PLANT BREEDING NEWS

 

EDITION 224

31 May 2011

 

An Electronic Newsletter of Applied Plant Breeding

 

Clair H. Hershey, Editor

chh23@cornell.edu

 

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

 

-To subscribe, see instructions here

-Archived issues available at: FAO Plant Breeding Newsletter

 

1.  NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH NOTES

1.01  Public research yields high returns -- measured in more than dollars

1.02  $1.7 billion later, Gates Foundation reports progress, its leaders say it could take 20 years to see the results of that work

1.03  Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and USDA sign memorandum of understanding to cooperate on African food security

1.04  Organisation funds seed research plan to boost production

1.05  Designing better plants for food and fuels

1.06  New variety of organic corn developed by Cornell scientist available for sale

1.07  Doing away with imports: Angola produces its own drought tolerant maize seed

1.08  Ethiopia excites over quality protein maize release

1.09  Philippines Department of Agriculture to promote white corn to ease demand for rice

1.10  New cassava varieties developed by the Great Lakes Initiative, East Africa

1.11  European Union contributes to new international network on tropical root crops

1.12  Fight against wheat rust needs sustained investment

1.13  'Sweet wheat' for tastier and more healthful baking

1.14  Breeder’s tool kit to boost sustainable wheat farming

1.15  £7M for public wheat pre-breeding programme announced

1.16  Brazil's search for transgenic drought-resistant soy, bean, cotton, sugarcane and corn

1.17  Una empresa almeriense crea un sistema para mejorar la selección genética vegetal

1.18  Embrapa desenvolve cana-de-aćúcar tolerante ą seca

1.19  UK-Vietnam collaboration to improve world's most important staple food

1.20  Increased production of Asian rice with the genes from African rice

1.21  Building the CIARD Framework for Data and Information Sharing

1.22  Amarilis - Late blight resistant potato improves Andean smallholders production

1.23  Four chickpea varieties released in Tanzania

1.24  Malawi releases medium duration pigeonpea variety

1.25  New tool for weighing pros and cons of bioenergy

1.26  Royalties and farm saved seed

1.27  U.S. Federal Register - Notice of intent to reestablish the National Genetic Resources Advisory Council

1.28  ICRISAT germplasm materials making impact on global food security

1.29  Scientists conclude origin of rice

1.30  Diving in the barley genepool

1.31  Genetic diversification increased pearl millet productivity in India

1.32  New plant breeding techniques. State-of-the-art and prospects for commercial development

1.33  Finding new ways to increase yield under mild water shortage

1.34  Coming to a cornfield near you: genetically induced drought-resistance

1.35  Pumping up potatoes for poor communities - iron biofortification

1.36  Scientists study mummy berry disease of blueberry

1.37  Federal government of Nigeria (FGN) grants permit for sorghum bio-fortification research: another milestone for IAR biotechnology research

1.38  Evidence of field-evolved resistance to Cry1Ac-expressing Bt cotton in Helicoverpa armigera (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) in northern China

1.39  New 'Corn Atlas' shows which genes are active during each stage of plant growth

1.40  One corn gene provides resistance to multiple diseases

1.41  QTL mapping for resistance to 1st and 2nd generation of European corn borer

1.42  A new strategy for drought tolerant crops: shutting down the plant’s growth inhibition in case of mild water shortage

1.43  Distribution of genes controlling fruit shape in the tomato germplasm and the relationship to fruit shape diversity

1.44  Solar cells more efficient than photosynthesis – for now

1.45  "Smoke detector" gene discovered in plants

1.46  Experimental base for "space-bred" crops opens in China

1.47  Molecular technique advances soybean rust resistance research

1.48  University of Nottingham scientists reveal genetic 'wiring' of seeds

 

2.  PUBLICATIONS

2.01  2010 BGRI workshop proceedings published in Euphytica

2.02 The Cereal Rusts, Volumes I and II

2.03  ISAAA Publishes "Bt Cotton in India: A Multipurpose Crop"

2.04  Secretariat of the International Treaty launches novel materials for Capacity Development

2.05  Release of a PAR Publication: Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture: Contributing to food security and sustainability in a changing world.

2.06  Publication on the status of BT cotton in Myanmar

2.07  Another foot soldier in the battle against malnutrition - CIP releases Orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) for Africa catalogue

 

3.  WEB AND NETWORKING RESOURCES

3.01  Ug99 Stem Rust: A Threat to Wheat Crops across the Globe

3.02  BGRI website recognized for outstanding innovation

3.03  Pre-breeding for Effective Use of Plant Genetic Resources – a new e-learning course

 

4.  GRANTS AND AWARDS

(None submitted)

 

5.  POSITION ANNOUNCEMENTS

5.01  Senior Corn Breeder, India

 

6.  MEETINGS, COURSES AND WORKSHOPS

 

7.  EDITOR'S NOTES

 

 

1 NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH NOTES

 

1.01  Public research yields high returns -- measured in more than dollars

 

Even though standard economic approaches may be difficult to apply to evaluations of some research benefits of public investments in agricultural research, economic reasoning can provide qualitative analysis even when estimates of benefits are difficult to quantify.

 

Paul W. Heisey

John L. King

Kelly Day Rubenstein

 

Š      Well-established quantitative approaches find that in the aggregate, public investments in agricultural research yield high returns and spur growth in agricultural productivity.

Š      Standard economic approaches may be difficult to apply to evaluations of some research benefits and may not help in gauging important steps necessary to positive research outcomes.

Š      In these more difficult cases, economic reasoning can provide qualitative analysis even when quantitative estimates of benefits are intractable.

 

This article is drawn from . . .

Assessing the Benefits of Public Research Within an Economic Framework:

The Case of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, by Paul W. Heisey, John L. King, Kelly Day Rubenstein, Dale A. Bucks, and Rick Welsh, ERR-95, USDA, Economic Research Service, May 2010.

 

Economic Returns to Public Agricultural Research, by Keith O. Fuglie and Paul W. Heisey, EB-10, USDA, Economic Research Service, September 2007.

 

Increased productivity has been the main contributor to economic growth in U.S. agriculture for many years. The U.S. agricultural research system, including Federal, State, and private sector research, has helped drive this growth. Economic analysis consistently finds strong evidence that public investments—Federal and State—in agricultural research and development (R&D) yield high returns per dollar spent, with benefits accruing not only to the farm sector but also to consumers in the form of more abundant food at lower prices.

 

But clear evidence of the longrun value of agricultural R&D does not always meet the immediate needs of policymakers and agricultural research managers who are responsible for demonstrating continuing social and economic impacts and providing accountability to the taxpayers who fund agricultural research. They need to weigh the expected benefits and costs of particular research projects to prioritize research programs under increasingly tight budgets.

 

Assessments of the benefits of Federal research programs pose special challenges relative to determining the gains from other Federal programs. The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 significantly increased Federal investments in science but also called for the development of new approaches to track resulting economic growth and job creation. Many economic studies that provide the strongest evidence for high returns to public research focus on aggregate data for the entire agricultural sector and analyze the effects of past investments rather than specific effects of current research programs. Data on the inputs and costs of research programs are relatively easy to obtain, but they typically do not include measures of the ultimate effects of research once it leaves the laboratory or research institution.

 

Even though research payoffs can be very high, they can be hard to attribute to individual research projects. Scientific research builds on previous findings, and related research efforts are often performed concurrently by universities, private firms, and other institutions. Benefits are typically realized after long lags, and adoption or commercialization may occur many years after the initial research was undertaken. Moreover, the measured benefits to the primary users of science and technology arising from Federal research do not include potential indirect benefits to downstream firms, consumers, public health, and the environment.

 

USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) accounts for the majority of Federal expenditures on agricultural research. ARS employs several methods to assess the quality and impact of its research. Among the most important of these is peer review, which is a structured assessment by experts from the same field of science, generally from outside the projects or programs being evaluated. Peer review is the most common method of Federal research evaluation, and it is widely used throughout the ARS prioritization, planning, and evaluation cycle. The greatest strength of peer review is the assessment

Description: Bar chart: Most studies have found high rates of return to public agricultural research in the United States

 

of scientific merit of research programs, but it is not always well suited for quantifying market impacts or ultimate social benefits. Benefit-cost analysis is one economic approach that has been used for Federal research programs, but it is most effective for research programs that produce specific, near-market technologies—which miss important parts of the ARS research portfolio. Moreover, a well-done benefit-cost analysis can be time consuming and expensive.

 

ERS and ARS researchers recently collaborated on a review of available methods for assessing research benefits. Researchers focused on three case studies of ARS research programs: bovine quantitative genetics and genomics; water quality and watersheds; and the measurement, analysis, and widespread publication of the nutritional composition of foods consumed by the U.S. population. These case studies were selected to capture diverse aspects of ARS research, including program scope, coordination roles, and research relevance to USDA missions. They also illustrate the opportunities and shortcomings of existing methods of economic evaluation at the program level.

 

All of the case studies focused on programs that provide scientific results with few substitutes. Market failures and cross-State applications of research findings may lead the private sector and State-funded institutions to underinvest in economically justifiable research because they cannot expect to capture all the benefits. Most of the benefits in two of the three case studies could not be measured using market prices, and in the third case, there would be significant difficulties in matching demonstrable benefits to particular research cost streams. Because of their “public goods” nature, the benefits of these ARS research programs would be difficult to replicate by non-Federal research efforts. Qualitative analysis may help to define the public goods characteristics of a research program, may guide other assessment efforts, and may establish the potential for a Federal coordinating role of certain research efforts.

 

Description: Diagram: Different kinds of research assessment are appropriate at specific phases of the transformation of research into societal outcomes

 

ARS research facilitates numerous linkages between research peers, contributors, and users demonstrated by interviews with stakeholders such as food processors, natural resource managers, and representatives of universities, other Federal agencies, and international research institutions. While it is difficult to estimate the monetary value of such linkages, interest on the part of a diverse group of stakeholders may indicate a broad set of benefits. Bibliometric indicators, such as the frequency with which the research of ARS scientists is cited in other publications (or even patents), may help gauge some of the shorter term benefits of these linkages.

 

Recent developments in agricultural research pose new challenges for benefits assessments. Formerly, a substantial amount of Federal agricultural research was directed at improving production and input efficiency—goals that often have marketable, quantifiable results. Although production and efficiency remain primary missions of ARS research, newer research areas explore a broader set of goals for agriculture and food production. Research on the reduction of the harmful effects of agriculture on the environment as well as the increase in its beneficial impacts and on the improvement of food safety and human nutrition often contribute both to nonmarket environmental or health benefits and to Government policies and regulations to further those benefits.

 

Even when quantitative measurements of research outcomes remain elusive, economic analysis can help to focus specific questions about public research investments

Š       Are there observable prices in the market where the research is expected to have ultimate impact?

Š       Do other public or private institutions conduct research in related areas?

Š       Are there other sources of specific research outputs besides one Federal agency?

Š       Who are the end users and other stakeholders for the research?

Š       Does the research support other public functions such as further research, regulation, or Federal policy?

Š       Does the research agency play a role in coordinating research from various research performers?

 

Assessing research programs that help the Government fulfill its own functions (sometimes called mission-oriented research) can be especially difficult because the primary users can be policymakers and regulators rather than agricultural producers or consumers. For example, with passage of the Clean Water Act, ARS adapted its soil movement models to examine the effects of sedimentation on downstream water quality. Questions about how research complements other Federal and State efforts to achieve their policy objectives, as well as the ultimate economic impact of policies and regulations, are useful for analyzing the performance of and demand for mission-related research. ARS research, like research by some other Federal agencies, often contributes to the regulatory and policy functions of the Federal Government in ways that other public research institutions do not.

 

Relationships between research investments and economic and social impacts are often indirect, with complex outcomes shaped by more than one factor, and often attributable to more than one definable research program. These impacts usually occur after considerable time lags. Economic analysis has shown repeatedly that the payoffs to public investment in agricultural research are large, but precise measurements of the economic benefits of particular research programs may remain elusive or be very costly to obtain. Economic reasoning can help to determine if a research program is addressing public goods, if the economic benefits are likely to be substantial, and if the research is addressing other public functions such as providing scientific support to regulatory or policy initiatives even when the calculation of the exact dollar value of the research is not possible.

 

http://www.ers.usda.gov/AmberWaves/June11/Features/PublicResearch.htm

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.02  $1.7 billion later, Gates Foundation reports progress, its leaders say it could take 20 years to see the results of that work

 

1 June 2011

SEATTLE — The world’s largest charitable foundation announced five years ago it would spend millions of dollars to fight poverty and hunger in Africa, largely by investing in agriculture. To date, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has committed $1.7 billion, but its leaders say it could take 20 years to see the results of that work.

 

The foundation has focused on ways to bring to Africa the green revolution that swept Latin America and Asia in the mid-1900s, boosting productivity in those regions. Its hope has been that helping small farmers grow more would allow them to sell their surplus, boosting their income and putting more food in hungry mouths. More than 70 percent of the world’s poor depend on agriculture for both their food and income.

 

Some people have been helped, and the foundation expects more will be in years to come, but agricultural development happens slowly, said Roy Steiner, the foundation’s deputy director of global development.

 

As an example, he said some Kenyan farmers will receive seeds for drought-tolerant maize this year. They’ll try them out, see the results and decide whether to adopt them more enthusiastically next year. A year after that, increased production could give them more money to buy food for their families or fertilizer to improve their other crops.

 

“It takes years and years to shift the system,” Steiner said.

 

A more immediate impact might be made by buying and giving away food, and the Gates Foundation has done this indirectly with grants to groups such as Oxfam and CARE. But Steiner said the foundation doesn’t see this as a long-term solution.

 

“Giving food to people is certainly necessary when there’s a crisis,” he said. “But these people don’t want to be depending on outside charity. And, frankly, who is going to pay for all of that food being given?”

 

The foundation, he said, aims to prevent crises by strengthening agriculture systems.

 

It’s an approach anti-hunger organizations such as CARE and the United Nation’s World Food Programme also are taking. One-fifth or less of CARE’s budget now goes to the kind of direct food aid the nonprofit was created to provide 65 years ago. The rest is focused on agriculture development work similar to what the Gates Foundation is doing.

 

“This move from more of a charity approach to more of a capacity building and empowerment approach is something most of the major relief and development organizations have gone through,” said Kevin Henry, who directs CARE’s work in agriculture, economic development and climate change.

 

The World Bank estimates 338 million people live on less a dollar a day in sub-Saharan Africa. The U.S. government spends about $1.7 billion on food aid each year and about $1 billion a year on its Feed the Future Program, which focuses on reducing poverty and hunger through agriculture development.

 

Gates Foundation believes it can move more than 150 million in Africa out of extreme poverty by 2025 by improving agriculture. To that end, it has invested millions in seed research, buying and distributing fertilizer, improving farmers’ education and access to markets and political advocacy to get governments to spend more money on agriculture and to improve policies ranging from trade to land ownership.

 

Source: Associated Press

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/17-billion-later-gates-foundation-reports-progress-but-has-no-clear-win-in-fighting-hunger/2011/06/01/AGpkQ6FH_story.html

 

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1.03  Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and USDA sign memorandum of understanding to cooperate on African food security

 

Washington, DC, USA

May 26, 2011

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to explore ways to help smallholder farmers in Africa through coordinated research, exchanges, training and development activities.

 

Signed in Washington by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and AGRA president Dr. Namanga Ngongi, the MOU includes AGRA and USDA joint efforts to promote seed development and soil enhancement, reduce crop loss, manage water resources, improve data collection, develop farmer training programs, create market information systems, and improve human capacity and food-related infrastructure in Africa.

 

"Investing in agriculture is the surest path to help reduce poverty, accelerate wider economic and social development, boost women's influence within their societies, and provide new opportunities for business. USDA has a wealth of expertise in many critical areas of agriculture development, and this agreement will enable us to share that knowledge and resources to benefit smallholder farmers across the entire food value chain in Africa," said Dr. Ngongi.

 

"The inter-related challenges of global food security are more pressing now than ever," said Vilsack. "Agricultural development is the key to unlocking increased incomes and combating poverty for millions of people and many nations. And this partnership announced today between AGRA and USDA will enable us to deliver real results for hungry people around the world."

 

The MOU will be in effect for five years. AGRA and USDA will initially focus on increasing food production in African breadbasket regions – areas with high potential because of existing policies, infrastructure and growing conditions – such as Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Tanzania and Mozambique.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=17816&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.04  Organisation funds seed research plan to boost production

 

3 May 2011

By James Karuga

 

An international organisation is funding a breeding research programme to deliver quality seeds to 400,000 local farmers in a drive to get farmers to switch from retained seeds, which often have reduced yields.

 

Smallholder farmers use retained seeds because of their availability and low cost of acquiring them compared to hybrid seeds.

 

However, according to a 2008 study by the African Journal of Agricultural Research, retained seeds have low disease resistance and score poorly on yield.

