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


21 January 2008

An Electronic Newsletter of Applied Plant Breeding

Clair H. Hershey, Editor

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

Archived issues available at: FAO Plant Breeding Newsletter

1.01  Can crops be climate-proofed?
1.02  The molecularization of public sector crop breeding: progress, problems and prospects
1.03  New African Crop Science Society Council (2007-2009)
1.04  Directory of experts: Merit scholarship programme of the Islamic Development network
1.05  Latin America and EU to collaborate on biotechnology
1.06  Government of Pakistan launches vegetable seed and seedling production program, calls for cooperators and suppliers
1.07  Projects to be carried out by IDB science development network in 2008
1.08  Crops for the Future: an new global body
1.09  Human skills still vital after 90 years of NIAB seed testing
1.10  Researchers team up to improve popcorn
1.11  NIAB staff to set up agricultural aid site in Moldova
1.12  Feeding the world: new method for producing high-vitamin corn could improve nutrition in developing countries
1.13  Cornell University to share $5.5 million federal grant with Yale for study of major cereal crops
1.14  NDSU releases Stampede, a new pinto bean variety
1.15  NDSU releases Lariat, a new pinto bean variety
1.16  Research and field monitoring on transgenic crops
1.17  USDA/APHIS seeks public comment on genetically engineered alfalfa
1.18  UBC discovery unlocks tree genetics, gives new hope for pine beetle defense
1.19  Genetically modified carrots provide more calcium
1.20  Testing program for glufosinate-tolerant cotton varieties paves the way for industry's first three-way stack of herbicide-tolerant technologies
1.21  Disease resistant crop varieties head the ‘most wanted’ list for Australian graingrowers
1.22  Transgenic potatoes with multiple stress tolerance
1.23  Research on how plants transport sugars could be of critical importance in era of global warming
1.24  Plant geneticists find veritas in vino
1.25  Jumping genes to remove markers from GM plants
1.26  Plant genome sequencing continues to progress
1.27  Cornell University research sheds light on the mechanics of gene transcription
1.28  U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute Releases Soybean Genome Assembly

2.01  Proceedings of the 2006 International Plant Breeding Symposium
2.02  White paper on the organic food industry in the United States and the European Union
2.03  Biofortified Food Crops: Progress and Prospects in Developing Countries
2.04  S&G issues the 6th edition of S&G Peppers Today, the newsletter for the world of peppers

3.01  S&G launches, the website about the world of melons

4.01  Funding opportunities posted by the Global Facilitation Unit for Underutilized Species
4.02  Generation Challenge Programme: Call for proposals for competitive research
4.03  Ceres Bioenergy scholarships established at Texas A&M

5.01  Tree fruit genomics at the Geneva campus of Cornell University
5.02  Vegetable breeding position: Cornell University
5.03  Research Scientist, Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research, Aberystwyth Research Centre





1.01  Can crops be climate-proofed?

Climate change threatens food crops across the world. Now scientists are re-focusing their efforts on crop resilience, rather than yields.

Among the most worrying aspects of climate change is its effects on the world's food supply. The worst-case scenario is stark: Africa's Sahel region will produce fewer cereals, rice cultivation in Asia will be under threat, there will be fewer vegetables ­ with potatoes and beans potentially wiped out ­ and livestock and fisheries will be severely stressed.

Climate change is making crop scientists review their research agenda. Until now, their main focus was on improving yields. But with successive International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports warning that increased droughts and floods will shift crop systems, 'climate-proofing' of crops has become crucial. The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) institutes are now investigating how to make crops' more resilient to environment stresses.

Working blind
But efforts are hampered because few climate models predict changes for individual regions, making it difficult to predict how climate change will affect growth and yields of specific crops in each region.

"A partnership between climatologists and crop scientists will be valuable in developing regional analogues," says Martin Parry, IPCC co-chair and a scientist at the UK-based Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research.

And the need is urgent. At a meeting of CGIAR institutes in Hyderabad, India, in November 2007, Parry said that the estimated window for implementing mitigation and adaptation programmes has shrunk from 30–40 years to 15.

He advised CGIAR scientists to put climate change at the heart of research programmes.

Others agree. As Kwesi Atta-Krah, deputy director-general of the Italy-based research organisation Biodiversity International says, "Plant breeders now need to focus on the future as well as the present, and use the vast genetic resources in gene banks and in the wild that hold potential for adaptation of major crops to a changing climate."

Rice crops most vulnerable
Rice crops are most vulnerable to global warming. Studies worldwide show that rising carbon dioxide levels may initially increase growth, but the benefit is temporary. Rising temperatures make rice spikelets ­ the slender branches containing rice flowers ­ sterile, and grain yields will fall.

Asia and sub-Saharan Africa will be amongst the most severely affected by climate change. About 90 per cent of the world's rice is grown and consumed in Asia (where 70 per cent of the world's poor live), and sub-Saharan Africa is the world's fastest growing rice consumer. The most vulnerable agricultural systems are the rain-fed uplands and lowlands that form almost 80 per cent of total rice land in Africa.

Reiner Wassman, coordinator of the Rice and Climate Change Consortium at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines, says IRRI strategies should include breeding rice that can survive climate change. He wants to see plants that can tolerate higher temperatures and/or flooding, that flower in the mornings before temperatures rise, and that transpire (lose water through evaporation from leaves) more efficiently to cool the air around them.

His hopes are buoyed by IRRI's latest research into the rice line 'sub1', which survived submersion for 17 days (see Scientists create flood-resistant rice). The line could provide genes for flood tolerance.

In Africa, the Africa Rice Centre (WARDA) is focusing on its NERICA (New Rice for Africa) varieties. These combine traits of Africa's Oryza glaberrima ­ such as drought and local disease tolerance ­ with the high yields of Asia's Oryza sativa.

Looming disaster for wheat?
Drought is also a big concern for the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) in El Batan, Mexico. The IPCC's predictions of increasing droughts spell disaster for half of the developing world's wheat growing areas.

The problem is particularly acute in central and west Africa, where the poor depend on wheat but get an annual rainfall of less than 350 mm, says CIMMYT scientist Rodomiro Ortiz.

CIMMYT has launched a hunt for drought tolerance in wild wheats and 'landraces' ­ traditional crops that have adapted to local conditions over centuries. The centre is also teaming up with the Japan International Research Centre for Agricultural Sciences to map drought-tolerant genes in wheat and maize.

CIMMYT is using its findings in both traditional breeding and genetic engineering programmes. For example, researchers are working on genetically engineered wheat containing the DREB gene of Arabidopsis thaliana ­ a relative of mustard plants ­ that may confer tolerance to drought, saline soils and low temperatures. CIMMYT is testing yields of genetically engineered plants with the DREB gene under varying water stress.

However, Ortiz cautions that the plant is still experimental. Most published studies simulated drought conditions in greenhouses more rapidly than would occur naturally. Ortiz wants more experiments under natural water stress conditions.

Shrinking diversity
Scientists look for useful genes in plants grown only locally, and CIMMYT already has maize breeding programmes that work with local communities. But researchers fear many useful wild species could disappear.

"Climate change is leading to significant losses of genetic resources in several regions of the world," says Atta-Krah. He says diversity among crop species must be effectively conserved, managed, and used to improve crops and adapt to climate change.

One striking example of shrinking diversity is Latin America's beans. Peter Jones, a scientist at the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Columbia, says that of the 17 wild species of the Arachis genus ­ the pea family that includes the peanut ­ 12 will be extinct by 2055 due to climate change.

We must systematically map important bean species and ensure important collections have more than five live specimens, adds Jones.

The world's livestock are also in the danger zone. A 2006 assessment of global animal genetic resources by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that 70 per cent of the world's unique livestock are in developing countries. Many breeds already risk extinction. On average, one livestock breed is lost every month, mainly due to globalisation of livestock markets.

Climate change will strike further blows. According to the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Kenya, climate change will affect livestock by changing the yield and nutritional quality of their fodder, increasing disease and disease-spreading pests, reducing water availability, and making it difficult to survive in extreme environments.

"Climate change will have impacts at the ecosystem level that are poorly understood," says ILRI's deputy director-general for research, John McDermott. Effects will vary between the rain-fed highlands in the Great Lakes region of eastern Africa, the coastal regions of south, east and west Africa, and the forests of central Africa. The exact consequences for each ecosystem need to be analysed in detail.

Water holds the key
The common theme in all these changes is water availability. Already, one-third of the world's people live in river basins where they face water scarcity. But climate change will have other effects on agricultural irrigation.

The timing and size of river flows will change, affecting river water schemes, says Colin Chartres, director-general of the Sri-Lanka-based International Water Management Institute. He adds that receding glaciers mean less water will be available in spring, which could affect some 17 per cent of the world's population, including those irrigating the Indus basin. Changes in groundwater recharge could also affect irrigation in China, India, Mexico and the United States.

Chartes says scientists need to go beyond coarse global models, and develop specific river-basin and farm-scale models of how climate change will affect river water availability and lake levels. He also calls for more precise models of how climate change may affect fish productivity in oceans, seas and inland fisheries.

A tentative start
As the problems become apparent, CGIAR centres are working on better understanding their implications.

The India-based International Centre for Research in Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) research strategy for 2007–2012 targets climate change issues in the short- and medium-to-longer term.

ICRISAT director-general, William Dar, says ICRISAT is working to make millets, sorghum, pigeon pea and groundnut better adapted to major climate stresses. The organisation has already developed varieties tolerant to heat, high soil temperatures, low and variable rainfall, and diseases.

What is needed now, says Dar, is a better knowledge of the physiology behind stress tolerance, wider gene pools, and more effective screening methods for useful genes.

CIAT is developing computer software to analyse future climate scenarios. Examples include 'MarkSim' to simulate daily weather for up to 100 years anywhere in the tropics, and 'Homologue' to compare climate and soil throughout the tropics.

The International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) has studied how areas in and around Egypt, Morocco and Sudan are coping with water scarcity in rainfed and irrigated grasslands, as well as traditional watershed management systems.

But the task ahead is tough. As Jones points out, historically the average time between scientists beginning to hunt for useful traits and a new stable variety growing in farmers' fields has been 46 years. "So that is how far ahead we should be looking at the start of every project," he says.

And as one participant at the Hyderabad conference commented, "You may put all those traits for tolerance to drought, salt and pests in a plant ­ and then find it has no yield!"

T.V. Padma

11 January 2008

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1.02  The molecularization of public sector crop breeding: progress, problems and prospects

coauthored by Sangam Dwivedi, Jonathan Crouch, David Mackill, Yunbi Xu, Matthew Blair, Michel Ragot, Hari Upadhyaya, and Rodomiro Ortiz

Advances in Agronomy 95:163-318, 2007.

