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

PLANT BREEDING NEWS

EDITION 187
18 February 2008

An Electronic Newsletter of Applied Plant Breeding

Clair H. Hershey, Editor
chh23@cornell.edu

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

Archived issues available at: FAO Plant Breeding Newsletter


1.  NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH NOTES
1.01  Prioritizing climate change adaptation needs for food security in 2030
1.02  Gates Foundation announces $306 million package of agricultural development grants
1.03  African, Asian crops 'to be hit hard by climate change'
1.04  Crop biofuels 'create carbon debt'
1.05  Iowa Staters talk biofuels, healthy oils and 'pharma crops' at AAAS meeting
1.06  Development of smart crops for biofuels ensures food and environmental security
1.07  Latin American 'potato network' to aid poor farmers
1.08  Wheat roundup in the UK
1.09  India may turn into a big producer of GM rice and vegetables by 2010
1.10  Transgenic rice seeds still await the go-ahead in China
1.11  Uganda approves Bt cotton trials
1.12  First documented case of pest resistance to biotech cotton
1.13  Plant DNA 'barcode' boosts biodiversity research
1.14  USDA/ARS and Bioversity International partner with the Global Crop Diversity Trust to develop a global plant genebank information system
1.15  Thousands of crop varieties from the four corners of the world depart for Arctic seed vault
1.16  University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists hunt for the roots of the modern potato
1.17  Engineering fungal resistance in rice
1.18  Submergence-tolerant rice line now in the pipeline
1.19  A new hybrid rice group aims to increase rice yield in the tropics
1.20  Indian and US Scientists develop high protein rice
1.21  Breeding cotton to beat the heat
1.22  Wild cassava relatives as source of stress-resistance genes
1.23  Beans suited for the harsh Mediterranean
1.24  Wheat landraces may hold promise against rust
1.25  The power of three: wheat trigenomic chromosome
1.26  Researchers identify cause of watermelon vine decline
1.27  Tolerance and response to iron deficiency in plants
1.28  Resistance to selenium toxicity
1.29  Scientists discover plant compound that improves iron absorption
1.30  New cranberry variety with increased antioxidants
1.31  New banana and plantain varieties for Africa
1.32  Three Striga resistant cowpea varieties available for Africa
1.33  Unlocking the genetic basis of pine tree defense
1.34  Kansas State University researchers move one step closer to curbing pests´ appetite for crops
1.35  Root or shoot? EAR calls the shots
1.36  A guardian of grasses: Specific origin and conservation of a unique disease-resistance gene in the grass lineage
1.37  How plants cope with excess light
1.38  Genetic map should speed development of snow mold-resistant wheat
1.39 

2.  PUBLICATIONS
2.01  Introducing ‘African Journal of Agricultural Research (AJAR)’
2.02  Conserving Plant Genetic Diversity in Protected Areas
2.03  Reviewers needed to assess applications for Ph.D. and post-doctoral applications in French
2.04  An Economic Assessment of Banana Genetic Improvement and Innovation in the Lake Victoria Region of Uganda and Tanzania

3.  WEB RESOURCES
3.01  DOE JGI releases a new version of its metagenome data management & analysis system

4  GRANTS AVAILABLE
4.01  GCP Fellowships 2008­Deadline for applications extended
4.02  Rice scholarships: The Asian Rice Foundation USA
4.03  Training Plant Breeders for the 21st Century: USDA National Needs Graduate Fellowships

5  POSITION ANNOUNCEMENTS
5.01  Position Announcement: Horticulturist – Vegetables

6  MEETINGS, COURSES AND WORKSHOPS

7  EDITOR'S NOTES

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1.  NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH NOTES

1.01  Prioritizing climate change adaptation needs for food security in 2030

This article analyzes the potential risks posed by climate change for crops in 12 food-insecure regions of the world, with the goal of identifying adaptation priorities. The risk analysis is based on statistical crop models, and climate projections for 2030 from 20 "general circulation" models. The results indicate South Asia and Southern Africa as two regions that, without sufficient adaptation measures, will likely suffer negative impacts on several crops that are important to large food-insecure human populations. The article notes that uncertainties vary widely by crop, and therefore priorities will depend on the risk attitudes of investment institutions. For example, one set of institutions might wish to focus on those cases where negative impacts are most likely to occur, in order to maximize the likelihood that investments will generate some benefits. By this criterion, South Asia wheat, Southeast Asia rice, and Southern Africa maize appear as the most important crops in need of adaptation investments. Other institutions might wish to focus on crops for which possible negative impacts would be extreme, even if there is a lower likelihood of these impacts occurring. A different subset of crops is identified for this criterion, with several South Asian crops, Sahel sorghum, and (again) Southern Africa maize appearing as the most in need of attention.

The article can be viewed online at the link below.
http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/319/5863/607?ijkey=04CySFc/NojU.&keytype=ref&siteid=sci

Author:David B. Lobell et al.

Source: Science via SeedQuest.com
7 February 2008

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1.02  Gates Foundation announces $306 million package of agricultural development grants

Davos, Switzerland
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today announced a $306 million package of agricultural development grants designed to boost the yields and incomes of millions of small farmers in Africa and other parts of the developing world so they can lift themselves and their families out of hunger and poverty.

Announcing the grants at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Bill Gates, co-chair of the foundation, said that support for agriculture in the developing world had been relatively neglected in recent decades, but was a critical tool to drive development in rural areas, where the vast majority of the world's poorest people still live. Gates was joined by Dr. A. Namanga Ngongi, President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick.

"If we are serious about ending extreme hunger and poverty around the world, we must be serious about transforming agriculture for small farmers­most of whom are women," said Gates. "These investments­from improving the quality of seeds, to developing healthier soil, to creating new markets­will pay off not only in children fed and lives saved. They can have a dramatic impact on poverty reduction as families generate additional income and improve their lives."

The grants nearly double the foundation's investments in agriculture since the launch of its Agricultural Development initiative, part of the foundation's Global Development Program, in mid-2006. The foundation believes that with strong partnerships and a redoubled commitment to agricultural development by donor and developing country governments, philanthropy, and the private sector, hundreds of millions of small farmers will be able to boost their yields and incomes and lift themselves out of hunger and poverty. To that end, the foundation plans to invest a total of $900 million through 2008.

The largest grant in the package is $164.5 million to AGRA to establish a Soil Health Program that will complement its existing Seeds Program and help small-scale farmers make full use of new high-yielding varieties of Africa's staple food crops. The Rockefeller Foundation will contribute an additional $15 million.

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, an Africa-based and African-led partnership, is focused on helping small farmers increase their productivity and incomes through a comprehensive approach that addresses issues from seeds, soil and water to markets, agricultural education and policy. AGRA announced the Soil Health Program earlier today at its offices in Nairobi, Kenya. AGRA was established in 2006 with an initial $150 million investment from the Gates and Rockefeller foundations.

"Africa's soils are among the poorest in the world, and poor soils produce poor crops," said Kofi A. Annan, Chairman of the Board of AGRA. "This program aims to revitalize Africa's severely depleted soils in order to increase the fertility and sustainability of small-scale farms while safeguarding the environment."

The other five grants­to CARE, Heifer International, International Development Enterprises, International Rice Research Institute, and TechnoServe­total $141.5 million. The grants will primarily support work in country, including the development of local science, technology, farmer extension services, and market systems. Gates said the grants illustrated the range of intervention needed to ensure small farmers in Africa and around the world have the tools and opportunities to improve their lives: rice that can tolerate extreme weather conditions, more fertile soil, affordable microirrigation systems, improved farmer training, and enhanced connections to local and global markets in areas such as dairy and premium coffee.

"It is of little use if a farmer, through access to better seeds or soil or irrigation, boosts production but doesn’t have a market to sell the surplus," said Gates. "Our approach focuses on the entire agricultural value chain­from seeds and soil to farm management and market access. We believe that is the only way to get long-term, sustainable results."

According to the World Bank, three-quarters of the 1.1 billion people who live on less than $1 a day live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for a living. More than 820 million people suffer from chronic hunger in the developing world, and the number is rising. In the world's poorest areas, small farmers frequently labor in harsh conditions. They face depleted soils, pests, drought, diseases, and lack of water. Even if they manage to grow a surplus, they lack access to reliable markets to sell their crops.

Despite the urgent need, the percentage of official development assistance that went to agriculture fell from over 16 percent in 1980, to under 4 percent in 2004; in addition, agriculture accounts for only 4 percent of public spending in agriculture-based developing countries.

But there is reason for optimism. For the first time in 25 years, the World Bank focused its World Development Report on agricultural development. The report shows that agriculture can drive massive poverty reduction and overall development. Almost no country has managed a rapid rise from poverty without increasing its agricultural productivity. Advances during the Green Revolution in Latin America and Asia doubled the amount of food produced and saved hundreds of millions of lives.

"We need a 21st Century Green Revolution designed for the special and diverse needs of Africa," said World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick. "It must be driven by greater investments in technological research and dissemination, sustainable land management, agricultural supply chains, irrigation, rural microcredit, and policies that strengthen market opportunities while assisting with rural vulnerabilities and insecurities."

African heads of state recently endorsed a plan, the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Program (CAADP), which aims to increase government budget allocations for agriculture to 10 percent of national spending.

Cecilia Kapinga, a small farmer who lives in Mbinga, Tanzania with her husband and six children, has already experienced the powerful impact of agricultural development. TechnoServe, one of the partners in today's announcement, has helped Cecilia and her family grow and process their coffee in a way that will fetch higher prices. The project has also connected them to buyers of high-quality coffee. The extra income has helped pay for food and running water and supported new business opportunities for Cecilia and her family.

"The biggest difference is the confidence we have in our future and in our children's future," she said. "We know the road we're on and where it leads."
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Today's announcement includes, among others, the following grants:

Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)
African Soil Health Program: $164.5 million
To revitalize Africa's severely depleted soils in order to increase the fertility and sustainability of small-scale farms and raise the yield and income of farmers, thus alleviating hunger and poverty. The project aims to boost the incomes and improve the well-being of more than 4.1 million smallholder farmers through 50 to 100 percent increases in their crop yields.

International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)
Stress-Tolerant Rice for Poor Farmers in Africa and South Asia: $19.8 million
To reduce poverty and hunger and increase food and income security of resource-poor farm families and rice consumers in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa through the development and dissemination of stress tolerant rice. Within three years, the project expects that 300,000 farmers in South Asia and 100,000 farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa will have adopted the initial set of improved varieties.

Click HERE for full list

Source: SeedQuest.com
25 January 2008

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1.03  African, Asian crops 'to be hit hard by climate change'

T V Padma
[NEW DELHI] Crops in South Asia and Southern Africa are likely to be worst hit by climate change and need greater investment in agriculture development and adaptation strategies, say US scientists.

The conclusions, reported today (1 February) in Science, are based on an analysis of climate risks for crops in 12 food-insecure regions.

The research team, led by David Lobell from the US-based Woods Institute for Environment at Stanford University, used statistical crop models and 20 climate change models for the year 2030.

The regions studied contain groups of countries with broadly similar diets and crop production systems, and a significant number of the world's malnourished people. The researchers calculated the 'hunger importance' of individual crops by multiplying the number of malnourished individuals by a crop's percentage contribution to calorie intake.

The more important crops ­ that more malnourished people depend on ­ in South Asia were found to be millets, groundnut, rapeseed and wheat. In the Sahel region of Africa it was sorghum, and maize in southern Africa.

The researchers say there are uncertainties in the crop and climate models, and several regions with poor climate and yield data, such as Central Africa, require further research to develop adaptation strategies.

But, they say, the analysis shows a clear impact of climate change on crops, and the data is particularly robust for South Asia and Southern Africa.

Increasing and sustaining attention on agricultural investment in the developing world "is one of the best things we can do for climate adaptation", says Marshall Burke, director of the Food Security and Environment Program at Stanford University.

He told SciDev.Net that several recent initiatives ­ such as the World Bank's increasing investment in agriculture, and the Rockefeller and Gates Foundations' work on improving Africa's seeds systems ­ "look like good investments in climate adaptation for agriculture; investments in improved crop varieties, in better ways to get them in the hands of farmers, investments in rural infrastructure".

The researchers say their study only intends to highlight major areas of concern and that finer-scale studies are needed to identify local 'hot spots'.

Burke says difficulties with this include most climate models not addressing the high uncertainty in how much the climate will change in a region and how crops will respond to that change. Models also tend to focus narrowly on a small subset of crops of importance to vulnerable regions.

Link to full paper in Science
Reference: Science 319, 607 (2008)

Source: SciDev.net
1 February 2008

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1.04  Crop biofuels 'create carbon debt'

Carla Almeida
Two studies have shown that changes in land use to produce crop-based biofuels can actually result in more greenhouse-gas emissions than burning fossil fuels.

