30 April 2010


An Electronic Newsletter of Applied Plant Breeding


Clair H. Hershey, Editor


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


-To subscribe, see instructions here

-Archived issues available at: FAO Plant Breeding Newsletter



1.01  Historic dialogue at Global Agriculture Conference charts new path towards ending hunger and poverty

1.02  Breeding changes genes more than gene technology

1.03  New UC Davis study pinpoints the training needs for future plant breeders

1.04  Retirement of Dr. Ron Phillipps

1.05  Improved cowpea varieties hit Nigeria’s savanna region

1.06  Ghanaian farmers get quality protein, drought-tolerant, and Striga-resistant maize varieties to boost production

1.07  Improved climbing beans offer a lifeline to African farmers

1.08  Syria releases two new varieties of macaroni wheat

1.09  Two maize varieties compete to combat climate change impacts in Africa

1.10  Iowa State University Seed Science Center and University of Nairobi to establish African seed institute

1.11  University of Illinois joins with industry to develop plant breeders

1.12  American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) research develops tools for U.S. corn breeders

1.13  Rebranding of the Molecular Breeding Platform

1.14  DNA LandMarks and the Generation Challenge Programme collaborate to advance molecular breeding in developing countries

1.15  The role of molecular markers and marker assisted selection in breeding for organic agriculture

1.16  Patent rights and patent wrongs?

1.17  Review of enforcement of plant breeder’s rights in Australia

1.18  A search for regulators and a road map to deliver GM crops to third world farmers

1.19  Crop biodiversity going up, not down

1.20  Vegiversity: AVRDC’s contribution to vegetable biodiversity

1.21  Centre for Genetic Resources, The Netherlands (CGN) lettuce collection rationalized

1.22  Iowa State University's American Indian Plant Genetics Outreach honored by USDA-ARS

1.23  Multi-crop  genebank in Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, India launched

1.24  Cross-resistance between Mexican Rice Borer and Sugarcane Borer Studied

1.25  Kernels with a kick: Quality protein maize improves child nutrition

1.26  Photoperiod sensitivity in tropical maize up for a change

1.27  Australian Scientists Developing Powdery Mildew-Resistant Barley Varieties

1.28  Genetic key to dramatically raise yields and improve taste of hybrid tomato plants

1.29  Single gene dramatically boosts yield and sweetness in tomato hybrids

1.30  The breeding of new tomato varieties for a market segment with a short distribution chain

1.31  Drought can cut national rice production by 99%

1.32  Researchers study alternative soybean cyst nematode resistance genes

1.33  Identification of the mutation in the gene Clg1 responsible for cleistogamy in crucifers

1.34  Combination of two genes controlling the floral sexual phenotype of plants

1.35  Doubled haploid technology for quickly developing inbred corn lines offered at Iowa State University

1.36  Gene discovery may lead to new varieties of soybean plants

1.37  Plant pathogen genetically tailors attacks to each part of its host, say Stanford University researchers

1.38  ICIS Developers Workshop, March 2010

1.39  OECD-GenomeAssociation-OZ09



(None submitted)



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4.01  TWOWS Postgraduate Training Fellowship for Women Scientists 2010 Call for Applications

4.02  TWAS Fellowships: 2010 Call for Applications



5.01  Vacancy Announcement: Senior Policy Officer (Plant Genetic Resources), FAO

5.02  Vacancy Notice: Assistant Professor in Crop Science

5.03  Position announcement: Potato Breeder at the International Potato Center









1.01  Historic dialogue at Global Agriculture Conference charts new path towards ending hunger and poverty


31 March 2010

Montpellier, France

Failure to prioritize agriculture and rural development at the same level as other sectors like health and education has left many developing countries with gaps in capacity needed to meet the Millennium Development Goal of reducing hunger and poverty. It has also left them unprepared for coping with rapid climate change and a population explosion expected to occur by 2050, according to experts at the close of the first Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD).


Countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia—the two regions inhabited by roughly 95 percent of the world’s poor and the most malnourished—were identified as “battlegrounds” for the fight to cut hunger and poverty. Official Development Assistance (ODA) to agriculture has dropped significantly, falling from a peak of 17 percent in 1979, during the height of the Green Revolution, to a low of 3.5 percent in 2004. It also declined in absolute terms: from USD 8 billion in 1984 to USD 3.5 billion in 2005.


“Millions of people around the world are enduring lives of hardship and misery today. We are collectively and personally responsible for this tragedy,” said Dr. Monty Jones, 2004 World Food Prize Laureate and new head of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) during an emotional closing address. “I am personally ashamed.”


Jones acknowledged that there have been tremendous successes in agricultural research. “We should be very proud of that,” he said. “But we should have achieved far more than we have. However, I believe that we have begun the process to put the structures, activities, and programs in place here at GCARD that will enable us to end poverty in this world.”


The GCARD meeting brought together more than 1,000 researchers, policymakers, farmers, donors, and members of civil society from every region of the world to develop a new agricultural research for development (AR4D) architecture that is geared toward reducing both hunger and poverty. It is the first time all key players, from farmer to donor, have gathered to iron out an action plan for AR4D.


“The conference has enabled all constituents to have a voice, and those voices will be included in the future of agricultural research to help us face the problems we have,” said Adel El-Beltagy, outgoing chair of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research.


The “Montpellier Road Map” was presented at the close of the conference to provide a framework for linking science and innovation to the needs of farmers and the rural poor.


Addressing gender in agriculture, partnerships, and capacity building of national and regional programs were crosscutting themes throughout the conference. Women account for as much as 80 percent of Africa’s food production but they only receive five percent of agricultural extension training and 10 percent of rural credit. Only a quarter of agricultural researchers in Africa are women, and only 14 percent of the management positions in agricultural research and development are female.


“Investing in gender is non-negotiable,” said Mary Njenga, a Kenyan researcher. “It must be in all programs.” The participants discussed the need to determine how to empower women researchers and women farmers in order to influence policy and other interventions that affect them.


Civil society groups advocated for a strong role in the process. “Food providers must be at the center and in the governance of agricultural research at the international, regional and national levels,” said Dr. Assetou Kanoute, with the Association for Development of Production and Training Activities, Mali. “We cannot selectively involve farmers and NGOs in discussing thematic programs, while completely shutting them out of the discussion of governance of agricultural research.”


“The CGIAR came to GCARD to listen to our stakeholders to get the inputs from all concerned about the priorities we should have,” said Dr. Carlos Peréz del Castillo. “After three days of substantive discussions, our expectations have been fulfilled. We are going home with another set of insights that will help us further shape the strategic results framework and the mega programs.”


A draft Strategy and Results Framework (SRF) was presented at GCARD to elicit further feedback from stakeholders on eight thematic areas of research. The SRF guides the development of a results-oriented research agenda that will address major global challenges. These discussions and inputs will be used to inform the final version of the strategy and an initial set of mega programs adapted from the thematic areas. The hope is that three of the mega programs will be fast tracked and ready to function by the end of 2010.


The themes of the proposed key areas of research included: agricultural systems for the poor and vulnerable; enabling agricultural incomes for the poor; optimizing productivity of global food security crops; nutrition and health; water, soils and ecosystems; forests and trees; climate change and agriculture; and agricultural biodiversity.


In response to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research's (CGIAR) proposed thematic areas, participants suggested that there was a need for greater refinement of the breeding and agricultural systems for the vulnerable programs. Specifically, the CGIAR was asked to broaden its focus to include crops other than the major food staples of rice, maize, and wheat and for the agricultural systems program to be defined from regional to global as opposed to global to regional.


“There is a much greater need to focus research on poor farmers and vulnerable groups in the varied agricultural regions of the world,” said Peréz del Castillo. “The role of partnerships will be huge in order to achieve impact on the ground in poverty reduction and environmental sustainability.”


The conference participants endorsed the following characteristics for a more effective AR4D system, and as the baseline upon which to build and assess progress at the next GCARD in 2012.

1.      Adopts a problem-solving approach to priorities with a focus on selectivity, with regional and regional organizations as the foci;

2.      Focuses on researchable or proven technologies and/or their delivery to meet farmer constraints on technology adoption;

3.      Addresses constraints identified through regional consultations e.g., human resource development, incentives for scientists, accountability and effectiveness of multiple partnerships;

4.      Facilitates the rapid generation of innovations in support of the spread of knowledge and technologies to small holders and delivery of services to reach the poor;

5.      Promotes effective use of collective capacities, particularly networks, by strengthening key relationships among research, development (extension, seed suppliers, the banking sector) and farmer actors;

6.      Actively achieves increased investments in human, institutional and financial resources;

7.      Promotes coordinated operational linkages among donors and development partners, aimed at monitorable development impacts;

8.      Increases mutual and equal accountability among all stakeholders;

9.      Commits to action;

10. Achieves credible monitoring, evaluation and reporting on what has changed.

The stakeholders who should commit to this AR4D system were outlined as the following:

·         National policy makers of developing and developed countries;

·         All stakeholders at the local, national, sub-regional, regional and international levels engaged in and/or supporting agricultural research knowledge and information systems including the CGIAR, and advanced research, educational, and extension institutions;

·         Donors, foundations, intergovernmental agencies, including bilateral and multilateral institutions and development banks;

·         Private sector, including small, medium and large agricultural input companies, food companies, agricultural banks, insurers and the agribusiness sector;

·         Farmers organizations and CSOs/NGOs at all levels;

·         Representatives of the poor and women;

·         Stewards of the environment.


“The difference between this meeting and previous meetings is that we are committed and accountable to this road map, and it is going to guide our activities in the coming year,” said Jones.


“I feel that GCARD was successful in creating new ideas for how to move forward,” said Uma Lele, former Senior Adviser to the World Bank and lead author of the global report released at GCARD, Transforming Agricultural Research for Development. “But the proof will be in what we do between now and the next GCARD. We need for donors to make the contributions that I know they are capable of making.”


According to the report, meeting the backlog of underinvestment alone will require agricultural research investments in developing countries to increase to 1.5 percent of agricultural GDP, more than double or triple current investments in scientific and institutional capacity.


“We need action, action, action, and abolition, not alleviation, of poverty,” she said.

GCARD meetings, organized through the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR), will be held every two years. GCARD will replace the GFAR triennial conference and the annual general meetings of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). Agropolis International and the CGIAR partnered with GFAR to help organize GCARD 2010. For more information, please visit:




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1.02  Breeding changes genes more than gene technology



8 April 2010

Risks and opportunities of green gene technology – i.e. the application of gene-technological processes in the breeding of plants – is a subject of public debate. A large role is assumed in this debate by the fear that unintended modifications may occur and affect human health in a negative manner. In the context of a project supported by the German Ministry for Education and Research, Professor Uwe Sonnewald and his team in the biochemistry faculty at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg now have been able to demonstrate that plants face greater changes through conventional breeding than through gene technology.


The scientists in Erlangen assessed thereby data that were obtained through collaboration between the University of Giessen and the Washington State University (WSU) of the USA. The results now have been published in the latest issue of the American magazine, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences".


For the project, researchers at WSU developed genetically modified barley varieties that contained a foreign gene for either chitinase or ß-glucanase. The goals of this modification were, on the one hand, an improved resistance to fungus and, on the other hand, enhancement of the nutritional qualities of the barley. Subsequently, the influence of these modifications on useful soil organisms was assayed in field trials through the University of Giessen. Afterwards, researchers at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg assessed the extent to which the genetic modifications influenced the content and gene activity of the barley plants.


Important contribution to realistic assessment

Results showed that the activity of the genes and the composition of content varied greatly between two varieties: in the conventional barley varieties ‘Golden Promise’ and ‘Baronesse’ more than 1,600 genes were made active in a different way. The function of the majority of these genes is unknown. In contrast and under comparison with the non-GM initial lines, only a few genes in the genetically modified plants were influenced in their activity. Furthermore, the interplay with useful soil organisms remained uncurbed. This study delivers thereby an important contribution to the realistic assessment of the risks associated with green gene technology.




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1.03  New UC Davis study pinpoints the training needs for future plant breeders


13 April 2010

 DAVIS--Recent graduates from plant breeding programs need more than scientific know-how to support this increasingly important part of the agricultural industry. To be effective plant breeders, they should also be equipped with strong critical thinking and time management skills, and a well-founded work ethic.


This was the conclusion reached by researchers at UC Davis, who surveyed more than 200 experts in the field about the most important components of programs training students to be plant breeders. Experts from all over the world, at both universities and companies, participated in the study.


The experts recommended engaging students in a range of practical research and breeding experiences to build plant breeding skills, according to Cary Trexler, an associate professor in the UC Davis School of Education, who led the study. In addition, they emphasized the need for students to have experiences in communication, collaboration and teamwork. New plant breeders, the survey respondents said, would also benefit from familiarity with computers, ethics, statistics, policy and law.


Plant breeders play a critical role in the agricultural system. To keep up with projected population growth in the next 40 years, food production must double. At the same time, agricultural land is being converted to subdivisions and pesticide use is losing favor.


Plant breeders are scientists with the ability to tease out the best traits in plants -- either through conventional breeding or molecular science -- to develop varieties that fend off insects and diseases, tolerate drought and maintain or improve crop production while keeping food tasty and inexpensive.


Today, however, there are fewer universities training students to become plant breeders than there were in 1980. Companies are having trouble hiring new breeders and professors who teach plant breeding are not being replenished.


"This study provided an opportunity to those outside the plant-breeding education system to have an equal voice in helping to enhance the training content and experiences of future breeders," said Allen Van Deynze, director of research at the UC Davis Seed Biotechnology Center and co-founder of the UC Davis Plant Breeding Academy.


The compiled data will now help educators train high-quality breeders, while still working to retain the individual strength of each particular university. By bringing a wide range of opinions into the program development and curriculum design process, students can be better prepared for the future.


