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


30 January 2009

An Electronic Newsletter of Applied Plant Breeding

Clair H. Hershey, Editor

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

1.01  New FAO report highlights crop prospects and food situation
1.02  Agricultural R&D key to preventing food crises
1.03  Harnessing crop technologies to alleviate hunger and poverty in Africa
1.04  Iowa Soybean Association honors Iowa State University soybean scientist Walt Fehr with a Lifetime Achievement Award
1.05  Hernan Ceballos, CIAT cassava breeder, receives highest award from the Colombian Association for the Advancement of the Science
1.06  GFU and ICUC merge to form “Crops for the Future”
1.07  Sharpening the focus of GCP: Introducing the Challenge Initiatives
1.08  Brazil and China to partner on new technologies
1.09  New agreement opens avenues for strengthening Indian rice research
1.10  $6.8 million grant to speed development of new wheat varieties at UC Davis
1.11  MARDI (Malaysia) developing new varieties of rice that are resistant to flood, drought, and high temperatures
Plant breeders join forces to boost the “poor person’s meat,” raise incomes and combat hunger
1.13  Winners of the GCP-WACCI PhD scholarships in plant breeding
1.14  Improved maize varieties and partnerships welcomed in Bhutan
1.15  The Development and Regulation of Bt Brinjal in India (Eggplant/Aubergine)
1.16  USDA/ARS plant geneticists develop world's first leafminer-resistant green leaf lettuce
1.17  WineCrisp -- new apple was more than 20 years in the making
1.18  Biotechnology is helping the fight against climate change, according to Australian BRS report
1.19  Social and economic impacts of biotechnology
1.20  Balancing the views on GM crops - Special Issue of the European Commission DG Environment newsletter
1.21  Global Crop Diversity Trust reaches important milestones in 2008
1.22  Peruvian region outlaws biopiracy
1.23  Waterproof rice passes international field tests
1.24  Drought tolerant maize research update
1.25  Novel crop-cooling technique could mitigate climate change
1.26  Technology to reduce the spread of rice tungro virus
1.27  Experimental soybeans sabotage soybean cyst nematode with its own gene
1.28  Potato resistance to phytophthera via cisgenics
1.29  Bean angular leaf spot disease resistance
1.30  Kansas State University, Texas A&M researchers boost lettuce calcium content
1.31  Re-engineering rice photosyntheses
1.32  European starch industry demands swift approval of genetically optimized potatoes
1.33  Purdue University researchers find nature's shut-off switch for cellulose production
1.34  U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute completes soybean genome
1.35  Tool helps identify gene function in soybeans, could lead to better crop performance, say University of Missouri researchers
1.36  Plants display 'molecular amnesia'
1.37  New technology platforms for molecular breeding: KeyGene’s Whole Genome Profiling method
1.38  Gene's past could improve the future of rice
1.39  Update 7-2008 of  FAO-BiotechNews

2.01  The role of policy in the conservation and extended use of underutilized plant species: a cross-national policy analysis
2.02  The Project Development Guide (PDG)
2.03  New ISAA Publications
2.04  Announcing A New Video: Proper Methods For Pruning Grapevines
2.05  ECO-PB newsletter on organic seeds and plant breeding, Issue IV / 2008
2.06  New Light on a Hidden Treasure: potatoes in the developing world
2.07  The Survey of Gene Modified (GM) Crops in China
2.08  Tomorrow's Table: Organic farming, genetics and the future of food
2.09  The Journal of Plant Breeding and Crop Science (JPBCS)to be launched in March 2009
SEARICE. 2008. Revisiting the streams of participatory plant breeding: Insights from a meeting among friends

3.01  New issue of Geneconserve
3.02  SINGER and EURISCO: Worldwide web catalogues on plant collections

4.01  CSREES announces agriculture and food research initiative funding opportunity
4.02  Scholarships offered from the Asian Rice Foundation USA

5.01  Two faculty positions in Crop Breeding and Genetics, Washington State University
5.02  Department Head in Plant Sciences, North Dakota State University
5.03  Agricultural Officer (Plant Genetic Resources Use), FAO
Three openings: research on Jatropha in genomics, molecular biology, proteomics, phytopathology and tissue culture
NAS, Science and Technology for Sustainability Program Director Sought
Scientist, Genetics Resource Expert at IRRI





1.01  New FAO report highlights crop prospects and food situation

Rome, Italy
FAO’s latest estimates confirm that a new record high level of global cereal production was achieved in 2008, sufficient to cover the expected increase in utilization in 2008/09 and also allow for a moderate replenishment of world reserves.

- Most of the increase in production this year has been among the developed countries, with that in the developing countries rising just marginally. In the developing group, outputs rose somewhat more among the Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries, especially in countries where agriculture production support was provided by governments.

- International cereal prices have continued to fall over the past months. In the first two weeks of December, the prices for wheat and coarse grains averaged respectively 40 percent and 20 percent less than the December average last year. For rice, however, the price of the benchmark Thai variety, although well down from its peak in May, remained 54 percent above the December average last year.

- Despite the decline of international cereal prices, food prices remain at high levels in developing countries and in several continue to increase, affecting the food security of large numbers of vulnerable populations. In
Afghanistan, Eritrea and Ethiopia prices of food staples are twice or more their levels of a year earlier.

- Smaller winter wheat plantings for the 2009 harvest are reported in several major producing countries in
Europe and North America, in response to lower international prices and prospects of reduced demand in view of the global economic crisis, and the high cost of inputs.

- In Southern Africa, where the food situation is tight following last year’s reduced harvest in several countries and persistent high food prices, the late start of the 2008/09 rainy season and anticipated lower plantings in the largest producer South Africa may negatively affect 2009 production.

- In
Western Africa, a bumper 2008 cereal harvest is being gathered, particularly in the Sahelian countries where the aggregate output is estimated to have increased by one-third from 2007. This reflects good weather and production support measures.

- In Eastern Africa, the "short-rains" season from October has been very favourable for pastoral and agro-pastoral areas including central and southern Somalia, north-western Kenya and south-eastern Ethiopia where millions have suffered severe food problems after repeated poor seasons.

- Notwithstanding an improved outlook for global cereal supplies in 2008/09, 33 countries around the world are estimated to be in need of external assistance as a result of crop failures, conflict or insecurity and high domestic food prices. In
Zimbabwe, where the number of food insecure is estimated at 5.1 million, a recent outbreak of cholera poses an additional serious threat to health and nutrition of the vulnerable population. In the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, an estimated 8.7 million people, or around 40 percent of the population, urgently need food assistance.


18 December 2008

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1.02  Agricultural R&D key to preventing food crises

Agricultural research can help reduce cereal prices

Doubling agricultural research and development (R&D) in developing countries over the next five years could lift more than 250 million people out of poverty by 2020, says Joachim von Braun. 

An International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) model predicts that a global recession, coupled with a decline in agricultural investment, could result in cereal price increases of 30 per cent above what is expected without a recession — leaving 16 million more children malnourished by 2020.

But if R&D investment is maintained, cereal prices in 2020 will be 15 per cent lower than the non-recession baseline, says von Braun.

Action is also needed to cope with price bubbles and crisis situations. IFPRI recommends that an emergency reserve of 300,000 tonnes of grain, managed by the UN World Food Programme, be strategically placed in the developing world, with a global intelligence unit that can advise on market intervention.

Von Braun says that biofuel subsidies should also be eliminated and the money invested instead in R&D for innovative biomass use.
Link to full article in Nature

Source: Nature via
17 December 2008

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1.03  Harnessing crop technologies to alleviate hunger and poverty in

We are very pleased to publicly the Free-publications of the African Crop Science Society. The proceedings of the Sixth African Crop Science Conference held 12-17 October 2003, Nairobi, Kenya. The theme of the Conference was ‘Harnessing crop technologies to alleviate hunger and poverty in Africa’. The papers published herein were included on merit subsequent to a rigorous peer review process. Proceedings Editors: M.P. Nampala, J.S. Tenywa, A.W. Mwangombe, M.Osiru, R. Kawuki & M. Biruma.

Click on the follow link to access the different sections of the proceedings:

Crop Improvement
Crop Physiology and Agronomy
Crop Protection
Post Harvest Utilisation
Socio economics
Soil Fertility Management
Sustainable Agriculture
Index by Author

We encourage you to visit the ACSS web-site periodically and check our continuous updated information and resources.

All comments and suggestions are more than welcome! Please, send them to or .

Contributed by Kasem Zaki Ahmed
President, African Crop Science Society,,

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1.04  Iowa Soybean Association honors Iowa State University soybean scientist Walt Fehr with a Lifetime Achievement Award

Urbandale, Iowa
The Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) honored Dr. Walter R. Fehr with the association’s first Lifetime Achievement Award at ISA’s annual policy conference and 45th anniversary kickoff in
Ames on Dec. 19.

John Heisdorffer, ISA president and a soybean farmer from Keota, made the presentation, recognizing Fehr for his contribution to soybean plant breeding. “ISA very happy to present Dr. Fehr with our first lifetime achievement award” Heisdorffer said. “We’ve worked with Walt for many years, and we appreciate his tireless work for soybean farmers and his visionary leadership in soybean research.”

Dr. Fehr came to Iowa State University (ISU) in 1964, the year that ISA was begun. He is a Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the highest academic honor at ISU, and he teaches and conducts research in plant breeding, specializing in soybean breeding and genetics, in the Department of Agronomy.

Dr. Fehr has been a long-time friend of the Iowa Soybean Association. ISA CEO Kirk Leeds noted, “Dr. Fehr has received checkoff funding for his soybean research since the inception of the soybean checkoff 37 years ago.”
Since then,
Leeds said, Dr. Fehr has developed an extremely innovative plant breeding program that utilizes traditional plant breeding methods along with biotechnology to enhance the genetic traits of soybeans. In the past two decades he has focused on the discovery and development of novel traits to improve soybean yield and enhance quality.

Dr. Fehr’s research has produced more than 200 food grade soybean varieties that are grown in
Iowa and throughout the U.S. The soybeans are sold at a premium price and marketed throughout the world. He was also the first to develop heart-healthy soybeans that contain no trans fat.

During his career, Dr. Fehr has also directed 77 graduate student programs, and many of those graduates are now soybean breeders in public and private plant breeding programs throughout the
United States.

In addition to his other responsibilities, Fehr is the director of the ISU Office of Biotechnology, which assists departments with the hiring of biotechnology faculty, provides graduate fellowships for outstanding students, operates state-of-the-art instrumentation facilities for research, conducts an innovative education program for K-12 teachers and Extension personnel, coordinates technology transfer with industry and supports an active bioethics program.

Recalling all of Fehr’s accomplishments,
Leeds said, “We at the Iowa Soybean Association are proud to have had the opportunity to have such a long working relationship with Dr. Fehr.”

ISU President Gregory Geoffroy was on hand to congratulate Fehr, calling him “one of the great faculty at ISU, having the highest title in the department.”

“Dr. Fehr is a lead researcher in the industry and a great educator,” Geoffroy said. “He is also a great ISU citizen. In directing the ISU biotechnology program, he unselfishly promotes biotechnology and the careers of fellow researchers.”

For Dr. Fehr, the recognition led him to recall that his work with soybeans and ISA has truly been “a family affair,” noting that his children grew up with the soybean association and with soybeans. “The entire family got involved in helping with soybean work in the field, and our family vacation destinations were wherever there was a soybean conference being held.”

“One of the most significant developments during the years has been the checkoff,” Fehr said. He recalled that the checkoff enabled research to become mechanized and less labor intensive. It also made research in
South Amercia possible so that new varieties could be developed in six years, rather than 15. The checkoff has made information available to the public regarding the management of disease, for instance, and it also made possible the internship of 250 students, many of whom are now experts in the industry.

Referring to research in food grade soy, Dr. Fehr, said, “All roads lead back to ISU.”

Certainly, that is a legacy that can be credited, in large part, to Dr. Fehr and helps make him a deserving recipient of ISA’s first Lifetime Achievement Award.

Iowa Soybean Association develops policies and programs that help farmers expand profit opportunities while promoting environmentally sensitive production using the soybean checkoff and other resources. The Association is governed by an elected volunteer board of 21 farmers.
Photo credit: Iowa State University

22 December 2008

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1.05 Hernan Ceballos, CIAT cassava breeder, receives highest award from the Colombian Association for the Advancement of the Science

On 11 November 2008 the Colombian Association for the Advancement of the Science awarded Dr Hernan Ceballos, a cassava breeder at CIAT for the past ten years, the 2008 National Award on Technological Innovation for his scientific contributions in cassava breeding for Colombia and the world. The award recognizes the outstanding breakthroughs in the improvement of the nutritional quality of the root and the identification of starch mutants, among several other achievements.

The starch mutant discovery tracks back to a
2006 harvest at the Cali, Colombia reseach center. Ceballos and his team discovered an S1 plant with roots that stained brownish-red when treated with an iodine solution, suggesting that it had lower-than-normal levels of amylose in its starch. Colorimetric and DSC measurements indicated low levels (3.4%) and an absence of amylose in the starch, respectively. The finding was confirmed with additional testing. This was the first report of a natural mutation in cassava that drastically reduces amylose content in root starch. The mutant has now been used extensively in breeding and has caught the interest of the starch industry world-wide.
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1.06  GFU and ICUC merge to form “Crops for the Future

As of
1 December 2008, the GFU  and ICUC (International Centre for Underutilised Crops) began to operate under the common name of Crops for the Future, and the two organizations will now merge their respective news services. Thus, we hope that like us, you too are looking forward to a "new look" news service in the new year. We will do our best to provide an uninterrupted service to you so you could expect "Crops for the Future News" towards the beginning of February.

For early bookmarking:  The new website will be

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1.07  Sharpening the focus of GCP: Introducing the Challenge Initiatives

In response to the EPMR as well as internal priority-setting to streamline and bring more focus to our work, beginning 2009, GCP will pay particular attention to seven selected trait-crop combinations, dubbed Challenge Initiatives (CIs) The finer details of the CIs are still being worked out, but you can meantime see the list ofthe seven CIs here <>

Source: GCP News--Issue 35, December 2008

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1.08  Brazil and China to partner on new technologies

Catarina Chagas
[RIO DE JANEIRO] Brazil and China have agreed to collaborate on developing technologies to tackle energy problems and climate change.

The Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (UFRJ), and the University of Tsinghua, China, have announced the creation of the Brazil–China Center for Innovative Technologies, Climate Change and Energy (14 January).

The centre, to be based at the
University of Tsinghua, in Beijing, will receive almost  US$1 million in initial investment from the Brazilian innovation agency, Research and Projects Financing (FINEP). The Brazilian part of the centre will be headed by the Graduate Engineering Project Coordination (COPPE) of the UFRJ.

Segen Estefan, chair of technology and innovation for COPPE said that the seeds of cooperation were sown when Chinese scientists visited his institution in
Brazil and witnessed projects in fields such as biofuels, prospecting for oil in deep waters, and clean energy sources, all of which overlapped with Chinese interests.

One of the centre's first goals will be to map biofuel sources in
Brazil and China to develop common approaches to their exploitation. Another will be to estimate greenhouse gas emissions by both countries and provide their respective governments with technical information to help them develop mitigation policies.

"We expect to multiply the number of projects and the funding as the centre begins to operate," said Estefan. "The physical infrastructure will be ready by the middle of the year and then we can increase activities and the exchange of researchers." He anticipates exchanges of PhD and post-doctoral students between the two countries.
The projects will aim to produce practical results for Brazilian and Chinese industries as well as yielding high quality information on science and technology for governments.

"Both countries are considering this not only a cooperation between two universities, but a collaboration between Chinese and Brazilian governments," added Estefan.

22 January 2009

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1.09  New agreement opens avenues for strengthening Indian rice research

Short- and long-term projects promise to boost production and raise farmer income

New Delhi, India –
An international agreement signed today (20 January 2009) between the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) will support and facilitate India's rice research for the next 3 years, helping the nation's rice production at a time of unprecedented price volatility and subsequent need for the revitalization of food production.

The work plan includes agreements on three major projects supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: Stress-tolerant rice for poor farmers in Africa and South Asia (STRASA), the Cereal systems initiative for South Asia (CSISA), and Creating the second green revolution by supercharging photosynthesis: C
4 rice.

STRASA aims to develop and distribute improved varieties of rice that can be grown in rainfed ecosystems, where farmers have little or no access to irrigation, and that can withstand environmental stresses such as drought, submergence, and salinity.

CSISA's 10-year goal is to produce an additional 5 million tons of grain annually and increase the yearly incomes of 6 million poor rural households by at least US$350. The initiative will employ innovative public-private partnerships for delivery of technology to farmers.

By converting rice from so-called C3 photosynthesis to the more efficient C4 photosynthesis, the C4 project aims to develop rice plants that can produce 50% more grain using less fertilizer and less water.

“The agreement will develop, promote, and accelerate rice research and training efforts between IRRI and ICAR,” said Dr. Robert S. Zeigler, IRRI director general. “The renewed collaboration will also provide important support for
India's other investments in agriculture and help India strengthen its science capacity.”

“The work plan focuses on conserving, evaluating, and enhancing genetic resources,” added Dr. Mangala Rai, ICAR director general, “as well as enhancing the productivity and sustainability of intensive cereal systems; improving productivity and livelihood for fragile environments; assessing the impact of, mitigation of, and adaptation to climate change; and strengthening linkages between research and development, including training.”

Contriubted by Chrisanto Quintana
20 January 2009

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1.10  $6.8 million grant to speed development of new wheat varieties at UC Davis

Davis, California
Thanks to a three-year $6.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation, UC Davis researchers are working on a groundbreaking plant genome project that could speed up the development of wheat varieties with improved grain quality and nutrition, higher yield, resistance to pests and diseases, and tolerance of adverse climate conditions.