The studies, both published in Science last week (8 February), estimate the impact of converting forests and grasslands into cropland for the production of biofuels.

Both conclude that the resulting carbon emissions, released through decomposition or burning of biomass, create a 'carbon debt' that takes decades or even centuries to be paid back through biofuel usage.

This finding undermines previous claims that substituting fossil fuels with biofuels should offset greenhouse-gas emissions because biofuels sequester carbon while they grow.

According to Timothy Searchinger, researcher at Princeton University and the lead author of one of the studies, previous assessments did not include the carbon storage and sequestration sacrificed when diverting land from its existing use.

Searchinger and colleagues looked at the use of US cropland to produce corn-based ethanol and calculated it would take 167 years to repay carbon emissions resulting from land-use change, and that in 30 years greenhouse-gas emissions from corn ethanol could be nearly double those from gasoline.

"Biofuels in the US and Europe are increasing the price of crops, which naturally results in more efforts to clear land. In that way, farmers make more money," he says.

Much of this land clearing will occur in Brazil, China and India, the authors write.

In the other study, by the Nature Conservancy and University of Minnesota, researchers estimate carbon debts and pay back years for different cases of conversion from native vegetation.

They found soybean biodiesel produced on converted Amazonian rainforest would take around 320 years to gain a 'carbon benefit' over petroleum diesel. For biodiesel and sugarcane-based ethanol produced on Brazilian cerrado ­ tropical savannah ­ the estimations are 37 and 17 years, respectively. 

Improving the productivity of agricultural land, creating biofuels from waste biomass and municipal waste, or from biomass grown on abandoned agricultural land, are all ways to avoid the need for a change in land use, the authors suggest.

The results of the studies do not surprise Roberto Schaeffer, researcher at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. "Nobody thought deforestation for biofuel production would be a good solution," he told SciDev.Net.

"Biofuels are only effective in specific situations, as in the case of Brazilian ethanol. It is possible to increase production without devastating forests."

Link to the article by Searchinger et al [] [kB]
Link to article by Fargione et al [] [kB]
References:
Science 10.1126/science.1151861 (2008)
Science 10.1126/science.1152747 (2008)

Source: SciDev.net
15 February 2008

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1.05  Iowa Staters talk biofuels, healthy oils and 'pharma crops' at AAAS meeting

AMES, Iowa – There’s more to biofuels than the food vs. fuel debate and talk of the various technologies associated with biofuels production.

And so Steven Fales, a professor of agronomy and a member of the Science and Engineering Board of Iowa State’s Bioeconomy Institute, organized and moderated a three-hour symposium on Friday, Feb. 15, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston.

The title of the discussion was, “Energy, Agriculture, and People: Global Implications for Science and Policy.”

“We thought it would be appropriate to take a big picture view of issues regarding energy and agriculture that go beyond the science and technology,” Fales said.

And so there were presentations about climate change, production of biofuel crops on marginal lands, the effects of biofuel production on the poor, the ethics of using agriculture for energy production and the politics associated with renewable energy.

Fales said the idea was to mirror the global theme of the annual meeting and acknowledge that biorenewable issues extend beyond energy into many other concerns of society.

Two other researchers with ties to Iowa State also made presentations during the AAAS annual meeting Feb. 14-18:

• Robert Wisner, a recently retired University Professor of agricultural economics, addressed a 90-minute symposium on Friday, Feb. 15, titled, “Drugs in our Corn Flakes" Our Health and the Economic Risks of ‘Pharma’ and Industrial Crops.”

Wisner’s talk addressed the economics of growing crops with medicinal traits engineered into them. Key economic issues include the risks of co-mingling medical drugs and industrial chemicals with the food supply and the alternatives for controlling that risk. But those aren’t the only economic issues he identified. Others were determining the real and long-term costs and benefits of pharma crops, identifying who gains from the crops and learning whether producing medicines and chemicals in non-food crops is more economical and less risky than using food crops. Wisner also noted several instances when unapproved genetically modified crops were found in food supplies. In those instances, Wisner said there were major disruptions in grain export markets, price impacts and very high public and private costs to purge the grain from the food system.

Linda Pollak, a research geneticist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a collaborative associate professor of agronomy at Iowa State, addressed a 90-minute symposium on Saturday, Feb. 16, titled, “Crops for Health: Improving the Health-Promoting Properties of Food.”

Pollak’s message was that traditional plant breeding can be a tool to improve human health. Plant breeders, for example, have been able to reduce some of the problems with oils from soybeans, canola, sunflowers and corn. She said plant breeders have developed soybeans with lower levels of fatty acids to help reduce trans fats after processing. Breeders have also developed canola lines with safe levels of toxic erucic acid. And plant breeders have decreased saturated fats and increased monounsaturated fats in canola, sunflower and corn oils to reduce the risk of heart disease. And so Pollak argued traditional plant breeding can still develop better crops for healthier foods.

Contact: Mike Krapfl
mkrapfl@iastate.edu
Iowa State University

Source: EurekAlert.org
16 February 2008

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1.06  Development of smart crops for biofuels ensures food and environmental security

Patancheru, India
While the global debate ranges on whether the biofuel revolution is causing imbalances in food security systems and increasing the emissions of greenhouse gases, the 'smart' biofuel crops developed, utilized and promoted by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) ensure energy and environmental security.

According to Dr William Dar, Director General of ICRISAT, the time has come to ensure that only smart biofuel crops are developed and utilized so that they can link the poor farmers of the drylands to the biofuel market, without compromising on their food security, or causing environmental damage.

"Smart biofuel crops are those that ensure food security, contribute to energy security, provide environmental sustainability, tolerate the impacts of climate change on shortage of water and high temperatures, and increase livelihood options," Dr Dar said.

Through its BioPower Strategy, ICRISAT is developing and promoting sweet sorghum as a major feedstock for bioethanol. Sweet sorghum is a carbon dioxide neutral crop, which is a big contributory factor of being called a smart crop.

ICRISAT-bred sweet sorghum varieties and hybrids have increased sugar content in the juice in their stalks. ICRISAT's rainy season varieties give 42% higher sugar yield, and rainy season hybrids give a 20% increased sugar yield.

Sweet sorghum has a strong pro-poor advantage since it has a triple product potential - grain, juice for ethanol, and bagasse (crushed stalk waste) for livestock feed and power generation. Its highlight is that there is no compromise on farmers' food security, since the grain is available for the farmers, along with the sugar-rich juice from the stalk that can be distilled to ethanol.

There are other benefits also. It is a cost-effective and competitive feedstock. It has a shorter crop cycle of 4 months compared to the 12 months of sugarcane. It has a water requirement of 4,000 cubic meter to produce a kiloliter of bioethanol, compared to 36,000 cu.m required for sugarcane. Putting all the factors together, the feedstock cost to produce one kiloliter of ethanol from sweet sorghum is US$ 81.6, whereas it is US$ 111.5 for sugarcane and US$ 89.2 for maize.

Sweet sorghum is tolerant to water scarcity and high temperatures, two qualities which will keep the crop in good stead when the climate changes with global warming.

It also has high water use efficiency. While sorghum requires 310 kg of water per kg of dry matter, maize requires 370 kg of water per kg of dry matter.

Sweet sorghum is a carbon dioxide neutral crop that makes it environment friendly, and does not add to greenhouse gas emissions. During its growth cycle, a hectare of sweet sorghum cultivation absorbs and emits 45 tons of carbon.

The crop also has a good energy balance, that is unit of energy generated per unit of fossil-fuel energy invested in its cultivation. Sweet sorghum generates 8 units of energy for every unit of fossil-fuel energy invested, which compares favorably with sugarcane's 8.3, and for corn it is only 1.8 units.

It has been studied that gasoline blended with ethanol has lower emissions when run through an automobile engine than pure gasoline. E85, the fuel with 85% ethanol, has only 1 part per million concentration of nitrogen oxide whereas gasoline has 9 ppm.

ICRISAT's initiative to produce biofuels is not limited to bioethanol from sweet sorghum alone. Through its watershed development project, it is promoting the cultivation of Pongamia and Jatropha, from which biodiesel can be extracted.

ICRISAT is promoting the cultivation of these biodiesel crops by marginalized communities such as tribal groups and women's self-help groups and ensuring that they are planted on wastelands. The groups get additional income after harvesting and crushing the seeds, selling the oil, and selling the seedcake (the residue after crushing) to farmers as an organic fertilizer. Some of the oil is used to power village diesel engines such as generators and irrigation pumps.

"Likewise, our biodiesel initiatives produce green fuel and rehabilitate degraded lands, enhance greenery, conserve rainwater, and provide a sustainable income source for the landless and marginal farmers," said Dr Dar.

The issues of food versus fuel, climate change and environment, land use, and impact on poverty alleviation vis-ŕ-vis biofuels call for stimulating and informed science-based policy-making. That means a framework to promote biofuels should be linked to national and regional poverty reduction, food security and climate proofing strategies.

Source: SeedQuest.com
15 February 2008

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1.07  Latin American 'potato network' to aid poor farmers

2008 has been designated the International Year of the Potato

Daniela Hirschfeld
[MONTEVIDEO] With 2008 designated the International Year of the Potato, ten Latin American countries and Spain have formed the Latin American Network for Innovation on Potato Improvement and Dissemination, known as Red Latinpapa.

The network was announced following a meeting of regional experts last week (15–18 January) in Lima, Peru, organised by the International Potato Centre (CIP) in Peru.

Latinpapa's aim is to help poor potato farmers in Latin America improve their income and reduce costs by making it easier for them to access new technologies and varieties and getting their input into what traits are most useful.

Ten countries from Latin America and the Caribbean will take part, including Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Uruguay and Venezuela. Individuals and organisations that wish to become members of the network are asked to join their national network first, or create one where one does not exist.

Stef de Haan, chair of Latinpapa's coordinating committee and a scientist at CIP, says Latinpapa will stimulate exchange and analysis of genetic material between researchers in the region. It will also increase the access to the protocols of genetic innovations and boost the adoption and knowledge of new varieties, among other activities.

He said that in the last three years several research centres throughout Latin America have been interviewing farmers, seed producers, small-scale businessmen and scientists to identify national needs in the potato sector. This formed part of the discussions between representatives at the Lima meeting.

Latinpapa will receive US$1.5 million over the next three years, funded equally by Latin America's Regional Fund of Agricultural Technology (Fontagro), the National Institute of Agrarian Research (INIA) of Spain, and the governments of the ten member countries.

The network will be coordinated by the committee chaired by De Haan, consisting of representatives from Bolivia, Colombia, Spain and Uruguay.

Source: SciDev.net
22 January 2008

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1.08  Wheat roundup in the UK

Gene x environment
Over the last 30 years, wheat has shown an average of 1% per year yield gain. To date most selection for improved yield has been based on empirical selection of observed phenotypes rather than for specific, desirable alleles. Traditionally we think of yield as a trait determined by many genes of small effect acting together, but this is an untested hypothesis, and John Snape of the John Innes Centre in Norwich, UK and colleagues at Syngenta, Nickerson-Advanta, and the University of Nottingham have set out to test whether there are particular quantitative trait loci (QTL) with large effects. Separate analyses of populations grown over 3 seasons in England, Scotland, France and Germany revealed QTL for yield performance showing both general and stable effects, and the results are starting to give us a ‘physiological handle’ on which traits are exhibiting significant variation that can be manipulated by breeders either over environments or in specific environments.

Funding for this research was from the Syngenta/JIC Alliance, and a competitive grant from the UK Department for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.

Publication: Dissecting gene x environmental effects on wheat yields via QTL and physiological analysis. Snape, J. W. et al. (2007) Euphytica 154 401-408

Drought resistance
Because of unpredictable rainfall in the UK, droughts cannot be predicted, and the most valuable traits for drought resistance will be those for which there is no yield penalty in the absence of drought. Research involving John Snape and colleagues at the John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK in collaboration with the University of Nottingham and the Agricultural Development and Advisory Service, Boxworth, has identified one trait showing a strong and clear correlation with maintenance of yield under drought, which is green leaf area persistence. A screen for leaf persistence including marker-assisted selection will have value in future breeding programmes in the UK and world-wide.

Funding for this research was from a competitive grant from the UK Department for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.

Publication: Identifying physiological traits associated with improved drought resistance in winter wheat. Foulkes, M. J. et al. (2007) Field Crops Research 103 (1) 11-24 

Adaptive winter wheat
Conventional UK wheat crops are monocultures of individual varieties selected for production under high inputs; yield and quality shortfalls result under low input, particularly organic, conditions. Taken together with predictions for increased climate variation and rising input prices, varieties with more internal genetic variability would help buffer environmental variation. In a Department for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs–funded Sustainable Arable LINK project, the John Innes Centre (JIC), Norwich UK will collaborate with the Organic Research Centre, UK (ORC) to test the concept of ‘evolutionary breeding’ using composite cross populations (CCPs).

