31 August 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  Global harvests, vulnerable to the weather - Responding to climate change with new seed varieties

1.02  Breeding plants beyond borders

1.03  Seed CentralTM  launched

1.04  Roundtable meet focuses on building climate-resilient rainfed agriculture

1.05  SolCAP project receives award

1.06  FAO adopts the Bolivian proposal to declare 2013 International Year of Quinoa

1.07  "Amazing Maize: The Science, History and Culture of Corn" - Indiana State Museum original exhibition opens Sept. 24, 2011

1.08  Better wheat breeding can help expand Indonesian market

1.09  China reports on creation of agricultural intellectual property

1.10  India may prosecute GM eggplant developers

1.11  EU approval for UK variety testing

1.12  Local seeds, social networks crucial in the recovery of crop diversity after natural calamities

1.13  China's first national gene bank established in Shenzhen

1.14  Research helps breeders really know their onions to enhance global food security

1.15  Crop breeding could ‘slash CO2 levels’

1.16  Monsanto to sell biotech sweet corn for U.S. consumers

1.17  Why plant 'clones' aren’t identical

1.18  Dissecting the genomes of crop plants to improve breeding potentia

1.19  Plant biologists dissect genetic mechanism enabling plants to overcome environmental challenge

1.20  Potato growers to get insight into how genome will help them

1.21  New genome sequence could improve important agricultural crops

1.22  Biotechnology for sustainability

1.23  U.S. National Corn Growers Association's "Off the Cob" podcast series explores the new genome functionality tool



2.01  A new book on seed production and supply with particular reference to tropical conditions

2.02  Adoption and impact of Bt cotton in India, 2002 to 2010

2.03  Socio-economic and farm level impact of Bt cotton in India, 2002 to 2010



3.01 Training webinars in plant breeding and genomics



4.01  Vavilov-Frankel Fellowship Call for 2012



5.01  Plant breeding and related jobs at Monsanto

5.02  Breeder/Geneticist – Weaver Popcorn Company, Inc. USA

5.03  Postdoctoral Research Position in Genetic Resources Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago

5.04  Professor – Genetics – Plant Host-Pathogen Genetics or Plant Genetics








Global harvests, vulnerable to the weather - Responding to climate change with new seed varieties


Monheim, Germany

July 27, 2011

Agricultural commodities are great travellers:

Soy goes to Europe, wheat to Africa and rice to North America. But the system is fragile: speculators, rising energy and transport costs, and last but not least extreme weather conditions are making trade in farm produce increasingly fraught. The climate is becoming more and more unpredictable and threatens harvests worldwide - and with them, the survival of countless people. The UN estimates indicate that the Horn of Africa may soon face the world’s worst famine ever, as the region has been hit by the most severe drought in sixty years. More than ten million people have been affected and are now fleeing their homes.


Plants do not actually need very much to germinate and grow: nutrient-rich soil, sunlight and rain. But extreme weather conditions such as periods of heat, drought, heavy rainfall or hail can wipe out entire harvests in a short time.


The weather is both a friend and a foe to farmers, because everything they do from sowing to harvest depends on it. The weather also has an impact on the pests and diseases that occur, and how much damage they can cause to yields of cereals, fruit and vegetables. The amount of food available to the world depends above all on the climate.


Spiraling food prices

The prices of most agricultural commodities have risen steadily over the past few years. One of the reasons for this lies in the growing world population. According to Dr. Joachim von Braun, Head of the International Food Policy Research Institute until 2009 and currently Director of the Center for Development Research in Bonn, “the world’s population will stabilize at around nine billion from 2050 onwards, but its food consumption will be the equivalent of that of twelve billion people today.” Another factor in the rise of agricultural commodities is that the biofuel industry is booming on the back of rising oil prices.


In an attempt to control food price fluctuation, the agriculture ministers of the twenty largest industrialized and emerging countries (G20) agreed in early July 2011 to set up an international database called the Agricultural Market Information System, or AMIS for short. This will record production and stock levels for rice, corn, wheat and soybeans, making the global agricultural markets more transparent.


Poor yields caused by bad weather, fluctuating oil prices and shifting exchange rates affect food prices only in the shape of fairly short-term price hikes. But people in emerging countries, who spend more than half of their income on food, are hit particularly hard by such price rises. Consumers in the poorest countries spend around 20 percent more on food in 2010 than they had done the previous year. And according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), wheat and corn prices reached record levels in February this year.


But estimates from the United Nations and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) indicate that retail food prices in the United States rose by only 1.5 percent last year. In addition, people in wealthy industrialized countries spend a far smaller proportion of their income on food.


More weather extremes

The latest price rises are due in part to poor harvests following unfavorable weather events: drought hit Russia in the summer of 2010 and later Argentina, while heavy rainfall in Canada and Australia at the start of the year caused severe damage to arable land. Weather experts put this down to the La Niña phenomenon, in which the surface temperatures of the ocean from the west coast of South America to the Philippines are lower than normal. This has far-reaching consequences: winter in the northern hemisphere is colder, while drought threatens South America and the south of the United States, and heavy rainfalls hit Indonesia, Malaysia and Australia. According to a trend research study carried out by Claire Schaffnit-Chatterjee, an analyst for db research, extreme weather events will become more common as a result of climate change, exerting greater influence on the price of agricultural products


Summary of farm weather in the first half of 2011:

The United States: hot in some parts, cold and wet in others

American farmers had to struggle with widely differing weather conditions this spring: the south was very dry and warmer than usual, with the risk of fire in some places. Farmers in the east, mid-west and northern California faced different problems: heavy rain and cool temperatures, which meant that they had to wait until later than usual to sow corn and soy. Heavy rain and flooding also delayed sowing in some parts of the grain belt.

Conditions in the United States affect the world’s supply of feed cereals such as corn, sorghum, barley, oats and rye. The USDA’s assessment is gloomy. Experts forecast U.S. corn yields almost eight million tons down on the previous year in 2011, a smaller barley harvest in the European Union (EU) and lower baseline stocks of corn in China, the world’s second largest corn producer after the United States.


Growing conditions were also not ideal for winter wheat, as unfavorable conditions prevailed last autumn when the crop was due to be sown: drought in the south and violent storms in the north. The weather was also very cold, with very little snow that can act as a blanket to protect seedlings. Rainfall was low in the spring, and strong winds dried out fields that had been irrigated.


Europe: dry for too long

Spring was much too dry and hot in northern France, Germany, Poland and south-east England in particular. The temperatures between February and April were up to five degrees Celsius above the normal average, and only half the usual amount of rain fell, with some regions having barely 30 percent of their usual rainfall. Poor weather conditions in northern Europe also led to plant growth being 25 percent less than normal. The prospects for the oilseed rape harvest in Poland are particularly bleak, as experts expect yields to be 18 percent down on 2010.

The rainfall did at last start to increase in June, but that was too late to prevent yield losses. According to Dr. Helmut Born, Secretary-General of the German Farmers’ Federation (DBV). “In some parts of the country the rain was literally just a drop on a hot stone.” In the west and south-west of Germany, rain was sometimes very heavy but just ran off the parched surface of the earth and never reached the roots. Crops like winter barley ripened too soon, in a phenomenon which experts call ‘premature ripening’: cereal plants which have suffered drought stress drop their kernels before they are fully formed, leading to small kernels with a low starch content.


France was hit particularly hard by low rainfall. Analysts at Credit Suisse expect that the wheat harvest could be up to 30 percent lower than normal if the drought persists.

However, the situation in eastern Europe has improved. Russia has lifted its wheat export ban after just over a year, and the Ukraine will probably be able to export more grain than at the same time last year. According to Handelsblatt, last summer Russia suffered a once-in-a-century drought which burnt 17 percent of its arable land and led to yields falling by more than a third.


Asia: two different situations

Persistent drought, especially in the middle and lower sections of the Yangtze river, had a massive impact on agriculture in south-east China. In late May the amount of water taken from the Three Gorges Dam was increased so that drought-hit farmland in many areas could be irrigated. Five provinces of central and eastern China suffered the worst drought since 1961 in spring, with rainfall being less than half the usual level in some places.


The weather was extremely dry at the start of the year in India as well, especially in the west of the country. Yields of important Indian crops such as cotton, rice and sugar cane will only become clear after the summer monsoon, which brings long periods of rainfall from June to September.


In contrast, south-east Asia experienced unusually heavy rainfall, which is good for rice grown in paddy fields. But persistently wet weather causes rice plants to ripen more slowly, delaying the harvest.


Boosting wheat growth

Increasing yields is a key goal for plant breeders. They want to produce corn and wheat plants that bear many ears and kernels. The impact of the climate and changing environmental conditions have encouraged breeders to work on developing tougher varieties that are better able to cope with heat and drought or are resistant to pests. Other goals include increasing resistance to winter conditions and shortening the time that plants take to ripen.

For Bayer CropScience, cereals are a core area of its worldwide seed and plant research and development activities. A major step was the cooperation agreement with the CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization), Australia’s national research body. Work has concentrated on crops such as wheat, aiming to increase yields, improve drought tolerance, make more effective use of fertilizers and improve disease resistance.

