PLANT BREEDING NEWS

EDITION 181

06 August 2007

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

Clair H. Hershey, Editor
chh23@cornell.edu

Archived issues available at: FAO Plant Breeding Newsletter

CONTENTS

1.  NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH NOTES
1.01  Texas A&M's Borlaug to receive Congressional Gold Medal
1.02  Founder of Uganda's Victoria Seeds Ltd. awarded African Green Revolution Yara Prize for 2007
1.03  Cornell’s Plant Breeding Department celebrates 100 years
1.04  A PBN-L interview with IRRI’s Director General
1.05  First all-African produced genetically engineered maize is resistant to maize streak virus
1.06  Farmers in Kenya happy with positive selection
1.07  African rice production gets major boost
1.08  $23.5 Million boost to barley breeding
1.09  Better varieties, better lives: success in the Andes
1.10  'Plants for the Future' - Implementation of a European strategy for plant research
1.11  Identifying the genetic processes that determine seed development
1.12  Iowa State University begins its new global master's degree in seed technology and business
1.13  University of Illinois study of energy crops finds miscanthus more productive than switchgrass
1.14  Grape vine breeding in Australia
1.15  Peru city bans GM to protect native potatoes
1.16  African scientists and agricultural organizations welcome AGRA clarification on biotech research
1.17  Gene bank math: applying sophisticated statistics and population genetics to the management of seed collections in gene banks
1.18  Gourmet chocolates to boost farmers’ incomes and preserve biodiversity
1.19  Genes hold secret to wheat's success, say UC Davis researchers
1.20  Adaptation to the environment has a stronger effect on the genome than anticipated
1.21  Researchers find a shortcut for screening resistant soybean crops
1.22  New sunflower germplasm lines resist fungal disease
1.23  Development of lines resistant to Blast through the use of rice wild relative
1.24  Researcher develops tomato with resistance to grey mould
1.25  Indonesia develops new rice varieties to fight bacterial blight
1.26  Breeding plants to produce industrial oils
1.27  Follow-up on banana hybrids
1.28  Rapid evolution of defense genes in plants may produce hybrid incompatibility
1.29  MSU researchers JAZ (zed) about plant resistance discovery
1.30  In evolutionary arms race, a bacterium is found that outwits tomato plant's defenses, Cornell study finds
1.31  Plants and stress -- key players on the thin line between life and death revealed
1.32  Towards the identification of photoperiod genes in cotton
1.33  How to boost recovery of fertile doubled-haploid onions
1.34  Selected articles from Update 7-2007 of FAO-BiotechNews

2.  PUBLICATIONS
2.01  Marker-assisted selection: Current status and future perspectives in crops, livestock, forestry and fish
2.02  Benefits and limits of an important biotech tool – Interview on FAO’s published study on marker-assisted selection

3.  WEB RESOURCES
3.01  A new cis-regulatory element analysis tool for rice genes
3.02  Global Facilitation Unit for Underutilized Species sets up a blog dedicated to underutilized species

4  REQUESTS FOR INFORMATION
4.01  Quest for a history of the seed industry - A SeedQuest project

5  POSITION ANNOUNCEMENTS
(None posted)

6  MEETINGS, COURSES AND WORKSHOPS

7  EDITOR'S NOTES

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1.  NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH NOTES

1.01  Texas A&M's Borlaug to receive Congressional Gold Medal

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Texas A&M Agriculture's Dr. Norman Borlaug will be presented the Congressional Gold Medal July 17 for unparalleled efforts at "bringing radical change to world agriculture and uplifting humanity," according to the U.S. Congress.

The presentation of the medal, created specifically for Borlaug at the U.S. Mint, will be at 10 a.m. in the Capital Rotunda.

Borlaug, 93, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 - the first ever to receive the prize for agricultural efforts - for his international research which led to wheat varieties that helped feed millions of starving people. He is distinguished professor of soil and crop sciences at Texas A&M University where he has been actively teaching, lecturing and consulting since 1984.

In measures passed by the Senate last September and the House in December, Borlaug was credited with "saving billions of people around the world ... (he) saved more lives than any other person who has ever lived."

"Dr. Borlaug's life-long work in fields throughout the world is a shining example of the importance of agriculture, not only for feeding starving people, but for economic and political stability," said Dr. Elsa Murano, Texas A&M University System vice chancellor and dean of agriculture and life sciences. "We are honored to have shared in his work for more than two decades at Texas A&M, and we applaud this recognition of his legacy."

Borlaug is often called the "Father of the Green Revolution" to depict the color and quantity of wheat planted in the world as a result of his development of smaller, easier-to-harvest plants which were nurtured the fertilizer, water and weed-preventing chemicals.

"There is no magic in high-yielding seed," Borlaug once said. "People have to know how to grow, when to plant, how to control weeds, how to manage water."

He bred a dwarf wheat first in Mexico because the traditional varieties there grew so tall that the stalks would bend over, losing the grain heads on the ground. His developments increased Mexican wheat production sixfold.

From there, Borlaug took the improved varieties to India and Pakistan in the mid-1960s though scientists then thought those nations of explosive populations and poor land were a hopeless cause.

But the effort worked. When Borlaug's work began there, India produced 11 million metric tons per year. That country now is the world's second largest producer of wheat and is expected to bring in 73 million tons this year, according to the Indian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

Borlaug has continued to work globally, maintaining research in Mexico each spring and teaching at Texas A&M each fall.

"It's difficult to come back to the United States and talk about food shortages when we have been blessed throughout history with abundance," Borlaug recalls.

The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian award given by the legislative branch of government, bestowed on those who have made a significant "act of service to the security, prosperity, and national interest of the United States."

George Washington was the first recipient on March 25, 1776. Borlaug also joins the ranks of the Wright Brothers, Charles Lindbergh, Thomas Edison, Dr. Jonas Salk, Mother Theresa of India, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King and more than 100 other recipients.

Source: AgNews, from Texas A&M University System Agriculture Program
Writer: Kathleen Phillips, 979-845-28272, ka-phillips@tamu.edu

Contributed by David D. Baltensperger
Professor and Head
Soil and Crop Sciences
Texas A&M University
dbaltensperger@ag.tamu.edu

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1.02  Founder of Uganda's Victoria Seeds Ltd. awarded African Green Revolution Yara Prize for 2007

Oslo, Norway
Yara Prize awarded Josephine Okot and Akin Adesina
The Board of the Yara Foundation awards the African Green Revolution Yara Prize for 2007 to Josephine Okot and Akinwumi Adesina for their pioneering work with agricultural inputs and agrodealer networks. The Yara Foundation recognizes their contributions to boosting agricultural productivity and creating livelihood opportunities for communities across Africa.

The Yara Foundation recognizes that a green revolution in Africa can neither be achieved nor sustained without private sector entrepreneurship to provide agricultural inputs and develop agrodealer networks. For the Yara Prize 2007, the Yara Foundation therefore focused on candidates who have shown both entrepreneurial excellence and the ability to work at many levels, from on-the-ground initiatives to strategy and policy.

The Laureates
As the founder and managing director of Victoria Seeds Ltd, Josephine Okot is ably demonstrating how to develop new markets and a local private-sector agricultural inputs industry in her native Uganda. Her efforts to reverse the decline in agricultural productivity in Uganda and other countries of the region is paying off. Okot has also taken a leadership role in lobbying for appropriate policies and an institutional framework that help to integrate the African seed sector with the global economy.

Akinwumi Adesina is widely known for his efforts to make farm inputs available to poor smallhold farmers. He developed a rural agrodealership model to allow owners of small village shops to develop into agrodealers selling agricultural inputs. He helped the Rockefeller Foundation develop a program that provides technical training and certification to this network of agrodealers. Adesina is currently Associate Director, Food Security and Africa Regional Program at the Rockefeller Foundation.

The Yara Prize is awarded by the Foundation to commend outstanding efforts to increase food production and availability in Africa, contributing to the economic and social development of the continent and its people. The Prize is made up of a financial grant of USD 100,000 to each of the laureates, and a diploma and a trophy. The prizewinner is free to decide how to utilize the Prize in order to further the sustainable greening and development of Africa.

The Yara Foundation Board hopes that this award will underpin the significant progress that has been achieved by the two winners in their pioneering work with agricultural inputs and agrodealer networks in Africa. It also hopes the Prize will serve as a source of inspiration for African entrepreneurs in their efforts to realize Africa’s green revolution, reverse hunger and create development throughout their continent.

Further information on the Yara Prize and the African Green Revolution Conference can be found at: www.africangreenrevolution.com

Source: SeedQuest.com
7 July 2007

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1.03  Cornell’s Plant Breeding Department celebrates 100 years

The Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, celebrated the centennial of its founding with a series of addresses, alumni reflections, faculty reminiscences, tours and other events, from July 26-28, 2007.  Keynote addresses planned to include Nobel laureate Dr Norman Borlaug, but he was unable to attend due to health reasons. Dr Royce P. Murphy, professor emeritus gave an overview of the department’s history, based on his meticulous research of the archives and on his own memory of events. This research has resulted in the publication, “Evolution of Plant Breeding at Cornell University” by Royce P. Murphy, with Lee B. Kass, published by the Dept. Plant Breeding and Genetics. This history notes that in 1907, Dean Liberty Hyde Bailey employed Herbert J. Webber to head the Department of Plant Breeding. The period from 1920, sometimes referred to as the Golden Era of Genetics, was remarkable for the large number of students who went on to become great scientists and leaders in plant breeding. Two students from that era, George W. Beadle and Barbara McClintock were named Nobel Laureates. Through June 2007 the Department has awarded 801 MS and PhD degrees.

Follow the website for future postings regarding the Centennial ( http://plbrgen.cals.cornell.edu/)

The Editor, PBN-L

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1.04  A PBN-L interview with IRRI’s Director General

Excerpts of an interview by the Editor, PBN-L, with Dr. Robert Zeigler on the occasion of the Centennial Celebration of Cornell’s Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics, 26-28 July 2007

Looking at the challenges of access to adequate food supplies in the next decade, how do you expect the role of plant breeding to evolve as a component of the solution?
There are two main aspects to this question: calorie supplies and nutritional makeup. There are still hundreds of millions of people in calorie-deficient areas of the world. These tend to be the harsher environments and technology impact is much more difficult. Plant breeding will make contributions especially in the area of genetic improvement for adaptation to abiotic stresses. Prominent examples in the case of rice are drought, flooding and salinity. IRRI is working hard on each of these, and has had recent breakthroughs in finding rices that tolerate submergence for several days to two weeks, when normal rice would be killed after only a day of submergence.

With regard to nutritional makeup, we need to keep in mind that people in most developing areas depend on the staples, and, world-wide, rice is the most important of these. Diversifying diets is an excellent goal, and it is also a long-term component of the solution. In the meantime we need to work at creating better nutritional balance within the staple crops. The high Vitamin A Golden Rice, high iron and high zinc are the main thrusts in the nutritional research. One of the challenges of these specialty rices will be to assure that there is not a stigma against them because they are viewed as a “poor person’s food.” One strategy could be to market as well to higher income groups, so the universal benefits are seen and they are not rejected because people do not want to be viewed as inadequate in feeding their families.

Given the likelihood of increasing areas of cropland being used for energy crops, what are the implications for food access for the poor?
This is potentially a real issue in the coming years, even for rice, which will probably not be directly used in energy production. Rice prices have mirrored those of other grains in the past year. As demand for crops for energy has soared, the amount of land dedicated to rice has fallen to less than 154 million hectares from 156 million hectares in 1999, despite increasing demand. India and China are drawing down stocks of rice and buying in the international marketplace. Northern China is a surplus producer of maize, and much of this surplus used to be shipped to the south. Recently, this maize surplus has shifted to local ethanol production, hence putting pressure on southern China to shift from rice to corn. It is likely that there will be many, many similar types of adjustments and adaptations in the marketplace that put pressure on food prices.

With regard to ethanol production, it is worth noting the potential for use of rice straw in production of cellulosic ethanol. In many places, the straw is simply burned in the fields after harvest. One side effect of removing the straw could be the need to replace lost nutrients, especially potassium. However, the need for the straw as a source of organic matter to build the soil is not as critical in paddy rice.

In IRRI’s research portfolio for the next five years, what are the general directions that plant breeding will take? How does this influence training needs at universities?
Breeding at IRRI will place strong emphasis on abiotic stresses in the next several years. This area has not received nearly as much attention as disease resistance in the past. Some of the most important of these stresses include drought, flooding and salinity. Hybrid rice is rapidly becoming a standard technology and IRRI’s breeders will make maximum use of heterosis in our program.

Our next generation of plant breeders will need to combine a molecular background with field experience. The declining opportunities for training of this type of breeding are well-known. There will also be a strong demand for graduates with a physiology background combined with a breeding major. One of the advantages of recruiting rice breeders is that rice is now essentially a model system, with a genetic map and a multitude of molecular and tissue culture techniques available. This gives molecular-trained people a motivation to get field experience in a species that fits their interests from a molecular level. IRRI and Cornell University have teamed up in a project to give molecular-trained people exposure to field breeding.

What are the two or three main factors holding back a Green Revolution in Africa?
Demand for rice is growing fast on the continent. Adequate irrigation infrastructure and post-harvest processing (milling and starch) are probably the main constraints for success of rice in Africa. Fertilizer is certainly a constraint, but not as big an issue at this time.

