31 October 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  Plant breeding is a rewarding career, says University of Queensland PhD student

1.02  Plant breeders reconnect with rural development

1.03  “Miracle rice” finding proves we can never stop rice breeding

1.04  "Maize rice" developed in Henan, China

1.05  New grant to improve quality seed access in sub-Saharan Africa

1.06  Trials on drought tolerant maize to start in November

1.07  China develops indigenous turf grass seeds to save water, green urban areas

1.08  Breeding advances in grass varieties shown at Teagasc conference

1.09  California breeder keeps perfecting peaches, plums

1.10  New barley varieties released in Iran

1.11  Maize of the future - Food for Africa

1.12  Scientists in Kenya and Uganda prepare for confined field trials of drought-tolerant transgenic maize

1.13  Ancient Russian oilseed crop could prove a lifeline for farmers in marginal regions of Western Australia

1.14  New scientific study helps to reveal possible reasons for the decline of pollinators

1.15  Change coming for quiet UN plant variety protection agency?

1.16  CropWorld 2010 Preview: Time for rethink on plant breeders’ rights?

1.17  “We can feed the world AND maintain biodiversity”, scientists say at European session of Biodiversity World Tour

1.18  Wild potatoes’ genes enlisted in the late blight arms race

1.19  Native potatoes put biodiversity on a plate and on the agenda

1.20  Crop biodiversity: use it or lose it - FAO launches 2nd State of the World’s Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture report

1.21  Climate-ready crop patents present danger for biodiversity, group says

1.22  Capacity of China's national germplasm banks improved

1.23  Biodiversity and poverty reduction: Who controls the seeds?

1.24  Pre-screening to improve wheat frost and cold tolerance

1.25  Grainy season: engineering drought-resistant wheat

1.26  Embrapa Algodão integra rede internacional de pesquisa sobre polinização

1.27  Combining plant resistance and a natural enemy to control Amphorophora idaei

1.28  Key to Mendel’s pea flowers

1.29  U.S. National Science Foundation awards new projects for plant genome research

1.30  Association mapping for Fusarium head blight resistance in European soft winter wheat



2.01  “Biotecnología y Mejoramiento Vegetal II”, un libro a ciencia cierta

2.02  Handbook of Plant Breeding: Root and Tuber Crops



3.01  Analysis of national food and nutrition security plans in Colombia and Peru, and how crop biofortification can be integrated into these



4.01  Forest conservation/climate change mitigation

4.02  Molecular genetics of plant development



5.01  Global Rice Breeding Leader (Senior Scientist/Principal Scientist), IRRI

5.02  Onion Breeder (Vegetables Division)-00205

5.03  Graduate Assistantship: Forest tree breeding and restoration genetics









1.01  Plant breeding is a rewarding career, says University of Queensland PhD student


Queensland, Australia

13 October 2010

University of Queensland PhD student, Lee Hickey, was one of 12 young agricultural scientists to attend this year's Crawford Fund Conference where biodiversity and world food security were the hot topics.


Mr Hickey said he was honored to receive a scholarship to attend the annual conference held at Parliament House in Canberra, due to the positive work that the Crawford Fund does in raising awareness of the benefits of international agricultural research for both developing countries and within Australia.


"Attending the conference was uplifting and has inspired me to be more involved in international agricultural research," Mr Hickey said.


"I met people with diverse backgrounds in agricultural research and the experience made me more aware of the broader context and importance of agricultural development around the world."


The theme for the annual conference was "Biodiversity and World Food Security", coinciding with the UN International Year of Biodiversity where a group of internationally renowned speakers addressed issues concerning the need to conserve biodiversity for food security in the face of climate change.


Mr Hickey said his personal highlight was presentations made by Dr Cristián Samper (Director of National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC) and Professor Stephen Hopper (Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK).


"As my research focuses on the genetics of rust resistance in wheat and barley and improving the efficiency of breeding programs, I found these two presentations very interesting, particularly discussions involving biodiversity conservation," he said.


"I now look forward to new discoveries through agricultural science and opportunities for collaboration with fellow researchers around the world.


"Plant breeding is a rewarding career that will allow me to contribute towards improving yield and resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses which limit production around the world, thereby maintaining a stable food supply for the future."


To find out how you can pursue a career in these fields at UQ, visit or for more information on the Crawford Fund visit




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1.02  Plant breeders reconnect with rural development


In a paper highlighted in Crop Science journal this week, Keith Woeste and coauthors underscore the contributions plant breeders have made to the economic and rural development in the United States. The authors document how plant breeders have responded to a growing demand for food and changes in agriculture, cultural and economic forces.


Since the Nation’s founding, plant breeders have helped improve the economic condition of individual farmers and contributed to the growth of communities that supported the life and livelihood of rural Americans. More recently, in the years since WWII, U.S. agriculture and the quality of rural life has changed dramatically.  Important forces behind these changes were national policies that encouraged and financially subsidized more efficient agricultural production. The goal was to make U.S. farms more like the big businesses and industries that had transformed the economy in other ways. Plant breeders responded by developing techniques and products that supported the rise of industrial-scale agriculture, including the development of high yielding crops that could be grown in new environments, and crops that could be harvested and shipped by machines, rather than human labor. Over the past 60 years, other social, technological and economic changes reinforced the importance of the industrial farm, and many rural communities slowly died as people left or were forced out of farming. Lately, however, a mix of social and economic forces has encouraged fresh thinking about food. Groups such as locavores and movements like community supported agriculture are sprouting up. They suggest that by reconsidering how food is grown, where it is grown, and how it reaches our tables we might improve our health. Some even hope that we might be able to reinvigorate rural communities by making new markets and by connecting urbanites to issues such as sustainable land use. Even industrial-scale, big-box retailers see these changes as good for their bottom line; they have developed ways to measure and sell “sustainability” to consumers. Plant breeders have served a decreasing group of clients since industrial agriculture came to the force. Renewed interest in food systems (how and where food is grown and how it gets to our table), along with an increased focus on the quality of rural life in America, represent opportunities for plant breeders to address the needs of new clients, to develop new plant breeding methods, and to serve traditional clients in new ways. 


The paper represents the first of a series of papers to highlight the importance of plant breeding in food production and society commissioned by the US Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee. Adapted from Keith E. Woeste, Sterling B. Blanche, Karen A. Moldenhauer and C. Dana Nelson, Plant Breeding and Rural Development in the United States, doi:10.2135/cropsci2009.10.0572, Crop Science 2010 50:1625-1632. 


The Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee is SCC80, a multi-state project.  It is national in scope but administered by the Southern Association of Agricultural Experiment Station Directors, in cooperation with the National Institute for Food and Agriculture of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The PBCC provides expertise and a forum for discussion, organization, action and leadership on matters affecting long-term U.S. plant breeding capacities, including research and education, and their relevance to current and future national needs. The National Association of Plant Breeders represents and advocates for plant breeders in the USA working in the public and private sectors. For further information, please contact Allen Van Deynze at 530-754-6444 or visit


Contributed by Allen Van Deynze


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1.03  “Miracle rice” finding proves we can never stop rice breeding


12 October 2010


IR8 or “Miracle rice” cannot keep up with environmental change according to a scientific paper by scientists including Dr. Shaobing Peng from IRRI.


Los Baños, Philippines – Environmental changes are to blame for a 15% drop in the yield of “miracle rice” – also known as rice variety IR8 – since the 1960s when it was first released and lauded for its superior yields that helped avert famine across Asia at the time.


IR8 used to produce 9.5 to 10.5 tons per hectare, significantly more than other varieties in the 1960s when average global rice yields were around only 2 tons per hectare. But, when grown today, IR8 can yield only around 7 tons per hectare.


“IR8 still performs very well considering global average rice yields still hover around 4 tons per hectare, but a 15% yield drop is significant and we needed to find out what was happening,” said Dr. Shaobing Peng, a crop physiologist from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and coauthor of a study published in Field Crops Researchabout the declining yields of IR8.


Dr. Peng and his team grew rice from original IR8 seeds preserved in the International Rice Genebank and compared it to rice grown from IR8 seeds continuously grown and harvested over the last few decades. He wanted to see if the genetics of IR8 had changed over time and if that was responsible for the yield drop – or if something about the environment was the cause.


“Our study eliminated changes in the genetic composition of IR8, which may have occurred over time, and instead identified changes in the environment as the cause of the decline,” Dr. Peng said.


“Hotter nights, which are known to reduce rice yields, and other environmental changes such as modifications in soil properties from maintaining the soil under flooded conditions and air pollution are all possible contributing factors,” he added.


According to Dr. Peng, the findings demonstrate the need for ongoing or “maintenance” breeding because it allows rice plants to cope with a changing environment.


Despite their limited progress in increasing yields, maintenance breeding efforts have had significant success in improving grain quality and maintaining rice yields despite substantial increases in diseases, insects, and environmental changes. Coping with these may be far more important today for resource-poor rice farmers across Asia and Africa – who are one of the primary targets IRRI is trying to help through its rice research.


“Maintenance breeding needs continuous support to help farmers to cope with erratic climate changes around the globe and if not given attention, poor farmers will become poorer as they already have few means to cope with their changing environment,” said Dr. Peng.


As part of its 50th anniversary celebration IRRI has commenced a fund-raising campaign to boost its programs that support farmers worldwide.




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1.04  "Maize rice" developed in Henan, China



14 October 2010

Recently, over 30 experts from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Henan Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Henan Provincial Department of Science and Technology and Department of Agriculture, and some other organizations were so glad and excited to see a new type of rice with a single plant output of 250 grams in the experiment field of Henan Fengyuan Seed Company in Xinxiang. Such plant is called “maize rice” by farmers because like maize, it is over two meters high and has both broad and long leaves, dense aerial roots, erect and compact ears, and big and plump seeds.


This new rice line characterized by strong resistance against lodging, pest and disease and high yield was developed by Xinxiang Distant-origin Molecular Breeding Engineering Technical Research Center jointly established by the College of Life Sciences of Henan Normal University and Henan Fengyuan Seed Company in Xinxiang. This center successfully induced DNA fragments of maize into rice through in-situ induction of germplasm cells with the technique of transferring big molecules of distant origin rather than mediators that easily produce harmful substances. Such practice enabled rich variations in rice that would help to raise resistance and yield. Maize rice is one of germplasms selected by this center through multiple field tests, which could be used to develop new rice varieties with high resistance and high yield.


Ji Shengdong, teacher of the College of Life Sciences of Henan Normal University, said that they would develop a new variety of such maize rice with a yield of over 850 kg per mu (12750 kg per ha) within 2-3 years.




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1.05  New grant to improve quality seed access in sub-Saharan Africa 


Ames, Iowa, USA

13 October 2010

Iowa State University seed scientists will partner with regional and national organizations in Malawi, Zambia and Nigeria to conduct a pilot study in Africa on enabling better access to improved seed varieties with the help of a new grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


The Seed Policy Enhancement in African Regions (SPEAR) project is funded by a $1.45 million three-year grant. As part of the grant, Iowa State University scientists will work to advance harmonization policies into actionable reality in western and southern Africa. They will improve varietal evaluations and timely releases of candidate seed varieties.


“As the project progresses, seed will be provided to companies on a timely and equitable basis,” said Seed Science Center Global Seed Program Leader Joe Cortes. “Seed production contracts will be initiated, and regional and international seed companies will begin working with the existing seed companies in the area. In the end, licensing contracts will result, and smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa will have access to increased varieties of high-quality seed.”


“The SPEAR project speaks to what we are about here at the center — providing quality seed to the world,” said Seed Science Center Director Manjit Misra, professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering. “We are proud to be a part of this project that can truly enhance the sustainability of smallholder farmers in Africa who currently face limited resources.”


The Seed Science Center at Iowa State University houses the largest comprehensive public seed laboratory in the world. In the past 12 years, the center's Global Seed Program has conducted international projects on seed policy and regulations in more than 70 countries around the world. Currently the program has ongoing projects in 30 countries. For more information about the Seed Science Center at Iowa State University, visit




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1.06 Trials on drought tolerant maize to start in November


Crop scientists from the National Crops Resources Research Institute (NACRRI) in Uganda and collaborators will start planting drought tolerant maize in November for testing. NACRRI researchers have been preparing the site in Mubuku Irrigation Scheme in Kasese District for the planting season. The trials have been approved by the National Biosafety Committee under the Ministry of Agriculture.


