[This webpage contains all of the 78 messages posted during the FAO Biotechnology Forum e-mail conference on biotechnology and water scarcity that took place from 5 March to 1 April 2007, as well as the Opening and Closing messages from the Moderator.
For further information on the Biotechnology Forum see the Forum website. For further information on agricultural biotechnology, see the FAO biotechnology website.
Note, participants are assumed to be speaking on their own behalf, unless they state otherwise.]

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 02 March 2007 13:53
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: Opening of FAO e-mail conference on water scarcity and biotechnology

Dear Colleagues,

Welcome to the FAO e-mail conference entitled "Coping with water scarcity in developing countries: What role for agricultural biotechnologies?".

You can send messages now (send them to biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org). Messages will be posted from Monday 5 March onwards while the last day for receiving messages for posting will be Sunday 1 April 2007.

We hope that the conference will be interesting, constructive and beneficial and we encourage you to participate actively. We would like to briefly remind you of some of the main points about the running of the conference:

i) Participants should introduce themselves briefly in their first posting to the conference. They should also provide their full address at the end of the message. When a message is posted, we will replace @ in the e-mail address with (at) because of spamming.

ii) Messages should not exceed 600 words

iii) People posting messages are assumed to be speaking on their own behalf and not on behalf of their employers (unless they indicate otherwise)

iv) The Background Document to the conference, sent by e-mail to the Forum members on 5 February, sets the scene for the conference and so we strongly encourage you to read it, especially Section 6 (reproduced below) which lists the kinds of specific questions that participants should address in the e-mail conference. The document is available at http://www.fao.org/biotech/C14doc.htm. Contact me if you want to receive it within an e-mail or as a WORD attachment.

v) Messages posted in the conference will later (usually within a day or two) be placed on the Forum website - at http://www.fao.org/biotech/logs/c14logs.htm

vi) No messages will be posted with attachments. If you receive a message during the conference with an e-mail attachment, just delete it without opening the attachment.

vii) The conference covers the crop, forestry, livestock and fishery sectors and brings together people who may have knowledge/experience from one or more but not all of these sectors. As terminology is occasionally sector-specific, we ask participants to try and give a brief explanation of any sector-specific terms when they are first used.

viii) As for all other conferences hosted by this Forum, when it is finished a document will be prepared to provide a summary of the main arguments and issues discussed during the e-mail conference, based on the messages posted by the participants. The summary document will be put on the Forum website and disseminated as widely as possible.

For those of you who joined the FAO Biotechnology Forum recently, we can tell you that this is the 14th e-mail conference that it has hosted since it began in 2000. All publications, background and summary documents, e-mail messages etc. related to these conferences are available at the Forum website - http://www.fao.org/biotech/forum.asp

Finally, we encourage you to tell any potentially interested colleagues or contacts about this conference. A short notice is included below for this purpose.

With our sincere best wishes for a successful conference,

John

John Ruane, PhD
Moderator, Conference 14
e-mail: mailto:biotech-mod2@fao.org
FAO Biotechnology Forum website http://www.fao.org/biotech/forum.asp
FAO Biotechnology website http://www.fao.org/biotech/index.asp

*****************
FAO e-mail conference: Water scarcity and agricultural biotechnologies

The FAO Biotechnology Forum is hosting an e-mail conference entitled "Coping with water scarcity in developing countries: What role for agricultural biotechnologies?". Organised in collaboration with colleagues in FAO's water programme (http://www.fao.org/ag/agl/aglw/), it is one of the many activities planned to coincide with the World Water Day, which is celebrated each year on 22 March. This year its theme is "Coping with water scarcity" and FAO is the coordinating agency within the UN system for the theme. The primary focus of the conference will be on the use of biotechnology to increase the efficiency of water use in agriculture, while a secondary focus will be on two specific water-related applications of micro-organisms, in wastewater treatment and in inoculation of crops and forest trees with mycorrhizal fungi. To discuss and exchange experiences on this subject, we invite you to join the conference. The background document for the conference is available at http://www.fao.org/biotech/C14doc.htm. The conference is open to everyone, is free and will be moderated. It begins on 5 March and finishes on 1 April 2007. All e-mail messages posted during the conference will also be placed on the Forum website (http://www.fao.org/biotech/forum.asp). To join the Forum (and also register for the conference), send an e-mail to mailserv@mailserv.fao.org leaving the subject blank and entering the following text on two lines:
subscribe BIOTECH-L
subscribe biotech-room2

Those who are already Forum members should leave out the first line of the above message, to register for the conference. For more information, contact biotech-mod2@fao.org

********************
[FROM THE BACKGROUND DOCUMENT]
6. Some Issues and Questions Relevant to the Debate

As with each conference hosted by this FAO Biotechnology Forum, the focus is on application of agricultural biotechnology in developing countries. In this debate on the role of biotechnology for helping developing countries to cope with water scarcity, some of the specific questions that participants might wish to address in the e-mail conference are given below:

- A number of major strategies have been briefly described for coping with water scarcity (Section 3). Compared to them, how important is improving the efficiency of water use in crops through biotechnology in developing countries?

- Which biotechnology tools have greatest potential for improving the efficiency of water use in crops in developing countries?

- How important are biotechnology tools compared to conventional breeding for improving the efficiency of water use in crops in developing countries

- Research on water use in crops has focused on a few species of major economic importance while so-called orphan crops, of local or regional importance for nutrition and income in poor regions, have been neglected, despite their importance for food security. How can this situation be changed?

- Water use efficiency has different implications in irrigated and non-irrigated (dryland) agriculture. What can biotechnology offer developing countries in each of the two domains in terms of increasing productivity under water scarcity and improving the efficiency of use of the applied irrigation water?

- For the livestock sector, what role should biotechnology tools play in increasing the efficiency of water use in developing countries?

- For the forestry sector, what role should biotechnology tools play in increasing the efficiency of water use in developing countries?

- For aquaculture, what role should biotechnology tools play in increasing the efficiency of water use in developing countries?

- What role and relevance do biotechnologies currently have in wastewater treatment in developing countries? And in the future?

- Is the rapidly-accumulating molecular information on micro-organisms involved in wastewater treatment processes likely to result in the better design and operation of wastewater plants in developing countries?

- What role do biotechnologies have for the removal of heavy metals, such as arsenic, from irrigation water in developing countries?

- How important is application of mycorrhizal fungi as a biofertiliser in helping developing countries to cope with water scarcity?

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 05 March 2007 17:44
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 1: A number of selected issues

[Welcome everybody to this FAO e-mail conference on "Coping with water scarcity in developing countries: What role for agricultural biotechnologies?". The four weeks available for this conference will go very fast, so we encourage you to participate actively right from the beginning to get the maximum benefit from it. Participants are also reminded to briefly introduce themselves in their first message to the conference and to try to limit their messages to 600 words...Moderator].

This is from Prof. S.K.T. Nasar, Visiting Professor (Genetics), Department of Environmental Science, University of Burdwan and Former Director of Research, Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya, West Bengal, India.

I would like to address a number of selected issues:

1. I would add what I call "embedded water", i.e. the "real water" that essentially moves with the traded commodities, to the issue of "Virtual water and food trade" [in Section 3c) of the Background Document...Moderator]. Cut flowers or succulent fruits carry 40-75% while grains carry 4-8% of embedded water. This embedded water, different from molecular water, is present in cell vacuoles, intercellular spaces, xylem vessels, or as moisture of dead tissues. The amount of embedded water is considerable, depending upon the traded commodity. More importantly, this water is the vehicle for the transport of unwanted contaminants from the site of origin to the destination point thereby exposing the commodity to Sanitary and Phytosanitary and other like measures. Trade is all about procuring commodities, production systems, raw materials or value added products, in full or part, at a cheaper rate from a spot of abundance and selling these in demand-rich and availability-poor locations. An example of part trade is country ‘x’ exporting tissue-cultured flower plantlets to country ‘y’ where the production system is cheaper. Country ‘y’ hardens the plantlets and grows these for 3-6 months to produce saplings, or for longer periods to produce flowers. Products are then dispatched on behalf of country ‘x’ to the destination country ‘z’ or to other countries. This production outsourcing is not new to either global or local trade in agri-horticulture. Partitioning of national and international agri-horticultural trade into virtual water, virtual labour, virtual climate, or virtual partial factor productivity is not effectively useful. I argue that items vulnerable to non-tariff trade barriers such as Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, Convention on Biological Diversity, Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) or other international instruments call for immediate concern. I further argue that trade in the "embedded water" is, in the present context, more significant than that in "virtual water". [References here are to the 1995 WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/sps_e/sps_e.htm) and the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (www.biodiv.org/) ...Moderator].

2. Biotechnology is divided into two broad categories: the "first generation non-rDNA" biotechnology and the "second generation rDNA" biotechnology. The non-rDNA (i.e. non recombinant DNA) biotechnology is largely in the public domain and is, therefore, accessible to all. On the other hand, the rDNA biotechnology is basically and mostly in the IPR domain and, thereby, allows constricted accessibility to the poor end-users in the developing and underdeveloped countries. I hold a firm view that rDNA biotechnologies are the greatest gifts of the twentieth century to the humankind, but alas for the monopolistic restrictions on use by poor economies. I suggest a combination of both first and second-generation biotechnologies with emphasis on the former for research and development (R and D) and end use by developing and undeveloped economies.

3. Enhancement of water use efficiency – the famous "more crop per drop" rhetoric – is certainly possible at the stages of crop husbandry and at post harvest processing and value addition. Providing uncontaminated irrigation water is essential. The state of West Bengal, India is a case of diverse agro-ecologies. The Himalayan hill zone is short of enough irrigation water despite the presence of perpetual streams. The foothills are acidic and large chunks of land are prone to flash flooding or are waterlogged. The Laterite zone is perpetually dry while the Indian Sundarbans show flooded land for over six months. The most fertile alluvial zones show good productivity but remain flood- or drought-prone. Location-specific biotechnologies are needed here. This situation is representative of conditions in most underdeveloped countries. And, here lies the catch for application of appropriate and location specific biotechnologies; who will do it without profits?

4. The results of our farmer-participatory experiments over several years have shown that the use of microbial fertilisers in combination with organic compost, in place of chemical NPK fertilisers, reduced the amount of irrigation water, lowered the quantum of diseases and pests yet improved crop productivity and quality. Water holding capacity of the soil improved. Interestingly, the seed-to-harvest time was shortened by up to fifteen days for some crops. The lessons learned are: biofertiliser-cum-organic manuring cuts the amount of irrigation water and cuts seed-to-harvest time thereby decreasing the number of irrigations, depending upon the crop, cropping system and agro-ecology. [NPK fertilisers contain nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) as the main nutrients...Moderator].

5. We used conventionally selected and improved free living azobacteria, rhizobia and phosphate-solubilising bacteria in our experiments. This is an example of non-rDNA biotechnology. In the case of rhizobium-pulse combinations, we are considering to set up Rural Biotechnology Centres where local youth trained in good laboratories and provided with specific rhizobium-pulse combinations will regrow under protected conditions. Supply of fresh rhizobium cells will be obtained by crushing root nodules for use as inoculants. Several laboratories are already maintaining live Azolla-Anabaena combinations at village centres. Similar efforts with other non-rDNA microbes and rDNA microbes will pay dividends in poorer economies. [Rhizobia are bacteria that create symbiotic associations with legumes, infecting their roots and providing the plants with nitrogen (see e.g. http://www.fao.org/AG/aGL/agll/soilbiod/highligh.stm#micro). Azolla, an aquatic fern, forms a symbiotic relationship with Anabaena azollae, a nitrogen-fixing cyanobacterium...Moderator].

6. The widespread arsenic, mainly As III, contamination of groundwater-irrigation water-soil-crop-animal-human continuum is a global concern. We find that soil (soil biota?) acts as an effective sink and absorbs arsenic thereby reducing its entry into the food web. A number of species of weedy flowering plants, crop varieties, bacteria and cyanobacteria have been identified that absorb high amount of the contaminant. These are used for bioremediation. More research is needed to work out remediation options. There is, however, an indication that similar strategies can be adopted on the basis of different contaminants and locations. [More information regarding arsenic can be found e.g. in the WHO 2001 factsheet on "Arsenic in drinking water", which notes that "inorganic arsenic can occur in the environment in several forms but in natural waters, and thus in drinking-water, it is mostly found as trivalent arsenite (As(III)) or pentavalent arsenate (As (V)). Organic arsenic species, abundant in seafood, are very much less harmful to health, and are readily eliminated by the body" (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs210/en/index.html) and the 2006 FAO report on "Arsenic contamination of irrigation water, soil and crops in Bangladesh: Risk implications for sustainable agriculture and food safety in Asia" by Alex Heikens (at ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/009/ag105e/ag105e00.pdf or request a copy from Zhijun.Chen@fao.org)...Moderator].

