen.

The team's genetic modification technique worked in both lab and field trials. For example, soybeans carrying the dicamba-resistant gene were unharmed by dicamba sprayed at a rate of 2.5 pounds per acre, about 10 times the normal application rate.

"There are a number of levels at which we think this technology will be useful," Weeks said. "It will certainly allow for excellent control for broadleaf weeds in broadleaf crops like soybeans and cotton ... Controlling broadleaf weeds in broadleaf crops has always been a challenge and often quite expensive."

The new technology, Weeks added, also will help strengthen integrated weed management strategies.

"Importantly, we think that this technology will help to extend the lifetime of the Roundup Ready technology," he added. Some Roundup-resistant weeds have emerged in recent years, but working dicamba products into a weed-control strategy with Roundup could help counter that trend and lead to more complete weed control.

In addition, development of dicamba-resistant crops should further encourage use of conservation tillage practices that decrease soil erosion and foster more sustainable and environmentally sensitive farming, Weeks said.

UNL has patented this technology. In 2005 UNL signed an exclusive licensing agreement with Monsanto Co. to develop crops tolerant to dicamba, using UNL's technology.

"Monsanto is clearly moving forward with this technology, taking it through the regulatory processes at USDA, EPA and FDA, as well as conducting a number of field trials," Weeks said.

Dicamba-resistant crops aren't expected to be commercially available until early in the next decade. In the meantime, Weeks said, the agreement is supporting his team's continuing dicamba-resistance research – a key payoff of such technology-transfer agreements between universities and private industry.

"We're testing for efficacy in other crops; that research is looking promising," the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources biochemist said. "We also have explored some other aspects of this technology and have exciting new observations that we soon hope to have patented."

Monsanto is funding the research, which is conducted through the university's Agricultural Research Division, a part of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

24 May 2007

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1.30  Chromatin and Monsanto announce agreement to advance gene stacking technology

Chicago, Illinois and St. Louis, Missouri
Chromatin Inc. and Monsanto Company (NYSE: MON) today announced they have entered into a collaborative agreement to evaluate and develop Chromatin's proprietary gene- stacking technology for use in Monsanto's core research crops.

Under the agreement, Monsanto obtains non-exclusive rights to use Chromatin's mini-chromosome stacking technology in corn, cotton, soybeans, and canola.

Chromatin retains the right to broadly license its enabling technology so that other companies and third parties can benefit from this technology as well.

Monsanto and Chromatin scientists will carry out a three-year joint research program that may be extended, as necessary, to complete the technology development. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

"Monsanto is a leading agricultural biotechnology company. Their crop and trait development capabilities make them an ideal partner for advancing Chromatin's gene stacking technology," said Daphne Preuss, Chromatin's Chief Scientific Officer and President.

"Monsanto and Chromatin structured this non-exclusive partnership to facilitate the development of Chromatin's technology for commercial and humanitarian uses," Preuss said. "Chromatin is pleased to partner with a company that shares its goal of broadly expanding mini-chromosome capabilities."

Chromatin's mini-chromosome technology offers one way to stack multiple value-added traits by using a single heritable piece of the plant's own DNA to deliver several genes. Monsanto will evaluate Chromatin's stacking technology for use in conjunction with its existing technologies to explore more efficient methods of stacking traits.

"Farmers are increasingly turning to stacked trait technologies so that they can get more benefits out of a single seed," said Robert T. Fraley, Ph.D., Monsanto executive vice president and chief technology officer. "Chromatin's expertise in gene stacking technology will be an important resource as we look to deliver a broader variety of both input traits such as insect and weed control and beneficial consumer traits to improve nutrition of stacked trait options to our farmer customers."

"We want farmers to have access to all of our new traits in the best available germplasm -- along with the weed and insect protection they enjoy today," Fraley said. "By coupling Chromatin's unique technology with our in-house resources, we believe we'll be able to deliver these high-value trait stacks faster and more efficiently in the future."