"Once the seeds arrive in the country (Uganda), they will be immediately planted on the prepared 2.5 hectare land and the remaining seeds will be kept for 14 days, a legal requirement for these improved seeds," said site manager Joseph Stephen Ochen.


Visit for the rest of the story.


Source: Crop Biotech Update 15 October 2010:


Contributed by Margaret Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University


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1.07  China develops indigenous turf grass seeds to save water, green urban areas



22 October 2010

(Xinhua) -- China has developed 30 varieties of drought-resistant grass seeds to help green urban areas.


Yun Jinfeng, chairman of the Chinese Grassland Society (CGS), said researchers in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region used transgenetic technology to select genes from spear grass, morningstar lily grass and two color-lavender herb grass.


Some 95 percent of turf grass seeds in China are imported from America and European countries, with annual import volumes at around 10,000 tonnes.


"Compared with imported grass seed, domestic grass seed is more adaptable to a dry environment. They need only one tenth of the water of imported turf grass," Yun said.


"Chinese cities are building more urban green areas, and turf watering requires much water," said Wang Linhe, a professor at Inner Mongolia Agricultural University involved in grass seed research.


He said the newly-developed grass seeds need watering only three times per year and can easily adapt to arid environments which receive less 500 millimeters of rainfall per year.




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1.08  Breeding advances in grass varieties shown at Teagasc conference



14 October, 2010

There are huge opportunities to grow and utilise more grass in Ireland. A Teagasc organised international conference - ‘Grasses for the Future’ taking place in Cork today, Thursday, 14 October is hearing how grass dry matter production can be increased using newer grass varieties. International grass breeders are outlining how up to 18.5 tonnes of grass dry matter per hectare can be produced annually. Currently in Ireland we utilise about 7.9 tonnes of grass dry matter per hectare on dairy farms, with lower amounts utilised on beef farms.


Opening the conference, Professor Gerry Boyle, Director of Teagasc, highlighted the sustainability of grassland based livestock production. He emphasised the fact that grass based ruminant production further increases Ireland’s competitive advantage globally. “We can achieve high output of quality meat and milk products from grass, which is a low cost feed. Furthermore grass based production systems are sustainable from an environment, animal welfare and social perspective,” he said. Professor Boyle encouraged delegates to ensure that the progress taking place in grass breeding is replicated on grassland farms.


This unique conference hosted by Teagasc is providing an opportunity for all involved in the grassland industry including breeders, merchants, farmers, advisers, evaluators and scientists to participate in strengthening progress in the grassland sector.


Grass breeders speaking at the event are not shying away from this challenge. Pete Wilkins, ex IBERS – Wales, is showing the potential for the future with focussed grass breeding. Dr. Wilkins is presenting data which shows that grass varieties are producing upwards of 18.5tDM/ha/year over a three-year period. If this level of grass dry matter production is realised on farms it will bring grassland farming to a whole new level. Dr Alan Stewart, PGG Wrightson – New Zealand, is highlighting the importance of breeding and evaluating grass varieties in the environment for which they are being bred. Dr. Stewart explained that the priority placed on each trait being selected for in a breeding programme will depend on their economic value within the various farming systems where they will ultimately be used, as well as the potential to make genetic gain in each trait.


In 2010 there has been an increase in the level of reseeding, partly due to the need for grass fields to recover from the weather related, poor grazing conditions in 2009. Head of Grassland Science in Teagasc, Michael O’ Donovan said: “We have to move off the traditional target of 2% of the area of Ireland reseeded annually. This needs to increase to match other countries like New Zealand where 4% of the land area is reseeded with higher producing grass varieties annually.”


Conference delegates will visit the Teagasc Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Moorepark, tomorrow. A workshop for delegates will take centre stage and site visits to Moorepark’s grassland research programme and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food grass evaluation site in Fermoy. Over 200 delegates, both national and international are attending the event highlighting Ireland’s important position in the international grassland community.


This event is being sponsored by Goldcrop, Barenbrug, Independent Seed Company (Moregrass), Germinal Ltd, Irish Grassland Association and is being held in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and AFBI, Northern Ireland.


Full details are available at




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1.09  California breeder keeps perfecting peaches, plums


22 October 2010

By Raquel Maria Dillon, Associated Press Writer

 Modesto, Calif.


Enjoyed a crisp white peach or a juicy plum this past summer?


Chances are that 85-year-old Floyd Zaiger was behind them in some way, through his disease-resistant root stocks, groundbreaking hybrids or commercial varieties that arrive in East Coast grocery stores unblemished.


"He eats, breathes and sleeps his trees, constantly thinking about their characteristics," his daughter Leith Gardner said. "For my dad, it's the love of his life, besides my mother."


Zaiger's 140-acre property on the outskirts of the California Central Valley city of Modesto is his laboratory. He and his family develop new varieties the old-fashioned way, by cross-pollinating his acres of leafy breeding stock and selecting for certain traits.


The painstaking process has paid off, with a hybrid plum-apricot he trademarked as the Pluot, and in Zaiger's international reputation as a premiere developer of stone fruit, which are named for their hard pits.


Despite his age, Zaiger cruises the grove in a golf cart, working on new varieties that will be ready for market in several years.


"The Pluot was game-changing in my mind," said Tom Gradziel, a pomologist at the University of California, Davis. "The plumcot cross-existed, but he saw potential in the plum's sweetness and the apricot's aromatics and crossed it back with the parent tree many times to bring out those characteristics sweet but no bitter skin."


Zaiger developed interspecies varieties like the aprium (part apricot and part plum), the peacotum (a hybrid of peach, apricot and plum) and the cherub (a cross between a cherry and a plum).


Gary Van Sickle, president of the California Tree Fruit growers organization, said Zaiger is the most prolific stone fruit breeder in the modern era.


"It takes somebody with vision to understand what the marketplace is going to want in a decade," Van Sickle said.


What started as a hobby for Zaiger 55 years ago grew into an international business that is still family run. His daughter is the operation's general manager. One son, Gary, runs the nursery and the other, Grant, tends the mature trees.


On a weekly field tasting tour with growers, Gardner squeezed a wedge of a fruit onto a handheld device that measures sugar in the juice.


Robert Woolley, the owner of Dave Wilson Nursery, plucked a plum from a high, sunny branch and took a bite.


"Whoa! That's a sugar bomb," he said. "It's got everything except size."

Even though researchers have made breakthroughs in fruit tree genome mapping recently and despite the company's name Zaiger Genetics doesn't splice genes or manipulate DNA to develop new plants.


It took researchers across the country and Europe 10 years to build a map of the peach genome, Gradziel said. But genomics has its limitations, he said. The field is in its infancy and might never duplicate Zaiger's work.


"If you look at everything that Zaiger's developed, none of those would be predictable with these new techniques," Gradziel said. "Zaiger's has a huge knowledge base and a huge germplasm to draw from. With linear breeding, we'll lose his kind of out-of-the-box, creative, artistic, intuitive breeding."


Zaiger and his staff make repeated and complex crosses in successive generations to make a bridge between two species. Their low-tech methods are painstaking and methodical.


He collects pollen with an eye shadow brush from a tree chosen for its flavor, then brushes it on the flower pistil of another tree chosen for its durability or resistance to disease.


Each of the 150,000 crosses currently in the orchard has a number to trace its lineage back to its great-great-grandparents or longer. Zaiger can track the expression of each characteristic in the progeny.


"The first thing I do when we see a tree with good characteristics and flavor is to open up the book and look at its pedigree," Zaiger said.


These days, the book is a massive database of crosses.


"This is my bible," he said, opening a three-ring binder in his office and pointing to the branches of an aprium hybrid's family tree. "From here to here is six years work."


From thousands of crosses, Zaiger and his children select a couple hundred to grow in a secondary plot. From those he chooses a few dozen to show off to growers every summer. With their feedback, he introduces a select few new varieties each year.


Each generation of trees takes three years to mature, and it can take decades for a successful variety to return a profit.


"We grew up with it, so we know you can't be in a hurry," Gardner said. "There's always new material coming up the pipeline and we know that the next generation is going to bring new breakthroughs. We rely on the work we did 10 or 12 years ago."


The Zaigers hold about 280 patents. Their best varieties, like the Pluot, are trademarked. Growers pay a royalty fee of $2.25 per tree, and 15 percent of the sales from their crop to Zaiger and marketers.


The company signed its first international contract in 1962 and now has contracts across Europe as well as New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, Argentina and Chile.


"Many breeders have successful varieties but Floyd's contributions have been many and probably surpass everyone else for lifetime achievement," said Eric Wuhl, director of research and development for Family Tree Farms in Reedley, Calif. "I don't think a grower could grow from the beginning of the season to the end successfully without having Zaiger trees in the lineup."


Source: The Associated Press


Contributed by Cathy A Smith

Executive Director, Keystone Development Center


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1.10  New barley varieties released in Iran


15 October 2010

Iran’s Seed and Plant Improvement Institute has released three new high-yielding barley varieties, selected from nurseries received from ICARDA. The variety Yousef is resistant to terminal drought and suitable for cultivation in moderate to warm areas. Fajre is tolerant to cold, lodging and shattering, and suitable for moderate environments in Iran. Bahman is tolerant to cold, lodging, shattering and terminal drought, and well adapted to cold areas. Iran’s Dryland Agricultural Research Institute has reported that three other barley varieties (two winter/facultative and one spring variety), all derived from ICARDA’s nurseries, are performing consistently well in national trials. These varieties are candidates for release in 2010-11.


Source: ICARDA:


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1.11  Maize of the future - Food for Africa


South Africa

16 October 2010

Over the past few years, the Monsanto DEKALB trademark white and yellow maize cultivars have become renowned for their characteristically high yields. A new addition that continues to build on the success of these cultivars has now been introduced. “This is food for Africa,” says Magda du Toit, Monsanto communication manager for Sub-Saharan Africa, in a statement on World Food Day, 16 October.


The new maize cultivar boasts gigantic cobs with a length of 295 mm and up to 20 rows of kernels: the maize of the future, food for Africa.


"This is Monsanto’s ongoing contribution towards alleviating hunger and poverty. The company spends over US$ 1.5 million (R9 million) daily on research and development in its quest to produce more food for the world,” says du Toit.


"According to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations), more than 200 million people in Africa go to bed hungry every day. World-wide some 25 000 people, including 18 000 children, die from starvation daily.”


She added that in its quest to harness improved biotechnology research to place more food on the table, the company had reached an advanced stage in its development of a drought-tolerant maize cultivar – more crop, less drop. Progress was also being made with cultivars capable of utilising nitrogen more effectively.


The drought-tolerant maize forms part of the WEMA project (Water Efficient Maize for Africa). It is being developed in East and South Africa in conjunction with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre, with sponsorship from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. South Africa and four East African countries are involved.


According to Dr Geoffrey Asea, WEMA co-ordinator, the new drought-tolerant cultivar could increase yields by between 20 and 30% compared with current cultivars. This would mean an additional yield of two million metric tonnes, sufficient to feed 21million more people.




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1.12  Scientists in Kenya and Uganda prepare for confined field trials of drought-tolerant transgenic maize


Des Moines, Iowa, USA

14 October 2010


If successful, Water Efficient Maize for Africa would be available royalty-free to the region where over 300 million people depend on a crop routinely crippled by droughts


Crop specialists in Kenya and Uganda have laid the groundwork for confined field trials to commence later this year for new varieties of maize genetically modified to survive recurrent droughts that threaten over 300 million Africans for whom maize is life, according to a speech given today by the head of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) at the World Food Prize Symposium.


Scientists working with AATF believe it’s important to explore the potential of biotechnology to maintain and increase food production in Africa, given the large number of families

dependent on maize, and warnings that maize yields could drop dramatically as climate change increases drought frequency and severity across the continent.


There is preliminary evidence that the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) varieties, which were developed through a public-private partnership, could provide yields 24–35 percent higher than what farmers are now growing.


The process for testing the WEMA varieties has been informed by a series of “mock trials” conducted in 2009 in Kenya and Tanzania. The mock trials carefully simulated field conditions, procedures, and regulatory oversight that will occur in the actual trials.


“The mock trials have provided an opportunity for researchers working on the WEMA project to fine-tune the procedures of carrying out the actual transgenic trial in 2010,” according to Daniel Mataruka, executive director of AATF.


The mock trials were supervised by national biosafety committees in both countries and adhered to all requirements that will apply to transgenic plants.


