PLANT BREEDING NEWS

EDITION 184

12 November 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  Farm-production strains may keep food prices high
1.02  World Bank calls for renewed emphasis on agriculture for development
1.03  Training the next generation of rice breeders
1.04  PhilRice develops new flood tolerant rice
1.05  Improved rice varieties gain foothold in India
1.06  African rice centre welcomes new members
1.07  Top maize breeders in Southern and Eastern Africa urge governments to speed approvals of new crop varieties needed by farmers
1.08  Cassava breeders call for new varieties' quick release
1.09  African cassava breeders network moves to derail spreading epidemic of devastating crop virus
1.10  Mozambique and USDA align to fight cassava root rot disease
1.11  Sweet potato promise shines for small enterprise and hunger relief in developing countries
1.12  Indian and Australian scientists collaborate for better wheat
1.13  Legumes step into the limelight in the tropics
1.14  USDA awards $4.7 million for tomato and potato specialty crops genetic research
1.15  India hops on board the 'jatropha express'
1.16  Opium and marijuana research go underground
1.17  New melon hybrid releases from North Carolina State
1.18  Forest seed orchards: Conference report
1.19  China updates plant variety testing procedures
1.20  Genetically engineered corn may harm stream ecosystems
1.21  Preserving genetic variability of valuable specialty crops
1.22  International plant gene pool becomes operational
1.23  CGIAR genebanks distributing more material
1.24  CIOPORA and its members increase efforts against piracy of plant variety rights
1.25  DuPont and Evogene collaborate to increase drought tolerance in corn and soybeans
1.26  New maize varieties resistant to the large grain borer
1.27  Thailand research institute improves resistance to rust in soybeans
1.28  Discovery promises more nutritional cassava
1.29  WSU seeking patent on root rot-resistant wheat
1.30  European Union OKs three more corn biotechnology traits for food, feed use
1.31  Wheat relative as possible source of fungal resistance genes
1.32  From red to white: the story of today's white rice
1.33  New leafminer-resistant spinach varieties
1.34  World's hottest chile pepper discovered
1.35  Genes identified to protect brassicas from damaging disease
1.36  Scientists re-examine soy diversity
1.37  Chilean research institutes join forces to develop drought-tolerant Eucalyptus
1.38  USDA ARS Sunflower Research Unit releases two maintainer and six restorer
Sclerotinia tolerant confection genetic stocks
1.39  Bottlegourd gene may curb cucurbit virus
1.40  Genetic basis of cyanide defense in clover
1.41  Two potato scourges return with a vengeance
1.42  Aluminum-tolerance gene cloned in sorghum
1.43  Non GM herbicide-tolerant rice produced by gene targeting
1.44  Study sheds light on plant-pathogen interaction in soybean
1.45  Transgenics transformed
1.46  Intragenic modification for crops
1.47  Using maize seeds instead of leaves to determine the genetic makeup of maize
1.48  Update 8-2007 of FAO-BiotechNews

2.  PUBLICATIONS
2.01  Executive Guide to Intellectual Property Management in Health and Agricultural Innovation: A Handbook of Best Practices
2.02  Plant Breeding and Biotechnology - Societal Context and the Future of Agriculture
2.03  Call for papers on the value of biodiversity to food and agriculture – special issue of Biodiversity

3.  WEB RESOURCES
3.01  GIPB website launched
3.02  Intellectual Property/Innovation Management Handbook now Online
3.03  Renowned plant pathologist Dr. Roger Beachy discusses current and future benefits of genetically engineered plants

4  GRANTS AVAILABLE
4.01  Call for proposals for the 2008 awards: Enhancing the Value of Crop Diversity
4.02  DuPont makes $2.175 million investment in plant breeding research and education
4.03  International Science and Education Competitive Grants Program (USDA)

5  POSITION ANNOUNCEMENTS
5.01  Post-doc position in plant genetic engineering, Babes-Bolyai University, Romania

6  MEETINGS, COURSES AND WORKSHOPS

7  EDITOR'S NOTES

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1.  NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH NOTES

1.01  Farm-production strains may keep food prices high

Although this article does not explicitly discuss plant breeding, it gives compelling arguments for the need to sustain and increase agricultural production. Plant breeding is, in many cases, the most effective tool to achieve this. Please note as well item 3.01, which links to the Global Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building (GIPB), a critical initiative to improve agricultural production in the medium and long-term future. (The editor, PBN-L)

Agricultural production is struggling to keep pace with demand as diets improve around the world and agricultural products become more central to energy markets, according to a report being released today by Credit Suisse Group.

The structural changes in agriculture markets mean commodity prices, and therefore consumer food prices, will continue to stay aloft over coming years, with emerging markets feeling more of the burden since a larger slice of their spending is more heavily weighted toward food, the report says. However, net agriculture exporters, like Brazil and Malaysia, and foreign food companies with lower labor costs could benefit.

Demand is largely being driven by changing dietary habits, the report says, as growing populations in developing countries consume more meat and more calories. Exacerbating the situation is the advent of biofuels. The report estimates that crops grown to meet government biofuel mandates world-wide will account for 12% of total arable and permanent cropland over the next 10 to 15 years, up from about 2% today.

The change in dietary patterns alone means food production needs to grow at 2.5% per year just to keep pace over the next five to eight years, the report says. To meet global food and biofuels demand, overall agricultural production will need to grow 3.3% annually. Historically, global food production has risen 2.3% annually.

Rising commodity prices are likely to continue pressuring food processors’ profit margins even though the report notes that on average only about 20% of the value of an individual food item is directly related to commodity prices, or farm value. The remaining 80% largely goes to labor, transportation and packaging. Companies with strong brand recognition will be insulated more than less-branded businesses.

A kernel of good news for biofuels producers: Over the next year, low ethanol prices could recover with addition of new ethanol markets in the Southeast and improved biofuels transportation and blending infrastructure. However, corn prices are expected to stay high.

Adding pressure to current demand is a slowing growth rate in land availability due to land degradation and urbanization. The amount of arable land in China has dropped about 6% over the past decade because of urbanization. In the U.S., some potentially productive cropland will likely remain tied up in what is known as the Conservation Reserve Program, which sets aside crop land to protect the environment.

The limited ability to access new land for agricultural purposes means more emphasis will likely be placed on genetically modified products, which could help boost yields for food and energy crops. Also the increasing demand for biofuels could pressure countries to reduce their biofuels mandates as a way to alleviate pressure on food prices. Already China has reduced its biofuels target to two million tons of biofuels production by 2010, down from five million tons.

by Lauren  Etter

Source: The Wall Street Journal
6 November 2007

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1.02  World Bank calls for renewed emphasis on agriculture for development

Washington, DC
The latest World Development Report* calls for greater investment in agriculture in developing countries and warns that the sector must be placed at the center of the development agenda if the goals of halving extreme poverty and hunger by 2015 are to be realized.

Titled 'Agriculture for Development', the reportsays the agricultural and rural sectors have suffered from neglect and underinvestment over the past 20 years. While 75 percent of the world’s poor live in rural areas, a mere 4 percent of official development assistance goes to agriculture in developing countries. In Sub-Saharan Africa, a region heavily reliant on agriculture for overall growth, public spending for farming is also only 4 percent of total government spending and the sector is still taxed at relatively high levels.

The World Bank Group is advocating a new ‘agriculture for development’ agenda. According to the WDR, for the poorest people, GDP growth originating in agriculture is about four times more effective in reducing poverty than GDP growth originating outside the sector.

“A dynamic ‘agriculture for development’ agenda can benefit the estimated 900 million rural people in the developing world who live on less than $1 a day, most of whom are engaged in agriculture,” said Robert B. Zoellick, World Bank Group President. “We need to give agriculture more prominence across the board. At the global level, countries must deliver on vital reforms such as cutting distorting subsidies and opening markets, while civil society groups, especially farmer organizations, need more say in setting the agricultural agenda.”

According to the report, agriculture can offer pathways out of poverty if efforts are made to increase productivity in the staple foods sector; connect smallholders to rapidly expanding high-value horticulture, poultry, aquaculture, as well as dairy markets; and generate jobs in the rural nonfarm economy.

“Agricultural growth has been highly successful in reducing rural poverty in East Asia over the past 15 years,” said Francois Bourguignon, World Bank Chief Economist and Senior Vice President, Development Economics. “The challenge is to sustain and expand agriculture’s unique poverty-reducing power, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia where the number of rural poor people is still rising and will continue to exceed the number of urban poor for at least another 30 years.”

For its part, the Bank intends to continue increasing its support for agriculture and rural development, following a decline in lending in the 1980s and 1990s. Commitments in FY07 reached $3.1 billion, marking an increase for the fourth straight year.

Detailed findings
The report also warns global food supplies are under pressure from expanding demand for food, feed, and biofuels; the rising price of energy; and increasing land and water scarcity; as well as the effects of climate change. This in turn is contributing to uncertainty about future food prices.

Agriculture consumes 85 percent of the world’s utilized water and the sector contributes to deforestation, land degradation, and pollution. The report recommends measures to achieve more sustainable production systems and outlines incentives to protect the environment.

The report says in agriculture-based countries­home to 417 million rural people, 170 million of whom live on less than $1 a day­the agricultural sector is essential to overall growth, poverty reduction, and food security. Most of these countries are in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the sector employs 65 percent of the labor force and generates 32 percent of GDP growth.

For Sub-Saharan Africa’s development, the report highlights issues to be urgently confronted: too little public spending on agriculture; donor support for emergency food aid with insufficient attention to income-raising investments; rich-country trade barriers and subsidies for key commodities such as cotton and oilseeds; and the under-recognized potential of millions of women who play a dominant role in farming.

In transforming countries such as China, India, and Morocco, agriculture contributes on average only 7 percent to GDP growth, but lagging rural incomes are a major source of political tensions. Dynamism in the rural and agricultural sectors is needed to narrow the rural-urban income gap and reduce rural poverty for 600 million poor while avoiding falling into subsidy and protection traps that will stymie growth and tax poor consumers.

In urbanized countries, mainly in Latin America and the Caribbean and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, agriculture contributes just 5 percent of GDP growth on average. However, rural areas are still home to 45 percent of the poor, and agribusiness and food services account for as much as one third of GDP. The broad goal is to link smallholders to modern food markets and provide remunerative jobs in rural areas.

The report says rich countries need to reform policies which harm the poor. For example, it is vital that the United States reduces cotton subsidies which depress prices for African smallholders. In the emerging area of biofuels, the problem is both restrictive tariffs and heavy subsidies in rich countries, which drive up food prices and limit export opportunities for efficient developing country producers. The report also asserts that industrialized countries that were the major contributors to global warming urgently need to do more to help poor farmers adapt their production systems to climate change.
* Full report: http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTWDR2008/Resources/WDR_00_book.pdf

Source: SeedQuest.com
19 October 2007

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1.03  Training the next generation of rice breeders

The ability of rice-growing countries to develop and deliver technology-based solutions for tackling constraints in rice production is hampered by the limited or decreasing number of institutions and human resources working on rice research and development, in general, and rice varietal improvement, in particular. Hence, one of the core goals of the new Strategic Plan (2007-2015) of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is to develop the next generation of rice scientists, including rice breeders and geneticists, who will lead the realization of a Second Green Revolution.

In line with this goal, two Rice Breeding Courses (RBC) were recently conducted at IRRI this year to increase the number of rice breeders adept in the use of both conventional and modern tools and techniques for increasing the precision and impact of their breeding programs.  The first course was held on 20-31 August while the second course was held 1-12 October.  Specific objectives of these two courses were to (1) provide theoretical knowledge on modern plant breeding methods and techniques; (2) teach planning and information management tools, experimental techniques, and software for increasing rice breeding efficiency; (3) provide knowledge and tools to be able to perform pre-breeding activities; (4) share experiences and lessons from other programs and countries; and (5) provide the latest information relevant to continued access to modern tools, technologies, and rice genetic resources. 

The first RBC was attended by 23 rice researchers from 16 countries, namely, Bhutan, China, DPR Korea, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Philippines, South Korea, Spain, Tanzania, Thailand, Vietnam, and the United States.   The second RBC, on the other hand, was attended by another 23 rice scientists from Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Russia, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam. 

The Global Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Enhancement (GIPB), a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)-facilitated multi-party initiative of knowledge institutions and programs worldwide committed to developing plant breeding capacity globally, extended partial funding to course including sponsoring the participation of Flavio Breseghello of EMBRAPA, Brazil, as a resource person on pre-breeding. This added a new dimension to the RBC curriculum that already encompassed a broad range of subjects covering the entire plant breeding chain, with IRRI’s senior scientists serving as lead discussants and resource persons. Edilberto D. Redoña (e.redona@cgiar.org), IRRI Senior Scientist and Coordinator of the International Network for Genetic Evaluation of Rice (INGER) served as RBC coordinator.  The RBC will be offered again next year and interested applicants are encouraged to contact IRRI’s Training Center (IRRI-Training@cgiar.org) for more details.

Contributed by  Edilberto Redoña
IRRI
E.Redona@CGIAR.ORG

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1.04  PhilRice develops new flood tolerant rice

The Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) has developed a new rice variety tolerant to flood water and resistant to the bacterial blast, stemborer and tungro, three of the most dreaded rice pests. The new variety, Tubigan 7 (which means flooded in the vernacular), was developed using the DNA marker-assisted selection (MAS) technique. Tubigan 7 is the first-ever successful DNA-MAS product in the Philippines, and the second locally developed biotech rice, after the tissue culture-derived variety of improved traditional Wagwag grains. It has a fertility restorer trait and could yield about 8 tons per hectare during the dry season cropping, 5 to 6 tons per hectare during the wet season, and yields about 15 percent higher than the conventional harvest record in the Philippines.

Dr. Antonio A. Alfonso, head of plant breeding and biotechnology division of PhilRice, emphasized that Tubigan 7 is not a genetically modified crop, as the new variety was obtained through conventional breeding. The Philippine National Seed Industry Council (NSIC) has officially released it as a variety.

 For more information contact the SEARCA Biotechnology Information Center at spt@agri.searca.org.

Source: CropBiotech Update
28 September 2007

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

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1.05  Improved rice varieties gain foothold in India

The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has developed five new rice varieties for release in different regions of India. These include Pusa Basmati 1460 and RP BIO 226, both of which are resistant to bacterial leaf blight. Pusa 1460, a Basmati type product developed using molecular marker assisted selection, is a semi dwarf type plant suitable for irrigated-transplanted production conditions. RP BIO 226, also developed through marker assisted backcross breeding, contains the bacterial blight resistance genes, xa21, xa13 and xa5 in the genetic background of an elite fine grained rice variety, Samba Mahsuri. The other rice varieties are: the high-yielding MTU 1075, also resistant to major diseases/pests; UPR 2870, a high-yielding variety that possesses resistance to leaf blast, moderate resistance to BLB, sheath rot, stem borer and leaf folder; and HRI-152, which has high tolerance to leaf blast.

To read more, visit http://dare.gov.in/highlightS/h20.htm.

Source: CropBiotech Update
17 August 2007:

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

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1.06  African rice centre welcomes new members

The Africa Rice Center (WARDA) has opened its ranks to four new member countries from central and eastern Africa.

The twenty-sixth session of WARDA's council of ministers held in Abuja, Nigeria last week (3 October) welcomed on board the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, increasing the membership from 17 to 21.

WARDA director general Papa Abdoulaye Seck said in a press release, "Central and eastern African countries are seeing for themselves the benefits of investing in rice research and therefore keen to join the grouping."

Lawrence Narteh, coordinator of the West and Central Africa Rice Research and Development Network, says scientists from the new member countries will now be able to take part in testing and disseminating rice technologies that will help to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

He told SciDev.Net that the scientists can take part in annual expert meetings and therefore gain knowledge on new technology and its use by farmers or the private sector. Research and development capacity of those countries will also be enhanced.

