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

PLANT BREEDING NEWS

EDITION 191
30 June 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

-To subscribe, see instructions here
-Archived issues available at: FAO Plant Breeding Newsletter


1.  NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH NOTES
1.01  How to continue the fight against hunger
1.02  Help the poor lift yields to fight food price rises
1.03  The Plant Breeding Academy at the University of California Davis graduates 15 new plant breeders
1.04  Boosting food production in Africa’s "breadbasket areas" - New collaboration among Rome-based UN agencies and AGRA
1.05  VitAto, a ß-carotene rich sweetpotato variety
1.06  New high-fibre barley licensed to grow
1.07  ARS releases nematode, virus resistant peanut variety
1.08  Bayer launches disease resistant rice
1.09  ICRISAT: sweet sorghum could be the miracle biofuel crop
1.10  Fighting the parasitic weed Striga
1.11  CGIAR policy statement on biofuels
1.12  IFPRI assessment of the food summit declaration: some progress, but more needs to be done
1.13  A review of the enforcement of Plant Breeder's Rights in Australia
1.14  Desert plant may hold key to surviving food shortage
1.15  Early origins of maize in Mexico
1.16  Ancient Mexican maize varieties
1.17  DNA fingerprinting identifies bean in patent dispute
1.18  Experts confident that drought-tolerant crops will be available to farmers in the next decade
1.19  Asia's drought-resistant maize varieties
1.20  Drought tolerant wheat yields 20 percent more
1.21  New genetic trait in sunflowers from BASF, Nidera
1.22  Protecting wheat from a new global threat
1.23  Research required urgently to control planthopper pests, a major threat to Asian rice production
1.24  Genome communication
1.25  To branch or not to branch
1.26  How to build a plant
1.27  Doubled haploids speed development of drought tolerant maize for Africa
1.28  Direction of plant genome evolution
1.29  Scientists identify gene defect in herbicide-sensitive corn
1.30  Researchers identify gene that regulates rice yield potential
1.31  Scientists identify wheat genes for frost tolerance
1.32  RNA silencing mediated resistance to a crinivirus in sweetpotato does not prevent synergistic virus disease
1.33  Unlocking the genome of world’s worst insect pest
1.34  Leading plant breeder John Bingham opens new Cambridge labs
1.35  Update 3-2008 of FAO-BiotechNews
1.36  GCP News Issue 31, 12 June 2008
1.37  May - June 2008 - update of the month from the GFU

2.  PUBLICATIONS
2.01  How The Grape Grower came to be written: a video

3.  WEB RESOURCES
3.01  Website to speed discovery of grain genes

4  GRANTS AVAILABLE
4.01  First call for proposals
4.02  Monsanto sets grant for wheat, rice research

5  POSITION ANNOUNCEMENTS
5.01  Vacancies in areas of cotton and Artemisia breeding
5.02  Monsanto Plant Breeding Related Career Postings

6  MEETINGS, COURSES AND WORKSHOPS

7  EDITOR'S NOTES

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1.  NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH NOTES

1.01  How to continue the fight against hunger

By Norman Borlaug and Peter McPherson
June 6, 2008; Page A13
At the Washington, D.C. offices of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) there is a plaque dedicated to America's great statesman-general, George C. Marshall. It contains a quote from his epic 1947 Harvard commencement address, which spawned the Marshall Plan. The quote reads: "Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine, but against hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos."

Our government needs to rediscover that vision. We are in a world food crisis that stands to drive at least another 100 million people into hunger and exacerbate global instability.

Solving the food crisis will require emergency food aid in the near term. But greater food availability in the low-income, food-deficit nations cannot be achieved with one silver bullet. No doubt, greater availability of fertilizer is critical to any solution. Yet we also need a long-term vision of growth, and integrated investments that incorporates research, human and institutional capacity building, infrastructure, sound policy, markets and governance.

Food demand is growing fast. Studies have shown that as a country's income increases, so does the consumption of animal products and processed foods. These food products require more grain to produce the same calories. This demand will surely continue to grow.

About 75% of the world's poor still live in rural areas of developing countries. In Sub-Saharan Africa, many of the very poor spend 80% of their income on food. When prices for grains double and triple in a year, we can expect not only large-scale malnutrition, but also major political and social instability. Developing countries and donors must commit to long-term solutions that increase agricultural production and rural incomes in the developing world.

Nearly three decades ago, the Green Revolution – and other advances in technology, production methods and related investments in agriculture – greatly increased food production world-wide, particularly in Asia and Latin America. Over time, food abundance was taken for granted as the supply outpaced population and income growth.

We need investment in the maintenance of successful varieties of crops, and the development of technologies to raise yield ceilings. Moreover, research to develop seeds more resistant to climatic stresses like drought must be dramatically accelerated.

Developing countries should use the food-price crisis to reaffirm their commitment to bolster food production. A few years ago, African heads of state committed to increasing expenditures for agriculture to 10% of their national budgets. But most of the countries have not reached this goal.

USAID must help developing countries produce more food. At one time, USAID led the donor world on agriculture, but there has been a long slide over the last 20 years. This slide was over several administrations and sessions of Congress, and was only interrupted by some additional resources a few years ago under USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios.

For many years USAID has invested far too little in agriculture. Its 2008 allocations includes little money for core funding for the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, whose research centers were critical in developing the Green Revolution, new crop varieties that probably saved more lives in the 20th century than any other technology.

U.S. land-grant universities have been institutional marvels in agricultural science, teaching and the continuing education of farmers. Yet today, USAID has only meager engagement with U.S. universities in the area of solving hunger.


President George W. Bush recently requested a supplemental appropriations bill for food that includes $150 million for long-term agriculture work. This appropriation should be a first step in a return to sustained, substantial support for long-term agricultural development.

Food, agriculture and growth must once again become fundamental and sustained USAID objectives. Let's heed the words of George Marshall and focus our resources on hunger, poverty and desperation.

Mr. Borlaug, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, is professor of international agriculture at Texas A&M University. Mr. McPherson is president of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges and former administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Copyright: Wall Street Journal

Source: Wall Street Journal
6 June 2008

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1.02  Help the poor lift yields to fight food price rises

William Dar

Small farmers could beat increasing prices in food and fertiliser by producing more of their own crops at lower cost, argues William Dar.

Food has become substantially cheaper over the past half-century, owing largely to new technologies and supportive policies.

But recent price increases are significant. And they remain on a steep upward path as we enter this year’s ‘hungry season’.

Price spikes due to unforeseen events have occurred in the past, most notably with the sharp rise in oil prices in the early 1970s. But grain prices eventually subsided after these shocks had dissipated ­ and continued to drop.

It’s different this time
This time, it’s not the same. Fundamental factors are increasing the cost of agriculture for the longer term, including rising fuel costs, a growing middle class with greater food demands, and the diversion of maize grain into the bioethanol industry.

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI, our sister centre), predicts that real prices of cereals will continue to rise by another 10–20 per cent by 2015.

But don’t rising food prices benefit the rural poor who earn their living by growing and selling food? Not this time. The poorest farmers, because their landholdings are small and their productivity low, tend to be net buyers, rather than net sellers, of food so they are hurt more than helped by rising food prices.

Also, their production costs, particularly for fertiliser, are going up faster than food prices. The price of a kilogram of fertiliser has doubled relative to the price of a kilogram of sorghum or millet grain over the past eight years in Niger. This trend has accelerated over the past six months, far outpacing gains in food prices. As fertiliser requires large amounts of energy to produce, higher prices seem here to stay.

To bring food prices back to levels that the poor can afford, agriculture needs to make big leaps in productivity and in fertiliser-use efficiency. Both are feasible.

Initiatives to boost productivity
At the International Crops Research Institute for Semi-arid Tropics (ICRISAT), we have shown that on-farm yields of cereal crops in drylands can be doubled or tripled with only modest adjustments, for example by using low application rates of fertiliser combined with more responsive crop varieties, particularly hybrids, and low-cost rainwater harvesting.

This can be illustrated by the transformational potential of a few of the exciting initiatives that we are engaged in that involve new technologies and market-chain partnerships.

One is planting basin cultivation ­ this begins with hand-scooping small basins to concentrate rain water and plant nutrients for the roots at the base of the plant.

Another is to use only microdoses of fertiliser, less than a tenth of the amount applied in developed countries, on crop varieties that can use it more efficiently, causing yields to double or triple.

These hybrid crop varieties are also more resilient to stresses such as drought, pests or disease, and markets will pay more for their grain quality traits. They grow vigorously and yields are greatly enhanced.

We are also working on improving seed systems that deliver more seeds and get them to the right locations at the right time.

Also, tree-crop integration through ICRISAT’s Dryland Ecofarm initiative improves the recycling of nutrients through deep roots and leaf litter, protecting soils from erosion while nutritionally enriching them.

This boosts the yield of crops grown between them, the trees also produce valuable products such as fruits and gums.

Initiatives to improve efficiency
Inexpensive gravity-feed drip irrigation enables farmers to produce more crop per drop, and multiplies their incomes through high-value vegetable and tree products.

Sited near urban areas, lush African market gardens connect farmers to increasingly affluent middle-class markets. The pull of urban and export markets for chickpeas, pigeonpeas and groundnuts connects farmers to processors and marketers, who in turn provide farmers with new technologies that help partners to stay competitive and profitable.

Integrated pest management cuts the costs and hazards of pesticide sprays on legumes, enabling farmers to charge higher prices for their organic produce.

Sweet sorghum is an example of a strategic crop that beats the food–fuel trade-off problem. Both are derived from the same plant. Besides food for humans, the plant can be used for vital livestock feed ­ after crushing to remove the sugar-rich juice for fermenting into ethanol biofuel, the residual stalks make excellent fodder. When connnected to a huge, growing and remunerative market for transportation fuel through technology-savvy processors, sorghum farming productivity jumps.

Now more than ever
During the 1990s, the world grew complacent. Food prices were in decline for so long that it was assumed that investments in agricultural research and development could be allowed to decline with them.

Now, unless we re-invigorate agriculture and lift it to a new level of productivity and efficiency, the world will face more hunger, more poverty, more despair and more anger.

We can’t say that it can’t be done anymore, because the change that is needed is within our reach, but we have to stretch to grasp it. It is our choice.

William Dar is director-general of the International Crops Research Institute for Semi-arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

Source: SciDev.net
18 June 2008

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1.03  The Plant Breeding Academy at the University of California Davis graduates 15 new plant breeders

Davis, California
Filling a critical industry need for additional plant breeders, the UC Davis Plant Breeding AcademySM (PBA) recently graduated its inaugural class. Fifteen students from seed companies across the U.S. and from as far as Hong Kong and Canada participated in the program.

“…the Plant Breeding Academy has without a doubt given me powerful tools to tackle virtually any problem I might encounter in my career as a professional plant breeder. Highly recommended!” said Adam Dick of Tomato Solutions, Inc., Ontario, Canada.

The PBA provides an innovative educational program to develop plant breeding expertise for the seed industry. It was developed by the UC Davis Seed Biotechnology Center in response to industry concerns over the lack of plant breeders being trained in academic programs.

The two-year course gives companies the chance to invest in employees currently involved in breeding programs who want further formal instruction in genetics, statistics and plant breeding theory. The course schedule allows students to maintain their jobs while enrolled. Academy graduates will be able to work as independent plant breeders or to direct regional plant breeding programs.

The course consists of lectures, field trips, discussions, homework and a comprehensive final project where students design a breeding program. Course instructors include Doug Shaw and Larry Teuber from UC Davis and Todd Wehner from North Carolina State University, all internationally recognized plant breeders. Guest lecturers with expertise in specific areas are also invited to speak.

Class II of the PBA will begin in September 2008, with 20 students from around the world enrolled.

For more information, see pba.ucdavis.edu or contact
Catherine L. Glaeser
clglaeser@ucdavis.edu

Source: SeedQuest.com
26 June 2008

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1.04  Boosting food production in Africa’s "breadbasket areas" - New collaboration among Rome-based UN agencies and AGRA

Rome, Italy
An unprecedented partnership among key players in agricultural development aims to significantly boost food production in Africa’s “breadbasket regions,” link local food production to food needs, and work across Africa’s major agricultural growing areas­or agro-ecological zones­to create opportunities for smallholder farmers. Today’s agreement marks a significant transformation in the way major global agencies work with smallholder farmers to assist them in solving Africa’s chronic hunger and food problems.

The “Memorandum of Understanding” was signed today by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the World Food Programme (WFP) at the FAO High-Level Conference on World Food Security.

Multiple challenges
Among the challenges facing accelerated food production in Africa are poorly developed markets, lack of investment, and poor infrastructure in rural areas. Despite this, there exist opportunities that can be tapped to help end chronic hunger and food problems. This new partnership aims to make a difference now by optimizing food production in areas with relatively good rainfall, soils, infrastructure, and markets­or “breadbasket areas.”

