31 July 2011


An Electronic Newsletter of Applied Plant Breeding


Clair H. Hershey, Editor


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


-To subscribe, see instructions here

-Archived issues available at: FAO Plant Breeding Newsletter



1.01  Double grain yields may be doable

1.02  Strategies to “freeze the foodprint of food”

1.03  Plan to one day end the use of environmentally harmful chemicals on commercial crops developed

1.04  Nurturing a rare breed

1.05  International Rice Research Institute announces new head of plant breeding

1.06  Dr. Eufemio T. Rasco Jr. appointed as the new executive director of the Department of Agriculture-Philippine Rice Research Institute

1.07  UPDATE: National Association of Plant Breeders (NAPB) Meeting

1.08  Improving wheat yields for global food security

1.09  Project aims to double yields of Nigeria’s major staples

1.10 ‘High vigour’ wheats impress in field trials

1.11  Resistant wheats and Ethiopian farmers battle deadly fungus

1.12  Countering drought in Machakos, Kenya

1.13  Malawi farmers benefit from improved groundnut varieties

1.14  China to fully conduct “31511” super rice project during the 12th Five-Year Plan period

1.15  Mozambique gets new designer rice

1.16  Meeting on Global Food Research in Wageningen

1.17  Organic plant breeding yields healthy diversity

1.18  GEAC mandates prior state govt okay

1.19  USDA/APHIS reopens comment period for draft environmental assessment for drought tolerant corn

1.20  The Global Plant Council Forges Ahead

1.21  Adoption of genetically engineered crops in the U.S.

1.22  Genetically modifying wheat for healthier bread

1.23  European Parliament backs national right to to ban or restrict the cultivation of genetically modified crops

1.24  Voluntary guidelines to allow for labelling of world’s genetically modified foods

1.25  ISAAA presents the first five Biotech Country Facts and Trends

1.26  Chinese Academy of Sciences scientist reports advances in development of GM herbicide resistant hybrid rice in China

1.27  Herbicide resistance, weeds are spreading in the United States

1.28  Propiedad Intelectual indispensable para una agricultura competitive

1.29  Embrapa apresenta coleção nuclear de feijão comum

1.30  Improving peanut crops through genetics and core collections

1.31  Species affected by climate change: to shift or not to shift?

1.32  Chance discovery of a genetic mutation in wild barley leads to an international study deciphering evolution of life on land

1.33  Adapting crops and ‘natives’ to a changing climate

1.34  Gene discovery in wild barley may lead to stress tolerant crops

1.35  Designer roots to counter drought

1.36  Doubled haploid bread wheat engineered for drought tolerance

1.37  Resistant varieties make the difference between having enough to eat – or not

1.38  “Chalky” discovery could increase value of rice by 25%

1.39  Barley defense system against powedery mildew

1.40  Improving food safety of potato varieties

1.41 Scientists identify maize proteins causing aflatoxin production

1.42  University of Queensland plant biologists identify a hormone that plays a key role in determining the size and shape of plants

1.43  Turbocharging a new Green Revolution with improvements in photosynthesis

1.44  Potato genome sequence is the cover story in the journal Nature

1.45 Simple little spud helps scientists crack potato's mighty genome

1.46  Penn State University's corn geneticist gets $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation for gene research

1.47  Plant immunity discovery boosts chances of disease-resistant crops

1.48  Breeding procedure accelerates winter wheat development

1.49  Chinese scientists isolate a multi-stress responsive gene

1.50  Doubled haploid technology brings promise to wheat breeders

1.51  Evolution and domestication of seed structure shown to use same genetic mutation

1.52  Editing the genome - Scientists unveil new tools for rewriting the code of life



2.01  Seed Biotechnology, UCD Annual Report now available

2.02  New Books released at the Brazilian Plant Breeding Congress



3.01 International knowledge hub to link climate change and food security research

3.02 Potential of agricultural technologies survey

3.03  The Bitter Gourd Project opens a website to provide news and information about this valuable vegetable

3.04  Biotechnology for Sustainability

3.05  Wheat Atlas – a hub for wheat data sharing



4.01  Fellowships: Contemporary approaches to genetic resources conservation and use’ in the context of climate change

4.02  Deadline for fellowship application to the Netherlands Fellowship Programme is OCTOBER 1st, 2011

4.03  Bayer CropScience announces scholarship for training in European Plant Breeding AcademySM with University of California



5.01  Junior Professor (W1) for “Plant Genomics and Plant Breeding in the Tropics and Subtropics”

5.02  Manager Crop Development / Crop Development Specialist








Double grain yields may be doable

By Steve Jordon


KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The world's farmers will need to double grain yields by 2030 to meet world food demand, but that's not an impossible task even for the highly developed U.S. food industry, experts said Tuesday at a conference on global agriculture.

"It's certainly within the historical norms," said David Fischhoff, vice president for technology at Monsanto Co., a panelist at a symposium sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City that was attended by about 200 people.

Fischhoff said farmers have doubled grain yields since the 1970s, achieving an average corn crop of about 150 bushels per acre. That will need to reach 300 bushels within 20 years.

Meeting that goal will require a combination of factors, he said, including:

» Plant breeding that, among other things, will let farmers not only raise more grain but also increase the rate of that increase from year to year. Genetic improvements can double that rate, he said. "We're well on our way to achieving that goal."

» Improved farming practices, such as planting more corn stalks per acre and more precisely matching hybrid varieties to soil. Typical fields now hold about 30,000 corn plants per acre; that could be increased to at least 40,000.

» Advances in biotechnology that go beyond plants that tolerate herbicides or repel certain insects. "This is really just the beginning of this era."

A video message from Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said meeting food demand has implications beyond hunger.

"A well-fed world is a much safer and stable place," Roberts said. "That in turn leads to economic stability, economic growth and peace." Hungry people, by contrast, can move toward "discontent, instability and, yes, even extremism."

Food demand is increasing because of a growing world population and improvements in the standard of living of people in developing countries, said Joseph Glauber, chief economist for the U.S. Agriculture Department.

Glauber projected that U.S. meat exports, for example, will continue to increase as people in developing countries add more beef and pork to their diets. Between 1960 and 1969, he said, U.S. farmers exported 1 percent of their beef and 3.35 percent of their pork.

That has grown to 11.8 percent of beef and 29.1 percent of pork in the latest decade, and Glauber expects that to increase to 10 percent for beef and 22 percent for pork.

"We're exporting a much, much higher-quality product," he said.

China's economic growth is pushing much of that increase and shows little sign of letting up, he said, and the weak U.S. dollar in relation to other currencies has made U.S. crops cheaper on world markets. China buys about 60 percent of the world's soybean exports.

Farm exports resulted in a $44 billion trade surplus in 2010-11, Glauber said, which is a record dollar amount and the second-highest year ever when adjusted for inflation. "This is certainly a bright spot in the overall U.S. trade picture."

Glauber said world supplies of grain are tight and consumption is growing — 2 percent a year for wheat and 4.4 percent a year for soybeans. That indicates that the current, relatively high prices for grain are likely to continue, he said.

Some of the increased future production could come from using the 32 million acres of farm land that is now held in a federal reserve program. Glauber said a challenge will be to bring the most productive land back into production while leaving environmentally sensitive land in the reserve program.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1080,,



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1.02  Strategies to "freeze the foodprint of food"

July 29, 2011

In an article Freeze the foodprint of food published in Nature journal, Jason Clay of WWF identifies eight strategies that could enable farming to address issues concerning a growing global population amidst higher consumption and shrinking production land.

"If applied globally and simultaneously, (the strategies) will help to reform the food system and protect the planet," Clay explained. Among the strategies are the following:

  • Genetics – Use the potential of genetics in traditional plant breeding as well as new modern technologies.
  • Better practices – Improve the poorest-performing producers to enhance food production, increase income, and reduce environmental impacts.
  • Efficiency through technology – Double the efficiency of every agricultural input, including water, fertilizer, pesticides, energy, and infrastructure.
  • Degraded land – Rehabilitate abandoned or underperforming lands.
  • "If we cannot double the genetic potential of the 10–15 main calorie crops, on the same amount of land, we will fail to meet rising demand. NGOs and academics do not control the global food system, so instead they must try to change how governments and the private sector think about food production," Clay concluded.

Subscribers can view the article at


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1.03  Plan to one day end the use of environmentally harmful chemicals on commercial crops developed

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

July 21, 2011

Researchers have published a step by step plan to one day end the use of environmentally harmful chemicals on commercial crops by developing plants that produce their own fertilizer

Two University of Alberta researchers have published a step by step plan to one-day end the use of environmentally harmful chemicals on commercial crops by developing plants that produce their own fertilizer.

U of A plant biologist Allen Good says the energy required to produce nitrogen fertilizers has pushed the world-wide cost for agricultural producers to a $100 billion a year. Good says that while they are necessary for high yields, those nitrogen fertilizers also damage the environment. Emissions from nitrogen fertilizers add to greenhouse gas emissions and chemical run-off from farm fields cause algae blooms in fresh water lakes and rivers. Good says the cost of cleaning up the environment adds another $50 billion to the world-wide cost of commercial agriculture fertilizers.

Good and his U of A co-author Perrin Beatty says some plants, like peas, have the natural ability to split atoms of nitrogen gas and use the bioactive elements that enhance growth. Mass produced and consumed cereal crops like wheat, rice and maize cannot naturally split nitrogen atoms and need commercial fertilizers. Fertilizer producers use huge amounts of natural gas to to split nitrogen atoms to supply its bioactive components that are then spread on fields in the form of a chemical .

Good and his U of A co-author Perrin Beatty say the fix is to genetically alter agricultural products like cereal crops so they can process nitrogen from the atmosphere naturally and still get the same growth enhancing effect as commercial fertilizers.

Good and Beatty have published their perspective on Future Prospects for Cereals That Fix Nitrogen in the journal Science. The paper will be published by Science on Friday, 22 July 2011.

Source: Source: University of Alberta via EurAlert! Via

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1.04  Nurturing a rare breed

UC Davis plant breeding education expands to meet global need.

For his doctoral studies, Iago Lowe researched genetic resistance to stripe rust, a fungal disease that has plagued wheat growers for centuries. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

By Diane Nelson

While working in Tanzania on community development projects several years ago, Iago Lowe came to two life-changing conclusions:

Food security is central to projects that make a lasting difference in people's well-being. It ensures that communities have the seeds, soil, water and environment to produce enough to eat.

His bachelor's degree in physics and religion from Dartmouth College did not adequately prepare him to spearhead those kinds of projects.

To address that gap in his ability to "make some small difference in the world," Lowe started doctoral studies at UC Davis in 2007 in plant breeding and genetics.

"There are so many needs in developing nations — for schools, roads, water, other infrastructure — but when the money and people leave, so often the projects die," Lowe said. "The few projects I saw that continued to thrive, that really made a tangible difference in people's lives, almost always dealt with local food security, seed systems, soil and water conservation and ecological restoration — projects that demanded a set of skills I didn't have. I'm now nearing the end of my time studying plant breeding at UC Davis and that's no longer the case."

Lowe exemplifies a new breed of plant breeders at UC Davis. Long a global leader in plant breeding, UC Davis has been retooling its programs — offering new training, creating new curriculum, hiring new faculty (as the budget allows) and conducting world-class research to meet a growing demand for new crops and for breeders.

The new generation of scientists that those programs will produce — and their research breakthroughs — can't come soon enough for industry, government and philanthropic foundation leaders who say that a shortage of plant breeders is hampering efforts to alleviate hunger around the world. Hundreds of high-paying industry jobs for plant breeders are going unfilled.

"Plant breeding is such a vital tool for helping us deal with significant challenges in the 21st century such as food security, population increase, urbanization, and water and energy shortages," said Xingping Zhang, a watermelon breeder with the Davis-based seed company Syngenta. "Who is going to educate the plant breeders? UC Davis is in a perfect position to do so because it's a great center of science and technological inventions, located right in the heart of agricultural abundance. No place in the world offers the diversity of crops [like those] grown in California."

In another major nod to UC Davis expertise, the U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded $40 million in grants earlier this year to develop climate-change-tolerant plants and new bioenergy sources. UC Davis scientists will lead two research teams from more than 50 universities in more than 20 states.

"Each of these projects features transdisciplinary, regional, integrated teams, including scientists from institutions that represent underserved populations," said Roger Beachy, director of the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture, in announcing the grants at UC Davis. "This approach represents a new paradigm in how USDA science can best solve critical issues facing agriculture today."

A century of breeding

Since opening its doors in 1908, UC Davis has helped develop and manage many of the more than 250 crops now grown in California.

Best of Breed

To see plant breeding in action, watch strawberries grow at the 200-acre UC South Coast Research and Extension Center in Irvine, where the winters are mild, the summers are warm and the coastal breezes are lovely.

More . . .

The impact of UC Davis crop science is found on farms and nurseries throughout the state. Take walnuts, for instance. Virtually all the walnut varieties sold in California nurseries are UC Davis varieties. One variety — Chandler, with its mid-season leafing and light, golden kernels — accounts for 90 percent of all nursery sales of walnuts. Year-round strawberry production is another example [see "Best of Breed," page 29].

Beyond this, UC Davis research and its graduates helped nurture a fruit boom in Chile and other parts of the world. Most of those crops were developed by traditional selective breeding methods.

However, classical plant breeding programs have withered at UC Davis and other universities in recent decades, as the life sciences underwent a revolution and faculty and student researchers turned their focus from developing new plant varieties to understanding the molecular, cellular and genetic underpinnings of plant life.

UC Davis continues to support breeding programs for grapes, peaches, almonds, walnuts, prunes, strawberries, peppers, beans, lettuce, tomatoes, rice and wheat — but in different ways than before.

With some of those crops, like lettuce, researchers no longer develop and release new varieties into the public domain. Rather, they focus on the molecular side of the breeding spectrum, identifying genes likely to control important traits and releasing the corresponding germplasm, or living tissue, which can by used by industry and others to develop new varieties.

With highly competitive crops like corn, vegetables and flowers, where new varieties can reap big dividends — the business of releasing new ones has moved to the private sector. Industry looks to UC researchers to help solve problems but not compete with them in the marketplace.

"Our plant breeding programs are science driven," said Neal Van Alfen, dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. "That's what distinguishes our program and puts us at the forefront of helping solve critical agricultural, biological and environmental issues worldwide."

Van Alfen said UC researchers allow both public and private breeders to keep up with advances in plant science.

Adapting plants for climate change

The two USDA-funded research projects, in particular, showcase how advances in molecular breeding techniques have revolutionized plant breeding.

Wheat geneticist Jorge Dubcovsky

(Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

One team, headed by wheat geneticist Jorge Dubcovsky, received $25 million to identify variations in wheat and barley genes that can enhance the ability of the plants to resist disease, make efficient use of water and nitrogen, and optimize crop yield. These discoveries will help plant breeders develop varieties of wheat and barley that will thrive and be productive despite anticipated climate variability.

Forest tree geneticist David Neale received $14.6 million to head a team — which includes Charles Langley, professor of genetics in the College of Biological Sciences — to sequence the genomes of loblolly pine, sugar pine and Douglas fir. This is a particularly ambitious project because the genomes of pine tree species are huge — as much as 10 times the size of the human genome. The researchers hope to accelerate breeding efforts for fast-growing varieties of these trees — enhancing their use as feedstocks for biofuels and contributing to carbon sequestration, capturing and storing carbon from the atmosphere, thus mitigating the effects of climate change.

Need for field training

The grants also illustrate another important point in today's plant science education: Funding is ample for plant biology, genetics and biotechnology, but not for field training. As a result, colleges and universities have invested in faculty on the basic-science side, and less on the applied side. Therefore, fewer students are being trained to set up a field experiment and develop new varieties, and fewer fully trained breeders are entering the job market.

Allen Van Deynze, a professional researcher with the UC Davis Seed Biotechnology Center, said UC Davis and other universities made a mistake in not replacing breeders as they retired. "All the biotechnological advances don't mean much if you don't have people who know how to develop varieties."

Chris van Kessel — a professor, agronomist and chair of the Department of Plant Sciences, explained it like this: "Plant breeding refers to a wide set of skills, from basic to applied science, and we're not as strong as we once were on the applied side. Why does that matter? Let's say you're looking for a wheat variety with stripe-rust resistance. Using advanced molecular tools, you find a gene of interest . . . But until you make your crosses — grow the plants in the field — you don't really know what you have. Did you make the plant especially susceptible to another disease? Or did you affect yield? . . . And knowing how to set up those test plots requires a very specialized set of skills."

Scientists have begun spelling out the need for field-trained plant breeders in their grant applications. Dubcovsky's team, for example, will spend one-third of its $25 million USDA grant to develop a Plant Breeding Education Network to train 30 new doctoral students in plant breeding and provide educational opportunities for 100 undergraduate students interested in plant improvement.

The Seed Biotechnology Center is also helping to fill the gap by training professionals in its Plant Breeding Academy, which has grown into a thriving resource for trained plant breeders worldwide. Now offered in Europe as well, the academy is modeled on professional M.B.A. programs that allow participants to continue in their current jobs. Students meet for three six-day weeks each year for two years in small hands-on classes.

"Most of our students are working in the field, doing plant breeding, but they don't yet have the training to set up their own programs and trials," Van Deynze said. "In the academy, they develop a deeper knowledge of genetics, statistics and breeding theory so they can direct their own breeding programs."

Academy graduates earn a UC Certificate of Completion, not a degree. The program doesn't replace the need for plant breeding faculty, researchers and curriculum, Van Deynze said. "It's complementary," he explained. "The [Plant Breeding Academy] is more geared toward advancing within industry, not for academic research."

Four classes — a total of 66 people — have either graduated from or are current students in the academy. The Center also offers short courses on seed biology, production, quality and breeding with molecular markers.

A new breed

Plant breeding education at UC Davis involves many disciplines — plant biology, computer science, entomology, plant pathology and nutrition, quantitative genetics, to name a few. Graduates can focus on ecology, genetics, horticulture and agronomy and plant biology — and even then their course loads incorporate the full array of disciplines.