22 May 2007

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1.31  Research identifies protein that signals flowering in squash plants

FLOWERING LOCUS T Protein Acts as a Signal for Flowering in Cucurbits

The length of the day relative to night, or photoperiod, is a strong determining factor for the induction of flowering in many plant species. Short day (SD) plants require a short day length (or more precisely, a long night) in order to flower. These are plants that flower as the days grow shorter, such as in the fall in temperate regions. Long day (LD) plants will flower when nights are short (and days are long), and typically flower in late spring or early summer. SD crops include rice and maize, and LD crops include wheat, barley, oats and peas. Day-neutral plants will flower under either long or short days. In addition to its fundamental importance in basic plant biology, understanding and manipulating the photoperiodic control of flowering time is an important objective in crop breeding and development programs, because it can aid in optimizing crop yields and other traits for local environmental conditions.

Experimental evidence indicates that a flowering-inducing substance, known as florigen, is produced in the leaves of a plant under inducing conditions, and then is transported through the phloem to the floral meristems, where it acts together with other factors to induce flowering. The precise nature of the florigenic signal has eluded plant biologists for over 70 years, owing to the difficulties attendant with the accurate detection and measurement of compounds in phloem sap, and designing experiments to allow accurate monitoring of long-distance transport of potential signalling compounds in plants. Some of the principal factors associated with the photoperiodic induction of flowering are proteins known as CONSTANS (CO) and FLOWERING LOCUS T (FT). CO does not appear to travel long distances through the phloem, but rather, it strongly influences the production of another substance (i.e. florigen) that does. Recent work in a number of laboratories has focused on a role for FT protein and/or FT mRNA as the florigenic signal, and evidence is building that the FT protein is responsible, at least in tomato, rice, and the model plant Arabidopsis (which is in the mustard or cabbage family). In research published this week in The Plant Cell, researchers Ming-Kuem Lin and William J. Lucas from the University of California, Davis, together with a number of coauthors, provide strong evidence that FT protein acts as a florigenic signal in cucurbit plant species (squashes).

The strength of this research lies in the nature of the experimental system utilized. The authors chose Cucurbita squash species because reliable methods for the analysis of translocation through the phloem stream have been developed in this system. However, most cucurbits are day-neutral plants, and to investigate the nature of the florigenic signal effectively, it was essential to utilize an obligate SD plant. In day-neutral plants, it is not possible to manipulate flowering by altering the daylength. By contrast, obligate SD plants will remain in the vegetative state until and unless inducing conditions (such as long nights) occur, and therefore they represent the ideal system for experimental manipulation to investigate this phenomenon. Principal investigator William J. Lucas explained, "it is important for these experiments to use a plant that is 100% inducible; in other words it absolutely will not flower unless it is induced. Then, with carefully designed grafting experiments, we can precisely control the introduction of putative florigenic signals into the translocation stream." The authors screened nearly one hundred accessions of Cucurbita species to identify one, belonging to the undomesticated squash species Cucurbita moschata, that remained vegetative under LD conditions and flowered only when grown under SD conditions.

The authors then used the potyvirus Zucchini yellow mosaic virus (ZYMV) as a delivery vector to test whether long-distance movement of FT mRNA and/or FT protein was required for floral induction. The choice of a potyvirus vector was important as these plant viruses do not produce sub-genomic RNA species, whose presence could lead to confounding results. The authors found that C. moschata plants could be induced to flower under the normally non-inducing LD conditions following ectopic expression of FT by the ZYMV vector. Analysis of such induced plants showed that the infection zone of ZYMV was not coincident with the plant's floral meristems, indicating that FT mRNA is unlikely to be the florigenic signal in this system. Next, heterografting studies were conducted using flowering Cucurbita maxima (pumpkin) stocks (the stock is the portion below the graft union containing the roots) grafted to non-induced, LD-grown C. moschata scions (the portion above the graft union). These experiments led to flowering of the C. moschata scions, indicating efficient transmission of a florigenic signal from the C. maxima stocks through the phloem into the scions. Analyses performed on phloem sap collected from these flowering C. maxima stocks failed to detect the presence of FT mRNA, but revealed the presence of FT protein in the translocation stream.