The new partnership announced today will work closely with other stakeholders in these breadbasket areas to rapidly improve food production, food security and rural incomes. Careful environmental monitoring, and conserving biodiversity, water and land will be given high priority. The agreement also calls for coordinating and sharing agricultural development innovations across diverse ecological zones and associated crops. At the country level, the partnership will support the efforts of governments and work with farmers and other stakeholders to rapidly boost agricultural productivity and farm incomes. Each agency will deliver unique expertise towards achieving an environmentally and economically sustainable green revolution that will end the continent’s perennial food crisis.

“This collaborative initiative is part of AGRA’s strategic vision to build partnerships that pool the strengths and resources of the public and private sectors, civil society, farmers organizations, donors, scientists and entrepreneurs across the agricultural value chain,” said Mr. Kofi A. Annan, Chairman of the Board of AGRA. “We must implement immediate solutions for today’s crisis and do so in the context of a long-term concerted effort to transform smallholder agriculture, to increase productivity and sustainability, and to end poverty and hunger.

Per capita food production has declined in Africa for the past 30 years and farm productivity in Africa is just one-quarter the global average. Today, more than 200 million people are chronically hungry in the region, and 33 million children under age five are malnourished. To turn things around, there is need for urgent focus on raising agricultural productivity. More investment is needed to improve soil and water management of rainfed and irrigation agriculture, more adaptable new crop varieties, improved access to seeds and fertilizers, environmentally sustainable integrated pest management practices, reduction in post-harvest losses, and improvement of rural infrastructure, especially roads and communication infrastructure. These will need to be bolstered by bold pro-poor policies to help transform smallholder agriculture.

Unlocking Africa’s potential
FAO Director-General Mr. Jacques Diouf said, "Unlocking the potential of agriculture in Africa is a huge challenge, but it can be done. This initiative is an important contribution to reduce the number of more than 200 million hungry people in sub-Saharan Africa by boosting food production and productivity, and improving the livelihoods of millions of people in rural areas. FAO will actively participate in this important initiative by assisting in stimulating local food production, providing technical input, and developing new agricultural investments.”

AGRA will develop and promote higher yielding, locally adapted seeds, soil fertility options, water management systems, and market development to aid smallholder farmers and pro-poor policies that will catalyze farm productivity growth in the breadbasket zones. “We hope to spur a green revolution in Africa which respects biodiversity and the continent’s distinct regions and great variety of crops­from millet and sorghum in the Sahel, to the root and tuber belts that cut across humid West Africa, to maize in the high and lowland areas of Eastern and Southern Africa,” said Mr. Kofi A. Annan, Chairman of the Board of AGRA.

IFAD President Mr. Lennart Båge said, “Smallholder producers constitute the largest group of economic actors but are often the poorest segment of the population in sub-Saharan Africa. IFAD, by working in collaboration with AGRA and the Rome-based UN agencies, will help lift the rural poor from poverty by expanding their production capacity, strengthening their institutions and voice, and improving their access to critical markets.”

As a major buyer of food in Africa and the developing world, WFP will use its purchasing power to contribute to a green revolution in Africa and to market development­a powerful incentive for agricultural production. This agreement assures farmers a market, without which many well-meaning efforts to increase farm production have failed. Last year, WFP purchased a record amount of food­US$612 million in 69 developing countries­of which US$253 million was in Africa, most notably in Uganda, Sudan, Kenya, Zambia and Malawi. From 2001-2007, WFP purchased more than US$1.2 billion of food on domestic markets in Africa. This new partnership could result in millions more being spent in potential breadbasket areas where surpluses exist.

"WFP is delighted to work with AGRA, a critical player who will help stimulate agriculture production," said Josette Sheeran, WFP's Executive Director. "Together with FAO and IFAD, we can bring major improvements to the lives of small-scale producers and food- insecure farmers all across Africa, and help reduce hunger and vulnerability."

Today’s new partnership will help to advance the goal of the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) of the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) towards achieving at least 6 percent annual growth rate in agricultural production by 2015.
Other news from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)

Source: SeedQuest.com
4 June 2008

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1.05  VitAto, a ß-carotene rich sweetpotato variety

On 12 June 2007, the Hon. Minister of Agriculture & Agro-based Industries, Malaysia officially released VitAto, a new orange-fleshed sweetpotato variety, at MARDI(1) Telong Station in Kelantan state.  This is the culmination of a 10-year breeding programme aimed at developing nutritionally more superior sweetpotato varieties.  The orange flesh of VitAto (named for Vitamin A from its ß-carotene content and sweetpotato) is indicative of its ß-carotene content.  VitAto is outstanding in its yield performance, even on marginal soils such as tin-tailings, bris(2) (sandy marine beach deposits) and acid sulphate soils with appropriate agronomic amendments, surpassing currently grown orange-fleshed varieties in Malaysia.  Fresh root yields in research plots have attained 40 t/ha in just 3½-4 months.

With this particular advantage, VitAto has no need to compete with more economically important crops such as oil palm and fruits for limited available arable land.  Indeed, it can play an important socio-economic role in replacing the planting of tobacco hitherto carried out on bris.  With the implementation of AFTA(3) in 2010 for tobacco, there will be free access for imports of this commodity into Malaysia from cheaper-producing neighbouring countries.  Less efficient and less competitive tobacco farmers will be able to turn to sweetpotato cultivation instead.

To popularize the eating of sweetpotato – currently prepared only by boiling, steaming, baking or frying – concurrent research projects on developing new food products from sweetpotato were in place.  Technologies have thus been successfully developed for making flour from VitAto, and thereafter using the flour to formulate premixes for muffins, cookies and cakes, as well as a range of traditional Malay cakes.  Fries, nuggets, doughnuts, sweet buns and breaded sweetpotato are some of the others.  Sweetpotato in general with its low glycemic index, high potassium and dietary fibre contents, and VitAto in particular with its high ß-carotene content (>2000 mg/100 g fresh root) is a healthy food.  Much of the ß-carotene is retained in the flour, and together with its vitamin C and dietary fibre contents makes VitAto flour more nutritious than wheat flour normally used for making the bakery products mentioned above.

In a successful collaboration under the concept of MoA Inc. (Ministry of Agriculture, Incorporated), four agencies under the ministry have embarked on a project promoting the production of VitAto among small farmers in Terengganu and Kelantan states.  The agencies are the Farmers’ Organization Authority (FOA), the Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority (FAMA), the Agricultural Bank (AgroBank) and MARDI.  FOA takes responsibility for identifying the areas of production and organizing selected farmers, FAMA offers a guaranteed price for VitAto and handles its marketing, AgroBank provides credit and other financing facilities, while MARDI imparts technical advice and training.  Initiated in January 2008, scheduled weekly planting of VitAto has been going on with the first harvest in mid April.  On 15 June, a program to promote VitAto will be launched at a farmers’ market in Shah Alam, Selangor state by FAMA aided by FOA and MARDI, where the sweetpotato will be offered for sale at a special promotional price and visitors to the market will be able to taste some of the products made from VitAto as well as learn how to make them at home.  This program will continue at a dozen supermarket outlets and more than a dozen other farmers’ markets in Peninsular Malaysia for the months of June and July 2008.

Other organizations showing interest in VitAto for production and/or processing include the Muda Agricultural Development Authority (MADA) in Kedah state, the Kelantan Royal Project and the Terengganu Agricultural Development Project (KETARA).  Nestlé, a multi-national food company, signed a memorandum of understanding with MARDI in January 2008 to collaborate in using VitAto as a raw material in some of their existing products as well as in developing new products.

(1) Malaysian Agricultural Research & Development Institute
(2) Beach ridges interspersed with swales
(3)ASEAN Free Trade Area
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Contributed by Tan Swee Lian
MARDI (Malaysia)
sltan@mardi.gov.my

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1.06  New high-fibre barley licensed to grow

Food manufacturers will soon have access to a new CSIRO-bred barley variety which has significant human health benefits

Australia
“The recent signing of a license agreement between the CSIRO/Australian Capital Ventures Limited joint venture and Austgrains Pty Ltd has paved the way for large scale commercial crops of BARLEYmax® – unique grain developed by CSIRO using conventional plant breeding techniques,” says the Director of the CSIRO Food Futures Flagship, Dr Bruce Lee.

“It contains more than twice the amount of insoluble and soluble fibre found in wheat or oats, as well as resistant starch, which helps promote healthy digestive bacteria,” Dr Lee says.

Austgrains’ Managing Director, Warren Hannam, says the unique nutritional characteristics of BARLEYmax are a valuable addition to the range of healthy food ingredients available in Australia.

“Austgrains specialises in supplying grain and functional food ingredients to the food manufacturing industry, making BARLEYmax a perfect fit for our company,” he says.

Austgrains Pty Ltd is a private company associated with publicly listed Washington H Soul Pattinson and Company Limited and its group of companies, producing and marketing specialty ingredients such as the Nu Soya range of soy products and omega-3 oils.

BARLEYmax Business Manager, CSIRO’s Geoff Ball, says clinical testing by CSIRO Human Nutrition has shown that products made with BARLEYmax – such as breakfast cereals, muffins and breads – have a low Glycaemic Index and strong bowel health attributes.

“Further testing showed BARLEYmax has excellent processing properties and foods made with the new grain have a naturally sweet, slightly nutty taste,” Mr Ball says. “With large volumes to be produced soon by Austgrains, healthy foods made with BARLEYmax are likely to be on Australian breakfast tables in the near future.”

Source: SeedQuest.com
17 June 2008

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1.07  ARS releases nematode, virus resistant peanut variety

The US Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Research Service (ARS) has released a new peanut variety that may help farmers in their fight against two major peanut problems. The new hybrid, Tifguard, is the first peanut variety to show resistance to both the peanut root knot nematode and tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV). These diseases severely limit peanut yield in the US, where annual production reaches well above one million tons.

Not only did Tifguard exhibit higher resistance to TSWV in field trials, it also produced higher yields than standard check cultivars when grown in areas with little or no nematode pressure. Tifguard seeds will be available to farmers by the 2009 planting season.

Visit http://www.ars.usda.gov/News/docs.htm?docid=1261 for more information

Source: CropBiotech Update 16 May 2008

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

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1.08  Bayer launches disease resistant rice

Bayer CropScience has announced the launch of Arize Dhani, a bacterial leaf blight (BLB) disease-resistant hybrid rice variety in India. Bayer claims that, in addition to providing broad protection against BLB, the new rice hybrid can increase yield by 20 to 30 percent compared to ordinary varieties. The company now markets seven rice varieties in India.

Bacterial blight, caused by Xanthomonas oryzae, is one of the most common diseases affecting rice worldwide. Xanthomonas strains in tropical areas are more virulent than that of in temperate regions. In India, BLB affects 6-7 million hectares annually causing an estimated yield reduction of up to 60 percent. The country is the second largest rice producer after China, growing more than 128 million tons of the staple.

The press release is available at http://www.bayercropscience.com/bayer/cropscience/cscms.nsf/id/20080514_EN?open&ccm=400

Source: CropBiotech Update 16 May 2008

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

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1.09  ICRISAT: sweet sorghum could be the miracle biofuel crop

Sweet sorghum, a plant that can grow in extreme environmental conditions, could be the miracle crop that provides cheap food, animal feed and fuel, according to scientists from the India-based International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). "We consider sweet sorghum an ideal 'smart crop' because it produces food as well as fuel," says ICRISAT Director General William Dar. "With proper management, smallholder farmers can improve their incomes by 20% compared to alternative crops in dry areas in India."

Sorghum, the world's fifth largest grain crop, is grown on more than 42 million hectares in 99 countries. ICRISAT estimates that 50 percent of the grain sorghum area could be grown with sweet sorghum. In India, sweet sorghum costs $1.74 to produce a gallon of ethanol compared to $2.12 for corn and $2.19 for sugarcane.

ICRISAT has helped build and operate the world's first commercial bioethanol plant, using locally produced sweet sorghum as the main feedstock, in Andhra Paresh. ICRISAT and India's National Research Centre for Sorghum (NRCS) have also developed sweet sorghum varieties to ensure a reliable and steady supply of sweet juice. They are currently developing sorghum varieties that are photoperiod and temperature insensitive. Public-private-farmer partnership projects with ICRISAT are also underway in the Philippines, Mexico, Mozambique and Kenya, as countries search for alternative fuels.

Read the full article at http://www.icrisat.org/Media/2008/media6.htm

Source: CropBiotech Update 9 May 2008

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

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1.10  Fighting the parasitic weed Striga

Striga (S. hermonthica), is a plant parasitic weed that causes more than 40 percent loss in the annual cowpea yield in sub-Saharan Africa. Also known as witchweed, it infests some 50 million hectares of cereal crops, specifically maize, sorghum and millet. Now the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and its partners from University of McGill (Canada) and University of Hohenheim (Germany) have found a way to control the weed through a biocontrol agent.

The method utilizes a strain of the fungus Fusarium oxysporum that originated from Ghana and Nigeria. Mixture of fungal spores and gum Arabic can be used to coat crop seeds. The fungus remains viable for long periods, making the seeds amenable to storage. The method is cheaper, easier to apply and more effective compared to other techniques such as application of post-emergence herbicides.

