30 April 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  Reflections on the beginnings of Plant Breeding News

1.02  Long-term solutions needed to feed the world's poor

1.03  U.S. public agricultural research: changes in funding sources and shifts in emphasis, 1980-2005

1.04  Agriculture is up to global productivity challenge, says DuPont leader

1.05  Syngenta calls for greater international collaboration to address food security challenge

1.06  AGRA launches fund to jumpstart African seed industry

1.07  Drought-Tolerant Maize for Africa Initiative demonstrates a joint commitment to protect Africa’s maize crop from drought and other threats

1.08  Groundbreaking pigeonpea hybrid developed in India and embraced by farmers there promises to revolutionize pigeonpea production in China

1.09  New public-private partnership for hybrid rice in India

1.10  Local Markets, Local Varieties: Rising Food Prices and Small Farmers' Access to Seed

1.11  "Scuba rice" that can survive more than two weeks under water makes a splash in India and Bangladesh

1.12  Novel upland rice variety bred using marker-assisted selection and client-oriented breeding released in Jharkhand, India

1.13  There is more to learn from ‘bad plants’ in breeding programmes than one might think

1.14  Coming to the market soon in the USA: genetically modified soybeans for health-conscious consumers

1.15  GM crops and the gene giants: bad news for farmers

1.16  Bioversity International urges Agriculture G8 to make better use of agricultural biodiversity

1.17  Using cryopreservation to conserve crop germplasm is reliable and, contrary to popular belief, cost competitive with field genebanks

1.18  The CWR Project: protecting populations of crop wild relatives in their natural environment

1.19  Mexico City vows to protect historic maize varieties

1.20  China breeds rapeseed varieties with record high oil content

1.21  Pakistan's Central Cotton Research Institute (CCRI) fails to produce virus-free cotton variety

1.22  USDA/ARS develops new russet potato germplasm line resistant to Columbia root-knot nematodes

1.23  Researchers examine bacterial rice diseases, search for genetic solutions

1.24  Scientists develop root nematode resistant potato

1.25  ARS develops bacterial leaf spot resistant iceberg lettu

1.26  Vivek QPM 9 - an early maturing QPM maize hybrid for India

1.27  Wageningen UR and KeyGene to develop a superior genome physical map of potato

1.28  Monsanto Company and Hunan University enter into research collaboration to source novel genes for crop improvement

1.29  Plant gene mapping may lead to better biofuel production

1.30  International team publishes first SSR based genetic linkage map for cultivated groundnut

1.31  Solicitation of input from stakeholders on the roadmap for agricultural research, education, and extension

1.32  Request for applications: Horticulture Collaborative Research Support Program



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



3.01  Scitable: A free science library and personal learning tool

3.02  The Crop Genebank Knowledge Base



4.01  $10 million to rice and wheat research program

4.02  Request for applications: Horticulture Collaborative Research Support Program



5.01  Assistant Breeder opportunity, vegetables

5.02  Maize Breeding Lead (Senior or Principal) Scientist

5.03  University of Hohenheim, Germany. Group leader / Research associate

5.04  R&D Job Postings at Monsanto as of 29 April 2009








Reflections on the beginnings of Plant Breeding News


The newsletter reaches a landmark 200th edition


Not too long after email became a major mode of communication at FAO in the mid-1990s, a very innovative agronomist and communicator, Bob Hart, the director of Rodale’s research programme, began to send email news on sustainable agriculture to whomever showed interested in being on his list.  I was one of the beneficiaries of his knowledge, insight, and the generosity of his time to pull interesting information together and share it freely.  Bob later became director of the USAID-funded SANREM programme, coordinated out to the University of Georgia, bringing him to FAO to work with colleagues on information systems for documenting livestock/environment interactions.  I was then the Senior Technical Advisor for the Agriculture Department at FAO and also the Task Manager Chapter 14 of Agenda 21 that focused on global developments with respect to Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (SARD), a thematic dear to Bob own heart.  He stopped by my office for a few minutes to introduce himself and our friendship was instantaneous.


Bob later ran a few short training courses at FAO on electronic conferencing – then a very innovative development.  I thought that this new communication “technology” might be one way to draw attention to a problem I was seeing emerge, i.e., the demise of capacity of many national programs in developing countries to run plant breeding programmes. The push by financial institutions forcing developing countries to privatise research and extension, coupled with the drastic reduction in overseas development assistance, especially for agriculture R & D, was a major driver in the collapse of national capacities.  I asked Bob if he would help me put together and moderate a plant breeding discussion “conference” to raise awareness of this and other issues in plant breeding which were being left out of the international debate on the use of plant genetic resources. But I then thought that an electronic newsletter might be a more effective, long-term approach to sharing information among breeders and raising issues of importance to the plant breeding community.


While Bob agreed to train someone on newsletter management, I needed to find a newsletter editor.  My first thought was that this could be part of the plant breeding course training at Cornell University where I had studied.  Perhaps graduate students could be the editors, as they came from every part of the world to study plant breeding there.  Bob Plaisted, then the Head of the Plant Breeding and Biometry Department, advised me that no students volunteered for the task of editor, but my retired major professor, Dr Don Wallace, agreed to be the editor. Before Bob Hart passed away from liver cancer, already quite ill, he drove from Athens, Georgia to Ithaca, New York and trained Dr. Wallace in electronic newsletter management.  Don Wallace edited the newsletter from its inception in May 1997, until he also became too ill following a stroke. Jean Pierre Marathee managed the newsletter briefly until Elcio Guimaraes joined FAO in early 2002 and took over leadership of promoting plant breeding capacity building.


Elcio and friends at Cornell reported that they had found the ideal person to take on the Editor post of  PBN.  My old schoolmate from my Cornell days, Clair Hershey who had worked as a Cassava breeder at CIAT and returned to run his family farm in Pennsylvania, had agreed to take it over. Clair and Elcio have kept up and enhanced the newsletter over and over.  I am grateful for their dedication and for their skilful folding the PBN into the new Global Partnership Initiative on Plant Breeding Capacity Building (GIPB). I dedicate this note also to Bob Hart and Don Wallace, without whom there would have only been an idea on the shelf, and of course to you, the readers and contributors, who make it still happen about every month.


Eric Kueneman

Chief, Crop and Grassland Service

Plant Production and Protection Division

FAO of the United Nations


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1.02  Long-term solutions needed to feed the world's poor


More agricultural research funding and a farmer-centred approach to boosting food production are needed to prevent future food emergencies.


David Dickson

One of the unfortunate side effects of the global economic crisis is that it has deflected attention from the food crisis that was grabbing headlines a year ago. Rapidly escalating food prices — spurred on by the price of oil and commodity speculation among other factors — have a disproportionate impact on the world's poor.


Now oil prices have fallen and the speculation frenzy has cooled off, food prices have also fallen by up to 50 per cent. But this does not mean the problem has gone away. For although the price of food has fallen, so too has the poor's ability to pay for it as a result of their reduced income. The World Food Programme estimates it will need 20 per cent more funding this year — on top of last year's record US$6 billion budget — to feed the world's poorest.


And even if last year's price increases have stopped, other drivers of food shortages — such as rapid population growth and climate change — remain as strong as ever.


A political issue

This is the background against which agricultural ministers of the G8 group of leading industrial nations will meet for the first time in Italy this weekend.


With political attention understandably focused on alleviating the immediate fall-outs from the economic crisis, the G8 ministers may be tempted to look to short-term measures — such as topping up the food programme — to ease the pain.


But that would be a mistake. Agricultural experts widely agree that the drop in food prices is only a temporary respite. Long-term solutions are urgently required to ensure that last year's food emergency does not become a permanent feature.


The social disruption such emergencies cause can be even more politically destabilising than those triggered by financial and economic problems — last year's price spike in wheat and rice, for example, led to riots in 30 countries.


Funding research

Two factors are essential for any long-term solution. First, there needs to be a significant increase in funding for agricultural research and development to boost agricultural productivity.


Many parts of the developing world are suffering from declines in agricultural research funding during the 1980s and 1990s when development agencies focused on structural adjustment policies and food aid.


A survey of 27 African countries by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington, United States, found that about half experienced a fall in agricultural research and development spending during the 1990s — mainly because a large number of World Bank projects came to an end (see Investing in Sub-Saharan African Agricultural Research: Recent Trends).


Recently there has been a welcome reversal of this trend. For example, donor government funding has increased for the research centres making up the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, while private foundations, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, have also entered the scene.


But more effort is needed. IFPRI's director, Joachim von Braun, recently called for international agricultural research funding to double over the next five years, arguing that such a move could lift more than 250 million people out of poverty by 2020 (see Agricultural R&D key to preventing food crises).


Supporting farmers

Equally important are steps to put research into practice. In particular, this means improving the innovative capacity of farmers in developing countries.


These people are best placed to meet local demand for food, reducing the need for expensive — and often less nutritious — imports. They can also plough any economic surpluses they make back into the community.


But to be effective, farmers need protecting from the high market price of production inputs. A fertiliser subsidy scheme in Malawi, partly funded by the UK Department for International Development, has surprised critics by its success (see A record maize harvest in Malawi).


Farmers also need access to new technology and protection from predatory pricing by companies patenting key agricultural inputs such as new crop varieties (see GM crops and the Gene Giants: Bad news for farmers).


The agenda facing the G8 agricultural ministers this weekend is just as broad and complex as that which faced the G20 meeting on the financial crisis last month. And its outcome is just as important.


But without a pledge to increase spending on agricultural research and support for farmers to put this research into practice in developing countries, any 'solution' to the food crisis will be little more than a temporary sticking plaster.


David Dickson
Director, SciDev.Net

17 April 2009


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1.03  U.S. public agricultural research: changes in funding sources and shifts in emphasis, 1980-2005


Washington, DC
By David Schimmelpfennig and Paul Heisey

Economic Information Bulletin No. (EIB-45) 42 pp, March 2009

Over the years, proposals have recommended shifting the focus of public agricultural research from applied to basic research, and giving higher priority to peer-reviewed, competitively funded grants. The public agricultural research system in the United States is a Federal-State partnership, with most research conducted at State institutions. In recent years, State funds have declined, USDA funds have remained fairly steady (with changes in the composition of funding), but funding from other Federal agencies and the private sector has increased. Efforts to increase competitively awarded funds for research have fluctuated over time, as have special grants (earmarks). Along with shifts in funding sources, the proportion of basic research being undertaken within the public agricultural research system has declined. This report focuses on the way public agricultural research is funded in the United States and how changes in funding sources over the last 25 years reflect changes in the type of research pursued.


In this report ...

Chapters are in Adobe Acrobat PDF format.

Order this report (stock #EIB-45)



3 April 2009


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1.04  Agriculture is up to global productivity challenge, says DuPont leader


Global science, scale and talent required to meet growing demand


Arlington, Virginia
Science will enable farmers to produce enough grain to meet the growing demand for food, biofuels and materials if public and private agriculture enterprises, regulators and policymakers from around the globe take a more holistic approach to the solution, William S. Niebur, vice president – DuPont Crop Genetics Research and Development, said here today.


Speaking to agricultural leaders at the Informa Economics 17th Annual Food & Agricultural Policy Conference, Niebur said that emerging opportunities for the use of biomass to replace petroleum coupled with the specter of hunger have raised questions about whether farmers can produce enough grain to feed the world and meet the demand for biofuels and biomaterials.


“The question of whether science can supply the world’s growing appetite for grain can be answered with a resounding ‘yes’ if we tap all of the talent and tools that are available,” Niebur said. “Public and private sector players must collaborate using cutting-edge science and top talent on a global scale to maximize the productivity of the world’s farmers.”


Niebur stressed that for global science and talent to be fully used, transparent and science-based policies and regulations must be in place on a global scale to ensure more efficient adoption of new products and technologies and increase access to safe, nutritious food.


Global Science, Scale and Talent
“Historically, increases in agricultural productivity have been achieved by inventing and adopting new technologies and management practices in
North America and Europe, then rolling them out to other countries,” he said. “Progress has been made with this approach, but we must leverage science-based knowledge and innovation on a global scale to develop the local solutions that will help meet the increased demand for grain.”


Improved genetics, advanced management practices and new technologies have helped U.S. maize growers increase average corn yields 40 percent in the last 20 years – reaching 154 bushels per acre in 2008. However, maize yields in many parts of the world lag far behind the United States. In China and Brazil, the world’s second and third largest maize markets, average maize yields are 50 percent and 38 percent of average U.S. yields respectively. Meanwhile, standards of living continue to improve and populations continue to increase, creating even greater demand for grain and protein.


“Global science networks are essential to delivering the needed productivity increases to meet demand,” said Niebur. “We are combining our expertise and resources with scientists from some of the best public institutions around the world to address issues facing farmers globally.”


Through complex trait improvement, DuPont business Pioneer Hi-Bred is working to solve growing global challenges related to temperature, wind, water and nutrients, as well as insects, diseases and weeds. Further, they are seeking to enhance output traits such as protein, starch, oil, fiber and nutritional content.