Led by geneticist Jan Dvorak from the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, the project received the largest award from the NSF Plant Genome Program this year. It seeks to construct a physical map of one of the three genomes making up the chromosome complement of wheat -- a task far tougher than mapping the human genome.

"Unlike the mammalian genomes, genomes in higher plants differ enormously in size," Dvorak said. "Each of the three wheat genomes, for example, is an order of magnitude larger than the genome of rice.
We have never had the technology to physically map and sequence huge genomes such as those of wheat."

A physical map is a representation of the order of genes and other landmarks along a chromosome. To construct a physical map, genomic DNA is fragmented, and fragments are cloned and "fingerprinted."
Overlaps between fingerprints are used to identify neighboring DNA fragments, arranging them into a contiguous sequence corresponding to the DNA sequence in the chromosome. Scientists can then determine the location of genes and other markers in these fragments and sequence them.

"Instead of producing a physical map of wheat chromosomes directly, the chromosomes of Aegilops tauschii, one of the three ancestors of wheat and the source of its D genome, will be mapped first," Dvorak said. "These maps will then be used as templates in physical mapping of individual chromosomes of the wheat D genome, which is one of the specific objectives of this project."

While it will take years and further studies before the full wheat genomic sequence will be available to the research community, NSF funders say this project is a vital first step. The project will include sponsoring student internships and workshops for other scientists in fingerprinting and physical mapping as well as creating a public repository of all the data and its analysis.

"The knowledge from this project will be helpful in all aspects of wheat breeding and biotechnology because it will accelerate the discovery and isolation of economically important genes," Dvorak said. "The project will also advance understanding of the evolution and the global organization of large plant genomes."

The project includes UC Davis investigators Ming-Cheng Luo and Patrick McGuire, and Olin Anderson from the U.S. Department of Agriculture/ARS in
Albany, Calif., who also holds an adjunct appointment at UC Davis. It also involves Bikram Gill from Kansas State University, Doreen Ware from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, and Jaroslav Dolezel from the Institute of Experimental Botany in the Czech Republic.

The NSF began in 1998 making annual grant awards through its Plant Genome Research Program, dedicated to advancing understanding of the structure, organization and function of plant genomes that are important to agriculture, the environment, energy and health.

17 December 2008

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1.11  MARDI (Malaysia) developing new varieties of rice that are resistant to flood, drought, and high temperatures

The Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI) has acknowledged the effect of climate change in rice cultivation and production in Malaysia. Director General Datuk Dr. Abdul Shukor Abdul Rahman says MARDI is developing new varieties of rice that are resistant to flood, drought, and high temperatures.

Climate change has rendered several areas in
Malaysia unsuitable for rice cultivation, especially the ‘rice bowl’ area in Kedah and this has caused losses in millions of Ringgit. With the new rice varieties, farmers would have better choices and could plant different rice varieties according to the environmental conditions such as too much or too little water, extreme and unfavorable temperatures, acidic soil, and increase in carbon dioxide. The director general further stressed that the current seeds in use which are MR219 and MR232 are not able to thrive under unfavorable conditions.

For more information on biotechnology in
Malaysia email Mahaletchumy Arujanan of the Malaysia Biotechnology Information Center at

Other news from MARDI

Source: CropBiotech Update via
23 January 2009

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Plant breeders join forces to boost the “poor person’s meat,” raise incomes and combat hunger

Africa’s best-kept secret: beans, peanuts and other pods

KIGALI, RWANDA (12 January 2009)—Beans, cowpeas, peanuts and other legumes are referred to as the “poor man’s meat” and provide an essential source of protein for millions of Africans.   Legumes are considered a “perfect food”: rich in vitamins, minerals, oils and energy.  Yet the production has stagnated to only about 600 kilograms per hectare while the real potential is 5,000 kilogram per hectare.  The high demand for legumes has also been stirred up by the rising food prices for other sources of animal protein like meat, fish and eggs, and therefore there is a rising demand for legumes both for home use and for consumers in rural and urban markets.

Today, crop breeders, farmers and seed merchants from 12 countries launched a network aimed to target high-yielding, disease-resilient beans that taste better and cook in a shorter time to respond to the household needs.  The discussions focused on the genetic improvement of legumes and improving the seed delivery systems in
Africa through farmer groups or organizations and therefore combating malnutrition and hunger and raising the incomes of Africa’s smallholder farmers, most of whom are women. 

The crop breeders reported significant advances in the fight against a host of plagues—from root-rots to drought—and zeroed in on the most pressing challenges to legume production. 

“Both science and society present challenges to increasing production,” said plant breeder Dr. Jane Ininda, a program officer with the
Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).  “The support for research has dwindled and some of these crops have received perhaps one-ten-thousandth of the research attention.  But beans, cowpea and groundnut are meat for rural Africa.”

The meeting was sponsored by
AGRA, a partnership-based organization that targets rural poverty and hunger through improving smallholder farming.  AGRA supports a comprehensive program to transform everything from seed development and distribution, to soil health and agricultural education, to markets and infrastructure.

Speaking at the meeting, the Hon. Agnes Matilda Kalibata,
Rwanda’s Minister of Agriculture, said, “We must work to realize the incredible potential of beans and other legumes in ending hunger and malnutrition.  Rwanda has the highest bean consumption in Africa, but still our farmers are thwarted by pests and diseases that keep yield depressed well below global levels.”

Participants pointed out that in addition to providing vital protein and calories, increasing legume production can benefit the environment.
“Legumes naturally enrich the soil by converting nitrogen in the air into soil nitrogen,” Ininda explained.  “
AGRA is also proposing use of legumes as an intercrop and also a cover crop to conserve soil moisture and also keep away the weeds.  We find that in areas where drought is a problem, legumes’ leafy ground cover helps preserve moisture.”

The inaugural meeting of the Legume Breeders Network brought together crop breeders, researchers and seed companies from
Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. The meeting highlighted efforts to develop improved legume varieties and to overcome the barriers that prevent those varieties from reaching farmers and improving food security.

Beans that Root out Rot
Beans provide vital protein and calories for over 100 million people in rural and poor urban communities in
Africa.  Grown mostly by women and known as a “women’s crop,” beans rank high in diets in Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Uganda and Zambia. They are also rich in iron and folic acid, which are important to pregnant women.  But varieties grown in sub-Saharan Africa are low-yielding and subject to a host of stresses, from poor soils to disease to root rots.

According to Ugandan plant breeder Annet Namayanja, all commercial varieties of bean currently grown in
Uganda are susceptible to root rot, while varieties known to resist the fungus have undesirable qualities.  They do not have the taste that farmers require, are late to maturity, and have an undesirable small seed size.  To increase yield, farmers need varieties that are both disease resistant and early maturing, and have the size, color and cooking qualities that consumers want. 

In a breakthrough for bean breeding, the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) of
Uganda with support from AGRA has released three bean varieties that are now being promoted for farmers to grow.  Farmers are very particular about the bean varieties they grow, and the improved varieties will require better soil fertility management, as poor soil can aggravate root rots and other problems like bean stem maggots, said Annet.

Other researchers reported on efforts to grow higher-yielding climbing beans.  Rather than spreading out, these varieties grow straight up, requiring less land to produce a greater yield.  Climbing beans could therefore greatly benefit areas with lots of people and little farm land. With
AGRA’s support, breeders in Rwanda have identified new climbing and bush varieties with resistance to angular leaf spot, root rot and anthracnose.  The bush beans will yield up to 2.5 tons per hectare, while the climbing beans can yield up to 5.0 tons per hectare.

Gains for Groundnut
Africa’s second-most important legume is peanut, commonly known as groundnut. It provides a good source of plant protein, vitamins and oil. But groundnut production in Africa suffered a devastating blow almost 35 years ago, when Rosette disease, transmitted by aphids—small plant-eating insects—wiped out regional trade worth about US$250 million.  While exports of groundnut increased elsewhere, Africa’s export share declined by about one-third from the 1970s to the 1990s.  Small-scale farmers still routinely lose up to 30 percent of their crop, and losses can be 100 percent when Rosette rages out of control.

Uganda, farmers harvest about 800 kilograms per hectare, compared to a potential yield of 3,000 kilograms per hectare, a problem being tackled by plant breeder David Kalule Okello, with Uganda’s National Agricultural Research Organization.  Okello reported on progress in his work with farmers to develop Rosette-resistant varieties, some of which can produce a white peanut butter. 

Cowpeas Coping with Heat
African farmers domesticated cowpea more than 3,500 years ago, and today it can be cultivated under a range of extreme agricultural conditions that would challenge most other crops. Some 200,000 million people living across half of sub-Saharan
Africa depend on cowpea, making it a daily part of the diet whenever it is available.  Yet in most cases it remains low yielding, limiting its benefit.

Mozambique, cowpea production is a bare 300 kilograms per hectare, although the potential yield is 2000 kilograms per hectare, according to the breeder Rogèrio Marcos Chiulele.  Intensified droughts pose one challenge.  Noting the lack of high-yielding varieties able to grow in extremely hot, dry conditions, Chiulele has screened some 216 farmer-bred varieties known as landraces and already identified a number with increased drought tolerance.  Meanwhile, on the other side of the continent, seed breeders in Mali are also adapting cowpea to thrive with high yield under the harsh conditions of the dry Sahel.

Scaling Up and Branching Out
Breeders are tackling production constraints in crops such as soybean in Tanzania, Uganda and Nigeria; pigeon pea in Malawi; cowpea in Burkina Faso and Uganda; and bean breeding across East Africa. 

Many presenters noted that the breeding of improved varieties is just a first step.  For new varieties to make a real difference in people’s lives, they must both be widely disseminated and utilized in a variety of ways.  For example, increased cultivation of soybean, combined with building domestic processing, could help African countries overcome their dependence on imported cooking oils. 

Dissemination is also key.  “It is not enough to develop new varieties; we must also be prepared to expand production and dissemination,” Ininda said.  “In some countries, government monopoly of seed production has become an obstacle to progress.”

According to Ininda, governments must come up with policies that support delivery of quality seed to farmers and create an enabling environment for emerging seed companies and give seed producers the freedom to operate.  The competition is healthy because this will lower the cost of seed.  Bean prices, for example, are twice the price of maize across
Tanzania, said a breeder from Tanzania.  “Monopoly in seed supply tends to slow the release of new varieties, and this denies the farmers better seeds,” Ininda explained.
About the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)
AGRA is a dynamic partnership working across the African continent to help millions of small-scale farmers and their families lift themselves out of poverty and hunger.
AGRA programmes develop practical solutions to significantly boost farm productivity and incomes for the poor while safeguarding the environment. AGRA advocates for policies that support its work across all key aspects of the African agricultural value chain ­from seeds, soil health and water to markets and agricultural education.

AGRA's Board of Directors is chaired by Kofi A Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations. Dr Namanga Ngongi, former Deputy Executive Director of the World Food Programme, is
AGRA's president. With support from The Rockefeller Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the UK's Department for International Development and other donors, AGRA works across sub-Saharan Africa and maintains offices in Nairobi, Kenya, and Accra, Ghana.


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1.13  Winners of the GCP-WACCI PhD scholarships in plant breeding

We are also pleased to announce that Ruth Thompson and Dramane Sako are the first awardees of a new PhD scholarship programme funded by GCP and implemented by the West African Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) at the University of Ghana.

Ruth is from the Crop Research Institute-Kumasi,
Ghana, and she will work on cassava, while Dramane, who will study sorghum, is from Institut d'économie rurale (IER), Mali. These two pioneers begin their PhD studies in January 2009, and we wish them every success in their endeavours.

Source: GCP News--Issue 35, December 2008

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1.14  Improved maize varieties and partnerships welcomed in

Sandwiched between China and India, the Kingdom of Bhutan is a small country that relies on maize in a big way. But maize yields are typically low due to crop diseases, drought, and poor access to seed of improved varieties, among other reasons. CIMMYT is committed to improving Bhutan’s food security by providing high-yielding, pest-resistant maize varieties to farmers and capacity-building for local scientists.

“If there is no maize there is nothing to eat,” says Mr. S. Naitein, who farms maize on half a hectare of land in Bhutan. But it’s not easy to grow, he says, citing challenges such as animals (monkeys and wild boars), insects, poor soil fertility, drought, poor access to improved seed varieties, and crop diseases like gray leaf spot (GLS) and turcicum leaf blight (TLB).

But since planting Yangtsipa—an improved maize variety derived from Suwan-1, a variety introduced from CIMMYT’s former regional maize program in
Thailand—Naitein has seen a real improvement in his maize yields. The local maize variety yielded 1,700 kilograms per hectare, whereas Yangtsipa gave him 2,400 kilograms per hectare, a 40% yield increase.

“It’s no wonder that Yangtsipa is by far the most popular improved variety among Bhutanese farmers,” says Guillermo Ortiz-Ferrara, CIMMYT regional cereal breeder posted in
Nepal. “Nonetheless, many local varieties of maize still occupy large areas of the country and don’t yield well.”

Maize is a staple food in
Bhutan. Many people eat Tengma (pounded maize) as a snack with a cup of tea and Kharang (maize grits) are also popular. “Among the food crops, maize plays a critical role in household food security, especially for the poor,” says Ortiz-Ferrara. About 38% of the rural Bhutanese population lives below the poverty line and some 37,000 households cultivate maize. It’s estimated that 80% of this maize is consumed at the household level, according to Bhutan’s Renewable Natural Resources Research Center (RNRRC).

Leaf us alone: CIMMYT maize varieties help combat foliar diseases

Many farmers in
Bhutan have been struggling with crop diseases that cut maize yields. “The recent outbreak of gray leaf spot and turcicum leaf blight affected 4,193 households and destroyed over 1,940 hectares of maize crop,” says Thakur Prasad Tiwari, agronomist with CIMMYT-Nepal. He estimates that maize is grown on 31,160 hectares in the country.

Gray leaf spot is a devastating leaf disease that is spreading fast in the hills of
Bhutan and Nepal. To deal with this threat, CIMMYT sent more than 75 maize varieties with possible resistance to GLS and TLB to Bhutan in 2007. Tapping into the resources of its global network of research stations, CIMMYT sent seed from Colombia, Zimbabwe, and Mexico that was planted in GLS and TLB ‘hot spot’ locations in the country.

Ortiz-Ferrara and Tiwari then worked with Tirtha Katwal, national maize coordinator-Bhutan, and his team to evaluate these materials for their resistance.

“Together we identified the top performing lines for gray leaf spot and turcicum leaf blight which will be excellent candidates for
Bhutan’s maize breeding program,” says Ortiz-Ferrara. “We are now combining their disease resistance with Yangtsipa, because we know it is high-yielding and well-adapted to Bhutan.”

Kevin Pixley, associate director of CIMMYT’s Global Maize Program, helped to develop a detailed breeding scheme or work plan for
Bhutan’s national GLS breeding program. “We want to provide capacity-building for local maize scientists so they themselves can identify and breed varieties that show resistance to crop diseases,” he says.

“We feel more confident in moving forward with the next steps in our breeding program,” said Katwal. He and his team also attended a training course on seed production, de-tasselling, and pollination given by Dr. K.K. Lal, former CIMMYT maize trainee and former chief of the
Seed Quality Control Center at the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MoAC) in Nepal.

That’s what friends are for: CIMMYT,
Nepal, and Bhutan collaboration
In 2001, Bhutan began collaborating on maize research with CIMMYT-Nepal, the National Maize Research Program (NMRP) of Nepal, and the Hill Maize Research project (HMRP) funded by the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) in Nepal. The terrain and agro-climatic conditions of Bhutan and the Nepalese highland are similar, meaning that technologies adapted for Nepal will likely work well in neighboring Bhutan.

CIMMYT aims to facilitate regional and national partnerships that benefit farmers. For instance, during the past 7 years CIMMYT-Nepal has worked with NMRP and RNRRP to introduce 12 open-pollinated varieties (OPVs) to
Bhutan. These modern varieties yield more than the local varieties whose seed farmers save to sow from year to year. Included in these 12 OPVs were several quality protein maize (QPM) varieties; these have nearly twice as much usable protein as other traditional varieties of maize.

“Our CIMMYT office in
Nepal has assisted Bhutan with maize and wheat genetic material, technical backstopping, training, visiting scientist exchange, and in identifying key consultants on research topics such as grey leaf spot and seed production,” says Tiwari.

Simply put, CIMMYT has useful contacts. For example, at the request of
Bhutan’s Renewable Natural Resources Research Center (RNRRC), CIMMYT-Nepal put forward Dr. Carlos De Leon, former CIMMYT regional maize pathologist, to conduct a course on identifying and controlling maize diseases in February 2007. In September 2008, CIMMYT and HMRP also recommended two researchers (Dr. K.B. Koirala and Mr. Govinda K.C.) from Nepal’s NMRP to give a course on farmer participatory research that has been successful in the dissemination of new technologies.

“Ultimately, our goal is to improve the food security and livelihood of rural households through increased productivity and sustainability of the maize-based cropping system,” says Thakur Prasad Tiwari.

5 December 2008

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1.15  The Development and Regulation of Bt Brinjal in India (Eggplant/Aubergine)

ISAAA Brief 38-2009 

Today, ISAAA has released its new Brief 38-2009, known as Brinjal Brief on “The Development and Regulation of Bt Brinjal in India (Eggplant/Aubergine)”. This ISAAA Brief 38 is a comprehensive review of all aspects of the cultivation in
India of the important vegetable brinjal. Importantly, the Brief summarizes the development, status and content of the extensive regulatory dossier in India for biotech Bt brinjal. This is 120 pages Brief is designed as primer and the subjects covered in this are divided into four parts:

-the first part describes the biology, production and significance of brinjal as a vegetable crop in India;

-the second focuses on biotech crop development and its relevance to India;

-the third highlights the current efforts to develop Bt brinjal- the first biotech food crop in India, and

-the fourth part explains the regulatory framework being applied to Bt brinjal.