Bayer CropScience is working with another partner, Evogene Ltd., to use the latest technology to identify naturally occurring genes in wheat or other plants that can stimulate these properties in wheat. It is also setting up its first wheat-breeding station in North America, close to Lincoln in the state of Nebraska. Work at this station will focus on varieties of Ukrainian wheat that are particularly resistant to cold and drought and have high potential yields, with the aim of developing them so that they are suitable for growing in other parts of the world.


Key figures about wheat:

Approximately 25 percent of global agricultural land is utilized for wheat cultivation, making wheat the largest food crop worldwide in terms of area. Wheat is the second most-produced cereal crop after corn with more than 650 million tons produced every year. Wheat productivity is increasing at less than 1 percent annually, while the annual productivity increase required only to meet population growth is approximately double that percentage. Main wheat producing regions are Australia, the Black Sea Region, China, the European Union, India and North America.



The website of the U.S. Department of Agriculture contains current information and reports about agricultural commodities, weather and statistics.

The Crop Prospect and Food Situation report sets out the food situation in various countries.

The World Bank’s 2010 World Development Report examines the links between climate change, poverty and agricultural development.

The db research trend report (in German) describes the factors influencing harvests, market trends and food prices.

Volksbank AG research has recently published a study (in German) into the price trends of various agricultural commodities.




(Return to Contents)




1.02  Breeding plants beyond borders



29 Aug, 2011 04:00 AM

Since the 1960s, commercial plant breeders working mostly with the world's five staple crops have produced about 8000 plant varieties.


Over the same time, peasant farmers have contributed nearly 2 million plant varieties to the world's genebanks. That's the rich diversity that Australian plant breeder Anthony Leddin wants to boost with his initiative, Plant Breeders Without Borders.


Mr Leddin, a plant breeder with Valley Seeds in Yambuk, Victoria, saw the need for plant-breeding expertise while doing volunteer work in Asia.


He observed a huge number of alternative plant species in use, with some landraces preserved by communities for generations, but also noticed that the crops' potential was constrained by lack of modern plant breeding knowledge.


Drawing on the "Doctors Without Borders" concept, Mr Leddin conceived Plant Breeders Without Borders, an organisation that will help plant breeders from around the world work with communities in developing countries and provide them with the equivalent of Plant Breeding 101.


Communities will continue to use traditional methods of growing and multiplying crops, but splice modern knowledge into those methods to help them boost crop value.

Mr Leddin also sees potential for follow-up work by agronomists to help with crop management and storage.


By helping communities tackle issues like crop disease or storage properties through better breeding, Mr Leddin hopes that crops suited to specific ecosystems and cultures will one day be making a much greater contribution to the world's food production.


The project focuses on under-developed species to ensure it doesn't compete with the private-sector breeding work being undertaken on staple crops.


The range of plants, and their unrealised potential, is huge, Mr Leddin said.


Acacia varieties in Africa can provide an alternative source of flour, for instance, and there are many vegetables eaten by indigenous communities in Africa and Asia that have no equivalents outside the communities that use them.


Some currently little-known plants may carry great future significance.


"If we start to get drier and drier growing environments, we may get to the stage where we have to look at growing alternative crops. That's where some of these indigenous species may be an option."


"It's only part of the food security puzzle. There are a hell of a lot of other things that have to be done, but it's a way of making a start."


Australian Business Volunteers have agreed to fund researchers to go overseas for four weeks. While living overseas breeders are supported by the communities they are working with.


Mr Leddin has already been contacted by overseas plant breeders prepared to do work in the Southern Hemisphere outside their growing season.


Australian breeders will similarly fit into Northern Hemisphere seasons.


Contact Anthony Leddin: Tel (03) 5568 4112 or 0408 333 046 or


(Return to Contents)




1.03  Seed CentralTM  launched


Seed Central, a joint project of the Seed Biotechnology Center at UC Davis and SeedQuest, is being launched to energize the seed industry cluster surrounding UC Davis.


The objectives are to:

• strengthen the dialogue between UC Davis and the seed industry

• facilitate research collaborations and technology transfer between university and industry

• strengthen the benefits of operating within a dynamic and innovative industry cluster for all participants. 


Visit us to join Seed Central and learn about the benefits.


Source: Seed Biotechnology Center, UCD E-news, August 2011


(Return to Contents)




1.04  Roundtable meet focuses on building climate-resilient rainfed agriculture


Hyderabad, India

August 16, 2011

Providing sustainable and science-based solutions and pro-poor approaches to climate change adaptation in rainfed agriculture was the focus of the Roundtable on Climate Change and Rainfed Faming Systems held at ICRISAT-Patancheru on 16 August 2011.


The meeting, organized by the JSW-Time of India Earth Care Initiatives 2011 along with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), primarily aimed to identify adaptation and mitigation strategies to manage the risk and protect the livelihoods of small and marginal farmers who predominate in the rainfed regions. Measures to build the resilience of natural resources and rainfed communities in India and other countries in Asia and Africa against climate change were shared and discussed during the meeting.


“Rainfed farming systems are the hot spots of poverty and are also the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, ”ICRISAT Director General William Dar said in his inaugural address. In unlocking the potential of rainfed agriculture in achieving food security and improved livelihoods, he advocated for a holistic approach integrating the adoption of climate-resilient crops and various soil, water and nutrient management strategies, with supporting policies and institutions.


Integrated water management through harvesting rainwater was also highlighted as an important strategy in building the resilience of rainfed communities and the natural resources.


Well-known panelists during the meeting include Dr. AK Singh, Deputy Director General of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR); Dr. PK Joshi, Senior Program Manager, IFPRI; Dr. B. Venkateswarlu, Director, CRIDA; and Dr. Sachin Oza, Executive Director, Development Support Center.


Drs Peter Craufurd SP Wani, ICRISAT scientists, led the discussion on focal topics such as assessing local impacts of climate change at regional/ sub regional levels, capacity building of all stakeholders including policymakers, development of climate-ready crops using new science tools, and building local institution and enabling policies to ensure equitable and inclusive development of smallholder farmers. Mr JK Tandon, CEO on Corporate Sustainability, Jindal Steel Works discussed industry and development dilemmas related to climate change.


About 65 participants representing different stakeholders from India participated in the roundtable meeting chaired by Dr Wani with R Gopichandran of the Gujarat Energy Research & Management Institute (GERMI).




(Return to Contents)



1.05  SolCAP project receives award


SBC Research Director Allen Van Deynze and his colleagues in the Solanaceae Coordinated Agricultural Project (SolCAP) have received a 2011 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary's Honor Award, designed to recognize exceptional leadership in the science, public policy and management needed to guide a rapidly evolving food and agricultural system. SolCAP develops genomic tools for plant breeding for potato and tomato. SBC’s Jeanette Martins provides staff support for SolCAP’s educational workshops. Roger Chetelat, curator for the C.M. Rick Tomato Genetics Resource Center is also a key collaborator in SolCAP. UC Davis Plant Sciences professors Jorge Dubcovsky and David Neale were also honored for their leadership of CAP projects on wheat, barley and conifers. For more information and full article see UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences.


Source: Seed Biotechnology Center, UCD E-news, August 2011


(Return to Contents)




1.06 FAO adopts the Bolivian proposal to declare 2013 International Year of Quinoa


The Minister for Rural Development and Land, Nemesia Achacollo, said that 130 countries endorsed the proposal within the period 37 session of the FAO taking place in Rome. He said that in September the resolution of the FAO will be reviewed at the General Assembly of the Organization of the United Nations (UN).


 According to the official Prensa Latina, the quinoa-producing Andean countries are being challenged to communicate about it and promote it with exhibitions worldwide. Bolivia is the world's leading producer of quinoa, an ancient grain from the Andean highlands, which has regained a rise in the world market for its excellent nutritional values.


 The grain has been part of the human diet for some five thousand years before present; however, it only began to carry weight in international trade when its benefits were discovered. Since then, prices have risen for the "grain of gold," fetching up to $2,500 a ton versus $862 in 1999.


Contributed by Francisco Fuentes


(Return to Contents)




1.07  "Amazing Maize: The Science, History and Culture of Corn" - Indiana State Museum original exhibition opens Sept. 24, 2011


Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

August 19, 2011

This Indiana State Museum original exhibition opens Sept. 24, 2011 after years of in-house research and development. Amazing Maize: The Science, History and Culture of Corn outlines a 10,000 year genetic journey that explores the relationship between people and corn, arguably the most productive domesticated plant and the greatest plant breeding achievement of all time. Visitors will be amazed at the scientific, economic and cultural significance and impact of corn on daily life, past and present.


Why Corn? Corn is the most productive and versatile crop grown around the world. It is simultaneously both old and new and low tech and high tech. It provides a wide variety of foods, animal feed, industrial products and fuel. Amazing Maize will help visitors explore what makes corn such an amazing plant!


**If you are looking for an agricultural story between the Indiana State Fair and the Farm Progress Show, schedule now for a “behind the scenes” personal tour and photo opportunity.

The exhibition gets the nod from national sponsors Case IH, Dow AgroSciences and the Ford Motor Company, who agree the educational value of the exhibit is important, as corn is considered to be the representative crop of the American continent.


Angela Harris, research engineer at the Ford Research and Innovation Center in Dearborn, Michigan commented, "In recent years Ford has increased the use of bio-based materials that are environmentally favorable plus meet durability and performance requirements. Amazing Maize highlights the increasing importance of efforts at Ford and elsewhere to look broadly for more such opportunities and we are pleased to support this educational exhibit."