The new project is coordinated by the ORC, and JIC’s John Snape and colleagues will provide genetic inputs into work to evaluate the performance of CCPs, determine their processing capability and transfer the CCPs to farmers to facilitate commercial evaluation of potential.  JIC’s role will be to use molecular markers to monitor the genetic evolution of CCPs to region, management and year. One of the interesting outcomes should be a massive increase in diversity within the crop which allows control of pests and weeds which should help to significantly reduce agrochemical and physical inputs.

Contact information: john.snape@bbsrc.ac.uk Tel +44 1603 455000 www.jic.ac.uk

Contributed by Catherine Reynolds
catherine.reynolds@BBSRC.AC.UK

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1.09  India may turn into a big producer of GM rice and vegetables by 2010

Chennai, India
India has the potential to become a major producer of transgenic rice and several genetically modified (GM) or engineered vegetables by 2010, according to a research report by Rabo India Finance Ltd on the Indian agri-biotech sector. It has emerged as one of the leading destinations for investment in biotechnology in the recent years. It is also emerging as an important destination for both biomarkers and validation services, the report said.

A biomarker is a substance used as an indicator of a biologic state. It is a characteristic that is objectively measured and evaluated as an indicator of normal biologic processes, pathogenic processes, or pharmacologic responses to a therapeutic intervention.

According to the report, there is an increasing use of molecular markers in crop breeding and a growing realisation that some of these new technologies could lead to future growth in the productivity and quality of crops such as rice, wheat, eggplant (brinjal), tomato and okra (lady's finger).

Stating that alliances were becoming increasingly important in seed industry to bridge the gap between field experience and emerging technologies, the report said most research and development works in the country are being done in the public sector. "These institutions are being generously funded by the Union Government," it said.

Research work on
Research work is being carried in 19 crops. They are rice, wheat, cotton, potato, banana, tomato, rapeseed, mustard, coffee, tobacco, eggplant, cabbage, cauliflower, melon, citrus fruit, black gram, groundnut, chickpea and pigeon pea.

Eight institutions, as per the report, are concentrating on two or more crops, while others are concentrating on one each.

"Four kinds of tracts are being tackled: Resistance to attacks by insect pests, viral and fungal diseases (biotic stress); drought tolerance, water logging and salinity; and delayed ripening and increasing shelf life," the report said.

Referring to Bt cotton, it said over 60 per cent of the 62 lakh hectares under hybrid seeds were GM strains, and a study had revealed gain to the tune of Rs 11,000 a hectare.

On Bt brinjal, the report said it could be the next important biotech crop with several public institutions and private companies developing improved varieties of drought tolerant ones. These plants are also being developed to resist shoot and fruit borer, it said, adding that two private firms have developed strains to control fruit and shoot borer.

While transgenic tomato is aimed at curbing damage from leaf curl virus and other infections such as buck eye rot of fruits, septoria and early blight, transgenic potato, being developed by public institutions, was yet to attract the private sector's attention. "On the regulatory front, it is in the final stages of approval (by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee)," the report said.

GM strains
Stating that much attention was being paid to research on GM rice, Rabo India said the aim was to develop saline and drought tolerant varieties, but no GM strain had been commercially released. However, developments relating to the "Golden" rice will have a significant impact on India, it said.

GM wheat was under development at the South Campus of the Delhi University, while a host of other crops were being developed by public and private sector.

"The future of transgenic seeds will see many private companies entering into the transgenic seed market in India. Many companies are developing agronomically important crops. Some medium and large size seed companies with an annual turnover of Rs 35 crore are developing transgenic seeds," it said.

On the challenges faced by the industry, the report said intellectual property was one of the deterrents to growth of the biotech industry as foreign players feel there was no sufficient patent protection and access to patent litigation in the country. "However, this perception has recently changed to a great extent," it said.

On the biotech sector's growth, the Rabo India said during 2006-07, the agri-biotech industry's revenue was Rs 926 crore, while it clocked an annual growth of 55 per cent.

Source: The Hindu Business Line SeedQuest.com
January 24, 2008

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1.10  Transgenic rice seeds still await the go-ahead in China

Beijing, China
By Wu Jiao, China Daily via SEAMEO SEARCA

China strictly supervises its transgenic rice research and production, and no such seed has been approved for the market, according to agriculture officials.

"Scientists are still conducting research on transgenic rice," Yang Xiongnian, deputy director of the science, technology and education division under the Ministry of Agriculture, said on Friday.

" We are at the last stage of safety evaluation."

Unlike some countries which promoted transgenic agricultural products mainly for commercial reasons, food and environmental safety are top priorities for China, Yang told China Daily.

Research has mainly been carried out in Hunan and Hubei provinces, with a variety of transgenic rice seeds being tested, Yang said.

But he noted the benefits of transgenic rice have yet to be proved.

According to regulations, transgenic plants must undergo lab experiments, pilot tests and production experiments before they get safety certificates for commercial promotion.

But even after all of these steps are taken, market acceptance is a crucial factor.

Yang cited cases in the United States, where some transgenic wheat seeds, although proven safe, were not accepted by consumers.

China has so far approved transgenic cotton, potato, miniento and morning glory seeds, but only transgenic cotton seeds have proven popular with farmers.

China's annual cotton production exceeded 7 million tons last year.

Figures from the management office of Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) Biosafety under the ministry show that - between 2002 and 2007 - it approved experiments of 2,361 transgenic seeds of a variety of agriculture plants, with 1,109 receiving safety certificates.

But no transgenic rice seeds have been approved for the market, said the office director.

Huang Dafang, an expert in GMO research at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, said earlier that transgenic technology should be "bravely explored" if it benefits people.

But Beijing resident Hu Xiao said he "wants more information on these new types of food" to make free choices between transgenic and common products.

Source: SeedQuest.com
26 January 2008

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1.11  Uganda approves Bt cotton trials

Ochieng' Ogodo
Uganda has approved confined field trials of genetically modified (GM) cotton, the second GM crop to be trialled in the country.

The country's National Biosafety Committee (NBC) gave the go ahead 'in principle' for the trials of a Bt cotton variety, which is resistant to the bollworm pest, in August 2007, so long as certain conditions were met.

Those measures are now being put in place, and the trials will begin in May, according to Arthur Makara, senior science officer (Biosafety) and NBC secretary.

Bollworm is a devastating pest in Uganda, causing crop losses of up to 40 per cent and wiping out an entire crop during "pest surges", Makara told SciDev.Net.

The move follows the approval in April 2006 of trials of bananas resistant to Black Sigatoka, a bacterial disease that causes necrosis of leaves and low crop yields.

The National Semi-Arid Resources Research Institute (NaSARRI), under the National Agricultural Research Organisation, will carry out the Bt cotton trials in Uganda's Kasese district.

Eemetai Areke, NaSARRI director and lead investigator of the project, said that the trials will provide vital information for the development of a Bt cotton variety suited to the Ugandan environment.

The study, says Makara, aims to prove that Bt cotton can address the problem of bollworm damage in Uganda. "It is aimed at collecting data on the potential of Bt cotton as a remedy to the bollworm problem," he says.

The trial sites will be isolated from other cotton sites by distances of no less than 200 metres and will be fenced off with strong fencing material, as recommended by the NBC. Entry will be restricted to the scientists working on the trials.

Makara says the trials signal that Uganda is taking further steps to increase the capacity of its scientists to research, and understand, the principles and practices of modern biotechnology.

"The data they will collect will inform policy decisions in case of a request for commercialisation of Bt cotton in Uganda in the future, or in the case of legal or illegal transboundary movements of Bt cotton through Uganda," he said.

Source: SciDev.net
8 February 2008

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1.12  First documented case of pest resistance to biotech cotton

A pest insect known as bollworm is the first to evolve resistance in the field to plants modified to produce an insecticide called Bt, according to a new research report.

Bt-resistant populations of bollworm, Helicoverpa zea, were found in more than a dozen crop fields in Mississippi and Arkansas between 2003 and 2006.

"What we're seeing is evolution in action," said lead researcher Bruce Tabashnik. "This is the first documented case of field-evolved resistance to a Bt crop.”

Bt crops are so named because they have been genetically altered to produce Bt toxins, which kill some insects. The toxins are produced in nature by the widespread bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, hence the abbreviation Bt.

The bollworm resistance to Bt cotton was discovered when a team of University of Arizona entomologists analyzed published data from monitoring studies of six major caterpillar pests of Bt crops in Australia, China, Spain and the U.S. The data documenting bollworm resistance were first collected seven years after Bt cotton was introduced in 1996.

"Resistance is a decrease in pest susceptibility that can be measured over human experience," said Tabashnik, professor and head of UA's entomology department and an expert in insect resistance to insecticides. "When you use an insecticide to control a pest, some populations eventually evolves resistance."

The researchers write in their report that Bt cotton and Bt corn have been grown on more than 162 million hectares (400 million acres) worldwide since 1996, “generating one of the largest selections for insect resistance ever known."

Even so, the researchers found that most caterpillar pests of cotton and corn remained susceptible to Bt crops.

"The resistance occurred in one particular pest in one part of the U.S.," Tabashnik said. "The other major pests attacking Bt crops have not evolved resistance. And even most bollworm populations have not evolved resistance."

The field outcomes refute some experts' worst-case scenarios that predicted pests would become resistant to Bt crops in as few as three years, he said.

“The only other case of field-evolved resistance to Bt toxins involves resistance to Bt sprays," Tabashnik said. He added that such sprays have been used for decades, but now represent a small proportion of the Bt used against crop pests.

The bollworm is a major cotton pest in the southeastern U.S. and Texas, but not in Arizona. The major caterpillar pest of cotton in Arizona is a different species known as pink bollworm, Pectinophora gossypiella, which has remained susceptible to the Bt toxin in biotech cotton.

Tabashnik and his colleagues' article, "Insect resistance to Bt crops: evidence versus theory," will be published in the February issue of Nature Biotechnology. His co-authors are Aaron J. Gassmann, a former UA postdoctoral fellow now an assistant professor at Iowa State University; David W. Crowder, a UA doctoral student; and Yves Carričre, a UA professor of entomology. Tabashnik and Carričre are members of UA's BIO5 Institute.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture funded the research.

"Our research shows that in Arizona, Bt cotton reduces use of broad-spectrum insecticides and increases yield," said Carričre. Such insecticides kill both pest insects and beneficial insects.

To delay resistance, non-Bt crops are planted near Bt crops to provide "refuges" for susceptible pests. Because resistant insects are rare, the only mates they are likely to encounter would be susceptible insects from the refuges. The hybrid offspring of such a mating generally would be susceptible to the toxin. In most pests, offspring are resistant to Bt toxins only if both parents are resistant.

In bollworm, however, hybrid offspring produced by matings between susceptible and resistant moths are resistant. Such a dominant inheritance of resistance was predicted to make resistance evolve faster.

The UA researchers found that bollworm resistance evolved fastest in the states with the lowest abundance of refuges.

The field outcomes documented by the global monitoring data fit the predictions of the theory underlying the refuge strategy, Tabashnik said.

Although first-generation biotech cotton contained only one Bt toxin called Cry1Ac, a new variety contains both Cry1Ac and a second Bt toxin, Cry2Ab. The combination overcomes pests that are resistant to just one toxin.

The next steps, Tabashnik said, include conducting research to understand inheritance of resistance to Cry2Ab and developing designer toxins to kill pests resistant to Cry1Ac.
###
Bruce Tabashnik, brucet@ag.arizona.edu
Yves Carričre, ycarrier@ag.arizona.edu

Contact: Mari N. Jensen
mnjensen@email.arizona.edu

Source: EurekAlert.org
7 February 2008

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1.13  Plant DNA 'barcode' boosts biodiversity research

Katherine Nightingale

Researchers have found a section of plant DNA that could be used as the universal 'barcode' to identify flowering plants, aiding biodiversity research.

They also hope it can be used to track endangered plant species and check whether they are being transported illegally.

The research team, led by Vincent Savolainen of the UK's Imperial College London and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, published their findings this week (4 February) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

While DNA barcoding ­ the use of a particular region of DNA to distinguish between species ­ is already established in animals, no single, universal section of DNA has yet been found for flowering plants.

Various DNA segments have been mooted. Savolainen and colleagues tested eight of these segments on over 1,600 plant specimens, mainly orchids from Costa Rica and other plants from the Kruger National Park in South Africa ­ sites chosen for their exceptional biodiversity.

They found that a specific section of a gene, matK, was easy to use and had a suitable 'barcoding gap' ­ it is different enough between species and similar enough within species to make identifications.

"In the future we'd like to see this idea of reading plants' genetic barcodes translated into a portable device that can be taken into any environment, which can quickly and easily analyse any plant sample's matK DNA and compare it to a vast database of information, allowing almost instantaneous identification," said Savolainen in a press statement.

Eldredge Bermingham, senior scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, is keen to see the scientific community adopt a barcode for plants.