 

Three quarters of smallholders use retained seeds, according to Mr Joseph D DeVries, the director of the Programme Africa for Seeds Systems (PASS).

 

Yet in the first harvest, retained seeds have a yield that is 25 to 30 per cent lower than that of hybrid seeds, and in successive seasons “yields decrease by 50 per cent,” said DeVries.

 

PASS, funded by the Alliance for Green Revolution (AGRA), is now supporting research breeding institutions such as Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (Kari), seven local seed companies and training 3,700 agrodealers from around the country on quality seed breeding and information dissemination.

 

The agrodealers are also being taught to effectively manage cash flows and stock management in their businesses.

 

In addition, 10 Kenyan science students at Masters and PhD levels in plant breeding have also been sponsored for courses on quality seed breeding, to bridge the lack of “sufficient skilled seed production specialists” that is to blame for low access to quality seeds, said DeVries.

 

Agrodealers, who are the point of contact with farmers, are receiving training in the range of quality seeds released by accredited institutions like KARI.

 

Private seed companies will also be linked to KARI breeding programs to ensure they are using quality foundation seeds.

 

Foundation seeds are the seeds that authorised breeding institutions like KARI release to seed companies for multiplication and distribution to farmers and agrodealers.

 

Currently, seed companies lack the infrastructure to reproduce and market improved or new seeds of staple crops.

 

Among the Kenyan staples, 60 per cent of maize is grown from hybrid seeds, as nearly all seed companies produce the seeds.

 

But according to KARI data, only 1 to 2 per cent of farmers in Kenya are using new or improved potato breeds.

 

The $150m PASS initiative, targeted at 13 African countries, is now focused on all the popular staples consumed in Africa, including maize, beans cassava, sorghum, rice and sweet potatoes.

 

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1.05  Designing better plants for food and fuels

 

May 16, 2011

Michigan State University researcher David Kramer a Hannah Distinguished Professor of Photosynthesis and Bioenergetics leads an effort to improve fuel and food producing plants saying, “This is critical since it’s the process that powers all of life in our ecosystem. The efficiency of photosynthesis, and our ability to improve it, is critical to whether the entire biofuels industry is viable.”

 

The facts today are plants aren’t so efficient as say solar cells when applying some forms of comparison.  The Michigan State press release explains saying, “Plants are less efficient at capturing the energy in sunlight than solar cells mostly because they have too much evolutionary baggage. Plants have to power a living thing, whereas solar cells only have to send electricity down a wire. This is a big difference because if photosynthesis makes a mistake, it makes toxic byproducts that kill the organism. Photosynthesis has to be conservative to avoid killing the organisms it powers.”

 

Those points are on the mark, and Kramer sees a way to improve plants with a paper published in Science that the University has made available in a pdf download.

 

The paper’s group is suggesting that replacing one of the two photosystems in plants that handle the light-dependent reactions with a photosystem from a species of cyanobacteria. The photosystems in most plants compete for the same piece of the solar spectrum, cutting the energy efficiency nearly in half. But some cyanobacteria absorb light from an entirely different part of the spectrum. Basically, it would be the biological equivalent of a tandem solar cell, which is very efficient.

 

Description: http://newenergyandfuel.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Photosynthesis-Compared-Natural-and-Engineered-450x316.jpg

 

Photosynthesis Compared Natural and Engineered. Click image for more info.

 

That is opening the door to synthetic biology.  The paper says:

“The techniques of synthetic biology may allow a more radical redesign of the photosynthetic apparatus for both bioenergy and food production applications. As mentioned above, the two photosystems required for oxygenic photosynthesis compete for the same wavelengths of light, reducing overall photochemical efficiency. An ambitious modification would be to maintain the two photosystems but engineer one of them to use the bacteriochlorophylls found in many anoxygenic photosynthetic organisms. . .

 

Substantial improvements can be envisaged even within the context of the two-photosystem architecture of current oxygenic photosynthesis . . .

 

Approaches in which photovoltaics are coupled to redox chemistry in photoelectrochemical cells and even living organisms also hold promise for solar fuels production. Numerous points of inefficiency in the natural system are amenable to improvement by using genetic engineering and aggressive techniques of synthetic biology.”

 

That is very likely correct.  There may be great room for productive improvement of crops that produce food and fuel.

 

From a consumer’s point of view these kinds of study and research could well overcome the problems presented by the food vs. fuel arguments.  Today a stopping of fuel production from crops would put some fuel crops back into foods, alleviating the need for such research. That wouldn’t be in the long-term interests of consumers.

 

The paper and the press release spend a major part of the point making effort to compare the sunlight absorption between plants and photovoltaic solar cells.  It’s a different kind of argument than simply a vast increase in productivity.

 

“While photosynthesis is less efficient on a pure energy basis, it has the advantage of producing high-energy liquid fuels. (It also makes all of our food, and is thus essential for life). The paper summarizes several specific approaches to improving photosynthesis, some likely achievable in the short term, some more involved,” states the press release.

 

Continuing: “In truth, the competition really isn’t fair unless the term “efficiency” is first defined. At a bare minimum it isn’t fair to compare plants that package the sun’s energy in handy little stored-fuel vessels (carbon-based molecules) to solar cells that just take the first step of converting the sun’s energy to jazzed-up electrons. Fairer would be to compare plants to solar cell arrays that also store energy in chemical bonds.

 

The point of the comparison is not to make us throw plants on the compost pile, the researchers said. For one, efficiency is only one consideration among many in the choice among energy technologies. More important are life-cycle costs, the capital cost and valuation of the environmental impact of a product from its creation to its destruction.”

 

This research might be the starting point leading the exploration of why plants are so inefficient and what can be done to improve their efficiency. Genetic engineering and the more aggressive techniques of synthetic biology – the marriage of biology and engineering to design and construct systems and metabolic pathways not found in nature – could speed things up considerably.

 

But that would lead to an even more entrenched and far reaching special interest opposed to consumer’s interests – the genetically engineered organisms (“GMO”) mob that has rooted in across the planet much like the global warming crowd.  The anti GMO crowd is often even more strident and unreasonable than the global warming folks and has already played a significant role in limiting food supplies to the poor and hungry – particularly in Africa.

 

All this makes the Kramer led group’s efforts be of extreme importance.  A wider view as your humble writer is proposing needs considered beyond the simpler comparison with photovoltaic solar cells.  Perhaps the strategy is slip in some more research without anti GMO attention, but that seems a very poor bet, indeed.

 

This research needs acclaimed as a “breakout” into further improving the production of food and fuel.  The political world will go its own way as special interests apply pressure, but consumers have to know from the richest where food and fuel costs don’t matter to the poor where food and fuels are matter of life and death that science can work to make both more, better and much cheaper.  It’s something politics will have to take into account.

 

http://newenergyandfuel.com/http:/newenergyandfuel/com/2011/05/16/designing-better-plants-for-food-and-fuels/

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.06  New variety of organic corn developed by Cornell scientist available for sale

 

8 May 2011

ITHACA, N.Y. — It took Cornell breeder Margaret Smith years to perfect her new variety of organic corn but only six weeks to get its seeds licensed and available for sale. Bred to thrive in Northeast growing conditions, organic farmers across the U.S. can now plant the hardy hybrid; one of the first licenses was granted to Iowa-based Blue River Hybrids, which distributes organic seeds nationwide.

 

Until now, the only organic corn seed available was developed and tested primarily in the Midwest, where the soil and climate are much more forgiving than in New York and the Northeast.

 

Although its name may be unexciting, D2901 has proven to be a great “workhorse” hybrid, according to Smith, professor of plant breeding and associate director of the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station.

 

Definition

Hybrid seeds are produced by crossing two parent plants. Often these parents are not very robust, which presents a real challenge for organic farmers who don’t use chemical herbicides or pesticides to control weeds and disease, Smith said.

 

The parent plants used to create Smith’s variety, however, are hybrids themselves, meaning they are much more vigorous and easy to grow. They are also resistant to many diseases, have bigger seed ears and shade the ground early, which can help control weeds.

 

Smith, one of only a handful of corn breeders in public research institutions, said it is gratifying to see one of her varieties used by the public. Corn breeding is dominated by the private sector, which employs an estimated 500 breeders in the U.S

 

Organic corn receives much less industry investment, and Smith sees it as an opportunity for her program to make a big impact. It’s one of the reasons she licensed a variety for the first time in her 24 years at Cornell.

 

Funding

A grant from the New York Farm Viability Institute had initially enabled her to expand seed production from a few pounds in her laboratory to entire fields in Penn Yan, where she worked in collaboration with Klaas and Mary-Howell Martens, M.S. ’82, of Lakeview Organic Grain.

 

To commercialize the seed, licenses were obtained in just six weeks, with help from Jessica Lyga at Cornell Center for Technology Enterprise and Commercialization, to hit the height of the seed-selling season.

 

Although Smith believes research done at a land-grant university should remain in the public domain rather than be proprietary, the seed was licensed because of the economic reality of diminishing public resources, with breeding programs particularly at risk because they require long-term investment that doesn’t fit into the two- to three-year funding windows of short-term grants.

 

“It’s been a struggle to reconcile these inner conflicts, but we do need to find a return on that public investment,” Smith said. “It’s a reality that has been more and more glaring in the last few years.”

 

Typically

Most licenses issued by Cornell for use in the U.S. are non-exclusive, meaning several commercial entities can license the rights to use and sell the products. They pay a licensing fee and royalties per unit. Lyga said there were 61 Cornell commercial plant licenses issued in 2010.

 

Joseph Vinciquerra, director of business partnerships and foundation relations for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said licensing transactions often help cultivate broader public-private relationships.

 

“These have the capability to result in greater downstream collaboration between our researchers and the business markets,” he said.

 

http://www.farmanddairy.com/news/new-variety-of-organic-corn-developed-by-cornell-scientist-available-for-sale/24676.html

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.07  Doing away with imports: Angola produces its own drought tolerant maize seed

 

In breaking with its past practice of importing foreign maize seed, Angola is taking bold steps to domestically produce its improved varieties under the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) project. This domestic production is hoped to boost maize production to match the nation’s rising demands. Timely and crucial, these improved varieties will help feed Angola, a southern-African country that faces frequent droughts.  Dibanzilwa Nginamau, a maize breeder with the Angolan Institute for Agronomic Investigation (IIA), has led the collaborative testing and official registration of ZM523, an open-pollinated, drought tolerant maize variety produced in Angola. Through a partnership among IIA, the Angolan Seed Authority (SENSE), the Angolan Extension Department (IDA), CIMMYT, and the Zimbabwean seed company AgriSeeds, large scale commercial seed production of ZM 523 will begin in 2011 with 14 metric tons of basic seed imported from Zimbabwe.  Nginamau has been evaluating CIMMYT hybrid varieties at the IIA research station in Huambo for the past four years. One of these varieties, CZH03030, shows promise. Currently, local seed business owner and farming entrepreneur Antonio Faceira, has devoted one hectare on his Kambondo farm to this hybrid, in a pilot, to gain experience in hybrid seed production and evaluate the hybrid on a wider scale. So far, the crop has performed well with harvest expected in April.  If it proves suitable for the area, then seed production will likely expand in the 2011/2012 season, with CIMMYT- Zimbabwe providing the basic seed.

 

Source:CIMMYT Informa No. 1739:

 

Contributed by Margaret Smith

Dept of Plant Breeding and Genetics, Cornell University

Mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.08  Ethiopia excites over quality protein maize release

 

After an arduous seven-year process of research and development by a joint team of breeders from the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) and CIMMYT, a new quality protein maize (QPM) variety was released under the name AMH760Q. The new variety is a three-way cross hybrid adapted to the mid-altitude to highland agro- ecologies of Ethiopia. It is a nutritionally enhanced version of Ethiopia’s most popular maize hybrid, BH660, which was developed at the EIAR station in Bako, western Ethiopia, and released in 1994.  Prasanna Bodupalli, Global Maize Program (GMP) Director, celebrated this achievement as an excellent partnership that will lead to further achievement and technology development. Credit goes to EIAR scientists Kassa Yihun and Mosisa Worku, who successfully defended the release proposal at the Ethiopian National Variety Release Committee. This marks an important milestone in the EIAR-CIMMYT partnership as well as on the impact of maize technologies in Ethiopia.  The news of the variety release was highly anticipated by seed enterprises that have been waiting for the approval of the improved BH660. It is considered important for food security in Ethiopia as it will address the needs of a large population within a short time period. Oromia Seed Enterprise, an Ethiopian seed producer, is among those planning to produce AMH760Q and market it within the region.  The Ethiopian Seed Enterprise (ESE) is also interested in promoting the variety, according to Yonas Sahlu, Director of Seed Production, Processing & Distribution at ESE, “We are ready to aggressively popularize and produce the hybrid this year.”

 

Source: CIMMYT Informa No. 1741:

 

Contributed by Margaret Smith

Dept of Plant Breeding and Genetics, Cornell University

Mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.09  Philippines Department of Agriculture to promote white corn to ease demand for rice

 

By Kristine L. Alave

May 22 2011

MANILA, Philippines—For those in urban areas and in many parts of the Philippines, corn may not compare to rice as the food of choice. But the Department of Agriculture (DA) said urbanites should not turn up their noses on the grain because of its health benefits and its potential to help the country attain food security.

 

The DA said on Sunday it has stepped up the production of low-glycemic white corn seedlings to encourage more Filipinos to include it in their diet to ease the demand on rice, the country’s main staple.

 

According to the DA, it will provide P7 million yearly in the next five years to the Institute of Plant Breeding-University of the Philippines in Los BaĖos (IPB-UPLB) to produce white corn seedlings.

 

The IPB, which has received a total of P40 million from the DA in the past, has been propagating the high-yielding corn variety called IPB Var 6.

 

IPB Var 6 gives a yield that is nearly comparable to commercial white corn hybrid. Based on the national corn testing, the yield of IPB Var 6 in Luzon was at an average of 5.84 metric tons (MT) per hectare; 5.45 MT per hectare in the Visayas; and 4.47 MT per hectare in Mindanao.

 

The DA has been promoting white corn as an alternative or extender to rice. According to the DA, Filipinos’ rice consumption has been increasing significantly over the years. Data from the agency said Filipinos have each been consuming about 120 kilos of rice annually.

 

Since the country cannot produce rice enough for national consumption, the government has been importing rice from abroad to fill in buffer stocks and keep prices stable.

 

This year, the country imported about 860,000 metric tons of rice to ensure food security. Some 200,000 metric tons of it was imported by the National Food Authority from Vietnam at about P4 billion. The rest was brought in by the private sector.

 

According to DA, only about 20 percent of Filipinos in the Visayas and Mindanao eat white corn as main staple. Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, who has called on Filipinos to mix corn and rice, and other agriculture officials said this number should rise as white corn would be more beneficial than rice.

 

“Ultimately, this will lessen demand for rice. Just by increasing demand for corn, and we can definitely grow it productively and cheaply, we would no longer have to import rice. This is actually a part of the DA plan,” said Dr. Artemio M. Salazar, UPLB-IPB deputy director and National Corn RDE (Research, Development, and Extension) Network head.

 

Salazar said those in urban areas should think about including white corn in their diet.

 

Unlike rice, white corn has low glycemic index (GI). Low GI makes white corn slower to digest thereby releasing glucose gradually into the blood stream, thus lessening the risk of diabetes.

 

“Later on we’ll turn this over to the private sector because there is a big demand for it since many Filipinos are now diabetics. And this is the perfect food for diabetics,” said Salazar. Diabetes is now a top degenerative disease and a major cause of death in the Philippines.

 

Aside from giving consumers the health benefits, white corn will impact significantly in reducing hunger and malnutrition in the uplands. Corn, unlike rice, is also easier to grow and less capital-intensive.

 

“You don’t need capital-intensive irrigation facilities because corn grows whereever there is rain. The only other thing we have to provide them is the corn mill,” he added.

 

Salazar said the UPLB has developed a mini-corn mill that is cheaper than the high-capacity machines available in the market.

 

The mill would be perfect for barrios, he said, as it could process 100 kilos of corn grains per hour. At such capacity, a continuous eight-hour milling produces enough food for more than 1,000 people, assuming 300 grams of consumption per day, Salazar said.

 

http://www.gmanews.tv/story/221303/business/phl-breeds-corn-variety-to-fight-diabetes-hunger

 

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/8121/da-to-promote-white-corn-to-ease-demand-for-rice

 

Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer

 

Contributed by Art Salazar

Art.salazar@gmail.com

 

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1.10 New cassava varieties developed by the Great Lakes Initiative, East Africa

 

By Henry Nsubuga

16 May  2011

FARMERS countrywide have cause to smile following the development of eight varities of cassava that give high yields and are tolerant to the deadly Cassava Brown Streak disease.

