27 February 2010


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  Agriculture must change with climate and population

1.02  CGIAR - A voice for agriculture in the International Year of Biodiversity

1.03  Now Serving 9 Billion: A Global Town Hall

1.04  Innovation is key to a more sustainable agriculture, says Purdue University agronomist Gebisa Ejeta

1.05  Red menace: stop the Ug99 fungus before its spores bring starvation

1.06  Drought-tolerant crops key to increasing ag productivity

1.07  The Molecular Breeding Platform, a new initiative launched to harness biotechnology to improve plant breeding

1.08  Agricultural research funding in the public and private sectors

1.09  Public-private partnership to improve maize harvests 30-50 percent and provide options for African smallholder farmers

1.10  The Philippines - National Rice R&D Conference to tackle climate change

1.11  The Philippines more than triples its rice yields in the last 50 years

1.12  West and Central African region gets maize varieties that will boost output

1.13  Uganda: new maize type to curb hunger

1.14  A better breed of plants help revive rangelands of the western United States

1.15  What makes a good tomato? Peri-urban farmers in Mali select top tomato lines

1.16  The intellectual property landscape for gene suppression technologies in plants

1.17  Advisory Group: ‘Near perfect storm’ coming on gene patents in the US

1.18  China signals major shift into GM crops

1.19  The production and price impact of biotech crops

1.20  Law and regulatory framework for development and application of modern biotechnology in Vietnam

1.21  Delivering genetically engineered crops to poor farmers

1.22  Research on GM crops in UAS, India may slow down

1.23  First genetically modified cotton for Uganda

1.24  Farming of giant maize made 'cultural heritage' in Peru

1.25  Swapping seeds

1.26  Resistance in corn to southern rust (Puccinia polysora)

1.27  The real worth of wheat diversity

1.28  USDA/ARS scientists turn to a wild oat to combat crown rust

1.29  Roots key to second green revolution

1.30  Checkoff-funded project finds traits that perform during drought

1.31  Cloned gene being used to develop aluminum tolerant crops

1.32  Detection and quantification of the Cry 1Ab protein of Bacillus thuringiensis expressed in transgenic plants

1.33  Tomatoes 'silenced' to remain fresh

1.34  Virus versus virus in tomatoes

1.35  USDA scientists sequence genome of grass that can be a biofuel model crop

1.36  First member of the wheat and barley group of grasses is sequenced

1.37  Gene function discovery: guilt by association



2.01  Building Biosafety Capacities - FAO's experience and outlook

2.02  Gene flow between crops and their wild relatives



3.01  Expanded and Improved Seed Images website

3.02  The African Seed Company Toolbox

3.03  Wheat Rusts: An Atlas of Resistance Genes



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



5.01  Vacancy announcement – Director, International Foundation for Science (IFS)

5.02  Positions in plant breeding and related fields at Monsanto

5.03  Principal Technical Advisor, FAO, Panama (in Spanish)









1.01  Agriculture must change with climate and population


Davis, California, USA

11 February 2010

The looming threats of global climate change and population growth call for sweeping changes in how the world produces its food and fiber, warns a group of prestigious scientists, including an expert in plant genetics at the University of California, Davis.


The research team, led by Nina Federoff, science and technology adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, suggests that there is a "critical need to get beyond popular biases against the use of agricultural biotechnology," as well as explore the potential of aquaculture and maximize agricultural production in dry and saline areas. Their recommendations will appear as a perspective piece titled "Radically Rethinking Agriculture for the 21st Century" in the Feb. 12 issue of the journal Science.


The researchers note that the impacts of climate change on agriculture and human health are already apparent. They point to the


2003 heat wave in Europe, which caused just a 3.5-degree rise in the average summer temperature, but killed 30,000 to 50,000 people.


Gaining much less attention was the resulting 20 percent to 36 percent decrease in the yields of grains and fruit that summer.


"That dramatic drop in yield is just a foreshadowing of the challenges that lie ahead for agriculture during the 21st century, as temperatures rise and another 3 billion people are added to the global population," said UC Davis plant pathologist Pamela Ronald, a co-author on the perspective piece. Ronald and her laboratory are working on developing a new generation of crops that can better resist diseases and tolerate environmental stresses, including flooding.


"Global warming will alter the pattern of diseases among crops and also cause intense, periodic flooding," Ronald said. "The good news is that we have the ability, through conventional breeding and genetic engineering, to generate new varieties of our existing food crops that can better adapt to these environmental changes.


She noted, for example, that her research collaborators recently released a new rice variety for Bangladesh and India that can better withstand flooding, an environmental stress that reduces yearly yields by 4 million tons -- enough to feed 30 million people in these two countries.


The researchers also suggest that future food, feed and fiber crops would ideally be capable of making better use of nitrogen from the environment, to minimize water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions associated with chemical fertilizers.


Additionally, they recommend that efforts aimed at increasing agricultural productivity and eliminating global hunger should be focused on:

·         Re-evaluating restrictive regulatory policies that now govern the use of genetically modified crops;

·         Establishing a public facility within the U.S. Department of Agriculture for safety-testing genetically modified crops;

·         Integrating agriculture and aquaculture systems in order to sustainably raise crops, livestock and fish; and

·         Developing crops and productive farming systems for extremely dry and saline regions.


This perspective piece was developed from the authors' presentations during a September 2009 workshop titled "Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change: What Will it Take?" which was held under the auspices of the Office of the Science and Technology Adviser to the U.S. Secretary of State.




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1.02  CGIAR - A voice for agriculture in the International Year of Biodiversity


4 February 2010

Now that agriculture is regaining its rightful place on the international development agenda, it’s time for agricultural biodiversity to become the center of attention as well, particularly in view of its vital importance for coping with the intricately linked issues of global food security and climate change.


The United Nations has designated 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity. The CGIAR and agriculturalists worldwide now have an unprecedented opportunity to speak out on the urgent need to conserve, research and use the vast genetic diversity of crops and other species on which rural people depend.


In commenting recently about the Year, Emile Frison, director general of Bioversity International, stressed the importance of a deeper international discourse on biodiversity. It must go beyond the popular preoccupation with a few charismatic mega-fauna, like whales and panda bears, he insisted.


“Any serious discussion of biodiversity conservation must include the diversity of crops and livestock that are absolutely fundamental to human survival and well-being,” Frison said. “Agricultural biodiversity is not only vital for human and animal nutrition, it is also indispensable for meeting the challenge of climate change and for lifting people out of poverty.”


Food security’s foundations

IITA genebank. Photo: IITA. Over the last several decades, international biodiversity research has dwelt heavily on the contents of 11 genebanks operated by the international Centers.


Those collections contain more than 650,000 genetically diverse samples of crop, forage and agroforestry species, including traditional varieties developed through many generations of selection by farmers, as well as wild species and modern varieties. The crops conserved range from such major staples as maize, potato, rice and wheat to lesser-known species like cowpea and pearl millet.


The value of the CGIAR collections rests on the knowledge that they contain untapped genes for value plant traits, including disease and pest resistance, improved nutritional value and tolerance to stresses like heat, cold and drought. Such genes are a potentially powerful resource for strengthening food security and for both mitigating and adapting to climate change.


In just the last 15 years, more than a million free samples from the CGIAR collections have been sent to plant breeders and other researchers. Since 2007, the samples have been distributed under the terms of a new International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Commonly referred to as the “Seed Treaty,” it is designed to enhance the sharing of plant genetic resources and of the benefits generated from their commercial use.


In recent years, the genebanks have also upgraded conservation and management of the collections, with vital support from the World Bank and Global Crop Diversity Trust. The collections have been further secured through shipment of duplicates of more than 200,000 samples to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, built by the Norwegian government near the Arctic Circle. This and many other collaborative activities are coordinated by the CGIAR Systemwide Genetic Resources Programme, or SGRP.


Building on the new strength of the global system for conserving and using plant genetic resources, it is imperative that researchers now step up the search for valuable genes. This requires more intensive evaluation and genetic characterization of the collections, a task for which the CGIAR needs much additional support.


Biodiversity and rural livelihoods

In addition to enhancing genetic diversity within crops, the CGIAR Centers are striving to broaden the diversity within whole agricultural systems.


“Increased productivity so far has been based on simplifying farming systems,” Frison noted. “We need to move toward intensification without simplification, and that requires us to research and make better use of agricultural biodiversity.”


Research carried out by Bioversity International, for example, has shown how neglected and underutilized species can deliver better nutrition and health, while at the same time protecting the environment and increasing incomes.


Research at other CGIAR Centers also highlights the benefits of diversified agricultural systems. In the dry Sudano-Sahelian region of West Africa, for example, researchers with the International Crops Research Centre for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) have devised an approach in which drought-tolerant indigenous fruits trees and vegetables are used, along with better soil fertility management, to restore the productivity of degraded lands, benefiting women in particular.


To spread such benefits all across the world’s drylands, the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) is making a major push to introduce alternative winter crops and summer crops or forages with supplemental irrigation as well as high-value species like vegetables, dryland fruit trees and medicinal and aromatic plants.


Showcasing research on agrobiodiversity

Such research will be showcased at events organized by CGIAR-supported Centers to mark the International Year of Biodiversity.


A week-long celebration of biodiversity will take place at the famed Auditorium in Rome on May 19-23. The Settimana della Biodiversità (Biodiversity Week) will bring together an array of experts and celebrities from around the world for a series of public lectures, round table discussions, exhibits, demonstrations and celebrations. Workshops for children will be part of this effort to acquaint the wider public with the importance of biodiversity – including agricultural biodiversity – in their daily lives.


The Settimana della Biodiversità is just one element in Diversity for Life, a global campaign by Bioversity and its partners to familiarize the public and policy-makers alike with the importance of agricultural biodiversity for humanity and for environmental protection.


With more than four decades of experience researching the use and conservation of agricultural biodiversity, the CGIAR Centers are looking forward to other opportunities to showcase agriculture in the context of the International Year of Biodiversity.


A year of biodiversity celebrations

Those events form part of a large program of celebrations, which started in November 2009 under the slogan “Biodiversity is life, biodiversity is our life.” The official launch of the Year took place on January 11, 2010, in Berlin, Germany. This was followed by a high-profile meeting of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris as well as by launch events in various developing countries, including Brazil, India and Thailand.


The International Day for Biological Diversity will be observed on May 22, with the theme “Biodiversity for Development and Poverty Alleviation. In September, the UN General Assembly will hold a special high-level meeting on biodiversity at the start of its 65th annual general debate in New York. The celebrations will culminate in the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity to be held in Aichi-Nagoya, Japan, on October 18-29, followed by the official close of the Year in December at Kanazawa, Japan.


The Montreal-based Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity has stressed the importance of raising awareness about the value of biodiversity and the consequences of its loss.


“Of course ensuring the survival of whales and pandas is important,” said Frison. “But in this International Year of Biodiversity, we must realize that only agricultural biodiversity directly enables us to survive, so we can protect and appreciate all the other biodiversity nature has to offer. Agricultural biodiversity is the basis of true food security.”


Related Links:

· United Nations International Year of Biodiversity

· Conventional on Biological Diversity

· CGIAR Systemwide Genetic Resources Programme (SGRP)

· Bioversity International

· Global Crop Diversity Trust

· CGIAR Genebank Brochure

· Svalbard Global Seed Vault





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1.03  Now Serving 9 Billion: A Global Town Hall


World-renowned policy experts held international discussion to find solutions to agricultural challenges of the 21st century


Washington, DC, USA

12 February, 2010

An eminent panel of science and policy experts braved a historic blizzard today to identify solutions for the greatest agricultural challenges of all time. The global dialogue comes in response to a final call for action from the late Nobel Laureate, Dr. Norman Borlaug, to feed the world and improve the lives of farmers, all while preserving natural resources.


“Now Serving: 9 Billion: A Global Dialogue on Meeting Food Needs for the Next Generation” highlighted the opportunities and challenges facing farmers and nations in the coming century, especially as global population continues to rise, resources become more scarce, and climate and pest pressures continue to mount. Participants from over 30 countries on four continents shared their thoughts and perspectives with the panel of experts as part of this global dialogue.


Moderated by Emmy-Award winning journalist Frank Sesno, the event was hosted by CropLife International, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) and the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST).


Panelists included Nina V. Fedoroff, Ph.D., Science and Technology Advisor to the Secretary of State and to the Administrator of USAID; Mark Cantley, former head of the European Union’s “Concertation Unit for Biotechnology in Europe” and of OECD’s Biotechnology Unit; Gale Buchanan, Ph.D. former U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Undersecretary for Research, Education and Economics; Robert Paarlberg, Ph.D., Professor of Political Science at Wellesley College and a leading expert on international agricultural and environmental policy; and, Calestous Juma, Ph.D., Professor of the Practice of International Development and Director of the Science, Technology and Globalization Project at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.


“While there is no single solution to the agricultural challenges we are facing, innovations in farming and plant sciences, and a commitment to continued research into new technologies, will be crucial to helping achieve food security” noted Denise Dewar, Executive Director of Plant Biotechnology at CropLife International, a global federation representing the plant science industry. “Today’s global dialogue was an opportunity to consider new ground-breaking perspectives on agricultural policy for the 21st century.”


“Cutting-edge science, combined with sound public policy, offers the only real solution to the economic, environmental and nutritional issues confronting both producers and consumers worldwide,” commented Sharon Bomer, Executive Vice President of the Food and Agriculture Section at the Biotechnology Industry Organization.


A new report from CAST, “Agricultural Productivity Strategies for the Future: Addressing U.S. and Global Challenges,” was introduced at the event, prefaced by the last published words of the late agronomist and microbiologist Dr. Borlaug. Known as the father of the Green Revolution, Dr. Borlaug is one of only six people to have won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. The new report was designed as an update to CAST Paper No. 1, written by Dr. Borlaug in 1973.


“Extending Norman Borlaug’s legacy of increasing crop yields through modern farming techniques is critical if we are to keep feeding a growing world,” said John Bonner, CAST’s Executive Vice President and CEO.


Today’s event, held during an historic snowstorm at the Newseum in downtown Washington, D.C., was also live-streamed to a global audience. Participants were able to ask real-time questions through YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and e-mail.


The webcast is available for download and continued comment at


The CAST paper is available at:




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1.04  Innovation is key to a more sustainable agriculture, says Purdue University agronomist Gebisa Ejeta


3 February 2010

West Lafayette, Indiana, USA

Feeding the world's growing population in a manner that doesn't compromise the needs of the next generation is a balancing act, but one that can be handled through innovation and environmental stewardship, said Purdue University agronomist Gebisa Ejeta.


"Sustainability is an important agenda because we have to pay attention to meeting the needs of today without compromising the needs of the future," Ejeta said. "It has everything to do with the stewardship of our natural resources, while at the same time effectively using those resources to meet the food and fiber needs of today's population."