"Plants are lagging far behind animals in DNA barcoding, simply because there's been no consensus reached. If [the community] decide on matK, it will enhance the botanical field and help it catch up."

This will particularly benefit developing countries with an interest in identifying their natural heritage with DNA sequences, Bermingham told SciDev.Net.

Bermingham says that since DNA sequencing techniques have become so widespread, a new one can easily be applied, even if matK turns out to be the wrong barcode. Scientists are already building up collections of plants and their DNA.

But he points out that, in this study, matK was only used to identify "relatively undiverse" plants.

"We need to know whether matK does a good job when you start applying it to the vast tropical diversity ­ I think that's an open question at the moment."

Reference: Proceedings of the National Academy of Science doi 10.31073/pnas.0709936105

Source: SciDev.net
6 February 2008

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1.14  USDA/ARS and Bioversity International partner with the Global Crop Diversity Trust to develop a global plant genebank information system

By Kim Kaplan
The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Bioversity International are partnering with the Global Crop Diversity Trust to develop a powerful but easy-to-use, Internet-based information management system for the world's plant genebanks.

The nucleus of the system will be ARS's existing Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), a database that already houses information about the more than 480,000 accessions (distinct varieties of plants) in ARS’s National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS). In addition to serving as the information backbone of the NPGS, GRIN has been adopted by Canada’s national genebank system as their information management system. ARS has a long-term commitment to maintaining and enhancing GRIN, which it began developing more than 20 years ago.

As more genetic and agricultural data are generated about the wide range of plants preserved in genebanks around the world, the huge amount of information is increasingly difficult to manage and make accessible. This is especially the case for smaller genebanks in the developing world that may lack the capacity and resources to develop their own information management systems.

Now, thanks to the partnership between the Global Crop Diversity Trust, ARS and Bioversity, software upgrades will enable the GRIN system to be used by genebanks of all sizes, making more information about more plants available to researchers. The new system will help genebanks conserve and use precious genetic resources more effectively, and also help researchers, farmers and producers make the best possible use of information.

For example, ARS recently screened a key part of the U.S. wheat and barley collection to find genes that provide resistance to a new rust fungus, Ug99, that could threaten 80 percent of the world's wheat. Ug99 first surfaced in Uganda in 1999, and has since been found in Kenya and Ethiopia.

The Global Crop Diversity Trust will contribute a $1.4 million grant to support this three-year project. ARS will contribute the equivalent of more than $900,000 in in-kind co-financing. Bioversity is providing its expertise in information systems and its strong links with genebanks, particularly in the developing world.

ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA

Source: SeedQuest.com
11 February 2008

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1.15  Thousands of crop varieties from the four corners of the world depart for Arctic seed vault

Seeds contributed by global network of agricultural research centers considered “crown jewels” of crop diversity

Mexico City, Mexico
At the end of January, more than 200,000 crop varieties from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East­drawn from vast seed collections maintained by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR)­will be shipped to a remote island near the Arctic Circle, where they will be stored in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault (SGSV), a facility capable of preserving their vitality for thousands of years.

The cornucopia of rice, wheat, beans, sorghum, sweet potatoes, lentils, chick peas and a host of other food, forage and agroforestry plants is to be safeguarded in the facility, which was created as a repository of last resort for humanity’s agricultural heritage. The seeds will be shipped to the village of Longyearbyen on Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, where the vault has been constructed on a mountain deep inside the Arctic permafrost.

The vault was built by the Norwegian government as a service to the global community, and a Rome-based international NGO, The Global Crop Diversity Trust, will fund its operation. The vault will open on February 26, 2008.

This first installment from the CGIAR collections will contain duplicates from international agricultural research centers based in Benin, Colombia, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, the Philippines and Syria. Collectively, the CGIAR centers maintain 600,000 plant varieties in crop genebanks, which are widely viewed as the foundation of global efforts to conserve agricultural biodiversity.

“Our ability to endow this facility with such an impressive array of diversity is a powerful testament to the incredible work of scientists at our centers, who have been so dedicated to ensuring the survival of the world’s most important crop species,” said Emile Frison, Director General of Rome-based Bioversity International, which coordinates CGIAR crop diversity initiatives.

“The CGIAR collections are the ‘crown jewels’ of international agriculture,” said Cary Fowler, Executive Director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, which will cover the costs of preparing, packaging and transporting CGIAR seeds to the Arctic. “They include the world’s largest and most diverse collections of rice, wheat, maize and beans. Many traditional landraces of these crops would have been lost had they not been collected and stored in the genebanks.”

For example, the wheat collection held just outside Mexico City by the CGIAR-supported International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) contains 150,000 unique samples of wheat and its relatives from more than 100 countries. It is the largest unified collection in the world for a single crop. Overall, the maize collection represents nearly 90 percent of maize diversity in the Americas, where the crop originated. CIMMYT will continue to send yearly shipments of regenerated seed until the entire collection of maize and wheat has been backed up at Svalbard.

Storage of these and all the other seeds at Svalbard is intended to ensure that they will be available for bolstering food security should a manmade or natural disaster threaten agricultural systems, or even the genebanks themselves, at any point in the future.

“We need to understand that genebanks are not seed museums but the repositories of vital, living resources that are used almost every day in the never-ending battle against major threats to food production,” Bioversity International’s Frison said. “We’re going to need this diversity to breed new varieties that can adapt to climate change, new diseases and other rapidly emerging threats.”

Why are genebanks important?
The CGIAR collections are famous in plant breeding circles as a treasure trove for plant breeders searching for traits to help them combat destructive crop diseases and pests, such as the black sigatoka fungus, which is devastating banana production in East Africa, and grain borer beetle, which is destroying maize in Kenya.

Just from January to August of 2007, CGIAR centers distributed almost 100,000 samples. The materials mainly go to researchers and plant breeders seeking genetic traits to create new crop varieties that offer such benefits as higher yields, improved nutritional value, resistance to pests and diseases, and the ability to survive changing climatic conditions, which are expected to make floods and drought more frequent.

In addition, these collections have often been used to help restore agricultural systems after conflicts and natural disasters.

For example, among the 135,000 food and forage seeds maintained at the CGIAR-supported International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) in Aleppo, Syria, 3,000 varieties are native to Afghanistan, and 1,000 are from Iraq. The seeds preserved have been used to help revitalize crop diversity in these war-torn regions.

“Svalbard will be able to help replenish genebanks if they’re hit,” said Cary Fowler. Iraq’s genebank in the town of Abu Ghraib was ransacked by looters in 2003. Fortunately there was a safety duplicate at the CGIAR center in Syria. Typhoon Xangsane seriously damaged the genebank of the Philippines national rice genebank in 2006. “Unfortunately, these kinds of national genebank horror stories are fairly common place,” said Fowler. “The Svalbard Global Seed Vault makes the CGIAR’s genebank collections safer than ever.”

After the Asian tsunami disaster of 2004, the CGIAR-supported International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) used its collections to provide farmers with rice varieties suitable for growing in fields that had been inundated with salt water. The genebank at the CGIAR-supported International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Palmira, Colombia was instrumental in providing bean varieties to farmers in Honduras and Nicaragua in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch in 1998.

According to Geoff Hawtin, Acting Director General of CIAT and former executive director of the Rome-based Global Crop Diversity Trust, “The shipments going to Svalbard from the CGIAR genebanks are a vital measure for further safeguarding the world’s crop collections. With coming climatic changes, higher food prices, and expanding markets for biofuels, our best available options for progress, if not survival, will be in what we have conserved and studied against all thinkable predictions.”

Source: SeedQuest.com
23 January 2008

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1.16  University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists hunt for the roots of the modern potato

More than 99 percent of all modern potato varieties planted today are the direct descendents of varieties that once grew in the lowlands of south-central Chile. How Chilean germplasm came to dominate the modern potato-which spread worldwide from Europe-has been the subject of a long, contentious debate among scientists.

While some plant scientists have maintained that Chilean potatoes were the first to be planted in Europe, a more widely accepted story holds that European potatoes were originally descended from plants grown high in the Andes mountains between eastern Venezuela and northern Argentina. According to this theory, Andean potatoes were wiped out during the Great Irish Potato Famine, the 19th-century late-blight epidemic that devastated potato fields across Europe, initiating the import of Chilean varieties to re-establish the crop.

In a recent report in the American Journal of Botany (www.amjbot.org), UW-Madison researchers Mercedes Ames and David Spooner say both theories are wrong. By analyzing the DNA of historical potato specimens, the researchers found that both Chilean and Andean potatoes were grown in Europe decades before and decades after the famine, the first direct evidence that the potatoes were grown simultaneously in Europe.

“Basically, we found that the Andean potatoes got to Europe first, around 1700. However, Chilean potatoes were starting to get popular there 34 years before the late blight epidemic,” says Ames, a graduate student in UW-Madison’s plant breeding and plant genetics program. The results also show that Andean potatoes grew as late as 1892 in Europe, proving they weren’t polished off by the late blight epidemic-and that they grew side by side with Chilean potatoes for many decades before the Chilean types became dominant.

To start the project, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, Ames visited herbaria throughout Europe in search of early potato specimens. She requested hole-punch sized samples of dried leaf tissue from appropriate specimens be sent to Madison for study, eventually ending up with material from 64 potato plants grown between 1700 and 1910.

“Some of these samples were over 300 years old and not ideally preserved,” says Spooner, a professor of horticulture and USDA researcher who is the paper’s corresponding author. “It took considerable innovation for Mercedes to work out the correct technique to get DNA from them.”

After successfully extracting DNA from 49 samples, Ames analyzed each using a DNA marker that distinguishes between upland Andean and lowland Chilean potato types. The result is a biochemical record of ancestry, which Spooner says adds hard evidence to a debate often premised on guesswork.

“The problem with these two theories is that they rely on inferences based on the morphology of old plant samples, as well as inferences based on historical records about day-length adaptation, shipping routes, and the role of the late blight epidemic,” he says. “Our work is the first direct evidence ­ as opposed to the inferential evidence used in prior studies ­ on the origin of the European potato because the herbarium specimens we used are like fossils.”

Spooner notes that this type of analysis could help set the record straight for many other crop species. “Potato is one of the prominent stories in crop evolution books,” says Spooner. “Because of Mercedes’s work, they‘re going to have to rewrite the textbooks.”

Citation: Ames, M. and D.M. Spooner.  2008.  DNA from herbarium specimens settles a controversy about origins of the European potato.  Am. J. Bot. 95: 252-257.

Written by Nicole Miller (nemiller2@wisc.edu) and contributed by Chad Kramer (cckramer@wisc.edu); University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

Source:  www.cals.wisc.edu
30 January 2008

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1.17  Engineering fungal resistance in rice

Basel, Switzerland
A good agricultural harvest is not only dependent on favorable weather conditions, but also on remaining unscathed by insects and disease. That is why the work of three universities with rice could prove to be very beneficial.

Often a considerable amount of crop yield is lost due to infection from plant pathogens. Fungi are the largest group of plant pathogens. They can infect almost all crop varieties. One fungus responsible for extensive damage to rice crop is Magnaporthe grisea. M. grisea causes the most devastating damage of rice crops worldwide, Rice Blast.

However, using genetic engineering, Dr. Min Shao and his collaborators at Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing, China, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, USA and Huazhong Agricultural University, Wuhan, China were successful in incorporating genes into rice varieties that are responsible for triggering natural plant defense mechanisms. The end result yielded a rice variety that effectively protects against several plant pathogens. Their work is published in a recent issue of Plant Biotechnology Journal.

Most of plant pathogens are constantly evolving, which makes the task of controlling them a difficult one. Since researchers cannot predict how fast and when pathogens will evolve, the process of developing resistant varieties can be a never ending task with limited and short-term benefits.

With that in mind, the researchers were interested in finding a long term solution that not only protected against Rice Blast, but other pathogens as well. Dr. Shao and his group came upon the novel idea of developing a genetically modified rice variety that possessed resistance to a wide range of existing and future plant pathogens.

Bacteria to the rescue
Although bacteria also infect crops and cause severe damage to them, they also produce Harpin, a protein capable of eliciting disease and insect resistance in plants. Dr. Shao decided to exploit the potential of Harpin as a natural initiator of the plants’s own defense systems against invading pathogens.

The researchers introduced the gene for harpin (hrf1) into the rice genome and generated a genetically engineered rice variety with enhanced resistance against M. grisea. Since M. grisea infects plants through the leaves, it was encouraging to find that the amount of harpin increased in the leaves of transgenic rice during the growing season. Thus, Dr. Shao’s transgenic rice is capable of protecting itself against M. grisea infection.

It is good to see a strategy working, but what makes it all the more motivating is to find out the reason behind it. The researchers found out that the presence of the hrf1 gene in transgenic rice increases leaf silicon concentration. According to them, this might be responsible for inhibition of specialized structures required by fungus to penetrate rice leaves.

