PLANT BREEDING NEWS

 

EDITION 205

30 September 2009

 

An Electronic Newsletter of Applied Plant Breeding

 

Clair H. Hershey, Editor

chh23@cornell.edu

 

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

 

-To subscribe, see instructions here

-Archived issues available at: FAO Plant Breeding Newsletter

 

1.  NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH NOTES

1.01  Farewell to Norman Borlaug: the world loses its leading hunger fighter

1.02  A third more mouths to feed by 2050: food production will have to increase by 70 percent - FAO convenes high-level expert forum

1.03  2050: Climate change will worsen the plight of the poor

1.04  A revolution to combat world hunger

1.05  Intellectual property, technology and the next green revolution for Africa

1.06  Second World Seed Congress held in Rome

1.07  Seed Info No. 37: Extended survey dates

1.08  India Drives Out 'Farm Saved Seeds with Seeds of Improved Varieties'

1.09  China launches hybrid rice training base for foreign agrotechnicians

1.10  CIRAD and EMBRAPA adapt their joint strategy for major world challenges

1.11  CGIAR's Generation Challenge Programme launches a public platform for plant molecular breeding in the developing world

1.12  ‘Seeds of Life’ project develops higher yielding varieties of cassava

1.13  High Yielding Cassava for East Timor

1.14  New pulse varieties from Pulse Breeding Australia offer hearty benefits

1.15  UKM launched three new varieties for roselle industry in Malaysia

1.16  Drought-proof rice for African farmers

1.17  Forest seed orchards

1.18  GMO crops can help climate and environment, according to a new report from the Danish Food Ministry

1.19   Crossbreeding GM crops may increase fitness of wild relatives

1.20  A drought-screening facility for transgenic plants promises further gains as drought-tolerant rice varieties begin to emerge

1.21  Cary Fowler's TED Talk: One seed at a time

1.22  Food treasures of the wild in peril

1.23  Secrets in a seed: clues into the evolution of the first flowers

1.24  Study Confirms Classic Theory on the Origins of Biodiversity

1.25  Novel breeding strategy for plant resistance

1.26 Top wheat experts call for scaling up efforts to combat Ug99 and other wheat rusts

1.27  Highly valued rice fragrance has origins in basmati rice, Cornell University study finds

1.28  Scientists discover how to send insects off the scent of crops

1.29  Genetic discovery could break wine industry bottleneck, accelerate grapevine breeding

1.30  First standards for certified biodynamic plant breeding

1.31  IFOAM Conference on Organic Animal and Plant Breeding: A successful venue

1.32  New Chickpea Varieties Set to Ward Off Beet Armyworm

1.33  New pest-resistant Habanero joins peck of USDA/ARS-created peppers

1.34  Kaempferol Blocks Bean's Healthful Iron

1.35  Cassava "accident" brings tolerance hope

1.36  Two diseases could wipe out African bananas, experts step up control efforts

1.37  Editing the plant genome

1.38  DNA barcoding study in plants starts at the Institute of Botany in Kunming, China

1.39  Research teams at the RIKEN Plant Science Center discover gene controlling plant cell growth

1.40  KeyGene establishes Crop Genome Center

1.41  Breeding rust-resistant wheat with DNA technology

1.42  Novel Gene Promises Durable Resistance Against the Dreaded Rice Blast

1.43  Scientists Identify Witchweed Resistance Gene

1.44  Scientists Identify Protein Family that Helps Maintain Genome Stability

1.45  Unraveling the Potato Genome

1.46  When you've doubled your genes, what's 1 chromosome more or less?

 

2.  PUBLICATIONS

2.01  Hybrid: The History and Science of Plant Breeding

2.02  "GM Crops", first international peer-reviewed journal of its kind

2.03  The Case for Biotech Wheat

2.04  Biotechnology and Agricultural Development

2.05  Biotech Crops in Africa: The Final Frontier

2.06  Voices of Change: Stories of Stakeholders in Crop Biotech

 

3.  WEB RESOURCES

3.01  Keynote addresses from the 14th Australasian Plant Breeding and 11th SABRAO Conference, Cairns, Queensland, Australia

3.02  GIPB announces the launch of PBForum-L

 

4.  GRANTS AVAILABLE

4.01  Graduate Assistantship, offered in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University

 

5.  POSITION ANNOUNCEMENTS

5.01  Maize Breeding Lead (Senior or Principal) Scientist

5.02  Vacancy Announcement: Global Coordinator, Crops for the Future

 

6.  MEETINGS, COURSES AND WORKSHOPS

 

7.  EDITOR'S NOTES

 

 

1 NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH NOTES

 

1.01  Farewell to Norman Borlaug: the world loses its leading hunger fighter

 

13 September 2009

El Batan, Texcoco, México

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) joins with members of the international development community to mourn the passing of Nobel Peace Laureate and renowned wheat scientist, Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, who died Saturday night at the age of 95 from complications from cancer, after an exemplary life dedicated to fighting hunger in developing countries.

 

Dr. Borlaug worked as a CIMMYT wheat breeder and research director for nearly four decades and was a CIMMYT scientist at the time he received the Nobel Peace Prize.

 

High-yielding wheat varieties and improved farming practices, first developed by Borlaug and his team in Mexico during the 1950s, were introduced into South Asia in the 1960s and may well be responsible for saving hundreds of millions of people from starvation. Known as the Green Revolution, Borlaug’s work gave rise to science-based agriculture in developing countries. Today, high-yielding, disease-resistant wheat varieties based on Dr. Borlaug’s pioneering work are grown on 80 million hectares (200 million acres) throughout the world.

 

Borlaug received the 1970 Nobel Prize for those achievements, and his success led to the establishment of a network of 15 international agricultural research centers, including CIMMYT.

 

Borlaug’s full-time employment at CIMMYT ended in 1979, although he remained a resident part-time consultant until his death. In 1984, he began a new career as a university professor, teaching one semester a year at Texas A&M University, which continued for 23 years. In 1986, he joined forces with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and the Nippon Foundation of Japan, under the chairmanship of Ryoichi Sasakawa, to develop an African agricultural initiative.

 

Borlaug was especially proud of his role in establishing the World Food Prize in 1986. This prize has grown in stature and is now considered the “Nobel Prize” for food and agriculture. Some 25 men and women have been recognized for their outstanding contributions to increasing the quantity, quality and availability of world food supplies. Based in Des Moines, Iowa, the World Food Prize Foundation has also developed outstanding educational programs to engage young people in world food issues.

 

Dr. Borlaug always considered himself to be a teacher, as well as a scientist. Today, several thousand men and women agricultural scientists from more than 50 countries are proud to say they were Norman Borlaug's "students."

 

Borlaug used his fame and influence to champion the cause of smallholder agricultural development around the globe. Over a 63-year career, he traveled tirelessly to more than 100 nations, visiting farmers and agricultural scientists in their fields. It is estimated that over his lifetime he personally spoke to more than 500,000 students and ordinary citizens, explaining the challenges and complexities of world food production.

 

Borlaug was voted a member of the academies of agricultural science of 11 nations, received 60 honorary doctorate degrees from those countries, and was honored by farmer and civic associations in 28 countries.

 

Of all the places that he visited, his beloved home was Mexico, and in particular, the irrigated Yaqui Valley in the state of Sonora, in northwest Mexico. “This is where I truly feel at home, and where I am at peace,” he would often say. The feeling was reciprocal. In Ciudad Obregón, in the heart of the Yaqui Valley, one of main streets is named after Borlaug, and hundreds have known him since they were born.

 

Although probably better known outside the United States—in Mexico, India, Pakistan, China and Latin America, Borlaug’s work has also been widely recognized in the USA. At the federal level, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the National Medal of Science and the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian award.

 

CIMMYT was also home to Dr. Borlaug, who was known as a simple and charismatic figure, who spoke Spanish fluently and truly cared about people, greeting and chatting with researchers and field workers alike. His dedicated pragmatism and vision of applying science to benefit the poor live on as core values of CIMMYT and several other institutions with which he was closely associated.

 

Norm, as he liked be called, lived his life as a dedicated hunger-fighter, but one who was forever vigilant. As he said in his acceptance speech of the 1970 Nobel Prize: “…It is true that the tide of the battle against hunger has changed for the better…but ebb tide could soon set in, if we become complacent…”

 

We can think of no greater tribute to Norm than to carry on the work to which he dedicated his life: applying agricultural science for humanitarian benefits. Thus, he lives on in our hearts and, through our efforts, the work he began will also live on.

 

"Today we stand bereft of Borlaug’s physical presence, but not of his spirit or ideals," says Thomas A. Lumpkin, CIMMYT Director General. “Norm once said: 'I personally cannot live comfortably in the midst of abject hunger and poverty and human misery.' Millions of small-scale farmers in developing countries today still practice low-input, subsistence agriculture, condemning them and their families to lives of poverty. They typically spend at least 70% of their income on food, and most are at risk of being malnourished. The world cannot be at peace until these people are helped to feed themselves and escape poverty."

 

The CIMMYT family extends its condolences to the Borlaug family, who live in Texas, California and Iowa. He is survived by his son Bill, his daughter Norma Jean, five grandchildren, and several great grandchildren.

 

Thomas A. Lumpkin

Director General

CIMMYT

 

Julio Berdegué

Chair, Board of Trustees

CIMMYT

 

Source: CIMMYT (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center)

 

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1.02  A third more mouths to feed by 2050: food production will have to increase by 70 percent - FAO convenes high-level expert forum

 

Rome, Italy

23 September 2009

Producing 70 percent more food for an additional 2.3 billion people by 2050 while at the same time combating poverty and hunger, using scarce natural resources more efficiently and adapting to climate change are the main challenges world agriculture will face in the coming decades, according to an FAO discussion paper published today.

 

The UN agency will organize a High-Level Expert Forum in Rome on 12-13 October 2009 to discuss strategies on "How to Feed the World in 2050". The Forum will bring together around 300 leading experts from academic, nongovernmental and private sector institutions from developing and developed countries.

 

The Forum will prepare the ground for the World Summit on Food Security, to take place in Rome 16-18 November 2009.

 

Cautious Optimism

"FAO is cautiously optimistic about the world's potential to feed itself by 2050," said FAO Assistant Director-General Hafez Ghanem. However, he pointed out that feeding everyone in the world by then will not be automatic and several significant challenges have to be met.

 

Ghanem said there was a need for a proper socioeconomic framework to address imbalances and inequalities and ensure that everyone in the world has access to the food they need and that food production is carried out in a way that reduces poverty and take account of natural resource constraints.

 

Global projections show that in addition to projected investments in agriculture, further significant investment will be needed to enhance access to food, otherwise some 370 million people could still be hungry in 2050, almost 5 percent of the global population.

 

According to the latest UN projections, world population will rise from 6.8 billion today to 9.1 billion in 2050 - a third more mouths to feed than there are today. Nearly all of the population growth will occur in developing countries. Sub-Saharan Africa's population is expected to grow the fastest (up 108 percent, 910 million people), and East and South East Asia's the slowest (up 11 percent, 228 million).

 

Around 70 percent of the world population will live in cities or urban areas by 2050, up from 49 percent today.

 

Food demand

The demand for food is expected to continue to grow as a result both of population growth and rising incomes. Demand for cereals (for food and animal feed) is projected to reach some 3 billion tonnes by 2050. Annual cereal production will have to grow by almost a billion tonnes (2.1 billion tonnes today), and meat production by over 200 million tonnes to reach a total of 470 million tonnes in 2050, 72 percent of which will be consumed in developing countries, up from the 58 percent today.

 

The production of biofuels could also increase the demand for agricultural commodities, depending on energy prices and government policies.

 

Land

Despite the fact that 90 percent of the growth in crop production is projected to come from higher yields and increased cropping intensity, arable land will have to expand by around 120 million hectares in developing countries, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. Arable land in use in developed countries is expected to decline by some 50 million hectares, although this could be changed by the demand for biofuels.

 

Globally, there are still sufficient land resources available to feed the future world population. FAO cautioned, however, that much of the potential land is suitable for growing only a few crops, not necessarily the crops with highest demand and it is concentrated in a few countries.

 

Much of the land not yet in use also suffers from chemical and physical constraints, endemic diseases and lack of infrastructure which cannot be easily overcome. Therefore significant investments would need to be undertaken in order to bring it into production. Part of the land is also covered by forests, or subject to expanding urban settlements. A number of countries, particularly in the Near East/North Africa and South Asia have already reached or are about to reach the limits of land available.

 

Water

Water withdrawals for irrigated agriculture are projected to grow at a slower pace due to reduced demand and improved water use efficiency, but will still increase by almost 11 percent by 2050.

Globally, fresh water resources are sufficient, but they are very unevenly distributed and water scarcity will reach alarming levels in an increasing number of countries or regions within countries, particularly in the Near East/North Africa and South Asia. Using less water and at the same time producing more food will be the key to addressing water scarcity problems. Water scarcity could be made more acute by changing rainfall patters resulting from climate change.

 

Yield potential

All in all, the potential to raise crop yields to feed a growing world population seems to be considerable, FAO said. "If the appropriate socio-economic incentives are in place, there are still ample ‘bridgeable' gaps in yield (i.e. differences between agro-ecologically attainable and actual yields) that could be exploited. Fears that yields are reaching a plateau do not seem warranted, except in a very few special instances."

 

Stronger interventions

FAO called for stronger interventions to make faster progress towards reducing and finally eliminating the number of hungry and poor people. Investment in primary agriculture should become a top priority and needs to increase by some 60 percent since agriculture not only produces food but also generates income and supports rural livelihoods.

 

Poverty reduction also requires investments in rural infrastructure (roads, ports, power, storage and irrigation systems); investments in institutions, research and extension services, land titles and rights, risk management, veterinary and food safety control systems; and non-agricultural investment including food safety nets and cash transfers to the most needy.

 

Without developing and investing in rural areas in poor countries, deprivation and inequalities will remain widespread, though significantly less than today, FAO said.

 

Website: http://www.fao.org

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.03  2050: Climate change will worsen the plight of the poor

 

Future of agriculture and food security closely linked to climate change

 

Rome, 30 September 2009  - Poorest regions with the highest levels of chronic hunger are likely to be among the worst affected by climate change, according to an FAO discussion paper published today. Many developing countries, particularly in Africa, could become increasingly dependent on food imports.
   

While globally the impact of climate change on food production may be small, at least until 2050, the distribution of production will have severe consequences on food security: developing countries may experience a decline of between 9 and 21 percent in overall potential agricultural productivity as a result of global warming, the paper estimated.

 

The paper reported that climate change is among main challenges to agriculture in feeding the world's population, projected to reach 9.1 billion people by 2050.

 

At the same time, several agriculture-based mitigation options for climate change could generate significant benefits for both food security and climate change adaptation. Increasing soil carbon sequestration through forestry and agro-forestry initiatives and tillage practices, improving efficiency of nutrient management and restoring degraded lands are examples of actions that have large mitigation potential and high co-benefits. 

 

Climate change is expected to affect agriculture and forestry systems through higher temperatures, elevated carbon dioxide concentration, changes in rainfall, increased weeds, pests and diseases. In the short term, the frequency of extreme events such as droughts, heat waves, floods and severe storms is expected to increase.

 

Emissions from agriculture account for roughly 14 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Seventy-four percent of emissions from agriculture and most of the technical and economic mitigation potential from agriculture - some 70 percent - are in developing countries 

 

The FAO paper notes that a climate change agenda will need to recognize and value agriculture's potential contribution to adaptation and mitigation through options that also safeguard its contribution to food security and development.

 

Impact on food security

Climate change will affect the four dimensions of food security: availability, accessibility, utilization and stability, notes the FAO paper.

 

In terms of availability, increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations are expected to have a positive effect on the yield of many crops, even though the nutritional quality of produce may not increase in line with higher yields.

 

Climate change will increase the variability of agricultural production across all areas, with increased frequency of extreme climate events. The poorest regions will be exposed to the highest degree of instability of food production.

 

On average, food prices are expected to rise moderately in line with increases in temperature until 2050. After 2050 and with further increases in temperatures, significant decreases in agricultural production potential in developing countries are projected and prices are expected to rise more substantially.

 

Climate change is likely to alter the conditions for food safety by increasing the disease pressure from vector, water and food-borne diseases. The result could be a substantial decline in agricultural productivity, including labour productivity, leading to increases in poverty and mortality rates.

 

Africa especially vulnerable

Agricultural and food production in many developing countries are likely to be adversely affected, especially in countries that have low incomes and a high incidence of hunger and poverty and are already highly vulnerable to drought, flooding and cyclone.

 

In Africa this could lead to an increased dependency in many countries on food imports. It has been estimated that climate change may reduce African potential agricultural output up to the 2080-2100 period by between 15 and 30 percent.

 

The strongest negative impact of climate change on agriculture is expected in sub-Saharan Africa. This means that the poorest and most food insecure region is also expected to suffer the largest contraction of agricultural incomes.

 

The climate is right

Adaptation of the agricultural sector to climate change will be costly but vital for food security, poverty reduction and maintaining the ecosystem. The current impetus for investing in improved agricultural policies, institutions and technologies to meet both food security and energy goals, provides a unique opportunity to mainstream climate change related actions into agriculture, the paper notes.

 

It notes that, until recently, agriculture has largely remained a marginal issue in climate change negotiations, with some exception as regards deforestation and forest degradation mitigation activities. Among the reasons FAO identifies is that the scope of existing financing mechanisms has tended to exclude many agricultural activities, including many soil carbon sequestration activities.

 

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1.04  A revolution to combat world hunger

 

CGIAR centres will work together on themed 'mega projects'

 

Yojana Sharma

24 September 2009

Last week, the world mourned the loss of Norman Borlaug, the agronomist credited with saving as many as a billion people from starvation by introducing high-yield crop varieties.

Borlaug's success in establishing food security — dubbed the Green Revolution — came at a time when the planet was far less populated than today. When he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971, one of his many awards, the world's population was 3.7 billion. By next year, it will reach 7 billion — and Borlaug was among the first to recognise that new strategies will be needed to combat a huge rise in pressure on food resources.

 

As the tributes to Borlaug continue, one networking organisation that should be pivotal to addressing world hunger is poised to make far-reaching changes to the way it works.

 

The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) has already been the backbone of food security research for the poor. But without radical reform — to link research with its applications; eliminate inefficiency and raise the funding bar — some stakeholders and insiders fear that it might not be fit for purpose.