Ejeta, who was named the 2009 World Food Prize laureate for his research in drought- and Striga-resistant sorghum varieties, said he and his colleagues pay special attention to sustainability in their daily work.


"We pay due attention to sustainability in our research because we are working on genetic resistance," he said. "We work on providing protection of the crop through genetic means without the use of chemical herbicides and insecticides and so on."


He also said sustainability and stewardship should remain on the minds of American farmers and agribusiness professionals.


"I think it's very important for American farmers and American industry to be concerned about sustainability," he said. "American agriculture has been very productive and, to some extent, that productivity may have brought about some neglect of our natural resources because of the overuse of inputs that have made agriculture so productive. But I think that American ingenuity and American technology can give us the tools to be able to continue to produce enough food for the current population, and also pay more attention to the stewardship of our natural resources.


"It can be done, and a lot of people are doing research toward that goal."


While there still is a lot of work to be done, Ejeta has been impressed by the advancements that farmers and researchers already have made.


"Conservation agriculture, over the last few decades, has made significant contributions to bringing up alternatives, including minimum tillage, for example, that have lent themselves toward the care of our natural resources," he said. "Continued efforts in those regards would bring about more opportunities for conservation."


Ejeta also believes that the American agriculture industry needs to have an open dialogue with consumers about what the industry is doing and where food comes from.


"The risk is that, because of the efficiency and productivity level of modern agriculture, the current generation of Americans, and I'm afraid future generations, may forget where plants and animals are produced," he said. "They may forget that these products are produced on farms, and there may be a tendency to believe they come out of groceries and places like that. So, in that case, education needs to be paid attention to, to impart in the minds of the young generation the responsibilities of taking care of natural resources and the realities of the farm.


"I think it would be a win-win for agribusiness and the consumers, as well as for those who are engaged in the stewardship of our natural resources on the farm."




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1.05  Red menace: stop the Ug99 fungus before its spores bring starvation


You might be interested to read this lively account of Ug99's discovery and the global effort to stop its spread in the March issue of Wired magazine. Below is a brief excerpt, and the entire article is available at:


Stem rust is the polio of agriculture, a plague that was brought under control nearly half a century ago as part of the celebrated Green Revolution. After years of trial and error, scientists managed to breed wheat that contained genes capable of repelling the assaults of Puccinia graminis, the formal name of the fungus.


But now it’s clear: The triumph didn’t last. While languishing in the Ugandan highlands, a small population of P. graminis evolved the means to overcome mankind’s most ingenious genetic defenses. This distinct new race of P. graminis, dubbed Ug99 after its country of origin (Uganda) and year of christening (1999), is storming east, working its way through Africa and the Middle East and threatening India and China. More than a billion lives are at stake. “It’s an absolute game-changer,” says Brian Steffenson, a cereal-disease expert at the University of Minnesota who travels to Njoro regularly to observe the enemy in the wild. “The pathogen takes out pretty much everything we have.”


Indeed, 90 percent of the world’s wheat has little or no protection against the Ug99 race of P. graminis. If nothing is done to slow the pathogen, famines could soon become the norm — from the Red Sea to the Mongolian steppe — as Ug99 annihilates a crop that provides a third of our calories. China and India, the world’s biggest wheat consumers, will once again face the threat of mass starvation, especially among their rural poor. The situation will be particularly grim in Pakistan and Afghanistan, two nations that rely heavily on wheat for sustenance and are in no position to bear added woe. Their fragile governments may not be able to survive the onslaught of Ug99 and its attendant turmoil.


The pathogen has already been detected in Iran and may now be headed for South Asia’s most important breadbasket, the Punjab, which nourishes hundreds of millions of Indians and Pakistanis. What’s more, Ug99 could easily make the transoceanic leap to the United States. All it would take is for a single spore, barely bigger than a red blood cell, to latch onto the shirt of an oblivious traveler. The toll from that would be ruinous; the US Department of Agriculture estimates that more than 40 million acres of wheat would be at serious risk if Ug99 came to these shores, where the grain is the third most valuable crop, trailing only corn and soybeans. The economic loss might easily exceed $10 billion; a simple loaf of bread could become a luxury. “If this stuff gets into the Western Hemisphere,” Steffenson says, “God help us.”


Source: BGRI Newsletter, 23 February 2010 

Jenny Nelson


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1.06  Drought-tolerant crops key to increasing ag productivity


Wilmington, Delaware, USA

5 February 2010

Bill Niebur, vice president – DuPont Crop Genetics Research and Development, spoke yesterday at the grower conference, “Maize and Water Synergy,” in Bordeaux, France. He told participants that an integrated approach to plant breeding, product positioning and agronomic management is key to developing drought-tolerant crops, which will play a major role in sustainably increasing agricultural productivity.


“Plant breeding today combines elite genetics with a matrix of technologies to accelerate the rate of yield gain,” Bill said. “Modern biotechnology provides plant breeders with powerful tools to increase productivity for farmers on a truly global scale, while local research allows us to understand the challenges and opportunities in individual environments.”


The event, hosted by Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont business, brought farmers from across France together to discuss how product choices and agronomic knowledge are critical to increasing maize productivity while effectively managing and preserving water resources.


“A growing challenge is to produce more food with fewer resources as population and demand for agricultural products increases,” Bill said. “We must utilize all the tools and technologies available to us to meet this demand in a way that works within the earth’s means.”


Pioneer began breeding for drought tolerance more than 50 years ago to maximize productivity in water stress conditions. The program continues today with focus on two product development initiatives:


The Drought I initiative leverages native drought genes to deliver significant improvements in yield and return on investment for drought-prone areas.


The Drought II initiative integrates transgenic and molecular breeding approaches into the most elite and adapted germplasm to protect maize yields during drought conditions in all environments.


The Maize and Water Synergy conference shared Pioneer’s agronomy expertise in maize growing and water use to help French maize farmers increase profitability while limiting water use. Irrigation accounts for approximately one third of total annual water consumption in France. France produces more than 14 million metric tons (15.4 million U.S. tons) of maize each year.




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1.07  The Molecular Breeding Platform, a new initiative launched to harness biotechnology to improve plant breeding


Patancheru, India

22 February 2010

The Molecular Breeding Platform (MBP) a one-stop shop for information, analytical tools and related services to design and efficiently conduct molecular-assisted breeding experiments aims to increase breeding efficiency in developing countries.


The MBP initiative was officially launched at the Marriott Convention Center in Hyderabad, India on 17 February. The four-day MBP launch programme is jointly initiated by the Generation Challenge Programme (GCP) of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), in collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). The MBP will have three components, the molecular breeding portal and helpdesk, information system and services component.


“It will be critically important for the users and developers in this initiative to work closely together,” noted Dr Jean-Marcel Ribaut, GCP Director. He also acknowledged ICRISAT as an important partner in this public initiative, which would not have been possible without the Foundation’s financial support and commitment.


Dr Dave Bergvinson, Program Officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said that the five-year $12 Million project would revolutionize crop breeding and provide a level playing field allowing developing countries to take advantage of advanced plant breeding technology to meet the looming challenge in food security. He said that the flood-tolerant Swarna-Sub-1, a marker assisted rice hybrid has been successfully tested and adopted by the Bisauri Regional Progressive farmers Association in Uttar Pradesh under the supervision of Banaras Hindu University. Molecular breeding can succeed in the public sector, especially by partnering with the private sector, particularly with small- and medium-scale enterprises.


In his opening remarks, ICRISAT Director General Dr William Dar called for research through multi-partner platforms to help feed the burgeoning population of about 9.1 billion by 2050. He stressed the need for global agricultural production to grow by 70% by this time. Dr Dar said that development of molecular genetics and associated technologies offers hope, especially marker-assisted breeding. ICRISAT’s collaborative research led to a pearl millet hybrid resistant to downy mildew and also played a major role in unraveling the sorghum genome.


In the MBP, ICRISAT will identify, deploy and support tools for management of genotypic characterization. It will also be concerned with establishing middleware infrastructure for networking database and applications and implementing a configurable workflow system for molecular breeding.


Graham McLaren, GCP’s leader on Bioinformatics and crop information systems, and who will coordinate the platform, observes, “Great discoveries in molecular biology and information technology are having an important impact on plant breeding in large private companies because they can invest in infrastructure and capacity.” He adds, “This project will tap into the economies of scale afforded by collective access to make these technologies available to breeders at large, particularly in developing countries.” The first MBP customers will be 14 ongoing plant breeding projects in Africa and Asia.


The MBP launch will be followed by a two-step launch programme for a GCP Indo–Chinese research initiative to improve wheat yields. The first launch will be in New Delhi on 22–23 February, and the second in Beijing on 25–27 February 2010.


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




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1.08  Agricultural research funding in the public and private sectors


19 February 2010


Data for public and private funding of agricultural research and development cover the years 1970-2008 (public) and 1970-98 (private). Data are available as nominal figures and adjusted for inflation.


Public funding is based on data from two sources:

·         Federal data are from the National Science Foundation's Federal Funds for Research and Development series

·         State-level data are from USDA's Current Research Information Systems (CRIS).


Private funding estimates are constructed by ERS, based on the methodology presented in "Private-Sector Agricultural Research Expenditures in the United States, 1960-92" (Staff Paper AGES9525).


The research deflator (used to convert current dollars to real) is constructed by ERS, based on the methodology described in Pardey et al. ("U.S. Agricultural Research Deflators: 1890-1985." Research Policy 18, October 1989).


For more details, see the complete documentation.




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1.09  Public-private partnership to improve maize harvests 30-50 percent and provide options for African smallholder farmers


Nairobi, Kenya

17 February 2010

A group of public and private agriculture organizations today announced an alliance that will improve food security and livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa. The alliance will create and share new maize varieties that use fertilizer more efficiently and help smallholder farmers get higher yields, even where soils are poor and little commercial fertilizer is used.


The collaboration, known as Improved Maize for African Soils (IMAS), will be led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and funded with $19.5 million in grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID. The project's other partners – Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont business; the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI); and the South African Agricultural Research Council (ARC) – also are providing significant in-kind contributions including staff, infrastructure, seed, traits, technology, training, and know-how.


IMAS participants will use cutting-edge biotechnology tools such as molecular markers – DNA “signposts” for traits of interest – and transgenic approaches to develop varieties that ultimately yield 30-50 percent more than currently available varieties, with the same amount of nitrogen fertilizer applied and/or when grown on poorer soils. The varieties developed will be made available royalty-free to seed companies that sell to the region's smallholder farmers, meaning that the seed will become available to farmers at the same cost as other types of improved maize seed.


Maize yields of smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa are a fraction of those in the developed world, due mainly to the region's poor soils and farmers' limited access to fertilizer or improved maize seed. Because of high transportation costs due to poor roads and rail systems in their countries, African farmers often pay as much as six times more than their U.S. and European peers for fertilizer. As a result, they apply far less than the amounts needed to produce vigorous crops.


“The IMAS project will develop maize varieties that are better at capturing the small amount of fertilizer that African farmers can afford, and that use the nitrogen they take up more efficiently to produce grain,” said Gary Atlin, CIMMYT maize breeder and leader of IMAS. “As a farmer, if all your fertilizer were used by the crop and none lost in the soil, you could save lots of money by purchasing less fertilizer or – better yet for Africa farmers – produce much more grain using the same amount of fertilizer.”


“IMAS is an excellent example of how innovative public-private partnerships can work to improve food availability, livelihoods and lives in areas facing chronic food insecurity,” said Marc Albertsen, Pioneer research director. “Pioneer has a rich pipeline of nitrogen efficiency genes. By applying these genes and our Accelerated Yield Technology™ resources to the IMAS effort, we will help ensure the development of improved maize lines for those who have the most to gain from using new technologies – the smallholder farmers.”


Participation in the project is an example of DuPont’s focus on providing food for a growing population.


In four years or less, African farmers should have access to IMAS varieties developed using conventional breeding that offer a significant yield advantage over current varieties. Improved varieties developed using DNA marker techniques are anticipated to be introduced within approximately seven to nine years, and those containing transgenic traits are anticipated to be available in approximately 10 years, pending product performance and regulatory approvals by national regulatory and scientific authorities, according to the established laws and regulatory procedures in each country, and worldwide.


“African maize farmers must deal with drought, weeds, and pests,” said Wilfred Mwangi, associate director of CIMMYT's Global Maize Program, which is based in Nairobi. “But their problems start with degraded, nutrient-starved soils and their inability to purchase enough nitrogen fertilizer.”


“Like many sub-Saharan African countries, Kenya must optimize the use of its soils for agriculture to increase food security, and do this while facing the climate change, escalating input costs, and a deteriorating natural resource base,” said KARI director, Ephraim Mukisira. “The IMAS project will apply scientific innovations to provide long-term solutions for African farmers, developing maize varieties suited to Kenya's diverse farming ecologies.”


Generating, developing, and applying new knowledge, science, and technology for agriculture is a strategic objective of the ARC. “The ARC is committed to ensure that maize varieties of benefit to resource-poor farmers are developed using the latest technologies available through the IMAS global partnership,” said Shadrack Moephuli, president and chief executive officer of the ARC.


The Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) is the premier national institution bringing together research programmes in food crops; horticulture and industrial crops, livestock and range management; land and water management and socioeconomics. KARI promotes sound agricultural research, technology and knowledge generation and dissemination to ensure food security through improved productivity and environmental conservation. For more information, please visit


The Agricultural Research Council (ARC) is a premier science institution that conducts fundamental and applied research with partners to generate new knowledge, develop human capital and foster innovation in agriculture, through technology development and dissemination, and competitive commercialization of research results, in support of developing a prosperous agricultural sector. For more information, please visit


Accelerated Yield Technology™ is a trademark of DuPont or its affiliates.




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1.10  The Philippines - National Rice R&D Conference to tackle climate change


Los Baños, Laguna, The Philippines

22 February 2010

A gathering for a cause.

DA-PhilRice will convene more than 500 researchers and advocates for its 23rd National Rice Research and Development (R&D) Conference, March 3-5, to discuss strategies to mitigate the impact of climate change in rice and rice-based systems.


With the theme, Addressing climate change through rice science, the three-day gathering will be held at the International Rice Research Institute, Los Baños, Laguna.


Topics to be discussed include the climate change impact on rice production, Philippine R&D agenda for mitigating and adapting to climate change, and the future of rice production when climate changes for the worse.


Early this year, participants of the DA-PhilRice corporate planning workshop for 2010-2013 (medium-term plans) and 2014-2020 (long-term), proposed the establishment of the Climate Change Program to improve farmers’ lives in drought, saline, and flood-prone areas.


