31 May 2010


An Electronic Newsletter of Applied Plant Breeding


Clair H. Hershey, Editor


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


-To subscribe, see instructions here

-Archived issues available at: FAO Plant Breeding Newsletter



1.01  Agriculture: Need for plant scientists is rising

1.02  Jeanie Borlaug Laube Women in Triticum Awards Announced

1.03  Wageningen plant breeding course sowed seeds for scientist’s grassroots work

1.04  New sub1 rice lines developed in less time by PhilRice and the International Rice Research Institute

1.05  Plant Breeding Academy for Europe first session is a success

1.06  Training needs for future plant breeders identified

1.07  Major conference for Dundee

1.08  John Innes Centre and The Sainsbury Laboratory top survey ranking the most influential papers

1.09  Improved cowpea varieties in Nigeria’s savanna region

1.10  Pigeonpea hybrids provide food security to Asians and Africans

1.11  Biofortified maize: cure for children malnutrition

1.12 Better beans as solution to iron deficiency

1.13  New CIAT-HarvestPlus office inaugurated in India

1.14  Cassava under threat

1.15  ICRISAT and UC Davis to boost nitrogen fixation of legumes

1.16  Seed Biotechnology Center hires Rale Gjuric as Plant Breeding Academysm Director

1.17  Conducting public-sector research on commercialized transgenic seed - In search of a paradigm that works

1.18  Review of the Gene Gechnology Regulations

1.19  China - Bt cotton linked with surge in crop pest

1.20  Maize Plus-Hybrids can improve grain yields and pollen containment of transgenic maize

1.21  EU Commission: First suggestions for a new gene technology policy

1.22  The long road to commercialization of Bt brinjal in India

1.23  Protecting genetic resources - Plant breeders look to genetic markers to protect their research investments and unique plant varieties

1.24  Agricultural biodiversity research plan dropped

1.25  Maintaining genetic diversity with plant variety protection

1.26  Endangered African rice varieties gain elite status in the region’s struggle to achieve food security

1.27  Australian researchers develop rice with threefold iron

1.28  Seeds of aflatoxin-resistant corn lines available

1.29  Corn for food and fuel - Developing a dual-purpose corn that can be bred for both food and cellulosic ethanol

1.30  Supercharged grasses for a greener bioenergy future

1.31  Health benefits of wheat can be improved by plant breeding

1.32  New screen for safer food crops

1.33  Wheat variety thrives on saltier soils

1.34  USDA/ARS scientists identify genetic resistance to rice sheath blight

1.35  Relationship of rice fragrance and yield reduction under salt treatment

1.36  What genes help blossoms last longer?

1.37  Developing DNA markers of rice blast resistance gene locus

1.38  Genetic discovery promises to boost rice yields

1.39  Eagle Genomics Ltd. and the John Innes Centre enter into collaboration on TraitTag

1.40  FAO-BiotechNews (Excerpts) 3-2010



2.01  April 2010 issue of Current Opinion in Plant Biology: Genome Studies & Molecular Genetics; and Plant Biotechnology



3.01  Plant Breeding Methods - Distance Education version

3.02  SBC presents SeedQuest Keyword: Seed Biotechnologies

3.03  The Seed Biotechnology Center at UC Davis and SeedQuest announce Seed Central CONNECTS

3.04  Seed Central CONNECTS Introductory Event



4.01  National Association of Plant Breeders 2010 Award Announcement



5.01  Biological Science Technician

5.02  Postdoctoral Scientist

5.03  Associate Plant Variety Examiner

5.04  Sr. Technologist- Plant Breeder (Davis, CA)

5.05  China Corn R&D Manager- Beijing or Zhengzhou, Henan China









1.01  Agriculture: Need for plant scientists is rising


15 May 2010


With the need for plant scientists increasing, the University of Illinois Plant Breeding Center is expanding opportunities for students, with backing from Pioneer Hi-Bred.


The DuPont company is providing fellowships because they view the U of I as a leading university in plant improvement graduate program, said Rita Mumm, director of the U of I center.


U.S. institutions are meeting less than two-thirds of industry demand for master's degree and doctoral degree plant scientists, she estimates.




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1.02  Jeanie Borlaug Laube Women in Triticum Awards Announced


This award, established in 2010, provides professional development opportunities for women working in wheat during the early stages of their career. The award is named after Jeanie Borlaug Laube, mentor to many, and daughter of Nobel Laureate Dr. Norman E. Borlaug. Jeanie Borlaug Laube has served as Chair of the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI) since October 2009.


The BGRI received an impressive number of applications from highly qualified students and researchers working in wheat. The five 2010 award winners - Maricelis Acevedo, Esraa Alwan, Jemnesh Kifatew Haile, Jessica Rutkowski, and Hale Ann Tufan - will be honored at the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative Meeting in St. Petersburg on 30 May.


Bios of the 2010 WIT Award winners:

Maricelis Acevedo, an early career pathologist specializing in the use of host resistance for control of cereal rusts, is currently a post doctoral fellow at the USDA-ARS, Aberdeen Idaho, working in the laboratory of John Bonman. Maricelis has screened wheat landraces from the USDA collection for stem rust resistance at the International screening nursery at Njoro Kenya for the past two years in order to identify new sources of resistance to the “Ug99” race and its variants.


Esraa Alwan is an MSc student studying under the supervision of Francis Ogbonnaya at the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) in association with Aleppo University in Syria. In St. Petersburg she will share her work looking for new sources of stem rust resistance in wild tetraploid wheat.


Jemanesh Kifetew Haile is a PhD student working with Marion Roder at the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics & Crop Plant Research (IPK). Jemanesh is a native of Ethiopia, where Ug99 poses a great threat to Ethiopian farmers. Her work aims to identify molecular markers linked to the stem rust resistance QTLs that provide resistance to virulent races, such as TTKSK (or Ug99), in durum wheat.


Jessica Rutkoski is a first year Plant Breeding PhD student in the laboratory of Mark Sorrells at Cornell University. In St. Petersburg, Jessica will present her preliminary work using genomic selection methods to incorporate Adult Plant Resistance to Stem Rust in Adapted Germplasm.


Hale Ann Tufan is a PhD student working with Dr. Lesley Boyd at the John Innes Centre. Hale is characterizing the development of Magnaporthe spp. on wheat in order to better understand the function of WIR1, a potential basal resistance gene important against a broad range of pathogens.


For more information about the WIT award, please visit


Contributed by Jenny Nelson



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1.03  Wageningen plant breeding course sowed seeds for scientist’s grassroots work


Wageningen, The Netherlands

12 May 2010

Humberto Ríos Labrada is a plant breeder from Cuba. In April he was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize, which recognises the efforts of unsung grassroots heroes. Ríos Labrada has worked for over a decade with farmers, coming to understand and then strengthen how they go about plant selection and breeding in a way that maintains and increases crop diversity. As a result, Cuban agriculture is shifting back from chemical-based mono-cropping to low-input farming that is more sustainable and helping the country to feed itself. In 1996 Ríos Labrada attended the Applied Plant Breeding Course at the IAC, forerunner of CDI. We asked how his time in Wageningen influenced his subsequent career.


When you came to Wageningen in 1996 at what stage were you in your career?


I was working on my PhD, attempting to breed pumpkins using conventional breeding methods. At the same time, however, I was also working with farmers. I was interested in how the farmers selected varieties and did their own breeding, but I wasn’t sure whether this was actually a scientific thing to do.


Looking back on the course, how did it influence your subsequent work?


This was the first time I had travelled abroad, so it was a real eye-opener.


During the three-month course, Salvatore Ceccarelli lectured for a week about his ideas on Participatory Plant Breeding. By the end of that week I said to myself: my goodness, now I know what my thesis has to be about!


I also noticed that most of the participants in the course, like me, took a top-down approach to plant breeding. Being in the Netherlands gave us the opportunity to discover the interesting way in which the Dutch have combined the public and private sector. The training programme really inspired me to recognise the value of including farmers in plant breeding.


Do you still have contact with researchers or other people in Wageningen?


I have maintained contact with Wageningen in various ways. I attended an ICRA training programme in 2000 and ICRA is now an important partner in my project in Cuba.


Conny Almekinders, a crop physiologist specialising in participatory approaches to plant breeding and seed production at Wageningen University, has been one of my programme coaches since 2001.


What about people from other countries who you met while in Wageningen?


Like me, most of my fellow course participants were looking for ways to strengthen the conventional plant breeding approach they were using, where scientists do most of the decision-making in breeding programmes. We were all so focused on breeding a particular crop – we had no idea about systems.


CDI congratulates Dr Rios Labrada on being awarded the Goldman Prize and wishes him success in his future work.




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1.04  New sub1 rice lines developed in less time by PhilRice and the International Rice Research Institute


The Philippines

25 May 2010

PhilRice and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) developed PSB Rc82-Sub1 lines through marker-assisted breeding approach making the transfer of submergence-tolerant gene (sub1) significantly less time-consuming.


Rice breeding typically takes 8 to 11 years to complete. However with DNA marker-assisted breeding, Loida M. Perez, lead author of the paper titled PSB Rc82-Sub1: A New Submergence Tolerant Rice Cultivar Developed Through Marker-Assisted Breeding, said that DNA marker-assisted breeding is estimated to save at least 3 to 6 years in the breeding process.


Perez explained that DNA markers are ‘landmarks’ that point plant breeders to a specific region of interest in the chromosome, thereby lessening the process.”


“With strong partnership of scientists between PhilRice and IRRI and funding from Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the IRRI-Japan Submergence Tolerance Project of Dr. David J. Mackill, we have embarked on the project of transferring the sub1 from NSIC Rc194 (IR64-Sub1) into PSB Rc82, a popular and high yielding irrigated rice cultivar with known resistance to major rice pests and diseases,” she said.


PhilRice and IRRI identified four PSB Rc82-Sub1 materials. Initial morpho-agronomic traits such as grain quality revealed that the improved PSB Rc82-Sub1 materials were comparable to the original PSB Rc82 (non-sub1). All four lines had fixed sub1 and were established in 2010 dry season at PhilRice Central Experiment Station to determine yield and yield-related parameters and to produce seed for evaluation and promotion in submergence or flash flood-prone areas in the country.


In the paper, it was discussed that sub1 is responsible for submergence tolerance in rice at vegetative stage for up to 2 weeks.


From an Indian rice variety FR13A, it was successfully transferred to IR64 via marker-assisted breeding at IRRI producing IR64-Sub1, which was recently registered as commercial variety by the National Seed Industry Council of the Philippines as NSIC Rc194 with a local name “Submarino 1” for the flood-prone ecosystems in the country.


With the release of Submarino 1, however, Perez said researchers continued to develop other lines or varieties with submergence tolerance such as the PSB Rc82-Sub1 for farmers to have options on the variety to use in pest and disease-stricken rainfed areas in the country.


The paper, adjudged as best paper in the rice technology, socio-economics, impact assessment, policy, and market for rice productivity category during the 23rd National Rice Research and Development last March 3-5, was co-authored with Joanne M. Domingo, Haizel M. Pastor, Henry Ticman, Jocelyn Bagarra, Marites Camus, Roberto Baybado, Nenita V. Desamero, Darlene Sanchez, Alvaro Pamplona, Endang Septiningsih, and David J. Mackill.


Submergence or flash flood-prone rice areas in the Philippines are estimated at around 300,000 hectares. In addition to damages brought by typhoons and floods in lowland farms, rice farming productivity is very low in these areas because farmers plant rice only once a year.


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


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




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1.05 Plant Breeding Academy for Europe first session is a success


On Monday March 8th, the first session of the European program for the Plant Breeding Academy began on the UC Davis campus.  Created on the model of the highly successful Plant Breeding Academy, the UC Davis Seed Biotechnology Center established a program to serve plant breeding companies and institutions in Europe. The European program will be held in five countries over 21 months.  Each of the course’s six sessions is six days in length.  The first session was held in Davis, California with the remaining five sessions to be held in Angers, France; Enkhuizen, The Netherlands; Barcelona, Spain; Gatersleben, Germany, and the final at UC Davis. 


Academy partners in Europe include the European Seed Association, Vegepolys and French Seed Union in France, Seed Valley and Naktuinbouw in The Netherlands, the Center for Research in Agricultural Genomics and the Spanish Plant Breeders Association in Spain; and the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research, the German Plant Breeders Association in Germany. The integrated program will lead participants through basic and practical experiences in each location in genetics, statistics, and plant breeding, enabling participants to become professional plant breeders.