 

But its plan for a new way to coordinate agricultural research is not without controversy, calling as it does for a new consortium approach and a central fund, and 'mega-programmes' of research and development.

 

From optimism to challenge

CGIAR — itself founded during the optimism of the Green Revolution in the 1970s — currently has 15 centres in its network, including the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines and the International Maize and Wheat Research Center in Mexico. More than 3,000 scientists work in the member institutes.

 

As Ren Wang, director of CGIAR since 2007, comments: "We have done a tremendous job in contributing to global food security and alleviation of poverty. But certainly the centres can do much more to address global challenges."

 

Those challenges include reversing cuts in funding. Public backing for agricultural research, which had been growing at a rate of 2.7 per cent annually in the 1980s, dropped to 1.1 per cent growth in the following decade.

 

Meanwhile, good science is increasingly left "sitting in books and research papers" rather than reaching producers and the poor, according to George Rothschild, former director of the International Rice Research Institute, and now chair of the UK Forum for Agricultural Research for Development. Then there are the dramatic and recent effects of climate change.

 

Wang's proposals are seen as the most radical of any CGIAR director

 

Last year, when food security was pushed to the top of the political agenda, a review found t hat CGIAR's centres contributed value but the network overall was "hitting below its weight" and had been "largely absent from the key global debates on the food crisis and climate change".

 

Roadmap for reform

This summer, a roadmap for reform emerged after months of behind-the-scenes discussions. The key idea is to rally donor funding around so-called 'mega-programmes', or development-oriented themes, that address agricultural issues from soil to mouth, rather than pursuing purely scientific programmes.

 

The proposal requires centres to restructure to work jointly on these mega-programmes, financed from a fund that all donors pay into. This will effectively create the first public international agricultural research fund.

 

There is also acknowledgement that more money is needed for agricultural research — and that CGIAR must become a more attractive destination for funds. After only recently restoring income to its 1995 level, the organisation now plans to double its income from the current $530 million annual budget for all 15 centres, to US$1 billion.

 

Under the outline agreed at CGIAR's annual general meeting in December 2008, centres will retain their identities but work as a consortium to take on the joint, thematic mega-programmes. By working together and presenting a collective face, it should be possible to attract more secure income to a new central fund held by the World Bank.

 

The reform should reduce inefficiencies such as those at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture in Cali, Colombia, which has an annual budget of US$40 million but runs some 250 small or medium sized projects. "More than half of scientists' time is spent writing project proposals and reports and not creating knowledge through research," says Wang. "That must change."

 

Dominated by mega-programmes

Although small and 'blue sky' projects will still be possible, Rothschild says that research will become dominated by mega-programmes. These would bring together centres, national institutions, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), social scientists, extension workers and farmer representatives to ensure technology gets to those who need it and in a form that they can use.

 

"With the mega-programmes, CGIAR is trying to position itself for research for development, not research for its own sake," says Rothschild.

 

The investment required for such programmes, according to IFPRI, is large for typical agricultural research projects but small compared with general development aid programmes.

 

The selection and design of the mega-programmes will be pivotal for the CGIAR's reform. A challenge will be scaling up some of the centres so that they can lead a programme — something each wants to do. "Mega-programmes will have funding of around US$50 million," says Hall. "No single CGIAR research centre currently has a budget of that much."

 

There is broad agreement that mega-programmes will integrate food, environment and policy issues with the millennium development goals of halving poverty and hunger by 2015. A long list has been drawn up and several programme outlines designed. But the scope, precise goal and number of programmes are still to be decided.

 

"Mushy hybrid"

Consultations with NGOs and other partners will continue until the end of the year, but ultimately the go-ahead for mega-programmes will mainly be in the hands of donors, as CGIAR centres are totally dependent on their funds.

 

Some three-quarters of CGIAR funding comes from 12 donors, including the European Union, the World Bank, the United Kingdom and the United States. The larger donors favour the CGIAR consortium and mega-programme approach. But it could more difficult for other donors to contribute to this structure. "Some donors cannot contribute to a central fund because of their domestic regulations — they can only fund specific projects," says Rothschild.

 

"Bilateral funding is not going to go away," admits Hall. "But what we won't do is divert our attention towards other things that seem nice but don't fit."

 

But Andrew Bennett, closely involved in the talks as chair of the Center for International Forestry Research, a CGIAR organisation in Bogor, Indonesia, sounds a warning. "If you ask CGIAR to think about all the development problems in the world it may lose sight of its real purpose, which is research, and the danger is funding may become more politicised."

 

Agricultural research faces many challenges, not least the devastating Ug99 wheat rust disease

 

At the development end, meanwhile, Mark Holderness, executive secretary of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research, which is coordinating consultations with NGOs and farmers' organisations, says: "I am worried that if we don't get the process right in the wider development sector that we are not going to get the results we want."

 

"It is all about positioning between basic and applied research," says Christie Peacock, chief executive of FARM-Africa, an NGO. "If you take this [mega-programme] route you could end up with very poor development projects and lousy research. It's a very mushy hybrid."

 

There are other potential downfalls. In Africa, the location of four of the CGIAR centres and the recipient of half of CGIAR's annual budget, institutions are rundown.

"Donors particularly want the CGIAR system to work in Africa. But you cannot put in rocket fuel if you do not have an engine," says Bennett. "There has been a huge decline in research establishments in Africa."

 

FARA has held extensive consultations with the CGIAR on the reforms, "so that key priorities for Africa are identified and defined. We think to some extent they are listening to us this time," says Jones.

 

And how will success be judged? If poverty targets are not met, will the research centres get the blame? "We have to ask, are we being asked to achieve an outcome beyond our resources and control?" says Bennett.

 

The end of a 40-year tradition

As these issues are debated, the reform team is pressing ahead. "Three or four mega-programmes will be defined by March 2010 and vague ideas on another four or five will be fleshed out in the course of next year," says Jonathan Wadsworth, a senior agricultural researcher with the Department for International Development in the United Kingdom, and a member of the reform team.

 

The central fund will, Wang hopes, be in place by the end of this year, although it could affect cash flows to the centres in the meantime. "It obviously involves a certain amount of risk," says Hall.

 

Also by December, a consortium board will be appointed, whose first task will be to appoint a chief executive.

 

Some believe the toughest part will be for the 15 centres to give up their own structures.  Says one insider: "We will still have centres with their own culture. You cannot wipe away 40 years of doing things in a particular way."

 

Some think that scientists could leave CGIAR if the reforms compromise research quality

 

Wang admits he does not "have all the answers" on how the consortium will work. But he is more upbeat on the central fund. "This year we did a survey of the 15 largest donors — 14 said they would like to join the fund, although some have conditions." These include effective communication between the centres and other national organisations.

 

How much donors will actually commit to is hard to predict. "If we get about half the current CGIAR funds, or at least US$250 million for the central fund, we can consider the reform to be a success. If we reach that, it will be very unlikely that the reform will founder," says Wadsworth.

 

And if that target is not reached, the consortium unravels, or there is infighting over mega-programmes?

 

"The danger is that five years down the line we will need another reform," says Bennett.

 

And the victims will be the hungry.

 

Source: http://www.scidev.net/en/features/a-revolution-to-combat-world-hunger.html

SciDev.net

 

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1.05  Intellectual property, technology and the next green revolution for Africa

 

11 September 2009

Geneva, Switzerland

Achieving poverty alleviation, particularly in rural areas, will require aid to agriculture, on which three-quarters of the world’s poorest depend for their livelihoods. Representatives from the International Fund for Agricultural Development, a UN agency dedicated to eradicating rural poverty, came to the first World Intellectual Property Organization conference on key global challenges 13-14 July to discuss how intellectual property could be of use in those goals. IFAD is led by Kanayo Nwanze, of Nigeria, who took the position in February 2009.

 

Intellectual Property Watch asked Nwanze to explain how to best create incentives for technology development aimed at helping smallholding farmers increase their production (as much agricultural technology to date has been aimed at large agribusinesses). Intellectual Property Watch also asked if steps could be taken to avoid the environmental fallout of the last great leap forward in agricultural production, the so-called Green Revolution of 1965-85, and how IP might influence the creation of that technology. Watch his answers in the videocasts below.Achieving poverty alleviation, particularly in rural areas, will require aid to agriculture, on which three-quarters of the world’s poorest depend for their livelihoods. Representatives from the International Fund for Agricultural Development, a UN agency dedicated to eradicating rural poverty, came to the first World Intellectual Property Organization conference on key global challenges 13-14 July to discuss how intellectual property could be of use in those goals. IFAD is led by Kanayo Nwanze, of Nigeria, who took the position in February 2009.

 

Intellectual Property Watch asked Nwanze to explain how to best create incentives for technology development aimed at helping smallholding farmers increase their production (as much agricultural technology to date has been aimed at large agribusinesses). Intellectual Property Watch also asked if steps could be taken to avoid the environmental fallout of the last great leap forward in agricultural production, the so-called Green Revolution of 1965-85, and how IP might influence the creation of that technology. Watch his answers in two videocasts.

 

Disclaimer: the views expressed in this column are solely those of the authors and are not associated with Intellectual Property Watch. IP-Watch expressly disclaims and refuses any responsibility or liability for the content, style or form of any posts made to this forum, which remain solely the responsibility of their authors

 

More news from: Intellectual Property Watch

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=10300&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.06  Second World Seed Congress held in Rome

 

September 2009

Urgent government measures and increased public and private investment in the seed sector are required for the long term if agriculture is to meet the challenge of food security in the context of population growth and climate change. This was the declaration of the Second World Seed Conference held at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Headquarters in Rome last September 8-10, 2009.

 

Obongo Nyachae, the CEO of the Seed Trade Association of Kenya (STAK), shared that one key area that touched on Africa (and other developing countries) was on the need for international organizations such as FAO, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OCDE), International Union for Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV), International Seed Testing Association (ISTA) and the International Seed Federation (ISF) to support national seed development initiatives to enable farmers access to improved and quality seed.

 

In addition, seed for relief purposes should be sourced through national seed associations, where they exist, and that priority should be given to improved seed rather than investing in Quality Declared Seed systems even where national legislation exists that fully supports development of formal seed supply systems.

 

Conference participants included policy makers, government officials, breeding companies, breeders associations, stakeholders (certification agencies, seed analysts, seed traders, technology companies, and academic institutions), farmers' organizations, consumer organizations and international breeding and seed research centers.

 

Press release on the World Seed Conference

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=10420&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

September 2009

 

Source: CropBiotech Update via SeedQuest.com

 

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1.07  Seed Info No. 37: Extended survey dates

 

Please find a link to the electronic version of Seed Info No. 37 http://www.icarda.org/news/seed%20info/seedinfo_37/seedinfo_37.htm

 

To date Seed Info is distributed to over 2000 people in over 100 countries (over 3000 electronic subscribers).Since we continue receiving feedback from our readers we decided to extend the deadline for our on-line ICARDA Seed Info User Survey http://www.icarda.org/publications/SurveySeedInfo/ICARDA_SeedInfo_User_Survey.asp to 31 December 2009. We appreciate if you take few minutes of your time and tell us what you think of the newsletter to help us improve the content and the readership.

 

Contributed by Zewdie Bishaw

Head, Seed Section, ICARDA

z.bishaw@cgiar.org

 

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1.08  India Drives Out 'Farm Saved Seeds with Seeds of Improved Varieties'

 

The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has been working on an ambitious "Seed Production in Agricultural Crops" project to create awareness on the importance of quality seeds among farmers. The project aims to quantum jump quality production of seeds of improved varieties with superior genetics and to motivate farmers to substitute age-old farm-saved seeds. The Planning Commission of India has sanctioned Indian Rupee 2622 million for the seed project covering field crops, horticulture and fisheries during 2005 to 2009 to enhance quality seed planting material/fish seed production and capacity building of the National Agricultural Research System by providing required infrastructure, equipment and implements.

 

In the annual review meeting of the seed project held on 24 to 25 August 2009, Prof. Swapan Kumar Datta, Deputy Director General (Crop Science) of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) stressed the importance of educating farmers regarding the significance of quality seeds and the need to replace farm-saved seeds with quality seeds of improved varieties. He enumerated steps taken by ICAR under the seed project that made a significant impact on national seed production in the last three years and suggested strategies to formulate dynamic contingent seed production plan and crop wise monitoring of seed production. "We need to upgrade our production in terms of quality to play an important role in seed trade at national and international levels," said Datta. The seed project involves various agencies at national and state levels including ICAR institutions and project directorates, State Agricultural Universities and cooperating centers across the length and breadth of the country.

 

For details about the ICAR seed project visit the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) website at: http://www.icar.org.in/news/Replace-farm-saved-seeds%20.htm For more information about crop biotech in India contact: b.choudhary@cgiar.org and k.gaur@cgiar.org

 

http://www.isaaa.org/kc/cropbiotechupdate/online/default.asp?Date=9/4/2009#4684

 

Source: CropBiotech Update, 4th Sept 09

 

Contributed by b.choudhary@cgiar.org

4 September 2009

 

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1.09  China launches hybrid rice training base for foreign agrotechnicians

 

14 September 2009

China

 

A training base aiming to help foreign agrotechnicians and governmental officials acquire China's world-leading hybrid-rice cultivating technique was officially launched on Sunday.

 

The Yuan Longping High-Tech Agriculture, a state-owned company named after "the Father of China's Hybrid Rice", has aimed to train 5,000 foreigners, establish 10 breeding centers and expand overseas cultivation bases to 10,000 hectares in 10 years so that countries receiving China's technical assistance in hybrid rice could breed new crop varieties and reap harvest on their home turf.

 

Established in June 1999, the company boasting of a research team headed by Academician Yuan Longping was designated as China's first training base for the spread of hybrid rice breeding and cultivation technique by the Ministry of Commerce on Sunday.

 

But such training had begun long before the arrival of the honor. It has so far trained more than 2,000 government officials and agrotechnicians from 50 countries through 30 training courses.

Board Chairman Wu Yueshi believed that the recognition from the Ministry of Commerce would speed up China's training of overseas agricultural personnel.

"Without skilled technicians and well-informed government officials, hybrid-rice breeding and cultivation techniques could not be spread far across the world, let alone ease global grain crops shortage," said Wu.

 

Antonio Mende Tavares, an agricultural official from Guinea-Bissau who was here for a three-month training, said that he couldn't wait going back home to spread the technique as rice had become a grain crops of strategic importance to national economy.

 

His training course was to end next Saturday.

 

Tavares said that China and Guinea-Bissau would deepen their collaboration in hybrid-rice cultivation next year. And in the following three years, the planting area would expand from the initial 200 hectares to 1,000 hectares.

 

Minister Miata Beysolow of Commerce and Industry of Liberia said that Liberia would practice China's hybrid-rice technique first within colleges and governmental departments.

 

If this year's output exceeded last year's, China's technique would be encouraged across the nation, she said, adding that Liberia hoped to share China's up-to-date technique in hybrid-rice breeding and planting.

 

China started to develop hybrid-rice since the 1960s. When relevant technique invented by Yuan Longping was applied during the past two decades, Chinese farmers were estimated to have harvested 300 billion kilograms more in aggregate output. The hybrid-rice was thus called as super rice.

 

At a ministerial forum on the collaboration of hybrid-rice technique in Changsha, Yuan Longping, 79, aimed high.

 

"I hope that when I was 90 years old, the per mu yield of super rice could hit 1,000 kilograms," he said. "If the acres under hybrid rice reached half of the total rice planting area, the world's total rice output could increase by 150 million tons a year, enough to feed 400 million more people."

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=10348&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: Chinese Academy of Sciences via SeedQuest.com

 

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1.10  CIRAD and EMBRAPA adapt their joint strategy for major world

challenges

 

8 September 2009

FranceBrazil

The two establishments signed a new joint strategic declaration in Brasilia on the 7th September 2009, thus committing themselves for the next 6 years. The declaration, which covers four main fields, provides a basis for training and developing knowledge and innovations to meet the major world challenges of sustainable development.

 

CIRAD and EMBRAPA, whose mandates focus on agronomic research for development, have been working together for over 25 years on joint research projects. Now, they have made a 6-year commitment via a new joint strategic declaration, which focuses on four areas:

  • advanced biology, particularly functional genomics, for breeding tropical, sub-tropical and Mediterranean plant species, to support the CIBA consortium, which links the Brazilian national agronomic research system (SNPA) and the French organisations that are members of Agropolis International;
  • sustainable development of the Amazonian biome, to help implement the agreements signed in Rio on 23rd December 2008 between the French and Brazilian governments;
  • public policies and sustainable regional development for family agriculture;
  • tripartite cooperation, particularly geared to the less advanced countries in Africa.

 

“EMBRAPA is a major historic partner for CIRAD,” underlines Gérard Matheron, CIRAD’s director general. “The quality of our relations and the pertinence of our joint projects puts us in a position to take on new areas of research, within a research partnership with global implications.”

 

The CIRAD-EMBRAPA partnership is the foundation of Franco-Brazilian cooperation in matters of agronomic research. In fact, it has one of the world’s highest concentrations of expertise in this field. There are now more than 20 joint projects, involving scientists based in France or Brazil, being conducted by teams of scientists from both institutions.

 

In addition, “this bilateral partnership is open to multi-partnership and international networks, such as CIBA, which was created on the initiative of EMBRAPA and CIRAD”, adds Philippe Petithuguenin, CIRAD’s regional director in Brazil. Most CIRAD-EMBRAPA projects involve major Brazilian universities (UnB, USP, Unicamp, UFPa, UESC, UFCG, UFSC, UFRA, etc.), other Brazilian federal institutions (SFB/LPF, CEPLAC, etc.) or federal states (IAPAR, etc.) and French institutions (INRA, IRD, MontpellierSupAgro, AgroParisTech, Universities, etc.).

 

The signing of this declaration follows the renewal of the 2007 framework agreement, which sets out the administrative rules for the collaboration between EMBRAPA-CIRAD.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=10312&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.11  CGIAR's Generation Challenge Programme launches a public platform for plant molecular breeding in the developing world

 

Texcoco, Mexico

1 September 2009

The Generation Challenge Programme (GCP) of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) is pleased to announce the launch of a new, five-year, multi-partner project to deploy a Molecular Breeding Platform (MBP). The MBP aims to pull together existing, disparate molecular breeding efforts and provide tools and technical support to enhance plant breeding efficiency in the developing world and beyond.