More information about this plant-breeding education study is available at



CONTACT: Jeannette Warnert, (559) 241-7514,


Media Contact: Michael Campbell, Seed Biotechnology Center,, 530-752-8073


The Seed Biotechnology Center was established at UC Davis in 1999 to mobilize the research, educational, and outreach resources of the university in partnership with the seed and biotechnology industries for agricultural and consumer benefit. The SBC works to connect the University with external stakeholders both nationally and internationally to support the fundamental role of seeds as a delivery system for improved agricultural products. To find out more about SBC, please visit


Contributed by Jamie Shattuck

Seed Biotechnology Center

University of California, Davis


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1.04  Retirement of Dr. Ron Phillipps


Prof. Ronald L. Phillips of University of Minnesota is retiring  after 42 years on the faculty of the Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics.  He has advised over 60 graduate theses and 23 postdoctoral scientists, and taught a course in plant genetics as a faculty member in the Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics for over  


Throughout his career, Dr. Phillips has coupled the techniques of plant genetics and molecular biology to enhance our understanding of basic biology of cereal crops and to improve these species by innovative methods. His research program at the University of Minnesota was one of the early programs in modern plant biotechnology related to agriculture.   


As Regents Professor and member of the National Academy of Sciences, he participated in addressing University-wide, national, and international issues.  He recently received the Medal for Science from the  University of Bologna, Italy, and will soon receive the University of Minnesota Siehl Prize.


A symposium in his honor has been scheduled at UMN on April 24 featuring several of Ron's graduate students and postdoctoral scientists talking about their recent research. The evening dinner will be a gala affair with music, fun and reminiscences. see


Contributed by C S. Prakash



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1.05  Improved cowpea varieties hit Nigeria’s savanna region


Ibadan, Nigeria

16 April 2010

Nigeria has released two new cowpea varieties to raise production and improve farmers’ incomes.


The varieties are coming just when the country’s researchers are finalizing their plans to attend the Fifth World Cowpea Research Conference to be held from 27 September to 1 October 2010 in Dakar, Senegal, to discuss the state of the art in cowpea research.


The varieties—IT89KD-288 and IT89KD-391—were developed by scientists working at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Ibadan, in collaboration with the Institute for Agricultural Research of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; the University of Maiduguri, Borno; and the Agricultural Development Programs of Borno, Kaduna, Kano, and Katsina States.


Both varieties have proven superiority over the current improved lines being cultivated and aim to overcome the challenges faced by cowpea farmers in the country.


For instance, IT89KD-288 (now SAMPEA-11) is a dual-purpose cowpea variety with large white seeds and a rough seed coat. It has combined resistance to major diseases including septoria leaf spot, scab, and bacterial blight, as well as to nematodes, and tolerance to Nigeria’s strain of Striga gesnerioides (a parasitic weed that severely lowers yield).


“It also has a yield advantage of at least 80% over the local varieties,” said Dr Alpha Kamara, IITA’s Agronomist, who is leading efforts to rapidly disseminate the varieties to farmers.


The nematode-resistant variety is an equally good candidate for sowing in cereals or as a relay crop with maize in the moist and dry savanna zones, as well as for high grain production in the dry season.


Scientists recommend that the variety be planted in mid July in the Sudan savanna, early to mid-August in the northern Guinea savanna, and by the end of August in the southern Guinea savanna. However, where there is certainty of rains up till the end of October, IT89KD-288 can be planted in September.


IT89KD-391 (now SAMPEA-12) is also a dual-purpose cowpea variety but it has medium-to-large brown seeds with a rough seed coat. These are preferred seed characteristics for commercial production in northeast Nigeria.


“IT89KD-391 is a welcome improvement over SAMPEA 7, Ife brown, IT90K-76, and IT90K-82-2 which are the main improved brown-seeded varieties available. It has been tested extensively in this area and is well accepted by the farmers,” said Dr Hakeem Ajeigbe, IITA Extension/Dissemination Specialist.


“The variety performs well as a sole crop and an intercrop. It could also be planted as a relay crop with maize in the Guinea savannas,” he added.


Several on-station and on-farm trials have shown that IT89KD-391 (SAMPEA 12) produces double the yields of local cultivars.


It will be recalled that in 2008, Nigeria released a Striga-resistant improved cowpea variety (IT97K-499-35).


Currently, efforts are being made through the project on legumes funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to make available seeds of these improved varieties by setting up community-based seed production schemes.


Dr Kamara said, “The demand for these improved varieties is high because of their superior yields and their acceptability by consumers.”




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1.06  Ghanaian farmers get quality protein, drought-tolerant, and Striga-resistant maize varieties to boost production


1 April 2010

Ibadan, Nigeria

Ghana has released four Quality Protein Maize (QPM) varieties tolerant of drought and resistant to Striga hermontica (a parasitic weed that reduces maize yield) to farmers to boost maize production in the drought-prone and Striga endemic areas of the country.


The varieties, which are early and extra-early maturing, were released by the Ghanaian Crops Research Institute (CRI) in collaboration with the Savanna Agricultural Research Institute (SARI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) of Ghana.


Of the four varieties, three were developed by IITA in the Earlies Program and have the IITA designation, EV DT-W 99 STR QPM Co; TZE-W Pop STR QPM C0; and TZEE-W Pop STR QPM C0 ( an extra-early maturing variety).


The fourth, an intermediate maturing drought-tolerant QPM hybrid, was developed in the National Maize Program of Ghana.


The IITA varieties were developed through the funding support of the Nippon Foundation QPM Project during the period 2003-2006 and were extensively tested in on-station and on-farm trials in Ghana by the SARI and the CRI between 2008 and 2009 through the funding support of the Drought-Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA Project).


Besides resistance to Striga and tolerance to drought, the varieties also have high levels of lysine and tryptophan.


“With the release of these varieties, farmers in Ghana now have options not only in terms of maturity, grain color and type but also varieties which can tolerate the two major stresses which prevent increased maize production and productivity in the sub-region,” says Dr. Baffour Badu-Apraku, IITA Maize Breeder.


Endemic to the savanna agroecological zone of West Africa, Striga has become an important constraint to maize production, accounting for yield losses of between 20 and 80% in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), and affecting the welfare and livelihood of over 100 million people.


Also, unpredictable bouts of rainfall in SSA because of climate change are equally reducing productivity gains.


Dr. Robert Asuboah of the Grains and Legumes Development Board of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture in Ghana says farmers are eager to get the new varieties.


“We are excited because the varieties are ‘insurance’ crops. We are now experiencing droughts even during rainy seasons so the varieties will enable farmers to harvest more and make more money,” he says




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1.07  Improved climbing beans offer a lifeline to African farmers   


Farmers in Rwanda will soon benefit from new climbing bean varieties that promise significantly higher yields, and which could challenge the dominance of bush beans in the country.


Extensive trials by CIAT and the Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA) have shown that the new varieties can quadruple the yields compared to the more commonly-grown bush beans. The varieties grow in poor soils and are well-suited to warmer, mid-altitude regions. The different varieties of improved ‘climbers’ are also less vulnerable to certain diseases, including root rot, ascochyta blight, and bean common mosaic virus.


Source: CIAT E-Newsletter, April 2010:


Contributed by Margaret Smith

Dept. of Plant Breeding and Genetics

Cornell University


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1.08  Syria releases two new varieties of macaroni wheat


Durum is known for having the hardest wheat grain texture due to its high protein content and gluten potency. It is also called macaroni wheat because most premium pasta products in the market are made of durum. Recently, Syria's Ministry of Agriculture, together with General Commission for Scientific Agricultural Research (GCSAR), Arab Center for Studies in Arid Zones and Dry Lands (ACSAD) and ICARDA, developed a new durum wheat variety called Douma3. This particular variety is appropriate for rainfed farming in dry lands. It has been tested in four provinces of Syria and results showed that compared to control varieties, Douma3 has improved grain quality, higher yield (10-16 percent), and stronger disease resistance.


Another durum wheat variety called Cham9 was released early this year. Just like Douma3, Cham9 also produced higher yields (11-12 percent) than the control. It also exhibited favorable physical characteristics and increased levels of pest! resistance, particularly to Ug99 strain of stem rust disease. Currently, it is being planted by farmers in four different provinces of Syria. It is also projected to spread in the dry lands of Dara'a and Idleb soon.


Read the original news article at


Source: Crop Biotech Update 16 April 2010:


Contributed by Margaret Smith

Dept. of Plant Breeding and Genetics

Cornell University


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1.09  Two maize varieties compete to combat climate change impacts in Africa


Two new varieties of maize are grown in sub-Saharan Africa which provide hope for 300 million mouths to be fed in the whole continent. Both varieties are drought-tolerant but one is conventionally-bred, while the other better-yielding variety is genetically-engineered. The transgene of this variety came from a common bacterium, Bacillus subtilis, which is found in dirt. B. subtilis and maize have common genes for CspB protein, which aid the organisms to adapt to stress. The transgenic variety is currently undergoing biosafety regulations before it goes out of the market seven years from now.


Sylvester Oikeh, the project manager of Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA), is alarmed by the negative impacts of climate change in Africa. Rising temperature, drought, and increased salinity of water are just some of the likely effects of climate change on agriculture. The transgenic maize, which was developed by Monsanto, is expected to increase the yield by 30 percent amidst all the stress brought by climate change.


Visit  for the original article.


Source: Crop Biotech Update 16 April 2010:


Contributed by Margaret Smith

Dept. of Plant Breeding and Genetics

Cornell University


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1.10  Iowa State University Seed Science Center and University of Nairobi to establish African seed institute


Ames, Iowa, USA

20 April 2010


Iowa State University seed scientists are working with the University of Nairobi and other groups to increase food security and reduce poverty in sub-Saharan Africa with help from a new grant from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).


Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, AGRA works to help millions of small-scale farmers and their families across the African continent lift themselves out of poverty and hunger.


Through AGRA’s $4.49 million grant over three years, ISU’s Seed Science Center, the University of Nairobi (UoN), the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center and private business experts are establishing a Seed Enterprise Management Institute at the College of Agriculture and Veterinary Sciences in Kabete, Kenya.


The institute’s goal is to eradicate food insecurity through capacity building in sub-Saharan Africa, where seed supply chains are lacking or inadequate. The institute will also provide seed training to graduate students who pursue plant breeding in African universities, support the production of improved seed varieties and create a web-based network for information exchange on seed technology.


“The idea for the seed institute started when AGRA President Dr. Namanga Ngongi and ISU President Geoffroy committed to collaborate on seed issues in Africa during the dedication ceremony of our center’s expansion,” said Manjit Misra, seed science center director.


“Today that idea has come to fruition. By working together to create this outstanding facility, and by combining our resources to educate and train professionals in the seed industry in Africa, we will build an infrastructure based on excellence. This effort will, no doubt, culminate in tremendous progress towards the advancement of the sustainability of farmers on the continent,” he said.


Faculty and staff of ISU’s Seed Science Center will provide the guidance and assistance for the physical design and construction of the institute including the seed conditioning, storage and drying facilities; training facilities; and a seed laboratory.


ISU and the UoN will work together to create and facilitate learning modules and specialized workshops on seed testing, seed conditioning and storage, information management, quality assurance and seed policies and regulations -- particularly geared towards seed business,” said Joe Cortes, leader of the Global Seed Program.


AGRA and Iowa State University both have the commitment and the understanding to improve the livelihoods of African farmers,” said David Lambert, distinguished fellow at Iowa State University. “We must begin with access to high quality seed.”




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1.11  University of Illinois joins with industry to develop plant breeders


1 April 2010

Urbana, Illinois, USA

Despite high unemployment rates, the need for plant breeders is increasing. The University of Illinois Plant Breeding Center (IPBC) is expanding opportunities for students to meet this need.


Rita Mumm, director of the Illinois Plant Breeding Center, estimates that U.S. institutions educating master's degree and Ph.D. plant breeders are meeting less than two-thirds of the industry's demand.


"The seed industry is experiencing strong, steady growth, and half of its work force are baby boomers who will retire in 10 to 15 years," Mumm said.


"Our estimates show that more than 1,430 new graduates holding a master's degree or Ph.D. in plant breeding will be needed by 2020. We want to substantially increase the number of master's and Ph.D. students in crop improvement and prepare them to be highly productive in their future career."


U of I's history of success in plant breeding sets the bar high for their program. Mumm said they need students with a strong aptitude for math and science.


"Unfortunately some people have the misconception that agriculture is low-tech," she said. "The traditional image of plant breeding is very field-focused. In reality, we are also using molecular discoveries, bioinformatics and DNA analysis to make crop improvement more efficient. We are shaping breeding strategies that will result in more and better food for the planet."


IPBC is an intellectual community that includes 29 professors in various crop and disciplinary areas. Most students are awarded assistantships or fellowships to do their own thesis research. IPBC offers 21 merit-based fellowships sponsored by industry and private donors.


Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont business, provides fellowships because they view the U of I as a leading university in plant improvement graduate programs.


"We are seeing unprecedented demand for agricultural products and Pioneer is expanding its business to meet this demand," said Brian Bowman, Pioneer Global Talent Acquisition Manager. "Research to bring new products to the market is a critical part of that growth. In 2009, we filled more than 700 research positions globally, and expect our workforce to grow to keep pace with demand."


Mumm said it's encouraging to see a "rallying of the seed industry" to support the next generation of plant breeders.


Donn Cummings, global breeder sourcing lead for Monsanto, said they provide fellowships to invest in top talent and create a pipeline of potential employees.


"The breadth of education and experiences demanded by hiring managers for new plant breeders is mind-boggling," Cummings said. "U of I's historical excellence in this area, cutting-edge tools and techniques, outstanding faculty, and cross-functional opportunities all contribute to successful graduates."


It's apparent the IPBC is working. In less than two years, their graduate program has grown nearly 90 percent.


"Crop production has more risk than ever as we look to a future population of 9 billion and a world where global change is occurring, water tables are falling, and no more land is coming into production," Mumm said. "We need students who can continue finding ways to grow plants that can yield more and handle greater stresses."




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1.12  American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) research develops tools for U.S. corn breeders


2 April 2010

Alexandria, Virginia, USA

Recently published American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) research helps provide the corn breeding community with practical guidelines to help determine if a variety is essentially derived and aids in resolving concerns relating to this issue.


The concept of an essentially derived variety (EDV) was introduced by the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) in their 1991 revisions, but didn't include definitive parameters; thus these revisions have been subject to interpretation.