7. Horizontal Gene Transfer (HGT), now established as a fact, can be utilised to create more efficient microbes. The most efficient agriculturally important microbes can be collected from soils with high levels of contaminations or with low levels of N, P or K and tested in laboratories. Selected colonies may then be inoculated into the soil of desired croplands with non-rDNA microbes. The efficiency of microbial community will improve and, under certain conditions, novel genomes will most likely emerge. This strategy will imitate rDNA biotechnology and yet remain in the public domain.

8. Mycorrhizal association of phycomycetous-glomaceous fungus and roots of terrestrial plants is universal but non-specific. Mycorrhizal fungus always grows in association with actinomycetous fungi. The relevance of this fungus-fungus association is not understood. Scientists claiming to increase water availability by infusing selected mycorrhizal fungal strains into the rhizosphere have not been able to trace its growth in cropped soils. Our group’s study on the cytology of mycorrhizal fungi of lychee and sweet potato did not lead us far. At present, rDNA biotechnology of mycorrhizal fungal association needs more ground work. [The rhizosphere is the soil region in the immediate vicinity of growing plant roots...Moderator].

Prof. S.K.T. Nasar,
Visiting Professor (Genetics),
Department of Environmental Science,
University of Burdwan
India
sktnasar (at) hotmail.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 07 March 2007 10:44
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 2: Marker-assisted selection for yield under water stress

I am Dr. N. Manikanda Boopathi, Faculty at Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, India. I have research projects on "Improving the productivity of rice and cotton under water limited environments" through molecular marker-assisted selection (MAS). A team of researchers at this University is involved in development of mapping population in rice and cotton for genetic dissection of yield under water stress. We hope this conference may open up new kind of resource for development of crop cultivars suitable for dry environments.

Regarding Message 1 by S.K.T. Nasar, I would like to share my views on issue number 2:

I strongly believe that MAS for genetic improvement of crop plants offers an alternate strategy to increase the productivity under fragile environments. This is because:

1. Yield under abiotic stress conditions is complex and it is determined by several traits which are lowly heritable in nature and in turn they are regulated by large number of gene families.
2. It is believed that almost all the genes that are involved in a particular pathway reside in one location which facilitates their easy identification by flanking marker through quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping approach.
3. Introgression of one or more of these segments may have impact on increasing the yield under stress.

However, in my personal view, taking MAS as routine breeding program has the following bottlenecks:

a. What is the appropriate mapping population type and size that is suitable for QTL mapping?
b. How many markers and what type of markers are required for QTL analysis?
c. How to detect environment X QTL interactions? And what to infer from these results?
d. How to select the best segments which would be used in MAS?

I request the people involved in this conference to provide a detailed protocol for QTL mapping and MAS which will be more beneficial to the scientists working in developing countries.

Dr. N. Manikanda Boopathi
Assistant Professor (Bio-Tech)
Department of Plant Molecular Biology and Biotechnology
Centre for Plant Molecular Biology
Tamil Nadu Agricultural University
Coimbatore 641 003
Tamil Nadu, India
Mobile phone: +91 98425 09611
biotechboopathi (at) yahoo.com

[The subject of MAS, where molecular markers (such as microsatellites) in close proximity to genes of interest are used to enhance genetic gain, was the subject of a previous e-mail conference in this Forum, entitled "Molecular marker assisted selection as a potential tool for genetic improvement of crops, forest trees, livestock and fish in developing countries", which took place at the end of 2003. During the conference, the main issues discussed were whether MAS should be a priority in developing countries; costs of MAS; putting MAS in context; MAS in relation to conventional breeding programmes; technical details of MAS use; which traits for MAS?; practical applications of MAS; intellectual property rights issues; differences in capacity between developing countries; role of the CGIAR and international organizations; and public-private sector linkages. All the information from the conference, including papers from a workshop on the same subject held beforehand in Turin, Italy, is available at http://www.fao.org/biotech/conf10.htm Contact me if you would like to receive the background and/or summary document from this conference by e-mail...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 07 March 2007 12:50
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 3: Focus on dryland crops

I am Dr P S Janaki Krishna from India. I am working as a Subject Expert (Biotechnology) at the Biotechnology Unit of Institute of Public Enterprise, Hyderabad. Firstly, I would like to thank the FAO for organizing this e-mail conference coinciding with the World Water Day. It fits well into the theme "Coping with Water Scarcity'. I also thank the FAO for providing an exhaustive Background Document giving details on status of availability of water.

Most of us are aware that all the Member States of the United Nations have pledged to meet the eight Millennium Development Goals by the year 2015. This pledge reiterates the fact that we cannot pass over the role of agriculture in meeting the primary goal of alleviating poverty and hunger, as agriculture forms the backbone of economies in most of the developing countries. Particularly dryland agriculture, practiced on 84% of total area cultivated in the world and providing about 67% of the world's total food output and inhabitated by majority of resource-poor farmers and subject to many biotic and abiotic factors, plays an important role. Furthermore, the technologies that brought the 'green revolution' have had little impact on these areas. The challenge, therefore, is to develop technologies that bring sustainability in these drylands.

Amongst the various technologies, 'biotechnology' proves to be a powerful toolbox that can be applied to develop better products and production processes for industrial and agricultural applications. We have been observing that while tackling the moisture stress in crops there is a lot of work progressing in research areas like marker-assisted selection, converting C3 plants into C4 plants, isolating novel genes that are stress responsive and transferring genes that are responsible for abiotic stress tolerance into other crops etc. However, all these techniques are being utilized extensively in improving water use efficiency in irrigated or commercial crops and major breakthroughs are yet to be noted since tackling water stress in crops is a complex and integrated problem connected with various other factors including climate change. Though there are institutes working on rainfed agriculture, globally the thrust on rainfed agriculture is not in relation to its share in agriculture probably because these areas are not as remunerative as the irrigated areas. Hence if we wish to cope with water scarcity in developing countries by using agricultural biotechnological tools, major attention should be given to dryland agriculture. In my opinion this is a priority area for allocating judicious resources and bringing in policy changes.

Dr (Mrs) P S Janaki Krishna,
Subject Expert (Biotechnology)
Biotechnology Unit,
Institute of Public Enterprise
Osmania University Campus
Hyderabad - 500 007,
India
jankrisp (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 07 March 2007 13:58
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 4: Focus on dryland agriculture

I am Dr Luciana Di Ciero from Brazil. I am working as a scientific researcher and I coordinate a forest biosafety project (we are working with eucalyptus) at the Science Forest Department of the Agriculture College at Sao Paulo University (public university). There are several biotechnology projects being developed at my university with eucalyptus, sugarcane, passiflora, citrus, cotton, tomato, etc. The main goals of those projects are insect and disease resistance and abiotic factors resistance (mainly dry resistance). I would like congratulate the FAO for organizing this conference about a theme so important to dryland farmers.

Particularly dryland agriculture in Bazil is practiced in the northeast of my country and the majority of the farmers are small and poor ones. Our public research institutes and universities have the duty to develop technology to reach these farmers and solve the hunger problem in dry areas, always looking for sustainability. In my opinion, first and second generation of biotechnology is a powerful toolbox that can help to develop better plant varieties and microbial products to address drylands.

Luciana Di Ciero
Laboratorio de Recursos Geneticos e Biotecnologia Florestal
Departamento de Ciencias Florestais
ESALQ/USP
Fone: (19) 34368681
Fax: (19) 34368601
Av. Padua Dias, 11
Caixa Postal 09 - CEP 13418-900
Piracicaba, S.P.
Brazil
Visite o meu BLOG: http://www.biotechbrasil.bio.br
e-mail: ldiciero (at) esalq.usp.br

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 07 March 2007 14:31
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 5: Re: Focus on dryland crops

This is from K.V. Peter, Professor of Horticulture at the Kerala Agricultural University, India.

Regarding Message 3, I fully concur with Janaki Krishna, along with following additions:

1. Dryland farming encompasses agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry, poultry and to a certain extent agroforestry.

2. Water management aiming optimisation of water use efficiency is key to higher productivity. Drought tolerant varieties, breeds and farming system approaches are available.

3. Biotechnological tools are to be used to develop varieties/breeds tolerant to drought/less water requiring systems.

4. Protected cultivation can contribute significantly towards higher productivity in dryland areas.

5. Drip irrigation and organic mulching can save water.

6. Grassroot level indigenous knowledge on dryland management should be collected, scientifically validated and extended to farmers by appropriate extension methods.

7. All adversities can be tailored to advantages, by endeavours like biotechnology.

Prof KV Peter Ph D
Professor of Horticulture
Kerala Agricultural University
KAU -PO, Vellanikkara,
Thrissur, Kerala State
India - 680656
kvptr (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 08 March 2007 10:33
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 6: Re: Focus on dryland crops

I am Norbert Tchouaffe, agricultural engineer, technology and sustainable specialist, in activity to the Cameroonian Ministry of Environment and Nature Protection. First, I would like to thank the organizers for this initiative.

Supporting the viewpoint of K.V Peter (Message 5, March 7), I would like to add some information related to his point N° 5 (on "Drip irrigation and organic mulching can save water"). Due to the scarcity of water, we have to look for abiotic solutions to reduce the wastage of water in irrigation. By using organic matter we can also reduce soil evaporation. For this reason, in the Northern part of Cameroon we are now promoting biodynamic farming which is a traditional method of farming involving both the use of indigenous and modern knowledge, aiming at reducing wastage and evapotranspiration, preserving the environment and protecting human health by eliminating the usage of toxic chemicals. We are all aware that vegetation has strong effect on evapotranspiration, so by using organic mulching we can reduce wastage. In addition, organic mulching also functions as a buffer against strong changes in the soil pH.

Norbert Tchouaffé
Agricultural engineer
Technology and sustainable development specialist
Plant stress member
Ministry of Environment and Nature Protection (MINEP)
Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MINADER)
Cameroonian association of rural development (ACADER)
Box. 876 Yaounde,
Cameroon
Phone:(237)563-09-22
ntchoua (at) yahoo.fr

[Mulching refers to the practice of applying a covering layer of material (which can be organic, such as leaves or weeds, or inorganic, such as stones) to the soil surface...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 08 March 2007 10:34
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 7: Spraying alcohol on crops

Please forgive my lack of expertise. My degree is in accounting not science but we do economic development projects worldwide so we know a little about water issues.

Some time ago I read of a technology being used in SW USA involving alcohol being sprayed on growing crops to cause the stoma on the leaves to close, thereby reducing water loss. I thought this was a significant demonstration but have heard nothing of it in years. Did it prove to be effective or not?

Cornelius A. Van Milligen
Kentucky Enrichment Inc
United States
www.kentuckyenrichment.com
cavm (at) aol.com

[Please send any responses to this specific message directly to Cornelius Van Milligen...Moderator]

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 08 March 2007 12:52
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 8: Ectomycorrhiza

This is from Friderike Oehler. Before starting to work on biosafety issues at FAO, I did research on the spatial distribution of ectomycorrhizal hyphae in soils with a special focus on the coarse soil fraction. Through an intensive study of literature, I found that ectomycorrhizae are often involved in acquiring water and nutrients from microenvironments in the soil that are unaccessible to plant roots because of physical (e.g. aeration) or chemical (acidity) restrictions, thus contributing to the growth of symbiotic plants not only by an increase of the adsorbing surface but also in efficiency of nutrient and water uptake. Even though the movement of water through ectomycorrhizae is difficult to quantify, mycorrhizal fungi might thus contribute substantially to cover the water needs of dry land plants.

However, own experiences showed me that the inoculation of plants with desired ectomycorrhizal strains is difficult and resource-intensive. So I would be very interested to know whether there are experiences with regard to the last question raised in the conference background paper, i.e. "How important is application of mycorrhizal fungi as a biofertiliser in helping developing countries to cope with water scarcity?,... Is it at all feasible? Are there further studies in this regard?

Many thanks to the organisers and contributors of this conference.

Friderike Oehler
Plant Protection Service (AGPP), B605b
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
00153 Rome
Italy
Phone +39 06 570 55545
Web Sites: http://www.ipfsaph.org http://www.fao.org
e-mail: Friderike.Oehler (at) fao.org

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 08 March 2007 14:11
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 9: Biotechnologies and heavy metals in irrigation water

My name is Edo Lin and I am an independent consultant seed and biotechnology.