This research provides some of the most solid evidence to date that FT protein acts as a florigenic signal.

This research was supported by the National Science Foundation; U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences’ Energy Biosciences Program; and New Zealand Foundation for Research, Science and Technology.
The research paper cited in this report is available at the following link: Ming-Kuem Lin, Helene Belanger, Young-Jin Lee, Erika Varkonyi-Gasic, Ken-ichiro Taoka, Eriko Miura, Beatriz Xoconostle-Cazares, Karla Gendler, Richard A. Jorgensen, Brett Phinney, Tony J. Lough, and William J. Lucas: FLOWERING LOCUS T Protein May Act as the Long-Distance Florigenic Signal in the Cucurbits.


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

Dear Colleagues:

I am pleased to announce that Intellectual Property Management in Health and Agricultural Innovation: A Handbook of Best Practices has been released earlier last week at BIO in Boston. Prepared by and for policy-makers, leaders of public sector research establishments, technology transfer professionals, licensing executives, and scientists, the Handbook offers up-to-date information and strategies for utilizing the power of both intellectual property and the public domain. Eschewing ideological debates and general proclamations, the authors always keep their eye on the practical side of IP management. The Handbook provides substantive discussions and analyses of the opportunities awaiting anyone in the field who wants to put intellectual property to work.

The Handbook is a suite of 157 chapters and prefatory comments, composed by nearly 200 authors from East, West, North and South. The companion Executive Guide distills the key points of each chapter into simple language and places them in the context of evolving best practices. The books will be distributed for free to low- and middle-income countries (subject to availability of funding and support for distribution).

Please visit to order online.

Anatole Krattiger


“This Handbook... is a valuable guide in helping to navigate the complex­ but rewarding­world of an increasingly global innovation system.”
­ Norman Borlaug, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
“At the dawn of the 21st century the world created an unprecedented wave of public–private partnerships. For such investments to bear fruit as public goods it is paramount to manage intellectual property with the public interest in mind. This Handbook provides expert guidance to do just that and will assist in developing new capabilities in low- and middle-income countries.”
­ Ariel Pablos-Méndez, Managing Director, Rockefeller Foundation
“For all who believe, as I believe, that developing countries can­and should­participate in and benefit from an interconnected world of innovation, this book is an indispensable guide.”
­ Mahmoud F. Fathalla, Professor and former Dean, Medical School at Assiut University, Egypt, and Chairperson of the WHO Advisory Committee on Health Research

“Intellectual property (IP) has become a much richer field of endeavor as it has moved from isolationism in the world of policy to a position of engagement. [This Handbook] will serve as an invaluable resource in this challenging new environment.”
–– From the Foreword of Francis Gurry, Deputy Director General, WIPO
“This Handbook­which really transcends the category of handbooks altogether­ is a must read for anyone who deals with intellectual property.”
­ Pramilla Senanayake, FRCOG, Chair, Global Forum for Health Research, MIHR, and the Concept Foundation

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5.01  Postdoctoral position on “Quantitative genetics of garden rose architecture: architectural analysis and genetic determinism”

 at INRA in Angers (France)
A post-doctoral position is available from September 2007 to August 2009 in the UMR GenHort (Genetics and Horticulture, National Institute of Agronomical Research, INRA) at Angers (France). Our group is working on the comprehension of flowering and architecture of garden roses by genetic and molecular approaches. The post-doc will work on a joint project with the eco-physiological team of the UMR SAGAH (Agronomical Science Applied to Horticulture). The objective of this multidisciplinary project is to understand the genetic and environmental determinism controlling the elaboration of garden rose architecture.