An EDV is a variety that retains the essential characteristics of and is predominantly derived from an existing parental variety which has a Plant Variety Protection Act certificate. In simple terms, an EDV is a variety that is deemed to be genetically very close to an existing parental variety which is protected.


It is a violation of plant variety protection laws to copy or plagiarize protected varieties, but the laws do not prevent others from breeding with those varieties.


ASTA has taken a proactive approach to provide a practical understanding and bring clarity to what might qualify as an EDV in corn, said Stephen Smith, a co-author of the study and research fellow at Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont business. The published information provides a genetically based measurement tool to help make that determination.


ASTA's proactive research resulted in the identification of 285 publicly available simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers which can be used for variety identification and to help determine whether a corn variety may be an essential derivation.


"The markers act like a genetic fingerprint," said Ron Ferriss, a co-author of the study who heads product clearance and license compliance at Syngenta Seeds. "To use this tool, one would essentially fingerprint the two inbred lines with this marker set and then compare fingerprints to measure the similarity of the two varieties."


The research, "North American Study on Essential Derivation in Maize: II. Selection and Evaluation of a Panel of Simple Sequence Repeat Loci," is published in the March-April 2010 edition of Crop Science and is available at The table of markers with isozyme and SSR profiles of the publicly available inbreds that were used in the study are available on ASTA's Web site at


"This research is important because it reinforces the understanding that plant breeders can protect the products in which they have invested their time, resources and research efforts," said Bernice Slutsky, ASTA vice president of international programs. "Guidelines for helping determine what constitutes an EDV create an awareness of plant variety protection laws and improve the research environment. This improved environment encourages breeders to generate new, more productive varieties, while contributing to improved stewardship of the corn genetic resource base."


Few would be willing to invest in breeding efforts if ownership of a variety could be lost to others who made only small cosmetic changes to the initial parental variety and then marketed the product as theirs. The introduction of the EDV concept into Plant Variety Protection laws is designed to prevent such occurrences.


It is not often that disputes occur, but when they do these tools should enable parties to more easily determine what constitutes an EDV in corn and help resolve the issue in a timely manner.


The eight-member team of researchers who worked on this project are members of the Corn Variety Identification Subcommittee within ASTA.


For questions and additional information about the research, contact Bernice Slutsky at 703-837-8140 or


Source: ASTA Seed E-News


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1.13  Rebranding of the Molecular Breeding Platform


The Generation Challenge Program (GCP) is pleased to announce that, as a result of group discussions held during the launch workshop of GCP’s Molecular Breeding Platform in Hyderabad, India in February 2010, the project is renamed as:  “Integrated Breeding Platform” (IBP), effective 13th April 2010.   The new name aims to accurately present the all-encompassing nature of the project, contrary to the image conveyed by its former name “Molecular Breeding Platform” (MBP): the IBP is not exclusively for molecular breeding.  


As per the traditional GCP style, the decision making for re-naming the platform is a result of a truly collaborative and consultative process, initiated among participants at the February meeting.  For further information please visit the link:


GCP sincerely thanks all the IBP collaborators for their extremely valuable input in this preliminary step for the project branding, the first of several goals in the project’s public awareness strategy.


Read more on project at the Integrated Breeding Platform website


Graham McLaren

Bioinformatics and Crop Information Systems

Generation Challenge Program


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1.14  DNA LandMarks and the Generation Challenge Programme collaborate to advance molecular breeding in developing countries


12 April 2010

DNA LandMarks announced today that it has signed an agreement to collaborate with the Generation Challenge Programme (GCP) of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). GCP strives to provide farmers in the developing world access to the same advances in molecular biology available in industrialized countries. Its focus includes marker-assisted breeding technologies which enables breeders to greatly improve crop production.


DNA LandMarks is a world leader in agricultural genomics and is pleased to collaborate on this exciting Programme. “Marker-assisted breeding has become a key success factor in breeding programs throughout the industrialized world.” commented DNA LandMarks CEO Karin Becker, “We believe providing access to this technology for crops in developing nations is extremely important as genetic improvement of key agricultural crops is critical in these regions.”


“We conducted a global search of leading DNA marker technology laboratories for GCP,” said Humberto Gomez, GCP’s Marker Services Manager. “DNA LandMarks demonstrated exceptional skill and depth of knowledge as well as a strong willingness to collaborate with us. We believe this relationship will help advance plant breeding in the areas of the world that require it most.”


The agreement covers a wide variety of species that are agronomically important in the developing world. Breeders from these countries will be able to submit samples directly to DNA LandMarks for genetic analysis and selection of traits that will rapidly speed up crop improvement and performance.


Since its foundation in 1995, DNA LandMarks Inc. has been a world leader in DNA marker development and applications. Today the company offers a full array of marker technologies to the agricultural sector from development to mapping to high-throughput application. DNA LandMarks is a unit of BASF Plant Science and its Centre of Excellence for DNA sequencing and genotyping. For more information please contact: Charles Pick, Business Development Manager –


BASF Plant Science – a BASF group company - is one of the world’s leading companies providing innovative plant biotechnology solutions for agriculture. Today, about 700 employees are helping farmers meet the growing demand for improved agricultural productivity and healthier nutrition for humans and animals. BASF Plant Science has developed an unparalleled gene discovery platform focusing on yield and quality traits in crops such as corn, soybean and rice. Jointly with leading partners in the seed industry BASF Plant Science is commercializing its products. Current projects include higher yielding row crops, nutritionally-enhanced corn for animal feed or higher content of Omega-3’s in oil crops for preventing cardiovascular diseases. To find out more about BASF Plant Science, please visit


BASF is the world’s leading chemical company: The Chemical Company. BASF has approximately 97,000 employees and posted sales of €63.2 billion in 2008.


Created by the CGIAR in 2003 as a timebound 10-year Programme, GCP’s goal is to add value to crop breeding, targeting farmers in drought-prone and harsh environments. Through capacity-building and by assisting developing world researchers to tap into a broader and richer pool of plant genetic diversity, GCP strives to ensure that crops improved by cutting-edge science will reach farmers in the developing world. GCP’s mission is to use plant genetic diversity, advanced genomic science and comparative biology to develop tools and technologies that will support plant breeders in the developing world in their efforts to produce better crop varieties.


GCP links basic science with applied research through a broad network of plant scientists from diverse backgrounds, working in international agricultural research at CGIAR Centres, in academia and in regional and country research programmes. The network generates knowledge, explores new allelic diversity and develops practical tools such as molecular markers for desirable traits to increase the efficiency of plant breeding in developing countries.




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1.15  The role of molecular markers and marker assisted selection in breeding for organic agriculture



E. T. Lammerts van Bueren, G. Backes, H. de Vriend and H. Østergård

Received: 16 October 2009  Accepted: 12 April 2010  Published online: 24 April 2010



Plant geneticists consider molecular marker assisted selection a useful additional tool in plant breeding programs to make selection more efficient. Standards for organic agriculture do not exclude the use of molecular markers as such, however for the organic sector the appropriateness of molecular markers is not self-evident and is often debated. Organic and low-input farming conditions require breeding for robust and flexible varieties, which may be hampered by too much focus on the molecular level. Pros and contras for application of molecular markers in breeding for organic agriculture was the topic of a recent European plant breeding workshop. The participants evaluated strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of the use of molecular markers and we formalized their inputs into breeder’s perspectives and perspectives seen from the organic sector’s standpoint. Clear strengths were identified, e.g. better knowledge about gene pool of breeding material, more efficient introgression of new resistance genes from wild relatives and testing pyramided genes. There were also common concerns among breeders aiming at breeding for organic and/or conventional agriculture, such as the increasing competition and cost investments to get access to marker technology, and the need for bridging the gap between phenotyping and genotyping especially with complex and quantitative inherited traits such as nutrient-efficiency. A major conclusion of the authors is that more interaction and mutual understanding between organic and molecular oriented breeders is necessary and can benefit both research communities.


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1.16 Patent rights and patent wrongs?


While collaborations between universities and businesses yield mutually beneficial results, they can also create a tangle of patent rights


April 2010

Phill Jones

While collaborations between universities and businesses yield mutually beneficial results, they can also create a tangle of patent rights. Sometimes, a party's rights can vanish with a signature, leaving only a costly mirage. Stanford v. Roche is one such cautionary tale.

For decades, the US Patent and Trademark Office has granted patents on nucleic acid molecules that encode gene products. In doing so, has the USPTO performed unconstitutional acts and violated US patent law?



Source: Information Systems for Biotechnology ISB News report via


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1.17  Review of enforcement of plant breeder’s rights in Australia


The purpose of implementing plant breeder’s rights in Australia was, among intensions, to increase the investment in plant breeding in Australia.


This review established that many investors in plant breeding, both private and public, believed that they were constrained from generating an equitable return on investment in plant breeding due to limitations in the Australian PBR Act. Those consulted, which included but was not limited to those responding to an advertising campaign to raise awareness in the review, suggested a wide range of options to address their concerns.


The full report may be accessed at:


The following is a summary of this report.


End point royalties (collecting royalties at the most cost effective point in the value chain) was a major concern and the recommendations to address this were to expand the rights of the PBR holder to include a purchase right under certain circumstances. Also, it was recommended that the mendacious mis-declaration of the name of a variety should be an offence under the PBR Act if there wasn’t this provision in other laws.


The sections in the Act referring to essentially derived varieties (EDV) was considered inadequate. It was recommended that these sections be changed such that a variety may be declared an EDV if it did not differ from the original variety in “essential characteristics” which replaces “important characteristics”. It was also recommended that EDV could be declared with respect to any variety not just one for which PBR had been granted.


There were concerns that the PBR Act lacked clarity in some sections and that it was quite unlikely that there would be judicial clarification due to the high cost of litigation which were generally unaffordable in a low margin industry such as non-GMO based plant breeding. It was recommended that Government establish a body to give an opinion where one was requested albeit that this opinion would not have a legal standing.


The financial difficulty in accessing the court system was also address through the recommendation to give a lower tier court jurisdiction over PBR matters and establishing a Government database of mediators, conciliators and arbitrators with understanding of plant breeding and PBR matters. This would be located in the plant breeder’s rights office.


The legal options for gaining evidence in a PBR matter were also considered cost  by many responders and it was recommended that consideration should be given to including provisions similar to those in the UK information notice in the PBR Act.

The penalties from civil action were considered insufficient to justify using the court system and it was recommended that provisions for exemplary damages be included in the Australian legislation.


Changes to the Act to empower customs officials to seize suspected illegal importation of plant products protected by PBR was recommended under some circumstances.


A number of other recommendations were made and can be found in the full report at the above web site.


Contributed by Paul Brennan

Chairperson, Review Panel

Consultant in Plant Breeding, Biotechnology and Plant Variety Intellectual Property



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1.18  A search for regulators and a road map to deliver GM crops to Third World Farmers


31 March 2010

In Burkina Faso, a school for the future regulators of Africa's genetically modified (GM) crops is opening up next month.


The school, called the African Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE), has been set up by the African Union and is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The operators are careful to point out that this is an "Africa-based, Africa-owned and Africa-led" initiative, an important point, for there are few debates in agriculture there that raise more political heat than issues of food sovereignty and genetically modified crops.


"We acknowledge that sovereignty is in the hands of Africans," said Lawrence Kent, deputy director of the Agricultural Development Initiative at the Gates Foundation. "For research to move forward, the African governments must move forward with biosafety capacity building."


In the transgenic crop fight, the foot soldiers on either side have been dug in for years. But despite the doubts about the necessity of GM, farmers have been voting with their seeds. The acreage where transgenic crops are planted has been increasing. Developing nations and small farming operations are the newest adopters of GM crops. By 2015, the European Commission predicts that there will be 120 commercial crops worldwide, up from the 30 currently grown.


According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), which monitors the planting of GM crops worldwide, the use of biotechnology increased by 7 percent over the past year. About 90 percent of the 14 million farmers who use GM are "resource-poor farmers," said Clive James, chairman of ISAAA.


Meanwhile, most scientists are calling for sweeping changes to agriculture to prepare for sustainable development and ensure the security of food supplies in the face of climate change and other challenges. The changes, they say, will invariably include transgenic crops.


Much of the new research is happening in developing nations, especially China. And public-sector scientists in these nations are now wondering how to get their crops to the dinner table, past a stringent and too-expensive regulatory process.


Sam Timpo of ABNE talks with a heavy accent over the phone from Egypt. He says it is necessary to develop regulations in the next few years. There is some haste, for another Gates-funded initiative is in the pipeline -- a royalty-free transgenic corn that, in theory, should withstand the droughts of sub-Saharan Africa. But in most African nations, there is no government biosafety agency to approve, monitor and track GM crops.


Biosafety regulations of countries are usually modeled after the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, an international agreement that promotes a "precautionary approach." It says that GM crops can be adopted if they are of minimal risk to the environment and human health. It lays out a clear set of guidelines to test for that risk.


But guidelines alone don't suffice. "As many as 100 developing countries lack the technical and management capacity needed to review tests and monitor compliance," wrote Jose Falck-Zepeda, a research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute, in a recent policy brief.


Since the first green revolution, investment in agricultural science from the public sector has been lagging in most parts of the world. The private players -- Monsanto, DuPont, Bayer CropScience and others -- dominated most of the research, creating fears about a monopoly over seed supply.


China develops the technology and the markets

The exception is China, which has the world's largest pool of agricultural scientists. With a stable of more than 100 crops waiting for approval, it is the most serious contender with private enterprises for engineering crops.


"They have pretty big capacity of biotech Ph.D.s, probably one of the biggest in the world, if not the biggest, in plant biology," said Guillaume Gruere, a research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute. "More than a hundred crops have been tested both in the lab and in the greenhouse. Most of those crops haven't gone further, but they could one day just get it out if they want to."


China's needs are big. It has to feed a population that will steadily grow, and it takes its food security challenges seriously, according to Falck-Zepeda.






