31 August 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  Sustaining the education of future plant breeders and maintenance of public plant breeding programs

1.02  Pigeon peas, the new maize?

1.03  U.S. National Corn Growers Association's view: Borlaug vs. Pollan

1.04  Car fueled by cassava is a world first

1.05  Ploidy manipulation of the gametophyte, endosperm and sporophyte in nature and for crop improvement: a tribute to Professor Stanley J. Peloquin (1921–2008)

1.06  UC Davis establishes the European Plant Breeding Academy

1.07  Afghanistan prepares itself to resist a deadly plant plague: Ug99 wheat stem rust poses a threat to food security in the region

1.08  Australian research project may help to breed more frost tolerant cereal varieties

1.09  APB-SABRAO Plant Breeding Conference Keynote presentations available at GIPB website

1.10  African universities told to get agricultural research to farmers

1.11  Challenges to choosing the best cultivars for crop production

1.12  Embrapa Wheat starts a new research project about resistance to Wheat Blast Disease

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

1.14  Scientists Team Up to End Malnutrition in Africa

1.15  Regulatory changes enacted a decade ago appear to be responsible for dramatically slowing the flow of quality-improving agricultural biotechnology innovations

1.16  ARS Helps Preserve Indigenous Crops in Ecuador

1.17  Unlocking the Genetic Secrets of Maize

1.18  Speciation by Polyploidy Common in Plants, Study Finds

1.19  Global team develops tools to unravel diversity of rice

1.20  First submergence-tolerant rice variety released in the Philippines

1.21  The resistant rice of the future (Snorkel genes)

1.22  Nigeria to roll out fungus-resistant soybean crops

1.23  Creating the ultimate drought-resistant lawn/pasture grass

1.24  ‘Fragrant’ GM maize against pests

1.25  Breeding tomatoes that please consumers

1.26  Fungus resistance gene found in rice

1.27  Shatter resistant Brassicas

1.28  Discovering Soybean Plants Resistant to Aphids

1.29  The bridge between basic photosynthesis research and crop breeding

1.30  Scientists devise efficient way of learning about complex corn traits



(None submitted)



3.01  Hortivar, a new database on performance of horticultural cultivars

3.02  Materials from Molecular Breeding Platform workshop (5–7 March 2009) now online

3.03  Molecular-assisted breeding workshop, 29th June–3rd July 2009, Zaragoza, Spain: Resources now available



4.01  Support to attend the Plant Molecular Breeding workshop to be held in Cairo, November, 2009

4.02  Cooperation call for Africa through FP7 (Seventh Framework Programme).



(None submitted)








1.01  Sustaining the education of future plant breeders and maintenance of public plant breeding programs


Issues addressed at the 3rd annual meeting of the U.S. Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee


Madison, Wisconsin, USA

5 August 2009


One hundred and fifty plant breeders, government representatives and graduate students from across the United States closed the 3rd annual meeting of the Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee (PBCC) today at the Madison Convention Center.


The PBCC represents 700 US plant breeders dedicated on developing plant varieties to supply food, feed, fiber and now fuel for the US and the world.


In the past 20 years, the number of trained plant breeders has declined due to a decrease in the number of students entering the field combined with reduced funding for public plant breeding programs.


This is at a time when the demand for talented individuals has never been so high in this rewarding field.


The PBCC discussed current research in plant breeding. Of particular importance the group addressed ways to sustain the education of future plant breeders and maintenance of public plant breeding programs.


For further information visit




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1.02  Pigeon peas, the new maize?


Mbeere South, Kenya

5 August 2009

Faced with increasingly unreliable rains, farmers in Kenya's eastern district of Mbeere South have started growing drought-tolerant crops to meet their food and subsistence needs instead of the staple maize.


"The rains have become [scarce]... This is the fourth year we have had insufficient rain," Harrieta Nyaga, a farmer from the Rwika area, told IRIN. "We expected rains in March, but they came in January. People got confused, some planted, some did not... the crop was affected."


Nyaga, a mother of four, said she had planted 0.8ha of maize but was unsure whether she would harvest more than two 90kg bags. "Normally, I get up to 20 bags," she added.


Declining maize yields, due to climate variability and high fertilizer costs, have caused maize prices to soar. The cost of a bag has doubled to about 2,000 shillings (US$25) in the area.


Four new drought-tolerant pigeon pea varieties are being piloted in Mbeere, and specialists say the crop is hardy and can grow in a range of environments and cropping systems.


The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) is providing farmers with free seeds.


"They select the preferred varieties and sizes," said Richard Jones, ICRISAT Eastern and Southern Africa assistant director. The selection is based on maturity times, plant height, stem thickness, amount of leaves, susceptibility to disease, cooking times and soil types.


Representatives from 30 farmers’ groups have been selected to pilot the project. Across Kenya, pigeon peas are being grown on about 196,261 ha of land, according to ICRISAT. Malawi, Uganda, Mozambique and Tanzania grow considerable quantities too.


"Depending on rainfall availability, one can harvest 750kg per 0.5ha," said Jones. The new varieties mature in about 120 days while the traditional varieties flower at the end of the long rains, growing to maturity from October to August.


"These new varieties are very elastic. Because they mature quicker, one gets a harvest even with just the short rains [October-December]... if there is more rain [the long rains] one gets a second rattoon [crop]," he said.


"Old varieties will not give you a crop until after the long rains [April-June]. If the long rains fail, then there is no harvest."


Nyaga said the uptake of the new varieties would be higher if pesticides were provided during the first planting. "The pesticides are very costly for a first-time farmer," she said.

Nutrition value


Pigeon peas are a high protein dietary staple providing 20 to 22 percent of the protein where it is grown extensively (India, Myanmar, Nepal, China, and south-eastern Africa).


Besides its de-hulled split peas, its immature green seeds and pods are also used as a vegetable.


"We have been experiencing a lot of hunger and the first harvest really helped my family. I did not have to look for beans to mix with the maize to make githeri [a maize and bean stew]," John Ngari, a farmer in Mbita area said. "I am now trying to move my wife away from growing maize. We can sell some of the pigeon peas and buy maize instead."


Crushed dry pigeon pea seeds are also fed to animals, while the green leaves are quality fodder. The dry stems are used for fuel.


Bonus crop


According to Jones of ICRISAT, the pigeon pea is a bonus crop, which can be grown alongside early maturing cereals while acting as a nitrogen fixer.


"I have not had to add manure or fertilizer like I would have for maize," said Carol Maringa, a farmer in Gachoka, adding that it was also not labour-intensive. She planned to increase her pigeon pea production.


"Even when I combine the cost of ploughing, seeds, weeding and spraying, I am still able to make a good profit," Samuel Mulinge Kyalo, 45, a farmer from Riakanau said.


According to Fred Njeru, Gachoka Division crops officer, food production in the division has fallen: "Now a big number of people are getting famine relief food and this is not sustainable."


The hardest-hit localities, he said, are selling their livestock and burning charcoal to meet their food requirements.


"We are encouraging farmers to adopt drought-tolerant crops, but this will take time," he said. "In the long term, farmers should plant drought-tolerant crops to not only meet their food requirements but also to get more income."


According to Jones of ICRISAT, there is a need to scale up planting of drought-tolerant crops.


In Eastern Kenya, about 20 percent of the farmers have adopted the new pigeon pea varieties, which have been developed using conventional breeding.


Already, there has been about 80 percent uptake in the eastern Makueni District. "Often, information does not move well," Jones noted. "It is like lighting a fire, it burns, then it goes out; you have to keep lighting many smaller fires."




Source: IRIN News via


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1.03  U.S. National Corn Growers Association's view: Borlaug vs. Pollan


St. Louis, Missouri

August 10, 2009

Our view: Pollan drift:

(Pollen drift is defined as the unplanned movement of pollen from one variety to another and is normally associated with “contamination.”)

By Rick Tolman,

Chief Executive Officer, U.S. National Corn Growers Association (NCGA)

The prolific and talented author and contributor to The New York Times, Michael Pollan, is at the center of a self-initiated movement to redo our nation’s food system. The movement is built on a platform of opposing biotechnology and conventional agriculture – especially animal ag – while promoting the slow food movement, local production and organics. He is a frequent critic of corn production and puts it at the epicenter of his axis of food evil.


Pollan is very persuasive in written and oral presentation and has embarked on an active and aggressive speaking tour and campaign to sell his books (“Omnivore’s Dilemma”; “The Botany of Desire”, etc); help promote films that espouse his philosophy (“King Corn,” “Food, Inc.”) and lead a movement to revamp the U.S. food system. Pollan’s arguments have resonance and appeal with consumers and the general public and they have garnered growing support among the urban elite and more extreme environmental groups. His books and articles are increasingly well read and widely quoted by the “influential” class in our society.


At another end of the spectrum is Norman Borlaug, an American agronomist, humanitarian, Nobel laureate and the father of the Green Revolution. Borlaug is one of only five people in history to have won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. According to language contained in the official Congressional Action that awarded the Gold Medal to Borlaug, "Borlaug has saved more lives than any other person who has ever lived, and likely has saved more lives in the Islamic world than any other human being in history."


Borlaug is 95 years old. He is still a distinguished professor of agronomy at Texas A&M University. He continues to speak out in support of modern agriculture and the need for advancements to address world hunger. He is the founder of the World Food Prize, an international award recognizing the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.


Last month, Borlaug wrote an editorial that was published in the Wall Street Journal, titled “Farmers Can Feed the World,” where he argued that “better seeds and fertilizers, not romantic myths, will let them do it.


In what I took as a direct reference to the type of movement that Pollan so persuasively espouses, Borlaug said the following: “Even here at home, some elements of popular culture romanticize older, inefficient production methods and shun fertilizers and pesticides, arguing that the U.S. should revert to producing only local organic food. People should be able to purchase organic food if they have the will and financial means to do so, but not at the expense of the world’s hungry—25,000 of whom die each day from malnutrition.”