Fields vs Indoors
To realize the ultimate aim of developing transgenic rice for growing in open fields, Dr. Shao’s group tested the ability of their transgenic rice under natural environmental conditions and also in closed supervised nurseries. Unlike non-GM rice, the GM rice grew successfully under both closed and open field conditions.

The researchers correlated the increase in resistance in transgenic rice with the accumulation of harpin protein as plant mature. The researchers emphasize that their present results have laid the groundwork for their future experiments, which will assess the durability of this technique.

Dr. Ralph Dean, one of the authors of the study told Checkbiotech, “There are many examples of transgenic crops being used successfully, but much more work will have to be done before rice plants expressing harpin genes would ever be ready for distribution.”

Dr. Dean went on to further explain that, “Harpin is a natural product produced by bacteria and would not appear likely to be noxious, although again this would have to be carefully tested.”

One question that is always raised when dealing with genetically modified crops is the possibility of them crossing with wild varieties. “It is understandable that the public may have concerns regarding transgenic crops, but rice generally does not outcross, but it is possible to cross with wild-species such as red rice,” said Dr. Dean, “However, the viability of these hybrids is likely to be poor, otherwise the species would have crossed in the past and the hybrids would predominate in nature.”

Despite his cautionary approach Dr. Dean is quite optimistic, “The beauty of harpin is that it activates the plants own natural defense mechanisms. Thus, if harpin is safe and other safeguards are in place, I believe this strategy has a lot of potential for use against many pathogens and in other crops.”

Tanuja Rohatgi is a Science Writer for Checkbiotech in Basel, Switzerland.

Publication:
Shao M, Wang J, Dean RA, Lin Y, Gao X, Hu S.
Expression of a harpin-encoding gene in rice confers durable nonspecific resistance to Magnaporthe grisea.
Plant Biotechnology Journal. 2008 Jan; 6(1):73-81

Copyright Checkbiotech 2008
By Tanuja Rohatgi, Checkbiotech

Source: SeedQuest.com|
8 February 2008

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1.18  Submergence-tolerant rice line now in the pipeline

The Philippines
“Teach rice how to swim and it will survive the floods,” rice experts say, which is the same idea behind the development of IR64 Sub1, a submergence-tolerant rice line.

Rice can withstand flooding, but not for long. The pursuit for a more resilient plant has paved the way for the discovery of a “submergence gene” that enables rice to survive complete submersion.

Usually, rice thrives in standing water, but complete submergence for more than a few days can be highly damaging resulting in yield losses, says Dr. Norvie L. Manigbas, a research fellow from PhilRice.

Containing the submergence tolerance (sub 1) gene IRRI line IR40931 came out after IRRI and the University of California-Davis discovered the gene in an Indian variety FR13A. The gene was then introduced to IR64, the most popular rice variety in the Philippines­hence, IR64 Sub1.

Dr. Manigbas said IR64 Sub1 is a non-genetically engineered rice plant that can survive, grow, and develop even after 10 days of complete submergence to murky and cloudy water.

The new rice line is not totally different from the original IR64 variety in terms of morphological characteristics as plant height, tillering, and yield performance.

As explained by Dr. Nenita Desamero of the PhilRice Plant Breeding and Biotechnology Division, with or without the submergence gene and planted under favorable condition, IR64 will have the same yield performance. However, when both are submerged under water for 7 to 10 days, IR64 Sub1 will survive and recover.

Normally, rice (without the sub1 gene) at tillering stage can survive for one week under submergence condition while seedlings can only last for three to five days.

As part of an IRRI’s project on the dissemination of its submergence tolerant rice variety, PhilRice now leads the national on-farm testing of IR64 Sub1 starting this year until 2009 with Dr. Desamero as the team leader and Dr. Manigbas as the lead scientist. The target sites are rainfed and/or irrigated areas prone to flash flooding for one to two weeks.

In July, pilot-testing in Bgy. Papaya, San Antonio, Nueva Ecija failed as the crop was not submerged during the evaluation period. Nonetheless, IR64, with and without sub1 gene, performed comparably with wet season yield of 4.5 tons per hectare. Under muddy irrigation water, crops recovered up to five to eight days of submergence, on-station results showed. The second on-station testing started in October 2007 while on-farm experiments began this January still in Bgy. Papaya.

“On-farm tests may provide hope for farmers who took the risk of planting rice during the rainy months, and whose fields are submergence-prone during the wet season,” Dr. Manigbas said.

By Hanah Hazel Mavi M. Biag, PhilRice

Source: SeedQuest.com
25 January 2008

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1.19  A new hybrid rice group aims to increase rice yield in the tropics

An international research initiative, the Hybrid Rice Research and Development Consortium (HRDC), aims to boost the research and development of hybrid rice in the tropics. HRDC was established by the International Research Institute (IRRI) to strengthen public-private sector partnership in hybrid rice technology. The technology has helped China achieve food security but  its potential has not yet reached the tropics. The HRDC aims to fulfill the following objectives:
-Support research on developing new hybrids with enhanced yield, improved seed production, multiple resistances to stresses, and grain quality.
-Support research on best management practices for rice hybrids.
-Improve information sharing, public awareness, and capacity building.

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

Read the press release at http://www.irri.org/media/press/press.asp?id=165

Source: CropBiotech Update 16 November 2007

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

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1.20  Indian and US Scientists develop high protein rice

Indian and US scientists from the University of Missouri, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in India, and the Plant Genetics Research Unit, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture have developed a high protein rice variety. Ahmed Mahmoud, S. Sukumar, and Hari Krishnan report that "Interspecific rice hybrid of Oryza sativa x Oryza nivara reveals a significant increase in seed protein content" in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

The researchers created a hybrid by crossing a common rice species of the indica group cultivar IR 64 with a wild species, Oryza nivara. They concluded that the hybrid could serve as initial breeding material for new rice genotypes that could combine types with superior cooking quality with those of high protein content.

Co-author Hari Krishnan provides a PDF copy of the full article: http://pubs.acs.org/cgi-bin/sample.cgi/jafcau/asap/html/jf071776n.html

Source: CropBiotech Update 18 January 2008

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

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1.21  Breeding cotton to beat the heat

People expect a lot from cotton. Consumers want durable, comfortable fabrics. Producers want easy-to-manufacture textiles. And growers want hardy, thriving plants. Uniting these traits is the goal of Agricultural Research Service (ARS) cotton breeders at the U.S. Arid-Land Agricultural Research Center in Maricopa, Ariz.

Plant geneticist Richard Percy, now with the ARS Southern Plains Agricultural Research Center in College Station, Texas, has bred new cotton lines with qualities to please growers, fabric manufacturers and consumers.

Pima­an extra-long-staple cotton­produces long, strong fibers that are suitable for high- quality products such as luxury bed sheets and sewing thread. But pima plants have been historically susceptible to heat. They start exhibiting symptoms of heat stress when their leaf canopy temperature­the temperature of a plant itself, as opposed to the air around it­reaches about 82 degrees Fahrenheit.

During the past five decades, Percy and his colleagues have bred and released heat-tolerant and heat-avoidant pima lines, which the commercial seed industry has used to create new varieties that can withstand extreme temperatures.

In 2003, Cotton Incorporated offered to partner with Percy and ARS to improve heat tolerance and fiber quality in upland cotton, the species that makes up the majority of the U.S. cotton crop. To ensure that the new cotton lines would be productive and competitive throughout the Cotton Belt, Percy enlisted ARS and university scientists in Georgia, South Carolina, Louisiana and California in an across-the-cotton-belt breeding and evaluation program.

In 2006, as a result of their collaboration, ARS and Cotton Incorporated released three upland cotton lines with superior fiber quality and heat tolerance. Those lines have been picked up by about two dozen commercial seed companies and breeders for further development.

Read more about this research in the February 2008 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

By Laura McGinnis

Source: SeedQuest.com
5 February 2008

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1.22  Wild cassava relatives as source of stress-resistance genes

Scientists from the Brazilian Agriculture Research Corporation (EMBRAPA) have shown that wild cassava species harbor several stress and pathogen resistance genes. A project, in collaboration with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), now aims to transfer these genes to commercial cassava varieties.  Led by Alfredo Cunha Alves, the scientists have started to identify  molecular markers that will be used to transfer the resistance traits to high yielding cultivars. They are also starting the cytogenic characterization of the wild varieties. New stress-resistant cassava varieties are expected to be developed before the project ends in 2010. Scientists from CIAT have previously obtained cassava varieties resistant to the mealybug and whitefly by marker assisted selection.

 Read the news article at http://www.embrapa.br/embrapa/imprensa/noticias/2007/dezembro/2a-semana/especies-silvestres-de-mandioca-sao-foco-de-pesquisa

Source: CropBiotech Update 21 December 2007

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

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1.23  Beans suited for the harsh Mediterranean

Common beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) are important source of dietary proteins. In the Mediterranean, however, common beans are incapable of growing because of poor soil and limited water. Researchers from the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the University of Frankfurt, developed new bean lines capable of tolerating the harsh Mediterranean environment.

Legumes can grow on poor soils even without the addition of nitrogen fertilizers, with the help of symbiotic bacteria. The bacteria can transform atmospheric nitrogen to ammonium, which the plants use in protein synthesis. The activity of these bacteria, however, is limited in the Mediterranean because of the phosphorus deficient soil.  Fortunately, the scientists located the genes that can facilitate efficient phosphorus absorption. Hence, just by crossing BEATS 477, a drought tolerant variety harboring genes for efficient phosphorus absorption with the bean mosaic virus-tolerant cultivar DR 304, the scientists were able to obtain promising new hybrids. These new lines are expected to increase bean yield in countries like Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia.

Read more at http://www.inra.fr/presse/amelioration_haricot_sous_contraintes_mediterraneennes

Source: CropBiotech Update 16 November 2007

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

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1.24  Wheat landraces may hold promise against rust

A new stem rust strain, Ug99, is on a worldwide march and the spores of the deadly fungal disease could reach the United States sooner or later. That is why scientists from the US Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are pushing a hot pursuit of wheat varieties that harbor genes for resistance to stem rust. The possible source of resistance genes: traditional varieties grown by village farmers on the other side of the world, known to scientists as landraces.

 Landraces are not as well studied as commonly cultivated wheat varieties. These varieties may contain genes not only for rust resistance, but also for improved agronomic traits like tolerance to salt and metal stress and drought. Initial evaluation of landraces housed at the ARS Small Grains and Potato Germplasm Research Unit showed promising results. Notable resistance in wheats from, among other places, Chile, Ethiopia, Turkey, and Bosnia and Herzegovina where observed. The scientists are now conducting field tests of selected specimens in Kenya and Ethiopia, the heart of the rust epidemic.

For more information, vists http://www.ars.usda.gov/News/docs.htm?docid=1261

Source: CropBiotech Update 29 November 2007

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

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1.25  The power of three: wheat trigenomic chromosome

Scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Sydney University, and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) have combined the resistance genes from three different grass species to develop the first 'trigenomic' chromosome. The trigenomic chromosome can now be used to breed disease-resistant wheat varieties.

Researchers have known that wild wheat relatives harbor a collection of valuable genes that may confer resistance to various diseases and pests. But transferring these genes, using conventional breeding approaches, remains troublesome. Most of the genes are linked together, so introducing a gene of interest also means introducing several undesirable genes. Furthermore, the linked genes tend to stay together even after many generations of breeding.

The researchers have successfully recombined two gene blocks from two different Thinopyrum species, a wild wheat relative. The recombined blocks carry resistance genes for leaf rust and Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus (BYDV), two of the world's most damaging wheat disease. It may also harbor resistance genes against the new stem rust strain, which is currently on a worldwide march. The gene blocks contain no problematic chromosomes which may affect the wheat's agronomic properties. Scientists are now looking for ways to apply their discovery to other crops like corn, rice and soybean.

Read the press release at http://www.csiro.au/news/DiseaseBeatingWheat.html
The abstract of the paper published by Theoretical and Applied Genetics is avaialable at http://www.springerlink.com/content/6g14315t27732627/?p=2c1cba2797f14ab7a5ea7c61ef0eb551&pi=6

Source: CropBiotech Update 14 December 2007

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

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1.26  Researchers identify cause of watermelon vine decline

Researchers from the US Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) have identified the organism that causes the disease called watermelon vine decline (WVD). WVD, first seen in Florida in 2003, causes an estimated annual yield loss of $25 to $ 50 million dollars. Yield losses totaled to more than $60 million in 2005. Symptoms of the disease include necrosis or browning of the fruit rind, rapid vine collapse and death just before harvest.

Led by Scott Adkins, the group determined that the novel ipomovirus, squash vein yellowing virus, is the WVD causel agent. The squash vein yellowing virus was found to be limited to the Cucurbitaceae family, with the most dramatic symptoms occurring on squash and watermelon. WVD is transmitted from plants to plants by the silverleaf whitefly. So far, WVD has been limited to Florida, but growers fear that it may spread to any place that watermelon is commercially grown. Screening of watermelon germplasm for resistance to squash vein yellowing virus in greenhouse trials yielded promising results.