“Everything we have seen in the simulated trials shows that we can safely test transgenic maize varieties in carefully controlled and confined field trials in Africa and evaluate their potential to produce high yields in drought conditions,” said Dr. James Gethi, the WEMAKenya country coordinator.


Drought is the most important constraint to African agricultural production, and its effects are particularly severe on maize, which is the most widely-grown staple on the continent. For millions of small-scale farmers who rely on rainfall to water their crops, risk of crop failure from drought is a major barrier to the adoption of improved farming practices.


A more reliable harvest could give farmers the confidence to invest in improved techniques that could further boost their yields and incomes.


The push to develop drought-tolerant varieties has been given added urgency by threats likely to come from climate change. A study by scientists at the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) warns that by 2050, climate change could make droughts more frequent and intense, potentially causing maize yields to drop by 20  percent or more in parts of East Africa, including northern Uganda and southern Sudan, and semiarid areas of Kenya and Tanzania. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has acknowledged biotechnology as a powerful tool in the effort to develop drought-tolerant crops.


The drought-tolerant WEMA varieties are being developed under a partnership involving AATF, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Monsanto, and the national agriculture research systems in Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa and Uganda. CIMMYT has provided high-yield maize varieties adapted to African conditions, while Monsanto has provided proprietary genetic resources (germplasm), advanced breeding tools and expertise, and drought-tolerant transgenes developed in collaboration

with BASF.


According to AATF, experience has shown that the gains possible through advanced breeding and biotechnology are greater and faster than those that can be achieved through breeding alone.


“There have already been positive gains made in drought tolerance using traditional breeding methods by our partners,” said Mataruka. “WEMA is working to further increase those gains in drought tolerance in hybrids adapted to eastern and southern Africa through both advanced breeding techniques and biotechnology.”


If the transgenic corn is found to be safe and successful, the new varieties will be made available to smallholder farmers royalty-free. Under its agreement with its partners, any approved varieties would be licensed to AATF, which would then distribute to farmers through local seed supplies at a price competitive with other types of maize seed. The project partners expect that pricing will not be influenced by the requirement to pay royalties, as none of the partners will receive any royalty payment from seed companies for the drought tolerant lines/transgenic trait incorporating their intellectual property protected technology.


Pending regulatory approval, at least 12 WEMA varieties will be tested in confined field trials (CFTs) in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa and Mozambique. After the trials, the transgenic corn produced in the CFTs will be destroyed in compliance with the regulations in the respective countries.


The African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) is a not-for-profit organisation that facilitates and promotes public/private partnerships for the access and delivery of appropriate proprietary agricultural technologies for use by resource-poor smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa (




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1.13  Ancient Russian oilseed crop could prove a lifeline for farmers in marginal regions of Western Australia


A hardy ancient Russian oilseed crop could prove a lifeline for farmers in marginal regions of the State, according to researchers at The University of Western Australia.


Preliminary trials around WA have shown that camelina grows best on sandy soils. More drought and frost tolerant than most other oilseed crops, it needs less fertilizers and other inputs than canola.


Director of UWA’s International Centre for Plant Breeding Education and Research, Professor William Erskine, said camelina’s hardiness and applications to food, cosmetic, health and energy industries made it an attractive product for farmers and consumers.


“Not only is camelina a food oil, it can also be used in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals as it is a good emollient with excellent moisturising properties and possible medical applications,” Professor Erskine said.


“The gluten-free seed meal can be developed into a sought-after healthy food ingredient in a growing market. In the USA, the oil is also being considered as a biofuel.


“While the oil not only looks good with a pleasant nutty flavour, it has high alpha linolenic acid (an Omega-3 fatty acid) content complemented and stabilised by natural antioxidants, such as vitamin E.”


Scientists at UWA aim to add further value to the crop through niche product development, Professor Erskine said.


The crop will be introduced to growers who may be interested in its potential place in Western Australia agriculture at a field day at AusOils in Kojonup. The field day will include a discussion on a proposed Camelina Consortium be formed to accelerate the development of the crop from field to shelf. Growers, processors, representatives from the seed, food, health, cosmetic and energy industries and other interested parties are welcome.


Field day date: Friday, 5 November 2010, 2 – 5.30 pm

Meeting place: AusOils, Kojonup




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1.14 New scientific study helps to reveal possible reasons for the decline of pollinators


United Kingdom

27 October 2010

Findings from a new scientific study, released today by the Countryside Survey Partnership, show that the total effect of changes to small patches of land over a number of years could be one of the factors in the decline of pollinating insects such as bees.


The Countryside Survey Integrated Assessment report examines the status and trends of ecological processes that have value for individuals or society within Great Britain. Headline messages from the report concern different ecosystem services, including pollination, soils, and the quality of freshwaters and their relationship with biodiversity.


The analysis reveals that between 1990 and 2007 the number of wild plant species that provide nectar for bees has decreased, in small patches of semi natural habitat. These small but highly significant changes combine to make a total reduction in the areas supporting wild nectar providing plants that pollinators rely on.


Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman, said: “Pollinating insects are vital to our existence, helping to provide the food on our tables. It is important that we investigate the causes of the decline and take action to address it. The UK has some of the best environmental scientists in the world and using their skills we are gathering more information on changes to our land and the effects this has on species and habitats. This survey will help us analyse what effects policy decisions have and where and how we need to take action.”


Lead author of the Integrated Assessment, Dr Simon Smart from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, said:  “Quantifying ecosystem services and understanding the interactions between them provides a significant challenge for scientists, one which we’re only just developing techniques to investigate. This new analysis, possible because of a unique national dataset, delivers, for the first time, evidence that key global change phenomena such as air pollution and land use change have affected delivery of ecosystems services across the British countryside over the last two decades. As well as measuring different services, such as pollination, we’ve also determined possible causes of changes in services over time, and even modelled what might happen under a number of ‘what if’ scenarios.”


The report concludes that the decline is mainly due to nectar providing plants being crowded out by the growth of more competitive plant species. This overgrowth may be related to reduced management and air pollution where the deposition of nitrogenous compounds from the air acts like a fertilizer. In one habitat type - streamside margins - this reduced management has had benefits for freshwater quality, indicating the importance of not considering single ecosystem benefits in isolation.


The in-depth study of the habitats, soils and landscape features was carried out by scientists using specially developed electronic recording tools and web-enabled data systems to improve the efficiency of data collection. Many of the same sites have been monitored for each survey since 1978, but additional sites have been added in each survey to improve estimates of change in specific geographical areas.




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1.15  Change coming for quiet UN plant variety protection agency?


Geneva, Switzerland

26 October 2010

By Kaitlin Mara, Intellectual Property Watch

Two new civil society observers were admitted last week to the Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) though whether that represents a cultural shift for the organisation or simply a procedure that has now been followed depends on who you ask. Meanwhile, a new vice secretary general prepared to take over for the first time in nearly 10 years.


UPOV is a sui generis system of intellectual property rights designed for the protection of new plant varieties. It is mostly a technical committee, discussing matters such as guidelines for determining the distinctness, uniformity and stability necessary to qualify a plant variety. But recently civil society interest has grown in the organisation as groups begin to wonder if the technical nature of the organisation is not blinding it to some of the potential social effects of plant variety protection.


The acceptance of two public interest groups as observers to UPOV at its 21 October Council meeting signals to some that this is about to change. The groups are the European Coordination of the Via Campesina (ECVC) and the Association of Plant Breeding for the Benefit of Society (APREBES).


The Council also has decided to establish a working group “to review the rules concerning observers and recommend appropriate changes,” according to its report on its decisions, available here [pdf].


“I think this acceptance of observers marks a change within UPOV away from being a ‘club’ of expert scientists, to being a body recognised as having broader societal impacts (on food policy, agricultural policy, biological diversity),” said Caroline Dommen of the Quaker United Nations Office, who has been following these issues.


But there has not really been any change to the approach of the committee, said UPOV Technical Director Peter Button, who will take over as vice secretary general on 1 December. Nor is there likely to be much change, unless the member states ask for it.


There was frustration from civil society last year when the ECVC and APREBES were told by the UPOV Council that they could not be considered for observer status until they demonstrated “competence in areas of direct relevance in respect of matters governed by the UPOV Convention”(IPW, WIPO, 10 November 2009).


Letters of support for their applications were sent by the agricultural authorities of Germany [pdf, in German], Norway [pdf], and Switzerland [pdf, in German] before this meeting of the UPOV Council.


“We believe that a well balanced group of observers representing all relevant stakeholders would be supportive for the work of UPOV. Today, farmers’ groups and organisations with knowledge and experience on agricultural biodiversity and food security are not adequately represented,” said a letter from the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food.


But Button and Yolanda Huerta, UPOV’s senior legal officer, stressed to Intellectual Property Watch that the groups had never been rejected outright, and had instead simply been asked for more information. Once that information was provided, they could be accepted, Huerta said. UPOV will welcome the views of anyone who has interest in plant variety protection, said Button.


He added that as with any organisation with growing membership, his focus on the future will be to continue to ensure UPOV provides good service as a technical advisory body. UPOV shares a building with the World Intellectual Property Organization, and the WIPO Director General Francis Gurry is also UPOV’s secretary general.


Plant Variety Protection and Development

The World Trade Organization Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement mandates that signatories to the WTO adopt a sui generis form of plant variety protection in order to become TRIPS compliant. UPOV membership is often used as a default sui generis system.


As more and more developing nations must come into compliance with TRIPS – in particular, least developed countries who have been given more of a grace period for that compliance – the concern is whether strong plant variety protection laws will help or harm the often farm-based livelihoods of poor people in poor countries.


An impact study published by UPOV showed that plant variety protection works just as much for developing countries as for developed, said Button. Many developing countries have been signatories to the agreement for several years, he added.


“It is apparent that the impact of [plant variety protection] will vary country-by-country and crop-by-crop,” says the UPOV study, published in 2005 and available here [pdf]. The study generally finds that adoption of UPOV leads to greater demand for plant variety protection, often from local breeders.


A more recent article by outgoing UPOV Vice Secretary General Rolf Jördens argues that plant variety protection is of particular interest to developing countries as it can contribute to more innovation in the agricultural sector, thereby improving agricultural performance and income for farmers, which translates into rural employment and economic development.


A study published in 2007 in Food Policy [pdf], a peer reviewed journal, is more nuanced with regards to PVP in developing countries, where there may be “dangers of establishing a PVP regime that is too rigid, reducing the flexibility required in the early stages of the development of commercial seed systems, or imposing administrative and enforcement burdens that are too costly or impossible to fulfill.”




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1.16  CropWorld 2010 Preview: Time for rethink on plant breeders’ rights?


15 October 2010

Intellectual property rights are vital if agriculture is to find solutions to the challenges ahead. However, they must be strengthened and the reward to the innovator must be improved.


That is according to business consultant Chris Green of Green Resources, who will be speaking on Patents and Plant Breeders’ Rights at CropWorld 2010 next month.


In plants, Intellectual Property Rights are bestowed through two legislative processes, Patents and Plant Variety (or Breeders) Rights (PVR). The first patent to be awarded on a plant was in 1931 and 35 years later varieties were awarded protection under PVR.


During the last decade, scientific advancement in plants and animals has increased at an unprecedented pace, with wide scale adoption of biotechnology techniques, including genetic modification and new breeding processes. At the same time there has been dramatic consolidation within the industry, which with the creation of ‘gene giant’ businesses has raised issues of ownership and accessibility of plant and animal genes, as well as moral, ethical and environmental questions.


“Increasingly, innovation lies in the hands of the commercial and private sectors, as the public sector disengages globally from plant breeding. Patents and plant breeders rights have served agriculture well over the past decades but going forward to 2030 there maybe a need to consider more specific IPR for plants, animals and indeed all biological events,” says Mr Green.


While governments and society have accepted the challenges of improving food security through advancing agricultural productivity, appropriate and balanced IPR must be part of the solution.


“Without it we are not going to deliver the solutions we need for producing food, feed, fuel and dealing with climate change and land degradation.”


He also argues that legislators have not kept pace with scientific development and are out of step in terms of accommodating technologies such as GM.


“Patents and Plant Variety Rights have served our industry well but with the increased concerns it is time we took a fresh look a IPR on all living organisms and if required initiate debate to develop an acceptable new framework for the benefit of all.”


Chris Green will be speaking during day two of the conference as part of the policy, regulation and registration session.