 

Molecular breeding – an advanced approach that employs molecular markers to select plants with desirable traits – is a more precise, rapid and cost-effective method of plant breeding, in comparison to its phenotypic counterpart. It has already proven to be of great benefit to the private sector, by improving the efficiency of the breeding process and by reducing the time taken to develop new varieties. However, plant breeders in the public sector and small private enterprises, particularly in developing countries, have had limited access to these tools and methods. This has slowed development of new cultivars and compromised effectiveness in attaining or maintaining food security. There are genes affecting important traits which are already tagged, as well as new technologies for rapid improvement of cultivars that could be effectively deployed in developing countries, if researchers there could have access to the technology. The MBP aims to ensure that the fruits of the investments made in developing these tools are also available to the developing world.

 

GCP’s MBP will address this problem by providing a one-stop-shop with centralised and functional access to modern breeding technologies, data management and analysis tools, and valuable breeding material. Related information, as well as comprehensive tools and services, will be accessible through an Internet portal and helpdesk, which will in turn promote the building of breeding communities, particularly for developing countries, irrespective of their geographical location or institutional affiliation.

 

Dr Paul Kimurto of Egerton University, Kenya, notes, “The services aspects of the platform are very attractive. Access to markers, germplasm and molecular analysis systems is a constraint for most breeding programmes. Therefore, standardised technology and specialised services through contracted laboratories, where all the administrative and logistic details as well as negotiations with suppliers are taken care of, would be a big step ahead. It is a brilliant concept whose time has come.”

 

The platform will pilot 10 pre-existing projects on molecular-assisted breeding covering seven crops across 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South AsiaAngola, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Senegal, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe in Africa; and China, India and Thailand in Asia. However, the platform is intended to be an open facility, offering technologies and services to any institutions working in crop breeding to meet development goals. In selected cases, specialised support will be provided to research institutes to facilitate their use of molecular breeding.

 

Through continuous interactions between users, developers and service providers, it is anticipated that there will be a healthy balance of a user-driven platform tempered with a degree of ‘technology push’ to ensure that users are kept abreast of the latest methodologies to facilitate or advance their breeding work.

 

GCP’s Dr Graham McLaren, who will coordinate the platform, observes, “Great discoveries in molecular biology and information technology are having an important impact on plant breeding in large private companies because they can invest in infrastructure and capacity.” He adds, “This project will tap into the economies of scale afforded by collective access to make these technologies available to breeders at large, particularly in developing countries.”

 

“This project is uniquely positioned to promote research collaboration and increase the number of plant varieties available to small farmers in the developing world,” says David Bergvinson, senior program officer with the Agricultural Development initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Bringing together international research to improve farmers’ productivity will ultimately help small farmers lift themselves out of hunger and poverty.”

 

The MBP project team is comprised of well-respected public research groups from the CGIAR, universities and advanced research laboratories around the world. This seasoned team will be further fortified by the experience and contributions of researchers in the private sector, who have already provided advice and guidance. The broad consultation will help ensure efficiency in the project’s breeding activities and also avoid repeating the mistakes of previous research.

 

This project is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with additional financial support from the UK Department for International Development and the European Commission.

 

More news from: CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research)

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=10095&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.12  ‘Seeds of Life’ project develops higher yielding varieties of cassava

 

Crawley, Western Australia

24 September 2009

East Timor’s chronic food shortages are easing, thanks to the development of higher yielding varieties of cassava through the ‘Seeds of Life’ project, managed by the Centre for Legumes in Mediterranean Agriculture (CLIMA) at The University of Western Australia (UWA).

 

Cassava is a staple crop throughout East Timor and has been extensively researched, with more than 60 varieties trialled throughout the country from 2001 to 2008.

 

From these, two varieties, Ai-luka 2 and Ai-luka 4, have been released to East Timorese farmers, who are keenly anticipating yield increases of 51-65 per cent over local cassavas.

 

Ai-luka 2 and 4 have been well received by local farmers, not just for their high yields, but for their good flavour as well.

 

The two new varieties came from Malang, Indonesia through co-operation with the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Colombia.

 

The ‘Seeds of Life’ food security program, funded jointly by the East Timor Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, AusAID and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, aims to reduce hunger by lifting yields of staple food crops through improving varieties.

 

CLIMA Director, Professor William Erskine, said CLIMA’s contribution to this vital East Timorese research on better cassava varieties had been particularly gratifying because of the greatly improved yields that have been achieved.

 

CLIMA has provided overall management for the project, including all its Australian-funded activities and has provided important training for East Timorese researchers at UWA.

 

“In a country where most families suffer from chronic food shortages and rationing for up to six months of the year, an increase in yield as high as 65 per cent in a staple food such as cassava is going to make a big difference to people’s lives,” Professor Erskine said.

“This breakthrough with cassava is just one of many successes with new varieties of staple crops introduced to East Timor that have produced big yield increases over local varieties.

 

“Another benefit is that it has increased food security and produced surpluses for local markets, sometimes for the first time,” he concluded.

 

East Timor’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has now released nine new staple food crops through the ‘Seeds of Life’ program.

 

Significant yield increases have been achieved in many new crop varieties over local cultivars, including maize, 53 per cent, peanuts, 31 per cent, rice, 23 per cent and an extraordinary 80 per cent increase in sweet potatoes, which has been accompanied by improved size and eating quality.

 

UWA has also been helping East Timorese agriculture by providing training for four East Timorese students, ranging from language skills for later post-graduate studies at CLIMA, through to PhD training for agricultural scientist, Marcal Gusmao.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=10534&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.13  High Yielding Cassava for East Timor

 

25 September 2009

Good news for cassava growers in east Timor. Two new high-yielding cassava varieties have recently been released in the country through 'Seeds of Life' food security program. Funded by the East Timor Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, AusAID and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, the program  aims to reduce hunger by lifting yields of staple food crops through improving varieties. Cassava is an important staple crop in East Timor, where most families suffer from chronic food shortages and rationing for up to six months of the year.

 

The new varieties, Ai-luka 2 and Ai-luka 4, have been well received by farmers, who are who are keenly anticipating yield increases of 51-65 percent over local cassavas. William Erskine, Director of Centre for Legumes in Mediterranean Agriculture (CLIMA) which manages the Seeds of Life program, noted that "an increase in yield as high as 65 percent in a staple food such as

cassava is going to make a ! big difference to

people's lives."

 

For more information on CLIMA, visit

http://www.clima.uwa.edu.au/

 

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics

mes25@cornell.edu

 

Source: Crop Biotech Update

 

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1.14  New pulse varieties from Pulse Breeding Australia offer hearty benefits

 

Australia

22 September 2009

Three new pulse varieties suitable for the northern grains region will be launched in early October, offering unprecedented improvements in yield, harvestability, disease resistance, tolerance to abiotic stresses, quality and weed management.

 

James Clark, Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) northern panel chair says the new varieties are part of a pipeline of pulse varieties that will be released by Pulse Breeding Australia (PBA) in the next five years.

 

“The GRDC is pleased to support PBA in bringing northern region growers a world-class breeding and germplasm enhancement program for chickpeas, field peas and faba beans,” Mr Clark says.

 

“The improved reliability of five new pulse varieties to be released by PBA this spring will increase growers’ confidence to use pulses in their cropping programs.”

 

Col Douglas, Queensland Primary Industries and Fisheries (QPIF) chickpea breeder, Hermitage Research Station says pulses are a vital part of crop rotations and offer benefits that lead to better financial and environmental outcomes for growers and the Australian grains industry.

 

“Pulses fix atmospheric nitrogen to reduce the fertiliser requirement of following cereal crops, help reduce the incidence of cereal diseases, and provide opportunities to manage herbicide resistance,” Mr Douglas says.

PBA aims to fast-track the release of new pulse varieties to Australian growers that have better disease resistance, are higher yielding and are adapted to Australian conditions.

 

Five new pulse varieties will be commercially available to Australian growers for the 2010 winter cropping season, including two chickpeas, PBA HatTrick* (photo) and PBA Slasher*.

 

PBA HatTrick is a desi-type variety well suited to all current chickpea-growing areas in northern NSW and southern Queensland.

 

It offers substantially better resistance to ascochyta blight than other varieties grown in these areas, and is moderately resistant to phytophthora root rot.

 

PBA HatTrick is high yielding and its seed is similar to Jimbour , suitable for both splitting and direct consumption.

 

PBA, in association with Pulse Australia and commercial seed partners, will launch the new varieties at pulse field days during the spring field day circuit.

 

“This will give growers and advisors alike the opportunity to view and assess these varieties in their local districts prior to their availability next season,” Mr Douglas says.

 

Variety brochures outlining the varieties advantages, areas of adaptation, agronomic and disease management information and marketing arrangements will be available for each new variety.

 

PBA is funded by GRDC in conjunction with the Queensland Primary Industries and Fisheries (QPI&F), NSW Department of Industry and Investment (NSWII), University of Adelaide, South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), Department of Primary Industries, Victoria (DPI VIC), Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia (DAFWA) and Pulse Australia.

 

The chickpea launches will take place at Yenda, NSW on October 7; Moree, NSW and Billa Billa, Queensland on October 8; and Warra, Queensland on October 9.

 

For more information, visit www.pulseaus.com.au or contact Col Douglas, QPIF on 07 4660 3613.

* Varieties protected under the Plant Breeders Rights Act 1994.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=10467&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.15  UKM launched three new varieties for roselle industry in Malaysia

 

Three new roselle varieties have been launched in Malaysia as a result of a breeding programme undertaken by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM). In April 2009, UKM launched three new varieties to help promote and support the roselle industry in the country. These new varieties are named UKMR-1, UKMR-2 and UKMR-3. These new varieties have been developed using variety Arab as the parent variety in a mutation breeding programme which was started in 2006.

 

Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa L.) is a tropical tetraploid (2n=72) annual plant species in Malvaceae family, which originated from West Africa. In Malaysia, it is a relatively new crop. At present, there are only two introduced varieties available to growers, named variety ‘Terengganu’ and variety ‘Arab’. The first commercial planting of roselle introduction (coded UMKL-1) was promoted by the Department of Agriculture and Universiti Malaya in Terengganu in 1993; hence the name variety ‘Terengganu’. Roselle has now spread to other states; its planting in Terengganu has considerably dwindled, but the State still plays an important role in the multiplication of seeds for growers.

 

Today, the planted area is approximately 150 ha annually. Roselle has natural and considerably unique nutritional characteristics, in particular its high contents of vitamin C and anthocyanins. Due to these, the calyces from the plant are used to produce a pro-health drink. To a small extent, the calyces are also processed into sweet pickle, jam, and tea. Parts of the plant are also claimed to have various medicinal values. Recent findings by UKM have shown that some accessions and mutant lines of roselle have relatively high contents of hydroxycitric acid (HCA). It is the principal acid of fruit rinds of wild species of mangosteen family called Garcinia cambogia, but the species is not found Malaysia. Research on HCA has been carried out since the 1960s, and it has been shown to be a potent inhibitor of ATPcitrate lyase. The inhibition of this reaction limits the availability of acetyl-CoA required for fatty acid synthesis and lipogenesis.

 

HCA is now been widely used as the main ingredient of many commercial weight-loss supplements and aids available in the market. Genetic variation is important for plant breeders to increase its productivity.Being an introduced crop species, local roselle germplasm collection has assembled only a very limited number of accessions available for use in breeding. Furthermore, conventional hybridization is difficult to carry out in roselle due to its cleistogamous nature of reproduction (i.e. self-pollination occurs while the flower is closed or in bud stage). To overcome the reproductive obstacle, the use of induced mutations for its improvement was mooted in 1999 in cooperation with MINT (now called Malaysia Nuclear Agency). In 2006, a mutation breeding programme on varieties Terengganu and Arab was initiated; however, only variety Arab responded favourably to radiosensitivity and dosimetric tests. Seeds of variety Arab were then treated with gamma radiation from 60Co source using LD50 dose of 80 Gy. Selection and evaluation were done from M2 through M6 generations at both UKM, Bangi and TFirdauce, Tasek Gelugor, Penang. The three new varieties achieved stability at M7 generation, and their genetic purity is maintained through micro-cutting, an innovative vegetative propagation suitable for roselle. The key features of the three new roselle varieties UKMR-1, UKMR-2 and UKMR-3 are:

• Higher average yields (3.1-6.5 t ha-1) compared to varieties Terengganu (2.7-3.6 t ha-1) and Arab (4.2-5.5 t ha-1)

• Reduced plant stature, medium plant size and more erect plant type (109-132 cm) compared to their parent variety; thus less prone to lodging

• Shorter maturity period (4-6 months crop cycle), thus earlier harvest

• Leaf colour is generally green except for UKMR-2 which has purplish-red pigmentation in its stems and leaves.

• Attractive fruit shape but the fruit shape of UKMR-2 resembles that of its parent. The calyx colour of UKMR-1,UKMR-2 and UKMR-3 is red, deep red and light green, respectively.

• Desirable fruit physico-chemical characteristics for specific uses. For example, the absence of anthocyanins in UKMR-3 gives an advantage in the extraction of HCA.

 

The development of the three new varieties will enable the roselle industry to move forward in terms of providing more choices for growers and market varietal selection. Altogether, these new varieties provide a considerable potential to increase the productivity of the roselle industry. At the same time, these varieties will also promote the expansion of product development for roselle (i.e. to provide a wide-ranging products from juice, concentrate and tea to higher value-added functional foods, capsules and tablets), and enable a myriad of roselle products to create new and foray into more market niches.

 

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

 

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1.16  Drought-proof rice for African farmers

 

25 September 2009

It takes, on average, 2,500 liters of water (by rainfall or irrigation) to produce just 1 kilogram of rice using traditional cultivation methods. Considering the effects of climate change, can farmers continue to grow rice if the water supply becomes increasingly scarce? Drought is particularly devastating to Africa's rice production since almost 80% of the region's rice area is rainfed. Many Africans still remember the terrible droughts of 1972-74 and 1981-84, which ravaged the Sahel and the Horn of Africa and caused immense suffering and severely affected farming - the principal source of livelihood for millions of poor people. Over the last four decades, Africa has suffered from seven major episodes of drought. Fortunately, rice has a significant genetic variation in traits related to drought tolerance, such as earliness, root architecture, and water-use efficiency. Scientists desperately look for these traits in varieties to be used in breeding programs and to develop improved high-yielding drought-tolerant

varieties.

 

One striking example of drought-tolerant local rice is Oryza glaberrima, which was domesticated in West Africa about ,500 years ago," says Dr. Moussa Sié, program leader for Genetic Diversity and Improvement at the Africa Rice Center (WARDA). "It can recover after droughts when water is available again."  The development of drought-tolerant African varieties is one of the solutions to increase rice yields in drought-prone environments. Generous support from donors, such as the UK Department for International Development and he World Bank, has allowed seeds of these precious varieties to be preserved in the WARDA gene bank, and then shared with researchers around the world through the International Network for the Genetic Evaluation of Rice-Africa. This collection of African rice genetic esources was the key o the development of NERICA®-a cross between African and Asian rice varieties-by WARDA.

 

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics

mes25@cornell.edu

 

Source: AfricaRice:

http://beta.irri.org/news/index.php/200904056045/Rice-Today/Africa/Drought-proof-rice-for-African-farmers.html

 

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1.17 Forest seed orchards

 

The seeds from which future planted forests originate are created in special plantations, seed orchards. Through seed orchards the efforts of forest tree breeding comes out into the actual forests. The international community had earlier no organization or forum for research about this very central important activity.

 

However autumn 2008 the International Union of Forest Research Organization created a unit (working party) for seed orchards http://www.iufro.org/science/divisions/division-2/20000/20900/20901/ It had its first meeting in Korea starting 090909 at 09:09 with 25 oral presentations and 45 posters. The main theme was seed orchards and the link to long-term tree breeding in response to climate change. http://www-genfys.slu.se/staff/dagl/Korea09/

 

Contributed by Dag Lindgren

Dag.Lindgren@genfys.slu.se

 

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1.18  GMO crops can help climate and environment, according to a new report from the Danish Food Ministry

 

17 September 2009

Copenhagen, Denmark

Today, GMO crops are grown on 8% of the world's agricultural soil, and GMOs have potentials regarding climate and environment. These are the conclusions of a new report from the Danish Food Ministry.

 

The Danish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries has released a report on GMO’s showing that the production of genetically modified (GM) crops has the potential to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2. The report also shows that GMOs are a promising way of producing plants that are more resistant towards changes in climate conditions.

 

Danish trials show that GM crops give farmers an opportunity to achieve the same harvest yield with reduced use of pesticides. That said, the report highlights that there is still a need for research into the possibilities and risks associated with GMOs, and the Food Ministry has therefore earmarked DKr 65 million for research into the use of biotechnology in farming and food.

 

“Today, eight percent of the world's agricultural land is used for growing GM crops, and GMOs have a positive potential that we must consider seriously,” says the Danish Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Mrs. Eva Kjer Hansen:

 

“It would be unwise of us not to choose genetic technologies simply because we do not have sufficient information – these technologies have the potential to contribute to meeting the challenges facing us in terms of the climate and the environment as well as in questions of sufficient food supply.”

 

The report collates the existing knowledge about GMOs and one of its purposes is to be a basis for the coming debate on the usefulness to society of growing GM crops in the future.

 

According to the report, the Danes are the people in the EU who feel best informed about GM foods; they are also among the consumers who associate the lowest risk with genetic technologies. However, the report further shows that Danish consumers have very poor faith in the public authorities' ability to ensure that GMOs organisms do not damage environment and human health.

 

“Twenty percent of Europeans believe wrongly that their own genes will be modified if they eat GM food,” says Food Minister Eva Kjer Hansen. “It can be difficult to tell truth from fiction when you are talking about modern biotechnology, and that is why I wanted this report, which collates the present knowledge about the subject. There are many myths about GMOs and it is my hope that we will be able to wave goodbye to some of them with updated knowledge and debate.”

 

The report's conclusions will be presented at a conference on Friday 18 September, arranged by the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries in co-operation with the Confederation of Danish Industry. There will be a number of presentations based on the conclusions of the report.

 

Read more about the report and register for the conference at www.fvm.dk/gmokonference.  (In Danish only)

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=10401&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.19  Crossbreeding GM crops may increase fitness of wild relatives

 

10 September 2009

A new study has investigated the effects of interbreeding a genetically modified squash crop with its wild relative. The findings demonstrate that it could cause wild or weedy relatives to become more resistant to disease.