The article is available at http://www.iita.org/cms/details/news_details.aspx?articleid=1567&zoneid=81

Source: CropBiotech Update 9 May 2008
Contributed by Margaret Smith
Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics
Cornell University
mes25@cornell.edu

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1.11  CGIAR policy statement on biofuels

The Science Council of the Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research (CGIAR) has released a policy statement on biofuels production made upon the request of the Food and Agriculture Assistant Director General (Natural Resource Management and Environment Department). The statement addresses the challenges of the commodity, the likely implications of this development for the poor and the environment, and the role that CGIAR is expected to play.

The policy statement calls for "developing second and third generation conversion techniques from agricultural residues and wastes and step up the scientific research efforts to achieve sustainable biofuel production practices. Until such sustainable techniques are available governments should scale back their support for and promotion of biofuels."  In addition, it recommended that small scale production of first-generation biofuels in rural settings be explored to reduce fuel dependency and promote rural development.

 A copy of the statement is available at http://www.sciencecouncil.cgiar.org/publications/pdf/CGIAR%20SC%20position%20paper%20on%20Biofuels.pdf

Source: CropBiotech Update 20 June 2008

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

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1.12  IFPRI assessment of the food summit declaration: some progress, but more needs to be done

Washington, DC
By Joachim von Braun
Director General, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

The UN food summit closes with a strong statement on agriculture, but fails to adequately address trade, biofuels, safety nets, and implementation

The final declaration of the “Conference on World Food Security: Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy” strongly affirms the need for investing in agriculture, a very positive development. It is noteworthy that governments recognize the need to dramatically increase food production and to provide assistance to small-scale farmers in developing countries to boost their productivity. This focus on agriculture is very much needed and long overdue.

However, the summit declaration is weak in four other areas: trade, biofuels, safety nets for vulnerable people, and accountability for implementation. Looking forward, strong action is needed in each of these areas.

Trade
Export bans and other trade distorting measures only exacerbate the crisis. Unfortunately, the summit barely came to a consensus for recognizing the problem, let alone taking action. IFPRI research found that the elimination of export bans would stabilize grain price fluctuations, reduce price levels by as much as 30 percent, and enhance the efficiency of agricultural production. The G-8 summit and international meetings should take a stronger stance on this issue.

Biofuels
Biofuels that use grains and oilseeds contribute significantly to food price inflation. IFPRI analysis shows that these types of biofuels accounted for 30 percent of the rise in grain prices between 2000 and 2007. Corn-based ethanol accounted for 40 percent of the increase in maize prices during this period. Nevertheless, the summit shied away from distinguishing between beneficial and risky types of biofuels. Ultimately, the declaration dodged the issue by calling for “in-depth studies.”

Safety nets
Poor people are hit hardest by food price increases. Governments need to invest more in measures such as child nutrition, school feeding, and conditional cash and food transfer programs, to mitigate the price effects for people living on the edge. Safety nets like these help avoid the suffering of people who are unable to afford enough food, and they increase the long-term resilience of poor people to crises. A substantial body of research by IFPRI and other organizations has confirmed that well designed safety-net programs have high payoffs, both in terms of economic productivity and poverty reduction.

Implementation
The declaration lacks clarity as to who is responsible for its implementation. Without these specifics, the outcome could be similar to the previous two food summits in 1996 and 2002: a lot of good intentions, but few results. Global hunger has barely declined since 1996, and is now getting worse in light of the current food crisis.

Progress must be made on these issues to address the global food crisis. Throughout much of the world, the poorest people are being squeezed by high food prices. They need action now.

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) seeks sustainable solutions for ending hunger and poverty. IFPRI is one of 15 centers supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, an alliance of 64 governments, private foundations, and international and regional organizations. Please visit our website at www.ifpri.org.

Source: SeedQuest.com
6 June 2008

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1.13  A review of the enforcement of Plant Breeder's Rights in Australia

The Advisory Council on Intellectual Property (ACIP) is conducting a review of the enforcement of Plant Breeder's Rights in Australia. ACIP released an Issues Paper in March 2007 and received 40 written submissions. ACIP held consultations with a number of interested parties in mid-2007. ACIP greatly appreciates all the contributions made to the review so far.

Due to the wide range and complexity of the issues, ACIP has developed an Options Paper which explores the concerns raised and identifies those options with the most potential to assist the enforcement of PBR. The Options Paper can be found at: http://www.acip.gov.au/reviews.html#pbr

ACIP welcomes written comments on the options canvassed and questions posed in the paper. Comments should be received no later than 18 July 2008. Electronic submissions are preferred. Please note that, unless requested otherwise, written comments submitted to ACIP will be made publicly available. Hard copies of the Options Paper will be printed and available on request.

After consideration of the submissions and possible further consultations, ACIP expects to provide a final Report with recommendations to the Government in late 2008.

Contributed by Paul Brennan
CropGen International
paul.brennan@bigpond.com

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1.14  Desert plant may hold key to surviving food shortage

Liverpool, United Kingdom
Scientists at the University of Liverpool are investigating how a Madagascan plant could be used to help produce crops in harsh environmental conditions.

The plant, Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi, is unique because, unlike normal plants, it captures most of its carbon dioxide at night when the air is cooler and more humid, making it 10 times more water-efficient than major crops such as wheat. Scientists will use the latest next-generation DNA sequencing to analyse the plant’s genetic code and understand how these plants function at night.

The project will generate a genome sequence database that will be used as an Internet resource for plant biologists throughout the world.

The research comes at a time when farmland across the globe normally used for growing food such as rice and wheat is being taken over by bio-fuel crops used for bioethanol production as a petrol substitute. Scientists believe that the novel genes found in Kalanchoe could provide a model of how bio-fuel plants could be grown on un-utilised desert and semi-arid lands, rather than on fertile farmland needed for producing food.

Biological scientist, Dr James Hartwell, said: “There is a lot of concern over food shortage at the moment, with more farmland being commandeered for bio-fuels. As a result of changes in our climate the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has predicted a large expansion of arid regions so there is an increasing need for new crop varieties that can be productive in deserts.

“Kalanchoe is a good example of how plants can flourish in harsh environments. If we can understand how it is able to photosynthesise using much less water than current crops, we may be able to use its genetic code to develop a crop able to withstand harsh environmental conditions. It is essential that farmland be returned to food production.”

The genetic code of the plant will be deciphered using a DNA sequencing machine that uses an enzyme found in fireflies as a flash light to help read the DNA strand.

Liverpool is one of only two universities in the UK with the technology, which can read up to half a billion DNA letters in a few hours compared to more widely used technology that can only process 50,000.

The project is funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Source: SeedQuest.com
19 June 2008

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1.15  Early origins of maize in Mexico

Paleobotanical evidence pushes back the time of domestication

The ancestors of maize originally grew wild in Mexico and were radically different from the plant that is now one of the most important crops in the world. While the evidence is clear that maize was first domesticated in Mexico, the time and location of the earliest domestication and dispersal events are still in dispute. Now, in addition to more traditional macrobotanical and archeological remains, scientists are using new genetic and microbotanical techniques to distinguish domesticated maize from its wild relatives as well as to identify ancient sites of maize agriculture. These new analyses suggest that maize may have been domesticated in Mexico as early as 10,000 years ago.

Dr. John Jones and his colleagues, Mary Pohl, and Kevin Pope, have evaluated multiple lines of evidence, including paleobotanical remains such as pollen, phytoliths, and starch grains, as well as genetic analyses, to reconstruct the early history of maize agriculture. Dr. Jones, of the Department of Anthropology, Washington State University, Pullman, will be presenting this work at a symposium on Maize Biology at the annual meeting of the American Society of Plant Biologists in Mérida, Mexico (June 28, 8:30 AM).

While macrobotanical remains such as maize kernels, cobs, and leaves have been found in dry mountain caves, such remains are not preserved in more humid lowland areas, so the conclusions based on such remains are fragmentary. Much smaller parts of the maize plant, like cellular silica deposits, called phytoliths, and pollen and starch grains, are preserved under both humid and dry conditions. These lines of evidence, along with genetic and archeological data, are being used to reconstruct the history of agriculture to its origins around the world.

Maize is wind pollinated and sheds large amounts of pollen, which is deposited in soil and water sediments. The tough outer wall (exine) of pollen protects it from deterioration for thousands of years. While it is possible to distinguish the pollen grains of maize and its close relatives from other grasses, it is more difficult, except at the largest sizes, to differentiate the pollen of maize (Zea mays) from its presumed wild ancestor teosinte (Zea sp). Thus, while pollen can provide evidence of the presence of domesticated maize, along with that from other plants indicating agricultural activity, maize pollen alone is not definitive evidence of domesticated plants.

Phytoliths are another type of plant microfossil that is preserved for thousands of years and can be used to distinguish domesticated from wild maize. These microscopic bodies are silica or calcium oxalate deposits that accumulate in the intercellular spaces of plant stems, leaves, and roots and have characteristic shapes depending on genus and species. They are preserved even when the plant is burned or disintegrated. Scientists have found that it is possible to distinguish the microliths of teosinte from those of maize and other grasses, thus allowing them to identify the approximate dates and locations of early agricultural activity. Phytoliths are also preserved on ceramic and stone artifacts used to process food.

Jones and his co-workers analyzed the sediments from San Andrés, in the state of Tabasco on the Mexican Gulf Coast. Analysis of area sediments revealed phytoliths of domesticated varieties of maize as well as those of agricultural weeds. These data, along with evidence of burning, suggested that agriculturalists were active in that part of the Yucatan Peninsula around 7,000 years ago.

Starch grains are the most recent addition to the archeobotanical toolbox. Maize and its grass relatives produce large quantities of starch grains with unique morphological characteristics and, like phytoliths, are preserved in sediments and on cultural artifacts. Maize produces more starch than its wild relative teosinte, and the grains are much larger. The paleobotanist Dolores Piperno and her colleagues have established a number of criteria for distinguishing the starch grains of different grasses and found that those of maize and teosinte could be reliably separated on the basis of size and other morphological characters.

Maize also has a rich genetic history, which has resulted in thousands of varieties or landraces adapted to different environmental conditions. Maize scientists and geneticists have used this information to track the evolution and dispersal of maize varieties as well as to reconstruct the history of maize domestication. For example, the locus teosinte glume architecture 1 (tga1), is important in determining phytolith formation and morphology and, along with other "domestication genes" can be used to write the history of maize domestication and use by humans.

All of these methods are being used by paleobotanists, plant scientists, and archeologists like Jones and his colleagues, to reconstruct the rich history of maize domestication and evolution. Many of the ancient varieties were adaptations to different environmental conditions such as different soils, temperature, altitude, and drought. Preservation of these varieties and knowledge of their genetic and adaptive histories are of paramount importance as farmers around the world cope with changes in soil, temperature, and water availability and struggle to maintain a food supply for growing populations.
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Contacts:
Dr. John Jones
jonesjg@wsu.edu

Brian Hyps
bhyps@aspb.org

Source: EurekAlert.org
27 June 2008

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1.16  Ancient Mexican maize varieties

Sequencing of ancient corn landraces to ensure genetic diversity and resources
Maize was first domesticated in the highlands of Mexico about 10,000 years ago and is now one of the most important crop plants in the world. It is a member of the grass family, which also hosts the world's other major crops including rice, wheat, barley, sorghum, and sugar cane. As early agriculturalists selected plants with desirable traits, they were also selecting genes important for transforming a wild grass into a food plant. Since that time, Mexican farmers have created thousands of varieties suitable for cultivation in the numerous environments in the Mexican landscape­from dry, temperate highlands to moist, tropical lowlands. Because of its importance as food, the need to improve yield, and the challenges presented by changing climate, the maize genome of the B73 cultivar is being sequenced. However, because maize has a complex genome and many varieties, the genome sequence from just one variety will not be adequate to represent the diversity of maize worldwide. Mexican scientists are also sequencing and analyzing the genomes of the ancient landraces to recapture the full genetic diversity of this complex and adaptable crop.

Dr. Vielle-Calzada and his colleagues, Octavio Martinez de la Vega, Julio Vega-Arrenguin, Gustavo Hernandez-Guzman, Enrique Ibarra-Laclette, Beatriz Jimenez-Moraila, Guilermo Corona-Armenta, Cesar Alvarez-Mejia, Araceli Fernandez-Cortes, Gustavo de la Riva, Alfredo Herrera-Estrella, and Luis Herrera-Estrella, are in the process of sequencing one of the ancient popcorn races, Palomero, and analyzing its molecular and functional diversity relative to other maize races. Dr. Vielle-Calzada, of the National Laboratory of Genomics for Biodiversity, Cinvestav, Mexico, will be presenting this work at a symposium on Maize Biology at the annual meeting of the American Society of Plant Biologists in Mérida, Mexico (June 28, 11:30 AM).

Like other varieties of maize, the popcorn landraces are used throughout the world. Archeological evidence traces the earliest popcorn in the USA to New Mexico, suggesting an overland dispersal from the highlands of central Mexico into the northern plains of Mexico and then into the southwestern USA. Recent studies also support the hypothesis that popcorns are some of the oldest races of maize and group closely with teosinte in phylogenetic analyses.