Sub-Saharan Africa cannot compete with Asia and Europe at present because the region's capacity for rice science, trade and policy is inadequate, Seck told SciDev.Net.

He said every WARDA member country should make their rice sector more competitive by improving capacity in research, technical agricultural advice, production, processing and marketing.

For example, they should overcome major bottlenecks such as seed shortage, so that farmers have a regular, adequate supply of quality seeds.

At the meeting, Seck urged African countries to pass a 'seed act'. This would encourage the involvement of the private sector in seed supply and trade, he said, and strengthen national agricultural research stations to produce breeder and foundation seeds, something only 20 per cent have done.

He also urged member countries to establish seed quality control and certification systems.

The council also backed a new pan-African Rice initiative to support Africa's rice sector in research and development, to be launched in 2008.

The networks affiliated to WARDA have over 250 rice scientists working in the major aspects of rice science, natural resources management, economics, innovation and technology transfer.

by Charles Mkoka

Source: SciDev.net
9 October 2007

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1.07  Top maize breeders in Southern and Eastern Africa urge governments to speed approvals of new crop varieties needed by farmers

Nairobi, Kenya
A statement released by eastern and southern Africa’s leading network of maize breeders, seed producers, and development specialists says that the slow regulatory approval of new, conventionally bred crop varieties is harming regional food security and impeding efforts to eradicate rural poverty. The network warns that countries with slow approval processes are putting their farmers at risk by denying them access to more resilient maize varieties that can withstand periods of drought and resist pests and crop diseases plaguing small-scale farmers in eastern and southern Africa.

“Getting new improved varieties in to the hands of farmers allows them to increase their yield and improve their livelihoods. Countries must have regulatory systems in place that can rapidly test and approve a continuous supply of new commercial varieties,” said Jane Ininda, founder of the Maize Breeders Network (MBNet) and a programme officer for the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), which funded the meeting.

Maize is the most important cereal crop in sub-Saharan Africa, and with rice and wheat, it is one of the three most important cereal crops in the world. An estimated 50 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa depends on maize as a food staple providing carbohydrate, protein, iron, vitamin B, and minerals. But farmers need varieties that can better cope with an array of diseases (such as turcicum leaf blight and maize streak virus), pests (ear borers and weevils), weeds, and increasingly unpredictable climates. The parasitic witchweed (Striga), for example, causes estimated cereal grain losses of up to US$7 billion annually, adversely affecting the lives of roughly 300 million Africans.

In order to meet these challenges, maize breeders work with local groups of farmers to identify the needed traits­such as resistance to a particular virus­and then painstakingly breed varieties with the desired qualities. The breeding process itself can take 6-8 years, and is followed by a two-to-three year government testing and approval process.

“In some cases, new varieties are not being released to farmers for periods of up to five years,” said Ms. Josephine Okot, managing director of Victoria Seeds Limited-Uganda and a member of MBNet.

Established in 2003, the Maize Breeders Network brings together researchers engaged in plant breeding at national research institutes and leading universities in eastern and southern Africa.

The most recent meeting, held in August 2007, included representatives from Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

The MBNet meeting was part of a new effort, spearheaded by AGRA, to develop and distribute seeds suitable for local environments across Africa, and encourage the development of government policies that support these efforts.

“Given the need to quickly turn around Africa's food crisis situation, governments should consider speeding up the release of locally-bred and adaptable crop varieties for farmers. There is real need for urgent action. Farmers can’t wait for years before getting their hands on good crop varieties,” Akin Adesina, AGRA’s vice president of policy and partnerships, told the meeting.

According to the MBNet statement, “Delayed release of new varieties slows commercialization and denies farmers access to new, improved varieties. This problem further aggravates food insecurity and poverty among small-scale farm households.”

The Maize Breeders Network statement calls upon African governments to:

-Find ways to remove barriers and reduce bureaucracy around approval of new seed varieties without sacrificing the legitimate interests of farmers and consumers;
-Streamline and strengthen the process of data collection and analysis by regulators, which may now be slowing variety release; and
-To facilitate continuous interaction among national regulatory agencies within the region to hasten cross-border sharing and testing of maize germplasm (crop genetic resources). 

The statement notes that some countries are already making reforms in this direction. Kenyan regulators, for example, can grant a variety “pre-release” status, after just one year of multi-location testing, and full release after two years. Pre-release status allows seed companies and researchers to feel secure in investing in seed bulking (multiplication of quality seeds for planting), in field inspection for Distinctness, Uniformity and Stability (DUS), and in making other preparations for commercialization.

In addition, the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) has established working relationships with seed companies, regulatory agencies, farmers, and international plant breeders’ associations. As a result of this work and the government’s innovative approaches to variety approval, 26 new maize varieties have been released in the past five years, all of which have been licensed to private seed companies.

Adesina pointed out that an efficient government approval system will be even more important as farmers struggle to cope with the effects of climate change, including intensified incidences of drought and flooding predicted across large regions of the continent.

“Farmers will need the right crop variety for the right condition and the right location. They will need them quickly to have a chance of adapting to climate change. The time for policy action to speed up variety testing and release is now, since breeders are already in the business of developing crops to deal with climatic changes such as the looming drought crisis,” Adesina said.

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) is a dynamic partnership working across the African continent to help millions of small-scale farmers and their families lift themselves out of poverty and hunger. AGRA programs develop practical solutions to significantly boost farm productivity and incomes for the poor while safeguarding the environment. AGRA advocates for policies that support its work across all key aspects of the African agricultural “value chain”­from seeds, soil health, and water to markets and agricultural education.

AGRA is chaired by Kofi A. Annan, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations. AGRA, with initial support from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, maintains offices in Nairobi, Kenya and Accra, Ghana.

For more information, go to www.agra-alliance.org .

Source: SeedQuest.com
5 October 2007

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1.08  Cassava breeders call for new varieties' quick release

[LUSAKA] Africa's cassava industry must improve the distribution of new disease resistant varieties of the root vegetable to farmers across the continent, say scientists.

Cassava breeders from eight African countries gathered to discuss challenges in cassava production at a meeting in Zanzibar this month (4–5 October), convened by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and Tanzania's Ministry of Agriculture.

Cassava ­ a tropical plant grown for its starchy roots ­ is an important food crop in much of Africa. Although African cassava production has grown from 90 to 145 million tonnes in the last four years, and is expected to double over the next 20 years, disease has dogged attempts to increase yields even further.

Cassava viruses, specifically the brown streak and mosaic viruses, are a problem for many farmers across Africa. The brown streak virus destroys leaf tissue and makes cassava roots corky and inedible. The mosaic virus causes the plant's leaves to wither, retarding root growth.

Cassava breeders have had little commercial support in creating and distributing new breeds because seed companies ­ normally a major avenue for distributing new crop varieties ­ are not interested because it is a vegetative propagated crop and does not reproduce via seeds.

As a result, AGRA is supporting efforts to breed, distribute and encourage farmers to adopt new varieties resistant to the viruses.

The alliance recently awarded three grants totalling US$553,692 to breeders at national research organisations in Kenya, Malawi and Tanzania to develop new resistant breeds. It has also granted US$157,500 to support rapid distribution of four disease resistant cassava varieties on the Tanzanian islands of Pemba and Zanzibar.

George Bigirwa, programme officer for seed production systems at AGRA, said the project has already released the four varieties to farmers in Zanzibar. The local government is also backing a programme that encourages farmers propagate and sell plant materials at an agreed low cost to other local farmers. Farmers in Malawi have also adopted the model.

Bigirwa says AGRA is also working with policymakers to design more realistic regulations for new varieties, and is encouraging breeders to work more closely with local regulatory bodies.
Michael Malakata

Source: SciDev.net
24 October 2007

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1.09  African cassava breeders network moves to derail spreading epidemic of devastating crop virus

Nairobi, Kenya
Cassava, Africa’s second most important food crop after maize, is under siege by viruses that have decimated much of the crop across the continent.

Following a recent spike of cassava brown streak disease (CBSD), cassava breeders from across sub-Saharan Africa met in Zanzibar, Tanzania earlier this month to discuss introducing new disease-resistant varieties of cassava to help preserve this food crop that is critical for poor farmers across Africa.

The meeting was hosted by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), and Tanzania’s Ministry of Agriculture.  AGRA is chaired by Kofi Annan and supported by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Cassava is a cheap source of nutrients and is a staple food for some 250 million Africans. It tolerates drought and is able to thrive in marginal soils making it one of Africa’s most reliable food crops.

Tanzania’s cassava breeders have developed resistant materials that could be critical to arresting the epidemic.  The key will be getting this genetic material to other breeding programs, and working with governments to speed release of the new varieties. The breeders are urgently seeking ways to get the new, hardier cassava seeds to farmers.

One solution already underway through AGRA is by developing farmer entrepreneurship to combat the problem. In Zanzibar, each village designates a farmer who will be in charge of growing disease-resistant cassava.

With support from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), network pPlans new breeding strategies, urges regulatory action

A meeting of Africa’s leading cassava breeders zeroed in on actions needed to stop the rapid spread of cassava brown streak disease (CBSD). The resurgent crop disease has already caused a low-grade famine in northern Mozambique, and led Zanzibar farmers to largely abandon cultivation of the critical food crop. Breeders from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique all noted the rising threat of the disease to small-scale farmers in their areas.

The agricultural scientists, meeting in Zanzibar 3-5 October 2007, said that the disease has recently spiked, for reasons that are unclear. Yet, breeders have already developed a number of disease-resistant varieties, and others are in the pipeline. Breeders noted that the problem lies in getting these varieties to farmers. They noted that many African governments have stringent variety release rules that seriously delay getting the new varieties into farmers’ fields.

“Joint action by cassava breeders, farmers and government agencies can contain this disease,” said cassava breeder, Dr. Edward Kanju, of the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), in Tanzania. “Isolated action or inaction will worsen hunger. Unless cassava scientists and policy makers understand that there is this menace, farmers and their families will suffer as a result.”

If CBSD continues to spread unabated, the damage would be considerable, breeders said, and would compound the losses already being caused by a second disease, the African cassava mosaic virus. CBSD causes the edible cassava roots to become corky and inedible, and may also streak and destroy leaf tissue. Once introduced into a field, the virus can spread rapidly, and yield losses of up to 100 percent have been registered. However, Tanzania’s cassava breeders have developed tolerant materials could be critical to arresting the epidemic. The key will be getting this genetic material to other breeding programs in the region for use in local breeding programmes.

Across Africa, cassava is a staple food for some 250 million Africans, and its tuberous root is the second most important crop in terms of calories consumed. It has served as a reserve against famine and is tolerant to water stress and poor soils, making it important to African farmers facing longer and more frequent droughts. Its leaves are used as a vegetable and provide a cheap but rich source of proteins, vitamins A, B and C, and other minerals. Cassava’s importance to Africa has even been recognized by the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), which has developed a Pan African Cassava Initiative. Nonetheless, cassava remains susceptible to a number of crop diseases and pests, and most varieties grown by small-scale farmers are low yielding, limiting the crop’s potential to alleviate hunger and malnutrition.

Breeders and Farmers Working Together to Increase Yield and Tackle Disease

The breeders noted that while curbing the spread of cassava brown streak disease is a top priority, breeding strategies also need to increase cassava yield and to target specific traits that farmers are looking for, otherwise farmers are unlikely to use the new varieties.

Yield increases will not only stem hunger, but are also essential to conserve African environments, according to Dr. Ibrahim Benesi, a cassava breeder with the Chitedze Agricultural Research Station in Lilongwe, Malawi.

He noted that cassava production in Africa has grown from 90 to 145 million tons in the last forty years and, at that production is expected to double in the next twenty years. “However, more than 75% of this increase in cassava production has come from increases in land area rather than increase in productivity. Farmers need to harvest more on less land if African environments are to be spared,” Benesi said.

Network breeders recommended a new breeding strategy, known as “farmer participatory selection” as key to the development of varieties that are disease resistant, high yielding, and appeal to farmers. Using this approach, crop breeders involve local farmers directly in their work to identify farmer preferences, which may involve things such as taste, good cooking ability, early maturity, good storage in the ground, more roots per plant, pest and disease resistance, and leaves suitable as a good vegetable. The approach ensures that qualities for disease resistance and yield are coupled with qualities important to local farmers and communities.

“This farmer-participatory approach to plant breeding is a genuine and fairly recent breakthrough in crop breeding,” said George Bigirwa of AGRA. “Only a decade ago, such methods were considered by many to be ‘less scientific’ than selecting for maximum yields in trials grown on isolated research stations using high applications of fertilizers and chemical pesticides.”

At the meeting, cassava breeders from eight countries reported on the farmer participatory breeding work of their national research institutions. In many cases, the reports represented the first time that the breeders were testing their own locally developed varieties, rather than varieties developed by others at distant research stations.

Building Farmer Entrepreneurs and Strengthening Private-Sector Involvement

Some network participants also stressed the urgent need to increase private-sector involvement in supporting small-scale cassava farmers and building markets.

Zanzibar is blazing one approach to the problem. The government has not only approved four new CBSD-tolerant varieties, but is working across the region to spur farmer entrepreneurial efforts.

On Zanzibar’s two islands, cassava had been the most important crop after rice­until a severe outbreak of cassava brown streak disease practically wiped it off the map. With the support of a small AGRA grant, the government, breeders and farmers are taking an innovative approach to restoring the crop. The government has already approved several CBSD-resistant varieties, and it has initiated a farmer-led variety distribution program. Instead of centrally distributing cuttings from the Ministry of Agriculture, each village will designate its own farmer responsible for growing the disease-resistant varieties and distributing them, at a low set cost, to local farmers.

“With the support of AGRA, we will train farmers themselves to multiply and disseminate cassava planting materials to other farmers rather than relying on companies,” said Mr. Haji Saleh of the Ministry of Agriculture of Zanzibar. “This system will make sure farmers are able to access these new varieties of cassava while at the same time empowering them with entrepreneurial skills.”

The African Cassava Breeders Network meeting brought together nearly 50 people from eight countries: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique, Nigeria, Ghana, Malawi and Rwanda. Present were crop breeders, seed producers, and representatives of agriculture-related businesses and non-governmental organizations. The meeting was jointly convened by AGRA and the Ministry of Agriculture of Tanzania.

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) is a dynamic partnership working across the African continent to help millions of small-scale farmers and their families lift themselves out of poverty and hunger. AGRA programs develop practical solutions to significantly boost farm productivity and incomes for the poor while safeguarding the environment. AGRA advocates for policies that support its work across all key aspects of the African agricultural “value chain”­from seeds, soil health, and water to markets and agricultural education.

AGRA is chaired by Kofi A. Annan, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations. AGRA, with initial support from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, maintains offices in Nairobi, Kenya and Accra, Ghana.

Source: The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)

Source: SeedQuest.com
18 October 2007

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1.10  Mozambique and USDA align to fight cassava root rot disease

Mozambique’s National Institute for Agricultural Research (IIAM), with the financial support of United States Agency for International Development (USAID), released 5,000 seedlings of a new cassava variety resistant to root rot, to be distributed among the peasant farmers in the northern province of Nampula. Cassava is cultivated in almost all the districts in Mozambique where it is one of the major staple food crops, particularly in the rural areas. Infestation of the root rot disease has caused significant yield losses over the years contributing to food insecurity in the region. The two-year project, which aims to distribute over 50,000 seedlings to 200,000 peasant farmers in Nampula, was in part made possible by a USAID grant to upgrade IIAM’s Biotechnology Laboratory. The IIAM Biotechnology Laboratory developed the first batches of seedlings of the root rot disease resistant cassava variety, "Nachinyaya", using tissue culture. Over 300,000 people are expected to benefit from this project.

Read more at Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique http://www.sortmoz.com/aimnews or at http://www.usaid.gov/mz

Source: CropBiotech Update
7 September 2007

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

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1.11  Sweet potato promise shines for small enterprise and hunger relief in developing countries

Underrated root crop celebrated during 2008 'International Year of the Potato'

WASHINGTON, DC -- Sweetpotatoes, often misunderstood and underrated, are receiving new attention as a life-saving food crop in developing countries.

