PLANT BREEDING NEWS

 

EDITION 235

31 May 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

 

Reviews of broad issues in research and development

 

1.01  Nations need food security goals

 

People in the news

 

1.02  Paddy Breeding Station of TNAU bags award

1.03  Cornell University plant breeder works to alleviate aluminum toxicity in rice

 

Review of breeding programs

 

1.04  New National Plant Phenomics Centre opens at Aberystwyth University

1.05  ICRISAT and ICAR partner to build climate resilient agriculture

1.06  HarvestPlus Extends Reach in Latin America & Caribbean

1.07  Rice research in Africa provides a strong case for investment

1.08  Drought tolerant maize boosts farmers’ harvest in Tanzania

1.09  Modern hybrid corn makes better use of nitrogen, study shows

 

Policy and IP issues

 

1.10  Conventionally-bred plants or animals should be exempt from patents, say European Parliament

1.11  CIOPORA looks at effects of America Invents Act on plant breeders

 

Genetic resources

 

1.12  Seed diversity decline must urgently be stopped

1.13  USDA links gene flow between weedy and domesticated rice to rising carbon          dioxide levels

1.14  Kansas State University scientists lead the effort that finds genes underlying the     domestication of sorghum and other cereals

1.15  Experimental evidence for the ancestry of allotetraploid Trifolium repens and        creation of synthetic forms with value for plant breeding

1.16  Researchers look to relatives for clues in quest to develop sources of bioenergy

1.17  Genes underlying the key domestication process in sorghum and other cereals

1.18  Implications of farmers’ seed exchanges for on-farm conservation of quinoa, as     revealed by its genetic diversity in Chile

1.19  Time is ticking for some crop's wild relatives -New edge of extinction research is   creating a revival of conservation and interest in what these old plants mean     to the future

 

Trait selection/variety traits; applied breeding

 

1.20  University of Nebraska-Lincoln researcher breeding dry beans to be more   drought tolerant

1.21   University of Wisconsin-Madison plant breeders develop heart-healthier oat

1.22  Next-generation disease resistance breeding

1.23  Newly identified gene helps to increase sugar beet yields

1.24  Generating whitefly-resistant plants

1.25  Improved roots will boost crops

1.26  Cornell researcher works to reduce aluminum toxicity in rice

1.27  New nematode resistant wheat

1.28  Pyramiding resistance genes to combat bacterial blight in hybrid rice

1.29  Genetic control of seed shattering in rice

1.30  Repeatability and optimum trial configuration for field-testing of banana and         plantain

1.31  ICARDA, Pak-US Cotton Productivity Enhancement Programme (2011-14)

1.32  Cornell researcher works to reduce aluminum toxicity in rice

1.33  New nematode resistant wheat

1.34  Pyramiding resistance genes to combat bacterial blight in hybrid rice

1.35  Genetic control of seed shattering in rice

 

Molecular/basic genetic research

 

1.36  International consortium sequences tomato genome

1.37  Candidate genes for drought tolerance identified in coffee (Coffea canephora)

1.38  Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory joins the Illumina Genome Network

1.39  Potato genome mapping benefits within a decade

1.40  New bench top machines open up DNA sequencing

1.41  First plant-made drug on the market

1.42  Discovery may allow plant breeders to ‘switch off’ flower production

1.43  Nuclear-powered crops

1.44  Big advances from tiny technology - Is a game-changing device in DNA        sequencing about to revolutionise the business of decoding genes?

1.45  BGI reports the completed sequence of foxtail millet genome

 

Network news/newsletters

 

1.46  FAO/IAEA Plant Breeding and Genetics Newsletter 28

1.47  New Research Targets

 

2.  PUBLICATIONS

2.01  Technical Manual : Plant Breeding with Farmers

2.02  IITA's R4D Review on Crop Improvement published

 

3.  WEB AND NETWORKING RESOURCES

3.01  Launching of The Resource, a monthly update from NRI

3.02  Website launched for new international plant science network

3.03  A Global Food Security Index under development

3.04  Tomato expert’s field notes go online

3.05  Data portal aims to help unlock food production bottlenecks

3.06  Rice Bowl Index highlights solutions for food security challenges across Asia-          Pacific

 

4.  GRANTS AND AWARDS

4.01  CGIAR Program to improve maize opens call for proposals

 

5.  POSITION ANNOUNCEMENTS

5.01  Plant Breeder, Tropical Forages

5.02  Hybrid Barley Breeder

 

6.  MEETINGS, COURSES AND WORKSHOPS

 

7.  EDITOR'S NOTES

 

 

1 NEWS, ANNOUNCEMENTS AND RESEARCH NOTES


1.01 
Nations need food security goals

 

By Mark Kinver

Environment reporter, BBC News

 

Researchers are calling for a concerted approach to agricultural policy, based on science Continue reading the main story

 

The biggest environmental summit for a decade must make meaningful progress on global food security and sustainable agriculture, say researchers.

 

CGIAR, the world's largest publicly funded research body, has published a seven-point "call to action" plan.

 

Ahead of the Rio gathering, scientists are calling for an improved commitment to deliver nutrition security and lessen the need to aid.

 

Agriculture is estimated to provide jobs for 40% of the world's population.

 

In its statement, CGIAR said: "Faced with environmental degradation, climate change... and a world population that is continuing to climb, it is critical for farm and natural resources management and policies to play a more central role in shaping the broader development and environmental agendas."

 

The organisations listed a seven-point "call to action" list, which they will present at the gathering in the Brazilian city, including:

 

  • Improved partnerships to maximise the management of agriculture, aquaculture, forest and water resources;
  • need to address unequal sharing of natural resources via better governance and dissemination of technology;
  • support for a knowledge sharing system to improve production and minimise adverse impacts;
  • adopting measures to restore degraded environments and ecosystems.

 

"One reason why it is necessary to push attention on to agriculture in Rio is because negotiations are going really slowly," explained CGIAR spokesman Bruce Campbell.

 

"We thought it was really important to put the focus on agriculture in Rio, and the 15 research organisations have come together in order to form a consortium and speak with one voice for the first time."

 

Dr Campbell added that the agencies were calling on the negotiators to reaffirm the role of science and technology.

 

"We are also looking for an improvement between the links between policy and science so then scientists are so much more linked into the processes that matter," he said.

 

The Rio+20 Conference, formally known as the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), will take place in Brazil on 20-22 June 2012.

 

The summit marks the 20th anniversary of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), which was also held in Rio de Janeiro, and the 10th anniversary of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, South Africa.

 

Organisers say that the conference will focus on two themes: a green economy in the context of sustainable development poverty eradication; and the institutional framework for sustainable development.

 

Seven priority areas have also been identified, including: decent jobs, energy, sustainable cities, food security and sustainable agriculture, water, oceans and disaster readiness.

Heads of states from more than 100 nations are expected to attend the summit.

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-18160089

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.02  Paddy Breeding Station of TNAU bags award

 

TNAU has so far released 50 varieties and possess state-of-art facilities

 

The Paddy Breeding Station of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University has been conferred the ‘Best Plant Breeding Centre for Rice Award' for its overall performance in development of rice varieties by the Directorate of Rice Research, Hyderabad.

 

The station has been selected for the award from among the 107 stations in the country. It is noteworthy that the award has been conferred when the station is celebrating its centenary year, according to TNAU Vice-Chancellor P. Murugesa Boopathy.

 

“The landmark varieties that have been developed through Pure Line Selection by this station triggered the growth of rice production in the State. The first variety – GEB 24 (Kichili Samba) – released during 1921 played a significant role in the development of rice cultivars over the years, not only in India, but world-wide,” he said.

 

GEB 24 became very popular with wide coverage and thereby attained world-wide recognition and since then had been used in several national and international breeding programmes as progenitor for their varieties. Other noteworthy rice varieties responsible for transforming rice cultivation in the State were CO4 and CO25, CO37, CO38, CO40, CO43, CO47, etc.

 

The recently released CO (R) 48 and CO (R) 49 are the fine grain varieties that cater to the current market demands.

 

K. Thiyagarajan, Director, Centre for Plant Breeding and Genetics, TNAU, said the station was functioning with the objective of breeding improved new rice varieties and hybrids for irrigated, drought and aerobic situations. It had so far released 50 varieties. It possessed the state-of-the-art facilities to enable the rice scientists for conducting high quality research in rice cultivar development.

 

http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Coimbatore/article3386807.ece

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.03  Cornell University plant breeder works to alleviate aluminum toxicity in rice

 

May 7, 2012

Ithaca, New York, USA

 

As rice farmers around the world begin to turn from wet paddies to dry fields in an attempt to conserve water and mitigate climate change, they are facing a new foe: aluminum.

 

Aluminum, the third most abundant element in soil, can be toxic to plants in acidic conditions. Its harmful effects are diluted in the flooding of traditional rice paddies but are becoming an issue as farmers try new ways of raising their crops.

 

Cornell plant breeder Professor Susan McCouch is working to help make these new rice-rearing methods more viable. For example, she has identified several promising varieties of rice that are tolerant to the metal in research with Leon Kochian of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Robert Holley Center for Agriculture and Health.

