21 December 2009


An Electronic Newsletter of Applied Plant Breeding


Clair H. Hershey, Editor


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



1.01 ICRISAT and IFAD call for a second Green Revolution

1.02  Addressing climate change and food security together

1.03  Members of the CGIAR endorse reforms

1.04  Scottish Crop Research Institute Group supports UK plant breeding

1.05  A series of crop- and region-specific socio-economic studies from GCP

1.06  U.S. farmers look to biotechnology to battle climate change challenges

1.07  2009 Year in Review: Scientists give their opinion of top news stories in agricultural biotechnology

1.08  UC Davis Seed Biotechnology Center to develop plant breeding modules

1.09  Maize research improves farmers’ productivity in Africa

1.10  China approves biotech rice and maize in landmark decision

1.11  Firms in race to offer rice seeds for early harvest in Bangladesh

1.12  African maize seed companies: Management by the book

1.13  Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) Samaru, secures release of 27 new maize varieties/hbrids and three new cowpea varieties in Nigeria

1.14  From Cairo to Kabul: Rust resistant wheat seed just in time

1.15  Wheat warriors: The struggle to break the yield barrier

1.16  Precision breeding creates super potato

1.17  Russian GM potato varieties obtain state patents

1.18  GM seeds in Brazil exceed conventional cultivation

1.19  Conference report: "GMOs in European Agriculture and Food Production" November 25-26, 2009

1.20  Private seed breeders line up for plant variety protection

1.21  Who owns the eggplant?

1.22  Bt brinjal is a safe breakthrough: Indian Minister of S&T

1.23  USDA/APHIS seeks public comment on draft environmental impact statement for genetically engineered alfalfa

1.24  Fourth Annual Soybean Rust Symposium includes some bombshells

1.25  African scientist works on sorghum project in Des Moines, Iowa

1.26  China banks on seeds to protect biodiversity

1.27  Fall in rice strains highlights China's biodiversity gap

1.28 African policymakers urged to speed seed to farmers

1.29  Newly Elected African Crop Science Society Council, 2009-2011

1.30  Report on bee mortality and bee surveillance in Europe

1.31  Frost tolerant wheat varieties a step closer

1.32  Australian scientists identify crown rot-resistant wheat lines

1.33  Virus-resistant GM squash more vulnerable to bacterial wilt attack

1.34  New high-yielding hybrid sorghum varieties

1.35  Whiteflies interfere with stressed plants' chemical cry for help

1.36  ARS finds PEMV-resistant pea lines

1.37  Amylopectin potatoes by precision breeding

1.38  Cloning plants from seeds

1.39  China to develop third-generation genome sequencing instrument

1.40 Newly discovered enzymes could be targeted to make water-wise crops

1.41  Antagonistic genes control rice growth

1.42  ECO-PB - Newsletter on organic seeds and plant breeding



2.01  Plant Breeding and Farmer Participation



3.01  International Potato Center publishes new online database for potato and sweetpotato

3.02  The Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI) launches a quarterly newsletter



4.01  Monsanto’s Beachell-Borlaug International Scholars Program

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

4.03  The Islamic Development Bank (DB) Prizes For Science and Technology for Year 1431H (2010G)



5.01  Post-doctoral associate in RosBREED: Enabling Marker-Assisted Breeding in Rosaceae









1.01  ICRISAT and IFAD call for a second Green Revolution


Patancheru, India

1 December 2009

A second Green Revolution must be waged to end hunger and poverty in the drylands. This clarion call was given by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) Director General William Dar and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) President Kanayo Nwanze in dialogue with the media.


The two leaders also called upon national governments to draft polices that would transform dryland agriculture into a successful business. To turn agriculture profitable for farmers, governments need to create local demand and make local markets viable, they said. This would be the only way to attain food security in a world afflicted by climate change.


In a joint statement on the occasion of the 37th Annual Day celebrations of ICRISAT, Dr Dar and Dr Nwanze stressed the urgent need for a second Green Revolution focused in the semi-arid tropics. “Nearly 80 million hectares of India’s net sown area is rainfed. However, productivity levels of crops like millets, pulses and oilseeds continue to remain low. Though potential yields of up to 2 tonnes per hectare are possible, the yield gaps are exacerbated by vagaries of climate,” Dr Dar added.


Dr Nwanze said that a key strategy should involve the small farmers as they feed one-third of the world population. He also stressed the need to organize these farmers into groups and provide them with access to inputs and markets. Emphasizing the need for political will and the right policy atmosphere he points out, “We need a different landscape to feed a population of 9.6 billion by 2050. There is a need to develop better seeds, which can withstand water shortage, new pests and adverse weather conditions including flooding.’’


Referring to climate change, which is affecting agricultural productivity across the world, the IFAD President said, “Climate change is going to erode the development that took place (in agriculture) in the past two and half decades unless we take required steps and stress on research for more resistant crops.’’ Stating that the international community and the governments had long neglected agricultural research, he said that the amount spent for agriculture-related activities came down from 18% to 3% between 1980 and 2006. According to Dr Nwanze, IFAD has taken up projects worth $636 million in India. Two other projects including one for the North Eastern regions are in the pipeline.


The important role of women in agricultural production cannot be ignored. Underscoring the vulnerability of poor women to climate change, both ICRISAT and IFAD called for policies benefiting rural women. “Empower women with suitable technology, give them access to markets by connecting roads,” Dr Nwanze said. Thanks to the valuable knowledge that women have acquired over the years in water, forest and biodiversity management, women’s role in the identification of appropriate adaptation and disaster mitigation processes in a warmer world could be very useful, Dr Dar added.


ICRISAT and IFAD collaboration in Asia

The IFAD-funded project Harnessing the true potential of legumes: economic and knowledge empowerment of poor rainfed farmers in Asia aims to improve the well-being of the rural poor in Asia. In spite of unpredictable weather patterns that hit agricultural production last year, improved varieties and low cost legume management technologies shielded farmers from economic ruin. These innovations are now being taken up by the farming communities of Nepal and Vietnam.


Collaboration in sub-Saharan Africa

There are two initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa led by ICRISAT and IFAD. Under the Integrated Innovations for improving legume productivity, marketing linkages and risk management, poor farmers harness underutilized opportunities in livelihoods and income growth in four countries – Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Malawi. Another project Growing out of poverty: intensification of sorghum and pearl millet based systems by unlocking local biodiversity and new market opportunities in semi-arid West Africa involves farmers in all activities from planning to evaluation and the assessment of results.



Yet another project, Harnessing water-use efficient bio-energy crop for enhancing livelihood opportunities of smallholder farmers in Asia, Africa and Latin America recognizes biofuels as a major emerging market opportunity for the poor. Through this project, attempts are also being made to increase feed stocks such as sweet sorghum, jatropha and cassava. The stocks provide better income to poor rural communities living in remote areas under fragile agro-economic conditions.


Under this collaboration, ICRISAT and IFAD have identified improved sweet sorghum varieties, pest and disease-tolerant breeding materials and optimal spacing for maximizing grain and sugar yields. The tie-up has also helped collect 138 jatropha accessions and organize self-help groups to understand biodiesel options. High yielding cassava cultivars have been identified for different agro-eco zones and cassava-based livelihoods are being studied.


The road ahead

ICRISAT and IFAD will work together to enhance agricultural productivity, diversify and develop rural enterprises and improve livelihood opportunities in the drylands of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.


With just six years until the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals, the challenges are immense and research will be fundamental in identifying better solutions for improving the lives of poor rural communities.


For this reason, IFAD is resolving to increase its engagement and support to the CGIAR Centers.




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1.02  Addressing climate change and food security together


Opportunities in agriculture should not be missed - FAO publishes policy brief


Rome, Italy

1 December 2009

Farming practices that capture carbon and store it in agricultural soils offer some of the most promising options for early and cost-effective action on climate change in developing countries, while contributing to food security, FAO said in a policy brief prepared for the Copenhagen summit.


Yet agriculture has been largely excluded from the main climate financing mechanisms under discussion in Denmark, the agency said.


Agriculture not only suffers the impacts of climate change, it is also responsible for 14 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. But agriculture has the potential to be an important part of the solution, through mitigation-reducing and/or removing a significant amount of global emissions. Some 70 percent of its potential for reducing emissions could be realized in developing countries, FAO said.


"We hope the UN summit in Copenhagen will send a clear signal that agriculture in developing countries should play a vital role in responding to this global challenge," said Alexander Müller, FAO Assistant Director-General. "There are strong synergies between climate change mitigation, adaptation and food security that will be captured, if we do this right."


The FAO policy brief being released today calls for funding to help "vulnerable" developing nations respond "more comprehensively to the dual challenges of climate change and food security."

The brief said such support should reward actions aimed at reducing emissions and adapting to climate change, while also encouraging agricultural development and improved food security. The policy brief also suggested exploring synergies between Official Development Assistance (ODA) and new, additional climate funding.


Part of the solution

Food production will have to increase by 70 percent to feed an additional 2.3 billion people by 2050, FAO said. Climate change threatens agricultural production through higher temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns, and increased occurrences of droughts and floods, especially in areas that are already prone to climate-related disasters. Poorest regions with the highest levels of chronic hunger are likely to be among the worst affected by climate change.


"Agriculture offers readily available and cost-effective options for reducing the emission of greenhouse gases, and can start to do so now," Müller said. "And climate financing mechanisms targeting agriculture could speed up efforts to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change, while helping to reduce hunger and poverty. "


In contrast, he added, some other sectors may well require investments in expensive technologies and new, long-term research.


Certain farming practices, including those used by organic and conservation agriculture, capture carbon and store it in soils. These include no/low tillage, utilizing residues for composting or mulching, use of perennial crops to cover soil, re-seeding or improving grazing management on grasslands and agroforestry, which combines crops and trees.

The idea, said Mϋller, is to disturb the soil as little as possible, keep it covered and mix and rotate crops, so that carbon is taken out of the atmosphere and parked in soils and vegetation. Nearly 90 percent of agriculture's potential to reduce or remove emissions from the atmosphere comes from such practices.


Beyond soil carbon sequestration, more efficient fertilizer use and management of livestock systems are also promising options that enhance emission removals and reductions. Many of these activities may also reduce deforestation and forest degradation due to their associated productivity gains, that means more food can be produced without expansion of agriculture into forests.


FAO stressed that improved farming practices required for climate change mitigation are often the same as those needed to increase productivity, food security and adaptation, including the restoration of degraded agricultural lands, integrated nutrient and soil management and agroforestry.


The way forward

In addition to calling for funds to be channelled into mitigation and adaptation schemes for agriculture, FAO believes a work programme on agriculture, within the UNFCCC Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice could build confidence at the international level around agriculture's role in climate change adaptation and mitigation.


Country-led pilot projects could demonstrate how synergies across climate change mitigation, adaptation and food security might be exploited, while building capacity and confidence in the use of technologies, financing mechanisms and methodologies needed to do this.




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1.03  Members of the CGIAR endorse reforms


Washington, DC, USA

14 December 2009

At the 2009 CGIAR Business Meeting held in Washington, DC on 7-8 December, the Members of the CGIAR endorsed the reforms. The CGIAR will now enter into a new chapter as the agreed changes to our structures and processes are implemented. While much work remains to be done, the commitment to make these changes a reality is clear. This will be our final edition of Embracing Change as the Transition Management Team will disband having fulfilled its task of leading the change process up to this stage.




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1.04  Scottish Crop Research Institute Group supports UK plant breeding


Dundee, Scottland, United Kingdom

1 December 2009

The Managing Director of SCRI's commercial subsidiary Mylnefield Research Services (MRS Ltd) Dr Nigel Kerby, has underlined the group's commitment to training a new generation of plant breeders.


Speaking at a 'summit' meeting on sustainable agricultural supply in London, he said that plant breeding was a critical core expertise of any nation that intended to have a vibrant, agricultural industry in our changing environment.


"We are currently seeing in the UK that there is very little capacity to train plant breeders. Believe it or not the UK does not have a single Masters course completely dedicated to plant breeding. To me it's incredible. Why don't we have people who want to go in to plant breeding? The opportunities to do public good are immense in terms of helping to overcome poverty around the world. Of course there are also potentially lucrative careers in the commercial sector."


Recently SCRI - through MRS Ltd - has itself recruited new, trainee breeders - or field geneticists - for potatoes and cereals. Dr Kerby said SCRI and Mylnefield's support for this expertise was unique in the UK and underlined the Group's commitment to developing new, highly successful crops able to withstand the changes brought about by climate change.


Dr Kerby backed a recent Westminster Government initiative that spoke of the 'collective effort' required to build a thriving food system that produced safe, low-impact food and healthy diets.


SCRI has a proven track record of breeding new crop varieties. One recent potato variety, Vales Sovereign, was voted Tesco's 'Best New Fresh Produce Variety. The SCRI-bred Glen Ample raspberry is the most popular in the UK.


Dr Kerby was speaking at the Sustainable Agricultural Supply Chain Summit being held at Earls Court in London (November 30 & December 1).




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1.05 A series of crop- and region-specific socio-economic studies from GCP


In this issue of GCP News, we present our latest resource – a series of crop- and region-specific socio-economic studies to complement and also inform crop improvement research. These evidence-based studies go beyond crop science and evaluate the social and economic characteristics of developing world farming systems by region and crops, in order to best meet farmer needs. Which interventions will have the greatest impact where? The studies are an essential planning and decision-making tool for all in agricultural research and development. 


For an overview of the four studies, we invite you to visit the Socio-economics homepage at


The articles below include direct links to both a website and – where available – a high-level brief on each of the studies.


1) Targeting and impact analysis of Generation Challenge Programme (GCP) technologies

Through the compilation of multiple datasets, this study determined areas in the developing world experiencing the highest levels of poverty, poorest crop yields, and greatest susceptibility to drought. From the study, 15 regions were identified as high-priority focal areas for future GCP research (see Study 2b below, Getting the focus right: Food crops and smallholder constraints).

·         Website

·         Brief

2) Getting the focus right:

a) Beyond drought-tolerant maize: study of additional priorities in maize

A pilot study was commissioned to determine production constraints specific to maize. More.


b) Food crops and smallholder constraints

Building on both Study 1 and Study 2a above, this study determined the main production constraints across 14 of the 15 high-priority regions identified by Study 1. A list of potential solutions was also formulated.

·         Website

·         Brief

3) Ex-ante impact analysis of marker-assisted selection technologies supported by the Generation Challenge Programme

In order to better understand the economics of marker-assisted breeding (MAB), researchers of this study gathered information on crop yields, farmer adoption rates, market prices, cultivated land area, breeding times, input prices, costs of development, and more. These extensive data are a firm foundation for computing the net present value (NPV, ie, future benefits less future costs) of using MAB rather than phenotypic selection.

·         Website

·         Brief

4) From attractiveness to feasibility: A strategic assessment of the capacity to develop and adopt GCP technologies (in progress)

To complement the aforementioned socio-economic studies which have identified priority farming systems for GCP investments, this study takes a different perspective, examining the extent to which a given region can adapt and adopt such technological advances, to ensure that GCP efforts achieve maximum results. In this way, the study seeks to identify capacity issues and determine whether GCP technologies are both attractive and feasible for end-users. Commissioned in 2008, this study is still in progress. More



GCP warmly invites your feedback and comments at


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1.06  U.S. farmers look to biotechnology to battle climate change challenges


Washington, DC, USA

16 December 2009

Despite mounting challenges brought on by climate change, farmers around the world are increasingly being aided by modern agricultural practices, such as biotechnology.