This article provides a comprehensive overview of the status and use of DNA marker technologies in the genetic enhancement of major cereals (rice, maize, wheat, barley, oat, pearl millet, and sorghum), legumes (beans, broadbean, chickpea, cowpea, pea, peanut, and soybean), and clonal crops (cassava, potato, yam, sweetpotato, plantain and banana); which together constitute the major staple foods in the developed and developing world. The subjects included in this review are genetic resources; markers and genetic maps; marker-trait association using both traditional genetic linkage and association-based mapping; marker/QTL validation; application of marker assisted selection (MAS) in product development; computational tools needed to assist molecular breeding; and finally how researchers are using plant genomics to address some of the complex issues of significant agricultural importance.

It is hoped that researchers will find this review a useful literature resource to update their knowledge and plan future strategies to enhance the genetic potential of these food crops around the world.

Molecular markers and genetic maps are available for most important food crops. Marker-trait associations have been established for a diverse array of traits in these crops, and research on marker/QTL validation and refinement is increasingly common. Researchers are now routinely using candidate gene-based mapping and genome-wide linkage disequilibrium and association analysis in addition to classical QTL mapping to identify markers broadly applicable to breeding programs. Marker-assisted selection (MAS) is practiced for enhancing various host plant resistances, several quality traits and a number of abiotic stress tolerances in many well researched crops. Markers are also increasingly used to transfer yield or quality enhancing QTL alleles from wild relatives to elite cultivars. Large-scale MAS-based breeding programs for crops such as rice, maize, wheat, barley, pearl millet and common bean have already been initiated worldwide. Advances in “omics” technologies are now assisting researchers to address complex biological issues of significant agricultural importance: modeling genotype-by-environment interaction; fine mapping, cloning and pyramiding of QTL; gene expression analysis and gene function elucidation; dissecting the genetic structure of germplasm collections to mine novel alleles and develop genetically structured trait-based core collections; and understanding the molecular basis of heterosis. The challenge now is to translate and integrate this knowledge into appropriate tools and methodologies for plant breeding programs. The role of computational tools in achieving this is becoming increasingly important. It is expected that harnessing the outputs of genomics research will be an important component in successfully addressing the challenge of doubling world food production by 2050.

Contributed by Sangam Dwivedi ( and Rodomiro Ortiz (

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1.03  New African Crop Science Society Council (2007-2009)

The affairs of the Society are managed by a Council, consisting of:
The immediate Past-President of the Society;
plus the following elected members: i) A President, ii) A Vice-President, iii) Five (5) Regional members, iv) Woman representative; v) Three ordinary Council Members; c) A Secretary, Treasurer and an Editor-in-Chief, African Crop Science Journal, to be appointed by the chosen Council.

At the General Meeting Assembly (El-Minia, Egypt, October 29, 2007) Through holding of the 8th African Crop Science Society Conference, 27-31 October 2007, El-Minia, Egypt , New Council was elected for the upcoming two years periods (2007-2009).

For more information, kindly visit conference website at hppt:// moreover you can contact via E-mail:

Contributed by Kasem Zaki Ahmed
President, ACSS, & Chairperson, Local Organizing Committee.,

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1.04  Directory of experts: Merit scholarship programme of the Islamic Development network

The Merit scholarship programme of the Islamic Development network is forming a directory of experts to be used for forming a panel of external reviewers.
The panel will review and assess applications for Ph.D. and post-doctoral applications in the following fields of study

1. Biotechnology (genetics, medicine, pharmacy, agriculture and food technology, environment, water research)
2. Nanotechnology (chemical engineering, Material sciences, conductors and semi-conductors, laser and fiber optics)
3. Information and communications technologies (Electronics, telecommunications, computer science)
4. Fuel technology (renewable energy, fuel technology)
5. Physical sciences (nuclear science, polymers, system engineering, metallurgy, space sciences)
6. Technology management

Thus, if you are interested to be included in the directory of experts, please send the following information to :

1. Your CV
2. The field of study, from the above-mentioned 6 fields, to be reviewed.

The preference language for reviewing (English, French)

It might be worth mentioning that there will be a symbolic honorarium in return to your valuable efforts.

Looking forward to hearing from you within a week

Contributed by Wagdy Sawahel
General coordinator, science development network

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1.05  Latin America and EU to collaborate on biotechnology

The Latin American trade pact Mercosur and the European Union have agreed to develop a programme to fund agricultural biotechnology projects in Latin America.

BIOTECSUR was unveiled last week (19 December) at Argentina's Ministry of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation.

The European Union (EU) has pledged US$10.4 million to the programme, with Mercosur members Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay investing US$1.4 million. Argentina will coordinate the programme.

The initiative will fund four regional projects in four areas of interest: forestry, oilseeds, ovine (sheep) and avian (bird).

"We are going to create a regional platform for biotechnology, which gathers policy, science and the private sector", says Igueda Menvielle, director of BIOTECSUR and national director of international relationships at the Argentinean Ministry of Science.

Menvielle said the programme focuses on agricultural biotechnology because this sector has a high impact on innovation and development, which in turn will have a positive impact on the region's economy.

Representatives from the Mercosur nations and the EU will attend seminars between February and April 2008 to identify the region's main biotechnology demands. A call for project proposals will be launched in May and remain open until the end of July.

A jury of experts and policymakers will select the four final projects, to be presented to the EU in September. Each project will receive €1 million (US$1.4 million) and start in November 2008, running for about two and a half years.

Menvielle says that Brazil is organising a similar regional programme on information and communication technologies.
Laura García

27 December 2007

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1.06  Government of Pakistan launches vegetable seed and seedling production program, calls for cooperators and suppliers

Islamabad, Pakistan
Government of Pakistan has launched a project “Establishment of Facilitation Unit for Participatory Vegetable Seed and Seedling Production Program.”

The main objective of the program is to acquire elite genetic resources, collection of indigenous genetic resources, characterization, purification and multiplication, to acquire vegetable seed processing machinery, seed drying, coating, pelleting, packaging etc, to hire expertise internationally and locally to train our technician, vegetable growers, and professionals for hybrid vegetable seed production.

The project will establish 10 participatory units through out the Pakistan where such facility would be provided. These participatory units will be comprised of private seed companies which will enter into agreement to abide by IPR issue, royalties and investment in technical staff and use of genetic resources. Project will facilitate the participatory units for commercial hybrid seed production. The project has inbuilt fund provision to pay for material, consultants. It is also envisage introducing through project vegetable nursery production, so controlled environment facility would also be acquired in this regard.

Keeping in view the above significance for vegetable seed industry of Pakistan, you are very humbly requested to extend cooperation for the provision of genetic resources and information about relevant machinery alongwith the cost/royalty and conditionality etc.

The seed manufacturing equipment companies are particularly requested to send each specification of individual machinery for placement of order etc. our request may please be conveyed to others concerned also.

Your cooperation will be greatly acknowledged.

With regards,

Dr. Akhlaq Hussain,
Director General/Project Director,
Federal Seed Certification &
Registration Department,
G-9/4, Mauve Area,

Government of Pakistan
Ministry of Food, Agriculture & Livestock
Federal Seed Certification & Registration Department
G 9/4, Mauve Area, Islamabad
Tel : +92 51- 9260126
Fax : +92 51-9260234

14 January 2008

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1.07  Projects to be carried out by IDB science development network in 2008

Dear Members of science development network,

Many thanks for your continuous support to SDN.

I'm delighted to let you know that having about 20.000 scientists, researchers, technologists and science policy makers from almost all Islamic Development Bank (IDB) member countries, Muslim scientists living in non-Muslim countries and other scientists in the world, IDB science development network (SDN) has already become a global scientific forum.

Now, SDN is the world's leading online Islamic network of science and technology (S&T) for development of the Ummah.

SDN has also established itself as a knowledge transfer and dissemination house as it managed to transfer about half million pages to its members since its launch in 2005.

Information is the key to the growth of knowledge and dissemination of information is crucial for the scientific enterprise.

Thus, in line with IDB vision to become a knowledge-based bank and in abid to expand SDN service to business community as well as professionals, SDN will set up the following projects to promote science cooperation between IDB member countries and stimulate the flow of knowledge and technology.

(1) Directory for S&T associations, societies and networks in IDB member countries.

(2) Directory of S&T parks, incubators, and cities in IDB member countries.

This directory will highlight the important role of science parks in promoting the culture of innovation and competitiveness among businesses and knowledge-based institutions. It will also promote links between scientists at universities and R&D institutions and science parks in the region with the aim to facilitate the set up and development of innovation-based companies through incubation and spin-off processes.

(3) Innovation Alliance Resources in IDB member countries
"Muslims must learn to innovate or be left behind" ABDULLAH Bin Ahmad Badawi, Malaysia's prime minister said.

The shortcomings of education systems in IDB member countries have been highlighted by the lack of entrepreneurship and innovation in the region. Of the top 15 countries which have submitted international applications under the patent cooperation treaty, not one of them are Muslim country.

For innovation to take root, the 'golden triangle' of academic institutions, governments and the private sector must cooperate in doing business…..

This project is the first step for SDN effort towards building innovation and knowledge-based society in the Islamic world.

(4) Database of technological innovations for poverty reduction
Given that all 57 OIC Member States are categorized as developing countries, poverty alleviation in the Muslim World is both evident and compelling. While the OIC countries account for 21 % of the global population in 2005, they make up only 6% of global G.D.P.

Of the 50 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in the world today, where the majority of the populace live in extreme poverty, 22 are OIC Member States and 18 of them are in Africa. Additionally, 12 OIC Member States in Asia and Africa are Landlocked Developing States (LLDCs) while 6 others in Asia, Africa and the Americas are Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Both these groups face unique developmental challenges due to geographical limitations and urgently need scaled-up, targeted development assistance if they are to make progress towards the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.

There is a growing interest in government and civil society organizations to adopt innovative poverty reduction approaches to reach the poorest of the poor. In this regard, finding approaches geared towards poverty reduction among the poor is important as it adds new ideas to donors, policy makers, and researchers to develop easily adaptable technology in a cost-effective manner.

Thus, this database will include examples of technological innovations that have been used for poverty reduction.

Contributed by Wagdy Sawahel
General coordinator, science development network

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1.08  Crops for the Future: an new global body

A new global body, provisionally called ‘Crops for the Future’ will spearhead the drive to bring underutilized crops into the mainstream

Underutilized crops are crops for the future. Around the world, species that are little used, or which were grown traditionally but have fallen into disuse, are being brought out of the shadows and put to use, especially in the hands of the poor. Over 7,000 plant species have been grown or collected for food. But worldwide, less than 150 have been commercialized and just three crops – maize, wheat and rice – supply half our daily proteins and calories.


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1.09  Human skills still vital after 90 years of NIAB seed testing

England’s Official Seed Testing Station, based at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany in Cambridge, has just reached its 90 year milestone.

Its laboratories play a vital role in promoting seed quality and introducing new plant varieties in support of UK agriculture. It ensures that the highest standards are maintained, and that the finest crops are produced as a result of using seed fit for purpose.