“Dow AgroSciences is proud to support the Amazing Maize exhibit,” said Dow AgroSciences Finance and Public Affairs Director Gordon Slack. “In the past two years, the museum staff has done some amazing work to make the exhibit a reality. In just a little more than a month from now, the Amazing Maize exhibit will open to the public and will showcase a 10,000 year global journey that explores the relationship between people and corn. Dow AgroSciences is happy to be part of this journey.”


The Indiana State Museum is located in White River State Park in the heart of downtown Indianapolis. It is Indiana’s museum for science, culture and art, offering a place where you can celebrate, investigate, remember, learn and take pride in Indiana’s story in the context of the broader world. Even the building is a showcase of the best Indiana has to offer in architecture, materials and sculpture. For more information, call 317.232.1637 or visit




(Return to Contents)




1.08  Better wheat breeding can help expand Indonesian market


By Mitch Grayson

23 August 2011

An economist says Australian wheat breeding programs need to focus more on satisfying Indonesian customers.


Indonesia is by far Australia's largest wheat export customer, buying 2.4 million tonnes per year, followed by exports to Japan of one million tonnes. Much of the wheat is made into noodles.


But principal economist with grower group GrainGrowers, Professor Gordon MacAuley, says targeting types of wheat could open up many more markets.


"We should understand what they require for their different products," he said.

"Then the next step is when once we understand to make sure our plant breeders are breeding to meet those requirements, then our farmers are producing wheat which really is very suitable for producing products in Indonesia."




(Return to Contents)




1.09  China reports on creation of agricultural intellectual property


August 5, 2011

China's Ministry of Agriculture launched a Report on China's Agricultural Intellectual Property Creation Index (2010). The report says that under the comprehensive sections of the Outline of National Intellectual Property Strategy and the Outline of Agriculture Intellectual Property Strategy, the capability of Chinese agricultural knowledge creation has significantly improved during the country's 11th Five-Years (2006-2010).


The average annual growth of applications and authorization for new plant new varieties are 4.89% and 29.16% in 2006 and 2010, respectively, while the average annual growth of applications for agricultural patent is 18.03%. These indicate that agricultural knowledge creation capability has become an important support for sustainable development of agriculture in the country. 

The report also said that agri-biotechnology has become the key field in S&T innovation. See the news and download the report in Chinese at


Source: Crop Biotech Update via


(Return to Contents)




1.10  India may prosecute GM eggplant developers


New Delhi, India

August 25, 2011

India's National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) is considering unprecedented legal action against the developers of genetically modified (GM) eggplant (brinjal) for alleged violation of the country's biodiversity laws.


In February 2010, a Bangalore-based non-governmental organisation, Environment Support Group (ESG), filed a complaint with the Karnataka Biodiversity Board, a state agency, charging that developers of the eggplant, also known as Bt brinjal, had taken samples of at least ten local varieties from the two southern states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, without seeking permission from biodiversity authorities.


India's Bt brinjal was developed and tested by the Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (Mahyco), partially owned by US biotechnology company Monsanto, and by scientists at the University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad, and Tamil Nadu Agricultural University.


After investigating, the Karnataka Biodiversity Board wrote to the NBA in May 2011, seeking further action.


The NBA discussed the issue in a meeting on 20 June 2011, whose minutes were made public this month (11 August). According to the minutes, "NBA may proceed legally against Mahyco/Monsanto and all others concerned to take the issue to its logical conclusion".


Mahyco and the University of Agricultural Sciences have denied any violations of biodiversity laws in their replies to the Karnataka board.


Although India's Genetic Engineering Approval Committee cleared Bt brinjal for commercial growing, in February 2010 India's former environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, announced a two-year moratorium on its use to give time for its safety to be accepted by the public and scientists.


"The law mandates that, when biodiversity is to be accessed in any manner for commercial, research and other uses, local communities that have protected local varieties and cultivars for generations must be consulted and, if they consent, benefits must accrue to them as per the internationally applicable access and benefit-sharing protocol," ESG has said.


The NBA is yet to issue a legal notice, and its new chairman Balakrishna Pisupati, who took charge on 12 August and was formerly with the UN Environment Programme, told SciDev.Net that it is "collecting information and evidence".


"We are not delaying it, but we need more information to strengthen the case. And as it is the first case, we are learning lessons from it. But a decision can be expected soon," he said.


ESG trustee, Leo Saldanha, said that "what should follow is criminal prosecution as well as suspension of all applications for research".

Monsanto, which has a 26 per cent stake in Mahyco, said it would not comment on "speculative reports".


"We would also like to reiterate that reports suggesting that Bt brinjal is produced by Monsanto in partnership with Mahyco are untrue," it added.

"Monsanto would like to clarify that Bt brinjal has been indigenously developed by Indian seed and biotech company, Mahyco, with the Cry1Ac gene accessed from Monsanto, in collaboration with multiple public sector institutions."


Source: SciDev.Net via


(Return to Contents)




1.11  EU approval for UK variety testing


11 August 2011

After a successful audit, NIAB has been awarded EU approval for its plant variety DUS testing of a range of agricultural species, as part of a European-wide assessment by the European Union Community Plant Variety Office (CPVO).


For an agricultural variety to be added to a National List and be freely marketed in the UK and EU, it must be tested to show it is distinct, uniform and stable (DUS) and have satisfactory value for cultivation and use (VCU).  For a grant of Plant Breeders’ Rights to be awarded to a variety, it must meet the DUS standards for the species.


DUS tests and VCU trials are carried out at approved centres on behalf of national authorities.  The UK’s testing is coordinated through Fera’s Variety and Seeds Office in Cambridge and the tests are carried out by NIAB, SASA and AFBI Crossnacreevy.  As part of the auditing process, the EU auditors visited Fera Cambridge, NIAB and AFBI Crossnacreevy in Northern Ireland, to assess the level of compliance in adhering to the CPVO Technical Protocols.


“The new directive states that each EU member state’s regulatory and testing body should be regularly assessed to ensure their adherence to the CPVO Technical Protocols and other requirements,” explains Jennifer Wyatt, Certification and Agricultural DUS advisor at NIAB.


“NIAB has a long and successful history in variety evaluation, seed certification, seed testing and supporting the delivery of Plant Variety Rights and Seeds Legislation, so we’re delighted to be awarded with a CPVO Entrustment Certificate for our cereals, oilseed rape, beans and sugar beet programmes.” 


CPVO Entrustment Certificates have also been awarded to SASA in Scotland, the UK centre for potatoes, peas, turnip rape, swede and vegetable plant variety testing, and to AFBI Crossnacreevy in Northern Ireland for Lolium species and white clover.


For further information contact:

Dr John Hutchins, Director of Operations, NIAB


Jennifer Wyatt, Head of Certification and Agricultural DUS, NIAB



NIAB is a major international centre for plant science, crop evaluation and agronomy, with headquarters in Cambridge and regional offices across the country. NIAB spans the crop development pipeline, combining within a single resource the specialist knowledge, skills and facilities required to support the improvement of agricultural and horticultural crop varieties, to evaluate their performance and quality, and to ensure these advances are transferred into on-farm practice through efficient agronomy.


With an internationally recognised reputation for independence, innovation and integrity, NIAB is ideally placed to meet the industry’s current and future research, information and knowledge transfer needs.


As NIAB TAG we conduct field crops research and provide impartial variety and crop husbandry information. The NIAB TAG knowledge base is drawn from extensive staff expertise, research data and field trials from over 20 locations in England. It is widely utilised by the agricultural community and through the NIAB TAG Network influences more than 20% of the UK’s

arable area.


For more information log onto or follow us on Twitter @niabtag


(Return to Contents)




1.12  Local seeds, social networks crucial in the recovery of crop diversity after natural calamities


Ibadan, Nigeria

08 August 2011

Including seeds of local crop varieties in relief-seed packages distributed to smallscale farmers after natural calamities could help indigenous crop diversity rebound faster. Additionally, existing social networks act as vital seed distribution channels that hasten diversity recovery in disaster-affected communities. These are among the findings of a recent study by IITA that looked into the loss and subsequent recovery of cowpea diversity in Mozambique when massive flooding, followed by severe drought, hit most of the country about 11 years ago.


In this country, farmers usually receive relief seed packages as stop-gap measure to mitigate the effects of natural disasters that often wipe-out their crops. However, most of the seeds in these relief packages are generally of introduced and genetically uniform varieties purchased from markets or provided by seed companies or by well-meaning relief agencies, which slow the recovery of crop diversity.


Interestingly, the study also noted that the speedy recovery of Mozambican cowpea diversity after the back-to-back disasters of 2000 was largely due to the exchange of seeds among farmers through gifting and other social interactions involving friends, family members, and relatives within the same community or adjacent communities.


Dr Morag Ferguson, a molecular biologist with IITA and one of the study’s lead researchers, says farmers in Africa traditionally grow many crops and several varieties of each crop on the same plot of land to cope with unforeseen economic or environmental instabilities. They usually set aside part of their harvest to serve as seed for the next cropping season. They also share or trade some of these seeds with friends and relatives. When natural disasters strike, many farmers often lose the seeds that they have set aside and are forced to rely on relief seed, buy from the market, or receive seeds as gifts from friends and relatives.