Climate change is already affecting U.S. agriculture and land and water resources, and will continue to do so, according to a USDA report released this week at the climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), in cooperation with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research and the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), has released The Effects of Climate Change on U.S. Ecosystems.


Sharon Bomer Lauritsen, Executive Vice President for Food and Agriculture at the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) says biotechnology is one tool that can help increase agricultural productivity despite these environmental challenges.


“Our member companies have been developing environmental stress tolerance traits (plants that are naturally tolerant to extreme cold, heat, drought, saline soil, diseases and insect pests) for the past decade, and many of these are poised for commercialization,” says Bomer. “The pending authorization of these products couldn’t be more timely given the challenges facing farmers.


“According to this recent report, climate change is hurting crop production, distribution, and yields directly through changes in temperature and precipitation, and indirectly by increasing pest and weed outbreaks. Through biotechnology, seeds yield more per acre, plants naturally resist specific insect pests and diseases, and farmers use less energy. Genetically engineered plants and animals can naturally fight diseases and adapt to environmental stress.


“Productivity gains through biotechnology are especially crucial at a time when our population is growing and our demand for food is increasing, especially in developing countries. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, feeding a world population of 9.1 billion in 2050 will require raising food production by 70 percent. Food production will need to increase by nearly 100 percent in developing countries, where farmers are most adversely affected by climate change.


“Farmers are not defenseless in their struggle against extreme weather conditions and evolving pest populations. Biotechnology will continue to be one of many tools to help farmers meet these environmental challenges and better provide the food, fuel and fiber to serve a growing population.”


About BIO

BIO represents more than 1,200 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations across the United States and in more than 30 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of innovative healthcare, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products. BIO also produces the BIO International Convention, the world’s largest gathering of the biotechnology industry, along with industry-leading investor and partnering meetings held around the world.




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1.07  2009 Year in Review: Scientists give their opinion of top news stories in agricultural biotechnology


Washington, DC, USA

16 December 2009

With so many stories to choose from, it was hard for us to determine the top agricultural biotechnology story of 2009. Therefore, we turned to the Council for Biotechnology Information (CBI) experts and let them choose the top three stories that stood out in terms of their significance and impact on the future of agricultural biotechnology worldwide. CBI experts include the nation's leading scientists in plant genetics and food science, among other disciplines.


Norman Borlaug's Legacy

The loss of Dr. Norman Borlaug, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and father of the Green Revolution, was cited by several experts as the biggest story of 2009 because of his work to alleviate poverty and hunger.  In his obituary, The New York Times praised Dr. Borlaug's advances in plant breeding, which allowed countries like Mexico and India to become food self-sufficient and as a result, saved one billion lives.


According to Dr. Ronald Phillips of the University of Minnesota, "Norman Borlaug was one of the greatest humanitarians to ever have lived and he achieved this through hard work, impeccable ethics, a belief in training, and a vision as to what can improve the human condition."


Reflecting on Dr. Borlaug's legacy, Dr. Peggy G. Lemaux of the University of California, Berkeley wrote "far and away the year's top story is Norman Borlaug.  Biotech lost a strong and influential voice with his passing. One that cannot be filled by any other shoes."


China Begins Approval Process for Biotech Rice

Many CBI Experts also chose the recent story about China declaring two strands of genetically modified rice safe to produce and consume as one of the year's most significant ag biotech developments.  The Wall Street Journal reported that with this decision the Chinese government takes a "major step toward endorsing the use of biotechnology in the staple food crop of billions of people in Asia."


According to Dr. Kenneth G. Cassman of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, "this announcement is a game-changer because China produces about 30% of rice in the world... Therefore, I believe this approval will create an overwhelming pressure to approve biotech crops in most developing nations."


Dr. Chris Somerville of the University of California, Berkeley also chose China's announcement as his top story of the year because "it is the official opening of the largest food market in the world to GMO."


Mapping of the Corn Genome

Other CBI experts suggested that the mapping of the corn genome qualifies as the biggest ag biotech story of the year because of what can be achieved when we understand the genome sequence of this hugely important crop.  The Washington Post wrote, "...many agronomists hope the information buried in corn's 32,000 genes and 2.3 billion letters of DNA may help sustain the century-long improvement in yield and hardiness into an era of climate change and, possibly, food shortage."


Dr. Larry Heatherly of the University of Tennessee chose the mapping of the corn genome as the story of the year because "this achievement will lead to new/improved quality traits, enhanced genetic pest resistance, and increased production with fewer inputs resulting in lower cost of production and a more sustainable economic production system."


Agricultural Biotechnology Makes Headlines

Other agricultural biotechnology stories made headlines during 2009. These stories include Bill Gates' speech endorsing the expansion of technology in agriculture at the 2009 World Food Prize Symposium, and the increased acceptance and approval of biotechnology crops due to the pressures of growing population and climate change. Below are quotes from national opinion leaders about the benefits of agricultural biotechnology from 2009.


"Genetically modified crops are proving to be an unmitigated environmental miracle… Within a decade there may be crops that are no-till, insect-resistant, omega-3-enriched, drought-tolerant, salt-tolerant and nitrogen-efficient. If they boost yields, then the 21st century will see more and more people better and better fed from less and less land."

— Matt Ridley, The Economist, The World in 2010 Issue


"We have global warming problems, we have health problems. And many – not all, by any means – solutions can be found in agricultural biotechnology."

— Michael Specter, author of Denialism and New Yorker reporter, NPR Interview


"We believe that biotechnology has a critical role to play in increasing agricultural productivity, particularly in light of climate change. We also believe it can help to improve the nutritional value of staple foods."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton


"The engineered crops currently being grown are safe and cause less environmental damage than their conventional cousins."

— Michael Jacobson, Executive Director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Huffington Post




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1.08  UC Davis Seed Biotechnology Center to develop plant breeding modules


The National Institute of Food and Agriculture/AFRI has recommended for funding $500,000 to the UC Davis Seed Biotechnology Center to address plant breeding education.


Allen Van Deynze, Hamid Ashrafi, Theresa Hill, Raoul Adamchak, Carol Hillhouse (UC Davis) and Jim Prince (Fresno  State University) will use pepper as a model to develop plant breeding modules to recruit students and integrate resistance to phytophthora  root rot and leaf blight into chile peppers.


There is a lack of plant breeding professionals being trained despite an increasing demand by the industry. UC Davis is leveraging its student farm program and Kindergarten-12 student program to recruit students into plant sciences and plant breeding. Furthermore an internship program for graduate students is being developed with Fresno State University to cross-train students in plant breeding and plant pathology. Breeding for resistance to phytophthora is complicated by the large number of races found, the dynamic preponderance of races in fields and the differential genetic control of resistance across specific tissues and races.


The long-term goals are a) to educate students on the importance of plant breeding and genetic diversity in food production and b) to develop and release pepper germplasm that combines resistance alleles to the most virulent races of phytophthora root rot and leaf blight.


The specific objectives are to: 1) develop an interactive, hands-on education program for breeding and genetic diversity of peppers for undergraduates and K-12. 2) define and characterize the genetic basis of race-specific disease resistance to root rot and foliar blight on an ultra-high density genetic map of pepper 3) combine/pyramid genetic loci for Phytophthora capsici resistance in a chile pepper line using marker-assisted breeding.


The outcome is educating approximately 300 undergraduates and 1500 K-12 students on the use of genetic diversity in plant breeding; understanding race-specific resistance of phytophthora syndromes in pepper; and delivering a chile pepper line resistant to multiple races of phytophthora.


Contributed by Allen Van Deynze


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1.09 Maize research improves farmers’ productivity in Africa


A multi-country study on variety performance and adoption patterns to measure the impacts of maize research in West and Central Africa from 1981 to 2005 reveals that farming communities benefited significantly. Arega Alene from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture and colleagues reported in Agricultural Economics that more than one million people per year escaped poverty through the adoption of new maize varieties mainly through productivity gains.


 The study on The Economic and Poverty Impacts of Maize Research in West and Central Africa also noted that adoption of modern varieties increased from less than 5% of the maize area in the 1970s to about 60% in 2005. This yielded an aggregate rate of return on research and development (R&D) investment of 43%.


 A copy of the abstract is available at


Email the lead author at


From Crop Biotech Update 30 October 2009:


Contributed by Margaret E Smith

Dept. Plant Breeding and Genetics

Cornell University


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1.10  China approves biotech rice and maize in landmark decsion


China Completes its Approval of a Troika of Key Biotech Crops - Fiber (Bt cotton), Feed (phytase maize) and Food (Bt rice)

by Dr. Clive James, Chair of ISAAA and author of the ISAAA Annual Brief on Biotech/GM Crops


In the ISAAA 2008 Brief, I predicted "a new wave of adoption of biotech crops..providing a seamless interface with the first wave of adoption, resulting in continued and broad-based strong growth in global hectarage".This prediction started to become a reality in the latter half of November 2009, when within the short span of one week, China's Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) granted two biosafety certificates, and approved biotech Bt rice, (rice is the most important food crop in the world that feeds half of humanity), and biotech phytase maize, (maize is the most important feed crop in the world). The two approvals have momentous positive implications for biotech crops in China, Asia and the whole world. It is important to note that the MOA conducted a very careful due diligence study, prior to clearing these two critically important biotech crops for full commercialization in about 2 to 3 years, pending completion of the standard registration field trials which applies to all new conventional and biotech crops. It is noteworthy that China has now completed approval of a troika of the key biotech crops in a logical chronology - first was FIBER (cotton), second was FEED (maize) and third was FOOD (rice). The potential benefits of these 3 crops for China are enormous and summarized below .

.           Bt cotton. China has successfully planted Bt cotton since 1997 and now, over 7 million small farmers in China are already increasing their income by approximately US$220 per hectare (equivalent to US$1 billion nationally) due, on average, to a 10% increase in yield, a 60% reduction in insecticide application, both of which contribute to a more sustainable agriculture and prosperity of small poor farmers. China is the largest producer of cotton in the world, with 68% of its 5.6 million hectares successfully planted with Bt cotton in 2008.

.           Bt rice offers the potential to generate benefits of US$4 billion annually from an average yield increase of 8%, and an 80% decrease in insecticides, equivalent to 17 kg per hectare on China's major staple food crop, rice, which occupies 30 million hectares (Jikun Huang et al, 2005). It is estimated that 75% of all rice in China is infested with the rice-borer pest, which Bt rice controls. China is the biggest producer of rice in the world (178 million tons of paddy) with 110 million rice households (a total of 440 million people based on 4 per family) who could benefit directly as farmers from this technology, as well as China's 1.3 billion rice consumers. Bt rice will increase productivity of more affordable rice at the very time when China needs new technology to maintain self-sufficiency and increase food production to overcome drought, salinity, pests and other yield constraints associated with climate change and dropping water tables.

.           Phytase maize. China, after the USA, is the second largest grower of maize in the world (30 million hectares grown by 100 million households); it is principally used for animal feed. Maintaining self-sufficiency in maize and meeting the increased demand for more meat in a more prosperous China is an enormous challenge. For example, China's swine herd, the biggest in the world, increased 100 fold from 5 million in 1968 to over 500 million today. Phytase maize will allow pigs to digest more phosphorus, resulting in faster growth/more efficient meat production, and coincidentally result in a reduction of phosphate pollution from animal waste into soil and extensive bodies of water and aquifers. The above advantages of Bt cotton, Bt rice and phytase maize, (importantly, all developed by Chinese public sector institutions) also offer similar benefits to other developing countries, particularly in Asia, (but also elsewhere in the world) which have very similar crop production constraints.


Asia grows and consumes 90% of the production from the world's 150 million hectares of rice, and Bt rice can have enormous impact in Asia. It could not only contribute to increase productivity but could also make a substantive contribution to the alleviation of poverty for poor small farmers who represent 50% of the world's poor. Similarly, there are up to 50 million hectares of maize in Asia that could benefit from biotech maize. China's exertion of global leadership in approving biotech rice and maize will likely result in a positive influence on acceptance and speed of adoption of biotech food and feed crops in Asia, and more generally,  globally, particularly in developing countries. The approval and deployment by China of the most important food and feed crops in the world, biotech rice and maize, to maintain "self-sufficiency" as opposed to "food security", (the distinction is important) can serve as a model for other developing countries which could have substantive implications for:


.           a more timely and efficient approval process for biotech crops in developing countries;

.           new modes of South-South technology transfer and sharing, including public/private sector partnerships;

.           more orderly international trade in rice and reduction in probability of recurrence of 2008-type price hikes, which were devastating for the poor; and

.           shift of more authority and responsibility for developing countries to optimize "self sufficiency" and provide more incentive for their involvement to deliver their share of the 2015 Millennium Development Goals.


Finally, Bt rice and phytase maize should be seen as only the first of many agronomic and quality biotech traits to be integrated into improved biotech crops, with significant enhanced yield and quality, which can contribute to the doubling of food, feed and fiber production on less resources, particularly water and nitrogen, by 2050. The approval by China of the first major biotech food crop, Bt rice, can be the unique global catalyst for both the public and private sectors from developing and industrial countries to work together in a global initiative towards the noble goal of "food for all and self sufficiency" in a more just society.


Reference: Huang, J., R. Hu, R. Scott and C. Pray. 2005. Insect-Resistant GM Rice in Farmers' Fields: Assessing Productivity and Health Effects in China. Science: 308:5722 (688-690).


Source: CropBiotech Update: 4th Dec 09


Contributed by Bhagirath Choudhary


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1.11  Firms in race to offer rice seeds for early harvest in Bangladesh


Sohel Parvez

Seed firms have sped up efforts to bring in new rice varieties for early harvest to give farmers scope to grow more crops. Market players believe such seeds would also help farmers minimise the risks of crop damage from floods and harvest 30 days earlier than in the case of other varieties.Supreme Seed Company, BRAC, ACI and Lal Teer Seed have introduced the new rice seeds, mainly hybrid, on trial.


BRAC, a nongovernmental organisation, is working on a Vietnamese high-yielding variety, an open pollinated rice seed. Others focus on hybrids. BRAC's early high-yielding variety, known as OM 1490, has potential of yielding up to five tonnes per hectare and can be harvested in 100 days after farming in Aus season, said Sudhir Chandra Nath, programme manager of BRAC's Agro-Marketing Division. “We have planted the seed in farmers' fields on trial,” Sudhir told The Daily Star.


BRAC plans to hand the seed to the Seed Certification Agency to get approval for marketing.


"If the government approves the seed, farmers will be able to preserve it without depending too much on the market," he said. “We expect to start marketing of the seed by 2012 after receiving permission from the government,” he added. The initiative comes amid expectations of farmers to grow more crops -- not only to cash in more gains but to minimise the risks of crop losses in natural disasters.


Two government agencies have released two HYVs for Aman season: BRRI Dhan-33 and BINA Dhan-7 that can be harvested at least a month earlier than the other HYV BR11. “We plan to market the seeds in flood-prone areas in Boro season,” said Mohammed Masum, chairman of Supreme Seed Company, market leader in hybrid rice seeds. The company will send the hybrid seeds to the government next year for approval.