 

The Cassava Brown Streak attacks cassava tubers and makes them to rot.

 

Great Lakes Cassava Initiative in conjunction with National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) have come up with the new cassava varieties.

 

Tom Omara, a senior research technician with NARO says following research that lasted nine years, they have come up with eight varieties.

 

“We have sampled in several districts and have come up with eight the varieties which are tolerant to cassava brown streak disease,” he says.

 

The varieties include 4271, 72-TME14, 52-TME-14, and 109TME-14. The sampling was done in Mukono and Kayunga.

 

He adds that the new varieties are sweet and will save farmers from hunger because are give high yielding.

 

http://www.newvision.co.ug/D/9/37/754946

 

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1.11  European Union contributes to new international network on tropical root crops

 

The European Union (EU) has contributed Ř3 million over five years to the newly formed International Network for Edible Aroids (INEA). INEA is a consortium of scientists and growers from all over the world.

 

The aim of the Network is to implement a project entitled: Adapting Clonally Propagated Crops to Climatic and Commercial Change. Clonally propagated crops are important to the world’s poor, but because they rarely flower or set seed they are slow to respond to changing environments. Edible aroids - taro, tannia, swamp taro, giant taro, elephant foot yam, and more – are the focus of the project.

 

The inaugural meeting of INEA was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on 13 and 14 April 2011. The meeting heard from participants on their achievements to date in the area of edible aroids and their expectations of INEA.

 

“We are very pleased for participating countries that INEA has come to fruition”, said Dr Vincent Lebot, technical coordinator of the project from CIRAD, Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement. “We can now develop a global network of scientists and farmers, freely exchanging plants and seeds, information and technologies to improve these crops everywhere they are grown”, he added.

 

Dr Lebot was speaking at the opening of INEA’s inaugural meeting. SPC Fiji, together with CIRAD France and Vanuatu, are implementing agencies of the project, in charge of financial and scientific matters, respectively.

 

The participating countries in INEA are: Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Cuba, Germany, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Madagascar, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Samoa, Slovenia, South Africa, and Vanuatu. There are two regional organisations: SPC and CARDI, the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute, Trinidad; and two international agricultural research organisations: CIRAD and Bioversity International, Italy.

 

Further information on INEA and details of the inaugural meeting are available on the INEA website (www.EdibleAroids.org).

 

Contributed by Vincent Lebot

Technical Coordinator

lebot@vanuatu.com.vu

 

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1.12  Fight against wheat rust needs sustained investment

 

May 5 2011

 

Mahmoud Solh, Shivaji Pandey, Thomas Lumpkin, Ronnie Coffman

 

Developing countries need help with crop surveillance and the development of strains resistant to wheat rust, say agricultural research leaders.

 

Today's food security situation is being worsened by strains of wheat rust disease that are emerging more frequently and spreading much faster and to new areas — changes fuelled by climate change and conducive environments in increasingly fragile ecosystems.

 

Perhaps the most problematic wheat diseases are the two kinds of wheat rust: stripe rust (also called yellow rust) and stem rust (black rust).

 

To protect their crops from the fungus that causes wheat rust, countries need to take pre-emptive action with sustained investment in research, surveillance, a strategy to boost crop diversity, and policies to encourage farmers to adopt disease-resistant crop varieties.

 

Rust epidemics

A new form of stem rust known as Ug99 took several growing seasons to spread from the highlands of Uganda and Kenya in 1999, via Ethiopia and Yemen, to reach Iran by 2007. The disease could spread even farther — from Iran to the vast wheat fields in Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, which are largely sown with varieties not resistant to Ug99.

 

Stripe rust is also prevalent in most of the world's major wheat-growing areas. In the past 30 years, it has caused severe economic losses to crops in North America, Europe, Australia, Central Asia, West Asia, South Asia and North Africa. The losses ranged from 30 to 50 per cent of the expected grain yield of a country's wheat production. And last season, an epidemic of a virulent new kind of stripe rust caused wheat losses of up to 40% in Western Asia.

 

Epidemics of stripe rust in the 1980s — caused by a strain that overcomes resistance in many wheat varieties — spread from East Africa to the Middle East, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. They affected major wheat-growing regions and hit the livelihoods of millions of farmers.

 

In the following years, researchers released varieties of wheat that were resistant to this strain in most of these areas. But many of these varieties are susceptible to the new strain of stripe rust that began to spread last season and continues to spread rapidly. This aggressive new strain, called YR27, is tolerant of higher temperatures and adapts rapidly to new environmental conditions.

 

Growing threat

The threat of a repeat of the 1980s epidemic is growing, and scientists who track wheat rust pathogens are warning countries to be prepared.

 

An epidemic in these wheat-dependent countries could cost billions of dollars, creating a further spike in food prices, reducing food security and causing political tensions. Developing countries are stepping up their efforts in surveillance and research on breeding wheat for rust resistance.

 

For example, networks of scientists and agriculture specialists are exchanging information for an early warning of rust incidence in their area; scientists are using 'slow-rusting' genes to extend the time that varieties can resist the disease in a bid to slow down the progression of epidemics; and farmers are avoiding covering large areas with wheat varieties with similar genetic backgrounds and degrees of resistance.

 

Although researchers can build disease resistance into wheat, this typically involves a ten-year cycle from development to the release of new varieties.

 

And while breeding programmes continuously develop resistant varieties, fungicides can be used to control wheat rust in cases of emergency. But this option is not generally affordable for resource-poor farmers, and fungicides are not environmentally friendly.

 

Sustained investment

Can wheat rust be eradicated? Norman Borlaug, the father of wheat improvement in the 1960s, noted that "rust never sleeps". Rust strains will continue to mutate and overcome crop resistance.

 

Rather than reacting to food crises, sustained investment is needed to support agricultural research and preparedness to help countries better manage rust problems in the long term.

 

Donor governments, development agencies and the international research community must increase their attention and support to low-income countries striving to develop strategies to prevent wheat rust. And those countries need robust food-security strategies that include sharing information on crop breeding across regions.

 

Increased surveillance — both national and regional — involves testing and tracking rust types using geospatial tools, monitoring the wheat varieties they attack and determining which are resistant. Susceptible varieties can then be replaced by resistant ones.

 

In Iran, for example, a monitoring network of agricultural extension specialists and researchers gathered reports of new strains that prompted the country's plant protection authorities to stock up on fungicide, and establish a nursery testing rust samples sent in by wheat breeders. This helped scientists identify 10 varieties resistant to a strain of stripe rust over the past three years, which were then prepared and distributed to farmers.

 

Wheat-producing countries must also be encouraged to design agricultural systems that enable new seed varieties to be released and multiplied faster. In Egypt, for example, such a system has led to the production of new resistant varieties that can cover 30% of the country's wheat-growing area in just three years. These varieties often offer better quality and higher yields — a powerful incentive for farmers to adopt them.

 

Faced with the threat of wheat rust epidemics, the solution for low-income countries and the development partners that support them is to adopt a combined strategy of continued disease surveillance, development and dissemination of new resistant varieties, strengthening research capacity, and ensuring that farmers adopt and multiply new seeds.

Mahmoud Solh is director general of the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA). Shivaji Pandey is director of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Thomas Lumpkin is director general of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). Ronnie Coffman is vice-chair of the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI).

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=17095&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SciDevNet via SeedQuest.com

 

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1.13  'Sweet wheat' for tastier and more healthful baking

 

USA

May 25, 2011

"Sweet wheat" has the potential for joining that summertime delight among vegetables — sweet corn — as a tasty and healthful part of the diet, the scientific team that developed this mutant form of wheat concludes in a new study. The report appears in the ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

 

Just as sweet corn arose as a mutation in field corn — being discovered and grown by Native American tribes with the Iroquois introducing European settlers to it in 1779 — sweet wheat (SW) originated from mutations in field wheat. Toshiki Nakamura, Tomoya Shimbata and colleagues developed SW from two mutant types of wheat that each lack a different enzyme needed to make starch. Because the new wheat has much more sugar than regular wheat, they called it "sweet wheat." To see whether the flour from this new wheat could be used as an ingredient in foods, such as breads and cakes, the researchers analyzed its components.

 

They found that SW flour tasted sweeter, and SW seeds and flour contained higher levels of sugars, lipids and dietary fiber than seeds and flours of other wheat varieties. "The specific compositional changes that occurred in SW seed suggest that SW flour may provide health benefits when used as a food ingredient," say the researchers, noting its high levels of healthful carbohydrates termed fructans.

 

The authors acknowledge funding from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan.

 

High Levels of Sugars and Fructan in Mature Seed of Sweet Wheat Lacking GBSSI and SSIIa Enzymes

Tomoya Shimbata, Takayuki Inokuma, Ai Sunohara, Patricia Vrinten, Mika Saito, Toshiyuki Takiya, and Toshiki Nakamura

J. Agric. Food Chem., 2011, 59 (9), pp 4794–4800

Publication Date (Web): April 3, 2011 (Article)

DOI: 10.1021/jf200468c

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=17777&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.14  Breeder’s tool kit to boost sustainable wheat farming

 

24th May 2011

A new project being led by the John Innes Centre is to develop a ‘breeder’s tool kit’ that will help breed wheat varieties that produce higher quality flour and reduce wastage, boosting the economic and environmental sustainability of wheat farming in the UK. Working with four breeding companies (RAGT, Limagrain, KWS and Lantmännen SW Seed) and the HGCA will ensure that this toolkit will be exactly what is needed to drive discoveries from fundamental research into improved varieties.

 

A harvested wheat crop is normally assessed for several quality attributes that influence the ability of its flour to make bread and also affect the money paid to farmers by millers. One such parameter is called Hagberg Falling Number (HFN), which is an indirect measure of the properties that a loaf of bread will have. For example, wheat with low HFN will produce poor quality bread that is very difficult to slice because of sticky crumb.

 

Millers and other end-users avoid buying wheat grain that has a HFN value below a fixed number.   In the last decade, an average of 28% of UK wheat grown for bread has failed to make the grade, and instead was sold for animal feed, which attracts a significantly lower price.

 

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and HGCA, the cereals and oilseeds division of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) are funding a LINK project that will apply the latest scientific knowledge to developing varieties with consistently high HFN.

 

What determines the HFN of wheat isn’t fully understood, but it is heavily influenced by environmental conditions.  Cold wet periods in the summer are thought to promote pre-harvest sprouting and reduce HFN, and the unpredictability of the UK climate makes predicting or controlling HFN very difficult.  Wheat found to have too low an HFN for bread-making reduces efficient use of resources and contributes to waste in the food chain.  Farming practices and management aren’t able to reduce the effect of the climate, so there has been much interest in selecting varieties through plant breeding, but this has been hampered by a lack of knowledge about genetic factors that influence HFN.

 

Previous work involving Rothamsted Research, the JIC , University of Nottingham, Harper Adams University College and a large industrial consortium, which was also funded by Defra–BBSRC-HGCA LINK, took the first steps in discovering regions of the wheat genome that affect HFN.  The new project will take this and use it to develop a ‘breeder’s tool kit’ that will allow the four breeding partners to exploit this new knowledge of the genome to produce varieties with consistently higher HFN.  This will involve using latest technologies to hone in on the regions, to provide genetic maps that breeders can use to navigate the wheat genome and focus breeding efforts on identifying the genes affecting HFN.  The researchers will investigate how these genetic regions affect other important traits, such as yield, and how best the different regions can be combined to work together to produce high HFN values which would be independent of weather conditions.

 

The £1.34 million pound 4 year project started in November 2010 and is funded by Defra, the BBSRC and HGCA.  Project partners include RAGT, Limagrain, KWS and Lantmännen SW Seed.

 

http://www.jic.ac.uk/corporate/media-and-public/current-releases/110524breederstoolkit.html

 

Contacts

JIC Press Office

Andrew Chapple, Tel: 01603 251490, email: andrew.chapple@bbsrc.ac.uk

Zoe Dunford, Tel: 01603 255111, email: zoe.dunford@bbsrc.ac.uk

 

Contributed by Andrew Chapple

Assistant Press Officer

Norwich BioScience Institutes

E andrew.chapple@bbsrc.ac.uk

 

The Institutes are members of the Norwich Research Park www.nrp.org.uk

 

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1.15  £7M for public wheat pre-breeding programme announced

 

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council has announced a £7 million grant to a consortium of researchers, headed by the John Innes Centre's Prof. Graham Moore, to increase the diversity of traits available in wheat via a comprehensive pre-breeding programme. This project will be important to ensure the sustainability of wheat production in the UK and beyond at a time when we are facing a growing global population and changing environment.

 

See more here.

 

Source: News from JIC - Advances 16; Spring 2011

 

Contributed by Andrew Chapple

Assistant Press Officer

Norwich BioScience Institutes

E andrew.chapple@bbsrc.ac.uk

 

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1.16  Brazil's search for transgenic drought-resistant soy, bean, cotton, sugarcane and corn

 

by Isaura Daniel   

26 May 2011

 

You know that crop landscape where corn stems grow pretty and green, ears of corn packed with grains, growing ripe at the right time? In Brazilian agriculture, especially among scholars, it is believed that in the future, this type of scenario will no longer be exclusive to regions such as Rio Grande do Sul, Paraná, Mato Grosso or other Brazilian states with regular rains.

 

Worldwide, the list of lands known as good for growing food and agricultural products such as cotton should become broader, and may come to include the dry, sandy grounds of Africa.

 

What is going to happen? The phenomenon that holds the promise of changing the geography of agricultural production worldwide should hit the market soon: genetically modified, drought-adapted seeds.

 

There already are specific seeds for dry regions being used around the world. They are made through conventional genetic improvement, which is the crossing of plants. However, the market is waiting for transgenic seeds, created using a technology through which one plant receives genetic material from another one. These should boost productivity in water stress regions.

 

The shortest deadline is that of United States-based multinational corporation Monsanto, which is now developing two strains of corn seeds using biotechnology and transgenics. One of the products is at a pre-commercial launch stage, which includes sales plans, seed production and augmented testing.

 

According to the scientific relations manager at Monsanto Brazil, Eugźnio Ulian, the first generation of seeds is expected to be approved by the regulatory agencies of the United States in 2012.

 

Ulian explains that these seeds will be produced targeting specific regions. The first batch is turned to the western portion of the Great Plains of the United States. Another batch is at an early stage of development and has no set date for launch.

 

It will target the remaining corn-producing areas of the United States where irrigation is used. They will, however, require lower amounts of water.

 

How about Brazil? Will it take long for Monsanto's transgenic, water stress-resistant seeds to arrive? Ulian has no answer, but believes that the products destined for the United States could be tested in the country.

 

"Unlike other herbicide-resistant products, which are effective 24/7, the effectiveness of drought-resistant products will depend on the region where you grow them, and on the water stress that the seeds are faced with," explains Ulian.

 

The first batch of Monsanto's corn seeds will target an increase of 8% to 10% in productivity compared with the hybrid, non-drought resistant variety of corn.

 

The latter is meant for crops with good growing conditions and regular rains, but these may become scarce, harming the productivity. "The adapted corn seeds will lose less productivity than conventional ones," says Ulian.

 

The manager avoids speculating on the limits of the biotechnologically developed, water scarcity-adapted seeds. He claims, however, that Monsanto is part of a project named Water Efficient corn for Africa (Wema), which seeks solutions for growing corn in the drought-stricken region.

 

In the Brazilian Northeast, the specialist states that the areas where corn could be grown are already taken by other cultures. He asserts, however, that the research in drought-tolerant strains should come to include other products as well.

 

On the Brazilian market, some believe in the seeds, while others are skeptical regarding the extent to which they may expand the country's agricultural boundaries.

 

"The water stress-resistant strains will open up a vast new frontier in regions that receive little rain, such as Africa and South America, in particular the Brazilian Northeast," says the professor of economics at the Federal University of the State of Paraná and technician at the National Supply Company (Conab, in the Portuguese acronym), Eugźnio Stefanelo. According to him, the technology should help solve water scarcity issues.

 

Within the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), which, like Monsanto, is engaged in the quest for farming technology in areas where rains are scarce, there is also a belief in the results of the news seeds.

 

"There are areas where you cannot grow certain plants today, but that will change in the future, the risk (of losses) is going to decrease," says the head of the genetic engineering laboratory of the Embrapa's National Center of Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (Cenargen), Francisco Aragčo. "The agricultural-climatic charting is going to change." This charting is what determines the risk of growing different cultures in different places.

 

According to Aragčo, some new cultures can be grown, for instance, in the Sertčo region (backlands) of the Northeast. "In Africa, there should be a big change, the distribution of rains there is not good, there are long droughts," says the researcher, who is also a doctor in Molecular Biology. Farming in regions such as Iraq, Iran or Israel, which are located in the Middle East, should benefit as well, he believes.

 

The results, however, should not come overnight. Embrapa is currently working to devise drought-resistant seeds, using genetic engineering and transgenics, for soy, bean, cotton, sugarcane and corn.

