PLANT BREEDING NEWS

 

EDITION 231

January 2012

An Electronic Newsletter of Applied Plant Breeding

 

Clair H. Hershey, Editor

chh23@cornell.edu

 

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

 

-To subscribe, see instructions here

-Archived issues available at: FAO Plant Breeding Newsletter

 

1.  NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH NOTES

1.01  U.N. sustainable development summit shifts from climate change

1.02  Climate Conversations - Developing water-efficient maize for Africa

1.03  India's National Academy of Agricultural Sciences endorses GM technology    for accelerated and sustained crop production

1.04  Gates to pitch his charity work at Davos

1.05  Research to increase sugarbeet disease resistance

1.06  Reducing attacks by parasitic plants in grain crops

1.07  Improving maize resistance to head smut

1.08  New seed varieties approved in Tanzania

1.09  New tool for cleaning up soils and waterways prickly pear

1.10  Weed suppressing wheat put to test in Western Australia trials

1.11  Nourishing gene in plants for improvement of seed productivitiy

1.12  Breeding better grasses for food and fuel

1.13  Burundi releases two new rice varieties for better lives

1.14  Corn defenses for improved pest resistance

1.15  Molecular timer modulates branching architecture in tomato

1.16  Big agribusiness influence threatens to override public interest in Greed Revolution

1.17  UF strives to put aroma, taste back in tomatoes

1.18  Gene breakthrough to help Japanese farmers hit by tsunami

1.19  Global research consortium presents findings on safety of genetically modified food

1.20  Improving crops from the roots up

1.21  Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP) launches stronger MET and breeding data management procedures

1.22  L’AIDR outille les producteurs de semences améliorées de la zone agricole de Lergho

1.23  12th Society for the Advancement of Breeding Research in Asia and Oceania (SABRAO) Congress held in Chiang Mai, Thailand

1.24  No limits to the value of an agriculture degree

1.25  Plantas más grandes y resistentes a la sequía

1.26  Ensayan con éxito papas transgénicas resistentes a virus

1.27  New varieties of cassava designed to combat deadly viral diseases are officially released in Tanzania

1.28  A one day conference to celebrate the founding of the Plant Breeding Institute to be held at the Conference Centre, John Innes Centre, Norwich

1.29  "Research data management with spreadsheets and R"

1.30  Science to help rice growers affected by Japan’s tsunami

1.31  “What’s for lunch? Nutrients and minerals in every day food. How the knowledge on mineral nutrition of plants can improve human nutrition”

1.32  DuPont to collaborate with Drought-Tolerant Plants (DROPS) Research Consortium to solve the drought challenges

1.33  Grain crops with lower carotene levels are less affected by parasitic plants

1.34  The GM crop risk-benefit debate: science and socio-economics a plea for a new regulatory system for a modern agriculture

1.35  Unraveling the Chinese cabbage genome

1.36  GM trait patent expiration, saved seed and breeding programs

1.37  Findings prove Miscanthus x giganteus has potential as alternative energy source

1.38  Sementes da China podem dobrar produção de arroz em Goiás

1.39  Abundant world wheat supplies pressure prices

1.40  Clif Bar Family Foundation awards first fellowships in organic plant breeding ever granted in the United States, through its Seed Matters initiative

1.41  Breeding better grasses for food and fuel

1.42  Today in Nature Genetics: Good parents are predictable – at least when it comes to corn

1.43  The hunt for tomatoes with disease resistance

1.44  Affymetrix and BGI enter strategic collaboration to co-develop and commercialize genomic microarrays for the agricultural community

1.45  Discovery of plant ‘nourishing gene’ brings hope for increased crop seed yield and food security

1.46  ‘Gold-standard’ cotton genome sequence will advance fiber, fuel and food applications

1.47  Burundi releases two new rice varieties for better lives

1.48  Evaluating the impacts of GM crops in the EU: AMIGA project is launched

1.49  New tool offers unprecedented access for root studies

1.50  From loyalty cards to proteomics and the birth of the super experiment

1.51  FAO-EU project to promote climate-smart farming

1.52  Genomic and metabolic prediction of complex heterotic traits in hybrid maize

1.53  GM wheat development in China: current status and challenges to commercialization

1.54  Monsanto scholars share their experiences

 

2.  PUBLICATIONS

2.01  International Seed Testing Association Publications and Products 2012 – 2013

2.02  Eco-PB’s 10 years’ anniversary: Organic plant breeding does make a difference!

2.03  Norman Borlaug: The Genius Behind The Green Revolution

 

3.  WEB AND NETWORKING RESOURCES

3.01  New pathogen resource launched

 

4.  POSITION ANNOUNCEMENTS

4.01  International Potato Center Potato Breeder - Africa

4.02  Estonian Center of Excellence in Environmental Adaptation (ENVIRON) open

 

5.  MEETINGS, COURSES AND WORKSHOPS

 

6.  EDITOR'S NOTES

 

 

1 NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH NOTES


1.01 
U.N. sustainable development summit shifts from climate change

 

By Deborah Zabarenko and Nina Chestney

January 24, 2012

 

(Reuters) - Representatives from around the world gather in Rio in June to try to hammer out goals for sustainable development at a U.N. conference designed to avoid being tripped up by the intractable issue of climate change.

 

But there is concern in the lead-up to the conference, known as Rio+20 or the Earth Summit, that it risks ending up as all talk and little action.

 

In an attempt to avoid too much confrontation, the conference will focus not on climate change but on sustainable development - making sure economies can grow now without endangering resources and the environment for future generations.

 

U.N. conferences over the past decade have begun with high hopes for agreements to compel nations to cut climate-warming emissions and help adapt to a hotter world, but they often ended with disappointingly modest results. That was the case last year in the global climate change summit in Durban, South Africa. Participants at that meeting agreed to forge a new deal by 2015 that would go into force by 2020.

 

The "sustainable" branding for this year's summit, rather than climate, is by design, said Ambassador Andre Correa do Lago, who headed Brazil's delegation to the U.N. climate talks in Durban and will be a chief negotiator for Brazil in Rio.

 

Sustainable development is an easier sell globally than climate change, even though sustainable development is a way of tackling global warming and other environmental issues, he said.

 

"Climate change is an (issue) that has very strong resistance from sectors that are going to be substantially altered, like the oil industry," do Lago said. "Sustainable development is something that is as simple as looking at how we would like to be in 10 or 20 years."

 

The time seems ripe. Natural resources are at a premium. The global human population tops 7 billion. Traditional economies are failing. And the planet is warming. Leaders may accept the premise that it makes sense to ensure rich and emerging nations can grow without further damaging the environment.

 

The focus of global meetings has been on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, especially carbon dioxide, but the world's biggest emitters, including China and the United States, have balked, arguing it would cripple economic development.

 

Climate change first claimed the world stage at the U.N. Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro 20 years ago. That first Earth Summit in 1992 ultimately led to the carbon-capping Kyoto Protocol and a treaty on biodiversity.

 

This summit offers a chance to renew political will to make the world's economies greener.

Since the 1992 summit, successive attempts to secure a new binding pact to cut greenhouse gas emissions have failed to produce concrete results, public interest in climate change has waned, and many world leaders are concentrating on upcoming elections and financial worries.

 

"A missed opportunity"

There is concern that this new summit could fall short.

 

"The most it will manage is to set some voluntary goals with a vague timeline, but it will not be clear what the process is to achieve these goals," said Andrew Light of the Centre for American Progress think tank in Washington. Without real goals and a way to reach them, Light said, Rio "will be a missed opportunity."

 

A U.N. draft document was released this month as a starting point for the June conference, outlining seven issues including jobs, energy, food, water and disasters.

 

"Without clearly defined goals, the summit will not provide the clarity and certainty that are needed to get the private sector to actively participate and potentially make the investments needed to achieve the goals," said Stephen Starbuck, expert on climate change and sustainability at Ernst & Young.

 

A narrower climate focus could also put off some countries, such as the United States, where opposition to carbon-capping legislation was so strong from Republicans and the oil industry that it overturned plans for a national emissions cap-and-trade arrangement.

 

In the past 20 years, the debate has changed as the world has changed, according to Tim Wirth, a former U.S. senator who attended the 1992 Rio meeting and will be at this year's conference as president of the non-profit U.N. Foundation.

 

"The debate's changed because of China, India, Brazil and South Africa, the very rapid and surprisingly powerful growth of the newly industrialized countries," he said.

 

In 1992 and in the Kyoto Protocol that grew from events at Rio, these developing countries and others were exempt from curbing carbon dioxide emissions, while rich countries like the United States would have had to cut back. In the end, the U.S. Senate never ratified the Kyoto Protocol, which entered into force in 2005.

 

"Rio was really exploratory," Wirth said. "Nobody knew what this was going to be all about. ... I think Rio+20 becomes an opportunity to be very specific, especially about energy and development."

 

Although fast-developing economies are eager for this shift, Wirth said there may be resistance from big energy powers like the United States and some oil producers in the Middle East.

"These are the countries that say, 'Hey, this is our sandbox, you can't get into it,'" he said. "But I think that's passing by very quickly."

 

Rio+20 will have to give the private sector the clarity and incentives they need over the medium term, Starbuck said.

 

Any goals set in Rio would likely be for the next 20 years, which could be too far in the future for most chief executives whose time in office is more likely to last years, not decades.

 

Instead, interim goals set along the way to 2030 would make the private sector more likely to engage, Starbuck added.

 

(Reporting by Deborah Zabarenko in Washington and Nina Chestney in London; Editing by Russell Blinch and Will Dunham)

 

http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/01/24/uk-rio-idUKTRE80N1XT20120124

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.02  Climate Conversations - Developing water-efficient maize for Africa

 

By Jacob D.H. Mignouna

 

For many smallholder farmers in Africa, maize is life. Since its introduction onto the continent several centuries ago, maize has become a staple crop in many parts of Africa.

 

Today, more than 300 million Africans depend on it as their main food source providing carbohydrates, protein, iron, vitamin D and minerals. And it is also a crucial source of additional income to support farmers and their families as well. Yet the impacts of climate change are threatening maize yields and millions of farmers across Africa.

 

Three-quarters of the world’s most severe droughts over the last 10 years have occurred in Africa, destroying millions of hectares across the continent while also pushing families into hunger and poverty. The most recent and severe of such droughts has blighted stretches of land from northern Kenya through central Somalia and into eastern Ethiopia.

 

Public-private partnerships provide a useful approach for addressing the complexities of sustainable agricultural development and the global food security challenge, especially in less developed areas.

 

In Africa, such partnerships are being developed by governments, private companies, donors and development institutions to conduct advanced crop research, develop new technologies and deploy existing tools and knowledge to small-scale farmers.

 

In response to a growing call by African farmers, leaders, and scientists, a new public-private partnership called Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA), was formed in 2008 to help address the effects of drought in a way that is cost effective for African smallholder farmers.

 

Breeding and biotechnology

Over five years, it aims to help smallholder farmers and their families by using advanced plant breeding and biotechnology to develop more drought tolerant maize varieties.

 

Drought tolerance has been recognized as one of the most important targets of crop improvement programs. Identifying ways to mitigate drought risk, stabilize yields and encourage small-scale farmers to adopt best management practices is fundamental to realizing food security and improved livelihoods for the continent.

 

Coordinated by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation, a not-for-profit organization, WEMA works with private agricultural companies such as Monsanto and BASF to access proprietary germplasm, advanced breeding tools and expertise, and drought-tolerant transgenes for use in its research.

 

CIMMYT, the internationally funded non-profit International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, is providing high-yielding maize varieties that are adapted to African conditions as well as its expertise in conventional breeding and testing for drought tolerance.

 

National agricultural research systems in the five WEMA participating countries, namely Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, South Africa, and Uganda, contribute their expertise in breeding, field testing, seed multiplication and distribution. The varieties developed through the project will be distributed to African seed companies through AATF without royalty and made available to smallholder farmers.

 

Since WEMA began in 2008 there have been excellent gains in drought tolerance, utilizing traditional breeding methods, in each of the five participating countries. Alois Kullaya, WEMA country coordinator in Tanzania, says, “Our participation in this project especially the development of confined field trial sites… (has) additional benefits for our country, which include building our capacity to improve other important crops.”

 

Over the past two years significant progress has been made as a team of more than 60 scientists from across the partner organizations have worked together to develop maize hybrids, testing them in field trials across various maize growing environments, and building the necessary regulatory procedures and protocols for the proper evaluation of the maize in this project in each of the five countries.

 

Testing underway

Testing is already underway to screen for drought-tolerance performance under both optimum watering and managed drought stress, under leaf disease pressure as well as under both optimum and low soil nitrogen conditions – all conditions commonly faced by many African farmers.

 

Other work is focusing on the development of hybrid maize varieties that can achieve high yields when there is too much water.

 

“We are eager to move forward and start to use some of the products, especially conventional drought-tolerant maize lines, to develop an array of varieties in the country,” said Godfrey Asea, a maize breeder and the WEMA-Uganda country coordinator.

 

The project’s first phase is expected to last five years. The first conventional hybrids (developed through conventional breeding, accelerated doubled haploid technology and marker-assisted breeding) could be available in three or four years time.

 

For the transgenic drought-tolerant maize hybrids being developed, farmer access will depend on research and development results and regulatory approval, but farmers could have access to the maize in seven to eight years.

 

It is estimated that the maize varieties developed over the next decade could increase yields as much as 20 to 35 percent under moderate drought conditions compared to the hybrids available in 2008. This would equate to an extra two million additional tonnes of food during times of drought for participating countries. That could benefit between 14 to 21 million people with more food and crops for market, helping to improve livelihoods while at the same time adapting to climate change.

 

http://www.trust.org/alertnet/blogs/climate-conversations/developing-water-efficient-maize-for-africa

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.03  India's National Academy of Agricultural Sciences endorses GM technology for accelerated and sustained crop production

 

27 January, 2012

 

The National Academy of Agricultural Sciences has come out with the latest policy paper on Biosafety Assurance for GM Food Crops in India that contains science-based recommendations and concrete actions for safe, inclusive and judicious harnessing of GM technologies for accelerated and sustained crop production.

 

Since the moratorium imposed on Bt brinjal in February 2010 by then Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, national and international literature have been generated on the safety of GM food crops, and six top science academies of India endorsed the safety of Bt brinjal and recommended its limited commercial release in the "Inter-Academy Report on GM Crops" released in Dec 2010. The Inter Academy Report on GM Crops 2011 is available online at http://insaindia.org/pdf/Updated%20Inter%20Academy%20Report%20on%20GM%20crops.pdf

 

The recent NAAS policy paper critically examines the current biosafety issues and the prospects of benefiting from GM technology. It concludes that GM technology is a powerful tool for developing future crop varieties with in-built resistance to various biotic and abiotic stresses for reducing crop losses and enhanced input use efficiency, yield potential and quality traits. It also states that the use of GM crops is crucial for the food and nutritional security of the country and research must be continued with the aim of developing safer, more productive and nutritious food crops. The policy paper also puts forward a tangible action plan for the development and utilization of GM food crops.

 

For a copy of the policy paper visit http://naasindia.org/policy.html

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=24059&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: Crop Biotech Update

 

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1.04  Gates to pitch his charity work at Davos

 

By ERIC PFANNER

 

DAVOS, Switzerland — Some people come to the World Economic Forum expecting caviar. Bill Gates said he would bring cassava. “I don’t know what Swiss customs will say about it,” said Mr. Gates, chairman of Microsoft and co-chairman of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “I’ll put it in a nice plastic bag or something.”

 

Assuming he makes it past the border guards, Mr. Gates is bringing the tubers — some of them healthy, others rotten — to Davos to underline a pitch for his foundation’s efforts to eradicate hunger in places where food is scarce and crops are often blighted.

 

Since 2009, Mr. Gates has published an annual letter that details his foundation’s work and sets priorities for the coming year. This time, the letter, which was set to be published Tuesday in Seattle, highlights the need for innovation in agriculture to improve nutrition in poor countries.

 

The foundation, the world’s largest philanthropic organization, donates about $300 million a year to agriculture projects, a little more than one-tenth of its overall annual commitments. About half of the organization’s money goes to health care, including efforts to fight diseases like AIDS, polio and malaria, and the rest is dedicated to education and other initiatives.

 

Last year, Mr. Gates’s letter focused on the foundation’s efforts to develop and disseminate vaccines. A milestone in the battle against deadly diseases was reached this month when the Gates Foundation and other groups announced that last year, for the first time, India had not recorded a single case of polio.

 

Mr. Gates said he had decided to emphasize agriculture this year because he felt it was not getting the necessary attention. At the same time, he added, the need for food is easily understood by the public because it is “so primary.”

 

“We get a strong response on health issues,” he said by telephone. “But when we show a farmer getting better sweet potatoes that are more nutritious, the response is even stronger.”

The letter describes the plight of a farmer in Tanzania whose staple cassava crop has been infected by two diseases that have attacked the leaves of the trees as well as the roots, which are the edible crop. Cassava can be used to make a variety of foods, including tapioca.

 

“The billion people who wake up every day trying to figure out if they have enough food to eat won’t be at Davos,” said Mr. Gates. He added that the foundation’s goal was to cut this number, calculated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, in half by the end of the decade.

 

Mr. Gates is a longtime visitor to the forum, where the foundation and Microsoft typically have a strong presence.

 

Mr. Gates is not alone in paying more attention to the issue of hunger. Food has been a top item on the agenda at a series of meetings of international leaders in recent years. In L’Aquila, Italy, representatives of the Group of 8 major economies pledged in 2009 to spend more than $20 billion on the problem over three years.