A problem remains. The yield of these seeds might be lower than the existing peers. Masum said: "Even if the yield is low, farmers may accept our seeds to avoid crop losses in Boro season." Mahbub Anam, managing director of Lal Teer Seed, said early-rice seeds would back up the government initiative to ensure food security.


Mahbub said the government should examine the performance of the short-duration hybrid seeds against a short duration HYV, not against the BR28 that matures in over 140 days. Anwar Faruque, director general of Seed Wing of the agriculture ministry, said the government would approve well-performing short-duration hybrid rice seeds. “We want maximum yield in short-duration. If we can grow three crops a year in the same land, it will help increase crop intensity and attain food security," he said. 'We will ease the approval procedure for the companies that introduce short-term seeds."




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1.12  African maize seed companies: Management by the book


Local companies constitute a key source of improved seed for maize farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, but face many challenges: a cash-strapped, widely dispersed clientele, high operating costs, limited access to quality foundation seed, and lack of trained personnel, to name several. For guidance on these and other issues, seed company managers can now consult a comprehensive new book from CIMMYT on managing seed businesses in Africa.


Small- and intermediate-scale seed companies have a critical role in bringing Africa's farmers affordable, quality maize seed, but must overcome major challenges to do so. Recognizing the value of these companies and aware of their struggles, CIMMYT has long offered technical backstopping, training, and suitable foundation seed for start-ups, as well as providing policy recommendations to improve companies’ operational environment.


As the center's most recent contribution, seed system specialist John MacRobert has produced a practical guide entitled Seed Business Management in Africa, which covers in detail both the technical and business aspects of running a successful seed company. "In recent years there has been a surge of entrepreneurs entering the seed sector all over Africa, as they have recognized a market opportunity," says MacRobert. "The question is how to help these fledgling and growing businesses to become profitable and sustainable."


Drawn from experiences of MacRoberts and participants in his training courses and produced with funds from the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) project, his book responds by providing seed entrepreneurs with information on critical factors for success, as well as on vision, strategy, tactics, marketing, research and development, seed production, finances, and human resources.


Bring on the seed!

"The importance of seed provision for agricultural development cannot be overstated," says MacRobert. "Access to improved seed and inorganic fertilizers is crucial for the food and income security of many farmers and countries in Africa." Yet, according to MacRobert, the industries that provide these inputs are far from meeting present demand. In countries other than South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Zambia, less than 30% of the maize area is sown to certified seed. "At the base of this is the lack of certified seed of improved, adapted, and appropriate varieties in the market place," he says. "If this seed was accessible close to farm homesteads and at reasonable prices relative to the grain price, smallholder farmers would purchase and benefit."


This has been amply demonstrated in countries like as Zimbabwe, Kenya and Zambia, where purchases of maize hybrid seed by smallholder farmers have been high in the past two decades.


“By applying the principles and strategies in the book, no doubt a greater number of new seed entrepreneurs will be more successful, grow their businesses faster, become sustainable, and reach more African farmers with improved seed,” says Marianne Bänziger, CIMMYT Deputy Director General for Research and Partnerships.


Source: CIMMYT E-News, vol 6 no. 6, October 2009 via


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1.13 Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) Samaru, secures release of 27 new maize varieties/hbrids and three new cowpea varieties in Nigeria


Maize production in Nigeria has given farmers adequate food and income, thus economic empowerment. Its potentials for foreign exchange earnings are great. It is in the light of this development that Institute for Agricultural Research Samaru, the Institute responsible for genetic improvement of maize presented 27 new maize varieties tested for different traits including high yields, earliness, stem borer resistance, Striga resistance, drought, low Nitrogen and other stresses tolerance, for registration and release to farmers by the National Committee for Registration and Release of Crop Varieties. The presentation was scrutinized by the Technical Sub-committee and the varieties were found worthy of release. Prof S. G. Ado, the National Coordinator for Maize Research presented them to the Technical Sub-committee while the Chairman Technical Sub-committee presented them to the National Committee. The National Committee had on December 3, 2009 approved the release of the varieties.


The breakdown of the varieties released is: Institute for Agricultural Research Samaru 3 varieties; Institute for Agricultural Research and Training Ibadan 2 varieties; collaborative research and development between IITA and National Agricultural Research System produced 22 varieties and hybrids including 6 hybrids developed along with Premier Seed Company.


The varieties/hybrids released are as follows:-

Open – pollinated varieties (17)

            Drought Tolerant (7)

-          1 Extra-early maturing white with STR

-          1 Early maturing while with STR

-          4 Early maturing white bred for DT

-          1 Medium maturing white DT

Stem borer resistant (4)

-          1 Medium-late maturing yellow

-          2 Medium maturing white

-          1 Medium-late maturing white

Low Soil Nitrogen tolerance (2)

-          1 Medium maturing yellow

-          1 Medium maturing white

Quality Protein Maize (2)

-          2 White medium maturing

Normal Maize (2)

-          2 Medium maturing white

Hybrids (4 droughts tolerant)

-          2 Top cross drought tolerant hybrids

-          2 Three way cross drought tolerant hybrids

Hybrids (6 commercial hybrids)

-          2 High yielding white hybrids

-          2 High yielding yellow hybrids

-          1 Striga tolerant white hybrid

-          1 Striga tolerant yellow hybrid


The varieties were recommended for different ecologies of Nigeria from the forest zone to sudan savanna zone through the lowland and mid-attitude zones. Some of the varieties are early maturing (95 days to maturity). Others are medium 100 days to maturity while the rest are late maturing (120 days to maturity). Some of the varieties have drought tolerance to mitigate the effects of global warming and climate change while others are Striga resistant or tolerant to withstand the devastating effect of the witch weed. Other varieties are resistant to stem borers (Busseola fusca and Sesamia calamistis). One of the varieties developed by IAR Samaru (SAMMAZ 18) tested in International trials across West and Central Africa produced 5.57t/ha in Kita, Mali Republic in 2008.


On the same day (December 3, 2009), the Institute for Agricultural Research Samaru secured the release of three new cowpea varieties. Two of the varieties were developed by the Institute for Agricultural Research Samaru in collaboration with IITA Ibadan while the third variety was developed by IAR & T, Ibadan. The cowpea varieties have good grain quality, one is Aphid and nematode resistant and all show field tolerance to major insect pests. The cowpea variety SAMPEA11 is particularly very good for dry season cultivation under irrigation. The other variety SAMPEA12 has good brown rough grain that attracts special premium by consumers.


Contributed by Shehu G. Ado

National Coordinator for Maize Research


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1.14  From Cairo to Kabul: Rust resistant wheat seed just in time


In a world fraught with divisions and human conflicts, an uplifting example of multi-sectoral, cross border cooperation is helping bring seed of a new, high-yielding, disease resistant variety from Egypt to small-scale wheat farmers in Afghanistan.


Responding to the threat of a new, eastern African strain of stem rust that could lay waste to wheat harvests in the Middle East and Asia, Egypt's Agricultural Research Center (ARC) has shipped 1.5 tons of seed of its new, rust resistant variety Misr-1 to Afghanistan in time for planting prior to the Afghan rainy season (when sowing becomes difficult). "The idea is to multiply the seed for eventual distribution to Afghanistan's wheat areas, which cover more than 2 million hectares," says Mahmood Osmanzai, CIMMYT wheat agronomist based in Afghanistan.


The new variety is resistant to the Ug99 strain of stem rust. This age-old fungal disease of wheat had been held in check for five decades by high-yielding, rust resistant wheats developed in the 1950s by late CIMMYT wheat breeder Dr. Norman E. Borlaug and his international team of scientists working in Mexico. But in recent trials this older-generation of improved varieties—still sown on an estimated 40 million hectares of developing country wheat lands—is proving susceptible to Ug99.


Helping slow stem rust's global spread

Since first being spotted in Uganda 10 years ago, spores of the deadly new strain and its variants have spread on the winds to Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Yemen, and Iran, and are on the march toward South Asia. Though Ug99 has yet to appear in wheat fields of Afghanistan or Egypt, researchers in both nations are active in a project to multiply and rapidly deploy seed of rust resistant wheat in nine countries, with funding from USAID, leadership by CIMMYT, and key support from the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA).


According to ARC wheat researcher, Dr. Moussa Guirgis Mosaad, Misr-1 was developed using a line selected from a 2006-07 elite bread wheat yield trial distributed by CIMMYT. "Egypt has offered to make seed available at cost to all countries participating in the USAID project," says Mosaad, who leads Egypt's work under the seed multiplication project. "It made particular sense in the case of Afghanistan, because that country has released the same variety—one developed from the same line of the same CIMMYT trial." Egypt was among the first countries to identify promising lines from the trials, multiply the seed, and put the resulting varieties in national yield trials.


"We're extremely grateful to Egypt's research leaders, whose action has been exemplary," says Hans Braun, director of CIMMYT's global wheat program. "They were particularly generous in facilitating the logistics and complex bureaucratic arrangements needed for the seed to be shipped across borders and used in Afghanistan." Braun adds that Afghan farmers' use of disease resistant wheat will both safeguard their harvests and help provide a line of defense against the development and regional advance of Ug99.


The need for certified seed

The 1.5 tons of seed will be multiplied under a two-year FAO project, launched in May 2009 with funding from the European Union, to expand the production and use of certified seed for wheat and other major food crops in Afghanistan. "If all goes as planned, in one year Afghanistan will have 5% of its national wheat seed requirement," says Braun. Because wheat seed multiplication provides 20-fold yields, planting out the 5% would then produce enough to meet the entire demand in Afghanistan for certified wheat seed—but, in this case, with a Ug99 resistant variety.


"The name of the new variety in Afghanistan is Muqawim-09, a spring wheat type that performs well when sown in early November," says Osmanzai, adding that the seed will eventually be distributed to farmers with help from CIMMYT and ICARDA. "Dr. Mosaad was particularly helpful in moving this forward, with the support of ARC president Prof. Ayman Abou Hadid."


Braun notes that the following individuals provided vital assistance to bring about the Cairo-Kabul seed shipment: Kay Simmons, acting deputy administrator, Plant Genetics and Grain Crops, United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS); Michael Ward Kay, agricultural economist, of the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA-FAS); and Jonathan P. Gressel, minister counselor for agricultural affairs, US Embassy, Cairo.


Source: CIMMYT E-News, vol 6 no. 6, October 2009 via


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1.15  Wheat warriors: The struggle to break the yield barrier


In 2009, out of a global population of 6.8 billion people, more than 1 billion regularly woke up and went to bed hungry. By 2050 the population is expected to grow to 9.1 billion people, most of whom will be in developing countries. Unless we can increase global food production by 70%, the number of chronically hungry will continue to swell. To help ensure global food security, a new research consortium aims to boost yields of wheat—a major staple food crop.


There is no easy fix for world hunger. Any improvement will require complex collaborative efforts and funding to support them. With this in mind, wheat scientists and agricultural experts from diverse private and public institutions are joining to form a Wheat Yield Potential Consortium (WYC). This group will strive to improve wheat yields, which must increase 1.6% annually to meet a projected demand of 760 million tons by 2020.


The unofficial launch of the WYC happened in November 2009, when over 60 world-renowned experts gathered for a USAID-sponsored symposium at CIMMYT’s Mexico headquarters to integrate various research components into a common breeding platform for improving wheat yields


“Over the past year we've been pulling together experts in photosynthesis who have ideas on how to raise the overall biomass of the crop, as well as other experts in crop adaptation to make sure that increased biomass will also translate into better yields,” says Matthew Reynolds wheat physiologist and initiator of the WYC.


In recent decades, wheat yields have increased nearly 1% each year, but global population is growing roughly 1.5% annually. Climate change, unsustainable cropping practices, and changes in diet preferences further challenge wheat’s ability to meet the demands of a global population that relies on the crop for more than one-fifth of its caloric intake.


Meeting of the minds

“The international wheat community recognizes that each of us has different skills and that, though individually we cannot solve the problem of insufficient wheat yields, collectively we can,” said Richard Richards chief research scientist at Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, Plant Industry, who has been commissioned to review a WYC project proposal under development.


The Consortium will pursue advanced approaches to increase wheat yields, including increasing the efficiency of photosynthesis, improving the plant’s adaption to target environments, and using physiological and molecular breeding. To date, selective, conventional breeding has been the main force behind yield improvement. Scientists breed a large number of high-yielding wheat plants, select early generations with good agronomic traits, populate trial fields with the offspring, and move the best forward in the breeding program. The cycle is then repeated. This system has been successful, but precedent suggests it will not be fast enough to overcome the combined challenges of population growth and climate change. “Instead of going straight to the end product —yield—we must look at every yield-determining physiological process and improve the efficiency of the limiting ones,” Richards said.


Powering up photosynthesis

Under favorable conditions, yield is a function of the interception, conversion, and distribution of solar energy. To increase yield, one or more of these components must be improved. Thanks to years of wheat improvement, the efficiency of solar energy intercepted is nearly 90% and energy distribution results in an almost optimal proportion of total biomass to grain, roughly 50%. “This leaves the conversion of sunlight into chemical energy—mainly controlled by photosynthesis—as the main yield component left to improve,” said Xinguang Zhu, group leader of Plant Systems Biology at the CAS-MPG Partner Institute of Computational Biology.


One way to do this is to increase carbon-fixing efficiency during photosynthesis. Plants that thrive at moderate temperatures, like wheat, tend to use C3 carbon fixation, a slow system that accepts both carbon dioxide and oxygen. The fixation of oxygen, called photorespiration, reduces the efficiency of photosynthesis. Plants that inhabit warmer locations, like maize, tend to use C4 carbon fixation, which increases chloroplastic CO2 concentration, reduces photorespiration, and improves energy-use efficiency.


The fact that the C4 system has evolved many times in nature has inspired scientists to look for ways to introduce parts of it into wheat, so that the plant can thrive at relatively high temperatures. This will be essential as temperatures in tropic and subtropic regions continue to climb. Studies show that for every 1°C of warming, wheat yields in these areas will fall 10%. Given that 95% of the world’s malnourished people live in these regions—which also have the highest rates of population growth—high-yielding wheat that can beat the heat could make a world of a difference.


Source: CIMMYT E-News, vol 6 no. 6, October 2009 via


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1.16  Precision breeding creates super potato


The skin is light brown, the meat luscious and yellow: from the outside alone, this new potato looks like any other. But on the inside, it is different. Its cells produce pure amylopectin, a starch used in the paper, textile and food industries. The new potatoes – recently harvested and processed for the first time – were developed by Fraunhofer researchers with the aid of a new, especially rapid breeding process.


The fall of 2009 was a truly special season for the Emsland Group: For the first time in the history of the largest German potato starch manufacturer, it processed Tilling potatoes, which exclusively contain amylopectin starch. Not only can nutritional starches for emulsifying soups and desserts be extracted from it – it can also be used for paste and smooth coating for paper and thread production. “This potato is the first product in Germany developed by Tilling that achieves market readiness,” explains Prof. Prüfer of the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME.


