The Global Partnership Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building (GIPB) brings you:

PLANT BREEDING NEWS

EDITION 185
17 December 2007

An Electronic Newsletter of Applied Plant Breeding

Clair H. Hershey, Editor
chh23@cornell.edu

Sponsored by FAO/AGPC and Cornell University, Dept. of Plant Breeding and Genetics

Archived issues available at: FAO Plant Breeding Newsletter

1.  NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH NOTES
1.01  Research 'must be expanded' to address food prices
1.02  African farmer and world agricultural leader announced as President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)
1.03  African Development Bank rice project sows success in West Africa
1.04  New public-private hybrid rice group aims to raise rice yields in the tropics
1.05  West Africa Biosciences Network to improve sorghum breeding in West Africa
1.06  Hybrid Rice Research and Development Consortium (HRDC)
1.07  Project to develop more nutritious sorghum announces scientific breakthrough
1.08  Iran can serve the world in wheat breeding
1.09  China's new high-yielding, disease-resistant wheat boosting domestic production as world prices soar
1.10  China and Mexico team up to fight wheat disease
1.11  Building disease-beating wheat
1.12  Cassava hybrids to improve livelihood in Federal District and state of Goias, Brazil
1.13  Translational Seed Biology Symposium: meeting report
1.14  10th International Plant Virus Epidemiology Symposium held in India: meeting report
1.15  A brief report on The 8th African Crop Science Society 2007 Conference
1.16  NIAB scientists visit China to learn about their plant breeding and genetic resources
1.17  Crop research 'must switch to climate adaptation'
1.18  New drought-tolerant plants offer hope for warming world
1.19  Scientists launch $140 million initiative to develop “climate-ready” farming and forestry systems for the world’s poor
1.20  Adapting agriculture to climate change
1.21  UN head calls for more biofuels research
1.22  SciDev.Net explores the biofuel challenge
1.23  Should energy be a product of 21st century agriculture in developing countries? 
1.24  “New agriculture” needs a new FAO - Climate change, population growth and FAO’s own future among key challenges
1.25  Transgenic technology: pro-poor or pro-rich?
1.26  The conservation of global crop genetic resources in the face of climate change
1.27  The experts agree on an equivalent of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for biodiversity
1.28  We are not hardwired to react to the crop diversity crisis
1.29  'Cooling down' begins at Svalbard Global Seed Vault
1.30  Tunisia opens bank of genetic resources
1.31  Global Crop Diversity Trust to ensure the long-term availability of funds for ICRISAT's genebank
1.32  Enhancing crop gene pools with beneficial traits using wild relatives
1.33  Potato species reexamined: revamping relationships among cultivated potatoes
1.34  Tree of life for flowering plants reveals relationships among major groups
1.35  Sources of resistance to ‘groundnut stem necrosis disease’ identified in wild relatives
1.36  Report says gene flow from GM crops not likely to harm environment
1.37  Food safety: Ensuring safe, healthy, nutritious food
1.38  Overview on crop genetic engineering for drought-prone environments
1.39  Gaining insights into international spring wheat genetic enhancement through breeding-informatics
1.40  Specialty maize: global horticultural crop
1.41  Michigan State University research findings may help state's sugar beet growers reap a sweeter future
1.42  Genes identified to protect brassicas from Turnip mosaic virus
1.43  Breeding better canolas
1.44  Tropical traits for temperate beans
1.45  High oleic soybean
1.46  New strains of late blight on potato in the United Kingdom
1.47  Village wheats may fend off stem rust
1.48  Research 'toughening up' Thailand's jasmine rice
1.49  Purdue University researchers seek genes behind rice nutrients to combat malnutrition
1.50  Canadian Wheat Board invests in search for wheat’s molecular “fingerprint”
1.51  Scientists unravel plants' natural defenses
1.52  Toward sequencing the cotton genome
1.53  Maize lines for genetic characterization (fingerprinting) using 1536 SNP molecular markers
1.54  New research to decode the genetic secrets of prolific potato pest
1.55  Turning on the power: New maize protein quality test for developing country labs
1.56  The CNAP Artemisia Research Project: Project update number 2, Autumn 2007
1.57  Excerpts from Update 9-2007 and 10-2007of FAO-BiotechNews

2.  PUBLICATIONS
2.01  Citrus Genetics, Breeding and Biotechnology
2.02  Biotechnology tools for conservation and use of plants: A school play for senior students

3.  WEB RESOURCES
3.01  Abstracts of presentations from UC Davis' International Symposium on Translational Seed Biology now available on the web
3.02  Launching the new website of Sciencedev.net
3.03  Launch of the Russian FAO Biotechnology website
3.04  FAO launches new Arabic newsletter on agricultural biotechnologies
3.05  Calling all young scientists in plant genomics…The Plant Genomics Network

4  GRANTS AVAILABLE
4.01  Generation Challenge Programme fellowships, travel grants and capacity-building

5  POSITION ANNOUNCEMENTS
5.01  Vegetable Breeders (several positions): The World Vegetable Center)
5.02  Maize Molecular Breeder: CIMMYT
5.03  Pome Fruit Breeder/Geneticist (Apples) Vacancy at Washington State University
5.04  Collections manager position at Native Seed/Search
5.05  Vegetable breeding position: Cornell University

6  MEETINGS, COURSES AND WORKSHOPS

7  EDITOR'S NOTES

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1.  NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH NOTES

1.01  Research 'must be expanded' to address food prices

[BEIJING] International agricultural research must be accelerated to find solutions for the world's poor amid rising food prices, say food research experts.

Joachim von Braun, director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), made the call today (4 December) at the launch of IFPRI's biannual report in Beijing, China.

According to von Braun, the world's average food price has risen by 53 per cent since 2000, due to increased income for farmers and changes in the types of crops planted.

Developing biofuels worldwide to address climate change has been a dominant factor in driving up food prices, as less agricultural land is devoted to food, von Braun said.

The IFPRI report, 'The World Food Situation: New Driving Forces and Required Actions', also says that world agricultural output is projected to decrease significantly due to climate change, and that the impact on developing countries will be severe.

Von Braun recommended that rich nations invest more in research into the impact of biofuels and the threat posed by climate change.

He said he hopes that next-generation technologies can be created to produce biofuels with waste biomass ­ such as straw stalks ­ but warned that the first priority was to slow down biofuel development.

Von Braun also said that some of the political lobby groups that have been created to campaign for more subsidies for farmers who plant biofuel are "anti-poor".

In a scenario where countries follow through with their biofuels plans, the price of maize could increase by 26 per cent, according to the report. This could increase to 72 per cent if biofuels usage is expanded greatly.

Cereal prices could further increase by 10 to 20 percent by 2015 due to supply and demand issues, according to the IFPRI report, impacting the majority of the world's poor people, who live in households that are net buyers of food ­ they spend more money buying than selling food.

According to von Braun, poor people in Bangladesh, for example, may have to double their expenditure on food, leaving no money for other necessities.

Metha Wanapat, a professor from Khon Kaen University, Thailand, agrees. "While planting crops for biofuels increases short-term income for farmers, it is important to balance economic need and food demands," he says.

"More research is needed to determine the right proportion of agricultural resources to be used for biofuels," he told SciDev.Net.

Source: SciDev.net
4 December 2007

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1.02  African farmer and world agricultural leader announced as President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)

Accra, Ghana
Alongside Kofi A. Annan, A. Namanga Ngongi to lead AGRA’s work to end poverty and hunger of Africa’s small-scale farmers

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) today announced the naming of Dr. A. Namanga Ngongi as its first president. Ngongi is in Accra meeting with Ghanaian government officials, after which he will return to AGRA headquarters in Nairobi.

Ngongi began his career in the fields alongside farmers in his native Cameroon, where he worked as an agricultural officer helping farmers improve yield and diversify and market their crops. His career has spanned involvement in international organisations, and has included serving as Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and leading the peace-keeping mission in war-torn Congo for the United Nations.

“Dr. Ngongi’s leadership will strengthen AGRA’s efforts to help millions of small-scale farmers and their families end poverty,” said Kofi A. Annan, Chairman of the Board of AGRA and former Secretary-General of the United Nations. “Ngongi is a man of vision, dedicated to the eradication of hunger and poverty. He knows the vital importance of agricultural development, and that ambitious goals inspire the energy and will necessary to achieve them.”

AGRA is an African-led and African-inspired partnership of farmers, scientists, governments, the private sector and civil society. AGRA aims to significantly increase the productivity and incomes of millions of small-scale farmers by supporting sustainable, innovative agricultural practices that help poor farmers and their families lift themselves out of poverty and hunger.

AGRA programs focus on issues across the agricultural “value chain”-- from seeds, soil health, and water, to markets, agricultural education and public policy. AGRA programs to date include targeted efforts to develop new varieties of Africa’s orphan food crops that are low-yielding and highly vulnerable to disease; support for agricultural education including sponsoring two new PhD programs in leading African universities; and efforts to develop seed distribution networks and markets for poor farmers. AGRA also advocates for public policies that support small-scale farmers.

“I am proud and eager to serve as president of AGRA,” Ngongi said. “AGRA’s goals are my own. There is no acceptable reason for Africa’s farmers to be poor. Working with their many allies, farmers can move beyond mere subsistence farming. With access to the needed tools and technologies and with responsible stewardship of our natural resources, we can bring prosperity to Africa’s farmers and their families.”

History of Service

Born in Buea, Cameroon, in 1945, Ngongi earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, Calif. He earned masters and doctorate degrees in agronomy from Cornell University, in Ithaca, N.Y. Ngongi went on to earn a postgraduate certificate in agricultural and rural development project planning from the University of Bradford, in the United Kingdom.

Early in his career, Ngongi worked with village farmers for Cameroon’s Ministry of Agriculture. He motivated farmers to grow new crops such as yams and plantains, and worked to help them control plant-damaging pests. Later, collaborating with the Government of Ghana and Cornell University, he headed a joint soils research project aimed at ensuring sustained production of basic food crops across the country’s agro-ecological zones. He supervised the establishment of rural development institutions and agro-industrial enterprises in Cameroon.

Ngongi began his international service with the Cameroon Embassy in Rome, where he played an active role in key committees of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

He joined the WFP in 1984, heading operational activities in 17 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa, and addressing the populations’ needs after the devastating droughts in Ethiopia, Sudan and the Sahel.

In 2001, Ngongi became Under-Secretary-General of the UN and head of the organisation’s peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

As special representative of the UN Secretary-General, Ngongi managed a mission comprised of 6,000 troops from seven countries and a civilian staff of over 1,500 from more than 60 countries. He organised several local peace negotiations between warring factions in the midst of fighting, hunger and disease, while working to deliver humanitarian aid. His efforts are credited with contributing significantly to the overall success of the peace negotiations as well as the formation of a transitional government in the DRC.

Ngongi retired from the UN in 2003, and returned to Cameroon. He has since taken up farming on his own farm, while also undertaking several high-level missions for the UN, including a study on food reserve systems in Africa.

“It is not enough to know about the problems of farmers from 26,000 feet in the air,” Ngongi said. “I know about the problems of farmers on the ground, and I know that with the support of AGRA partnerships, we can overcome those problems.”

Ngongi succeeds interim president Dr. Gary Toenniessen, who has presided since AGRA’s founding in September 2006.

About the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)
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’s Board is chaired by Kofi A. Annan, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations. With initial support from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, AGRA maintains offices in Nairobi, Kenya and Accra, Ghana. For more information, go to www.agra-alliance.org .

Source: SeedQuest.com
14 November 2007

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1.03  African Development Bank rice project sows success in West Africa

Cotonou, Benin
West Africa is one of the poorest regions of the world. Yet, thanks to a groundbreaking project, rice farmers in this region are able to make enough profit from their farms to send their children to school and provide them with better health care.

The project worth about USD 35 million is funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB). It supports the dissemination of the New Rice for Africa (NERICA®) varieties in seven West African countries – Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and The Gambia.

“We are now able to send nearly all our children to school,” says Oumar Bojang, Secretary of the farmers’ association Yirima Kafo in Jambur, The Gambia. Yirima Kafo’s membership includes180 women and 20 men farmers, who are growing NERICA with the help of the AfDB project. Oumar said that the association made a profit of about USD 4000 in 2006. The association has also been able to open a bank account.

Some of the progressive farmers who have benefited from the project reported spectacular successes. Bakary Togola, a Malian farmer was able to get a profit of USD 124,000 from the sale of NERICA seed in 2006. Scenting success, Bakary increased his NERICA area from 4 ha in 2004 to 60 ha in 2006. In 2007, he extended it further to 80 ha.

Suleyman Mboob from The Gambia reported that he grew NERICA on 25 ha in 2006 and got about USD 26,300 from the sale of seed, while Alhaji Dembur Jatta, his compatriot, made about USD 1600. Both of them distributed surplus NERICA seed freely to their friends and family members.

In Benin – another pilot country for this project – an impact study carried out by the Africa Rice Center (WARDA) and its partners covering 24 villages has shown the positive impacts of NERICA adoption on farmers’ livelihoods. Better harvests with more yield put extra cash in NERICA farmers’ pockets to support schooling, medical care and better diet.

The study showed that with the increase in farmers’ income, the school attendance rate rose by 6% and farming families were able to spend USD 20 more for school expenses per child and USD 12 more for health care expenses per sick child.

Such impacts, although modest, make a difference in the lives of the poor who represent about 80% of the targeted beneficiaries of the AfDB project. The project has developed NERICA-based products which add value to rice and can provide sustainable market opportunities for rural women.

The project aims to involve about 33,000 farm families in participatory approaches to accelerate NERICA dissemination. Many promising new varieties – including new NERICA varieties – have been selected by farmers using these participatory approaches. For example, in Guinea, which has about 83,000 ha under NERICA, about 940 farming households took active part in the selection of improved rice varieties in 2006.

By the fifth year of the AfDB project, about 400 000 ha of land is expected to be under NERICA cultivation in the pilot countries and the annual rice import bill of these countries is expected to reduce by about USD 100 million. The project was launched in 2005 but began its operations only from 2006.

It is coordinated by the African Rice Initiative (ARI), which is hosted by the Africa Rice Center (WARDA) and supported by several partners and donors, including AfDB, Rockefeller Foundation, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

AfDB NERICA Project Highlights

Overcoming seed shortage
Since seed shortage is the biggest bottleneck in the NERICA dissemination, the project mounted a major effort on the production and diffusion of quality seed of NERICA.

The African Rice Initiative Regional Coordination Unit produced nearly 200 t of foundation and breeder seed and has facilitated the production of over 4000 t of foundation and certified seed in the project pilot countries between 2005 and 2007.

But it is difficult to keep up with the ever-increasing demand for NERICA seed. For example, in 2007, in response to Nigeria’s request, the Regional Coordination Unit provided that country with 100 t of NERICA foundation seed.
“The African Rice Initiative is exploring with relevant partners, particularly the national systems, how best to put in place sustainable NERICA seed production and delivery strategies,” says Inoussa Akintayo, African Rice Initiative Regional Coordinator.

Building capacity of extension staff and farmers
Building the capacity of all the actors in the rice sector is integral to the project. Apart from the Africa Rice Center, JICA and Sasakawa-Global 2000 are two key partners of the Initiative in capacity building.

As part of a “training of trainers” strategy, the Project has trained about 85 technicians in seed production and participatory approaches and more than 3600 farmers in improved seed production techniques. The project has also contributed to the training of more than 20 impact assessment specialists.

Two JICA rice specialists who are working with the Initiative have been particularly involved in group training programs on important aspects of rice cultivation – ranging from quality seed production to agronomic packages.
In addition to these efforts, country-specific capacity building programs are undertaken by each pilot country. For instance, in Nigeria, in 2006, about 850 extension agents were trained in various aspects of rice production and more than 700 farmers in seed production. The AfDB NERICA project in Nigeria is playing an important role in Nigeria’s Presidential Rice Initiative, in which NERICA is a major component.

In Mali, four training modules on rice production, farmers’ organization, cooperative management and seed quality have been developed by the National Coordination Unit. About 165 NERICA seed producers were mobilized in Ghana in 2006 thanks to intensive farmer-training activities.

Capacity building and rice restoration activities are particularly valuable in post-conflict areas of Sierra Leone, where rice is a staple food.

Developing complementary technologies
To increase the productivity of the NERICA varieties, complementary technologies, such as agronomic packages, are currently evaluated in all pilot countries in collaboration with Africa Rice Center scientists and other resource persons.

The Regional Coordination Unit is helping to document relevant information in the NERICA Compendium that is shortly going to be published jointly with FAO and Sasakawa Africa Association.

Involving the private sector and NGOs
The project operates through partnerships and the NERICA stakeholders’ platforms established in each pilot country. Dr Akintayo highlighted the case of Benin, where the AfDB project has set off a historic process – the successful involvement of the private sector in NERICA seed production – led by Benin industrialist Mr Babatundé Olufindji, who was recently honored by FAO for his active role.

The Regional Bank of Solidarity (BRS) has given over USD 80,000 credit to farmers’ organizations to produce NERICA seed in Benin. In 2007, another company BSS-SIPRI-Sarl launched an ambitious NERICA project in Benin in collaboration with the Satake Corporation. Songhaï (an NGO based in Benin) is using its own innovative strategy to produce and commercialize NERICA in Benin and neighboring countries.
Such wide-ranging partnerships have also been developed in other pilot countries. “The linking up with the private sector is one of the project’s biggest successes,” Dr Akintayo commented. “But we still have a long way to go.”

Source the Africa Rice Center (WARDA) via SeedQuest.com
November 22, 2007

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1.04  New public-private hybrid rice group aims to raise rice yields in the tropics

Manila, The Philippines
Successful deployment of hybrid rice in Asia requires more effective cooperation between public research institutions and the private sector

A new international research initiative, linking the private and public sectors for the first time and launched on November 9 at the 2007 Asian Seed Congress, aims to boost the research and development of hybrid rice for the tropics.

The Hybrid Rice Research and Development Consortium (HRDC), established by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), will strengthen public–private sector partnership in hybrid rice, a technology that can raise the yield of rice and thus overall rice productivity and profitability in Asia.

Hybrid rice takes advantage of the phenomenon of hybrid vigor­known as heterosis­to achieve yields 15–20% higher than nonhybrid (inbred) varieties. Over the past three decades, the technology has helped China achieve food security, but has not yet reached its potential in the tropics.

IRRI and its partners in the public and private sector have led research on development of, and use of, hybrid rice technology in the tropics for almost 30 years. Successful deployment of hybrid rice in Asia, however, requires more effective cooperation between public research institutions and the private sector in research to overcome current constraints.

The HRDC will be hosted by IRRI and will have three major objectives:
-Support research on developing new hybrids with enhanced yield heterosis, improved seed production, multiple resistances to stresses, and grain quality.
-Support research on best management practices for rice hybrids.
-Improve information sharing, public awareness, and capacity building.

Public and private sector organizations and companies with interest in hybrid rice development are invited to become members of the HRDC. For private-sector members, annual financial contributions under the consortium structure will take into account the status of seed companies at different stages of development. HRDC members will have access to improved parents, hybrids, and breeding lines, including seeds and associated information.

The HRDC will have a public–private sector advisory committee and will meet annually to provide information to its members on new plant genetic resources available or under development, review research on hybrid rice management, discuss new research priorities, and make decisions on other consortium activities such as capacity building for both the public and private sectors.

According to IRRI senior hybrid rice researcher Fangming Xie, the HRDC will significantly enhance the capacity for hybrid rice research and product delivery, while providing services and support to the private sector in its product development and delivery that will benefit the general public.

“National agricultural research and extension systems and other public sector organizations engaged in hybrid rice research and development will be among the primary beneficiaries of funds generated by the HRDC”, said Dr. Xie. “Rice farmers in Asia will benefit from accelerated access to hybrid rice-based technologies such as more and better hybrids, good-quality seed, knowledge, and services provided by the private and public sectors.”

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is the world’s leading rice research and training center. Based in the Philippines, with offices in 13 other countries, IRRI is an autonomous, nonprofit institution focused on improving the well-being of present and future generations of rice farmers and consumers, particularly those with low incomes, while preserving natural resources. IRRI is one of 15 centers funded through the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), an association of public and private donor agencies.

Source: SeedQuest.com
9 November 2007

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1.05  West Africa Biosciences Network to improve sorghum breeding in West Africa

The West Africa Biosciences Network (WABNet), one of the NEPAD Biosciences initiatives in Africa, has put in place plans to improve sorghum breeding in West Africa in particular and Africa in general. At a recent workshop held in Dakar, Senegal, an implementation plan was drawn and resources were allocated to various laboratories to work on the inventory and characterization of West Africa sorghum genetic resources. This will be funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) as part of its funding for the Africa Biosciences Initiatives.

The project has the support of the African Ministerial Council on Science and Technology (AMCOST) currently chaired by Kenya’s Science and Technology Minister Noah Wekesa. Senegalese Minister for Scientific Research Yaye Gassama Dia urged the experts to ensure that all stakeholders such as community- based organizations, processors, policy makers and the media were involved in finding solutions to the breeding and utilization problems facing sorghum, which she described as an important food security crop in the sub-region. WABNet Director, Prof Diran Makinde, said that West Africa was sorghum's center of origin hence the need to ensure that it was conserved and improved using the best available science. The experts also formed a Sorghum Breeders’ Forum whose first tasks are to compile a database of sorghum breeders and help in knowledge-sharing.

For more information contact Prof Diran Makinde or Daniel Otunge of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) AfriCenter.

Source:CropBiotech Update via SeedQuest.com
30 November 2007

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1.06  Hybrid Rice Research and Development Consortium (HRDC)

IRRI and its partners in the public and private sector have led  research on, development of, and use of hybrid rice technology in the tropics for almost 30 years. Hybrid rice technology has the potential to raise the yield of rice and thus overall rice productivity and profitability in Asia. Successful deployment of hybrid rice in Asia, however, requires more effective cooperation between public research institutions and the private sector in research to overcome current constraints. Therefore, IRRI is pleased to announce the establishment of an international Hybrid Rice Research and Development Consortium (HRDC) to strengthen public–private sector partnership in hybrid rice.

The HRDC will be hosted by IRRI and will have three major objectives:
- Support research on developing new hybrids with enhanced yield heterosis, improved seed production, multiple resistance to stresses, and increased grain quality.
- Support research on best management practices for rice hybrids.
- Improve information sharing, public awareness, and capacity building.

Public and private sector organizations and companies with interest in hybrid rice development are invited to become members of the HRDC. For private sector members, annual financial contributions under the consortium structure will take into account the status of seed companies at different stages of development. HRDC members will have differentiated access to four classes of improved parents, hybrids, and breeding lines, including seeds and associated information. The HRDC will have a public–private sector advisory committee and will meet annually to provide information to its members on new plant genetic resources available or under development, review research on hybrid rice management, discuss new research priorities, and make decisions on other consortium activities such as capacity building for both the public and private sector.

The HRDC will significantly enhance the capacity for hybrid rice research and product delivery, while providing services and support to the private sector in its product development and delivery that will benefit the general public. National agricultural research and extension systems and other public sector organizations engaged in hybrid rice research and development will be among the primary beneficiaries of funds generated by the HRDC. Rice farmers in Asia will benefit from accelerated access to hybrid rice–based technologies such as more and better hybrids, good-quality seed, knowledge, and services provided by the private and public sector.

Contact for further information and obtaining detailed guidelines:
Dr. Fangming Xie
Senior Scientist, Hybrid Rice Breeding Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Biotechnology Division
International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)
E-mail: f.xie@cgiar.org

Contributed by  Fangming Xie \(IRRI\)" F.XIE@CGIAR.ORG

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1.07  Project to develop more nutritious sorghum announces scientific breakthrough

Nairobi, Kenya
The nine-member consortium of the Africa Biofortified Sorghum (ABS) Project today announced that its second generation of transgenic sorghum seeds - known as ABS#2 - had exhibited significantly increased levels of nutritional improvements over previous generations.