The full Brief is made available, free of charge on ISAAA main website and ISAAA Knowledge Centre website: and

The print copies will be available in a week time. Please let me have your feedback on the content of this Brief. and

Contributed by Bhagirath Choudhary
16 January 2009

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1.16  USDA/ARS plant geneticists develop world's first leafminer-resistant green leaf lettuce

Washington, DC
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
By Marcia Wood
Green leaf lettuces bring the rich color and pleasing texture of their crinkly leaves to any garden salad. Besides being a favorite with salad lovers, this kind of lettuce is also a top choice for destructive insects known as leafminers, or Liriomyza langei.

To combat leafminers, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plant geneticists Beiquan Mou and Edward Ryder (now retired) developed the world's first leafminer-resistant green leaf lettuce.

Adult leafminers, which are shiny black flies with a yellow triangle on their backs, ruin leaves when they puncture them to feed on sap. Females add to the damage when they lay tiny oval eggs inside the leaves. Wormlike larvae hatch from the little eggs and, as they feed, create the mine-like tunnels for which the pest is named.

In addition to its leafminer resistance, the attractive, robust new lettuce can shrug off attacks by the virus that causes lettuce mosaic. This disease, spread by green peach aphids (Myzus persicae), gives leaves a sickly mottled or mosaic appearance, rendering the lettuce unmarketable.

Mou and Ryder, based at the ARS Crop Improvement and Protection Research Unit in Salinas, Calif., screened more than 100 kinds of lettuce from ARS' Pullman, Wash.-based world collection of lettuces, and from elsewhere, before selecting ARS' own "Salinas 88" lettuce and a red leaf lettuce as parents for the new green leaf offspring. They put it through seven years of laboratory, greenhouse and field tests, then made it available to plant breeders and researchers earlier this year.

The lettuce, known as MU06-857, is the newest in a series of first-rate iceberg, romaine, and leaf lettuces--and spinach--from the internationally known plant-breeding program at
Salinas. The lab's crisp, crunchy iceberg lettuces, for example, have made iceberg the best-selling lettuce in America. Nearly every iceberg lettuce grown in the United States today owes at least some of its parentage to ARS' lettuce-breeding research.

ARS is a scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

1 December 2008

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1.17  WineCrisp -- new apple was more than 20 years in the making

A new, late-ripening apple named WineCrisp™ which carries the Vf gene for scab resistance was developed over the past 20 plus years through classical breeding techniques, not genetic engineering. License to propagate trees will be made available to nurseries through the
University of Illinois.

Being resistant to apple scab is a big plus for growers, said
University of Illinois plant geneticist Schuyler Korban, as it significantly reduces the number of chemical fungicide sprays. "Apple scab is the number one disease that growers have to spray for – 15 to 20 times per season – so not having to spray for apple scab lowers the cost for the grower and is better for the environment."

Why does it take over 20 years to make an apple? "It takes a long time to develop an apple because you want to test it in different locations, you want to observe it over a number of years, and it takes awhile for an apple to get noticed," said geneticist Schuyler Korban. "I liked it the first time I saw it and I liked the flavor. It has an excellent mix of sugar and acid and a very pleasant flavor, but I was hesitant because of the finish – it's not glossy."

Korban thought the finish might pose a problem because consumers are accustomed to seeing waxed fruit in stores and may not like the matte finish that Korban calls "scarfy" or dull. "Red Delicious is a very good looking apple, but has no flavor, very bland. It's still ranked as the number one apple in the industry; however, there are more new apple varieties available now."

After some time, Korban decided that the crispness and the flavor would be more important factors to consumers than the finish and continued to develop the new apple.

His research, in collaboration with breeders at
Rutgers and Purdue Universities, will be published in a 2009 issue of the journal of HortScience, and a U.S. patent is currently pending. The apple is available now to nurseries who want to apply for a license to propagate trees and make them available to apple growers nationwide. "There is a nursery in the southeastern part of the United States that really liked the apple and feel that there is a market for it in the south so they're getting a license to grow it."

It also takes time for a new orchard or even for an existing orchard to plant new apple varieties. But when WineCrisp™ cuttings are grafted into a fast-growing root stock, Korban says there could be fruit on the tree in as little as three years.

Korban said that the tree is extremely productive and the fruit is firm, but it's not a bright red color. "It's more of a dark red and looks like a deep red wine so we wanted to include 'wine' in the name. It also resembles an older variety that consumers are familiar with called Winesap. "When you pick it up and squeeze it, it's very firm," he said. "We used to call it 'the Rock.' We wanted that characteristic to be in the name so we added 'crisp' and named it WineCrisp™.

"There's a market for apples with different flavors, different textures, different ripening and maturity dates – you don't know what the likes and dislikes of the consumer will be," said Korban. "Some of our recent releases are varieties that focus on late ripening which would prolong the apple-growing season and WineCrisp™ matures two weeks after Red Delicious. They can be harvested all the way through to the end of October. And in good cold storage, they'll keep for eight to nine months. That's another important trait of this variety – it keeps very well in cold storage."

The original cross in the breeding process was done at
Rutgers in 1989. The seeds were grown into seedlings and inoculated with apple scab at Purdue. Those seedlings that demonstrated resistance to apple scab were split between the three universities as a part of the Purdue-Rutgers-Illinois (PRI) Cooperative Breeding Program, which has been very successful in naming and releasing over 25 disease-resistant apple varieties, some with other collaborating partners around the world. Because the University of Illinois made the selection, U of I will be the primary licensing institution.

Contact: Debra Levey Larson
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
22 January 2009

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1.18  Biotechnology is helping the fight against climate change, according to Australian BRS report

Canberra, Australia

Biotechnology can help Australian farmers to remain viable despite the effects of a changing climate.

Karen Schneider, Executive Director of the Bureau of Rural Sciences (BRS), today released the report "Australia’s crops and pastures in a changing climate: can biotechnology help?"

“There are a number of plant traits likely to be important for adapting to climate change, including heat tolerance, water and nitrogen use efficiency, and pest and disease resistance,” Ms Schneider said.

“Biotechnology techniques, such as genetic modification (GM), are increasingly playing an important role in the development of new crop and pasture varieties with these traits.

“The adoption of GM insect-resistant cotton has proven very effective in controlling insect pests.

“This technology will become increasingly important when addressing altered pest distributions expected under climate change,” Ms Schneider said.

Biotechnology can also assist in reducing greenhouse gas emissions generated by agriculture.

“GM insect-resistant and herbicide-tolerant crops grown by Australian farmers already help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cropping by reducing the fuel use associated with pesticide applications and encouraging no-till or conservation tillage practices.

“New varieties developed using biotechnology may help to reduce methane and nitrous oxide emissions. For example, nitrogen-use efficient crops could lead to reductions in the use of nitrogenous fertiliser,” said Ms Schneider.

Biotechnology can also indirectly mitigate greenhouse gas emissions by facilitating the adoption of farm management practices that reduce carbon dioxide emissions and increase carbon sequestration activities.

Australia, GM organisms are regulated by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator, and are assessed for risks to human health and safety and the environment.

For further information, visit
Download "
Australia’s crops and pastures in a changing climate: can biotechnology help?"

16 December 2008

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1.19  Social and economic impacts of biotechnology

Washington, DC
Biotechnology has the potential to substantially increase agricultural productivity, influence markets, and in some cases invent new uses for traditional crops. However, concerns accompany these potential benefits. A group of scientists from
Virginia examined the benefits, costs, and risks associated with agricultural products arising from biotechnology research.

With funding from USDA’s Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES), George Norton and colleagues at Virginia Polytechnic Institute focused their study on two crops: tobacco and rice. They chose tobacco because research is underway to discover pharmaceutical uses for the crop. Rice was chosen because it is the subject of a large biotechnology program, with significant implications for
U.S. producers, as well as for producers and low-income consumers in the developing world.

Norton’s team assessed the costs and benefits of biotechnologies using economic models. Analyses for tobacco focused on three pharmaceutical products: glucerebrosidase (an enzyme for treating Gaucher Disease), human serum albumin (used as a substitute for blood plasma during surgery), and secretory IgA antibody (important in preventing tooth decay). The project team determined that pharmaceutical companies and patent holders would benefit from biotechnology research in tobacco crops, but the outcome for farmers and the public would be limited.

A world trade model was used to project the economic consequences of
Asia and the United States implementing biotechnology to adopt cost-reducing genetically modified rice. The model considered the potential impacts of insect-, drought-, and herbicide-resistant genetically modified rice technologies. Projected total benefits from these three technologies was around $2 billion per year, but varied regionally; Asian countries benefited from genetically modified rice, while the United States experienced a small net loss.

Using a telephone survey, the project team assessed the perceived social impact from genetically modified crops, specifically insect-resistant rice and pharmaceutical-producing tobacco. Results suggest most people had strong feelings, positive or negative, toward biotechnologies. Willingness to support genetically modified crops varied with the levels of benefits—consumer support was greater for plant-based pharmaceuticals than for genetically modified food products.

Focus groups in the
United States, the Philippines, and Bangladesh elicited stakeholder views or concerns about the potential benefits and costs of obtaining pharmaceutical products from genetically modified crops. The focus group also interviewed tobacco manufacturers, tobacco and rice producers, private biotech firms, environmentalists, government regulators, clergy, students, World Bank representatives, university and government researchers, and consumers. The project team found most citizens of Asian countries were unaware of biotechnology risk or benefit. U.S. farmers are open to the idea of genetically modified crops, but fear a backlash that could negatively affect crop prices.

Educational materials and fact sheets with more details about project findings are available at

This project provides beneficial information about the public’s view of genetically modified agricultural crops in the
United States and abroad. It also explored impacts on these crops of U.S policies and regulations, and provides greater clarity on the appropriate roles of the public versus the private sector in biotechnology research and development.

CSREES funded this research through the Initiative for Future Agricultural and Food Systems program. Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, CSREES focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues affecting people’s daily lives and the nation’s future. For more information, visit

By Stacy Kish

21 January 2009

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1.20  Balancing the views on GM crops - Special Issue of the European Commission DG Environment newsletter

Brussels, Belgium
Balancing the views on GM crops - Special Issue of the European Commission DG Environment newsletter

Editorial: Balancing the views on GM crops

Public participation in the GM debate: the case for sustainability reporting
A recent study advises how public dialogue on GM policy issues could be conducted to enable better decision-making.

Bee behaviour helps us understand transgene escape
A study which tracked the flight patterns of bees sheds light on how pollen from GM crops could spread.

The bigger picture: GM contamination across the landscape
GM crops may need bigger isolation distances to prevent cross-contamination with conventional crops, according to recent research.

GM rapeseed can mix with weeds
Researchers have found that a transgene from hybridised rapeseed can persist in wild populations for up to six years in a small number of plants.

Earthworms decompose GM maize
Earthworms can help break down toxins in the soil produced by pest-resistant GM maize, according to a recent study.

GM crops could reduce need for herbicides
Energy and economic savings can be made by using herbicide-resistant GM crops, but wider changes to agricultural practice may be needed.

Related articles
- GM rapeseed could reduce fertiliser usage
- Genetic engineering could cut the cost of biofuels
- GM seeds can remain in fields longer than previously thought
Download the newsletter:

December 2008

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1.21  Global Crop Diversity Trust reaches important milestones in 2008

Dear Friends,

Some years are better than others. 2008 was such a year for the Trust. But this is not an annual report. – I don’t write that often! However, I do want to inform you of a few important milestones, as well as significant work in progress. For a short, colourful and interactive overview, please visit

The big underlying question is are we making progress in achieving the Trust’s goal of ensuring the conservation of crop diversity to meet the challenges of the future such as climate change and population growth? I’ll let you answer that question for yourself.

-The Trust initiated what is probably the quantitatively largest biological rescue project in history. Over the course of the next 3 years, the project, carried out mainly by developing country partners around the world financed and backstopped by the Trust, will rescue 100,000 distinct crop varieties that otherwise would face extinction. Who knows what valuable traits for heat tolerance, disease and pest resistance and nutritional qualities will be saved as a result! Additionally, we are working on improved techniques for conserving certain crops, particularly root and tuber crops.

-We now have long-term (essentially never-ending) contracts with the holders of some of the largest and most important collections of banana, barley, bean, cassava, chickpea, faba bean, forages, grass pea, lentil, pearl millet, rice, sorghum, wheat and yam. These contracts are a beginning – they don’t cover all crops or every important collection, nor do they defray all conservation costs. But we are now providing close to $2 million a year to underpin globally unique and critical crop diversity collections. These collections are the most diverse, most accessible and best-managed collections in the world, and are the main source of genetic resources for the world’s plant breeders. But none are financially secure. Eventually, we need to have an endowment sufficiently large to protect all the diversity of all the crops, forever.

-The Svalbard Global Seed Vault opened in February 2008. This is the world’s agricultural insurance policy, offering protection against loss of diversity (due to natural disasters, wars, equipment failures, accidents) that can plague even the best of genebanks. Discovery Channel listed it as one of the world’s nine biggest science projects. Time Magazine hailed it as one of 2008’s greatest inventions. CBS 60 Minutes had a segment on the Vault with great film footage. See it at: Additional print and visual media stories about the Trust and the Seed Vault can be accessed at:

-The purpose of conserving diversity is to use it! If we want crops to be adapted to new climates, then we’ll have to search through genebank collections to find the appropriate genetic traits and begin the process of integrating them into new varieties for use by farmers. We have initiated a competitive grants system to finance screening of collections for traits useful for climate change adaptation. Currently we’re supporting projects involving a dozen different crops.

-Working with partners such as Bioversity International and USDA, the Trust is catalyzing the development of non-proprietary software to help genebanks oversee and organize their operations. The beta version is due out this month. In addition, a “one-stop shop,” a “” for plant breeders is in the works. This will enable plant breeders to search, find, and acquire needed traits from genebanks around the world, rather than interact with them one-by-one, navigating different systems and languages.

-During 2008 we made good progress towards our financial goal: we received the largest grant in our history from an individual, $1 million from Amy Goldman through the Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust. The Grade 4 Class of
Colombia Grammar School in New York City did their part with a contribution raised through various activities. And, significantly, a new US Farm Bill was signed into law authorizing a $60 million contribution to the Trust’s endowment. Will Congress now appropriate the funds? We hope to see positive news in 2009.

Looking Forward: Will 2009 be the year in which we completely endow a crop, when we secure the entire diversity of a crop forever, and announce for the first time that the job is done for wheat or chickpea, or…? Maybe. If it happened with the panda bear the trumpets would blare. But it may be more important if it happens with wheat. We’ll need a particularly far-sighted donor to step forward and make it possible. What would it take? Depending on the crop, less than the proportional amount that
Princeton University has in its endowment for 3 of its students. Remarkable, isn’t it?

The Trust is spearheading the formulation of an exciting, even “revolutionary,” strategy for the collection and conservation of the wild botanical relatives of our food crops. These biological resources contain a huge amount of untapped and endangered diversity of inestimable utility in helping agriculture cope with climate change. We have also outlined a methodology for conserving the world’s root and tuber crops, which are so important to food security of the poor, and yet so often neglected by both the public and private sector.

In both cases, our goals are concrete, the benefits are stupendous, the costs are reasonable, and the strategy is passionately pragmatic. For a fraction of the funds that it would take to attempt to save a wild animal species, we can guarantee the conservation of hundreds of wild crop species, critical to future agricultural productivity and food security. Forever. Or we can secure the diversity of “orphan crops” such as cassava, taro or yam. Forever. (I hope potential donors are listening!)

We know for sure we will be rescuing tens of thousands of crop varieties in the coming months. We’ll be securing their conservation in genebanks managed according to international standards, with a safety duplicate copy in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The Trust will provide critical operating funds to key genebanks and the Seed Vault, and we will work steadily to fashion these efforts into a global system capable of protecting the biological foundation of agriculture for at least as long as we’ll need food and agriculture. That’s a long, long time.

As always, we appreciate your support and welcome your ideas, comments and even your criticisms.

With best regards,

Cary Fowler
Executive Director
The Global Crop Diversity Trust

14 January 2009

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1.22  Peruvian region outlaws biopiracy

Zoraida Portillo
[LIMA] A region of Peru is claiming to be the first in the world to enact a law outlawing biopiracy and protecting indigenous knowledge at a regional level.

Cusco — in the Peruvian Andes, once the capital of the Inca Empire — has outlawed the plundering of native species for commercial gain,including patenting resources or the genes they contain.

Corporations or scientists must now seek permission from, and potentially share benefits with, the local people whose traditions have protected the species for centuries.

Indigenous communities can now implement ways to protect local resources, including creating registers of biodiversity and protocols for granting access to it.

"I know of no other local or regional laws similar to this one that brings a legal framework for access to the genetic resources and traditional knowledge and practices — I think this is a significant precedent," said Michel Pimbert of the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development.

Local scientists and activists believe the law's value lies in the fact that for the first time a regional government will be empowered to challenge its national government on biopiracy.

"The new law is a good example of how local governments can create the appropriate legal and institutional framework, as well as the mechanisms to implement it, to ensure that biopiracy does not prey on the creativity of indigenous peoples and local communities," Alejandro Argumedo, director of Asociacion ANDES, a Cusco-based indigenous organisation, told SciDev.Net.

But while the law is an important precedent, it could come into conflict with national laws regarding the recording of indigenous knowledge, said María Scurrah, a Peruvian scientist specializing in farmer's rights.

The National Institute for the Protection of the Consumer and Intellectual Property has created a National Register of Indigenous Knowledge. But the
Cusco law says that native communities of the region will make their own records and share them only according to certain rules.

"I believe that ancient knowledge should be kept by the community and be brought to a national registry to ensure payment to each community for each variety and species registered," said Scurrah. "That is the only way to pay for each community to be the guardian of biodiversity."

Pimbert said that the most significant aspect of the law is that it shows progress can be made at a regional level, rather than working through "central governments that have become increasingly distant and unaccountable to citizens in many countries throughout the world".