Tilling – an acronym for “Targeting Induced Local Lesions in Genomes” – is a breeding process that researchers want to use to push evolution yet another step forward. In nature, evolution proceeds slowly: Through mutation and selection, plants and animal species adapt and change. Over the course of generations, those species develop that, due to their genetic make-up, are best adapted to the prevailing environmental conditions. Others became extinct. For millennia, humans have been using this evolutionary process for their own purposes, by focusing on highly productive- – and profit yielding – species. Modern breeding processes operate the same way, though the natural mutation rate is accelerated. “With the aid of chemicals, a vast number of mutants can be rapidly obtained,” says Jost Muth of IME, who participated in the development of the new potato starch. “We are working here with natural principles. In nature, sunlight triggers changes in the genome. With chemistry, we accomplish the same thing – only faster.”


Until now, mutation breeding was an exhaustive process. “Growers had to bring out the mutated seeds to the field, and then wait until they reached the end of their vegetation period in order to determine if one of the genetic modifications achieved the desired result. In addition, the majority of generated mutations could not be determined, since the characteristic is only expressed in a homozygous state,” explains Prüfer. His team has succeeded in accelerating the implementation. In the laboratory at IME, the mutated seeds were germinated. As soon as the first leaves appear, it’s harvest time: The researchers take a leaf sample, break apart the cellular structure, isolate the genome and analyze it. This way they can find out within a few weeks if a mutation has attained the desired traits.


In a project sponsored by the “Nachwachsende Rohstoffe” agency, researchers at IME, in collaboration with the Bioplant and Emslandstärke companies, found the super potato germ. They had to examine 2,748 seedlings until just the right one was identified that exclusively produces the starch component amylopectin. From this germ, experts were able to generate the first generation of super potatoes. There are genes active in their genome responsible for the formation of amylopectin, whereas genes that trigger the formation of amylose are shut off. “Until now, potatoes always contained both starch types. Industry had to separate the amylopectin from the amylose – an energy and cost-intensive process,” explains Prüfer. “With the Tilling potatoes, which only contain amylopectin, this process stage is superfluous. In Germany alone the paper and adhesives industry require 500,000 tonnes of highly purified amylopectin each year. Then there is the textile industry too, which uses the starch to glaze threats prior to weaving. The food industry is also relevant.


This fall, 100 tonnes of the new super potato that exclusively produces amylopectin were harvested. “They can be processed as usual in the production lines,” reports Muth. “Special measures aren’t necessary, because the Tilling potatoes are totally normal breeds that contain no genetically modified material.” The example shows that conventional or modern breeding methods will lead to success if the gene responsible for the expression of a specific trait is a natural part of the plant, and is known to scientists. The gene for the production of amylose in potatoes is one such gene. "Gene technology-based processes are indispensible and it is prudent to use them, when we want to integrate genetic material into a plant genome – , for example if we develop transgenic tobacco plants producing pharmacological substances,” concludes Prüfer. "When it comes to dealing with genes, there is an easy rule: as much modification as needed, but as little as possible.”




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1.17  Russian GM potato varieties obtain state patents


11 December 2009

Last week state patents of the Russian Federation were issued to three Russian potato varieties - “Nevsky+”, “Lugovskoy+”, and “Elizaveta+” - genetically modified to resist Colorado beetle. The insert carries cry3A gene from Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. Tenebrionis.


The patent holder is the Center “Bioengineering” of the Russian Academy of Sciences


Source: Black Sea Biotechnology Association (BSBA) via


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1.18  GM seeds in Brazil exceed conventional cultivation


14 December 2009

In Brazil, the amount of genetically modified (GM) seed is increasing rapidly. The results of a country-wide survey conducted by RPC Crop Expedition PRC demonstrate that in 2009/2010 even more GM seeds are planted than conventional ones, depending on the region and the crop. The reasons to decide for GM technology are various and linked with the particular situation of the region where the crop is used. Roundup Ready cultivars, for example, are meanwhile in their fourth generation and by now better adapted to the different regions of Brazil. This leads to more frequent use in comparison with conventional soybeans. Other reasons include costs and weed handling as well as logistics, market and price.


In Brazil, the most important crops are soybean and maize. To date, the only GM seeds available in the country are Roundup Ready soybean, which is tolerant to glyphosate herbicide, and Bt maize, which is resistant to the Fall Armyworm (Spodoptera frugi perda).


According to industry leaders in the three largest producing regions (Rio Grande do Sul, Paraná and Mato Grosso), 67.4 per cent of the complete cultivation area of soybean will be covered by Roundup Ready cultivars in 2009/2010.


The Bt maize acreage this year is eight times higher than in the year before, which represents 41 per cent of maize production. "The Bt-technology obviously works and is profitable for the farmers," points out Modeato Daga, a grain producer in West Paraná. He has applied no pesticide in 2009 to date, while neighbours already have had to treat their non-GM maize three or four times.


In the future, a second GM soybean seed may be employed. Brazilian authorities have approved the use of a new GM soybean developed by BASF and state agricultural researchers. This variety is tolerant to imidazoline-based herbicides and, according to BASF, launch of the seed is planned for the seasons 2011/2012, i.e. for first sowing around October 2011. This approval marks first time ever that the Brazilian CTNBio biosecurity commission has approved a GM seed with the participation of a government entity.




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1.19  Conference report: "GMOs in European Agriculture and Food Production" November 25-26, 20009


The Hague, The Netherlands

15 December 2009

The benefits and risks of the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture and food production, in particular the cultivation of genetically modified crops, are continually discussed in the EU. This was reiterated by the adoption of Council Conclusions in the EU Environment Council in December 2008. These called for a further improvement of the implementation of the EU legal framework, while acknowledging the need for the continuing timely processing of applications for the placing on the market of GMOs and fulfilment of relevant international obligations. An efficiently functioning framework is required to allow the EU to continue to make proper assessments of future GMO applications, in particular when GMOs could contribute to more sustainable agriculture or better quality food production.


The international conference on GMOs in European Agriculture and Food Production was held at the initiative of Ms. Gerda Verburg, Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality of The Netherlands, and Ms. Jacqueline Cramer, Minister of the Environment and Spatial Planning of The Netherlands.


The conference sought to take an inventory of stakeholder opinion on the present EU policy framework in the EU and to explore possible ways forward. Participants were invited to discuss a proposal to give EU Member States the authority to make a final decision on the cultivation of GMOs on their territory. This proposal had been put forward by the government of The Netherlands in March 2009 in the EU Agriculture and Environment Councils. A second element of the conference was the exchange of information and the building of a knowledge base on the socio-economic aspects of the use of GMOs in European agriculture and food production.


The conference took place on 25 and 26 November 2009 in The Hague, The Netherlands and was attended by more than 250 participants from Europe and beyond. These included both representatives of the EU Member States and the European Commission as well as farmers, consumers, agri-business and trade partners, non-governmental organizations and representatives from the biotech industry and the scientific community.


The conference offered a two-day programme with speakers representing the different stakeholders from around the world. The conference programme also presented an extensive opportunity for participants to make an active contribution. Working groups, side events and poster presentations provided participants with a platform to present their views and experiences. Furthermore, the conference programme contained a ministerial roundtable meeting that was attended by EU ministers of agriculture and environment and their delegates. Also,  representatives of DG Agriculture and Environment of the European Commission took part in the meeting. The conference was chaired by Ms. Gerda Verburg, Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality of The Netherlands.


The outcomes of this conference will be presented at both the Agriculture and Environment Councils (December 2009). It will also be included in the contribution of The Netherlands (January 2010) to a European Commission report on the socioeconomic benefits and risks, as well as the agronomic sustainability of commercial GMO applications.


This document is a chair’s report on the conference proceeding and the most relevant discussions and outcomes. The report includes a summary of the proceedings of the conference (section 2), including the outcomes of the working groups (section 2.3) and the main findings of the event’s ministerial roundtable (section 3).


The presentations given during the conference are available at


Full report:




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1.20 Private seed breeders line up for plant variety protection


Harish Damodaran

New Delhi, 17 December 2009

Private seed companies are increasingly queuing up before the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights Authority (PPVFRA) for registering their existing and new developed hybrids/varieties.


The Authority – a statutory body established to protect plant breeders' intellectual property rights and functioning since May 2007 – has so far granted registrations to 117 hybrids/varieties, with the bulk (108) belonging to the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and State Agricultural Universities.


Private Share

The private sector accounts for only the remaining nine, including JK Agri Genetics Ltd (one hybrid each of paddy, sorghum and pearl millet) and the Ahmedabad-based New Nandi Seeds Corporation (six pearl millet hybrids).


The registrations issued till date pertain only to ‘extant varieties' – those that were already in the market for over one year at the time of application. But the picture is totally different in respect of “new varieties” (less than a year old), for which the PPVFRA is yet to grant registrations.


“If one looks at the nearly 400 new-variety applications, of which 160 or so are at the stage of testing for DUS (Distinctiveness, Uniformity and Stability, which is a qualification for registration), I would assume 60-70 per cent of them are from private companies,” the PPVFRA Chairperson, Dr S. Nagarajan, told Business Line.


Also, the existing registrations cover only 12 field crops – rice, wheat, maize, pearl millet ( bajra), sorghum ( jowar), green gram ( moong), black gram ( urad), lentil ( masur), pea ( matar), kidney bean ( rajmah), pigeon pea ( arhar) and chickpea ( chana).


New Crops

The PPVFRA has since also added cotton, jute, sugarcane, turmeric and ginger to the list of crops, whose lines can be protected against breeders' rights infringement. Further, the draft DUS test guidelines for potato, brinjal, tomato, okra, cauliflower, cabbage, onion, garlic and rose have been sent for notification in the gazette.


Once notified, the breeders of lines in these crops would also be entitled to a 15-year protection period, during which others are barred from selling their seeds except under appropriate licensing arrangements. Farmers will have the freedom to save, use, sow, re-sow and even sell the seeds of the protected hybrid/varieties, so long as they do not engage in branded sales.


“The private sector, including multinationals, has a strong presence in crops such as cotton and vegetables, for which we will start issuing registrations only now. And that will obviously show up in future registrations,” Dr Nagarajan noted.


Market Dynamics

The Indian market for traded seeds (mainly hybrids) is currently estimated at roughly Rs 7,500 crore.


This includes Rs 1,800-2,000 crore from cotton (where the top players are Rasi Seeds, Nuziveedu Seeds and Mahyco), Rs 1,500 crore from vegetables (Nunhems, Seminis, Syngenta and Namdhari Seeds), Rs 800 crore from maize (Monsanto and Pioneer Hi-Bred), Rs 600 crore from hybrid rice (Bayer CropScience and Pioneer), Rs 500-600 crore from bajra (Pioneer and Bayer) and Rs 70-80 crore from sunflower (Syngenta and Ganga Kaveri Seeds).


Nunhems, Seminis and Pioneer are the subsidiaries of Bayer CropScience, Monsanto and DuPont, respectively.

If to this, Monsanto's 26 per cent stake in Mahyco is added, it translates into a substantial multinational presence in the country's hybrid seed business.


“The PPVFRA regime is a welcome step to the extent that it acts as a psychological barrier against infringement. Once I register a hybrid or even its parental lines, others would be deterred from exploiting it for commercial purposes,” said Dr Arvind Kapur, CEO (Vegetable Division) of Rasi Seeds.


At the same time, it may not good enough to stop sale of stealth seeds by unorganised players or breeders in farmers' disguise.


“No company can go after these people beyond a point. We saw this in the case of illegal Bt cotton seeds,” he said.


The PPVFRA maintains a National Gene Bank for storing the seed samples deposited by breeders.


“We send a part of the samples to the DUS test centres and the rest is secured under double lock-and-key over the 15-year protection period,” Dr Nagarajan informed.




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1.21 Who owns the eggplant?


As agriculture universities transform local varieties into genetically modified Bt brinjal, questions of ownership arise


10 December 2009, Latha Jishnu / New Delhi

Indians call it the brinjal. Other countries know it as the eggplant or aubergine. It is widely used the world over and every cuisine from the Chinese to the African has an encyclopaedia of recipes that establishes its popularity as a vegetable of daily use. And no vegetable has hogged the headlines as much as the brinjal in recent years — ever since Mahyco, the Indian partner of the biotech giant Monsanto, began its experiments to turn this commonly used vegetable into the genetically modified Bt brinjal. In recent months, it has seldom been out of the news in this country because of the controversy surrounding questionable procedures for testing and approval, and a high-profile case in the Supreme Court.


Almost forgotten in this tumult is the work of several public institutions, primarily the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) in Coimbatore and the University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), Dharwad, in genetically modifying the open pollinated varieties (OPV) of brinjal whereas Mahyco is focused on doing it with hybrids. Of course, both institutions have been working with Mahyco on the project in what is described as a public private partnership (PPP), spearheaded by Cornell University of the US as the ABSPII project. Funding for the project comes from the Ford Foundation and USAID.


Since an expert committee set up by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee has recommended that the regulator should consider approving all the Bt brinjal hybrids and varieties containing Mahyco’s Bt technology, it raises some vital questions that have been swept under the carpet. These are questions related to ownership of the varieties, technology fees and terms of release, issues that have received scant attention in the hype generated by the “free” transfer of the technology to the public institutions.


The Bt cry1Ac gene technology was sublicensed to these universities and other public institutions in Bangladesh and the Philippines among others on a pro bono basis, but several concerns remain to be addressed.


Who really owns the nearly dozen OPVs that the two agriculture universities have used in the Bt experiments? What would be the nature of intellectual property rights (IPRs) that the developers would enjoy given that the technology is owned by Mahyco — a company in which Monsanto has a 26 per cent stake — and how soon would the universities be allowed to release their seeds? These are critical issues that need to be answered since only a quarter of the nation’s brinjal farmers are known to be using hybrid seeds. There is a simple reason for that: OPVs, produced by natural pollination, allow farmers to reuse their seeds unlike with hybrids where cultivators need to go back to the companies every planting time for expensive proprietary seed.


A copy of the Material Transfer Agreement signed between TNAU and Monsanto in March 2005 reveals some interesting facts. The university says it has supplied to Mahyco “eggplant germplasm developed by, owned, controlled and/or licensed-in by TNAU”. But can the university claim ownership of the original germplasm which would have come from the farming community? Was their permission sought and granted when such an agreement was being drawn up? And would the benefits, if any, be shared with this community when commercialisation takes place?


Agriculture experts also question if TNAU can claim to own and control this germplasm when no legislation allows it as of now. Did the university register these OPVs? Farmers’ lobbies say if this is indeed the case, then it should show proof of how and when control and ownership were obtained from the donors/breeders for the germplasm of the essentially-derived varieties as they are termed otherwise, and also if it would amount to a serious violation of farmers’ rights.


Equally significant is the compact between the university and Mahyco which is aimed at developing and delivering “pro-poor varieties of insect- tolerant Bt eggplant to facilitate technology access to resource-constrained farmers”. Pro-poor varieties of Bt eggplant? That’s an intriguing term but what is germane here is the fact TNAU can only deliver the “products” (Bt varieties) to farmers by a further agreement with the company.


The restrictions on the university are many: TNAU cannot backcross the Bt gene into any other germplasm apart from the four selected varieties; it cannot further develop transgenic eggplants with “products” it derives from the partnership nor can it do any breeding work with these products. On the other hand, Mahyco has reserved for itself “certain rights to the use of the Bt gene”.