 

They found, for instance, that japonica varieties are twice as tolerant to aluminum than the more diverse indica varieties commonly grown around the world. They also discovered that there are different mechanisms within each variety that influence their tolerance -- some are able to keep aluminum from entering the roots, while others take up the metal and detoxify it inside root cells.

 

McCouch is now trying to determine whether crosses among the strains could result in new super-tolerant varieties.

 

"In the coming years, we will need to double rice production, with less water and fewer inputs. Genetic variation will be key to accomplishing that goal," McCouch said.

 

Insight into aluminum tolerance in rice could also provide a good model to investigate the effects of aluminum toxicity in such important cereal crops as maize and wheat, which are less tolerant than rice, McCouch said. Aluminum toxicity is a primary limitation to crop production on about 50 percent of the world's potentially arable land, including about 20 percent of land in North America.

 

Her lab has published several papers about the work over the past year, in PLoS Genetics and Plant Physiology, and McCouch presented her findings in April at a Cornell symposium. Harnessing a wider spectrum of genetic variation requires a lot of time and money, she said at the symposium, as well as a good roadmap, which is where her lab is providing valuable insight.

 

McCouch's cutting-edge rice breeding program still uses traditional breeding techniques and works with ancient cultivars and wild strains of rice.

 

"Gene banks around the world are storing seeds from thousands of varieties that have never been used. This kind of new information opens up enormous possibilities," McCouch said.

 

She also applies the latest genomic sequencing technologies and algorithms developed in her lab to identify the location of desirable traits on genes of those varieties. As part of the aluminum tolerance study, graduate students Randy Clark and Adam Famoso created a novel 3-D imaging and software system that allowed them to record and assess the entire root system, rather than relying on traditional methods that use a ruler or a caliper to measure just the longest root.

 

"What good is sequencing info if you can't connect the dots? Knowing where to look for positive alleles and how to recombine them will be key to breeding in the future," McCouch said.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=26713&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.04  New National Plant Phenomics Centre opens at Aberystwyth University

 

May 14, 2012

Aberystwyth, United Kingdom

 

Today, Monday 14 May 2012, the new National Plant Phenomics Centre, which features the most advanced research greenhouse in the UK, will be formally opened at Aberystwyth University's Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences.

 

The new Centre is a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) supported national facility and has been developed at a cost of £6.8M.

 

The research conducted at this new national centre will help to develop new plant and crop varieties to help tackle the global challenges of climate change, food security and replacing oil based products.

 

Located on the University's Gogerddan campus, it will be will be opened by BBSRC Chairman, Professor Sir Tom Blundell FRS at 12.00 p.m.

 

The new building is one of two significant capital investment developments that are being opened on the same day.

 

At 3.30 p.m. Welsh Government Education and Skills Minister Leighton Andrews will open new teaching and researcher facilities on the University's Penglais campus.

 

The new Penglais facility represents an investment of £5.6M and houses the Bioinformatics and Spatial Modelling laboratories as well as offering a hub for undergraduate and postgraduate teaching.

 

Together the developments represent the culmination of a four year £25M capital investment programme made possible by financial support from the BBSRC, the Welsh Government and the European Union.

 

Professor April McMahon, Vice Chancellor of Aberystwyth University said: "This is an

immensely significant day for Aberystwyth University and IBERS. The opening of a new national facility here at Aberystwyth reflects the ambition we have as a University to contribute as an international centre of excellence, both in terms of research and in inspiring a new generation of highly trained graduates who are equipped with the skills to tackle some of the pressing environmental challenges faced by society."

 

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank the BBSRC and the Welsh Government for their investment in this flagship project and to all who have been involved during design and construction," she added.

 

Professor Wayne Powell, Director of IBERS said: "The combined effects of world population growth, climate change and the scarcity of water and land mean that food and water security represent key global challenges for the 21st century. The National Plant Phenomics Centre means that researchers based in the UK and internationally have the very latest technology at their disposal to develop new crop varieties that can thrive in challenging conditions and make a significant contribution to future food production."

 

BBSRC Chairman, Professor Sir Tom Blundell, said: "The benefits of this investment will reach well beyond the walls of the University, offering a new national capability in crop science. Discoveries made here will contribute to combating major challenges, such as feeding a growing population. This investment in bioscience infrastructure not only creates immediate jobs, in areas such as construction, it also contributes to the potential for growth of the UK knowledge-based bioeconomy."

 

Leighton Andrews said: "This superb facility for research and teaching in the land based sciences is a great example of the kind of cutting-edge Higher Education the Welsh Government wants to see. We've made a significant capital investment in Aberystwyth University as part of our ambitious agenda for science and innovation here in Wales. This new centre will develop the University's reputation as a globally-significant centre of bioscience research which should be celebrated."

 

The centre, which features a state of the art greenhouse - the only one of its kind in the UK and one of only seven in the world, will enable researchers to study individual plants in a way that has never before been possible.

 

With the capacity to house up to 850 individually potted plants on a series of conveyor belts measuring over 300 meters long, scientists will be able to apply different feeding and watering regimes to individual plants as they study the influence of individual genes.

 

Ten computer controlled cameras using fluorescence, infra-red and near infra-red, laser and root imaging technology combine to provide 3D images of the plants and monitor their growth on a daily basis.

 

This level of detail, which cannot be achieved using current research methods, will enable researchers to speed up the process of identifying potentially beneficial genes.

 

The beneficial genes will be used for the development of new plant varieties to tackle the global challenges of climate change and food security and to replace oil based products.

 

IBERS Penglais

The new teaching and research facilities at IBERS Penglais are designed to provide a hub for innovative collaboration between IBERS scientists and researchers in other areas at Aberystwyth University.

 

Working closely with computer scientists, IBERS scientists are collaborating on exciting new developments that pave the way for processing huge amounts of data about the new varieties of plants that are being developed. This work is based at the newly established Bioinformatics Laboratory.

 

The Spatial Modelling Laboratory brings together biologists and geographers to understand how the geography of an area affects biological processes. One area of research at Aberystwyth is looking at the spread of Malaria in Africa, and how this might be affected by climate change.

 

The new facilities have also been designed to develop new postgraduate courses including a new degree in Green Biotechnology and Innovation.

 

This new MSc will train students in green biotechnology research, management, business and interaction with industry and provide a new generation of business aware biotechnologists skilled to develop bio-based products to replace fossil fuels and meet global government targets for carbon reduction.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=26852&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.05  ICRISAT and ICAR partner to build climate resilient agriculture

 

22 May 2012

New Delhi, India

 

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) have called to adapt new measures to tackle the growing climate related risks and constraints that prevail in rural areas. The two lead organizations and their partners emphasized to adopt a different perspective and approach by listening, observing and learning from the people that are supposed to help with research findings, technology and knowhow.

 

"Climate change is happening and its impacts are already being felt. Climate change will impact several sectors including agriculture, fisheries, water etc. where the world population depends for their sustenance. Climate change impacts are imminent, irrespective of the geographical distribution and the impacts are going to be severe" said Shri Harish Rawat, Union Ministry of State for Agriculture, Food Processing and Parliamentary Affairs at the National Agricultural Science Centre, (NASC) here today. He was speaking at the inauguration of the policy dialogue on "Building Climate Resilient Agriculture in India", organized by the Research Program on Markets, Institutions and Policies (RP-MIP) of ICRISAT in collaboration with ICAR with support from Asian Development Bank (ADB).

 

Attended by over 60 dignitaries including key policy makers and other important stakeholders in India including representatives of concerned ministries and departments, the deliberation highlighted the grassroots level insights in climate related risks and constraints that prevail in rural areas. These constraints were identified and analyzed as part of ADB funded seven-country project "Vulnerability to Climate Change: Adaptation Strategies and Layers of Resilience".

 

In his keynote address Director General of ICRISAT Dr William D Dar said, “We're going to hold ourselves accountable. We'll measure results. And we'll stay focused on clear goals: boosting farmers' incomes and over the next decade helping 50 million men, women and children lift themselves out of poverty. The smallholder farmers who live in the semi-arid tropics and coastal areas are severely affected by climate change trends that are the result of mostly industrial and urban lifestyles."

 

"If I may indulge, the crisis management plan for drought of the government of India (2012) presents a disturbing picture. The report says that annually 50 million people are exposed to chronic drought. Sixteen percent of India's land area is drought prone, 68 percent of land area sown is exposed to drought. Most drought prone areas in India lie in the arid (19.5%) semi-arid (37%) and sub-humid (21%) areas of the country occupying 77.6% of total land out of 329 mil. ha. Thirty three percent of land receives less than 750 mm of rainfall and classified as chronically drought prone." added Dr Dar.

 

"Thus spoke US President Barack Obama last Friday at a symposium on “New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition” on the eve of the G8 meeting at Camp David. In the same speech, President Obama unveiled a $3bn (£1.9bn) plan to boost food security and farm productivity in Africa funded by private US companies. "It's a moral imperative, it's an economic imperative and it's a security imperative," Pres. Obama said. The $3bn announcement by Obama is a bold US initiative which, however, goes only a small way to fulfilling the $22bn pledge of the G8 nations in 2009," added Dr Dar.

