31 July 2009


An Electronic Newsletter of Applied Plant Breeding


Clair H. Hershey, Editor


Sponsored by GIPB, FAO/AGPC and Cornell University’s Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics


-To subscribe, see instructions here

-Archived issues available at: FAO Plant Breeding Newsletter



1.01  G8 to commit $20bn for food security

1.02  New crops needed for new climate

1.03  Benin: rice offers new hope

1.04  A million hectares of potatoes in the developing world

1.05  No maize, no life!

1.06  IITA researchers present blueprint on doubling maize production in Nigeria

1.07  Government of Canada invests C$13 million for research to combat wheat rust

1.08  Europe backs fight against rising hunger: Partnering with FAO in boosting agricultural production

1.09  New national genome centre launched in the United Kingdom

1.10  Joint ICARDA ARC Wheat Improvement Program for Irrigated Areas in Central and West Asia and North Africa

1.11  Uganda explores next generation cotton

1.12  New tomato hybrids are on the way - Seed companies put IPM researchers’ findings to use

1.13  Scientific strategies can save dryland agriculture

1.14  A truce in the crop wars

1.15  The role of genetically modified crops in Africa

1.16  DNA of ancient lost barley could help modern crops cope with water stress

1.17  Peru's patent win strikes blow against biopiracy

1.18  Traditional Thai hill farmers help preserve genetic diversity of rice

1.19  New, highly contagious strains of potato virus Y in Switzerland

1.20  New strain of stem rust on wheat in India

1.21  Gene developed through conventional breeding to improve cowpea aphid resistance

1.22  Scientists develop rust-proof soybean for Africa

1.23  ARS releases corky root-resistant lettuce lines

1.24  Canadian researchers working to develop super lycopene tomato

1.25  Double chromosomes equals more plant power

1.26  Can these "amber waves of grain" become perennials?

1.27  Rice defies its reputation as a thirsty crop

1.28  Glimmer of hope in fight against iron deficiency in rice

1.29  Scientists use new type of genetic modification to developing salt-tolerant crops

1.30  Global rice research community provides critical tools to unravel the diversity of rice

1.31  Gene breakthrough secures crops' future

1.32  Iowa State University researchers develop process for 'surgical' genetic changes in plants

1.33  New tools for discovering DNA variation in crop genomes

1.34  University of Toronto team helps to "barcode" the world's plants

1.35  Researchers publish integrated genetic and cytogenetic map of the cucumber genome

1.36  En busca del mapa genómico de la patata

1.37  Researchers develop microchip that can measure real-time water stress

1.38  Global Plant Council of  the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB)



2.01  Launching of the open-access journal *Plant Biology International*

2.02  Issue II/2009 of the Newsletter on Organic Seeds and Plant Breeding

2.03  Call for papers -- Geneconserve



3.01  GFU and ICUC combine their news services

3.02  Update on the Crop Genebank Knowledge Base



(None posted)



5.01  Mississippi – Assistant/Associate/Full Research Professor:  Cotton Breeding/Agronomy

5.02  Scientific careers at Monsanto

5.03 Job announcement: CSREES/USDA









1.01  G8 to commit $20bn for food security


10 July 2009


By Guy Dinmore in L’Aquila

The G8 summit will pledge $20bn over three years, $5bn more than initially expected, to boost agricultural investment and fight hunger.


Franco Frattini, foreign minister of Italy, told the FT as the summit ended that the final declaration would contain a pledge of $20 bn over three years for the food security fund. Italy’s contribution would be $480m, he said.


Management of the fund had not been finally decided but there would be close cooperation between the World Bank and the Rome-based UN food agencies, the minister said.


On the final day of the three-day G8 summit in L’Aquila, central Italy, leaders of the G8 club of rich countries were joined by heads of African governments and international institutions to finalise the multi-billion dollar food security fund for agriculture.


Barack Obama, US president, sat at the same dinner table on Thursday night with Muammer Gaddafi, Libya’s leader, invited to the summit by Italy in his role as head of the African Union.


US deputy national security advisor Denis McDonough told reporters that the US contribution to the fund would be about $3bn over three years. He said late on Thursday that pledges were still “bouncing around”.


Aid organisations will be carefully scrutinising the pledges to make sure that the funding represents new money and has not been stripped from existing budgets elsewhere. Also to be hammered out is what agency or agencies will administer the trust fund. The World Bank is a prime candidate.


After the disappointment on Thursday when the world’s main polluting countries failed to agree on a comprehensive climate change package, including targets for emissions cuts, G8 heads were keen to conclude the summit with an impressive deal for the developing world.


They were joined on Friday by the leaders of Ethiopia, Algeria, Angola, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa. UN food agencies also attended.


Japan and the European Union were expected to pledge some $3bn each to the fund.


Aid agencies have skewered some G8 countries, in particular France and Italy, for failing to deliver on their promises to increase development aid that were made at the Gleneagles summit four years ago.


Save the Children said contributions from G8 countries were already $20bn short of the pledges they made and that figure is likely to rise to $25bn next year.


Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s billionaire prime minister, was stung by accusations last week that Italy had cut its aid budget, saying it was a mistake that would be rectified. Despite that assurance, Marcello Fondi, a senior foreign ministry official, later told an aid conference that his ministry’s aid budget would fall by a further 10 per cent in 2010, according to Save the Children spokesman Adrian Lovett.


UN food agencies say more than 1bn people in the world are going hungry. A downward trend over last decades in the proportion of the world’s population suffering from hunger has been reversed, in part because of soaring food prices.


Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009



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1.02  New crops needed for new climate


Global food security in a changing climate depends on the nutritional value and yield of staple food crops. Researchers at Monash University in Victoria, Australia have found an increase in toxic compounds, a decrease in protein content and a decreased yield in plants grown under high CO2 and drought conditions.


The research, to be presented by Dr Ros Gleadow on 29 June 2009 at the Society for Experimental Biology Annual Meeting in Glasgow, has shown that the concentration of cyanogenic glycosides, which break down to release toxic hydrogen cyanide, increased in plants in elevated CO2. This was compounded by the fact that protein content decreased, making the plants overall more toxic as the ability of herbivores to break down cyanide depends largely on the ingestion of sufficient quantities of protein.


Data have also shown that cassava, a staple food crop in tropical and subtropical regions due to its tolerance of arid conditions, may experience yield reductions in high CO2. Combined with an increase in cyanogenic glycosides, this has major implications for the types of crops that can be grown in the future if CO2 levels continue to rise: "We need to be preparing for the predicted reduction in nutritional value of many plants in the coming century by developing and growing different cultivars which, for cassava in particular, may not be easy' says Dr Gleadow.

Contact: Tess Livermore

Society for Experimental Biology



29 June 2009


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1.03  Benin: rice offers new hope


High quality seeds could help the country to become self-sufficient and export surplus output


July 15, 2009


Rome, Italy

Will Benin be self-sufficient in rice one day? Experts at FAO are forecasting just that, and going so far as to say that in time - probably as soon as 2011 - this West African country will even export its surplus rice output. A two-pronged strategy based on intensifying production and marketing of high quality seeds is behind the predicted «miracle».


As part of the campaign, a US$500,000 FAO project, due to begin in September 2009, will help Benin achieve an ambitious goal: that of producing 300,000 tonnes of rice - more than double current output - by 2011. To do that, the country will have to produce more than 2,200 tonnes of high quality rice seeds each year.


The plan to intensify Benin's national rice production was conceived against a backdrop of rising food prices, with the situation made even more serious by the fact that, in common with other West African nations, domestic output is far from able to satisfy ever-growing demand.


According to FAO figures, West African rice imports reached 6 million tonnes in 2001 and forecasts suggest the figure is likely to rise to 11 million tonnes by 2010.


A net gain of more than US$55 million

The best way of reducing Benin's rice import bill (it bought nearly 240,000 tonnes in 2004, according to the latest official figures available), would be to exploit the country's rice cultivating potential to the full. FAO experts say that such an approach would not only enable the country to satisfy local demand but would also put it in a position to export surplus output to sub-regional and regional markets.


These same experts calculate that if Benin exploited its full rice production potential, the net gain would be more than US$55 million. The country currently exploits just 8% of this potential, though it has more than 322,000 hectares of rice-growing land available, including 205,000 hectares of lowlands and 117,000 hectares of floodplains.


Rice is therefore a key product and a priority in the plan to revive the country's agricultural sector. And the FAO project, which encourages the production of high quality seeds while facilitating farmer access to such seeds, is consolidating the efforts of the Benin government, which has set the goal of reducing rice imports as a priority target.


In the medium term, an increase in production of high quality rice seeds should lead to a sufficient rise in annual rice output to cover 70% of domestic demand. In addition, increased revenues would lead to better livelihoods for farmers and would make local rice cultivation production more competitive.


As an added bonus, the Africa Rice Centre (WARDA) asserts that protein levels in rice obtained from high quality seeds, especially the NERICA variety (see Box), are considerably higher than those of traditional varieties.


Supporting the FAO project are WARDA, various departments within the Benin government and several local NGOs.




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1.04  A million hectares of potatoes in the developing world


Potato varieties bred with CIP materials or obtained with help from the center now occupy over 1 million hectares of land worldwide. This statistic comes from a survey of 23 national potato-breeding programs in developing countries in Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, which together account for more than 80% of developing country potato area and production.




Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics

Cornell University


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1.05  No maize, no life!


In Morogoro, a drought-prone area in Tanzania, farmers are using certified maize seed and urging other farmers to grow a new drought tolerant variety, TAN 250, which they say is like "an insurance against hunger and total crop failure, even under hot, dry conditions like those of recent years."




Supplying the world's daily bread: Wheat Facts and Futures


Increasing at only 0.9% each year, wheat production is lagging behind the demands of a global population that grows 1.5% or more annually. Recent price spikes, local grain shortages, and associated civil unrest show the dangers of complacency regarding supplies of key food crops like wheat. A major new publication from CIMMYT describes present and future constraints to wheat yield, and how resilient, high-yield varieties and resource-conserving cropping practices can be developed to help farmers supply tomorrow's daily bread.


Source: CIMMYT:


Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics

Cornell University


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1.06 IITA researchers present blueprint on doubling maize production in Nigeria


27 July 2009


Ibadan, Nigeria

IITA maize researchers have presented a blueprint on doubling maize production to the Nigerian government. The blueprint, which contained empirical facts and recommendations, proved that the oil-rich nation could double maize production and called for the strengthening of the country’s seed system to tackle the food crisis confronting the world.


“The recommendations should be taken seriously because if implemented and sustained, they would bring solutions to the food crisis especially as it concerns maize production,” says Prof. M.A Fakorede, a maize researcher at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife.


In Nigeria, maize is among the most important crops but poor seed supply, inefficient marketing system, and low investment in research-for-development are among the factors that have limited production. Consequently, current production is about 8 million tons but the research, which involved more than 1,000 farmers raised yield per hectare to about 4.2 tons per hectare up from 1.5 tons per hectare, suggesting that national production could hit 20 million tons if the recommendations were scaled-up.


Dr. Oyewole Ajala, Team Leader and Maize Breeder at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture sought government support for the seed sector to overcome the limitation poised by poor seed supply to farmers.


Nigeria today is the only country in West Africa that has viable private seed companies and they need support and backstopping to consistently supply quality seeds to farmers,” he says.


Nigeria’s Minister of State for Agriculture and Water Resources, Mrs. Fidelia Njeze, applauded the research team for its efforts.


According to her, apart from ensuring food security, the research is in line with the federal government’s seven-point agenda.


The Doubling Maize research project began in 2006 and was funded by Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development while partners included scientists at the Institute of Agricultural Research & Training (IAR&T), Ibadan-based IITA, National Rice/Maize Center -National Accelerated Food Production Program, Institute for Agricultural Research, National Cereals Research Institute, the University of Ilorin and the National Agricultural Extension & Research Liaison Services (NAERLS).


The team deployed several newly-developed maize varieties including those that were drought-tolerant, low nitrogen-tolerant, Striga-tolerant, stemborer-resistant and early maturing varieties to mitigate the challenge faced by resource-poor farmers in maize production.


Other recommendations made by the researchers include:

• government should maintain a buy-back policy

• extensive field management training of extension, seed company and staff of other agencies engaged in maize promotion

• scaling up of promising technologies

• generation of accurate data through appropriate data mining and actual generation

• investment in production and promotion of labour saving tools and

• Continued investment in postharvest research-for-development to improve market.




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1.07  Government of Canada invests C$13 million for research to combat wheat rust


9 July 2009


Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Today, Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz announced that the Government of Canada has committed $13 million to combat wheat stem rust, a fungus which may eventually pose a threat to Canada's wheat production.


"Canada is a world leader in this kind of research," said Minister Ritz. "Our scientists are doing important work to help the world's wheat crops, but first and foremost, investments like this one ensure that we have Canadian solutions for Canadian farmers, should the fungus ever reach us here."


This $13 million investment will be used to develop new varieties of wheat resistant to this fungus. This research by Canadian scientists is at the forefront of international efforts. Canadian research will not only bring Canadian farmers resistant varieties of wheat, it will also lead to a greater understanding of the biology of the fungus, and will make a major contribution to international efforts to combat Ug99 world-wide.


This strain of wheat stem rust, known as Ug99, is not currently a threat to Canadian wheat crops, but the strain has been spreading slowly east across Africa, into Yemen and Sudan. The fungus is expected to reach Egypt, Turkey, the Middle East and India, and scientists agree that it is only a matter of time before Ug99 reaches the crops of North America.


Nobel Prize winner and Chair of the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative, Dr. Norman Borlaug, commended Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada on making this important investment in wheat rust research, calling it an "important action to protect the wheat crop in North America and worldwide." He added that the investment "is a major step forward in our efforts to stem the global threat of wheat rust."


The funding for this research work is from Growing Forward programming, under the Animal and Plant Health Research initiative.




On The Research Program

The Animal and Plant Health research initiative, established under Growing Forward, will support research projects that focus on emerging threats to the sector such as wheat rust and club root, and aims to develop risk mitigation strategies and measures to be adopted by the Canadian agri-food sector.