According to the International Potato Center (www.cipotato.org), more than 95 percent of the global sweetpotato crop is grown in developing countries, where it is the fifth most important food crop. Despite its name, the sweetpotato is not related to the potato. Potatoes are tubers (referring to their thickened stems) and members of the Solanaceae family, which also includes tomatoes, red peppers, and eggplant. Sweetpotatoes are classified as "storage roots" and belong to the morning-glory family.

Scientists believe that sweetpotatoes were domesticated more than 5,000 years ago and reportedly introduced into China in the late 16th century. Because of its hardy nature and broad adaptability, sweetpotato spread through Asia, Africa, and Latin America during the 17th and 18th centuries. It is now grown in more developing countries than any other root crop.

Sweetpotato has a long history as a lifesaving crop. When typhoons demolished thousands of rice fields, Japanese farmers turned to sweetpotato to sustain their country. Sweetpotato kept millions from starvation in famine-plagued China in the early 1960s, and in Uganda, where a virus ravaged cassava crops in the 1990s, the hardy hero came to the rescue, nourishing millions in rural communities.

Rich in carbohydrates and vitamin A, sweetpotatoes are nutrition superstars. Uses range from consumption of fresh roots or leaves to processing into animal feed, starch, flour, candy and alcohol. Because of its versatility and adaptability, sweetpotato ranks as the world¡¯s seventh most important food crop (following wheat, rice, maize, potato, barley, and cassava). Globally, more than 133 million tons of the underrated, vitamin-packed root are produced each year.

Despite its storied history, sweetpotato has received relative little attention from crop improvement research. To bring attention to the issue, a recent study was published by the American Society for Horticultural Science (www.ashs.org). For the study, researchers conducted a survey of 36 scientists from 21 developing countries to solicit opinions on key constraints affecting the productivity of small sweetpotato producers.

Keith Fuglie, of the Resources and Rural Economics Division at the United States Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service, led the study. He found consistent key constraints in all major sweetpotato producing areas. Survey respondents indicated that the priority needs in developing countries were: control of viruses, small-enterprise development for sweetpotato processing, improvement in availability and quality of sweetpotato planting material and improved cultivars exhibiting high and stable yield potential.

Some differences emerged, however, in priority needs of the two major centers of sweetpotato production¡ªSub-Saharan Africa and China. Additional priorities for Sub-Saharan Africa included improved control of the sweetpotato weevil and cultivars with high beta carotene content to address Vitamin A deficiency. For China, priorities included: conservation and characterization of genetic resources, prebreeding, cultivars with high starch yield and new product development. According to Fuglie, the different sets of priorities reflect differences in the role of sweetpotato in the rural economy and also different capacities of the agricultural research system in these regions of the world.

Fuglie noted that "these findings could help agricultural scientists working for national and international institutions establish their priorities for sweetpotato crop improvement research. Focusing research on the key productivity constraints facing sweetpotato farmers in a particular country or region will increase the likelihood of farmer adoption and potential impact of the technology resulting from that research."

Principal beneficiaries of the research study will be small-scale sweetpotato farmers in developing countries. Fuglie hopes that emerging technologies based on research will be available for sweetpotato farmers within 5 to 10 years.
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The complete study and abstract are available on the ASHS HortScience electronic journal web site: http://hortsci.ashspublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/42/5/1200/

Founded in 1903, the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) is the largest organization dedicated to advancing all facets of horticultural research, education and application. More information at ashs.org

Contact: Michael W. Neff
mwneff@ashs.org
American Society for Horticultural Science

Source: EurekAlert.org
2 November 2007

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1.12  Indian and Australian scientists collaborate for better wheat

New Delhi, India
Improving wheat production sustainability in north-west India through the use of biotechnology is the focus of a joint, three-day Indian-Australian workshop commencing today at the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) Conference Centre in Delhi.

The workshop, initiated by Dr Mangala Rai, Director General of ICAR, will be co-hosted by ICAR and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

In his opening remarks, the Australian High Commissioner to India, John McCarthy, said the workshop will form the basis of a joint ICAR-ACIAR collaborative five-year program on marker-assisted breeding in wheat in a range of applications to improve disease resistance, drought and temperature tolerance and quality of wheat.

"This workshop will determine the objectives for a series of collaborative research projects which will bring together the world-class wheat research expertise from both countries," said McCarthy.

Marker assisted selection is a tool that allows plant breeders to 'mark' specific genes that can deliver desirable traits. These genes aredentified and marked, and descendants can be tested easily and quickly in a laboratory for the 'marked' gene. This tool speeds up breeding programs, achieving greater efficiency, consistency and accuracy in new varieties.

"Marker assisted selection in the ACIAR wheat-breeding projects will hasten the development of better wheat traits such as disease and drought resistance, and improved quality and yield," said McCarthy.

"Wheat is a major commodity for both countries, and Australia and India are world leaders in wheat breeding. There is a long history of successful collaboration through ACIAR, including the identification and development of yellow rust resistant strains of wheat, and we look forward to building on this."

In both India and Australia, changes in temperature and rainfall conditions and emerging diseases are putting pressure on wheat production systems, and there is an ongoing drive for improved quality (including high protein and baking quality).

Australia is in a unique position of sharing similar agricultural systems, environments and challenges with many parts of India, including thelluvial Indo-Gangetic Plain, and the central wheat growing regions of Madhya Pradesh.

ACIAR's partnership model provides research benefits to both collaborating countries, by bringing together expertise from a range of research organisations working on problems of common interest and generating mutual benefits.

Source: DailyIndia.com via SeedQuest.com
12 October 2007

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1.13  Legumes step into the limelight in the tropics

Food for thought as legumes step into the limelight in the tropics

Legumes are nutrient-rich and commercially attractive. For the promise they hold for food security and incomes, legumes deserve greater attention from the research and development community: plenty of food for thought there too.

The need for more attention is obvious­in the words of Mr Denis Mwashita, a small-scale farmer at the Chinyika Resettlement Scheme in Bingaguru, Zimbabwe, “Beans have always carried disease, but from the little we harvest and eat, we and our children have developed stomachs.”

To address impediments to higher production, a new cross-continental research and development project covering Africa and Asia turns the limelight on legumes. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Tropical Legumes Project will develop improved varieties of selected legumes, more resilient against drought, pests and disease.

The timing is opportune, given the unprecedented confluence of knowledge and opportunities through partnerships, which are key to the project’s success. Today, there is greater confidence in genomics, among other areas, to tackle contemporary agricultural challenges, and national agricultural research programmes are increasingly much better prepared to take advantage of­and use­new technologies.

But beyond technologies, getting these improved seeds to farmers is where the research rubber really hits the road: Tropical Legumes does not stop at technologies for seed improvement but goes further down the road to seed delivery. The project will reproduce and distribute these improved seeds to farmers, in close collaboration with national research programmes.

Full version of press release and contacts for more information at: http://www.generationcp.org/brochure.php#press_releases 

For details on World Food Day, visit: http://www.fao.org/wfd2007/index_en.html

15 October 2007

Contributed by Antonia Okono
Communications Manager
Generation Challenge Programme (GCP)
a.okono@cgiar.org

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1.14  USDA awards $4.7 million for tomato and potato specialty crops genetic research

Washington, DC
USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) today announced more than $4.7 million in grants to 13 universities and research laboratories for tomato and potato specialty crops genetic research that may lead to improved fruit quality, yield, stress tolerance and disease resistance.

"Specialty crops are a major contributor to U.S. agriculture and are valued at $53 billion in sales annually," said Gale Buchanan, USDA under secretary for Research, Education and Economics. "New knowledge is needed to develop plants with enhanced economic value, which will ultimately allow the specialty crop industry to remain competitive in the global environment and contribute to the U.S. economy."

The goal of the research program is to increase fundamental knowledge of the structure, function and organization of plant genomes to improve agricultural efficiency and sustainability; effectively integrate modern molecular breeding technologies and classical breeding practice for U.S. crop improvement; and improve U.S. varieties for agricultural growers and producers.

The President's 2007 Farm Bill proposal calls for a $100 million investment in specialty crop research to address the critical needs of the industry. These grants support the goal of conducting fundamental work in plant breeding, genetics and genomics to improve crop characteristics, such as product appearance, environmental responses and tolerances, nutrient management, pest and disease management, as well as safety, quality, yield, taste and shelf life.

The awards are funded through the CSREES National Research Initiative Plant Genome Program. CSREES advances knowledge for agriculture, the environment, human health and well-being, and communities by supporting research, education and extension programs in the Land-Grant University System.

For more information, visit http://www.csrees.usda.gov.

Source: SeedQuest.com
11 October 2007

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1.15  India hops on board the 'jatropha express'

Jatropha curcas could be used as a source of biofuel

Jatropha is an attractive source of biofuel because its drought-tolerance and ability to thrive on barren land doesn't compromise food security. 

The scrub weed has been mooted as a candidate for greening barren land, providing self-sufficient energy for rural communities and an income for farmers ­ all while combating climate change ­ since the early 2000s in India.

India's national mission on biofuel ­ although not yet approved ­ aims to plant 12 million hectares of jatropha and produce biofuels at the village level.

Many Indian states have hopped aboard the "jatropha express", providing farmers with free seedlings, oil presses and guaranteeing seed buy-back, along with setting up biodiesel processing plants.

But jatropha has never really been domesticated, so yield, optimum growing conditions and its environmental impacts aren't yet understood.

Most current plantations have yet to reach their full potential and scientists are worried about the government ­ and farmers ­ pouring resources into a crop for which yield cannot be guaranteed.

And while Indian and international scientists are working to find the ideal water and soil conditions for jatropha, and cultivate high-yielding progenitor plants, this research is ad-hoc, with no real cohesion.

Link to full article in Nature

15 October 2007
Source: Nature via SciDev.net

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1.16  Opium and marijuana research go underground

High-security Canadian mine used for biochemical research into opium poppy and cannabis

The world’s leading expert on the opium poppy has joined forces with researchers working on another infamous drug-producing plant – cannabis – in hopes of finding new uses for the much-maligned sources of heroin and marijuana.

Peter Facchini, professor of Biological Sciences and Canada Research Chair in Plant Biotechnology, has received a $650,000 NSERC Strategic Project Grant to create new varieties of opium poppy and cannabis that can be used for medicinal and industrial purposes, but will have no value as illicit drugs. And his work is taking him where few Canadians have gone before: Deep underground into the country’s ultra high-security medicinal marijuana growth facility.

“It’s certainly unusual for a plant biochemist to work in a copper mine hundreds of metres underground,” Facchini said. “This is a really great project that involves two of the world’s most important medicinal plants and is clearly unique in the plant biology field.”

Facchini and a new team of U of C postdoctoral researchers have teamed up with Saskatoon-based Prairie Plant Systems Inc., the National Research Council – Plant Biotechnology Institute, the Alberta Research Council and the University of Saskatchewan to create and study mutant varieties of opium poppy and cannabis in an unused portion of a copper and zinc mine near Flin Flon, Manitoba. Prairie Plant Systems produces medicinal marijuana under contract with Health Canada in this state-of-the-art facility.

Despite awareness of the importance of crop diversification for the long-term success of agriculture in Canada, few plants are cultivated for the production of high-value bioproducts. Opium poppy accumulates the alkaloids morphine, codeine and thebaine, and cannabis produces psychoactive cannabinoids and is used as a source of high-quality fiber and oil. The domestic market for codeine, morphine and oxycodone, which is derived from thebaine, is in excess of $1.6 billion annually, all of which is currently imported. “Canada is well-positioned to support the development of new crops cultivated for the production of valuable bioproducts, such as pharmaceuticals and fibers,” says Facchini. The research will identify novel genes for use in the metabolic engineering of opium poppy to accumulate high-value pharmaceutical alkaloids and to block cannabinoid production in cannabis. The latter will allow for a safe, legal, made-in-Canada cannabis crop that will have virtually none of the mind-altering chemical of marijuana but can be grown for hemp fibre, oil and food.

“The overall theme of this work is to modify plants to make them more useful as crops and chemical factories,” Facchini said. “Alberta is quickly becoming a leader in this area, especially in the area of biofuels. The immense potential of plants as sources of high-value bioproducts for the agricultural and pharmaceutical sectors also needs attention.”

The Biosecure Underground Growth Chamber is in a mine owned by Hudson Bay Smelting & Mining Co. Ltd. Facchini says it is a superb venue for his research. “It’s not what you would picture an old mine shaft to be. It’s clean and well-lit, it’s kept at a constant temperature and it’s one of the most secure places in the country,” he says. “It gives a whole new meaning to ‘mining our data.’”

Contact: Grady Semmens
gsemmens@ucalgary.ca
University of Calgary

Source: EurekAlert.org
31 October 2007

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1.17  New melon hybrid releases from North Carolina State

Oriental crisp-flesh melons (Cucumis melo L.) have been a popular specialty crop in North Carolina for the past few years.  Four hybrids ('NC-Sparta', 'NC-Sapphire', 'NC-Star' and 'NC-Stella') and their seven inbred parents (NC-301, NC-302, NC-303, NC-304, NC-305, NC-306, and NC-309) are being released by North Carolina State University for use by industry.  As with most cucurbit cultivars released from N.C. State, 'NC-Sparta', 'NC-Sapphire', 'NC-Star' and 'NC-Stella' were named for places in North Carolina.  'NC-Sparta' is the F1 of NC-301 x NC-304, 'NC-Sapphire' is the F1 of NC-303 x NC-309, 'NC-Star' is the F1 of NC-302 x NC-305, and 'NC-Stella' is the F1 of NC-302 x NC-306.  The inbreds have been self-pollinated past the S7 generation.  Selection was for fruit shape, smooth rind, crisp flesh texture, white flesh color, high sugar content, excellent flavor, high marketable yield, early maturity, small seed cavity, freedom from defects, and improved resistance to foliar diseases, mainly downy mildew (Pseudoperonospora cubensis), and powdery mildew (Podosphaera xanthii).  There was also selection for basic growth and reproduction traits, including good seed yield, rapid seed germination and emergence, and rapid vine growth and flowering.

All four hybrids have crisp, white flesh, similar to 'Sprite'.  The inbreds and hybrids have andromonoecious flowering habit, indeterminate plant type, moderate fruit yield, early maturity, smooth white rind, crisp flesh texture, white flesh color, high sugar content, medium-sized seed cavity, freedom from defects; and palmate leaves with serrated margins.  The fruit are uniform in shape, with a tough and thin rind.  The fruit develop brown cracks that occur radially around the blossom scar at fruit maturity; radial cracks are an indicator of maturity.  'NC-Sparta' has medium size fruit (0.7 kg), elongate shape (LD of 1.2) and a sweetness of 12 brix.  'NC-Sapphire' has large size fruit (0.8 kg), elongate shape (LD of 1.2) and a sweetness of 12 brix.  'NC-Star' has small size fruit (0.6 kg), elongate shape (LD of 1.2) and a sweetness of 13 brix.  'NC-Stella' has small size fruit (0.6 kg), round shape (LD of 1.1) and a sweetness of 13 brix.

Seeds of the hybrids and inbreds are available to interested plant breeders.  For more information, see http://cucurbitbreeding.ncsu.edu/.

Contributed by Todd Wehner
Department of Horticultural Science
North Carolina State University
todd_wehner@ncsu.edu

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1.18  Forest seed orchards: Conference report

The major channel for tree breeding efforts out to the forests is seed orchards, where selected parents can mate and produce improved seeds. A seed orchard conference took place in Umeå, Sweden 26-28 September 2007. The conference link is:
http://www-genfys.slu.se/staff/dagl/Umea07/Umea07.htm 

There were 90 participants from 27 countries presenting 36 lectures and 17 posters. Abstracts are available on the net now, and an electronic proceedings is under preparation.