Read more at http://www.ars.usda.gov/News/docs.htm?docid=1261

Source: CropBiotech Update 9 November 2007:

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

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1.27  Tolerance and response to iron deficiency in plants

Most living organisms require iron for growth and development, and the iron absorbed by plants represents a major source of iron in animal and human diet. Iron is very much abundant in mineral soils; however it is sparingly soluble in aerobic conditions and high pH. Scientists have known that plants induce iron utilization systems under iron deficiency. The exact molecular mechanism of the systems, however, remains unknown.

Scientists from the Tokyo University have discovered a transcription factor, IDEF1, that binds to a specific DNA sequence previously shown to respond during conditions of low iron availability. Transcription factors (TF) are proteins that bind specific regions of the DNA. TF binding can either promote or inhibit the expression of certain genes. When the gene coding for IDEF1 was introduced to rice, the transgenic lines exhibited substantial tolerance to iron deficiency. IDEF1 expression was also found to promote the activation of related iron deficiency-responsive proteins, suggesting the presence of a sequential gene regulatory network. Manipulation of IDEF1 can provide approaches to produce crops tolerant to conditions of low iron availability, as in calcareous soil.

The abstract of the paper published by PNAS is available at http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/104/48/19150 Subcribers can access the full paper at  http://www.pnas.org/cgi/reprint/104/48/19150

Source: CropBiotech Update 29 November 2007

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

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1.28  Resistance to selenium toxicity

Selenium (Se) is a naturally occurring element commonly found in sedimentary rocks. Although there is no concrete evidence that selenium is essential for survival of plants, several studies have shown that it is a beneficial element especially for certain species. Like other nutrients, however, excessively high levels of Se are toxic for most plants. A group of scientists from the US and Japan has determined the mechanism by which plants regulate selenite resistance.

Because of its similarity with sulfur, selenium is metabolized by sulfur metabolic pathways. When plants are exposed to high levels of Se, protein synthesis is adversely affected. Se, instead of sulfur, is attached to the amino acids cysteine and methionine (sulfur-containing amino acids). The scientists discovered that the phytohormones ethylene and jasmonic acid play important roles in regulating selenite resistance. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) were also found to be increased by selenium. Knowing more about factors limiting plant Se accumulation and resistance may have applications for breeding Se-fortified foods, or for phytoremediation.

The abstract of the paper and links to the full article are available at http://www.plantphysiol.org/cgi/content/abstract/pp.107.110742v1

Source: CropBiotech Update 11 January 2008

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

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1.29  Scientists discover plant compound that improves iron absorption

Scientists from the US Agricultural Research Service and Cornell University have discovered that inulin, a carbohydrate present in plants like onion, chicory, artichoke and garlic, may help people absorb more iron from fruits, grains and vegetables. Pigs supplied with inulin in their diet exhibited improved iron absorption and increased blood hemoglobin levels compared to those consuming inulin-free feed. The scientists used young pigs in their study because their gastrointestinal tract anatomy and digestive physiology is very much similar to human anatomy and physiological processes.

Inulin is a complex polysaccharide that resists digestion in the upper intestinal tract. Without this compound, the colon absorbs very little iron from grains and fruits because of the presence of phytic acid that inhibits iron absorption. Fermentation of inulin by bacteria in the colon produces short-chain fatty acids, resulting to increased acidity in the colon. Increased digestive acidity causes the iron to be more soluble. It can also help in the proliferation of mucosal cells, on which iron absorption can occur. The finding could provide a key support in the worldwide fight against iron deficiency.

 Read more at http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/jan08/inulin0108.htm

Source: CropBiotech Update 4 January 2008

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

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1.30  New cranberry variety with increased antioxidants

Scientists from the US Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have developed a new cranberry variety with higher anthocyanins levels compared to ordinary cultivars. Anthocyanins are plant pigments much studied for their purported health benefits, including their roles as antioxidants. Recent studies implicated anthocyanins in stalling the growth of cancer cells in humans. In addition to anthocyanins, the new variety was also found to have significantly higher levels of proanthocyanidins, compounds known to inhibit the adhesion of harmful bacteria in the urinary tract.

The new variety was obtained by crossing two related cranberry species. Unlike common commercial cultivars, the anthocyanins in the new variety are glucose-linked. Anthocyanins bound to glucose are relatively high in antioxidant capacity and are well absorbed in human gut, in contrast to those linked to other sugars like arabinose and galactose. By backcrossing, the scientists have now cranberry lines with good productivity, adaptation and vigor. The next step is to produce a commercially acceptable cultivar for growers to use.


Read more at http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2008/080108.htm

Source: CropBiotech Update 11 January 2008

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

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1.31  New banana and plantain varieties for Africa

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has concluded the five year project to develop new banana and plantain varieties with increased yield and resistance to fungal pathogens and nematodes for farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. Scientists from the IITA also developed new methods for deploying the new cultivars in a way that preserves traditional varieties. The US $4 million project was funded by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research and the Belgian government.

Banana and plantain production has suffered significant decline in sub-Saharan Africa, in part because of the Black Sigatoka, a fungal pathogen. The scientists are confident that the new varieties will contribute much on the poverty reduction and income generation efforts in the region. The new cultivars have also been shown to produce superior fruits with high-post-harvest value. IITA now stressed the need for further human resource development and support of national institutions to ensure the availability of plant stock and adoption by banana and plantain farmers.

Read the press release at http://www.iita.org/cms/details/news_details.aspx?articleid=1392&zoneid=81

Source: CropBiotech Update 18 January 2008

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

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1.32  Three Striga resistant cowpea varieties available for Africa

Striga (S. gesneroides), a plant parasitic weed or witchweed is the cause of more than 40% loss in annual cowpea yield in sub-Saharan Africa. In Nigeria for example cowpea yield was reduced annually from 2-3 tonnes to 0.37 tonnes per hectare, with a total loss of $200 million annually in sub-Saharan Africa. A three-year study by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) resulted in the development of three new cowpea varieties with genetic resistance to Striga.

The research supported by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the Generation Challenge Program (GCP) of The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, USA is a longstanding effort to alleviate infestations of cowpea by the parasite. The three new cowpea varieties and those which are under development will benefit the sub-Saharan countries Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Benin, and Cameroun.

For details of the press release, see: http://www.iita.org/cms/details/news_details.aspx?articleid=1404&zoneid=81

Source: CropBiotech Update 18 January 2008

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

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1.33  Unlocking the genetic basis of pine tree defense

Scientists from the University of British Colombia have made an interesting discovery on the genetic secrets that enable conifers (pine trees and spruce) to ward off herbivores and pathogens. By comparing the structure and sequence of enzymes that produce terpenoids in plants, the researchers were able to show how they produce complex mixtures of chemical compounds that continuously evolve to protect them from diseases and pathogens. Terpenoids are a vast group of aromatic compounds that play an important role in mediating various plant-herbivore, plant-pollinator, and plant-pathogen interactions.

The scientists demonstrated how neofunctionalization can result from relatively minor changes in protein sequence to increasing the diversity of plant compounds. The neofunctionalization hypothesis asserts that after gene duplication, one gene retains the ancestral function whereas the other acquires a new function, therefore leading to increase in diversity of products. The discovery made by the researchers may open the way to developing new trees that can fight insects like the mountain pine beetles, which has caused billions of dollars losses in conifer-based forest economies.

The abstract of the paper published by PNAS is available at http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/0709466105v1

Source: CropBiotech Update 18 January 2008

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

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1.34  Kansas State University researchers move one step closer to curbing pests´ appetite for crops

Manhattan, Kansas
Scientists at Kansas State University have discovered that the salivary glands of a tiny insect may hold a key
to developing pest resistance in plants.

A team of K-State researchers found that by using technology to silence a gene in the salivary glands of pea aphids, the insect´s lifespan was cut by more than 50 percent.

"What we found is that when we silenced the most abundant transcript (gene), the aphids died in a few days," said K-State professor of entomology John Reese.

The findings could lead to new ways to control insects in plants, including such important crops as wheat, alfalfa, soybeans, corn and sorghum, Reese said.

Finding ways to develop insect-resistant crops also brings scientists closer to finding ways to reduce agricultural producers´ dependence on pesticides. That helps the environment and lowers growers´ input costs.

"If we can figure out how to get a plant to prevent the functioning of an insect pest's gene, we can turn that plant into a non-host for that pest," Reese said.

Reese was part of a research team that included assistant professor of entomology Yoonseong Park and former graduate student Navdeep Mutti, as well as molecular geneticists.

In the study, which was published in the Journal of Insect Science, the researchers injected siRNA into the salivary glands of adult pea aphids, a pest that can be particularly damaging to alfalfa yields. Aphids treated in this way could not survive more than a few days on plants.

Saliva is important in the interaction between aphids and host plants, Reese said. Proteins, including enzymes of aphid saliva, are thought to play several roles - some of which may overcome a plant´s defenses and possibly stimulate plant defenses in non-host plants.

At stake are billions of dollars worth of crops grown every year in the United States and around the world. For example, a study first published by Iowa State University in 2005 found that soybean aphids alone had the potential to cause approximately 3 million acres to be sprayed - an economic toll on its own - and to cause yield losses of more than 55 million bushels, meaning an economic impact of more than $250 million in an outbreak year.

Information on the Iowa State study can be found at http://www.ipm.iastate.edu/ipm/icm/node/53.

The K-State research was supported by a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant and by the Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station.

Source: SeedQuest.com
11 February 2008

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1.35  Root or shoot? EAR calls the shots

La Jolla, CA ­ Controlled by a tightly regulated choreography that determines what should go up and what should go down, plants develop along a polar axis with a root on one end and a shoot on the other.

While studying why a defective TOPLESS gene causes plant embryos to develop into a seedling topped with a second root instead of a stem with leaves, researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies hit upon the linchpin that ensures that plants are neither all root nor all shoot.

Turns out the question, “Root or shoot"” literally hinges on the EAR domain, a short protein sequence only six amino acids long.

The Salk researchers’ findings, published in the February 7 issue of Science Express, explain how mutations in TOPLESS can switch a plant cell’s fate from shoot to root and in the process clarify the purpose of the so-called EAR motif, a protein domain whose function has puzzled plant scientists for several years.

“We’ve known for a while that the EAR domain can turn off transcription, but how it did this was an open question,” says the study’s lead author, Jeffrey A. Long, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory. “We didn’t set out to fish for molecules that bind to the EAR domain, but when we used TOPLESS as a bait, that’s what we found.”

Scientists and home gardeners alike have been messing with plants’ basic architecture for years: Permanently switch on a gene called BODENLOS (or bottomless) and plants forgo root development altogether. Dip plant cuttings into hormone rooting powder and roots start to sprout where none have been. The active ingredient, a synthetic version of the plant hormone auxin that regulates root growth in plants, overrides the molecular switch that keeps auxin-responsive genes turned off in parts of the plant that are above ground.

In an earlier study, Long and his team had discovered that the switch is none other than TOPLESS, the protein encoded by the TOPLESS gene. It had become clear that TOPLESS functions as a so-called co-repressor, which regulate gene expression by inhibiting the activity of transcription factors. Transcription factors control gene activity by binding to DNA sequences adjacent to a gene. But exactly how TOPLESS silences genes necessary for root development has remained unclear.

Hoping to gain insight into how TOPLESS functions by looking at the company it keeps, lead author Heidi Szemenyei, a former graduate student in Long’s lab and now a postdoctoral researcher at UC Berkeley, searched for interacting partners in the plant Arabidopsis thaliana. This wee weed was the first flowering plant to have its genome unlocked and is loved by plant biologists for its short generation time.

She discovered that BODENLOS, a transcriptional repressor that silences auxin-responsive genes, relies on its EAR domain to recruit the co-repressor TOPLESS to help with the job. While auxins are found throughout the whole plant, BODENLOS is only active in the shoot, ensuring that no accidental roots sprout above ground.

“The coupling of TOPLESS to BODENLOS provides an elegant mechanism for the plant to control the activity of auxin-responsive genes,” says Long.
###
Mike Hannon, a graduate student in Long’s lab also contributed to the study.

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to fundamental discoveries in the life sciences, the improvement of human health and the training of future generations of researchers. Jonas Salk, M.D., whose polio vaccine all but eradicated the crippling disease poliomyelitis in 1955, opened the Institute in 1965 with a gift of land from the City of San Diego and the financial support of the March of Dimes.

