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

PLANT BREEDING NEWS

EDITION 194
30 September 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  Food crisis, silent famine to continue: World Bank
1.02  Global food situation at a crossroads
1.03  Agricultural developments 'fail to reach farmers', warn African scientists
1.04  Academy aims to train global cadre of plant breeders
1.05  International Centre for Plant Breeding Education and Research (ICPBER)
1.06  AgResearch Professorial Fellowship in Plant Breeding marks revival of plant breeding education at Massey and Lincoln Universities, New Zealand
1.07  Monsanto supports UW Plant Breeding with $1 million fellowship gift
1.08  Chinese hybrid rice introduced to more than 40 countries and regions
1.09  African Crop Science Society and its impact on the agricultural research in Africa
1.10  GM cotton 'protects neighbouring crops'
1.11  Research pushes back history of crop development 10,000 years
1.12  Global Crop Diversity Trust scientists accelerate search for traits that could arm agriculture against the impact of future changes
1.13  Key discovered to cold tolerance in corn
1.14  New research could help breeders to develop pea varieties able to withstand drought stress and climate change
1.15  Hot topic: Multi-disease resistant chili lines for higher yields and income
1.16  Progress in breeding some staple crops with high iron content advances the fight against micronutrient malnutrition in tropical Africa and Asia
1.17  Pea varieties able to withstand drought stress and climate change
1.18  Wheat blends increase chances of yield stability
1.19  Rice protein identified that moderates resistance to infectious disease
1.20  CSREES awards more than US$9 million in grants to study fruit, vegetables and sunflower genomes
1.21  Markers for rice blast resistance discovered
1.22  Scientists are cracking the genetic code of weeds
1.23  Researchers find an essential gene for forming ears of corn
1.24  Rice protein identified that moderates resistance to infectious disease
1.25  CNAP Artemisia Research Project: Project update number 3, Autumn 2008
1.26  Update 5-2008 of FAO-BiotechNews

2.  PUBLICATIONS
2.01  New CAST publication: "Gene Flow in Alfalfa: Biology, Mitigation, and Potential Impact on Production"
2.02  Governing Agrobiodiversity: Plant Genetics and Developing Countries

3.  WEB RESOURCES
3.01  Platform for Agrobiodiversity Research
3.02  Genomics and comparative genomics: New learning module
3.03  MAB module: McClintock Crop Bioinformatics course

4  GRANTS AVAILABLE
4.01  2009 Vavilov–Frankel Fellowship Programme: Applications invited

5  POSITION ANNOUNCEMENTS
5.01  Chair, Department of Plant Sciences, North Dakota State University
5.02  Postdoctoral position for genetic/genomic studies in apple, Cornell University
5.03  Durum breeder/pre-breeder position in the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, The University of Adelaide, Australia
5.04  Graduate Research Assistantships: Plant Breeding, University of Wisconsin
5.05  Ph. D. Fellowships in Plant Breeding at Cornell University

6  MEETINGS, COURSES AND WORKSHOPS

7  EDITOR'S NOTES

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1.  NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH NOTES

1.01  Food crisis, silent famine to continue: World Bank

CANBERRA: There is no end in sight to global food shortages and multiple crises from climate change and energy and water scarcity will soon intensify what is already a silent famine, the World Bank said on Wednesday.

"There may be a slight dip, but we're going to see sustained high food prices for the foreseeable future," Katherine Sierra, the Bank's Vice President for Sustainable Development told Reuters in an interview.

"What we're seeing right now is a kind of quiet famine, people that have really had to reduce their food consumption quite considerably, a 100 million people moving back into poverty in Africa," Sierra said on the sidelines of an agriculture and climate change conference in Australia.

Many nations are braced for further instability after food riots in 37 countries and international rice prices soaring from around $400 to $1,000 a tonne. On Wednesday benchmark Thai rice was at $720. Growers such as Cambodia, Vietnam, India and China are cutting exports to keep rice at home.

Global food prices, based on United Nations records, rose 35 per cent in the year to the end of January, accelerating an upturn that began in 2002. Since then, prices have risen 65 per cent. Wheat prices peaked in March at $454 a tonne, more than doubling between mid-2007 and March this year.

Sierra, in a conference speech, said governments around the world had failed to properly invest in agricultural research, and step-up production of new types of food in time to meet demand. Demand rises, with the world's population climbing towards 9 billion by 2050, demand for food is forecast to rise 110 per cent over the same period.

At the same time, global warming is cutting into the supply of fresh water available to grow crops. While many Europeans were opposed to genetically-modified (GM) crop types, Sierra said many showed promise in alleviating food shortages when "climate-ready" crops were critical.

Australia, experiencing its worst drought in 117 years, had expertise in improving crop yields in the face of climate change and water shortages, Sierra said. Australia's Agriculture Minister Tony Burke told the conference GM food crops would be needed on a massive scale to help address global food shortages, saying biofuels cutting into food crop availability were not to blame.

"I don't believe we should be turning our back on any part of science. It would be a mistake for anyone to think that a reversal of those biofuels policies will get us out of the challenge that we face with global food shortages," Burke said.

Sierra said research must focus on hardier crops tolerant to drought, heat and salinity, as well as the range of cereals to include roots, tubers and grain legumes like peas, lentils and soyabeans, many of which do not need industrial fertilisers. More effective plant breeding would also help, while the food potential of tropical fruits and even medicinal herbs had not been properly explored, she said.

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/Economy/Food_crisis_silent_famine_to_continue/articleshow/3439502.cms

The Economic Times/REUTERS
3 September 2008

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1.02  Global food situation at a crossroads

World can avert major problems but must act now
Los Baños, Philippines – Declining agricultural productivity and continued growing demand have brought the world food situation to a crossroads. Failure to act now through a wholesale reinvestment in agriculture­including research into improved technologies, infrastructure development, and training and education of agricultural scientists and trainers­could lead to a long-term crisis that makes the price spikes of 2008 seem a mere blip.

This stark warning, in line with calls from organizations such as the World Bank, the World Food Program, and Asian Development Bank (ADB), was issued by members of the Board of Trustees (BOT) of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) following their meeting on 16-19 September at Institute headquarters in Los Baños, Philippines.

The global community needs to remember two key things," said BOT Chair Elizabeth Woods. "First, that growth in agricultural productivity is the only way to ensure that people have access to enough affordable food. Second, that achieving this is a long-term effort. A year or two of extra funding for agricultural research is not enough. To ensure that improved technologies flow from the research and development pipeline, a sustained re-investment in agriculture is crucial."

Dr. Woods pointed out that the annual rice yield growth rate has dropped to less than 1% in recent years, compared with 2% during the Green Revolution period of 1967-90. Based on projected income and population growth, annual productivity growth of almost 1.5% will be needed at least until 2020.

The meeting coincided with the release of a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations stating that higher food prices are partly to blame for the number of hungry people growing by 75 million to around 925 million worldwide­and further jeopardizing the UN Millennium Development Goal of halving hunger and poverty by 2015.

Another report, released this week by the ADB, argued that, for Asian countries to prevent future food price surges, agriculture needs wide-scale structural reform. This report also warned that, with demand remaining higher than supply, any supply shock would further increase cereal prices.

An ADB report released in August increased the cut-off level for poverty from US$1 per day to $1.35 per day, meaning that millions more people are trapped in poverty than previously thought. Disturbingly, the new measure does not take into account the higher food and fuel prices of 2008, which, according to some estimates, have plunged a further 100 million people below the poverty line. Although the export price of rice has settled from more than $1,000 per ton in May to around $700 per ton, it is still double the price of one year ago.

The current crisis serves as a timely wakeup call for governments, multilateral organizations, and donors to refocus on agriculture. Various national and international bodies have called for a second Green Revolution to feed the world in the face of a growing population and shrinking land base for agricultural uses.

Unlike the first Green Revolution, in which productivity growth was achieved with the introduction of modern varieties in tandem with assured irrigation and inputs (such as fertilizer), and guaranteed prices, the second Green Revolution needs to achieve the same goal in the face of several 21st-century challenges. These challenges include water and land scarcity, environmental degradation, skyrocketing input prices, and globalized marketplaces, all within the context of global climate change.

In short, the second Green Revolution will have to expand productivity sustainably, with fewer resources.
###
IRRI Home (www.irri.org)
IRRI Library (http://ricelib.irri.cgiar.org )
Rice Knowledge Bank ( www.knowledgebank.irri.org)

Contact: Adam Barclay
a.barclay@cgiar.org

Source: EurekAlert.org
19 September 2008

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1.03  Agricultural developments 'fail to reach farmers', warn African scientists

Linda Nordling
Agricultural research advances in Africa are not reaching farmers in the field, top African scientists have warned.

Speaking at the third African Green Revolution Conference in Oslo, Norway, last week (28 August), they said that although research institutes have developed seeds that can improve crop yields, these have had no effect on the ground.

"The continuing puzzle for us is that the adaptation of these technologies is very limited. We cannot see yield improvement in our countries," said Mpoko Bokanga, executive director at the African Agricultural Technology Foundation.

Bokanga said that a large number of improved seeds and planting technologies are implemented to great success in targeted development projects like the UN's Millennium Villages (see Ending poverty one village at a time) but fail to scale up.

While the money for research has increased, funders have ignored the deployment of new technologies, says Florence Wambugu, chief executive of the Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation.

"I believe we need to have a better focus on strategic research, but we also need to focus on deploying the research to smallholder farmers. We need to plug the gap between the lab and the field."

But Akinwumi A. Adesina, vice president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) told SciDev.Net that his organisation was starting to address the funding gap.

"Within AGRA, we are spending roughly US$50 million to develop a rural network of agro-dealers. These will be rural input shops that carry seeds and fertilisers to rural areas. So that is helping to reduce the distance that farmers travel to find farm inputs." Agro-dealers are also starting to do demonstrations of new technologies, he said.

Agro-businesses used the conference to pledge support to improve technology transfer in Africa. The Norwegian fertiliser company Yara will improve port facilities in Africa to improve access to fertilisers and other inputs. Seed companies vowed to develop local seed distribution systems.

"I would say, both from the public sector and from the private sector, that there is a realisation of the importance of getting technologies off the shelf," said Adesina, adding that if the bottleneck could be eliminated the benefits would be huge.

"If we are able to get all the technologies off the shelf, and improve incentives for farmers to use them, we can triple yields of maize, and many of the other crops in Africa in less than three years."

Source: SciDev.Net via SeedQuest.com
1 September 2008

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1.04  Academy aims to train global cadre of plant breeders

An international group of working professionals from 10 different countries is getting a jump on the fall quarter at UC Davis, arriving early to begin the second class of the Plant Breeding Academy, designed by the campus's Seed Biotechnology Center.

The center developed the academy in direct response to industry concerns over a decline in the number of plant breeders being trained in academic programs. The academy was designed to enable companies to provide their employees with formal instruction in genetics, statistics and plant breeding theory, while they remain in their current jobs.