Palomero is an ancient popcorn landrace of the Central and Northern Highlands Group. Vielle-Calzada and his colleagues estimated that its genome is about 22% smaller than that of B73. Their structural and functional analysis of this genome reveals a large number of unreported sequences, suggesting that the ancient landraces contain a large pool of unexplored genetic diversity that could be useful in new crop generation as well as the study of the evolution and domestication of maize and other cereals. Other studies in Mexico and elsewhere have shown that Mexican maize varieties are extraordinarily diverse.

Maize is a good model plant for studying the development of cereal crops because of its complex genome, numerous developmental mutants, and thousands of varieties. It is thought that as many as 1200 genes were selected in the process of transforming maize into a versatile food plant, and the process continues today. In regions throughout Mexico, farmers still cultivate local or criollo maize varieties in traditional ways as well as generating new varieties. They are thus contributing to conservation of the genetic diversity of maize and preserving traits that could be useful in yet unforeseen circumstances.

Many of the ancient varieties like Palomero were adaptations to different environmental conditions such as different soils, temperature, altitude, and drought. Preservation of these varieties and knowledge of their genetic and adaptive histories are of paramount importance as farmers around the world cope with changes in temperature and water availability and struggle to maintain a food supply for growing populations. These sequencing efforts are providing the data for genomic and mutant analyses that are needed for the genetic engineering of crops to improve yield as well as resistance to pests and tolerance for difficult growing conditions. The knowledge gained from these efforts can also be applied in crop and yield improvement efforts for other cereals.
###
Contacts:
Dr. Jean-Philippe Vielle-Calzada
vielle@ira.cinvestav.mx

Brian Hyps
bhyps@aspb.org

Source: EurekAlert.org
26 June 2008

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1.17  DNA fingerprinting identifies bean in patent dispute

A nine year dispute on the U.S. patent for a common yellow bean filed in 1999 has recently been settled through the use of DNA fingerprinting - an analysis of DNA fragments that identify the unique genetic makeup of an individual plant or animal. University of California Davis Professor Paul Gepts and colleagues from the University of Padova, Italy, showed that through the DNA fingerprinting technology, the yellow Enola bean introduced in the United States in 1990 is identical to a bean variety grown in Mexico.

"The analysis showed that the Enola bean was produced through direct selection of pre-existing yellow bean varieties from Mexico, most likely a bean known as "Azufrado Peruano 87," said Gepts. "In short, the Enola was not a novel variety and therefore not eligible for patent protection." This disclosure was used by the patent office to reject the Enola bean patent in 2003 and 2005 and for a final rejection of all patent claims last month.

For details, see press release at: http://www.news.ucdavis.edu/search/news_detail.lasso?id=8676

Source: CropBiotech Update 30 May 2008

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

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1.18  Experts confident that drought-tolerant crops will be available to farmers in the next decade

San Diego, California
Experts predict that the current consumption rate of water for agriculture is not sustainable and that by 2025 two out of three people will live in drought or water-stressed conditions.1 In addition, erratic weather patterns and the possibility of warmer temperatures from climate change will increase the threat of crop failures and food shortages.

Fortunately, research in agricultural biotechnology holds the promise of high yield crops that will be able to withstand environmental stresses.

Speaking at the BIO International Convention in San Diego on a panel hosted by the Council for Biotechnology Information (CBI), Dr. Chris Zinselmeier, Program Leader for Water Optimization Technologies for Syngenta, stated, "We are seeing very positive results in experimental lines of plants under drought conditions and can be optimistic about bringing these plants to market in the next decade."

The panel discussed ongoing research and achievements of biotechnology in the development of crops that have a greater tolerance for water scarcity.

Dr. Zinselmeier was joined on the panel by Dr. Michael Metzlaff, Group Leader for Crop Productivity Research for Bayer Inc.; Dr. Randy Allen, Departments of Biological Sciences and Plant and Soil Sciences at Texas Tech University; and Dr. Gail McLean, National Program Leader, Biotechnology Risk Assessment Grants Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Dr. Allen stated, "We are taking on the challenge of developing crops that will provide farmers with the best traits of both high yields and tolerance to stress. I believe we have seen significant progress in that research."

For more than a decade, farmers have used plants improved through biotechnology to help combat environmental stresses such as insects and weeds. Today, researchers in agricultural biotechnology are developing a new generation of plants that are optimized to maintain yield capacity through periods of water scarcity. In effect, these plants will have the ability to use water more efficiently, producing "more crop per drop" of water.

Field testing for the development of drought-tolerant corn, cotton, canola and other crops is well underway and preliminary results have been positive.  Such developments could result in improved yields in variable or dry years, less need for irrigation in normal years and better yields on land previously considered marginal for cost-effective production.

Every year, drought causes reduced crop yields across the globe. In the United States, one-third of corn acres suffer from yield-reducing drought stress.

Underlining the critical importance of development of drought resistant crops, Dr. Metzlaff stated, "The increased tolerance of crops to major environmental stresses and the enhancement of productivity will be critical as water scarcity and the world population grows. We must continue to develop plants that withstand short term stresses, increase yield stability and allow planting in high stress areas."

* Coping with Water Scarcity, United Nations Water Scarcity Initiative, p. 2, August 2006.

Source: Council for Biotechnology Information (CBI) via SeedQuest.com
24 June 2008

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1.19  Asia's drought-resistant maize varieties

Maize is a staple crop in South-East Asia, both as a food and animal feed. But the farmers that grow the crop often live in drought-prone areas, where poor soil and disease exacerbate poor harvests.

To counter this, the Asian Maize Network was created, funded by the Asian Development Bank and led by CIMMYT (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre).

The network, running from 2005–2008, brings together scientists from China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam to develop drought-tolerant maize varieties ­ and deliver them to farmers.

Genetic material from drought-tolerant varieties was supplied by CIMMYT and funds put into setting up testing programmes in all five countries.

The first varieties have already been released for further testing in individual countries, and many more are in the pipeline, with the eventual aim of providing them to poor farmers at affordable prices.

The scientists involved say the project has helped them both in terms of capacity and partnership building. Many agree that the training and working with researchers from other countries has given them a new perspective on their work.

"I'm motivated to see that what I'm doing will really help farmers," says one.
Link to full article

Source: CIMMYT via SciDev.net
16 June 2008

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1.20  Drought tolerant wheat yields 20 percent more

Field trials of wheat genetically modified (GM) to be drought-tolerant have shown good results, according to scientists, with some lines producing yields 20 percent higher than non-GM varieties. Twenty four wheat lines containing five different modifications (from maize, moss, Arabidopsis and yeast) were tested, and of those, seven were identified providing higher yields under drought stress.

 "These initial results are very promising and suggest that these genetically modified wheat lines may be part of the solution to help farmers maintain and improve their crop yields in a changing global environment," Victorian Premier John Brumby said. He further noted that with average yields worth approximately $300 million in Victoria alone, a 20 per cent boost could provide as much as $80 million to the wheat industry.

As the results require confirmation in next season's field trials, Victoria's Department of Primary Industries has submitted an application to the Federal Gene Technology Regulator to extend the trials over the next two years. Scientists hope to have the world's first transgenic wheat approved for commercial release in six to 10 years.

The press release is available at http://www.dpc.vic.gov.au/domino/Web_Notes/newmedia.nsf/8fc6e140ef55837cca256c8c00183cdc/
6f38cf7c7d8376deca25746d000a1788!OpenDocument

Source CropBiotech Update 20 June 2008

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

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1.21  New genetic trait in sunflowers from BASF, Nidera

A new genetic trait for CLEARFIELD sunflowers will be made available in 2010, thanks to a long-term joint development program between BASF and Nidera, a leading sunflower breeding company. CLHA-Plus, the new gene, makes it easier for seed companies to breed tolerance to BASF imidazolinone herbicides in high-yielding sunflower hybrids. It also provides expanded weed control options and enhanced tolerance to CLEARFIELD herbicides for sunflower growers. Weed control is often one of the most limiting factors for global sunflower production.
Read the complete article at http://www.corporate.basf.com/en/presse/mitteilungen/pm.htm?pmid=3133&id=V00-Z.RgLCTZubcp1hp

Source: CropBiotech Update 20 June 2008

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

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1.22  Protecting wheat from a new global threat

Wheat growers have a new nemesis in the form of Ug99, a rust fungus to which very few of the currently grown varieties of wheat are resistant. How to combat this scourge? Scientists at the United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) will be releasing the first wheat lines by pyramiding two or more genes for resistance to Ug99. Wheat breeders will be able to use the new line along with others to develop new commercial varieties with high yield and Ug99 protection.

To protect U.S. wheat, ARS scientists will be determining U.S. wheat and barley vulnerability to Ug99, identifying new sources of genetic resistance, discovering molecular markers to speed up breeding for protection, developing rapid detection methods, and nationwide surveillance for Ug99 in the U.S. They are also collaborating with researchers across the country and around the world to find ways to deal with this massive threat to a global food staple.

To read more, visit: http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2008/080616.htm.

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

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1.23  Research required urgently to control planthopper pests, a major threat to Asian rice production

Los Baños, The Philippines
23-25 June conference to address major threat to Asian rice production

A small insect that has devastated millions of hectares of rice in southern China and Vietnam over the past few years­causing the loss of thousands of tons of the grain at a crucial time for global production­is the focus of a critical and timely conference this week in the Philippines.

Problems caused by planthoppers, a major type of rice pest that can destroy one-fifth of a harvest, have intensified across Asia in recent years. Major outbreaks in Vietnam in 2007 contributed to recent dramatic rises in the cost of rice, which have threatened to push millions of people deeper into poverty. If not effectively controlled, these pests could hamper rice production and help keep prices high.

Sustained increases in productivity are needed to ensure affordable, plentiful rice for the 3 billion people who depend on it. However, a steady dwindling of funding for public rice research over the past 15 years has stifled research to develop sustainable management practices that help farmers control pests.

A report on the front page of the 18 May New York Times revealed that scientists at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) have the know-how to develop rice that can withstand several strains of the devastating pest and integrate resistant varieties with ecological control methods. But, with resources drying up, the research efforts are on hold.

Planthoppers are normally kept in check by naturally occurring biological phenomena, such as other animals that prey on the pest. In the 1970s and 1980s, planthoppers threatened rice intensification programs in Indonesia, Thailand, India, the Solomon Islands, and the Philippines.

IRRI organized the first brown planthopper (BPH) international conference in 1977, bringing together scientists from all rice-producing countries. Activities triggered by this meeting­including integrated pest management (IPM), reducing unnecessary insecticide use, and breeding BPH-resistant rice varieties­helped keep BPH under control for the next 20 years. However, in the last 5 years, planthopper problems have worsened in several countries, including China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. Increasing insecticide resistance is also a concern.

“One of the key problems is overuse of pesticide,” said IRRI entomologist and conference organizer K.L. Heong. “As well as destroying the natural predators of planthopper, this also allows the pests to become resistant to pesticides.”

Since the first BPH conference, genetics, ecology, and pest management have advanced considerably. Planthoppers are now known to be secondary pests induced by ecological disturbances such as pesticide overuse. To ensure sustainable rice production, research must be directed toward not only pest-resistant rice varieties but also healthy rice-farming ecosystems that provide the natural biological services that control planthoppers.

In the last 30 years, scientific advances have coincided with the development of ecosystem-services frameworks and lessons from breeding resistance, understanding farmer decisions, implementing IPM, and improving communication campaigns. The new knowledge can allow novel approaches and research for more sustainable management. The conference at IRRI, which will bring together leading regional experts­including representatives from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Australia, China, Japan, India, and Bangladesh­and policymakers, will be an important starting point.

Source: SeedQuest.com
23 June 2008

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1.24  Genome communication

Alleles of homologous genes can silence one another through paramutations

In the late 19th century Gregor Mendel used peas to show that one copy of a gene (allele) is inherited from the mother and one from the father. In the progeny, the inherited genes are expressed at the right time and in the right place, but until recently, it was thought that although gene products could be modified during the life of the organism, the genes themselves were unchanged, except for random mutation. Now it appears that one copy of some genes can alter the expression of the other copy, and those changes are passed down to the next generation. These epigenetic alterations, called paramutations may be important in introducing changes when plants and other organisms are environmentally stressed. The exact mechanisms of how genes talk to other genes and change their behavior are being investigated, and recent results suggest that these processes could be important in engineering plants responsive to a variety of environmental conditions.

Dr. Vicki Chandler and her colleagues have studied paramutations in maize and other plants and have identified some of the genes and mechanisms that operate in this epigenetic process. Dr. Chandler, of the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Arizona, Tucson, will be presenting this work at a symposium on Maize Biology at the annual meeting of the American Society of Plant Biologists in Mérida, Mexico (June 28, 9:10 AM).