The $13 million is being invested in an initiative that builds on ongoing work on wheat rust (a major focus of the Cereal Research Centre, Winnipeg since 1916), with collaboration from Canadian Universities, but with a new urgency to discover new sources of resistance, given the threat of Ug99.


Most of the funds allocated to this initiative will be used to advance, through science, the understanding of the Wheat Stem Rust variant Ug99 - a fungal pathogen causing a wheat disease that is spreading globally - which could impact the Canadian sector as current wheat varieties have limited resistance to this new fungus.


These funds will be used to research the genetics and pathology of Ug99 and similar virulent strains of wheat stem rust caused by the fungal pathogen Puccinia graminis. Furthermore, scientists will strive to develop new wheat germplasm that is resistant to Ug99 and other emerging pathotypes.


The funds will be used for research support, salaries of AAFC researchers dedicated to the project, and for infrastructure. While the initiative is four years in duration, preliminary research has already begun.


On Ug99

A new type of stem rust was discovered in Uganda, Africa in 1999 and termed Ug99. The strain has spread slowly across east Africa and newer variants of Ug99 spread in January of 2006 to Yemen and north into Sudan. It is expected to spread to Egypt, Turkey and the Middle East and on to India.


Current Canadian and international commercial wheat varieties have little or no resistance to this rust species. Should the rust become established in Canada it would devastate the Canadian cereals sector a situation that had serious economic consequences for Canada during previous cereal rust outbreaks in the last century.


Stem rust is the most destructive disease of wheat. In 1954, it destroyed about 40% of the Canadian spring wheat crop. AAFC plant breeding and pathology work provided resistant varieties that have protected the Canadian wheat industry from this threat since this last outbreak.


The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) is providing leadership for the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative that has concluded to date that only 0.3% of the more than 44 million hectares planted with known varieties of wheat has moderate resistance to Ug99. AAFC scientists will continue to work within the international Global Rust Initiative to share information and exchange germplasm where appropriate. AAFC continues to work closely with the USDA on this issue.




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1.08  Europe backs fight against rising hunger: Partnering with FAO in boosting agricultural production


22 July 2009



At a time when over one billion people are undernourished worldwide, Europe steps up its support to farmers hardest hit by the economical slowdown and high food prices, FAO said today, welcoming a € 75 million ($105 million) donation from the European Union (EU) to help poor countries boost agricultural production.


The EU-funded aid package to 13 countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Central America, severely affected by high food prices, provides enormous additional backing to the UN's efforts to turn the tide of growing hunger in the world. The package follows a historic €125 million ($170 million) donation from the European Union just one month ago.


"Europe's help comes at a critical moment," said José Maria Sumpsi, FAO's Assistant Director-General of the Technical Cooperation Department. "One out of six persons on this planet is undernourished - more than ever before. Poor countries need all the assistance possible. We are grateful for Europe's unequivocal support," he said.


He noted that high and volatile food prices continue to plague developing countries and that hunger is on the rise even more because of the global economic crisis, causing lower income and increasing unemployment in developing countries.


Quick and lasting impact

In order to provide a rapid response to high food prices in developing countries, a €1 billion ‘Food Facility' has been adopted by the European Parliament and Council. In line with FAO's urgent call for increased investment in agriculture after decades of neglect, the Food Facility underscores the need to refocus the world's attention on farming.


"For all developing countries, a healthy agricultural sector is vital to overcome poverty and hunger," said Roberto Ridolfi, heading the EU Food Facility, who praised the role of the UN Secretary-General's High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis and FAO in jointly identifying and developing programmes that will have a quick, but lasting impact on food security.


"The Food Facility highlights our successful partnership with FAO," he added. "Its results will testify to our shared commitment to the plight of those are daily struggling in order to provide a meal to their families




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1.09  New national genome centre launched in the United Kingdom


3 July 2009


Norwich, United Kingdom

A new UK national genome centre is being officially opened today by Nobel Laureate and genome pioneer Prof Sir John Sulston and the Lord-Lieutenant of Norfolk.


The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC) will further the UK’s capacity in genomics - the science of understanding the genetic makeup of organisms and the genetic differences that exist between individuals. This knowledge can then be used for developments that include the production of new antibiotics to fight ‘superbugs’, breeding of new crops with increased tolerance of drought, and the breeding of livestock better able to resist emerging exotic disease. TGAC will underpin these advances as well as making a significant contribution to economic development.


TGAC has been established in Norwich by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) in partnership with regional economic development partners – The East of England Development Agency (EEDA), Norfolk County Council, South Norfolk Council, Norwich City Council and the Greater Norwich Development Partnership. The centre represents an investment by all the partners in the capital infrastructure of £13.5M.


Speaking about the opening, Minister of State for Science and Innovation, Lord Drayson said:

“The UK is a world leader in genomics, which is increasingly essential to understanding how to tackle the challenges we face in food security, the development of eco-friendly fuels and fighting superbugs.


“This project goes to show that partnership is the key to success - the new centre will help to advance vital research as well as stimulate economic development and generate new jobs.”


TGAC science will concentrate on understanding the genomes of economically and socially important plants, animals and microbes. The exact projects that TGAC will initially work on will be decided by an independent advisory board but candidates include:

·         Helping to replace petrol with eco-friendly bioenergy

·         By sequencing the genome of perennial ryegrass, an important source of energy for livestock, scientists will gain the knowledge to increase the crop’s yield while reducing fertiliser requirements – making sustainable bioenergy a real option 

·         Protecting livestock from exotic diseases

·         Emerging exotic diseases pose a serious threat to UK livestock. A major outbreak would threaten farmers’ livelihoods, increase meat and diary prices for consumers and put animal welfare at risk. Understanding the genomes of livestock such as sheep will help breeders raise animals resistant to disease. 

·         Producing more nutritious fruit and vegetables

·         Certain fruit and vegetables contain beneficial compounds that have been associated with reduced incidence of some cancers. Better understanding of the genetic mechanisms underlying the synthesis of these compounds could allow the breeding of, for example, tomatoes with higher amounts of antioxidants. 


The sequencing of these and other genomes will create a huge amount of data. The successful handling and interpretation of the data will be critical to TGAC fulfilling its potential. To achieve this, TGAC will become a national centre of excellence in bioinformatics – the application of computer science and statistical analysis to biological research.


A key aim for TGAC is to combine world-class genome science with an innovation programme that aims to benefit the regional and national economy. TGAC will utilise its own discoveries to maximise economic and social impact and is also committed to making cutting edge facilities available to UK industry. As part of the Norwich Research Park, TGAC will be a key player in the delivery of the Park’s new vision which aims to create hundreds of new, high-value jobs.


For more information about TGAC visit:




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1.10  Joint ICARDA ARC Wheat Improvement Program for Irrigated Areas in Central and West Asia and North Africa


18 July 2009


Cairo, Egypt

On 18 July ICARDA Director General Dr. Mahmoud Solh and Dr. Ayman Abou Hadid, President of Egypt’s

Agriculture Research Center, agreed to sign a Memorandum of Understanding to launch a 10year Wheat Improvement Program in Egypt. The objective of the new program is to develop wheat germplasm with the attributes (high yield potential, heat tolerance, good grain quality, resistance to diseases and insect pests) suitable for irrigated agriculture in Central and West Asia and North Africa; and to make the germplasm freely available, in the form of international nurseries, to national wheat breeding programs throughout the region. Activities are scheduled to begin this crop season (20092010) at Sids Research Station, Middle Egypt. The anticipated outcome of this collaboration is adapted wheat varieties that can produce grain yields substantially higher (up to 30% more) than currently used varieties. The new varieties are also expected to be more resistant to the major wheat diseases, including yellow and black rusts.




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1.11  Uganda explores next generation cotton


28 July 2009


In July 2009, Uganda's National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) began field testing insect-resistant Bollgard II and herbicide-resistant Roundup Ready Flex cotton.  NARO gained access to these biotechnologies through a public-private partnership with Monsanto, the developer of the technologies.  NARO is now testing the suitability of these technologies for Uganda through field trials in Eastern and Western Uganda.  The field tests were made possible as Uganda has established regulations to oversee the testing of biotech crops.


The Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project II (ABSPII), funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and led by Cornell University, brokered the partnership between NARO and Monsanto. ABSPII provides technical and resource support to NARO and other public sector partners in Uganda.  Cotton is one of Uganda's most significant cash crops and is an important source of income for thousands of small scale farmers in the country.


Contributed by Andrea Besley

Communication & Outreach Coordinator

Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project II (ABSPII)

Cornell University, International Programs


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1.12  New tomato hybrids are on the way - Seed companies put IPM researchers’ findings to use


21 July 2009


Ithaca, New York

In 2010, growers will have access to new tomato varieties that resist some of the most threatening tomato diseases and can be grown in ways that are gentler to the environment.


As a commercial crop grown throughout the region, tomatoes were valued at nearly $90 million last year in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania alone. They are an emblem of northeastern gardens, prized for their extraordinary flavor and rich in the antioxident lycopene, which protects cells from free radicals that can potentially lead to cancer.


Both conventional and organic growers have voiced a need for improved control of early blight and late blight, two of the main fungal diseases of tomato. Conventional growers rely on fungicide applications that can cost up to $200 per acre each season, using compounds that have high environmental impact yet still fail to adequately control the diseases. Copper fungicides are used in organic fresh market tomato production, but copper has been shown to suppress only late blight.


Plant breeder Martha Mutschler and plant pathologist Tom Zitter (both Cornell Univ.) rose to this IPM challenge, and with Regional IPM funding assembled a team of breeders, pathologists, horticulturists, and conventional and organic growers from several states. The team tested tomato lines and hybrids with late blight and early blight resistance to see if the diseases could be controlled using low-impact products.


The resistant lines that Mutschler developed provided outstanding control of both early blight and late blight when treated with pesticides that have low environmental impact (as measured by the environmental impact quotient formula). The new lines also work well when treated with biological fungicides in combination with fixed copper.


U.S. and international seed companies are using the early- and late-blight-resistant lines in varietal development and expect new hybrids to be commercially available in 2010. Growers are likely to reduce losses and also realize cost savings, since they will not need to rely so heavily on the use of pesticides. They will also be able to grow healthier crops with organic products or fungicides that present lower environmental risks. Home gardeners should be able to use the new varieties without having to spray their tomatoes for early blight and late blight.


The urgent need for development of these new disease-resistant tomato varieties became clear when the team found that some early blight pathogens were not controlled by strobilurin fungicides. Mutschler and Zitter also discovered a high occurrence of Septoria leaf spot in the study’s early stages, prompting them to launch a new effort to add Septoria resistance, creating triple resistant lines to control all three fungal diseases. The promise of their results has helped them obtain additional funding so the team can continue their work and bring these benefits to fruition.


The Northeastern IPM Center is supported by the USDA’s Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, and is jointly administered by The Pennsylvania State University and Cornell University.


Source: Insights, Northeastern IPM Center newsletter via


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1.13  Scientific strategies can save dryland agriculture


15 July 2009


by William D. Dar, Director General, ICRISAT

Climate change will make Indian dryland agriculture harder, but a scientific strategy offers real hope, says ICRISAT head William D. Dar.


Analysts sometimes describe India's agriculture as a gamble with monsoons. About 60 per cent of India's farms depend on these rains, making them crucial for India's agriculture, which accounts for a sixth of the country's economic output.


But rainfall patterns are likely to shift with climate change. The monsoons may be delayed and unpredictable rains and heavy downpours are likely to be the rule rather than the exception.


India is already feeling related effects, including warmer temperatures for longer periods and long dry spells during the cropping season.


The World Bank has suggested that India will see a fall in major dryland crop yields from Andhra Pradesh and that rice production in Orissa's flood-prone coastal regions could drop by 12 per cent due to climate change. These changes will affect everyone but particularly the poorest of the poor.


Yet the perennial gamble can still be weighted in farmers' favour. Science-based strategies being developed by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and its partners can greatly help vulnerable dryland farming communities cope with the impacts of climate change, including drought.


Four steps to security

ICRISAT's studies in India's dryland villages since 1975 show poverty is directly linked to water availability and that land degradation exacerbates the problem.


But a drought mitigation strategy, developed by ICRISAT and partners, can break this unholy nexus. Informed by science, it is based on four key activities.


First is developing drought-tolerant and climate change-ready crops to match available growing seasons and low soil moisture. ICRISAT's genebank, with almost 120,000 germplasm samples collected from 144 countries, is the world's biggest repository for the genetic traits required to develop drought-tolerant crops.


Supported by the Indian government, ICRISAT has created an advanced biotechnology laboratory to enhance breeding on drought tolerance in key crops. And, with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and state university partners, ICRISAT has developed and released varieties of sorghum, pearl millet, chickpea, pigeonpea and groundnut that are all more drought-tolerant than currently-grown varieties.


Second is pre-emptive action to replace vulnerable crops with more drought-tolerant ones. Fast-growing crops thrive and yield well even when water may become scarce, as they mature before soil moisture gets depleted. Farmers in sorghum growing areas, for example, could plant pearl millet to escape the onset of drought.


Third is efficiently managing natural resources to arrest land degradation, conserve soil moisture and harvest water during the rainy season for supplemental irrigation.


Fourth is empowering stakeholders by building capacity, enabling rural institutions and formulating policies that support dryland agriculture. Capacity building, in the form of knowledge sharing and strategic partnerships, lets people accumulate valuable 'social capital'. But institutional mechanisms for accessing markets and credit, rural infrastructure and other support services are also needed.


ICRISAT also recommends farmers grow an array of crops, together with rearing livestock and having other activities that generate income. This can enhance farm income when times are good and lessen the risks of total crop failure if drought strikes.


Such science-based strategies have already been shown to be effective. A pilot project at Kothapally in Andhra Pradesh has helped improve livelihoods through community watershed management. Its success has led to the project being repeated in 240 micro-watersheds in India and other Asian countries, directly benefiting 250,000 people.