The project is seeking to develop a more nutritious and easily digestible sorghum that contains increased levels of essential amino acids, especially lysine, increased levels of Vitamins A and E, and more available iron and zinc.

Dr. Paul Anderson, the Project’s Principal Investigator, said the breakthrough in the second generation seeds follows positive developments in its biotechnology research. “A lot of sorghum transformation work has been carried out since the project started. Genes for three of the four intended nutrition improvement traits - protein quality, protein digestibility, and mineral availability - were transferred to sorghum, and they all seem to work as expected. This is great success within a very short period of time.”

“The increase in targeted nutrients shows that the ambitious goals of the initial project are technologically feasible. This lays the foundation for the next challenge, which is to incorporate these technology breakthroughs in nutritionally-improved varieties for African farmers and consumers by careful field evaluation and the use of modern breeding methods,” Dr. Anderson said.

This second generation seeds are the result of work jointly carried out by African scientists from South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the Kenya Agricultural Institute (KARI) and US scientists from DuPont business Pioneer Hi-Bred.

The project also announced that it has received a field permit for field evaluation of this second generation seeds; this will commence in the US in January 2008. The consortium said it would also seek permits for contained evaluation of these seeds in African countries that had indicated interest in this project.

The project is supported by the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative, which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the US Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, the Welcome Trust and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

With the goal of improving nutrition to promote health, the ABS project focuses on improving the nutrition of sorghum. The Project brings together seven African and two US organizations. The nine-member consortium is led by Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation International.

More news from the Africa Biofortified Sorghum (ABS) Project

Source: SeedQuest.com
11 December 2007

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1.08  Iran can serve the world in wheat breeding

El Batán, Mexico
CIMMYT's new liaison officer in Iran plans to bring advanced science for wheat, the country’s chief food staple, and to help channel benefits of Iran’s wheat research capacity to neighboring nations.
http://www.cimmyt.org/english/wps/news/2007/nov/iran.htm

Source: CIMMYT e-newsletter vol 4 no 11 via SeedQuest.com
November 30, 2007

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1.09  China's new high-yielding, disease-resistant wheat boosting domestic production as world prices soar

Chinese scientists responsible for developing innovative wheat varieties recognized with international award for 'Outstanding Agricultural Technology'

BEIJING (3 December 2007)--An intensive domestic research effort to bolster China’s wheat production has over the last four years produced new high-quality, high-yielding varieties that already have added 2.4 million tons to Chinese harvests and generated an extra US$411 million in farm income. The new varieties also offer natural resistance to a new strain of wheat stem rust now emerging as a threat to global food security, according to a new assessment from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS).

In recognition of their contribution to Chinese grain production and international crop science, the Consultative Group for International Agriculture Research (CGIAR) announced today that its 2007 Regional Award for Outstanding Agricultural Technology in the Asia-Pacific Region will go to a Chinese wheat improvement team. The team comprises scientists from CAAS and the Shandong Academy of Agricultural Science (SAAS). The award was presented here at the CGIAR Annual General Meeting.

The success of Chinese plant breeders in boosting the size and sustainability of domestic wheat production is well timed, as soaring wheat prices in global markets are making grain imports particularly costly. In addition, the recent discovery that one of the new varieties has natural resistance to a rapidly spreading and potentially devastating form of wheat stem rust could be critical to sustaining wheat production worldwide.

“Now that these new wheat varieties have been sown on more than 8 million hectares, we can see how important they are likely to become to China’s wheat production capacity,” said He Zhonghu of CAAS. “They are particularly important in the area of disease resistance. It is not just the farmers who are benefiting. These new varieties are yielding a high-quality grain that food manufacturers say is producing superior wheat noodles and pan bread for Chinese consumers.”

“These new wheat varieties developed by China’s wheat improvement team possess what every crop scientist seeks but only rarely achieves,” said Ren Wang, director of the CGIAR. “In addition to offering bigger harvests and higher quality wheat, the recent finding that they are endowed with natural resistance to the strain of stem rust we’re seeing spread throughout East Africa is just more evidence of their outstanding quality.”

From 2002 to 2006, a team of scientists from CAAS and SAAS developed three improved wheat varieties for Chinese farmers that are five to seven percent more productive than previous varieties. In addition, their superior quality for bread and noodle production has made them particularly popular among Chinese milling and food manufacturers and allowed Chinese farmers to earn an additional US $101 million in “quality” premiums.

Scientists also recently discovered that one of the varieties, known as Jimai 20, is the only Chinese wheat cultivar­and one of the few in the world­to show high resistance to a new and virulent strain of destructive wheat stem rust that originated in East Africa and has now spread to the Arabian peninsula. International wheat experts have been alarmed that most of the world’s wheat varieties appear susceptible to the disease, which can reduce harvests by as much 70 percent.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the disease could end up posing a threat to global food security. Wind models show it has the potential to spread to farms throughout the Middle East and South Asia, which collectively account for 25 percent of the global wheat harvest.
###
The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), established in 1971, is a strategic partnership of countries, international and regional organizations and private foundations supporting the work of 15 international agricultural research Centers. In collaboration with national agricultural research systems, civil society and the private sector, the CGIAR fosters sustainable agricultural growth through high-quality science aimed at benefiting the poor through stronger food security, better human nutrition and health, higher incomes and improved management of natural resources. www.cgiar.org.

Contact: Jeff Haskins
jhaskins@burnesscommunications.com
Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research

Source: EurekAlert.com
3 December 2007

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1.10  China and Mexico team up to fight wheat disease

[MEXICO CITY] Two agricultural research organisations have agreed to collaborate on research to combat wheat diseases and develop climate change-resistant wheat varieties.

The agreement, between the Mexico-based International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, was signed last week (4 December).

Jointly funded by the two centres, the US$3 million, three-year project comprises a shared breeding initiative to create new wheat varieties that tolerate heat and drought ­ helping farmers face climate change ­ and resist major wheat diseases.

Research will be carried out at both centres, as well as other sites around the world.

The project will involve screening several thousand wheat samples, provided by both centres, for useful traits ­ particularly against a new strain of stem wheat rust, Ug99. Stem rust is caused by a parasitic fungus and devastates crops.

Traditional plant breeding techniques will be used to create suitable varieties. Molecular markers ­ specific DNA segments containing genes associated with desired characteristics ­ will be used to trace characteristics through generations.

"Of particular concern is the new, virulent strain of stem rust, Ug99, which appeared in eastern Africa eight years ago but has since moved on to the Middle East and could soon threaten the vast wheat lands of Asia," said Masa Iwanaga, director-general of CIMMYT, in a press release.

"Both parties see an urgent need to screen thousands of wheat lines to identify ones that resist the new rust race."

Researchers hope to have a wheat variety resistant to Ug99 by the end of the project, according to Mike Listman, from the communications department at CIMMYT.

"The project is the continuation of collaboration activities that already exist between both institutions," he told SciDev.Net.

Partnerships between China and CIMMYT go back three decades. More than 200

Chinese scientists have taken part in training and joint research with CIMMYT.

Around four million hectares in China are sown with wheat varieties derived from CIMMYT plants, and Chinese breeding stocks and partnerships have improved the disease resistance of CIMMYT-derived varieties grown around the world.
Arturo Barba

Source: SciDev.net
13 December 2007

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1.11  Building disease-beating wheat

Disease resistance genes from three different grass species have been combined in the world’s first ‘trigenomic’ chromosome, which can now be used to breed disease resistant wheat varieties

Pioneered by CSIRO researchers, in collaboration with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and Sydney University, the research illustrates the major genetic improvements possible without genetic modification (GM) technology.

“Wheat breeders often use wild relatives of wheat as sources of novel genes in breeding new disease-resistant wheats,” research team leader Dr Phil Larkin says.

“The exciting part of the new research is that we have been able to retain the useful genes but leave behind the associated undesirable genes - most notably in this case those for yellow flour colour, an important quality characteristic in wheat,” Dr Larkin says.

“Unfortunately genes from wild relatives usually come in large blocks of hundreds of genes, and often include undesirable genes. Furthermore, these blocks of genes tend to stay together, even after many generations of breeding.

“The problem can be so difficult to overcome that plant breeders sometimes give up on very valuable genes because they cannot separate them from the problematic genes.”

A paper published this month in the respected international journal Theoretical and Applied Genetics details how the team ‘recombined’ two wild blocks of genes from two different Thinopyrum grass species – a wild relative of wheat – bringing together resistance genes for leaf rust and Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus (BYDV), two of the world’s most damaging wheat diseases. The recombined gene ‘package’ may also carry a resistance gene against a new stem rust strain which is causing concern worldwide.

“The exciting part of the new research is that we have been able to retain the useful genes but leave behind the associated undesirable genes - most notably in this case those for yellow flour colour, an important quality characteristic in wheat,” Dr Larkin says.

By developing new ‘DNA markers’ and by careful testing the team has produced a number of the disease resistance ‘packages’ for wheat breeders, making it faster and easier to include these important disease resistance traits in future wheat varieties.

It is hoped other examples will follow and the genetic diversity available in wild species can be recruited more extensively for wheat improvement.

Source: EurekAlert.com
12 December 2007

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1.12  Cassava hybrids to improve livelihood in Federal District and state of Goias, Brazil

A project excecuted by University of Brasilia with collaboration of Brazilian National Fund of environment

Background
Productivity of cassava in the federal district varies from 10 to 12 ton/hectare while the hybrids developed by the university of Brasilia produce up to 40 ton/hectare. In the meantime, cultivated varieties are poor in protein and carotinoids while those selected by the university have up to 8 mgm per kg B carotene and lycopene. The hybrid developed by the university has 4.5 percent true protein and rich in amino acids methionine, lysine which are absent in common cassava. A new technique developed by the university equip showed that If a stalk of certain wild species such as M. glaziovii grafted to a cutting of cassava , it may stimulate root production up to 7 fold.

Objective of this project is to distribute these improves cultivars to small farmers and settled refugees to enable them improve their income and guarantee for them food source all over the year. Wild species used in the grafted will be perpetuated and conserved by the farmers through practicing of grafted cassava in their properties. There is is also a result on the long run, which is by bringing the hybrids and the cultivate closely together, natural interspecific hybridization may occur and bring new productive cultivars by Both natural selection and farmers selection .

Method, technique and follow up
- cuttings of improved cultivars have been distributed. Seedlings too to guarantee
- success of plantation in case of rainfall shortage
- The project is arranging training for participant farmers on grafting wild cassava onto the cultivated
- The project team accompanies every farmer through regular visits, orienting them on different aspects of plants treatments.
- An exposition of productivity will be made by the end of the first year where neighbors of every participant are invited to see the result.

http://www.geneconserve.pro.br/cassava_df_go.pdf

Contributed by Leonardo Valentini Gorgen
Labratorio da Mandioca- UnB, Brasilia, Brazil
mandioca@unb.br

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1.13  Translational Seed Biology Symposium: meeting report

The Department of Plant Sciences and the Seed Biotechnology Center at UC Davis recently hosted a major international symposium on Translational Seed Biology: From Model Systems to Crop Improvement. Over 275 scientists and students from academic institutions and seed companies from around the world participated in three days of meetings and discussions on the latest advances in seed biology and how these are being translated into improved products for agriculture and nutrition. New approaches to increase seed size and number and therefore increase crop yields were described. Enhancements of seed nutritional content by modification of seed protein, carbohydrate, oil, vitamin and micronutrient composition are in the research and development pipeline. Ways to improve seed longevity were described that will enable better storage of plant genetic resources. Recent research on the regulation of seed germination and dormancy will lead to better seed quality for planting and new strategies for weed management. New techniques can reduce costs and increase the reliability of production of seeds for planting. The first of an annual series of Plant Sciences Symposia sponsored in part by the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences and the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, the symposium also received financial support from the National Science Foundation, the USDA National Research Initiative, the UC Discovery Program, the International Society for Seed Science and a number of corporate sponsors. The symposium was also supported by members of CSREES Regional Research Project W-1168 representing a number of land grant institutions in the U.S. Abstracts of 30 invited presentations and 65 posters displayed at the symposium can be viewed at www.plantsciences.ucdavis.edu/seedsymposium2007.

Contributed by Catherine Glaeser
clglaeser@ucdavis.edu

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1.14  10th International Plant Virus Epidemiology Symposium held in India: meeting report

The 10th International Plant Virus Epidemiology (IPVE) Symposium themed ‘Controlling Epidemics of Emerging and Established Plant Virus Diseases - The Way Forward’ was held from 15-19 October 2007 at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Hyderabad, India. The symposium, first ever of the series to be held in Asia, was attended by 217 scientists and students from 27 countries, contributing to a total 58 oral presentation and 118 poster presentations. A PDF version of the abstract book may be obtained by sending an e-mail to: L.kumar@cgiar.org

The symposium was held under eight separate technical sessions: epidemiology and evolution, emerging viruses, viruses of cereal crops and soil-borne viruses, biosecurity and modeling, virus-vector evolution, advances in virus disease management, characterization and diagnosis of viruses and vectors, and molecular epidemiology & ecology. Presentations and discussions held under these sessions during the four days focused on the causes for the emergence of several unknown viruses and resurgence of several established viruses, advances in plant virus epidemiology and disease management, well reflecting the theme of the Symposium. A new IPVE Executive Committee was formed, which consists of nine members, R. A. C. Jones (Australia), P. Lava Kumar (Africa), A. Fererers, H. Lecoq and T. Kuhne (Europe), R. K. Khetarpal and S. Kumari (Asia), S. Grey (North America) and I. Barker (South America), representing the five continents, with A. Fereres as the Chair. The next symposium of the IPVE will be held in USA in 2010.

Contributed by P. Lava Kumar
(L.kumar@cgiar.org)

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1.15  A brief report on The 8th African Crop Science Society 2007 Conference

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

Held at Suzan Mubarak Center for Arts and Letters, Minia University, El Minia, Egypt, October 27-31, 2007

The African Crop Science Society (ACSS) was established in 1993 with the overall goal of improving agricultural production and food security in the continent of Africa. The society meets once every two years and has done so in 1993 in Kampala, Uganda; 1995 in Blantyre, Malawi; 1997 in Pretoria, South Africa; 1999 in Casablanca, Morocco; 2001 in Lagos, Nigeria; 2003 in Nairobi, Kenya and 2005 in Entebbe, Uganda. ACSS conferences are truly international and attract a lot of participation ranging from 400 to 600 participants. We are pleased where, for first time in ACSS history, Egypt hosted the African Crop Science Society Conference, at 27- 31 October 2007, in El-Minia, Egypt. The Conference theme was “Crop research, technology dissemination and adoption to increase food supply, reducing hunger and poverty in Africa.”

The conference brought together over 450 delegates from all over the world and provided a great opportunity for people involved in crop improvement and rural development to interact and share experiences in efforts to improve the food security to face poverty and hunger in Africa. Participants included scientists, institutional managers, change agents, policy makers, private sectors, and development partners. Research and review reports on virtually all aspects of crop genetics, productions, protections, post harvest handling, processing and marketing, dissemination of technologies and information and policy issues has been presented. Technological and socio-economic issues that impact agricultural production to marketing continuum are also discussed subsequently. Such reports and publications appeared in the conference proceedings, which distributed, to all delegates and will be sent to leading libraries in African countries.

More than 400 of high quality papers, 10 plenary, as well as, 5 keynote lectures, in different fields, presented orally or in poster format in the conference. A chance for discussion was given after each presentation to maximize benefits from the scientific and technical ideas that were dealt within the sessions. Basically, we received more than 700 abstracts presented to the Local Organizing Committee (LOC). 600 were accepted. 500 full text research papers were refereed. In addition to 420 research papers that were approved by the referees as "eligible to be published" which constituted the bulk of the four parts of the proceedings (African Crop Science proceedings, October 2007, volume 8). The first three parts were printed, distributed through conference activity and the fourth part is soon-to-be issued by the end of 2007. In addition, an electronic copy on Compact Disk, as well as, an Abstract Book (programme, abstracts of papers and List of participants according to nationality) is available.

This conference comprises a plethora of pivots: 15 scientific fields; 220 oral presentations; 180 posters; not to mention our 10 plenary and 5 keynote addresses. The general topics covered at the conference include: agronomy, horticulture, crop improvement and physiology, crop genetics and biotechnology, post harvest handling and food sciences, crop protection, rural socio-economics and agricultural extension and education, agricultural economics, agricultural microbiology, agricultural chemistry, integration of livestock in crop production, soils and agricultural engineering sciences, water sciences, environmental sciences, biodiversity and natural resources management.

Fifty nationalities from the 6 continents participated in the conference, and the total number is about 450 participants who constitute a distinguished dignitary of scientists from Africa and all over the world. Devoted, and dedicated through their researches to fight hunger, poverty and malnutrition in our African continent, the scientists and researchers are moving by leaps and bounds to increase food productivity in order to spare our continent from the specter of famine that has long been residing in our continent.

Apart from the huge scientific program, the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) has prepared an entertaining program, which varies, according to the participants' conveniences, between, exhibitions, field trips, Gala dinner, Minia city tour, Nile Cruise and other Excursion Programs and to get close to Egyptian traditions and history. And of course, no one cannot leave Egypt, the cradle of civilization, without visiting the last wonder of the Old Seven Wonders of the world: the Pyramids.

A word of thanks of the Local Organizing Committee is due to all who exerted efforts to make this conference happen. Without their support and dedication, this conference would have never been happened. We are truly indebted to the African Crop Science Society, the Conference Organizing Committee, the Faculty of Agriculture, Minia University, El-Minia Governorate, the Arab Republic of Egypt Government, Islamic Development Bank (IDB), Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO, UN), The Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS, Italy), and International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA, Syria).

For more information, kindly visit conference website at hppt://www.acss2007.org moreover you can contact via E-mail: orgcom@acss2007.org

Contributed byProf Kasem Zaki Ahmed
President, ACSS, & Chairperson, Local Organizing Committee.,
orgcom@acss2007.org
Website:http://www.acss2007.org

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1.16  NIAB scientists visit China to learn about their plant breeding and genetic resources

Prof Wayne Powell, Chief Executive of the National Institute of Agricultural Botany, is making a fact-finding visit to China this week to learn more about the country’s plant breeding and genetic resources, and to raise NIAB’s international profile.

Prof Powell will attend three major events, two of which he will speak at. His first stop is in Beijing on 8 and 9 December where he will attend a meeting of the Generation Challenge Programme, an international research network which uses genetic resources to develop tools and technologies that enable plant breeders in the developing world to produce better crop varieties for resource-poor farmers.

Prof Powell chairs the Generation Challenge Programme’s Advisory Committee and regards this meeting as a vital collaborative opportunity to discuss advancing agriculture indeveloping countries.

Also in Beijing, Prof Powell will speak about genetic diversity at the China/UK Wheat Workshop on 10 and 11 December.  Three senior scientists from NIAB will also attend this event. They are Site Director, Dr Tina Barsby; head of Plant Genetics, Breeding and Evaluation, Prof Andy Greenland; and Statistical Geneticist, Dr Ian Mackay.

Prof Powell will then travel to the China-EU Science Technology Year 2007 at Wuhan where on 13 December, he will give a talk entitled: “Crop Science Research in the 21st Century”.  This international organisation promotes deepening of partnerships as a way to foster more enduring exchanges of ideas, people and resources, which is particularly crucial now as China and the EU aim to open their research programmes for greater collaboration, leading to an improvement of mutual understanding.

Prof Powell said: “This visit strengthens NIAB’s representation in China, as well as UK-China links. The fact that three of our senior scientists are also visiting reflects the growing importance of NIAB’s international presence and collaboration with major players.

“China holds very unique genetic resources and we are anxious to know how we can combine modern genome science with novel genetic resources.”

With the world production of wheat at a 10 year low, Prof Powell believes their innovative research into wheat is of great significance and will be of considerable global interest in China.

He added: “China has an intensive domestic research effort on wheat breeding and have produced new varieties of wheat with resistance to stem rust.  The visit will catalyse new opportunities for collaboration between the UK and China.”

Further information about the events can be found at Generation Challenge: http://www.generationcp.org/index.php and China-EU Science & Technology Year 2007: http://ec.europa.eu/research/iscp/eu-china/index_en.html

Contributed by Ellee Seymour
ellee.seymour@btopenworld.com

4 December 2007

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1.17  Crop research 'must switch to climate adaptation'

Crops must be made more resilient to drought
[HYDERABAD] Climate-change and crop experts have called for a paradigm shift in agricultural research to focus on making plants more resilient to global warming rather than on increasing yields.

Martin Parry, co-chair of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and William Dar, director-general of the International Centre for Research in Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad, India, said the focus of crop research should be reoriented towards adaptation to environmental stress, such as rising temperatures and water scarcity.

"Adaptation is crucial. Drought-proofing of crops by developing heat-resistant varieties is probably one of the key elements," said Parry at an international symposium on climate change yesterday (22 November).

Dar said changes in climate will alter populations and the geographic spread of pests and pathogens, which also need to be countered with more resistant plant varieties.

Experts from ICRISAT urged governments and international donor agencies to invest more in crop research in view of the adverse projections on agriculture due to global warming. They said focus should shift to crops such as pearl millets and sorghum that grow in arid and semi-arid tropics.

Refocusing research in this way would have implications in training programmes for plant breeders and agricultural education systems, they say.

Production of rice, staple food of billions, most of whom live in poor countries, will be the most affected by global warming, as higher temperatures shift the time of pollination and affect grain formation, said Dyno Keatinge, ICRISAT deputy director-general.

Increased frequency of droughts as a result of global warming will reduce crop production, with most of the people vulnerable to hunger being in Africa, said Parry.

He warned that the world is already starting to witness global warming, with a half-degree Celsius rise in average global temperatures in the past century, and a further 0.6 degree increase expected from the world's present levels of greenhouse-gas emissions.

Colin Chartres, director-general of the International Water Management Institute in Sri Lanka, said it is time for climate scientists to scale down global-warming models to be more region-specific, and even river-basin-specific, in order to determine appropriate water-management strategies in agriculture.

Dar said ICRISAT's strategy looks at climate change in two time frames: a short-to-medium-term strategy to help farmers cope better with rainfall variability, and a medium-to-long-term strategy to adapt crops such as pearl millet, sorghum, chickpea, groundnut and pigeon pea to grow in a warmer world.
by T. V. Padma

Source: SciDev.net
23 November 2007

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1.18  New drought-tolerant plants offer hope for warming world

Davis, California
Genetically engineered crop plants that survive droughts and can grow with 70 percent less irrigation water have been developed by an international team led by researchers at the University of California, Davis. The discovery offers hope for global agriculture that is already grappling with limited and variable water supplies.

Research findings concerning the new drought-tolerant plants will be reported in the Nov. 26 online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In this study, tobacco plants were used as a research model.

The University of California has filed a patent application on this technology. The patent application is pending in the United States and in a number of foreign countries. The patent rights are covered by an exclusive arrangement between the University of California and Arcadia Biosciences, which has completed initial outdoor field trials with the drought-tolerance gene in tobacco.

"This is an exciting development because it opens the door, not only to producing plants that can survive periodic droughts, but also to reducing the amount of irrigation water routinely used to grow some of the world's most important food and fiber crops," said Eduardo Blumwald, a professor and Will W. Lester Endowed Chair in the Department of Plant Sciences.