Lowe, the graduate student, is working to identify and characterize genetic sources of resistance to stripe rust, a fungal disease that has plagued wheat growers for centuries, and destroyed billions of bushels of wheat. In some parts of the world, wheat is the major source of protein — people can go hungry when a rust epidemic strikes.

Working with Dubscovky, Lowe has identified stripe rust resistance genes that are now being introduced into elite California wheat varieties. They may eventually contribute to the long-term development of more stripe-rust resistant wheat.

"What is especially appealing about working in a public research and breeding program is that our results are made available to breeders everywhere, to expand on and use as they see fit," Lowe said.

Wisconsin native Shelby Repinski came to UC Davis in 2006 to pursue a doctorate in plant breeding and genetics. "Plant breeding gives me a way to apply my love of genetics, statistics and plants. Science can be so abstract. In the lab, it's just a hypothesis — this gene controls this trait. When you take that hypothesis into the field, you can test it; see how the components interact with weather conditions, the pH of the soil, etc. You're dealing with the whole plant, and I just love that link between the basic and applied side of science."

Students also learn the importance of genetic diversity to plant breeding, a lesson that can take them all over the world searching for wild and domesticated ancestors of our modern crops. In order to develop high-quality crops that can resist constantly evolving pests, diseases and environmental stresses, plant breeders need genetic diversity in germplasm, the living tissue from which new plants can be grown.

Sexually compatible wild species and landraces — ancestral varieties of crop species — are the keys to genetic diversity, but the amount of land where plants grow wild continues to shrink and many plant species and varieties are disappearing. That's why the plant science community has developed conservation programs to gather, preserve, catalogue and distribute germplasm to researchers and breeders around the world.

Repinski traveled to Mexico with plant sciences professor Paul Gepts to collect wild bean plants. She also took advantage of one of the many plant breeding internships available to UC Davis students at area industries. She worked on drought-tolerance in corn for Monsanto in Woodland.

"I learned pollination techniques, phenotyping and many other things — [and discovered] that I can work in a field all day and be happy," she said.

Repinski applauded UC Davis' renewed plant breeding efforts. "Plant breeding is becoming a more popular field of study," she said. "More and more students are gravitating to it because it has so many uses. It can help all of humanity."

Learn more:

UC Davis plant breeding education

Plant Breeding Academy

Seed Biotechnology Center videos on plant breeding


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1.05  International Rice Research Institute announces new head of plant breeding

The Philippines

July 19, 2011

After a global search, IRRI is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Eero A. J. Nissilä as its Head of Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Biotechnology (PBGB) and leader of GRISP Theme 2: Accelerating the development, delivery, and adoption of improved rice varieties.

Eero hails from Finland where he started his career in the mid 1980s as a research assistant for the Agricultural Research Centre of Finland.

By 1990, he had his M.Sc. in Plant Breeding at the University of Helsinki. He then went onto complete his doctoral degree in Agriculture and Forestry (Plant Breeding) at the same University with his thesis: ‘Relationships between phenotype and genotype-environment interactions and their influence on yield in highly adapted barley germplasm’.

For about the last ten years, Eero has been working as the Director of Breeding Programmes at Boreal Plant Breeding Ltd., while concurrently undertaking lecturing at the University of Helsinki, Department of Applied Biology / Plant Breeding. Prior to this, he worked as an Associate Scientist in International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) in Malaysia and Italy; and as a barley breeder, also at Boreal Plant Breeding Ltd.

Eero is due to start work at IRRI in late September 2011 and will provide strategic and operational leadership on all aspects of rice varietal improvement research in IRRI. Dr. Achim Dobermann, IRRI’s deputy director general for research, said that “Dr. Nissilä will provide leadership for transforming rice breeding programs towards more targeted product development, which will allow us to develop new rice varieties faster and more efficiently through applying new breeding strategies and tools”.

As the global leader for GRISP Theme 2 and in collaboration with others, he will provide the overall leadership for accelerating the development of new rice varieties and hybrids in all major rice-growing environments, with a particular emphasis on new, targeted product development pipelines that utilize molecular breeding approaches and networks. He will also be responsible for implementing these breeding programs in Asia, including overseeing all staff and other resources in IRRI’s Plant Breeding, Genetics and Biotechnology (PBGB) Division.

“For a lifetime breeder to work at IRRI with a global plant breeding activity is a once in a lifetime job opportunity,” Dr. Nissilä said. “I find it particularly interesting to work in a cross-cultural environment and with local and international top experts coming from various countries. IRRI’s overall targets and values motivate me heavily – especially with the global scene in which plant breeding will probably, more than ever, have an importance in feeding the global population.”

“After being in business-driven private breeding for most of my career to date,” he added, “I believe that at IRRI we can exploit much of the strategic targeting approaches used in commercial product-driven breeding programmes as well as ways to integrate new breeding technologies and methods into breeding”.


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1.06  Dr. Eufemio T. Rasco Jr. appointed as the new executive director of the Department of Agriculture-Philippine Rice Research Institute

The Philippines

July 21, 2011

President Benigno S. Aquino III has appointed Dr. Eufemio T. Rasco Jr (photo, right), a plant breeder and academician, as the new executive director of the Department of Agriculture-Philippine Rice Research Institute (DA-PhilRice), July 4, vice Atty. Ronilo A. Beronio (photo, left).

Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala, on the other hand, swore him into office on July 13. Rasco said, during the turnover ceremony for PhilRice chief today, that Alcala directed him to ensure PhilRice’s strong support to the Aquino Administration’s goal of rice self-sufficiency by 2013, particularly in the supply of high quality seeds and in developing and adapting technologies for upland rice farming.

Rasco is a recipient of a number of awards from prestigious organizations, such as the National Academy of Science and Technology and the Philippine Jaycees for his contributions in plant breeding and agricultural education.

He has worked with various institutions, such as the University of the Philippines Mindanao as professor and dean, International Potato Center as coordinating scientist, Institute of Plant Breeding as director, and East-West Seed Company as founding director and member of the board. In these institutions, he conducted comprehensive research on vegetables, potato and sweet potato, underused crops, slope farming, and modern agriculture’s sustainability. He has internationally acclaimed papers and books, and has crafted a general education course on plant biotechnology, the first in the Philippines.

Rasco is a magna cum laude agriculture graduate of the University of the Philippine Los Baños and has a doctorate degree in plant breeding from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, USA.

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


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1.07  UPDATE: National Association of Plant Breeders (NAPB) Meeting

As the chair of Communications committee, Allen Van Deynze attended the NAPB annual meeting at Texas A&M on May 23, 2011. The NAPB is partnering with SeedWorld ( to highlight the importance of plant breeding in our society. Look for monthly stories, interviews and videos in SeedWorld and on the NAPB website ( Allen was also elected vice chair of the Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee. For a press release of events please see

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1.08 Improving wheat yields for global food security


July 25, 2011

With the world’s population set to reach 8.9 billion by 2050, CSIRO scientists are hunting down and exploiting a number of wheat’s key genetic traits in a bid to substantially boost its grain yield.

The rate of wheat-yield improvement achievable through conventional plant breeding and genetic engineering alone is not fast enough to compete with a rapidly growing global population, changing climates and decreasing water availability in the battle for accessible and affordable food and fuel.

“To avert future food security catastrophes we must accelerate the rate of wheat yield improvement,” says the leader of a CSIRO wheat research team dedicated to crop adaptation and improvement, Dr Richard Richards.

“Scientists need to quickly identify the traits and management practices responsible for capturing key resources such as light, water and nutrients, and converting them to grain.”

Locating genes of agricultural importance within the complex wheat genome is challenging but possible using new high-tech equipment such as that being developed by the High Resolution Plant Phenomics Centre (HRPPC) in Canberra.

CSIRO’s Dr Richard Poiré is studying Brachypodium – a type of grass similar in many ways to wheat – at the HRPPC to identify the function and location of the genes responsible for important traits such as shoot growth, biomass accumulation, photosynthesis and root growth.

By studying a model plant and applying the findings to cereals, scientists can accelerate the breeding of next-generation food and biofuel crops.

Another member of the team, Dr Anton Wasson, is investigating root growth in Australian and Indian wheat crops.

His aim is to identify new wheat varieties with faster-growing, deeper root systems that can capture more water during flowering and grain development.

If successful, the research will enable wheat breeders to produce improved varieties for the water-limited environments of both Australia and India.

CSIRO scientists investigating food security will be presenting their research at the 18th International Botanical Congress being held in Melbourne this week 23-30 July 2011.



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1.09  Project aims to double yields of Nigeria’s major staples

Ibadan, Nigeria

July 22, 2011

Scientists at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture are working with national partners to double yields of Nigeria’s major stables, thanks to the Africa Development Bank (AfDB)-funded Community-Based Agriculture and Rural Development Project.

The project, which involves active participation of farmers across five states, will deploy best agronomic practices and improved varieties to the fields, according to Dr. Sam Ajala, IITA Maize Breeder.

“It will focus on showcasing production technologies that can double yield in-situ with the hope that farmers will pick up from there,” he adds.

In spite of several innovations developed to spur yield, resource-poor farmers who dominate the agricultural landscape have limited access to these technologies.

Consequently, this has negatively affected the productivity and fortunes of the country’s agriculture—a sector that employs more than 70 per cent of people in the rural areas.

A project to double maize in Nigeria that was implemented by IITA, whose first phase ended in 2009, had maize yield on participating farmers’ field rising from 1.5 tons per hectare to 4.2 t/ha.

“The project demonstrated that with the right technologies deployed to farmers backed by good agronomic practices, farmers could increase yield.”

Scientists will be leveraging on lessons learnt from the Doubling Maize project to increase productivity

The implementation plan for the five states namely Adamawa, Gombe, Bauchi, Kaduna and Kwara involve maize, cowpeas, soybean, cassava and yam.

However, yams and cassava are intended for only Kaduna and Kwara States, according to National Coordinator of the Project, Dr. Arabi Mohammed.

National partners in the project include the Institute of Agricultural Research of Ahmadu Bello University (IAR/ABU), the National Cereal Research Institute (NCRI), University of Ilorin, and the National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS) of the ABU. The National Root Crop Research Institute (NRCRI) at Umudike will collaborate on yam miniset technology.

Researchers are optimistic that the project will benefit from other projects such as the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA), Doubling Maize Project in Nigeria, Tropical Legume II, Nitrogen for Africa (N2Africa) project, Striga Control Project among others.

The involvement of IITA and its partners will complement that of the participating State Agricultural Development Programs whose mandate is to promote agricultural technologies for optimum productivity.

“It is expected that these linkages with other projects will provide the needed synergy that will create the maximum impact,” Ajala adds.


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1.10  ‘High vigour’ wheats impress in field trials


July 28, 2011

Significant progress has been made in the development of a new weed management tool – wheat with superior competitiveness.

Highly vigorous wheat lines have been developed which can produce up to double the biomass of commonly grown varieties by the early tillering stage, effectively shading out weeds.

Increased root growth also enables the wheat to out-compete weeds for water and nutrients.

The lines have been produced by the University of Adelaide, in collaboration with CSIRO Plant Industry, under a Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) funded project.

In Western Australian and South Australian field trials the competitive wheat lines suppressed weeds while producing grain yields comparable to or better than those produced from commonly grown varieties.

It is proposed these wheat lines – which could help give growers the option of keeping weedy paddocks in crop - will be provided to Australian wheat breeding programs to include in germplasm development.

Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) researcher Peter Newman, who is testing three of the lines in WA as part of GRDC-funded integrated weed management research, is excited at the potential for another non-herbicide weed control option.

 “These competitive wheat cultivars are capable of reducing ryegrass seed set by up to 50 per cent compared with existing commercial wheat varieties – that is almost as effective as using a chaff cart,” he said.

 “Due to increasing herbicide resistance, it is important for growers to use more non-herbicide options to control weeds and there is significant potential for crop competition to be better utilised for weed control.

 “WA farmers are accustomed to weeds dominating in their paddocks as they currently grow uncompetitive crop varieties at wide row spacings with low to moderate seed rates.

 “The availability of competitive crop varieties could help swamp out the weeds.”

Mr Newman helped to test three competitive wheat lines at Eradu and Wongan Hills last year.

The lines, grown on yellow sandy soils, were compared with the commonly grown wheat varieties Mace , Magenta and Wyalkatchem , and Baudin barley.

Mr Newman said the WA trial sites were relatively weed free in 2010, making it difficult to assess the weed suppressive ability of the competitive lines.

 “However, the competitive lines yielded almost as well as the other commercial lines and despite their big canopies, did not fall over during the dry finish to the season,” he said.

 “I believe this is due to their larger root systems which can explore further into the soil for moisture.”

The best of the competitive lines grown at Eradu yielded 3.4 tonnes per hectare, compared with 3.5t/ha for Magenta , the top yielding commercial line.

At Wongan Hills the best competitive line yielded 1.5t/ha, compared with 1.6t/ha for Mace .

 “In weed-free situations there is no significant yield advantage from growing these competitive lines, but the big advantage comes when they are grown in weedy paddocks,” Mr Newman said.

University of Adelaide researcher Gurjeet Gill said that in South Australian field trials where paddocks were weedier, the competitive wheat lines provided up to 50 per cent better weed suppression (weed seed production) than commercial varieties such as Wyalkatchem , while improving yields by up to 30 per cent.

Dr Gill, who led the development of the competitive wheat lines, said in areas where annual ryegrass was resistant to Group A and B herbicides, Australian wheat crops treated with pre-emergent herbicides often had unacceptable levels of weed seed set.

 “The use of high early vigour and weed suppressive varieties, in conjunction with other weed management tactics, could enable farmers to keep weedy paddocks in crop if they wish to do so,” he said.

“Most of our research has focussed on the suppression of annual ryegrass, as this is the most problematic weed in southern and western grain growing areas of Australia.

 “However, recent research results show that wheat varieties with superior competitive ability against ryegrass also possess superior competitive ability against other grass and broadleaf weeds.”


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1.11  Resistant wheats and Ethiopian farmers battle deadly fungus

When a devastating stripe rust epidemic hit Ethiopia last year, newly-released wheat varieties derived from international partnerships proved resistant to the disease, and are now being multiplied for seed.

Normally, Ethiopia has two distinct rainy seasons, one short and one main, allowing for two wheat cropping cycles per year. However, 2010 saw persistent gentle rains throughout the year, with prolonged dews and cool temperatures—perfect weather for stripe rust. Most wheat varieties planted in Ethiopia were susceptible, including the two most popular, Kubsa and Galema, so damage was severe. Newly-released, resistant varieties provide a way out of danger. In particular, two CIMMYT lines released in Ethiopia in 2010 proved resistant to stripe rust in their target environments: Picaflor#1, which was released in Ethiopia as Kakaba, and Danphe#1, released as Danda’a.  Picaflor#1 is targeted to environments where Kubsa is grown, and so has the potential to replace it, and Danphe#1 could similarly replace Galema. Both varieties are also high-yielding and resistant to Ug99.


Source: CIMMYT:

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University


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1.12 Countering drought in Machakos, Kenya

This growing season in south-central Kenya has been a good test for the new drought tolerant maize varieties being bred in Africa. This is a semi-arid area, but this year they can drop the semi. Farmers report only three short periods of rain since the February planting time.

“Without this seed, I’d have nothing. Nothing, like my neighbors,” says farmer Philip Ngolania. He sweeps his hand to direct the eye first to his maize and then toward a neighbor’s plot. Philip’s maize stalks, though looking thin and weak, have fairly uniformly produced large ears of corn. His neighbor’s maize is shriveled and dead, the stalks have toppled in their feebleness and there isn’t a cob to be found. The neighbor – and many of the farmers in the area – planted the traditional local maize called Mbembasitu, which means “our own maize seed.”  Philip planted the new drought tolerant variety developed by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and other partners under the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa program.  

For the news announcement see

Or read the blog at

Source: CIMMYT:


Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University


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1.13  Malawi farmers benefit from improved groundnut varieties

Farmers in the Kasungu District of Malawi are experiencing the impact of ICRISAT’s efforts in improving livelihood opportunities in the area through the introduction of improved groundnut varieties. ICRISAT, in collaboration with the Cooperative for American Relief Everywhere (CARE) Malawi and the Sumader Association of Family Entrepreneurs (SAFE), implemented a three-year project in three selected TAs of Kasungu District, namely Njombwa, Kaomba and Mwase. The project contributed towards building the capacity of farmers through various interventions ranging from community seed banks, recommended cultural practices for groundnut production and linking them to markets.

 “Since the project started, I have been able to multiply seeds on my own through ICRISAT’s assistance and for the past two years, have been harvesting 16 bags of 40-kg each of high yielding groundnut variety from the same piece of land I used to harvest only 4 bags with my traditional variety,” said Mrs Janet Tenganani, a 67 year old farmer. She added that she uses the proceeds from the groundnut produce to pay school fees for her two grandchildren. According to her, the high yielding potential of ICRISAT’s groundnut variety ICGV-SM 90704 (Nsinjiro) has really transformed her life in just a short period of time. ICGV-SM 90704 is a medium duration variety, which yields around 2 t/ha and is resistant to groundnut rosette disease.

See the full story at

Source: ICRISAT:

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University


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1.14 China to fully conduct “31511” super rice project during the 12th Five-Year Plan period

Beijing, China

July 13, 2011

It was reported, on July 5, 2011, from the national working conference on research and promotion of super rice, held in Changchun, Jilin Province, by the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) that, in developing super rice during the period of the 12th Five-Year Plan, China would, guided by the Scientific Outlook on Development, focus on the production of high-yield, fine-quality, efficient, environmental-friendly and safe super rice, and adhere to the three-phase principle of “promoting the application of research results, deepening the study and extension, and striving for the final goal.