“We found that the substantial recovery of cowpea genetic diversity two years after the calamities was mainly due to the informal exchange of seeds among farmers that served as a social-based crop diversity safety backup. It is therefore important that seed relief strategies recognize and capitalize on this existing traditional network based on social relations to help restore diversity especially after natural upheavals,” she said.


The study was initiated in 2002, two years after the floods-then-drought disaster, in Chokwe and Xai Xai districts of the Limpompo River Valley –areas that were among those severely affected. The findings of the research have been published in the current edition of ‘Disaster’, a publication of the Overseas Development Institute (ODI).


The research established that nearly 90% of the farmers in the affected areas received cowpea relief seed immediately after the back-to-back calamities. Two years after, only one in every five of the recipient farmers were still growing the seeds, while more than half sourced their seeds from markets. However, this did little in restoring cowpea diversity in the affected communities as the seeds bought by farmers from the market, which comes from other districts that grew just one or a few select varieties, were mostly uniform.


On the other hand, about one-third of the affected farmers obtained seeds from friends and relatives living within the same locality to restock their farms – the same people that they have been exchanging seeds with prior to the disasters. This practice was the main reason why cowpea diversity was restored in these areas, the study showed.


Dr Ferguson says that such a social relations-based seed distribution system is already in play in an approach developed and implemented by the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in partnership with other relief agencies in which seed vouchers are exchanged for seed at ‘Seed Fairs’. In this approach, farmers from nearby districts not affected by disaster and with excess seed, come to the Seed Fair to sell seed to disaster-affected farmers in exchange for vouchers, which they then cash-in with the relief agency.


“This approach recognizes that farmer seed systems are robust and resilient, and can provide seed even in emergency situations. And this study shows that such an approach will be more effective in restoring diversity faster and more efficiently than a system based on direct distribution only,” she says.


The study was the first of its kind to investigate in detail the effects of disasters on crop diversity and its recovery. It combined agronomic observations (for example looking at the seeds’ colour, size, pattern, and shape) with biotechnology tools to determine the seeds’ genetic makeup.




(Return to Contents)




1.13  China's first national gene bank established in Shenzhen


20 June 2011


China’s  first national gene bank was established in Shenzhen during the China Bioindustry Convention 2011 (BioChina), which concluded yesterday.


The bank is based on data and facilities of the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI), the world’s largest genome-mapping institute working with sophisticated genome-sequencing apparatus.


The city government and BGI will raise 15 million yuan (US$2.3 million) for the first-phase development of the bank, according to plans approved by the National Development and Reform Committee (NDRC) in January.


With the establishment of the bank, China would be able to better protect research and utilize its genetic resources, boost the genetics industry and safeguard the nation’s genetic information, said Qi Chengyuan at Friday’s establishment ceremony. Qi is the head of the high-tech industry department of the NDRC.


Before the establishment of the gene bank in Shenzhen, the only three national gene banks were in the United States, Japan and Europe.


President of BGI, Yang Huanming, said the bank aimed to take the lead in the development of the international biological industry.


BGI differed from conventional companies in the field because it could handle data in vast quantities and industrialize its research, Xinhua quoted analysts as saying.


On Friday, the city government officially invited 18 academics attending BioChina to become senior consultants on the development of the biological industry in Shenzhen.


BioChina concluded with the signing of 22 cooperation agreements in the biological industry, totaling more than 28.2 billion yuan, a press conference was told yesterday.


The next BioChina would be held in Taizhou in Jiangsu Province.




Contributed by Allen Van Deynze

Seed Biotechnology Center


(Return to Contents)




1.14  Research helps breeders really know their onions to enhance global food security


Warwick, United Kingdom

August 2, 2011

Research led by the Warwick Crop Centre in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Warwick has developed a unique collection of information about the disease resistance of 96 of the world’s onion varieties. It will be a crucial resource for commercial growers and seed producers trying to combat one of the most difficult diseases affecting onion crops. This work may also have key-benefits of reduced fertiliser consumption and enhanced drought tolerance.


The work on onions, in this research funded by Defra (The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), is being carried out by Dr Andrew Taylor a Research Fellow in the University of Warwick’s School of Life Sciences, who has tested and recorded key traits of 96 varieties of onion from Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Africa , India, the US and Japan. The data provides information that will be crucial to growers seeking to create onion varieties that can resist Fusarium oxysporum (which causes basal rot in onions), and which also respond well to Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi - beneficial fungi. An improved interaction with these fungi assists nutrient uptake in onions potentially decreasing the amount of fertiliser required. These fungi can have other beneficial effects such as increased disease resistance and drought tolerance.


This research will not only help individual commercial growers and seed producers but will also contribute significantly to global food security, particularly in situations where rising temperatures are an issue. Enhanced resistance to Fusarium oxysporum will be of importance in dealing with rising temperatures as basal rot is more active and acute in warmer conditions.

Dr Andrew Taylor will present his work at the Onion Global 2011 conference in Deidesheim Germany which runs from 16th-18th August. The work forms part of a larger Defra funded study at the University of Warwick entitled the “Vegetable Genetic Improvement Network (VeGIN)” looking at understanding and cataloguing useful traits in a range of vegetables that seed producers can use to inform their breeding strategies.

Dr Andrew Taylor from Warwick Crop Centre said:


“We have developed a unique onion diversity set from material sourced from across the globe. We now have a extremely useful library of the variation in traits including resistance to Fusarium oxysporum (the cause of ), response to Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi (beneficial fungi which help nutrient uptake) and seed/seedling vigour, all of which will be extremely useful to growers and seed producers dealing with changing conditions and threats to onion crops.”

Warwick Crop Centre Director Dr Rosemary Collier said:


“I am delighted that VeGIN is already providing results that can have a direct impact on the global efforts to enhance food security. This is just the first of what will be a range of outputs from this Defra funded work at the Warwick Crop Centre that will be of significant benefit to growers across the planet.”

A Defra spokesperson said:


“This important research shows how farmers can farm smarter – producing crops that are naturally resistant to rot and disease can help them reduce the amount of fertiliser and pesticides they need in our changing climate.”




(Return to Contents)




1.15  Crop breeding could ‘slash CO2 levels’


Manchester, United Kingdom

August 3, 2011

Breeding crops with roots a metre deeper in the ground could lower atmospheric CO2 levels dramatically, with significant environmental benefits, according to research by a leading University of Manchester scientist.


Writing in the journal Annals of Botany, Professor Douglas Kell argues that developing crops that produce roots more deeply in the ground could harvest more carbon from the air, and make crops more drought resistant, while dramatically reducing carbon levels.

In principle, any crops could be treated in this way, giving more productive yields while also being better for the environment.


Although the amount of carbon presently sequestered in the soil in the natural environment and using existing crops and grasses has been known for some time, Professor Kell’s new analysis is the first to reveal the benefits to the environment that might come from breeding novel crops with root traits designed to enhance carbon sequestration.


Professor Kell, Professor of Bioanalytical Science at the University as well as Chief Executive of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), has also devised a carbon calculator that can show the potential benefits of crops that burrow more deeply in the ground.

With this, he has calculated that – depending on the time it takes them to break down –breeding crops that could cover present cropland areas but that had roots a metre deeper in the soil could double the amount of carbon captured from the environment. This could be a significant weapon in the fight against climate change.


The soil represents a reservoir that contains at least twice as much carbon as does the atmosphere, yet mainly just the above-ground plant biomass is harvested in agriculture, and plant photosynthesis represents the effective origin of the overwhelming bulk of soil carbon.


Breeding crop plants with deeper and bushy root ecosystems could simultaneously improve both the soil structure and its steady-state carbon, water and nutrient retention, as well as sustainable plant yields.


Professor Kell argues that widespread changes in agricultural practice are needed, in an environment in which edible crop yields also need to increase substantially and sustainably, and where transport fuels and organic chemicals will need to come from modern (rather than fossil) photosynthesis.


It is known that massive CO2 reductions in the atmosphere over geological time have happened because of the rise of deep-rooted trees and flowering plants.


Most cultivated agricultural crops have root depths that do not extend much beyond one metre. Doubling this, Professor Kell argues, would dramatically reduce CO2 levels.

Existing studies, which have doubted the benefits of deep roots in carbon sequestration, do not make soil measurements much below a metre, and the kinds of root depths proposed by Professor Kell would more than double that.


He said: “This doubling of root biomass from a nominal 1m to a nominal 2m is really the key issue, together with the longevity of the roots and carbon they secrete and sequester below-ground.


“What matters is not so much what is happening now as what might be achieved with suitable breeding of plants with deep and reasonably long-lived roots. Many such plants exist, but have not been bred for agriculture.


“In addition to the simple carbon sequestration that this breeding could imply – possibly double that of common annual grain crops – such plants seem to mobilise and retain nutrients and water very effectively over extended periods, thus providing resistance to drought, flooding and other challenges we shall face from climate change.


“While there is a way to go before such crops might have, for example, the grain yields of present day cereals, their breeding and deployment seems a very promising avenue for sustainable agriculture.”