Seed orchards seem the most cost efficient way to improve forests with available techique and proper environmental considerations. Seed orchards are the cradles to new forests, which will improve the future access of raw materials for Mankind in a sustainable way by cycling air and water in a process driven by sunlight. There will be added resources created without a net release of carbon dioxide and an added fuel resource. Seed orchards can conserve genetic resources needed for re-establishing destroyed ecosystems and to conserve gene diversity.

Contributed by Dag Lindgren
Dag.Lindgren@genfys.slu.se

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1.19  China updates plant variety testing procedures

Beijing, China
Report highlights
China’s Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) recently published the “Administrative Measures on Testing Guidelines for New Plant Varieties.” These procedural guidelines revise the measures that govern the testing required for new plant variety registration applications in China. This report contains an UNOFFICIAL translation of this MOA measure.

Full report: http://www.fas.usda.gov/gainfiles/200710/146292743.pdf

USDA/FAS GAIN Report number CH7078

Source: SeedQuest.com
22 October 2007

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1.20  Genetically engineered corn may harm stream ecosystems

Washington, DC

Ecological impacts of genetically engineered corn are particularly important because of increased corn demand created by biofuels production

A new study* indicates that a popular type of genetically engineered corn--called Bt corn--may damage the ecology of streams draining Bt corn fields in ways that have not been previously considered by regulators. The study, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, appears in the Oct. 8 edition of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This study provides the first evidence that toxins from Bt corn may travel long distances in streams and may harm stream insects that serve as food for fish. These results compound concerns about the ecological impacts of Bt corn raised by previous studies showing that corn-grown toxins harm beneficial insects living in the soil.

Licensed for use in 1996, Bt corn is engineered to produce a toxin that protects against pests, particularly the European corn borer. Bt corn now accounts for approximately 35 percent of corn acreage in the U.S., and its use is increasing.

"As part of the licensing process for genetically modified crops, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was responsible for testing and identifying potential environmental consequences from the planting of Bt corn," says Jennifer Tank, who is from the University of Notre Dame and is a member of the team studying Bt corn.

To fulfill this requirement, EPA completed studies that assumed that plant parts would remain in fields without being carried away by streams draining agricultural lands, says Tank. In addition, EPA only tested the impacts of Bt corn on small lake organisms that are typically used to test the impacts of chemicals on aquatic ecosystems.

The agency did not evaluate the impacts of Bt corn on organisms that live in streams--even though Midwest agricultural lands where Bt corn is grown are heavily intersected by streams draining the landscape. But despite the limitations of its tests, EPA concluded that Bt corn "is not likely to have any measurable effects on aquatic invertebrates."

To more comprehensively evaluate the ecological impacts of Bt corn than did the EPA, the research team did the following:

1.Measured the entry of Bt plant parts--including pollen, leaves and cobs--in 12 streams in a heavily farmed Indiana region. The research team's results demonstrate that these plant parts are washing into local steams. Moreover, during storms, these plant parts are carried long distances and therefore could have ecological impacts on downstream water bodies, such as lakes and large rivers.

2. Collected field data indicating that Bt corn pollen is being eaten by caddisflies, which are close genetic relatives of the targeted Bt pests. Todd V. Royer, a member of the research team from Indiana University, says that caddisflies "provide a food resource for higher organisms like fish and amphibians."

3.Conducted laboratory tests showing that consumption of Bt corn byproducts increased the mortality and reduced the growth of caddisflies. Together with field data indicating that the caddisflies are eating Bt corn pollen, these results "suggest that the toxin in Bt corn pollen and detritus can affect species of insects other than the targeted pest," Tank said.

Royer says that "if our goal is to have healthy, functioning ecosystems, we need to protect all the parts. Water resources are something we depend on greatly."

"Overall, our study points to the potential for unintended and unexpected consequences from the widespread planting of genetically engineered crops," Tank said. "The exact extent to which aquatic ecosystems are, or will be, impacted is still unknown and likely will depend on a variety of factors, such as current ecological conditions, agricultural practices and climate/weather patterns."

James Raich, a National Science Foundation program director, adds that "increased use of corn for ethanol is leading to increased demand for corn and increased acreage in corn production. Previous concerns about the nutrient enrichment of streams that accompany mechanized row-crop agriculture are now compounded by toxic corn byproducts that enter our streams and fisheries, and do additional harm."

The Bt corn researchers stress that their study should not be viewed as an indictment of farmers."We do not imply that farmers are somehow to blame for planting Bt corn, nor are they responsible for any unintended ecological consequences from Bt corn byproducts," Tank said. "Farmers are, to a large extent, required to use the latest technological advances in order to stay competitive and profitable in the current agro-industrial system."

* Toxins in transgenic crop byproducts may affect headwater stream ecosystems
E. J. Rosi-Marshall, J. L. Tank, T. V. Royer, M. R. Whiles, M. Evans-White, C. Chambers, N. A. Griffiths, J. Pokelsek, and M. L. Stephen
http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/0707177104v2?etoc

Source: The National Science Foundation via SeedQuest.com
9 October 2007

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1.21  Preserving genetic variability of valuable specialty crops

Washington, DC

What’s a “specialty crop”? It can be any of hundreds of fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, nursery plants and other crops that add variety to the diet and beauty to the garden.

To protect all U.S. crops­and provide material for developing new and better ones­the Agricultural Research Service's (ARS) National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS) maintains genetic material, or germplasm, at more than 20 genebanks around the country. Many NPGS locations conserve germplasm of specialty crops.

In the Plant Genetic Resources Unit at Geneva, N.Y., ARS scientists identified previously unknown genetic variations in tomato, a specialty crop that nets about $2 billion dollars annually. Molecular biologist Joanne Labate, computational biologist Angela Baldo and geneticist Larry Robertson also found greater genetic variety than commonly believed to exist in tomato. Understanding how to harness this variation could help breeders improve the U.S. tomato crop.

Research leader Philip Forsline has coordinated the addition of a large gene pool of wild apple germplasm to the Geneva unit. The germplasm, which was collected in Central Asia, represents the main center of origin for commercial apples, and may contribute to new cultivars.

NPGS research also contributes to domestic and international plant preservation. At the Beltsville, Md., Woody Landscape Plant Germplasm Repository, part of the U.S. National Arboretum's Floral and Nursery Plants Research Unit, curator Kevin Conrad and his colleagues are collecting and conserving woody landscape tree and shrub accessions as part of a national effort to preserve genetic diversity.

At the ARS National Clonal Germplasm Repository ( NCGR) in Corvallis, Ore., curator Kim Hummer and other researchers have been working with international organizations to develop a global conservation strategy for strawberry genetic resources. In 2006, the NCGR hosted an international panel to develop protocols for conservation standards. These efforts could result in greater protection for wild species and increased accessibility to genetic resources.

These and similar programs at NPGS locations throughout the country help ensure the strength of U.S. agricultural crops.

Read more about plant preservation research in the October 2007 issue of Agricultural Research magazine, available online at http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/oct07/genetic1007.htm

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.
ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
Laura McGinnis,  laura.mcginnis@ars.usda.gov

Source: SeedQuest.com
10 October 2007

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1.22  International plant gene pool becomes operational

Multilateral system boosts the exchange of plant genetic material

Rome, Italy
A new multilateral system for the fair and equitable sharing of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture has become operational, FAO announced today.

Over the past seven months, the system has accelerated the exchange of genetic material, with more than 90 000 transfers of plant genetic material within the system.

The Multilateral System is part of the legally-binding International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture that entered into force in 2004 and has been ratified by 115 countries. Through the International Treaty, countries have agreed to make their genetic diversity and related information about the crops stored in their gene banks available to all who comply with the standarized benefit-sharing agreements.

Around 300 delegates will meet in Rome (29 October–2 November 2007) for the second session of the Governing Body of the Treaty.

A treasure for food security
“World agriculture is under enormous pressure to produce more food in a sustainable way,” said Shakeel Bhatti, Secretary of the Governing Body of the Treaty. “Agricultural production needs to be improved by developing food crops that can adapt to threats such as climate change, desertification, pests and diseases and at the same time meet the demand of a population that will grow from six billion people today to nine billion in 2050,” he added.

Agricultural biodiversity, which is the basis for food production, is in sharp decline due the effects of modernization, changes in diets and increasing population density. It is estimated that about three-quarters of the genetic diversity found in agricultural crops have been lost over the last century, and this genetic erosion continues.

Today, only 150 crops feed most of the world's population, and just 12 crops provide 80 percent of dietary energy from plants, with rice, wheat, maize, and potato alone providing almost 60 percent.

Bread, couscous and tortillas
The Multilateral System provides farmers, plant breeders and scientists free of charge access to plant genetic materials of 64 crops - crops that together account for 80 percent of all human consumption - and helps to share benefits derived from their commercial use. These genetic materials are at the base of our food crops, our breads, our curries, our tortillas and our couscous.

The System gives scientific institutions, farmers, and private sector plant breeders the opportunity to work with the materials stored in gene banks or even crops growing in fields. By facilitating research, innovation and exchange of information without restrictions, this reduces the costly and time consuming procedures for breeders, while recognizing for the first time Farmers’ Rights.

The world's most important gene bank collections, more than 600 000 samples, held by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), have been included in the system, together with the Mutant Germplasm Repository of the FAO/IAEA Joint Division in Vienna and other collections.

“No country is sufficient in crop diversity. Only the sharing of plant genetic material from different regions and countries will enable us to explore the unknown characteristics and the future potential of plant genetic resources. The Multilateral System is an important tool for benefit sharing. However, a lot of efforts still need to be made to facilitate the access to genetic resources and the sharing of benefits derived from their commercial use”, Bhatti said.

The Rome conference will discuss issues relevant for the future of Treaty such as Funding Strategy, Farmers’ Rights and the sustainable use of resources.

Source: SeedQuest.com
29 October 2007

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1.23  CGIAR genebanks distributing more material

Rome, Italy
The 11 genebanks supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) today reported that they had distributed almost 100,000 samples of plant material under the terms of the new Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA). The agreement is the legal instrument under which material and information is transferred under the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. In essence, it ensures that material and information remain freely available and implements the multilateral system of access and benefit sharing of the Treaty.

The Governing Body of the International Treaty starts its second meeting today and the report is one of the documents it will consider. The report shows that CGIAR centres sent out 97,669 samples between 1 January and 1 August 2007. They received 3988 samples of new genetic material for safe-keeping in trust for the global community. The report was prepared by the CGIAR's System-wide Genetic Resources Programme, which is hosted by Bioversity International and which coordinates the CGIAR centres' activities in this area.

In the whole of 2004, the last year for which figures are available, the centres sent out 90,504 samples and received 5033 new accessions.
"The figures for the first seven months of 2007 are a clear increase, especially for distributions," said Emile Frison, Director General of Bioversity International.

Cary Fowler, Executive Secretary of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, agreed, but added that the amount of new material coming in to CGIAR and other genebanks was somewhat disappointing. "We've seen that climate change is happening now," Fowler said, "and we are going to need genebanks to cope with that. Crop diversity is essential for agriculture to adapt to changing conditions and we should therefore be bringing more material into safe-keeping."

There has been a shift in the type of material that is being distributed by CGIAR genebanks. "A high proportion consisted of plant genetic resources 'under Development'," explained Gerald Moore, Honorary Fellow at Bioversity International and an author of the report. That means that breeders are releasing improved lines for further work and assessment by others, which is vitally important for the further improvement of crop varieties. The use of the SMTA to do this ties the material and any products derived from the material to the access and benefit sharing system of the Treaty and means that these lines will always be available for others to make use of.

The report says that the centres encountered no overwhelming difficulties in implementing the SMTA for all material. Only three potential recipients – all in the US – refused to sign the SMTA, and some other requests for material were abandoned after the requestors were made aware of the SMTA.

The report identifies areas where the operation of the system could be eased. The length and complexity of the SMTA itself, which is often translated into the recipient's language, means that the documentation often exceeds the size and weight of the seeds being transferred. "Smaller and more compact versions of the SMTA would be helpful," the report notes. There is also a suggestion that when improved material is being exchanged among a large collaboration of breeders and others a single clause, which refers to the SMTA, in the general framework agreement would be simpler than inserting the SMTA in each and every dispatch.

There remains a crucial need to train potential users about the International Treaty. "The lack of awareness and understanding seems almost universal," commented one centre. "We receive frequent requests for specific information or for training courses." Some centres have already delivered training programmes and more are in the pipeline.

"The report shows that the Centres have embraced the Treaty and are putting it to work," said Emile Frison, Director General of Bioversity International. "With more awareness, and more training, which we stand ready to help provide, the Treaty will really come into its own as an international instrument to improve agriculture for those who need it most."

Source: SeedQuest.com
29 October 2007

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1.24  CIOPORA and its members increase efforts against piracy of plant variety rights

CIOPORA and its members are increasing their efforts in fighting piracy of plant variety rights and other intellectual property rights. CIOPORA started a communication campaign at Valentines 2007 providing various partners in industry with detailed information on the negative effects of piracy. While this will be continued, CIOPORA brought the message “stop piracy – support creativity” very demonstratively to the visitors and exhibitors at this years HortiFair in Amsterdam: the “pirate” and “flower-lady”* were one of the main attractions at the tradeshow.

“Many people don’t know that new varieties can be protected by plant variety rights, like new inventions in other industries might be protected by patents”, explains Dr. Edgar Krieger, CIOPORA’s Executive Secretary. Breeding vegetatively reproduced ornamental and fruit varieties needs a lot of know-how and requires significant financial investments, but the results can be very easily multiplied, also by unauthorized users. Hence, effective protection systems and their efficient enforcement – if necessary by legal actions – are of vital interest to breeders. But also growers, the trade and consumers are benefiting from well functioning protection, since all are looking for varieties which are healthier, show new colours, fragrances, taste or have a longer vase-life. These can only be developed if the investments made pay off. And it is also a matter of protecting fair competition among growers and in trade when breeders are enforcing plant variety rights.

Breeders are asking everybody to inform themselves on existing rights, to enter into and respect license-agreements, to trade only with legal plants and to report alleged infringements. For entering into dialogue with CIOPORA or reporting alleged infringements, the e-mail address antipiracy@ciopora.org can be used.

CIOPORA is an international non-governmental organization, founded in 1961, representing the interests of breeders of asexually reproduced ornamental and fruit varieties worldwide. Main task of CIOPORA is the constant development of systems of protection of the intellectual property concerning ornamental and fruit varieties.

CIOPORA - International Community of breeders of asexually reproduced ornamental and fruit varieties

Source: SeedQuest.com
26 October 2007

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1.25  DuPont and Evogene collaborate to increase drought tolerance in corn and soybeans

Des Moines, Iowa and Rehovot, Israel
DuPont (NYSE: DD) and Evogene Ltd. today announced a research collaboration to improve drought stress tolerance primarily in corn and soybeans. Under the agreement, DuPont business Pioneer Hi-Bred has exclusive rights to several genes discovered by Evogene for improving these traits. The financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

"Drought has an enormous impact on crop productivity and quality as well as cost of production. It's the one agronomic pressure that negatively affects growers in every country around the world, every year," said William S. Niebur, vice president -- DuPont Crop Genetics Research and Development. "We look forward to creatively combining our technologies to develop superior products that use water more efficiently, leading to greater productivity, profitability and sustainability of agricultural systems."

Drought causes global crop losses in excess of $8 billion annually. The impact of drought will likely increase, based on predictive models used to study the effects of ongoing climate changes. Improving corn and soybean tolerance to drought stress will help maximize grower yield and income, as well as provide more grain for the food, feed, fuel and materials value chains.

The candidate genes were discovered by Evogene's most advanced in-silico gene discovery technology called the "ATHLETE." Pioneer will evaluate the licensed genes in its elite corn and soybean germplasm to measure the benefit in its commercial products.

