PLANT BREEDING NEWS

 

EDITION 211

31 March 2010

 

An Electronic Newsletter of Applied Plant Breeding

 

Clair H. Hershey, Editor

chh23@cornell.edu

 

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

 

-To subscribe, see instructions here

-Archived issues available at: FAO Plant Breeding Newsletter

 

1.  NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH NOTES

1.01  Agricultural research needs a global rethink

1.02  Update of FAO-BiotechNews: Report of the FAO international technical conference ABDC-10

1.03  New project to identify best approaches to improve agriculture in developing countries

1.04  Professor Yuan Longping, father of hybrid rice, is awarded the highest medal on agriculture in France

1.05  Crop improvement in the CGIAR as a global success story of open access and international collaboration

1.06  Chance observation by UC Davis plant biologists leads to plant breeding breakthrough

1.07  Partnership between PhilRice and the International Rice Research Institute to mitigate climate change

1.08  African experts showcase a major drive to double rice production in response to burgeoning consumer demand

1.09  PhilRice promotes new rice varieties for adverse environments

1.10  European Plant Breeding Academy begins at UC Davis

1.11  Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory-Mexican team coaxes sexually reproducing plant to brink of asexual reproduction

1.12  Marker assisted plant breeding: how and why it works

1.13  Iowa State University's Biosafety Institute for Genetically Modified Agricultural Products (BIGMAP)

1.14  Seed's failure raises red flag at Monsanto

1.15  The U.S. National Plant Germplasm System – an Overview

1.16  Norway Doomsday Seed Vault Hits 1 / 2 Million Mark

1.17  Natural Himalayan 'freezer' to back up Arctic seed vault

1.18  China establishes three wheat breeding bases in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region

1.19  Can corn be taught to fix its own nitrogen?

1.20  Wild oat tapped to combat crown rust

1.21  New defenses deployed against plant diseases

1.22  Resistant wheat plants stave off Hessian flies by starving them

1.23  Breeding plants to produce cheap energy

1.24  Tropical maize gets vitamin A boost

1.25  Scientists pinpoint rice genes that determine rice eating and cooking quality

1.26  Novel approach to produce biofortified flour

1.27  Secrets to superb malting barleys explored

1.28  Push for quality protein maize in El Salvador

1.29  Bringing better grapes a step closer to reality

1.30  Plant hormone increases cotton yields in drought conditions

1.31  New drought-tolerant soybean varieties

1.32  Drought-tolerant beans bring relief to farmers

1.33  UA scientists study genetics and physiology of soybeans to increase dryland yields

1.34  New sweetpotato varieties well adapted to cool climate

1.35  Crown rust resistance and Avn production in barley

1.36  Researchers examine plant’s ability to identify, block invading bacteria

1.37 Single gene dramatically boosts yield and sweetness in tomato hybrids

1.38  Searching for genes behind a trait

1.39  Researchers develop model to predict pollen-mediated gene flow in rice

1.40  Sequencing representative and diverse sunflower cultivars for SNP marker identification.

1.41  Targeted sequencing in maize genome utilizing a novel two-stage sequence capture method

1.42  Cracking the plant-cell membrane code to engineer more productive crops

1.43  Antagonistic genes control rice growth

1.44  Researchers discover plant "thermometer" gene

 

2.  PUBLICATIONS

(None submitted)

 

3.  WEB RESOURCES

3.01  NIAB launches online barley ID programme

3.02  Australian OGTR launches online survey on "ethical principles in gene technology"

3.03  CIP Publishes online database for potato and sweetpotato

3.04  Google maps now on Australia's National Variety Trials website

 

4.  GRANTS AVAILABLE

4.01  TWAS Fellowships: Call for applications open

4.02  The new Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Requests for Applications have been posted

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

 

5.  POSITION ANNOUNCEMENTS

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

 

6.  MEETINGS, COURSES AND WORKSHOPS

 

7.  EDITOR'S NOTES

 

 

1 NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH NOTES

 

1.01  Agricultural research needs a global rethink

 

22 March 2010

by Monty Jones

The Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development must reset research priorities, says World Food Prize winner Monty Jones.

 

The Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development must reset research priorities, says World Food Prize winner Monty Jones.

 

The world's agricultural scientists have done life-saving work in university laboratories, global research centres and government agencies.

 

Millions of people across the developing world are alive today because of advances that have conquered deadly pathogens, kept pests at bay, boosted yields, and squeezed more food out of less land and water.

 

That's the good news. Yet despite tremendous innovations and progress in agricultural research over the past half century, more than one billion people remain undernourished in a modern world because the benefits have been spread unevenly, often failing to reach the billion poor people who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods.

 

So while the world has rightly learned to look to science for answers, the solutions we have in hand today are taking far too long to help poor farmers. And those most in need of help have little opportunity to direct research agendas. 

 

Science faces rapidly growing demands to help farmers produce more food in the face of expanding populations, shifting dietary demands, land and water shortages and climate change.

 

We need to double food supply by 2050. To do that in ways that are environmentally sustainable while bringing people out of poverty, we must reshape and rethink the very architecture of the agricultural system.

 

Global action needed

That is why hundreds of scientists, political leaders, farmers, innovators and civil society representatives will travel to Montpellier, France, at the end of this week (28 March) for the first Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD).

 

Our goal is to launch a global transformation in the way agricultural research is done — to develop robust partnerships among those who have knowledge and those who need it.

 

Time is of the essence. Food prices have risen 30–40 per cent in the past three years and the cost of cereals to the neediest countries is projected to rise substantially. The last food crisis, two years ago, sparked food riots in several African countries including Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Egypt, Madagascar and Senegal.

 

Africa's farmers are not alone in needing scientists' help. Some 642 million people go hungry in Asia and a quarter of rural households in Eastern Europe have too little land or too few animals to provide a living, yet farmers rarely have another source of income. They too need help making their fields more productive.

 

Grand plan

We, the GCARD participants, have been asked by the G8 to formulate an environmentally sustainable plan to help science meet the enormous challenges of doubling world food supply by 2050 and lifting a billion people out of poverty and hunger.

 

The changes we are calling for will create a system that communicates knowledge to farmers and lets them influence researchers' choices about what problems to study and which solutions to pursue.

 

GCARD will bring together individuals who are generating and using agricultural knowledge, whether in great laboratories or rural villages. We hope their perspectives and experiences will inform donor policies and help align research priorities as closely as possible to the needs of farmers in developing countries.

 

The conference is a key step towards the vision G8 leaders embraced in their L'Aquila Joint Statement on Global Food Security last July, which tasked the Global Forum on Agricultural Research with building up research capacity at the local, national and regional level in the poorest regions of the world.

 

Consensus is key

Our ambitions are synergistic with the reforms being carried out by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), an alliance comprising some 8,000 researchers in 100 countries. Both aim to ensure research results reach farmers, and help alleviate poverty and hunger.

 

It is clear that food insecurity and poverty issues, not the funding cycles of governments and donors, need to drive the strategic frameworks both of national agricultural research systems and of the CGIAR.

 

Meeting the enormous challenges of sustainably boosting food production in the face of climate change and massive population growth will largely depend on innovation by agricultural researchers and the national governments and donors that support them. The key for getting a new system to work is to agree a new set of priorities and research architecture from which to mobilize action and deliver results to farmers.

 

GCARD will lay the groundwork for this consensus. Once this difficult task is done, the agricultural scientists, who valiantly fight the front-line battle against hunger, will need support from policymakers and donors to ensure their knowledge is transferred from the lab into action for farmers in the fields.

 

Monty Jones, 2004 World Food Prize Laureate, is the incoming chair of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) and executive director of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA).

 

That is why hundreds of scientists, political leaders, farmers, innovators and civil society representatives will travel to Montpellier, France, at the end of this week (28 March) for the first Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD).

 

Our goal is to launch a global transformation in the way agricultural research is done — to develop robust partnerships among those who have knowledge and those who need it.

 

Time is of the essence. Food prices have risen 30–40 per cent in the past three years and the cost of cereals to the neediest countries is projected to rise substantially. The last food crisis, two years ago, sparked food riots in several African countries including Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Egypt, Madagascar and Senegal.

 

Africa's farmers are not alone in needing scientists' help. Some 642 million people go hungry in Asia and a quarter of rural households in Eastern Europe have too little land or too few animals to provide a living, yet farmers rarely have another source of income. They too need help making their fields more productive.

 

Grand plan

We, the GCARD participants, have been asked by the G8 to formulate an environmentally sustainable plan to help science meet the enormous challenges of doubling world food supply by 2050 and lifting a billion people out of poverty and hunger.

 

The changes we are calling for will create a system that communicates knowledge to farmers and lets them influence researchers' choices about what problems to study and which solutions to pursue.

 

GCARD will bring together individuals who are generating and using agricultural knowledge, whether in great laboratories or rural villages. We hope their perspectives and experiences will inform donor policies and help align research priorities as closely as possible to the needs of farmers in developing countries.

 

The conference is a key step towards the vision G8 leaders embraced in their L'Aquila Joint Statement on Global Food Security last July, which tasked the Global Forum on Agricultural Research with building up research capacity at the local, national and regional level in the poorest regions of the world.

 

Consensus is key

Our ambitions are synergistic with the reforms being carried out by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), an alliance comprising some 8,000 researchers in 100 countries. Both aim to ensure research results reach farmers, and help alleviate poverty and hunger.

 

It is clear that food insecurity and poverty issues, not the funding cycles of governments and donors, need to drive the strategic frameworks both of national agricultural research systems and of the CGIAR.

 

Meeting the enormous challenges of sustainably boosting food production in the face of climate change and massive population growth will largely depend on innovation by agricultural researchers and the national governments and donors that support them. The key for getting a new system to work is to agree a new set of priorities and research architecture from which to mobilize action and deliver results to farmers.

 

GCARD will lay the groundwork for this consensus. Once this difficult task is done, the agricultural scientists, who valiantly fight the front-line battle against hunger, will need support from policymakers and donors to ensure their knowledge is transferred from the lab into action for farmers in the fields.

 

Monty Jones, 2004 World Food Prize Laureate, is the incoming chair of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) and executive director of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA).

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=14347&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SciDev.Net via SeedQuest.com

 

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1.02 Update of FAO-BiotechNews: Report of the FAO international technical conference ABDC-10

 

The second Update of FAO-BiotechNews for this year is a special edition, dedicated to the FAO international technical conference on "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) which took place in Guadalajara, Mexico on 1-4 March 2010.

 

As usual, we welcome your feedback and encourage you to tell your colleagues about the newsletter. Instructions for subscribing (or unsubscribing) are given at the end of the Update. In addition, instructions for subscribing to the Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian or Spanish versions of this newsletter are given at the end.

 

The Coordinator of FAO-BiotechNews, 24-3-2010

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

E-mail address: mailto:FAO-Biotech-News@fao.org

FAO website http://www.fao.org

FAO Biotechnology website http://www.fao.org/biotech/index.asp (in Arabic,

Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish)

 

(http://www.fao.org/biotech/news_list.asp?thexpand=1&cat=131)

 

Report of the FAO international technical conference ABDC-10

 

The report is now available of the FAO international technical conference on Agricultural Biotechnologies in Developing Countries (ABDC-10) that took place in Guadalajara, Mexico on 1-4 March 2010. A major objective of the Conference was to take stock of the application of biotechnologies across the different food and agricultural sectors in developing countries, in order to learn from the past and to identify options for the future to face the challenges of food insecurity, climate change and natural resource degradation.

 

ABDC-10 was hosted by the Government of Mexico and co-sponsored by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR), the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) and the World Bank were major partners in this initiative.

 

The Conference was dedicated to "agricultural biotechnologies", a term covering a broad range of biotechnologies used in food and agriculture for a variety of different purposes such as the improvement of plant varieties and animal populations to increase their yields or efficiency; characterization and conservation of genetic resources; plant or animal disease diagnosis; vaccine development; and improvement of feeds and the safety of foods. The Conference was cross-sectoral, covering crops, livestock, forestry, agro-industry and fisheries and aquaculture.

 

ABDC-10 brought together about 300 policy-makers, scientists and representatives of intergovernmental and international non-governmental organizations from 68 countries, including delegations nominated by 42 governments. Plenary sessions during the four days were dedicated to issues such as how to target agricultural biotechnologies to the poor; how to enable research and development (R&D) in agricultural biotechnologies; and how to ensure that the benefits of R&D are accessible in developing countries. IFAD, the CGIAR and the Secretary of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture also gave plenary presentations about relevant aspects of their work. Participants at ABDC-10 also contributed to active discussions in the 27 parallel sessions that were held, dedicated to sector-specific, regional or cross-sectoral issues. The entire Conference was webcast for the four days. An FAO press story was released on 1 March to coincide with the opening of the conference, and a second one was released on 4 March to coincide with its closing - both are available in several languages from http://www.fao.org/biotech/abdc/.

 

Both the build-up and organization of the Conference were hallmarked by a strong spirit of partnership and collaboration. An international Steering Committee was established in 2008, chaired by Professor M.S. Swaminathan from India. The 75-member Committee included individuals invited on their own personal capacity, as well as those representing relevant stakeholder groups, including UN and non-UN intergovernmental organizations, civil society organizations, and private sector organizations. Members of the Committee played an important role, inter alia, by providing inputs on the FAO technical documents prepared for the conference. The documents are available at http://www.fao.org/biotech/abdc/backdocs/en/.

 

Partnerships were also strengthened by the involvement of different stakeholders, including several intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and regional fora, that organized/supported parallel sessions at the conference. These included the CGIAR, ICGEB, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Oxfam International, the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP), the Association of Agricultural Research Institutions in the Near East and North Africa (AARINENA), the Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI) the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and the Technical Cooperation Network on Plant Biotechnology in Latin America and the Caribbean (REDBIO). Summary reports from the parallel sessions, as well as presentations, will be made available at http://www.fao.org/biotech/abdc/parallel/en/

 

The ABDC-10 report is available, as document ABDC-10/REPORT, from http://www.fao.org/biotech/abdc/backdocs/en/ (in English, soon also in Arabic, Chinese, French and Spanish). The weblink for the report in English is http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/user_upload/abdc/documents/report.pdf (293 KB). Contact ABDC@fao.org for more information.