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1.17  “We can feed the world AND maintain biodiversity”, scientists say at European session of Biodiversity World Tour


Brussels, Belgium

25 October 2010

A distinguished scientific panel has offered hope to conservationists, by suggesting that greatly increasing food needs can be met while protecting biodiversity. The panel drew particular attention to the environmental costs being borne in the developing world due to the deceleration of European productivity, and warned that it is imperative not just to farm for food but also to farm for biodiversity.


CropLife International, the global plant science industry federation, hosted the Brussels event together with the European biotechnology association, EuropaBio and the European Crop Protection Association (ECPA) as part of a series of three ‘Town Hall’ debates on different continents, examining global priorities for biodiversity preservation.


Panelists were Prof. Harald von Witzke, Humboldt University Berlin; Prof. Tim Benton, University of Leeds; Prof. Agnes W. Mwang’ombe, University of Nairobi; and Dr. Shardul Agrawala, Senior Economist at the OECD. The discussion was moderated by Lisbeth Kirk (Editor in Chief of EUObserver)


“We need to produce more on the acreage already being farmed”, stressed Prof. von Witzke, emphasizing that this is the only way to prevent further encroachment of agricultural land into biodiversity rich areas.


“The numbers are impressive: The land currently occupied [by Europe] in third countries amounts to 34.9 million hectares. This is almost equivalent to the entire territory of Germany”, he added. Von Witzke reminded participants that to feed a growing world population in the next decades, food production needs to increase by 70-100%. Von Witzke’s own modelling predicts price rises of up to 100% for core agricultural commodities like wheat, oilseed rape and maize between 2005 and 2017.


This tremendous boost cannot be shouldered by emerging economies and developing countries alone. “Even rich countries such as those in the European Union need to increase productivity”, said von Witzke.


Prof. Benton echoed the need for change, pointing to limited availability of existing agricultural land:


“We can increase our agricultural footprint to produce more food, but we cannot double our footprint to produce double the food.”


Prof. Benton emphasised that the agricultural landscape needs to produce two things: food and biodiversity.


“As a consequence, we need to “farm for food AND farm for biodiversity”, he said.

“But this does not necessarily mean that one piece of land needs to produce both. At a landscape level, you might get much more of BOTH if you farm for food in in one place and farm for biodiversity in another.”


Discussing smallholders’ attitudes to biodiversity, Kenyan Professor Agnes Mwang’ombe

urged both individuals and institutions to plant more trees. She suggested that Kenyan farmers were being encouraged to devote 10% of land to forestry. Asked whether farmers had greater priorities than worrying about biodiversity, she again stressed their interconnection.


“Farmers [in Africa] do appreciate biodiversity”, she said, explaining that tree-felling in Kenya, for fuel wood had caused soil erosion which then leads to erratic water supplies – flood and drought - and hence lower productivity.


Finally, OECD environmental economics expert Shardul Agrawala stressed the link between biodiversity and climate change and urged policy-makers to find solutions which address both, such as careful reforestation.


He stressed that efforts to address human impact on biodiversity were continual and occur “not only when politicians meet in Copenhagen or as currently in Nagoya.”


In his concluding remarks, Croplife International President and CEO Howard Minigh stressed the positive message coming out of the discussion. “Feeding the world and preserving biodiversity is possible. We already have much of the knowledge and technology to make this happen, but we need to get it into the hands of many more farmers”, he said.


Minigh focused attention on the policymakers, drawing attention to Nagoya where another expert panel specialized in policy development will conclude the CropLife International Biodiversity World Tour on October 27.


To see the webcast of the debate please visit:


More news from: CropLife International



Published: October 25, 2010




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1.18  Wild potatoes’ genes enlisted in the late blight arms race


25 October 2010



They may be small but they pack a powerful punch. The wild relatives of the familiar potato varieties we find on our plates may yet hold the key to overcoming one of the crop’s most vicious enemies.


Results of a study recently published by CIP scientists in Molecular Plant Pathology, have identified a large number of candidate genes in the wild species S. cajamarquense that are potentially useful for breeding for resistance to late blight.


Wild potatoes are the ancestral relatives of today’s cultivated crop. Although the tiny, bitter tasting tubers are not edible, they hold an unseen wealth of genetic traits that provide a keystone for breeders at the International Potato Center (CIP) working to improve resistance to late blight, a disease that causes annual global losses to potato production of up to $5 billion.


When S. cajamarquense plants were inoculated with an extremely virulent pathogen strain presently found in Peru, the plants were highly resistant throughout the experiment, showing only small diseased lesions in few plants.


Hannele Lindqvist-Kreuze, expert in molecular genetic and plant pathology, and co-author of the study says that the paper has identified a preliminary long list of genes that may be useful for resistance breeding.


“When we looked at the gene expression, we saw an enormous amount of genes reacting, which was to be expected,” she explains. “What was striking was that when we compare S. cjamarquence to resistant cultivated potato we see a fairly similar amount of genes regulated during the interactions, but the genes are different, and this indicates that we can broaden the base of resistance by adding new sources to the breeding arsenal. This is the first step. It’s like an opening of the door. Now we have to investigate them in more detail."


Experiments more than ten years ago at the Center’s highland station at Huancayo, Peru first flagged the potential for rare wild species, reporting evidence of resistance to late blight in 7 species endemic to the South American center of origin of potatoes.


“Wild potatoes are important because their full genetic potential is as yet untapped for agriculture,” says Meredith Bonierbale, Head of CIP’s Germplasm Enhancement and Crop Improvement Division. “Many genes conferring resistance to today’s major pests were left behind in the processes of domestication and crop improvement.”


But the fungus like pathogen Phytopthora infestans that causes the disease late blight mutates continuously. As CIP plant pathologist Willmer Perez, another co-author of the study, explains breeding for resistance is an ongoing venture: “Many cultivated varieties that previously showed resistance no longer do,” says Perez. “It’s not that those varieties are bad, it’s just that the pathogen also fights to adopt and survive, it struggles to maintain itself.”


Perez is one of a team of specialists who systematically look for new and different sources of resistance to late blight among the collections of wild germplasm in CIP’s genebank, which holds samples from 143 of the 187 documented wild potato species. Since 2008 they have worked on around 56 species that had not previously been studied.


“Right now we have several wild species under investigation. To date we’ve only tested about 40% of all the germplasm that we have in the genebank collection. That leaves 60% still untapped. We’ll continue to work with these species. They are in effect a kind of secret weapon. The improved varieties all have a known quantity of genes that Phytopthora has already come across one way or another. What we want is to surprise it with something as yet unknown to it.”


Meanwhile capturing the diversity of wild potatoes and transferring the traits to cultivated varieties remains a complex and lengthy endeavor. CIP breeders Mathilde Orrillo and colleagues are working to adapt and routinely apply in vitro technologies such as embryo rescue to facilitate the process of crossing wild potatoes with cultivated varieties.


Wild potatoes also offer a rich source of resistance to other diseases and abiotic stresses, such as drought and salinity. The potential is vast. But with the FAO forecasting that the area where they grow may be reduced by as much as 70% due to climate change, it is imperative that these genetic gems are preserved and investigated now.


In the 1840s, late blight disease devastated potato crops in Ireland. A million people died of hunger and another million emigrated to escape the famine. We never know what the next problem threatening our food supply and security is going to be. What we do know is that part of the answer may come in something the size of a pea.


For More information:


Read more:




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1.19  Native potatoes put biodiversity on a plate and on the agenda


Potatoes in all shapes, colors and presentations were shown at III International Gourmet Festival –Mistura


Potatoes in all shapes, colors and presentations were a hit at Latin America’s biggest ‘foodie’ get together this year, and highlighted the fact that biodiversity can be delicious; good for science, good for the palate and good for the economy.


In the United Nations Year of Biodiversity, Peru’s answer to Germany’s Oktoberfest, the III International Gourmet Festival –Mistura - paid homage to the biodiversity of the humble potato by featuring native potatoes as a star product.


For more information see


Contributed by Margaret Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University


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1.20  Crop biodiversity: use it or lose it - FAO launches 2nd State of the World’s Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture report


Rome, Italy

26 October 2010

The genetic diversity of the plants that we grow and eat and their “wild relatives” could be lost forever, threatening future food security, unless special efforts are stepped up to not only conserve but also utilize them, especially in developing countries.


This is one of the key messages of the second report on The State of the World’s Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, launched today by FAO.


The 350-page report, which covers everything from gene bank collections to the effects of climate change on crop diversity, is the definitive health check on what is being done to protect biodiversity in food and agriculture crops.


The loss of biodiversity will have a major impact on the ability of humankind to feed itself in the future, all nine billion of us by 2050, with the poorest in the world most affected.


Climate change

Genetic information held in certain crop varieties is crucial to the development of heat, drought, salinity, pests and diseases-resistant, fast-growing, high-yielding new varieties, necessary to combat food insecurity in the face of climate change.


“Increasing the sustainable use of plant diversity could be the main key for addressing risks to genetic resources for agriculture,” said Diouf.


“There are thousands of crop wild relatives that still need to be collected, studied and documented because they hold genetic secrets that enable them to resist heat, droughts, salinity, floods and pests.”


Fifty percent of the increase in crop yields in recent years has come from new seed varieties. Irrigation and fertilizer account for the other 50 percent. A recent good example is the fast-maturing New Rice for Africa (NERICA) that has transformed local economies in several parts of Africa.


Wild relatives

More needs to be done, especially at the level of the farmer’s field, generating local interest, and building capacities to conserve and use the genetic biodiversity that still exists.


It has been twelve years since the first State of the World’s Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture was published and in that time the global food landscape has changed drastically.


Hunger has been reduced in some countries, but has risen in others. Fuel and food prices have increased substantially. Globalization has widened and deepened, and cheap food imports in some countries have threatened the richness of local diversity.


Although the report does not attempt to quantify biodiversity loss, empirical evidence points to the continued extinction of crop biodiversity whittling away at the diversity of traditional food crops that survived the last century.


FAO estimates 75 percent of crop diversity was lost between 1900 and 2000. A recent study, highlighted in the State of the World’s Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, predicts that as much as 22 percent of the wild relatives of important food crops of peanut, potato and beans will disappear by 2055 because of a changing climate.


Gene banks grow

On a more positive note, the report states that over the past twelve years, there has been an increase in awareness of the importance of protecting and utilizing the genetic diversity of food crops. Gene banks have increased in both size and the number.


There are now some 1 750 gene banks worldwide, with about 130 of them each holding more than 10 000 accessions. And in 2008, the ultimate back-up of global crop diversity, the Svalbald Global Seed Vault, opened in Norway.


Of the total 7.4 million samples conserved worldwide, national government gene banks conserve about 6.6 million, 45 percent of which is held in only seven countries, down from twelve countries in 1996.


This increasing concentration of collected and preserved genetic diversity in fewer countries and research centers highlights the importance of mechanisms to ensure facilitated access such as that provided by the International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, of FAO.


The Treaty, now ratified by 125 nations, sets out a framework for compensating poor farmers for preserving different genetic crop varieties.


Investment neglect

The neglect in investment in agriculture since 1980 has inevitably led to a shortage of qualified agricultural scientists including plant-breeders, especially in developing countries, as young people, lacking incentives, turn their sights to more immediately profitable activities, the report says.


Huge advances have been made in biology and information technologies over the past twelve years; benefits from these need to be extended to improve use of agro-biodiversity with the ultimate aim of improving food security.


Many seed systems, the market or mechanism by which quality seeds are reproduced, tested and distributed, have also broken down. In the developed world, the seed sector is profitable enough to make it a viable business interest.


Unfortunately, this is not the case in poor countries where public entities are struggling to ensure good seeds for all farmers and access to new varieties.


A broader and better use of genetic resources and biodiversity in food crops will stimulate conservation. But adequate systems need to be in place to get new varieties into the hands of farmers both through the public sector and other players, the report found.


The United Nations has declared 2010 to be the International Year of Biodiversity.




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1.21  Climate-ready crop patents present danger for biodiversity, group says


Nagoya, Japan

26 October 2010

A civil society group this week warned government officials gathered here against patents on “climate-ready” crops and what they characterised as an attempt to obtain an exclusive monopoly over plant gene sequences. The group asked states at the United Nations biodiversity conference to recognise that such patents are a threat to biodiversity and to the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilisation of genetic resources.


