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

PLANT BREEDING NEWS

EDITION 195
31 October 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  Mobilizing the next Green Revolution: alleviating poverty in the age of climate change
1.02  Answers to the food crisis
1.03  Promoting a strong seed sector in sub-Saharan Africa - An IFPRI policy brief
1.04  Seed association for Central Asia
1.05  Working party for seed orchards launched by IUFPRO
1.06  Alliance of CGIAR centers best bets for boosting crop yields in sub-Saharan Africa
1.07  USDA Awards More Than $28 Million in Specialty Crop Research
1.08  USDA-ARS University of Wisconsin-Madison plant breeders receive specialty crop grants to improve important vegetable traits
1.09  Murdoch University of Western Australia and Taif University of Saudi Arabia team up on barley breeding
1.10  Bio-fuel crops research for energy security and rural development in developing countries
1.11  Cornell plant experts identify Northeastern U.S. grasses that will fuel bioenergy era
1.12  Participatory plant breeding  for climate change adaptation: the case of FIPAH and new Santa Cruz and Capulin Mejorado varieties
1.13  India develops mustard hybrid
1.14  New plants could prompt more prodigious pepper production in the Southwestern United States
1.15  Scientists propose the creation of a new type of seed bank that will help understanding of evolution and climate change
1.16  Global Information on Germplasm Accessions (GIGA) project to ease access to global genebanks
1.17  In the wake of the financial, energy, climate and food crises, crop diversity is key to ensuring global food supply
1.18  $50 million to protect biodiversity threatened by climate change
1.19  Seed wars: controversies and cases on plant genetic resources and intellectual property
1.20  Conserving, promoting and improving crop diversity to enhance food security in a changing climate  
1.21  International genebank specialists discuss strategies to safeguard genetic resources
1.22  Wheat genetic resources enhancement by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)
1.23  Numerical classification of related Peruvian highland maize races using internal ear traits
1.24  Identification of genetic markers for lodging resistance in wheat
1.25  New starch quality traits discovered in cassava
1.26  Scientists identify gene that allows plants to survive iron starvation
1.27  Researchers develop calcium-biofortified lettuce lines
1.28  New peas resist fungal foe
1.29  Effector-based identification of late blight resistance gene in potato
1.30  Scientists identify rice gene to improve yield
1.31  Michigan State University scientists find new gene that helps plants beat the heat
1.32  A novel approach and technological breakthrough in breeding for salt tolerance
1.33  Fried purple tomatoes
1.34  Molecular screening for aroma in rice
1.35  Genetically enhancing the scent of flowers
1.36  Roselle HS2180-1-36-49-4: A promising mutant line for Roselle industry in Malaysia
1.37  New tool probes function of rice genes
1.38  When under attack, plants can signal microbial friends for help
1.39  Chinese scientists identify major regulatory gene in rice
1.40  Genes controlling rhythmic plant growth identified

2.  PUBLICATIONS
2.01  Proceedings of the African-Japanese Rice production Workshop
2.02  FAO document on bioenergy and biotechnologies

3.  WEB RESOURCES
3.01  Check out the Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog: http://agro.biodiver.se
3.02  Announcement of FAO e-conference on bioenergy and biotechnologies
3.03  New website on farmers' rights

4  GRANTS AVAILABLE
(None posted)

5  POSITION ANNOUNCEMENTS
5.01  Corn Breeder: Research & Development Scientist in South Dakota
5.02  Popcorn breeding position
5.03  Head, Department of Plant Sciences, North Dakota State University, Fargo
5.04  Maize Breeding Lead (Senior or Principal Scientist)
5.05  Scientist - Insect Resistant Maize Breeding
5.06  Graduate Research Assistantships in Plant Breeding, University of Wisconsin ­ Madison

6  MEETINGS, COURSES AND WORKSHOPS

7  EDITOR'S NOTES

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1.  NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH NOTES

1.01  Mobilizing the next Green Revolution: alleviating poverty in the age of climate change

Rockefeller Foundation to provide funding to IRRI to shepherd Golden Rice through national, regulatory approval processes in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, and the Philippines

New York, New York
Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation
Laureate keynote address at The World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue

Thank you for the welcome, the privilege of honoring Senators Bob Dole and George McGovern, and the opportunity to speak here in Iowa. Iowa certainly finds itself at the center of everything – as I imagine Senators Dole and McGovern, not to mention Senators McCain and Obama would affirm. This beautiful sweep of heartland also became an adopted homeland of sorts for the Rockefeller Foundation. Our own Norman Borlaug carried the seeds of a Green Revolution from Cresco, about 190 miles from here by car, to Latin America, Asia, and now Africa. Norman’s work mobilized a miracle that saved a billion lives. You could say, then, that our tradition of agricultural innovation has roots planted deeply in Iowa soil.

Just two years ago, I had the pleasure of working with Norman, when the Rockefeller Foundation sponsored the Africa Fertilizer Summit in Abuja, Nigeria. He spoke with unrivaled authority, admonishing that the Green Revolution had three key ingredients: seeds, fertilizer, and leadership. He challenged donors, ministers, and presidents to devote the same intellectual, institutional, and financial resources to the African Green Revolution as their predecessors in Latin America and Asia did a generation ago. I can’t help but think that the world would be suffering less severe food shortages and price spikes if more development agencies and elected officials had answered Norman’s call for leadership in 2006, rather than waiting for a food crisis in 2008.

As I look out at the audience and flip through the program, I’m also delighted to recognize the more than two dozen symposium speakers who were or are Rockefeller Foundation grantees – and the many more here who trained for their careers as Rockefeller Foundation fellows or Rocky Doc’s. We thank you for serving as ambassadors of the foundation’s goodwill and good-works around the globe.

You’ve heard a lot, this week, about the Rockefeller and Bill & Melinda Gates foundations’ joint aspirations to seed transformational agricultural productivity in sub-Saharan Africa, with many of you as partners. Since launching AGRA two years ago, the Rockefeller Foundation has contributed about $75 million and secunded some of our best and brightest to the alliance. We’re pleased that AGRA has generated early success, attracting unexpected supporters and new collaborators. And while our commitment continues, we also seek and support other innovations across the field of agricultural development.

Let me mention just two. As many of you know, Rockefeller grantees were first to harness biotechnology to fortify food’s nutritional value – and not without controversy. Take Golden Rice, for example. In the sixty-five years since they began, we’ve funded the work of Golden Rice’s engineers, Dr. Peter Beyer, Dr. Ingo Potrykus, and others for more than fifteen of them. Golden rice promises to alleviate the suffering of malnourished children and the debilitating effects of beta-carotene and vitamin A deficiencies – blindness and measles – in particular. Its widespread distribution could save almost 3 million children’s lives, while nourishing as many as 300 million more – 40 percent of children under age five, in the developing world, according to the World Health Organization.

I’m delighted to announce, today, that we will be providing funding to the International Rice Research Institute – which we helped establish almost fifty years ago – to shepherd Golden Rice through national, regulatory approval processes in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, and the Philippines. And we hope this is just the beginning. This continues our historic relationship with IRRI, an institution that has directly benefited billions of the world’s poorest people. It also reflects our enduring commitments to connect families with technologies that can help them lead healthier, better, more productive lives, to see innovation through to action and impact, and to give great ideas, 90 percent down the road, that extra 10 percent they need to reach their destination.

I’m pleased to announce another grant this afternoon too. We know that even if farmers breed better seeds and harvest more bountiful yields, communities around the world will still suffer food emergencies. As the food crisis worsened during these last nine months, the United Nations World Food Program labored tirelessly to help when and where the suffering was greatest. A recent grant from the Gates and Howard Buffet foundations will enable the WFP to purchase local produce. It will increase emergency food supplies, tie the smallholder farmers who produce them with reliable markets, and spread new economic opportunities throughout Africa. We commend our partners for their leadership on this front.

Still, the rush on WFP finances during this and other times of challenge may lead to delays and disruptions in service for people and for communities in dire need. In response, we’re working with the WFP to develop innovative financing strategies and new types of funding instruments for disaster relief and food distribution. If successful, they can be replicated and expanded in other development programs around the world.

Since this week’s theme is “confronting crisis,” I want to talk for the next few minutes about how we confront another grave and growing crisis on the horizon: climate change. Weather and climate remain among farmers’ greatest vulnerabilities, as they have throughout history. But, today – as we sense, as we know – is different. Decades of continued climate change are on the way, regardless of when we get emissions under control – regardless how many westerners trade in Hummers for Priuses. You heard yesterday from India’s Dr. Rita Sharma about the impacts of climate change on agriculture. Subsistence slips further from reach as climate sensitive, natural ecosystems deteriorate – as vulnerable people in vulnerable places lose clean water for drinking and fishing, protected habitat for hunting and grazing, and fertile soil for farming.

In Africa, especially, global climate disruption jeopardizes local agricultural yields. The people of sub-Saharan Africa have contributed only 2 percent of global carbon emissions. Yet, they will pay some of climate change’s highest tolls. Livelihoods – lives – are at stake. The Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects, with high confidence, that the countries of sub-Saharan Africa will be among the most severely affected by increased climate variability. Researchers at the International Livestock Research Institute suggest that, in the next decade, climate change could shorten sub-Saharan Africa’s growing season by several weeks and decrease yields from rain fed agriculture by as much as half. Yale’s Robert Mendelsohn estimates that small scale African farmers, who rely so much on rain fed land, stand to lose $28 per hectare per year for each one degree, Celsius, rise in global temperature. If you earn less than two dollars a day, that’s a devastating blow to your family’s well-being.

The risks will be especially severe for African women – who we’ve talked about so much this morning – who harvest 80 percent of the continent’s food. Women already disproportionately bear the burdens of malnourishment. They grow, buy, and cook, but usually eat only after their husbands and children. As food becomes scarcer and costlier, less is left over, and it’s women – not men – who starve. Climate change only intensifies women’s hazards. Men may migrate to cities for their work, but, because of climate change, the women who remain will spend more time in the fields, harvesting less productive crops, and walk further distances to gather fuel and collect water. Because of gendered land tenure policies, men and women have access to different kinds of resources. When extreme weather events occur, men will still own their land. Women’s wealth, however, is what they harvest. And girls – not boys – are removed from school when families can no longer afford uniforms, books, and enrollment fees, or when they need extra help in the fields.

So what can be done? First, we must implement resilient farming methods and food supply systems. Second, we must implement pro-poor adaptation and mitigation strategies. The good news: there is substantial progress on the first front, especially in breeding stress-tolerant, climate-resilient seeds, improving irrigation and increasing water-use efficiency – getting the most crop from every drop – strengthening soil management practices, and helping to build infrastructure and output markets. These efforts must be better integrated and coordinated within country and across climactic regions.

On the second front, we must do more to empower African farmers and African institutions to mobilize the next Green Revolution in a world that will continue warming. Let me touch briefly on three new examples of Rockefeller Foundation work, all of which fall under our $70 million initiative to strengthen local resilience to the impacts of climate change.

First, famers need better and timelier seasonal climate forecasts to prepare for adverse events like drought, and to seize the new opportunities that climactically favorable seasons may present. The science that enables this kind of forecasting is improving by leaps and bounds. Forecasting tools are growing more reliable. And several African institutions are now working with the World Meteorological Organization to construct these seasonal climate projections.

The Nairobi-based, Intergovernmental Climate Prediction and Applications Center – ICPAC – is one such organization. It engages some of the world’s best climate scientists in developing seasonal forecasts, and then sharing regional climate outlooks with ministries of agriculture, extension agencies, and others who can spread the word among smallholder farmers. In August, ICPAC hosted a training workshop that brought together, from more than 15 African nations, the meteorologists who make forecasts, the agriculturalists who need them, and leading scientists from the United States, Europe, and South Africa. Stunningly, for many, it was the first time they met their counterparts within their own country, let alone those from across the continent or around the world. Now they’re being wired into African science and research networks, with new capacity to make excellent forecasts, and inform local adaptation methods.

These forecasts, however, will always be based on probabilities, and a forecast that’s 70 to 80 percent reliable still leaves farmers 20 to 30 percent uncertain. I don’t need to tell anyone here that farming – and rain fed agriculture specifically – is a risky business. To help reduce the risk, the Rockefeller Foundation is scaling pilots on weather indexed crop and livestock insurance for smallholder farmers.

For example, we’re partnering with the World Bank, ILRI, global insurers like Swiss Re, and local insurers like FSD-Kenya. FSD-Kenya is creating an insurance package that reimburses input costs should farmers lose their crops to an independently and objectively documented weather event. FSD-Kenya aggregates large pools of farmers by region, thus considerably lowering the price of insurance per farmer. While the insurance is provided by private companies, it takes added subsidies from civil society and the public sector to make these policies more accessible and affordable for smallholder farmers. Because the insurance is weather-indexed, the payout thresholds are simple and clear. And the benefits will flow through the entire agricultural value chain.

Take the case of Josephine Okot, the founder and managing director of Victoria Seeds, in Uganda, a full line seed company that provides smallholder farmers with high quality seeds for vegetable, cereal, legume, and oil crops. We invested in Victoria Seeds through African Agricultural Capital, a Kampala-based investment fund that serves small scale farmers. Josephine obtains licenses for new crop varieties, contracts with cooperatives of women farmers who multiply the seed, prepares the seed in affordable packages, and markets these packages throughout Uganda – including in the country’s strife-torn northern region, where many of her family members still live. When our Board and I visited with Josephine in March, she told us that climate challenges pose the greatest risk to her business’ profitability. If the rains don’t come early in the growing season, farmers don’t buy seeds. If the rains don’t come late in the growing season, then farmers can’t afford to pay for the seeds they already purchased on credit. Either way, Victoria Seeds, loses. Whether-indexed crop insurance will be a huge help.

But another variable in the risk-reduction equation are climate projections that provide sufficient, geography specific detail. You heard from Rockefeller Foundation grantee Roz Naylor, who, along with David Lobell, developed overlapping global circulation, crop production, and ecosystem function models. These are critical. They provide a comprehensive view of how, by 2030, climate change will affect five staple crops in a dozen extremely poor regions of the developing world. One alarming finding? Maize production in southern Africa could diminish by as much as one-third. Think about what this would mean: a third less of southern Africa’s staple food. Professors Naylor and Lobell are collecting additional data and refining their modeling so they can calibrate their projections to other agro-ecosystems.

Now, all these strategies – linking up seasonal forecasting networks, developing new crop insurance products, and projecting climate change’s repercussions for specific crops in specific places – must be intentionally tilted to reach smallholder farmers in the most vulnerable communities. These tools and technological advances must not only be accessible to the elite – including large scale farms, though they need these solutions too. We must assure that resilient, entrepreneurial people – despite conditions of poverty – can mitigate risk and seize new economic opportunities that climate change may create.

We know this is possible because we watched it happen in our previous work, which opened doors to credit for a new type of entrepreneur: agro dealers, typically women, selling seeds and fertilizer to smallholder farmers. Take Janet Matemba, from the village of Lumbadzi in rural Malawi. Janet owned a small, remote roadside stand that sold sodas, soap, biscuits, and cooking oil to area farmers. Six years ago, a representative of the Rural Market Development Trust, one of our grantees, approached her about selling agricultural products. She hesitated. What did she know about agriculture? It would mean learning new skills and – more intimidating still – making a relatively substantial upfront investment. But Janet eventually decided to take the chance. She studied business management and earned her certificate in agro dealing. With the help of a guaranteed credit facility, she purchased fertilizer and seeds from wholesale suppliers. She broke those packages down into smaller sizes and sold them to local farmers. Now, she turns significant profit, reinvests most of what she earns into growing her business, and hires many of her neighbors. Janet Matemba and so many like her embody the potential for retail entrepreneurs to replenish depleted soils, create viable agricultural marketplaces, and strengthen Africa’s self-sufficiency. Janet Matemba, Josephine Okot, and countless other women have demonstrated considerable courage. They are able, active partners. They nourish and build communities with their bare hands.