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1.19  Crop biodiversity going up, not down


Wageningen, The Netherlands

15 April 2010


The decrease in biodiversity in the natural environment must lead to a decrease in the genetic variety of breeds among plant breeding companies. That would seem logical, wouldn't it? But it isn't the case. The genetic diversity in new breeds at plant breeding firms has increased slightly over the past few decades, after a fall in the nineteen sixties.


This is reported by researchers at the Dutch Centre for Genetic Resources (CGN) in the April edition of Theoretical and Applied Genetics. Mark van de Wouw of the CGN evaluated 44 publications in which the genetic diversity of crop varieties was studied with the help of genetic marker technology. 'If there are twenty varieties of a genetic marker instead of two, then of course there is a greater diversity. But if the overwhelming majority of the cultivars all have the same marker, it means the diversity is low. We analysed a number of studies this way in a meta-analysis.'


Van de Wouw was amazed to find that the genetic variety in the crops has increased over the past forty years, after a drop of six percent in the nineteen sixties. 'Many biologists believe that genetic erosion is getting steadily worse, and that genetic variety in crops is decreasing with it. Only that idea has never been verified.'


Van de Wouw has two explanations for the way the genetic variety of the cultivars has held up. New techniques make it easier for plant breeders to introduce genes from other varieties into their species. And secondly, since many gene banks were set up in the nineteen sixties, more genetic material has become available to the plant breeding sector.




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1.20  Vegiversity: AVRDC’s contribution to vegetable biodiversity


Taina, Taiwan

9 April 2010

2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity, and AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center is part of the celebration and the ongoing discussion. Take a moment to consider the Center’s contribution to global food and health security through the conservation of diverse vegetable germplasm and the promotion of vegetable consumption.


The world’s current food production system is challenged by greater weather variability, higher average temperatures, increased numbers of extremely hot days, shorter growing seasons, increased moisture stress, added salinity from salt water intrusion and irrigation systems, and new combinations and strains of pests and diseases. Future food security will rely on the germplasm stored in international, national, and regional genebanks, where plant breeders will discover the traits to develop a new generation of resilient, climate ready crops as the base for farming systems that capture more carbon and emit fewer greenhouse gasses.


Among major crop groups held in ex situ collections by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research and regional or national institutes and programs, vegetables come in fourth place with 7%, after cereals (45%), food legumes (15%), and forages (9%).


When AVRDC was founded in 1971, the Center started off with a modest collection of 570 accessions. By 1995, the genebank had grown to 43,205 accessions, comprising 63 genera and 209 species. To date, the Center has accumulated 57,230 accessions comprising 168 genera, 420 species from 154 countries of origin, a growth of 32.5% in number of accessions, 166.7% in number of genera, and 101% in number of species. AVRDC’s vegetable germplasm collections, held as an international public good for the world community, are growing in genetic diversity.


The Center actively exchanges genetic resources and expertise with national programs, regional organizations, and the private sector. Since its founding the Center has distributed more than 591,000 seed samples to researchers and breeders in 201 countries, which has led to the release of hundreds of different vegetable varieties throughout the world with particular impact in developing countries. The web-based AVRDC Vegetable Genetic Resources Information System (AVGRIS) documents the passport, characterization, and evaluation data for the vegetable genetic resources in our collections.


Hunger, malnutrition, climate change, water shortages, loss of biodiversity, rising energy and food prices: The challenges are many, and will demand a diversity of responses— including vegetables.


More information:

Food and Agriculture Organization, Draft Second Report on the State of the World’s Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, October 2009


In the AVRDC genebank

For the following vegetable crops, AVRDC is among the seven largest ex situ collection holders:

·         Solanum lycopersicum (tomato) 

·         AVRDC is the largest holder of tomato germplasm worldwide, holding 9% of the 83,680 accessions held worldwide.

·         Capsicum (pepper)

·         AVRDC is the largest holder of Capsicum germplasm worldwide, holding 11% of the 73,534 accessions existing worldwide.

·         Solanum melongena (eggplant)

·         AVRDC is the second largest holder of eggplant accessions worldwide, holding 14% of the 21,032 accessions held worldwide.

·         Glycine (soybean)

·         AVRDC is the fourth largest holder of soybean germplasm with 7% of the 229,947 accessions held worldwide.

·         Legumes (forage crops)

·         AVRDC is the fourth largest holder of legume crops worldwide, holding 6% of the 183,145 accessions held worldwide.

·         Brassica (rape)

·         AVRDC is the sixth largest holder of Brassica germplasm worldwide, holding 4% of the 25,557 accessions held worldwide.

·         Corchorus (Jute)

·         AVRDC is the sixth largest holder of jute accessions, holding 1% of the 11,708 accessions held worldwide.

·         Allium

·         AVRDC is the seventh largest holder of Allium germplasm, holding 4% of the 29,954 accessions held worldwide.


by Andreas Ebert, Global Theme Leader - Germplasm, AVRDC Genetic Resources and Seed Unit


Source: Newsletter of the World Vegetable Center via


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1.21  Centre for Genetic Resources, The Netherlands (CGN) lettuce collection rationalized


Wageningen, The Netherlands

25 March 2010

In March 2010 CGN has reduced the size of the lettuce collection with 197 accessions. This rationalization involved cultivated material that was represented more than once in the collection. By removing duplicates the same level of diversity can be maintained in a smaller number of accessions, thereby contributing to a more efficient conservation. The advantage for the user community is that less accessions need to be evaluated to find the traits of interest.


The rationalization study is described in Plant Genetic Resources: Characterization and Utilization.



Van Treuren R, IW Boukema, EC de Groot, CCM van de Wiel, ThJL van Hintum (2009) Marker-assisted reduction of redundancy in a genebank collection of cultivated lettuce. Plant Genetic Resources: Characterization and Utilization, DOI 10.1017/S1479262109990220.



To reduce the level of redundancy in a collection of cultivated lettuce, data from 160 amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) fragments and 10 polymorphic microsatellites were used in combination with passport data and morphological data, the latter obtained from an experimental field trial performed for verification purposes. Based on the observed distribution of the number of marker differences between and within accessions, a minimum of three AFLP differences and two microsatellite differences were regarded as levels warranting distinction between accessions in the redundancy analysis. The strategy followed in the redundancy analysis was mainly based on the confirmation of duplication by each of two independently generated data sources. The molecular data were used for the validation as well as the identification of potential duplicates, revealing a total number of 198 redundancies, corresponding to 12.9% of the total collection. Trueness to type, number of characterization and evaluation data, and collection management considerations, such as available seed quantities and germination percentages, were used as primary, secondary and tertiary criteria to decide which accession from duplication groups to maintain in the collection. Removal of accessions showed negligible effects on total collection diversity, as quantified for AFLPs and microsatellites, characterization and evaluation traits and resistance profiles against downy mildew pathotypes, indicating that the applied strategy was effective.


Source: via


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1.22  Iowa State University's American Indian Plant Genetics Outreach honored by USDA-ARS


2 April 2010

Ames, Iowa, USA

An effort to involve American Indian students and researchers in plant genome research at Iowa State University has been honored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS).


The Outreach to American Indians in Plant Germplasm and Genomics Program received the USDA-ARS Midwest Area Research Support Awards for Excellence Equal Opportunity Award in February.


Candice Gardner, supervisory plant biologist, and Carolyn Lawrence, research geneticist, administer the program. It seeks to build the body of knowledge about germplasm collections from the Southwest and repatriate American Indians' plant collections while giving young American Indians science experience.


“The involvement of Native American students and researchers in plant genome research is minimal,” Lawrence said. “To increase their representation in the research community, we began a summer program to mentor Native American undergraduates in plant genomics research.”


The annual program has brought four to six young adult American Indians to Iowa State each summer since 2005. They experience life on a college campus, gain hands on science experience and are introduced to plant genetics.


While on campus students work with USDA-ARS North Central Regional Plant Introduction scientists to grow and propagate plants and collect and preserve plant material. The primary focus of the program is maize genetics, but coordinators try to match research projects to participants’ interest such as Echinacea species, other plants of importance to native tribes and the role of insect pollinators.


“Each project has a bioinformatics component to it and they all get grounded in maize, plant genetic resource conservation and the use of the maize genome database, or MaizeGDB,” Gardner said.


Coordinators involve tribal elders who are invited to serve on an advisory board and travel to Ames to work with the students.


“When the elders visit they are very happy to know about the maize genetics resources programs, and that the corn is treated with respect,” Gardner said.


Elders' hopes for the students are conveyed alongside the outcomes anticipated by research mentors. Organizers also host presentations by successful American Indian scientists.


The USDA-ARS award was presented to a team of ARS personnel who implement the program in collaboration with the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ George Washington Carver Summer Research Internship Program with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and ISU staff members of the North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station and MaizeGDB project.


The program is in its final year of its initial five-year grant. Program coordinators plan to seek continued funding though NSF outreach component grants.



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1.23  Multi-crop  genebank in Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, India launched.


COIMBATORE: Tamil Nadu Agricultural University has established a gene bank, first of its kind, in its premises at a cost of Rs. 1.2 crore. It has been named after K. Ramiah, the first Indian Paddy Specialist, and the Founder Director of Central Rice Research Institute, Cuttack.


Sponsored by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, the gene bank has been set up in the newly incepted Department of Plant Genetic Resources of the university.


Inaugurating the state-of-the-art facility, Vice-Chancellor of the university P. Murugesa Boopathi said it was the first of its kind in any State Agricultural University in the county.


The bank was meant for conservation of genetic resources.


Germ plasm collection of cultivars, land races and wild species would be maintained.


Pointing out the salient features of the bank, Director of the Centre for Plant Breeding and Genetics K. Thiyagarajan said it had 3,000 cubic feet of cold storage space for medium and long term storage of plant genetic resources.


“It is planned to store nearly 50,000 germ plasm entries apart from commercially cultivated varieties of crops like rice, millets, pulses, oilseeds, cotton, forages, fruits, vegetables, spices, medicinal and aromatic plants, trees, and bio-energy crops”.



Explaining the storage process, he said the seeds of the germ plasm accession intended to be stored would be processed adopting scientific principles of seed storage in a precision-controlled-programmed de-humidified chamber and hermetically (air-tight) sealed with trilaminated aluminium pouches before depositing them in the cold room.


The estimated storage life of seeds without loss of viability was likely to be five to 20 years depending upon the nature of the seed.


Plant breeders of the university could reduce the frequency of rejuvenation by depositing the seeds in the gene bank. “They can not only save resources, but also reduce the chance of genetic deterioration that occurs due to out-crossing and admixtures commonly encountered while raising crops in the field,” Mr. Thiyagarajan added. Head of the Department of Plant Genetic Resources P. Shanmugasundaram said the gene bank would also be equipped with facilities to characterise and document germ plasm resources.


It was also planned to create an Internet-based database of the university's germ plasm resources to promote exchange and utilisation among plant breeders and crop scientists.




Contributed by S. Robin

Centre for Plant Breeding & Genetics

Tamil Nadu Agricultural University


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1.24  Cross-resistance between Mexican Rice Borer and Sugarcane Borer Studied


Mexican rice borer (MRB) and sugarcane borer (SCB) are two of the most economically significant sugarcane pests in the United States. The larvae of these two pests have resemblance in their feeding behavior. Thus, Marvellous M. Zhou of South African Sugarcane Research Institute, and colleagues Collins A. Kimbeng, Jorge A. da Silva and William H. White, conducted a case study to determine if SCB-resistance in sugarcane is correlated with its resistance to MRB. The scientists coined this occurrence as "cross-resistance." Genotypes from Louisiana and Texas sugarcane breeding populations were used in this study.


Results showed that there is significant association between SCB- and MRB-damaged internodes among the Louisiana and the SCB-resistant populations. Moreover, SCB-resistant genotypes were less likely to be bored by MRB compared to SCB-susceptible genotypes.


Read for more information.


Source: Crop Biotech Update 16 April 2010:


Contributed by Margaret Smith

Dept. of Plant Breeding and Genetics

Cornell University


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1.25  Kernels with a kick: Quality protein maize improves child nutrition


It looks and tastes like any other maize, but hidden inside each bite of quality protein maize (QPM) are specialized natural molecules waiting to give the diner an extra boost. A new study evaluates the nutritional impact of QPM on target populations.


Eating quality protein maize (QPM) increases the growth rate of moderately malnourished children who survive on a maize-dominated diet, according to a new study co-authored by five scientists, including two CIMMYT maize experts.


QPM grain is a biofortified, non-transgenic food that provides improved protein quality to consumers. It looks and tastes like normal maize, but QPM contains a naturally-occurring mutant maize gene that increases the amount of two amino acids—lysine and tryptophan—necessary for protein synthesis in humans. The total amount of protein in QPM is not actually increased, but rather the protein is enhanced so that it delivers a higher benefit when consumed by monogastric beings, like humans and pigs. Drawing on three decades of previous studies on QPM and using sophisticated statistical analysis, the paper “A meta-analysis of community-based studies on quality protein maize,” published in Food Policy, shows that when children suffering from malnutrition in maize-dependent areas consume QPM instead of conventional maize, they benefit from a 12% increased growth rate for weight and a 9% increased growth rate for height.


"We tried to bring together all the relevant work we could find on QPM and analyze and discuss it as transparently as possible,” said Nilupa Gunaratna, statistician at the International Nutrition Foundation and the paper’s lead author. “We discussed all the strengths and weaknesses of past studies, and took these into account in our evaluation. We also proceeded very conservatively, trying different methods, studying the effects of individual studies and outliers. In every approach, we came to the same conclusion: QPM has a positive effect on the growth of undernourished infants and young children for whom maize is a staple food.”


Give the people what they eat

Maize is the third-most important cereal crop for direct consumption (after rice and wheat), and is particularly significant in developing areas, such as Africa, where it is the main food source for more than 300 million people. In 12 developing countries, it accounts for more than 30% of total dietary protein. And though maize alone cannot provide all the nutrients needed for a healthy diet, maize with extra essential nutrients can go a long way toward helping the nearly 200 million children in poor nations who suffer stunted growth from malnutrition and for whom a diversified diet is currently unattainable.