The reason the Official Seed Testing Station (OSTS) started is as relevant today as it was back in 1917 when it was originally based in London, before moving to its present NIAB site in 1921 – to ensure food security. Between 1914-1918, there was an urgent need for increased home food production and this resulted in new legislation requiring seed to be tested for purity and germination before use.

Today, global concerns about the impact of climate change on crop production mean that these challenges still very much exist. Seeds are stringently scrutinised and approved for certification following EU directives. The technical protocols followed have been developed by the International Seed Testing Association, of which the OSTS is a member, and strives to establish uniformity in seed testing world wide.

The NIAB seed testing laboratories are designated as the Official Seed Testing Station for England and Wales by DEFRA. Highly skilled seed analysts closely monitor the quality of testing carried out at 28 licensed laboratories throughout the country where 12,500 seed lots are certified each year, mainly cereals, along with other crops like grasses, pulses, oilseed rape and vegetables. They carry out random tests on 5% of these seeds to ensure that quality standards are maintained.  They also provide staff training at home or around the world. The OSTS is used by farmers and merchants for advisory and information purposes, with the range of species extending to include flowers, trees, herbs and spices, as well as enforcement of the legislative requirements.

The seed testing station, headed by Dr Steve Jones, can boast a wealth of experience as many of the long serving staff remain dedicated to their very painstaking work; five of the nine staff have clocked up between 30 and 39 years service each.

It is a job which requires excellent eye sight and patience, a steady hand and a good memory. The training requires the ability to identify at least 150 species of plant just by looking at the seeds and to name them using the specific botanical name as this will be understood by seed analysts and seed traders worldwide. In fact, some staff have far exceeded this and can identify more than 400 species by sight. The real skill is in being able to see one seed of a different species in 25,000 seeds.

Dr Jones says that many of the methods used in seed testing have not changed since the 1900s.

He said: “One essential piece of ‘equipment’ has always been a well trained seed analyst able to tell apart by sight over 200 species of crop and weed seeds to allow purity and other plant species examinations.

“As a result of our expertise, there is no doubt that NIAB has gained a high reputation for monitoring the quality of British crops and promoting the use of better varieties and high quality seeds.

“It is very rewarding to know that the test results we produce help in the production of quality produce or products on sale in our shops and supermarkets.”

In most cases, the useful clues for the identification of seeds comes from size, shape, colour, surface, markings, texture and the shape and positions of the attachment scar. But seeds, like all living organisms, are inherently variable and not all the usually typical features may be developed.

At the OSTS, seeds are normally examined by eye and for some species with an x8 or x10 hand lens, or a binocular microscope with magnification up to x40 in difficult cases. 

Up until 1974, only women worked as seed analysts at the OSTS; men may have felt deterred because of the manual dexterity involved in handling the small seeds.

Janice Day, who has had 32 years experience as a seed analyst, said:

“Seeds are beautiful, they fascinate me and the work is a challenge. I think this was a much better alternative than the choice I was faced with of working in an office. I have always been known for my very good eye sight and you soon learn how to develop images in your mind and recognise the different shapes, colours and textures.”

Seed specialist Jane Taylor, with 39 years experience as a seed specialist, described her love of the job: “It is a unique job with a lot of variation and even after 39 years, there is still an opportunity to learn more. Much of my work has involved liaison with customers who export seed worldwide. It’s interesting to check out produce in supermarkets for its source of origin. For example, broccoli may have had seed tested here for an ISTA certificate and the seeds will perhaps go to Kenya and then come back here as produce in our shops.”

Dr Jones described what was likely to happen in the next 90 years: “Our future challenges are to pass on the expertise to younger team members and provide innovative solutions to measuring and recording purity and germination. Possible solutions include using robotics, image analysis and visual recognition systems.

“It is easy to forget how good the human brain is at recognising shapes and objects and how practical it is to look through a kilogram of seeds to find the odd one out. Perhaps in 90 years time, there may be some helpful software or extra bits of kit, but I am sure there will still be the need for the human touch.”

Contributed by Ellee Seymour
20 December 2007

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1.10  Researchers team up to improve popcorn

Washington, DC
On a long winter's night, no treat seems simpler than a big bowl of popcorn­until you start to trace the connections between traditional races of popping corns and modern commercial varieties of popcorn.

Plant geneticist Amalio Santacruz Varela­then a graduate student at Iowa State University and currently a professor and researcher at el Colegio de Postgraduados in Mexico­teamed up with Mark Widrlechner to assemble some popcorn pedigrees. Widrlechner is a plant geneticist with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), working at the agency's North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station ( NCRPIS) in Ames, Iowa.

They focused on 56 maize (Zea mays L.) varieties from the United States and Latin America­emphasizing popcorns­and measured 29 morphological traits based on heritable qualities and popping characteristics. They also obtained genetic data from DNA markers and from variations in proteins called enzymes.

Statistical programs were used to analyze these data and estimate the probability of close genetic relationships among the maize varieties. Drawing on the results, the team proposed classifying the majority of U.S. popcorn varieties into three main groups.

Most of the common U.S. commercial varieties belong to the North American Yellow Pearl Popcorns group. This type of popcorn may have its origins in a Chilean popcorn variety adapted to growing conditions similar to conditions in typical U.S. production areas.

The second group, North American Pointed Rice Popcorns, has two subgroups. One contains genetically similar, white popcorns with pointed kernels from the United States, and another represents the major pointed popcorn races from Latin America.

A third group, North American Early Popcorns, appears to be closely related to Northern Flint varieties, which in turn originated from Mexican maize progenitors. Northern Flint varieties have contributed significantly to the development of other important U. S. corn varieties, including Corn Belt Dents­the yellow field corn grown on millions of acres in the United States and other nations­and many sweet corn types.

Plant breeders can use this information about the origin and genetic relationships of U. S. popcorns to develop even better varieties of popcorn for snacking enthusiasts.

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

ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA

Ann Perry

11 January 2008

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1.11  NIAB staff to set up agricultural aid site in Moldova

A team of scientific experts from the National Institute of Agricultural Botany plan to visit Moldova next month, the poorest country in Europe, and set up an agricultural aid site.

The former Communist-run country suffered its worst heatwave in living memory last summer when wells – their main source of water - dried up for the first time in 70 years.

The four-man NIAB team from Cambridge, headed by Chief Executive Prof Wayne Powell, will be given a 2-hectare plot of land by the mayor in the village of Burlacu which will be transformed into a productive agricultural site to demonstrate how different crops can be grown successfully throughout the year. It will become a community project and a best practice model for nearby villages.

The trip, between 4 – 10 January, is being organised by the charity Central and Eastern European Ministries (CEEM), whose Secretary John Law, a former NIAB scientist, said the Moldovan region was desperately in need of agricultural aid.

Most of its land is presently being used to grow vines, threatening their food security. There is also little knowledge or access to improved cultivars or sources of seed to plant new crops.

Prof Powell, and team members Mike Day, Don Pendegrast and Terry Rugg, plan to set up poly tunnels in the village, which has a population of 1,200, and establish a mini research site to demonstrate how various crops can be grown to provide food over a longer growing season; for example cabbage, which can be produced throughout the year, as well as maize, peppers, tomatoes and sweetcorn.

Prof Powell said he was looking forward to helping Moldovans in this hands-on project which would make a real difference to their lives, helping them to produce healthy crops, as well as providing advice and sponsorship in the poorest European country.

He said: “I am delighted to be involved in this project and explore how the skills and expertise of NIAB can help improve the lives of Moldovans.  Indeed this project has galvanised all our staff who are collecting clothes and other old office computers and equipment which will be taken to road lorry next spring.”

Mr Law said CEEM was thrilled to have the support of NIAB, recognised as a world leading agricultural research company, and that it was a unique partnership with the village mayor and local church.

He said the region also suffered from a lost generation of 30-50 year olds who have moved to other countries to work, leaving their young children and elderly parents behind. This has added to poverty and an increase in starving “street children” who the local church is caring for. These children are expected to help with the project too.

Mr Law said: “We hope that this demonstration farm will be in the centre of the village so villagers can come and see their local best practice. I am confident word will spread and there will be tremendous interest from neighbouring communities who will want to replicate this. NIAB will supply the poly tunnels and may sponsor, or seek a sponsor, for its irrigation which could also be extended to the whole village.

“This is a very important visit to promote self sufficiency in crop production during future year, regardless of the climatic conditions. We are also hoping NIAB’s high profile support will encourage other organisations and seed companies to follow suit and offer sponsorship too.

“NIAB is uniquely placed to help provide technical expertise with the appropriate technology solutions that can make real differences to the lives of so many in an often overlooked part of Europe. It is an extremely worthwhile humanitarian and agricultural project to support.”

Contributed by "Ellee Seymour
20 December 2007

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1.12  Feeding the world: new method for producing high-vitamin corn could improve nutrition in developing countries

Could be produced easily and inexpensively in developing countries

Scientists have developed a potentially powerful new tool in the fight against deficiencies in dietary vitamin A, which cause eye diseases, including blindness, in 40 million children annually, and increased health risks for about 250 million people, mostly in developing countries.

This tool consists of "a new method of analyzing the genetic makeup of corn that will enable developing countries to identify and increase cultivation of corn that has naturally high levels of vitamin A precursors," says Ed Buckler, a co-leader of the research team from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service and Cornell University

Corn is an essential part of the diets of hundreds of millions of people around the world, many of whom live in developing countries. Regular consumption by adults and children of adequate quantities of corn high in vitamin A precursors, which are converted in the human body into vitamin A, would reduce their chances of developing vitamin A deficiencies and associated health problems.

This new method of increasing cultivation of high-vitamin corn is designed to tap the natural genetic diversity of corn. It was developed by a team led by Buckler and Torbert Rocheford of the University of Illinois, and was partially funded by The National Science Foundation (NSF). It will be described in the January 18, 2007 edition of Science.

"In a field of thousands of ears of corn, each ear has a slightly different genetic makeup and resulting differences in physical characteristics, including levels of vitamin A precursors -- just like every person in a crowd has a slightly different genetic makeup and associated physiological differences," explains James Collins, assistant director for the Biological Sciences Directorate at NSF. But only a very small percentage of corn crops are genetically programmed to have naturally high levels of vitamin A precursors, and these high-vitamin ears cannot be identified merely by visual inspection. "Therefore, identifying crops that have high levels of vitamin A precursors has traditionally been like finding a needle in a haystack."

But the team led by Buckler and Rocheford has significantly simplified the task of sifting through that proverbial haystack. They did so by identifying genetic markers in corn that are associated with high levels of vitamin A precursors. These markers can be used by "scientists working in very basic labs in developing countries to quickly screen for local corn strains that are high in vitamin A precursors," says Buckler. Then, these high-vitamin strains may be bred, cultivated and consumed by local people.