"Overall, this course is invaluable to me in that I am able to maintain my full-time, great job, and gain this knowledge without having to become a full time student," wrote academy graduate Peter Martini.

The 23 participants, from as far away as Africa, Australia, Chile and Europe, will spend more than 300 hours in classes, workshops and the field. The two-year professional development program, which includes six weeklong sessions at UC Davis, offers advanced training to prepare these students to become independent plant breeders.

After the first week, which ends Saturday, Sept. 13, participants will return to their home companies or research institutions to continue studying and put their new skills into practice. They are slated to come back to UC Davis for one-week classes in February and again in June, with a similar program scheduled for the second year of the academy.

Now welcoming its second class, the academy hosted its inaugural class of 15 students from three countries between September 2006 and June 2008. Upon completing the program, students received a certificate and 19 units of academic credit. They should be equipped to work as independent plant breeders or direct regional plant-breeding programs.

Academy courses are taught by internationally recognized plant breeders Doug Shaw and Larry Teuber, both of UC Davis, and Todd Wehner from North Carolina State University, with guest lecturers speaking on their specific areas of expertise.

Coursework covers all aspects of plant breeding, including genetics; statistics; single-trait selection; recombination and population development; resistance breeding; genotype by environment interactions; biotechnology; data management; finishing varieties; and seed production, conditioning and storage. Each student designs a breeding program as a final project for the academy.

More information about the academy program can be found online at: http://pba.ucdavis.edu

Contributed by Susan DiTomaso
Seed Biotechnology Center
University of California, Davis
scwebster@ucdavis.edu
9 September 2008

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1.05  International Centre for Plant Breeding Education and Research (ICPBER)

We are pleased to announce that the International Centre for Plant Breeding Education and Research (ICPBER) of the University of Western Australia (UWA) has now been launched, being officially opened on Friday 29 August by the Honourable Kim Chance, Minister of Western Australia, for Agriculture and Food.

Professor Alan Robson, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Western Australia, spoke at the opening ceremony and said the centre would play a vital role in addressing the looming global shortage in plant breeding expertise.

“There is growing recognition that there is a need to develop rapid crop breeding skills to help us adapt to climate change and to secure the world’s food supplies,” he said.

“The new centre will provide much needed integrated expertise in genetics, biotechnology and plant breeding.  In effect, it will help provide the next generation of professional plant breeders for Australia, the Asia-Pacific region, and the Indian Ocean rim.

“The new centre will form part of the University’s Institute of Agriculture and will significantly strengthen UWA’s contributions to Australian and international agriculture.”

ICPBER aspires to produce “Professional plant breeders for tomorrow”. It aims to do this by:

-Educating tomorrow’s plant breeders for Australia, the Asia-Pacific region, and Indian Ocean Rim countries, based on the core principles of genetics and supporting disciplines for plant breeding.

-Providing opportunities for in-service training for those in the plant breeding profession.

-Promoting international and national collaboration in plant breeding through the exchange of students and researchers.

The International Centre for Plant Breeding Education and Research will offer a four-year undergraduate science degree in genetics and breeding – the only one of its kind at an Australian university – and an undergraduate degree in agricultural science, with a component of genetics and breeding.  Both degrees include training in crop agronomy, plant physiology, biometrics and related disciplines.  It will also offer post-graduate study in genetics and plant breeding, as well as in-service training/Master Classes for practising plant breeders or seeds industry personnel.

The first of these Master Classes is being run in November this year – “Mixed Models for Plant Improvement, Nov 2-5 2008”. Information on this course and on the Centre as a whole can be accessed through our website www.icpber.plants.uwa.edu.au

Contributed by Sarah Mawson
Project Officer, ICPBER
School of Plant Biology M084,
Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences,
The University of Western Australia
smawson@fnas.uwa.edu.au

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1.06  AgResearch Professorial Fellowship in Plant Breeding marks revival of plant breeding education at Massey and Lincoln Universities, New Zealand

New Zealand
Dr Warren Williams has been appointed as the AgResearch Professorial Fellow in Plant Breeding at Massey University, primarily to support the new post-graduate qualification in plant breeding offered by Massey and Lincoln Universities.

The joint appointment between AgResearch and the Massey University’s Institutes of Natural Resources and Molecular Biosciences will see Professor Williams spend one day a week at the University.

A Senior Scientist at AgResearch Grasslands, Professor Williams is a recognised international expert in the field of plant breeding, with vast experience gained through his role as Curator of AgResearch’s Margot Forde Forage Germplasm Centre.

Plant Breeding is critical to the success of the agricultural, horticultural and forestry industries of New Zealand, and the lucrative international seed markets.
Professor Williams’ appointment heralds a revival in conventional plant breeding based on quantitative genetics, and the further integration of these with modern DNA technologies.

But with a growing recognition that conventional plant breeders are essential to translate advances in DNA technology into plant varieties in the field, and many established breeders close to retirement, the industry is in need of new graduates and up-skilling.

To meet this capability gap, Massey and Lincoln Universities have teamed up with key stake-holding industries, together with the appointment of Dr Williams, to offer a one or two-year post-graduate qualification in Plant Breeding starting in 2009.

Professor Williams is thrilled to see the return of plant breeding education in New Zealand.

“The resumption of plant breeding teaching is a great step for scientific advancement to grow some of New Zealand’s key industries, and I’m really pleased to be involved.”

Source: SeedQuest.com
24 September 2008

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1.07  Monsanto supports UW Plant Breeding with $1 million fellowship gift

Monsanto Co. has made a $1 million gift to support plant breeding and genetics in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The Monsanto Graduate Fellowship in Plant Breeding will help fund Ph.D.-level graduate students in the plant breeding and plant genetics program, a UW System Center of Excellence, in CALS.

"Plant breeding defines an activity that will be an essential component of our planetary stewardship as we feed our growing population through the coming century," says CALS Dean Molly Jahn. "This gift from Monsanto will allow us to explore revolutionary approaches toward improved agricultural productivity and environmental stewardship while we train the next generation of plant breeders.

"Our partnerships with the private sector are principled relationships designed to protect our public sector missions while we train the next generation of agricultural scientists," she says.

Monsanto sees the UW-Madison program as a strong partner. "The University of Wisconsin-Madison has a long history of training outstanding plant breeders through its interdisciplinary graduate training program," says Bob Reiter, vice president of Breeding Technology for Monsanto.

This record of achievement combined with the diversity of research opportunities for students in row and vegetable crops makes the university an attractive partner in Monsanto's efforts to support the training of the next generation plant breeders and biometricians," Reiter says.

The UW-Madison Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics graduate training program is one of the leading such ventures in the world. At UW-Madison, graduate training is research based and emphasizes critical thinking and analytical skills. Students in the program generally take courses in quantitative genetics, statistics, experimental design and molecular genetics.

"Over the past 20 years, no program in the country has trained more plant breeding and plant genetics PhD students than ours," Jahn says. "We have an outstanding faculty who are respected not only for their top-flight research but for their ability to prepare students to excel in both academic and industry settings all around the world. One of the real strengths of our program is its interdisciplinary nature. Our students are part of a very active community that welcomes global scientific leaders to campus, and they get broad exposure to the most important issues in the field."

Professor Irwin Goldman is a vice dean in CALS, and he has a long history with the plant breeding and plant genetics program. "This support from Monsanto demonstrates a real partnership with an incredibly successful private sector company that depends on the kind of top-quality graduates that Wisconsin can produce," he says.

"We can make use of the outstanding faculty and staff at UW-Madison, along with our research infrastructure, our colleagues in supporting disciplines and the premier atmosphere for graduate training on our campus while helping to educate students who will be the workforce that Monsanto and others will want to hire in the future," Goldman says. "In a sense, both parties are bringing key resources and expertise to the table, and in the end we will both benefit from this partnership."

Gifts such as Monsanto's not only help the graduate students and the University's programs. They boost the people and economy of Wisconsin, he says.

"These top-flight graduate students help bring the excellence to our research programs," he says. "They are the ones who do the work that allows us to apply for competitive funding and produce high-impact publications. They help leverage funding for research from a variety of sources, due to the high quality of their work and the determination and dedication that is a hallmark of graduate students at the University. The impact of their work is magnified by the systems and channels established by our college, state and UW System."

Monsanto is a leading global provider of technology-based solutions and agricultural products that improve farm productivity and food quality. Monsanto remains focused on enabling both small-holder and large-scale farmers to produce more from their land while conserving more of our world's natural resources such as water and energy.

Article by Chris DuPre

More information about the Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison can be found at www.wisconsinplantbreeding.com

Contributed by Chad Kramer
cckramer@wisc.edu

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1.08  Chinese hybrid rice introduced to more than 40 countries and regions

Shenyang, Liaoning province, China
Over 40 countries and regions have introduced hybrid rice from China, Ma Shuping, a senior official of Ministry of Agriculture revealed on Sept 10.

Some countries in Southeast Asia have seen sharp increase in rice production after introduction of hybrid rice. In this aspect China played an important role in securing global food supply, Ma said.

Currently in China the area of hybrid rice is 15 million hectares, accounting for 59% of total rice-planting area. Average annual production of hybrid rice amounts to 7200 kilograms per hectare.

President of China Seed Industrial Association Wan Baoguo said seed export reached 29,000 tons in 2007.

Source: People's Daily Online via SeedQuest.com
11 September 2008

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1.09  African Crop Science Society and its impact on the agricultural research in Africa

AFRICAN CROP SCIENCE SOCIETY (ACSS) is a society for investigators, producers, business people and technicians around the world. The ACSS was established in 1993 with overall goal of promoting crop production and food security in the continent of Africa.

The general objectives embedded in the Society’s constitution are to foster and promote the study of crops in all its facets, this it shall do by creating opportunities for the free exchange of ideas on crop science and related fields in Africa; fostering liaison between the Society and other bodies with common or similar interests both in Africa and abroad; obtaining and disseminating knowledge, information and ideas pertaining to crops by means of deliberations and publications; promoting the work and interests of members of the profession and promoting contact among the national and regional crop science societies in Africa; encouraging scientific training in crop science; promoting a general awareness of the environment and utilizing, protecting and conserving the environment; and fulfilling any other function that may be in the interests of crop science.

The Society membership consists of fellow members, honorary members, ordinary members, associate members, student members and institutional members. All registered members of the Society shall receive all notices and free publications of the Society, and may attend general meetings and congresses of the Society. The affairs of the Society are managed by a Council, consisting of: the immediate past-president of the Society; and the following elected members: a president, a vice-president, five regional members, woman representative; and three ordinary council members. English and French are the recognized languages of the Society.

Generally, the activities of the Society include the convening of congresses, symposia, workshops and training courses; publication of the African Crop Science Journal; publication of regular Newsletters; and organizing general or special general meetings of the Society.