” We would take efforts to promote innovation in breeding methods, speed up selection and breeding, develop supporting techniques, encourage demonstration and extension, expand total growing area, increase the yield per unit area and improve quality and efficiency, in a bid to advance the large-scale, standardized and industrialized production of high-quality super rice. We would spare no pains to carry out the “31511” project, i.e. by 2015, we would have bred more than 30 varieties of super rice, increased the area planted with super rice by over 150 million mu annually, increased the output per mu by 100 jin (50 kg) on average, and improved the efficiency by saving more than 100 yuan per mu, in order to get science and technology to better support the work of national food security.

It is learned that after 15-year continued improvement in and 5-year support to super rice with special programs, a total of 83 new varieties have been identified by the MOA and applied to all major rice growing areas across the country. During the period of the 11th Five-Year Plan, the accumulated area planted with these new varieties amounted to 414 million mu and the average yield per mu reached 575.2 kg, an increase of 67.9 kg. Thus, the accumulated increase of rice yield totaled 5.619 million tons during that period, making great contribution to China’s seven consecutive years of increase in rice production and to the new record in rice yield per unit area.


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1.15 Mozambique gets new designer rice

The first IRRI-bred rice variety especially designed for Mozambique – Makassane – has been approved for release.

Makassane has the same yields as the leading local variety but it has better grain quality and is resistant to local diseases.

If better varieties like Makassane can be more widely adopted, Mozambique could become both self sufficient in rice and a rice exporter.

Following extensive testing across Mozambique, Makassane was chosen as the best tasting locally grown rice variety. It has an attractive long grain, a nice texture when eaten, and has disease resistance, which is very important to local farmers.  Makassane is the first rice variety bred by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) that has been designed especially for Mozambique consumers and farmers to ensure it suits local market needs and production conditions.


Source: IRRI:

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University


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1.16 Meeting on global food research in Wageningen

Wageningen, The Netherlands

July 21, 2011

Heads of six leading universities and research organisations in food and agriculture from all over the world met in Wageningen, the Netherlands, on 14 and 15 July to discuss a cooperative effort on food and agricultural research. The goal is to join forces on the development of sound and reliable methods for food production in order to successfully deal with the challenges facing us in this area in the coming decades. Not only will world food production have to be drastically increased, the production methods will also have to become cleaner and more sustainable and the available foods need to be adequately translated into healthy diets.

 Over the coming decades, the world's population will increase from the current seven billion to eight billion in 2025 and nine billion in 2050. In combination with increasing prosperity, this will lead to a doubling of the global demand for food in the coming decades and a shift in the composition of the foods being eaten to include a higher percentage of animal proteins. In addition, the demand for vegetables will increase drastically. All six organisations are convinced that successfully dealing with these challenges will require breakthroughs in knowledge and technology.

 The participants are all leading institutions from the most important food producing countries in the world: Embrapa from Brazil, the University of California (UC) Davis from the US, the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) from China, INRA from France, Massey University from New Zealand and Wageningen UR (University & Research centre) from the Netherlands. Most of these organisations have already bilateral cooperation among each other.

 This new initiative will build further on this, is action oriented, will ensure that the group as a whole aligns its research priorities and activities more effectively and intends to launch new initiatives that are beyond the reach of each individually. This will improve the quality of the outcome and speed up the rate at which progress is being made in developing and transferring the necessary knowledge and innovations. In this way the group expects to add value and to be an interesting partner to both public bodies and private industry.

 This first meeting was successful in structuring the initiative and identifying the most promising actions to start with. These will be worked out in further detail in the coming period.

 The initiative will officially be launched later this year.


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1.17  Organic plant breeding yields healthy diversity

Innovation based on nature and tradition

By Marieke Vos-Zweers

July 15, 2011

Have you ever tasted a purple carrot? Yellow squash? Blue potatoes? Purple-and-white “Martian Jewels” corn?

Unlike what you might expect, these exotically colored vegetables are not the result of new artificial breeding experiments. The Martian Jewels corn was found in this year’s Seeds of Change catalog, which includes only organic seeds and varieties.

In addition to mainstream breeding techniques, there is organic plant breeding. There is no genetic modification (GM) in organic breeding, but that’s not all there is to it.

Organic breeding holds itself to high requirements based on plants’ natural reproductive ability, genetic diversity, natural species authenticity, species characteristics, agro-biodiversity, cultural diversity, and a focus on the cooperation between farmers, breeders, and traders.

A difference between mainstream breeding and organic breeding is that the latter aims to enhance inherent plant resilience instead of focusing on singular disease immunity and yield improvement.

“Apart from aversive socio-economic effects and environmental and health risks of the GM approaches, [organic breeding] is about values,” Dr. Edith Lammerts van Bueren, chair of organic plant breeding at Wageningen University and Research Center in the Netherlands, told The Epoch Times.

“It focuses more on a partnership with nature and less on a ruler-subject or stewardship attitude toward nature.”

For example, one of her Ph.D. students works to redevelop old corn cultivars in Southwest Guizhou, China. These are used to prepare some traditional, special dishes that cannot be prepared with common corn varieties. The varieties are then bred on farms. This process involved breeder-farmer cooperation and was able to maintain cultural diversity.

The good news is that mainstream and organic breeding do not necessarily have to be antagonistic. Organic breeding can innovate mainstream breeding programs and vice versa.

For example, some molecular selection tools used in mainstream breeding programs can potentially shorten organic breeding programs without violating plants’ natural authenticity or damaging their natural reproductive ability.

Organic plant breeding can in return “diversify and innovate conventional breeding programs through its unique perspective and experience on plant breeding within a natural and cultural context,” Lammerts van Bueren said.



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1.18  GEAC mandates prior state govt okay

Sanjeeb Mukherjee & Sreelatha Menon / New Delhi July 7, 2011, 0:08 IST

With states wanting information on field trials of genetically modified crops, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) today directed applicants or companies wishing to conduct field trials for genetically modified (GM) crops to first produce a no-objection certificate from the states where they wished to do this.

Bihar, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh have earlier objected to field trials on GM crops being conducted in their state without their knowledge.

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, for instance, had written to Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh for details on the field trials for GM maize being conducted in the state by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. Madhya Pradesh recently sought details of the places where trials for GM crops were being conducted.

In the new rules, those wishing to conduct field trials for GM crops must first write to the GEAC about the place they have in mind. The Committee would then analyse the site on various parameters, such as its location near a sanctuary, water body, etc. After obtaining clearance, the applicants would have to get a no-objection certificate from the state in question as well, before any field trial.

GM companies are unhappy. “It will obviously delay the process for getting clearance for field trials,” said Paresh Verma, director, research, in Shriram Bioseed Ltd and a member of the National Seed Association of India.


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1.19  USDA/APHIS reopens comment period for draft environmental assessment for drought tolerant corn

Washington, DC, USA

July 27, 2011

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has reopened the comment period for a petition received from the Monsanto Company seeking a determination of nonregulated status for corn designated as MON 87460, which has been genetically engineered for drought tolerance. This action will allow interested persons additional time to prepare and submit comments on the Monsanto petition and APHIS’ plant pest risk assessment and draft environmental assessment (EA) for the proposed determination of nonregulated status.

The comment period on Docket No. APHIS-2011-0023 is being reopened for an additional 30 days, ending Aug. 12. APHIS will also consider all comments received between July 12 (the day after the close of the original comment period) and the date of this notice.

The draft EA provides APHIS decisionmakers with a review and analysis of any potential environment impacts associated with the proposed determination of nonregulated status for MON 87460 corn.

Notice of this action is published in today’s July 27 Federal Register.

You may submit comments by either of the following methods:

Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to!documentDetail;D=APHIS-2011-0023-0001.

Postal Mail/Commercial Delivery: Send your comment to Docket No. APHIS-2011-0023, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238.

Supporting documents and any comments we receive on this docket may be viewed at!documentDetail;D=APHIS-2011-0023 or in our reading room, which is located in room 1141 of the USDA South Building, 14th Street and Independence Ave., SW., Washington, DC, between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. To facilitate entry into the comment reading room, please call (202) 690-2817.



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1.20  The Global Plant Council Forges Ahead

The Global Plant Council (GPC) is a not-for-profit organization, is a coalition of plant science societies of the world that brings plant scientists together to work synergistically toward solving the pressing problems facing humankind and that speaks with a strong voice from a plant science perspective to inform the global debate on those problems.

On June 28 – 29 this year 2011, the GPC met in the beautiful city of Qingdao on the coast of eastern Shandong province in China. The GPC 2nd annual meeting was generously hosted by the Chinese Society of Plant Biology (CSPB) and expertly and smoothly organized by Professor Zuhua He, the Secretary General of CSPB, and his team of capable assistants. Fourteen of the 20 GPC member societies were represented at the meeting, either by serving presidents or by the society’s chosen representative.

The main focus of the meeting was to identify and discuss global challenges that human society is facing and for which a concerted action is needed from plant scientists around the world. The goal was to develop focused topic areas and a deployment strategy that would allow GPC to move forward into active participation in the global debates that can be informed and impacted by the work and talents of the plant science community: world hunger, human health and well-being, climate change, energy and biomaterials, and sustainability and environmental protection. During the meeting, GPC decided that the best way forward was to hold workshops on key issues related to global challenges. These workshops would bring together plant scientists, breeders and other specialists from all over the globe with the necessary expertise to generate a road map as to how plant science can address, mitigate, or offer solutions for the issues that GPC plans to address.

The Council identified nine key issues that GPC feels must be discussed and facilitated in the global plant community in greater depths. These nine key issues, in order of perceived priority for GPC action, are: Digital Seed Bank, Local-level Diversity and Yield Stability, Increasing/Enriching Agricultural Diversity, Biofortification, The Plant Environment Metagenome, Development of Medicinal Plant-based Products, Species Information for Sustainable Adaptation Capability to Climate Change, Developing Perennial Rice/Wheat/Maize, Sharing Information and Resources.

GPC member the European Plant Science Organisation (EPSO) has kindly volunteered to host the next (3rd) Annual Meeting of the Global Plant Council in Freiburg, Germany either before or after the joint EPSO/FESPB meeting that runs from July 29th to August 4th, 2012

For more information about GPC, you are invited to visit our website, or feel free to contact:  Mel Oliver (Executive Director, Global Plant Council,

Contributed by Kasem Zaki Ahmed

Interim Executive Committee, GPC

Immediate Past President, African Crop Science Society;

Professor of Genetics,  Minia University, El-Minia, Egypt, ET-61517.



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1.21  Adoption of genetically engineered crops in the U.S.

Washington, DC, USA

July 1, 2011


U.S. farmers have adopted genetically engineered (GE) crops widely since their commercial introduction in 1996, notwithstanding uncertainty about consumer acceptance and economic and environmental impacts. In terms of share of planted acres, soybeans and cotton have been the most widely adopted GE crops in the U.S., followed by corn. This data product summarizes the extent of adoption of herbicide-tolerant and insect–resistant crops since their introduction in 1996. Three tables devoted to corn, cotton, and soybeans cover the 2000-11 period by State. See more on the extent of adoption...

Description: Adoption of GE crops has grown steadily in the United States since their introduction in 1996.



The following tables provide the data obtained by USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) in the June Agricultural Survey annually for 2000 through 2011. Randomly selected farmers across the United States were asked if they planted corn, soybeans, or upland cotton seed that, through biotechnology, is resistant to herbicides, insects, or both. Conventionally bred herbicide-tolerant varieties were excluded. "Stacked" gene varieties are those containing GE traits for both herbicide tolerance (HT) and insect resistance (Bt).

According to NASS, the States published in these tables represent 81-86 percent of all corn planted acres, 87-90 percent of all soybean planted acres, and 81-93 percent of all upland cotton planted acres (depending on the year). See more on the extent of adoption.

The acreage estimates are subject to sampling variability because all operations planting GE varieties are not included in the sample. The variability for the 48 corn States, calculated by NASS using the relative standard error at the U.S. level, is 0.3-1.8 percent for all GE varieties (depending on the year), 1.6-2.5 percent for insect-resistant (Bt)-only varieties, 1.6-3.8 percent for herbicide-tolerant-only varieties, and 1.0-10.8 percent for stacked gene varieties. Variability for the 31 soybean States is 0.3-0.8 percent for herbicide-tolerant varieties, depending on the year. Variability for the 17 upland cotton States is 0.6-2.2 percent for all GE varieties, 4.6-6.6 percent for insect-resistant (Bt)-only varieties, 2.6-6.6 percent for herbicide-tolerant-only varieties, and 2.0-4.2 percent for stacked gene varieties.


These tables will be updated with 2011 GE adoption figures in July 2012 once the survey data become available at the end of June 2012.

Data Sources

Check the data glossary for details of the different surveys that provided the data.

Related Resources

Many people are interested in information about the global GE acreage. USDA does not collect these data. Estimates are produced by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) and can be found in the report, Global Status of Commercialized Transgenic Crops: 2010.


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1.22  Genetically modifying wheat for healthier bread

By Asa Wahlquist

Friday, 01/07/2011

The CSIRO is trialling genetically modified wheat and barley, but not for pesticide resistance like other GM crops. This new variety is aimed at producing healthier foods.

With variations to the plant which combat type two diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and colo-rectal cancers.

The new variety is classified as GM, even though no new genes or proteins have been introduced into the plants.



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1.23  European Parliament backs national right to to ban or restrict the cultivation of genetically modified crops

Strasbourg, France

July 5, 2011

EU Member States should have the flexibility to ban or restrict the cultivation of genetically modified crops and should be able to cite environmental motives for doing so, according to MEPs voting on draft legislation on Tuesday.

The draft amendment to existing legislation - adopted with 548 votes in favour, 84 against and 31 abstentions - will now go to the Council for further discussion. Parliament’s rapporteur Corinne Lepage (ALDE, FR) commented: “I am pleased that the Parliament has reached an agreement on the difficult issue of GMOs, which has been an issue of public concern for years. If the Council manages to find a common position, this balanced agreement will allow countries and regions the right to not grow GMOs if they so choose.”

Grounds to ban

The Commission had proposed to grant EU Member States the right to ban crops on all but health or environmental grounds, which were to be solely assessed by the European Food Safety Authority. Committed to ensuring a firmer legal basis in the context of international trade rules, Parliament insisted that Member States should not be prevented from stating additional environmental grounds. These could include pesticide resistance, biodiversity preservation or a lack of data on potential negative consequences to the environment.

Parliament also considered that socioeconomic impacts could provide legitimate grounds for a ban, e.g. where contamination risks to conventional or organic agriculture cannot practicably be managed.

The cost of contamination

MEPs say all Member States must take measures to prevent contamination of conventional or organic farming by GM crops, and ensure those responsible for such incidents can be held financially liable.

Updating EU safety checks

An EU-level safety check and authorisation will continue to be a precondition to a green light for growing GMOs. While the proposal does not affect this process, MEPs reminded the Commission that the guidelines need updating.

Only one strain of GM maize and one modified potato are currently authorised for cultivation in the EU and most Member States do not currently grow either crop commercially. Austria, France, Greece, Hungary, Germany and Luxembourg have activated a "safeguard clause" in the current (2001) EU Directive to expressly prohibit cultivation of certain GMOs.

Procedure: Co-decision (1st reading)




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1.24  Voluntary guidelines to allow for labelling of world’s genetically modified foods


OTTAWA— From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

July. 05, 2011

A 20-year international battle to prevent food labels from revealing the presence of genetically modified ingredients has ended, but Canadian consumers will continue to be left in the dark.

On Tuesday, the United States dropped its opposition to guidelines from the world’s food safety regulatory agencies on the labelling of food derived from modern biotechnology.

Canada, like the United States, is among the largest international producers of genetically modified food, but it gave up the fight last year after arguing against GM labelling for more than a decade.

But the guidelines issued by the Codex Alimentarius Commission – a collection of more than 100 agencies that monitor food safety around the world – are voluntary. And Health Canada, which is responsible for food safety in this country, has no plans to require labels on food sold here to be rewritten to indicate the presence of genetically modified organisms.

Stephane Shank, a Health Canada spokesman, said his department would require labelling of GM food products only if there was a clear, scientifically established health risk, or if the genetic modification significantly altered the nutritional value.

“To date,” he said, “Health Canada has not identified health risks associated with GM foods that have been approved for sale in Canada.”

Nearly 70 per cent of the foods that Canadians eat have genetically modified components, and most scientists agree there is no valid research to prove they pose any sort of health threat.

But many developing countries still want the right to inform consumers about GM ingredients.

So the news that the Codex agencies, which met on Tuesday in Geneva, would be issuing GM labelling guidelines was “a huge global victory for consumers around the world, for food sovereignty of nations around the world in the global fight over the future of genetic engineering,” said Lucy Sharratt, the co-ordinator of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network.

“The U.S. was bent on making sure these guidelines did not happen,” she said. “And Canada, at very many points, had supported the U.S. position of sabotaging the negotiations and stopping the guidelines.”

The Codex agencies also agreed that each country has the right to adopt its own approach to labelling GM food.

As a result, countries that wish to adopt GM labelling can now do so without facing the threat of a legal challenge from the World Trade Organization. National measures based on Codex guidelines cannot be challenged as a barrier to trade.

Ms. Sharratt said Canada’s opposition to GM labelling in other countries ended as a result of public outcry. But she said she does not expect the fight to require GM labels in Canada to end soon.

“There has been over 15 years worth of protests whereby Canadian consumers have demanded mandatory labelling and there are at least nine polls since 1999 that show over 80 per cent of Canadians want mandatory labelling of all genetically modified food,” Ms. Sharratt said, “and the government has steadfastly refused to label genetically modified foods.”

Although she agrees there is no evidence of health-safety problems, Ms. Sharratt also said it has been a difficult issue to study because GM food is not labelled and, therefore, cannot be monitored.

Sylvain Charlebois, a professor at the University of Guelph west of Toronto who is an expert on food safety and distribution, said he believes consumers deserve transparency.

“It’s really about risk perceptions, not actual risk,” Dr. Charlebois said. “We need to demystify [genetically modified organisms] in general. And by adopting a policy that would actually make labelling mandatory, I think it would force the food industry to educate the public.”