 

According to Aragčo, the seeds should not be on the market in less than ten years, though. Biosafety testing alone, he explains, which involves making sure that the product is safe for the environment, animals and humans alike, should take approximately five years.

 

Embrapa announced that it succeeded in breeding the first transgenic, drought-resistant sugarcane plants. It should take a few years, however, before they are commercially produced and launched on the market.

 

According to the institute, in the next few months the plants should be bred in vitro and by May 2012 they should be evaluated regarding their resistance to drought. After that, they will undergo practical testing. The aim is to increase the locations in which cane may be grown, and which are now limited to the Center-South and Northeast of Brazil.

 

"[Conventional] improvement also works, but genetic engineering aims for an impacting change, something that can be seen on only in large scale, but also from one plant to the other," says Aragčo.

 

Aside from taking production to places originally not suited for it, the technology aims to provide seeds that are better adapted to the post-global warming world. Monsanto, for instance, has made a public commitment of doubling the productivity of soy, corn and cotton by 2030 and offer seeds that will reduce the amount of water and inputs used by one third.

 

The agronomist at the Brazilian Seeds and Seedlings Association (Abrasem), Plínio Itamar de Souza, who specializes in soy, believes that the technology will be important, for instance, to regions where soy is grown with insecurity, as it should provide more stable crops in drought seasons.

 

In regions where dry spells are too long, however, he believes that the crops will not be viable. According to Souza, there is much skepticism regarding the benefits of these seeds on the market.

 

http://www.brazzil.com/component/content/article/232-may-2011/10484-brazils-search-for-transgenic-drought-resistant-soy-bean-cotton-sugarcane-and-corn.html

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.17 Una empresa almeriense crea un sistema para mejorar la selección genética vegetal

 

La empresa almeriense de base tecnológica (EBT) Soluciones de Biología Computacional SL, Biobayex, está diseĖando un sistema experto o inteligente basado en la aplicación de redes bayesianas con el objetivo de ayudar a los genetistas en sus elecciones de mejora genética vegetal, proporcionándoles mayor información que facilite la obtención de nuevos híbridos.

 

   En una nota, Andalucía Innova seĖala que el objetivo de la mejora genética vegetal es obtener variedades que se adapten lo mejor posible a las condiciones de cultivo y que cuenten con los parámetros de calidad exigidos por consumidores y productores. Para ello, los genetistas deben estudiar la influencia de cientos de variables cuantitativas y cualitativas presentes en las distintas variedades de semillas.

 

   Así, el investigador de la empresa, Carlos Martín Dancausa, explica que este proyecto de I+D+I está basado en un modelo gráfico probabilístico, en concreto una red bayesiana, en el que se relacionan variables correspondientes a la caracterización de la semilla (color, altura, etc.) junto a otras de tipo fenológico. El objetivo de este modelo es determinar la influencia de estos parámetros en los del híbrido, tanto cualitativa como cuantitativamente. "Estas variables pueden ser indicadas por el mismo genetista o aprendidas por el sistema utilizando la información obtenida de experiencias anteriores realizadas por el usuario", aĖade.

 

   La inclusión de variables continuas (infinitas) en el sistema experto para que puedan ser manejadas simultáneamente a las discretas (finitas) ha sido posible gracias al modelo Mixtura de Exponenciales Truncadas (MTE) diseĖado por miembros del Departamento de Estadística y Matemática Aplicada de la Universidad de Almería, dirigidos por el catedrático Antonio Salmerón.

 

   "Se trata de un modelo que, aunque ya esté siendo utilizado por otras universidades espaĖolas como Granada, Albacete y País Vasco en diferentes ámbitos como el campo de la Medicina y la política, su aplicación al sector hortofrutícola supone una innovación", matiza el investigador.

 

   Como resultado, el genetista obtendrá un listado de cruces ordenados de mayor a menor probabilidad de manera que pueda elegir entre los mejores para realizar los experimentos de campo o, por el contrario, descartar directamente aquellas opciones menos probables antes de llevarlas a la práctica, suponiendo un ahorro de coste, tiempo y espacio.

 

   El proyecto de investigación cuenta, a su vez, con un Sistema de Gestión de Germoplasma, una base de datos abierta y adaptable a las necesidades del usuario cuya información alimenta al Sistema Experto. Una de sus principales características, indica Martín Dancausa, es que se trata de una "interfaz amigable e intuitiva en la que genetistas y agricultores podrán introducir, modificar y gestionar los campos de información con los que desean trabajar, en función de sus demandas. Además, esta base de datos estará disponible en el servidor de la empresa o en la de los clientes, dependiendo de sus intereses y posibilidades".

 

   La 'spin off' proyecta sacar una "demo" del programa y del Sistema de Gestión de Germoplasma en el mes de junio para ofrecérsela a sus clientes y validar los primeros resultados. La aplicación, que se desarrollará en inglés, se comercializará bajo el nombre de Seedorg (organización de semillas) y estará terminada a finales de 2011. La empresa proyecta venderla en el mercado internacional, en países de tradición agrícola como Israel, Holanda, Libia o Marruecos.

 

http://www.europapress.es/andalucia/almeria-00350/noticia-empresa-almeriense-crea-sistema-mejorar-seleccion-genetica-vegetal-20110527122611.html

 

Source: ALMERÍA, 27 May. (EUROPA PRESS) via SeedQuest.com

 

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1.18  Embrapa desenvolve cana-de-aćúcar tolerante ą seca

 

Brazil

May 26, 2011

As primeiras plantas transgźnicas resistentes podem ser uma alternativa para o setor sucroalcooleiro, já que as perdas nos canaviais em decorrźncia da seca variam entre 10% a 50%

A Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária (Embrapa) desenvolveu as primeiras plantas transgźnicas de cana-de-aćúcar tolerantes ą seca. A descoberta é importante para o setor, já que as perdas nos canaviais podem variar entre 10% e 50% em decorrźncia da seca, dependendo da regičo e da época de plantio.

 

Atualmente, ainda nčo existe variedade de cana-de-aćúcar transgźnica comercial. A planta desenvolvida pela Embrapa tem grande potencial para aumentar produćčo física de cana e de seus derivados, como o etanol.

 

As plantas foram selecionadas em laboratório e nos próximos trźs meses estarčo em estágio de multiplicaćčo in vitro para serem avaliadas em casa de vegetaćčo (estufas usadas na produćčo de plantas para fins comerciais ou de pesquisa). Até maio de 2012, serčo avaliadas quanto ąs características de tolerČncia ą seca. Após estes processos, as plantas que apresentarem melhor desempenho terčo potencial de avaliaćčo a campo, mediante aprovaćčo junto ao Comitź Técnico Nacional de Biosseguranća (CTNBio).

 

As pesquisas com transgenia em cana-de-aćúcar vźm sendo desenvolvidas, desde 2008, sob a coordenaćčo do pesquisador Hugo Bruno Correa Molinari, da Embrapa Agroenergia (Brasília/DF). O trabalho conta com o apoio de laboratórios da Embrapa Recursos Genéticos e Biotecnologia (Brasília/DF), que possuem características exigidas pelas normas da CTNBio para estudos com organismos geneticamente modificados. A pesquisa também tem o apoio da Japan Internacional Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (Jircas), empresa de pesquisa vinculada ao governo japonźs.

 

O objetivo é desenvolver cultivares comerciais com maior tolerČncia ą seca, o que poderá potencializar o setor sucroalcooleiro nas áreas tradicionais e de expansčo da cultura. De forma geral, as áreas de expansčo tźm como características solos com baixa fertilidade, altas temperaturas e baixa precipitaćčo pluviométrica.

 

Da Redaćčo, com informaćões de Daniela Colares, da Embrapa Agroenergia

 

More news from: Embrapa (Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária)

 

Website: http://www.embrapa.br

Published:

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=17822&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.19  UK-Vietnam collaboration to improve world's most important staple food

 

The BBSRC has announced the signing of a Memorandum-of-Understanding on rice genomics research with the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) in Vietnam. This heralds the start of a major effort to improve flood, drought, salt and pest tolerance in the world's most important staple food in the face of a changing climate and growing population. The genomics platform will be developed at JIC and The Genome Analysis Centre, and used to enhance rice breeding at a number of Vietnamese institutions including the newly redeveloped Agricultural Genetics Institute.

 

See more here.

 

Source: News from JIC - Advances 16; Spring 2011

 

Contributed by Andrew Chapple

Assistant Press Officer

Norwich BioScience Institutes

E andrew.chapple@bbsrc.ac.uk

 

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1.20  Increased production of Asian rice with the genes from African rice

 

Efforts to make the high yielding Asian rice Oryza sativa more sturdy against plant pests as well as to water and salinity is being conducted at the French Institute for Research and Development (IRD). Oryza glaberrima, the rice species cultivated in Africa will be the source of the genes for these traits. However, getting viable seed from the cross between the two rice species is difficult because of reproductive barrier, considered one of the central mechanisms of evolution.

 

Studies at IRD and the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture are now focused on the sterility gene S1. It appears that the same gene is responsible for both the male and female sterility phenomenon. The research work published in PloS One compares the structure of the S1 gene in the two rice species! . Geneticists have found that genetic changes have occurred during the evolutionary process. The research team has already identified genetic markers that will allow breeding of the two species despite the presence of the reproductive barrier.

 

See the article in French at  http://www.ird.fr/la-mediatheque/fiches-d-actualite-scientifique/373-augmenter-la-production-grace-aux-genes-du-riz-africain

 

Source: Crop Biotech Update 27 May 2011

 

Contributed by Margaret Smith

Dept of Plant Breeding and Genetics, Cornell University

Mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.21 Building the CIARD Framework for Data and Information Sharing

 

27 May 2011

There is a growing movement to make data and information in the public domain more accessible and effectively used.  The CIARD movement advocates, promotes and supports making agricultural research information in the public domain not only available but more easily accessible, applicable and effectively used.  The Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) has been a leading partner of CIARD.

 

In addition to the current global challenges of eradicating extreme hunger and reducing poverty, the world faces new challenges in agriculture.  Research to solve these challenges requires sharing not only information such as documents, maps, photographs, video and audio recordings but also raw data that can be used contextually as needed by communities and countries.  CIARD, recognizing this vital issue, has initiated building a framework for data and information sharing in ARD which it hopes to present to the international community at GCARD 2012.  In April 2011, it organized an e-consultation “The CIARD Framework for Data and Information Sharing” using the e-agriculture platform.

 

The e-consultation had more than 400 contributions from participants from 162 countries and more than 9000 views. The e-consultation suggested that the framework has to consider issues including:

 

•   Enabling more open data repositories and standards;

•   Enabling national and institutional policies that contribute to more open

      availability, accessibility, applicability and effective use of data and information

      from public domain agricultural research at all levels from global to local

      communities;

•   Building new capacities to generate, manage and publish data and information

      more openly;

•   Creating “meta-data” or descriptive data using standard vocabularies and

      “amalgamators” of these meta-data, leveraging concepts such as of “Linked Data”

      through URLs, developing core data sets that may be useful in meeting the ARD

      challenges;

•   Considering institutional concerns about the use of their data especially in

      intellectual property and ownership; and

•   Considering the underlying need of collaboration and partnership in managing

      ARD data and information.

 

CIARD partners have already contributed many components suggested for the framework. CIARD has a manifesto that its partners have adopted to pursue, a “checklist” that highlights what should be done to improve actions in achieving enhanced availability and accessibility of data and information. AGROVOC and AIMS offer the vocabularies and standards for agricultural data and information. Agrotagger and similar tools offer automated tagging, indexing and classification of information. The CIARD Fair demonstrates and enables access to individual tools and applications that contribute to the CIARD objectives. The CIARD.RING is now an established “amalgamator” and search engine of agriculture related information in the public domain.    

 

The e-consultation is now being followed up with an International Experts Consultation in Beijing from 20-23 June 2011. The International Experts Consultation is being hosted by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, GFAR and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and is being organized by CIARD partners. The issues raised during the e-consultation and other new issues related to making agricultural research information in the public domain not only available but more easily accessible, applicable and effectively used are further expected to be considered in depth by invited experts which will then lead to the development of a draft framework for data and information sharing to be considered for adoption by the global ARD community. 

 

Ajit Maru with Johannes Keizer, Stephen Rudgard and Valeria Pesce

 

An interesting set of presentations, including that of Dr. Tim Berners-Lee, on topic can be seen at: http://linkedinfo.ikmemergent.net/

 

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1.22  Amarilis - Late blight resistant potato improves Andean smallholders production.

 

A new report released by the International Potato Center (CIP) has shown that disease resistant potato cultivars bred by the Center have made an important impact in the Peruvian Andes, with an estimated net benefit accruing to farmers through the adoption of one particular variety, Amarilis, amounting to almost US $ 9 million.

 

Read more at http://www.cipotato.org/press-room/press-releases/lsquo-amarilis-rsquo-late-blight-resistant-potato-improves-andean-smallholders-rsquo-production

 

Source: CIP

 

Contributed by Margaret Smith

Dept of Plant Breeding and Genetics, Cornell University

Mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.23 Four chickpea varieties released in Tanzania

 

In a landmark release, the National Variety Release and Seed certification Committee and Tanzania Official Seed Certification Institute (TOSCI) in a meeting on 31 January and 1 February in Arusha, released two desi varieties of chickpea (ICCV 00108 and ICCV 97105) and two kabuli varieties (ICCV 00305 and ICCV 92318) for cultivation in the Lake and Northern Zones. This is the first set of officially released chickpea varieties in Tanzania.

 

The high-yielding, Fusarium wilt-resistant ICCV 00108 is being released as ‘Mwanza 1’ (good desi for Mwanga region). Derived from a cross between IG 9216 and ICCV 10, it matures in about 90-100 days.  The high-yielding, Fusarium wilt-resistant ICCV 97105 being released as ‘Ukiriguru 1’ (first chickpea variety at Ukiriguru), is a distinct stable and uniform variety derived from a cross between ICCV 10 and GL 769. It matures in about 110-120 days and is preferred by farmers and traders.  ICCV 00305 being released as ‘Mwanza 2’ (good kabuli for Mwanza region), is a distinct stable and uniform variety derived from a cross between ICCV 5 and ICCL 83007. It matures in about 95-110 days. It is preferred by farmers and traders both for green and dry grains.  The high-yielding, Fusarium wilt-resistant ICCV 92318 being released as ‘Mwangaza’ (something that gives light), is a distinct stable and uniform variety and derived from a cross between (ICCV 2 x Surutato-77) and ICC 7344 and matures in about 75-90 days.

 

Read more at http://www.icrisat.org/newsroom/latest-news/happenings/happenings1454.htm

 

Source: ICRISAT:

 

Contributed by Margaret Smith

Dept of Plant Breeding and Genetics, Cornell University

Mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.24  Malawi releases medium duration pigeonpea variety

 

The Government of Malawi, through its Agricultural Technology Clearing Committee (ATCC), officially released medium duration pigeonpea variety ICEAP 01514/15 for use on 18 January. The variety, the result of long, patient and diligent team work between researchers at ICRISAT-Nairobi, ICRISAT-Malawi and the Chitedze Research Station at Lilongwe, Malawi, will be used for cultivation in intercropping systems of maize, groundnut and soybean in Central and Northern regions of Malawi.

 

A true product of international cooperation, ICEAP 01514/15 comes from diverse parents – ICPL 87091(of Asian origin, short duration variety with consumer preferred cooking traits) and ICEAP 00068 (a medium duration variety released in Tanzania). It matures in about 151-190 days. Each pod contains 6-7 large white/cream seeds, and the shellability of green pods is excellent, making it highly preferred by farmers. It is also a high yielding variety, with a yield of 7-10 t ha-1 for immature grain and 2.0-3.5 t ha-1 for dry grain.

 

ICEAP 01514/15 is relatively less susceptible to insects and is tolerant to most common leaf diseases. However, it is less tolerant to Fusarium wilt, and is therefore recommended for less disease prone areas like the Central and Northern regions of Malawi.

 

Read more at http://www.icrisat.org/newsroom/latest-news/happenings/happenings1450.htm

 

Source: ICRISAT:

 

Contributed by Margaret Smith

Dept of Plant Breeding and Genetics, Cornell University

Mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.25  New tool for weighing pros and cons of bioenergy

 

FAO-developed methodology offers policymakers a way to evaluate potential benefits of growing energy crops, avoid pitfalls

 

Rome, Italy

17 May 2011

As interest in bioenergy production continues to grow, FAO is promoting the use of a new methodology designed to help policymakers weigh the pros and cons of investing in the sector.

 

FAO's "Bioenergy and Food Security (BEFS) Analytical Framework" was created to help governments evaluate the potential of bioenergy as well as assess its possible food security impacts.

 

The framework was recently finalized following a three year development and field test phase in which it was applied in Peru, Tanzania and Thailand.