 

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This newsletter contains news and event items that are relevant to applications of biotechnology in food and agriculture in developing countries. Its main focus is on the activities of FAO, of other United Nations agencies/bodies and of the 15 CGIAR research centres. Items from the newsletter may be reproduced, provided that the source (FAO-BiotechNews, http://www.fao.org/biotech/) is given.

 

Copyright FAO 2010

 

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1.03  New project to identify best approaches to improve agriculture in developing countries

 

Washington, D.C., USA

1 March 2010

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) launched a new project, Global Futures for Agriculture, to improve agricultural productivity and environmental sustainability in developing countries. Focused on evaluating promising technologies, investments, and policy reforms, the effort is supported with major funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

 

High global food prices in 2008 underscored the importance of research to help achieve the goals of feeding the world’s burgeoning population while protecting critical natural resources.

 

“Sustainable agricultural growth in developing countries is challenged as never before—by climate change, increasingly volatile food and energy markets, natural resource exploitation, and a growing population with aspirations for a better standard of living,” said Mark Rosegrant, director of Environment and Production Technology at IFPRI. “This research will prove invaluable to setting priorities for meeting these challenges and, ultimately, improving the lives of the world’s poorest people.”

 

The project will enable researchers to develop an enhanced version of IFPRI’s International Model for Policy Analysis of Agricultural Commodities and Trade (IMPACT), a state-of-the-art economic model that projects the future production, consumption, and trade of key agricultural commodities, and can assess the effects of climate change, water availability and other major trends. Improvements to the IMPACT model will make it possible to more effectively evaluate potential research expenditures and their impact on the world’s most important crops, forests, and livestock. The research will focus on regions most vulnerable to global changes in the next 30 to 50 years, with special attention on the rural poor and smallholder farmers.

 

The research will assess how changes in global trading regimes, mandates for biofuels and energy prices, land degradation, and climate change affect human well-being. Additionally, it will consider how these trends affect developing countries’ progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals of reducing hunger, malnutrition, and poverty. The analysis will improve upon previous research by incorporating:

  • detailed location-specific data;
  • climate, soil type, crop variety, and other critical variables;
  • improved measurement of effects on human welfare; and
  • the impact of potential agricultural investments on economic growth, incomes, and poverty alleviation.

 

IFPRI researchers will collaborate with other scientists from the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and leading public and private institutions around the world. The project aims to improve the capacity of the CGIAR centers to evaluate and prioritize research investments, and to support the decision-making of international development partners and national policymakers.

 

“This research will give those of us who work in agricultural development the kinds of information we need to make the best decisions to support small farmers so they can boost their yields, increase their incomes and improve their lives,” said Prabhu Pingali, deputy director of Agricultural Development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

 

This grant is part of the foundation’s Agricultural Development initiative, which is working with a wide range of partners to provide millions of small farmers in the developing world with tools and opportunities to boost their yields, increase their incomes, and build better lives for themselves and their families. The foundation is working to strengthen the entire agricultural value chain—from seeds and soil to farm management and market access—so that progress against hunger and poverty is sustainable over the long term.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=14003&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

 

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1.04  Professor Yuan Longping, father of hybrid rice, is awarded the highest medal on agriculture in France

 

Beijing, China

23 March 2010

French Ambassador to China, Herve Ladsous, on behalf of the French Government awarded the highest medal on agriculture reward in France to Professor Yuan Longping (photo), founder of hybrid rice, academician of Chinese Academy of Engineering and Director of China National Hybrid Rice R&D Center, to honor his significant contribution to the food security of China and the world.

 

This reward was established in 1883, dedicated to honoring people with outstanding accomplishment in agriculture. In the past 127 years, it has been awarded to thirty thousand recipients. However, only 400 people have got the highest medal of the reward.

 

The French Ambassador said that the highest medal was to honor Professor Yuan’s contribution to hybrid rice and world food security. In recent years, China has cultured 15 million hectares of hybrid rice, with an average yield of 7.2 tons/hectare, 20% higher than that of normal high yield rice. In particular, the super hybrid rice, planted in two million hectares of land, can reach the yield of 9 tons/hectare. Hybrid rice has achieved evident yield enhancement not only in China, but also in other parts of the world. Vietnam has planted 600,000 hectares of hybrid rice in recent years, with an average output of 6.4 tons/hectare, 40% higher than that of local variety. In 2009, countries other than China cultured three million hectares of hybrid rice, with an average increase of yield at 2 tons/hectare.

 

In his short speech at the embassy, Professor Yuan said that the medal would encourage him to work even harder. Science should not be constrained by national boundaries. Hybrid rice should contribute to the whole world. The world has planted 1.5 billion hectares of rice, with an average yield of only 4 tons/hectare. If half of the land is used for hybrid rice, the increase of 2 tons/hectare can generate 1.5 billion tons of rice output in total, capable of feeding 400 million people every year. Therefore, to promote hybrid rice throughout the world is of great importance to food security and peace.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=14384&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.05  Crop improvement in the CGIAR as a global success story of open access and international collaboration

 

Derek Byerlee3938 Georgetown Ct NW, Washington, DC 20007, dbyerlee@gmail.comHarvey Jesse Dubin9705 Fleetwood Way, Frederick, MD 21701, hjdubin@comcast.net

 

Abstract

International agricultural research has historically been an example par excellence of an open source approach to biological research. Beginning in the 1950s and especially in the 1960s, a looming global food crisis led to the development of a group of international agricultural research centers with a specific mandate to foster international exchange and crop improvement relevant to many countries. This formalization of a global biological commons in genetic resources was implemented through an elaborate system of international nurseries with a breeding hub, free sharing of germplasm, collaboration in information collection, the development of human resources, and an international collaborative network.

 

This paper traces the history of the international wheat program with particular attention to how this truly open source system operated in practice and the impacts that it had on world poverty and hunger. The paper also highlights the challenges of maintaining and evolving such a system over the long term, both in terms of financing, as well the changing ‘rules of the game’ resulting from international agreements on intellectual property rights and biodiversity. Yet the open source approach is just as relevant today, as witnessed by the recent global food crisis and looming crop diseases problem of global significance.

 

http://www.thecommonsjournal.org/index.php/ijc/article/view/147/113

 

Contributed by Luigi Guarino

Science Coordinator, Global Crop Diversity Trust

www.croptrust.org

 

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1.06  Chance observation by UC Davis plant biologists leads to plant breeding breakthrough

 

Davis, California, USA

24 March 2010

A reliable method for producing plants that carry genetic material from only one of their parents has been discovered by plant biologists at UC Davis. The technique, to be published March 25 in the journal Nature, could dramatically speed up the breeding of crop plants for desirable traits.

 

The discovery came out of a chance observation in the lab that could easily have been written off as an error.

 

"We were doing completely 'blue skies' research, and we discovered something that is immediately useful," said Simon Chan, assistant professor of plant biology at UC Davis and co-author on the paper.

 

Like most organisms that reproduce through sex, plants have paired chromosomes, with each parent contributing one chromosome to each pair. Plants and animals with paired chromosomes are called diploid. Their eggs and sperm are haploid, containing only one chromosome from each pair.

 

Plant breeders want to produce plants that are homozygous -- that carry the same trait on both chromosomes. When such plants are bred, they will pass the trait, such as pest resistance, fruit flavor or drought tolerance, to all of their offspring. But to achieve this, plants usually have to be inbred for several generations to make a plant that will "breed true."

 

The idea of making a haploid plant with chromosomes from only one parent has been around for decades, Chan said. Haploid plants are immediately homozygous, because they contain only one version of every gene. This produces true-breeding lines instantly, cutting out generations of inbreeding.

 

Existing techniques to make haploid plants are complicated, require expensive tissue culture and finicky growing conditions for different varieties, and only work with some crop species or varieties. The new method discovered by Chan and postdoctoral scholar Ravi Maruthachalam should work in any plant and does not require tissue culture.

 

Ravi and Chan were studying a protein called CENH3 in the laboratory plant Arabidopsis thaliana. CENH3 belongs to a group of proteins called histones, which package DNA into chromosomes. Among the histones, CENH3 is found only in the centromere, the part of the chromosome that controls how it is passed to the next generation.

 

When cells divide, microscopic fibers spread from each end of the cell and attach at the centromeres, then pull the chromosomes apart into new cells. That makes CENH3 essential for life.

 

Ravi had prepared a modified version of CENH3 tagged with a fluorescent protein, and was trying to breed the genetically modified plants with regular Arabidopsis. According to theory, the cross should have produced offspring containing one mutant gene (from the mother) and one normal gene (from the father). Instead, he got only plants with the normal gene.

 

"At first we threw them away," Chan said. Then it happened again.

 

Ravi, who has a master's degree in plant breeding, looked at the plants again and realized that the offspring had only five chromosomes instead of 10, and all from the same parent.

 

The plants appear to have gone through a process called genome elimination, Chan said. When plants from two different but related species are bred, chromosomes from one of the parents are sometimes eliminated.

 

Genome elimination is already used to make haploid plants in a few species such as maize and barley. But the new method should be much more widely applicable, Ravi said, because unlike the process for maize and barley, its molecular basis is firmly understood.

 

"We should be able to create haploid-inducing lines in any crop plant," Ravi said. Once the haploid-inducing lines are created, the technique is easy to use and requires no tissue culture -- breeders could start with seeds. The method would also be useful for scientists trying to study genes in plants, by making it faster to breed genetically pure lines.

 

After eliminating half the chromosomes, Chan and Ravi had to stimulate the plants to double their remaining chromosomes so that they would have the correct diploid number. Plants with the haploid number of chromosomes are sterile.

 

The research also casts some interesting light on how species form in plants. CENH3 plays the same crucial role in cell division in all plants and animals. Usually, such important genes are highly conserved -- their DNA is very similar from yeast to whales. But instead, CENH3 is among the fastest-evolving sequences in the genome.

 

"It may be that centromere differences create barriers to breeding between species," Chan said. Ravi and Chan plan to test this idea by crossing closely related species.

 

Chan, who arrived UC Davis in 2006 in his first academic position, described the result as a "game changer" for his laboratory, opening up new research areas, funding sources and recognition.

 

The work was supported by a grant from the Hellman Family Foundation.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=14388&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.07  Partnership between PhilRice and the International Rice Research Institute to mitigate climate change

 

Science City of Muñoz, The Philippines

1 March 2010

The 23rd National Rice R&D Conference slated on March 3-5 in Los Baños, Laguna echoes the partnership of PhilRice and the International Rice Research Institutes (IRRI) in doing rice research and technology development in response to climate change.

 

With the theme, Addressing climate change thru rice science, this year’s conference aims to identify appropriate and efficient strategies in developing and promoting rice and rice-based technologies that will mitigate impacts of and adapt to climate change.

 

Recognizing that the changing climate condition presents a major challenge for the national rice research, development, and extension sector, IRRI and PhilRice conducted collaborative studies.

 

Since 2007, five of the 157 varieties from Philippines, Pakistan, Iran, Africa, and Nepal were screened for heat tolerance. These were field tested in the 2008 dry season where flowering coincided with the hottest periods of the season - January 13, January 24, February 2, February 14, and February 26.

 

As the varieties were found to be heat-tolerant of varying degrees, PhilRice and IRRI hope to identify varieties that could evade or tolerate heat stress.

 

Moreover, PhilRice, IRRI, and other collaborators are working on a water-saving technique called Controlled Irrigation (CI) where water is controlled to help the plant grow healthier and to save water. Through the technology, farmers near the irrigation sources can use water efficiently so that farmers near the tail-end of irrigation system could access more amount of water.

 

According to Mr. Jovino De Dios of PhilRice’s Agronomy, Soils, and Plant Physiology Division, CI is a water-saving practice from land preparation until crop maturity.

 

“Water saving techniques can be started before planting such as properly fixing farm dikes and ditches, using of appropriate planting method, plowing the field immediately after the first irrigation, applying enough water during land preparation, shortening the land preparation time, and leveling the rice paddy very well,” De Dios said.

 

For flood-prone areas, PhilRice conducts breeding works and collaborates with IRRI in the adaptation and dissemination of submergence-tolerant (Sub1) rice such as Submarino 1 or NSIC Rc194.

 

Dr. Nenita Desamero, PhilRice’s plant breeder, said Submarino 1 – an IRRI-bred variety, can survive, grow, and develop even after 10 days of complete submergence at vegetative stage.

 

“Under submerged conditions, it yields 2.5 t/ha and matures in 125 days. While in normal conditions, it yields 3.5 t/ha and matures in 112 days,” Desamero said. NSIC Rc194 was approved by the National Seed Industry Council for planting in flood-prone areas.

 

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.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=13876&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.08  African experts showcase a major drive to double rice production in response to burgeoning consumer demand

 

Bamako, Mali

22 March 2010

Coming 2 years after a catastrophic rice crisis, a major scientific congress focuses debate on rice trends and new research directions

 

With memories of the devastating global rice price crisis fresh in their minds, experts from Africa and beyond, meeting in Mali from 22-26 March, call for long-term commitment to scientific innovations and partnerships that are critical for enabling the continent to fulfill its huge potential as a rice producer and to sharply curtail its perilous dependence on rice imports.

 

The Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice), which is organizing the Africa Rice Congress 2010 in collaboration with the government of Mali, had been predicting the crisis for at least 2 years before it struck. The crisis created enormous hardship for poor consumers around the world and prompted riots in major African capitals.

 

In meetings with government ministers before and since then, Dr. Papa A. Seck, director general of AfricaRice, which is supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), has repeatedly underlined the dangers implicit in the region’s rapidly increasing rice consumption and lagging production.

 

In West Africa, for example, consumption rose by 4.5% yearly during 1961-2006, while production expanded at 3.2%. In Mozambique, the contrast has been even more marked, with consumption jumping by 15% yearly during 1990-2005 and production remaining stagnant. The resulting gap between Africa’s rice supply and demand has saddled governments with huge import bills, ranging from US$4 to US$5 billion in 2008.

 

“Partly as a result of research and advocacy,” said Seck, “many governments have begun to abandon the laissez faire reliance on markets that has failed Africa’s rice farmers and consumers.” Instead, he explained, they are pursuing new policies and projects that give farmers better access to improved rice technologies.