The society meets once every two years, 1993 in Kampala, Uganda; in 1995 Blantyre, Malawi; in 1997 Pretoria, South Africa; in 1999 Casablanca, Morocco, in 2001 Lagos, Nigeria; in 2003 Nairobi, Kenya; in 2005 Entebbe, Uganda, in 2007 El-Minia, Egypt and will meet in 2009 in Cape Town, South Africa.

The ACSS Conference series is held every odd year in one of the African countries. ACSS conferences are truly international and attract a lot of participation ranging from 400 to 600 participants. The goal of the conferences are to promote the active exchange of crop sciences information, innovation, and new ideas and usually attended by experts of the highest caliber, distinguished keynote speakers, ministers of irrigation, higher education, agriculture, environment and eminent scientists from Africa and the four corners of the globe.. At last ACSS conference (the 8th)  held in El-Minia, Egypt, 27-31 October 2007, more than 400 of high quality papers and 10 plenary, as well as, 12 keynote lectures, in different fields, have  be presented orally or poster. All these contributions were published in ACSS Conference Proceedings Volume 8 with four parts and 2200 pages as well as CDs.

For more information, kindly, visit our website at http://www.acss.ws

Contributed by Kasem Zaki Ahmed
President, ACSS Council (ahmed_kz@yahoo.com & www.acss.ws), Department of Genetics, Faculty of Agriculture, Minia University, El-Minia, Egypt

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1.10  GM cotton 'protects neighbouring crops'

[BEIJING] Chinese scientists say genetically modified (GM) cotton can not only protect the crop from a particular pest, but also fend off the pest's threat to neighbouring crops.

Wu Kongming, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science in Beijing, and colleagues analysed levels of cotton bollworm ­ a major pest to the crop ­ in six Chinese provinces between 1992 and 2007.

They analysed over 38 million hectares of farmland, three million hectares of which was cotton and 22 million hectares was other crops, such as corn, peanuts, soybeans and vegetables.

The researchers found that the population density of bollworm was drastically reduced after the 1997 introduction of Bt cotton ­ a GM crop containing an insecticide gene from a bacterium that affects pests such as bollworm.

At a news briefing in Beijing last week (17 September) ,Wu said that cotton is usually the main host for bollworm moths to lay eggsin and acts as the source for subsequent generations of the moth that infect other crops. Bt cotton decreased moth density, thus leading to reduced populations of bollworm, not only on cotton but on other host crops too.

The scientists ruled out the contribution of other factors like temperature and rainfall.

Chinese farmers often grow multiple crops together because of the limited cultivated area. So Bt cotton can be utilised in China's rural area to control diseases and pests, say the researchers.

"This work points out some very, very important issues," says Wei Wei, an associate professor at the Institute of Botany, the Chinese Academy of Sciences. "However, further work should be done to prove that cotton is the main spawning ground of the insect."

However, Wu warns that "the [cotton bollworm] may selectively evolve to seek new genes to suppress this highly toxic Bt cotton".

And while insecticide use has decreased since the introduction of Bt cotton, a new insect ­ mirid ­ has gradually replaced bollworm to become the main cotton pest.

Wu says, future research should look into mirid resistance and search for another transgenic crop to kill the pest.

Link to the full paper in Science

Xu Zhiguo

Source: Science\AAAS via SciDev.net
22 September 2008

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1.11  Research pushes back history of crop development 10,000 years

Until recently researchers believed the story of the origin of agriculture was one of a relatively sudden appearance of plant cultivation in the Near East around 10,000 years ago spreading quickly into Europe and dovetailing conveniently with ideas about how quickly language and population genes spread from the Near East to Europe. Initially, genetics appeared to support this idea but now cracks are beginning to appear in the evidence underpinning that model.

Now a team led by Dr Robin Allaby from the University of Warwick have developed a new mathematical model that shows how plant agriculture actually began much earlier than first thought, well before the Younger Dryas (the last "big freeze" with glacial conditions in the higher latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere). It also shows that useful gene types could have actually taken thousands of years to become stable.

Up till now researchers believed in a rapid establishment of efficient agriculture which came about as artificial selection was easily able to dominate natural plant selection, and, crucially, as a consequence they thought most crops came from a single location and single domestication event.

However recent archaeological evidence has already begun to undermine this model pushing back the date of the first appearance of plant agriculture. The best example of this being the archaeological site Ohalo II in Syria where more than 90,000 plant fragments from 23,000 years ago show that wild cereals were being gathered over 10,000 years earlier than previously thought, and before the last glacial maximum (18,000-15,000 years ago).

The field of Archaeobotany is also producing further evidence to undermine the quick development model. The tough rachis mutant is caused by a single recessive allele (one gene on a pair or group of genes) , and this mutant is easily identifiable in the archaeological specimens as a jagged scar on the chaff of the plant noting an abscission (shedding of a body part) as opposed to the smooth abscission scar associated with the wild type brittle rachis.

Simply counting the proportion of chaff types in a sample gives a direct measure of frequency of the two different gene types in this plant. That study has shown that the tough rachis mutant appeared some 9,250 years ago and had not reached fixation over 3,000 years later even after the spread of agriculture into Europe was well underway. Studies like these have shown that the rise of the domestication syndrome was a slow process and that plant traits appeared in slow sequence, not together over a short period of time.

Genome wide surveys of crops such as einkorn and barley that in the past that have suggested a single origin from a narrow geographical range, supporting the rapid establishment view, have long been in conflict with other gene studies. The most notable conflict is in the case of barley for which there is a large body of evidence that suggests more than one common ancestor was used in its development.

These challenges to the fast model of agricultural development need a new model to explain how and why the development was so slow and demonstrate why artificial selection of just one plant type does not have the expected quick result. This computer model has now been provided by Dr Robin Allaby and his team at the University of Warwick, the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, and Manchester Interdisciplinary Biocentre has outlined the new mathematical model in a paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 2008 and in a summary article in the Biologist (2008 55:94-99).

Their paper entitled The genetic expectations of a protracted model for the origins of domesticated crops used computer simulations that showed that over time a cultivated population will become monophyletic (settle into one stable species) at a rate proportional to its population size as compared various gene variations in the wild populations. They found this rate of change matched closely the 3000 years it took the tough rachis mutant to become established.

Ironically, this process is actually accelerated if there is more than one wild source population (in other words if attempts at domestication happen more than once) because any resulting hybrid between those domesticated populations then has a heightened differentiation compared with either one of the wild populations of the two parent plants.

This mathematical model also more supportive of a longer complex origin of plants through cross breeding of a number of attempts at domestication rather than a single plant type being selectively bred and from a single useful mutation that is selectively grown quickly out paces the benefits natural selection

Dr Robin Allaby says:
"This picture of protracted development of crops has major implications for the understanding of the biology of the domestication process and these strike chords with other areas of evolutionary biology."

"This lengthy development should favour the close linkage of domestication syndrome trait genes which may become much more important because linked genes will not be broken up by gene flow – and this makes trait selection and retention easier. Interestingly, as more crop genomes become mapped, the close linkage of two or more domestication syndrome genes has been reported on several occasions."

"This process has similarities to the evolution of ‘supergenes’ in which many genes cluster around a single locus to contribute to one overall purpose."

"We now need to move this research area to a new level. Domestication was a complex process and can now be viewed more legitimately as the paragon of evolutionary process that Darwin originally recognized. There are many interacting factors involved that we know about operating on a wide range of levels from the gene to the farmer and climate – the challenge is to integrate them into a single story."

For further information please contact:
Dr Robin Allaby, Warwick HRI
r.g.allaby@warwick.ac.uk

Source: Warwick News and Events ( http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/pressreleases/research_pushes_back/ ) via EurekAlert.org
19 September 2008

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1.12  Global Crop Diversity Trust scientists accelerate search for traits that could arm agriculture against the impact of future changes

Rome, Italy
As climate change is credited as one of the main drivers behind soaring food prices, the Global Crop Diversity Trust is undertaking a major effort to search crop collections­from Azerbaijan to Nigeria­for the traits that could arm agriculture against the impact of future changes. Traits, such as drought resistance in wheat, or salinity tolerance in potato, will become essential as crops around the world have to adapt to new climate conditions.

Climate change is having the most negative impact in the poorest regions of the world, already causing a decrease in yields of most major food crops due to droughts, floods, increasingly salty soils and higher temperatures.

Crop diversity is the raw material needed for improving and adapting food crops to harsher climate conditions and constantly evolving pests and diseases. However, it is disappearing from many of the places where it has been placed for safekeeping­the world’s genebanks. Compounding the fact that it is not well conserved is the fact that it is not well understood. A lack of readily available and accurate data on key traits can severely hinder plant breeders’ efforts to identify material they can use to breed new varieties best suited for the climates most countries will experience in the coming decades. The support provided by the Global Crop Diversity Trust will not only rescue collections which are at risk, but enable breeders and others to screen collections for important characteristics.

“Our crops must produce more food, on the same amount of land, with less water, and more expensive energy,” said Cary Fowler, Executive Director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust. “This, on top of climate change, poses an unprecedented challenge to farming. There is no possible scenario in which we can continue to grow the food we require without crop diversity. Through our grants we seek, as a matter of urgency, to rescue threatened crop collections and better understand and conserve crop diversity.”

Through a competitive grants scheme, the Trust will provide funding for projects that screen developing country collections­including wheat, chickpea, rice, barley, lentils, coconut, banana, maize, and sweet potato­for traits that will be essential for breeding climate-ready varieties. These projects involve 21 agricultural research institutions in Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Israel, Mali, Nigeria, Niger, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and Syria.

Scientists will be screening chickpea and wheat collections in Pakistan for traits of economic importance for farmers; characterizing rare coconuts in Sri Lanka for traits of drought tolerance and tolerance to other pests and diseases; screening for salinity tolerance in sweet potatoes in Peru; and identifying drought-tolerant bananas in India.

Much of the screening will take place within collections where many of the unique samples are at risk. Therefore, in addition to its efforts to bolster the development of climate-ready crops, the Trust will provide funding to save unique crop collections that are at risk of disappearing. Crop collections need to be re-grown at regular intervals, and fresh seed harvested and placed in seedbanks to ensure long-term conservation and availability. The Trust is working with more than 60 countries to “regenerate” unique collections of crops critical for food security, and to ensure that they are duplicated elsewhere for safety in a collection that meets international standards, as well as in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

Worldwide, there are a handful of crop collections that can be said to meet international standards. And even these few, despite their role in protecting the foundation of our food supply, lurch from one funding arrangement to the next without ever having any real long-term security. The Trust is now endowing these, the world’s most important collections, ensuring their conservation and availability for the future of agriculture. Crops already being safeguarded by the Trust’s pledge of financial security include banana, barley, bean, cassava, faba bean, forages, grass pea, lentil, pearl millet, rice, sorghum, taro, wheat and yam. These are housed in collections managed in trust for humanity at eight agricultural institutions that are supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and by the Secretariat for the Pacific Community.