Yesterday, the ETC Group held a side event and presented a paper [pdf] alleging that the six largest global agrochemical and seed corporations are filing wide-scope patents with the aim of obtaining a monopoly on plant gene sequences that “could lead to control of most of the world’s plant biomass” for food, feed, fibre, fuel or plastics.


Biomass is defined by the group as “material derived from living or recently-living biological organisms.” Biomass includes all plants and trees, microbes, but also by-products like organic waste from livestock, food processing and garbage, they said. “Climate-ready” crops are engineered to address climate change challenges.


According to the paper, there was a significant upsurge of patents published (both applications and issued patents) related to “climate-ready” genetically engineered crops in the last two years. Some 262 patent “families” encompassing 1,663 patent documents worldwide were published from June 2008 to June 2010, representing a significant increase, and including specific claims to “abiotic stress tolerance”, which refers to resistance to drought, heat, flood, cold and salt. “A patent family contains a set of related patent applications and/or issued patents that are published in more than one country or patent office (including national and regional patent jurisdictions),” said the paper. The list of patents and their details are published in the paper.


The scope of those patents could potentially “become the broadest and most dangerous patent claims in intellectual property history,” the paper said.

The claims of the patents extend to multiple characteristics in “scores of genetically modified crops and even to the harvested food and feed products,” it said.


Six companies – DuPont, BASF, Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer and Dow – along with their biotechnology partners, control 201 of those 262 claims, or 77 percent, ETC said. The public sector has only 9 percent.


There are high economic interests at stake, according to the paper, which said that the global market for drought tolerance in maize alone is estimated at $2.7 billion, while the US Department of Agriculture estimates the global bio-based market for chemicals and plastics will top $500 billion per year by 2025.


Rulings May Reduce Patent Scope

In July 2010, the European Court of Justice issued a ruling denying Monsanto intellectual property rights over exports of soy meal from Argentina to the European Union. The seed giant went to court against Dutch importers of soy meal from Argentina containing DNA sequences of its herbicide-tolerant soy, which was not under patent in Argentina (IPW, Biodiversity, Genetic Resources, Biotech, 7 July 2010). The decision “made clear that claims on DNA sequences do not extend to derivative or processed products,” ETC said.


ETC warned against proprietary, “high-tech” seeds that “will not be accessible – or suitable for – the vast majority of the world’s farmers.”


The paper calls for alternative paths for climate resilience, which “ultimately depends on agricultural biodiversity, local seed systems and agro-ecological processes in the hands of farming communities.” Under-utilised crops and plant diversity that provide natural tolerance to harsh conditions are one alternative option to “technological fixes.”


“Indigenous and local farming communities that have developed and managed that diversity and their role in developing strategies for climate change adaptation must be recognised, strengthened and protected,” it said.


ETC also called for governments to reject the “corporate climate agenda” at the Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Cancun, Mexico, from 29 November-10 December, and asked that the Governing Body of the International Seed Treaty meeting in Bali, Indonesia in March 2011 “take action to stop the patent grab on climate-related genes and technologies as a violation of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.”


Local farming knowledge deemed essential

Agricultural biodiversity is a subset of larger biodiversity, Pratap Shrestha of USC Canada, a non profit organisation, said at another side event on 21 October, on farmers’ innovations, agricultural biodiversity and climate change. Farming communities have played a vital role in local food systems and food security, agricultural knowledge and innovation on genetic resources. The side event was organised by the Development Fund, a non-profit organisation based in South Africa and the United States developing innovative “financing vehicles that can attract private-sector capital for community purposes,” according to their website.


Local farming communities are sustaining a wide variety of crops, not only major food crops, but also neglected and under-utilised food crops, uncultivated and wild food crops. They have a diversified knowledge on the crops such as nutritional quality or medicinal use, said Shrestha.


There is little use of farmers’ knowledge and innovation in formal research and development on agrobiodiversity conservation, he said, and there is a rapid erosion of this knowledge.


The 10th meeting of the Convention of the Party Convention on Biological Diversity, taking place from 18-29 October, named two working groups to negotiate items of the agenda, notably to establish a strategic plan. “Working group one” is talking about agriculture biodiversity but they are not talking monopoly and intellectual property rights, said Pat Mooney, executive director of the ETC Group.


Patents “make fun of the international plant treaty (International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture), and the CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) to secure the exchange of plant genetic resources, Mooney said. He asked that patent offices such as the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the European Patent Office and the Japan intellectual property office either reject patents on climate-ready crops, or revoke them if already granted, as they “violate food security,” he said.


Fair prices, fair markets and strong farmers’ rights would reverse the trend of farmers leaving their land, he said. At present, the vast majority of global agriculture is produced by small farmers.


Mooney said the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Committee on World Food Security, which took place on 11-14 October, “showed amazing progress.” Olivier de Schutter “gave an incredibly optimistic speech,” he said.

Link to press release from de Schutter event here.




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1.22  Capacity of China's national germplasm banks improved



14 October 2010

As an important part of biological resources, the gene-rich forage germplasm resources constitute an indispensable genetic basis for the improvement and breeding of new varieties, and a prerequisite for the origination and development of agriculture.


Given its importance, the state has established a long-term bank, a central bank and two respective backup banks for temperate and tropical forage germplasms. The central bank, known as the National Center of Preservation & Utilization of Genetic Resources of Animal & Forage is affiliated to the National Animal Husbandry Service of the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), and it is managed by the National Center of Grass Product Quality Supervision and Inspection under the Service. At present, the expansion of the central bank is under way, and its storage capacity will thus reach 130,000 accessions of forage germplasms.


As for the preservation, a large number of quality domestic and foreign forage varieties are stored in the central bank. By August 2010, the number of stored germplasm materials has amounted to 18,025, including those of the relic plant of the tertiary period (Ammopiptanthus mongolicus cheng f.), endangered plants (wild groundnuts, milk-vetch and Mongolian milk-vetch, etc.), and a lot of forage varieties unique to China (E. atralus (Nevski) Hand. –Mazz, Festuca sinensis Keng, Poa crymophila Keng, Hedysarum Laeve Maxim., and Lespedeza potaninii Vass., etc.), and quality forage varieties introduced from abroad.


In terms of the utilization, the central bank has made unremitting efforts in improving distribution and utilization of germplasm resources in accordance with the Methods for Management of the Distribution and Utilization of Germplasm Resources in National Medium-Term Forage Germplasm Bank (Trial). Up to now, altogether 320 accessions of germplasm materials has been distributed, including Medicago L., Lolium L., Agropyron Gaerrtn., Bromus inermis Leyss., Elymus L. and other genera of Leguminasae.




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1.23  Biodiversity and poverty reduction: Who controls the seeds?


Oslo, Norway

26 October 2010

In many developing countries the right of farmers to use and exchange farm-saved seed is a form of life insurance. Ensuring that farmers have this right is an important means of alleviating poverty and is crucial to maintaining crop genetic diversity throughout the world.


Two thirds of the 1.2 billion poorest people in the world live in rural areas and are dependent on traditional agriculture. They do not have the financial means to buy commercially available seed or the input factors needed to cultivate them. However, they often have long experience with, and a profound understanding of, local plant diversity within crops such as grains, potatoes, vegetables and fruit. By cultivating and developing these crops they are contributing to the preservation and development of global plant genetic diversity, which constitutes the basis for the world’s food production.


Regine Andersen (photo) of the Fridtjof Nansen Institute heads a project that analyses what is needed to ensure that the rights of farmers related to crop genetic diversity are implemented. Issues relating to biodiversity and poverty reduction comprise key components of the project.


Studying those who succeed

“Unfortunately regulatory mechanisms often complicate the realisation of the farmers’ rights to the seeds they use,” explains Dr Andersen.


Farmers’ rights are addressed in the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, also known as the Plant Treaty, adopted under the auspices of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

“Our project has been studying successful examples that show what farmers’ rights can mean in practice. In addition we are seeking to understand what NGOs and other relevant actors can do to ensure that these rights are realised, based on these examples” she says.


Regulations restrict rights

Dr Andersen explains that existing regulations affecting the management of crop genetic diversity increasingly favour the seed industry with the aim of creating new and higher yielding crop varieties.


“There are patent rights and plant breeders’ rights to compensate plant breeders for their efforts and create incentives for innovation in the field of plant breeding, but in many countries these rights make it more difficult for farmers to conserve crop genetic diversity and use it in a sustainable manner,” says Andersen.


In a number of countries these rules limit the farmers’ legal space to exchange and sell seed among themselves. More and more countries are adopting rules of this type, often as a result of bilateral and regional trade agreements with countries and regions in the North. While traditional practices are still in place in rural communities in most developing countries, even where they have become illegal, it is only a matter of time before governments begin to enforce these rules more strictly.


“There are also regulations relating to the approval of plant types and seed quality. These are designed to safeguard plant health and seed quality in agriculture, but at the same time they prevent farmers in countries where they are in force from exchanging or selling the great diversity of plant varieties not covered by the regulations.”


Rights lead to increased earnings

“Ensuring farmers’ rights enhances the ability of poor farmers to support themselves. We are looking at how certain local communities have managed to deal with these challenges, and are trying to identify the factors that were crucial to their success,” says Dr Andersen.


The researchers have visited local communities in Nepal, the Philippines and Peru and have via partners also gathered information in Ethiopia, Syria, Zimbabwe and Mali.


“One of the success stories comes from villages in Nepal, where the population has found new ways of developing and making use of the diversity of traditional crop varieties, enabling the farmers to increase their income and improve their livelihoods,” Andersen states.


She is currently working on a book that will present the various success stories.


The current research project incorporates studies in a number of countries and identification of best practices and has been underway since 2007. The project has been granted funding under the Norway – A Global Partner (NORGLOBAL) programme at the Research Council of Norway.


The world needs diversity

Protecting and promoting farmers’ rights is not only crucial to reducing poverty, but also to maintaining the genetic diversity of agricultural plants and thereby ensuring food security throughout the world.


“Farmers need to exchange seeds among themselves to preserve and develop biodiversity,” Andersen asserts. “Gene banks are not enough. The different plant species must be cultivated and continue to live so as not to lose their intrinsic properties. It is also important not to lose the knowledge relating to different plant varieties and their cultivation and use.”


Dr Andersen considers it critical to develop the legal system in such a way that the farmers are rewarded for their contribution to preserving crop diversity, as is set out in the Plant Treaty.


“Crop diversity forms the basis of global food security and for all food production throughout the world. Farmers’ rights are essential both for the preservation and sustainable use of global crop diversity,” Dr Andersen stresses.


Working to change the rules

The researchers’ conviction that seed regulations need to be made less stringent to ensure farmers’ rights recently received support in Norway.


“As of 30 April this year Norwegian farmers may exchange and sell seeds from heritage varieties of crops, if it is not done commercially,” says Dr Andersen. “Elsewhere in Europe this is not permitted, and only crop varieties approved in line with the regulations can be sold from seed shops.”


As Dr Andersen explains, none of the Norwegian stakeholders is seeking stringent restrictions in this area, but Norway is obliged to adhere to EU regulations, as this is an area that is encompassed by the EEA Agreement.


The researchers are also working to ensure that the results of their research form the basis for the designation of policy at all levels. As part of this effort the results of the projects were included in a report on the right to food that was presented by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food at the United Nations General Assembly in autumn 2009.


Regine Andersen is currently organising a three-day conference on farmers’ rights in Addis Ababa in November, which will gather together players and interest groups from all over the world. The results will be presented to the Fourth Session of the Governing Body of the Plant Treaty as a basis for further efforts towards the realisation of farmers’ rights. Dr Andersen was asked by the Secretariat of the Treaty to organise the conference in light of her work on farmers’ rights.


Errore. Riferimento a collegamento ipertestuale non valido.=




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1.24  Pre-screening to improve wheat frost and cold tolerance


South Perth, Western Australia

22 October 2010

Research gains are being made to assist cereal breeders to develop more reliable lines that are tolerant to frost and cold.


To be able to breed such lines, breeders need to be able to identify and characterise breeding populations for suitable tolerance traits.


Department of Agriculture and Food research officer Ben Biddulph recently received a travelling scholarship from the Grains Research and Development Corporation to develop pre-screening techniques in collaboration with CSIRO Plant Industry to identify desirable tolerance traits.


Dr Biddulph undertook laboratory experiments at the CSIRO in Canberra with principal research scientist Dr Rudy Dolferus, who has worked on identifying heat and drought tolerance traits during pollen development in wheat and rice.