 

Yet, the equation that brought about the crisis of 2008 appears fundamentally unchanged. In 2009, the region still imported nearly 40% of the rice it consumes, accounting for about a third of all rice traded in world markets, and prices remained volatile. “Only sustained commitment to technological and policy change,” said Seck, “will reduce Africa’s exposure to severe and unpredictable supply and price shocks.”

 

Major initiatives launched by AfricaRice in the wake of the crisis, with partners such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and with strong support from donors (including the Japanese and US governments), demonstrate what is possible. As a result of such efforts, rice production in sub-Saharan Africa rose by 18% in 2008.

 

Countries in West Africa’s Sahel Region registered especially sharp increases in rice production, totaling 44% in 2007-2008. For the 2009-2010 crop season, FAO is projecting double-digit growth in production for several countries: Gambia (79%), Mozambique (40%), Benin (34%), Senegal (24%), Mali (21%), Ghana (20%), and Burkina-Faso (15%). Bold policy measures like those taken in Mali, including subsidies on seeds and fertilizers, were vital for success.

 

Many of the improved seeds promoted through the emergency projects were NERICA (New Rice for Africa) varieties. Developed by AfricaRice starting in the 1990s, the best of these varieties combine the stress tolerance of Oryza glaberrima, a rice species native to Africa, with the high yield potential of O. sativa, which originated in Asia and is grown around the world.

 

Some of the nearly 80 upland and lowland NERICA varieties available so far have been widely adopted in many countries. For example, two of them were sown to nearly 200,000 hectares in Nigeria during 2007, and to about 35,000 hectares in Uganda, enabling the country to cut its rice imports by half from 2002 to 2007.

 

Despite the award-winning success of the upland NERICAs and the lowland NERICAs (which respectively earned their creators, Dr. Monty Jones, the 2004 World Food Prize and Dr. Moussa Sie, the 2006 Japan International Koshihikari Prize), Africa’s rice scientists have neither the time nor the desire to rest on their laurels. Instead, they are exploring a number of new avenues in rice research, which they hope will contribute to at least a doubling of Africa’s rice production within a decade after the price crisis of 2008.

 

“The NERICA varieties are a huge success—but breeding never stops!” said Dr. Marco Wopereis, deputy director general of AfricaRice. “It’s good to know that we have new products in the pipeline.”

 

Some of the new products Wopereis refers to will likely be derived using molecular breeding approach. AfricaRice scientists are already using this approach to introduce resistance to disease and other stresses into some of Africa’s most popular rice varieties.

 

A continent-wide Rice Breeding Task Force will soon expand that work, while strengthening the breeding capacity of national research organizations, with support from the Japanese government and other donors. Molecular breeding offers a cost-effective alternative to genetic transformation of rice, for which the required facilities and national regulatory frameworks are lacking.

 

In other research, AfricaRice is going back to the origins of NERICA, with the aim of using more recent breeding procedures to create new varieties that better exploit the genetic potential of the indigenous African rice, including its strong ability to compete with weeds. This work reflects a growing recognition of the “need to exploit the treasure trove that is in African rice germplasm,” as AfricaRice plant breeder Mandè Semon put it. Toward that end, researchers have undertaken extensive evaluations of the Center’s 2,300 African rice samples, including O. glaberrima as well as O. barthii, a wild plant related to cultivated African rice.

 

To ensure that new rice varieties satisfy farmers’ demands, AfricaRice continues to use a method called “participatory varietal selection,” in which farmers choose lines from a demonstration plot planted in their village. Having worked well throughout West and Central Africa in the development of NERICAs, this method remains essential for delivering to farmers the varieties they want and need. Equally important is the introduction of integrated crop management, through a method referred to as “participatory learning and action research,” which enables farmers to derive greater benefits from new rice varieties.

 

In addition, AfricaRice is making a strong push, through training and promotion of effective seed laws and systems, to overcome the scarcity of high-quality rice seed, which Seck called “one of the biggest constraints to the successful use of improved varieties.”

 

“Africa’s dependence on rice imports is no longer sustainable,” he said. “The time has come to transform rice production into an engine for economic growth across the continent.”

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=14338&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.09  PhilRice promotes new rice varieties for adverse environments

 

Maligaya, Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija, The Philippines

30 March 2010

PhilRice advances the use of newly-developed varieties for adverse environments during the Institute’s field day, which was recently participated by more than 1,500 farmers and agriculture college students.

 

“[Adverse environments] and climate change have direct effects on rice production. Decrease in yield is expected when sea level increases, temperature intensifies, and rainfall patterns become erratic,” said Thelma F. Padolina, head of PhilRice Plant Breeding and Biotechnology Division.

 

With the theme, Addressing Climate Change thru Rice Science, the field day highlighted varieties recommended for environments prone to saline, drought, and flood.

 

The saline-resistant varieties for irrigated lowland include NSIC Rc182 (Salinas 1), Rc184 (Salinas 2), Rc186 (Salinas 3), Rc188 (SalinaS 4), and Rc190 (Salinas 5). The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) developed Salinas 1 while PhilRice bred the other four varieties. The varieties have shown good milling recovery and good eating quality. To achieve maximum yield ranging from 3.8 to 6.3 t/ha, proper cultural management are needed. However, the breeders cautioned that these varieties are susceptible to tungro.

 

For rainfed lowland drought-prone areas, PhilRice recommends NSIC Rc192 (Sahod Ulan 1). An IRRI-bred variety, it has a maximum yield potential of 5.5 t/ha and matures at 106 days. The variety could be planted using the following methods: dry seeding, wet dry-seeding, and transplanting.

 

For submergence-prone areas, PhilRice promotes the cultivation of NSIC Rc194 (Submarino 1). A cross of IR64 and an Indian variety with Sub1 gene, Submarino 1 can tolerate 10 days of complete submergence.

 

Meanwhile, Dr. Josie A. Valdez, president of Bulacan Agricultural State College, encouraged farmers to try the aerobic rice technology, which involves cultural management practices to produce more rice with less water.

 

According to Valdez, the aerobic rice technology can yield 5 t/ha during the dry season and 4 t/ha during the wet season. He further said that the technology reduces water use for the cropping seasons by 30 to 50 percent, without reducing yield.

 

Encouraging farmers to be more progressive, Ruben B. Miranda, PhilRice deputy executive director for development, urged participants to consider varieties that respond to specific environment conditions.

 

“Certified seeds of a recommended variety contribute to 10 percent increase in yield. As such, [I encourage] you to try other varieties that could be better than the varieties that you’re using now,” he 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 www.philrice.gov.ph or text your questions to 0920-911-1398.

 

The website address is www.nvtonline.com.au

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=14501&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.10  European Plant Breeding Academy begins at UC Davis

 

Davis, California, USA

8 March 2010

The first session of the European Plant Breeding Academysm began on the UC Davis campus today. Created on the model of the highly successful Plant Breeding Academy, was established to serve plant breeding companies in Europe. The Plant Breeding Academysm based at UC Davis began with Class I in 2006 and Class II will graduate this June. The European program will be held in five countries over 21 months. Each of the course’s six sessions is six days in length. The first session currently being held in Davis, California will be followed by sessions in Angers, France; Enkhuizen, The Netherlands; Barcelona, Spain; Gatersleben, Germany, and finish at UC Davis. Academy partners in Europe include the European Seed Association, Vegepolys and French Seed Union in France, Seed Valley and Naktuinbouw in The Netherlands, the Center for Research in Agricultural Genomics and the Spanish Plant Breeders Association in Spain; and the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research and the German Plant Breeders Association in Germany. The integrated program will lead participants through basic and practical experiences in each location in genetics, statistics, and plant breeding, enabling participants to become professional plant breeders.

 

The European Academy’s two lead instructors are Rale Gjuric, the president and managing director of Haplotech Inc. a plant breeding service company in Canada, and Idy van Leeuwen, the owner of Breedwise B.V. a professional training company for plant breeding in The Netherlands. Dr. Gjuric is an accomplished commercial plant breeder with 35 canola varieties released in the past 15 years. Ms. van Leeuwen is a well know member of the Dutch seed industry and has extensive experience organizing and teaching plant breeding to seed industry employees and university students over the last 17 years.

 

The 14 members of the inaugural class include: Andreas Girke and Wilbert Luesink from Norddeutsche Pflanzenzucht Lembke (NPZ) in Germany, Bunterm Iamthian and Supat Mekiyanon from Chia Tai Co. in Thailand, Diego Ramos and Jose Maldonado from Monsanto in Spain, Guillermo Aqulla Tortosa and Marc Solsona from Semillas Fito in Spain, Dominique Rouan from Bayer CropSciences in Belgium, Inga Kottmann from Deutsche Saatveredelung Ag in Germany, Liora Lifshitz from Zeraim Gedera Ltd. in Israel, Naama Barom Eliyahu from Hazera Genetics in Israel, Mathieu Sanvoisin from Syngenta in France, and Mika Isolahti from Boreal Plant Breeding Ltd. in Finland.

 

For more information on the Plant Breeding Academysm, please contact Allen Van Deynze avandeynze@ucdavis.edu or Joy Patterson at jpatterson@ucdavis.edu or visit http://pba.ucdavis.edu

 

The Seed Biotechnology Center was established at UC Davis in 1999 to mobilize the research, educational and outreach resources of the University of California in partnership with the seed and biotechnology industries, and to facilitate discovery and commercialization of new seed technologies for agricultural and consumer benefit.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=14063&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.11  Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory-Mexican team coaxes sexually reproducing plant to brink of asexual reproduction

 

Argonaute 9 inhibits asexual reproduction, apparently by silencing transposons

 

7 March 2010

One seemingly insurmountable obstacle to the dream of virtually limitless yields of staple crops like corn, wheat and rice is the dependence of those plants on sexual reproduction. When male and female gametes -- sperm and egg -- combine randomly to generate a genetically unique seed, valuable parental traits painstakingly selected by breeders are erased. But what if plants like these could be engineered to reproduce asexually -- an abilty of a subset of plants, for example the common dandelion?

 

In a paper to appear online in Nature February 7, plant geneticists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) and the National Polytechnic Institute in Mexico report moving a step closer to the goal of turning plants that normally reproduce sexually into asexual reproducers, an outcome that would have profound implications for agriculture globally.

 

In sexually reproducing plants, the sex cells, or gametes, each bear one half of the organism’s genetic legacy, which is combined in their progeny, a single seed. These unique offspring stand in contrast to the offspring of asexual reproducers like the dandelion, which are clones of the parent – genetically identical. For years, Jean-Philippe Vielle-Calzada, Ph.D., who led the Mexican team, has sought to generate viable seeds in the absence of a fusion of sperm and egg. His team experimented with a type of asexual reproduction called apomixis, using the small mustard plant Arabidopsis thaliana -- normally a sexual reproducer -- as a testbed.

 

The key technique was shutting down the activity of a protein called Argonaute 9. By doing this, the scientists tricked an Arabidopsis ovule into manufacturing multiple gametes, rather than one, as it usually does. Instead of carrying half the plant’s genetic legacy, these extra gametes carried the full load of genetic material. The plant, in some respects, had cloned itself, raising the possibility that some or perhaps all plants have the potential to reproduce asexually. If so, the secret of unlocking that potential, it would appear, is the ability to repress the activity of Argonaute 9.

 

Argonaute 9 binds small interfering RNA (siRNA), which are studied by the team at CSHL led by Rob Martienssen, Ph.D. (photo) .The new results build on the discovery by Martienssen’s team last year of a similar mechanism in the male gametes of the plant, found in its pollen grains. They showed that siRNAs were passed from the cells immediately surrounding the gametes, called companion cells, into the adjacent sperm cells. The siRNAs inactivated, or silenced, specific DNA sequences in the sperm. Importantly, those sequences marked the position of transposons, the “jumping genes” discovered by CSHL Nobel laureate Barbara McClintock 60 years ago. If activated, they have the ability to jump around the genome, wreaking havoc.

 

In fact, says Martienssen, “it has long been speculated that transposons and sex co-evolved. But it has remained a mystery as to how transposons promote sexual reproduction. In the work we’re reporting today, it appears that Argonaute 9 inhibits asexual reproduction -- apparently by silencing transposons.” Martienssen says his lab will be pursuing the relationship between transposons and sex in collaboration with the Mexican team.

 

“Control of female gamete formation by a non-cell-autonomous small RNA pathway in Arabidopsis” will appear online ahead of print in Nature on Sunday, March 7, 2010. The authors are: Vianey Olmedo-Monfil, Noé Durán-Figueroa, Mario Arteaga-Vázquez, Edgar Demesa-Arévalo, Daphné Autran, Daniel Grimanelli, Keith Slotkin, Robert A.

 

Martienssen and Jean-Philippe Vielle-Calzada. The paper can be viewed online at: doi: 10.1038/nature08828.

 

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) is a private, not-for-profit research and education institution at the forefront of efforts in molecular biology and genetics to generate knowledge that will yield better diagnostics and treatments for cancer, neurological diseases and other major causes of human suffering.

 

For more information, visit www.cshl.edu.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=14055&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.12  Marker assisted plant breeding: how and why it works

 

by Gene Hookstra

http://www.eurofinsus.com/ESTA_enews/031001.html

March 2010

The world of molecular biology; marker systems, instrumentation and bioinformatics keeps advancing at an amazing pace. In the not to distant future whole genome analyses will be able to be completed in a matter of hours not months or years. Even with all these advances some things do remain the same, the direct application of DNA data. Today’s plant breeders still need to incorporate desirable traits into their breeding lines and get their cultivars to market as fast as possible. Marker Assisted Plant Breeding is still that tool. The following article was first published in May of 2008 and even with all the changes it is still valid, applicable and appropriate today and worth another look.

 

Plant improvement has existed from the time the first hunter-gathers started selecting one plant over another but it wasn’t until Gregor Mendel’s early experiments with peas that we started to understand genetics or the inheritance of traits. A century later Watson and Crick unraveled the actual structure of DNA—the backbone of all heritable traits and since then concepts and applications for plant breeding have been evolving at an unprecedented rate.