Corn is the dominant subsistence crop in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, where 17 to 30 percent of children under age five are vitamin A deficient, says Buckler. Because corn is consumed for all three meals a day in much of Africa, it is a good target for vitamin biofortification, he added.

Buckler says that his team's method for analyzing the genetic makeup of corn is "much simpler and faster and up to 1,000-fold cheaper" than running the types of chemical tests that were previously available for identifying corn high in vitamin A precursors. He expects it to significantly accelerate the vitamin biofortification of corn crops.

The Buckler and Rocheford team is currently working with various international organizations, such as CIMMYT (the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center) and the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture, to help train plant breeders in developing countries to use their techniques.

Buckler says that this new method of increasing cultivation of high-vitamin corn was made possible by recent breakthroughs in statistical analyses and the advent of rapid DNA sequencers -- instruments that are used to automate genetic profiling of crops. The researchers expect this new method to have broad applications beyond corn improvement.

Program Contacts
Jane Silverthorne, National Science Foundation

Torbert Rocheford, University of Illinoiis

Ed Buckler, USDA, Agricultural Research Service and Cornell University

17 January 2008

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1.13  Cornell University to share $5.5 million federal grant with Yale for study of major cereal crops

Ithaca, New York

Cornell and Yale universities will share a $5.5 million, four-year grant from the National Science Foundation for research to better understand the biology of rice, maize and sorghum, among other crops.

The Cornell researchers include Associate Professor Klaas van Wijk and Professor Robert Turgeon, both in the Department of Plant Biology, and Thomas Brutnell, adjunct professor and Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research associate scientist. They will collaborate with Cornell computational biologist Qi Sun.

Specifically, the researchers will compare two categories of crops -- or grasses -- known as C3 and C4. Common C3 grasses include wheat, rye and rice. C4 grasses, which evolved from C3s, include such major cereal crops as maize and sorghum as well as the most promising biofuels crops, such as switchgrass. C4 grasses are more efficient than C3 grasses in their photosynthesis when under stress or exposed to higher temperatures and are able to create more biomass.

"Many plants are C3," said van Wijk. "We are asking what is needed for a plant to go from a C3 organization to a C4 organization. Maybe many of the components of the C4 organization are already in place in C3, and we just don't know how to turn those on." The study will provide a basic understanding of differences in cell-specific gene regulation and protein accumulation.

By understanding how these two plant types differ, the researchers will contribute to an effort led by the International Rice Research Institute to introduce C4 characteristics into a C3 species, such as rice, thereby possibly increasing both biomass and grain yields.

The project will use laser technologies to capture specific cell types in maize and rice leaves for further analysis of proteins and gene transcripts. A quantitative inventory of these molecules in each cell type will provide information regarding the regulation of gene expression and will explain how maize and rice plants differ in photosynthesis and in other cellular functions.

Researchers at Yale will be using laser technology to collect the cell types, and along with BTI researchers, they will also conduct transcript analysis. Cornell researchers will use mass spectrometry to analyze the proteins within these captured cells, will study leaf physiology of the grasses and will make a public database of the findings.

By Krishna Ramanujan

16 January 2008

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1.14  NDSU releases Stampede, a new pinto bean variety

Stampede, an upright pinto bean variety for use in the northern Great Plains, has been released by the North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station at North Dakota State University.

Averaged across numerous locations during several years of testing, Stampede out-yielded Maverick by more than 11 percent. Stampede’s yield is about equal to Buster and has a slightly larger seed size than Maverick. Stampede has resistance to bean common mosaic virus and local races of leaf rust.

Stampede has an upright, short vine with good lodging resistance. It exhibits very uniform dry down of both pods and plants and matures about one day later than Maverick. The improved plant structure, combined with its uniform dry down, suggests that this line may be suitable for direct combining if the appropriate equipment and operator care are used.

The development of Stampede began in 1996. The parentage of Stampede includes numerous experimental lines from the NDSU breeding program, plus germplasm from the USDA-ARS programs at Beltsville, Md.; Mayaguez, Puerto Rico; Michigan State University; and Colorado State University. The final cross that led to the development of Stampede was made during the greenhouse season in fall 1998. Plants resulting from this cross then were increased and tested in New Zealand and Puerto Rico, where the NDSU dry bean breeding project has winter nurseries.

Selections from the cross were made at the NDSU bean breeding nursery in Hatton, N.D. Additional testing, selections and increases were made at numerous sites in east-central North Dakota (Forest River, Johnstown and the Carrington Research Extension Center). Additional evaluations were done at other NDSU Research Extension Centers and in the Midwest Regional Performance Nurseries in Michigan, Nebraska, Colorado and North Dakota

According to Juan Osorno, NDSU dry edible bean breeder in the Department of Plant Sciences, Stampeded was developed under the supervision of Ken Grafton, former NDSU dry bean breeder and now dean of the College of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Natural Resources and director of the North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station.

The NDSU Research Foundation will apply for plant variety protection with Title V and collect research fees on this variety. The NDSU dry bean breeding program is able to release this pinto line thanks to the support of several people and institutions, including Dr. Ken Grafton, previous dry bean breeder, the program staff, and other bean breeding programs for allowing germplasm exchange and field and disease testing. Especial acknowledgements for all the long term support given by Northarvest Bean Growers Association, and the North Dakota Dry Edible Bean Seed Growers Association (NDDEBSGA).

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source: Al Schneiter,
Source: Juan Osorno,
Editor: Rich Mattern,

Contributed by Juan M Osorno

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1.15  NDSU releases Lariat, a new pinto bean variety

The North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station at North Dakota State University announces the release of Lariat, an upright pinto bean variety for use in the northern Great Plains.

According to Juan Osorno, the new dry edible bean breeder in the Department of Plant Sciences at NDSU, Lariat was developed under the supervision of Ken Grafton, the former NDSU dry bean breeder and now dean of the College of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Natural Resources and North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station director.

Starting in 1996, Lariat was derived from numerous crosses that included Maverick, a popular variety released by NDSU, Aztec and Winchester. The parentage in Lariat also includes several experimental lines from the NDSU and Michigan State University breeding programs. The final cross to develop Lariat was made during the 1998 greenhouse season. Selections from the cross were made in New Zealand and Puerto Rico, where the bean breeding project has winter nurseries. Additional selections, evaluations and increases were made at numerous sites in east-central North Dakota (Forest River, Hatton, Johnstown and the NDSU Carrington Research Extension Center). Additional evaluations were made at other NDSU Research Extension Centers and the Midwest Regional Performance Nurseries in Michigan, Nebraska, Colorado and North Dakota.

Averaged across numerous locations, Lariat has out-yielded Buster and Maverick by almost 4 percent and 14.5 percent, respectively. Lariat has resistance to bean common mosaic virus and local races of leaf rust.  Lariat matures an average of five days later than Maverick and has excellent seed size, shape and appearance. The seed is very uniform in size, has a lighter background color and is slightly larger than Maverick.

Lariat has an upright, short vine with good lodging resistance. It exhibits very good uniform dry down of both pods and plants. The improved plant structure, combined with its uniform dry down, suggests that this line may be suitable for direct combining using the appropriate equipment and operator care.

The NDSU Research Foundation will apply for plant variety protection with Title V and collect research fees on this variety. The NDSU dry bean breeding program is able to release this pinto line thanks to the support of several people and institutions, including Dr. Ken Grafton, previous dry bean breeder, the program staff, and other bean breeding programs for allowing germplasm exchange and field and disease testing. Especial acknowledgements for all the long term support given by Northarvest Bean Growers Association, and the North Dakota Dry Edible Bean Seed Growers Association (NDDEBSGA).
NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source: Al Schneiter, (701) 231-8137,
Source: Juan Osorno, (701) 231-8145,
Editor: Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,

Contributed by Juan M Osorno

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1.16  Research and field monitoring on transgenic crops

by the Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maíz yTrigo (CIMMYT)

David Hoisington · Rodomiro Ortiz
DOI 10.1007/s10681-007-9633-x
123Received: 7 January 2007 / Accepted: 10 December 2007
© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Abstract The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) aims to genetically enhance both crops and generate public sector-provided products for the resource poor, e.g., drought tolerant wheat and insect resistant maize, and through international–national partnerships facilitate the acquisition of improved germplasm for non-mandate crops in the cropping systems where maize and wheat thrives; e.g., GM-papaya through a national food security undertaking in Bangladesh. The Center also engages in public awareness campaigns in projects such as Insect Resistance Maize for Africa (IRMA), which includes food, feed and environmental safety, monitoring of resistance and establishment of refugia, non-target eVects and gene Xow. Monitoring of genetic resources is a wide concern among the centers of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), with an emphasis on the quality of gene banks. Decisions, policies and procedures about monitoring should be science-based, and this requires education, an area where CIMMYT and other CGIAR centers can play an important role.

There will be a need to continue to evaluate the need for, and type of monitoring, as new (and unique) products are developed and released in the emergent economies of the world.

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1.17  USDA/APHIS seeks public comment on genetically engineered alfalfa

Washington, DC
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is seeking public comment to shape the scope of an environmental impact statement (EIS). The EIS is prepared to assist in the determination of the status of genetically engineered (GE) Roundup Ready (RR) alfalfa under APHIS biotechnology regulations.

Due to a court order, APHIS will prepare the EIS to evaluate potential environmental effects of deregulating the GE alfalfa. APHIS has identified 18 issues that will be studied in the EIS, which include impacts on food and feed, U.S. trade and threatened and endangered species. APHIS is seeking public comment to identify other issues that also should be addressed in the EIS.

In 2003, the Monsanto Company and Forage Genetics International submitted a petition to APHIS requesting nonregulated status for RR alfalfa lines J101 and J163. APHIS prepared an environmental assessment (EA) to determine whether deregulating the alfalfa, genetically engineered to resist the herbicide glyphosate (known commercially as Roundup), could have a significant impact on the environment. After a thorough review of the scientific evidence APHIS issued a finding of no significant impact and deregulated the lines on June 14, 2005. APHIS makes a determination of nonregulated status only when it can conclude that the organism does not pose a plant pest risk.

To comply with a judgment and order by the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, APHIS now must prepare an EIS in support of its 2005 decision to deregulate RR alfalfa. The court did not overturn federal conclusions regarding the safety of the crop for food and feed purposes, but rather concluded that APHIS had not adequately documented potential, or lack of potential environmental impacts. On March 23, 2007, APHIS published a Federal Register notice announcing that RR alfalfa was once again a regulated article. A future decision regarding the deregulation of RR alfalfa will be issued only after the completion of the appropriately documented EIS.

For more information on RR alfalfa, go to

Notice of this action was published in the Jan. 7 Federal Register. Consideration will be given to comments received on or before Feb. 6. Send an original and two copies of postal mail or commercial delivery comments to Docket No. APHIS-2007-0142, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238. Comments also can be submitted on the Federal eRulemaking portal at .
Click on “Add Comments” to view public comments and related materials available electronically.