Blumwald and UC Davis postdoctoral fellow Rosa Rivero collaborated on the work with researchers at RIKEN Plant Science Center in Japan; Biology Department Technion in Haifa, Israel; the University of Nevada, Reno; and Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Drought and global agriculture
Droughts -- prolonged and abnormal shortages of water usually caused by lack of rainfall -- have been a fact of life throughout the ages. But scientists monitoring global climate change warn that warming trends will likely result in more frequent and widespread droughts, with serious implications for agriculture and worldwide food security.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research has reported that the percentage of the Earth's land area impacted by serious drought has more than doubled during the past three decades.

"Because climate change is altering rainfall patterns," Blumwald said, "agriculture must adapt by using strategies that range from changing traditional farming practices to developing genetically modified crops that can better tolerate drought and make more efficient use of irrigation water."

Plants' response to drought
Plants have developed their own biological strategies for coping with water shortages. In dry regions, annual plants avoid seasonal drought conditions by having relatively short life cycles and growing quickly during the wet season.

Furthermore, when water is scarce, plants are able to increase their chances of survival by minimizing water loss through their leaves, increasing root growth while reducing leaf growth, and dropping their older leaves.

Blumwald and colleagues decided to investigate whether it might be possible to enhance the plant's tolerance to drought by delaying the shedding of leaves triggered by water shortage. They conjectured that the loss of leaves was the result of programmed cell death, a process by which the plant triggers certain genes to initiate destruction of certain cells -- in this case, leaf cells.

Genetically introducing drought tolerance in tobacco
The researchers set out to suppress the programmed death of leaf cells and equip the plants to survive severe drought conditions.

Tobacco was chosen as an experimental plant because it is big, fast growing and a good model for many other crop plants. The researchers inserted into the tobacco plants a gene that interrupted the biochemical chain of events that normally leads to the loss of the plant's leaves during drought.

The genetically modified tobacco plants, and the non-modified plants in the experiment's control group, were all grown in a greenhouse under the same optimal conditions for 40 days. Water was then withheld from all of the plants for 15 days, simulating extreme drought conditions.

During the dry period, the non-modified tobacco plants in the control group wilted, lost their green pigment and progressively deteriorated. The genetically modified plants, however, remained green and did not display signs of severe deterioration.

At the end of the 15-day induced drought, all of the plants were re-watered for one week. The plants in the control group all died, but the genetically modified plants recovered and resumed normal growth, with little reduction in seed yield.

"Surprisingly, although the genetically modified tobacco plants went more than two weeks without being watered, they maintained relatively high water content and continued their photosynthetic activity throughout the dry period," said researcher Rosa Rivera.

"In short, with only minimal reduction in yield, these plants survived on just 30 percent of the normal irrigation water -- severe drought conditions that killed all of the plants in the control group," she said.

The research team is hopeful that similar results will be found in crop plants such as tomatoes, rice, wheat, canola and cotton. Upon completion of greenhouse experiments, the researchers plan to carry the research forward into field trials.

Funding for this research was provided by the University of California's Will W. Lester Endowment and Arcadia Biosciences Inc.
Other news from Arcadia Biosciences

Source: SeedQuest.com
27 November 2007

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1.19  Scientists launch $140 million initiative to develop “climate-ready” farming and forestry systems for the world’s poor

Bali, Indonesia
Significant new investments and new knowledge needed in agriculture-related climate change research to tackle climate vulnerability of world’s poor, according to experts

With a raft of studies warning that climate change now poses a major threat to food production in developing countries, the world’s largest alliance of agricultural research centers called on the international community to step up its investment in global climate change research on food crops for poor countries.

At a meeting just concluded this week in Beijing, leaders of the 15 centers of the Consultative Group for International Agriculture Research (CGIAR) that span the globe have set forth a policy to seek funding to double its current investment in “climate-ready crops” and better land management. The research agenda will also assess climate change impacts on poor nations’ agriculture and natural resources. Absent commitments like this, the group said farmers in poor nations could face a global disaster of unprecedented proportions.

“We are increasingly alarmed that if we don’t move quickly to give farmers in the developing world the tools they need to deal with climate change, we could see food production in places like sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia collapse before the end of the century,” said Katherine Sierra, World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development and the CGIAR Chair. “I urge donors and research centers around the world to join us in investing in solutions to climate change.”

Sierra’s call for ramping up research that would help developing countries adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change was made in Bali, Indonesia where world leaders have gathered for the 13th UN Climate Change Conference.

Recent research efforts, many of them conducted by CGIAR scientists, have made it clear that the widely anticipated increase in extreme weather events­more drought in some areas, more flooding in others, higher temperatures all around­and a likely increase in plant pests and diseases ushered in by these changes, are going to hit poor countries particularly hard.

CGIAR’s research figured prominently in a report earlier this year from the United Nation’s Nobel-prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which concluded that rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns could cause agriculture production to drop by as much as 50 percent in many African countries and by 30 percent in Central and South Asia. For example, the IPCC predicted that unless scientists come up with hardier varieties, wheat production could disappear entirely from Africa by 2080 and maize production could drop precipitously.

The CGIAR global network contributes the lion’s share of the world’s research on critical crops such as rice, wheat and maize, in addition to challenges related to forestry, agroforestry, livestock, fish production, biodiversity, water management, and growing conditions in arid, semi-arid and tropical countries.

“We plan to take advantage of the strong cadre of experts at our research centers who are poised to rapidly intensify research efforts that already are coming up with many practical solutions--like drought-tolerant wheat, flood-tolerant rice and new approaches to crop and soil management,” said Sierra. “These research advances will allow global food production to keep pace with population growth.

“This is an auspicious moment in the history of agriculture research because farmers already are under considerable pressure to increase production just to meet the food demands of a growing population,” continued Sierra. “If there ever was a time for scientists to step up and innovate, it is now.”

Throughout 2008, the CGIAR will work with scientists and other partners to highlight new areas of research and share new knowledge from the scientific research community. In particular, the CGIAR is looking forward to working closely with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and other partners on a conference on food security, climate change, and the challenges of bio-energy, which is scheduled for early June in Rome.

Climate Change Agenda

CGIAR is rising to the challenge by crafting a climate change agenda rooted in its decades of scientific investigations and international partnerships, all of them focused on pursuing cutting edge agriculture research and translating it into applications that help poor farmers achieve sustainable livelihoods in challenging conditions.

CGIAR’s climate change work is focused on practical endeavors like breeding crops for stress tolerance; developing better practices for crop and natural resource management; helping farmers choose and breed livestock suitable for particular climate conditions; assessing how climate change will affect specific regions, production systems, and the wild plant and animal relatives of domesticated varieties; and providing decision-makers with a wealth of objective assessments so that they can implement policies specifically designed to help farmers deal with climate change.

For example, to maintain production in the face of increasingly harsh conditions, CGIAR scientists have conducted extensive research into the molecular biology of particular plant traits, particularly those related to fitness. It is now linking this work with large-scale conventional plant breeding programs to develop more resilient varieties of major staple crops­principally maize, rice and wheat.

Today, CGIAR scientists are collaborating with partners in sub-Saharan Africa to test new varieties of drought-tolerant maize that can help farmers avoid the 20 million tons of maize lost each year to excessively dry conditions. In Southeast Asia, CGIAR researchers have identified a naturally occurring rice gene that could help farmers avoid the $1 billion in annual losses caused by flooding, a problem that is likely to get worse in the wake of global warming. The trait, which breeders have transferred to a popular rice variety in Bangladesh, allows rice plants to stay submerged for up to two weeks without dying.

CGIAR scientists, who have at their disposal a wealth of genetic resources from the 11 CGIAR-support crop gene banks, want to build on these successes by identifying genetic mechanisms that account for the inherent stress tolerance of naturally hardy food crops like barley, cassava, pearl millet, and sorghum.

“To be effective, stress-tolerant varieties must be developed hand-in-hand with improved crop management systems,” said Sierra. “We plan to greatly expand ongoing research focused on specific practices that can allow farmers to deal with problems related to poor soil quality and water scarcity that are likely to exacerbated by climate change.”

For example, CGIAR centers and their partners have worked with farmers to adapt trees that naturally fertilize depleted soils and develop water technologies that can help both irrigated and rain fed systems withstand climate-changed induced pressure on water resources.

In addition to helping developing countries survive the affects of climate change, CGIAR research will seek to find ways to get farmers in poor countries more involved in the worldwide effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For example, CGIAR research is producing more accurate assessments of greenhouses gases produced by deforestation and developing new technologies for measuring carbon captured in the trees and soils of relatively small land-holdings. These efforts are focused on helping farmers in poor countries participate in a global carbon trading market that is now valued at more than $30 billion but, under its current structure, has largely excluded the rural poor.

CGIAR centers seek to provide the research required to accelerate policy reforms farmers need to adapt to new conditions caused by climate change. For example, CGIAR research on water management can drive better national and regional polices that allow for a more prudent distribution of water resources to support rural livelihoods. CGIAR scientists will also be generating an array of data that helps policy makers at all levels to understand how particular decisions and tradeoffs regarding conservation and development affect food security and agricultural systems.

The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), established in 1971, is a strategic partnership of countries, international and regional organizations and private foundations supporting the work of 15 international agricultural research Centers. In collaboration with national agricultural research systems, civil society and the private sector, the CGIAR fosters sustainable agricultural growth through high-quality science aimed at benefiting the poor through stronger food security, better human nutrition and health, higher incomes and improved management of natural resources. www.cgiar.org

Source: SeedQuest.com
6 December 2007

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1.20  Adapting agriculture to climate change

Australia
Early action to adapt to climate change impacts could have substantial short-term benefits for some Australian agricultural systems but joint research between farmers, scientists and policymakers is needed to adapt to the larger-scale changes expected.

A paper published today in the international science journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (PNAS) identifies several practical steps to adapt Australia’s agricultural sector to climate change.

“Given that our climate has already changed and that further change seems inevitable, it is important to take a pro-active stance to assess adaptation options, their benefits and costs, and how to alter policy and investment environments to facilitate their uptake,” says lead author Dr Mark Howden of CSIRO.

Climate adaptation analyses can reward early adopters of climate information, build the capacity for effective climate risk management, inform infrastructure investment decisions and help inform international discussions on reducing greenhouse gas emissions such as those happening in Bali this week.

“Given that our climate has already changed and that further change seems inevitable, it is important to take a pro-active stance to assess adaptation options, their benefits and costs, and how to alter policy and investment environments to facilitate their uptake,” says lead author Dr Mark Howden of CSIRO.”“Practical adaptations such as changing timing of plantings or the varieties or species of crops grown might avoid the damage caused by 1 to 2 degree changes in temperature – those expected over the next few decades,” he says.

“However, their effectiveness declines with higher temperature increases. Consequently, the damages from climate change will increase unless a whole new array of adaptations are developed and used. These adaptations may need to include diversification of production systems and livelihoodsand would need supporting policies and programs in addition to soundly based research and development.”

Dr Howden and his co-authors identify six key elements needed for putting in place effective adaptation responses:
-conviction that climate changes are real and likely to continue
-confidence that these changes will significantly impact on their enterprise
-technical and other options to respond to the changes
-support to make the transitions to new conditions
-new infrastructure, policies and institutions to support the new management and land use arrangements
-targeted monitoring of adaptations to learn what works, what does not and why.

Dr Howden says that getting increased adaptation action will need integration of climate change-related issues with other risk factors such as climate variability and market risk and with other policy domains such as sustainable development. It will also need adaptation assessment frameworks that are relevant, robust and easily operated by farmers, policymakers and scientists.

Dr Howden is a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which was recently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, shared with Al Gore. Dr Howden says that large scale problems such as climate change have to be addressed by both individual and collective action.

The Climate Adaptation Flagship led by CSIRO will work with agricultural industries and natural resource managers to find effective solutions to the challenges of managing Australia’s variable and changing climate.

Source: SeedQuest
4 December 2007

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1.21  UN head calls for more biofuels research

The UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-Moon, has called for more scientific research to develop biofuels and other renewable and alternative energy sources.

Biofuels "hold great promise" he told journalists this week (11 November) during a visit to Brazil.

But he said that "although scientists need to be creative in research and development", food security and other issues related to the environment need to be looked at and "it will be healthy to have a broad debate and research on this matter."

"Clearly biofuels have great potential for good and, perhaps, also for harm. It is up to national governments to responsibly balance the social costs and benefits," Ki-Moon added.

His comments come at a time of controversy over the impact of biofuels on food security and the environment.

On 25 October, the UN's special rapporteur on the Right to Food, Jean Ziegler, reported to the UN Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) that turning crops into fuel for cars is increasing the prices of food and resulting in more hunger.

Ziegler told the committee that "It is a crime against humanity to convert agriculturally productive soil into soil which produces foodstuff that will be burned into biofuel." He called for a five-year moratorium on production while the technology to produce biofuels from crops is improved.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) later labeled Ziegler's description of biofuel production "regrettable." 

Jeff Tschirley, head of the FAO's Environment Assessment and Management Unit, told SciDev.Net that the recommended moratorium on biofuel production would be a hindrance to exploring the potential benefits of bioenergy.

According to Tschirley, the FAO is concerned about the impacts of bioenergy development on food security and environmental goods and services, and is confronting them by working directly with governments and other stakeholders.

"A moratorium, even a partial one, would close off opportunities for these stakeholders to assess bioenergy potential and devise equitable schemes to develop this resource," Tschirley said to SciDev.Net.

But he added that Ziegler's comments were "another call on the global community to act responsibly with regards to biofuels".

by Eva Aguilar

Source: SciDev.net
15 November 2007

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1.22  SciDev.Net explores the biofuel challenge

Read SciDev.Net's new spotlight on biofuel R&D: www.scidev.net/biofuels

Biofuels are described by some as 'absolutely catastrophic' because of their potential consequences ­ for example, raising the cost of food or diverting agricultural land to energy production ­ but are seen by others as 'the driving force for development in some of the world's poorest regions'.

SciDev.Net picks a path between doomsayers and utopians, and looks at the reality of biofuels research and development in the developing world.

-William Dar, director general of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), addresses the lack of research on the yields of biofuel crops, such as jatropha, and the uncertainty this brings energy economies and their farmers.
-Maureen. R. Wilson, chemist/laboratory manager at the Sugar Industry Research Institute in Jamaica, argues that biofuels are a lifeline for sugar-producing countries hit by the European Union's 2006 sugar reforms, and focuses on improving technology to produce ethanol from crop residues.  
-Siwa Msangi, research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), demands strong international policies to stop the biofuel revolution threatening food security for the poor.
-S. Arungu-Olende, secretary-general of the African Academy of Sciences, calls for 'massive investment' in energy resource development and use, and the putting in place of mechanisms for capacity building in the energy sector.

In an accompanying editorial, I suggest that, despite the many promises of biofuels, the potential severity of their side-effects means we should proceed with caution. It also means that more research is needed to enable us to take sound evidence-based decisions on biofuels policy, and avoid a reckless leap of faith.

Finally two of our freelance correspondents describe how biofuels research projects are developing on the ground. Carla Almeida highlights Brazil's biofuel success and the country's need to develop new applications of ethanol. Kimani Chege explores what is being done to harness Africa's vast biomass resources and the research needed to achieve better yielding biofuel crops and more efficient fuels.

We have also collated SciDev.Net's coverage of relevant news and created a collection of links to key background documents and organisations.

David Dickson
Director, SciDev.Net
December, 2007

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1.23  Should energy be a product of 21st century agriculture in developing countries? 

by Masa Iwanaga and Rodomiro Ortiz
International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)

Summary
Recent policies fostering use of alternative, renewable energy sources in the industrialized world confront developing countries with diverse opportunities and challenges: how to integrate with potential biofuel markets, deal with impacts on food security, alleviate poverty, and manage crop and natural resources sustainably. Biofuels should form part of a global, cross-cutting agenda of agricultural research, involving partners in the farming and energy sectors. Work should generate public goods, including broad-based knowledge, enabling technology, and tools for assessment. The agricultural systems required will feature, among other things, sustainable production and efficient use of biomass, partitioning it among energy, feed, food and CO2 fixation demands. They should be more efficient and propoor, and use existing farmland or marginal (dry, waterlogged, saline) tracts. Organizations such as the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and its research centers may play the following roles: • Developer of analytical tools.
• Policy analyst and advocate for bio-energy, livelihoods and food security.
Provider of allele sources or advanced lines and populations of improved crop cultivars.
Catalyzer of research on useful crop traits and effective cropresource management.
• Proprietary technology broker to ensure bio-energy at the village level.
• Knowledge-sharing facilitator throughout the bio-energy value chain.
• Knowledge integrator for complex food-feed-fiber-fuel environmental service systems. Public-private partnerships will have to engage the broader agricultural and development policy research community, addressing the following issues in ways that benefit farmers and consumers:
• Possible tradeoffs of food/feed/fiber versus fuel. Under what conditions could the demand for biofuels­especially from food crop sources­increase food or feed prices and affect food security, locally or globally?
• Environmental costing of biofuels. The energy output should be higher than the energy used to produce a given biofuel.
• Less water-demanding biofuels than current alternatives.
• Environmental services: eco-friendly biofuels may reduce Cemissions, mitigating climate change.
• Opportunity windows and risks from biofuels, particularly for resource-poor producers and consumers.
• Energy institutions and bio-energy management.
• Policy-driven versus user-demand effects. What are the roles of governments and their expectations in the face of unstable and rising oil prices? Other political or economic considerations?
• Partnerships and roles for international, regional, or national research organizations: how to foster innovative research for development to produce food and energy, while expanding the ecologically-friendly use of marginal or waste lands, increasing incomes and providing new labor options for the poor.
• The role of public agricultural research organizations to speed the development and adoption of second generation, lignocellulose biofuel technologies.

The agenda for crop improvement will include increasing plant grain and biomass productivity, optimizing the chemical and physical attributes of biofuel sources, and improving specific traits in first- and second-generation biofuel crops, within a framework of sustainable agriculture. Frontier approaches should be applied to study the possible advantages of perennial biofuel crops that are more photosynthetically productive, entail lower input costs, and improve soil nutrient input and retention. Through alliances with the bio-energy industry, research should also adapt industrial processes to biomass sources and sources to promising processes.

“The fuel of the future is going to come from apples, weeds, sawdust – almost anything. There is fuel in every bit of vegetable matter that can be fermented.” Henry Ford, 1925

Converting agricultural production to energy has become an important and well-funded global research goal,3 as petroleum oil reserves fall and prices rise. Indeed, rising fuel prices, growing energy demand, and concerns over global warming from greenhouse gas emissions and domestic energy security have put bio-energy at large and crop biofuels in particular in the research agenda for agriculture worldwide.Biofuels are attracting great attention in Asia, for example, where steady population growth and attendant energy demands outstrip supplies from fossil fuels. Per capita energy use by the two giants, China and India, pose local and global ecological hazards.Developing world governments elsewhere are showing a keen interest in renewable energy sources, particularly biofuels, both to reduce expensive fossil-fuel imports and to expand markets for their crops. Hence, global demands for clean energy appear to coincide with long-held interests in expanding agricultural markets to benefit the rural poor. Achieving this without endangering the environment or affordable food and feed supplies will require the creation of complex, cross-sector linkages and partnerships, creating and strengthening strategic alliances among public and private organizations and the agriculture and energy sectors.

Source: Keynote on Session “Food Security vs. Biofuels in Asia” in the Expert Consultation on Biofuels, Co-sponsored by APAARI, CIMMYT, IRRI and ICRISAT, International Rice Research Institute, Los Baños, Philippines, 27-29 August 2007

Contributed by Rodomiro Ortiz R.ORTIZ@CGIAR.ORG

For copy of entire article contact Rodomiro Ortiz

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1.24  “New agriculture” needs a new FAO - Climate change, population growth and FAO’s own future among key challenges

Rome, Italy
Agriculture will play a crucial role in the key issues facing humanity this century, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said today. “I should like to see the new agriculture aligned with a new FAO”.

Mr Diouf was addressing FAO’s supreme governing body, the 192-member Conference at the start of a week-long session due to decide on proposals for a major reform of the Organization, and to vote on its budget.

“During the course of this week you will be making decisions that will have a profound impact on the future of the Organization,” Mr Diouf said. “Those decisions will be made in a new agricultural context on the world stage. In the last two years agriculture has returned to the international agenda,” he added.

Central role

The centrality of agriculture was underscored in the World Bank’s recent 2008 World Development Report, the first to be devoted to agriculture for a quarter of a century. “It is time to place agriculture afresh at the centre of development, taking account of the vastly different context of opportunities and challenges that has emerged,” Diouf said, citing the report.

“On climate change, energy supply, natural resources depletion, population movements, and indeed on the very health and security of nations, agriculture is central both to the problem and to its resolution,” Diouf said.

Equally pressing was the challenge of feeding a world population estimated to top 9 billion by 2050, he added. “This will require a second Green Revolution aimed at virtually doubling food production in the first half of this century.”

The Director-General underlined FAO’s fundamental contribution in addressing these issues and recalled that he has proposed two high-level meetings to discuss them next year.

The first meeting, scheduled for June 2008, will focus on climate change, bioenergy and food security, while the second will address issues such as population growth, migration and urbanization and their impact on future food security.

Recent activities, way ahead

The Director-General highlighted FAO’s work over the past two years, including its role in the ongoing fight against bird flu, its food safety activities and its efforts to reverse erosion of the world’s genetic resources for food and agriculture.

Regarding the way ahead, Diouf said that FAO was being called on to “reform with growth” as a result of the Organization’s first Independent External Evaluation, which includes over 100 recommendations for changes.

Such reform would enable FAO to play a still more incisive role in helping to cut the numbers of the 850 million human beings still suffering from hunger and malnutrition and achieving the Millennium Development Goals’ target on hunger and poverty reduction, Diouf said.

He welcomed the evaluation’s recognition of the “unique importance and relevance of FAO’s role in the United Nations and in the world” and hoped Members would “allow FAO to maintain the balance of the recommendations made by having the necessary financial means to implement the proposed reforms.”

Over the past few years, FAO’s work has been affected by a series of effective budget cuts.

The Conference observed a minute’s silence for the victims of the cyclone in Bangladesh. It was attended for the first time by the Russian Federation, which joined last year. It also welcomed the Republic of Montenegro and the Principality of Andorra as new Members and the Faroe Islands as an Associate Member.

Source: SeedQuest.com
19 November 2007

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1.25  Transgenic technology: pro-poor or pro-rich?

by Rodomiro Ortiz and Melinda Smale

Astract
Transgenic crops were originally developed for temperate climates and industrialized agriculture. Nonetheless, genetic engineering has the potential to address some of the most challenging biotic and abiotic constraints faced by farmers in non-industrialized agriculture, which are not easily addressed through conventional plant breeding alone. These constraints include insect pests and viruses, as well as drought. A second advantage of genetic transformation is that it can add an economically valuable trait while maintaining other desirable characteristics of the host cultivar. For example, enhanced product quality or micronutrients can be added to a welladapted cultivar that already yields well under local conditions. This feature is particularly attractive for semi-commercial, small-holder farmers in non-industrialized agriculture, who are more likely to consume as well as sell their farm products. Farmers in developing economies face problems with access to the markets that can supply productivity-enhancing inputs and income from sales of farm products, and unless investments are to support the development of local market infrastructure, including the flow of information, transgenic seed will not be profitable. Profitability will indeed remain the most important factor that drives farmers to adopt and retain new technology anywhere in the world. Whether a technology that is profitable for farmers can be developed depends on factors such as research capacity, environmental and food safety regulations, intellectual property rights, and performance of agricultural input markets. The poor of the developing world should benefit from the deployment of desirable transgenic crops that follows scientifically-sound biosafety and food safety standards and appropriate intellectual property management and stewardship. Use of transgenic crops should be the result of social consensus.