“Secure funding on this sort of time-scale has been unheard of in this field. Crop collections are all too often amassed and then lost according to changing funding fashions and priorities,” said Daniel Debouck, Head of the Genetic Resources Unit at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), one of the agricultural institutions supported by the CGIAR. “Genebanking is not something you can turn on and off, and a shortfall in funding of just a few months can result in the permanent loss of unique varieties. We need to be sure that we will have sufficient funding year after year after year. The Trust is now providing that security.”

“The contents of our genebanks­some 1.5 million distinct samples­are the result of a 13,000-year experiment in the interaction between crops and environment, climate and culture,” said Fowler. “If we are wise enough to conserve these collections, we will have a treasure chest of the very traits that crops used in the past when they successfully adapted to new conditions­the traits they will need again in the future to adapt as climates and environments change.”

The mission of the Trust is to ensure the conservation and availability of crop diversity for food security worldwide. Although crop diversity is fundamental to fighting hunger and to the very future of agriculture, funding is unreliable and diversity is being lost. The Trust is the only organization working worldwide to solve this problem, and has already raised over $140 million.

Source: SeedQuest.com
18 September 2008

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1.13  Key discovered to cold tolerance in corn

Longer growing season, growth in colder regions possible
Demand for corn -- the world's number one feed grain and a staple food for many -- is outstripping supply, resulting in large price increases that are forecast to continue over the next several years. If corn's intolerance of low temperatures could be overcome, then the length of the growing season, and yield, could be increased at present sites of cultivation and its range extended into colder regions.

Drs. Dafu Wang, Archie Portis, Steve Moose, and Steve Long in the Department of Crop Sciences and the Institute of Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois may have made a breakthrough on this front, as reported in the September issue of the journal Plant Physiology.

Plants can be divided into two groups based on their strategy for harvesting light energy: C4 and C3. The C4 groups include many of the most agriculturally productive plants known, such as corn, sorghum, and sugar cane. All other major crops, including wheat and rice, are C3. C4 plants differ from C3 by the addition of four extra chemical steps, making these plants more efficient in converting sunlight energy into plant matter.

Until recently, the higher productivity achieved by C4 species was thought to be possible only in warm environments. So while wheat, a C3 plant, may be grown into northern Sweden and Alberta, the C4 grain corn cannot. Even within the Corn Belt and despite record yields, corn cannot be planted much before early May and as such is unable to utilize the high sunlight of spring.

Recently a wild C4 grass related to corn, Miscanthus x giganteus, has been found to be exceptionally productive in cold climates. The Illinois researchers set about trying to discover the basis of this difference, focusing on the four extra chemical reactions that separate C4 from C3 plants.

Each of these reactions is catalyzed by a protein or enzyme. The enzyme for one of these steps, Pyruvate Phosphate Dikinase, or PPDK for short, is made up of two parts. At low temperature these parts have been observed to fall apart, differing from the other three C4 specific enzymes. The researchers examined the DNA sequence of the gene coding for this enzyme in both plants, but could find no difference, nor could they see any difference in the behavior of the enzyme in the test tube. However, they noticed that when leaves of corn were placed in the cold, PPDK slowly disappeared in parallel with the decline in the ability of the leaf to take up carbon dioxide in photosynthesis. When Miscanthus leaves were placed in the cold, they made more PPDK and as they did so, the leaf became able to maintain photosynthesis in the cold conditions. Why?

The researchers cloned the gene for PPDK from both corn and Miscanthus into a bacterium, enabling the isolation of large quantities of this enzyme. The researchers discovered that as the enzyme was concentrated, it became resistant to the cold, thus the difference between the two plants was not the structure of the protein components but rather the amount of protein present.

The findings suggest that modifying corn to synthesize more PPDK during cold weather could allow corn, like Miscanthus, to be cultivated in colder climates and be productive for more months of the year in its current locations. The same approach might even be used with sugar cane, which may be crossed with Miscanthus, making improvement of cold-tolerance by breeding a possibility.
###
American Society of Plant Biologists
Contact: Steve Long
slong@uiuc.edu

This research was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Source: EurekAlert.org
29 August 2008

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1.14  New research could help breeders to develop pea varieties able to withstand drought stress and climate change

United Kingdom
New research from the John Innes Centre and the Central Science Laboratory could help breeders to develop pea varieties able to withstand drought stress and climate change. The research also shows that the composition of crops is likely to change with the climate.

"While many compounds have been reported to change in laboratory based drought stress experiments, few have identified how such compounds change in crops under field conditions," says Dr Claire Domoney of the John Innes Centre.

The researchers used NMR spectroscopy to produce a profile of the levels of all the different small molecules or metabolites in pea plant leaves. This profile, known as the metabolome, was then compared with that from plants subjected to controlled drought stress. The study found several key plant metabolites increased under drought stress, some of which had not previously been shown to be involved.

Less water, especially at critical times in the growing season, means lower yield and quality. This new information could be used to identify varieties of pea and other pulse crops that are more tolerant to changes in water availability.

Drought stress also induced changes in compounds that could have an impact on taste and flavour. Changes in climate are likely to alter the characteristics of commercial crops and could possibly affect their value. Peas and other legumes make a valuable contribution to sustainable food production by fixing nitrogen in the soil for the next crop, reducing the need for nitrogen fertilizer.
++++
Responses of the pea (Pisum sativum L.) leaf metabolome to drought stress assessed by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy

Adrian J. Charlton , James A. Donarski, Mark Harrison, Stephen A. Jones, John Godward, Sarah Oehlschlager, Juan L. Arques, Mike Ambrose, Catherine Chinoy, Philip M. Mullineaux and Claire Domoney
Metabolomics, December 2008 4(4) DOI:10.1007/s11306-008-0128-0

Source: SeedQuest.com
16 September 2008

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1.15  Hot topic: Multi-disease resistant chili lines for higher yields and income

Taiwan
Almost half of the world’s 28.41 million tonnes (Source: FAO Statistics Division 2008, 26 September 2008) of chilies are produced in China, India, Indonesia and Thailand. Chili is a good source of cash for subsistence farmers, generating up to four times the income of cereal crops under optimal conditions and providing a major source of employment for women. However, average chili yields in the Asian tropics are generally low (about 5-10 t/ha) and unstable due to preand post-harvest diseases.

Severe yield losses are caused by insect-transmitted Cucumber mosaic virus (CMV), Chili veinal mottle virus (ChiVMV) and Chili leafcurl virus (CLCV) as well as fungal diseases such as anthracnose and Phytophthora blight and also bacterial wilt. Smallholder farmers often try to minimize yield losses by applying pesticide cocktails every 3-7 days. Improving the resistance of the crop to diseases is a more sustainable option. If supplemented by improved crop management practices this can improve yields, reduce risks to farmers and produce a crop that is also safer for consumers.

“Understanding the diversity of the pathogens and their virulence is a prerequisite to developing stable multi-disease resistant lines,” says Dr. Sylvia Green, the virologist at AVRDC - The World Vegetable Center. In a German-funded project, pathogen isolates were collected in all participating countries, and tested against a broad array of lines with different resistance genes. Efficient specific diagnostic methods for all six pathogens, including molecular markers were developed and shared with the national partners.

The results evoke optimism. Multiple distinct strains of virus and pathogen species causing the diseases have been identified, and several sources of resistance have been detected. These resistant lines have been crossed by participating national agricultural research and extension systems with their preferred local chili cultivars. Advanced selections displaying resistance to as many as four of the target pathogens have been identified, and are currently being multiplied and tested in farmers’ fields, using improved management practices such as drip irrigation and starter solutions to further increase yields.

“Sources of resistance and multiple-disease resistant chili lines will be freely distributed as international public goods,” says Sylvia Green. “We hope that more than 30% of farmers will adopt the improved chili cultivars and
management practices.” Chili yields are expected to increase by 20% and the area under production by 10%. Most importantly, pesticide inputs will be lowered significantly, improving the safety of chili farmers and their communities, reducing the environmental impact, and providing safer, lower cost chilies for all consumers.

Source: The World Vegetable Center Newsletter via SeedQuest.com
September, 2008

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1.16  Progress in breeding some staple crops with high iron content advances the fight against micronutrient malnutrition in tropical Africa and Asia

As the food crisis threatens to worsen micronutrient malnutrition, iron-biofortified pearl millet and bean are on the fast track for release in Asia and Africa. Rising food prices mean that poor people are able to afford fewer nutritious foods like leafy vegetables, fruits and animal products. As a result, micronutrient malnutrition is likely to increase.

“Poor people depend mostly on micronutrient-poor staples to begin with ,” says Howarth Bouis, director of the HarvestPlus Challenge Program. “It’s not just the quantity of food intake, but also the quality of that food, that’s important for food security.”

Iron is one of the critical micronutrients that HarvestPlus is breeding into staple food crops to improve their nutritional quality. More than 2 billion people worldwide suffer from anemia, mostly due to dietary iron deficiency, which can impair physical growth and mental development and increases the risk of women dying in childbirth. It has been estimated that more than half of all pregnant women in developing countries are anemic. The problem is especially acute in South and Southeast Asia and tropical Africa, where anemia is linked to poverty.

Bouis, who has done extensive research in the Philippines, has calculated that, without biofortification and assuming an overall food price increase of 50%, iron intake among Philippino women would decline by about 30%. This would mean that only 5% of Filipino women would meet their daily iron requirements and that 25% more women would no longer receive the required iron intake. For more information, see the IFPRI Blog World Hunger.

“Because of the food crisis, s imilar scenarios will play out throughout the developing world with dire consequences,” says Bouis.

Biofortifying staple food crops consumed by the poor can help reduce micronutrient malnutrition by providing a basic “nutritional floor” upon which other interventions, such as conventional fortification and supplementation, can build upon.

As the food crisis shows no signs of abating, the HarvestPlus strategy to develop “fast- to-market” biofortified crops is especially timely. These staples can be fast-tracked largely because ,while screening germplasm, plant breeders opportunely discovered varieties that already contained sufficient quantities of micronutrients. This means they will not have to breed specifically for higher nutrient content but can focus instead on incorporating existing high-nutrient traits into popular breeding lines. High-iron pearl millet and common bean are currently being fast-tracked in India and tropical Africa.

Despite many attempts to provide micronutrients in India, severe micronutrient malnutrition persists among impoverished Indians. More than 80% of pregnant Indian women are iron deficient. In western India, where 50 million people commonly grow and eat pearl millet as a staple, the prevalence of anemia among children is 66%. HarvestPlus research partners at the International Centre for Research in the Semi Arid Tropics screened almost 2,000 pearl millet germplasm accessions and found varieties with iron levels that well exceeded the target. Cultivars meeting more than 75% of the iron target are now in final product development, and the first biofortified varieties should be in farmers’ fields by 2011. HarvestPlus anticipates spillover effects in Niger, a West African nation where pearl millet is an important food crop.