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1.25 ISAAA presents the first five Biotech Country Facts and Trends

July 8, 2011

International Service for the Aquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications SEAsiaCenter (ISAAA) presents the first five Biotech Country Facts and Trends, a one to two page summary of the important highlights in the commercialization of biotech crops in the first five developing countries (Brazil, Argentina, India, China, and Paraguay) for 2010.

Data on biotech crop commercialization (hectarage and adoption) in 2010, approvals and planting, benefits and future prospects in each country are presented in a brief and easily understandable manner.

The contents are all based on ISAAA Brief 42: Global Report of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops for 2010, authored by Clive James.

We encourage downloads and sharing of the materials.



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1.26 Chinese Academy of Sciences scientist reports advances in development of GM herbicide resistant hybrid rice in China

July 8, 2011

Xiao Guo-ying, researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, reported the recent advances in the development of herbicide resistant transgenic hybrid rice in China. Herbicide resistance genes were used by Chinese scientists in identifying the purity of hybrid seeds and to perform mechanization of hybrid seed production. Since most important restorer genes are indica varieties and are recalcitrant to transformation, a number of herbicide resistant near-isogenic restorer lines were developed through sexual hybridization of indica and japonica varieties and backcross with indica restorer lines later.

Herbicide resistant male sterile lines or herbicide resistant restorer lines were also used and produced a few herbicide resistant hybrid rice combinations. Researchers are investigating the parental lines of hybrid rice with important traits such as insect resistance and drought tolerance.

Recent Advances in Development of Herbicide Resistant Transgenic Hybrid Rice in China

XIAO Guo-ying

Institute of Subtropical Agriculture, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Changsha 410125, China

Abstract of the report

In addition to weed control in direct seeding field of hybrid rice, herbicide resistance genes were used by Chinese scientists to increase and identify the purity of hybrid seeds, and to realize the mechanization of hybrid seed production. The elite restorer lines, such as Minghui 63, R752, T461, R402, D68 and E32 were transformed directly with herbicide resistance genes, in which D68 and E32 are restorer lines of two-line system and the others are of three-line system. Because almost all of important restorer lines are indica varieties and are recalcitrant in transformation, many herbicide resistant near-isogenic restorer lines were developed by sexual hybridization of indica and japonica varieties and backcross with indica restorer lines later, such as Ce 64, Minghui 63, Teqing, Milyang 46, R402 and 9311, in which 9311 is a restorer line of two-line system. The Pei'ai 64S, P88S, 4008S and 7001S, were transformed with herbicide resistance genes. A few herbicide resistant male sterile lines were developed through sexual hybridization and subsequently systemic selection, such as Bar1259S, Bar2172S, 05Z221A and 05Z227A. With the employment of herbicide resistant male sterile lines or herbicide resistant restorer lines, a few herbicide resistant hybrid rice combinations were developed, such as Xiang 125S/Bar 68-1 and Pei'ai 64S/Bar 9311. Based on herbicide resistance, the research was marching on to investigate the parental lines of hybrid rice with insect resistance, drought tolerance, etc.

Source: Crop Biotech Update via

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1.27  Herbicide resistance, weeds are spreading in the United States

July 13, 2011

Herbicide resistance is growing. At least 21 weed species have now developed resistance to glyphosate, a systemic herbicide that has been effectively used to kill weeds and can be found in many commercial products. Some weeds are now developing resistance to alternative herbicides in use. New occurrences of resistance are being noted in varying weed species and locations, creating challenges for weed scientists.

Several articles in the current issue of the journal Weed Science focus on the issue of herbicide resistance. The articles highlight first reports of resistance. “The herbicide resistance issue is becoming serious,” the journal’s editor, William K. Vencill, said. “It is spreading out beyond where weed scientists have seen it before.”

Palmer amaranth is a common weed that competes with cotton, soybean, corn, grain sorghum, and peanut crops in the southern United States. A density of 10 of these weeds per row of cotton has been shown to reduce yields more than 50 percent. By 2010, 52 counties in the state of Georgia had infestations of glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth.

Field and greenhouse tests conducted for the current study now confirm that this weed is resistant not only to glyphosate, but also to phrithiobac, an acetolactate synthase-inhibiting herbicide. This marks one of the first reports of multiple resistance to both glyphosate and pyrithiobac in Palmer amaranth. As multiple herbicide resistance becomes more common, a grower’s ability to be economically sustainable is threatened.

Another study in this issue conducted dose-response, ammonia accumulation, and enzyme activity tests on glyphosate-resistant Italian ryegrass populations taken from hazelnut orchards in Oregon. This research now confirms resistance of Italian ryegrass to another control alternative, glufosinate ammonium, a nonselective broad-spectrum herbicide.

In West Memphis, Ark., another study reports the first documented glyphosate-resistant johnsongrass biotype in the United States. A soybean field in continuous production over 6 years showed reduced control of johnsongrass with the recommended application rate of glyphosate. A greenhouse study was conducted with this johnsongrass to confirm this finding and determine any differences in absorption or translocation of the herbicide within these plants.

As herbicide resistance spreads, growers will need new weed management strategies. These could include herbicides with alternative sites of action within the plant or nonchemical methods such as tilling and mulching. Growers should prevent resistant weeds in a production field from reaching reproductive maturity to prevent spread of the trait through seed or pollen.

Full text of “Multiple Resistance in Palmer Amaranth to Glyphosate and Pyrithiobac Confirmed in Georgia,” and other articles in Weed Science, Vol. 59, No. 3, May-June 2011, are available at


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1.28  Propiedad Intelectual indispensable para una agricultura competitive

Latin America

July 2011

Alrededor de 150 participantes interesados en conocer sobre la Propiedad Intelectual y Asuntos Regulatorios de Latinoamérica se dieron cita en CIPIAGRI, el primer Congreso sobre Propiedad Intelectual en Agricultura organizado por la Asociación para la Defensa Vegetal – ANDEF con el apoyo de CropLife Latin America. El evento profundizo en que la Propiedad Intelectual y sus diferentes herramientas, como las patentes y protección de datos de prueba, desempeñan un papel indispensable para el desarrollo sostenible de la agricultura basada en tecnologías de Investigación y Desarrollo.

Diferentes expositores internacionales pusieron en escena temas coyunturales para la industria en Latinoamérica: César Parga de la Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA), expuso sobre generación y transacción de valor agregado en la producción agrícola utilizando herramientas de PI; el Dr. Joseph Straus, del Max Planck Institut, concluyó que existe un balance positivo para la actividad agrícola en países donde se ha implementado el Acuerdo ADPIC; y Javier Fernandez, Consejero Legal y Director de Asuntos Regulatorios de CropLife Latin América, resaltó que el reto futuro que enfrente la industria de Ciencia de los Cultivos para continuar apoyando a la agricultura es la protección de su información confidencial de cara a un cada vez más complejo escenario regulatorio.

En su conferencia, Javier Fernandez de CropLife Latin America, reflexiona sobre la necesidad de ciencia para una agricultura sostenible a largo plazo en una coyuntura en la que la población mundial cada día demandará más alimento de mejor calidad, con un decrecimiento de tierra arable y escasez de recursos hídricos. Informa sobre la inversión creciente en Investigación y Desarrollo que hace Industria de la Ciencia de los Cultivos, para introducir nuevas tecnologías cada vez más seguras y amigables con el medio ambiente. Y finalmente, muestra el pasó a pasó de cuales herramientas de la Protección Intelectual sirven para fomentar la Investigación y Desarrollo en este sector.

Descargue presentación en PDF

More news from: CropLife Latin America



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1.29  Embrapa apresenta coleção nuclear de feijão comum


July 4, 2011

As informações referentes à conservação, variabilidade e diversidade genética dentro de uma espécie são essenciais para o uso racional dos recursos genéticos. Preocupado em preservar essas riquezas genéticas países e instituições de pesquisa procuram coletar e armazenar em banco de germoplasma espécie de interesse agronômico, resultando em um grande número de acessos que, às vezes, dificulta o uso e acessibilidade a todos estes germoplasma.

Foi com esse objetivo que pesquisadores da área de recursos e melhoramento genéticos de feijão da Embrapa Arroz e Feijão realizaram, através de estratégias de análise por modelos multivariados, a seleção de acessos de germoplasma tradicional para compor uma amostragem da coleção ativa de germoplasma de feijão comum e avaliar sua representatividade em relação ao germoplasma tradicional contido no Banco Ativo de Germoplasma (BAG) do Centro de Pesquisa de Arroz e Feijão, sediado no Estado de Goiás.

“Algumas coleções são tão grandes que dificultam a conservação, avaliação e acessibilidade à diversidade genética. Desta forma, o conceito de se trabalhar por amostragem da coleção ativa resultando na “coleção nuclear” visa garantir a variabilidade genética da coleção toda, tendo como base um número reduzido de acessos, permitindo maior facilidade e eficiência na exploração dos recursos genéticos”, observou Jaison Pereira de Oliveira, pesquisador da Embrapa Arroz e Feijão, coordenador do projeto.

Segundo Jaison, dentre 2903 acessos de coletas, foram selecionados 400 (9,5% do total de acessos tradicionais da coleção ativa do BAG). Nesta amostragem estão representadas as características genéticas de espécies de feijão comum de todas as regiões geográficas do Brasil, baseado em descritores morfológicos como cor de semente, tipo de crescimento e tamanho de semente além de descritores ecogeográficos como região geográfica, unidade federativa, altitude e classe de solo.

A atual coleção de germoplasma de feijão comum (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) da Embrapa Arroz e Feijão é composta por 14.307 acessos, sendo que 4.547 deles são acessos tradicionais originados de coletas realizadas no país desde a década de 70.

Embora existam na literatura várias estratégias para formar coleções nucleares capazes de representar a variabilidade contida na coleção ativa de germosplasma, a estratégia por modelos multivariados proporcionou a formação de uma coleção nuclear que representou muito bem a coleção ativa, melhorando a acessibilidade e usabilidade das informações reunidas no BAG da Embrapa Arroz e Feijão.


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1.30  Improving peanut crops through genetics and core collections

Researchers utilize core collections of peanut genetics to solve agricultural problems for farmers around the world

Madison, Wisconsin, USA

July 12, 2011

Peanut production in the U.S. is primarily targeted towards the candy industry and for the production of peanut butter. Velencia peanuts, one of the major market type peanuts in the country, are mainly grown as an in-shell peanut and are desired by the candy industry due to their distinct sweet flavor. This type of peanut is predominantly grown in eastern New Mexico and west Texas under irrigated conditions.

Most of the irrigation water in this region comes from the Ogallala aquifer. This aquifer is vital for the Southern High Plains, an area receiving only 450 mm rainfall per year with an evaporation rate greater than 2,000 mm per year. It is estimated that the aquifer could be depleted within 30 to 40 years. Farmers need peanut cultivars that mature early and produce greater yields with less use of water to continue growing peanuts in this region in the future.

Because genebanks around the world have such large collections of peanut genetics, it is unmanageable for an organization to screen the collections for useful traits. The development of core collections (10% of the total collection), which capture ~80% of genetic variability in the entire collection, has been suggested as a powerful strategy for providing crop breeding programs with useful genetic resources.

Researchers at New Mexico State University (NMSU) and the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), India developed a core collection specific to the Valencia peanut, representing genetics from 15 countries. The full results from this study can be found in the May-June 2011 issue of Crop Science.

Further collaborative research involving scientists from three US universities (NMSU, Texas A&M, Texas Tech), the USDA-ARS Cropping System Research Lab. at Lubbock, Texas, the ICRISAT, and the National Semi-Arid Resources Research Institute (NaSARRI), Uganda was conducted. Scientists were able to place large amounts of genetic information from all over the world into five distinct groups, allowing researchers to determine which locations are most important to maintain genetic diversity for the Valencia peanut.

This research was supported in part by National Peanut Board, New Mexico Peanut Research Board, New Mexico Agricultural Experiment Station, USDA-ARS, and USAID-Peanut CRSP through the University of Georgia.

Naveen Puppala, who leads the group at NMSU and collaborates with US Universities/USDA-ARS, ICRISAT, and NaSARRI, believes that this partnership approach will help address significant agricultural problems for peanut farmers around the world.

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



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1.31 Species affected by climate change: to shift or not to shift?


July 25, 2011

Relocating species threatened by climate change is a radical and hotly debated strategy for maintaining biodiversity. In a paper published today in the journal Nature Climate Change, researchers from CSIRO, University of Queensland and United States Geological Survey present a pragmatic decision framework for determining when, if ever, to move species in the face of climate change.

“As our climate changes more rapidly than species can adapt or disperse, natural resource managers increasingly want to know what adaptation options are available to help them conserve biodiversity,” said co-author, CSIRO researcher and research fellow at the University of Queensland Dr Eve McDonald-Madden.

Managed relocation, also known as assisted colonisation, of species involves moving plants or animals from an area that is, or will become, untenable because of climate change, to areas where there are more suitable climatic conditions but in which the plants or animals have not occurred previously.

“While the virtues of managed relocation of species are being debated by the scientific community, the reality is that it is already occurring.

“The decision-making framework we have developed shows that the best timing for moving species depends on many factors such as: the size of the population, the expected losses in the population through relocation, and the expected numbers that the new location could be expected to support.

“It would also rely on good predictions about the impact of climate shifts on a particular species and the suitability of areas to which they can move – an often difficult issue in the case of rare species because we just don’t have this sort of detailed information,” Dr McDonald-Madden said.

CSIRO researcher Dr Tara Martin said monitoring and learning about how potentially climate change-affected plants and animals function in their ‘native’ ecosystems will play a crucial role in ensuring that managed relocation plans succeed.

“Active adaptive management is important when we are unsure of what the climatic changes are likely to be in the current habitat.

“Our framework provides managers with a rational basis for making timely decisions under uncertainty to ensure species persistence in the long-term” Dr Martin said.

“Without relocating species we are destined to lose some of our most important and iconic wildlife, but at the end of the day we also need viable ecosystems into which we can move species.

“Managed relocation is not a quick fix. It will be used in some specific circumstances for species that we really care about, but it will not be a saviour for all biodiversity in the face of climate change,” Dr Martin said.

This work was funded by: Climate Adaptation Flagship, CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences; ARC Centre for Excellence in Environmental Decisions, University of Queensland; School of Biological Sciences, The Ecology Centre, University of Queensland; United States Geological Survey, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center; and the Australian Centre of Excellence for Risk Analysis, University of Melbourne.


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1.32  Chance discovery of a genetic mutation in wild barley leads to an international study deciphering evolution of life on land

Haifa, Israel

July 25, 2011

A chance discovery of a genetic mutation in wild barley that grows in Israel’s Judean Desert, in the course of a doctoral study at the University of Haifa, has led to an international study deciphering evolution of life on land. The study has been published in the prestigious journal PNAS. “Life on Earth began in the water, and in order for plants to rise above water to live on land, they had to develop a cuticle membrane that would protect them from uncontrolled evaporation and dehydration. “In our study we discovered a completely new gene that along with other genes contributes to the formation of this cuticle,” said Prof. Eviatar Nevo of the Institute of Evolution of the University of Haifa, who took part in the study.

In the course of doctoral research carried out by Guoxiong Chen, which began at the University of Haifa in 2000 under the supervision of Prof. Nevo, the Chinese doctoral student found a mutation of wild barley in the Judean Desert that was significantly smaller than regular wild barley. It was found that this mutation causes an abnormal increase in water loss because of a disruption in the production of the plant’s cutin that is secreted from the epidermal cells and is a component in the plant’s cuticle that reduces water loss and prevents the plant’s dehydration.

Guoxiong Chen has since returned to China and achieved full professorship while continuing his study of the Judean Desert’s wild barley for which he enrolled an international team of scholars from China, Japan, Switzerland and Israel. After about eight years of research, this team discovered a new gene that contributes to the production of cutin, which is found in all land plants but is either nonexistent or present in tiny amounts in aquatic plants. Chen called this new gene Eibi1, in honor of his supervisor, Prof. Nevo.

“This is one of the genes that contributed to the actual eventuality of life on land as we know it today. It is a key element in the adaptation process that aquatic plants underwent in order to live on land,” explained Prof. Nevo. Besides the evolutionary importance of this new gene, it is also of value in the future enhancement of cereals. According to Prof. Nevo, once we can fully understand the mechanism behind the production of cutin and discover genetic variants of the Eibi1 gene, we will have the ability to enhance the cuticle formation of wheat and barley species so as to make them more resistant to water loss and more durable in the dryer conditions on land. “Genetic enhancement of cultivated plants to make them durable in dry and saline conditions can increase food production around the world,” the researcher concluded.


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1.33  Adapting crops and ‘natives’ to a changing climate


July 26, 2011

CSIRO scientists are investigating the potentially damaging effects climate change will have on Australia’s agricultural crops and native plants as carbon dioxide concentrations, temperatures and rainfall patterns change.

"We're facing an urgent need to develop new crop varieties for anticipated conditions in 20 to 50 years," said a team leader in the climate-ready cereals project at CSIRO, Dr Jairo Palta.

The results of Dr Palta's study into how different wheat traits perform under predicted future climate conditions will enable wheat breeders to select traits that maximise growth and quality.

Dr Palta is one of many CSIRO researchers presenting their work at the 18th International Botanical Congress this week in Melbourne.

Also presenting is Dr Robert Godfree who is investigating how native and invasive plant communities will respond to climate change.

"Grasses are an important component of healthy agricultural ecosystems yet there is relatively little data on how they will respond to climate change," Dr Godfree said.

Preliminary results are encouraging and the efficient, versatile and inexpensive experiment design developed by Dr Godfree and his team is now being adopted by a number of colleagues in Australia and overseas.

The iconic Australian wattle (Acacia) may also feel the effects of a changing climate.

Dr Joe Miller and his CSIRO colleagues are modelling the predicted distribution of Acacia species around Australia using climate variables such as temperature, available water and solar energy, soil type and topographic elevation.

"Once we understand what climate variables are intrinsically tied to wattle habitats we can predict where these habitats will move to in the future," Dr Miller said.

Dr Miller is also presenting an address on his work on the evolution of Acacia.