The paper, Breeding crop plants with deep roots: their role in sustainable carbon, nutrient and water sequestration, by Douglas B. Kell, is being published in the September issue of Annals of Botany (volume 108, issue 3) and is freely available online at

The carbon sequestration calculator is at




(Return to Contents)




1.16  Monsanto to sell biotech sweet corn for U.S. consumers


By Jack Kaskey - Aug 4, 2011

Monsanto Co. (MON), the world’s biggest vegetable seed maker, said it will begin selling genetically modified sweet corn in the U.S. this year, the first product it has developed for the consumer market.


The sweet corn seeds are engineered to kill insects living above and below ground and to tolerate applications of the company’s Roundup herbicide, Consuelo Madere, Monsanto vice president for vegetables, told reporters at company headquarters in St. Louis today. They will be introduced to growers serving the U.S. fresh corn market starting in the autumn, she said.

Monsanto previously sold only engineered crops that are processed into sugars and oils, used as animal feed or made into fibers. The new seeds will initially target the 250,000-acre market for fresh corn in the eastern U.S., Madere said. Monsanto is in discussions with companies that would can or freeze the corn, she said.


Monsanto will compete with pest-killing sweet corn seeds that Syngenta AG (SYNN) of Switzerland has sold for more than a decade, she said.


Sweet corn is a much smaller market than the market for grain corn, which is forecast to be planted on 90.7 million acres this year, according to U.S. Agriculture Department data.


Monsanto currently sells squash that has been engineered to resist viruses, a product that came with its 2005 acquisition of Seminis.


Developing biotech vegetables costs about $100 million and requires a decade to reach the market, Madere said. Monsanto spends more than 95 percent of its vegetable research on conventional breeding in 23 crops, she said. Conventional- breeding projects include tomatoes that taste better and resist viruses, sweeter melons, crisper romaine lettuce and blight- resistant peppers, she said.




(Return to Contents)




1.17  Why plant 'clones' aren’t identical


Oxford, United Kingdom

July 29, 2011

A new study of plants that are reproduced by ‘cloning’ has shown why cloned plants are not identical.


Scientists have known for some time that ‘clonal’ (regenerant) organisms are not always identical: their observable characteristics and traits can vary, and this variation can be passed on to the next generation. This is despite the fact that they are derived from genetically identical founder cells.


Now, a team from Oxford University, UK, and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia, believe they have found out why this is the case in plants: the genomes of regenerant plants carry relatively high frequencies of new DNA sequence mutations that were not present in the genome of the donor plant.


The team report their findings in this week’s Current Biology.


‘Anyone who has ever taken a cutting from a parent plant and then grown a new plant from this tiny piece is actually harnessing the ability such organisms have to regenerate themselves,’ said Professor Nicholas Harberd of Oxford University’s Department of Plant Sciences, lead author of the paper. ‘But sometimes regenerated plants are not identical, even if they come from the same parent. Our work reveals a cause of that visible variation.’


Using DNA sequencing techniques that can decode the complete genome of an organism in one go (so-called ‘whole genome sequencing’) the researchers analysed ‘clones’ of the small flowering plant ‘thalecress’ (Arabidopsis). They found that observable variations in regenerant plants are substantially due to high frequencies of mutations in the DNA sequence of these regenerants, mutations which are not contained in the genome of the parent plant.


‘Where these new mutations actually come from is still a mystery,’ said Professor Harberd. ‘They may arise during the regeneration process itself or during the cell divisions in the donor plant that gave rise to the root cells from which the regenerant plants are created. We are planning further research to find out which of these two processes is responsible for these mutations. What we can say is that Nature has safely been employing what you might call a ‘cloning’ process in plants for millions of years, and that there must be good evolutionary reasons why these mutations are introduced.’


The new results suggest that variation in clones of plants may have different underlying causes from that of variation in clones of animals – where it is believed that the effect of environmental factors on how animal genes are expressed is more important and no similar high frequencies of mutations have been observed.


Professor Harberd said: ‘Whilst our results highlight that cloned plants and animals are very different they may give us insights into how both bacterial and cancer cells replicate themselves, and how mutations arise during these processes which, ultimately, have an impact on human health.’


A report of the research, ‘Regenerant Arabidopsis Lineages Display a Distinct Genome-Wide Spectrum of Mutations Conferring Variant Phenotypes’, is published this week online in Current Biology.


The project is a collaboration between scientists at Oxford University’s Department of Plant Sciences, Oxford University’s Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia. The research was supported by KAUST and the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

Clones of the plant 'thalecress' were analysed. Photo: Alberto Salguero




(Return to Contents)




1.18  Dissecting the genomes of crop plants to improve breeding potential


Norwich, United Kingdom

31st July 2011

Scientists on the Norwich Research Park, working with colleagues in China, have developed new techniques that will aid the application of genomics to breeding the improved varieties of crop needed to ensure food security in the future. By dissecting the complicated genome of oilseed rape they have been able to produce maps of the genome that are needed for predictive breeding.


Traditional breeding involves crossing two varieties and selecting the best performing among the progeny. Predictive breeding is a more advanced technique where specific parts of the genome most likely to contain beneficial genes are identified.


Genomic sequencing and the availability of genetic linkage maps can play a major part in predictive breeding efforts by linking beneficial traits to specific parts of the genome. Researchers and breeders use genetic markers to construct linkage maps, which help to identify useful genes. They are also vital to marker-assisted crop breeding, where the maps and markers can greatly accelerate the breeding in of new improved traits.


However, for key crops such as bread wheat and oilseed rape, the use of this kind of genomics-based predictive crop breeding is severely hampered due to the complicated genomes that these species possess. Many important crop plants are polyploid, possessing several sets of chromosomes. Bread wheat, for example, contains three pairs of chromosomes derived from multiple hybridisation events that occurred between two other wheat species relatively recently in its ancestry. To try to overcome this problem, a team from the John Innes Centre and The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC), which are strategically supported by the BBSRC, combined sequence data from different sources to construct genetic linkage maps.


The team led by Professor Ian Bancroft worked on oilseed rape, which as well as being an important oil crop also plays a key role in crop rotation strategies. Its oil has industrial applications and its straw can be used for biofuel production. Like bread wheat, oilseed rape (Brassica napus) has a complicated genome, having recently been formed from related species Brassica rapa and Brassica oleracea.


The strategy adopted by the group involves integrating the available sequence data for oilseed rape with that of its ancestral progenitors, and also that of a more distantly-related species for which high-quality genome sequence data is available, in this case the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana.


Instead of trying to sequence the DNA, the team focussed on the RNA transcribed from the DNA when the genetic code is expressed. The complete set of all of this transcribed RNA is known as the transcriptome.


TGAC used the Illumina GAII platform for the study, producing a series of consistently high quality sequence datasets from expressed genes.

The team analysed the transcriptome in juvenile leaves, which gives an overview of all of the genes that are expressed in that tissue. Using the sequence variation the researchers were able to construct genetic linkage maps in oilseed rape, eventually identifying over 23,000 markers. This allowed them to align the oilseed rape genome with that of Arabidopsis thaliana and also to sequence data from oilseed rape’s two progenitor species.


This method of dissecting the genome of polyploid crops is likely to be equally applicable to other important crops. Bread wheat is a prime candidate for this, using the model grass Brachypodium distachyon in the place of Arabidopsis.


“Dissecting the genome of oilseed rape like this opens up the possibility of using predictive breeding techniques that will really help with the production of improved varieties” said Prof. Bancroft.


This study was published in Nature Biotechnology and funded by the BBSRC, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the China National Basic Research and Development Program.




(Return to Contents)




1.19  Plant biologists dissect genetic mechanism enabling plants to overcome environmental challenge


Cold Spring Harbor, New York, USA

August 1, 2011

Grassy tillers1 suppresses branching, enabling maize to grow taller when shade encroaches -- a key to teosinte’s ancient domestication

When an animal gets too hot or too cold, or feels pangs of hunger or thirst, it tends to relocate – to where it’s cooler or hotter, or to the nearest place where food or water can be found. But what about vegetative life? What can a plant do under similar circumstances?


Plants can’t change the climate and they can’t uproot themselves to move to a more favorable spot. Yet they do respond successfully to changes in environmental conditions in diverse ways, many of which involve modifications of the way they grow and develop.


Plant biologists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) have now discovered at the genetic level how one species of grass plant responds to the challenge to growth posed by shade. Central to this work is the team’s identification of the role played by a gene called grassy tillers1, or gt1, whose expression, they confirmed, is controlled by light signaling.


The discovery of gt1’s role is full of implication, for it occurs in maize, one of the world’s most important food crops, and the genetic trick it performs, which results in changing the plant’s shape, suggests how maize’s ancestor in the grass family was domesticated by people in Mexico and Central America thousands of years ago. The discovery also suggests a present-day strategy for improving yield in switchgrass, a biofuel source.


In maize – or corn, as it is commonly referred to in North America – it has long been known at the level of effects, but not causes, how an unimpressive grass plant called teosinte was improved upon genetically through trial and error to become a prime source of food for the human race. As anyone who has seen a corn field knows, modern maize plants grow in close proximity, in long rows, and tend to produce robust, branchless stalks which yield one or two large ears apiece.