In the post-doctoral project, we proposed to analyze the segregation of characters that influenced plant architecture. The driving objective of this research will be to 1) to phenotype the progeny of two populations with architectural components 2) to determine the architectural variables presenting heritability and 3) to analyze the genetic determinants of these variables.

In the group, two progenies have been obtained from crosses between roses of contrasting architecture. A genetic map was built from one population and different loci controlling traits of interest were mapped (Crespel et al, 2002; Hybrand Saint Oyant et al, 2007). Due to the complexity of architecture in woody perennial plants, the scoring of topological and geometrical data will be done on a “simple” system: branches of the year on roses grown in the field. For data scoring and analysis, tools developed by the AMAPmod platform ALEA (Clermont-Ferrand and Montpellier, France) will be used. Based on the statistical analysis, the variables will be selected according to the heritability, correlation and easiness of measurement. A QTL analysis will be performed on the selected variables to analyze the genetic determinants.

Applicants should not be French and should have a PhD in plant biology with a strong background in quantitative genetic and plant development. Knowledge of the AMAPmod platform will be a plus.

Applications including cover letter, curriculum vitae, and the names of two referees should be sent to:

Fabrice FOUCHER (
UMR Génétique et Horticulture (GenHort)
tel: 33 (0)

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5.02  Assistant professor position in the area of tree fruit genetics and breeding available in the department of Horticulture at Clemson University

POSITION AND QUALIFACTIONS: The Department of Horticulture at Clemson University invites applications for a tenure-track, 12 month - 100% research, faculty position at the Assistant Professor level in the area of tree fruit genetics and breeding. We are seeking a highly motivated individual with a record of research productivity and an interest in fruit tree cultivar development. Candidates should have a Ph.D. in horticulture, plant breeding, genetics, or a related discipline with knowledge, training and experience in molecular biology (e.g., molecular map construction, marker-assisted selection, transgenics, bioinformatics, etc.). Post-doctoral experience is preferred, but not required to apply. Salary is competitive and commensurate with the successful applicant’s background and experience. This position offers competitive startup funds and laboratory space, as well as use of the nearby 240-acre Musser Fruit Research Center.

RESPONSIBILITIES: The successful applicant's program will integrate traditional fruit tree breeding and molecular genetic tools for the improvement of fruit trees with emphasis on peach. He/She is expected to develop an independent, extramurally funded, fruit tree-breeding program and contribute to the development of the Clemson University Institute of Fruit and Forest Tree Genetics. The successful applicant will be directly involved in graduate student mentoring. Furthermore, the successful applicant will be expected to effectively communicate at various levels with different constituencies such as the South Carolina Peach Council.

APPLICATION: For more information contact Dr. Gregory L. Reighard, Chair of Search Committee, Department of Horticulture, 170 Poole Ag Center, Clemson University, Clemson, SC 29634-0319, USA. Voice: 864/656-4962; Fax: 864/656-4960. Applications should be sent electronically via e-mail to: in a single PDF file and should include a cover letter, a curriculum vitae, a statement of research goals and interests, and contact information for three potential references. Applications not in a single PDF will be returned and must be resubmitted in the correct format. Applicants may request that their candidacy remain confidential. Review of applications will begin March 1, 2007 and continue until a suitable candidate is identified. Minorities and women are encouraged to apply. Clemson University is an AA/EEO employer and does not discriminate against any individual or group of individuals on the basis of age, color, disability, gender, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation or veteran status.