 

Director General of ICAR Dr S Ayyappan in his opening address said "The collaboration of ICAR with ICRISAT dates back decades and has been quite fruitful in addressing the farmers’ problems in totality. As far as climate change is concerned, it is a global phenomenon. The increase in the atmospheric temperature, due to rise in greenhouse gas levels such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, is the prime driver of climate change."

 

Today’s dialogue is part of the ongoing collaborative project between ICRISAT and ICAR (CRIDA) on `Vulnerability to Climate Change: Adaptation Strategies and Layers of Resilience’ and this meeting is crucial to give a final shape to the conclusions that emanated from this project through in-depth analysis of datasets with a micro-level perspective through expert consultation process for evolving a policy document based on the project outcome.

 

During the deliberations’, it was reported that the early signs of increasing climatic variability are gradually becoming more visible in the form of increasing melting of Himalayan glaciers, flash floods, and intense rainfall over short periods. In Indian context, the climate change is likely to exacerbate the current stresses and increase vulnerability of food production and livelihoods of the farming community. Most specifically, the small and marginal farmers are most vulnerable to the impact of climate change.

 

Every 1oC increase in temperature throughout crop cycle may reduce wheat production by 4-5 million tones which can be reduced to 1-2 million tones with timely planting.

 

The milk production is projected to decrease by 1.5 million tones by 2020 due to increase in temperature leading to heat stress in livestock.

 

Increase in sea and river water temperatures are likely to affect fish breeding, migration, and harvests.

 

In addition, it was also reported that by the end of the 21st century rainfall will increase by 15-31%, and the mean annual temperature will increase by 3 to 6°C.

 

Dr Dar observed “For generations to come, what we do now will decide the future.” The voices at the grassroots level will be heard if “we act now, we act together and we act differently,” he concluded.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=27095&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.06  HarvestPlus Extends Reach in Latin America & Caribbean

 

May 15, 2012

Washington, DC

 

Latin American and Caribbean countries (LAC) are about to benefit from a renewed effort to improve nutrition and public health. AgroSalud, a program that has been developing more nutritious staple food crops for LAC, has been integrated into HarvestPlus, a global program that improves nutrition by developing food crops rich in minerals and vitamins through a process called biofortification.

 

“This now allows us to expand and align biofortification in LAC with our programs in Sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia, making HarvestPlus a truly global program to improve nutrition,” said HarvestPlus Director, Howarth Bouis.

 

Marilia Nutti, who coordinates BioFORT a biofortification program based at Embrapa (Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation), will now also coordinate the biofortification program for LAC. Nutti has built BioFORT into an extensive network of 150 Brazilian partners that includes 11 Embrapa units, numerous universities, state government, NGOs, farmer associations, and researchers. At least ten different nutrient-rich crop varieties have been released in Brazil including crops as diverse as cowpea and cassava.

 

“We are pleased to support Marilia Nutti in this new position,” said Pedro Antonio Arraes Pereira, President of Embrapa. “We are confident that under her leadership, HarvestPlus will be able to reproduce the success with biofortification that we’ve had in Brazil throughout the LAC region.”

 

Nutti will now focus her attention on Guatemala, Haiti, and Nicaragua, which have some of the highest levels of vitamin and mineral deficiencies in the region. Panama, where the government already supports biofortification, will also benefit from renewed efforts. In line with the HarvestPlus approach, the program will include breeding and nutrition research, delivery of nutrient-rich crops to farmers, developing food products based on biofortified crops, and measuring impact.

 

HarvestPlus leads a global effort to make familiar staple foods that people eat every day more nutritious and available to those suffering from hidden hunger. We use a process called biofortification to breed higher amounts of vitamins and minerals directly into foods such as bean, cassava, orange sweet potato, rice, maize, pearl millet, and wheat. HarvestPlus is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Improved Nutrition and Health. It is coordinated by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

 

Source: HarvestPlus Highlights, Spring / Summer 2012

 

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1.07  Rice research in Africa provides a strong case for investment

 

May 2, 2012

Cotonou, Benin

 

Excited by the work of the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice) and its partners on the development of new stress-tolerant and climate-resilient technologies for major rice production systems in Africa, the Chair of the AfricaRice Board of Trustees Dr. Peter Matlon stated at the recent Board meeting, “We believe that rice research in Africa provides a strong case for investment.”

 

The work includes marker-assisted selection for tolerance to important yield-limiting and yield-reducing stresses, such as salinity, drought, cold, iron toxicity, rice yellow mottle virus and rice blast as well as component technologies to increase labor, nutrient and water productivities to close yield gaps and reduce risks in farmers’ fields. Several of these technological options are already being tested in participation with farmers.

 

The Board described AfricaRice’s new product-oriented 10-year strategic plan, which presents a clear vision of success to help Africa achieve almost 90% self-sufficiency in rice by year 2020, as “a compelling and convincing agenda for realizing Africa’s tremendous rice potential.”

 

The current thrusts of AfricaRice were recognized by the Board as signs of a new vitality and resurgence of rice research in Africa. These include:

 

1.                  Evidence-based policy advocacy;

 

2.                  The establishment of ‘Rice Sector Development Hubs’ to conduct proof-of concept work with public and private sector partners to develop competitive, equitable and sustainable rice value chains tailored to market demand;

 

3.                  Focused research product development to enable sustainable intensification and diversification of rice-based systems (varieties, agronomic options, mechanization); and

 

4.                  Strengthening of the capacities of national rice research and extension communities and rice value-chain actors.

 

In particular, AfricaRice’s strategic vision and leadership, diversified partnership and sound financial management were highlighted by the Board, based on the following indicators:

 

          Significant increase in average annual contribution of member countries to          AfricaRice

 

          Increase in reserve funds that contribute to financial stability and efficient            management of risks

 

          Increase in the volume of joint projects with national partners

 

          Increase in the number of PhD students (43 in 2011 compared with 9 in 2006)      and MSc/DEA students ( 51 in 2011 compared with 5 in 2006)

 

          Increase in the number of workshops and training programs to build Africa’s        research and development capacity relating to rice

 

          Launch of the CGIAR Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP) activities in Africa   under   the leadership of AfricaRice

 

          Launch of the Africa-wide Rice Task Forces

 

          Strategic alliance forged with the African Union, and

 

          Winning of several international and regional awards, including the Japan            International   Award for Young Researchers

 

“Our ambition is to maintain high standards of excellence at all levels and to keep in mind that AfricaRice can achieve its mission only through strong national agricultural research systems and strategic partnerships worldwide in order to bring the best efforts of rice science to bear on the immense challenge of food security faced by Africa,” said AfricaRice Director General Dr. Papa Abdoulaye Seck.

 

Gratefully acknowledging the strong support of donors and partners, particularly the member countries of AfricaRice, the Board concluded that rice research in Africa was on the right track.

 

AfricaRice is an intergovernmental research association of 24 African member countries. It is also a member of the CGIAR Consortium.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=26591&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.08  Drought tolerant maize boosts farmers’ harvest in Tanzania

 

In Tanzania, farmers who used to grow millet, sorghum and other legumes are now part of an international research project called Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA). The farmers are using five maize varieties that are being tested in WEMA's efforts to increase food production and help farmers face the challenges of climate change.

 

Barnabas Kiula, WEMA's lead researcher in Tanzania, said that Situka, one of the maize varieties being introduced, can be grown in dry conditions and still be ready for harvest in only 75 days, when most varieties need at least 90 days to mature. According to him, the pressing need for food security in the region led to the decision to experiment which introduced maize to areas which have not traditionally grown the crop. "People are dying of hunger in this area. They live by food handouts every single year. We hope that drought tolerant maize could reverse this situation," he said.

 

Hassan Mshinda, director-general of the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology, which is coordinating WEMA activities in the country, said that affordable, drought resistant varieties of staple crops will be important for dealing not only with climate change but also with general poor growing conditions and low yields in some African countries.

 

More information is available at http://allafrica.com/stories/201205141155.html

 

Source: Crop Biotech Update 18 May 2012

 

Contributed by Margaret Smith

Department of Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell University

Mes25@cornell.edu

 

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1.09  Modern hybrid corn makes better use of nitrogen, study shows

 

April 30, 2012

West Lafayette, Indiana, USA

 

Today's hybrid corn varieties more efficiently use nitrogen to create more grain, according to 72 years of public-sector research data reviewed by Purdue University researchers.

 

Tony Vyn, a professor of agronomy, and doctoral student Ignacio Ciampitti looked at nitrogen use studies for corn from two periods – 1940-1990 and 1991-2011. They wanted to see whether increased yields were due to better nitrogen efficiency or whether new plants were simply given additional nitrogen to produce more grain.