 

Robert B. Zoellick, president of the World Bank, said last year that recent increases in food prices had been an “aggravating factor” in the unrest that swept across the Arab world last year.

 

Yet Mr. Gates said he was worried about threats to aid in the current economic climate. A growing list of other concerns, like the crisis in the euro zone and the threat of conflict in Iran, could overshadow more basic issues, like the need to put food on the table.

 

As of last year, according to a Group of 8 report, only about one-fifth of the total pledges made in Italy in 2009 had actually been fulfilled. Similarly, Mr. Gates said he was concerned that financing commitments to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria were running behind the pledged amounts.

 

“The uncertainty level for aid is pretty scary right now,” Mr. Gates said. “It’s a real concern.”

 

http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2012/01/24/gates-to-pitch-his-charity-work-in-davos/

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.05  Research to increase sugarbeet disease resistance

 

Scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture have developed a set of genetic markers for beet curly top virus that plant breeders could use in developing curly top-resistant sugarbeet varieties. They identified 11 genetic markers that were significantly associated with resistance to curly top. This development is one of a few research activities aimed to increase the yield of sugarbeet and produce varieties that are resistant to known diseases.

 

Scientists are also focusing efforts on the root disease called rhizomia which is caused by beet necrotic yellow vein virus. They discovered that beet varieties exhibiting the greatest resistance to rhizomania and good storability also had the highest sugar levels.

 

For more information view at http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/jan12/beet0112.htm

 

Source: Crop Biotech Update 13 January 2012

 

Contributed by Margaret Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

Mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.06  Reducing attacks by parasitic plants in grain crops

 

Strategies to combat the parasitic weed Striga are important in the quest for food sufficiency in Africa. The parasitic plant affects the African staple cereals such as maize, sorghum, highland rice, and millet resulting to huge losses. In Wageningen University, Muhammad Jamil has studied various approaches to reduce the damage caused by Striga with focus on strigolactones, the compound secreted by the host that signals Striga seed to germinate and attack. Strigolactones are derived from carotene.

 

Jamil found that reduction in strigolactones content in plants through application of fertilizer and by inhibiting the carotene production reduced Striga seed germination by up to 75 percent. He further observed that different varieties vary with the amount of strigolactone produced, affecting Striga attack. These results may be useful in developing cheaper and effective technologies to reduce attack of the Striga parasite and allow African farmers to produce more food and achieve a better income.

 

Read more on this news at: http://www.wur.nl/UK/newsagenda/news/Ne_Striga_.htm

 

Source: Crop Biotech Update 13 January 2012

 

Contributed by Margaret Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

Mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.07  Improving maize resistance to head smut

 

Head smut caused by fungus Sphacelotheca reiliana is one of the most devastating diseases in maize. Thus, deployment of resistant maize varieties is important to prevent widespread of the pathogen. Xianrong Zhao of the China Agricultural University and colleagues conducted a study to introgress a major resistance quantitative trait locus (qHSR1) into 10 maize inbred lines (Ji853, 444, 98107, 99094, Chang7-2, V022, V4, 982, 8903, and 8902) through marker-assisted backcrossing. The inbred lines used have excellent agronomic traits but are known to be susceptible to head smut. Each of those lines were crossed with Ji1037, which is completely resistant to head smut, and then followed by five generations of backcrossing to their own recurrent parent.

 

The 10 converted inbred lines exhibited improved resistance to head smut. Furthermore, the hybrids derived from the converted lines showed significant increase in resistance to head smut while retaining their favorable agronomic characteristics.

 

Subscribers of Molecular Breeding journal may get a copy of the research article at http://www.springerlink.com/content/cl66014663133267/

 

Source: Crop Biotech Update 20 January 2012

 

Contributed by Margaret Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

Mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.08  New seed varieties approved in Tanzania

 

A total of 26 new seed varieties have been approved for planting by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives of the Republic of Tanzania. The new varieties have improved resistance to drought and diseases, as well as shorter maturing periods and increased yield of two to three times than the other commercialized varieties.

 

According to Mohamed Muya, permanent secretary of the ministry, the seeds have passed the verification process and were certified by the National Seeds Committee. The newly approved seed varieties include nine varieties of maize, five varieties of Arabica coffee, four tea varieties, four varieties of cassava, and one each of barley, millet, and beans. The institutions involved in the development of the seed varieties were Tea Research Institute of Tanzania, the Tanzania Coffee Research Institute, the Agricultural Research Institute, Naliende Agriculture Research Institute, Agro-Training and Engineering, Pioneer Overseas Corporation, Monsanto Tanzania Limited, Meru Agro-Tours and Consultants, and Tanzania Breweries Limited. Planting of the new seed varieties will start in the next farming season.

 

"We can now confidently say from now, henceforth Tanzania is to record bumper harvests and therefore food security in the country will always be assured," said Muya.

 

Read more at http://thecitizen.co.tz/news/4-national-news/18900-26-seed-varieties-approved.html

 

Source: Crop Biotech Update 20 January 2012

 

Contributed by Margaret Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

Mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.09  New tool for cleaning up soils and waterways prickly pear

 

Selenium at high concentrations can affect plants, fish and migratory birds. Land areas which were covered with water in ancient times have large deposits of selenium which is carried to other habitats during rainfall. USDA's soil scientist Gary Banuelos discovered that planting prickly pear cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica) could solve the problem. Bañuelos studied five prickly pear varieties from Mexico, Brazil and Chile for salt and boron tolerance in selenium-laden soils, and analyzed the soils and sediments in the field test plots.

 

Results published in the journal Soil Use and Management shows that prickly pear grew well in the poor quality soils with very little water and the plants took up selenium. Selenium was volatilized by the plant and some concentrations were found in the fruits and leaf-like stems. A cactus variety from Chile performed best in the trial plots, showing highest tolerance to salt and boron in the selenium-laden soils, as well as being the best at producing fruit and accumulating and volatilizing selenium. The work is continuing with a focus on selecting specific varieties that can be used as bioremediation tools.

 

View the news release at http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2012/120118.htm

 

Source: Crop Biotech Update 20 January 2012

 

Contributed by Margaret Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

Mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.10  Weed suppressing wheat put to test in Western Australia trials

 

In attempts to suppress weeds in wheat fields in Western Australia, the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) conducted field trials of "competitive" wheat lines in Eradu and Wongal Hills in 2010 and 2011. The study was funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation to test various wheat lines developed by CSIRO Plant Industry.

 

The "competitive" wheat lines were evaluated with commonly grown varieties in the two sites and researchers found marked differences in their ability to suppress weeds. The lines were observed to double the biomass by the early tillering stage and increased root growth which proved effective in shading out and competing with weeds. In addition, they yielded more than the commercial varieties.

 

See the news release at:

http://www.grdc.com.au/director/events/mediareleases/?item_id=E9AE9304ECEACFB9E6128B7C1B03CEC3

 

Source: Crop Biotech Update 20 January 2012

 

Contributed by Margaret Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

Mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.11  Nourishing gene in plants for improvement of seed productivitiy

 

Scientists at the University of Warwick, University of Oxford, and Biogemma (an agri-biotech research company) have discovered a "nourishing gene" labeled as Meg1 which controls the amount of nutrients transferring from mother to offspring in maize plants. Meg1 is only expressed in maternal chromosomes, which is a similar with the uniparental expression of human genes involved the development of the placenta to regulate the supply of maternal nutrients during fetal growth. This new discovery implies that scientists can use the gene to increase seed size and productivity especially in major crop plants.

 

Dr. Jose Gutierrez-Marcos, Associate Professor in the University of Warwick's School of Life Sciences, said: "These findings have significant implications for global agriculture and food security, as scientists now have the molecular know-how to manipulate this gene by traditional plant breeding or through other methods to improve seed traits, such as increased seed biomass yield.To meet the demands of the world's growing population in years to come, scientists and breeders must work together to safeguard and increase agricultural production."

 

For more details, visit:

http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/pressreleases/discovery_of_plant/

 

Source: Crop Biotech Update 20 January 2012

 

Contributed by Margaret Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

Mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.12  Breeding better grasses for food and fuel

 

Once an elusive dream, researchers from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) have discovered that plants can be developed as a source of food and at the same time source of energy for fuel. In a research article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a family of genes called Gt61 that govern the development of fibrous, woody parts of grasses has been discovered.

 

"What we hope to do with this research is to produce varieties of plants where the woody parts yield their energy much more readily - but without compromising the structure of the plant. We think that one way to do this might be to modify the genes that are involved in the formation of a molecule called xylan - a crucial structural component of plants," said Prof. Dupree of the University of Cambridge, co-author of the paper.

 

The Gt61 gene of grasses was introduced in Arabidopsis which enable the production of a grass form of xylan. The gene on the other hand was silenced in another study in wheat grain. Both the Arabidopsis plant and the wheat grain appeared normal despite the changes in xylan. These results open possibilities in the development of plants with the right balance of being sturdy enough to grow, thrive and produce food, while also serving as a feedstock for biofuel production.

 

For more on this article, view:

http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/news/industrial-biotechnology/2012/120117-pr-breeding-grasses-for-food-fuel.aspx

 

Source: Crop Biotech Update 20 January 2012

 

Contributed by Margaret Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

Mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.13  Burundi releases two new rice varieties for better lives

 

Two new rice varieties IR77713 and IR79511 developed and bred for Burundi conditions were recently-released in the country. IRRI-Burundi developed the new rice varieties in recognition of the urgent need for better rice varieties adapted to local conditions and matching farmer and consumer needs.

 

Consumers, farmers and other agricultural stakeholders in different regions across Burundi and in three-year participatory variety selection trials, chose the two rice varieties over the locally-grown varieties based on yield, taste, and morphology.

 

"We congratulate IRRI for this achievement," concluded Director General of Agriculture Sebastien Ndikumagenge, Burundi Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock. "By releasing these two varieties, IRRI contributes a lot to our efforts to find food for Burundians. We encourage IRRI to go forward."

 

The original news can be viewed at http://irri.org/news-events/media-releases/burundi-release-two-new-rice-varieties-for-better-lives.

 

Source: Crop Biotech Update 06 January 2012

 

Contributed by Margaret Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

Mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.14  Corn defenses for improved pest resistance

 

New discoveries on how corn defend itself from pathogens have been recently reported in the journals Plant Physiology and The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

 

Authors of papers from the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Gainesville and University of Florida found defensive compounds known as zealexins and kauralexins to rapidly accumulate at fungal infection sites, impeding the microbes' continued spread. Another protein signal was discovered in corn called ZmPep1, which alerts the plant to fungal intruders and helps mobilize a timely counterattack.

 

In laboratory experiments, kauralexin class of phytoalexins inhibited the growth of anthracnose stalk rot (Colletotrichum graminicola) by 90 percent, while zealexins inhibited the growth of the aflatoxin-producing fungus Aspergillus flavus by 80 per cent. These findings are important in reducing the yield loss and fungal-derived toxin contamination issues for U.S. corn farmers.

 

For more details, view at http://www.ars.usda.gov/News/docs.htm?docid=1261

 

Source: Crop Biotech Update 06 January 2012

 

Contributed by Margaret Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

Mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.15  Molecular timer modulates branching architecture in tomato

 

A new study conducted at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) in New York, USA, suggests that an increase in fruit yield happens if the molecular timer (also called maturation clock) is manipulated because it also determines the number of branches that make flowers.

 

"We have found that a delay in this clock causes more branching to occur in the inflorescences, which in turn results in more flowers and ultimately, more fruits," says CSHL Assistant Professor Zach Lippman, leader of the research team. They conducted high-resolution, genome-level comparison of the stem cell populations from three tomato varieties that have diverse branching architectures. "We wanted to define this clock at the highest resolution, in terms of the genes that modulate the rate of meristem maturation, with the idea that finding the genes that define the clock would enable us to tweak it to get the desired level of branching," explained Lippman.

 

Results of their analysis showed that the wild tomato from Peru evolved to have a slight delay in maturation, leading to development of few branches but doubled number of flowers and fruits compared to the other varieties. Using the candidate genes involved in time of maturation, the research team intends to develop domesticated tomatoes with branching architecture similar to the wild variety.

 

Read the complete story at http://www.cshl.edu/Article-Lippman/study-uncovers-a-molecular-maturation-clock-that-modulates-branching-architecture-in-tomato-plants

 

Source: Crop Biotech Update 06 January 2012

 

Contributed by Margaret Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

Mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.16  Big agribusiness influence threatens to override public interest in Greed Revolution

 

A new 30-page report that documents the growing influence of agribusiness on the multilateral food system and the lack of transparency in research funding has been released today by the international civil society organization ETC Group. The Greed Revolution: Mega Foundations, Agribusiness Muscle In On Public Goods presents three case studies – one involving the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and two involving CGIAR Centers (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) – which point to a dangerous trend that will worsen rather than solve the problem of global hunger. The report details the involvement of, among others, Nestlé, Heineken, Monsanto, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Syngenta Foundation.

 

“It is unacceptable that the UN is giving multinational agribusiness privileged access to alter their agricultural policies,” said Pat Mooney, Executive Director of ETC Group, who has been involved in the field for 40 years. “It is ridiculous that the key organizations responsible for agricultural research have no credible data on the extent of corporate involvement in their work and that CGIAR’s biggest funder – at $89 million – is somebody called, ‘Miscellaneous!’ Governments and UN secretariats have forgotten that their first task is to serve the public – not the profiteers.”

 

The report shows that multinational corporations are now seeing their future profitability in “emerging economies,” and they are finally taking notice of the international institutions that have been quietly working throughout the global South for half a century. However this new interest in UN agencies is causing “mandate-muddle” as companies demand that policy be rewritten to better reflect their interests, including allowing privileged access to publicly held germplasm. Public institutions are tending to look the other way when Big Ag harms peasant agriculture.

 

“Public institutions related to food and agriculture are mandated to support the poor and hungry.

 

Governments need to address the big- and small-scale conflicts of interest, beginning with a long overdue investigation of the links between the international public and private sectors in food and agriculture. Based on our initial conversations with UN officials about this research, we are hopeful that this will happen,” concludes Mooney.

 

Source: http://www.etcgroup.org/en/node/5305

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.17  UF strives to put aroma, taste back in tomatoes

 

By Susan Salisbury

 

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

January 20, 2012

 

Over the years as roses have been bred for their beautiful blooms, most varieties have lost their fragrance.

 

Field-grown, mass-produced Florida tomatoes have a similar problem. Bred to produce lots of tomatoes that ship well, grow fast and resist pests and diseases, the plants may produce tomatoes that look pretty, but lack flavor.

 

A University of Florida interdisciplinary group has gone back to square one to try to change that. Their work puts the consumers first and considers what people want. The goal is to improve tomatoes, blueberries, strawberries and roses through breeding programs.

 

Environmental Horticulture Professor David Clark and other researchers are looking at ways to put the aroma back into flowers either through genetic engineering or by making the scent in a lab and developing a spray.

 

Horticulture Professor Harry Klee is leading work on coming up with a better-tasting tomato that could be grown on a large scale. "I think that with some work, we can make a tomato that most people feel is pretty good - certainly much better than what's out there today. The bigger problem with the Florida 'mature green' field-grown tomato is that it has no taste whatsoever," Klee said.

 

Rather than trying to improve the standard round tomato, Klee is working with heirloom varieties, some of which go back 100 years. But the problem with getting large-scale farmers to use them is they are not resistant to diseases. "We are trying to understand what good flavor is so we can put it back into varieties that commercial growers will grow," he said.

 

UF's Plant Innovation Group, which includes members from fields such as plant genetics, food science, marketing, sales and psychology, is partnering with Moskowitz Jacobs, a White Plains, N.Y., strategic brands development, research and consulting firm.

 

Howard Moskowitz, who founded the firm in 1981, became famous in the food world after coming up with a new line of tomato-based pasta sauces for Campbell's, makers of Prego. Campbell's sought his help in competing with Ragú.

 

Although the supermarket shelves today are laden with every type of spaghetti sauce imaginable, from roasted red pepper to ricotta parmesan and garden combo, that wasn't the case in the early 1980s. The sauces sold at retail were smooth and had a uniform texture.

 

Moskowitz came up with 45 possibilities that varied in spiciness, thickness and other attributes. Then food experts developed about 10 sauces that were evaluated by consumers.

 

He found that there was no perfect sauce because people have different preferences.

But he learned that most people preferred either plain, spicy or extra-chunky sauces that were more like homemade versions. Prego's Extra Chunky was the result.

 

And Prego's extra chunky resulted in more than $600 million in revenue over 10 years. Today, Ragú and Prego each have more than 20 varieties of tomato-based sauces.

 

"Howard Moskowitz's whole thing is, let's find out what the consumer wants," Klee said. At UF, more than 75 varieties of heirlooms have been evaluated by panels of 100 consumers.

 

"We now know what the recipe is for the ideal tomato. Now the trick is to reproduce it," Klee said. After a decade of work, he estimates the new tomato or tomato varieties could be just three to five years away.

 

He said they are working with one of the big seed companies now - he wouldn't say which - and said he has the ability to make a tomato that produces well and tastes great.

 

The problem is the tomato has to be suitable for commercial growers or they won't agree to work with it. With a few exceptions, growers have not demanded tastier tomatoes because they don't get more money for taste, Klee said.

 

Premium tomatoes that sell for a higher price are available, but Klee said the majority of people still will buy the 99 cents-a-pound tomato instead of the $4-a-pound tomato.

 

Klee is confident that ultimately a bulk tomato that sells for 99 cents-a-pound and tastes good can be produced. "If you want to fight obesity and make people healthier, give them food that tastes good at a reasonable price," Klee said.