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5.03  Associate in Research position available in the laboratory of Dr Amit Dhingra at Washington State University

Washington State University is seeking a highly motivated, talented and creative scientist for a plant genomics project. Position is initially available for two years with the possibility of extension. We are looking for an individual with the demonstrated ability to primarily carry out research and manage labs. The individual will be responsible for implementing experiments as well as upkeep of lab equipment, ordering lab supplies, and training students in the lab. The successful candidate must have strong interest in plant molecular biology, bioinformatics, genomics and tissue culture. Required: a B.S. degree.  Preferred: 1) a M.S. degree 2) prior experience in basic plant molecular biology techniques such as DNA extraction, cloning of PCR products, DNA sequencing, RT-PCR, plant growth, plant transformation, computer programming, and general microbial techniques; 3) ability to interact and work collaboratively with others. Application review begins immediately and will continue until the position is filled. Application material should include a brief cover letter outlining interests and qualifications, curriculum vitae, transcripts and the names and email addresses of three references (please send all materials as a single PDF file).  Email application materials to Dr. Amit Dhingra, Dept. of Horticulture & Landscape Architecture, WSU, P.O. Box 646414, Pullman, WA  99164-6414. Fax: (509)335-8690; e-mail: AA/EE0/ADA
Contributed by Sook Jung
(via Anne Marie Thro,

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5.04  Pasture Plant Breeder - Leadership potential - Unique Opportunity

Cropmark Seeds Limited is a seed company and research organisation based in Christchurch New Zealand specialising in the development and marketing of unique pasture seed varieties.  The company’s R&D programme is focussed on delivering agronomically the best performing pasture seed varieties that have an application in New Zealand and other countries worldwide.

Genetic improvement and leading edge research is the basis for Cropmark delivering unique and superior performing varieties.  The continuing success and growth of our R&D programme necessitates the further need for two forage grass breeders to fill a permanent junior (BSc/MSc) and senior (PhD or equivalent practical experience) position available at Cropmark Seeds Ltd. ( Both of these positions involve the development of new pasture species suitable for a range of environments through the application of conventional breeding and appropriate biotechnologies. 

The successful candidates will be required to have a basic understanding of the plant breeding of out-crossing species and general mating systems.  Although a demonstrated working knowledge of quantitative genetics, experimental design and statistical analyses are considered important, agronomy, cytology, plant physiology, botany, molecular biology are also considered critical in hiring the senior breeder.  The junior breeder position requires that the successful candidate has a working knowledge of agronomy and plant breeding. 

The breeding approach will be traditional and pragmatic, and therefore “hands on” field work (physical) will be a critical component of each position.  Individuals must be willing to be actively involved in a variety of agronomic tasks that are critical to the success of a traditional plant breeding programme.

Candidates who have a real interest in research and the important role this plays in enhancing the performance of varieties re disease, pests and environments, and building on gains achieved through traditional plant breeding and genetics. Also people with an interest in managing plant breeding and research programmes are of interest particularly people with management/leadership potential, skills, and/or with experience would be attractive to Cropmark.

Both positions are based in Christchurch New Zealand which is a city that provides a high quality of life, including good schooling, parks, and leisure activities. There are many attractions and outdoor activities in and around Christchurch, and near-by. 

Attractive working conditions, a competitive remuneration package, and relocation assistance will be offered.  Interested candidates should provide a CV and letter of intent describing your interest in the position (specify Junior or Senior Breeder) to Cropmark Seeds Limited. either by e-mail to or by post to PO Box 16574 Christchurch New Zealand, attention Vaughan Ormsby.

Contributed by Fiona Hagerty
Office Administrator
Cropmark Seeds Ltd

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5.05  Central Mexico Research Leader, Chapala Area of Central Mexico


JOB SUMMARY: Lead a research program focused on the trialing of strawberry, raspberry, blackberry and blueberry varieties in Central Mexico and developing production systems to maximize their consumer attributes and horticultural traits.  Work with Driscoll’s US based plant breeders for strawberry, raspberry, blackberry and blueberry and be responsible for introduction and testing of advanced selections and new varieties of those crops from Driscoll’s US and European breeding programs. Coordinate the testing of new varieties in locations outside of their original area of development.  Work with Driscoll’s US based plant breeders to develop crossing strategies and testing strategies to better leverage these efforts into Central Mexico.   Work with Driscoll’s US based Production Researchers, Plant Pathologists and Entomologists on projects to optimize grower profitability and fruit quality in all our crops.  Manage the propagation of test varieties in cooperation with the Nursery Department. Travel frequently to research locations in throughout Mexico and the United States of America.  Occasional travel to Europe, Australia and South America will also be required.