Being held from 25-30 July 2011 at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, the 18th International Botanic Conference involves over 2000 scientists from 73 countries in detailed discussions about issues such as climate change, evolution, taxonomy and ecology.


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1.34  Gene discovery in wild barley may lead to stress tolerant crops

Eibi1 gene was recently discovered by a group of researchers of the University of Haifa, Israel led by Guoxiong Chen to be responsible for the production of cutin. Its discovery was an offshoot of eight long years of study after a barley mutant was found in the Judean desert, which exhibited an abnormal increase in water loss because of a disruption of the plant's cutin.

This discovery could be the element that could explain how aquatic plants were able to evolve and survive on land. According to Prof. Eviatar Nevo of the Institute of Evolution of the University of Haifa, who took part in the study, once the mechanism of cutin production is fully understood, enhancement of cuticle formation of wheat and barley species can be easily conducted to make them more resistant to water loss.

See the original news in Hebrew at

Source: Crop Biotech Update 29 July 2011

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University


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1.35  Designer roots to counter drought

Queensland, Australia

July 11, 2011

Recent discoveries by a University of Queensland agricultural scientist provide the basis for custom designing plant roots.

Her discovery is already being used by plant breeders to develop drought-resistant sorghum crops.

The shape of the root system plays an important role in sorghum's capacity to absorb water.

Dr Vijaya Singh of UQ's School of Agriculture and Food Science has demonstrated this is governed largely by a region of the plant genome that she has located.

Her findings and techniques could well be transferrable to other crop plants.

“Improving efficiency of water use in field crops is a global imperative for food security,” Dr Singh said.

Sorghum is an important dryland cereal crop, which is grown in parts of the developing world where drought is common, and also in north-eastern Australia.

“Despite the fact that root systems are critical to water capture by plants and to drought adaptation, little attention has been paid to them because they are so difficult to study,” Dr Singh said.

So, she developed a technique of growing sorghum seedlings in narrow transparent Perspex containers and then scanning them to measure their root characteristics.

What she found was that the angle at which seedling roots strike out from their first branch point underground indicates the shape and function of the root system of the mature plant.

And this “nodal root angle” is under genetic control.

“I used this discovery to locate the controlling genetic regions,” Dr Singh said.

“My results showed that strains with a wide nodal root angle at the seedling stage had a tendency to gather a greater proportion of their water at a distance, due to the broader spatial pattern of their root systems.

"Conversely, strains with a narrow nodal root angle had a greater capacity to extract water from depth immediately below the plant.

"This understanding will make it easier to design varieties better adapted to drought stress.”

Dr Singh's identification of the regions of the genome related to root system shape presents opportunities for improving drought adaptation through breeding.

“This could provide farmers with better grain yields, particularly in extreme drought years,” she said.

“Ultimately, this would help to stabilise farm income, which could improve the social and economic structures of rural communities.”

Vijaya Singh is one of 16 winners of Fresh Science, a national competition for early-career scientists who are unveiling their research to the public for the first time.

Her training and challenges have included presenting her discoveries in verse at a Melbourne pub, and to schools in Melbourne and country Victoria.



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1.36 Doubled haploid bread wheat engineered for drought tolerance

July 2011

Paramjit Khurana and Harsh Chauhan

Wheat is one of the most important food crops in the world. Only a few accessions of the donor wheat species contributed to the evolution of common wheat, thereby excluding the larger genetic diversity of its parental species. Plant breeding using the doubled-haploid (DH) system is used to speed up the breeding process. In addition to its role in plant breeding, chromosome doubling may also be used in genetic transformation studies, and DHs are prime targets for transformation and genetic manipulation. Anther culture is useful for the rapid generation of haploids, and it allows genetic and functional analysis when coupled with transgenic technology. We report here on work performed at the Department of Plant Molecular Biology, University of Delhi, India, in which such wheat anther culture was investigated.


Source: Source: ISB News Report July 2011 via

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1.37  Resistant varieties make the difference between having enough to eat – or not

Excessive rains and an increased presence of late blight disease devastated the Cusco region of Peru in January-February 2010, which was declared a national emergency area. The food security of communities in the Paucartambo province of that region was maintained in large part thanks to two late blight resistant potato varieties, called Pallay Poncho and Puka Lliclla, developed by the International Potato Center.

 “Three years after their formal release, the yield of these two potatoes was about 8-times higher than any of the 150 native potato varieties grown by these communities during this particularly wet season,” explains Stef de Haan, a potato breeder at the Center (known by its Spanish acronym, CIP), adding “it made the difference between having enough to eat or not.”


Source: CIP:

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University


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1.38   “Chalky” discovery could increase value of rice by 25%

The Philippines

July 20, 2011

In a major discovery, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) uncovered important genetic information on what makes rice chalky - an undesirable trait that can devalue the grain by up to 25%.

The discovery could lead to higher quality “chalk-free” rice. A chalk-free rice has higher milling recovery, which means better returns for farmers.

Chalk, the white, opaque portion in rice, increases the chances of the rice grain breaking when milled. This reduces the amount of rice recovered, and downgrades the quality assessment rating of rice.

“Two things cause chalkiness in a rice grain: genetics and environment,” explains Dr. Melissa Fitzgerald, leader of IRRI’s grain quality and nutrition research.

Farmers cannot answer for the genetics of rice; neither can they do anything about the environment. But one thing is clear -farmers want to keep their grains translucent and appealing to consumers to gain more from their field.

“Until now, rice scientists did not know where in the rice genome the genes for chalkiness resided,” asserts Dr. Fitzgerald. For more than 15 years, Dr. Fitzgerald has been trying to understand what makes rice chalky because understanding this will pave the way to creating chalk-free rice varieties.

“Currently, there are only a few commercially available rice varieties that have genuinely low chalkiness,” says Dr. Fitzgerald. “Our discovery can help us improve on this.”

Dr. Fitzgerald’s team, which includes Dr. Xiangqian Zhao, a postdoctoral research fellow, Dr. Adoracion Resurreccion, Ms. Venea Dara Daygon, and Mr. Ferdinand Salisi, worked with many lines of rice with different chalkiness properties.

In 2010, crucial data from field tests in eight different countries each with different growing environments came in. These field test results showed three groups of rice: rice that was always very high in chalkiness, rice that varied in chalkiness depending on the environment, and rice with extremely low chalk.

The third group of rice,the extremely low chalky ones, were further analyzed. From this, scientists were able to identify major regions in the rice genome, or candidate genes, that are responsible for chalkiness. The discovery of these regions puts IRRI scientists one step away from identifying the actual genes that give rice its chalky trait.

“We are now working with the extremely low-chalk rice to generate different breeding lines to develop new chalk-free rice varieties,” declares Dr Zhao. “These can help farmers increase the amount of edible rice they harvest, produce higher quality rice, increase profit, and deliver higher quality rice to consumers.”

This research is supported by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.


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1.39 Barley defense system against powedery mildew

Powdery mildew has been an all time fungal disease problem in cereal grains that lead to huge yield losses worldwide. Researchers at the Technischen Universität München (TUM) in Germany led by Ralph Hückelhoven, Chair of Phytopathology found that a gene coding for a protein RACB in barley allows the invading powdery mildew to get to the plant cell and infect. The protein expands the surface of the plant cell membranes making it easier for the powdery mildew to push its haustoria to take control of the plant.

However, another protein in barley acts on the RACB disallowing fungal control in the plant. The protein MAGAP1 was discovered to be a part of most of the plant cell's cytoskeleton and network of protein fiber that strengthens plant cell walls. The protein moves to the cell surface membrane during the fungal attack and switches off the RACB's susceptibility factor, blocking the fungal entrance. The research published in the journal Plant Cell is hoped "to give a better understanding of the cause of diseases in the mid-term, to find innovative approaches to maintaining the health of crops and grains by enhancing their immunity," said Hückelhoven.

See the news article at

Source: Crop Biotech Update 29 July 2011

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University


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1.40  Improving food safety of potato varieties

Scientists at the Inner Mongolian University, University of Wisconsin-Madison and the USDA-ARS were able to reduce the activity of a single protein through gene silencing that allowed for low-temperature storage of potato tubers without an accumulation of sugars. In regular potatoes, these sugars undergo chemical reactions during cooking, giving rise to dark-colored chips and fries due to the presence of unhealthy acrylamide.

Results of the study published in journal Crop Science showed that the modified potato has improved lw temperature storage, thus spoilage-related potato waste can also be reduced. Initial greenhouse and field evaluations show that the method does not have negative effects on plant growth and yield.

For more details, see the news at

Source: Crop Biotech Update 01 July 2011

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University


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1.41 Scientists identify maize proteins causing aflatoxin production

Aspergillus flavus is a fungal pathogen in maize. Some strains can produce carcinogenic aflatoxins, causing threat not just in the fields but also to the health of the consumers. Maize lines with resistance to A. flavus have been identified but the development of commercially-useful lines has been hindered by the lack of breeding markers. Thus, Zhi-Yuan Chen of Louisiana State University Agricultural Center in the U.S., together with other scientists, identified maize resistance associated proteins (RAPs) which can be used as breeding markers.

The researchers analyzed a total of 52 lines developed from crossing African maize inbreds and aflatoxin-resistant lines, and selected five pairs of closely-related lines for proteomic investigation. Kernel embryo and endosperm protein profiles were compared within the pair and across pairs through 2D polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis.

Differentially expressed RAPs were sequenced and identified as antifungal, stress-related, storage or regulatory proteins. Further analysis led to identification of several proteins in maize that confer resistance to A. flavus infection and/or aflatoxin production.

Read the complete report at

Source: Crop Biotech Update 08 July 2011

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University


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1.42  University of Queensland plant biologists identify a hormone that plays a key role in determining the size and shape of plants

Queensland, Australia

July 8, 2011

In an important breakthrough, plant biologists at The University of Queensland (UQ) have identified a hormone that plays a key role in determining the size and shape of plants.

The discovery of the hormone strigolactone could have enormous impact on the forestry and horticultural industries, and is expected to lead to the ability to custom design the shape of plants.

“Taller plants can be produced by boosting strigolactone, and bushier plants can be grown by suppressing the hormone,” UQ Associate Professor Dr Christine Beveridge said.

“In the case of fruit-producing trees where the yield comes from the branches, repression of the chemical — that is, to create more branches — can give a better harvest.”

A number of factors work together to determine plant shape and size, but the discovery of strigolactone's role in inhibiting branch development was important, Dr Beveridge said, and paved the way for understanding the regulatory framework behind plant development.

“It is interesting that strigolactone uses a long-distance signaling process to determine plant shoot branching,” Dr Beveridge said.

“Strigolactone's capacity to have an impact on shoot branching will be conducive to obtaining a desired shape in plants and is sure to prove beneficial in crop production.”

Dr Beveridge, who is a Future Fellow of the Australian Research Council, said in the forestry industry the hormone could be manipulated to inhibit branch production and contribute to better stem growth and wood production.

Researchers from the University of Western Australia (UWA) have detected a structurally similar chemical called karrikins in smoke that affects the sprouting of dormant seeds after fire.

Through research done under a UQ-UWA Bilateral Research Collaboration Award, a gene called MAX2 was found to control the functioning of both strigolactone and karrikins.

Dr Beveridge said despite the similarity in the structure of the two hormones and their similar response systems, karrikins did not affect shoot branching.

Current promising leads with these hormones on their chemistry and on other aspects of plant development could result in improvements in the propagation of endangered and economically important plant species and in weed eradication and reforestation.

UQ's main commercialisation company, UniQuest, is currently working towards commercialisation opportunities for this technology.


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1.43  Turbocharging a new Green Revolution with improvements in photosynthesis

Plant scientists in Cambridge have embarked on ambitious plans to improve crop yields by solving one of the chief limitations of photosynthesis

Cambridge, United Kingdom

July 2011

Wasteful, inefficient, ‘relic of a bygone age’ – all indictments that have been levelled at RuBisCO, the most abundant protein in nature and the heart of the reaction that feeds life on Earth. The enzyme is the powerhouse behind photosynthesis, responsible for taking CO2 from the atmosphere and using the sun’s energy to convert it into the sugars that crops need to grow.

But, as its full name, Ribulose 1,5-Bisphosphate Carboxylase/Oxygenase, might suggest, the enzyme has an unfortunate tendency to promiscuity. It evolved at a time when the Earth’s atmosphere was very different to the 500-fold excess of O2 over CO2 that we have today and, as a result, it sometimes mistakes O2 for CO2, to the detriment of potential plant productivity.

Plant scientists such as Dr Julian Hibberd and Professor Howard Griffiths believe that overcoming this inefficiency could be the key both to achieving a leap in the amount of food or energy a plant can produce from the same amount of sunlight and to revitalising the Green Revolution, which has been slowing as the yields of elite cultivars approach their natural limits.

Nature’s remedies

The approaches taken by the two scientists aim to maximise the operating efficiency of RuBisCO by turbocharging it with an increased concentration of CO2.

“Fortuitously, some plants have developed such a turbocharger,” explained Professor Griffiths. “Among them, certain land plants have an advanced type of photosynthesis termed C4, and aquatic algae have developed mechanisms that actively concentrate bicarbonate to provide a source of CO2 for the enzyme. Our research aims to emulate what nature has already accomplished, for the benefit of future food security.”

The main focus for Dr Hibberd is rice, a cereal grown in global regions where the population is predicted to grow fastest. “About 60% of the world’s population lives in Asia, where each hectare of land used for rice production currently provides food for 27 people, but by 2050 will have to support at least 43 people,” he said.

“One way to alleviate food shortages is to develop higher-yielding rice by reconfiguring its photosynthetic pathway towards that used by land plants that have evolved the upgraded version.”

Most of the world’s plants produce a sugar with a 3-carbon skeleton in a process termed C3 photosynthesis. In fact, bacteria developed this means to convert light energy into sugar about 3.4 billion years ago. Fast forward to a comparatively recent 30 million years ago, and the C4 pathway evolved, in which the initial CO2 fixation product is a 4-carbon organic acid. Today, C4 is found in 4% of plants including maize and sugarcane, as well as in 14 of the world’s 18 worst weeds.

“Remarkably, C4 photosynthesis has evolved independently in at least 62 lineages of plants,” added Dr Hibberd. “We think it developed in response to selection pressures such as low amounts of CO2, high temperatures and more arid conditions.”

Crucially, C4 plants produce higher yields for the same amount of light energy, have double the water-use efficiency of C3 plants, and their leaves use about 40% less nitrogen to achieve 50% higher yields. A host of biochemical, cellular and anatomical changes in the C4 plant result in a mechanism that first concentrates CO2 and then supplies it to RuBisCO in the C3 pathway.

And therein lies the challenge. To unpick the C4 apparatus and rebuild it in rice involves literally dozens of genetic changes, as well as alterations to biochemical reactions and even to the way the leaf is built. The project is requiring a major scientific effort, called the C4 Rice Consortium, funded by $22 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Unpicking and rebuilding

The C4 Rice Consortium involves 12 partner institutions across four continents and is led by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines.

In the two years since the project began, the Consortium members have been working on a number of complementary approaches. Dr Hibberd’s team has been cloning genes required for the biochemical reactions, and transgenic strains of rice that express them are being grown at IRRI. Other groups are looking for C4 mutants that have lost their leaf anatomy, and C3 mutants that have developed it; and a vast gene sequencing screen is searching for new C4 genes.

Dr Hibberd’s recent findings, published in Science magazine in April 2011, suggest that genes present in C3 species can be recruited into cell-specific functions in the C4 pathway without alterations to their gene sequence. “The discovery dramatically alters the approaches being taken to engineer C4 photosynthesis,” he explained. “These results suggest that it’s possible that only some parts of the C4 pathway might be needed in rice for other parts to fall into place.”


As steps are taken to maximise plant productivity over the next century, there is a pressing need to understand the determinants of RuBisCO operating efficiency not just in land plants but also in algae. Algae use a carbon-concentrating mechanism that is usually associated with a microcompartment called the chloroplast pyrenoid. Although very little is known about their properties, these structures drive a remarkable 15% of global carbon-based productivity.

To gain insight into one of the most important, yet poorly understood, carbon sequestration mechanisms, Professor Griffiths leads a new project recently funded as part of an IdeasLab competition for the best minds from the USA and the UK to join forces to explore improving photosynthetic yields.

The project is one of two transatlantic IdeasLab collaborations involving Cambridge that were awarded a total of £2.85 million from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the US National Science Foundation. Dr Hibberd is a member of the other collaboration, which is boosting RuBisCO using tricks to enhance CO2 transport that are associated with other metabolic processes but that, according to current knowledge, are not used in photosynthesis.

Professor Griffiths explained how algal components could provide the answer to shaking up a wasteful enzyme: “We’ve known for 30 years that the algal pyrenoid has solved the problem of an inefficient RuBisCO enzyme, which probably evolved to help algae survive in the lower levels of CO2 availability found in water. Our work has investigated genetic changes in the model alga Chlamydomonas that can determine whether the pyrenoid appears or not. The new project will have direct applications for improving algal bioenergy productivity, as well as potential implications for transforming higher plant crop yields by emulating the carbon-concentrating mechanism in every photosynthetically active cell of the plant.”

A longer term solution

The scientists are confident that now is a pivotal time for current progress in understanding photosynthesis to be harnessed with genetic techniques and traditional breeding resources to improve crop yields for the future. Nevertheless, none of the projects is a trivial undertaking, as Dr Hibberd explained: “We’re looking ahead to at least 15–20 years from now, to transform crop production in the decades when the potential yield of current crops has been exhaustively maximised.”

“For the next generation, plant and microbial productivity will become the focus of key global issues,” added Professor Griffiths. “It will be the basis for feeding an additional two to three billion mouths, for maintaining biodiversity in the face of climate change and for driving forward an economy currently trading on past sunlight.”


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1.44  Potato genome sequence is the cover story in the journal Nature

July 10, 2011

The Potato Genome Sequencing Consortium (PGSC), an international team of scientists, focused on sequencing the genome of potato, has published its findings in the international journal Nature as a cover-story article. The PGSC, initiated in January 2006 by the Plant Breeding Department of Wageningen UR (University & Research Centre) in the Netherlands, soon developed into a global consortium of 29 research groups from 14 countries.