“Staple foods are the cheapest foods, and the poorer you are, the more you depend on them, which often does not provide a balanced diet,” said co-author Kevin Pixley, who divides his time between CIMMYT and HarvestPlus. “We would all prefer to see each and every person eating a healthy and balanced diet, but that isn’t always possible. Biofortification is one part of the strategy to help combat malnutrition.”


QPM complexities

Though QPM is more nutritious than conventional maize and many of its varieties yield as well as or better than popular conventional maize varieties, widespread acceptance of QPM remains elusive. Of the 90 million hectares of maize grown in Mexico, Central America, sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia, only an estimated 1% or less is QPM.


Many seed companies lack interest in QPM because of the research costs and challenges of assuring its superior nutritional quality. If QPM is grown next to fields of conventional maize, cross-pollination will dilute the QPM trait, and QPM also requires separate storage and quality testing/monitoring. This and the fact that the enhanced maize brings no market premium—largely because its quality trait is not visibly distinguishable—have often deterred seed companies from marketing QPM altogether.


Yet in areas where there has been a substantial effort to promote it and make quality seed available, QPM has gained ground. For example, in 1992 Ghana released its first QPM variety, Obatanpa. Obatanpa is an open-pollinated variety, meaning its grain can be saved by farmers and re-sown as seed without any major decline in yield. In 2005, it was calculated that Obatanpa accounted for over 90% of improved seed sales in Ghana. In 2008, Wayne Haag of the Sasakawa Africa Association estimated that 350,000 hectares of QPM were grown in Ghana, making it the world’s largest QPM grower. Strong support and effort by multidisciplinary institutions, including the Ghanaian government, made this possible. Four of the QPM studies used in the meta-analysis were based in Ghana. Obatanpa's high and stable yields and end-use quality have made it popular not only in Ghana but in several other sub-Saharan African countries, where it has been released under other names.


Fortifying future research

The authors of the QPM meta-analysis—two statisticians, an economist, a nutritionist, and a plant breeder—hope its clear results will finally dissuade QPM critics, many of whom have questioned whether QPM offers nutritional benefits for humans, and that the paper will lead to renewed efforts to explore improved nutrition through biofortified crops.


“While there is still interesting and important nutritional research to be done on QPM, I hope the focus will start to shift from whether QPM has a benefit to how QPM can be promoted, disseminated, and used by farmers and consumers to have the most impact,” said Gunaratna.


CIMMYT is currently involved in several QPM projects, including the QPM Development (QPMD) project in Africa, which is funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Launched in 2003, the project uses QPM as a key tool for improving food security, nutrition, and the incomes of resource-poor farming families in four countries (Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda). In the project’s first five years, seven new QPM varieties were released (bringing the total in the region to 12) and education efforts resulted in 270 field days attended by over 37,000 farmers, roughly 40% of whom were women. Two CIMMYT scientists shared the 2000 World Food Prize for their work to develop QPM.


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1.26  Photoperiod sensitivity in tropical maize up for a change


Scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service, Plant Science Research Unit at North Carolina State University are finding ways to improve temperate maize varieties. "Photoperiod response is the major barrier to using tropical maize for the improvement of temperate maize varieties," said Dr. James B. Holland, a researcher involved in the project.


To understand the barrier to corn production in the temperate countries, the researchers interbred two tropical photoperiod sensitive corn lines with two photoperiod-insensitive corn lines from the United States, and grew out hundreds of progeny lines in North Carolina (long day-length summers) and in Florida (short day-length winters). Lines with strong photoperiod response were identified as those flowering much later in North Carolina. Genetic mapping of the lines was conducted using identified DNA markers associated with photoperiod response which could lead to the identification of photoperiod responsive genes.


The research also suggests that the genes controlling the photoperiod response in corn may be partly distinct than those believed to control photoperiod response in model plant species such as Arabidopsis and rice. Further studies to pinpoint the specific genes involved in the photoperiod response is needed which will be used for a better understanding of the relatedness of plant species.


For details, see the research abstract at


Source: Crop Biotech Update 31 March 2010:


Contributed by Margaret Smith

Dept. of Plant Breeding and Genetics

Cornell University


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1.27  Australian Scientists Developing Powdery Mildew-Resistant Barley Varieties


Plant breeders at the Australian Research Centre for Necrotrophic Fungal Pathogens (ACNFP) at Murdoch University are developing barley varieties with new resistance to the dreaded powdery mildew, the most damaging barley disease in Western Australia (WA). Caused by the fungus Blumeria graminis hordei (Bgh), the disease causes annual losses of $33 million in WA alone.


Researchers have discovered mlo, a gene which confers resistance to the disease. The gene, however, may cause a yield penalty and breeders resist its incorporation into new cultivars. The other sources of major resistance have a history of breaking down in a very few years. Now the ACNFP scientists are looking for alternative genes which will provide new varieties with a different form of resistance to powdery mildew. They are suggesting that farmers take an integrated approach including the use of resistant cultivars and fungicides.


"It is particularly important to find new ! ways of combating barley powdery mildew as growers are dangerously dependant on a single class of fungicides,"says Richard Oliver, leader of the study funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).


Read for more information.


Source: Crop Biotech Update 26 February 2010:


Contributed by Margaret Smith

Dept. of Plant Breeding and Genetics

Cornell University]


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1.28  Genetic key to dramatically raise yields and improve taste of hybrid tomato plants


6 April 2010

Jerusalem, Israel

Spectacularly increased yields and improved taste have been achieved with hybrid tomato plants by researchers at the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment at the Hebrew University and the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), New York.


The researchers have discovered the yield-boosting power of a single gene, which controls when plants make flowers and that works in different varieties of tomato and, crucially, across a range of environmental conditions. The discovery was patented by Yissum, the technology transfer arm of the Hebrew University, which is seeking potential partners for further development and commercialization.


“This discovery has tremendous potential to transform both the billion-dollar tomato industry, as well as agricultural practices designed to get the most yield from other flowering crops,” says CSHL’s Dr. Zach Lippman, one of the three authors of the study, which appears in the magazine Nature Genetics online . The study is co-authored by Dr. Uri Krieger and Prof. Dani Zamir of the Hebrew University.


The team made the discovery while hunting for genes that boost hybrid vigor, a revolutionary breeding principle that spurred the production of outstanding hybrid crops like corn and rice a century ago. Hybrid vigor, also known as heterosis, is the phenomenon 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.


Plants carry two copies of each gene, and Shull’s studies suggested that harmful, vigor-killing 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. A theory for heterosis, supported by this new Hebrew University-Cold Spring discovery, postulates that improved vigor stems from only a single gene – an effect called “superdominance” or “overdominance.”


To find such overdominant genes, the US-Israeli team developed a novel approach by turning to a vast tomato “mutant library” – a collection of 5000 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 33 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 a whopping 60%.


This hybrid, the team found, produced greater yields because there was one normal copy and one mutated copy of only a single gene that produces a protein called florigen. This protein, touted as the breakthrough discovery of the year in 2004 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. What the researchers found is that to maximize yield, there can’t be 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 in New York at CSHL and the Cornell Horticultural Experiment Station at Riverhead, N.Y.


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 a lower sugar content. But, remarkably, the florigen gene also boosted sugar content and sweetness of the individual fruits.


This study marks the first example of a single gene that consistently causes heterosis. The scientists are now looking to team up with agricultural companies to develop the hybrids for commercial use. The concept that mutations in one copy of a single gene can improve yield has broad implications for breeders. Mutant plants are usually thrown away because of the notion that mutations would have negative effects on growth, but this study suggests that hybrid mutations might lead the next revolution of improved crops.




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1.29  Single gene dramatically boosts yield and sweetness in tomato hybrids


Florigen was found to be the single gene that increased hybrid vigor and contributed to the sweetness of tomato, says the article published in Nature Genetics online. The study conducted in Cold Spring Harbor by a team including Assistant Professor Zach Lippman and two Israeli scientists used gene mutation to identify the elusive gene.


A mutant library composed of 5,000 plants, each of which has a single mutation in a single gene that causes defects in various aspects of tomato growth were crossed with its normal counterpart and searched for hybrids with improved yield. A hybrid with 60% increase in yield was obtained and the florigen gene was identified to instruct the plants when to start making flowers and produce fruits. "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."


In addition, the superior hybrids with the florigen gene were found to boost the sugar and sweetness of the individual fruits which is not normally found in tomatoes having several fruits. Further studies are geared towards discovering the presence of florigen related genes in other crops to improve yield.


The article can be viewed at


Source: Crop Biotech Update 31 March 2010:


Contributed by Margaret Smith

Dept. of Plant Breeding and Genetics

Cornell University]


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1.30  The breeding of new tomato varieties for a market segment with a short distribution chain


30 March 2010


Increasing consumer interest in purchasing directly from producers (short-chain) underlines their preference for more authentic products with improved gustatory qualities. As for the producers, the lack of constraints with respect to transport, and the need for less intensive crop management methods, means that they are seeking for new varietal choices. Reorienting research towards varietal criteria that reconcile gustatory quality and satisfactory agronomic performance is the balance that the Alenya Roussillon Experimental Farm has tried to achieve.


The tomato is the second most frequently purchased vegetable in Europe, and during the past 15 years breeding has tended to focus on meeting the needs of distributors. The length of distribution chains, and storage conditions in particular, have contributed to rendering firmness the most important criterion, relegating the organoleptic qualities of products to being of secondary importance. Today, as consumers become increasingly keen on short distribution chains, new demands are developing, and notably the search for varieties with good gustatory quality that are also attractive in terms of their shape, colour and ease of preparation.


Until now, producers in this market segment tended to use older varieties because of their ability to respond to these emerging demands. But the lack of reliable agronomic references on the behaviour of tomato varieties constituted a brake on improvements to yield. This deficiency was recently underlined by an analysis of the behaviour of 43 varieties, carried out under different cultivation conditions ranging from the most intensive to the most extensive. Each variety was subjected to a series of tests that, amongst others, crossed yield and gustatory quality criteria.


The broad variety of tomato varieties corresponded to a broad diversity of results. As a general rule, a moderate reduction in inputs enabled a gain in quality. Some old tomato varieties stood out from hybrids because of their good yields and gustatory quality, even under restricted inputs (of water and nutrients).


These findings offer new perspectives for research, notably regarding the genetic improvement of old varieties to enhanced their disease resistance. In Alenya, differences in susceptibility were observed with respect to powdery mildew and corky-root, two diseases to which tomatoes are particularly susceptible. In view of the varietal diversification developed by market gardeners selling direct to the public, the Alenya Roussillon Experimental Farm also intends to study the impact of crop rotations on the presence of soil-borne diseases.




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1.31  Drought can cut national rice production by 99%


7 April 2010

Los Baños, The Philippines

The latest from Rice Today, the magazine of the International Rice Research Institute


Drought is threatening rice production across Asia this season. Australia is a startling example, where, in recent years drought has cut rice production dramatically, including one season where it was reduced by 99% from previous averages.


Before the drought, Australia contributed 20 to 25% of the world medium-grain japonica rice trade and exported around 80% of its entire rice crop. Rice Today April–June 2010 reports on how the Australian rice industry is transforming in the face of water scarcity to maintain its global export role and its claim to the world’s highest average rice yields of 10 tons per hectare.


 Although less japonica rice is coming out of Australia, more japonica rice is set to come out of the tropics. Dr. Kyung-Ho Kang, from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), reports on the development and release of two tropically adapted japonica varieties in the Philippines.


In Africa, scientists are making a concerted effort to characterize the genetic diversity of local African rice varieties to identify the source of their ability to grow in difficult conditions and resist local pests and diseases. This builds on the success of NERICA rice—a cross combining the best of African and Asian rice.


Rice Today also maps out the geographical source of rice genetic diversity preserved in selected rice genebanks—one of the first steps towards producing a global picture of rice biodiversity. This will help identify any gaps around the world where rice biodiversity has not been collected yet for conservation.


Also in this issue, IRRI’s Dr. Samarendu Mohanty and others explore the impact of rising rice prices in India and Bangladesh. They report that rice consumption does not decrease as prices rise and that the small, marginal, and landless laborers with large families are worst hit.


More activities of IRRI’s 50th anniversary are showcased in this edition, including the IRRI alumni homecoming and the release of a 50th anniversary stamp collection in the Philippines.


 The country highlight for this edition is Thailand and we revisit the Philippines to meet the “Outstanding Farmer” award winner from IRRI’s 25th anniversary to find him still farming and looking for new technologies.


This issue’s Pioneer Interview features former IRRI geneticist Susan McCouch, who describes the challenges of being a female scientist in the early 1990s when she established IRRI's first molecular breeding laboratory.


All of these, plus the latest news, views, and books, are available now in Rice Today April-July 2010. Free online registration for the full content and notification of future issues of Rice Today is now available. Subscribers’ copies are being mailed.




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1.32  Researchers study alternative soybean cyst nematode resistance genes


7 April 2010

Urbana, Illinois, USA

Soybean cyst nematode (SCN) populations are adapting and raising questions about the effectiveness of PI 88788, one of the main sources of SCN resistance in soybean varieties. University of Illinois research shows PI 88788 still does a good job of controlling nematodes, but new gene combinations derived from wild soybean may hold answers for the future.


“The bottom line is that PI 88788 resistance worked well in our tests,” said Brian Diers, U of I professor of soybean breeding. “Our research showed a significant yield advantage with PI 88788 resistance across six locations compared to susceptible soybean.”


However, researchers know SCN populations are adapting to overcome this resistance, and in some fields this resistance is already ineffective. More than 90 percent of SCN-resistant soybean varieties are derived from PI 88788, making discovery of alternative resistance genes a priority.


U of I Extension Nematologist Terry Niblack, said, “We need to find new alternatives to protect the profitability of soybean crops produced in SCN-infested fields. We also need to reduce the SCN populations in fields where the population has adapted to PI 88788. Host resistance is the best way to manage SCN because it’s easy, inexpensive and not harmful to the environment.”


Continuing to use one source of resistance will eventually become ineffective as this pest adapts, Niblack said.

In addition to measuring PI 88788’s effectiveness, the research team also studied resistance genes from wild soybeans and found they did a good job of controlling nematodes.