“Productivity in agriculture is primarily determined by climate,” the planning team stated in a document detailing the Institute’s direction in five to 10 years.


Statistics from the Global International Forum reveal that there are more than 2.8 billion people living in areas that manifest climate change such as occurrences of droughts, floods, rise of sea level, and storms. In South and Southeast Asia, the Philippines is among the countries considered to be vulnerable to the threat of climate change.


Recently, Isabela was placed under a state of calamity owing to the P1 billion-losses caused by El Niño on the province’s rice and corn production. In its news release, the Department of Agriculture announced the areas considered highly vulnerable to El Niño. The areas include Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, La Union, Pangasinan, Cagayan, Aurora, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, and Tarlac. Other locations include Zambales, Cavite, Rizal, Occidental Mindoro, Palawan, Capiz, Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Misamis Oriental, Zamboanga City, Sarangani, and South Cotabato.


The Department of Agriculture estimates rice production losses of 264,940 mt worth close to P4 billion under a mild occurrence of El Niño. Meanwhile, severe dry spell could lead to losses of 816,372 mt of rice worth P12.24 billion.


It can be recalled that drought in the latter part of 1989 and the first half 1990 caused an estimated opportunity loss of P1.2 billion in rice production alone. Meanwhile, the 1997 to 1998 El Niño led to a combined loss of 1.8 mt in rice and corn production.


“[With the expected effects of climate change], there is a need for reorientation in rice research to comprehensibly address the issues concerning climate change. [Thus, the conduct of this conference],” the national rice R&D conference organizers said.


DA-PhilRice is a government-owned and –controlled corporation that aims at developing high-yielding and cost-reducing technologies so farmers can produce enough rice for all Filipinos.


For more information, please visit or contact DA-PhilRice at Maligaya, Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija with telephone number (044) 456-0285 loc 511/512 or any PhilRice station near you. You may also visit their website at or text your questions to 0920-911-1398.




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1.11  The Philippines more than triples it's rice yields in the last 50 years


Los Baños, The Philippines

9 February 2010

In the last fifty years, the Philippines has more than tripled its rice yield, while the world average rice yield has increased only about 2.3 times.


Despite being criticized as a poor rice producer because of its status as the world’s biggest rice importer, the Philippines has actually done remarkably well in raising its rice yields from 1.16 tons per hectare in 1960* to 3.59 tons per hectare in 2009**.


In 2009, Philippine rice yields were actually lower than the previous two years due to the damage done by the tropical storms "Ondoy" and "Pepeng". In 2007, average rice yields topped 3.8 tons per hectare and in 2008 they were 3.77 tons per hectare**.


Rice yields in the Philippines are also higher than those in Thailand, the world's biggest exporter of rice, where yields over the last few years have been around 3 tons per hectare*.


“The Philippines has enthusiastically taken up rice science technologies that have helped farmers dramatically increase their yields,” said Dr. William Padolina, deputy director general for operations at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).


“Filipino farmers have adopted more than 75 IRRI-bred high-yielding rice varieties since 1960, have greatly improved their fertilizer and pest management strategies, and are implementing water-saving technologies,” he added.


IRRI was established in the Philippines in 1960 following a hunt throughout Asia that identified Los Baños in Laguna as the most advantageous location for an agricultural research program to expand food production in Asia. Los Baños was seen as an emerging hub of agricultural science and economics and the government of the Republic of the Philippines was supportive of research, teaching, and extension programs to improve farm management.


“This year, IRRI is celebrating its 50th anniversary," said Dr Padolina. "During our 50 years we have established some important and productive partnerships with institutions such as the Philippine Rice Research Institute and the University of the Philippines Los Baños that share our goal to help alleviate poverty through improved rice production."


According to estimates from the United States Department of Agriculture, the average world rice yield in 1960 was 1.84 tons per hectare and in 2009 it was forecast at 4.24 tons per hectare.


Dr. Padolina acknowledges that the Philippines could improve its rice yields even more and said that he was confident that “the Philippines will continue to support rice research as a way of ensuring food security for Filipinos, to help lift local rice farmers and consumers out of poverty, and in turn improve the entire economy of the country.


“IRRI is also dedicated to delivering rice science innovations specifically suited to Philippine conditions that are of practical use and value to Filipino farmers,” he added.


In May 2008, the Philippine Department of Agriculture and IRRI signed a Memorandum of Agreement on Accelerating Rice Production in the Philippines.


Last year, IRRI released eight new rice varieties in the Philippines as well as Nutrient Manager for Rice, a Web-based tool that helps farmers make wise fertilizer decisions. Also, in the International Rice Genebank housed at IRRI, 4,670 rice samples from the Philippines are conserved, including 4,070 traditional varieties, 485 modern varieties, and 115 wild relatives – all are available to share with Filipino farmers and scientists.




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1.12 West and Central African region gets maize varieties that will boost output


Ibadan, Nigeria

12 February 2010

Improved maize varieties, developed by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture and partners, that will help enhance food security and incomes of maize farmers in the West and Central Africa have been released by the Nigerian National Variety Release Committee.


The release of the improved varieties has sparked optimism for increased maize productivity in the sub-region. The varieties, which were developed at IITA in partnership with the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) of the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria and Institute of Agricultural Research and Training (IAR&T) of Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile Ife, aim to overcome the major constraints to maize production in the sub-region, including drought, low soil fertility, pest, diseases and parasitic plants.


Researchers developed the varieties through conventional plant breeding by exploiting traits that are naturally available.


The improved maize include 13 open-pollinated varieties of extra-early-, early-, intermediate-, and late-maturity with resistance to Striga hermonthica and stem borers, tolerance to drought and with good adaptation to sub-optimal soil nitrogen.


Also four hybrids with drought-tolerance were released The committee also released two Striga-resistant and two white and two yellow productive hybrids developed at IITA in partnership with Premier Seeds Nigeria Limited for production and marketing by the company.


The release of these stress-tolerant varieties and hybrids will promote the rate of adoption of improved maize cultivars by farmers in Nigeria, which will contribute to productivity increases in maize on farm and also improve food security, says Abebe Menkir, IITA Maize Breeder.


“These varieties have the potential to provide farmers with opportunities to overcome the challenges to maize production in the WCA,” he added.


Yield losses due to Striga and prolonged droughts could render a farmer’s field unproductive with nothing to harvest.


Also the impact of low soil fertility is often as devastating as droughts while stem borers in the forest regions hurt both productivity and farmers’ incomes.


Every year, IITA distributes improved open-pollinated varieties and hybrids to the National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) and the private sector in and outside of West and Central Africa through regional trials. These trials have been used as vehicles for selecting promising varieties and hybrids adapted to specific conditions in the different countries for extensive testing and release.




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1.13  Uganda: new maize type to curb hunger


Joshua Kato

9 February 2010

Kampala — There is maize being harvested in all corners of Uganda. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, this is likely to be the biggest maize harvest in a very long time. The harvests would be even better, if two new maize varieties that may change the face of maize production in the region had already hit the farms.


The two varieties, the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) and the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) are currently under going field tests in the East African region.


The varieties are being promoted by the African Agriculture Technology Foundation (AATF). Other organisations taking part include the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre and Monsanto.


For the last five years, incidences of hunger have ravaged most parts of eastern Africa. According to farmers, they responded to this need to fight hunger. Most of the maize has been produced on plots averaging one-and-a-half acres. By Ugandan standards, an acre of maize produces four tons at the farm. On average though, maize production is as low as 1.5 to two tons per acre.


By international standards, an acre produces almost nine tons. "There are many factors that prevent us from producing at maximum," says Sam Mukalazi, a maize farmer. He cites unpredictable weather patterns and poor quality of seeds. In Teso and other parts of Uganda in 2008 and 2009, drought caused an almost 100% crop failure.


WEMA and DTMA will improve production of maize by between 30% and 35%. "The project will benefit 30 million to 40 million people," says Dr. Sylvester Oikeh, the WEMA project manager.


The two varieties are genetically modified. The variety was discovered when a bacteriam, that was found to be resistant to drought was merged with existing varieties.


"The aim is for farmers to be able to harvest a ton or more," he says. The varieties can be produced with very little water. This is particularly important because areas that are dry, like Karamoja may also produce it.


According to Oikeh, the fact that farmers in Africa use negligible amounts of fertilizers means the other way to make better yields is to provide them with seeds that can handle different situations.


He says while there is still a low adoption of genetically modified foods in the region, the food has proved to be an 'enemy of hunger' and an improver of food security in many countries like South Africa.


Relevant Links

·         East Africa

·         Uganda

·         Food and Agriculture

·         Sustainable Development


Research about the maize in the laboratories has already been completed and testing of the WEMA maize is going on at Mobuku irrigation scheme in Kasese, under what scientists call 'mock trials', while in Kenya it is being carried out at Kiboko for DTMA. In Uganda, research is being carried out in conjunction with the National Crop Research Institute at Namulonge. More tests will be carried out in Buliisa and Abim districts, before the approved variety is given to farmers.


Adoption of high yielding maize varieties is one of the reasons why there is food in stores in Malawi. Before the country took on massive maize production, she was most of the time rated among the most food insecure countries in the region.


A presidential initiative to embrace massive maize production with an emphasis on adoption of new varieties changed all this.




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1.14 A better breed of plants help revive rangelands of the western United States


Washington, DC, USA

12 February 2010

For more than two decades, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have been developing new grasses and forages that can hold their own on the rugged rangelands of the western United States. As a result of that work, the scientists have released many improved plant varieties that help restore vegetation communities struggling for survival in the face of extreme weather conditions, wildfires, soil erosion, invasive plant species and other challenges.


Research leader Jack Staub and other scientists at the ARS Forage and Range Research Laboratory (FRRL) in Logan, Utah, use genetic material from both native and introduced plant sources in their breeding work. In some cases, they begin restoration efforts with introduced grasses and then follow up with the use of native plants as soil conditions improve.


In 1984, FRRL scientists partnered in the development of Hycrest crested wheatgrass, which became the leading crested wheatgrass grown on the western rangelands for approximately 10 years. It provides forage in the early spring and summer, stabilizes the soil, holds its own against aggressive invasive grasses and thrives in as little as 8 inches of annual precipitation.


Building on this success, FRRL scientists have now developed Hycrest II, which was bred for reseeding rangelands that have been overrun by annual weeds after wildfires, soil erosion and other disturbances. It offers improved establishment and exceeds Hycrest in seedlings established per acre.


Vavilov II, a Siberian wheatgrass cultivar that can help hold invasive cheatgrass at bay on especially dry and harsh sandy rangelands, was also created at the FRRL. And as competition for water supplies increases, FRRL scientists are developing pasture and turfgrasses better adapted to reduced irrigation. For instance, the meadow bromegrass cultivar Cache begins growth in the early spring and stays green and succulent longer than tall fescue and orchardgrass.


Results from this work have been published in the Journal of Plant Registrations, Native Plants Journal, Applied Turfgrass Science and elsewhere.


Read more about these studies and other plant varieties developed at the FRRL in the February 2010 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.


ARS is the principal intramural scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This research supports the USDA priorities of promoting international food security and responding to climate change.




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1.15 What makes a good tomato? Peri-urban farmers in Mali select top tomato lines



February 2010

A good tomato: For some farmers, the size of the fruit is the most important trait; for others, it could be the number of leaves per tomato plant. Involving farmers in the selection of crop characters helps breeders develop the tomato lines farmers want—and helps farmers produce the varieties the market demands.


AVRDC Mali, in collaboration with Faso Kaba, a private Malian enterprise that produces and distributes certified seed, organized a participatory variety selection of tomato on 15 January 2010. The event highlighted local varieties developed from introduced lines and advanced breeding lines from AVRDC headquarters in Taiwan in a replicated trial on Faso Kaba’s farm under the management of a local farmer. Sixteen farmers from the village of Dara, about 50 km away from the capital, Bamako, were chosen by village leaders to participate based on their involvement in the tomato value chain.


Participatory variety selection aims to increase rates of variety adoption by introducing farmers to new lines as they become available. Variety selection exercises aid breeders in identifying the plant and fruit characters of tomato farmers value most, and to select preferred lines for further development according to those characters.


Early in the morning, participants gathered in the target field at the Faso Kaba farm. A plenary discussion session was held to identify the plant and fruit characters farmers look for when deciding to adopt a tomato variety. Participants then toured the field plot by plot to examine the crop characters firsthand. After the farmers had a closer look at the tomato plants, they scored each plot using a rating scale from 0 (rejected) to 3 (highly preferred).


The farmers identified the number of fruit per plant, the number of healthy leaves per plant, the desired fruit size, fruit firmness, and general appearance of the fruit (uniform color, absence of fruit defects, and diseases) as the most important characters that make a good tomato variety. Farmers emphasized the availability of enough leaf coverage at all times to prevent exposure to direct  sunlight and ensure fruit quality, suggesting a preference for indeterminate type tomatoes. Lines CLN3022F2-37- 25-0-0, DR3-B, and CLN3022F2- 37-13-0-0 ranked first, second, and third, respectively, with 82%, 61% and 55% of the maximum possible score.


Following the evaluation, four farmers volunteered to promote line DR3-B and three farmers agreed to promote the other top two lines. These farmers were convinced that the top three lines, when grown under proper crop management (irrigation, fertilization, weed and pest control) would provide higher yield and fruit quality. They will receive seed of the requested lines for promotion in Dara and neighboring villages through Faso Kaba.


Source: AVRDC Newsletter 12 February 2010 via


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1.16  The intellectual property landscape for gene suppression technologies in plants


30 January 2010

Reviewing the major features in the patent landscape of RNA-mediated gene suppression may aid the development of patent strategies that will support the next generation of genetically modified crops.



RNA-mediated gene suppression is a powerful technology to suppress the expression of targeted genes within plants, as well as most other organisms. In 2002, RNA interference (RNAi) was proclaimed by Science as the “breakthrough technology of the year” and by Fortune as a “billion dollar breakthrough.” The recognition of RNAi-mediated gene suppression as an important experimental tool and its potential commercial application is further reflected in the patent landscape related to RNAi-mediated gene suppression, with an increasing number of patent applications seeking exclusive rights to RNAi-based discoveries. Recent publications summarizing the RNAi-based patent thicket in applications to human medicine point out legal uncertainties over who will own key RNAi intellectual property (IP) and the apprehension that this has created among investors.


Although a commercial human RNAi-based therapeutic is yet to be released, RNA-mediated gene suppression was used to produce the very first commercial genetically modified (GM) crop, the FLAVR SAVR tomato, in 1994. Here, we examine the scientific evolution of RNA-mediated gene suppression technologies used in agricultural biotech and the associated patent landscape. There is current and emerging IP in the United States with broad claims that are likely to influence the freedom to operate (FTO) for RNA-mediated gene suppression technologies used in the development of GM plants. However, early patented methods of RNA-mediated gene suppression, including antisense and co-suppression, are nearing the end of their patent life. As this IP approaches expiration it opens gaps in the patent landscape that may offer greater FTO. This survey of the major landmarks in the patent landscape of RNA-mediated gene suppression is one step in informing IP strategies that can support the next generation of genetically modified crops.