"We are pleased to collaborate with Pioneer, a world leader in developing and supplying corn and soybean seed varieties. This collaboration reinforces the value of our gene discovery tools and will help us determine the utility of our candidate genes," said Ofer Haviv, Evogene president and CEO. "This collaboration is a significant milestone for us."

Pioneer is taking multiple approaches to drought tolerance that include conventional breeding, molecular breeding and transgenic programs. The collaboration with Evogene is complementary to the drought tolerance work already under way at Pioneer.

Source: SeedQuest.com
30 October 2007

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1.26  New maize varieties resistant to the large grain borer

Scientists from the Kenyan Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) have developed maize varieties resistant to the large grain borer. The new maize varieties will be nominated by KARI maize breeders to the Kenya national maize performance trials run by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS). They will also be distributed for evaluation by interested parties in other countries in 2008 through the CIMMYT international maize testing program.

An uninvited guest in maize aid shipments during the 1970s drought in Eastern Africa, the grain borer was first seen in Tanzania. Attempts to control its spread through its natural predators was not successful. To make matters worse, the borer lives in the corn cob which is the traditional African way of storing the kernel.

Marianne Banziger, the director of CIMMYT's Global Maize Program, said that the use of the new varieties will be more advantageous to farmers since the resistance is in the seed itself. There will be no added workload or expense to farmers, and no longstanding practices or habits to change.

Read more at http://www.cimmyt.org/english/wps/news/2007/sep/borers.htm For more information contact Stephen Mugo at s.mugo@cgiar.org

Source: CropBiotech Update
5 October 2007

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

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1.27  Thailand research institute improves resistance to rust in soybeans

Researchers from Thailand's Field Crops Research Institute of the Department of Agriculture are studying the use of DNA markers to identify genes for rust resistance in soybean, with a grant from the National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (BIOTEC).  The Asian soybean rust, Phakopsora pachyrhizi, has been known to drastically reduce soybean yields. Currently, most research on soybean rust control focus on the establishment of host plant resistance. Preliminary results show that three DNA markers are linked to rust tolerance in soybean. These markers have been used for screening, in a cost-effective manner, large numbers of soybean varieties to identify the ones with improved tolerance, . Two rust resistance soybean varieties have been chosen, which show resistance to all eight strains of soybean rust found in Thailand.

Read BIOTEC's press release at http://www.biotec.or.th/

Source: CropBiotech Update
17 August 2007:

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

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1.28  Discovery promises more nutritional cassava

Scientists from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) have developed a new variety of cassava that might be more nutritious and easier to digest than other varieties. Cassava is the staple food for millions of poverty stricken people in Sub-Saharan Africa, South America and parts of Asia. Cassava roots, similar to potatoes, are often eaten boiled or deep-fried. It is also used to make flour, tapioca and a wide range of other products. The root is rich in carbohydrates and starch, but low in protein and vitamins. Compared to other starchy crops, cassava contains relatively higher levels of amylose, which render it difficult to digest.

Hernan Ceballos and his colleagues from CIAT identified a new cassava variety with significantly reduced amylose content. Compared to traditional hard-to-digest cassava varieties with 17 to 25 percent amylose content, the mutant contains an average of only 3.4 percent. The scientists found no reduction in its starch content; therefore it can provide more carbohydrates compared to traditional varieties.

This is the first report of a natural mutation in cassava that resulted to drastic reduction on  amylose content in root starch. Aside from being  more nutritious and easily digestible, the new variety may also be suited for bioethanol production.

Read the complete paper at http://pubs.acs.org/cgi-bin/sample.cgi/jafcau/2007/55/i18/pdf/jf070633y.pdf   or contact Herman Ceballos at h.ceballos@cgiar.org.

Source: CropBiotech Update
14 September 2007

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

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1.29  WSU seeking patent on root rot-resistant wheat

Washington State University (WSU) is seeking international patent protection for its new wheat cultivar, Scarlet RZ1. The new genotype is believed to be the first to have resistance to the Rhizoctonia root rot, a soil borne fungal disease that can reduce wheat yields by as much as 30 percent. Scarlet RZ1 was produced by treating the seeds with a chemical mutagen promoting random errors or changes in the DNA sequences. The new variety is therefore not considered as a genetically modified organism.

“This is the first wheat genotype that we know of that has tolerance to this disease,” said Kim Kidwell, WSU’s interim wheat breeder. “It’s a major problem in direct seeded spring wheat production not only in the US but also in Australia. We don’t have any means of controlling the disease aside from tillage.”

The role of the gene coding for resistance has not been fully determined but researchers are now studying the possibility of cloning the gene and transferring it to other wheat varieties as well as other crops such as ornamentals where Rhizoctonia root rot is a problem.

Read more at http://cahnrsnews.wsu.edu/Releases/2007/wheat-patent-2007-10.htm

Source: CropBiotech Update
5 October 2007:

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

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1.30  European Union OKs three more corn biotechnology traits for food, feed use

St. Louis, Missouri
Corn and corn products produced from hybrids containing Herculex RW and two stacked traits, YieldGard Plus with Roundup Ready 2 and Herculex I with Roundup Ready 2, can now be exported to the European Union (EU), the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) notes. The three biotech corn traits have received positive safety assessments from the European Food Safety Authority and are now approved for food and feed export into the 27 countries of the European Union.

"We're pleased to see the European Union's regulatory system make this move," said Martin Barbre, chairman of the The National Corn Growers Association's Biotechnology Working Group and a corn grower from Carmi, Ill. "These corn traits have already been approved in the U.S., Japan and other major markets. Now with EU approval growers will have greater market access for their grain, and processors and ethanol plants can continue to export Corn Gluten Feed and Distillers Dried Grains."

In 2004, the European Union ended a six-year moratorium on new biotech products with the adoption of stricter labeling standards. "Although the approval process has resumed, there is still a significant time lag between the approval processes in the U.S. and the EU," said Barbre. U.S. corn growers have 23 commercially-available traits or combinations of traits, and with these recent EU approvals, now 15 of them are cleared for import into Europe.

As growers begin to make their hybrid selections for next year, they must still be aware that not every trait or stack is approved in the EU. The seed industry will continue to identify hybrids from non-EU approved traits under the Market Choices™ label. In cooperation with the nation's leading seed companies, the National Corn Growers Association has compiled "Know Before You Grow," a database of the biotech corn traits currently available. This database lists whether a corn trait is approved in Japan and/or European Union- and allows growers to compare commercial hybrids that contain those biotech traits. NCGA developed and frequently updates this database is a tool to help growers make informed decisions. For more information, visit www.KnowBeforeYouGrow.com .

Source: SeedQuest.com
25 October 2007

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1.31  Wheat relative as possible source of fungal resistance genes

Researchers from the University of Minnesota and the Institute for Cereal Crops Improvement at Tel Aviv University have shown that Sharon goatgrass (Aegilops sharonensis), a wild relative of cultivated wheat native to Israel and Lebanon, exhibits resistance to a number of fungal diseases that threaten much of the world's wheat crops. Such diseases include powdery mildew, leaf  and stem rust, spot blotch and tan spot. Sharon goatgrass is therefore a possible source of resistance genes that can be introduced to commonly cultivated wheat varieties.

From a total of 107 samples that were exposed to different fungal diseases, up to 80 percent  showed resistance to powdery mildew and leaf rust, infections that cause much of the world's wheat crop loss. The samples also showed least resistance to the Fusarium head blight. To realize the possibility of introducing the resistance genes to common wheat cultivars, studies are currently being made regarding the genetics of A. sharonensis and the mode of inheritance of the resistance genes.

 Read the article published by the journal Plant Disease at http://www.apsnet.org/pd/SubscriberContent/2007/PDIS-91-8-0942.pdf

Source: CropBiotech Update
17 August 2007:

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

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1.32  From red to white: the story of today's white rice

It all began with wild red rice, a single gene, and two mutations. Now white rice is the staple food of more than half of today's world's population. Ancient farmers found that the white-grained rice that interspersed with their red rice cooked faster (requiring less fuel), had hulls that were easier to remove, and a color that made disease and insects easier to see. Thus began the epic diaspora of white rice varieties from the Himalayan region to the rest of the world.

Researchers at Cornell University and elsewhere have found that 97.9 percent of all white rice is derived from a mutation (a deletion of DNA) in a single gene originating in the Japonica subspecies of rice; a mutation that is also found in the Indica subspecies of white rice. A second independent mutation (a single DNA substitution) occurred in the same gene in several Aus varieties of rice in Bangladesh, accounting for the remaining 2.1 percent of white rice varieties. Neither of these two mutations is found in any wild red rice species.

Scientists are now studying how to introduce favorable genes from wild red rices into elite white cultivars to improve yields and provide better responses to stress. In the future, breeders can have red-grained rice without the undesirable weedy traits of wild red rice.

Read the complete article at http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/Aug07/WhiteRice.kr.html.

Source: CropBiotech Update
24 August 2007

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

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1.33  New leafminer-resistant spinach varieties

Spinach and lettuce are top choices not only by salad lovers but also by troublesome insects known as leafminers. Leafminers are difficult to control as they are protected from pesticides and defense chemicals secreted by plants by feeding within the tissue of the leaves. Aside from causing damage in leaves, adult leafminers can ruin spinach, lettuce and other greens when they puncture leaves to feed on the sap, creating unsightly holes called "stings".

Researchers from the U.S. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have developed two varieties of spinach with impressive natural resistance to this insect. Compared to other methods, natural resistance offers an economical, effective and environmentally friendly way to battle leafminers. The new spinach plants, designated "03-04-09" and "03-04-63," is rated as the world's first spinach breeding lines with significant leafminer resistance. These parent plants serve as an invaluable source of resistance that can be bred into spinach types already popular with growers, home gardeners and shoppers.

Read more at http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2007/071009.htm

Source: CropBiotech Update
12 October 2007:

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

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1.34  World's hottest chile pepper discovered

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico -- Researchers at New Mexico State University recently discovered the world’s hottest chile pepper. Bhut Jolokia, a variety of chile pepper originating in Assam, India, has earned Guiness World Records’ recognition as the world’s hottest chile pepper by blasting past the previous champion Red Savina. In replicated tests of Scoville heat units (SHUs), Bhut Jolokia reached one million SHUs, almost double the SHUs of Red Savina, which measured a mere 577,000.

Dr. Paul Bosland, Director of the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University’s Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences collected seeds of Bhut Jolokia while visiting India in 2001. Bosland grew Bhut Jolokia plants under insect-proof cages for three years to produce enough seed to complete the required field tests. “The name Bhut Jolokia translates as ‘ghost chile,’” Bosland said, “I think it’s because the chile is so hot, you give up the ghost when you eat it!” Bosland added that the intense heat concentration of Bhut Jolokia could have significant impact on the food industry as an economical seasoning in packaged foods.
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The complete study and abstract are available on the ASHS HortScience electronic journal web site: http://hortsci.ashspublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/42/2/222

Founded in 1903, the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) is the largest organization dedicated to advancing all facets of horticultural research, education, and application. Society website - ashs.org

Contact: Michael W. Neff
mwneff@ashs.org
American Society for Horticultural Science

Source: EurekAlert.org
26 October 2007

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1.35  Genes identified to protect brassicas from damaging disease

Scientists have identified a new way to breed brassicas, which include broccoli, cabbage and oilseed rape, resistant to a damaging virus. Their discovery has characterised a form of resistance that appears to be durable, broad-spectrum and unlikely to be overcome by the virus over time. Turnip mosaic virus (TuMV) is an economically devastating virus that infects a wide range of cultivated plants, but especially brassicas. In research published recently in the Journal of General Virology, scientists at Warwick HRI and collaborators have identified genes that confer resistance to the virus and, crucially, as multiple genes are involved, provide resistance that the virus appears not to have been able to evolve to overcome.

The research, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and others, could have important broader implications for plant breeders and farmers as TuMV is a member of the Potyvirus family – the biggest family of viruses that attack plants – and an important model for understanding other viruses.

The Warwick HRI scientists have examined a number of types of genes that determine plant responses to virus attack. One response is for the plant to kill off individual cells if they become infected, thereby restricting the viral infection to a very localised area of the plant. Another response is to restrict virus movement within the plant and stop its spread from leaf to leaf. The researchers have identified a number of genes that appear to not allow any replication of the virus in plants when it is introduced into the plant.

Dr John Walsh, the research group leader, said: “Turnip mosaic virus can cause big economic losses for farmers. We have identified multiple genes that give some varieties of brassica resistance to the virus. By breeding these genes into commercial varieties of the crop, using conventional techniques, breeders can protect them from attack. But most importantly, we have identified broad-spectrum resistance provided by a number of genes. This means we potentially have the means to develop brassicas, such as broccoli, that will be robust enough to prevent the virus mutating to overcome the resistance.”

Professor Simon Bright, Director of Warwick HRI, commented: “This research demonstrates the importance of centres such as Warwick HRI in linking fundamental bioscience to developments that benefit growers and consumers. In the three years since we transferred to become part of the University of Warwick, Warwick HRI has built on its core strengths in horticulture and is now at the forefront of efforts, such as the BBSRC Crop Science Initiative, to turn excellent plant science in to real benefits for crop production.”
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Dr Walsh’s team has recently been awarded more funding by BBSRC under its Crop Science Initiative to take this research further.

Contact: Matt Goode
press.office@bbsrc.ac.uk
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council

Source: EurekAlert.org
1 November 2007

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1.36  Scientists re-examine soy diversity

Washington, DC
An Agricultural Research Service (ARS)-led team of scientists has challenged the widely held assumption that two "genetic bottlenecks" have drastically reduced genetic variability in soybean varieties grown in farmers' fields.

The first bottleneck was said to be plant breeders' tendency to use only a few parent soybeans from Asia, called "landraces," to build the genetic base of U.S. soybean in the 1930s and 1940s. The second bottleneck was breeders' use of a small group of elite varieties as parents in each succeeding round of breeding during the past 60 years.

However, in a November 2006 paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team led by ARS geneticists Perry Cregan and David Hyten argues that this isn't the case, based on their analysis of alternate gene forms, called alleles, from four major soybean groups. These included 26 samples of wild soybean, Glycine soja; 52 Asian landraces; 17 landrace "founders" used to establish America's soy crop; and 25 elite cultivars.

According to Cregan and Hyten, with the ARS Soybean Genomics and Improvement Laboratory at Beltsville, Md., their results indicate only a small proportion of the landraces' diversity was lost following their introduction from Asia and subsequent years of intensive plant breeding. Rather, the limited diversity stems from the inherently low diversity in wild soybean and further loss related to its domestication thousands of years ago in Asia.

Cregan and Hyten agree that ensuring genetic variability in soybean is critical to protecting the crop from new disease and insect pests. However, they emphasize the importance of anticipating an exotic pest's or pathogen's eventual U.S. arrival, and conducting searches for resistance genes in the ARS Soybean Germplasm Collection at Urbana, Ill. Such genes could then be bred into America's elite cultivars well before an outbreak of that pest or pathogen. Cregan and Hyten's collaborators include scientists from two other ARS labs, the University of Maryland, and the University of Nebraska.

Read more about the research in the November/December 2007 issue of Agricultural Research magazine, available online at http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/nov07/soy1107.htm 

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.
ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
Jan Suszkiw, (301) 504-1630, jan.suszkiw@ars.usda.gov

Source: SeedQuest.com
2 November 2007

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1.37  Chilean research institutes join forces to develop drought-tolerant Eucalyptus

Chile's Institute for Agricultural Research (INIA) and Chile's Forest Research Institute (INFOR) have announced a joint program to develop varieties of eucalypts, Eucalytus globulus, with increased tolerance to drought. The project aims to provide farmers and forestry industry with plants better adapted to the conditions of the arid interior regions of Chile. It is estimated that currently 1.8 million hectares of land are not realizing their production potential due to the low availability of water.