Points for policymakers

With climate change likely to exacerbate water scarcity, countries need to efficiently manage their water resources. This means, among other things, immediately formulating and implementing policies and programmes to support dryland agriculture. In particular, policymakers must:


1. significantly increase public investment in dryland agriculture, including agricultural research and rural infrastructure;

2. develop sophisticated techniques for predicting and forecasting the monsoons in the context of climate change;

3. enable collective action and rural institutions for agriculture and natural resource management;

4. rehabilitate degraded lands and diversify livelihood systems for landless and vulnerable groups;

5. recharge depleted groundwater aquifers and enforce strong regulations on groundwater extraction;

6. clearly define and enforce water rights in watershed communities;

7. roll out the community watershed management model;

8. price water and power to more accurately reflect their opportunity costs;

9. support water-saving options such as drip irrigation and dryland crops; and

10. include dryland crops in the minimum support price scheme.


Substantial investments in improved water management and new technology, along with appropriate policy and institutional innovations, can significantly increase agricultural productivity.


India should start investing now for the long-term sustainability of its farming sector, particularly in dryland agriculture. Doing so will enable India's farmers to win their gamble with the monsoons for good. And Indian dryland agriculture would become a beacon for the rest of the world.


William D. Dar is director general of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics.


Source: This opinion is based on an article published in The Hindu.


Source: SciDevNet via


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1.14  A truce in the crop wars


27June 2009


By Mac Margolis


A funny thing happened on the way to the next green revolution. The world's biggest biotech corporations have deployed the latest in genetic science to pump up yield, ward off crop disease, make food more nutritious and fundamentally reengineer what we plant and eat, and no one is complaining. Environmental groups are not shouting about the perils of "Frankenfoods." There's no rabid French cheese maker with a bad mustache leading foodies on a rampage through high-tech farms. Prince Charles is quiet. Has the war over the world's dinner table finally ended?


Not quite. Europe, much of Asia and parts of Africa fiercely resist filling the larder with genetically modified groceries, and many in agribusiness despair that they always will. So instead, they're trying to woo them with distinctly non-GM varieties. Crop scientists, seed companies and clever farmers are using the most advanced tools of science to reinvent native breeding—the age-old technique of selecting the best crops and then painstakingly breeding and crossbreeding them to make more and better food. These discoveries are remaking the world's farms by boosting productivity, creating more-nutritious food and steeling harvests against diseases and inclement weather. And yet because the new methods do not require gene splicing, they circumvent the conflict between Big Biotech and the Cassandras of food that has roiled for decades. In part, this is also a recognition that early claims for the coming genetically modified utopia were overstated.


Don't call it retro farming. Behind the revival of "traditional" farming techniques are many of the same breakthroughs in genetics, computerization and plant physiology that have driven the biotech revolution. The difference is, instead of food fashioned in the laboratory by lifting DNA from one species to another, scientists are working to unlock the secrets bundled inside each plant itself.


Part of the story is that conventional breeding can still do certain things extremely well—even better than genetic manipulation. What GM techniques are best at is isolating particularly useful bits of DNA in a prized plant, and transferring that single gene to another plant that is less well endowed. (In the best-known example, Monsanto spliced a gene from naturally herbicide-tolerant grass into soybeans, so farmers could apply the chemicals without killing their crops.) Conventional breeding still does better at building up qualities that require a complex suite of genes, such as the ability to fight off certain insects or to resist drought, which involves a host of genes that determine the way plants take up and manage water. The Switzerland-based company Syngenta, which made its name through gene splicing, has found that the best way to fight off sucking aphids, which devour soybeans, is through a combination of techniques, from spraying with pesticides to using molecular markers to identify naturally resistant strains of soy and then crossbreed them to create bugproof new varieties.


Without resorting to GM, researchers at the Brazilian agricultural institute Embrapa are breeding varieties of upland rice that not only ward off pests and increase yield, but also contain up to double the vital minerals (iron, zinc) found in unimproved varieties. They have tripled the amount of vitamin A in corn and boosted iron uptake in wheat. Cimmyt, a wheat- and maize-improvement center in Mexico, is breeding corn for pest resistance that has cut losses to weevils in half. The German biotech company BASF has launched an improved, non-GM strain of corn that resists striga, a weed that ravages African fields, and is working to breed high-yielding commercial strains of wheat that also resist fungus and drought.


The recent advances in genomics are saving scientists time, grief and money over old methods of crossbreeding by allowing them to quickly zero in on the genes associated with desired traits like high growth or vitamin A content or efficient ethanol production. Ag experts are especially excited by a technique called marker-assisted breeding, which mines a plant genome to enhance native breeding. Just as modern medicine has found ways to track bits of human DNA responsible for good traits (straight teeth) or bad (cancer), high-tech farmers peer inside the submicroscopic components of seeds and plants to pinpoint the specific genes, or markers, that command growth, or that make plants susceptible to disease. Identifying and tracking markers can lead in a matter of months to the strongest varieties for further breeding while discarding the weak. Research can then use lasers to take microslices of a seed without damaging it and evaluate the genetic components to see if they've got a potential winner. The techniques have cut the time it takes corn breeders to create a new strain from 10 years to four.


Avoiding gene tinkering also saves money that would otherwise be spend on lawyers, patents and getting the products through the labyrinth of health and safety hurdles—often 90 percent of the cost of GM, estimates Thomas Lumpkin, head of maize breeding at Cimmyt. The battle over Frankenfoods is sure to smolder on. But thanks to the breakthroughs of cutting-edge agricultural science, traditional farming still has a brilliant future.


Source: NEWSWEEK, From the magazine issue dated Jul 13, 2009


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1.15  The role of genetically modified crops in Africa


9 July 2009


Dr. Daniel Mataruka of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) has written an original article for the Council for Biotechnology Information blog on the role of ag biotech in Africa. Dr. Mataruka writes:


"During the past decade, Africa's population increased from 760 to 970 million, pushing farmers to encroach on fragile ecosystems. Climate change is increasingly manifest through erratic rainfall patterns, prolonged drought spells, and unprecedented floods, making rain-fed agriculture even more risky, thus aggravating food insecurity among resource-poor smallholder farmers. Compounding this scenario are post-harvest pests that devour their meager harvests. Indeed, the challenges are great, sometimes disillusioning, but certainly not insurmountable. Under these circumstances, GM technologies have a role in addressing challenges that were previously elusive to classical breeding on its own."


Read more »

The Council for Biotechnology Information communicates science-based information about the benefits and safety of agricultural biotechnology and its contributions to sustainable development.




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1.16 DNA of ancient lost barley could help modern crops cope with water stress


21 July 2009


Warwick, United Kingdom

Researchers at the University of Warwick have recovered significant DNA information from a lost form of ancient barley that triumphed for over 3000 years seeing off: 5 changes in civilisation, water shortages and a much more popular form of barley that produces more grains. This discovery offers a real insight into the couture of ancient farming and could assist the development of new varieties of crops to face today's climate change challenges.


The researchers, led by Dr Robin Allaby from the University of Warwick's plant research arm Warwick HRI, examined Archaeobotanical remains of ancient barley at Qasr Ibrim in Egypt's Upper Nile. This is a site that was occupied for over 3000 years by 5 successive cultures: Napatan, Roman, Meoitic, Christian and Islamic.


The first surprise for the researchers was that throughout that period every culture seemed to be growing a two rowed form of barley. While natural wild barley tends to be two rowed most farmers prefer to grow a much higher yield 6 row version which produces up to 3 times as many grains. That 6 row version has grown for over 8000 years and that was certainly grown in the lower Nile over the same period as Qasr Ibrim was occupied. It was thought that despite the fact that the rest of Egypt used 6 row barley that the farmers of Qasr Ibrim were perhaps deliberately choosing to import 2 rowed barley but the researchers could not understand why that would be so.


The plant scientists were pleased to find that the very dry conditions at Qasr Ibrim meant that they were able to extract a great deal of DNA information from barley samples from the site that dated back 2900 years. This was far better than would normally be expected from barley samples of that age. This led to the researchers to a second and much bigger surprise. They found that the DNA evidence showed that the two rowed barley at the site wasn't the normal wild two eared barley but a mutation of the more normally cultivated six rowed barley that had changed into a two ear form that had continued to be cultivated for around three millennia.


Dr Robin Allaby said:

"The consistency of the two-row phenotype throughout all the strata spanning three millennia indicates that the reason for the reappearance of the two row form is more likely to be genetic, not environmental. Consequently, the two-row condition has probably resulted from a gain of a function mutation at another point in the plants DNA that has also reasserted the two-row condition from a six-row ancestor"


"There may have been a natural selection pressure that strongly favoured the two-row condition. One such possible cause we are currently investigating is water stress. Qasr Ibrim is located in the upper Nile which is very arid relative to the lower Nile where six-row remains are found, and studies have shown that two-row can survive water stress better than six-row"


He concluded that:

"This finding has two important implications. Such strong selection pressure is likely to have affected many genes in terms of adaptation. Archaeogenetic study of the DNA of such previously lost ancient crops could confirm the nature of the selection pressure and be very valuable in the development of new varieties of crops to help with today's climate change challenges. Secondly this crop's rediscovery adds to our respect for the methods and thinking of ancient farmers. These ancient cultures utilized crops best suited to their environmental situation for centuries, rather than the much more popular six rowed barley they used a successful low grain number yield crop which could cope far better with water stress."


The research paper entitled "Archaeogenetic Evidence of Ancient Nubian Barley Evolution from Six to Two-Row Indicates Local Adaptation" has just been published in PLoS One. The papers authors are: by Dr Robin Allaby, Sarah A. Palmer and Jonathan D. Moore from the University of Warwick's plant research arm Warwick HRI; Alan J. Clapham from Worcestershire Historic Environment & Archaeology Service at the University of Worcester; and Pamela Rose fromThe McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge.




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1.17  Peru's patent win strikes blow against biopiracy


16 July 2009


by Zoraida Portillo

Peru has prevented several foreign companies from taking out patents on products by demonstrating that they were developed using the traditional knowledge of Peruvians.


Over the past few months, the Peruvian National Commission Against Biopiracy has shown authorities from France, Japan, Korea and the United States that products submitted for patents were developed using the traditional knowledge of Peruvian people.


It showed that the products lacked the innovation and inventiveness required for patents.


"This is a good example of how coordinated action between the state, the business sector and civil society can prevent inappropriately granted patents related to genetic resources and traditional knowledge," Andrés Valladolid, technical coordinator at the commission, told SciDev.Net.


The products are derived from Lepidium meyenii, Plukenetia volubilis Linneo and Myrciaria dubia — three plants well known among indigenous Peruvian populations for their medicinal properties.


"I suspect a lot of developing countries will be quite impressed by what Peru has achieved and may consider doing something similar by establishing a department to investigate biopiracy allegations," says Graham Dutfield, professor of international governance at the University of Leeds, United Kingdom.


"Some will say that the refusal of the patents shows how well the patent system can operate. Consequently, it is a matter of monitoring the situation and gathering prior evidence to attack questionable patent applications," Dutfield adds.


"Others will say that since not every country is going to make as much effort as Peru to challenge bad patent applications, the lesson to be learned is that the patent system effectively promotes biopiracy — and needs serious reform to avoid the misappropriation of traditional knowledge."


The commission monitors 69 Peruvian genetic resources on databases at the world's main patent offices. "We don't want to forbid companies from using our genetic resources or traditional knowledge — but they have to reward the indigenous people fairly," Valladolid says.


But Michel Pimbert, director of the Sustainable Agriculture, Biodiversity and Livelihoods programme at the International Institute for Environment and Development, is sceptical about the likelihood of such rewards as, he says, indigenous people's own national governments often do not recognise their rights as citizens.


"It would be naive to think that national governments would automatically share benefits with local communities when biopiracy is prevented or compensation obtained," he says.


Source: SciDevNet via


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1.18  Traditional Thai hill farmers help preserve genetic diversity of rice


29 July 2009


St. Louis, Missouri, USA

By Melissae Fellet

Rice is one of the most important crops worldwide, as it feeds over half of the world's population. Domesticated rice is an important supply of the world's rice. However, these strains are genetically static and cannot adapt to changing growing conditions. Traditional varieties, or landraces, of rice are genetically evolving and provide a pool of traits that can be tapped to improve crops worldwide.


Research from Barbara A. Schaal, Ph.D., the Mary-Dell Chilton Distinguished Professor of biology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, and her colleagues at Chiang Mai University in Thailand shows how natural genetic drift and agricultural practices of the traditional farmers combine to influence the genetic diversity of a given landrace of rice.


Schaal is also involved in science policy, serving as vice president of the National Academy of Sciences and recently appointed to the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.


Schaal and her colleagues studied a landrace of rice grown by the Karen people in Thailand. They compared the genetic variation among the same variety of rice grown in different fields and villages. The genetics of the rice population fits the isolation by distance model, much like a native plant species. The further apart fields are, the more genetically distinct they are.


The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is funded by the McKnight Foundation and the Thailand Research Fund.


In the lowlands of Thailand, farmers grow modern high-yield rice. In the hills, the Karen people practice traditional agriculture, growing ancestral varieties of rice with traditional practices. Expert farmers play a role in maintaining their crop's genetic diversity by exchanging and choosing seeds to plant the following year.


It's interesting to see how the expert farmers interact with the plants. For example, there was a purple mutation that occurred in one of the expert farmer's fields. He was very curious about it. He took the seeds and grew it off in a corner because he wanted to see what it looked like and tasted like. That's probably how humans domesticated plants, smart people were making smart choices in what to plant and grow," Schaal said.


Many crops grown today have been genetically optimized to consistently give a large yield. Seeds are purchased from a supplier and the plants are all genetically similar.


"Most modern varieties of crops, like corn in the Midwest or high-yield rice in the lowlands of Thailand, are artificial constructs developed by plant breeders. They are extraordinarily important in feeding the world. But they are static and not evolving in farmer's fields," Schaal said.


The rice that the Karen people grow is genetically dynamic, due to natural drift and the farmer's artificial selection. Each year, the farmers choose the seeds that grow best in their fields, which may differ in soil type, elevation, and temperature from other fields, to plant next season. Their crop is constantly evolving in response to local conditions.


"My colleagues believe that those local varieties bred within a village are better than any one single variety could be. Under these circumstances, the farmers have it right," Schaal said.


Although most agriculture in the United States focuses on growing high-yield crops to produce food for people living in cities, landraces of corn and other crops exist in seed banks.