21 January 2009

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1.23  Waterproof rice passes international field tests

A new type of rice that can survive total submersion for more than two weeks has passed its field tests with "flying colours," say researchers, and is now close to official release.

Scientists hope that the rice can make a major difference in
Bangladesh and India where up to four million tons of rice per year — enough to feed 30 million people — are lost because of flooding.

'Sub1' rice is identical to the high-yielding varieties popular with both farmers and consumers across
Asia, except that it contains a single gene that gives it 'waterproof' qualities.

The enabling gene, 'sub1A', was discovered 13 years ago in a traditional Indian rice variety by David Mackill — now head of the plant breeding, genetics and biotechnology division of the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines — and Xu Kenong, his then graduate student.

Scientists inserted the gene into other rice varieties and found that it became switched on when a plant was submerged. It acts to make the plant dormant, allowing it to conserve energy until the floodwaters recede.

It also countermands the rice plant's normal strategy when submerged — to extend its stem and leaves in an attempt to escape the water.

"The potential for impact is huge," said Mackill, who collaborated on the project with the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute,
India's Central Rice Research Institute and Narendra Dev University of Agriculture and Technology, also in India.

"Submergence-tolerant varieties could make major inroads into
Bangladesh's annual rice shortfall and substantially reduce its import needs."

Crop scientists estimate that annual flooding leads to losses worth US$1 billion across South and
South-East Asia.

Mackill said flooding is even beneficial to the rice, which produces five tons for each hectare submerged for up to two weeks. He added that an ordinary rice variety without the 'sub1A' gene produces less than one ton per hectare.

"Climate change will most likely result in more extreme weather events, including storms or heavy rainfall that causes flooding. We are continuing our research to increase the level of tolerance to flooding to a higher level," he said.

"Within the next two years, the varieties will be disseminated to small farmers in flood-prone areas."

The field trials mark the completion of a project funded for the past five years by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

by Imelda V. Abano

5 December 2008

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1.24  Drought tolerant maize research update

Limburgerhof, Germany, and St. Louis, Missouri
- BASF and Monsanto frontrunners in making crops more tolerant to drought through biotechnology
- First-ever drought tolerant corn (maize) expected to be available for farmers early next decade
- Yield advantages of up to 10 percent in dry seasons
BASF Plant Science and Monsanto Company today announced that they are a major step closer to delivering the world’s first drought-tolerant corn product to farmers. According to the companies, the product has moved into the final phase prior to an anticipated market launch early next decade. They also reported that Monsanto has submitted the product to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for regulatory clearance.

“This product is the first result of BASF and Monsanto’s plant biotech collaboration,” said Hans Kast, President and CEO of BASF Plant Science. ”Our joint product pipeline has many high-performing drought-tolerant genes, which make us confident that the two companies can live up to their commitment of delivering successive generations of ever more drought-tolerant crops.”

Drought-tolerant corn is just one of the products currently under development as part of BASF and Monsanto’s collaboration in plant biotechnology, first announced in March 2007. The two companies are jointly contributing $1.5 billion (~ €1.0 billion) over the life of the collaboration, which is aimed at developing higher-yielding crops and crops more tolerant to adverse environmental conditions such as drought.

“In the almost 25 years I have been with Monsanto, the advancement of our drought-tolerant corn product into Phase 4 is one of our most significant R&D milestones, making this one of the most exciting times ever for our R&D pipeline,” said Steve Padgette, Monsanto Biotechnology Lead. Phase 4 is the final phase before market launch. “We are now intensively selecting the best trait-germplasm combinations to deliver excellent drought-stress performance and value to our customers upon launch. This product and other yield improvements that we are developing for farmers will reset the bar for on-farm productivity.”

Drought-tolerant corn is designed to provide farmers yield stability during periods when water supply is scarce by mitigating the effects of drought – or water stress – within a corn plant. Field trials for drought-tolerant corn conducted last year in the
Western Great Plains in the United States have met or exceeded the 6–10 percent target yield enhancement over the average yield of 70-130 bushels per acre (equivalent to approximately 4.4 – 8.1 metric tons per hectare) in some of the key drought-prone areas in the United States.

BASF – the Chemical Company – consolidated its plant biotechnology

7 January 2009

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1.25  Novel crop-cooling technique could mitigate climate change

Wagdy Sawahel
Planting crop varieties that better reflect sunlight back out to space could reduce summertime temperatures by more than one degree Celsius in some parts of the world, researchers announced yesterday (15 January).

The reduction, they say, would at certain latitudes be equivalent to a seasonal offset of about 20 per cent of the regional warming expected by the end of this century due to the build-up of carbon dioxide.

Researchers from the
United Kingdom say that such a plan could be achieved without disrupting food production, either in terms of yield or the types of crops grown.

Their paper, published in Current Biology, argues that by choosing between different varieties of the same crop species, it would be possible to increase solar reflectivity without changing the type of crop. Strains would be selected for their leaf "glossiness" or the arrangement of their leaves to provide a canopy.

"Biogeoengineering" would be less expensive and audacious than some projects that have been proposed and would require less global cooperation, said Andy Ridgwell, lead researcher of the project, from the School of Geographical Sciences at the University of Bristol.

Global agriculture already produces a cooling of climate because crop plants generally reflect more sunlight back out to space than the natural vegetation they have replaced — a property known as albedo.

Further regional cooling could be achieved through selective breeding of plants with even greater reflective properties or by genetically modifying crop plants to optimise their albedo.

"Our proposal cannot provide a full solution to climate change, but it can reduce the severity of agricultural and health impacts of heat waves as well as droughts in much of central
North America and mid-latitude Eurasia," said Ridgwell.

But, he told SciDev.Net, "our initial research suggests relatively limited potential for climate mitigation outside of the mid latitude Northern Hemisphere".

He said that the density of arable land — suitable for growing crops — and the greater distances between major arable regions appeared to be important factors. Cloudiness in the summer months also appears to lessen the impact of crop plant reflectivity changes in
India and China.

"Higher resolution analysis and, particularly, regional-scale modelling would help better identify the potential for biogeoengineering in these regions," he added.

But the potential for benefit for developing countries will grow as arable agriculture develops. 

Magdi Tawfik Abdelhamid, plant biotechnologist at
Egypt's National Research Centre, welcomed the study. He called for an open access database for plant varieties with morphological traits that maximise solar reflectivity.

Link to abstract in Current Biology

16 January 2009

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1.26 Technology to reduce the spread of rice tungro virus

St. Louis,
Danforth Center
scientists identify technology to reduce the spread of rice tungro bacilliform virus (RTVB). The discovery may lead to increased rice crop yields

Building on plant virus research started more than 20 years ago, researchers at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center have discovered a technology that reduces infection by the virus that causes Rice Tungro Disease, once referred to as a limiting factor of rice production in
Asia. Danforth Center President Dr. Roger N. Beachy and Research Scientist Dr. Shunhong Dai demonstrated that transgenic rice plants that overexpress either of two rice proteins are tolerant to infection caused by the rice tungro bacilliform virus (RTVB) which is largely responsible for the symptoms associated with Rice Tungro disease. The two proteins, RF2a and RF2b were discovered in Beachy’s lab several years ago and are transcription factors known to be important for plant development; the new data suggest that they may be involved in regulating defense mechanisms that protect against virus infection. The discovery, published in the December 22, 2008 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may open new avenues in the search for disease resistance genes and pathways in plants and other organisms.

Plant viral diseases cause serious economic losses in agriculture, second only to those caused by fungal diseases. Rice Tungro disease is prevalent primarily in South and
Southeast Asia and accounts for nearly $1.5 billion annual loss in rice production worldwide. Preventing the occurrence and spread of this virus could result in increased yields ranging from five and 10 per cent annually in affected areas.

“Rice Tungro disease is complex and requires interactions between two different viruses, an insect vector and the host. It has taken a great deal of research effort through the years to gain sufficient information and knowledge about the virus and the host to come to the point of developing a type of resistance to the disease. Hopefully, the results of these studies will lead to improved yields of rice in areas of the world most affected by the disease,” said Roger N. Beachy, president,
Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.

Beachy and Dai’s research laboratory and greenhouse findings conducted in
St. Louis were confirmed in a greenhouse trial conducted in partnership with the Philippine Rice Research Institute. This breakthrough provides a clearer understanding of how these two specific transcription factors ‘turn on’ specific genes in rice plants as well as which proteins help the virus complete the cycle of infection. Understanding the development of disease symptoms is critical for engineering plants that can resist the biological effects of viral pathogen infection.

Virus infections alter gene expression and physiological status in the host, resulting in disease symptoms. Although viruses are relatively simple genetically speaking, little is known about the mechanisms that underlie the development of disease symptoms caused by viral pathogens.

A major challenge for the treatment or prevention of viral infections is the identification of specific factors in host organisms that contribute to disease susceptibility and symptoms. Some of these factors include genetic and biochemical pathways and gene expression that influence multiple aspects of host biology.

In this case of Rice Tungro disease, viral infection is commonly transmitted by the green leaf hopper. Combining genes that overexpress RF2a and RF2b with genes that provide resistance to the insect vector could generate new rice varieties with significantly improved resistance to Rice Tungro disease in vulnerable regions in the world.

6 January, 2009

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1.27  Experimental soybeans sabotage soybean cyst nematode with its own gene

Washington, DC
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
By Jan Suszkiw

Using biotechnology, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have fortified the defenses of soybean plants against tiny but destructive pests called soybean cyst nematodes (SCN).

The wormlike pests live in the soil, where they can wriggle into soybean roots to feed, mate and lay eggs. The damage they cause to root cells obstructs the flow of nutrients and water to the rest of the plant, weakening it.

Such attacks cost
U.S. soybean farmers up to $1 billion in losses annually. Although SCN-resistant soy varieties are available, the nematodes can eventually overcome the resistance by evolving into virulent new races. Fumigating soils before planting can diminish the pest's numbers, but such chemical control is costly.

As an alternative, ARS plant physiologist Ben Matthews and colleagues in
Beltsville, Md., are exploring the use of genetic engineering to bolster SCN resistance in soybeans using novel or existing genes.

Earlier this year, for example, Matthews' team completed greenhouse trials of soybean plants whose roots had been engineered with a DNA copy of one of the nematode's own protein-making genes. When nematodes ingest the DNA copy, the DNA "deactivates" the expression of the pest's corresponding gene, so it stops making the protein.

In greenhouse trials at the ARS Soybean Genomics and Improvement Laboratory in Beltsville, 80 to 90 percent of juvenile female nematodes that fed on the engineered soybean roots died or failed to mature by 30 days.

Matthews' team, together with a Towson University bioinformatics expert, used comparative genomics and genome sequence information from another nematode species, Caenorhabditis elegans, to identify the SCN protein gene they targeted.

According to Matthews, a second round of greenhouse studies is planned to confirm the initial results. Similar studies with other resistance-conferring genes are under way.

Commercial soybeans derived from the team's research are at least eight years away. That's contingent upon successful field tests, further refinement, regulatory approval, propagation and other requirements, notes Matthews.

ARS is a scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

18 December 2008

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1.28  Potato resistance to phytophthera via cisgenics

Wageningen, The Netherlands
Plant Research International (PRI), part of Wageningen UR, carried out a successful field test in the summer of 2008 with potatoes that were made resistant to phytophthora by means of cisgenics. This was announced by Professor Willem Stiekema at the conference ‘The Future of Food and Agriculture’ in Wageningen.

Stiekema showed picture of a field of green, modified potatoes next to a field of ordinary potatoes that were completely infested with the potato disease phytophthora. The scientists had infected both fields with the Phytophthora infestans pathogen to test the resistance of the GMO potato.

PRI implanted the potato with a resistance gene from wild potatoes. “We decided to use cisgenics, which involves genetic modification, using genes from the species of interest or related, crossable species ,” explains project leader Anton Haverkort of PRI. Next year the scientists are looking to perform a field test with multiple resistance genes in the potato. “By stacking multiple resistance genes we hope to be faster and smarter than the pathogen.” Previous attempts to protect the potato with one resistance gene were quickly blocked by the fungoid pathogen.

PRI cannot market the resistant potato because the variety has not received European authorisation yet. Prof Stiekema and his colleagues are arguing for acceptance: “Controlling the phytophthora with pesticides has an enormous impact on the environment and costs 150 million euros in the
Netherlands and ten billion euros globally each year.

21 December 2008

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1.29  Bean angular leaf spot disease resistance

By Aloísio Sartorato, former Embrapa Rice and Bean scientist (Embrapa Arroz e Feijão, C. P. 179, CEP 75375-000 Santo Antonio de Goias, Brazil). E-mail:

Bean angular leaf spot is one of the most important bean diseases in Brazil and is caused by the fungus Pseudocercospora griseola. Control measurements of the disease include aerial spraying of fungicides and use of resistant cultivars. Regarded to the latter, several experiments were taken to identify a genotype with the broadest resistance spectrum.  Five seeds of each genotype were sown in a
2,0 kg aluminum pot (3 parts of soil + 1 part of sand). Each experiment consisted of testing one isolate of the pathogen and seventy-seven genotypes of the host under greenhouse conditions. A total of eight isolates (different pathotypes) were used. Plants were inoculated 14-16 days after seeding and disease was recorded 14-18 days after inoculation using a 1 to 9 scale. Plants exhibiting grades 1 to 3 were considered resistant and 4 to 9 susceptible. From Table 1 it is observed that only genotype OPNS 0331 – Majestoso was resistant to all isolates tested showing complete resistance to seven out of eight isolates. For the isolate 874, this cultivar showed resistant (R) and susceptible (S) plants. Such resistant plants must be selected. This result indicates that OPNS 0331 – Majestoso must be incorporated in a bean breeding program to develop more resistant cultivars to this disease.

Table 1. Bean genotypes resistant to 3, 4, 5 and 8 isolates (different pathotypes) of Pseudocercospora griseola under greenhouse conditions. Embrapa Rice and Beans, 2006/2007.

(Editor’s note: the complete table is available by writing to the author.)

Resistant to 8 isolates: OPNS 0331 - Majestoso

Resistant to 5 isolates: IPA 6

Resistant to 4 isolates: CNFM 08080, CNFE 10815

Resistant to 3 isolates: CNFC 07806, CNFC 07812, CNFC 07813 – Pontal, CNFC 07824, CNFC 10432, CNFP 07776 – Grafite, CNFR 07858, CNFR 10522
Contributed by Aloísio Sartorato

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1.30  Kansas State University, Texas A&M researchers boost lettuce calcium content

Manhattan, Kansas
Led by 87 percent of the nation´s teenage girls and 78 percent of U.S. women age 20 or older, today´s average American eats far too little calcium - the most abundant mineral in the human body.

Calcium is best known for its role in deciding the lifelong, year-to-year strength or weakness of bones and teeth. The fact is, however, calcium intake is crucial to every bodily function, from nerves and muscles to glands and blood vessels.

That´s why plant scientists at Kansas State and Texas A&M universities are working to make meeting daily calcium needs easier. Their plan is to expand people´s range of calcium-rich food choices.

"Thus far, few vegetables are good sources of calcium. And, those few aren´t a significant part of the average
U.S. diet," said Sunghun Park, K-State horticulturist and the project´s lead scientist.

The researchers´ first results include a 25 to 32 percent hike in the in-bred calcium supplied by common leaf lettuce. The team now hopes to raise their lettuce lines´ nutrient value even further.

Today, most of the calcium Americans eat comes from such dairy products as milk, yogurt and cheese, according to the Office of the Surgeon General. Some also comes from "fortified" products (orange juice, bread, cereals) and such dark, leafy greens as bok choy, collards and broccoli.

"To expand that list, we´re using a strategy called biofortification. We´re working to genetically improve what we know are popular vegetables, to make them more nutrient-dense," Park said.

The researchers´ first report says their biofortified leaf lettuce lines are reproducing true to form and growing robustly under greenhouse conditions. Yet, the report emphasizes a different finding.

In an unusual move, the researchers submitted their "new" lettuce to the
Sensory Analysis Center in K-State´s Department of Human Nutrition. And, a panel of scientific evaluators there found the enhanced lettuce to be no different from "regular" leaf lettuce in flavor, bitterness or crispness.

"In other words, if you were to encounter both of them in a salad or hamburger, you wouldn´t be able to tell which was which. That could make a big difference in public acceptance, if and when a product like ours enters the market," said team member Kendal Hirschi, who is a pediatrics and human genetics professor at the Baylor College of Medicine, as well as an associate research director at Texas A&M´s Vegetables and
Fruit Improvement Center.

Right now, however, marketability isn´t the prime concern for the lettuce research team - which also includes two more K-State horticulturists, two K-State sensory analysts and the director of environment technologies at Edenspace Systems.

They don´t think their research project is complete. They´re looking into boosting their leaf lettuce´s calcium content further by such methods as adding calcium to the plants´ growing soil and/or immersing the harvested leaves in a calcium-rich solution.

Immersions of calcium have a long history as a post-harvest firming agent. Today, they´re prolonging the shelf life of such fruits and vegetables as apples, cantaloupes, strawberries and carrots.

But, whether they also "up" fresh produce´s calcium content is still an unknown, Park said.

"All we´ve established explicitly so far is that modifying a single plant-calcium transporter will increase calcium content without having a negative impact on lettuce quality. That´s just one step toward getting biofortified lettuce on store shelves. Even so, our scientific approach should now be applicable to numerous other food
crops, too," said Mark Elless of Edenspace, which is newly headquartered in
Manhattan, Kan., with its newest research facilities in nearby Junction City, Kan.

An abstract and the research team´s entire report, "Sensory analysis of calcium-biofortified lettuce," is available on the Plant Biotechnology Journal´s Web site at

A colorful outline of Americans´ challenges with calcium -- "The 2004 Surgeon General´s Report on Bone Health and Osteoporosis: What It Means to You" -- is at

K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has
county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus in Manhattan.