It’s good to remember the overarching philosophy of ABSPII. The project document states that “to safeguard the licensor’s interests, specific strategies for the stewardship and monitoring of the technology by the licencees was addressed and formulated early in the sublicensing programme”. So while references to pro-poor varieties sounds impressive, it’s important to remember that IPRs extract a price — from the licensees, sub-licensees and the customer.


So the question of who owns the products is as important as the question of who owns the germplasm. We are waiting for TNAU to clear the air.




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1.22  Bt brinjal is a safe breakthrough: Indian Minister of S&T


India's Union Minister of Science & Technology Prithviraj Chavan describes Bt brinjal a safe breakthrough in an exclusive interview in the latest issue of BiotechNews, an official news portal of the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Govt of India. Speaking to the Biotech News, a bimonthly magazine of DBT, he says "I am sure that development of Bt brinjal, the first biotech vegetable crop, is appropriate and timely. I understand that it has been tested rigorously over the last nine years and has been found substantially equivalent to its non-Bt counterparts, except for an additional gene-cry1Ac which expresses Cry protein effective only against a very specific target insect, in this case Fruit and Shoot Borer (FSB). GEAC has evaluated Bt brinjal for its efficacy and safety as per the protocols and procedures prescribed under the Ministry of Environment and Forest's Environment Protection Act 1986 and Rules 1989 as well as DBT's own biosafety norms".


Addressing the concerns raised over the biosafety studies conducted for Bt brinjal, the Minister says "GEAC (MoEF) and Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM) of DBT have jointly developed protocols for each test, closely monitored progress and ensured compliance during the testing of Bt brinjal. Bt brinjal has been tested extensively at various public sector institutions and nationally accredited laboratories with very good GLP track records in collaboration with Mahyco".  Bt brinjal, the first biotech vegetable crop which is grown by 1.4 million small and marginal farmers on 550,000 hectare in India, is declared safe for environmental release and recommended for commercial approval to the Ministry of Environment and Forest in mid Oct 2009. Highlighting the rigorous testing that has preceded the GEAC nod to Bt brinjal Mr. Chavan says "All these studies have concluded that Bt brinjal causes no adverse effects when consumed by humans, animals, non-target organisms and beneficial insects. In fact, Bt protein was not even detectable in cooked brinjal fruit". Expressing his views on labelling regime for GM foods in India the Minister adds "It is advisable to adhere to labelling regime that is based on the nutritional composition of product and not on the process used to develop the product as long as the product has been determined as safe". Finally, lauding the role of Bt technology in agriculture, he says "The main advantage of this technology is that it reduces the use of chemical pest control making the technology safe for the environment as well as human consumption".


A full issue of Dec 2009 DBT's BiotechNews titled "Bt brinjal: A Pioneering Push" is available on BiotechNews online portal at For more information about biotech development in India  contact: and




Source: CropBiotech Update: 11th Dec 09


Contributed by Bhagirath Choudhary


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1.23  USDA/APHIS seeks public comment on draft environmental impact statement for genetically engineered alfalfa


Washington, DC, USA

15 December 2009

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) today announced the availability of a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) that evaluates the potential environmental effects of deregulating alfalfa genetically engineered (GE) to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, known commercially as Roundup. This GE alfalfa is commonly referred to as Roundup Ready (RR) alfalfa.


APHIS considered two alternatives in the draft EIS: to grant nonregulated status to the two RR alfalfa lines, or to maintain the lines’ status as regulated articles. APHIS analyzed these alternatives with regard to their potential environmental impacts, socioeconomic impacts, as well as human health and safety impacts.


APHIS originally deregulated two lines of RR alfalfa (J101 and J163) in 2005. The agency prepared this draft EIS to comply with a February 2007 judgment and order by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The court did not overturn APHIS’ 2005 conclusions regarding the safety of the RR alfalfa for food and feed purposes, but rather concluded that APHIS had not adequately documented potential, or lack of potential, environmental impacts.


APHIS is seeking public comment on the draft EIS and will consider all public comments submitted during the comment period before finalizing the EIS or making any decisions regarding the regulatory status of RR alfalfa. The comment period will be open for 60 days from the date of publication in the Dec. 18, 2009, Federal Register. Preliminarily, APHIS concluded that there is no significant impact on the human environment due to granting nonregulated status to RR alfalfa.


To obtain feedback and take comment from members of the general public APHIS is scheduling four public meetings. These meetings will take place in conjunction with the Western Alfalfa Seed Conference in Las Vegas, Nev., the week of Jan. 17, 2010; the Mid-America Alfalfa Expo in Kearney, Neb., the week of Feb. 2, 2010; and the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society Annual Healthy Farms/Rural Advantage Conference in Lincoln, Neb., the week of Feb. 2, 2010. APHIS will also hold a public meeting in the Washington D.C., area during the week of Feb. 8, 2010. Exact meeting dates and locations will be published in the Federal Register, posted on the APHIS Web site and will be announced in a future press release.


APHIS’ regulates the introduction (importation, interstate movement and environmental release) of GE organisms. APHIS has been safely regulating GE organisms since 1986 and to date has authorized more than 13,000 safe environmental releases (field tests) of GE plants and deregulated more than 75 GE plants.


The draft EIS is available on the APHIS Web site at Notice of this draft EIS is scheduled for publication in the Dec. 18, 2009, Federal Register.


Consideration will be given to comments received on or before Feb. 16, 2010. You may comment by either of the following methods:

·         Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to to submit or view comments and to view supporting and related materials available electronically.

·         Postal Mail/Commercial Delivery: please send two copies of your comment to Docket No. APHIS-2007-0044, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238. Please state that your comment refers to Docket No. APHIS-2007-0044.


Comments received are posted on the Web site and can be viewed at USDA, Room 1141, South Building, 14th St. and Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C., between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. To facilitate entry into the comment reading room, please call (202) 690-2817.




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1.24  Fourth Annual Soybean Rust Symposium includes some bombshells


United States

16 December 2009

The American soybean industry has changed dramatically since soybean rust was found on our shores in late 2004 – and so has our understanding of Phakospora pachyrhizi, the fungal pathogen that causes the disease.


Five years after soybean rust was discovered in Louisiana, more than 130 scientists at the American Phytopathological Society’s Fourth National Soybean Rust Symposium in December shared both good and bad news:

·         Farms in the United States have not been devastated like those in Brazil, though 2009 saw the first major economic losses to soybean rust in hard-hit fields in Mississippi.

·         The sentinel plot network has successfully tracked known locations of soybean rust every day since that first discovery, but funding cuts in 2010 are leading to a scale-down of the system.

·         An array of fungicides were registered and put to good use controlling soybean rust, but reports from Brazil indicate the soybean rust fungus may be getting more tolerant of the triazole class of fungicides in some areas.

·         Some populations of kudzu are resistant to soybean rust, but the amount of infected acreage of kudzu that serves as a spore bank has been growing steadily.

·         Geneticists are gaining an understanding of how some plants defend themselves against the fungus and are isolating genes breeders can cross into commercial varieties, but they point out that resistant varieties will not be a silver bullet for managing the disease.


Marking a Shift

Presenters at the symposium shared insights on soybean rust at scales ranging from electron microscopy to field maps to diagrams of global weather patterns. Colleagues teamed up across state boundaries, interagency lines and scientific disciplines to tackle this once feared soybean disease from all possible angles, generating a remarkable amount of new information. Symposium chairperson Anne Dorrance of The Ohio State University pointed out that since 2004, participants have published 170 peer-reviewed papers in European and American publications, including 63 articles in American Phytopathological Society journals, on soybean rust.


“This is a celebration of accomplishment,” Dorrance told the group at the symposium’s opening session on December 9, 2009, in New Orleans, La. “There has been a tremendous amount of research and sweat and driving hours and laboratory bench hours. We have focused a lot of brainpower on P. pachyrhizi.”


The effort to understand and manage soybean rust is by no means over, but the 2009 symposium marked a shift in tone for the group, notes David Wright, director of research for the North Central Soybean Research Program, and technical chairperson of the symposium.


“We’ve gone from the fearing this disease to being confident we can manage it if it becomes a problem,” he explains.


Progress on soybean rust will continue as researchers fine-tune models that will help predict disease outbreaks and their economic costs, develop resistant soybean germplasm, identify and track genetically distinct populations of the fungus, create diagnostic tools for field use, and learn more about how environmental factors affect the disease.


Sentinel Changes

Among the biggest changes growers will see in the coming year is a scale-down of the Sentinel plot system that has covered the nation’s soybean producing areas since 2005 with meticulously scouted soybean plots and spore collection equipment. With the end of federal grants that have supported the system, funding will drop 60 to 80 percent in 2010 compared to its 2006 to 2008 peak, says Don Hershman, extension plant pathologist at the University of Kentucky, who coordinated the first four years of the Sentinel effort.


The nationally funded network will cover the South from Texas and Oklahoma to South Carolina for the 2010 season; monitoring in the North will need to be covered by other sources of funds. Sentinel plot monitoring in the South will be conducted from April 1 through October 15 instead of year-round. And to streamline reporting, Sentinel scouting teams will not report negative data – they will only upload reports when they find soybean rust spores. The result will be a leaner system that will still safeguard the country’s soybean acres.


“From a Northern perspective, we only need to know where soybean rust is from about April 1,” Hershman says. “The South is where the main event is. If things begin to change, if models indicate there could be a problem in Illinois or Iowa, there will be ad-hoc monitoring. No soybean specialist will drop the ball on this.”


Grower Commitment

The Sentinel plot system is a monument to soybean growers’ commitment to staying ahead of soybean rust, Hershman points out.


“We recognized this was a major disease, but more important than that, growers demanded it,” he says, recalling a 2005 meeting of USDA researchers, extension specialists and growers. “They wanted a national, systematic monitoring program. We were given our marching orders.”


Support for the system directed Northern money to Southern states in a unique effort to protect the entire industry, adds Wright. “The credit goes back to the farmers,” he says. “It was the farmers who were determined to get the sentinel plot system operational within months, not years. It was the farmers who funded research at the University of Florida so scientists could study the disease year-round. You go where the problem is to conduct the research, knowing you’ll be ready when it shows up on your doorstep. Farmers supplied the financial support, and an incredible group of scientists did a tremendous amount of work.”


The plots paid off handsomely – both in the value of the data they provided on how soybean rust moves and in the estimated $200 million growers have saved each year by avoiding unnecessary sprays or making properly timed treatments when needed, says Wright.


Checkoff investments in the soybean rust battle will continue to show returns, Wright predicts. If a “perfect storm” of spores and weather sets the stage for Midwestern outbreaks, or the pathogen’s population shifts to a more Midwest-adapted race, growers will be prepared. And the successful model of coordinated effort can be emulated in the future.


“This communication/facilitation model has been expanded to deal with other pathogens and diseases,” he says, “to try to keep research and knowledge moving forward and help farmers remain profitable.”


The Plant Health Initiative represents a cooperative partnership between soybean checkoff boards and land grant universities from 12 north central states. The initiative’s goal is to act as a resource that collects and dispenses valuable management information on a variety of soybean pests and diseases. The Plant Health Initiative receives its funding through soybean checkoff dollars, and is administered by the North Central Soybean Research Program (NCSRP), its primary sponsor. Funded by the soybean checkoff.




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1.25  African scientist works on sorghum project in Des Moines, Iowa


Des Moines, Iowa, USA

14 December 2009


Mahamadi Ouedraogo, a scientist from Burkina Faso, Africa, arrived in Des Moines, Iowa, recently to work as a research fellow on the Africa Biofortified Sorghum (ABS) project.  Sorghum grain is used for food, “sorghum molasses” and fodder.  The project focuses on:

·         Improving the nutritional value of sorghum for human consumption

·         Building African scientific capacity through training African scientists


In the past five years, DuPont business Pioneer Hi-Bred has hosted 11 research fellows from Africa.  Mahamadi has worked as a pearl millet breeder in the National Center for Technologic and Scientific Research for 13 years.  After obtaining his Diploma of Rural Development Engineer and Master’s degree in genetic and plant breeding, he was accepted into a Ph.D. program at the University of Wageningen, The Netherlands.


At Pioneer, Mahamadi is working with scientists on developing the next generation of ABS.  He will focus on learning more about sorghum seed characterization related to ABS traits, confined field trials, greenhouse containment, bioinformatics related to ABS trait markers and marker-assisted backcrossing.


Following his fellowship, Mahamadi expects to apply his experience and knowledge to the development of biofortified sorghum to meet the ABS project goals.  Funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Grand Challenges in Global Health Initiative, the ABS project is led by Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation International, a non-profit organization based in Kenya.  


Pioneer partners with Africa Harvest as the scientific lead on this project, donating molecular and transformation expertise, as well as the initial technology for transgenic biofortified sorghum.




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1.26  China banks on seeds to protect biodiversity


Beijing, China

8 December 2009

by Peng Kuang, SciDevNet

China has set up its first national seed bank as part of the country's efforts to protect biodiversity.


The Southwest China Germplasm Bank of Wild Species was declared operational at an opening ceremony last month (24 November). The seed bank, established at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Kunming Institute of Botany in Yunnan Province, contains more than 30,000 wild seeds from plants on the verge of extinction in China.


The seed bank has the capacity to store many more samples and will offer full access to researchers, said Li Dezhu, the institute's director, at the ceremony.


"Germplasm is vital for a country's security and core interests," Gao Lizhi, director of the institute's Plant Germplasm and Genomics Centre, told SciDev.Net. "Its significance lies not only in scientific research, but also in food security, energy supply and ecology."


Gao is leading a research project on oil-rich plants that can be used to produce bioenergy.


One important outcome of China's research into germplasm resources is hybrid rice, which was developed by scientists including Yuan Longping in central China's Hunan Province. Since the 1970s, hybrid rice varieties have yielded more than 350 billion kilograms of grain.


"A country can be revitalised by a gene," said Xue Dayuan, chief scientist for biodiversity conservation at the Nanjing Institute of Environmental Science. "The germplasm bank will promote bio-resource research and identify more useful genes like hybrid rice," he said.


Construction of the bank began in 2004. Apart from plant seeds, it bank stores DNA and microorganism samples. It also contains 590 samples of wild seed from 21 foreign countries and the Kenya-based World Agroforestry Centre. The target is to preserve up to 190,000 biological samples in the next 15 years.


"The best way to preserve gene resources is to preserve them in their local natural environment," said Xue. "But the bank is also good, and a less expensive way to protect germplasm from extinction."


Source: SciDevNet via


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1.27 Fall in rice strains highlights China's biodiversity gap


Beijing, China

26 November 2009

by Shanshan Li, SciDev.Net

The number of China's rice varieties has dramatically decreased, raising fears about the country's food security and biodiversity.


China had 46,000 rice varieties in the 1950s, but this plummeted to just 1,000 in 2006, according to a Chinese study published in BioScience this month.


The research used a variety of environmental indicators — such as forest coverage and water quality — to examine China's progress since parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity agreed in 2002 to significantly reduce biodiversity loss by 2010.


It found that despite making progress with its forest resources, China needs a more integrated biodiversity strategy.