"There is a movement among Native Americans in Arizona to grow ancestral varieties of crops. These varieties are important because they are adapted to hot and dry conditions, something that will become more prevalent as our climate changes," Schaal said.


Time will tell if those farmers "get it right" too.


Source: Washington University via


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1.19  New, highly contagious strains of potato virus Y in Switzerland


The potato virus Y (PVY) is transmitted by several species of aphids and causes significant losses in yield and quality. Numerous new isolates of this virus have emerged in recent years in Swiss potato crops. Experiments at Agroscope Changins-Waedenswil (ACW) show that the epidemiology of the PVY strains and the sensitivity of potato varieties have changed completely.


The seed potatoes imported into Switzerland are from different regions of Europe. This exchange promotes the dissemination of various genotypes of PVY. The 1st symptoms of tuber necrosis were observed at the beginning of the 1990s and were caused by so-called NTN strains of the virus. One of the new strains was imported from Germany in planting material. The spread of the new isolates in Switzerland made the cultivation of certain very susceptible varieties difficult. At the beginning of the 2000s virologists at ACW discovered Wilga-types of the virus in Swiss crops. These strains can also cause significant damage.


ACW investigated the spread of different PVY strains under field conditions. The experiment showed that the variety Lady Christl has surprisingly good resistance to different isolates of the virus. The new strains are spreading faster and more effectively than the older strains of PVY. This new situation calls for more consistency and attention from seed potato producers. In the future, the sensitivity to these new PVY strains should be taken into account when choosing varieties, and the most sensitive varieties should be avoided.


communicated by ProMED-mail

Potato Virus Y_ (PVY; type member of genus _Potyvirus_) is one of the most damaging potato viruses affecting crop yields and tuber quality. PVY can also affect tomato, capsicum, and some other related species. It is transmitted by aphid vectors in a non-persistent manner, with _Myzus persicae_ being the most efficient vector. PVY can also be spread by mechanical means, plant-to-plant contact, or with infected planting material such as seed tubers. Disease management of PVY and other potato viruses relies largely on clean planting material and use of resistant crop varieties, but reduction of available virus reservoirs and vector numbers may also be useful.


The PVY isolates reported so far have been classified in 3 main strains, PVY-N, PVY-O, and PVY-C, according to leaf symptoms induced on the experimental host _Nicotiana tabacum_. PVY-N isolates have been divided into 2 groups, one causing mild mosaic in most potato cultivars, while the other induces "potato tuber necrotic ring disease" and severe chlorotic mosaic of leaves. It is referred to as PVY-NTN (necrotic group [N] and inducing tuber necrosis [TN]) and is the most virulent strain of PVY. It has been suggested that PVY-NTN isolates may have resulted from natural combination of local strains of PVY-N with PVY-O or PVY-C.


PVY-O isolates induce severe symptoms on potato leaves, such as crinkling, leaf drop, or severe necrotic mosaic. PVY-C isolates causes stipple streak on potato cultivars carrying the Nc resistance gene. Some isolates determined serologically as PVY-O and inducing less severe symptoms in potato than the PVY-N isolates have been called PVY-N-Wilga isolates.


A build up of PVY due to farm-saved seed potatoes has also been reported from the UK earlier this year (2009; see ProMED-mail post 20090212.0628).


Around 40 viruses have been reported to affect potato, and since the crop is vegetatively propagated, many of them may be disseminated in tubers. If virus-infected seed tubers are used, virus populations and numbers of co-infecting species and strains will build up with every crop cycle. This invariably leads to severely reduced plant vigour and a dramatic drop in yield. Even more severe problems may result if viruses in infected seed tubers are moved to a different area where they may combine with local pathogen populations and/or encounter lack of host resistance, as suggested above for Switzerland. The important role that tubers play in virus and viroid spread is recognised by the strict requirements for certified seed potato production in many countries worldwide.


Maps of Switzerland:

<> and <>

 Pictures PVY symptoms on potato:

<>  (leaves), <>  (leaves), <>  (plant), and <>


PVY symptoms on tomato leaf:


PVY particles, electron micrograph:



Information on _Potato virus Y_:


<>  and Information on PVY and other potato viruses:

<>  and <>

Review and diagnosis of PVY strains:


PVY taxonomy and description:


Agroscope potato research (in German):

<> . - Mod.DHA]

[see also in the archive:

Viruses & nematodes, potato - UK: alert 20090212.0628


---Potato virus Y, necrotic strain - USA (north west) 20021001.5434


Potato viruses - Saudi Arabia 19970414.0796 Aphis gossypii: new potato virus vector? - UK 19970113.0059]


A ProMED-mail post

ProMED-mail is a program of the International Society for Infectious Diseases

A ProMED-mail post


ProMED-mail is a program of the International Society for Infectious Diseases <>


Source: Proplanta [in German, trans. & summ. Mod.DHA, edited] via

29 June 2009


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1.20  New strain of stem rust on wheat in India


August 2009


Stem (black) rust, caused by _Puccinia graminis_ Pers. f. sp. _tritici_ Eriks. & Henn., is one of the most destructive diseases of wheat. It could be controlled through introgression of race-specific resistance genes. However, such resistance is mostly short lived due to emergence of new virulences. For example, resistance genes Sr11, Sr24, Sr30, and Sr31 are no longer effective. Detection of new virulences has remained vital in the evaluation and identification of new sources of resistance. We report here the detection of virulence to Sr25, a gene from _Thinopyrum elongatum_, which had been effective or partially effective against stem rust worldwide, including race Ug99.


A stem rust isolate collected in 2006 from Karnataka (southern India) produced susceptible reactions on the primary leaves of differential genotype 'Agatha' carrying Sr25 and susceptible check 'Agra Local'. To verify virulence to Sr25, single-pustule isolates from this sample were inoculated onto seedlings of 6 additional varieties which all carry Sr25. All these accessions were found susceptible to this isolate, except one, which expressed resistance, indicating the presence of additional gene(s). These genotypes are resistant to Sr25-avirulent pathotypes.


The new pathotype is avirulent to Sr11, 13, 14, 21, 22, 23, 24, 26, 27, 29, 31, 32, 33, 35, 37, 38, 39, 40, 43, and Tmp and virulent to Sr5, 6, 7a, 7b, 8a, 9a, 9b, 9d, 9e, 9f, 9g, 10, 12, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 28, 30, 34, 36, 42, Wld-1, and Gt. This pathotype has been designated as 58G13-3 and PKTSC according to the Indian nomenclature and the North American system, respectively. It represents race 40 based on Stakman's differentials [standard variety series to identify stem rust pathotypes. - Mod.DHA] It may have arisen from race 40 through mutation. The type culture of the pathotype has been added to the culture collection at Shimla [Himachal Pradesh, India].


The detection of Sr25 virulence is significant since Sr25 is an important gene to be targeted for breeding wheat cultivars resistant to Ug99. We should use either adult plant resistance and/or combining two or more genes for seedling resistance to enhance the field life of wheat cultivars.

Communicated by:ProMED-mail


[Wheat stem rust is caused by the fungus _Puccinia graminis_ f. sp. _tritici_. Overall yield losses of up to 80 percent are reported, but some fields are totally destroyed. New races are emerging, and the most dangerous at present is strain Ug99, which has overcome the major resistance gene Sr31 used in our current wheat varieties. An even more virulent variant of Ug99 able to overcome the additional resistance genes Sr24 and Sr36 has recently emerged in Kenya.


Rust spores are carried eastwards on prevailing winds, and regions at high risk of a Ug99 incursion were identified accordingly in the Middle East and South Asia. It is estimated that Ug99 could reduce world wheat production by 60 million tons and the pathogen is considered a global threat to food security. Resistance breeding programmes have been set up with international cooperation (Delhi Declaration, see link below) to establish wheat varieties resistant to Ug99.




Middle East, including Ug99 alert area:



Pictures of stem rust symptoms on wheat:

<>  and <>



Recent news stories on worldwide Ug99 resistance breeding:





Information on wheat stem rust:


Information on Ug99:



<>  and <>

_P. graminis_ f.sp. _tritici_ taxonomy:


Delhi Declaration on Ug99:


Global Rust Initiative:


Background on differential hosts for pathotype identification:

<>.  - Mod.DHA]

A ProMED-mail post

ProMED-mail is a program of the International Society for Infectious Diseases

A ProMED-mail post


ProMED-mail is a program of the International Society for Infectious Diseases <>





[Ref: Emergence of virulence to Sr25 of _Puccinia graminis_ f. sp. _tritici_ on wheat in India

SK Jain et al

Plant Dis 2009; 93(8), 840; DOI: 10.1094/PDIS-93-8-0840B]



Source: Plant Disease [edited] via


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1.21  Gene developed through conventional breeding to improve cowpea aphid resistance


28 July 2009


College Station, Texas

The cowpea or black-eyed pea, as it is more commonly known, is a New Year’s tradition for good luck. But disease and particularly aphids, which can wreck a crop within a few a days, are especially bad luck for the cowpea, according to scientists. Several new lines of cowpeas with genes that are aphid-resistant and less susceptible to disease are currently being tested by researchers with Texas AgriLife Research and other Texas A&M System entities.


“The cowpea has been an important and popular food crop throughout the southern U.S.,” said Dr. B.B. Singh, a visiting professor in the soil and crop sciences department at Texas A&M. “It’s commonly known as the southern pea, field pea, crowder pea, black-eyed pea, purple-hull pea and pinkeye pea widely grown in the southern states.”


The researchers’ discoveries could yield big rewards. An international food crop, the cowpea was most popular in the southern U.S. from the 1930s through ‘70s, and East Texas remains a large U.S. cowpea-producing region.

And during times of drought, the cowpea can be a viable alternative forage crop for livestock producers, due to its ability to fix nitrogen, tolerate drought and provide high-quality fodder, Singh said. It is a high-quality forage for cattle producers, with a protein content as high as 28 percent in seeds and 17 percent to 20 percent in the fodder after harvesting the seeds.


However, the aphid is currently the biggest threat to cowpea producers, Singh said.


“(Aphids) like dry weather,” explained Singh, who has spent his entire career studying the cowpea. “Immediately after infestation, they start sucking the juice (sap) from cowpea leaves, stem, flowers and pods of the plants reducing their growth and development and causing severe reduction in yield. They also spread viruses. Aphids can ruin a crop within a few days.”


Singh, came to the department as a visiting professor following his retirement two years ago from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, considered the epicenter of cowpea research.


At Texas A&M, Singh is working with colleagues Dr. J. Creighton Miller, D.C. Sheuring and Dr. Bill Payne using field trials in College Station to find a solution to the aphid problem.


Singh has brought more than 35 lines of cowpeas with drought and aphid tolerance, as well as resistance to other diseases and higher yield potential, to College Station. His work there has involved using conventional breeding methods to cross those lines with six Texas and California varieties in greenhouse and field settings.


“Many of the IITA lines are resistant to aphid, bacterial blight, powdery mildew and drought, whereas most of the U.S. lines are susceptible,” Singh said. “A number of crosses were made to transfer the resistance to aphids and drought from the IITA lines to the U.S. lines.”


In mid July, an aphid infestation hit the College Station trials, putting the new varieties to the test.


“It’s been fairly severe, permitting selection of resistant plants from the F2 and F3 populations,” he said. “Due to drought and aphids this crop season, all of the susceptible cowpea varieties and segregating plants have been completely damaged, showing 80 percent to 100 percent yield loss, while the aphid resistant varieties and segregating plants are completely healthy with normal yield. The resistance is simply inherited, very effective and highly stable across environments.”


From the segregating populations, the resistant plants with diverse maturity dates, plant type, growth habits and seed types have been selected to meet the need for grain type, fodder-type and pasture-type cowpea varieties, he said.


“These are being advanced to achieve uniformity and multi-location testing for stability of resistance and yield potential," Singh added. The new aphid-resistant, high-yielding varieties could be available to farmers as early as 2011, Singh said.


"The cowpea has worldwide importance as a crop for both human and animal nutrition," said Payne of Texas AgriLife Research, assistant director for research at the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture. "Introducing improved disease- and drought-resistant and higher-yield varieties could not only have tremendous potential for Texas and U.S. agriculture, it could help provide poor and developing countries with an important alternative source of nutrition."


According to the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Africa, the cowpea is an important food crop in many African, Asian and South American countries, especially as an alternative source of protein where people cannot afford meat and fish. The crop typically is grown by subsistence farmers with limited agricultural resources, who use it to feed livestock or sell for additional income.


The international Food and Agriculture Organization estimates more than 7.5 million tons of cowpeas are produced annually worldwide, with sub-Saharan Africa responsible for about 70 percent of that amount.


“We are already involved in international research projects in Africa relating to cowpeas,” Payne noted. “It’s exciting to think where these new activities in College Station and the research already under way in Africa may lead.”




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1.22  Scientists develop rust-proof soybean for Africa


3 July 2009

Good news for soybean farmers in West and Central Africa. The Nigeria-based International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has developed a new variety resistant to the deadly Asian soybean rust, a disease that could wipe out as much as 80% of infested crops. Caused by the fungus Phakopsora pachyrhizi, the plant disease has wreaked havoc in Africa and South America. According to the IITA, Brazil lost an estimated US$2 billion in yields despite spending US$400 million on fungicides to control the disease in 2003 alone. For most African farmers, using resistant varieties is the most viable method to control the dreaded rust as applying fungicides proves very costly.


The new variety, named TGx 1835-10E, is also high-yielding, averaging 1655 kg/ha grain and 2210 kg/ha fodder. TGx 1835-10E was released for cultivation in Nigeria. Trials are also underway in other parts of Africa. Hailu Tefera, IITA soybean breeder, noted: "The variety can be used for direct cultivation in tropical Africa or as a source of resistance genes in soybean breeding programs. It was previously released in Uganda, and has already shown excellent performance in trials carried out in Southern Africa."


Read the original story at


From Crop Biotech Update


Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics

Cornell University


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1.23  ARS releases corky root-resistant lettuce lines


10 July 2009

The US Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service  (ARS) has released three new lettuce breeding lines with resistance  to corky root, a serious lettuce disease caused by the bacterium  Sphingomonas suberifaciens. Infection of the bacterium causes lettuce  roots to expand and develop yellow to brown lesions and longitudinal  cracks, taking on a cork-like appearance. This results to severe  yield loss since the roots are unable to effectively absorb water and nutrients.