The research examined the chilling or cold tolerance of 10 popular and experimental wheat varieties.


The aim was to see if they could find a correlation between cold tolerance under artificial conditions (1ºC) and frost susceptibility in the field (0.0 to -3.0ºC).


“The results showed that Wyalkatchem was the most cold sensitive of all the varieties, which corresponds to field frost data in Cuballing in WA (DAFWA) and Loxton in South Australia (University of Adelaide),” he said.


“This information can now be used to examine what impact frost and chilling events have on commercial germplasm at the critical plant development periods of pollen meiosis and flowering, when grain number and subsequent yield potential is determined.


“We are also testing these varieties in the field under natural frost conditions during pollen meiosis at the National Frost Characterisation site at Cuballing, the results of which should be known next month.”


Severe frost can cause yield losses of 50-100 per cent. In 2005, Western Australian farmers lost 700,000 tonnes of wheat to frost, and in 2008 frost damage cost the WA grains industry an estimated $109 million.


“In the short term by developing pre-screening methods to identify and characterise commercial germplasm we will be able to give farmers more confidence in their varieties. In the longer term we hope to be able to assist breeders in developing new varieties which are not as sensitive to frost,” Dr Biddulph said.


“There is also potential for these methods to be adapted to other environmental stresses which affect grain set, like drought, salinity and heat.”





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1.25  Grainy season: engineering drought-resistant wheat


22 October 2010

by Dan Charles

Wheat prices spiked this past summer as a record drought and heat wave wreaked havoc on Russia and ruined one fourth of the country's crops. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordered a ban on exports of Russian grain.


Last summer's drought in Russia pushed wheat prices to their highest levels in years, and the fallout is a reminder of how much humanity depends on the rain. Now, scientists are searching for novel approaches to make wheat less vulnerable to drought.


Some efforts are trying to replace the genes that made possible the dramatic boost in wheat harvests in the latter half of the 20th century in India known as the Green Revolution.


Few people can see the accomplishments of the Green Revolution more clearly than Kulvinder Gill, who grew up in a village in India where, half a century ago, some predicted catastrophe because food production wasn't growing as fast as the population. "It was a common belief that this world is going to end because of the starvation," Gill said. "People are going to fight for food and kill each other."


But scientists such as Orville Vogel at Washington State University bred new varieties of wheat that included a mutant gene that kept the plant short. When you gave these plants lots of fertilizer and irrigated them, they didn't just get tall and fall over like ordinary wheat — they produced more grain. A lot more.

"These dwarfing genes came and almost tripled yields, at least in Punjab area," Gill said.


So Gill left his village in Punjab and became a wheat geneticist. He now occupies the Orville Vogel Endowed Chair in wheat breeding at Washington State.


Searching For A New Wheat Gene

And he's hoping to not only repeat what Vogel did, but improve on it. That's because the dwarfing genes of the green revolution — which are now in 90 percent of all the wheat that farmers grow around the world — have an unfortunate side effect, he says: They make it harder for the plant to thrive when water is scarce.


For instance, when it's dry, farmers have to plant seeds deeper because that's where the moisture is.


"And these semi-dwarfs don't do too good pushing out of 6 inches of soil," Gill says.


So he's now on the hunt for a different and better dwarfing gene. He knows exactly what he's looking for: It's a mutation that already exists in corn and sorghum. It doesn't shrink the whole plant the way the green revolution genes do. Instead, it blocks the normal flow of a crucial growth hormone.


"So the plant reduces in height, but at the same time, the cob is bigger, the stem is thicker and stronger, and the plant looks great," Gill says.


To create this kind of wheat plant, Gill and a group of collaborators have treated thousands of seeds with a chemical that makes random changes in DNA. Now these mutant wheat plants are growing in the greenhouse, and Gill has to see if any of them have the one change he wants.


"It is very difficult to know at this point if the mutant is the one — the kind we are looking for," he says.


A Global Effort To Reprogram Crops

Gill's project is just one small part of a global campaign to reprogram crops genetically so they can survive water shortages. People are trying everything from low-tech traditional crop breeding to high-tech gene splicing.


One approach, somewhere in the middle, involves looking for useful genes in wheat's ancestors. Scientists are retrieving seeds from the refrigerated vaults of gene banks and taking a fresh look at those plants. Thousands of years ago, three of them somehow combined in the wild to form modern wheat.


David Bonnet, a wheat geneticist at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center based in Mexico, says scientists can re-create that merger in the laboratory.


"So we can go back and bring in more genetic variation for a whole range of traits, but certainly drought tolerance is one of them," Bonnet says.


But the approach that's getting most of the attention and most of the money these days is genetic engineering.


Agricultural giant Monsanto has inserted a gene from bacteria into corn and it says this variety yields 8 to 10 percent more under drought conditions. The gene is called a transcription factor — a kind of master gene that activates many others when the plant is under stress.


The company says if it gets a green light from regulators, it will start selling the corn within two years. Monsanto has also donated the gene to a group of government-supported research institutions in Africa that are starting greenhouse trials of corn-containing the gene this year.


The Potential Of Genetic Enhancement

In the scientific community, there's a lot of curiosity about the Monsanto product and some skepticism that it will work as advertised.


But many of them, including Mahyco, a leading seed company in India, also are looking for genes to splice into crops.


"In our program, we are looking at transcription factors from drought-tolerant crops — sorghum, acacia trees or other crops that are known to be drought-tolerant," says Usha Zehr, Mahyco's chief technology officer.


And geneticist Bonnet says there's no shortage of genes that seem like they might possibly help a plant use water more efficiently.


"We have access to quite a lot of candidates ourselves, and we think they have as much or more potential as what Monsanto has," he says.


Actually realizing that potential may become increasingly important as the globe warms up. Climate models predict that many parts of the world — including major crop-growing areas — will see more droughts in the coming years.




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1.26  Embrapa Algodão integra rede internacional de pesquisa sobre polinização



22 October 2010

A Organização das Nações Unidas para Agricultura e Alimentação (FAO) estima que a contribuição global da polinização para agricultura gira em torno de US$ 65 a 70 bilhões. Entretanto, o desmatamento e o uso excessivo de pesticidas vêm provocando a redução dos agentes polinizadores, o que pode resultar na perda da produtividade e, no futuro, trazer sérios problemas para agricultura mundial.


Para fazer frente a esse problema, a FAO convidou diversos países, entre eles o Brasil, África do Sul, Quênia, Gana, Índia, Paquistão e Nepal, a participarem do projeto de “Conservação e manejo de polinizadores para agricultura sustentável através de uma abordagem ecossistêmica”, que visa estabelecer uma rede internacional de pesquisa sobre a polinização.


No Brasil, o projeto conta com a participação da Embrapa Algodão, que tem por objetivo investigar os insetos que atuam na polinização do algodoeiro. “Nesse projeto vamos realizar o inventário das abelhas visitantes florais do algodoeiro nas áreas de Caatinga, onde os produtores familiares estão cultivando o algodão no sistema agroecológico e também observaremos as espécies do Cerrado, pois acreditamos que serão diferentes, em função do bioma e do manejo praticado na região”, explica a entomologista e pesquisadora da Embrapa Algodão, Lúcia Helena Avelino Araújo.


As abelhas são coletadas pelos pesquisadores da Embrapa Algodão nos estados da Paraíba, Mato Grosso e Goiás e, posteriormente, analisadas em laboratórios da Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG).


Lúcia Helena informa que o estudo também busca mensurar o valor econômico da polinização e o impacto do manejo da cultura tanto em sistemas convencionais como nos agroecológicos na cotonicultura brasileira. “Com isso, nós vamos determinar o déficit de polinização na cultura do algodoeiro e propor o desenvolvimento de ações voltadas para o manejo sustentável dos polinizadores e seus habitats naturais”, adianta.


A pesquisadora acredita que esse será apenas um pontapé inicial para novos projetos sobre polinização no Brasil. “Em outros países como os Estados Unidos, por exemplo, já tem produtores colocando colméias no cultivo do algodão e tendo como retorno um aumento em torno de 20% da sua produção”, afirma.


Financiado pelo CNPq, o projeto começou em maio de 2010 e terá duração de cinco anos. A agência responsável pela execução é Fundo Brasileiro para a Biodiversidade – o Funbio.


A Rede de Polinizadores do Brasil também desenvolve projetos envolvendo as culturas do caju, canola, castanheira-do-brasil, melão, macieira e tomate.




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1.27  Combining plant resistance and a natural enemy to control Amphorophora idaei


Mitchell, C., Johnson S.N. Gordon, S.C., Birch, A.N.E. and Hubbard, S.F. 2010. BioControl 55, 321-327.



The European large raspberry aphid Amphorophora idaei Bo¨rner (Homoptera: Aphididae) is a virus vector of at least four plant virus complexes making it the most important aphid pest of raspberries in Northern Europe. An approach combining a bottom-up control (plant resistance) and a top-down control (an aphid parasitoid) using Aphidius ervi Haliday (Hymenoptera: Aphidiinae) was investigated in the laboratory. Aphid performance (pre-reproductive period, total reproductive output, lifespan and rm) were compared when reared on both a susceptible cultivar and a resistant cultivar with significantly poorer performance on the resistant cultivar. Parasitoid attack behaviour increased with aphid density on both cultivars, but was significantly lower on resistant plants than susceptible plants. Aphids showed a greater tendency to drop from the plant when feeding on resistant plants compared with susceptible plants. The significance of the results is discussed in the context of possible control of the aphid using these combined methods.


Keywords Aphididae _ Cultivar _ Insect herbivore _Natural enemies _ Plant resistance


Contributed by Nick Birch

Senior Research Entomologist

EPI, SCRI, Dundee DD2 5DA


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1.28  Key to Mendel’s pea flowers


Norwich, United Kingdom

11 October 2010

John Innes Centre scientists have helped discover the key to one of biology’s most well-known experiments – the gene that controls pea flower colour, used by Mendel in his initial studies of inheritance.


150 years ago Gregor Mendel planted peas segregating for flower colour. Now an international group of scientists, publishing in the journal PLoS-ONE, has revealed the underlying molecular genetics behind this experiment, identifying genes that control flower colour in pea plants.


“Mendel is known as the father of modern genetics, using pea characteristics to demonstrate inheritance patterns,” says Dr Roger Hellens, Science Leader of the Genomics Group at Plant & Food Research, New Zealand.


The purple colour of wild type pea flowers, and flowers of many other plants, is a consequence of the accumulation of pigment molecules called anthocyanins and the biochemistry of their production has been studied for many years.

The paper describes two pea genes, known as A and A2, that regulate the production of anthocyanins. The work was a collaboration between scientists at the John Innes Centre, an institute of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, New Zealand’s Plant & Food Research, URGV in France and the USDA’s Agricultural Research Services.


“This was a real collaborative effort, it would not have happened without all of these people participating, especially if Roger had not had the enthusiasm to nail a problem that has been bugging him for years,” says Professor Noel Ellis, of the Department of Crop Genetics at the John Innes Centre.


“By comparing the pea DNA sequences to those of other well-characterised plants, such as petunia, we have determined that Mendel’s gene is a transcription factor that controls the anthocyanin biosynthesis pathway. This transcription factor, when mutated, becomes inactive and anthocyanin is not produced, resulting in white flowers,” says Dr Hellens.


The John Innes Centre houses a collection of around 3,500 pea lines that was used in this study. The collection includes material from wild, cultivated and semi-cultivated sources, some dating back to the nineteenth century. This germplasm collection is a valuable genetic resource for scientists and plant breeders looking for improved pea varieties.


“We used information from our previous genotyping of the JIC pea germplasm collection to identify exotic lines where we would most likely find rare alleles of Mendel’s gene. Finding a rare second allele was important for independent confirmation of the identity of the gene,” says Prof. Ellis. “This is the fourth of Mendel’s seven genes to be characterised at the molecular level: it is also the second where JIC has been involved.”


The John Innes Centre is now looking into the germplasm collection for genes and traits that could be used to make peas higher-yielding or of better quality.


Peas are able to fix nitrogen from the air through symbiotic relationships with bacteria housed in nodules in their roots. This makes them less dependent on the addition of nitrogenous fertilisers which are a major economic and environmental cost associated with farming because they require high levels of energy for their production and their use is a major source of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas. The increased production of peas and other legumes is a good way of ensuring future food security with low environmental cost.