Pollan is a very talented and well respected author and is very driven in his beliefs. Much of what he says is true or based on fact, but his artful mixing of fact and fiction lead to very serious and erroneous as well as naïve and dangerous conclusions and recommendations. I am reminded of the language that Rick Berman, Executive Director of the Center for Consumer Freedom, used several years ago when commenting on a movement very similar to that of Pollan’s: “Sometimes self-indulgent utopianism is harmless. Not here. As a wise man observed, ‘The boy throws the stone in jest; the frog dies in earnest.’ The consequences of this ideological lark, exploited by old-fashioned greed, could be more than dead frogs.”


Pollan’s movement needs to be aggressively countered with fact and reality to our general consumer population who do not know any better and have been seduced by his skill with words. For, as Borlaug says, now is not the time to be limiting the tools available to our farmers and ranchers, as we need a second green revolution. As he says, “given the right tools, farmers have shown an uncanny ability to feed themselves and others, and to ignite the economic engine that will reverse the cycle of chronic poverty.”


U.S. farmers have an outstanding track record of doing just this and will continue as long as we don’t allow ourselves to become apologists for or victims of “Pollan Drift.” Farmers and ranchers – speak out! If you have not read it, please read “The Omnivore’s Delusion” by Missouri farmer Blake Hurst.


More news from: NCGA (National Corn Growers Association)




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1.04  Car fueled by cassava is a world first


The first vehicle completely powered by a biofuel made from cassava roots is already on the move in the department of Valle del Cauca, Colombia.  The test run is being carried out using a CIAT pick-up truck.  CIAT, together with Clayuca, a consortium that supports cassava research and development in Latin America and the Caribbean, recently inaugurated a pilot small-scale processing plant that produces hydrated ethanol using cassava, sugar sorghum, or sweet potato as raw material. This fuel contains 4%-5% water, hence its name of hydrated ethanol.




Contributed by Margaret Smith

Dept. Of Genetics and Plant Breeding

Cornell University


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1.05  Ploidy manipulation of the gametophyte, endosperm and sporophyte in nature and for crop improvement: a tribute to Professor Stanley J. Peloquin (1921–2008)


AOBPreview published online on August 17, 2009

Annals of Botany, doi:10.1093/aob/mcp207



Rodomiro Ortiz1,*, Philipp Simon2, Shelley Jansky2 and David Stelly3

1 International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Apdo. Postal 6-641, 06600 Mexico, D.F., Mexico

2 United States Department of Agriculture/Agricultural Research Service (USDA/ARS), Department of Horticulture, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1575 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706, USA

3 Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843, USA

* For correspondence. E-mail

Received: 11 May 2009    Returned for revision: 13 July 2009    Accepted: 21 July 2009   


Background: Emeritus Campbell-Bascom Professor Stanley J. Peloquin was an internationally renowned plant geneticist and breeder who made exceptional contributions to the quantity, quality and sustainable supply of food for the world from his innovative and extensive scientific contributions. For five decades, Dr Peloquin merged basic research in plant reproduction, cytology, cytogenetics, genetics, potato (Solanum tuberosum) improvement and education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Successive advances across these five decades redefined scientific comprehension of reproductive variation, its genetic control, genetic effects, evolutionary impact and utility for breeding. In concert with the International Potato Center (CIP), he and others translated the advances into application, resulting in large benefits on food production worldwide, exemplifying the importance of integrated innovative university research and graduate education to meet domestic and international needs.


Scope: Dr Peloquin is known to plant breeders, geneticists, international agricultural economists and potato researchers for his enthusiastic and incisive contributions to genetic enhancement of potato using haploids, 2n gametes and wild Solanum species; for his pioneering work on potato cultivation through true seed; and as mentor of a new generation of plant breeders worldwide. The genetic enhancement of potato, the fourth most important food crop worldwide, benefited significantly from expanded germplasm utilization and advanced reproductive genetic knowledge, which he and co-workers, including many former students, systematically transformed into applied breeding methods. His research on plant sexual reproduction included subjects such as haploidization and polyploidization, self- and cross-incompatibility, cytoplasmic male sterility and restorer genes, gametophytic/sporophytic heterozygosity and male fertility, as well as endosperm dosages and seed development. By defining methods of half-tetrad analysis and new cytological techniques, he elucidated modes, mechanisms and genetic controls and effects of 2n gametes in Solanum. Ramifications extend to many other crops and plants, in both basic and applied sciences.


Achievements: Based upon a foundation of genetics, cytogenetics and plant reproductive biology, Dr Peloquin and co-workers developed methods to use 2n gametes and haploids for breeding, and used them to move genes for important horticultural traits from wild tuber-bearing Solanum species to cultivated potato for the betterment of agriculture. The resulting potato germplasm included combinations of yield, adaptation, quality and disease resistance traits that were previously unavailable. This elite plant germplasm was utilized and distributed to 85 countries by the CIP, because it not only increased potato yields and quality, it also broadened the adaptation of potato to lowland tropical regions, where humanity has benefited from this addition to their food supply.


Key words: 2n gametes, endosperm balance number, haploid, Solanum, true potato seed


© The Author 2009. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Annals of Botany Company. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: 


Contributed by Rodomiro Ortiz



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1.06  UC Davis establishes the European Plant Breeding Academy


Davis, California, USA

13 August 2009

Building on the success of the Plant Breeding Academy in the United States, the UC Davis Seed Biotechnology Center is partnering with European companies, institutions and associations to offer the European Plant Breeding Academy. Scheduled to start in March 2010, the European Plant Breeding Academy is designed specifically to address the increased global demand for trained plant breeders. This premier training program targets working professionals who desire to become fully trained plant breeders. Participation is typically sponsored by their employer. Participants will meet for six sessions of six days each over two years. This schedule will allow participants to maintain their current employment while enrolled in the course. All instruction will be in English.


The instructors, selected from around Europe and the United States, are nationally and internationally recognized experts in plant breeding and seed technology. Idy Van Leeuwen, the owner of the Dutch education company Breedwise, has been selected as one of the lead instructors. She is a highly respected plant breeding and seed technology instructor who works with private companies and institutions in The Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe. Ms. Van Leeuwen will be joined on the education team by the director of the Plant Breeding Academy as well as expert faculty from Europe and the United States.


The European sessions will be held in Enkhuizen, The Netherlands; Angers, France; Barcelona, Spain and Gatersleben, Germany. The first and last sessions will be held in Davis, California.

Cooperating partners include:

  • the European Seed Association in Belgium;
  • Vegepolys in France;
  • Seed Valley and Naktuinbouw in The Netherlands;
  • the Center for Research in Agricultural Genomics in Spain;
  • the Spanish Plant Breeders Association in Spain,
  • the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research in Germany; and
  • the German Plant Breeders Association in Germany.

The following are the dates and locations of each of the six sessions.

Week 1: March 8 – 13, 2010

Location: Davis, California


Week 2: June 21 – 26, 2010

Location: Angers, France


Week 3: October 18 – 23, 2010

Location: Enkhuizen, The Netherlands


Week 4: February 21 – 26, 2011

Location: Barcelona, Spain


Week 5: June 20 – 25, 2011

Location: Gatersleben, Germany


Week 6: September 26 – October 1, 2011

Location: Davis, California

For more information please:

- see the Plant Breeding Academy website at  

- or contact Joy Patterson at  or PH (530)752-4414.




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1.07  Afghanistan prepares itself to resist a deadly plant plague: Ug99 wheat stem rust poses a threat to food security in the region


Kabul, Afghanistan

30 July 2009


Scientists report successes in overcoming a virulent form of stem rust, call for speed in scaling up systems for multiplying and distributing rust-resistant seeds to farmers


Scientists are racing to arm Afghanistan against a new invader—a deadly, airborne wheat rust disease that threatens wheat production and food security in this war-torn nation and the region that stretches east across neighboring Pakistan and into India.


Known as “Ug99”, this deadly new virulent race of wheat stem rust has thus far been found in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Sudan, and has more recently spread into Asia, to Yemen and now Iran. “It is only a matter of time before it reaches Afghanistan and then South Asia," said Dr. Mahmoud Solh, Director General of the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) in Aleppo, Syria. “We have been lucky so far, but we know that the disease is heading in this direction, and most of the varieties planted in the region are at risk. In fact, most of the wheat varieties used around the world are vulnerable to this stem rust; the last major outbreak of stem rust was seen during the 1950s.”


The threat of Ug99 to the wheat fields of Afghanistan and other nations in the region has led wheat experts to agree that at least 10 percent of the nation’s wheat fields must be replaced on an annual basis with Ug99-resistant varieties that are also adapted to conditions in Afghanistan.


“The stem rust threat is particularly dangerous because nearly all farmers in Afghanistan grow wheat for food or sale,” said Dr. Mahmood Osmanzai, a wheat scientist from the International Center for the Improvement of Maize and Wheat (CIMMYT), who is based in the country. “A wheat stem rust epidemic would be economically and culturally significant and far reaching.”


Progress with Support from Donors

For the last six years, efforts to boost the production of disease-resistant varieties have been supported by funds from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and USAID, with significant progress. Scientists from ICARDA and CIMMYT have introduced seed of many high-yielding and disease resistant varieties of wheat. In addition to their success with multiplying resistant varieties, the scientists have preliminary results suggesting it may be possible to speed up seed multiplication by planting a second crop of wheat in high altitude regions where the climate is cooler. Thirteen farmers’ associations, known collectively as the Afghan National Seed Organization (ANSAR), also have been created to grow seed of improved varieties for sale to other farmers. Yet challenges remain in meeting the demand for seed at an affordable price.


ICARDA scientist Dr. Javed Rizvi notes that farmers often lack credit to purchase the new seed. This means that the associations that produce the seed feel pressured to sell their stocks for food rather than waiting for farmers to pay the market price. “There are still too few places to store seed until the planting season in November,” Rizvi said. "At this pace, it will be at least four years before enough seed of new wheat varieties becomes available, which is far too long, given the imminent danger of Ug99."