 

It consists of a series of step-by-step evaluations that seek to answer critical questions regarding the feasibility of bioenergy development and the impacts on food availability and household food security. Social and environmental dimensions are also considered.

 

"Our goal is to help policy-makers take informed decisions regarding whether bioenergy development is a viable option and, if so, identify policies that will maximize benefits and minimize risks," explains Heiner Thofern, who heads FAO's Bioenergy and Food Security (BEFS) project.

 

Because the framework looks at multiple issues and sectors, it also serves as a platform for bringing key ministries and institutions together so they are working on the same page, he adds.

 

Promise...

Spikes in oil prices and concerns related to energy security, coupled with worries over greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, have been key drivers behind the growth of the bioenergy sector.

 

Another important potential benefit: investment in bioenergy could spark much-needed investment in agricultural and transport infrastructure in rural areas and, by creating jobs and boosting household incomes, could alleviate poverty and food security.

 

"FAO has been saying for years that under-investment in agriculture is a problem that seriously handicaps food production in the developing world, and that this, coupled with rural poverty, is a key driver of world hunger," says Thofern. "Done properly and when appropriate, bioenergy development offers a chance to drive investment and jobs into areas that are literally starving for them."

 

Brazil is an often-cited example of how a country can use bioenergy to meet energy needs.

 

The world's second biggest producer of bioethanol, Brazil runs an estimated one million vehicles on fuel made from sugar cane.

 

In the future, Europe is likely to emerge as an export market for bioenergy products. Trends like these present farmers in the developing world with new opportunities.

 

FAO studies have also shown that small-scale bioenergy projects not targeting export markets can improve food security and help boost rural economies.

 

...and peril

But as interest in bioenergy has grown, so too have concerns over its potential negative impacts.

 

Chief among these is the risk that an expansion of bioenergy crops might come at the expense of food production, leading to reduced food availability and higher food prices. Deforestation due to the conversion of new lands to bioenergy crops and impacts on indigenous peoples are also areas of concern.

 

Context is key

Potential risks and benefits need to be carefully weighed in light of country- and region-specific variables, says Thofern. Bioenergy production is not a panacea and will not always be appropriate or viable - in some cases it could even be harmful.

 

"That being said, we can't turn our back on the fact that in other cases, bioenergy production holds great potential to revitalize rural economies, reduce poverty, and improve household food security," he says.

 

Supporting the growth of a vibrant but sustainable and socially-responsible bioenergy sector in the developing world will also support research and development into new solutions such as crop residues, and farm wastes that can offer reduced risks of food-security and environmental impacts.

 

According to Thofern, ultimately whether or not bioenergy development contributes to food security, poverty alleviation and climate change mitigation will depend on how well the sector is managed.

 

"That is why FAO created this analytical framework," he says.

The UN agency is following up on the framework via its Bioenergy and Food Security Criteria and Indicators (BEFSCI) project, which aims to develop a risk prevention and management tool as well as an impact assessment and policy response tool, based on good practices.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=17331&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.26  Royalties and farm saved seed

 

Cambridge, United Kingdom

May 16, 2011

Author: Chris Green, Senova Ltd. / Breeders Intellectual Property Office

 

This is an extract that we submitted to the Community Plant Breeders Rights review, which is currently being undertaken by the CPVO (Community Plant Varieties Office)

In our mature seed market, we are increasingly challenged to secure improved value for varietal improvements. This position will remain as long as we hide the cost of royalty. We must adopt a more transparent approach and one is explained in the attached document.

 

For more details:

- Senova Ltd.

- Breeders Intellectual Property Office (BIPO Ltd)

 

Farm Saved Seed -- Is this a concern?

YES AND NO

There are two answers to this question. Dealing with the YES first; we can say that as a seeds company the legal existence of farm saving seed of protected varieties erodes the potential of selling certified seed and therefore reduces the tonnage that goes through dedicated seed processing units. The costs of producing to certified seeds standards are high and can be expected to increase dramatically as governments look to secure full cost recovery for their certification schemes. A seed processor makes no profit from fss. As a plant breeder the answer can also be a Yes due to the high and unacceptable levels of evasion, the weak management control through not having burden of proof and finally the “sensibly lower rate” of royalty on fss actually devalues the genetics by more than a half. We can see no rational argument for why royalty should be less just because it is fss. After all it is because the grower appreciates the genetic value of the variety (its performance) on the farm that they opt to grow the variety again as fss.

 

And now to the No. As a plant breeder we develop and deliver genetic value. The problem has been that the traditional method of securing returns for the investment has been through the collection of royalties on certified seed sales. Regrettably once the certified seed has been sold, capture of any further royalties, such as that used as fss becomes difficult and costly. On the basis that the genetic delivery of a variety should be the same regardless of the origin of the planted material (certified or fss) then it is the system that is the problem. As royalty is part of the cost of certified seed and is not shown as a separate item the grower has then no understanding on either the cost or value of the genetics. Faced with this industry problem and continued evasion our company developed a new approach opting for a single unified royalty rate and invoicing the grower directly. This approach has now found favour with other plant breeders and is now being operated by a dedicated collection agency BIPO Ltd. (see later). The point here is if a breeder can secure royalty from all users of the protected variety (certified and fss) then fss as such is not a problem.

 

Do you try to enforce royalty collection? If so, how? What other organisations do you work with to help with enforcement/collection? If you do not pursue enforcement, why not?

 

Yes absolutely. Plant breeding is an activity, but the actual business should be about managing Intellectual Property. The BSPB system of royalty collection has been effective both for certified and fss royalty collection. However the continued unacceptable levels of evasion (especially in our minor crops) and the weak IP management (lack of burden of proof) led to our company initiating a new approach to royalty collection based on area planted ..hence the name Royalty Area Collection.

 

Royalty Area Collection

Royalty Area Collection (RAC) is the name given to a new business model for royalty collection which has been introduced by a number of British breeding companies and is now administered by a specialist company BIPO Ltd (Breeders Intellectual Property Office) www.bipo.org.uk  

 

Royalty Transparency

Through innovation, plant breeders deliver new improved genetic varieties. The RAC approach addresses the industry need to have a greater transparency on the genetic value being delivered by improved new varieties. The certification system has proved a very convenient route for the collection of royalty and has served the industry well over many decades. This traditional system of royalty collection is largely based on royalty being included in the overall cost of certified seed. As such the actual cost, and therefore value of the genetics is lost as it is not shown as a separated costed item. It is important to appreciate the distinction between seed and genetics. PBR protected varieties have a unique genetic makeup. It is this make up that delivers the difference in performance from one variety to another. The challenge to the plant breeding industry is in some way to have the functional benefits of a variety more financially transparent. What the RAC endeavours to achieve is transparency through a genetic charge per hectare. In this way genetics can be treated as an input cost in the same way as agrochemicals or fertilizer. It must be remembered that the primary reason why a grower opts to save their own seed is that the variety performed well on that farm. If the performance was poor or did not fit that farm practice then it would not be grown. In providing a value per hectare then the grower can make a more informed financial decision on the worth of that variety.

 

Burden of Proof

In order to collect royalties on a protected variety the onus is on the breeder to have evidence on its usage. In the instance of certified seed this is relatively easy through the use of various licensing methods, but it becomes more difficult where that seed is subsequently taken as farm saved seed. A successfully bred variety will entry the market at Pre Basic or Basic stage from which point through successive seasons stocks are built up through its multiplication. This escalation increases the complexity of keeping track on usage.

 

At the onset of commercialisation a breeder will know to whom they have sold the seed. However from that point, with further multiplication and sales, the identity of the user becomes unclear. As volumes increase over time the actual management of the intellectual property becomes weaker. This is not a good position.

 

The RAC is a contract based approach with invoices going directly from the breeder to the grower. In this way a complete inventory on the users of a particular variety will be known to the breeder. This is significantly important on two counts. The first is that it provides the burden of proof of a user and hence better transparency and better management of the breeder’s IP, but importantly it can create a more dynamic relationship between the grower and the developer. For instance in the situation of a new variety with very specific quality characters the breeder can directly engage with the grower either assisting them with in season advice on such matters as disease warnings, inputs, or at harvest time, with quality analysis and post harvest exchanges regarding on the growers views and experience with that variety. It also opens up the opportunity for conducting performance or economic

 

Benchmarking. In some value chains it could also be used to harness considerable logistic benefits such as specific deliveries into the end user.

 

Equitable remuneration and fair for all

If the genetic expression of a variety remains the same regardless if it were established from certified or farm saved seed then the level of royalty should be the same. There is nothing equitable about the present system that is discriminatory in its reduction of genetic value by more than half when farm saved seed is used.

 

Breeders operating the RAC approach in Britain have adopted a single unified royalty rate with no distinction between certified and fss usage. This rate has been set at a lower value that would normally be charged on certified.

 

Value capture

Plant breeders receive their return for investment and innovation through internationally accepted Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) either via Patents, or Plant Variety Rights. IPR provides the legal basis not only to structure mechanisms to secure those returns (normally some form of royalty), but to have these rights enforced. Royalties are only paid on the success of a variety: there are no returns for failure. The rate of royalty charged should have some commercial correlation to the value, or added value being delivered from a specific variety. Unfortunately the traditional method of royalty collection on broad acre crops is through an inclusive charge on the cost of certified seed. In so doing this front end loading of the royalty charge actually increases the cost disparity between certified and farm saved seed. The continually need for breeders to secure returns on the basis of collecting royalties on certified seed exacerbates this imbalance.

 

The commercial model adopted by RAC users detaches the royalty from both certified seed and the volume of seed used and allows a level playing field for the exploitation of the genetics. Consider for one moment a new cereal variety with a yield advantage of 5%. This increased yield will be achieved without increasing the costs of agrochemicals, fertilizer or other growing costs. If the gross output (yield /per hectare X £ /tonne) of the standard cereal variety is £1,240 /ha then the variety with a 5% yield advantage delivers an additional £62 /ha. With one tonne of certified seed planting 7 hectares then the added value being delivered by each tonne of certified seed is equivalent to £434. How then should this added value be shared when the prevailing royalty rates in the UK hover in the mid £70s? Any substantial uplift in royalty (£10 -£15/ tonne) will be met with derision. Should that variety be a success on the farm and the grower opts for farm saved seed then the return to the breeder will be at best 50% of the certified rate yet the grower will still benefit from the net gain equivalent of £434 per tonne of seed planted. RAC moves the collection point and has a better commercial relationship to the value being added from improved genetics.

 

IPRs are successful in stimulating innovation as they operate in a free market and are fair to the innovator, user and society at large. In the case of seeds, especially broad acre crops, where reproduction (copying of the invention) is easy the traditional system has certain weaknesses which the RAC seeks to address through the adoption of a unified royalty rate and its transparent charges (royalty) imposed directly to the user of that IP ie the grower.

 

Legitimacy of Contract based systems

The Commission Regulation (EC)No 1768/95 implementing rules on the agricultural exemption provide for in Article 14 (3) of Council Regulation (EC) No 2100/94 on Community Plant variety rights allow under Chapter 3 for remuneration to be “the object of a contract between the holder and the farmer concerned”.

 

An important aspect of the RAC is the binding contract and conditions of sale that is offered to the grower and care must be exercise and in its communication along the supply chain.

 

The RAC is only one example of new value capture models being considered and others such as close loop contracts and end point royalties are also being developed.

 

Further information on the experiences of operating the Royalty Area Collection scheme may be had from contacting Chris Green at Senova 00 44 1223 890777

 

or e mail chris.green@senova.uk.com or from BIPO Ltd chris@bipo.org.uk 

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=17296&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.27  U.S. Federal Register - Notice of intent to reestablish the National Genetic Resources Advisory Council

 

Washington, DC, USA

May 16, 2011

 

[Notices]

[Pages 28209-28210]

From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]

[FR Doc No: 2011-11926]

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Agricultural Research Service

 

Notice of Intent To Reestablish the National Genetic Resources

Advisory Council, and Request for Nominations

AGENCY: Agricultural Research Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice of Intent and Request for Nominations.

SUMMARY: The USDA intends to reestablish the National Genetic Resources Advisory (Council). The purpose of the Council is to formulate recommendations on actions and policies for the collections, maintenance, and utilization of genetic resources; to make recommendations for coordination of genetic resources plans of several domestic and international organizations; and to advise the Secretary of Agriculture and the National Genetic Resources Program Director of new and innovative approaches to genetic resources conservation.

 

DATES: Written nominations must be received on or before June 30, 2011.

 

Full notice

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=17286&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.28  ICRISAT germplasm materials making impact on global food security

 

Hyderabad, India

May 20, 2011

A total of 735 highly-nutritious and drought-tolerant crop varieties developed using germplasm and breeding materials from the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has been released in 78 countries, significantly contributing to increased income and better nutrition of resource-poor people in the dryland tropics.

 

ICRISAT’s substantial contribution to global food security over the last three decades was evident from the recent report on varieties released by National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) worldwide.

 

Using ICRISAT germplasm and breeding materials, 735 varieties/hybrids have been released by the NARS as of December 2010: sorghum - 242; pearl millet - 163; groundnut - 145; chickpea - 120; and pigeonpea - 65. Of these, 347 are in Asia (198 in India); 319 in sub-Saharan Africa (183 in East & Southern Africa and 136 in West & Central Africa); and 69 in the rest of the world.

 

The collaborative research partnership between India and ICRISAT has been particularly productive, as illustrated in the release of 198 improved varieties of sorghum (35), pearl millet (80), chickpea (36), pigeonpea (21) and groundnut (26) by national- or state-level release committees or by private sector seed companies, raising production and incomes of millions of smallholder farmers in the country.

 

On the varietal release report, ICRISAT Director General William D Dar said, “We are pleased that our germplasm and breeding materials are contributing to global food security. We congratulate all national program partners and ICRISAT scientists for this accomplishment. Through partnership-based international agricultural research-for-development that embodies Science with a Human Face, ICRISAT will continue to work for the improvement of the well-being of millions of smallholder farmers, particularly in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.”

 

Grain legumes such as groundnut, pigeonpea and chickpea are susceptible to pests and diseases. This increases the risk for smallholder farmers and limits the adoption of improved cultivars. ICRISAT has scored important successes in this area and continues to battle these biotic constraints in an integrated way, by including breeding for resistance as well as the judicious use of biological, crop management and chemical-control methods.

 

ICRISAT and its Indian partner institutions’ creation of the world’s first hybrid pigeonpea is now making major impacts on the income and nutrition of many poor people worldwide. These hybrids increase yield by an average of 33% in on-farm trials, adding about US$ 400 to net income per hectare. This will revolutionize the production of the high-protein ‘poor people’s meat’ crop across India, Myanmar and China in the coming years.

 

Earlier-maturing, heat-tolerant high-value chickpea varieties from ICRISAT, particularly JG 11, have more than doubled yields, from 600 to 1400 kg/ha in Andhra Pradesh state, India, stimulating a four-fold increase in sown area from 160,000 to 630,000 hectares. The added value of grain is $69 million annually, reaped by 6 million people in rural farm households.

 

In Anantapur (India), where over 50% of farm income comes from groundnut, the new variety ICGV 91114 from ICRISAT increases yield by 23% and is characterized by its drought –tolerance, higher-value large seeds, more uniform harvest maturity, disease tolerance and greater palatability of haulms (straw) for livestock. An estimated additional 42,000 tons of groundnut is being produced annually, worth US$ 3.7 million to 30,000 farm households (150,000 people). Net income from this crop increases by 35%, on the average 1.5 ha groundnut field area per farmer, worth an extra US$ 110. Cows fed on these haulms produce 11% more milk. By 2020, the impact of this variety in Anantapur is projected to increase to 35% from 0.75 million hectares of groundnut.

 

ICRISAT’s vision of a prosperous, food-secure and resilient dryland tropics is shared by its NARS partners all over the world. It generates scientific and technological innovations to: reduce smallholder farmers’ vulnerability to drought and climate change while increasing crop diversity and value; harness development pathways for inclusive prosperity; raise and secure productivity for health, income and sustainability; and increase productivity to help end hunger and food insecurity.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=17471&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.29 Scientists conclude origin of rice

 

A team of researchers from different universities has finally concluded that rice originated from China after tracing back thousands of years of evolution through extensive gene re-sequencing. As published in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), New York University biologist Michael Purugganan and colleagues found that domesticated rice may have first appeared about 9,000 years ago in Yangtze Valley, China. Aside from reassessment of evolutionary history and re-sequencing of gene fragments, the researchers also used "molecular clock" of rice genes to elucidate when rice evolved. They pinpointed the origin of rice (Oryza sativa) at possibly 8,200 years ago, while japonica and indica split apart from each other about 3,900 years! ago. This is consistent with the results of previous archaeological studies.