The Editor, PBN-L

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1.05  First all-African produced genetically engineered maize is resistant to maize streak virus

Maize streak viruses (MSV), geminiviruses that can destroy most of a maize crop, are endemic to sub-Saharan Africa and adjacent Indian Ocean islands where they are transmitted by leafhoppers in the genus Cicadulina. Maize can supply 50% of the caloric intake in sub-Saharan Africa but, in certain years, a farmer’s entire crop can be wiped out. Now, scientists at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, along with colleagues at the South African seed company, PANNAR Pty Ltd, have developed a resistant variety of maize that they hope will help alleviate food shortages as well as promote the reputation of genetically engineered (GE) foods in Africa. Dr. Dionne Shepherd of the University of Cape Town will be presenting the results of her recent work and that of coauthors B. Owor, R. Edema, A. Varsani, D.P. Martin, J.A. Thomson and E.P. Rybicki, at the annual meeting of the American Society of Plant Biologists in Chicago (July 8, 11:20 AM) in a major symposium on Plant Biology in Sub-Saharan Africa organized by Debby Delmer of UC Davis.

Maize, which originated in Mexico, was carried to Africa in the 1500s and eventually displaced native food crops such as sorghum and millet. Maize streak virus, an endemic pathogen of native African grasses, was then carried to maize plants by viruliferous leafhoppers. African scientists have been working for more than a quarter century on developing resistant varieties of maize by selecting and crossing varieties with various degrees of resistance to the virus.

However, resistance requires multiple genes located on different chromosomes, so the process is not straightforward. The group at the University of Cape Town took the opposite approach. They mutated a viral gene that encodes a protein that the virus needs to replicate itself and inserted it into maize plants. When the virus infects one of these transgenic maize plants, the mutated protein, which is expressed at a high level, prevents the virus from replicating and killing the plant. The transgenic maize variety has proven consistently resistant to MSV and the trait can be reliably passed on to the next generation and in crosses to other varieties. Field trials are scheduled to begin soon, not only to test the effectiveness of the technology in the field but also to ensure that the GE maize variety has no unintended effects on beneficial organisms that may feed on it. The resistant maize will also be tested to ensure that the viral protein is digestible and non-allergenic. The MSV-resistant maize is the first GE crop developed and tested solely by Africans.

This group of scientists also surveyed 389 Ugandan MSV isolates to assess the diversity and genetic characteristics of this destructive pathogen. They found that the most prevalent strain of this virus is a product of recombination of different viral genotypes, thus identifying an important source of new pathogenic variants and illustrating the constantly changing evolutionary battle between plants and pathogens. MSV was first sequenced in 1984 and found to contain a genome of only 2700 DNA bases in a circle of single-stranded DNA. When it infects susceptible plants, they produce deformed cobs and are often severely dwarfed. As the name of the virus suggests, the leaves are marked with parallel, yellow-white streaks.

The timing of infection, the maize genotype, and prevailing climatic conditions can all influence the extent of damage wreaked by this viral pathogen. Young plants cannot survive the infection but older plants are better able to contain the infection, resulting in smaller losses of grain. However, drought can have a devastating effect on maize fields over a wide geographical area. Under warm and wet conditions, a long-bodied morph of the leafhopper C. mbila emerges, but this form only travels short distances of 10 meters or less, thus limiting its damage to crops. Under drought conditions, a stronger, short-bodied morph that can fly great distances spreads the disease over large areas, thus exacerbating the effects of the drought itself.

Disease caused by similar geminiviruses, Wheat dwarf virus (WDV) and various sugarcane streak viruses, also affect other crops, including barley, wheat, oats, sugarcane, and millet. Thus, the technology developed for MSV could potentially be adapted to develop resistance in these other crops. Virologist Edward Rybicki and microbiologist Jennifer Thomson are hopeful that this year’s field trials will demonstrate not only the effectiveness of this technology in producing resistance to a destructive pathogen but also the safety of GE foods. Part of the objective is to provide seed that will be sold at a minimal profit to subsistence farmers, thus removing the objection that GE technology is principally profit-driven.
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Contact: Brian Hyps
bhyps@aspb.org

Contributed by Luciano Lourengo Nass
Embrapa Labex-USA Genetic Resources
USDA/ARS/NCGRP
Fort Collins, CO, USA
Luciano.Nass@ars.usda.gov

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1.06  Farmers in Kenya happy with positive selection

Potato farmers in Kenya, as well as potato thieves, are reaping the rewards of positive selection, a technology that is simple to adopt and requires only sticks and labor. Farmers increased their potato production by 30 percent simply by using tubers from selected healthy-looking plants as seed. The International Potato Center (CIP), the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) and the Ministry of Agriculture of Kenya have trained extension agents and farmer trainers in positive selection, who in turn trained over 70 farmer groups involving more than 1000 farmers since 2004.

Farmer groups are being trained on distinguishing between sick and healthy plants. Healthy looking plants are pegged before flowering and monitored up to harvesting. Pegged plants are harvested one by one and a final seed potato selection is made based on the number, size and quality of the tubers. By repeating this process over a few seasons, potato yields can be gradually increased.

The success of positive selection is seen from unlikely indicators - potato thieves. "My last crop looked so good that thieves came during the night to harvest it," said Peter Kinyae from the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute in Tigoni. "Interestingly we have seen several cases of theft from fields where groups had planted positive selected seed. This is a good indicator that the technology works."

The press release is available at http://www.cipotato.org/pressroom/press_releases_detail.asp?cod=38 .

From CropBiotech Update 29 June 2007:

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

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1.07  African rice production gets major boost

Cotonou, Benin
With rising international rice prices threatening to double their US$2 billion annual rice import bill, the rice-consuming nations of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) have finally received some good news.

Three of the world’s leading international agricultural research institutes have announced plans to combine their activities in Africa and so create a powerful new force focused on boosting African rice production and saving the region millions of dollars in lost foreign exchange.

The three centers are the Africa Rice Center (WARDA) based in Benin, the Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT) based in Colombia and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) based in the Philippines. With only 13% of the world’s population, Africa accounts for 32% of world rice imports, which makes it a big player in the international rice trade.

In 2006, SSA imported more than 9 million tonnes of rice worth an estimated US$2 billion. With world rice reserves at the lowest level since 1983-84, international rice prices are expected to double in the next couple of years. This is especially alarming for SSA nations, which need to import about 40 per cent of their rice to satisfy local demand.

In a joint declaration announcing a major programmatic alignment, the three centers – all of whom are supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) – affirmed their commitment to bring the best of science and their experience in Asia, Latin America and Africa to address the major challenges facing Africa’s rice sector.

“To me this is the best way to reach a consensus on rice research in Africa,” said Dr Papa Abdoulaye Seck, Director General of the Africa Rice Center (WARDA). “By harmonizing our activities we can cover the whole continent, have critical mass, address most of the problems facing rice, and at the end of the day we can have a very high impact.”

Among their initial proposals is the establishment of a sub-Saharan Africa Rice Consortium (SARC), which will consolidate the two existing regional rice networks – the West and Central Africa Rice Research and Development Network (ROCARIZ) and the Eastern and Central Africa Rice Research Network (ECARRN). The new combined entity will also cover other parts of SSA that are not members of the existing regional rice networks.

The three Centers have also agreed that SARC will provide a platform for collective action by the three CGIAR centers and collaboration with national agricultural research and extension systems (NARES). The Consortium will provide a united front for promoting rice and rice research in SSA and a common conduit for channeling technology and information from international research to NARES and farmers in the region.

Outlining SARC’s objectives, they said they wanted to maximize the level of coordination among the three Centers and their interaction with NARES. They also hoped to provide better farmer access to improved seeds and technologies; and, develop a critical mass of trained scientists, thereby enhancing Africa’s capacity in rice research.

Other objectives include improving knowledge sharing and training; increased economies of scale through reduced transactions costs in rice research in Africa and globally; and better coordination of research and development activities in the rice sector in Africa with spillover to Asia and Latin America in terms of germplasm use.

Source: SeedQuest.com
3 August 2007

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1.08  $23.5 Million boost to barley breeding

The University of Adelaide has signed the final agreement of a five-year, $23.5 million research program with industry and government to develop new barley varieties, expected to be worth billions of dollars to domestic and export markets.

The latest agreement, worth $5.7 million, has been signed with leading agribusiness ABB Grain.  ABB Grain will provide cash and in-kind support for the University’s research activities.

“The University of Adelaide is highly regarded for its plant breeding programs, with the research at our Waite Campus recognised as among the best in the world,” says the University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Research), Professor Alan Johnson AM.

“This deal ensures that our barley breeding program will remain at the forefront of agricultural research and development in Australia, for the benefit of industry and the community.  It will strengthen our already strong links with industry and government.”

The University of Adelaide leads the southern node of the nationally coordinated barley breeding venture, Barley Breeding Australia (BBA).

BBA is supported by growers and the Australian Government through the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), the Department of Agriculture & Food WA, the NSW and Victorian Departments of Primary Industries, the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries and the University of Adelaide.  Commercialisation of varieties developed through the southern node of BBA will be conducted by ABB Grain.

“This agreement wouldn’t be possible without the support of both industry and government,” says Dr Jason Eglinton, Barley Program Leader in the University’s School of Agriculture, Food & Wine.

“For example, ABB Grain plays a critical role not only in commercialisation but also evaluating new malting varieties through its wholly owned subsidiary, Joe White Maltings, and conducting export market development.  Our links with government at State and Federal levels are also important, with germplasm from departments of primary industry in New South Wales and Victoria contributing to the development of new varieties.”

The University’s commercialisation arm, Adelaide Research & Innovation, last year named ABB Grain as its commercialisation partner for the barley varieties FlagshipA and Fleet AustraliaA.  This is the first year that commercial volumes of FlagshipA – which has been specifically developed for the large brewing and malting markets in South East Asia, China and Japan – have been available for general planting by growers.
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David Ellis, Media Officer, University of Adelaide, Mob: 0421 612 762

Contributed by Dr Jason Eglinton, Barley Program Leader, School of Agriculture, Food & Wine, University of Adelaide, Tel: (08) 8303 6553, Mob: 0429 689 040

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1.09  Better varieties, better lives: success in the Andes

Mexico
What started with better crop varieties from CIMMYT and other CGIAR centers has resulted in development that is helping resource-poor, Andean farmers climb the steep slope out of poverty.

“Perhaps the best indicator is this: you never used to see trucks regularly driving out of the valley loaded with produce for the market; now you do.” Luís Eduardo Minchala Guaman, legume breeder for Ecuador’s National Institute of Agricultural and Livestock Research (INIAP), looks out over rolling Andean mountainsides in the cold air and blistering equatorial sunlight at some 2,600 meters above sea level. This is the Saraguro region­a tough, two-day drive south from Ecuador’s capital, Quito. Minchala is discussing the achievements of a development project begun in 1995 with farmers in 21 local communities. Among other things, it has provided them with seed of improved cultivars of several crops, micro-credit, small-scale water-harvesting and irrigation works, and training on profitable and sustainable farming.

Tangible impact
As a result of the project, hundreds of subsistence farm families now obtain several times their previous yields of small grains, potatoes, maize, and peas, and their average incomes have increased from USD 1 to USD 2 per day. The increased yield in wheat, for example, meant they could move it to more marginal land and still have enough. With food security assured this released land for crops with enhanced market value. Farmers are moving into diverse cash crops­improved pea varieties from Minchala’s work, tomatoes, onions, and fruits­as well as home gardens to improve household diets. With support from the project, producers are also adopting resource-conserving practices. One example is use of a perennial grass that anchors steep slopes against erosion and also serves as excellent forage for the cuy, a small mammal raised in the Andes and whose meat goes for around US$ 7 per kilogram on local markets. Finally, and not of least importance for Minchala, farmers are active, motivated, and organizing to obtain inputs and better market access.

Close, fruitful connections with international centers
Funding for recent work has come from INIA-Spain and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). The project’s operational budget is less than USD 30,000 per year, but participants have drawn freely on products and support from local authorities and several centers of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

The project began with one farmer and a high-yielding barley variety introduced by Hugo Vivar, former barley breeder from the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) who was posted at CIMMYT (and who is now the CIMMYT consultant on the project), and INIAP cereals specialist Jorge Coronel. On the heels of that barley’s success, Vivar has brought Coronel seed of improved drought-tolerant wheat from CIMMYT and an excellent quality protein maize (QPM) variety now being used in food programs for children at two rural schools and sold as green ears by farmers for extra income. The erosion-controlling grass is a variety that Vivar saw in Bolivia; convinced of its potential for Saraguro, he sent sprouts to Coronel. Improved, disease-resistant potato clones from the International Potato Center (CIP) have been introduced by Coronel and are being adopted throughout the valley.

Feeding the soil to foster food security
Farmers say that, prior to the project, they often ran out of annual grain supplies well before harvesting the next crops. As a result, many had to work for months in the cities, sending back money so their families could eat, and others would send their children to labor in mines. Now farmers once again see hope of making a living from their land. “Here we have no profession or livelihood other than farming,” says Arturo Salvador Ortega Ortega, a small-scale farmer from Lluzhapa village and one of the project’s farmer-leaders. “We are returning to work our fields with improved seed and fertilizer, and we’ll be able to get by.” With improved harvests and support from the project, Ortega and his peers are investing in community development works, including reservoirs and irrigation for home gardens and a mill to provide less-expensive flour and noodles for local sale. “But fertilizer is the main thing we need,” says Ortega. “It’s the basis of everything.”