 

"Corn production often faces the criticism from society that yields are only going up because of an increased dependency on nitrogen," said Vyn, whose findings were published in the early online version of the journal Field Crops Research. "Although modern hybrids take up more total nitrogen per acre during the growing season than they did before, the amount of grain produced per pound of nitrogen accumulated in corn plants is substantially greater than it was for corn hybrids of earlier decades. So, in that sense, the efficiency of nitrogen utilization has gradually improved."

 

Vyn and Ciampitti's analysis covered about 100 worldwide studies. Of those, 870 data points were taken from the earlier period through 1990, and 2,074 points were taken from studies after 1990, when transgenic hybrids started hitting the market. All studies involved analyses of total nitrogen uptake and grain yield by corn plants at maturity, usually in response to multiple nitrogen application rates.

 

Grain yields in these research studies averaged about 143 bushels of corn per acre over the last 21 years compared with an average of 115 bushels in the previous 50 years. Those studies showed that in the earlier period, one pound of nitrogen applied to a field produced about 49 kilograms of grain. In the more recent period, the same amount of nitrogen produced about 56 kilograms of grain.

 

About 90 percent of the corn data points examined in Vyn's study evaluated nitrogen rates between zero and 250 pounds per acre. Over both periods, the average rate of nitrogen fertilizer distributed in experimental fields was nearly the same – 124 pounds per acre in the earlier period vs. 123 pounds in the later period.

 

Vyn said genetic improvements have led to corn plants that require less space around them, allowing growers to squeeze more plants into an acre. Research fields from the modern era averaged about 28,900 plants per acre – about the average final plant populations in Indiana cornfields in 2011 - compared with 22,800 plants per acre from 1940-1990.

 

"The maximum individual plant nitrogen uptake stayed exactly the same despite the average gain of 6,000 more plants per acre," Vyn said. "The modern plants are just more efficient at taking nitrogen up and utilizing it than they were before."

 

Vyn and Ciampitti are working toward methods to increase grain yields further by investigating the contribution of nitrogen to plant biomass and yield formation processes in high-yielding hybrids under a wide range of nitrogen inputs and production stress factors. Knowing that modern hybrids are sustaining a reasonable quantity of nitrogen uptake even under progressively higher plant densities is a good start, Ciampitti said.

 

"We are getting clues on how plants have already improved nitrogen use efficiency, and we will use that to push for further increases," Ciampitti said. "We finally feel like we're shedding some light on what traits plant breeders should select for to increase nitrogen efficiency even more."

 

Vyn and Ciampitti plan to further investigate how water use efficiency and nitrogen use efficiency are tied together, as well as how plants can achieve more tolerance to environmental stresses.

 

Dow AgroSciences, PotashCorp and the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture funded their work.

 

Abstratc

Physiological Perspectives of Changes Over Time in Maize Yield Dependency on Nitrogen Uptake and Associated Nitrogen Efficiencies: A Review Ignacio A. Ciampitti, Tony J. Vyn.

 

Over the past three decades, the study of various mechanisms involved in maize grain yield (GY) formation and its relationship with nitrogen (N) uptake dynamics has been increasingly acknowledged in the scientific literature. However, few studies have combined investigations of GY response to N fertilizer with detailed physiologically based analyses of plant N dynamics such as N uptake quantities, timing, and (or) partitioning – and the complex interactions of those with specific genotypes (G), management practices (M), and (or) production environments (E). Limited reporting of both N and yield dynamics at plant-component, individual-plant, and community levels has contributed to a considerable knowledge gap as to whether the physiological mechanisms that govern maize plant N dynamics and their relationship with GY formation have changed with time. We, therefore, undertook a comprehensive review to discern trends in physiological aspects of maize response to changing plant densities and fertilizer N rates (M components) under the umbrella of evolving G x E interactions. We reviewed 100 published and unpublished papers based on field experiments which consistently reported total plant N uptake at maturity and maize GY (frequently among other physiological variables).

 

Our analyses were limited nearly exclusively to experiments involving hybrid (as distinct from inbred) response to M input levels where plant density data was available. Dissection of the complex interactions among years, plant densities and N rates began with division of treatment mean data (close to 3000 individual points) into two time periods defined by year(s) of the original research: (i) studies from 1940 to 1990 – "Old Era" and, (ii) studies from 1991 to 2011 – "New Era." For the Old Era, maize GY averaged 7.2 Mg ha−1 at a mean plant density of 5.6 pl m−2 with a total plant N uptake of 152 kg N ha−1, a grain harvest index (HI) of 48% and N harvest index (NHI) of 63%. For the New Era, maize GY averaged 9.0 Mg ha−1 at a mean plant density of 7.1 pl m−2, total plant N uptake of 170 kg N ha−1, a grain HI of 50% and a NHI of 64%.

 

The most striking findings in terms of overall GY and plant N uptake were: (1) on a per-unit-area basis, both potential GY and NIE (GY/N uptake) increased from Old to New Era at comparable N uptake levels, and (2) on a per-plant basis, total plant N uptake at maturity had not changed between eras despite increased plant density in the New Era genotypes.

 

Other important findings in terms of plant growth and component partitioning responses to N were (i) a consistently strong dependency between dry matter and N allocation to the ear organ in both eras; (ii) higher total plant biomass (BM) accumulation and N uptake, on an absolute basis, during the post-silking period with New Era genotypes accompanied by relatively smaller changes in HI and NHI; (iii) a strong correlation between plant N uptake at silking time and per-plant GY and its components in both eras; (iv) New Era (56.0 kg GY grain kg−1 N) was primarily associated with reduced grain %N, and to a minor degree with NHI gains; and (v) New Era genotypes showed higher tolerance to N deficiency stress (higher GY when no N fertilizer was applied), and larger GY response per unit of N applied, relative to Old Era hybrids.

 

This improved understanding of the physiological factors underlying progress in maize yield response to N over time, within the context of changing G x E x M factors, serves to help guide maize programs focused on achieving further improvements in N use efficiency.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=26519&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.10  Conventionally-bred plants or animals should be exempt from patents, say European Parliament

 

May 10, 2012

Strasbourg, France

 

Parliament wants to protect European breeders from excessive patent protection, which it believes could stifle innovation and progress. In a non-binding resolution adopted on Thursday, it says products such as anti-carcinogenic broccoli or high-yield dairy cows, produced by conventional breeding techniques, should not be patented.

 

MEPs recognise that patents are an important tool for the transfer of technology but stress that "excessively broad patent protection can hamper innovation and progress and become detrimental to small and medium breeders by blocking access to animal and plant genetic resources".

 

The non-legislative resolution was adopted.by 354 votes to 192, with 22 abstentions.

 

Exemptions for conventional breeding

Parliament calls on the European Patent Office to exclude products derived from conventional breeding and all conventional breeding methods from patenting. It also wants the Commission and the Member States to ensure that the EU continues to exempt breeders from its patent law on plant and animal breeding.

 

Concern for the impact on industry

MEPs remind the Commission of its duty to report annually “on the development and implications of patent law in the field of biotechnology and genetic engineering”, pointing out that it has not published any reports since 2005. They want the Commission's next report to examine the impact of the patenting of breeding methods on the breeding and food industry.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=26784&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.11  CIOPORA looks at effects of America Invents Act on plant breeders

 

May 24, 2012

Geneva, Switzerland

 

By Catherine Saez

 

CIOPORA, an international association of plant breeders, held its annual meeting recently with a focus on novelties in plant patents introduced by the America Invents Act, to become effective on 16 March 2013.

 

According to a press release [pdf] on the outcome of the meeting and an article by two patent experts in the CIOPORA Chronicle, three major areas of plant patenting are related: grace period, priority claim and novelties in procedures.

 

The one year “grace period”, which allows plant breeders to announce or commercialise their inventions within the year following the plant patent application, has been maintained in the America Invents Act. There had been some expectation that it might be removed.

 

Plant patent applicants must indicate the priority claim for the earlier plant breeders’ rights application issued by the respective governmental authority when applying for a US plant patent. Once the priority claim is confirmed, the effective date for the US plant patent will be considered to be the earlier plant breeder’s rights application, according to the release.

 

Third parties can submit information relevant to the patentability of new plant varieties or challenge the plant patent after it has been granted under the new act, CIOPORA said.

 

CIOPORA is the International Association of Breeders of Vegetatively Reproduced Ornamental and Fruit Varieties.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=27128&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: Intellectual Property Watch

 

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1.12  Seed diversity decline must urgently be stopped

 

May 24, 2012

Brussels

 

Civil Society urges EU law-makers to come up with an environment, farmer and consumer friendly review of the legislation on the marketing of Seed and Propagating Material (S&PM)

 

PDF French version: Il faut sans délai stopper le déclin de la biodiversité au sein des semences

PDF German version: Der Verlust der Saatgut-Vielfalt muss gestoppt werden

PDF English version: Seed diversity decline must urgently be stopped

 

Today, a broad coalition of over 240 civil society organisations and enterprises (1) from 40 countries from the EU, the EFTA, candidate countries and from 6 continents urged European leaders to reverse the disastrous decline in biodiversity in Europe.