JOB QUALIFICATIONS: Doctor of Philosophy degree in horticultural science or related discipline with emphasis on Plant Breeding and Genetics and a strong background in Plant Physiology and crop manipulation.  A minimum five years work experience. Demonstrated ability to conduct innovative research and develop practical solutions to problems facing growers.  Strong organizational and planning skills.  Demonstrated ability to communicate both orally and in writing in Spanish and English.  Ability to be adaptable and flexible in a fast paced continuously changing multi-cultural work environment.  Experience in utilizing information technologies, which include email, word processing and spreadsheet capabilities.  Dependable and reliable with good interpersonal skills. 

RESPONSIBILITIES INCLUDE: Oversee trials of strawberry, raspberry, blackberry and blueberry varieties in Central Mexico. Work with Researchers and Plant Breeders in the US and Test Plot Managers in Central Mexico to design, implement and analyze experiments to meet objectives of Driscoll’s Central Mexico Operations.

1. Design and implement production research to increase fruit quality and productivity in collaboration with Driscoll’s US based researchers.

2. Recommend crossing strategies utilizing Driscoll’s proprietary genetic material as well as non-proprietary material to US based plant breeders to further variety development for Central Mexico.  Stay abreast of variety developments in Driscoll’s US Breeding programs to leverage these efforts in the Central Mexico operations.

3. Oversee weekly field evaluations of selections and advanced trials during periods of fruit production for strawberry, raspberry, blackberry and blueberry selections and varieties.  Coordinate and complete customer evaluations and market evaluations as needed from all districts.

4. Collect, analyze and report evaluation data from variety trails and research trials to peers and the DSO growers. Develop basic cultural recommendations for new varieties. Provide said recommendation to the grower community at the release of a variety. Report to growers on developments and progress on a regular basis.

5. Manage propagation and digging of selections for all Central Mexico variety trials in cooperation with the nursery department in the US & Mexico.  Work with Driscoll’s Nursery on the importation of plants for research and variety trials.

6. Procure and manage facilities for general laboratory work, greenhouse facilities and other facilities needed to support the breeding and production research efforts in Central Mexico.

7. Supervise Test Plot Managers based in Jocotopec, Los Reyes and Zamora.

8. Ensure the safekeeping of Driscoll’s Operacionies/Servicios confidential and proprietary information and materials.

9. Represents Driscoll’s Operacionies/Servicios in an ethical and business-like manner in all interactions with growers, co-workers, suppliers, customers, and the business community at large.

10. Maintains a safe and professional work area.

11. Performs other duties as instructed by supervisor.

Contributed by Margie Way, Recruiter

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5.06  Test Plot Supervisor, Strawberry Breeding, San Quintin, Baja California, Mexico

  Year round

JOB SUMMARY: Under general direction of the Strawberry Breeder, coordinate the planning, planting, harvest and data collection for all test plots in Baja, Mexico. 

JOB QUALIFICATIONS: B.S. Degree in plant or agriculture-related field.  Must be able to collect data in the field using computers.  Proficient with computer applications (spreadsheet, email, and internet).  Detail-oriented and effective verbal and written skills required.  Must have good organizational skills, basic math and other analytical abilities, and the ability to multi-task.  Must maintain a valid driver license for Baja, Mexico and be able to lift 30 pounds.  Must be able to work on weekends and extended hours when requested.  Bilingual Spanish-English required.


Coordinate plant importation with Mexico and US Nurseries.  Supervise test plot planting dates in conjunction with grower.  Ensure proper labeling and maintenance of test plotsWalk the fields, scouting for crop troubles.  Coordinate with the test-plot grower to implement pest control, irrigation and plant nutrition programs.  Complete work including data collection and harvest in a timely and efficient manner.  Maintain accurate records throughout growing season in response to changes in field and test plots.