The corky root-resistant lettuce lines, developed by ARS scientist  Beiquan Mou, also showed little to no tipburn in test trials. Tipburn is caused by calcium deficiency in young, growing leaves. This defect severely limits the appearance and shelflife of lettuce, especially if the lettuce is to be used for salad mixes as there is zero tolerance for defects.


For more information, read



From Crop Biotech Update


Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics

Cornell University


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1.24  Canadian researchers working to develop super lycopene tomato


17 July 2009

Healthier tomato sauce and ketchup may soon hit supermarket shelves in Canada. Researchers at the University of Guelph are working to increase the levels of lycopene in tomato, with the goal of creating the "ultimate healthy" tomato for processing. Lycopene, which is responsible for tomato's distinctive red color, has powerful antioxidant properties. Studies have shown that the compound is effective in reducing the risk of developing cancer, cardiovascular disease and macular degeneration.


"Boosting the nutritional value is the focus now for the tomato processing industry, and consumers will be reaping the benefits," said Steven Loewen, leader of the study. Loewen and colleagues have identified genes that could give tomatoes up to a 200-percent boost in lycopene. These genes can also increase the levels of beta-carotene, a source of vitamin A.


But researchers are finding that increasing the levels of the anti-oxidant in tomato is much more difficult than it sounds. The high-lycopene genes diminish seed germination, plant development and yield. So Loewen and colleagues are aiming for the "super lycopene" plant varieties to have superior traits all around that will produce the best functional properties without sacrificing growth and overall crop yield. They are also looking for ways to develop early maturing and rot-resistant tomato varieties.


Read the complete story at



From Crop Biotech Update


Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics

Cornell University


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1.25  Double chromosomes equals more plant power


27 July 2009


Kvar Tavor, Israel


By Karin Kloosterman

Biofuels are alternative energy fuels produced from living organisms or metabolic byproducts (organic or food waste products). If we could just find a more efficient way to unlock their energy, and to minimize the amount of land and water resources needed to grow them, they could replace the polluting and limited reserves of fossil fuels currently in use.


Now Kaiima Bio-Agritech of Israel believes that it has found a way to do just that.


"The oil is going to end," Ariel Krolzig (photo), product manager of Kaiima, tells ISRAEL21c. "It's a question of time. In the last few years no new oil fields have been found. Why are countries like Brazil looking for alternatives?" he asks rhetorically.


Sporting a sage-like beard, Krolzig is standing beside the star of his likely success story, a castor oil plant. He proceeds to describe the method developed by Kaiima that doubles a plant's chromosomes from a set of two to a set of four.


This doubling results in higher cell activity, increased photosynthesis and better adaptation to local conditions in the field. Most importantly, it more than doubles the plant's biofuel potential.


Castor oil could save the day

Companies around the world are now field testing Kaiima's seeds for the castor oil plant. "There are about 120 different purposes for it," says Krolzig, stressing that biofuel is among them.


The chromosome doubling that Kaiima can now induce may occur naturally in nature. When it does, the plants with four chromosomes typically show advantages over those with just two sets in each nucleus.


For some time now, plant breeders and scientists have been trying to encourage this doubling or "polyploidy" in certain plants with high economic value, using artificial methods including colchicine treatment, nitrous oxide treatment and temperature shock.


However, these methods have caused damage to the plants' DNA and ultimately to the plants themselves. Using a biotechnology technique called CGM (Clean Genome Multiplication), Kaiima has found a way to create polyploidy in plants, without encroaching on their DNA.


Kaiima believes that its new castor oil plants (sold as seeds) will revolutionize the biofuel industry. By using its CGM technique, the company brings about dramatic increases in the plants' yields and energy, while using less water and land.


Great potential, no drawbacks

And an added benefit, which should mollify the sizable resistance to organisms that are altered in any way: "It's not transgenic, it's not a genetically modified organism (GMO)," Krolzig asserts.


Explaining why the research was conducted on castor plants, Krolzig says that the castor plant, grown mainly in India and China, is widely utilized in the chemical, plastic and cosmetic industries and also as a lubricant that doesn't break down under high temperatures, for use in high-speed cars and airplanes.


A non-edible crop, castor can be grown on poor quality land that isn''t suitable for other kinds of food crops. This means that growing it won't influence global food prices on a large scale, unlike other biofuels such as sugarcane or corn.


Until now, the problem with castor oil has been that it is very expensive to produce, relative to its yields. Previously, the highest yield of oily beans from castor has been about 1.5 to 1.6 tons of beans per hectare, half of which is oil - about 750 kilograms.


"We have varieties that yield five to10 tons of seeds per hectare. At this yield, castor starts to be profitable as a biofuel," Krolzig declares.


Before closing any big deals, prospective clients are testing Kaiima's claims in Mexico, Spain, Argentina and other South American locations. "We just started selling now; the customers want to try them first," adds Krolzig, explaining that living biological material may behave differently in different parts of the world.


Mitigating the dangers of global warming

Food crops that have undergone Kaiima's CGM technique tend to show a greater tolerance to high temperatures and poor soil conditions. The company believes it will be able to produce rice varieties which can withstand ground temperatures higher than 35 degrees Celsius. This bio-technology may grant us some global food security if the dire predictions about global warming prove accurate.


In addition, Kaiima says that its plant varieties may even mitigate the dangers of global warming. Plants that undergo CGM can absorb twice as much CO2 per unit leaf area and their leaves are twice as big. They also use 20-30 percent less water per accumulated biomass unit, according to the company. Kaiima's conclusion is that CGM can be used to effectively mitigate global CO2 emissions and save water.


Kaiima was founded in 2002, by Amit Avidov, an agronomist with 30 years experience in seed breeding. (The company was originally named Bio Fuel, but changed its name in 2006.) Prior to this, he worked for Morning Seeds and Top Seeds, and was chief breeder at De Ruiter Seeds, a Dutch seed company later sold to Monsanto.


At present, Kaiima is involved in projects to multiply the genomes and increase the yield of other plants for fuel and food. They are working with jatropha, rapeseed (canola), rice, wheat, sugarcane and eucalyptus.


Based in Ramat Yishai, Kaiima employs between 60 and 80 people and all its operations are in Israel. It is backed by the venture funds Draper Fisher Jurvetson and DFJ-Tamir Fishman, and recently raised $8 million in investment money.


Krolzig sums up the company raison d'etre: With biofuels we are "not disturbing the balance."


Source: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs  via


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1.26  Can these "amber waves of grain" become perennials?


17 July 2009


East Lansing, Michigan

Every time a farmer plants a cash crop, he or she makes a substantial investment of money, time and labor resources. But what if that crop wasn’t something that had to be planted every year, but instead, sprouted out of the ground each spring and was ready for a summer harvest?


Michigan State University (MSU) associate professor of crop and soil sciences at the Kellogg Biological Station, Sieg Snapp, is addressing that question. Her team is studying the possibilities for developing perennial wheat as a crop for environmentally friendly agricultural production. She’s conducting this work thanks to a four-year, one million dollar U.S. Department of Agriculture organic research grant.


Snapp is leading a team that includes MSU professor of agriculture, food and resource economics, Scott Swinton; MSU outreach specialist, Vicki Morrone; MSU wheat breeder, Janet Lewis; Michigan farmers; and colleagues at Washington State University. Their work builds on research that leads to a new type of perennial grain crop. “Our goal is to go the next step and develop perennial wheat varieties and management that are practical for farmers to adopt, to use as a ground cover, a forage AND a grain crop.


“Washington and Kansas have conducted innovative plant breeding, crossing intermediate wheat grass forage to annual wheat to get the annual wheat grain characteristics and a close to marketable product,” Snapp says. “I realized that nobody was focusing on agronomic management, and practical aspects of variety development, so my student, Brook Wilke, started about three years ago to evaluate varieties suitable for Michigan.” Snapp and the team will study these perennial wheat varieties at the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station (KBS), an MSU Agricultural Experiment Station facility located in southwestern Michigan.


“We’re going to be investigating them for their adaptation to Michigan farms at the research station and on farms,” Snapp says. “We’re looking at organic production practices, and different management options, like whether we could possibly graze the crop in the fall to obtain multiple products, forage and grain.”


The research team will study the wheat over three to four cropping seasons so they can observe its hardiness under different weather conditions and extremes in temperature and precipitation. The perennial wheat isn’t just a money-saving crop --it also protects the environment -- helping to keep the soil in place and capture rain and snow.


“It’s always growing and keeps roots in the soil to prevent erosion,” Snapp points out. “We’ve already found that the roots of the perennial wheat can reach three-times deeper than annual wheat roots and this is promising for a crop that could capture carbon.”


The perennial wheat may save farmers money at planting, produce enough yield to allow them to realize a profit, provide a secondary income source and protect the environment, but it also has to fit in on the typical Michigan farm. Snapp won’t be conducting her studies in a vacuum, but will include farmer cooperators who will be part of the research team, giving input into the experiments and sharing the results they find in using it on their farms.


In a year or two, the researchers will produce enough seed at KBS to provide farmer experimentation opportunities. Snapp plans to include growers who can help test the wheat under different conditions on farms of varying sizes around the state.


“We’ll also look at some of the economics and how it does as a single and dual crop,” she says. “That’s where the agricultural economist will come in and look at profitability of the dual use crop.”


Snapp says she’s looking forward to seeing how farmers will fit perennial wheat into their crop systems. “My experience with participatory farm research is that you learn new ways from the farmers to make it work,” she says.


The studies will continue at KBS while the on-farm research gets underway in a systematic effort that Snapp has developed that is used by plant breeders in Africa and Asia, a research design called “mother and baby trials.”


“The research station trial is the ‘mother’ and that’s the big-scale trial that includes all of the varieties and agronomic treatments,” she says. “The on-farm trials are the ‘baby’ trials. We’ll give farmers the opportunity to choose a few varieties to test on their farm, which will facilitate testing across many environments and under different management systems including organic production. Farmers will have the opportunity to provide feedback on varieties they test.”


So what will become of this information? It will be used to inform basic science research conducted at universities around the world, but Snapp will also disseminate the study’s outcomes via MSU Extension to farmers who might want to grow perennial wheat in fields across Michigan and beyond.


“MSU Extension is part of our advisory group and we work with several specialists,” Snapp says. “Their role will become even more important as we get more seed and do this on a larger scale -- we couldn’t do it without Extension.”




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1.27  Rice defies its reputation as a thirsty crop


20 July 2009


Los Baños, The Philippines

Two new sister lines of rice are defying rice’s reputation as a thirsty crop as they demonstrate their improved productivity in drought-prone regions of India and the Philippines.


Rice Today’s July-September 2009 edition features the development of drought-tolerant rice and other research the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and its collaborators are doing to curb the devastating effects of drought.


With some degree of water shortages predicted to affect 15-20 million hectares of irrigated rice within 25 years, smart crop management and even genetically modified rice may also play a role in helping farmers cope with the crisis.


Rice Today continues to uncover major developments in rice production worldwide. In Uganda rice production has increased 2.5 times from 2004 to 2008 through government initiatives, private investment, and farmer support.


Across the other side of the planet rice production, consumption, and prospects in Latin America are being explored. Rice is being promoted to consumers in Mexico and Central America and in Brazil production is improving.


In light of further boosting production, IRRI takes a look at some practical solutions to help reduce grain losses and improve grain quality during postharvest. Between 15-20% of rice grains are often lost at this stage because of unsuitable drying techniques, pests, and other factors.


As IRRI approaches its 50th anniversary, Rice Today looks at the Institute’s greatest challenges. We gathered the views of former IRRI directors general, senior staff, and associates, in this issue’s Pioneer Interviews section. From using biotechnology and finding IRRI’s niche as our partners improve their capacity, to addressing climate change and funding needs, their insights indicate how IRRI can achieve its aims in the coming years.


Capacity-building programs remain high on the agenda with the Rice Knowledge Bank making inroads across many major rice-growing countries, providing them with a free and reliable repository of best-practice information.


All of these, plus the latest news, views, and books, are available now in Rice Today (July-September, 2009). Subscribers’ copies are now being mailed. To subscribe to Rice Today’s electronic newsletter, which includes links to the full content of the magazine, contact Lourdes Columbres.




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1.28  Glimmer of hope in fight against iron deficiency in rice


ETH Zurich scientists have developed rice plants that contain six times more iron in polished rice kernels


21 July 2009

According to the World Health Organization, approximately two billion people suffer from iron deficiency. They tire easily, experience problems in metabolizing harmful substances in their bodies and eventually suffer from anemia. Women and children are particularly affected in developing countries, where rice is the major staple food. Peeled rice, also called polished rice, does not have enough iron to satisfy the daily requirement, even if consumed in large quantities. For many people, a balanced diet or iron supplements are often unaffordable.


Rice actually has a lot of iron, but only in the seed coat. Because unpeeled rice quickly becomes rancid in tropical and subtropical climates, however, the seed coat - along with the precious iron - has to be removed for storage. Researchers working with Christof Sautter and Wilhelm Gruissem in the laboratory of plant biotechnology at ETH Zurich have now succeeded in increasing the iron content in polished rice by transferring two plant genes into an existing rice variety. Their work was published today in the online edition of „Plant Biotechnology Journal".


Genes help to mobilize and store iron

The rice plants express the two genes to produce the enzyme nicotianamin syn-thase, which mobilizes iron, and the protein ferritin, which stores iron. Their synergistic action allows the rice plant to absorb more iron from the soil and store it in the rice kernel. The product of nicotianamine synthase, called nicotianamin, binds the iron temporarily and facilitates its transportation in the plant. Ferritin acts as a storage depot for iron in both plants and humans. The researchers controlled the genes introduced in such a way that nicotianamin synthase is expressed throughout the rice plant, but ferritin only in the rice kernel. Together, the expression of the genes has a positive impact on iron accumulation in the rice kernel and increases the iron content more than six-fold compared to the original variety.