“The domestication of maize from its wild ancestor teosinte resulted in a striking modification of the plant’s architecture, and this fact provided a starting point for our work,” says CSHL Professor David Jackson, who led the research team which also included scientists from Cornell University; the University of Wisconsin, Madison; North Carolina State University; the University of California, San Diego and Pioneer Hi-Bred. The team’s findings appear today online ahead of print in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


One can plainly see that maize plants produce very few lateral branches at their base. The sparseness of tillers, as these branches are called by plant biologists, is the first clue: plants with many lateral branches don’t tend to grow well in close proximity, for their branches and leaves tend to throw any close neighbors into shade, thus limiting access to sunlight, their common prime energy source. By severely limiting its lateral branching, maize is able to redirect its energy to the primary shoot, which grows taller and escapes the shade.


“It is actually human selection that has done this,” explains Jackson. “Although maize plants produce tiller buds, the nascent branches fail to grow out, which results in the plant’s familiar dominant central stalk.” The team knew that maize plants in which gt1 is mutated generate several tillers and additional ear branches; this suggested that gt1 expression is normally associated with the suppression of tiller growth. This was confirmed in tests in which gt1 expression was measured in plants grown in the laboratory equivalent of shade.


Another maize gene called teosinte branched1, or tb1, is also known to regulate tiller bud growth and lateral branching in maize, and to be active in response to internal signals indicating the presence of shade. The next question was whether the two genes act in a common pathway, or separately. The expression of each was measured when the other was experimentally inactivated. “We found that gt1 doesn’t get activated unless tb1 is active; but that tb1 can act without gt1,” says Jackson. “Taken together, our experiments indicated that the two genes are indeed part of a common pathway, in which gt1 is downstream of tb1 – it is not expressed until after tb1 is expressed.”


Knowing that ancestral teosinte is a highly branched and tillered plant, the team tested the hypothesis that it was the gt1 gene that was specifically (if unwittingly) selected by ancient agriculturalists in their trial-and-error attempts to domesticate a wild grass to produce a new source of food. By sequencing gt1 from diverse lines of modern maize and wild teosinte, “we obtained significant evidence that gt1 was selected during domestication,” according to Jackson.


“Tillering is an important trait in the grass family, and by modifying tiller production agriculturalists have increased yield in grasses such as maize and rice. Understanding the molecular mechanisms behind that modification may now provide us with a means to increase biomass production in switchgrass or other potential biofuel crops,” Jackson adds.

“grassy tillers1 promotes apical dominance in maize and responds to shade signals in the grasses” appears online ahead of print in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences August 1, 2011. The authors are: Clinton J. Whipple, Tesfamichael H. Kebrom, Allison L. Weber, Fang Yang, Darren Hall, Robert Meeley, Robert Schmidt, John Doebley, Thomas P. Brutnell and David P. Jackson. The paper can be accessed online at:


This research was supported by generous grants provided by the National Science Foundation and the US Department of Agriculture.




(Return to Contents)




1.20  Potato growers to get insight into how genome will help them


Dundee, Scotland, United Kindgom

August 9, 2011

The future of potato breeding and how the mapping of the potato genome will help growers is set to be the focus of discussion at Potatoes in Practice this Thursday (11 August).


The event, Britain’s biggest field event for the potato industry, is being hosted by The James Hutton Institute at Balruddery Farm near Dundee.


Scientists at The James Hutton Institute played a key role in the potato genome project, leading the UK strand of the work as part of the international Potato Genome Sequencing Consortium.


The work, published in the journal Nature last month, holds great promise for speeding up the process of developing new potato varieties, which at the moment can take 10-12 years using traditional methods.


Dr Glenn Bryan, who led the potato genome work at JHI said, “Mapping the potato genome means we can now start to identify genes that are responsible for certain traits, for example disease resistance or drought tolerance. We can then use that information to help introduce desirable traits into new varieties of potato.”


JHI potato breeder, Dr Finlay Dale, said the genome project had direct implications and future benefits for growers. “The availability of the genome will help bring new and better varieties to the market as well as considerably speeding up the breeding process.


“Improvements to breeding varieties will be evident through the more rapid and more reliable identification of the important genes and also the more efficient identification of superior parental lines than previously possible.


“Potatoes in Practice provides a unique opportunity to meet a wide range of growers and industry representatives face to face to help outline the potential benefits of the genome work.”


More than 700 growers, advisors, overseas visitors and industry representatives attended last year’s Potatoes in Practice and it is anticipated this year’s event, the first hosted by The James Hutton Institute since its formation in April, will be even bigger.


The James Hutton Institute has research centres in Dundee and Aberdeen. It was formed earlier this year by the coming together of the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute and SCRI, the Scottish Crop Research Institute. It employs about 600 scientists, researchers and support staff and is one of the biggest food, land and environment research centres in Europe. The James Hutton Institute’s registered office is in Dundee.




(Return to Contents)




1.21  New genome sequence could improve important agricultural crops


An international team of scientists, funded in the UK by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), has sequenced the genome of a Chinese cabbage variety of a plant called Brassica rapa, a close relative of oilseed rape. The research, which is published today (28 August) in the journal Nature Genetics, could help improve the efficiency of oilseed rape breeding, as well as that of a host of other important food and oil crops.


The project was conducted by an international consortium involving researchers working across four continents, with the majority of the data generated in China. The UK’s contribution came from scientists at the John Innes Centre in Norwich and Rothamsted Research in Hertfordshire, both of which receive strategic funding from BBSRC.


Oilseed rape is an important source of vegetable oils for cooking and industrial applications and its production has doubled in the last 15 years. It is an unusual hybrid which contains the entire genomes of two other plants: Brassica rapa and another closely related species called Brassica oleracea. By sequencing Brassica rapa, researchers are able to access half of oilseed rape’s genes without having to wrestle with its large and complicated genome.


Professor Ian Bancroft led the research at the John Innes Centre. He explains “Oilseed rape is the second most important oil crop in the world and the most important in Europe. Sequencing its genes will provide breeders with the tools to improve the efficiency of developing new varieties, but this is difficult because it has a really complicated genome. Thankfully, because it is a hybrid, nature has already divided up the oilseed rape genome into two more manageable chunks, one of which we have now sequenced.”


Brassica rapa and oilseed rape are both brassicas, a group which also includes broccoli, turnip, sprouts and cabbages. Together, this important group of plants accounts for more than 10 percent of the world’s vegetable and vegetable oil production and, despite their apparent diversity, they are all closely related. This enables scientists to apply the insights they gain by sequencing one species, such as Brassica rapa to improving the breeding efficiency of a range of crops essential to ensuring global food security.


Professor Bancroft continues “Few people would confuse a turnip with a cauliflower and yet, despite coming in a range of shapes and sizes, brassicas are all very closely related. This means that the many of the 41,000 genes which we found in Brassica rapa will also be found in other brassicas and the insights we gain from having this sequence could be useful for improving everything from plants grown to produce chainsaw oils to the sprouts on your Christmas dinner.”


The Brassica rapa sequence was produced using a technology which breaks the DNA into small segments before reassembling the complete genome. Throughout its evolution Brassica rapa has triplicated its genome meaning that the task of assembling the final picture posed a particular challenge to the scientists and the technology.


Professor Douglas Kell, Chief Executive of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, said “Plants have a tendency to multiply their genomes as they evolve. This means that many important agricultural crops like wheat, potato and oilseed rape have much larger and more complex genomes than most animals, including humans.


“Helping breeders produce new varieties of these staple crops will be essential to ensuring our future food security, so scientists must use their ingenuity to find ways to overcome the challenges posed by these massive genomes. This research shows what can be achieved by applying the latest technology and by combining the expertise of scientists across the world.”




BBSRC External Relations

Mike Davies, Tel: 01793 414694, email:

Nancy Mendoza, Tel: 01793 413355, mobile: 07785 710536, email:

Matt Goode, Tel: 01793 413299, email:



BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.


Funded by Government, and with an annual budget of around £445M, we support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.


For more information about BBSRC, our science and our impact see:


For more information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes see:


About the John Innes Centre


The John Innes Centre,, is a world-leading research centre based on the Norwich Research Park JIC received a total of £28.4M investment from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council in 2010-11. The JIC’s mission is to generate knowledge of plants and microbes through innovative research, to train scientists for the future, and to apply its knowledge to benefit agriculture, human health and well-being, and the environment. JIC delivers world class bioscience outcomes leading to wealth and job creation, and generating high returns for the UK economy.


About Rothamsted Research


Rothamsted Research is almost certainly the oldest agricultural research station in the world. Over its 160 year history, Rothamsted Research has built an enviable reputation for world-class scientific research to deliver knowledge, innovation and new practices to increase crop productivity and quality, and to develop environmentally sustainable solutions for agriculture. Rothamsted Research receives a total of £23.8M in strategic programme grants from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.


Contributed by Andrew Chapple

Norwich BioScience Institutes



(Return to Contents)




1.22  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 Biotechnology for Sustainability. Here you will find information on the five (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.


Biotechnology for Sustainability Display, conceived by Kent Bradford and Jamie Shattuck (formerly with SBC) and designed and constructed by Peggy Lemaux and Barbara Alonso, describes how biotechnology can improve agricultural sustainability. The display is composed of tactile, visually attractive interchangeable modules, and is available on loan for outreach uses.  The display was funded by the American Society of Plant Biologists and the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.  To reserve the display for use please contact Barbara Alonso ( UC Berkeley.