Today, the challenge of climate change may afford new economic opportunities to industrious, resourceful women, like Janet and Josephine, if we maintain focused attention on assuring economic growth with equity. For instance, during the last few years, the international carbon trading systems have expanded prolifically. These institutions allow emitters in developing countries to sell emission credits to companies in and governments of industrialized ones. Last year, the market facilitated over $63 billion in exchanges. But in Africa, as in emerging economies around the world, the carbon markets are yet to work for the women and families laboring in the fields and tending the forests.

Kyoto Protocol rules do not formally recognize that sustainable agricultural practices could mitigate carbon emissions and climate change. So, it will be critical to reform Kyoto’s Clean Development Mechanism at the United Nations Framework Convention in Copenhagen next year. This is among the easiest, but most important modifications that delegates can and must make. With this single reform, governments and donors could direct funds from the carbon markets to reward local, terrestrial carbon sequestration. With this single reform, women like Josephine Okot and Janet Matemba could tap into a torrent of economic possibility. We have partnered with COMESA, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, to enable their advocacy in Copenhagen for this pro-African policy. And we’re one voice in a rising choir, elevating the connection between carbon sequestration and poverty alleviation. Strengthening resilience to climate change is a poverty reduction strategy.

With the Clinton Foundation and World Wildlife Fund, we’re laying the groundwork for more exact carbon measuring and monitoring systems, building more effective institutions, and promoting new financial incentives. These incentives could reduce deforestation, which leaves roughly the same carbon footprint as all the cars, trucks, and planes in the world. These incentives could also encourage reforestation, ecosystem restoration, conservation tillage, and other practices that boost soil’s organic content. Agro forestry, integrating nitrogen-fixing trees in crop production practices, is another important ingredient in the recipe.

If the global community joins together to include these practices in the carbon credit system, we will generate multiple, mutually reinforcing opportunities to generate greater wealth across sub-Saharan Africa and throughout the developing world. The benefits must not go exclusively to governments. They must go to smallholder farmers, to women, who, the data affirm, are much more likely than men to reinvest their income in nutrition, health, education, and family farms or small businesses – a finding seen in studies of countries diverse as Bangladesh, Brazil, Cote d’ Ivoire, Ghana, Indonesia, and South Africa to name just a few.

Progress always springs from the seeds of daring ideas. In the 20th century, our forbearers joined together, marshaled the energy and ingenuity of scientists and donors, and ignited a Green Revolution. More than half the people on earth today eat rice and wheat varieties containing genes introduced by Rockefeller Foundation scientists in the 1960s.

When they began, however, the skeptics said such an achievement was far from reach. Take India, for example. In the 1960s, the US Food for Aid Program shipped 5 million tons of wheat to India every year. One 1967 bestseller called India’s food situation “hopeless.” Another leading scholar characterized the notion of Indian self-sufficiency as “fantasy.”

We know – now – that, thanks to Norman Borlaug and countless others, India’s wheat crop increased from 11 million tons to 60 million tons. But let’s pause for a moment and imagine the world without this historic accomplishment – not just a world without Dwarf Wheat in India, but without increased food supplies in Latin America, Southeast Asia, and around the globe. This would be a world with more, not less, poverty and disease, a world with more frequent refugee crises and forced migrations, a world with more regular conflicts over scarcer resources.

A generation later, we face challenges equal in size and significance. But we cannot solve these 21st century challenges with 20th century ideas and technologies alone. We must continue to innovate, continue to invest in innovation, and the Rockefeller Foundation is committed to this crucial effort.

Imagine the possibilities if we do. Imagine family farms in Africa that look – that produce – like family farms in Iowa. Imagine more women, like Josephine Okot and Janet Matemba, sowing the seeds of their communities’ renewal. Imagine a Norman Borlaug for every African country, for every country around the world. And then stop imagining – and listen to one of her stories.

Annet Namayanja grew up in Kiboga, a small farming town in Uganda’s rural, impoverished, central region. As a Rockefeller fellow, she studied agriculture, earned a master’s degree, and is now pursuing her Ph.D. at Makere University. Several years ago, she began researching the common field bean, so nutrient-rich that it’s called “the poor man’s meat.” These beans grow rapidly. Farmers can cultivate two, sometimes three crops a year. They provide essential income for women and families like Annet’s.

Just two years ago, Annet identified a genetic trait in bean seeds that strengthens their resistance to root rot. Through cross pollination, she then bred that trait into two new varieties of beans that are hardier and better adapted to the central Ugandan soil and climate. Not long thereafter, we received an email from Annet. She explained that the farmers in her village had devised names, in their local dialect, for her two new bean varieties. They call the first “mulwanisa” or “endurance.” They call the second “musahura,” “restoration,” or “replenishment. And these are precisely the qualities that communities like Kiboga, the world over, need today more than ever: the endurance to anticipate, prepare for, and recover from the terrible local impacts of the global climate crisis; the restoration of economic opportunity and self-sufficiency; and the replenishment of faith in the promise

Source: SeedQuest.com
17 October 2008

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1.02  Answers to the food crisis

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has published three essays addressing the global food crisis.

Joachim von Braun, director-general of IFPRI, discusses high priority policy responses including: expanding emergency responses and humanitarian aid; freezing biofuel production; eradicating export bans and investing in rural infrastructure and agricultural research. These changes must be incorporated on a global scale, von Braun says, possibly led by the UN and major groups of developing country players.

Josette Sheeran, executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP), discusses WFP activities, including their food-for-assets programme used to train local populations, school feeding for around 20 million children and disaster-preparedness activities including canal-building and river bed restoration. Sheeran calls for more agricultural research and higher investment across the value chain.

Namanga Ngongi, president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, discusses the policy implications of high food prices for Africa. Policies are needed, he says, to create sustainable food production driven by advances in productivity rather than by expansion of cultivated area.

He calls for focused plant-breeding efforts on staple food crops that include training for plant breeders. He highlights the need for better fertiliser procurement practices and increased African fertiliser production, and calls for an improvement in both financial services and infrastructure.

"The new policies must remove constraints that impede access by smallholder farmers to the knowledge, technology and financial services they need to increase farm productivity in a profitable and environmentally sustainable manner."

Link to full articles in IFPR

Source: IFPRI via SciDev.net
16 October 2008

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1.03  Promoting a strong seed sector in sub-Saharan Africa - An IFPRI policy brief

Policy Brief No. 6
Nicholas Minot
September 2008

Washington, DC
Given that Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest incidence of poverty and malnutrition in the world, the stagnation in per capita grain production there is worrisome. Since 1970, per capita grain production in Sub-Saharan Africa has declined more than 10 percent. Increasing the productivity of staple foodcrops will help poor farmers and consumers, and one of the most sustainable ways to expand food production in Sub-Saharan Africa is to generate new technologies­including staple seed varieties­that are adapted to the constraints of the continent's small-scale farmers. The region thus requires a cost-effective system of seed production and distribution to ensure that appropriate seeds are delivered to farmers.

Both the private and public sectors have a role to play in developing the seed sector in Sub-Saharan Africa. Although the private sector can effectively carry out many seed production and distribution activities, for reasons discussed in this brief, private companies acting on their own will not develop and produce optimal amounts of appropriate seeds for Sub-Saharan Africa. Thus the public sector also has a role to play.

The Public-Sector Role in Developing Seed Systems
The seed industry has several economic characteristics that justify selective government involvement. First, developing new seed varieties involves large fixed costs in terms of fields, equipment, and scientific expertise, and the development process can take up to 20 years. The payoff for these investments is uncertain, especially given that many types of seed are easy for farmers to reproduce. Only a large private company or a subsidized public entity can afford to invest in an activity with such uncertain, long-term payoffs, and the private sector will supply less than the socially optimal amount. The difficulty of capturing the benefits of improved seed varieties provides a public-good rationale for government support for plant breeding, particularly for crops that are easy to recycle and for crops that are important to small farmers. This does not imply that the public sector must be involved in all stages of seed production or in plant breeding for all crops. Nor does it imply that breeding must be carried out by scientists at government-funded research institutes. Rather, it implies that there is some social value in subsidizing plant breeding and other agronomic work that generates new and improved varieties of important crops, particularly those produced and consumed by the poor.

Second, seed quality varies widely, depending on the genetically determined performance potential, varietal purity, physical cleanliness, and viability. Yet quality is difficult for farmers to observe until after the seed has been purchased and planted. Public intervention is thus needed to provide farmers with information about seed quality. A range of policies and regulations has been adopted to protect farmers from low-quality seed, including minimum standards, voluntary or mandatory seed certification, import restrictions, licensing and registration of seed companies, and legal protocols for testing seed quality. Overly strict quality controls, however, will impede international flows of seed technology and slow the diffusion of new technologies from the research station to the farmers.

Third, most seed consumers in Sub-Saharan Africa are poor and risk averse. Cash constraints often limit their ability to make investments­even profitable ones. The fact that small-scale agriculture is the main source of income for the majority of the poor in most African countries suggests that there is a strong equity argument for public investments to strengthen the system of developing new crop varieties and delivering them to farmers.

Yet many of the individual functions within the seed supply system, such as seed multiplication, processing, and distribution, do not have significant externalities or public-good characteristics. Thus, an efficient seed system is likely to involve a complex combination of public-sector support and private-sector commercial activities. The public sector must play a bigger role in plant breeding and some aspects of quality control, whereas the private sector has better incentives in the area of seed multiplication, processing, and distribution. Moreover, the private sector has adequate incentives to play a major role in producing and distributing seed of hybrids (particularly maize) and other crops (such as vegetables) for which farmers tend to rely on external supply. On the other hand, the public sector generally needs to play a bigger role in seed systems for open-pollinated varieties of staple foodcrops, as well as the seeds of minor crops for which the scale of production is relatively small. These crops include sorghum, millet, cassava, and cowpeas. In addition, the state may need to play a larger role in poor countries where the private sector is not sufficiently developed to assume the risks associated with seed production and distribution.

Developing New Varieties
Farmers have been creating new and improved varieties of crops for thousands of years, but in the 20th century, advances in knowledge about genetics led to more scientific approaches to plant breeding. Studies show that plant breeding has generated high rates of return to public investments, thanks to improvements in yield, disease resistance, and other characteristics. In spite of this fact, public funding for plant breeding and crop improvement in developing countries has been variable and on a downward trend in recent years. Given that agricultural research is a cumulative, long-term endeavor, adequate and stable funding is crucial.

When the research institutes of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) were established in the 1970s, breeding for global adaptation was a commonly accepted paradigm, but the resulting traits did not always improve performance in the variety of agroecological conditions in which the crops were actually grown. More recently, CGIAR centers and national agricultural research systems (NARSs) working on crop improvement have made efforts to define cross-national regions with common agroclimatic features. Neither regional (cross-national) nor local (national and subnational) breeding strategies alone are likely to be as successful as a judicious blend of regional and local breeding strategies. In general, however, it is better to start with a decentralized approach, to promote communication and interaction within a region, and to build a regional strategy from the ground up than to use a top-down approach.

Although the allocation of resources between conventional breeding and biotechnology is a contentious issue, well-targeted objectives and effective field testing and selection are essential for success under either approach. The first priority should therefore be to provide training, infrastructure, and operational funds to support core breeding activities.

In addition, new varieties will be adopted only if they possess agronomic and postharvest characteristics that are acceptable to farmers and consumers in the target production environments. Farmer participation in selecting the best experimental varieties for commercial production is thus highly desirable.

Finally, in many countries, the procedures for releasing new crop varieties need to be clarified, simplified, and accelerated. Excessive regulations slow the diffusion of new technology to farmers without providing offsetting benefits in terms of protecting farmers from underperforming varieties.

Producing Seeds
Since the mid-1980s, seed programs have turned away from supporting state seed enterprises and toward the development of a more diverse and competitive seed sector, including private seed companies, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and farmer organizations. The number of private firms involved in seed production has increased, although not as much as hoped for, and private firms are reluctant to provide seed for minor crops. In some cases, it may simply not be profitable to produce seed for minor crops or crops that are easily recycled. It is likely, however, that the private sector could play a larger role in seed production given a more favorable policy environment, including the following conditions: (1) a clear regulatory framework; (2) fair competition, including assurance that private seed companies will not be forced to compete with a heavily subsidized state-owned seed enterprise; (3) access to germplasm from national or international research centers; and (4) limits on the distribution of free emergency seed.

Whereas early programs ignored the informal seed sector, there is now greater interest in understanding and learning from it, including attempts to combine the strengths of the formal and informal seed sectors. Community seed production projects have become quite common in Sub-Saharan African countries to provide emergency seed relief, to develop the seed sector, or simply to generate income, but they often require external support.

Marketing Seeds
The government has a role in supporting agricultural research and extension activities related to seed development, as well as in setting standards, testing, and requiring labels to inform buyers. But the economic justification for direct government involvement in seed marketing per se is not strong; rather, the government should facilitate the development of private marketing channels.

For example, governments can facilitate international trade in seed by promoting regional harmonization of seed regulations and reciprocal recognition of new varieties. By expanding the potential size of the market, this policy creates stronger incentives for investments by private seed companies, both local and international.

In addition, governments can work with networks of agricultural input dealers, providing them with credit, helping them understand seed demand, and training them to provide technical information regarding seed and other inputs. Governments can also help ensure that seeds distributed by NGOs for free after emergencies do not have an adverse effect on private-sector seed companies. Private seed companies tend to focus on hybrid maize, vegetables, and industrial crops, so there is a role for government in marketing seeds of minor crops and to farmers in remote areas.

Building Effective and Sustainable Seed Systems
To help build effective and sustainable seed systems, governments need to focus on educating and training participants in the public and private sectors to increase their understanding of the technical aspects of varietal development, seed production, and seed marketing, as well as of policies and regulations related to seed development.

Governments should also work to strengthen output markets so that as agricultural research generates productivity-increasing technology to farmers, countries can avoid a situation of oversupply that depresses prices and causes farmers to reject the technology. Such steps will include more coordinated and predictable government behavior and increased investment in infrastructure and regulatory frameworks to support the development of food markets. Reducing barriers to grain trade would expand markets and make them less vulnerable to local supply disturbances.

In summary, promoting the development of a strong seed sector in Sub-Saharan Africa requires a coordinated effort between the public and private sectors, where the roles may differ across activities (seed development, production, and marketing), across crops, and across countries. The public sector needs to invest more in plant breeding and the development of new varieties, particularly for open-pollinated varieties of staple foodcrops. Seed production and marketing are often more efficiently carried out by private seed companies, but they must be supported with an enabling policy environment. Such an environment would include a clear legal framework for private seed companies, access to public-sector germplasm, the absence of subsidized state seed companies, streamlined varietal release policies, regional harmonization of seed regulations, and limits on the distribution of free seed by NGOs in nonemergency situations. Seed policy should also help promote efficient informal seed systems, while controlling misleading sales practices. Effective and sustainable seed systems can help improve the livelihoods of Sub-Saharan Africa's small farmers and benefit consumers as well, serving as an important element in strategies for agricultural development and poverty reduction.

Nicholas Minot is a senior research fellow in the Markets, Trade, and Institutions Division of IFPRI. This brief is based on N. Minot, M. Smale, C. Eicher, T. Jayne, J. Kling, D. Horna, and R. Meyers, Seed Development Programs in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Review of Experiences, prepared for the Rockefeller Foundation (Washington, DC: IFPRI, 2007).