No negative impacts anticipated

The ETH scientists are excited about the new rice variety. The prototypes behave normally in the greenhouse and show no signs of possible negative effects. «Next we will have to test whether the rice plants also perform well in the field under agronomical conditions», says Wilhelm Gruissem. The ETH Professor does not expect the plants to have a negative impact on the environment. It is unlikely that they will deplete the soil of iron, as iron is the most abundant metallic element in it.


Distribution to farmers still many years away

The rice plants will have to undergo many greenhouse and field tests for bio-safety and agronomic performance before the high-iron rice varieties eventually become available to farmers. The current prototypes are unsuitable for agricultural production yet. Although the new rice variety already has an iron content that is nutritionally relevant, Gruissem wants to increase it further. After all, many people who suffer from iron deficiency can only afford one meal per day. If the scientists manage to increase iron in the rice kernel up to twelve-fold, one rice meal will be sufficient to satisfy the daily iron requirement.


The experience with the high-vitamin A „Golden Rice", which was developed at ETH Zurich in collaboration with researchers at the University of Freiburg (Germany), has shown that it takes years before genetically engineered rice can actually be planted by farmers. The regulatory hurdles and costs involved in making genetically modified plants available to agriculture and consumers are very high. The ETH scientists aim to make their high-iron rice plants available to small-scale and self-sufficient farmers free of charge.




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1.29  Scientists use new type of genetic modification to developing salt-tolerant crops


8 July 2009


Adelaide, South Australia

An international team of scientists has developed salt-tolerant plants using a new type of genetic modification (GM), bringing salt-tolerant cereal crops a step closer to reality.


The research team - based at the University of Adelaide's Waite Campus - has used a new GM technique to contain salt in parts of the plant where it does less damage.


Salinity affects agriculture worldwide, which means the results of this research could impact on world food production and security.


The work has been led by researchers from the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics and the University of Adelaide's School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, in collaboration with scientists from the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Cambridge, UK.


The results of their work are published today in the top international plant science journal, The Plant Cell.


"Salinity affects the growth of plants worldwide, particularly in irrigated land where one third of the world's food is produced. And it is a problem that is only going to get worse, as pressure to use less water increases and quality of water decreases," says the team's leader, Professor Mark Tester, from the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine at the University of Adelaide and the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics (ACPFG).


"Helping plants to withstand this salty onslaught will have a significant impact on world food production."


Professor Tester says his team used the technique to keep salt - as sodium ions (Na+) - out of the leaves of a model plant species. The researchers modified genes specifically around the plant's water conducting pipes (xylem) so that salt is removed from the transpiration stream before it gets to the shoot.


"This reduces the amount of toxic Na+ building up in the shoot and so increases the plant's tolerance to salinity," Professor Tester says. "In doing this, we've enhanced a process used naturally by plants to minimise the movement of Na+ to the shoot. We've used genetic modification to amplify the process, helping plants to do what they already do - but to do it much better."


The team is now in the process of transferring this technology to crops such as rice, wheat and barley."Our results in rice already look very promising," Professor Tester says.




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1.30  Global rice research community provides critical tools to unravel the diversity of rice


23 July 2009


Los Baños, The Philippines

By looking at what different types of rice have in common a team of international scientists are unlocking rice’s genetic diversity to help conserve it and find valuable rice genes to help improve rice production.


Rice is the world’s most important food crop. Understanding its valuable genetic diversity and using it to breed new rice varieties will provide the foundation for improving rice production into the future and to secure global food supplies.


Recently published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), the research team scrutinized the genomes of twenty different types of genetically diverse rice used in international breeding with a wide range of different characteristics.


“We are hunting for snippets of DNA, called single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs, that distinguish these rice,” says Dr. Ken McNally from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). “The collection of SNPs that we have found is the most extensive in rice to date.”


“If the rice types share a favorable trait, like drought tolerance, high yield, or even desirable cooking quality characteristics, they are likely to share similar SNPs contributing to that trait.”


Rice contains tens of thousands of genes, so finding a successful way to hunt through them all is a major breakthrough. IRRI maintains the International Rice Gene Bank containing over 109,000 types of rice, yet relatively few have been used in breeding programs.


Director General of IRRI, Dr. Robert Zeigler, says “If breeders know more about the genetic makeup of rice, they can use it more effectively. As we face more erratic changes in climate, we will increasingly rely on using the untapped diversity of rice to develop new and improved rice varieties.”


This study represents a significant international collaboration across attracting researchers from Asia, North America, and Europe interested in both basic and applied science, from evolution, crop domestication, to practical breeding.


Dr. Jan Leach, University Distinguished Professor at Colorado State University, a co-author on the study, indicates that “the comprehensive SNP information is enabling exploration of rice diversity for understanding how genes function in rice and for improving important rice traits.”


Dr. Detlef Weigel, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Biology and collaborator on the project, agrees “This work sets the stage for the next phase of unlocking the treasure trove of genetic diversity available at IRRI and other centers for rice breeding."


This research was done in collaboration with Colorado State University, Michigan State University, Perlegen Sciences, Inc., McGill University, the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, the Friedrich Miescher Laboratory of the Max Planck Society, and Cornell University with support from a consortium of institutions and donors including the Generation Challenge Program, and the United States Department of Agriculture.


Source: International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) via


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1.31  Gene breakthrough secures crops' future


22 July 2009


Callaghan NSW, Australia

University of Newcastle researchers have achieved a major scientific breakthrough in the quest to protect crop longevity, yield and quality.


Scientists at the University-based Australia-China Research Centre for Crop Improvement have identified a gene in tomatoes that can be 'knocked-out' to create sweeter fruit and longer-lasting leaves.


The gene - INVINH1 - played a major role in limiting the amount of sugar delivered to each part of the plant and if prevented from expressing itself more sugar (glucose and fructose) could be delivered to specific parts of the plants including seeds and fruits. When applied to other fruits and vegetables, the technology could increase crop seed yield, fruit quality, and lengthen shelf life.


Centre Director Associate Professor Yong-Ling Ruan, from the University's School of Environmental and Life Sciences, said the discovery resulted from a need to consider the long-term security of food supply.


"With predictions the global population may double over the next 50 years, scientists are concerned about the pressure on the world’s natural resources," Associate Professor Ruan said.


"Faced with the impact of climate change and population increases on food supply, our research is helping to meet the challenge of how to sustain and improve crop yield and quality."


The research has been published in the July 2009 edition of The Plant Cell, the world's top ranking plant science journal.


The Australia-China Research Centre for Crop Improvement was established in October 2008 and is hosted by the University of Newcastle and the Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Hangzhou, China. Partner groups also include the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Zhejiang University.


"A major focus of the Centre is to improve the productivity of key food crops and make them more adaptable to climate change," Associate Professor Ruan said.


"The breakthrough is an exciting development that has resulted from the collaborative focus of the Centre.


"It is this kind of research we hope will lead to improved crops that could help feed and clothe millions of people in a time of climate crisis."


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1.32  Iowa State University researchers develop process for 'surgical' genetic changes in plants


20 July2009


Ames, Iowa

Research led by scientists at Iowa State University's Plant Sciences Institute has resulted in a process that will make genetic changes in plant genes much more efficient, practical and safe.

The breakthrough was developed by David Wright, an associate scientist, and Jeffery Townsend, an assistant scientist, and allows targeted genetic manipulations in plant DNA, which could have a huge impact on plant genetic work in the future.


Until now, when scientists introduced DNA into plants, they would randomly inject that DNA into the plant cell. There was no way of knowing if it was in the right place or if it would work until many resulting plants were tested.


The new technique harnesses a natural process called homologous recombination to precisely introduce DNA at a predetermined location in the plant genome through targeted DNA breaks generated by zinc finger nucleases. This occurs about 1 in 50 attempts and is very efficient compared to unassisted methods that allow the same changes at a rate as low as 1 in 10 million.


"I've been working in this field for 29 years, just when we started learning how to modify genes," said Townsend. "From that day, this was the goal -- to actually get the research to the point where you can have homologous recombination. Now, we've done it."


Using this process, a specific gene is located in a living cell, then a break is made in the DNA of that gene. When the cell begins to heal itself, existing DNA can be deleted or modified, or new DNA can be added near the break site. Afterward, the cell carries the genetic change and passes the change on to its offspring.


"It's like surgery, only on the molecular level," said Wright.


"It's been known for a long time that you if you make a break in a cell, you can get some DNA into that spot," said Wright. "It's just that you have three meters of DNA in a cell if you unwound it. Putting the break where you want it has always been the problem."


Zinc finger nucleases solve the problem and allows scientists to take greater advantage of homologous recombination, according to Wright and Townsend.


The research, published in the journal Nature, was performed in Dan Voytas' lab at Iowa State. Voytas recently left the university for a position at the University of Minnesota.


In addition to the difficulty introducing changes where researchers want them using current methods, government regulations often slow the movement of research from the lab to the field.


Wright and Townsend hope the precision of this technique will speed the regulatory process.


"In the random process, regulators would say, 'You really don't know what you're doing,'" said Townsend. "With this new technology, we can tell them, 'The genome looks like this, this is exactly the change we want to make.'


"That's the power of this technology. It makes it (genetic engineering) practical and much safer. It was impractical, and now it is practical."


There are many applications for this that could allow stunning advances for many crops, according to Wright and Townsend.


For instance, canola is a commodity grown for its oil, just as soybeans. However, after the oils are extracted, soybean meal is sold as feed. Once oils are extracted from canola, the meal has a much lower value as a livestock feed due to several factors, including the presence of the chemical sinapoylcholine, also called sinapine.


The new technique could allow scientists to remove the genes that make sinapine. The result would be a more versatile canola product.


Farmers, especially in the upper Midwest and Canada, would benefit from this new market for canola meal.


Other plants could benefit as well.


Removing the genes that are responsible for peanut allergies, or removing genes that produce harmful chemicals or anti-nutritionals in other crops are just a few of the immediate crop improvements that Wright and Townsend envision for this technology.




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1.33  New tools for discovering DNA variation in crop genomes


A new article in The Plant Genome details the latest sequencing technologies for crop genomes and its potential for future crop varieties


14 July 2009


Madison, Wisconsin

The study of human genetics has been a successful venture for researchers in recent years.  Several million single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) have been identified from the whole-genome resequencing of multiple individuals, which have served as genetic markers to pinpoint genes controlling common human diseases.  In contrast, the genome of a single cultivar or line has yet to be sequenced in its entirety for most crops of economic or societal importance. This slow pace of genomic progress can be mostly explained by the high costs and technical difficulties associated with sequencing crop genomes, which tend to be large in size and complex—containing a high amount of repetitive DNA and duplicated genes that are highly similar in sequence.


With the advent of high-throughput DNA sequencing technologies, it is now possible to cheaply and rapidly sequence hundreds of millions of bases in a matter of hours.  A team of scientists at Cornell University (Ithaca, NY), the United States Department of Agriculture-Agriculture Research Service (USDA-ARS), Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (Cold Spring Harbor, NY), Roche Applied Science Corp. (Indianapolis, IN) and 454 Life Sciences (Branford, CT), have developed molecular and computational tools for the efficient and accurate identification of gene-enriched SNPs in crops. The large, complex genome of maize was used to evaluate these tools.


The study was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), Roche Applied Science Corp., and the USDA-ARS. Results from the study were published in the July 2009 issue of The Plant Genome.


In this research collaboration, an existing molecular technique was modified to enable gene-enrichment and resequencing of maize inbred lines B73 and Mo17 with massively parallel pyrosequencing. In addition, a custom computational pipeline was developed to analyze and assemble short reads, identify correctly mapped reads, and call high quality SNPs. With the implementation of these methods, the authors identified 126,683 gene-enriched SNPs between B73 and Mo17 at high accuracy.


“Next-generation sequencing technologies will greatly accelerate the resequencing of multiple to numerous individuals for every major crop species,” says Michael Gore, first co-author of the study.  “Such efforts will facilitate the construction of SNP datasets on the order of millions that can be used in whole-genome association studies to assess the contribution of SNPs—common or rare—to complex traits. What we have learned from this pilot study will help us to construct a community SNP resource in maize that is comparable in scale to that of the human haplotype map”.


Although the majority of SNPs do not contribute to phenotypic variation, plant breeders and geneticists alike are interested in using SNPs as genetic markers. As a genetic marker, SNPs can be used for studies of genetic diversity and in the selection of superior plants. The SNPs identified in this study can be used for high-resolution genetic mapping of agronomic traits, which could eventually lead to the development of improved commercial maize hybrids.


The full article is available for no charge for 30 days following the date of this summary.


View the abstract at




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1.34  University of Toronto team helps to "barcode" the world's plants


28 July 2009


Toronto, Ontario, Canada

An international team of scientists, including botanists from the University of Toronto, have identified a pair of genes which can be used to catalogue the world's plants using a technique known as DNA barcoding — a rapid and automated classification method that uses a short genetic marker in an organism's DNA to identify it as belonging to a particular species.


"Barcoding provides an efficient means by which we can discover the many undescribed species that exist on earth," says Spencer Barrett, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Toronto and the head of the Canadian plant barcoding working group. "This discovery is important because understanding biodiversity is crucial to long-term human existence on the planet."


DNA barcoding has been widely used to identify animal species since its invention five years ago. But its use for plants was delayed because of the complex nature of plant genetics and disagreements over the appropriate DNA regions to use.


"We compared the performance of the seven leading candidate gene regions against three criteria: ease of obtaining DNA sequences; quality of the DNA sequences; and ability to tell species apart based on a sample of 550 species of land plants", says Barrett. "Based on this global analysis we recommended that matK and rbcL — two chloroplast genes — are adopted as the DNA barcode for land plants."


The primary application of the methodology will be the identification of the many species in the world’s biodiversity hotspots where a shortage of specialists hinders conservation efforts. Other applications include identifying illegal trade in endangered species, identifying invasive organisms, poisonous species and fragmentary material in forensic investigations. The technique will work on minute amounts of tissue and can be used on fragments of plant material, small seedlings, and in some cases digested or processed samples.


The methodology will also be used immediately in global projects such as Tree-BOL which aims to build the DNA barcode database for all the species of trees of the world — many of which are of economic and conservation importance.


The report appears this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences under the group authorship of the Consortium for the Barcode of Life (CBOL) Plant Working Group.