Farmers throughout Saraguro have seen that fertilizer makes the difference between subsistence and surplus harvests in the region’s hardscrabble soils. Most farmers lack the cash to purchase fertilizer at today’s prices. Suppliers sometimes shortchange farmers by “bleeding” a kilo or two out of 20 kilogram bags they sell, or by mixing in a white sand that is nearly indistinguishable from the fertilizer. “We’ve been providing fertilizer and seed of guaranteed quality at wholesale prices,” says Coronel. “In the current arrangement, farmers pay half up front and the remainder at harvest. Our payback rate is always well above 90%.” Building on the trust and contacts established this way, Coronel is encouraging a local project technician to launch an agro-vet business in Saraguro to provide quality seed, fertilizer, and other inputs.

INIAP’s “star” project
Julio César Delgado Arce, Director General of INIAP, visited Saraguro in 2006, and was impressed at how resource-poor farmers had improved their livelihoods through the adoption of improved varieties and other practices. “Saraguro is the star project of INIAP­it’s broad and involves diverse interventions that address farmers’ needs. We’re trying to give it all the support possible.” Delgado also had words of praise for CIMMYT: “The Center continues to provide free access to its materials, and we’re very happy with this.”

For more information: Kevin Pixley, Associate Director, Global Maize Program (k.pixley@cgiar.org), or Javier Peña, wheat grain quality specialist (j.pena@cgiar.org).

Source: SeedQuest.com
29 June 2007

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1.10  'Plants for the Future' - Implementation of a European strategy for plant research

Brussels, Belgium
Source: European Pland Science Organisation (EPSO) News No. 2
By Uli Schurr, EPSO Member of the Steering Committee ‘Plants for the Future’


The European Technology Platform (ETP) ‘Plants for the Futurelaunched its Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) on 25 June 2007 at the European Parliament. This is yet another milestone on the road to putting plant sciences back on the agenda in Europe and its Member States. EPSO as an organisation and with the help of its members has played a crucial role in shaping this SRA. Now we need your support to implement the European SRA for plant research.

ETP ‘Plants for the Future’ has a short but successful history: it was established in 2004 as one of the first European technology platforms with the publication of ‘2025, a European vision for plant genomics and biotechnology’. This vision was signed by 21 European stakeholder organisations representing academia, farmers, industry and consumers – a clear indication of the broad impact and recognition of plant science in Europe. ETP then mobilised representatives of all stakeholders to discuss the development of a Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) in their Member States.

The first impact of the SRA is already evident: 25% of Theme 2 funding for the 2007 Work Programme of the Seventh Framework Programme was dedicated to plant research. In addition, national funding programmes in a growing number of Member States now refer to SRA and ERA-NET Plant Genomics for closer collaborations with future technology platform activities.

The SRA launch is also the appropriate occasion to thank all EPSO members who have contributed to ‘Plants for the Future’ and Member State consultations in 19 European countries during the last few years. We are especially grateful to the former EPSO president Marc Zabeau and previous EPSO Board members Mike Bevan and Mark Stitt. Special thanks also goes to Karin Metzlaff, who serves as Executive Director for both ‘Plants for the Future’ and EPSO, and her team for their dedicated and successful efforts in bringing European plant sciences back to the front.

Our work, however, has just started. Today, just three years after its launch, the broad representation of stakeholders in ETP ‘Plants for the Future’ is one of its strongest assets. The ETP continues to have an important mission in Europe, which is increasingly becoming aware of the importance of plants for its future. ETP ‘Plants for the Future’ belongs to the family of technology platforms that are working towards a European knowledge-based bio-economy. Joining forces with these platforms will provide the necessary momentum for plant research.

ETP ‘Plants for the Future’ will continue its efforts to integrate plant sciences with emerging European research strategies. ETP will use and urge to direct new financial instruments, encourage the development of national plant research platforms and become the reference point for the agricultural and plant-based sectors.

ETP ‘Plants for the Future’ will need your continuing support and support from its stakeholders, industry, academia and farmers, to achieve these goals. EPSO members will provide this support from the academic side. The SRA has been launched, now it must be implemented.

Source: SeedQuest.com
2 July 2007

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1.11  Identifying the genetic processes that determine seed development

United Kingdom
Scientists at the University of Oxford have paved the way for bigger and better quality maize crops by identifying the genetic processes that determine seed development.

Plant scientists have known for some time that genes from the maternal plant control seed development, but they have not known quite how. The Oxford research, supported by the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and highlighted in the new issue of BBSRC Business, has found at least part of the answer.

Working in collaboration with researchers in Germany and France, Professor Hugh Dickinson's team found that only the maternal copy of a key gene responsible for delivering nutrients is active. The copy derived from the paternal plant is switched off. This gene encodes a potential signalling molecule found in the endosperm - a placenta-like layer that nourishes the developing grain, which is involved in 'calling' for nutrients from the mother plant, and so triggers an increased flow of resources. Similar mechanisms can almost certainly be expected in other cereals, and with cereal grain being a staple food across the world, the potential to harness this science to improve yields is clear.

Prof. Dickinson explains: "By understanding the complex level of gene control in the developing grain, we have opened up opportunities in improving crop yield.

"The knowledge and molecular tools needed to harness these natural genetic processes are now available to plant breeders and could help them improve commercial varieties further. For example, they can better understand how to successfully cross-breed to produce higher quality crops. The cereal grain is a staple food of the world's population: with the changing climate and growing population, the need for sustainable agriculture is increasingly pressing."

The mechanism used to switch off paternal genes ensures supremacy of maternally-derived genes. This process is known as 'imprinting' and is achieved mainly through 'methylation' - a naturally occurring chemical change in the DNA. A very similar mechanism takes place in animal embryos. However, unlike the animal imprinting systems where genes are often grouped in the chromosomal DNA, in maize imprinted genes are 'solitary' and independently regulated.

This project was a collaboration between the University of Oxford's Department of Plant Sciences, researchers at the University of Hamburg and Biogemma, a French biotech company.

It was funded initially through the EC Framework Programme V, and then under BBSRC's initiative on Integrated Epigenetics.

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £380 million in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.

Source: SciDev.net
30 July 2007

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1.12  Iowa State University begins its new global master's degree in seed technology and business

Ames, Iowa
This week Iowa State University began offering the first class in its new global master's degree in seed technology and business.

The interdisciplinary degree is a cooperative effort between the colleges of Business and Agriculture and Life Sciences. It combines business courses similar to those in the first year of a master's of business administration program with classes relating to scientific and technical subjects in seed and genetic improvement. Classes are offered through the Internet.

"We are excited to have this new multi-college interdepartmental program under way," said Manjit Misra, director of the Seed Science Center. "This program integrates technical and business subjects into a single graduate program for seed that does not exist anywhere else. Such integration will contribute to students' ability to make decisions in the real world".

The program has attracted 23 students from the United States and four other continents, and from a variety of seed organizations.

"The students are attracted to a program that is focused on seed and seed-related science and technology, that's available over the Internet and paced so that they can continue to work at their regular jobs," said Mike Crum, associate dean of the College of Business. "Many of the students have been sponsored by their employers. Employers are interested in new educational approaches that will prepare students to undertake innovative roles in their organizations and in the seed sector."

The program's scope is global in keeping with changes in the marketplace for seed.

"All around the world the seed industry is in transition," said Paul Christensen, program manager. "In the developing world, the roles of governments in seed are changing, and that's changing the roles of others involved. Everywhere, technology is changing seed opportunities for all those involved in the seed sector. These changes are increasing the need for well-prepared, informed decision-makers."

Students participating in the master's program are required to complete 36 credits of coursework, including three credits for the creative component. Two graduate certificates, one in seed science and technology and one in seed business management, also are being offered as part of the program. The certificates are designed to enhance students existing experience and training.

Additional information is available at: http://www.seeds.iastate.edu/class/.

26 July 2007

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1.13  University of Illinois study of energy crops finds miscanthus more productive than switchgrass

Rockville, Maryland
At the annual meeting of the American Society of Plant Biologists in Chicago (July 7-11, 2007), scientists will present findings on how to economically and efficiently produce plant crops suitable for sustainable bioenergy. Improving the production of such biomass is important because it should significantly ease and eventually replace dependence on petroleum-based fuels. Biomass is plant material, vegetation or agricultural waste used as fuel.

Converting biomass into biofuels can be costly and slow. Two crops, both classified as C4 perennial grasses, have been studied extensively to determine how best to improve costs and production rates. Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) has been trialed across the United States. Miscanthus (Miscanthus x giganteus) has been studied throughout the European Union. Both show great promise, but until now, nobody has been sure which crop is more efficacious. The study completed by Frank Dohleman of the Plant Biology Department at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and his colleagues, is the first to compare the productivity of the two grasses in side-by-side field trials. Results from trials throughout Illinois show that Miscanthus is more than twice as productive as switchgrass.

Dohleman’s team, which included Dafu Wang, Andrew D.B. Leakey & Stephen P. Long also of University of Illinois, along with Emily A. Heaton of Ceres Inc., theorized that Miscanthus produces more usable biomass than switchgrass because of these three key attributes:
1. Miscanthus can gain greater amounts of photosynthetic carbon per unit of leaf area
2. Miscanthus has a greater leaf area
3. Miscanthus has a longer growing season.

The research team measured the amount of gas exchanged on the upper canopy of Miscanthus leaves from pre-dawn to post-dusk on 20 dates in the 2005 and 2006 growing seasons. The averages from two years’ data showed that Miscanthus gained 33% more carbon than switchgrass. Integrated measurements also showed that the Miscanthus leaf area was 45% greater than switchgrass and that Miscanthus plants grew an average of eleven days longer than switchgrass. This extended growing season and accompanying lower temperatures proved to further boost the photosynthetic activity of Miscanthus. Specifically, pyruvate Pi dikinase was found to be expressed at higher rates when ambient temperatures are lower. This enzyme supports C4 photosynthesis in Miscanthus.

Unraveling the mystery of why Miscanthus is the more productive crop will enable researchers to engineer this and other potential bioenergy crops. These developments will increase production options as well as support efforts within biofuel research and industry to work with non-food based biomass resources.

The ASPB is please to support the scientists who conducted this study as they contribute to the plant research community’s cutting-edge progress in conservation and resources management.

Founded in 1924, ASPB (formerly known as the American Society of Plant Physiologists), is headquartered in Rockville, Maryland. This professional society has a membership of approximately 5,000 plant scientists from the United States and more than 50 other nations. ASPB publishes two of the most widely cited plant science journals in the world, Plant Cell and Plant Physiology. Further information concerning ASPB can be found on its website, www.aspb.org.

Source: SeedQuest.com
10 July 2007

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1.14  Grape vine breeding in Australia

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) continues to breed improved grapevine varieties that will be a part of one's dining experience, gourmet or not. CSIRO has developed varieties such as Tarrango and Tyrian for the wine industry, and has selected clones and varieties such as rain-tolerant currant Carina and rain-tolerant sultana type, Sunmuscat for the dried-grape industry. The table grape breeding program has already released seedless black grape and early ripening seeded grape varieties. The rootstock program, on the other hand, is continuing with an emphasis on tolerance of Phylloxera and nematodes, salt and drought tolerance, stock-scion compatibility and water use efficiency.
Read the article at http://www.csiro.au/science/psjb.html.

Source: CropBiotech Update 20 April 2007:

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

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1.15  Peru city bans GM to protect native potatoes

Paula Leighton
The regional government of Cusco, Peru has banned genetically modified (GM) products in the region to protect the diversity of thousands of native potato varieties and other Andean food crops.

The order was announced last week (20 July) at a press conference. It forbids GM research and the sale, cultivation, use and transport of GM products in the Cusco region.

Abel Caballero, head of the regional government's natural resources and environment department, said the government made the decision after considering the risk of genetic and environmental contamination from GM products, as well as the threat to people's health and their ancient culture.

Instead of GM, the government will support organic agriculture, Caballero told SciDev.Net. "Small farmers from the highlands cannot be forced into high productivity. It's better to carry on supporting their use of traditional farming practices to produce clean organic products," he said.

Around 4,000 varieties of native potato exist in the Andean region, most of them cultivated organically, without pesticides or agricultural chemicals. Cusco is one of the main centres of potato diversity, with nearly 2,000 varieties identified.  

Andean communities have farmed native potatoes for thousands of years. Genetically, the potatoes have not changed since they were domesticated 8,000 years ago.

The government announced they will promote conservation programmes for native biological crops and programmes to recover ancient knowledge and practices related to biodiversity.

The ban was passed in response to proposals submitted by a network of indigenous potato-farming communities and the Cusco-based Association for Nature and Sustainable Development (ANDES Association), a nongovernmental organisation that defends the rights of indigenous people to conserve biological and cultural resources.

Alejandro Argumedo, head of the ANDES Association, told SciDev.Net that Cusco's decision is likely to convince other regions to follow its example. He said regional governments in the Andean regions of Puno, Apurímac and Ancash, and the Madre de Dios region in the Amazon, are ready to approve similar orders. This could put pressure on the federal government to ban GM in all of Peru, he said.

Developing and using genetically modified organisms is currently not allowed in Peru, as the country has not yet adopted laws governing their safe use.

Source: SciDev.Net
24 July 2007

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1.16  African scientists and agricultural organizations welcome AGRA clarification on biotech research

Africa
African scientists and agricultural organizations yesterday welcomed the clarification by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) that the organization “supports the use of science and technology” – including genetic modification (GM) technology – “to aid Africa’s smallholder farmers in their urgent efforts to end widespread poverty and hunger”.