Source: Chronica Horticulturae  47:9-12, 2007.
Contributed by Rodomiro Ortiz R.ORTIZ@CGIAR.ORG

For copy of entire article contact Rodomiro Ortiz

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1.26  The conservation of global crop genetic resources in the face of climate change

Summary statement from a Bellagio meeting held on 3-7 September 2007

Introduction
The release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) fourth report in 2007 confirms once again­with strong scientific consensus­that the global climate is changing, and that humans are both causing and will be damaged by this change. The ability of ecosystems to provide the most basic types of services to humans, such as food and water, will be affected by climate change throughout the world. A common assumption is that agricultural systems will shift in response to climate change over time to regions with suitable agro-climatic conditions, resulting in little net impact on global food supplies in the future. However, this assumption overlooks a critical set of conditions: that crops will shift only with extensive genetic manipulation through breeding, and that these breeding efforts will require the continued collection, evaluation, deployment and conservation of diverse crop genetic material. In September 2007, a group of experts from the genetic conservation, climate science, agricultural development, and plant genetics and breeding communities met at the Rockefeller Foundation Conference Center in Bellagio, Italy, to initiate a discussion about the management of global crop genetic resources in the face of climate change. Our underlying focus was on global food security­defined here as the ability of all people at all times to have access to sufficient diets for a healthy and productive life. Much of the discussion therefore centered on malnourished populations, the majority of whom depend to some extent on agriculture for their livelihoods. In particular, we directed our attention toward two key regions of food insecurity: a) South Asia, where the largest number of chronically hungry people live despite impressive technological gains in agriculture during the past 40 years and widespread use of irrigation in some areas; and b) the African continent, where the incidence of hunger is greatest and where rainfed systems account for over 90% of crop production.

The primary contribution of the meeting entailed the integration and advancement of two main bodies of work:

1. Projections of regional climate changes and their potential impacts on:
     a. Future distributions of crops and their wild relatives, and
     b. Agricultural productivity in developing countries
2. Comprehensive assessments of the needs and constraints on crop genetic collections, characterization, conservation, and breeding for future food security.

The interdisciplinary nature of the meeting revealed new insights for all participants and novel approaches for research and prioritization across the board­thus highlighting the importance of cross-disciplinary efforts in addressing the future impacts of climate change.

This document is divided into two sections: a) a brief summary of the material presented at the meeting on climate projections, potential climate impacts on existing agricultural systems, and seed collections and evaluation; and b) our collective views on priorities and actions needed to conserve crop genetic resources into the long-run future and to evaluate these resources for use in breeding.

The main target audience is the Global Crop Diversity Trust, whose mission is to ensure the conservation and availability of global crop diversity in perpetuity in gene banks throughout the world, including the Svalbard Global Seed Vault (Norway). Our hope is that many other audiences­including the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, national leaders, advanced research centers, and foundations and international agencies investing in agriculture and rural development­will also find the results of this meeting important and worth acting upon.

2nd part
The Breeding Challenge
With a focus on the collection of genetic material for traits and at the extreme ends of the diversity scale, we unveiled a major constraint on linking collections to breeding in the future. Crop breeders are typically rewarded for the creation of new and improved varieties that are used widely by farmers and accepted by consumers. Creating these varieties requires time, focus, and money. Breeders are evaluated on the number of varieties developed, released, and deployed over a given time period; the incremental gain reflected in these varieties; and their eventual economic success. They are not typically rewarded on a single variety over an unlimited breeding period unless the variety is exceptional and has lasting success. Based on this incentive structure, most breeders work with a generally limited segment of the core genetic collection available to them­the segment of genetic diversity that has sufficient variation and has performed well in the past. Breeders are generally reluctant to explore the genetic material in wild relatives, because the wild relatives contain too much random genetic information (having evolved in response to multiple forces in the wild) for efficient identification and isolation of traits. Yet the genetic material at the extreme ends of landrace diversity and within wild populations is likely to be essential for successful breeding in the face of global climate change. Moreover, this diversity­which is so important to future adaptation to climate change­may itself fall prey to climate change. For example, temperature tolerance in a wild relative may be lost because the wild relative may not be able to cope with a change in water availability, both a product of climate change. As a result of the mismatch between breeders’ incentives and the potential value of genetic material in wild relatives and the extreme ends of landrace diversity, we placed strategic priority on the initiation of programs for:

3. Pre-breeding as a public good. Pre-breeding would entail the evaluation of genetic material at the extreme, using available and conventional tools that remain powerful (e.g., cytogenetics). Such an effort would require substantial time and resources. Given that an increasing share of crop genetic material used for breeding is being privatized, it is essential that genetic resources be maintained in the public domain, i.e., under the terms of the International Treaty, for prebreeding efforts, and that the results be publicly available to the global community of breeders. Gene banks have an important role to play in prebreeding, particularly given breeders’ reluctance to explore crop wild relatives. The Education challenge Meeting the collection and breeding goals described above creates new educational challenges and opportunities for involving the international community in efforts to conserve and utilize crop diversity effectively for the benefit of humankind. Substantial scientific talent exists in advanced research institutes, including universities, which could be mobilized to augment the efforts at the CG Centers and the National Agricultural Agencies. It may appear that the majority of researchers in these advanced laboratories are more focused on their next set of publications than on contributing to improvements in the welfare of the poor. But they also may not be informed of what exactly is at stake or how to benefit from the enormous potential gains in this field. Our final strategic priority was thus:

4. Informing key players of the need for the conservation of crop genetic resources in the face of climate change. These groups include:
-  The Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources
-  The FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
-  National leaders
-  Advanced scientific research institutions, and
-  The international development and philanthropic communities

The four priority actions outlined above­creating trait-based collection strategies, collecting material at the extreme ends of genetic diversity, establishing pre-breeding as a public good, and educating key players about the importance of conserving genetic resources in the face of climate change­require immediate attention by the international policy and science communities.

If the policy and science communities are not brought together on this issue, the ability of agricultural systems to adapt to climate change will be limited. Sadly, the first and greatest losers in such an outcome are likely to be the world’s poorest populations.

http://iis-db.stanford.edu/pubs/22065/Bellagio_final1.pdf

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1.27  The experts agree on an equivalent of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for biodiversity

Montpellier, France
When will there be an intergovernmental panel on biodiversity along the lines of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)? The specialists are hoping such a structure can be set up by the end of 2008. In November, almost 80 of them met in Montpellier and agreed on the remit for such a panel: to provide both independent and credible expertise, build regional and local scientific capacity, make knowledge more accessible and improve the interface between science and policy. These conclusions are the fruit of two and a half years of international and regional deliberations, organized on all five continents by the Steering Committee for an IMoSEB (International Mechanism of Scientific Expertise on Biodiversity)*. The specialists are planning to organize an intergovernmental conference in 2008, in conjunction with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which should serve to determine how the structure could be set up.

So that nobody can say in future "we didn't know"
In particular, the conference should take account of the results and consequences of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) conducted between 2001 and 2005 to estimate the impact of human activity on the environment and, conversely, the way in which such changes affect future prospects for terms of human health and wellbeing. The biodiversity experts and those involved in the MEA have a similar view of the current issues surrounding biodiversity. It is not enough to draw up a list of threatened or extinct species. Biodiversity needs to be seen as a whole, in terms of management but also of environmental services rendered, for instance from the point of view of adaptation to climate change. The disappearance of some species can have dramatic consequences for animal - and subsequently for human - health. For instance, entire regions, such as certain valleys in Nepal, no longer have any pollinators. Another example is the appearance in certain geographical zones of living organisms - seafood toxins, animal viruses, fruit tree parasites - that disrupt the ecosystem and can have serious economic and sanitary consequences.

One idea is to set up a panel of experts drawn from the range of existing networks. International bodies and NGOs need to be involved in the process. All the multilateral agreements are also concerned: the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), the World Heritage Convention, the Ramsar Convention on wetlands, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), that on Migratory Species (CMS), and regional agreements, not forgetting the conventions on climate change and desertification. Everyone needs to realize the merits of setting up a heavyweight federative structure to ensure that nobody - politicians, scientists, economic players or public opinion - can say in future "we didn't know".

The French government is backing the initiative
The ball is now in the politicians' court. The French government has confirmed its support for the initiative. Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, the Secretary of State for Ecology, who was at the Montpellier meeting, stressed the importance of the initiative with regard to the recent "Grenelle de l’Environnement" talks in France. The Minister for Higher Education and Research, Valérie Pécresse, who met Didier Babin, a CIRAD researcher and executive secretary of the process towards an IMoSEB the day after the event, is now due to submit the idea to her peers.

* The executive secretariat of IMoSEB has been entrusted to the Institut français de la biodiversité (IFB), of which CIRAD is a member.

Source: CIRAD via SeedQuest.com
30 November 2007

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1.28  We are not hardwired to react to the crop diversity crisis

Rome, Italy
Admit it. Together with a cup of coffee, the daily headlines – murders, wars, scandals and the like – pump us up. We are addicted to the drama of it all.

We're not alone. Animal communication, as Prof. Ray Jackendoff of the Center for Cognitive Sciences at Tufts University observes, focuses on the immediate and pressing as well: food, danger, threat, reconciliation.

Chimpanzees, born in captivity, react with terror upon first seeing a snake. No teaching, no learning required. Like other animals, we as a species are hard-wired to respond to imminent threat. Literally hard-wired, according to psychologist Stephen Pinker of Harvard University. We are programmed to react and react quickly to a punch being thrown in our direction, as well as to something that jumps out of the dark and startles us. We have reflexes, physical, mental and social.

We are not hard-wired, it seems, to respond so quickly or appropriately to threats that are around the corner, regardless of their size, certainty or deadliness. Armies can be mobilized over night to counter threats, real or perceived. Climate change, on the other hand, engenders debate and careful consideration as if the biggest danger it poses lies in quick and decisive action. Mobilization takes time.

Politicians dealing with crop diversity are similarly inclined to deal with immediate and flashy issues while underestimating the importance of even larger chronic problems. Focused on financial and legal matters, delegates to a recent meeting of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources scarcely uttered the phrase "climate change". Lost in earnest discussions of "benefit sharing" was the fact that some 50% of crop diversity collections held in developing countries are in urgent need of rescue and regeneration after years of slow deterioration. The problem was first noted in 1996.

A crop diversity crisis?
Most unique samples could rot and die without an emergency or crisis being proclaimed. We don't immediately feel pain by not conserving crop diversity.

Agricultural crises will occur (that's a certainty), but we will probably never have a "crop diversity crisis", because of the lag time between cause and effect. Today's oversights in caring for this resource provoke tomorrow's emergencies, but at most we are hard-wired only to deal with the latter.

What would constitute a crisis or an emergency for crop diversity? Obvious answer: A big, valuable, unique collection could be wiped out.

But wait; isn't this exactly what is happening? Consider the 50% regeneration figure cited above, based on data supplied by the countries themselves. We are losing diversity. The loss is just not happening quickly enough to be defined, like a punch being thrown at our face, as an imminent threat. That's the good news, I suppose. It's also the bad news.

Hard choices are only made when no other options remain.

For the moment, too many of us are still exploring the option of "business as usual". In international arenas, this manifests itself as old "us versus them" politics as countries jockey for position. They curse and cajole rather than collaborate.

We will have reached a different plane in the decades-old debate over plant genetic resources when our bio-politicians recognize the threat around the corner and start to enunciate and support strategies for dealing with it - when they realize that positioning agricultural systems to provide food security in a climate changed world is the supreme benefit to be generated from crop diversity.

In the plant genetic resources world, neither donor nor recipient is hard-wired to respond to unarticulated threats with unarticulated remedies. But in the absence of such a shared vision, political and financial support is inadequate. Should we be surprised?

Clear and present danger
This does not mean that threats and dangers are not out there, or that plans don't exist for dealing with them. By 2050, the world's population will increase by 37% to 9.2 billion, resulting in a commensurate need for more food. Rising incomes are likely to generate even greater demand. Currently yields of crops that the poor depend upon, such as roots and tubers (cassava, yam, sweet potato, taro) are on track to provide just a 29% increase by 2050, meaning that an already bleak situation will get worse. More frightening, that 29% does not factor in a changing climate and the multitude of additional challenges that will pose to agriculture.

Producing more food will be especially challenging in developing countries, given the additional and negative impact climate change will have. Either we can cut the forests and bring more land into agricultural production - but at what cost? Or, we can try to increase crop yields on existing land. This cannot and will not be done without use of crop diversity.

So here's the threat: 800 million malnourished today, and a very uncertain ability to feed those people, plus many more tomorrow, in an environmentally sustainable manner.

What do we need to do with our collections of crop diversity to prepare for this?
-Identify and secure existing diversity in facilities capable of conserving and distributing it, quickly;
-Safety duplicate it in another genebank plus the Svalbard Global Seed Vault;
-Screen it for traits plant breeders and farmers need now and are about to need, and develop information systems to help users identify and deploy these resources;
-Guarantee funds to maintain a global system in which unique diversity is secured, and encourage countries to provide additional and adequate support to meet their specific national needs regarding conservation and use.

In short, make absolutely sure crop diversity is as safe, as financially secure, and as readily available for use as it can be. Accomplish this and humanity will benefit immeasurably. In the long run, this is the contribution the Trust hopes to make to implementation of the International Treaty, and to humanity.

Pinker and others think humans are hardwired not just to focus on present dangers but to cooperate. Who knows? If he is right, we should soon see some evidence in the field of crop diversity. Climate change and population growth are poised to throw a combination of punches that would impress even Mohammed Ali. But to escape those punches, we have to move now.

Source: Global Crop Diversity Trust via SeedQuest.com
30 November 2007

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1.29  'Cooling down' begins at Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Innovative, energy-efficient refrigeration system employs vault's natural sandstone as 'cold store' to keep facility at steady -18 C

LONGYEARBYEN, NORWAY (16 NOVEMBER 2007)­Refrigeration units began pumping chilly air deep into an Arctic mountain cavern today, launching the innovative and critical “cooling down” phase of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in advance of its official opening early next year as a fail-safe repository of the world’s vital food crops. Svalbard is now three days into the three-month “Polar Night” period when there is 24 hours of complete darkness.

Engineers working for the government of Norway, which is building the facility on the Svalbard archipelago, launched the cooling operation that, over the next two months, will bring the temperature of the sandstone rock surrounding the seed vault from its current -5 degrees Celsius (23 degrees Fahrenheit), to -18 degrees Celsius (about 0 degrees Fahrenheit). The vault is to be officially opened 26 February 2007.

“It’s very satisfying to see the vault evolve from a bold concept to an impressive facility that has everything we need to protect crop biodiversity,” said Mr. Terje Riis-Johansen, Norway’s Minister of Agriculture and Food.

“The seed vault is the perfect place for keeping seeds safe for centuries,” said Cary Fowler, Executive Director of the Rome-based Global Crop Diversity Trust, which has partnered with Norway and the Nordic Gene Bank on the establishment of the vault. “At these temperatures, seeds for important crops like wheat, barley and peas can last for up to 1000 years.”

With its capacity to hold up to 4.5 million seed samples, the vault will eventually house virtually every variety of almost every important food crop in the world. The vast collection is intended as a hedge against disaster so that food production can be restarted anywhere on the planet should it be threatened by a regional or global catastrophe. Thus, it is critical that the vault have the technical capability to keep seeds cool and viable for a long period of time.

“We ran a lot of computer simulations to determine the optimum approach and believe we have found a very effective and especially energy efficient way to establish reliably cool conditions inside the vault,” said project manager Magnus Bredeli Tveiten with Statsbygg, the Norwegian government’s Directorate of Public Construction. “We believe the design of the facility will ensure that the seeds will stay well-preserved even if such forces as global warming raise temperatures outside the facility.”

Engineers are essentially using rock as a “cold store,” he said, an approach that has become popular on the Norwegian mainland as a way to establish energy efficient refrigeration systems. To do this, workers recently brought in a temporary 30 kilowatt refrigeration system from the mainland. They are using it to establish an -18 degree temperature approximately 10 meters deep into the sandstone surrounding the vault. The vault sits at the end of a 120 meter tunnel blasted in a mountain near the town of Longyearbyen on the island of Spitsbergen.

Tveiten said past experience has shown that the rock should stay sufficiently cold over a long period of time to allow a -18 C temperature in the vault to be maintained by a smaller, permanent 10 kilowatt system. He said the long-term cooling process also is aided by the natural permafrost in the area and the snow and ice that covers the mountain for much of the year­all of which ensure that the rock stays at least at -4 C.

As engineers move quickly to complete the mechanics of the operation, Tveiten said Norwegian officials also are advancing rapidly to ensure that the vault’s aesthetic features are as impressive as its technical qualities.

Norway requires setting aside at least one percent of public building budgets for artwork. To comply with this mandate, Statsbygg recently approved the design of a large, sparkling metallic sculpture by the Norwegian artist Dyveke Sanne that will be incorporated into the mountain-side entrance portal of the vault, making it visible from miles around.

The installation utilizes multiple pieces of highly polished sheet metal installed along the roof and front of the portal to serve as reflectors. They are placed so they will sparkle in the Arctic “midnight sun” of the summer months, and will make use of fibre-optics for lighting during the long Arctic winters.

“We really want this facility to inspire, to stand out as a highly visible monument to the often obscure but very important mission of conserving humanity’s agriculture heritage,” said Mr. Terje Riis-Johansen
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Svalbard Global Seed Vault (www.seedvault.no)
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is designed to store duplicates of seeds from seed collections from around the globe. If seeds are lost, e.g. as a result of natural disasters, war or simply a lack of resources, the seed collections may be reestablished using seeds from Svalbard. The seed vault is owned by the Norwegian government which has also financed the construction work, costing nearly NOK 50 million.
The Global Crop Diversity Trust (www.croptrust.org)
The mission of the Trust is to ensure the conservation and availability of crop diversity for food security worldwide. Although crop diversity is fundamental to fighting hunger and to the very future of agriculture, funding is unreliable and diversity is being lost. The Trust is the only organization working worldwide to solve this problem.

Contact: Jeff Haskins
jhaskins@burnesscommunications.com
The Global Crop Diversity Trust

Source: EurekAlert.com
15 November 2007

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1.30  Tunisia opens bank of genetic resources

Tunisia's president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, inaugurated a national gene bank this month (11 November) to promote the development of sustainable agriculture in the country.

Located in Tunis, the National Gene Bank aims to preserve biological diversity and protect genetic resources, boost scientific research in agricultural biotechnology and promote sustainable genetic diversity for research into plant breeding and crop improvement.

It will hold 200,000 samples of genetic resources, such as seeds, semen, tissue and pollen. It will collect, identify, characterise, manage and conserve plant, animal and microorganism genetic resources, particularly for endangered species.

According to Mnaouer Djemali, general director of the National Gene Bank, the bank is designed to improve coordination among operators –– researchers, farmers and nongovernmental organisations –– in genetic resources.

The bank will cooperate with international gene banks and research centres and contribute to the biotechnological development of agriculture in Africa and Arab countries, Djemali told SciDev.Net.

A database of the country's plant genetic resources will be established and information will be disseminated to researchers through workshops and training programmes.

The bank will also raise public awareness of the importance of conserving genetic diversity through field-research activities with farmers.

Ahmed Rebai, researcher at the Tunisian Centre of Biotechnology of Sfax, told SciDev.Net that many Tunisian genetic 'treasures' are stored in international collections in Europe and the United States. Now we can welcome these dispersed genetic resources back home, he said.

Amr Farouk Abdelkhalik, regional coordinator of the Agricultural Biotechnology Network in Africa, says "The main target of such an important gene bank should be to characterise those genetic resources as a gene pool for different traits, such as [resistance to] salinity and drought. There is still a long way to [go before we can] utilise the important and natural genes expressed in those resources."

Magdi Tawfik Abdelhamid, a plant biotechnologist at Cairo's National Research Centre, told SciDev.Net that expanding the National Gene Bank's activity to encompass the whole North African region would avoid duplication of efforts and save on resources, as well as enlarging the target market for commercial production of improved plant material.

Wagdy Sawahel

Source: SciDev.net
30 November 2007

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1.31  Global Crop Diversity Trust to ensure the long-term availability of funds for ICRISAT's genebank

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has entered into an agreement with the Global Crop Diversity Trust (GCDT), to ensure the long-term availability of funds for the conservation, characterization and distribution of germplasm (seeds) in the ICRISAT's Genebank for the benefit of agriculture and food security for mankind.

Dr William Dar, Director General of ICRISAT, and Prof Cary Fowler, Executive Director of the GCDT, signed the agreement, recently during the Annual General Meeting of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) at Beijing, China.

Under the agreement, the Trust will commit US$ 8 million and ICRISAT US$ 2 million, totaling an endowment of US$ 10 million. The proceeds from the endowment will be used for genetic resources conservation and management activities at ICRISAT. As per the agreement, the endowment's support for the sorghum germplasm collection will begin in 2007, pearl millet from 2008 and chickpea in 2009, to be followed by other ICRISAT mandate crops. The aim is to raise at least US$ 450,000 per year as return from the endowment to meet critical operational needs such as regeneration, characterization, conservation and viability testing for the crop collections held in trust at ICRISAT.

According to Dr William Dar, the long-term partnership with the GCDT, an international fund established to ensure conservation and availability of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, will ensure that there is steady financial support to ICRISAT's Genebank.

ICRISAT holds more than 118,000 accessions of germplasm for pearl millet, sorghum, chickpea, groundnut, pigeonpea and 6 small millets in its Genebank, Dr Dar added. "This global treasure holds the genetic material to overcome some of the future breeding bottlenecks and can help breeders develop varieties that can overcome drought, pest and disease infestations."

According to Dr CLL Gowda, ICRISAT's Global Theme Leader for Crop Improvement, the genetic resources at ICRISAT are to be preserved for eternity. This is a big responsibility that the Center is shouldering, to ensure that the genetic resources are conserved safely and will be available for the future generations.

"This requires continuous funding support to ensure that the material is regenerated, safely conserved and supplied to researchers globally. And this is where GCDT's support has great significance for us," Dr Gowda added.

Through the agreement ICRISAT and GCDT will conserve and make available the ICRISAT-held collections through:
* Long-term storage, management and curation of germplasm;
* Safe duplication of the collection;
* Characterization and evaluation of germplasm;
* Documentation of the germplasm and provision of data in publicly-available documentation systems;
* Distribution of the germplasm in accordance with the International Treaty;
* Providing training and capacity building;
* Partnering with other genebanks and networks; and
* Providing conservation services to others.

With the committed continuous support from GCDT, ICRISAT's germplasm collection holds the future for dryland agriculture in the developing countries.

Other news from the Global Crop Diversity Trust

Source: SeedQuest.com
12 December 2007

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1.32  Enhancing crop gene pools with beneficial traits using wild relatives

Sangam L. Dwivedi, Hari D. Upadhyaya, H. Thomas Stalker, Matthew W. Blair, David J. Bertioli, Stephan Nielen , Rodomiro Ortiz

Upcoming chapter in: Plant Breeding Reviews, Volume 30, Edited by Jules Janick
ISBN 978040171533 _ 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

I. Introduction
II. Genetic Resources from Wild Relatives
III. Barriers and Approaches to Interspecific Gene Transfer
     A. Prefertilization Barriers to Hybridization
     B. Postfertilization Barriers to Hybridization
IV. Beneficial Traits from Wild Relatives Contributing to Crop Gene Pools
     A. Resistance to Biotic Stresses
     B. Tolerance to Abiotic Stresses
     C. Cytoplasmic Male Sterility
     D. Yield, Nutritional Quality, and Adaptation Traits”
V. Biotechnological Approaches to Enhance Utilization of Wild Relatives in Crop Improvement
     A. Chromosome-Mediated Alien Gene Transfer
     B. Using Cloned Genes from Wild Relatives to Produce Transgenics
     C. Developing Transgenics with Large-Scale Transfer of Exogenous DNA from Distant Relatives
     D. Marker-Aided Introgression
     E. Resynthesizing the Crop Progenitors to Capture Variability Lost During Crop Evolution and Domestication
     F. Developing Exotic Genetic Libraries
VI. Outcomes of Wild Relatives Use in Genetic Enhancement of Crops
VII. Future Outlook
I. Introduction

Contributed by Rodomiro Ortiz
R.ORTIZ@CGIAR.ORG

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1.33  Potato species reexamined: revamping relationships among cultivated potatoes

Washington, DC
Scientists at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the International Potato Center (CIP) have used morphology­the outward appearance of a plant- -in combination with molecular markers to revise the number of potato species from seven to four.