In East Africa, anemia affects more than half of the children in Rwanda, where 33% of women of reproductive age are anemic. Both bush and climbing beans are prime sources of protein and micronutrients in the Rwandan diet. Bean research began in the first phase of HarvestPlus (2003-2007), with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture and its national research partners assaying more than 4,000 bean genotypes. They found varieties with more than twice the iron content of popular cultivars. Plant breeders have used these naturally iron-rich varieties to systematically elevate the iron content of bean cultivars with each breeding cycle, while maintaining or enhancing important agronomic traits. They have successfully developed biofortified varieties that meet 90% of the iron target and have superior agronomic traits. These varieties will be field tested next year.

The goal is to provide at least one third of the recommended daily iron intake for Rwandan women through beans. Pending the results of nutrition studies that are underway in Rwanda, HarvestPlus plans to release high-iron beans in 2010 in collaboration with national partners. While the initial release will be in Rwanda, at least 10 other African countries stand to benefit from these new iron-rich bean varieties as they become more widely available and adapted to different environments.

In just a few years, biofortified varieties of pearl millet and common bean are expected to provide additional iron to millions of malnourished people in India and tropical Africa. Early success with these crops should help pave the way for acceptance of biofortified “mega-staples” such as maize and rice, which are already under development and could improve nutrition for billions more people.

Source: CIMMYT E-News, vol 5 no. 9, September 2008 via SeedQuest.com
September, 2008

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1.17  Pea varieties able to withstand drought stress and climate change

New research from the John Innes Centre and the Central Science Laboratory could help breeders to develop pea varieties able to withstand drought stress and climate change. The research also shows that the composition of crops is likely to change with the climate.

"While many compounds have been reported to change in laboratory based drought stress experiments, few have identified how such compounds change in crops under field conditions," says Dr Claire Domoney of the John Innes Centre.

The researchers used NMR spectroscopy to produce a profile of the levels of all the different small molecules or metabolites in pea plant leaves. This profile, known as the metabolome, was then compared with that from plants subjected to controlled drought stress.  The study found several key plant metabolites increased under drought stress, some of which had not previously been shown to be involved. 

Less water, especially at critical times in the growing season, means lower yield and quality. This new information could be used to identify varieties of pea and other pulse crops that are more tolerant to changes in water availability.

Drought stress also induced changes in compounds that could have an impact on taste and flavour. Changes in climate are likely to alter the characteristics of commercial crops and could possibly affect their value. Peas and other legumes make a valuable contribution to sustainable food production by fixing nitrogen in the soil for the next crop, reducing the need for nitrogen fertilizer.

The work was funded by the Defra Pulse Crop Genetic Improvement Network, www.pcgin.org, and the EU Grain Legumes Integrated Project, www.eugrainlegumes.org

Full reference: Responses of the pea (Pisum sativum L.) leaf metabolome to drought stress assessed by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, Metabolomics, December 2008 4(4) 

Contributed by Andrew Chapple
Assistant Press Officer
Norwich BioScience Institutes
andrew.chapple@bbsrc.ac.uk

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1.18  Wheat blends increase chances of yield stability

Manhattan, Kansas
Blends of two to three wheat varieties have become increasingly popular over the past 10 years in Kansas, according to recent wheat variety acreage reports from Kansas Agricultural Statistics.

That´s not surprising to Kansas State University agronomist Jim Shroyer. Blends have some advantages in many situations, he said.

"Blends can offer producers some yield stability in most cases," said Shroyer, who is a crop production specialist with Kansas State University Research and Extension. "While any one variety may do much better or worse than other varieties in the same vicinity, having a blend of two or three varieties can usually even out those ups and downs. This reduces the chances of having a landlord upset because the variety planted on his or her land yielded considerably less than other fields in the area."

Blends have some disadvantages, as well, he added.

"Blends are unlikely to result in the highest yields possible in any given year," Shroyer said. "And blends do not provide the same level of management flexibility as a pure variety."

The K-State 2007-08 Wheat Variety Performance Test included several blends. In most cases, the yield of the blend was close to the average yield of the components in the blend. The interesting factor to look at is the range of yields among the components, he said.

"A good example is Brown County in 2008," he noted. "The blend of Overley, Post Rock, and Santa Fe, yielded 49. The average of each of those three varieties grown separately is 50. But the range of yields is 43 (Overley) to 53 (Post Rock and Santa Fe). There´s no way to know for sure ahead of time which of those three varieties would do best last season. If a producer had grown just Overley, the yield would have been 6 bushels less than the yield of the blend."

This illustrates the primary value of planting a blend. A blend takes some of the guesswork out of selecting varieties, he explained.

For complete details on the 2008 K-State Wheat Performance Test results, see: http://kscroptests.agron.ksu.edu/pdf/2008Wheat.pdf

Tips for making a good wheat variety blend
To be effective in stabilizing yield potential, careful consideration should be given to which wheat varieties to use when making a blend, said Jim Shroyer, K-State Research and Extension crop production specialist.

Shroyer shared some basic principles:
-Use varieties with different types of disease resistance. This is probably the single most important factor to consider when choosing a blend.

-Use varieties with a difference in maturity of no more than three to five days. If producers can spread out the maturity a bit, there is a better chance that at least one of the varieties can benefit from a given weather pattern. For example, a later-maturing variety might be able to take better advantage of a late rain than an early-maturing variety. Spreading maturities may require some compromises, however. If the earlier-maturing variety in the blend has a tendency to shatter (such as Jagger), the producer should be willing to harvest the field as soon as the early variety component in the blend is ready - which means the producer will have to be willing to take a moisture discount at times. If the earlier variety component in the blend has good shattering tolerance, then the producer can wait until the later variety component is fully dried down before harvesting.

-Use varieties with different levels of winterhardiness and spring greenup tendencies. If there are high-yielding varieties available, but which have poor winterhardiness or a tendency to break dormancy early in the spring, blend them with varieties that have better  winterhardiness or stronger spring dormancy.

-Use varieties that yield well. Do not include a low-yielding variety just for the sake of genetic diversity.

Source: SeedQuest.com
23 September 2008

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1.19  Rice protein identified that moderates resistance to infectious disease

Davis, California
Researchers at the University of California, Davis have identified a plant protein that is a key player in moderating resistance to infectious disease. The discovery has significant implications for medical and agricultural researchers, particularly those working to improve global rice production.

The protein, called XB15, keeps the plant's immune response from overreacting and damaging the plant.

Findings from the study, led by UC Davis rice geneticist Pamela Ronald, were published today in the journal The Public Library of Science Biology.

For more than 20 years, Ronald and her colleagues have been working to better understand the genetics behind how rice plants respond to the environment. They have developed rice plants that can better withstand environmental stresses, such as flooding and infectious diseases.

In 1995, the Ronald lab identified a protein in rice that serves as a "pathogen recognition receptor." Such receptors are proteins found in virtually all higher organisms and are key to controlling the plant and animal response to infection. The researchers found that this particular receptor in rice -- known as XA21 -- was very similar to proteins in humans and other animals that control the innate immune response.

While such immune responses are critical to the survival of the plant or animal, they do come at a cost. In fact, in humans, the failure to regulate these responses can lead to various diseases, including some cancers.

Scientists have found that most plants or animals have built-in biochemical moderators, known as negative regulators, which keep an organism's immune response in check. These negative regulators make sure that a defense against a perceived pathogen is only mounted when truly needed.

In this recent study, Ronald and her colleagues identified a negative regulator for the XA21 pathogen recognition receptor -- a protein they named XB15.

"This finding gives us a better understanding of how the innate immune response is controlled," said Ronald, who chairs UC Davis' Plant Genomics Program.

Ronald and colleagues have shown that rice plants carrying an altered XB15 protein have enhanced resistance to bacterial leaf blight, which causes a serious bacterial disease of rice. They also discovered that if this protein is excessively produced in rice plants carrying the XA21 resistance gene, it could actually compromise the plant's ability to defend against the disease.

"This information should help us to develop hardier, more productive rice plants that can better meet the worldwide demand for rice," Ronald said. She noted that in parts of Asia, bacterial leaf blight has been known to reduce annual rice yields by as much as 60 percent.

"Rice is the staple food for more than half the world's population," Ronald said. "In developing countries, such significant crop losses translate directly into human suffering."

Collaborating on this study with Ronald were Chang-Jin Park, Ying Peng, Xuewei Chen, DeLing Ruan, Patrick E. Canlas and Rebecca Bart, all of UC Davis, and Christopher Dardick, formerly of the Ronald lab and now at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Appalachian Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville, W.Va.

This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Korea Science and Engineering Foundation.

Source: SeedQuest.com
23 September 2008

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1.20  CSREES awards more than US$9 million in grants to study fruit, vegetables and sunflower genomes

Washington, DC
U.S. Agriculture Under Secretary Gale Buchanan today announced more than $9.4 million for research, education and extension in the genomics of sunflower, black cherry, peach, strawberry, apple, lettuce, potato and tomato to researchers and educators at eight universities. Valued at more than $49 billion, the U.S. specialty crop industry is a major contributor to the U.S. economy.

"These grants will create new knowledge, information, genomic resources and seeds that may improve fruit quality, yield, drought tolerance and disease resistance in specialty crops," said Gale Buchanan, USDA chief scientist and under secretary for Research, Education and Economics. "This research is also expected to create new educational, training and extension avenues for students and the public in the area of fruit and vegetable crop sciences."

These awards are part of the USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) National Research Initiative Plant Genome Program and are in addition to grants that will be made under the new Specialty Crop Research Initiative that was created by the 2008 Farm Bill. The goal of the plant genome program is to increase fundamental knowledge of the structure, function and organization of plant genomes to improve agricultural efficiency and sustainability; effective integration of modern molecular breeding technologies and classical breeding practice for U.S. crop improvement; and improved U.S. varieties for agricultural growers and producers.

Michigan State University was awarded more than $5 million for a Coordinated Agricultural Project (CAP) award to study specialty crops within Solanaceae, including potato and tomato. The Solanaceae CAP will integrate genetic research with extension to ultimately develop improved varieties of potato and tomato with high value traits, such as carbohydrate and vitamin content. CAP projects combine significant funding over time and across institutions to support discovery and applications and promote communication leading to innovative science-based solutions to critical and emerging national priorities and needs. Total Fiscal Year 2008 grants of $150,000 to $5,439,591 were awarded.

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, CSREES focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future. For more information, visit www.csrees.usda.gov.

Source: SeedQuest.com
16 September 2008

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1.21  Markers for rice blast resistance discovered

Washington, DC
Genetic markers for a gene that helps rice resist a destructive fungus have been discovered by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists.

Plant molecular geneticist Robert Fjellstrom and research leader Anna McClung at the ARS Rice Research Unit in Beaumont, Texas, found the markers that protect rice from the rice blast fungus Magnaporthe oryzae, which causes blast disease.