Five major organizations working in agriculture – AfricaBio, the Africa Biotechnology Stakeholders Forum (ABSF), Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation International (AHBFI), Biotechnology-Ecology Research and Outreach Consortium (BioEROC) and the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) – said the AGRA position is consistent with that of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) in its report on biotechnology which states that “regional economic integration in Africa should embody the building and accumulation of capacities to harness and govern modern biotechnology”.

AGRA says in a statement that its mission “is not to advocate for or against the use of genetic engineering. We believe it is up to governments, in partnership with their citizens, to use the best knowledge available to put in place policies and regulations that will guide the safe development and acceptable use of new technologies, as several African countries are in the process of doing”.

The Alliance said its mission is to use the wide variety of tools and techniques available now to make a dramatic difference for Africa’s smallholder farmers as quickly as possible. It said it has chosen to focus on conventional breeding techniques but would “consider funding the development and deployment of such new (GM) technologies only after African governments have endorsed and provided for their safe use”.

The Alliance clarified that conventional breeding was its starting point, however it pointed out that since science and society are continually evolving, and it does preclude future funding for genetic engineering as an approach to crop variety improvement when it is the most appropriate tool to address an important need of small-scale farmers.

Last week, AGRA’s new president, former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, was reported as having ruled out the GM technology as one of AGRA’s strategies in the fight against poverty and hunger in Africa. Anti-GM organizations hailed his statement as a sign that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation - a funding partner to AGRA – has changed its strategy on the GM technology.

South African-based AfricaBio President, Prof. Diran Makinde, said “African agricultural organizations welcome the clarification from AGRA. We cannot fault their strategy and we agree that conventional plant breeding has not received sufficient attention or investment in Africa, leaving untapped the inherent genetic potential available in African crops”.

Africa Harvest CEO, Dr. Florence Wambugu, said “Africa’s leaders had asked African scientists to come up with a consensus position on this new technology. The NEPAD report clearly states that the continent must have the freedom to innovate. Many countries and regional organizations are busy domesticating the NEPAD Biotechnology Policy and will resist any effort to erode their freedom to innovate”.

The African Biotechnology Stakeholders Forum (ABSF) CEO, Prof. Norah Olembo, said: “Africa is not choosing between the GM and conventional breeding technologies. Given the desperate situation the continent faces, we need desperate measures. The African Green Revolution will not come through one technology only. While we applaud the focus of AGRA on conventional breeding technologies, we also welcome their clarification that the GM technology has an important role to play in fighting poverty, hunger and malnutrition”.

Dr. Margaret Karembu of the Africa Center of ISAAA said “No country has resolved her food security needs using a single approach. The clarification from AGRA therefore clears the misconception that Africa should be restricted to traditional methods while the rest of the global community moves fast in embracing new and advanced tools including GM technology to enhance agricultural productivity”.

Executive Director of BioEROC in Malawi, Mr. Wisdom Changadeya, said “nobody can deny Africa its right to a technology that will help it solve some of its most serious and urgent problems. Biotechnology needs to be embraced alongside other equally useful conventional technologies”

Statement from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) on Plant Breeding and Genetic Engineering
The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa supports the use of science and technology­in everything from field-based soil ecology to cyberspace-based market information systems­to aid Africa’s smallholder farmers in their urgent efforts to end widespread poverty and hunger.

An important Alliance initiative is the development of new crop varieties that will withstand pests and disease; cope with drought, marginal soils and other environmental stresses; and dramatically increase farmers’ yields. Only with sustainable increases in farm productivity will smallholder farmers be able to feed themselves and their families, end widespread hunger, produce a marketable surplus, and stimulate economic growth.

Our goal is to develop 1000 new varieties as rapidly as possible, using conventional breeding and participatory methods in which plant breeders work closely with farmers to develop varieties with the traits farmers need.

The Alliance is not at this time funding the development of new varieties through the use of genetic engineering. We have chosen to focus on conventional breeding techniques­which can be quite technologically sophisticated­for two main reasons:

We know that conventional methods of plant breeding can produce significant benefits in the near term at relatively low cost. Until now, however, conventional plant breeding has not received sufficient attention or investment in Africa, leaving untapped the inherent genetic potential available in African crops. With improved seeds produced through conventional breeding methods, plant scientists and farmers could readily raise average cereal yields from one tonne to two tonnes per hectare­making a major contribution toward ending hunger and poverty in Africa.

Conventional crop breeding fits within the regulatory frameworks now in place in most African countries, enabling relatively rapid dissemination to farmers of the new varieties they desire.

Therefore, conventional breeding is our starting point. However, we also know that science and society are continually evolving. The Alliance itself will be funding initiatives that strengthen Africa’s scientific capacity at a number of levels. We do not preclude future funding for genetic engineering as an approach to crop variety improvement when it is the most appropriate tool to address an important need of small-scale farmers and when it is consistent with government policy.

Our mission is not to advocate for or against the use of genetic engineering. We believe it is up to governments, in partnership with their citizens, to use the best knowledge available to put in place policies and regulations that will guide the safe development and acceptable use of new technologies, as several African countries are in the process of doing. We will consider funding the development and deployment of such new technologies only after African governments have endorsed and provided for their safe use.

Our mission is to use the wide variety of tools and techniques available now to make a dramatic difference for Africa’s smallholder farmers as quickly as possible.

Source: www.agra-alliance.org
25 July 2007
News release issued on behalf of:
AfricaBio
Africa Biotechnology Stakeholders Forum (ABSF)
Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation International (AHBFI)
• Biotechnology-Ecology Research and Outreach Consortium (BioEROC)
International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA)

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1.17  Gene bank math: applying sophisticated statistics and population genetics to the management of seed collections in gene banks

Mexico
Two decades ago, CIMMYT scientist Jose Crossa began to apply sophisticated statistics and population genetics to the management of seed collections in gene banks. Now, the methodologies developed at CIMMYT for the maintenance and classification of genetic resources are used throughout the world.

Germplasm banks (also called gene banks) often seem like museums or bank vaults, keeping precious treasures locked away for the next generation. Banks like the Wellhausen-Anderson Plant Genetic Resources Center at CIMMYT are certainly built to withstand disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and power failures. But there’s much more to it than security. Germplasm banks are really more like a zoo, and a batch of stored seeds is more like a cage full of monkeys than the Mona Lisa. Zoo animals require constant maintenance. Old animals die and have to be replaced, often by careful breeding to ensure that the genetic diversity of a captive population is maintained.

The scientists who manage collections of genetic resources face similar challenges. Even at the very low temperatures and humidity levels used in germplasm banks, seeds can’t be stored indefinitely. Over time, they lose their ability to germinate: how fast this happens depends on species and storage conditions, but all the seeds in a collection will eventually become useless for breeders or farmers. Before this happens they have to be planted, grown to maturity, and a new generation of seeds harvested for return to the bank. CIMMYT’s seeds are monitored every 5-10 years, and scheduled for regeneration when their viability drops below 80%.

This process is relatively straightforward in self-pollinating crops like wheat, where the offspring are genetic copies of the parent. But it is much trickier in cross-pollinated crops like maize, where the offspring have a jumbled-up mixture of the parents’ genes. A single maize ‘accession’­a batch of seeds from a single variety or race of maize­contains seeds with quite different combinations of genes. When these genes are recombined in the next generation, the risk is that some, rarer, genes will be lost.

Twenty years ago, Crossa had recently arrived at CIMMYT as a biostatistician, when colleague Suketoshi Taba, now Head of the Maize Germplasm Collection, approached him with a problem. He wanted to know the best way to regenerate accessions to retain a high level of genetic diversity, including how to work out how many seeds to plant, and how to manage the pollination process. “I had no idea,” says Crossa, “but I started looking into it. I really wanted to work on genetic resources because I knew how valuable they were. I’d been working in the US, and everyone spoke about how unique and important CIMMYT’s collection was.” And so began a long and fruitful collaboration.

Crossa realized that ideas from population genetics held the key, but these were not being applied to genetic resources. The crucial concept was effective population size (EPS), a measure of the number of parents that contribute to the next generation. A larger sample is likely to contain more of the population’s genetic diversity, so the progeny are likely to represent the original population better. Therefore the number of seeds planted for regeneration should be as large as possible­but in reality this is limited by the capacity and funding available.

However, the effective population size of the parent sample can also be maximized by carefully controlling the regeneration process so that each parent contributes equally to the progeny. The plants are not allowed to cross-pollinate freely. Instead, crossing is done by hand, with each plant being used to pollinate one other, ensuring that the male reproductive cells or “gametes” (i.e. pollen) from each plant are represented equally. So that the contributions of female gametes are also equal, a fixed number of seeds is taken from each plant, rather than simply harvesting all the seeds.

The models developed by Crossa and his colleagues allow scientists to make informed trade-offs between genetic diversity and regeneration costs. For example, to have a high probability of retaining a gene variation that occurs in 3% of the population, making it fairly rare, an EPS of 200 is needed. Using systematic regeneration to maximize EPS, this means planting around 250 seeds, to allow for some regeneration failure.

“I think the work has made a difference,” says Crossa. “People used to use much smaller samples, but now they are more aware of the genetic erosion caused by not using appropriate sample sizes, and the need to control male and female gametes.” The methodologies developed at CIMMYT have shown scientists around the world how genetic diversity can be managed successfully, and are used to ensure the preservation of many national and international collections. The team’s models have been extended to species with any degree of self- and cross-fertilization­even wheat, since in reality accessions are never completely homogeneous.

Crossa continues to apply the tools of statistics and population genetics to the field of genetic resources. His team has done a great deal of work on core collections, small subsets of accessions that represent as much as possible of collections’ overall genetic diversity. In the case of maize, they have grouped farmer landraces into racial groups, and generated core collections for each one. These allow researchers to study a few tens of accessions rather than trying to select from the thousands available. The team has developed ways to combine a large amount of data in order to select the most varied subsets, including data from molecular markers and data on physical traits, both quantitative and qualitative. This way of organizing and combining many types of data is now being applied as a valuable tool for selection for plant breeding. Crossa has also worked on the challenges faced by researchers out in the field collecting samples for germplasm banks, developing methodologies to efficiently capture the genetic diversity of farmers’ crops.

“When Taba first asked me about seed regeneration I knew nothing about it, and there wasn’t much work in the area, so the challenge really appealed to me,” says Crossa. “Twenty years later I’m still happy I can make my contribution to preserving genetic diversity. There aren’t many people working in this field­because, although each gene bank is extremely important, numerically there really aren’t very many­so every advance we make has a big impact.”

For more information: Jose Crossa, Head, Biometrics and Statistics

Source: CIMMYT E-News, vol 4 no. 7 - July 2007 via SeedQuest.com
July, 2007

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1.18  Gourmet chocolates to boost farmers’ incomes and preserve biodiversity

Gourmets will enjoy new delights of complex-flavored chocolates based on single varieties of cacao. Bioversity International will be helping farmers in Nicaragua improve the quality of cacao being planted, and have the cocoa beans exported to Europe and North America. Many farmers have a few cacao trees, and most of these are modern disease-resistant hybrids, but of low quality and low earning potential. Older trees, called criollo, produce much better cocoa, but these are vanishing rapidly as a result of neglect. The new project will focus on improving these older and diverse trees to yield more high-quality cocoa beans.

Read the news release at http://www.cgiar.org/newsroom/releases/news.asp?idnews=568.

From CropBiotech Update 11 May 2007:

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

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1.19  Genes hold secret to wheat's success, say UC Davis researchers

Davis, California
The success of wheat as a food crop can be traced through thousands of years of genetic changes that occurred as wheat was domesticated for human use, write UC Davis plant scientists Jorge Dubcovsky and Jan Dvorak in the cover article of the current issue of the journal Science.

In this review article of the molecular genetics and genomics of wheat, the authors paint the picture of how gene mutations and the presence of multiple chromosomes -- a characteristic known as "polyploidy" -- enabled modern wheat to overcome several genetic bottlenecks that occurred during wheat domestication and subsequent evolution.

The authors conclude that, "Polyploid wheat has been able to compensate for diversity bottlenecks by capturing a relatively large proportion of the variability present in wild wheat. In addition, new variation is rapidly generated in the dynamic wheat genomes through gene deletions and insertions of repetitive elements into coding and regulatory gene regions."

Domestication of wheat began roughly 10,000 years ago as people in western Asia began the transition from hunting and gathering to raising crops and animals. Some of the important traits that were selected for during the domestication process include increased grain size, changes in the toughness of chaff so that the wheat can be easily threshed, and retention of the grain on the plant so that it doesn't scatter in the wind before or during harvest.

Globally, approximately 620 million tons of wheat are now produced each year, providing one-fifth of the calories consumed by people around the world. Ninety-five percent of the wheat crop goes into making baked goods such as bread, cookies and pastries, while the remaining 5 percent is durum wheat used for making pasta and related products.

Funding for this study was provided by grants from the National Research Institute, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Science Foundation.

Source: SeedQuest.com
3 July 2007

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1.20  Adaptation to the environment has a stronger effect on the genome than anticipated

Faster growth, darker leaves, a different way of branching - wild varieties of the plant Arabidopsis thaliana are often substantially different from the laboratory strain of this small mustard plant, a favorite of many plant biologists. Which detailed differences distinguish the genomes of strains from the polar circle or the subtropics, from America, Africa or Asia has been investigated for the first time by research teams from Tübingen, Germany, and California led by Detlef Weigel from the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology. The results were surprising: The extent of the genetic differences far exceeds the expectations for such a streamlined genome, as the scientists write in this week’s edition of Science magazine.