Other news from Texas A&M University

23 January 2009

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1.31  Re-engineering rice photosyntheses

Los Baños, The Philippines
An ambitious project to re-engineer photosynthesis in rice, led by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) through a global consortium of scientists, has received a grant of US$11 million over 3 years from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. As a result of research being conducted by this group, rice plants that can produce 50% more grain using less fertilizer and less water are a step closer to reality.

Currently, more than a billion people worldwide live on less than a dollar a day and nearly one billion live in hunger. Over the next 50 years, the population of the world will increase by about 50% and water scarcity will grow. About half of the world’s population consumes rice as a staple cereal, so boosting its productivity is crucial to achieving long-term food security. IRRI is leading the effort to achieve a major increase in global rice production by using modern molecular tools to develop a more efficient and higher-yielding form of rice.

Photosynthesis, the process by which plants use solar energy to capture carbon dioxide and convert it into the carbohydrates required for growth, is not the same for all plants. Some species, including rice, have a mode of photosynthesis (known as C3) in which the capture of carbon dioxide is relatively inefficient. Other plants, such as maize and sorghum, have evolved a much more efficient form of photosynthesis known as C4.

According to IRRI scientist and project leader John Sheehy, in tropical climates the efficiency of solar energy conversion of crops using so-called C4 photosynthesis is about 50% higher than that of C3 crops. Given the demands from an increasing population, combined with less available land and water, adequate future supplies of rice will need to come in large part through substantial yield boosts and more efficient use of crop inputs.

“Converting the photosynthesis of rice from the less-efficient C3 form to the C4 form would increase yields by 50%,” said Dr. Sheehy, adding that C4 rice would also use water twice as efficiently. In developing tropical countries, where billions of poor people rely on rice as their staple food, “The benefits of such an improvement in the face of increasing world population, increasing food prices, and decreasing natural resources would be immense,” he said.

“This is a long-term, complex project that will take a decade or more to complete,” said Dr. Sheehy. “The result of this strategic research has the potential to benefit billions of poor people.”

The C4 Rice Consortium combines the strengths of a range of partners, including molecular biologists, geneticists, physiologists, biochemists, and mathematicians, representing leading research organizations worldwide. Members include Yale, Cornell, Florida, and Washington State universities in the United States; Oxford, Cambridge, Dundee, Nottingham, and Sheffield universities in Britain; the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australian National University, and James Cook University in Australia; Heinrich Heine University and the Institute for Biology in Germany; Jiangsu Academy in China; the University of Toronto in Canada; and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is the world’s leading rice research and training center. Based in the Philippines, with offices in 13 other countries, IRRI is an autonomous, nonprofit institution focused on improving the well-being of present and future generations of rice farmers and consumers, particularly those with low incomes, while preserving natural resources. IRRI is one of 15 centers supported, in part, by members of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR; and a range of other funding agencies.

Web sites: IRRI Home (
IRRI Library (
Rice Knowledge Bank (

14 January 2009

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1.32  European starch industry demands swift approval of genetically optimized potatoes

Foxhol/Netherlands, Emlichheim/Germany, Kristianstad/Sweden, Limburgerhof/ Germany

- Genetically modified starch potatoes estimated to generate an additional €100-200 million annual added value
- Added value helps the European potato starch industry to maintain competi-tiveness
The leading European potato starch companies AVEBE, Emsland-Stärke, and Lyckeby Industrial demand the use of innovative technologies in agri-culture. According to the starch producers, genetically optimized starch potatoes like Amflora from BASF Plant Science are good examples for such innovations. Their request has been prompted by the recent EU Commission decision from No-vember 20, 2008 to cut the subsidies for the production of starch potatoes.

The producers are concerned that the reduction of production subsidies will com-promize the profitability of starch potato cultivation. AVEBE, Emsland-Stärke, and Lyckeby Industrial want to meet this challenge by using new potato varieties with optimized starch composition that create added value. For pure amylopectin starch, as it can be extracted from Amflora, the starch industry predicts an additional mar-ket value of €100 to 200 million per year allowing them to strengthen their competi-tive position. The starch producers estimate that the added value will benefit farm-ers and help compensate part of the impact of the curtailing of subsidies. Further-more, much needed jobs in regions with weak infrastructure could be secured.

“It’s incomprehensible that the approval of Amflora has been delayed by the EU-Commission for years. The responsible politicians should re-consider the conse-quences of their non-acting against the background of the severe economical situation,” demanded Bengt Olof Johansson, Managing Director of Lyckeby Industrial. “The fact that farmers in other regions of this world have access to innovative prod-ucts, whereas farmers in
Europe hardly have any opportunity to profit from geneti-cally enhanced crops, endangers our competitiveness.”

”In order to remain competitive, potato farmers and starch industry need innovative alternatives that generate more value per hectare. A positive scientific safety evaluation by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) should automatically lead to approval for growing genetically modified crops,” added Gerben Meursing, Man-aging Director Commerce of the starch producer AVEBE.

”We urge the politicians to provide a clear framework and to finally allow farmers and starch industry to use plant biotechnology,“ Michael Schonert, Managing Direc-tor of Emsland-Stärke said.

About Amflora
Amflora is a genetically optimized potato, producing pure amylopectin starch, ideal for technical applications. Conventional potatoes produce a mixture of amylopectin and amylose starch. For many technical applications, such as in the paper, textile and adhesives industries, only amylopectin is needed; separating the two starch components is uneconomical. Amflora produces pure amylopectin starch and thus helps to save resources, energy and costs. Moreover: Paper produced with amylopectin starch has a higher gloss. Concrete and adhesives can be processed for a longer period of time.

9 December 2008

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Purdue University researchers find nature's shut-off switch for cellulose production

West Lafayette, Indiana
Purdue University researchers found a mechanism that naturally shuts down cellulose production in plants, and learning how to keep that switch turned on may be key to enhancing biomass production for plant-based biofuels.

Nicholas Carpita, a professor of botany and plant pathology, said that small-interfering RNAs (siRNAs) play a normal role in plant development by shutting off genes involved in primary cell wall growth in order to begin development of thicker, secondary cell walls.

"These small RNAs were known to play a role in fending off disease-causing pathogens, but we are only now beginning to understand their involvement in normal plant development," he said.

Carpita's research team reported its findings in Monday's (Dec. 15) early online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"If we can learn to interfere with the down-regulation of cellulose synthesis, then plants may be able to produce more cellulose, which is key to biofuels production," Carpita said.

Mick Held, a postdoctoral researcher in Carpita's lab, virologist Steve Scofield, a U.S. Department of Agriculture research scientist and adjunct assistant professor of agronomy at Purdue, and Carpita made the discovery in barley after introducing a virus as a way to "silence" specific genes and study their functions. The researchers noticed that the virus had more effect then anticipated.

"The virus hijacked a whole suite of genes, and when we compared the targeted plant to our control plants we found that the small RNAs were responsible and already in the controls even without adding the virus," Held said.
Carpita said this let researchers see that the siRNAs - among other things - regulate and shut down primary cell wall development to begin secondary wall growth.

"These secondary stages result in characteristics such as tough rinds of corn stalks, vascular elements to conduct water and fibers for strength," he said.

The researchers said that delaying or preventing the shutdown of both primary and secondary cellulose production might enhance total plant biomass.

"Most biofuel researchers believe that cellulose utilization offers the best path to sustainable ethanol production," Scofield said. "Our work uncovered a previously unknown mechanism that suggests a way to increase the amount of cellulose produced in plants."

Other members of the research team were Bryan Penning and Sarah Kessans of Purdue and Amanda Brandt of the USDA/Ag Research Service, Crop Production and Pest Control Research Unit located at Purdue.

The research was funded by a U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Biosciences grant.

Writer: Beth Forbes

17 December, 2008

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1.34  U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute completes soybean genome

Walnut Creek, California
Data released to advance biofuel, food, & feed research
The U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI) has released a complete draft assembly of the soybean (Glycine max) genetic code, making it widely available to the research community to advance new breeding strategies for one of the world's most valuable plant commodities. Soybean not only accounts for 70 percent of the world's edible protein, but also is an emerging feedstock for biodiesel production. Soybean is second only to corn as an agricultural commodity and is the leading
U.S. agricultural export.

DOE JGI's interest in sequencing the soybean centers on its use for biodiesel, a renewable, alternative fuel with the highest energy content of any alternative fuel. According to 2007 U.S. Census data, soybean is estimated to be responsible for more than 80 percent of biodiesel production.

"The genome sequence is the direct result of a memorandum of understanding between DOE and USDA to increase interagency collaboration in plant genomics," said DOE Under Secretary for Science Dr. Raymond L. Orbach. "We are proud to support this major scientific breakthrough that will not only advance our knowledge of a key agricultural commodity but also lead to new insights into biodiesel production."

"Soybeans have been an important food plant providing essential protein to people for hundreds of years," said USDA Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics Dr. Gale A. Buchanan. "Now, with the new knowledge available through this joint DOE/USDA genome sequencing project, researchers everywhere will be able to further enhance important traits that make the soybean such a valuable plant. It's a great day for agriculture and people everywhere."

This effort was led by Dan Rokhsar and Jeremy Schmutz of the DOE JGI, Gary Stacey of the University of Missouri-Columbia, Randy Shoemaker of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), Scott Jackson of Purdue University, with support from the DOE, the USDA, and the National Science Foundation (NSF). In addition, the United Soybean Board, the North Central Soybean Research Program, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, have supported the soybean genome effort.

"Soybean is the one of the largest and most complex plant genomes sequenced by the whole genome shotgun strategy," noted Rokhsar. The process entails shearing the DNA into small fragments enabling the order of the nucleotides to be read and interpreted. Steven Cannon of the USDA-ARS collaborated with the DOE team to ensure the accuracy of the assembly.

Preliminary scientific details emerging from the sequence analysis will be presented by Schmutz at the International Conference on Legume Genomics and Genetics in
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, December 8, 2008. The soybean genome sequence information can be browsed at

Schmutz and colleagues have begun to analyze the soybean genome, which at one billion nucleotides is roughly one-third the size of the human genome. Preliminary studies suggest as many as 66,000 genes—more than twice the number identified in the human genome sequence, and nearly half-again as many as the poplar genome, sequenced by DOE JGI and published in the journal Science in 2006.

"We have ordered and localized about 5,500 genetic markers on the sequence, which promise to be of particular importance to those researchers seeking to optimize certain qualities in soybean," said Schmutz. Thousands of these markers were developed by Perry Cregan and colleagues of the USDA-ARS with support of the United Soybean Board. A genetic marker represents a known location on a chromosome that can be associated with a particular gene or trait. Prospective genome pathways of interest are those that directly influence yield, oil and protein content, as well as drought tolerance and resistance to nematodes and diseases such as the water mold Phytophthora sojae, previously sequenced by DOE JGI, which causes stem and root rot of soybean.

In 2007, soybean accounted for 56 percent of the world's oilseed production. James Specht, Professor at the
University of Nebraska, said that this nitrogen-fixing legume crop offers the dual benefit of a seed high in protein and oil—with room for improvement. "With the advent of low-cost re-sequencing technologies, soybean scientists now have the means to identify sequence differences responsible for yield potential–the most desired of all crop traits, but to date the most intractable."

"The soybean genome sequence will be a valuable resource for the basic researcher and soybean breeder alike," said Jim Collins, Assistant Director for the Biology Directorate at the NSF. Collins and Judith St. John of USDA Agricultural Research Service co-chair the Interagency Working Group on Plant Genomes, which oversees the National Plant Genome Initiative. "The close coordination between the DOE sequencing project and the NSF SoyMap project facilitated through the National Plant Genome Initiative has added value to the sequence and physical map resources for this important crop," Collins said.

The soybean genome project is already making its mark out in the field.

"It's tremendous that the soybean genome is out in the public's hands." Said Rick Stern, a
New Jersey soybean farmer and chair of the Production Research program for the United Soybean Board (USB). "Now every breeder can go into this valuable library for the information that will help speed up the breeding process. It should cut traditional breeding time by half from the typical 15 years."

The U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute, supported by the DOE Office of Science, unites the expertise of five DOE national laboratories -- Lawrence Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, and Pacific Northwest -- along with the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology to advance genomics in support of the DOE missions related to clean energy generation and environmental characterization and cleanup. DOE JGI's Walnut Creek, Calif., Production Genomics Facility provides integrated high-throughput sequencing and computational analysis that enable systems-based scientific approaches to these challenges. Additional information about DOE JGI can be found at:

9 December 2008

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1.35  Tool helps identify gene function in soybeans, could lead to better crop performance, say University of Missouri researchers

Columbia, Missouri
In the race for bioengineered crops, sequencing the genome could be considered the first leg in a multi-leg relay. Once the sequence is complete, the baton is passed forward to researchers to identify genes’ functions. A draft sequence of the soybean genome is now available, and the complete genome will be available soon. Taking the next step in a new study, University of Missouri Interdisciplinary Plant Group researchers have demonstrated the applicability of a genomic tool for identifying gene function in soybeans. Understanding gene function in soybeans will ultimately benefit crop performance.

The new genomic tool uses transposons, which are fragments of DNA that can “hop around” the genome. When these fragments move, they often land within an existing gene sequence, causing a mutation, or disruption, in that gene’s function. By “tagging” transposons, scientists have found that they can screen plants for visible mutations in important agronomic traits, such as seed composition or root growth. By “tracing” a tagged transposon, scientists can easily identify the exact gene where any single mutation occurs. This technique has been successfully used in a number of plants, including maize and the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. In the study, IPG scientists demonstrated the feasibility of this technique in the soybean.

“Studying gene function in soybeans presents special challenges because the plant is tetraploid, meaning it has extra copies of most genes,” said IPG member Gary Stacey, lead author of the report and an investigator in the MU
Christopher S. Bond Life Sciences Center. “Nevertheless, we were able to create a number of plant variants containing different mutations and to identify a specific gene associated with a particular mutation, specifically male sterility.”

Several of the scientists involved in the study were part of a team that was recently awarded a three-year, $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to test the feasibility of additional functional genomic techniques in soybean.

“Our goal is to create a repository that will be a resource for the soybean community to study gene function and that, in the long run, will aid in translating genomics data into information that will ultimately benefit crop performance,” Stacey said.

The study is described in the report, “Establishment of a Soybean (Glycine max Merr. L) transposon-based mutagenesis repository,” in a recent issue of the journal Planta.

1 December 2008

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1.36  Plants display 'molecular amnesia'

Discovery an important step in genomics research and quest for better crops

Montréal Québec
Plant researchers from McGill University and the University of California, Berkeley have announced a major breakthrough in a developmental process called epigenetics. They have demonstrated for the first time the reversal of what is called epigenetic silencing in plants.

The findings are important to develop a better understanding of gene regulation in the continuing quest to breed enhanced crops that produce higher yields, are more resistant to disease and can better tolerate environmental stress – all keys to helping improve the world's food supply. But perhaps even more important, the discovery may lead to new insights into how epigenetic processes work in the human body, which could assist in developing new ways of modifying our genetic makeup to help us avoid such diseases as cancer.

Although nearly every cell in our body is genetically identical, the researchers explained, each cell type expresses a distinct set of genes. Changes to the proteins around which DNA is wound are called "epigenetic" modifications, because they alter patterns of this gene expression without changing the actual DNA sequence. However, like changes in DNA sequence, epigenetic modifications can be passed on from parent cell to daughter cell, ensuring each cell line has the proper characteristics consistently over many generations.

This process must be repeated each generation, and there is good evidence in animals that, during early development, there is a wave of epigenetic reprogramming that effectively "resets" this system. Some genes, it seems, must be more actively reset than others. And genes that do the same thing in every cell, regardless of tissue type, may not have to be reset at all.

One kind of gene is quite distinct from all of the others, because it is nearly always epigenetically inactivated. These are the genes carried by transposons, or "jumping genes." Transposons are mutagens, genes that can modify their host cell in different ways, and lead to a predisposition to cancer, for example.

The researchers' experiments with corn – technically known as "maize" – suggest the propensity to maintain epigenetic states can vary depending on the position of the transposons within the genome.

Many organisms, from worms to humans to plants, have learned to tame transposons by epigentically "silencing" them: if they can't express their genes they can't jump. If they can't jump for long enough, their DNA sequence slowly accumulates errors, and they become molecular fossils. Most transposons in most organisms are silenced in this way, but some remain quite active.

In previous studies from the laboratory of two of the article's authors, UC Berkeley professors Damon Lisch and Michael Freeling, with the support of the National Science Foundation at UC Berkeley, epigenetic silencing was triggered in maize. Once triggered, the maize plant "remembers," and keeps the transposon "silenced" generation after generation, even after the trigger is lost.

"However, we have found that at some positions in the genome, this is not the case. At these positions, although the trigger works fine, and the transposon is silenced, once the trigger is lost, the transposon reawakens," said Jaswinder Singh, a professor in the Plant Sciences Department at
McGill University, and lead author of the new article. The study, "A Position Effect on the Heritability of Epigenetic Silencing," was published in October in the journal PLoS Genetics.

This "molecular amnesia" has never before been documented in plants and no one has seen it associated with a particular position in the genome of any species before. These data suggest the epigenetic landscape of plant genomes may be more subtle and interesting than previously thought, with the ability to remember epigenetic silencing varying depending on position.

"This may relate to the degree to which a given gene or group of genes must be reprogrammed each generation," Singh said. "We can now use transposons to probe for variations in the epigenetic landscape of the maize genome. It may turn out that forgetting can be as important as remembering. Our findings suggest that erasure of heritable information may be an important component of epigenetic machinery."

2 December 2008

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1.37  New technology platforms for molecular breeding: KeyGene’s Whole Genome Profiling method

(Selected excerpts by the editor, PBN-L)

A January 2009 interview with Arjen J. van Tunen, CEO of KeyGene NV

With its newly developed technology and trait portfolio KeyGene is ready to give a new dimension to the genetic improvement of plants in a fast, cost effective and socio-economically acceptable manner.