More information at: http://www.inia.cl/noticias2/index.php?id=3&tx_ttnews%5btt_news%5d=209&tx_ttnews%5bbackPid%5d=1&cHash=2391adb610

Source: CropBiotech Update
17 August 2007:

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

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1.38  USDA ARS Sunflower Research Unit releases two maintainer and six restorer Sclerotinia tolerant confection genetic stocks

Bismark, North Dakota
The USDA ARS Sunflower Research Unit located in Fargo announced a release of two maintainer and six restorer Sclerotinia tolerant confection genetic stocks.

These genetic stocks have been developed to provide diversity for tolerance against Sclerotinia stalk and head rot. Both diseases can be yield and quality crippling under extended moist conditions.

The releases are available for use by industry and public researchers to create parental lines and ultimately hybrids with increased tolerance to Sclerotinia. Additional releases have been made for downy mildew resistance.

This progress in Sclerotinia releases are largely due to the research funds made available through the National Sclerotinia Initiative.

Source: U.S. National Sunflower Association newsletter via SeedQuest.com
15 October 2007

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1.39  Bottlegourd gene may curb cucurbit virus

Washington, DC
Bottlegourds have been used around the world for food, bottles, bowls, spoons, musical instruments and even bird houses. Now a "genetic" genie in the versatile bottlegourd may be used to reduce virus infestation in watermelons.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plant pathologist Kai-Shu Ling and geneticist Amnon Levi conduct research on plant diseases at the U.S. Vegetable Laboratory in Charleston, S.C. They are looking for tools to fight zucchini yellow mosaic virus (ZYMV), which infects cucurbit crops: cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, squash, bottlegourds and watermelons.

Throughout North America, several viruses transmitted by insects, including ZYMV, are especially troublesome to watermelons and other cucurbit crops. Producers are anxious to find new ways of suppressing these viruses. Previous research by other scientists suggested that bottlegourd (Lagenaria siceraria) had some genetic resistance to ZYMV, but this research needed followup.

Ling and Levi obtained seeds for 190 bottlegourd accessions that were collected from different parts of the world and kept at the ARS Plant Genetic Resources Conservation Unit in Griffin, Ga. They raised the seeds in their Charleston greenhouses, and then inoculated the bottlegourd plants with ZYMV and evaluated how well they resisted the virus.

To their surprise, 36 accessions of the 190 screened--33 from India alone--were completely resistant to ZYMV infection, and another 64 accessions were partially resistant. They also found that ZYMV resistance is heritable in crosses between different bottlegourd accessions, enabling the development of bottlegourd varieties with enhanced virus resistance.

Popular watermelon cultivars could be grafted onto bottlegourd rootstocks with enhanced resistance to bolster the watermelons’ ability to resist ZYMV. Some watermelon growers have already been experimenting with grafting watermelon on bottlegourd rootstocks to control soilborne diseases and to enhance fruit production and quality.

Ling and Levi’s success in identifying disease-resistant bottlegourd accessions will further efforts to find environmentally friendly ways of controlling watermelon pathogens and pests. For producers of a U.S. commodity worth $435 million in 2006, that would be a wish come true.

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

ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
Ann Perry, (301) 504-1628, ann.perry@ars.usda.gov

Source: SeedQuest.com
3 October 2007

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1.40  Genetic basis of cyanide defense in clover

Scientists from the Washington University are trying to get to the bottom of cyanogenesis (release of hydrogen cyanide following tissue damage) in white clover. White clover is native to Europe and Asia and was introduced some 300 years ago in North America. They want to determine why some plants do and some plants don’t make cyanide –known as polymorphism, or two types. The ecological factors favoring cyanogenic and acyanogenic plants, common in regions with low temperature, have been the subject of numerous studies. The genetic basis of this polymorphism is finally revealed.

The researchers found that cyanogenesis in clover is controlled by two genes. The gene Ac is known to control the actual levels of cyanide and another gene, Li is responsible for linamarase, the enzyme needed for its release. The cyanide inside the cell is the inactive form, basically with a sugar molecule attached to it. Linamarase, on the other hand is localized in the cell wall. Upon cell damage, like herbivore attack, the two compounds will come into contact causing the release of activated cyanide. Plants that do not synthesize linamarase lack the Li gene altogether, unlike most genes, where there are variable forms.

Read more at http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-294X.2007.03506.x or http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1365-294X.2007.03506.x

Source: CropBiotech Update
5 October 2007

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

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1.41  Two potato scourges return with a vengeance

Two decades ago, the golden nematode and potato virus Y (PVY), two especially persistent scourges of potato were brought under control. But a new race of nematode and the widespread acceptance and planting of potato varieties which turned out to be asymptomatic carriers of PVY jeopardized it all. PVY’s resurgence impedes efforts to identify virus-infected seed potatoes and limit their distribution. These developments have been disheartening to people fighting to save the spud.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Cornell University researchers have introduced more than 30 potato varieties that resist the original nematode race. The resistance is due to a potato gene called H1. But H1 has no effect on the new nematode race, first identified in 1995, which scientists have dubbed “Ro2.” At present, there is no rapid identification scheme for the two races. Scientists are hoping Ro2’s eggs and genes can be used as part of a race-identification strategy. An emerging molecular method called “RNA interference” that uses fragments of double-stranded RNA to hinder, or silence, gene expression may someday help develop an improved spud variety. PVY threatens not only potato, but also other crops such as tomato, pepper, and tobacco. The once-distinct PVY strain groupings are becoming inapplicable because of genetic recombination and mutation in the virus. To control the spread of PVY, ARS plant pathologist Stewart Gray has helped develop and implement the Canada/U.S. Management Plan for Potato Viruses That Cause Tuber Necrosis. PVY management strategies will be improved, and regional approaches to the PVY problem may be more appropriate, according to Gray. 

To read more: http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/aug07/potatoes0807.htm .

Source: CropBiotech Update
31 August 2007:

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

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1.42  Aluminum-tolerance gene cloned in sorghum

Plants have little liking to aluminum, especially if it is aluminum in acidic soils. Because of acidity, aluminum from clay minerals dissolves in the soil, and gets converted to its toxic charged (ionic) form. Aluminum toxicity in acidic soils is a big problem in crop production in as much as half the world's arable land, mostly in developing countries in Africa, Asia and South America, are acidic.

To provide plants with protection from aluminum, researchers at Cornell University have isolated a novel aluminum-tolerant gene found in some cultivars of sorghum. The gene expresses a protein in the root tip that release citric acid into the soil in response to aluminum exposure. Citric acid binds aluminum ions very effectively, preventing the toxic metal from entering the roots. The gene, they discovered, is only turned on when aluminum ions are present in the surrounding soil.

The researchers have now used the sorghum gene to engineer transgenic aluminum-tolerant Arabidopsis thaliana and wheat plants. New genetically-engineered aluminum-tolerant sorghum lines are expected next year.

Read the complete article at http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/Aug07/SoilsKochian.kr.html.

Source: CropBiotech Update
31 August 2007:

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

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1.43  Non GM herbicide-tolerant rice produced by gene targeting

A group of Japanese scientists reported the production of hybrid rice line tolerant to the herbicide bispyribac. Bispyribac (BS) is known to inhibit acetolactate synthase (ALS), the enzyme that catalyzes an early stage in the biosynthesis of branched amino acids like leucine, isoleucine and valine. ALS-inhibiting herbicides, which also comprise sulfonylureas and imidazolinones, control a broad spectrum of grass and broadleaf weeds, including weeds that are closely related to the crop itself. These herbicides remain an essential part of the multi-billion dollar weed control market because of their high selectivity, potency even at low applications, and non-toxicity to animals.

The group demonstrated that BS tolerance was due to two point mutations in the als gene, with the second point substitution responsible for increased tolerance. Employing their gene targeting system, they were able to regenerate plants harboring the two point mutations exclusively, without any foreign DNA insertion. The plants obtained are therefore equivalent to non-GM herbicide-tolerant rice plants generated by conventional breeding approaches that depend on spontaneous mutations.

Their gene targeting system proved to be more advantageous than chimeric DNA/RNA nucleotides, also able to introduce a single point mutation at a time. This is currently being used to induce site-specific changes in several plant species. Likewise, it might be a powerful tool in obtaining plants with agronomically valuable phenotypes such as salt tolerance and pigmentation, since many of these phenotypes are caused by single trait, or by a small number of point mutations.

For details, the paper published by the Plant Journal can be accessed by subscribers at http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1365-313X.2007.03230.x

Source: CropBiotech Update
17 August 2007:

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

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1.44  Study sheds light on plant-pathogen interaction in soybean

At the Iowa State University, plant pathologists Thomas Baum, Steve Whitham and Martijn van de Mortel looked for molecular  changes occurring in soybean during soybean rust infection. By studying the interaction between soybean and the Asian soybean rust fungus while a plant is being infected, they hope that in the future a soybean variety with broad-spectrum resistance could be developed.

The researchers sprayed Asian soybean rust spores on two soybean varieties - a highly susceptible variety and a resistant one in which the disease progresses slowly. Both varieties immediately responded to the fungus as indicated by significant changes in gene expression levels. But after 24 hours into the infection, the plant's response to the rust pathogen turned off. The activity peaked again as another response was mounted - first in the variety with resistance to the disease; a day or two later in the highly susceptible variety.

"It looked like this second burst of gene activity in the resistant plants was the real resistance response," Whitham said. It's likely the fungus produced something the plant recognized as foreign." From the study, the scientists have been able to narrow down the field of candidate genes involved in the defense of soybean against rust infection from 37,500 genes to a few hundred.

Read the press release at http://www.iastate.edu/~nscentral/news/2007/aug/asianrust.shtml.

Source: CropBiotech Update
17 August 2007:

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

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1.45  Transgenics transformed

Maize mini-chromosomes can add stacks of functional genes to plants

A new method of constructing artificial plant chromosomes from small rings of naturally occurring plant DNA can be used to transport multiple genes at once into embryonic plants where they are expressed, duplicated as plant cells divide, and passed on to the next generation -- a long-term goal for those interested in improving agricultural productivity.

In the October 19, 2007, issue of PLoS-Genetics, a team of academic and commercial researchers show that their "maize mini-chromosomes" (MMC) can introduce an entire "cassette" of novel genes into a plant in a way that is structurally stable and functional. Early results, the study authors say, "suggest that the MMC could be maintained indefinitely."

"This appears be the tool that agricultural scientists, and farmers, have long dreamed of," said Daphne Preuss, PhD, professor of molecular genetics and cell biology at the University of Chicago and chief scientific officer and president of Chromatin, Inc., the makers of the MMCs.

"This technology could be used to increase the hardiness, yield and nutritional content of crops," she said. "It could improve the production of ethanol or other biofuels. It could enable plants to make complex biochemicals, such as medicines, at very little expense."

It could also "cut one to two years out of any new transgenic project," said Preuss, who is taking a leave of absence from the University to bring this technology into the marketplace. "You get a better product faster, which saves time, reduces costs, and frees up resources."

The production of transgenic plants, including maize, has historically relied on techniques that integrate DNA fragments into a host chromosome. This can disrupt important native genes or lead to limited or unregulated expression of the added gene.

Currently, to add a single gene, plant scientists create hundreds of transgenic plants in which the new gene is randomly inserted into a plant chromosome. Then they screen the gene-altered plants to find the few that might be suitable for commercial use. If they want to add two genes, they create twice as many new plants, screen for single-gene successes, then cross breed them to get both new genes, a slow and laborious process.

Instead, Preuss and colleagues have constructed MMCs that contain DNA sequences found in maize centromeres, the chromosomal regions needed for inheritance. Rather than inserting the new genes randomly into a plant's natural chromosomes, these mini-chromosomes remain separate.

As a result, the new genes can be arranged in a defined sequence, with each gene surrounded by the desired regulatory mechanisms. This results in more consistent and controlled expression. The whole cassette of genes is passed on as a group during cell division as well as to the next generation.

In their PLoS paper, the researchers characterized the behavior of the maize mini-chromosome through four generations. Using a gene for red color as a marker, they showed that the added genes are expressed "in nearly every leaf cell, indicating stability through mitosis" -- the process in which a cell duplicates its chromosomes to generate two identical daughter cells.

They also show that the MMC is efficiently passed on through meiosis, the creation of gametes, to the next generation, at ratios "approaching Mendelian inheritance."

Taken together, the authors conclude, the maize mini-chromosome, once introduced, behaves much like an ordinary chromosome. It remains distinct from the other chromosomes. Its gene cassette is structurally stable from generation to generation. The genes it carries are expressed and it is transmitted through mitosis and meiosis.

This development has not gone unnoticed. Six years ago, Preuss and two of her post-doctoral students at the University, Gregory Copenhaver and Kevin Keith, started Chromatin to refine and apply this technology. On October 10, 2006, the United States Patent and Trademark Office issued Chromatin patent No. 7,119,250, which extends the exclusive right to use these mini-chromosomes to all plants. This includes "a crop plant," the patent states, "a commercial crop plant, a vegetable crop plant, a fruit and vine crop plant, a field crop plant."

On May 22, 2007, biotech giant Monsanto Company purchased non-exclusive rights to use Chromatin's mini-chromosome stacking technology in corn, cotton, soybeans, and canola. Chromatin is in discussions to license this technology to other companies, potentially capturing most of the US corn market.

The timing was ideal. The US, in order to limit oil imports and reduce greenhouse gasses, hopes to double its use of ethanol in fuels by 2012 and to double that twice over by 2022. Because of increased demand, corn prices rose this summer by about 50 percent over last year.

Preuss and colleagues hope to apply the technology to other plants, including sugar cane and switch grass, which could also serve as biofuel sources. They are also looking at other applications and expanding the gene carrying capacity of their mini-chromosomes. They have successfully delivered mini-chromosomes about six times the size of MMC1, suggesting that this platform can carry "a large number of genes."

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The National Institutes of Health and the Advanced Technology Program of the National Institute of Standards and Technology provided partial support for this project. Additional authors include Greg Copenhaver of the University of North Carolina, and Shawn Carlson, Gary Rudgers, Helge Ziegler, Jennifer Mach, Song Luo, Eric Grunden, and Cheryl Krol of Chromatin.

Contact: John Easton
john.easton@uchospitals.edu
University of Chicago Medical Center

Source: EurekAlert.org
18 October 2007

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1.46  Intragenic modification for crops

A new technology called intragenic modification is being utilized to remove lingering toxins and allergens in crops while enhancing the levels of health-promoting antioxidants. This technology, introduced in 2003 by Kaare M. Nielsen of the University of Tromsø, Norway  is a genetic engineering procedure that transforms plants with native genetic elements only.  Specific genetic elements from a plant are isolated, recombined  in vitro, and re-inserted into a plant that belongs to the same sexual compatibility group. This approach improves the agronomic performance or nutritional characteristics of crops but does not introduce traits that are new to the sexual compatibility group. Intragenic modification could also be applied to eliminate numerous allergens or toxins by silencing the associated genes.

This genetic engineering approach can also be used to eliminate undesirable traits in one part of the plant and re-introduced for expression in another part of the plant where it is going to be useful. Thus, toxins meant to kill pests in the edible plant parts can be removed and be activated somewhere else. Enzymes for nutritional improvement on the other hand can be obtained from non-edible plant parts and moved to another part.

Details of the research article can be found at: http://www.isb.vt.edu/news/2007/news07.Sep.htm and published in Agric Food Chem 55, 4281-4288

Source: CropBiotech Update
14 September 2007:

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

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1.47  Using maize seeds instead of leaves to determine the genetic makeup of maize

El Batán, Mexico
Using maize seeds instead of leaves to determine the genetic makeup of maize, a new method being applied by CIMMYT, could greatly speed breeding programs, helping get drought-tolerant or high-yielding varieties to farmers faster and more cheaply.

Scientists use molecular markers­DNA signposts for genes that control traits of interest, like disease resistance­to look for genes in crop materials and select for them during breeding. Up to now this process has been “after the fact.” Scientists grow large numbers of plants, of which only a limited number will contain the desired genes, and check for those genes by using genetic information from leaf samples.