Niebur explained that thanks to its global research efforts, Pioneer is on track to increase corn and soybean yields by 40 percent by 2018, more than doubling the annual rate of gain. “These productivity gains will be generated by scientists from our global network of research facilities who are working with public sector scientists to accelerate the product development process and identify improved traits from native species and biotechnology approaches that will enhance the performance of our products.


“The enormous benefit of a global network of talent is that there is always someone somewhere in the world thinking about and working on ways to increase agricultural productivity. Whether it’s Iowa, India, China or hundreds of other locations around the globe,



16 April 2009


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1.05  Syngenta calls for greater international collaboration to address food security challenge


Basel, Switzerland

At today’s Annual General Meeting, Syngenta Chairman Martin Taylor and CEO Mike Mack highlighted the key global challenge of ensuring food security for a rapidly growing world population. To help address this critical challenge, they called for greater international collaboration and more coherent trade and regulatory policies that support farmers in producing sufficient, affordable food and, at the same time, help conserve the planet’s limited natural resources.


“Innovation in agriculture has made an enormous contribution towards our ability to ensure food security for a world population that has tripled in the last 50 years. But population growth continues unabated and 9 billion people will populate our planet by 2050,” said Martin Taylor. “Whilst further land is still available to be cultivated, doing so would reduce biodiversity and further deplete our natural resources, resources that are already under pressure. We need to grow more food from existing resources, and as those resources are diminishing, we actually need to grow more from less.”


“This critical challenge of ensuring food security in the face of the continuing growth in demand coupled with the scarcity of natural resources means that the role of technology in agriculture has never been more important,” said Mike Mack. “At Syngenta, our contribution is to develop innovations that help to unlock the full potential of plants. The immensity of the food security challenge can only be addressed through a new form of international collaboration and a coherent policy framework that stimulates innovation and puts the right technology in the hands of growers worldwide.”



21 April 2009


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1.06  AGRA launches fund to jumpstart African seed industry


AGRA partnership to boost 20 homegrown African seed companies; Avail one million farm households with improved seed


KAMPALA, UGANDA – (2 April 2009) The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), in partnership with the African Agricultural Capital (AAC) group, today launched the African Seed Investment Fund (ASIF). Over the next five years, it will invest in at least 20 small- and medium-size seed companies in Southern and Eastern Africa, infusing equity and expertise into an industry that has languished for decades, and paving the way for raising the productivity and incomes of at least one million farm households.


“The sole purpose of ASIF is to provide high quality seeds to smallholder African farmers, thereby improving income and quality of life,” said Dr. Namanga Ngongi, President of AGRA. “Direct investment in local seed companies will allow African enterprises, working with local public crop breeders and local farmers, to seed prosperity.”


ASIF is the first fund of its kind: African-owned and targeted specifically at promoting the growth of small- and medium-sized African seed companies through long-term loans provided at below-market rates. ASIF will thus fill a critical funding gap in African agricultural development—financing for its seriously underdeveloped and undercapitalized seed sector.


Across Southern and Eastern Africa there are over 50 small- and medium-sized African seed companies, compared to hundreds that operate in Europe or in the United States. To help fill this gap, ASIF will operate in eight countries--Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia.


Having more than doubled in four years, sales revenues of African seed companies stood at about US$2.5 million in 2006. Yet, in Eastern and Southern Africa alone, only about one-third of maize – the region’s largest staple food crop – is produced from improved varieties. And African seed comprises only a fraction of the global seed market, estimated at US$30 billion.


“While recent growth of the African seed sector demonstrates the high demand for good quality seed, it falls far short of meeting that demand,” said Josephine Okot, Managing Director of Victoria Seeds Ltd in Uganda. “Our women’s collectives are working hard to grow good seed for distribution.”


Okot’s company contracts with some 200 growers, most of whom are women’s groups, to produce high quality seed of a range of crops that includes such staples as maize, rice, sorghum and groundnut. Companies like Ms. Okot’s stand poised to benefit from the new fund.


The lack of a robust African seed industry has left these farmers with few choices. Smallholder farmers—who grow most of the food consumed in Africa—can neither afford nor access high-yielding quality seed varieties of their staple food crops. Whereas improved seed has been responsible for more than half of global yield increases, African smallholder farmers must rely on saved seed whose quality has deteriorated over time, producing the world’s lowest cereal yields and ensuring chronic hunger and malnutrition.


“Yet, Africa’s plant breeders have begun developing high yielding, locally-adapted seed that would enable farmers to double or triple their yields,” said Joseph DeVries, director of AGRA’s Seeds Programme. “We now need a vibrant seed sector that gets these varieties to farmers. ASIF will enable this--it is venture capital for Africa’s seed entrepreneurs.”


The AGRA-AAC partnership aims to jumpstart a well-capitalised, competitive and efficient regional seed industry; with commercial incentive to produce, distribute and market improved seed varieties that meet farmers’ demands.


“Until recently, only well-off, large-scale farmers bought improved seed,” DeVries said. “The seed market is evolving to recognize that the real markets is at the pyramid’s base, among millions of smallholder farmers. The prices, crops and varieties marketed need to reflect that.


AGRA is an African organization that finds practical solutions across the agricultural value chain to sustainably boost smallholder farm productivity. Its investment in ASIF is part of a comprehensive approach to helping millions of small-scale farmers and their families end poverty and hunger. AAC is a diversified agri-business fund, incorporated in Uganda in 2004, with a track record of spurring the growth of pro-poor African agri-businesses.


Venture Capital for Seed Entrepreneurs

Alongside capital investment, the fund will provide business development services, including continual advice on issues like seed production, storage, and distribution and seed company management. Distributors will also be trained on the appropriate use of seeds and other inputs such as fertilizer, to ensure the most efficient, safe and environmentally sound use of all.


ASIF will implement a gender policy that works to involve women actively as entrepreneurs, workers, and smallholder farmers. Women make up the majority of Africa’s smallholder farmers and have the greatest impact on the livelihood of their families, yet face many impediments to education, training and access to finance.


In addition to its larger loans to at least 20 African seed companies, ASIF will invest in about 10 early-stage businesses with big potential, said Tom Adlam, Managing Director of AAC. These loans will range from approximately about $50,000 to $1,500,000 each. The fund overall will seek a net return of 3% on its investment.


AAC’s management of the fund will build on our successes in reaching smallholder farmers,” Adlam said. “These include working with more than one thousand farmers of organically-certified vanilla in Uganda, and an investment in Kenya’s Western Seed company which distributes hybrid maize seed that is drought-resistant and stress-tolerant.”


The drought-resistant maize varieties now reach about 200,000 farmers in Kenya, and has enabled them to significantly increase maize yields.


“African farmers need improved varieties of maize more than any other farmer in the world. Their livelihoods—their very survival—depends on it,” DeVries said.


And while maize will be an important crop for the program, it will not be the only one. Companies producing seed for such staple crops as beans, cowpea, pigeonpea, rice, sorghum, millet and others will be encouraged to apply.


To qualify, companies will need to meet investment criteria in three main areas: enterprise, performance, and development criteria. The latter includes measures such as overall job creation, skills development in rural communities, and an environmentally benign footprint.


“Rather than having to chose between poor quality low-yielding seed or high-cost hybrid seed marketed by multinationals, African farmers will have another choice,” Ngongi said. “We can foresee the day when dozens, if not hundreds, of small- and medium-sized African seed companies are working across the region with local, public sector breeders to get low-cost, high-quality seed to farmers from Ethiopia to Mozambique.


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1.07  Drought-Tolerant Maize for Africa Initiative demonstrates a joint commitment to protect Africa’s maize crop from drought and other threats


Sub-Saharan Africa needs concerted efforts to improve the production of maize, its most important cereal. Two Centers supported by the CGIAR — the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) — have found a way to achieve precisely that.


Their combined efforts are vital for improving and stabilizing Africa’s maize production in an era of food price volatility and emerging climate change. Drought, which is expected to become more frequent and severe with climate change, already reduces maize yields by an average of 15% annually, amounting to about US$200 million worth of lost grain. Recent droughts in eastern and southern Africa have been particularly disastrous.


Maize is a highly diverse crop, ensuring ample scope for genetically enhancing its tolerance to drought through breeding techniques designed specifically for this purpose. CIMMYT and IITA work with national partners to adapt and apply such techniques in Africa. As a result, more than 50 new drought-tolerant varieties and hybrids have been developed and released for dissemination by private seed companies, national agencies and nongovernmental organizations. African farmers now grow many of those varieties, which yield 20-50% more than others under drought, on hundreds of thousands of hectares.


To build on this success, CIMMYT and IITA now focus their collaborative efforts on the Drought-Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) Initiative. By significantly scaling up current efforts through more intensive collaboration, the DTMA Initiative expects to provide over the next decade 30-40 million farmers with improved maize varieties that will help to boost maize productivity on small farms by 20-30%. It is working in 13 African countries where maize is particularly important, with support from Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ, its acronym in German), Howard G. Buffett Foundation, Hermann Eiselen, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Rockefeller Foundation, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), and US Agency for International Development (USAID).


“From a biological point of view, there is no limit to building even stronger drought tolerance into maize varieties that are well adapted to the conditions of Africa’s small farmers,” says Marianne Bänziger, the director of CIMMYT’s Global Maize Program. “Moreover, a much larger number of farmers could benefit from the tolerant varieties already available if seed and information were made available to them.”


For many years, CIMMYT and IITA tended to divide their responsibilities for maize research in Africa geographically, with CIMMYT working in eastern and southern Africa and IITA focusing on West Africa, explains Paula Bramel, IITA’s deputy director general in charge of research for development.


“The big advantage of the DTMA Initiative,” she says, “is that bringing together the complementary strengths and research products of the two Centers, in an effort that spans the continent, enables national public and private partners to tap into and benefit from a much broader base of improved germplasm, knowledge and expertise.”


CIMMYT and IITA bring to the project considerable strengths derived from decades of maize research in diverse agroecologies.


IITA has amassed a strong record of achievement in combating biotic constraints. Starting in the 1970s, it successfully thwarted outbreaks of the maize streak virus in the moist savanna region of West Africa, an achievement for which it received the King Baudouin Award in 1986. More recently, IITA researchers have registered important gains against parasitic weeds of the genus Striga, also called witchweed. The single most important biotic constraint of cereal crops in Africa, Striga causes especially severe damage to maize yields in the savannas of coastal and central sub-Saharan Africa. Two newly released varieties — Sammaz 15 and 16, developed in collaboration with Nigeria’s Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) — show high yields, with only minor losses to the weeds, even under extreme infestation.


CIMMYT has built up particular strength in coping with abiotic constraints through 30 years of research on drought tolerance in maize, work for which the Center received the King Baudouin Award in 2006. CIMMYT safeguards the world’s largest collection of maize genetic resources, in which both IITA and CIMMYT scientists search for new sources of drought tolerance and other valuable traits.


Through the DTMA Initiative, CIMMYT and IITA have created a platform for working more efficiently on drought tolerance, as well as for collaborative research on other problems in maize production, such as Striga.


“How well we combine our strengths and play shared roles — in capacity strengthening, for example — is ultimately a question of our commitment to the partnership and to increasing development impact,” says Bramel.


Source: CGIAR newsletter, April 2009 via

April, 2009


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1.08 Groundbreaking pigeonpea hybrid developed in India and embraced by farmers there promises to revolutionize pigeonpea production in China


The world’s first commercial hybrid of pigeonpea (called “red gram” in India) is now taking root in China, after winning the hearts of seed producers and farmers in India. The hybrid was developed by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) using cytoplasmic-nuclear male sterility (CMS) technology.


The first pilot program for hybrid seed production is being undertaken by a farmers’ organization in Yuanmou County, in the southwestern province of Yunnan.


China's first field training course on hybrid pigeonpea seed production, held in Yunnan.


Pigeonpea is grown in southern China mainly to conserve soil on 150,000 hectares of sloping land. Hybrids perform better than conventional cultivars by virtue of their fast canopy development, greater biomass production and strong root system. Pigeonpea hybrids are notable not only for their 30-40% yield advantage over pure line cultivars, they also resist major yield-reducing stresses such as drought, soil-borne diseases, water-logging and soil salinity.


According to William Dar, director general of ICRISAT, China’s interest in promoting ICRISAT’s hybrid pigeonpea is an indication of the benefits that the new hybrid has over existing pigeonpea varieties. “I am confident that the revolution we started in India with hybrid pigeonpea will soon spread to different parts of the world,” he said.


Store owned by a farmer association selling processed pigeonpea products in Yunnan, China.


The Research Institute of Resource Insects (RIRI) in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province, is spearheading the introduction of CMS technology for hybrid pigeonpea development in China jointly with the directorates of forestry and of science and technology, as well as the Yuanmou Pigeonpea Farmers’ Association.


Scientists from RIRI and the members of the Yuanmou Pigeonpea Farmers’ Association are organizing a field-based training program on mass hybrid seed production. The Chinese seed producers are also exploring the possibility of exporting hybrid seed to neighboring Myanmar.


The countries other than China where pigeonpea hybrid technology will be introduced shortly are Brazil, Malawi, Myanmar and Tanzania.


ICRISAT announced the launch of world’s first commercial CMS-based pigeonpea hybrid in July 2008, in collaboration with a private seed company partner, Pravardhan Seeds, which launched ICRISAT’s hybrid ICPH-2671 under the name Pushkal.