Funding was received from the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the EU FP6 Grain Legumes Integrated Project, the New Zealand Foundation for Research Science and Technology and the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.



“Identification of Mendel's white flower character” will be published in PLoS ONE on Monday, October 11th 2010.




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1.29  U.S. National Science Foundation awards new projects for plant genome research


Washington, DC, USA

25 October 2010

Projects will better define plant responses to changing environments caused by various factors, including climate change, fungal pathogens and drought, and will yield knowledge of the genetics of economically important plants

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has made 28 new awards totaling $101.9 million during the 13th year of its Plant Genome Research Program (PGRP).


These awards--which range from $634,000 to $9.6 million over two to five years--support research and tool development to further knowledge of genome structure and function. They will leverage sequence and functional genomics resources to advance understanding of gene function and interactions between genomes and the environment in economically important crop plants such as corn, cotton, rice, soybean, tomato and wheat.


"These projects will provide new insights into how changes in plant genomes translate into changes in growth and development in a range of environments," said Joann Roskoski, NSF's acting assistant director for the Biological Sciences. "Basic research leads to new discoveries that will improve the quality and yield of crop plants, and in the longer term, to innovations that will support the bio-based economy of the 21st century."


The new awards--made to 42 institutions in 26 states--include collaborating scientists from Asia, Europe and Central America.


First-time recipients of PGRP awards include Alcorn State University, Saint Augustine's College, Saint Michael's College, Doane College and the University of Vermont.


The development of a wealth of genomics tools and sequence resources developed over the past 13 years of the PGRP continues to enable exciting, new comparative approaches and predictive modeling to uncover gene networks that regulate plant development and growth in changing environments.


Projects include:


This year's awards were selected from a pool of outstanding proposals, many of which leverage data and other resources previously produced with PGRP and/or funding from USDA-Agricultural Research Service, the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and the Department of Energy. The interdisciplinary projects, which leverage resources across multiple agencies, highlight the success of the NPGI in enabling transformational research with the potential to address urgent societal needs.




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1.30  Association mapping for Fusarium head blight resistance in European soft winter wheat


Fusarium head blight (FHB) caused by various Fusarium species is an destructive disease in wheat-growing countries causing yield losses and contamination with mycotoxins. Thus, wheat-breeding research efforts are bound towards producing FHB resistant varieties. In Europe, breeders favor the use of adapted genetic sources for resistance due to their better grain yield and quality. Thomas Miedaner and colleagues at Universität Hohenheim, Germany, conducted a study with the aim of identifying regions in the wheat chromosome that affects FHB resistance in 455 European soft winter wheat lines (Triticum aestivum L.) through mapping of the whole genome. All the lines were assessed for FHB resistance by inoculation in two environments and numerous ratings.


One hundred fifteen (115) simple sequence repeat markers were distributed to the whole genome and two specific markers to Rht-B1 and Rht-D1 genes. Genome-wide scan revealed nine significant relationships between the markers and the phenotype on seven chromosomes, which includes the dwarfing gene Rht-D1. To address the possible problem of multiple comparisons, the researchers applied the Bonferroni-Holm correction method; resulting to three significant associations on chromosomes 1B, 1D, and 2D, one of which was found to be modified with Rht-B1. Therefore, FHB resistance genes can be found in two regions of the genome specifically in chromosomes 1D and 3A, considering the effect of epistasis.


The research article published by the Molecular Breeding journal is available at


Source: Crop Biotech Update 15 October 2010:


Contributed by Margaret Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University


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2.01 “Biotecnología y Mejoramiento Vegetal II”, un libro a ciencia cierta



28 September, 2010

Este libro reúne contribuciones de 143 investigadores y especialistas que trabajan en diferentes áreas relacionadas con las nuevas técnicas de mejoramiento vegetal.


Profesores, estudiantes e interesados en la biología, la agronomía y carreras afines podrán acceder libremente a la versión online del libro "Biotecnología y Mejoramiento Vegetal II" realizado por Ediciones INTA (Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaria) y ArgenBio, y que próximamente saldrá a la venta en formato impreso.


Esta publicación actualiza, profundiza y extiende conocimientos clave en el campo de la biotecnología vegetal y sus aplicaciones. Esteban Hopp -coordinador del Área Estratégica Biología molecular, Bioinformática y Genética de avanzada del INTA Castelar y editor de este volumen- explicó que "este libro se utiliza como texto en universidades en, por ejemplo, los cursos de Genética y Biotecnología. Su valor es muy alto ya que no sólo se lo estudia en la Argentina sino además es referencia en países como México, Ecuador y España".


Gabriela Levitus -directora Ejecutiva de ArgenBio y editora- amplió: "Esta obra es única en Latinoamérica en su género. Esta segunda edición amplía en conocimientos y ejemplos a la primera editada en 2004. Esperamos que este lanzamiento constituya una herramienta útil y accesible para docentes, estudiantes y profesionales que se dedican y se dedicarán a la noble tarea de mejorar la agricultura".


De acuerdo con los editores, "en el contexto de los principios básicos del mejoramiento las tecnologías evolucionan rápidamente y, del mismo modo, se acelera la transferencia del conocimiento básico a las aplicaciones. Esta edición intenta reflejar este proceso dinámico y aportar información actualizada con ejemplos de aplicaciones al mejoramiento de diferentes especies vegetales".


Acerca del libro

El libro fue editado por Gabriela Levitus, Viviana Echenique, Clara Rubinstein, Esteban Hopp y Luis Mroginski, consta de 652 páginas y reúne las contribuciones de 143 investigadores y especialistas que trabajan en diferentes áreas relacionadas con las nuevas técnicas de mejoramiento vegetal.


Dividido en siete capítulos, "Biotecnología y Mejoramiento Vegetal II" presenta una sección de herramientas básicas y dedica varios capítulos a las técnicas de cultivo de tejidos y micropropagación que se utilizan para generar variabilidad, conservar germoplasma, producir clones libres de enfermedades o para la generación de plantas transgénicas. Se incluyen además las aplicaciones de estas técnicas a casos específicos.


Consideradas herramientas clave para el mejoramiento, el libro también profundiza en las "ómicas" -genómica, transcriptómica, metabolómica- por su importancia en la investigación básica, el mapeo de genes, la identificación de marcadores moleculares y también en la identificación de funciones y redes regulatorias que influyen en las características que se desean mejorar.

Un lugar destacado merece la transgénesis, debido al potencial y versatilidad que ofrece esta tecnología para la obtención de cultivos tolerantes a estrés biótico y abiótico, a plagas y enfermedades o con mejoras en su calidad nutricional. Estos avances se presentan en el contexto de la adopción global de los cultivos transgénicos, el papel que desempeñan en la Argentina, y otros temas relacionados con la tecnología, como la percepción pública y aspectos regulatorios y de bioseguridad.


Si desea acceder al libro, haga clic aqui


Agro-Bio es una organización sin ánimo de lucro, fundada en el 2000, dedicada a informar, divulgar, promover y educar acerca de la biotecnología agrícola moderna (organismos genéticamente modificados –OGM- o transgénicos) en Colombia y en la región andina.




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2.02  Handbook of Plant Breeding: Root and Tuber Crops


(Ed.) J.E. Bradshaw

2010, XIV, 295 p. 35 illus. in color., Hardcover

ISBN: 978-0-387-92764-0


This volume in the Handbook of Plant Breeding covers ten root and tuber crops in eight chapters: potato (Solanum tuberosum), cassava (Manihot esculenta), sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas), yams (Dioscorea spp.), taro (Colocasia esculenta) and cocoyam (Xanthosoma sagittifolium), sugar beet (Beta vulgaris), fodder beet (Beta vulgaris), and swedes (Brassica napus) and turnip (Brassica rapa). Although many of these crops were first domesticated several thousand years ago, none became important on a global scale until after the end of the sixteenth century.


Since domestication, all of the crops have been improved by both conscious and unconscious farmer selection. More modern hybridization and selection by farmers, hobby breeders, and seedsmen occurred for potato, sugar beet, fodder beet, swedes, and turnips during the nineteenth century. These crops were therefore well placed to benefit from the birth of modern genetics in 1900 and the subsequent development of scientific breeding methods. Thus, for example, methods of producing hybrid cultivars to exploit heterosis for yield are available in the four crops grown from true botanic seed. Modern breeding of cassava and sweet potato started in the 1920s, but intensified really only from the 1960s and 1970s when breeding work also started to get underway for yams, taro, and cocoyams. This modern breeding work has been helped by the establishment of International Research Centers aimed at providing food security and eradicating poverty in developing countries; and this will remain important during a period of human population growth and climate change.


In order to provide uniformity with the other volumes in the Handbook of Plant Breeding, each chapter is divided into the following sections: Introduction, Origins and Domestication, Varietal Groups (where appropriate), Genetic Resources, Major Breeding Achievements, Current Goals of Breeding, Breeding Methods and Techniques, Integration of New Biotechnologies in Breeding Programs and Seed (Tuber/Commercial) Production. The length of each section varies with crop, as appropriate, and I tried to give the authors of chapters as much freedom as possible within this overall framework. We hope that the finished product will be of value both to students of plant breeding and professional plant breeders, as well as to anyone interested in this fascinating group of root and tuber crops.


(excerpted from the Preface).



1 Potatoes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

John E. Bradshaw and Merideth Bonierbale

2 Cassava . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53

Hernán Ceballos, Emmanuel Okogbenin, Juan Carlos Pérez,

Luis Augusto Becerra López-Valle, and Daniel Debouck

3 Sweet Potato . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 97

Vincent Lebot

4 Yams . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  .. . . . . . . . 127

Gemma Arnau, K. Abraham, M.N. Sheela, Hana Chair,

Alieu Sartie, and Robert Asiedu

5 Taro and Cocoyam . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149

José Quero-Garcia, Anton Ivancic, and Vincent Lebot

6 Sugar Beet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 173

Enrico Biancardi, J. Mitchell McGrath, Leonard W. Panella,

Robert T. Lewellen, and Piergiorgio Stevanato

7 Fodder Beet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 221

Karine Henry

8 Swedes and Turnips . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . 245

Stuart Gowers

Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 291


Contributed by Vincent Lebot


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3.01  Analysis of national food and nutrition security plans in Colombia and Peru, and how crop biofortification can be integrated into these


We have the following resources available on line which might be of interest to the newsletter readership:


Analysis of national food and nutrition security plans in Colombia and Peru, and how crop biofortification can be integrated into these (documents in Spanish).


Contributed by Helena Pachon




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4.01  Forest conservation/climate change mitigation


Prestigious van Eck Scholarships are available to graduate students (M.S. or Ph.D.) seeking training in Forest Conservation and Climate Change Mitigation.  Students will join a research team that will use next-generation genetic approaches to understand how to manage forest tree species for long-term growth and survival in changing climates.  The research will entail significant field and laboratory research in the ecological genetics of adaptation and the use of climate data and models.  Students will work with faculty with expertise in molecular genetics, climate change and forest biology. Van Eck scholars have been highly successful upon graduation, finding career options in both academia and private industry. Research will take place at The Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration Center (HTIRC) at Purdue University.


Qualifications: Candidates should have well developed quantitative skills and knowledge and experience in biological sciences such as biology, molecular biology, forestry, horticulture, botany, genetics, or plant physiology. Candidates should have a GPA of at least 3.2 and a top-tier GRE score. Students not chosen for van Eck Scholarships may be eligible for acceptance into the Purdue Partnership for Research & Education in Plant Breeding and Genetics.


Assistantships will be awarded at $18,000 (M.S.) and $20,500 (Ph.D.) per year. In addition, an annual research budget ($10,000) will be available for research support and a laptop computer will be provided for the duration of the scholarship.


Applications or Additional Information: For fall semester, (August 2011), applications must be received by November 12, 2010 (M.S. and Ph.D.). Applicants must mail a short (one page) letter of interest, resume, cumulative GPA, GRE scores, TOEFL scores (international students only) and names and letters from three references to Dr. Keith Woeste ( or ).  Please see our web page for more information. If selected for a van Eck Scholarship, we will notify you to make formal application to Purdue University.


About us: HTIRC is a collaborative regional research organization of industry, state and federal agency and university partners, administratively located in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources at Purdue University . Its purpose is to improve the genetic quality and regeneration success of North American hardwood tree species.