We call this new way of molecular genetic improvement of crops the GreenGene Revolution and expect that the resulting breakthrough seed innovations will greatly benefit our customer seed and breeding companies.

One of our newest breakthrough innovations was recently announced at the Plant & Animal Genome conference in
San Diego (January 2009) and is called “Whole Genome Profiling”.

Every breeding company is interested in having whole genome sequence assemblies for the crops within their seed sales portfolio. However, the investments necessary to develop a comprehensive whole genome physical map and corresponding sequence assembly are for many of these crops economically unfeasible.

Therefore we developed a new cost effective method to construct high quality sequence-based physical maps. Such a DNA map is constructed using large DNA fragments clones of 120.000 base pair that can be fingerprinted by placing short, 30 base pair sequence tags spaced 2000 – 3000 base pair across these large DNA fragments.

Subsequently the large DNA fragments are ordered into contigs (continuous coverage) by using overlapping regions with identical sequence profiles. Unlike other profiling methods the Whole Genome Profiling map has ordered sequence-based anchor points.

Our new technology does all of this work in an efficient manner and at an affordable price and is applicable for plant, animal and human genome assembly.

The availability of a sequence-based map allows very efficient and low cost whole genome sequencing of your crop of interest whereby the quality of the Whole Genome Sequence Assembly dramatically increases. On the one side a breeding company could decide to deep sequence a specific region of the crop genome that is of special commercial interest.

This could be for instance an important set of resistance genes or an interesting introgression segment from a wild relative.

The data from Whole Genome Profiling can focus the deep sequencing efforts to one or more 120.000 base pair fragment clones. Alternatively a sequence-based map might also be used as a starting point to quickly identify, clone, patent and commercialize interesting genes.

Whole Genome Profiling can also be used to characterize inbred lines at a relatively large scale. Whole Genome Profiling offers an array of applications all of which are geared towards identifying and characterizing economically important genomic regions or genes in real crops that often have large complicated genomes.

KeyGene began developing this technology two years ago using Arabidopsis with its 120 million base pair genome as a model to proof Whole Genome Profiling works. Subsequently we used melon, which has a genome size of around 450 million base pair, to generate a de novo sequence based physical map.

This map was combined with the results of Whole Genome Sequencing and we have obtained a high quality genome assembly.

We also have successfully applied Whole Genome Profiling in a 2600 million base pair plant genome. Again this will be combined with Whole Genome Sequencing to yield a high quality map and a high quality genome assembly ready for targeted regional sequencing or for gene cloning.

We offer Whole Genome Profiling together with our strategic partner Amplicon Express Inc, (
Pullman, Washington USA). Amplicon Express has great expertise in isolating DNA from crops and cloning large DNA fragments in BAC library systems.

KeyGene will be responsible for placing the sequence tags on these fragments in a high throughput mode and aligning the fragments using bio-informatics approaches.

Using our combined sales forces KeyGene and Amplicon Express Inc will distribute Whole Genome Profiling for world-wide as a service for researchers in plant, animal and human fields.

In my opinion within the next 5 – 10 years plant breeders will be directly using DNA sequences rather than molecular markers for the genetic improvement of their crops. The use of Sequence Based Breeding can be combined with automated phenotyping.

This combined approach will enable dramatic improvement and molecular breeding of crops offering exciting new possibilities for fulfilling the growing demand for better and more Food, Feed, Fuel and Fibre.

Arjen van Tunen can be contacted at

Source:, and excerpted by the editor, PBN-L

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1.38  Gene's past could improve the future of rice

In an effort to improve rice varieties, a Purdue University researcher was part of a team that traced the evolutionary history of domesticated rice by using a process that focuses on one gene.

Scott A. Jackson, a professor of agronomy, said studying the gene that decides how many shoots will form on a rice plant allows researchers to better understand how the gene evolved over time through natural selection and human interaction. Understanding the variations could allow scientists to place genes from wild rice species into domesticated rice to create varieties with more branching, increased plant size or other favorable characteristics.

By comparing the domesticated plant to other wild rice species, they discovered a lot of genetic variation in rice over millions of years.

"This is a way to find these valuable genes in non-domesticated rice and bring them into cultivated rice,"
Jackson said. "We need to grow more food to feed the human population, and it needs to be done on less land and with less water. This could be the way to do that."

Jackson worked with Rod A. Wing of the University of Arizona and Mingsheng Chen of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, and they were the corresponding authors for the study. Their findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences online version this week.

The research team developed a tool to compare genes in different species of Oryza, of which domesticated rice is a species.
Jackson said the comparisons showed how rice has changed from as far back as 14 million years ago. As rice adapted to climate changes and other natural circumstances, its genetic structure changed, keeping some genes and losing others.

About 10,000 years ago, humans began making their own genetic modifications, albeit unknowingly, by choosing plants that had favorable traits. As they stopped growing plants with unfavorable characteristics, genes responsible for those traits disappeared.
"Humans knew that if the seeds stayed on the plant, or it had a higher yield, they could save some of the seeds to plant next year," Jackson said. "That was unintentional breeding."

Those favorable genes are still around in wild rice species because they were valuable for plants in other climates or situations, he said.
Jackson was involved with earlier research that looked at cell structure in rice and also is studying the gene responsible for flowering in rice plants. Once those genes are better understood, scientists can match the best genes for particular climates to give growers better yields.

One example can be found in a variety of rice that has genes making it drought-resistant. Scientists could breed those genes into domesticated rice in
Africa where water shortages can devastate crops.

National Science Foundation funding contributed to the research in addition to other grants.

Writer: Brian Wallheimer, (765) 496-2050,
Source: Scott A. Jackson, (765) 496-3621,
Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Beth Forbes,
Agriculture News Page

Source: Purdue University News via
23 January 2009

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1.39  Update 7-2008 of  FAO-BiotechNews

(Selected items by the editor, PBN-L)
The Food and Agriculture  Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
E-mail address:
FAO website
FAO  Biotechnology website (in  Arabic,
Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish)

*** NEWS ***  (

1)  Launch of RSS feeds for FAO-BiotechNews
The FAO Working Group on  Biotechnology is pleased to announce the launch of Really Simple  Syndication (RSS) feeds for FAO-BiotechNews. By subscribing,users receive  automatic updates to their own computer every time there are updates of  FAO-BiotechNews. A total of 18 different options are available -users can  choose to have RSS feeds in one or more of the six FAO languages(i.e.  Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish) and can choose News,  Events or both from FAO-BiotechNews. To subscribe, click on the orange RSS  feed tag of interest at or see instructions  at For more information,  contact

2) Biotechnology, biosafety and  the CGIAR
On 22-24 April 2008, a workshop was held in Los Banos, the  Philippines, on "Biotechnology, biosafety and the CGIAR: Promoting best  practice in science and policy", organised by the Science Council (SC) of  the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), the  International Rice Research Institute and Bioversity International. It  reviewed biotechnology-related work in the CGIAR and partner National  Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) and focused discussion on three major  issues: i) How CGIAR Centers can best work with NARS to ensure a smooth and  timely delivery of research products to target farmers; ii) CGIAR's need  for a Biotechnology Research Support Network, its roles and functions; and  iii) How CGIAR should deal with policy issues related to biotechnology and  be represented in international fora. A pre-publication version of the  workshop report with a SC commentary is now available.  See or  contact for more information.

3)  Sugarcane-based bioethanol
At the International Seminar of Biofuels in 
Sao Paulo, Brazil, in November 2008, a new book entitled "Sugarcane-based  bioethanol: Energy for sustainable development" was launched. Co-ordinated  by the Brazilian National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES)  and the Center for Strategic Studies and Management (CGEE) with support  from the FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean and the  United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean  (ECLAC), the 300-page book aims to provide grounds for a meaningful and  objective discussion on the potential and constraints of producing  bioethanol from sugarcane, especially in those countries where sugarcane is  already being cultivated. Chapter 5 on 'Advanced technologies in the  sugarcane agroindustry' discusses applications of biotechnologies for the  conversion of lignocellulosic residues to bioethanol. See (in English, Spanish and Portuguese)  or contact for more information.

4) 63rd  session of the UN General Assembly
The General Assembly of the United  Nations (UN) opened its 63rd session on
16 September 2008 at the UN  Headquarters in New York, United States. The wide range of agenda items for  consideration includes item 49.f on 'Sustainable development: Convention on  Biological Diversity', for which a report (nr. A/63/294, pages 20-25) was  prepared by the Convention's secretariat, summarising major developments  regarding the Convention, including its Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.  See the report (in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish),  plus the draft resolution,  at or  contact for more information.

This newsletter contains news and event  items that are relevant to applications of biotechnology in food and  agriculture in developing countries. Its main focus is on the activities of  FAO, of other United Nations agencies/bodies and of the 15 CGIAR research  centres. Items from the newsletter may be reproduced, provided that the  source (FAO-BiotechNews, is given.

To subscribe to FAO-BiotechNews see
Copyright FAO  2008

Contributed by The  Coordinator of FAO-BiotechNews

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2.01  The role of policy in the conservation and extended use of underutilized plant species: a cross-national policy analysis

"The role of policy in the conservation and extended use of underutilized plant species: a cross-national policy analysis" was prepared by the Global Facilitation Unit for Underutilized Species (GFU), in cooperation with the Genetic Resources Policy Initiative (GRPI). This report, an effort of the GFU to set the scene and provide an instrument for policy and decision makers, presents a cross-national analysis of policies that hinder or promote the conservation and use of underutilized species. It is based on national policy studies undertaken in
Ghana, Jordan, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia. These studies are published on the GFU web site and links to each study are included in the References section of this report. A separate publication "An overview of the international regulatory frameworks that influence the conservation and use of underutilized plant species" is available in hardcopy or online and analyzes some of the important international policy instruments that affect the conservation and extended use of underutilized plant species.

Nyasha E. Chishakwe

GFU / Bioversity International

Source: GCP News--Issue 35, December 2008

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2.02  The Project Development Guide (PDG)

In keeping with stocktaking and looking forward, a timely and gentle reminder on this 'evergreen' and free online resource from GCP, which is of value to researchers, research managers and reviewers of scientific projects. Please follow this link <>  for an introduction to the PDG, and what it has for you as a researcher, research manager or reviewer.

Phenotyping for drought-related traits across tropical legumes. Presentations, documents and photos from this SP5-supported course which took place 3-28 March 2008 at ICRISAT,
India, are now available online. <>

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2.03  New ISAA Publications

ISAAA has recently released two documents "Trust in the Seed" and Pocket K on "Bt Brinjal in India" which are posted on its website and

"Trust in the Seed"

This is ISAAA's latest publication that highlights the significance of the seed and new crop technologies. It captures the experiences of three key developments in Indian agriculture that sustained growth in agriculture, contributed to increased food production and the alleviation of poverty and hunger.

Pocket K on "Bt Brinjal in India"

For a hard copy of both the document contact ISAAA South Asia Office at: <>

Contribted by Bhagirath Choudhary
DPS Marg, New Delhi-110012

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2.04  Announcing A New Video: Proper Methods For Pruning Grapevines

By Lon J. Rombough

An adjunct to the award winning book, THE GRAPE GROWER, this two video set takes you step-by-step  to teach you how to prune dormant grape vines in any situation. The first video teaches the basic methods, tells which works best for your grapes, AND gives the principles behind the methods.

Presented in "hands-on" style by Lon Rombough, author of The Grape Grower, you'll see how new and old vines are handled during pruning, and you'll learn tricks and tips to insure regular crops of the best quality fruit the vine is able to produce.

This video covers the basics of pruning - how to prune to spurs or to canes, and how and why to choose one system over another.  Once you understand that, you know how to train your vines to suit any situation, trellis, or climate.  All training systems are based either on pruning the vine to spurs on old wood, such as cordon trained or head trained vines, or to canes, such as the old Kniffen system.  All systems use variations and combinations of these two methods.  Once you know these basics and how they work, you'll be able to adjust any vine to any given situation.  Vine too vigorous?  Leave more buds to reduce the vigor.  Spur with low vigor?  Prune to rejuvenate it.  Adjust crop levels by pruning, keep the vine bearing regular crops of good quality instead of flipping between high and low crops, etc.

Once you know this, you can look at a training method and understand it and how to prune your vines in that way.

The second DVD includes material on how to use "two step" pruning to give you additional frost protection, how to use layering to get new vines into production in the shortest time possible, and beautiful samples of what YOUR grapes can look like when they are properly pruned.

Go to or write to Lon J. Rombough,
P.O. Box 365, Aurora, OR 97002

Contributed by Lon Rombough

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2.05  ECO-PB newsletter on organic seeds and plant breeding, Issue IV / 2008

-Demeter plant breeding standard established
-Organic variety trials better with organic seeds
-Comparing rye varieties from different breeding methods with more sensitive quality tests
-Campaign “Sowing Future!”
-Announcement: workshop on the role of marker assisted selection in breeding varieties for organic agriculture
-Newsletter (PDF): 
22 December 2008

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2.06  New Light on a Hidden Treasure: potatoes in the developing world

Expansion of world potato production is vital to food security, but economic crisis threatens current potato boom in the developing world

Rome, Italy
Booming potato production in the developing world could falter as the global economic slowdown reduces investment, trade and potato farmers' access to credit, a new FAO report warned today.

The threat comes at a time when potatoes have become an important staple food and a lucrative cash crop in many developing countries.
China is the world's biggest potato producer, and Bangladesh, India and the Islamic Republic of Iran are now among the world's leading potato consumers.

Drawing on the most recent FAO statistics, the report, New light on a hidden treasure. shows that the potato is the world's number one non-cereal food crop, with total production reaching a record 325 million tonnes in 2007. More than half of the global harvest was produced in developing countries.

However, the report says "dark clouds are gathering over prospects for the year ahead". The global economic slowdown threatens to reduce flows to developing countries of investment and development assistance, including the support to agriculture that has helped many countries strengthen their potato sectors.

Developed countries may be tempted to raise trade barriers, which already apply stiff tariffs on imported potato products, while the banking crisis will leave many farmers with no credit to invest in production in 2009.

"Urgently needed is a vigorous new agenda for potato research and development aimed at protecting countries' food security and providing new market opportunities for potato producers," said NeBambi Lutaladio, coordinator of FAO's International Year of the Potato 2008 secretariat.

Currently, potato yields in
Africa, Asia and Latin America average just 15 tonnes per hectare, less than half of those achieved in Western Europe and North America. To strengthen potato farming in developing countries, FAO and the International Potato Center have called for "potato science at the service of the poor" to provide potato growers with better quality planting material, varieties that are more resistant to pests, diseases, drought and climate change, and farming systems that make more sustainable use of natural resources.

"Farmers in highland areas of
Africa can harvest 25 tonnes of tubers from one hectare in just 90 days, which is why potato production is booming in countries like Uganda," said NeBambi Lutaladio. "When you add value to production like that, through better storage and processing, you not only meet food needs, but have a highly profitable cash crop that can drive economic development and sustain livelihoods.

"But technology improvements need to be accompanied by other, more general measures for agricultural development, such as improved farmer access to extension, credit and production inputs, better post-harvest management and links to agro-processing and markets," Lutaladio said.

Full report (very large file: 19.1 MB):

15 December 2008

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2.07  The Survey of Gene Modified (GM) Crops in

Dublin, Ireland
Research and Markets has announced the addition of the "The Survey of Gene Modified (GM) Crops in China" report to their offering.

Genetically modified (GM) crops are one of the major fields of glyphosate use in the world. In 2008, the Chinese government approved the commercial production of four kinds of GM crops, which shows that Chinese government will open its door wider to GM crops from now on.

China 's GM industry has made great progress in recent years, and the total planting area of GM crops in China ranked the 6th largest in the world in 2007 with total planting area of 3.8 million hectares. Only the USA , Argentina , Brazil , Canada and India have larger GM crops planting area.

So far only GM cotton (BT cotton) has been commercially available in
China . In 2008, the Chinese government approved the commercial production of four kinds of GM crops: cotton, tomato, tobacco and morning glory. GM of rice is still in research and it can not be commercially produced now. In some way, it shows that Chinese government pays more attention to GM. But China has researched on some herbicide-resistant crops, such as rice, soybean, rapeseed and sweet potatoes. But all of these crops have not been commercially produced.

With the application of Bt cotton which has strong resistance against cotton bollworm, Chinese growers gained bumper harvest of cotton for several years since 2004. Bt cotton has reduced the pesticide used in cotton planting area by 80.0% and has increased the growers' income by USD220 per hectare last year. The promotion of the self-developed Bt cotton in
China has increased from 7.00% in 1997 to 87.00% in 2007, due to the great support from the government on the research of Bt cotton. But owing to the adjustment on industrial policies, the development of the textile industry in China may slow down, so the demand for cotton may decrease in the future. In a word, the planting of cotton will maintain a low increase in the near future.

Key Topics Covered:
-Executive Summary
-Overview of global GM crops
-GM crops in China
-Prospects of GM crops
-Appendix: Situation of key players
-For more information visit

5 December 2008

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2.08  Tomorrow's Table: Organic farming, genetics and the future of food

by Pamela C Ronald and Raoul W. Adamchak
Copyright © 2008 by Oxford University Press, Inc.

This book is a tale of two marriages. The first is that of Raoul and Pam, the authors, and is a tale of the passions of an organic farmer and a plant genetic scientist. The second is the potential marriage of two technologies—organic agriculture and genetic engineering.

Like all good marriages, both include shared values, lively tensions, and reinvigorating complementarities. Raoul and Pam share a strong sense of both the wonder of the natural world and how, if treated with respect and carefully managed, it can remain a source of inspiration and provision of our daily needs.

One of the greatest writers on agriculture was a Roman, Marcus Terentius Varro, of the first century B.C. In his classic book he described agriculture as “not only an art but an important and noble art.”