One of the points raised in the background document is about the role of biotechnologies in wastewater treatment. This point is related to another point regarding the removal of heavy metals in irrigation water. The presence of heavy metals in irrigation water and the potential impact on food safety is well documented (see for instance http://www.sussex.ac.uk/spru/1-4-7-1-11.html for a study in Zambia and India). The problem is particularly acute in urban and peri-urban farming where (untreated) wastewater is, often the only source for irrigation. [The website referenced here provides output from a research project funded by the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) entitled "Contaminated irrigation water and food safety for the urban and peri-urban poor: appropriate measures for monitoring and control from field research in India and Zambia"...Moderator].

On the one hand biotechnology is being used in the development of biosensors for the detection of heavy metals, herbicides and other matter of interest. For instance in Europe, a research consortium is developing biosensors for effective environmental protection (BEEP) based on biosensors from photosynthetic organisms (Photosystem II complex). The research has already led to the development of low-cost equipment which can be used for large-scale screening of specific herbicides and heavy metals (for more information see www.beep.mlib.cnr.it).

Biotechnology is also used for the treatment of wastewater and the removal of heavy metals. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem has developed biofilters using the Azolla fern. The Azolla fern is a free floating aquatic fern well known for its capacity to absorb heavy metals. In the biofilters only the dry matter derived from Azolla ferns is used. Other organisms such as Cyanobacteria (for instance Aulosira fertilissima) are know to be able to absorb heavy metals and several research groups are working on the development of immobilized cyanobacteria in biofilters. Humic acid derived from coal is another material that can be used in wastewater treatment and is highly effective in the removal of heavy metals. Humasorb is a commercial product used in several developing countries (South Korea, Egypt, Turkey). Of special interest to developing countries is the research in the potential use of readily available materials (for instance coconut fiber, rice husks etc).

Edo Lin
309, rue de Bombon
77720 Breau
France
lin.edo (at) free.fr

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 08 March 2007 16:00
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 10: Re: Ectomycorrhiza

In message 8, Friderike Oehler asks if there are studies on the use of mycorrhiza biofertiliser.

A good place to start is the information available on the website of the Centre for Mycorrizhal Research of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), India. The website contains many reports and descriptions of completed and ongoing research projects relevant to this conference (http://static.teriin.org/division/bmbdiv/cmr/cmr.htm).

The European Commission website contains an article (2004) on developing biofertilisers for Chinese farmers. Although the aim of the project was to address phosphate deficiency, it describes how arbuscular mycorrizhal fungi (AMF) were isolated, evaluated and (commercially) produced (http://ec.europa.eu/research/infocentre/export/success/article_722_en.html). [Published in 2004 as a 'success story' article, it summarises the results from a European and Chinese collaborative project set up in 2000, entitled "Mycorrhiza technology for staple food crop production in small-scale sustainable agriculture in China"...Moderator].

Edo Lin
309 rue de Bombon
77720 Breau
France
lin.edo (at) free.fr

[Friderike's question was "However, own experiences showed me that the inoculation of plants with desired ectomycorrhizal strains is difficult and resource-intensive. So I would be very interested to know whether there are experiences with regard to the last question raised in the conference background paper, i.e. "How important is application of mycorrhizal fungi as a biofertiliser in helping developing countries to cope with water scarcity?... Is it at all feasible? Are there further studies in this regard?...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 08 March 2007 16:49
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 11: Re: Focus on dryland crops

[Thanks to Dr. Sangaré from Burkina Faso for the message below on organic mulching, where we provide a rough English translation of the original French message (also included). We would, however, kindly ask participants in the conference to focus their messages more on the role of agricultural biotechnologies and more on the kinds of questions listed in Section 6 of the background document.....Moderator]

This is from M. Sangaré, PhD, researcher at the Centre International de Recherche-Développement sur l’Elevage en zone Subhumide (CIRDES), Burkina Faso.

I don't know if it is suitable to refer to it during this conference on the role of biotechnology in agriculture, but as some of the participants have said before, mulching is a fairly well-known local technique which has been validated and improved by agronomists and which has been proven in the increase of agriculture production in the arid and semi-arid zones. It can increase returns from the use of water available for rainfed agriculture by its impact on the physical properties of the soil (increased infiltration, reduced evaporation, improved pH etc.), reducing the water stress on young shoots around germination etc. Besides, through decomposition, the mulch from the previous seasons provides nutritive elements that are useful for boosting the young plants.

However, generalisation of this technique in most areas where water is the limiting factor for agriculture can meet a scale contraint which is the poor availability of biomass, rarely exceeding 200 kg of dry mass per hectare some months after harvest, be it in rainfed fields or irrigated perimeters or even pastural areas, due to the multiple uses of straw. It is partially or fully removed from the field and used for cooking, animal feed, housing (human, animal) etc.

What could, however, be advocated is the production of synthetic fibres from the dreadful quantities of used plastic (which pollute our cities), provided that it would be highly biodegradable material (in one season).

M. Sangaré
Spécialiste PR / ECCs
N° 559, Rue5-31 X Avenue du Gnr Louveau
CIRDES 01 BP 454 Bobo Dioulasso 01 -
Burkina Faso
Tél.: +226 20 97 20 53/20 97 26 38
Cell.: +226 76 62 68 09
Fax: +226 20 97 23 20
E-mail: mamadousangare (at) hotmail.com ou
sangare_mamadou2003 (at) yahoo.fr

Je ne sais pas s'il convient d'en faire référence dans ce forum dédié au rôle de la biotechnologie en agriculture, mais comme l'ont dit certains de mes prédécesseurs, le mulching est un savoir local assez connu qui a été validé et amélioré par les agronomes et qui a fait ses preuves dans l'augmentation de la productivité agricole dans les zones arides et semi arides. Elle peut augmenter le rendement d'utilisation de l'eau disponible en agriculture pluviale par son effet sur les propriétés physiques du sol (augmentation de l'infiltration, réduction de l'évaporation, amélioration du pH, etc), en reduisant le stress hydrique chez les jeunes pousses autour de la germination, etc. En outre, en se décomposant les mulch des saisons précédentes apportent des éléments nutritifs utiles au démarrage des jeunes plants.

Cependant, la généralisation de cette technique dans la plupart des zones où l'eau est facteur limitant de la production agricole, peut rencontrer une contrainte de taille qui est la faible disponibilité de la phytomasse, dépassant rarement 200 kg MS/ha quelques mois après la recolte, aussi bien dans les champs en agriculture pluviale que dans dans les périmètres irrigués et même dans les aires de pâture, à cause des multiples usages de la paille. Elle est partiellement ou totalement exportée du champ et utilisée pour la cuisson, l'alimentation animale, la confection d'abris (homme et animaux), etc. Ce qui peut par contre être préconisé, est la production de fibres synthétiques à partir des quantités épouvantables de plastiques usagés (qui poluent toutes nos villes), à condition que ce soit un matériau hautement biodégradable (en une saison). am also interested in getting information on mass multiplication of mycorrhiza and their mode of transport and storage at the end users (dry land farmers) - how best we can simplify the protocol so that farmers can practise it. I am also interested to have collaboration with scientists who have already started mass multiplication of ectomycorrhiza or any other microbes that enhance the water stress resistance of crop plants. If it requires, I am also eager to visit the fields that have taken up these kinds of experiments.

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 09 March 2007 14:47
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 12: Drought impacts from climate change

I greet members of this FAO conference from the tiny island of Pohnpei in the Pacific Ocean (Latitude 6 84 N.; Longitude 158 30 E). Pohnpei is one of the wettest places on earth. Our recently installed rain gauge network indicates that the high interior of the island may receive over 300 inches of rain annually. (Water and Environmental Research Institute of the Western Pacific (WERI), University of Guam). [1 inch = 2.52 cm...Moderator].

Yet, some of our outlying atolls closer to the equator are already beginning to feel the effects of climate change, including drought and sea level overtopping causing salinization of the soil. I think we cannot seriously discuss water resources and biotechnology without bringing global warming squarely into the discussion.

Some biotechnology researchers are seriously attempting to work on genetic engineering of abiotic stress tolerance. Recent experiments by Japanese scientists cloning our Pohnpeian native mangroves show promise for isolating genes that may be utilized for transgenic salinity-tolerance that can be transferred into crop plants. I am aware of some work in China, as well.

Small developing island states like Micronesia do not have the scientific and technical capacity to do the research needed in-country, so global technology transfer on preferential terms and bilateral or private sector/government partnerships will be crucial to help our people remain in our islands and cope with agricultural losses from climate change drought and soil salinization.

L. Heidi Primo
National Project Coordinator
Federated States of Micronesia
UNEP/ GEF National Biosafety Framework Enabling Activities Project
biosafety (at) mail.fm

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 09 March 2007 14:53
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 13: Re: Ectomycorrhiza

This is with regard to Message 8 by Friderike Oehler:

I am also interested in getting information on mass multiplication of mycorrhiza and their mode of transport and storage at the end users (dry land farmers) - how best we can simplify the protocol so that farmers can practise it. I am also interested to have collaboration with scientists who have already started mass multiplication of ectomycorrhiza or any other microbes that enhance the water stress resistance of crop plants. If it requires, I am also eager to visit the fields that have taken up these kinds of experiments.

Dr. N. Manikanda Boopathi
Assistant Professor (Bio-Tech)
Department of Plant Molecular Biology and Biotechnology
Centre for Plant Molecular Biology
Tamil Nadu Agricultural University
Coimbatore 641 003
Tamil Nadu,
India
Mobile phone: +91 98425 09611
biotechboopathi (at) yahoo.com

[If anyone is interested in this collaboration with N. Manikanda Boopathi, please contact him directly...Moderator]

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 09 March 2007 15:56
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 14: Re: Marker-assisted selection for yield under water stress

I am PK Gupta from Meerut University, India. I would like to initiate a discussion on the use of transgenics and marker-assisted selection (MAS) for water use efficiency, drought tolerance or transpiration efficiency. In this connection, the background document gives the example of the 'erecta' gene for transpiration efficiency discovered and isolated in Arabodopsis. Its homologues are also claimed to be known in cereals. Has this gene been tapped for use in cereals and other crops and if so, to what extent using either the transgenic approach or MAS?.

Regarding Message 2 (March 7) by N. Manikanda Boopathi, I advise him to keep in mind the epistatic interactions (E-QTLs), QTL x environment (QE) interactions, and QTL x QTL x environment (QQE) interactions during QTL analysis. QTLMapper and QTLNetwork softwares developed in China allow this analysis. The size of mapping population should not be less than 200 recombinant inbred lines or doubled haploid lines for this analysis and the mapping populations need to be grown at several locations and phenotypic data should be recorded at all these locations and then used for single locus composite interval mapping (for main-effect quantitative trait loci (QTLs)) and two locus analysis (epistatic interactions). Dr Boopathi may get in touch with us for more details. If possible, more than one mapping population should be developed and used to fully dissect the genetics of drought tolerance.

Regarding mycrorrhiza, a lot of research has been undertaken and is also currently in progress on the use of mycrorrhiza, but I would like to know if there are examples of large-scale commercial use of this technology by the farmers in the field. How far is the technology that can be used on the field by the farmers in an economically feasible way.

P.K. Gupta
Honorary Emeritus Professor and INSA Senior Scientist
Molecular Biology Laboratory
Department of Genetics and Plant Breeding
Ch. Charan Singh University
MEERUT-250 004
India
Tel (Lab): 91-121-2768195
(Resi): 91-121-2762505
TeleFax : 91-121-2768195
e-mail : pkgupta36 (at) yahoo.com

[The example of the erects gene was discussed in Section 5a) in the Background Document (http://www.fao.org/biotech/C14doc.htm). Contact me if you wish to receive the background document by e-mail or as a WORD or PDF file. Epistasis refers to the interaction between alleles at different loci...Moderator].

----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 09 March 2007 16:04
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 15: Mycorrhizal fungi and seawater

A question related to mycorrizhal research.

The surface water of the world is less than 0.019% of the global water resources, the ground water represents 4% while the ocean represents 96%. So, desalination of the sea water at a low cost can be an appropriate solution to cope with water scarcity. I would like to know if the mycorrhizal technology as a biofertiliser has been tested with sea water?