With the traditional method of using leaves to obtain DNA samples from maize, breeders had to label plants in the field, wait for them to grow, and analyse many leaf samples in the lab. The researchers were tied to the fields and to the seasons, and had to trace the samples they wanted back to source plants.

With the new method, researchers use seed tissue to find the plants with the genes of interest. “Maize seeds are large, and we take only a small sample that doesn’t damage the seed’s embryo,” says Yunbi Xu, CIMMYT maize molecular breeder. In this way, breeders will sow only the seeds of plants with the desired traits in their experiments. “Before, if you planted 1,000 plants, only 10 might be useful. Now, we know what seeds to plant ahead of time,” says Xu. By sowing only the seeds of plants with the desired characteristics for their experiments, breeders gain an entire growing season and save money.

Working with seeds instead of leaves can make DNA analyses up to six times faster, which enables breeders to look at more genes in more plant lines. “We can extract the DNA from 600 seeds in the time it would take to do 100 DNA extractions from leaves, if we take into account time for harvesting samples from the field and tracking samples between the field and lab,” says Xu.

Xu and his team remove a small piece of endosperm (the tissue surrounding the embryo) from one seed at a time­this way seeds can still grow after the extraction. “Obtaining genetic information from seeds could become a much faster and more effective way of running the marker-assisted maize breeding program,” says Xu.

Scientists extracted DNA from individual seeds from as far back as 1993, but CIMMYT has been able to do this on a much larger scale than before.

Collaboration with other centers

The seed extraction approach facilitates collaboration with other research institutes in other countries, as seed fragments (instead of the whole seeds or leaves) can be shipped easily. As part of a workshop next October, CIMMYT will teach crop scientists how to obtain DNA from seeds so they can bring this technology home with them.

Breeders of other crops such as wheat, rice, and most beans may be able to use seeds to extract DNA, provided the seeds are big enough, says Xu.

Source: SeedQuest.com
31 October 2007

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1.48  Update 8-2007 of FAO-BiotechNews

(Articles selected by the editor, PBN-L. For the complete news visit http://www.fao.org/biotech/news_list.asp?thexpand=1&cat=131)

1) Bioenergy and agricultural biotechnologies
On 12 October 2007, a half-day seminar on "The role of agricultural biotechnologies for production of bioenergy in developing countries" was held at FAO Headquarters, Rome, jointly organised by the FAO Working Group on Biotechnology and the FAO Working Group on Bioenergy, with the support of the US mission. Presentations from the meeting are now available on the web, covering topics such as global perspectives on production of biotechnology-based bioenergy; genomics and bioenergy; and bioethanol production via enzymatic hydrolysis of cellulosic biomass. See http://www.fao.org/biotech/seminaroct2007.htm or contact biotech-website@fao.org for more information.

2) Launch of FAO-BiotechNews-Ar
The FAO Working Group on Biotechnology has just launched FAO-BiotechNews-Ar, an e-mail newsletter providing updates of news and event items in Arabic that are relevant to applications of biotechnology in food and agriculture in developing countries. It is the Arabic version of the English-language newsletter FAO-BiotechNews. The main focus of its news and event items is on the activities of FAO, of other United Nations (UN) agencies/bodies and of the 15 research centres supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), in addition to activities of a few major non-UN inter-governmental organizations. See more details about FAO-BiotechNews-Ar at http://www.fao.org/biotech/welar.pdf (in Arabic). To subscribe, send an e-mail to mailserv@mailserv.fao.org with the subject blank and the following one-line text message: subscribe FAO-BiotechNews-Ar-L

6) FAO Biotechnology Glossary - Vietnamese translation
The FAO Glossary of Biotechnology for Food and Agriculture has been translated into Vietnamese, published by the Center for Information and Technological Transfer of Biology (CITB), in Vietnam, through an arrangement with FAO. The book provides in English the same 3,196 terms and definitions contained in the original glossary as well as their Vietnamese translation.The glossary provides consolidated, comprehensive and accessible definitions of terms and acronyms that are used regularly in biotechnology, including genetic engineering, and closely allied fields. The original English version of the glossary was written by A. Zaid, H.G. Hughes, E. Porceddu and F.Nicholas. See http://www.fao.org/biotech/vietgloss.htm or contact nguyenbahai@hn.vnn.vn for more information.
#########
Do not hesitate to tell other colleagues/contacts about FAO-BiotechNews. If they wish to join, they should send an e-mail message to mailserv@mailserv.fao.org leaving the subject blank and entering the one-line text message as follows: subscribe FAO-BiotechNews-L

To join FAO-BiotechNews-Fr (the French language version of FAO-BiotechNews), send an e-mail to mailserv@mailserv.fao.org leaving the subject blank and entering the following one-line text message:subscribe FAO-BiotechNews-Fr-L

The Welcome Text that subscribers receive on joining the e-mail list, describing its aims and scope and how it works, is available at http://www.fao.org/biotech/Welcome-Fr.htm (in French)

To join FAO-BiotechNews-Esp (the Spanish language version of FAO-BiotechNews), do the same as for FAO-BiotechNews-Fr except the message should read: subscribe FAO-BiotechNews-Esp-L The Welcome Text is available at http://www.fao.org/biotech/Welcome-Esp.htm (in Spanish)

To join FAO-BiotechNews-Ru (the Russian language version of FAO-BiotechNews), do the same as for FAO-BiotechNews-Fr except the message should read: subscribe FAO-BiotechNews-Ru-L

More information on FAO-BiotechNews-Ru is available at http://www.fao.org/biotech/fbn-ru.htm (in Russian)

To join FAO-BiotechNews-Cn (the Chinese language version of FAO-BiotechNews), do the same as for FAO-BiotechNews-Fr except the message should read:subscribe FAO-BiotechNews-Cn-L. More information on FAO-BiotechNews-Cn is available at http://www.fao.org/biotech/welcn.pdf (in Chinese)

To join FAO-BiotechNews-Ar (the Arabic language version of FAO-BiotechNews), do the same as for FAO-BiotechNews-Fr except the message should read: subscribe FAO-BiotechNews-Ar-L More information on FAO-BiotechNews-Ar is available at http://www.fao.org/biotech/welar.pdf (in Arabic)

The Coordinator of FAO-BiotechNews, 31-10-2007
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  Executive Guide to Intellectual Property Management in Health and Agricultural Innovation: A Handbook of Best Practices

Anatole Krattiger, Editor-in-Chief
Arizona State University and Cornell University
anatole@asu.edu
Alan Bennett, Executive Director
Public Intellectual Property Resource for Agriculture (PIPRA)
abbennett@ucdavis.edu

http://www.iphandbook.org/

Prepared by and for policy-makers, leaders of public sector research establishments, technology transfer professionals, licensing executives, and scientists, this online resource offers up-to-date information and strategies for utilizing the power of both intellectual property and the public domain. Emphasis is placed on advancing innovation in health and agriculture, though many of the principles outlined here are broadly applicable across technology fields.

Eschewing ideological debates and general proclamations, the authors always keep their eye on the practical side of IP management. The site is based on a comprehensive Handbook and Executive Guide that provide substantive discussions and analysis of the opportunities awaiting anyone in the field who wants to put intellectual property to work.

Come inside. You will find 153 chapters on a full range of IP topics and over 50 case studies, composed by over 200 authors from North, South, East, and West. If you are a policymaker, a senior administrator, a technology transfer manager, or a scientist, we invite you to use the site guide customized for you. The site guide distills the key points of each IP topic covered by the Handbook into simple language and places it in the context of evolving best practices specific to your professional role within the overall picture of IP management.
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The Guide, companion to the Handbook published by MIHR and PIPRA, promotes intellectual property management for both commercial and humanitarian ends, offering tools and strategies for utilizing the power of intellectual property and the public domain.

The Guide summarizes best practices in intellectual property management for both public and private sectors.

The Guide creates useful benchmarks for government policymakers, heads of universities, leaders in public sector research, scientists, and technology transfer professionals/licensing executives.

The Guide is compact and very easily accessed by a variety of stakeholders (from policymakers to senior management to scientists and technology transfer officers).

The Guide also concisely summarizes the Handbook’s fundamental findings.

With support from a range of organizations, the books are distributed without cost to low and middle-income countries.1 The Handbook and Guide were funded with generous donations by the Rockefeller Foundation, with additional contributions from the Kauffman Foundation.
To order or request a free** copy of the Executive Guide and/or Handbook, visit www.ipHandbook.org.

** Distributed for free to low- and middle-income countries, subject to availability of distribution support

The Guide is also now available online (see item 3.02)

Contributed by Anatole Krattiger
afk3@cornell.edu

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2.02  Plant Breeding and Biotechnology - Societal Context and the Future of Agriculture

Denis J. Murphy, University of Glamorgan, United Kingdom

A word from the author
In my recent book, Plant Breeding and Biotechnology: Societal Context and the Future of Agriculture, I attempt to analyze how the scientific and social structures that underpin crop science have evolved over the past couple of centuries. In particular I was keen to understand the peculiar recent phenomenon of agricultural biotechnology (agbiotech) and the immense controversies that it has spawned. Unlike previous and arguably equally revolutionary developments in crop science, from hybrid varieties to the Green Revolution, agbiotech has unleashed an unparalleled storm of public disquiet and scientific dispute that has yet to be fully resolved.

For the past thirty years I have been privileged to work on a wide variety of crop related research topics in a range of institutes and universities, from California to Germany, via Australia and the UK. This has enabled me to follow at close quarters how academic and commercial research has evolved and the effects of such developments on both research scientists and the wider plant breeding industry. The past decade in particular has witnessed many momentous changes in the conduct of plant research and its application via breeding to the improvement of global agriculture. Following the spectacular successes of the earlier Green Revolution have come the modern opportunities and challenges of biotechnology and genomics. Alongside these scientific developments there has been significant restructuring and realignment of both public and private sector R&D related to crop breeding.

This book follows the history of plant breeding R&D in relation to its scientific aspects and in its wider socio-economic aspects. One conclusion is that progress in crop improvement has always tended to be a consequence of a combination of better science (i.e. greater knowledge), more flexible institutional structures (to contain and apply the science), and greater economic opportunities (to enable people to profit from application of the science). One of the conclusions is that 1st generation agbiotech is in danger of drawing resources away from alternative tried and tested methods of crop improvement and has resulted in an overly monopolistic business model. It has also resulted in an unrealistic regulatory environment that is too lax in places (e.g. in granting broad patent claims) and too restrictive in others (e.g. in inhibiting the entry of new products and companies into the marketplace).

At the end of the book I list a number of recommendations for the future of plant breeding R&D that are meant to stimulate a debate on the nature of crop research and the structure of the industry as a whole.
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Denis J. Murphy is Professor of Biotechnology at the University of Glamorgan, United Kingdom.

From: SeedQuest Presents, SeedQuest.com
October 2007

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2.03  Call for papers on the value of biodiversity to food and agriculture – special issue of Biodiversity

To be released at the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD/COP9) in Bonn Germany, 19th - 30th May 2008.  The issue will coincide with the review of the Programme of work on Agricultural Biodiversity, as well as with the celebrations of the International Day for Biological Diversity on 22nd May on the theme of Agriculture and Biodiversity.

The following topics will be considered for publication:

-Biodiversity as the foundation for sustainable agriculture
-Biodiversity and food (nutrition, traditional diets)
-Soil biodiversity
-Preservation of rare stocks
-Indicators for agro-biodiversity
-Value of taxonomy to biodiversity and agriculture
-Pollination
-Bio-control
-Ecosystems and the value of adjacent protected areas to agricultural land.
-Plant genetic resources, management of wild stocks, farm animal genetics.

Other related topics will also be considered.  Please submit your abstracts (250 words or less) by November 16th, 2007 to the Managing Editor, Stephen Aitken ( aitken@tc-biodiversity.org). Space is limited. For more information on Biodiversity please visit www.tc-biodiversity.org/. Final papers will be due January 7th, 2008, and the publication is scheduled for April 15th, 2008. 

Produced in cooperation with the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and partial support from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Ontario Trillium Foundation and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC).

Contributed by Peter Bretting (ARS/USDA)
via Ann Marie Thro
CSREES, USDA
athro@csrees.usda.gov

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3.  WEB RESOURCES

3.01  GIPB website launched

The website of the Global Partnership Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building (GIPB) has now been launched. This multi-stakeholder initiative, whose Secretariat will be initially hosted by FAO, aims to enhance the capacity of developing countries to improve crops for food security and sustainable development through better plant breeding and delivery systems. Among other items of interest, the website includes results from a consultation process, involving stakeholders from international organisations, foundations, universities and research institutes, civil society associations and national and regional bodies, that took place from July to September 2007.  The results of this consultation define the longer-term priorities and strategies for the GIPB and will guide formulation of its organizational and implementation framework. See http://km.fao.org/gipb/ or contact gipb@fao.org for more information.

Contributed by Mauricio Lopes (FAO/AGPC)
Mauricio.Lopes@fao.org

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3.02  Intellectual Property/Innovation Management Handbook now Online

Today (1 November 2007), a new and unique resource in intellectual property and innovation management has been launched: the Online version of the Handbook of Best Practices. Speaking at the Global Forum for Health Research in Beijing, Anatole Krattiger who led the effort said: “Thanks to the foresight of and support from the Rockefeller Foundation, MIHR and PIPRA [the publishers] were able to capitalize on the Web 2.0. The Online version of the resource gives us the ability to weave new connections and pursue new directions. The global IP revolution, increasingly led by the public sector, is just beginning. It amplifies the important contribution of sound IP management and how the public sector can put intellectual property to work for a better, healthier, and more equitable world.” Carlos Morel of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz, Brazil), a veteran in health research who chaired the special launch session at Forum 11, added that “Tapping into a nearinexhaustible source of information about IP management issues is now just a click and a query away for anyone, for free.” The resource contains the entire content of the Handbook and of the important companion Executive Guide which were published recently. All content can be downloaded for free. The Online version also includes, for each chapter and topic, special editorial introductions written in plain language. A list of best practices is included for each chapter that addresses separately the needs ofgovernment policymakers, heads of universities and research centers, scientists and licensing executives.

A CD-ROM version has also been launched, supported and developed by the Global Forum for Health Research. It broadens the reach of the Handbook, particularly for countries and institutions with low internet bandwidth. It can be installed on PCs and accessed anytime.

For the moment, the Online resource is static (with the exception of a blog on IP and innovation management). It includes the entire Handbook/Guide content but also much, much more, including printer-friendly formats, and easy-to use searches and users’ guides. The user guides allow different users (viz. policymakers, heads of universities/research centers, scientists, and licensing executives) to see the most relevant text, chapters and case studies responding to their specific interests. “The Online version amplifies the scope and impact of the Handbook’s advancement of sound IP management for commercial and humanitarian ends, offering tools and strategies for utilizing the power of intellectual property and the public domain” said Alan Bennett who heads PIPRA.

Contributed by Anatole Krattiger
afk3@cornell.edu

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3.03  Renowned plant pathologist Dr. Roger Beachy discusses current and future benefits of genetically engineered plants

St. Louis, Missouri
In a new online video and podcast released today  ( Conversations about Plant Biotechnology), renowned plant pathologist Dr. Roger Beachy – president of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and pioneer of the development of virus-resistance through genetically engineered plants – describes biotechnology and the potential benefits of traits currently in development.

“Crop biotechnology is perhaps one of the most precise forms of plant breeding that we could ever imagine,” says Beachy as he describes the ability to discover what genes do and to then move genes from one organism to another. “I can say with great assuredness that the products of biotechnology that are on the market today are as safe, if not safer, than those varieties that they started with.”

The ability to transfer genetic information is known as genetic engineering, one process used in biotechnology that has enabled researchers to develop improved crop plants, such as crops naturally protected from diseases and insects. The first genetically engineered plants were commercially grown in 1996. Last year, more than 10.3 million farmers across 22 countries grew more than 252 million acres (102 million hectares) of biotech soybeans, corn, canola and cotton.