Full text: http://www.ifpri.org/pubs/bp/bp006.pdf

Source: SeedQuest.com
September 2008

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1.04  Seed association for Central Asia

A Regional Seed Association, covering the 10-nation Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) region of Central Asia, has just been formed to provide improved seeds and plant genetic resources suited to farmers' local needs. In addition, the association promotes technology transfer, serves as a forum for regular consultations on seeds and plant genetic resources, and contributes to seed trade regulation.

The ECO member countries are Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Islamic Republic of Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The Association, to be based in Ankara, Turkey, is an effort of the Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas.

View http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2008/1000904/index.html for the full report.

Source: CropBiotech Update
8 August 2008

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

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1.05  Working party for seed orchards launched by IUFPRO

IUFRO division 2 handles forest genetics and in October 2008 it launched a Working Party for seed orchards. The homepage is
http://www-genfys.slu.se/staff/dagl/SeedOrchardResearchGroup/

A new article is:
Lindgren D, Danusevi ius D & Rosvall O 2008. Balanced forest tree improvement can be enhanced by selecting among many parents but keeping balance among grandparents. Canadian Journal of Forest Research  38(11): 2797–2803.

The authors claim that if long term breeding is carried out to maintain gene diversity, the genetic gain will be considerably higher if each grandparent contributes four grandkids to future breeding than if each parent contributes two kids, although the strategies are almost identical from a gene conservation point of view.

Contributed by Dag Lindgren
Dag.Lindgren@genfys.slu.se

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1.06  Alliance of CGIAR centers best bets for boosting crop yields in sub-Saharan Africa

Ortiz, Rodomiro. (compiler).  2008.   Alliance of CGIAR Centers Best Bets for Boosting Crop Yields in sub-Saharan Africa. World Bank, Washington D.C.  147 pp.

http://www.worldagroforestrycentre.org/downloads/CGIAR_boosting_yields_ssa.pdf

Preface
The following data entry sheets are to be included in an e-database that may be built by the CGIAR Secretariat or the World Bank for further use. Each Center of the Alliance of CGIAR Centers was asked to fill out the proforma, which evolved after the first teleconference of April 2008 between the World Bank, CGIAR Centers and Sasakawa Africa Association, which was facilitated by the CGIAR Secretariat. There was feedback given thereafter by Karen Brooks and other World Bank staff to David Watson during a NEPAD/AU workshop held in Johannesburg in May 2008, and further exchanges on a 2nd teleconference in June 2008 facilitated by the CGIAR Secretariat. Mark D. Winslow and Rodomiro Ortiz exchanged views to simplify the information of best bet through data entry sheets. Each proforma was for up to ten of the respective Center’s or system-wide program most promising best bets for boosting crop yields in sub-Saharan Africa. This approach was agreed upon because following this proforma carefully will reduce everyone’s labor. It will also help the Alliance of CGIAR Centers to compile inputs across Centers efficiently into a database that can easily organize it into different useful views (by country, region, center or time-frame).

Contributed by Rodomiro Ortiz
R.ORTIZ@CGIAR.ORG

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1.07  USDA awards more than $28 million in specialty crop research

WASHINGTON, Oct. 8, 2008 - Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer today announced that USDA has awarded more than $28 million through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) to solve critical specialty crop agriculture issues, address priorities and solve problems through multifunctional research and extension.

The Specialty Crop Research Initiative was established by the 2008 Farm Bill to support the specialty crop industry by developing and disseminating science-based tools to address needs of specific crops and their regions in five focus areas: 1) improve crop characteristics through plant breeding, genetics and genomics; 2) address threats from pests and diseases; 3) improve production efficiency, productivity and profitability; 4) develop new innovations and technologies and 5) develop methods to improve food safety. Each of the focus areas received at least 10 percent of the available funds. The majority of the funded projects address two or more focus areas.

The following are some of the plant breeding-related research and extension grants for Fiscal Year 2008:

-USDA/ARS Beltsville Area Research Center (MD), $1,000,000: Generating Genomic Tools for Blueberry Improvement.

-Rutgers University, $996,687: Breeding and Genetics of Fruit-Rot Resistance and Polyphenolics in the American Cranberry.

-USDA/ARS University of Wisconsin, $998,957: Ensuring U.S. Onion Sustainability: Breeding and Genomics to Control Thrips and Iris Yellow Spot Virus.

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.

- http://www.csrees.usda.gov/newsroom/news/2008news/10081_scri.html

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

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1.08  USDA-ARS University of Wisconsin-Madison plant breeders receive specialty crop grants to improve important vegetable traits

The USDA Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) was designed to address critical industry issues in specialty crops, including fruits and vegetables.  In October, the SCRI awarded more than $28 million to fund research projects that fit into five focus areas addressing specialty crops needs.  Two USDA-ARS University of Wisconsin researchers, Professors Michael Havey and Philipp Simon, were each awarded a grant to work on pests affecting important vegetable crops.  Both Havey and Simon are also graduate trainers in the Univ. Wisconsin’s Plant Breeding & Plant Genetics program ( www.wisconsinplantbreeding.com).

Simon (Univ. Wisc. and ARS) and colleague Philip Roberts (Univ. Calif. ­ Riverside) received a $371,845 (not including matching funds) grant for their project entitled: “Deployment of Nutrient-Rich Nematode-Resistant Carrots to Benefit Growers, Consumers, and the Environment”.  One of their primary objectives is to continue breeding for root-knot nematode resistance, which affects three-quarters of the US carrot crop.  They have identified several sources of resistance (to both M. javanica and M. incognita) and will work towards combining these resistances, developing a carrot which will benefit carrot growers and the environment.  The nematode resistance will also be combined with quality traits that are of interest to the consumer, particularly taste and nutritional value.  This will lead to nutritional orange, yellow and purple carrots that are resistant to root-knot nematode.

In the second funded project, Professor Havey (Univ. Wisc. and ARS) will lead a project entitled: “Ensuring U.S. Onion Sustainability: Breeding and Genomics to Control Thrips and Iris Yellow Spot Virus”.  This research will utilize translational genomics to solve two of the most severe threats to US onion production: thrips and the thrip-vectored Iris yellow spot virus (IYSV).  This project, spearheaded by the University of Wisconsin, includes a team of co-directors and collaborators from four other US institutions.  Other members of this project include Foo Cheung and Christopher D. Town (The J. Craig Venter Institute), Christopher S. Cramer and Jerry M. Hawkes (New Mexico State University), Hanu Pappu (Washington State University), and Howard F. Schwartz and Whitney Cranshaw (Colorado State University).  The goals of this $998,957 (not including matching funds) project are to:
1.)     Build a high density SNP map for association mapping approaches to tag pest resistances
2.)     Cooperatively evaluate and select germplasm for thrip and IYSV resistance and further characterize IYSV
3.)     Develop outreach material for sustainable management of thrips and IYSV

Contributed by Chad Kramer
cckramer@wisc.edu

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1.09  Murdoch University of Western Australia and Taif University of Saudi Arabia team up on barley breeding

Western Australia
Barley breeding and rose oil for the Saudi perfume industry are the first collaborative projects between the Western Australia State Agricultural Biotechnology Centre (SABC), Murdoch University, Western Australia and Taif University, located in the west of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Researchers for the projects will be based at Murdoch and at Taif’s campus where a new Biotechnology Centre is being established, modelled on the SABC.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed last week by Professor Jim Reynoldson, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research at Murdoch University and Professor Fareed Felemban, Vice President of Academic Affairs at Taif University.

Professor Reynoldson said the MOU would form the basis of a long-term relationship, beginning with the establishment of Taif’s Biotechnology Centre and involving a range of disciplines, from crop and animal biotechnology to biomedical sciences.

“The agreement is based on international recognition of the research strengths at Murdoch University, particularly in crop and veterinary sciences,” he said.

Professor Talal al Maliki, Dean of Medicine and Founding Director of the Biotechnology Centre at Taif University, said he looked forward to developing a broad and long-term relationship with Murdoch University.

“We’ve already appointed SABC Director, Professor Mike Jones, to the Panel of International Experts to help us establish our Biotechnology Centre.

“The first two collaborative projects have been funded and involve barley breeding and improvement and analysing the production, composition and metabolism of rose oils for our perfume industry,” Professor Maliki said.

Welcoming the agreement, Professor Jones said he was honoured to be appointed to the Panel of International Experts and he was confident research at Taif Biotechnology Centre would benefit agriculture in the Taif region.

“The new Centre will very much mirror the successful SABC model, which uses cutting edge molecular biology and biotechnology to help underpin crop and animal production and improvement in WA,” he said.

“As a centre of excellence in agricultural research, SABC supplies platform technologies, state of the art equipment and functional facilities for research and development in agricultural biotechnology, with researchers from universities, government and industry all using world class facilities and sharing resources and ideas.

“Some of the challenges, such as heat, drought and salt stresses that impact on agriculture in Australia, are the same as those in Saudi Arabia,” Professor Jones said.

He indicated that the planned co-location of the major part of the Department of Agriculture and Food WA to the Murdoch University campus would also help expand the potential links with Saudi Arabia.

Taif, known as the green and summer capital of Saudi Arabia, which people visit to escape the summer heat elsewhere, produces barley and wheat and fruits, including pomegranates, grapes, limes, apricots, oranges, olives, figs, peaches, watermelons, quinces, almonds and dates.

In addition to producing high quality fruits and vegetables, Taif’s gardens are renowned throughout the Saudi Kingdom for their exquisite roses, which bloom in spring and colour the landscape.

Among them is a particularly sweet perfumed red rose that has for centuries been used to produce a valuable essence know as ‘attar’ which can be used alone or as one of the ingredients in other perfumes.

Source: SeedQuest.com
22 October 2008

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1.10  Bio-fuel crops research for energy security and rural development in developing countries

Bioenerg. Res.DOI 10.1007/s12155-008-9022-x

Belum V. S. Reddy, S. Ramesh, A. Ashok Kumar, S. P. Wani, R. Ortiz, H. Ceballos & T. K. Sreedevi

Abstract
Soaring prices of fossil fuels, geo-political issues and environmental pollution associated with fossil fuel use has led to worldwide interest in the production and use of bio-fuels. Both the developed and developing countries have developed a range of policies to encourage production of combustible fuels from plants that triggered public and private investments in bio-fuel crop research and development, and bio-fuels production. In this article, we discuss the potential benefits of bio-fuels in increasing the farmers’ incomes, reducing environment pollution, the crop options and research and development interventions required to generate feedstocks to produce bio-fuels to meet projected demand without compromising food/fodder security in developing countries.

Contributed by Rodomiro Ortiz
R.ORTIZ@CGIAR.ORG

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1.11  Cornell plant experts identify Northeastern U.S. grasses that will fuel bioenergy era

Ithaca, New York
Talk about a field of dreams. Cornell University bioenergy plant experts are learning which field grasses are the best candidates for "dedicated energy" crops in the Northeast, considering the region's climate and soil conditions.

The experts hosted their first field day Sept. 10 to give farmers, government officials, extension educators and researchers the opportunity to view stands of tall grasses that represent the future of bioenergy in the Northeast.

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' (CALS) Bioenergy Feedstock Project, now in its second year, is the only project of its kind devoted to exploring the many species of field grass that grow in the Northeast and their potential as sources for biofuels.

The project has roughly 80 acres of different warm- and cool-season perennial grass varieties, otherwise known as "feedstocks," growing in 11 counties across New York. "Our ultimate goal is to maximize the economic benefit of bioenergy production as an alternative energy source," said Donald Viands, professor of plant breeding and genetics, who heads the project, speaking against a colorful backdrop of a field of blue, green, lavender and beige hues, where some plants were withering, but some were some thriving.

Switchgrass, big bluestem and other wild grasses native to the United States have great potential for producing the quantity and quality of biomass needed for conversion to alternative, renewable energy, particularly biofuels, Viands said. The grass project will eventually provide farmers and producers with answers to such critical questions as which varieties of grasses to plant, appropriate seeding rates, weed control and other best-management practices to produce "quick, cheap" sugars that can be most easily liberated from the plant biomass and converted to fuel.

Hilary Mayton, extension associate and coordinator of the project, said that of the 12 varieties of switchgrass planted, some are showing a distinct advantage over others. Visitors saw how some strips of these warm-season grasses appeared stunted and unhealthy, while others were tall and vibrant. Julie Hansen, a Cornell plant breeding and genetics senior research associate, discussed trials on cool-season grasses, such as tall wheat grass and tall fescue, some of which are now commonly grown for feeding livestock.

When the small plots and strip trial demonstration grass trials are harvested later this year, Mayton and her Cornell and private company collaborators will obtain data for both gasification (heat, power and liquid fuels) and cellulosic conversion technologies (biofuels and other byproducts) from the different types of grasses.

In the wild, many of these native perennial grasses can survive, and even thrive, on marginal land. Some of the Cornell trials were specifically planted on land that is not suitable for such domesticated, monoculture food crops as corn.

Paul Salon, a plant material specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture who is working closely with Cornell on the project, noted that the close proximity of agricultural land to major population and transportation centers in the Northeast makes this region ideal for developing bioenergy crops and industrial byproducts, which is why so much is riding on these fields of mixed greens.

The project is funded by the New York Farm Viability Institute, CALS and the Cornell Agricultural Experiment Station.
By Lauren Chambliss

Lauren Chambliss is a communications specialist with the Cornell Agricultural Experiment Station in Ithaca.

Source: SeedQuest.com
22 October 2008

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1.12  Participatory plant breeding  for climate change adaptation: the case of FIPAH and new Santa Cruz and Capulin Mejorado varieties

Honduran farmers have organized community-based  agricultural research teams to diversify their plant genetic resources and to  develop hardier plant varieties that grow well on their soils.  As part of  the Unitarian Service Committee (USC) Canada's global Seeds of Survival (SoS) program, FIPAH (Foundation for  Participatory Research with Honduran) is working with farmers to help build  resilient food systems and to promote food sovereignty. READ MORE ...

Source: Platform for Agrobiodiversity Research - 2nd Newsletter, October 2008. http://www.agrobiodiversityplatform.org/

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1.13  India develops mustard hybrid

Scientists of the National Research Centre on Rapeseed-Mustard in Bharatpur, Rajasthan, India have developed a hybrid of Indian mustard through heterosis breeding using the moricandia cytoplasmic genetic male sterility system. Considered an important milestone in Brassica research in the country, the hybrid is named NRC Sankar sarson (NRCHB 506).

Dr. K. H. Singh, senior scientist and key breeder, said the hybrid has shown superior oil yield by a margin of about 26, and 20 percent over existing popular varieties of the region in 11 trials across 5 states. This hybrid is of medium maturity duration (133 days), medium in height (190 cm) and has 40.6 per cent high oil content. It has shown wide adaptability. Dr. Arvind Kumar, Director of the Mustard Center, under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, added that mustard is the second most important oilseed crop in the country and is  expected to contribute to self sufficiency in the edible oils.

The full report is at  http://www.icar.org.in/news/mustard_hybrid.htm

Source: CropBiotech Update
12 September 2008

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

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1.14  New plants could prompt more prodigious pepper production in the Southwestern United States

Uvalde, Texas
By themselves or as an ingredient in a variety of foods, including salsa, America’s top-selling condiment, peppers have found a warm spot in the hearts and stomachs of U.S. consumers.

But while U.S. Department of Agriculture figures show consumption of fresh peppers at an all-time high, only a fraction are grown domestically.

Currently more than 70 percent of all fresh peppers consumed in the U.S. are imported from Mexico and another 18 percent are imported from Canada, according to the USDA.