Hybrid production requires a female plant in which no viable pollen grains are borne. The expensive and labor-intensive method of producing these male-sterile plants, which do not have functional male sex organs, is to remove the male anthers from the flowers. The simple, more productive way to establish a female line for hybrid seed production is to identify or create a line that is unable to produce viable pollen. This male-sterile line is therefore unable to self-pollinate, and seed formation depends upon pollen from another, male-fertile line. This union produces progeny that perform better than either parent because of heterosis, or hybrid vigor. Through CMS technology, the genes for male sterility are transmitted through the cytoplasm, or cell fluid, such that the entire progeny lacks functional anthers.


In India, ICRISAT developed the CMS-based hybrid technology for pigeonpea in collaboration with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). It has worked over the past 2 years with private companies to develop seeds for the market.


Source: CGIAR newsletter, April 2009 via

April 2009  


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1.09  New public-private partnership for hybrid rice in India


The Indian Institute of Agricultural Research (IARI), a flagship research institute of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), has developed a very effective public-private-partnership model for promotion of hybrid rice in India. IARI, Indian Foundation Seeds and Services association (IFSSA), and Barwale Foundation had earlier signed a memorandum of agreement (MoA) for seed multiplication of parental lines of Pusa RH 10, the first super fine grain aromatic rice hybrid developed by IARI. In addition to IFSSA, IARI also signed a memorandum of understanding with 18 other seed companies to produce hybrid seed of Pusa RH 10. The partnership with IFSSA helped the area under Pusa RH 10 to reach nearly 0.5 million ha during Kharif (crop) season 2008.


Dr. B. R. Barwale, Chairman of IFSSA and Barwale Foundation, handed over a payment of Rs. 34.62 lakhs to Dr. S. A. Patil, Director, IARI, New Delhi from the sale of parental lines of Pusa RH 10. The function was graced by Dr. Mangala Rai, ICAR Director General, ICAR, who noted the effective public-private partnership leading to promotion of hybrid rice technology, a key to sustainable food security.


For more information about this public private partnership model, contact Dr. A.K. Singh of IARI at, and Dr. Dinesh Joshi of IFSSA and Barwale Foundation at


Source: CropBiotech Update via
17 April 2009


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1.10  Local Markets, Local Varieties: Rising Food Prices and Small Farmers' Access to Seed


April 14, 2009

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) Issue Brief No. 59

Local Markets, Local Varieties: Rising Food Prices and Small Farmers' Access to Seed

Melinda Smale, Marc J. Cohen, and Latha Nagarajan

February 2009


There are no easy solutions to the ongoing food price crisis. Maize and wheat prices doubled between 2003 and 2008, and the price of rice doubled in the first four months of 2008, rising 33 percent in a single day. Even with declines in food prices later in 2008, prices remain well above 2000–2005 levels. To address the complex causes of this phenomenon, IFPRI has recommended a combination of “emergency” and “resilience” actions. One of the proposed policies emphasizes the need to boost agricultural production. This “emergency” agriculture package requires carefully targeted subsidies to ensure increases in production of major foodcrops (rice, wheat, and maize) in favorable environments with good soils, moisture, and market infrastructure. Following the Green Revolution model, delivery of improved varieties of seed, fertilizers, and other inputs, along with targeted, short-term subsidies, would augment production through higher yields rather than area expansion, so that scarce land can be reserved for other crops and uses.


As part of the “resilience” package, IFPRI proposes scaled-up investment in agricultural growth to bolster production responses over the longer term. Until recently, public complacency regarding food abundance has contributed to a prolonged decline in agricultural investment by aid donors and developing-country governments.


In-depth field research—undertaken by IFPRI with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and other partners in India, Kenya, and Mali—brings to light new evidence about farmers’ access to seed and the role of village markets in supplying it, with a focus on semi-arid environments. The findings point to several policy options aimed at improving the effectiveness of these markets, which can be crucial for reducing the potential negative impacts of high food prices. Such options might be considered in tandem with those recommended for more favorable environments, where seed systems already function more effectively. This brief introduces the issues that drove this research project, relevant concepts, and methods. The accompanying briefs present findings of specific country case studies.






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1.11  "Scuba rice" that can survive more than two weeks under water makes a splash in India and Bangladesh


Los Baños, The Philippines

The latest from Rice Today, the magazine of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).


“Scuba rice” that can survive more than two weeks under water can now be planted by farmers to improve rice yields on flood prone land in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh where the variety Swarna-Sub1 has been officially approved, and the word is other states will follow suit soon.


Rice Today’s April-June 2009 edition features the remarkable development of the submergence-tolerant rice that has been warmly accepted by farmers in India and Bangladesh, whose flood prone land could previously not be used for reliable rice production.


Rice Today also explores the other end of the rice growing spectrum, drought. A new partnership between donors, research agencies, and communities seeks to develop drought tolerant rice for rice growers in Africa, now dubbed as the new frontier of rice production.


Following up on his last article that revealed the causes of the 2008 rice price crisis and proposed ways to prevent future rice price hikes, IRRI’s Dr. Samarendu Mohanty delves deeper into the rice market to look at rice trading, food security politics, and nontraditional rice-growing areas to identify ways to increase rice supply and food security.


In India, a remarkable farmer, Sardar Jagjit Singh Hara, shares his achievements after receiving an “exceptional farmer” award from IRRI 25 years ago. Moreover, other leading Indian farmers relate how they benefited from the Rice-Wheat Consortium’s practical advice on improving management practices to reduce rice production costs.


In neighboring Bangladesh, rice farmers also experience the benefits of applying practical research solutions such as adopting shorter duration rice varieties, direct seeding, and weed control to help overcome monga, the hunger months.



14 April 2009


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1.12 Novel upland rice variety bred using marker-assisted selection and client-oriented breeding released in Jharkhand, India


A novel upland rice variety, Birsa Vikas Dhan 111 (PY 84), has recently been released in the Indian state of Jharkhand.  It was bred using marker-assisted backcrossing with selection for multiple quantitative trait loci (QTL) for improved root growth to improve its performance under drought conditions.  It is an early maturing, drought tolerant and high yielding variety with good grain quality suitable for the direct seeded uplands and transplanted medium lands of Eastern India.


It is the first example of a rice variety bred through the combined use of marker-assisted selection and client-oriented breeding, and a rare success story for the use of marker-assisted selection to improve a quantitative trait. It out-yields the recurrent parent by 10% under rainfed conditions.


The variety was developed in a collaborative partnership between CAZS Natural Resources, Bangor University, UK; Gramin Vikas Trust, Ranchi, Jharkhand, India and Birsa Agricultural University (BAU), Ranchi, Jharkhand, India.  The target QTL were first identified by Adam Price (now at Aberdeen University, UK) and Birgitte Courtois (CIRAD, France /IRRI, Philippines).


Three genomic regions carrying root growth QTL on chromosomes 2 (root length), 9 (root thickness) and 11 (root penetration) were transferred from the donor Philippines variety Azucena into the recurrent parent Kalinga III.  Selected backcrossed lines were crossed to pyramid the QTL.  Selection was made in early generations using RFLPs and in later generations using microsatellite markers flanking QTL on chromosomes 2 (RM221-RM213), 9 (RM242-RM201) and 11 (RM229-RM206). The maximum length of an introgressed region was 40 cm on chromosome 2.  Background selection was made for Kalinga III alleles on target chromosomes but it was not complete across all other chromosomes.


Selection for phenotypic performance was made in the target environment of farmers’ fields in Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal from 2001 and in low-fertility soil of GVT-BAU Research Farm, Ranchi.


The release of Birsa Vikas Dhan 111 has paved the way for certified seed production in the state of Jharkhand.


Jharkhand has a population of over 21 million people of whom 44% live in poverty. Rice is the staple food. About 46% of rice land is classified as rainfed upland where rice is grown by the small, resource-poor farmers (most have less than 2 ha of land) who are primarily dependent on agriculture and migrant work. Low and erratic rainfall cause frequent droughts across the region.


Contributed by Katherine Steele, CAZS Natural Resources, Bangor University (


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1.13  There is more to learn from ‘bad plants’ in breeding programmes than one might think


Wageningen, The Netherlands

Plants hide their variations

There is more to learn from ‘bad plants’ in breeding programmes than one might think. New research into Aradopsis (thale cress) shows that many genotypic variations cannot be seen in the appearance of the plant – the phenotype – because the effects of the variation gradually die out. In addition to this buffering, scientists have proven the existence of crucial clusters of genes. As mutations in one of these so-called hotspots have a direct effect on the plant’s performance, phenotyping of plants using techniques like metabolomics, proteomics and in vivo imaging, is the future.


The DNA of two Arabidopsis lines, one from the Cape Verde Islands and one from Poland, differs in no less than 500,000 locations. Scientists from Wageningen and Groningen discovered, however, that the appearance and molecular differences between the offspring of a cross-breed of these lines could be traced back to just six hotspots – important clusters in the DNA. The remaining differences were on stand-by.


“The further 'the distance' between a process and the DNA, the less variation there is,” says Joost Keurentjes, scientist from the Genetics and the Plant Physiology group at Wageningen University. “The variations gradually die out and lose their function.” Additionally, DNA analyses showed that this dying out occurs in all phases between the genotype and the eventual phenotype.


Buffering probably develops because plants contain proteins that protect co-proteins. One of these chaperones is called the heat shock protein. If one of these proteins is switched off (such as HSP90), a greater degree of variation develops within the phenotype. “These guards apparently mask the variations in the protein, and proteins that are slightly changed continue to function in the same way. The chaperone is turned off in stress, i.e. a shift away from ideal conditions.” According to Keurentjes, buffering variations is in accordance with ‘Darwinian logic’. “If all genetic variations were immediately expressed a plant would be doomed as its surroundings remain pretty much the same. It is in different circumstances that differences emerge. This mechanism allows an organism to accumulate mutations during favourable conditions that only become effective once the conditions change.”


Chain reaction
The hotspots causing the phenotypic differences discovered by Keurentjes and his colleagues are the vulnerable spots in plant systems. “While most mutations have no effect on a plant’s performance, changes in a few critical spots can cause a chain reaction.” The hotspots depend on plant stage, genetic background and the environment in which the plants grow. In the studied cross-breed, a blue light receptor that influences flowering time was situated in a hotspot, for example. Moreover, a great deal could be traced back to the erecta locus: When mutations occur in this spot on the chromosome, it is not just the plant itself that is smaller but all elements. “This affects various processes such as cell and plant size,” adds Keurentjes. “A mutation can result in a completely different plant.” A third hotspot is known to be important to the metabolic system, determining aspects such as energy management and, therefore, day and night rhythm.


This is the first time that the existence of hotspots and gene buffering has been so clearly shown, underlines Wageningen University Professor of Plant Breeding Richard Visser. “Although it was already known that characteristics can be linked, this knowledge opens up the possibilities of actually using this fact.” It shows that it is possible to search more specifically for pieces of DNA that are involved in multiple plant processes, and that it is important to be alert when cross-breeding a characteristic determined within one of these hotspots. “It is costly to map all hotspots of all plants,” adds Visser. “However, we are taking a similar approach using tomatoes, which we are studying for fruit and flavour at the Centre for Biosystems Genomics. It would be interesting to find the hotspot for flavour.” 


The right direction
According to Visser, research into thale cress also shows that breeders should be focussing more on the bad plants in their programmes. “Around 95 percent of all plants are discarded in the first round. As a result breeders are throwing away information that could have helped steering the process towards a better variety.”


Visser also sees possibilities in searching for plants that provide a peak yield under good and less optimal conditions, whereby wild varieties should definitely be included. “The future lies in phenotyping as many different genotypes or varieties as possible. We are also working on that, using varieties from around the world of crops such as potato and barley. The modern measuring methods are so accurate that you could say that the historical phenotyping will have to be entirely redone.”


Joost Keurentjes’ research was financed by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and the Centre for BioSystems Genomics (CBSG).

Yvonne de Hilster


System-wide molecular evidence for phenotypic buffering in Arabidopsis
Jingyuan Fu, Joost J.B. Keurentjes, Harro Bouwmeester, Twan America, Francel W.A. Verstappen, Jane L. Ward, Michael H. Beale, Ric C.H. de Vos, Martijn Dijkstra, Richard A. Scheltema, Frank Johannes, Maarten Koornneef, Dick Vreugdenhil, Rainer Breitling and Ritsert C. Jansen.
Genetics 41, 166-167 (2009)


Source: Wageningen University - Newsletter of the Plant Sciences Group March 2009 via

March 2009


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1.14  Coming to the market soon in the USA: genetically modified soybeans for health-conscious consumers


A new type of genetically modified soybean should be on the market sometime this year in the USA. It has a higher oleic acid content than conventional soybeans, which means that when heated, it gives off fewer harmful substances. The new soybean will be launched first in a few small, regional test markets.


"This year we hope to bring to market the first product from a genetically engineered plant designed to deliver health benefits to consumers," said Jim Borel, DuPont group vice-president, at an agricultural convention in Chicago. "It is the first GM soybean created for health-conscious consumers and for food producers active in this market segment."