Comments are posted on the Web site and also can be viewed at USDA, Room 1141, South Building, 14th St. and Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C., between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. To facilitate entry into the comment reading room, please call (202) 690-2817.

7 January 2008

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1.18  UBC discovery unlocks tree genetics, gives new hope for pine beetle defense

UBC researchers have discovered some of the genetic secrets that enable pine and spruce trees to fight off pests and disease, uncovering critical new information about forests’ natural defense systems.

Assoc. Prof. Joerg Bohlmann says this genetic analysis will allow forest stewardship programs to reinforce a forest’s inherent strength, breeding trees that could in time repel insects such as British Columbia’s notorious mountain pine beetles.

Bohlmann and his research associate Christopher Keeling explored the genetic makeup of oleoresin within spruce, discovering a sophisticated ability to produce complex blends of chemicals that continuously evolve to protect the tree from changing conditions and challenges.

“Conifers are some of the oldest and longest living plants on the planet,” says Bohlmann. “We’ve opened the book to understanding how they can survive in one location for thousands of years despite attacks from generations of insects and diseases.”

Their study examines the molecular biochemistry of conifers interacting with genomes of bark beetles and bark beetle-associated fungal pathogens. Bohlmann’s study appears in today’s edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Figuring out how these naturally occurring defenses work has important implications for the long-term sustainability and health of our forests,” says Bohlmann, who’s working with the B.C. Ministry of Forests and Range, the forestry industry and the Canadian Forest Service.

Bohlmann is also co-leader of the recently announced $4-million project that Genome BC and Genome Alberta is funding to investigate the mountain pine beetle infestation at the genomic level.

Insect pests and pathogens cause annual losses of billions of dollars to conifer-based forest economies in North America and Europe. In B.C., the mountain pine beetle epidemic has killed about 40 per cent of the pine forests since its first appearance in the mid 1990s.

This is the largest recorded bark beetle outbreak in Canada, leaving B.C. with 13 million hectares of grey and red dead pine – an area four times the size of Vancouver Island and a volume of dead timber equivalent to 530 million telephone poles.

Bohlmann is leading UBC’s and international research programs on forest health genomics. In 2006, Bohlmann and a team of international scientists completed the world’s first physical map and sequencing of a tree genome – the third plant ever sequenced.

He is based at UBC’s Michael Smith Laboratories, a multidisciplinary research facility. Bohlmann also holds teaching appointments in the departments of Botany and Forest Sciences and is an associate at UBC’s Wine Research Centre.
Bohlmann and study co-authors are members of the Treenomix project, Canada’s first large-scale forestry genome project. Their work received support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Genome BC and Genome Canada.

Contact: Lorraine Chan
University of British Columbia

14 January 2008

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1.19  Genetically modified carrots provide more calcium

Genetically modifying carrots to express increased levels of a gene that enables the transport of calcium across membranes of plant cells can make the vegetables a better source of calcium, said researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and the Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center at Texas A&M University in a report that appears today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Slightly altering the gene (sCAX1) to make it a more active transporter allows for increased bioavailable calcium in the carrots- ,” said Dr. Kendal Hirschi, professor of pediatrics-nutrition and principal investigator of the study conducted at the USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center at BCM in cooperation with Texas Children’s Hospital.

In an initial study in mice, researchers found that those who were fed the carrots with the altered gene could get the same amount of calcium as those who ate twice the amount of normal carrots. In a study in 30 human adults, those who ate the modified carrots absorbed 41 percent more calcium than did those who ate the unmodified carrots.

“These carrots were grown in carefully monitored and controlled environments,” said Hirschi. “Much more research needs to be conducted before this would be available to consumers.”

Hirschi emphasizes that there is no magic food that will solve all nutritional problems, and that proper food and exercise are still necessary. However, further developments in this area of research could allow for more nutrients in fruits and vegetables and lead to improved health.

Osteoporosis, one of the world’s most prevalent nutritional disorders, is a disease that reduces bone mineral density in the body. Doctors usually prescribe more calcium and better calcium uptake as one solution to treat the disease. Increasing levels of calcium absorption from foods would have a significant global impact on this disease.

With physicians and nutrition experts recommending a vegetable-based diet for health, increasing the calcium that can be absorbed from plant-based food will become increasingly important, Hirschi said.
Others who participated in the study included Jay Morris, Keli M. Hawthorne, Tim Hotze and Dr. Steven A. Abrams, all of BCM.

Funding for this research came from the National Institutes of Health, the Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center at Texas A&M University and the USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine.

This study is available on line at

Contact: Dipali Pathak
Baylor College of Medicine

14 January 2008

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1.20  Testing program for glufosinate-tolerant cotton varieties paves the way for industry's first three-way stack of herbicide-tolerant technologies

Nashville, Tennessee
Monsanto announced today that it is working with glufosinate-tolerant traits in its cotton technology programs. The company’s work with glufosinate-tolerant traits paves the way for the development of the industry’s first three-way stack of herbicide-tolerant technologies across its cotton business including Roundup Ready Flex, Dicamba-tolerance and Glufosinate tolerance. The glufosinate trait is under license from Bayer CropScience and reflects the company’s multi-partner stacking strategy.

“Our research and development programs are focused on developing technologies, both through in-house discovery and through licensing, that can offer benefits to cotton producers,” said Rich Voth, Monsanto’s market development manager on the project. “By adding glufosinate tolerance to our pipeline, we will be working with traits for three different active ingredients and a series of technologies that can broaden the modes of action available to producers.”

Cotton growers have found herbicide-tolerant varieties work well on their farms. In fact, the USDA estimates that more than 80 percent of the cotton acres planted in 2007 included the Roundup Ready or Roundup Ready Flex traits. A limited number of glufosinate tolerant varieties are marketed under the LibertyLink trade name.

“The established Roundup Ready traits will ultimately be joined by dicamba and glufosinate tolerance,” Voth adds. “Producers can look forward to having several options in the same field, letting them choose the best means of control for the particular weeds and conditions they face. We will be able to offer multiple weed management options in season and the breadth of herbicides will be a key component in mitigating weed resistance.”

Kevin Eblen, Delta and Pine Land business lead, said the combination of Deltapine’s elite genetics with the traits offers cotton producers even greater benefits.

“The Deltapine legacy has been built on market leading genetics and service,” Eblen says. “And our technology and breeding programs have proven records. We look forward to pairing our elite germplasm with these additional technologies in the future to offer our customers even more potential.”

Monsanto has numerous traits in development for the company’s focus crops. The two herbicide tolerance traits – dicamba and glufosinate are in phase 1 of a five phase process or early development, along with drought tolerance and lygus protection. Bollgard III is in phase 2 and has the potential to increase in-plant insect protection.

Monsanto Company is a leading global provider of technology-based solutions and agricultural products that improve farm productivity and food quality.

10 January 2008

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1.21  Disease resistant crop varieties head the ‘most wanted’ list for Australian graingrowers

With pathogens capable of downgrading quality and slashing yields, disease resistant crop varieties head the ‘Most Wanted’ list for most graingrowers.

While breeding for disease resistance is the most environmentally favourable solution, most sources of resistance to most pathogens are only partial.

The question is: “How do plant pathologists and breeders accurately and reproducibly measure resistance in different cultivars?”

According to Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Western Panel member, Professor Richard Oliver (photo), Director of the GRDC supported Australian Centre for Nectrotrophic Fungal Pathogens at Murdoch University, traditional visual and microscopic disease assessments are time consuming, require rare, specialised skills and the results can be subjective.

He has therefore tested a protocol to identify robust, resistant crop cultivars based on a quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) that measures pathogen biomass by duplicating sequences in the pathogen’s DNA.

The pathogen used was the fungus Staganosporum nodorum, a major disease-causing agent of wheat in WA. It causes S. nodorum blotch and Glume blotch of wheat and related cereals and has a simple, short lifecycle, making it a model pathogen to study direct connections between biomass, symptoms and yield.

Professor Oliver compared four disease assessment methods to determine levels of correlation between them. His baseline was the reduction in the weight of 100 grains of wheat after inoculation with the pathogen in a range of wheat cultivars. Seven wheat lines, previously assessed on a nine point resistance score, were used.

He concluded that qPCR was a versatile tool for disease risk assessment.

“The protocol compared favourably with other visual and microscopic techniques and although the relative expense of qPCR was not evaluated, I believe that with automation the cost would be very competitive,” he said.

Data from disease risk assessment using the qPCR protocol would have several uses, including objective pre-harvest measurement of disease and assessing disease development to optimise fungicide application.

“Most fungicides work best if applied early in the infection cycle before symptoms can be observed. We expect qPCR to give growers vital early warning of diseases,” he said.

Further, the protocol could be used to predict the potential for yield loss from diseases which could not be visually identified until plant maturity. A major strength of qPCR was its specificity, which allowed numerous diseases to be assayed simultaneously, something that is very hard to do by traditional methods.

10 January 2008

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1.22  Transgenic potatoes with multiple stress tolerance

When plants are exposed to abiotic stresses, like extreme temperatures, salinity and heavy metal toxicity, production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) are induced in the cell. ROS can damage organelles as well as the cell membrane. The cell employs several mechanisms to help minimize the effect of ROS, like the increased expression of enzymes with antioxidant properties. Nucleoside diphosphate kinase 2 (NDPK2) is an example of such enzyme. Although important in basic cell processes like signal transduction and maintenance of certain biomolecules, expression of NDPK2 gene was found to mediate stress tolerance responses in the model plant Arabidopsis.

By inserting the gene coding for NDPK2, a group of Korean scientists successfully obtained transgenic potato lines exhibiting increased tolerance to high salinity, increased temperature and chemical toxicity. The gene was specifically expressed in the cytosol (internal cell fluid). The transgenic potato developed by the researchers may prove to be suitable for cultivation in marginal soils. Further characterization of potato lines is under investigation in terms of multiple stresses including drought and cold stress.

The abstract of the paper, including links to the full article, is available at

Source: CropBiotech Update via
18 January 2008

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1.23  Research on how plants transport sugars could be of critical importance in era of global warming

How do many plants ship sugars from their leaves to flowers, roots, fruits and other parts of their structure? Using genetic engineering techniques, Cornell researchers have finally proven a long-standing theory of how this occurs.

The findings not only deepen understanding of basic plant biology but could one day allow researchers to genetically engineer plants with increased photosynthetic rates, yields and carbon dioxide intake. This might be critically important in an era of climate change.

The theory of transporting sugar, the polymer trap model, was first proposed in 1991 by Robert Turgeon, Cornell professor of plant biology. He is also the senior author of the latest research published in the Dec. 4 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Ashlee McCaskill, Ph.D. '07, who worked in Turgeon's lab, is the paper's lead author.