“Ironically, our domestic fresh pepper production has been declining steadily in a region renowned for its love of peppers – the American Southwest,” said Dr. Daniel Leskovar, a vegetable physiologist with Texas AgriLife Research.

Leskovar said U.S. fresh pepper production has declined significantly in the past decade due to global competition, labor issues, inconsistent market prices and inefficient agricultural practices.

“These factors, along with drought, plant disease and other challenges that are prevalent in the Southwest, have made it difficult for producers in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona to grow peppers profitably,” he said.
“Pepper production in the Southwest is often marred by drought, heat and plant diseases, which cause severe plant stress and reduce marketable yields by up to 50 percent,” said Leskovar, who works from the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Uvalde.

To help Southwestern pepper producers, Leskovar and other Texas A&M System scientists and agriculture experts have teamed up to develop several new adapted fresh pepper hybrids.

Leskovar said that the objective of this research is to “maximize pepper production efficiency and improve the quality of specialty peppers so producers in these four states can increase their profitability.”

“We developed several new cultivars that were more well adapted to climatic conditions and plant diseases of the Southwest, as well as to consumer preferences,” he said.

The team has already bred several new cultivars of jalapeno, serrano, Habanero, poblano ancho, bell and other fresh pepper plants.

“Most of the breeding and selection of these new pepper hybrids has been done in test plots at the Uvalde center,” Leskovar said. “Uvalde is a good test area because the soil and climate are similar to many other parts of Texas and the Southwestern U.S. where peppers are now being grown.”

“At the same time, we’ve been developing these cultivars to produce higher yields of peppers with the size, shape, color, capsaicin (the active “heat” ingredient) level and nutritional content American consumers want,” said Dr. Kevin Crosby, a plant breeding expert with AgriLife Research in College Station and key team member.
Crosby, who received national attention by developing a milder version of the notoriously hot Habanero pepper, said the new hybrids are meeting or exceeding expectations for appearance, yield and quality.

“These peppers not only look good, they taste great and the plants produce impressive amounts of fruit, all of which should please both the producer and the consumer,” he said.

The team has established the first-known poblano pepper production in Texas through a partnership with San Antonio-based Constanzo Farms and is collaborating with other large producers in New Mexico and Arizona. They also have licensed two hot pepper cultivars in the past three years and have provided stock seed for commercial production, as well as providing large quantities of trial seed to pepper growers in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.

Though some of the team’s efforts began as far back as three years ago, “results have had to be replicable and it has taken time to conduct trails, collaborate with growers, packers and processors and retailers, and get their feedback,” Leskovar said.

Along with cultivar development, the team also is investigating additional strategies for overcoming other challenges to Southwestern pepper production. Some of these include working with regional producers on more efficient irrigation and cropping techniques, and developing a cropping system more suitable to machine harvesting.

“After drought and disease, probably the biggest obstacle to pepper production in the Southwest is labor,” Leskovar said. “Pepper harvesting is very labor-intensive because it’s done almost exclusively by hand. And it’s also difficult for producers to find adequate labor when it’s needed.”

The team already has tested numerous jalapeno, green chile and Habanero lines in Texas and New Mexico to determine suitability for machine harvesting.

“We’ve developed pepper plants that have less foliage, bear more fruit and require less labor-intensive harvest,” Leskovar said.

He added that the new cultivars also are being bred for higher amounts of vitamin C, phytochemicals and antioxidants.

“Peppers are a good source of dietary fiber and contain a number of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that are known to promote human health,” Leskovar said. “And research on capsaicin, the ingredient that makes peppers hot, has shown it has some positive uses for human health and wellness.”

According to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, capsaicin is already used as a “topical anti-arthritic and anti-inflammatory agent” and is “generally recognized as a powerful local stimulant with no narcotic effect.”
Additional research indicates capsaicin may have cancer-fighting properties and may also facilitate insulin production. It also has been identified as a useful pharmacological component in treating chronic pain.
Crosby said increased domestic production of fresh peppers might help address another “health” issue – consumer concerns about product safety.

“Between high U.S. standards relating to product safety and the closer proximity of production to the point of use, consumers will be able to feel more secure about the fresh pepper product they’re buying,” Crosby said.
“We’re hoping our efforts will lead to a reduction in cost of production and an increase in the yield and quality of peppers so growers in the Southwest can remain competitive,” Leskovar said. “Since people in the Southwestern U.S. consume so many peppers, it seems only right that producers in the region should derive an economic benefit by supplying them.”

Source: SeedQuest.com
22 October 2008

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1.15  Scientists propose the creation of a new type of seed bank that will help understanding of evolution and climate change

Santa Barbara, California
While an international seed bank in a Norwegian island has been gathering news about its agricultural collection, a group of U.S. scientists has just published an article outlining a different kind of seed bank, one that proposes the gathering of wild species –– at intervals in the future –– effectively capturing evolution in action.

In the October issue of Bioscience, Steven J. Franks of Fordham University, Susan J. Mazer of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a group of colleagues, have proposed a method of collecting and storing seeds of natural plant populations. They argue for the collection of many species in a way that evolutionary responses to future changes in climate can be detected. They call it the "Resurrection Initiative."

"In contrast to existing seed banks, which exist primarily for conservation, this collection would be for research that would allow a greater understanding of evolution," said Franks.

"This seed collection would form an important resource that can be used for many types of research, just as GenBank –– the collection of genetic sequences and information –– forms a key resource for research in genetics and genomics," said Franks.

"Typically, seed banks are focused on the preservation of agricultural species or other plant species of strong economic interest, say, forest species, forest trees," said Mazer. This is to make sure that scientists can maintain a genetically diverse seed pool in the event of some kind of ecological calamity that requires the replenishing of seeds from a certain part of the world or from certain species. "But that implies a relatively static view of a seed bank, a snapshot forever of what a species provides."

Evolutionary biologists recognize that the gene pool of any species is a dynamic resource that changes over time as a result of random events such as highly destructive climatic events like hurricanes, but also through sustained and ongoing processes like evolution by natural selection.

While most scientists agree that the climate is changing, the extent to which species will be able to evolve to keep up with these changes is unknown.

According to the article, the only way that scientists can detect the results of those sorts of calamitous changes –– and test evolutionary predictions about what sorts of changes might occur over time –– is to sample seed banks in a repeated fashion. Then they must compare the attributes of the gene pools that are sampled at different times to a baseline.

"One way that we can obtain this baseline is by collecting seeds at a given point in time and archiving them under ideal environmental conditions, so that they all stay alive, and so that 10, 20, and 30 years down the road, we can compare them to seeds that we collect in the future to see how the gene pool has changed," explained Mazer.

This approach will allow a number of things that a one-time, seed-sampling event doesn't. Scientists can evaluate the result of the effects of climate change, land use change, and other kinds of environmental changes such as the spread of disease on the gene pool.

"Currently seed banks don't allow this for a couple of reasons," said Mazer. "First, they focus on species that have been under cultivation for a long period. Species that have been under cultivation have relatively low levels of genetic variation –– because we have been selecting them only for the attributes that we want. Wild species, by contrast, contain a high degree of genetic variation in almost any trait that we might examine."

Agricultural species are often selected to have a predictable flowering time, a predictable seed size –– and a predictable degree of tolerance for drought, salt, or heavy metals. By contrast, wild species retain a much greater degree of genetic diversity in all of these traits.

Mazer explained that scientists don't know whether or not the environmental changes that are ongoing, due to changes in climate or land use practices, are reducing the amount of genetic variation in the wild. If they are, the only way it can be detected will be by sampling representative seeds from a large number of populations at very regular intervals.

"The approach that we would use is not simply to collect seeds over various time intervals and to archive them, but in the future to raise them in a common environment comparing seeds that were collected in 2010, 2030, and 2050, for example," said Mazer. "If we found, for example, that the plants that come from seeds that were collected 50 years from now flower much earlier than those that were collected today, we could logically infer that natural selection over 50 years had favored plants, that is genotypes that flowered earlier and earlier, relative to those that delayed flowering."

Mazer explained that scientists and the public have been thrilled recently by an increase in the understanding of the value of seed banks, and in particular with the seed bank that is underway in Norway, called the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, on the island of Spitsbergen.

"However, that kind of seed bank doesn't finish the job," said Mazer. "The Norwegian seed bank is planning to preserve hundreds of thousands of varieties of agricultural plant species, but most of those samples represent only a tiny fraction of that which you would find in a wild population of a wild species." Nor does it allow for insights into the evolutionary process, enabled by the combination of seed banking and subsequent raising of plants as proposed by the "Resurrection Initiative."
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The Resurrection Initiative: Storing Ancestral Genotypes to Capture Evolution in Action
Steven J. Franks, John C. Avise, William E. Bradshaw, Jeffrey K. Conner, Julie R. Etterson, Susan J. Mazer, Ruth G. Shaw, and Arthur E. Weis
BioScience - Article: pp. 870–873

Source: SeedQuest.com
15 October 2008

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1.16  Global Information on Germplasm Accessions (GIGA) project to ease access to global genebanks

Rome, Italy
A multimillion dollar project is poised to make it much easier for breeders and others to use the material stored in genebanks and, just as important, information about those accessions. The project, called Global Information on Germplasm Accessions (GIGA), specifically addresses the obstacles faced by breeders, crop researchers and others who seek hard-to-find information about germplasm that can provide resistance to pests, diseases and other stresses that reduce productivity and yields.

“GIGA will build on a decade of previous investments to make it simpler for everyone to make better use of the diversity stored in genebanks around the world,” said Michael Mackay, the Bioversity scientist who is coordinating the project.

The GIGA project is helping to implement the rational system foreseen by the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture by bringing together Bioversity’s expertise in coordinating the efforts of the CGIAR’s genebanks through the System-wide Genetic Resources Programme with the Global Crop Diversity Trust’s interest in effective and efficient conservation and use. Bioversity and the Global Trust are contributing US$1.7 million each over three years. The Secretariat of the Treaty has pledged at least US$150,000 to include in the system a “shopping cart” that will enable exchange of material and make it easy to monitor and track such exchanges, as required by the Treaty.

The diversity of crop species is vital to ensuring more consistent, abundant and nutritious harvests, especially in developing countries where famine and malnutrition are widespread. But in addition to the diversity, researchers also need access to the information that will allow them to choose the most appropriate diversity to work with. While considerable amounts of diversity are stored in genebanks, particularly those of the CGIAR, information about agricultural biodiversity is both fragmentary and scattered, and is particularly difficult to access in the resource-poor countries where it is needed most.

GIGA will deploy three components to address the difficulties in making greater use of genebank accessions

“We need to develop common information standards to describe the key characteristics of genetic resources, so everyone can communicate effectively,” said Michael Mackay. In addition, GIGA will deploy a new version of genebank data-management software being developed by the Agricultural Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture and will build a user-friendly system to help people find what they are looking for, be it information or samples from the genebanks.

The project will go beyond the 700,000 accessions held in the 11 genebanks of the CGIAR to include the holdings gathered under EURISCO, the web catalogue that lists 1.1 million samples of crop diversity in European genebank collections. Other sources can be added in future.

Emile Frison, Director-General of Bioversity, described the launch of GIGA as “an exciting opportunity”.

“Working together,” he added, “Bioversity and its partners are contributing to the development of a global system of information and exchange for agricultural biodiversity. This will facilitate the wider use of biodiversity, which in turn is the key to agricultural development in a time of increasing food and fuel prices, climate change and water scarcity.”

Source: SeedQuest.com
29 September 2008

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1.17  In the wake of the financial, energy, climate and food crises, crop diversity is key to ensuring global food supply

Des Moines, Iowa
Responding to what appear to be the four horsemen of the apocalypse­the energy, food, climate, and financial crises­the director of the world’s only organization charged with securing the world’s seeds called on the US and nations around the world to support efforts to secure the world’s crop diversity collections today.

In the face of continuing rapid population growth, coupled with uncertain energy supplies, less water, no new land to expand into, and climate change, breeding new crop varieties will be vital to meet the world’s future food needs.

“When it comes to food, the most underappreciated, undervalued­and the most potent­tool we have to address all of these crises lies in the crops themselves, in the natural diversity that exists within each crop,” said Cary Fowler, Executive Director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust. “There are more than 30,000 unique varieties of corn and 200,000 distinct types of wheat for example. This diversity is a treasure trove of traits that can be used by plant breeders and farmers to breed new crop varieties that are heat, insect and disease-resistant, drought-tolerant and climate-ready.”

Fowler spoke before the World Food Prize 2008 Borlaug Dialogue in Des Moines. Senators McGovern and Dole have been awarded this year’s prize for a program which has fed over 22 million children in 41 countries and also significantly boosted school attendance. The award of the prize highlights the moral imperative of feeding the hungry, but it is not just for their moral vision that they have been chosen for this award, it is also for their political leadership.

“If we are to achieve the goal of ending world hunger, we need the vision to identify threats before they become crises, and the political leadership to take timely action,” said Maggie Catley-Carlson, Chair of the Global Crop Diversity Trust Executive Board. “One of the achievements of the Senators was to have built a broad non-partisan consensus for anti-hunger programs. We need to build on that leadership to ensure that the foundation of our food supply is safe.”

The biological foundation of agriculture­crop diversity­ is being lost, both in the US and abroad. At the end of the 1800s, 7,000 named apple varieties were grown in the United States. Now, 6,800 of those are extinct. Around the world, crop diversity collections­or genebanks­with unique collections have been destroyed in the last few years by war and natural disaster, including Afghanistan, Iraq and the Philippines. (Abu Ghraib used to be more famous for its genebank than its prison.) Other collections are losing their seeds every day due to poor management and unreliable funding. Genebanks in many developing countries are often unaware of what is stored on their shelves, nor whether that seed is alive or dead, effectively dismantling humanity’s defense in the face of growing threats.

“Providing the next crop variety is just as important as providing the next meal,” said Fowler. “It’s easy to view hunger only on a short timescale. Miss the next four meals, and that spells trouble. By comparison, 2030, for example, seems a long way away. But if we think in crop breeding cycles, 2030 is just two cycles away. And we know that the climate will pose real dangers to food production by 2030.”

The answer to many crop woes in the US, for example, may be found in an obscure variety cultivated, or even growing wild in Asia, Africa, South America or the Middle East. US agriculture needs the genetic resources of collections of crop diversity around the world to combat pests and diseases and to adapt to environmental changes, said Fowler.

“International cooperation is essential. No country is self-sufficient in crop diversity. Even a country such as the US, with one of the world¹s best genebanks and for which corn is the most important crop, has only five percent of globally-held corn samples,” said Fowler. “Energy independence may be a realistic objective, but crop diversity independence is impossible.”

Fortunately, there is no need for any country to be independent in crop diversity – the Global Crop Diversity Trust will ensure that crop diversity is safely conserved and available to all. The Trust is undertaking a massive effort to search crop collections­from Israel to Nigeria­for the traits that could arm the agriculture of the future against the impact of these changes. With the government of Norway, the Trust opened the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, dubbed the “doomsday seed vault” in the Arctic Circle, which serves a backup collection for this effort to search, save, and use today’s crop diversity collections.

Diversity is being lost, but it can be conserved easily, according to the Trust. The costs are totally insignificant compared to the benefits – the entire biological foundation of agriculture could be conserved, forever, for the cost of one Boeing 747.

“But confronting crisis starts with the political will to make long-term investments before the crisis itself makes those investments politically palatable,” said Fowler. “Conserving crop diversity is the logical first step, a prerequisite for solving the food crisis and ensuring that agriculture copes with climate change and other crises. It is painfully evident that short-term thinking has led to long-term problems that will not be solved with more short-term thinking.”