The country's agricultural research and extension capacity and infrastructure have been severely damaged after decades of war. ICARDA and CIMMYT are making efforts to help Afghan farmers get back on their feet by helping them improve and sustain crop production. These include the testing, evaluation, release and seed multiplication not only of wheat but of improved maize, chickpeas, mung beans, rice and potato varieties in collaboration with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) based in the Philippines, International Center for Research in the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in India, the International Potato Center (CIP) in Peru, and the World Vegetable Center in Taiwan; promoting the use of high-value crops, like mint and saffron; and of conservation agriculture practices; as well as various efforts to train Afghan researchers/extension workers and farmers.


Osmanzai noted that six new promising wheat and three maize varieties have been released in Afghanistan in the last seven years, following an intensive process of testing, release and certification to ensure that they are suitable for local conditions. He says the emerging stem rust threat has added a new urgency to ongoing efforts to improve agriculture in the region.


“CIMMYT and ICARDA have been providing improved seed as well as training Afghan wheat scientists since the 1970s,” Rizvi said. “To tackle Ug99, we would need to move faster than we ever have before, in order to address the threat and replace old varieties with new resistant ones.”


Ensuring food security in Afghanistan and neighboring countries is becoming increasingly difficult, according to the scientists responsible for improving agriculture in Afghanistan. A drought during the 2008 growing season severely reduced wheat harvests and caused grain shortages. And Afghanistan continues to face a potential “food deficit,” although spring rains this year made possible a bumper harvest of 3.4 million tons of wheat, a jump of 127 percent over last year, according to the US Department of Agriculture. *


“This year's harvest was good, but some of it was damaged by a second wheat disease known as yellow rust. This shriveled the grain, so there could be unexpected deficits," Osmanzai said. "Afghanistan was self-sufficient in wheat in 1978, due in part to widespread adoption of varieties from CIMMYT. But production more recently has ranged from 2.3 to 4.5 million tons—far short of the yearly 5 million tons consumed.”


New Threat from Old Foe

According to Rizvi and Osmanzai, addressing wheat diseases such as stem rust and yellow rust is vital to any strategy to improve food security and agriculture in Afghanistan and of crucial importance in preventing the spread of Ug99 into Pakistan and India. Stem rust has plagued wheat farmers worldwide for thousands of years, but for the last 50 years it has been largely forgotten thanks to resistant varieties developed by a group of scientists led by Norman Borlaug, who earned a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.


Unfortunately, in 1998, the Ug99 stem rust variant discovered in Uganda showed itself able to overcome the resistance that was first established by Borlaug’s team. Experts watched with alarm as Ug99 quickly moved to Kenya, where it proved capable of cutting wheat yields by 20 to 80 percent, with isolated incidents of total crop destruction.


Earlier this year, at the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative 2009 Technical Workshop in Mexico, researchers from CIMMYT, ICARDA, the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), and the Ethiopian Institute for Agricultural Research (EIAR) described a technological breakthrough—the development of new varieties of wheat that are not only resistant to Ug99, but also produce more grain than today’s most popular varieties. The scientists said their research suggests that 90 percent of wheat varieties planted around the world are vulnerable to Ug99, and that the pathogen is now in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan, Yemen and Iran, and is on the march toward South Asia. *


A global mapping system, modified from FAO models that track movement of locusts, is being put in place to follow and predict the pathway of Ug99, but Rizvi and his colleagues have launched their own simple early warning system using biological rust trap nurseries at three locations, including Herat near the Iranian border and Nangarhar near the Pakistani borders.


"So far the plants have been clean," Rizvi says, "but there's no telling how long before the new stem rust appears here."




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1.08  Australian research project may help to breed more frost tolerant cereal varieties


South Perth, Western Australia

13 August 2009

The impact of frost on wheat and barley around Australia is being examined as part of a research project that may eventually help to breed more frost tolerant cereal varieties.


Frost damage cost Australian grain growers an estimated $109 million in the 2008 season.


The Department of Agriculture and Food is working with the University of Adelaide and the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries on the four year project, funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation.


The project is examining the performance of nine lines of barley and three lines of wheat under local frost conditions and how that relates to their genetic makeup.


A farm east of Cuballing, 192 kilometres south east of Perth, is hosting the WA trial, which includes a weather station that sends researchers a text message when a frost occurs.


Department research officer Ben Biddulph is travelling this month from Cuballing to Toowoomba, to see collaborators’ work on characterising frost events and their impacts on grain sterility.


“Frost damage to cereal crops could occur at anytime but is most devastating from August to September at or after heading as a consequence of aborted florets, head damage and stem damage,” Dr Biddulph said.


“Frost events that occur during grain fill also contribute to significant losses through increased screenings and quality down grading.”


Dr Biddulph said the project builds on South Australian and Queensland work on frost tolerance.


“Each frost is different, so it is important to measure the time, duration and severity of each event and how it relates to the performance of the plant,” he said.


“By understanding how a range of material response with different frosts will lead to a better understanding of the mechanisms required for plant breeders to develop more frost tolerant varieties.”


The barley varieties involved in the trial include Gairdner, Kaputar (Qld), Stirling, Gilbert (Qld) and several pre-breeding lines, while the wheat lines are Wyalkatchem, Young and Kite (Qld).


“This project is not comparing varieties, rather it is looking at how different varieties react to local conditions and the relationship between different environments,” Dr Biddulph said.


“The first year of the trial last year revealed genetic variation for frost tolerance with minor frosts but it is really too early to provide any concrete information.”


A group of Japanese researchers recently visited the site to examine the barley lines, some of which originally came from Japanese plant material.


The Cuballing site can be viewed at the Facey Group Spring Field Day on Wednesday, 16 September. For more information about the field day contact Carmen Bayley on 9888 1223.



Picture caption: Department of Agriculture and Food research officer Dr Ben Biddulph (left) and Dr Atsushi Oyangi, Senior Researcher, National Institute of Crop Science, Tsukuba, Japan at the WA national frost trial at Cuballing inspecting frost damage in Japanese derived barley material during a field visit in late July.


More news from:

    . University of Adelaide

    . Queensland, Department of Primary Industries

    . Western Australia, Department of Primary Industries






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1.09  APB-SABRAO Plant Breeding Conference Keynote presentations available at GIPB website


14th Australasian Plant Breeding Conference and 11th Society for the Advancement of Breeding Research in Asia and Oceania (SABRAO) Congress 2009.


Held at the Cairns Convention Centre, Tropical North Queensland, Australia.


According to Dr. Nils Berding, Conference Chair, “The combined meeting has come at a time when our discipline of crop improvement faces critical challenges. These include dealing with the implications of climate change, and the need to develop new adaptations and explore new germplasm to maintain productivity. The questions of food security, development and maintenance of sustainability production systems, and the production of ‘healthy foods’, a newly developing field in our discipline, will require our focussed attention to deliver acceptable solutions.”


The theme of the conference, Contemporary crop Improvement: A Tropical View, highlighted the crucial role the tropics play in our world – the greater portion of the world’s population lives in the tropics, and lives predominantly in developing nations, and all the challenges our discipline faces are highlighted to an even greater degree here.


The conference organizers, with the permission of most of the presenters, are making the keynote addresses available on the GIPB website at the following address:


You can also access this through the menu options at Literature and Views/Meeting Presentations and Proceedings


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1.10  African universities told to get agricultural research to farmers


Accra, Ghana

3 August 2009

by Charles Mkoka


African universities must embrace agricultural research and development — and ensure such research is translated into policy and meets the needs of its farmers, a meeting has heard.


Richard Mkandawire, head of the Comprehensive Agricultural Action Programme (CAADP) at The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), said African tertiary institutions continue to be perceived as ivory towers in many countries.


"The post-colonial state has failed to embrace tertiary institutions in national development," Mkandawire said at a dialogue between universities and agricultural organisations in Accra, Ghana, this week (28–31 July).


He urged African universities to work together through the African Universities Forum Network to embrace the CAADP action plan, agreed by African heads of state in 2003.


The plan was endorsed as a vision for the restoration of agricultural growth, food security, and rural development in Africa. CAADP seeks an average annual growth rate of six per cent in agriculture — yet to be met by most African governments.


Sheryl Hendricks — head of agricultural science and agribusiness at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa — says institutions should carry out evidence-based research and disseminate both research results and examples of best practice to farmers and policymakers.


But Monty Jones, executive director of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), says that the continent will need a US$4.4 billion annual investment to effectively carry out agricultural research and development — almost double its current budget.


"Africa's entire research and development budget is US$2.2 billion annually. Regional bodies such as NEPAD, the African Union and FARA provide close to a further US$500 million a year and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research provide US$250 million to sixteen research centres," he told SciDev.Net.


"As a continent we would love to benefit from the G8 allocation of US$20 billion allocated to the developing world to make up the shortfall," he says (see G8 pledges $US20 billion for agriculture).


Jones says there is also an urgent need to build institutional support and human capacity by training plant breeders, agronomists and plant pathologists — and that governments should improve infrastructure so that food can move faster from the producer to the consumer, for example.


The meeting was jointly organised by FARA, The ACP-EU Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation of the Netherlands and the Association of African Universities.


More news from: SciDev.Net


Source: SciDevNet via


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1.11  Challenges to choosing the best cultivars for crop production


Madison, Wisconsin, USA

19 August 2009

A recent study published in Crop Science reveals that the biplot method of cultivar analysis has limitations in its functionality and capability.

Selection of a crop cultivar is one of the most important management decisions a farmer makes.  However, choosing a cultivar for a particular environment, depending on the location or year, is an immense challenge because of unpredictable performance of cultivars across environments.  This relationship is known as genotype-by-environment interaction (GE).  Despite continued efforts to breed for cultivars with wide adaptability, GE is still a major impediment to reliable identification of  superior cultivars for optimal production. 