The scientific team involves 52 researchers working in 10 countries representing the following institutions: Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh; National Center for Biotechnology Information; University of Guelph, Guelph; University of Johannesburg; Royal Botanic Gardens Kew; Smithsonian Institution; UBC Botanical Garden & Centre for Plant Research and University of British Columbia; Natural History Museum, London; Korea University; University of Toronto; Universidade Estadual de Feira de Santana; Universidad de Costa Rica; Columbus State University; University of Wisconsin; Universidad de los Andes; South African National Biodiversity Institute; Aberystwyth University; University of Cape Town; Hallym University; Seoul National University; Natural History Museum of Denmark and University of Copenhagen; Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México; Imperial College London; New York Botanical Garden.


The Canadian portion of the project was funded by Genome Canada




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1.35  Researchers publish integrated genetic and cytogenetic map of the cucumber genome


24 July 2009

A team of researchers from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, the China Agricultural University and the United States Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) has produced the world's first integrated genetic and cytogenetic map of the cucumber genome, an important resource for scientists working to develop improved cucurbit crops.


"This map will facilitate whole genome sequencing and positional cloning, enhance marker assisted selection (MAS), and provide opportunities to investigate synteny among cucurbit species," wrote Sanwen Huang, a researcher at the Institute of Vegetables and Flowers of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, and his colleagues in a paper published by PLoS One.


Cucumbers belong to the family Cucurbitaceae, which also includes important vegetable and fruit crops such as melon, watermelon, pumpkin and squash. Despite their commercial importance, however, there are few genomic tools available for cucurbits.


"Cucurbits are orphan crops. Before the map we published in PLoS One, there are hardly any maps with more than 300 markers mapped. There was very little knowledge on cytogenetics of cucurbits either," said Dr. Huang. "Linkage groups of genetic maps were not assigned to chromosomes. For comparative genetics, there is no common language."


Dr. Huang further noted that compared to other agricultural families such as Poaceae (grasses), Fabaceae (legumes), and Solanaceae (potato, tomato and tobacco), the amount of DNA sequences and ESTs (expressed sequence tags) of cucurbits in public domains is scarce. For instance, the ESTs of all cucurbits are less than 50,000, while rice has more than one million.


Dr. Huang and his team identified 995 simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers using whole genome shotgun sequences. These markers were used to construct a high-density genetic map using a segregating population with 77 recombinant inbred lines, resulting in seven linkage groups. The team then used fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) to assign the linkage groups to seven cucumber chromosomes.


The researchers deliberately developed the SSR markers from the gene-rich or euchromatic region of the cucumber genome.


"Sequences provide a good start for molecular marker development, as shown in our case. We developed the ~1000 SSR markers from the 3x Sanger sequences," commented Dr. Huang. "I think the advantage of the approach is that we explore the power of bioinformatics to develop appropriate markers for mapping."


The researchers found that around 65 percent of the SSR markers were polymorphic in eleven inbred cucumber lines, suggesting that they may be useful in marker assisted selection. The team also proved that part of the SSR markers can be adopted for melon and watermelon genetic studies. Among the 995 SSR markers, 49 percent and 26 percent were found to be conserved in melon and watermelon, respectively.


On the average any gene or QTL can be located within a genetic interval of < 1 cM using the map. According to Dr. Huang, this is a critical step towards developing better cucumber varieties.


The team has shared the map to several colleagues working to pinpoint agronomically important cucumber traits. Huang said that his lab is now working to identify and map genes that control bitterness, scab resistance, and sex determination. And his team has also been successful in deciphering the whole genome of cucumber, which is composed of 370 million bases. They have also annotated some 26,000 cucumber genes.



Ren Y, Zhang Z, Liu J, Staub JE, Han Y, et al. (2009)

An Integrated Genetic and Cytogenetic Map of the Cucumber Genome

PLoS ONE 4(6): e5795.




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1.36 En busca del mapa genómico de la patata


21 July 2009


La Universidad de Wageningen de Holanda ha anunciado la utilización de una nueva biotecnología desarrollada por la empresa norteamericana Keygene para secuenciar el genoma de la patata, con la que en colaboración con el Consorcio Internacional de la Secuenciación Genómica se espera obtener el secuenciado completo de la especie en 2010. Esta nueva tecnología denominada "Whole Genome Profiling" permitirá obtener una secuencia genética de calidad, de una forma más rápida y eficiente.


El departamento de Ciencias Vegetales de Wageningen UR aplicará el proyecto "Perfiles de la totalidad del genoma" para construir un mapa físico de la patata de alta calidad. El mapa físico es una herramienta poderosa para desarrollar el montaje de la secuencia del genoma de la patata junto con el Consorcio de Secuenciación del Genoma.


La tecnología del proyecto “Perfiles de la totalidad del genoma” (WGP) ofrece un marco excelente para el montaje de la secuenciación. La patata es el cuarto cultivo alimentario más importante del mundo con una producción global anual de 300 millones de toneladas de las cuales 80% se cultiva en Asia y Europa. Wageningen UR es el coordinador internacional del Consorcio de la Secuenciación del Genoma de la patata, su principal objetivo es dilucidar su secuencia completa de ADN a finales de 2010. El proyecto está coordinado por el Prof. Dr. Richard Visser, Presidente de fitomejoramiento, en el departamento de Ciencias Vegetales.


"El mapa físico determinará la calidad de la secuencia completa de su genoma". "La colaboración con KeyGene nos ayudará a alcanzar nuestros objetivos más rápidamente y ofrecer una alta calidad en la secuencia del genoma que constituirá la base para la futura investigación de patata"- afirma Christian Bachem, jefe de proyecto en Wageningen UR-.


"Hemos demostrado el rendimiento y el valor de los perfiles de todo el genoma en varios cultivos de hortalizas con el genoma de tamaños que van desde 450 - 2600 MBP. Nos complace la colaboración a largo plazo entre la Wageningen UR, departamento de Ciencias de Plantas y KeyGene- destaca Edwin van der Vossen, jefe de la unidad de cultivos de campo de KeyGene-.


Información sobre KeyGene:

Keygene NV es una empresa de I + D con la misión de ser la empresa líder en el desarrollo y la aplicación del ADN en el campo de la genética molecular con énfasis en las plantas de cultivo.

KeyGene explota sus tecnologías patentadas, bases de datos y conocimientos a través de alianzas estratégicas, contratos de investigación y productos para aplicaciones en la industria del cultivo de plantas. La empresa tiene una filial en Rockville Maryland, EE.UU. y en un Laboratorio Mixto de Shanghai Instituto de Ciencias Biológicas de Shanghai, China. En total KeyGene emplea a 130 investigadores y personal.


Para más información contactar con:

Keygene N.V.

Mrs. Niclaudi Boons


Source: Fundacion Antama via


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1.37  Researchers develop microchip that can measure real-time water stress


24 July 2009

Researchers at Cornell University's nanofabrication laboratory said they have developed a microsensor capable of measuring real-time water stress in living plants. The device may prove to be a necessity for farmers and plant growers, especially for vintners since drought and overwatering can severely diminish the quality of wine grapes.


The device, composed of a slab of hydrogel with nanometer-scale pores, acts as a synthetic tree that mimics the flow of water inside plants. The team hopes to design a sensor that will transmit field readings wirelessly to a central server; the data will then be summarized online for the grower. They have also begun the development of a multi-use sensor that redirects water flow inside the plant through a shunt. In this case, the sensor could measure the flow of water and mineral nutrients through the plant, in addition to water stress.


This multi-use sensor could be implanted throughout all  trees in a forest ecosystem to measure water use and nutrient flow on a large scale with unprecedented accuracy.


Read the original story at


From Crop Biotech Update


Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics

Cornell University


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1.38  Global Plant Council of  the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB)


18 July 2009

Honolulu, HI

A Global Plant Council has been formed as part of an historic and groundbreaking summit of major plant science societies from around the world. Twenty one scientists representing 13 plant science societies gathered in Honolulu July 15–16 at a summit organized by the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) to explore ways in which plant scientists can come together to address global concerns such as world hunger, energy, climate change, health and well-being, sustainability, and environmental protection. The mission of the Global Plant Council will be to define and engage in coordinated strategies to address these critical issues and to increase awareness of the central role of plant science in their resolution. The shared vision and unified effort of plant scientists from all regions of the world will enable the most effective use of knowledge and resources to tackle the major challenges confronting all nations in the 21st century. 



            As stated by Dr. Kasem Zaki Ahmed, president of the African Crop Science Society, “The world relies on ten major crops to provide 95% of the food consumed by humans and farm animals. To address the problems facing Africa we must improve existing crops and develop new ones that have higher yields and greater resistance to pests, pathogens, drought, and other environmental stresses.”


             Plant biology--and thus plant science research--is central to other global challenges as well. European scientist Dr. Wilhelm Gruissem (president of the European Plant Science Organisation) noted, “We must address the key issues of biodiversity in natural and managed environments”. Dr. Zhihong Xu, president of the Chinese Society of Plant Physiologists noted, “We need to increase the search for and investment in the discovery and development of new and existing bioactive compounds and medicines from a diversity of plant species.”


            The newly formed Global Plant Council will move forward to create partnerships and collaborations that tackle and solve what we all recognize as critical and immediate problems for our planet.


“The Global Plant Council is the first step that plant scientists across the globe have taken to speak with one voice on the pressing challenges that face humankind,”said Mel Oliver (ASPB), summit moderator.


ASPB was joined at the summit by scientists representing societies from North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australasia, and South America.


Kasem Zaki Ahmed

Faculty of Agriculture, Minia University, El-Minia, Egypt  


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2.01  Launching of the open-access journal *Plant Biology International*


We would like to invite you to submit your papers to Plant Biology International [eISSN 2036-2633]


Editor-in-Chief: Sergio Ochatt, Dijon, France


Plant Biology International is a new, Open Access, online-only, peer-reviewed journal that considers scientific papers in all different subdisciplines of plant biology, such as physiology, molecular biology, cell biology, development, genetics, systematics, ecology, evolution, ecophysiology, plant-microbe interactions, mycology and phytopathology. Plant Biology International publishes original articles, brief reports, and reviews. From a multidisciplinary perspective, our journal will provide a platform for publication, information and debate, encompassing all areas which fall within the scope of plant science.

PAGEPress is a division of MeditGroup [ ] an Italian media company which has been developing services for the international scientific community since 1992.


PAGEPress is now launching a range of peer-reviewed, open access scholarly journals covering several areas of medicine and biology and is creating a team of experts to play a key editorial role.


PAGEPress firmly believes that the future for the publication of scientific research lies in open access journals. An open access license allows unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is correctly and properly cited.


Open access journals allow authors to submit their papers to a thorough and rigorous peer-review process; papers selected for publication will go through our speedy editing system which will make their authors' research experience available on the journal web site immediately after acceptance. This is already creating a dynamic new approach to the spread of information and is revolutionizing the editorial process throughout the world.


Our journals charge an Article Processing Fee: if your paper is accepted for publication, you will be asked to pay a fee to cover publications costs. If you do not have funds to pay such fees, you will have an opportunity to waive each fee, as we do not want fees to prevent the publication of worthy work.


We thank you for your kind attention.


Contributed by Sergio J. Ochatt

Centre de Recherches INRA de Dijon



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2.02  Issue II/2009 of the Newsletter on Organic Seeds and Plant Breeding


9 July 2009


Issue II/2009 of the Newsletter on Organic Seeds and Plant Breeding is now available on the ECO-PB Web site.

·         IFOAM Conference on Organic Animal and Plant Breeding and public consultation on the IFOAM Organic Seed Position Paper

·         Discussion workshop on international organic plant breeding standards

·         Discussion workshop on developing guidelines for cell fusion techniques in organic breeding

·         ECO-PB/ITAB Workshop in Paris: Strategies for a future without cell fusion techniques in varieties applied in Organic Farming

·         Announcement: International Attuning of the Assortment, Supply and Demand of Organic Seed

·         ECO-PB Board elected at the General Assembly

·         The Future of Organic Vegetable seed


Access newsletter at




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2.03  Call for papers -- Geneconserve


Geneconserve ( is an open acess  devoted to Plant genetic resources studies ( formation- systematic - conservation and manipulation).


*It assures for your article: *

*To be accessed freely .*

*You own the copyright to your article.*

*Your article will be peer-reviewed and published very fast*

No any fees are charged*


Like all open access journals  Geneconserve is freely available via the Internet for immediate worldwide open access to the full text of articles serving the best interests of the international research community. There are no  fees for publication. The modest open access publication costs are covered by the journal itself. Geneconserve  undergoes peer-review and quality control  without any cost from author.


Geneconserve  aims  to provide Plant Science community the most complete and reliable source of information on current developments in the field. The emphasis will be on publishing quality articles rapidly and making them freely available to researchers worldwide. All articles are indexed by the major indexing media e.g. CAB CAB international,, Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), EBSCO,Latindex,AGRIS, Google, Google Scholar, therefore providing the maximum exposure to the articles.


We would like to invite you to submit research articles, reviews and letters ,and if you are interested in submitting an article  please email it to , kindly refer to the journal Instructions for Authors.


Thank you in advance for your consideration to submit an article to Geneconserve.


With kind regards,


Yours sincerely,

Angela Gorgen

Laboratorio da mandioca

Universidade de Brasília


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3.01  GFU and ICUC combine their news services


In early 2009 we carried out a user needs survey to which 300 readers contributed. For this, we would like to express our sincere thanks.


In response to the survey, we have made the Crops for the Future website more dynamic and - hopefully - more attractive to you, our clients. Using modern communication tools, we now provide you with up-to-date information through RSS feeds, to which you can subscribe to read our news at your convenience and at the interval you decide.


The website is updated as and when new information becomes available. News items are displayed prominently on our home page. Here you also have an opportunity to provide your comments on the various postings. A summary of the recent posts is provided in the left hand column.


For upcoming events, check the handy listing on the right of the home page, or check out the more detailed information in the Events section accessible through the green top navigation bar.


The Publications section provides access to publications by Crops for the Future and, for the time being as links to our "old" websites features also other relevant publications.


The Info Portal section provides access to various handy databases which provide information about species, experts, institutions and ongoing projects. This area will see substantial further development in the near future.