“We’re now combining genes from domestic and wild soybean varieties to create a more durable resistance,” Diers said. “Greenhouse tests show we can get broad resistance through these gene combinations, but now we need to test them in fields this summer.”


Diers’ goal is to find gene combinations that will be useful to growers so when PI 88788 resistance is no longer working well, farmers will have other genes to utilize.

“We need to increase diversity of genes for resistance,” he said. “By studying and identifying genes that are effective, but not currently in use, we will be able to develop better resistant varieties to protect future yields.”


This research was presented at the Soybean Breeders’ Workshop in St. Louis, Mo. Funding for this study was provided by the Illinois Soybean Association. The research team consisted of Brian Diers, Jake Delheimer and Terry Niblack of the U of I, Mike Schmidt of Southern Illinois University, and Grover Shannon of the University of Missouri.




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1.33  Identification of the mutation in the gene Clg1 responsible for cleistogamy in crucifers



1 April 2010

Researchers have produced, by artificial mutagenesis applied on canola seeds, a cleistogamous mutant which plants present normal development and reproduction. This mutant has complete flowers which do not open during anthesis. After a normal development, flowers remain closed till after the fertilization. This cleistogamous trait is controlled by a single gene, called Clg1, and can be transferred in populations by breeding methods (pedigree breeding, haplodiploidisation or back-crosses). It can be utilized for autogamous reproduction (fixation and pure line breeding, seed production, canola production for industrial utilization) or in the context of transgenic crops in order to reduce risks of cross-pollination.


Canola and oilseed rape pollen can be transported over long-distances by wind or pollinator insects. This phenomenon makes cross-fertilization between different canola/oilseed rape fields difficult to avoid when one wants to select and produce pure lines in a controlled way. In order to avoid such cross-fertilization, numerous techniques have been developed in various species (for instance manual, mechanical, genetic or chemical emasculation of plants) but they are often not satisfactory. They are indeed too expensive, not realistic to be applied or too toxic to be safely used in crucifers. There is therefore a need to develop systems for pollination control to assist in the production of pure lines.


Researchers from INRA - AgroCampus Ouest joint research unit 118 led by Dr Michel Renard have produced, by artificial mutagenesis applied on canola seeds, a cleistogamous mutant which plants present normal development and reproduction. This mutant has complete flowers which do not open during anthesis. After a normal development, flowers remain closed till after the fertilization. This cleistogamous trait is controlled by a single gene, called Clg1, and can be transferred in populations by breeding methods (pedigree breeding, haplodiploidisation or back-crosses). It can be utilized for autogamous reproduction (fixation and pure line breeding, seed production, canola production for industrial utilization) or in the context of transgenic crops in order to reduce risks of cross-pollination.


In the framework of the Génoplante programme, additional efforts were spent to identify, clone and characterize the gene Clg1. Particularly, researchers have demonstrated that a single mutation in Clg1 is responsible for cleistogamous trait in canola. Moreover, they have also demonstrated that expression in canola of the polypeptide encoded by the Clg1 mutant gene results in adult plants exhibiting closed flowers at floral maturity, the stability of this trait depending on the genetic background.



These mutants and the ability to obtain similar ones provide breeders of crucifer species with several novel applications and advantages, notably the reduction of cross-pollination, the pure line breeding, the seed production, etc.


Moreover, the recent results also provide novel methods for pollination control to assist in the production of pure lines of transgenic Brassicaceae, particularly canola and oilseed rape, including:


·         Genotypic detection of the Clg1 mutant gene

·         Early selection of plants having the Clg1 mutant gene

·         Production of transgenic plants transformed by the Clg1 mutant gene resulting in cleistogamous plants exhibiting closed flowers at floral maturity




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1.34  Combination of two genes controlling the floral sexual phenotype of plants



4 April 2010


Researchers have analyzed the genetic determinants involved in the floral type of Cucumis melo (melon). This innovation deals with the selection of plant varieties, particularly the selection of the sex type of the flowers of dicotyledonous plants, preferably Cucurbitaceae, and provides to breeders new methods for selection and production of plants.



Producing pure and stable plant lines that will be the future parents for a commercial hybrid is a necessary condition for generating homogenous and reproducible hybrid varieties expressing a high degree of heterosis. The production of pure lines involves self-fertilization in order to obtain uniformly homozygous lines, fixed for all the required characters of productivity, yield stability, quality traits or resistance to diseases. Equally important as being able to efficiently control self-pollination for inbreeding purposes, it is necessary to prevent self-pollination altogether when making crosses between parental lines in the creation of commercial hybrid seed.


A variety of genetic, chemical and mechanical strategies are currently used to direct self-pollination or suppress male flowers (create temporary male sterility), but are limited by factors such as cost, efficiency, persistence and phytotoxic effects.


To help in the controlled production of inbred lines and hybrids, there is therefore a need for a system which would enable the control of floral development, and to obtain a plant of a determined floral sexual type. Female plants are also associated with a yield increase, and when associated with mutations leading to parthenocarpy, can lead to female plants that produce seedless fruits.


Description of the innovation

Researchers of the French National Institute for Agricultural Research -INRA- led by Dr Abdelhafid Bendahmane, have analyzed the genetic determinants involved in the floral type of Cucumis melo (melon).


They have identified a pair of genetic elements A/a (“andromonoecious”) and G/g (“gynoecious”) controlling the floral development of Cucurbitaceae. These genes comprise a regulatory polynucleotide and a nucleic acid encoding the A/a protein (1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid synthase, “CmACS-7”) or the G/g protein (CmWIP1 protein, “C. melo Zinc Finger Protein”). The dominant alleles A and G result in an increased production of their respective protein in plants when compared to the recessive alleles a and g.


Researchers have demonstrated that the combination of the A/a and G/g genetic elements fully control the floral development, potentially in a range of dicotyledonous species, resulting in the diversity of sexual phenotypes.




Flower type


(A / A or a) - (G / G or g)

male and female


(a / a) - (G / G or g)

male and bisexual


(a / a) - (g / g)



(A / A or a) - (g / g)



Industrial applications and technology transfer

This innovation deals with the selection of plant varieties, particularly the selection of the sex type of the flowers of dicotyledonous plants, preferably Cucurbitaceae, and provides to breeders new methods for:


Selection of plants of a determined sex phenotype via the detection of alleles A, a, G and g.


Production of plants with a modified floral type by chemical mutagenesis of the A/a and G/g control elements, resulting in the a/a - g/g genotype and hermaphroditic phenotype.

Production of transgenic plants having a determined floral type, notably but not exclusively the female or bisexual type, through the transformation with the desired combination of the required allele(s) of the “A/a” and/or “G/g” control elements.


These results are protected under two international patent applications (WO2010/012948; WO2007/125264) assigned to INRA, with INRA Transfert entitled to grant licenses for commercial applications.



·         Martin A, Troadec C, Boualem A, Rajab M, Fernandez R, Morin H, Pitrat M, Dogimont C, Bendahmane A., A transposon-induced epigenetic change leads to sex determination in melon, Nature. 2009 Oct 22;461(7267):1135-8

·         Boualem A, Troadec C, Kovalski I, Sari MA, Perl-Treves R, Bendahmane A., A conserved ethylene biosynthesis enzyme leads to andromonoecy in two cucumis species, PLoS One. 2009 Jul 3;4(7):e6144

·         Boualem A, Fergany M, Fernandez R, Troadec C, Martin A, Morin H, Sari MA, Collin F, Flowers JM, Pitrat M, Purugganan MD, Dogimont C, Bendahmane A., A conserved mutation in an ethylene biosynthesis enzyme leads to andromonoecy in melons, Science. 2008 Aug 8;321(5890):836-8's%20technology%20offer%20Controlling%20the%20floral%20sexual%20phenotype%20of%20plants%20vFLG100310.jpg


A model for interactions between A (CmACS-7) and G (CmWIP1) genes, at the basis of sex determination and sexual organs development in melon.

·         First, the G gene inhibits the expression of the A gene, allowing stamens to develop, and blocks carpel development. A male flower develops.

·         Second, the non-expression of the G gene allows the A gene to express and to repress stamens development. A female flower develops.

·         Third, if the A gene is expressed in a non-functional form, stamens can develop and a bisexual flower develop.




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1.35  Doubled haploid technology for quickly developing inbred corn lines offered at Iowa State University


Ames, Iowa, USA

5 April 2010


Agronomists at Iowa State University are offering doubled haploid technology that allows corn breeders to more quickly produce inbred lines for research or private use.

Thomas Lübberstedt (photo), associate professor and K.J. Frey chair in agronomy and director of the R.F. Baker Center for Plant Breeding, has launched a Doubled Haploid Facility at ISU that can develop pure, inbred corn lines in less time than traditional methods.


Inbred corn lines have two copies of the same genome. They are sometimes called pure lines, because after self-pollination (same plant is both male and female) all offspring are identical to the parent plant. They are an exact replica of the single parent and are valuable for research or commercial use.


These homozygous plants have two identical copies per gene, while heterozygous plants, such as hybrids, frequently have two different copies per gene.


Offspring of hybrids are genetically segregating because they received their two genomes from different male and female plants. This is the reason why hybrid seed has to be reproduced from stably maintained inbred plants. Corn crop produced from seed that has not been harvested from hybrids will not only segregate but also show reduced hybrid vigor.


"If you want to develop new inbred lines, you would start out with a plant that is heterozygous. Then by self-pollination you can increase the homozygosity each generation. But you need maybe five to eight generations before you have an inbred line that is pure enough so that you can combine two inbred lines to create such a hybrid," Lübberstedt said.


The Doubled Haploid Facility at ISU will allow development of pure, inbred lines in only two generations, taking about one year.


"With the doubled haploid process, you start from the same place, but by a biological trick, the offspring do not contain two genomes as usual, but only one. Then you have a chemical treatment, and after that, plants have two identical genomes, so you can get to the inbred lines much faster," said Lübberstedt.


While major breeding companies often develop their own pure lines in-house and may not need the Doubled Haploid Facility at Iowa State, smaller hybrid companies and researchers are more likely to need the facility's expertise.


The first group of users of the Doubled Haploid Facility includes researchers from both public and private groups from ISU, the United States and overseas.


One of the components of the process is a special type of corn called an inducer line. The inducer line Lübberstedt is using comes from Germany. In collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture's Plant Introduction Station in Ames, he is currently working on developing a new inducer line that will be better suited to climate conditions in Iowa.


Purebred corn lines are also valuable to researchers as a tool to isolate individual gene functions.


"If you want to find genome regions that are associated with disease resistance or something like that, the procedure is that you develop a segregating population. If the offspring are homogenous lines, then you can better discriminate between different genetic lines because there is no genetic noise any longer within those lines," said Lübberstedt.


If there is a demand for the Doubled Haploid Facility, Lübberstedt believes they could include other plants in the future.


"Here in the Midwest, our entry point is corn," Lübberstedt said. "But it may be of interest for other species, such as soybean or energy grasses at some point."




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1.36  Gene discovery may lead to new varieties of soybean plants


West Lafayette, Indiana, USA

26 April 2010

Just months after the soybean genome was sequenced, a Purdue University scientist has discovered a long-sought gene that controls the plant's main stem growth and could lead to the creation of new types of soybean plants that will allow producers to incorporate desired characteristics into their local varieties.


Jianxin Ma (Jen-Shin Ma), an assistant professor of agronomy, used the research model plant Arabidopsis thaliana to discover the soybean gene that controls whether the plant's stem continues to grow after flowering. The find is a significant key to diversifying the types of soybeans growers can produce all over the world.


"The approach that we used in this study proves to be promising for rapid gene discovery and characterization in soybean," said Ma, whose findings were published Monday (April 26) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. "With the genomic resources and information available, we spent only six months pinpointing and confirming the candidate gene - the time it takes to grow one generation of soybean."


Soybean plants generally fall into two categories: determinate plants whose main stem tips stop growing after flowering, and indeterminate plants that continue main stem growth after flowering. In the United States, indeterminate soybeans are grown in the northern states, while determinate are grown in the southern states, Ma said. A northern U.S. grower who may want the characteristics found only in a type of determinate soybean would not be able to successfully grow a determinant cultivar in the north.


Ma was able compare the gene known to control Arabidopsis thaliana's stem growth pattern with the soybean genome to identify four soybean candidate genes. Those genes were then sequenced in a sample of different families of soybeans, including Glycine soja, a wild type of soybean; Glycine max landraces, which were varieties developed through selection in Asia thousands of years ago; and elite cultivars, which are grown today in the United States.


A single base-pair nucleotide mutation in the gene Dt1 was found to be the reason some plants are determinate.


"Wild soybeans are all indeterminate. This mutation that makes them determinate was selected by ancient farmers a few thousand years ago," Ma said. "It seems determinate stem was a favorable characteristic for ancient farmers."


Ma tested the find by using an indeterminate soybean Dt1 gene to change an Arabidopsis thaliana plant from determinate to indeterminate.


Ma believes that ancient farmers selected determinate plants that stay relatively short because they are less likely to lodge, or bend at the stem.


"Their appearance probably resulted in an ancient 'green revolution' in soybean cultivation in the southern parts of ancient China," Ma said.


Ma collaborated with Lijuan Oiu at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Phil McClean at North Dakota State University, Randy Nelson at the University of Illinois and Jim Specht at the University of Nebraska.


Ma said he would next try to find a gene that makes soybeans semi-determinate. The National Science Foundation, Indiana Soybean Alliance and Purdue University funded his work.