The 14 members of the inaugural class include:  Andreas Girke and Wilbert Luesink from Norddeutsche Pflanzenzücht Lembke (NPZ) in Germany, Bunterm Iamthian and Supat Mekiyanon from Chia Tai Co. in Thailand, Diego Ramos and Jose Maldonado from Monsanto in Spain, Guillermo Aqulla Tortosa and Marc Solsona from Semillas Fito in Spain, Dominique Rouan from Bayer CropSciences  in Belgium, Inga Kottmann from Deutsche Saatveredelung Ag in Germany, Liora Lifshitz from Zeraim Gedera Ltd. in Israel, Naama Barom Eliyahu from Hazera Genetics in Israel, Mathieu Sanvoisin from Syngenta in France, and Mika Isolahti from Boreal Plant Breeding Ltd. in Finland.  For more information on the Plant Breeding Academy USA program and European program please contact Allen Van Deynze or Joy Patterson at or visit


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1.06  Training needs for future plant breeders identified


Researchers at SBC helped complete an interactive Delphi study to determine the educational needs for future plant breeders. Graduates from plant breeding programs will need not only cutting-edge scientific knowledge and know-how to support this increasingly important part of the agricultural industry. To be productive plant breeders, they should also be equipped with strong critical thinking ability, as well as good inter-personal and time management skills, along with demonstrated proficiency of accomplishment. These conclusions were reached after surveying 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. In addition, they emphasized the need for students to have experiences in communication, collaboration and teamwork. The compiled data will now help educators prepare high-quality breeders, while still working to retain the individual strengths of each particular university. By bringing a wide range of opinions into program development and curriculum design, students can be better prepared for the future. The SBC would like to thank Fred Bliss, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Plant Sciences, and Cary Trexler, Associate Professor in the College of Education, for their leadership and commitment to this project. For a more complete analysis, please see our website at


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1.07  Major conference for Dundee


Scientists studying some of the world’s most important cash crops are to converge on Dundee this autumn as the city beat the rest of the world to host the 7th Annual Solanaceae Conference, SOL2010. Over 300 world-leaders in research work on potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and aubergines from all over the globe, including Asia, Australia and North America, will gather at the Apex City Quay Hotel & Spa from 5 to 9 September 2010 to attend the event. 


It’s the first time the Solanaceae conference has been held in the UK. The conference will bring together scientists from research institutes, universities and breeding companies with a common focus of studying the diverse Solanaceae family. SOL2010 has been jointly organised by the SCRI, Scotland’s world renowned centre for crop research which is based at Invergowrie and UK-SOL. It is taking place during the UN International Year of Biodiversity.


The topics which will be covered at the conference include; SOL biodiversity and evolution, plant growth and development, biotic and abiotic stress, informatics and computational biology, the SOL genomes, translational genomics and molecular breeding, and metabolomics and proteomics. There will also be a series of crop specific workshops, along with a range of exciting keynote speakers who will be sharing their expertise within the Solanaceae field. For more information on the conference or to register to attend the conference please visit or call 01382 434318.


For further information contact:


Laura Anderson

Account Manager

Tricker PR

Direct: 01224 654081

Telephone: 01224 646491

Mobile:  07795 522 011



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1.08  John Innes Centre and The Sainsbury Laboratory top survey ranking the most influential papers


The John Innes Centre and The Sainsbury Laboratory have topped a survey ranking the most influential papers of the last ten years in plant and animal sciences. A total of 88,700 institutions were surveyed worldwide. JIC and TSL on the Norwich Research Park were ranked significantly higher than any other organization.


The Norwich institutes do not produce the highest number of papers, but their papers have the greatest impact. The survey, published by Times Higher Education, analyzed the average number of times research papers were cited by other scientists. 


Between 1999 and 2009 JIC and TSL papers were cited more frequently than papers from any other organization.


JIC and TSL published 1,134 papers in the area of plant and animal science, from January 1999 to December 2009.  These papers were cited over 42,000 times in other research papers, which is an average of 37.54 citations per paper.  The only other UK organization to appear in the top 20 was the University of Cambridge with 13.28 citations per paper.


“This is a ringing endorsement of the world-class science carried out at BBSRC Institutes,” said Professor Douglas Kell, Chief Executive of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, which provides core funding to JIC. “The John Innes Centre, alongside our other Institutes, plays an invaluable role in nurturing long-term, strategically important research which will help us tackle some of the biggest challenges faced by our society.”


“This is a great accolade for the John Innes Centre and Sainsbury Laboratory, and it’s great news for the Norwich Research Park and UK science in general,” said Professor Michael Bevan, director of the John Innes Centre.  “It’s a mark of the research done by our scientists that we have managed to get so many highly-regarded papers published in top journals.  It’s a real testament to the quality of science here and the fantastic support and resources we have in Norwich.”


“In the past 22 years the Sainsbury Lab has made outstanding contributions to understanding plant immunity and how pathogens overcome it, as well as to the discovery of mechanisms of gene silencing,” said Professor Sophien Kamoun, head of the Sainsbury Laboratory.  “Our scientific impact has benefited from our co-location and collaboration with colleagues at the JIC, as well as the generous support of the Gatsby Foundation. These interactions have been further strengthened in the last few years with joint faculty appointments, and we look forward to building on our successes and continuing to produce outstanding science as well as solutions to crop disease problems.”



JIC and TSL press office:

Zoe Dunford, Tel: 01603 255111, email:

Andrew Chapple, Tel: 01603 251490, email:

The ranking

Data provided by Thomson Reuters from its Essential Science Indicators, January 1999-June 2009, published in Times Higher Education:




Citations per paper


John Innes Centre, UK





RIKEN, Japan





Max Planck Society, Germany





University of California, San Diego





University of California, Berkeley





University of Arizona





CNRS, France





University of Washington





Wageningen University





University of Cambridge





CSIRO, Australia





Cornell University





Washington State University





University of Wisconsin





University of Missouri





Purdue University





INRA, France





Michigan State University





University of British Columbia





Iowa State University





Contribued by Andrew Chapple

Assistant Press Officer

Norwich BioScience Institutes


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1.09  Improved cowpea varieties in Nigeria’s savanna region


Two new cowpea varieties IT89KD-288 (now SAMPEA-11) and IT89KD-391 (now SAMPEA-12), developed by scientists working at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, Nigeria have been released to Nigerian farmers. The varieties are superior over the current improved lines as well as possessing other traits that could overcome the problems in growing cowpea. IT89KD-288 has large white seeds, a rough seed coat and resistance to septoria leaf spot, scab, bacterial blight and nematodes, and tolerance to Nigeria's strain of Striga gesnerioides (a parasitic weed that severely lowers yield). IT89KD-391 (now SAMPEA-12) has medium-to-large brown seeds and a rough seed coat preferred for commercial production in northeast Nigeria.


The varieties were developed 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.


For more details, see the press release at


Source: Crop Biotech Update, 23 April 2010


Contributed by Margaret Smith

Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics

Cornell University, Ithaca, NY


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1.10 Pigeonpea hybrids provide food security to Asians and Africans


Pigeonpea is catching the attention of researchers due to its adaptability and high nutritional value. Initial research on pigeonpea (Cajanus cajan [L.] Millsp.) hybrids have resulted to better yields, nutrition, and pest resistance which guarantee food security to both Asians and Africans who use pigeonpea in their daily diets.


ICPH 8, the first hybrid of pigeonpea released by the International Crops Research Institute (ICRISAT) and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, which used genetic male sterility failed to reach the fields due to high production costs. This led researchers to develop genetically diverse experimental hybrids like the ICPH 2671 which produces 3,250 kilograms per hectare under irrigation.


Amidst the effects of climate change, pigeonpea hybrids have exhibited fast growth, heavier root and shoot biomass, and improved resistance against drought, disease and salinity. This promising crop provides good nutrition to consumers, and also improves the soil fertility and structure.


Read the full story at


Contributed by Margaret Smith

Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics

Cornell University, Ithaca, NY


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1.11  Biofortified maize: cure for children malnutrition


Maize is one of the most important crops in the world. In Africa, it is the staple food of more than 300 million people. In other developing countries, maize or corn may not be the main food source, but it is one of the crops that they can rely on to provide nourishment to the starving malnourished population, specially the children.


To further help the poor nations provide nutritious food to their people, biofortified maize called quality protein maize (QPM) was produced by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). Consumers would not recognize the difference in the flavor of regular maize from QPM. However, QPM has a naturally-occurring mutant maize gene that enhances the production of amino acids necessary for protein synthesis in humans.


Statistician Nilupa Gunaratna from the International Nutrition Foundation led a team composed of another statistician, an economist, a nutritionist and a plant breeder, and analyzed the impact of QPM on malnourished children. In their paper entitled A Meta-analysis of Community-based Studies on Quality Protein Maize, they explained that when maize-dependent malnourished children consume QPM, their growth rate for height boost by 9 percent, while their growth rate for weight increased by 12 percent.


The news article is available at


Contributed by Margaret Smith

Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics

Cornell University, Ithaca, NY


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1.12  Better beans as solution to iron deficiency


Beans add flavor and texture in chili, soups, and other common dishes all over the world. It is a good source of iron which is important in various biological processes of the body. Thus, Raymond P. Glahn of the U.S. Department of  Agriculture - Agricultural Research Service (ARS), together with other scientists, are conducting a study to improve the amount of iron that can be absorbed by the body from beans. The result of their study is expected to benefit more than two billion iron-deficient individuals.


In their initial laboratory test, the team used human intestinal cells that showed how the human digestive system absorbs nutrients from beans. This is followed by several animal tests that led them to the use of chicken as the most efficient model for iron-absorption studies due to their sensitivity to iron deficiency. Further investigation confirmed that less iron can be absorbed by animals from red beans than in white b! eans.


View the ARS feature article at


Source: Crop Biotech Update, 13 May 2010


Contributed by Margaret Smith

Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics

Cornell University, Ithaca, NY


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1.13  New CIAT-HarvestPlus office inaugurated in India


The newest office of International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)-HarvestPlus was finally inaugurated last May 12 at the campus of Patancheru near Hyderabad, India. Harrie Hendrickx, Head of Product Delivery for HarvestPlus, said that the new office aims to support seed companies and develop staple crops that are rich in micronutrients, particularly the pearl millet which is the reason why HarvestPlus is now in ICRISAT. This is in line with Harvest Plus' goal of relieving malnutrition in Asia and in Africa.


Dr. William D. Dar, the Director General of International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) which hosts the new office, noted the importance of forging partnerships between different organizations to advance agriculture. He said, "No one can do it alone and ICRISAT is the living proof for showcasing partnerships for agricultural development."


On the other hand, The press release of HarvestPlus is availabl! e at


Source: Crop Biotech Update, 13 May 2010


Contributed by Margaret Smith

Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics

Cornell University, Ithaca, NY


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1.14  Cassava under threat   


CIAT scientists and their partners in Southeast Asia have issued urgent preliminary guidelines to tackle deadly pest and disease outbreaks that have crippled cassava production in parts of the region.  The move follows a CIAT investigation into reports from Thailand's eastern and northeastern regions, of damaged and stunted cassava plants with low root yields.


Cassava is an essential pro-poor crop in the region, where it is grown by around 5 million smallholders, mainly to supply the starch processing and animal feed industries. In Thailand alone, the industry is worth US$1.5 billion annually, and the country accounts for three-quarters of the world's cassava exports.


For more information see


Source:  CIAT


Contributed by Margaret Smith

Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics

Cornell University, Ithaca, NY


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1.15  ICRISAT and UC Davis to boost nitrogen fixation of legumes


Patancheru, Andhra Pradesh, India

26 May 2010

A $1.7 million research grant has been awarded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), USA under its Basic Research to Enable Agricultural Development (BREAD) program to Professor of plant pathology Dr Douglas Cook at the University of California, Davis and Dr Rajeev Varshney at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), to fund research on nitrogen fixation in legumes, the plant family that includes chickpea, pigeonpeas, beans, peanuts and alfalfa.




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1.16  Seed Biotechnology Center hires Rale Gjuric as Plant Breeding Academysm Director


DAVIS--Following an international search, the University of California, Davis Seed Biotechnology Center (SBC) is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Rale Gjuric as the first Director of the Center’s Plant Breeding Academy.  Dr. Gjuric is currently the president and managing director of Haplotech Inc., a Canadian company that he founded specializing in technical and consulting services for plant breeding companies.  Dr. Gjuric received his Ph.D. from the University of Manitoba, Canada; his M.Sc. from the University of Novi Sad, Serbia; and his B.Sc. from the University of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, Macedonia.  Previously, he held the positions of Breeding Manager of DL Seeds and Research and Managing Director of Deutsche Saatveredelung AG (DSV), Canada.  Dr. Gjuric is an accomplished plant breeder with 35 canola varieties released in the last 15 years. 


In announcing the appointment Dr. Kent Bradford, SBC Academic Director and Plant Science professor said, “We are very excited that Rale Gjuric will be joining us to lead the activities of the Plant Breeding Academy.  He has the perfect combination of talents and professional experiences to educate and inspire our plant breeding students from around the world.  His great breeding successes, business experience, connections in North America and Europe and his teaching abilities make him the ideal leader for the Plant Breeding Academy.”  Dr. Gjuric was actively involved with the planning of the new European Plant Breeding Academy, and he is also one of the two lead instructors in that program.


The Plant Breeding Academy currently has two courses in progress and is recruiting for its 4th class which will be held at UC Davis beginning September, 2010. Space is limited for the UC Davis class. Applications and further information can be obtained at or by contacting Joy Patterson at or (530) 752-4414.