Until recently, potato species designations have been based primarily on morphological characteristics and estimates­often incorrect­of how many chromosome sets they possessed.

Botanist David Spooner works in the ARS Vegetable Crops Research Unit, Madison, Wis. His initial research with CIP colleagues in Peru indicated that morphological variations among cultivated potatoes were not reliable indicators of species.

They then examined DNA molecular markers from 742 cultivated potato varieties and eight wild relatives of potatoes. Based on results from this study and previous studies, Spooner and CIP lead scientist Marc Ghislain concluded that cultivated potato varieties could most accurately be assigned to one of four species.

They refined the species designations by checking each potato variety for the presence of one particular DNA mutation. This characteristic mutation distinguishes between potatoes from the Chilean lowlands and potatoes from the high Andes.

Solanum tuberosum­the type of domesticated potato eaten around the world­is one of the four recognized species. This is by far the most common potato species and has from two to four sets of chromosomes.

The less common potato species­S. ajanhuiri, S. juzepczukii and S. curtilobum­have two, three and five sets of chromosomes, respectively. These can often be distinguished from each other by morphological data.

This new system of species classification eliminates much of the guesswork that previously served as the foundation for the potato classification system. Potato breeders will benefit greatly from a classification system that groups related collections by combining traditional morphological with modern molecular methods.

A paper reporting the results of this study was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

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

By Ann Perry
ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA

Source: SeedQuest.com
November 20, 2007

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1.34  Tree of life for flowering plants reveals relationships among major groups

Major diversification occured over less than 5 million years

AUSTIN, Texas­The evolutionary Tree of Life for flowering plants has been revealed using the largest collection of genomic data of these plants to date, report scientists from The University of Texas at Austin and University of Florida.

The scientists, publishing two papers in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week online, found that the two largest groups of flowering plants, monocots (grasses and their relatives) and eudicots (including sunflowers and tomatoes), are more closely related to each other than to any of the other major lineages.

The analyses also confirmed that a unique species of plant called Amborella, found only on the Pacific island of New Caledonia, represents the earliest diverging lineage of flowering plants.

Robert Jansen, professor of integrative biology at The University of Texas at Austin, said the work sets the stage for all future comparative studies of flowering plants.

“If you are interested in understanding the evolution of flowering plants, you can’t do that unless you understand their relationships,” said Jansen.

The University of Florida team, led by Doug and Pam Soltis, also showed that the major diversification of flowering plants, so stunning that the researchers are calling it the “Big Bang,” took place in the comparatively short period of less than five million years. This resulted in all five major lineages of flowering plants present today.

“Flowering plants today comprise around 400,000 species,” said Pam Soltis, curator at the university’s Florida Museum of Natural History. “To think that the burst that gave rise to almost all of these plants occurred in less than five million years is pretty amazing­especially when you consider that flowering plants as a group have been around for at least 130 million years.”

The details of the flowering plants’ rapid diversification have remained a mystery since Charles Darwin first suggested their evolutionary history is an “abominable mystery.”

“One of the reasons why it has been hard to understand evolutionary relationships among the major groups of flowering plants is because they diversified over such a short time frame,” said Jansen.

But by analyzing DNA sequences from completely sequenced chloroplast genomes, the scientists brought some clarity to the evolutionary picture.

Jansen and his colleagues at The University of Texas at Austin analyzed DNA sequences of 81 genes from the chloroplast genome of 64 species of plants, while the Florida researchers analyzed 61 genes from 45 species. The two groups also performed a combined analysis, which produced evolutionary trees that included all of the major groups of flowering plants.

As for the diversification’s cause, it remains mysterious, Pam and Doug Soltis said.

It’s possible it was spurred by some major climatic event. It’s also possible that a new evolutionary trait –a more efficient water-conducting cell that transfers water up plant stems­proved so effective that it spurred massive plant growth. This cell type is not present in the first three flowering plant lineages, said Doug Soltis, professor of botany at Florida.
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Michael Moore, a former postdoctoral associate in the Soltis lab and now a faculty member at Oberlin College, is lead author of the University of Florida study.

The scientists’ work is funded by two grants from the Tree of Life program at the National Science Foundation.

Contact: Robert Jansen
jansen@mail.utexas.edu
University of Texas at Austin

Source: EurekAlert.com
26 November 2007

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1.35  Sources of resistance to ‘groundnut stem necrosis disease’ identified in wild relatives

Stem necrosis disease of groundnut (=peanut; Arachis hypogaea L.), caused by Tobacco streak virus (TSV; genus Ilarvirus), has emerged as a potential threat to groundnut in southern states of India. The virus infection results in severe necrosis of shoots leading to death of the plant, and plants that survive are malformed, with severe reduction in pod yield. All the currently grown groundnut cultivars in India are highly susceptible to the virus. This situation necessitated a search for sources of durable resistance in wild Arachis germplasm. The gene bank at ICRISAT, Patancheru, India, holds 452 accessions of 42 wild Arachis species representing eight sections. Fifty six of these accessions from 20 wild Arachis spp. in four sections (Arachis, Erectoides, Procumbente, and Rhizomatosae) were evaluated for TSV resistance under greenhouse conditions using mechanical sap inoculations. Systemic infection was not detected in eight accessions in repeated trials in the greenhouse. These are, ICG # 8139, 8195, 8200, 8203, 8205, and 11550 belonging to A. duranensis; ICG # 8144 belonging to A. villosa; and ICG  # 13210 belonging to A. stenosperma. The eight TSV resistant accessions are in Section Arachis, have an ‘A-genome’ in common with the cultivated groundnut, and are cross compatible with A. hypogaea. The TSV resistant accessions, ICG 8139 and ICG 11550 also possess high levels of resistance to rust (Puccinia arachidis) and late leaf spot (Phaeoisariopsis personata) and ICG 8144 to Groundnut bud necrosis virus. Thus, these accessions possess resistance to multiple pathogens and might be used to develop multiple disease resistant groundnut varieties through inter-specific breeding programs.

For details, read complete paper published in the Plant Disease (Volume 91; Pages 1585-1590) available at: http://apsjournals.apsnet.org/doi/abs/10.1094/PDIS-91-12-1585

Contributed by P. Lava Kumar
(L.kumar@cgiar.org)

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1.36  Report says gene flow from GM crops not likely to harm environment

Davis, California
Implications of Gene Flow in the Scale-up and Commercial Use of Biotechnology-derived Crops: Economic and Policy Considerations
This Issue Paper identifies the nature of gene flow and how it relates to adventitious presence, describes the biological traits being imparted into biotech crops, summarizes present risk assessment and regulatory mechanisms, and discusses potential economic effects and policy and research ramifications of gene flow of commercial biotech crops.
Chair: David Gealy, USDA--Agricultural Research Service, Stuttgart, Arkansas.
IP 37, December 2007, 24 pp.
http://www.cast-science.org/displayProductDetails.asp?idProduct=149

Gene flow from genetically modified crop plants to their wild relatives will have little overall impact on human health or the environment, predicts a team of researchers in a report released today by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology.

Gene flow -- the movement of genes from one plant population to another -- has always occurred naturally but has drawn particular attention during the past 10 years, as genetically modified crop plants have moved into commercial production.

"Regulatory requirements and market standards that are specific to crops developed using biotechnology have resulted in much closer monitoring of gene flow than has been done in the past," said plant scientist Kent Bradford, a co-author of the report and director of UC Davis' Seed Biotechnology Center.

"After analyzing a wide range of crop-trait-location combinations, it was determined that relatively few of these combinations present the potential for gene flow to adversely affect the environment or human health," Bradford said. "Gene flow within a given crop can result in economic impacts for specific markets but these can be managed through proven strategies that make it possible for genetically modified crops and nonbiotech crops to co-exist."

In this report, the contributing scientists describe the biological traits that are being imparted to both biotech crops and nonbiotech crops, and the ramifications each has for gene flow. They discuss the potential for the inadvertent mixing of seeds or other genetic material from a given plant with a shipment of other seed or grain, and examine isolation and segregation methods for preventing such unwanted gene flow.

The report summarizes existing regulatory and risk-assessment mechanisms for biotech crops and discusses the potential economic implications of biotech crops in the marketplace. It also explores future policy and research issues.

The full text of the paper is available online at http://www.cast-science.org

The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology is an international consortium of 38 scientific and professional societies that assembles and interprets science-based information and disseminates it to the public.

Source: SeedQuest.com
12 December 2007

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1.37  Food safety: Ensuring safe, healthy, nutritious food

Better health and livelihoods for the poor

Reducing the impairment of health and commerce from mycotoxins depends nearly as much upon policy as upon research. The levels of such toxins in food are regulated through international markets and are considered non-tariff trade barriers. In developing countries, foods that meet standards for safety are often exported, leaving poorer quality foods for the local populace. In this regard, through its research publications and other communications, CIMMYT is working to foster policies that protect the health and economic interests of the disadvantaged, as well as the effective implementation of policies already in place.

Mycotoxins most seriously affect the poor in developing countries, who often lack the resources to treat crops or store harvested grain in ways that avoid fungal infections, and are generally not protected by grain quality monitoring or enforcement. A recent assessment concluded that 4.5 billion people in the developing world are chronically exposed to uncontrolled amounts of aflatoxin, a type of mycotoxin that occurs in maize, peanuts, sorghum, and some roots and tubers. A single incident of acute aflatoxicosis killed more than 125 Kenyans who ate infected maize in 2004. The costs to developing countries of mycotoxins in food grains are estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars each year and include poor health and lost productivity in inhabitants, the failure of farm products to enter world markets, the destruction of infected grain, and the expense of preventing fungal infections in food.

Wheat research with a global reach
With special grants from the government of Japan and other investors, CIMMYT launched and leads a global research network to prevent infections in wheat by the fungus Fusarium spp., causing a disease known as scab that ruins crops and produces powerful toxins. The network has helped share knowledge across borders and developed improved wheats that resist scab. Partners are generating and disseminating new, rapid techniques to identify resistant plants in the field. They are also using DNA markers to develop wheats that resist infection or penetration by the fungus, impede its spread within plant tissues, and can degrade associated toxins.

Closing microbe ports to tropical maize
With its large, relatively soft kernels, tropical maize is often colonized by Aspergillus species, the fungi that produce aflatoxins. Damage to grain and other plant tissues from field and storage pests opens easy avenues for fungal infections. To close off such unwanted entry, CIMMYT breeders have sought combined pest and disease resistance and good husk cover in improved maize. Early in breeding they also eliminate lines that are susceptible to Aspergillus, applying a simple, cost-effective, mass screening technique that partners in developing countries have also adopted. It employs black light to observe fluorescence from kojic acid, a fungal by-product, in infected grain. Lines that glow, go.

Fungi play an essential role in all ecosystems, decomposing organic matter. They are often used to prepare common foods and drinks, like bread or beer. But when some fungi grow in food grains like maize or wheat, they can produce harmful substances known as mycotoxins. Mycotoxins can cause cancer, liver disorders, or neural tube defect in fetuses, and generally weaken the human immune system. According to FAO, a quarter of the world’s food crop output is affected by such toxins each year. They can enter the human food chain when people eat infected grain or consume meat from livestock raised on infected feeds. Mycotoxins do not easily decompose, are not readily broken down in digestion, and even resist cooking or freezing.

For more information: Rodomiro Ortiz, Director, Resource Mobilization, CIMMYT
(r.ortiz@cgiar.org)

Contributed by Rodomiro Ortiz
R.ORTIZ@CGIAR.ORG

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1.38  Overview on crop genetic engineering for drought-prone environments

Journal of SAT Agricultural Research, Vol. 4, Issue 1, 30 pp.
http://www.icrisat.org/journal/SpecialProject/sp3.pdf

Rodomiro Ortiz, Masa Iwanaga, Matthew P.Reynolds, Huixia Wu and Jonathan H Crouch
International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) El Batan, Texcoco, CP 56130, Mexico

Population growth and climate change present crop researchers and plant breeders with one of the great grand challenges of the 21st century - to productively grow nutritious crops in water-scarce environments (Pimentel et al. 2004). Agriculture currently uses 75% of the total global consumption of water (Molden 2007). Some of the crop technologies that were able to feed the growing world in the 20th century were highly dependent on inputs including water resources, whose use in agriculture almost treble from the beginning of the 1940s to the end of the century. About a third of the current global population lives in water-stressed locations and this may increase to two thirds within the next 25 years. Consumptive water use (or transpired water) by all food and fodder crops will, therefore, need to increase from its present estimated level (7,000-12,586 km3 year) to be capable of feeding adequately the 9.3 billion population of 2050 (Falkenmark and Rockström 2004). Water use efficiency varies substantially between crops, for example, to produce 1 kg of grain on average requires 900 liters for wheat (Triticum spp.), 1400 liters for maize (Zea mays) and 1900 liters for rice (Oriza sativa) (Pimentel 1997). In addition, there are great prospects for increasing the water use efficiency of specific genotypes within each crop.

Water use-efficiency and water productivity are being sought by agricultural researchers worldwide to address the global challenge that especially afflicts the resource poor, in drought-prone environments across the developing world. Under water-scarcity, grain yields of cereals such as wheat are a function of the amount of water used by the crop, how efficiently the crop uses this water for biomass-growth (i.e., water-use efficiency or above-ground biomass/water use), and the harvest index; i.e., the proportion of grain yield to above ground biomass (Passioura 1977). Water use efficiency (WUE) is the ratio of total dry matter accumulation to evapo-transpiration and other water losses; i.e., water entering and lost from the system that is not transpired through the plant. An increase in transpiration efficiency or a reduction in soil evaporation will increase WUE. More recently, water productivity (WP) has been defined at the crop level as the ratio of biomass with economic value (for example grain yield of cereals) compared to the amount of water transpired (WPT) (Bouman 2007). This WP has been labeled as “productive” because transpiration is the only water flow in a field actually passing through the crop. Both WUE and WP may be improved through plant breeding, as can biomass accumulation and harvest index (Parry et al. 2005).

Sub-Saharan Africa, in particular, possesses the smallest ratio of irrigated to rainfed agriculture, followed by Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa, whereas Asia has the highest proportion of irrigated land. In rainfed areas, water availability is limited and unpredictable, and indications are that climate change is making this variability more extreme. Climate change will further exacerbate the water crisis by causing a decline in water run-off in many regions. This will be especially severe in developing world environments where rainfall is highly variable and soils are degraded. North, Eastern and Southern Africa as well as West, South and Far East Asia will be among the most water-vulnerable regions of the world in 2025 (Rijsberman 2006 and references therein). In all these regions maize and wheat are among the main staple crops, which are grown mostly in rainfed environments by smallholder farmers. The demand for both cereal crops will also increase over the next 20 years with global demand for maize as feed increasing more rapidly than its food use whereas most of the world’s wheat grain harvests will continue to be used for human consumption (CIMMYT 2005). Hence, agricultural researchers are seeking new genetic enhancement and natural resource management options that will help to ensure maize and wheat productivity can continue supplying sufficient food to feed the increasing human population.

Contributed by Rodomiro Ortiz
R.ORTIZ@CGIAR.ORG

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1.39  Gaining insights into international spring wheat genetic enhancement through breeding-informatics

(Forthcoming CIMMYT article in this month issue of Genetics)
Association analysis of historical bread wheat germplasm using additive genetic covariance of relatives and population structure
Crossa, J., J. Burgueño,  S. Dreisigacker, M. Vargas, S. Herrera, M. Lillemo, R.P. Singh, R. Trethowan, J. Franco, M. Warburton, M. Reynolds, J.H. Crouch & R. Ortiz.  2007.  Association analysis of historical bread wheat germplasm using additive genetic covariance of relatives and population structure.  Genetics 177 (3), DOI 10.1534/genetics.107.078659 http://www.genetics.org/cgi/rapidpdf/genetics.107.078659v1
Copyright _ 2007 by the Genetics Society of America

ABSTRACT
Linkage disequilibrium can be used for identifying associations between traits of interest and genetic markers. This study used mapped diversity array technology (DArT) markers to find associations with resistance to stem rust, leaf rust, yellow rust, and powdery mildew, plus grain yield in five historical wheat international multienvironment trials from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). Two linear mixed models were used to assess marker–trait associations incorporating information on population structure and covariance between relatives. An integrated map containing 813 DArT markers and 831 other markers was constructed. Several linkage disequilibrium clusters bearing multiple host plant resistance genes were found. Most of the associated markers were found in genomic regions where previous reports had found genes or quantitative trait loci (QTL) influencing the same traits, providing an independent validation of this approach. In addition, many new chromosome regions for disease resistance and grain yield were identified in the wheat genome. Phenotyping across up to 60 environments and years allowed modeling of genotype 3 environment interaction, thereby making possible the identification of markers contributing to both additive and additive 3 additive interaction effects of traits.

Contributed by Rodomiro Ortiz
R.ORTIZ@CGIAR.ORG

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1.40  Specialty maize: global horticultural crop

by Rodomiro Ortiz, Margarita Fernandez, John Dixon, Jonathan Hellin and Masa Iwanaga

Abstract
The growth in high-value agriculture worldwide is partly driven by rising incomes, urbanization, and perhaps changing preferences. As income rises, the share of the food budget allocated to starchy staples declines relative to more expensive food items. High value agricultural products (HVAP) with a high price per kilogram, per hectare, or per calorie, include fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, milk, fish and non-timber forest products. Can commodities, such as maize, be considered as HVAP? Well, maize is truly a crop for all seasons and its wide diversity opens windows for producing multiple products. Most people value maize for its dry grain, which is a staple for millions of poor people. Furthermore, diverse maize types (e.g. floury maize) are ingredients of a wide range of traditional diets, and provide a means for new market opportunities elsewhere in the developing world (e.g. colored maize for corn chips, ear silks for tea, the husks for tamales leaves, or the fresh vines for silage). A wide range of vegetable maize products are also harvested before maturity – most importantly baby corn, sweet corn and green pick maize, of which the first two are traded internationally. In order for maize and other HVAP to contribute to poverty reduction, attention has to be directed at the improved functioning and performance of value chains, and especially on how to improve the governance and coordination of the value chains so that producers benefit more.

Source: Chronica Horticulturae, 47:20-25, 2007.
Contributed by Rodomiro Ortiz R.ORTIZ@CGIAR.ORG

For copy of entire article contact Rodomiro Ortiz

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1.41  Michigan State University research findings may help state's sugar beet growers reap a sweeter future

East Lansing, Michigan
The percentage of genetically modified crops grown in Michigan is on the rise, and sugar beets are no exception. Michigan growers will begin planting Roundup Ready sugar beets, which can be sprayed with a non-selective herbicide without injury, in 2008.

Christy Sprague, crop and soil sciences professor at Michigan State University (MSU), is researching growing sugar beets in narrow rows as a way to manage weeds and increase yield. Her findings will provide growers of Roundup Ready sugar beets with recommendations for timing of herbicide applications, effective weed control and maximum yield.

Weed control in sugar beets is critical, Sprague pointed out. In MSU trials, lack of weed control reduced sugar beet yields by 30 to 100 percent.

“The use of herbicide in combination with the Roundup Ready crops will provide good control over weeds,” Sprague said. “We want to come up with effective weed management options that all sugar beet growers can use.”

Sprague’s research goal is to reduce the number of weeds that grow in sugar beet fields by growing the beets in narrower rows, which will make them more competitive with weeds. The narrower rows will allow the leaves of sugar beets to be closer together, preventing sunlight from reaching the ground and reducing weed germination, Sprague explained.

Along with better weed management, Sprague’s research aims at increasing yield by growing more sugar beets per acre while maintaining crop quality. She will also study the effects on sugar beet yield and quality from planting at various rates.

“We want to see if adding a few more plants can maximize yield in the field,” Sprague said. “We also want to make sure that we would be producing more sugar in the beets. Even if the beets are heavy, their sugar content may still be low.”

Currently, most Michigan growers plant their sugar beets in 30-inch rows to allow space for cultivation between the rows throughout the season. Roundup Ready sugar beets will need less cultivation, so narrower row spacings may be possible. Sprague is studying the differences between row widths of 30, 20 and 15 inches.

Growers will be able to learn more about Sprague’s research findings and how they can implement the resulting recommendations in the 2008 crop at Extension grower meetings this winter. Sprague also plans to incorporate the information into future MSU weed control guides.

In 2005, Michigan growers produced nearly $111.2 million worth of sugar beets on 154,000 acres. Michigan is one of the top sugar beet producing states in the United States, which is the third largest sugar beet producing nation in the world, behind Russia and France.

Weed control research studies in sugar beets began in 2002 with Project GREEEN-funded research that reduced the number of applications of herbicides by measuring the growing degree-days to the timing of the applications. The research improved weed control by using fewer applications, but the results were not consistent from year to year.

“We decided the next step was to use the new technology available and explore new options to help reduce weeds,” Sprague said.

Founded in 1997, Project GREEEN (Generating Research and Extension to meet Economic and Environmental Needs) is the state’s plant agriculture initiative at Michigan State University. It is a cooperative effort between plant-based commodities and businesses together with the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station, MSU Extension and the Michigan Department of Agriculture to advance Michigan’s economy through its plant-based agriculture. Its mission is to develop research and educational programs in response to industry needs, ensure and improve food safety, and protect and preserve the quality of the environment.

To learn more about Michigan’s plant agriculture initiative at MSU, visit www.greeen.msu.edu.

Source: SeedQuest.com
14 November 2007

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1.42  Genes identified to protect brassicas from Turnip mosaic virus

United Kingdom
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."

Dr Walsh's team has recently been awarded more funding by BBSRC under its Crop Science Initiative to take this research further.

Genetic control of broad-spectrum resistance to Turnip mosaic virus (TuMV) in Brassica rapa (Chinese cabbage)
Rusholme, R.L., Higgins, E.E., Walsh, J.A. & Lydiate, D.J.
Journal of General Virology 88, 3177-3186 (November, 2007)

The research was funded by BBSRC, the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the European Union and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

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

Source: SeedQuest.com
1 November 2007

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1.43  Breeding better canolas

Australia
A number of factors, including the recently developed market for canola hay, canola prices and the release of ‘Dune’, Australia’s first canola quality Brassica juncea, make canola, or ‘juncea canola’, a viable option for Western Australia (WA) growers, even in low rainfall areas.

WA production this season is estimated to be 365,000 tonnes, according to the Australian Oilseeds Federation.

At current canola prices of more than $500 a tonne and canola hay at $250 a tonne, the return, even on small crops, should cover production costs and generate worthwhile returns.

Dr Steve Marcroft, coordinator of the Better Oilseeds project, resourced by GRDC and the Australian Oilseeds Federation, said development of the canola hay market was increasing farmer confidence in the crop, with useful profits possible from hay where crops had struggled to fill grain.

Historically, canola has a mixed history in WA, with many growers unwilling to risk the outlay required to put in a crop and gamble on the prospect of timely rain.

This is despite the benefits of canola for diversifying risk and as a good break crop against weeds and disease.