The sequencing of genes, proteins, and, ultimately, whole genomes has revealed that genomes are not simply strings of genes, but rather complex, communicating, and interacting regions of information that could be compared to DNA computers controlling growth, development, and metabolism in each organism. The physical architecture of the genome is also highly complex. The nucleus, where the genome resides, is not full of strings of DNA like a pot of spaghetti. Rather, the strands of DNA are wrapped around proteins called histones and the whole is organized into an elegant and highly controlled structure called chromatin. When it is time for genes to be expressed, a section of chromatin is unwound and the DNA for that particular gene is made available to the machinery that transcribes DNA to RNA. Once the process is finished, the DNA is neatly folded back into the chromatin structure until needed again. Different parts of the genome can interact by direct contact or through intermediaries that can be proteins or RNA sequences. The exact mechanisms of how paramutagenic alleles communicate with their homologous partners are still unknown, but the work of Chandler and others suggests that both direct contact of homologous regions and changes induced by intermediary RNA molecules may be involved.

Peas also played an important role in the discovery of paramutations, as the first mutants of this type were observed in peas in 1915. Then, in the 1950s, Alexander Brink identified these types of mutations as interactions between alleles. He recognized that these interactions resulted in heritable changes to the expression of those genes. Since then, paramutations have been found in humans and other animals, as well as other plant species including tomato, tobacco, petunia, and maize. In animals, paramutations may be important in mediating the occurrence of diseases like diabetes. Chandler and her co-workers have been investigating paramutations in maize at the b1 gene, which regulates the distribution of the purple pigment anthocyanin in plant tissues.

At the b1 locus, the paramutagenic allele, which causes light or stippled pigmentation arises spontaneously from the wild-type allele, which causes dark purple pigmentation. If a plant with the paramutagenic allele is crossed with a wild-type allele, the progeny get both alleles. However, the paramutagenic allele silences the wild-type allele and produces a plant with stippled rather than purple pigmentation. The silent state is then passed on in subsequent crosses.

Several different components may be involved in paramutation, although they may differ among species. One important player is an array of repeated non-coding DNA sequences that lies upstream of the gene sequence of the paramutagenic allele. Seven of these tandem repeats are required for b1 paramutation. If only three tandem repeats are present, there is only partial paramutagenic activity. One possibility is that these tandem repeats are involved in direct interactions of chromatin regions, which results in paramutation changes. However, RNA also appears to be part of the process. The gene mediator of paramutation1 (mop1), an RNA dependent RNA polymerase is absolutely required for paramutation silencing at the b1 locus as well as for several other maize genes. In Arabidopsis, this RNA polymerase is associated with the production of small, interfering RNAs (siRNA) that function in gene silencing in other contexts. The siRNA could thus act as an intermediary molecule, being sent to silence the homologous allele. A third component is the placement of methyl groups on the control sequence (promoter) of the wild-type gene. Gene methylation has been known for some time as a cell defense mechanism for silencing foreign DNA but is also functional in other cellular processes. In several species, such methylation is also directed by RNA molecules. None of these processes is likely to be sufficient by themselves to effect paramutation, but rather all of them may interact, although to varying degrees in different species.

The molecular components of paramutation probably arose as cell defense mechanisms against viral or bacterial DNA. They have evolved to serve the needs of plants that grow in complex and changing environments from which they cannot escape, but to which they may be able to adapt through mechanisms like paramutation. Indeed, two instances of paramutation are known to be influenced by temperature. This work has implications for engineering crops that may be able to adapt to higher temperatures or drought conditions, as well as for applications in human and veterinary medicine.
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Contact:
Dr. Vicki Chandler
chandler@ag.arizona.edu

Brian Hyps
bhyps@aspb.org

Source: EurkekAlert.org
27 June 2008

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1.25  To branch or not to branch

RAMOSA gene network influences grain architecture and yield in maize

The closest wild relative of maize, teosinte, does not look very promising as food. The ear is tiny compared to the domesticated one, and the grains are surrounded by hard fruitcases that are difficult to break open. Teosinte originated in Mexico, and, around 10,000 years ago, mutations in the wild population produced plants that attracted the attention of hunter gatherers looking for some starch in their diets. Saved seed was planted and desirable plants selected again in the next generation. Along with desirable traits, these early agriculturalists were selecting genes important for transforming a wild grass into a food plant. These same genes are being studied today to understand how maize and other crops in the grass family like rice, wheat, and sorghum produce grain. This knowledge is being used to create new varieties with better and consistent yield.

Dr. Erik Vollbrecht and his colleagues, Xiang Yang, Brandi Sigmon, Erica Unger-Wallace, and Zhuying Li, have studied mutations of some of the genes related to ear formation, among them, RAMOSA 1-3, which helped to transform the tiny teosinte ear with only 5-12 kernels into the large, massive corn cob we eat today. Dr. Vollbrecht, of the Department of Genetics, Development, and Cell Biology at Iowa State University, will be presenting this work at a symposium on Maize Biology at the annual meeting of the American Society of Plant Biologists in Mérida, Mexico (June 28, 10:40 AM).

The familiar spikes of grasses are the flower-bearing stems, or inflorescences, which produce tiny, wind-pollinated flowers. Different grass species, and especially the grain crops, differ in the number, length, and types of inflorescence branches, ranging from the straight spikes of wheat and barley to maize and sorghum with branched tassels. Maize has two separate inflorescences­the male tassel or pollen-producing flowers, and the female flowers that produce the kernel-bearing ears. The terminal male inflorescence has long branches at its base and a central spike with shorter branches that carry the pollen-bearing flowers. The female inflorescences, or ears, are laterally positioned and have short branches, which is important for efficient packing and harvesting of seeds.

The differences in grass inflorescence architecture have important implications for grain yield. For example, the more branches in rice, the higher the grain yield. The opposite is true for maize, which puts its energy into the massive cobs that sit on short side branches. These different patterns of branching are determined by meristems, plant stem cells located at the tips of growing stems and at the bases of leaves (axils). The activity of these meristems is regulated by networks of genes expressed throughout plant development. Among these architectural genes so important in the domestication of maize are the RAMOSA genes and proteins studied by Dr. Vollbrecht and other researchers.

Through their analyses of these and other mutants,Vollbrecht and his co-workers have determined that the three RAMOSA genes (RA1-3) regulate inflorescence branching in maize. RA1 and RA2 are transcription factors, proteins that control the process in which a gene's DNA strands are read and rewritten as RNA strands. RA3 encodes a phosphatase that is important in the biosynthesis of a sugar, trehalose, thought to be an important developmental signaling molecule. Vollbrecht and his colleagues suggest that these three genes, along with others, act in a network unique to grasses, which controls the architecture of the maize inflorescence and, ultimately, grain yield. RA2 acts upstream of RA1, which is expressed at the boundary of meristems and forces the stem cells to produce short branches. RA2, in turn, regulates RA1; and RA3 may be involved in modifying a mobile signal that tells axillary meristems either to stop making branches or to continue growth. When the three genes are mutated, the mutant maize plants have more and longer branches and produce smaller and deformed cobs.

These scientists also studied the expression patterns of these genes in other species. RA1 appears to be absent in rice and is found only in the large tribe, Andropogoneae, which includes maize and sorghum. RA2 and RA3 appear to be conserved over many grass taxa suggesting that they are important in controlling inflorescence architecture in all grasses. Vollbrecht and his colleagues propose that all three of these genes have been important in the evolution of grass inflorescence architecture.

One of Charles Darwin's insights was that natural selection is the same as artificial selection. He formulated the theory of evolution, in part through his observations of the work of breeders of plants and animals. Domestication is a form of artificial selection, and it is thought that as many as 1200 genes were important in transforming maize into a major food crop. Maize is a good model plant for studying inflorescence and grain morphology because it has a complex genome and a rich genetic history with numerous developmental mutants. Mutant maize plants with more and longer branches have been known since the early 20th century, but the reasons for these architectural aberrations were unknown until recently. Studies of these mutants and the genes that were important in the domestication and evolution of grain crops are providing insights for the genetic engineering of crops to improve yield as well as resistance to pests and tolerance for difficult growing conditions such as poor soils, heat, and drought.
###
Contact:
Dr. Erik Vollbrecht
vollbrec@iastate.edu

Brian Hyps
bhyps@aspb.org
240-354-5160

Source: EurekAlert.org
27 June 2008

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1.26  How to build a plant

Plant architecture from the genomics toolbox
Walking through a tropical or temperate forest immediately impresses us with the myriad forms and soaring structures of the plant world, but our knowledge of how plants are actually built, cell by cell, is still incomplete. Now, with data emerging from many genome sequencing projects, scientists have begun to unravel the details of plant architecture at the molecular level. This knowledge has implications for crop yield improvement, biofuel production, and materials science.

Dr. Sarah Hake and her colleagues, George Chuck, Hector Candela-Anton, Nathalie Bolduc, Jihyun Moon, Devin O'Connor, China Lunde, and Beth Thompson, have taken advantage of the information from sequenced grass genomes to study how the reproductive structures of maize are formed. Dr. Hake, of the Plant Gene Expression Center, USDA-ARS, who is the 2007 recipient of the Stephen Hales Prize, will be presenting this work at the opening Awards Symposium of the annual meeting of the American Society of Plant Biologists in Mérida, Mexico (June 27, 3:10 PM).

Maize was first domesticated in the highlands of Mexico over 6,000 years ago and is now one of the most important crop plants in the world. It is a member of the grass family, which also hosts the world's other major crops including rice, wheat, barley, sorghum, and sugar cane. Maize has a rich genetic history, which has resulted in thousands of varieties or landraces. Scientists at CIMMYT, Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maíz y Trigo, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, work to preserve the ancient varieties that represent adaptations to different environmental conditions such as different soils, temperature, altitude, and drought. These traits are expressions of different genes and groups of genes that scientists hope to utilize to keep up with changing climatic conditions and global food supply.

Dr. Hake and her colleagues have utilized this rich genetic history of maize to characterize how maize plant architecture is initiated and regulated. They have focused on plant stem cells, the groups of self-renewing cells, called meristems, which are located at the tips of plant shoots and roots. In particular, these scientists have studied the plant's flower structures, which become the corn grain or cob. They have used the numerous mutants generated in the complex maize genome to specify the gene networks and biochemical pathways that determine how the maize inflorescence is built. They have also made use of the genetic information from the already sequenced rice and Arabidopsis genomes as well as that emerging from the maize genome sequencing project. Up until recently, the thale cress, Arabidopsis, has been the most widely used model organism in plant biology because of its small size and fast generation time. However, says Dr. Hake, "Plant biology has benefited tremendously from Arabidopsis, but when we start to think about morphology, additional model organisms will be useful. Maize is a good model for the grasses because of the ease of genetics in maize, the recently sequenced genome, and the diversity between inbreds."

Meristems are classified as determinate or indeterminate. Indeterminate meristems are groups of cells that are self-renewing and continue to produce structures like stems, branches, leaves, and flowers throughout the life of the plant. Determinate meristems are groups of cells that are gradually consumed after producing a certain number of structures and organs. The maize inflorescence is a good model for studying plant development because it contains both kinds of meristems. Maize is also a good model system because its genetic complexity makes it highly amenable to mutation and it is transformable, allowing the generation of many different mutant lines and genetic backgrounds.

Hake and her co-workers have used maize mutants to dissect flower, grain, and leaf development in this and other grasses. For example, they cloned and characterized the barren inflorescence2 (bif2) and ramosa2 (ra2) mutants and determined their functions in the formation of axillary meristems, those that produce branches and flowers. Phylogenetic analyses showed that both bif2 and ra2 are highly conserved among different grass species.

Maize has two separate inflorescences­the male tassel or pollen-producing flowers, and the female flowers that produce the kernel-bearing ears. Both sets of flowers begin as bisexual but with development, the female structures in the tassel and the male structures in the ear are arrested. By analyzing the mutant tasselseed4 (t4), Hake and her colleagues found that the t4 microRNA is important in determining the sex and cell fate of the groups of cells forming tassels and ears. Analyses of the mutant Corngrass1 (Cg1) demonstrated that this gene functions in production of mature leaves, while the mutant exhibits the architecture and structures of the juvenile plant.

Through their work with maize mutants, Hake and her colleagues have begun to assemble a representation of the networks of genes and the developmental and metabolic pathways that determine how plants are constructed. Through comparative phylogenetic analyses, they have shown the evolutionary conservation of these traits in other cereals crops, thus laying the groundwork for crop and yield improvement in other food plants as well.
###
Contact: Dr. Sarah Hake
maizesh@nature.berkeley.edu

Brian Hyps
bhyps@aspb.org

Source: EurekAlert.org
26 June 2008

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1.27  Doubled haploids speed development of drought tolerant maize for Africa

CIMMYT is adapting an advanced technology­the doubled haploid approach­to develop inbred lines of tropical maize for sub-Saharan Africa. It promises to reduce costs and speed the arrival of better-adapted maize for resource-poor farmers in the world’s toughest environments.

CIMMYT scientists have begun developing drought tolerant varieties of tropical maize for places like sub-Saharan Africa using a high-tech approach­known as doubled haploids­previously applied principally by commercial seed companies working mostly on temperate maize.

“Haploid” refers to the number of chromosomes in a reproductive cell, like sperm or ovum. In grasses like maize, the reproductive cells­pollen and ovules­contain half the chromosomes of a full-grown individual. Fertilization joins the genetic information from the two parents, and offspring carry paired sets of chromosomes, reflecting the diversity of each parent.