“What’s been amazing to many of us is that …we’ve seen advances that have gone far beyond our expectations,” comments Beachy. “We knew by the early ‘80s that it was possible to develop improved crops using genetic transformation techniques, but to actually do the work and observe the successes in the field has been very satisfying. And now, after more than 10 years of commercialization of transgenic crops, there is a scientific report that the genetically engineered varieties are increasing crop yields while reducing the use of agriculture chemicals by more than 50 million pounds a year. The overall benefits to the farmer and to the environment are quite astounding.”

A PG Economics study on the cumulative global impacts of plant biotechnology for the first nine years of production (1996-2004) shows a decrease in pesticide applications of 72,000 metric tons, a US$27 billion increase in net income for farmers, a savings of 1.8 billion liters of diesel fuel from reduced tillage or plowing, and a subsequent elimination of 10 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions through fuel savings.

“When we have such breakthroughs from the first 10 years of a scientific field, one can expect much more in the future,” says Beachy. “Farmers will have new varieties that survive drought. And, there will be crops that deliver higher levels of essential vitamins and minerals. Also, there will be crops that have new uses and will bring financial benefits to the farming community; all while reducing the impact on the environment.”

“I’d love to see potato or cassava that has more protein or more vitamins in it, so that those whose diets are built around these starch crops can have a healthier living,” continues Beachy. “We’d like to see better, more nutritious foods, including those developed by new genetics, available to those who need it.”

In addition to this video with Dr. Roger Beachy, visitors to the Conversations about Plant Biotechnology Web site can view videos with other researchers and experts who study genetically engineered plants including Dr. Norman Borlaug who shares his perspective on the benefits of biotechnology, Dr. Clive James who discusses the importance of biotech crops to agriculture in developing countries, and Graham Brookes who shares the results of his study on the advantages of biotechnology in agriculture from the first nine years of production.

Conversations about Plant Biotechnology is designed to give a voice and a face to the farmers and families who grow GM crops and the experts who research and study the benefits of biotechnology in agriculture. The Web site contains nearly 60, two- to three-minute, extremely candid, straightforward and compelling video segments with the people who know the technology best. The Web site is hosted by Monsanto Company ­ a leading global provider of technology-based solutions and agricultural products that improve farm productivity and food quality.

Source: SeedQuest.com
9 October 2007

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4.  GRANTS AVAILABLE

4.01  Call for proposals for the 2008 awards: Enhancing the Value of Crop Diversity

The Global Crop Diversity Trust

Farming throughout the world is underpinned by the vast genetic diversity of agricultural plants. This diversity provides the means for adapting the crops we grow to meet rapidly changing needs and demands. More than 6 million samples of different crops are currently maintained in collections in some 1500 genebanks around the world, representing humanity’s most important resource in the struggle to feed its ever expanding population under changing climates, shifting pests and diseases and increasing energy costs. Yet, in spite of its importance, much of this genetic storehouse remains untapped – a neglect that largely arises from the fact that much of it has yet to be adequately characterized and evaluated. We do not know enough about the collections we are conserving. A lack of readily available and accurate data on important traits can severely hamper plant breeders’ efforts to identify material they can use in their genetic improvement programmes.

Recognizing this bottleneck to the use of collections, the Global Crop Diversity Trust is initiating a competitive grants scheme to support the evaluation of genetic resources. The Trust will provide approximately 20–25 grants annually, to enable breeders and others to screen germplasm collections for important characteristics and to make the information generated publicly available. Priority will be given to supporting the evaluation of collections identified in the relevant crop and regional strategies or other expert consultations as being of greatest importance within the total global genepool. Priority will also be given to screening for characters of greatest importance to the poor, and especially those that are important in the context of climate change.

All interested parties are hereby invited to submit proposals for consideration by the Trust for an Award in 2008.

Provided below are links to information on eligibility and application procedure and the template for the submission of proposals. Also provided is a link to the Trust’s terms and conditions for grants under this awards scheme.

http://www.croptrust.org/main/trust.php?itemid=84

Announcement English Español Français
Proposal Template English Español Français
Terms and Conditions English Español Français

Contributed by Luigi Guarino
Global Crop Diversity Trust
luigi.guarino@gmail.com

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4.02  DuPont makes $2.175 million investment in plant breeding research and education

Des Moines, Iowa
DuPont today announced it will contribute $2.175 million to support graduate student research and education in plant breeding through university fellowships and a competitive fellowship program.

“Our industry depends on a continuous source of outstanding talent who can address growing global agricultural needs through creative and innovative science,” said William S. Niebur, vice president -- DuPont Crop Genetics Research and Development. “Based on current trends, we will not have enough talent to meet the needs of this rapidly growing industry. We need to identify and support students who have the interest, abilities and passion necessary to become the next generation of plant breeders.”

Data from the National Plant Breeding Study, which was funded by the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, show a declining trend in public-sector plant breeding in the United States during the past two decades.

“Plant breeding is a critical core expertise for any nation that intends to have a vibrant agriculture in the rapidly changing future,” said Ann Marie Thro, national program leader for plant breeding and genetics at CSREES. “Yet, the public sector is where the plant breeders of the 21st century will be educated. Public-private partnerships, such as the DuPont fellowships program, are one of the recommendations of the National Study to help recruit top young scientists into plant breeding.”

Beginning in January 2008, DuPont – through its Pioneer Hi-Bred seed business -- will provide up to $1.5 million in fellowships for graduate students studying plant breeding at Cornell University, North Carolina State University, the University of Illinois, the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Each university will receive a $60,000 Pioneer Hi-Bred University Plant Breeding Fellowship, renewable annually for five years, to support two graduate student fellowships. Fellowship recipients will be selected by their respective universities.

DuPont also will provide universities with $675,000 to support a competitive fellowship program for students with a confirmed interest in plant breeding research. The company will provide 10 fellowships through 2009. The program will kick off when the first five fellowships are awarded in January 2008. Fellowships will be awarded for periods of three to five years, depending on the degree the student is pursuing. Each Pioneer Hi-Bred Honorary Plant Breeding Fellowship is named in recognition of a former Pioneer scientist who made lasting contributions to plant breeding and agriculture.

“Our commitment goes beyond financial support,” Niebur said. “Each fellowship recipient will be paired with a mentor from Pioneer, and we will provide in-kind support for research projects. Also, each student will be invited to present his or her dissertation research at Pioneer and spend time at one of our research centers.”

The $2.175 million contribution is in addition to ongoing support currently offered by Pioneer. The Pioneer Research Awards Program offers fellowships, international scholarships and grants for scientific conferences. Pioneer also offers several three-month and six-month research internships for undergraduate students.

We need to engage talented young people in a discussion about the opportunities available in plant breeding and introduce them to this area of science as a life-long career,” Niebur said. “This type of industry support extends and complements the capabilities of universities to provide highly educated and trained plant breeders for the future.

For additional information and fellowship application guidelines, visit the Pioneer Research Awards Program website at www.pioneer.com

Source: SeedQuest.com
31 October 2007

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4.03  International Science and Education Competitive Grants Program (USDA)

This is to inform you that the RFA for our International Science and Education (ISE) competitive grants program has been issued.  The ISE supports research, extension, and teaching activities that will enhance the capabilities of American colleges and universities to conduct international collaborative research, extension and teaching.  ISE projects are expected to enhance the international content of curricula; ensure that faculty work beyond the U.S. and bring lessons learned back home; promote international research partnerships; enhance the use and application of foreign technologies in the U.S.; and strengthen the role that colleges and universities play in maintaining U.S. competitiveness. 

The RFA can be found on the CSREES website at: http://www.csrees.usda.gov/fo/educationinternationalscience.cfm  The closing date for this program is January 17, 2008.

Contributed by Patty Fulton (International Programs)
via Ann Marie Thro
CSREES, USDA
athro@csrees.usda.gov

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5.  POSITION ANNOUNCEMENTS

5.01  Post-doc position in plant genetic engineering, Babes-Bolyai University, Romania

Post-doc position in the frame of CEEX project with the title:
Improving crop yield through increased resistance to diseases and pests by using complex strategies based on manipulation of DNA mismatch repair in association with molecular markers

This post-doc position is sponsored by the Ministry of Education and Research, CEEX post-doctoral project 31, module II, starting with October 2005; more information: http://www.mct-excelenta.ro/.

Conditions: candidates must have maximum 35 years, a PhD in Biology or related fields; experience in plant in vitro tissue culture, genetic transformation, secondary metabolites analysis and molecular markers.

The position is opened and will be available till April 2008 with possibility of renewal upon approval of a new project. Salary: 450 Euro per month plus 100 Euro for accommodation – possibility of additional income from related projects.

More details on the CEEX post-doctoral program on the address: http://www.mct-excelenta.ro/fileadmin/mct/Programe/post_doc/post_doc.pdf

Babe -Bolyai University, Faculty of Biology and Geology, Department of Experimental Biology, Plant Genetic Engineering Group, Clinicilor str. 5-7, Cluj-Napoca, Romania

Contact: Assoc. Prof. Elena Rakosy-Tican
tel.0040-264-431878; fax. 0040-264-591906
e-mail: lrakosy@hasdeu.ubbcluj.ro; arina5744@yahoo.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

* 3-7 March 2008. International Symposium: Underutilized Plant Species for food, nutrition, income and sustainable development, Arusha, Tanzania

This 5-day Symposium is organised under the auspices of the International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS) and the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), recognizing the need to provide a global forum for exchange and debate on issues related to the promotion of underutilized plants. The Symposium will take place at the Ngurdoto Mountain Lodge ( www.thengurdotomountainlodge.com) ca 20 km outside of Arusha. For further information contact: Symposium08@avrdc-rca.co.tz

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* 5-10 April 2008. The 10th International Barley Genetics Symposium, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Egypt. http://www.icarda.org/10thIBGS/
 
The 10th IBGS will generate an atmosphere for open discussion and vigorous debate around:

-Barley and Climate Changes
-Barley: a rich crop for poor people
-Germplasm and Genetic Resources
-Abiotic Stresses
-Biotic Stresses
-Barley Uses: Malt
-Barley Uses: Food
-Barley Genomics
 
 This Symposium will bring together leading national and international researchers to exchange innovative ideas and latest research.
 
Scientific program:
The program will include oral presentations by invited speakers, poster papers, workshops and field tour. A special end-user day with sessions on malting, brewing and distilling feed and food quality will be offered for specialist industry groups.

-Workshop sessions will be held in the evenings if ­ individuals wishing to conduct a workshop must register their interest with the Secretariat by forwarding details about the proposed speakers and content.

-Post-conference technical tours will also be arranged for special interest groups if there is sufficient demand. One proposed tour is to Syria, including a visit to ICARDA) - those wishing to participate should indicate their interest on the registration of interest form.
 
Who should attend?
-Plant researches: geneticists, breeders, molecular biologists, agronomists, physiologists, quality chemists
-Barley marketers and traders
-Farmers
-Seed and grain producers and marketers
-Brewers, maltsters and distillers
-Commercial processors of barley for food and feed
-Research managers
 
Please visit http://www.icarda.org/10thIBGS/, for registration details - or for further information, please contact the Conference Manager:
Dr. Helmut Knüpffer
Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK)
Gatersleben, Germany
knupffer@ipk-gatersleben.de, HKnuepffer@web.de

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*8-11 July 2008. International Cotton Genome Initiative (ICGI) Research Conference, Conference Center of the Anyang Hotel, Anyang, China.

The International Organizing Committee and the China Organizing Committee would like to invite you to participate in the International Cotton Genome Initiative (ICGI) Research Conference to be held in Anyang, China, July 8-11, 2008. The conference will be a major event for the global cotton community to communicate, formulate and coordinate future collaborative research activities on cotton genomics. The conference webpage http://icgi.tamu.edu/meeting/2008/ is currently available and is being updated and completed as new information becomes available. Please bookmark this webpage and refer to it as the information is added. At this time we would like to call for your pre-registration and encourage you to make travel plans at your earliest convenience. An official invitation letter for visa purposes will be issued by the China Organizing Committee after your pre-registration information is received. Please let us know if you have further questions and/or need further assistance.

Contributed by John Yu
johnyu@neo.tamu.edu

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*9-12 December 2008. Second International Symposium on Papaya Madurai, India

The International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS) in collaboration with Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, India and other scientific organizations is organizing Second International Symposium on Papaya at Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India during 9-12 December, 2008; following the successful conduct of the First International Symposium on Papaya held at Genting Highlands, Malaysia during 22-24 November, 2005. The theme of this symposium ‘Papayas for Nutritional Security’ appropriately addresses the need for cultivating papaya from traditional small holdings to commercial orchards to alleviate the problem of malnutrition especially Vitamin A deficiency in many developing countries.

The organizers of this symposium cordially invite everyone involved in papaya research, extension, education, trade and commerce to be present at this meeting to share their experiences and build up the fraternity and network for advancement of this important fruit. The symposium will consist of three days of technical proceedings with a one-day mid symposium tour. A strong scientific programme will be presented with invited speakers / several high-quality oral presentations to address the latest progress made in research on papaya. In addition, a comprehensive poster session will allow delegates to present their own research results.


REPEAT ANNOUNCEMENTS

*13-16 November, 2007. Conference on Native Breeds and Varieties as part of natural and cultural heritage with international participation. Hotel Ivan - Solaris Holiday Resort (www.solaris.hr), Šibenik, Croatia.
About Conference [] Conference Topics [] Preliminarny Programme and Abstract Preparation [] Participation Fee and Accomodation [] Registration [] Contacts

*14-17 November 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.
Dr. Ben Ewa Ubi
benjiubi1@yahoo.com
ebsubiotech.loc2007@yahoo.com

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

For more information regarding the conference, please contact the conference secretariat:
Ms. Sarah Yehia - General Manager
info@esas-egypt.org
Or visit the website: http://www.esas-egypt.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)

*29 November 2007. 'Restoring Ancient Wheat’ Seminar,  to be held at The Israel Genebank, Machon Volcani, Beit Dagan, Israel, igb.agri.gov.il
See the website: growseed.org/isc.html for details.

If you have any questions, please contact: Dr. Rivka Hadas, director, Israel Genebank,
rihadas@volcani.agri.gov.il
or
Eli Rogosa
Heritage Wheat Conservancy
growseed@yahoo.com

*9-13 December 2007. The 3rd Sunflower Symposium for Developing Countries, Imperial Resort Beach Hotel, Entebbe, Uganda

The symposium has a wide scope of presentations by a number of key note speakers, oral and poster presentations on important aspects of Sunflower Research and Development, and elaborate exhibitions and tours in major sunflower growing areas and industries. For more information about the symposium please log on to www.naro.go.ug or www.cetiom.fr/isa. Forms for expression of interest, registration and guidelines for papers can also be downloaded from any of these sites.

Participants willing to present a communication are invited to submit their full papers by 30th September, 2007.  You should also indicate whether you want to present orally or by poster.

The scientific program will consist of several thematic sessions each having a keynote speaker, a poster session, and exhibitions and guided tours.

*15-16 December 2007. Plant Molecular Farming: From Biodiversity to Bioindustry. 1st Sudan- Egypt Workshop, National Centre for Research, Khartoum, Sudan
Workshop organizer: Dr. Nada Babiker Hamza (Sudan)
molecularcourse@gmail.com

*3-6 February 2008 International Conference “Molecular Mapping & Marker Assisted Selection in Plants, Vienna. (Early-bird registration ends 18 November 2007.
View all meeting information online at http://www.univie.ac.at/molmapping/

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

*16-18 July 2008. Development of plant breeding and crop management in time and space. Priekuli, Cesis district, Latvia
Contacts: Dace Piliksere: priekuli-conference@inbox.lv (registration, abstracts, questions). Register until 1 December 2007

*
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

*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.

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.

* 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 Ann Marie Thro (athro@reeusda.gov). The editor will advise subscribers one to two weeks ahead of each edition, in order to set deadlines for contributions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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