Wheat yield after canola is generally 20 per cent higher than wheat following wheat, due mainly to breaking the cereal root disease cycle. Reduced root disease allows cereals to better use available moisture in dry conditions.

Canola also allows the rotation of herbicide groups, which lowers the risk of developing herbicide resistance. Relatively low cost, but highly effective grass-selective herbicides can be used for canola and this helps break the cereal root disease cycle and reduces the need for weed control in the following wheat crop.

Joint research by the Victorian Department of Primary Industries and Viterra (previously the Saskatchewan Grain Pool) in Canada, partly funded by the GRDC, resulted in the release this year of Australia’s first canola quality Brassica juncea named ‘Dune’. Pacific Seeds has the seed production and marketing rights for Dune and other juncea canola cultivars coming through the program.

Wayne Burton, oilseed breeder at the Victorian DPI, reports that Dune has faster ground covering ability and better heat, drought and shatter tolerance in low rainfall areas than traditional cultivars of canola, Brassica napus. The aim is to provide growers in lower rainfall areas (275-350mm) with a reliable and profitable break crop.

Juncea canola will save growers about $20-25/ha as low shattering allows it to be direct harvested.

Multi-site 2004 trials showed that Dune yields equal or better those of traditional conventional canola cultivars.

Future research will focus on improving the quality of the meal, by further lowering the glucosinolate content, increasing oil content and improving yield.

More than 90 per cent of Australian canola is planted to herbicide tolerant varieties and Mr Burton said the development of herbicide tolerant juncea cultivars are a high priority in the breeding program, especially for WA.

The first Clearfield tolerant variety, OasisCL, is currently in seed production and should be available commercially to WA growers in 2009.

Good progress has also been made with triazine tolerant cultivars, with a first release anticipated for 2010, depending on trial results in the next couple of years.

Other news from the Australian Oilseeds Federation

Source: GRDC's The Crop Doctor via SeedQuest.com
28 November 2007

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1.44  Tropical traits for temperate beans

Washington, DC
Dry common beans­favorites like pinto, kidney, navy, red, black and snap­are grown mostly in the north-central and western regions of the United States. But thousands of miles away, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) geneticist Timothy Porch (photo) is working to make good beans even better.

Porch conducts research at the Tropical Agriculture Research Station in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. He is looking for ways to reduce heat stress in common beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) grown in the continental United States by breeding heat-tolerant varieties.

Most common beans are adapted to relatively cool climates. But in the United States, common beans are cultivated at average temperatures that can exceed 86 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. These hot summers can hinder the reproductive development of bean crops, which in turn results in smaller potential yields.

However, tropical varieties of Phaseolus contain a much greater range of genetic diversity than the types commercially cultivated in the United States, and may carry traits that protect against heat stress. Porch is trying to bolster U.S. beans with high-temperature adaptations and other producer-friendly traits, such as drought tolerance and disease resistance.

In his search to find novel genetic traits, Porch has worked with two major germplasm centers: the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, in Cali, Colombia; and the ARS Western Regional Plant Introduction Station at Pullman, Wash.

Porch's research will support plant breeders' efforts to develop new bean varieties to meet market demands, increase yields and lower consumer costs. Producers will also be better positioned to respond to possible challenges in the future from emerging diseases and climate change.

Read more about the research in the November/December 2007 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

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

Source: SeedQuest.com
26 November 2007

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1.45  High oleic soybean

Des Moines, Iowa
Summary
-Conventional soy oil requires hydrogenation to increase its stability for many food uses. This results in formation of trans fatty acids, which have known coronary health risks.

-By modifying the fatty acid profiles of oilseeds through breeding, researchers have developed healthier oils. Their goal is to replace hydrogenated oils with oils that remain stable but do not include trans fats.

-Pioneer researchers developed a high oleic soybean oil trait using biotechnology tools. The resulting soybean oil has one of the highest oleic contents among oilseed crops, and lower total saturated fats than conventional soybeans.

-Application testing has shown that high oleic soybean oil can replace regular canola, soy, and partially hydrogenated canola and soy oils in edible applications where increased stability is required. The oil also has industrial uses.

-This new oil trait is on track for 2009 commercialization in the U.S., pending regulatory approvals. It also has been submitted to key importing countries, including the EU.

-The oil will be marketed as TREUS™ brand High Oleic Soybean Oil through the Bunge

DuPont Biotech Alliance. Pioneer is advancing varieties with this trait for 2009 commercial introduction, pending regulatory approvals.

Full report: http://www.mccormickcompany.net/pioneer/cropinsights/70.pdf
by Steve Butzen, Pioneer Agronomy Information Manager and Steve Schnebly, Pioneer Research Coordinator

Source: Crop Insight - Pioneer via SeedQuest.com
December 2007

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1.46  New strains of late blight on potato in the United Kingdom

New potentially more aggressive blight strains increased their dominance of the potato blight pathogen population during 2007, BPC [British Potato Council] -funded monitoring has revealed. But with scientists unsure as to why the incidence of the so-called genotype 13 A2 blight strain has increased so dramatically, growers are being advised to stick with current best practice approaches to blight control for the time being.

Speaking at a BPC blight survey seminar, Dr David Cooke of the Scottish Crop Research Institute [SCRI] said that of 300 total blight outbreaks sampled by SCRI and the Central Science Laboratory during 2007, 82 percent of the samples were A2 strain only. Two-thirds of 2006 samples were A2. "We've done tests and can confirm that it (A2) is a slightly more aggressive, fitter genotype under test conditions," said Dr Cooke.

While the incidence of A2 strains has increased, the incidence of mixed A1 and A2 outbreaks -- which gives an indicator of the risk of the 2 types combining to produce oospores -- appears to have remained constant. This season's sampling revealed no evidence of blight infections caused by oospores.

Vigilance will be the best way to keep blight in check. Growers should expect to see high disease pressure early in the season in 2008, he said.

Potato late blight (PLB) is caused by the fungus _Phytophthora infestans_, which can also infect other solanaceous crops such as tomato or eggplant. It is the most devastating disease threatening potato crops worldwide and can cause 100 percent crop loss. The fungus affects leaves as well as tubers. It is spread by plant material (including seed tubers), wind and water, and solanaceous weeds can serve as pathogen reservoirs. Other fungi and bacteria often invade blight-infected tubers resulting in total tuber breakdown. Disease management includes preventative fungicide treatment of seed tubers and additional fungicide applications to the crop. Some PLB resistant potato varieties are available.

Worldwide, considerable variation in aggressiveness between different isolates of _P. infestans_ has been observed. A severe form of PLB was responsible for the Irish potato famine in the late 1840s. PLB is considered an increasing problem in many areas because new and even more virulent strains continue to emerge. Some of these can destroy a potato plant in a matter of hours and a complete crop within days.

Where both A1 and A2 mating types are present, reproduction occurs sexually as well as asexually, leading to strains with higher fungicide resistance and increased yield losses. A1 was the 1st mating type to spread worldwide; A2 began to spread later and is now present in northern Europe, northern and Central America, and parts of Asia. Within each mating type there are a number of genotypes (strains). In Western Europe, a dramatic increase in the frequency of the A2 mating type is being recorded recently, with a single lineage apparently accounting for much of the change in the UK population of fungal strains.

Global Initiative on Late Blight: http://gilb.cip.cgiar.org/
http://www.farmersguardian.com/story.asp?sectioncode=19&storycode=14809

Source: Farmers Guardian via SeedQuest.com
30 November 2007

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1.47  Village wheats may fend off stem rust

Washington, DC
Traditional wheats, grown by village farmers on the other side of the world, could hold genes that resist attack by stem rust. Killer races of that formidable fungal disease pose a threat to America's wheat, according to Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plant pathologist J. Michael Bonman.

As leader of the ARS Small Grains and Potato Germplasm Research Unit, Aberdeen, Idaho, Bonman directs a fast-paced, high-intensity search for wheats that could fend off rusts now emerging in east Africa. The team's focus is on the world's locally grown wheats, known to scientists as "landraces." These wheats typically are not as well-studied as those grown commercially on thousands of acres in the United States, for instance.

However, thanks to years of work by generations of plant explorers, breeders and others, seeds of 25,000 different kinds of local wheats are already at hand in a special collection at the Aberdeen research center. The collection, curated by ARS agronomist Harold E. Bockelman, serves as America’s official genebank of wheats gathered from around the planet.

To learn more about the rust resistance of the genebank’s landrace wheats, Bonman and colleagues combed decades-old records of the disease-fighting prowess of nearly 8,500 specimens. Plant pathologist Don V. McVey, now retired from the ARS Cereal Disease Laboratory, St. Paul, Minn., created those records when he tested the plants, beginning in 1988.

Though McVey couldn’t have exposed the plants to the new wheat stem rusts now damaging wheatfields of east Africa, his test results are nonetheless still relevant today, according to Bonman.

The new analyses of McVey’s findings revealed notable resistance in wheats from, among other places, Chile, Ethiopia, Turkey, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The scientists are now intensifying their analyses of other genebank landraces from these areas­not just those that McVey studied. And, they're using the findings to choose specimens to send to Kenya and Ethiopia, for testing in the heart of the rust epidemic.

Read more about the research in the November/December 2007 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

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

Source: SeedQuest.com
27 November 2007

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1.48  Research 'toughening up' Thailand's jasmine rice

[BANGKOK] Thai researchers are developing a breed of aromatic jasmine rice that is resistant to some pests and diseases, as well as to flash floods, drought and salinity.

The ongoing research, which uses laboratory techniques to back up traditional breeding methods, was presented at the international BioAsia 2007 conference in Bangkok this month (7–9 November).

Thailand is the world largest rice exporter, with jasmine rice the most popular. But the country's rice plants often have to struggle against severe flooding or drought, as well as damage by the brown plant hopper (BPH) and bacterial leaf blight (BLB).

The experimental rice withstands nearly three weeks of flooding and is resistant to BPH and BLB, says Apichart Vanavichit, director of the Rice Gene Discovery Unit in Thailand, who is leading the research. His team are now looking for genes that enable other rice plants to tolerate salt conditions and drought.

Vanavichit said they hope to release their "super rice" with the whole set of resistance genes by 2012.

The scientists use genetic marker techniques to locate the desired genes in different rice varieties, which helps them identify the best parent plants for breeding.

Work began in 1998 with the identification of flood-resistant genes in a local Indian rice variety.

In 2001 the researchers conducted a field trial, and last year gave the flood-resistant rice seeds to farmers in northern Thailand.

Meanwhile, researchers crossbred plants with BPH- and BLB-resistant genes from a wild Sri Lankan rice and samples from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), before combining those traits with the flood-resistant jasmine rice.

"What would happen if India hadn't allowed us to use its rice variety? The sharing of genetic resources is definitely beneficial," said Vanavichit.

Surawit Wannakrairoj, a member of the Thai National Plant Variety Committee, told SciDev.Net that the results showed that Thailand does not need to embrace genetic-modification biotechnology. 

Duncan Macintosh, a spokesperson for IRRI, says the development of flood-resistant rice is progressing well in several countries, so the chances of success in Thailand are high. "But the main challenge will be to maintain the quality of jasmine rice," he told SciDev.Net.

by Piya Wong

Source: SciDev.net
19 November 2007

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1.49  Purdue University researchers seek genes behind rice nutrients to combat malnutrition

West Lafayette, Indiana
One research team is going with the flow and against the grain by searching out genes that regulate the transport and flow of nutrients within the rice plant and into storage in its edible grain.

Discoveries could help improve the relatively poor nutritional value of the grain, a factor that explains how more than half the world's people suffer from some form of nutrient deficiency, according to the World Health Organization.

"Identifying genes involved in the nutrient-loading of the rice grain could allow engineers or breeders to develop new strains of rice with higher nutrient levels," said research team leader and Purdue University horticulture professor David Salt. "This could have a major impact on human health since many of the 3 billion people with nutrient deficiencies rely on rice as their main food source."

Salt and his team will use a combination of techniques and processes to hone in on genes that govern the rice grain ionome, or all of the plant grain's mineral nutrients and ions, or tiny charged particles. The researchers will examine genes that regulate levels of elements both healthful and harmful. Micronutrients essential to human health, like iron and zinc, will be a particular focus since billions of people suffer from iron or zinc deficiency.

Initial steps in the study, which was recently funded by a $5.5 million, four-year grant from the National Science Foundation, are designed to find so-called "candidate genes" worthy of further investigation, Salt said. To this end, researchers will analyze concentrations of 18 different elements in 1,800 varieties of rice from around the world and also will scour Salt's existing database of genetic and ionic data from thousands of plant and yeast samples.

Immediate insights could help improve scientists' understanding of the rice plant, Oryza sativa, and, by extension, could shed light into the biochemistry of other crops in the grass family, including maize, barley and wheat.

Another important goal is to better understand Oryza's ability to take up harmful chemicals like cadmium and arsenic, Salt said. Contaminated soil and water make arsenic poisoning a major concern in Southeastern Asia, particularly in Bangladesh, he said.

Researchers will use DNA microarrays to help find genes responsible for differences in observed phenotypes, or physical properties, like high iron concentrations. Salt said they will study both naturally occurring and mutant rice varieties.

Since plants are immobile, they must make the most of their environment, and their ability to survive and thrive is therefore tied to their ability to take up the right chemicals, usually in ionic form, from the soil. Plants also must be able to store chemicals for their own health and the health of their offspring.

Data from the study will be continually added to the Purdue Ionomics Information Management System database, accessible online at http://www.purdue.edu/dp/ionomics.

Salt will collaborate with researchers Mary Lou Guerinot of Dartmouth College and Shannon Pinson of Texas A&M University. Others involved in the research are Purdue's Ivan Baxter and Min Zhang and Lee Tarpley of Texas A&M.

Source: SeedQuest.com
14 November 2007

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1.50  Canadian Wheat Board invests in search for wheat’s molecular “fingerprint”

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
The Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) is working to find an innovative replacement for Canada’s grain identification system that will protect Prairie farmers’ premium markets when the existing Kernel Visual Distinguishability (KVD) process is phased out after 2010.

“We need to ensure that eliminating KVD does not harm international marketing efforts,” CWB president and CEO Greg Arason said. “Canada’s quality-control system for grain is a key competitive advantage that farmers can’t afford to see eroded.”

Under KVD, each wheat class is assigned distinct visual characteristics such as seed-coat colour and kernel shape. This allows grain inspectors to quickly and accurately identify the wheat class simply by looking at a handful of kernels. The target proposed by the federal government in April envisions removal of KVD from minor wheat classes in August 2008 and complete removal from all wheat after 2010. The move is intended to aid plant breeders in developing improved varieties that may not meet current visual criteria.

In pursuit of a replacement, the CWB has invested more than $1.3 million into development of “black box” technology to identify varieties using wave-length measurements from molecular signals. This elevator-driveway test is being developed in partnership with NeoVentures Biotechnology and the Manitoba Rural Adaptation Council. It would allow a wheat “fingerprinting” system that is quick and affordable for farmers and grain handlers, compared to other KVD replacement options.

A CWB investment of $1.7 million has also been made to help Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Cereal Research Centre develop DNA-based varietal identification. This accurate laboratory-based system would be used on high-volume rail car samples.

The CWB is an active supporter of the new Canada Western General Purpose Wheat Class, to be launched in August 2008. The industrial general-purpose class will accommodate new wheat lines for use in ethanol production and specialized animal feed. The removal of KVD may facilitate development of these varieties, which will no longer be subject to visual appearance requirements.

However, the consistency and integrity of the Prairies’ top milling wheats – Canada Western Red Spring wheat and Canada Western Amber Durum – currently rely on KVD.

“These are our flagship products that generate the highest return for farmers,” Arason said. “As the CWB prepares for the removal of KVD, the new technologies will be crucial in managing the shift to a non-visual system.”

Controlled by western Canadian farmers, the CWB is the largest wheat and barley marketer in the world. One of Canada's biggest exporters, the Winnipeg-based organization sells grain to over 70 countries and returns all sales revenue, less marketing costs to farmers.

Source: SeedQuest.com
15 November 2007

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1.51  Scientists unravel plants' natural defenses

A team of researchers, led by the University of Sheffield and Queen Mary, University of London, has discovered how plants protect their leaves from damage by sunlight when they are faced with extreme climates. The new findings, which have been published in Nature, could have implications both for adapting plants to the threat of global warming and for helping man better harness solar energy.

Photosynthesis in plants relies upon the efficient collection of sunlight. This process can work even at low levels of sunlight, when plants are in the shade or under cloud cover for example. However, when the sun is very bright or when it is cold or very dry, the level of light energy absorbed by leaves can be greatly in excess of that which can be used in photosynthesis and can destroy the plant. However, plants employ a remarkable process called photoprotection, in which a change takes place in the leaves so that the excess light energy is converted into heat, which is harmlessly dispersed.

Until now, researchers hadn’t known exactly how photoprotection works. By joining forces with their physicist colleagues in France and the Netherlands, the UK team have determined how this process works. They were able to show how a small number of certain key molecules, hidden among the millions of others in the plant leaf, change their shape when the amount of light absorbed is excessive; and they have been able to track the conversion of light energy to heat that occurs in less than a billionth of a second.

Many plant species can successfully inhabit extreme environments where there is little water, strong sunlight, low fertility and extremes of temperature by having highly tuned defence mechanisms, including photoprotection. However, these mechanisms are frequently poorly developed in crop plants since they are adapted for high growth and productivity in an environment manipulated by irrigation, fertilisation, enclosure in greenhouses and artificial shading. These manipulations are not sustainable, they have high energy costs and may not be adaptable to an increasingly unstable climate. Researchers believe that in the future, the production of both food and biofuel from plants needs to rely more on their natural defence mechanisms, including photoprotection.

Professor Horton, of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, who lead the UK team, said: “These results are important in developing plants with improved photoprotective mechanisms to enable them to better cope with climate change. This may be hugely significant in our fight against global warming. It is a fantastic example of what can be achieved in science when the skills of biologists and physicists are brought together.”

Moreover, there are other global implications of this research. Dr Alexander Ruban of Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, comments: “As we seek to develop new solar energy technology it will be important to not only understand, but to mimic the way biology has learnt to optimise light collection in the face of the continually changing intensity of sunlight.”
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The paper, Identification of a mechanism of photoprotective energy dissipation in higher plants, will be published in Nature on 22 November 2007.

The research project is a collaboration between the University of Sheffield, UK; Queen Mary, University of London, UK; the University of Amsterdam, Netherlands; the University of Wageningen, Netherlands; CEA Saclay and CNRS Gif-sur-Yvette, France.

The work was supported by grants from UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research via the Foundation of Earth and Life Sciences, Laserlab Europe; ANR, and the Marie Curie Research Training Network.

Contact: Lindsey Bird
l.bird@sheffield.ac.uk
University of Sheffield

Source: EurekAlert.com
21 November 2007

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1.52  Toward sequencing the cotton genome

Sequencing of angiosperm (flowering plant) genomes has always been difficult despite the rapidly decreasing sequencing costs and innovative technologies. Generating large sequence data and assembling complex genomes de novo represents a challenge to scientists. To this end, the sequencing of the cotton genome still remains a daunting task. A coalition of international genome scientists has developed strategies for sequencing the cotton genomes.

Genomic resources are available to aid scientists sequence the cotton genome. Currently, more than 350,000 cotton sequences are stored in the GenBank. In addition, the order in which cotton belongs (Malvales) is the nearest relative to Arabidopsis outside its own order in which genetic and physical maps have been described. A total of 62% sequenced cotton loci had matches in Arabidopsis. Since species representative within the Gossypium genus vary in the size of their haploid genome as well as in the number of their chromosome sets, it will be important to consider which species will be sequenced. The sequenced cotton genome will not only help in breeding improved varieties but also stimulate fundamental research on genome evolution, cell differentiation and development, cellulose biosynthesis, molecular determinants of cell wall biogenesis and genome polyploidization (production of several copies).

Read the article published by Plant Physiology at http://www.plantphysiol.org/cgi/content/full/145/4/1303
The Cotton Genome Sequencing White Paper can be found at http://algodon.tamu.edu/sequencing/docs/2WhitePaper12_11_2006.pdf

Source: CropBiotech Update via SeedQuest.com
7 December 2007

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1.53  Maize lines for genetic characterization (fingerprinting) using 1536 SNP molecular markers

CIMMYT and IITA will coordinate a submission of maize lines for genetic characterization (fingerprinting) using 1536 SNP molecular markers. People interested in having lines included in the group submission should contact Marilyn Warburton at CIMMYT (m.warburton@cgiar.org) and Sarah Hearne at IITA (s.hearne@cgiar.org) by December 21, 2007.  DNA will be sent for characterization at the end of March 2008. Anyone who would like to have the DNA extracted at CIMMYT/IITA must send lyophilized leaf tissue by February 21, 2008, or seeds by January 31, 2008. Materials sent from Africa should go to Sarah at IITA, and all other material should go to Marilyn at CIMMYT.  All materials will be used for fingerprinting alone and all data will be treated confidentially. The cost of characterization will be as follows:

-Characterization per line for DNA already extracted and at a high quality: $80 USD
-Characterization per line for fully dried, lyophilized leaf material: $90 USD
-Characterization per line for seeds: you pay the cost of shipment and phytosanitary plus $100 USD

Information sent back will include the SNP and reference DNA sequence around the SNP, the protocols used to run the assay, and the genotypes at each haplotype (SNP) for the 1536 SNPs per line submitted.

Please keep in mind that in the CIMMYT ABC, we currently charge $125 USD to genotype an inbred line with 50 SSR markers, which was already cheaper than any commercial service we could find, so this is a pretty good deal!"

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

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1.54  New research to decode the genetic secrets of prolific potato pest

The full weight of a consortium of world-leading scientists – including those who helped decode the entire human genome – is being thrown at a parasitic worm less than 1mm long.

The potato cyst nematode (PCN), Globodera pallida, attacks potato crops all over the world and is particularly devastating in developing countries where the potato is a subsistence crop. A £1.7 million project led by the University of Leeds to fully sequence its DNA, hopes to shed light on the mechanisms that make the tiny worm such a successful parasite – and lead to methods to sustainably manage this pest.

The research, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), draws together experts from the University of Leeds, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Rothamsted Research and SCRI, Scotland’s leading centre for crop research.

“Although there is partial resistance in some potato varieties, it is very difficult to breed this resistance into commercial ones - so we’re tackling the problem from a different perspective,” says Dr Peter Urwin from Leeds’ Faculty of Biological Sciences. “If we can find out exactly how this worm works so efficiently, it should lead to measures that will help the potato plant to withstand attack.”

The worm invades the roots of the potato plant and injects a substance causing the plant to create a unique cell from which it feeds via a specialised tube. By doing this, the nematode stunts root growth and deprives the potato plant of essential nutrients, which leads to lower quality, smaller crops.

Says Dr Urwin: “This tiny parasite has evolved many clever mechanisms that we hope to be able to understand more fully through this research. We have no idea what this injected substance is or how it manages to persuade the plant to create the feeding cell. In addition, its eggs can remain viable in the soil for up to twenty years, with hatching triggered by sensing chemicals released by potato roots nearby. Because of this, once a field is infected, it’s almost impossible to get rid of them.”

G. pallida is an international problem, affecting the world’s two major potato growing regions – the Ukraine and Idaho, USA – as well as 18 countries in the EU and 55 countries world wide. The widespread cultivation of potato varieties such as Maris Piper, which whilst naturally resistant to other PCNs, are not resistant to G. pallida, suggests that the significance of the worm is likely to increase.

UK farmers spend in excess of £50 million a year in efforts to manage the pest. Infestations are currently treated with toxic chemicals, which do not enter the food chain, but are expensive to apply and can make soil sterile, killing other living organisms within it.