Media Contact: Allen Van Deynze, PhD, Seed Biotechnology Center,  (530) 754-6444,


The Plant Breeding Academy was developed by the Seed Biotechnology Center in direct response to industry concerns over the reduced number of plant breeders being trained in academic programs.  To date, 15 plant breeders have graduated from the inaugural class and two programs involving 35 students are currently in progress in the European Plant Breeding Academy and the UC Davis program.  More information on the Plant Breeding Academy can be obtained at


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1.17  Conducting public-sector research on commercialized transgenic seed - In search of a paradigm that works


March 2010

Thomas W. Sappington, Kenneth R. Ostlie, Christina DiFonzo, Bruce E. Hibbard, Christian H. Krupke, Patrick Porter, Steven Pueppke, Elson J. Shields and Jon J. Tollefson



Public-sector scientists have a mandate to independently evaluate agricultural products available to American farmers on the open market, whereas the companies that sell the products must protect their intellectual property. However, as a consequence of the latter concern, public scientists currently are prohibited by industry-imposed restrictions from conducting research on commercialized transgenic seed without permission of the company. Industry acknowledged the seriousness of the problem after public warnings by a large group of entomologists to EPA and scientific advisory panels that the assumption of independence of public-sector studies on these products is no longer valid under current restrictions. Both industry and public scientists are working to find an amicable, mutually-acceptable solution. Recently, the American Seed Trade Association brokered a draft set of principles designed to protect the legitimate property rights of companies while allowing public scientists independence to conduct most types of research on their commercialized products without the need for case-by-case agreements. While there are a number of potential pitfalls in implementation of the principles across companies, this effort represents a major step forward, and there is reason for optimism that this approach can be made to work to the benefit of industry, public scientists, and the American public.

Full article


Source: GM Crops Volume 1, Issue 2 March/April 2010 via


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1.18  Review of the Gene Gechnology Regulations


The Gene Technology Regulator is currently undertaking a review of the Gene Technology Regulations 2001 (the Regulations).


The review is consistent with the Regulator's roles and functions under the Gene Technology Act 2000 and recommendation 6.1 of the 2006 Statutory Review of the Gene Technology Act 2000 and the Gene Technology Agreement


The Gene Technology Regulator has released the Draft Gene Technology Amendment Regulations 2010 for public consultation in accordance with section 142 of the Act.


Submission on the proposed amendments should be received by 18 June 2010:


Office of the Gene Technology Regulator, MDP 54, GPO box 9848 CANBERRA ACT 2601 (

Telephone: 1800 181 030 Facsimile: (02) 6271 4202 E-mail:


Amendments are proposed in five areas based on feedback from regulated and other organisations and operational experience of the OGTR: classification of dealings with GMOs as exempt; classification of dealings with GMOs as Notifiable Low Risk Dealings (NLRDs); classification of dealings with GMOs involving viral vectors; oversight of NLRDs; and timeframes and other administrative matters.


A comprehensive consultation package has also been prepared to assist interested individuals and groups to understand the changes proposed in the Draft Amendment Regulations and to participate in the consultation process. This package includes and overview paper, a discussion paper addressing each of the five areas of amendment, and an unofficial compilation of the proposed amendments with the current Regulations to allow the changes to be read in context.Top of page


Invitation to make submissions (RTF 161 KB)

Invitation to make submissions (PDF 43 KB)


Draft Gene Technology Amendment Regulations 2010 (PDF 336 KB)


Overview of the proposals for amendment (RTF 226 KB)

Overview of the proposals for amendment (PDF 75 KB)


Discussion papers for the five areas of proposed amendment:


Classification of exempt dealings (RTF 276 KB)

Classification of exempt dealings (PDF 79 KB)


Classification of Notifiable Low Risk Dealings (NLRDs) (RTF 269 KB)

Classification of Notifiable Low Risk Dealings (NLRDs) (PDF 73 KB)


Classification of dealings involving viral vectors (RTF 547 KB)

Classification of dealings involving viral vectors (PDF 123 KB)


Oversight of NLRDs (RTF 293 KB)

Oversight of NLRDs (PDF 72 KB)


Timeframes and administrative matters (RTF 210 KB)

Timeframes and administrative matters (PDF 55 KB)


Questions and Answers on the current review of the Regulations (RTF 36 KB)

Questions and Answers on the current review of the Regulations (PDF 20 KB)


An unofficial compilation of the proposed amendments (RTF 624 KB)

An unofficial compilation of the proposed amendments (PDF 190 KB)


Matters raised in submissions will be taken into account in finalising the Amendment Regulations. The Regulator will then recommend to the Gene Technology Ministerial Council (GTMC) that the Regulations be amended. Following GTMC agreement, finalised Amendment Regulations will be submitted for consideration by the Executive Council and making by the Governor General. If agreed, it is anticipated that Amendment Regulations will come into force in early 2010. Top of page




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1.19  China - Bt cotton linked with surge in crop pest


Beijing, China

14 May 2010

Scientists are calling for more thorough risk assessments for genetically modified crops after they discovered a surge in pests in a region planted with Bt cotton.

Their fifteen-year study surveyed a region of northern China where ten million small-scale farmers grow nearly three million hectares of Bt cotton, and 26 million hectares of other crops. It revealed widespread infestation with mirid bug (Heteroptera Miridae), which is destroying fruit, vegetable, cotton and cereal crops. And the rise of this pest correlated directly with Bt cotton planting.


Bt cotton is a genetically engineered strain, produced by the biotechnology company Monsanto. It makes its own insecticide which kills bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera), a common cotton pest that eats the crop's product — the bolls.


Planting Bt cotton slashes farmers' pesticide requirements and increases cotton yield. It has been adopted worldwide, with about 16 million hectares — about 50 per cent of world cotton cultivation — now Bt cotton.


In northern China 95 per cent of cotton is the Bt variety.


The scientists, from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, and the China National Agro-Technical Extension and Service Center, monitored insecticide use on cotton farms for 15 years. After the first five years, they also monitored mirid bug numbers at 38 locations.


They watched the farms gradually become a source of mirid bug infestations, in parallel with the rise of Bt cotton. The bugs, initially regarded as occasional or minor pests, spread out to surrounding areas, "acquiring pest status" and infesting Chinese date, grape, apple peach and pear crops.


Before Bt cotton, the pesticides used to kill bollworm also controlled mirid bugs. Now, farmers are using more sprays to fight mirid bugs, said the scientists.


"Our work shows that a drop in insecticide use in Bt cotton fields leads to a reversal of the ecological role of cotton; from being a sink for mirid bugs in conventional systems to an actual source for these pests in Bt cotton growing systems," the authors wrote in their paper, published yesterday in the journal Science (13 May).


Although Bt cotton is well-researched, few studies examine the knock-on effect on other pests, said the scientists.


"This study is the first report of a landscape-level emergence of non-target pests," said co-author, Kongming Wu, adding that the study highlights a "critical need" to explore the complex ecological impacts of Bt crops.


"Crops are the first level in the food chain," he told SciDev.Net. "When people make it uneatable to certain insects, we need to understand how it might affect the whole ecosystem."


The team concluded that more comprehensive risk management "may be crucial to help advance integrated pest management and ensure sustainability of transgenic technologies".


Link to full article in Science




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1.20  Maize Plus-Hybrids can improve grain yields and pollen containment of transgenic maize


13 May 2010

In the production of maize or corn (Zea mays L.) Plus-Hybrids, cytoplasmic male-sterile (CMS) hybrids, are combined with male-fertile hybrids which act as the pollinator of the whole stand. CMS hybrids are plants that do not produce functional male reproductive parts due to specific nuclear and mitochondrial interactions. This combination often outproduces the male-fertile self-pollinated hybrids.


A study was conducted by a team of scientists led by Magali A. Munsch of the Institute of Plant, Animal and Agroecosystem Sciences (IPAS) in Switzerland to investigate the combining abilities of five CMS hybrids and eight pollinators in 12 environments, in four countries, for two years. Results showed that Plus-Hybrids increased grain yield by 10-20% in particular environments. There were three highly responsive CMS hybrids and four generally favorable pollinators. The CMS effect brought about increase in the number of kernels depending on the environment, while the allo-pollination effect increased the thousand kernel weight in all environments. Aside from yield increase, the Plus Hybrids could also aid in the safe coexistence of transgenic and conventional maize in the laboratory by eliminating the contamination of transgenic pollens.


Subscribers of Crop Science Journal can download the full research article at


Source: CropBiotech Update via


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1.21  EU Commission: First suggestions for a new gene technology policy



10 May 2010

In the future, EU Member States should be able to decide for themselves on the cultivation of genetically modified plants. By making changes to shared laws on gene technology, the EU Commission intends to overcome the political blockade that has been in place for years.


In an internal strategy paper, the EU Commission presented the first suggestions for a new gene technology policy that already had been signalised by the Commission President Barroso prior to his re-election in August. In the future, Member States should be empowered to allow or prohibit the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) plants on their territory. Nonetheless, the general approval applied to GM plants should continue to be decided in an EU-wide, binding procedure based on a scientific safety assessment.


With regard to approval and cultivation, the Commission has aimed the segmentation of competence between the EU and individual Member States towards the revival of gene technology politics that have been deadlocked for years. Currently, ‘gene-technology-friendly’ and ‘-unfriendly’ countries block each other and thereby prevent decisions that are both clear and comprehensible to the public.


The Reuters news agency cites the strategy paper as recommending for the future that the cultivation of GM plants become easier for countries with the intention to utilise such plants, while countries with the intention to keep their agriculture ‘GMO-free’ be allowed to issue appropriate prohibitions. Statements made in the paper towards the Commission postulate “positive impulse for plant biotechnology and the seed industry” in light of the current situation.


Rather than revise current EU legislation, which would require the agreement of the European Parliament, the European Commission will try to make policy changes "within the existing legislative framework, if possible," the assessment said. The strategy paper did not address the individual routes through which speedy implementation could be reached.


The paper presented a variety of suggestions towards the constitution of a cultivation ban on a GM plant in the case that primary motivation of such a ban is political and that the plant in question already has been approved in the EU and therefore has been assessed as safe. It is conceivable, for example, to order minimum distances of 5 or 10 kilometres between fields with GM and conventional plants, which would render GMO cultivation impossible in practice. Another concept may be represented by the use of ‘socio-economic criteria’ – such as the influence on small-scale agriculture, or the image damage suffered by an affected region – as legitimisation for cultivation bans.


For the Commission, it is essential that the new regulations be compatible with the rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and provoke no new conflicts, particularly with regard to the USA.


The new EU Treaty of Lisbon also could accelerate political decision-making in the approval process for GM plants. In the treaty, a new procedure is provided for the collaboration of Member States in the decision-making of the EU Commission. The details of this procedure currently are under negotiation. According to the current draft, decisions suggested by the Commission on the basis of existing laws should be directly eligible for acceptance or rejection by a qualified majority of Member States. However, in the case that no unequivocal majority among Member States is reached, the Commission then can apply its decision immediately. The duplicated and tedious voting conducted to date by the Standing Committee and the Council of Ministers would then be dispensable.


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1.22  The long road to commercialization of Bt brinjal in India


7 April 2010

Will Bt brinjal get through the regulatory hurdle in India? Can educational programs be implemented to help Indian farmers learn how to use this technology? A.M. Shelton of the Department of Entomology, Cornell University, raises these questions in an article The long road to commercialization of Bt brinjal in India published in the journal Crop Protection. He noted the importance of this crop which has shown to provide superior control of fruit and shoot borer (FSB) and in significantly reducing the amount of insecticides used against FSB.


Shelton analyzed the Bt brinjal process that is short of commercialization in India. "It is clear", Shelton explained, "that the road to commercializing a GM product has had, and will continue to have, far more twists and turns, than in other types of governments, such as China, which has decided to embrace food products produced through biotechnology to feed its citizens." In an epilogue he said that political pressure from those opposed to biotechnology rather than by critical scientific and balanced judgments of the technology seemed to influence Ministerial decisions.


Email the author at for additional information.


Source: CropBiotech Update via


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1.23  Protecting genetic resources - Plant breeders look to genetic markers to protect their research investments and unique plant varieties


Madison, Wisconsin, USA

3 May 2010

Many plant breeders use plant variety protection laws to help ensure other breeders cannot copy or plagiarize their unique varieties. While these laws do not prevent others from breeding with commercially available varieties, it is possible to make cosmetic changes to protected varieties with minor mutations or transgenic technologies.


Most laws incorporate the concept of an “essentially derived variety” if it retains the essential characteristics of the original, giving the original owner retaining the rights of ownership of the new variety. This prevents breeders from making small genetic changes to a variety and retaining sole ownership.


In order for these laws to be successful, plant breeders must have a method for determining what the essential characteristics of particular plant variety are. Comparing the conformity of molecular markers is considered a first step in this process.


A team of researchers has recently published the method criteria and genetic markers for determining the essentially derived status of maize inbred lines. The results were published in the March/April 2010 edition of Crop Science, published by the Crop Science Society of America.


Through the publications of this type of research, plant breeders can better protect their research investments and unique plant varieties. At the same time, it encourages breeders to develop new unique plant lines that both increase farm productivity and protect genetic resources.


The laws regarding essentially derived varieties have implications for plant breeding, agricultural and horticultural production, and the sustainability of the genetic resource base. If plant breeders focused on cosmetic changes, genetic diversity would stagnate.


Narrowing of the germplasm base would reduce progress toward improving productivity via genetic gain and would increase risk of crop failure due to insect, disease, or environmental stress, according to Stephen Smith of Pioneer Hi-Bred, who worked on the study.


This study was funded by the American Seed Trade Association, which along with the International Seed Federation, has been encouraging research to help determine what constitutes an essentially derived variety.


The collaborative study was conducted by Alex Kahler and Jonathan Kahlerof Biogenetic Services Inc., Steven Thompson of Dow AgroSciences, Ronald S. Ferriss, Elizabeth Jones, Barry K. Nelson and Stephen Smith of Pioneer Hi-Bred, and Mark Mikel at the University of Illinois.