Rice blast disease causes economically significant crop losses annually and is estimated to destroy enough rice to feed more than 60 million people. The fungus can infect the root, leaves, and stems of the plant. Once embedded, the fungus can produce structures that can also invade the plant's vascular system, blocking the transport of nutrients and water, and producing lesions on the aboveground plant parts.

The genetic markers are linked to the Pi-z blast resistance gene in rice. The Pi-z gene confers resistance to many strains of the blast fungus in the United States and throughout the world, so these markers are quite valuable for selecting and breeding disease resistant rice cultivars.

The markers are also highly beneficial because they are located closer to the Pi-z gene than previously developed markers for this gene, making them extremely accurate in predicting the gene's presence. Rice breeders have already been able to use these markers to select for highly resistant rice cultivars in California and Texas.

Preliminary analysis of a cross between the rice varieties "Zenith" and "Pi-2"--which carry the Pi-z and Pi-2 resistance genes, respectively--indicate that the genetic factors encoding their separate resistance reactions are not the same, but are very tightly linked. The Pi-z markers reported here provide rice breeders and geneticists with a valuable tool for marker-aided selection of the Pi-z gene.

ARS is a scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
By Alfredo Flores

Source: SeedQuest.com
12 September 2008

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1.22  Scientists are cracking the genetic code of weeds

United States
Research holds the potential to boost crop yields and impact our ability to feed a growing world population

When scientists identified the function of the 25,000 or so genes that make up human DNA, they unleashed a new wave of innovation in healthcare that is allowing physicians to tailor the treatment of diseases for better outcomes. The same type of genetic research is helping scientists do battle on a very different front – learning how to better control the invasive weeds that harm crops, reduce harvests and impact our ability to feed a growing world population.

"By bringing the same research principles used in the analysis of human DNA to the plant world, molecular biologists are developing a better understanding of how weeds work and how to control them more effectively," said Nilda Burgos, a weed physiologist in the Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Science at the University of Arkansas. "We also hope to use what we learn about the genetic traits of weeds to determine how we can help food crops thrive under environmental stresses and poor growing conditions, just as weeds do."

One leading example of the impact of molecular research involves work underway on weedy red rice (Oryza sativa), a troublesome weed that plagues rice crops around the globe. An estimated six out of 10 rice fields in the southern U.S. alone are infested with weedy red rice, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in losses annually due to reduced yields.

Researchers have discovered that weedy red rice absorbs more nitrogen than the rice cultivated for food. This means that when nitrogen-rich fertilizers are applied to an infested field, the weed robs nutrients from the crop and grows even bigger.

"As a next step, we hope to determine which weed genes cause the weedy rice to use more nitrogen than rice," Burgos said. "If we can narrow that down, perhaps we can learn how to make crops more nitrogen efficient and produce higher yields. In the meantime, the practical lesson for farmers and gardeners is to control weeds so they don't steal the fertilizer meant for crops."

Similar research is helping scientists with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) explore the impact of dormancy in weedy rice, leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula) and other weeds.

"When seeds and vegetative buds are in a resting period, they are far harder to control," said Mike Foley, research leader for the USDA's Agricultural Research Service, Plant Science Research Unit. "By identifying the genetic triggers that keep seeds from germinating, we hope to find clues that will help us develop more effective control measures."

Though research on weed genes is taking off in labs around the world, much remains to be done.

"Ongoing molecular research into the genetic code of weeds is crucial," said Lee Van Wychen, director of science policy for the Weed Science Society of America. "By understanding more about the characteristics of weeds – both the good and the bad – we can identify new opportunities not only for agriculture, but for use in other fields, such as medical science."

For more information on genetic weed research, visit http://www.wssa.net. Or contact the Weed Science Society of America at 202-746-4686.

Source: Weed Science Society of America via SeedQuest.com
8 September 2008

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1.23  Researchers find an essential gene for forming ears of corn

Cold Spring Harbor, NY
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) professor David Jackson, Ph.D., and a team of plant geneticists have identified a gene essential in controlling development of the maize plant, commonly known in the United States as corn. The new research extends the growing biological understanding of how the different parts of maize arise--important information for a plant that is the most widely planted crop in the U.S. and a mainstay of the global food supply.

The researchers found that a gene called sparse inflorescence1, or spi1, is involved the maize plant's synthesis of the growth hormone auxin. This chemical messenger is familiar to biology students, who learn that it is produced by the tip of a growing shoot. When the hormone is applied to only one side of the shoot, that side grows faster, causing the tip to bend.

In a much more complex process, auxin also helps to shape structures such as leaves or the female organs (ears) and male organs (tassels) of corn. The initial stages of these structures are called meristems, which consist of versatile, undifferentiated cells analogous to the stem cells found in animals. Jackson and colleagues from UC San Diego, including Andrea Gallavotti who spent one year in Jackson’s lab to perform some of this work, and at California State University at Long Beach and Pennsylvania State University, found that meristems emerge from an interplay between the synthesis of auxin by various cells and its motion between them. Disrupting either its production (by causing a mutation in the spi1 gene) or its motion results in stunted, defective organs.

Eudicots vs. Monocots
Much has been learned in the past about organ development in the cress plant known as Arabidopsis, which biologists regard as a “model organism” for plant research, much as the lab mouse has served as a model for research on mammalian biology. Arabidopsis is in a plant group called eudicots, however, while maize and many other food crops belong to a group known as monocots. The spi1 gene has cousins that affect auxin synthesis and organ formation in Arabidopsis, but there are important differences.

“In maize, spi1 mutations cause severe developmental effects, which is not the case in Arabidopsis, which we demonstrated by deleting, or ‘knocking-out,’ genes similar to spi1,” Jackson explained.  “Our work helped demonstrate that spi1 in maize has evolved a dominant role in auxin biosynthesis, and is essential for what we plant scientists call inflorescence development--the process in seed plants in which a shoot forms that supports the plant’s flowers,” he added. 

“When we looked at the interaction between spi1 and genes of the plant that regulate auxin transport, we found, interestingly, that the transport of auxin and biosynthesis work together in a synergistic manner to regulate how the meristem and lateral organs of the maize plant develop.” 

sparse inflorescence1 encodes a monocot-specific YUCCA-like gene required for vegetative and reproductive development in maize” received advanced online publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on September 17, 2008. The complete author list is: Andrea Gallavotti, Solmaz Barazesh, Simon Malcomber, Darren Hall, David Jackson, Robert Schmidt, and Paula McSteen. The paper is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0805596105.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) is a private, not-for-profit research and education institution at the forefront of efforts in molecular biology and genetics to generate knowledge that will yield better diagnostics and treatments for cancer, neurological diseases and other major causes of human suffering.

For more information, visit www.cshl.edu

Source: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory press release
24 September 2008

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1.24  Rice protein identified that moderates resistance to infectious disease

Davis, California
Researchers at the University of California, Davis have identified a plant protein that is a key player in moderating resistance to infectious disease. The discovery has significant implications for medical and agricultural researchers, particularly those working to improve global rice production.

The protein, called XB15, keeps the plant's immune response from overreacting and damaging the plant.

Findings from the study, led by UC Davis rice geneticist Pamela Ronald, were published today in the journal The Public Library of Science Biology.

For more than 20 years, Ronald and her colleagues have been working to better understand the genetics behind how rice plants respond to the environment. They have developed rice plants that can better withstand environmental stresses, such as flooding and infectious diseases.

In 1995, the Ronald lab identified a protein in rice that serves as a "pathogen recognition receptor." Such receptors are proteins found in virtually all higher organisms and are key to controlling the plant and animal response to infection. The researchers found that this particular receptor in rice -- known as XA21 -- was very similar to proteins in humans and other animals that control the innate immune response.

While such immune responses are critical to the survival of the plant or animal, they do come at a cost. In fact, in humans, the failure to regulate these responses can lead to various diseases, including some cancers.

Scientists have found that most plants or animals have built-in biochemical moderators, known as negative regulators, which keep an organism's immune response in check. These negative regulators make sure that a defense against a perceived pathogen is only mounted when truly needed.

In this recent study, Ronald and her colleagues identified a negative regulator for the XA21 pathogen recognition receptor -- a protein they named XB15.

"This finding gives us a better understanding of how the innate immune response is controlled," said Ronald, who chairs UC Davis' Plant Genomics Program.

Ronald and colleagues have shown that rice plants carrying an altered XB15 protein have enhanced resistance to bacterial leaf blight, which causes a serious bacterial disease of rice. They also discovered that if this protein is excessively produced in rice plants carrying the XA21 resistance gene, it could actually compromise the plant's ability to defend against the disease.

"This information should help us to develop hardier, more productive rice plants that can better meet the worldwide demand for rice," Ronald said. She noted that in parts of Asia, bacterial leaf blight has been known to reduce annual rice yields by as much as 60 percent.

"Rice is the staple food for more than half the world's population," Ronald said. "In developing countries, such significant crop losses translate directly into human suffering."

Collaborating on this study with Ronald were Chang-Jin Park, Ying Peng, Xuewei Chen, DeLing Ruan, Patrick E. Canlas and Rebecca Bart, all of UC Davis, and Christopher Dardick, formerly of the Ronald lab and now at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Appalachian Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville, W.Va.

This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Korea Science and Engineering Foundation.

Source: SeedQuest.com
23 September 2008

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1.25  CNAP Artemisia Research Project: Project update number 3, Autumn 2008

Welcome to the third update on the CNAP Artemisia Research Project. If you are new to the project, you can find out more about our research to produce high-yielding varieties of Artemisia here. You can read a shortened version of the latest newsletter below but visit our website to read the full version or download a pdf here.

(Items selected by the editor, PBN-L)

Update on plant screening for high-yielding traits
We have now screened 18,000 plants and identified individuals with yields significantly higher than existing varieties. We are investigating these plants to discover the traits that lie behind their high yields. Cross breeding experiments will convert them into new lines for field testing.

Gene discovery
We are using a range of approaches to identify genes with the potential to impact artemisinin yields. Around 30 genes will eventually be chosen as target genes and these will be subjects for genetic screening.

Molecular tools for plant breeding
We are looking for highly variable regions of DNA that can act as molecular markers. These markers will enable us to recognise plants with the desired genetic make up soon after planting, greatly accelerating the plant breeding process.

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1.26  Update 5-2008 of FAO-BiotechNews.

(Selected items by the editor, PBN-L)

4) FAO/IAEA Plant Breeding and Genetics Newsletter 21

The July 2008 newsletter from the Plant Breeding and Genetics Section of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture and the FAO/IAEA Agriculture and Biotechnology Laboratory is now available. This 43-page newsletter, issued twice a year, gives an overview of their past and upcoming events (meetings, training courses etc.), ongoing projects and publications. See http://www.naweb.iaea.org/nafa/pbg/public/pb-nl-21.pdf (2.6MB) or contact k.allaf@iaea.org to request a copy.