Full article at:


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1.17 Advisory Group: ‘Near perfect storm’ coming on gene patents in the US


Geneva, Switzerland

10 February 2010

By Catherine Saez

A report by a United States health department advisory group issued last week presents recommendations aimed at preventing patents on genes and licensing practices in the US from negatively impacting patient access to genetic tests that would allow patients to establish their genetic dispositions and identify potential illnesses.


Industry lobbyists were quick to voice concern about what they called the impairing effect of those recommendations, if implemented, on research and the prospects for new treatments. But the report found instances of enforcement by industry patent-holders to the detriment of patients, a finding supported by concerns of consumer groups.


The Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Genetics, Health, and Society (SACGHS) final report was approved by the committee on 5 February, following a draft report issued at an October committee meeting that came after a round of public consultations.


The final version of the “Report on Gene Patents and Licensing Practices and Their Impact on Patient Access to Genetic Tests” [pdf] was posted yesterday on the SACGHS website. It shows revisions from the earlier draft based on committee deliberations and additional public comments.


The report will be sent forward to US Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius for further consideration.


“A near perfect storm is developing at the confluence of clinical practice and patent law,” the committee concluded in its final report. The technology is offering a wealth of possibilities for improving health, whether by increasing physicians’ ability to identify patients’ genetic predispositions or because genetic information can help pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies develop new treatments, it said. But the “trends in patent law appear, however, to pose serious obstacles to the promise of these developments” as patents now cover not only commercial products, but also “foundational research discoveries.”


The committee issued a list of six recommendations, the first of which is to support the creation of exemptions from infringement liability, proposing two statutory changes. It proposed: “The creation of an exemption from liability for infringement of patent claims on genes for anyone making, using, ordering, offering for sale, or selling a test developed under the patent for patient care purposes, and the creation of an exemption from patent infringement ability for those who use patent protected genes in the pursuit of research.”


The second recommendation is about access for patients to genetic technologies, and asks to “promote adherence to norms designed to ensure access.” The third recommendation suggests to “enhance transparency in licensing,” so that the public can know “the type of license and the field of use for which rights were granted.” The fourth recommendation advises that an advisory body be established on the health impact of gene patenting and licensing practices.


In its fifth recommendation, the committee advises that the United States Patent and Trademark Office be provided with needed expertise, and in its sixth and last recommendation, the committee urges that equal access be provided to clinically useful genetic tests for patients.


Industry Sees Fight for Status Quo

The draft report set off reaction from industry, who although claiming support for the independent mission of SACGHS, said that the conclusions of the committee were not always supported by the evidence of case studies provided in the report (IPW, Public Health, 29 October 2009).


On the eve of the SACGHS meeting, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) issued a letter to Sebelius, urging her to reject SACGHS recommendations.


In the letter [pdf], BIO said it had “grave concerns about certain recommendations” of the report, which could threaten the fundamentals of the US innovation system and the Bayh-Dole Act.


The Bayh-Dole Act implemented in 1981 promotes government-funded inventions to be transferred to the private sector for commercialisation.


According to the letter, the US current patent system fosters the innovative collaboration between universities and companies, helping create high-paying jobs in the US, and a policy change is not desirable. The letter’s signatories claim that SACGHS “ignored the public comments by organisations with experience in patenting and technology transfer,” resulting in unprecedented recommendations “based on limited anecdotal experiences,” that could threaten public-private partnership and the “commercialisation of publicly-funded research.”


BIO argues that by “undermining the value of gene-based patents, these recommendations would chill future investments and innovation,” and “would unfairly upset the investment-backed expectations of current patent owners and licensees.” According to BIO, the restriction of patents and licensing practices for federally-funded inventions would be a step back in time, canceling the benefits brought by the Bayh-Dole Act.


Public Interest Defenders, Courts, Tackle the Issues

Meanwhile, several cases are being examined by US courts. One such case is the Association for Molecular Pathology, et al. v. U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, et al., which was filed on 12 May 2009 in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, against the USPTO, Myriad Genetics and the University of Utah Research Foundation. The foundation holds the patents on the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, associated with breast and ovarian cancer.


In the first hearing about the patentability of human genes in federal court on 3 February, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Public Patent Foundation asked the court “to rule that patents on two human genes associated with breast and ovarian cancer are unconstitutional and invalid,” according to an ACLU press release.


During the hearing, ACLU attorney Chris Hansen said that “patenting human genes is like patenting e=mc2, blood or air.” He also said that “allowing patents on genetic material imposes real and severe limits on scientific research, learning and the free flow of information,” according to the release.


According to the SACGHS report, some case studies found that exclusive rights had been enforced by patent holders to prevent clinical laboratories from offering testing. For example, Myriad Genetics and Athena Diagnostics have enforced their exclusive rights to stop alternative providers for testing, one for breast cancer, the other one for Alzheimer’s disease. Miami Children’s Hospital also enforced a patent on Canavan disease in order to have other laboratories either stop the testing or pay royalty fees.


The Association for Molecular Pathology (AMP) on 4 February also issued a position paper [pdf] on the SACGHS report. AMP “strongly endorses the SACGHS report,” it said, considering that “if implemented, the committee’s recommendations would be a significant step forward to reverse years of policy that has hindered innovation, restricted patient access to test, and constrained the widespread clinical application of biomedical research.”


Although recognising that intellectual property rights are essential to encourage investment and reward “true acts of invention such as new therapeutics, diagnostics, or technology platforms,” a single gene or a sequence of the genome, not being a product of nature, should not be patentable, said the AMP.


The SACGHS report downplayed industry concerns, stating that even if ACLU and the associated plaintiffs were to prevail, the decision “would not necessarily lead to the automatic invalidation of all existing patents on genes and associations.”


One of the obstacles that patents are bringing to research is the difficulty to “invent around” patent claims on genes, according to the report, because “inventing around a technology involves making an invention that accomplishes the same thing as the original patented invention but that does not infringe the patented inventions.”


International Consequences of Potential Legal Changes

According to the SACGHS report, recommended changes in US legislation regarding the patenting of human genes would not go against the US international trade obligations. As a member of the World Trade Organization, US patent laws have to be consistent with the WTO Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement.


The committee found that “there is ample authority in the agreement to support changes that promote access to, and research on, genetic testing,” because, in particular, countries can exclude from patentability diagnostic methods for the treatment of humans, plants, and animals other than microorganisms under WTO Article 27.3.b.


According to the committee, TRIPS also allows members to define what constitutes an invention. “Applying this principle, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela have chosen to classify isolated gene molecules as discoveries rather than inventions,” the report said.

Catherine Saez may be reached at




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1.18 China signals major shift into GM crops


Beijing, China

8 February 2010

by Chen Weixiao

China wants to push forward with the large-scale planting of genetically modified (GM) crops, according to its first policy document of the year.


Pest-resistant Bt cotton is already grown on an industrial scale in China.


Bt rice and phytase maize — which eliminates the need to feed extra phosphate to poultry and pigs — will now follow suit within 3–5 years, predicted Huang Dafang, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences' Biotechnology Research Institute (see GM corn 'improves animal feed, cuts pollution').


This year's "Number One Document", a publication issued annually by both the ruling Communist Party and State Council and which sets the agenda for that year's major work, was published last month (31 January). It said that China will "industrialise" GM crop farming.


This is the seventh such document since 2004 to have concentrated on agricultural development.


Huang told SciDev.Net that the document is "the continuation of a series of policies" and has been influenced by global circumstances such as the financial crisis and the trend towards developing GM crops.


The development of new GM crops is one of the 16 major projects listed in China's plan for scientific and technological development until 2020 (see China redraws blueprint for scientific development). The government's plans include the development of pest- and disease-resistant GM rice, rapeseed, maize and soy, with research focusing on yield, quality, nutritional value and drought tolerance.


"To develop GM crops is the inevitable choice for developing countries to protect their food and ecological security," said Huang.


But Xue Dayuan, chief biodiversity scientist at the Nanjing Institute of Environmental Science under the Ministry of Environmental Protection, told SciDev.Net that the science, management and enforcement of legislation regarding GM crops in China are weak, increasing the chances of risk-taking.


And Fang Lifeng, director of Greenpeace China's Food and Agriculture Project, said: "It's too early to industrialise GM crops in China. The safety of GM food and its impact on the environment are still uncertain and there are disputes over intellectual property rights".


But Huang said: "The development of any technology is not plain sailing. We won't stop because of being challenged".


"We will carry out deeper studies to avoid potential risks. China should build an independent GM crops research and development system to seize the market initiative."


China's Ministry of Agriculture granted two biosafety certificates approving Bt rice and phytase maize in November 2009 (see China makes 'landmark' GM food crop approval).




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1.19  The production and price impact of biotech crops


January 2010

Graham Brookes, Tun-Hsiang (Edward) Yu, Simla Tokgoz, and Amani Elobeid


Working Paper 10-WP 503

Center for Agricultural and Rural Development

Iowa State University

Ames, Iowa 50011-1070



Biotech crops have now been grown commercially on a substantial global scale since 1996. This paper examines the production effects of the technology and impacts on cereal and oilseed markets through the use of agricultural commodity models. It analyses the impacts on global production, consumption, trade and prices in the soybean, canola and corn sectors. The analysis suggests that world prices of corn, soybeans and canola would probably be, respectively, 5.8%, 9.6% and 3.8% higher, on average, than 2007 baseline levels if this technology was no longer available to farmers. Prices of key derivatives of soybeans (meal and oil) would also be between 5% and 9% higher, with rapeseed meal and oil prices being about 4% higher than baseline levels. World prices of related cereals and oilseeds would also be expected to be higher by 3% to 4%.


The effect of no longer using the current widely used biotech traits in the corn, soybean and canola sectors would probably impact negatively on both the global supply and utilization of these crops, their derivatives and related markets for grain and oilseeds. The modelling suggests that average global yields would fall for corn, soybeans and canola and despite some likely “compensating” additional plantings of these three crops, there would be a net fall in global production of the three crops of 14 million tonnes. Global trade and consumption of these crops/derivatives would also be expected to fall. The production and consumption of other grains such as wheat, barley and sorghum and oilseeds, notably sunflower, would also be affected. Overall, net production of grains and oilseeds (and derivatives) would fall by 17.7 million tonnes and global consumption would fall by 15.4 million tonnes. The cost of consumption would also increase by $20 billion (3.6%) relative to the total cost of consumption of the (higher) biotechinclusive level of world consumption. The impacts identified in this analysis are, however, probably conservative, reflecting the limitations of the methodology used. In particular, the limited research conducted to date into the impact of the cost-reducing effect of biotechnology (notably in herbicidetolerant soybeans) on prices suggests that the price effects identified in this paper represent only part of the total price impact of the technology.

This paper is available at



Graham Brookes is an agricultural economist with the UK-based economic analysts PG Economics. Tun-Hsiang Yu is an assistant professor with the Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Tennessee. Simla Tokgoz is a research fellow with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington, D.C. Amani Elobeid is an economic analyst with the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) at Iowa State University.


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1.20  Law and regulatory framework for development and application of modern biotechnology in Vietnam


February 2010

Ag Biotech Vietnam and the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) have jointly published a manual on the Law and regulatory framework for development and application of modern biotechnology in Vietnam.


The publication discusses the current issues of modern biotechnology development, effective regulatory framework, and laws and regulations regarding biotech in Vietnam.


For more information about the manual, email Hien Le of Ag Biotech Vietnam at




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1.21 Delivering genetically engineered crops to poor farmers


Recommendations for improved biosafety regulations in developing countries


2 February 2010

Authors: José Falck-Zepeda, Anthony Cavalieri, Patricia Zambrano

Publisher: International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) 2009


Small-scale, resource-poor farmers in developing countries face daily stresses, including poor soils, drought, and lack of inputs. Ongoing trends such as climate change and population growth will likely exacerbate binding stresses. A new generation of genetically engineered (GE) crop research aims to alleviate these pressures through the improvement of subsistence crops—such as cassava, sorghum, and millet—that incorporate traits such as tolerance to drought, water, and aluminum in soils as well as plants with more efficient nitrogen and phosphor use. However, many developing countries lack the necessary biosafety systems for a timely and cost-effective adoption. This brief focuses on the regulatory reforms necessary for farmers and consumers in developing countries to benefit from GE crops.


More news from: IFPRI (International Food Policy Research Institute)





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1.22 Research on GM crops in UAS, India may slow down


10 February 2010

Sharath S. Srivatsa

BANGALORE: Transgenic research on food crops currently under way at the University of Agriculture Sciences (UAS), Dharwad, is likely to slow down following the announcement by Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh on Tuesday putting on hold the commercial cultivation of Bt brinjal for the time being


Currently, pigeon pea, tomato and groundnut are in various stages of transgenic research in the university. “There is no point in continuing the research until a clear policy on genetically modified food crops is announced by Hindu. Rather, thethe Union Government,” a top scientist in the UAS told The scientist pointed out, the university will concentrate on other areas of biotechnology that are non-controversial.


In Karnataka, apart from the UAS, Dharwad, transgenic research is being conducted on cotton, groundnut and maize in the UAS, Bangalore, and on tomato, chilli, brinjal and banana in Indian Institute of Horticulture Research (IIHR), Bangalore.


“It is a temporary halt, which can be revived later if we continue on a lower scale now,” the scientist said. “Our scientists are feeling a bit low about the decision. But we have to take it in our stride,” he said.


The UAS, Dharwad, is among the institutions involved in the Bt brinjal project that cost about Rs. 50 lakh over a period of four to five years.


“We (scientists) are disappointed at the outcome. However, we will continue with our research,” said C. Aswath, Head of the Biotechnology Division at the IIHR where genetically modified food crops are being developed.


Meanwhile, the Karnataka Horticulture Minister Umesh Katti said, “It is a good decision and we welcome it. Farmers should not be burdened with any form of genetically modified food technology.”


Member of the State Organic Farming Mission Vivek Cariappa said that though the decision was laudable, it did not give any timeframe. “We do not know what the Ministry is looking for. The decision is not clear and is very ambiguous.” Krishnaprasad of Sahaja Samruddha, a member of GM Free India, said, “The Government should ban all experiments on GM food crops in India.”




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1.23  First genetically modified cotton for Uganda


3 February 2010

Picking of the first genetically modified (GM) cotton at the National Semi-Arid Resources Institute in Uganda commenced in January 2010, according to an announcement by Pius Elobu, confined field trial manager.