Norbert Tchouaffé
Agricultural engineer
Technology and sustainable development specialist
Plant stress member
Ministry of Environment and Nature Protection (MINEP)
Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MINADER)
Cameroonian association of rural development (ACADER)
Box. 876 Yaounde,
Cameroon
Phone:(237)563-09-22
ntchoua (at) yahoo.fr

[Some background on desalination of saline waters is provided in Section 3a) of the background document (e.g. noting "At the global level, the volume of desalinated water produced annually, estimated at 7.5 km3, is currently quite low, representing about 0.2% of the water withdrawn for human use (FAO, 2006b)".
Secondly, Ritter (2006, http://www.physicalgeography.net/fundamentals/8b.html) estimates that almost all of the world's water (97.25%, 1370 million km3) is in the oceans, followed by glaciers and icecaps (29 million km3), groundwater (9.5 million km3), lakes (125,000 km3), soil (65,000 km3), the atmosphere (13,000 km3), in streams and rivers (1,700 km3) and within living organisms (600 km3). Note, exact figures for the breakdown of global water can vary depending on the source used: As Shiklomanov (2000, water international 25, 11-32) notes, "Reliable assessment of water storage on the earth is a complicated problem because water is very dynamic. It is in permanent motion, converting between liquid, solid, and gaseous phases"...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 09 March 2007 17:59
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 16: Rhizobium strains

I have the honour to join this email conference. Let me first introduce myself. My name is Mamadou Gueye. I am a soil microbiologist working at the Institut Senegalais de Recherches Agricoles (ISRA), Senegal, in the field of biological nitrogen fixation. I am in charge of the Microbological Resources Centre (MIRCEN) since 1983.

Coming to the conference, my first message is, of course, focused on Rhizobium strains.

In general, the nodulation and the nodule functions are sensitive to severe water stress as it was reported for many legumes such as Medicago sativa, Glycine max, Vicia faba. Water stress may also have little or no effect on the nitrogen fixation process in some tropical legumes such as Desmodium.

Many research activities support the view that nodulation and nitrogen fixation activity in nodules were depressed under drought conditions. However no effect of water stress has been observed in plants inoculated with selected rhizobial strains.

Indeed, nodulation and nitrogen fixation under water stress conditions depends not only on the plant species, but also on the rhizobial strains: they could be reduced following drought whereas they could be maintained at high level when suitable strains are used as inoculants. Such strains are available in most microbiological resources centres (MIRCEN) devoted to rhizobial culture collections, in Brazil, Kenya and Senegal.

Thus, agricultural biotechnology should be focused to selection of rhizobial strains with a view to maximize the process of biological nitrogen fixation for sustaining agriculture in arid and semi-arid zones, the sub saharian zone mainly.

Dr Mamadou Gueye
ISRA-MIRCEN
Laboratoire Commun de Microbiologie (LCM) IRD-ISRA-UCAD
BP 1386, DAKAR,
Senegal
Tel : (221) 8493321
Fax : (221) 8321675
Cell : (221) 6467762
Email : Mamadou.gueye (at) ird.sn

[As written in an easy-to-read Spotlight article (http://www.fao.org/ag/magazine/0011sp1.htm) on 'the life in soil', rhizobia bacteria "infect plant roots and create nodules where atmospheric nitrogen is fixed, satisfying most of the plant's nitrogen needs"...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 09 March 2007 18:00
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 17: Water problems in Indian agriculture

I am Dr Dilip Kumar Paul, basically an agricultural engineer from India's most prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur and have wide research and developmental experience. I would like to introduce myself as a person involved in the science of research and development of water and its management for the last 40 years. Presently, I am Principal Scientist (Integrated Water Management) at NRM division of Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR).

First, I would like to thank the organizers for this initiative on FAO e-mail conference on "Coping with water scarcity in developing countries: What role for agricultural biotechnologies?". I would like to introduce the participants to some of the endemic problem facing our agriculture for over a period of 30 to 35 years since the period of Green Revolution which mostly propagated high yielding monoculture (exotic) crop, high fertilisers and irrigation changing the focus from traditional organic (with proper rainwater management) farming that was in vogue in India since time immemorial. With large population whose birth and death rate was matching each other earlier, the population explosion since the 1960s placed a big problem to our leaders and we embarked upon meeting their burgeoning demand through accelerated agricultural development without really tackling the problem of population control and education/health to all.

The analysis of land utilization patterns in India for the period from 1950-51 to 2000-01 reveals that the gross cropped area increased significantly from 131.9 million hectares (Mha) in the year 1950-51 to 189.7 Mha in the year 2000-01 with net sown area increased only from 118.8 Mha to 141.1 Mha. Significantly, the gross area under irrigation increased from 22.6 Mha to 76.3. As per the Indian national statistics, the net irrigated area mostly from ground water is 57.2 Mha only. The rest is rainfed area with endemic problem of water scarcity and poverty and malnutrition associated with declining livelihood and human development index in the present context of globalisation and market economy. This has resulted in acute regional disparities in social and economic development in vast areas of the country mostly in natural resource rich central and eastern region.

The World Bank report on India’s water economy (author; John Briscoe), blames decrying monopoly in water supply. He says India faces a turbulent water future. The current water development and management system isn’t sustainable. The key issues of the management stage – participation, incentives, water entitlements, transparency, entry of the private sector, competition, accountability, financing and environmental quality need dramatic changes. User charges are low, staffing levels are very high, most public funds are now spent feeding the administrative machinery, not maintaining infrastructure or providing services. [This 2005 draft report on "India’s Water Economy: Bracing for a Turbulent Future" is available from http://go.worldbank.org/JERBPC3AQ0 ...Moderator].

In India the biggest problem today lies with groundwater; In the past two decades, 84% of the addition to net irrigated area has come from groundwater and 80% of the domestic water supply now comes from groundwater. In some states, the groundwater situation is already a mess. In Tamil Nadu, for instance, 37% of aquifers are over-exploited, and another 37% are in a critical or semi-critical state. In Rajasthan, 60% of the state is using groundwater. All this is set to become a serious problem by as early as 2050, when demand is expected to exceed all available sources of supply. The only solution is effective demand management to match supply. Focus will have to swing back to surface water supply systems demarcating clearly water entitlements, de-monopolising public irrigation departments, and developing transparent water information systems, apart from building public infrastructure.

India has very high average rainfall (880mm) and large arable lands with a huge population practising agriculture. Even then water scarcity is a fact with declining water quality associated with land degradation (107 Mha). As such the sustainable productivity in India was low with traditional crops and varieties. Presently low yield per unit area across almost all crops has become a regular feature of Indian agriculture. The declining yields in most crops has led the government to estimate the annual agricultural growth rate at 2.7% this year (2006-07) with only 20% share of agriculture in Gross Domestic Product but employing about 70% of the country's population, mostly in highly populated rainfed areas. Bolstering the falling productivity in agriculture holds the key to the sector’s growth but there is no short term solution at hand (Economic Survey, 2007). This failing agriculture comes with some serious structural problems in the government food management policy as well.

India can boast of a highly technical and extensive agricultural research system with accomplished scientists and managers. But, somehow or other, the gains of research and development are not percolating down to the people in general unlike other fast-growing consumer goods sector.

There is ample scope for improving land use pattern, water use efficiencies in rainfed and irrigation cropping system and diversification to farming and adaptation to market directed agriculture. ICAR and university research services have developed many improved varieties of cereals and pulses, millets, fruits and vegetables with improved technology packages including rainwater management technologies over the years for different agro climatic zones. Some of the technologies, as tried in somewhat integrated manner on a sustained manner over the years under model watershed development projects, have brought out substantial productivity improvement and better livelihood and employment generation options. I personally feel that there is enormous scope for improvements in productivity especially under the non biotechnology related interventions in rainfed areas of India.

Dr D K Paul,
Principal Scientist (IWM),
ICAR,
India.
dkpaul (at) icar.org.in

[Many thanks to D.K. Paul for this overview of the situation regarding water use for agriculture in India, which also considers at the end of the message the potential impact that technologies and biotechnologies can have. In any responses to the message, we ask that participants keep their focus on the role/impact of agricultural biotechnologies, which is the theme of this conference...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 10 March 2007 17:32
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 18: Re: Marker-assisted selection for yield under water stress

I am P. Sathish Kumar, Consultant at International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), India working on marker-assisted selection for terminal drought tolerance in pearl millet. A team of physiologists here at ICRISAT dissected the drought tolerance in pearl millet and found that terminal drought tolerance will be the major factor for yield determination under drought prone rainfed conditions of semi-arid tropics. So the lesson learnt before initiating MAS programme will be to target the trait of interest, look for compatible marker system, evaluating them across environments. With this in mind, the consistent quantitative trait loci (QTLs) across mapping populations, in a particular niche are considered for the MAS programme.

I am interested to answer to Message 2 by N. Manikanda Boopathi:

1. Regarding the size of mapping population, I agree with Message 14 by PK Gupta and the type of mapping populations varied with mode of pollination of individual crops.

2. To look upon the marker systems, it depends on the type of mapping population of individual crops.

3. With relation to QTL x environment interaction, look for consistent QTLs across mapping locations and populations. In sum, look for consistent QTLs across target regions.

4. Best segments used in MAS will be QTLs associated with highly heritable characters and should be validated either through bulk segregant analysis (BSA) or through development of doubled haploids.

One caution, before using any software one should look for their methodology/validation of results across different mapping populations and crops.

I have a common query: How to substantiate with a single gene (like 'DREB' gene for drought tolerance, 'erecta' for water-use efficiency, Crt for beta-carotene and so on) for the whole pathway of genes involved in quantitative traits?

P. Sathish Kumar
Consultant
MS-Swaminathan Applied Genomics Laboratory,
ICRISAT, Andhra Pradesh-502 324,
India.
Office: +91-40-30713313
Res: +91-9866694107
Fax: +91-40-30713071; 30713072
Email: s.kumar (at) cgiar.org

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 10 March 2007 17:34
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 19: Re: Rhizobium strains

To Mamadou Gueye, it is nice to interact with you in this conference to share our knowledge regarding Rhizobium strains. First of all, I am to introduce myself to you. I am now a retired Professor from the School of Environmental Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India. I was one the 9 founding Faculty members since 1975 to 2004. I was involved with control and management of environmental pollution (air, water and soil), recycling and utilisation of the wastes on land and management of the agricultural and industrial wastes formed a challenging task in my studies. Earlier, I was involved as a Technical Head of the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) Project on "Microbial Decomposition of Agricultural Wastes on different Lands of Eastern India" in the Microbiology Dept of Bose Institute, Calcutta during 1973 to 1975. Most exciting work was use of dual innoculum on the Pea plants grown on Rajasthan (Desert) soils mixed with different proportion of Tailings (wastes from copper mine of Khettri). The dual innoculation consisted of (1) Rhizobium leguminosorum and treatment of Arbuscular Glomus mosse proved the utility of the wastes as well as improved the soil fertility status (availabilty of ntrogen, phosphorus, trace elements), apart from stabilising the ecosystem in the disturbed area of the mining place in desert area. I congratulate you on your excellent work. I shall be happy to share our past experiences in this subcontinent.

Dr. A.K. Bhattacharyya, Professor (Retired)
School Of Environmental Sciences
Jawaharlal Nehru University
New Delhi - 110067
India
(Address for Correspondence)
Pocket 40/5
Chittaranjan Park
P.O. New Delhi -110019
India
Tel No. 91-11-26293550
Mobile : 91-9871655840
asimjnu (at) yahoo.co.in

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 12 March 2007 14:13
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 20: Use of wastewater for countering water scarcity in agriculture

I am Anju Arora working as a scientist (microbiology) at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, N.Delhi, India. We are mainly interested in application of microorganisms in agriculture such as biofertilisers, for biocontrol, for value added products and also bioremediation. I am working on bioremediation of wastewaters using azolla and algae for removal of metals and also nutrients nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) so that wastewaters can be safely reused in agricuture.

I appreciate the initiative of FAO in organising such a conference. It will spread lots of information and knowledge among scientific and agriculture workers. Addressing the issue of water scarcity in agriculture is the most important, as in coming decades availability of water will determine crop productivity. To meet the water problem it will become imperative to recycle wastewater and it will also solve disposal problem.

I agree with Message 9 (by Edo Lin) that many aquatic plants like azolla and algae are very useful in remediation of metal contaminated wastewaters. Moreover, azolla can be important in wetland technologies for polishing of wastewaters. Its potential to remove toxic metals is established. Polishing or tertiary treatment of wastewaters is the same as removal of heavy metals/nutrients like N and P and even organic pollutant and for removal of pathogens. This can be done in specially designed constructed wetlands. Many other aquatic plants have been studied for application in wetland systems and technologies. Lots of work is being done on bioremediation of wastewaters in such constructed wetlands at the Centre of Environment research in Leipzig, Germany and also in Israel.