 

Genetic Modification (GM) can be used to develop crops that are resistant to specific pests. However, there are concerns that if a GM crop interbreeds with its wild or weedy relative the resistance could be transferred. This could potentially make wild plants more competitive. The study investigates the possible risks of a GM cultivated squash crop (Cucurbita pepo) crossbreeding with a wild squash crop.

 

The researchers compared the resistance of wild squash and plants that were a hybrid of the cultivated and wild squash varieties to viruses. One half of the hybrids were GM, containing a gene that rendered the plant resistant to zucchini yellow mosaic virus, and the other half were conventional non-GM plants, which had not been specifically bred for virus resistance.

 

Second and third generations of the crossbred squash plants were exposed to the virus over two years and compared with squash plants which were not exposed to the virus. The research measured the fitness of the plants in terms of variables such as number of seeds, flowers and fruit, pollen production, and plant mass. It also investigated vegetative traits such as leaf area and length between nodes where the leaves grow from the stem.

 

The results indicated that the presence of the virus dramatically decreased the fitness of both the wild squash plants and the non-GM hybrids. In comparison, the GM hybrid plants continued to be resistant to the virus over the two generations.

 

With the exception of pollen production, the virus produced negative effects on all fitness components of the wild and non-GM plants, decreasing seed production by 80 to 100 per cent. In the first year, the non-GM plants had a slightly higher resistance to the virus than the wild squash, indicating a possible benefit of conventional non-GM crops. However, the following year the resistance was lower.

 

In addition, the research found that by the third generation, the shape and structure of the cultivated GM hybrid crop and the wild crop were indistinguishable. They both had a vine-like quality with long spaces between the leaves that would allow them to grow well in the wild. This supports the proposal that the wild-GM hybrid would thrive in the wild.

 

It is significant that the non-GM hybrid showed some subtle signs of disease resistance. While it did not display fitness as dramatically as the GM hybrid, the study points out that the basic mechanisms for transferring traits to weeds are fundamentally the same for conventional crops as for GM crops. It is therefore possible that a crop conventionally bred for strong virus resistance could pose similar risks to those posed by GM crops. This is an area which deserves further attention.

 

However, the authors suggest that, to predict more accurately the effect of virus resistance on wild squash populations, data are needed on the long-term patterns of virus incidence and their role in regulating wild plants. The authors also caution that this study only investigates the relationship between one specific plant and one specific virus. Risk assessment must be undertaken on a case-by-case basis; it cannot be assumed that other diseases or crops will behave in the same way.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=10316&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: European Commission, Environment DG via SeedQuest.com

 

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1.20  A drought-screening facility for transgenic plants promises further gains as drought-tolerant rice varieties begin to emerge

 

Since the dawn of agriculture, drought has been the bane of farmers, especially those who grow rice, a crop with special water requirements. Most rainfed areas receive a reasonable amount of rain during the growing season, but its erratic distribution and deficits at such critical stages as flowering and grain-filling can seriously curtail productivity. In Asia alone, 23 million hectares, or 20% of the continent’s rice land total, are prone to drought under current climatic conditions. Climate change is likely to worsen water scarcity in many rice-growing areas.

 

Most farmers in drought-prone rainfed areas grow varieties bred for irrigated conditions. As irrigated varieties are highly susceptible to drought, farmers are lucky to harvest even half a ton per hectare when droughts occur.

 

To help farmers cope with water scarcity, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has developed several new breeding lines that yield as well as other varieties under normal conditions and have a yield advantage of up to 1 ton per hectare under drought. Two of these drought-tolerant lines have been recommended for official release, one in India and the other in the Philippines.

 

“IRRI has intensified efforts to develop drought-tolerant and aerobic cultivars to cope with the looming water shortage,” says David Mackill, leader of IRRI’s rainfed program. (Aerobic rice is cultivated intensely in the lowlands for high yield but in dry paddies, not flooded ones, to save water.) “Drought-tolerance has been a complex trait to improve, and I’m very happy to see recent progress in developing drought-tolerant lines at IRRI.”

 

During the dry season of 2007, the first drought-screening experiment using the facility was carried out to test the effects of a gene for drought tolerance provided by the Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences. Scientists were pleased to observe that the data on yield under irrigated and drought conditions inside the drought-screening facility were similar to those obtained from non-transgenic field experiments at IRRI. The drought-screening facility was thus found to succeed in creating realistic drought conditions.

 

“The facility allows us to assess a large population of plants to take into account possible variation in the effects of a transgene on plant growth and yield performance,” explains crop physiologist Rachid Serraj. “IRRI is able to generate large numbers of transgenic lines, so it is more efficient to select and discard plants early on, keeping only those that show promise.

 

“We assess the impact of water deficit on plant growth and use non-destructive measurements to analyze crop performance,” Serraj continues, adding that plants’ flowering, tillering, grain formation, transpiration, canopy temperature, photosynthesis, leaf rolling, tillering ability, root biomass, and spikelet fertility are other parameters that are measured.

 

Sometimes a transgenic plant performs better than others under drought but yields less under normal conditions. IRRI looks for candidate genes that are activated by drought to avoid any yield penalty under normal conditions.  

 

“The drought-screening facility has greatly helped in our transgenic research, so we plan to establish a similar and bigger facility in the future,” states Serraj. “This will allow us to test more candidate genes.”

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=10557&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: CGIAR News September 2009 via SeedQuest.com

 

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1.21  Cary Fowler's TED Talk: One seed at a time

 

Rome, Italy

1 September 2009

The Global Crop Diversity Trust was invited to this year’s TED Global - ‘where the world's leading thinkers and doers gather to find inspiration’.

The Trust’s Director, Cary Fowler, gave a talk which can be viewed by clicking HERE.

 

The varieties of wheat, corn and rice we grow today may not thrive in a future threatened by climate change. Cary Fowler takes us inside a vast global seed bank, buried within a frozen mountain in Norway, that stores a diverse group of food-crop for whatever tomorrow may bring.

 

Why you should listen to him: Tucked away under the snows of the Arctic Circle is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Sometimes called the doomsday vault, it's nothing less than a backup of the world's biological diversity in a horticultural world fast becoming homogenous in the wake of a flood of genetically identical GMOs.

 

For Cary Fowler, a self-described Tennessee farm boy, this vault is the fulfillment of a long fight against shortsighted governments, big business and potential disaster. Inside the seed vault, Fowler and his team work on preserving wheat, rice and hundreds of other crops that have nurtured humanity since our ancestors began tending crops -- and ensuring that the world's food supply has the diversity needed to stand against the omnipresent threats of disease, climate change and famine.

 

"For individual crop varieties, doomsday does come every day. We want to put an end to that."

Cary Fowler, Washington Post

 

More news from: Global Crop Diversity Trust

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.22  Food treasures of the wild in peril

 

Rome, Italy

7 September 2009

With food, poorer is often richer. Onion soup wasn't created by any celebrity chef. Nor was apple pie.

 

But now comes the news that remote tribes in dense tropical forests or frozen polar wastes are keepers of a vast treasurehouse of healthful, nutritious foods — many with extraordinary properties — that more affluent societies can only envy.

 

This is among the main findings of a recent book, Indigenous People's Food Systems, co-published by FAO and McGill University's Centre for Indigenous People's Nutrition and Environment (CINE). Says Barbara Burlingame, FAO Senior Nutrition Officer, Nutrition Assessment and Nutrient Requirements, "This book shows the wealth of knowledge in indigenous communities, in diverse ecosystems, and the richness of their food resources."

 

Receding habitats

The bad news is that as wild habitats recede under economic pressures and globalization increasingly standardizes lifestyles, these native foodstuffs are vanishing fast — together with the diets that once kept tribespeople healthy and trim.

 

Nonetheless, in the Karen community of Sanephong, close to the Myanmar border in Thailand, 661 inhabitants still get to choose from 387 food species including Wax gourd, Jack fruit and Tree Ear, the book's researchers found. Local cuisine featured many mouth-watering specialities not readily found at one's favourite local restaurant, such as painted bullfrog and bush-tailed porcupine.

 

Nature has clearly been generous to the Karens, who enjoy 208 species of vegetables and 62 different kinds of fruit. But even in an arid, drought-prone zone such as the territory inhabited by Kenya's Maasai tribespeople, 35 different species of herbs, leafy vegetables and wild fruits are documented, while in Canada's frozen north, the Inuits of Baffin Bay boast 79 different wildlife foods including caribou meat and ringed seal.

 

Four crops

By comparison, diets in industrialized western countries are far more restricted, depending heavily on just four commercial crops — wheat, rice, corn, and soy — often consumed as processed foods or, via animal feed, as meat. Even more alarming are FAO estimates that about three-quarters of the genetic diversity once found in agricultural crops has been lost over the last century.

 

Traditional foods not only generally taste good but also frequently contain very high levels of micronutrients. In Mand, a hamlet on the Micronesian island of Pohnpei, Utin Llap, one of the 26 local varieties of bananas contains huge amounts of Beta-Carotene — more effective in combating Vitamin A deficiency than any pharmaceutical preparation.

 

Of the 12 indigenous groups studied in the book, the percentage of adult dietary energy obtained from traditional food varied between 93 percent for the Awajun of Peru, among whom obesity is almost non-existent, and 27 percent for Mand's 500 villagers who now face a series of diet-induced health problems.

 

Diet disorders

Says Burlingame, "The shift away from traditional food resources to commercial, convenience foods is often accompanied by an increase in diet-related disorders like obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure."

 

It is therefore important to preserve such resources, not only for the indigenous groups concerned, but also as an important store of biodiversity for all nations. A first step, says Burlingame, is to conduct more research to better understand the importance of these foods nutritionally. Indigenous peoples take pride in their local foods when they know how unique and beneficial they can be. A second step is to help them find wider markets, locally and farther afield, not only for their food produce, but for the medicinal plants they often have in abundance.

 

But some of this could already be happening. Among the Inuit, who have developed an appetite for frozen pizza, spaghetti and carbonated soft drinks, 31 percent of total energy came from traditional food sources a decade ago, whereas in 2006 the figure had risen to 41 percent. This indicates a return to tradition.

 

And it could be that in the not too distant future the choice for dining out will no longer be between national cuisine and ethnic but feature a new entry: "How about indigenous tonight".

 

Indigenous Peoples' Food Systems is on sale through the FAO Online Publications Catalogue

 

More news from: FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization)

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=10189&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.23  Secrets in a seed: clues into the evolution of the first flowers

 

Researchers work on part of Darwin's 'abominable mystery'

 

14 September 2009

USA

Approximately 120-130 million years ago, one of the most significant events in the history of the Earth occurred: the first flowering plants, or angiosperms, arose. In the late 1800s, Darwin referred to their development as an "abominable mystery." To this day, scientists are still challenged by this "mystery" of how angiosperms originated, rapidly diversified, and rose to dominance. (See the January 2009 issue of the American Journal of Botany.)

 

Studies of key features of angiosperm evolution, such as the evolution of the flower and development of the endosperm, have contributed to our current understanding of relationships among the early families of flowering plants. Examining the development of seeds and embryos among early angiosperms may help to improve our understanding of how flowering plants evolved from the nonflowering gymnosperms.

 

A recent study by Dr. Paula Rudall and colleagues published in the September issue of the AJB (www.amjbot.org/cgi/content/full/96/9/1581) explores a piece of this mystery: the microscopic anatomy of seed development in Trithuria, a genus in the plant family Hydatellaceae, thought to be one of the earliest families of angiosperms—the so-called "basal angiosperms."

 

Rudall and colleagues' observations of the development of the embryo and endosperm (tissue that surrounds the embryo and provides nutrition) in Trithuria suggest that double fertilization occurs. Double fertilization is a unique feature of flowering plants where one sperm nucleus unites with the egg, producing the embryo, while another sperm nucleus unites with a separate nucleus from the female, producing the endosperm. The endosperm is divided into two regions—the micropylar and chalazal regions.

 

In Trithuria, the cells of the micropylar region divide many times to form the multi-celled endosperm. However, the chalazal region forms a single-celled haustorium, a structure that absorbs nutrients and ultimately degenerates to form an empty space in the seed. This situation is broadly similar to that of some waterlilies and some monocots but differs from that of many other early-diverging angiosperms such as Amborella, in which the endosperm is formed from the chalazal region.

 

One of the current hypotheses is that the endosperm originated as a monstrous proembryo that fails to develop into a plant. Rudall and colleagues' observations support this theory.

 

"Comparative studies of early endosperm development in extant 'basal' angiosperms (including Trithuria) tend to support this theory," Rudall said, "because there are similarities in early development of embryo and endosperm. In both cases, the first cell division produces two distinct domains that differ in their subsequent development." In the embryo, divisions of the chalazal cell produce most of the embryo. The micropylar cell develops into a stalk that attaches the embryo to the seed coat. In the endosperm of Trithuria, the chalazal haustorium may regulate early endosperm development of the micropylar region, in addition to facilitating transfer of nutrients from the perisperm, maternally derived nutritive tissue, to the embryo.

 

Rudall and colleagues' findings shed some light on the possible role of the endosperm in early angiosperms. "The endosperm of Trithuria, though limited in size and storage capacity, is relatively persistent," Rudall stated. "Coupled with the well-developed perisperm that occurs in Trithuria, this could indicate that the ancestral role of endosperm was to transfer nutrients from the perisperm to the embryo, rather than as a storage tissue."

 

The full article is available for no charge for 30 days following the date of this summary at www.amjbot.org/cgi/content/full/96/9/1581.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=10346&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: The Botanical Society of America via SeedQuest.com

 

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1.24  Study Confirms Classic Theory on the Origins of Biodiversity

 

11 September 2009

A team of researchers at Cornell University lead by Anurag Agrawal have conducted a series of studies on applying phylogenetic approaches to study the history of life and the co-evolution of plants and insects and how their interactions lead to greater diversification of both groups. One of the studies featured in the series and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is on how milkweeds diversify to follow the 1964 theory of adaptive radiation by scientists Paul Ehrlich and Peter Raven. It is a process when species rapidly multiply and diversify for a time as they colonize new resources and then level off.

 

The report said that, "As milkweeds developed prickly, hairy leaves, highly toxic chemicals (cardenolides) and gooey white latex that gums up a predator's mouth, the monarch butterfly caterpillars evolved to become immune to the toxins, learned to cut the veins in the leaves to drain the latex before they ate them and shaved off leaf hairs with an adapted mouth." However, instead of the milkweeds continuing to adapt and develop more defenses against the caterpillars, the plant has increased its ability to grow leaves back quickly - a phenomenon that slightly deviates from the principle.

 

With this discovery the team is aiming for more studies on plant/ insect interaction. "It's still a mystery why there are 300 times more herbivorous insects than bird species, but now we are able to implicate traits of both plants and insects that have given rise to so many species," said Agrawal. "The interaction between plants and insects has been part of their adaptive radiation."

 

See the report at http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/Sept09/AgrawalMilkweed.html

 

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics

mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.25  Novel breeding strategy for plant resistance

 

10 September 2009

Wageningen, The Netherlands

Disabling certain plant genes instead of adding resistance genes is a promising strategy for giving crops long-term resistance to diseases. Researcher Yuling Bai and professors Evert Jacobsen and Richard Visser from Wageningen UR explain the new breeding strategy in the last issue of Molecular Breeding.

 

Switching off genes, better known as gene silencing, has been used for many years to improve crop quality, but has not been used to increase resistance of crops to pathogens in order to mimic recessive mutations. The dominant strategy in resistance breeding is to add dominant resistance genes (R genes) into a crop.

 

Over the past few years, scientists have obtained a better understanding of how pathogens cause diseases in plants. Pathogens exploit effector molecules to interfere with specific genes in the plants. Some of these plant genes play a negative role in plant defense and these genes are so called susceptibility genes or S genes. 'By using these S genes, pathogens reprogram the plant cell', says Bai. 'S genes give pathogens an entrance to the plant. If you switch these genes off, you block the entrance of the pathogen. As a result, the plant becomes resistant.'

 

The first example of this was found in barley. Researchers found a susceptibility gene (the Mlo gene) for powdery mildew disease. They discovered that this S gene is not functional in barley varieties resistant to powdery mildew. A remarkable aspect was that these varieties had been resistant to powdery mildew for more than thirty years. 'The resistant mutant must have been the result of spontaneous classical breeding, without a good understanding among the breeders of what they were doing', says Jacobsen. 'S genes usually have other functions in plants. Mutation of S genes gives recessive resistance, which is more difficult to use in plant breeding'.

 

When scientists switched this Mlo S gene off in Arabidopsis, the plant model for genetic research, this plant also became resistant to powdery mildew. Subsequently, Bai found in 2007 that tomato plants become resistant to powdery mildew too, if you silence this susceptibility gene. She expects that this method can be used for many other crops to achieve this type of resistance to powdery mildews.

 

So far, only four S gene families have been used for many years in resistance breeding. One other example is an S gene found in several crops which helps the spreading of viruses in plants. When this S gene is switched off, the virus cannot spread in the plant anymore. As a result, plants are resistant to the virus. Bai has a fast growing list of potential S genes for different diseases, mainly found in Arabidopsis.

 

Because the S genes have a function in plant growth or reproduction, silencing or mutation of the genes may have side effects on the plants performance. 'But other plant genes can compensate for these side effects', says Jacobsen. 'That's the art of plant breeding.'

 

R genes and S genes are the two sides of the same coin of plant disease resistance. R genes combat pathogens by playing positive roles in plant defense mechanisms. In such a battle, R genes often loose their resistance within five years of introduction because of mutations in the pathogen. S genes play a negative role in plant defense. Examples have shown that loss of functions in such S genes caused sustainable resistance to the pathogen, Bai explains.

 

Jacobsen now wants to investigate whether potatoes have S genes which are involved in the susceptibility to late blight. He hopes to find a combination of S and stacked R genes to develop a more lasting resistance to this tough disease.

 

The new breeding strategy is still controversial among plant scientists and breeders. 'We have already been discussing this strategy for two and a half years', says Jacobsen. 'Not everybody is convinced of its potential. People say: gene silencing is old, we need resistance genes. But you have to investigate new techniques and strategies - that's the task of a university.' 