The full article is available for no charge for 30 days following the date of this summary. View the abstract at

Crop Science is the flagship journal of the Crop Science Society of America. Original research is peer-reviewed and published in this highly cited journal. It also contains invited review and interpretation articles and perspectives that offer insight and commentary on recent advances in crop science. For more information, visit


The Crop Science Society of America (CSSA), founded in 1955, is an international scientific society comprised of 6,000+ members with its headquarters in Madison, WI. Members advance the discipline of crop science by acquiring and disseminating information about crop breeding and genetics; crop physiology; crop ecology, management, and quality; seed physiology, production, and technology; turfgrass science; forage and grazinglands; genomics, molecular genetics, and biotechnology; and biomedical and enhanced plants.


CSSA fosters the transfer of knowledge through an array of programs and services, including publications, meetings, career services, and science policy initiatives. For more information, visit




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1.24  Agricultural biodiversity research plan dropped


27 April 2010

by Yojana Sharma

The conservation of crops and livestock in agricultural areas has become a high-profile victim of a radical overhaul of international agricultural research conducted by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).


'Mobilising agricultural biodiversity for food security and resilience' was one of several thematic areas (or megaprogrammes) proposed by the CGIAR, a group of donors that funds a major international network of agricultural research centres.


The themes are part of a well-advanced plan to streamline future agricultural research for development (see A revolution to combat world hunger), which was put up for public consultation at last month's (March) Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD) in Montpellier, France (see Agricultural mega-programmes 'will not attract funding').


Among other themes, such as Water, Soils and Ecosystems, and Climate Change and Agriculture, there was a strong bid for an Agricultural Biodiversity megaprogramme, put forward by Emile Frison, director-general of Bioversity International, one of the CGIAR centres.


But a meeting of donors and the CGIAR consortium earlier this month (1 April), held to discuss the proposed themes, failed to approve the idea of a separate programme on agricultural biodiversity.


Instead, biodiversity will continue to be promoted as a "cross-cutting theme" alongside gender, it was decided.



Certain aspects of agricultural biodiversity conservation – such as the use of a range of climate change-resistant crops by poorer farmers, and promoting nutrition and health through more crop diversity --will be incorporated into other thematic areas that are still to be finalised.


Frison said: "Most of the money is for [thematic areas] and if there is no money for the cross-cutting themes, they will fall by the wayside and will be neglected".


Several donors, including the European Union Commission and the Nordic countries, strongly support conservation aspects of agricultural research.


But a number of CGIAR centres opposed a biodiversity megaprogramme because they feared losing control of their individual crop gene banks, said sources.


There was a lot of interest in biodiversity [at the GCARD conference] that was not sufficiently reflected in this conclusion, Frison told SciDev.Net. "The importance of agricultural biodiversity is not yet sufficiently recognised and that [having a programme] would have been an opportunity."


But he said that "as long as agricultural biodiversity becomes a strong cross-cutting component and has strong support," it could still work.


Regarding gene banks, he said: "Everyone agrees that conservation of these collections is one of the most important dimensions of the CGIAR. We want to ensure that through cross-cutting collaboration between them the banks are maintained.


"What has to be part of the future agenda is more collaboration between [CGIAR] centres and between centres and national programmes. Gene banks are not just for the crop breeding programmes of the centres, but part of an international programme."


A decision on the scope and components of all CGIAR thematic areas is likely to be made by the end of May.


Source: SciDevNet via


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1.25  Maintaining genetic diversity with plant variety protection


May 2010

Many public and most privately funded plant breeders use plant variety protection (PVP) to help ensure that others cannot copy or plagiarize varieties they have bred. PVP laws do not prevent others from breeding with commercially available varieties.


However, it is increasingly possible to make changes to existing varieties by selecting mutants and incorporating one or more genes by backcrossing or by using transgenic technology.


Consequently, U.S. PVP laws now include the concept of essential derivation to help prevent copying and plagiarism. If a new variety retains the essential characteristics of an initial variety, it can now be classified as an essentially derived variety (EDV), meaning that the owner of the initial variety also legally owns the EDV. These revisions prevent a breeder from gaining sole ownership of an existing variety by making only small genetic changes to the initial parental variety.


These legal changes have important policy outcomes for U.S. plant breeding, agricultural and horticultural production, and the sustainability of the genetic resource base. They will help steer investments into research and breeding that are focused on creating new, more productive varieties as opposed to the generation of a succession of varieties that are perhaps only cosmetically different from their parents. These changes will also help stave off a narrowing of the germplasm base. A narrowing of the germplasm base would reduce progress toward improving productivity via genetic gain and would increase risk of crop failure due to insect, disease, or environmental stress.


Maize and other breeders have been working within the auspices of the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) and the International Seed Federation (ISF) to help ascertain what constitutes an EDV and to develop methodology to make that determination. Published studies have concluded that comparing genetic conformity measured using molecular marker profiles is a first step toward determining an EDV.


Validating marker technology, defining the methodological criteria, and selecting a set of marker loci that are publicly available are critical steps to enable the concept of EDV.


An article in the March–April 2010 issue of Crop Science reports on the results of research sponsored by the ASTA to define a methodology for those critical steps to help determine EDV status for maize inbred lines.


Concomitant with this publication, detailed protocols and procedures have been made available on the ASTA website. Publication of this paper acknowledges and reinforces the understanding that plant breeders can protect the products that result from their investments into research and development. The authors conclude that this improved research environment helps encourage breeders to generate new useful diversity and thus contribute to continued increases in productivity on farms while also helping to provide stewardship of the genetic resource base.


Adapted from

Kahler, A.L., J.L. Kahler, S.A. Thompson, R.S. Ferriss, E.S. Jones, B.K. Nelson et al. 2010.

North American study on essential derivation in maize: II. Selection and evaluation of a panel of simple sequence repeat loci

Crop Sci. 50:486–503.


View the full article online at




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1.26  Endangered African rice varieties gain elite status in the region’s struggle to achieve food security


Cotonou, Benin

21 May 2010

New findings underline the promise of genetically diverse African rice for boosting production and adapting it to climate change


As part of a redoubled effort to stave off future food crises by bringing Africa’s rice production in line with its rapidly growing consumption, scientists have announced a paradigm shift in rice research for the region, which will give elite status to genetically diverse indigenous varieties. Long considered a poor cousin of the Asian rice grown around the world, African rice will be the focus of a major scientific initiative to break the yield ceiling in farmers’ fields.


New findings reported today by the Benin-based Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice), which is supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), counter the widely held view that African rice, preferred by local consumers for its taste, is inherently lower yielding than Asian rice. They also confirm its remarkable adaptability to harsh growing conditions in Africa and hence its value for developing improved varieties suited to a changing climate.


Rice consumption in Africa is growing faster than that of any other major staple. In West Africa alone, it expanded at an annual rate of 4.5 percent from 1961 to 2006, making rice the subregion’s single most important source of dietary energy; it is the third most important for sub-Saharan Africa as a whole. But production during that same period grew more slowly, creating a gap between rice supply and demand. This has saddled African governments with huge import bills, estimated at US$3.6 billion in 2008.


African rice – known scientifically as Oryza glaberrima – was domesticated about 3,500 years ago in West Africa, where it thrived for centuries. But today it is grown only in scattered pockets, near the brink of extinction. Most African rice farmers have abandoned their native varieties for high-yielding Asian rice (O. sativa), which was introduced to the continent through European trade with Asia via Africa about 450 years ago.


“African rice was initially ignored by mainstream research,” said Dr. Koichi Futakuchi, an ecophysiologist at AfricaRice. “Later, when scientists realized that it had valuable characteristics, they began using it as a source for desirable traits to improve the higher yielding Asian rice. But now for the first time, we’re reversing the gene flow, extracting desirable traits from the Asian rice and transferring them into the African rice.”


In the 1990s, AfricaRice researchers crossed the two rice species with the aim of developing varieties that combine the adaptability of O. glaberrima to local growing conditions with the high yields of O. sativa. The result was New Rice for Africa, or NERICA. More than 80 NERICA varieties have been developed for rainfed environments, adopted by farmers in about 20 African countries and the demand for NERICA seed is very high across the region.


The hardiness of O. glaberrima results from its strong ability to compete with weeds and to withstand rice pests and diseases, fluctuations in water depth, infertile soils (including toxic levels of iron), severe weather and even human neglect. For example a single variety like CG14, which was the O.glaberrima parent of the first group of NERICA varieties, is resistant to multiple constraints. “This makes it highly desirable for poor farmers. But, since such resistance is controlled by many genes, it will be difficult to transfer them fully to O. sativa.” said Dr. Futakuchi.


AfricaRice has recently embarked on an ambitious program to improve O. glaberrima, which will offer farmers varieties that are well armed against Africa’s multiple constraints and have acceptable yield potential in rainfed environments. A major objective of the new research is to overcome two main drawbacks that account for low yields of O. glaberrima: lodging (a tendency for plants to fall over when the grain is ripe) and shattering (shedding of ripe grain at crop maturity).


“African rice generally yields better than Asian rice under harsh conditions, where pests and other stresses are intense. But if the problems of grain shattering and lodging were overcome, it could also give a quite acceptable yield of 5-6 tonnes per hectare in more favorable, rainfed lowland environments,” Dr. Futakuchi said. To make the African rice more commercially viable, AfricaRice is attempting to improve its grain quality as well.


According to AfricaRice scientist Dr. Semon Mande, the NERICA breakthrough offered scientists a new opportunity to unlock the treasure trove of genes in O. glaberrima, “But most of its wealth of genetic diversity remains to be tapped,” he said. “The NERICA varieties were developed from just a handful of O. glaberrima parents. Yet, we have at our disposal nearly 2,500 samples of O. glaberrima, preserved in the AfricaRice genebank.”


Using a novel strategy, Dr Mande has developed shorter O. glaberrima-type plants that are less prone to lodging and do not shatter. These promising varieties with acceptable yield potential are being evaluated in farmers’ fields in partnership with national programs, using gender-sensitive farmer-participatory approaches.


The work on O. glaberrima is part of the overall strategy of AfricaRice to develop a wide range of rice varieties suitable for the diverse ecologies of Africa through collaborative projects with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and other partners using conventional and advanced scientific tools. To facilitate this work, a new rice breeding task force for Africa under the coordination of Dr. Moussa Sie, AfricaRice scientist, was launched recently.


”Since Africa depends on imports to meet 40 percent of its rice demand, it is urgent that we develop more productive, stress-tolerant rice varieties. The recent food crisis, which hit African countries badly, underlined the need for bold new efforts to boost local rice production through the improvement of both Asian and African rice,” said Dr. Papa Abdoulaye Seck, director general of AfricaRice.




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1.27  Australian researchers develop rice with threefold iron


May 26, 2010

Approximately 30 per cent of the global population is estimated to suffer from the effects of iron deficiency. This deficiency may cause poor mental development in children as well as anaemia and lowered immune function, and may be traced in part to the lack of vital micronutrients in rice, a staple food in Asia. Australian researchers now report biofortified rice containing three times as much iron as conventional varieties.


The traditional aims of plant breeding for cultivated crops include disease resistance, yield enhancement and drought tolerance. Biofortification also may become a key breeding goal, since it may provide economical, reliable and sustainable solutions to micronutrient deficiency, which affects more than two billion individuals world-wide. Researchers at the School of Botany at the University of Melbourne, Australia, have achieved increases of as much as threefold in the iron content of white rice and expect to apply this technology to other cereal species such as wheat.


Studies have indicated the technical and economic feasibility of biofortification. The enhancement of micronutrient content without compromising agronomic traits already has been demonstrated for plants such as the sweet potato and cost-benefit analyses infer great future significance for the technology in the global control of micronutrient deficiency.


Prior to field trials on the new rice, studies at the University of Melbourne currently are using a variety of molecular tools to investigate the genetic mechanisms behind biofortification and may yield information that is applicable to a variety of cultivated crops. Through the development of good seed systems and products, such crops may be expected to form a part of future markets.


Source GMO Compass via


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1.28  Seeds of aflatoxin-resistant corn lines available


Washington, DC, USA

20 May 2010

Six new corn inbred lines with resistance to aflatoxin contamination have been found to be free of seed-borne diseases foreign to the United States, and seeds of these lines are now available in the United States for further development toward commercialization. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plant pathologist Robert Brown, working in collaboration with Abebe Menkir at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Ibadan, Nigeria, developed the lines.


Brown works at the Food and Feed Safety Research Unit in the ARS Southern Regional Research Center in New Orleans, La. The six inbred lines have been dubbed TZAR101, 102, 103, 104, 105, and 106.


Aflatoxins are cancer-causing toxins produced by the fungus Aspergillus flavus after it infects agricultural commodities such as corn. A. flavus fungi are found in soil, on crops and in air. Contamination of corn with aflatoxins is a potential health hazard to animals and humans, and causes financial losses for growers. Crop resistance has become a widely explored strategy to eliminate aflatoxins in corn because of the large amount of genetic diversity in this crop.


ARS plant geneticist Mark Millard in Ames, Iowa, arranged a quarantined growout of the seeds at the ARS station on the island of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. After quarantined seed was imported into St. Croix and planted, resulting plants and ears were inspected to ensure they were free of any foreign seed-borne diseases. This "certified" seed then was shipped to Ames, Iowa, processed, and stored in the ARS collection.