7) GCP Capacity-building corner

The website of the Generation Challenge Programme (GCP) of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) contains a 'Capacity-building corner' providing information about GCP training events, fellowship and grant opportunities, and other human resource development activities in the fields of plant genetic resources, genomics and molecular breeding. One of the corner's components, on 'learning materials', has recently been greatly expanded, so that now it contains a distant learning module for scientists covering genetic resource policies and implications on freedom to operate (developed in collaboration with Wageningen University and Research Centre); a self-study introductory online course on crop bioinformatics (a joint project between the GCP and the International Rice Research Institute); and a new learning module on genomics and comparative genomics (developed jointly by the GCP and Cornell University's Institute for Genomic Diversity). See http://www.generationcp.org/sp5/?da=08123058 or contact c.devicente@cgiar.org for more information.

E-mail address: mailto:FAO-Biotech-News@fao.org
FAO website http://www.fao.org
FAO Biotechnology website http://www.fao.org/biotech/index.asp (in Arabic,
Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish)

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2  PUBLICATIONS

2.01  New CAST publication: "Gene Flow in Alfalfa: Biology, Mitigation, and Potential Impact on Production"

Ames, Iowa
U.S. alfalfa growers produce for various markets. Access to new technologies­including genetically engineered (GE) herbicide, disease, and drought resistance and low-fiber crops­enables growers to address changing global market situations and remain competitive. At the same time, certain markets are sensitive to GE crops and the potential for gene flow, the exchange of genes from one population to another. CAST is pleased to release a new Special Publication­Gene Flow in Alfalfa: Biology, Mitigation, and Potential Impact on Production­to provide an overview of agronomic practices and biology to be considered in developing strategies that allow producers of conventional, organic, and biotechnology-derived alfalfa to coexist in the marketplace.

Alfalfa is an introduced, cultivated species in North America and the fourth largest U.S. crop by land area. Although the majority of the domestic market is not sensitive to GE alfalfa, portions of the domestic hay and seed markets and much of the export hay and seed markets are sensitive to adventitious presence­the unintended low level occurrence of seed or plant materials in a crop or crop products. As in all biological systems, and especially in field-scale agriculture, 100% purity of any constituent is very difficult to achieve and may not be possible economically.

“Understanding potential gene flow in alfalfa hay and seed production is an important first step in developing management strategies designed to mitigate gene flow,” says Task Force Chair Dr. Allen Van Deynze, Seed Biotechnology Center, University of California–Davis. “Sufficient scientific data are available to design these strategies and, as outlined in this document, those strategies can be successful in managing gene flow from GE to conventional alfalfa hay and seed production.”

Specific features of the Special Publication include:
-Executive Summary and Introduction
-Background and Demographics
-Alfalfa Biology
-Pollen-mediated Gene Flow in Alfalfa
-Seed-mediated Gene Flow in Alfalfa
-Animal Grazing
-Summary
-Appendices, Glossary, and Complete Literature Cited

“This paper was written and reviewed by a 12-member task force of scientific experts,” says CAST Executive Vice President John M. Bonner. “CAST is pleased to present this Special Publication as a timely overview of current developments and a preview of future applications in the study of gene flow in production crops.”

The full text of Gene Flow in Alfalfa: Biology, Mitigation, and Potential Impact on Production (Special Publication No. 28) is available in hardcopy ($18.00, plus shipping) and electronically ($10.00), along with many of CAST’s other scientific publications contacting the CAST Office at 515-292-2125. CAST is an international consortium of 37 scientific and professional societies. It assembles, interprets, and communicates credible science-based information regionally, nationally, and internationally to legislators, regulators, policymakers, the media, the private sector, and the public.
View the executive summary

Source: Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) via SeedQuest.com
15 September 2008

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2.02  Governing Agrobiodiversity: Plant Genetics and Developing Countries

A New book on international management of crop genetic resources

Regine Andersen
Fridtjof Nansen Institute, Norway
Plant genetic diversity is crucial to the breeding of food crops and is therefore a central precondition for food security. Diverse genetic resources provide the genetic traits required to deal with crop pests and diseases, as well as changing climate conditions. It is also essential for the millions of people worldwide who depend on traditional small-scale farming for their livelihoods. As such, plant genetic diversity is an indispensable factor in the fight against poverty.

However, the diversity of domesticated plant varieties is disappearing at an alarming rate while the interest in the commercial use of genetic resources has increased in line with bio-technologies, followed by demands for intellectual property rights. The ensuing struggle over genetic resources has given rise to several international agreements. A new book by FNI Senior Research Fellow Regine Andersen provides the first comprehensive analysis of how the international agreements pertaining to crop genetic resources affect the management of these vital resources for food security and poverty eradication in developing countries.

The book analyses the international regimes and their interaction, traces the driving forces across scales and the effects in developing countries. Finally, it identifies entry points to shape a better governance of agrobiodiversity.

A key conclusion is that the interaction between the various regimes has had largely negative effects for the management of crop genetic diversity in developing countries - despite other intentions behind the individual agreements. The result of these developments is an emerging anti-commons tragedy: A situation where multiple actors have the possibilities to exclude each other from the use of plant genetic resources in agriculture. Not only is this a threat to the conservation and sustainable use of these resources, but it may also seriously affect food security and the outlook for combating poverty in the world. With the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, which was adopted in 2001, the international community has an instrument with the potential to change this negative trend. Whether that will happen, however, depends crucially on the political will of the contracting parties to the Treaty.

'It is my sincere hope that this book can contribute to the efforts already underway, aimed at breaking out of the vicious circle of today's management of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, so that we may ensure the continued maintenance of these resources so vital to food security and poverty eradication. I also hope it will advance our understanding of how international regimes can better be employed as instruments for strengthening global governance in environmental issues,' says Regine Andersen.

Contents:
-Preface

-Part 1 Introduction: Relevance and objectives of the study; Plant genetic resources for food and agriculture: foundations of the topic. 

-Part 2 Research Design: Research questions and analytical framework; Research strategy and methods.

-Part 3 The Constellations of International Regimes Pertaining to Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture: The international treaty on plant genetic resources for food and agriculture with the international undertaking on plant genetic resources; The convention on biological diversity; The agreement on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights and the convention for the protection of new varieties of plants; Regime overlap, interaction and resulting constellations. 

-Part 4 Domestic Responses to the International Regime Constellation Pertaining to Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture: Cases from The Philippines: Effects in The Philippines; Mechanisms of influence of international regimes: 2 cases. 

-Part 5 Conclusions, Relevance and Challenges: The aggregate effects of international regimes on PGRFA management in developing countries; Implications of the findings and challenges ahead;

-Bibliography

-Interviews

-Index

Regine Andersen is a Senior Research Fellow of The Fridtjof Nansen Institute, Norway

Source: The Fridtjof Nansen Institute

Contributed by Claes Lykke ranger
Fridtjof Nansen Institute,Lysaker, Norway
Claes.Ragner@fni.no

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3.  WEB RESOURCES

3.01  Platform for Agrobiodiversity Research

We would like to take this opportunity to bring you some information  on recent developments for the Platform for Agrobiodiversity Research.

The Platform seeks to improve the maintenance and use of  agrobiodiversity by synthesizing and sharing existing knowledge,  identifying areas where research is needed and stimulating the  development of new and innovative research partnerships to address  knowledge gaps.

We now have a website  running http://www.agrobiodiversityplatform.org where you will find information on the Platform's objectives, guiding principles, and governance. It also will have interactive features in the near future.

If you are interested, we will offer you the opportunity to register and become a member of the Platform, provide information on  yourself and your area(s) of expertise.

By registering you will show your support for the Platform and its  work. We hope that, with your help, the Platform and its website can  become an effective way of accessing information, developing new ideas  and building new partnerships to strengthen the maintenance and use of  agrobiodiversity.

From the Platform's home page you can sign up to receive  newsletters which we plan to deliver to your inbox on a regular base  describing the activities in which the Platform and its members are  involved. We are eager to hear any news, information and links that you  would like us to include, just let us know!

Current activities and  plans
With support from the Christensen Fund, the Platform is undertaking  a project on "The use of agrobiodiversity to manage climate change - charting experiences from rural communities and indigenous peoples"

More information can be found  at www.agrobiodiversityplatform.org/climate_change/

Click here to open a flyer with some background information about this  project.

We have set up a blog and we are compiling information through a social book marking  system which  you are welcome to consult. You are also very welcome to contribute  and increase the shared knowledge base we are building.

Future newsletters will give more  information on the progress of this project.

Over the next few months we plan to hold 2 electronic discussions. The first of these will be on agrobiodiversity and climate  change and will be particularly concerned with helping to identify  major knowledge gaps and research needs in respect of the use of  agrobiodiversity as part of climate change adaptation strategies. More  later.

The Platform for Agrobiodiversity Research will depend for its  success on the active participation and involvement of the many  different individuals and groups who work with different aspects of  agrobiodiversity. We look forward to hearing from you, either directly  at the Secretariat or by responding to this email message with your suggestions, interests and  ideas.

Contributed by Toby Hodgkin
Platform for Agrobiodiversity  Research Coordinator
platformcoordinator@cgiar.org

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3.02  Genomics and comparative genomics: New learning module

The module is a collaboration project between Cornell University's Institute for Genomic Diversity and GCP, and is designed to be used either as basic material for a class setting, or as a self-tutorial. It targets scientists and advanced students with a strong background in biology and genetics. The principal audience includes plant breeders, molecular biologists and other plant scientists on the fringe of­but not fully engaged in­genomics research. More

Source: GCP News Issue 33, 4 September 2008

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3.03  MAB module: McClintock Crop Bioinformatics course

A new module on marker-assisted backcrossing (MAB) module has been added in the McClintock Crop Bioinformatics course More

Source: GCP News Issue 33, 4 September 2008

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4.  GRANTS AVAILABLE

4.01  2009 Vavilov–Frankel Fellowship Programme: Applications invited

This fellowship from Bioversity International targets young developing country researchers, and encourages the conservation and use of plant genetic resources in developing countries.
Deadline: 9 November 2008. More

Source: GCP News Issue 33, 4 September 2008

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5.  POSITION ANNOUNCEMENTS

5.01  Chair, Department of Plant Sciences, North Dakota State University

NDSU is already searching for a permanent Chair of our Department (Department of Plant Sciences). There is still not a job description but it would be nice to let national and international interested individuals to consider this opportunity. We have an interim Chair since August 1, 2008 and we are supposed to fill out this position in July 1, 2009. Our Department houses 14 applied breeding programs in different crops. For more information of the department see: http://www.ag.ndsu.nodak.edu/plantsci.

NDSU is encouraging to receive outside applications.