A few short decades from now, agricultural crops will face entirely new growing environments, according to climate change researchers. In many countries, the coldest growing seasons of the future will be hotter than the hottest ever recorded in the past. The 11 hottest years on record have all occurred in the past 13 years.

“Should we assume rice, wheat and corn varieties will continue to feed us in environmental conditions they have never experienced?” asked Fowler. “They won't. If today's corn varieties are still in the field in southern Africa two decades from now, production will drop by 30 per cent because of climate change, and we will watch babies starve to death on television due to our own lack of foresight and preparedness.”

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
16 October 2008

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1.18  $50 million to protect biodiversity threatened by climate change

During the IUCN Conference in Barcelona,  the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced a $50 million  commitment to support conservation groups working to preserve eight  biodiversity hotspots threatened by climate change. In 2009 they will consider  letters of inquiry (LOIs) for projects related to biodiversity adaptation to  climate change in the following focal regions: Madagascar,  Albertine Rift, and Northern Andes. READ MORE ...

Source: Platform for Agrobiodiversity Research - 2nd Newsletter, October 2008. http://www.agrobiodiversityplatform.org/

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1.19  Seed wars: controversies and cases on plant genetic resources and intellectual property

The book Seed Wars is a comprehensive overview of the current domestic and international legal controversies regarding intellectual property protections for plant genetic resources (PGRs) over the past three decades: (1) the rise of intellectual property protections for plant varieties and the enclosure of the "genetic" commons; (2) the subsequent move of the agro-chemical industry from manufacturing fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides to "manufacturing" seeds in the context of industrial agriculture; and (3) the emergence of overlapping regimes of domestic and multilateral treaties such as the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS, 1994), the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD, 1992) and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources (ITPGR, 2004) from the 1990s on. Complimentary copies are available for teaching professors and orders can be placed at:   http://www.cap-press.com/books/1431

Source: CropBiotech Update
15 August 2008

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

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1.20  Conserving, promoting and improving crop diversity to enhance food security in a changing climate   

Traditionally Pacific Islanders have used  different ways to ensure food security, such as gardening, fishing, hunting and  selling products or labour to provide an income. However with the increase in  urbanization and cheap, poor quality food imports, local food production has  been negatively affected. Climate change will also affect food production and  other factors, such as health, infrastructure, ability of countries to import  food and ability of households to purchase food. READ MORE...

Source: Platform for Agrobiodiversity Research - 2nd Newsletter, October 2008. http://www.agrobiodiversityplatform.org/

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1.21  International genebank specialists discuss strategies to safeguard genetic resources

Tainan, Taiwan
The biological and agricultural diversity of our planet is crucial to sustaining human livelihoods. In fact, the improvement of food and agricultural production depends upon abundant genetic resources and the application of knowledge through research. However, every hour, three animal and plant species become extinct ­ an irreversible process.

Safeguarding genetic diversity in genebanks is vital, but there is always a high risk of loss, injury, erosion, or extinction of germplasm conserved in seed genebanks or in field genebanks due to numerous
factors.

An international workshop organized by the APEC Agricultural Technical Cooperation Working Group (ATCWG) and held from 13 – 17 October 2008 at the Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute in Taichung put the spotlight on strategies to address risk factors in safeguarding genetic diversity and to discuss solutions.
 
The workshop on “Capacity Building for Development and Implementation of Risk Management Systems on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture” provided a forum for sharing expertise and exchanging views as well as networking with other key players in the sector.

Among the high-profile participants: World Vegetable Center DG Dr. Dyno Keatinge, DDG-AS Dr. Yin-fu Chang, and Dr. Andreas Ebert, the Center’s new Genebank Manager.

With more than 56,000 accessions from more than 150 countries, AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center maintains the largest publicsector collection of vegetable germplasm worldwide. Although more than 7,400 accessions of this
collection are safely stored under permafrost conditions in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Spitsbergen, Norway, effective vegetable germplasm conservation has to work with a different set of approaches and solutions.

“The risks to a genebank refer to numerous types of threats caused by physical factors, environmental and technical changes, human activities, and natural calamities,” says Ebert. “Risk management therefore includes different elements such as recognition of risk, assessment of risk, development of risk management strategies, and mitigation of risk using managerial resources.”

Promising strategies comprehend the avoidance of risks, reduction of the negative effects of risk, and accepting some or all of the consequences of a particular risk. The event included a visit to the Center’s head office in Shanhua, southern Taiwan.

More information: Agricultural Technical Cooperation Working Group (ATCWG) of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC)

Source: The World Vegetable Center Newsletter via SeedQuest.com
24 October 2008

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1.22  Wheat genetic resources enhancement by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)

Rodomiro Ortiz, Hans-Joachim Braun, Jose´ Crossa, Jonathan H. Crouch, Guy Davenport, John Dixon, Susanne Dreisigacker, Etienne Duveiller, Zhonghu He, Julio Huerta, Arun K. Joshi, Masahiro Kishii, Petr Kosina, Yann Manes, Monica Mezzalama, Alexei Morgounov, Jiro Murakami, Julie Nicol, Guillermo Ortiz Ferrara, J. Ivan Ortiz-Monasterio, Thomas S. Payne, R. Javier Pena, Matthew P. Reynolds, Kenneth D. Sayre, Ram C. Sharma, Ravi P. Singh, Jiankang Wang, Marilyn Warburton, Huixia Wu, Masa Iwanaga

Genet Resour Crop Evol (2008) 55:1095–1140
DOI 10.1007/s10722-008-9372-4

Published online: 17 September 2008

Abstract
The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) acts as a catalyst and leader in a global maize and wheat innovation network that serves the poor in the developing world. Drawing on strong science and effective partnerships, CIMMYT researchers create, share, and use knowledge and technology to increase food security, improve the productivity and profitability of farming systems and sustain natural resources. This people-centered mission does not ignore the fact that CIMMYT’s unique niche is as a genetic resources enhancement center for the developing world, as shown by this review article focusing on wheat.

Contributed by Rodomiro Ortiz
R.ORTIZ@CGIAR.ORG

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1.23  Numerical classification of related Peruvian highland maize races using internal ear traits

Rodomiro Ortiz, Ricardo Sevilla, Gregorio Alvarado and Jose´ Crossa

Published online: 4 March 2008
Genet Resour Crop Evol (2008) 55:1055–1064
DOI 10.1007/s10722-008-9312-3

Abstract
Maize (Zea mays L.) landraces are an important source for the genetic improvement of the crop. Classification of genetic resources requires both appropriate descriptors as well as sound numerical and statistical methods. This research was undertaken to assess the use of six internal ear traits for classifying a set of four related Peruvian highland maize races comprising a total of 24 accessions. Several accessions of the four races were included in field trials planted in Peru’s inter-Andean valley. The trials were sown on two planting dates (normal and late) in two consecutive years. Variance components among races and among accessions with races were used to estimate broad-sense heritability and repeatability for each internal ear trait. The Ward-Modified Location model (MLM) and canonical analysis were undertaken for clustering the 24 accessions. For most traits, the variance components among races were more important than the accession within races, and the variance components for race 9 environment or accession within race 9 environment were, for the most part, negligible. Results suggest that internal ear traits such as cob and pith diameter, as well as cupule sizes and glume texture, are among the most appropriate for clustering these materials in their respective races. The numerical classification maintained the structure of the more differentiated races but identified two distinct accessions in one race and separated them into a homogeneous group. The Ward-MLM numerical method produced groups with distinct characteristics in terms of internal ear variables.

Contributed by Rodomiro Ortiz
R.ORTIZ@CGIAR.ORG

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1.24  Identification of genetic markers for lodging resistance in wheat

United Kingdom
P.M. Berry of ADAS High Mowthorpe, S.T. Berry of Nickerson and J.H. Spink of ADAS Rosemaund.
HGCA Project No. 2976. Cost: £3.00

Wheat breeders have traditionally increased lodging resistance by shortening crop height; however the scope for further reducing crop height appears to be limited because more extreme dwarfing genes have been shown to be incompatible with high yields. Lodging either occurs through buckling of the stem base (stem lodging) or through overturning of the root anchorage system (root lodging). Lodging resistance could therefore be increased by strengthening the stem base and anchorage system. However these traits are not currently assessed by breeders because they are too time consuming to measure. This project therefore aimed to provide UK breeders with new molecular tools to help them breed new wheat varieties with greater lodging resistance by increasing stem and anchorage strength.

Two breeding populations from Nickerson-Advanta were analysed across three seasons. There was significant genetic variation within plant breeder's germplasm for the traits which determine stem strength and anchorage strength, and for height. Genetic markers were found for several of the key traits that, with further development and validation, could be used to facilitate trait selection. Some of the genetic markers for increasing lodging resistance were associated with lower yields. It was shown that by selecting the correct combination of genetic markers it would be possible to increase lodging resistance by the equivalent of three varietal lodging resistance scores (standing powers) without reducing yield. A different combination of genetic markers would increase yield without increasing lodging risk.

The project identified several height genes within UK elite wheat varieties in addition to the 'standard' semi-dwarf genes. If reliable genetic markers can be identified for these height genes then plant breeders could select the most appropriate parents for crossing in order to produce new varieties of optimal height. The project also discovered that some height genes are more responsive to plant growth regulators (PGRs) than others which should pave the way for predicting varietal responses to PGRs and so allowing them to be targeted more accurately.

One of the genetic markers which identified a major yield gene was shown to increase both grain and straw yields by about 0.5 t/ha each, and did not affect rooting at depth. This discovery indicates that breeders can improve yield and stem strength simultaneously. Straw is also an increasingly valuable co-product for biomass and potentially for liquid biofuel production.

Source: Home-Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA), Crop Research News 56 via SeedQuest.com
20 October 2008

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1.25  New starch quality traits discovered in cassava

Two relevant discoveries regarding starch quality traits in cassava have been reported recently by cassava scientists working at CIAT (International Center for Tropical Agriculture). These discoveries occurred several years after the introduction of partial inbreeding in cassava to expose useful recessive traits.

Self-pollination of a particular landrace from the germplasm collection resulted in 16 S1 genotypes of which one (AM206-5) exposed a particular starch characteristic. The roots of this genotype stained brownish red when an iodine solution was applied, rather than the typical blue. This behavior suggested that the starch of these roots lacked amylose. Further biochemical characterizations have confirmed that AM206-5 carries a spontaneous mutation that results in an amylose-free (commonly known as waxy) starch.

Self-pollination of a mutagenized population of M1 plants (plants originated in botanical seed that had been irradiated with gamma rays) resulted in about 800 genotypes (coming from five different families) that produced roots that could be analyzed. Two of these M2 genotypes (result of self-pollinations of M1 plants) exposed a similar starch phenotype: smaller granule size (around 6 m compared with typical sizes that range between 14 and 19 m) and higher amylose content (more than 30% compared with the typical values which average around 20%).

Interestingly, the two lineages with the same small-granule phenotype are unrelated. This would suggest that the locus (or loci) responsible for the regulation of this characteristic is (are) particularly vulnerable to the induction of mutations or else that the DNA repair mechanisms are relaxed on this region of the genome.

High amylose starches are important because when levels are high enough they become “resistant”. Resistant starches cannot be digested in the human body. They are eventually fermented in the large intestine. The process results in very slow release and absorption of simple sugars, therefore avoiding high glycemic peaks, a critical advantage for people suffering from diabetes. 

The cassava team at CIAT is now combining the two mutations. Crosses have been made between the two sources of the mutation and the resulting F1 plants are in the field. Self-pollinations will be made hoping to produce double-homozygotes that will hopefully offer a different starch phenotype.

1 October 2008

Contributed by Hernan Ceballos
CIAT Cassava Project
h.ceballos@cgiar.org

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1.26  Scientists identify gene that allows plants to survive iron starvation

Researchers from Dartmouth College in the U.S. have identified a gene required for both efficient photosynthesis and for iron metabolism, processes necessary for producing a healthy plant and a nutritious food source. Mary Lou Guerinot and her colleagues provided molecular evidence that FRO7, a gene in the ferric reductase oxidase (FRO) family, is involved in chloroplast iron acquisition and is required for efficient photosynthesis. Iron serves as a cofactor in the photosynthetic electron transport chain and is essential for chlorophyll biosynthesis.

The scientists explains that one-third of the soil worldwide is iron deficient, so it is important to understand how plants acquire the metal, how they allocate it to different parts of the plant and within the cell, and how they survive under iron-limiting conditions. An understanding of iron transport and homeostasis in the chloroplast is critical not only to improve plant growth and crop yields but also to improve human nutrition.

The article published by PNAS is available at http://www.pnas.org/content/105/30/10619.full Read http://www.dartmouth.edu/~news/releases/2008/07/21.html for more information.

Source: CropBiotech Update
1 August 2008

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

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1.27  Researchers develop calcium-biofortified lettuce lines

A group of researchers from the Kansas State University, Texas A&M University and Baylor College of Medicine in the U.S. successfully developed transgenic lettuce lines accumulating significantly higher levels of calcium. The GM lettuce plants harbor a modified calcium/proton antiporter (known as the short cation exchanger 1 or sCAX1) placed under the control of a cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) 35S promoter. sCAX1 increases calcium transport into the vacuole, the "storage tank" of plant cells.

The transgenic lettuce lines were found to contain 25 to 32 percent more calcium than their non-transgenic counterparts. They also exhibited fertility and robust growth in greenhouse conditions. Using a panel of highly trained descriptive panelists, the biofortified lettuce plants were evaluated and no significant differences were detected in flavor, bitterness or crispness when compared with controls.

Download the paper published by the Plant Biotechnology Journal at
http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-7652.2008.00379.x

Source: CropBiotech Update via SeedQuest.com
17 October 2008

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1.28  New peas resist fungal foe

Breeding for pea resistance to fungal disease Fusarium rot is an important breeding objective because of the tremendous damage caused by the fungus Fusarium solani in the Pacific Northwest and Northern Plains of the Americas. Fungicide and crop rotation strategies sometimes work but development of resistant peas is still the best strategy. The breeding work was started by United States Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service geneticist Fred Muehlbauer in 1994, crossing two germplasm lines - X94P2275 and 90-2131 - with "Dark Skin Perfection," a canning/freezing variety. Years of breeding and selection produced three germplasm lines which when challenged with the pathogen exhibited a completely resistant response. The lines are now available for breeding new commercial cultivars that can withstand the fungal disease.

For details, see the press release at http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2008/080808.htm

Source: CropBiotech Update
15 August 2008

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

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1.29  Effector-based identification of late blight resistance gene in potato

Scientists from the Wageningen University in the Netherlands, the John Innes Centre in the UK and Ohio State University in the USA, have developed a new approach to identify genes that can make potato resistant to Phytophthora infestans. Since the pathogen first ravaged the potato, an event epitomized by the Great Potato Famine in Ireland, it has been a permanent threat, and has repeatedly led to disastrous crop damage and high production costs.

When Phytophthora infects potato, a set of pathogen avirulence genes produce effector proteins that modulate host innate immunity and enable parasitic infection. The scientists demonstrated that by monitoring these effector proteins, the discovery and isolation of  disease-resistance genes can be accelerated at an unprecedented rate.

In the study, the scientists tested a set of 54 effectors found in a large set of wild potato species. An effector protein, known as IPiO, was found to be directly correlated with blight resistance in three wild species. A positive response against IPiO always occurred in plants that had the resistance gene (Rpi-blb1, Rpi-pta1).

For more information, read http://www.wur.nl/UK/newsagenda/news/Phytophthora080807.htm The open access article published in PLoS ONE is available at http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0002875

Source: CropBiotech Update
8 August 2008

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

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1.30  Scientists identify rice gene to improve yield

A team of scientists, including Hong Ma, Penn State distinguished professor of biology, has identified a gene in rice that controls the size and weight of rice grains. The gene has the potential to help breed high-yield rice. The team’s results were published in an online edition of the journal Nature Genetics.