 

Albert Sikkema

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=10421&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.26 Top wheat experts call for scaling up efforts to combat Ug99 and other wheat rusts

 

Scientists in Aleppo, Syria, propose to establish international repository laboratory of wheat rust pathogens as efforts intensify to repel existing invasions and anticipate new ones

 

11 September 2009

Aleppo, Syria

Wheat experts from 26 countries warn that rapidly-moving, wind-borne transboundary wheat diseases continue to threaten food security and wheat genetic diversity worldwide — particularly in the ancient breadbasket stretching from the Middle East to India — as they vowed new action to isolate and interrupt the steady march of dangerous wheat rust diseases.

 

Of particular concern is the emergence in East Africa of a destructive and virulent strain of black stem rust known as Ug99, which has quickly crossed the Red Sea and moved into the Arabian Peninsula and West Asia. It now appears en route to South Asia, the world's most populous region, where wheat is essential to survival.

 

The proposed global rust reference laboratory, which was embraced in Aleppo at the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI) Coordination Conference, will house a unique collection of all the world's known races of stem (black) rust, yellow (stripe) rust, and brown (leaf) rust in a secure containment facility.

 

Dr. Mahmoud Solh, Director General of the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), a BGRI partner and conference host, said such a global reference laboratory will be used as a repository for new virulent races of the rust pathogen, facilitating the identification of new sources of resistance in wheat, as a site for race identification and analysis, and as an important location for training scientists from national programs.

 

Dr Solh said these highly mobile, wind-borne, transboundary wheat diseases have the potential to endanger global production of a crop that feeds 2 billion people.

 

"For example, the black stem rust Ug99 is alarming because 80 percent of the world's wheat varieties are susceptible," said Dr. Solh. "But other types of wind-borne wheat rust could quickly affect the food security of millions of households in poor rural areas where wheat is literally the bread of life."

 

The Declaration issued at the end of the Aleppo meeting referred to the increasing danger stem rust now poses to wheat production and diversity, especially as the mapped trajectory of the destructive and virulent strain of black stem rust Ug99 shows it moving into the highly productive wheat belt that stretches from the Middle East to India. Wheat strike (yellow) rust epidemics have gained new momentum in the same areas, including the land where wheat first emerged as a domesticated crop.

 

"The Middle East is the cradle of agriculture – where wheat cultivation began," the Declaration states. "This area is a great reservoir of breeding material and wild relatives of wheat that are vital for developing wheat varieties to combat many threats including drought (and) climate change…"

 

The Declaration also cites the need to "develop early warning, seed production and delivery systems, and collaboration to allow us to anticipate wheat rust threats in the future as well as manage existing threats such as Ug99." Discussions at the conference identified key gaps in the current knowledge of rust diseases, and opportunities to use biotechnology and modern communications capabilities to track and combat rust diseases faster and more efficiently.

 

Dr Ronnie Coffman, vice-Chair of the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI), said the conference is part of a series of coordinated actions focused on transboundary wheat rust diseases that have flowed from the BGRI, whose permanent members include ICARDA, CIMMYT (two of the CGIAR centers), FAO, the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), and Cornell University.

 

"The BGRI is named after Nobel Prize Laureate Norman Borlaug, whose work (decades ago) in combating an earlier stem rust invasion is credited with helping launch the Green Revolution. It is Borlaug's call to action that has rallied a diverse array of scientists, governments and international institutions to combat this new generation of wheat rusts," Dr Coffman said.

 

BGRI activities are funded by an array of donors including USAID, USDA, CIDA-Canada, AFESD-Arab Fund, IFAD, the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), FAO, ACIAR-Australia, PIEAES and Government of Sonora, Mexico, Syngenta Foundation, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (supporting the largest project on Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat) and other donors. In addition, national programs have been investing significantly through in-kind contributions to combat wheat rusts.

 

The BGRI, coordinated by Cornell University, now includes researchers and government agriculture officials from every wheat-growing region in the world.

 

Dr. Coffman said that efforts in BGRI started in 2005 and already resistant material has been identified through the BGRI partnership, and resistant varieties have been released in Ethiopia and Egypt.

 

However, he warned: "We are running against time to ensure development of durable resistant varieties and to fast-track seed production and delivery systems to reach farmers quickly, and stay ahead of these fast-moving wind-borne diseases. In addition to our technical work, strong political support is needed at national, regional and international levels."

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=10340&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.27  Highly valued rice fragrance has origins in basmati rice, Cornell University study finds

 

Ithaca, New York, USA

1 September 2009

A new Cornell University study reports that the gene that gives rice its highly valued fragrance stems from an ancestor of basmati rice and dispels other long-held assumptions about the origins of basmati.

 

Rice is classified into two major varietal groups: Japonica and Indica, both of which were grown in China some 8,000 years ago and are believed to have originated from there. The new study, published Aug. 25 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, confirms that basmati rice, long assumed to be an Indica variety, is actually more closely related genetically to Japonica rice.

 

Basmati, which is endemic to northern India, Pakistan and Iran, has been falsely assumed to be in the Indica group due to its characteristic long, thin grains and because it is grown in India, where Indica varieties are widespread. Japonica varieties, which include sushi rice, are widely grown in East and Southeast Asia and tend to have shorter, stickier grains.

 

When the gene, called BADH2, loses its function through the natural process of mutation, rice becomes fragrant. This study reports eight novel mutations in BADH2 associated with fragrance and found that a previously discovered mutation, or allele, is shared by the vast majority of fragrant rice varieties today, including the fragrant Japonica varieties known as basmati and the fragrant Indica variety known as Thai jasmine.

 

Through genetic analysis of the DNA flanking BADH2, the researchers determined that the major fragrance allele originated in a Japonica-ancestor of basmati rice and was later transferred to Indica varieties, including Thai jasmine rice.

 

"People think that all rice [varieties] in India are from the Indica varietal group, but that's not true," said Susan McCouch, professor of plant breeding and genetics and the paper's senior author. Michael Kovach, a doctoral student in McCouch's lab, is the paper's first author.

 

The new study supports findings from a 2005 paper by McCouch that showed the close genetic relationship of basmati rice to the Japonica varietal group.

 

"India has both Indica and Japonica rice," McCouch added. "Basmati is a unique type of rice but it is genetically more closely related to sushi rice from Japan than to many of the long grained Indica rices grown elsewhere in India. It is intriguing to think about what these relationships tell us about human migration and cultural exchange."

 

The findings have important implications for claims of ownership of rice varieties and traits, said Kovach. Rice fragrance is one of the most highly valued traits of rice, and it can command higher prices on the global market.

 

Thai scientists recently patented the use of a genetic engineering strategy to knock out the BADH2 gene while claiming the fragrance trait was part of their national heritage -- through Thai jasmine rice -- and "belonged to the Thai people," Kovach said.

 

"They would like to use this approach to impart this characteristic fragrance on other crops like wheat and maize," Kovach added. "There was no proof that the common BADH2 allele causing fragrance in Thai jasmine rice actually did not originate in jasmine varieties, until this study."

 

"The results suggest something profound and interesting about human culture, and that is, we are all hybrids," said McCouch. "Claims of ownership of rice are important for national identity, but people's concepts of national identity are often over-simplified. Humans continuously exchange ideas, technology and everything that is valuable, and in the exchange, they become something new. The lesson is that while each culture and each rice variety represents something unique, much of what we value most is shared by all."

 

The study was funded by the Plant Genome Program of the National Science Foundation and the European Union Project METAPHOR.

By Krishna Ramanujan, Cornell University Chronicle Online

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=10094&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.28  Scientists discover how to send insects off the scent of crops

 

24 September 2009

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)-funded research, published this week in Chemical Communication, describes how scientists have discovered molecules that could confuse insects’ ability to detect plants by interfering with their sense of smell. This could reduce damage to crops by insect pests and contribute to food security.

 

Lead researcher Dr Antony Hooper of Rothamsted Research, an institute of BBSRC said: “One way in which insects find each other and their hosts is by smell, or more accurately: the detection of chemical signals – pheromones, for example. Insects smell chemicals with their antennae; the chemical actually gets into the antennae of the insect and then attaches to a protein called an odorant-binding protein, or OBP. This then leads to the insect changing its behaviour in some way in response to the smell, for example, flying towards a plant or congregating with other insects.”

 

Studying an OBP found in the silkworm moth Bombyx mori, Dr Hooper and his team were able to look at how the OBP and a relevant pheromone interact. They also tested the interaction between OBP and other molecules that are similar to, but not the same as, the pheromone.

 

Dr Hooper continued: “As well as learning about the nature of this interaction we’ve actually found that there are other compounds that bind to the OBP much more strongly than the pheromone. We could potentially apply these compounds, or similar ones, in some way to block the insects’ ability to detect chemical signals – the smell would be overwhelmed by the one we introduce. We’d expect the insects to be less likely to orientate themselves towards the crop plants, or find mates in this case, and therefore could reduce the damage.

 

“There is a lot of work to do from this point. We want to test this idea with important crop pests – we’ll probably start with aphids because they are a serious pest and we have some idea of what the aphid OBPs are like from the genome sequence. We’d also hope to apply our knowledge to insects such as tsetse flies and mosquitoes that carry human diseases. And ultimately we’ll look at developing ways to design suitable compounds to control these pests.”

 

Professor Douglas Kell, BBSRC Chief Executive said: “Around a quarter of crops are lost to pests and diseases and so if we are to have enough food in the future it is not just a matter of increasing gross yield. To secure our future food supply we must look for new and innovative ways to prevent and control pests and diseases. This is an interesting finding that could be applied across a number of important insect pests and may have far reaching implications for preventing human disease as well.”

 

Source: EurekAlert.org

http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/media/releases/2009/090924_scientists_discover_how_to_send_insects_of_the_scent.html

 

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1.29  Genetic discovery could break wine industry bottleneck, accelerate grapevine breeding

 

24 September 2009

One of the best known episodes in the 8000-year history of grapevine cultivation led to biological changes that have not been well understood – until now. Through biomolecular detective work, German researchers have uncovered new details about the heredity of Vitis varieties in cultivation today. In the process, they have opened the way to more meaningful classification, accelerated breeding, and more accurate evaluation of the results, potentially breaking a bottleneck in the progress of the wine industry. Their discovery removes a major obstacle to a development already under way – that is, a shift toward grapevine breeding guided by highly specific genetic markers. It may even point the way toward production of European-tasting wines from North American cultivars, free of the "musty" or "foxy" flavors associated with New World grapevines.

 

In response to the "great European wine blight" of the mid-1800s, growers aimed at preserving the most desirable qualities of European grapes while breeding in the hardiness of North American varieties. These were naturally resistant to native pests that had found their way – by steamship, most likely – across the Atlantic to Europe. Beginning around 1860, the introduction of two North American pests – an aphid and a fungus – nearly destroyed the wine industry, particularly in France. A century ago, many hybrids were in use, but the wine they produced was judged to be so inferior in flavor that winemakers were prohibited from blending them with higher-quality traditional wines.

 

Today, breeders as well as growers have many reasons to want to know the heritage of grapevines, and readily observed traits are seldom sufficient. To distinguish among the countless grapevine cultivars, even experts need more than meets the eye. Much of a plant's history can be read on the molecular level, from its DNA and biochemistry, and modern scientific tools have been developed to discern the "fingerprints" of Old World, New World, and hybrid grapevines. New research shows, however, that one of the best established fingerprinting tools is not completely reliable, because it assumes a simpler genetic history than the biomolecular evidence records.

 

The investigation was a collaboration between the Technische Universitaet Muenchen in Bavaria and the JKI Institute for Grapevine Breeding, along the famous Weinstrasse or "wine route" in the Pfalz region. Clues led the researchers to suspect that a difference in a particular phytochemical marker that has long been used to distinguish grape varieties stemmed not from a single gene mutation, but from a double mutation. Furthermore, they revealed, the chromosome bearing the double-mutated gene is one that may also carry a gene responsible for the poor, "musty" aroma of the North American varieties. A complex series of experiments and analyses confirmed this, and ruled out other possible explanations. A detailed description of the methods and results has been published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

 

The biochemical process at the crux of the investigation is the production of anthocyanin pigments. Red European Vitis vinifera cultivars produce only pigment compounds such as the one called oenin (malvidin 3-O-glucoside), whereas most other Vitis species and hybrids can produce pigment compounds like malvin (malvidin 3,5-di-O-glucoside) as well. This subtle difference, which has been used to classify wines according to their varietal origin, had been attributed to a particular gene mutation inherited by the European plants. If that was the whole story, however, certain breeding programs might have been expected to turn on malvin production in European varieties, and this had never been observed.

 

Professor Wilfried Schwab of the Biomolecular Food Technology Department at TUM led the effort to find out what genetic changes would restore malvin-producing enzymatic activity in European varieties – with the primary aim of teasing out missing details of their family history. The tools the investigators brought to bear included techniques for isolating and cloning DNA sequences of interest, rewriting specific parts of the genetic code – through what's called site-directed mutagenesis – and determining the three-dimensional structure of proteins expressed as a result. Their discovery of a double mutation could lead to the development of more accurate classification tools and effective marker-assisted breeding methods. They suggest that this knowledge might also be used in another way, to enable American species and cultivars to produce European-tasting wines, free of the "musty" or "foxy" flavors associated with New World varieties.

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-09/tum-gdc092209.php

 

Source: EurekAlert.org

 

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1.30  First standards for certified biodynamic plant breeding

 

25 September 2009

In November 2008 Demeter Germany passed worldwide the first organic breeding standards. In the recent months about twenty vegetable varieties and three cereal varieties have been already certified.

 

I Scope and Principles

  1. The standard for certified biodynamic plant breeding has been developed largely by the Association of Biodynamic Plant Breeders. It is contained in the contract between the user of the descriptor “Biodynamically Bred Variety” and the respective organisation (e.g. Demeter e.V.). It applies to the breeding enterprise that is active in Biodynamic plant breeding, as well as to the products, the varieties produced by certified Biodynamic plant breeding.
  2. Recognizing that not every conceivable case of variety development can be covered by these standards, extrapolation of these standards and the procedures concerning exemptions are to follow the mission-statement which is published by the Association of Biodynamic Plant Breeders (ABDP)
  3. Any variety that is offered for sale and which originates from biodynamic breeding must have a full biography of its development published on the internet and freely available. The biography must comply with the template contained in Section 2 of the 'Regulations' as developed by the ABDP and entitled “Steps towards transparency in the development of varieties.”

 

II Objectives of the plant breeding standards

The aim of this standard is to describe varieties that arise from biodynamic plant breeding using defined criteria in order to differentiate these varieties from others, which are not allowed to use this descriptor. The labelling of varieties in the way this standard foresees as “From Biodynamic Plant Breeding” is intended to make the breeding methods standing behind such products clearly visible. When products carry the Demeter logo, it is clear only that they have been grown on a Biodynamic property, but not however from which seed. Through reference to the breeding, the particular origin of the seed material can be highlighted.

 

For further information see: http://www.abdp.org/index.php?id=117 or get in contact with Michael Fleck, (ABDP and Kultursaat e.V.), fon: ++49 (0) 60 35 / 20 80 97 URL: http://www.kultursaat.org/

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=10571&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: issue III/2009 of the Newsletter on Organic Seeds and Plant Breeding via SeedQuest.com

 

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1.31  IFOAM Conference on Organic Animal and Plant Breeding: A successful venue

 

25 September 25, 2009

On August 25 - 28, 2009, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) held the “Breeding Diversity” Conference in Santa Fe, NM, USA. Leading scientists, activists, farmers and breeders came together to share their latest findings and positions on organic breeding and agro-biodiversity conservation in order to find new ways to address the challenges of today and tomorrow.

 

In her conference opening speech the Indian environmentalist Vandana Shiva, who is decorated with the alternative Nobel price, emphasized the importance of this IFOAM-conference within the context of the current development in animal and plant breeding. The ecologically oriented breeding and its contribution to biodiversity, the basis of our food and nutrition security, is threatened by the application of genetic engineering. This technique could not be qualified as breeding in its original sense. The ongoing loss of biodiversity meant an erosion of food and nutrition security, especially in times of climate changes and further ecological challenges. “This conference can contribute to both the preservation of biodiversity on our planet and to the protection of the means of existence of peasants in the whole world”, Vandana Shiva pointed out.

 

An important workshop topic – especially for the European participants – was the discussion of strategies to develop guidelines for excluding the use of CMS-hybrid varieties made by cell fusion techniques, which was decided at the IFOAM general assembly in Modena in 2008. The CMS-hybrids in question are a special form of hybrid plants, which result from protoplast or cytoplast fusion (CMS stands for cytoplasmic male steriliy); this technique is not compatible with organic principles as cell fusion falls under IFOAM’s definition of GMO. In April 2009 the ECO-PB und ITAB (Institut Technique de l’Agriculture Biologique) already held a conference on this topic in Paris, on which the European representatives of organic farming together with breeders involved with breeding for organic farming discussed strategies for the abandonment of such cultivars, report see www.eco-pb.org. At the conference in Santa Fe it now became clear that Europe is ahead of being aware of this issue and it remains unclear at which rate such CMS varieties are used in the USA,. Currently, the main concern of American organisation Organic Seed Alliance is focused on the law suits to prevent contamination of GMO with organic seed production. However, the strategies discussed in Europe for a phase-out of the use of “CMS-hybrids” was warmly greeted and supported by the American participants.

 

Another significant issue was the discussion of IFOAM plant breeding standards in the plenum during the conference. Prof. Edith Lammerts van Bueren, president of ECO-PB, opened the discussion by proposing a working document for organic plant breeding standards compiled by ECO-PB. The plenum appreciated the work of ECO-PB on this standards working document and found it an excellent basis to structure the discussion. As expected, there was a rather lively discussion with many valuable points to be considered in the redraft. In the coming step the working document is now redrafted and will be available for further comments and approval before submitting to the IFOAM standard making body for further consideration.

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=10570&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: issue III/2009 of the Newsletter on Organic Seeds and Plant Breeding via SeedQuest.com

 

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1.32  New Chickpea Varieties Set to Ward Off Beet Armyworm

 

28 August 2009

The newly-bred "CRIL-7" chickpea is hoped to end the fight against the crop-damaging larval stage of the beet armyworm, said a report by the United States Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service. Chickpea provides protein, fiber and other nutrients, and an important crop in semi-arid tropical countries like India. The beet armyworm is a very devastating pest in India which used to be the world leader in chickpea production in 2005.