 

While tremendous improvements have been made in plant breeding, it is still a process that requires time and attention to detail, specifically attention to the phenotype or visual traits of your crop. This often requires years of observation but today’s plant breeders know that genetic variation or the combining of superior genetics is the key to most plant improvement and the best way to get to your breeding objectives, your needed phenotype is to understand the genetics.

 

The most common method of creating genetic variation is though sexual reproduction. Sexual reproduction sets in motion a process known as meiosis. Generally speaking, meiosis occurs with the crossing of one plant’s genes with another creating a mixing of traits or genetic variation. Without going into the wonders of meiosis there are two expressions of major interest; ‘genetic recombination’ and ‘independent assortment’. By definition we have little control over what takes place during genetic recombination but today we do have a way to track what is happening. A technology that developed from Watson and Crick’s research--DNA markers can help you see what’s really going on in the chromosomes and help you attain your breeding goals sooner.

 

Although there are many avenues to take when considering how best to achieve your plant breeding goals, I am going to focus on only two: backcross selection and forward selection. Backcross breeding methodology is generally applied when you have a superior inbred or variety but it is lacking in some trait(s) such as a specific disease resistance. To incorporate this trait one will cross the superior inbred (parent A) with the source of disease resistance (parent B), generate the “F1” which is composed of 50% of parent A’s genetic traits and 50% parent B’s genetic traits. The F1 plants are then backcrossed to parent A, which is also known as the recurrent parent. The progeny from this cross may simply be called the “BC1” generation and with our knowledge of genetics and inheritance we know that 50% of these plants should have the disease resistance trait we are looking for and that the plants them selves should be 75% recurrent parent genotype. One would then grow out individual plants from the BC1 generation, expose them to the disease, select the plants that show resistance, pick a couple of resistance plants and backcross them again to the recurrent parent making the “BC2” generation which should now be 87.5% recurrent parent; the process is repeated to make the “BC3” generation which is 93.75% recurrent parent and so on until you are satisfied you have recovered the desirable phenotype of parent A along with the desired disease resistance.

 

This is a tried and true method but requires a considerable amount of time and many generations. Using molecular markers one can be assured that you can recover your genotype and associated phenotype along with the desired traits(s) in two backcrosses and one selfing generation and this is how and why it works:

 

Remember ‘independent assortment’? That is what makes molecular markers so effective. Table 1 shows actual data of percent recurrent parent in a BC1 generation. There were 94 individual plants (No. of obs) evaluated and if one looks at the average percent recurrent parent, it is 75% as predicted but there is a range represented by individual plants from 60% to 94% recurrent parent. Thus with the right molecular (DNA) markers you could choose plants that would be in the “BC3” generation in one backcross. One more backcross and you can select plants in the BC6 generation! After two backcrosses, all that is left is to self the selected plant to ensure homozygosity in the incorporated trait and you are done. Of course if you happen to have marker linked to the trait being incorporated the whole process is quicker, yet.

 

Table 1:

backcross_chart

 

This same process works for forward selection as well. In this situation one is crossing two plants, both with positive attributes and trying to combine then to develop a superior progeny. As above, create the F1 but instead of backcrossing one would self the plant creating what may be called F2 plants. The segregation pattern in this generation should be 25% homozygous parent A, 25% homozygous parent B with 50% of the genome being heterozygous. If one screens a representative sample of approximately 100 plants that will be the averages but there is a range of distribution percentages just like in backcross procedure. Using markers one can easily select segments of the genome to ensure it comes from one parent or another plus you can increase the rate to homozygosity in developing a stable inbred or variety. In other words, you have a tailor made inbred with reduced development time.

 

DNA markers are tools that have been proven to reduce development time and help get your products to market that much sooner. They are tools that need to be used in today’s competitive breeding programs. ESTA has a ‘state of the art’ molecular marker laboratory and personnel with years of experience and knowledge on how to effectively apply marker technology to best achieve your goals. Please give us a call if you have any questions or would like more detail.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=14229&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.13  Iowa State University's Biosafety Institute for Genetically Modified Agricultural Products (BIGMAP)

 

To focus on global food, feed, and fuel issues

 

Ames, Iowa, USA

25 March 2010

Experts from around the world will gather to share current research and perspectives on seed trade and biotechnology innovation April 27-28 in Ames, at the seventh annual symposium of Iowa State University's Biosafety Institute for Genetically Modified Agricultural Products (BIGMAP).

 

The symposium, "Food, Feed, and Fuel for the World: Seed and Biotechnology" will be from 1:30 to 6:30 p.m. April 27, and from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. April 28, at the Gateway Hotel and Conference Center, 2100 Green Hills Dr., Ames.

 

"Increased attention is being given to food and fuel production challenges around the world," said Jeff Wolt, professor of agronomy and co-organizer of the event. "This event will offer attendees special insight into the barriers and issues concerning quality seed accessibility and production at the global level.

 

"It will also offer the rare opportunity to speak face-to-face with individuals who are advancing infrastructure and technology change in developing regions of the world that will result in the increased sustainability and improved livelihoods of farmers."

 

Highlights of this year's symposium include presentations by :

  • Jack Bobo, senior advisor on biotechnology, U.S. State Department, speaking on "Agriculture Arrives Late to the Climate Debate,"
  • Delphine Guey, French Association for Seeds and Seedlings (GNIS), discussing "A European Perspective on Challenges and Issues for Seed Trade,"
  • Joe DeVries, director of the Program for Africa's Seed Systems, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, talking on "Seed Enterprise Development Challenges in Africa," and
  • Yilma Kebede, senior program officer for agricultural development, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, addressing "The Role of Foundations in Global Agricultural Development."

Anyone interested in attending the symposium can register by calling (515) 294-6222 or visiting www.ucs.iastate.edu/mnet/bigmap/home.html.

 

The symposium was made possible with funds from the Food, Feed and Fuel Initiative: Iowa and the United States Department of Agriculture.

 

The Biosafety Institute for Genetically Modified Agricultural Products provides public-based expertise in risk assessment, communication and mitigation strategies for agricultural biotechnology. For more information about BIGMAP, visit www.bigmap.iastate.edu.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=14406&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.14  Seed's failure raises red flag at Monsanto

 

BY GEORGINA GUSTIN

8 March 2010

A genetically modified cotton produced by Monsanto is failing to control pests in four Indian states, the company said last week.

 

The survival of the pink bollworm in Monsanto's Bollgard brand cotton was detected in four of the nine Indian states where the cotton is grown.

 

A spokesman for the Creve Coeur-based company said it is taking the matter "very seriously" and will continue to monitor the situation with the help of a team of Indian-based experts. The detection has been reported to the Indian Genetic Engineering Committee, the company said.

 

The cotton is engineered to resist the pink bollworm, a pest that can ruin crops. However, testing was conducted to assess resistance to Cry1Ac, the Bt protein in the crop, and insects were found to be surviving it.

The company said Friday that the resistance could be occurring because the required refuge areas were not planted by farmers and some may have used unapproved Bt cotton seed.

 

Recently, India's environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, said the country should be more cautious in adopting genetically modified crops.

Ramesh imposed a freeze on commercial cultivation of Monsanto's Bt brinjal, or eggplant, until further health and environmental safety tests can be conducted. The Bt brinjal is the first genetically modified food crop grown in the country.

 

Both the Bollgard cotton and brinjal were developed in conjunction with Mahyco, an India-based seed company that helped Monsanto introduced Bollgard cotton to the country in 2002.

 

http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/news/stories.nsf/sciencemedicine/story/B76F779D663BDDD3862576DF007F122B?OpenDocument

 

Source: ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH via SeedQuest.com

 

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1.15  The U.S. National Plant Germplasm System – an Overview

 

The U.S. National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS) is a network of more than 20 USDA-ARS genebanks, 50 crop-specific curators and over 530,000 accessions from over 2,000 genera of plant genetic resources.  In 2008, the NPGS distributed over 180,000 samples of genetic materials to researchers and breeders around the world.  Typically a third of the distributions go to researchers and breeders outside the U.S.  The NPGS maintains the genetic resources collections as a global asset which are available and will be shipped to qualified researchers or breeders world-wide free of charge.

 

Ordering germplasm from the NPGS is easily accomplished by logging online into the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) at www.ars-grin.gov/ and clicking “plant germplasm” in the left –hand panel.  Breeders can then search the entire inventory of the NPGS online for crops of interest.  Searches can be conducted by crop, by species, by trait of interest, by location of origin, or for particular varieties of a crop.  The NPGS crop-specific curators are also available via email to help identify germplasm suitable for the region of interest or for the trait a breeder is seeking.  Contacting the curator can often save a breeder time and effort as NPGS curators have extensive knowledge of the collection and often know which accessions are adapted to specific regions around the world.  After a breeder has found germplasm of interest, the breeder can then place an order for the genetic materials online.  A typical distribution consists of ~50 seed and can be shipped within weeks of receiving all the necessary import documents and permissions.

 

Requestors are responsible for obtaining all permission and/or certificates needed for importing  the crop, including an import permit, and for processing the material through customs once the seed reaches the country of importation.  Specific requirements for disease screening vary by country and it may not be feasible for the NPGS to meet import permit requirements in all cases.  When the NPGS cannot meet import permit requirements, whenever feasible they will work with the requestor to secure permitsso that the material can be shipped.  In some cases the requestor may have to grow the material out in a quarantine facility prior to use.

 

The U.S. NPGS helps ensure that plant genetic resources are available to breeders world-wide  to support and expand crop productivityto benefit farmers and consumers worldwide.  Please do not hesitate to contact the appropriate NPGS representative with any questions.

 

Contributed by David Ellis

David.Ellis@ars.usda.gov

 

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1.16  Norway Doomsday Seed Vault Hits 1 / 2 Million Mark

 

10 March 2010

OSLO, Norway (AP) -- Two years after receiving its first deposits, a ''doomsday'' seed vault on an Arctic island has amassed half a million seed samples, making it the world's most diverse repository of crop seeds, the vault's operators announced Thursday.

 

Cary Fowler -- who heads the trust that oversees the seed collection, which is 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) from the North Pole, said the facility now houses at least one-third of the world's crop seeds.

 

''In my lifetime, I don't think we'll go over 1.5 million. I'd be rather surprised if we go over a million,'' Fowler told The Associated Press. ''At that point, we'd have all the diversity in the world ... and the most secure samples.''

 

Located in Norway's remote Svalbard archipelago, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a safeguard against wars or natural disasters wiping out food crops around the globe. It was opened in 2008 as a master backup to the world's other 1,400 seed banks, in case their deposits are lost.

 

War wiped out seed banks in Iraq and Afghanistan, and another bank in the Philippines was flooded in the wake of a typhoon in 2006. The Svalbard bank is designed to withstand global warming, earthquakes and even nuclear strikes.

 

Despite the rapid progress, Fowler said the bank still has significant holes in its collection.

 

''There are a few unique collections that we don't have up there yet -- Ethiopia and some of the Indian materials and some of the Chinese materials,'' he said.

 

The most recent additions include a mold-resistant bean from Colombia and a collection of nearly every agricultural soybean species developed in the U.S. in the last century.

 

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2010/03/10/world/AP-EU-Norway-Doomsday-Vault.html?_r=3&scp=2&sq=seed%20vault&st=cse

 

Source: THE ASSOCIATED PRESS via SeedQuest.com

 

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1.17  Natural Himalayan 'freezer' to back up Arctic seed vault

 

New Delhi, India

19 March 2010

by T. V. Padma

An Indian seed bank in the Himalayas will serve as a backup for Indian genetic material stored in the global seed vault in the Arctic.

 

Indian scientists said the Himalayan facility is the second largest in the world after the Arctic seed vault that opened in Svalbard, Norway, in February 2008 and reported a collection of half a million species in March 2010.

 

Seed banks are repositories for crop genetic material and insure against species extinction because of natural or manmade disasters.

 

The Defence Institute of High Altitude Research in Leh, in India's northernmost state of Jammu and Kashmir, built the seed vault 75 kilometres away in Chang La last year (November 2009). Actual deposits began last month (15 February).

 

"Right now it is envisaged as a national seed facility, but over time we may consider throwing it open to other countries, developed and developing, depending on government approval," William Selvamurthy, Chief Controller of Research and Development at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), told SciDev.Net.

 

The Indian Council of Agriculture Research, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and Department of Biotechnology may use the Himalayan seed bank.

 

Chang La's permafrost conditions, 20 per cent relative humidity (amount of moisture in the air) and temperatures below minus 18 degrees Celsius, except in May and June, offer a cheap alternative to 'cryopreservation' or freezing plant material to minus 196 degrees Celsius, using liquid nitrogen.

 

Chang La is more accessible than Svalbard and is close to a popular tourist trail. And at 5,360 metres above sea level, there is no danger of melting ice-sheets. Its sealed 'black box' design prevents disputes over intellectual property rights.

 

Cary Fowler, Executive Director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust that operates the Svalbard vault together with the Norwegian government and the Nordic Genetic Resource Centre in Sweden, said its half-million mark for seeds comes at a time when global agriculture systems "are sitting on a knife’s edge".

 

Seed banks worldwide "are the keys to climate change adaptation for the world's farmers", said Fowler.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=14345&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SciDev.net via SeedQuest.com

 

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1.18  China establishes three wheat breeding bases in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region

 

China

5 March 2010

As informed at the recently-held meeting to introduce and summarize the project of wheat breeding bases in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, three wheat breeding bases have been established in Xinjiang, providing high-quality improved seeds for the wheat production in the 5 million mu ( around 333,333 ha) land across the autonomous region.

 

In the past, the mixture and degeneration of seeds, varied seed quality, farm-reserved seed and some other problems not only dampened the enthusiasm of farmers in growing grains, but also led to continuous decline of wheat planting area in the autonomous region. Since 2005, the government of the autonomous region has been making efforts to gradually improve the situation from the source of seed through development of wheat breeding bases. The fiscal funds of 9 million yuan were invested to build such bases in Tacheng, Yili and Zepu. The first two bases were set up in 2008 and the last one in Dec. 2009.