To track down the variation in the genome of the different Arabidopsis strains, the researchers compared the genetic material of 19 wild strains with that of the genome of the lab strain, which was sequenced in the year 2000. Using a very elaborate procedure, they examined every one of the roughly 120 million building blocks of the genome. For their molecular sleuthing they used almost one billion specially designed DNA probes. "All together, these probes would have seven times the length of human genome," illustrates Weigel the extent of the project. The data were evaluated with several specially designed statistical methods, including a variant of machine learning.

The result of this painstaking analysis: on average, every 180th DNA building block is variable. And about four percent of the reference genome either looks very different in the wild varieties, or cannot be found at all. Almost every tenth gene was so defective that it could not fulfill its normal function anymore!

Results such as these raise fundamental questions. For one, they qualify the value of the model genomes sequenced so far. "There isn’t such a thing as the genome of a species," says Weigel. He adds "The insight that the DNA sequence of a single individual is by far not sufficient to understand the genetic potential of a species also fuels current efforts in human genetics."

Still, it is surprising that Arabidopsis has such a plastic genome. In contrast to the genome of humans or many crop plants such as corn, that of Arabidopsis is very much streamlined, and its size is less than a twentieth of that of humans or corn­even though it has about the same number of genes. In contrast to these other genomes, there are few repeats or seemingly irrelevant filler sequences. "That even in a minimal genome every tenth gene is dispensable, has been a great surprise," admits Weigel.

Detailed analyses showed that genes for basic cellular functions such as protein production or gene regulation rarely suffer knockout hits. Genes that are important for the interaction with other organisms, on the other hand, such as those responsible for defense against pathogens or infections, are much more variable than the average gene. "The genetic variability appears to reflect adaptation of local circumstances," says Weigel. It is likely that such variable genes allow plants to withstand dry or wet, hot or cold conditions, or make use of short and long growing seasons.

Such genome analyses of unprecedented details will allow a much better understanding of local adaptation, and this was indeed one of the main reasons for conduction the study. "By extending these types of studies to other species we hope to help breeders to produce varieties that are optimally adapted to rapidly changing environmental conditions," explains Weigel. He is already collaborating with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines to apply the methods and experience gathered with Arabidopsis to twenty different rice varieties.

How environment and genome interact is also the goal of new, even more powerful methods. While the technology used so far can only identify genes that have changed or are lost relative to the reference genome, direct sequencing of the genome of wild strains will allow the detection of new genes. The plan is to decipher the genomes of at least 1001 Arabidopsis varieties. A new instrument, with which the entire genome of a plant can be read in just a few days, is already available. Still missing are the computational algorithms to interpret the anticipated flood of data.

Researchers from Tübingen who contributed to the study include Richard Clark, Stephan Ossowski and Norman Warthmann from the MPI for Developmental Biology, Georg Zeller and Gunnar Rätsch from the Friedrich Miescher Laboratory of the Max Planck Society, Gabriele Schweikert and Bernhard Schölkopf from the MPI for Biological Cybernetics, and Daniel Huson from the University Tübingen. Researchers from California who contributed to this study include Huaming Chen, Paul Shinn and Joseph Ecker from the Salk Institute, Christopher Toomajian, Tina Hu and Magnus Nordborg from the University of Southern California, and Glenn Fu, David Hinds and Kelly Frazer from Perlegen Sciences, Inc.

Original work:
Richard M. Clark, Gabriele Schweikert, Christopher Toomajian, Stephan Ossowski, Georg Zeller, Paul Shinn, Norman Whartmann, Tina T. Hu, Glenn Fu, David A. Hinds, Huaming Chen, Kelly A. Frazer, Daniel H. Huson, Bernhard Schölkopf, Magnus Nordborg, Gunnar Rätsch, Joseph R. Ecker, Detlef Weigel
Common Sequence Polymorphisms Shaping Genetic Diversity in Arabidopsis thaliana
Science, July 20, 2007
Contact: Prof. Dr. Detlef Weigel
Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Tübingen
weigel@tuebingen.mpg.de

Source: Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology via EurekAlert.org
20 July 2007

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1.21  Researchers find a shortcut for screening resistant soybean crops

MADISON, WI- Across the southern United States, an invisible, yet deadly parasite known as the root-knot nematode is crippling soybean crops. While plant breeders are racing to develop cultivars resistant to the root-knot nematode, they are being slowed down by current time-consuming and expensive methods of screening for resistant plants. Now, researchers believe they have found a shortcut for screening resistant soybean crops.

Researchers at the University of Georgia report the discovery of several molecular markers that will help soybean breeders to accurately screen for root-knot resistant plants at a fraction of the time and cost of current screening techniques in the July issue of The Plant Genome.

While previous studies of soybean crops helped researchers to locate genes associated with root-knot nematode resistance, University of Georgia scientists recently identified single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), slight variations in the DNA, nearby genetic regions that code root-knot nematode resistance. After linking the identified SNPs to root-knot nematode resistance, scientists developed a marker assisted screening test that used SNPs to determine whether or not plants were resistant to root-knot nematode.

“The basic objective of any breeding scheme is to identify elite individuals that can pass on their desirable characteristics,” explained Bo-Keun Ha, lead author of study. While Ha says most conventional breeders rely on phenotypic evaluations of plants to select the plant with most desirable traits, this process takes time and money. For example, if a breeder wants to select plants with resistance to root-knot nematode based upon a phenotypic evaluation alone, he or she must grow a large population of plants, inoculate plants with nematode eggs, wait until the growth of the nematode and evaluate the damage before selecting the most resistant plants.

Instead of relying on the time-consuming phenotypic screening to determine whether or not the root-knot resistance genes are present in soybean crops, “marker assisted selection can inform breeders about the presence of the resistance gene in individual plants,” said Ha. Also, because marker assisted selection involves the screening of a few markers across thousands of plants Ha pointed out that the marker assisted selection is rather inexpensive and time efficient.

“Our results found SNPs linked to two root-knot nematode resistance genes and developed the resources for a relatively high throughput method of selection for the two genes,” said Ha. “The SNP assays that we have reported will empower soybean breeders to efficiently incorporate root-knot resistance genes into new productive cultivars.”
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The Plant Genome (http://www.crops.org/genome/) is a peer-reviewed, international journal of applied plant genomics research published four times a year by the Crop Science Society of America.

The American Society of Agronomy (ASA) www.agronomy.org, the Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) www.crops.org and the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) www.soils.org are educational organizations helping their 10,000+ members advance the disciplines and practices of agronomy, crop and soil sciences by supporting professional growth and science policy initiatives, and by providing quality, research-based publications and a variety of member services.

Contact: Sara Uttech
suttech@crops.org
Crop Science Society of America

Source: EurekAlert.org
15 July 2007

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1.22  New sunflower germplasm lines resist fungal disease

Washington, DC
Three new germplasm lines are now available for breeding elite sunflower hybrids that will resist downy mildew and produce oil rich in oleic fatty acid.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station (NDAES) scientists in Fargo jointly developed, tested and released the new sunflower lines, dubbed HA 458, HA 459 and HA 460. Besides resistance to the fungus Plasmopara halstedii, which causes downy mildew, the sunflower lines are being released for their high levels of oleic fatty acid, which imparts desirable flavor, frying characteristics and other traits to oil.

The downy mildew fungus attacks sunflowers as both seedlings and mature plants, causing white cottony growths in the young plants, and large, clublike roots and stunted growth in the older ones.

Until recently, sunflower growers kept mildew in check by planting seed treated with metalaxyl, but the fungus has become resistant to this fungicide. Seed company breeders scrambled to develop downy-mildew-resistant hybrids, making these new germplasm releases invaluable. The emergence of virulent new downy mildew races--from two before 2003 to 15 currently--has spurred the need for hybrids with new sources of disease resistance, notes Tom Gulya. He's a plant pathologist in the ARS Sunflower Research Unit (SRU) at Fargo.

Gulya assisted SRU geneticist Jerry Miller, now retired, in developing HA 458, HA 459 and HA 460 by crossing elite sunflower lines with wild sunflowers collected from Idaho and Texas by SRU botanist Gerald Seiler over the past 20 years. Jack Rasmussen of NDAES collaborated with them.

In repeated field and greenhouse tests at Fargo, all three lines resisted the most virulent races of downy mildew fungus found in North America. HA 458 and HA 460 also withstood a French race not yet found in America. Oil extracted from HA 458 and HA 459 averaged 86.5 percent and 87.3 percent oleic acid, respectively. Oil from HA 460 had 88.8 percent oleic acid.

SRU research leader Brady Vick is filling seed requests.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.
August 3, 2007

Jan Suszkiw
jan.suszkiw@ars.usda.gov

Source: SeedQuest.com
3 August 2007

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1.23  Development of lines resistant to Blast through the use of rice wild relative

(Dwinita W.U., I.Hanarida, A.D. Ambarwati, S. Moeljopawiro, Santosa, D. Tharreau, J.B. Morel, J.L.Nottegheim. Laporan Penelitian RUTI, 2005-2007)

Oryza rufipogon is one of wild rice species that may be used as a source of gene (s) in rice varietal improvement program. Backcross (BC5) and double haploid populations had been developed from a cross between  IR64 and O. rufipogon in order to exploit the useful genes. These two populations were used to map blast resistant genes and to develop durably resistant varieties.  This study has been conducted in collaboration with CIRAD with the following objectives: (1) to identify resistance genes to blast, Pir4(t), originated from  O. rufipogon and Pir7(t) originated from IR64, on chromosome 2, and (2) to evaluate the durable resistance of double haploid lines generated from BC2F3 of IR64 x O. rufipogon to blast.  Result of the previous study indicated that Pir (4&7) was mapped in the position between two Simple Sequence Repeat (SSR) markers RM263-RM250, with the distance of 28.5 cM (Utami et al, 2005). Fine map is to be established to detect the exact position of the target genes. For this purpose, two lines BC5 population, namely 317-25-1-6 and 317-25-1-3 were selected as lines with the needed level of introgression for fine mapping and target gene identification. In order to complement and to enhance candidate gene analysis at the target position the insilico analysis was applied at the target fragment region peak between RM263-RM250 markers, which resulted in consecutive order 25 putative resistance genes in this fragment region. These putative genes were further analyzed by sequencing the bases of the selected genes above to design specific primer on the basis of TIGR gene genome browser. These designed primers are Single Nucleotide Polymor-phism (SNP) that has high polymorphism levels to be used to enhance fine mapping development activities.

Result of the interval mapping analysis (CIM) (Figure 1) on BC5F2 population the highest LOD value obtained was 17.1, while on the BC2F3 population was only 3.59. GLM analysis result for the association test indicated significance between PiSNP4 primer, at 110.9 cM position and blast isolate ID31 having avr2 allele (CM28) at avr gen locus, other ACE1 Primer is PiSNP7, with LOD value 7.3 which is significant for ID9 blast isolate having avr1 (PH14) allele on avr gen ACE1 locus.

Gambar 1. Analisis interval mapping (CIM) Pir4 (introgresi dari O. rufipogon) dan Pir7 (introgresi dari IR64) pada populasi silang balik lanjut BC5 dibandingkan dengan pada populasi silang balik ke-2 (BC2)

Result of progeny contrast test for the two target genes shown in Figure 2. IR64 resistant to ID9 (PH14) blast isolate but recessive to ID31 (CM28) isolate. Whereas O. rufipogon resistant to  ID31 isolate but recessive to ID9 isolate.  On the basis of introgression analysis on BC5F2 progenies it was indicated that NIL 317-25-1-6 that has the introgression of IR 64 at the Pir7 position resistant to ID9 isolate. While NIL 317-25-1-3 that has the introgression of O. rufipogon at the Pir4 position resistant to ID31 isolate. Resistance of these two lines derived from BC5 population similar to that of their parents, IR64 and O. rufipogon.

Until now the identification of Pir4 and Pir7 genes on the basis nucleotide sequence for detecting the presence of insertion or deletion is still underway.

Editor’s note: This article was extracted from a poster sent by the first author. For a complete copy of the poster, including figures, please contact Dr Utami, below.

Contributed by Dwinita Utami
Indonesian Center for Agricultural Biotechnology and Genetic Resources Research
dnitawu@hotmail.com

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1.24  Researcher develops tomato with resistance to grey mould

New tomato varieties resistant to grey mould (Botrytis cinerea) will be coming soon, thanks to the work of Richard Finkers, a doctorate student from Wangenin University. Finkers started off by crossing the grey mould-resistant wild tomato Solanum habrochaites LYC4 with the susceptible S. lycopersicum cv. Moneymaker, and identifying two areas with resistant genes in the DNA. Through DNA-marker technology, Finkers was able to track the presence of resistance factors in tomato plants. The leading company De Ruiter Seeds is already applying these methods in its breeding program.

Read the news release at http://www.nwo.nl/nwohome.nsf/pages/NWOA_6ZPA4C_Eng.

Source: CropBiotech Update 20 April 2007:

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

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1.25  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 have 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 http://www.litbang.deptan.go.id/berita/one/463/ or contact Elfa Hermawan at l4hermawan@yahoo.com for more information.

From CropBiotech Update 11 May 2007:

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

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1.26  Breeding plants to produce industrial oils

Washington, DC
Plants do the most amazing things. They're a steady source of life-sustaining oxygen, food, fiber for clothing and, increasingly, renewable fuels.