 

In their Open Letter to the Members of the European Parliament and 7 European Commissioners the NGOs argue that the present review of the legislation on the marketing of Seed and Propagating Material (S & PM) (2) represents a unique opportunity to make the long overdue move towards a sustainable European seed policy that contributes to the protection and improvement of biodiversity and the environment, that takes into account consumers´ interest in diversity on the food market and in availability of healthy food also in the future, and that responds to needs of small scale farmers and gardeners for locally adapted seeds.

 

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates a loss of cultivated agricultural biodiversity of 75% since 1900, when the seed market emerged. EU seed legislation, established in the 1960s, contributed to this erosion process by banning all seeds from the market that are not compatible with a list of criteria, many of these criteria being shaped for seed production for large scale and industrial needs. In the meantime, during the last 30 years, the seed sector has gone through massive concentration processes, leading to nowadays not more than 10 multinational companies controlling 74% of the global seed market.

 

“In addition to making the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) more environmentally friendly, maintaining seeds diversity is essential to ensuring that agriculture systems are resilient to the threats they face” said Faustine Defossez, agriculture and bioenergy policy officer for the EEB. “European agriculture faces enormous challenges including soil depletion, loss of biodiversity, water quality and without serious investments these will not be resolved. A sound review of the legislation on Seed and Propagating Material is one essential tool to get there” she added.

 

Agricultural Biodiversity has been rightly identified as “the very stuff of food production and an essential resource for plant and animal breeding” by the IAASTD (2009) (3). For Antje Kölling from the IFOAM EU Group, the use of varieties bred under organic farming conditions as well as other locally adapted varieties with a wider genetic basis is essential to conserve and improve the capacity of food production systems to adapt successfully to changing environmental conditions, and thus to ensure future food security. Moreover, the availability of a broad range of varieties bears the potential to support the delivery of ecosystem services from farm land and to reduce the amount of inputs such as water, chemicals and pesticides. “To respond to the pressing challenges our food systems are facing, the EU seed legislation urgently needs a ‘Greening’ – which means we need to create spaces that facilitate the use and marketing of plant varieties with a broader intra-varietal genetic spectrum” she added.

 

Seed savers groups throughout Europe are concerned by the EU seed legislation. “European private gardens play an important role in providing fresh and healthy food to the citizens. But they are also an important refuge for an almost extinct diversity of vegetables and fruits”, says Christian Schrefel, president of Arche Noah, seed savers association in Central Europe. “The private freedom of exchanging seeds must not be sacrificed in the name of productivity and uniformity. Illegalizing these activities would lead to accelerated extinction of European seed diversity and drive us further towards seed industry dominance.”

 

“Seeds are much more than an economic commodity. They have an ethical value linking culture and food habits.” Piero Sardo, President of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, is concerned that the disappearance of local seeds has gone hand in hand with the disappearance of small farmers, local food cultures and traditional knowledge. “Increasing seed diversity also means stimulating healthy food diversity and the richness of taste,” Sardo says.

 

Guy Kastler from the European Coordination Via Campesina, organisation fighting for farmer’s rights, points out the essential contributions that farmers in Europe have made throughout centuries, make and will continue to make to the conservation and development of agricultural biodiversity: “The review of the S&PM legislation must recognize the rights of farmers in Europe to save, reuse, share, sell and protect their seeds.”

 

It is now time for policy makers to act and implement citizens and farmers needs for an overdue review that allows use of sustainable seeds and diversity in tastes and colours.

 

http://www.arc2020.eu/front/2012/05/seed-diversity-decline-must-urgently-be-stopped/

 

Contributed by Luigi Guarino

http://agro.biodiver.se/

 

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1.13  USDA links gene flow between weedy and domesticated rice to rising carbon dioxide levels

 

May 23, 2012

Beltsville, Maaryland, USA

 

New research at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) confirms that rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide facilitate the flow of genes from wild or weedy rice plants to domesticated rice varieties. As a result, domesticated plants could take on undesirable weedy characteristics that may interfere with future rice production.

 

This is the first study to demonstrate that the effects of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations include not only an influence on gene flow between closely related domesticated and wild plant genotypes, but that this gene flow is not the same in both directions. The investigation was conducted by researchers at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), which is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.

 

"We know that global climate change will require some farmers to revise production strategies in response to shifting weather patterns and crop demands," said ARS Administrator Edward B. Knipling. "These new findings will help plant breeders design and interpret studies on how changes in climate may affect crop response."

 

ARS plant physiologist Lew Ziska led the investigation. Collaborators included David Gealy, Martha Tomecek, Aaron Jackson, and Howard Black. Ziska and Tomecek work at the ARS Crop Systems and Global Change Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., and the other scientists work at the ARS Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center in Stuttgart, Ark.

 

Weedy wild rice, often called red rice, is the same species as domesticated rice and is very difficult to control in production settings. The team conducted a two-year combination growth chamber and field study to document how atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations affect growth in weedy and domesticated rice and to observe the exchange of genetic material between the two plant types.

 

Twenty-four-hour carbon dioxide concentrations in the chambers were set at 300, 400 and 600 parts per million (ppm). These concentrations approximated the atmospheric carbon dioxide values present during the end of the 19th century, the current value, and values projected for the end of the 21st century, respectively.

 

When grown in carbon dioxide concentrations of 400 ppm and 600 ppm, both types of rice put out more tillers and flowers and grew taller, compared to plants grown at carbon dioxide concentrations of 300 ppm. However, these changes in height, which scientists believe are an important factor in pollen sharing and therefore impact gene flow, were more pronounced in the wild rice.

 

The number of flowers produced by the wild rice grown in 600 ppm carbon dioxide was doubled compared to rice grown at 300 ppm, a significantly larger increase than the flowering increase in the domesticated rice. At the greatest concentration of carbon dioxide, wild rice also produced flowers an average of eight days earlier, a shift that apparently enhanced the likelihood of pollen transfer between the two rice types.

 

The researchers then conducted a genetic analysis of the hybrid seed offspring of the two rice varieties. The results of these tests indicated domesticated rice transferred only a small amount of genetic material to its weedy relative, even at the greatest concentration of carbon dioxide. But the weedy plants transferred a relatively greater amount of genetic material to their domesticated relatives, which differed from 0.22 percent at carbon dioxide concentrations of 300 ppm to 0.71 percent at carbon dioxide concentrations of 600 ppm.

 

The transfer of wild genetic material to the domesticated rice line resulted in the production of seed with significant weedy characteristics that would be undesirable in domesticated rice production.

 

Results from this study were published today in PloS One.

 

As USDA's chief scientific research agency, ARS is leading America towards a better future through agricultural research and information. ARS conducts research to develop and transfer solutions to help answer agricultural questions that impact Americans every day. ARS work helps to:

 

  • ensure high-quality, safe food and other agricultural products;
  • assess the nutritional needs of Americans;
  • sustain a competitive agricultural economy;
  • enhance the natural resource base and the environment, and
  • provide economic opportunities for rural citizens, communities and society as a whole.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=27122&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.14  Kansas State University scientists lead the effort that finds genes underlying the domestication of sorghum and other cereals

 

May 24, 2012

Manhattan, Kansas, USA

 

A study by a team of university and government scientists led by a Kansas State University researcher, indicates that genes responsible for seed shattering – the process by which grasses disseminate their seeds – were chosen in a similar, but independent manner during sorghum, rice and maize domestication.

 

“When early human groups were domesticating different wild grasses, they inadvertently or unintentionally selected the same sets of mutations that make more efficient crop production possible,” said Jianming Yu, associate professor of agronomy at K-State. “That was critical in the transition out of the hunter-gatherer phase of human history. You can call it just luck or the wisdom of ancient farmers, both of which are fascinating to know.”

 

Cereal crops, including sorghum, rice and maize, were domesticated from their early wild ancestors by humans thousands of years ago, because of their importance as a food source, Yu said. Although these crops were domesticated in different geographical regions, they all underwent parallel selection, which involves systemic and parallel changes during the domestication process.

 

The study, “Parallel domestication of the Shattering1 genes in cereals,” was published May 13 in the online version of the journal, Nature Genetics. In order to identify the molecular basis underlying seed shattering in sorghum, which is the world’s fifth major crop, the researchers conducted map-based cloning and diversity mapping in sorghum first, and then examined the identified gene in other cereals.

 

“Once we better understand seed shattering in sorghum, the better we will understand seed shattering and domestication in other cereal crops,” Yu said. “The discovery of the shared genetic mechanisms provides us an opportunity to better appreciate the wisdom of ancient human groups in turning wild grasses into cereals.

 

As the demands for food, feed and fiber increase, domesticating other grasses into crops would also benefit from the current research findings.”

 

The implications for sorghum alone are huge, because of sorghum’s emerging applications in bioenergy and stress management, as well as its long-time importance as a food and feed source, said Tesfaye Tesso, assistant professor of agronomy and sorghum breeder. A better understanding about the origins of sorghum, a very diverse species, helps in terms of preserving natural resources for breeding use, classifying germplasm, and facilitating the process of bringing useful genes from wild relatives to crops.