Purdue University is an equal opportunity-affirmative action employe


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4.02  Molecular genetics of plant development


Prestigious van Eck Scholarships are available to graduate students (M.S. or Ph.D.) seeking training in molecular genetics of plant development.  Students will join a research team dedicated to understanding the genetic regulation of heartwood formation, the final stage in xylem differentiation.  The research will build upon previous findings related to the regulation of cell death and hormone metabolism in wood. Students will study in the fields of cell and molecular biology and plant physiology.  Van Eck scholars have been highly successful upon graduation, finding career options in both academia and private industry. Research will take place at The Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration Center (HTIRC) at Purdue University.


Qualifications: Candidates should have well developed quantitative skills and knowledge and experience in biological sciences such as biology, molecular biology, forestry, horticulture, botany, genetics, or plant physiology. Candidates should have a GPA of at least 3.2 and a top-tier GRE score. Students not chosen for van Eck Scholarships may be eligible for acceptance into the Purdue Partnership for Research & Education in Plant Breeding and Genetics.


Assistantships will be awarded at $18,000 (M.S.) and $20,500 (Ph.D.) per year. In addition, an annual research budget ($10,000) will be available for research support and a laptop computer will be provided for the duration of the scholarship.


Applications or Additional Information: For fall semester, (August 2011), applications must be received by November 12, 2010 (M.S. and Ph.D.). Applicants must mail a short (one page) letter of interest, resume, cumulative GPA, GRE scores, TOEFL scores (international students only) and names and letters from three references to Dr. Keith Woeste ( or ).  Please see our web page for more information. If selected for a van Eck Scholarship, we will notify you to make formal application to Purdue University.


About us: HTIRC is a collaborative regional research organization of industry, state and federal agency and university partners, administratively located in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources at Purdue University . Its purpose is to improve the genetic quality and regeneration success of North American hardwood tree species.


Purdue University is an equal opportunity-affirmative action employer


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5.01  Global Rice Breeding Leader (Senior Scientist/Principal Scientist), IRRI


Rice is life for millions of people around the world. At the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) a team of more than 1,000 world-class scientific and support staff are working to reduce poverty through rice science.  We are seeking a dynamic Science Leader to provide strategic and operational leadership on all aspects of rice varietal improvement research in IRRI and lead Theme 2 (Accelerating the development, delivery, and adoption of improved rice varieties) of the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP), a new CGIAR research program that brings together hundreds of public- and private-sector organizations.



This dynamic, innovative, and highly respected scientific leader will set priorities, develop the appropriate implementation mechanisms, and build outstanding teams and people. As the global leader of GRISP Theme 2 and in collaboration with regional theme leaders for Africa and Latin America and scientists leading subcomponents, he will provide the overall leadership for accelerating the development of new rice varieties and hybrids in all major rice-growing environments, with a particular emphasis on new, targeted product development pipelines that use molecular breeding approaches and networks. He will also be responsible for implementing these breeding programs in Asia and interact with the leaders of other GRiSP themes to ensure full integration of varietal improvement research in the target improvement of rice-based production systems and value chains in Asia and other world regions. He will also oversee all staff and other resources in IRRI’s Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Biotechnology (PBGB) Division.



The successful candidate will have a PhD in plant breeding, genetics, molecular biology, or a related crop science field; at least 15 years of post-PhD research experience, with a strong background in plant breeding and/or molecular biology and a proven record of outstanding scientific contributions; strong experience in managing interdisciplinary teams and research programs; and excellent written and spoken English.


The position will be based at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) headquarters in Los Baños, Laguna, Philippines, with a competitive compensation and benefit package. IRRI provides a multicultural work environment that reflects the values of gender equality, teamwork, and respect for diversity. Women are encouraged to apply.  Interested candidates should submit their application to Screening will start on November 15, 2010 or until a suitable candidate has been found. Only short-listed candidates will be contacted. The full position description may be found at


Contributed by Selene M. Ocampo

Human Resource Services


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5.02  Onion Breeder (Vegetables Division)-00205



Monsanto is an agricultural company. We apply innovation and technology to help farmers around the world produce more while conserving more. We help farmers grow yield sustainably so they can be successful, produce healthier foods, better animal feeds and more fiber, while also reducing agriculture's impact on our environment, with thoughtful and effective stewardship.


Monsanto is seeking a highly motivated individual to become an integral member of a multidisciplinary, global Onion Breeding Team with a focus on developing new hybrid onions for India.  This is a superb opportunity to manage a breeding program in collaboration with a large, multidisciplinary global research team to obtain successful new products. As a breeder you will have primary responsibilities for the development of new improved onion hybrids and management of the pre-commercial product pipeline for targeted global market segments. A significant amount of interaction and collaboration expected with other onion breeders. There is direct interaction with breeding technology, pathology, foundation/stock seed, technology development, and the commercial organization.  The qualified candidate will also manage design, development, and implementation of breeding research projects in collaboration with scientists in fields such as pathology and breeding technology. You will have direct management responsibility of your breeding staff and budget management.


The Onion Breeder will directly interact with the vegetable breeding community, breeding technology, trait development and serve as a key member of the technology development pipeline. The Aurangabad location is one of our major vegetable R&D centers. This role offers the prospect to work with the world's largest global agronomic and vegetable breeding organization that possesses state of the art breeding application tools and analytical platforms. This provides opportunities for development of novel breeding approaches/methodologies or the creative application of existing methods for the enhancement of onions. 






Required Skills/Experiences:

Desired Skills / Experience:


 Research & Development

Primary Location

Asia Pacific-India-Maharashtra


 Global Breeding_51128775




Contributed by Donn Cummings

Global Breeder Sourcing Lead


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5.03  Graduate Assistantship: Forest tree breeding and restoration genetics


A Graduate Assistantship (M.S. or Ph.D.) is offered to qualified students seeking training in forest tree breeding and restoration genetics.  Students will join a research team to develop and implement methods to evaluate butternut germplasm for resistance to butternut canker disease and to identify breeding stocks for the restoration of butternut to the eastern North American forest.  Students will be trained as a member of Purdue University’s Partnership for Research & Education in Plant Breeding and Genetics and will be affiliated with The Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration Center (HTIRC).


Qualifications: Candidates should have well developed quantitative skills and knowledge and experience in biological sciences (e.g., forestry, horticulture, botany, plant pathology, genetics, or physiology), mathematics and statistics, or bioinformatics.


Assistantships will be awarded at $18,000 (M.S.) and $19,000 (Ph.D.) per year plus guaranteed funds for travel and research.  For fall semester, (August 2011), application deadline is April 1, 2011, but applications before Jan 15, 2011 will have an advantage. Applicants must mail a short (one page) letter of interest, resume, cumulative GPA, GRE scores, TOEFL scores (international students only) and names and letters from three references to Dr. Keith Woeste ( ) see our web pages and for more information. Submit application to Purdue University Department of Agronomy.


About us: HTIRC is a collaborative regional research organization of industry, state and federal agency and university partners, administratively located in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources at Purdue University . Its purpose is to improve the genetic quality and regeneration success of North American hardwood tree species.


Contributed by Woeste, Keith E []


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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.




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


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 Todd Wehner, see:




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.





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


Offered Fall/Spring 2010/2010


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

·         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




New Course Opportunity – Seed Business 101


Offered at four locations in California and Idaho between November 2010 and February 2011


The Seed Business 101 course was created with input from industry executives to accelerate the careers of promising new employees. By selecting and sponsoring employees to attend this course, companies acknowledge past performance and invest in accelerated professional development. The course also offers invaluable insights and perspective to seed dealers and companies offering products and services to the seed industry, including seed treatments, crop protection, seed enhancement and technology, machinery and equipment, etc.


Seed Business 101 core curriculum

The goal of Seed Business 101 is to enhance each participant’s career performance and help them avoid costly mistakes.

The course is designed to focus on optimum operations of the five major functional areas of a seed company.

§  Research and Development        

§  Production

§  Administration

§  Operations

§  Sales and Marketing

Participants will acquire a broad understanding of the major aspects of a seed company’s operations and cross-departmental knowledge of best practices for profitability.


This course will be offered in four locations in California and Idaho between November 2010 and February 2011. Each session will be limited to 30 participants.


For more information contact Jeannette Martins, or Michael Campbell,; or to register for the class go to:




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


8-19 November 2010. Eighth training course of ICRISAT-CEG:

Application of Molecular Markers in Crop Improvement, ICRISAT Campus at Patancheru, Greater Hyderabad, India.


For further details or queries, please contact: Rajeev Varshney, Leader- Centre of Excellence in Genomics (e-mail: or Kanaka Prasad, Officer- Training (


9-11 November 2010. First Global Conference on Biofortification: From Discovery to Delivery. Georgetown University Hotel and Conference Center, Washington, D.C. For more information about the conference and to register, please visit the event website.


15-27 November 2010. The Fifth International Training Course In Vitro and Cryopreservation for Conservation of Plant Genetic Resources: Current Methods and Techniques, National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR), Pusa Campus, New Delhi, India.


Details about application and course content can be found on the website. vitro_and_cryopreservation_techniques_for_conservation_of_plant_genetic_resources.html


16 November 2010, 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm. Using the tomato genome sequence and Infinium array in breeding. Workshop presented by SolCAP in conjunction with the 25th Annual Tomato Disease Workshop.  University of Florida/ IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, 14625 CR 672, Wimauma, FL 33598


To Register:    For more information contact Jeannette  Martins: 


22-24 November 2010. 10th Gatersleben Research Conference 2010 (GRCX) "Sequence-informed Crop Research", Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK), Gatersleben, Germany


16-17 February 2011. Seed Biology, Production and Quality Course, Davis, California.


This unique two-day course is designed for professionals in the seed industry, crop consultants and growers to update and expand their current knowledge. Participants will learn fundamental and specialized information on topics including seed development, production, harvesting, testing, conditioning, enhancement, storage, pathology and quality assessment. The course content has been updated with the latest information and instructors include: Dr. Derek Bewley (University of Guelph, Canada), Dr. Henk Hilhorst (Wageningen University, The Netherlands), Dr. Hiro Nonogaki (Oregon State University, Corvallis), Dr. Robert Gilbertson (University of California, Davis), Deborah Meyer (California State Seed Laboratory) and Dr. Kent Bradford (University of California, Davis).


Register early for discounted fee: $550.00 USD (Deadline for discounted fee is January 7, 2011; Required method of payment: Credit Card)

Course fee after January 7, 2011: $650.00 USD



Jeannette Martins


(NEW) 19-23 March 2011. First International Symposium on Wild Relatives of Subtropical and Temperate Fruit and Nut Crops, University of California, Davis, California, USA.


The First International Symposium on Wild Relatives of Subtropical and Temperate Fruit and Nut Crops will be held March 19-23, 2011 on the campus of the University of California, Davis, California. The symposium will be organized under the auspices of the International Society of Horticultural Sciences and hosted by the USDA-ARS National Clonal Germplasm Repository and Crops Pathology and Genetics Units in cooperation with the Plant Sciences Department at the University of California, Davis.  The conference will bring together stakeholders from around the world to address the current status and future course of action for conservation, management, and sustainable utilization of wild relatives of subtropical and temperate fruit and nut crops, including grapes.


For abstract submission and registration please visit the conference web site


Important Deadlines

Abstract Submission- December 31, 2010

Early Registration – December 31, 2010

Late Registration – March 01, 2011


Info: Malli Aradhya, USDA-ARS, Davis, UC Davis, CA 95616, Email:; Dan Kluepfel, USDA-ARS, UC Davis, CA 95616, Email:; and Dianne Velasco, UC Davis, CA 95616, Email:


Contributed by Malli Aradhya, Ph.D.

National Clonal Germplasm Respository

University of California, Davis


(NEW) 28 March – 8 April, 2010. Quantitative Genetics in Plant Breeding.

 The National Institute of Agricultural Botany (Cambridge, UK) will run its two week postgraduate level training course, Quantitative Genetics in Plant Breeding, for the fourth successive year from 28th March - 8th April, 2011. An application form is available on this PDF link:


Further information is available by contacting the course director by email at or by calling the course administrator on +44 1223 342269


Contributed by Stuart Green


5-7 April 2011. Genebanks: exploring ways to improve service to PGR users and effectiveness of PGR conservation. Meeting of Eucarpia Genetics Resources Section.



6-10 June 2011. 13th InternationalLupin Conference 2011, Poznań, Poland


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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