As if that weren't enough, scientists with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are also eyeing these leafy dynamos as a virtual spring of never-before-seen oils that could someday rival petroleum in industrial uses and even stave off heart disease.

Plants are already tapped for a variety of useful oils--think of the shimmering liquids pressed from canola, corn and olives--but most of them are destined for the skillet or dinner plate.

However, an even greater potential for oilseed crops, according to John Dyer--who works at the agency's Southern Regional Research Center (SRRC) in New Orleans, La.--resides in their capacity to pump out unusual fatty acids that have valuable chemical, industrial and nutritional properties. Fish-oil-type fatty acids derived from plants, for instance, could benefit the heart, brain and eyes.

Dyer, a chemist, and Jay Shockey, a plant geneticist who also works at the SRRC, are getting inspiration from tung trees for how plants could be coaxed into churning out such impressive oils.

Tung trees, which used to be cultivated in great plantations along the U.S. Gulf Coast, produce eleostearic acid, an unusual fatty acid with applications ranging from furniture finish to computer chip production. The trees' major shortcomings? They're slow to grow and vulnerable to hurricanes.

Similar limitations apply to other currently grown oilseed crops. With traditional breeding alone, it's almost impossible to raise crops that will manufacture abundant amounts of unusual fatty acids.

That's why Dyer and Shockey are looking to engineer plants that will practically gush forth unique fatty acids, such as eleostearic acid. They recently discovered that a gene involved in the production of the important enzyme DGAT2--short for diacylglycerol acyltransferase type-2--may well be the "magic bullet" for boosting plants' oil-oozing abilities.

Read more about the research in the August 2007 issue of Agricultural Research magazine, available online at:
http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/aug07/tung0807.htm

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

Erin Peabody
erin.peabody@ars.usda.gov

Source: SeedQuest.com
2 August 2007

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1.27  Follow-up on banana hybrids

A Bioversity-sponsored scientist, Beloved Mensah Dzomeku of the Crops Research Institute in Ghana, will be studying the impact of new banana hybrids to banana farmers in Africa. The so-called FHIA hybrids were produced by the Honduran Foundation for Agricultural Research. The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the African Center for Research on Bananas and Plantains (CARBAP) have also released new hybrids bred for disease resistance. Dzomeku and his collaborators will visit selected households that received IITA, CARBAP and FHIA hybrids to determine the extent to which the technologies have been adopted and have spread. They also plan to assess the impact of these technologies on banana yields, farm income, food security, and social dynamics.

Read the press release at http://news.bioversityinternational.org/index.php?itemid=1782.

From CropBiotech Update 25 May 2007:

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

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1.28  Rapid evolution of defense genes in plants may produce hybrid incompatibility

How one species becomes two: Molecular mechanisms of speciation in plants
One of the basic tenets of evolution is speciation in which populations of the same species become so genetically and morphologically variable that they can be classified as two different species. Individuals of these species may be capable of mating, but they may not produce offspring, and if offspring are produced, they will be sterile or so defective that they die before they are able to reproduce. Although speciation has been observed and studied since Darwin and Wallace first proposed their theory, the complex molecular mechanisms responsible are not yet fully known. One of these molecular mechanisms, hybrid necrosis, was studied by Dr. Detlef Weigel and his colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Germany. Dr. Kirsten Bomblies will present their results at the President’s symposium at the annual meeting of the American Society of Plant Biologists (July 11, 2PM). Bomblies and Weigel observed hybrid necrosis in crosses of thale cress, Arabidopsis thaliana, a member of the mustard family, and found that it is associated with plant genes that respond to pathogen attack.

Plants must frequently cope with environmental stresses such as heat, cold, high acidity or salinity, or attack by pathogens such as viruses or insect predators. Such stresses mobilize defense genes that initiate physiological responses that help the plants to survive. One such response is programmed cell death, which occurs in response to invasion by viruses or bacteria. The cells invaded by the pathogens are quickly marked by the plant for death so that the microbe cannot use them to replicate and spread to the rest of the plant. These types of genes have been shown to evolve rapidly, giving plants the capability to adapt to changing conditions and pathogens. Bomblies and Weigel found that the same type of gene is involved in hybrid incompatibility in Arabidopsis. Because these genes evolve so rapidly, there are likely to be different forms present in the population, and when two of these are joined in a hybrid, they can cause fatal defects in the hybrid offspring.

A biological species is defined as a population of individuals that can interbreed among each other freely, but not with members of other species. What finally establishes two populations as different species is that gene flow between them stops. However, this does not happen suddenly. Rather, it is a gradual process in which one barrier after another is raised between two species, including inviable embryos and defective and sterile adults, as well as genetic incompatibilities that prevent even the formation of an embryo. The hybrid incompatibility identified by Bomblies and Weigel is an example of the kind of genetic incompatibility that can result in speciation.

Because plant reproduction often requires an outside agent like a pollinator or the wind, which spreads pollen far from the parent plant, the offspring can be hybrids between parents from two different populations or even from two different although closely related species. Such hybrid offspring can be successful but may also be prevented or defective because some of the parents’ genes are not compatible. In their survey of 900 first generation hybrid offspring among 293 strains of thale cress, Bomblies and Detlef found that 2% of the offspring were severely defective. They call this phenomenon “hybrid necrosis” or “hybrid weakness,” and identified the gene responsible for the incompatibility as a disease resistance gene that has different forms in the two parents.

Some of the molecular mechanisms that prevent hybridization between species are well-known in both animals and plants. There are a number of gene flow barriers in plants that are similar to those of animals­among them are ecological factors such as reproductive season, morphological differences, and hybrid sterility. However, hybrid necrosis produced by autoimmune responses due to pathogen resistance genes has not been observed in animals and may represent a molecular pathway to speciation unique to plants. Knowledge of these mechanisms is important not only in the study of the evolutionary history of plants but can also provide tools for ensuring the safety of genetically engineered crops. If incompatibility genes can be bred into a GE crop, it might be possible to prevent the formation of superweeds and to lessen the probability that harmful genes can be spread to other species.

Contact: Brian Hyps
bhyps@aspb.org
American Society of Plant Biologists

Source: EurekAlert.org
8 July 2007

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1.29  MSU researchers JAZ (zed) about plant resistance discovery

EAST LANSING, Mich. ­ The mystery of how a major plant hormone works to defend plants against invaders has been revealed, thanks to collaborative research efforts by Michigan State University and Washington State University.

While scientists have known for years that a common plant hormone, jasmonate, plays a crucial role in plant development and function, the steps that convert the hormone’s signal into genetic and cellular action have remained elusive. MSU scientists Sheng Yang He and Gregg Howe were part of two back-to-back discoveries that solved the mystery, described in the July 18 online issue of the journal Nature.

Jasmonate is the last major plant hormone to have its signaling process revealed. Initial research by WSU researchers identified the family of proteins – dubbed JAZ proteins – that are critical to plants receiving and responding to the jasmonate signal.

“In a healthy environment, these JAZ proteins are doing their job – they’re blocking all the defenses and signals, because they are not needed,” said Howe, an MSU professor of biochemistry and molecular biology. “But when a plant becomes stressed by an insect or pathogen, the plant needs to respond very quickly if it’s going to be successful in warding off the attacker.”

Independent of the WSU work, Howe and He used Arabidopsis, a common lab plant, and tomato plants to determine how the JAZ proteins work. Their experiments showed that the jasmonate signal causes direct interaction between JAZ proteins and a second protein complex, SCFCOI1, that works to eliminate the JAZ protein so that the plant can mount a defense response.

Based on the research findings, there is strong evidence to suggest that Howe and He might have identified the SCFCOI1 protein complex as the receptor for jasmonate.

“We found that when jasmonate is present the COI1 and JAZ proteins bind together,” said He, an MSU professor of plant biology, plant pathology, and microbiology and molecular genetics. “This opens the way for the plant to turn on the necessary genetic or cellular response.”

As part of their research, Howe and He have proposed a model for how this interaction works.

“Now that we know what the active signals are and have identified the key regulatory proteins – the JAZ proteins – involved, the hope is to either genetically modify plants or develop compounds that mimic the jasmonate hormone,” Howe said. “The research may help scientists engineer plants for increased resistance to insects and pathogens.”

Researchers at both universities will continue to work on other critical aspects of this research.

“Understanding how the jasmonate system works will shed light on all the processes in which the hormone is involved, notably plant reproduction and defense,” said John Browse, head of the WSU Institute of Biological Chemistry research team.

“This study represents a significant advance in our understanding of a major plant hormone and how it works,” He said. “We are excited to be part of this collaborative effort and look forward to extending the understanding and application of this important work.”

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Energy and supported by the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station.

A copy of the Nature article is available at http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/index.html.
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Michigan State University has been advancing knowledge and transforming lives through innovative teaching, research and outreach for more than 150 years. MSU is known internationally as a major public university with global reach and extraordinary impact. Its 17 degree-granting colleges attract scholars worldwide who are interested in combining education with practical problem solving.

Contacts: Sheng Yang He, MSU-Department of Energy Plant Research Laboratory: hes@msu.edu; Gregg Howe, MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory, howeg@msu.edu; or Val Osowski, Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station, osowskiv@anr.msu.edu

Source: EurekAlert.org
20 July 2007

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1.30  In evolutionary arms race, a bacterium is found that outwits tomato plant's defenses, Cornell study finds

Ithaca, New York
By Krishna Ramanujan
An arms race is under way in the plant world. It is an evolutionary battle in which plants are trying to beef up their defenses against the innovative strategies of pathogens. The latest example of this war is a bacterium (Pseudomonas syringae) that infects tomatoes by injecting a special protein into the plant's cells to undermine the plant's defense system.

"Plant breeders often find that five or six years after their release, resistant plant varieties become susceptible because pathogens can evolve very quickly to overcome plant defenses," said Gregory Martin, Cornell University professor of plant pathology, a scientist at the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research (BTI) on the Cornell campus and the senior author of the research paper, published in the July 19 issue of the journal Nature. "However, every now and then, breeders develop a plant variety that stays resistant for 20 years or more."

Understanding why some varieties have more durable disease resistance is important to the development of more sustainable agricultural practices, he said.

The study by Cornell and BTI scientists describes how a single bacterial protein, AvrPtoB, which is injected by P. syringae into plant cells through a kind of molecular syringe, can overcome the plant's resistance. Normally, the plant's defense system looks out for such pathogens and, if detected, mounts an immune response to stave off disease. As part of this surveillance system, tomatoes carry a protein in their cells called Fen that helps detect P. syringae and trigger an immune response.

But some strains of P. syringae have evolved the AvrPtoB protein that mimics a tomato enzyme known as an E3 ubiquitin ligase, which tags proteins to be destroyed. Once injected, AvrPtoB binds the Fen protein, and the plant's own system eliminates it, allowing the bacteria to avoid detection and cause disease.

"This paper explains how a pathogen can evolve to escape detection," said lead author Tracy Rosebrock, a graduate student in Cornell's Department of Plant Pathology and BTI. "The bacterium has one specific protein that it uses to turn off the plant's immunity."

The researchers found that the Fen gene is present in both cultivated tomatoes and many wild tomato species, leading them to believe that the gene is likely ancient in origin and that many members of the tomato family have used it to resist P. syringae infections over the years. Since the Fen protein still detects AvrPtoB-like proteins from some strains of P. syringae, prompting an effective immune response, the researchers believe new P. syringae strains have only recently evolved a version of AvrPtoB that includes an E3 ubiquitin ligase enzyme that interferes with the plant's surveillance.

"This paper provides molecular data that supports the evolutionary 'arms race' theory" that as pathogens develop new ways to spread and attack organisms, the organisms in turn create novel defenses, each in a continuous battle to outdo the other, said Rosebrock.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the Triad Foundation, a private charitable trust.

Source: SeedQuest.com
20 July 2007

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1.31  Plants and stress -- key players on the thin line between life and death revealed

Louvain, Belgium
Our crops are not doing well these days: too much water, too little sunlight... In short, they are suffering from stress. Scientists from VIB, associated with the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (K.U.Leuven), have revealed a new mechanism demonstrating the intricate ways in which plants deal with stress. The newly discovered control system has a remarkable way of orchestrating the activity of hundreds of genes, forcing the plant into ‘safety mode’; the consumption of energy is contained while the organism is stimulated to mobilize reserves. This may have a negative impact on growth, but it allows the plant to temporarily safeguard itself against pernicious stress conditions. These findings also may prove to be useful beyond the case of plants, for the results are likely to be valuable in understanding disorders such as cancer and diabetes.

Life thanks to plants
Plants catch sunlight and use it as an energy source to produce sugars from CO2 and water. In doing so, they are at the very basis of the food chain. Ultimately, all life on earth depends upon this biochemical process: photosynthesis. Without plants, life as we know it today would simply not be possible. But what if things go wrong" When there is too little sunlight, for example" And what with other stressful conditions for plants" Environmental changes can compromise photosynthesis and exhaust energy supplies.

Plants control their own energy balance
Fortunately, plants have developed different mechanisms to detect and cope with 'stress’. Together with his American colleagues at Harvard Medical School (Boston, USA), VIB scientist Filip Rolland, associated with the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, is uncovering a new system of detection and control. It is driven by KIN10 and KIN11. These ‘kinases’ – which are also found in human beings – react to energy shortages, when, for example, there is too little sunlight or too little sugar production. They control the activity of a broad network of genes, promoting the release of energy (catabolism) from alternative sources and blocking its assimilation (anabolism). In this way, the plant protects itself against stress conditions; like a really bad summer.