The scientists hope that their findings will help create hybrid varieties of rice that produce larger grains. They plan to perform additional analyses that will help them to understand how other genes might be involved in the process of improving rice yield. "The goal is to understand what controls grain weight and other factors, and to look for ways to increase yield," said Ma.

The research was supported by grants from the Ministry of Science and Technology of China, the National Science Foundation of China and the Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences.

See Penn State's news article at http://live.psu.edu/story/34885

From CropBiotech Update
3 October 2008

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

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1.31  Michigan State University scientists find new gene that helps plants beat the heat

East Lansing, Michigan
Michigan State University plant scientists have discovered another piece of the genetic puzzle that controls how plants respond to high temperatures. That may allow plant breeders to create new varieties of crops that flourish in warmer, drier climates.

The MSU researchers found that the gene bZIP28 helps regulate heat stress response in Arabidopsis thaliana, a member of the mustard family used as a model plant for genetic studies. This is the first time bZIP28 has been shown to play a role heat tolerance. The research is published in the Oct. 6 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"We also found that bZIP28 was responding to signals from the endoplasmic reticulum, which is the first time the ER has been shown to be involved with the response to heat," said Robert Larkin, MSU assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and corresponding author of the paper. "We're finding that heat tolerance is a more complex process than was first thought."

Previous research has shown that the nucleus, the "brain" of the cell, and cytosol, the fluid inside cells, play a role in how plants respond to heat. The endoplasmic reticulum, a membrane in the cell that consists of small tubes and sac-like structures, is mainly responsible for packaging and storing proteins in the cell.

According to Christoph Benning, MSU professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and a member of the research team, the scientists were looking for genes that turn other genes on and off and are tied to cell membranes. These membrane-tethered gene switches are seen in animals but hadn't been studied in great detail in plants.

"The bZIP28 protein is anchored in the endoplasmic reticulum, away from its place of action," Benning explained. "But when the plant is stressed by heat, one end of bZIP28 is cut off and moves into the nucleus of the cell where it can turn on other genes to control the heat response. Understanding how the whole mechanism works will be the subject of more research."

Plants with an inactive bZIP28 gene die as soon as temperatures reach a certain level.

Other scientists on the research team are Federica Brandizzi, MSU associate professor of plant biology and member of the Plant Research Lab, and Hangbo Gao, former MSU post-doctoral research associate.

The work was sponsored by the MSU-DOE Plant Research Lab. Benning's research also is supported by the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station.

Source: SeedQuest.com
7 October 2008

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1.32  A novel approach and technological breakthrough in breeding for salt tolerance

by Sameena Sheikh
A vast area is in grip of one or more of abiotic stresses. Previously there was not enough pressures on land .The extent of salt effected land has long been uncertain and remain so. Worldwide the estimates of range from 340-950 x10 6ha while in India various authors put the area ranging from 7-12 x 106 ha estimates of the area of salt affected soils vary widely, ranging from 6% to 10% earth’s land area and 77 million ha of irrigated lands.The reduction in yield normally ranges from 10% to 90% for wheat, 30% to 50% for rice,50% to 75% for cotton and 30% to 90% for sugarcane; herewith gradually increasing pressure on land, there is urgent need to overcome these stresses for meeting the food production targets.Salt tolerance is a complex trait and reported to be a polygenic in nature that’s why only few successful attempts have been made to develop salt tolerant crop varieties. Existence of genetic variability determines the success of any breeding programme and fortunately many crops like rice, wheat, barley and mustard have exhibited a good spectrum of variability for salt tolerance. As the salt heterogeneity and other associated complexities and their interactions are major hurdles for repeatable results, therefore, reliable screening criteria as markers for screening and foolproof screening technique are of overriding importance for a successful breeding programme. Various morphological, physiological and biochemical parameters have been used as markers for the screening and grouping of genotypes. In order to increase the selection efficacy, now major emphasis is being given to the development of molecular based markers and their use for the early generation foolproof screening of salt tolerance trait for their pooling in one genetic background to enhance the level of salt tolerance. The large variations in response to different plant species and varieties to salinity can be related to difference in: (1) their ability to exclude salt from sensitive tissue, cells and organelles (compartmentalization); (2) the ability to osmoregulate; (3) the inherent stability of membranes, macromolecules and enzyme systems to a mileu of high ionic concentration; (4) the ability to generate factors stabilizing macromolecules such as kinetin and glycerol; and (5) the ability to carry out other adaptive modifications, at the lowest possible cost of overall plant growth.

The most common effects of salinity on plants are suppression of growth. Three major hazards are associated with such situations. (i) osmotic stress arising from the more negative water potential (elevated osmotic pressure) of the rooting medium, (ii) specific ion toxicity usually associated with excessive intake of sodium, chloride, sulphate or other ions, and (iii) nutrient imbalance when the excess of these ions leads to a diminished uptake of potassium, nitrate or phosphate or to impaired internal distribution of one or another of these elements. In India and the world over, the research to overcome salt related problems has progressed in two distinct streams; a) chemical amelioration and hydro-technical approaches, b) biological approaches. Major Morphological effects are white leaf tip followed by tip burning (salinity),leaf browning & necrosis (sodicity), stunted plant growth, low tillering, spikelets sterility, low harvest index, less florets per panicle, less 1000-grain wt., low grain yield, change in flowering duration, leaf rolling, white leaf blotches, poor root growth, patchy growth in field. Physiological and biochemical effects are as high Na + transport to shoot, preferential accumulation of Na in older leaves, high Cl- uptake, lower K+ uptake, Increase in polyamine levels, low P and Zn uptake, change in esterase isozyme pattern, lower fresh and dry wt. of shoots and roots, increase of non-toxic organic compatible solutes.

Reliable screening is an integral part of any successful breeding programme. Salt related problems seldom occur is isolation and are coupled with many associated problems. Complexity of the salt tolerance, soil heterogeneity and various interactions are the major hurdles for the repeatability of the results. Screening criteria involves morphological parameters, physiological parameters and biochemical parameters.Biochemical parameters such as: 1. Organic solute (proline content, glycinebetain,sugar content and starch content. 2.Protein and enzymes: Stress responsive protein (SRPs) and enzymes are considered useful potential criteria to screen genotypes for salt tolerance. Enzymes-metabolic pathway is good indicator in both under biotic and abiotic stress e.g. esterase, carbonic anhydrase (CA), polyphenol oxidase (PO).Salama et al(2000) observed that under salinity, antioxidant level in leaves increase for POD,AOD,SOD and decreases for Esterase and glutamate oxaloacetate.Saadollah et al(2004) found that both Wet (20 to 3%) &dry (20 to 8%)gluten decreased in drought and salt stress treated genotypes in durum wheat. 3. Ethylene: Ethylene is good indicator for the study of plant growth response and biosynthesis; its action is strongly influenced by stress. The main effect could be seen during germination and plant establishment. It is useful in alleviation of salt stress, high temperature and osmotic stress 4.Polyamines: Bay et al (1992) observed that there is Increase in putrescine, spermidine and spermine under salt stress. Putrescine is precursor of spermidine and spermine.It is defined in term of ratio i.e. Putrecine / (spermidine +spermine).The screening methodologies used are In situ field evaluation, controlled environment screening, and controlled field conditions. A conventional method includes pedigree method, Modified bulk pedigree and Shuttle breeding while non-conventional methods are molecular screening approaches. Molecular markers aided selection (MAS) with the availability of a series of DNA based markers such as Restriction fragment length polymorphism, Random amplified polymorphism DNA, Amplified fragment length polymorphism, micro satellites and Inter simple sequence repeats etc., the genetic dissection of recalcitrant traits can be made much simpler, easy and repeatable. Identification of molecular markers tightly linked to salt tolerant genes can serve as landmarks for the physical localization of such genes facilitating marker-assisted selection (MAS).

Marker assisted selection-- comparative QTLs analysis & measurement of productivity ((e.g. biomass production and grain yield)). Six –phage--breeding strategy based on gene discovery. The new breeding strategy consists of six stages; Salinity Appraisal, Mechanism Discovery, Gene and Allele Discovery, Pre-Breeding for salinity Tolerance, Molecular Breeding, and Participatory Evaluation. This strategy differs from the traditional strategy in several key areas: (1) it is based on a detailed physiological, biochemical, and molecular understanding of the impact off salt on plant growth and reproduction, (2) the GEII of each mechanism should be much simpler and more easily controlled than the GEII for salt tolerance as whole, (3) instead of using just one or two donors off salt tolerance as present in the breeding program,, multiple donors are exploited,, ((4)) donors are selected not on the basis of their own performance under salt stress but for their capacity to contribute useful alleles conferring specific mechanisms of salt tolerance, (5) the alleles may correspond to know major genes,, finely mapped major QTLs, or transgenes altered by recombinant DNA technology, (6) the salt tolerance trait is initially assembled by gene pyramiding using robust molecular tools during Pre--Breeding and only subsequently transferred to elite varieties by DNA assisted backcrossing during molecular breeding, and (7) the strategy beings and ends with farmers. Some crop ecologists like to define tolerance to abiotic stresses in terms off productivity rather than survival.

Corresponding author: Sameena Sheikh, PhD Plant Breeding (CCSHAU, HISAR, INDIA) Sameena07@gmail.com

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1.33  Fried purple tomatoes

Scientists have expressed genes from snapdragon in tomatoes to grow purple tomatoes high in health-protecting anthocyanins.

Anthocyanins are naturally occurring pigments found at particularly high levels in berries such as blackberry, cranberry and chokeberry. Scientists are investigating ways to increase the levels of health-promoting compounds in more commonly eaten fruits and vegetables.

"Most people do not eat 5 portions of fruits and vegetables a day, but they can get more benefit from those they do eat if common fruit and veg can be developed that are higher in bioactive compounds," says Prof Cathie Martin from the John Innes Centre.

Anthocyanins offer protection against certain cancers, cardiovascular disease and age-related degenerative diseases. There is evidence that anthocyanins also have anti-inflammatory activity, promote visual acuity and hinder obesity and diabetes.

Tomatoes already contain high levels of the antioxidant lycopene. Highly processed tomatoes are the best source, or tomatoes cooked in a little oil, which helps to release the lycopene from cells. Flavonoids meanwhile are soluble in water, and foods containing both water soluble and fat-dissolved antioxidants are considered to offer the best protection against disease.

In this study the scientists expressed two genes from snapdragon that induce the production of anthocyanins in snapdragon flowers. The genes were turned on in tomato fruit. Anthocyanins accumulated in tomatoes at higher levels than anything previously reported for metabolic engineering in both the peel and flesh of the fruit. The fruit are an intense purple colour.

The scientists tested whether these elevated levels actually had an effect on health. In a pilot test, the lifespan of cancer-susceptible mice was significantly extended when their diet was supplemented with the purple tomatoes compared to supplementation with normal red tomatoes.

"This is one of the first examples of metabolic engineering that offers the potential to promote health through diet by reducing the impact of chronic disease," says Professor Cathie Martin.

"And certainly the first example of a GMO with a trait that really offers a potential benefit for all consumers. The next step will be to take the preclinical data forward to human studies with volunteers to see if we can promote health through dietary preventive medicine strategies."
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The research, to be published in Nature Biotechnology, was funded by the EU and by JIC's core strategic grant from Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Contact: Zoe Dunford
zoe.dunford@bbsrc.ac.uk
Norwich BioScience Institutes

Source: EurekAlert.org
26 October 2008

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1.34  Molecular screening for aroma in rice

Mohamad, O., Amiran, N., Hadzim, K., Azlan, S., Abdullah, M. Z., Zainah, M., Salwa, A. S., Nur Samahah, M. Z. & Nor Fakhrana, I.

Introduction
Rice production in Malaysia is focused in major irrigated areas to sustain the overall targeted self-sufficiency level of 82%, and rice breeding remains pivotal for developing improved varieties. Grain elongation on cooking and aroma are major characteristics of high quality rices, such as Basmati from India and Pakistan (Khush et al. 1979). There is an increasing demand for quality rice in domestic markets. In 2002, total consumption of specialty rice was 116,930 metric tons, equivalent to 6% of total national consumption of 1.9 million tons with retail market value of RM292.3 million. Almost all aromatic rices are imported, of which the majority are from Thailand and India (MARDI 2007).

Quality Rice
The aroma of Basmati and Jasmine rices has been associated with increased levels of 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline, the key aroma constituent of aromatic rice (Bergman et al. 2002). The aroma gene is reported to be located on chromosome 8. Many of our traditional varieties have aroma, but there was only little effort to utilize the trait from such varieties. A number of sensory methods have been utilised to assist breeders in selecting aromatic rice but there are limitations when processing large numbers of samples. For example, chemical methods involving smelling of leaf tissues or grains after heating in water or reacting with KOH or I2-KI solutions can cause damage to the nasal passages. Furthermore, these methods are subjective and not always reliable as individual's ability to distinguish between aromatic and non- aromatic samples diminishes with each consecutive analysis (Berner & Hoff 1986; Sood & Siddiq 1978).

Molecular breeding
Molecular marker technology provides new opportunities for innovative use in rice breeding. To date, a range of genes controlling quality characteristics in rice have been tagged. In spite of the fact that some technical constraints and high costs are still prevalent, the use of molecular markers in our rice breeding programme has been increasing (Mohamad et al. 2005). Rapid detection methods for aroma are needed to supplement the present methods which are difficult and tedious. Molecular breeding requires small amounts of tissues and allows a more accurate analysis of greater sample numbers in less time. Plants from breeding programs could be assessed in the early stages of cultivar development, thus offering additional advantage of early screening of breeding populations compared to other methods.

Conclusion
Malaysian rice breeders have already started to breed for high quality rice, where grain elongation and aroma are major components in the special high quality breeding programme. The use of molecular markers for aroma has shown excellent results. Molecular markers closely linked to aroma have now been identified, and these can be readily used and applied as a new tool in our local breeding programme. Besides, intensified work is currently being undertaken in our lab to generate better molecular markers that will tag closer to the gene of interest, i. e. the aroma gene in our rices by adopting genome walking method. This will enable rice breeders to select for aroma rapidly and involving larger populations, and perhaps, will also mark the dawn of the era of molecular rice breeding in Malaysia.

Editor’s Note: This article is extracted from a BIOMALAYSIA 2008 poster sent by the first author. Materials and Methods, Results and Discussion, References and Acknowledgements are not included here. BIOMALAYSIA 2008 Exhibition was held on 7-9 October 2008 in Kuala Lumpur.  For a complete copy of this article or of the poster, including photos and figures, please contact Dr. Mohamad bin Osman, below.

Contributed by Mohamad bin Osman
School of Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
mbopar2004@yahoo.com

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1.35  Genetically enhancing the scent of flowers

Jerusalem, Israel
A team of scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has found a way to genetically enhance the scent of flowers and implant a scent in those that don't have one.

Smell plays an important role in our lives: It influences the way in which we choose fruit and vegetables, perfume, and even a partner. And yet, smell is not just what we smell with our noses, it's also what we taste, explains Prof. Alexander Vainstein, who is heading the team at the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment. "Aroma is of major importance for defining the taste of food."

Scent in flowers and plants is used to attract pollinating insects like bees and beetles that pass on the pollen and help in the reproduction and creation of fruit. The intensity of the scent that the flower emanates is influenced by the time of day, depending on weather, age of the flower and the species.