Source: Seed Biotechnology Center, UCD E-news, August 2011


(Return to Contents)




1.23  U.S. National Corn Growers Association's "Off the Cob" podcast series explores the new genome functionality tool


St. Louis, Missouri, USA

August 4. 2011

Today, the National Corn Growers Association's "Off the Cob" podcast series speaks with Dr. Jack Gardiner, the biologist selected to manage the NCGA-sponsored project developing software tools to be incorporated into the Maize Genetics and Genomics Database. In this position, Gardiner will work with software engineers and scientists to develop a tool that allows researchers to easily isolate and examine manageable data sets, thus decreasing the time and effort needed to utilize the massive amounts of genomic data on corn and produce results that will aid farmers.


"Not so long ago, when the National Corn Growers Association spearheaded the Maize Genome Sequencing initiative, a scientist spent 90 percent of his time conducting an experiment and 10 percent analyzing the results," said Gardiner. "Now, due to the complexity of the data, scientists spend about 10 percent of their time generating information and the remaining 90 percent sifting through that data and trying to make sense of it."


Gardiner noted that this exponential growth in the amount of data available changed the tools needed by researchers to utilize this wealth of information in a quick, effective manner.


"In the beginning, we thought that an Excel spreadsheet, with its 60,000 plus rows and multiple columns would be big enough to handle the genetic information being generated," said Gardiner. "But as the next generation of sequencing commenced, we found that the sheer amount of data being generated, due to decreased research costs, was too much to be effectively analyzed in this format."


Likening the tool to the way in which Google Maps allows users to zoom in on specific streets within a city or out for a view of the entire state, Gardiner explained exactly how the tool developed in this project will allow researchers to work with data in a more effective manner.


"This tool will allow researchers to zoom in and out on the desired areas of data, placing it in manageable piles that can be examined from a variety of angles," said Gardiner. "Additionally, this sort of tool provides a visual representation of the data which provides a more easily digestible view from which researchers can begin their analysis."




 (Return to Contents)






2.01  A new book on seed production and supply with particular reference to tropical conditions


The book provides an understanding of the technical and managerial aspects of seed production and supply with particular reference to tropical conditions



Turner, Michael - 2011

This book provides an understanding of the technical and managerial aspects of seed production and supply with particular reference to tropical conditions which are inherently more challenging than those of temperate environments. The book covers the basic principles of plant breeding and the biology of seeds, together with the management of seed production, harvesting and processing to maintain the best quality. Quality assurance, seed marketing and enterprise management are also dealt with.


While focusing mainly on staple cereal and legume crops, the auhro also covers the production of specialized crop seeds such as vegetables and forages. Besides helping farmers directly, this book will be invaluable to those who would like to supply improved seed to farmers through small-scale enterprises, growers’’ associations and cooperatives.


The Tropical Agriculturalist series is published in association with the Technical Center for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA).


Published by CTA and MacMillan, ISBN 978-0-230-02239-3 (Pb), 152pp;


Source: Seed Info No. 41, July 2011 (page 27)


(Return to Contents)




2.02  Adoption and impact of Bt cotton in India, 2002 to 2010


By Bhairath Choudhary and Kadambini Gaur,%202002%20to%202010-%2011%20aug%20Final.pdf


Choudhary, B and Gaur, K. 2011. Adoption and Impact of Bt Cotton in India, 2002 to 2010, ISAAA Biotech Information Centre, ISAAA, New Delhi, India


Contributed  by Bhagirath Choudhary


(Return to Contents)




2.03  Socio-economic and farm level impact of Bt cotton in India, 2002 to 2010


By Bhairath Choudhary and Kadambini Gaur,%202002%20to%202010-11%20aug%20final.pdf


Choudhary, B and Guar, K. 2011. Socio-economic and farm level impact of bt cotton in India. ISAAA Biotech Information Cenre, ISAAA, New Delhi, India;


Contributed  by Bhagirath Choudhary


 (Return to Contents)





3.01  Training webinars in plant breeding and genomics. 


Join the Plant Breeding and Genomics eXtension community of practice this fall for a webinar series to learn how to use tools, software, and techniques.


To register for a webinar, go to or click on a webinar title to follow the link to the registration page. Advanced registration for the live webinars is required. After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.


All webinars begin at 1pm Eastern Daylight Time (GMT - 4:00) (12pm Central, 11am Mountain, 10am Pacific).


All webinars will also be recorded and available for later viewing at


To receive updates about upcoming webinars and archived sessions, sign up for PBG News.


Who Should Attend?

These webinars are designed for plant breeders, breeding assistants, lab personnel, graduate students, and post docs.



How to Use R Software for Data Analysis

·         9/15/2011 at 1pm Eastern

·         Heather Merk, The Ohio State University, OARDC

How to Align Sequences

·         9/29/2011 at 1pm Eastern

·         Candice Hansey, Michigan State University

How to Breed for Organic Production Systems

·         10/18/2011 at 1pm Eastern

·         Jim Myers, Oregon State University

·         Joint webinar with eOrganic

How to Design and Analyze Experiments Using an Augmented Design

·         11/10/2011 at 1pm Eastern

·         Jennifer Kling (Oregon State University)

How to Use Double Haploids to Improve Winter Wheat

·         11/17/2011 at 1pm Eastern

·         Bill Berzonsky & Melanie Caffe, South Dakota State University


If you have questions or comments regarding these webinars, please contact Heather Merk -


System Requirements

PC-based attendees
Required: Windows® 7, Vista, XP or 2003 Server
Macintosh®-based attendees
Required: Mac OS® X 10.4.11 (Tiger®) or newer


Contributed by Allen Deynze


(Return to Contents)





4.01  Vavilov-Frankel Fellowship Call for 2012


Bioversity is pleased to announce the Vavilov-Frankel Fellowship Call for 2012


Deadline for applications 6 November 2011


Two Fellowships, for up to US$ 20,000 each, will be available for 2012 to carry out research from 3 to 12 months on a wide range of biophysical, economic and social themes related to the conservation and use of plant genetic resources in developing countries.

These opportunities are available thanks to support from Pioneer Hi-Bred, USA and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), Australia.


This year's themes focus on :

·         Gene discovery in crop wild relatives

·         Use of plant genetic resources for adaptation to progressive climate change

·         Facilitating better use of genebank materials

·         Researching neglected and underutilized species for food and nutrition security

·         Policy research in support of the implementation of the International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

·         Applying economics to agrobiodiversity conservation, sustainable use and policy analysis

·         Farmer, trader and market strategies for adding value to crop diversity

·         Management of plant diseases through a better understanding of host-pathogen interactions and co-evolution


Applications may be submitted in English, French or Spanish.   

The Call, Application Form and Guidelines can be downloaded from :


 (Return to Contents)





5.01  Plant breeding and related jobs at Monsanto


For more information on specific job descriptions or to apply online visit:

Or, explore:



Northern Argentina Breeder Soy Breeding - Tucuman Province, Argentina - 004HK


ARG Data Manager Supervisor Corn Breeding Program - Fontezuela, Argentina - 004F0


ARG - Trials & Operation Manager - Trait Integration - Argentina - 0055M



Conversion Center- Research Program Manager - 004PW



Testing Operation Manager - 004PA

Line Development Breeder - 004PB

Commercial Breeder - 004P9

Specialized Equipment Manager - 004P8



Cotton Breeder – Australia - 001FC



Trait Genomics Lead - St. Louis - 005AV

Trait Geneticist (Vegetables Division) Woodland, CA - 004AP

Line Development Breeder - Gothenburg, NE - 0055W

Commercial Breeder - Greenville, OH - 004OD

Wheat Breeder - Bozeman, Montana - 004TY

Breeder (Multiple Locations) - 004TB

Cotton Equipment Specialist - 004R7

Scientific Business Analyst – 004TF


Contributed by Donn Cummings

Global Breeder Sourcing Lead, Monsanto


(Return to Contents)




5.02  Breeder/Geneticist – Weaver Popcorn Company, Inc. USA


Weaver Popcorn Company, Inc. is recruiting to fill an open position for a Breeder/Geneticist at its research facilities in New Richmond, IN (23 miles south of Lafayette, IN). Weaver’s hybrid research efforts, started in 1976, are an integral part of the company’s successes in developing, growing, processing, packaging, and selling a variety of popcorn products throughout the United States and to over 90 countries around the world. For more information about our Company, visit:



1. Manage, coordinate and execute a comprehensive popcorn breeding program for inbred line development focused on improved quality traits.

2. Integrate molecular marker assisted technologies into the study and characterization of genes determining the genetic bases of quality traits.

3. Develop high quality popcorn breeding populations.

4. Develop new high quality, high yielding popcorn hybrids for testing.

5. Study the interaction between quality traits, agronomic traits and practices.

6. Provide input into other areas where the genetic component is relevant.



• PhD with 3-5 years of experience in Plant Breeding and Genetics, (preferably in corn).

• Comprehensive knowledge of agronomics, grain quality and production practices.

• Ability to manage personnel and communicate well.

• Knowledge and experience in experimental design and statistical analysis.

• Experience in the application of molecular markers to breeding programs.

• Advanced computer skills, including programs used for the analysis of molecular marker data.

• Understanding of biotechnology and intellectual property rights concepts.