The soybean, developed by the DuPont company, has a different composition of fatty acids: it contains more oleic acid – a monounsaturated fatty acid – than conventional soybeans, while at the same time having a lower level of polyunsaturated fatty acids. At high temperatures, such as when frying or roasting, part of these are transformed into trans fatty acids. These can cause high levels of bad cholesterol considered harmful to health. In the USA the trans fatty acid content must be declared on food product labels. Trans fatty acids also result from the hydrogenation process, such as when a plant oil is transformed to a spreadable fat for the making of margarine.


Because of the new GM soybean's high oleic content, oils and fats derived from it can be used at high temperatures without turning into undesirable trans fatty acids. According to Borel, the oil from the new GM soybean is comparable to palm oil or other vegetable oils.


DuPont expects to receive regulatory approval for planting the new soybean (event 305423) in the USA sometime this year. Food and feed approval has already been granted. The new high-oleic soybean will be tested first in small, regional markets. Food industry companies are to develop applicable products and test their acceptibility. DuPont is working with the agricultural trade company Bunge on the commercial launch.


An application for the authorisation of the new high-oleic soybean in the food and feed chain has also been submitted in the EU.


See also on GMO Compass:

GMO database: Soybeans


Source: GMO Compass via

1 April 2009


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1.15  GM crops and the gene giants: bad news for farmers


Kathy Jo Wetter and Hope Shand

The global North's super-sized carbon footprint has already trampled the South's farmers, most recently in the form of energy crop plantations, which have been directly responsible for deforestation and farmer evictions in some developing countries, includingIndonesia and Tanzania.


Now the world's largest seed and agrochemical corporations are stockpiling hundreds of monopoly patents on genes in crops genetically engineered to withstand the environmental stresses associated with climate change, such as drought, heat, cold, floods and saline soils.


In 2008 the Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration reported that the largest of these companies, including BASF, Bayer, DuPont, Monsanto and Syngenta, had already filed 532 patent documentson so-called 'climate ready' genes at patent offices around the world.


Beyond Europe and the United States, patent offices in major food-producing countries — including Argentina, Brazil, China, Mexico and South Africa — are also being swamped. Since last year's count, the 'Gene Giants' have filed at least 65 more patent documents related to the ability of plants to tolerate environmental stresses, as opposed to biological stresses such as pests or weeds. Monsanto, the world's largest seed company, and BASF, the world's largest chemical firm, have forged a colossal US$1.5 billion partnership to develop such crops, suggesting that the number of patent filings to date is just the beginning.


Bad news

But the huge number of patent filings does not mean that these companies have found the key to unlocking how plants withstand environmental stresses — though they may be knocking on the right door. We do not yet know how these plants will perform in the field. What is clear is that their appearance in the marketplace will increase the concentration of corporate power, drive up costs, inhibit independent research, and, most alarmingly, undermine the rights of farmers to save and exchange seeds.


There is a further danger that, as the climate crisis deepens, governments may strong-arm farmers into planting prescribed biotech seeds with traits deemed essential for adaptation. This is already happening in the United States — the government's Federal Crop Insurance Corporation gives a discount to farmers planting Monsanto's biotech maize seed because, according to data submitted by Monsanto, there is reduced risk of low yields compared to other varieties. It is common for US policies to serve as templates for developing countries, so we shouldn't be surprised to see other governments following suit.


Biotech companies insist they don't want to hamper farmers in developing countries who are struggling to eke out a living, nor do they want to take food out of the mouths of hungry people. They point to projects like the Water Efficient Maize for Africa collaboration as evidence. This brings together Monsanto and BASF among others with US$47 million in funding from charitable foundations to develop drought-resistant maize which they will give, royalty-free, to farmers in Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda.


While such projects provide good publicity for the companies involved, suspicion is warranted. At the same time that companies appear to be engaging in no-strings-attached philanthropy, industry groups such as CropLife International are campaigning hard for governments in the South to enact tougher intellectual property laws to ensure that farmers pay royalties on proprietary seeds.


Kenya, for example, recently adopted the 'Anti-Counterfeit Act', which applies to "any intellectual property right subsisting in Kenya or elsewhere in respect of protected goods". Uganda and Tanzania are following Kenya's lead to draft their own anti-counterfeiting legislation. Kenya's law explicitly criminalises violators of plant breeders' rights. Even more recently, Kenya passed a biosafety law to allow production of GM crops. The influx of costly, proprietary seeds in the marketplace and stricter intellectual property laws are no help to farmers racing to adapt crops to changing climatic conditions.


Beyond biotech

Biotech proselytisers have been preaching that only genetic engineering can beget crops that will survive climate change. On the contrary, the genetic diversity of plants and animals and the diverse knowledge and practices of farming communities are the most important resources for adapting local agriculture to a changing climate.


Farmer-led strategies for adapting to climate change — such as efforts to diversify crops and bring them to the marketplace — must be recognised, strengthened and protected by society as a whole and by governments in particular. Farming communities must be directly involved in setting priorities and strategies for adaptation. Where appropriate, scientists can work with farmers to improve conservation technologies, strengthen local breeding strategies, and assist in identifying and accessing seeds held in banks.


This may involve strengthening and expanding farmer-to-farmer networks for exchanging and enhancing crops through organisations such as La Via Campesina. It may also involve facilitating access to new sources of genetic material for farmers to experiment with breeding, and implementing Farmers' Rights under the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.


Kathy Jo Wetter is a programme manager at ETC Group (Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration) and Hope Shand is its research director.



15 April 2009


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1.16  Bioversity International urges Agriculture G8 to make better use of agricultural biodiversity


Rome, Italy
On the eve of the first ever meeting of the G8 devoted to agriculture, which opens tomorrow in Treviso, Italy, Bioversity International calls on Ministers to seize the opportunity to give greater prominence to agricultural biodiversity.


“Humanity faces great challenges: to feed a growing population and reduce hunger and malnutrition in a world that also needs to protect the environment and to address climate change,” said Emile Frison, Director General of Bioversity International. “I urge the Agriculture Ministers to ensure that agricultural biodiversity can play a greater role in ensuring real food security.”


Agricultural biodiversity comprises the different ecosystems, species and genetic variability that contribute to food production. Some components, such as livestock breeds and crop varieties, are actively managed by farmers and scientists. Others, such as soil microbes and many pollinators, provide valuable services without being actively managed. While it has been common to consider agricultural biodiversity solely as a source of traits for breeders to incorporate in advanced crop varieties and livestock breeds, Frison points out that reliance on this approach may be unsustainable.


Research over the past 70 years has achieved large increases in agricultural production and productivity that have allowed food supplies to keep pace with a growing population.


However, this success has required production methods that depend on greater use of fossil fuels and the development of high yielding uniform varieties, which together drive increasing specialization, simplification and homogenization of production systems. Continuing inputs of water, synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides and increasing uniformity of crops and livestock underpin today’s fragile food security.


Partly in response to increasing specialization, simplification and uniformity, concerns about the sustainability of modern agricultural methods are growing.


The use of a few varieties of a few crops brings with it increased vulnerability to pests and diseases. It also reduces the availability of the agricultural diversity essential for a nutritionally sound diet. The extensive use of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides damages the environment, while the financial and energy costs of these inputs can put them out of the reach of farmers, so that productivity suffers.


Climate change will have a significant impact on agricultural production. Temperature regimes, precipitation patterns and the distribution of pests and diseases will be transformed, requiring different crops and new varieties in many production systems. Climatic variability is expected to increase, calling for new approaches to maintain adaptability and provide resilience in food production systems. Some parts of the world may have to radically transform the way they produce food.


Unquestionably there is a continuing need to produce more food. However, this must be combined with improving sustainability, increasing nutritional well being and ensuring that agricultural production practices are able to adapt to climate change.


Research by Bioversity International and others has shown that the judicious use of agricultural biodiversity is a vital factor in meeting these challenges. It can reduce problems of pests and diseases, improve nutritional health, increase soil fertility, deliver other ecosystem services, and promote resilience and true food security. Diverse farms will be better able to withstand the shocks and unpredictability of climate change. Agricultural biodiversity also provides the basis to adapt to climate change, since it is from this diversity that selections better adapted to the new conditions caused by climate change will emerge.


Durable food security is needed not only in the developing world but also in the G8 countries represented at the historic meeting of G8 Ministers of Agriculture. Investment in agricultural research has been declining around the world.


Only a renewed commitment to research will ensure that production systems are able sustainably to meet the needs of the people and to respond to and mitigate the effects of climate change.


“We need to increase productivity and diversity,” said Frison. “We need intensification without simplification. I hope Ministers will embrace the challenge offered them and will take concrete action to ensure that agricultural biodiversity is enabled to play its rightful role as a key component of real food security.



17 April 2009


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1.17  Using cryopreservation to conserve crop germplasm is reliable and, contrary to popular belief, cost competitive with field genebanks


Using cryopreservation to conserve crop germplasm is reliable and, contrary to popular belief, cost competitive with field genebanks


Coffee is big business. The trade in coffee is among the world’s most valuable for an agricultural commodity, with an annual export value in excess of US$6.2 billion. Most coffee-producing countries are in the developing world, where coffee is grown predominantly by small-scale farmers who are often poor. The coffee trade is vital to their livelihoods.

The success of the crop — and of the whole industry built upon it — depends on the availability of diversity to enhance the genetic base of coffee. This diversity is needed to provide resistance to coffee berry disease, coffee rust, fusarium wilt, bacterial blight, nematodes, and major insect pests, as well as adaptation to abiotic stresses such as climate change and drought, to say nothing of the drive to enhance aroma and flavor.


In 1998, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations published a report entitled The State of the World’s Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, which noted the conservation of 21,000 accessions of coffee. All this diversity has traditionally been conserved in field genebanks, which present real security challenges. A single cyclone in Madagascar, for example, could destroy the unique field collections of Mascarocoffea species that are important because many contain little or no caffeine, traits of interest to breeders. And that is not just speculation; a cyclone did destroy the coffee collection at Ilaka Est. Fortunately, the collection was duplicated at another site on the island, Kianjavato, and only a few accessions were lost.


Across the world many field genebanks, not just for coffee, are thought to be vulnerable because of such environmental and economic factors as pests and diseases, extreme weather, fire, vandalism, lack of funds and policy changes. To ensure real security and future diversity, a new approach is needed.


One solution is cryopreservation. With this super-freezing technique, living tissues are conserved at -196ºC in liquid nitrogen to arrest the cells’ metabolic activity. While some species, such as Musa (banana and plantain), are increasingly well catered for in cryopreservation, until now there have been doubts about the practical delivery of coffee cryopreservation and whether the economics add up.


For the past 15 years or so, Bioversity International and many of its partners have invested in developing and adopting cryopreservation by researching, testing and documenting protocols; training technicians and scientists; and supporting the acquisition of equipment for cryopreservation. As part of this effort, genebank managers and cryopreservation specialists were surveyed in 2006 to assess the obstacles. One fascinating result the survey identified was a general belief that cryopreservation was expensive, even though very few studies have analyzed the actual costs or effectiveness of cryopreservation, and even fewer have gone further to compare the costs of cryopreservation with those of maintaining field genebanks.


A new study led by Ehsan Dulloo, a Bioversity scientist, compared the costs of maintaining one of the world’s largest field collections of coffee with those of establishing a coffee cryocollection at the Center for Research and Higher Learning in Tropical Agriculture (CATIE, its acronym in Spanish) in Costa Rica. The bottom line is that cryopreservation costs less in perpetuity per accession than conservation in field genebanks. And the more accessions that are cryopreserved, the lower the cost per accession.


The team’s calculations show the initial cost of establishing a cryocollection with 2,000 accessions is US$110,055, or $55 per accession. That is less than the cost of a field collection of some 1,992 accessions, which is $138,681, or $69.62 per accession. These figures are in the same cost range of $50-75 per accession that is reported by others, such as the cost to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for establishing a cryocollection of temperate fruit at Corvallis on the US west coast.


A vital partner in the work was the Institute of Research for Development (IRD) in France, Dulloo notes. The coffee cryopreservation technique was developed by IRD in the framework of joint projects with Bioversity and CATIE, and the beauty of the protocol is that it allows the cryopreservation of whole seeds.


“Most cryopreservation conserves parts of the plant, like cells or just the growing tip, and these then need to be grown into whole plants to regenerate the collection,” Dulloo explains. “Cryopreservation of whole seed makes regeneration very easy and much less expensive.”


IRD’s experience enabled the detailed cost calculations of the project. To keep those costs to a minimum in the future, the solution may be a regional or global cryopreserved collection for coffee germplasm. As demonstrated by other crops such as Musa, this would allow the costs of cryopreservation and the benefits derived from germplasm conservation to be shared among partner countries.


Source: CGIAR newsletter, April 2009 via

April 2009


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1.18  The CWR Project: protecting populations of crop wild relatives in their natural environment


Crop wild relatives (CWR) are an important and valuable source of plant genetic information for food and agriculture. They have acted as one of the world’s repositories for crop genetic diversity for millennia, providing breeders across the ages with an unlimited source of beneficial traits to improve the yields and nutritional quality of crops, and, more importantly, to help crops adapt to changing environments.