The key players: KIN10 & KIN11
The model organism for this study was Arabidopsis thaliana or thale cress. For decades, this small weed has been used as a model in molecular and genetic plant research. The scientists have tested numerous stress conditions that affect photosynthesis and energy production, such as darkness, herbicide treatment and flooding (lack of oxygen). By overexpressing the KIN10 gene, causing the plant to produce more of this protein, stress tolerance is increased and plants survive longer. By switching off these genes, their control function is eliminated.

With this research, the Flemish and American scientists have succeeded for the first time in attributing KIN10 and KIN11 a key role in the control of the plant energy budget and metabolism and thus the fragile balance between growth and survival; in short, the choice between life and death.

Are humans similar to plants?
The new insights gained by this study are not limited to the functioning of plants; they may also be important for human beings. KIN10 and KIN11, as ’fuel gauges’ controlling the expression of a whole set of genes, are also found in mammals. The results with plants, therefore, may play a pioneering role in discovering new functions of these proteins in disorders such as diabetes, cancer, obesity, and aging.

Contact: Ann Van Gysel
ann.vangysel@vib.be
VIB, Flanders Interuniversity Institute of Biotechnology

Source: EurekAlert.org
1 August 2007

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1.32  Towards the identification of photoperiod genes in cotton

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

A group of researchers from the United States and Uzbekistan have presented conversion studies in cotton that turned photoperiod sensitive germplasm into day-neutral (where flowering is not affected by day-length). The researchers used 32P irradiation to derive the cotton mutants. The mutants were subsequently examined by using 250 microsatellite (SSR) primer pairs to determine patterns of mutation in the SSR loci.
 
It was found out that the induced mutagenesis both increased and decreased the allele sizes of SSRs in mutants with the higher mutation rate in SSRs containing dinucleotide motifs. The researchers have also determined that there was significant modification of mutants from their original wild types, with most mutants having improved agronomic qualities. The results may be useful in understanding photoperiod-related mutations, and can aid in the identification of photoperiodic flowering genes in cotton in the future.

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

Source: CropBiotech Update 20 April 2007:

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

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1.33  How to boost recovery of fertile doubled-haploid onions

Three strategies were described by Cornell University researchers to help maximize the recovery of fertile doubled-haploid (DH) onions and meet the needs of breeding programs for a large number of plants.

The strategies include 1) the use of whole basal explants from haploid plants treated with the anti-mitotic agents amiprofos methyl (APM) or oryzalin, (2) spontaneous and induced chromosome doubling in somatic regenerants from cultured flower buds, and (3) ploidy reduction through a second cycle of gynogenesis. Gynogenesis is development in which the embryo contains only maternal chromosomes.

Onion breeders may benefit from these strategies by being able to recover diploid plants and minimizing losses of gynogenic plants due to ploidy-related complications. The researchers further recommend the application of 100 to 150 mM APM to whole basal explants is an excellent initial step toward recovery of DH materials.

The paper published in Plant Science can be accessed by subscribers at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.plantsci.2007.03.010.

From CropBiotech Update 22 June 2007:

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

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1.34  Selected articles from Update 7-2007 of FAO-BiotechNews

*** NEWS *** ( http://www.fao.org/biotech/news_list.asp?thexpand=1&cat=131)
1) FAO biotechnology activities and documents
Two main sections of the FAO biotechnology website have recently been updated. The first, on FAO Activities, includes an introductory webpage on FAO activities in the field of biotechnology as well as one webpage each for its four main activities i.e. providing i) advice to governments ii) technical assistance iii) information and iv) a meeting place for nations. The second, on FAO Documents, provides an annotated list of freely-downloadable documents and now includes over 160 web links to a wide range of articles, books, meeting reports, proceedings and studies published by FAO, or prepared in collaboration with FAO, over the last 10 years concerning biotechnology in food and agriculture. See http://www.fao.org/biotech/act.asp and http://www.fao.org/biotech/doc.asp respectively (in Arabic, Chinese, English, French and Spanish) or contact biotech-website@fao.org with any comments.

3) Benefits and limits of marker-assisted selection
In conjunction with the publication of the new FAO book on "Marker-assisted selection: Current status and future perspectives in crops, livestock, forestry and fish", the FAO Newsroom has just released a web interview with Shivaji Pandey, Chairperson of FAO's Working Group on Biotechnology, on marker-assisted selection entitled "Benefits and limits of an important biotech tool". The interview can be read at http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2007/1000630/index.html or can be received by e-mail from Charlotte.Lietaer@fao.org.

5) FAO/IAEA Plant Breeding and Genetics Newsletter 19
The July 2007 newsletter from the Plant Breeding and Genetics Section of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture and the FAO/IAEA Agriculture and Biotechnology Laboratory is now available. This 52-page newsletter, issued twice a year, gives an overview of their past and upcoming events (meetings, training courses etc.), ongoing projects and publications. The editorial discusses the use of induced mutations in crop improvement. See http://www-naweb.iaea.org/nafa/pbg/public/pb-nl-19.pdf (2.2 MB) or contact k.allaf@iaea.org to request a copy.

7) Green revolution to gene revolution - Conference proceedings
On 27-31 May 2003, an international conference entitled "In the wake of the double helix: From the green revolution to the gene revolution" took place in Bologna, Italy, co-sponsored by FAO. Proceedings of the conference, edited by R. Tuberosa, R.L. Phillips and M. Gale, are now available on the web. The 48 reviews and articles included in the proceedings are organised into six sections: the architects of the green revolution; biodiversity and germplasm resources; genes, QTLs and crop improvement; tools, models and platforms for plant genomics; genetic engineering for food security and biofarming; and plant biotechnology and society. See http://www.dista.agrsci.unibo.it/doublehelix/proceedings/index.php or contact roberto.tuberosa@unibo.it for more information.

8) Biosafety education and training - Meeting report
The report of the 2nd International Meeting of Academic Institutions and Organizations Involved in Biosafety Education and Training, that was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on 16-18 April 2007, is now available. The meeting was organised by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), with support from the Governments of Denmark and Switzerland and the Biosafety Interdisciplinary Research Network, and hosted by the Government of Malaysia. See the 34-page report, plus the meeting documents, at http://www.cbd.int/doc/meeting.aspx?mtg=BETAIO-02 or contact secretariat@cbd.int for more information.

9) Beyond the Blue Book - Rapporteurs' report
On 29 September 2006, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) organised a workshop in Jeju Island, South Korea, entitled "Beyond the Blue Book: Framework for risk/ safety assessment of transgenic plants". A 4-page 'overview of the workshop' by M. Kobayashi and P. Kearns is now available on the web. See http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/32/4/38921489.doc or contact icgb@oecd.org for more information.

10) Consensus document on plants expressing Bt-derived proteins   
As part of the series on Harmonisation of Regulatory Oversight in Biotechnology, the OECD's Working Group on Harmonisation of Regulatory Oversight in Biotechnology has recently published the "Consensus document on safety information on transgenic plants expressing Bacillus thuringiensis - derived insect control protein". The 109-page document "summarises the information available on the source of Bacillus thuringiensis delta-endotoxin genes, the structure and properties of the toxins they encode, unique mechanisms of action, use in plants, toxicity and exposure data, and assessment methods". See http://appli1.oecd.org/olis/2007doc.nsf/linkto/env-jm-mono(2007)14 or contact ehscont@oecd.org for more information.
####
Contributed by The Coordinator of FAO-BiotechNews, 24-7-2007
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
E-mail address: mailto:FAO-Biotech-News@fao.org
FAO website http://www.fao.org
FAO Biotechnology website http://www.fao.org/biotech/index.asp (in Arabic,
Chinese, English, French and Spanish)
Copyright FAO 2007

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2  PUBLICATIONS

2.01  Marker-assisted selection: Current status and future perspectives in crops, livestock, forestry and fish

Edited by E.P. Guimarães, J. Ruane, B.D. Scherf, A. Sonnino and J.D. Dargie
Available at http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/a1120e/a1120e00.htm

Published by The FAO Working Group on Biotechnology

The 494-page book is organised into six sections:
-an introduction to marker-assisted selection (MAS) in Section I,
-a series of case studies of MAS in crops, livestock, forestry and fish in Sections II to V respectively,
-Section VI is devoted to a selection of non-technical issues relevant to applications of MAS in developing countries, such as national research capacities and international partnerships, economic considerations, the impacts of intellectual property rights, and policy considerations.

The titles and authors of the 7 chapters with case studies of marker-assisted selection in crops are as follows:
-Molecular markers for use in plant molecular breeding and germplasm evaluation
by Jeremy D. Edwards and Susan R. McCouch

-Marker-assisted selection in wheat: evolution, not revolution
by Robert Koebner and Richard Summers

-Marker-assisted selection for improving quantitative traits of forage crops
by Oene Dolstra, Christel Denneboom, Ab L.F. de Vos and E.N. van Loo

-Targeted introgression of cotton fibre quality quantitative trait loci using molecular markers
by Jean-Marc Lacape, Trung-Bieu Nguyen, Bernard Hau and Marc Giband

-Marker-assisted selection in common beans and cassava
by Mathew W. Blair, Martin A. Fregene, Steve E. Beebe and Hernán Ceballos

-Marker-assisted selection in maize: current status, potential, limitations and perspectives from the private and public sectors
by Michel Ragot and Michael Lee

-Molecular marker-assisted selection for resistance to pathogens in tomato
by Amalia Barone and Luigi Frusciante

Source: http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/a1120e/a1120e00.htm

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2.02  Benefits and limits of an important biotech tool – Interview on FAO’s published study on marker-assisted selection

Rome, Italy
The biotechnology tool of marker-assisted selection (MAS) has raised high expectations for increasing genetic progress through breeding. Some experts have even argued that the application of MAS could “revolutionize” the way varieties and breeding stock are developed.

In a new comprehensive assessment ( Marker-Assisted Selection, Rome 2007), FAO emphasizes that MAS has enormous potential but notes that the technology has not yet delivered its expected benefits to farmers in developing countries. Shivaji Pandey, Chairperson of the FAO Working Group on Biotechnology, gives his view on MAS.

What is marker-assisted selection (MAS)?
MAS is a biotechnology tool that could greatly accelerate conventional breeding of crops, livestock, farmed fish and trees. Scientists are using MAS to genetically improve certain characteristics or traits (productivity, disease resistance, quality etc.) that are important for farmers. MAS makes it possible to select traits with greater accuracy and to develop a new variety quicker than in the past.

What is the difference between MAS and genetically modified organisms (GMOs)?
MAS and genetic modification are different biotechnologies. MAS allows desirable genes to be "marked" or tagged so they can be selected within the breeding population, while GMOs are the result of the transfer of a desirable gene or genes from one species to another.

New plant varieties or improved animal breeds resulting from MAS do not require a specific legislative framework. The complicated approval process required for GMOs does not apply for MAS - its costs of release are therefore lower.

In addition, the technology is not controversial so there is no problem with public acceptance. Indeed, one of the drawbacks of the intense debate that has taken place in recent years over the benefits and risks of GMOs is that it has overshadowed the potential role that other, non-GMO, biotechnologies, such as MAS, may play for food and agriculture.

What is the potential of MAS?
Since MAS first became a practical reality about 20 years ago, it has now gone past the research and development stage and is being applied in the field. For example, it is currently being used in dairy cattle breeding programmes in France and Germany, and rice varieties with improved bacterial blight resistance have being developed using MAS approaches and released in India and Indonesia.

However, initial enthusiasm and optimism have been tempered by the realization that it is more difficult and takes longer than originally thought before genetic improvement of traits using MAS can be realized. The considerable resources invested in this technology have been mainly concentrated in the industrialized world, and MAS has not yet delivered its expected benefits to farmers in developing countries.

What are the costs associated with MAS?
MAS requires quite a sophisticated infrastructure and considerable investments: including specialized equipment, electricity, laboratory design and management, data handling and statistics, and Internet connectivity. Efficient and effective application of MAS also requires well-qualified staff and good funding. It should therefore be used where there is a clear advantage over traditional selection techniques.

What are the constraints countries are facing applying MAS?
Apart from the investments required, a serious constraint that most countries face in applying MAS is the lack of a national policy on science and technology and on biotechnology. This is essential to provide guidance on the strategic planning, monitoring and evaluation of biotechnologies, including MAS, for food and agriculture. In addition, MAS should only be applied when well-structured breeding programmes are already in place, which is often not the case in many developing countries.

How could the application of MAS contribute to hunger and poverty reduction?
Most of the around 820 million hungry people in developing countries live in rural areas where people’s livelihoods depend on agriculture. This means that investing in agriculture, and more broadly in rural development, must be at the heart of any strategy for hunger and poverty reduction. While the measures needed certainly go well beyond the issue of producing more food and agricultural products, achieving greater yields and higher value products from the same plot of land or enterprise, through, for example, appropriate application of technologies such as MAS, must be a key ingredient for the great majority of developing countries.

RELATED LINK: Electronic forum on marker-assisted selection (17 November - 14 December, 2003)

Contributed by John Ruane
The Coordinator of FAO-BiotechNews
FAO-Biotech-News@fao.org

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3.  WEB RESOURCES

3.01  A new cis-regulatory element analysis tool for rice genes

The Plant Genome Research Unit of the National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, Japan, announces the release of the novel web tool which searches cis-element candidates from the upstream regions of differentially regulated genes of rice. This tool is designed so that any plant genome researchers can use it easily without extreme informatic skills. Access the website at http://hpc.irri.cgiar.org/tool/nias/ces or contact Shoshi Kikuchi, email: skikuchi@nias.affrc.go.jp .