Anju Arora
Sr. Scientist
Centre For blue green algae
Indian Agriculture Research Institute
New Delhi
India
anjudev (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 12 March 2007 14:15
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 21: Re: Ectomycorrhiza

This is Dr K.V. Peter. I am former Vice-Chancellor and Director Research, Kerala Agricultural University. Established a world class biotechnology facility at Indian Institute of Spices Research (IISR), while working as Director IISR during 1991-1999. At present, I am co-ordinator of DBT Projects on Spices. Currently Professor of Horticulture. Recently co-edited 'Recent trends in biotechnology of horticultural crops', published by New India Publishing Agency, New Delhi. An edited book Tissue culture and gene transfer for crop improvement is getting published by Orient Longman, Hyderabad.

Vesicular arbiscular mycorrhiza (VAM) is used in spices like black pepper, ginger, vanilla and cardamom as a phospherous solubilising fungi. The fungi promote root development and protect the root system from infection by Phytophthora. Please see the website of the Indian Institute of Spices Research, Calicut - www.iisr.org

Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) is yet another group used in plantation crops like cashew for better establishment, growth and yield of nuts. Please see the website of the National Research Centre of Cashew, Puthoor - www.nrccashew.org. Considerale work has been done at the Department of Microbiology, College of Agriculture, Kerala Agricultural University, P O Vellayani, Trivandrum - www.kau.edu

Prof KV Peter, Ph D
Professor of Horticulture
Kerala Agricultural University
KAU -PO, Vellanikkara,
Thrissur, Kerala State
India - 680656

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 12 March 2007 14:16
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 22: Use of wastewater

This is from Rose Omari, Ghana. I wish to commend FAO for this educative and informative programme.

I would like to comment on the use of wastewater. The use of wastewater (untreated) in Ghana to water vegetables is on the increase and this raises a number of food safety and public health concerns. There therefore is an urgent need to consider putting structures in place to treat wastewater used for irrigation purposes. However a major problem of concern is the microbiological safety of such treated wastewater. It has been repeatedly proven scientifically that wastewater which has been given tertiary treatment could contain pathogens like E. coli O157:H7, especially if the wastewater includes effluent from hospitals. Much as we want to make maximum use of wastewater, we must not lose sight of the fact that it could compromise food safety if not done properly. Our scientists must conduct thorough research on the biology of treated wastewater and the appropriate biotechnology tools that could eliminate these pathogens.

I agree with you as stated in the Background Document that with increasing population and industrialization, demand for water and subsequent waste generation will be higher. However, it has been reported that some biotechnology tools have made it possible for water usage and waste generation by industries to be reduced. For instance, Pasfrost (Netherlands) has developed a biological treatment system for water in its vegetable processing facility that has reduced water use by 50%. Also, Cereol (Germany) has implemented an enzyme-based system for degumming of vegetable oil during purification after extraction, and has reduced water use by 92% and waste sludge by 88%.

We in the developing countries must take advantage of these technologies to deal with problems of water scarcity. Our scientists must be supported to build their capacity and conduct research using various biotechnology tools so that we are not left behind.

Rose Omari (Mrs.)
Food Scientist/Research Scientist
Science and Technology Policy Research Institute,
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research
Ghana.
rosab28 (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 12 March 2007 14:17
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 23: Re: Marker-assisted selection for yield under water stress

This is from P. Sathish Kumar, ICRISAT, India, again, providing additional information on my previous message 18.

Firstly, to elaborate on my query at the end of my message (i.e. "How to substantiate with a single gene (like 'DREB' gene for drought tolerance, 'erecta' for water-use efficiency, Crt for beta-carotene and so on) for the whole pathway of genes involved in quantitative traits?"), quantitative traits like drought tolerance or water use efficiency are controlled by many different pathways of genes. My query is related to the transformants developed with a single gene. How a single gene will have a major impact in controlling entire process of water-use efficiency or drought tolerance? This is my question. My concern again is with how e.g. the 'erecta' gene will have control over the entire physiological process of water use efficiency or the pathway of genes involved?

Secondly, responding to a request to expand on what I wrote about terminal dought tolerance: Terminal drought tolerance in pearl millet is the most damaging stage in drought prone semi-arid conditions. Post flowering drought stress is one of the most common and serious environmental constraints in these regions (van Oosterom et al., 1996). This type of terminal drought tolerance is simulated in drought nursery by stopping the irrigation after 50% flowering like late-onset drought stress and early-onset drought stress conditions. The details of the drought stress patterns are explained in Yadav et al. (2004). For terminal drought tolerance, the genomic regions contributing to drought tolerance were identified in different mapping populations (Yadav et al., 2002 and 2004).

P. Sathish Kumar
Consultant
MS-Swaminathan Applied Genomics Laboratory,
International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT),
Andhra Pradesh-502 324,
India.
Office: +91-40-30713313
Res: +91-9866694107
Fax: +91-40-30713071; 30713072
Email: s.kumar (at) cgiar.org

References:

van Oosterom, E.J., F.R. Bidinger, V. Mahalakshmi and K.P. Rao. 1996. Effect of water availability patterns on yield of pearl millet in semi-arid tropical environments. Euphytica 89: 165-173.

Yadav, R.S., C.T. Hash, F.R. Bidinger, G.P. Cavan, and C.J. Howarth. 2002. Quantitative trait loci associated with traits determining grain and stover yield in pearl millet under terminal drought-stress conditions. Theor. Appl. Genet. 104: 67-83.

Yadav, R.S., C.T. Hash, F.R. Bidinger, K.M. Devos, and C.J. Howarth. 2004. Genomic regions associated with grain yield and aspects of post flowering drought tolerance in pearl millet across stress environments and tester background. Euphytica 136: 265-277.

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 12 March 2007 16:25
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 24: Re: Use of wastewater

Responding to Rose Omari (Message 22): As was stated by Anju Arora (Message 20) there are numerous options with phytoremediation of wastewater. Specially crafted algae and other species can extract nutrients from the polluted water thereby not only cleaning it significantly but also providing us with a useful crop.

We are examining oil extraction from algae, as well as using algae as a livestock feed and a biomass fuel. We already do a lactic acid fermentation process on a wide variety of byproducts, from fish processing waste and shrimp shells to livestock mortalities and vegetable waste. The results are an excellent soil amendment, probiotic for plants and, in some cases, a livestock feed and water supplement.

We use Moringa tree powder as a GRAS ("generally recognised as safe") polymer and coagulant in polluted water. We also have a small gasifier which generates substantial heat from gasifying waste products from wood, grass, manure and others, and can produce 2,000 gallons of distilled water daily from almost any source. For larger applications we have a biomass combustion/gasifier unit capable of producing 200,000 gallons of distilled water from almost any dirty source while generating 10mW of electrical power. This unit can also use manures, wood, sawdust, rice hulls and other materials as fuel.

I want to emphasis the ability of algae and other plants to clean the water and provide fuel, feed and fertilizer as a result.

If your work is able to select or craft an algae or other to produce significant amounts of oil while cleaning the water, even in a CO2 enriched environment if necessary, you will have done the world a service. I am not familiar with the biotech applications necessary to make this happen but I am sure that others in this group are.

Cornelius A. Van Milligen
Kentucky Enrichment Inc
United States
www.kentuckyenrichment.com
e-mail: cavm (at) aol.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 13 March 2007 10:09
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 25: Software for QTL analysis - Drought tolerance

I am PK Gupta from Meerut University, Meerut, India. I am involved in molecular breeding research in crop plants, particularly cereals. In view of this, I posted a message earlier (nr. 14) giving advice on quantitative trait locus (QTL) analysis and mentioning software for conducting QTL analysis that permits detection of epistatic digenic interactions, and QTL x environment (QE) interactions.

Dr Boopathi, to whom I responded in my last message, has requested that I also give some details about these softwares mentioned in my previous message. In our QTL studies, here at Meerut, we have been using the following softwares: (i) QTL Cartographer (developed at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, United States) for single locus composite interval mapping; and (ii) QTLMapper (developed initially) and QTLNetwork 2.0 (developed later) both developed at Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China.

This activity in our laboratory led to a series of publications in journals like Plant Science, Theor. Appl Genetics., Functional & Integr Genomics, Euphytica, Molecular Breeding, etc. All the above softwares are freely downloadable and can be used freely for non-commercial purposes. QTLMapper and QTLNetwork are both designed for study of epistatic interactions and QTL x Environment (QE or QQE) interactions. QTLNetwork 2.0 (which was developed later) is more user-friendly than QTLMapper (developed initially) and is being used by our students currently. Several laboratories abroad (including those in China, USA and Germany) are also using these softwares successfully.

Besides the above softwares, there are many other softwares available for QTL analysis involving detection of epistatic and QE interactions, but most of them first detect QTLs having main effects and then examine interactions among these main-effect QTLs. QTLNetwork 2.0 (also QTLMapper), on the other hand, allows detection of even those epistatic QTLs, which have no main effect, and therefore will never be detected in single locus analysis that is done using a variety of other softwares.

Drought tolerance is a trait which should be complex and therefore should involve epistatic and QE interactions, hence this message is to all concerned with quantitative genetics of drought tolerance.

P.K. Gupta
Honorary Emeritus Professor and INSA Senior Scientist
Molecular Biology Laboratory
Department of Genetics and Plant Breeding
Ch. Charan Singh University
MEERUT-250 004
India
Tel (Lab): 91-121-2768195
(Resi): 91-121-2762505
TeleFax : 91-121-2768195
e-mail : pkgupta36 (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 13 March 2007 12:44
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 26: CAM plants are water savers

This is from Dr. A.K.K. Achakzai, Pakistan. I am involved in teaching plant physiology for the last 2 decades. I have also some experience of preliminary research on water stress.

I have gone through the messages posted so far. Each one was highly informative. I am fully agreed especially with message 6 (by Norbert Tchouaffe) along with the following additions regarding scarcity of water (not about polluted water). We can cope with the said problem by reducing the rate of evapotranspiration (evaporation + transpiration) than absorption. As we know that water from our land is being lost either by evaporation or by transpiration from the aerial part of green plants:
(1) To minimize the evaporation, we have to apply organic mulch to our cropland immediately after sowing/first irrigation, which is not only helpful for the existing crop but also maintains the fertility status of the soil for next season crops. This is also the cheapest one for poor farmers.
(2) We should minimize the rate of transpiration, by introducing those crops which belongs to the CAM (Crassulacean Acid Metabolism) category. Their mechanism of photosynthesis is quite different from those of C3 and C4 plants. Plants that show dark acidification and light deacidification are styled CAM plants. Many plants belonging to families Cactaceae, Aizoaceae and some others, are xerophytic succulents and occur in dry habitats. In these plants, the stomata (transpiratory organ) generally remain closed during the day and transpiration is minimized. Gas exchange occurs mostly during the night (nocturnal stomatal moment) when stomata open, and carbon dioxide (CO2) is fixed into carboxylic acids in much the same way as in C4 plants. The biological importance of the CAM plants appears to be a mechanism that reduces water loss during gas exchange.
(3) Care should be taken in selection of these CAM crop plants. Because most plants of this category synthesize allelochemicals (secondary plant metabolites), which are harmful for existing soil and crop of the next seasons.

Dr. A.K.K. Achakzai
Department of Botany,
University of Balochistan,v
Quetta
Pakistan
Ph #. 081-9211264 (Office)
Cell #. 0333-7812944
e-mail: profakk (at) yahoo.com

[Section 5a) of the Background Document gives a brief introduction to the basic differences in photosynthesis in C3, C4 and CAM plants. A xerophyte is a plant that is very resistant to drought, typically adapted to extremely dry environments - http://www.fao.org/biotech/index_glossary.asp ...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 13 March 2007 17:16
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 27: Re: Use of wastewater for countering water scarcity in agriculture

My name is Dr I Charles Okoli. I am a senior lecturer in the Department of Animal Science and Technology, Federal University of Technology Owerri, Nigeria. My research interests center on animal health and management issues in tropical animal production.

I want to add to the interesting observations of Anju Arora (Message 20) that useful application of microorganisms and aquatic plants could be used to bio-remedy wastewater for reuse in agriculture. Plants like azolla and algae can be beneficially applied to wastewater for the removal of solid wastes, metals and also nutrients nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) so that wastewaters can be safely reused in agriculture.