Bringing together five countries that contain some of the world’s biodiversity hotspots for CWRs - Armenia, Bolivia, Madagascar, Sri Lanka and Uzbekistan - the Crop Wild Relatives project, coordinated by Bioversity International with financing from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and implementation support from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), aims to protect populations of crop wild relatives in their natural environment ensuring they remain available as an important source of genetic diversity. At the same time, the project endeavours to undertake preliminary work on the potential use of CWR in breeding programs. To this end, national partners have established evaluation and breeding programmes with national research institutions on the following CWR: wild wheat and wild pear (Armenia); rice (Sri Lanka and Madagascar); potato, quinoa and peanut (Bolivia); and barley and pistachio (Uzbekistan).


The latest news from project partners includes evaluation studies in Armenia, where genetic diversity, salt, cold, drought tolerance and pest resistance of Triticum boeoticum accessions were assessed under in-vitro conditions using RAPD (Random Amplified Polymorphic DNA) analysis and STS (sequence tagged sites) DNA markers. Genetic diversity, cold and drought tolerance, on the other hand, are being assessed for Pyrus caucasica accessions in a project implemented by the Department of Ecology and Nature protection of Faculty of Biology of Yerevan State University. For more information contact Armen Danielyan ( In Bolivia, seventeen species of wild potato are currently being evaluated for water stress under greenhouse conditions. At the same time, ten species of wild potato from the germplasm collection of the National Gene Bank of Roots and Tubers are also being studied to determine their potential use in breeding programmes. Further research, carried out by the Fundación PROINPA, has focused on determining the roast quality of six wild quinoa accessions. For more information contact Beatriz Zapata Ferrufino ( Resistance to rice yellow mottle virus was assessed in fertile lines of rice obtained from crossing wild rice Oryza longistaminata with cultivated Oryza sativa in Madagascar, in collaboration with FOFIFA. For more information contact Jeannot Ramelison ( Evaluation studies in Sri Lanka, carried out in collaboration with the Plant Genetic Resource Centre (PGRC), focused on assessing problems and prospects of using CWR in national breeding programmes, specifically a breeding program with wild rice, Oryza nivara, and work on Rhizobia isolated from wild Vigna, which is showing promising strains. For more information contact Anura Wijesekara ( Selection programmes on barley and pistachio are being carried out in Uzbekistan, as well as programmes for the assessment of parental forms for breeding and strategies of selection. An initial attempt to set up a breeding programme for pistachio has also been completed, including the creation of a plantation from local wild forms of pistachio for further use in breeding. In addition, hybridization trials carried out at the Uzbek Research Institute of Plant Industry (UzRIPI) between 22 varieties of cultivated barley and its crop wild relative forms have produced the first hybrid seeds. For more information contact Sativaldi Djataev (


Further information can also be obtained from Danny Hunter, the Global Project Coordinator for the Crop Wild Relatives Project ( at Bioversity International and by visiting the project’s Crop Wild Relative Global Portal (


Contributed by Teresa Borelli

CWR Project – Bioversity International



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1.19  Mexico City vows to protect historic maize varieties


Mexico City has announced that it will take steps to protect more than 60 maize breeds known to grow in its territory, also known as the Mexican Altiplano.


The announcement came just days before the Mexican Government said that it would allow the experimental cultivation of genetically modified (GM) maize in other parts of the country.


The first announcement was made by Marcelo Ebrard, mayor of Mexico City, in regulations known as the 'Declaration of Protection of the Maize Breeds of the Mexico Altiplano'.


"The Altiplano is one of the centres of maize domestication," says the decree. "There the Teotihuacan, Tolteca and Mexica cultures have their splendor and contributed to the integration of Mesoamerican agriculture."


Maize is Mexico's staple food. Half of Mexico City territory is agricultural and around 3,000 hectares are cultivated with maize every year.


The declaration says that a research programme will be established with the aim of improving local maize breeds. There will also be funds to support farmers who sow only native seeds and to promote the use of organic fertiliser and pesticides. The purchase and distribution of transgenic maize in Mexico City is now banned.


Esther Orozco, director-general of the Institute of Science and Technology of Mexico City, says that genetic modification is controversial and generates opposing opinions, but Mexico City is the world's "maize capital" and it is important to take care of native species: "It is necessary to increase the research to know the real effects of the transgenic maize in crop biodiversity."


There are also plans for a germplasm bank storing samples of the Altiplano's maize seeds, she says.


"There is no way to control the arrival of transgenic maize because transnational companies are against the labelling of GM food, although in Mexico City the presence of transgenic material has not been detected yet," says Joaquin Ortiz, an agricultural researcher at the Postgraduate School in Texcoco, near Mexico City.


The declaration came just a few days before an executive decree by the president of Mexico, Felipe Calderon, that effectively lifts the country's ban on experimental cultivation of transgenic maize (March 6). Commercial planting remains banned.


"Experimental sowing with GM maize will be authorised, case by case, by SAGARPA [the Ministry of Agriculture] to those companies and research centres which ask for that, submit very detailed technical information and guarantee the binding on strict biosafety measures. The crops resulting will not be commercialised," says the decree.


Experimental sowing will be performed exclusively in authorised places, outside the origin and diversity zones of traditional maize, it can be done only in some regions in the north of the country, where hybrid maize varieties are cultivated in commercial form.


Ariel Alvarez, director of the Intersecretarial Commission of Biosafety and Genetically Modified Organisms (Cibiogem), told SciDev.Net that 25 requests for experimental GM maize have been received.


"The first permission will be authorised by the end of 2009 in Sonora, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, Chihuahua and Baja California, states of the north where there aren't native corns," Fabrice Salamanca, director of AgroBIO, which represents biotechnology companies, told SciDev.Net.

by Arturo Barba,


Source: SciDev.Net via

3 April 2009


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1.20  China breeds rapeseed varieties with record high oil content


Chinese scientists announced Thursday that they have bred rapeseeds with a record high oil content up to 60 percent, which experts said is a "
major breakthrough" to increase the country's cooking oil output and farmers' income.


The 20 new rapeseed species, with an oil content of 55 to 60 percent, have been planted on a trial basis in six Chinese localities including Tibet, Xinjiang, Qinghai, Gansu, Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang since last year, said Prof. Fu Tingdong, a renowned botanist from Huazhong Agricultural University in Wuhan.


Fu and a group of other scientists attended an academic meeting Thursday in Xi'an, capital of northwestern Shaanxi Province, to evaluate the new seeds, cultivated by researcher Li Dianrong, a renowned hybrid rape specialist based in Xi'an.


The seeds, crossbred from existing oil-rich rapeseed species, contain 12 to 17 percent more oil than the previous generation, said Li.


Lab analysis found two of the seeds, harvested in the northwestern Gansu Province, contained 60 percent oil, he said. "Most of the other seeds contained 55 percent."


The new seeds are expected to raise China's per hectare vegetable oil output by nearly 30 percent, he said.


"That's equivalent to an additional 2 million hectares of rapeseed harvest," Li said.


China relies on import for about 60 percent of all its cooking oil consumption. Forty percent of domestic cooking


Source: Xinhua via

17 April 2009


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1.21  Pakistan's Central Cotton Research Institute (CCRI) fails to produce virus-free cotton variety


Multan, Pakistan
All of the cotton varieties in Pakistan have come under the threat of virus, a warning that had been launched by the Central Cotton Research Institute (CCRI) in the market after years of research. The CCRI
's 15-year long claims of producing virus free cotton have proved to be false, as only last year cotton crops spread over thousands of acres in about 53 tehsils were destroyed due to massive virus attack.


This year a record decline in the sale of seeds of CCRI is observed and farmers have also plainly refused to sow the seeds of the Institute. According to the sources, the CCRI is the largest department of the country to produce highest number of cotton varieties.


Out of the 15 approved varieties of cotton by the government, seven are of Multan including IM 543, CIM 496, CIM 506, CIM 446, CIM 499, CIM 473 and CIM 707. However, mealy bug and leaf curl virus, are posing severe threat to these varieties, a reason that made the farmers reluctant to cultivate these varieties of the CCRI. The Federal government has spent billions of rupees on research centres, but still the CCRI has failed to produce virus free variety even on its experimental farms situated at the CCRI fields.


Due to these harsh facts, Pakistan is unable to achieve its cotton target from the last three years. Our textile sector has compelled to import cotton worth billions of rupees from India, while the neighbour has succeeded in achieving 10 times more cotton production because its government has legally accepted BT cotton and included the variety in research.


The cultivation of cotton has started in Pakistan and it is feared that the attack of leaf curl virus would be more intense this season than the last year.


Source: Pakistan Biotechnology Information Center (PABIC) via

20 April 2009


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1.22  USDA/ARS develops new russet potato germplasm line resistant to Columbia root-knot nematodes


Washington, DC
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
By Jan Suszkiw

A new russet potato germplasm line developed by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists and collaborators could help cut the cost of using chemical fumigants to fight Columbia root-knot nematodes (CRN).


The wormlike pests are problematic in the Pacific Northwest, where two-thirds of America's potatoes are grown, as well as in Florida. Although fumigating the soil before planting time diminishes the pest's numbers, the practice isn't cheap, with some chemicals costing $300 per acre. Beneficial, soil-dwelling insects can also be harmed, according to geneticist Chuck Brown, with the ARS Vegetable and Forage Crops Research Unit in Prosser, Wash.


Thanks to genetic resistance, the new russet potato, PA99N82-4, offers a way to naturally protect the roots and tubers against nematode feeding. Putting that resistance to work hasn't been easy, though.


Brown and colleagues conducted painstaking screening of material from Solanum bulbocastanum and other wild species kept at the ARS U.S. Potato Genebank in Sturgeon Bay, Wis. Because wild and cultivated potatoes are chromosomally incompatible, the researchers resorted to bridging, a technique that fused S. bulbocastanum and domesticated potato cells together, which forced the DNA of both to combine. The cells were then stimulated to become plantlets. Later, "backcrossing" was used to eliminate unwanted traits (like tiny tubers and poor taste) from CRN-resistant plants that the researchers had created.


They also used DNA marker technology to identify plants harboring the S. bulbocastanum gene for resistance, namely RMc1(blb). Normally, resistance levels are determined by inoculating potted plants with nematodes, waiting seven weeks and removing and washing the roots so the pests' eggs can be counted. Use of DNA marker streamlines this process and identifies resistant plants in one day, according to Brown.


PA99N82-4 will undergo two more years of field-testing before it is released for use in developing commercial varieties.


Read more about the research in the April 2009 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

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



17 April 2009


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1.23  Researchers examine bacterial rice diseases, search for genetic solutions


Ames, Iowa

As a major food source for much of the world, rice is one of the most important plants on earth.


Keeping it safe from disease has become, in part, the task of a group of three researchers from Iowa State University and one from Kansas State University.


The researchers are looking at two bacterial diseases of rice. The most costly is bacterial blight of rice, which is caused by a bacterium called Xanthomonas oryzae pathovar oryzae, and can diminish yield by up to 50 percent.


"This is the most important bacterial disease in rice, and in some areas, it is the most important rice disease of any kind," said Adam Bogdanove, an associate professor of plant pathology who is part of the ISU research team.


The team is also studying bacterial leaf streak of rice caused by the closely related bacterium Xanthomonas oryzae pathovar oryzicola. Bacterial leaf streak is usually not as damaging as bacterial blight, but it is increasing in importance in many areas of the world, particularly Southeast Asia.


These bacteria damage rice by entering the plant and taking control of certain rice cell processes, eventually killing the rice cells. Pathovar oryzae does this in the vascular system of the plant, which typically allows the bacterium to spread faster and cause more damage than is its cousin, oryzicola, which is limited to growth in the tissue between the veins.


Some types of rice are naturally resistant to the Xanthomonas bacteria. Bogdanove and other researchers -- Bing Yang, Iowa State assistant professor of genetics development and cell biology; Dan Nettleton, Iowa State professor of statistics; and Frank White, principal investigator and professor of plant pathology at Kansas State University, Manhattan -- are researching why some types of rice are naturally resistant to the bacteria.


In rice varieties that are resistant to the diseases, the team is exposing the plants to the two bacteria. They then check to see which plant genes are activated, and to what extent.


By identifying which genes are turned on, Bogdanove believes the team can identify the genes that are making the plants resistant.


"We are looking at genes of successful plants," he said. "What genes are active and when and how much they are being turned on."


Bogdanove hopes that this effort will aid in breeding the resistance into cultivated varieties that are currently susceptible to the diseases.


Another aspect of the research is aimed at discovering how the bacteria change gene expression in susceptible rice plants.


"If we understand which genes are being manipulated by the pathogens in disease, we can look into different varieties and wild relatives of rice for variants of these genes that are immune to manipulation and bring these genes into cultivated varieties," said Bogdanove. "The idea is to reduce or eliminate susceptibility altogether."


Rice is the major food staple for more than half the world's population. In the United States, rice is planted on almost 3 million acres with yields of around 7,000 pounds per acre in 2007, according the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


American producers grow 95 percent of the rice eaten in this country and the United States is a major exporter as well, according to Bogdanove.