Potato is the world's third most important food crop. It is a key member of the Solanaceae family of plants and a close relative of tomato, pepper, and eggplant. The potato genome sequence, the “genetic blueprint” of how a potato plant grows and reproduces, will assist potato scientists and breeders improve yield, quality, nutritional value and disease resistance of potato varieties, a process that has been slow in this genetically complex crop. The potato genome sequence will permit potato breeders to reduce the 10-12 years currently needed to breed new varieties. The potato genome is the first sequence of an Asterid to be published, a group of flowering plants encompassing around 25% of all plant species.

In late 2009, the PGSC released a high quality draft sequence of the DM genome online. Since that time the PGSC has been refining the genome assembly, as well as performing exhaustive analysis and interpretation of the data. The genome assembly covers approximately 95% of the genes in potato, and was facilitated by new software developed by the BGI, one of the Chinese partners in the PGSC.

Analysis of the genome sequence data has revealed that the potato genome contains approximately 39,000 protein coding genes. For over 90% of the genes the location on one of the 12 chromosomes is now known. The analysis also reveals that the potato genome has undergone extensive genome duplication though evolution. Potato is an outbreeding crop plant, and comparisons of DM and RH data shed light on the phenomenon of inbreeding depression, from which potato suffers acutely. The data also show clear evidence for how expansion of particular gene families has contributed to the evolution of the potato tuber – the edible storage organ that is the most striking feature of this important and fascinating plant.

The potato genome assembly and other resources are now available in the public domain at, where a complete listing and contact details for all PGSC members can be found.


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1.45  Simple little spud helps scientists crack potato's mighty genome

The Potato Genome Sequencing Consortium (PGSC), a team of scientists from institutions worldwide, has published its findings in the Sunday July 10 online issue of the journal Nature.  The successful sequencing of the genome of the world's third most important crop began when Richard Veilleux, who is the Julian and Margaret Gary Professor of Horticulture in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech, wondered if the then new applications of plant tissue culture could be used to develop parent lines for hybrid potatoes. The concept was developed from his doctoral research, completed in 1981 at the University of Minnesota.  

Since potatoes do not self-pollinate, Veilleux engineered inbred lines from immature pollen extracted from flower buds by using plant tissue culture. The result, potato plants with half the chromosomes of the parent, was completely sterile. "Their chromosomes have to be doubled, up to 24, which results in plants with completely identical pairs of chromosomes – a homozygous inbred line," said Veilleux. "In one cycle, you have accomplished what it takes five generations to do to create a maize inbred line the old-fashioned way."

Veilleux's original potatoes actually came from South America – a diploid species called phureja that produces potatoes of many colors, textures, and tastes.  Now, the sequence of Veilleux's little potato will be used as a draft against which the genome sequences of more complicated tubers will be compared. "Sequencing technology is getting better, and now that we have sequenced this one potato, it is kind of easy," he said. "There are all kinds of spinoff studies that can be done, such as looking at the DNA sequence variation in the genomes of different kinds of potatoes.


Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University


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1.46  Penn State University's corn geneticist gets $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation for gene research

University Park, Pennsylvania, USA

July 13, 2011

The molecular mechanisms that control genetic modifications in specific tissues during plant development are the focus of a National Science Foundation grant for $1.2 million to Surinder Chopra, associate professor of maize genetics in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.

The three-year project is a collaborative effort with the University of Delaware, which will provide training opportunities in plant epigenetics and the study of variation of plant genes. Epigenetics studies the situation when genes' functions are modified without any change in their DNA sequences, sometimes creating silent genes whose characteristics are not expressed in the organism.

The research aims to produce the means for scientists to make precise genetic modifications in plants, Chopra explained. "Crop improvement is brought about by the use of genetic and breeding strategies that allow combination of genes from different parental lines into new germplasm --inbred lines and then hybrids," he said. "The key to the success of a new hybrid is the stable inheritance of its traits -- or genes. However, genes that eventually become silent because of unknown epigenetic modifications lead to a breakdown of the cultivar. This research will allow us to identify genes in the maize plant that are candidates for epigenetic gene silencing."

After researchers learn about these genes and their regulation, Chopra noted, the process of genetic modification by plant breeding will become more effective and efficient because scientists can select required alleles of genes that can be stably inherited over generations.

Genes "express" in different parts of the plant, depending upon the proteins needed in those tissues, Chopra pointed out. Regulation of gene expression in higher living organisms -- including plants -- is controlled by molecular mechanisms, which can restrict the expression to a specific signal, developmental stage, tissue or cell.

"So, when a gene's expression is not needed, the gene can be shut down -- called gene silencing -- by regulatory mechanisms."

The research will build a basic understanding of what causes the instability of genes, Chopra said. "This project is focused on understanding the function of genetic modifiers that regulate gene expression via epigenetic pathways. Such modifiers can then be used in breeding programs for specific agronomic traits."

The project will also undertake a genome-wide search to find all the genes that are epigenetically affected in certain maize lines.

Penn State graduate students PoHao Wang, Kameron Wittmeyer and Nur Suhadha are using genetic and molecular techniques to identify and map epigenetic factors. A number of graduate and undergraduate students and postdoctoral fellows at both institutions will work with faculty. They will be cross-trained in computational biological aspects and epigenetic gene regulation, according to Chopra.

Students will learn classical and cutting-edge plant-biology techniques that are used to understand and dissect the molecular basis of regulation of tissue-specific gene expression.

In addition, as part of the project, high school students and teachers will participate in a summer biotechnology workshop to learn gene-expression techniques in maize.

"The study of gene-expression stability and instability allows us to understand how different plant traits are inherited and how plants cope with different environmental stresses," Chopra said. "After all, environment has a big influence on plant gene-expression modifications, and some of these influences are via epigenetic changes that are transmitted for multiple generations."



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1.47  Plant immunity discovery boosts chances of disease-resistant crops

Warwick, United Kingdom

July 28, 2011

Researchers at the University of Warwick funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) have opened up the black box of plant immune system genetics, boosting our ability to produce disease- and pest-resistant crops in the future. The research is published this evening (28 July) in the journal Science.

An international consortium of researchers, including Professor Jim Beynon at the University of Warwick, has used a systems biology approach to uncover a huge network of genes that all play a part in defending plants against attacks from pests and diseases - a discovery that will make it possible to explore new avenues for crop improvement and in doing so ensure future food security.

Professor Beynon said "Plants have a basic defence system to keep out potentially dangerous organisms. Unfortunately some of these organisms have, over time, evolved the ability to overcome plant defences and so plant breeders are always looking for new ways to catch them out. Understanding exactly how plant immunity works is key to making developments in this area."

Professor Beynon's team looked at downy mildew as an example of a plant disease. This is caused by mould-like organism called Hyaloperonospora parasitica, which, like many organisms that infect plants, produces proteins that it introduces into the plant to undermine its natural defences.

The team studied almost 100 different so-called effector proteins from Hyaloperonospora parasitica that are known to be involved in overcoming a plant's immune system. They were looking to see how each of these proteins has an effect through interaction with other proteins that are already present in a plant. They found a total of 122 plant proteins from the commonly-studied plant Arabidopsis thaliana that are directly targeted by the proteins from Hyaloperonospora parasitica.

Professor Beynon continued "This shows that there are many more plant proteins involved in immunity than we first thought. By studying the genes that give rise to these proteins we can start to identify key genetic targets for crop improvement."

The study has also identified many complex connections between the plant proteins suggesting that the network of activity is crucial in plant defences.

Professor Beynon concluded "Our discovery suggests that looking for single genes that confer resistance to pests and diseases is not going to be sufficient. Instead, researchers and breeders will have to work together to produce plants with robust networks of genes that can withstand attack."

Professor Douglas Kell, Chief Executive, BBSRC said "Understanding the fundamental bioscience of plants is critical if we are to develop new ways of producing sustainable, safe, and nutritious food for a growing population. This discovery opens up a whole realm of possibilities in research about plant-pathogen interactions. It also points the way to new ways of working in this area; with a complex network operating behind the scenes in plant immunity, there is a clear need to take a systems approach to future research."

The work was a collaboration between Pascal Braun and Marc Vidal of the Dana Faber Institute, Boston, and Jeff Dangl, University of North Carolina, USA. It also involved a European consortium including Jonathan Jones, The Sainsbury Laboratory, Norwich; Guido van den Ackerveken, Utrecht University; and Jane Parker, Max Planck Institute, Cologne.



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1.48  Breeding procedure accelerates winter wheat development

Scientists at South Dakota State University (SDSU) implemented an innovative plant breeding technique to lessen the time needed to produce winter wheat varieties for farmers in the Prairie Pothole Region of North America.

To produce doubled-haploid plants, breeders are pollinating wheat plants with corn. The offspring is not genetically modified because the corn chromosomes are transferred by pollination and are biologically eliminated during development of the wheat plants. Thus, the corn chromosomes just act as placeholders that will be replaced by the wheat plant's own chromosomes during the production of doubled-haploids.

"I would say in the traditional way, on average, we're probably talking 10 to 12 years from the initial cross to the final release of the variety. It could even be longer than that," said Bill Berzonsky, leader of SDSU's winter wheat breeding project. "With this technique, my estimation is that it probably cuts off maybe one to two years from the process. You'd think it would cut off a lot more than that but we still need to test the doubled-haploid lines extensively in the field."

The complete story is available at

Source: Crop Biotech Update 15 July 2011

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University


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1.49  Chinese scientists isolate a multi-stress responsive gene

Biotic and abiotic factors can have significant impacts on plant growth and development. To identify new stress-tolerance genes in rice (Oryza sativa L.), Yunyun Jiang and colleagues at the Sichuan Agricultural University in China analyzed a global genome expression profiling of the indica cultivar called Peo'ai 64S. The researchers used Affymetrix rice expression chip exposed to cold, drought, and heat stress.

Several genes were found to be up regulated and some were down regulated under stress. One particular gene, the O. sativa L. protein phosphatase2C-l (OsPP2C1) was highly induced in leaf and panicle at the heading and flowering stages in all stresses. Through microarray analysis, the expression profile of OsPP2C1 was obtained and was confirmed by real-time polymerase chain reaction. The two sets of data matched very well, implying that the gene is a multi-stress sensitive gene in rice. Further analyses of the gene's function confirmed that OsPP2C1 is a novel candidate gene involved in stress tolerance in rice.

The research article is available at

Source: Crop Biotech Update 22 July 2011

Contributed by Margaret E. Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University


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1.50  Doubled haploid technology brings promise to wheat breeders

By Jennifer M. Latzke

Tucked away in a few small labs and greenhouse spaces, in Throckmorton Hall on the Kansas State University campus, scientists with Heartland Plant Innovations are bringing about a revolution in wheat breeding efficiency.

For decades wheat breeders have had one overwhelming limitation to their programs--time. But, with HPI's new Wheat Doubled Haploid laboratory, time may no longer be the limitation it used to be for the discovery of new and improved wheat varieties.

Trimming time

Traditionally, wheat breeders identify two parental lines that they believe have potential and breed them for a better offspring variety. With traditional breeding, plants receive half of their chromosomes from each parent plant. Then, through inbreeding, scientists eventually get a plant that is completely homozygous. From the first cross to the finished pure new wheat variety, the traditional process can take up to 12 years. And seven of those years are devoted to just inbreeding the wheat so that breeders find a genetically pure, true breeding line to evaluate.

But, at HPI's new Wheat Doubled Haploid laboratory, a technology for corn breeders has been adapted for wheat and is drastically reducing the time from first cross to pure line--from the typical six to eight generations to one.

In doubled haploid breeding, plants are manipulated so that they have two copies of each chromosome and are essentially a clone of the gamete used. The haploid genome of the gamete, when doubled, results in a plant with a complete genome with two identical copies of every gene. Doubled haploids are homozygous at every locus--in one generation, versus six or more generations in conventional inbreeding programs. This helps wheat breeders trying to identify and isolate valuable new traits for future varieties.

"Doubled haploid breeding can speed up the discovery of new genes," said Forrest Chumley, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of HPI. "Breeders can compare traits in lines quicker, using genetic markers and develop lines quicker."

Last fall HPI brought Chenggen Chu, Ph.D., from North Dakota to head its new Doubled Haploid lab, the key component of its Advanced Plant Breeding Services business. Chumley explained that while many companies use doubled haploid breeding techniques in their own breeding programs, HPI's doubled haploid program is the first to help public and private wheat breeders. HPI's customers include public wheat breeders from Kansas State University, and public breeding programs all over the Great Plains.

And, this June, the first seed lines to successfully undergo doubled haploid breeding were delivered to public wheat breeders.

Fooling Mother Nature

The doubled haploid process takes about nine months, from the time the doubled haploid lines are ordered to their delivery, Chu explained. HPI uses the "wheat x corn method," because it is more efficient and more successful, Chumley added. Currently, HPI is only working with winter wheats, but the method can also be used on durum wheats, sorghum and barley.

The work begins when a customer sends a batch of F1 seeds from the crossbreeding of two parent plants to HPI. The F1 seeds are grown in the greenhouse to the flowering stage, where Chu and his staff begin the process of emasculating the flowers. They cut the tips of the flowers on the head, and pull out the male anthers, which are practically microscopic. This leaves the flower with just the female portion of chromosomes, Chumley explained.

Chu then takes fresh corn pollen, which is grown in a nearby greenhouse. The alien corn pollen is shaken onto the wheat flowers a few days after emasculation. "The pollen tricks the egg into becoming an embryo," Chu said. It won't, though, pass on any corn genetics to the wheat. Since the wheat egg only has half of the chromosomes it needs at this point, if left on its own it won't develop into a viable seed. So, Chu applies a dose of 2,4-D to the wheat the next day.

The 2,4-D, Chumley explained, works as a growth stimulant in the wheat and the wheat develops a seed.

The work doesn't stop there, though. Chumley and Chu added that that seed is a haploid that doesn't have a functional endosperm, which means that it won't survive if planted in soil like a typical wheat seed. So, Chu and his workers will cut the embryos from those developing seeds about two weeks into their development. These rescued embryos are microscopic and it takes a deft touch, Chumley said. They're placed in test tubes in a growth medium and put into a dark cooler for about five days until the embryos start germinating and small roots and shoots start forming.

From there, they're moved to a warmer environment and allowed fluorescent light for two weeks. After this vernalization the plants are transferred to a soil medium for further growth. These haploid seedlings still won't make viable seeds if left on their own, so Chu has to treat them with a substance called "colchicine."

"Colchicine was developed as a cancer drug," Chumley said. It prevents cell division by stopping the spindle mechanism in the developing cell. It "pulls apart" the chromosomes and creates a mix of haploid and doubled haploid cells. After this treatment, the plants will be planted in soil, grown in a greenhouse and allowed to develop doubled haploid seeds, which will then be sent back to the wheat breeders for further study.

Wheat whisperer

The doubled haploid process is time consuming and more delicate than traditional breeding. It takes a special touch to get viable wheat, which is why HPI brought Chu to its Manhattan, Kan., facility.

Chu is known for his skill as a "wheat whisperer," Chumley said, because of his innate sense at each stage of the process. "When we emasculate about 100 flowers, we get at least 40 viable embryos," Chumley said. Most programs get a return of 30 percent, and Chumley attributes HPI's success to Chu's touch.

Despite the extra care this breeding technology takes, it will be a valuable tool for future developments in wheat, Chumley said. It also works well with the genomic selection that HPI is promoting in its wheat breeding efforts. Breeders can use a synergy of the methods, Chumley said, to integrate individual traits into wheat varieties they develop in the future--without the time of inbreeding and backcrossing.

The doubled haploid breeding is also a tidy profit generator for HPI, which is a public-private, for-profit collaboration with private investors and public funds through the Kansas Bioscience Authority. Currently, Chumley said, HPI has taken orders for 7,500 doubled haploid lines, with the hopes of expanding the number of lines they're breeding at a time to 25,000 or 50,000 per year once HPI moves into its new facility, the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center, in Manhattan.

"Right now, we are limited in how many numbers of doubled haploid lines we can develop because of our limited space," Chumley said. "Our lease with K-State runs out June 30, 2012, which is about the time we should get into the new building. KSU has been extremely helpful and supportive of HPI."

HPI contracts delivery of a minimum of 10 doubled haploid lines for every F1 seed, and a minimum of 20 seeds per doubled haploid line. At a price of $30 per line, it's just enough to cover costs and provide a return, Chumley said.

But, the extra value is in the development of wheats that will help farmers and end users, five and six years sooner than traditional breeding allows, Chumley said. Wheat is a big economic driver in Kansas, he added. As a KBA Center of Innovation, HPI has a goal to use science and technology to improve agriculture's value in the state.

And, in those small labs and greenhouses, the revolutionary work of Chu and his staff is making that goal a reality today.

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807, or



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1.51  Evolution and domestication of seed structure shown to use same genetic mutation

Norwich, United Kingdom

7 July 2011

For the first time, scientists have identified a mutation in plants that was selected twice - during both natural evolution and domestication.

The mutation has been identified as the source of variation in the evolution of fruit morphology in Brassica plants and it was also the source of key changes during the domestication of rice.

"We have shown that the genetic source of both natural and man-made changes was the same," said one of the authors on the findings, Dr Robert Sablowski from the John Innes Centre, which is strategically funded by the BBSRC.

"These insights indicate that evolutionary development may have more to offer plant breeders than previously anticipated," he said.

Wild rice scatters its seeds easily to maximise dispersal, so an important part of domestication was to select for cultivars that retain seeds that can then be harvested. Previous studies identified the mutation - a single nucleotide change - that reduced seed dispersal. John Innes Centre scientists were surprised to find that the same nucleotide change was behind variation in the evolution of fruit morphology in the Brassica plants.

The Brassica family and rice are separated by 140 million years of evolution and the anatomies of their fruit are very different. However, this work, published in the journal Current Biology, shows that the same genetic tools are applicable over a large evolutionary distance and that evolution can offer insights into the tools that might be useful to breeders.