 

"This study is a good example of the new insights that can be gained from combining genomics, informatics and modeling," says Barbara A. Schaal, Professor of Biology at Washington University in St. Louis, who is also a co-author of the study. "Rice has a complicated evolutionary history with humans and has accompanied them as they moved throughout Asia. This work begins to reveal the genetic consequences of that movement."

 

Know more at http://www.nyu.edu/about/news-publications/news/2011/05/02/rices-origins-point-to-china-genome-researchers-conclude.html

 

Source: Crop Biotech Update 06 May 2011:

 

Contributed by Margaret Smith

Dept of Plant Breeding and Genetics, Cornell University

Mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.30  Diving in the barley genepool

 

ICARDA scientists have studied barley for more than 30 years, developing varieties better adapted to diverse growing conditions and improved techniques now used worldwide. In 2009, they continued innovative work on the genetic diversity and evolution of barley, also using biotechnology.  Together with scientists from Morocco's National Agricultural Research Institute and Southern Cross University in Australia, ICARDA looked at genetic diversity and geographical differentiation in 304 accessions from 29 countries. These included wild barley as well as landraces – local or indigenous varieties grown by farmers for generations.

 

The scientists found that the barley accessions fell into three distinct germplasm pools: East Africa (Eritrea, Ethiopia) and South America (Ecuador, Peru, Chile) in one group, the Caucasus (Armenia and Georgia) in another, and the rest in a third group.

 

Read more at http://www.icarda.org/hps_11-03-27_Barley.htm

 

Source: ICARDA:

 

Contributed by Margaret Smith

Dept of Plant Breeding and Genetics, Cornell University

Mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.31  Genetic diversification increased pearl millet productivity in India

 

A significant impact on the food and nutritional security and livelihood of the rural poor is being brought about by the 47.9% improvement of pearl millet productivity in India.  From an average of 620 kg/ha in 1990-1993, pearl millet yield went up to 714 kg/ha in 1994-1997 and escalated further to 917 kg/ha in 2006-2009, for a 47.9% improved yield. This was achieved with much lesser investment in research and development (R&D) compared to other crops and given the greater environmental challenges in pearl millet production.  Genetically diverse hybrids are currently grown in over 60% of approximately 10 m ha in India. Total grain production has increased from 3.5 million tons in 1965 to 9.5 m tons in 2010, owing to the development of high-yielding single cross hybrids and their adoption by Indian farmers.

 

Read more at http://www.icrisat.org/newsroom/latest-news/happenings/happenings1468.htm

 

Source: ICRISAT:

 

Contributed by Margaret Smith

Dept of Plant Breeding and Genetics, Cornell University

Mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.32  New plant breeding techniques. State-of-the-art and prospects for commercial development

 

May 2011

JRC Scientific and Technical Report

Authors: Maria Lusser, Claudia Parisi, Damien Plan, Emilio Rodríguez-Cerezo

EUR Number: 24760 EN

Publication date: 5/2011

Abstract

Harmonised EU legislation regulating organisms produced by modern bio-techniques (GMOs) goes back to the year 1990 and the definition of GMOs was not up-dated since. During the last decade new plantbreeding techniques have been developed.

 

The Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS) of the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission in cooperation with the JRC’s Institute for Health and Consumer Protection (IHCP) has reviewed the state-of-the-art of these technologies, their level of development and their current adoption by the breeding sector and prospects for a future commercialisation of crops based on them.

 

The technologies discussed included cisgenesis, intragenesis (technologies using transformation with genetic material restricted to the species’ own gene-pool), emerging techniques to induce controlled mutagenesis or insertion (ODM, Zinc Finger Nuclease technologies 1-3) and other applications such as grafting on GM rootstocks or reverse breeding. The following methods were used in the study: literature and patent searches, search in a database of field trials, a survey directed to plant breeders and a workshop with participants from public and private sector. Additionally challenges for the detection of these techniques were evaluated. The study showed that the development of these techniques is differently advanced. Technical advantages, but also challenges for the commercialisation (technical constraints, acceptance and regulation) have been identified.

 

Full report

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=17263&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.33  Finding new ways to increase yield under mild water shortage

 

While other scientists are developing crops that can tolerate extreme droughts, Aleksandra Skirycz and colleagues at the Ghent University placed their focus on mild drought stress. They found out that plants designed to tolerate extreme stress do not grow better under mild drought conditions, which is usually the case. These plants were observed to actively choose to grow slower when water gets limiting, although enough resources are available to keep them growing.

 

They discovered further that the plant hormone ethylene plays a major role in stress response. The hormone shuts down leaf growth abruptly after the plant senses limited water availability. Thus, the researchers aim to find new techniques to develop plants that can grow mild and temporary drought spells and still use up available resources to increase productivity.

 

Read the media release at http://www.vib.be/en/news/Pages/A-new-strategy-for-drought-tolerant-crops-shutting-down-the-plant%E2%80%99s-growth-inhibition-in-case-of-mild-water-shortage-.aspx

 

Source: Crop Biotech Update 13 May 2011:

 

Contributed by Margaret Smith

Dept of Plant Breeding and Genetics, Cornell University

Mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.34  Coming to a cornfield near you: genetically induced drought-resistance

 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is preparing to approve a new strain of corn that has been engineered to thrive in drought

By David Biello  | May 13, 2011 | 11

Description: http://imagec14.247realmedia.com/RealMedia/ads/Creatives/default/empty.gif/0

Monsanto is seeking approval of the first strain of corn that tolerates drought.

 

Climate change has yet to diminish crop yields in the U.S. corn belt but scientists expect drought to become more common due to global warming in coming years. That could impact everything from the price of food to the price of fuel planet-wide. As a result, for the last several years agribusiness giants like Monsanto, Pioneer and Syngenta have been pursuing genetic modification to enable the corn plant to thrive even without enough rain. And now the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is considering approving a new corn hybrid genetically engineered to thrive on less water—the first time such a corn strain would be available.

 

"Working on something like drought is more complex than introducing a trait like insect resistance," says plant breeder Bob Reiter, vice president of biotechnology at Monsanto, the company seeking approval for the new strain. "We have screened through thousands of genes in the past several years, more than in the entire history for the herbicide-resistant or insect protection."

 

Monsanto researchers, working with German chemical giant BASF Corp., settled on a gene called "cold shock protein B" that is native to the microbe known as  Bacillus subtilis, a soil bacteria whose special skill is to shut down, for years if need be, when environmental conditions such as drought would otherwise kill it. The new gene won't confer that capability to corn but rather will help to maintain normal growth even when the crop is provided with less water than normal.

 

"What it seems to be doing, it's helping the plant basically to maintain more normal metabolic levels in the plant as opposed to trying to shut those processes down under stress," Reiter explains. "Next year, in 2012, we will be doing farm trials with farmers to evaluate the gene in different hybrids."

 

In fact, the new gene will have to work in concert with other introduced genetic packages, such as the genes that make some corn hybrids survive application of glyphosate, the Monsanto-produced herbicide more commonly known as Roundup. "There are 34,000 genes in a corn plant," Reiter says. "Having 10 or 12 or even 15 more express correctly and work in concert, I don't think it's a big challenge."

 

In field trials in drier regions of the western U.S., the drought-tolerant corn delivered seven to 10 extra bushels per acre, according to Monsanto and BASF. The USDA estimates that average annual global corn crop losses due to "moderate drought" are 15 percent per year already.

 

At the same time, human health or environmental impacts remain unknown for this new strain. The U.S. National Research Council found in 2004, however, that no adverse health effects have been found that can be attributed to genetic engineering despite American corn consumption rising from 5.85 kilograms per capita annually in 1980 to 15 kilograms annually by 2008, while the portion of the crop genetically engineered rose from zero to 80 percent over the same period. The USDA will collect public comments on the proposal to allow wider use of such corn until July 11 and then make its final decision.

 

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=corn-genetically-modified-to-tolerate-drought

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.35  Pumping up potatoes for poor communities - iron biofortification

 

Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional disorder in the world - affecting 50% of pregnant women and 40% of preschool children in developing countries, according to the World Health Organization. Since potatoes are naturally good sources of iron, the International Potato Center (known by its Spanish acronym CIP) is working to add further nutritional value through breeding, or biofortification, of potato. The bioavailability of iron in potato is also important, and can be greater than that from cereals and legumes. Potatoes have high levels of ascorbic acid, which promotes iron absorption. They also have low levels of phytic acid, which inhibits of iron absorption. CIP efforts are focused on identifying and breeding varieties that are rich in both iron concentration and bioavailability.  

 

Five years ago, with funding from the HarvestPlus program, CIP started to screen the potato germplasm in its genebank for micronutrients (iron, zinc, vitamin C, and phenolic). Initial screening of 579 native Andean potato varieties and 315 improved varieties showed a wide variation for iron and zinc concentration and a large genetic diversity that could be exploited in breeding programs.  CIP agronomist Walter Amorós explains: “We selected a group of potatoes for their high levels of iron, and we have done a whole series of crosses with them and studied the progeny,” he says. “From a baseline iron content of 19mg / k, we’ve achieved levels as high as 40mg / k after two selection cycles.”

 

Read more at http://www.cipotato.org/press-room/press-releases/pumping-up-potatoes-for-poor-communities-iron-biofortification

 

Source: CIP

 

Contributed by Margaret Smith

Dept of Plant Breeding and Genetics, Cornell University

Mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.36  Scientists study mummy berry disease of blueberry

 

Some varieties of blueberry, the second most popular berry in the U.S., is under attack by fungus Monilinia vaccinii-corymbosi causing "mummy berry" disease. Thus, USDA scientists, who have more than a century of experience in breeding the fruit, are working on the disease. The USDA team from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) working on the project is headed by geneticist Mark Ehlenfeldt and plant pathologist James Palashock.

 

They have conducted extensive research to examine the responses of today's blueberry cultivars to infection by the fungus, which attacks in the plant in two phases. They observed that the fungus initially attacks the leaf litter of blueberry then spreads the spores to the nearby plants, infecting the emerging shoots and leaves. On the second phase of infection, the fungus attacks the fruit, causing it to shrink, shrivel, and turn whitish, looking like a "mummified fruit." After some time, the fruit falls on the ground and both phases of infection are again repeated.

 

The researchers analyzed the blighting resistance data of 125 cultivars in two to six years, and the fruit-infection-resistance data from 110 cultivars in two to five years. They found out that "Brunswick" and "Bluejay" were among several blueberry cultivars that resisted both fungal infection stages.

 

Read the original article at http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2011/110517.htm

 

Source:  Crop Biotech Update 20 May 2011:

 

Contributed by Margaret Smith

Dept of Plant Breeding and Genetics, Cornell University

Mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.37  Federal government of Nigeria (FGN) grants permit for sorghum bio-fortification research: another milestone for IAR biotechnology research

 

THE INSTITUTE FOR AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH, SAMARU pioneering Confined Field Trial on Maruca Resistant Cowpea got  a boost as the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN), through the Federal Ministry of Environment National Biosafety Office  granted yet another permit for IAR to undertake Sorghum Biofortification research with a view to enhance nutrition and stave-off malnutrition and other related diseases especially in children.

 

The primary focus in this sorghum bio-fortification is the incorporation of three essential elements, namely: Iron, Zinc and Pro-vitamin A into our sorghum varieties selected to achieve the broad objective of the bio-fortification. The bio-fortification of sorghum has the potential to improve sorghum acceptance, marketability and increased widespread processing and consumption leading to more income generation, wealth creation and overall national economic and social well-being of the citizens.

 

As it is with many other research endeavors, the African Bio-fortified Sorghum (ABS) is indeed a collaborative work between global development partners, individual donor agencies, public and private organizations and National Agricultural Research Institutes (NARIs). First, among equal is Africa Harvest, a Nairobi based development agency that coordinates the global alliance to fulfill the vision and mission of the ABS project in Nigeria, and Africa.

 

At IAR, the infrastructural requirement prescribed by the National, International Laws, Convention and Protocols for the conduct of bio-technology research in accordance with regulatory compliance are put in place to ensure the smooth conduct of biotechnology research and development.

 

IAR enjoys support in capacity building, including service provision, training and equipment, from international donor agencies and other development partners involved in biotechnology research and development. The management of Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), the supervisory body responsible for agricultural research policy synthesis, coordination, monitoring and evaluation (that shapes and directs national agricultural research output), as well as the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Management, have thrown their weights behind IAR  Bio-technology research endeavor.

 

It is expected that the sorghum bio-fortification research will be conducted over three years as stipulated in the Federal Government permit.  The result and conclusion there-from will pave the way for the final selection and the eventual release of the certified bio-fortified sorghum varieties to our farmers in Africa. The ABS Project has given another impetus to the booming and flourishing beverages and confectionary markets at local, regional and continental levels within Africa, with sorghum as the primary focus.

 

Contributed by the Director

IAR Samaru, Nigeria

Iar20002001@yahoo.com

 

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1.38  Evidence of field-evolved resistance to Cry1Ac-expressing Bt cotton in Helicoverpa armigera (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) in northern China

 

Received: 1 December 2008 Revised: 18 June 2009 Accepted: 30 June 2009 Published online inWiley Interscience: 17 September 2009

(www.interscience.wiley.com) DOI 10.1002/ps.1849

 

Fengyi Liua,b† Zhiping Xu,a† Yu Cheng Zhu,c Fangneng Huang,d YanhuaWang,e Huiling Li,b Hua Li,b Congfen Gao,a Weijun Zhoua and Jinliang Shena

 

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Evolution of resistance threatens the continued success of transgenic crops expressing insecticidal proteins. One of the key factors for successful resistance management is the timely implementation of monitoring programmes to detect early changes of resistance allele frequency in field populations. F1/F2 screen, dose–response bioassays and field survey were used to monitor resistance to the Cry1Ac-expressing cotton in a field population of Helicoverpa armigera (H ¨ ubner), the primary target of transgenic Bt cotton in China.

 

Results

Field survey showed an increased trend of egg populations of H. armigera on Bt cotton in the Qiuxian area from 2003 to 2007. By using the F2 screening procedure, the resistance allele frequency in the Qiuxian (Hebei, China) population of H. armigera collected during 2007 was estimated to be 0.075 (95% CI: 0.053–0.100), which was 12 times greater than that estimated 9 years ago. Dose–response bioassay with the field population collected from the same area showed a significant resistance level (11-fold) to Cry1Ac toxin compared to a laboratory susceptible strain.

 

Conclusion

This study documented a case of field-evolved resistance in H. armigera after several years of intensive planting of Bt cotton. Proactive tactics must be adopted to prevent further increase of resistance gene frequency in the Qiuxian region.

 

c 2009 Society of Chemical Industry

 

Keywords: resistance allele frequency; transgenic Bt cotton; Helicoverpa armigera; F1 screen; F2 screen; dose–response bioassay;

resistance monitoring

 

Contributed by R Fjellstrom

Research Geneticist

 

ARS/USDA

Bob.Fjellstrom@ARS.USDA.gov

 

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1.39  New 'Corn Atlas' shows which genes are active during each stage of plant growth

 

Madison, Wisconsin, USA

May 10, 2011

Just as a road atlas helps travelers find their way, a new corn atlas will help plant scientists navigate vast amounts of gene expression data from the corn plant, as described in the May 10 issue of The Plant Journal.

 

The atlas, developed by a team of scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Michigan State University, tells researchers which of corn's 50,000 genes are actively expressed in various parts of the plant during each of the major stages of plant development.

 

"The atlas is basically the whole landscape of the plant's transcriptome. It contains information about all of the genes in corn - where they're expressed and when they're expressed," says Rajandeep Sekhon, the study's co-lead author, a research associate in the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center at UW-Madison.

 

Such atlases, which already exist for rice and Arabidopsis, have proven useful for homing in on key genes involved in important biological processes.

 

"When people do a genome-wide trait association analysis, they might end up with a list of 500 genes that potentially have something to do with the trait that they're interested in," says UW-Madison agronomist Shawn Kaeppler, who heads the team that developed the atlas. "Say you're interested in a gene that makes the seed bigger, then you'd expect that gene to be expressed in the seed, but not in the root, for instance." With the new corn atlas, scientists can check for that - and rule out candidate genes that don't fit the expected expression pattern.

 

Kaeppler's team tested the atlas on a biofuels question. They queried all the corn genes known to be involved in the biosynthesis of lignin, a glue-like molecule that supports plants' physical framework but hinders cellulosic ethanol production. They found that while some lignin-producing genes were active throughout the plant, others were selectively expressed in specific tissues. This points to opportunities to try to strategically reduce lignin in tissues where it's not wanted without compromising the plant's overall integrity.

 

To generate the atlas, Kaeppler's team grew more than 600 corn plants at the UW-Madison West Madison Agricultural Research Station last summer. They visited the fields each day during the growing season to collect samples of the plant's various tissues as they developed - roots, stem, leaf, husk, kernels, cob, silk and tassels - quickly freezing the samples in liquid nitrogen to preserve their RNA, the molecular evidence of gene expression.