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.18  Gene breakthrough to help Japanese farmers hit by tsunami

 

Agence france presse

PARIS

23 January 2012

 

Scientists in Britain and Japan on Sunday unveiled a fast-track way towards breeding crops with higher yields or resistance to climate change. Early beneficiaries should be Japanese farmers who need salt-loving rice plants after their fields were submerged in last year´s tsunami.

 

The technique, which does not use genetic modification, pinpoints DNA variants which confer specific qualities in a plant.  Armed with this knowledge, breeders can then use classic methods to splice these genes into an existing strain.

 

Right now, it can take up to five or even 10 years to develop a strain, which is known as a cultivar. But the "MutMat" approach should speed this marathon to a sprint of little more than a year, say its inventors."Essentially, it helps to get to the needle in the haystack faster," Sophien Kamoun, a professor at The Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, eastern England, told AFP.

 

The method, reported in the journal Nature Biotechnology, focussed on a Japanese wild rice cultivar called Hitomebore.

 

Researchers led by Ryohei Terauchi from the Iwate Biotechnology Research Centre created 1,500 variants of Hitomebore, each of which had different characteristics, using a chemical treatment to speed up the natural rate of mutation. They honed in on a variant that had a trait for higher yields and crossed it with the original strain of Hitomebore. The resultant plant was then self-pollinated and grown.

 

The scientists compared the genome of this progeny with that of the original Hitomebore. Like laying one map on top of another, they were swiftly able to spot the genetic telltale for the bigger yield. The process offers a huge gain in time for plant breeders, say the scientists.

 

Traditionally, breeders have to cross many generations of plants to ensure that desired genes are anchored in the cultivar and unwanted ones are stripped out. But the new method quickly highlights the right genes, meaning that it should not take more than a few generations of fine-tuning to come up with the desired outcome. In their experiment, Terauchi´s team identified the traits for semi-dwarfism, which leads to short, stubby plants with a full head of grain. It was this characteristic that famously unleashed the Green Revolution in the 1960s, boosting rice harvests in China, India and other countries that teetered perpetually on the brink of famine.

 

The team has since grown a collection of plants from Hitomebore which cope with high salinity. "Once genes contributing to salt tolerance are identified, they will be used for developing rice cultivars suitable for cultivation in the roughly 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres) of paddy fields of the northern Japan coast that were flooded by the tsunami," the study says.  Kamoun said MutMat was simpler than other gene-spotting methods and was especially promising as it could improve a crop that had already adapted to local conditions.  The right genes are introduced "by classical breeding," he added. "There´s no GM [genetic modification] involved in this approach at all."

 

Other crops with a relatively small and uncomplicated genome are excellent candidates for MutMat but complex species such as wheat and corn would be difficult, he said. Kamoun said MutMat only became feasible through cheap computing power and low-cost gene sequencing. "This is what´s so exciting for the future," said Kamoun. "These technologies were not available just a few years ago. The full impact on improving crops and on agriculture is going to be tremendous, and it´s very timely, given the challenge we have with food security."

 

Last October, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) said the global population of seven billion could rise to at least 10 billion by 2100, but could top 15 billion if birth rates are just slightly higher than expected. That amounts to a major challenge to boost yields, use land and water more sparingly and develop crops that can cope with climate-induced drought and flood.

 

http://www.myrepublica.com/portal/index.php?action=news_details&news_id=41112

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.19  Global research consortium presents findings on safety of genetically modified food

 

Ireland

24 January, 2012

 

A three year feeding study has shown no adverse health effects in pigs fed genetically modified (GM) maize. The maize, which is a Bt-maize bred for its insect resistant properties, was sourced from Spain.

 

The results were one of the key findings of trials conducted as part of the GMSAFOOD consortium undertaking post market monitoring: long term, generational and food chain studies to test food safety.

 

The research team conducted short-term (31 days), medium-term (110 days) and generational pig feeding studies where the health of piglets of sows fed Bt-maize is measured. No adverse effects were observed, suggesting that feeding Bt-maize to pigs of different ages is safe.“These findings can offer some assurance to consumers as to the safety of consuming Bt-maize,” Peadar Lawlor, senior researcher at Teagasc, Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Moorepark, Ireland, said;“The pig is considered to be an excellent model for humans due to similarities in gastrointestinal anatomy and physiology. Similar responses to Bt-maize consumption could be expected in humans,” he said.

 

In addition to testing for any unforeseen adverse effects, the researchers were also looking for biomarkers (fragments of DNA) associated with immune responses which could be used for predicting immune response to future genetically modified organisms (GMOs).¶The GMSAFOOD consortium, funded by the European Commission, brings together researchers from Austria, Ireland, Norway, Hungry, Turkey and Australia.

 

These results and findings from other GMSAFOOD research teams will be presented at the GMSAFOOD conference at the Medical University of Vienna, Austria 6-8 March 2012. These include:

  • Salmon feeding trials (Norway)
  • Investigation of protracted allergenic response in mice feeding trials (Austria)
  • Food chain trials where rats were fed pork and fish which had been raised on Bt-maize (Norway and Hungary)

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=23936&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.20  Improving crops from the roots up

 

Nottingham, United Kingdom

24 January, 2012

 

Research involving scientists at The University of Nottingham has taken us a step closer to breeding hardier crops that can better adapt to different environmental conditions and fight off attack from parasites.

 

In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), the researchers have shown that they can alter root growth in the plant Arabidopsis thaliana, or thale cress, by controlling an important regulatory protein.

 

Dr Ive De Smet, a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) David Phillips Fellow in the University’s Division of Plant and Crop Science, said: “The world’s population is increasing, and a new green revolution is even more pressing to deliver global food security. To achieve this, optimising the root system of plants is essential and these recent results will contribute significantly to our goal of improving crop growth and yield under varying environmental conditions.”

 

The work was carried out by an international team of researchers. Led by scientists from the Plant Systems Biology Department in the life sciences research institute VIB in Flanders, Belgium, and Ghent University, the study also involved experts from Wake Forest University in the US and the Albrecht-von-Haller Institute for Plant Sciences in Germany.

 

Plant root biology is essential for healthy plant growth and, while the so-called hidden half of the plant has often been overlooked, its importance is becoming increasingly recognised by scientists.

 

Despite this, particularly in view of the critical role plants play in global food security, improving plant growth by modulating the biological architecture of root systems is an area which is largely unexplored.

 

In this latest research, the scientists modulated levels of the protein, transcription factor WRKY23, in plants, analysed the effects on root development and used chemical profiling to demonstrate that this key factor controls the biosynthesis of important metabolites called flavonols. Altered levels of flavonols affected the distribution of auxin, a plant hormone controlling many aspects of development, which resulted in impaired root growth.

 

Healthier and hardier crops

The results of the research can now be used to produce new plant lines, such as crops which are economically valuable, which have an improved root system, making them better able to resist environmental changes which could lead to plant damage or poor yield.

 

In addition, WRKY23 was previously found to play a role in the way plants interact with types of nematode parasites, which could lead to further research into how to prevent attacks from the creatures during the early stages of plant growth.

 

The paper Transcription Factor WRKY23 Assists Auxin Distribution Patterns During Arabidopsis Root Development Through Local Control on Flavonol Biosynthesis featured in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. A pdf of the paper can be downloaded here.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=23948&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.21  Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP) launches stronger MET and breeding data management procedures

 

Los Banos, The Philippines

24 January, 2012

 

Scientists from Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice); International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT); national agricultural research and extension systems (NARES); and IRRI convened at IRRI headquarters this week to discuss multienvironment testing (MET) and breeding data management requirements.

 

The meeting is expected to result in a comprehensive action plan to establish a structured MET program in the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP) as well as a harmonized data management system for product-based GRiSP breeding programs.

 

The 3-day workshop was opened today by Achim Dobermann, IRRI's deputy director general for research, who challenged the breeders to build on the experiences of the past but make continuous genetic progress with a much more sophisticated way of breeding.

 

Currently, variety release processes can be tedious and slow and there is no guarantee that varieties released will be adopted by farmers. The workshop is expected to result in very clear systems to evaluate varieties and hybrids following similar procedures and protocols across regions but adapted to the specific needs of the region.

 

The first day featured presentations from representatives from Asia, Africa, and South America on the current MET practices and trial systems in their respective regions. Partners in Asian NARES—Indonesia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam—also shared information about the MET activities being initiated in their countries.

 

An entire day is scheduled for group discussions to draft specific guidelines for designing and conducting MET trials and data management systems, and to develop protocols for advancing breeding lines, variety naming, and branding.

 

The outcome of the discussions will be presented on the third day of the workshop, 26 January, and will be implemented as standard MET and breeding data management protocols by the GRiSP partners in the different regions.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=23962&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: IRRI viaSeedQuest.com

 

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1.22  L’AIDR outille les producteurs de semences améliorées de la zone agricole de Lergho

 

Le Ministre délégué chargé de l’Agriculture, Monsieur Abdoulaye COMBARY, a présidé une session de formation en « techniques de : production, conditionnement, conservation et contrôle de qualité des semences » au profit des producteurs et productrices de semences et agents responsables de leur encadrement, le lundi 16 janvier 2012. Le Ministre COMBARY avait à ses côtés, le Gouverneur de la Région du Centre-Est, le Conseiller technique du Ministre délégué chargé de la Coopération régionale et les autorités locales de la commune de Garango.

 

Lergho, localité située à une dizaine de kilomètres de Garango, a abrité du 16 au 21 janvier 2012 une session de formation au profit d’une centaine de producteurs semenciers et leurs agents responsables d’encadrement. Les participants à cette formation sont des membres de plusieurs groupements mixtes tels que le groupement FONDA de Kombinatenga, le groupement NOGNA de Lergho, le groupement NOGNA de Ounzéogo, les groupements de Zigla Koulpélé, Sanogho, Siguinvoussé, Wouréma et Lèda.

 

Selon le Ministre COMBARY, la présence massive des producteurs venus de plusieurs villages des communes de Garango et de Tenkodogo « témoigne du dynamisme fonctionnel du réseau de production de semences améliorées certifiées dans la région du Centre-Est. Dans cette perspective, il s’agit de renforcer les capacités des producteurs semenciers et des agents chargés de leur encadrement afin qu’ils soient aptes à produire et à mettre à la disposition des agriculteurs de semences de qualités adaptées aux conditions locales. »

 

L’objectif de cette session de formation est de fournir aux producteurs semenciers et aux agents chargés de leur encadrement les moyens techniques prioritaires permettant d’accroître la productivité agricole et de garantir la sécurité alimentaire des populations. C’est pourquoi, la formation était axée sur le besoin prioritaire d’accroître la productivité, les productions agricoles et alimentaires à travers la production et la mise à disposition de semences de qualité.

 

Dans cette perspective, il s’est agi de : renforcer les capacités des producteurs semenciers afin de leur donner les moyens techniques de mettre à la disposition des utilisateurs des semences certifiées de qualité, adaptées aux conditions locales, en quantités suffisantes ; renforcer les capacités des agents chargés de leur encadrement. La session de formation a insisté sur le besoin vital de renforcer les capacités des producteurs semenciers et des agents chargés de leur encadrement afin de procurer les moyens techniques pour la production et la mise à disposition de semences certifiées de qualité, adaptées aux conditions locales, dans l’optique d’accroître la productivité (coefficient de multiplication des rendements : 4 à 10) et d’assurer la sécurité alimentaire.

 

Un stand d’exposition des semences améliorées, des tests de germination et des appareils de laboratoire d’analyse des semences ont permis aux producteurs d’apprendre davantage sur la nécessité de disposer des semences certifiées pour un meilleur rendement. Au terme de la formation, les producteurs et productrices de semences améliorées dans la zone de Lergho ont exprimé leur satisfaction totale. Ils ont reçu des attestations de participation et ils se sont engagés à transmettre aux producteurs qui n’ont pas bénéficié de cette formation, les nouvelles connaissances et techniques acquises.

 

En sa qualité de président de l’Union régionale des producteurs semenciers du Centre-Est, El Hadj Adama SARE, a saisi cette opportunité pour prodiguer des conseils aux participants à la session de formation. Il leur a assuré de son soutien sans faille pour faire de la zone agricole du Centre-Est, « le grenier » des semences de qualité du Burkina Faso.

 

La formation était animée par une experte (Mme Mini DAH/PALE) du Service national des semences en tant que formateur principal et garant du contrôle de qualité des semences et un inspecteur semencier régional (Souleymane NACRO), représentant local de l’activité de développement de la filière semencière.

 

La session de formation a été rendue possible grâce aux initiatives de l’AIDR, association dénommée « Appui aux Initiatives Locales de Développement Rural », association animée par Gustave T. GUINKO, ingénieur agroéconomiste et Issouf ZABSONRE, conseiller en communication.

 

Ousmane KABORE (correspondance particulière)

 

http://www.lefaso.net/spip.php?article46006&rubrique14

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.23  12th Society for the Advancement of Breeding Research in Asia and Oceania (SABRAO) Congress held in Chiang Mai, Thailand

 

Chiang Mai, Thailand

24 January, 2012

 

More than 30 IRRI scientists attended the 12th Society for the Advancement of Breeding Research in Asia and Oceania (SABRAO) Congress held in Chiang Mai, Thailand, on 12-16 January 2012.

 

The gathering is held every 4 years; with the 12th Congress' theme being “Plant Breeding towards 2025: Challenges in a Rapidly Changing World (an international conference to celebrate His Majesty King Bhumibol’s 84th (7 Cycle) Birthday Anniversary).”

 

IRRI DDG-R Achim Dobermann and senior scientists Jauhar Ali, Glenn Gregorio, and Guoyou Ye were among 24 speakers invited to deliver plenary or keynote presentations during the conference.

 

The event is strongly supported by IRRI, and the second day of the Congress consisted of a session exclusively devoted to rice, which had rice scientists from China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, and the USA presenting their research results.

 

The congress ended with a tour of the East-West Seed Co., Ltd.; Chia Tai Co., Ltd.; and the Royal Flora Ratchaphruek Expo.

 

The conference was a good opportunity for plant breeders, including young graduate students, to learn of recent advances in plant breeding and related research in Asia across diverse crop species and interact with leading agricultural scientists from 14 countries working in diverse crop species.

 

SABRAO, established in 1968, is one the world’s oldest international organizations for crop and animal improvement scientists. Two IRRI staff members presently serve as officers of SABRAO: Ed Redoña as secretary general and Bert Collard, editor-in-chief of the SABRAO Journal of Breeding and Genetics.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=23960&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: IRRI via SeedQuest.com

 

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1.24  No limits to the value of an agriculture degree

 

Ames, Iowa, USA

January 25, 2012

 

By Jay T. Akridge Glenn W. Sample Dean, College of Agriculture, Purdue University Robert J. Hauser Dean, College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois Bobby D. Moser Vice President for Agricultural Administration & Dean, College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, The Ohio State University Wendy K. Wintersteen Endowed Dean, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Iowa State University.

 

Given the outstanding enrollment and job placement experience in our respective colleges, it was a surprise when three of the five majors "highlighted" in a recent Yahoo Education article by Terrence Loose entitled “College Majors that are Useless” were programs in the agricultural sciences: agriculture, animal sciences, and horticulture.Before drawing his conclusions, we wish that Mr. Loose had done more homework beyond what appears to be a cursory review of Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers and the repurposing of a similar headline from The Daily Beast a year ago. Other sources suggest that not only is the need for graduates in these programs growing, but there is a shortage of graduates in the agricultural, food, and natural resource sciences:

 

Broad definition of agriculture

The Yahoo Education article equated "agriculture" with "farm management." Farm management is an important field of study, but defining agriculture only as farm management is much too narrow. Completely ignored are other important areas under the umbrella of "agriculture" including food science, plant science, and soil science, where the Bureau of Labor Statistics report predicts job growth should be faster than the average for all occupations, and where job opportunities are expected to be good over the next decade, particularly infood science and technology and in agronomy. And, of course, the "agriculture" umbrella also covers agricultural economics, agricultural engineering, animal sciences, natural resource and environmental sciences, and agricultural education, to name a few.

 

Very low unemployment rates

Recent (Jan. 5, 2012) online posts (New York Times), and NPR’s StateImpact Ohio) cited a just released report by the GeorgetownUniversity Center on Education and the workforce which found agriculture and natural resources to be among the fields with the lowest unemployment rates lower than business, engineering, law, and and several others.

 

Shortage of college graduates to fill need

The U.S. Department of Agriculture in the Employment Opportunities for College Graduates in Food, Renewable Energy, and the Environment, 2010-2015report, projects that 53,500 qualified graduates will be available for about 54,400jobs annually the agricultural and food systems, renewable energy and the environment. About 55 percent of those graduates (29,300) are expected to earn degrees from colleges of agriculture and life sciences, forestry and natural resources, and veterinary medicine. The other 45 percent, an estimated 24,200 graduates, will come from allied disciplines including biological sciences,engineering, health sciences, business, and communication.

 

No stronger sector for recruiting

Dr. Phil Gardner, Director of the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University, recently wrote, “No sector appears stronger than agriculture/food processing with an increase in hires of approximately 14 percent” in the annual Recruiting Trends report.

 

Vital economic growth engine

A recent study conducted by theBattelle Institute, an independent research organization, found that agriculture and agbiosciences are generating vital economic growth and job creation, particularly in the North Central United States, which includes all four or our respective states. This Midwest area, once dubbed the “Rust Belt,” is becoming the breeding ground for new “green” agriculture-related jobs as the agriculture-driven industry is poised to expand into new markets such as health, specialty crops, biofuels and bio-based products.