 

The major task of the wheat breeding bases in Xinjiang is to improve the benefits of wheat production. They are also responsible for increasing the percentage of designated wheat seeds sowed across the autonomous region and producing more new wheat varieties with high yield, high quality and multiple resistances in an efficient way. Meanwhile, efforts are made to build the R & D bases of new wheat varieties and new technologies in Tacheng, Aletai and Yili River Valley in Northern Xinjiang and Kashi, Kezhou and Hetian in Southern Xinjiang on the basis of the breeding bases. The purpose is to develop an integrated industrial seed production system in Xinjiang through new variety selection, reproduction of stock seed, seed production and processing and other practices, and thus provide effective technical support to the sustained and steady development of wheat production in Xinjiang.

 

From 2005-2009, these three bases were charged with 108 items of experiments at the national and autonomous region levels to tackle key problems in science and technology. As a result, a range of high-yield and high-quality varieties were selected, including Xindong No. 28, Xindong No. 32, Xinchun No. 15, Xinchun No. 18, Xinchun No. 27 and Xinchun No. 29. These varieties can produce a yield of 600-800 kg per mu (1/15 ha) on average, laying a solid foundation for the wheat production in the autonomous region.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=14076&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: Farmers' Daily via Ministry of Agriculture via SeedQuest.com

 

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1.19  Can corn be taught to fix its own nitrogen?

 

Urbana, Illinois, USA

4 March 2010

Nitrogen fertilization is essential for profitable corn production. It also is a major cost of production and can contribute to degradation of the environment. Is it possible to “teach” corn to fix its own nitrogen, thus eliminating the need for nitrogen fertilizer applications? University of Illinois agricultural engineer Kaustubh Bhalerao believes it may be, through research in an emerging area of engineering called synthetic biology.

 

“We now understand enough about how genes work and how proteins are produced that we can actually think about reprogramming how living cells work,” said Bhalerao, an assistant professor in U of I’s Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering. “On one hand, it sounds intimidating. But on the other hand, there are tremendous benefits that may be possible by doing this.”

 

Synthetic biology is a new area of research that combines science and engineering in order to design and build or “synthesize” novel biological functions and systems. Through this new technology, many scientists believe it may be possible to control biological systems to increase food supplies, produce energy, enhance human health, protect the environment, and more.

 

Bhalerao is leading a multidisciplinary research initiative with collaborators from the University of California, San Francisco; Stanford University; University of Cambridge; and New Castle University aimed at building systems that enable bacteria to spatially organize and communicate with and control plant cells. The research is funded through a grant of about $2 million from the U.S. National Science Foundation and United Kingdom’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

 

Bhalerao’s research focuses on building systems in which bacteria behave like amplifiers. “We’ve developed the equivalence of an amplifier inside bacteria. The bacteria sense the presence of an amino acid in their environment and produce a protein in response. A positive feedback mechanism in the gene circuit amplifies the production of that protein,” Bhalerao said.

 

By using bacterial amplifiers, the systems become more sensitive. “Because of the amplifier, bacterial biosensors can detect concentrations much lower than would have been possible otherwise. In a system designed to produce a particular molecule or chemical, much larger output levels can be generated,” he said.

 

A specific application being investigated is the design of a system that enables nitrogen fixing bacteria to communicate with the root systems of corn plants.

 

According to Bhalerao, soybean fixes its own nitrogen by sending a message to a bacterium that encourages it to colonize in the plant’s roots. Once the right environment has developed, the bacteria start fixing nitrogen for that plant. This results in soybeans being naturally high in nitrogen and a protein-rich food source.

 

“Why don’t we teach corn how to do this?” Bhalerao said. “This would reduce the need for the application of petroleum-based fertilizers, which has huge implications for sustainable agriculture.”

 

Synthetic biology is a fast-growing research area with a wide range of potential applications. Scientists are using this new technology to make biosensors sensitive to light, sensitive to uranium, sensitive to rust, etc. Proven concepts in various stages of development include using bacterial sensors to build bacterial photographic plates, assist with the nuclear mining of uranium, or detect unexploded landmines in the soil.

 

“These are just a few potential uses that capture the mind,” Bhalerao said. “This type of technology allows us to think about interesting, novel solutions to major concerns, such as how we can feed more people, or how we can produce more drinking water.

 

“Synthetic biology is an entirely new discipline. To compare it with electronics, where it’s drawing a lot of its ideas and terminology from, we are at the stage of developing the transistor. We cannot foresee what the Internet of this technology is going to look like.”

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=13964&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source”: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.20  Wild oat tapped to combat crown rust

 

Wild species of oat Avena barbata has been tapped as a source for resistance to combat crown rust. Crown rust affects oat yields by up to 40 percent. It is caused by Puccinia coronata, a fungus that can overcome a number of resistance genes for about five years, said Martlin L. Carson, the research leader at the USDA-ARS Cereal Disease Laboratory in Minnesota.

 

Avena barbata is listed as a noxious weed in Missouri and invasive in California, South Asia, much of Europe and around the Mediterranean region. The research team found that the wild oat is resistant to a variety of crown rust strains. Preliminary breeding experiments with the cultivated oat Avena sativa, shows crown rot resistance in the seedlings. The group is now developing stable and sturdy lines with high yield, resistance to rust and drought tolerant.

 

See the story at http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2010/100204.htm

 

Source: Crop Biotech Update 5 February 2010:

 

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.21  New defenses deployed against plant diseases

 

Scientists transfer broad spectrum resistance against some important plant diseases across different plant families

 

Norwich, United Kingdom

14 March 2010

An international team led by scientists at the Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich,UK, have transferred broad spectrum resistance against some important plant diseases across different plant families. This breakthrough provides a new way to produce crops with sustainable resistance to economically important diseases.

 

Food insecurity is driving the search for ways to increase the amount of food we grow, whilst at the same time reducing unsustainable agricultural inputs. One way to do this is to increase the innate ability of crops to fight off disease-causing pathogens. Increased disease resistance would reduce yield losses as well as reduce the need for pesticide spraying.

 

Breeding programs for resistance generally rely on single resistance genes that recognise molecules specific to particular strain of pathogens. Hence this kind of resistance rarely confers broad-spectrum resistance and is often rapidly overcome by the pathogen evolving to avoid recognition by the plant.

 

However, plants have another defence system, based on pattern recognition receptors (PRRs). PRRs recognise molecules that are essential for pathogen survival. These molecules are less likely to mutate without harming the pathogen's survival, making resistance to them more durable in the field. These essential molecules are common to many different microbes, meaning that if a plant recognises and can defend itself against one of these molecular patterns, it is likely to be resistant against a broad range of other pathogens.

 

Very few of these PRRs have been identified to date. Dr Cyril Zipfel and his group at the Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, UK, took a Brassica-specific PRR that recognises bacteria, and transformed it into the Solanaceae plants Nicotania benthaminia and tomato.

 

"We hypothesised that adding new recognition receptors to the host arsenal could lead to enhanced resistance," said Dr Zipfel.

 

Under controlled laboratory conditions, they tested these transformed plants against a variety of different plant pathogens, and found drastically enhanced resistance against many different bacteria, including some of great importance to modern agriculture such as Rastonia solanaceraum, the causal agent of bacterial wilt and a select agent in the United States under the Agricultural Bioterrorism Protection Act of 2002.

 

"The strength of this resistance is because it has come from a different plant family, which the pathogen has not had any chance to adapt to. Through genetic modification, we can now transfer this resistance across plant species boundaries in a way traditional breeding cannot," said Dr Zipfel.

 

Published in the journal Nature Biotechnology, the finding, that plant recognition receptors can be successfully transferred from one plant family to another provides a new biotechnological solution to engineering disease resistance. The Zipfel group is currently extending this work to other crops including potato, apple, cassava and banana that all suffer from important bacterial diseases, particularly in the developing world.

 

"A guiding principle in plant pathology is that most plants tend to be resistant to most pathogens. Cyril's work indicates that transfer of genes that contribute to this basic innate immunity from one plant to another can enhance pathogen resistance," commented Professor Sophien Kamoun, Head of the Sainsbury Laboratory. "The implications for engineering crop plants with enhanced resistance to infectious diseases are very promising."

 

This research was funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation and the Two Blades Foundation, who have patented the technology on behalf of the inventors, and involved research groups from INRA/CNRS in France, the University of California, Berkeley and Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

 

Reference:

Inter-family transfer of a plant pattern recognition receptor confers broad-spectrum bacterial resistance

Nature Biotechnology, 14th March 2010. doi: 10.1038/nbt.1613

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=14196&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.22  Resistant wheat plants stave off Hessian flies by starving them

 

Results of a study conducted by researchers at the Purdue University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) show that resistant wheat plants stave off attacks by Hessian fly larvae by essentially destroying the fly's midgut and its ability to absorb nutrients. Hessian flies cause considerable damage to wheat crops, with grain yields reduced as much as 20 bushels per acre with moderate infestation levels. Some wheat varieties have genes that can be deployed or used to combat the pest. Understanding their mode of actions, however, is necessary since the fly has overcome or is overcoming several genes initially deployed to protect wheat lines.

 

The researchers observed that within three hours, larvae feeding on resistant wheat had abnormal microvilli, fingerlike appendages that extend inward from the walls of the midgut to increase surface area for nutrient absorption. By six hours, the microvilli were nearly destroyed and the midgut was void of food! . "Some chemicalor compound they're encountering from the resistant plant is causing the microvilli to become disrupted, and it's happening very quickly," said Richard Shukle, researcher at the USDA.

 

Shukle and colleagues are suspecting that lectins might be one of the compounds responsible for the midgut disruption. Resistant wheat plants contain higher levels of proteins made by the Hessian fly responsive genes, called Hfr-1 and Hfr-3, than susceptible plants. Studies have shown that the protein made by Hfr-1 is a lectin, and the protein made by Hfr-3 is lectin-like. For the original story, read

http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/research/2010/100208ShukleMidgut.html

 

Source: Crop Biotech Update 12 February 2010:

 

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.23  Breeding plants to produce cheap energy

 

Wageningen, The Netherlands

11 March 2010

Plant breeding can play a big role in the transition to a biobased economy, says PhD student Andres Torres Salvador of Wageningen University. He wants to cultivate plants from which energy can be obtained more efficiently and with less cost.

 

Torres Salvador, attached to the Laboratory of Plant Breeding, presented his research work on 9 March during the symposium 'A world in Transition' to commemorate the 92nd Dies Natalis of Wageningen University. Torres Salvador has been studying how to make the inedible parts of the maize plant suitable for energy extraction. He looks at, in particular, the cell walls. 'These are composed mainly of cellulose which can be converted into alcohol during fermentation', he explains. 'Cellulose is the most common organic material on Earth and therefore has enormous potential.'

 

Nothing to it

The costs of converting cell walls into alcohol are currently too high. The bottleneck lies in the first step of this process: the breaking down of cellulose in the cell walls. Cellulose consists of a lengthy and robust chain of sugar molecules which require expensive enzymes to be separated from one another. As for the rest of the process, there's nothing to it: the individual sugar molecules can be easily fermented into bio-alcohol, which is suitable as a fuel. Torres Salvador therefore wants to find ways to cultivate maize plants whose cellulose can be broken down more efficiently. 'I am concentrating on cell wall properties which can influence the breaking down and fermentation process', the PhD student explains. 'In addition, it is essential for us to identify the genes which determine the properties of the cell walls.' With this approach, he hopes to change the maize plant in such a way that it can produce bio-alcohol which can compete with fossil fuels.

 

Virgin forests

Gene technology is another useful tool whereby energy from maize plants can be extracted more efficiently, says Torres Salvador. 'It would be ideal if we can cultivate a plant which produces enzymes to break down their own cell walls. But this wouldn't be easy to do.' Despite the enormous possibilities, there is also much resistance to the use of agricultural land for fuel production, as evident from the arguments put up by several members of the audience during the symposium: the planting of alcohol-producing vegetation can threaten food production and encourage the felling of virgin forests. To tackle this problem, Torres Salvador wants, for example, to make plants which can grow on marginal land where very little else can grow on. 'Despite problems which can arise, we have to remain optimistic', is his belief. 'What I really want to say is that plant breeding can be an excellent contribution to the transition to a sustainable biobased economy.'

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=14135&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.24  Tropical maize gets vitamin A boost

 

23 March 2010

Source: SciDev.Net

by Mićo Tatalović

Scientists have produced new strains of maize that could cut vitamin A deficiency among people in developing countries.

 

Developed using traditional breeding methods, the vitamin-fortified maize could be introduced instead of maize modified by genetic engineering, a process that continues to face objections.

 

A research team reports this week in Nature Genetics (22 March) that they have identified rare variations of a gene known as crtRB1, which occur only in maize plants from temperate regions. These result in much higher production — up to 18 fold — of beta-carotene, the precursor and main source of dietary vitamin A. Using natural plant breeding, the researchers have now introduced these variations into tropical maize strains that are commonly grown in developing countries.

 

Poor people in many developing countries depend on cheap foods such as maize that do not provide enough vitamin A. In Zambia, more than half (53 per cent) of children do not get sufficient vitamin A, and the WHO estimates that up to 500,000 children worldwide are blinded each year by the deficiency, and half of them die of related causes within a year.

 

HarvestPlus (HP), an international research programme that aims to reduce micronutrient malnutrition, has set a target level of 15 micrograms of beta-carotene per gram of grain, sufficient to prevent vitamin A deficiency in areas where maize is a staple crop, such as many parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and India.

 

"This gene can reach about 57 per cent of the HP target," said Jianbing Yan, lead author of the new study, who is based at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Mexico.

 

Co-author Torbert Rocheford, of Purdue University in the United States, says the researchers are working with local companies in Zambia and aim to provide farmers in the country with the new maize seeds by 2012.

 

"The idea is to develop relationships with seed companies and to do a really good job in Zambia and then expand to neighbouring countries that get their seed stock from Zambia," he told SciDev.Net.

 

Although genetic engineering approaches to enhancing beta-carotene levels in maize have also been successful, there is still reluctance in many African countries to accept GM crops (see GM corn comes a step closer to a complete meal).

 

"Rice breeders around the world have made every effort to find similar [natural] variation in rice but have not been successful," said Ingo Potrykus, co-inventor of Golden Rice, genetically engineered to have high vitamin A levels, and chairman of the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board. "But this is solid work in traditional maize breeding and the result should have some positive impact."