“Maize breeders working on hybrids­the most productive type of maize variety and the one marketed by most seed companies­must at some point create genetically-stable and pure lines of desirable, individual plants, for use as parents of hybrids,” says CIMMYT maize physiologist Jose Luis Araus. Conventionally, breeders get the lines by repeatedly fertilizing selected, individual maize plants with the plant’s own pollen. The process requires expensive field space, labor, and time­normally, seven or more generations, which represents at least three years, even in settings where it’s possible to grow two crops per season.

Purer, faster, cheaper
In the latter part of the 20th century, crop scientists developed a quicker, cheaper path to genetically-uniform parent lines­though a technically intricate method. The first step involves crossing normal maize with special maize types called “inducers,” whose pollen causes the normal maize to produce seed containing haploid embryos. The haploid embryo carries a single set of its own chromosomes, rather than the normal paired sets. The embryos are planted, and subsequent treatment of the seedlings with a particular chemical causes them to make “photocopies” of their haploid chromosomes, resulting in a fertile plant endowed with a doubled set of identical chromosomes and able to produce seed of 100% genetic purity. “The actual treatment, as well as getting from the embryo to a reasonable amount of seed of the pure line, is very complicated,” says Ciro Sánchez Rodríguez, CIMMYT technician in charge of doubled haploid field trials, “but when the process is perfected, it only takes two generations­about one year­and the logistical advantages are tremendous.”

First extensive use in the tropics
CIMMYT is implementing the doubled haploid technology on a research station in Mexico, using drought tolerant plants adapted to sub-Saharan Africa. “CIMMYT’s use of the practice is another example of how we put advanced technologies at the service of disadvantaged, small-scale farmers,” says Araus. “Among other things, this represents a significant opportunity to increase the availability of improved, drought tolerant maize varieties for sub-Saharan Africa,” he says.

Commercial seed companies in Europe and North America have been the main users of the doubled haploid technology, and the inducer genotypes available are of temperate adaptation. “The inducers perform very poorly in the tropical conditions of our Mexico stations,” says Vanessa Prigge, a PhD student from the University of Hohenheim working at CIMMYT to perfect the technique. To generate inducers that work better in tropical settings, Prigge and colleagues are crossing temperate inducers from Hohenheim with CIMMYT maize from Mexico, Kenya, and Zimbabwe. “We expect to have tropical versions of the inducers in a couple years,” she says.

Reaching farmers’ fields
Maize lines from this work will be used initially in the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) and the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) projects.

“This is a very exciting technology,” says Aida Kebede (photo), an Ethiopian PhD student from Hohenheim helping to establish the doubled haploid technology at CIMMYT. “It holds the key to addressing more quickly the persistent problems of African maize growers: drought, disease pressure, and low productivity. I’m happy to contribute!”

Source: E-newsletter vol 5 no 5 - May 2008 via SeedQuest.com
May, 2008

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1.28  Direction of plant genome evolution

The apparent lack of correlation between the genome size of an organism and its complexity has long puzzled scientists. Simple organisms, like some fungi and bacteria, could have genomes that are many times larger than more complicated ones.

It has become clear that transposable genetic element play a role in genome size growth especially in plants. Recent studies on maize and cotton revealed that their genome sizes have significantly increased over the past few million years due to proliferation of retrotransposons, mobile genetic elements that can amplify themselves in the genome. Evidences suggest that the direction of plant genome size change is biased toward increase, albeit there must be some limit on genome size growth. Plants employ several mechanisms such as homologous recombination to remove "junk" DNA. The question remains, nonetheless, if these mechanisms really contribute in downsizing the genome.

The review paper by Hawkins et al. is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.plantsci.2008.03.015

Source: CropBiotech Update 23 May 2008

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

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1.29  Scientists identify gene defect in herbicide-sensitive corn

Herbicides registered for use in sweet corn kill unwanted plants while leaving the crops unharmed, thanks to protective enzymes in corn that rapidly degrade the chemicals. This is not the case, however, for several sweet corn hybrids that harbor a genetic defect that impedes the action of the protective enzymes. The defect causes herbicides to remain in the hybrids, resulting to plants with stunted growth or poor yield.

Scientists from the US Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and University of Illinois have identified the cause of herbicide sensitivity in hybrid corns. They found out that a defect in the cytochrome P450 gene, or a very closely linked gene, results in damage to plants from five distinct herbicide classes. The cytochrome P450 gene also regulates the metabolism of the herbicides nicosulfuron and bentazon. Evaluations of sweet corn hybrids and inbred lines revealed that the faulty gene is widespread in both processing and fresh-market types of sweet corn grown throughout North America. With the defect identified, it is now possible to eliminate herbicide-sensitivity from the germplasm by selective breeding.

For more information read http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2008/080521.htm

Source: CropBiotech Update 16 May 2008

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

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1.30  Researchers identify gene that regulates rice yield potential

Researchers from Huazhong Agricultural University in China have pinpointed a gene that plays a linchpin role in determining yield potential in rice, as well as the plant's adaptability to cooler climates. Their study, published by the journal Nature Genetics, has implications for rice productivity.

Rice productivity is determined by several traits - number of grains per flower cluster, the height of the plant and its flowering time. Previous studies have identified a region on chromosome 7 that affected all these traits, but the specific gene involved has not yet been pinpointed. Qifa Zhang and his colleagues screened thousands of rice plants in a bid to track down the elusive gene.

The researchers found out that deletion of the Ghd7 gene results to plants that are shorter and have fewer grains per panicle. There are five different versions of Ghd7. Less active, or inactive, versions of Ghd7 were found in rice grown in temperate regions. This enables rice to be cultivated in areas where there is a short growing season.

The abstract, including links to the full article, is available at http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/ng.143.html

Source: CropBiotech Update 2 May 2008

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

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1.31  Scientists identify wheat genes for frost tolerance

Researchers from the University of California Davis have identified the genes responsible for the wide range of freezing temperatures that can be tolerated by different wheat varieties. Results of the study, reported in the current issue of the journal Plant Molecular Biology, provide insights for the understanding of winter injury, a major economic risk factor in producing wheat.

The scientists found out that the genes that regulate frost-tolerance are activated at milder temperatures (11-15 degrees Celsius) in frost-tolerant wheat varieties than in frost-susceptible varieties. The identification of these genes is expected to enable breeders to develop hardier, more productive wheat varieties, which is of  vital importance in light of growing pressures to increase global food production.

Read the press release at http://www-pubcomm.ucdavis.edu/search/news_detail.lasso?id=8626

Source: CropBiotech Update 2 May 2008

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

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1.32  RNA silencing mediated resistance to a crinivirus in sweetpotato does not prevent synergistic virus disease.

Sweetpotato chlorotic stunt virus (SPCSV; genus Crinivirus, family Closteroviridae)  is one of the most important pathogens of sweetpotato worldwide. It can cause up to 50% yield reduction by itself, but causes most damage as an inducer of various synergistic virus diseases upon co-infection with unrelated viruses, to which sweetpotato is normally highly resistant. The most common among these is know as sweetpotato virus disease (SPVD) and is caused by co-infection of SPCSV and sweetpotato feathery mottle virus (SPFMV; genus Potyvirus; family Potyviridae). No sources of strong resistance to SPCSV are available in germplasm, and pathogen derived resistance through genetic transformation of sweetpotato may therefore provide an alternative solution to control the disease. We describe the successful genetic transformation on the Peruvian sweetpotato landrace 'Huachano', with an intron-spliced hairpin construct targeting the polymerases of SPCSV and SPFMV, to control SPVD. Twenty-eight independent transgenic events were obtained in three transformation experiments using a highly virulent Agrobacterium tumefaciens strains and regeneration through embryogenesis. Molecular analysis indicated that constructs were intact and functional in the majority of events, producing various levels of virus specific siRNAs. 'Huachano' is naturally extremely resistant to infection by SPFMV alone and remained so in all transgenic events after virus challenge by grafting. Ten out of 20 events challenged with SPCSV alone showed significantly reduced virus titers as compared to the wild type and only mild or no symptoms following infection. The high levels of resistance were however not sufficient to prevent SPVD upon co-infection with SPFMV, to which all events were equally susceptible, despite the maintenance of reduced SPCSV titers in at least one event.

Research published online first in Molecular Plant Pathology:
http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/119880149/issue

(Access is for subscribers only; please contact Jan Kreuze for a pdf copy)

Contributed by Jan Kreuze, CIP
J.KREUZE@CGIAR.ORG

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1.33  Unlocking the genome of world’s worst insect pest

Australia
Scientists from CSIRO and the University of Melbourne in Australia, and the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, are on the brink of a discovery which will facilitate the development of new, safe, more sustainable ways of controlling the world’s worst agricultural insect pest – the moth, Helicoverpa armigera.

The Australian Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator the Hon Kim Carr, said – at the BIO 2008 International Convention in San Diego, California – that the team was expected to sequence the moth ’s genome in about four months.

“This will allow the collaborating scientists and a worldwide consortium of specialists to work on new ways of controlling this pest,” Senator Carr said.

According to CSIRO’s Group Executive for Agribusiness, Dr Joanne Daly, these include: the molecular basis of resistance to chemical and Bt insecticides and population genetics related to the refuge strategies in place to help prevent Helicoverpa from developing resistance to Bt transgenic cottons.

“This moth is resistant to nearly every class of chemical pesticide and threatens the long-term viability of transgenic crops which are reliant on the biological pesticide, Bt,” Dr Daly said.

“The sequencing of the genome will greatly facilitate this research by improving the power, cost effectiveness and insights from the genetic work on this species and its American cousin H. zea,” University of Melbourne Associate Professor Philip Batterham said.

Senator Carr said that finding the moth's Achilles heel was critically important to agriculture worldwide.
“The moth causes $225 million of damage a year in Australia – $5 billion globally – to crops such as cotton, legumes and vegetables,” he said.

“Our scientists are already world leaders in research on the genetics and ecology of Helicoverpa and its close relatives.

“This project – led by CSIRO Entomology’s Dr John Oakeshott and Associate Professor Batterham – will build on Australia’s role. Working together with our partners at Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology and France’s National Institute for Agricultural Research, the project will help establish us as leaders in organising major insect genome projects.”

The project is another example of what can be achieved through collaboration between scientists and their institutions both in Australia and overseas, he said.

Read more at: http://www.csiro.au/news/MothGenome.html
Other news from the University of Melbourne

Source: SeedQuest.com
17 June 2008

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1.34  Leading plant breeder John Bingham opens new Cambridge labs

Pioneering plant breeder John Bingham CBE, FRS yesterday (23 June) officially opened a new laboratory named after him at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany in Huntingdon Road, Cambridge.

Mr Bingham’s innovative approach to plant breeding contributed considerably to establishing winter wheat as the mainstay of UK crop production. Mr Bingham, who was based at the Plant Breeding Institute, Cambridge for 40 years, lives in Norfolk where he farms.

The John Bingham Laboratory provides the latest state of the art facilities for NIAB’s cutting edge research projects. It was recently refurbished and equipped with a grant from the NIAB Trust

NIAB’s Research Director, Prof Andy Greenland, said the lab was named after Mr Bingham in recognition of his considerable contribution to wheat breeding in the UK, an activity which is at the heart of a good part of the research undertaken in the new lab.

He said:
“John Bingham is a regular visitor at NIAB and his experience and knowledge continues to help us and many others in the breeding community. It is a great honour for NIAB to recognise his continuing involvement by naming our research facility after him.”

Mr Bingham said he considered it an honour to have the NIAB laboratory named after him, and that it was a tribute to the work carried out by his team at the Plant Breeding Institute.

He was introduced by Dr Richard Summers, who was part of Mr Bingham’s team at the PBI, and now leads Cereal Breeding at RAGT, a French company which operates from the former PBI site.

Mr Bingham joined the PBI in 1954 where he worked until 1987 when the plant breeding programmes at PBI were privatized. He continued his plant breeding career at Plant Breeding International Cambridge Ltd until June 1991. During his time at PBIC he saw the establishment of cereal breeding stations in France and Germany. After retirement he continued to work as a consultant for much of the 1990’s.

Initially appointed to work on breeding wheat for bread making quality John Bingham went on to become the pre-eminent cereal breeder of his time. He produced many commercially successful and landmark varieties. Over 35 varieties bred by his team have been recommended, including Maris Huntsman, Virtue, Avalon, Norman, Galahad, Mercia, Rendezvous, Riband and Beaver.

Throughout his career John Bingham always strove to integrate relevant plant science research onto practical breeding and has had a lifelong interest in the physiology of the wheat plant. In addition to his legacy of improved wheat varieties, he has been responsible for mentoring a majority of wheat breeders active in the UK today.

Since 2006, the number of research scientists at NIAB have tripled from about 10-12 to a group of 36 as demands for their scientific skills have increased with projects based in the UK and collaborative work overseas. Prof Wayne Powell, NIAB Chief Executive, and Prof Greenland, described how the new laboratory marked a turning point for their cutting edge research projects.  A tour of the laboratory was held following a strawberry tea.