 

The team of scientists led by entomologist Stephen Clement selected 42 lines from the seven generation of progenies from the cross between the wild species Cicer reticulatum which has broad insect resistance trait, with the susceptible cultivar FLIP 84-92C. The selected lines were tested in 2006-07 green house trials, and 28 to 62% of the beet armyworms that fed on the leaves died within a few days from hatching from eggs. Worms which survived were shorter and smaller. Agronomic testing will be conducted next before the lines are commercialized.

 

See the report at http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2009/090825.htm

 

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics

mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.33  New pest-resistant Habanero joins peck of USDA/ARS-created peppers

 

Washington, DC, USA

22 September 2009

By Stephanie Yao

A new red-fruited habanero is the latest pepper with resistance to root-knot nematodes to be released by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists.

 

PA-559 is the first red-fruited habanero-type pepper released by ARS plant geneticist Richard Fery and plant pathologist Judy Thies-both with the agency's U.S. Vegetable Laboratory in Charleston, S.C.-that has resistance to the southern root-knot nematode. It is also resistant to the peanut root-knot nematode and the tropical root-knot nematode.

 

Root-knot nematodes are one of the three most economically damaging types of plant-parasitic nematodes on horticultural and field crops. They live in the soil in areas with hot climates and short winters, like those found in the southern United States. Damage from root-knot nematodes often results in poor plant growth, reductions in quality and yields, and reduced resistance to stresses such as drought and disease.

 

PA-559 is a relative of another root-knot-nematode-resistant cultivar, TigerPaw-NR, which was released by ARS in 2006. Both parental lines used to develop PA-559 are sister lines of TigerPaw-NR. PA-559 contains a dominant gene that gives the plant its pest-resistance trait. This makes the variety ideal for use as a parental line in breeding resistant cultivars because breeders can be sure the plant's offspring will contain resistance.

 

Field plantings conducted in Charleston over two years confirmed the pepper's pest resistance and showed that the fruit characteristics of PA-559 are comparable to those of currently available red-fruited habanero-type cultivars. The plant's fruit is extremely pungent, clocking in at 256,433 Scoville heat units. Habaneros typically score 100,000 or higher, whereas jalapeños range from 3,000 to 5,000 units.

 

Although recommended for use by breeders as a parental line, PA-559 can also be used in commercial production without further development.

 

Genetic material of this release is available for research purposes, including development and commercialization of new cultivars, from the National Plant Germplasm System.

 

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

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=10481&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.34 Kaempferol Blocks Bean's Healthful Iron

 

25 September 2009

The bioavailability of iron found in red, white and pinto beans has been a puzzle to scientists for a long time. These legumes which are staples of developing countries in South and Eastern Asia are very important source of iron and a substitute for animal sourced-iron. Collaborating scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Research Service (USDA ARS) Raymond P. Gahn and Cornell University researchers picked up the research focus of former ARS research plant physiologist Ross M. Welch on iron bioavailability of these legumes.

 

The scientists were able to confirm the initial results of the research on Caco-2 human digestive system cells cultured in petri dishes in their poultry feeding studies, whereby kaempferol is the inhibiting substance. This study is the first to identify kaempferol as the major player in decreasing iron bioavailability. This investigation opens possibilities for further research on bioavailability of ir! on, a very important micronutrient in the developing countries.

 

View the article for more details at http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2009/090924.htm>http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2009/090924.htm

 

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics

mes25@cornell.edu

 

Source: Crop Biotech Update

 

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1.35 Cassava "accident" brings tolerance hope

 

25 September 2009

When a consignment of carotene-rich cassava roots was packaged and sent for bioavailability tests, there was the usual, hopeful wait for results. Ten months later and those results, soon to be officially announced, suggest that the carotene contained in yellow-flesh of the so-called "egg  yolk" cassava has good bioavailability, meaning it can be easily absorbed by humans, and converted into the essential micronutrient vitamin A. This in itself is great news for CIAT and researchers working as part of the CGIAR-wide HarvestPlus program. But the story doesn't end there.

 

In an interesting twist, a handful of surplus roots that were omitted from the consignment and left in a store room were discovered by a researcher 2 months later-in pristine condition. Cassava roots normally degrade naturally within just 2-to-3 days, due to post-harvest physiological deterioration (PPD), which leaves them unusable either as food or by industry. Realizing the potential importance of the discovery, the researcher quickly raised the alarm. "The roots should have been totally spoiled and rotten," explains Hernán Ceballos, coordinator of CIAT's cassava program, "but when they were cut open they were completely PPD-free. What was interesting was that the yellow colour of the root had faded away. A biochemical hypothesis can explain this finding: the antioxidant activity of carotenoids gives the root some kind of PPD tolerance."

 

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics

mes25@cornell.edu

 

Source: CIAT:

http://www.ciat.cgiar.org/newsroom/release_43.htm

 

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1.36  Two diseases could wipe out African bananas, experts step up control efforts

 

Two deadly diseases - Xanthomonas wilt and banana bunchy top - are threatening to wipe out African bananas and further endangering the food and livelihood security of some 30 million farmers still reeling from the global food crisis. But international experts, in an urgent meeting held last week in Arusha, Tanzania, have come up with a disease management framework aimed at shoring up efforts to control the diseases' rapid spread across sub-Saharan Africa.  Disease monitoring studies have indicated that Xanthomonas wilt, which started in Uganda, is spreading to neighboring countries in eastern Africa, while the banana bunchy top disease is creeping across southern and central Africa.

 

The workshop, which brought together experts from affected countries and other international scientists and partners, was convened by the Southern Africa Development Cooperation (SADC), the FAO, Bioversity International and IITA following the rapid spread of the two diseases in the region.  "I am very shocked to discover the extent of the banana bunchy top disease in sub-Saharan Africa and how little attention it has received! It does not reduce yields; it completely eliminates yields destroying propagation materials too," warns Dr Simon Eden-Green, a consultant with the FAO. "We need to be more pro-active in raising awareness on the urgency for policy-makers to act and safeguard the region's food security."

 

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics

mes25@cornell.edu

 

Source: IITA:

http://www.iita.org/cms/details/news_details.aspx?articleid=2735&zoneid=81

 

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1.37  Editing the plant genome

 

13 September 2009

Wageningen, The Netherlands

Manipulating plant genes with surgical precision, long the dream of breeders, has now come closer to realisation thanks to zinc finger nucleases. This intelligent enzyme allows pieces of genetic material to be removed, improved, added or neutralised. The new technique is faster, more accurate and useful in a wider range of applications than existing methods.

 

More nutritional or toxin-repellent cassava or gluten-free wheat fit for consumption by coeliac disease patients – zinc finger nucleases are the key to such improvements. These enzymes can be used to cut open a specific part of the DNA molecule; if the cell is then simultaneously provided with a different template with which to repair the DNA, a change is induced in the DNA molecule. This method makes it possible to remove, add or replace single base pairs as opposed to neutralising entire genes and replacing them with new ones. “Gluten genes that cause allergic reactions in coeliac patients, for instance, appear in a regular sequence,” explains René Smulders, group leader at the Wageningen UR Plant Breeding. “Zinc finger nucleases allow single pairs in such a genetic string to be replaced by a non-toxic variant.”

 

The promising technique cleverly combines the qualities of zinc fingers and nucleases. Zinc fingers are protein pieces held together by a zinc molecule. Each one is capable of recognising a specific piece of DNA and binding to it. Nucleases, on the other hand, have the unusual capacity to cut through a double-stranded DNA molecule. These two properties together ensure that a very specific spot in the genome can be selected for a break. The repair mechanism of the cell is then offered a different template to repair the break, thereby simulating a process of homologous recombination. If a cell receives a template that is missing a particular base pair, it will repair this gap. If the template includes a new element, the repair mechanism will insert this element into the molecule.

 

Inserting or neutralising genes in plants and animals is still a very difficult and inefficient process due to the high number of duplications and replications of genes within their genome. “Zinc finger nucleases allow this process to be made more efficient,” underlines professor of phytopathology Pierre de Wit of Wageningen University. “This is why this is such a crucial discovery. Even in moulds, where genes can usually be quite easily neutralised and inserted via homologous recombination, the deployment of zinc finger nucleases provides increased precision.“

This spring, the journal Nature published the first results of experiments with zinc finger nucleases on tobacco and maize; the technology has also already been applied to the model organism thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana). Ingrid van der Meer, head of the Bioscience Business Unit of Plant Research International, already sees numerous possibilities for applying this technique to potatoes: “We already know which gene is responsible for lysine generation, for instance. Causing a small mutation in this gene can increase the production of lysine, increasing the nutritive value of potatoes.”

 

The question of disease resistance in potatoes is another example of an issue where a few amino acids make all the difference. “To cross-breed resistance genes from wild Peruvian potatoes into Dutch choice breeds would easily take 20 years,” Van der Meer explains. “Using zinc finger nucleases can speed up the process enormously, and has the added advantage of being more precise than cisgenesis, i.e. the transfer of genes between closely related organisms.”

 

The technique may also represent a boost for research into resistance to apple scab. “There is an apple scab resistance gene in wild varieties which is similar to certain genes in varieties that are susceptible to the disease,” says Frans Krens, head of the Wageningen UR Plant Breeding expertise group. “We do not know why one variant results in resistance and the other one not. Nonetheless, zinc finger nucleases allow a susceptible variety of plant to be made resistant, protecting the apple trees against the disease. This is done by simply replacing a base pair within an already present gene – changing a G to a C, say.”

 

According to Krens, this precision targeting capability also invalidates objections to genetic manipulation. “No genes are removed or added – we simply mimic gene shapes that occur naturally,” he clarifies. “This will blur the boundary between mutagenesis and genetic modification,“ Smulders adds. “We will soon be able to change a gene without leaving a trace.”

 

COGEM, the scientific counselling body which advises the government on the risks of genetic modification to humans and the environment has also remarked on the biotechnological development. The committee is still debating whether the use of zinc finger nucleases in protein form should fall under the rules for genetically modified organisms. The question has been raised because the technique resembles chemical mutagenesis, a process which causes random mutations throughout the genome but has not been covered by the rules for years.

 

As with any new development, many questions still need answering. “The precision of the zinc finger nucleases can also be a problem,“ De Wit points out. “They can cut and bind to DNA in several places.” Apple expert Krens wonders what would happen should you need to change not one but 23 base pairs, say, in a gene consisting of between 1500 and 2000 base pairs. “Can this be done all at once or should there be a gradual sequence, and if so, which pair goes first?” As the development proceeds, however, most of these issues will doubtless eventually be solved.

 

In the meantime, PRI has been in tentative talks with two providers of techniques that deploy targeted cutting zinc finger nucleases. Smulders has no problem with the fact that the technology is covered by patents: “We gain time and money by letting someone else work out which precise zinc finger nuclease are ideal for our purposes.” PRI already has sufficient expertise to apply the technology to plants in-house, and can provide other scientific insights. Furthermore, the institute is primarily interested in applications that improve plants qualitatively, by increasing their nutritious value or making them resistant to diseases and unfavourable conditions such as excessive or insufficient salt or water in the environment.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=10333&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: Source: Newsletter Plant Sciences Group September 2009 via SeedQuest.com

 

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1.38  DNA barcoding study in plants starts at the Institute of Botany in Kunming, China

 

Kunming, China

9 September 2009

Researchers in Kunming Institute of Botany, CAS start a "DNA Barcoding Study in Plants" with a gross investment of 15 million RMB in Kunming recently.

 

DNA barcoding is being rapidly accepted in the scientific literature and popular press. The goal of the research is to find a simple, cheap, and rapid DNA assay that can be converted to a readily accessible technical skill that bypasses the need to rely on highly trained taxonomic specialists for identifications of the world's biota.

 

DNA Barcoding will help boost our capability in monitoring, understanding and utilizing of biodiversity. The technology has extensive research and application prospect in life sciences, medical jurisprudence, epidemiology, medicine research & production and food quality control.

 

More news from: Chinese Academy of Sciences

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=10250&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.39  Research teams at the RIKEN Plant Science Center discover gene controlling plant cell growth

 

Yokohama, Japan

4 September 2009

Understanding how plant cells grow and develop is essential to achieving increases in the size and yield of crops, one of the fundamental goals of plant science research. While mechanisms governing plant cell growth are known to exist, the genetic origins of such mechanisms have remained unclear.

 

With their latest discovery, published in the journal The Plant Cell, research teams at the RIKEN Plant Science Center have marked a major step toward clarifying these origins. The research teams studied mutants of the Arabidopsi leaf trichome, a specialized epidermal cell that forms a small hair-like outgrowth on plants. Unlike earlier studies, the teams focused on later stages in the trichome developmental process, which are accompanied by rapid cell growth and branching.

 

In their experiments, the researchers discovered that by disrupting the gene encoding a novel protein, GTL1, trichome cells could be induced to grow to twice their normal size, indicating that GTL1 represses cell growth. By measuring the amount of nuclear DNA in young trichomes, they further determined that GTL1, unlike previously-identified growth regulators, functions to suppress DNA reduplication and cell growth entirely at the very last stage of development.

 

GTL1 is the first transcription factor to have been found to actively down-regulate the growth of plant cells. Its discovery constitutes a key step toward understanding the mechanisms of plant cell growth, offering new directions for research and promising further advances in agricultural production.

 

More news from: RIKEN Plant Science Center

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=10172&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.40  KeyGene establishes Crop Genome Center

 

Wageningen, The Netherlands

3 September 2009

 

Keygene N.V. announces the establishment of a Crop Genome Center. The Crop Genome Center focuses on the development of high quality genome assemblies of (so called) 6F crops: plants that produce Food, Feed, Fiber, Flowers, Fuel and Fun products. The genomes of the world top 25 crops reflect a tremendous amount of diversity with respect to genome size and organization, ploidy levels, level of sequence repetitiveness and repeat structures. Special expertise and innovative sequencing and assembly strategies are required to elucidate the genome structure of these complex genomes. KeyGene’s up to date R&D facilities with next generation sequencing platforms, an extensive computational infrastructure, the availability of a large bioinformatics group and long experience in working with plant genomes form the firm basis of the Crop Genome Center.

 

The Crop Genome Center has generated genome sequence assemblies of several economically important vegetable and ornamental genomes, including melon, cucumber, cabbages, tomato and petunia.

 

Furthermore, a number of notoriously difficult field crop genomes of large size and with complex repeat structures are also determined, such as potato, tobacco and Brassica napus. The completion of these and other genomes brings the Genome Center deep understanding of genome synthenies that enables KeyGene to provide innovative products to its strategic partners and customers that other general genome centers can’t offer.

 

Besides generating cost effective Whole Genome Sequences (WGS), using a combination of proprietary approaches utilizing Illumina GAII and Roche 454 sequencing platforms, KeyGene also deploys its proprietary next generation sequencing technologies. These technologies include Whole Genome Profiling™ (WGP) for the construction of high quality sequence based physical maps, KeyPoint™ for large scale re-sequencing of target genes in the 6F crops for mutation and polymorphism detection and CRoPS® for large scale SNP identification and detection.

 

Antoine Janssen, Head of the Sequencing Applications Group: “The availability of state of the art high throughput sequencing and genome assembly capabilities is essential for our Crop Genome Center. The recent expansion of our ICT infrastructure allowed us to quadruple our supercomputer capacity to over 200 Terabytes. With these state of the art facilities and our track record on complex crop genomes we are able to generate superior genome assemblies and explore them cost effectively and with very short delivery times”.

 

Mark van Haaren, Vice President Business Development adds: ”The success generated with the genome sequence assemblies that we delivered to our partners and customers based on the combination of WGP and WGS attracts a lot of attention and requests. We have already seen many downstream applications based on our genome assemblies. We expect this impact to increase due to the further development of our Crop Genome Center which will result in a more valuable use of our genomic crop databases for world wide partners and customers in the seed industry.”

 

More news from: Keygene NV

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=10130&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.41  Breeding rust-resistant wheat with DNA technology

 

Australia

September 2009

CSIRO scientists are breeding new varieties of disease-resistant wheat in an effort to improve crop yields and avert a potential food supply crisis.

 

In recent years the growth in demand for staple food crops such as wheat, rice and corn has outstripped the growth in supply, causing worldwide concerns about food security.

 

Population growth, climate change and increased production of biofuels are recognised as key drivers behind an emerging food supply crisis.

 

Compounding this problem are four wheat diseases – stem rust, leaf rust, stripe rust and powdery mildew – which are threatening worldwide crop yields and grain quality.

 

Australia's crops have been mostly well protected for the past 60 years by breeding rust-resistant varieties, which carry sets of genes called rust resistance genes.

 

If not for current measures, such as rust-resistant wheat varieties, the magnitude of potential loss could be in excess of A$900 million.

 

Rust pathogens, however, are very adaptable and can rapidly evolve into new strains that can infect previously rust-resistant plants. For example, in 2002 a new virulent strain of the stripe rust pathogen appeared in Australia and has continued to cause serious annual crop losses ever since.

 

It is a constant battle for wheat breeders to try to develop new cereal varieties with effective and long-lasting rust resistance.

 

CSIRO's rust resistance research team, headed by plant molecular biologist Dr Jeff Ellis, is part of the Australian Cereal Rust Control Program that is always on the lookout for more effective ways to breed new rust-resistant cereal varieties.

 

'It is vital that we continue to develop more effective controls to combat all four rust diseases to minimise their broader economic and social impacts,' says Dr Ellis.

 

Gene-based crop disease and pest control is highly desirable in plants as it is more environmentally friendly and profitable than alternative solutions like spraying pesticides.

 

The team is also part of an international fight to control the stem rust strain Ug99 that evolved in Africa and is spreading into Asia, posing a significant threat to worldwide wheat production.

 

DNA markers for breeding

When developing new plant varieties, plant breeders must combine the most desirable sets of genes and associated traits of two parents into a single new plant variety.

 

Breeding new resistant crop varieties is often hindered by the slow process of identifying and selecting for resistance genes during the breeding process that produces new and improved varieties. 

 

This process can be sped up through the use of a gene technology tool called DNA marker-assisted breeding.

 

DNA markers clearly and simply tag the presence of important genes and allow breeders to quickly and accurately identify whether rust resistance genes are present in a plant's DNA.

 

This can save time because it reduces the need for breeders to expose plants to rust strains to assess performance. It also allows simultaneous selection to be applied for multiple different resistance genes during the complex breeding process.