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3.02  Global Facilitation Unit for Underutilized Species sets up a blog dedicated to underutilized species

The Global Facilitation Unit for Underutilized Species (GFU) was created to ease and increase information and knowledge exchange in the field of underutilized and neglected species.

We have set up a blog dedicated to underutilized species. A link to it can be found on GFU's home page.

This is an information exchange tool that compliments the GFU portal. We hope this will stimulate further thinking, learning, discussing.
Hoping you will enjoy it!

Your GFU team
------------------------------
Global Facilitation Unit for Underutilized Species
Rome, Italy
underutilized-species@cgiar.org
www.underutilized-species.org

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4.  REQUESTS FOR INFORMATION

4.01  Quest for a history of the seed industry - A SeedQuest project

Since 1992, SeedQuest has been aggregating data and information of value to seed professionals.

The result is this website (SeedQuest.com), a steadily growing archive for the seed industry, our common memory bank.

Now, SeedQuest wants to reach further back into the past in order to facilitate access to the history of the seed industry.

Since the Gregor Mendel's pioneering work in the 19th century, many generations of  breeders and seed growers have   created and brought to market increasingly high yielding and resistant varieties.

These have made it possible to feed a rapidly growing world population.

This section of SeedQuest shall provide greater access to the history of these individuals and companies, showing how their collective endeavors have shaped the modern seed industry.

SeedQuest calls on its vast readership to participate in this project and help build the gateway to this history.

Please send us:
-Titles of publications, documents, books and articles on the subject
-Links to sites that contain relevant materials
-Leads to individuals and organizations that research this history
-Your own recollections of key accomplishments and events from years past
-Memories from previous generations
-Photos
-etc.

We will post them here with credit to all contributors.
Please write to editor@seedquest.com
Thank you.

Source: SeedQuest.com

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6. MEETINGS, COURSES AND WORKSHOPS

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

NEW OR REVISED ANNOUNCEMENTS

10 September - 14 October 2007. Introduction to the UPOV System of Plant Variety Protection under the UPOV Convention, Geneva, Switzerland

The International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) is pleased to inform you about the 2007 sessions of the distance learning course "Introduction to the UPOV System of Plant Variety Protection under the UPOV Convention" (DL-205). The objective of the course is to provide a comprehensive introduction to the UPOV system of plant variety protection under the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants. The course comprises 11 modules.

The course is followed on-line, via the internet. Each student studies at their own pace, on their PC or, alternatively, may download the course to study on paper. The course is estimated to require around 36 hours of study, which can be undertaken at any time within the 4-week study period. The course contains comprehensive explanations, diagrams, self-assessment questions and end of module tests to guide participants. Tutoring by UPOV experts provides students with the opportunity for further clarification and discussion.

The course materials and tutoring are available to the participants for a period of four weeks. The final exam is taken in the fifth week of the course. Certificates are issued at the end of the course.

The course is available in English, French, German and Spanish.

The DL-205 course is particularly aimed at:
(a) Government officials/officially appointed persons:
- responsible for running PBR offices
- responsible for drafting PBR legislation
- key staff of PBR offices
- organizers of DUS trials
- DUS examiners

(b) Private Sector:
- breeders
- IP managers
- IP agents/attorneys
- IP students
Course dates: September 10 to October 14, 2007
More information >>

Source: SeedQuest.com
20 July 2007

++++++++++

17 September 2007. Biotechnology regulation: provide your opinion. The Public Research and Regulatory Initiative is organizing this event to introduce public researchers to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and to seek their input on the topics on the agenda of the 4th Meeting of the Parties to the CPB and the 9th Conference of the Parties to the CBD. The meeting will be held in conjunction with the Symposium (see in REPEAT ANNOUNCEMENTS below) on 17-20 September 2007.  For more information go to: http://www.plantsciences.ucdavis.edu/seedsymposium2007/) and choose “Biotechnology Regulatory Meeting.”

Please contact Susan DiTomaso at: scwebster@ucdavis.edu for questions or comments.

Contributed by Susan C. (Webster) DiTomaso
Program Representative
Seed Biotechnology Center
University of California
scwebster@ucdavis.edu

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

24–28 September 2007. Third Research Coordination Meeting on Effects of Mutagenic Agents on the DNA Sequence in Plants, Stellenbosch, South Africa,

Technical Officer: P.J.L. Lagoda
The Coordinated Research Project on Effects of Mutagenic Agents on the DNA Sequence in Plants aims to understand the mechanism of mutation induction in plants and to quantify the types (base pair changes or deletions), frequencies (rates of change relative to mutagens dose) and patterns (induction of changes in different parts of the genome) of changes in DNA induced by a range of physical and chemical mutagens in a range of key crop plant species. Knowledge obtained will assist Member States in enhancing crop breeding programmes through the application of targeted induced mutation, complementary genomic approaches and knowledge for the identification and selection of mutants of specific genes with the objective of increasing agricultural sustainability, food security and economic stability.

This Coordinated Research Project is moving into its mid-life phase, where some preliminary results will be consolidated and steering of the overall project becomes paramount to keep it focused on the target objectives. This project is producing original molecular data on crops and the individual yearly work plans will be fine-tuned to warrant maximum data yield. The overall strategy will be reappraised critically and it is expected that the scientific discussions will yield an optimized integrated roadmap for the final years of the CRP.

Contributed by Elcio Guimaraes
FAO/AGPC
Elcio.Guimaraes@fao.org

+++++++++++

15-17 October 2007. 5th International Symposium of Rice Functional Genomics, Tsukuba, Japan on. Online registration for the meeting is now open. Appicants should submit an abstract for oral and poster presentation. The deadline for submission is August 15, 2007. More information visit http://www.isrfg2007.com

++++++++++

15–19 October 2007. Third Research Coordination Meeting on Pyramiding of Mutated Genes Contributing to Crop Quality and Resistance to Stress Affecting Quality, South Perth, Australia,

Technical Officer: Q.Y. Shu
This Research Coordination Meeting aims to review the overall progress made during the past three years and to exchange research findings and new ideas among the participants. It will provide the participants with the opportunity to propose and agree on future work plans. Based on the results achieved, recommendations will be made for the continuation of individual contracts as well as the Coordinated Research Project (CRP) as a whole.

Contributed by Elcio Guimaraes
FAO/AGPC
Elcio.Guimaraes@fao.org

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

28 October–1 November 2007. Second Coordinators Meeting on Mutation Induction and Supportive Breeding and Biotechnologies for Improving Crop Productivity in ARASIA Member States, RAS/5/048, Damascus and Aleppo (tentative), Syrian Arab Republic.

Technical Officer: P.J.L. Lagoda
The second coordination meeting under RAS/5/048: (Mutation Induction and Supportive Breeding and Biotechnologies for Improving Crop Productivity in ARASIA Member States) will take place in the Syrian Arab Repulic, to review the status of implementation of strategic decisions taken during the first coordination meeting held in Vienna from 21 to 25 May 2007. The second coordination meeting will include a workshop in which a Memorandum of Understanding on germplasm exchange and phytosanitary measures will be drafted and may be signed among the ARASIA Member States participating in this project.

Contributed by Elcio Guimaraes
FAO/AGPC
Elcio.Guimaraes@fao.org

+++++++++++

14-17 Novemeber 2007. 20th Annual Conference of the Biotechnology Society of Nigeria, Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki, Nigeria.
Theme of Conference is "Biotechnology: key to achieving the millenium Development Goals in Nigeria. Abstracts and/or full papers to be published in the proceedings should be sent to the Conference Secretariat below.

Contact person:
Dr. Ben Ewa Ubi
Chairman, Local Organizing Committee
c/o. Biotechnology Research & Development Centre
Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki, Nigeria
E-mail: benjiubi1@yahoo.com
ebsubiotech.loc2007@yahoo.com
Tel:234-808 321-0497

+++++++++

19-21 November 2007. 2nd International Seed Trade Conference in CWANA Region, Historical Palace of Mena House Oberoi Hotel Cairo, Egypt

The Egyptian Seed Association (ESAS) has the pleasure of informing you that the Second International Seed Trade Conference in Central and West Asia and North Africa (CWANA) Region will be held in Cairo, Egypt, from 19-21 November 2007 at the Historical Palace of Mena House Oberoi Hotel.

The conference will cover a broad range of issues of interest to those in seed trade and the global seed industry. It will provide an opportunity to promote your business at an international level and keep abreast with the developments in the industry. The Conference will also address issues of Seed Trade at both global and regional levels and current trends in the seed industry and aims at exploring and promoting seed trade.

Topics include:
-Status and prospects in global and regional seed trade
-Protection of intellectual property rights
-GMOs and biosafety in seed trade
-Biofuels and impacts on seed and grain trade
-Status and role of private seed sector in selected CWANA countries
-Accreditation in seed quality assurance
-Harmonization of seed regulatory frameworks

The conference is organized and hosted by the Egyptian Seed Association (ESAS), held under the umbrella of the National Seed Council and by the public (Central Administration for Seed Production and Central Administration for Seed Certification and Testing) in Cooperation with the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) and the Turkish Seed Industry Association.

The Second International Seed Trade Conference (ISTC2007) is expected to provide a forum to promote regional seed trade among seed companies within and outside the CWANA region and to share experiences among stakeholders of the seed industry. While the main focus of the conference will be on seed trade, the conference program includes key presentations covering policy, regulatory, institutional and technical issues affecting the seed industry development at global, regional and national levels.

These goals can only be achieved through active participation of the private sector (seed companies, agricultural input suppliers, seed equipment manufacturers), public sector, international/ regional/national seed trade associations and international/regional development organizations working on seeds. The National Organizing Committee in its meeting of 24 July 2007 has reviewed the arrangements for the conference.

We would appreciate that your esteemed association assists in mobilizing the participation of various sectors of the seed industry in the ISTC2007 through linkage to the website, announcements in the newsletters, announcements during the meetings, etc .

For more information regarding the conference, please contact the conference secretariat:
The Egyptian Seed Association (ESAS)
Ms. Sarah Yehia - General Manager
35, Gamet El Dowal El Arabeya Street, Mohandessen, Cairo - Egypt
Tel and Fax: +20-2-7484018; +20-2-7499178 ; +20-2-3387274
E-mail: info@esas-egypt.org
Or visit the website: http://www.esas-egypt.org

Dr. Samir El Naggar
Chairman

Source: SeedQuest.com
1 August 2007

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

September 2008.UC Davis Seed Biotechnology Center announces second session of the Plant Breeding Academy

Davis, California
The UC Davis Plant Breeding Academy is pleased to be accepting applications for its second class, starting in September 2008.

The Plant Breeding Academy (PBA) is a two year professional development course teaching the principles of plant breeding. It is targeted toward people who are currently involved in plant breeding or wish to become plant breeders, and desire a greater knowledge of genetics, statistics, and breeding methodology. The program allows participants to maintain their current working positions.

The Academy’s inaugural class, currently in progress, consists of 15 students from the U.S., Canada, and Hong Kong. Some of the feedback received from the participants includes:

“We get the very specific information we need for our programs. I’m grateful to be able to receive this level of education while keeping my job.”

“The PBA has, without a doubt, given me powerful tools to tackle virtually any problem I might encounter in my career as a professional plant breeder.”

“(The PBA is) an exhaustive and rigorous foundational course in plant breeding. All aspects of the discipline are given deep coverage with professors providing additional personal insight.”

The Plant Breeding Academy is taught by internationally recognized plant breeders, and is limited in size to give students personal attention. Visit the Plant Breeding Academy website for more information and to apply for the 2008-2010 Academy.

You may also contact Cathy Glaeser, Program Representative, at clglaeser@ucdavis.edu, with any questions.

Source: SeedQuest.com
1 August 2007


REPEAT ANNOUNCEMENTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*10-12 September 2007. Convergence of Genomics and the Land Grant Mission: Emerging Trends in the Application of Genomics in Agricultural Research,
Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana. www.entm.purdue.edu/conference

*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. http://www.avrdc.org/anthracnose/index.html
31 July: deadline for abstract submission (contact organizers to request an exception)
25 August: deadline for early registration at a reduced rate

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

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

Please contact Sue at: scwebster@ucdavis.edu for questions and comments.

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

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

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

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

*9 - 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. http://www.biology.lv/geneticcongress

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

*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 www.ipve2007.net

*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. http://www.redbio2007chile.cl/ and www.redbio.org

*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). http://www.vavilov.nw.ru/niv120/anniver_e.htm Organized by The Scientific Council of the N. I. Vavilov All-Russian Research Institute of Plant Industry (VIR)

* 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. http://www.icuc-iwmi.org/Symposium2008/

*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. http://www.ipbo.ugent.be/cassava.html

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

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

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7.  EDITOR'S NOTES

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

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

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

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

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

REVIEW PAST NEWSLETTERS ON THE WEB: Past issues of the Plant Breeding Newsletter are now available on the web. The address is: http://www.fao.org/WAICENT/FAOINFO/AGRICULT/AGP/AGPC/doc/services/pbn.html   Please note that you may have to copy and paste this address to your web browser, since the link can be corrupted in some e-mail applications. We will continue to improve the organization of archival issues of the newsletter. Readers who have suggestions about features they wish to see should contact the editor at chh23@cornell.edu.

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

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

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