Breeding and Development: Manage harvest labor to collect accurate yield data.  Coordinate shipments of fruit for fruit quality evaluation.  Implement and supervise ongoing local fruit quality testing program.  Under general supervision of the Strawberry Breeder and Research Department Manager, coordinate research studies in areas such as transportation, fruit-quality and new cultural practices.  

General Responsibilities:  Works as a team member with supervisory personnel and grower in ensuring a smooth and efficient work flow.  Supervises test plot technicians to ensure efficiency and accuracy in data collection process.  Ensures the security of Driscoll’s proprietary and confidential information and material.  Follows Company policies and practices while representing Driscoll’s in an ethical and business-like manner in all interactions with employees, growers, customers, etc.  Performs other duties as instructed by Supervisor/Manager

Contributed by Margie Way, Recruiter

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


9 - 12 October, 2007. IV Baltic Genetical Congress, to be held in the Daugavpils University, Latvia. Sponsored by The Federation of Genetical Societies of the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), the Latvian Society of Geneticists and Breeders and the Daugavpils University.

Specialists of all fields of genetics and applied genetics (breeding) from the Baltic States and all current and potential partners from other countries are welcome.

Traditionally, structure of the Congress will include plenary sessions (invited speakers), symposia (speakers, selected by the Organising Committee from submitted presentations) and poster sessions.

Important dates
July 15, 2007 – abstract submission, registration
September 15, 2007 – late registration

Prof. Isaak Rashal
President of the Latvian Society of Geneticists and Breeders
Chairman of the Organizing Committee

Contributed by Helmut Knuepffer


15–19 October 2007. 10th International Plant Virus Epidemiology Symposium: Controlling Epidemics of Emerging and Established Plant Virus Diseases - The Way Forward, Hyderabad, India

Organized by: ICRISAT and International Society for Plant Pathology

The past two decades have seen tremendous advances in the fields of plant virus epidemiology and control through use of conventional and modern techniques significantly contributing to the effective management of numerous virus diseases. At the same time several unknown viruses have emerged in new niches and several established viruses have become resurgent, greatly affecting the productivity of crops. This International Plant Virus Epidemiology Symposium, held for the first time in Asia, will provide a forum of experts for exchange of information on causes for virus epidemics, with a principal focus on virus disease control. We invite you to take part in the symposium and present your latest research results.

The 10th IPVE theme will feature the latest developments in research and applied plant virology in various technical sessions and poster presentations, post-symposium field trips and countless opportunities to network with colleagues from all over the world. A panel of elite virologists from all over the world will address the theme from multiple perspectives.

This symposium is held under auspices of the International Plant Virus Epidemiology Committee (IPVE) of the International Society for Plant Pathology (ISPP) and hosted by International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), situated in Hyderabad, India.

For further details, registration and abstract submission, please visit   

Contributed by P. Lava Kumar, Scientist – Virology, ICRISAT, Patancheru, India


22-26 October 2007. VI LatinAmerican and Caribbean Meeting on Ag Biotechnology, REDBIO2007-CHILE, [VI Encuentro LatinaAmericano y del Caribe de Biotecnologia Agropecuaria], Vina del Mar, Chile.

The Latin America and the Caribbean Meetings on Agricultural Biotechnology (REDBIO) are organized since 1995 and are the largest of its kind in the region. These meetings are organized every three years by the REDBIO network, altogether with a national institution of the country guest. This year the meeting will be held in Chile in the city of Vina del Mar from October 22nd to October 26th. The meeting will be organized by the Foundation for Agrarian Innovation (FIA), REDBIO and FAO.

REDBIO2007-Chile is expected to draw approximately 800 people involved to biotechnology research and its applications, laboratories, universities and biobusiness from more than 40 countries and 5 continents.

This event will enable public and private sector participants from REDBIO and other interested parties from different countries to examine biotechnological advances, policy and economic factors that impact their environment for investment in agricultural biotechnology. The event is designed to generate debate and recommendations about selected topics that will be disseminated through the REDBIO affiliates throughout Latin-American countries.