Artificial Selection for Determinate Growth Habit in Soybean

Zhixi Tian, Xiaobo Wang, Rian Lee, Yinghui Li, James E. Specht, Randall L. Nelson, Phillip E. McClean, Lijuan Oiu, and Jianxin Ma


Determinacy is an agronomically important trait associated with the domestication in soybean (Glycine max). Most soybean cultivars are classifiable into indeterminate and determinate growth habit, while Glycine soja, the wild progenitor of soybean, is indeterminate. Indeterminate (Dt1/Dt1) and determinate (dt1/dt1) genotypes, when mated, produce progeny that segregate in a monogenic pattern. Here, we show evidence that Dt1 is a homolog (designated as GmTfl1) of Arabidopsis terminal flower 1 (TFL1), a regulatory gene encoding a signaling protein of shoot meristems. The transition from indeterminate to determinate phenotypes in soybean is associated with independent human selections of four distinct single-nucleotide substitutions in the GmTfl1 gene, each of which led to a single amino acid change. Genetic diversity of a mini-core collection of Chinese soybean landraces assessed by SSR markers and allelic variation at the GmTfl1 locus suggest that human selection for determinacy took place at early stages of landrace radiation. The GmTfl1 allele introduced into a determinate-type (tfl1/tfl1) Arabidopsis mutants fully restored the wild-type (TFL1/TFL1) phenotype, but the Gmtfl1 allele in tfl1/tfl1 mutants did not result in apparent phenotypic change. These observations indicate that GmTfl1 complements the functions of TFL1 in Arabidopsis. However, the GmTfl1 homoeolog, despite its more recent divergence from GmTfl1 than from Arabidopsis TFL1, appears to be sub- or neo-functionalized, as revealed by the differential expression of the two genes at multiple plant developmental stages and by allelic analysis at both loci.




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1.37  Plant pathogen genetically tailors attacks to each part of its host, say Stanford University researchers


Stanford, California, USA

13 April 2010


Corn smut, a fungus that infects maize, can target its attack by choosing which of its genes to activate in order to maximize the effectiveness of its onslaught. This is the first time such tissue-specific targeting has been found in a pathogen.


A tumor-causing maize fungus with the unsavory-sounding name "corn smut" wields different weapons from its genetic arsenal depending on which part of the plant it infects. The discovery by Stanford researchers marks the first time tissue-specific targeting has been found in a pathogen.


The finding upends conventional notions of how pathogens attack and could point the way to new approaches to fighting disease not only in plants but also in people, according to Stanford researchers. Corn smut is a plant cancer.


"This establishes a new principle in plant pathology, that a pathogen can tailor its attack to specifically exploit the tissue or organ properties where it is growing," said Virginia Walbot  (photo) professor of biology and senior author of a paper published in Science detailing the study. A summary of the study will be published in the May issue of Nature Cancer Reviews as a Research Highlight. 


"It would be as if a pathogen of a human could recognize whether it is in muscle or kidney or skin, and activate different genes to exploit the host more effectively," she said.


Up until now, pathologists had always assumed that when a pathogen went on the attack, it used every weapon it had, no matter which part of an organism it was infecting. But Walbot's team found that only about 30 percent of the genes in the corn smut genome are always activated, or "expressed," regardless of whether it is in seedlings, adult leaves or the tassel.


Professor Virginia Walbot discusses the team's research on the maize pathogen.

Jack Hubbard


The other 70 percent of the genome is what the fungus would pick and choose from, depending on the tissue it was infecting. Some of those genes were expressed in only one of the three organs the researchers studied; the others were activated in two of the three.


"This is a revolutionary finding," Walbot said.


Her team also discovered that different parts of the maize plant activated different genes in response to being attacked.


"We hope that other people working on pathogens of all types will go back now and ask, 'when the pathogen is found in different parts of the body, is it actually using different weapons?'" Walbot said. "We think this discovery will stimulate many new experiments with existing pathogens."


Pathologists generally collect their samples from the same, characteristic place on the organism they are studying. For a plant, that is typically the leaves or fruit, while in an animal, it is usually a spot where the pathogen of interest is clearly flourishing. But as a result, Walbot said, when researchers happen to find the pathogen in another place in the organism, they generally don't test whether the pathogen is doing different things.


"It may be just the specialization of modern pathology which has resulted in the 'whole organism' context being overlooked," she said.


Walbot hopes that her team's work on corn smut will also inspire new experiments on human disease such as cancer.


"Medicine has made the same assumption that pathogens use all of their weapons wherever they are attacking a human," Walbot said.


But it may be that human pathogens are also situationally selective, genetically modulating the nature of their attack to whatever part of the body they are infecting.


"If that is the case, then we could develop drugs that are specific for the particular organ or tissue where the pathogen is found," Walbot said. "I think that holds great promise for reducing the damage done to the patient in the course of drug treatment."


Walbot got interested in researching the possibility that pathogens might vary their attack while doing fieldwork on a different project for which she was evaluating some mutant strains of maize. She noticed that certain kinds of mutants were resistant to corn smut.


Through a series of experiments with different maize mutants, she determined that the key factor in determining whether – or how intensely – corn smut infected a given part of a plant was the potential for growth of that particular type of tissue. Greater potential for continued growth correlated with more intense infections of corn smut and bigger, more plentiful tumors.


The key aspect was the potential – if a mutant grew only small leaves and then quickly stopped growing, the corn smut wasn't interested, even if there was sufficient area to host some tumors.


Walbot tested how various mutant strains of corn smut behaved when infecting normal maize plants. She discovered that a strain that was highly effective in causing tumors in, say, the tassels might be completely ineffective in triggering tumors in a seedling. That told her that different genes in the fungus were involved depending on which part of the maize the fungus was attacking.


"We found genetic evidence from both the pathogen and the host that depending on the growth potential, in an organ-specific way, of both the pathogen and the host, you could modulate the number of tumors," Walbot said.


The team then set to work with DNA microarrays, lab tools that can screen thousands of genes at a time and determine which ones are active and which are not. The microarray work confirmed and quantified the results of their earlier experiments – corn smut was indeed situationally selective, to a high degree. Less than a third of its genes were consistently activated regardless of which organ of the maize plant it was infecting.


"We had proof from the microarray that paralleled the genetic proof; that is, that there is organ-specific expression by maize in response to corn smut, and corn smut expresses a specific suite of genes depending on where it is in the plant," Walbot said.


Corn smut, though a common pathogen, does not devastate maize crops and so relatively little work had been done by plant pathology researchers to study it. In Mexico, the fungus is called "huitlacoche," and the tumors, which are used in cooking, are sometimes purposely grown on ears of corn.


"If you order a mushroom omelet in Mexico, the fungus that you are eating is Ustilago maydis, or corn smut," Walbot said.


Though the new findings may not have much impact on those who savor corn smut for its culinary delights, Walbot said researchers are likely to take note.


"That is just a prediction," she said, "but I think pathologists will be quick to pounce on this."


Coauthors of the paper include David Skibbe, a postdoctoral fellow in biology, and John Fernandes, a bioinformaticist and research assistant in biology, both at Stanford. Coauthor Gunther Doehlemann is a research group leader in terrestrial microbiology at the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology, Marburg, Germany.


This project was funded by a special one-year grant for exploratory research from the National Science Foundation. Doehlemann received a short-term travel grant from the European Molecular Biology Organization to fund a 10-week visit to Stanford in spring quarter 2009. During his visit the key hypotheses were refined and most of the data obtained for the study.


By Louis Bergeron




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1.38  ICIS Developers Workshop, March 2010


ICPBER hosted the International Crop Information System (ICIS) developer’s workshop at UWA. ,from the 2nd - 5th of March 2010,.  ICIS is a database system that provides integrated management of global information on crop improvement and management for both individual crops and for farming systems. ICIS is being developed by agricultural scientists and information technologists in several centres of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), in research institutions, in national agricultural research systems and private breeding companies. A The workshop enabled software developers and users from across the globe to map out future directions and strategies for the next year and beyond. 


ICPBER-hosted guest speaker was Dr Howard Eagles, of the Molecular Plant Breeding CRC at The University of Adelaide.  Howard addressed the meeting on the value of ICIS in maintaining wheat pedigrees dating back to the 19th century in Australia.  He uses pedigree analysis to identify the ancestral source and genetic contribution of key alleles for quality and agronomic attributes in wheat.  While at UWA, Howard also gave an address in the Institute of Agriculture seminar series.


There were 21 visitors from 5 countries participating in the workshop.  The meeting will ensure that ICIS can continue to deliver a powerful tool to Plant Breeders and Genomic Resource managers for years to come.   All visitors soaked in the warm sunny weather and appreciated the fantastic University Club venue and catering. 


For more information on ICIS please go to  For minutes and details of the workshop please go to 


Contributed by Sarah Mawson

The University of Western Australia


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1.39  OECD-GenomeAssociation-OZ09


"Exploiting genome-wide association in oilseed Brassicas in search of a model for genetic improvement of major OECD crops for sustainable future farming"


This OECD conference was held at The University of Western Australia (UWA) in Perth from 9-12 November 2009.  More than 80 scientists from 13 countries attended, whose skills will help revolutionise plant breeding and food production.


The conference was sponsored by the OECD Co-operative Research Programme:  Biological Resource Management for Sustainable Agricultural Systems.


It was the first time an OECD-sponsored conference had been held in Western Australia (WA).  The conference was co-sponsored by UWA and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).  The conference was officially opened by the State Minister for Agriculture Terry Redman, and UWA's Vice Chancellor Alan Robson spoke to the audience on the first day.  GRDC sponsored a pre-conference workshop, lead by Prof Brian Cullis (Australia) and Prof Robin Thompson (UK), titled “Joint modelling of additive and non-additive (genetic line) effects in multi-environment trials.”


The keynote speaker was world expert in the human genome project, Professor Bruce Weir, Chair and Professor of Biostatistics and Adjunct Professor of Genome Sciences, at the University of Washington, USA.  Professor Weir is Director of the GENEVA project, a consortium of 14 human whole-genome studies.


Conference convenor, Professor Wallace Cowling of the International Centre for Plant Breeding Education and Research at UWA, said, “The invitation to Professor Weir to spearhead the conference was motivated by his bio-statistical experience in the human genome project, and his ability to put this into context for plant breeders.  Prof Weir was a valuable contributor to discussion on the application of association genetics to plant breeding, as a result of his strong background in quantitative genetics in plants.”


The conference challenged plant breeders and molecular geneticists to find ways to capitalize on the new technologies of genome association-mapping emerging from human, animal and plant genetics.  Various speakers showed that significant progress is being made to transfer methods for exploiting whole genome marker assisted selection from animal breeding to plants, while acknowledging the fact that most crop breeding is built around multi-environment trial data.


The 16 OECD-invited speakers were international experts in molecular marker discovery, plant genetic mapping, new biometrical approaches to plant breeding, human genetics and animal breeding.  The conference attracted several other contributors, and papers from the conference will be published in the international research journal Genome.


The OECD Co-operative Research Program’s Biological Resource Management for Sustainable Agricultural Systems funded the 16 invited international speakers to travel to Perth.


Presentations from the conference are available at


Contributed by Wallace A. Cowling

International Centre for Plant Breeding Education and Research (ICPBER),

The University of Western Australia


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4.01  TWOWS Postgraduate Training Fellowship for Women Scientists 2010 Call for Applications


The Third World Organization for Women in Science (TWOWS) is an international autonomous organization based in Trieste, Italy.


TWOWS is accepting applications for its postgraduate fellowship programme. The TWOWS fellowship supports female students from Sub-Saharan Africa and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) who wish to pursue postgraduate training leading to a PhD at centres of excellence in developing countries.


The fellowship supports research projects in the natural sciences. The minimum qualification of applicants is an MSc degree (or equivalent) or an outstanding BSc honours degree in a field of the natural sciences.

Both sandwich and full-time fellowships are available.


Please see for more information on the application procedure, eligibility criteria and to download the application form.


Deadline to apply is 31 July 2010.


TWOWS Secretariat

Third World Organization for Women in Science (TWOWS) c/o TWAS, the academy of sciences for the developing world ICTP Campus, Strada Costiera 11 - 34151 Trieste - Italy



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4.02  TWAS Fellowships: 2010 Call for Applications


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 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


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5.01  Vacancy Announcement: Senior Policy Officer (Plant Genetic Resources), FAO




Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Issued on: 22 April 2010

Deadline For Application: 17 June 2010

POSITION TITLE: Senior Policy Officer

(Plant Genetic Resources)



ORGANIZATIONAL UNIT: Plant Production & Protection Division, AGP

Agriculture and Consumer Protection

Department, AG

DURATION *: Fixed term: 3 years

POST CODE/NO: C/0079162




Under the overall supervision of the Director, Plant Production and Protection Division, and in close collaboration with relevant technical units and FAO decentralized offices, the incumbent will be responsible for planning, development and implementation of strategies, policies and programmes on plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA) within the framework of the rolling Global Plan of Action (GPA) for Conservation and Sustainable Utilization of PGRFA and the implementation of the International Treaty on PGRFA. In particular, will:


• Advise governments on the development and implementation of appropriate and effective strategies and policy options for an integrated approach to conservation and sustainable use of PGRFA in line with international agreements and regulatory frameworks;

• Coordinate the global work programme on strengthening national capacities for the implementation of priority activities of the GPA for the Strategic Objective on Sustainable Crop Production Intensification

• Provide leadership in the development and implementation of the Multi-Year Programme of Work of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and

Agriculture, with particular emphasis on the preparation of the periodic report “State of the World’s PGRFA” for updating the GPA;

• Lead technology/policy dialogues and fund raising processes for increasing the role of PGRFA in national and regional action plans including for climate change and food security;

• Review international and national technology, policy and regulatory instruments that may directly or indirectly affect PGRFA management to promote linkages between conservation, breeding and seed systems within agriculture policies;

• Guide and supervise the Global Partnership Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building (GIPB) including linkages to the International Treaty provisions;

• Plan, organize, and lead technical and policy meetings and workshops;

• Develop and maintain contacts with other UN bodies, international organizations, including the public and private sector organizations and foster collaboration and exchange of information;

• Represent the Organization in national, regional and global meetings; prepare guidelines, reports and publications; and provide technical backstopping for designated national and regional projects, as required;

• Perform other related duties as required



Candidates should meet the following:

▪ Advanced University Degree in Agriculture, Plant Sciences or Environmental Science, with specialization in plant genetic resources or related field

▪ Ten years of relevant experience in technical and policy strategy formulation work related to biodiversity and genetic resources which included experience at international level

▪ Working knowledge of English, French or Spanish and limited knowledge of one of the other two or Arabic, Chinese, Russian


TO APPLY: Carefully read and follow the Guidelines to applicants

Send your application to: V.A 2347-AGP

T. Osborn, AGP

FAO Viale delle Terme di Caracalla 00153 Rome ITALY

Fax No: +39 06 57056347





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5.02  Vacancy Notice: Assistant Professor in Crop Science






Vacancy Notice

Assistant Professor in Crop Science

9 month, tenure track


The University of WisconsinRiver Falls invites applications for the position of Assistant Professor in the Plant and Earth Science Department with a specialization in crop science,  The successful candidate will teach undergraduate introductory and advanced courses in crop science, including Corn and Soybean Production, Small Grain and Miscellaneous Crop Production, Genetics, Plant Breeding and Crop Improvement, Introductory Plant Science.  Responsibilities also include student advising, assisting with coaching the intercollegiate crops judging team and the Crops and Soils Club; participating in professional activities, as well as university and community service.   The University values program-related scholarly activity, defined as research, scholarship or creative endeavor.  The position is a full-time, nine-month, tenure-track position. Opportunities for optional summer employment are available through research grants or other funding sources.  The appointment begins 23 August 2010 or 9 January 2011.  Compensation is based on qualifications. The standard teaching load is 12 credits each semester.