The Links section will provide links to some of our partner networks and informative newsletters as well as to other initiatives.


In the section About us under Our Publications you can find the results of the user needs survey mentioned above.


All sections are continuously updated as we are in the process of migrating the information from the ICUC and GFU websites and as we receive new information.


We also invite you to share your experience with your colleagues globally, who access information through the Crops for the Future website. Please contribute by adding information about your activities, your or others' publications, news items or other relevant information. Do not hesitate to send a message to Hannah Jaenicke ( or Paul Bordoni ( who will ensure that your information gets posted. Please always provide your full name, affiliation and contact details so that we avoid unwanted or spam information.


We wish you an enjoyable time at

With our best personal regards

For the Crops for the Future Team

Hannah Jaenicke & Paul Bordoni


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3.02 Update on the Crop Genebank Knowledge Base


I would like to invite you to follow more closely the updates and news about our achievements to build the content and structure of our CGKB website


We have introduced a blog, a tool we are using aiming to strengthening the communication and sharing information within all the partners and collaborators of this project activity.


Please have a look,com_wrapper/Itemid,531/lang,en/

and send your comments or updates from your side.


Contributed by Maria Alexandra Jorge

Project Manager of Best Practices for Genebank Management


Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Bioversity International/ILRI


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5.01  Mississippi – Assistant/Associate/Full Research Professor:  Cotton Breeding/Agronomy


This position is a 12-month, non-tenure track position with Mississippi State University and located at the Delta Research and Extension Center, Stoneville, MS.  The incumbent will be leader of the Cotton Improvement Research Program (CIRP) and will also interact as part of the cotton production team to evaluate agronomic systems for cotton production as related to the CIRP.  The incumbent will also have over-site responsibilities for a coordinated effort for the on-farm evaluation of current and potential cotton cultivars and germplasm.  The research program requires extensive field evaluation of cotton breeding germplasm and cultivars throughout Mississippi, with an emphasis on the Yazoo-Mississippi River Delta, and the agronomic interaction of cotton production with other row crops.  Individual will be responsible for developing and evaluating superior cotton germplasm and evaluating existing cotton cultivars for Mississippi with improved yield ability and fiber quality, agronomic traits, and morphological characteristics with high levels of resistance to pests (insects and pathogens, including nematodes) and abiotic stresses.  The incumbent will provide statewide leadership for variety trials on the experiment station and in producer fields across the region and will provide leadership in coordination of these programs with research and extension colleagues throughout the state and the nation.  Qualifications: PhD in Agronomy, Plant Breeding, Plant Genetics or closely related field.  Strong background in agronomy, plant breeding, genetics, statistics and experimental design, research in applied plant sciences; the ability to carry out research, travel and demonstrated oral and written communication skills.  Three to five years experience in cotton agronomics and/or breeding.  Training or experience in experimental statistics, plot design and analysis, computer applications; plant pathology, molecular biology, and molecular marker technologies; and experience with farm equipment and pesticide application is preferred.  The incumbent will need the ability to: obtain extramural funding and manage budgets and capital expenditures; to write and publish proposals and manuscripts; present oral presentations to producer groups, funding groups, and at professional meetings.  The incumbent should also be willing to assist in graduate student development and training and will participate as a faculty member of the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences at Mississippi State University.  Application:  All candidates must apply on-line by completing the Personal Data Information Form, submitting a cover letter, and curriculum vitae.  In addition, official transcripts and three letters of recommendation should be sent to:  Dr. Steve Martin, Interim Head, Delta Research and Extension Center, P. O. Box 197, Stoneville, MS  38776.  For complete position information and on-line application visit: (PARF No.:  4674).  Applications will be reviewed until a suitable candidate is identified.  Mississippi State University is an EEO/AA Employer.


Contributed by M. Wayne Ebelhar

Mississippi State University

Delta Research and Extension Center


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5.02  Scientific careers at Monsanto




Position                                                          Location                     Req. No.

Statistical Genetics Lead                             Ankeny, IA                  mons-00010204

Statistical Geneticist                         Ankeny, IA                  mons-00010682

Trait Discovery Scientist                              Woodland, CA           mons-00010679

Trait Integration Pipeline Manager  St. Louis, MO mons-00010669

Genotyping Coordination Lead                   Ankeny, IA                  mons-00010445

    -Corn and Trait Integration Breeding

Line Development Breeder                         Thomasboro, IL         mons-00010640

Corn Transformation Lead                           Mystic, CT                  mons-00010231

Sequencing & Bioinformatics Lead            St. Louis, MO mons-00010610

Global Field Pathology Manager                Woodland, CA           mons-00010603

      -Seminis Vegetable Seeds

Crop Physiology Strategy                            North Carolina, NC   mons-00010601

 - and Operations Lead

Scientific Business Analyst                          St. Louis, MO mons-00010379

Science Software Application                     St. Louis, MO mons-00010348

      - Support Specialist

Genome Technology Scientist                    St. Louis, MO mons-00010547

Patent Scientist                                             Beijing, China            mons-00010481

Bioinformatics Scientist                               Beijing, China            mons-00010477

Lead Computational Biologist                     Beijing, China            mons-00010475

Lead Bioinformatics Scientist                     Beijing, China            mons-00010476

Computational Biologist                               Beijing, China            mons-00010474

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

Gene Expression Profiling                           St. Louis, MO mons-00010405

      - Senior Scientist

Breeder Spinach                                           Wageningen              mons-00010344


Submitted by: Donn Cummings

Global Breeder Sourcing Lead, Monsanto


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5.03  Job announcement: CSREES/USDA


Readers can locate this announcement on line at



This person directs grants programs that integrate research, education, and extension, including some programs for which plant breeding is eligible to apply. May be of interest to plant breeders


Job Summary

CSREES advances knowledge for agriculture, the environment, human health and well being, and communities by supporting research, education, and extension programs in the Land-Grant University System and other partner organizations.  CSREES is committed to supporting programs with results that serve all Americans and improve lives worldwide.


This position is located in the Competitive Programs unit, which manages funding opportunities that challenge the nation's top researchers to identify, solve, and put into practice solutions to problems that improve the safety, quality, productivity, and security of our food supply, the well-being of animals, humans, the environment and natural resources, and rural and urban communities.


Contributed byAnn Marie Thro




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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.


(NEW) University of Nebraska–Lincoln offers four plant breeding mini-courses for seed industry professionals


University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Distance Education & Life-Long Learning Program


Professional development opportunities in plant breeding at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln

The Department of Agronomy and Horticulture at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln offers four plant breeding mini-courses that are excellent professional development opportunities for seed industry personnel, producers and other agribusiness professionals. The courses are available via distance delivery, so participants are able to further their educational and career goals without having to be present in a traditional classroom. Students have the option of participating in lectures in real time, as well as viewing archived lectures online. The courses are available for noncredit professional development, CEU credit, and regular academic credit at UNL. Instructors are Dr. P. Stephen Baenziger, Eugene W. Price Distinguished Professor, and Dr. Thomas Hoegemeyer, Professor of Practice and former CEO of Hoegemeyer Hybrids.


The noncredit registration fee for each course is $150*. Special package pricing is available for the three mini-courses offered during the Fall 2009 semester.


For more information or to register, please visit the above-listed Web site or contact Cathy Dickinson,


Online courses for Fall 2009 and Spring 2010 include:

Self-Pollinated CropBreeding

·         August 25 –September 24, 2009

·         Course covers the common breeding methods used to improve self-pollinated crops, such as wheat, rice and barley, and the theoretical basis for self-pollinated crop breeding. 

Germplasm and Genes

·         September 29 – November 3, 2009

·         Course focuses on the importance of creating the necessary genetic variation resources for conventional and modern plant breeding programs. 

Cross-Pollinated CropBreeding

·         November 5 – December 10, 2009

·         Course emphasizes standard breeding methods and theories associated with population movement of cross-pollinated crops and self-pollinated crops that are forced to cross-pollinate. 

Advanced PlantBreeding Topics

·         March 3 – April 8, 2010

·         Topic for 2010 is heterosis. Course will focus on the genetic hypotheses and quantitative genetic analyses of heterosis, new tools for studying heterosis, prediction of heterosis and hybrid performance, heterotic groups and organization of germplasm, and the mechanisms for making hybrids.


Cathy Dickinson

Admin. Associate

Department of Agronomy & Horticulture

University of Nebraska–Lincoln

279 Plant Sciences Hall

Lincoln, NE 68583

Voice: 402.472.1730





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.


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


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

Division contact:  2009 Division Chair Ann Marie Thro,


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.


(UPDATE) 9-12 November 2009. OECD-GenomeAssociation-OZ09, The International Centre for Plant Breeding Education and Research (ICPBER), The University of Western Australia, Perth.



This important OECD-sponsored conference on whole-genome association mapping in plants, and its application to plant breeding, will be held at The University of Western Australia 9-12 November 2009, organised by the International Centre for Plant Breeding Education and Research at UWA.


Conference keynote speaker is Prof Bruce Weir of the University of Washington, USA.  Leading biometrician Prof Robin Thompson of Rothamstead Research, UK, will join Australia's Prof Brian Cullis and Dr Alison Smith in a pre-conference workshop linking field data to pedigrees and whole-genome marker data.  Animal breeder Dr Ben Hayes will demonstrate application of association mapping principles to animal breeding.  Several leading Brassica researchers are invited OECD speakers.


Important dates:        30 July early bird registration rate closes.

                                    28 August abstracts deadline


We encourage delegates to consider submitting a paper for potential publication in the journal "Genome" following the conference.


In particular, we encourage research student registrations through a generous $500 subsidy sponsored by Grains Research and Development Corporation.


For enrolments, abstract submission, and further information, go to the conference website at:


Contributed by Wallace Cowling

Convenor, "OECD-GenomeAssociation-OZ09"

ICPBER, The University of Western Australia



9-13 November 2009. TDWG Annual Conference,  Congress Center ‘Le Corum’ in downtown Montpellier, France. Organized by Agropolis International and Bioversity International.

Detailed information at:


24-26 November 2009. 60th Plant Breeders Conference, Raumberg, Gumpenstein, Austria

Registration form online at


(NEW) 2-4 December 2009. First ECOSA International Seed Trade Conference (ECOSA2009), Residence Lara & SPA hotel in Antalya, Turkey


The Turkish Seed Union (Turk-TOB) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA) on behalf of the Turkish Seed Industry and its partners the Turkish International Development Agency (TIKA), the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) are pleased to announce that the First ECOSA International Seed Trade Conference (ECOSA2009) will be held from 2-4 December 2009 at the Fame Residence Lara & SPA hotel in Antalya, Turkey. 


ECOSA2009 will cover a broad range of issues of interest in the seed trade and the global seed industry. It will provide an opportunity to promote your business at a global level in general and ECO region in particular and keep abreast with the current developments in the industry.


The main focus of the first conference will be seed trade including exploring the status and prospects of regional and global seed industry; opportunities in the seed market in ECO region; international seed regulations and conventions of relevance to the ECO region; and the status and role of the private seed sector in ECO region. 


Topics include:

*         Trends in regional and global seed industry

*         Status and prospects of seed market in ECO Region

*         International environments of relevance to ECO region (OECD Seed Schemes, IPRs, ISTA Accreditation,)

*         Facilitating regional seed trade (harmonizing seed regulations, national/regional seed associations)

*         Privatization of seed sector: approach and progress

*         Status and role of private sector in ECO member countries


 The ECO encompasses an area of 800 million ha and population of 350 million people with a rich variety of agro-climatic conditions suitable for crop and livestock production and huge potential and opportunities for seed market.


ECOSA2009 is organized and hosted by the Turkish Seed Union and held under the auspices of the ECOSA in collaboration with MARA, TIKA, ECO, FAO and ICARDA.


Information on conference website and bank account for registration will be made available soon.


We look forward to seeing you in ECOSA2009 (Antalya, Turkey)


Zewdie Bishaw

Head, Seed Section, ICARDA

Aleppo, Syria


(UPDATE) 23-26 February 2010. International Conference on Molecular Aspects of Plant Development, Vienna, Austria.


Registration is now open!

Find all relevant information as well as the registration link on thecongress homepage under


Alisher Touraev, Chair of the organizing committee

Frank Hochholdinger, Co-chair of the organizing committee


For any questions please contact Mondial or the conference organizers


 MAPD 2010" <>

As a European city that combines beauty and charm with culture, style and sophistication, Vienna is sure to impress even the most discerning first-time visitor. Mixing the traditional elegance of central Europe with all the necessities of modern twenty-first-century living, it’s a thoroughly cosmopolitan city that offers a friendly, laid back atmosphere, ornate buildings, funky nightspots, and wondrous Viennese coffeehouses!


“Molecular Aspects of Plant Development” will cover the following topics:

*        Seed development, dormancy and germination

*        Plant organ development (shoot, root, leaf, etc)

*        Flower development

*        Plant male gametophyte development

*        Plant female gametophyte development

*        Plant zygotic embryogenesis

*        Plant somatic embryogenesis and regeneration

*        Hormones and Plant development

*        Signaling in Plant Development

*        Plant cell fate, totipotency, lineage and polarity

*        Epigenetics and Plant development

*        Modeling and Systems Biology of Plant development


Approximately 500 participants are expected including almost 40 speakers and many presentations selected from abstracts, which can be submitted to the organisers until November 19th, 2009.


The conference webpage ( offers additional information on the city ofVienna, travel arrangements, the conference venue, registration and accommodation.


Alisher Touraev, Chair of the organizing committee

Frank Hochholdinger, Co-chair of the organizing committee


For any questions please contact Mondial


or the conference organizers


26 to 30 April 2010. The 5th International Food Legumes Research Conference (IFLRC V) and 7th European Conference on Grain Legumes (ECGL VII), Convention Center of Kervansaray Hotel, Lara, Antalya Turkey.


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.


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


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


REVIEW PAST NEWSLETTERS ON THE WEB: Past issues of the Plant Breeding Newsletter are now available on the web. The address is:  Please note that you may have to copy and paste this address to your web browser, since the link can be corrupted in some e-mail applications. We will continue to improve the organization of archival issues of the newsletter. Readers who have suggestions about features they wish to see should contact the editor at


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


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