Over the past several decades, numerous statistical methods have been developed to facilitate the analysis and understanding of complex GE variability in regional cultivar trials, enhancing researchers ability to correctly identify superior cultivars.  However, some of these methods have been overutilized or abused to a point that dubious results and conclusions may have been drawn. 


Rong-Cai Yang, a scientist with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development and University of Alberta, along with his collaborators Jose Crossa and Juan Burgueño, from International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), and Paul Cornelius from the University of Kentucky, has taken the issue to one of these methods.  This findings of this study is featured in the September-October 2009 issue of Crop Science, providing a critical evaluation of the biplot analysis of cultivars.


Biplot, a scatter plot that simultaneously displays points or scores for genotypes and environments, has been extensively used for studying GE or any two-way data table. Its descriptive and visualization capabilities along with the availability of user-friendly software have enabled plant scientists to examine any two-way data by a click on a computer button. However, according to Yang, the problem is the utility and interpretations of such biplots beyond their functionality and capability.


"A biplot is simply a descriptive, graphical tool for a quick view of GE data but it cannot be used for hypothesis testing because there is no uncertainty measure," says Yang, whose research was supported by Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.


Yang and his co-authors used their own wealth of experiences and expertise with GE analysis to identify and discuss six critical issues arising from the use of biplot analysis. These authors stressed that mere subjective judgment calls from visualization of biplots would not be sufficient. They recommended the use of confidence regions for individual genotype and environment scores in biplots, thereby selecting and recommending cultivars on sound statistical and scientific bases.  In particular, they proposed the use of a bootstrap re-sampling strategy for constructing such confidence regions. Research is ongoing to add statistical inference capability to the biplot analysis for sound decision on cultivar selection and recommendation.


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

Source: CSSA - Crop Science Society of America via


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1.12  Embrapa Wheat starts a new research project about resistance to Wheat Blast Disease


Since April’2009, Embrapa (Brazilian Organization for Agricultural Research, is an agency of Brazil’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply) has committed US$ 130,000 in research to resistance to wheat blast, a fungal disease first reported in Brazil, in 1985.

Currently, wheat blast is spread all over Brazil’s wheat growing regions and in some countries of Latin America, as Bolivia and Paraguay, and it may pose an immediate threat to wheat production.


The pathogen attacks wheat rachis and the ear becomes white starting from the infection point. Only a few wheat cultivars have shown moderate resistance to this fungus, which is different from that of rice.


Gisele Torres (, molecular geneticist from Embrapa Wheat, is the leadership of the project named Wheat Blast Genes Interaction. She explains that the main objectives of the project are: 1) phenotyping a core collection of wheat in response to infection by Pyricularia grisea and 2) prospection of genes related to resistance to the pathogen. “Wheat BGIn Project” count with a multidisciplinary team and will be running for the next 3 years (2009 – 2012). Although wheat blast disease has been identified in Brazil since the 80’s, no resistant genotypes have been developed so far.


Contributed by Gisele Torres

Molecular Geneticist - Leadership of the Wheat Blast Project

Embrapa Wheat

Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation

Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply


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


(Editor’s Note: This item was inadvertent combined with another article in item 1.05 in the July 2009 Newsletter.)


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


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1.14  Scientists Team Up to End Malnutrition in Africa


Three organizations based in Missouri, the St. Louis Children's Hospital, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and Washington University School of Medicine, have started a new program that aims to end malnutrition in the developing world, particularly in Africa. The focus of the newly formed Global Harvest Alliance (GHA) will be to create low-cost, nutritionally complete foods to prevent and treat all forms of under-nutrition. Plant and physician-scientists from the Missouri-based organizations will work together to develop nutrient-rich and pest and disease-resistant crops that can be disseminated through smallholder farmers.

The GHA team will be headed by Mark Manary, a professor of pediatrics at the Washington University School of Medicine. Manary is well known for his work on a fortified, peanut-butter based food that is widely used in developing countries to treat severe malnutrition. "People in the developing world derive most of their nutrients from plants; plants constitute 90% of the diet of many Africans," said Manary. "Therefore effective prevention strategies must include food crops that provide more complete nutrition."


Researchers are now testing vitamin A and protein-fortified cassava varieties in greenhouses in the United States. The scientists said that these varieties are expected to be widely available in Africa within the next 10 years, improving survival-rates and quality of life for millions of children and families that would otherwise suffer malnutrition.


For more information, read


Source: Crop Biotech Update

31 July 2009:


Contributed by Margaret Smith

Dept. Of Genetics and Plant Breeding

Cornell University


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1.15  Regulatory changes enacted a decade ago appear to be responsible for dramatically slowing the flow of quality-improving agricultural biotechnology innovations


Davis, California, USA

21 August 2009


Regulatory changes enacted a decade ago appear to be responsible for dramatically slowing the flow of quality-improving agricultural biotechnology innovations to a mere trickle, reports a team of agricultural economists and biotechnology experts.


Findings from the study, published in the August issue of the journal Nature Biotechnology, suggest that the slowdown may have lasting social welfare costs, such as the delay of nutritional improvements, production efficiencies and environmental protections.


"One of the great frustrations in the agricultural biotechnology community has been the failure of many new products with enhanced quality traits -- such as nutritional content, ripening control and processing attributes -- to reach consumers and processers," said Gregory Graff, an agricultural economist now at Colorado State University.


Graff led the study as a postdoctoral researcher at UC Davis, working with Alan Bennett, a UC Davis plant science professor and executive director of the Public Intellectual Property Resource for Agriculture (PIPRA), and David Zilberman, a professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics at UC Berkeley.


"While biotech innovations with on-farm production traits -- such as insect resistance and herbicide tolerance -- moved through the research and development pipeline relatively quickly, commercialization of product-quality innovations failed to materialize," Bennett said. "It had been hoped that these products would directly benefit the general public and change public perception of agricultural biotechnology."


To investigate the cause for the delay in commercializing product-quality innovations, the researchers conducted two surveys, one looking back on the history of 558 product-quality innovations and another looking forward at 49 quality-innovations expected to be developed by the year 2015.


The retrospective study found that many research breakthroughs related to flower color and fruit ripening occurred in the 1980s, when agricultural biotechnology was in its infancy. It was expected that research and development in these areas would have grown during the 1990s as new products entered the market. Instead, innovation in product-quality innovation leveled off around 1998 and then declined.


"That drop-off seems to be most closely linked to the halting of regulatory approvals for agbiotech products in Europe in 1998 and the repercussions that had for regulators in other countries," said Zilberman. "While those regulatory responses were largely directed at controlling the risks of early pest-control biotechnologies, it may have contributed to a slowdown in the commercialization of product-quality innovations."


The study was funded in part by a grant from the Council for Biotechnology Information.


The contraction of agbiotech product quality innovation

Gregory D Graff, David Zilberman, Alan B Bennett

Nature Biotechnology 27, 702-704 (August 2009) doi:10.1038/nbt0809-702 Opinion and Comment




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1.16 ARS Helps Preserve Indigenous Crops in Ecuador


As a result of thousands of years of farming, the Andes, in the area around the Cotacachi region holds a stunning diversity of crops not known outside the area. With more and more people working away from the farms, the diverse crops and the associated cultural traditions need to be preserved.


A group of botanists and biodiversity experts led by Karen A. Williams of the US Department of Agriculture National Germplasm Resources Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, USA set up the Cotacachi project where scientists at Ecuador's National Department of Plant Genetic Resources saved samples of the crop diversity in the genebank. The farmers have also been their partner in seed exchange, evaluation of crop varieties, and in food processing and packaging of products made from their indigenous crops. 


See the press release at


Source: Crop Biotech Update

7 August 2009:


Contributed by Margaret Smith

Dept. Of Genetics and Plant Breeding

Cornell University


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1.17  Unlocking the Genetic Secrets of Maize


Two papers published in this week's Science report major discoveries in maize genetics that could revolutionize maize breeding. Researchers from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and several US universities, found that there are no 'big genes' or gene regions that control complex traits in maize. Instead, they established that the genetic variation in the crop is a product of "genes working together, each with a small effect that could be manipulated by breeders."


Ed Buckler and colleagues developed and assessed more than 1 million maize plants to identify the genes involved in flowering time. "We looked as hard as we could for big genes and big effects, but they don't exist," Buckler said. "Instead, there are lots of smaller genes around the genome that contribute to flowering time." The team identified 29-56 quantitative trait loci (QTLs) affecting flowering time.


Studying the more than 1,100 marker genes that characterize genetic inheritance, the researchers found that generally, for the vast majority of the genome, each parent contributed about half. But they also observed subtle differences, "indicating that many genes had small effects on reproductive success."


In another paper, the researchers reported that they have uncovered for the first time an important pattern in gene recombination, where large parts of the genome fail to recombine near the center of a hybrid maize's chromosome. This pattern is said to contribute to hybrid vigor.


The articles published by Science are available to subscribers at and For more information, read and


Source: Crop Biotech Update

7 August 2009:


Contributed by Margaret Smith

Dept. Of Genetics and Plant Breeding

Cornell University


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1.18  Speciation by Polyploidy Common in Plants, Study Finds


Polyploidy, the heritable increase in genome copy number, has long been suspected to play a key role in the origin of new plant species. Around 40 to 80 percent of today's angiosperms are thought to be polyploid. However, current estimates suggest that as few as three or four percent of plant species came about through more recent polyploidy-related speciation events.


Recently, a team of researchers from the University of Münster in Germany, University of Alaska in the US and University of British Columbia in Canada, presented evidences that polyploidy is a major force in plant speciation. The researchers showed that 15 percent of flowering plant species and more than 30 percent of fern species are directly derived from polyploidy. The researchers, led by Troy Wood, employed a combination of cytogenetic and phylogenetic approaches to study the frequency of polyploidy across a diverse sample of vascular plant genera, particularly with respect to appearance of new plant species.