In research that was published recently in the Plant Biotechnology Journal, Prof. Vainstein and his research assistant Michal Moyal Ben-Tzvi succeeded, together with other researchers, to find a way of enhancing the scent of a flower by ten-fold and cause it to emit a scent during day and night - irrespective of the natural rhythm of scent production .

The development, which has been patented by Yissum, the Hebrew University's technology transfer company, is intended to be applied to other agricultural produce.
Utilizing natural components will increase and change not only the smell of fruit and vegetables, but also influence the commercial appeal of a wide array of produce.

The flower industry will also be interested in this development, explains Prof. Vainstein. "Many flowers lost their scent over many years of breeding. Recent developments will help to create flowers with increased scent as well as producing new scent components in the flowers."

Over a third of participants in Flowers and Plants Association surveys stated that scent influenced their choice of flower purchase. Floral scents are also one of the most popular smells and the perfume industry expends a great deal of effort trying to reproduce the authentic fragrance of fresh flowers.

Prof. Vainstein's lab is the only one in the world that researches both the scent and color of flowers. His greenhouse at the Hebrew University's Rehovot campus is full of genetically engineered flowers whose architecture, color and scent the researchers are trying to alter.

Israel is the Middle East's flower-producing superpower. Its flower, plant and propagation material exports bring upwards of $200 million into the economy annually. Israel is third only to the Netherlands and Kenya in supplying the EU with flowers. Each year, 1.5 billion stems are exported - twice as many as 10 years ago.

Source: SeedQuest.com
6 October 2008

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1.36  Roselle HS2180-1-36-49-4: A promising mutant line for Roselle industry in Malaysia

Mohamad,O., Ramadan, G., Herman, S., Halimaton Saadiah, O., Noor Baiti, A. A., Ahmad Bachtiar, B., Aminah, A., Mamot, S., and Jalifah, A. L.

Roselle
Roselle is a relatively new crop in Malaysia. Roselle, belonging to the family Malvaceae and genus Hibiscus, has more than 300 species mostly used as ornamental crops, and is an autotetraploid species. The origin is not fully known but it is believed but its origin was from West Africa. It was introduced into Malaysia in early 1990s. Its commercial planting was first promoted by the Department of Agriculture in Terengganu 1993 and has now spread to other states

Vitamin C, Anthocyanins & HCA
Roselle is well known for its rich contents of vitamin C and anthocyanins. It is mainly used to produce pro-health juice due to its high contents of vitamin C and anthocyanins. To a small extent, the calyces are also processed into sweet pickle, jelly and jam, and are also used for making slimming tea. Recent findings have shown that roselle produce relatively high contents of hydroxycitric acid (HCA), an anti-obesity ingredient.

Varieties
At present, two introduced varieties are available to local growers and these are called “Terengganu” and “Arab” varieties. Variety Arab variety is more recently introduced compared to variety Terengganu. The variety Terengganu is reported to yield up to 8 t/ha of fruits or 4 t/ha of calyces, while the variety Arab is known to yield higher both in terms of fruits and calyces. However, variety Terengganu possesses better quality characteristics such as higher vitamin C content. Thus, variety Arab is more suitable to be improved in term of its quality. Therefore, induced mutation breeding programme was carried outon variety Arab with the main objective to generate new genetic variation, and also to select for improved yield and quality.

Mutation Breeding
Being an introduced crop species, there is a limited number of germplasm accessions available for breeding. Genetic variation is essential for plant breeders to increase its productivity. Conventional hybridization is difficult to carry out in roselle due to its cleistogamous nature of reproduction. Because of this, a mutation breeding programme was conducted to generate new genetic variation. The use of induced mutations for its improvement was initiated in 1999 in cooperation with MINT involving gamma irradiation treatment of seeds (Mohamad et al. 2002).

Promising Mutants
This study involved evaluation on 27 mutants from variety Arab in generation M4 planted on November 2007 (Table 1). Observation, evaluation and selection were done consequently on every generation starting from M1, M2, M3 until M4 at UKM Experimental Plot. These mutants were selected from 967 plants in generation M3. Mutants produced have different fruit colour which inludes dark red (same as parent), bright red, brown, green and white. A total of 2,700 M4 seeds were planted to produce 1,053 M4 plants. Variety Arab was also planted as control to make comparison with these mutant lines. Evaluation was done based on morpho-agronomic characteristics (plant height, canopy diameter, number of branches per plant, number of fruits per plant, weight per fruit, capsule weight, calyx weight and % calyx per fruit) and physico-chemical characteristics (vitamin C content, anthocyanins and % HCA-containing extract).

Selection HS2180-1-36-49-4
This research innovation highlights the characteristics of selection HS2180-1-36-49-4, a promising mutant line produced through mutation breeding, and which is currently being evaluated at M5 generation. This selection produces red-pigmented calyces similar to that of variety Terengganu. Based on M4 data, statistical analysis were done to compare this selection with its parent with respect to plant height (81 vs 118.5 cm), canopy diameter (78.3 vs 102 cm), number of branches per plant (65 vs 11), number of fruits per plant (95.8 vs 147.5), weight per fruit (95 vs 19.7 g), capsule weight (4.5 vs 5.3 g), calyx weight (6.5 vs 11.3 g) and % calyx per fruit (58.7 vs 67.8). Major promising characteristics for this selected mutant line are its shorter and more erect stature and earlier maturity. In terms of physico-chemical characteristics, this mutant line has vitamin C content of 10.62 mg/100g fresh weight and anthocyanins content of 45mg/100g dry weight. It also has 26.6% of HCA-containing extract.

Conclusion
Overall, the mutant line HS2180-1-36-49 is seen as the most promising mutant selection to be released as a new variety to increase roselle productivity.  With all the characteristics it possesses, the promising mutant line shows good prospects for commercialization and for diversifying the uses of roselle such as for pro-health drink, slimming tea and as a good source of anti-obesity agent.

Acknowledgements
This research is funded by ScienceFund Project No:05-01-02-F0057 to UKM from the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, Malaysia. The authors wish to express their gratitude to UKM, UM, MARDI, DOA, MyAgri Sdn. Bhd., and other agencies and individuals for their support. Also to Prof. Dr Zainal Abidin Aziz of TFIRDAUCe; Dr. Abdul Rahman Milan, Mohd Zulkifly Zainuddin and Rasli of MARDI; Marlina, Kamaliah, Elfi, Rani, Zainal Mohamad and staff of UKM, and other individuals for their assistance.

Editor’s Note: This article is extracted from another BIOMALAYSIA 2008 poster sent by the first author. BIOMALAYSIA 2008 Exhibition was held on 7-9 October 2008 in Kuala Lumpur. Acknowledgements and References are not included. For a complete copy of the poster, including photos and figures, please contact Dr. Mohamad bin Osman, below.

Contributed by Mohamad bin Osman
School of Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
mbopar2004@yahoo.com

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1.37  New tool probes function of rice genes

A new tool for investigating the rice genome has been developed by researchers at UC Davis led by Pamela Ronald, professor of plant pathology. The inexpensive, publicly-available rice DNA microarray covers nearly all the 45,000 genes in the rice genome. Details are published this week in the open-access journal PLoS ONE.

In higher organisms, such as humans or rice plants, each cell type express different genes at different times. Scientists have developed high-throughput methods to examine these gene expression profiles using "DNA Microarrays," thousands of fragments of DNA fixed to a glass slide. DNA microarrays can be used to figure out which genes are important for responding to a stimulus or tolerating stresses.

Ronald and her colleagues used the new rice microarray to investigate gene expression changes when plants are grown in the light versus the dark. They then combined this gene expression data with biochemical pathway data to correctly predict the function of genes whose role was previously unknown. The newly identified genes carry out light-related biochemical processes such as photosynthesis and photorespiration.

The methods and array developed in this paper will aid researchers in identifying the function of the 45,000 rice genes, only a few of which have so far been characterized, Ronald said. The group also has developed a web-based program that allows the user to compare gene expression profiles across multiple rice microarray platforms, which will further accelerate this research.

Refinement of Light-Responsive Transcript Lists Using Rice Oligonucleotide Arrays: Evaluation of Gene-Redundancy
Jung K-H, Dardick C, Bartley LE, Cao P, Phetsom J, et al. (2008)
PLoS ONE 3(10): e3337. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0003337

Source:Public Library of Science (PLoS) via SeedQuest.com
9 October 2008

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1.38  When under attack, plants can signal microbial friends for help

Researchers at the University of Delaware have discovered that when the leaf of a plant is under attack by a pathogen, it can send out an S.O.S. to the roots for help, and the roots will respond by secreting an acid that brings beneficial bacteria to the rescue.

The finding quashes the misperception that plants are “sitting ducks”--at the mercy of passing pathogens--and sheds new light on a sophisticated signaling system inside plants that rivals the nervous system in humans and animals.

The research was led by Harsh Bais, assistant professor of plant and soil sciences at UD, former postdoctoral researcher Thimmaraju Rudrappa, who is now a research scientist at the DuPont Co., Kirk Czymmek, associate professor of biological sciences and director of UD's Bio-Imaging Center, and Paul Paré, a biochemist at Texas Tech University.

The study is reported in the November issue of Plant Physiology and also is featured on the journal's cover. Rudrappa is the lead author of the research paper.

“Plants are a lot smarter than we give them credit for,” says Bais from his laboratory at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute.

“People think that plants, rooted in the ground, are just sitting ducks when it comes to attack by harmful fungi or bacteria, but we've found that plants have ways of seeking external help,” he notes.

In a series of laboratory experiments, the scientists infected the leaves of the small flowering plant Arabidopsis thaliana with a pathogenic bacterium, Pseudomonas syringae. Within a few days, the leaves of the infected plants began yellowing and showing other symptoms of disease.

However, the infected plants whose roots had been inoculated with the beneficial microbe Bacillus subtilis were perfectly healthy.

Farmers often add B. subtilis to the soil to boost plant immunity. It forms a protective biofilm around plant roots and also has antimicrobial properties, according to Bais.

Using molecular biological tools, the scientists detected the transmission of a long-distance signal, a “call for help,” from the leaves to the roots in the plants that had Bacillus in the soil. The roots responded by secreting a carbon-rich chemical--malic acid.

All plants biosynthesize malic acid, Bais explains, but only under specific conditions and for a specific purpose--in this case, the chemical was actively secreted to attract Bacillus. Magnified images of the roots and leaves showed the ratcheted-up defense response provided by the beneficial microorganisms.

Czymmek captured the definitive proof using a state-of-the-art LSM 510 DUO laser scanning confocal microscope in UD's Bio-Imaging Center. UD is among only a few universities that own one of these million-dollar instruments.

“A plant is a challenge to image because at least half of it is below ground in the form of roots,” Czymmek notes. “Here at UD, we use modern technologies including hydroponic growth systems with see-through chambers and sophisticated optical techniques that will enhance the image clarity when visualizing plants and the pathogens attacking them.”

Bais and his colleagues are now working to determine what the aerial signal is from the infected leaf to the root using different pathogen-associated molecular markers (PAMPs).

The research not only sheds light on the remarkable signaling system in plants, but also is important to understand how invasive plants conquer new territory with the aid of plant microbes.

“Plants can't move from where they are, so the only way they can accrue good neighbors is through chemistry,” Bais notes.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation's Division of Integrative Organismal Systems, the University of Delaware Research Foundation and the Delaware Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).

Article by Tracey Bryant

Source: EurekAlert.org
17 October 2008

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1.39  Chinese scientists identify major regulatory gene in rice

A few genes for hybrid sterility of indica and japonica, two subspecies of Asian cultivated rice (Oryza sativa L.), were identified by Prof. Qifa Zhang's research group from Huazhong Agricultural University in China. The researcher cloned the S5 gene, a major locus for indica-japonica hybrid sterility and wide compatibility. This finding may have important implications in rice genetic improvement and hybrid breeding.

The coexistence of indica-japonica hybrid sterility and wide-compatibility varieties (WCVs) is a unique phenomenon in the evolution of rice. Genetic differentiation between indica and japonica would have been enforced because of the reproductive barrier caused by S5-i (indica )/S5-j (japonica ). However, the wide-compatibility gene (WCG) provides an opposing force allowing for hybridization and gene flow between indica and japonica. With the discovery and molecular characterization of the WCGs, the overcoming of the hybrid sterility for improving rice productivity has become a reality.

The paper published by PNAS is available at http://www.pnas.org/content/105/32/11436.abstract

Source: CropBiotech Update
22 August 2008

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

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1.40  Genes controlling rhythmic plant growth identified

While most people might assume that plants grow at a slow and steady rate throughout the day, scientists have known that they grow in regular nightly spurts, with plant stems elongating fastest in the hours just before dawn. Charles Darwin was so enthralled with his observation of rhythmic plant movements that he wrote a book on the subject (The Power of Movement in Plants). Recently, scientists from UC San Diego, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and Oregon State University have identified the genes that control the interplay of plant hormones and circadian rhythms that permit plants to undergo rhythmic growth spurts in response to environmental cues. The discovery of the genetic basis of rhythmic plant movements, which fascinated Darwin more than a century ago, may allow scientists to design crops that can grow faster and produce more food.

The scientists say that the genes, which mostly deal with hormone biosynthesis and signaling, act together to regulate rhythmic plant growth like a gate with its hinges controlled by photoreceptors and the biological clock-opening in the predawn hours to allow a wave of growth hormones to act within the cells, then closing the gate to put the brakes on plant growth until the next 24-hour cycle.

The researchers discovered that the genes share a common DNA sequence, a master controller that they dubbed the HUD (Hormone Up at Dawn) element. The scientists are now on a quest to identify the regulator protein that binds to the HUD element, as they believe that it is very important for controlling plant growth and yield.

For more information, read http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/newsrel/science/09-08PlantGenes.asp Download the paper published by PLoS Biology at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0060225

Source: CropBiotech Update
19 September 2008

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

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2  PUBLICATIONS

2.01  Proceedings of the African-Japanese Rice production Workshop

You may have an access to the lectures and soon you will have the presentations that were delivered in the African-Japanese Rice production Workshop as well as some photos. The link is: http://www.jesty.edu.eg/. Click on AGENDA on the upper bar, then select AUGUST from the left site of the screen, then scroll down and select African-Japanese Workshop on Sustainable Rice Production

Contributed by Amr Farouk Abdelkhalik.
State Ministry of Higher Education And Scientific Research
Egypt
1 October 2008

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2.02  FAO document on bioenergy and biotechnologies

FAO has just published a new document entitled "The role of agricultural biotechnologies for production of bioenergy in developing countries". The 22-page publication is the background document for an upcoming FAO e-mail conference (see Item 3.02, this newsletter) and aims to provide information about the conference theme that participants will find useful for the debate. First, an overview is provided of the current status regarding bioenergy, focusing on first- and second-generation liquid biofuels, including the reasons for the major current focus on liquid biofuels as well as current concerns about them. Some of the potential ways in which biotechnologies could contribute to bioenergy production are then considered, covering production of biomass as well as conversion of the biomass to first- or second-generation liquid biofuels, in addition to production of biodiesel from microalgae and production of biogas. A small number of issues of specific relevance to the debate are then briefly described while some of the kinds of specific questions that should be addressed in the conference are then listed. In the final section, references to articles mentioned in the document, abbreviations and acknowledgements are provided.

The document is available at http://www.fao.org/biotech/C15doc.htm or a copy can be requested from biotech-admin@fao.org.

Contributed by John Ruane (NRRR)
John.Ruane@fao.org

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3.  WEB RESOURCES

3.01  Check out the Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog: http://agro.biodiver.se

Separated by half a world but united by their passion for agricultural biodiversity and the internet, Luigi Guarino and Jeremy Cherfas decided to create a space that would allow them to indulge their passions and maybe do some good.