"Ever since Darwin used domestication as a model for evolution there has been debate over whether the same type of variation is relevant to both domestication and natural evolution," said Dr Sablowski.

"In this study we have shown that the same type of variation is relevant to both processes. In addition, we saw that a surprisingly simple genetic change is enough to explain differences between the fruits of different Brassica relatives. Now further examples will be needed to show whether the simplicity of the regulatory change in our case is exceptional."

Reference: Østergaard et al.

 "The Same Regulatory Point Mutation Changed Seed-Dispersal Structures in Evolution and Domestication"

Current Biology 21(14) Publishing in Current Biology - July 26, 2011



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1.52  Editing the genome - Scientists unveil new tools for rewriting the code of life

Boston, Massachusetts, USA

July 14, 2011


Researchers in the lab of HMS Professor of Genetics George Church describe a strategy for reassigning all 314 TAG codons to TAA in E. coli using new genome engineering technologies that fundamentally re-engineer genomes from the nucleotide to the megabase scale. Multiplex automated genome engineering (MAGE) was used to convert all TAG codons to TAA codons. Hierarchical conjugative assembly genome engineering (CAGE) was used to assemble codon changes into higher ordered strains. Image courtesy of F.J. Isaacs et. al.

The power to edit genes is as revolutionary, immediately useful and unlimited in its potential as was Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press. And like Gutenberg’s invention, most DNA editing tools are slow, expensive, and hard to use—a brilliant technology in its infancy. Now, Harvard researchers developing genome-scale editing tools as fast and easy as word processing have rewritten the genome of living cells using the genetic equivalent of search and replace—and combined those rewrites in novel cell strains, strikingly different from their forebears.

“The payoff doesn’t really come from making a copy of something that already exists,” said George Church, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School who led the research effort in collaboration with Joe Jacobson, an associate professor at the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “You have to change it—functionally and radically.”

Such change, Church said, serves three goals. The first is to add functionality to a cell by encoding for useful new amino acids. The second is to introduce safeguards that prevent cross-contamination between modified organisms and the wild. A third, related aim, is to establish multi-viral resistance by rewriting code hijacked by viruses. In industries that cultivate bacteria, including pharmaceuticals and energy, such viruses affect up to 20 percent of cultures. A notable example afflicted the biotech company Genzyme, where estimates of losses due to viral contamination range from a few hundred million dollars to more than $1 billion.

In a paper to be published July 15 in Science, the researchers describe how they replaced instances of a codon — a DNA “word” of three nucleotide letters — in 32 strains of E. coli, and then coaxed those partially-edited strains along an evolutionary path toward a single cell line in which all 314 instances of the codon had been replaced. That many edits surpasses current methods by two orders of magnitude, said Harris Wang, a research fellow in Church’s lab at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering who shares lead-author credit on the paper with Farren Isaacs, an assistant professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology at Yale University and former Harvard research fellow, and Peter Carr, a research scientist at the MIT Media Lab.


Description: Graphic: Frequency map of TAG:TAA replacements

Frequency map of MAGE-generated TAG::TAA codon replacements across the E. coli genome at each TAG codon replacement position. Frequency of TAG::TAA replacements by MAGE across all TAG codons denoted by height- and color-coded bars. Image courtesy of F.J. Isaacs et. al.

In the genetic code, most codons specify an amino acid, a protein building block. But a few codons tell the cell when to stop adding amino acids to a protein chain, and it was one of these “stop” codons that the Harvard researchers targeted. With just 314 occurrences, the TAG stop codon is the rarest word in the E. coli genome, making it a prime target for replacement. Using a platform called multiplex automated genome engineering, or MAGE, the team replaced instances of the TAG codon with another stop codon, TAA, in living E. coli cells. (Unveiled by the team in 2009 (Nature 460, 894-898), the MAGE process has been called an evolution machine for its ability to accelerate targeted genetic change in living cells.)

While MAGE, a small-scale engineering process, yielded cells in which TAA codons replaced some but not all TAG codons, the team constructed 32 strains that, taken together, included every possible TAA replacement. Then, using bacteria’s innate ability to trade genes through a process called conjugation, the researchers induced the cells to transfer genes containing TAA codons at increasingly larger scales. The new method, called conjugative assembly genome engineering, or CAGE, resembles a playoff bracket—a hierarchy that winnows 16 pairs to eight to four to two to one—with each round’s winner possessing more TAA codons and fewer TAG, explains Isaacs, who invokes “March Madness.”

“We’re testing decades-old theories on the conservation of the genetic code,” Isaacs said. “And we’re showing on a genome-wide scale that we’re able to make these changes.”

Eager to share their enabling technology, the team published their results as CAGE reached the semifinal round. Results suggested that the final four strains were healthy, even as the team assembled four groups of 80 engineered alterations into stretches of the chromosome surpassing 1 million DNA base pairs. “We encountered a great deal of skepticism early on that we could make so many changes and preserve the health of these cells,” Carr said. “But that’s what we’ve seen.”

The researchers are confident that they will create a single strain in which TAG codons are completely eliminated. The next step, they say, is to delete the cell’s machinery that reads the TAG gene — freeing up the codon for a completely new purpose, such as encoding a novel amino acid.

“We’re trying to challenge people,” Wang said, “to think about the genome as something that’s highly malleable, highly editable.”

This research was funded by U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation. Principal investigator George Church discloses his tech transfer, advisory and funding relationships at

Science 15 July 2011:

Vol. 333 no. 6040 pp. 348-353

DOI: 10.1126/science.1205822


Precise Manipulation of Chromosomes in Vivo Enables Genome-Wide Codon Replacement

Farren J. Isaacs, Peter A. Carr, Harris H. Wang, Marc J. Lajoie, Bram Sterling, Laurens Kraal, Andrew C. Tolonen, Tara A. Gianoulis, Daniel B. Goodman, Nikos B. Reppas, Christopher J. Emig, Duhee Bang, Samuel J. Hwang, Michael C. Jewett, Joseph M. Jacobson, George M. Church




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2.01  Seed Biotechnology, UCD Annual Report now available

The Seed Biotechnology Center has a newly designed annual report. The report captures our education, outreach and research activities during 2010, with an emphasis on education and the importance of partnerships.  Comments from Director Kent Bradford open the report.  Mike Campbell’s “A Glance at the Future” closes the piece.  We hope you enjoy this new document which was designed and produced by Donna Van Dolah.  We welcome your feedback and comments.

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2.02  News Books released at the Brazilian Plant Breeding Congress:

 (Plant Breeding for Abiotic Stresses): Roberto Fritsche-Neto and Aluizio Borem (ed.). 2011 250pgs. ISBN: 978.85.60249.89-3, Suprema Press:

Milho Biofortificado (Biofortificated Maize): Aluizio Borem and Sara A. Rios (ed.). 2011. 211 pgs. ISBN: 978856024980-0, Suprema Press:

Plantas Geneticamente Modificadas (Genetically Modified Plants): Aluizio Borem and Gustavo D. Almeida (ed.). 2011, ISBN: 978.85.60249.81-7, Suprema Press:

Contributed by Aluizio Borem

Universidade Federal de Vicosa


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3.01  International knowledge hub to link climate change and food security research

United Kingdom

13 July 2011

BBSRC-funded researchers are invited to join a virtual knowledge hub in the area of agriculture, food security and climate change. This is under a new European Joint Programming Initiative (JPI) jointly led by BBSRC and the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA).

A programme of research will be enabled by the FACCE (Food security, Agriculture and Climate ChangE) Knowledge Hub, which brings together major European modellers in the areas of crops, livestock and trade to look at how climate variability and change impact on these models. Interested research groups, with BBSRC current funding in this area, are invited to express their willingness to join the hub (see notes).

This is part of the Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change JPI, which is designed to align national programming around these major global challenges. EU member states and associated countries work together under the JPI to a common vision and strategic research agenda. Partners will fund coordination costs to join the knowledge hub aimed at producing a detailed climate change risk assessment for European agriculture and food security.

Professor Douglas Kell, Chief Executive, BBSRC said "International collaborations allow us to ensure that we are able to tackle the greatest global challenges we face. We are working strategically with our partners in the area of climate change, agriculture and food security. Through this we have the opportunity to ensure the gaps in our knowledge are filled; duplication of effort is avoided; and as a whole community of researchers we have a critical mass of people, skills, knowledge, and resources that is necessary to make progress in this area."

The duration of the Knowledge Hub will be 3 years for a first phase, followed by an evaluation with a perspective of a two year extension, subject to a successful review and budget availability. In the first stage, interested research groups will send a letter of intent in English, expressing their willingness to join the Knowledge Hub.


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3.02  Potential of agricultural technologies survey

July 18, 2011

IFPRI is currently conducting a project entitled "How to achieve food security in a world of growing scarcity: role of technology development strategies”. The goal is to assess the impact of a range of technologies on crop production and yields; production costs; soil and water quality; on-farm incomes; and the use of water, energy, and other resources.

As part of this project, we have put together a survey directed to experts in agricultural technology, agricultural ecology, crop management practices, crop breeding and agricultural economics to collect information about the potential of agricultural technologies (in the broader sense of the word, including agricultural practices) in the different regions of the world.

Among the respondents who complete the survey before July 31, two lucky winners will receive an iPad 2. Please do not forget to enter your contact information on the first page of the survey to participate in the draw for the iPads 2’s. Only completed questionnaires will be selected for the draw.

The survey focuses on 3 crops: wheat, maize and rice, and on the following technologies:

  • Zero tillage
  • Integrated soil fertility management (combinations of chemical fertilizers + residues + manure/compost)
  • Irrigation technologies (furrow; drip and sprinkler)
  • Water harvesting (channeling water from a macrocatchment, microcatchment systems, earth dams, chaukas and nadis structures, ridges, graded contours etc.)
  • Genetically modified crops (heat/drought tolerance, nitrogen use efficiency)
  • Conventional breeding (heat/drought tolerance, nitrogen use efficiency)
  • Precision agriculture (GPS-assisted delivery of agricultural inputs)
  • Laser land leveling (leveling a field within certain degrees of desired slope using a guided laser beam to improve water use efficiency)
  • Organic agriculture (use of manufactured fertilizers, pesticides, growth regulators and GMOs excluded / strictly limited)

We would be extremely grateful if you could fill out this survey and/or share the survey link with knowledgeable colleagues.

Each respondent will receive a synthesis of the results, and your contribution will be acknowledged in any publication that may result from the use of these data, if you so wish.

The survey can be accessed at:


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3.03  The Bitter Gourd Project opens a website to provide news and information about this valuable vegetable

Shanhua, Taiwan

 July 21, 2011

Add bitter gourd as the latest member of the very exclusive club of vegetables that have their own Internet domains.

The Bitter Gourd Project, a not-for-profit, multidisciplinary and multinational collaborative project to improve the incomes and health of the poor in developing countries—particularly the quality of life of diabetics—through scientific research on bitter gourd (Momordica charantia L.), opened a website to provide news and information about this valuable vegetable.

The site can be accessed at:

The three-year project, led by AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center and funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Germany, started in March 2011. Research activities are underway at AVRDC’s Taiwan headquarters and in the Center’s Africa, South Asia, and East and Southeast Asia offices; Avinashilingam Deemed University for Women, Comibatore, India; Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana India; Justus-Liebig University, Giessen, Germany; Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre, Moshi, Tanzania; and National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan.

The website prepared by Jen Wen Luoh, AVRDC Community Nutrition Specialist, serves as a collection and dissemination point for research, project updates, news reports, events, and other items of interest about bitter gourd. The site’s photo gallery offers a closer look at the warty gourd that may hold the promise of better health for diabetics. On the site’s public forum, all interested visitors can engage in discussions about growing and using bitter gourd and share recipes to promote consumption.

Today, 285 million people in the world live with diabetes, and 80% of those are in low- and middle-income countries. By 2030, about 4.5% (more than 370 million) of the world’s population will suffer from Type 2 diabetes. India has the highest number of diabetics, with 31.7 million in 2000 and a projected 79.4 million by 2030. The diabetes epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa is one of the fastest growing in the world, increasing 2.6 fold in 30 years.

There is no cure for diabetes, but the quality of life of people with diabetes depends on effective blood glucose control. Effective treatment includes proper diet, weight control, exercise, and medicine.

Chinese, Ayurvedic, and other traditional folk medicine practices have long used bitter gourd to treat Type 2 diabetes and other ailments. Previous studies with animals and humans suggest bitter gourd (whole fruit, juice, or extract) does have a role in diets for glycemic control of diabetes. However, the antidiabetic effect of bitter gourd results from the complex action of multiple compounds in the fruit. Further studies are required to provide sufficient evidence to confidently recommend bitter gourd for managing Type 2 diabetes.

The nutritionists, plant breeders, medical doctors, and social scientists working on the Bitter Gourd Project hope to optimize the level of antidiabetic compounds in the vegetable through varietal selection and postharvest practices and preparation methods, and then develop evidence-based dietary strategies to assist diabetics in Asia and Africa.


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3.04  Biotechnology for Sustainability

Genetically engineered (GE) crops have been in commercial production since 1996 and much information is available regarding ways they are benefiting farmers and consumers. As global agriculture continues to be challenged to enhance sustainability and reduce pressures on land, water and fuel, studies are showing that GE crops will be one part of the solution. To date, research has been conducted on over 100 agricultural crops and many new promising traits have been identified. As part of a grant from the American Society of Plant Biologists, SBC has developed a website dedicated to the theme of Biotechnology for Sustainability. Here you will find information on the 5 most promising GE traits, recent peer-reviewed publications, and useful websites and opinion pieces on this topic. We hope this will provide a useful reference on how biotech traits are enhancing environmental sustainability.

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3.05  Wheat Atlas – a hub for wheat data sharing

CIMMYT, the international wheat and improvement centre (, has developed a beta version of what should become a primary source of data for wheat scientists, policy makers and business leaders.

As described on the homepage, ‘Wheat Atlas is an online portal to relevant, accessible information on wheat production, markets and research, particularly in the developing world. The information is geographically organized, and can be visualized using interactive maps and charts. Wheat Atlas is under ongoing development to create a comprehensive one-stop-shop for wheat scientists, policy makers, business leaders, and anyone interested in wheat, with increasingly collaborative and dynamic data-sharing.’

The Wheat Atlas is available in multiple languages via automated Google translate, has data arranged by country for wheat statistics as well as definitions of mega-environments. Furthermore, Wheat Atlas holds searchable online databases of wheat varieties, stresses and nurseries, with data gathered from collaborators & stations worldwide.

Wheat Atlas also utilizes GIS tools and has links and resources to other relevant online data sources.

Additions soon to be implemented include online training videos of how to use the site and future enhancements will include a directory of all wheat related institutions and a ‘hall of fame’.

For questions/comments/suggestions regarding Wheat Atlas please email: Dr. Petr Kosina,

Contributed by Ashiyan Rahmani

Wheat Atlas Intern/Consultant

CIMMYT (International Maize & Wheat Improvement Center)


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4.01  Fellowships: Contemporary approaches to genetic resources conservation and use’ in the context of climate change

We have the pleasure of reminding you that there is still an opportunity to apply for fellowships for the training programme ‘Contemporary approaches to genetic resources conservation and use’ in the context of climate change, for either of the modules: ‘Genetic resource policy and management strategies’ or ‘Integrated seed sector development’, in the Netherlands (16 April – 4 May 2012).

 Professional breeding, commercialization and globalization of food markets have resulted in a narrowing of crop genetic diversity and a reduction in the range of crops cultivated in agricultural systems. This loss of genetic resources has caused major concerns about future food and nutrition security and the vulnerability of agricultural systems towards pests and diseases, in particular, in the context of climate change. Together with the importance placed on the recognition of intellectual property rights, this topic is being pushed towards the top of international development and biodiversity conservation agendas.

The objective of the training module Genetic resource policy and management strategies is to enhance participants’ capabilities to more effectively manage plant genetic resource conservation programmes and to apply various strategies to support the sustainable use of genetic resources.

The training focuses on following topics:

  • gene flows, economic interests, international agreements, access and benefit-sharing, farmers' rights, and intellectual property rights
  • perspectives,  concepts  and  strategies  regarding the  conservation  and  use  of  genetic  resources, complementarity of in situ and ex situ approaches, promotion of resource utilization, participatory plant breeding methods, role of documentation, opportunities for biotechnology applications
  • good practices for collecting materials, regeneration, storage, and genebank economics

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4.02  Deadline for fellowship application to the Netherlands Fellowship Programme is OCTOBER 1st, 2011 through Fellowships for Short Courses on Scholarship Online (SOL).

Please take note of the changed procedure (you do not have to visit the Netherlands Embassy anymore for your application), which is now done online. We strongly suggest you to apply in time. The online registration may take some time; please consult the CDI application procedures, the SOL user manual for applicants and visit the FAQs section.

Simultaneously apply at CDI and Scholarship Online (SOL); the procedure is explained through the links above.

Please make use of this unique training opportunity to interact with peers in your field of expertise and interest from all over the world!

 With kind regards,

Gareth Borman and Marja Thijssen

Centre for Development Innovation

Wageningen UR

P.O. Box 88, 6700 AB Wageningen, The Netherlands

Tel. : +31 (0)317 486800 (reception)

Fax : +31 (0)317 486801



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4.03  Bayer CropScience announces scholarship for training in European Plant Breeding AcademySM with University of California

Davis, CA, July 5, 2011 – Bayer CropScience awards a full scholarship including tuition and travel costs for participation in the 2011 European Plant Breeding Academy. The Academy offers a maximum of 20 participants a professional development course in advanced plant breeding designed and managed by the Seed Biotechnology Center at University of California, Davis, California (UC Davis). At the end of the two-year course, participants will have the skills and know-how to start a career as a professional plant breeder in the seed industry.