 

Dr Ellis said CSIRO had identified DNA markers for important stem rust and stripe rust resistance genes that will allow more effective breeding for rust resistance, and had also identified genes used by rust fungi for causing disease.

 

Cloning rust resistance genes

Dr Ellis's team is now working towards cloning rust resistance genes and incorporating them directly into wheat as part of the Grains Research and Development Corporation's Triple Rust Initiative.

 

Recently team members Dr Evans Lagudah and Dr Wolfgang Spielmeyer, together with collaborators in Switzerland and Mexico have cloned an important wheat rust resistance gene called Lr34 that provides durable resistance to leaf and stripe rust and powdery mildew.

 

In addition to conventional breeding with DNA markers, the team also aims to 'stack' multiple cloned resistance genes into wheat as a 'disease control cassette', producing genetically modified (GM) wheat varieties with a solid resistance to all three rust types.

 

Stacking genes is beneficial for improving the plant's immune response by having more than one line of defence against different strains of rust.

 

GM technology enables those genes to be stacked together on a single DNA molecule, or 'cassette', which stays intact in subsequent breeding and are the key to durability of rust resistance in wheat.

 

'The genes will get transmitted through the breeding process together as a unit rather than fall apart as the conventionally bred gene stack does when breeders make new crosses,' Dr Ellis says.

 

'It offers a way of making the breeding process simpler and rust resistance more long lasting.'

 

Once several resistance genes are introduced into a wheat breeding line, CSIRO and partners will do further quality and food safety testing.

 

If this is successful, CSIRO plans to deliver new super-resistant wheat germplasm to Australian wheat breeders for the development of new rust-resistant varieties for farmers.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=10461&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.42 Novel Gene Promises Durable Resistance Against the Dreaded Rice Blast

 

28 August 2009

Rice is life for more than half of the world's  population. It is the second most widely grown  cereal in the world, next to wheat. The crop was planted in more than 155 million hectares in  2008. Around 2.5 billion people in Asia, mostly from developing countries such as India, China, Indonesia and Bangladesh, obtain more than 70 percent of their caloric intake from rice and its derived products. In addition, more than a billion households in Asia, Africa and America, depend on rice for their main source of livelihood.

 

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), diseases, insects and weeds are responsible for yield losses of up to 30 percent. The blast disease is one of the most serious and widespread diseases of rice. Caused by the fungus Magnaporthe oryzae, the disease is capable of wiping out entire rice fields. Most rice cultivars are susceptible to the rice blast.  M. oryzae is no easy target. Numerous researchers have identified genes that provide resistance against blast. But the pathogen can easily evolve resistance against these genes. What's more, rice cultivars equipped with these genes are usually inferior in terms of agronomic performance.

 

Recently, a team of Japanese re! searchers led by Shuichi Fukuoka identified a novel gene that promises longer lasting resistance against the blast-causing fungus. The gene, pi21, encodes a proline-rich protein with putative heavy metal-binding domain and putative protein-protein interaction motifs. It was traced to a Quantitative Trait Locus (QTL) in a blast resistant rice cultivar that has long been grown in Japan. The cultivar, however, is unpopular because it produces lower quality rice.

 

Continue reading the article http://www.isaaa.org/kc/cropbiotechupdate/researchfeatures/default.html#

 

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics

mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.43  Scientists Identify Witchweed Resistance Gene

 

28 August 2009

Researchers from the University of Virginia in the U.S. have successfully identified a gene in cowpea that confers resistance to the parasitic weed Striga. Also known as witchweed, Striga infests some 50 million hectares of cereal crops and is responsible for more than USD 7 billion worth of crop damage every year in Africa. Underground witchweed parts connect to crop roots and feed on them, reducing yield dramatically and sometimes even destroying entire fields. Striga attacks numerous crops, including cowpea, a major food and forage legume in the Sahel of West and Central Africa. Controlling the parasitic weed through conventional techniques is a challenge. Striga is known to produce thousands of seeds that can stay dormant in the soil for years.

 

The Striga resistance gene, RSG3-301, encodes a protein localized in the peripheral plasma membrane that serves as a guard molecu! le against Striga attachment and penetration. Silencing this gene in resistant varieties resulted to susceptibility to Striga attacks. Cowpea plants incapable of expressing RSG3-301 "failed to mount a resistance response when challenged with a particular Striga race and allowed the weed to penetrate the endodermis and to establish xylem-xylem connections with the host vascular system," the scientists wrote in a paper published by Science.

 

There are at least seven Striga races, each with the capability of adapting to different cowpea varieties. The researchers are now trying to develop cowpea plants that are resistant "across the board."

 

The paper is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1174754

For more information, read

http://www.virginia.edu/uvato!

 

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics

mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.44  Scientists Identify Protein Family that Helps Maintain Genome Stability

 

11 September 2009

Researchers from the University of Montreal in Canada led by Normand Brisson have identified a family of protein that protects the genome from harmful mutations. Called the whirlies, because of their peculiar structure similar to a whirligig, the protein family was shown by Brisson to be key in preventing major rearrangements of genes that could result in the creation of multiple gene copies. These proteins are involved in a variety of phenomena, including pathogen defense.

 

The University of Montreal researchers studied the role whirlies play in keeping the stability of the plastid genome in Arabidopsis. Results of their study appear in a paper published by PNAS. They found that whirly proteins bind single stranded DNA molecules and function as antirecombination proteins, contributing to safeguard plastid genome integrity. Silencing of genes that code for the whirly proteins resulted to plants with variegated green-white leaves, symptomatic of ! nonfunctional chloroplasts.

 

Whirlies do not only protect the genome from dangerous alterations, it could also allow some useful mutations to occur, the researchers found. "Such mutations played an important role in the evolution of plants with high nutritional value, resistance to disease and harsh climate that are so important to modern agriculture," said Brisson. "Our results open new research avenues for the study of similar mechanisms of gene repair in humans that might be important for human evolution, our responses to stress and the prevention of devastating diseases."

 

The paper published by PNAS is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0901710106

For more information, read http://www.nouvelles.umontreal.ca/udem-news/press-releases/evolution-coup-study-reveals-h!

 

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics

mes25@cornell.edu

 

Source: Crop Biotech Update

 

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1.45  Unraveling the Potato Genome

 

25 September 2009

CIP is pleased to announce the release of the first draft sequence of the potato genome.  CIP scientists worked alongside scientists from 14 different countries as part of the Potato Genome Sequencing Consortium to develop this first "blueprint" of how the potato works. Access to the potato genome sequence provides multiple benefits and potential advances. It gives scientists access to information that can help improve potato yields, quality, nutritional value, and disease resistance. It also holds the promise of shortening the time it takes (currently 10-12 years) to breed new varieties of potatoes to respond more quickly to changing needs or conditions.Releasing the draft sequence to the public allows for exponential gains in its development and utility, as more scientists and researchers access, use, and help refine the sequence.

 

This first draft genome assembly is now available in the public domain at www.potatogenome.net

 

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Dept. of Plant Breeding & Genetics

mes25@cornell.edu

 

Source: CIP

 

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1.46  When you've doubled your genes, what's 1 chromosome more or less?

 

New insights gained into how polyploidy and genomic change can lead to evolutionary change and plants' fitness and vigor

 

14 September 2009

An individual with Down syndrome and a male calico cat have one thing in common—each has an extra chromosome. For animals, most instances of an extra chromosome result in birth defects or even death, but plants are another matter entirely. Many plants are able to survive the presence of an extra copy of their entire genome (known as polyploidy) and are often even more vigorous as a result. For plants, the process of polyploidy often results in a new species, making it an important mechanism in evolution. In fact, over 80% of plants may be a product of polyploidy.

 

However, this extra set of chromosomes can sometimes cause confusion during meiosis, the process by which sets of chromosomes are divided up to produce egg and sperm cells, with half the number of chromosomes present in a mature plant. Many recent studies have examined the effects of polyploidy on meiosis. A recent study by Drs. Andreas Madlung, Kirsten Wright, and J. Chris Pires, published in the September issue of the American Journal of Botany (www.amjbot.org/cgi/content/full/96/9/1656), examines the effects of polyploidy on a more common type of cell division, mitosis—the process of cell division that results in daughter cells that are identical to the parent cell—which allows the plant to grow and develop.

 

"We had been working on genomic responses to allopolyploidy for many years in newly formed allopolyploids and had noticed some instabilities during meiosis and gamete formation in newly formed allopolyploids," Madlung said. "The commonly held belief is that in established allopolyploids, incompatibilities of the two parental genomes somehow are reconciled during the evolution of the allopolyploid species but there is only relatively little data in the literature that supports this notion.

 

"Our work shows that even established polyploids can harbor considerable genomic instabilities, but interestingly this is not always the case either, as the different responses in different sibling lines show."

 

Madlung and colleagues studied whether mitosis proceeds normally in newly formed polyploids and whether there are differences between mitosis in newly formed polyploids and polyploids that were established long ago. They examined a species of rock cress, Arabidopsis suecica, a polyploid with 26 chromosomes that is both found in nature and can also be resynthesized in the laboratory. Arabidopsis suecica was formed from the hybridization of a tetraploid accession of Arabidopsis thaliana, a species with 20 chromosomes, and the tetraploid Arabidopsis arenosa, a species with 32 chromosomes.

 

Madlung and colleagues found that a small number of cells in both natural and in one of two newly formed A. suecica had either extra chromosomes or were missing chromosomes. Interestingly, in examinations of the progenitor species of A. suecica, Madlung and colleagues found many cells with differing numbers of chromosomes in A. arenosa; however, most cells in individuals of both diploid and tetraploid A. thaliana had the expected 10 or 20 chromosomes, respectively. In individuals with unexpected chromosome numbers, the numbers varied between cells like in a mosaic, suggesting that these changes are not stable.

 

"Maybe the most interesting result to me is the fact that plant cells can sustain a large amount of aneuploidy in their tissue without detrimental phenotypic consequences," Madlung said. "We were also surprised to notice that the tissue we looked at consisted of a mosaic of different types of aneuploid and euploid cells. The fact that the plants were quite fertile indicates that possibly the euploid cells contribute the majority of cells to what later becomes the gametes."

 

These results suggest that slight changes in chromosome number in an individual's non-sex cells are tolerated but are not fixed, providing new insights into how polyploidy and genomic change can lead to evolutionary change and possibly ultimately affect plants' fitness and vigor.

 

Contact: Richard Hund

rhund@botany.org

American Journal of Botany

 

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-09/ajob-wyd091409.php

 

Source: Eurekalert.org

 

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2  PUBLICATIONS

 

2.01  Hybrid: The History and Science of Plant Breeding

 

by Noel Kingsbury

Published by The University of Chicago Press

 

Disheartened by the shrink-wrapped, Styrofoam-packed state of contemporary supermarket fruits and vegetables, many shoppers hark back to a more innocent time, to visions of succulent red tomatoes plucked straight from the vine, gleaming orange carrots pulled from loamy brown soil, swirling heads of green lettuce basking in the sun.

 

With Hybrid, Noel Kingsbury reveals that even those imaginary perfect foods are themselves far from anything that could properly be called natural; rather, they represent the end of a millennia-long history of selective breeding and hybridization. Starting his story at the birth of agriculture, Kingsbury traces the history of human attempts to make plants more reliable, productive, and nutritious—a story that owes as much to accident and error as to innovation and experiment. Drawing on historical and scientific accounts, as well as a rich trove of anecdotes, Kingsbury shows how scientists, amateur breeders, and countless anonymous farmers and gardeners slowly caused the evolutionary pressures of nature to be supplanted by those of human needs—and thus led us from sparse wild grasses to succulent corn cobs, and from mealy, white wild carrots to the juicy vegetables we enjoy today. At the same time, Kingsbury reminds us that contemporary controversies over the Green Revolution and genetically modified crops are not new; plant breeding has always had a political dimension.

 

A powerful reminder of the complicated and ever-evolving relationship between humans and the natural world, Hybrid will give readers a thoughtful new perspective on—and a renewed appreciation of—the cereal crops, vegetables, fruits, and flowers that are central to our way of life

 

http://www.seedquest.com/forum/bookexcerpts/hybrid/default.htm

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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2.02  "GM Crops", first international peer-reviewed journal of its kind

 

18 September 2009

In July 2009, GM Crops, the first international peer-reviewed journal of its kind will be launched to focus exclusively on genetically modified crops. Genetic engineering techniques and applications have developed rapidly since the introduction of the first genetically modified plants in the 1980s. There has been a rapid increase in GM crop R&D by academia, government and industry around the world. GM crops are useful to consumers, farmers and the environment and are growing in popularity worldwide.

 

GM crops are needed to tackle the food needs of a growing population. Crops with improved agronomic characteristics can provide protection against many of the biotic stresses caused by weeds, pests, and diseases currently experienced in developing countries. Also, GM crop R&D is focused on the development of more complex traits, such as drought resistance and the development of foods with enhanced nutritional value which may provide a low-cost way of dealing with widespread malnutrition problems.

 

Because GM crops can address key challenges in the food and agricultural sector, it is expected that the number of GM crops ready for commercial release in many countries will expand considerably over the next few years. Genetic modification is a tool integrated into a wider research agenda, where public and privatscience can balance each other. Scientists in both the public and private sectors regard the GM process as a major new set of tools to improve crop traits, while industry regards it as an opportunity for increased profits. Genetically modified crop varieties allegedly provide farmers with various agronomic benefits, but serious environmental, health and ethical concerns also are being raised.

 

All of these issues will be addressed in GM Crops, through original research, timely reviews and commentaries. 

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=10417&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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2.03  The Case for Biotech Wheat

 

New U.S. industry paper says biotech will help ensure adequate wheat supplies

 

17 September 2009

Washington, DC

Biotechnology has the potential to help reverse the loss of wheat acres in the United States and help ensure there will be adequate supplies to feed a hungry world. That is the conclusion of a new wheat industry analysis released today.

 

The eight-page paper outlines the competitiveness problem facing global wheat production and the wheat industry itself, which is increasingly vulnerable to short-term supply shocks and a long-term cycle of decline. The paper explains why this matters for the entire food chain - wheat growers, wheat users at home and abroad, and consumers in the industrialized and developing worlds.

 

Organizations collaborating on the paper included the National Association of Wheat Growers, U.S. Wheat Associates, the North American Millers’ Association, the Independent Bakers Association and the Wheat Foods Council.

 

The analysis emphasizes that there is no silver bullet to the competitiveness problem. However, it concludes that the rapid adoption of biotechnology traits in other crops produced around the world and grower testimonials in support of these traits lend credence to the idea that biotechnology can make a significant contribution.

 

The authors also devote significant space to their commitment to choice for consumers who wish to procure non-GM wheat and wheat products and for producers who choose to meet this demand.

 

Globally, more than two billion acres of biotech crops have been safely grown, though there is no commercial production of genetically modified wheat anywhere in the world.

 

Wheat acres have been declining in the U.S. for three decades, and yield growth and net returns per acre for wheat have consistently lagged behind corn and soybeans over the past decade.

 

The industry first sought to formally address this problem in a 2006 paper entitled “Addressing the Competitiveness Crisis in Wheat” and at a series of Wheat Summit meetings that followed. Many industry organizations are now supporting a goal of the National Association of Wheat Growers to increase national average wheat yields 20 percent from 2008 to 2018 through work on both biotechnology and non-biotechnology efforts.

 

The Case for Biotech Wheat

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=10416&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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2.04  Biotechnology and Agricultural Development

 

Transgenic Cotton, Rural Institutions and Resource-poor Farmers

Edited by Rob Tripp

 

This book addresses the continuing controversy over the potential impact of genetically modified (GM) crops in developing countries. Supporters of the technology claim it offers one of the best hopes for increasing agricultural production and reducing rural poverty, while opponents see it as an untested intervention that will bring corporate control of peasant farming. The book examines the issues by reviewing the experiences of GM, insect-resistant cotton, the most widely grown GM crop in developing countries.

 

May 2009: 280pp / HB: 978-0-415-49963-7:£85.00 £68.00 / PB: 978-0-415-54384-2: :£23.99.00 £ 19.00

 

The book begins with an introduction to agricultural biotechnology, a brief examination of the history of cotton production

 

technology (and the institutions required to support that technology), and a thorough review of the literature on the agronomic performance of GM cotton. It then provides a review of the economic and institutional outcomes of GM cotton during the first decade of its use. The core of the book is four country case studies based on original fieldwork in the principal developing countries growing GM cotton (China, India, South Africa and Colombia). The book concludes with a summary of the experience to date and implications for the future of GM crops in developing countries. This review challenges those who have predicted technological failure by describing instances in which GM cotton has proven useful and has been enthusiastically taken up by smallholders. But it also challenges those who claim that biotechnology can take the lead in agricultural development by examining the precarious institutional basis on which these hopes rest in most countries. The analysis shows how biotechnology’s potential contribution to agricultural development must be seen as a part of (and often secondary to) more fundamental policy change. The book should be of interest to a wide audience concerned with agricultural development. This would include academics in the social and agricultural sciences, donor agencies and NGOs.

 

Contents:

1. Biotechnology and Agricultural Development Robert Tripp

2. Cotton Production and Technology Robert Tripp

3. Development, Agronomic Performance and Sustainability of Transgenic Cotton for Insect Control Ann M. Showalter, Shannon Heuberger, Bruce E. Tabashnik, and Yves Carrière

4. Transgenic Cotton. Assessing Economic Performance in the Field Robert Tripp

5. Transgenic Cotton and Institutional Performance Robert Tripp

6. Farmers’ Seed and Pest Control Management for Bt Cotton in China Jikun Huang, Ruijian Chen, Jianwei Mi, Ruifa Hu, and Ellie Osir

7. India’s Experience with Bt Cotton: Case Studies from Gujarat and Maharashtra N. Lalitha, Bharat Ramaswami, and P.K. Viswanathan

8. The Socioeconomic Impact of Transgenic Cotton in Colombia Patricia Zambrano, Luz Amparo Fonseca, Iván Cardona and Eduardo Magalhaes

9. Ten years of Bt cotton in South Africa: Putting the smallholder experience into context Marnus Gouse

10. Summary and Conclusions Robert Tripp

 

For more details please contact: Gemma.Walker@tandf.co.uk

 

Contributed by Robert Tripp

rtrobtripp@googlemail.com

 

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2.05  Biotech Crops in Africa: The Final Frontier

 

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech applications (ISAAA) AfriCenter based in Nairobi, Kenya has just released  Biotech Crops in Africa -The Final Frontier. The booklet captures some key developments in agricultural biotechnology in Africa. Contrary to the strongly held belief that the continent is not ready to embrace new technologies, much has been accomplished in agricultural biotechnology. The document narrates notable scientific breakthroughs, political support, policy formulation, capacity building and awareness creation on agricultural biotechnology in the continent. It highlights activities in three African countries (South Africa, Burkina Faso and Egypt) that have commercialized biotech crops and are now experiencing socio economic benefits as well as improved environmental conservation.