"A significant reduction of biodiversity loss — or even a halt of it — can be achieved only if biodiversity conservation is mainstreamed into national and sectoral strategies and action plans. The next decade is a critical period for China," the authors wrote.


According to the study, China's grasslands have declined by 15,000 square kilometres per year over the past 30 years, and previous research found than 90 per cent of China's grasslands are degraded.


But there is some good news. Water quality in marine ecosystems has improved by more than four per cent per year from 2001 to 2007. The area of China's forests has increased from 13 per cent to 18 per cent in 2003, and forest growing stock — the volume of trees in an area that have more than a certain diameter at chest height — has increased by over 40 per cent.


"Biodiversity is increasing in China's forests," the study said.


Earlier this month, the State Forest Administration of China published its plan to adapt to climate change, proposing that China's forest coverage should increase to 20 per cent by 2010.


Bao-Rong Lu, a professor at China's Fudan University, told SciDev.Net: "The huge decrease [in rice yields] is a result of the extensive cultivation of a few genetically improved modern varieties that are high-yielding and pest-resistant."


"In addition, the farming style of monoculture — with only a few dominant varieties covering a huge area — will lead to a vulnerable agro-ecosystem."


Lu said that genebanks and nurseries could boost conservation but have their limitations, such as seeds not being able to adapt to environments after being frozen for long periods of time.


"The role of agriculture extension workers and scientists as active partners of farmers is also very important in the conservation of rice genetic diversity," added Lu.


Link to abstract in BioScience




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1.28  African policymakers urged to speed seed to farmers


Abuja, Nigeria

23 November 2009

by Lexy Abutu, SciDev.Net

African seed producers and researchers have called on policymakers to boost production of improved seed varieties and ensure that they are released to farmers more quickly.


At a policy workshop held in Abuja, Nigeria, stakeholders from industry and academia sought to unify the seed laws of different countries within West Africa to narrow the gap between supply and demand.


Recent studies by researchers at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) show that current demand for improved varieties of maize seeds far exceeds supply in the region.


According to one study, the average supply of drought-tolerant, improved maize seeds in the region accounted for only one third of the total demand— with less than 50 per cent in Nigeria and only 11 per cent in Ghana — from 1997 to 2007.


Tahirou Abdoulaye, an IITA agricultural economist who led the study, said that maize seed production in the region is too low and called for a favourable policy framework to attract the private sector to the seed industry.


According to an IITA press release, maize productivity has been under threat from both climate change-related drought and delays in getting improved seed varieties to farmers.


Solving the latter problem requires a more effective, streamlined seed sector, said Wilfred Mwangi, associate director for Africa in CIMMYT's Global Maize Program.


Shehu Ado, director of the Institute of Agricultural Research at Nigeria's Ahmadu Bello University, told SciDev.Net that the gap between supply and demand was not a result of legal issues or bottlenecks in the system but of the inability of seed companies to showcase their products at the grassroots level.


He said that seed companies in the region rely heavily on the government for bulk purchases. The government, in turn, delivers these seeds to farmers, creating a gap between farmers and seed companies.


This gap has created problems of credibility and confidence, Ado said, with some farmers complaining that hybrid seeds do not perform better than freely available conventional varieties. He argued that seed companies must campaign to educate farmers on the benefits of improved hybrid varieties.


But Nnimmo Bassey, chair of Friends of the Earth International, told SciDev.Net that narrowing the gap between supply and demand will not only keep farmers dependent on seed companies but could also weaken national laws that protect the environment, opening up the region to contamination and degradation.


The workshop was held 28 October.


Source: SciDev.Net via


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1.29 Newly Elected African Crop Science Society Council, 2009-2011


Dr. G. D. Joubert, South Africa, President,


Dr. Luisa Santos, Mozambique, Vice- President,


Dr. J. S. Tenywa, Uganda, Editor-in-Chief,


Dr. Florence M. Olubayo, Kenya ,Woman Representative,


Dr. Diana Marais, South Africa, Representative South Africa,


Prof. M. Abdel-Hakim Mahmoud, Egypt, Representative Northern Africa,


Mr. Walter Nkeabeng Leke, Cameroon, Representative Central Africa,


Prof. K.P. Sibuga, Tanzania, Representative East Africa,,


Prof. M.A.K. Smith, Nigeria, Representative West Africa,


Prof. Patrick Rubaihayo, Uganda, Ordinary Member,


Prof. George Y Kanyama Phiri, Malawi, Ordinary Member,


Dr. Moses O Osiru, Uganda, Ordinary Member,,


Prof. Kasem Zaki Ahmed, Egypt, Immediate Past President,,


Contributed by Kasem Zaki


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1.30  Report on bee mortality and bee surveillance in Europe


AFSSA, the French Food Safety Agency completed a report on honey bee mortality and the ways that colony losses are monitored in Europe. The European Food Safety Authority commissioned the study and published the report. Initially, AFSSA set up a consortium of seven European bee disease research institutes in France, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.


The project covers 1) a description and critical analysis of surveillance programs that measured colony loss; 2) the collection and analysis of the epidemiological data sets on colony losses; and 3) a critical review and selection of relevant literature on the possible causes and risk factors of colony losses.


The researchers found that bee colony losses in Europe and the USA are multifactorial which include beekeeping and husbandy practices, environmental factors, biological agents as well as excessive use of pesticides. The interaction of these factors creates stress, and weaken bees' defense system allowing pests and pathogens to kill the colony.


See the EFSA press release on the Report at and the article at The full report is downloadable at


From Crop Biotech Update 18 December 2009:


Contributed by Margaret E Smith

Dept. Plant Breeding and Genetics

Cornell University


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1.31  Frost tolerant wheat varieties a step closer



11 December 2009

Researchers have moved a step closer to breeding wheat varieties with improved frost tolerance, thanks to a series of milder frost events in Western Australia this year.


As part of a national project funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), the damage caused to both wheat and barley has been examined after each frost over several years.


Ben Biddulph from the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) is leading the project in Western Australia, and recently presented its latest findings to a Frost Workshop in Perth, organised by the GRDC.


Ben says the good news is that the varieties showing damage are consistent across states.


“We have concentrated on severe frosts in the past, and while some barley varieties have suffered more than others, with wheat everything was wiped out so we couldn’t see whether some varieties were more tolerant,” Dr Biddulph said.


“This year we’ve looked at the damage caused in frosts of two degrees above zero – even though they’re so minor that in many cases growers wouldn’t even report the damage.


“What we’ve found is that with those events there are consistent differences between wheat, as well as barley, varieties in the amount of damage.


“That means there is genetic variation for frost tolerance in existing varieties, and eventually it should be possible to identify the genes responsible and produce more tolerant varieties.”


Barley flowers earlier in head development so there’s usually more physical protection by the time frosts hit the crop, whereas wheat is fully exposed, which is why it was harder to identify levels of damage in different wheat varieties when we were just looking at severe frosts.


Dr Biddulph says frost tolerance is a difficult trait to work on as there are a lot of factors at play.


“We tend to use temperature to determine the severity of a frost, but there are other factors at work; the level of damage caused by two events of minus three degrees is rarely the same, but the variety rankings are consistent.


“Because there is consistency in the damage caused to each variety we can rule out some environmental factors.


“We’re still some years away from identifying and screening for the gene responsible, let alone breeding frost tolerant wheat varieties, but we’re looking long-term and are confident we can make progress,” Dr Biddulph said.


The GRDC invests around $17 million a year in pre-breeding, working with research and funding partners to discover novel genes, traits and molecular markers that can then be used to develop improved varieties.




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1.32  Australian scientists identify crown rot-resistant wheat lines


Crown Rot in wheat and barley caused by the fungus Fusarium pseudograminearum is a serious disease causing losses of up to $ 79 million annually (USD 71 million) in Australia. Researchers from Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) now say that they have identified wheat and barley lines resistant to the dreaded disease.


Chunji Liu and colleagues at CSIRO scanned over 2400 wheat lines and 1000 barley lines from around the world to find the ones resistant to the fungal disease. "The wheat and barley lines showing resistance to Crown Rot are now being used in pre-breeding programs to incorporate the resistance into adapted varieties for delivery to the wheat breeding companies," Liu says. Developing wheat and barley varieties is an essential strategy in fighting the disease. Crop rotations have limited success in reducing Fusarium infestations since the fungus survives on weeds and grasses tha! t remain when cereals are rotated.


Liu noted that CSIRO scientists are also studying how Fusarium invades the plant, how plants resist Fusarium infection and what genes may be involved in defending the plant against Fusarium or reducing its effect on yield.


The original article is available at


From Crop Biotech Update 30 October 2009:


Contributed by Margaret E Smith

Dept. Plant Breeding and Genetics

Cornell University


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1.33  Virus-resistant GM squash more vulnerable to bacterial wilt attack


Squash plants genetically modified to resist viral diseases become more vulnerable to a fatal bacterial infection, researchers at the Pennsylvania State University found. In a three-year study, Andrew Stephenson and colleagues examined the effects of the transgene on fitness, on herbivory by cucumber beetles, on the incidence of mosaic viruses, and on the incidence of bacterial wilt disease.


The researchers found that the fitness advantage enjoyed by virus-resistant plants comes at a price. "Plants that do not have the virus-resistant transgene get the viral disease," explained Stephenson, whose team's work is funded by the National Science Foundation. "However, since cucumber beetles prefer to feed on healthy plants rather than viral infected plants, the beetles become increasingly concentrated on the healthy -mostly transgenic -plants."


Results showed that the prevalence of bacterial wilt disease was significantly greater on transgenic plants than ! on non-transgenic plants. "When the cucumber beetles start to feed on infected plants they pick up the bacteria through their digestive system," explained Miruna Sasu, co-author of the study published this week in PNAS. "This feeding creates open wounds on the leaves and when the bugs' feces falls on these open wounds, the bacteria find their way into the plumbing of the plant."


The paper is available at For more information, read


From Crop Biotech Update 30 October 2009:


Contributed by Margaret E Smith

Dept. Plant Breeding and Genetics

Cornell University


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1.34  New high-yielding hybrid sorghum varieties


Three new hybrid sorghum varieties that can quadruple Mali's harvests of the country's staple food crop have just been released by local breeders. According to Dr. Bino Teme, director of the Rural Economic Institute (IER), Fadda, Sigui Kumbe and Sewa hybrids can produce 3, 3.5 and 4 metric tones (MT) per hectare, respectively. In contrast, Sakoika, the local seed variety, produces up to 1.5 MT per hectare and only if grown with adequate farm inputs.


IER is set to train seed producers on the breeding techniques and conduct seed promotion activities among farmers. "We have to continue with the demonstrations because we have different kinds of farmers; some will adopt the hybrids immediately, while others employ await and see approach," Teme said.


See the full report at


From Crop Biotech Update 6 November 2009:


Contributed by Margaret E Smith

Dept. Plant Breeding and Genetics

Cornell University


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1.35  Whiteflies interfere with stressed plants' chemical cry for help


Plants under herbivore attack are able to protect themselves by emitting chemical signals recognized by the herbivore's natural enemies. For instance, bean plants under spider mite (Tetranychus urticae) attack produce compounds to attract predatory mites (Phytoseiulus persimilis). These mites are specialized predator of spider mites, acting as a type of "bodyguard" for the plant. However, little is known about how plants respond to infestation by multiple herbivores, particularly if these belong to different feeding guilds.


Researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands describe in a paper published by PNAS how whiteflies (Bemisia tabaci) interfere with the chemical signal production of bean plants under attack by spider mites. The scientists looked at the production of the compound beta-omicene. They found that the compound is produced in much lower quantities if the plant is not only attacked by spider mites, but also by whiteflies. The production of the odor decreases because of a lower expression rate of the plant gene that codes for a crucial enzyme in the production chain. When the researchers added ocimene to the odor of plants which were attacked by both species, the attraction of predatory mites was restored. The researchers observed that spider mites produce more offspring on a plant under attack by whiteflies.


The results of this study are significant for integrated crop protection in which a combination of methods can be used to fight various pests infesting a crop. Once it becomes clear which insects weaken plant defense systems and which strengthen them, more focused research on environmentally-safe pest control will be possible, according to the researchers.


The original article is available at ws/White091125.htm Download the PNAS paper at


International Training and Capacity Building Programs for 2010 at MSU World Technology Access Program (WorldTAP)


College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Michigan State University

Accessing Knowledge, Information and Technologies Through Training, Capacity Building and Networking


June 13 - 23, 2010 Agroecology, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and Sustainable Agriculture: An International Short Course

Contact: Dr. Karim Maredia,


July 11 - 16, 2010 Intellectual Property Rights (IPR): Technology Transfer, Use and Management: An International Internship Program

Contact: Dr. Callista Ransom,


July 25 - 30, 2010 Biosafety: An International Short Course in Environmental Aspects of Agricultural Biotechnology

Contact: Dr. Cholani Weebadde,


August 29 - September 3, 2010 Molecular Plant Breeding: An International Short Course on Practical Applications of Molecular tool! s for Plant Breeding

Contact: Dr. Cholani Weebadde,


September 19 - 30, 2010 Agricultural Biotechnology: An International Short Course

Contact: Dr. Cholani Weebadde,


For more information on WorldTAP programs, visit or email Dr. Karim Maredia at:


From Crop Biotech Update 27 November 2009:


Contributed by Margaret E Smith

Dept. Plant Breeding and Genetics

Cornell University


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1.36  ARS finds PEMV-resistant pea lines


Researchers at the US Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) have identified four pea breeding lines resistant to the dreaded pea enation mosaic virus (PEMV). The virus is transmitted to peas, as well as to chickpeas and other legumes, by aphid feeding. Chemical control of aphids however is often ineffective in controlling the virus.


The researchers are now developing PEMV-resistant commercial pea varieties from the breeding lines. According to the ARS, there are no PEMV-resistant dry pea cultivars. The few fresh pea cultivars that are resistant all contain the same single dominant gene, the En gene, for resistance. Researchers worry that the virus could quickly evolve virulent new forms to overcome the resistance gene.


The ARS researchers found in trials that the PEMV-resistant lines tolerate the virus' presence, even at high concentrations, without sustaining significant damage, loss of growth or seed yield. Because of this plant- pathogen "truce," PEMV may be less apt to turn more virulent than it would with resistant varieties, the ARS said.


Read the original article at


From Crop Biotech Update 4 December 2009:


Contributed by Margaret E Smith

Dept. Plant Breeding and Genetics

Cornell University


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1.37  Amylopectin potatoes by precision breeding


Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology (IME) in Germany have developed "super" potatoes that produce pure amylopectin through TILLING (Targeted Induced Local Lesions in Genomes). TILLING is an alternative to the traditional Agrobacterium-mediated transformation technique and uses mutagenesis coupled with gene-specific detection of single-nucleotide changes. Conventional starch is composed of the carbohydrate polymers amylose and amylopectin. Compared to amylose, amylopectin is more water soluble and with higher bonding capacity. Pure amylopectin starch is of high value in several technical applications such as paper, adhesive and textile manufacture. But separating amylose from amylopectin is an energy and cost-intensive process.


According to the Fraunhofer researchers, 100 tons of these "super" potatoes were harvested earlier this fall. "They can be processed as usual in the production lines," noted Jost Muth, researcher at the IME . "Special measures aren't necessary, because the TILLING potatoes are totally normal breeds that contain no genetically modified material."