The objective of the trials is to assess the ability of Monsanto’s GM cotton varieties to control weeds and bollworms. Once researchers have finished evaluating these technologies under confinement for two or three seasons and with a proper biotechnology policy in place, multi-location trials will be conducted before commercialisation.


In 2008 Uganda’s Minister of Finance, Fred Jachan Omach, approved the biotechnology and biosafety policy and stated: “Biotechnology is one of the frontiers of agricultural and industrial research in the world today and Uganda should not be left behind in these new technological advancements.”


In Kenya, confined field trials of Bt cotton for the last five years have yielded promising results (Waturu et al 2009, Miriti et al).


Yields were 25% more than conventional, giving higher net benefits.


President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya confirmed that his government strongly supported genetically modified crops. “We must embrace and apply modern science and technology in farming. There is evidence that countries that have embraced modern agricultural technologies have improved economic performance, reduced poverty and ensured greater food security.” he said.

In Malawi confined field trials of Bt cotton are well under way in collaboration with the Malawi National Research Council (NRCM). In 2008 Malawi’s cabinet approved the National Biotechnology Policy. President Bingu wa Mutharika said at the time: “My government recognizes the pivotal role biotechnology can play towards economic growth and poverty reduction.”

In 2004 Tanzania began its first field trials with GM cotton.

Tanzania is the 7th African country to allow GM field trials following Burkina Faso, Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, Tunisia and Zimbabwe.




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1.24  Farming of giant maize made 'cultural heritage' in Peru


Lima, Peru

27 January 2010

by Zoraida Portillo

The Peruvian government has declared the knowhow associated with growing a variety of large-eared white maize to be 'cultural heritage'.


This designation — the first in the country for a crop production method — means the knowhow is considered part of the identity and culture of Peru and will be protected for future generations.


The knowledge, traditions and ancient technologies connected with the cultivation of the maize, known as Paraqay Sara in the Quechua language, were declared a cultural heritage of the nation by the National Institute of Culture earlier this month (4 January).


But experts disagree over whether the designation influences intellectual property rights on the crop.


The crop itself is already protected. In 2005, the Peruvian government granted a 'designation of origin' to the maize. This internationally-recognised legal tool certifies that a product has been produced in a specific region using specific methods.


The maize grows in a narrow 70-kilometre corridor in the Urubamba or 'Sacred' Valley in the mountains of southeast Peru and is produced by just 5,000 households.


Rodomiro Ortiz, a maize specialist and consultant for the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), said the declaration is important from both a plant genetics and human perspective.


"It has been possible to preserve the unique germplasm that this crop possesses because of the work of the farmers who have improved it for centuries through ancient knowledge and technologies."


Alejandro Argumedo, director of the Peruvian nongovernmental organisation ANDES, told SciDev.Net that the designation will not have any legal effect on the intellectual property rights of this variety, as the knowledge is already covered by other international documents signed by the Peruvian state.


Argumedo said that although the decision is likely to protect the maize's indigenous name, a legal framework to benefit indigenous people — providing access to new markets for example — is also needed.


Ricardo Sevilla, a maize specialist and consultant for the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), was sceptical about the move. Recognising traditional knowledge associated with crop production as cultural heritage is only valid if the knowledge is unique and original, he told to SciDev.Net. In his opinion neither condition applies to this variety.


This is not the first time a crop production method has been protected. In 1995, UNESCO declared the rice terraces of the Ifugao people in the Philippines a World Heritage Site.




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1.25  Swapping seeds


Garden catalogs might top 100 pages of flower, vegetable and herb varieties. For some gardeners—where the line between dedication and obsession can sometimes blur—that's not enough.


For them, there are seed exchanges. These are groups formed by garden clubs or plant collectors whose members harvest seeds from their own plants and donate them to the exchange. Fellow gardeners in the group can order seeds at little or no cost. The appeal of these exchanges is that they frequently offer unusual varieties of plants not typically found in catalogs, whether it's a species grown by few collectors, or an "heirloom" seed variety passed down for generations.


The coming weeks are high season for seed exchanges as many gardeners are preparing to start seedlings indoors to be planted outside once spring breaks. Part of the fun of surfing the seed exchanges is in recognizing names and gardens where donations come from—and the chance to plant seeds from famous gardens. The North American Rock Garden Society exchange lists more than 100 seeds donated by the New York Botanical Garden from its expeditions to the countries of Georgia and China in 2005 and 2007.


Janet Draper, horticulturist with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington this year donated seeds of a South African foxglove from the Smithsonian's Mary Livingston Ripley garden to the Hardy Plant Society/Mid-Atlantic Group seed exchange, among other seed varieties. Ms. Draper says some of her favorite plants in the Ripley garden came from seeds acquired on the exchange, such as tassel flower.


Seed Sampler

About a dozen volunteers with the Hardy Plant Society group fulfilled requests for seeds one recent morning at the Henry Foundation for Botanical Research in Gladwyne, Pa., for some of its more than 900 varieties from Abelmoschus manihot (ornamental okra) to zephyranthes (rain lily). The group's 850 members range from backyard warriors to rare-plant collectors. And while the number of members has remained stable, they also seem to be getting younger, perhaps a sign of new interest in gardening, says Gene Spurgeon, chairman of the exchange.


The North American Rock Garden Society has an exchange listing more than 4,500 different types of seeds from more than 250 donors. The society organizes its listing so that gardeners can look up a seed's donor. "Sometimes that will tell you if it's a good plant or not because you know the gardener. Or, how hardy it is in your area, depending on where the gardener who donated it lives," says Joyce Fingerut, who manages the exchange.


She once ordered seed of Mibora minima, whose common name is early sandgrass, which she had never heard of. But because it was a donation from a well-known gardener, she gave it a try. "I figured if he's growing it, it's got to be interesting," she says. She continues to grow it at her home in Stonington, Conn.


Some groups that host exchanges cater to gardeners specializing in a particular plant, letting them delve into unusual varieties. The Species Iris Group of North America exchange, for example, includes the snake-bane iris, a native of China believed to repel snakes, and extremely rare in the U.S., says James W. Waddick, the exchange's Kansas City, Mo.-based co-chairman.


The exchange isn't just for iris snobs, he says, adding, "there are some people who want to have a 20-foot row and don't want to pay for plants when you can just buy a packet of seed."


To take part in a typical exchange, gardeners harvest most flower seeds by allowing blooms to fade and then collect ripened seed. They mail in their seed donations, and the organization publishes a catalog sometime in the winter listing contributions. Members then make their pick. Depending on availability, a packet containing anywhere from a handful to hundreds of seeds might cost as little as 50 cents or less—a fraction of what commercially sold seed packets can cost. Some organizations will set a limit on the number of seeds members can order. Others offer bonus seeds for big contributors. To become a member to take part in exchanges, annual dues can run from as little as $5 to $40. Some gardening Web sites such as also host seed-trading forums, which don't require membership fees.


These homemade listings will lack many of the showy hybrid varieties that commercial catalogs offer and that appeal to many gardeners. While hybrids can be stunning, gardeners looking to propagate them from seed will often find that they won't develop "true," or look like the parent. On the other hand, gardeners interested in species plants—as found in the wild and which reproduce naturally without human interference—will find plenty of variety in these seed-exchange listings. "Heirloom" varieties will also grow true and can be coveted.


Charles Cresson's donation of an African lily variety named "Kingston Blue" is the most popular on this year's Hardy Plant exchange, receiving 36 requests (only five could be fulfilled; others got alternates). Mr. Cresson's other popular donation: seeds from a clivia named "Sir John Thouron," an unusual yellow variety that once fetched $2,400 at a rare-plant auction. In Swarthmore, Pa., Mr. Cresson oversees a garden that has been in his family since 1883. "A lot of things that interest me are not run-of-the-mill," he says. "This seed exchange is a great way to make the seed available and be able to say why it is so special."


Mr. Cresson has been offering seeds on the exchange for more than 15 years, and most of those years, he doesn't ask for seeds in return. "A good plant should be shared, and a rare plant should be shared," he says. "Its survival depends on it." He ordered an unusual variety of snowdrop—an early flowering bulb—from England 20 years ago, and it recently died on him. He had forgotten that he had shared some bulbs with another gardener, who one day casually mentioned how much he loved the variety. When Mr. Cresson explained that he'd lost his, the following year, "I got a nice big bunch of it back."


More interactive graphics and photos


Write to Anne Marie Chaker at




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1.26  Resistance in corn to southern rust (Puccinia polysora)


James L. Brewbaker and Jerald Pataky, U. Hawaii and U. Illinois


Southern rust has been epidemic in Hawaii since 1990 and becomes most severe in the cool, wet winter months (avg. temp. 21C, avg. rainfall 10 cm/month). As it is an asexual pathogen with few other hosts, it becomes most serious where corn is grown year-round, as in Hawaii. Under these conditions there is not a single temperate field or sweet corn that could be called resistant. Among 300 inbreds we have evaluated since 1980 in the tropics (Nigeria, Philippines, Colombia, Hawaii) about 50 are deemed highly resistant. All are tropical and largely Caribbean in origin. Resistance is inherited quantitatively and generally with co-dominance. Monogenes like Rpp9 control race PP9, which appears to be very common. Since the pathogen is asexual, such races can dominate populations in one season or another. This seems to be the most common race blowing up into southern USA, although other races are now evident. Research is underway at U. Illinois to identify host-differentials to the races, and at U. Hawaii to breed more competent resistance into sub-tropical germplasm. The disease will assuredly become more serious as corn production becomes year-round in the tropics, perhaps notably for sweet and waxy maize (e.g., Thailand). All Hawaii-bred supersweet and waxy maize hybrids effectively tolerate the disease.


Contributed by James L. Brubaker


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1.27  The real worth of wheat diversity


1 February 2010

What is diversity worth? That is the issue addressed by “Economic Analysis of Diversity in Modern Wheat,” a new collaborative publication that explores the economics, policies, and complications of modern wheat diversity.


Everyone wants the best, and farmers are no different. But when a large number of wheat farmers opt to sow the same improved varieties on large extensions of cropland, long-term diversity could be sacrificed for relative short-term gains.


With this in mind, a group of authors from eight different advanced research institutes pooled their knowledge to examine wheat diversity in terms of its demand by breeders and farmers and how policy decisions correspond to crop diversity. The resulting book, “Economic Analysis of Diversity in Modern Wheat,” is a joint publication with CIMMYT and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) that was compiled by its two editors:


·         Erika Meng, former CIMMYT economist who passed away in 2008, and

·         John Brennan of NSW Department of Primary Industries.

Royalties from this publication will go to the Erika C.H. Meng Scholarship Fund for Development Policy and Research Economics at the University of California.


Why wheat?

Wheat is one of the most important food crops world-wide, supplying an average of 513 calories per person per day. Roughly 217 million hectares are sown to the crop and the farmers want to see the highest economic return possible. So if one wheat variety performs significantly better than others—in yield, environmental adaption, or end-uses qualities—farmers are likely to plant primarily that variety, resulting in large stretches of farm land sown to single varieties. Though this may be immediately beneficial to farmers and the related economy, it increases the vulnerability of the crops to biotic and abiotic risks: instead of a disease damaging part of the wheat crop, it could instead cause massive crop destruction over large areas.


It has happened before. In the 1950s a stem rust swept across North America, slashing spring wheat production 40%. And experts fear that Ug99, another strain of stem rust, could deliver similar devastation to wheat crops across parts of Asia and Africa.


To discover what wheat diversity is worth to society, the book focuses on the history, uses, and policies related to wheat in China and Australia. Both countries are large wheat producers, yet have very different breeding and research policies, levels of commercialization, and decision incentives for household seed variety choice. For example, the wheat industry in Australia is largely commercialized, with the majority of Australian farmers sowing around 1,500 herbicide-dependent hectares. China, on the other hand, is a mix of commercialized and subsistence wheat farms, though most farmers sow less than one hectare and rely on it for food self-sufficiency (over 80% of basic food grains consumed on farms in China were produced by the household).


The book concludes that several policies contribute to a decreased genetic base, including policies that focus on specific traits (like quality), or policies that push for faster variety release. But the editors are optimistic that with well-informed policy makers, it is possible to balance acceptable yields and diversity outcomes across all production systems—allowing farmers to have their high wheat yields and conserve them too.


Source: CIMMYT E-News, vol 6 no. 7, December 2009 via


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1.28 USDA/ARS scientists turn to a wild oat to combat crown rust


4 February 2010

Washington, DC, USA

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists are tapping into the DNA of a wild oat, considered by some to be a noxious weed, to see if it can help combat crown rust, the most damaging fungal disease of oats worldwide.


Crown rust reduces oat yields up to 40 percent and shows a remarkable ability to adapt to varieties bred to genetically resist it. ARS researchers and colleagues have inserted individual resistance genes into oat varieties that produce proteins believed to recognize strains of crown rust and trigger a defense response against them. “Multiline” cultivars with several resistance genes also have been developed.


Crown rust is caused by Puccinia coronata, a fungus that reproduces both sexually and asexually and has enough genetic flexibility to overcome resistance genes, usually in about five years, according to Martin L. Carson (photo), research leader at the ARS Cereal Disease Laboratory in St. Paul, Minn. His analysis also shows crown rust is increasing in virulence throughout North America.


Carson has turned to a wild variety, Avena barbata, for new genes with effective resistance. The slender oat, listed as a noxious weed in Missouri and classified as moderately invasive in California, grows wild in South Asia, much of Europe and around the Mediterranean region.


Carson inoculated A. barbata seedlings with crown rust. After several crosses, he found seedlings highly resistant to a variety of crown rust strains. In ongoing studies, he is crossing them with the domestic oat, A. sativa, to try to develop the right blend of resistance and desirable traits, such as high yield and drought tolerance. The goal is new plant lines that will effectively fight off crown rust for many years.


The research, which supports the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) priority of promoting international food security, was published in the journal Plant Disease.


Read more about this research in the February 2010 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

ARS is USDA’s principal intramural scientific research agency.




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1.29  Roots key to second green revolution


San Diego, California, USA

20 February 2010

Root systems are the basis of the second Green Revolution, and the focus on beans and corn that thrive in poor growing conditions will help some of the world's poorest farmers, according to a Penn State plant scientist.


"Africans missed the Green Revolution of the '60s because they typically do not eat wheat and rice, which was its focus," said Jonathan Lynch, professor of plant nutrition.


The First Green Revolution was an effort to create dwarf wheat and rice plants that could prosper with more fertilizer. While this approach worked in Asia and other places where rice and wheat are the staple crops, it did not affect Africa.