 

Next, they measured the samples' RNA levels, compiled the information into a database and integrated the database into MaizeGBD, the go-to resource for browsing the corn genome online. On MaizeGBD the information contained in the atlas is freely available to all, notes Sekhon, and corn researchers would be wise to consult it.

 

"Before scientists start spending time and money on a gene that they think is functional in roots or cob or wherever, they should really check out the atlas before they go too far," he says.

 

The research was supported by the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, one of three U.S. Department of Energy Bioenergy Research Centers funded to make transformational breakthroughs in cellulosic biofuels technology. The GLBRC is led by UW-Madison, with Michigan State University as a major partner.

 

In addition to Kaeppler and Sekhon, co-authors of the study include Natalia de Leon, assistant professor of agronomy at UW-Madison; Robin Buell, associate professor of plant biology at Michigan State University; Haining Lin, visiting research associate in Buell's laboratory and the study's other co-lead author; Candice Hansey, visiting research associate in Buell's laboratory; and Kevin Childs, visiting assistant professor in Buell's lab.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=17177&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.40 One corn gene provides resistance to multiple diseases

 

In a study of 300 diverse maize varieties from across the globe, University of Delaware's (UD) Dr. Randy Wisser, leader of a research team with other scientists from UD, Cornell University, and Kansas State University found evidence that resistance to Southern leaf blight, gray leaf spot, and Northern leaf blight is governed by one gene, which is a member of the gene family for glutathione-S-transferase.

 

The three fungal diseases are caused by 'nectotrophic' fungi or fungi that kill what they eat and have been wreaking havoc in the whole United States resulting to heavy losses in corn crops. The fungal diseases may also affect other corn growing countries of the world. This study will therefore be useful in developing strategies to resist the three diseases.

 

See the original news at http://news.ncsu.edu/releases/mkbalintkurtipnas/ . The abstract can be viewed at  http://www.pnas.org/content/108/18/7339, and the full paper can be downloaded at http://www.pnas.org/content/108/18/7339.full.pdf+html

 

Source: Crop Biotech Update 06 May 2011:

 

Contributed by Margaret Smith

Dept of Plant Breeding and Genetics, Cornell University

Mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.41  QTL mapping for resistance to 1st and 2nd generation of European corn borer

 

The European corn borer (ECB) is one of the predominant pests of maize in North America and Europe, causing extensive losses in yield. Thus, E. Orsini and colleagues at the University of Hohenheim mapped and characterized the complex traits that influence the resistance to the first (ECB1) and second (ECB2) generation of ECB and plant height using single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) and 88 microsatellites. A total of 144 testcross (TC) progenies of double haploid (DH) lines developed from a cross of two parental lines from the Stiff Stalk germplasm pool were tested at six different locations in the USA under both natural and artificial infestation with ECB larvae. They assessed the resistance by measuring leaf feeding and stalk breakage for ECB1 and ECB2, respectively.

 

Results showed that there is significant genotypic variance in all traits among the TC progenie! s. Heritabilities, the proportion of phenotypic variation due to genetic variation between individuals, were moderately high for stalk breakage and plant height, but only moderate for leaf feeding. Three quantitative trait loci (QTL) were found for stalk breakage, one QTL for leaf feeding, and two QTL for plant height. The QTL for leaf feeding was found in chromosomal regions adjacent to those reported for other maize germplasm, and consequently, might be used for market-assisted selection during line development in maize.

 

Read more at http://www.springerlink.com/content/9p4x36uj76410611/

 

Source: Crop Biotech Update 06 May 2011:

 

Contributed by Margaret Smith

Dept of Plant Breeding and Genetics, Cornell University

Mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.42  A new strategy for drought tolerant crops: shutting down the plant’s growth inhibition in case of mild water shortage

 

Ghent, Belgium

May 11, 2011

VIB/UGent researchers have unveiled a mechanism that can be used to develop crop varieties resistant to mild droughts. For years, improving drought tolerance has been a major aim of academic and industrial research, thereby focusing on effects of extreme drought stress. However, translating this research to the field has proven to be problematic. In a set of papers in Nature Biotechnology and the Plant Cell, the team of Dirk Inzé at the VIB Department of Plant Systems Biology, UGent now shows that the focus should be on mild drought stress instead. It turns out that under non-lethal stress conditions plants inhibit growth more than absolutely necessary, opening new opportunities for yield improvement.

 

“By applying this knowledge to the selection of new crop varieties, unnecessary yield losses through drought stress can be avoided, resulting in higher productivity,” Dirk Inzé from VIB-UGent said.

 

Producing more food with less water

Only recently the World Bank warned that the world is facing a devastating food price crisis, with yield losses due to weather events being named one of the components of this complex problem. Producing more food on limited arable land, considering the increasing scarcity of water and unpredictability of the weather due to global warming, will be one of the major challenges for this century. One way to increase crop productivity is targeting drought stress, which is currently the main factor decreasing actual yields. Research in this area however so far largely failed to result in crops that perform better in drought conditions.

 

Plant response differs between severe and mild drought stress

Much of this research has focused on improved plant survival under very severe drought.  However, as shown by Aleksandra Skirycz and Korneel Vandenbroucke, plants that are more likely to survive these extreme conditions do not grow better under more mild drought conditions. This is important as in the field drought rarely is severe enough to kill plants, but rather affects their growth. The paper, published in Nature Biotechnology, also shows that plants actively choose to grow slower when water gets limiting, although they have enough resources to keep growing.

 

Plant hormone ethylene plays major role in stress response

In a follow-up study early leaf growth, entirely driven by cell division, was chosen as a model to unravel the mechanisms underlying this active growth inhibition. Aleksandra Skirycz and Hannes Claeys showed that the plant hormone ethylene shuts down leaf growth very fast after the plant senses limited water availability. If the stress is only temporary, growth can resume nonetheless. This research opens up new approaches to develop crop varieties that keep on growing during mild and temporary spells of drought that occur in the field, avoiding unnecessary yield losses and thus resulting in higher crop productivity.

 

Research team

The study was conducted by Aleksandra Skirycz, Korneel Vandenbroucke, Hannes Claeys and colleagues under the direction of Dirk Inzé at the VIB Department of Plant Systems Biology, UGent.

 

Relevant publications

Survival and growth of Arabidopsis plants given limited water are not equal, Aleksandra Skirycz, Korneel Vandenbroucke, et al., Nature Biotechnology, doi:10.1038/nbt.1800.

Pause-and-stop – the effects of osmotic stress on cell proliferation during early leaf development in Arabidopsis and a role for ethylene signaling in Cell Cycle Arrest, Aleksandra Skirycz, Hannes Claeys, et al., Plant Cell, in press

 

Funding

This research was funded by FWO ,UGent and VIB.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=17188&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.43  Distribution of genes controlling fruit shape in the tomato germplasm and the relationship to fruit shape diversity

 

Cultivated tomatoes have different shapes and sizes. Through cloning, it was discovered that SUN and OVATE control elongated shape whereas FASCIATED (FAS) and LOCULE NUMBER (LC) control fruit locule number and flat shape. Ohio State University scientist Esther van der Knaap and colleagues investigated the distribution of the fruit shape alleles in the tomato germplasm and evaluated their role in morphology using different tomato varieties. Fruits were visually classified into eight shape categories with the aid of Tomato Analyzer software.

 

The findings showed that the allele distribution of SUN, OVATE, LC, and FAS was significantly associated with fruit shape classification. Through model-based clustering, it was found that selection for fruit shape genes was critical to subpopulation differentiation within cultivated tomato. Results suggest that LC, FAS, and SUN mutations arose in the same ancestral population while the OVATE mutation occurred in a different lineage. Moreover, LC, OVATE, and FAS mutations may have arisen before domestication or early during the selection of cultivated tomato whereas the SUN mutation appeared to be a post-domestication occurrence arising in Europe.

 

The full paper is available for subscribers of Plant Physiology Journal at http://www.plantphysiol.org/content/156/1/275.full.pdf+html

 

Source: Crop Biotech Update 06 May 2011:

 

Contributed by Margaret Smith

Dept of Plant Breeding and Genetics, Cornell University

Mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.44  Solar cells more efficient than photosynthesis – for now

 

East Lansing, Michigan, USA

May 12, 2011

 

In a head-to-head battle of harvesting the sun’s energy, solar cells beat plants, according to a new paper in Science. But scientists think they can even up the playing field, says Michigan State University researcher David Kramer.

 

Plants are less efficient at capturing the energy in sunlight than solar cells mostly because they have too much evolutionary baggage. Plants have to power a living thing, whereas solar cells only have to send electricity down a wire. This is a big difference because if photosynthesis makes a mistake, it makes toxic byproducts that kill the organism. Photosynthesis has to be conservative to avoid killing the organisms it powers.

 

“This is critical since it’s the process that powers all of life in our ecosystem,” said Kramer, a Hannah Distinguished Professor of Photosynthesis and Bioenergetics. “The efficiency of photosynthesis, and our ability to improve it, is critical to whether the entire biofuels industry is viable.”

 

While photosynthesis is less efficient on a pure energy basis, it has the advantage of producing high-energy liquid fuels. (It also makes all of our food, and is thus essential for life). The paper summarizes several specific approaches to improving photosynthesis, some likely achievable in the short term, some more involved.

 

In truth, the competition really isn’t fair unless the term “efficiency” is first defined. At a bare minimum it isn’t fair to compare plants that package the sun’s energy in handy little stored-fuel vessels (carbon-based molecules) to solar cells that just take the first step of converting the sun’s energy to jazzed-up electrons. Fairer would be to compare plants to solar cell arrays that also store energy in chemical bonds.

 

The point of the comparison is not to make us throw plants on the compost pile, the researchers said. For one, efficiency is only one consideration among many in the choice among energy technologies. More important are life-cycle costs, the capital cost and valuation of the environmental impact of a product from its creation to its destruction.

 

Still the comparison is useful because it’s leading the exploration of why plants are so inefficient and what can be done to improve their efficiency. Genetic engineering and the more aggressive techniques of synthetic biology – the marriage of biology and engineering to design and construct systems and metabolic pathways not found in nature – could speed things up considerably.

 

The experts suggested, for example, replacing one of the two photosystems in plants that handle the light-dependent reactions with a photosystem from a species of cyanobacteria. The photosystems in most plants compete for the same piece of the solar spectrum, cutting the energy efficiency nearly in half. But some cyanobacteria absorb light from an entirely different part of the spectrum. Basically, it would be the biological equivalent of a tandem solar cell, which is very efficient.

 

Kramer, who works in the MSU-Department of Energy Plant Research Laboratory, was part of a team of researchers led by Washington University in St. Louis.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=17398&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.45 "Smoke detector" gene discovered in plants

 

Western Australia

May 10, 2011

Researchers at The University of Western Australia have discovered a gene that allows dormant seeds buried in the soil to detect germination stimulants in bushfire smoke called karrikins.

 

The same gene has also been found to provide the means for plants to respond to a growth hormone called strigolactone, which controls shoot branching, the formation of beneficial fungal associations, and germination of parasitic weeds.

 

The findings reinforce the view that smoke from bushfires not only signals destruction but also provides the stimulus for new vigorous plant growth with the following rains.

 

UWA plant biologist Dr David Nelson, who led the research, selected plants that had lost the ability to respond to karrikins and then searched for the defective gene in those plants.

 

“It was a ‘eureka moment’ when I looked at the DNA sequence of the defective gene and realised what we had discovered,” he said.  “That one gene has two very different functions, one in fire ecology and the other in plant development.”

 

The findings reflect the fact that the karrikins and the strigolactone hormone have very similar chemical structures.  Their slight differences allow them to perform different roles but their similarities mean they are detected by one plant chemical detection system.  Ultimately the detector system allows the plant to distinguish between these signals and respond appropriately.

 

Winthrop Professor Steven Smith said the findings will give us a new perspective on how to adapt plant and fire management and response.  

 

“It will help us to understand how plant communities will respond in future to the increasing incidents of fire, how we should use fire to manage plants, and to investigate new methods for controlling weeds,” Professor Smith said.

 

The discovery published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America was a team effort by scientists from the Centre of Excellence for Plant Metabolomics, the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology, the UWA School of Biomedical, Biomolecular and Chemical Sciences, the UWA School of Plant Biology, Kings Park and Botanic Garden, and the University of Queensland.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=17147&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.46  Experimental base for "space-bred" crops opens in China

 

Beijing, China

May 16, 2011

An experimental base for growing "space- bred" eco-friendly crops has opened in Yulin City, northwest China's Shaanxi Province.

 

The base was jointly developed by the Aerospace Breeding Research Center and an agricultural cooperative in Yulin, which is on the edge of China's loess plateau and Mu Us Desert.

 

With the support of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, agricultural experts will grow cash crops from seeds that have mutated in space, said an official with the corporation.

 

The Aerospace Breeding Research Center will select one or two superior cash crop strains each year to be grown at the base, said Qin Tianjun, deputy director of the aerospace breeding industry department with the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.

 

The crops are expected to make the sandy soil in the region more productive and thus boost the development of the local agriculture sector, he said.

 

China has been sending seeds into space on recoverable satellites since 1987, as the seeds may undergone beneficial mutations due to high-radiation and low-gravity there.

Source: Xinhua

 

More news from: Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS)

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=17302&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.47  Molecular technique advances soybean rust resistance research

 

Urbana, Illinois, USA

May 16, 2011

A new tool is available to select for soybean rust resistance in breeding populations, said Glen Hartman, University of Illinois professor of crop sciences and USDA-ARS scientist. Hartman and his team of researchers successfully used quantitative polymerase chain reaction (Q-PCR) assays to assess fungal DNA in soybean leaf tissue to quantify the level of resistance in individual plants with resistance to soybean rust.

 

“This is not a new technique,” Hartman said. “But it is a new tool for use in soybean rust resistance breeding, which has typically used phenotyping or visual assessment to measure resistance. We discovered that we can perform more precise and quicker assessments using this molecular technique.”

 

Visual assessment is subject to interpretation and is not an exact science, Hartman said. However, Q-PCR allows for exact enumeration of fungal DNA in the tissue. This is particularly helpful when plants show similar visual symptoms, but colonization levels vary based on fungal DNA levels.

 

“The eye can easily tell us if it’s a plus or minus for qualitative resistance, but Q-PCR tells us the quantitative resistance or the gray that lies between the plus and minus,” Hartman added.

 

Often qualitative resistance doesn’t last as long as quantitative resistance because it involves a single gene. Pathogens can overcome a single gene more easily, putting soybean breeders right back to where they started with a susceptible reaction, he said.

 

“In quantitative resistance where multiple genes are working together to form resistance, breeders have to distinguish the gray area between susceptible and resistant,” Hartman said. “It takes a lot to do that visually with your eye. You can look at samples under a microscope and take multiple measurements But, it’s hard and time consuming, particularly when you are working with breeding populations and hundreds of samples.”

 

Hartman said this technique will be useful for plant breeders trying to breed soybeans for resistance to soybean rust.

 

“We believe Q-PCR will save time and be more precise,” he said. “The precision part is very important. The more precise you can be, knowing exactly what the line is reacting to, will lead to more precise mapping of the quantitative resistance genes.”

 

The mapping of this particular quantitative resistance is very important to breeders selecting for rust resistance, Hartman said.

 

“It’s a numbers game,” he said. “In developing soybean cultivars, a large number of lines need to be evaluated so many inferior lines have to be discarded. In terms of breeding for soybean rust resistance, this technique can help determine which lines are more resistant to rust when it comes to the gray areas or quantitative resistance.”

 

This research, “Comparisons of Visual Rust Assessments and DNA Levels of Phakopsora pachyrhizi in Soybean Genotypes Varying in Rust Resistance,” was published in the April 2011 issue of Plant Disease. Other researchers include Chandra Paul and Curt Hill of the U of I Department of Crop Sciences. This research was supported by the United Soybean Board and the Soybean Diseases Biotechnology Center at the U of I.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=17308&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.48 University of Nottingham scientists reveal genetic 'wiring' of seeds

 

Nottingham, United Kingdom

May 18, 2011

The genetic ‘wiring’ that helps a seed to decide on the perfect time to germinate has been revealed by scientists for the first time.

 

Plant biologists at The University of Nottingham have also discovered that the same mechanism that controls germination is responsible for another important decision in the life cycle of plants — when to start flowering.

 

Their discovery throws light on the genetic mechanisms that plants use to detect and respond to vital environmental cues and could be a significant step towards the development of new crop species that are resistant to climate change and would help secure future food supplies.

 

Seeds in the soil sense a whole range of environmental signals including temperature, light, moisture and nutrients, when deciding whether to germinate or to remain dormant.

 

To ensure that the decision for a seed to germinate is made at the perfect moment to ensure survival, evolution has genetically ‘wired’ seeds in a very complex way to avoid making potentially deadly mistakes.