I am interested in use of terrestrial plant seeds such as Moringa tree seeds (we are currently using the leaf of this tree to feed poultry and are waiting for it to fruit so that we can use the seed as coagulant in water treatment) in the sanitization of microbial contaminated water at the livestock farm level. I am currently searching for indigenous plants of south eastern Nigeria that could be easily be cultivated by smallholder farmers and used to improve the microbial quality of water offered to animals.

In many areas of eastern Nigeria the only readily available water for livestock are rainfall run offs and local streams of doubtful quality. Such water when offered to animals, especially intensively kept poultry, remains a major source of disease agents, especially bacteria and helminth eggs.

Such a technology that requires planting the useful tree at the farm and harvesting the useful parts for immediate water treatment in my view will easily be adopted by local smallholder farmers.

We are currently establishing the general quality of water offered to animals in the region as bases for further studies that will involve simple bio-treatment of such water.

Dr. I. Charles Okoli
Senior Lecturer (Animal Health and Production),
Department of Animal Science and Technology,
Federal University of Technology,
Owerri, Nigeria
e-mail: dr_charleso (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 14 March 2007 11:02
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 28: Focus on virtual water and green water

This is from Dr. Junguo Liu, researcher in the Department of System Analysis, Integrated Assessment and Modelling, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag), Switzerland. My research focuses on global water scarcity and the implication of virtual water trade.

I would like to address two issues: virtual water and green water.

1. The concept of virtual water was first raised by a British scholar, Tony Allan. Allan defines the amount of water consumed in the production process of a product as virtual water. For example, to produce 1 kg of wheat, it takes approximately 1 m3 of water. When 1 kg of wheat is traded, virtually, 1 m3 of water is transfered from one country to another. This amount of 1 m3 of water is called virtual water.

S.K.T. Nasar mentioned the concept of virtual water (see message 1). However, he associated virtual water with 'embedded water'. The association is, in my opinion, incorrect. For example, the moisture content of wheat is around 14%. That means there is 0.14 kg of water embedded in 1 kg of wheat. This amount of water is not called virtual water by definition. [My understanding of S.K.T. Nasar's point was not that he was equating embedded with virtual water, but that he was suggesting that apart from the issue of 'virtual water and food trade', discussed in Section 3c) of the Background Document, there was also the issue of 'embedded water' to be considered (where e.g. the embedded water could carry unwanted contaminants, thus having potential sanitary and phytosanitary implications)...Moderator].

Many dry countries are importing enormous virtual water from the international food market. Good examples are those countries located in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). During 1998-2002, Israel imported over 600 m3/cap/year of virtual water from crop trade, while it only used about 50 m3/cap/year of domestic water to produce crops. Virtual water import is the most direct way to compensate for the lack of domestic water resources, when the national economic situation permits it. Meanwhile, virtual water enlarges the boundary of water resources managment. A country should keep the virtual water strategy in mind when considering its water management, especially agricultural water management.

2. Water resources can be divided into green and blue water. Green water refers to the water that comes from precipitation and is stored in the unsaturated soil. Green water is typically taken up by plants as evapotranspiration. Blue water is the water in rivers, lakes, reservoirs, ponds and aquifers. Dryland production only uses green water, while irrigated production uses blue water in addition to green water.

In the past, water policies have been focused on the management of blue water resources. Massive blue water related infrastructures, such as dams, aqueducts, and pipelines, have been constructed. Agriculture investments in many countries, particularly in developing countries, were made to optimize irrigation. Blue water needs to transported to the fields and is therefore more expensive considering the construction and maintenance costs of infrastructure, let alone the often negative environmental impacts of irrigation. Many poor countries are depending increasingly on blue water, particularly in Asia and Africa and traditional large-infrastructure solutions have become less attractive, largely due to the significant increase in the construction costs.

Green water management has often been marginalized by water resources planners, who are largely engineers. However, green water plays a vital role in global food production and food trade. With a GEPIC model, we estimated global consumptive water use and the green water proportion for crop production with a spatial resolution of 30 arc-minutes. It was estimated that green water accounts for over 80% of the consumptive water use for crop production. Almost 90% of the virtual water traded among countries has its origin in green water. [A GEPIC model integrates a crop growth model, EPIC, with a geographic information system (GIS)...Moderator].

To strengthen green water management, the following issues should be widely discussed, which may be elaborated on in our e-conference.

a. strengthening rainfall management including rain water harvesting
b. Mulching in order to reduce evaporation, therefore reduce the green water consumption
c. Biotechnology. For example, a hybrid New Rice for Africa (NERICA), which has bred to grow in the uplands of West Africa, produces more than 50% more grain than current varieties when cultivated in traditional rainfed systems without fertilizer.

Dr. Junguo Liu
Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag)
Ueberlandstrasse 133
P.O.Box 611
CH-8600 Duebendorf
Switzerland
Phone: 0041-18235012
Fax: 0041-18235375
Email: water21water (at) yahoo.com

[1. Discussion of these kinds of issues is encouraged, but participants are requested to ensure that their messages also address the potential role/impact/importance etc. of agricultural biotechnologies, which is the focus of this e-mail conference. 2. New Rice for Africa (NERICA) varieties were developed using embryo rescue and anther culture techniques - see www.warda.org for more details...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 14 March 2007 13:42
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 29: About the GEPIC model

This is Junguo Liu again. This message aims at explaining the GEPIC model, which is mentioned in my last message (nr. 28) but not clear to the audience.

The GEPIC model is a geographic information system (GIS) based crop growth model designed to simulate the spatial and temporal dynamics of the major processes of the soil-crop-atmosphere-management system. This model was developed in Eawag (Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology). By integrating a crop growth model EPIC (Environmental Policy Integrated Climate, originally known as Erosion Productivity Impact Calculator) with a GIS system, this model can be used to simulate crop yield, crop water consumption, nutrient cycle etc on different scales (global, national, river basin, field) with high spatial resolutions.

Currently the GEPIC model has been used to simulate crop yield, evapotranspiration, and crop water productivity (a few researchers call this "water use efficiency") for 17 major crops (barley, cassava, cotton, groundnuts, maize, millet, potatoes, rapeseed, rice, rye, sorghum, soybeans, sugar cane, sugar beets, sunflower, wheat, and pulses) on the global scale with a spatial resolution of 30 arc-minutes.

The impacts of biotechnology on crop production can potentially be analyzed with the GEPIC model. The model has a crop parameter files, which can be changed for different crop varieties.

Details about the GEPIC model can be find in the following two scientific papers.

Liu, J., Williams, J.R., Zehnder, A.J.B., Yang, H., 2007. GEPIC - modelling wheat yield and crop water productivity with high resolution on a global scale. Agricultural Systems (2007), In press, doi: 10.1016/j.agsy.2006.11.019 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.agsy.2006.11.019

Liu, J., Wiberg, D., Zehnder, A.J.B, Yang, H., 2007. Modeling the role of irrigation in winter wheat yield, crop water productivity, and production in China, Irrigation Science (2007), doi: 10.1007/s00271-007-0069-9 http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00271-007-0069-9

Dr. Junguo Liu
Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag)
Ueberlandstrasse 133
P.O.Box 611
CH-8600 Duebendorf
Switzerland
Phone: 0041-18235012
Fax: 0041-18235375
Email: water21water (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 14 March 2007 17:53
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 30: Re: Ectomycorrhiza

Responding to Message 13 by N. Manikanda Boopathi about mycorrhiza:

Myself and my student, now Prof. R. Narayanan, in your Department, have worked on Pinus patula innoculated with Pisolithus tinctorius. To combat the dumping off disease of the said plants at an early stage,i.e. at nursery, we used different doses of Captan as well as PCNB (Pentachloronitrobenzene), which are complex chemical compounds that are used as fungicides. Captan at normal dose was not only effective but also did not leave a problem with persistence in the soil. The dumping off disease of the pinus plant seedlings is observed at the ealy stage of nursery at a site specific place viz. Sandynallah (Western Ghat Mountain of India). It is a fungal disease, if it is not properly treated the plant is ultimately killed. [According to Zamuner et al (2005): "Pisolithus tinctorius (Basidiomycete) is commonly found in nature forming ectomycorrhizas, mainly with Pinus and Eucalyptus trees, in tropical and sub-tropical countries. This ectomycorrhizal fungus is commercially important since its basidiospore inoculum may be used to facilitate creation of artificial forest. The mycorrizal formation in the host root depends strongly of the P. tinctorius strains used. In this kind of symbiotic association, colonization is effective only among those high compatible plant-fungus interactions, resulting in benefits for the development of both organisms" (http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0103-50532005000500028) ...Moderator].

Dr. A.K. Bhattacharyya, Professor (Retired)
School Of Environmental Sciences
Jawaharlal Nehru University
New Delhi - 110067
India
(Address for Correspondence)
Pocket 40/5
Chittaranjan Park
P.O. New Delhi -110019
India
Tel No. 91-11-26293550
Mobile : 91-9871655840
asimjnu (at) yahoo.co.in

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 15 March 2007 09:01
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 31: Suggestions for this ongoing debate on biotechnology

I am H.S. Sharma from India. I have B.Sc., B.Tech.(Hon's, IIT Bombay), M.S,(U.K.), Mem. ASME(USA), M.InstP.(London) qualifications. I have been involved with tribal protection and wild life protection under an FAO Project in India. I have been in charge of Bhittar Kanuika Wild Life sanctuary in Orissa. I am known for exposing ground realities in many circles like Solution Exchange/UNAIDS/WHO of which I am a member on Gnet work from India.

Every year many people are killed in many cities of india for collecting a pitcher of water for daily use when the water tanker arrives for delivery. The reality of water shortage is more harsher than realised on computer discussions.

I have following suggestions to offer for this ongoing debate on biotechnology:

- During draught in Rajasthan area of India, there is Sevan grass which goes into hibernation in extreme weather conditions and can survive for over 7 years. After rainfall, it again starts blooming. I have a hunch as a keen observer that this hibernation of the seven grass must be due to a gene, whether it is single or multiple can be answered if more competent people take up the challange, and hence a gene which makes it survive can be used for other crops.

- Due to global warming, the areas which used to grow rice have turned saltish and can no longer do so. For example, due to melting of ice in the Arctic and Antartic areas, the sea level has gone up resulting in inundation of large area of coastal regions in Bangladesh. Due to the entry of salt, the rice crop is not feasibile and it has been replaced by rearing of prawns. The population has migrated and the social fabric has been changed. The cheapest way to counter salt in water is to develop salt tolerant varieties as done in Israel for many fruits and vegetables. Let us re-orient our research as future human habitat would be desert rather than irrigated areas.

- At IIT Delhi, we have developed a coconut fibre based biotechnology product for retention of water in arid conditions which can retain 1500% of its own of water in its capillaries introduced by us. This would be a boon to the arid areas of the world. It has been developed so that saplings can be transplanted without additional supply of water. It is of great use in organic farming in cotton which can be grown in severe water shortage districts of india. The main contaminant come with water.

H.S. Sharma,
m/s Shure Cure Herbals of India
(Largest supplier of Nutra Diab Plus and Stevia to Japan)
1921/4,Urban estate,Gurgaon-122001
India
M-9873020599/Tel/0124-2326-886/fax.0124-2305-841/
e-mail: sharmann (at) vsnl.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 15 March 2007 15:11
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 32: The ground realities of water in India

This is from H.S. Sharma, again. I have been Scientific adviser to the state government of Haryana in India which is the size of Germany, in population and area.

Our problems on the water front are very serious, and people continue to suffer for them due to no fault of their own, maybe some solution can emerge through e.g. biotechnologies.

Where I live at the moment, huge area have brackish water which is not easily made to drinking quality water within reasonable expenditure. The result is that people suffer from kidney damage as they are forced to drink it in the absence of any alternative. They cannot afford expensive reverse osmosis systems. [As discussed in Section 3a) of the Background Document, desalination can be carried out by distillation of saline water or using membrane technologies, such as electro-dialysis and reverse osmosis...Moderator].

1. In West Bengal, water has huge amounts of arsenic - 300 times more than World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations in water. People suffer from twisted bone and darkening of skin.

2. In Punjab, the bread basket of india, there is high amounts of urea in drinking water due to monoculture agriculture of rice/wheat, and there are many cases of stomach ulcers.

3. Usage/wastage of water in water-starved states of India. There is acute shortage of water in the Maharashtra/Gujarat states of India, still under political patronage sugarcane is grown in Maharashtra. The huge water sports complex are planned and existing in Gujarat. Huge water is wasted for political reasons.