Turgeon's theory suggested that as sucrose, a form of sugar, accumulates in leaves as a product of photosynthesis, it diffuses into the plant's tubelike transport tissue, called phloem, along with other nutrients to move to other areas of the plant. Once in the phloem, small molecules of sucrose polymerize, or combine, to form larger, more complex sugars, which become too large to flow back into the leaf. The polymerized sugars are then forced to move away from the leaf to parts of the plant where they may be used or stored.

To prove the theory, Turgeon and McCaskill genetically engineered a plant closely related to a member of the figwort family, purple mullein (Verbascum phoeneceum L.), so that two genes involved with polymerizing sucrose into larger molecules were silenced. When they did so, sugars backed up in the leaves.

In normal plants, when sugars (made from water and carbon dioxide during photosynthesis) accumulate in the leaves, photosynthesis slows down, and the plant does not take in as much carbon dioxide from the air. Likewise, when the sugars move out of the leaves, the rate of photosynthesis and carbon intake increases, McCaskill said.

"If we could increase the plant's phloem-loading rate, the potential would be to increase photosynthetic rate and yield, but that is theoretical right now," said McCaskill.

A 2006 article in the journal Science, McCaskill said, showed that when atmospheric carbon dioxide increases, plants do not take in the excess due to a series of feedback loops that constrain the plant.

"Phloem loading is one of these feedbacks that have an effect on the ability of plants to intake carbon dioxide at the highest level," said McCaskill. Carbon dioxide, which is increasing in the Earth's atmosphere, is the major greenhouse gas that traps heat and warms the planet, McCaskill noted.

By Krishna Ramanujan

20 December 2007

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1.24  Plant geneticists find veritas in vino

Viticulture, the growing of grapes (Vitis vinifera) chiefly to make wine, is an ancient form of agriculture, evidence of which has been found from the Neolithic and Early Bronze Ages. We have a detailed understanding of how nurture affects the qualities of a grape harvest leading to the concept of terroir (the range of local influences that carry over into a wine). The nature of the grapes themselves has been less well understood but our knowledge of this is substantially increased this week by the publication in the open-access journal PLoS ONE of a high quality draft genome sequence of a Pinot Noir grape by an Italian-based multinational consortium.

The genome of the grape is spread over 19 pairs of chromosomes and is around 504.6 megabases in length. The team of researchers, led by Dr Riccardo Velasco of the Istituto Agrario di San Michele all'Adige, used a shotgun sequencing approach, which has resulted in 10.7X coverage, 4.2X using pyrosequencing and 6.5X by Sanger sequencing. At the same time, the genome of the grape chloroplast was also sequenced and, remarkably, this was found to be identical to an independently determined sequence from a different strain of Pinot Noir that was published last year.

The grape, therefore, has a relatively small genome for a crop plant, similar to that of rice or poplar trees and much smaller than that of wheat or maize. Nevertheless, sequencing the genome was complicated by the degree of heterozygosity between pairs of chromosomes, some 11.2% of the sequence differing between homologous regions. There was so much variation, in fact, that Velasco describes it as like being “in the presence of two genomes.”

Moreover, the team discovered more than two million single nucleotide polymorphisms (individual letter changes in the grape’s genetic blueprint) in 87% of the 29,585 identified genes. While this made sequencing the genome difficult, it now provides a massive library of inherent variation with which to investigate which genes influence which characteristics of the growing plant and in what ways. “It is a treasure trove,” says Brian Dilkes of the University of California, DavisGenomeCenter, “as detailed a description of a plant genome sequence as I have seen in a ‘first’ paper”.

The genome can also provide clues to the evolution of grapes. Many plant genomes, especially those of crop plants, have been produced by at least one duplication of a smaller ancestral genome. Whether this was true for grapes had been controversial but this study clearly shows that ten of the 19 chromosomes resulted from a duplication that occurred shortly after the lineage of grapes diverged from that of the model plants Arabidopsis and poplar.

The breeding of grape vines is difficult because they take several years to grow to maturity and domesticated grapes tend to have very low fertility. For this reason, grapes are usually propagated by cuttings or graftings so that vineyards are filled with hundreds of thousands of genetically identical clones. This leaves grapes highly susceptible to the emergence of aggressive microrganisms, such as phyloxera, which devastated European grape production in the 19th and early 20th century, and powdery mildew, which continues to threaten American harvests to this day.

The Pinot Noir genome will provide an invaluable tool for creating grape varieties resistant to such diseases without altering the quality of the resulting wine. Velasco and his colleagues have identified a large number of genes related to disease–resistance, 289 of which contain one or more SNPs. In spite of this, Pinot Noir remains susceptible to several fungi, bacteria and viruses possibly due to a defective system for recognition pathogen. Many of these disease-resistance genes are present in clusters whose associations with resistances or tolerances of different grape varieties to specific diseases can now be investigated. Also Pinot Noir can be crossed with many wild grapespecies providing a large reservoir of disease-resistancegenes, which can be exploited with the aid of this genome road map.

“This description of the grape genome presents an opportunity to direct genetic improvement or disease resistance,” says Brian Dilkes. “The genome sequence simultaneously identified hundreds of genes, which correspond to enzymes that produce flavor and aroma compounds. This will allow breeding for diseases resistance to proceed without disturbing the biochemistry of taste and grape quality. When I told sommelier Andrew Meadows about this recently, his reaction was, ‘Good! I would love to offer a decent Pinot for less than $30’.”

This grape genome may also have implications beyond viticulture. Grapes can be both genetically transformed and micropropogated to produce hundreds of identical clones. With the sequencing of its relatively small genome, it is well placed to become a model organism for fruit trees in general. It is, however, in the safeguarding and improvement of grape stocks that the effects of this genome will be felt most strongly. “The sequence of the grape genome,” says Velasco, “together with the large arsenal of SNP loci, now offers a tool to open a new era in the molecular breeding of grapes.”
Contact: Riccardo Velasco (corresponding author)
Istituto Agrario di San Michele all'Adige, Italy
Rebecca Walton
Public Library of Science

Citation: Velasco R, Zharkikh A, Troggio M, Cartwright DA, Cestaro A, et al (2007) A High Quality Draft Consensus Sequence of the Genome of a Heterozygous Grapevine Variety. PLoS ONE 2(12): e1326. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001326

18 December 2007

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1.25  Jumping genes to remove markers from GM plants

Over the past few years, consumer and environmental groups have expressed concern about the use of markers in genetic improvement of crops. Marker genes are used in plant transformation systems to select transgenic events. However, they are no longer needed after the transgenic plants are regenerated. Until recently, scientists have devised several ways to produce marker-free transgenic crops. One such strategy is the use of jumping genes. Jumping genes or transposons are so called because they have the ability to move around to different positions within the genome in a cell.

Using the maize transposon Ac system, scientists from the National Taiwan University have developed a strategy for efficiently removing the marker genes from transgenic plants. The scientists modified the selectable marker esps gene (for glyphosate tolerance) for expression in rice by introducing it to a gene carrier with the salicylic acid inducible jumping genes attached to it. After rice transformation, glyphosate-tolerant rice lines were selected and exposed to salicylic acid. Since the marker gene is attached to the transposon, the activation of the jumping gene resulted to the truncation of the selectable marker gene.

An inducible transposon system to terminate the function of a selectable marker in transgenic plants
Journal Molecular Breeding
Publisher Springer Netherlands
ISSN 1380-3743 (Print) 1572-9788 (Online)

The abstract of the paper published by Molecular Breeding is available at

Subscribers can read the full text at

Source: CropBiotech Update via
21 December 2007

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1.26  Plant genome sequencing continues to progress

Washington, DC
The first 10 years of the National Plant Genome Initiative have seen revolutionary breakthroughs in genome sequencing for various plants and their pathogens, but this is only the first step to understanding how plants work and ultimately producing plants that can overcome environmental limitations, says a new report by the National Research Council.

Achievements of the National Plant Genome Initiative and New Horizons in Plant Biology
Plant genome sciences, and plant biology as a whole, contribute significantly to human health, energy security, and environmental stewardship. The National Plant Genome Initiative (NPGI) has been funding and coordinating plant genome research among agencies successfully for nine years to understand how plants function and how to
develop desirable plant characteristics. Research breakthroughs from NPGI and the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Arabidopsis 2010 Project, such as how the plant immune system controls pathogen defense, demonstrate that the plant genome science community is vibrant and capable of driving technological advancement. Therefore, these programs should continue in order to increase the contribution of plant science to vital areas of national interest.

Report in brief:

To purchase the full report:

Source: The National Academy via
9 January 2008

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1.27 Cornell University research sheds light on the mechanics of gene transcription

Ithaca, New York
The molecular machinery behind gene transcription -- the intricate transfer of information from a segment of DNA to a corresponding strand of messenger RNA -- isn't stationed in special "transcription factories" within a cell nucleus, according to Cornell researchers. Instead, the enzyme RNA polymerase II (Pol II) and other key molecules can assemble at the site of an activated gene, regardless of the gene's position.

The findings, published in the Dec. 28, 2007, issue of the journal Molecular Cell, are the result of an ongoing collaboration between the laboratories of John T. Lis, the Barbara McClintock Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics, and Watt W. Webb, professor of applied physics and the S.B. Eckert Professor in Engineering. Jie Yao, the paper's lead author, recently finished his Ph.D. at Cornell under Webb.

Using multiphoton microscopy, a technique developed by Webb that allows high-precision 3D imaging in living cells, the researchers observed polytene chromosomes -- giant, multistranded chromosomes in the salivary gland tissue of fruit flies that have hundreds of sets of the genome instead of the usual two sets in conventional cells.

They activated heat shock genes, which protect cells from sudden rises in temperature, and watched them in real time as they began to be transcribed. The researchers also tagged Pol II with a fluorescent marker to track its movements within the nucleus.

While some reports have suggested that activated genes move to a specific nuclear location for transcription, the Cornell research supports the traditional view that gene activation is not dependent on movement to special locations, or so-called "transcription factories," said Lis.

"You see the genes decondense and fill up with polymerase, but they're not moving anywhere -- they don't collect in a single place," he said. Instead, the transcription machinery assembles at the called-upon locus, regardless of its position in the nucleus.

To test the generality of the findings beyond polytene nuclei to common (but much smaller and more difficult to test) diploid cells, the researchers used a technique called fluorescence in situ hybridization, which allowed them to detect the location of specific DNA sequences along a chromosome in fixed cells.

Looking at the location of co-regulated heat shock genes (genes that are transcribed simultaneously), they found that co-regulated pairs that occupied distinct sites before heat shock were no closer together after heat shock. As in the polytene chromosomes, the genes did not move to a single site for transcription.

And using fluorescence recovery after photobleaching -- another method engineered by Webb -- the researchers found that over time Pol II began to recycle itself within newly formed "compartments" around the activated gene.