The seed can be obtained and planted in the United States for further evaluation for resistance to aflatoxin. Seed samples of these and other lines can be obtained from the ARS North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station in Ames.


Data from further evaluations will provide insight as to the value of these lines in breeding for resistance to aflatoxin. ARS is the principal intramural scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This research supports the USDA priority of ensuring food safety.


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1.29  Corn for food and fuel - Developing a dual-purpose corn that can be bred for both food and cellulosic ethanol


Madison, Wisconsin, USA

5 May 2010

 Meeting our demand for food and fuel with corn may not be as difficult previously suspected. Researchers at the University of Minnesota conducted genetic studies of corn varieties and found that corn can be bred to optimize properties for cellulosic ethanol without adversely affecting the grain yield.


In the U.S., corn grain is a major source of animal feed, human food, and fuel ethanol for cars and trucks. The proportion of domestic corn grain used for producing ethanol increased from less than 10% in 2000 to about 30% in the last two years. Concerns have been raised on whether the ever-increasing demand for corn ethanol is contributing to higher food prices in your local grocery store.


To help address this food vs. fuel concern, the US Department of Agriculture and Department of Energy are promoting the development of plant feedstocks suitable for producing cellulosic ethanol. In this scenario, plant materials rich in cellulose (such as leaves, stalks, or woodchips) are broken down into sugars that are fermented into ethanol. Corn grain would then be harvested for feed and food while a portion of the corn stover—the leaf, stalk, tassel, and cob residues that are normally left to rot in the field—would be collected and used to produce fuel.


Since the 1920s, hybrid corn varieties grown by U.S. producers have been bred for high grain yield and superior agronomic performance. But these varieties have not been bred for qualities that would make their stover suitable for producing cellulosic ethanol. Could tomorrow’s corn have high grain yields and superior stover quality for cellulosic ethanol? Or would breeding for cellulosic ethanol adversely affect grain yield and agronomic performance? In other words, can we have our corn and eat it, too?


Genetic studies conducted by Professor Rex Bernardo and Dr. Hans-Joachim G. Jung of the USDA-Agricultural Research Service, and graduate students Magan F. Lewis and Robenzon E. Lorenzana at the University of Minnesota have indicated that breeding for such dual-purpose corn hybrids is feasible. These studies, which were funded by the USDA-DOE Plant Feedstock Genomics program, were reported in the March-April 2010 issue of Crop Science published by the Crop Science Society of America.


The research team found either neutral or favorable relationships among grain yield, stalk lodging, and stover-quality traits considered most important for producing cellulosic ethanol. Even though current corn lines have not been bred for cellulosic ethanol, they exhibited a significant amount of genetic variation for the stover-quality traits. DNA fingerprints indicated the lack of “silver-bullet” genes for cellulosic ethanol: instead, stover-quality for cellulosic ethanol is controlled by many genes that need to be accumulated in a corn hybrid by selective breeding.


Bernardo is now investigating the use of DNA fingerprints and year-round breeding nurseries in a fast-track approach to breed for dual-purpose corn. He and Jung remain cautious, however, on the prospects of large-scale production of corn for grain and cellulosic ethanol on U.S. farms. “What we’re studying is the first small piece of the puzzle,” Bernardo said, “and big pieces of the cellulosic-ethanol puzzle remain to be solved.” In particular, how much of the corn stover can be removed from the field without adversely affecting soil quality? Can corn stover be efficiently transported and stored? And will the demand for cellulosic ethanol be large enough to entice seed companies, who develop virtually 100% of the corn hybrids grown by farmers, to begin developing dual-purpose corn hybrids?


While scientists continue to answer these questions, corn breeders can work to improve corn yields for both our stomachs and our distilleries.


This research is based on two journal articles. The abstract for one can be viewed for no charge for 30 days at

The full article is available for no charge for 30 days following the date of this summary. View the abstract at


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1.30  Supercharged grasses for a greener bioenergy future


Victoria, Australia

6 May 2010

New technology developed by Australian scientists has supercharged photosynthesis - the natural process of plants converting sunlight and carbon dioxide into biomass and usable energy increasing its potential for bioengery generation.


The announcement coincides with BIO2010 in Chicago, USA where the Governor of Victoria, Professor David de Kretser AC, is leading a Victorian consortium of investors and biotechnology companies.


Executive Director of BioSciences Research at the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) in Victoria, Australia, Professor German Spangenberg said photosynthetic cells for fructan biosynthesis in popular forage grasses had been reprogrammed, leading to some remarkable results.


“By applying this technology to temperate grasses such as perennial ryegrass and tall fescue in glasshouse and field trials, we have shown significantly higher dry matter yields. Recent trials have recorded a doubling of plant biomass double compared to existing varieties,” Professor Spengenberg said.


“Just as importantly we have been able to enhance energy content in the biotech grasses when compared to control plants. The new technology reprograms the photosynthetic cells of grasses to produce and store more sugars known as fructans.


“These two elements combined means we have developed plants that produce more biomass with a higher sugar content, making them far better suited for use as a biofeedstocks or biofuels.”


Professor Spangenberg said bioenergy was becoming an important alternative greener energy source and this new technology has shown some exciting potential to improve a plants natural ability to convert and store energy.


“With global issues such as future world food supplies for our growing world population and developing greener energies to curb greenhouse gas emissions, there is no doubt biotechnology developed by Government scientists in Australia will play a valuable role in our future,” he said.


Professor Spangenberg said the technology had opened opportunities to enhance harvestable carbon yields and bioconversion efficiency of lignocellulosic biomass for applications in new dedicated bioenergy perennial grasses and other dedicated bioenergy crops, as well as explore its use in warm season grasses which have higher water use efficiency and are better adapted for growth in marginal agricultural land and warmer target environments under scenarios of climate change.


“The technology will enable applications in the development of new specialised bioenergy crops that do not compete with food and feed production for a sustainable bioenergy sector.” Professor German Spangenberg said new purpose-built world-class plant phenomics facilities being established at DPI would allow for accurate, whole of life cycle, quantitative phenotypic analysis of biotech plants complementing the research and science capabilities that will be housed in the AgriBio agricultural biotechnology research centre, due for completion by end 2011.


The Victorian Government and La Trobe University have invested A$288 million in AgriBio, the Centre for AgriBioscience, to boost Victoria’s ability to make these important scientific discoveries.


To be located in Bundoora, Melbourne, AgriBio will be a world-class centre for agricultural biosciences research and development, and is expected to be fully operational in 2012. Other agencies and organisations with complementary science objectives are invited to partner or link in to AgriBio. Learn more at


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1.31  Health benefits of wheat can be improved by plant breeding



5 May 2010

Wheat products, and in particular, wholegrain products, are important sources of dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals and other components which are beneficial for human health. Analysis of a diverse range of wheat varieties within the HEALTHGRAIN project of the European Union has shown substantial variation (up to four-fold) in the content and composition of these components. Furthermore, a significant proportion of this variation, particularly for dietary fibre content, is highly heritable and hence can be exploited by plant breeders to produce new types of wheat with enhanced health benefits.


Genomics tools developed enabled to identify markers for dietary fibres, tocopherols and sterols. These markers can be used in breeding programmes to cumulate genes for enrichment of bioactive compounds, particularly those present in exotic, unadapted germplasm, for adaptation in lines or varieties useful in practical agriculture. Molecular marker assisted selection was used to develop f.ex. wheat varieties with high amylose content.


A major limitation to exploiting this variation is the lack of rapid and affordable analytical systems. New tools (including NIR calibrations, antibodies and molecular markers) are therefore being developed which are appropriate for use by plant breeders, grain traders and processors and the food industry. The programme is therefore providing benefits to consumers, plant breeders and the wheat processing chain.


The EU Integrated Project HEALTHGRAIN:_ The HEALTHGRAIN project has substantially strengthened the scientific basis for a new generation of cereal based products with enhanced health benefits. The project also has formed a network of research organizations, industries and organizations communicating to consumers that will continue as the HEALTHGRAIN Forum. It has been coordinated by Academy Professor Kaisa Poutanen from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. Results of the project will be presented in the HEALTHGRAIN Conference on May 5-7 in Lund, Sweden:




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1.32  New screen for safer food crops


John Innes Centre scientists are working on a way to screen crop plants for toxic accumulation. The genetic screen will be particularly useful for crops grown in tropical and sub-Saharan Africa.


Many plants, in response to predators or herbivores, release hydrogen cyanide to defend themselves.  Cyanide precursors are kept in a compartment in the cell. Tissue damage allows them to break out of the compartment and mix with a degrading enzyme in the cell. This produces toxic, bitter hydrogen cyanide that repels the herbivore.


This mechanism, known as cyanogenesis, is found in two thirds of the main crop species eaten worldwide, including maize, sugar cane and some legumes. The major impacts on human health are seen when it is the edible part of the plant that produces cyanogenic compounds, such as in cassava roots. In fodder crops such as sorghum it can lead to livestock poisoning.


Without correct processing, high levels of hydrogen cyanide in the food can cause neural disease and permanent paralysis, a condition known as konzo.  In drought conditions, the cyanide levels increase even higher.


Cassava is the third largest source of carbohydrates for human food in the world after wheat and rice. The bitter varieties, favoured by farmers because of their better resistance to pests, contain two cyanogenic compounds. Various processing methods are used to remove them, such as by soaking in water for several days.


Finding less toxic strains of these crops is a high priority, and a new genetic screen developed at the John Innes Centre, an institute of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, (BBSRC), will help in this search. Working on a collaborative programme sponsored by the Danmarks Grundforskningsfonden (Danish National Research Foundation) with colleagues at the University of Copenhagen, they developed a high-throughput way of detecting cyanogenesis-deficient mutant plants.  Using the model legume Lotus japonicus, they screened more than 40,000 plants in just 10 days, identifying 44 cyanogenesis deficient mutants. 


“We are keen to extend this work to crop plants and cassava is the big target.  If we could set up a system we could get to a non-cyanogenic variety of cassava quite quickly,” said Professor Cathie Martin of the John Innes Centre.   “We’re now looking to identify populations of cassava that we can screen so that we can get non-cyanogenic lines to trial for performance in the field.”


The study also found that some mutants were deficient in cyanogenesis only in certain parts of the plant and not in others, suggesting, for example, that it may be possible to find mutants that retain cyanogenesis in leaves but don’t make the dangerous toxins in the edible roots of cassava.  This would enable crops to keep their valuable defence mechanisms against pests, and yet reduce the considerable time required for preparation of food using cyanogenic crops and the risk to human health.


Dr Jonathan Clarke, Head of Business Development at the John Innes Centre, is working with Prof Martin to apply this technology.  “The effects of cyanogenic crops impact on the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in the world. The problem is increased during times of drought when the toxin levels increase and water for soaking is unavailable” he said. “We have developed a simple, rapid, and low cost screen. We are now seeking funding to use this to produce non-cyanogenic cassava for Africa.”


Reference:  ‘Genetic Screening Identifies Cyanogenesis-Deficient Mutants of Lotus japonicus and Reveals Enzymatic Specificity in Hydroxynitrile Glucoside Metabolism’ was published online by Plant Cell on 7th May 2010 doi: 10.1105/tpc.109.073502


Contributed by Andrew Chapple

Assistant Press Officer

Norwich BioScience Institutes


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1.33  Wheat variety thrives on saltier soils


28 April 2010

by Wagdy Sawahel

A variety of wheat that thrives on salty soils has been bred by scientists who say they will make it freely available to the developing world.


The enhanced durum wheat is 25 per cent more productive in saline soils than its normal counterpart, according to Rana Munns, chief research scientist at the Australia-based CSIRO Plant Industry.


Munns and her team isolated two salt tolerance genes from an old species of wheat (Triticum monococcum) and, using non-GM methods, introduced them into commercially important Australian durum wheat (Triticum durum)lines.


The genes limit the passage of sodium from the roots to leaves, where it can be toxic to the plant.


Some 17 million hectares of durum wheat are cultivated worldwide, with 60 per cent of cultivation taking place in developing countries in regions including the Middle East, North Africa, Latin America and central India, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.


Some soils are naturally salty, for example in India and in semi-arid regions such as the Middle East, but salinity can also be caused by irrigation. Around one third of the world's food is produced on irrigated land, and is thus susceptible to salinity problems. Introducing salt-tolerance genes to crops is one way of dealing with this issue (see Genetic change could make crops thrive on salty soils).


"The [salt tolerance] gene is now present in an Australian durum wheat line," Munns told SciDev.Net. "This line is available to breeders in developing countries for backcrossing into local durum wheat cultivars."


Unlike bread wheat, durum is generally intolerant to salinity so the first salt-tolerant durum line is a great achievement, said Francis Obgbonnaya, researcher at the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas, Syria.


"The additional significance is that it is non-GM and CSIRO Plant Industry is willing to share it with developing countries," he said.


Rodomiro Ortiz, a consultant for Mexico-based International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), said that the work illustrates the power of using non-GM approaches to make use of natural genetic variety to improve crops.


But Hans-Joachim Braun, global wheat director at CIMMYT, said: "Breeding salt tolerant plants for such systems will provide a short term solution but in the long term this will only make the situation worse as it allows farmers to continue with sub-optimal practices that increase salt concentration. Such salt problems must be addressed through engineering and agronomy practices".