It is, as well, a science. Not often do modern writers recall this fundamental truth. Raoul and Pam reflect it in their everyday lives. Raoul pursues the craft of organic farming, based on his experiences and those of farmers over the centuries, yet couples it with the modern science of ecology. For Pam, molecular and cellular science is paramount, yet she recognizes that all good plant breeders are also craftspeople in their day-to-day work.

The second marriage is more contentious: it tries to wed two entrenched camps where extreme views predominate. The marriage is long overdue. Several thousand years ago we humans had to give up hunting and gathering wild food sources. We began to domesticate and cultivate cereals and breed livestock. This process inescapably requires manipulation, which has grown increasingly complex and scientific.

Organic farming strives to maintain the centrality of natural processes—the value of organic matter as a source of nutrients and soil structure, and the role that natural enemies play in controlling pests, diseases, and weeds. Yet, as Raoul shows in this book, many of these processes have limitations in even a moderately intensive agricultural system. Pests, for example, may be very difficult to control. I know from my own work in
Africa of the intractability of controlling the dreadful weed Striga or the pests and diseases of such crops as cowpeas and bananas using organic or conventional technologies.

What Pam and Raoul do is show that there is a role for genetic engineering in solving these particularly difficult-to-solve problems. Moreover, they show how technology can be applied in a way that strengthens organic farming performance and does not undermine its principles.
These are inspirational marriages.

Sir Gordon Conway, KCMG, FRS
Professor of International Development, Center for Environmental Policy at Imperial College, London, United Kingdom
Past President of the Rockefeller Foundation


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2.09  The Journal of Plant Breeding and Crop Science (JPBCS)to be launched in March 2009

The Journal of Plant Breeding and Crop Science (JPBCS) provides rapid publication (monthly) of articles in all areas of the subject.

The Journal welcomes the submission of manuscripts that meet the general criteria of significance and scientific excellence. Papers will be published approximately one  month after acceptance. All articles published in JPBCS will be peer-reviewed.

The Journal of Plant Breeding and Crop Science will be published monthly (one volume per year) by Academic Journals.

Types of paper
Regular articles:
These should describe new and carefully confirmed findings, and experimental procedures should be given in sufficient detail for others to verify the work. The length of a full paper should be the minimum required to describe and interpret the work clearly.

Short Communications: A Short Communication is suitable for recording the results of complete small investigations or giving details of new models or hypotheses, innovative methods, techniques or apparatus. The style of main sections need not conform to that of full-length papers. Short communications are 2 to 4 printed pages (about 6 to 12 manuscript pages) in length.

Submissions of reviews and perspectives covering topics of current interest are welcome and encouraged. Reviews should be concise and no longer than 4-6 printed pages (about 12 to 18 manuscript pages). Reviews manuscripts are also peer-reviewed.

Invitation to Join Our Editorial Team
JPBCS is seeking qualified researchers as members of the editorial team. Like our other journals, JPBCS will serve as a great resource for researchers and students across the globe. We ask you to support this initiative by joining our editorial team. If you are interested in serving as a member of the editorial team, kindly send us your resume to

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SEARICE. 2008. Revisiting the streams of participatory plant breeding: Insights from a meeting among friends

Southeast Asia Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment (SEARICE). 94 pp.

The report of a meeting on Participatory Plant Breeding, organized by SEARICE in Vietnam in March 2008 is available at ut=blog&id=8&Itemid=37.

This publication was made possible through the support of Oxfam Novib, The Netherlands. It may be reproduced in part for educational or non-profit purposes provided the source is acknowledged. SEARICE appreciates receiving a copy of any materials where this, or parts of this publication, appears.
Published 2008
ISBN: 978–971–91917–6–6
Editor: Teresa L. Debuque

Contributed by
Bell Batta Torheim
Svanhild-Isabelle Batta Torheim
Programme Co-ordinator, Development Fund

This publication was made possible through the support of Oxfam Novib, The Netherlands. It may be reproduced in part for educational or non-profit purposes provided the source is acknowledged. SEARICE appreciates receiving a copy of any materials where this, or parts of this publication, appears.
Published 2008
ISBN: 978–971–91917–6–6
Editor: Teresa L. Debuque

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3.01  New issue of Geneconserve

The new issue of  Geneconserve ( is running now having the following articles
1.Environmental and genetical effects
2.Development of cassava cultivars
3.An innovative technique
4.Comment on in vitro tuberization
5.Comment on variation in crude protein
6.A clue to the role of apomixes
7.Anatomy of cassava stem
8.New species of Manihot

We welcome articles even in Portuguese. They will be translated and edited by our technical editor without any charges

Geneconserve is indexed in databases CAB, CAB International, AGRIS, Elsevier database,SPARC Europe,EBSCO, and DOAJ

Posted to GIPB D-Groups by Nagib Nassar
28 December 2008

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3.02  SINGER and EURISCO: Worldwide web catalogues on plant collections

Do breeders know where they can enjoy immediate access to information about available crop diversity and where to order germplasm of interest online?

A first attempt to compile the fragmented and scattered information about agricultural biodiversity has been made in building online genebank inventories. SINGER and EURISCO are two catalogues of the holdings in many genebanks around the world that provide primary access for the identification and localization of germplasm accessions.

Linking these catalogues with other types of data, such as breeders’ information on the value of the material held, will foster their role as gateways to the knowledge that makes collections of crop diversity more useful to farmers, plant breeders and researchers.

SINGER, the online catalogue of the international collections:

SINGER provides a single entry point to the inventories of the 11 CGIAR genebanks and the Asian Vegetable Research and Development Centre (AVDRC). Information on over 696,500 accessions from 77 collections is available! SINGER makes information about the diversity of plants available to all. Anyone can now select and, order on line, germplasm of interest.

The international collections held by the 11 CGIAR genebanks conserve a large part of the diversity of the most important crops for food and agriculture. The CGIAR centres placed their collections under the inter-governmental authority of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). This means that germplasm is held and exchanged in the context of the Multi-lateral System (MLS) in accordance with the International Treaty on plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA).

The germplasm held by the CGIAR is conserved in the public domain and is available for distribution. The CGIAR centres also foster research and policies to bring the benefits of agricultural diversity to poor farmers.

The European Plant Genetic Resources Search Catalogue (EURISCO)
provides web-based access to information on plant genetic resources held in ex situ collections throughout

Click here and find more about it!

The EURISCO catalogue provides a single online entry point for accessing information on ex situ plant collections on crops and their wild relatives in Europe.

EURISCO is based on a European network of ex situ National Inventories (
NIs) that makes European biodiversity data available worldwide.

Using data from national inventories, EURISCO links users to information on over 1 million accessions from 38 European countries. These samples of crop diversity represent more than half of the ex situ accessions maintained in
Europe and roughly 19% of total worldwide holdings.

EURISCO is hosted at and maintained by Bioversity International on behalf of the Secretariat of the European Cooperative Programme for Plant Genetic Resources (ECPGR).

EURISCO certainly will become the European PGR information hub, providing access to passport data from all European National Inventories and all crops, thereby linking to the Global Information System and contributing to the Multi-lateral System (MLS) of the International Treaty on plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) as a reporting mechanism.

For more information on EURISCO, please visit:

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4.01  CSREES announces agriculture and food research initiative funding opportunity

WASHINGTON, Dec. 17, 2008 - USDA's Cooperative State Research,Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) announced today the addition of the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) to its funding portfolio as authorized under the 2008 Farm Bill.  The Request for Applications is expected to be released early in 2009 on the CSREES and Web sites.

"AFRI continues CSREES' commitment to advance fundamental and applied sciences in support of agriculture," said Gale Buchanan, USDA Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics. "By combining research, education and extension, CSREES ensures science-based knowledge is delivered to the public, allowing them to make informed, practical decisions."

In FY 2009, CSREES anticipates that $190 million will be available for AFRI.  However, the enactment of the FY 2009 Appropriations Act may impact the overall level of funding for the AFRI program.

AFRI replaces the former National Research Initiative and the Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems programs and addresses six priority areas:  1) plant health and production and plant products; 2) animal health and production and animal products; 3) food safety, nutrition and health; 4) renewable energy, natural resources and environment; 5) agriculture systems and technology; and 6) agriculture economics and rural communities. 

AFRI will support grants to address key problems of national, regional and multi-state importance in sustaining all components of agriculture. The flexibility in programming provided by the 2008 Farm Bill allows for support of a variety of project types, all of which will be reflected in the 2009 AFRI request for applications.  These include single-function as well as integrated, multi-functional research, education and extension projects.

Applicants and other parties interested in the AFRI funding opportunity are encouraged to contact CSREES at (202) 401-5022 or  The complete public announcement can be viewed online at <> 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 <> .

Extracts from the text of the full announcement:

"Please note that there are substantial opportunities for conventional plant and animal breeding projects, both research and integrated, within AFRI. For plant breeding, see the Plant Biology: Environmental Stress program, the Plant Genome, Genetics, and Breeding program, and the Plant Breeding and Education program.." 

"Applicants are encouraged to develop national and international collaborations with research groups already working on the species of interest to minimize duplication of effort and maximize cost
effectiveness. U.S. collaboration with international partners is appropriate; however, applications must be submitted by eligible U.S. institutions.

See pages 41-49 to read more about opportunities for Poaceae, Fabaceae, Conifers, and  non-crop specific proposals.

Program (extracts only ...) (not all programs included in this table) Program Code
Letter of Intent Deadline
Bioactive Food Components for Optimal Health

Biobased Products and Bioenergy Production Research

Biology of Weedy and Invasive Species in Agroecosystems

Managed Ecosystems

Plant Biology: Environmental Stress

Plant Biology: Biochemistry

Plant Biology: Growth and Development

Plant Breeding and Education

Plant Biosecurity

Plant Genome, Genetics, and Breeding

Rapid Response Food and Agricultural Science for Emergency Issues

Contributed by Ann Marie Thro

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4.02  Scholarships offered from the Asian Rice Foundation

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

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

More information at due
June 1, 2009.

Contributed by Russell Freed
Crop and Soil Sciences Department
Michigan State University

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5.01  Two faculty positions in Crop Breeding and Genetics, Washington State University

Washington State University – Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, open rank, in Crop Breeding and Genetics (2 positions – winter wheat, spring wheat). 12-month, tenure-track/tenured. Required: PhD in plant breeding, genetics or a closely related field at the time of hiring; demonstrated knowledge and experience in applied, field-based plant breeding and molecular genetics; excellent written and oral communication skills; demonstrated record of scholarship commensurate with rank. For full position description listing responsibilities, application process and additional background information visit (Search #’s 5196 and 5197). Contact: Dr. Richard T. Koenig, c/o Deb Marsh, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Washington State University, PO Box 646420, Pullman, WA 99164-6420; Phone (509)335-2915; FAX (509) 335-1758; email: Electronic applications are welcome. Review of applications begins
March 1, 2009. EEO/AA/ADA

Contributed by Kimberly Garland Campbell

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5.02  Department Head in Plant Sciences, North Dakota State University

The successful applicant will provide leadership to a department of 39 tenure-track faculty and 25 affiliated faculty. The department is engaged in graduate and undergraduate teaching, basic and applied research, and extension activities. Major program areas include agronomy, biotechnology, breeding (including the interdisciplinary development of crop cultivars), cereal science, genetics, horticulture, physiology, turf grass, and weed science. Responsibilities will include setting and achieving departmental goals, managing departmental resources and personnel, developing departmental budgets, soliciting outside funding, coordinating student recruitment, and representing the department to the university administration, other NDSU units, outstate research extension centers, other universities, state and federal agencies, and commodity and other agribusiness organizations. This is a 12-month position.
Minimum Qualifications: The successful applicant will possess (1) an earned Ph.D. in one of the departmental program areas described above, or a closely related field, (2) credentials for rank of Professor with tenure in the department, and (3) evidence of strong leadership and managerial, and communication skills. Inter-personal abilities with faculty, staff, students and the general public are essential.  

Preferred Qualifications: Previous administrative experience, demonstrated ability to attract extramural funds, and familiarity with the Land-Grant system.
Position Number: 00021247  

Salary:Commensurate with qualifications and experience  

Screening Date: Open Until Filled

Required Applicant Documents: Cover Letter,Curriculum Vitae
Include a statement of leadership philosophy

Screening will begin March 20, 2009 and remain open until a suitable applicant pool is established.

Please put names and contact information for five references on seperate page at end of vitae.


Contributed by Marcelo Carena
Dept of Plant ScienceND State University

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5.03  Agricultural Officer (Plant Genetic Resources Use), FAO

Professional Vacancy Announcement No: 2135-AGP
Deadline For Application:  6 March 2009
Position Title Agricultural Officer (Plant Genetic Resources Use)
Duty Station Rome, Italy
Grade Level P-4
Duration Fixed term: 3 years
CCOG Code: 1H01
Organizational Unit  Plant Production & Protection Division, AGP
Agriculture & Consumer Protection Department, AG

Under the overall supervision of the Director, Plant Production and Protection Division, the incumbent will contribute increasing the utilisation of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (PGRFA) taking into account plant genetic diversity, plant breeding technologies,and related issues within the framework of the Global Plan of Action on Conservation and Sustainable Utilization of Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (GPA) and in line with the International Treaty on PGRFA(IT-PGRFA). In particular, the incumbent will:

-Provide technical assistance to Members States in the identification,formulation and implementation of strategies and programmes for sustainable use of PGRFA, with an emphasis on capacity building for strengthening the linkage between conservation and use;
-Undertake periodic reviews and monitor developments that impact sustainable use of PGRFA, including climate change, bioenergy, and community action with the aim of maximizing direct utilization of PGRFA for sustainable intensification of crop production;
-Provide technical and related policy support to promote sustainable use of PGRFA in line with the IT-PGRFA and the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture; Provide technical support to the Global Partnership Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building (GIPB) efforts and develop effective knowledge sharing strategies and tools to facilitate country-level outreach through this initiative;
-Contribute to the formulation and delivery of outputs of the seeds and PGRFA programme;
-Facilitate dissemination of FAO’s information with respect to sustainable use of PGRFA and contribute to divisional, departmental or corporate working groups;
-In the context of national strategies, build capacity in managing PGRFA; develop technical materials and conduct training courses, expert consultations and meetings related to PGRFA management and use;
-Maintain contacts and collaboration with other UN bodies, international organizations, including the public, private sector and non-governmental organizations and foster collaboration and exchange of information; Prepare technical and related documentation;
-Perform other related duties as required.

Candidates should meet the following:
-Advanced University Degree in Crop Production, Agricultural or Biological Sciences
-Seven years of relevant experience in PGR management and use activities, including participating approaches, which included at least four years in developing countries
-Working knowledge of English, French or Spanish and limited knowledge in one of the other two

Candidates will be assessed against the following:
-Level and relevance of academic qualifications
-Extent of working experience in developing countries
-Extent of experience in project/programme formulation and implementation of projects, programmes and studies in the field of PGR use in developing countries
-Extent of experience in providing policy advice at local, national, and regional levels
-Demonstrated ability to organize and conduct technical meetings, capacity building events, conferences and workshops
-Proven ability to lead and work effectively in multidisciplinary teams in the area of conservation and sustainable use of PGRFA
-Extent of experience in the provision of technical support and backstopping to national programmes in the area of conservation and use of plant genetic resources Please note that all candidates should possess computer/word processing skills and should be capable of working with people of different national and cultural backgrounds.

* The length of appointment for internal FAO candidates will be established in accordance with applicable policies pertaining to the extension of appointments.

Level P-4 carries a net salary per year (inclusive of a variable element for post adjustment) from US$ 101,514 US$ 127,280 (without dependants) and from US$ 109,011 to US$ 137,470 (with dependants)

TO APPLY: Carefully read and follow the Guidelines to applicants
Send your application to:
V.A 2135-AGP
Ms. K. Ghosh, AGP
FAO Via delle Terme di Caracalla 00153 Rome ITALY
Fax No: +39 06 5705 6347

This vacancy is open to male and female candidates. Applications from qualified women candidates and applications from qualified candidates from non/under-represented member states are encouraged. Please note that FAO staff members are international civil servants subject to the authority of the Director-General and may be assigned to any activities or office of the organization.

Post Number: c/0921181

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Three openings: research on Jatropha in genomics, molecular biology, proteomics, phytopathology and tissue culture

PBU-IAM, BOKU, Vienna, Austria

The University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Science, Department of Biotechnology, Institute of Applied Microbiology, PBU Phyto-/Plant-Biotechnology Unit in Vienna, Austria has three openings for qualified PhD. candidates to conduct research on Jatropha in genomics, molecular biology, proteomics, phytopathology and tissue culture. Positions will be for a three years period, starting in 2009.

Germplasm conservation & Marker development
Genebank managers and conservationists concerned both with in situ and ex situ management try to ensure that they conserve as much as possible of the extant genetic diversity of the species with which they work. The effectiveness with which they do this depends to a large extent on the genetic information available on the germplasm with which they work.

The analysis of genetic diversity and relatedness between or within different populations, species, and individuals is a central task for many disciplines of biological science. During the last three decades, classical strategies for the evaluation of genetic variability, such as comparative anatomy, morphology, embryology and physiology, have increasingly been complemented by molecular techniques. Molecular markers provide genetic information of direct value in key areas of conservation in situ and ex situ.

In vitro Germplasm collection and conservation
Development of markers such as SSRs and SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphism)

Analysis of genetic variation using molecular marker (molecular marker for improved genetic resolution)

Functional genomics (proteomics and metabolomics)
A major challenge for genomics is to identify the functions of unassigned genes and use this knowledge to improve economically important agronomic and quality traits in major crops. Functional genomics technologies provide the approach to solve the gap between sequence and function. These technologies depend on both experimental and computational methods, and sequence repositories are essential tools in this context.