 

New areas of opportunity

The article completely misses an important trend of interest in small scale, local foodproduction and those who want to become part of agriculture by launching these types of businesses. The Bureau of Labor Statistics report from which Mr. Loose took some of his numbers even points out that “…an increasing number of small-scale farmers have developed successful market niches that involve personalized, direct contact with their customers. Many are finding opportunities in horticulture and organic food production, which are among the fastest growing segments of agriculture.”

 

The success of our graduates is also a testament to the usefulness of agricultural majors. Students majoring in "agriculture" study farm management, horticulture, and animal sciences—as well as agricultural and food business, food science, biological engineering, plant breeding and genetics, wildlife biology and forestry, biochemistry, microbiology, entomology, and other exciting, science-based areas. Our graduates take jobs in a wide variety of industries, pursue research careers, and work in public service in the US and internationally.

 

Across all four of our agricultural colleges, total enrollment the highest in 30+ years, applications are going up and, most importantly, at the end of their undergraduate careers, our students are facing excellent job or graduate program opportunities. Placement rates are higher than 90%, with 16-26% of that total choosing to pursue advanced degrees and professional education. Beyond the statistics about jobs, let’s think about some basic human needs and consider what "degrees" will prepare a young man or woman to help provide for those needs. Adequate nutrition is a basic need of all humans. Our planet recently reached the 7 billion population mark and the United Nations estimates we will have 2.3 billion more people to feed by the year 2050. We must address how to feed all these people with little expansion of land; in a way that conserves our water resources; and in a fashion that society judges acceptable and even more respectful of our environment.

 

For answers, take a closer look at our agricultural majors. In addition, those in agriculture will make important contributions to our country’s energy requirements and help provide feedstocks for other industrial materials. To meet these challenges, a growing number of passionate, smart, and well-prepared people have a lot ofwork to do. And we see and talk to these people every day in our campus classrooms, labs and fields. That’s why we’re very excited by the prospects for our graduates. Agriculture has been one of the bright spots in the U.S. economy during the current recession and incredible opportunities exist for new economic development in our states and our country. Our graduates are currently writing their own story, and the headline reads: “College Majors that are Invaluable.”

 

Website: http://www.iastate.edu

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.25  Plantas más grandes y resistentes a la sequía

 

Argentina

20 January, 2012

 

Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas

Producir plantas más grandes y con mayor tolerancia a la sequía es el objetivo del equipo de investigación que dirige el doctor Javier Palatnik en el IBR-Conicet. Para ello los científicos estudian el funcionamiento de los ARN pequeños, porciones de información genética que se encuentran en la célula y que determinan cuáles son los genes que se expresarán en ella y cuáles no.

 

Según explica el doctor Palatnik, cada una de las células de un organismo pluricelular cuenta con todos los genes que definen las características de la especie. ¿Qué es lo que hace que las células del pie sean distintas de las del ojo en un animal o las del tallo diferentes de las de las hojas en una planta? La respuesta la tienen los ARN pequeños que establecen qué genes están activos, haciendo que cada tipo de célula tenga una función específica para formar los distintos órganos y tejidos.

 

“Todas las células de los seres humanos cuentan con los 25 mil genes que definen nuestra especie, pero sólo una porción de esa información se encuentra activa en cada caso: en la piel están activas algunas de esas unidades, en el hígado otras y así sucesivamente. Los ARN pequeños son los que regulan qué unidades están encendidas y cuáles apagadas”, ejemplifica el investigador y agrega “los seres vivos no solamente necesitan que haya una información que los constituya, los genes, sino que además esa información tiene que poder estar regulada y expresada de una manera correcta.”

 

El doctor Palatnik y su equipo estudian el funcionamiento de los ARN pequeños en una planta modelo denominada Arabidopsis thaliana. Específicamente, investigan los ARN involucrados en la proliferación celular que pueden hacer que las plantas tengan más o menos células y con esto que sean de mayor o menor tamaño. Estos mismos ARN son los que otorgan más resistencia a la sequía y al modificarlos se pueden obtener plantas más grandes y más tolerantes a la escasez de agua. Los vegetales mejorados con estas características podrían traer beneficios concretos a la industria, por ejemplo, una planta más grande provee de más biomasa para la elaboración de biocombustibles.

 

Si bien los estudios se desarrollan en la planta modelo, los adelantos -que se encuentran en proceso de ser patentados- podrían aplicarse en cultivos comerciales como la soja, el maíz y el arroz. Para esto, el laboratorio del doctor Palatnik firmó un convenio a través del Conicet y de la Universidad Nacional de Rosario con una compañía de Inglaterra que evaluará las posibilidades de utilizar en cultivos de interés agronómico los avances hechos en Arabidopsis thaliana. “Son los resultados de los experimentos hechos en Rosario lo que se está transfiriendo y patentado”, subraya el investigador.

 

Reconocimiento

Estos adelantos, sumados a la trayectoria del doctor Palatnik le valieron, recientemente, la distinción por parte JCI Rosario como uno de los Jóvenes Sobresalientes de la Provincia de Santa Fe 2011 en el categoría desarrollo científico y tecnológico. “Cuando hay un reconocimiento hay que tener en cuenta dos cosas, por un lado, que existe un equipo de trabajo que está detrás de todo y, por otro, que sin la labor previa que otros han realizado antes que nosotros no podríamos estar obteniendo los resultados que tenemos en este momento”, concluye Palatnik al referirse al premio recibido.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=24038&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.26  Ensayan con éxito papas transgénicas resistentes a virus

 

Argentina

25 January, 2012

 

La papa es el cuarto cultivo alimenticio más importante en el mundo, con una producción anual de 300 millones de toneladas. En Argentina se producen 2 a 2,5 millones, las que se comercializan principalmente en el mercado interno.

 

Las infecciones virales afectan considerablemente a la papa, causando importantes pérdidas económicas y en el rendimiento. Entre estos virus se encuentra el PVY (virus de la papa Y), que se transmite por insectos (áfidos) y puede causar infecciones severas y persistir en las subsiguientes generaciones de tubérculos. En algunos casos, las infecciones pueden ser devastadoras y causar pérdidas de hasta el 80%.

 

Un equipo de investigadores argentinos, liderados por el Dr. Fernando Bravo, generó plantas transgénicas resistentes al PVY, y las ensayó a campo en diferentes regiones de Argentina.

 

En total ensayaron 2.000 plantas de dos líneas transgénicas a los largo de 6 años. Los resultados fueron los esperados: no observaron infección por PVY en las plantas genéticamente modificadas, mientras que entre las plantas no transgénicas la tasa de infección fue alta, alcanzando en algunos casos el 70-80%.

 

Para ensayar el comportamiento agronómico de las plantas transgénicas, los investigadores eligieron ambientes libres de virus. De estas pruebas concluyeron que las papas transgénicas y no transgénicas son idénticas desde el punto de vista agronómico así como en su composición bioquímica.

 

El artículo sobre estos ensayos a campo fue recientemente publicado en la revista científica Transgenic Research, y se puede acceder a su resumen en:

 

http://www.springerlink.com.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=24039&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.27  New varieties of cassava designed to combat deadly viral diseases are officially released in Tanzania

 

Newstime Africa

January 24, 2012

 

Four  new high-yielding cassava varieties that are tolerant to the deadly Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) and resistant to the equally devastating Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD), were last week officially released in Tanzania, providing a ray of hope to the millions of small-scale farmers who depend on the crop for their food and income in sub-Saharan Africa. The two diseases have been spreading rapidly through the Great Lakes countries of eastern Africa from war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo to Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique and Malawi, nearly reaching epidemic proportions as all the varieties grown by the farmers are susceptible.

 

These diseases represent the greatest threat to food security in the region as cassava is Africa’s second most important food crop after maize and provides more than half of the dietary calories for over half of the total rural and urban population in sub-Saharan Africa.   Spread through sharing of infected planting materials and by a vector, the whitefly, the diseases have caused an estimated 1 billion USD worth of damage to Africa’s cassava.  The already poor small-scale farmers bear the brunt of this loss.

 

The new varieties dubbed Pwani, Mkumba, Makutupora and Dodoma are a result of eight years of collaborative work between researchers from Tanzanian Agricultural Research Institutes (ARIs), the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). They were developed through Molecular Marker Assisted Selection (MMAS) techniques that rely on advances in biotechnology to speed up the conventional breeding process. Aside from being disease resistant, the new varieties can easily double the crop’s production with their potentially high yields (23 – 51t/ha against the current average yield of 10t/ha). They also meet other local preferences such as taste, ease of cooking and texture.

 

According to Dr. Geoffrey Mkamilo, the Team Leader of Cassava Research in Tanzania, the farmers will be very relieved and happy as they have been eagerly awaiting these varieties as the two diseases have devastated the crop’s production for many years. He points out CBSD as being especially devastating and causing a lot of heartbreak to farmers. “This disease has has been very devastating because its symptoms are not always clear. Farmers looking forward to a good harvest get a rude shock when they harvest and discover the useless rotten roots,” he explained. “As a result, many of them had abandoned this hardy crop that performs relatively well even under harsh conditions such as poor soils and little rainfall.”

To read the full article, visit Newstime Africa

 

http://www.agriskmanagementforum.org/farmd/news/new-varieties-cassava-designed-combat-deadly-viral-diseases-are-officially-released-tanzania

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.28  A one day conference to celebrate the founding of the Plant Breeding Institute to be held at the Conference Centre, John Innes Centre, Norwich

 

20 June 2012

 

http://www.jic.ac.uk/events/pbi/

 

The Plant Breeding Institute, Cambridge would have been celebrating its 100th Anniversary in 2012. The ground-breaking science, plant breeding technology and a host of new arable crop varieties that came out of PBI formed the back-bone of UK crop research for decades.  Many of the former staff are still very much taking an active and vital role in underpinning the plant breeding and plant science in the UK and international scientific community today.  To mark the event, we are holding a one day conference with talks, demonstration plots and a historical exhibition at the John Innes Centre, Norwich.

 

Contributed by Dee Rawsthorne

Dee.Rawsthorne@nbi.ac.uk

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.29  "Research data management with spreadsheets and R"

 

The International Centre for Plant Breeding Education and Research (ICPBER) in the School of Plant Biology at The University of Western Australia (UWA) held 2 courses during 2011 for staff and students, entitled "Research data management with spreadsheets and R".  The presenter for both courses was Dr Thomas Metz, a specialist in helping researchers manage their data sets.  It is intended that a web-based course be developed by Dr Metz during 2012 based on the experiences of the 2011 courses.

 

The participants who gained the most out of the courses had at least a superficial familiarity with the R environment, either through a previous introductory R course or through watching some online R tutorial videos.

 

The course proved to be especially useful for PhD students and postdoctoral research associates who needed to improve their data management skills - an increasingly important skill for efficient future performance in research, and for future employment. Participants brought their own data sets in spreadsheets for use during the course to apply the principles and procedures taught during the course.  The course did not cover statistical analysis, but focused on the efficient organization of research data, the transparent and reproducible manipulation and transformation of research data prior to statistical analysis, and the efficient manipulation and presentation of results after analysis. 

 

The following topics were covered:

 

1) Organizing files and directories for a research project

2) Organizing and documenting research data in spreadsheets

3) Moving data between spreadsheets and the R environment

4) Manipulating and transforming data in R

5) Creating graphical output for data quality assessment

 

ICPBER is working with Dr Metz on developing an internet-based course to develop these skills in plant breeding research degrees at UWA.

 

For further information, contact ICPBER Project Manager at The University of Western Australia Margaret Campbell:  margaret.campbell@uwa.edu.au

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.30  Science to help rice growers affected by Japan’s tsunami

 

Under a year since a huge tsunami inundated paddy fields in Japan with salty sludge, scientists are near to developing locally-adapted, salt-tolerant rice.

 

Following a Japan-UK research collaboration, a new method for marker assisted breeding is being used to slash the time it takes to isolate new traits such as salt tolerance. Details of the new method, called MutMap, will be published in Nature Biotechnology on Sunday so they can be used by scientists and breeders worldwide to dramatically accelerate crop breeding.

 

“The beauty of the new method is its simplicity,” said Professor Sophien Kamoun, co-author on the paper and Head of The Sainsbury Laboratory on Norwich Research Park.

 

“By working with cultivars favoured by farmers and already adapted to local conditions, the MutMap method will enable plant scientists and breeders to develop new crop varieties in nearer a year rather than five to ten years.”

 

 The new technique also takes advantage of the speed at which sequencing can now be done to screen plant mutants for valuable traits.

 

“Until now, plant breeding has not been able to take advantage of the genomics revolution,” said lead author Professor Ryohei Terauchi from Japan’s Iwate Biotechnology Research Centre.

 

“MutMap overcomes one of the greatest limitations, which has been the time it takes to identify genetic markers for desirable traits.”

 

Important traits such as drought and salt tolerance, semidwarfism, plant height and yield are often controlled by many genes each having a subtle effect. It is therefore difficult to identify the complete genetic basis for them.

 

Such traits are often bred in from wild relatives and without genetic engineering many years of back-crossing are required to breed out all the characteristics of the wild plant except the quality desired.

 

In the new method, scientists work with an elite rice cultivar and create mutants that harbour different traits. One mutant is identified with the desired trait and this is crossed with the original cultivar and grown in the field. The difference between the progeny of this cross and the elite cultivar can then be identified.

 

“The differences can be unequivocally observed even if they are small,” said Professor Kamoun.

 

The changes detected are called single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPS) and insertion-deletions (indels) – tiny genetic improvements that can be observed using genome sequencing.

 

In the study to be published on Sunday, the scientists focused on plant height because of its crucial role in yield. The introduction of this trait fuelled the Green Revolution in wheat, rice and other cereals from the 1960s, but has not been thoroughly exploited. The gene for semidwarfism was first identified in the model plant Arabidopsis at the John Innes Centre, and only discovered in rice in 2002.

 

For the current study, they also measured six other traits of agricultural importance. Terauchi and his team have since established a mutant collection for salt tolerance which they are screening for markers. Once these have been identified, they will be used to develop rice cultivars that can be grown in paddy fields flooded by the tsunami last March.

 

The method will not work for all important traits, and further research is needed to establish how it can be applied to crops with larger genomes such as wheat, barley and maize.

 

The research collaboration grew out of the TSL approach to train biologists in bioinformatics, enabling them to take full advantage of it as an experimental science. Dr Kentaro Yoshida from Terauchi’s group was funded by a Daiwa Adrian prize to receive training at The Sainsbury Laboratory in 2010.

 

Further funding was provided by research agencies in Japan and TSL’s core funding from the Gatsby Charitable Foundation.

 

Contacts

TSL Press Office

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

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

 

References

Genome sequencing reveals agronomically important loci in rice using MutMap, Nature Biotechnology (doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nbt.2079)

 

Article in Nature Biotechnology on bioinformatics by Kamoun and Dan MacLean at TSL: http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v30/n1/full/nbt.2079.html

 

Contributed by Andrew Chapple

Press Officer¶Norwich BioScience Institutes

andrew.chapple@nbi.ac.uk

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.31  “What’s for lunch? Nutrients and minerals in every day food. How the knowledge on mineral nutrition of plants can improve human nutrition”

 

Food safety starts from the environment

 

An International conference held on 24-25 November 2011 in Venice (Italy) has assessed the state-of-the-art on monitoring of contaminants in food products. The conference has been organised by the University of Parma, Department of Environmental Sciences, together with the National Research Council, Institute for Agricultural Biology and Biotechnology. As explained by Prof Nelson Marmiroli, organiser, and Director of the Interuniversity National Consortium for Environmental Sciences (CINSA) “the objective was to consider the scientific research currently active on traceability and monitoring of contaminants in the environments where food is produced.

 

On one side plants provide essential minerals to ensure human health and well-being, such as iron, calcium, iodine, zinc, selenium; on the other hand, substances in soil and water can compromise food safety when present at excess levels. Continuous monitoring is a viable and effective solution. The conference title has ben chosen with the purpose of communicating to citizens and politicians the huge investments that the European Union has done and is still doing to improve food quality and safety through research and innovation. In a period of crisis and recession, when EU governments are decreasing funding for research, it is important to underline that good research, finalised to concrete objectives, leads to results which benefit all citizens.”

 

The conference was organised in the framework of the COST Action FA0905, entitled “Mineral Improved Crop Production for Healthy Food and Feed”, which started in June 2010, involving over 170 researchers from 29 countries. The COST Action is chaired by Prof Bal Ram Singh, Norwegian University of Life Sciences.

 

Among the topics addressed in the Conference, food safety and the relationship with environment, agricultural practices, processing of food products, and digestion processes in humans. “One of the main topics was the presence of arsenic in vegetables, in particular tomato for industry processing” says Prof Marmiroli: “in future there will be a concrete risk from arsenic contamination, if specific countermeasures are not adopted. Two causes concur to the risk: increase of arsenic content in water and soils, and the presence of silicon in soil and feritlisers, which favour the uptake of arsenic in tomat plants and translocation to fruits.

 

Another current topic is the release in the environment of nanoparticles and nanomaterials, from many sectors of human activity. These can enter into plants from soil and water, move into food products and reach humans, with effects on health which have not yet been studied in depth.”

 

However, plants are not just a vehicle for contaminants. The conference has addressed the perspectives of biofortification, the possibility of producing plants to defeat the so-called “hidden hunger”, malnutrition, which affects over 2 billion people due to the scarcity of essential vitamins and minerals: vitamin A, iron, zinc. Prof Howarth Bouis (International Food Policy Research Institute, USA) illustrated important results from HarvestPlus, a project focused on biofortification of crops for essential minerals such as Zn and Fe (www.harvestplus.org). The relevance of this approach to improve nutrition and decrease mineral deficiency in developing areas was also discussed.