Source: SciDevNet via


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1.34  USDA/ARS scientists identify genetic resistance to rice sheath blight


Washington, DC, USA

4 May 2010

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have identified sources of genetic resistance to sheath blight, a major disease affecting rice production worldwide.

Sheath blight, caused by the fungus Rhizoctonia solani, is a major disease of rice that affects yield and grain quality. Geneticist Anna McClung, director of the ARS Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center in Stuttgart, Ark., and research leader of the Rice Research Unit in Beaumont, Texas, heads a group of ARS scientists examining the rice genome in search of genetic resistance to this serious disease.


Plant pathologist Yulin Jia and colleagues at Stuttgart had a breakthrough in their sheath blight mapping efforts when they identified and confirmed qShB9-2, the first genetic region they have found to have a major effect on controlling the disease.


In a related project, geneticist Georgia Eizenga at Stuttgart screened 73 wild rice species for signs of sheath blight resistance. Seven accessions showed promise, and Eizenga's team has crossed some of those accessions with domestic varieties to create new, resistant germplasm.


The Stuttgart scientists have also developed a standardized screening technique to help quickly and accurately detect sheath blight in seedlings. Called the "microchamber method," this technique uses 2-liter or 3-liter plastic bottles to create a humidity chamber to promote disease development. This allows the researchers to measure seedlings' disease reaction in just seven days, accelerating the process of identifying novel, resistant sources from cultivated and wild relatives of rice.


Meanwhile, in Beaumont, geneticist Shannon Pinson has been studying gene-mapping populations from recombinant inbred lines (RILs) of domestic rice cultivar "Lemont" and Chinese cultivar "TeQing." She found 18 chromosomal regions in these RILs with genes that can help rice plants resist damage from sheath blight, including the qShB9-2 genetic region confirmed by Jia. Two of the regions have shown a large, measurable effect on sheath blight resistance.


The scientists' studies can be found in Plant Disease, Molecular Genetics and Genomics, Frontiers of Agriculture in China, Theoretical and Applied Genetics, Crop Science, Phytopathology and the Journal of Plant Registrations.


Read more about this and other rice research in the May/June 2010 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.


ARS is the principal intramural scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This research supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security.




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1.35  Relationship of rice fragrance and yield reduction under salt treatment


Fragrance in rice have been associated with gene deletions that leads to a loss of function of the enzyme betaine aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (BADH2). Presence of BADHs in plants has been observed to support the plants' ability to bear abiotic stress. BADHs are produced in plants through the accumulation of glycinebetaine (GB). But since rice does not produce GB, the production of BADH2 has been attributed to the metabolism of gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA), which aids plants tolerate stress like high salinity.


Thus, a glasshouse-scale experiment was conducted by Timothy Liam Fitzgerald of the Centre for Plant Conservation Genetics in Australia, together with other scientists, to examine the difference in salt-tolerance of cultivated fragrant rice and cultivated non-fragrant rice which has BADH2. Results confirmed that the production of matured seeds was strongly inhibited in fragrant rice plants exposed to saline solution. Hence, fragrant rice usually favored by consumers may come from salt-sensitive rice plants.


The full article is downloadable at


Source: Crop Biotech Update, 7 May 2010


Contributed by Margaret Smith

Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics

Cornell University, Ithaca, NY


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1.36  What genes help blossoms last longer?


Washington, DC, USA

24 May 2010


Some cut flowers and potted plants are better than others at fending off the aging process, known as senescence. To help tomorrow’s blooms stay fresh longer, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plant physiologist Cai-Zhong Jiang is investigating the gene-controlled mechanisms of plants' aging. Such probing may eventually reveal how to modify flowers’ aging-linked genes, or the proteins that are products of those genes.


Jiang is with the ARS Crops Pathology and Genetics Research Unit at Davis, California.


One approach, known as “virus-induced gene silencing” or VIGS, is allowing Jiang and colleagues to determine the function of genes in aging plants. In the laboratory, the scientists work with a naturally occurring microbe known as the tobacco rattle virus, modifying it by inserting plant genes of interest into it. In any given experiment, some flowering plants will not be exposed to the virus, while others will be exposed to either the unmodified or the modified virus.


Exposure triggers the plants’ natural defense mechanism, including attempts to quash, or silence, the virus. When that happens, the genes that were inserted into the modified virus are also silenced. By comparing all of the plants, the researchers may be able to determine the newly-silenced genes’ functions


In early, proof-of-concept experiments, Jiang and University of California-Davis professor Michael S. Reid used petunia as their model plant. They showed that inserting a piece of a color-imparting gene into the virus resulted in white sectors or splotches on a normally purple-flowering petunia. The plant’s defense system had silenced the gene’s normal function, which was to create color, according to Jiang.


A second gene fragment that the team also inserted into the virus was similarly silenced in the oddly white splotches. That silenced gene would normally have been involved in producing ethylene, an aging compound. But the white splotches on the plants exposed to the modified virus produced less ethylene than unexposed plants, or plants exposed to the unmodified virus.


Though VIGS has been used elsewhere to study the functions of genes in tomato and tobacco, the experiments by Reid and Jiang were the first to use VIGS to explore senescence mechanisms in commercially grown cut flowers and potted plants.


Reid, Jiang, and former graduate student Jen-Chih Chen describe their work in the 2009 book Petunia: Evolutionary, Developmental, and Physiological Genetics.


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




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1.37  Developing DNA markers of rice blast resistance gene locus


21 May 2010

Rice blast caused by the fungal pathogen Magnaporthe oryzae is one of the major problems in rice production all over the world. The use of host resistance is still the most efficient method for disease management. Many resistance (R) genes have been identified and one of which is the Pi-km. To facilitate rice breeding programs, Stefano Costanzo and Yulin Jia of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service developed a Pi-km specific DNA marker using 15 US rice cultivars. Based on the DNA sequence analysis and computational translation conducted, the researchers found six alleles within the Pi-km locus. Moreover, artificial blast inoculations with some rice cultivars exhibited high levels of sequence polymorphism of the blast isolates which are associated with specific Pi-k genes. Such occurrence introduces new insight about the complex characteristic of the R gene locus, which may greatly affect the recognition of the pathogen-encoded signalling substances for defense reaction.


For more details, view the abstract at


Source: Crop Biotech Update via


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1.38  Genetic discovery promises to boost rice yields



May 26, 2010

Some agricultural experts believe worldwide crop yields need to double by 2050 to avert a global food crisis. And improving yields of rice is deemed particularly important because rice is the staple food for nearly half of the world’s population. Two groups working independently have now identified a variant of a gene in rice plants that could boost rice yields by 10%, though they must still demonstrate that their experimental breakthrough will pay off in farmers' fields.


The groups were both looking for genes that affect rice yield by comparing different varieties of rice. Jiayang Li of the Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and his colleagues worked with one rice variety that produces few stems, or tillers, and another that produces many. Rice plants with fewer tillers tend to have higher yields. A group led by Motoyuki Ashikari of Nagoya University in Japan used two rice varieties with greatly differing numbers of grains in the main panicle, the tip of the tiller where the rice grains form.


Both groups cross-bred their two varieties to produce thousands of plants. Then by comparing genomes of these progeny using numbers of tillers and grains as indicators of likely yield, they zeroed in on a gene named OsSPL14. They separately found that a minor variant, or allele, of OsSPL14, was present in crossbred plants with few tillers and more grains. Ashikari's group found that adding this allele to a low-yield rice variety increased the number of grains produced by 40%. (Increasing the number of grains is not equivalent to increasing yield, which is measured by weight.) Li and his colleagues went a step further with a small field trial in which plants with this allele produced over 10% more rice by weight than those with the more common variant of OsSPL14. Ashikari says he and his colleagues were unaware of Li's work until they had completed their experiments. After the groups confirmed they had found the same gene, they agreed to submit their papers simultaneously. Their separate reports appear online today in Nature Genetics.


"These are elegant studies that bring clarity to the genetic control of one yield component," says Hei Leung, a rice geneticist at the International Rice Research Institute in Los Banos, Philippines. Masahiro Yano, a rice geneticist at Japan's National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences in Tsukuba, agrees that spotting the gene is significant. But he cautions that more research is needed to determine the effectiveness of using this allele in the wide range of cultivated varieties of rice and in different growing environments. Ashikari says his group is working to introduce the OsSPL14 allele and a previously identified gene that also boosts yield into commonly grown varieties. He hopes these will reach farmers within 5 years.


Source: ScienceNow via


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1.39  Eagle Genomics Ltd. and the John Innes Centre enter into collaboration on TraitTag


13h May 2010

Eagle Genomics Ltd. in close collaboration with Martin Trick and Ian Bancroft from the John Innes Centre have signed a collaboration agreement to establish a commercial service for a new plant breeding research technology, TraitTag.


The genetic variations between individual plants can be used to identify key parts of the genome, known as biomarkers, which can be used to allow plant breeders to test for the presence of positive traits when selecting specimens to breed. TraitTag allows breeders to identify these biomarkers quickly and effectively through the identification and scoring of variations across very large sets of plants. The key advantage of TraitTag is that it does not require a full reference genome of the plant. This enables plant breeders to use it even when no prior major research has been done into the genome of the plant species they are working with.


With TraitTag, plant breeders can select and breed bigger, better, higher quality plants in less time and at lower cost than previously possible. This leads directly to improvements in quality and yield of all kinds of plants including food crops.


The promise of the TraitTag technology, a sequence-based tool to accelerate crop breeding, has already received recognition as a finalist in the BBSRC Innovator of the Year 2010 competition ( 


The collaboration between Eagle Genomics Ltd. and the John Innes Centre will look into the options for offering TraitTag as a commercial service to plant breeders worldwide. Eagle's expertise in bioinformatics software development will be invaluable in developing and improving the TraitTag software to withstand the demands of large-scale commercial use, whist the John Innes Centre will continue to review and refine the underlying techniques to continually improve the service. Revenue from commercial sales will be shared under a unique agreement that fits closely with Eagle Genomics' commitment to supporting academic software in the commercial environment.


Contribued by Andrew Chapple

Assistant Press Officer

Norwich BioScience Institutes


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1.40  FAO-BiotechNews (Excerpts) 3-2010


This Update is dedicated to the outcomes from the FAO international technical

conference on Agricultural Biotechnologies in Developing Countries (ABDC-10) that took place recently in Guadalajara, Mexico. The conference report is now finalized and available in five languages. Summary reports (and presentations) are also available on the web from a series of 27 parallel sessions, that were sector-specific, regional or dealing with cross-cutting issues, organized for the most part by different intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations.


The conference was an important and substantial undertaking, involving a lot of work over a long time period (planning began well before the international Steering Committee met in July 2008), and we are extremely grateful for all of the support we received from our many partners in this initiative, in particular from the Government of Mexico. A major objective of the conference was to take stock of the application of biotechnologies across the different food and agricultural sectors in developing countries, in order to learn from the past and to chart a better course for developing countries to face the challenges of food insecurity, climate change and natural resource degradation. The conference concluded, inter alia, that agricultural biotechnologies encompass a wide-range of tools and methodologies that are being applied to an increasing extent in crops, livestock, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture, and agro-industries to alleviate hunger and poverty, assist in adaptation to climate change and maintain the natural resource base in both developing and developed countries; that they have not been widely used in many developing countries, and have not sufficiently benefited smallholder farmers and producers and consumers; and that more research and development of agricultural biotechnologies should be focused on the needs of smallholder farmers and producers.


In organizing ABDC-10, FAO took full advantage of its role as a neutral broker in bringing together delegations from its Member States, policy-makers, scientists and representatives of intergovernmental organizations and international non-governmental organizations for a comprehensive and enriching dialogue. FAO now stands ready to build on the dialogue and outputs of ABDC-10 so that, together with its UN and non-UN partners, it can assist its Members so that agricultural biotechnologies can be used to address the needs and problems of small-scale farmers and producers in developing countries as they face an ever challenging and uncertain future.


As usual, we welcome your feedback and encourage you to tell your colleagues

about the newsletter. The newsletter is published in six different versions, one per language i.e. Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian or Spanish. If any of your colleagues wish to subscribe, they can send a message to indicating which e-mail addresses are to be subscribed and in which language they wish to receive the newsletter.


The conference report is now available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French and Spanish. Paragraphs 37-38 of the report contain the conference's key conclusions. See or contact for more information. Plenary presentations from IFAD, the CGIAR and the Secretariat of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture about relevant aspects of their work are also available from the same webpage.