Simulation of bean root systems showing how altered root growth angles lead to deep or shallow soil exploration

Simulation of bean root systems showing how altered root growth angles lead to deep or shallow soil exploration

Photo credit: Jonathan Lynch


"Just as the Green Revolution was based on crops responsive to high soil fertility, the Second Green Revolution will be based on crops tolerant of low soil fertility," Lynch told attendees at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, today (Feb. 20) in San Diego, California.


With no money, no credit, no markets and a population that cannot read, African subsistence farmers need another, less expensive and less complicated approach -- one that does not require irrigation or fertilization.


"African farmers are poor and fertilizers take fossil fuels to manufacture," said Lynch. "A pound of fertilizer in Malawi costs ten times more than it does in Europe. With an average daily wage of $.80 it is not realistic for African farmers to buy fertilizer."


For 25 years, Lynch worked on beans that can thrive in low phosphorus soils. Phosphorus is the nutrient most important for healthy bean plants. The key to this approach is the root system. Phosphorus in the soil remains near the surface, but most commercially available bean plants had roots that grow down deep into the soil, swiftly growing past the phosphorus rich zone.

Aerenchyma is the botanical term for large air spaces in the root. Crop varieties that produce root aerenchyma have metabolically cheaper roots that are better able to explore the soil.

Aerenchyma is the botanical term for large air spaces in the root. Crop varieties that produce root aerenchyma have metabolically cheaper roots that are better able to explore the soil.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Lynch, Penn State


Using standard plant breeding techniques, Lynch and colleagues produced bean plants with shallow, spreading roots that flourish in infertile soil. He also chose plants that produced more root hairs. The shallow roots were an improvement of about 600 percent in production and the increased root hairs were an improvement of 250 percent.


"People were skeptical about this approach," said Lynch. "They questioned whether growing beans without added phosphorus would simply increase soil degradation."


In fact, while the plants do remove phosphorus from the soil, more phosphorus was being lost to erosion due to sloping fields. Healthy, leafy plants prevented erosion, and the soils were generally better than with poor quality deep-rooted plants. Decreasing erosion by two to three times easily made up for what the plants removed.


After his work with beans, the McKnight Foundation asked him to look at soybeans.


"Our partners in China now have seven soybean lines with shallow root systems that are good for poor soils low in phosphorus," said Lynch.


Because any shallow rooted plant is more susceptible to drought, Lynch suggests that the shallow-rooted beans be mixed with deep-rooted plants to ensure some harvest in every season.


"We are not creating a monoculture; multilines of seeds are actually the best approach," said Lynch.


While beans are an important crop in poor countries, corn is the biggest crop in the U.S. and in the world. Corn or maize requires an enormous amount of nitrogen to grow properly and half the nitrogen is wasted.


"The plants do not take it up and it ends up in the groundwater," said Lynch. "Or it becomes nitrogen oxides, which are 300 times more detrimental greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide.


"If we can move corn from being 50 percent efficient with nitrogen to 60 percent efficient we will save billions of dollars and there will be an environmental gain as well."


Because nitrogen moves very quickly through the soil, it outpaces maize roots. Lynch looked for maize that had rapid deep root development, but large amounts of roots are costly for plants to manufacture.


"We knew that in flooded areas plant roots develop aerenchyma," said Lynch. "Roots with these hollowed out portions are less costly metabolically for the plants to produce."


Roots with aerenchyma are also better during droughts because they can produce deeper roots to acquire moisture from dry soils.


Currently, Lynch has about 20 people looking at plant roots from thousands of maize lines. Once the researchers identify the best lines, genetic evaluation will identify the key traits for this type of root, with the hope of developing maize lines that are better at using nitrogen and more drought tolerant.


The National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Agriculture, McKnight Foundation, Howard G. Buffet Foundation, Monsanto, U.S. Agency for International Development supported this work.




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1.30  Checkoff-funded project finds traits that perform during drought


St. Louis, Missouri, USA

25 February 2010

Drought-tolerant plants frequently carry a common characteristic: they grow better than most plants during drought conditions but they grow poorly under optimal growing conditions compared with other plants.


Recent checkoff-funded research by a nine-member research team has identified two traits that have avoided this problem.


Larry Purcell, Ph.D., a soybean researcher at the University of Arkansas and a member of the checkoff-funded drought research team, says the team has identified two soybean traits that have helped to avoid this problem.


One trait, Purcell says, allows the plant to continue to accumulate nitrogen during moderate drought conditions.


The other trait allows the plant to conserve water before the onset of a drought, helping it be slow to wilt when the weather turns dry.



University of Arkansas scientists tweak genetics, physiology of soybeans to increase dryland yields


More news from: United Soybean Board (USB)






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1.31  Cloned gene being used to develop aluminum tolerant crops


Ithaca, New York, USA

22 February 2010

Cornell researcher Leon Kochian, in collaboration with Brazilian scientists, has cloned a unique sorghum gene that is being used to develop sorghum lines that can withstand toxic levels of aluminum in the soil, a consequence of acidic soils.


Acidic soils limit crop production in half the world's potentially arable land, mostly in developing countries in Africa, Asia and South America, said Kochian. He hopes that the research will one day help farmers in developing countries significantly boost their crop production and better help feed the hungry.


Kochian, Cornell adjunct professor of plant biology and director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture--Agricultural Research Service Robert W. Holley Center for Agriculture and Health at Cornell, described the work on identifying and characterizing an aluminum tolerance gene in certain lines of sorghum and using molecular breeding techniques to introduce this gene into lines used for sorghum breeding in Africa, on Feb. 20 at the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in San Diego.


In his talk, "Fighting Fire With Fire: Plants Tolerate Acid Soils by Releasing Organic Acids," presented at the Getting to the Roots of Agricultural Productivity Symposium, Kochian said that he and Jurandir Magalhaes, Ph.D. '02, of the Embrapa Maize and Sorghum lab in Brazil, started this project for Magalhaes' Ph.D. research at Cornell in Kochian's lab. He added that they have also found evidence for a number of variants of this tolerance gene that underlies the wide variation in sorghum aluminum tolerance.


Aluminum tolerance is found in a small number of sorghum varieties, he said, where this gene encodes a novel membrane transporter protein in the root tip that mediates the release citric acid into the soil when the roots are exposed to aluminum. The citric acid binds aluminum ions and prevents the toxic metal from entering the roots.


Since Kochian and colleagues have identified this gene, they have found evidence for other genes that also play a role in aluminum tolerance, he said. In work led by Magalhaes, the researchers introduced the region of the sorghum genome that harbors their aluminum tolerance gene from a number of tolerant sorghum lines into a common breeding line that is aluminum sensitive. When they did this, a significant degree of the tolerance in the donor line was lost, which strongly suggests that other genes are also needed for full expression and function of their aluminum tolerance gene.


Kochian and Magalhaes are also collaborating with sorghum breeders in Africa to generate genetic markers that will allow them to identify the best versions of their aluminum tolerance gene in African sorghum lines. These same markers will then be used to improve sorghum aluminum tolerance in Africa via molecular breeding techniques.


Kochian's lab has also used this information from sorghum to identify the first aluminum tolerance gene in maize, and in collaboration with Embrapa, similar molecular genetic approaches are being used to improve maize tolerance on acidic soils.



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1.32  Detection and quantification of the Cry 1Ab protein of Bacillus thuringiensis expressed in transgenic plants


Development of novel immunodiagnostic and traceability tests for GM-crops


Paris, France

17 February 2010

In the framework of the European Integrated Project Co-Extra ("GM and Not-GM food supply chains: to their CO-EXistence and TRAceability"); searches were undertaken by scientists of the laboratory of Immuno-Allergie Alimentaire within the Institut de Biologie et de Technologie de Saclay to develop new tools for traceability of transgenic plants, and more particularly tools for immunodetection of the Cry 1Ab protein of Bacillus thuringiensis expressed for example in the transgenic Monsanto 810 maize.



In the framework of the European Integrated Project Co-Extra ("GM and Not-GM food supply chains: to their CO-EXistence and TRAceability";, searches were undertaken by scientists of the laboratory of Immuno-Allergie Alimentaire within the Institut de Biologie et de Technologie de Saclay to develop new tools for traceability of transgenic plants, and more particularly tools for immunodetection of the Cry 1Ab protein of Bacillus thuringiensis expressed for example in the transgenic Monsanto 810 maize.


Description of the innovation

Monoclonal antibodies directed against the Cry 1Ab protoxin (130 kDa) were produced from the B. thuringiensis purified protein. The screening of 112 hybridoma cell lines allowed to select 25 clones for the production of ascite fluids for developing immunological tests. Most of these antibodies are targeting the N terminal part of the Cry 1Ab protein corresponding to the Cry 1Ab endotoxin (delta active endotoxin of ca. 65 kDa). Five complementary groups of antibodies were defined according to their specificity. More particularly, 5 monoclonal antibodies (Mab#40, 73, 95, 115, 120) having different specificities for the native or denatured Cry 1Ab protein were purified and used according to various combinations to develop immunological detection tests.


For instance, a two-step sandwich ELISA was developed, including the capture of Cry 1Ab protein by the Mab#120 monoclonal antibody, then its detection via the Mab#95 tracer monoclonal antibody. This 2 site immunometric ELISA has been assessed on various maize samples (leaves, grains) or maize flours, taking into account that the scientists have also improved the protocols of extraction of Cry 1Ab by optimizing the preparation of the sample (grinding, milling), the composition of the extraction buffer, the incubation, and the preservation of extraction products. It has been determined that this ELISA is highly specific and sensitive to the native Cry1Ab, with a limit of quantification below 1 seed of Monsanto 810 GM maize admixed in more than 1,000 non-GM maize seeds !


Industrial applications and technology transfer

INRA Transfert is in charge of the technology transfer of the 5 purified monoclonal antibodies which are available for the development of new kits that could allow an easy, rapid, specific and very sensitive detection (about 0.1%) of the Cry 1Ab protein, and traceability of transgenic crops expressing this Bt toxin, whatever the technology implemented and the sample.


Scientific leader: Jean-Michel WAL

Technology Transfer officer: Claire LEMONTEY




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1.33  Tomatoes 'silenced' to remain fresh


New Delhi, India

15 February 2010

by N.V. Padma, SciDev.Net

Indian scientists have genetically engineered tomatoes to help them stay fresh for a month longer than they normally would.


Asis Datta and his colleagues at the National Institute of Plant Genome Research (NIPGR) in Delhi identified and suppressed two enzymes that promote ripening to achieve results which have been published in the 9 February issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).


The two enzymes, 'alpha-man' (alpha-mannosidase) and 'beta hex' (beta delta N-acetylhexosaminidase), are specifically linked to fruit softening that happens during ripening. Excessive softening accounts for 40 per cent of fruit losses in India.


The scientists 'silenced' or suppressed expression of the genes that code for the two enzymes. Their genetically engineered (GE) tomatoes were "2.5 times firmer" than conventional tomatoes.


GE tomatoes retain their texture and firmness for upto 45 days, compared to conventional ones that start shrinking after 15 days. They grow and mature in the same way as normal tomato plants, according to Datta and his colleagues.


Similar manipulation of enzymes involved in ripening could be applied to other fruits such as mango and papaya to extend their shelf life, they say.


Datta, professor emeritus at NIPGR, who led the research team, told SciDev.Net that his team will next conduct larger-scale open field trials, followed by multi-location trials before seeking clearance for commercial cultivation from India's regulatory authorities. The entire process is expected to take two years.


But Datta is confident about the enormous potential application of his technology not just for India but also other developing countries that suffer huge crop losses due to lack of adequate facilities for storage as well as transport from remote farming areas to urban centres.


He also points out that there are fewer safety issues involved since the genetic engineering does not involve adding foreign genetic material as in the case of India's genetically engineered 'Bt brinjal' that contains genes from the soil bacterium Bacillus thurgiensis to confer resistance to pests.


Datta adds that India's decision last week (9 February) to halt cultivation of genetically modified brinjal (aubergine) until scientists and public are convinced about its safety (see India says no – for now – to first GM vegetable) "will not cast a shadow" on the fate on GM tomato.

Link to full article in PNAS*

*free access to users in developing countries




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1.34  Virus versus virus in tomatoes


Wageningen, The Netherlands

11 February 2010

Market gardeners can protect tomatoes against the aggressive Pepino mosaic virus by employing a mild form of this virus. They do, however, have to select the right virus strain, as shown in the research by PhD student Inge Hanssen.


Many variants of the CH2 strain of the virus originating from Chile are showing up currently in the horticulture sector. 'This strain is spreading very fast, without facing any resistance whatsoever', says Hanssen's supervisor Bart Thomma of the chair group Phytopathology. The aggressive variants can cause much damage to plants. The virus affects the leaves and the fruits of the tomato plant. Tomatoes with resulting yellow patches are not marketable.


Therefore, some growers pull out an old trick of the trade: they use mild virus strains to keep the aggressive virus at arm's length. 'The tomato plant would then be full of the mild virus, giving the aggressive strains no chance to infect it; the tomatoes will then have none of the symptoms', says Thomma. This form of 'cross protection' was regularly used in the past by the horticulture sector. Later on, preference was given to cultivating resistance in the plant.



Hanssen, who works at the Flemish research station Scientia Terrae, went in search of virus strains lurking in tomato greenhouses. It appears that the European virus strain (EU) is on the comeback, and the Chilean strain is showing up increasingly. She also tried to find out if cross protection can be used to prevent problems caused by aggressive variants of the Chilean strain. She discovered that the mild version of the Chilean virus protected the plant from its aggressive brother. The European mild variant and the Peruvian strain LP originating from a nephew of the tomato did not offer enough protection. 'There must be sufficient kinship for the mild virus to be effective', concludes Thomma.


Some growers decide to infect the tomato with a mild variant of the virus early in the growing season. 'It is a rat race; the grower needs to ensure that the mild Chilean virus gets there before the aggressive virus.'


This strategy only works if the mild virus belongs to this Chilean strain, explains Thomma. Many Dutch growers use the mild variant of the widespread EU virus strain. This EU variant does not offer any protection against the aggressive CH2 virus. What's more, the damage can escalate if both strains come together in a merger infection, as Hanssen's research pointed out.



Flemish and Dutch tomato growers are not the only ones who face problems from the Pepino mosaic virus; this problem occurs worldwide, says Thomma.


The best strategy is to build resistance to the mosaic virus in the tomato. However, this takes time. Cross protection can be carried out in the meantime, but there are also risks. 'Because you can't control the viruses completely. The mild Chilean virus could adapt itself and become more aggressive. In addition, that mild Chilean virus may be safe for the tomato, but could cause problems, for example, for other plants. Although the virus can't do this itself, the risk does arise in cross protection.'