 

Kansas leads the nation in grain sorghum production, growing 51 percent of all grain sorghum grown in the United States in 2011, according to the Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association. The 2011 crop totaled 110.0 million bushels.

 

Seeds on wild grasses shed naturally when they mature, which ensures their natural propagation, Yu said. When humans began cultivating those crops, however, seed shattering would have caused inefficient harvesting and large losses in grain yield, because some of the seeds which were to be harvested, would have already disbursed naturally.

 

“Selection for non-shattering crop plants would have greatly facilitated harvesting and improved production,” said Zhongwei Lin, K-State research associate in agronomy and the first author of the publication. He noted that several other genes have been identified as being responsible for seed shattering in rice and wheat.

 

Prior to the most current study, however, no findings had been made on whether other cereals share the same molecular genetic basis for shattering, although such a hypothesis was proposed more than a decade ago. The highly similar genomes of these cereals and the critical role of non-shattering in their domestication make this speculation plausible.

 

The researchers’ discovery that seed shattering in sorghum is controlled by a single gene, Sh1, and their work in rice and maize suggest that the Sh1 genes for seed shattering have undergone parallel selection during domestication in multiple cereals.

 

“It is great to have this team of scientists with complementary expertise in different species to work on this project,” said Frank White, K-State professor of plant pathology. “Sorghum is important to Kansas and we appreciate the K-State Targeted Excellence Program for initiating and supporting the research.”

 

Other K-State researchers involved in the study were Xianran Li, research associate in agronomy, as well as Harold Trick, professor of plant pathology, and Jiarui Li, research assistant professor and Zhao Peng, Ph.D. candidate – both in plant pathology. The team also included researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Iowa State University, USDA-ARS, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Purdue University.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=27136&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.15  Experimental evidence for the ancestry of allotetraploid Trifolium repens and creation of synthetic forms with value for plant breeding

 

May 10, 2012

New Zealand

 

AgResearch scientists have made a breakthrough proving a long-held hypothesis that white clover originated as a hybrid of other clover ancestors, followed by a chance doubling of the chromosome number to restore fertility.

 

This opens the way for breeding and management that unlocks benefits for farmers and pastures. AgResearch is already actively using the new information in breeding programmes to produce improved clovers for New Zealand.

 

The findings have just been published in the journal BMC Plant Biology. This will share the work with researchers and scientists around the world. White clover (Trifolium repens) is widespread and has become the most important legume in grazed pastures worldwide.

 

Evidence from AgResearch studies using DNA sequence analyses, chromosome staining, interspecific hybridisation and breeding experiments supported the hypothesis that a diploid alpine species (T. pallescens) hybridised with a diploid coastal species (T. occidentale) to generate allotetraploid T. repens.

 

The coming together of these two narrowly adapted species (one alpine and the other maritime) thousands of years ago, led to the hybrid clovers we know today. It is suggested that during the Ice a=Age T. pallescens was forced to retreat to low altitude coastal refuges of Portugal and Spain and similar sites where species T. occidentale currently occurs. An inter-species hybridisation event between these two plants with very narrow but different adaptations produced the broadly adapted white clover that rapidly established throughout Europe following the retreat of the glacial advances.

 

“These findings immediately create new opportunities for clover improvement by extending the genetic resource base because it facilitates the development of 'synthetic white clovers' from the now defined ancestors,” said Dr Warren Williams who led the research.

 

“The benefits of this are important and exciting as this opens the way to select traits using breeding to increase traits that could benefit pasture persistence, animal nutrition and pest resistance,” said Dr Williams.

 

“Finding the missing link between white clover and the plants that hybridised to create it allows us to reincorporate ancestral genes and this has significant possibilities as the world looks to a growing population.”

 

The successful team comprised Warren Williams of AgResearch who is also a Professorial Fellow in Plant Breeding, College of Sciences, Massey University, and Nick Ellison, Helal Ansari, Isabelle Verry and Wajid Hussain all from AgResearch’s Grasslands Campus.

 

View the article: http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1471-2229-12-55.pdf

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=26765&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.16  Researchers look to relatives for clues in quest to develop sources of bioenergy

 

May 14, 2012

St. Louis, Missouri, USA

 

Arranging DNA fragments into a genome sequence that scientists can interpret is a challenge often compared to assembling a puzzle except you don’t have the box and have no idea what the picture is supposed to be. Sometimes clues from other publicly-available DNA sequences of related organisms can be used to guide the assembly process, but its usefulness depends on how closely related any two sequences are to one another. For example, a reference genome might be so distantly related from the one being assembled, it would be akin to comparing a Model-T to a contemporary hybrid car.

 

For researchers interested in switchgrass, a perennial grass that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is investigating as a prospective biofuels feedstock, assembling the plant genome poses an even more complicated puzzle than usual because it has multiple copies of its chromosomes. The genome of a close switchgrass relative, foxtail millet (Setaria italica), is described in the May 13, 2012 edition of Nature Biotechnology “Reference genome sequence of the model plant Setaria”

 

For Tom Brutnell, a co-author on the study and director of the Enterprise Institute for Renewable Fuels at the Donald Danforth Plant Center, the Setaria genome is the starting point for his own research interests. “Now that we have the genome sequence, we can kick start the development of genetic tools for Setaria.” His proposal under the DOE JGI’s 2012 Community Sequencing Program builds off the availability of two Setaria genomes, that of foxtail millet and its wild ancestor green foxtail (S. viridis), which is also described in the paper. “What we really want is an Arabidopsis for the Panicoid grasses,” he said, referring to the ubiquitous model plant used by many researchers. “Green foxtail is smaller than foxtail millet—we can get it to flower when it’s just six inches tall and you go from seed to seed in six to eight weeks.

 

In contrast, foxtail millet is a proper crop so it’s taller, has a longer generation time of four months and no one has really developed efficient transformation methods for it. Our project with the DOE JGI allows us to tap the Setaria genomes to fast track S. viridis as a model genetic system.”

 

One of the challenges in studying grasses for bioenergy applications is that they typically have long lifecycles and complex genomes. Jeremy Schmutz, head of the DOE JGI Plant Program at the HudsonAlpha Institute of Biotechnology, pointed out that foxtail millet (Setaria italica) has several advantages as a model. It’s a compact genome and large quantities of it can be grown in small spaces in just a few months.

 

“We’re not thinking of Setaria as a biofuel crop per se but as a very informative model since its genome is so structurally close to switchgrass,” said Jeff Bennetzen, a BESC researcher, the study’s co-first author and a professor at the University of Georgia. He originally proposed that the DOE JGI sequence the foxtail millet genome under the 2008 Community Sequencing Program. Schmutz said that roughly 80 percent of the foxtail millet genome has been assembled using the tried-and-true Sanger sequencing platform, along with more than 95 percent of the gene space—the functional regions of the genome. “The Setaria genome is a high quality reference genome,” he said. “If you want to conduct functional studies that require knowing all the genes and how they are localized relative to one another, then use this genome.”

 

One such area of study is adaptation. Since it is found all over the world, Setaria is considered a good model for learning how grasses can adapt and thrive under various environmental conditions. Additionally it appears to have independently evolved a pathway for photosynthesis that is separate from that used by maize and sorghum. “With the sequencing of the Setaria genome,” the team noted in their paper, “evolutionary geneticists now have an annual, temperate, C4, drought- and cold-tolerant grass that they can comprehensively compare to other plants that have or have not yet evolved these adaptions.” C4 plants are distinguished by their ability to conduct photosynthesis faster than C3 plants under high light intensity and high temperatures.

 

The DOE JGI Plant Program focuses on genomes that have been selected for their relevance to DOE missions in energy and environment, and leads the world in sequencing plants in this area. Aside from foxtail millet and switchgrass, other DOE Plant Flagship genomes sequenced include, among others, poplar and soybean. Several of these Flagship genomes are also part of the Gene Atlas project, currently in its pilot phase. Designed to be a reference by which researchers can look up the gene information gathered under several standard experimental conditions, the Gene Atlas is projected to offer researchers a method of interpreting their data by comparing them against “normal” results for these plants. New public releases of these Flagship genomes and of other plant projects occur periodically, and the sequence and analysis is made public at www.phytozome.net.

 

Photo: Nature Biotechnology “Reference genome sequence of the model plant Setaria”

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=26853&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.17  Genes underlying the key domestication process in sorghum and other cereals

 

May 14, 2012

Manhattan, Kansas, USA

 

A study by a team of university and government scientists led by a Kansas State University researcher, indicates that genes responsible for seed shattering – the process by which grasses disseminate their seeds – were under parallel selection during sorghum, rice and maize domestication.

 

The study, “Parallel domestication of the Shattering1 genes in cereals,” was published May 13 in the online version of the journal Nature Genetics.