Contact: Gina Kirchweger
kirchweger@salk.edu

Source: EurekAlert.org
7 February 2008

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1.36  A guardian of grasses: Specific origin and conservation of a unique disease-resistance gene in the grass lineage

Anoop Sindhu, Satya Chintamanani, Amanda S. Brandt, Michael Zanis, Steven R. Scofield, and Gurmukh S. Johal

ABSTRACT
The maize Hm1 gene provides protection against a lethal leaf blight and ear mold disease caused by Cochliobolus carbonum race 1 (CCR1). Although it was the first disease-resistance (DR) gene to be cloned, it remains a novelty because, instead of participating in the plant recognition and response system as most DR genes do, Hm1 disarms the pathogen directly. It does so by encoding an NADPH-dependent reductase, whose function is to inactivate Helminthosporium carbonum (HC) toxin, an epoxide-containing cyclic tetrapeptide, which the pathogen produces as a key virulence factor to colonize maize. Although CCR1 is strictly a pathogen of maize, orthologs of Hm1 and the HC-toxin reductase activity are present in the grass family, suggesting an ancient and evolutionarily conserved role of this DR trait in plants. Here, we provide proof for such a role by demonstrating its involvement in nonhost resistance of barley to CCR1. Barley leaves in which expression of the Hm1 homologue was silenced became susceptible to infection by CCR1, but only if the pathogen was able to produce HC toxin. Phylogenetic analysis indicated that Hm1 evolved exclusively and early in the grass lineage. Given the devastating ability of CCR1 to kill maize, these findings imply that the evolution and/or geographical distribution of grasses may have been constrained if Hm1 did not emerge.
Open access article: http://www.pnas.org/cgi/reprint/0711406105v1.pdf

Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America via SeedQuest.com
January, 2008

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1.37  How plants cope with excess light

Photosynthesis relies on efficient absorption of sunlight . However in cases of extreme sunlight, plants are forced to absorb light energy in excess of what is needed in photosynthesis. The excess light energy can cause serious damages, such as bleaching in leaves. To protect themselves from damages, plants employ a mechanism wherein the excess light energy is converted to heat which is harmlessly released. The process is called photoprotection.

 A group of researchers from the Netherlands, France and United Kingdom has discovered the exact molecular mechanisms of photoprotection. They were able to demonstrate how the light-harvesting antenna pigments in the leaves change in conformation upon absorption of excess sunlight. The molecules then convert the excess light energy into heat in a process that occurs in less than a billionth of a second. The switch between the conformational changes of the light-harvesting molecule dictates the flow of energy in the leaves, controlling the balance between gathering light energy for photosynthesis and its dissipation as heat. Scientists are now conducting studies on how to use the discovery in developing plants with improved photoprotective mechanisms that can cope with climate change.

The abstract of the paper published by Nature is available at http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v450/n7169/abs/nature06262.html

Source: CropBiotech Update 23 November 2007

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

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1.38  Genetic map should speed development of snow mold-resistant wheat

Pulman, Washington
A blanket of snow protects winter wheat from freezing, but significant snow cover for too long on unfrozen ground can lead to a disease problem that farmers don’t want: snow mold.

Snow mold is a fungus-caused disease of wheat and other grasses, including lawns. The disease can cut wheat yields by 20 percent to 40 percent when severe. The fungus destroys the leaves and crown beneath the snow, according to Tim Murray, chair of the plant pathology department at Washington State University.

In Washington, snow mold shows up during severe winters in north central Washington – Chelan, Douglas, Lincoln, Okanogan and Stevens counties. It’s not normally a problem in the Palouse because snow cover does not persist long enough.

“We normally need about 100 days of snow cover with unfrozen soil for speckled snow mold to be a problem,” Murray said. “We’re approaching that in our snow mold area.”
Based on one report from a grower north of Wilbur, there’s anywhere from two- to six-feet of snow that’s approaching 90 days of cover,” Murray said. “There was some frozen soil underneath, so it’s hard to say how severe the disease will be.”

Many different fungi are capable of causing snow mold disease, but not all are found in Washington. “The three we have in Washington like soil that is not frozen under the snow, or if the soil is frozen, not frozen too firmly and will defrost under the snow.

Signs of the disease appear just after snowmelt. “Within a day of snow melt, plants will be covered with a mildew or sort of a light colored cobweb,” Murray said. “After a few days, the plants will be gray colored and look dead if the disease is severe. If it is less severe, some green leaves may be seen. As the plants dry after snow melt, small black structures that cause a speckled appearance become visible.

Fall-applied fungicides can control the disease, but are not cost-effective for wheat growers because of the relative low value of the crop and uncertainty of the occurrence of the disease, Murray said. Bred-in genetic resistance is regarded as the best option.

Some current wheat varieties, including Eltan and Bruehl, have snow mold resistance, “but we’re always looking to make improvements,” Murray said.

For the past 10 years, he has been collaborating with scientists at Japan’s National Agricultural Research Center for Hokkaido to develop what varieties that have improved resistance to snow mold.

Murray and his Japanese collaborators have been testing wheat lines for snow mold resistance in plots near Waterville and Mansfield and on the island of Hokkaido near Sapporo, where snow mold is a significant program. The lines they have tested in the field are the most promising graduates of earlier tests in growth chambers at WSU’s Plant Growth Facility in Pullman, where winter conditions can be simulated inside.

Zenta Nishio, one of the Japanese researchers, developed a set of PCR primers that are used in the lab to evaluate snow mold resistance. PCR is a laboratory technique that allows scientists to detect DNA specific sequences of an organism’s genes.

The scientists have evaluated 100 progeny lines from a cross of highly resistant wheat from Switzerland and very susceptible wheat from The Netherlands and are now developing a genetic map that should help wheat breeders identify resistant plants more quickly.

“It could save breeders years,” Murray said. “You can’t count on getting a field test every year, especially in Washington. That’s part of the reason we send our lines to be field-tested in Japan. They get the disease more frequently. Even so, it takes 12 months to go through one round of testing. With our controlled environment tests and markers, we can do multiple rounds of testing in a year.”

The research has been funded by the Washington Wheat Commission

Source: SeedQuest.com
4 February 2008

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2  PUBLICATIONS

2.01  Introducing ‘African Journal of Agricultural Research (AJAR)’

The African Journal of Agricultural Research (AJAR) publishes high-quality solicited and unsolicited articles, in English, in all areas of agriculture including arid soil research and rehabilitation, agricultural genomics, stored products research, tree fruit production, pesticide science, post harvest biology and technology, seed science research, irrigation, agricultural engineering, water resources management, marine sciences, agronomy, animal science, physiology and morphology, aquaculture, crop science, dairy science, entomology, fish and fisheries, forestry, freshwater science, horticulture, poultry science, soil science, systematic biology, veterinary, virology, viticulture, weed biology, agricultural economics and agribusiness.  The following types of papers are considered for publication:

·         Original articles in basic and applied research.
·         Critical reviews, surveys, opinions, commentaries and essays.

Our objective is to inform authors of the decision on their manuscript(s) within four weeks of submission. Following acceptance, a paper will normally be published in the next issue.

Instruction for authors and other details are available on our website www.academicjournals.org/AJAR. Prospective authors should send their manuscript(s) to ajar@academicjournals.org

Open Access
One key request of researchers across the world is unrestricted access to research publications. AJAR is fully committed Open Access Initiative by providing free access to all articles (both abstract and full PDF text) as soon as they are published. We ask you to support this initiative by publishing your papers in this journal.

Invitation to Review
AJAR is seeking for qualified reviewers as members of the review board team. AJAR serves as a great resource for researchers and students across the globe. We ask you to support this initiative by joining our reviewer’s team. If you are interested in serving as a reviewer, kindly send us your resume to ajar@academicjournals.org

Publication Alert
We will be glad to send you a publication alert showing the table of content with link to the various abstracts and full PDF text of articles published in each issue. Kindly send us an email if you will like to receive publication alert.

Prof. N.A. Amusa
Editor, African Journal of Agricultural Research
E-mail: ajar@academicjournals.org
http:// www.academicjournals.org/AJAR

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2.02  Conserving Plant Genetic Diversity in Protected Areas

Edited by J. M. Iriondo, N. Maxted and M. E. Dulloo
Published by CABI
ISBN: 978 1 84593 282 4
288 pages, £75.00 (US$150.00/€120.00)
Publication date: February 2008

Description:
Conservation in protected areas has focused on preserving biodiversity of ecosystems and species, whereas conserving the genetic diversity contained within species has historically often been ignored. However, maintaining genetic diversity is fundamental to food security and the provision of raw materials and it is best preserved within plants’ natural habitats. This is particularly true for wild plants that are directly related to crop species and can play a key role in providing beneficial traits, such as pest or disease resistance and yield improvement. These wild relatives are presently threatened due to processes of habitat destruction and change and methodologies have been adapted to provide in-situ conservation through the establishment of genetic reserves within the existing network of protected areas.

Providing a long awaited synthesis of these new methodologies, this book presents a practical set of management guidelines that can be used for the conservation of plant genetic diversity of crop wild relatives in protected areas.

Readership:
Students and researchers in agronomy and environmental science as well as professional conservationists, protected areas managers and policy makers.

Ordering information at: http://www.cabi.org/bk_BookDisplay.asp?PID=2072

Further information from:
Vicki Bonham, CABI
v.bonham@cabi.org

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2.03  Reviewers needed to assess applications for Ph.D. and post-doctoral applications in French

The Merit scholarship programme of the Islamic Development network is searching for science and technology experts to review and assess applications for Ph.D. and post-doctoral applications in FRENCH in the following fields of study

1. Physical sciences (nuclear science, polymers, system engineering, metallurgy, space sciences)

2. Technology management and innovation

Thus, if you are interested to be included in the directory of experts, please send the following information to Wagdy.sawahel@scincedev.net :
1. Your CV
2. The field of study, from the above-mentioned 2 fields, to be reviewed.

There will be a symbolic honorarium in return to your valuable efforts.

Wagdy Sawahel
General coordinator, science development network
www.sciencedev.net
wagdy.sawahel@sciencedev.net

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2.04  An Economic Assessment of Banana Genetic Improvement and Innovation in the Lake Victoria Region of Uganda and Tanzania

Edited by Melinda Smale and Wilberforce K. Tushemereirwe

December 2007
This new report from the International Food Policy Research Institute assesses the impact on smallholder farmers of technology options developed by Uganda's National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) to improve the productivity of the East African highland banana, a major crop in Uganda and Tanzania. The contributors survey an array of options either currently practiced or under development, including improved soil fertility management practices, conventional banana improvement, and transgenic banana cultivars. Their survey produces a number of findings with important implications for banana production. A recently-developed banana hybrid adopted in Tanzania reduced the vulnerability of households to yield losses from pests and disease. A strong network of social ties among farmers facilitates the spread of best soil fertility management practices through farmer-to-farmer exchange. Furthermore, transgenic bananas currently being developed could have pro-poor impact. Drawing on simulations of the economic benefits of these and other technology options, the contributors conclude that the current strategy endorsed by NARO, of combining conventional and transgenic approaches to mitigate the biotic pressures that cause major economic losses, is essential for sustaining banana production systems. The report serves as a valuable baseline for researchers and others interested in measuring the effectiveness of crop improvement programs. The report is available for download here: http://www.ifpri.org/pubs/abstract/rr155.asp

Contributed by Christina Lakatos
Communications Specialist
Environment and Production Technology Division
International Food Policy Research Institute
Washington, DC 20006
c.lakatos@cgiar.org
http://www.ifpri.org/divs/eptd.htm

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3.  WEB RESOURCES

3.01  DOE JGI releases a new version of its metagenome data management & analysis system

WALNUT CREEK, CA--Targeting its ever-expanding user community, the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI) has released an upgraded version of the IMG/M metagenome data management and analysis system, accessible to the public at http://img.jgi.doe.gov/m.

IMG/M provides tools for analyzing the functional capability of microbial communities based on their metagenome DNA sequence in the context of reference isolate genomes. The new version of IMG/M includes five additional metagenome datasets generated from microbial community samples that were the subject of recently published studies. These include the metagenomic and functional analysis of termite hindgut microbiota (Nature 450, 560-565, 22 November 2007) and the single cell genetic analysis of TM7, a rare and uncultivated microbe from the human mouth (PNAS, July 17, 2007, vol. 104, no. 29, 11889-11894).

"IMG/M is a fantastic tool that is incredibly helpful in understanding our data," said Stephen Quake, Co-Chair, Department of Bioengineering at Stanford University, Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and senior author on the PNAS study. "We used IMG/M in numerous ways, both to analyze our data and to understand general properties of other relevant bacterial genomes. I look forward to analyzing our new datasets with IMG/M."

IMG/M will be demonstrated at a workshop on March 26 as part of the DOE JGI Third Annual User Meeting. IMG/M contains all isolate genomes in version 2.4 of DOE JGI’s Integrated Microbial Genomes (IMG) system, which represents an increase of 1,339 reference genomes from the previous version of IMG/M. Now, IMG/M contains 2,953 isolate genomes consisting of 819 bacterial, 50 archaeal, 40 eukaryotic genomes, and 2,044 viruses.