However, the researchers found that plant lineages starting with a polyploid ancestor appear to be no more successful at producing species than diploid plants. Loren Rieseberg, one of the paper's co-authors, noted "The fact that polyploidy seems to have no effect on diversification rates should reduce the number of enthusiastic commentaries about the 'advantages of polyploidy.'"


The paper published by PNAS is available at Read for more information


Source: Crop Biotech Update

20 August 2009:


Contributed by Margaret Smith

Dept. Of Genetics and Plant Breeding

Cornell University


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1.19  Global team develops tools to unravel diversity of rice


Los Baños, Philippines - By looking at what different types of rice have in common, a team of international scientists is 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 in the future and securing global food supplies.


Recently published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) are the findings of the research team, which scrutinized the genomes of twenty different types of genetically diverse rice used in international breeding. 


For the IRRI press release visit


From IRRI:

Contributed by Margaret Smith

Dept. Of Genetics and Plant Breeding

Cornell University


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1.20  First submergence-tolerant rice variety released in the Philippines


Manila, The Philippines

4 August 2009


The first submergence-tolerant rice variety in the Philippines was released during the 27th Council Secretariat Meeting on July 7.


NSIC Rc194 (aka Submarino 1) is IR64 infused with submergence tolerance gene (Sub1), which was discovered by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the University of California-Davis from an Indian rice variety FR13A.


“Submarino 1 is a non-genetically engineered rice plant that can survive, grow and develop even after 10 days of complete submergence in water at vegetative stage,” said Dr. Nenita V. Desamero, DA-PhilRice plant breeder and team leader of the on-farm testing of submergence rice in the Philippines.


Under favorable condition, Submarino 1 will have the same yield performance as IR64 (4.5 t/ha), but under complete submergence, Submarino 1 will survive and recover.


Submarino 1 matures in 112-116 days with a plant height of 90-95 cm. Desamero, however, advises farmers not to grow Submarino 1 in blast- and tungro-stricken areas.


Before the 2008 wet season (WS), Submarino 1 was first introduced to farmers in San Antonio, Nueva Ecija, which is a catch basin of the neighboring municipalities during the rainy season.


Recently, DA-PhilRice, together with the 12 DA-Regional Field Units, has started conducting adaptation trials of Submarino 1 and other Sub1 lines such as Swarna-Sub1, IR49830-7-1-2-3 and PhilRice lines in selected municipalities around the country.


For the seed increase of Submarino 1, 0.3 ha is allotted for the production of breeder seeds and 0.5 ha for foundation seeds this 2009 wet season, but will expand in the 2010 dry season. More commercial seeds will be made available to target farmers by 2010 WS.


The collaborative project of DA-PhilRice and IRRI “Implementation plans to disseminate submergence tolerant rice varieties and associated new production practices to Southeast Asia” is funded by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


Source: PhilRice via


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1.21  The resistant rice of the future


Cross-breeding could create rice varieties that can survive flooding and fungi.

Elie Dolgin


Japanese research teams have pinpointed the genes in hardy varieties of rice that help the plants to outgrow rising paddy-field waters and fend off fungal infections. Having these genes in more vulnerable rice varieties could save billions of dollars and feed millions more people.


The two papers are "very welcome at a time of increasingly difficult challenges to rice growing", says Michael Jackson, a plant physiologist at the University of Bristol, UK.


In the first study, published in Nature1 on 19 August, Motoyuki Ashikari, at Nagoya University in Japan, and his colleagues found two genes that help plants to keep their leaves above water when partially submerged. In the second study, published in Science2 on 20 August, a team led by Shuichi Fukuoka at the National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences in Tsukuba, Japan, has found a gene that helps some types of rice fight off fungal infection — and successfully isolated it from a linked stretch of DNA responsible for the terrible flavour of the wild varieties.


Snorkel genes

The Nature study focused on the threat posed by deep flooding, which affects more than 25% of global rice-producing land. Most rice plants (Oryza sativa) die if completely submerged for more than a few days. But some rice varieties can survive the conditions by rapidly shooting up in height. These plants are typically far less productive, however, so researchers have sought the genes responsible for flood tolerance in the hope of introducing them into high-yielding rice varieties.


In 2006, a team led by David Mackill at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines discovered similar flood-tolerance genes — a genetic cluster called Submergence 1 that allowed plants to survive for more than two weeks by entering a dormant state when completely submerged3 (see 'Rice made to breathe underwater').


Some varieties of rice can grow very tall to survive flooding.M.Ashikari


Ashikari's team examined three genomic regions that they had found helped rice to grow. In the region that added the greatest growth boost, they mapped a pair of genes — dubbed SNORKEL1 and SNORKEL2 — that together can trigger growth of up to 8 metres in the face of rising water levels (see video).


Julia Bailey-Serres, a molecular geneticist at the University of California, Riverside, says that the Submergence and Snorkel genes can now be crossed into common rice varieties to protect crops exposed to different flooding scenarios. When flooding is deep and quick, Submergence genes might be best; but when floodwaters climb in a progressive and prolonged fashion, Snorkel genes will be more effective. "It provides two strategies and they both have their importance," she says.


Intriguingly, the same plant hormone, ethylene, stimulates both the escape strategies. "What has happened with natural selection apparently is that that pathway is where things are tweaked evolutionarily," says Bailey-Serres. The mutation in the Snorkel pathway probably came first, though, adds Ashikari. Some wild rice species possess Snorkel genes, whereas only domesticated breeds contain the Submergence genes, he says.


Fighting fungus

Flooding is not the only threat to the world's largest diet staple. Rice blast disease destroys around 10-30% of global rice crops — enough food to feed about 60 million people each year. Some rice plants are resistant to the pernicious fungus responsible the disease, but the rice from these plants often has undesirable qualities, such as lower stickiness and poor flavour, so they have not been introduced into widely consumed rice varieties. Some researchers have speculated that blast-immunity genes might directly confer terrible taste, but Fukuoka and his colleagues have shown that resistance and bad taste can be teased apart2.


The team cloned a gene called Pi21, and showed that plants with two rare deletions had around 10 times fewer blast lesions than wild-type rice, yet these same plants tasted awful. Fukuoka's group crossed the resistance gene into a tastier breed, and mapped the foul flavour to a point a few thousand nucleotides downstream of the Pi21 gene, indicating that Pi21 itself does not harm the rice's taste.


Both research teams are breeding more-durable rice varieties. No genetic engineering is required, says Ashikari, because all of these genes can be transferred by crossing. Once these new cultivars are made, however, they still need to be tested — both in the paddy and on the plate. "We need to see how these behave in field situations and how they can be used in a rice breeding programme," says Mackill.




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1.22  Nigeria to roll out fungus-resistant soybean crops


17 August 2009

by Semiu Babalola

A variety of soybean resistant to a devastating Asian rust will soon be widely available in West and Central Africa. The rust, a fungal disease that entered Africa in 1996, can wipe out 80 per cent of infected crops.


Scientists from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Nigeria and the country's National Cereals Research Institute (NCRI) developed the rust-resistant variety, named TGX 1835-10E.


They say it will drastically reduce the rust problem as it has resistance genes for all known types of rust in Nigeria.


"The [rust resistant] variety can be used for direct cultivation in tropical Africa or as a source of resistance genes in soybean breeding programmes," says IITA soybean breeder, Hailu Tefera. "It was previously released in Uganda by Makerere University and has also already shown excellent performance in trials carried out in southern Africa."


Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda are the largest producers of soybean in Africa, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.


In 1999, farmers in southwest Nigeria found the leaves of their immature soybean crop rapidly turning brown and falling off, leaving only straggly stems. Tests confirmed the cause was the rust fungus, Phakopsora pachyrhizi.


The breakthrough is important because farmers can plant the new variety without applying expensive anti-rust chemicals. In 2003 — just two years after Asian rust arrived — Brazil lost US$2 billion in soybean harvests despite spending US$400 million on fungicides.


"The new cultivar does not solve the general problem of [all] fungal disease on plants but it does provide relief to farmers faced with the challenges of rust disease without any other solution," Olumide Shokalu, the NCRI pathologist who led trials, told SciDev.Net.


He says the seeds will be available to farmers by the start of the new cropping season in 2010. The National Agricultural Seed Council and NCRI are producing stocks for distribution, at a token price, through certified seeds outlets.


But Nasiru Ibrahim, of the department of agriculture at Nigeria's Usmanu Danfodiyo University, sounded a note of caution: "Methods of pest or disease control only work for some time and need periodic review. Pests or disease develop new strains to break whatever resistance is in place.


Source: Source: SciDev.Net via


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1.23  Creating the ultimate drought-resistant lawn/pasture grass


Washington, DC, USA

17 August 2009

Bluegrass hybrids ideal for pasture and for lawns could be developed faster using genetic markers developed by an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist.


ARS geneticist Jason Goldman at the agency’s Southern Plains Range Research Station in Woodward, Okla., identified nine DNA primers that produce markers that can verify successful bluegrass hybrids from DNA samples. This saves time because breeders currently have to wait for the plant to mature before they can verify a hybrid by physical characteristics. The markers can be used on seedlings.


Goldman’s goal is a Kentucky bluegrass-like lawn or pasture grass that is highly tolerant to drought. The research is part of the laboratory’s program for breeding perennial cool-season forage grasses for the southern Great Plains as alternatives to wheat and other annual crops.


Texas bluegrass is native to southern Kansas, Oklahoma, western Arkansas and most of Texas. It tolerates heat and drought, but produces seed that is difficult to harvest and re-plant. It also lacks the turf quality of Kentucky bluegrass. Kentucky bluegrass is not tolerant to heat and drought, but has excellent turf characteristics and produces seed that is easy to harvest and clean.