• Experience with farming equipment a plus.



This position includes spending time in the nursery and test plots and in planning experiments, evaluating quality and yield, inputting, analyzing and interpreting results. This position also requires an individual who wants to make a difference as the 3 – 4 breeder team is in charged with developing popcorn hybrids that meet our customers’ popcorn needs and preferences as well as those of our growers. Our goal has always been to have the best hybrids in the industry for all the different market divisions. The hybrid research team meets regularly with the company’s agronomists and sales, marketing and R & D associates as well as growers, customers and consumers to learn directly of their needs and to gain feedback as to how well our hybrids are meeting their needs.


Contact: (send Resume)

Bob Hawk:




(Return to Contents)




5.03  Postdoctoral Research Position in Genetic Resources Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago


The Science, Technology and Environment (STE) Policy Lab in the Department of Public Administration at the University of Illinois at Chicago is seeking a postdoctoral scholar to conduct research and assist with policy implementation in the area of genetic resources for food and agriculture (GRFA). The individual would contribute to three projects:


1. Genetic Resources Policy Initiative Two (GRPI 2) – This project is designed to assist with the strengthening of national capacities to implement the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. The project would focus on means by which selected countries can implement and benefit from the access and benefit sharing provisions of the Treaty. Much of this work would be done in the field in selected African, Asian or South American countries.

2. Assessment of Barriers and Facilitators to Germplasm Exchange in the CGIAR Centers (CentrEx) – The project examines the movement and use of genetic resources between the GGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) Centres, CGIAR partners and other end users. It focuses specifically on national, regional and global patterns of exchange, the institutional structures that facilitate and constrain exchange, and new mechanisms that could improve acquisition and distribution of genetic resources for food and agriculture.

3. Exchange, Use and Benefit Sharing of Agricultural Genetics in the US (AgGen) - The goal of this USDA-funded project is to develop a policy-relevant understanding of genetic resources access, use and benefit sharing practices of the US food and agriculture user community, with an emphasis on examining the importance of foreign sources of genetic resources to US stakeholders.


The postdoc would work with a team of researchers at Bioversity International and other academic institutions, as well as with PhD students and faculty in the STE Policy Lab. He or she would also work closely with research teams coordinated under the GRPI 2 project in participating countries, international organizations and government officials. Responsibilities would include research design, development of qualitative and quantitative data collection instruments, data collection including survey administration and interviews, and data analysis.


Preferred applicants would have a disciplinary background in public policy, international development, public administration, agriculture policy, science and technology policy, or environment policy. Ideally, applicants would demonstrate some familiarity with the policy issues surrounding genetic resources for food and agriculture, background and interest in research on GRFA, good communication and organization skills, experience working in developing countries, and willingness to travel.


Salary and benefits are competitive, commensurate with qualifications. Interested individuals should send a letter of interest, the names and contact information of three references, and a resume by email to Prof. Eric Welch ( Applications should be sent by September 6, 2011.


STE Policy Lab The Science, Technology, and Environment Policy Lab at the University of Illinois at Chicago offers a unique opportunity of learning and interacting among faculty, graduate students, scientists, and practitioners on public policy issues in science, technology, and environment. Housed in the Department of Public Administration and located near downtown Chicago, the research group helps support a Ph.D. program in Science and Technology Policy through funded projects, which enable the training of the next generation of multidisciplinary social scientists who recognize the growing importance of science, technology and environment policy issues in society.


Bioversity International

Bioversity International is one of the 15 Centres supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). Bioversity has worked for more than 35 years to support the improved use and conservation of agricultural biodiversity. Through international research, in collaboration with partners through the world, Bioversity strives to build the knowledge base needed to ensure effective conservation and use of diversity to increase sustainable agricultural production, improve livelihoods and meet the challenges of climate change. Bioversity headquarters are in Rome, Italy, and its regional offices in 16 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America.


Contributed by Evelyn Clancy

Bioversity International

Rome, Italy



(Return to Contents)




5.04  Professor – Genetics – Plant Host-Pathogen Genetics or Plant Genetics


School of Biochemistry, Genetics and Microbiology

Pietermaritzburg Campus

University of Kwasulu-Natal

South Africa

Reference No. SA57/2011


The School is well established with a strong research profile and has a vibrant postgraduate research programme.


The incumbent will teach undergraduate and postgraduate students in Genetics and build the knowledge base of Genetics through research and publication.


For appointment at this level, the incumbent should be an established national and international expert in his/her field.


S/he should provide leadership in the University, the Faculty and the School, and develop the next generation of academics.


S/he should also play a leading role in improving the teaching and research infrastructure of the School, Faculty and College.


The incumbent will be expected to promote interdisciplinary research across the Schools in the College, and with researchers in the Health Sciences.


The successful applicant should have a strong background in Plant Host-Pathogen Genetics or Plant Genetics.


The line manager of this post will be the Head of School.



A PhD degree in Genetics

Experience in teaching Genetics at a tertiary institution

Demonstrated ability to attract external research funds

Evidence of strong academic leadership

A current and sustained research record as evidenced by publications in peer-reviewed ISI/SAPSE accredited journals appropriate for the level

Successful supervision of PhD and MSc students


This appointment will be made in line with the Faculty benchmarks which are available on the University


Vacancies website on


For more information about the post, including the job profile, please contact the School Administrator, Mrs D Chinniah at


The remuneration package offered includes benefits.


The initial closing date for receipt of applications is 15 August 2011. The University, however, reserves the right to accept late applications or to extend the above date in order to facilitate further searches.


Applicants are required to apply on the Vacancies page of the University website at


Completed forms must be sent to


Advert Reference Number MUST be clearly stated in the subject line.


Please find our Email Disclaimer here:


Contributed by Mark Laing


(Return to Contents)





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




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

Email: thomas.d(at),

Tel. 00441488 658298 Extension 553.


(NEW) 26 September – 7 October. Standardization of Stem Rust Note Taking and Evaluation of Germplasm, KARI, Njoro, Kenya.


This course, offered by CIMMYT, is designed for new and upcoming wheat breeders from public and private sector in Africa, Middle East and Central and South Asia, who wish to learn about the stem rust, evaluation of germplasm, standardization of note taking and update themselves with the global knowledge and innovative techniques that can enhance progress and efficiency in their breeding activities. 

(Note: Deadline for intent to participate has already passed) . Contact Dr. Sridhar Bhavani ( or Dr. Amor Yahyaoui ( 



 Contributed by Cally Arthur


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) 7-18 November 2011 Ninth ICRISAT-CEG Training Course on Molecular Plant Breeding, ICRISAT Campus at Patancheru, Greater Hyderabad, India.


The ICRISAT’s Center of Excellence in Genomics (CEG,, supported by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India is pleased to announce its 9th Training course entitled Molecular Plant Breeding for Crop Improvement to be held during 7-18 November 2011 at the ICRISAT Campus at Patancheru, Greater Hyderabad, India. ICRISAT-CEG has already trained 200 scientists by organizing 8 training courses during the last three years. More details on these courses are available at


The major focus of the 9th CEG Training Course will be on analysis and the use of marker genotyping data rather than on data generation. Course will include presentations and/or hands-on training on topics like overview of molecular marker technology especially SSRs and SNPs, experimental design and data analysis components of phenotypic traits, construction of linkage maps, marker-trait association based on linkage mapping, marker-assisted backcrossing (MABC), marker assisted recurrent selection (MARS), genome-wide selection (GWS), and use of decision support tools in modern breeding. The course participants will also be introduced to high-throughput genotyping platforms like DArT, BeadXpress system, etc.


Course is open to mainly Indian scientists however, few scientists from developing countries who have demonstrable ability to use the techniques taught can also apply. Selected Indian participants will be provided to/from II AC train fare by shortest route, boarding and lodging at ICRISAT. Candidates selected from the other developing countries will need to get the sponsorship from either their organization or some other funding agencies for their travel expenses and ICRISAT will take care of their boarding and lodging at ICRISAT campus during the training course. Interested candidates can submit their applications online on or before 25 September 2011.


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


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




(NEW) 13-16 January 2012.  The 12th SABRAO Congress on Plant Breeding towards 2025: Challenges in a Rapidly Changing World, The Empress Chiang Mai Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand


An International Conference to  Celebrate His Majesty King Bhumibol’s 84th (7 Cycle) Birthday Anniversary


Jointly Organized by Society for the Advancement of Breeding Research in Asia and Oceania (SABRAO) and Plant Breeding and Multiplication Association of Thailand (PBMAT)


Symposium Registration

Registration is required to attend all scientific sessions. Registration fees will cover attendance to scientific sessions, pro­fessional excursion, tea/coffee, lunch and reception dinner and farewell party. Those who pay full registration fees will receive a copy of symposium proceedings that will be published as a volume of SABRAO Journal of Breeding and Genetics.



1. Secretary of the Organizing Committee Associate Professor Dr. Kamol Lertrat Email:

2. Assistant Secretary of the Organizing Committee Associate Professor Dr. Suchila Techawongstien



Contributed by Peerasak Srinives

Chairman of the Organizing Committee


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


For more information: and or




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


For more information: and or




For more information: and or


Contributed by Jinda Jan-orn




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


(Return to Contents)





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


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


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


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


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


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


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