"At some point you accumulate enough polymerase that it feeds back, so in a sense you've created a factory de novo" said Lis. "This is, to our knowledge, the first demonstration of Pol II recycling at a specific gene in vivo."

Lis and colleagues are now looking at other molecules involved in transcription to see if they behave similarly. "We're hoping to develop new ways to really see, in vivo, how gene regulation works mechanistically," he said.

By Lauren Gold
10 January 2008

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1.28  U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute Releases Soybean Genome Assembly

To enable worldwide bioenergy research efforts

WALNUT CREEK, CA--A preliminary assembly and annotation of the soybean genome, Glycine max, has been made available by the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI), to the greater scientific community to enable bioenergy research.

The announcement was made by Eddy Rubin, DOE JGI Director, during his keynote remarks Jan. 15 at the Plant and Animal Genome XVI Conference in San Diego,CA. The preliminary data can be accessed at

The soybean genome project was initiated through the DOE JGI Community Sequencing Program (CSP) by a consortium led by DOE JGI’s Dan Rokhsar, Stanford’s Jeremy Schmutz, Gary Stacey of the University of Missouri-Columbia, Randy Shoemaker of Iowa State University, and Scott Jackson of Purdue University, with support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Science Foundation.

The large-scale shotgun DNA sequencing project began in the middle of 2006 and will be completed in 2008. A total of about 13 million shotgun reads have been produced and deposited in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) Trace Archive in accordance with the consortium’s commitment to early access and consistent with the Fort Lauderdale genome data release policy.

The current assembly (representing 7.23x coverage), gene, set, and browser are collectively referred to as "Glyma0". Glyma0 is a preliminary release, based on a partial dataset. This is expected to be replaced with an improved, chromosome-scale "Glyma1" version by the end of 2008. Early users of this data are encouraged to track their favorite genes by saving local copies of the DNA sequences of these loci, and not by identifier or sequence coordinate, as these will change in future versions.

DOE JGI’s interest in sequencing the soybean stems from its role as a principal source of biodiesel, a renewable, alternative fuel with the highest energy content of any alternative fuel.

Detailed knowledge of the soybean genetic code will enable crop improvements for more effective application of this plant for clean bioenergy generation. Knowing which genes control specific traits, researchers are able to change the type, quantity, and/or location of oil produced by the crop. Through utilization of the sequence information generated by DOE JGI, it may be possible to develop a customized biomass production platform for combining oil seed production for biodiesel with enhanced vegetative growth for ethanol conversion--doubling the energy output of the crop. In 2004, over 3.1 billion bushels of soybeans were grown on nearly 75 million acres in the US, with an estimated annual value exceeding $17 billio--second only to corn, and about twice that of wheat.

Several other individuals, projects, grants, and agencies have made this monumental project possible. These included the four major projects: Public Expressed Sequence Tags (ESTs), SoyMap (which includes BAC libraries, modern physical mapping, and clone-based sequencing), and the Genetic Map with funding from USDA, NSF, United Soybean Board (USB), and the North Central Soybean Research Program (NCSRP).

The Public EST Project, supported by USB and NCSRP, was led by Lila Vodkin of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Randy Shoemaker of the USDA-ARS, Ames, Iowa; and P. Steven Keim of Northern Arizona University.

The original physical map development, funded by USB, was conducted by Jan Dvorak, from the University of California, Davis, along with the Washington University Genome Center in St. Louis, Missouri, and David Grant, USDA-ARS, Ames, Iowa.

The NSF SoyMap team, comprising principal investigator Scott Jackson, Gary Stacey and Henry Nguyen, Jeff Doyle of Cornell University, William Beavis of the National Center for Genome Resources (NCGR) in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Iowa State, Gregory May (NCGR), Will Nelson and Rod Wing of the University of Arizona, with Randy Shoemaker, anchored the map and conducted quality control.

The team devoted to genetic mapping and physical map anchoring, yielding several thousand sequence-based markers, included USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) investigators, including Perry Cregan and Dave Hyten of Beltsville, Maryland; Randy Shoemaker, David Grant, and Steven Cannon of USDA-ARS Ames, Iowa; along with James Specht of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

The annotation of the soybean genome was carried out by a team of researchers from the DOE JGI and the University of California Berkeley’s Center for Integrative Genomics, with support from the DOE, USDA, NSF, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

The U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute, supported by the DOE Office of Science, unites the expertise of five national laboratories -- Lawrence Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, and Pacific Northwest -- along with the Stanford Human Genome Center to advance genomics in support of the DOE missions related to clean energy generation and environmental characterization and cleanup. DOE JGI’s Walnut Creek, CA, Production Genomics Facility provides integrated high-throughput sequencing and computational analysis that enable systems-based scientific approaches to these challenges.

For more information, contact
David Gilbert
DOE JGI Public Affairs Manager

17 January 2008

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2.01  Proceedings of the 2006 International Plant Breeding Symposium

The Proceedings of the 2006 International Plant Breeding Symposium have recently been published on-line.  They can be accessed at

Contributed by John Miles
CIAT, Cali, Colombia

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2.02  White paper on the organic food industry in the United States and the European Union

White paper on the organic food industry in the United States and the European Union
Prepared and presented by Genesis Seeds Ltd.

Source:; accessed 15 January 2008

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2.03  Biofortified food crops: progress and prospects in developing countries

AgBioForum Volume 10 Number 3
Special issue

Columbia, Missouri
Guest edited by Laurian Unnevehr (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), Carl Pray (Rutgers University), Robert Paarlberg (Wellesley College), and Calestous Juma (Harvard University)

Table of contents
1. Addressing Micronutrient Deficiencies: Alternative Interventions and Technologies
Laurian Unnevehr, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Carl Pray, Rutgers University Robert Paarlberg, Wellesley College

2. Patterns of Political Response to Biofortified Varieties of Crops Produced with Different Breeding Techniques and Agronomic Traits
Carl Pray, Rutgers University
Robert Paarlberg, Wellesley College
Laurian Unnevehr, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

3. Political Actors on the Landscape
Robert Paarlberg, Wellesley College
Carl Pray, Rutgers University

4. Crop Case Study: GMO Golden Rice in Asia with Enhanced Vitamin A Benefits for Consumers
David Dawe, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Laurian Unnevehr, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champign

5. Biofortification for China: Political Responses to Food Fortification and GM Technology, Interest Groups, and Possible Strategies
Carl Pray, Rutgers University
Jikun Huang, Chinese Academy of Sciences

6. Biofortified Crops and Biotechnology: A Political Economy Landscape for India
Bharat Ramaswami, Indian Statistical Institute

7. Socio-Economic and Political Concerns for GM Foods and Biotechnology Adoption in the Philippines
Liborio S. Cabanilla, University of the Philippines at Los Banos

8. Assessing the Prospects for the Adoption of Biofortified Crops in South Africa
Rosemary Wolson, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)

9. Biofortified Foods and Crops in West Africa: Mali and Burkina Faso
Regina Birner, International Food Policy Research Institute Sanibe Abel Kone, National Programme for Citizenship Education (PNEC) Nicolas Linacre, Independent Consultant Danielle Resnick, Cornell University

10. Patterns of Political Support and Pathways to Final Impact
Calestous Juma, Harvard University
Robert Paarlberg, Wellesley College
Carl Pray, Rutgers University
Laurian Unnevehr, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Link to AgBioForum homepage and link to archive:

January 2008

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2.04  S&G issues the 6th edition of S&G Peppers Today, the newsletter for the world of peppers

Almeria, Spain
The multinational company Syngenta has issued the 6th edition of S&G Peppers Today through S&G, its horticultural seed brand for vegetables in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. S&G Peppers Today is a communication tool specifically centred around the world of peppers, and it has been developed for all S&G clients in the business chain, with information on production, processing and trading.

S&G Peppers Today is available in digital format at

21 December 2007

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3.01  S&G launches, the website about the world of melons

Almeria, Spain
This week, the multinational company Syngenta will launch through S&G, its horticultural seed brand for vegetables in Europe, Africa and the Middle East (EAME). The website is a new communication tool specifically centered around the world of melons.

Everyone involved in the melon business will find a selection of interesting news and information, which will be updated every week. The news selection will cover the melon business worldwide, with a clear focus on production, processing and trading, and particular emphasis on the EAME region. The websit will also include a comprehensive brochure with a special selection of S&G melon types, an accurate description of the key varieties, and a production calendar by coutries and areas. Events, interviews, recipes, interesting links, a trade fair calendar, a news archive (consumption trends, market development, innovation...) and much, much more will be available to visitors to

December 2007

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4.01  Funding opportunities posted by the Global Facilitation Unit for Underutilized Species

This is a reminder that the Global Facilitation Unit for Underutilized Species (GFU) maintains an extensive listing of current funding opportunities in a range of biological fields, including plant breeding

Check for all the Funding Opportunities here


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4.02  Generation Challenge Programme: Call for proposals for competitive research

We are pleased to announce our 3rd call for proposals for competitive research

Submission deadline: 15 March 2008

Eligibility, partners and conditions:
-Principal Investigators (PIs) may come from any GCP Consortium member institute, as well as from non-Consortium institutions such as non-profit research institutions, developing country agriculture research programmes, and/or educational institutions.
-Partners may be from any Consortium member or non-Consortium institutions. Partnerships outside the Consortium­especially with developing countries­are strongly encouraged.

Grant Awards:
-Selection will be a two-step process:
   1. Concept Note stage
   2. Full Proposal stage for winning Concept Notes
-Grant amount: annual budget per project will be USD 300,000–400,000

More details on:
The 3rd competitive call, including the process for submitting Concept Notes and selection criteria.

GCP’s Competitive Research Programme

Source: GCP News Issue 27, 15 January 2008

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4.03  Ceres Bioenergy scholarships established at Texas A&M

College Station, Texas
Ceres Inc., a plant biotechnology company, has established two new scholarships in the soil and crop sciences department at Texas A&M University in College Station.

The new scholarships are for junior and senior students who have a minimum overall 2.8 grade point average. Students in plant breeding, agronomy, plant physiology, or molecular biology with strong interests in crop production relating to biofuels will be given preference.

Ceres is developing crops needed by farmers and bio-refineries for a new generation of biofuels, said company officials. Using advanced plant breeding and biotechnology, they are creating dedicated energy crops as raw materials for biofuels made from plant stems, stalks and leaves.

“We are excited about establishing a long-term scholarship relationship with Ceres to expose our students to opportunities in bioenergy,” said Dr. David Baltensperger, department head.

Dr. Charles Rodgers, a Ceres plant breeder based in College Station and the first commercial switchgrass breeder in the country, said the scholarships will encourage more students to consider careers in crop science.
“The expansion of biofuel production is creating new opportunities in agriculture - many that simply didn’t exist just a few years ago,” Rodgers said. “New crops are being domesticated and developed. There (are) new sources of funding from government and industry, and for students, new career paths.”