In addition to the benefits to rice, the research should be helpful in understanding and controlling diseases in other cereal crops.


"Rice is a model plant for cereal biology," said Bogdanove.


Funding for the project comes from the National Science Foundation through Kansas State University, the lead institution on the project. Of the $3 million award for the project, $2 million is going to Iowa State.



1 April 2009


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1.24  Scientists develop root nematode resistant potato


The United States Department of Agriculture's Agriculture Research Service (ARS) has developed a new potato line resistant to the Columbia root-knot nematode (CRN), a microscopic worm that has the potential to cause the US potato industry some USD 40 million annually. The nematodes, which thrive in the Pacific Northwest and other major potato growing regions in the US, are usually controlled by applying chemical fumigants. Control of CRN using chemicals is effective, but very expensive. It is estimated that US potato growers spend USD 20 million annually to control the pest.


The CRN resistance trait was obtained from a wild potato relative, Solanum bulbocastanum. But since wild and domesticated potatoes are chromosomally incompatible, that is they can't breed to produce viable offspring, the scientists resorted to protoplast fusion. The researchers fused S. bulbocastanum and domesticated potato cells together and backcrossing was used to remove unwanted traits. Marker genes linked to the RMc1 resistance gene from wild potato were used to determine resistance levels in resulting hybrids.


The new variety will still undergo field-testing for two years before it can be commercialized.


Read the complete news article at



Source: Crop Biotech Update

24 April 2009


Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics

Cornell University


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1.25  ARS develops bacterial leaf spot resistant iceberg lettuce


A new breeding line of lettuce has been released for planting by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists. Limited samples of the seven new varieties of Iceberg lettuce is now provided by the ARS Crop Improvement and Protection Unit in Salinas, California to be tested for commercial use. This new breed is resistant to bacterial leaf spot (BLS), a common disease of lettuce in California that is caused by the pathogen Xanthomonas campestris. The pathogen produces black spot on lettuce leaves which will eventually merge and create dark, papery patches on the base of the plant. Sprays against the disease would not be a good option because it increases production cost.


ARS geneticist Ryan Hayes said, "Creating disease-resistant breeding lines is the most efficient and cost-effective tool to manage BLS in lettuce."


For further reading, see



Source: Crop Biotech Update

24 April 2009


Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics

Cornell University


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1.26  Vivek QPM 9 - an early maturing QPM maize hybrid for India


Maize (Zea mays L.) is an important food and feed crop of the world. It ranks fifth in acreage and third in production. It is one of the major sources of calorie and protein. However, it is deficient in essential amino acids viz., lysine and tryptophan. Quality protein maize (QPM) with opaque-2 gene along with associated modifiers contains twice as much lysine and tryptophan and 30% less leucine than the normal maize. The reduced level of zein further improves the nutritional quality of the QPM.


At the Indian Center for Agricultural Research, molecular marker-assisted breeding was used to improve the protein quality of Vivek Hybrid 9. Vivek QPM 9 was developed and was found to yield at par with the parent hybrid in the Himalayan states (58 q/ha) as well as in peninsular India (54 q/ha), under the All India Coordinated Maize Improvement Project (AICRP on Maize) during 2005 and 2007. In addition, it possesses all the good quality of Vivek Hybrid 9 with added advantages of 30% higher lysine and 44% more tryptophan. Better quality of protein in QPM is expected to help in reducing protein malnutrition among rural masses.


The article "Quality Protein Maize for Nutritional Security: Rapid Development of Short Duration Hybrids through Molecular Marker Assisted Breeding" by H. S. Gupta and colleagues was published by Current Science. It is available for download at>

 Additional information may be obtained from co-author Dr. P.K.Agrawal at


Source: Crop Biotech Update

24 April 2009


Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics

Cornell University


(Return to Contents)




1.27  Wageningen UR and KeyGene to develop a superior genome physical map of potato


Wageningen, The Netherlands
The Plant Sciences department of Wageningen UR will apply KeyGene’s ‘Whole Genome Profiling’technology to construct a high quality physical map of potato. The physical map is a powerful tool for Wageningen UR to develop a superior genome sequence assembly for potato together with the Potato Genome Sequencing Consortium.


The Whole Genome Profiling (WGP) technology delivers an excellent framework for the assembly of entire genomes. Because the technology is sequence-based, the WGP framework can be used to establish a high quality genome sequence.


Potato is the fourth most important food crop in the world with a current annual global production of 300 million tones of which 80% is grown in Asia and Europe. Wageningen UR is the coordinator of the international Potato Genome Sequencing Consortium. Its primary objective is to elucidate the complete DNA sequence of the potato genome (850 Mbp) by the end of 2010. The project is coordinated by Prof. Dr. Richard Visser, chair of Plant Breeding, at the dept. of Plant Sciences, WUR. Application of the newest technologies for sequencing and physical mapping is crucial for reaching this goal. By sequencing the complete potato genome, reaching the world's food future needs will be a step closer.


Christian Bachem, project leader at Wageningen UR, “Especially in a complex crop like potato the quality of the physical map will determine the quality of the sequence of the complete potato genome”. He adds: “The collaboration with KeyGene will help us to reach our objectives faster and deliver a high quality genome sequence that will form the basis for future potato research”.


Edwin van der Vossen – head of KeyGene’s Field Crop unit: “We have demonstrated the performance and value of Whole Genome Profiling in several vegetable crops with genome sizes ranging from 450 – 2,600 Mbp. We are pleased that the long term collaboration between the Wageningen UR Plant Sciences department and KeyGene now allows us to apply our Whole Genome Profiling technology to potato”.


15 April 2009


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1.28  Monsanto Company and Hunan University enter into research collaboration to source novel genes for crop improvement


St. Louis, Missouri and Changsha, China

Monsanto Company (NYSE: MON) and Hunan University today announced that they have entered into a four-year research and licensing agreement focused on identifying novel plant genes with attributes such as higher yield, drought resistance and enhanced nitrogen utilization.

With the increasing global demand for food, fuel and fiber, the need to use the best technologies to grow more crops on each acre of farmland is a high priority for both the public and private sectors. The research program at
Hunan University will employ novel tools and methods to systematically study the function of genes that could have broad applications in major field crops.


Monsanto is committed to collaborating with scientific communities in China and around the world to find ways in which agriculture can meet the demands of a growing world population, said Steve Padgette, vice president of biotechnology for Monsanto.


“We have been impressed with the resources and intellectual capabilities at Hunan University, particularly with the support from the university administration and the scientific expertise they bring to this collaboration,” Padgette said. “With the best resources from both parties combined, we expect the project to produce not only first rate science, but also potential discoveries for future products that could benefit farmers and consumers worldwide.”


The collaboration will further support the company’s commitment to double yields in our core crops by 2030, reduce by one-third key inputs such as water and nitrogen, and help improve farmers’ lives, Padgette said.


“We are excited to form this relationship with Monsanto, the leading agriculture company in the world,” said Keli Liu, Party secretary general of Hunan University. “This provides an excellent opportunity for our scientists to interact with their peers at Monsanto, and develop internal capabilities for future scientific discoveries and product development. We look forward to a fruitful collaboration.”


3 April 2009


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1.29  Plant gene mapping may lead to better biofuel production


Upton, New York
By creating a “family tree” of genes expressed in one form of woody plant and a less woody, herbaceous species, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory have uncovered clues that may help them engineer plants more amenable to biofuel production. The study, published in the April 2009 issue of Plant Molecular Biology, also lays a foundation for understanding these genes’ evolutionary and structural properties and for a broader exploration of their roles in plant life.


“We are studying a very large family of genes that instruct cells to make a variety of enzymes important in a wide range of plant functions,” said Brookhaven biologist Chang-Jun Liu (photo). By searching the genomes of woody Poplar trees and leafy Arabidopsis, the scientists identified 94 and 61 genes they suspected belonged to this family in those two species, respectively. They then looked at how the genes were expressed — activated to make their enzyme products — in different parts of the plants. Of particular interest to Liu’s group were a number of genes expressed at high levels in the woody plant tissues.


“Wood and other biofibers made of plant cell walls are the most abundant feedstocks for biofuel production,” explained Liu. “One of the first steps of biofuel production is to break down these biofibers, or digest them, to make sugar.”


But plants have strategies to inhibit being digested. For example, Liu explained, small molecules called acyl groups attached to cell-wall fibers can act as barriers to hinder conversion of the fibers to sugar. Acyl groups can also form cross-linked networks that make cell walls extra strong.


“Our long-term interest is to find the enzymes that control the formation of cell-wall-bound acyl groups, so we can learn how to modify plant cell walls to increase their digestibility,” Liu said. “The current study, a thorough investigation of an acyl-modifying enzyme family, provides a starting point for us to pursue this goal.”


In fact, some of the genes the scientists found to be expressed at high levels in woody tissues may carry the genetic instructions for making the enzymes the scientists would like to control.


“Our next step will be to use biochemical and biophysical approaches to characterize these individual genes’ functions to find those directly or indirectly related to cell-wall modification. Then we could use those genes to engineer new bioenergy crops, and test whether those changes improve the efficiency of converting biomass to biofuel,” Liu said.


Liu’s group also made some interesting observations about gene expression and gene location in their study of the acyl-modifying enzyme genes. “We discovered a few unique pairs of genes that were inversely overlapped with their neighboring genes on the genome,” Liu said. In this unique organization, the paired genes (sequences of DNA) produce protein-encoding segments (RNAs) that are complementary to one another — meaning the two RNA strands would stick to each other like highly specific Velcro. That would prevent the RNA from building its enzyme, so the expression of one gene in the pair appears to inhibit its partner.


Perhaps understanding this natural “anti-sense” regulation for gene expression will assist scientists in their attempts to regulate acyl-modifying enzyme levels.


This work was supported by the DOE-Department of Agriculture joint Plant Feedstock Genomics program and by Brookhaven’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development program. Funding was also provided by DOE’s Office of Science. In addition to Liu, Xiao-Hong Yu, a former postdoctoral research associate, and Jinying Gou, a current postdoc, contributed to this work.



10 April 2009


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1.30  International team publishes first SSR based genetic linkage map for cultivated groundnut


Cultivated peanut or groundnut (Arachis hypogaea L.) is the fourth most important oilseed crop in the world, grown mainly in tropical, subtropical and warm temperate climates. The crop production in marginal environment of Africa and Asia is seriously challenged by several biotic and abiotic stress constraints. Molecular markers and genetic maps are the prerequisites for undertaking molecular breeding to combat such abiotic/biotic stress constraints. In case of groundnut, though several hundred molecular markers (such as microsatellite or simple sequence repeat/SSR markers) have been developed and genetic maps have been developed based on mapping populations derived from diploid Arachis species or synthetic tetraploids, not a single genetic was available until recently for cultivated groundnut.

A team of scientists from the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in collaboration with colleagues from EMBRAPA/ Catholic University in Brazil, University of Georgia and Tuskegee University in USA has developed the first SSR based genetic linkage map for cultivated groundnut. This map has a total of 135 SSR loci mapped onto 22 linkage groups. The team has demonstrated the utility of this genetic map for trait mapping in cultivated groundnut and comparative mapping in legumes.

Details about this map are available in the recent paper published as an Open Access in Theoretical and Applied
Genetics at or from Rajeev Varshney


Source: CropBiotech Update via

3 April 2009


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1.31  Solicitation of input from stakeholders on the roadmap for agricultural research, education, and extension


US Department of Agriculture

Office of the Secretary

Research, Education, and Economics Office, USDA.


ACTION: Notice of public comment period for written stakeholder input.


SUMMARY: The Research, Education, and Extension Office (REEO) of the Research, Education, and Economics (REE) Mission Area of the Department of Agriculture (USDA) is requesting written stakeholder input on the preparation of a roadmap for agricultural research, education, and extension at USDA. The preparation of the Roadmap is mandated by the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act (FCEA) of 2008. By this notice, the Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics has been designated to act on behalf of the Secretary of Agriculture (Secretary) in soliciting public comment from interested parties regarding the preparation of the Roadmap.


DATES: All written comments must be received by 5 p.m. EST, May 31,

2009, to be considered.


Submit commentsto Include REE-2009-0001 in the subject line of the message.

All comments received will be posted to




Additional Comment Procedures


Background and Purpose


The preparation of the roadmap for agricultural research, education, and extension is mandated in section 7504 of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act (FCEA) of 2008, (Pub. L. 110-246, 7 U.S.C. 7614a. The Secretary, acting through the Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Education (Under Secretary), will prepare the Roadmap. The Secretary will implement and use the Roadmap to set the agricultural research, education, and extension agenda of the Department of Agriculture.    The Under Secretary is also the Chief Scientist for USDA, responsible for the coordination of the research, education, and extension activities of the Department. [7 U.S.C. 6971(c)]. The Research, Education, and Extension Office (REEO) recently organized within the Office of the Under Secretary is the office that provides such coordination, per 7 U.S.C. 6971(e)(1). Therefore the Office of the Chief Scientist and Under Secretary is inviting input on the Roadmap to be provided to the REEO by all interested parties from the Federal Government and nongovernmental entities. The Roadmap will identify current trends and constraints and major opportunities and gaps that no single entity within the Department of Agriculture would be able to address individually. Stakeholder input is encouraged on any and all aspects of the development and implementation of the Roadmap, including responses to the following questions:

    1. What types of current and future critical issues (including those affecting citizens, communities and natural resources) does agriculture face that no USDA entity could address individually?