 

The conference involved 88 researchers, including many young scientists, from most European countries, from Portugal to Lithuania, but also from New Zealand, Brazil, Israel, United States. In total, 31 oral presentations and over 50 posters were presented. Material from the conference can be accessed on the website of COST Action FA0905 (www.umb.no/costaction/).

 

Contributed by Elena MAESTRI ¶Universita' di Parma  ¶Dip. Scienze Ambientali¶Parma, ITALY elena.maestri@unipr.it

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.32  DuPont to collaborate with Drought-Tolerant Plants (DROPS) Research Consortium to solve the drought challenges

 

Des Moines, Iowa, USA

12 January, 2012

 

DuPont announced today that it has joined the DROught-Tolerant Plants (DROPS) Research Consortium, contributing expertise and a state-of-the-art modeling platform for maize research for use by the consortium.

 

DROPS, a European Commission-sponsored consortium, is developing novel tools and breeding strategies that advance drought-tolerance research in maize and other crop plants. As a member, DuPont business Pioneer Hi-Bred will share expertise in drought research to help bring solutions for drought tolerance faster through science.

 

“Drought is a universal challenge that must be addressed to feed a hungry planet. It will take many of us working together in collaborations, like DROPS, to bring farmers solutions for combating drought globally,” said John Soper, vice president, Pioneer Crop Genetics Research and Development. “Innovations developed through this collaboration will complement our own research program, which has been providing solutions for farmers for more than 80 years.”

 

Drought tolerance is a complex issue, involving many genes with overlapping/interacting effects. Water is the single largest input to agriculture, with irrigation estimated to account for 70 percent of the total use of fresh water. Because of the complexity, field testing can be costly and time consuming. Modeling tools such as this platform are helping to improve the efficiency and to shorten the timelines for analysis and crop development.

 

The Pioneer maize crop modeling platform, developed through a long-term collaboration between Pioneer and researchers at the University of Queensland, facilitates the efficient advancement and development of drought-tolerant hybrids, ultimately helping growers meet the increasing demands on agricultural productivity. This unique platform allows researchers to input a number of specific characteristics about how experimental plants behave under test conditions, and facilitates prediction of those few that will respond best under drought conditions in the field.

 

“The modeling capability is state-of-the-art and incorporates the most recent understanding of crop responses to drought,” said Prof. Graeme Hammer, leader of the University of Queensland team, and DROPS consortium member. “Pioneer scientists will work together with consortium scientists to improve the modeling platform so that it can accept even more traits, thereby increasing the precision and accuracy of the platform. Members of the consortium will then have access to the resulting advanced modeling platform to facilitate their further drought research in a number of crops.

 

The DROPS Consortium was initiated by the Institut National de la Recherché Agronomique (INRA) of France through the project leader Francois Tardieu. It brings together 15 leading researchers and their respective organizations to develop solutions for drought in important crops including maize. Representatives from the group met recently to set out work plans. Pioneer is the only U.S.-based member of the European-led consortium. Tardieu noted, “The DROPS consortium brings together an unprecedented mix of leading global expertise to tackle the grand challenge of improving crop adaptation to drought.”

 

Pioneer established the first research center dedicated to the development of drought-tolerant maize in 1957. Pioneer researchers have doubled maize yield per inch of rainfall since 1970 and today offer Optimum® AQUAmax™ hybrids which deliver a yield advantage in water-limited environments, and offer top-end yield potential under optimal growing conditions, allowing growers to help minimize risk and maximize productivity on every acre.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=23640&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.33  Grain crops with lower carotene levels are less affected by parasitic plants

 

Wageningen, The Netherlands

12 January, 2012

 

Wageningen scientist expects positive effect on food production in Africa

 

Grain crops that produce less carotene can produce more food, especially in Africa, as they are less affected by parasitic plants. This is the result of research with which Muhammad Jamil hopes to obtain his doctorate at Wageningen University on 11 January 2012. Jamil studied processes and technologies that could improve the control of the parasitic weed Striga both in the lab and in the field. He discovered that rice plants that produce less carotene than usual are less infected by the Striga parasite. Jamil believes that his findings could lead the way to cheaper and effective technologies for improving food production and farmer incomes, especially in Africa.

 

Parasitic plants in cereals such as maize, sorghum, highland rice and millet are increasing the pressure on food production in Africa. One of the main problems is Striga, a deceptively beautiful plant that takes all the water and nutrients it needs from its host. The parasitic plant mainly attacks cereals when the growing conditions are unfavourable, which is why particularly cereals in Africa are affected. The effects are disastrous as Striga can cause complete harvest failure.

 

Originally from Pakistan, Muhammad Jamil studied at Wageningen University the processes involved in the germination of Striga seeds and their initial ‘attachment’ to the host. Prior research had already shown that Striga seeds only germinate when specific plant hormones – called strigolactones – are present in the soil. Strigolactones are secreted into the soil from the roots of the host. This signals the Striga seeds that there is a host root nearby that can be infected, causing the seeds to germinate and the seedlings to attack the crop.

 

Jamil studied various approaches for reducing the damage caused by Striga, including the effect of substances that reduce the production of strigolactones, the genetic variation for the production of strigolactones, and the effect of fertilisers on strigolactone production. He studied the consequences on the germination of Striga seeds and the attachment of the seedlings to rice, sorghum and maize.

 

Plants produce strigolactones from carotene, the well-known colouring agent also present in carrots. Jamil treated rice with very low amounts of compounds that inhibit the production of carotene. By doing so he succeeded in reducing the strigolactone production of the plants. And the effect was considerable: The germination of Striga seeds was reduced by up to 75 percent.

 

The use of fertiliser also resulted in a substantial reduction in strigolactone production and, therefore, Striga infestation. In addition, Jamil’s research showed that the strigolactone production of different rice varieties varies tremendously. Some varieties have a low strigolactone production and are therefore less affected by parasitic plants.

All in all Jamil sees good opportunities for developing cheaper, effective technologies to reduce the effect of the Striga parasite. This would allow African farmers to produce more food and achieve a better income.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=23643&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.34  The GM crop risk-benefit debate: science and socio-economics a plea for a new regulatory system for a modern agriculture

 

5 January, 2012

 

Dr. Klaus Ammann publishes a brochure ( final text to be issued in Encyclopedia of Sustainability Science and Technology, Springer) “The GM crop risk-benefit debate: science and socio-economics - a plea for a new regulatory system for a modern agriculture

 

In the view of extensive treaty on the GM debate: It is difficult to continue with a reform of the regulatory system within the Cartagena Protocol, although theoretically possible and certain articles would allow for substantial change towards a more science based system. But the obstacles should not be underestimated: there is a growing community of regulators, NGOs and also a militant fraction of biosafety researchers with a vested interest to keep the pot cooking.

 

Alternatively, it is maybe easier to create new international institutions with the task to develop a science based regulatory system for all new crop breeds.

 

Full text (4.29MB)

 

Open source version

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=23484&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: Black Sea Biotechnology Association news via SeedQuest.com

 

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1.35  Unraveling the Chinese cabbage genome

 

20 January, 2012

 

Clues into the evolutionary diversification of brassicas have emerged from the draft Chinese cabbage genome sequence. Brassica crops include many agriculturally important vegetables, such as Chinese cabbage, pak choi, turnip, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, as well as various oilseed crops.

 

The sequencing focused on Chinese cabbage, Brassica rapa subspecies pekinensis, and was undertaken by the international Brassica rapa Genome Sequencing Project Consortium. The work was underpinned by the previously published genome sequence of the premier model of flowering plants, Arabidopsis thaliana. This species is related to B. rapa, with which it shared a common ancestor.

 

“Brassicas come in many shapes and sizes, and even individual species show considerable morphological variation. Genome information helps us understand the genetic basis of this diversity,” explains consortium member Hiroshi Abe of Japan’s RIKEN BioResource Center, one of the three biggest Arabidopsis stock centers in the world. “We developed genomic resources for Brassica rapa and contributed to the gene annotation in this project.”

 

New plant species generally arise through hybridization, involving whole genome duplications, followed by rapid DNA sequence divergence under natural selection, chromosomal rearrangements and extensive gene loss. Indeed, plant biologists have observed whole-genome duplication in all plant genomes sequenced to date, including that of A. thaliana. In addition, previous physical mapping studies revealed a whole genome triplication event in the Brassica lineage, after its divergence from the Arabidopsis lineage at least 13–17 million years ago.

 

The genome sequence assembled by the Consortium covers more than 98% of the DNA encoding genes. By analyzing the sequence in detail, the researchers were able to investigate the evolutionary and functional consequences of the whole genome triplication event.

 

The researchers identified 41,174 protein-encoding genes belonging to 16,917 separate gene families. By comparing the sequences of Brassica genes to those of A. thaliana, they were able to relate gene structures in these two plants. They found that the extent of gene loss among triplicated genome segments varies, with one of the three copies consistently retaining a disproportionately large fraction of ancestral genes. Based on their finding, the researchers believe that variation in the number of members of gene families present in the genome probably contributes to the remarkable morphological plasticity of Brassica species.

 

“We hope that our findings will contribute to the breeding of improved Brassica oil and vegetable crops,” says Abe. “The genomic resources for Brassica rapa developed at the RIKEN BioResource Center will soon be made available to the wider research community.”

 

More information: Brassica rapa Genome Sequencing Project Consortium. The genome of the mesopolyploid crop species Brassica rapa. Nature Genetics 43, 1035–1039 (2011).

Provided by RIKEN (news : web)

 

http://www.physorg.com/news/2012-01-unraveling-chinese-cabbage-genome.html

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.36  GM trait patent expiration, saved seed and breeding programs

 

With the patent set to expire on a Roundup Ready trait (RR1), attorney Joel Cape is set to make a return to the Arkansas Seed Growers Association meeting on Jan. 25.

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In 2006, Cape spoke to the association on seed law history and where biotechnology fits in the legal picture. (For more, see U.S. seed law history: a primer). At the coming meeting he will update those comments and expand on what the trait’s expiration means for farmers looking to save seed and how it will impact breeding programs.

 

Cape recently spoke with Delta Farm Press. Among his comments:

 

On RR

“The original Roundup Ready gene consists of different pieces of DNA and each was put together to make a functional gene. There was more than one patent on that gene because several of those individual parts were also patented by themselves.

 

“The last of those patents on the original Roundup Ready gene is set to expire. That does mean that seed containing the RR1 will, essentially, be unrestricted. This means that growers can generally plant and use seed with the RR1 gene without an obligation to pay royalties or a prohibition on saving seed.”

 

On breeding programs and developing varieties with the RR1 gen

“Using the RR1 gene to develop generic versions of seed with the trait is more complicated process. Breeding the trait into your own lines is only part of the path to getting a product that can be commercialized.  “There are also various regulatory hurdles that need to be analyzed before just taking that gene and putting it into your own lines. You have to jump those before commercializing such a product – there is more than one regulatory agency to go through to keep RR in the marketplace. EPA is one along with the FDA and USDA. There is a fairly complex regulatory regime.”

 

On farmers being able to save RR1 seed

“They will be able to save the seed, but with a caveat. The gene may be in seed that is subject to other protection.  “The Plant Variety Protection (PVP) Act has been (in force) at least since the 1970s. That gene may be in germplasm that has a PVP on it.  “The gene may also be in germplasm that has a utility patent.

 

“The short answer is: Yes, you can save seed. The longer answer is: You might want to pay close attention to the seed you’re buying before deciding to save it. There may be other protections that cover the rest of the genetics in the seed. Don’t just throw caution to the wind – you still need to pay attention to what you’re planting.  “People have traditionally believed that PVP-protected material can be saved. I don’t think it’s quite that simple. There is a ‘farmer-saved seed’ exception but I also think you can agree not to save it.

 

“This will be the thrust of the talk I’m giving at the Seed Growers meeting since I’ll be talkingwith farmers that need to make planting decisions.”

 

Since you first addressed seed patent laws at the Arkansas Seed Growers meeting, have you noticed the questions you’ve been getting regarding the patent laws and seed have shifted?

 

“Truthfully, no. There is a basic level of awareness of patents which has been established in the farm community over the last 15 years.

 

“That being said, the level of awareness depends on the crop to some degree. In soybean production, the message has been pretty thoroughly communicated that saving seed is something that is not available for many varieties. That’s simply because the RR trait in soybeans has been very popular and it’s been widely licensed. The bottom line is people like Roundup Ready and the educational message has gotten out.  “The same is largely true for other major crops such as cotton and wheat.

 

“Nowadays, there are patents on other beneficial traits in a variety of crops. The different ways in which other patented crop traits are licensed and marketed makes a difference in the knowledge that growers may not have a specific awareness of how the law impacts the use of property laws in agriculture. But the extent of that knowledge will vary.”

 

Where do you range?

“For the most part, anywhere I’m asked. I’ve been fortunate in that my law practice has been national in scope and my cases have taken me all across the country. In my agricultural practice, I’ve had the benefit of working with several different crops and producers in all types of production settings.”

 

Do you still focus on these issues in your practice?

“I do. My law practice has broadened since moving back to northwest Arkansas from New Orleans last summer. I try to help folks solve problems, either by heading off a potential issue before it comes up, or by jumping in after a difficulty arises. I also went to law school at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.”

 

On Cape’s Jan. 25 Arkansas Seed Growers presentation

“In my experience, farmers want to know ‘what can I do now? What is allowed?’

“The message is: seed with the RR1 trait will no longer be under patent and you may be able to save it. But pay close attention what else may cover the seed.”

 

Looking forward

“There’s a whole lot of interest in the RR1 trait coming off patent.

 

“Another aspect of this is seed companies have been curious as to what they can do and when.

“But there is probably even more interest in the next generation of traits that are being developed to address various environmental stresses, such as drought tolerance, cold tolerance, salt water tolerance, and others. There is a great deal of effort being directed towards developing plant material that can perform in challenging growing conditions. The potential benefits of these kinds of traits are a big deal because they may make the difference between having a decent crop to harvest, or no crop at all.”

 

http://southwestfarmpress.com/management/gm-trait-patent-expiration-saved-seed-and-breeding-programs

 

Source: David Bennett, Delta Farm Press via SeedQuest.com

 

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1.37  Findings prove Miscanthus x giganteus has potential as alternative energy source

 

Urbana, Illinois, USA

19 January, 2012

 

Concerns about the worldwide energy supply and national, environmental and economic security have resulted in a search for alternative energy sources. A new University of Illinois study shows Miscanthus x giganteus (M. x giganteus) is a strong contender in the race to find the next source of ethanol if appropriate growing conditions are identified.

 

M. x giganteus is a bioenergy crop that can be grown to produce ethanol. The study investigated the establishment success, plant growth and dry biomass yield of the grass. Tom Voigt, lead scientist and associate professor in the U of I Department of Crop Sciences, said the overall goal is to promote biomass yield per acre for ethanol production using the fewest inputs with no environmental damage.

 

Researchers compared establishment and growth rates, and biomass yield at four locations over the past three years to identify regions best suited for the grass. Data was collected at sites in Urbana, Ill.; Lexington, Ky.; Mead, Neb.; and Adelphia, N.J. The study is part of the Department of Energy-funded North Central Sun Grant Feedstock Partnership Project.

 

The growing conditions were adequate at each location in different years. However, late planting and extreme winter temperatures during 2008 affected establishment rates at the Illinois site. Lower yields occurred at the New Jersey site in 2010, which could be attributed to the site's sandy soils and warm, dry weather conditions in that year.

 

"For the most part, we found that Miscanthus responds to sites in which water is adequately available," Voigt said. "The combination of warm temperatures and adequate precipitation spread throughout the growing season creates ideal growing conditions."

 

Voigt said the study increased researcher's understanding of how different environments impact M. x giganteus growth, development and biomass yield. In addition, they discovered positive environmental impacts.

 

Nitrogen fertilizer had no significant effects on the grass's biomass yield in season two or three at any site. M. x giganteus also promotes erosion control as the perennial forms a large mass of roots underground.

 

"We are trying to develop a recipe for management practices that can be used by farmers interested in growing the grass," Voigt said. "We want bioenergy crops to find their way into more marginal settings where ground is less easy to work with. Miscanthus can work where food crops can't."

 

Voigt said the results of the study are positive and prove that energy crops have great potential as alternative energy sources.

 

This study, "Miscanthus x giganteus Productivity: The Effects of Management in Different Environments" was published in GCB BIOENERGY Volume 3, Issue 6, December 2011. Researchers included Matt Maughan, Germán Bollero, D.K. Lee, Robert Darmody and Thomas Voight of the University of Illinois; Stacy Bonos, Laura Cortese and James Murphy of The State University of New Jersey; Roch Gaussoin and Matthew Sousek of the University of Nebraska — Lincoln; David Williams and Linda Williams of the University of Kentucky; and Fernando Miguez of Iowa State University. Funding was provided by the Department of Energy.

 

Voigt is also principal investigator for the Feedstock Production Agronomy Program at the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) located in the Institute for Genomic Biology. The EBI is a biofuels research consortium that includes the University of Illinois, the University of California at Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and funding agency BP.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=23820&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.38  Sementes da China podem dobrar produção de arroz em Goiás

 

Brazil

18 January, 2012

 

Variedades de sementes híbridas de arroz devem ser plantadas em Goiás dentro de 90 a 120 dias. A informação é do superintendente de Irrigação da Seagro, Alécio Maróstica. Segundo ele, as sementes híbridas têm produtividade que chega a ser o dobro da que é obtida nos cultivos de arroz do Estado.