 

The breakthrough has been made by scientists at Nottingham’s Division of Crop and Plant Sciences who collaborate within one of the University’s Research Priority Groups, Global Food Security. The team compiled publicly available gene expression data and used a systematic statistical analysis to untangle the complex web of genetic interactions in a model plant called Arabidopsis thaliana or thale cress. The plant is commonly used for studying plant biology as changes in the plant are easily observed and it was the first plant to have its entire genome sequenced.

 

The resulting gene network — or SeedNet as it was dubbed — highlighted what little scientists already know about the regulation of seed germination while being able to predict novel regulators of this process with remarkable accuracy.

 

The work was led by Dr George Bassel who joined The University of Nottingham on an NSERC PDF fellowship from the Canadian government to work with Professor Mike Holdsworth on research into seed germination. He has since been awarded a prestigious Marie Curie International Incoming Fellowship.

 

Dr Bassel said: “To our surprise, the seed network demonstrated that genetic factors controlling seed germination were the same as those controlling the other irreversible decision in the life cycle of plants: the decision to start flowering. The induction of flowering, like germination, is highly responsive to cues from the environment.”

 

Another key finding from SeedNet was that the same genes that leaves and roots use to respond to stress are used by seeds to stop their germination. Given that seeds were evolved long after plants developed their ability to withstand environmental stress, this indicated that plants have adapted existed genes to fulfil a different role. The work could lead to identifying important factors controlling stress response in seeds and the plant itself, contributing towards the development of new crops producing increased yields under extreme environmental conditions such as drought or floods.

 

The work is being published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Online Early Edition this week.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=17392&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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2  PUBLICATIONS

 

2.01  2010 BGRI workshop proceedings published in Euphytica

 

The May issue of Euphytica, devoted to the proceedings of the 2010 BGRI Technical Workshop, which was held in St Petersburg, Russia, is now online. Volume 179, Number 1 of the journal is available at http://www.springerlink.com/content/0014-2336/179/1/

 

Source: BGRI April 2011 newsletter

 

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2.02  The Cereal Rusts, Volumes I and II

 

The Borlaug Global Rust Initiative is pleased to present the digital version of the two-volume set, "The Cereal Rusts" edited by William Bushnell and A.P. Roelfs for download..

http://globalrust.org/traction?type=single&proj=Multimedia&sort=2&stickyparams=sort&rec=373

 

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2.03  ISAAA Publishes "Bt Cotton in India: A Multipurpose Crop"

 

http://www.isaaa.org/kc/cropbiotechupdate/article/default.asp?ID=7758

ISAAA released a new document "Bt Cotton in India: A Multipurpose Crop", which is the first volume in a new series of publications to mark the 10th year of Bt cotton cultivation in India. The series "Celebrating a Decade of Bt Cotton in India" will feature comprehensive overview of adoption, spread and socio-economic and farm level impact of Bt cotton in India from 2002-2011.

 

The short document is a user-friendly, comprehensive and rich source of information on the multi-purpose utility Bt cotton in India - the first biotech cotton crop to be approved in India in 2002. It includes authoritative statistics and references on the utility of Bt cotton crop for food (oil), feed (cake) and fiber (kapas) that has been gaining popularity in the country. The series is produced by researchers of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA). A copy of full publication is available at: www.isaaa.org/india

 

Contributed by Bhagirath Choudhary

b.choudhary@cgiar.org

 

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2.04  Secretariat of the International Treaty launches novel materials for Capacity Development

 

The first in a series of five educational modules on the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture was presented to delegates in a side event at the Fourth Session of the Governing Body of the Treaty (14-18 March 2011, Bali, Indonesia).

 

Over 20 experts from different international institutions, academia, Contracting Parties and civil society organizations have taken part in the realization of educational module 1 “Introduction to the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture”.

 

The module provides general information for newcomers to the Treaty and the crop diversity policy area and explains technical terms and concepts in an easily understandable language. The forthcoming modules focus on the Treaty’s main components: Conservation and sustainable use, Farmers’ Rights, the Multilateral System of Access and Benefit-sharing and the Funding Strategy. Each of the modules is built up by several self-contained lessons for specific learner groups.

 

The modules aim at strengthening stakeholders’ capacities for the operation of the Treaty and to enhance information and raise awareness among the general public. The target learner groups of the modules include policy makers and their staff, civil servants, gene bank staff, plant breeders, farmers’ organizations, other civil society organizations, the media, academia and prospective donors.

 

The Secretariat of the Treaty is currently seeking additional resources to secure the completion of the series, for the development of a distance-learning course and for the establishment of course programmes in partnerships with institutions of higher education. For information on opportunities to contribute to the realization of these activities please contact the Secretariat.

 

Educational module 1 can be downloaded online: www.itpgrfa.net/International/educational_modules

 

For more information please contact:

Patrick Mink (patrick.mink@fao.org)

Tel. +39 06 57053069

 

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2.05  Release of a PAR Publication: Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture: Contributing to food security and sustainability in a changing world.

 

We are pleased to announce this publication produced jointly by FAO and the Platform for Agrobiodiversity Research .This publication is a result of the Expert Workshop, held in Rome at FAO Headquarters in April, 2010. We take this opportunity to thank all who made their valuable contributions to the development of this publication and those who are playing a major role in supporting  the  work on improving the maintenance and use of biodiversity for food and agriculture:

  

Measuring agrobiodiversity:Metrics webpage.

A significant amount of agrobiodiversity is found in managed landscapes though we lack information on how much of it is out there and how much is it worth.   Many national level criteria and indicator systems already exist that attempt to assess biodiversity in forests and the impacts of forest management, but there is generally less experience in measuring these values in agricultural landscapes. We are joining a group of scientists, policy makers and communities for the development of indicators to measure agrobiodiversity within these landscapes. We will be creating a webpage aimed at collating different tools and methods that have been used t

 

Depleting agro-biodiversity a risk to food security.

By Fahim Nawaz

The replacement of indigenous varieties of crops, fruits, vegetables and livestock species by high-yield crop varieties and improved breeds of animals, in the past few decades, has depleted agro-biodiversity. Indigenous varieties and livestock species have lost their significance due to intensification of farming and separation of local communities from indigenous biological resources. Read the original article.

 

Source: Platform for Agrobiodiversity Newsletter

 May 2011 ISSUE No. 008

 

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2.06  Publication on the status of BT cotton in Myanmar

 

http://www.isaaa.org/kc/cropbiotechupdate/article/default.asp?ID=7873

 

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) South Asia Office released a new publication on Myanmar's (formerly known as Burma) official release of Bt cotton.  "The Status of Bt Cotton-the Silver Sixth-in Myanmar, 2010" features a comprehensive overview of the adoption and impact of the introduction of Ngwe chi 6 or Silver Sixth– the long staple insect resistant Bt cotton variety developed using genetic modification technology

 

The new publication includes the most relevant authoritative statistics and references on Bt cotton in Myanmar, including hectarage of Bt cotton, number of Bt cotton farmers and cotton research and development. It also summarizes the benefits of Bt cotton in Myanmar, which is now the 13th cotton growing country in the world to commercially deploy biotech cotton

 

For a copy of the publication "The Status of Bt Cotton - the Silver Sixth-in Myanmar, 2010", contact b.choudhary@cgiar.org or visit ISAAA India Biotech Information Center athttp://www.isaaa.org/india

 

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2.07  Another foot soldier in the battle against malnutrition - CIP releases Orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) for Africa catalogue

 

Ongoing efforts to improve the health of millions in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) were just boosted with the International Potato Center (CIP)'s recent release of a new resource, the Orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) for Africa catalogue 2010.Production and consumption of OFSP has steadily expanded over the past decade, says CIP breeder and researcher in Uganda, Robert Mwanga. It's is a key strategy for alleviating vitamin A deficiency through a food-based approach, and the catalogue provides a reference for promoting the continued expansion of OFSP and mobilizing resources.

 

Read more at http://www.cipotato.org/press-room/press-releases/another-foot-soldier-in-the-battle-against-malnutrition-cip-releases-orange-fleshed-sweetpotato-ofsp-for-africa-catalogue

 

Source: CIP

 

Contributed by Margaret Smith

Dept of Plant Breeding and Genetics, Cornell University

Mes25@cornell.edu

 

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3.  WEB AND NETWORKING RESOURCES

 

3.01  Ug99 Stem Rust: A Threat to Wheat Crops across the Globe

 

This is an informative two-minute video, intended for the general public, about Ug99 stem rust and the efforts to find resistant varieties of wheat.

http://globalrust.org/traction/permalink/Multimedia398

Also on youtube.com

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1Iw6lxTKKQ

 

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3.02  BGRI website recognized for outstanding innovation

 

The Computerworld Honors Program recognizes individuals and organizations who create and use information technology to promote and advance public welfare, contribute to the greater good of society and change the world for the better. The Borlaug Global Rust Initiative received this honor in the collaboration category for its website globalrust.orghttp://marketing.computerworld.com/Honors_ 2011_ PRE-Event_ Press_ Release_final.pdf

 

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3.03  Pre-breeding for Effective Use of Plant Genetic Resources – a new e-learning course

 

1 June 2011

The Global Partnership Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building (GIPB) is pleased to announce a new e-learning course - Pre-breeding for Effective Use of Plant Genetic Resources.

 

The importance of germplasm resources for crop improvement is widely recognized by plant breeders. However over reliance on ‘safe and familiar’ parents of similar genetic backgrounds to provide genetic traits has led to an unsustainably narrow genetic base in many crop varieties and breeding materials.

 

To balance this, previously neglected pools of heritable genetic variations need to be used to produce new and improved crop varieties, for example, ones that give a higher yield yet require fewer inputs. These kinds of variations can be found, for example, in crop wild relatives and local landraces.

 

Pre-breeding is the work to identify those desirable traits and create materials that breeders can use. Premised on close collaboration between genebank curators and plant breeders, it is the necessary first step in the use of diversity arising from wild relatives and other unimproved materials.

 

The course is designed primarily for plant breeders and germplasm curators but will be useful also to others involved in capacity building in crop improvement. It combines elements of both conventional germplasm management and plant breeding with novel molecular biology and analytical techniques.

 

This course was jointly sponsored by Bioversity International, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Global Crop Diversity Trust, using the GIPB platform.

 

More background information on the course can be obtained from the announcement brochure

 

Click here to access the course or request a CD version. Please note you will need to register to access the course.

 

For more information about GIPB, visit the web site.

 

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5.  POSITION ANNOUNCEMENTS

 

5.01 Senior Corn Breeder, India

 

(Mumbai or Bangalore)

 

Monsanto currently has a Senior Management opportunity for a experienced Corn Breeder in India. For more information, please e-mail ceneal@monsanto.com  or call 314-694-4387.

 

Description:

Š         Set breeding goals and strategies for the program

Š         Design breeding methodologies to accomplish goals

Š         Establish selection criteria at various stages of population and line development

Š         Evaluate selected lines and advance through several stages of testing

Š         Set short and long-term market trends and breeding objectives

Š         Evaluate, select and advance through testing, lines developed within the program or imported from other cotton breeding programs within Monsanto

Š         Perform various statistical analysis on data obtained and make drop and advancement decisions on populations and experimental lines

Š         Record and maintain accurate records and results

Š         Prepare reports and communicate results to other departments in a clear and concise manner

Š         Interact with other company breeding programs throughout the world to help identify areas of synergy between programs

 

Qualifications:

 

Š         PhD in Plant Breeding, Genetics or related field with experience leading a successful corn breeding development or row crop program

Š         The ability to successfully manage people and to lead in a cross functional environment 

Š         The experience needed to move into a departmental  leadership role

Š         Five or more years of experience in  plant breeding program (corn experience is preferred, but individuals with strong row crop and leadership in other areas will be considered)

Š         Sound knowledge of plant breeding principles and procedures

Š         Solid knowledge of field plot technique

Š         General agronomic knowledge and familiarity with farming operations

Š         Knowledge of basic computer programs for data management and communication

Š         Ability to organize, manage and communicate with full time and seasonal employees providing guidance team spirit and leadership

Š         International relocation is available for this his profile opportunity

 

Monsanto is an equal opportunity employer; we value a combination of ideas, perspectives and cultures.  EEO/AA Employer M/F/D/V.  www.monsanto.com

 

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6. MEETINGS, COURSES AND WORKSHOPS

 

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

 

This section includes three subsections:

A.    DISTANCE LEARNING/ONLINE COURSES

B.    COURSES OF THE SEED BIOTECHNOLOGY CENTER AT UC DAVIS

C.   OTHER MEETINGS, COURSES AND WORKSHOPS

 

A.    DISTANCE LEARNING/ONLINE COURSES

 

(NEW) 26-28 October 2011. Plant Breeding for Drought Tolerance

 

Colorado State University and University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers are excited to offer a one-credit online course in plant breeding for drought tolerance Sept. 26 to Oct. 28, 2011.

 

Concepts for this intensive, one-credit graduate level course include:

Š       Understanding the target environment

Š       Determining which phenotypic traits to use in selection practices

Š       Understanding transgenic approaches and quantitative trait locus analysis for improving drought tolerance

Š       Learning from successful examples of improving drought tolerance in a variety of crops

Š       Integrating techniques learned in the course into a breeding or research program strategy

 

The course is targeted to graduate students in the plant sciences, as well as to professionals in the public and private sectors. It will provide one transferable graduate-level credit. Please visit the Plant Breeding for Drought Tolerance website at http://www.droughtadaptation.org for further program details and application information.

 

Contributed by Annie Heiliger

Plant Breeding & Genetics

Colorado State University

Annie.Heiliger@colostate.edu

 

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Master of Science in Plant Breeding at Iowa State University (distance program)

 

Professionals who would like to advance their careers now have access to the world renowned plant breeding program at Iowa State University without becoming a resident on-campus student. The Master of Science in Plant Breeding provides the same rigorous curriculum as the resident program, including access to plant breeding faculty within the Department of Agronomy.

 

Students completing the program will understand not only the fundamentals of plant breeding, but also gain knowledge of advanced concepts such as genomic selection and the challenges facing plant breeders in our global society.

 

The curriculum consists of 12 courses plus a one-credit workshop and a three-credit creative component, for a total of 40 credits. The one-credit practicum is the only course that requires attendance on campus- four days during one summer. Generally, students who have completed a degree from a College of Agriculture will meet the requirements.

Contact information is:

msagron@iastate.edu

toll-free: 800-747-4478

phone: 515-294-2999

http://masters.agron.iastate.edu

 

Maria Salas-Fernandez

Assistant Professor

Department of Agronomy

Iowa State Univ.

msagron@iastate.edu

 

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Online Graduate Program in Seed Technology & Business

Iowa State University

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Paul Christensen, Seed Technology and Business Program Manager Ph.

515-294-8745, seedgrad@iastate.edu

 

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Plant Breeding Methods - Distance Education version

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

 

Prerequisite:  a statistics course

 

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

 

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 HS 703 (breeding asexually propagated crops), 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:

http://distance.ncsu.edu/courses/fall-courses/HS.php

 

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

http://distance.ncsu.edu/

 

For more information on Todd Wehner, see:

http://cucurbitbreeding.ncsu.edu/

 

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Plant Breeding for non majors - Distance Education version

HS 590 (521-sections 801, 601 DE); 1 credit; lecture only

 

Prerequisites:  undergraduate biology, genetics

 

North Carolina State University will be offering HS 590, Plant Breeding for Non Majors in a distance education version this fall.  The instructor is Todd Wehner (tcwehner@gmail.com).

 

This is an introductory Plant Breeding course for first year graduate students and advanced undergraduate students.  The emphasis is on methods of developing improved cultivars of cross-pollinated, self-pollinated, and asexually-propagated crops.  The purpose of this course is to provide the student a working knowledge of the main areas of plant breeding.  The course is aimed at students interested in having a background knowledge of plant breeding, working with plant breeders, or doing breeding work in their home garden.

 

HS 590 presents an overview of plant breeding methods, including germplasm resources, male sterility, and use of heterosis.  Special topics include genotype-environment interaction, index selection, disease and insect resistance, interspecific hybridization, and mutation breeding.  The main focus is on methods for breeding cross-pollinated, self-pollinated and asexually-propagated crops.

 

For more information on HS 590 Plant Breeding Methods, see:

http://distance.ncsu.edu/courses/fall-courses/HS.php

 

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

http://distance.ncsu.edu/

 

For more information on Todd Wehner, see:

http://cucurbitbreeding.ncsu.edu/

 

 

B.    COURSES OF THE SEED BIOTECHNOLOGY CENTER AT UC DAVIS

 

New dates announced for Seed Business 101, the course that shortens the learning curve for new employees in the seed industry

 

December 5-9, 2011

Davis, California

 

January 16-20, 2012