This blog is it.

Our aim is to collect in one place anything we find on the internet that relates somehow to the notion of agricultural biodiversity (or agrobiodiversity, though we don’t particularly like the word), a big tent but one that the whole of humanity shelters beneath. If that helps others to find things of interest, so much the better.

We welcome contributions, either as comments to the items on the website, or as a message you can send from here.

Contributed by Luigi Guarino
luigi.guarino@gmail.com

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3.02  Announcement of FAO e-conference on bioenergy and biotechnologies

The FAO Biotechnology Forum is hosting an e-mail conference entitled "The role of agricultural biotechnologies for production of bioenergy in developing countries". Organised in collaboration with the FAO Working Group on Bioenergy, the conference takes place from 10 November to 7 December 2008 and focuses mainly on liquid biofuels. It covers biotechnology applications for first- and second-generation biofuels and, to a lesser degree, for biogas production and for biodiesel production from microalgae. To discuss and exchange experiences on this subject, we invite you to join the conference. The background document for the conference is available at http://www.fao.org/biotech/C15doc.htm. (See item 2.02, this newsletter) The conference is open to everyone, is free and will be moderated. All e-mail messages posted during the conference will also be placed on the Forum website ( http://www.fao.org/biotech/forum.asp). To join the Forum (and also register for the conference), send an e-mail to mailserv@mailserv.fao.org leaving the subject blank and entering the following text on two lines: subscribe BIOTECH-L subscribe biotech-room3

People who are already Forum members should leave out the first line of the above message, to register for the conference. For more information, contact biotech-mod3@fao.org.

Contributed by John Ruane (NRRR)
John.Ruane@fao.org

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3.03  New website on farmers' rights

http://www.farmersrights.org/
The Farmers' Rights Project of the Fridtjof  Nansen Institute (FNI) in Norway  has recently launched a new website about Farmers' Rights as they are addressed  in the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and  Agriculture. Farmers' Rights are aimed at enabling farmers to continue their  work as stewards and innovators of agricultural biodiversity, and at  recognizing and rewarding them for their contribution to the global pool of  genetic resources. READ MORE ...

Source: Platform for Agrobiodiversity Research - 2nd Newsletter, October 2008. http://www.agrobiodiversityplatform.org/

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5.  POSITION ANNOUNCEMENTS

5.01  Corn Breeder: Research & Development Scientist in South Dakota

The primary purpose of this job is to develop new inbreds and hybrids that contribute to the commercial success of the company and to screen for stress tolerance.  In addition, expertise in statistical analyses will contribute to enhanced genotype characterization. 

The selected candidate will be expected to lead a research project in the development of inbred lines to produce hybrids to fit the maturity zones covering 100-108  DRM.  The incumbent will also develop and manage a drought-related agronomic screening project and must participate in overall station activities to meet company deliverables for technical success, budget, people development, and Environmental Health & Safety.

This position provides the opportunity to leverage technical skills, interaction with a global breeding network, access to molecular tools and breeder creativity, to develop an inclusive breeding project from the selection of breeding populations to the final commercial product.

Key responsibilities may include, but are not limited to, the following:

-Select germplasm, develop and implement a creative and efficient breeding plan with the purpose of selecting superior commercial products in assigned maturity.  Breeding strategies will include the innovative use of molecular markers. The breeding plan must take into account both performance of the new hybrids and new parent lines to positively influence cost of goods. Conduct drought-related agronomic studies.

-Understand and leverage the diversity of germplasm available from the Global breeding network as well as molecular tools in the development of the breeding plan.

-Develop and manage an annual station budget that supports corn research goals and objectives.
-Analyze data from testing program.  Make recommendations for advancement to higher levels of testing including commercialization.

-Collaborate with other research stations within the company to exchange ideas, plots, germplasm, data and other items to maximize performance of the team.

-Be the project team leader and help to coach the staff at the station to maximize performance, build a culture of safety, adhere to company compliance policies, and develop their careers.

-Participate in sales and agronomy meetings and support as needed.

-Travel to outlying stations and winter nursery facilities as needed.

Qualifications:

-Masters degree or Ph.D. in Plant Breeding or a related field is required.

-Knowledge of corn germplasm and understanding of hybrid breeding and heterotic relationships are essential.

-Excellent understanding of statistics and experimental design are critical for success.

-Experience in Quantitative Genetics and/or Marker Breeding will be highly valued.

-Ability to understand or quickly learn our markets and the factors that add value in new products.

-Technical proficiency in the use of multiple computer applications and sound analytical skills are necessary for success.

-Strong interpersonal and personal leadership skills are essential to successfully lead teams and people and understand the importance of developing the careers of direct reports.

-The recognition of the importance of compliance with transgenic traits and the importance of promoting a strong culture of employee health and safety are required.

Our clients pay all fees, relocations costs if needed and offer an excellent Corporate benefits package.

If interested in any of these or other positions with Miller Ag, please send your resume in confidence to us. If these don't fit your needs, please share them with others who might be qualified!

See www.MillerAg.com to find more great Ag Chemical related positions in sales, marketing, R&D, and more!

Send resumes in confidence to:
Katrina Henderson at katrina@millerag.com 
615-686-8669

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

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5.02  Popcorn breeding position

Weaver Popcorn Company
is looking to fill an open position for a Plant Breeder at its research facilities in New Richmond, Indiana. The Weaver Popcorn Company develops, grows, processes, packages, and ships a variety of popcorn products for sale around the world. For more information about our Company, visit: http://www.weaverpopcorn.com/about/index.html.

Responsibilities
Manage, coordinate and execute a comprehensive breeding program for inbred line development.
1. Integrate molecular marker assisted technologies into breeding activities.
2. Develop breeding populations.
3. Develop new hybrids for testing.
4. Provide input into other areas where the genetic component is relevant.

Requirements:
-PhD with 3 years of experience, or MS with 5 years of experience in Plant Breeding and Genetics, (preferable in corn).
-Comprehensive knowledge of agronomics and production practices.
-Ability to manage personnel, and communicate well.
-Knowledge and experience in experimental design and statistical analysis.
-Experience in the application of molecular markers to breeding programs.
-Advanced computer skills.
-Understanding of biotechnology and intellectual property right concepts.
-Experience with farming equipment a plus.

Contact:
Carlos Iglesias
Weaver Popcorn Company
Hybrid Research & Seed Production Programs
9321 N New Richmond Rd.
New Richmond, IN 47967
E-mail:  carlos.iglesias@popweaver.com

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5.03  Head, Department of Plant Sciences, North Dakota State University, Fargo

POSITION:
Head, Department of Plant Sciences, full time (12 mo) tenure position. Administer departmental activities and provide leadership for 39 tenure-track faculty and 25 affiliated faculty with a mission including graduate and undergraduate teaching; basic and applied research and extension activities in the areas of biotechnology, breeding, genetics, horticulture, physiology, production and seed science; interdisciplinary development of crop cultivars; public relations; develop departmental budgets; solicit outside funding; coordinate student recruitment and programs with over 60 graduate students and 100 undergraduate students; maintain contact and rapport with other university departments, research and extension centers, other universities, state and federal agencies, and agribusiness organizations.

FACILITIES: Plant Sciences is primarily housed in Loftsgard Hall, completed in 1991.

QUALIFICATIONS: Earned Ph.D. in Plant Science related area is required and requirements for tenure in the Department of Plant Sciences must be met. Evidence of strong leadership, managerial and communication abilities with staff, students and the general public are essential. Qualifications preferred but not required are previous administrative experience, demonstrated ability to attract extramural funds, and familiarity with the Land Grant system.

SALARY & FRINGE BENEFITS: Salary will be commensurate with qualifications and experience. Benefits include social security, TIAA/CREF retirement, paid annual and sick leave, Blue Cross/Blue Shield group health plan, life and disability insurance.

CLOSING DATE: March 1, 2009 or thereafter until position is filled.

APPLICATION PROCEDURES: Screening of applications begins immediately after the closing date and will continue until a suitable candidate is identified. For full consideration, candidates must apply on-line at https://jobs.ndsu.edu

The following materials must be submitted online:
-A letter of application discussing how the stated qualifications are met.
-A detailed resume.
-Statement of teaching and research philosophy.
-Three current letters of reference.

North Dakota State University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, age, Vietnam Era Veterans status, sexual orientation, marital status, or public assistance status.

Direct inquiries to the Executive Director and Chief Diversity Office, 202 Old Main, (701) 231-7708

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5.04  Maize Breeding Lead (Senior or Principal Scientist)

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) is seeking applications from experienced, self-motivated, scientifically outstanding plant breeders to support the development of high-yielding, stress tolerant maize germplasm within its Global Maize Program (GMP). In collaboration with a dynamic multi-disciplinary research team, the position will ensure the implementation of state-of-the art maize breeding and deployment approaches across the program and in collaboration with public, private, local and international partners. The successful candidate will also be part of the management team of the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) project. The position will be based at CIMMYT’s Nairobi Office in Kenya but will involve travel to other CIMMYT sites in Asia, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa. The position is initially available for three years and could lead to a career position within CIMMYT.

The primary responsibilities will include:
-
As a Technical Lead for the Project, ensure the implementation of state-of-the-art maize breeding and deployment approaches within the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) Project.
-In collaboration with various CIMMYT Project Leaders and partner institutions, take the lead to align and further upgrade CIMMYT maize breeding approaches, germplasm interchange and deployment for more effective use of maize genetic resources, increased breeding progress and greater impact
-Provide mentorship to maize breeders within the Program. Interact with partners on maize research and germplasm needs, germplasm deployment and use of CIMMYT maize germplasm.

We are seeking candidates with the following qualifications:
-
PhD in plant breeding or associated discipline.
-A minimum of ten years post PhD experience in maize breeding including the use of state-of-the art molecular and bioinformatics tools, stress breeding approaches, and practical field breeding operations.
-Private sector experience desirable
-Significant track record of scientific publications relevant to maize breeding
-Experience in working in an international environment including developing countries
-Demonstrated ability to appropriately engage in innovation and work collegially and collaboratively in diverse, multicultural partnerships
-Willingness to travel extensively in Sub-Saharan Afirca, Latin America and Asia
-Proficiency in spoken and written English. Knowledge of Spanish and French will be an added advantage.

CIMMYT ( www.cimmyt.cgiar.org) is an internationally funded, non-profit research and training organization affiliated with the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR, www.cgiar.org) and has an annual budget of approximately US$40 million. CIMMYT’s mission is to help the poor in the developing world by increasing the productivity, profitability, and sustainability of maize and wheat-based cropping systems while protecting natural resources. The Center is a global leader in scientific research and training related to maize and wheat, and in biotechnology, economics, and natural resource management research. These activities are conducted in partnership with national agricultural research systems, non-governmental organizations, and advanced research institutions, both public and private, in globally focused projects and programs. CIMMYT employs about 600 permanent staff and operates through decentralized partnership, with staff in 11 countries and projects and networks in many more.

CIMMYT offers an attractive remuneration package paid in US dollars, with a range of benefits including housing allowance, life and health insurance, education allowance (to Grade 12), home leave, retirement fund, and relocation shipping allowance.

CIMMYT is an equal-opportunity employer and strives for staff diversity in gender and nationality.
Please send via e-mail your letter of application no later than December 31, 2008, CV/Resume (including full contact information), and names and contact information of three references to:
Human Resources Manager, CIMMYT
(Reference 2008/17)
Email: jobs-cimmyt@cgiar.org
For further information contact Dr. Marianne Bänziger, Maize Program Director, Global Maize Program, m.banziger@cgiar.org

Contributed by Rodomiro Ortiz

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5.05  Scientist - Insect Resistant Maize Breeding

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) is seeking applications from an innovative, self-motivated, scientifically outstanding entomologist / plant breeder to support the development of high-yielding, insect resistant maize germplasm. The position contributes to and draws on the experiences of a large multi-disciplinary research team with focus on insect resistance. It will be based at CIMMYT’s Nairobi Office in Kenya but will involve travel to other CIMMYT field sites in eastern and southern Africa as well as other CIMMYT locations in Asia and Latin America and involve collaboration with public and private, local and international partners.

CIMMYT-Kenya is hosted by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in Nairobi, Kenya. The position is initially available for three years and could lead to a career position within CIMMYT.

The primary responsibilities will include:
-
Determine the extent of stem borer pests and post harvest losses in several countries of eastern and southern Africa.
-Technically backstop public/private sector partners in developing insect screening facilities.
-In collaboration with maize breeders, develop maize inbred lines, hybrids, and open-pollinated varieties resistant to stem borers and post harvest pests (maize weevil and larger grain borer).
-In collaboration with molecular breeders, develop, design and implement molecular and field-based research to investigate and enhance insect resistance in maize.
-Technically backstop CIMMYT Maize Program breeders in insect resistant maize research in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

We are seeking candidates with the following qualifications:
-
PhD in entomology, plant breeding or associated disciplines.
-Applied knowledge of experimental design, management of field trials, and field breeding operations.
-Experience in insect rearing and use in screening for resistance in lab and field-based crop research.
-Excellent computer skills and experience with SAS, GENSTAT, or other statistical software.
-Familiarity with molecular breeding and genomics approaches and their ink to applied field breeding programs
-Capacity to publish in refereed science journals.
-Proficiency in spoken and written English.
-Interest in international research and development; preferably with experience in African agriculture.
-Demonstrated ability to work collegially and collaboratively in diverse, multicultural partnerships.

CIMMYT ( www.cimmyt.cgiar.org) is an internationally funded, non-profit research and training organization affiliated with the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR, www.cgiar.org) and has an annual budget of approximately US$40 million.

CIMMYT’s mission is to help the poor in the developing world by increasing the productivity, profitability, and sustainability of maize and wheat-based cropping systems while protecting natural resources. The Center is a global leader in scientific research and training related to maize and wheat, and in biotechnology, economics, and natural resource management research. These activities are conducted in partnership with national agricultural research systems, non-governmental organizations, and advanced research institutions, both public and private, in globally focused projects and programs. CIMMYT employs about 600 permanent staff and operates through decentralized partnership, with staff in 11 countries and projects and networks in many more.

CIMMYT offers an attractive remuneration package paid in US dollars, with a range of benefits including housing allowance, life and health insurance, education allowance (to Grade 12), home leave, retirement fund, and relocation shipping allowance.

CIMMYT is an equal-opportunity employer and strives for staff diversity in gender and nationality. Please send via e-mail your letter of application no later than December 31, 2008, CV/Resume (including full contact information), and names and contact information of three references to:
Human Resources Manager, CIMMYT
(Reference 2008/18)
Email: jobs-cimmyt@cgiar.org
For further information contact Dr. Stephen Mugo, Global Maize Program, s.mugo@cgiar.org

Contributed by Rodomiro Ortiz

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5.06  Graduate Research Assistantships in Plant Breeding, University of Wisconsin ­ Madison

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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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.

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

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

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

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

*NEW 20 – 24 April 2009. VII National Symposium of Biotechnology REDBIO-ARGENTINA: "BIOTECHNOLOGY and FUTURE GLOBAL SCENARIO" , Venue: Bolsa de Comercio de la Ciudad de Rosario, Provincia de Santa Fe
http://www.redbio.org
REGISTRATION
Registration fees for the Symposium have been modified. Contact Dr. Alejandro Escandón for details ( aescandon@cnia.inta.gov.ar).

To subscribe to REDBIO Argentina, please contact Dr. Alejandro Escandón, (redbioargentina@gmail.com ). The annual dues are $ 100 (Argentine pesos).

Contributed by Alejandro Salvio Escandón
Presidente de REDBIO Argentina AC
Instituto de Floricultura (CIRN-INTA)

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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