 

Alécio explica que na China há variedades de arroz cuja produtividade chega a 12 mil quilos por hectare, enquanto no Brasil, as mais produtivas chegam a seis mil quilos. A parceria terá início nos próximos dias 25, 26 e 27, em Luís Alves, e envolverá trabalho em conjunto da Seagro, Emater e Embrapa.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=23821&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: Agro Notícias, Assessoria via SeedQuest.com

 

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1.39  Abundant world wheat supplies pressure prices

 

Washington, DC, USA

19 January, 2012

 

There is a lot of wheat in the world. More, it seems, each month. For the seventh month in a row, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) increased its 2011/12 global wheat supply estimate as part of its monthly World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report. In the report released Jan. 12, USDA estimates global supplies at a record 891 million metric tons (MMT), up 2.7 MMT from last month. Markets reacted negatively to the bearish report last week, even though it only reconfirmed previous estimates.

 

World production is a major contributing factor to such large global stocks, setting a record for three of the last four years. This year, USDA expects a new record of 692 MMT global production. Total production estimates increased 2.5 MMT from last month, including a 1.5 MMT increase in Kazakhstan to 22.5 MMT due to nearly perfect growing season weather.

 

Modest production increases in Russia and Brazil accounted for the rest of the increase. USDA now estimates total Black Sea production at 114 MMT, up 175 percent from last year when major drought greatly cut production. Ample supplies remain despite four consecutive years of record demand. Total world consumption estimates are up 4 percent from last year to 681 MMT, including a record 131 MMT in feed wheat demand. The only change in consumption estimates this month was an additional 1.0 MMT of feed wheat usage in Kazakhstan and a 500,000 metric tons (MT) reduction in U.S. domestic consumption.

 

With so much wheat available and such high demand, it follows that world exports are also strong. USDA expects total world trade to reach 139 MMT, which would be the second largest on record if realized. A 500,000 MT drop in Australian exports offset a Russian increase of the same amount, putting estimates for those countries at 21.0 MMT and 19.5 MMT, respectively. Estimated U.S. exports increased 700,000 MT raising the current projection to 25.9 MMT. Higher sales expectations for hard red winter (HRW), hard red spring (HRS) and soft red wheat (SRW) more than made up for reduced sales expectations for white wheat.

 

Such abundant supplies of wheat pressured prices and weighed on the futures markets last week. In the two days following the report’s release, March futures contracts dropped between 2 and 6 percent. The drop is consistent with a historical trend in which wheat markets have difficulty sustaining prices when the global stocks-to-use ratio (ending stocks divided by total use) is greater than 30 percent. The current global stocks-to-use ratio stands at 31 percent.

 

The January WASDE did not contain any new or surprising information with regard to wheat. The supply and demand situation has been bearish for wheat all year, but outside factors have created market rallies. Tight corn stocks, the fluctuating strength of the U.S. dollar and uncertainty in global financial markets all have been major influences on wheat markets so far this marketing year. While price movements will remain unpredictable in the coming months, the large amount of wheat in the world and increasing wheat usage is certain.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=23836&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source:U.S. Wheat Associates By Casey Chumrau, USW Market Analyst via SeedQuest.com

 

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1.40  Clif Bar Family Foundation awards first fellowships in organic plant breeding ever granted in the United States, through its Seed Matters initiative

 

Emeryville, California, USA

17 January, 2012

 

Clif Bar Family Foundation announced today it has awarded the first fellowships in organic plant breeding ever granted in the United States. Funded through its organic seed initiative known as Seed Matters, the foundation issued $375,000 in grants to fund three Ph.D. fellowship students for five years in organic plant breeding at two public land grant universities.

 

Seed Matters selected land grant universities in recognition of their historical commitment to serving rural communities and the public good, and to support a Seed Matter’s goal of reinvigorating public seed research and education. In addition to providing organic farmers with new varieties of seed adapted to organic systems, these fellowships will cultivate the next generation of thought leadership in organic research, education and entrepreneurship.

 

“Organic seed systems are the underlying foundation for healthy resilient farming and food systems,” said Matthew Dillon, cultivator of Seed Matters. “Seed is a farmer’s first line of defense against pests and global climate disruption, and has a huge impact on the nutrition and overall quality of the food we eat.”

 

The first recipient of a Seed Matters Fellowship, Brook Brouwer, began his studies last month at the Washington State University Mount Vernon Campus. The other two recipients will begin in the fall semester at University of Wisconsin-Madison and Washington State University Pullman. Fellowship students will work under the guidance of some of the most well respected and early innovators of organic plant breeding.

 

Professors managing the fellowships include Dr. Stephen Jones at Washington State University, whose work with wheat engages farmers, millers and bakers in restoring their local grain economies; Dr. Kevin Murphy, also at Washington State University, who is breeding cover crops and heritage grain such as quinoa and spelt; and, Dr. William Tracy at University of Wisconsin-Madison, whose sweet corn breeding is improving the quality of genetics available to organic farmers in cooler northern climates.

 

“The true advances in agriculture continue to come from classical plant breeding. Peel back all the hype and it’s the breeders in the field working with farmers and plants that is moving us forward,” said Jones, director of the WSU Mount Vernon Research and Extension Center. “Doing this kind of work requires very bright graduate students trained in the classical and modern approaches to plant breeding. Funding this training requires forward looking organizations such as Clif Bar Family Foundation.”

 

In addition, Clif Bar Family Foundation announced Earthbound Farm Organic, Organically Grown Company, Organic Valley, Vitalis Seed and Whole Foods Market have joined Seed Matters as financial collaborators to help increase awareness about organic seed and fund future fellowships and research around the country. Together Seed Matters collaborators and nonprofit partners support organic farmers and public researchers developing seed that meets the need of the organic community – from farm to table.

 

“Seed Matters is the catalyst for a groundbreaking form of collaboration between companies, foundations, universities and nonprofits that has never before occurred in the organic community,” said Kit Crawford, president of the Foundation. “By working together we can more effectively improve organic seed systems that benefit people and the planet.”

 

About Seed Matters

Clif Bar Family Foundation created the Seed Matters initiative in 2009 with a $1 million commitment to the development of organic seed systems. Today, Seed Matters is a coalition of organizations and companies that advocate for the improvement and protection of organic seed to ensure productive crops for the health of people and the planet. To date, Seed Matters has funded more than a dozen organic seed research and education projects. Seed Matters directs its support toward projects that conserve crop diversity, protect farmers’ roles and rights as seed innovators and stewards, and reinvigorate public seed research and education. For more information, visit http://www.seedmatters.org

 

About Clif Bar Family Foundation:

Founded in 2006 by Clif Bar & Company co-CEOs Gary Erickson and Kit Crawford, Clif Bar Family Foundation supports innovative small and mid-sized organizations working to strengthen the food system and communities, enhance public health and safeguard the environment and natural resources. For more information or to find out how to apply for a grant, visit http://www.clifbarfamilyfoundation.org

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=23778&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.41  Breeding better grasses for food and fuel

 

United Kingdom

17 January, 2012

 

Researchers from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) Sustainable Bioenergy Centre (BSBEC) have discovered a family of genes that could help us breed grasses with improved properties for diet and bioenergy.

 

The research was carried out by a team from the University of Cambridge and Rothamsted Research, which receives strategic funding from BBSRC. Their findings are published today (Tuesday 17 January) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

 

The genes are important in the development of the fibrous, woody parts of grasses, like rice and wheat. The team hopes that by understanding how these genes work, they might for example be able to breed varieties of cereals where the fibrous parts of the plants confer dietary benefits or crops whose straw requires less energy-intensive processing in order to produce biofuels.

 

The majority of the energy stored in plants is contained within the woody parts, and billions of tons of this material are produced by global agriculture each year in growing cereals and other grass crops, but this energy is tightly locked away and hard to get at. This research could offer the possibility of multi-use crops where the grain could be used for food and feed and the straw used to produce energy efficiently. This is crucial if we are to ensure that energy can be generated sustainably from plants, without competing with food production.

 

Professor Paul Dupree, of the University of Cambridge, explains

"Unlike starchy grains, the energy stored in the woody parts of plants is locked away and difficult to get at. Just as cows have to chew the cud and need a stomach with four compartments to extract enough energy from grass, we need to use energy-intensive mechanical and chemical processing to produce biofuels from straw.

 

"What we hope to do with this research is to produce varieties of plants where the woody parts yield their energy much more readily - but without compromising the structure of the plant. We think that one way to do this might be to modify the genes that are involved in the formation of a molecule called xylan - a crucial structural component of plants."

 

Xylan is an important, highly-abundant component of the tough walls that surround plant cells. It holds the other molecules in place and so helps to make a plant robust and rigid. This rigidity is important for the plant, but locks in the energy that we need to get at in order to produce bioenergy efficiently.

 

Grasses contain a substantially different form of xylan to other plants. The team wanted to find out what was responsible for this difference and so looked for genes that were turned on much more regularly in grasses than in the model plant Arabidopsis. Once they had identified the gene family in wheat and rice, called GT61, they were able transfer it into Arabidopsis, which in turn developed the grass form of xylan.

 

Dr Rowan Mitchell of Rothamsted Research continues

"As well as adding the GT61 genes to Arabidopsis, we also turned off the genes in wheat grain. Both the Arabidopsis plants and the wheat grain appeared normal, despite the changes to xylan. This suggests that we can make modifications to xylan without compromising its ability to hold cell walls together. This is important as it would mean that there is scope to produce plant varieties that strike the right balance of being sturdy enough to grow and thrive, whilst also having other useful properties such as for biofuel production."

 

The tough, fibrous parts of plants are also an important component of our diet as fibre. Fibre has a well established role in a healthy diet, for example, by lowering blood cholesterol. The team have already demonstrated that changing GT61 genes in wheat grain affects the dietary fibre properties so this research also offers the possibility of breeding varieties of cereals for producing foods with enhanced health benefits.

 

Duncan Eggar, BBSRC Bioenergy Champion said:

"Recent reports have underlined the important role that bioenergy can play in meeting our future energy needs - but they all emphasise that sustainability must be paramount.

 

"Central to this will be ensuring that we can get energy efficiently from woody sources that need not compete with food supply. This research demonstrates how, by understanding the fundamental biology of plants, we can think about how to produce varieties of crops with useful traits, specifically for use as a source of energy."

 

The paper: Glycosyl transferases in family 61 mediate arabinofuranosyl transfer onto xylan in grasses

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=23763&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.42  Today in Nature Genetics: Good parents are predictable – at least when it comes to corn

 

Hohenheim, Germany

15 January, 2012

 

For a bigger harvest and faster results: The University of Hohenheim, the MPI for Molecular Plant Physiology and the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) in Gatersleben start a new chapter in plant breeding.

 

According to a relatively new insight in plant research, there is no single gene strongly controlling growth. Nevertheless, in order to breed new varieties of corn with a higher yield faster than ever before, researchers at the University of Hohenheim are relying on a trick: early selection of the most promising parent plants based on their chemical and genetic makeup, as well as on new statistical analysis procedures. The work done in collaboration by the University of Hohenheim, the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Plant Physiology in Golm and the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) in Gatersleben has been published in the authoritative journal Nature Genetics on Sunday evening, January 15th at http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ng.1033

 

The problem is the sheer number: In the family tree of modern-day corn, there are two main groups with 10,000 pure-breed lines each. Each of these lines could potentially be used for producing a new variety by means of cross-breeding. In mathematical terms, that equates to 100 billion possibilities. In terms of corn, however, a parent’s performance is no indicator of what potential lies hidden in their offspring. Even the feeblest of parents can produce mighty offspring when cross-bred.

 

But time is of the essence: Currently it takes approximately 10 years for breeders to develop a new variety. Issues such as climate change, food shortages and the increasing demand for more energy, however, are making it essential to find solutions even faster.

 

Prof. Dr. Albrecht Melchinger, PhD student Christian Riedelsheimer and their research partners are experimenting with a new technique to solve both problems. The best parent plants are selected in two steps, beginning when they are not even planted yet or when they are just small plantlets. This saves time and guarantees the highest rate of success right from the very start.

 

Trick Nr. 1: Use mathematics and experience when selecting

Riedelsheimer takes a tiny sample from a kernel of corn. Not enough to harm the kernel, but enough to get a full picture of its DNA structure. This analysis is conducted jointly by the University of Hohenheim and the IPK Gatersleben.

 

The rest is mathematics and experience. “We know today that there is no single gene which determines whether a stalk of corn will grow up strong or produce lots of kernels on the cob. Instead there are numerous sequences in its DNA which all contribute to the plant’s development. We can now examine up to 56,000 of these sequences using the latest techniques in genome analysis”, Riedelsheimer explains.

 

The analysis does not involve modifying the DNA, but rather creating a unique profile of each parent, a so-called “genome profile” or “genetic fingerprint”.

 

To analyse the fingerprint, scientists have spent the past three years and more planting, cross-breeding, analysing chromosomes and recording yields. The observations in the field have been used to develop a mathematical-statistical model which can be used to predict a parent’s genetic potency.

 

Trick Nr. 2: Early selection

The composition of the leaves is a second indicator of which plants make for especially good parents. More specifically, it is about the amounts of starch, sugar, amino acids, chlorophyll and other substances. As with the genetic information, this data allows for a statistical prognosis of a plant’s breeding capabilities.

 

Tests can be conducted to find out the levels shortly after the seeds have been sown, when the plantlets are roughly three weeks old and 20 cm tall. Compared with analysing the plant’s genetic structure, taking samples in the field is rather an athletic activity. “The plant’s metabolism varies constantly throughout the course of a day and that makes it necessary to collect the leaves quickly and shock freeze the samples immediately”, says Riedelsheimer. “All in all we collected 6,000 samples- in just 69 minutes!”

 

For the technically-challenging task of analysing the substances, plant breeders work in collaboration with experts from the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Plant Physiology in Golm. The rest involves cutting-edge statistics. “Similar to the DNA profile, it is not the individual substances which are important for making predictions, but rather how these substances stand in relation to one another”, Riedelsheimer explains.

 

New technology saves time, money and expensive acreage

“This new technique allows us to select the most promising parents with high accuracy and to focus all of our resources on these”, says Prof. Dr. Melchinger.

 

This method also saves cultivatable land, which, in turn, saves money. “In order to test all possible crosses, we would have to plant corn on half of the earth’s surface”, a utopian, if not an expensive undertaking. “A single field plot costs us 50 euros. We test on two plots per genotype at ten different locations, making a total of 1,000 euros”, Prof. Dr. Melchinger explains. An analysis of the genome using a chip and a robot costs approximately 150 euros.

 

Impressive as well is the amount of time saved. DNA analysis of the kernels can be conducted during the winter months. Meanwhile, the plantlets to be analysed for their substance composition grow in the greenhouse. As a result, the best parent plants can be chosen and cultivated that same year.

 

Paradigm shift opens door to new research approaches

Nonetheless, it will take another few years until the new breed is ready. Breeders worldwide also know another trick, especially when it comes to corn. One that has been around for decades.

 

Prof. Dr. Melchinger describes a paradoxical phenomenon: “With corn, the offspring tend to be especially large when the parents stem from generations of in-breeding.” Experts speak of “heterosis“, hobby gardeners of “hybrids“.

 

The most promising parent plants are sorted out and self-pollinated over many generations. Only then does cross-pollination take place in preparation for the sowing of the new hybrid variety.

 

Heterosis as a biological phenomenon has yet to be fully researched in detail, according to Prof. Dr. Melchinger. “We were able to determine in earlier research projects that the reasons for the phenomenon lie in the extremely complex interaction of many different genes.”

 

For researchers, this has led to a paradigm shift. “We’ve moved away from the search for individual super genes.” Instead we focus on the interplay among the diverse elements in the genetic code. “This new perspective on plants will help the hybrid breeding programme immensely”, Prof. Dr. Melchinger believes. “There is so much genetic diversity in corn. One must simply know how to combine it in the right way.”

 

Bibliography

Christian Riedelsheimer, Angelika Czedik-Eysenberg, Christoph Grieder, Jan Lisec, Frank Technow, Ronan Sulpice, Thomas Altmann, Mark Stitt, Lothar Willmitzer & Albrecht E Melchinger, Genomic and metabolic prediction of complex heterotic traits in hybrid maize, Nature Genetics's, Advance Online Publication (AOP) on 15 January at 1800 London time / 1300 US Eastern time, dx.doi.org/10.1038/ng.1033

 

Background: GABI research project

The current research activities are based on the results of earlier studies conducted on Arabidopsis. The newly-publicised procedure was discovered as part of the research project GABI-ENERGY. The acronym GABI stands for “Genomanalyse im biologischen System Pflanze“, a funding program of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research for projects towards innovation in the field of genetic research with plants (www.gabi.de). The Ministry has allocated €2.7 mil. towards the project.

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.43  The hunt for tomatoes with disease resistance

 

Charles Johnson

13 January, 2012

 

Checking tomato variety plotsat the University of Florida’s Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, Sam Hutton stops and fingers leaves, squeezes an occasional fruit and riffles plant canopies. On this day he is particularly interested in plants showing resistance to yellow leaf curl virus, which can destroy 100 percent of the tomato plants in an infested field.

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“This one I call Ty-3,” he says. “It holds up against lots of strains of the virus. There are many strains of tomato yellow leaf curl virus, and you never know ahead of time which one you’re going to have to deal with. We have the Israeli strain, but there are others from South America, Guatemala and other places. The virus strains can mutate — they may move and they may evolve on their own. It makes breeding for resistance tricky.”