    2. What criteria should USDA use to prioritize agricultural science (i.e., research, education, and extension) investments to address these issues?

    3. How might USDA better coordinate agricultural sciences among its various agencies and with its partners?

    4. What are some examples where agricultural sciences are successfully coordinated for maximum benefit? Why are they successful?

    5. What are some examples where agricultural sciences are not coordinated effectively? Why is coordination lacking? What are the barriers?

    6. What else might USDA do to improve coordination of science; enhance USDA's ability to identify issues and prioritize investments; and elevate its role in science implementation and coordination?


Implementation Plans

The Under Secretary and the REEO plan to consider stakeholder input received from written comments in developing the Roadmap. The Secretary will make the Roadmap available to the public, with an expected publication date of not later than September 16, 2009.


Katherine Smith,

Acting Deputy Under Secretary, Research, Education, and Economics.

 [FR Doc. E9-7252 Filed 3-31-09; 8:45 am]


Contributed by Ann Marie Thro




(Return to Contents)




1.32  Request for stakeholder input: Research, Education, and Economics Office, USDA.


SUMMARY: The Research, Education, and Extension Office (REEO) of the Research, Education, and Economics (REE) Mission Area of the Department of Agriculture (USDA) is requesting written stakeholder input on the preparation of a roadmap for agricultural research, education, and extension at USDA. The preparation of the Roadmap is mandated by the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act (FCEA) of 2008. By this notice, the Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics has been designated to act on behalf of the Secretary of Agriculture (Secretary) in soliciting public comment from interested parties regarding the

preparation of the Roadmap.


DATES: All written comments must be received by 5 p.m. EST, May 31, 2009, to be considered.


You may submit comments, identified by REE-2009-0001, by any of the following methods: Follow the instructions for submitting comments.

E-mail: Include REE-2009-0001 in the subject line of the message.


Instructions: All submissions received must include the title ``Roadmap'' and REE-2009-0001. All comments received will be posted to


Contributed by Ann Marie Thro



(Return to Contents)






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


B. Choudhary and K. Gaur. ISAAA Brief No. 38, ISAAA, Ithaca, NY, USA. 2009. 102 pp.


India's top science journal "Current Science" published by Indian Academy of Sciences (IAS) has published book review with cover page picture of Brief 38 on "the Development and Regulation of Bt Brinjal in India (Eggplant/Aubergine)" in its latest issue, 10th April 2009. The book was reviewed by Dr. T.M. Manjunath. and is available at:


Source: Current Science, Vol. 96, No. 7, 10 APRIL 2009


 (Return to Contents)





3.01  Scitable: A free science library and personal learning tool


Scitable is a free science library and personal learning tool brought to you by Nature Publishing Group

Scitable currently concentrates on genetics, the study of evolution, variation, and the rich complexity of living organisms. As you cultivate your understanding of modern genetics on Scitable, you will explore not only what we know about genetics and the ways it impacts our society, but also the data and evidence that supports our knowledge.


Contributed by Ann Marie Thro



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3.02 The Crop Genebank Knowledge Base


The Crop Genebank Knowledge Base (

is a product of the CGIAR System-wide Genetic Resources Programme (SGRP) project on the “Collective Action for the Rehabilitation of Global Public Goods in the CGIAR Genetic Resources System: Phase 2” funded by the World Bank.

The aim of this website is to provide dynamic, up to date information on validated best practices for germplasm conservation of a number of
major crops, including genebank procedures (registration through to distribution), protocols, guidelines, manuals, as well as training materials and other aspects of genebank management e.g. ISO standards and performance indicators.


Contributed by Alexandra Jorge

Bioversity –ILRI



(Return to Contents)





4.01 $10 million to rice and wheat research program


ST. LOUIS, March 25 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/

Monsanto Company today announced a $10 million grant to establish Monsanto's Beachell-Borlaug International Scholars Program, which will help identify and support young scientists interested in improving research and production in rice and wheat, two of the world's most important staple crops, through plant breeding techniques.


Monsanto is funding the program, which will be administered by Texas AgriLife Research, an agency of the Texas A&M University System, for the next five years. The program honors the accomplishments of Dr. Henry Beachell and Dr. Norman Borlaug, who pioneered plant breeding and research in rice and wheat, respectively.


Applications will be reviewed by an independent panel of global judges chaired by Program Director Dr. Ed Runge, who is also a professor and Billie B. Turner Chair in Production Agronomy (Emeritus) within the Soil and Crop Sciences Department, Texas A&M University at College Station.


"We are honored to administer this program and work with students around the world to bring new ideas and research techniques to rice and wheat breeding," Runge said. "Research in these two staple crops has fallen behind others, and it is my hope this program will help jumpstart additional investment in two of the world's most important grains. We encourage any eligible rice or wheat breeders around the world to apply for the award."


Students interested in applying to the program can find more details at Applications will be accepted until May 31.


Announcement of the first year's winners is planned to correspond with the World Food Prize held in Des Moines, Iowa, on October 15, 2009. The announcement of the grant from Monsanto today marks the celebration of Dr. Borlaug's 95th birthday.


Plant breeding is both an art and science practiced for thousands of years in agriculture. A breeder works with a specific plant species to help encourage desired characteristics, like larger grain size, heartier stalks, or greater tolerance to environmental stress, among others, to improve the next generation of plants.


Rice and wheat are considered by many to be the most important staple crops in developing countries, providing necessary calories to feed billions of people every day. Many of the world's poorest people rely on the two grains as a key source of food. In 2008 farmers produced nearly 440 million metric tons of rice and more than 680 million metric tons of wheat. Yet, yields of rice and wheat have grown on a compound annual growth rate of approximately 0.8 percent over the past decade while the population has grown on a compound annual growth rate of approximately 1.25 percent during the same time period. Accelerating yield growth will help to reduce hunger by helping to produce more food on the same number of acres.


"As the world celebrates the birthday of Dr. Borlaug, Monsanto is pleased to mark the accomplishments of two great men in agriculture by establishing this scholars program," said Dr. Ted Crosbie, Vice President, Global Plant Breeding, Monsanto Company. "Drs. Beachell and Borlaug devoted their lives to ensuring farmers had access to the best rice and wheat varieties and to the advancement of science through education. This award seeks to continue their work to enable future generations of farmers to feed our growing population."


"Young scientists who receive this scholarship will have the opportunity to come to us to further their training and work with world-renown rice experts working on projects that are making a real difference to people's lives," said Dr. Robert Zeigler, Director General,International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) . "Public sector support for graduate education in agricultural sciences in developing countries has plummeted over the last couple of decades. Support from private scholarships like this will help build the next generation of rice scientists to ensure we can solve the problems that face rice production now and in the future."


"This is a welcome investment by the private sector, in an era of increasing food insecurity and decreasing numbers of graduate students in plant breeding," said Dr. Thomas A. Lumpkin, director general ofInternational Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). "We hope others will follow suit with additional funding and look forward to hosting scholars funded by the program at our center."


IRRI is the largest non-profit agricultural research agency in Asia. Its mission is to reduce poverty and hunger, improve the health of rice farmers and consumers, and ensure that rice production is environmentally sustainable.


CIMMYT is a non-profit research and training center with direct links to about 100 developing countries through offices in Asia, Africa and Latin America. CIMMYT grew out of a pilot program in Mexico in 1943, sponsored by the Government of Mexico and the Rockefeller Foundation. The abbreviation "CIMMYT" derives from the Spanish version of the organization's name: Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maiz y Trigo. The organization is headquartered near Mexico City.


Contributed by David D. Baltensperger

Soil and Crop Sciences

Texas A&M University


(Return to Contents)




4.02  Request for applications: Horticulture Collaborative Research Support Program

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) seeks applications from eligible universities or colleges to serve as the lead university for a Collaborative Research Support Program (CRSP) entitled: Horticulture. The authority for this RFA is found in the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended.


This CRSP activity will be a Leader with Associates (LWA) assistance award. The successful applicant will be awarded a five-year Cooperative Agreement Leader Award with responsibility for managing a worldwide program of research and outreach activities intended to provide results in multiple countries and/or regions. A five-year extension may be provided, subject to the following three evaluation criteria: (1) a record of good performance during the first five-year period; (2) availability of Agency funding; and (3) continued relevance of the CRSP to the overall Agency portfolio and development priorities. The applicant is required to submit a technical and cost application as detailed in Section IV. The Recepient will be responsible for ensuring achievement of the program objectives of this CRSP. Please refer to the Program Description (Section I) for a complete statement of goals and expected results.


Closing date and time for application submission: May 18, 2009, 12:00 p.m.

Click here to dowload the whole document for more information and application


Contributed by Ann Marie Thro



 (Return to Contents)





5.01  Assistant Breeder opportunity, vegetables


Acampo, California


Company Profile

Bayer CropScience’s vegetable seed business operates under the name of Nunhems. Nunhems is a global specialist in vegetable seeds and sharing products, concepts and expertise with the professional horticultural production industry and supply chain. Its portfolio includes leading varieties and brands in crops such as leek, onion, carrot, melon, cucumber, tomato, watermelon, lettuce, pepper and chicory witloof. With annual sales of EUR 208 million in 2007, Nunhems is among the world’s leading vegetable seed companies with an extensive range of 28 species and some 2,500 varieties. With more than 1,300 people Nunhems is present in all major vegetable production areas in the world.


Job Purpose

Support Breeder in meeting goals to integrate diverse germplasm into commercially viable breeding material.  Assist in the design and process of optimizing efficiency in developing plant populations for trait selection and adaptation.



§          Participate in breeding strategy and activity planning, implementation and evaluation.  Develop and maintain a broad vision of the scientific profession, company environment, and market demands and translate market demands into breeding goals.

§          Execute field, greenhouse and laboratory techniques by working hands-on, as well as, supervising technical, seasonal and/or contract laborers. 

§          Manage and coordinate greenhouse operation and activities to facilitate crosses between diverse breeding materials.

§          Collect and summarize data.

§          Adhere to and maintain breeding administration program established by the breeder in cooperation with the IT Application Manager. 

§          Organize seed inventory and distribute seed samples according to program activities.

§          Coordinate breeding work with, and implement information gained from the major support programs, especially the pathology and molecular marker groups.

§          Act on behalf of the breeder in diverse circumstances.

§          Carry out other activities and responsibilities as directed.


Educational Qualifications Desired

§          Bachelor or Master of Science in life science or horticulture with emphasis in plant breeding or genetics.


Skills and Experience Desired

§          Working knowledge of horticultural practices and procedures, genetics and plant breeding.

§          Demonstrated experience in plant breeding.

§          Computer literate (database, spreadsheet, word processing) 

§          Language skills: English required, bilingual (English/Spanish) preferred.

§          Must be able to communicate effectively, exercise good judgment, and be organized.

§          Must be able to work independently and must also be a team player.


Working Conditions

§          Low to medium frequency of international travel (5 – 15%).

§          Very variable working hours with peak periods during the selection season and growing season giving high work load and pressure.

§          Working in unfavorable conditions (heat, cold, rain)


Please submit resume with salary requirements to:
Nunhems USA, Inc.
Human Resources
1200 Anderson Corner Road

Parma, ID 83660

Fax +1 208-674-4003

Email –


Nunhems USA, Inc. offers a competitive wage base and benefits program. Nunhems USA, Inc. is an EOE with a drug free work environment. All applications will be kept in the strictest of confidence.


Contributed by Jennifer Allen


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5.02  Maize Breeding Lead (Senior or Principal) Scientist


The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) -

Location: Nairobi, Kenya


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


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


We are seeking candidates with the following qualifications:

*        PhD in plant breeding or associated discipline.

*        A minimum of ten years post PhD experience in maize breeding including the use of state-of-the art molecular and bioinformatics tools, stress breeding approaches, and practical field breeding operations.

*        Private sector experience desirable

*        Significant track record of scientific publications relevant to maize breeding

*        Experience in working in an international environment including developing countries

*        Demonstrated ability to appropriately engage in innovation and work collegially and collaboratively in diverse, multicultural partnerships

*        Willingness to travel extensively in Sub-Saharan Afirca, Latin America and Asia

*        Proficiency in spoken and written English. Knowledge of Spanish and French will be an added advantage.


CIMMYT is an internationally funded, non-profit research and training organization affiliated with the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR, and has an annual budget of approximately US$40 million. CIMMYT's mission is to help the poor in the developing world by increasing the productivity, profitability, and sustainability of maize and wheat-based cropping systems while protecting natural resources. The Center is a global leader in scientific research and training related to maize and wheat, and in biotechnology, economics, and natural resource management research. These activities are conducted in partnership with national agricultural research systems, non-governmental organizations, and advanced research institutions, both public and private, in globally focused projects and programs. CIMMYT employs about 600 permanent staff and operates through decentralized partnership, with staff in 11 countries and projects and networks in many more. CIMMYT offers an attractive remuneration package paid in US dollars, with a range of benefits including housing allowance, life and health insurance, education allowance, home leave, retirement fund, and relocation shipping allowance.