IMG/M provides new tools for analyzing metagenome datasets in the context of reference isolate genomes, such as the Reference Genome Context Viewer and Protein Recruitment Plot that allow the examination of metagenomes in the context of individual reference isolate genomes. New Abundance Comparison and Functional Category Comparison tools enable pairwise function analysis (COG, Pfam, Enzyme, TIGRfam) and functional category (e.g., COG category) abundance comparisons, respectively, between a metagenome dataset and one or several reference metagenomes or genomes, and test whether the differences in abundance are statistically significant.

IMG/M has been developed jointly by the DOE JGI’s Genome Biology Program (GBP) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) Biological Data Management and Technology Center (BDMTC). The large-scale pairwise gene similarity computations for all the genomes included in IMG/M have been carried out using ScalaBLAST by the Computational Biology and Bioinformatics Group of the Computational Sciences and Mathematics Division at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, using the William R. Wiley Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) Molecular Sciences Computing Facility supercomputer.

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
degilbert@lbl.gov

Source: EurekAlert.org
7 February 2008

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4.  GRANTS AVAILABLE

4.01  GCP Fellowships 2008­Deadline for applications extended

Following last month’s call for applications for the GCP 2008 Fellowship Programme, we are pleased to announce that the deadline has been extended to 29th February 2008 for the six themes below:

1. Data analysis of a network of field trials involving a population of recombinant inbred lines: dissecting the genotype x environment interaction

2. Studying the influence of genetic correlations between environments on the power to detect QTLs and QTLxE

3. The use of relatedness information in linkage disequilibrium mapping: pedigree information versus molecular marker information

4. Marker-based estimation of coancestry measures in genebank collections

5. Estimation of genetic parameters in autotetraploids

6. Data mining approach to assessing biotic constraints.

The Fellowship Programme facilitates innovative research related to GCP’s central theme­unlocking genetic diversity of crops for the resource-poor. This Programme is for scientists wishing to broaden their skills by conducting research outside their home countries or institutions.

Applications are invited from developing country crop science researchers working in developing country research institutions. Priority will be given to scientists already involved in GCP research projects.

For full details and how to apply, please visit GCP’s Capacity-building Corner at http://www.generationcp.org/capcorner.php.GCP warmly invites your feedback and comments at GenerationCP-News@cgiar.org
 
Source: GCP News Issue 28, 25 January 2008

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4.02  Rice scholarships: The Asian Rice Foundation USA

The Asian Rice Foundation USA is offering $3,500 scholarships for students studying rice. Applicants must be students -- American or Asian - below the age of 35, registered at an accredited institution of higher education, and has a supporting letter from their national rice foundation associated with <http://www.asiarice.org >Asia Rice Foundation, Inc or a faculty member of a United States university. Applications that involve travel and study of US-based students at an Asian location are encouraged.

We support research and education to improve understanding of:
-the role of rice in Asian farming,
-rice as an element in the art and culture of Asia, and
-rice as a food with a unique role in Asia.

More information at http://www.asiariceusa.org/ .  Applications due June 1, 2008.

Contributed by Russell Freed
Crop and Soil Sciences Department
Michigan State University
http://www.msu.edu/~freed/

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4.03  Training Plant Breeders for the 21st Century: USDA National Needs Graduate Fellowships

The next program announcement will be published (www.grants.gov) in mid-March, 2008.  Check the table of “Relevant Disciplines” for plant breeding. http://www.csrees.usda.gov/funding/nnf/nnf.html.

A National Needs Graduate Fellowship opportunity is available to train students in classical and emergent techniques in plant breeding. Plant breeders in the 21st century will work to support growers, consumers and the environment through the development of new varieties to meet increasing demands for food, fuel and clothing. Revolutionary advances in plant genomics and bioinformatics have created an excitement in plant breeding not seen since the days of the Green Revolution. As a consortium of public wheat breeders from seven universities across the country, we are offering Fellowships for students to complete M.S. degrees in plant breeding with emphases on variety development and application of genomics and bioinformatics. The seven students will join a national team of public wheat breeders dedicated to the genetic improvement of wheat. In addition to training at their home universities, students will participate as a team for advanced training in crop genomics and bioinformatics.

Students from diverse backgrounds are encouraged to apply. However, please note: this is open to US breeders only.

For information contact:

Luther Talbert
Montana State University
usslt@montana.edu

Contributed by Ann Marie Thro
CSREES), USDA
athro@csrees.usda.gov

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5.  POSITION ANNOUNCEMENTS

5.01  Position Announcement: Horticulturist – Vegetables

POSITION:
  Assistant Professor. Twelve month tenure track position with 75% research and 25% teaching responsibility.

LOCATION: Department of Horticulture, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, Department webpage: http://www.caes.uga.edu/departments/hort/

SALARY: Salary is commensurate with experience and training and will include a startup package.

POSITION START DATE:  1 May 2008

APPLICATION DEADLINE:1 March 2008 or until appropriate candidates are identified.

MINIMUM QUALIFICATIONS: Ph.D. in Horticulture or related discipline with experience and interest in vegetables. Areas of expertise may include breeding, genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry and/or physiology.  Teaching experience is preferred. Ability to work in a team environment with multidisciplinary collaboration is required. Excellent communication skills are essential. Preference for demonstrated experience/potential for obtaining extramural funding.

MAJOR RESPONSIBILITIES: The faculty member will be expected to develop a nationally and internationally recognized vegetable research program in their area of expertise. The successful candidate will be required to secure extramural funding to assist their program and to publish in recognized refereed journals. Teaching duties include HORT 3010, Introduction to Vegetables (3 hrs; offered every fall semester); development of an additional course (3 hrs; graduate level or dual level) in the faculty member's area of expertise; interaction with and supervision of graduate student programs; participation with undergraduate enrichment activities such as independent research topics and club activities.

GENERAL: The Georgia commercial vegetable industry encompasses almost 200,000 acres and is valued at $900 million in farmgate value. Producers grow more than 30 different vegetable crops at varying times throughout the year. Georgia ranks 4th nationally in production of fresh vegetables.

APPLICATION PROCESS: Applicants should submit a letter of application, curriculum vitae, statement of research and teaching goals, transcripts, and three letters of reference to:

Dr. George Boyhan
University of Georgia
Department of Horticulture
East Georgia Extension Center
PO Box 8112
Statesboro, GA 30460
Phone: 912/681-5639, FAX: 912/681-0376
Email: gboyhan@uga.edu

Contributed by David Knauf
University of Georgia
dknauft@uga.edu

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

NEW OR REVISED ANNOUNCEMENTS

* 17 March 2008. Plant Breeding in the 21st Century: Challenges and Opportunities across the Plant Sciences, a symposium hosted by the graduate students in Applied Plant Sciences at the University of Minnesota.

Our featured speakers include:
•       Introductory Remarks by Dr. Geoff Graham (Pioneer) “Plant Breeding Education and Training: An Industry Perspective”

•       Keynote Address by Dr. Ron Phillips (University of Minnesota)     “Imagining the Future of Applied Plant Genetics”

•       Dr. John Doebley (University of Wisconsin- Madison)    “The Genetics of Domestication: The Evidence from Maize and Other Crops”

•       Dr. José Crossa (CYMMIT)    “Where Are We Growing? Making Sense of Plant Breeding Data Across Environments”

•       Dr. Bill Beavis (Iowa State University).    “Big Science and Plant Breeding: Usefulness of Genomics Data”

•       Dr. David Neale (University of California- Davis) “Tree Breeding: Conquering High Heterozygosity and Long Generation Times”

Additional speaker information and abstracts are available at our web site http://www.appliedplantsciences.umn.edu/Graduate_Symposium.html. The event is free and open to the public.

We welcome any inquiries for more information regarding this symposium. Please feel free to contact me via email with any questions: Katie Petersen (pete5953@umn.edu).

Contributed by Katie Petersen
Publicity Committee
APS Graduate Student
University of Minnesota
pete5953@umn.edu

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*16-18 June 2008. 2008 Workshop of the U.S. Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee, Des Moines, IA.

Watch the web site for additional information as it becomes available, or contact the officers, also through the web site. http://cuke.hort.ncsu.edu/gpb/meetings/pbccmeeting2008.html

A new national committee of plant breeders (SCC-080) was established in 2007 at a workshop co-organized by CSREES and the Departments of Crop Science and Horticultural Sciences at North Carolina State University. The committee is actively working to raise awareness of what plant breeders have done for the nation and how they can contribute to the future. The group also seeks to strengthen plant breeding capacity by encouraging improvements in infrastructure and education.

Public and private sector plant breeders from all crops should attend the 2008 workshop, along with multi-disciplinary colleagues and others interested in the future of plant breeding. The committee is of necessity oriented to the U.S. domestic situation, but interested international colleagues are welcome.

Contributed by Ann Marie Thro
ATHRO@CSREES.USDA.GOV

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8 - 12 September 2008. 5th ISHS International Symposium on Brassicas  and 16th Crucifer Genetics Workshop. Lillehammer, Norway. http://www.brassica2008.no/index.html
 
Deadlines:
Abstract for Oral presentations: March 15, 2008
Abstract for Posters: March 15, 2008
'Earlybird' Registration Deadline: May 1, 2008
 Final Registration by: July 1, 2008
 
Scientific Sessions on:
*  Brassica Breeding and Genetic improvement, including transgenics
*  Genetic resources, diversity and domestication
*  Agronomy and diseases, including sustainable production and organic farming
*  Post-harvest and quality
*  Human health related qualities/functional foods
*  Trait genetics
*  Comparative & Applied Genomics
 
Additional satellite workshops on:
* Clubroot
* Phylogenomics
* META-PHOR metabolomics
 
Contributed by Thomas Björkman tnb1@cornell.edu

++++++++++

14-18 September 2008. Harlan II - Biodiversity In Agriculture: Domestication, Evolution and Sustainability, University of California, Davis.

The symposium will review current status of agricultural biodiversity, and chart directions for its future. It  will also examine the role and review the  impact of agricultural biodiversity on California agriculture.

Further details of the Symposium are available at: http://harlanii.ucdavis.edu/index.htm.


REPEAT ANNOUNCEMENTS

A course offering on: Cassava genetic resources and their manipulation

(3 credits; 45 hours)

Follow the links:
http://www.geneconserve.pro.br/sirgealc_mexico.pdf
http://www.geneconserve.pro.br/parcial_mex_parte1.pdf
http://www.geneconserve.pro.br/parcial_mex_parte2.pdf
http://www.geneconserve.pro.br/parcial_mex_parte3.pdf
 
(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
www.geneconserve.pro.br

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

*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 http://lablablab.org.

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

*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

Note: Registration was due in early January 2008
More information
Contact person: Vincent Vadez

*10 – 11 March 2008. CSREES-USDA Integrated Competitive Programs Grantsmanship Workshop, Memphis, Tennessee. For additional details and registration information, visit http://www.famu.edu/cesta/csrees-famu.cfm.
(Note from Ann Marie Thro: “Integrated proposals can include plant breeding.”)

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

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

*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 (d.hoisington@cgiar.org).

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

(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:
http://www.niab.com/jdd/public/documents/courses/Short%20course%20flyer.pdf
Further information is available by contacting the course director by email at courses@niab.com or by calling the course administrator on 01223 342269.

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

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

*21-25 July 2008. First Scientific meeting of the Global Cassava Partnership - GCP-I, Ghent, Belgium. http://www.ipbo.be/GCPI

You can register online as of February 1, 2008. Presentations will be selected by the session chairs on invitation or on the basis of the abstracts. Therefore, the sooner you file an abstract, the more chances you have to make a presentation. You can file as many abstracts as you want. The deadline is May 15, 2008

There will be NO pre-registration, but only registration. Registration will be open until June 15, 2008 without a surcharge.

Travel grant conditions and application form will be available on the meeting website soon.  It is our intent to help as many scientists from developing countries as possible.

Please book your accommodation in time because Ghent will be very busy the week of July 21-25 as there will be a famous 10-days festival in the city!

Contributed by Claude Fauquet
Co-organizer of the GCP-I
Director ILTAB
iltab@danforthcenter.org

*21-24 July 2008. Cassava: meeting the challenges of the new millennium. First scientific meeting of the Global Cassava Partnership – GCP-I, Institute of Plant Biotechnology for Developing Countries, Ghent University, Belgium. http://www.ipbo.ugent.be/cassava.html

*2-5 August 2010. 10th International Conference on Grapevine Breeding and Genetics.  Updates will be available at http://www.nysaes.cornell.edu/hp/events/.  Bruce Reisch, Chair of the Organizing Committee. bir1@nysaes.cornell.edu

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

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

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

Visit the Plant Breeding Academy website for more information and to apply for the 2008-2010 Academy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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7.  EDITOR'S NOTES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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