 

"I think the idea of vitamin A-enhanced crops using modern breeding techniques is a very promising field," said Guillaume Gruère, a research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute. "But success is not guaranteed — it would depend on the technology being brought to countries and passing registration requirements, and being successfully distributed to and used by farmers."

Link to full paper in Nature Genetics

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=14381&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.25  Scientists pinpoint rice genes that determine rice eating and cooking quality

 

Genes regulating networks that determine eating and cooking quality have been pinpointed by a research team led by Li Jiayang from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The results published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA will help to develop rice varieties with better taste.

 

Rice eating and cooking quality are determined by three properties of amylose content, gel consistency and gelatinization temperature as well as the interaction among them, of which the underlying mechanism remains unclear. The research team found interaction among 18 genes related to starch synthesis cooperating with each other through an association analysis approach. The major and minor starch synthesis- related genes determining these three properties were defined as well as the correlation among them, which revealed a fine regulating network that controls the eating and cooking quality. These results have been verified through genetic transformation wh! ich lay a theoretical basis for the molecular design and genetic modification of rice quality. Studies have shown that the three properties of rice can be changed simultaneously by biotechnology or molecular marker-assisted breeding technology to achieve high-quality in high-yield rice varieties.

 

The paper is available for subscribers at

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2009/12/11/0912396106

 

Source: Crop Biotech Update 9 January 2010:

 

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.26  Novel approach to produce biofortified flour

 

A novel approach combining plant breeding and high-intensity x-rays is being used by scientists at the Rothamsted Research in the United Kingdom to explore the possibility of developing wheat which could be used to make mineral enriched flour.

 

Andrew Neal and colleagues are using high powered x-rays to carry out fluorescence analysis in favor of traditional staining techniques to identify new wheat varieties with added health benefits. The team exposes wheat grains to microfocussed high intensity x-rays. Characteristic fluorescence x-rays are emitted as the x-rays encounter different minerals. Scanning across the energy range of fluorescent x-rays shows a great deal about the properties of the grains including where and how much of each mineral is present, and how each mineral is complexed within the various regions of the grain.

 

"It is certainly 'early days' for this approach, but already we are showing that we can screen-out unsuitable lines early on, prev! enting breeders wasting investment in them and we are able to view wheat grains in a whole new way. I am hopeful this new approach has real promise to aid nutritious grain development and help answer some of the pressing issues on providing more nutritious food from limited productive farmland to feed our increasingly growing population," Neal said. Neal and colleagues' work is being funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

 

Visit

http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/media/releases/2010/100121-xray-vision-nutritious-flour.html for the original story.

 

Source: Crop Biotech Update 22 January 2010:

 

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.27  Secrets to superb malting barleys explored

 

USDA-ARS chemists March Schmitt and plant physiologist Allen Bunde have been studying the secrets of a good malt in barley. Malt is the delicious flavor or cereals, candies, beers and other foods and beverages. Barleys produce the malt as they germinate. The researchers are interested in the breaking down of proteins and carbohydrates during the process of germination.

 

The team found out that enzymes called serine-class proteases can break down proteins in the sprouting grain as well as the beta amylase - the enzyme that converts carbohydrates to sugars. In a selection of 2,000 North American malting barleys, Schmitt and Budde found that high levels of a desirable, beta-amylase-associated attribute in the barleys correlated to low levels of the serine-class proteases. This finding will help oat breeders to develop lines with superb malting ability.

 

For details, see the story at  http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2010/100203.htm

 

Source: Crop Biotech Update 5 February 2010:

 

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.28  Push for quality protein maize in El Salvador

 

It was unusually hot for the rainy season, but even the drilling sun could not curb farmers¡¯ enthusiasm. ¡°This is a variety that yields well, even if we don¡¯t put lots of fertilizer on it, and it has a sweet taste and mills well,¡± said Francisca Lilian Melgar, motioning to a crop of mature maize plants around her.

 

To test the performance of the quality protein maize (QPM) hybrid ¡®Oro Blanco¡¯ (White Gold), she and 24 other farmers at Lomas de Santiago, El Salvador, joined their land in 2009 to form a communal ¡°mega-plot¡± of about 25 hectares. Each farmer received test seed and inputs like fertilizer through AgroSalud, a five-year project that started in 2005 with funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to extend the benefits of nutritionally improved staple crops to Latin America and the Caribbean. ¡°I would buy seed of this hybrid,¡± Melgar emphatically told the visitors at her test plot, who included researchers and extension workers from the National Center of Agriculture, Livestock, and Forestry Technology (CENTA), as well as seed producers, policymakers, and CIMMYT staff.

 

The work of CIMMYT under AgroSalud has been led by maize breeder Gary Atlin, and includes activities to develop, improve, and disseminate stress-resistant, agronomically superior varieties of QPM, a type of maize that contains more of the essential amino acids lysine and tryptophan than normal maize. Activities in El Salvador have been spearheaded by CENTA maize researcher H¨¦ctor Reynaldo Deras Flores.

 

For more information: Gary Atlin, maize breeder (g.atlin@cgiar.org)

 

Source: CIMMYT E-News, December 2009:

 

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.29  Bringing better grapes a step closer to reality

 

Molecular breeding of grapes has been started in the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) to expedite grape improvement. Grape, one of the world's most important fruit crops, takes three years to fruit, making traditional breeding expensive and time consuming. The ARS team from Ithaca and Geneva in New York whose research work has been published in Plos One, has developed a fast and inexpensive way to identify genetic markers for grape breeding as well as in breeding other crops using modern genetic approaches.

 

Using the technology, the researchers sequenced representative portions of the genomes from 10 cultivated varieties, six wild varieties and the Pinot Noir clone whose sequence has been completed in 2007. Genetic markers in the form of single nucleotide polymorphisms were selected and act as signposts to study the relationship of the varieties with each other. In addition, the technology will also expedite the identification of portions of the grape genome for desirable traits as well as identify origins of other types of plants, characterize relationships in other plant collections, and accelerate genetic mapping efforts in a number of crop species.

 

View the story for more details at http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2010/100323.htm

 

Source: Crop Biotech Update 26 March 2010:

 

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.30  Plant hormone increases cotton yields in drought conditions

 

Cytokinin, a plant growth hormone that promotes cell division and growth in plants, was found to effectively stimulate the growth of cotton stem and branches. The research conducted by John Burke, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service Cropping Systems Research Laboratory in Lubbock, Texas found that one application of cytokinin produced a 5 to 10 percent increase in yields under water-reduced conditions. Application of the hormone in fully irrigated or rainy conditions does not affect the normal growth of the plant. In addition, the hormone can be applied during routine weed management practices early in the season.

 

Cytokinin is recommended to be applied to young cotton seedlings to be more effective. It is at this stage when they are stimulated to build bigger root system to access deep soil moisture. The hormone was also found to help reduce water loss by stimulating the growth of a protective wax on the surface ! of the plant.

 

The full story can be found at http://www.ars.usda.gov/News/docs.htm?docid=1261

 

Source: Crop Biotech Update 12 March 2010:

 

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.31  New drought-tolerant soybean varieties

 

Previous research has shown that drought-tolerant plants grow better than most plants during drought conditions but grow poorly under optimal growing conditions. Dr. Larry Purcell of the University of Arkansas says that they have "sidestepped this problem" with the identification of two drought-tolerant soybean traits that perform well in U.S. soybean varieties under moderate drought and normal conditions.

 

"This is a significant project that has produced many important discoveries for finding soybeans with agronomic advantages under moderate drought conditions," Purcell said. He added that one of the traits allows the soybean plant to continue to accumulate nitrogen during moderate drought condtions. The other trait lets the plant conserve water before the onset of a drought. Having these two traits in one variety is a significant advancement in drought-tolerant soybean research.

 

For more details read the United Soybean Board press release at

http://www.unitedsoybean.com/pressroom/press_releases.aspx

 

Source: Crop Biotech Update 19 March 2010:

 

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.32  Drought-tolerant beans bring relief to farmers

 

Millions of farmers are set to benefit from a new drought-tolerant bean variety developed jointly by CIAT and the national agricultural research program of Nicaragua.

 

The release of the hardy "INTA Sequia" common bean, which can survive extreme drought, coincided with last month's United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen, Denmark, where world leaders met to discuss ways to tackle climate change and help farmers around the world adapt food production.  CIAT's new bean variety was formally released by research partner, the Nicaraguan Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA), in parts of the country's drought-stricken Pacific Coast and central mid-altitude regions in mid-December. While the pioneering work on INTA Sequia was carried out in Central America, the improved seed will also be released elsewhere in Latin America, and in East and southern Africa other improved varieties are currently being tested.

 

Beans are the "meat of the poor" in many developing countries, providing dietary protein and essential micronutrients, as well as being an important source of income for small farmers. During trials, INTA Sequia was extremely popular with farmers in Nicaragua, producing significantly higher yields of better quality beans than locally-available commercial varieties grown under the same conditions. Farmers and their families also reported that INTA Sequia is delicious to eat. INTA Sequia is the first of several improved drought-tolerant bean varieties currently under development by CIAT and its partners.

 

Contact:

Steve Beebe (s.beebe@cgiar.org)

 

Source: CIAT E-Newsletter, January 2010:

 

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.33  UA scientists study genetics and physiology of soybeans to increase dryland yields

 

Crop physiologist Larry Purcell and Pengyin Chin of the University of Arkansas, Division of Agriculture have found evidence that prolonged nitrogen fixation and delayed wilting to be the key traits for improving soybean yields under moderate drought conditions. In a field demonstration, the researchers found that high rates of nitrogen fertilizer resulted to an 18 percent increase in soybean yield under moderate drought stress. Selected soybean genotypes with high nitrogen fixation under drought conditions were crossed with Arkansas breeding lines and two soybean germplasm lines R01-416F and R01-581F were subsequently released.

 

Building on the earlier research by USDA researcher Tommy Carter who first observed exotic soybean genotypes that had delayed wilting under stress as a means to increase drought tolerance, Purcell and Chin developed soybean breeding lines with delayed wilting during drought. The lines with delayed wilting habit have higher yields during drought stress. The researchers developed genetic markers to screen breeding lines for the delayed wilting trait and will be combining the prolonged nitrogen fixation and delayed wilting traits into a single improved breeding line to better withstand droughts.

 

For details, read the story at http://arkansasagnews.uark.edu/4859.htm

 

Source: Crop Biotech Update 12 February 2010:

 

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.34  New sweetpotato varieties well adapted to cool climate

 

Some sweetpotato varieties produce storage roots with purple flesh. These purple sweetpotato varieties don't just look good, they might actually be good for the health. Purple sweetpotatoes contain high levels of anthocyanins, red-purple pigments found naturally in grapes, red cabbage and eggplant peel much studied for their health benefits, including their roles as antioxidants.

 

Ted Carey and colleagues at the Kansas State University are developing varieties that grow well in the cold-winter region. "I was interested in purple-fleshed sweetpotato because there were not yet any commercial varieties adapted for cultivation in the mainland USA, and there is a fairly significant demand for this type of sweetpotato, almost all of which is imported," Carey said.

 

Carey sourced the seeds from the genebank maintained by the Peru-based International Potato Center (CIP). Initial research on some of Carey's purple sweetpotatoes has provided encouraging results, s! howing that two anthocyanine derivatives they contain, cyanidin and peonidin, inhibit human colon cancer cell's growth. Carey and his team will conduct further multilocational testing this coming season. As of the moment, the scientists have their eyes on a top variety that may not be very sweet but could prove to be useful for processing.

 

Read the original story at

http://www.cipotato.org/pressroom/press_releases_detail.asp?cod=74

 

Source: Crop Biotech Update 9 January 2010:

 

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.35  Crown rust resistance and Avn production in barley

 

U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service chemists Mitchell Wise and Dough Doehlert have observed the strong correlation between crown rust disease pressure and avenanthramide (Avn) production in oat grain. Avns are metabolites with potent antioxidant properties and have been associated with the oat grains' health benefits. In a two- year experiment where 16 oat cultivars and two breeding lines at three locations in North Dakota were  grown, the researchers found that oat plants with the strongest crown rust resistance had the highest Avn concentrations.

 

Avn production was also found to be highly influenced by environmental factors because not all cultivars with strong crown rust resistance produced high Avn concentration. The results suggest that oat breeders taking into account crown rust pressure during growth can select barley cultivars for enhanced production of Avn.

 

Other studies by the group are focused on the detailed investigation of how certain Avns are produced.

 

View http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2010/100201.htm for more information.

 

Source: Crop Biotech Update 5 February 2010:

 

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.36  Researchers examine plant’s ability to identify, block invading bacteria

 

College Station, Texas, USA

3 March 2010

Understanding how plants defend themselves from bacterial infections may help researchers understand how people and other animals could be better protected from such pathogens.

 

That’s the idea behind a study to observe a specific bacteria that infects tomatoes but normally does not bother the common laboratory plant arabidopsis. Researchers hoped to understand how infection is selective in various organisms, according to a Texas AgriLife Research scientist.

 

Dr. Hisashi Koiwa collaborated with colleagues in Germany and Switzerland to examine the immune capabilities of different mutations of the arabidopsis plant. Their findings appeared in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

 

In this study, the team was trying to figure out how a plant defends itself rather than how it gets sick, said Koiwa, who provided about 10 different lines of mutant arabidopsis plants grown in his lab at Texas A&M University.

 

“By learning what is wrong with a sick plant,” he said, “we can study how a plant can defend itself, what mechanisms it uses for protection.”

 

The team had to examine the plants at the cellular level where molecules are busy performing different jobs.

 

To understand the process, one has to examine components such as "N-glycans, receptors and ligands," Koiwa said.

 

The N-glycan is a polysaccharide that is critical in protein folding, a natural process which if it becomes unstable leads to various diseases, Koiwa explained. A receptor is a protein decorated with N-glycans which awaits signals from the ligands that bind and activate receptor molecules.

In viewing this mechanism across various arabidopsis plants that had been mutated to achieve different N-glycan structures, the researchers found one particular N-glycan that was critical in making sure that the receptor molecules can recognize the targeted bacteria molecule, he said.