Goldman’s goal is to combine them into one variety with a broader geographic range than Kentucky bluegrass, while retaining Kentucky bluegrass’ good qualities. The hybrid must also retain Kentucky bluegrass’ ability to produce seed that breeds true, ensuring identical progeny.


Goldman plans further tests to cross Texas bluegrass with other bluegrass species in addition to Kentucky bluegrass, and to see if the markers can be used for other purposes, such as identifying markers linked to desirable or undesirable plant traits.


This research was published in the journal Plant Breeding.

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




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1.24  ‘Fragrant’ GM maize against pests



20 August 2009

Researchers at the German University of Neuenburg have used genetic technology to restore to maize a scent that defends it from pests. The maize then attracts nematodes that kill harmful insects in the root area of the plant.


Maize plants release certain scents to combat a variety of insects such as the maize root borer. The larvae of this insect eat root hairs and bore into the root of the plant.


In North America, the maize or ‘corn’ root borer is responsible for enormous harvest losses, the value of which may reach more than a billion dollars per year. In collaboration with the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, researchers at the Neuenburg University discovered that many maize varieties in the USA no longer produce such chemical cries for help against the root borer.


Scent gene from oregano

Researchers transferred a gene from the oregano herb into a variety of maize. The gene controls the release of the scent molecules and, according to the scientists, this new strategy teams biological pest control with biotechnology. This genetically modified maize already has been tested in field trials in the USA. The maize attracted nematodes and displayed significantly less root damage from the corn root borer. The number of root borers was reduced by 60 per cent in comparison with conventional maize, which means that the effectiveness of the method is approximately as high as is the case with the application of insecticides. The researchers state that this new process provides novel possibilities in the battle against the corn root borer.


In European varieties of maize and in its forebears, the signal to attract the larva-killing nematodes still is present. Therefore, this trait also could be re-crossed into the American varieties through conventional breeding. However, according to the scientists, one achieves this goal more quickly through gene technology.


The goal of the scientists now is to improve the defense system of maize. They assume that this strategy also may be applied in the protection of other plants.


See also on GMO-Compass: Breeding Aims: Pest Resistant Crops







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1.25  Breeding tomatoes that please consumers


Montfavet, France

24 July 2009


For many years, tomato breeding programmes took greater account of yield, disease-resistance, adaptation, greenhouse cultivation or commercial qualities (appearance, homogeneity, lifespan, firmness) than of the flavour and aroma of the fruits. It is therefore not surprising that some consumers complain about a lack of flavour in the tomatoes currently available on the market. The EU-SOL project was set up in order to respond to these consumer expectations; it groups some fifty partners, including around twenty tomato breeders.


A clearer understanding of Europe-wide consumer preferences will allow breeders to better take account of this criterion in their breeding schemes and to identify the most relevant traits to be selected. In the context of the European EU-SOL project, scientists carried out surveys on more than 800 consumers in three countries – the Netherlands, France and Italy – concerning a series of tomato varieties representative of different market segments. In each country, expert panels established the sensory profiles of these different varieties. Preference maps were then drawn up for each of the countries, and thus revealed the traits that needed to be improved in order to satisfy consumers. Global analysis showed that consumer preferences were very similar from one country to another, that several groups of consumers could be identified in each country and that segmentation was based first of all on taste and then on texture. Detailed analysis also showed that appearance was a very important trait for consumers and needed to be taken into account.


Other researchers working on this project studied how it would be possible to enhance the flavour of tomatoes, because this is one of the traits targeted by consumers. The flavour of a tomato is closely linked to its sugar content. Some wild-type tomato varieties contain high levels of sugars or acids, but these traits are always associated with small fruit size. It is thus not easy to improve sugar content without detracting from fruit size. The scientists thus tried to better understand this negative correlation by working on a population of tomatoes arising from the crossing of two lines, Solanum lycopersicum (cultivated tomato) and Solanum chmielewskii (a wild-type, non-comestible species) from the genetic, genomic, metabolomic and physiological points of view. They showed that the link between sugar content and fruit size varied in different lines, and could depend not only on the number of cells in the fruit, but also on water fluxes and competition between fruits. More detailed approaches integrating genetics, genomics and physiology were also implemented to analyse fruit firmness or their composition in secondary metabolites (aromas, carotenoids and vitamins).


In parallel with this research, other scientists are creating the genomics tools necessary for these studies. Several European laboratories (including some in France) are participating in sequencing the tomato genome; populations of mutants are thus being developed and characterised and the complicated bioinformatics infrastructure necessary to manage the resulting mass of data is being organised.


Source: UR1052 Fruit and Vegetable Genetics and Breeding Unit UGAFL via


Project website:


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1.26  Fungus resistance gene found in rice


24 August 2009

by Justine Davies

Scientists in Japan have found a way to create high-yielding rice with long-lasting resistance to the devastating rice blast fungus.


Sufficient rice to feed 60 million people is destroyed by the blast fungus, Magnaporthe grisea — also known as Magnaporthe oryzae — every year.


Some rice is naturally resistant but is often also of lower yield. Now a team led by Shuichi Fukuoka from the National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences in Japan has engineered good quality rice that is both resistant to blast disease and high-yielding.


Their research was published in Science last week (21 August).


By comparing japonica rice that is resistant to blast disease with rice that succumbs to infection, Fukuoka found that a change in a key gene called Pi21 can mean the difference between devastating infection and mild disease.


Fukuoka says even plants with the resistant form of the gene become infected, but "The damage they suffer is not so serious, making it possible to reduce the amount of fungicide used by 50 per cent."


He says his team's findings will be particularly useful in mountainous areas where blast disease is a serious threat.


There have been many previous attempts to engineer resistant rice strains by making specific adjustments to plant immunity to allow the plants to recognise and resist the fungus.


But according to Nick Talbot, professor of molecular genetics at Exeter University in the UK, many of these modifications have a field life of just 2–3 years, as the fungus is quick to find ways to circumvent them and avoid being recognised.


Having the resistant form of Pi21, however, means a plant increases its defences against infection in general, making it much harder for the blast fungus to find a way to take hold, says Talbot.


He says the Japanese researchers have made a big discovery with universal applicability. When this is combined with other methods of engineering rice, scientists may be in a position to "exclude blast infections in a durable manner".


Fukuoka has also managed to isolate the resistant form of Pi21, meaning it can be separated from other genes associated with poor yield. Previously this has been difficult because when scientists have tried to transfer the resistant Pi21 gene into new strains of rice, the genes affecting quality have also hitched a ride.


Fukuoka says the fact that his research has shown the exact location of the Pi21 gene means scientists can ensure it is not replaced by a more vulnerable form when breeding new rice strains.


Link to full article in Science


Source:SciDev.Net via


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1.27  Shatter resistant Brassicas


An international team of scientists has made a major advance in understanding the problem of pod shatter in Brassica crops such as oilseed rape. As well as losing 10-25% of valuable seeds, it results in runaway `volunteer' seedlings that contaminate the next crop in the rotation cycle. Using the related model plant Arabidopsis, Lars Østergaard and JIC colleagues have discovered that by artificially producing the plant hormone, auxin, in a specific region of the fruit, they can stop the fruit opening, completely sealing the seeds inside. ...more


Advances is available in both PDF and as a web version at


Source: Advances, Issue 13: Summer 2009


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1.28  Discovering Soybean Plants Resistant to Aphids


Insect resistance breeding is always a race against time before the currently resistant variety loses its efficacy against new insect biotypes. This is what researchers at the University of Illinois experienced. After the initial discovery of soybean aphids in the summer of 2000, the researchers screened 18,000 different accessions and came up with two soybean lines, Dowling and Jackson, having the same resistance genes, and PI200538 with a different resistance gene against the aphid. Soybean varieties adapted to the Midwest were recipients of resistance genes from Dowling and were able to control the prevailing aphid biotype.


However, a new aphid biotype was found to be resistant to the Dowling resistance genes. It was fortunate that the third soybean line PI200538 can overcome the new aphid biotype. Breeding strategies are now geared towards stacking the two insect resistance genes into one soybean variety. "We hope that we can develop a plant with a number of resistance genes so that if any one of them breaks down, the plant would still be resistant." UI scientist Brian Diers said. He further added that, "Farmers have been controlling soybean aphids by spraying insecticides. If we can deploy resistance, this could reduce the use of these insecticides, which will have many environmental benefits."


For details see the press release at:


Source: Crop Biotech Update

14 August 2009:


Contributed by Margaret Smith

Dept. Of Genetics and Plant Breeding

Cornell University


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1.29  The bridge between basic photosynthesis research and crop breeding


Rodomiro Ortiz§, Matthew Reynolds, Jonathan H. Crouch and Thomas A. Lumpkin

International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Apdo. Postal 6-641, 06600 Mexico, D.F., Mexico


The key role of the CGIAR in providing food security through continued increased production of the major staples must be sustained, but with an increasing emphasis as a provider of novel genes for adaptation and yield enhancement.”

CGIAR, 2006, p. 25


High on the list of top-10 evolutionary milestones for helping make and keep the Earth lush (Leslie 2009), photosynthesis is the process by which plants, some bacteria, and some protistans use sunlight to produce sugar that cellular respiration converts into ATP –the "fuel" used by all living things. Although photosynthesis plays an important role as provider of energy as well as assimilates for growth and reproduction, the influence of abiotic stresses, such as salinity and water deficits, and biotic stresses, such as insect herbivory, on photosynthesis remains unclear (Lawlor 2009).


Ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (or Rubisco, hereafter) acts as the primary CO2-fixing enzyme of C3 photosynthesis in about 90% of terrestrial plants, including major staple crops such as barley, rice, soybean, and wheat. C3 photosynthesis' ability to use O2 as a substrate instead of CO2 results, however, in photorespiration—an energy-wasting process. C4 plants—such as maize, pearl millet, sorghum, and sugarcane—achieve higher photosynthetic capacities and better water- and nitrogen-use efficiencies than C3 species (Black 1973). Photorespiration is largely suppressed in the C4 cycle, accumulating CO2 at the site of Rubisco and inhibiting its oxygenase activity. C4 photosynthesis is however is as sensitive to water stress as its C3 counterpart or even more so (Ghannoum 2009).