Dr Urwin says that controlling G. pallida is essential to maintain the competitiveness of UK potato industry, which together with processing and retail markets is worth some £3 billion per year (1). “We think that consumers are more likely to support UK production that avoids pesticide residues and environmental harm and that is soundly based on a sustainable approach,” he says.

The team hope to complete the sequencing by 2012.
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References
(1) Figures cited from the British Potato Council

Contact: Jo Kelly
jokelly@campuspr.co.uk
University of Leeds

Source: EurekAlert.com
27 November 2007

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1.55  Tree of life for flowering plants reveals relationships among major groups

Major diversification occured over less than 5 million years

AUSTIN, Texas­The evolutionary Tree of Life for flowering plants has been revealed using the largest collection of genomic data of these plants to date, report scientists from The University of Texas at Austin and University of Florida.

The scientists, publishing two papers in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week online, found that the two largest groups of flowering plants, monocots (grasses and their relatives) and eudicots (including sunflowers and tomatoes), are more closely related to each other than to any of the other major lineages.

The analyses also confirmed that a unique species of plant called Amborella, found only on the Pacific island of New Caledonia, represents the earliest diverging lineage of flowering plants.

Robert Jansen, professor of integrative biology at The University of Texas at Austin, said the work sets the stage for all future comparative studies of flowering plants.

“If you are interested in understanding the evolution of flowering plants, you can’t do that unless you understand their relationships,” said Jansen.

The University of Florida team, led by Doug and Pam Soltis, also showed that the major diversification of flowering plants, so stunning that the researchers are calling it the “Big Bang,” took place in the comparatively short period of less than five million years. This resulted in all five major lineages of flowering plants present today.

“Flowering plants today comprise around 400,000 species,” said Pam Soltis, curator at the university’s Florida Museum of Natural History. “To think that the burst that gave rise to almost all of these plants occurred in less than five million years is pretty amazing­especially when you consider that flowering plants as a group have been around for at least 130 million years.”

The details of the flowering plants’ rapid diversification have remained a mystery since Charles Darwin first suggested their evolutionary history is an “abominable mystery.”

“One of the reasons why it has been hard to understand evolutionary relationships among the major groups of flowering plants is because they diversified over such a short time frame,” said Jansen.

But by analyzing DNA sequences from completely sequenced chloroplast genomes, the scientists brought some clarity to the evolutionary picture.

Jansen and his colleagues at The University of Texas at Austin analyzed DNA sequences of 81 genes from the chloroplast genome of 64 species of plants, while the Florida researchers analyzed 61 genes from 45 species. The two groups also performed a combined analysis, which produced evolutionary trees that included all of the major groups of flowering plants.

As for the diversification’s cause, it remains mysterious, Pam and Doug Soltis said.

It’s possible it was spurred by some major climatic event. It’s also possible that a new evolutionary trait –a more efficient water-conducting cell that transfers water up plant stems­proved so effective that it spurred massive plant growth. This cell type is not present in the first three flowering plant lineages, said Doug Soltis, professor of botany at Florida.
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Michael Moore, a former postdoctoral associate in the Soltis lab and now a faculty member at Oberlin College, is lead author of the University of Florida study.

The scientists’ work is funded by two grants from the Tree of Life program at the National Science Foundation.

Contact: Robert Jansen
jansen@mail.utexas.edu
University of Texas at Austin

Source: EurekAlert.com
26 November 2007

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1.56  The CNAP Artemisia Research Project: Project update number 2, Autumn 2007

Welcome to the second biannual update on the CNAP Artemisia Research Project, keeping you informed on project progress and developments. You can read a shortened version of the update below but visit our website to read the whole thing or download a pdf; http://www.york.ac.uk/org/cnap/artemisiaproject/news&events.htm.

The first screenings for high-yielding traits begin
A massive screen of Artemisia plants for traits of interest is now underway, using new, high throughput tests to assess around two thousand plants every month for their potential as high-yielders.

Focus on trichomes
Specialised groups of cells called trichomes are the exclusive site of artemisinin manufacture and storage. Increasing their density or productivity could have a dramatic affect on artemisinin yields, making them a key area of interest for our research.

Fluctuations in the artemisinin market
Artemisinin prices have continued to fall in 2007 and reduced output is predicted for 2008. This newsletter considers the role of this project in an unstable market.

Working with the ACT supply chain
We continue to meet with industry representatives including growers, extractors, processors and pharmaceutical companies and have visited some of the major Artemisia-growing regions.

In the media
Since the last newsletter, we have featured on BBC Radio 4’s Material World programme (listen again here) and on the BBC World Service news.

Project brochure now available
The project brochure is now available, either as a pdf here or as a hard copy (on request).

Events
Our latest conference presentation can now be accessed online ( here).

To contact the project please email: CNAP-Artemisia@york.ac.uk

Contributed by Elspeth Bartlet
eb526@york.ac.uk

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1.57  Excerpts from Update 9-2007 and 10-2007of FAO-BiotechNews

(Excerpts by the Editor, PBN-L)
From Update 9-2007 of FAO-BiotechNews
( http://www.fao.org/biotech/news_list.asp?thexpand=1&cat=131)
4) Fighting the cassava mosaic disease
A recent FAO news story is dedicated to the spread of the cassava mosaic disease (CMD) and the efforts made to develop disease-free cassava in the Great Lakes region of Africa. It also provides a link to a video made about an FAO project, funded by the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid department, involving the use of micropropagation for the rapid multiplication and distribution of CMD-free planting materials. See http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/field/2007/1000693/index.html (in English, French and Spanish) or contact NeBambi.Lutaladio@fao.org for more information.

5) Plant Genetic Resources Newsletter
Issue 150 (June 2007) of the Plant Genetic Resources Newsletter is now available on the web, including e.g. an article about the use of molecular markers to analyse the genetic diversity and relationships among sweet potato landraces in China. The newsletter is a peer-reviewed journal published 4 times a year by Bioversity International and FAO that features articles in English, French or Spanish on plant genetic resources research. See http://www.bioversityinternational.org/publications/pgrnewsletter/ or contact bioversity-publications@cgiar.org to obtain copies or to be placed on the mailing list.

8) World Bank background papers for the WDR 2008
The World Bank has recently published "Agricultural biotechnology: Transgenics in agriculture and their implications for developing countries", by E. Pehu and C. Ragasa, a 38-page paper that synthesises peer-reviewed research results published within the past three years and a few earlier, ground-breaking papers that are central to economic debates on the subject. It has also published "Science, technology and skills", by P. Pardey and and co-authors, a 118-page report that looks at the changing context of agricultural research and development, including some discussion about biotechnology. Both were prepared as background papers for the World Development Report 2008, recently published by the World Bank. See http://go.worldbank.org/R1GDGYU5E0 and http://go.worldbank.org/WW4BTHM0D0 respectively or contact wdr2008@worldbank.org for more information.

12) Ex situ conservation of coffee genetic resources
As part of its Topical Reviews in Agricultural Biodiversity series, Bioversity International has just published "Complementary strategies for ex situ conservation of coffee (Coffea arabica L.) genetic resources. A case study in CATIE, Costa Rica", edited by F. Engelmann, M.E. Dulloo, C. Astorga, S. Dussert and F. Anthony. The aim of this 61-page publication, sub-divided into seven chapters, is to "illustrate how new technologies (molecular biology and cryopreservation) can be efficiently employed to complement more classical ones for characterizing and rationalizing an ex situ germplasm collection, and to improve its conservation status". See http://www.bioversityinternational.org/Publications/Pdf/1244.pdf (515 KB) or contact Bioversity-publications@cgiar.org for more information.

13) Mexican farmers' preferences - Milpa system and GM maize
As part of its IFPRI Discussion Papers series, the International Food Policy Research Institute has just published "Farmer preferences for milpa diversity and genetically modified maize in Mexico: A latent class approach" by E. Birol, E.R. Villalba, and M. Smale. The aim of this 31-page paper is to estimate Mexican farmers' valuation of the most important components of agrobiodiversity found in the milpa system, and the option to cultivate GM maize in this system, using data collected from 420 farm households across three states of Mexico. (The Mexican milpa system refers to a complex combination of agronomic practices, crop associations and rotation sequences). See http://www.ifpri.org/pubs/dp/IFPRIDP00726.pdf (359 KB) or contact ifpri@cgiar.org for more information.

14) Potential impact of Bt cotton in West Africa
As part of its IFPRI Discussion Papers series, the International Food Policy Research Institute has published "The economic impact and the distribution of benefits and risk from the adoption of insect resistant (Bt) cotton in West Africa" by J. Falck-Zepeda, D. Horna and M. Smale. The 58-page study estimates the potential impact of the deployment of insect resistant cotton in selected countries in West Africa using different scenarios. See http://www.ifpri.org/pubs/dp/IFPRIDP00718.pdf (587 KB) or contact ifpri@cgiar.org for more information.

15) Presentations from GCP annual meeting
On 12-16 September 2007, the Annual Research Meeting of the Generation Challenge Programme was held in Benoni, South Africa. The meeting was organised around four main themes: exploiting allelic diversity; genomic resources and gene/pathway discovery; marker development and breeding applications; and support services and enabling delivery. For a report of the meeting, providing links to all the presentations and posters, see http://www.generationcp.org/arm.php or contact a.okono@cgiar.org for more information.

#######

From Update 10-2007 of FAO-BiotechNews.

5) REDBIO 2007 news stories
On 22-26 October 2007, the VI Latin American and Caribbean Congress of Agricultural Biotechnology (REDBIO 2007) was held in Vina del Mar, Chile. A number of news stories from this meeting are now available on the REDBIO website, including one based on the presentation by Elcio Guimaraes of an FAO study on the global situation regarding national plant breeding and biotechnology capacities as well as one on the Vina del Mar declaration, read and approved by the participants at the congress. See http://www.redbio.org/ or contact juan.izquierdo@fao.org for more information. REDBIO is the Technical Co-operation Network on Plant Biotechnology in Latin America and the Caribbean, based at the FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean in Santiago, Chile.

8) Cartagena Protocol: COP-MOP/4
The 4th meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (COP-MOP/4) takes place on 12-16 May 2008 in Bonn, Germany, back-to-back with the 9th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity which takes place on 19-30 May. The first official documents from COP-MOP/4 are now available on the web, including an 18-page annotated provisional agenda. See http://www.cbd.int/doc/meeting.aspx?mtg=MOP-04 or contact secretariat@cbd.int for more information.

9) Cartagena Protocol: Liability and redress
The 4th meeting of the ad hoc Open-ended Working Group of Legal and Technical Experts on Liability and Redress in the Context of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety was held on 22-26 October 2007 in Montreal, Canada. The 63-page meeting report is now available. See the report, plus meeting documents, at http://www.cbd.int/doc/meeting.aspx?mtg=BSWGLR-04 (in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish) or contact secretariat@cbd.int for more information.
########
To join FAO-BiotechNews-Fr (the French language version of FAO-BiotechNews, http://www.fao.org/biotech/Welcome-Fr.htm), do the same as for FAO-BiotechNews above except the message should read: subscribe FAO-BiotechNews-Fr-L

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

To join FAO-BiotechNews-Ru (the Russian language version of FAO-BiotechNews, http://www.fao.org/biotech/fbn-ru.htm), do the same as for FAO-BiotechNews except the message should read: subscribe FAO-BiotechNews-Ru-L

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

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

Copyright FAO 2007
Contributed by The Coordinator of FAO-BiotechNews
FAO-Biotech-News@fao.org

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2  PUBLICATIONS

2.01  Citrus Genetics, Breeding and Biotechnology

A new book from CABI has just been published: Citrus Genetics, Breeding and Biotechnology (ISBN: 9780851990194) edited by I. Khan. This multi-authored book provides a comprehensive review of citrus breeding, including relevant genetics, molecular biology and biotechnology. The following chapters are included:

-  Citrus Breeding: Introduction and Objectives, I Khan and W J Kender, University of Florida, USA
-  A Comprehesive Citrus Genetic Improvement Program, F G Gmitter Jr, J W Grosser, W S Castle and G A Moore, all at University of Florida, USA
-  Origin and Taxonomy, E Nicolosi, University of Catania, Italy
-  Germplasm Resource, R R Krueger, USDA-ARS National Clonal Germplasm Respository for Citrus and Dates, California, USA and L Navarro, Instituto Valenciano de Investigaciones Agrarias (IVIA), Spain
-  Nuceller Embryony, J L Kepiro and M L. Roose, University of California, USA
-  Cytogenetics, M J Jaskani and I Khan, both at University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan
-  Haploidy, M A Germanà, Università degli Studi di Pelermo, Italy
-  Seedlessness and Ploidy Manipulations, P Ollitrault, Center for International Cooperation in Agricultural Research for Development (CIRAD), Montpellier France, F Luro and Y Froelicher, both at SRA, INRA/CIRAD, San Nicolao, France and M Yamamoto, Kagoshima University, Japan
-  Somaclonal Variation , J W Grosser, X X Deng and R M Goodrich, all at University of Florida, USA
-  Somatic Hybridization, P Ollitrault, Center for International Cooperation in Agricultural Research for Development (CIRAD), Montpellier France, W Guo, Hauzhong Agricultural University, China and J W Grooser, University of Florida, USA
-  Single Chromosome Transfer, E S Louzada, Texas A&M University, USA

Priced at £80 ($160, €130) this hardback volume is aimed at researchers in horticulture, plant breeding and biotechnology. Ordering online at http://www.cabi.org/bk_BookDisplay.asp?PID=1878 will save 10%.

Contributed by: Halina Dawson, Editor of Plant Breeding Abstracts, CABI, Wallingford, OX10 8DE, UK (h.dawson@cabi.org)

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2.02  Biotechnology tools for conservation and use of plants: A school play for senior students

Recently  we have  put together a publication on "Biotechnology tools for conservation and use of plants: A school play for senior students".  A pdf file with the publication is available in the FAO Corporate Document Repository http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/ai212e/ai212e00.htm

Contributed by Elcio Guimaraes (FAO,AGPC)
Elcio.Guimaraes@fao.org

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3.  WEB RESOURCES

3.01  Abstracts of presentations from UC Davis' International Symposium on Translational Seed Biology now available on the web

Davis, California
The Department of Plant Sciences and the Seed Biotechnology Center at UC Davis recently hosted a major international symposium on Translational Seed Biology: From Model Systems to Crop Improvement.

Over 275 scientists and students from academic institutions and seed companies from around the world participated in three days of meetings and discussions on the latest advances in seed biology and how these are being translated into improved products for agriculture and nutrition.

New approaches to increase seed size and number and therefore increase crop yields were described. Enhancements of seed nutritional content by modification of seed protein, carbohydrate, oil, vitamin and micronutrient composition are in the research and development pipeline. Ways to improve seed longevity were described that will enable better storage of plant genetic resources. Recent research on the regulation of seed germination and dormancy will lead to better seed quality for planting and new strategies for weed management. New techniques can reduce costs and increase the reliability of production of seeds for planting.

The first of an annual series of Plant Sciences Symposia sponsored in part by the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences and the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, the symposium also received financial support from the National Science Foundation, the USDA National Research Initiative, the UC Discovery Program, the International Society for Seed Science and a number of corporate sponsors.

The symposium was also supported by members of CSREES Regional Research Project W-1168 representing a number of land grant institutions in the U.S.

Abstracts of 30 invited presentations and 65 posters displayed at the symposium can be viewed at www.plantsciences.ucdavis.edu/seedsymposium2007.

Source: Seed Biotechnology Center E-News: November 2007 via SeedQuest.com
15 November 2007

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3.02  Launching the new website of Sciencedev.net

Dear Members of science development network (SDN),

We are delighted to say that SDN have managed to attract about 20.000 scientists, technologists and science policy makers since its launch two years ago in 2005.

In keeping with our goal of promoting science, technology and innovation for sustainable development, we are pleased to announce the launch of our new redesigned website with a new look: http://www.sciencedev.net

Looking into it, you will find that we have expanded our service by setting up two new projects entitled "Making the science work for Islamic countries needs"  and "science and technology education observatory for sustainable development".

We are also in the process of setting up other important projects, namely, online scientific library, e-journal for science and technology, Science and technology investment initiative for employment creation and poverty reduction….etc

Hope that you make a visit to the new website and send your comments.

Dr. Wagdy Sawahel
General coordinator, Science Development Network (SDN)

Contributed by Wagdy A. Sawahel
Wagdy.Sawahel@sciencedev.net

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3.03  Launch of the Russian FAO Biotechnology website

In collaboration with its Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia, FAO has just launched the Russian version of the FAO Biotechnology website, which provides factual, comprehensive and current information on international developments relating to applications of agricultural biotechnologies. The website covers applications of biotechnologies in crops, livestock, forestry, fisheries and agro-industry and includes a wide range of features such as an overview of FAO's activities in the field of biotechnology, including the organization's statement on biotechnology; the FAO Biotechnology Glossary; an e-mail forum; national biotechnology policy documents of FAO Members; a database providing information on biotechnology products/techniques in use or in the pipeline in developing countries; and a documents section providing over 160 web links to a wide range of articles, books, meeting reports, proceedings and studies published by FAO, or prepared in collaboration with FAO, in recent years concerning biotechnology in food and agriculture. The website can be visited at http://www.fao.org/biotech/index.asp?lang=ru

Contributed by John Ruane
John.Ruane@fao.org

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3.04  FAO launches new Arabic newsletter on agricultural biotechnologies

FAO 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 (OIE, OECD). All items are also posted on the web, at http://www.fao.org/biotech/index.asp?lang=ar. More details about FAO-BiotechNews-Ar can be found 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

Contributed by John Ruane
John.Ruane@fao.org

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3.05  Calling all young scientists in plant genomics…The Plant Genomics Network

This brand-new initiative invites young scientists working in plant genomics to a knowledge- and information-sharing network. The Plant Genomics Network is the brainchild of Rudi Trijatmiko, awardee of a GCP fellowship in 2006. More details on how to join the e-group at: http://www.generationcp.org/latestnews.php?i=927

Source: GCP News Issue 25, 7 December 2007

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4.  GRANTS AVAILABLE

4.01  Generation Challenge Programme fellowships, travel grants and capacity-building

GCP is delighted to announce these three capacity-building opportunities for researchers in national agricultural programmes in developing countries. These opportunities are for both individual researchers as well as research teams. More information and application procedures are at the following links:
-GCP fellowships: http://www.generationcp.org/capcorner.php?da=0531908
-GCP travel grants: http://www.generationcp.org/capcorner.php?da=0532008
-Capacity-building à la carte (for research teams)
http://www.generationcp.org/capcorner.php?da=0793002

Source: GCP News Issue 25, 7 December 2007

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5.  POSITION ANNOUNCEMENTS

5.01  Vegetable Breeders (several positions): The World Vegetable Center

Locations
: Cameroon, Madagascar, Mali or Tanzania

AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center is a non-profit, autonomous international agricultural research center with headquarters in Taiwan and regional offices around the globe. AVRDC conducts research and development programs that contribute to improved incomes and diets in the developing world. AVRDC is seeking experienced vegetable breeders for its pan-African program on Vegetable Breeding and Seed Systems for Poverty Reduction in Africa, which will:
-establish four national units for vegetable breeding, breeding support, and seed production in four countries (Cameroon, Madagascar, Mali and Tanzania), as well as seed health and marketing in South Africa
-build vegetable seed system capacity in those countries as well as in their neighboring countries
-network the national vegetable breeding programs, private African seed companies and vegetable seed supply systems
-promote increased and sustainable vegetable production, marketing and consumption in these countries

Key Responsibilities
The vegetable breeders will support the program's national breeding unit (NBU) in Cameroon, Madagascar, Mali or Tanzania to develop and release new vegetable varieties.

With the country Liaison Officer and Project Manager, the vegetable breeders will prioritize crops and breeding objectives for each crop, and design efficient breeding strategies.

Priority will be given to varietal development of tomato, chili pepper, sweet pepper, onion, cabbage, and locally important indigenous vegetables.

Activities will include establishment of infrastructure, procurement of equipment and supplies, staff training, and design of plant breeding protocols.

The vegetable breeders will collaborate closely with staff of the NBU, AVRDC staff at the Regional Center for Africa in Tanzania, the Sub-Regional Office in Mali, and AVRDC’s headquarters.

S/he will also develop cooperative linkages with contract seed producers, NARS regulatory personnel, and seed distribution channels.

Frequent travel within country and to neighboring countries to monitor program activities is expected.

Qualifications and Experience
-Postgraduate degree in horticulture, agriculture, plant breeding, or related discipline
-At least 5 years experience in applied plant breeding
-An understanding of African farming systems, and public and private sector seed systems, especially in developing countries
-Work experience in sub-Saharan Africa or developing countries
-Strong communication skills in spoken and written English, working knowledge of French
-Ability to perform effectively and efficiently in a multi-disciplinary and multi-cultural environment

Terms of Appointment
The incumbents will be based in one of the four countries above-mentioned.
The initial appointment is for two years with possibility of annual re-appointments.
Salary and perquisites are commensurate with qualifications and experience, and are comparable with those of other international agricultural research centers.

Application
Submit a letter of application, Curriculum Vitae, with names and contact addresses (phone number and e-mail) of three referees. Send to:
Ms. Lilia Tan Habacon
HR Manager
AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center
E-mail: lilia.tanhabacon@netra.avrdc.org.tw
Fax: +886 6 583 0009

Review of Applications
The review of application will begin 15 December 2007 and continue until the position is filled.
Only shortlisted applicants will be notified.

Source: SeedQuest.com

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5.02  Maize Molecular Breeder: CIMMYT

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), is seeking an innovative, self-motivated, scientifically outstanding candidate to drive CIMMYT’s maize molecular breeding applications in Africa. The position will be appointed at a level appropriate to the experience of the selected candidate. We especially welcome applications from candidates who have received their PhD within the last five years. The position is initially available for three years, with an opportunity for continuation depending on performance and funding.

The position will be based at CIMMYT, Nairobi, Kenya and located at the Biosciences eastern and central Africa research platform at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

The Maize Molecular Breeder will focus on the development and/or validation and application of marker-assisted germplasm enhancement with a particular focus on drought tolerance breeding but also involving biotic stress resistances and quality traits important for end-product development. This includes genetic mapping, marker validation, MAS implementation using high-throughput genotyping systems plus training and technical backstopping of NARS partners in the region. The position will be part of the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa project (http://www.cimmyt.org/dtmp/) and will work in close coordination with the senior maize molecular breeder based at CIMMYT, Mexico, CIMMYT maize breeders in Kenya and Zimbabwe, IITA maize breeders in Nigeria plus a multidisciplinary maize improvement team including genetic resource specialists, physiologists, molecular biologists and computational scientists based in Mexico and across Africa.

We are seeking candidates with the following qualifications
-Ph.D. degree in plant genetics, molecular biology and/or plant breeding
-Familiarity with large-scale germplasm collections and field breeding programs and a strong background in quantitative genetics
-Experience in high throughput genotyping system
-Knowledge of SSR, SNP and gene-based marker development and validation
-Application of MAS in plant breeding
-Interest in international agricultural research and development
-Ability to work well as part of multidisciplinary decentralized teams
-Proficiency in spoken and written English language

Experience in any of the following areas would be considered an asset
-Maize and/or other cereal breeding
-Knowledge of drought tolerance physiology and component trait analysis
-Molecular breeding simulation and decision support tools
-Decentralization and out-sourcing strategies
-Double haploid and other rapid crop improvement technologies
-Applying biotechnologies in developing countries
-Quantitative phenotyping of a range of agronomic traits
-Biometric and bioinformatics analyses

CIMMYT is an internationally funded, non-profit research and training organization affiliated with the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and has an annual budget of around US$40 million. CIMMYT’s mission is to help the poor in the developing world by increasing the productivity, profitability, and sustainability of maize- and wheat-based cropping systems while protecting natural resources. The Center is a global leader in scientific research and training related to maize and wheat, and in biotechnology, economics, and natural resource management research. These activities are conducted in partnership with national agricultural research systems, non-governmental organizations, and advanced research institutions, both public and private, in globally focused projects and programs. CIMMYT employs a staff of around 700 and operates in a decentralized, partnership mode, having staff in 14 countries, and projects and partnership networks in many more.