 

Ty-3’s predecessors, Ty-1 and Ty-2, have little resistance against these other strains of the virus, he says. He still uses them in the breeding program, but is moving forward with Ty-3 because of its multiple resistance.  Hutton has just finished his first year as a full-fledged tomato plant breeder on the staff of the station, which has a mailing address of Wimauma, Fla., although it is actually located in the small community of Balm.

 

He did six years of Ph.D student and post-doctoral work here before landing what he calls his dream job. Altogether, he has been involved with this breeding project focusing on tomato yellow leaf curl virus for several years, along with another geared toward finding genetic resistance to bacterial spot.

 

“All our resistance is coming out of wild tomato species, which we have growing here, too. We cross them and grow out the progeny, then select for the resistance gene,” Hutton says.

 

The wild tomatoes offer disease resistance but have few characteristics that would attract growers, so he has to bring those traits in from other, more standard varieties.  “The wild ones originated in South America and are very vigorous growers,” he says. “They have small fruit you wouldn’t want to eat. It never turns red, the yield is low; there are lots of negatives with them. But they have genes we can use for something good.”

 

For the yellow leaf curl virus work, he likes resistance found in a section of chromosome 6 in a wild plant. “Then we crossed that part of chromosome 6 with a Florida breeding line known as 7776, which is a good parent. That let us develop a 7776 tomato with Ty-3 in it, which has multiple yellow leaf curl virus resistance.

 

“There is a pretty big differencein appearance between Ty-1, Ty-2 and Ty-3. Some of the biggest complaints about Ty varieties are that the vines look terrible and that they have greater susceptibility to foliar diseases. But in this case, we took nothing except that one gene from the wild plant and put it in 7776. We really used only a little sliver of the chromosome. I can’t tell the difference in appearance between Ty-3 and 7776, which is a good thing.”

 

Hutton quickly points out that all this work is being done with traditional breeding techniques. “This is the climax of 20 years of work,” he says. “Back in the 1990’s, Jay Scott, our well-known tomato breeder, did the first crosses with wild species.  “Out of thousands of seed, maybe 20 would germinate. Then he’d take those 20, grow them out, and see what he got. These plants here represent literally years and years of breeding work, of Dr. Scott finding the best resistance and running disease screens.”  Work like this gets intense and requires a lot of man-hours to accomplish, to say nothing of patience.

 

“In genetics, we’re looking to use a small percentage of a chromosome,” Hutton explains. “We grow out a whole bunch of progeny and look for those with a portion of this chromosome, or even less. We wind up with different lines, with all sorts of different sizes of plants and fruit. We grow them out, then inoculate them with the disease and figure out which one — if we’re lucky — is resistant.”

 

In the spring of 2009, Hutton grew out 11,000 seedlings in this fashion. He picked a leaf from each and screened every leaf for disease resistance. Of those, he found 300 that had the short piece of chromosomal resistance he wanted.  “We inoculated them all and found exactly where the gene was. We crossed the plants that had resistance and then screened 2,000 of the plants from the crosses to find three plants that had resistance.”

 

“We’re trying to get this part from the mother and another part from the father, both with resistance, to get a recombinant event. We’re hopeful this will usher in a new generation of Ty-resistant varieties that are every bit as good horticulturally as non-resistant varieties. This is something we haven’t had the choice of doing before now.”

 

Disease-resistant varieties, in general, are reputed to yield less than non-resistant ones, but Hutton hopes varieties coming out of this latest program will avoid the so-called linkage drag.

 

“Anywhere you have a diseaseresistance gene with a linkage drag, it’s in everybody’s best interests to get rid of them,” he says. “With respect to the major resistance gene Ty-3, we have addressed this problem by determining the precise location of the gene, then developing material that has Ty-3 within a minimal segment of introgressed chromosome — one which has very little ‘foreign’ DNA flanking the gene.”

 

He thinks the resistant lines are not too far from being commercialized.  “They’re really close. We hope to soon release hybrids and breeding lines with high levels of resistance to tomato yellow leaf curl virus and no associated linkage drag. We’ll be looking at test crosses this coming spring. As far as getting it out, we could potentially have varieties produced in two years. The seed companies are going to be right behind us on it.

 

“We’re three crosses into it right now. Four crosses should be enough. Next fall, we’ll have hybrids. Then we’ll get the data, and growers should have them in two years. We are really excited about it.”  Hutton and his colleagues won’t stopthere, however. They’ll continue refining the new varieties in order to improve them.  “Within three years, we should be able to spin out a hybrid with good yield, good quality and multiple disease resistance. When we do that, all of a sudden the variety becomes much more attractive to growers.”

 

In addition to the tomato yellow leaf curl virus and bacterial leaf spot programs, Hutton is working on building disease resistance into the newly released Tasti-Lee variety, which came from Jay Scott’s work at the station.  Tasti-Lee has become somewhat of a taste-sensation with consumers, but some growers are reluctant to grow it because it requires extra management. Hutton thinks putting disease resistance into Tasti-Lee will reduce much of that.

 

“We already have a Tasti-Lee with multiple disease resistance in tests, and it still has premium quality. We still have to test it to make sure everything is right. If everything pans out as we hope, maybe this could help Tasti-Lee capture more of the market for fresh tomatoes.”

 

Hutton grew up on a farm at Tchula, Miss., where his father, Sam D. G. Hutton, Jr., grew cotton, corn and soybeans. After earning an undergraduate degree at Mississippi State University, he received his master’s degree at the University of Minnesota, mostly working with soybeans, a crop he says bored him. Tomatoes proved to be challenging — and he likes a challenge.

 

“Tomatoes are kind of a unique crop,Hutton says. “There’s a tremendous list of things to breed for. A lot of things can be flexible to a point, but certain things are givens. Yield is the top factor in breeding. If there are no tomatoes on the vine, there’s nothing a breeder can do with it. Unless you’re breeding for the heirloom market, the tomato has to have good size and shape.

 

“It has to have a smooth blossom scar, good outside color, good crack resistance, and it has to be firm. The fruit has to set right on the plant. Fruit should not only be of good size, it should have smooth shoulders and uniform color on the shoulders. It should ripen evenly. It should be round — what I call a flat round shape, not a deep round shape. There should be no puffy fruit. As for flavor, for most breeders it has been somewhat of an afterthought.”

 

Compare all that to Mississippi’s famous old crop, cotton. Breeders push it for quality, along with disease resistance, fiber length and strength, and a few other characteristics. “Cotton has a relatively short shopping list of things breeders need to look for, at least compared to tomatoes,” Hutton says.

 

“It’s pretty much the same situation with soybeans, which I worked with at Minnesota. While I was in school at St. Paul, I got into some pretty serious gardening with tomatoes. I was more excited about my garden plot than my research plots. (Don’t tell my old professors that).

 

“I decided if I was going to earn a Ph.D, I’d better do it on something I was excited about. So when the opportunity came to work on tomatoes in Florida, that seemed perfect.

 

“After getting my Ph.D, I had offers to work in crops such as peppers and cucurbits, but nothing excited me like this job in tomatoes. It’s exactly what I like to do. Tomatoes are a fun crop to work with — and you’d better try to have some fun in life, if you can,”

 

http://southeastfarmpress.com/vegetables/hunt-tomatoes-disease-resistance

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.44  Affymetrix and BGI enter strategic collaboration to co-develop and commercialize genomic microarrays for the agricultural community

 

Collaboration to expand research and molecular breeding tools for enhancing plant, crop, and livestock production outcomes

 

Santa Clara, California, USA

13 January, 2012

 

Affymetrix, Inc. (NASDAQ:AFFX), announced today that it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with BGI, the world's largest genomics organization, to enter into a strategic co-development and co-marketing collaboration. The non-exclusive partnership will aim to develop and commercialize a portfolio of plant, crop, and livestock microarrays for genotyping analysis, spanning applications such as marker-assisted trait selection, parentage, quality control, and traceability.

 

The global agricultural community will benefit from this partnership through cost-effective and high-throughput solutions that leverage BGI's vast catalog of high-quality sequencing data and bioinformatics analyses from plant, crop, and livestock genomes and Affymetrix' expertise as a leader in microarray technology. The collaboration will provide scientists with access to a broad range of well-annotated and inter- and intra-species bio-diverse genomic markers from the 1000 Plant and Animal Reference Genomes Project, initiated by BGI in 2010.

 

"We are pleased to be working with BGI to expand the use of molecular tools in agriculture," said Dr. Frank Witney, President and Chief Executive Officer of Affymetrix. "This is a fast developing field that is key to accelerating critical discoveries that will improve the yield and nutritional value of food and feed around the globe."

 

"The combination of BGI's next-generation sequencing platforms, bioinformatics capabilities and sequencing database, and Affymetrix' advanced genotyping technology will help advance the application of genomic selection to scientists seeking to improve outcomes in breeding plants, crops, and livestock." said Dr. Jun Wang, Executive Director of BGI. "We look forward to making plant and animal sequencing data more widely available to the global agricultural community."

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=23677&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.45  Discovery of plant ‘nourishing gene’ brings hope for increased crop seed yield and food security

 

Warwick, United Kingdom

13 January, 2012

 

University of Warwick scientists have discovered a “nourishing gene” which controls the transfer of nutrients from plant to seed - a significant step which could help increase global food production.

 

The research, led by the University of Warwick in collaboration with the University of Oxford and agricultural biotech research company Biogemma, has identified for the first time a gene, named Meg1, which regulates the optimum amount of nutrients flowing from mother to offspring in maize plants.  Unlike the majority of genes that are expressed from both maternal and paternal chromosomes, Meg1 is expressed only from the maternal chromosomes.

 

This unusual form of uniparental gene expression, called imprinting, is not restricted to plants, but also occurs in some human genes which are known to regulate the development of the placenta to control the supply of maternal nutrients during fetal growth.

 

While scientists have known for a while of the existence of such imprinted genes in humans and other mammals, this is the first time a parallel gene to regulate nutrient provisioning during seed development has been identified in the plant world.

 

The findings mean that scientists can now focus on using the gene and understanding the mechanism by which it is expressed to increase seed size and productivity in major crop plants.

 

Dr Jose Gutierrez-Marcos, Associate Professor in the University of Warwick’s School of Life Sciences, said: “These findings have significant implications for global agriculture and food security, as scientists now have the molecular know-how to manipulate this gene by traditional plant breeding or through other methods to improve seed traits, such as increased seed biomass yield.

 

“This understanding of how maize seeds and other cereal grains develop – for example in rice and wheat - is vital as the global population relies on these staple products for sustenance”.

“To meet the demands of the world’s growing population in years to come, scientists and breeders must work together to safeguard and increase agricultural production.”

 

Professor Hugh Dickinson of Oxford University’s Department of Plant Sciences added: “While the identification of MEG1 is an important discovery in its own right, it also represents a real breakthrough in unravelling the complex gene pathways that regulate the provisioning and nutritional content of seeds.”

 

The research, supported by the European Union, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Royal Society , is published in Current Biology under the title Maternal control of nutrient allocation in plant seeds by genomic imprinting.

 

Maternal Control of Nutrient Allocation in Plant Seeds by Genomic Imprinting was authored by Liliana M. Costa, Jing Yuan, Jacques Rouster, Wyatt Paul, Hugh Dickinson, Jose F. Gutierrez-Marcos.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=23675&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.46  ‘Gold-standard’ cotton genome sequence will advance fiber, fuel and food applications

 

New York, New York, USA

4 January, 2012

 

An international consortium, led by Professor Andrew Paterson of the University of Georgia, has made publicly available the first ‘gold-standard’ genome sequence for cotton. Cotton was among the first plants studied at the molecular level, and the sequence obtained by Paterson and his team is the culmination of a 20-plus year effort in the analysis of cotton genes and genomic DNA. This critical sequence will be invaluable to better understanding and optimizing the production and sustainability of the cotton plant.

 

The research effort of Paterson and others gained momentum in 2007 when a proposal from 22 leading cotton scientists representing the world’s seven largest cotton-producing nations was approved by the United States Department of Energy (DOE) Joint Genome Institute (JGI) Community Sequencing Program. The study established the strategy that was used for ‘gold-standard’ sequencing of the New World cotton progenitor, Gossypium raimondii; which was chosen by the worldwide cotton community to be the first of 50 cotton species to be sequenced. “This achievement, and the ongoing research community annotations of our cotton genome, will speed continued improvement of cotton production and help sustain one of the world’s largest industries,” said Professor Paterson.

 

The cotton sequence is among the highest-quality flowering plant sequences yet produced. A novel strategy integrating “next-generation” and conventional sequencing methods was used. Critical to the effort was information about the cotton hereditary blueprint, which had been accumulated over more than 20 years of research funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Cotton Incorporated, and other public and private agencies.

 

“This cotton data will help accelerate the study of gene function, particularly cellulose biosynthesis as it is fundamental to improved biofuels production,” said Jeremy Schmutz, head of the DOE JGI Plant Program and a faculty investigator at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, who led the effort to assemble the sequence. “In addition, the unique structure of the cotton fiber makes it useful in bioremediation, and accelerated cotton improvement also promises to improve water efficiency and reduce pesticide use.”

 

Cotton production contributes heavily to many economies. The value of cotton fiber grown in the U.S. is typically about $6 billion per year. Cottonseed oil and meal byproducts add nearly $1 billion more of value. More than 430,000 domestic jobs are related to cotton production and processing, with an aggregate influence of about $120 billion on the annual US gross domestic product and an estimated annual $500 billion worldwide.

 

Professor Paterson noted that “The cotton community is delighted at the sequence quality resulting from integration of accumulated and new information by the skilled team of Mr. Jeremy Schmutz and Dr. Dan Rokhsar of the DOE JGI. We are enthusiastically pursuing next steps to improve sustainability of cotton production and increase its role in the more bio-based economy of the future.”

 

Dr. Don Jones, Director of Agricultural Research responsible for biotechnology research at Cotton Incorporated, said this Gossypium raimondii gold standard sequence will be the foundation for sequencing upland cotton, Gossypium hirsutum. “This sequencing effort demonstrates that wise investment of grower supplied Cotton Incorporated funding produces cutting edge research which benefits the greater cotton community. This sequence is a cornerstone that will help advance our knowledge so we more thoroughly understand the biology that leads to enhanced yield, improved fiber quality, and better stress tolerance, all improvements that will benefit growers in the not-too-distant future.”

 

Cotton Incorporated, funded by U.S. growers of upland cotton and importers of cotton and cotton textile products, is the research and marketing company representing upland cotton. The Program is designed and operated to improve the demand for and profitability of cotton.

 

Early Access to Cotton D (Gossypium raimondii) version 1.0 assembly

 

For public access, in agreement with Fort Lauderdale, we are making the Cotton D genome available from the DOE JGI and our collaborators prior to peer-reviewed publication of the data.

 

We are making this data available with the expectation and desire to publish this data in a reasonable time without preemption by other groups. By accessing these data, you agree not to publish any articles containing analyses of genes or genomic data on a whole genome or chromosome scale prior to publication by the DOE JGI and/or its collaborators of a comprehensive genome analysis ("Reserved Analyses"). "Reserved analyses" include the identification of complete (whole genome) sets of genomic features such as genes, gene families, regulatory elements, repeat structures, GC content, or any other genome feature, and whole-genome- or chromosome- scale comparisons with other species including other cotton species and cultivars. For specific questions about data use please contact Andy Paterson (paterson AT plantbio.uga.edu) and Jeremy Schmutz (jschmutz AT hudsonalpha.org).

 

Work towards annotation and publication of the Cotton D genome is underway, and we plan to submit a manuscript within this calendar year. If you will be employing the data for non-reserved analyses, such as cloning a gene of interest, designing mapping panels or to analyze a gene family etc., please reference the “DOE Joint Genome Institute: Cotton D V1.0” as your citation.

 

This release is a high quality version of the Cotton D genome from seed provided by Jonathan Wendell at Iowa State. We sequenced it with a combination of Sanger based sequence (1.52x assembled coverage with 0.95x coverage from BAC end sequence and fosmids end sequence) Roche 454 pyrosequencing (14.95x linear and 3.1x non-redundant pairs assembled coverage), and Illumina based short reads (primarily to correct 454 insertion/deletion errors) and assembled the genome using our modified version of Arachne2. We also integrated the assembly with the previously created mapping resources (Lin et al, 2010) to produce chromosome scale pseudomolecules. The first 13 scaffolds represent the 13 chromosomes of Cotton D. This release is of suitably high quality to match our previous fully Sanger sequenced plant genomes.

 

Assembly statistics:

Scaffold total: 1,448

Contig total: 28,582

Scaffold sequence total: 763.8 MB

Contig sequence total: 749.4 MB (-> 1.9% gap)

Scaffold N/L50: 6/62.2 MB

Contig N/L50: 1,596/135.1 KB

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=23477&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.47  Burundi releases two new rice varieties for better lives

 

15 December, 2011

 

Farmers in Burundi will soon sow the seeds of hard work and international cooperation with the release of two new rice varieties set to boost rice production and meet the rapidly growing demand for rice in Burundi.

 

Farmers and agricultural stakeholders chose the two rice varieties bred by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), called IR77713 and IR79511, over the country’s locally grown varieties – V14, V18, Watt, and Rukaramu – because they produce more rice and taste and look better.

 

The varieties have been tested and evaluated in different regions across Burundi for three years in participatory variety selection (PVS) trials in which farmers choose the rice varieties they like most and that perform best.