Contributed by Ellee Seymour
ellee.seymour@btopenworld.com
24 June 2008

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1.35  Update 3-2008 of FAO-BiotechNews

(Excerpts selected by the editor, PBN-L)

Archived news items published in FAO-BiotechNews since 2002 are available (in Arabic, Chinese,English, French and Spanish) at the webpage http://www.fao.org/biotech/news_list.asp?thexpand=1&cat=131.

The archives of FAO-BiotechNews can also be searched (again, in 5 languages) at http://www.fao.org/biotech/archive.asp. The items can be searched by a) source of item (FAO or non-FAO or both) b) Food and Agricultural Sector (Agro-industry; Animal; Crop; Fisheries; Forestry or any combination of these) c) Subject (Biosecurity; Environmental Impact; Ethics; Genetic Resources; Food Safety; General; Legal Aspects; Policy Aspects; Socio-Economic Issues; Technical Status; or any combination of these) d) Year and/or month e) Free text search.

Russian-language Updates of FAO-BiotechNews are also available since 2005, at http://www.fao.org/biotech/fbn-ru.htm.

*** NEWS *** ( http://www.fao.org/biotech/news_list.asp?thexpand=1&cat=131)

1) Global assessment of plant breeding capacity
Since 2002, FAO and its partners have been carrying out a survey to assess national plant breeding and related biotechnology capacity worldwide. The survey is currently concluded in 62 countries and is still ongoing in 30 countries through the support of FAO and the Global Partnership Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building (GIPB). The Plant Breeding and related Biotechnology Capacity assessment (PBBC) database is now available on the web, providing information from the survey in an easily searchable format. See http://km.fao.org/gipb/pbbc/ or contact elcio.guimaraes@fao.org for more information or with suggestions/comments.

3) Agricultural biotechnology network - Near East and North Africa
On 15-16 December 2007, an expert consultation meeting for the establishment of a regional network for agricultural biotechnology in the Near East and North Africa was held in Cairo, Egypt. The meeting was sponsored by the Association of Agricultural Research Institutions in the Near East and North Africa (AARINENA), the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR), FAO and the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) and hosted by the Egypt Agricultural Research Center. At the meeting, the proposal to establish the network was adopted unanimously and decisions were taken regarding location of the network secretariat, election of officers, selection of technical working groups and a program of activities. See http://www.aarinena.org/rais/documents/newsletter/vol15no2/5-6E.pdf (568 KB) or contact i.hamdan@cgiar.org for more information.

4) Consultation on jatropha development
On 10-11 April 2008, the "International consultation on pro-poor Jatropha development" was held in Rome, Italy, jointly organised by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Foundation, FAO and the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation. The consultation was designed to support the recently-approved research grant financed by IFAD, which, inter alia, aims to develop appropriate technologies to intensify biofuel feedstock production, study the economics of rural electrification and assess its impact on poverty. The consultation was organised in 11 sessions, one of which was dedicated to breeding, where applications of molecular markers were also discussed. Presentations from the consultation are now available on the web. See http://www.ifad.org/events/jatropha/index.htm or contact v.raswant@ifad.org for more information.

8) Advance version of COP-MOP 4 report (Cartagena Protocol)
An advance version of the report of the 4th meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (COP-MOP 4), that took place on 12-16 May 2008 in Bonn, Germany, is now available on the web. This 105-page document is subject to final clearance. See http://www.cbd.int/doc/meetings/bs/mop-04/official/mop-04-18-en.pdf or contact secretariat@cbd.int for more information. Documents, press releases and webcasts from the meeting are also available at http://www.cbd.int/mop4/.

13) OECD Biotechnology Update 19
Issue number 19 (April 2008) of the OECD Biotechnology Update is now available. Presented by OECD's Internal Co-ordination Group for Biotechnology, the 25-page newsletter aims to provide updated information on activities at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development related to biotechnology. See http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/33/1/40628456.pdf (382 KB) or contact icgb@oecd.org for more information.

14) Plant breeding capacity - Cameroon, Kenya, the Philippines and Venezuela
As part of its IFPRI Discussion Papers series, the International Food Policy Research Institute has just published "Plant genetic resources for agriculture, plant breeding, and biotechnology: Experiences from Cameroon, Kenya, the Philippines, and Venezuela" by J. Falck-Zepeda and co-authors. Using data from a global survey that FAO and its partners have been carrying out on national plant breeding and related biotechnology capacity, the 48-page study examines investments in human and financial resources and the distribution of resources among the different programs, as well as the capacity and policy development for agricultural research in the four selected countries. See http://www.ifpri.org/pubs/dp/ifpridp00762.asp or contact ifpri@cgiar.org for more information.

15) GM bananas in Uganda

In another paper in its IFPRI Discussion Papers series, the International Food Policy Research Institute has just published "Introducing a genetically modified banana in Uganda: Social benefits, costs, and consumer perceptions" by E. Kikulwe, J. Wesseler and J. Falck-Zepeda. The purpose of this 29-page paper is to examine potential social welfare impacts of adopting GM bananas in Uganda. See http://www.ifpri.org/pubs/dp/ifpridp00767.asp or contact ifpri@cgiar.org for more information. IFPRI Discussion Papers contain preliminary material and research results and are circulated in order to stimulate discussion and critical comment.

16) Quality Protein Maize manual
The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) has just published "Breeding Quality Protein Maize (QPM): Protocols for developing QPM cultivars" by B.S. Vivek and co-authors. The 50-page manual is intended for maize breeders who would like to start developing QPM cultivars. It is a compilation and consolidation of several breeding protocols successfully used at CIMMYT over two decades of QPM development and breeding. A brief background and the basic theory of QPM genetics are explained, leading up to detailed methods and procedures of QPM development. A chapter is dedicated to marker-assisted selection. QPM grain contains enhanced levels of the essential amino acids lysine and tryptophan, along with other characteristics that make more of its protein useful to humans or farm animals. See http://www.cimmyt.org/english/docs/manual/protocols/qpm_protocols.pdf (1.7 MB) or contact lvillasenor@cgiar.org for more information.

*** EVENTS *** ( http://www.fao.org/biotech/events_list.asp?Cat=133)
11-15 September 2008, Changsha, China. The 5th international hybrid rice symposium. Convened, among others, by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the symposium brings together leading researchers from various disciplines to review current knowledge on hybrid rice development, seed production, molecular application and economics, and to discuss future research strategies. Topics to be covered include improvements in breeding methodologies and products; and application of biotechnology in hybrid rice breeding. See http://www.5thishr.cn/en/index.html (in English and Chinese) or contact icdd@hhrrc.ac.cn for more information.

3-14 November 2008, New Delhi, India. Transgene expression in plants. A theoretical and practical course organised by the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB). Participants must have a basic working knowledge of molecular biology and be directly involved in research covered by the course. Admission is limited to 16 participants and deadline is 30 June. See http://www.icgeb.org/MEETINGS/CRS08/ND_Reddy_3_14_November.pdf (1.1 MB) or contact shubha@icgeb.res.in for more information.

7 December 2008, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Tropical legume genomics workshop. Organised by the CGIAR Generation Challenge Programme as part of the IV International Conference on Legume Genomics and Genetics, the workshop focuses on advances in genomics for various tropical legumes, namely groundnut, cowpea, bean and chickpea. See http://www.generationcp.org/latestnews.php?i=1267 or contact r.k.varshney@cgiar.org for more information.

********
Copyright FAO 2008

Contributed by John Ruane
The Coordinator of FAO-BiotechNews, 17-6-2008

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1.36  GCP News Issue 31, 12 June 2008

(Excerpts selected by the editor, PBN-L)

Upcoming events
1) Statistical methods for linkage disequilibrium analysis. Convenors: GCP and Wageningen University and Research Centre (WUR)-Biometrics Date and venue: 19 June 2008; Wageningen, The Netherlands. More

2) GCP Annual Research Meeting 2008. This year’s Annual Research Meeting (ARM) will be held in Bangkok, Thailand from 16–20 September 2008, kindly hosted by BIOTEC Thailand. Please note that participation is by invitation only. More

3) Workshop on candidate gene discovery. ARM participants are invited to this workshop on 14–15 September 2008, preceding the ARM. The workshop, convened by GCP’s Subprogramme 4, will cover microarray analysis, QTL meta-analysis, integration of microarray and QTL data and EST analysis. More

4) Tropical legume genomics workshop. Convenor: GCP's Subprogramme 2, as part of the IV International Conference on Legume Genomics and Genetics Dates and venue: 7 December 2008, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. More

Announcements
2) Publications.
With the good assistance of our Principal Investigators (PIs), we have embarked on compiling a list of GCP publications through the years. This list thus far is available online, but please note that this is still very much a work in progress, and reflects joint efforts with GCP PIs to date.

2) Applied Computational Genomics Course
Convenors: Genome Canada Bionformatics Platform. The May course has been postponed and the next courses are July 24–30 and in autumn 2008. More

For previous issues of GCP News, see http://www.generationcp.org/enewsletter.php

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1.37  May - June 2008 - update from the GFU

(Excerpts selected by the editor, PBN-L)

Promoting Value Chains of Neglected and Underutilized Species for Pro-Poor Growth and Biodiversity Conservation."

The "dollar tree" (Jatropha curcas) is not taking up land for food according to Diligent, a company that is investing in this fuel crop." Potential boom for biofuels in Tanzania?

Report of the International Symposium “Underutilized Plant Species for Food, Nutrition, Income and Sustainable Development” - Arusha, Tanzania, 3-7 March 2008

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2  PUBLICATIONS

2.01  How The Grape Grower came to be written: a video

http://cookingupastory.com/index.php/2008/04/18/the-grape-grower/
(Includes a chapter on grape breeding)

More information on grapes at:
http://www.bunchgrapes.com
http://www.grapeschool.com
http://www.vitisearch.com

Contributed by Lon J. Rombough
lonrom@hevanet.com

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3.  WEB RESOURCES

3.01  Website to speed discovery of grain genes

The gargantuan size of the wheat genome, including its complex composition, has been a considerable challenge for scientists sleuthing the structure and function of cereal-crop genes. To aid in the discovery of the wheat's mostly unfamiliar genes, scientists from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) developed GrainGenes, a website that provides some of the newest research information in wheat, barley, oats and rye.

"With GrainGenes," says Olin D. Anderson, Head of ARS Genomics and Gene Discovery Research Unit, "researchers can avoid accidentally repeating experiments that others in the United States or abroad have already conducted." Aside from information on structure and function of wheat genes, GrainGenes also offers maps of chromosome regions where genes controlling traits of interest are located, and details about the pedigree and performance of 32,000 kinds of commercial wheat, rye, and triticale. Since users can share their data, the site hastens the free exchange of information. Bibliographic references to pertinent scientific papers and reports, as well as names and addresses of more than 2,000 scientists worldwide who are conducting small-grains research are also available in the website.

Visit GrainGenes at http://wheat.pw.usda.gov/ For more information, read http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/may08/genes0508.htm

Source: CropBiotech Update 23 May 2008

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

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4.  GRANTS AVAILABLE

4.01  First call for proposals

Food and energy prices are soaring, changes in environmental and climatic conditions are bringing new challenges to food production, and crops for bio-energy generation are conveying new opportunities as well as challenges to the agricultural sector.  This new scenario being faced by today’s world is calling the attention to crop diversity management and use, areas of applied science that have been neglected in the recent decades.  Better use of genetic diversity through pre-breeding and breeding, in association with improved production systems are being highlighted as the best ways to tackle the huge challenge of widening the genetic and adaptability base of cropping systems, especially in developing countries.

Recognizing these challenges, the Global Partnership Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building (GIPB), in coordination with the Global Crop Diversity Trust (The Trust) and the CGIAR Generation Challenge Programme (GCP), lauches its first call for proposals on "Promoting the Use of Crop Diversity to Help Address Environmental and Climate Challenges".  All interested parties are invited to submit proposals, which are going to be considered, based on their synergy and complementarity, for award in early 2009.  For the GIPB call, all applications must be received by 1st September 2008.

See below more information on the three calls:

The Global Partnership Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building Call. GIPB operates a pilot program to support plant breeders dedicated to widening the genetic and adaptability base of improved cultivars in developing countries.  The call for proposals by GIPB targets pre-breeding programmes in national agricultural research systems (NARS), academia, and civil society organisations.  See below the announcement for the submission of proposals under this award scheme.  Please, note that applications must be made in English, on an official proposal template, also available below.
Announcement:   English    Español    Français
Proposal Template:   English

The Global Crop Diversity Trust Call.  Recognising the bottleneck in the use of germplasm collections, the Global Crop Diversity Trust initiated in 2007 a competitive grants scheme to support the evaluation of crop genetic resources. The grants will enable breeders and others to screen germplasm collections for phenotypic characteristics of particular importance in adaptation to climate change, and to make the information generated publicly available. Click here for more information.

The CGIAR Generation Challenge Programme: Genotyping Support Services (GSS) promotes the use of molecular markers to assess the potential value of germplasm by linking grantees with genotyping facilities they may not otherwise have access to. The call for proposals by GSS targets breeding programmes and/or germplasm collections in national agricultural research systems (NARS), academia, and civil society organisations in developing countries.  Click here for more information.