Contributed by John Ruane

The Coordinator of FAO-BiotechNews

FAO website

FAO Biotechnology website (in Arabic,

Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish)


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2.01  April 2010 issue of Current Opinion in Plant Biology: Genome Studies & Molecular Genetics; and Plant Biotechnology


The April 2010 issue of Current Opinion in Plant Biology entitled “Genome Studies & Molecular Genetics; and Plant Biotechnology” has been published now. The issue has been edited by Doug Cook from University of California- Davis, USA and Rajeev Varshney, ICRISAT, India and Generation Challenge Programme, Mexico. In this issue there are several interesting article that discuss modern genomics approaches and their application  in crop improvement.  Details about this issue can be seen at or can be had from Rajeev Varshney (


Genome studies and molecular genetics

Edited by Douglas R Cook and Rajeev K Varshney


Editorial Overview


115 Douglas R Cook and Rajeev K Varshney

Editorial Overview: From genome studies to agricultural biotechnology:

closing the gap between basic plant science and

applied agriculture




119 Maren L Friesen and Eric J von Wettberg

Adapting genomics to study the evolution and ecology of

agricultural systems


126 Miguel A Moreno-Risueno, Wolfgang Busch and

Philip N Benfey

Omics meet networks — using systems approaches to infer

regulatory networks in plants


132 Kaoru Urano, Yukio Kurihara, Motoaki Seki and

Kazuo Shinozaki

‘Omics’ analyses of regulatory networks in plant abiotic

stress responses


139 Katrien M Devos

Grass genome organization and evolution


146 Shusei Sato, Sachiko Isobe and Satoshi Tabata

Structural analyses of the genomes in legumes


153 Scott Jackson and Z Jeffrey Chen

Genomic and expression plasticity of polyploidy


160 Haibao Tang, Uzay Sezen and Andrew H Paterson

Domestication and plant genomes


Plant biotechnology

Edited by Rajeev K Varshney and Douglas R Cook


167 JC Glaszmann, B Kilian, HD Upadhyaya and RK Varshney

Accessing genetic diversity for crop improvement


174 J Antoni Rafalski

Association genetics in crop improvement


181 Yanjun Kou and Shiping Wang

Broad-spectrum and durability: understanding of quantitative

disease resistance


186 Yidan Ouyang, Yao-Guang Liu and Qifa Zhang

Hybrid sterility in plant: stories from rice


193 Fred A van Eeuwijk, Marco CAM Bink, Karine Chenu and

Scott C Chapman

Detection and use of QTL for complex traits in multiple



206 François Tardieu and Roberto Tuberosa

Dissection and modelling of abiotic stress tolerance in plants


213 J-M Ribaut, MC de Vicente and X Delannay

Molecular breeding in developing countries: challenges and



219 Gemma Farre, Koreen Ramessar, Richard M Twyman,

Teresa Capell and Paul Christou

The humanitarian impact of plant biotechnology: recent breakthroughs

vs bottlenecks for adoption


DOI 10.1016/S1369-5266(10)00028-2

Volume 13, issue 2, April 2010

Available online at


Full text available on ScienceDirect®


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3.01  Plant Breeding Methods - Distance Education version


CS, HS 541-section 601 DE; 3 credits; lecture only


Prerequisite:  a statistics course


North Carolina State University will be offering CS,HS 541, Plant Breeding Methods in a distance education version this fall.  The instructor is Todd Wehner (


This is an introductory Plant Breeding course for first year graduate students and advanced undergraduate students.  The emphasis is on traditional methods of developing improved cultivars of cross-pollinated, self-pollinated, and asexually-propagated crops, and the genetic principles on which breeding methods are based.  The purpose of this course is to provide the student a general background in all areas of plant breeding.  The goal is to develop students who are knowledgeable in all of the areas of plant breeding, and to have sufficient understanding to work as an assistant breeder at a seed company, or to continue with advanced courses in plant breeding.


CS,HS 541 presents an overview of plant breeding methods, including germplasm resources, pollen control, measurement of genetic variances, and use of heterosis.  Special topics include genotype-environment interaction, index selection, stress resistance, polyploidy, and mutation breeding.  The course provides in-depth coverage of methods for breeding cross-pollinated, self-pollinated and asexually-propagated crops.  Courses usually taken before CS,HS 541 are genetics and statistics.  Courses taken after often include CS,HS 719 (germplasm and biogeography), CS,HS 720 (molecular genetics), CS,HS 745 (quantitative genetics), CS,HS 746 (advanced breeding), CS,HS 748 (pest resistance, now PP590), CS,HS 860 (breeding lab 1), and CS,HS 861 (breeding lab 2).


For more information on HS 541 Plant Breeding Methods, see:


For more information on distance education at NC State University, see:


For more information on Todd Wehner, see:


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3.02  SBC presents SeedQuest Keyword: Seed Biotechnologies


The Keyword Section of SeedQuest was increased this year by the addition of the Seed Biotechnologies category. The information provided in Seed Biotechnologies was created by the Seed Biotechnology Center. The Center greatly appreciates the generosity of our Advisory Council member and SeedQuest owner, Francois Korn. His contribution of this site as sponsored by the SBC has given our Center significant exposure to the global seed industry. The site is designed to provide concise explanations of the modern technologies utilized by the seed industry. The audience is members of the seed industry, news media and the public.  See


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3.03  The Seed Biotechnology Center at UC Davis and SeedQuest announce Seed Central CONNECTS


May 27, 2010



Michael Campbell, Ex. Dir., Seed Biotechnology Center - 530-752-8073 or



The Seed Biotechnology Center at UC Davis and SeedQuest announce Seed Central CONNECTS, a new monthly networking event designed to connect university seed and plant scientists and students with seed industry leaders. Each event will feature a high-caliber guest speaker. People unable to attend in person will be able to view the speaker’s presentation remotely via webcast.


The inaugural Seed Central CONNECTS event will take place on Thursday, June 10th from 5:00 PM to 7:30 PM on the UC Davis campus. The guest speaker will be Dr. Simon Chan, co-author of the recent Nature article “Centromeres and chromosome inheritance:  Haploid plants produced by centromere-mediated genome elimination”. Dr. Chan will speak of how this research leads to a breakthrough in plant breeding.


For more information or to secure a reservation in-person or via webcast, please contact

Donna Van Dolah, Event Coordinator at or by telephone at 530-752-2159,

by June 4, 2010.


Seed Central CONNECTS is the first of a series of services offered by Seed Central™, an initiative of the Seed Biotechnology Center at UC Davis and SeedQuest. The purpose of Seed Central is to brand the region centered on UC Davis for seed excellence and innovation in order to:

- strengthen UC Davis’ research and teaching in seed and crop sciences,

- make it a compelling destination for seed and crop sciences students,

- increase the pool of future applicants for positions in the seed industry,

- attract talented individuals and innovative companies to the region.


Launched this year, the Seed Central initiative is supported by a broad coalition of seed industry, university, county and state organizations.


For more information about UC Davis plant-breeding education programs visit

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 Donna Van Dolah

Seed Biotechnology Center


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3.04 Seed Central CONNECTS Introductory Event


Haploid plants produced by centromeremediated genome elimination


The networking event connecting seed industry, university and student researchers



Dr. Simon Chan

Assistant Professor

Department of Plant Biology

UC Davis

Coauthor of:

Haploid plants produced by centromeremediated genome elimination

Maruthachalam Ravi, Simon W. L. Chan

Nature 464, 615618 (25 March 2010) doi:10.1038/nature08842 Letter

Excerpts from a March 2010 UC Davis news release:


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

A reliable method for producing plants that carry genetic material from only one of their parents has been discovered by plant biologists at UC Davis. The technique, published March 25 in the journal Nature, could dramatically speed up the breeding of crop plants for desirable traits. The discovery came out of a chance observation in the lab that could easily have been written off as an error. "We were doing completely 'blue skies' research, and we discovered something that is immediately useful," said Simon Chan, assistant professor of plant biology at UC Davis and coauthor on the paper.


Plant breeders want to produce plants that are homozygous ‐‐ that carry the same trait on both chromosomes. The idea of making a haploid plant with chromosomes from only one parent has been around for decades, Chan said. Haploid plants are immediately homozygous, because they contain only one version of every gene.


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


􀂙 June 10th, 2010 at 5:00 PM 􀂙


􀂃 5:00 – 5:45 PM Social

􀂃 5:45 – 6:30 PM Dr. Chan’s presentation

􀂃 6:30 – 7:30 PM Social

Please RSVP by June 4th to and indicate how you will attend:

in person

Bowley Center, University of California, Davis


live on the Web from 5:45 to 6:30 PM on your computer


Directions to Bowley Center and instructions for live web access will be sent to registered participants on June 5th


Contributed by Donna Van Dolah

Seed Biotechnology Center


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4.01  National Association of Plant Breeders 2010 Award Announcement


The National Association of Plant Breeders (NAPB) is pleased to announce its Awards Program for 2010.  This year the NAPB is sponsoring two awards that will be presented at our Annual Meeting, August 15-17, 2010, in Johnston, IA.


·         Early Career Scientist Award - recognizing a successful individual active in the plant breeding field.

·         Life Time Achievement Award - recognizing an individual who has given distinguished long-term service to the plant breeding field in such areas as research, education, outreach and leadership.


These awards will highlight the achievements of individuals and are not based on the nature or source of employment.  The nominee does not have to be a member of the NAPB.


A description of each award and the procedures for nominating a candidate are included on our website .  Annual NAPB Meeting information can also be found at the meeting site .


Nominations are currently being accepted and the final deadline is June 30, 2010 (5:00 pm Pacific time).  For inquiries or questions please contact the Awards Chair Jodi Scheffler.



·         Dr. Jodi Scheffler, USDA-ARS CGRU, 141 Experiment Station Road, Stoneville, MS 38776 (662)686-5219

·         Dr. Karen Moldenhauer, Rice Research & Extension Ctr., PO Box #351, Stuttgart, AR 72160 (870)673-2661


 Contributed by Rita Mumm

University of Illinois


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5.01  Biological Science Technician


Full-time - L/A position – 180 days. GS 5/1, $17.76 per hour, depending on qualifications. Available immediately. Location: USDA, ARS, 1636 E. Alisal St., Salinas, CA 93905 Qualifications: Applicant must be a U.S. citizen.  Interest in agriculture and plant breeding is preferred. A B.S is highly desirable in horticulture, agronomy, or related field. This is an excellent opportunity for anyone considering future graduate study in plant breeding. Duties: Conducts and maintains lab, field, and greenhouse lettuce breeding experiments. Cultures plant pathogens, conducts molecular marker analysis, collects and summarizes data into reports.  Waters, fertilizes, weeds and monitors plant pests in greenhouse experiments. Designs and arranges field experiments. Makes crosses of lettuce plants, harvests, cleans, and catalogs seeds. Includes periodic travel to the Imperial Valley of CA and the Yuma Valley of AZ.  Facilitates teamwork across diverse research programs, and occasionally supervises temporary labor.  The term of the appointment could be extended to two years based on acceptable performance.  How to apply: Contact Marsha Schrader at 831-755-2812.  Please email a resume and transcripts to Dr. Ryan Hayes (


Contributed by Ryan Hayes

University of California-Davis


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5.02  Postdoctoral Scientist


The University of California, Davis has openings for postdoctoral scientists to develop and use modern approaches to research Verticillium wilt resistance and pre/post harvest quality in lettuce. These positions will be co-supervised by UC and USDA scientists and be predominantly located in Salinas, CA.  A Ph.D. in Plant Breeding, Genetics, Molecular Biology, or a closely related field is required. Experience with contemporary approaches to mapping, gene identification, sequencing, plant breeding, experimental design, and statistical analyses is strongly preferred. The candidate must demonstrate proficiency of oral and written English. Qualified applicants should submit a letter of application, resume, official transcripts, and contact information for three references to Dr. Ryan Hayes, Agricultural Research Station,1636 E. Alisal St. Salinas, CA 93905, or email to


Contributed by Ryan Hayes

University of California-Davis


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5.03  Associate Plant Variety Examiner





42,209.00 - 67,114.00 USD /year


Monday, March 08, 2010 to Monday, June 07, 2010








1 vacancy - Beltsville, MD


This announcement is open to all United States citizens.

(Current and Former Federal employees may also apply with a separate application to Merit Promotion vacancy announcement #6ST-2010-0007)




The Plant Variety Protection Office administrates the Plant Variety Protection Act by (1) receiving and making disposition of applications to protect plant varieties under the Act; (2) determining novelty of plant variety based on procedures and approved methods; (3) determining acceptable differences for making plant varieties novel; (4) maintaining contacts with plant breeding and related organizations in the U.S. and foreign countries; (5) coordinating functions of the Act; (6) drafting rules and regulations under the Act; and (7) maintaining effective public relations to promote a climate for developing improved plant varieties.  This position is located in Beltsville, Maryland.


You can make a difference!  The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Marketing and Regulatory Programs (MRP) needs bright, energetic and committed professionals to facilitate the domestic and international marketing of U.S. agricultural products and to protect the health and care of animals and plants in the United States.  MRP offers an array of occupations and is committed to diversity in the workplace.  We operate in domestic and global markets. Be part of an organization that protects the health and agriculture of the American people.  Join our team!


Additional Duty Location Info:


1 vacancy - Beltsville, MD


The duties described are for the full-performance level.  At developmental grade levels, assignments will be of more limited scope, performed with less independence and limited complexity.  The duties may include, but are not limited to:




A complete on-line application will require the submission of the following:

  1. Resume and Core Federal Questions
  2. Responses to the vacancy specific questions and/or Knowledge, Skill, and Ability (KSA) questions
  3. Supporting Documentation which may be required (See links under Required Documents for more information)




For instructions on using the on-line system click: APPLYING ON-LINE


We only accept faxed and/or mailed documentation. For instructions

on submitting documents click:SUPPORTING DOCUMENTATION


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5.04  Sr. Technologist- Plant Breeder (Davis, CA)


The Plant Breeder is responsible for developing commercial tomato hybrid varieties that are relevant to Campbell Soup Company's manufactured products. These varieties must have desirable manufacturing traits, superior quality characteristics, and resistance to pathogens, high yields, and grower friendly traits. The successful candidate will work as part of a team involved in tomato variety development and should have working knowledge of general combining ability, genetic gain and heritability of desired traits, and a good understanding of molecular testing methods and/or knowledge in molecular biology is a plus. The breeder will also need to interact with the Technical Services Group as well as Campbell's Seeds personnel, with seed dealers, growers, other breeders and non-Campbell processors to promote the new Campbell's tomato varieties.