Seniors Luke Manning (Columbus) and Scott Stanislav (Waco) are the first students to receive the $2,500 scholarships. They both expect to graduate May 2008, with bachelor’s degrees in agronomy.

For more information, visit and

18 January 2008

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5.01  Tree fruit genomics at the Geneva campus of Cornell University

The Department of Horticultural Sciences and New Life Sciences at Cornell University seeks candidates to fill a position as an assistant professor of tree fruit genomics.  This position creates a unique opportunity for a scholar to develop a tree fruit genomics program at an institute with an extensive portfolio of tree fruit research and extension. The Cornell New Life Sciences Initiative coupled with extensive expertise in tree fruit breeding, physiology, and management, and access to a rich collection of genetic resources create a vibrant intellectual environment within which tree fruit genomics can be studied.  The incumbent will be expected to work with a University-wide team using genomic approaches and, as appropriate, the latest techniques in biochemistry, genetics, analytical chemistry, and molecular and cell biology.

Faculty Position: Assistant Professor of Tree Fruit Genomics
  Tenure track; 70% Research, 30% Extension
  Nine-month academic position 

Starting date: August 1, 2008 or as negotiated

Responsibilities: 70% research and 30% extension. The ideal candidate is a geneticist or a molecular biologist with expertise in functional genomics. Research will involve discovery and characterization of genetic resources in apple. Examples of appropriate research include, but are not limited to, plant growth and development, including plant architecture, plant reaction to biotic and abiotic stress, and fruit quality. The extension program will be focused on educating several constituencies about the capabilities and benefits of genomics research for fruit production and management. Constituencies will minimally include farmers, production specialists, governmental officials and policy advisors.

Qualifications: A Ph.D. in plant genomics, plant molecular genetics, molecular biology or closely related area in plant science.  A demonstrated record of excellence in genomics as evidenced by publication in peer-reviewed journals is desired. Preferred qualifications include postdoctoral experience, commitment to (and abilities in) team research, ability to communicate effectively with students, colleagues and external stakeholders. 

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

Application procedure:  Send a letter of application, curriculum vitae, selected reprints, academic transcripts, statement of research goals and plans, and names and addresses of three references to:
  Dr. Susan Brown, Search Committee Chair
  Department of Horticultural Sciences
630 W. North Street
  Cornell University, Geneva NY 14456
  Phone:  315-787-2224   Fax:  315-787-2216

The Department actively encourages applications from women and minority candidates.

Review of applications will begin March 1, 2008 and will continue until the position is filled.

Department Affiliation: The successful candidate will be a faculty member of the Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and will be based in the Department of Horticultural Sciences at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (NYSAES) in Geneva, NY  (  A mentoring program for new faculty provides guidance and assistance.  

Contributed by Lou Ann Rago
Administrative Assistant
Department of Horticultural Sciences
New York State Agricultural Experiment Station
Cornell University

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5.02  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

-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;; 607-255-2180; 607-255-6683 (fax). Review of applications will begin February, 2008.

Contributed by Mary Kreitinger

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5.03  Research Scientist, Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research, Aberystwyth Research Centre

£21,682 - £32,796
A post-doctoral research scientist is required in the Grass Traits and Variety Team within the Plant Breeding and Genetics Programme at Aberystwyth Research Centre to work on a BBSRC-DFID funded project. The appointment is funded for an initial period of 4 years.

For informal enquiries contact: Dr Rattan Yadav, email:, phone: +44 (0)1970 823174 (direct).

Ref: IGR.08.01

Closing date: 11 February 2008
NOTE: Please put the post reference on the front of your envelope and on your application form.

Completed Applications Forms should be signed and returned to the Operations Team by fax or post. E-mail attachments will not be accepted.

Bilingual Institution which operates a Welsh Language scheme.
Committed to Equal Opportunities.
Operations Team: / Tel: 01970 621591 / Fax: 01970 622975

Important note for job applicants
A new University pay and grading structure is to be introduced in due course. As a result, this may impact on the grade or maximum attainable salary of posts currently being advertised.

For further details, please access the ‘Pay Modernisation’ and the ‘Framework Agreement’ pages on the Human Resources website.

Further Particulars (Yn saesneg yn unig)

The BBSRC-DIFD project will develop novel, easy-to-screen gene based markers associated with a drought tolerance QTL on linkage group 2 in pearl millet, and validate the association of such markers to drought response using global collection of pearl millet genetic resources.

In particular, the project will:
-make use of comparative mapping approaches to identify and map a range of markers to the drought tolerance QTL region on linkage group 2 in pearl millet using a high resolution cross

-assess allelic diversity of closely spaced / gene-based loci mapping to the drought tolerance QTL on linkage group 2 in a diverse subset of unrelated global pearl millet genetic resources accessions collected from Africa and Asia, and conduct association mapping analysis.

-foster capacity building of national agricultural research system (NARS) breeding programs in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia by strengthening national molecular breeding capacities.

-communicate results by publications in peer-reviewed journals, presentations at international conferences and reports.

Person Specification
PhD degree with experience in plant genetics, genomics, bioinformatics or a related discipline. Proven experience with PCR based markers, particularly in the design of primers and development of SNP and gene based markers, is highly desirable. Computer based skills to translate genomic information from the model / related crops using in silico approaches are highly desirable. Good organisation, time management and communication skills are essential. Should have a proven track record in writing publications. A very high level of experimental competence is essential as is the ability to work independently and assume responsibility for own work as well as being able to work as part of a team. The successful candidate will work in close collaboration with scientists based at ICRISAT headquarters in Patancheru in India and will be expected to spend 5-6 weeks each year there during field experimentations. Must be willing and able to visit collaborators in India and Ghana to participate in experiments conducted there.

Ref: IGR.08.01

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


A course offering on: Cassava genetic resources and their manipulation

(3 credits; 45 hours)

Follow the links:
(Editor’s note: These are very large files. If you have difficulty downloading them, it may be due to connection speed to the internet)

Contributed by Nagib Nassar


28-30 January 2008. Generation Challenge Programmme drought phenotyping meeting, Texcoco, Mexico.

This meeting at GCP Headquarters precedes the launch of a 2008 project to develop a GCP Drought Phenotyping Network.

3-28 March 2008 (in two phases). Generation Challenge Programmme phenotyping course for drought-related traits across tropical legumes – Concepts and practices, ICRISAT, Patancheru India.

This workshop is specifically for the Tropical Legumes I (TLI) Project; therefore TLI researchers and partners will have first priority. However a few slots are also available for non-TLI researchers and partners in this two-phase course which targets technicians and scientists (approximately two weeks for each group) working on phenotyping drought or drought-related traits in legume crops, with a particular focus on Africa.

Travel and accommodation: to be covered by GCP

Registration: early January 2008
More information
Contact person: Vincent Vadez

From GCP News, Issue 26, 21 December 2007


10 – 11 March 2008. CSREES-USDA Integrated Competitive Programs Grantsmanship Workshop, Memphis, Tennessee

The 1890 Region and Florida A&M University will host a Grantsmanship Workshop on CSREES Integrated Competitive Programs focusing on the Section 406 Integrated Research, Education, and Extension Program and opportunities within the National Research Initiative for support of integrated activities. Agency staff will give an overview of CSREES Integrated Competitive Programs and describe how to integrate research, education, and extension in developing and implementing competitive proposals. Experienced Project Directors will speak on how to successfully design a strong integrated project, write a winning proposal, and implement a successful integrated project. Faculty in research, extension, and academics are encouraged to attend. For additional details and registration information, visit

Please share this information with your colleagues!

(Note from Ann Marie Thro: “Integrated proposals can include plant breeding.”)
Contributed by Kimberly Whittet via Anne Marie Thro


12 – 14 June 2008. The Future of Agricultural Biotechnology: Creative Destruction, Adoption, or Irrelevance? ICABR Conference 2008, Ravello, Italy.

The 12th ICABR Conference, in Honor of Vittorio Santaniello, will take place at Ravello ( Italy ) from June 12 to June 14, 2008.

The ICABR Conference is organized by the:
International Consortium on Agricultural Biotechnology Research (ICABR)
in collaboration with:
CEIS - University of Rome "Tor Vergata"
Rutgers University
Yale University
University of California, Berkeley
Leibniz University of Hannover
University of Missouri,
University of Saskatchewan
Wageningen University

For information contact Anna Santaniello

Contributed by Anna Santaniello


16 - 18 June 2008. Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee (SCC-080), Des Moines, IA.

Registration is now open. Please register as soon as possible to help us plan. For registration information, see:

New subcommittees are being formed for the Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee.  If you would like to volunteer for a committee, send an email to Todd Wehner indicating the committee you are interested in.  The choices are:

PBCC planning subcommittee for white papers (Steve Baenziger, chair)
PBCC planning subcommittee for 2008 speakers (Keith Woeste, chair)
PBCC planning subcommittee for 2008 meeting agenda (Linda Wessel-Beaver, chair)
PBCC planning subcommittee for nominations and by-laws (Todd Wehner, chair)

Contributed by Todd C. Wehner


2-5 August 2010. 10th International Conference on Grapevine Breeding and Genetics,  Please save the date!  This conference will be hosted by Cornell University, The New York State Agricultural Experiment Station and associated USDA-Agricultural Research Service units at Geneva, New York.  Updates will be available at  Bruce Reisch, Chair of the Organizing Committee.

Contributed by Bruce Reisch


*3-6 February 2008 International Conference “Molecular Mapping & Marker Assisted Selection in Plants, Vienna.
View all meeting information online at

NOTE: The early bird registration deadline for this is over. However you can still register (late registration) for the Conference

*20-21 February 2008. Breeding with Molecular Markers. Buehler Alumni Center, UC Davis Seed Biotechnology Center
  On-line registration is now available.

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

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

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

For registration visit
For more information please contact Jeleana Johnson, 530 754-2252,

Please contact Susan DiTomaso at: for questions or comments.

*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).

(Application deadline was 31 December 2007). For further information, please contact Dr. Dave Hoisington (

* 5-10 April 2008. The 10th International Barley Genetics Symposium, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Egypt.

(Editor’s note: The December 2007 issue of Plant Breeding News incorrectly identified Dr. Helmut Knüpffer as Conference Manager. Please see the symposium website for correct information.)

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

An application form is available on this pdf link:
Further information is available by contacting the course director by email at or by calling the course administrator on 01223 342269.

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

*16-18 July 2008. Development of plant breeding and crop management in time and space. Priekuli, Cesis district, Latvia
Contacts: Dace Piliksere: (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.

*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, with any questions.

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

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

Further information can be obtained from the website:

*7-12 December 2008. International Conference on Legume Genomics and Genetics IV Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

*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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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 (, Margaret Smith (, and Ann Marie Thro ( The editor will advise subscribers one to two weeks ahead of each edition, in order to set deadlines for contributions.

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