The main topics of REDBIO2007-Chile include: Genomics, Abiotic/Biotic Stress, plant breeding, Bio-Business, Gene flow, bioethics, intellectual properties, etc. The inaugural conference will be in charge of Dr. Sydney Brenner, Nobel prize in Physiology and Medicine, year 2002.

More information and
Organizing Committee: ;

Contributed by Juan Izquierdo


26-30 November 2007. II International Vavilov Conference. Crop Genetic Resources in the 21st Century: Current Status, Problems and Prospects, to be held in St. Petersburg, Russia. (N.I. Vavilov’s 120th Anniversary). Organized by The Scientific Council of the N. I. Vavilov All-Russian Research Institute of Plant Industry (VIR)

Abstracts due before 1st August 2007. The Organizing Committee reserves the right to select the reports for oral presentation after the deadline when all the abstracts are accumulated here. Proceeding from the results of such selection, a detailed scientific programme will be made up and distributed among the prospective participants.

Please be reminded that your presentations are required to be associated with one of the following topics:
1) significance of Vavilov’s theoretical heritage for modern science;
2) plant genetic diversity as a basis for food, bioresource and environmental security;
3) vital aspects of in situ and ex situ conservation of plant genetic resources;
4) modern technologies in researching and broadening plant genetic diversity;
5) the role of plant genetic resources in the world’s breeding achievements;
6) information technologies in plant genetic resources management and evaluation.

Contributed by Helmut Knuepffer


* 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,

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

* 24-28 June 2007. The 9th International Pollination Symposium on Plant-Pollinator Relationships­Diversity in Action. Scheman Center, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. The official theme is: "Host-Pollinator Biology Relationships - Diversity in Action."
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
For further information, please contact: Prof. Toshihiko YAMADA,
Contributed by Prof. Toshihiko YAMADA

*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:  Topics to be addressed include: genetics, production practices, pollination, harvesting, conditioning, storage, and wild-collected seed.

*30 July – 24 August 2007. Wheat Chemistry and Quality Improvement, CIMMYT headquarters in Mexico. For more details visit: 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 or contact for more information.

*12 – 16 August 2007. The Potato Association of America 91st Annual Meeting, Shilo Inn Conference Center in Idaho Falls, Idaho. or contact:

*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. REGISTRATION DEADLINE : JUNE 15, 2007

*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
Dr. Noel P. Magor
Head, Training Center

*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:
Colm Bowe (E-mail:
Please downlowd the registration form

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

*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

*17 – 19 September 2007. First International Symposium on Chili Anthracnose, Convention Center, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea.

Contacts: Paul Gniffke, and Dae-Geun Oh,

*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: for questions and comments.

*19-21 September 2007. New Approaches to Plant Breeding of Orphan Crops in Africa, Bern, Switzerland. Registration: until the end of April 2007 by email or fax to one of the organizers.
Dr. Zerihun Tadele
Prof. Dr. Cris Kuhlemeier

*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 or contact 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 or contact for more information.

*9-14 October 2007. 4th International Rice Blast Conference, Hunan, China.
 More information at

*22-26 October 2007. VI Encuentro Latinoamericano y del Caribe de Biotecnologma Agropecuaria (REDBIO 2007), Viqa del Mar and Valparamso, Chile.. See or contact for more information.

* 27-31 October 2007. 8th African Crop Science Society Conference, El Minia, Egypt.
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.acss2007org/.

*3-7 March 2008. International Symposium “Underutilized Plants for food, nutrition, income and sustainable development,” Arusha, Tanzania.

*21-24 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.

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

*7-12 December 2008. International Conference on Legume Genomics and Genetics IV Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
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Plant Breeding News is an electronic forum for the exchange of information and ideas about applied plant breeding and related fields. It is published every four to six weeks throughout the year.

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