H.S. Sharma,
m/s Shure Cure Herbals of India
(Largest supplier of Nutra Diab Plus and Stevia to Japan)
1921/4,Urban estate,Gurgaon-122001
India
M-9873020599/Tel/0124-2326-886/fax.0124-2305-841/
e-mail: sharmann (at) vsnl.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 15 March 2007 16:44
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 33: Biotechnology and bioremediation

This is from H.S. Sharma, with a consideration of specific issues where biotechnology can really help in different fields.

1. Biotechnology in dryland cultivation

A cereal is grown in dryland without much efforts in terms of water or fertiliser. It is grown in waste land and gives good yield. It is however toxic for consumption. The local people first boil it to remove the toxicity than dry it before consumption. The gene responsible for toxicity can be identified and the cereal can be grown in large area and consumed without any toxic effect.

2. Salt tolerance

The salt tolerance gene can be identified and incorporated in vegetables especially tomato to make use of huge fallow land running into millions of hectares now lying unused. It is slowly being recovered by applying Dolomite or growing a plant called daincha. [Dolomite is a mineral fertiliser which raises pH of the soil. Daincha (Sesbania spp.) is a green manure crop...Moderator].

3. Iron Removal

The land and soil in Chhattisgarh state of India is the centre of iron steel industry of India, as such the iron content of soil is very high. The tomatoes grown there contains high amount of iron. The tomato sauce made from them gets blackened due to conversion of ferrous to ferric ions, as such large number of plants have closed because the customer desires red colour sauce. By use of biotechnology gene giving higher lycopene, red colour can be incorporated in tomato plant or the manufacturing method can be altered by incorporating additional additives so that the sauce remains red.

H.S. Sharma,
m/s Shure Cure Herbals of India
(Largest supplier of Nutra Diab Plus and Stevia to Japan)
1921/4,Urban estate,Gurgaon-122001
India
M-9873020599/Tel/0124-2326-886/fax.0124-2305-841/
e-mail: sharmann (at) vsnl.com

[The use of biotechnology for bioremediation of water, rather than soil, is one of the issues of interest for this conference. For example, one of the questions for discussion in the conference is "What role do biotechnologies have for the removal of heavy metals, such as arsenic, from irrigation water in developing countries?"...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 15 March 2007 17:47
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 34: Drought tolerance and breeding strategies

P. Sathish Kumar (Messages 18 and 23) reports on his research in terminal drought tolerance in pearl millet. I think it is important to observe that he makes a distinction in the timing of the drought. You could roughly divide droughts and its specific effects on the plant physiology in three stages: pre-flowering, flowering and terminal drought each with different effects on yield components.

A 1996 study by Boonjung and Fukai on upland rice showed that pre-flowering drought (at the tillering stage) reduced the number of panicles per unit area by 30%. Drought at the panicle formation stage delayed anthesis and led to less spikelets per panicle and a reduction in the number of filled grains. Terminal drought (at the grain filling stage the number of filled grains was reduced by 60% and the grain weight by 20%.

The divison of drought according to the timing and its effects on yield components shows again the complexity of breeding for drought resistance as basically three different strategies need to be employed. If, for instance, for a particular crop in a particular region it is known that drought stress is most prevalent during a particular stage of crop development, attention can be focused on quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping for drought-related physiological traits at that stage of plant development.

Reference: Boonjung, H. and S. Fukai, 1996. Effects of soil water deficit at different growth stages on rice growth and yield under upland conditions. 2. Phenology, biomass production and yield. Field Crops Research 48, 47-55.

Edo Lin
309 rue de Bombon
77720 Breau
France
lin.edo (at) free.fr

[Abstract of the article is reproduced below; the development stages of rice are described at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BBCH-scale_%28rice%29:
"Phenological development, shoot dry matter production, grain yield and yield components of rice were examined in relation to drought occurring at various stages of growth. Rice was sown three or four times at three-week intervals in the field in each of two years, and performance in three stress trials was compared with that in corresponding irrigation trials, with the aim of quantifying the response of the crop to water stress of 23-34 days' duration developing at different growth stages. When drought occurred during vegetative stages, it had only a small effect on subsequent development and grain yield. The reduction in yield of up to 30% was due to reduced panicle number per unit area in one trial, and reduced number of spikelets per panicle in another. The effect of water stress on yield was most severe when drought occurred during panicle development. Anthesis was delayed, the number of spikelets per panicle was reduced to 60% of the irrigated control and the percentage of filled grains decreased in one crop to zero. This decrease in grain yield to less than 20% of the control was associated with low dry matter production during the drought period as well as during the recovery period following the drought. When drought occurred during grain filling, the percentage of filled grains decreased to 40% and individual grain mass decreased by 20%. The effect of stress was also related to its severity during grain filling. Stress at this stage hastened maturity. The results suggest that variation in yield components due to water availability is related to the variation in dry matter production at particular growth stages. Results of a supplementary shading experiment show that the relationship between spikelet number per panicle or single grain mass and crop growth rate was the same, whether growth rate was varied by availability of soil water or solar radiation. Filled-grain percentage, however, was more sensitive to drought stress than shading when comparison was made at a similar crop growth rate" - from http://www.elsevier.com/locate/fcr ...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 16 March 2007 09:42
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 35: Breeding for high water use efficiency (WUE)

I am Janaki Krishna from India again.

A very interesting discussion is continuing with regard to various applications of biotechnology in coping with water scarcity in agriculture. For breeding crop varieties that could grow in water-limited conditions, a major thrust should be given to the development of crop varieties with high water use efficiency (WUE) - through either conventional breeding or molecular breeding. In dealing with WUE, a quantitative trait locus (QTL) based approach can also be followed. Since Harvest Index is also taken care while calculating WUE the yield component is also taken care. Whether to seek for a conventional or biotechnology-based approach depends on case-by-case since many factors like the availability of crop genetic diversity, the costs, infrastructure and expertise etc have to be looked into. However, while dealing with WUE in crops, a multi-disciplinary team consisting of molecular biologists, plant physiologists, geneticists, plant breeders and agronomists can deliver the product in a much more effective way than solely by the molecular biologists/breeders.

Also, I agree with Dilip Kumar Paul's message (no. 17) from India. There are a number of crop varieties that are already developed for high WUE / drought tolerance through conventional methods. A re-look should be given before opting for hardcore biotechnological options in these crops. Crop diversification and promotion of varieties that are relatively drought tolerant should be given major thrust. Some of the minor millets like horsegram, pearl millet etc. are relatively tolerant to drought. These crops should be promoted as subsistent crops and the genomic studies in these crops might open up some avenues for tackling the water use efficiency.

Dr (Mrs) P S Janaki Krishna,
Subject Expert (Biotechnology)
Biotechnology Unit,
Institute of Public Enterprise
Osmania University Campus
Hyderabad - 500 007,
India
jankrisp (at) yahoo.com

["Pearl millet is the fifth most important cereal crop, and most important millet (>55% of global millet production), grown in over 40 countries, predominantly in Africa and Asia, as a staple food grain and source of feed, fodder, fuel and construction material in the hottest, driest, semi-arid and arid regions where rainfed agriculture is practiced. It is cultivated in 29 million ha, supporting >100 million people—the poorest of the poor; most important to national food security in Namibia and Niger; the major producing countries are Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, and India. It is also grown in Oceania and the Americas, predominantly as a forage and/or mulch component of minimum tillage-based cropping systems" (The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, http://www.icrisat.org/PearlMillet/PearlMillet.htm) ...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 16 March 2007 10:13
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 36: Mycorrhizal fungi / Wastewater treatment / Livestock

I am Janaki Krishna from India again. I would like to express my opinion on some of the other issues raised in Section 6 of the Background Document.

There exists a number of other biotechnological tools for improving the efficacy of water use, like applying the arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) technology. In horticulture and forestry, besides applying AMF as biofertilisers, the application of AMF can greatly help in increasing the efficiency of water use especially when applied together with other beneficial microorganisms such as Rhizobium, plant growth promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR) and phosphate solubilising bacteria or when combined with cheap sources of phosphorus such as rock phosphate.

With regard to recycling of water or wastewater treatment, bioremediation can be promoted for obtaining potable water. However, in some of the developing countries these technologies are not practiced yet due to the prohibitive costs of technology. Hence lot of thrust should be given to develop and promote feasible and cost effective technologies in this area.

Livestock forms an integrated component in agriculture. In times of crop failure during earlier times farmers used to depend on livestock. However, the present day situation in many developing countries is that farmers are forced to sell their livestock as they could not feed them enough due to water scarcity. Since it is also an equally important area to deal with, experts in livestock may please throw some light on how to improve the livestock situation in water scarce conditions.

Dr (Mrs) P S Janaki Krishna,
Subject Expert (Biotechnology)
Biotechnology Unit,
Institute of Public Enterprise
Osmania University Campus
Hyderabad - 500 007,
India
jankrisp (at) yahoo.com

[For more background on use of combined inoculations with the three types of microorganisms mentioned in the first paragraph, see e.g. Requena et al (1997). Interactions between plant-growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR), arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and Rhizobium spp. in the rhizosphere of Anthyllis cytisoides, a model legume for revegetation in mediterranean semi-arid ecosystems. New Phytologist, 136, 667-677 - http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/toc/nph/136/4 ...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 19 March 2007 12:50
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 37: International research centers and developing countries

I am Dr. Ahmed Abdel-Mawgood, from Saudi Arabia. I would like to express my opinion on the collaboration between international research centers and scientists from developing world. The topic of drought tolerance is a very important subject specially for developing countries because most of these countries fall in the arid or semi-arid regions. I am particularly interested in the application of biotechnology in developing drought tolerant plants. I have a project funded to develop drought tolerant tomatoes using gene transfer technology.

The main subject I would like to discuss here is the role of international research centers for providing help for developing countries to develop their own crops that are tolerant to abiotic stresses. What I mean is not only applied to biotechnology but also to the breeding materials. I think the international research centers should develop strategies that can better help developing countries in that regard. For example, they should focus on developing pre-breeding materials that are more drought or heat tolerant. Consequently, scientists from developing countries can use these materials for developing their own crop for their stress of interest. In the same regard, they also should work on developing markers linked to abiotic stresses. Similarily, constructs that have genes which confer drought or heat tolerance should be developed. These breeding materials and constructs may already be there, but we need to see a more substantial role for these international research centers in making these materials readily available for researchers in developing countries.

I am using this opportunity to look for collaboration in developing drought tolerant tomato plant (tomato as a model system) using genetic transformation. I have funds for visiting scientist and exchange of visits. [Anyone interested in this collaboration, please contact Ahmed directly...Moderator].

Dr. Ahmed Abdel-Mawgood
Associate professor of Molecular biology
Faculty of Food and Ag Sciences
King Saud University,
POBox 2460
Riyadh,
Saudi Arabia. 11451
Email: mawgood9 (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 19 March 2007 14:02
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 38: Purifying dirty/unclean water - Kenya

My name is Bosibori Bwari Bett, a research scientist at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) Biotechnology Center, in the Roots and Tuber crops programme, and an MSc. Student at the Biochemistry and Biotechnology department at Kenyatta University.

During my work experience in Njoro-Nakuru, Kenya, we had a project on water harvesting for the rural people in the dry land areas of Lare division of Njoro through community based organizations (CBOs), both for their household consumption and agricultural use. Two important activities were on digging up pits ("silangas") where water would flow into after any rains and subsequently purifying the water using different levels/grams of crushed Moringa oleifera seeds for household utilization. It was indeed a great step of purifying dirty/unclean water which made a difference at the household level.

Bosibori Bett (Mrs.)
Research Scientist
Kenya Agricultural Research Institute
Biotechnology Center
P. O. Box 14733 - 00800
Nairobi
Kenya
Tel: +254-020-4444129/37/44
Fax: +254-020-4444144
bosiboribett (at) yahoo.com

[The Moringa tree is a fast-growing tree, with a wide range of uses, including the use of its powdered seeds to floculate comtaminants and purify drinking water - see e.g.
- Fahey (2005), Moringa oleifera: A Review of the medical evidence for its nutritional, therapeutic, and prophylactic properties. Part 1. Trees for Life Journal 2005, 1:5 - http://www.tfljournal.org/article.php/20051201124931586
- Yongabi, K.A. 2006. Studies on the potential use of medicinal plants and macrofungi (lower plants) in water and waste water purification (with numerous other relevant Moringa articles, at http://www.tfljournal.org/gateway.php)
- The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) Agroforestree (AFT) Database entry on Moringa oleifera (http://www.worldagroforestry.org/Sites/TreeDBS/aft/speciesPrinterFriendly.asp?Id=1169) ...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 20 March 2007 10:46
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 39: Re: Purifying dirty/unclean water - Kenya

My name is C Kameswara Rao, a retired professor of botary at the Bangalore University, and for the past six years the Executive Secretary, Foundation for Biotechnology Awareness and Education, Bangalore, India.