 

In order to identify the molecular basis underlying seed shattering in sorghum, which is the world’s fifth major crop, the researchers conducted map-based cloning and diversity mapping in sorghum first, and then examined the identified gene in other cereals. Cereal crops, including sorghum, rice and maize were domesticated from their early wild progenitors by humans thousands of years ago, because of their importance as a food source, said Jianming Yu, associate professor of agronomy at Kansas State University. Although these crops were domesticated by human groups in different geographical regions, they all underwent systemic and parallel changes during the domestication process.

 

“Once we better understand seed shattering in sorghum, the better we will understand seed shattering and domestication in other cereal crops,” Yu said. “Moreover, as the demands for food, feed and fiber increase, domesticating other grasses into crops would also benefit from the current research findings.”

 

The implications for sorghum alone are huge, because of sorghum’s emerging applications in bioenergy and stress management, as well as its long-time importance as a food and feed source, he said. A better understanding about the origins of sorghum, a very diverse species, helps in terms of preserving natural resources for breeding use, classifying germplasm, and facilitating the process of bringing useful genes from wild relatives to crops.

 

Seeds on wild grasses shed naturally when they mature, which ensures their natural propagation, Yu said. When humans began cultivating those crops, however, seed shattering would have caused inefficient harvesting and large losses in grain yield, because some of the seeds which were to be harvested, would have already disbursed naturally.

 

“Selection for non-shattering crop plants would have greatly facilitated harvesting and improved production,” said Zhongwei Lin, research associate in agronomy at Kansas State University and the first author of the publication. He noted that several other genes have been identified as being responsible for seed shattering in rice and wheat. Prior to this current study, however, no systematic findings have been made on whether other cereals share the same molecular genetic basis for shattering, although such hypothesis was proposed more than a decade ago. The highly similar genomes of these cereals and the critical role of non-shattering in their domestication make this speculation plausible.

 

The researchers found that seed shattering in sorghum is controlled by a single gene, Sh1. That finding, paired with findings of conserved collinearity – genes and their orders are similar on corresponding chromosome segments from different species – of genomic regions containing the Sh1 orthologs (genes can be traced back to the same ancestral copy) across several cereals, the identification of the rice OsSh1 and the structural variation and quantitative trait locus analyses of the two maize orthologs (ZMSH1-1 and ZMSh1-5.1+ZmSh1-5.2) suggest that the Sh1 genes for seed shattering have undergone parallel selection during domestication in multiple cereals.

 

“It is great to have this team of scientists with complementary expertise in different species to work on this project,” said Frank White, professor of plant pathology at Kansas State University. To identify the molecular basis underlying seed shattering in sorghum, the team constructed a large population from a cross between a wild sorghum with complete seed shattering, Sorghum virgatum, and a non-shattering domesticated sorghum line, Tx430. Once the gene was pinpointed, they moved on to a diverse set of sorghum lines and landraces to examine how many different version of domesticate copy of Sh1 exist. Not surprising, they found three different ones, which corroborated the earlier inference of multiple origins of sorghum in different parts of the African continent from morphology characteristics.

 

The project was supported by U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture, National Science Foundation Plant Genome Research Program, Department of Energy Plant Feedstock Genomics Program, USDA-Agricultural Research Service and Kansas State University Targeted Excellence Program and Center for Sorghum Improvement.

 

Other Kansas State University researchers include Xianran Li, research associate in agronomy, and Tesfaye Tesso, assistant professor of agronomy, as well as Harold Trick, professor of plant pathology, and Jiarui Li, research assistant professor in plant pathology, and Zhao Peng, doctoral candidatein plant pathology. The team also included researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Iowa State University, USDA-ARS, University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Purdue University.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=26872&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.18  Implications of farmers’ seed exchanges for on-farm conservation of quinoa, as revealed by its genetic diversity in Chile

 

Quinoa cultivation in Chile presents an ancient and active complex of geographic, climatic, social and cultural interactions that has determined its current biodiversity in the three main growing zones (north, central and south). Importantly, these interactions involve the participation of farmers, whose activities are at the base of seed exchange networks due to their knowledge and in situ conservation of genetic diversity.

 

The present study reports how a better understanding of farmers’ seed exchanges and local production practices could impact the genetic structure and diversity of quinoa at national scale in Chile. Using field interviews and characterization of 20 microsatellite genetic markers in a multi-origin set of 34 quinoa accessions representative of Chile and the South American region, the phenetic analysis of germplasm was consistent with the current classification of quinoa ecotypes present in Chile and Andean zone.

 

This allowed the identification of five populations, which were represented by quinoa of Salares (northern Chile), Coastal/Lowlands (central and southern Chile), Highlands (Peru, Bolivia and Argentina) and Inter-Andean Valleys (Ecuador and Colombia). The highly informative quality of the markers used revealed a wide genetic diversity among main growing areas in Chile, which correlated well with natural geographical–edaphic–climatic and social–linguistic context to the expansion of quinoa biodiversity.

 

Additionally, in addition to ancient seed exchanges, this process is still governed by the diverse agricultural practices of Andean farmers. Genetic erosion is considered an imminent risk due to small-scale farming, where the influence of increased migration of people to urban systems and export-driven changes to the agro-ecosystems may further reduce the diversity of quinoa plants in cultivation.

 

The Journal of Agricultural Science

Press 2012 DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0021859612000056

 

Contributed by Francisco Fuentes

francfue@gmail.com

 

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1.19  Time is ticking for some crop's wild relatives -New edge of extinction research is creating a revival of conservation and interest in what these old plants mean to the future

 

May 30, 2012

USA

 

A botanist brings a species of alfalfa from Siberia, to the United States. His hope? The plant survives, and leads to a new winter-hardy alfalfa. But what also happened during this time in the late 1800's, isn't just a story of legend and lore. The truth of the matter is creating a current revival in both interest and conservation of what's now called a crop's "wild relative."And several researchers members of the American Society of Agronomy (ASA) and Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) say it couldn't come at a better time. The lack of attention has put crop wild relatives in a precarious position, says ASA and CSSA member Stephanie Greene. Green is a plant geneticist with the USDA-ARS in Prosser, WA and the U.S. National Plant Germplasm System, the country’s primary steward of seed and other crop genetic material.

 

Twenty percent of all wild plants are now threatened with extinction, according to recent estimates, and that’s before the potential impacts of climate change are factored in. Yet, “as the world moves forward with all these initiatives to conserve biodiversity,” Greene says, “it’s recognized that crop wild relatives have been left behind.”

 

Green is leading new efforts to tally crop wild relatives living in the United States, identifying which are most important to global and American agriculture, and developing a nationwide strategy for protecting the plants both in gene banks and in the wild. But conserving crop wild relatives is only the first step. The real goal is to get the diverse stock of genetic material, or germplasm, into the hands of plant breeders, especially those seeking to adapt crops to the increased drought, greater disease pressure, and erratic weather climate change is expected to bring.

 

But few are studying crop wild relatives more intensely or championing for protection more vigorously than Nigel Maxted, a scientist at the University of Birmingham in England. Maxted is pressing for conservation in many ways, most significantly by developing a step-by-step, standardized protocol countries can use to identify and protect the crop wild relatives within their borders. The first countries he worked with to execute a plan were Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan.

 

Most recently, he helped Portugal, Switzerland, the U.K., and several other European nations complete conservation strategies, and he’s now collaborating with several more. Two of his graduate students currently work in China and North Africa. And a former student is now assisting Greene with the U.S. strategy. Greene says, while threatened by climate change just like all wild species, these wild relatives are the same plants that could help us adapt our food systems to the new conditions. “That’s why it surprises me. Why aren’t these plants the poster children [for plant conservation]?” she says. “We know they have value.”

 

For more information, see "Crop Wild Relatives and Their Potential for Crop Improvement," as featured in the current edition of CSA News:

 

https://www.crops.org/files/publications/csa-news/crop-wild-relatives.pdf

 

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

 

View the abstract

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=27254&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.20  University of Nebraska-Lincoln researcher breeding dry beans to be more drought tolerant

 

May 18, 2012

Lincoln, Nebraska, USA

 

When University of Nebraska-Lincoln Dry Bean Breeding Specialist Carlos Urrea arrived at the UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center near Scottsbluff in 2005, western Nebraska was in the middle of its worst drought in decades. The drought and water allocations from natural resource districts limited the amount of water often available for production agriculture in the Panhandle.

 

This is why breeding new dry edible bean cultivars that are more tolerant to drought and heat is one of the main objectives of Urrea’s program.

 

Dry bean germplasm lines with drought tolerance, in addition to disease resistance, and seed quality, are being developed simultaneously in western Nebraska and Puerto Rico as part of a “shuttle breeding project.’’ Urrea is cooperating with the USDA Agricultural Research Service Tropical Agricultural Research Station (USDA-TARS) at Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.

 

New dry bean lines are being grown at Scottsbluff and at the University of Puerto Rico in Fortuna. The advantage of this arrangement, he explained, is that he and his colleagues can select for multiple traits in different locations: some traits at one of the sites, other traits at the other site. Then the lines from both sites can be combined.