 

One of the farmers who helped pick the new varieties, Ms. Scolastique Simbandumwe, shared, “I am happy that the varieties I selected are now released. I would like to get seeds now, to be among those who will multiply seeds, so that my income can increase.”

 

The new varieties easily gained favor not only for their high yielding capability of up to seven tons per hectare, which is one to one and a half tons more than the locally grown varieties, but also because of their ability to mature two to three weeks earlier. Early-maturing varieties mean that farmers can grow a second crop, allowing them to produce more food for their families or to sell it. This is important in Burundi because more than 90% of the population depends on agriculture for livelihood.

 

The farmers also ranked IR77713 and IR79511 highest in grain quality of unmilled, milled, and cooked rice. In addition, a sensory test revealed that farmers find IRRI’s new varieties tasty and better looking compared with the locally grown varieties.

 

“We congratulate IRRI for this achievement,” concluded Director General of Agriculture Sebastien Ndikumagenge, Burundi Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock. “By releasing these two varieties, IRRI contributes a lot to our efforts to find food for Burundians. We encourage IRRI to go forward.”

 

Dr. Joseph Bigirimana, IRRI’s liaison scientist and coordinator in Burundi, said, “We are very happy that IRRI has released these two new rice varieties in Burundi. The IRRI-Burundi team worked hard, with the support of the whole IRRI family at the regional and international level and our partners in Burundi. We are proud of that effective collaboration.

 

“We do, of course, still have a long way to go,” he added. “We will actively assist Burundi’s Ministry of Agriculture to multiply the seed of these new varieties so that they can reach farmers as soon as possible.”

 

IRRI-Burundi developed the new rice varieties especially for Burundi after recognizing the urgent need for better rice varieties adapted to local conditions and matching farmer and consumer needs. In a first, IRRI-Burundi released the varieties after just four growing seasons – usually it takes much longer.

 

The new varieties are targeted to be planted in lowland areas of the country (800–900 meters above sea level) and are expected to boost food production in Burundi.

 

“I am sure this is only the start of a major contribution by IRRI in Burundi in association with the University of Burundi and Burundi’s government to develop the rice industry,” said IRRI’s coordinator for East and Southern Africa, Mr. Joseph Rickman.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=23460&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: IRRI via SeedQuest

 

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1.48  Evaluating the impacts of GM crops in the EU: AMIGA project is launched

 

Brussels, Belgium

6 December, 2011

 

AMIGA «Assessing and Monitoring the Impacts of Genetically modified plants on Agro-ecosystems» is a newly started EU project, funded by the FP7, aiming at producing scientific data related to the possible environmental and economic impacts of cultivation of GMPs, relevant to European environments. Launched on the 1st of December 2011, AMIGA project will run for 4 years, until the end of 2015.

 

AMIGA’s main objectives include providing baseline data on biodiversity in agro-eco-systems in the EU, defining bioindicators suitable for various European regions, a better integration of the aspects related to specific agricultural ecosystems in the European Union, an improvement of knowledge on potential long-term effects, and finally an assessment on the economic effects of cultivation of GMPs in the EU through a more systematic analysis.

 

The AMIGA consortium is composed by 22 partners, highly experts in the specific fields of studies of the project research and analysis of different aspects of GM plants and their cultivation, including Research Centres, Universities, State Agencies and SMEs. The partners are located in 15 EU countries and Argentina and will contribute in validating and monitoring in areas where GM crops are cultivated on larger scales. The coordinator of the project is the National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA), Italy, which is the second largest research organisation in Italy. Their agro-biotechnology activities include a wide range of areas and a dedicated research group will be in charge of specifically studying environmental impacts of GM plants.

 

The scientific activities of the consortium will consist of case studies of maize and potato, which are the two GM crops currently approved for cultivation in Europe, and surveys in non-GM agro-systems. The final outcome will include a network of representative sites for pre-market risk assessment and long-term monitoring studied to evaluate impacts to help decision-makers.

Website: available soon: www.amigaproject.eu

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=22884&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: MINERVA Consulting & Communication via SeedQuest.com

 

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1.49  New tool offers unprecedented access for root studies

 

Stanford, California, USA

20 December, 2011

 

Plant roots are fascinating plant organs – they not only anchor the plant, but are also the world’s most efficient mining companies. Roots live in darkness and direct the activities of the other organs, as well as interact with the surrounding environment. Charles Darwin posited in The Power of Movement of Plants that the root system acts as a plant’s brain.

 

Due to the difficulty of accessing root tissue in intact live plants, research of these hidden parts has always lagged behind research on the more visible parts of plants. But now: a new technology--developed jointly by Carnegie and Stanford University--could revolutionize root research. The findings will be published in the large-scale biology section of the December issue of The Plant Cell.

 

Understanding roots is crucial to the study of plant physiology because they serve as the interface between a plant and the soil--being solely responsible for taking up water and essential mineral nutrients. Roots must respond quickly to various environmental conditions such as water availability (for example, when being soaked by rain after a period of drought). They must find and exploit nutrients; they must respond to salinization and acidification of the soil; and they must integrate diverse signals such as light and gravity. All of these aspects are very difficult to analyze because of a root’s inaccessibility in the soil.

 

The research team’s efforts could revolutionize the entire field of root studies. The team is comprised of a group of plant scientists, including the paper’s lead author, Guido Grossmann, along with his Carnegie colleagues (Woei-Jiun Guo, David Ehrhardt and Wolf Frommer) and a group of chemical engineers from Stanford University and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, (Rene Sit, Stephen Quake and Matthias Meier).

 

The new technology, called the RootChip, allowed the research team to study roots of eight individual seedlings at the same time, and to alter their growth environment simultaneously or independently and with extraordinary precision. Optical sensors, developed and inserted into the root tissue by Frommer’s team, allowed the researchers to examine how the roots responded to changes in nutrient supply levels in real time.

 

“This new tool provides a major advance for studying root biology at the cellular and subcellular level,” said Wolf Frommer, director of Carnegie’s plant biology department. “The growth conditions can be freely varied over several days, allowing us to monitor actual growth and development of roots and root hairs and using our optical biosensors to study nutrient acquisition and carbon sequestration in real time.”

 

The RootChip was capable of monitoring a root’s response to changing levels of the sugar glucose in the surrounding environment. Root growth slowed down when the leaves were not exposed to light, as predicted, because the leaf’s photosynthesis is required to supply the energy for root growth. The RootChip also revealed the long-suspected fact that galactose, a sugar highly similar to glucose, is toxic to roots and inhibits their growth and function.

 

The RootChip is a generic tool and can be altered to test any aspect of root physiology that can be analyzed visually. It can easily be modified to study more than 30 seedlings at the same time and can be expanded for use with plants used to make biofuels, such as Brachypodium and foxtail millet.

 

This research was supported by grants from NSF and DOE, as well as an EMBO long-term fellowship and the Alexander V. Humboldt Society.

 

Website: http://www.ciw.edu/

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=23143&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.50  From loyalty cards to proteomics and the birth of the super experiment

 

United Kingdom

22 December 2011

 

Like tracking customer buying preferences with a loyalty card, BBSRC-funded researchers at the University of Dundee are using business intelligence software to discover patterns and trends in proteomics data which were not visible previously.

 

It's a novel solution to a common problem, and one that has allowed the team to overcome a major bottleneck to proteomics research: how to compare and integrate data from many independent experiments. Now with a suite of customised software under their belt, the team is developing a super experiment for functional proteomics analysis, which in the long term could help to deliver on the promises of the human genome project of tailor-made medicines.

 

A few years ago it was usually only possible to study one or two proteins at a time. Today researchers can generate data for thousands of proteins and their associated genes in a single experiment. While this is great in principle, the reality is that colossal amounts of untapped data are generated that are usually kept in isolation, with little or no chance of being used at a future date.

 

Professor Angus Lamond, Director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Gene Regulation and Expression at the University of Dundee, recognised early on that the collection and analysis of proteomics data was limiting progress. "We needed a more sophisticated approach," he said.

 

"Working with colleagues in Dundee at the School of Computing, we quickly realised that business intelligence techniques could be the key to creating what I've termed, 'super experiments'."

 

By creating a multi-dimensional database to manage all the consistently annotated data from the many hundreds of proteomics experiments in Lamond's lab, he realised that it would also be possible to integrate data from multiple experiments and extract information that simply isn't available when individual experiments are considered in isolation.

 

But instead of using business intelligence software to track consumer spending patterns in order to maximise profits, for example in the use of own brand versus high value products, by high volume, or by season or location, Lamond and his team would track multiple variables such as cell type, whether proteins are switched on or off, the location of proteins with a cell and post-translational modifications.

 

"It's the same concept, just the names are different," he says.

 

According to Lamond, such an approach could open the door to large scale, functional proteomics experiments to find out exactly what multiple proteins, are doing in cells and the relationships between them. Because most medicines affect proteins rather than DNA, there is the potential to build on the findings of the human genome project and use the integrated information from proteomics experiments for the development of safer, more tailor-made drugs.

 

Software solution

The first step was to create a customised suite of software - called PepTracker. The development of PepTracker was supported in part through the Radical Solutions for Researching the Proteome (RASOR) programme, funded by BBSRC, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Scottish Funding Council, as well as by a BBSRC funded PhD studentship and additional support from the Wellcome Trust.

 

BBSRC-funded PhD student Yasmeen Ahmad, a computer science graduate who built PepTracker explains how the system works, "Users start by designing and performing a proteomics experiment in the laboratory. As well as the data output from the mass spectrometer, we also collect and record a great deal of metadata about each experiment. Among other things, this includes information about the specific mass spectrometer that was used, the cell line, genotype, extract analysed etc. as well as the time, date and the researcher. The measured data and associated metadata are entered into PepTracker and then stored on a dedicated database server - the data warehouse."

 

PepTracker provides researchers with a set of very powerful, bespoke tools for analysis of proteomics data, based in part on Microsoft® business intelligence software (Follow link to Microsoft case study for further details).

 

"We couldn't use off-the-shelf software, and that meant assembling a team of people who understand both worlds - the experimental design, the instrumentation, and the informatics challenge," says Lamond. "When Yasmeen started work my lab, she didn't know what a protein was. But I think she was fascinated by the opportunity and has learned quickly the background biology."

 

"It was a steep learning curve, I was and still am constantly learning" says Ahmad. "I was excited and intrigued to see where it could go.

 

"The team comprises a diverse group of people, from lots of different countries and scientific backgrounds, which makes things interesting, richer. We all have different experiences, some have a life science PhD, other PhDs in protein chemistry, mass spectrometry or computing science, so our skill set is very diverse and I know I can call on anyone if I have questions."

 

Growing legs

Although PepTracker was initially conceived as focussed software solution for experiments in Lamond's laboratory, the team reached a turning point when they realised that they could do so much more outside of one project.

 

"These tools will provide insightful analysis through interactions with individual datasets, as well as allow for comparisons of data produced by different researchers, using both similar and different experimental methods," explains Lamond. "They will thereby help to promote new collaborations and to cross-fertilise projects."

 

The software is already used by other researchers in Dundee. And, having proved the principle behind his super experiment approach, Lamond is now seeking to lead a major expansion of the proteomics facility to provide the scale of resources needed to move the project forward.

 

In addition, the team is continuing to develop novel software, working with both academic and commercial collaborators to enhance the use of very fast, parallel computing solutions and business intelligence. Their aim is to continue to innovate, making software tailored to the specific needs of the new types of experiments and building better, faster tools to analyse proteomics data.

 

"This project has grown lots of arms and legs," says Ahmad. "There are so many exciting branches for this work over the next few years, and I'm so pleased to be a part of it."

 

Reference

Systematic analysis of protein pools, isoforms and modifications affecting turnover and subcellular localisation.

Molecular and cellular proteomics DOI: 10.1074/mcp.M111.013680 mcp.M111.013680.

 

Website: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=23192&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.51  FAO-EU project to promote climate-smart farming

 

Rome

16 January 2012

 

Malawi, Vietnam and Zambia will benefit from collaborative effort

 

FAO and the European Commission announced today a new €5.3 million project aimed at helping Malawi, Vietnam and Zambia transition to a "climate-smart" approach to agriculture.

 

Agriculture — and the communities who depend on it for their livelihoods and food security — are highly vulnerable to climate change impacts. At the same time agriculture, as a significant producer of greenhouse gases, contributes to global warming.  "Climate-smart agriculture" is an approach that seeks to position the agricultural sector as a solution to these major challenges.

 

It involves making changes in farming systems that achieve multiple goals: improving their contribution to the fight against hunger and poverty; rendering them more resilient to climate change; reducing emissions; and increasing agriculture's potential to capture and sequester atmospheric carbon.  "We need to start putting climate-smart agriculture into practice, working closely with farmers and their communities," said FAO Assistant Director-General for the Economic and Social Development Department, Hafez Ghanem. "But there are no one-size-fits-all solutions — better climate-smart farming practices need to respond to different local conditions, to geography, weather and the natural resource base," he added.

 

"This project will look closely at three countries and identify challenges and opportunities for climate-smart agriculture and produce strategic plans tailored to each country's own reality," Ghanem said. "While not all solutions identified will be universally applicable, we can learn a lot about how countries could take similar steps and begin shifting to this approach to agriculture."

 

Tailor-made solutions

The EU is providing €3.3 million  to support the effort; FAO's contribution is €2 million.

 

Working closely with agriculture and other ministries in each of the partner countries, and collaborating with local and international organizations, the three-year project will:

 

Identify country-specific opportunities for expansion of existing climate-smart practices or implementation of new ones.

 

Study the constraints that need to be overcome to promote wider adoption of climate-smart agriculture, including investment costs.

Promote integration of national climate change and agricultural strategies to support the implementation of climate-smart agriculture.

 

Identify innovative mechanisms for linking climate finance with climate-smart agriculture investments.

 

Build capacity for planning and implementing climate-smart projects capable of attracting international investments.

 

FAO will take the overall lead on the project, working in partnership with national policy and research institutions, as well as global organizations such as the Global Crop Diversity Trust.

 

By tackling the urgent need to incorporate climate change concerns into agricultural development planning, this new project represents a concrete step forward, said Ghanem. "The problems of climate change are increasingly being felt on the ground, and thus early actions to address the problem are needed, even as international negotiations continue in the search for a global climate agreement," he said.

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.52  Genomic and metabolic prediction of complex heterotic traits in hybrid maize

 

15 January, 2012

 

Christian Riedelsheimer, Angelika Czedik-Eysenberg, Christoph Grieder, Jan Lisec, Frank Technow, Ronan Sulpice, Thomas Altmann, Mark Stitt, Lothar Willmitzer & Albrecht E Melchinger Nature Genetics (2012)  |  DOI: doi:10.1038/ng.1033 Received 14 September 2011 Accepted 10 November 2011 Published online 15 January 2012.

 

Maize is both an exciting model organism in plant genetics and also the most important crop worldwide for food, animal feed and bioenergy production. Recent genome-wide association and metabolic profiling studies aimed to resolve quantitative traits to their causal genetic loci and key metabolic regulators. Here we present a complementary approach that exploits large-scale genomic and metabolic information to predict complex, highly polygenic traits in hybrid testcrosses. We crossed 285 diverse Dent inbred lines from worldwide sources with two testers and predicted their combining abilities for seven biomass- and bioenergy-related traits using 56,110 SNPs and 130 metabolites. Whole-genome and metabolic prediction models were built by fitting effects for all SNPs or metabolites. Prediction accuracies ranged from 0.72 to 0.81 for SNPs and from 0.60 to 0.80 for metabolites, allowing a reliable screening of large collections of diverse inbred lines for their potential to create superior hybrids.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=23718&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.53  GM wheat development in China: current status and challenges to commercialization

 

15 December, 2011

 

Lanqin Xia, Youzhi Ma, Yi He and Huw D. Jones Journal of Experimental Botany, Page 1 of 6 2011doi:10.1093/jxb/err342

 

Abstract

Genetic modification facilitates research into fundamental questions of plant functional genomics and provides a route for developing novel commercial varieties.

 

In 2008,significant financial resources were supplied by the Chinese government for research and development (R&D) into genetic modification of the major crop species. This project was aimed at providing an opportunity for crop improvement while accentuating the development of a safe, precise, and effective wheat genetic transformation system suitable for commercialization. The focus here is on one of the key crops included in this project, wheat, to provide an insight into the main transformation methods currently in use, the target traits of major importance, and the successful applications of wheat genetic  improvement in China.

 

Furthermore, the biosafety and regulatory issues of major concern and the strategies to produce ‘clean’ transgenic wheat plants will also be discussed. This commentary is intended to be a helpful insight into the production and commercialization of transgenic wheat in China and to put these activities into a global context.

 

Paper:http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=23431&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.54  Monsanto scholars share their experiences

 

Recently four scholars were featured on Monsanto’s Blog and Facebook page sharing the significance of this program towards achieving their career goals:

 

http://monsantoblog.com/2011/12/01/talking-with-a-beachell-borlaug-scholar/

http://monsantoblog.com/2012/01/12/scholars-speak-on-the-beachell-borlaug-program/

 

Their stories provide a different and ‘real’ perspective of the program, as scholars talk about the opportunities and the future impact they want to make.  Please share these stories with others that may be interested in this fellowship.

 

As the 2012 application season is coming to a close on February 1, 2012, if you know any interested students, please have them visit www.Monsanto.com/mbbischolars to find out more information.

 

Contributed by Aurelia Skipwith

Sustainable Agriculture Partnership Manager

Monsanto

aurelia.skipwith@monsanto.com

 

Note: The 2013 application session for Monsanto’s Beachell-Borlaug International Scholars Program will begin November 1, 2012 to February 1, 2013.