Principal Accountabilities:

1. Tomato Hybrid Development (40%): Hybrid development includes the selection of inbred lines with desirable traits to be combined into hybrid crosses and evaluation of these hybrids for commercialization into established varieties with desired characteristics.

2. Commercial Variety Evaluation (25%): Commercial variety evaluation includes testing of proprietary tomato varieties to determine their suitability for use in Campbell's manufacturing and consumer products.

3. Molecular testing (10%): Provide leadership in using molecular markers as a tool to identify traits in tomato germplasm to be incorporated into elite CSC varieties.

4. Customer Relations (10%): Maintain/enhance relationship with the Sacramento Ag. operations as well as with the supply Chain personnel to ensure that the objectives of the Breeding Program are inline with Campbell's needs. In addition, build and maintain relationship with non-Campbell users to promote and ensure acceptance of non-proprietary tomato hybrids nationally as well as internationally.

5. Assist the team (15%) in developing vegetable varieties (for example Jalapeno peppers) with desired traits.


Job Complexity:

• Developing a new hybrid tomato or Jalapeno pepper variety is part art and part science. It requires selection of the "right" inbreds to be used in hybrid development, which must have high yields, high solids, disease resistance, field horticultural characteristics, plus others.

• After the hybrid is made, it requires field evaluation to determine if the new hybrid carries the desired traits. Generally, 200 to 300 new crosses are made annually which need to be evaluated and tested individually to identify the best variety for our products, for the processors, and for the growers. Both tomato and Jalapeno germplasm have many traits, but it is the selection of the correct traits combined into one variety that makes a successful variety.



• The candidate should have an M.S. degree in plant breeding, genetics or related field, with a Ph.D. preferred.

• 3 - 5 years of experience is also desired.

• Knowledge in experimental design and statistical analysis

• Experience in breeding vegetable crops, especially tomatoes .

• Good understanding of molecular testing methods is a plus

• Good oral and written communication skills are required

• Computer skills (MS Office) are required


Working Conditions:

Hybrid evaluation takes place in the field where air temperatures can easily exceed 100 F degrees. During the summer production season, time in the field can reach 80 - 90% of a work day.


May require lifting boxes of 40 - 50 pounds. Day trips to remote field locations are required to evaluate hybrids during the growing season. Some international travel will be required to evaluate inbreds as well as experimental hybrids grown under unique environments.


Please go to the following URL to apply:




Campbell Valuing People, People Valuing Campbell


Campbell Soup Company is an Equal Opportunity Employer


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5.05  China Corn R&D Manager- Beijing or Zhengzhou, Henan China


Role purpose

1.    To coordinate and lead the activities of corn  research and  development team of scientists and support staff with the objective of developing high performing corn products that meet the customers requirements within China.



2.    As a member of the Asia Pacific (APAC) Corn Product Development (PD) Team and China R&D Team, and working with JV/brand product managers and the regional/global PD organization, develop and execute coherent short to long term corn product development strategies in China.

3.    Lead and manage the integration of JV breeding infrastructure with existing Syngenta infrastructure and other R&D collaboration within China to create a motivated and cohesive new team .

4.    Create and support a high energy environment that is focused on meeting short and long term targets, through application of traditional and novel breeding techniques in an environment focused on continuous improvement.

5.    Understand and support the trait introduction efforts of the PD group to promote Syngenta’s trait leadership in the industry.

6.    Secure the execution of PD programs through cost-efficient resource planning and allocation (HR and facilities).

7.    Provide leadership for creating an environment that ensures the security and protection of Intellectual Property related to owned or licensed germplasm in China.

8.    Lead and support the PD stations to create an efficient and high quality trialing and nursery support system.

9.    Preparation of yearly budgets for the annual and five year business plans.  Manage the deliver of the budget through cost monitoring and direction.

10. Manage HR issues including strategic staffing and organizational development to promote an environment of opportunity for individual growth and development.


Critical success factors & key challenges

Leading effective interactions with PD NAFTA, local Chinese JV, APAC leadership, and Corporate headquarters in Switzerland.  This requires strong skills in organizational development, workforce management, legal/organization interface, and organizational change management.


Knowledge, experience & capabilities


Critical knowledge

·         A thorough knowledge of breeding theory (genetics, statistics, genetic gain theory, and field plot technique).  A good knowledge and experience in corn germplasm development. 

·         Broad familiarity with biotechnology, marker applications to breeding, and trait development.

·         PhD in breeding.

·         A good knowledge of the seed industry, China hybrid (and trait) markets and the working of other functions within a global seed company.

·         Fluent in English and Mandarin, written and verbal.

·         Understanding corn research and markets in China.


Critical experience

·         A minimum of five years demonstrated successful experience as a research project manager and leader of a large breeding team

·         Ten years experience as a breeder.

·         Demonstrated successful experience in the Chinese business culture.


Critical technical, professional and personal capabilities

·         Ability to lead and manage a group of scientists and staff within a complex business environment

·         Ability to work effectively with the regional and global R&D organization.

·         Excellent interpersonal and public communication skills.

·         Excellent operational (managing budgets, projects, timelines, etc.), organizational (performance management, etc.) and computer skills (Microsoft Office and Outlook required, relational database knowledge is a plus.).


Critical leadership capabilities


Leadership Capabilities

Set Direction

Create Edge

Fosters a culture of creativity and innovation

Drive Results

Liberate Potential


Additional information


Physical demands of the essential functions:


Working conditions while performing essential functions:

Outdoor – Periods of outdoor activity under inclement weather during field tours


Contributed by Megan Bird


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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.


North Carolina State University offering Plant Breeding Methods (HS 541) in a distance education version


North Carolina State University offering HS 541 Plant Breeding Methods, in a distance education version this fall.  The instructor is Todd Wehner (


CS, HS 541-section 601 DE; Plant Breeding Methods; 3 credits; lecture only


Prerequisites:  statistics and genetics courses


This is an introductory Plant Breeding course for first year graduate students and advanced undergraduate students.  The emphasis is on traditional methods of developing improved cultivars of cross-pollinated, self-pollinated, and asexually-propagated crops, and the genetic principles on which breeding methods are based.  The purpose of this course is to provide the student a general background in all areas of plant breeding.  The goal is to develop students (successfully completing this course) who are knowledgeable in all of the areas of plant breeding, and to have sufficient understanding to be able to master the advanced courses in plant breeding at NC State and other universities.


Overview of plant breeding methods for advanced undergraduate and beginning graduate students.  Covers germplasm resources, pollen control, measurement of genetic variances, and heterosis.  Special topics include genotype-environment interaction, index selection, stress resistance, polyploidy, and mutation breeding.  In-depth coverage on methods for breeding cross-pollinated, self-pollinated and asexually-propagated crops.  Prepares students for advanced study in CS,HS 719 (germplasm and biogeography), 720 (molecular genetics), 745 (quantitative genetics), 746 (advanced breeding), 748 (pest resistance, now PP590), 860 (breeding lab), and 861 (breeding lab).


For more information on HS 541 Plant Breeding Methods, see:


For more information on distance education at NC State University, see:


For more information on Todd Wehner, see:


Dr. Todd C. Wehner

Professor and Cucurbit Breeder

Department of Horticultural Science

North Carolina State University

Raleigh, NC 27695-7609

919-515-5363; 919-515-2505 (fax) (web)




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




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


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.


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.




(NEW) 2 August – 1 October 2010. Hands-on training program, Wheat Improvement and Pathology, CIMMYT El Batán & Toluca, Mexico


Twenty-first century wheat breeders must possess the research skills and knowledge needed to design and run a sustainable modern wheat breeding program. They must be able to synthesize and use the information and knowledge about available diverse germplasm and new technologies for wheat improvement, while understanding the interdisciplinary nature of the work and roles of support disciplines such as agronomy, pathology, wheat quality, statistics, physiology, biotechnology, GIS, and the social sciences. The Wheat improvement training program meets these objectives for international wheat breeders through a comprehensive hands-on course.



The Wheat breeding training program is a unique professional development opportunity for early-career scientists who work in the public, private or non-governmental sectors. Scientists working in National Agricultural Research System (NARS) particularly in the area of wheat breeding, pathology and physiology may find this course useful.


Participants must fulfill the following requirements:

English proficiency to allow for full participation in the course program and discussions.

Expected level of participants - Master of Science (MSc) or Bachelor of Science (BSc) with at least 3 years of experience in field breeding or pathology.

Active involvement in research in the area of wheat breeding, pathology and/or physiology.

Demonstrated professional experience and leadership potential.

Good health, as the course includes a lot of hands-on field activities.

Successful and timely completion of course application forms and relevant materials. Participants may be asked in the future to assist with the organization and delivery of short-term, in-country courses.


Training program structure

Based on individual needs, participants with clearly defi ned learning objectives will be assigned to relevant CIMMYT scientists/tutors in the following research areas:

Breeding bread wheat for increased yield potential, quality and durable disease resistance in irrigated & high production areas.

Breeding bread wheat for increased yield potential, quality and durable disease resistance in rainfed, low & marginal production areas.

Durum wheat breeding for increased yield potential, quality and durable disease resistance.

Wheat pathology and durable rust resistance.

Application of physiology in wheat breeding.

Approximately 4 weeks will be dedicated to covering wheat pathology and wheat quality aspects, molecular techniques and applied statistics. The remainder of the time is spent at the fi eld station, El Batán & Obregón,dedicated to wheat improvement methodologies and selections.


Field activities include crossing and selections, disease screening work, and laboratory work - pathology, biotech, and grain quality (70% of time). Lectures and seminars on various aspects of wheat breeding comprise approximately 30% of the course time .


Course Objectives

(1) To impart research skills and knowledge needed to design and run sustainable modern wheat improvement program with a specifi c objective.

(2) To familiarize participants with new improved wheat germplasm, CIMMYT’s current research and breeding objectives; and provide opportunity to select wheat materials that will be sent to participants.

(3) To encourage and develop participants’ ability to synthesize and use information and knowledge about new technologies related to wheat improvement.

(4) To improve participants’ awareness of the roles and importance of support disciplines such as agronomy, pathology, wheat chemistry/quality, statistics, physiology, biotechnology, GIS, and social sciences.

(5) To foster positive attitudinal changes among participants such as improved confidence, increased motivation, and heightened appreciation of the benefi ts of team work and interdisciplinary research.


Trainees will gain experience and learn the following:

Determine breeding objectives and organize a germplasm improvement program with a specific objective.

Lay out plans and manage nurseries, and obtain and record the appropriate observations.

Use criteria for selecting parental material, how to make crosses, and what to look for when selecting the new lines.

Identify the steps involved in testing and evaluating new lines or cultivars.

Learn useful methods for determining grain quality.

Learn about and use plant genetic resources.

Become familiar with experimental designs and applied statistics.

Understand relevant aspects of molecular biology – marker assisted selection, diversity mapping, and genetic transformation.

Organize and operate a pathology program in conjunction with a breeding program.

Collect and preserve pathogen inoculums, inoculate plants to induce disease epidemics and ensure uniform disease conditions within breeding nurseries.

Identify the important diseases of wheat, triticale, and barley, and learn about available corrective or preventive measures.

Evaluate diseases by reaction type and by degree of infection in nurseries and commercial fields.

Identify the virulence of rusts using greenhouse diff erentials, and learn how to isolate and identify pathogens in the laboratory.


Costs and logistics

The course fee is U$ 5,500 for 2 months, inclusive of accomodation and living allowance (US$30/day), major expense medical insurance, book allowance, training materials, a laptop rent, internet connection, and all local transport. The fee does NOT include, international airfare, costs of the Mexican visa itself (US$ 140), travel incidentals and the deductible for medical insurance.


Application deadline is May 28th, 2010


For an application form and more details contact: Petr Kosina (


CIMMYT is a non-profit research and training center with direct links to about 100 developing countries through offices in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. CIMMYT’s mission is to “to conduct maize and wheat research to benefit developing countries.


Through strong science and eff ective partnerships, CIMMYT creates, shares, and uses knowledge and technology to increase food security, improve the productivity and profi tability of farming systems, and sustain natural resources in developing countries.” CIMMYT achieves its mission with about 100 specialized research staff and 500 support staff from about 40 countries. The Center is funded by international and regional development agencies, national governments, private foundations, and the private sector.


Wheat Improvement and Pathology – from August 2nd to October 1st, 2010 in CIMMYT El Batán & Toluca, Mexico


Contributed by Petr Kosina




3 August 2010 8:00AM to 6:00 PM. 2010 ASHS Intellectual Property Symposium - Current Issues and Applications for Intellectual Property of Horticultural Plant Cultivars, Palm Desert, CA, USA.

To learn more, go to:


To register for the ASHS IP Symposium (or become an ASHS member), you can do so at


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.


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


September 2010. Class III of the UC Davis Plant Breeding Academy, UC Davis.

Apply now for Class III of the UC Davis Plant Breeding Academy.  Space is limited!  For detailed information and to apply, visit  or                                                       contact Joy Patterson at , ph 530-752-4414.


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.


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


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


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


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


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


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