For Bayer CropScience, this scholarship recognizes the importance of plant breeding excellence and the increasing demand for skilled experts especially in Europe. “Bayer CropScience is proud to support the UC Davis European Plant Breeding Academy,” said Mike Gilbert, Global Head of Breeding & Trait Development at Bayer CropScience. “As we grow and sustain our successful global seeds and traits business, we rely on teams of highly competent plant breeders who can understand and can optimize all of the modern plant breeding tools available. We also appreciate a healthy source of skills and knowledge in the science of plant breeding and are pleased to contribute to opportunities such as these,” explained Gilbert.

 “We recognize Bayer CropScience as a leading and credible partner in the plant science industry which is important for UC Davis in the development and delivery of the highest quality professional development,” said Dr. Kent Bradford, Director of the Seed Biotechnology Center at the UC Davis. “We are especially delighted that Bayer CropScience is offering this scholarship to help ensure advanced plant breeding skills are more widely realized especially in European growth markets.”

The European Plant Breeding Academy relies on combined industry efforts from key partners in each country hosting a module including FlandersBio (Belgium), the European Seed Association (Belgium), Vegepolys (France), Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (Germany), the German Plant Breeders Association, Seed Valley and Naktuinbouw in The Netherlands, Center for Research in Agricultural Genomics in Spain and the Spanish Plant Breeders Association. The first Academy program was offered in 2006 and has since attracted 66 participants from 17 countries and over 40 organizations. It involves six one week intensive modules over a two year period. The 2011/12 program commences in October 2011 with modules to take place in Belgium, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Spain and the USA.

More information about the European Plant Breeding Academy and the Bayer CropScience Scholarship are available at


Bayer CropScience

Richard Breum, phone: +49 2173 38-3270


 UC Davis



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5.01 Junior Professor (W1) for “Plant Genomics and Plant Breeding in the Tropics and Subtropics”

The Faculty of Agricultural Sciences invites applications for the position of a  Junior Professor (W1) for “Plant Genomics and Plant Breeding in the Tropics and Subtropics” endowed by the Hans Freiherr von Ellrichshausen Foundation at the Institute of Plant Breeding, Seed Science and Population Genetics.

The successful applicant will develop and apply new genomics and breeding methods in plants with a focus on field crops of the tropics and subtropics. After a successful evaluation, the candidate will take over the tenured chair in “Applied Genetics and Plant Breeding”. The position involves a contribution to the teaching of undergraduate and postgraduate courses mostly in English, to supervise undergraduate and postgraduate student research projects; and to attract external funding. Collaborative projects within the interdisciplinary scientific centers of the University of Hohenheim as well as with national and international research institutes are expected.

Criteria for appointment at Level W1 include: an outstanding doctoral degree; the demonstrated ability to conduct research in plant breeding, with evidence of scholarly publications and demonstrated potential to attract research funds; excellent written and oral communication skills in the English language; and an ability to work cooperatively in teams.

Initially, the appointment is limited to a four year period, but can be extended after positive evaluation to six years in total with tenure track option on level W3.

The University attempts to increase the number of female scientists and strongly encourages women to apply. In case of identical qualifications, disabled persons are given preference.

Applications including a curriculum vitae, lists of publications, and letter of motivation should be sent until September, 15 2011 to the


Faculty of Agricultural Sciences

Universität Hohenheim

70593 Stuttgart, Germany

Contributed by Karl Schmid


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5.02  Manager Crop Development / Crop Development Specialist

We are seeking applications for a qualified Manager Crop Development / Crop Development Specialist, his/her role is to provide overall leadership in biofortified crop development to achieve technological, crop improvement and commercial project goals: generating biofortified germplasm products without compromising agronomic performance and nutrition/end-use quality and assist in guiding the design and delivery of the technology to undernourished people.

Applicants should apply by e-mail, including a cover letter, a full C.V., and the names and contact information of three referees knowledgeable about the candidate’s professional qualifications and work experience. Applications should be sent to Catalina Montoya ( ) at the Human Resources Office at CIAT.

CIAT offers a multicultural, collegial research environment with competitive salary and excellent benefits; we believe that the diversity of their staff contributes to excellence.

Closing date for applications: August 15, 2011 with extension until the position is filled

We invite you to learn more about HarvestPlus and CIAT by accessing the websites and respectively


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


This section includes three subsections:





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:

·         Understanding the target environment

·         Determining which phenotypic traits to use in selection practices

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

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

·         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 for further program details and application information.




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:

toll-free: 800-747-4478

phone: 515-294-2999


Maria Salas-Fernandez

Assistant Professor

Department of Agronomy

Iowa State Univ.




Online Graduate Program in Seed Technology & Business


Iowa State University


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


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


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


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

Paul Christensen, Seed Technology and Business Program Manager Ph.





Plant Breeding Methods - Distance Education version

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


Prerequisite:  a statistics course


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


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


CS,HS 541 presents an overview of plant breeding methods, including germplasm resources, pollen control, measurement of genetic variances, and use of heterosis.  Special topics include genotype-environment interaction, index selection, stress resistance, polyploidy, and mutation breeding.  The course provides in-depth coverage of methods for breeding cross-pollinated, self-pollinated and asexually-propagated crops.  Courses usually taken before CS,HS 541 are genetics and statistics.  Courses taken after often include 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:


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


For more information on Todd Wehner, see:




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 (


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:


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


For more information on Todd Wehner, see:




December 5-9, 2011

Davis, California


January 16-20, 2012

Wimaua, Florida


The purpose of Seed Business 101 is to shorten the learning curve for promising new employees and young managers.


This course teaches them what every employee must know about the main functional areas of a seed company in order to perform optimally in the team as quickly as possible and avoid mistakes.




Sales and Marketing



SB 101 gives new employees a broad understanding of the major aspects of a seed company’s operations and cross-departmental knowledge of best practices for profitability. The course also offers invaluable insights and perspective to seed dealers and companies offering products and services to the seed industry, including seed treatments, crop protection, seed enhancement and technology, machinery and equipment, etc.


During each of the 4 case studies, students assume a different functional responsibility within the company.


For more information please contact Jeannette Martins at UC Davis Seed Biotechnology Center Phone (530) 752 4984 or  


Register online:  




Centre for Research in Agricultural Genomics (CRAG) hosts European Plant Breeding Academy sessions focused on breeding with molecular markers


CRAG moves to a new building in Barcelona and hosts European Plant Breeding Academy session focused on breeding with molecular markers.


At the beginning of 2011 the Centre for Research in Agricultural Genomics (CRAG) research groups will move to a new building in the Bellaterra Campus of the Autonomous University of Barcelona. ( The new building features state-of-the art laboratories, growthrooms and greenhouses.  At the opening the new facility will already accommodate 99 scientists, 63 Ph.D. students, 52 technical support staff and 11 administrative staff.


Contributed by Joy Patterson




Breeding with Molecular Markers Course 2012


Location and Dates:

UC Davis – Conference Center

February 14-15, 2012


Who should attend?

This course is designed for professional plant breeders who want to learn when and how molecular tools can be integrated in their breeding programs. It is also an opportunity for breeders who are already using these tools to expand their knowledge of new strategies and technologies.


Topics include:

•        Types and availability of molecular markers

•        Working with quantitative trait loci

•        Maker– assisted selection

•        Using association studies in breeding

•        Effects of population structure on applications of molecular markers

•        Hands- on software demonstrations to analyze traits with molecular markers

•        New breeding strategies with markers


For more information contact:  or (530) 7524984


Donna Van Dolah

Seed Biotechnology Center

One Shields Ave., Mail Stop 5

Davis, CA 95616

Tel: 530-752-2159

Fax: 530-754-7222




European Plant Breeding Second Class Starts October 2011


Applications are now being accepted for the second class of the European Plant Breeding Academy beginning in October of 2011. The integrated postgraduate program, which is not crop specific, teaches the fundamentals of plant breeding, genetics, and statistics  through lectures, discussion, and field trips to public and private breeding programs. Employers appreciate the opportunity to provide their valued employees advanced training without disrupting their full-time employment. Participants will attend six 6-day sessions in five countries. The instructors are internationally recognized experts in plant breeding and seed technology.


For more information on the UC Davis European Plant Breeding Academy or the Plant Breeding Academy in the United States visit or contact Joy Patterson,


For more information and application process visit


EPBA Class II locations and dates:

Week 1:   Oct 17-22, 2011                    

Location:  Gent, Belgium

Partners:  FlandersBio


Week 2:   Mar 5-10, 2012                     

Location:  Angers, France

Partners:  Vegepolys,   Fédération Nationale des Professionnels des Semences Potageres et Florales (FNPSP)


Week 3:   June 25-30, 2012                   

Location:  Gatersleben, Germany

Partners: The German Plant Breeders' Association (BDP), Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK)


Week 4:   Oct 8-13, 2012                      

Location:  Enkhuizen, Netherlands

Partners:  Seed Valley, Naktuinbouw


Week 5:   Mar 4-9, 2013                       

Location:  Barcelona, Spain

Partners:  Asociacion Nacional de Obtentores Vegetales (ANOVE), CRAG [a consortium between  Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas (CSIC), Institut de Recerca i Tecnologia Agroalimentaries (IRTA)Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB)]


Week 6:   June 24-29, 2013                  

Location:  Davis, CA

Partners:  Seed Biotechnology Center, UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences






The following meetings are noted for Chiang Mai, Thailand during 2011 and 2012:


-The Role of Agriculture and National Resources on Global Warming (7-9 Nov. 2011)

-International Rubber Council (8-11 Nov. 2011)

-International Symposium Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (15-18 Nov. 2011)

-Third International Symposium on Papaya (24-27 Nov. 2011)

-International Symposium on Tropical and Subtropical Fruit (29 Nov.-2 Dec. 2011)

-Twenty-second Congress of International on Orchids and Ornamental Plants (9-12 Jan. 2012)

-The 12th SABRAO Congress (13-16 Jan. 2012 in The Plant Breeding Challenges in the Global Dynamism

-International Symposium on Banana (23-26 Jan. 2012)

-Regional Symposium on International  Conference on Tropical and Subtropical Plant Diseases (7-9 Feb. 2012)

For more information:  and or




14 August 2011. SolCAP Potato Genomics Workshop, the Hilton Wilmington Riverside, 301 North Water Street, Wilmington, North Carolina.

The USDA Solanaceae Coordinated Ag project ( is hosting the workshop "


15-17 August 2011. The 17th Australian Research Assembly on Brassicas (ARAB), Wagga Wagga, NSW, Australia.


Further information is available at or email the Conference Secretary:


5-7 September 2011. 2nd International Plant Phenotyping Conference, , Jülich, Germany


5-9 September 2011. 21st International Triticeae Mapping Initiative workshop, Hotel Sevilla, Mexico City, Mexico.


The 21st ITMI  Workshop will present recent advances in molecular genetics, genomics, and genetic analysis of Triticeae. Topics will include structural and functional genomics mapping and cloning, molecular breeding, wheat genetic resources, bioinformatics, and new technologies for cereal crops.




7-8 Septmber 2011. Coexistence Workshop: The Science of Gene Flow in Agriculture and its Role in Co-existence. Washington DC

Registration There is no fee to attend this workshop. Registration includes daily breaks, however, lunch is not included (there is a cafeteria in the building). For questions contact Susan DiTomaso. This workshop is sponsored by the USDA.


11-14 September 2011. 8th International Symposium on Mycosphaerella and Stagonospora Diseases of Cereals, Hotel Sevilla, Mexico City, Mexico


The Symposium will focus on the Mycosphaerella and Stagonospora pathogen communities infecting cereals. Individual sessions will address pathogen biology and genetics, genomics, resistance breeding, population genetics, evolutionary biology, and disease management.



21-22 September 2011.European Workshop on Organic Seed Regulation,

The Organic Research Centre, Elm Farm, Hamstead Marshall near Newbury, RG20 0HR, UK. organized by the European Consortium for Organic Plant Breeding


Contact: Dr. Thomas Döring

E‐mail: thomas.d(at),

Tel. 00441488 658298 Extension 553.


3-8 October 2012. 6th International Congress on Legume Genetics and Genomics, Hyderabad, India.

Follow the link or send email at /  for more information. 


Please keep visiting to have updates and more information about the ICLGG-2012, Hyderabad, India. Thanks!


6-8 October 2011. Amaranth Institute Meeting: Innovation and Development, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa USA.


11 October 2011. SolCAP workshop at the Tomato Disease Workshop, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.

This workshop will be held in conjunction with the Tomato Disease Workshop.

Registration: Registration is FREE but REQUIRED to track the total number of participants. If you would like to attend, when registering for the Tomato Disease Workshop Meeting, select the SolCAP Workshop option. If you have already registered for the Tomato Disease Workshop and overlooked the SolCAP workshop registration please contact Jeanette Martins email: or visit the website to register for the SolCAP Workshop - SolCAP Workshop Registration


October 2011 to June 2013. European Plant Breeding Academysm Class II scheduled to start in Fall 2011


Applications are now being accepted.


European Plant Breeding Academy class II will begin its academic year in Fall 2011.  This is a professional development course designed by the Seed Biotechnology Center at UC Davis to increase the supply of professional plant breeders.


For more information on the UC Davis European Plant Breeding Academy or the Plant Breeding Academy in the United States visit or contact Joy Patterson,

 (See also Section B above for further details)


16-20 October 2011. International Symposium on Sunflower Genetic Resources, Fantasia Deluxe Hotel, KusadasiEvent State, Izmir, Turkey


24-26 October 2011. Minia International Conference for Agriculture and Irrigation in the Nile Basin Countries, Egypt.

For further details please visit our website


24-27 October 2011. CIALCA International Conference, Kigali, Rwanda,


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


More information will be available on ACSS website.

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


7-11 November 2011. The 11th Asian Maize Conference, Xiyuan Hotel, 38, XingGuang, DaDao, Nanning, 530031, Guangxi, P.R. China.


The meeting will be jointly hosted by the Guangxi Academy of Agricultural Sciences (GAAS) and the Guangxi Maize Research Institute (GMRI).

Scientists and maize production specialists of all disciplines, governmental and non-governmental organizations, and seed industries are invited to participate.

More information:


(NEW) 27 November – 3 December 2011. 9th Triennial Regional Cassava Workshop on “Sustainable Cassava production in Asia for Multiple Uses for Multiple Markets”, Nanning city, Guangxi province, China.

For more information, please contact:

Mrs. Pimjutha Kerdnoom

CIAT-Bangkok c/o Field Crops Research Institute,

Department of Agriculture

Chattuchak Bangkok 10900

Thailand Telephone: +66 2 579 7551

Fax: +66 2 940 5541

The correspondence regarding the workshop should be addressed to the following:



January 2012. Plant Exploration and Collecting:  the ethics, the process, and world laws, Chile.




7-9 February 2012. The 12th SABRAO Congress. Chiang Mai, Thailand


For more information: and or




13-16 January 2012. The Plant Breeding Challenges in the Global Dynamism, Chiang Mai, Thailand


For more information: and or




23-26 January 2012. International Symposium on Banana, Chiang Mai, Thailand


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7-9 February 2012. Regional Symposium on International  Conference on Tropical and Subtropical Plant Diseases, Chiang Mai, Thailand


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Contributed by Jinda Jan-orn




(NEW) 16 April – 22 May 2012. Contemporary approaches to genetic resources conservation and use, Wageningen, The Netherlands

In the context of climate change: Genetic resource policy and management strategies; and Integrated seed sector development

Focus of the training programme

Professional breeding, commercialisation and globalisation of food markets have resulted in the simplification of the range of crops cultivated in agricultural systems. This has led to an erosion of genetic resources and caused major concerns over future food and nutrition security and the vulnerability of agricultural systems towards pests, diseases and climate change. Various research and development programmes have addressed the topic of farmers’ and communities’ roles in the conservation and sustainable use of agrobiodiversity. Together with the importance placed on the recognition of intellectual property rights, this topic is being pushed towards the top of international development and biodiversity conservation agendas.

Seed is the carrier of all genetic information of plants and forms the basis of crop production. Seed is a key issue in addressing agricultural development and food security, but also a commodity that can promote economic development and entrepreneurship. The concept of integrated seed sector development recognises that within both the farmer- and community-based productions systems, and also the formal public and private systems, different values are upheld and different conditions apply, which generate their own limitations for seed sector development.

Aims and objectives

The objective of the one course of the training programme is to enhance participants’ capabilities to more effectively manage plant genetic resource conservation programmes and to use various strategies to support the sustainable use of genetic resources, whilst the objective of the other course is to strengthen participants’ knowledge and capabilities to support the concept of integrated seed sector development. In both courses relevant policies receive special attention.

Training methods

The training programme provides the opportunity to learn from the broad range of international experience that is represented not only by our trainers, but also by fellow participants. Working in a task-oriented, interactive and experience-based forum, we facilitate the exchange of knowledge and experience through a variety of formats, including: lectures; case studies; group discussions; assignments and fieldwork. The programme concludes with the development of proposals and action plans which integrate all course topics and relate them to the reality of the participants’ working situations.

Who can participate?

The training programme is designed for mid-career professionals working in genetic resource conservation or seed sector development, from policy, research, education or development arenas. Participants may be employed by ministries, research institutes, universities, companies, NGOs or other organisations with an agricultural development orientation. Applicants should have at least an MSc or equivalent in training and experience. They should have at least three years of professional experience in a relevant field and be proficient in English.


The programme consists of two three-week courses offered in parallel tracks, namely: 1) Genetic resource policy and management strategies, and 2) Integrated seed sector development. Additionally, workshops on special topics are organised in which the participants of both courses will come together. Based on professional interests and institutional needs, participants have to make a choice in which course to participate. Preference needs to be indicated on the online application form under “What is the practical use of this course for your work?” After the selection of participants in March 2012, Wageningen UR Centre for Development Innovation will announce the final programme.

2. Integrated seed sector development

Using the concept of integrated seed sector development, the course will explore opportunities for linking farmers’, public and private seed systems, and increase participants knowledge to more effectively and efficiently manage their own seed programmes. Topics addressed are:

 Seed and genetic resource policies

 Integrated approaches to seed sector development

 Formal and informal seed systems

 Public-private partnerships

 Local seed business development