 

If that polysaccharide can recognize a pathogen, it can prevent infection thus making the plant immune to that disease, the scientists noted.

 

"The question is fundamental. Why are we healthy in an environment of so many different bacteria?" Koiwa asked. "Why can one pathogen infect one kind of organism and not others? In this case, the same bacteria normally infects tomato plants but not arabidopsis."

 

Koiwa said many researchers are studying the pathway, or molecular road, that a pathogen takes on its journey to infect another organism. They want to find what "gates" exist in an organism that prevent infection with the notion that the same blocks could be adapted in a susceptible organism to prevent disease.

 

He said eventually using this pathway to develop new plant varieties that do not allow pathogens inside the cells would be better than breeding lines that are merely "resistant" to diseases.

 

"In the case of resistance, a plant has to try to fend off an infection that has been let in," Koiwa explained. "But a properly working immunity system does not let the pathogen in, so the plant does not get sick in the first place."

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=14005&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.37  Single gene dramatically boosts yield and sweetness in tomato hybrids

 

Scientists find the first example of a single gene that causes hybrid vigor, joint CSHL-Israeli study reports

 

Cold Spring Harbor, New York, USA

29 March 2010

Giving tomato breeders and ketchup fans something to cheer about, a Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) scientist and his colleagues at the Hebrew University in Israel have identified a gene that pushes hybrid tomato plants to spectacularly increase yield. The yield-boosting power of this gene, which controls when plants make flowers, works in different varieties of tomato, and crucially, across a range of environmental conditions.

 

“This discovery has potential to have a significant impact on both the billion-dollar tomato industry, as well as agricultural practices designed to get the most yield from other flowering crops,” says CSHL Assistant Professor Zach Lippman, Ph.D. (photo), one of the three authors on the study, which appears in the journal Nature Genetics online on March 28th. The study is co-authored by Israeli scientists Uri Krieger and Professor Dani Zamir.

 

The team made the discovery while hunting for genes that boost hybrid vigor, a revolutionary breeding principle that spurred the production of blockbuster hybrid crops like corn and rice a century ago. Hybrid vigor, also known as heterosis, is the process by which intercrossing two varieties of plants produces more vigorous hybrid offspring with higher yields. First observed by Charles Darwin in 1876, heterosis was rediscovered by CSHL corn geneticist George Shull 30 years later, but how heterosis works has remained a mystery.

 

Shull’s studies suggested that harmful, vigor-killing gene mutations that accumulate naturally in every generation are exposed by inbreeding, but hidden by crossbreeding. “But there is still no consensus as to what causes heterosis,” says Lippman. “Another theory for heterosis, supported by our discovery, postulates that improved vigor stems from only a single gene – an effect called “superdominance” or “overdominance.”

 

To find overdominant genes, the team developed a novel approach by turning to a vast tomato “mutant library” – a collection of 5,000 plants, each of which has a single mutation in a single gene that causes defects in various aspects of tomato growth, such as fruit size, leaf shape, etc. Selecting a diverse set of mutant plants, most of which produced low yield, the team crossed each mutant with its normal counterpart and searched for hybrids with improved yield.

 

Among several cases, the most dramatic example increased yield by 60%. This hybrid, the team found, produced greater yields because there was one normal copy and one mutated copy of a single gene that produces a protein called florigen. This protein, touted as the breakthrough discovery of the year in 2005 in Science magazine, instructs plants when to stop making leaves and start making flowers, which in turn produce fruit.

 

In plants such as tomatoes, flowering (and therefore yield) is controlled by a delicate balance between the florigen protein, which promotes flowering, and another related protein, that delays flowering. A mutation in only one copy of the florigen gene causes the hybrid to produce more flowers in less time – the key to improved yield.

 

“It’s the Goldilocks concept,” explains Lippman. “What we find is that to maximize yield, you can’t have too much or too little florigen. A mutation in one copy of the gene results in the exact dose of florigen required to cause heterosis.”

 

The scientists have observed the gene’s heterosis effect in different varieties of tomatoes and in plants grown in different climate and soil conditions, both in Israel and locally in New York at CSHL and the Cornell Horticultural Experiment Station at Riverhead, NY.

 

In addition to superior yield, the hybrids also display another, perhaps equally important quality – taste. Tomato plants only produce a finite amount of sugar, which they distribute equally among their fruits. So higher yields usually result in each fruit having less sugar. But, remarkably, the florigen gene also boosted the sugar and sweetness of individual fruits.

 

The researchers are already planning to explore if genes related to florigen in other crops can cause heterosis and improve yield. The concept that a mutation in only one copy of a single gene can improve yield has broad implications for plant breeding. “Mutant plants are usually thrown away because of the notion that mutations would have negative effects on growth,” says Lippman. “Our results indicate that breeding with hybrid mutations could prove to be a powerful new way to increase yields, not only in tomato, but all crops.”

 

The research was funded by grants from the National Science Foundation, the Israel Science Foundation and EU-SOL.

 

“The flowering gene SINGLE FLOWER TRUSS drives heterosis for yield in tomato” is scheduled to appear in Nature Genetics online on March 28th. The full citation is: Uri Krieger, Zachary B. Lippman and Dani Zamir. The paper can be found at http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/ng.550.html

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=14476&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.38  Searching for genes behind a trait

 

Los Angeles, California, USA

24 March 2010

A method pioneered to find the genetic basis of human diseases also holds promise for locating the genes behind important traits in plants, according to a study published online today by the journal Nature.

 

A large team led by University of Southern California (USC) biologists carried out what one author called “the first extensive use” of genome-wide association (GWA) in a plant species. The study located dozens of genes that may determine key traits such as flowering time and disease resistance.

 

The study broke new ground for two reasons: the authors studied natural variation of 107 different traits - a far higher number than in previous studies - in nearly 200 strains of a common weed collected from all over the world; and advances in genetic analysis enabled the authors to check the genome for mutations at many more points.

 

“The useful applications to agriculture, biofuel production and potentially changing and challenging plant growth conditions are vast,” said Susanna Atwell, a co-first author and postdoctoral researcher at USC College.

 

“This data set and methodology holds the potential to determine genes involved in natural variation in metabolite levels, biomass, flowering time, salt or heavy metal tolerance and disease resistance, to name but a few.”

 

In this study, the authors compared the genomes of up to 192 families of Arabidopsis thaliana, a plant widely studied by geneticists. The comparison took place at 250,000 pre-selected locations in the genome.

 

The comparison allowed the authors to identify parts of the genome that may contain genes responsible for observed variations in a given trait such as flowering time.

 

Since the comparison does not guarantee that a gene causes a particular trait, any genes identified through genome-wide association need to be tested further. Team members now are studying about 60 previously unknown genes to confirm their predicted function.

 

“GWA mapping is a faster method for locating causal genes as the genes are located to a smaller region than previous mapping techniques I have used,” Atwell said. “Our data set does a good job of locating previously known ones, so we have confidence that the novel genes that are also identified will also be real.”

 

Atwell expects the study to become a major resource for the community of geneticists working on A. thaliana, which numbers about 5,000 laboratories worldwide.

 

The Nature study culminates years of work by scientists led by senior author Magnus Nordborg (photo), on leave from the molecular and computational biology department at USC College and now based at the Gregor Mendel Institute in Vienna, Austria.

 

“It’s been Magnus’ pet project for a very long time,” Atwell said.

 

Atwell’s co-first authors were her fellow postdoc Glenda Williams and USC graduate students Yu Huang and Bjarni Vilhjalmsson.

 

More than 30 other scientists contributed to the study, representing 10 institutions: the Keck School of Medicine of USC; the University of Chicago; Purdue University; the University of Sciences and Technologies in Lille, France; the Howard Hughes Medical Institute; The Salk Institute for Biological Studies; the John Innes Centre in Norwich, England; the Max Planck Institute in Cologne, Germany; Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich; and the Max Planck Institute in Tubingen, Germany.

 

The National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health supported the research, with additional support from several institutions, agencies and foundations.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=14392&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.39  Researchers develop model to predict pollen-mediated gene flow in rice

 

5 March 2010

Researchers at the Fuidan University in China and University of Leiden in the Netherlands have developed a model that can effectively predict pollen-mediated gene flow (PMGF) in rice. Such model can play an essential role for assessing and managing risks from transgene escape.

Jun Rong and colleagues constructed the model based on the pollen dispersal pattern in rice, taking outcrossing rates of recipients and cross-compatibility between rice and its wild relatives into consideration. The researchers used published rice gene flow data to evaluate their model. Model simulation showed that:

  • Pollen density decreased in a simple exponential pattern with distances to the rice field.
  • High relative humidity reduced pollen dispersal distances.
  • PMGF frequency increases with the increase of pollen source size (the area of a rice field), but this effect levelled off with a large pollen-source size.

The researchers said that the model can predict PMGF in rice, as well as other wind-pollinated plant species like barley and wheat, under diverse conditions therefore facilitating the determination of isolation distances to minimize transgene escape.

Download the article published by Plant Biotechnology Journal at http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-7652.2009.00488.x  

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.40  Sequencing representative and diverse sunflower cultivars for SNP marker identification.

 

U.S. National Sunflower Association funds sequencing of representative and diverse sunflower cultivars for single nucleotide polymorphism marker identification

 

USA

8 March 2010

The U.S. National Sunflower Association (NSA) board of directors recently authorized spending up to $100,000 to sequence representative and diverse sunflower cultivars for SNP marker identification.

 

Single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) is increasingly becoming the genetic marker system of choice.

 

DNA markers have been used extensively for genetic analyses. SNPs are a marker system that can differentiate individuals based on variations detected at the level of a single nucleotide base in the genome.

 

Such variations are present in large abundance in the genomes of higher organisms including plants.

 

The NSA funded sequenced cultivars will be in the public domain and available to public and private breeders

 

http://www.sunflowernsa.com

 

Source: Sunflower Highlights, newsletter from the U.S. National Sunflower Association (NSA) via SeedQuest.com

 

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1.41  Targeted sequencing in maize genome utilizing a novel two-stage sequence capture method

 

Madison, Wisconsin, USA

18 March 2010

Researchers from Iowa State University, University of Minnesota, University of Florida and Roche NimbleGen (SIX: RO, ROG; OTCQX: RHHBY) have published a novel method to perform targeted sequencing in the highly complex maize genome. The method, which can be easily adapted to other genomes including partially sequenced genomes, has the potential to revolutionize genetic studies in agriculturally important species with a goal of leading to more robust and safer crops.

 

Sequence capture technology, pioneered by Roche NimbleGen and its collaborators, has been widely adopted in human disease studies. Historically, a required component of the capture process is blocking DNA, which prevents the repeats in the genome from inhibiting the capture process. Blocking DNA is a species-specific reagent that can be technically difficult to produce for each species in large quantities at high-quality. To overcome this challenge, scientists developed a blocker-free, two-stage protocol where the first capture stage uses an array to deplete repetitive sequences while the second capture enriches for the specific target regions. The scientists were able to demonstrate several thousand-fold enrichment and high coverage of target regions in the maize genome with this two-stage protocol.

 

Due to the large, highly repetitive nature of the genomes of many agriculturally important crops, developing a technology for unraveling them and capturing only the portions of interest is of critical importance. This study shows the innovation and power of a combined solution using NimbleGen Sequence Capture arrays and the long read sequencing capabilities of the Genome Sequencer FLX System from 454 Life Sciences, a Roche Company. The long 400 base sequence reads allowed researchers to document both single base genetic variations and longer novel sequences that are not within the captured regions in the reference genome. This ability to capture unknown sequence, by association with its known neighboring sequence, is of critical importance in a genome like maize where ~15% of the genome displays extreme sequence variation.

 

“The availability of a flexible sequence capture platform for plant species will provide opportunities to address many biological questions, stated Nathan Springer, Associate Professor of Plant Biology at the University of Minnesota. “We can foresee re-sequencing of captured gene sets that are targeted towards discovery of allelic variation that may affect important agricultural traits. The ability to document novel allelic variation beyond SNPs will be critical in plant species with dynamic genomes.

 

According to Dr. Patrick Schnable, Baker Professor of Agronomy at Iowa State University, “Substantial public investments in crop genomics have simplified the process of identifying chromosomal regions and genes that regulate agriculturally important traits. NimbleGen Sequence Capture allows crop scientists to easily identify valuable natural genetic variation for these trait-determining loci (“allele mining”). As such, this technology is expected to speed the development of crops that will better withstand the environmental stresses associated with global climate change and that have other desirable characteristics.”

 

“Including its obvious uses in agricultural systems, this technology has immediate utility in other non-food crops like forest trees, biofuel grasses like sugarcane and miscanthus, and several non-model botanicals that are positioned to address interesting questions in genome architecture and gene/genome evolution. Many of these genomes are extremely large even when compared to maize, and the majority of the extra sequence is composed of repetitive DNA. Having the ability to perform targeted next generation sequencing of gene families, groups of genes, or defined regions of a reference genome, will enable discovery of the variation in genes underlying traits that are important for the forest and biofuel industries,” said Brad Barbazuk, Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of Florida.

 

For more information on NimbleGen Sequence Capture arrays, visit www.nimblegen.com

 

For more information on 454 Sequencing Systems, visit www.454.com.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=14289&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.42  Cracking the plant-cell membrane code to engineer more productive crops

 

Palo Alto, California, USA

22 March 2010

To engineer better, more productive crops and develop new drugs to combat disease, scientists look at how the sensor-laden membranes surrounding cells control nutrient and water uptake, secrete toxins, and interact with the environment and neighboring cells to affect growth and development. Remarkably little is known about how proteins interact with these protective structures. With National Science Foundation funding, researchers at the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Plant Biology are using the first high-throughput screen for any multicellular organism to pinpoint these interactions using the experimental plant Arabidopsis. They have analyzed some 3.4 million potential protein/membrane interactions and have found 65,000 unique relationships. They made the preliminary data available today to the biological community by way of the Website www.associomics.org/search.php. Since proteins are similar in all organisms, the work is relevant to fields from farming to medicine.