 

Download a copy of the booklet at http://www.isaaa.org/Resources/publications/downloads/Biotech_Crops_in_Africa-The_Final_Frontier.pdf

Order your printed copy to Dr. Margaret Karembu, ISAAA AfriCenter at: m.karembu@isaaa.org  

 

Contributed by Bhagirath Choudhary

b.choudhary@cgiar.org

 

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2.06  Voices of Change: Stories of Stakeholders in Crop Biotech

 

Stakeholders or the so-called attentive publics are critically involved in framing the debate, shaping policy, influencing public opinion, and creating greater awareness and understanding of crop biotechnology. Together these stakeholders- farmers, media practitioners, policy makers, scientists, academics, religious leaders, industry sector representatives, students and other partners, determine the direction and depth of the biotech debate, and ultimately the acceptance, adoption, and sustainability of technology.

 

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) has released Voices of Change, a synthesis of Brief 40 on Communicating Crop Biotechnology: Stories from Stakeholders.  It highlights how different audiences respond to science communication efforts, thus building a collective voice on crop biotechnology.

 

"VOICES OF CHANGE" available at: http://www.isaaa.org/kc/inforesources/publications/voicesofchange/brief-40-brochure-web.pdf

 

For hard copy please get in touch with ISAAA Knowledge Center at: knowledge.center@isaaa.org

 

Contributed by Bhagirath Choudhary

b.choudhary@cgiar.org

 

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3.  WEB RESOURCES

 

3.01  Keynote addresses from the 14th Australasian Plant Breeding and 11th SABRAO Conference, Cairns, Queensland, Australia

 

Keynote addresses from the 14th Australasian Plant Breeding and 11th SABRAO Conference, Cairns, Queensland, Australia, 10-14 August 2009 are available as PDF files (converted from PowerPoint presentations) on the GIPB website http://km.fao.org/gipb/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=156&Itemid=409

 

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3.02  GIPB announces the launch of PBForum-L

 

GIPB is pleased to announce the launch of the Plant Breeding Forum listserv, an e-mail based forum for plant breeding and related fields. The purpose of PBForum-L is to create a means for plant breeders and those in related fields to interact easily on a regular and informal basis, with inquiry, discussion and debate. PBForum-L complements PBN-L (Plant Breeding News, a monthly e-newsletter) and the global forum feature of the GIPB website.

 

Who will benefit by subscribing?

The users of PBForum-L should include public and private-sector plant breeders, students, teachers, research administrators, the seed industry, policy-makers, farmers, and others.

 

Some of the ways you can use the forum:

•    Pose a question

•    Ask for advice about your research

•    Request collaboration in a project

•    Comment or seek input on an issue of broad relevance to the plant breeding community

•    Suggest ways to support the positive outcomes from plant breeding

•    Make known to subscribers your willingness to provide input and support in an area of expertise

 

In order to participate you will need to subscribe:

1.    Address an e-mail to: mailserv@mailserv.fao.org.

2.    Leave the subject line blank.

3.    In the message area, type: SUBSCRIBE PBForum-L

4.    You can unsubscribe at any time

You will receive a confirmation message of your subscription, and details on how the listserv works.

 

PBForum-L is a moderated listserv:

The moderator will check each message prior to distribution, to prevent issues like spamming, flaming or other inappropriate postings. You will not need a username or a password. However, the moderator will require that each message include the name of the sender. These measures will make the listserv very user-friendly, and keep it relevant and free of distractions for subscribers. The forum structure and function will evolve based on user inputs and needs.

 

In order to post a message:

1.    Address it to PBForum-L@mailserv.fao.org

2.    Write a short descriptive subject line

3.    State the specific purpose of your posting. Type a brief and clear question or comment.

4.    Include your name in the post.

 NOTE: You can post items in the language of your choice. However, there will be no translation.

 

To respond to someone else’s posting: simply use the reply function of your e-mail.

 

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4.  GRANTS AVAILABLE

 

4.01  Graduate Assistantship, offered in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University

 

The Monsanto Graduate Assistantship, offered in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University, supports outstanding students pursuing a doctoral degree in applied plant breeding and genetic improvement of crops. In addition, Monsanto supports one assistantship in cotton production.

 

A total of 14 assistantships—each providing a $24,000 annual salary, individual health insurance, and funds for all required fees and tuition—will be awarded to both U.S. and international students.

 

Requirements:

• Earn a minimum 3.5 grade point average in all master’s level graduate course work

• Demonstrate an aptitude for research

• Provide three letters of recommendation from professors or employers with knowledge of applicants research and academic abilities

• Successfully complete the Graduate Record Examination (GRE)

• Successfully meet all other requirements for admission to graduate studies at Texas A&M University

 

Application Procedure:

Applicants should follow all of the guidelines and procedures to apply for graduate studies in a department offering a plant breeding degree at Texas A&M University at College Station. On-line application to graduate studies at Texas A&M University can be found at http://admissions.tamu.edu.

Additional items to be provided by the applicant are:

• A statement providing sufficient background information to demonstrate the student’s aptitude to conduct plant breeding or cotton production research

• Identification of the area of plant breeding research to be

pursued and its importance to the agricultural industry

• A one- to two-page letter of support from the department sponsor or major professor which includes a dissertation title and objectives

 

Students applying to the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences must send these additional items to the attention of Wayne Smith, Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, 2474 Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas 77843-2474, cwsmith@tamu.edu

 

Students applying to the Department of Horticultural Sciences must send the additional items to the attention of David Byrne, Department of Horticultural Sciences, 2133 Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas 77843-2133 (d-byrne@tamu.edu).

 

Selection Procedure:

Applications will be reviewed by an interdepartmental committee that includes faculty members from the departments of Horticultural Sciences, Soil and Crop Sciences, Entomology, and Plant Pathology and Microbiology, along with the associate dean for graduate programs.

 

Preference will be given first to candidates who have earned a master of science degree outside Texas A&M. Second preference will be given to those who have earned a master of science degree from the university but earned an undergraduate degree elsewhere. Candidates who have earned both bachelor and master of science degrees from the university are not eligible for this assistantship.

 

Additional Information:

The award is for a maximum of three years plus one academic semester. Students must maintain satisfactory research progress and meet all other Texas A&M University enrollment requirements.

 

If an Experiential Learning Assignment with Monsanto is requested by Monsanto, the student will remain enrolled at Texas A&M University and on the Monsanto Assistantship with additional salary from Monsanto to help cover costs. The Monsanto Assistantship will be extended to cover the length of the Experiential Learning Opportunity.

 

Contributed by C. Wayne Smith

Professor and Associate Head

Department of Soil and Crop Sciences

Texas A&M University

cwsmith@tamu.edu

 

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5.  POSITION ANNOUNCEMENTS

 

5.01  Maize Breeding Lead (Senior or Principal) Scientist

 

Client: The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) - http://www.cimmyt.cgiar.org

Location: Nairobi, Kenya

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

 

The primary responsibilities will include:

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

 

We are seeking candidates with the following qualifications:

.       PhD in plant breeding or associated discipline.

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

.       Private sector experience desirable

.       Significant track record of scientific publications relevant to maize breeding

.       Experience in working in an international environment including developing countries

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Patrick Shields, Search Manager

Global Recruitment Specialists

501 Westport Avenue, Suite 285

Norwalk, Connecticut (CT) 06851 USA

Tel / Fax: 203-899-0499

E-mail: Shields@GlobalRecruitment.net

 

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5.02  Vacancy Announcement: Global Coordinator, Crops for the Future

 

Crops for the Future is a small international non-profit organization working to promote underutilized crops for the benefit of the poor and the environment. Its focus is the collection, synthesis and provision of information and knowledge about neglected and underutilized plant species and their current and potential roles in people's livelihoods and the environment. For more information on Crops for the Future, please visit www.cropsforthefuture.org.Crops for the Future evolved from the International Centre for Underutilised Crops (ICUC) and the Global Facilitation Unit for Underutilized Species (GFU) and is hosted by Bioversity International (www.bioversityinternational.org) at its Asia, Pacific and Oceania Regional Office in Serdang, Malaysia in a joint venture with the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus (www.nottingham.edu.my).

 

Crops for the Future is now seeking a well qualified candidate for the position of: Global Coordinator Based in Serdang, Malaysia the Global Coordinator will lead the development of Crops for the Future with responsibility for implementing the organization's strategy and overseeing the development and implementation of an agreed work programme. The coordinator will have day to day responsibility for management of the organization''s staff and finances and will oversee the implementation of Crops for the Future projects around the world. Working under the oversight of the Crops for the Future Board and in close collaboration with Bioversity International and University of Nottingham the Coordinator will lead a small Secretariat and have the following key responsibilities:

   

  • Develop a resource mobilization strategy and actively engage in fund raising and donor contacts to further develop Crops for the Future's work programme and resource base;   
  • Lead the development and implementation of an integrated monitoring impact and learning strategy for Crops for the Future;   
  • Support and oversee the implementation of specific Crops for the Future projects   
  • Actively engage in relevant professional fora (such as the International Society for Horticultural Sciences, the Global Horticulture Initiative, the Platform for Agrobiodiversity Research, the Global Forum for Agricultural Research and its regional and subregional organisations) and help coordinate underutilized crop-related matters, as appropriate;   
  • Continue where appropriate GFU's and ICUC's ongoing commitments, in particular the coordination of the project 'Coalition to Diversify Income from Underused Plants' (CoDI - www.codi-asia.net)   
  • Maintain and promote good collaborative relationships with the institutional partners of GFU and ICUC, and especially with Bioversity International and University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, and further develop new partnerships as appropriate;   
  • Engage in policy advocacy through participation in relevant fora and contacts to relevant decision makers, such as the UN Commission for Trade and Development, FAO-Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources, European Commission;   
  • Commission and supervise studies to increase the global knowledge base on underutilized crops, especially on their role in nutrition & health, climate change and income generation, and ensure results are published in appropriate outlets (peer-reviewed journals, conferences, popular press, etc.);   
  • Oversee the work of and provide leadership to staff of the Secretariat and to other consultants and staff working for Crops for the Future;   
  • Oversee the financial management of Crops for the Future   
  • Serve as Secretary to the Crops for the Future Board.

 

Essential qualifications and competencies:   

  • PhD degree in a relevant field or equivalent professional qualification; education and experience in international affairs relevant to underutilized crops (e.g., agriculture, post-harvest, economics/marketing, policy, development);   
  • At least 10 years of progressive experience in research and programme management; including professional experience in several developing countries through long-term engagements;   
  • Demonstrated competency in communication and interpersonal skills, including extensive ability to motivate, inspire and promote team-work through negotiation and consensus-building and experience in diverse teams and in cross-cultural settings;   
  • Demonstrated competency in managing people in multiple locations,   
  • Highly organized, good people manager who provides leadership and direction;   
  • Demonstrates a proactive, flexible and creative approach and good judgment in making strategic and management decisions;   
  • Demonstrates originality, innovation and tenacity in problem solving;   
  • Demonstrated track record of raising funds for large international programmes.   
  • Excellent English, both written and spoken and working knowledge of another international language; knowledge of other international languages is desirable   
  • Willing to engage in extensive foreign travel (30-40% time);

 

Terms and conditions: The appointee will be a staff member of Bioversity International. Bioversity International offers an attractive remuneration package including a competitive salary, non-contributory retirement plan, housing allowance, medical insurance and leave provisions. All benefits are denominated and paid in US Dollars. The initial contract will be for a period of three years subject to a probationary period of one year. Secondment arrangements would be acceptable.

 

Applications: A letter of application (responding to the required qualifications and competencies) and curriculum vitae in English, including date of birth, gender and nationality, with names and full contact details of at least three referees, including telephone, fax and email address, and two writing samples (maximum of five pages each) should be sent to Human Resources Office, Bioversity International, Via dei Tre Denari 472/a, 00057 Maccarese, Rome, fax (39) 06 6118341; or preferably online through the following link: Bioversity Employment Opportunities Webpage and by clicking 'Apply' or via email to: bioversityvacancy@cgiar.org

Closing date for applications: 18 October 2009

 

Please quote source of advertisement.

We are an equal opportunity employer and strive for staff diversity in gender and nationality.

All applications will be acknowledged, but only short listed candidates will be contacted

 

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6. MEETINGS, COURSES AND WORKSHOPS

 

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

 

Various Dates) University of NebraskaLincoln 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, cdickinson2@unl.edu.

 

Online courses for Fall 2009 and Spring 2010 include:

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.

Contact:

Cathy Dickinson

Admin. Associate

Department of Agronomy & Horticulture

University of Nebraska–Lincoln

279 Plant Sciences Hall

Lincoln, NE 68583

Voice: 402.472.1730

E-mail: cdickinson2@unl.edu

 

http://www.seedquest.com/News/releases/2009/july/26934.htm

 

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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: http://www.interdrought.org/. Previous Interdrought conferences at www.plantstress.com

 

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

 

information at http://www.icarda.cgiar.org/Announcement/2009/IntlConfrnc_FoodSecurity/FoodSecurityAndClimateChangeInDryAreas_2009.htm

 

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

12th ICRPMC-2009, Antalya (http://www.icrpmc2009.org and http://www.crpmb.org

 

(NEW) 14-15 October 2009. International Conference on the issue of seed laws and their impact on landraces, population and conservation varieties, The Farm Seed Opportunities (FSO) project, Marseille

 

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

 

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).

https://www.acsmeetings.org/

Division contact:  2009 Division Chair Ann Marie Thro,

athro@csrees.usda.gov

 

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)

 

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.

 

For more details, please contact: akato@cnia.inta.gov.ar, aescandon@cnia.inta.gov.ar, malderete@cnia.inta.gov.ar, mpdelatorre@cnia.inta.gov.ar

 

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. http://www.cipotato.info/

 

9-12 November 2009. OECD-GenomeAssociation-OZ09, The International Centre for Plant Breeding Education and Research (ICPBER), The University of Western Australia, Perth. www.oecd-genomeassociation-oz09.com

 

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: www.tdwg.org/conference2009

 

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

 

For details contact: Rajeev Varshney, r.k.varshney@cgiar.org).

 

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 www.saatgut-austria.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, z.bishaw@cgiar.org

 

(UPDATE) 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

 

Dates to remember:

Submission of abstracts: 15th October, 2009

E-mail: jobnerworkshop@yahoo.com

            jobnerworkshop@gmail.com

Submission of full length papers: 30th October 2009

 

Workshop web address– www.sknjobner.org  (to be updated soon)

 

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

Note the 5 November early registration deadline.

 

http://www.univie.ac.at/greenbreeding/

zudrell@mondial-congress.com

                                                                                   

(NEW) 12-13 February 2010. Seeds for Global Food Security, Indian Seed Congress, Bangalore, India.

 

After the merger of various Seed Associations in to National Seed Association of India in 2007. It has been decided to host its first Indian Seed Congress during February 12th & 13th 2010 in Bangalore, India.

 

The Congress will provide an excellent opportunity for the Indian Seed Industry to come together and have interaction with Scientist, Policy makers and Fellow Seeds men. The Congress is planned to be an international event, that will also provide a platform for the Indian Seed Industry and International Seeds men to interact and deliberate on various issues and their impact on the health of Seed Industry in India and abroad

 

(NEW) 16-17 February 2010. 4th Breeding with Molecular Markers Course, The Seed Biotechnology Center at UC Davi

 

This course is designed for professional plant breeders who want to learn or expand their knowledge on when and how to incorporate molecular markers into their breeding programs. It is also appropriate for lab professionals who want to learn how their work may be applied.

 

The course focuses on current marker technologies, quantitative trait loci, marker-assisted selection, appropriate population structures and sizes and quality control. The second day will host a hands-on workshop on how to analyze marker data with phenotypic data in breeding programs.

 

The course is taught by experienced academic and industry professionals.

 

Enrollment details will be coming soon.

 

For more information, contact Jeannette Martins at jmartins@ucdavis.edu or (530) 752-4984.

 

Source: Seed Biotechnology Centre at UC Davis

 

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

http://www.univie.ac.at/mapd/

 

26-30 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. http://www.iflrc-ecgl.org

 

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

http://www.nysaes.cornell.edu/grapebreeding2010/

 

 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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7.  EDITOR'S NOTES

 

Plant Breeding News is an electronic forum for the exchange of information and ideas about applied plant breeding and related fields. It is a component of the Global Partnership Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building (GIPB), and is published monthly throughout the year.

 

The newsletter is managed by the editor and an advisory group consisting of Elcio Guimaraes (elcio.guimaraes@fao.org), Margaret Smith (mes25@cornell.edu), and Ann Marie Thro (athro@reeusda.gov). The editor will advise subscribers one to two weeks ahead of each edition, in order to set deadlines for contributions.

 

Subscribers are encouraged to take an active part in making the newsletter a useful communications tool. Contributions may be in such areas as: technical communications on key plant breeding issues; announcements of meetings, courses and electronic conferences; book announcements and reviews; web sites of special relevance to plant breeding; announcements of funding opportunities; requests to other readers for information and collaboration; and feature articles or discussion issues brought by subscribers. Suggestions on format and content are always welcome by the editor, at pbn-l@mailserv.fao.org. We would especially like to see a broad participation from developing country programs and from those working on species outside the major food crops.

 

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

 

PLEASE NOTE: Every month many newsletters are returned because they are undeliverable, for any one of a number of reasons. We try to keep the mailing list up to date, and also to avoid deleting addresses that are only temporarily inaccessible. If you miss a newsletter, write to me at chh23@cornell.edu and I will re-send it.

 

REVIEW PAST NEWSLETTERS ON THE WEB: Past issues of the Plant Breeding Newsletter are now available on the web. The address is: http://www.fao.org/WAICENT/FAOINFO/AGRICULT/AGP/AGPC/doc/services/pbn.html  We will continue to improve the organization of archival issues of the newsletter. Readers who have suggestions about features they wish to see should contact the editor at chh23@cornell.edu.

 

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

 

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