A Ph.D. or ABD by appointment date in agronomy, crop science or a closely related field with expertise in grain/crop production and plant breeding/biotechnology. Ability to teach the courses noted above and to update existing courses and/or develop new courses particularly in the area of plant biotechnology.  Ability to interact effectively with students, professional colleagues, and members of the extended community.  Willingness to help facilitate undergraduate research endeavors, internships and extracurricular activities.   Ability to facilitate the learning of practical applications in the discipline to help ensure readiness of students for internships and graduates for employment.  Capacity to work effectively in a team environment, as well as work independently to achieve University, College and Departmental goals.  Demonstrated awareness of and sensitivity to diverse student populations and ability to contribute to the University's commitment to enhancing student awareness and appreciation of diverse cultures, backgrounds, and identities.  Possess relevant teaching experience or demonstrated potential for effective teaching. Familiarity with Midwest United States agriculture preferred. Ph.D. candidates who have completed all degree requirements except dissertation (ABD) by the date of appointment may be considered if the Ph. D. will be conferred within one year of appointment date.


To Apply:

On-line applications are required at .  Submit your 1) curriculum vitae, 2) letter of interest specifying qualifications and experience, 3) unofficial transcripts, and 4) a separate statement addressing your ability to contribute to the enhancement of student awareness and to the appreciation of diverse cultures. 5)  Include the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of at least three references that can specifically comment upon your experience and professional preparation.  Official copies of transcripts will be required if hired.


Inquiries should be addressed to:

Dennis Cosgrove, Professor of Agronomy

Search and Screen Committee Chair


Deadline to Apply:

Review of applications begins May 7, 2010. For full consideration, please submit all of your application materials by this date.



The names of all nominees and applicants who have not requested confidentiality in writing, and identities of all finalists must be released upon request.


The University is committed to creating an educational community which enhances student awareness and appreciation of diverse ethnicities and cultures and which actively supports tolerance, civility and respect for the rights and sensibilities of each person without regard to economic status, ethnic background, political views, sexual orientation, or other personal characteristics or beliefs.  Awareness of and sensitivity to diverse ethnic and cultural heritages are especially sought in applicants.


The University of Wisconsin-River Falls, a member of the University of Wisconsin System, is located 30 miles from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul in scenic west central Wisconsin.  Year-round art, cultural and recreational events are easily accessible.  UWRF’s 6600 undergraduate and graduate students pursue degrees in four colleges: Arts and Sciences; Education and Professional Studies; Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences; and Business and Economics.  The University provides an excellent environment for learning, emphasizing the importance of faculty-student interaction in classrooms, laboratories, academic advising, and co-curricular activities.  A favorable student-faculty ratio affords opportunity for meaningful interchange between faculty and students.  Strong interests in teaching and research as well as professional and community service are highly valued.  More information about UWRF can be found at: 


UW-River Falls is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer subject to all state and federal regulations pertaining to non-discrimination based upon sex, gender identify or expression, sexual orientation, race, color, national origin, religion, disability, marital status, age, arrest and/or conviction record, veteran status, and membership in the national guard, state defense force, or any other reserve component of the military forces of the United States or the State of Wisconsin.  All persons, especially women, persons of color, and people with disabilities are encouraged to apply.  Employment is subject to federal laws that require verification of your identify and legal right to work in the United States as required by the Immigration Reform and Control Act.


For a copy of UW-River Falls campus safety information see or call Public Safety at (715) 425-3133 for a paper copy. This material includes crime statistics (Annual Security Report) and information on crime prevention, sexual assault and drug/alcohol issues.


Contributed by Dennis Cosgrove


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5.03  Position announcement: Potato Breeder at the International Potato Center


The International Potato Center (CIP) is seeking a well-qualified and self-motivated Scientist to join its international team working to develop and test new potato populations and varieties. The position is based in Ethiopia.


The Center: CIP is a not-for-profit international agricultural research organization with a global mandate to conduct research on genetic resources of potatoes, sweetpotatoes, and other Andean roots and tubers, crop genetic enhancement and improvement, integrated crop management and sustainable management of natural resources. CIP’s vision is to contribute from its areas of expertise to the fulfillment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), in particular those goals that relate to poverty, hunger, child and maternal mortality, and sustainable development. CIP has its headquarters in Lima, Peru with staff and activities in locations across Africa, Asia and Latin America. CIP is a member of the Alliance of the CGIAR Centers, a network of 15 research centers mostly located in the developing world and supported by more than 60 donor members.


Program Description: CIP’s Global Genetic Enhancement Program evaluates and adapts landrace, wild and improved accessions of potato germplasm held in the CIP genebank to diverse tropical highland, subtropical lowland and temperate systems. CIP’s multi-disciplinary SSA team focuses on constraints and opportunities for profitable and sustainable root and tuber crop production and use in Africa 


Position Description: As a member of the Global Genetic Enhancement Program, the Scientist will contribute to more effective use of potato genetic resources, greater breeding progress, capacity strengthening and greater impact.  The Scientist will seek to combine multiple characteristics including virus resistance, heat tolerance, late blight resistance and consumer qualities through interdisciplinary and participatory research. The Scientist will ensure the implementation of state-of-the art potato breeding and deployment approaches in the Tropical Highlands Potato Program; and interact with partners on potato research and germplasm needs, germplasm deployment and use of CIP potato germplasm.


Specific responsibilities include:

·         Planning, prioritizing and implementing local use of CIP-held potato germplasm for population improvement and variety development through an SSA-based crossing program.

·         Working with a team of breeding and germplasm specialists to characterize and improve access to information on pedigree and performance of potato genetic resources.

·         Developing efficient and participatory ways of evaluating adaptation and utility of improved populations in target environments and systems.

·         Publishing and communicating research results through journals, Internet and other outlets.

·         Developing concept notes and proposals in strategic research areas.

·         Contributing to the global system of potato germplasm conservation and use and capacity building of partners in national agricultural research systems.


The successful candidate will have:

·        PhD degree in Plant Breeding or associated discipline

·        A minimum of 5 years post-graduate experience in potato breeding including practical field breeding and the use of state of the art population genetics approaches.

·        Excellent knowledge of quantitative genetics, plant protection, statistics and assessment and use of Genotype x Environment interaction for breeding and variety development.

·        Knowledge of the utility of molecular tools and strategies for breeding vegetatively-propagated crops. Relevant publications in international peer-reviewed journals.

·        Experience in experimental design, agronomy and field experimentation; excellent computer literacy.

·        Interest and ability to work in a multidisciplinary and multi-cultural environment.

·        Excellent written and spoken English; Knowledge of Spanish, French and/or Portuguese is desirable.


Conditions:  The employment contract will be for a three-year term. Employment conditions include an attractive remuneration package, including health care, home leave, and other benefits.  Regional and international travel is required.  CIP prides itself on its collegial and supportive working environment, which allows space for personal and professional growth.


Applications:  Applicants should apply by email, sending a cover letter summarizing their relevance to this position, a full C.V. and the names and contact information of three referees knowledgeable about the candidate’s professional qualifications and work experience to Rosario Marcovich at The reference of the position should be clearly marked on the subject line of the email message. Screening of applications will begin on April 5, 2010 and will continue until the post is filled.


All applications will be acknowledged; only short listed candidates will be contacted.


Learn more about CIP by accessing our web site at .


CIP is an equal opportunity employer. Qualified women and professionals from developing countries are particularly encouraged to apply


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5.04  Position available for Postdoctoral Research Fellow


Position Title:  Postdoctoral Research Fellow  

Salary:  34,000+  

The Department of Plant Sciences is seeking a postdoctoral research fellow with experience in molecular mapping, physical mapping and QTL analysis, breeding/marker assisted selection and a strong publication record. Fellow to conduct research on (1) genetics/molecular marker and physical mapping, molecular genetics and analysis of complex traits, particularly quality traits in spring wheat (2) participate in the spring wheat breeding activities in the Laboratory, greenhouse, and filed activities. Laboratory work includes genetics/mapping, double haploid production, and marker assisted selection (MAS) among other activities. Field activities include planting, pollinating wheat, managing nurseries, taking notes, harvesting, and generating and analysis of data. This is part of a large breeding/genetics research project seeking to develop new adapted spring wheat cultivars, and develop and use novel and efficient techniques in the wheat genetics and breeding program. The main goal is to use these techniques/methodologies to identify genes controlling traits of interest (emphasis will be on quality traits) and incorporate them into advanced breeding lines.


Individual will work with the spring wheat breeding staff and other individuals in the biotechnology/quality/germplasm enhancement laboratories. Continued employment contingent on satisfactory job


performance and funding.   Minimum Qualifications:  Ph.D. in genetics;

molecular biology, plant breeding, or related discipline. Extensive experience in molecular marker techniques, and statistical analysis (e.g., SAS or similar software) of data.  Documented ability to communicate effectively in English both writing research publications and spoken language.  Experience managing large data sets and information. Ability to work in a team oriented environment.  Ability to work and perform all field and greenhouse research activities. 


Preferred Qualifications:  Experience in physical mapping. Experience or familiarity with quality aspects. Strong publication record. Experience in working in diverse groups effectively.  Screening for this position will begin May 25, 2010 although this position will remain open until filled.  For more information and to apply for this position online, go to:


Contributed by Eileen Buringrud


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


We turn your most promising research personnel into highly competent breeders.


Apply now for Class III of the UC Davis Plant Breeding Academy.  Space is limited!       A number of applicants have already been selected for this premier training program which is targeted toward working professionals and provides in-depth postgraduate education in plant breeding.  The program, which is not crop specific, teaches the basics of plant breeding, genetics, and statistics through a balance of classroom instruction, workshops, and site visits to plant breeding programs.


“The Academy training gave me the knowledge and skills to advance my plant breeding career. Eighteen months after my graduation I received a significant promotion within my company.”

Dan Gardner, Dairyland Seed Co., Inc.


To apply now visit or contact Joy Patterson at or 530-752-4414



Online Graduate Program in Seed Technology & Business


Iowa State University


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


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


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


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

Paul Christensen, Seed Technology and Business Program Manager Ph.





(NEW) On-Line Crop Breeding Courses Offered by UNL's Department of Agronomy & Horticulture


Course Questions: Contact Cathy Dickinson at 402-472-1730 or


Payment Options: Credit Cards ONLY accepted on-line, for other payment arrangements contact Cathy Dickinson at 402-472-1730 or


Registration Questions: CARI Registration Services 800-328-2851 or 402-472-1772, M-F 8:30a-4:30p CST


International Registrants: May register on-line, if you need to contact us: We are available M-F 8:30a-4:30p US CST by Skype Contact ID: cari.registration (free but must have free software installed and computer microphone) or by calling 01-402-472-1772.



Available Courses - Fall 2010/Spring 2011

·        Self-Pollinated Crop Breeding, Aug. 24 - Sept. 23, 2010 more info

·        Germplasm & Genes, Sept. 28 - Nov. 2, 2010 more info

·        Cross-Pollinated Crop Breeding, Nov. 4 - Dec. 9, 2010 more info

·        Advanced Plant Breeding Topics, Feb. 1 - Mar. 3, 2011 


Registration Options

Any 1 Course $150.00

Any 2 Courses $275.00

Any 3 Courses $400.00 (price includes course notebook)

All 4 Courses $500.00 (price includes course notebook)


For additional information see


Contributed by Cathy L Dickinson


P. Stephen Baenziger




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


30 – 31 May 2010. BGRI 2010 Technical Workshop and

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


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


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)


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.  for further program details and registration information.


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


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

 AgriGenomics World Congress


(NEW) 12-16 July 2010. Proposal Writing Workshop for young scientists from Benin, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal


We hereby invite young scientists from Benin, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal to submit a Research Note and apply for participation in a Proposal Writing Workshop to be held in Benin on July 12-16, 2010


Please find attached a Call for research notes and invitation to the Benin workshop, and Guidelines for developing the research notes.

The announcement is also available on-line at ; ;


Deadline for application: 20 May 2010.


Kindly share this call with potentially interested institutions/scientists.


Contributed by Per Rudebjer

Bioversity International


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


Visit our conference web site to register and submit abstracts.


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. We are pleased to announce that registration is now open. .  This site also provides information on the meeting agenda, optional tours, lodging, meeting logistics, and poster presentations.  All meeting participants must register prior to the deadline of Monday, August 2, as we will not be able to accommodate on-site registrations.


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.


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


(NEW) 5-9 September 2010. Third International Conference on Plant Molecular Breeding, Beijing, China

·         Fellowship opportunities open to: participants from developing countries in Africa and Asia

·         Target: Plant scientists with interest and/or background in molecular breeding

·         More


(NEW) 14-18 September 2010. 14th International Biotechnology Symposium, Rimini, Italy

·         Early application deadline (for reduced fees): 31 May 2010

·         Target: Biotechnology professionals from different scientific disciplines

·         More


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


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


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


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



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


More information will be available on ACSS website.

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


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


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


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