Biosciences east and central Africa (BecA) is an initiative endorsed by The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD)’s Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) and developed in the framework of Centres of Excellence for Science and Technology. The core of BecA is a joint venture of regional research partners linked to the global research community, with the aim to employ modern biotechnology to improve agriculture in eastern and central Africa. BecA seeks to strengthen the capacity of scientists in eastern and central Africa to conduct bioscience research and to significantly contribute to improved products that can enhance livelihoods of farmers in the region. The BecA Hub with a state of the art shared Biosciences platform is located at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Nairobi, Kenya.

CIMMYT salaries for internationally recruited staff are highly competitive, with a range of benefits including housing allowance, life and health insurance package, education allowance (from KG to Grade 12), annual medical examination, personal effects shipping allowance and annual home-leave allowance.

More detailed descriptions of the positions are posted on CIMMYT website: http://www.cimmyt.org/english/wps/jobs/index.htm 

CIMMYT is an equal-opportunity employer and strives for staff diversity in gender and nationality.
Please send via e-mail your letter of application, CV/Resume (including full contact information), and names and contact information of three references to:
CIMMYT
Human Resources Manager
Reference 2007/12
Email: jobs-cimmyt@cgiar.org

Short-listing will commence on 15th Dec 2007 until a suitable candidate is identified.
For technical information contact Dr. Yunbi Xu, Senior Maize Molecular Breeder, or Dr. Jonathan Crouch, Director, Germplasm Resources & Enhancement Unit.

Source: SeedQuest.com

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5.03  Pome Fruit Breeder/Geneticist (Apples) Vacancy at Washington State University

Search #: 4873

WORKING TITLE: Pome Fruit Breeder/Geneticist; 15% Academic Programs /85% Agricultural Research Center

RANK: Assistant Professor or Associate Professor, 12-month, tenure track

LOCATION: Washington State University (WSU) Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center (TFREC), Wenatchee, Washington

SALARY: Competitive and commensurate with training and experience.

EFFECTIVE: July 1, 2008

GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Washington State is the leading producer of apples, pears, and sweet cherries in the U.S., with more than 200,000 (180,000 apple) acres of tree fruits statewide valued at more than $6 billion annually. The TFREC  in Wenatchee is central to this large production region.  The Yakima Valley and Columbia Basin, easily accessible from Wenatchee, remain as some of the most agriculturally-diverse regions of the U.S.  These regions are also major producers of tree fruits in addition to many other high-value horticultural crops.  The long, warm summer days, cool nights, low precipitation, and volcanic soils make the area ideal for irrigated fruit production. 

Washington State University is the state’s land grant university with teaching, research, and extension missions.  The Washington State University Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture is located on the main campus in Pullman, with research locations and faculty in seven other locations throughout Washington State.  As a result of recent strategic hires, Rosaceous genetics, genomics and plant breeding have emerged as a preeminent area within the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture and within the College. The Orville A. Vogel Plant Biosciences Building on the Pullman Campus, the first of five under construction or planned in the Biotechnology Complex opened in 2005, features new state-of-the-art teaching and research facilities in support of an expanded university-wide effort in this area. A recently published analysis ranks Plant Science research productivity at Washington State University in the top echelon.

This position is located at the Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center (TFREC) in Wenatchee, located in one of the principal production areas in Washington State.  The TFREC is one of several research centers of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences. Comprehensive research projects are conducted by Washington State University and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) collaborating scientists in all phases of orchard culture, pest control, fruit harvesting and handling, fruit maturity, storage, grading and packaging. These programs also include basic science aspects of plant physiology, entomology, plant pathology, soil science, horticulture, economics and biochemistry.  Research programs at the TFREC emphasize primarily apples, pears and sweet cherries although some research is conducted on apricots, peaches and plums. Research is also conducted in orchards of cooperating growers throughout the major fruit production areas of Washington. Production and postharvest research by USDA scientists is also conducted using grower orchards and in cooperation with fruit packinghouses.  The core of the facilities is the main center campus located in Wenatchee which includes office, laboratory, and greenhouse space for WSU and USDA scientists.  A newly dedicated state-of-the-art research orchard in Wenatchee provides field research facilities for these same scientists plus those from the main Pullman campus and other research centers around the state. The Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission uses grower assessments on fruit produced in the state to provide funds to conduct a substantial research effort in partnership with WSU on every aspect of tree fruit production, from germplasm and rootstock development to improved post-harvest practices as well as sensory eating quality. Approximately $3 million per year is invested in tree fruit research grants, with funding based on the proportion of dollars collected for each tree fruit commodity.

RESPONSIBILITIES: The incumbent will lead the WSU Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture pome fruit breeding and genetics research and extension program, with emphasis on the use of modern genetic and genomic research tools to assist in the creation of new apple varieties specifically suited to production in the Pacific Northwest.  The program complements other Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center (TFREC) initiatives, such as tree fruit physiology, tree fruit virology, disease forecasting, post-harvest biology/technology, and integrated pest management.

The research program will focus on the use of modern genetic and genomic research tools to create new apple varieties, continuation and enhancement of the established apple breeding program, and maintenance and evaluation of the existing apple germplasm collection at Wenatchee. The incumbent’s program will complement other breeding, genetics, and genomics programs in the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture that focus on stone fruit, raspberry, and strawberry. Opportunities may also emerge for future work on pears. 

The successful candidate will emphasize collaborative programs with state, federal, and private research and extension personnel to strengthen an interdisciplinary horticultural breeding, genetics, and genomics team.  The successful candidate will actively pursue extramural research funding, contribute scholarly literature, and enhance the national and international scope of the WSU apple breeding program.  The successful applicant will be expected to conduct an approved program of research consistent with the mission of the WSU Agricultural Research Center.  The incumbent will be expected to work effectively with extension specialists and area agents, private crop consultants, and with the grower community and stakeholders.  The incumbent will participate in regional meetings, promote apple varieties, and write for popular/grower press in addition to publishing in scientific journals.  Teaching responsibilities will include classroom instruction in fruit breeding and genetics, and the mentoring and supervision of graduate and undergraduate students.

QUALIFICATIONS:
Required:
1) Ph.D. in horticulture or a related plant science discipline at the time of hire.
2) Evidence of scholarly accomplishments in fruit breeding, genetics, and genomics.
3) Demonstrated ability to communicate effectively with technical and non-technical audiences in oral, written, and electronic forms.

Highly Desired:
1)  Excellent abilities in research, teaching, and team building.
2)  Evidence of potential for acquiring extramural grant support.
3)  Knowledge of field research in tree fruit breeding.
4)  Knowledge of state-of- the-art genetic and genomic techniques.

LOCATION:
The Greater Wenatchee Area has a population of 37,300 and straddles the Columbia River in the center of Washington.  In addition to excellent primary and secondary schools, Washington State University offers upper-division and graduate-level courses and programs through distance-learning opportunities located on the Wenatchee Valley College campus. Wenatchee is located on the eastern edge of the Cascade Range, thus providing abundant recreational opportunities. In addition to local attractions, year-round art and cultural events, and a thriving seasonal farmer’s market, the City of Seattle and the greater Puget Sound Region lie 150 miles to the west.

APPLICATION PROCESS:
Screening of application materials will begin January 15, 2008.
  A letter addressing qualifications, a statement of professional vision and goals, a detailed resume with publication list, copies of official college/university transcripts, and three current, signed letters of reference (direct from the source) must be provided.  Send this application packet to:
Dr. John Fellman, Search Chair
Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture
Washington State University
P.O. Box 646414
Pullman, WA 99164-6414
fellman@wsu.edu

For information on application status, contact Ms. Bev Brantner at 509-335-3943 or brantner@wsu.edu.

WASHINGTON STATE UNIVERSITY IS AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY/AFFIRMATIVE ACTION EDUCATOR AND EMPLOYER. Members of ethnic minorities, women, special disabled veterans, veterans of the Vietnam-era, recently separated veterans, and other protected veterans, persons of disability and/or persons age 40 and over are encouraged to apply.

WSU employs only US citizens and lawfully authorized non-US citizens.  All new employees must show employment eligibility verification as required by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Washington State University is committed to providing access and reasonable accommodation in its services, programs, activities, education and employment for individuals with disabilities. To request disability accommodation in the application process, contact Human Resource Services: 509-335-4521(v), Washington State TDD Relay Service: Voice Callers: 1-800-833-6384; TDD Callers: 1-800-833-6388, 509.-335-1259(f), or hrs@wsu.edu

Beverly Brantner, Program Coordinator
Horticulture & Landscape Architecture
Washington State University
PO Box 646414
Pullman, WA 99164-6414
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Johnson Hall 149
Phone 509-335-3943  Fax 509-335-8690
brantner@wsu.edu

Contributed by  Doreen Main via Ann Marie Thro
CSREES, USDA

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5.04  Collections manager position at Native Seed/Search

Under the supervision of the Conservation Director, the Collections Manager is responsible for the management, organization and physical well-being of the NS/S collection of crop genetic resources from the southwestern US and northwestern Mexico. Duties include but are not limited to:

-Managing, organizing and developing the collection as representative of the region
-Coordinating and implementing timely regeneration of crops
-Ensuring the genetic purity and integrity of accessions through use of appropriate sampling and pollination protocols; conducting controlled pollinations in the field and greenhouses
-Coordinating with Conservation Farm staff to ensure proper crop development, timing of harvest and appropriate post-harvest processing of seeds
-Conducting appropriate passport, characterization, viability, horticultural, agronomic and ecological data sampling; ensuring data are maintained and accessible in database 
-Ensuring appropriate taxonomic classification of accessions
-Processing germplasm samples for frozen storage and distribution
-Managing operation of the seed storage area, including maintaining optimal conditions for seed storage
-Supervising and training staff and volunteers

Qualifications:
-
3-5 years experience in plant genetic resource (PGR) conservation, special collections management or minimum M.S. in area relevant to PGR (e.g. genetics, plant breeding, conservation) OR
-an equivalent combination of experience, training and/or education relevant to the position and its duties
-experience with farm research and/or major farming operations a plus
-familiarity with aridland crops a plus
-ability to work in 100 degree plus temperatures
-proficiency in Word and Excel; mastery of Access or other relational databases
-ability to communicate and write effectively
-excellent organizational skills
-reliable, responsible and able to work independently and as part of a team
-ability to work efficiently and effectively with culturally diverse staff, volunteers and interns
-possession of a valid driver’s license

This is a full-time position with benefits. To apply, please send resume, cover letter and three references to: Julie Evans, Director of Marketing & Operations, 526 N. 4th Ave., Tucson, AZ 85705, Phone: 520-622-0830, Email: jevans@nativeseeds.org

For further information on Native Seeds/SEARCH see www.nativeseeds.org

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

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5.05  Vegetable breeding position: Cornell University

Position
: Assistant or Associate Professor of Plant Breeding & Genetics (tenure track) Vegetable Breeding and Genetics Research (60%) and teaching (40%)

Starting Date: To be determined

Location: Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, New York State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853-1901

Responsibilities: To lead an innovative research program on the genetics and breeding of vegetable crops.  The successful candidate will be expected to develop a strong research and teaching program in vegetable genetics and breeding.  Emphasis will focus on methods for identification and utilization of disease and/or insect resistance to improve vegetable germplasm and varieties.  Existing genetic resources are especially well developed for breeding and genetics of cucurbits and pepper.  Techniques employed may include whole plant, population and molecular/cellular approaches. The appointee will be expected to develop a strong externally funded program, advise and direct graduate students, release improved germplasm and/or varieties, interact with stakeholders, and actively participate in Cornell’s Vegetable Breeding Institute. Teaching responsibilities include a 4-credit course at the undergraduate level and participation in journal clubs at the graduate level. Preference will be given to candidates interested in forming interactive networks with faculty in related fields such as horticulture, plant pathology, plant biology and computational biology and willingness to serve as a resource person for students and faculty in the area of plant genetics and disease resistance. Personal statements summarizing teaching experience and interests, leadership efforts, and contributions to diversity are encouraged. For more information visit our web site http://plbrgen.cals.cornell.edu.

Qualifications:
-
Ph.D. in plant breeding, plant genetics, or plant molecular biology
-Experience in teaching, student advising, and research related to this position, either post-doctoral or pre-doctoral
-Evidence of ability to work with other researchers in interdisciplinary inquiry
-Evidence of ability to attract extramural support and lead an innovative research/ breeding program
-Postdoctoral and/or other relevant experience desirable.

Salary: Competitive and commensurate with background and experience.  An attractive fringe benefits package is available.

Applications: Send a letter of application, complete resume, and academic transcripts to: Dr. Mark Sorrells, Search Committee Chair c/o Cynda Farnham, 240 Emerson Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853-1901 and have three letters of reference sent to the same address.  Inquiries about the position may be directed to Cynda Farnham, 240 Emerson Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853-1901; clf4@cornell.edu; 607-255-2180; 607-255-6683 (fax). Review of applications will begin February, 2008.

Contributed by Mary Kreitinger
mek29@cornell.edu

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6. MEETINGS, COURSES AND WORKSHOPS

NEW OR REVISED ANNOUNCEMENTS

*3-6 February 2008 International Conference “Molecular Mapping & Marker Assisted Selection in Plants, Vienna.(new information)

Abstracts are still being accepted for poster and oral presentations. For submission, send your abstract to the following email address:
molmapping.pflanzenmolbio@univie.ac.at
Please, click for registration now:
http://www.events.mondial.at/ei/getdemo.ei?id=322&s=_14W1145F1
View all meeting information online at http://www.univie.ac.at/molmapping/

"Molecular Mapping & Marker Assisted Selection in Plants" will cover the following topics:
-  Plant Genome Organisation
-  Plant Genome Analysis and Mapping
-  Molecular Markers for Genetic Mapping of Plant Genome
-  Marker-assisted Selection 
-  Mapping of Quantitative Trait Loci (QTL) 
-  Map-based Cloning & Chromosome Mapping. 

For any further questions please contact the conference organisers: molmapping.pflanzenmolbio@univie.ac.at 

Contributed by Simone Kogler ( kogler@mondial-congress.com) and Marie Baubin ( baubin@mondial-congress.com)

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*
20-21 February 2008. Breeding with Molecular Markers. Buehler Alumni Center, UC Davis Seed Biotechnology Center

The UC Davis Seed Biotechnology Center will be offering its third Breeding with Molecular Markers course on February 20th-21st, 2008 at the Buehler Alumni Center. This course is designed for professional plant breeders who want to learn or expand their knowledge on when and how to incorporate molecular markers into their breeding programs. It is also appropriate for lab professionals who want to learn how their work may be applied. The course focuses on current marker technologies, quantitative trait loci, marker-assisted selection, appropriate population structures and sizes and quality control. The second day will host a hands-on workshop on how to analyze marker data with phenotypic data in breeding programs. The course is taught by experienced academic and industry professionals.  On-line registration is now available.

Contributed by Catherine Glaeser
clglaeser@ucdavis.edu

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*2 March 2008. Meeting of scientists with an interest in Lablab purpureus/ (Dolichos), Arusha, Tanzania.

The Kirkhouse Trust supports research projects on this crop based in India and Africa. It has plans to bring scientists with an interest in /Lablab purpureus/ (Dolichos) together for a one day meeting on Sunday 2nd March 2008 near Arusha, Tanzania. This event is being held in conjunction with the International Symposium on "/Underutilized plants for food, nutrition, income and// sustainable development/" being held between 3 - 7 March 2008, which is organized under the auspices of the International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS). For additional information see http://lablablab.org.

If you are an Indian or African scientist who is currently making germplasm collections, and/or carrying out breeding or other research work on this crop and would like:
-· to know more about the one day meeting, or
-· to receive a report on the proceedings,
please contact:
Emma Wilmore
Trust Administrator
Kirkhouse Trust
emma.wilmore@kirkhousetrust.org

Contributed by Robert Koebner
mockbeggars@onetel.com

+++++++

*13-14 March 2008 Plant Responses to Biotic and Abiotic Stress. The Second Biennial Charley Rick Symposium, University of California, Davis Plant Genomics Program

Named in honor of the late Dr. Charley Rick, distinguished plant geneticist and UCD professor, the second biennial symposium will bring together scholars whose research addresses plant responses to biotic and abiotic stress.

The Charley Rick symposium is organized by the UCD Plant Genomics Program (PGP), which was founded in 2004 to encourage interaction between the wide range of people and disciplines involved in plant genomics research on campus ( http://pgp.ucdavis.edu/).  The PGP currently has a membership of 45 faculty members representing 19 different UCD departments.

The event will begin the evening of March 13, 2008 with a welcome reception for all attendees followed by a keynote address by Paul Schulze-Lefert, Director, Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research, Cologne, Germany. 

For registration visit http://conferences.ucdavis.edu/charleyrick
For more information please contact Jeleana Johnson, 530 754-2252, jtejohnson@ucdavis.edu

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

Contributed by Catherine Glaeser
clglaeser@ucdavis.edu

+++++++++++

*31 March–11 April 2008. Training Course: Molecular Marker Applications in Crop Genetics and Breeding, ICRISAT, Patancheru, Greater Hyderabad, India. ICRISAT’s Center of Excellence in Genomics (CEG).

ICRISAT's Center of Excellence in Genomics (CEG), supported by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India, is pleased to announce its first Training Course entitled "Molecular Marker Applications in Crop Genetics and Breeding" to be held 31 March-11 April 2008 at the ICRISAT campus at Patancheru, Greater Hyderabad, India. The course will provide participants a hands-on opportunity to gain expertise in the use of molecular markers (SSRs, SNPs and DArTs) in diversity analysis, gene/QTL mapping and marker-assisted breeding. The course will focus on the experimental design and data analysis components of molecular markers, rather than the actual marker data generation technology. Special attention will be given on the requirements to utilize a high-throughput marker service facility such as the one being established at the CEG.

The course is open to Indian students and scientists who have a demonstrable ability to use the techniques taught and the CEG marker services. Transport to/from ICRISAT, room and board, and all training costs will be provided to the selected participants from India through funds provided by the DBT, Government of India. The course is also open to a few participants outside of India, although all transportation costs to/from ICRISAT will have to be borne by the participant or their sponsor(s).

Submit your application using the On-line Application Form available at the CEG Website ( www.icrisat.org/ceg/cegregistration.htm). Applications will be accepted until 31 December 2007. For further information, please contact Dr. Dave Hoisington (d.hoisington@cgiar.org).

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*7-18 April 2008. Quantitative Methods in Plant Breeding, The National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NAIB), Cambridge, UK.

The two week postgraduate level course is believed to be the first of its kind in the UK. It will focus on statistics, computation and data handling, molecular genetics, population genetics, quantitative genetics, linkage analysis, association mapping and marker assisted selection.

It has been designed for plant breeders and plant geneticists who have some background knowledge of statistics and quantitative genetics, but who wish to understand and be able to apply these methods more thoroughly, as well as postgraduate students working on the detection and analysis of gene(s) controlling the inheritance of complex traits.

The course is limited to 20 participants and will be held at NIAB’s site in Cambridge between 7-18 April. It will be led by Statistical Geneticist, Dr Ian Mackay. He said: “Training in plant breeding has all but vanished in the UK. NIAB has the facilities and expertise covering may aspects of plant breeding and is developing breeding programmes in a range of crops It is therefore ideally placed to reintroduce this training and education. This short course is unique in providing intensive training in the quantitative methods which underpin many aspects of traditional and modern plant breeding.”

The course will introduce participants to methods in quantitative genetics and statistics. Course content will range from the well established, for example variety trial design and analysis, to more contemporary methods such as linkage disequilibrium mapping. Emphasis will be on practical application of methods to breeding programmes with theory covered in sufficient depth to allow confident evaluation and application of methods to plant breeding programmes. The course will provide an opportunity for practical plant breeders to become familiar with the concepts and utilization of contemporary software to detect genetic linkage between markers and traits, enhancing understanding of association genetics approaches to better understand germplasm dynamics.

The cost of the course is postgraduate student, £1,108; academic, £1,508; and industry, £2,008. Accommodation at a nearby college can be arranged. NIAB also has five £300 bursaries to offer students taking the course, plus an accommodation package.

An application form is available on this pdf link:
http://www.niab.com/jdd/public/documents/courses/Short%20course%20flyer.pdf
Further information is available by contacting the course director by email at courses@niab.com or by calling the course administrator on 01223 342269.
#####
NIAB is a plant science research organisation developing parental plant breeding material, research, technical services and training in plant genetic resources for world-wide use. With over 80 years experience in the agricultural and food sectors, it has earned a reputation for independence, innovation and integrity. Its traditional core activities are variety characterisation and evaluation, seed testing, operating official seed certification schemes and training.  http://www.niab.com/

Contributed by Ellee Seymour
ellee.seymour@btopenworld.com

++++++++

*September 2008. Apply now for the Plant Breeding Academy – space is limited! (New information)

The Plant Breeding Academy (PBA), sponsored by the UC Davis Seed Biotechnology Center, is accepting applications for Class II, which will begin in September 2008.  Already accepted to the new class are a number of outstanding professionals from the US, Europe and Africa. These individuals work with a variety of crops including grains, vegetables, and legumes.

The PBA is a two year program designed to meet the needs of working professionals, giving them the critical tools they will need to manage a breeding program.  Meeting for six one-week sessions over two years, the academy’s schedule allows participants to maintain their current working positions.  The course includes lectures, field trips, discussions, homework, and a comprehensive final project where students design a breeding program.

Taught by internationally recognized plant breeders, the PBA is limited in size to give students personal attention.  Visit the Plant Breeding Academy website for more information and to apply for the 2008-2010 Academy.  For questions, contact Cathy Glaeser, Program Representative, at clglaeser@ucdavis.edu, or 530-752-4414.

Contributed by Catherine Glaeser
clglaeser@ucdavis.edu

+++++++++++

*7-11 December 2008. Vth International Symposium on Horticultural Research, Teaching and Extension, Chiang Mai, Thailand

The theme of the symposium will be Research Training and Extension in Horticultural Science: Staff, Student, Institution and Industry Partnerships in a Changing World.

Accordingly we wish to bring to your attention the opportunity to present any recent results at the Symposium undertaken on the horticultural research, teaching and extension. Papers can be presented in the form of research papers, posters or case studies. All papers will be subject to a blind peer review and the papers that are accepted will be published in a special edition of Acta Horticulturae.

Further information can be obtained from the website: http://muresk.curtin.edu.au/conference/ishset/topic.html

Contributed by David Aldous (kaldous@optusnet.com.au) via Ann Marie Thro
ATHRO@CSREES.USDA.GOV


REPEAT ANNOUNCEMENTS

*3-6 February 2008 International Conference “Molecular Mapping & Marker Assisted Selection in Plants, Vienna..
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/

* 5-10 April 2008. The 10th International Barley Genetics Symposium, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Egypt. http://www.icarda.org/10thIBGS/

*8-11 July 2008. International Cotton Genome Initiative (ICGI) Research Conference, Conference Center of the Anyang Hotel, Anyang, China.  http://icgi.tamu.edu/meeting/2008/

*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/

*9-12 December 2008. Second International Symposium on Papaya Madurai, India.
Organized by the International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS) in collaboration with Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, India and other scientific organizations


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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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