Contributed by Marcelo Carena
marcelo.carena@ndsu.edu

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5.02  Postdoctoral position for genetic/genomic studies in apple, Cornell University

A full-time postdoctoral associate is sought for genetic/genomic studies in apple (Malus x domestica).  The project will focus on studying genes influencing plant architecture, fruit quality and disease resistance. Genetic maps will be developed and new molecular markers will be identified. The successful candidate will develop and use genomics tools for the genetic enhancement of apple, and is expected to contribute to a variety of studies within the apple genetic improvement program.

Applicants should have a PhD in Plant Genetics/Genomics, Plant Breeding, Plant Molecular Biology or related disciplines.  Hands-on experience in diverse PCR-based markers systems and linkage map construction is required. Experience in marker development and linkage analysis in allopolyploids is desired. A strong theoretical background in Statistical Genomics will be favorable received. Association mapping, genomic sequence analysis, genomic data mining and bioinformatics experience would be a definite plus. Candidates should have a proven record of research productivity and proficiency and the ability to work collaboratively with other researchers and graduate students. Excellent English written and oral, communication skills are required. Salary is commensurate with experience and education.

The position will be under the supervision of Dr. Susan Brown, Herman M. Cohn Professor of Horticultural Sciences and Director of the Tree Fruit Genomics Initiative, Department of Horticultural Sciences, Cornell University, 630 West North Street, 120 Hedrick Hall, NYSAES, Geneva, NY.

Send a curriculum vitae, a list of publications, a statement of research interests and phone numbers and full contact information of at least 3 references to:  Dr. Susan Brown, Department of Horticultural Sciences, Cornell University, 630 West North Street, 120 Hedrick Hall, NYSAES, Geneva, NY. (Email: skb3@cornell.edu)

Review of applications will begin immediately. The position is available for filling as soon as possible, but a later start date is negotiable.

Contributed by Lou Ann Rago
Department of Horticultural Sciences
Cornell University
lar38@cornell.edu

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5.03  Durum breeder/pre-breeder position in the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, The University of Adelaide, Australia

The School of Agriculture, Food and Wine of The University of Adelaide seeks a Research Fellow to conduct durum breeding and related pre-breeding research. This position is funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation.

In this position, you will develop improved durum varieties within the Australian Durum Wheat Improvement Program (ADWIP, a joint initiative involving the University of Adelaide and the NSW Department of Primary Industries), participate in established pre-breeding research projects; and develop a program of independent and/or collaborative original research. You will be expected to collaborate with colleagues locally and nationally, interact effectively with industry stakeholders including durum wheat growers and processors and contribute to the preparation of proposals for research funds. You may also co-supervise postgraduate research students and make other contributions to postgraduate and undergraduate education.

For appointment at Level B (AUD 70,075 - 83,215 per annum) you should have:
* a PhD or equivalent degree in plant breeding or a related field, preferably with postdoctoral experience
* a demonstrated ability to conduct independent research and/or plant breeding
* a demonstrated ability to work effectively as a member of a team
* a record of contributions to the development of improved crop varieties or germplasm and/or to publication of high-quality refereed scientific publications
* excellent verbal and written communication skills

Candidates who do not meet all of the above criteria are welcome to apply and may be considered for appointment at Level A (AUD 54,656 - 66,567 per annum).

This fixed-term position is available immediately for a period of 3 years. It is anticipated that a continuing position in this area may become available in future.

For further information on selection criteria and application procedures, please refer to http://www.adelaide.edu.au/jobs/current/15187/ and/or contact Prof Diane Mather (diane.mather@adelaide.edu.au; telephone +61 8 8303 7156). 

Applications for this position should be submitted by 10 October 2008.

Contributed by Diane E. Mather
School of Agriculture, Food and Wine
The University of Adelaide
diane.mather@adelaide.edu.au

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5.04  Graduate Research Assistantships: Plant Breeding, University of Wisconsin

The graduate program in Plant Breeding & Plant Genetics (PBPG) at the University of Wisconsin is accepting applications for research assistantships towards the MS and PhD degrees. These assistantships are funded by Monsanto and Pioneer Hi-bred to support graduate students in plant breeding and cover tuition, health insurance, and a competitive salary. For full consideration, applicants should complete the on-line application at http://www.wisconsinplantbreeding.com/ by December 15, 2008. Applications received after this deadline will be considered for other sources of financial support. Questions should be directed to Dr. Michael J. Havey, Chair of PBPG, at mjhavey@wisc.edu.

Contributed by Chad Kramer
cckramer@wisc.edu

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5.05  Ph. D. Fellowships in Plant Breeding at Cornell University

USDA National Needs Graduate Fellowships are available for U.S. citizens/U.S. Nationals interested in combining plant breeding, crop genomics, and bioinformatics.  Participating faculty cover a broad range of research activities and encourage interdisciplinary projects.  Excellent facilities are available for laboratory, computational, greenhouse and field studies.  Fellows will have opportunities for lab rotations, international activities and interactions with industry.

Financial support includes a 12 month stipend of at least $28,000, full tuition, and health insurance. For additional information, see http://plbrgen.cals.cornell.edu/ or contact Elizabeth D. Earle (ede3@cornell.edu; 607-255-3102).

Submit applications on the Cornell Graduate School web site: http://www.gradschool.cornell.edu/

Contributed by Elizabeth D. Earle
Professor, Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics
Cornell University

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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.

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.

3-5 November 2008. Workshop: Mixed Models in Plant Improvement (spatial statistical methods for design and analysis of multi-environment trials). The University of Western Australia, International Centre for Plant Breeding Education and Research (ICPBER).(Note new website information: Enrolment forms:  http://www.icpber.plants.uwa.edu.au/ (select "courses").

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

4-8 November 2008. 3rd International Conference for Peanut Genomics and Biotechnology on Advances in Arachis through Genomics and Biotechnology (AAGB-2008), ICRISAT, Hyderabad, India. For further details, please visit http://www.icrisat.org/aagb-2008 / http://www.peanutbioscience.com  or contact Rajeev Varshney (r.k.varshney@cgiar.org) for further details

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

*(NEW) 4 – 8 November 2008. 3rd International Meeting of the Peanut Genomics Initiative on Advances in Arachis through Genomics and Biotechnology (AAGB 2008), Hyderabad, India. Convenors: ICRISAT and American Peanut Council
Application deadline: 30 September 2008. More
Source: GCP News Issue 33, 4 September 2008

9-14 November 2008. 5th International Symposium of the European Amaranth Association. Institute of Plant Genetics and Biotechnology of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, Nitra, Slovak Republic. Organized by the Institute of Plant Genetics and Biotechnology, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Nitra, Slovak Republic and AMR AMARANTH a.s., Blansko, Czech Republic.
Note from the organizers, 19 August 2008: “I would like to remind you the new deadlines for Amaranth conference.

New deadlines:
Registration form and abstract submission   -  August 31, 2008.
Payment (we will confirm before Sept.15)  -  September 15, 2008

IMPORTANT: The organizing committee decided to include besides of amaranth also contributions on other neglected and underutilized crops to the conference programme. Please, inform your colleagues and potential participants about this fact.”
Alena Gajdosova

*(NEW) 13 – 17 November 2008. Workshop on reference sets of food crop germplasm for international collaboration, Montpellier, France. Convenors: GCP’s Subprogrammes 1 and 5. This workshop will examine the various stages in accessing the genetic diversity of crop germplasm collections. More
Source: GCP News Issue 33, 4 September 2008

17-28 November 2008. Molecular methodologies for assessing and applying genetic diversity in crop breeding, ICRISAT Campus at Patancheru, Greater Hyderabad, India.
 The course will provide participants a hands-on opportunity to gain expertise in the use of molecular markers (SSRs, SNPs and DArTs) in diversity analysis, gene/QTL mapping and marker-assisted breeding. http://www.icrisat.org/CEG/   . For questions, please contact Rajeev Varshney (r.k.varshney@cgiar.org).

24 – 27 November 2008. Conventional and Molecular Breeding of Field and Vegetable Crops. Novi Sad, Serbia. For more information contact: tanja@ifvcns.ns.ac.yu.

25 – 28 Nov. 2008. Simpósio Brasileiro de Recursos Genéticos, Hotel Nacional, Brasília, DF, Brazil. More information at http://www.cenargen.embrapa.br/sbrg

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. Global Potato Conference 2008. NASC Complex, New Delhi, India. http://www.gpc2008.in. For registration inquiries, contact Dr JS Minhas at minhasjs@excite.com

9-12 December 2008. Second International Symposium on Papaya, Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India. http://www.ishs-papaya2008.com/About%20the%20symposium.html

8-11 February 2009. International Conference on “Plant Abiotic Stress Tolerance,”  Vienna, Austria http://www.univie.ac.at/stressplants/

17 – 19 March 2009. Technical workshop of the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative, Cd. Obregón, Sonora, Mexico
http://www.globalrust.org/content.cfm?ID=46.
Online registration at http://www.globalrust.org

*(NEW) 25 – 26 March 2009. Seed Biology, Production & Quality Course. Offered by The Seed Biotechnology Center, together with UC Davis Extension.

This unique course is designed for professionals in the seed industry, crop consultants and growers to update and expand their current knowledge.  Participations will learn fundamental and specialized information on topics including seed development, production, harvesting, testing, conditioning, enhancement, storage, and quality assessment.  This course is completely updated and the instructors will include:  Dr. Derek Bewley (University of Guelph, Canada), Dr. Henk Hilhorst (Wageningen University, The Netherlands), and Dr. Kent Bradford and Dr. Allen Van Deynze from the University of California, Davis.  Watch for more information and registration details at http:sbc.ucdavis.edu.

Source: Seed Biotechnology Center E-News: September 2008

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

26-29 May 2009. 19th EUCARPIA Conference, Genetic Resources Section, Ljubljana, Slovenia. Early registration and abstract submission: February 2009. www.eucarpia.kis.si

1-5 June 2009. 6th International Triticeae Symposium. Kyoto University Conference Hall, Kyoto, Japan
Contact:
Taihachi Kawahara kawatai@mbox.kudpc.kyoto-u.ac.jp
Kazuhiro Sato kazsato@rib.okayama-u.ac.jp

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

28 Sept. – 1 Oct. 2009. 9th African Crop Science Society Conference, Cape Town, South Africa. Conference theme: Science and technology supporting food security in Africa.

More information on the programme, accommodation, excursions and guidelines for abstracts, etc. will be posted on the conference web page as it become available.

11-16 October 2009. Interdrought-III, The 3rd international conference on integrated approaches to improve crop production under drought-prone environments; Shanghai, China. Conference web site: http://www.interdrought.org/. Previous Interdrought conferences at www.plantstress.com

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   Please note that you may have to copy and paste this address to your web browser, since the link can be corrupted in some e-mail applications. We will continue to improve the organization of archival issues of the newsletter. Readers who have suggestions about features they wish to see should contact the editor at chh23@cornell.edu.

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

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

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