Source: GIPB-Newsletter, Issue #2 - News from the Plant Breeding Knowledge Resource Center and the GIPB Plant Breeding Knowledge Resource Center website.

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4.02  Monsanto sets grant for wheat, rice research

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Reuters)
Monsanto Co. said Wednesday it is establishing a $10 million grant aimed at accelerating research in wheat and rice yields and is working to double corn, soybean and cotton yields by 2030.

Monsanto Chairman and CEO Hugh Grant said in a release Wednesday that the company is looking to partner with business and citizen groups and governments to meet increased global food, feed and energy needs related to agriculture.

"The world needs to produce more while conserving more," said Grant. "As an agricultural company focused on increasing crop yields, we will do our part," he said. "But it will also require the efforts of a diverse group of organizations with many points of view to work together and take action to address the daunting challenges facing us all."

Monsanto said its three-point commitment to growing yields sustainably includes developing better seeds, establishing a five-year $10 million grant for public sector research in wheat and rice yields, and focusing on seeds that reduce required water, energy and land resources by one-third.

The company said it would work to push corn production in the prominent agricultural markets of Argentina, Brazil and the United States to a weighted average of 220 bushels per acre by 2030, compared with 109.1 bushels per acre in 2000.

Monsanto's statement comes as steep food price inflation is affecting people around the world and energy prices are climbing. (Reporting by Carey Gillam, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)

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

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5.  POSITION ANNOUNCEMENTS

5.01  Vacancies in areas of cotton and Artemisia breeding

The Institute for Agricultural Research  Samaru, is one of the Agricultural Research Institutes of Nigeria. The institute is located within the famous Ahmadu Bello University  (ABU) in the northern part of Nigeria. There are vacancies in areas of cotton and Artemisia breeding. Interested experienced plant breeders are hereby requested to apply for either of the positions attaching their CVs to iar20002001@yahoo.com . Appointments will be for initial period of two years, renewable on satisfactory performance.  For information on ABU please check: http//www.abu.edu.ng or www.arcnigeria.com Please help us advertise the vacancies.

Contributed by Shehu G. Ado
shehuga@gmail.com

5.02  Monsanto Plant Breeding Related Career Postings

June 30, 2008

Look for detailed listings at: www.monsanto.com under Careers

Applications and resumes may be entered online.

Job Title, Location, Req. #
Functional Lead for Computational Biology at Monsanto Research Center, Bangalore, India., Bangalore, IN, mons-00006977
Technology Development Executive (Northeast), Beijing, CN, mons-00007704
Trial Supervisor, Budapest, HU, mons-00008040
Costa Rica DNA Laboratory Manager, Canas, CR, mons-00008521
Commercial Breeder, General Santos City, PH, mons-00008923
Foundation Seed Crop Specialist II, Honselersdijk, NL, mons-00007521
Drought Stress Breeder, Lichtenbberg, ZA, mons-00008522
Corn Drought RSA Testing Lead, Lichtenbberg, ZA, mons-00008523
Field Production Engineer Turkey (Bursa area), Mustafakemalpasa - Bursa, TR, mons-00008008
Corn Drought Stress Breeding: SSA Testing Lead, Nairobi, Kenya, KE, mons-00008525
Africa Drought Breeding Data Manager, Petit, ZA, mons-00008743
Line Development Breeder, Phitsanulok, TH, mons-00008394
Commercial Breeder, Phitsanulok, TH, mons-00008915
Line Development Breeder, Phitsanulok, TH, mons-00008920
INTL Corn Germplasm Center Lead, San Juan de Abajo, MX, mons-00007856
OSR Technical Lead Ukraine, Uman, UA, mons-00008033
Sunflower Breeder Ukraine, Uman, UA, mons-00008845
Biostatistician, Ankeny, IA, mons-00008839
Patent Scientist, Ankeny, IA, mons-00008844
Genome Technology Lead, Creve Coeur, MO, mons-00008957
Station Manager, DeForest, WI, mons-00008954
Station Manager, Felda, FL, mons-00008829
Kunia Corn Program Manager, Kunia, HI, mons-00008279
Kunia Soy Lead, Kunia, HI, mons-00008740
Research Manager cum Commercial Breeder, Lahore, Pakistan, mons-00007237
Testing Operations Manager - AZ Cotton Breeding Site, Maricopa, AZ, mons-00008528
Scientist, Technology Development, St. Louis - Creve Coeur, mons-00007721
Marker Development Scientist, St. Louis - Creve Coeur, mons-00008409
Statistical Geneticist, St. Louis - Creve Coeur, mons-00008840
Molecular Breeding Coordinator, Brazil, TBD, Brazil, mons-00008959
Trait Integration Testing and Operations Manager, Thomasboro, IL, mons-00008308
Advanced Testing Program Coordinator, Various, mons-00008623
Northern Entomology Manager, Waterman, IL, mons-00006909
Trait Integration Breeder, Williamsburg, IA, mons-00008756
DNA Analysis Laboratory Manager, Winterville, MS, mons-00007994
Soybean Breeder I, York, NE, mons-00008597

Contributed by Donn Cummings
Global Breeder Sourcing Lead, Monsanto
donn.cummings@monsanto.com



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6. MEETINGS, COURSES AND WORKSHOPS

* New listings
may include some program details, while repeat listings will include only basic information. Visit web sites for additional details.

++++++++

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/

10-11 July 2008. Course on cassava genetic resources and their manipulation
for crop improvement,
University Estadual de Feira Santana, Brazil. Open to scientists from Central and South America and the Caribbean. The closing date for applications is the 30 June 2008. www.geneconserve.pro.br
Audiovisual: http://www.geneconserve.pro.br/sirgealc_mexico.pdf

13 – 17 July 2008. 44th Annual Caribbean Food Crops Society Meeting, Miami, FL. http://cfcs.eea.uprm.edu/44th_Meeting/Home.htm

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, Institute of Plant Biotechnology for Developing Countries, Ghent University, Belgium. http://www.ipbo.ugent.be/cassava.html

27 July 2008. Applying Modern Genomic Tools to the Management and Characterization of Plant Genetic Resources, Vancouver campus of the University of British Columbia, CANADA (A workshop at the BOTANY 2008 conference. It is possible to register only for the workshop or alternatively for the full conference). http://www.botanyconference.org/Workshops/2008WKS.php#ws1

24 – 29 August 2008. International IUFRO-CTIA 2008 Joint Conference: Adaptation, Breeding and Conservation in the Era of Forest Tree Genomics and Environmental Change, Loews Le Concorde, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. www.iufro-ctia2008.ca

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

(New) 8-9 September 2009. Course on cassava genetic resources and their manipulation for crop improvement, offered by prof. Nagib Nassar at  ESALQ, USP, Piracicaba, Sao Paulo, Brazil

For inscription, kindly contact prof. Paulo Kageyama, email kageyama@esalq.usp.br,  Dept. Florestal, ESALQ.

The first part of the course will deal with the genetic resources principles and foundations; history; the Vavilov concept and its revision by Harlan; conservation methods and dynamics; origin of agriculture; and sources of variation and domestication.

The second section of the course will look at examples of cassava; the geographic distribution of cassava species and their genetic diversity and center of origin; manipulation of cassava wild species by interspecific hybridisation (breaking barriers to crosses, gene markers, polyploidization, chimeras, meiotic restituion, induction of aneuploids, and production of high protein content hybrids. Induction of apomixis and development of apomictic clones); and selection of indigenous cultivars rich in caroenoids.

Audiovisual support for the course can be found at:
http://www.geneconserve.pro.br/parte1.pdf
http://www.geneconserve.pro.br/parte2.pdf
http://www.geneconserve.pro.br/parte3.pdf
http://www.geneconserve.pro.br/parte4.pdf
http://www.geneconserve.pro.br/parte5.pdf

Contributed by Leonardo Valentini Gorgen
leogorgen@gmail.com
and
Nagib Nassar
nagnassa@rudah.com.br

11- 15 September 2008. 5th International Hybrid Rice Symposium. Changsha, China. www.5thishr.cn.

14 – 18 September 2008. Harlan II: An International Symposium – Biodiversity in Agriculture: Domestication, Evolution, & Sustainability, University of California, Davis. http://harlanii.ucdavis.edu/index.htm

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

17-20 September 2008. 19th New Phytologist Symposium -- Physiological Sculpture of Plants: new visions and capabilities for crop development, Mount Hood, Oregon, USA.www.newphytologist.org .

22 – 26 September 2008. All Africa Congress on Biotechnology, Nairobi, Kenya. The theme of the Congress will be ‘Harnessing the Potential of Agricultural Biotechnology for Food Security and Socio-Economic Development in Africa’.
www.abneta.org/congress and www.absfafrica.org and www.africa-union.org 

29 September 2008 – 5 June 2009.International Master in Plant Breeding (17th edition), Zaragoza (Spain),
http://www.iamz.ciheam.org/ingles/cursos08-09/mejveg0809-pub-ing.htm

6 – 31 October 2008. Regional training programme on Plant Genetic Resources and Seeds: Policies, Conservation and Use, Ethiopia.
www.cdic.wur.nl/UK/newsagenda
Application forms can be downloaded from the website of Wageningen International, and should be submitted by e-mail to: training.wi@wur.nl

20–31 October 2008. International Course on Crop Prebreeding, Maracay, Venezuela.
( http://km.fao.org/gipb/index.php?option=com_content&task=section&id=24&Itemid=112 ).

26–31 October 2008. 4th International Silicon in Agriculture Conference, Wild Coast Sun Resort, Port Edward, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
www.siliconconference.org.za.

3–7 November 2008. 7th International Safflower Conference, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, Australia. http://www.australianoilseeds.com/registration

24 – 27 November. Conventional and Molecular Breeding of Field and Vegetable Crops. Novi Sad, Serbia. For more information contact: tanja@ifvcns.ns.ac.yu.

(New) 9-12 December 2008. Global Potato Conference 2008. NASC Complex, New Delhi, India

The theme of the Conference is "Opportunities and Challenges in the New Millennium". This Conference is jointly organized by the Indian Potato Association (IPA), Central Potato Research Institute (CPRI), Shimla and Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), New Delhi.

Obtain more information about the GPC 2008 at http://www.gpc2008.in. For registration inquiries, contact Dr JS Minhas at minhasjs@excite.com

7-11 December 2008. Vth International Symposium on Horticultural Research, Teaching and Extension, Chiang Mai, Thailand. 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, Tamil Nadu, India. http://www.ishs-papaya2008.com/About%20the%20symposium.html

24 – 26 March 2009. Sixth International Integrated Pest Management Symposium. Transcending Boundaries, Portland, Oregon. www.ipmcenters.org/ipmsymposium09

(New) 1-5 June 2009. 6th International Triticeae Symposium. Kyoto University Conference Hall, Kyoto, Japan
As the Local Organizing Committee, we invite you to join your colleagues at the symposium

Systematics and Phylogeny
Domestication and Evolution
Biodiversity and Genetic Resources
Genomics and Breeding
The Scientific Program includes invited special lectures, short oral presentations and poster papers.
One free day (Wednesday) will be programmed to participate in tours to a famous temple, a Triticeae genebank in Kyoto University and a ‘Sake’ company in Kyoto. The Local Organizing Committee invites you to enjoy this meeting and welcomes any suggestions on the Scientific and Social Programs.
We look forward to welcome you all in Kyoto, Japan.
Taihachi Kawahara
Chair of LOC
International Organizing Committee
Roland von Bothmer, Mary Barkworth, Vojtech Holubec, Taihachi Kawahara, Kazuhiro Sato
Local Organizing Committee
Members:
Taihachi Kawahara, Chair of LOC, PGPI, Kyoto University
Kazuhiro Sato, Secretary of LOC, RIB, Okayama University
Tomohiro Ban, KIBR, Yokohama City University
Katsuyuki Kakeda, Mie University
Takao Komatsuda, National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences
Hideho Miura, Obihiro University of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine
Shigeo Takumi, Kobe University
Hisashi Tsujimoto, Tottori University
Contact:
Taihachi Kawahara
Plant Germ-plasm Institute, Graduate School of Agriculture, Kyoto University
Mozume, Muko, Kyoto 617-0001 Japan
Phone: +81-75-921-0652, Fax: +81-75-932-8063
kawatai@mbox.kudpc.kyoto-u.ac.jp
Kazuhiro Sato
Research Institute for Bioresources, Okayama University
Chuo, Kurashiki, Okayama 710-0046 Japan
Phone: +81-86-434-1244, Fax: +81-86-434-1249
kazsato@rib.okayama-u.ac.jp

Contributed by Helmut Knüpffer
knupffer@ipk-gatersleben.de, HKnuepffer@web.de

21–25 September 2009. 1st International Jujube Symposium, Agricultural University of Hebei, Baoding, China. www.ziziphus.net/2008

2-5 August 2010. 10th International Conference on Grapevine Breeding and Genetics.  http://www.nysaes.cornell.edu/hp/events/

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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 a component of the Global Partnership Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building (GIPB), and is published monthly throughout the year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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