"Gene technology-based processes are indispensible and it is prudent to use them, when we want to integrate genetic material into a plant genome , for example if we develop transgenic tobacco plants producing pharmacological substances," said IME scientist Dirk Prüfer. "When it comes to dealing with genes, there is an easy rule: as much modification as needed, but as little as possible."


For more information, read the press release at


From Crop Biotech Update 11 December 2009:


Contributed by Margaret E Smith

Dept. Plant Breeding and Genetics

Cornell University


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1.38  Cloning plants from seeds


Wageningen, The Netherlands

11 December 2009

Wageningen geneticists are developing a method to replicate the parents of a chosen plant. Known as 'reverse breeding', this will have a big impact for the breeding industry.


Just as humans have no idea which characteristics a child will inherit during child-bearing, plants which propagate with pollen and pistil produce a wide variety of offspring. Breeders want to keep this complex variation within limits. 'We are going to turn the process around this time', says geneticist Hans de Jong. 'We are going to reproduce the parents of the ideal plant.'


De Jong is carrying out his work on reverse breeding together with PhD student Erik Wijnker and a research team from breeding firm Rijk Zwaan. This company's R&D-director Rob Dirks came up with this new idea, which has been patented in the meantime. The Laboratory of Genetics is now investigating if this approach is feasible and has published an article this month in Plant Biotechnology Journal.


'We want to delimit the processes which determine the enormous genetic variation in plants', says De Jong. 'As such, we need to understand the process of genetic recombination and bring it under control.' The genome of plants and animals consists of many chromosome pairs. During fertilization, the seed and ovule fuse to create a unique offspring, which has one chromosome out of a pair from each parent. A parent does not actually transfer one of its two chromosomes to its offsprings. The chromosome which has been given away is a combination of two parental chromosomes, because pieces of chromosomes are exchanged via so-called cross-overs. It is these cross-overs which result in new combinations of father and mother characteristics and big variations in the offspring. 'We are now able to hinder these cross-overs', says Wijnker. 'In so doing, we limit the recombination and are able to do breeding on the chromosome level.'


This opens up new vistas for the breeding industry. De Jong says: 'Currently, breeders make use of carefully selected parental lines in which both chromosome copies are exactly the same.' Breeders cross the parental lines to develop the ideal plant with the desired characteristics: the hybrid.


For example, we have the hybrid for big tasty tomatoes. But when this is crossed with other tomatoes, the combination of desired characteristics will be lost in subsequent generations. The tomato grower therefore needs to keep buying new hybrid seeds. That is how breeders earn their keep. The ideal hybrid can only be reproduced if you have its parents. Breeding firms therefore guard the parental lines closely and keep these away in secret fields.


De Jong and Wijnker want to replicate these hybrids in their lab using reverse breeding. The underlying scientific question is: how can you retrieve the parents of the ideal tomato plant? If this were possible, we would sow a big sack of seeds of many varieties all over the place and look out for the plant which grows best under existing environmental circumstances, says De Jong. 'We would then reproduce the parents of that plant.' The secret fields of the breeding firms would become a thing of the past.


To do this, the researchers first set out to engineer the meiosis process, when gender cells are formed in which the cross-overs occur. They have succeeded for the model plant Arabidopsis and for several crops. The good thing about Arabidopsis is that it only has five pairs of chromosomes. The cross-overs during meiosis will result in a maximum of two-to-the-power-of-five, which makes 32 different viable gender cells.


Afterwards, these gender cells, in which only one copy of the chromosome resides, need to be developed into an adult plant with two copies, just like the original parent. Here again, the duo have succeeded in getting pollen from Arabidopsis to germinate into a seedling, by letting the few chromosomes duplicate themselves. 'A month ago, this wasn't possible with Arabidopsis. Then, we had help from an American colleague who made a fantastic discovery in the lab, and we're back on track', De Jong says. The next step is to cross the seedlings with one another. They will then use marker technology to find out which of the 32 possible parents are responsible for the ideal plant. They will supply evidence which shows that reverse breeding is possible in a new publication soon.


The breeding industry, however, looks the other way. Arabidopsis has very few chromosomes and can result in only 32 possible gender cells. 'The chance of finding the parents is therefore very big', says Wijnker. Rice and tomato have twelve chromosome pairs. 'With such a sharp rise in complexity, the chances of finding the parents will become less', De Jong says. A crop such as bread wheat (21 chromosome pairs) is too complex. 'We don't think that we can use this technique in wheat.' But reverse breeding is within reach for agricultural crops such as spinach (six chromosome pairs), rye and cucumber (seven), beetroot (nine) and maize (ten). 


Albert Sikkema


The above article was written by the editorial staff of Resource, the bi-weekly newspaper for Wageningen University and Research Centre. For more information, contact the press and science information officer of Wageningen UR, e-mail: or the editorial staff of Resource, e-mail: See the archived articles at




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1.39  China to develop third-generation genome sequencing instrument


Beijing, China

7 December 2009

The Chinese Academy of Sciences and Inspur Group have started a joint project to develop the third-generation genome sequencing instrument, which might slash the cost of genome sequencing by 99 percent.


The instrument is expected to sequence a person's genomes in an hour at a cost of about 1,000 U.S. dollars, compared with six weeks and 60,000-100,000 dollars by the current second-generation instrument, said Yu Jun, deputy head of the Beijing Institute of Genomics with the Chinese Academy of Sciences.


The academy and the Inspur Group, a leading supplier of computing platforms and IT application solutions in China, announced the project here on Friday, according to a report by Beijing Daily newspaper on Saturday.


"The home-made third-generation genome sequencing instrument is not only conducive to life science research, but also concerns the genetic safety of China," Yu said.


The sequencing instrument is vital for gene science research and the made-in-China third-generation instrument will help the country get a leading edge in the field, he added.






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1.40  Newly discovered enzymes could be targeted to make water-wise crops


Plants take in carbon dioxide (CO2) from the environment for photosynthesis through microscopic breathing pores called stomata. Also, water vapor is released into the atmosphere through these pores in a process called transpiration. Stomata can tighten to save water when CO2 is abundant, but researchers didn't know how that worked until now. Julian Schroeder and colleagues from the University of California in San Diego pinpointed the enzymes responsible for stomatal response to CO2. Enzymes that react with CO2 cause cells surrounding the opening of the pores to close down, the team reports in the current issue of Nature Cell Biology.


Schroeder and his team identified a pair of proteins that are required for the CO2 response in Arabidopsis. The proteins, enzymes called carbonic anhydrases, split CO2 into bicarbonate and protons. Arabidopsis mutants lacking the carbonic anhydrase genes βCA1 and βCA4! showed impaired response to increased CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere. On the other hand, plants that overexpress these genes showed enhanced water use efficiency.


Several types of plant cells contain carbonic anhydrases, including mesophyll cells which are responsible for photosynthesis. Schroeder and colleagues were able to show that the enzymes work directly within a pair of cells, called guard cells, that control stomatal opening. Introduction of carbonic anhydrase genes designed to work only in guard cells restored the CO2-triggered pore-tightening response in mutant plants.


The researchers believe that the enzymes could be targeted to make crops "water-wise" and more responsive to CO2. "It could be that with these enzymes, you can improve how efficiently plants use water, while taking in CO2 for photosynthesis. Our data in the lab suggest that the CO2 response can be cranked up," Schroeder said.


 Read the original story at The complete paper published by Nature Cell Biology is available to subscribers at


From Crop Biotech Update 18 December 2009:


Contributed by Margaret E Smith

Dept. Plant Breeding and Genetics

Cornell University


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1.41  Antagonistic genes control rice growth


Palo Alto, California, USA

15 December 2009

Scientists at the Carnegie Institution, with colleagues,* have found that a plant steroid prompts two genes to battle each other—one suppresses the other to ensure that leaves grow normally in rice and the experimental plant Arabidopsis thaliana, a relative of mustard. The results, published in the December 15, 2009, issue of The Plant Cell, have important implications for understanding how to manipulate crop growth and yield.


In plants, steroid levels reflect environmental and internal signals and control many processes. Steroid hormones called brassinosteroids (BRs) start their action on the surface of the cell and, through a molecular relay, send signals into the cell's nucleus to turn on or off specific genes, particularly those that are critical to regulating plant growth and development. Although a lot has been discovered about how the steroid affects genes in Arabidopsis, much less was known in crop plants such as rice.


Co-author Zhi-Yong Wang at Carnegie’s Department of Plant Biology explained the work: “We knew that the steroid is very important for activating genes that control cell growth in Arabidopsis as well as in rice. One of the most sensitive responses to the steroid is leaf bending in rice, caused by expansion of the upper cells at the joint between leaf blade and leaf sheath. We wanted to determine how the steroid functioned in rice. We found that the steroid affects two genes encoding (or producing) proteins that turn other genes on or off; they are called transcription factors. In rice, when a gene called Increased Leaf Inclination1 (ILI1) is turned on, it causes leaf bending. Interestingly, we found that the ILI1 protein also binds to another transcription factor, called IBH1, and inhibits its function. When there is too much ILI1 protein, the leaves bend excessively making the plant shaggy. When IBH1 level is high, cell growth is stopped at the joint and the rice is very erect, taking up less space. In normal rice plants the balance between ILI1 and IBH1 keeps growth in check.”


This pair of genes provides a unique tool to control the leaf angle, which is important for crop yield because erect leaves improve light capture and allows rice plants to be planted at higher density for a higher yield per hectare.


Through a series of experiments, the researchers determined how the steroid and genes interact. They found that brassinosteroid oppositely regulate these genes—ILI1 was activated and IBH1 was repressed. As such, the steroid tips the balance between their protein products, ILI1 and IBH1, to initiate cell growth.


“It appears that the steroid causes the IBH1 genes to stop the production of IBH1 protein, and in the meantime increases the production of the ILI1 protein, which turns off IBH1’s inhibition of cell growth. This ensures that the cell grows to just the right length according to the level of steroid,” commented Wang.


The researchers performed similar experiments on the mustard, which showed that steroid interacted with the mustard genes the same way. “Since similar genes are doing the same thing in these different plants, this process is likely to be very old and found in many different higher plants. The more we learn about such mechanisms, the closer we will come to better engineering crops to feed a growing population,” concluded Wang.


The work was supported by the National Science Foundation of China; The National Institute of Health; the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan; and the Carnegie Institution.




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1.42 ECO-PB - Newsletter on organic seeds and plant breeeding


December 2009

Issue IV/2009


·         EU Commission published directive on vegetable conservation varieties

·         GMO myths debunked with Marker Assisted Selection (MAS)

·         New organic potato breeding program “Bioimpuls” in the Netherlands

·         Developing a contamination-management for field nurseries to breed loose smut resistent spring barley under natural infection

·         2nd EUCARPIA Organic and Low-input Section Conference “Breeding for resilience: A strategy for organic and low-input farming systems?”

·         An independent organic vegetable seed production and breeding needs a strong network: Annual meeting of the “network for organic and biodynamic seeds and plant breeding”






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2.01 Plant Breeding and Farmer Participation


A new book from FAO, ICARDA  and ICRISAT


S. Ceccarelli, E.P. Guimaraes and E. Weltzien (eds.), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, 2009. 671 pp.



Request a copy: This book is available free of charge to interested persons in developing countries. Please provide a complete mailing address. Those from developed countries can request to the editor, PBN-L, for information on how to order the book. Mail requests and inquiries to: Clair Hershey (



Participatory Plant Breeding (PPB) originated in the early 1980s as part of a movement promoting the concept of participatory research, in response to criticisms of the failure of post-green-revolution, experiment-station-based research to address the needs of poor farmers in developing countries. Rooted in debate over the social consequences of the narrow focus of the scientific type of research, PPB gained recognition as an activity mostly promoted by social scientists and agronomists based in anti-establishment non-governmental organizations (NGOs).


Today there is widespread recognition that the conventional package of new varieties and external inputs, while successful in the more favourable production areas, has often failed to benefit small-scale farmers in marginal areas. As a result, the vital role of PPB as an additional strategy is better understood. Experience has taught that PPB is complementary to conventional plant breeding rather than an alternative type of plant breeding. Demand for a complementary approach has expanded considerably because of pressure to ensure the relevance of research to poor farmers and their diverse agricultural systems, and because PPB allows selection for the specific adaptation required for such a diversity of target environments. Today, about 80 participatory breeding programmes are known worldwide, involving various institutions and various crops. In 2000, an international review of plant breeding research methodologies concluded that PPB should be an “organic” part of every plant breeding programme aimed at benefiting small-scale farmers in difficult, high-risk environments. In fact, traditional farming and low-input systems, including organic agriculture, are a very heterogeneous population of target environments and not easily served by centralized, conventional plant breeding.


This book demonstrates that PPB is in essence no different from conventional plant breeding, being based on the very same principles of Mendelian, quantitative and population genetics, and therefore has complemented the traditional approach to plant breeding with a number of chapters addressing issues specifically related to the participation of farmers in a plant breeding programme.


The book is aimed at plant breeders, social scientists, students and practitioners, with the hope that they all will find a common ground to discuss ways in which plant breeding can be beneficial to all and can contribute to alleviate poverty.


The authors of the various chapters have been carefully selected to represent three groups of scientists: the first comprises internationally recognized experts in genetics as related to plant breeding, and in the various aspects of plant breeding (from general methodological issues to more specific issues, such as breeding for resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses, high yield potential, molecular breeding and genotype × environment interactions); the second group is represented by professional breeders who have actually practised participatory plant breeding with a number of different crops and in a number of socially and climatically different areas, using the range of methods presented by the first group; and, finally, the third is represented by a group of scientists with specific expertise in areas not usually covered in classical plant breeding books, such as variety release mechanisms, seed diffusion, institutional issues associated with PPB, and intellectual property rights. A chapter documenting the impact that participatory plant breeding has had after about thirty years of practice has been chosen to be the logical conclusion of the book.


(Excerpted from the Foreword by the editor, PBN-L)


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3.01  The Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI) launches a quarterly newsletter


Ronnie Coffman, vice chair of the BGRI, introduced the newsletter in early December 2009:


Dear colleagues,

This is the inaugural edition of the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI) quarterly newsletter. As you know, Dr. Norman Borlaug passed away in September, but his legacy lives on through efforts like the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative to promote wheat research for the world's poor. Dr. Borlaug was Chair of the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative, and we are very honored and pleased that his daughter, Jeanie Borlaug Laube, has succeeded him as chair. Ms. Laube, who lives in Texas, recently attended a Texas A&M football game where her father was honored and where it was announced that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation had made a $1 million endowment contribution to the Norman Borlaug International Scholars fund.


If you are receiving this newsletter, you are already a member of the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative, which is a global advocacy platform dedicated to reducing the world's vulnerability to stem, yellow, and leaf rusts of wheat and to facilitating the evolution of a sustainable international system to contain the threat of wheat rusts and enhance wheat productivity to withstand future global threats to wheat. Any person or institution with an interest or stake in wheat rust research and development is welcome to be a member of the BGRI - just send a message to indicating your interest, and you will be added to our listserv.