To understand how genes control major traits of interest, this activity will pursue the development and application
of global (genome-wide or system-wide) experimental approaches to assess gene function by making use of the information and physical resources provided by structural genomics efforts. It is characterized by high throughput or large-scale experimental methodologies combined with statistical and computational analysis of the results.

Molecular Breeding of Jatropha
Traditional plant breeding is based on screens of large number of plants to select promising seedlings. Jatropha is characterized by long generation cycles and large plant size; hence, the ability to eliminate undesirable progenies in breeding populations through Marker-Assisted Breeding (
MAS) reduces cost and allows breeders to focus on populations comprised of individuals carrying desirable alleles of genes of interest.

Molecular breeding is identification of new traits and their integration into the crop genome. Natural sources of resistance to major pests, diseases and abiotic stresses can be found within largely untapped genetic resources. The establishment of routine transformation methods with marker genes and selected genes of interest will allow a cis-genic breeding approach.

Phytosanitary status improvement
Obviously only healthy planting material will allow a profitable growth and production. Efforts will be directed towards a) Pathogen detection and b) Pathogen elimination.

How to apply
If interested, please send a short letter of application with your interests, your CV and the names of 3 referees via email with the subject "Jatropha" to:

Margit Laimer

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NAS, Science and Technology for Sustainability Program Director Sought

t would be good to have someone in the position who understands what plant breeding can contribute.  AMT

The National Academy of Sciences is accepting applications for this PhD-level position within the Policy and Global Affairs division from a candidate with demonstrated impact on the advancement of science or policy.

National Academy of Sciences
The mission of Policy and Global Affairs (PGA) is to help improve public policy, understanding, and education in matters of science, technology, and health with regard to national strategies and resources, global affairs, workforce and the economy. The division is particularly charged to identify and build synergy among the disciplines and issue areas, and to promote interaction among science, engineering, medicine and public policy. The division includes a range of standing committees and boards concerned with the vitality of the research enterprise in the
US and abroad. In that connection, the units of the division focus particularly on the interaction of key institutions central to science and technology policy, on the standing of US research around the world and cooperation with science & engineering bodies in other countries, on the mission and organization of federal research activities, and on the sources of future manpower and funding for research.

The goal of the Science and Technology for Sustainability Program (STS Program) is to contribute to sustainable improvements in human well-being by creating and strengthening the strategic connections between scientific research, technological development, and decision-making. The program includes a range of convening and consensus-building activities. The best-known ongoing activity is the Science and Technology for Sustainability (STS) Roundtable, which meets twice per year to provide a forum for sharing views, information, and analyses related to harnessing science and technology forsustainability. Members of the Roundtable include senior decision-makers from government, industry, academia, and non-profit organizations who deal with issues of sustainable development, and who are in a position to mobilize new strategies for sustainability. The Roundtable's discussions lead to many of the projects undertaken by the STS program,whose topics currently include partnerships for sustainability, certification of sustainable products and services, sustainable food security, regional impacts of biofuel production, and urban sustainability.  

This position will manage and grow the STS program, and coordinate the activities of the STS Roundtable. Develops program strategy and budget, staffing requirements and ensures the program meets its stated objectives. Responsible for managing multiple and/or highly complex programs/projects. Serves as liaison between Roundtable members and the National Academies. Independently supervises staff and provides training. Develops prospectuses and projects that have a high impact.

Source: Job Req #: 090006-3

Web site: The job announcement is at
More information about the Technology for Sustainability Program is at

Contributed by Ann Marie Thro

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Scientist, Genetics Resource Expert at IRRI

Reference No: IRS-2009-11RSH
Location: Los Baños, Philippines
Job Purpose: To lead new areas of research to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the genebank at IRRI, and to improve coordination with other rice genebanks and other CGIAR genebanks

-Lead research in genetic resources methodologies and technologies to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of ex situ rice conservation. Research areas will include, but will not be limited to, improving seed longevity of problem varieties in storage, reducing the loss of genetic integrity during seed multiplication of cultivated and wild rice, identifying and filling gaps in the collection, establishing a more efficient viability monitoring scheme, and designing and implementing effective reliable methods for accurate electronic data capture in the field and laboratory.

-In liaison with the Global Crop Diversity Trust, lead IRRI's contribution to the development of a global strategy for the rational, efficient and effective conservation and use of rice genetic diversity. This will focus on identifying and implementing effective modalities for collaboration between rice germplasm collections around the world and their users, based on identifying and sharing responsibilities, reducing unnecessary duplication, and promoting complementarity, to ensure conservation and use of a greater proportion of the global genepool of rice than could be achieved by any single genebank.

-Participate in planning research priorities and in seeking additional research funding -Liaise with other scientists in the plant genetic resources community in the development of improved genebank management standards

-PhD in genetic resources or other relevant field
-Minimum of five years relevant postdoctoral experience and of operating in a team-based environment
-English: written and spoken
-Knowledge of local language an asset

-A demonstrated record of leadership and productivity in the context of a multi-disciplinary and multi-cultural environment
-Excellent written and verbal communications skills
-Ambitions to carry out science of the highest quality and publish in peer-reviewed journals of international standing

IRRI headquarters are located in Los Baños, 70 kilometers south of Manila, Philippines. We offer scientists stimulating and rewarding career opportunities, in addition to salaries and perquisites that are internationally competitive, including support for education of children, car and housing at reasonable rental rates, and medical and retirement benefits.

We provide a gender-sensitive environment and strongly encourage women applicants. Citizens of developing countries, particularly of rice-producing countries, are encouraged to apply. The Institute is committed to assisting families in making personal and, to the extent possible, professional adjustments to the local environment. IRRI has an accredited international school (pre-K to early primary) on its campus and excellent international schools are available nearby.

Contributed by Luigi Guarino

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

February-May 2009. Wheat Breeding: Addressing food security issues of 21st century. CIMMYT Ciudad Obregon & El Batan

8- 11 February 2008. Plant Abiotic Stress Tolerance, Vienna.

View all meeting information online at

(NEW)25 – 27 February 2009. A workshop on the role of Marker Assisted Selection in breeding varieties for organic agriculture, Wageningen, the Netherlands.

The workshop is organised in cooperation between the EU-project BioExploit and the EUCARPIA Section Organic and Low-input Agriculture. We invite the following stakeholders as participants: Breeders and researchers involved and/or interested in plant breeding for organic agriculture with or without detailed knowledge on molecular techniques as well as opinion leaders , e.g. from organic or conventional umbrella organisations focusing on breeding and seed production for the organic sector. There will be a maximum number of 60 participants. The aim of the workshop is to facilitate a broad discussion with invited speakers on the state of the art and progress in relation to whether, when and how breeding programs for organic agriculture can benefit from Marker Assisted Selection.

The workshop is a follow-up of the discussion on MAS in plant breeding programs for organic agriculture, organised by COST SUSVAR and ECO-PB in January 2005 in Driebergen, the
Netherlands. In the meantime, science has made progress, practical breeders have got more experience with MAS, and questions for breeding for organic agriculture may be more articulated. So now it is time for an update and further deepening of the issues involved. The workshop will discuss basic selection principles as well as contrast breeding strategies
according to organic principles and MAS in a few crop and trait cases. Next to proceedings, the workshop will contribute to a policy paper identifying and clarifying key issues based on an analysis of role of MAS in breeding for organic agriculture.

A detailed program and registration forms is available on the websites of BioExploit, EUCARPIA, ECO-PB and Cost 860 Susvar.

22 December 2008

16 - 27 March 2009. Quantitative Genetics in Plant Breeding, NIAB,
Cambridge, United Kingdom.

The National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) is to repeat its two-week intensive training course in Quantitative Genetics in Plant Breeding, after the first session held earlier this year was heavily over-subscribed.

Targeted at both existing and prospective plant breeders, the post-graduate level course aims to update practitioners on the role and application of statistical and quantitative genetics in practical plant breeding programmes.

Further details available from Chris Dixon (

17 – 20 March 2009. The Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI) 2009 Technical Workshop,  Ciudad Obregón, Mexico

Initiative homepage: We will be accepting posters. See the Call for Posters tab on the registration website for information.

Contact for more information:
Jenny Nelson, Assistant Coordinator
Durable Rust Resistance in
Wheat Project
Cornell University

24 – 26 March 2009. Sixth International Integrated
Pest Management Symposium. Transcending Boundaries, Portland, Oregon.

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

Watch for more information and registration details at

16 to 18 April 2009. Progeny Trial Analysis with ASReml, International Centre for Plant Breeding Education and Research (ICPBER) at the University of Western Australia

This will be a beginner’s level workshop. The participants will be introduced to mixed model theory and ASReml syntax. The final program will depend on the interests and skill level of attendees. The course is structured around 4 x 1.5 hour sessions per day, most with 30 minutes of lectures and 1 hour of practical sessions in groups of 2-4 using ASReml and some supporting software. Data will be drawn from a variety of data sets from tree breeding programs around the world. Limited opportunities for user data analysis will be provided.
All course, data and support materials will be provided although some of the support software may have a restricted license. ASReml is not provided but can be obtained from this link for a free one month trial. Participants should bring their own laptop with ASReml (and preferably ConText) loaded
Course materials are copyright and may only be used by course participants and not distributed to other parties.
The final date for registering is
16 March 2009 and numbers are limited. Please contact Sarah Mawson at ICPBER for any information and registration documents.

NEW) 21-22 April 2009. Measures of Hope and Promises Delivered: An International Conference on Socioeconomic and Environmental Impact Assessment of Genetically Modified (GM) Crops, Bangkok, Thailand.

SEARCA, in collaboration with the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI, Washington DC), will conduct the international conference.

The conference aims to provide a better understanding of the methodologies, tools, insights, and experiences in examining the socioeconomic and environmental impacts of adopting biotechnology applications, particularly GM crops. It will also examine the factors that encourage or hinder the development and diffusion of new agricultural biotechnologies, and the institutional arrangements and/or policy environment influencing them.

For more details, contact:
Arnulfo G. Garcia
Research and Development Department
SEARCA, College, Los Baños, Laguna 4031 Philippines

Roberta V. Gerpacio
Project Development Specialist

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

(NEW)3-5  May 2009. International Plant Breeding Conference, Egyptian Society of plant breeding, Suez Canal University,Faculty of Agriculture, Agronomy Department

Second Announcement and Call for Abstracts

Theme: Crop research, technology dissemination and adoption to increase food supply, reducing hunger and poverty in Egypt
- Ismailia, Egypt
Organizers: Faculty of Agriculture, Suez Canal University (SCU)
and Egyptian Society of Plant Breeding Society (EPBS)
Conference Topics and Symposia
: The general topics to be covered at the conference include: plant breeding for abiotic and biotic stresses, horticulture, crop improvement and physiology, crop genetics and biotechnology, analysis and experimental design, integration of livestock in crop production, soils and agricultural engineering sciences, water sciences, environmental sciences, biodiversity and natural resources management.


Correspondence concerning general matters of the conference should be addressed to the Local Organizing Committee:. The Dean Faculty of Agriculture, Suez Canal University, Ismailia, Egypt

Contact with: Tarek Youssef Bayoumi:
Mohamed Abed El Hameed El Baramawy:

(NEW) UPOV schedules two 2009 sessions of its distance learning course
Introduction to the UPOV System of Plant Variety Protection under the UPOV Convention

Geneva, Switzerland
The UPOV Distance Learning course (DL-205 - Introduction to the UPOV System of Plant Variety Protection under the UPOV Convention) has been followed by some 400 students in 2008, in English, French, German and Spanish.
Two sessions of the DL-205 Course are scheduled for 2009:

Session I
May 4 to
June 7, 2009
(On-line registration:
February 1 to 28, 2009)

Session II
November 2 to
December 6, 2009
(On-line registration:
July 1 to 31, 2009)
In total, over 1100 students have participated in the UPOV Distance learning course (DL 205).

19 December 2008

14-17 May 2009.Plant Abiotic Stress ­ from signaling to development,
Tartu, Estonia. Please visit the conference web site for more information, including the list of the invited plenary speakers. The registration and abstract submission is now open. Deadlines for reduced registration fee (only 120 EUR) and early abstract submission (to be considered for selection of oral presentations) is up to 17th of March. To receive updated information about the meeting in the future, please reply to this mail - after this further information about the meeting will be sent only to those who send us an email.

Contributed by
Hannes Kollist
of Tartu
and Helmut Knüpffer
Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK)

25 May –
26 June 2009. Conservation agriculture: Laying the groundwork for sustainable and productive cropping systems. CIMMYT El Batan.

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

June 2009 (6-8 weeks). Wheat Chemistry and Quality Improvement Course, CIMMYT El Batan (

1-5 June 2009. 6th International Triticeae Symposium. Kyoto University Conference Hall,
Kyoto, Japan
(NEW)10-14 August 2009. 14th Australasian Plant Breeding & 11th Society for the Advancement of Breeding Research in Asia & Oceania Conference, being held at the Cairns Convention Centre, Tropical North Queensland, Australia
(NEW) 8 – 10 September 2009. 2nd World Seed Conference: Responding to the challenges of a changing world, FAO headquarters in
Rome, Italy
Visit the 2nd World Seed Conference website for more information.

This event organised by ISTA, FAO, OECD, UPOV and ISF, is aimed at policy makers, government officials, breeding companies, breeders associations, stakeholders (certification agencies, seed analysts, seed traders, technology companies, academic institutions), farmers' organisations, consumer organisations and international breeding and seed research centres.

Expert Forum: September 8 and 9
Policy Forum: September 10

The Expert Forum will be in English only. The Policy Forum will have simultaneous translations in Arabic, Chinese, English, French and Spanish.

Expert Forum
The aim of the Expert Forum is to provide information and facilitate discussion on means of encouraging the development of new plant varieties and the production and distribution of high quality seed in order to meet the demands of a changing world. In particular, the Expert Forum will explore the:
- importance of new plant varieties in responding to evolving needs;
- role of multilateral cooperation in facilitating access to plant genetic resources for food and
- agriculture and ensuring fair and equitable benefit sharing;
- role of new technologies and methodologies in plant breeding;
- need for intellectual property protection to encourage the development of new plant varieties;
- scope for public/private partnerships;
- role of international certification in facilitating trade and market development;
- importance of high quality seed and seed treatment;
- benefits of effective systems of seed production and distribution;
- need for standardisation of methodologies in seed testing; and
- mechanisms for reducing technical barriers to trade and facilitating trade in seed.

These aspects will be considered in relation to a changing world, including a changing environment, market developments and evolving human needs, and their role in achieving future food security and economic development, especially in developing countries.

Policy Forum

The Policy Forum will review the conclusions of the Expert Forum
on means to provide an enabling environment that encourages
the development of new varieties and facilitates the production
and distribution of high quality seed.


This event is aimed at policy makers, government officials, plant breeders, seed specialists, researchers,
farmers’ organizations and consumer organizations.

Schedule (source in PDF format)

To register
Registration is required (cost € 125). In order to participate, please register on-line at
Registration will be open from
March 16, 2009.

Conference presentations and proceedings
Copies of all presentations will be published on the Conference website. The proceedings will be published
after the Conference.

9 September 2009. Registrations open for the first of the John Innes Centenary Events

We are launching the John Innes Centenary Year with a Centenary Symposium ‘Genetics 100 Years On’ which will begin with a prestigious History of Genetics Day on Wednesday 9th September. ‘JI Alumni Day’ will follow on Saturday 12th September, bringing together former staff to share their memories, catch up with what goes on today, and of course to have some fun. A ‘Discovery Day’ on Sunday 13th September will complete the launch celebrations. More»

Advances is available in both PDF and HTML format at

21–25 September 2009. 1st International Jujube Symposium, Agricultural
University of Hebei, Baoding, China.

28 Sept. –
1 Oct. 2009. 9
th 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: Previous Interdrought conferences at

9-12 November 2009. Exploiting genome-wide association in oilseed Brassicas: a model for genetic improvement of major OECD crops for sustainable  future farming, The International Centre for Plant Breeding Education and Research (ICPBER), University of Western Australia.

The International Centre for Plant Breeding Education and Research (ICPBER) was launched at the University of Western Australia (UWA) in August 2008 and aspires to “train professional plant breeders for tomorrow”. ICPBER seeks to attract international students into plant breeding and genetics, at BSc, MSc and PhD levels. We also offer in-service training by way of short courses/Master Classes for practising plant breeders or those in the seeds industry.

We at ICPBER are very excited at the opportunity to host this international conference, “Exploiting genome-wide association in oilseed Brassicas: a model for genetic improvement of major OECD crops for sustainable future farming.” The conference will be held at UWA, on the 9-12 November 2009.  This conference is sponsored by the International Organisation for Economics Co-operation and Development (OECD) Co-operative Research Programme on Biological Resource Management for Sustainable Agricultural Systems, whose financial support makes it possible for many of the invited speakers from many OECD countries to participate in the conference. The keynote speaker is Professor Carlos Bustamante, from
Cornell University, USA, speaking on “Association mapping – from humans to Arabidopsis and rice.” This conference promises to be of great value to those in this field.

To be included in the next announcement regarding this conference, please send your contact details to     or     Facsimile +61 8 6488 1140

Submitted by Sarah Mawson, Project Officer, ICPBER, School of Plant Biology M084, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, Western Australia 6009

2-5 August 2010. 10th International Conference on Grapevine Breeding and Genetics.

(NEW) 2010.
Hanoi, Vietnam to host 3rd International Rice Congress in 2010

The 3rd International Rice Congress (IRC2010) will be held in
Hanoi, Vietnam, in 2010, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

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Plant Breeding News is an electronic forum for the exchange of information and ideas about applied plant breeding and related fields. It is 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 (, Margaret Smith (, and Ann Marie Thro ( The editor will advise subscribers one to two weeks ahead of each edition, in order to set deadlines for contributions.

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 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 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:  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

If you prefer to receive the newsletter as an MS Word attachment instead of an e-mail text, please write the editor at and request this option.

To subscribe to PBN-L: Send an e-mail message to: 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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