CIMMYT is an equal-opportunity employer and strives for staff diversity in gender and nationality.


To Apply:  Email as attachments: a cover letter addressing how and why you believe your skills and experiences meet the needs of the position and an updated copy of your resume/CV.

(Please put in the Subject Line: "CIMMYT Maize Breeding Lead "


Patrick Shields, Search Manager

Global Recruitment Specialists

501 Westport Avenue, Suite 285

Norwalk, Connecticut (CT) 06851 USA

Tel / Fax: 203-899-0499



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5.03  University of Hohenheim, Germany. Group leader / Research associate


Quantitative genetics or population genomics of crop plants (2 x 3  Years)


A position as non-tenure track "Assistant Professor" (German  government salary scale E13 or A13) is available immediately in the Institute of Plant Breeding, Seed science and Population Genetics at the University of Hohenheim, Germany in the newly established research group 'Crop biodiversity and breeding informatics' led by Karl Schmid.


We are looking for a commited scientist who works in one of the following areas:

        • Evolutionary genetics of environmental adaptation in model or crop plants

        • Population and evolutionary genomics of crop domestication

        • Development and application of population genetic methods for genetic mapping and plant breeding


We are particularly interested in candidates with a solid quantitative or evolutionary background and good bioinformatics skills who plan to incorporate modern genomic approaches into their research program. The position is ideally suited for a Ph.D. with previous postdoc experience who wants to start his or her own independent research and to acquire external funding from national and international sources.


The successful applicant will be initially appointed for three years with the possibility of extension for another three years. Some teaching is required, which will be conducted in English, and there is the possibility to obtain the Habilitation.


The University of Hohenheim is located on a beautiful campus in the South German city of Stuttgart and employs a critical mass of scientists involved in plant breeding, genetic mapping and bioinformatics. For further inquiries please contact Karl Schmid, .


The University of Hohenheim is an equal opportunity employer. Women and members of minority groups are strongly encouraged to apply.


Applications (cover letter, CV, publications, research interests, addresses of at least two references) should be sent as electronic documents (PDF) until 10 May 2009 to


Prof. Dr. Karl Schmid

Institute of Plant Breeding, Seed Science and Population Genetics



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5.04  R&D Job Postings at Monsanto as of 29 April 2009


Commercial Corn Breeder                             Lebanon , IN                            mons-00010423


Line Development Breeder                             Woodland, CA                         mons-00010495


Agronomic Traits Collaborations                    Chesterfield, MO                     mons-00010430

 and Strategy Lead


Technology Alliances Manager                       Beijing, China                          mons-00010482


Patent Scientist                                               Beijing, China                          mons-00010481


Collaboration Manager                                    Beijing, China                          mons-00010480


Project and Relationship Manager                  Beijing, China                          mons-00010479


Data Manager and                                          Beijing, China                          mons-00010478

Database Administrator


Bioinformatics Scientist                                  Beijing, China                          mons-00010477


Lead Bioinformatics Scientist                         Beijing, China                          mons-00010476


Lead Computational Biologist                         Beijing, China                          mons-00010475


Computational Biologist                                  Beijing, China                          mons-00010474


Communication Lead                                     Beijing, China                          mons-00010473


Patent Scientist                                               North Carolina, NC                  mons-00010488


Imaging Scientist                                            North Carolina, NC                  mons-00010486


Data Mining Lead                                            St. Louis, MO                          mons-00010417


Cotton Breeding West Regional Lead            Haskell, TX                              mons-00010055


Data Manager                                                 St. Louis, MO                          mons-00010293


Senior Scientist                                               Chesterfield, MO                     mons-00010356


Scientist                                                          Chesterfield, MO                     mons-00010355


Biotechnology Collaborations                         Chesterfield, MO                     mons-00010265

Data Management Lead


Molecular Entomology Lead                           Chesterfield, MO                     mons-00010467


Research Scientist                                         Chesterfield, MO                     mons-00010466


Process and Automation Scientist                 St. Louis, MO                          mons-00010411


 Cotton Breeding Delta Regional Lead           St. Louis, MO                          mons-00010070


Data Analyst - Cotton Pipeline                        St. Louis, MO                          mons-00010032



Research Scientist-Bioinformatics/                Chesterfield, MO                     mons-00010463



Testing Operations Manager - Cotton            ScottMS                               mons-00010071


Central Nursery Manager                                Scott , MS                               mons-00009940


Molecular Biologist                                          Chesterfield, MO                     mons-00010357


Trait Integration Testing Manager                   Williamsburg, IA                      mons-00010456


Corn Breeding and TI Coordinator                  Ankeny, IA                               mons-00010445


 Greenhouse Management Platform Lead     St. Louis, MO                          mons-00010412


 NUE Corn Phase 2 TD Lead                          Chesterfield, MO                    mons-00010416


Gene Expression Profiling Senior Scientist    St. Louis, MO                          mons-00010405


Trait Discovery Scientist                                 Woodland, CA                         mons-00010022


Trait Geneticist                                                Woodland, CA                         mons-00010021


Scientific Business Analyst                            St. Louis, MO                          mons-00010379


Trait Integration Breeder                                 Owatonna, MN                        mons-00010374


Crop Modeler                                                  St. Louis, MO                          mons-00010354


Science Software Application Support           St. Louis, MO                          mons-00010348



Breeder  -  Spinach                                         Wageningen, Netherlands      mons-00010344


Row Crop Field Physiologist                          Jerseyville, Il                            mons-00010314


Scientist -Immunoassay Development          Chesterfield, MO                     mons-00009951


Pathology, Disease Resistance                     Woodland , CA                        mons-00009708    

Testing Lead, NAFTA


Genotyping Data Production Associate          Woodland , CA                        mons-00010218


Corn Transformation Lead                             Mystic, CT                               mons-00010231


 Sequencing and Bioinformatics Lead            St. Louis, MO                          mons-00010215


Bioinformatics Scientist                                  St. Louis, MO                          mons-00009844 


Research Scientist                                         Middleton, WI                          mons-00010217


Breeding Statistics Lead                                 St. Louis, MO                          mons-00010203


Statistical Genetics Lead                                 Ankeny , IA                             mons-00010204


Senior Automation Software Engineer           St. Louis, MO                          mons-00010189


Research Scientist                                         Felda, FL                                 mons-00009815


GET Dicot Lead                                              Middleton, WI                          mons-00010177


Imaging Engineer                                            St. Louis, MO                          mons-00010052


Trait Integration Breeder                                 Arlington, WI                            mons-00009613


 Cotton Discovery Breeder                             St. Louis, MO                          mons-00009436


Commercial Breeder                                      General Santos City, PH         mons-00008923


Commercial Breeder                                      Petit, South Africa                   mons-010420


Commercial Breeder                                     General Santos City, PH         mons-00008923


 Line Development Breeder                            Phitsanulok, Thailand              mons-00008394


Sunflower Breeder                                          Uman, Ukraine                        mons-00010391


Technology Development Manager                Shenyang, Liaoning, China     mons-00010184


DNA Laboratory Manager                               Canas, Costa Rica                 mons-00008521



Contributed by Donn Cummings


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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.


11-12 May 2009. SBC’s 10th Anniversary Symposium:Seed Biotechnologies: Filling the Gap between the Public and Private Sector, UC Davis, Davis, CA, USA

Contact Sue DiTomaso at 530-754-7333 or

14-17 May 2009..Plant Abiotic Stress ­ from signaling to development, Tartu, Estonia. Please visit the conference web site for more information


18-29 May 2009. Fifth training course of ICRISAT-CEG, ICRISAT Campus at Patancheru, Greater Hyderabad, India.,

For details contact: Rajeev Varshney,


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



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


31 May 2009. 6th International Triticeae Symposium, Kyoto, Japan


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


3-5 June 2009. The Co-Extra International Conference , "Coexistence and traceability of GM and  non-GM products in food and feed supply chains" , AgroParistech, 16 rue Claude  Bernard, 75231 Paris cedex  05, France.


(NEW) 10-13 June 2009. ISTA Workshop on Molecular Markers for Variety Identity and Purity, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy

The workshop will be made up of lectures and practical experience in the use of molecular markers (MM). It will also offer the opportunity for discussion both on general as well as on specific aspects regarding laboratory procedures for variety testing.

More information and to register: Registrations for this workshop will be accepted until May 5, 2009.

(Update) 3-5 August 2009. 3rd Annual Plant Breeding Workshop, National Association of Plant Breeders,  Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center,
Madison, Wisconsin, USA.

Sponsored by SCC-080, the Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee. The Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee serves as a forum regarding issues and opportunities of national and global importance to the public and private sectors of the U.S.national plant breeding effort. The workshop has three goals: 1) to carry out discussions on strategies to shape the future of plant breeding, 2) to expose participants to state of the art plant breeding research through invited speakers, and 3) to encourage the exchange of knowledge through poster presentations by participants. All plant breeders are encouraged to attend - student and professional, public sector and industry, U.S. and abroad. An optional tour of public and private breeding facilities is also planned (meeting registration: $235 until July 24; on-site $300). Register online at:  For more information, visit


10-14 August 2009. 14th Australasian Plant Breeding & 11th Society for the Advancement of Breeding Research in Asia & Oceania Conference, Cairns Convention Centre, Tropical North Queensland, Australia


1 - 16 September 2009. Rice Breeding Course: Laying the Foundation for the Second Green Revolution. International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Los Baños, Laguna, Philippines

Email/web contact information

Dr. Edilberto D. Redoña

Course Coordinator


Dr. Noel P. Magor

Head, Training Center


2-4 September 2009. Meeting of the Biometrics in Plant Breeding section of Eucarpia, Dundee, Scotland UK.


7-9 September 2009. International Conference on Heterosis in Plants: Genetics and molecular causes and optimal exploitation in breeding, University of Hohenheim. Stuttgart, Germany.


 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.


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


24-27 September 2009. Foundations Centennial Meeting: A celebration of 100 years of private grape breeding with North American Vitis, Sweet Briar College and Chateau-A, Virginia.

(NEW) 28 September – 1 October 2009. 9th ACSS conference, South Africa.

9th ACSS conference (Registration & submission of abstracts is open

(Please note that the deadline for submission of abstracts passed on 30 April 2009)


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


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


13-16 October 2009. 12th International Cereal Rusts and Powdery Mildew Conference, Antalya, Turkey

12th ICRPMC-2009, Antalya ( and


(NEW) 1-5 November 2009. Footprints of Plant Diversity in the Agricultural Landscape. (A symposium of the CSSA/ASA/SSSA annual meetings, Pittsburgh, PA, USA).

One of the many and varied sessions at this joint meeting will be Footprints of Plant Diversity in the Agricultural Landscape. Landscape-scale research on plant genetic diversity generally begins with description of diversity in the landscape and then moves on to examining how in-situ plant genetic diversity interacts, and how diversity may be sustained.   Most research tends to stop short of prescriptive insights for using genetic diversity in agricultural managed landscapes.  The 2009 CSSA Div. C-8 (Plant Genetic Resources) symposium will begin to explore different ways in which plant genetic diversity may be deliberately employed to enrich and strengthen agricultural landscapes.   The symposium will consider strategies and tools for pro-active use of plant genetic diversity within and between fields in agricultural landscapes.


Confirmed invited speakers include:

Paul Gepts, UC- Davis/Crop and Ecosystem Sciences;

Chris Mundt, Oregon State Univ./Ag Botany & Plant Pathology;

Hugo Perales Rivera, EcoSur, Mexico;

Stephen Smith, Pioneer Hi-Bred International;

Bruce Walsh, Univ. of Arizona/Ecology & Evolutionary Biology; and

Clair Hershey, Global Partnership Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building (GIPB)


All interested researchers are invited and encouraged to volunteer papers (poster or oral) related to the above symposium theme, or, on any theme relevant to plant genetic resources.  Deadlines for volunteered abstracts are April 24 and May 5.

Division contact:  2009 Division Chair Ann Marie Thro,; 1 202 401 6702


2 November – 6 December 2009. UPOV distance learning course

Introduction to the UPOV System of Plant Variety Protection under the UPOV Convention

The UPOV Distance Learning course (DL-205 - Introduction to the UPOV System of Plant Variety Protection under the UPOV Convention)


6 to 9 November, 2009, Lima Peru. 15th Triennial Symposium of the International Society for Tropical Root Crops: Tropical Roots and Tubers in a Changing Climate: A convenient opportunity for the World, The International Potato Center, Lima, Peru.


 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.


To be included in the next announcement regarding this conference, please send your contact details to


(NEW) 26-30 April 2010. IFLRC V & ECGL VII: Legumes for Global Health: Legume Crops and Products for Food, Feed and Environmental Benefits, Convention Center of Kervansaray Hotel, Lara ( Antalya, TURKEY


Contributed by Mucella Tekeoglu

Secretary, On behalf of the Organising Committee


2-5 August 2010. 10th International Conference on Grapevine Breeding and Genetics, Geneva, New York, USA.


 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.


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