 

Urrea selected Puerto Rico because of its warmer climate. He is working beside Dr. Tim Porch of USDA with a goal of developing beans that are adapted to both Puerto Rico and western Nebraska. Results so far have included the release of two black-bean germplasm lines with heat and drought tolerance in addition to resistance to multiple diseases (common bacterial blight, root rot, and bean common mosaic virus). Germplasm also has been released that can be used for different bean breeding programs in the United States. And Urrea said there will be more lines to come in different market classes: great northern, pintos, and small reds.

 

Perhaps some of those lines have the potential to be released to the public as cultivars. But before that is known, Urrea said, new lines would need to be tested on a larger scale, in growers’ fields.

 

In addition to heat and drought tolerance and resistance to several diseases, Urrea said these new lines also would need several other desirable traits: an upright plant architecture to facilitate direct combine harvest; high seed quality; and maturity traits that would fit growing conditions in western Nebraska.

 

Urrea visited the bean breeding site at Puerto Rico early in 2012 and is impressed with the lines selected this year.

 

Another goal of this project is to find and mark the genes responsible for drought tolerance. Urrea said he and his colleagues have developed a mapping population of dry beans between tropical and temperate lines that was tested last year and will be tested again this year at both locations. This project is in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture at Prosser, Wash., (Phil Miklas), USDA-TARS at Mayaguez, PR (Tim Porch) and North Dakota State University (Juan Osorno and Angela Linares).

 

Urrea recently attended an Association Mapping Workshop at North Dakota State University hosted by the BeanCAP. He was learning how to employ molecular markers (single-nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs in scientific terminology) generated by the BeanCAP to uncover genomic regions associated with drought tolerance. About 10,000 SNPs have been developed by the BeanCAP.

 

The sources for this mapping population included dry bean lines from the CIAT Center for Tropical Agriculture and from National Dry Bean Breeding Program in Mexico, Urrea said. He said the the source of drought tolerance that he is using for mapping was identified through testing on terminal drought (when irrigation is stopped at the flowering stage of plant development). Nature has cooperated in this effort; in each of the past several years. After the irrigation was stopped, precipitation also was scarce, with less than 1 inch of rain between blossom stage and harvest each year. Those conditions make life difficult for dry bean producers, but are favorable for Urrea’s research.

 

Using dry bean lines from the Center for Tropical Agiculture not only helps with the drought tolerance project, but also has other benefits to the breeding program, Urrea said. Every year, he introduces new lines coming from CIAT, some from specific crosses between different common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) species like tepary and scarlet runner beans. In doing so, he has been able to identify some lines that are well adapted to western Nebraska’s conditions and drought, and started intergressing those into his dry bean breeding program through hybridization.

 

The goal is to develop dry edible beans that will use water more efficiently, and perhaps use less water.

 

One potential benefit: if bean producers don’t need as much water to raise their bean crop, they might be able to use some of the available supply for other crops on their farms, Urrea said.

 

Urrea and other U.S. bean breeders also are looking at how drought affects the nutritional composition of dry beans. About 96 accessions from different centers of origin and domestication were screened in 2012 under drought and non-drought stress plots. This research is part of BeanCAP (Coordinated Agricultural Programs) efforts and includes several other states, including Michigan, North Dakota, Washington and Idaho.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=27015&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: CropWatch

 

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1.21  University of Wisconsin-Madison plant breeders develop heart-healthier oat

 

May 16, 2012

Madison, Wisconsin, USA

 

University of Wisconsin-Madison plant breeders have developed a new oat variety that's significantly higher in the compound that makes this grain so cardio-friendly.

 

"The biggest thing that stands out about this new variety, BetaGene, is that it's both a high yielding variety and high in beta glucan. Beta glucan is a heart-healthy chemical that is exclusive to oats," says John Mochon, program manager of the Small Grains Breeding Program in the UW-Madison agronomy department.

 

BetaGene is 2 percent higher in beta glucan on average than other oat varieties on the market. That may not sound much, but it's huge from a nutrition standpoint. A 2 percent bump translates to a 20-percent boost in beta glucan levels in products made from the oat.

 

Nutrition researchers liken beta glucan to a sponge that traps cholesterol-rich acids in the bloodstream. Consuming 3 grams daily of this soluble fiber-combined with a healthy diet-may lower the blood's level of LDL, the so-called bad cholesterol, lessening the risk of coronary heart disease, according to one report from the USDA's Agricultural Research Service.

 

UW breeders have increased acreage of the new variety this year in hopes of releasing it for the 2014 growing season.

 

Wisconsin is among the top oat-producing states. Growers here plant about 300,000 acres of oats each year-about half of that harvested as forage and fed to livestock, the rest harvested for grain-with yields averaging 60 to 70 bushels per acre. But better returns from other crops and other market forces have made oats less attractive to growers, Mochon says. Overall oat acreage in the United States has declined steadily over the years.

 

"That's why I'm trying to add value to oats. It's one of my goals to reverse that trend," he says. "Things like increased beta glucan, developing forage lines, developing lines that are rust resistant, and developing lines that have a high groat percentage are all part of this effort."

 

Mochon hopes that BetaGene will help improve demand for oats. The new variety has already generated some interest in the food industry. At least one large milling company paid a visit to Wisconsin to learn more about the experimental variety.

 

It has taken UW breeders 14 years to bring BetaGene to this point. They performed the original cross in 1998 and nurtured the oat in variety trials until they were confident that it was ready for growers. This is standard operating procedure for vetting experimental crop varieties. It takes 12 to 15 years to prove that they can yield well, fend off disease and have a track record for success before being considered for release, Mochon says.

 

In this case, there was also an international angle to be considered. Canada is a big oat producer and therefore an important potential market, so Mochon is working to ensure BetaGene also meets requirements for certified, licensed sale north of the border.

 

http://www.seedquest.com/news.php?type=news&id_article=26937&id_region=&id_category=&id_crop=

 

Source: SeedQuest.com

 

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1.22  Next-generation disease resistance breeding

 

Crop plants with DNA deletions are not GMOs

 

16 May 2012

 

by Sophien Kamoun and Eric Ward

 

Bacterial blight caused by Xanthomonas can result in up to 50% yield reduction in severe epidemics.

 

In 2007, Sebastian Schornack, then a freshly minted Ph.D. student from the laboratories of Thomas Lahaye and Ulla Bonas at the Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, was fastidiously carrying out follow-up experiments to his thesis work. For the past few years he had been studying how the bacterium Xanthomonas infects its plant hosts. Specifically, he was interested in a class of “effector” proteins, called transcription activator-like (TAL) effectors, that the bacterium delivers to the nuclei of host cells to alter plant gene expression.

 

Ever since their discovery in the late 1980s, the unusual structure of these effectors proteins has intrigued plant microbiologists. TAL effectors contain many near-perfect repeats 34 amino acids in length with two hypervariable residues, but the biological meaning of this peculiar modular structure was unknown. At the time Schornack was finishing his thesis, TAL effectors had just been discovered to bind specific DNA sequences in the genomes of their host plants, where they activated expression of host genes thought to favour colonization by the pathogen. While comparing the identity of the hypervariable amino acids in the repeats of particular TAL effectors with the corresponding DNA sequence of their binding sites, Schornack experienced a flash of insight, and noticed a defining pattern [Schornack].

 

Following discussions with Jens Boch and experimental work with their colleagues at Halle University, it became evident that, indeed, a “code” built into the TAL effector proteins determines their DNA binding specificity [Boch]. Not long after that, across the Atlantic, another Ph.D. student Matt Moscou, working with Adam Bogdanove at Iowa State University, independently reached a similar conclusion using clever computational analyses of TAL effector-induced expression changes in rice plants [Moscou].

 

Both teams immediately grasped the impact of their discoveries – synthetic TAL effectors could be custom designed to bind any target DNA sequence. Such a technological breakthrough would have far reaching implications in biotechnology.

 

Fast forward to 2012: the reach of TAL effectors has gone beyond the study of plant-microbe interactions. TAL effectors are now ubiquitously used in biotechnology and the emerging field of synthetic biology [Bogdanove]. Scientists have also shown that by hooking TAL effectors to nucleases, enzymes that nick DNA, they can target an exact site in a genome to produce variations. For instance, one study revealed that injection of mouse embryos with TAL-nucleases yields adult mice that vary at specific, predicted positions in their genomes [Tesson]. The possibilities are immense for using TAL technology to induce targeted variations in the genomes of mammals, flies, worms and plants. Laboratories worldwide are putting the technology to creative use with numerous exciting applications certain to emerge.

 

A game-changing application of TAL technology to crop breeding is described in a recent paper in Nature Biotechnology by Bing Yang and colleagues [Li]. In this landmark study, the authors used TAL-nucleases to remove a small stretch of DNA from the genome of rice that rendered it susceptible to bacterial blight, an important disease that affects millions of hectares throughout Asia.

 

This study ushers in a new era in crop breeding. Plant geneticists will now be able to use TAL-nucleases to introduce precise, favorable modifications in any region of the genome.

 

Remarkably, because Li and colleagues have bred out the TAL sequences, the resulting rice varieties lack any foreign DN