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1.35  USDA scientists sequence genome of grass that can be a biofuel model crop


Work will enable researchers to shed light on the genetics behind hardier varieties of wheat and improved varieties of biofuel crops


Washington, DC, USA

11 February 2010

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists and their colleagues at the Department of Energy (DOE) Joint Genome Institute today announced that they have completed sequencing the genome of a kind of wild grass that will enable researchers to shed light on the genetics behind hardier varieties of wheat and improved varieties of biofuel crops. The research is published today in the journal Nature.


"Energy security looms as one of the most important scientific challenges of this century," said Molly Jahn, USDA Acting Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics. "This important research will help scientists develop switchgrass varieties that are more suitable for bioenergy production by identifying the genetic basis for traits such as disease resistance, drought tolerance and the composition of cells."


The grass, Brachypodium distachyon, can be used by plant scientists the way other researchers use lab mice to study human disease – as a model organism that is similar to but easier to grow and study than important agricultural crops, including wheat and barley. The research also supports the USDA priority of developing new sources of bioenergy; the brachypodium genome is similar to that of the potential bioenergy crop switchgrass. But the smaller genome of brachypodium makes it easier to find genes linked to specific traits, such as stem size and disease resistance.


Brachypodium (pronounced bracky-POE-dee-umm) also is easier to grow than many grasses, takes up less laboratory space, and offers easy transformation, which means scientists can insert foreign DNA into it to study gene function and targeted approaches for crop improvement in the transformed plants, said John Vogel, a lead author and molecular biologist with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency. Vogel works at the ARS Genomics and Gene Discovery Research Unit in Albany, Calif. ARS geneticist David Garvin at the agency's Plant Science Research Unit in St. Paul, Minn., is also a lead author on the paper.


A major stumbling block in using switchgrass or any perennial grass as a biofuel crop is the difficulty in breaking down its cell walls, an essential step in producing ethanol from cellulosic biomass. Brachypodium may hold the key to finding ways to produce plant cell walls that are easy to break down, Vogel said.


Vogel developed a method with a very high success rate for inserting genes into brachypodium. He, Garvin and their colleagues are spearheading efforts to promote brachypodium as an experimental model. They shared brachypodium seeds with more than 300 labs in 25 countries and gave scientists worldwide free access to a draft sequence of the brachypodium genome long before the work was formally published. The sequencing project was carried out through the DOE-JGI Community Sequencing Program.




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1.36 First member of the wheat and barley group of grasses is sequenced


10 February 2010

A few grass species provide the bulk of our food supply and new grass crops are being domesticated for sustainable energy and feedstock production. However there are significant barriers limiting crop improvement, such as a lack of knowledge of gene function and their large and complex genomes.


Now, in the 11 February issue of Nature, an international consortium led by the John Innes Centre, the US Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute, the US Department of Agriculture and Oregon State University present an analysis of the complete genome sequence of the wild grass Brachypodium distachyon.


Three different groups of grasses, represented by maize, rice and wheat, provide most of the grains that support human nutrition and our domesticated animals. The genomes of two of these three groups have been sequenced.  Brachypodium distachyon is the first member of the third group, which contains key food and fodder crops such as wheat, barley and forage grasses, to be sequenced.


Analysis of the compact Brachypodium genome has provided new insights into how grass genomes evolve and expand and it has demonstrated how Brachypodium can be used to navigate the closely related yet far larger and more complex genomes of wheat and barley.


"Our analysis of the Brachypodium genome is a key resource for securing sustainable supplies of food, feed and fuel from established crops such as wheat, barley and forage grasses and for the development of crops for bioenergy and renewable resource production", stated Michael Bevan from the John Innes Centre. "It is already being widely used by crop scientists to identify genes in wheat and barley, and it is defining new approaches to large-scale genome analysis of these crops, because of the high degree of conserved gene structure and organisation we identified".


Brachypodium also has other important features, including a rapid life cycle and a very compact growth habit, making it ideal for laboratory studies.  Philippe Vain is leading a programme at the John Innes Centre aimed at providing scientists with resources to identify gene functions. "Scientists can now use genetic resources we are developing in Brachypodium to determine the functions of genes involved in grass crop productivity. This has the potential to accelerate research in sustainable food production and in new sources of energy".


For more information about the international collaboration go to, to access the genome sequence go to, and to access functional genomics resources go to .


Scientists at the John Innes Centre and their colleagues are working on projects aimed at enhancing food security and creating sustainable industries. The John Innes Centre, supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the John Innes Foundation, is committed to creating the resources and understanding needed for sustainable food and fuel production.




JIC Press Office:

Andrew Chapple -

Zoe Dunford -


Images of Brachypodium are available on request


Reference: 'Genome sequencing and analysis of the model grass Brachypodium distachyon' will be published by Nature on 11th February 2010 Vol 463 11 February

2010  doi:10.1038/nature08747


The John Innes Centre,, is an independent, world-leading research centre in plant and microbial sciences with over 800 staff. JIC is based on Norwich Research Park and carries out high quality fundamental, strategic and applied research to understand how plants and microbes work at the molecular, cellular and genetic levels. The JIC also trains scientists and students, collaborates with many other research laboratories and communicates its science to end-users and the general public. The JIC is grant-aided by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council


The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £450 million in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.


The Babraham Institute, Institute for Animal Health, Institute of Food Research, John Innes Centre and Rothamsted Research are Institutes of BBSRC. The Institutes conduct long-term, mission-oriented research using specialist facilities.


Contributed by Andrew Chapple


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1.37  Gene function discovery: guilt by association


Palo Alto, California, USA

1 February 2010

Scientists have created a new computational model that can be used to predict gene function of uncharacterized plant genes with unprecedented speed and accuracy. The network, dubbed AraNet, has over 19,600 genes associated to each other by over 1 million links and can increase the discovery rate of new genes affiliated with a given trait tenfold. It is a huge boost to fundamental plant biology and agricultural research.


Despite immense progress in functional characterization of plant genomes, over 30% of the 30,000 Arabidopsis genes have not been functionally characterized yet. Another third has little evidence regarding their role in the plant.


“In essence, AraNet is based on the simple idea that genes that physically reside in the same neighborhood, or turn on in concert with one another are probably associated with similar traits,” explained corresponding author Sue Rhee at the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Plant Biology. “We call it guilt by association. Based on over 50 million scientific observations, AraNet contains over 1 million linkages of the 19,600 genes in the tiny, experimental mustard plant Arabidopsis thaliana. We made a map of the associations and demonstrated that we can use the network to propose that uncharacterized genes are linked to specific traits based on the strength of their associations with genes already known to be linked to those characteristics.” Link to picture


The network allows for two main types of testable hypotheses. The first uses a set of genes known to be involved in a biological process such as stress responses, as a “bait” to find new genes (“prey”) involved in stress responses. The bait genes are linked to each other based on over 24 different types of experiments or computations. If they are linked to each other much more frequently or strongly than by chance, one can hypothesize that other genes that are as well linked to the bait genes have a high probability of being involved in the same process. The second testable hypothesis is to predict functions for uncharacterized genes. There are 4,479 uncharacterized genes in AraNet that have links to ones that have been characterized, so a significant portion of all the unknowns now get a new hint as to their function.


The scientists tested the accuracy of AraNet with computational validation tests and laboratory experiments on genes that the network predicted as related. The researchers selected three uncharacterized genes. Two of them exhibited phenotypes that AraNet predicted. One is a gene that regulates drought sensitivity, now named Drought sensitive 1 (Drs1). The other regulates lateral root development, called Lateral root stimulator 1 (Lrs1). The researchers found that the network is much stronger forecasting correct associations than previous small-scale networks of Arabidopsis genes.


“Plants, animals and other organisms share a surprising number of the same or similar genes—particularly those that arose early in evolution and were retained as organisms differentiated over time,” commented a lead and corresponding author Insuk Lee at Yonsei University of South Korea. “AraNet not only contains information from plant genes, it also incorporates data from other organisms. We wanted to know how much of the system’s accuracy was a result of plant data versus non-plant derived data. We found that although the plant linkages provided most of the predictive power, the non-plant linkages were a significant contributor.”


“AraNet has the potential to help realize the promise of genomics in plant engineering and personalized medicine,” remarked Rhee. “A main bottleneck has been the huge portion of genes with unknown function, even in model organisms that have been studied intensively. We need innovative ways of discovering gene function and AraNet is a perfect example of such innovation.


“Food security is no longer taken for granted in the fast-paced milieu of the changing climate and globalized economy of the 21st century. Innovations in the basic understanding of plants and effective application of that knowledge in the field are essential to meet this challenge. Numerous genome-scale projects are underway for several plant species. However, new strategies to identify candidate genes for specific plant traits systematically by leveraging these high-throughput, genome-scale experimental data are lagging. AraNet integrates all such data and provides a rational, statistical assessment of the likelihood of genes functioning in particular traits, thereby assisting scientists to design experiments to discover gene function. AraNet will become an essential component of the next-generation plant research.”


The research is published in the January 31st, advanced on-line Nature Biotechnology and was supported by the Carnegie Institution for Science, the National Research Foundation of Korea, Yonsei University, The National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Packard Foundation.


Photo: Each line of this AraNet network represents a functional link between two genes. The colors indicate the strength of the link using a red-blue heat map scheme.The image includes about 100,000 functional links made among about 10,000 Arabidopsis genes. Image courtesy Sue Rhee




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2.01  Building Biosafety Capacities - FAO's experience and outlook.


An overview of the experience gained from FAO capacity building projects in agricultural biotechnology and biosafety


FAO, 2009. NRR, I1033/E.


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2.02  Gene flow between crops and their wild relatives


Meike S. Andersson and M. Carmen de Vicente

foreword by Norman C. Ellstrand

Johns Hopkins University Press

604 pp., 20 color maps and 6 graphs


"A must-have book for anyone who is developing or regulating a transgenic

crop." - Norman C. Ellstrand, author of 'Dangerous Liaisons? When Cultivated Plants Mate with Their Wild Relatives'


This comprehensive volume provides the scientific basis for assessing the likelihood of gene flow between twenty important crops and their wild relatives. The crops discussed include both major staples and minor crops that are nonetheless critical to food security, including barley, corn, cotton, cowpea, wheat, pearl millet, and rice.


Each chapter is devoted to one of the crops and details crop-specific information as well as relevant factors for assessing the probability of gene flow. The crop-specific reviews provide insights into the possible ecological implications of gene escape. For each crop, a full-color world map shows the modeled distributions of crops and wild relatives. These maps offer readers, at a glance, a means of evaluating areas of possible gene flow. The authors classify the areas of overlap into three "gene-flow categories" with respect to the possibility of genetic exchange.


The systematic, unbiased findings provided here will promote well-informed decision making and the conservation of wild relatives of crops. This book is particularly relevant to agriculture in developing countries, where most crop biodiversity is found and where current knowledge on biodiversity conservation is limited.


Given the ecological concerns associated with genetically modified crops, this reference is an essential tool for everyone working to feed a growing world population while preserving crop biodiversity.


See also a recent review at the widely read Agrobiodiversity blog:


The book is available from Johns Hopkins University Press at


Contributed by Meike S. Andersson


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3.01  Expanded and Improved Seed Images website


Now contains over 1700 full color images of native, crop and weed seeds along with written descriptions of the species


Fort Collins, Colorado, USA

16 February 2010


SEED IMAGES is a unique website of seed photos established by the SEED TECHNOLOGISTS EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM (STEP) at Colorado State University in 2002 to help the seed analyst and anyone in the seed industry identify unknown or questionable seeds. It has undergone many changes and improvements during its 8 year history. Many new photos with seed descriptions have been added as well as a finely tuned search engine.


SEED IMAGES now contains over 1700 full color images of native, crop and weed seeds along with written descriptions of the species. Some of the features of the website are: 1. Magnifications of 100X for ease of identification. 2. The site has a user friendly search mechanism for many different seed characteristics including size, shape, color and texture. 3. Identification is by scientific and common names. 4. Species included are agricultural grain, forage, vegetable, tree, shrub, herb, flower and state & federal noxious weeds.


One of the most useful options in the SEED IMAGES database is the Seed Comparison Tool that allows one to identify seeds that look similar by showing two different seeds side-by-side on the same screen. SEED IMAGES is in the process of adding a large number of tree, vegetable and range species to the photo collection. A video demonstration of how the database works can be seen by going to and clicking on the "Seed Database Demo" link. SEED IMAGES is a virtual seed herbarium and a valuable resource for seed technologists, conditioners, company managers, educators and related research institutions.


Users can subscribe or renew their subscriptions online. Laboratories that are working with the two Photo Books issued by STEP can update their books by downloading new species from SEED IMAGES and print out the photos they desire. There are 5 different subscription options available: The most cost effective is the 24 month subscription for $200. The 12 month rate is $100. There are 3 trial subscription options: 3 days for $10, 3 months for $35, and 6 months for $65. To renew a subscription or initially subscribe visit the SEED IMAGES website at and click on Subscribe Now.


For further information contact Karen Allison at, phone # (970)-491-6295.




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3.02  The African Seed Company Toolbox


52 Tools Every Seed Company Manager Should Know How To Use


August 2009

Nairobi, Kenya

The African Seed Company Toolbox is a collection of tools written for managers of seed companies in sub-Saharan Africa working with smallholder farmers. The tools cover a variety of topics in three general areas: production, marketing and distribution, and business management. Included as part of the Toolbox is a set of interactive exhibits which can be customized for individual company use. The Toolbox was constructed by Aline O’Connor Funk, based on input and questions from the managers of 20 African seed companies, and was funded by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.


The Toolbox is available through the Communications Department at the AGRA office in Nairobi, or can be downloaded here:


Toolbox Contents (PDF)

Toolbox Exhibits (Excel, Word, and Power Point documents)


About the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)

AGRA is a dynamic partnership working across the African continent to help millions of small-scale farmers and their families lift themselves out of poverty and hunger. AGRA programmes develop practical solutions to significantly boost farm productivity and incomes for the poor while safeguarding the environment. AGRA advocates for policies that support its work across all key aspects of the African agricultural value chain ­from seeds, soil health and water to markets and agricultural education.


AGRA's Board of Directors is chaired by Kofi A Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations. Dr Namanga Ngongi, former Deputy Executive Director of the World Food Programme, is AGRA's president. With support from The Rockefeller Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the UK's Department for International Development and other donors, AGRA works across sub-Saharan Africa and maintains offices in Nairobi, Kenya, and Accra, Ghana.




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3.03 Wheat Rusts: An Atlas of Resistance Genes


by Robert McIntosh, Colin Wellings, and Robert Park 

Now available for free download on


The complete book is available as a PDF (10MB), or each chapter is 

available separately:


Thank you to CSIRO, who originally published the book and who have offered this electronic copy on with their full permission.


Contributed by Jenny Nelson

Assistant Director, Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat Project


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


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


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



• 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.