Paper to be given at a workshop on applying photosynthesis research to improvement of food crops: to assess the potential for improvement of selected food crops by increasing photosynthetic capacity, and to define strategies for developing and applying the photosynthesis research. Canberra, ACT, Australia 2-4 September 2009. Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research – Crawford Foundation – Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.

§ New mailing address: Rodomiro Ortiz, Martín Napanga 253, Apt. 101, Miraflores, Lima 18, Perú

∫ Invited speaker and corresponding author email:


Contributed by Rodomiro Ortiz



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1.30  Scientists devise efficient way of learning about complex corn traits


Raleigh, North Carolina

6 August 2009

There's no "silver bullet" gene or gene region that controls so-called complex traits in maize, commonly known as corn.


Instead, in two research papers published this week in the journal Science, North Carolina State University crop scientists and colleagues show that lots of small changes in a number of gene regions affect complex traits – like flowering time or reproductive ability – in corn.


Finding out more about the mechanisms behind complex traits like flowering time – as well as even more difficult-to-map traits like yield or drought tolerance, for example – has the potential to help plant breeders build the best traits into tomorrow's corn plants, says Dr. Jim Holland, NC State professor of crop science, research geneticist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture - Agriculture Research Service (USDA-ARS) and one of the lead authors of the Science papers.


Holland and Dr. Major Goodman, NC State professor of crop science, joined with researchers from Cornell University, the University of Missouri and other institutions to assemble a set of genetic maize varieties called the maize nested association mapping population. They found a number of chromosomal regions – called quantitative trait loci (QTL) – affecting flowering time in corn.


Identifying QTLs can help scientists get closer to figuring out the actual genes involved in certain traits. Holland likened it to looking for a specific house in a large city, with the QTL providing the correct street, but not necessarily the right house.


The scientists found that an average of 29 to 56 QTLs affected flowering time; the effects of these QTLs were small.


That finding contrasts with studies of Arabidopsis, or mustard weed, the ubiquitous lab rat of the plant world. In that plant, small numbers of QTLs have large effects on genetic variance.


The scientists also studied more than 1,100 marker genes that characterize genetic inheritance. In other words, the researchers wanted to know if genes from one parent are inherited more frequently than genes from another parent.


While they predicted that more genes from one parent would be inherited, the study showed that, for the vast majority of the genome, each parent contributed about half. But subtle deviations from this were often observed, indicating that many genes had small effects on reproductive success.


Holland says that the nested association mapping population will be a resource for scientists to both build a better corn plant and to show how changes in the genome produce differences in individual plant families. That, in turn, will help scientists make more accurate predictions about complex traits.


"These findings will be a big help in the future," Holland says. "We can now take a complicated trait, identify gene regions involved in the trait, and then use that information in breeding to ensure the best combinations of genes from different sources or varieties."


The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the USDA-ARS.

"The Genetic Architecture of Maize Flowering Time"

James Holland and Major Goodman, North Carolina State University; et al

Published: Aug. 7, 2009, in Science



Flowering time is a complex trait that controls adaptation of plants to their local environment in the outcrossing species Zea mays (maize).We dissected variation for flowering time with a set of 5,000 recombinant inbred lines (maize Nested Association Mapping population, NAM). Nearly a million plants were assayed in eight environments but showed no evidence for any single large effect quantitative trait loci (QTLs). Instead, we identified evidence for numerous small-effect QTLs shared among families; however, allelic effects differ across founder lines. We identified no individual QTLs at which allelic effects are determined by geographic origin or large effects for epistasis or environmental interactions. Thus, a simple additive model accurately predicts flowering time for maize, in contrast to the genetic architecture observed in the selfing plant species, rice and Arabidopsis.

"Genetic Properties of the Maize Nested Association Mapping Population"

James Holland and Major Goodman, North Carolina State University; et al

Published: Aug. 7, 2009, in Science



Maize genetic diversity has been used to understand the molecular basis of phenotypic variation and to improve agricultural efficiency and sustainability. We crossed 25 diverse inbred maize lines to the B73 reference line, capturing a total of 136,000 recombination events. Variation for recombination frequencies was observed among families, influenced by local (cis) genetic variation. We identified evidence for numerous minor single-locus effects but little two-locus linkage disequilibrium or segregation distortion, which indicated a limited role for genes with large effects and epistatic interactions on fitness. We observed excess residual heterozygosity in pericentromeric regions, which suggested that selection in inbred lines has been less efficient in these regions because of reduced recombination frequency. This implies that pericentromeric regions may contribute disproportionally to heterosis.






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3.01  Hortivar, a new database on performance of horticultural cultivars


A database on performances of horticultural cultivars in relation to agroecological conditions, cultivation practices, the occurrence of pests and diseases, and timing of production


Tainan, Taiwan

21 August 2009


Chris Ojiewo, Vegetable Breeder (vBSS)

AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center

Regional Center for Africa

Hortivar is a database hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) on performances of horticultural cultivars in relation to agroecological conditions, cultivation practices, the occurrence of pests and diseases, and timing of production.

Vegetables are one of the six categories of horticultural crops covered in Hortivar.


It is a platform for horticultural knowledge management and exchange and has been created to improve the accessibility and dissemination of data/information on varietal performance of horticultural crops and enhance their use, especially in tropical and sub-tropical zones.


For AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center, Hortivar is an interesting communication tool. During the Vegetable Breeding and Seed Systems (vBSS) Innovation Platform meeting held at AVRDC Regional Center for Africa in Arusha on 31 July 2009, the Hortivar web site was presented to the 19 participants. “While all showed strong interest in such a platform and appreciated the efforts by FAO and its partners to provide horticulturalists with a useful tool, some expressed their concern about the importance of quality control when new data is fed in,” says Dr. Chris Ojiewo, vBSS Vegetable Breeder and Hortivar Project Coordinator at the Center.


Source: The World Vegetable Center Newsletter via


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3.02  Materials from Molecular Breeding Platform workshop (5–7 March 2009) now online

For those readers wishing to learn more about the proposed GCP Molecular Breeding Platform (MBP), we invite you to read about the MBP preparatory workshop held in Montpellier, France. More


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3.03  Molecular-assisted breeding workshop, 29th June–3rd July 2009, Zaragoza, Spain: Resources now available

Twenty-six participants from around the globe participated in this Subprogramme 5-supported workshop. Course materials, including abstracts, presentations and pictures, are accessible at GCP’s Capacity-building Corner. More


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4.01  Support to attend the Plant Molecular Breeding workshop to be held in Cairo, November, 2009


Dear Professors and Colleagues

The Italian side has accepted to participate in the Plant Molecular Breeding workshop to be held in Cairo, November, 2009 for 3 days (Nov 15-17). Several Key Professors from Italy will attend the workshop.


The Italian side will cover its air tickets, while the Egyptian side will take care of the accommodations, coffee breaks, lunch, poster, internal  accommodation, Gala Dinner and so on.


The Academy of Science and Technology in Egypt will partially fund some of these activities. Meanwhile, we are still looking for further support from different agencies inside Egypt to sponsor the workshop.


In this email, I may announce for a Fund Raising campaign to support the workshop. The academy will supervise on your contribution.


Contributed by Amr Farouk Abdelkhalik

Ministry Of Higher Education And Scientific Research



Preliminary agenda for: Year of Science Italy – Egypt


Conference: Molecular Breeding For Cereal Development in the Mediterranean Area

Location:       Egypt, Cairo,  November 15-17, 2009


Riccardo Aleandri

CRA, Head Director of the Scientific Activities, Rome

CRA breeding strategies


Elisabetta Lupotto

CRA, Rice Research Unit, Vercelli

Rice research and varietal development in Italy


Mario Motto

CRA, Maize Research Unit, Vercelli

Gene discovery for improving kernel-quality related traits.


Annamaria Mastrangelo

CRA, Centre for Research on Cereals, Foggia

Genomic approaches for improvement of durum wheat.


Maria Grazia D’Egidio

CRA, Unit of Research for Cereal Quality, Rome

Durum wheat quality in raw material and products


Paolo Ranalli

CRA- Rome, Head Director Department Industrial Crops

Genomic advances in crop plants for industrial end uses: case studies.


Contributed by Amr Farouk Abdelkhalik

Ministry Of Higher Education And Scientific Research



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4.02  Cooperation call for Africa through FP7 (Seventh Framework Programme).


The EU has launched a specific cooperation call for Africa through FP7 (Seventh Framework Programme). You may find more details in the following link

( ).

 In such call you need to find your African and EU partners.


  • Environment (including Climate Change)
  • Health
  • Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, and Biotechnology

Information Package | Electronic Proposal Submission Service (EPSS)

Additional Documents | Get Support | Build Your Consortium


EPSS is now available for this call for proposals

Identifier: FP7-AFRICA-2010

Publication Date: 30 July 2009

Budget: € 63 000 000

Deadline: 14 January 2010 at 17:00:00 (Brussels local time)

OJ Reference: OJ C177 of 30 July 2009

Coordinated call: No

Joint call: No

Technical Call: No

Specific Programme(s):  Cooperation 

Themes: Environment (including Climate Change); Health; Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, and Biotechnology

Restrictions to Participation: See eligibility criteria in the work programme


Information Package  Key documents required for the preparation of your proposal.

In order to receive a complete Information Package for this call, you will need to select the following elements:

1. The call fiche (only available in .pdf format)  

2. The work programme (.pdf format)

3. FP7 factsheets in your preferred language - an overview of the basic features of this programme (.pdf format)

4. The Guides for Applicants relevant to the funding schemes used in this call (.pdf format)


Get Support


Source: ACSS Biweekly news: issue No. 16


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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.