The quarterly newsletter aims to inform members of BGRI activities and the happenings in the wheat rust community. The BGRI is an umbrella organization, representing many different countries, institutions, and projects that are working to mitigate rust threats all over the world. Information about wheat rust projects and 'who's who' in the wheat rust world can be found on the BGRI website here.


Let us know of projects you're working on, and if you have news you'd like to announce in the newsletter, we'll happily include it. Send your news to This newsletter reaches more than 500 researchers and administrators at over 100 institutions in more than 50 countries - the best and the brightest in the wheat rust world!



If you would like to be added to the newsletter list, click here.

If you would like to be removed from this list, click here.


Editor's Notes

The BGRI Newsletter is an electronic forum for the exchange of scientific updates, opportunities, and ideas about wheat and the rusts. It is published on a quarterly basis.


The newsletter is edited by Jenny Nelson (" The newsletter is managed by the editor and an advisory group consisting of Ronnie Coffman (, Gordon Cisar (, Peter Njau (, and Mahinur Akkaya ( The editor will advise subscribers one month ahead of each edition to solicit 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 wheat breeding and rust pathology issues; announcements of meetings, courses and electronic conferences; book announcements and reviews; web sites of special relevance to wheat and the rusts; 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


Visit the BGRI Web site

E-mail BGRI


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3.02  International Potato Center publishes new online database for potato and sweetpotato


Lima, Peru

9 December 2009

Innovative “one stop shop” germplasm database resource now available for scientists


The International Potato Center (known by its Spanish acronym CIP) has published a new online database for potato and sweetpotato. The database is searchable for more than 90 attributes related to the germplasm held in CIP’s extensive genebank collections. Requiring more than two years to develop, it is the first database of its kind to apply a scheme originally used for housing genomics data to a genebank collection.


“It is the holy grail of the genebank and breeding information managers’ community – having a data search facility for different kinds of data,” says Reinhard Simon, head of CIP’s Research Informatics Unit.


In recent decades, bioinformatics - the application of information technology to better understand biological processes - has been focused primarily on management systems that can deal with the enormous amount of information generated by rapid developments in molecular biology. CIP took one such system, BioMart, and created a novel application allowing integrated searches across a wide range of different data types. “The kind of information we need is often still housed in specific databases. With this system, potentially all the evaluation data you can think of can be combined; it’s a one stop shop,” says Simon.


The new database includes what is called passport data, such as the origin and availability of germplasm, compliant with the standard MCPD (multicrop passport descriptor list). With characterization data organized according to crop specific international standards, users can search for any specific traits they are looking for (e.g., drought tolerance or chipping quality) using morphological characteristics or biotic and abiotic evaluation data. Also included are molecular marker data (SSR), and the entire list of worldwide distributions of CIP held germplasm.


The flexibility of the system allows for a range of information from summary reports to detailed, accession-level information. It has a user-friendly, three-step interface, requiring little or no training. If needed, support is provided on the CIP site and by an online BioMart tutorial. Breeders, scientists, or curators who want to order germplasm from the CIP’s genebank can do so via a hyperlink using a “shopping cart” system, similar to online shopping sites.


The database also provides an important new springboard for further research. The potential is vast, explains Simon, “Curators from other genebanks sometimes need or want to corroborate information, and scientists and other researchers can use all these data for further analysis and for documenting biodiversity.”


The database will be updated as new data are released and is available at:




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4.01  Monsanto’s Beachell-Borlaug International Scholars Program.


Note from Ed Runge, Program Director, 


Dear Colleagues –


The Judging Panel for Monsanto’s Beachel-Borlaug International Scholars awarded 12 scholarships from 48 applications in the first round of funding.  Nine scholars were in wheat breeding and 3 scholars were in rice breeding.   Applications for the second round of funding  are being accepted now until February 1, 2010.  Applications for third, fourth and fifth rounds of funding will need to be submitted between November 1, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and February 1, 2011, 2012 and 2013.  Funds are available to completely fund the PhD study of wheat and rice breeding students.  Funds are encumbered for the duration of the PhD program. 


Please note that scholars must complete part of their PhD program in AustraliaCanadaWestern Europe or the United States and part in another country of the World.  Students work with their advising professor/scientist who then submits the application for the student.


To learn more about how to apply and to obtain the application form go to  Please email Dr. Runge any questions that might need clarification prior to submitting your application.


Ed Runge, Program Director and Judging Panel Chair

Monsanto's Beachell-Borlaug International Scholars Program

Professor and Billie B. Turner Chair in Production Agronomy (Emeritus)

Soil & Crop Sciences Department, Mail Stop 2474

Texas A&M University

College StationTX 77843-2474

Phone 979 845-3066

Fax 979 845-0456

Cell 979 324-3956 (Note I only receive CAAS emails at this address)


(see also Item 4.20 below)


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4.02  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.



• 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

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,


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 (


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


(see also Item 4.01 above)


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4.03  The Islamic Development Bank (DB) Prizes For Science and Technology for Year 1431H (2010G)


The IDB Science and Technology Prizes consists of three (3) prizes. Each prize will consist of a cash award of one hundred thousand (100,000) US dollars, a trophy and a certificate mentioning the name of the winner and its accomplishments. The Prizes are awarded only to institutions (not to individuals) in IDB member countries in the following categories:

Category 1:   Outstanding scientific or technological contribution to the socio-economic development of a member country.


Category 2:  Outstanding contribution to any of the following scientific disciplines: Engineering Sciences; Agriculture; Medicine; Biotechnology; Information Technology; Optoelectronics; Material Sciences; Pharmaceutical Sciences; Industrial Microelectronics; alternative Energy Sources and Nanotechnology.


Category 3:  Noted scientific research institutions in the IDB Least Developed Member Countries (LDMCs).


Interested institutions may complete the Following Documents:

Application form Using the general guidelines


The completed forms along with any attachments should be received by Science &Technology and Technical Cooperation Division in IDB before 23 Safar 1431H corresponding to 7 February 2010G, on the following address:

The Division Manager

Science & Technology and Technical Cooperation

Islamic Development Bank

P.O. Box 5925 Jeddah 21432 - Saudi Arabia

Tel: +966-2 – 6466730,

Fax: +966-2- 6467828


The announcement of winning institutions will be made during the 35th Board of IDB Governors Meeting scheduled during the period 23-24 June 2010G (11-12 Rajab 1431H) in Baku, Republic of Azerbaijan.


The names of the Prize Winners will also be announced through the following channels: Members of the IDB Board of Governors; Members of the IDB Board of Executive Directors; Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation  (COMSTECH) of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Major S&T and Financial Partners of the IDB, and International and IDB member countries media.


More details about the IDB Prizes for Science and Technology can be read in


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5.01 Post-doctoral associate in RosBREED: Enabling Marker-Assisted Breeding in Rosaceae


We are seeking a cadre of tomorrow’s leaders to join our team on an exciting new “science to the marketplace” federally funded project. “RosBREED: Enabling Marker-Assisted Breeding in Rosaceae” is a four-year trans-disciplinary project focused on rosaceous crops (apple, cherry, peach, and strawberry) involving 12 U.S. research institutions, international collaborators, and private sector participants. RosBREED aims to identify crucial fruit breeding selection targets and efficient selection strategies, including a software-based pipeline for utilizing genomics and socio-economics knowledge for efficient delivery of new cultivars with superior fruit quality. Recruited team members will regularly interact with scientists and stakeholders across institutions and countries to achieve RosBREED goals.


BIMS Developer Position

We are seeking a post-doctoral associate to lead the development of breeding decision aid tools, databases, and other information management software aimed for the plant breeding community. The incumbent will interact closely and regularly with U.S. Rosaceae breeding programs to identify needs, gaps, and strengths of current breeding information management practices, and work with a programmer to synthesize a  state-of-the-art Breeding Information Management System (BIMS) that is interoperable with genomic databases, statistical analysis packages, and able to match and surpass the needs of the Rosaceae breeding community. A strong background in quantitative genetics and great communication skills are required, and experience with plant breeding is highly desirable.  The position is based on the Washington State University Campus in beautiful Pullman, WA and has a duration of 3-4 years (see   Contact Dr. Cameron Peace or Dr. Gennaro Fazio for further information.


Contributed by Gennaro Fazio

Apple Rootstock Breeder and Geneticist

Plant Genetic Resources Unit USDA ARS

Cornell University, Geneva, NY


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


(Various Dates) Course offerings at UC Davis Plant Breeding Academy andt the European Plant Breeding Academy


The Plant Breeding Academy (PBA) was established at the University of California, Davis in 2006 to address the challenge of the reduced number of plant breeders being trained in academic programs around the world.  To date, 38 agricultural professionals from 12 countries have participated in the first two classes of this premier program that includes lectures, discussion, and field trips to public and private breeding programs. Employers appreciate the opportunity to provide their valued employees advanced training without disrupting their full-time employment.


Class III of the PBA will begin in September, 2010.  The sessions will be held in Davis, California.  The instructors are internationally recognized experts in plant breeding and seed technology.


Building on the success of the first two classes of the PBA, UC Davis is partnering with European seed companies, institutions, and associations to offer the European Plant Breeding Academy.  Class I will begin in March, 2010.  The six 6-day sessions will be held in Enkhuizen, The Netherlands; Angers, France; Barcelona, Spain; Gatersleben, Germany; and Davis, California over two years.  All instruction will be in English. The instructors, selected from around Europe and the United States, are nationally and internationally recognized experts in plant breeding and seed technology. 


Class size is limited to 20 to encourage group discussion. See to apply to both the European PBA and PBA Class III or contact Joy Patterson at




Online Graduate Program in Seed Technology & Business

Iowa State University


The Iowa State University On-line Graduate Program in Seed Technology and Business develops potential into managerial leadership.


Seed industry professionals face ever-increasing challenges. The Graduate Program in Seed Technology and Business (STB) at Iowa State University provides a unique opportunity for seed professionals to grow by gaining a better understanding of the science, technology, and management that is key to the seed industry.


The STB program offers a Masters of Science degree as well as graduate certificates in Seed Science and Technology and in Seed Business Management. Science and technology curriculum includes courses in crop improvement, seed pathology, physiology, production, conditioning, and quality. Business topics include accounting, finance, strategy, planning, management information systems, and marketing and supply chain management--including a unique new course in seed trade, policy, and regulation.


Applications for the July 2010 course sequence should be submitted by 15 April 2010.


Contact us today for more information about how you can apply.

Paul Christensen, Seed Technology and Business Program Manager Ph.





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


University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Distance Education & Life-Long Learning Program


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


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


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


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


Online courses for Spring 2010 include:

Advanced PlantBreeding Topics

·         March 3 – April 8, 2010

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


Cathy Dickinson

Admin. Associate

Department of Agronomy & Horticulture

University of Nebraska–Lincoln

279 Plant Sciences Hall

Lincoln, NE 68583

Voice: 402.472.1730





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


Please note that the EARLY BIRD REGISTRATION DEADLINE  has been extended to December 23rd 2009


Please, click for registration now:


View all meeting information online at


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


15 February - 14 May 2010. Wheat Improvement and Pathology - Hands-on

 Training Program, CIMMYT, El Batán & Obregón, MEXICO

Approximately 4 weeks will be dedicated to covering wheat pathology and wheat quality aspects, molecular techniques and applied statistics. The remainder of the time is spent at the field station, El Batán & Obregón, dedicated to wheat improvement methodologies and selections. Field activities include crossing and selections, disease screening work, and laboratory work - pathology, biotech, and grain quality (70% of time). Lectures and seminars on various aspects of wheat breeding comprise approximately 30% of the course time.

Note: Deadline for registration was 4 December 2009.


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

For more information, contact Jeannette Martins at or (530) 752-4984. Seed Biotechnology Centre at UC Davis


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

Abstract Submission Deadline: December 28th 2009

Early Bird Registration Deadline: December 31st 2009

Please be aware that our webpage has been moved to


For submission, send your abstract to the following email address: 


Please, click for registration now:


1-3 March 2010. 8th European Sunflower Biotechnology Conference (SUNBIO2010), Fame Residence Hotel, Antalya, Turkey


You will get the information of the SUNBIO2010 conference organized by Trakya Agricultural Research Institute in this web page


Contributed by Yalcin KAYA

Chair of the Organizing Committee.


5-26 March 2010. Quantitative Genetics in Plant Breeding.

The National Institute of Agricultural Botany (Cambridge, UK) will run its two week postgraduate level training course for the third successive year. An application form is available on this pdf link:

Further information is available by contacting the course director by email at  or by calling the course administrator on +44

1223 342269.


12–16 April 2010. Advanced course on Applications of bioinformatics in plant breeding, Zaragoza, Spain.

Objectives: To introduce the bioinformatics tools needed to help breeders and plant scientists realise the full potential of new molecular breeding approaches.


(NEW) 24-27 April 2010. 2nd Symposium on Genomics of Plant Genetic Resources, Bologna,

Italy. Detailed information is available via the website


Contact: Roland Schnee

Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK)


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


14-25 June 2010. Short course in Plant Breeding for Drought Tolerance,. Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO.

The course is designed for professionals in the public and private sectors as well as for graduate students in plant breeding and genetics programs.  Please visit the Plant Breeding for Drought Tolerance website at for further program details and registration information.


(NEW) 8-9 July 2010. Select Biosciences 3rd annual AgriGenomics World Congress, Brussells, Belgium.


This year's event has been expanded to include twin conference tracks covering Advances in Plant and Animal Genomics. We will also be including a Panel Discussion, entitled “The Challenges Facing Europe in the Public Acceptance of GM Crops” with several leading experts in this field providing input.


Please visit the conference website below and submit an abstract if you would like to be considered to make a presentation at this event. AgriGenomics World Congress



Contibuted by Kirit Shah

Conference Producer


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

Registration and abstract submission to open mid-December 2009."


(UPDATE) 8-12 November 2010. 3rd International Rice Congress (IRC2010), Vietnam National Convention Center, Hanoi, Vietnam.


The event is hosted by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), Vietnam, and jointly organized by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and AsiaCongress Events Management Co. Ltd (ACE).

IRC, held every four years, is the world's largest gathering of the rice industry - the industry that feeds more than half the world. The 3rd IRC - IRC2010 - also marks the 50th anniversary of IRRI.


Important dates:

·         15 February 2010    Deadline for Abstract Submission

·         31 July 2010            Deadline for Registration of author of accepted                             paper or poster

·         15 August 2010       Deadline for Early Bird Conference Registration

·         3 November 2010    Deadline for Regular Conference Registration


(NEW) October 2011. 10th African Crop Science Society Conference 2011, Maputo, Mozambique.


The conference draws world-renowned speakers and attendees from all Africa and around the world and is the best opportunity to make personal connections with other scientists in your specific areas of interest. More information will be available on ACSS website.

Also, you can contact Dr. Luisa Santos (ACSS Vice- President, Chairman, LOC; Eduardo Mondlane University, Faculty of Agronomy and Forest Engineering, P.O. Box  257, Maputo, Mozambique.


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


The newsletter is managed by the editor and an advisory group consisting of Elcio Guimaraes (, Margaret Smith (, and Ann Marie Thro ( The editor will advise subscribers one to two weeks ahead of each edition, in order to set deadlines for contributions.


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


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


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


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


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


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