 

PRFrommerMembraneProtienInterPixLrgForWeb “This is just the beginning,” remarked Wolf Frommer director of Carnegie’s Department of Plant Biology. “Arabidopsis shares many of its genes with other organisms including humans. As the library of interacting proteins grows, scientists around the world will be able to study the details of protein interactions to understand how they are affected by forces such as climate change and disease and how they can be harnessed to produce better crops and medicines more effectively.”

 

All of a cell’s internal machinery relies on the binding of proteins. Complementary shaped proteins dock with one another to start processes, such as turning on a gene or letting in the proper nutrient. These membrane proteins make up some 20-30% of the proteins in Arabidopsis, a relative of the mustard plant.

 

The team uses a screen called the mating-based protein complementation assay, or split ubiquitin system. Ubiquitin is a small protein. The scientists fuse candidate proteins onto a version of ubiquitin that is split in half. When the two candidates interact, the two halves of the ubiquitin reassemble, triggering a process that liberates a transcription factor—a protein that switches a gene on—which then goes to the nucleus. When genes are turned on in the nucleus, the researchers are alerted to the successful interaction. The ultimate goal is to test the 36 million potential interactions as well as the sensitivity of the interactions to small molecules with a high-throughput robotics system.The group plans to start a second round of screening at the end of this month to test another 3.4 million interactions. This work was made possible by grants from NSF 2010 : Towards a comprehensive Arabidopsis protein interactome map: Systems biology of the membrane proteins and signalosomes (grant MCB-0618402) in addition to support from Carnegie. Other participants on the 2010 project include UCSD, Penn State and the University of Maryland. The group previously donated 2010 clones to the Arabidopsis Biological Resource Center (ABRC is at Ohio State University), and more recently another 1010 for other scientists to use to help advance fields from medicine to farming.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=14365&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.43  Antagonistic genes control rice growth

 

Researchers at the Carnegie Institution in the U.S., with colleagues from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, have found that a plant steroid prompts two genes to battle each other: one suppresses the other to ensure that leaves grow normally in rice and Arabidopsis. The results, published in the current issue of The Plant Cell, have important implications for understanding how to manipulate crop growth and yield. Zhi-Yong Wang and colleagues studied how brassinosteroids (BRs) promote leaf bending in rice and Arabidopsis. BRs affect two genes encoding transcription factors, proteins that turn other genes on or off.

 

The scientists found that in rice, activation of a gene called Increased Leaf Inclination1 (ILI1) causes leaf bending. Interestingly, the researchers found that the ILI1 protein also binds to another transcription factor, called IBH1, and inhibits its function. When there is too much ILI1 protein, the leaves bend excessively making the plant shaggy. When IBH1 level is high, cell growth is stopped at the joint and the rice is very erect, taking up less space. In normal rice plants the balance between ILI1 and IBH1 keeps growth in check.

 

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

 

The original story is available at

http://www.ciw.edu/news/antagonistic_genes_control_rice_growth Download the paper published by the Plant Cell at http://dx.doi.org/10.1105/tpc.109.07 0441

 

Source: Crop Biotech Update 18 December 2009:

 

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.44  Researchers discover plant "thermometer" gene

 

Plants are extremely sensitive to temperature changes in their environment. They can even detect changes of as little as one degree Celsius. Just how they do so has puzzled scientists until now. New research has uncovered a "thermometer gene" that not only helps plants feel the temperature rise, but also coordinates an appropriate response.

 

Vinod Kumar and Phil Wigge at the John Innes Centre, reporting in the journal Cell, pinpointed the master regulator of the entire temperature transcriptome. Using the model plant Arabidopsis, the researchers showed that the key ingredient for plants' temperature sensing ability is a specialized histone protein, dubbed H2A.Z, that wraps DNA into a more tightly packed structure known as a nucleosome. H2A.Z binds the plant's DNA tightly at lower temperatures, thus preventing genes to be expressed. It loses its grip and drop off the DNA as temperature rises.

 

The findings may help to explain how plants will respond in the face of climate change and might help scientists develop weatherproof crops. "We'd like to engineer a plant where we can control the histones in particular tissues such that it is selectively 'blind' to different temperatures," Wigge said. "Obviously you can't make a completely temperature-proof plant, but there is a lot of scope to develop crops that are more resilient to the high temperatures we are increasingly going to experience."

 

The paper published by Cell is available at

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2009.11.006 Read

http://www.jic.ac.uk/corporate/media-and-public/current-releases/1001!

07WiggeTemperature.htm for more information.

 

Source: Crop Biotech Update 9 January 2010:

 

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

mes25@cornell.edu

 

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3.  WEB RESOURCES

 

3.01  NIAB launches online barley ID programme

 

United Kingdom

12 March 2010

Ensuring a load of barley is the correct variety will be faster and easier with the launch of a new interactive web-based identification programme.

 

‘Barley-id’ has been developed by NIAB and is available as a subscription service to anyone involved in the transport, trading, marketing and processing of barley where varietal identity is essential. It will also be used as a training tool in NIAB’s grain ID workshops and courses.

 

NIAB technical manager and programme developer Tony Chapman (photo) explains‘Barley-id’ will underpin a user’s own skills and knowledge. “Staff in labs and grain stores currently rely on a paper-based detailed identification process across four or five different sheets of paper, with variable skill levels in recognising the grain characters that identify a variety.”

 

‘Barley-id’currently covers 54 spring and winter barley varieties, including everything on the HGCA Recommended List, and some National List and Common Catalogue varieties. The programme will be updated as soon as new varieties come onto the market.

 

“With all the traits available on one screen ‘Barley-id’ allows the user to simply select the most obvious recognisable traits, narrowing down the variety search at each step. Multiple selections within a character can be made so the process is quick,” says Mr Chapman.

 

Nicky Lockey, QA Manager at Frontier Agriculture believes the user-friendly ‘Barley-id’ is a much needed tool for the industry. “At last the job of identifying unknown varieties, or confirming characteristics of named varieties, will be so much easier. Second only to having the variety name stamped on each grain, ‘Barley-id’ is the next best thing for helping anyone with the task of making decisions on whether to accept a certain parcel of barley.”

 

 http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=14152&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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3.02  Australian OGTR launches online survey on "ethical principles in gene technology"

 

Australia

March 2010

An on-line survey is being carried out by ORIMA Research Pty Ltd on behalf of the Gene Technology Ethics & Community Consultative Committee (GTECCC). GTECCC are currently reviewing the National Framework for the Development of Ethical Principles in Gene Technology (the Framework) and the survey enables stakeholders and interested members of the public to provide valuable input towards the review.

 

Specific organisations have been invited directly to participate in the survey, but the survey can be undertaken by anyone who is interested – the link below will take you directly to the survey website.

https://www.orima.com.au/ogtr/general/registration.php

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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3.03  CIP Publishes online database for potato and sweetpotato

 

A new online database for potato and sweetpotato has just been published by the International Potato Center (CIP). The database, among the first of its kind to apply a scheme originally used for housing genomics data to a genebank collection, is searchable for more than 90 attributes related to the germplasm held in Center's extensive collections. It contains passport data, such as the origin and availability of germplasm, characterization data, molecular marker data (SSR), and the entire list of worldwide distributions of CIP held germplasm.

 

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

 

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

http://www.cipotato.org/research/genebank/search For more information, visit

https://research.cip.cgiar.org/confluence/display/cpx/Germplasm+Passport+and+Evaluation+Data+Search

 

Source: Crop Biotech Update 18 December 2009:

 

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

mes25@cornell.edu

 

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3.04  Google maps now on Australia's National Variety Trials website

 

Australia

30 March 2010

The National Variety Trials (NVT) website has been re-designed with a Google maps facility. Each trial site has been tagged and growers can now search for trial results by crop and location.

 

nvt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NVT, funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), generates independent information for growers about newly released crop varieties, including wheat, barley, canola and lupin.

 

The new capability allows users to zoom in and out, or drag the map to a new location to find the sites closest to their property and crops they’re interested in.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=14499&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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4.  GRANTS AVAILABLE

 

4.01 TWAS Fellowships: Call for applications open

 

Postgraduate, postdoctoral, visiting scholar and advanced research  fellowships available to scientists from developing countries.

 

TWAS, the academy of sciences for the developing world, is now accepting  applications for its postgraduate, postdoctoral, visiting scholars and advanced research fellowship programmes.

 

The fellowships are offered to scientists from developing countries and are tenable at centres of excellence in various countries in the South, including Brazil, China, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan and Thailand.

 

Eligible fields include: agricultural and biological sciences, medical and health sciences, chemistry, engineering, astronomy, space and earth sciences, mathematics and physics.

 

Please see www.twas.org <http://www.twas.org> > Programmes > Exchange for the latest information regarding all these programmes, including eligibility criteria, deadlines, etc, and to download the application forms.

 

Women scientists are especially encouraged to apply.

 

Contributed by Peter McGrath

TWAS programmes

 mcgrath@twas.org

 

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4.02  The new Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Requests for Applications have been posted

 

http://www.csrees.usda.gov/funding/rfas/afri_rfa.html

 

AFRI programs can also be reached from the “recently released” link on the NIFA Home page.

 

AFRI will solicit applications to its core grants program through seven separate RFAs.

 

Applicants are encouraged to review each RFA to explore all the opportunities available to them. 

Note:  for Plant breeding and related research: 

Plant Health and Production and Plant Products

Climate Change

Foundational Program

Global Food Security

Sustainable Bioenergy

 

Contributed by Ann Marie Thro

National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA), USDA

athro@nifa.usda.gov

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Requirements:

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

• Demonstrate an aptitude for research

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

• Successfully complete the Graduate Record Examination (GRE)

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

 

Application Procedure:

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

Additional items to be provided by the applicant are:

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

• Identification of the area of plant breeding research to be

pursued and its importance to the agricultural industry

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

 

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

 

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

 

Selection Procedure:

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

 

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

 

Additional Information:

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

 

Contributed by C. Wayne Smith

Professor and Associate Head

Department of Soil and Crop Sciences

Texas A&M University

cwsmith@tamu.edu

 

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5.  POSITION ANNOUNCEMENTS

 

5.01  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: www.ifs.se

 

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 NewDirector@ifs.se

 

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 (michael.stahl@ifs.se), Tel +46-(0)8 545 818 21 or +46-(0)70 508 18 21.

 

Please refer also to the IFS website: www.ifs.se

 

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6. MEETINGS, COURSES AND WORKSHOPS

 

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

 

(Various Dates) 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 http://pba.ucdavis.edu to apply to both the European PBA and PBA Class III or contact Joy Patterson at jpatterson@ucdavis.edu.

 

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Online Graduate Program in Seed Technology & Business

Iowa State University

http://click.icptrack.com/icp/relay.php?r=48323218&msgid=597705&act=BDP

 

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.

515-294-8745, seedgrad@iastate.edu

 

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(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, cdickinson2@unl.edu.

 

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.

Contact:

Cathy Dickinson

Admin. Associate

Department of Agronomy & Horticulture

University of Nebraska–Lincoln

279 Plant Sciences Hall

Lincoln, NE 68583

Voice: 402.472.1730

E-mail: cdickinson2@unl.edu

 

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

 

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 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.

http://www.generationcp.org/UserFiles2/File/News-items/Other/2009/Bioinformatics_IAMZ.pdf

 

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

http://www.cdic.wur.nl/UK/newsagenda/agenda/Contemporary_approaches_in_plant_genetic_resources_conservation_and_use.htm

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 http://www.gpgr2.com 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. http://www.iflrc-ecgl.org

 

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 (www.icrisat.org/ceg/cegregistration1.htm) and applicants can also view the course outline at (http://www.icrisat.org/CEG/cegregistration2.htm

 

For details contact: Rajeev Varshney, Leader- Centre of Excellence in Genomics and Principal Scientist (Applied Genomics), ICRISAT, Patancheru, Indial: r.k.varshney@cgiar.org

 

30 – 31 May 2010. BGRI 2010 Technical Workshop and

1 – 4 June 2010.  8th International Wheat Conference, St. Petersburg, Russia,

The deadline for registration is FEBRUARY 15th! 

Visit http://globalrust.org/traction/permalink/about19 to register online. 

 

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

http://www.corntechconf.org/index.asp

 

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)

http://www.bionet.nsc.ru/plant-gen2010/Index-Engl.html

 

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

I Congresso Brasileiro de Recursos Genéticos -

 

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 http://www.droughtadaptation.org/  for further program details and registration information.

 

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

 

Colorado State University professors John McKay and Patrick Byrne are hosting a Plant Breeding for Drought Tolerance Symposium June 24-25, 2010 in Fort Collins, Colorado.  The exciting lineup of speakers features a keynote address from internationally recognized scientist Richard Richards of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) in Canberra, Australia.  Other speakers include Renee Lafitte of Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Rachid Serraj of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and many more.  To learn more about the symposium or to register, visit http://www.droughtadaptation.org/Symposium

The early bird discount is only available until April 1, so be sure to register today!

 

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

 AgriGenomics World Congress

 

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

http://www.grapebreeding2010.com/ 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

angela.baldo@ars.usda.gov

 

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.

http://cuke.hort.ncsu.edu/gpb/meetings/pbccmeeting2010.html

 

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.

http://www.worldtap.msu.edu/home/page/70

 

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

http://www.comav.upv.es/capsicumeggplant/

 

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.

http://www.societabotanicaitaliana.it/detail.asp?idn=665&IDSezione=2

 

27 September – 1 October 2010. 5th World Cowpea Conference: Improving livelihoods in the cowpea value chain through advancement in science. Dakar, Senegal. http://cowpea2010.iita.org/

 

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).

http://www.cdi.wur.nl/NR/rdonlyres/9AA84E7C-5DA8-45E3-BCF8-C2D37F3B9058/98683/11_00_PGR_India_web.doc

 

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

http://www.ricecongress.com/

 

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; luisa@zebra.uem.mz) Eduardo Mondlane University, Faculty of Agronomy and Forest Engineering, P.O. Box  257, Maputo, Mozambique.

 

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7.  EDITOR'S NOTES

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

REVIEW PAST NEWSLETTERS ON THE WEB: Past issues of the Plant Breeding Newsletter are now available on the web. The address is: http://www.fao.org/WAICENT/FAOINFO/AGRICULT/AGP/AGPC/doc/services/pbn.html  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 chh23@cornell.edu.

 

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

 

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