Contributed by C. Wayne Smith

Professor and Associate Head

Department of Soil and Crop Sciences

Texas A&M University


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5.01  Vacancy announcement – Director, International Foundation for Science (IFS)


The International Foundation for Science (IFS) is a non-governmental organisation with the mandate to contribute to the strengthening of capacity in developing countries. IFS awards research grants and provides capacity enhancing supporting services to young scientists, working on research projects relevant to the sustainable use and management of biological and water resources. Since 1972, IFS has provided close to 7,000 research grants in more than 100 countries. For more information, please visit the IFS website:


Currently IFS has a secretariat of 20 staff located in Stockholm, Sweden, and a regional office in Kampala, Uganda. The secretariat is led by the Director who reports to the Board of Trustees. The Director has overall responsibility for implementing the strategic goals of the organisation, managing the secretariat and overseeing day-to-day operations.


IFS will complete its current Five Year Programme in 2010. An external evaluation of the organisation has been conducted recently. A visioning process shall now be initiated to define the future programme, taking into account the uniqueness of IFS viz. other organisations.


The current Director will retire in 2010 and IFS is searching for a new Director. The successful candidate will be expected to:

·         Implement the recommendations of the external evaluation as decided by the Board of Trustees

·         Steer the visioning process leading to the new Medium Term Programme, in close dialogue with IFS stakeholders including partners and donors

·         Mobilise resources worldwide to implement the programme


IFS is seeking candidates who:

·         Have an advanced university degree in an academic field relevant to the IFS thematic mandate

·         Are connected with the international scientific and development community, in particular with institutions in developing countries

·         Have several years experience from senior positions in research and development

·         Have leadership skills to lead IFS towards the future

·         Have experience in fund-raising

·         Possess full command of written and spoken English. Knowledge of French is an advantage


The position requires frequent international travel.


The appointment will be for three years with possibility for renewal.


IFS is registered as a Swedish NGO. The secretariat in Stockholm follows Swedish labour laws and regulations as well as salary and tax scales.


Your application should be sent in confidence, labelled "IFS Director 2010" and reach IFS by 12 April 2010. Your application should include CV, names of three referees and expected level of salary, as well as a short description of why you are interested in the position and what you hope to achieve.


Applications are invited from citizens of any country.


Women are especially encouraged to apply.


Please send your application by email with attachments to


More information on IFS programme, organisation and administration as well as terms and conditions for the position will be provided, upon request, by the outgoing Director, Dr. Michael Ståhl (, Tel +46-(0)8 545 818 21 or +46-(0)70 508 18 21.


Please refer also to the IFS website:


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5.02  Positions in plant breeding and related fields at Monsanto


Technology Pipeline Solutions, TPS, is a group of approximately 300 professionals responsible for designing, developing, and delivering software solutions to the Monsanto Research and Development (R&D) pipeline. Currently TPS has several entry and experienced-level positions available that require a science background. Those trained in science (BS, MS, PhD in e.g., Biochemistry, Plant and/or Animal Genetics, Breeding, Molecular Biology, Bioinformatics) can work as a Scientific Business Analyst (job number 0014N) or a Science Software Application Support Specialist (job number 000U5) to help provide software solutions for scientists in Research and Development.  Additionally, there are several experienced-level positions available including Strategic Scientist (job numbers 001DZ, 001DY, 001DW) and Emerging Strategy Lead (job number 000OM), which require expertise in one or several of the following disciplines: Strategic Design, Modeling, High Throughput Screening, Quantitative Genetics, Predictive Analysis, Machine Learning and/or Statistics. Complete postings for these positions and others are located on the Monsanto web site,

(requisition numbers may vary thus a search by job title may be necessary). Please respond on-line to be considered for a position and cite this job ad in the cover letter.


Monsanto is an equal opportunity employer; we value a diverse combination of ideas, perspectives and cultures.


Contributed by Pam.Keck


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5.03  Principal Technical Advisor, FAO, Panama



Anuncio de vacante personal profesional: VA P4 03/2010

Vencimiento del plazo de admisión de solicitudes: 10 de marzo de 2010

Título del puesto: Asesor Técnico Principal

Lugar de destino: Ciudad de Panamá, Panamá

Grado: P-4

Duración: Plazo Fijo: 30 months**

Código/No. del puesto:

Código CCOG:

Dependencia Oficina Sub Regional para América Central (SLM)



Bajo la supervisión directa del Coordinador Subregional, Oficina Subregional para América Central (SLM), y la supervisión técnica del oficial de producción y protección vegetal, SLM, en estrecha consulta con las divisiones técnicas pertinentes de la Sede y con el Coordinador Regional del Programa Especial de Seguridad Alimentaria para Centroamérica, el Asesor Técnico Principal será responsable de la planificación general y la gestión del proyecto “Reforzamiento de las políticas de producción de semillas de granos básicos en apoyo a la agricultura campesina para los países miembros del CAC” (GCP/RLA/182/SPA) y específicamente deberá:


• Ser responsable de la coordinación, supervisión y ejecución de las actividades del proyecto a nivel subregional y nacional, así como la ejecución a nivel Subregional proporcionando orientación técnica en todos los aspectos de la planificación y ejecución del proyecto.


• Supervisar la labor de los Coordinadores Naciones responsables de la ejecución de los componentes nacionales del proyecto regional.


• Proporcionar orientación técnica en asuntos relativos al desarrollo del sector de semillas a nivel nacional y local incluyendo políticas y legislación en materia de semillas certificación y producción de semillas y desarrollo de emprendimientos locales en materia de semillas.


• Trabajar con contrapartes nacionales y de la FAO para desarrollar un marco estratégico y directrices operativas, incluyendo procedimientos, para la ejecución del proyecto a nivel subregional y nacional.


• Coordinar la preparación de los planes de trabajo anuales a nivel nacional y subregional y supervisar su ejecución.


• Participar en el diseño y ejecución de actividades de formación y creación de capacidades a nivel subregional y nacional.


• Preparar propuestas para servicios contractuales de acuerdo con los procedimientos y las reglamentaciones de la FAO y establecer arreglos para su ejecución.


• Coordinar la adquisición de insumos y equipos, incluyendo la formulación de las especificaciones técnicas, según las reglamentaciones y procedimientos de la FAO.


• Supervisar y vigilar la ejecución de actividades encargadas a proveedores de servicios.


• Mantener enlaces con organizaciones regionales, consultores y puntos focales nacionales, representantes de la FAO y actores claves de sector semillas para la planificación, ejecución y actividades del proyecto.


• Visitar regularmente los sitios de campo del proyecto y vigilará las actividades del proyecto con arreglo a los indicadores en el marco lógico del proyecto.


• Identificar consultores y áreas técnicas que requieran apoyo, desarrollar los términos de referencia y asesorar en cuanto a su oportunidad y su selección.


• Representar al proyecto en reuniones de coordinación y en actividades públicas según convenga.


• Asegurar que se cumplan todos los requisitos formales en materia de informes.


• Preparar revisiones presupuestarias según se requieran.


• Realizar otras tareas según se requieran.





Los candidatos deberán cumplir los siguientes requisitos:

• Maestría en producción/tecnología de semillas, agronomía o materias relacionadas.

• Siete años de experiencia pertinente en el sector de semillas (público o privado), el sector de los insumos agrícolas o en el desarrollo rural en países en desarrollo.

• Pleno dominio del español (Nivel C), manejo intermedio del inglés (Nivel B).



Los candidatos serán evaluados contras los siguientes criterios:

• Pertinencia de la experiencia en el sector de semillas y de los insumos y servicios para la agricultura en países en desarrollo, en particular en países tropicales y/o subtropicales.

• Profundo conocimiento/comprensión del contexto socioeconómico e institucional y de los desafíos para la seguridad alimentaria en Centroamérica.

• Pertinencia de la experiencia en la gestión y coordinación de proyectos y en la facilitación de procesos con múltiples actores.

• Capacidad para analizar situaciones complejas y formular opciones. Cualidades para fomentar el trabajo en equipo y liderar el proyecto.

• Dotes de comunicación tanto oral como escrita, y gran capacidad de iniciativa y juicio; alto sentido de responsabilidad. Excelente capacidad de análisis.


Téngase en cuenta que todos los candidatos deberán poseer conocimientos informáticos y de programas de tratamiento de textos y capacidad para trabajar con personas de distintos orígenes nacionales y culturales.


Para presentar su solicitud: (indicar vacante a la que postula en el subject del email)

VA P4 03/2010 ATP

Human Resources Unit - FAO RLC

Dag Hammarskjöld 3241 – Santiago de Chile



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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 and 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





1 – 2 March 2010. 46th Annual Illinois Corn Breeders’ School, Hotel and Conference Center - Champaign-Urbana, Illinois


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


1-4 March 2010. Agricultural biotechnologies in developing countries: Options and opportunities in crops, forestry, livestock, fisheries and agro-industry to face the challenges of food insecurity and climate change (ABDC-10), Guadalajara, Mexico.


Background documents are all available at

For all other information about the conference, see


15-26 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.


(NEW) 22-26 March 2010. Africa Rice Congress 2010: Innovation and partnerships to realize Africa’s rice potential’, Bamako, Mali.

Africa Rice Congress / Congrès du Riz en Afrique 2010


(NEW) 6-8 April 2010. EUCARPIA Cereal Section Meeting, Cambridge, United Kingdom

EUCARPIA Cereal Section Meeting


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) 12-20 April 2010. Contemporary approaches in plant genetic resources conservation and use. Wageningen University - Wageningen, The Netherlands.

The overall objective of the training programme is to enhance participants’ capabilities to deal with the management of genetic resources activities and programmes


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

Please see the attached flyer for information about the upcoming 2nd International Symposium on Genomics of Plant Genetic Resources. Visit for more information and to register.


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.


(NEW) 10-21 May 2010. The Seventh Training course: Molecular tools for Crop Improvement, ICRISAT Campus at Patancheru, Greater Hyderabad, India


The theme o the course is application of genomics technology in crop research and breeding. The course is specifically designed to address the requirements of the users of Genotyping Services Labs. The major focus is on the analysis and use of the genotyping data rather than on data generation.


The Seventh Training course is open to mainly Indian scientists however, a few scientists from developing countries who have demonstrable ability to use the techniques taught can also apply. Last date for submitting on line application is 20 March 2010 at ( and applicants can also view the course outline at (


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


30 – 31 May 2010. BGRI 2010 Technical Workshop and

1 – 4 June 20108th International Wheat Conference, St. Petersburg, Russia,

The deadline for registration is FEBRUARY 15th! 

Visit to register online. 


(NEW) 7-9 June 2010. 2010 Corn Utilization and Technology conference, Atlanta, USA, Atlanta Hilton Hotel.


(NEW) 7-10 June 2010. Plant Genetics, Genomics, and Biotechnology, Novosibirsk, Russia. Convened by The Institute of Cytology and Genetics, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences)


The Conference plans to discuss the following issues:

(1) Plant genome sequencing in the 21st century;

(2) Genetics and breeding in a changing environment;

(3) Chromosome biotechnology;

(4) Genome evolution;

(5) Genomics towards systems biology.


The Conference will present state-of-the-art results in the field of plant genetics, genomics, and biotechnology and discuss the promising directions of collaboration in basic and applied aspects of plant genome research. If you would like to participate, please send an email to:


(NEW) 8-11 June 2010. I Congresso Brasileiro de Recursos Genéticos. Bahia Othon Palace Hotel - Salvador, Bahia, Brasil.

I Congresso Brasileiro de Recursos Genéticos -



24 – 25 June 2010. Plant Breeding for Drought Tolerance Symposium, Colorado State University.


Visit our webpage at to register and for more information.


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.


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

 AgriGenomics World Congress


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


As of February 3, 2010, ONLINE REGISTRATION is available for scientific attendees, accompanying persons, tours and campus housing. We hope you will help spread the word to all interested parties. Visit our conference web site to register and submit abstracts. The Second Announcement for the Conference is also available for download.


Important deadlines:

Abstract submission - April 9, 2010

Early registration discount - April 30, 2010

 (You must be registered by April 30 to have your abstract considered for inclusion in the conference program.)

Notification of abstract acceptance - May 7, 2010

Discounted rates at area hotels - June 30, 2010

Final date for online registration - July 23, 2010

Welcome reception - Evening of Sunday, August 1, 2010


To register, you will need your ISHS membership number (if you are a member) and a credit card. Decide upon accommodations and tour possibilities on the conference web site, and then pay for those options during registration. As an alternative to credit card payment, you may also send a check in US funds to the conference secretary. We are not set up to do bank transfers.


Update by Angela Baldo

Grape Genetics Research Unit

New York State Ag Expt Station


(NEW) 15-17 August 2010. 4th Annual Plant Breeding Meeting, Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee (PBCC), and the new National Association of Plant Breeders (NAPB) (an initiative of the PBCC), Pioneer Hi-Bred's headquarters in Johnston, Iowa.


The PBCC serves as a forum for issues and opportunities of national and global importance to the public and private sectors of the U.S. national plant breeding effort.  The meeting will begin at noon on Sunday, August 15, and conclude after lunch on Tuesday,  August 17. 


The meeting has three goals:

1) to discuss strategies to shape the future of plant breeding,

2) to expose participants to state-of-the-art plant breeding research through invited speakers, and

3) to exchange knowledge through poster presentations by participants.


During the afternoon of Aug 17th, there will be a career session available for graduate students at the Pioneer facilities.  More information about other post-conference activities will be provided in future meeting announcements.  Central Iowa, where Johnston is located, is home to a number of other public and private plant breeding programs. Participants may wish to make independent arrangements to visit these while they are in the area. 


All plant breeders - student and professional, public sector and industry, U.S. and abroad - are encouraged to attend.  Please save-the-date on your calendar now and you will be notified when the online registration site is available.


Contribued by Rita Mumm

Director, Illinois Plant Breeding Center]


(NEW) 29 August – 1 September 2010. Molecular Plant Breeding: An International Short Course on Practical Applications of Molecular Tools for Plant Breeding.

Michigan State University - East Lansing, Michigan, USA.

Course Components


(NEW) 30 August – 1 September 2010. 14th EUCARPIA Meeting on Genetics and Breeding of Capsicum & Eggplant, Valencia, Spain.


26 – 29 September 2010. 7th International Phytotechnology Society: Phytotecnologies in the 21st Century: Challenges after Copenhagen 2009. Remediation – Energy – Health – Sustainability, the University of Parma, Italy.


27 September – 1 October 2010. 5th World Cowpea Conference: Improving livelihoods in the cowpea value chain through advancement in science. Dakar, Senegal.


(NEW) 1-19 November 2010. Plant genetic resources and seeds: policies, conservation and use. MS Swaminathan Research Foundation in Chennai (first part), and in Jeypur, Orissa (second part).


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


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


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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