(Various Dates) 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





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


 8–10 September 2009. 2nd World Seed Conference: Responding to the challenges of a changing world, FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy

Visit the 2nd World Seed Conference website for more information.


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

Advances is available in both PDF and HTML format at


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


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


(New) 28-30 September 2009. 2nd Congress of the Seed Association of the Americas (SAA), Atibaia, Brazil


The highlights, activities and facilities, as well as registration information, can be found by visiting the Congress’s web page at: 


This is an ideal opportunity to meet with government and industry leaders throughout Northern, Central and South America.


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.


(New) 5-9 October 2009. Regional Training Course on Mutation Breeding for Crop Disease Resistance, RAS/5/045, Mumbai, India. Technical Officer: Q.Y. Shu


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


(New) 12-15 October 2009. International conference on food security and climate change in dry areas, Amman Jordan.


An international conference, focusing on food security issues projected to be affected by climate change, particularly in the dry areas, will be held from 12–15 October 2009 in Amman, Jordan. The event will be hosted by Jordan’s Ministry of Agriculture, in collaboration with ICARDA and other partners. More information at


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

12th ICRPMC-2009, Antalya ( and


(New) 19-23 October 2009. Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, Twelfth Regular Session of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, Rome, Italy

More info: Homepage; Invitation; Provisional agenda


(New) 26-31 October 2009. First RCM on Isolation and Characterization of Genes Involved in Mutagenesis of Crop Plants, St. Louis, Missouri, United States of America. Scientific Secretary: P.J.L. Lagoda


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,


(New) 2 November – 4 December. Joint FAO/IAEA International Training Course on Novel Biotechnologies and Molecular Technologies for Enhancing Mutation Induction Efficiency, Seibersdorf, Austria. Technical Officer: Chikelu Mba


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)


(New) 2-6 November 2009. REDBIO Argentina III International Course: "Introduction to laboratory management of in vitro plant tissues culture", Institute of Floriculture. CNIA-CIRN-INTA Address: de los reseros and Nicolas Repetto s / n. Hurlingham, Buenos Aires, Province, Argentina.


Target group: Professionals, technicians and advanced students.

Mode: theoretical and practical classes, with final evaluation and certificate.

Load time: 35 h.

Course official language: Spanish language.

Maximum students number: 15.

Accreditation: 85% attendance at lectures, 100% attendance for practical sessions and final evaluation.

Registration Deadline: September 14, 2009.

Organization and Coordination: Adriana Kato, Alejandro Escandón, Marisol Alderete and Mariana Perez de la Torre.

Theoretical and practical tuition: ar$ 500. Accredited members of REDBIO Argentina AC: ar$ 350. Theoretical Cost: ar$ 300. Accredited members of REDBIO Argentina AC: ar$ 210. Or the equivalent in U.S. dollars.


For more details, please contact:,,,


Contributed by Lejandro Salvio Escandón

Instituto de Floricultura (CIRN-INTA)

República Argentina

Presidente de REDBIO Argentina AC


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


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


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:


(New) 16-17 November 2009. Application of Genomics Technologies in Plant breeding, Sixth training course of ICRISAT-CEG, ICRISAT Campus at Patancheru, Greater Hyderabad, India.


ICRISAT's Center of Excellence in Genomics (CEG,, supported by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India, is pleased to announce its Sixth Training Course. The course will provide participants a hands-on opportunity to gain expertise in the use of molecular markers (SSRs, SNPs and DArTs), gene/QTL mapping and marker-assisted breeding. The course will focus on the experimental design and data analysis components of molecular markers, rather than the actual marker data generation technology. The course also introduces concepts and prospects of modern genomics tools such as Next Generation Sequencing technologies and bioinformatics tools and databases in plant breeding. Special attention will be given on the requirements to utilize a high-throughput marker service facility such as the one established at the CEG. Since the establishment in 2007, the CEG has already trained >100 scientists from India and other developing countries in the area of applications of genomics technologies in crop improvement.


The Sixth Training course is open to mainly Indian scientists however, few scientists from developing countries who have a demonstrable ability to use the techniques taught and the CEG marker services. Selected Indian participants will be provided 2nd class AC train fare by the shortest route to/from ICRISAT, boarding and lodging at ICRISAT. Candidates selected from other developing countries will need to get the sponsorship from either their organization or some other funding agencies for their travel expenses and the ICRISAT-CEG will be taking care of their boarding and lodging at ICRISAT. Last date for submitting on line application is 15 September 2009 at .  


For details contact: Rajeev Varshney, Leader- Centre of Excellence in Genomics and Principal Scientist (Applied Genomics), ICRISAT, Patancheru, India (e-mail:


Contributed by Rajeev K. Varshney

Principal Scientist (Applied Genomics)  

International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and Leader, Sub Programme 2: Genomics towards Gene Discovery, Generation Challenge Programme (GCP,


Mailing Address: Centre of Excellence in Genomics (CEG), Building # 300

ICRISAT, Patancheru - 502 324, Greater Hyderabad, INDIA


Tel: 0091 40 30713305; Fax: 0091 40 3071 3074/ 3075


(New) 16-20 November 2009. Fourth and Final RCM on Pyramiding of Mutated Genes Contributing to Crop Quality and Resistance to Stress Affecting Quality, Plovdiv, Bulgaria. Scientific Secretary: Q.Y. Shu


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

Registration form online at


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


Cotact: Zewdie Bishaw, Head, Seed Section, ICARDA,


(New) 20-21 December 2009. National Workshop on“Spices and Aromatic plants in 21st century India”, Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics,

S K N College of Agriculture, (Rajasthan Agricultural University), Jobner 303329


j0200377 Invitation

Spices and aromatic plants have played an important role in Indian economy for a long time. These crops are an important export earner for the agricultural economy of India. While our country is the largest producer of spices it is also the largest consumer, to the extent that it becomes imperative to import spices for domestic use.


Several aromatic plants are being cultivated on a commercial scale, yet the net area under these crops is negligible. Most of the crops require less water hence they are suited to drier regions of the country, hence provide a unique opportunity to diversity the cropping pattern.


Looking into the importance of spices and aromatic plants in our economy, a National Workshop on “Spices and Aromatic plants in 21st century India” has been planned to be held at Jobner during 20-21st December, 2009. the workshop is sponsored by Directorate of Arecanut and Spices Development, Ministry of Agriculture, Govt. of India, Calicut. The workshop will provide an opportunity for promotion of commercial cultivation, processing and export avenues of seed spices and Medicinal Plants.


The Seminar will consist of invited lectures and presentations by contributors in the form of lectures as well as poster presentations. In order to encourage young scientists, best posters will be awarded. The technical sessions will be followed by a farmer-scientist interaction where the farmers will be benefited by direct interactions with the scientists coming from various parts of the country.


Theme Areas:

 The seminar proposes to discuss the present status and future strategies for the improvement of  spices and aromatic plants in the light of the following themes-

· Genetic resources and crop improvement

· Crop production and protection

· Commercial exploitation of spices and aromatic plants

· GAP, HACCP and export standards

· AEZs and Govt agencies in crop promotion

· Organic farming


Call for Papers:

Abstracts and full length research papers are invited for oral and poster presentations. The abstracts should be typed separately in 250 words and should be submit ted by 15th September, 2009. All the accepted papers will be published in the form of proceedings.  Full length papers should not exceed eight pages. The papers should be typed in MS word in Arial  font size 12 in 1.5 space in A4 size paper. The full length papers should reach the Organizing Secretary (email: on or before 30th September 2009.


Dates to remember:

Seminar: 20th and 21st December, 2009

Submission of abstracts: 15th September, 2009



Submission of full length papers: 30th September 2009


Contact Address:


Dr. E V Divakara Sastry, Organizing Secretary

Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics

S K N College of Agriculture

Rajasthan Agricultural University

Jobner 303329


 Workshop e-mail addresses: The abstracts may be sent to these email addresses-


Workshop web address–  (to be updated soon)


Contributed by E V Divakara Sastry, Organizing Secretary

Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics

S K N College of Agriculture

Rajasthan Agricultural University

Jobner 303329


(New) 2-5 February 2010. International Conference on "Green Plant Breeding Technologies", Vienna, Austria.


"Green Plant Breeding Technologies" will cover the following topics:


- Doubled Haploids in Plant Breeding

- Molecular Markers in Plant Breeding

- Gene Mapping in Plant Breeding

- Quantitative Genetics and Plant Breeding

- Marker Assisted Selection

- Crossing Barriers: Male Sterility

- Crossing Barriers: Self Incompatibility

- Plant Genetic Resources, Natural Variability

- Genotype x Environment Interactions, Heterosis

- Alternative Breeding Technologies

- Breeding for Physiological and Morphological Traits

- Breeding for Resistance to Diseases

- Asexual Reproduction in Plant Breeding


Amongst the invited speakers are internationally known names such as H. Geiger, J.B. Nasrallah, G. Pelletier, M. Koorneef, D.J. Mackill, P. Ozias-Akins, R.J. Nelson, R. Dirks, C.D. Chase, B. Stich, A.R. Fernie, P.C. Struik, R.A. van der Hoorn, J. Snape and others. The program combines plenary lectures, poster sessions, and sightseeing tours of the beautiful  city of Vienna.


Approximately 500 participants are expected including almost 40 speakers and many presentations selected from abstracts, which can be submitted to the organisers until October 29th, 2009.


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


Alisher Touraev, Chair of the organizing committee

John Snape, Co-chair of the organizing committee


For any questions please contact Mondial:

or the conference organizers:


Contributed by Claudia Zudrell


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


The early bird registration deadline on November 26th is approaching quickly!   


Register soon to still benefit from the early bird fee!


Be sure to send in your abstract in time too! For submission, send your abstract to the following email address:


Please, click for registration now:


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


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:  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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