Regarding message 38 by Bosibori Bwari Bett: In the rural Andhra Pradesh, India, where I grew up in my early years of life, the ground paste of the seeds of Strychnos potatorum (Loganiaceae) was being used to flocculate solid suspended matter and clarify muddy water from canals fed by the river Godavari, during the monsoon.

Seed or wood paste of Moringa oleifera and seed paste of Strychonos potatorum are fine to clarify quantities of water needed for small households, but are impractical for large scale use.

C Kameswara Rao
Foundation for Biotechnology Awareness and Education,
Bangalore,
India
krao (at) vsnl.com

[While this e-mail conference is concerned with water for agriculture rather than for households, for those interested in getting more information on water for household use, see e.g. Sobsey, M.D. (2002) "Managing water in the home: accelerated health gains from improved water supply" (http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/dwq/wsh0207/en/index.html), a report prepared for the World Health Organization, which describes and critically reviews the various methods and systems for household water collection, treatment and storage. It also presents and critically reviews data on the ability of these household water treatment and storage methods to provide water that has improved microbiological quality and lower risk of waterborne diarrheal and other infectious disease. One of the chemical methods of water treatment described is seed extract coagulation-flocculation, including use of seeds from the Moringa and Strychonos potatorum, where the report says:
"Coagulation-flocculation with extracts from natural and renewable vegetation has been widely practiced since recorded time, and appears to be an effective and accepted physical-chemical treatment for household water in some parts of the world. In particular, extracts from the seeds of Moringa species, the trees of which are widely present in Africa, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent, have the potential to be an effective, simple and low-cost coagulant-flocculent of turbid surface water than can be implemented for household water treatment (Jahn and Dirar, 1979; Jahn, 1981; Jahn, 1988; Olsen, 1987). The effectiveness of another traditional seed or nut extract, from the nirmali plant or Strychnos potatorum (also called the clearing nut) to coagulate-flocculate or precipitate microbes and turbidity in water also has been determined (Tripathi et al., 1976; Able et al, 1984). Microbial reductions of about 50% and 95% have been reported for plate count bacteria and turbidity, respectively. Despite the potential usefulness of Moringa oleifera, Strychnos potatorum and other seed extracts for treatment of turbid water, there has been little effort to characterize the active agents in these seed extracts or evaluate the efficacy as coagulants in reducing microbes from waters having different turbidities. The chemical composition of the coagulant in Strychnos potatorum has been identified as a polysaccharide consisting of a 1:7 mixture of galactomannan and galactan. These findings suggest that such seed extracts may function as a particulate, colloidal and soluble polymeric coagulant as well as a coagulant aid. The presence of other constituents in these seed extracts are uncertain, and there is concern that they may contain toxicants, because the portions of the plant also are used for medicinal purposes. Also, little has been done define, optimize and standardize conditions for their use. Furthermore, there appears to be little current effort to encourage or disseminate such treatment for household water or determine its acceptability, sustainability, costs and effectiveness in reducing waterborne infectious disease"...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 20 March 2007 11:35
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 40: Marker-assisted selection for drought tolerance

I am Dr. Baboucarr Manneh, a postdoctoral fellow at the Africa Rice Center (WARDA), which has its temporary headquarters in Cotonou, Benin. I am working on using marker-assisted selection (MAS) and conventional breeding approaches to develop drought tolerant lines of rice. I have closely followed the discussions and would like to thank the moderator and organizers of this conference for creating this platform for sharing information on this very important topic. Drought stress causes substantial crop losses on an annual basis in Africa and the most accessible option for many African farmers is the use of drought tolerant/resistant crop cultivars. WARDA is involved in developing drought tolerant cultivars of rice that can be used to stabilize rice yields in rainfed rice production systems in Africa.

As has already been highlighted by several contributors to the conference, drought tolerance breeding in rice is indeed a very daunting task because generally rice is highly sensitive to moisture stress. However, significant genetic variation for drought tolerance at different developmental stages of rice has been reported by several researchers. Some traits that have been reported to significantly contribute to drought tolerance of rice include possession of deep and thick roots (common in japonica ssp.), good osmotic adjustment (common in indica ssp.), earliness (for drought escape), stay green ability (not much scientific evidence for this) and good remobilization of assimilates from vegetative to storage organs (little data available on this also). Large quantitative trait loci (QTLs) have been reported for some of these traits such as root traits (Zhang et al. 2001; Kamoshita et al. 2002; Li et al. 2005), osmotic adjustment (McCouch and Doerge, 1995; Babu et al. 2003; Robin et al. 2003), earliness (Babu et al. 2003) and grain yield under drought (Atlin et al. 2006). Nonetheless, not much success has been achieved in developing drought tolerant rice cultivars through MAS.

Many MAS research activities usually focus on introgressing a gene(s) for one trait at a time. However, the incidence of drought especially in Africa is highly unpredictable and the effects of drought stress on rice depend on the developmental stage at which the stress occurs. Therefore different gene complexes would be involved in drought tolerance of rice. Drought tolerance breeding in rice may require the need to pyramid appropriate alleles of different genes controlling traits that contribute to drought tolerance occurring at different developmental stages of rice. Thus drought tolerance breeding through MAS may need a different approach from the often-used method described above. To use MAS to pyramid genes for different drought tolerance traits, would require the use of different mapping populations segregating for different drought traits. Near Isogenic Lines (NILs) developed from such populations could then be crossed so as to pyramid the different genes in progeny ensuing from such crosses.

Another possible breeding approach for pyramiding drought tolerance QTLs, involves using complex crosses such as double crosses and three way crosses using parents possessing good levels of different drought tolerance traits to generate large breeding populations. Unfortunately such an approach at the moment is not amenable to MAS since most QTL detection software can only be used in populations developed from two parents.

Baboucarr Manneh, PhD
Biotechnology Unit
Africa Rice Center (WARDA)
01 B.P. 2031 Cotonou
Benin
B.Manneh (at) CGIAR.ORG

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 20 March 2007 16:40
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 41: Designing solutions to mitigate water scarcity

I’m Gian L. Nicolay, working as a development practitioner for Helvetas (Swiss Association for International Cooperation) in Ethiopia. My background is agronomy, with extended education and experience in social sciences including management (mostly in Africa and Switzerland). Water efficiency is one of the major challenges worldwide and the potential of biotechnology, among others, should be assessed systematically.

Both water (scarcity) and GMOs are public issues of first order and I would like here to felicitate FAO and the moderator for this conference. Now the issue here is the USE of water, which per se goes beyond knowledge about specific topics like "the role of biotechnologies copying with water scarcity". Use implies decisions, institutions and people, concrete local context (where the designed solution is to be implemented), policies and regulations and values (mainly conflict management and consensus finding). This complex reality can be described with the tools and concepts of systems dynamics and systems theory, which is already widely applied in business and management.

It seems pertinent to me that the focus should be on the practicability of any solution envisaged and designed. Research and development (R&D) working on solutions which will never be accepted by the relevant society would add hardly any value. Breeders not cooperating with biotechnologists and GMO specialists will lead to missed opportunities. Farmers, consumers and local politicians not being involved in the design of the solution might refuse its application (see more in Conference 12 and 8). The bottom-line should be the delivery of sustainable and widely accepted services, products and approaches, always in their concrete context.

A practical way to design solutions in the sense developed above, could be the involvement of the following institutions and their systemic connection:
1. Moderation of the solution process similar to a process of developing a value chain by an experienced moderator. To assure that all relevant stakeholders participate in the solution design in order to stop/redirect the process if consensus cannot be reached. This should happen at the national or local level. The use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) will be indispensable, but seconded by radio, TV and other media.
2. Making best use of global AND local knowledge and focus the process on the throughput, i.e. the desirable solution leading to mitigate water scarcity in the given local context.
This process could assure that ANY technology has a chance to be accepted and implemented which can convince the members of the society. Ideological differences have to be sorted out during the process, as well as missing pieces of information on the technologies and their possible impact. Also, this holistic approach would help to end the gap between R&D and science on the one side and a rather confused society dealing with highly complex but existential issues on the other side.
3. Leadership will be a key requirement, in order to set-up the "solution path system".

I would be curious to hear if somebody has experienced similar processes and what we could learn out of it. Or is there a community of practice (CoP) already operating on this issue?

Gian L. Nicolay
Program Director Helvetas Ethiopia (NGO)
Addis Abeba
Ethiopia
helvetas (at) ethionet.et

[The reference to Conference 12 and 8 earlier in the message is to two previous conferences hosted by this FAO Biotechnology Forum i.e.
Conference 12 (17 January to 14 February 2005):"Public participation in decision-making regarding GMOs in developing countries: How to effectively involve rural people" (see http://www.fao.org/biotech/C12doc.htm for all messages, plus the background and summary document); and
Conference 8 (13 November to 16 December 2002): What should be the role and focus of biotechnology in the agricultural research agendas of developing countries? http://www.fao.org/biotech/Conf8.htm ...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 21 March 2007 09:32
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 42: Transgenic and microorganisms - Abiotic stress

I am Dr. B. Venkateswarlu, Head of the Crop Sciences Division at the Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA) which is a national level research institute under Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). We have the following two major ongoing programmes on the subject.

1. Production of transgenics for enhanced tolerance to abiotic stresses: In this area, our approach is to introduce genes responsible for osmotic adjustment, produce transgenics and evaluate the plants for physiological characters and eventually field test them. Currently, we have successfully produced sorghum plants up to T2 generation with 3 genes independently. The transgenics have remarkable tolerance to both drought and salinity stresses with improved root growth and other traits related to water relations. We have also initiated similar work on blackgram (Vigna mungo) and greengram (Vigna radiata).

2. Use of microorganisms in abiotic stress management: We are also isolating rhizosphere microorganisms which have a capacity to improve the soil aggregation when inoculated in the root zone. We found this a cost effective means of managing low to moderate levels of stress in millets. These organisms form biofilm around the roots and significantly influence the water relations of the plants when subjected to water stress.

Any thoughts on the above areas are welcome.

Dr. B. Venkateswarlu,
Head and Principal Scientist
Division of Crop Sciences
Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA)
Santoshnagar, Saidabad P.O.
Hyderabad - 500 059
A.P.
India
Telefax +91-40-24535336
e-mail: vbandi (at) crida.ernet.in vbandi_1953 (at) yahoo.com

[T0, T1 and T2 refer to successive generations of plants following a transformation event. The parent transformed plant is T0, its immediate progeny is T1, and the progeny of the T1 are T2 plants etc. (source, FAO Biotechnology Glossary, http://www.fao.org/biotech/index_glossary.asp) ...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 21 March 2007 10:40
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 43: Addressing questions in the background document

I am Dr. Mojisola Edema, a microbiologist from Nigeria. I thank the FAO for organizing this e-mail conference on "Coping with water scarcity in developing countries: What role for agricultural biotechnologies?". It is very timely and as with the previous conferences, very informative. FAO keep up the good work! I wish to contribute to this conference by addressing some of the questions in Section 6 of the background document.

1. "How important is improving the efficiency of water use in crops through biotechnology in developing countries?":
It is very important as it will make more water available for other purposes such as domestic and industrial uses.

2. "Which biotechnology tools have greatest potential for improving the efficiency of water use in crops in developing countries?":
It is imperative to harness all existing biotechnological tools for improving the efficiency of water use in crops in developing countries as a strategy for coping with water scarcity. The developing world is growing at a rate that does not permit waiting until we get the more advanced biotechnological tools. So both traditional and modern biotechnological tools must be put together.

3. "How important are biotechnology tools compared to conventional breeding for improving the efficiency of water use in crops in developing countries?":
Very important and crucial I would say. I strongly believe that biotechnology holds the greatest potential for improving the efficiency of water use in crops in developing countries. I guess that we as scientists, all agree that biotechnology will achieve the same objectives in a shorter time and more efficiently than conventional breeding.

4. "Research on water use in crops has focused on a few species of major economic importance while so-called orphan crops, of local or regional importance for nutrition and income in poor regions, have been neglected, despite their importance for food security. How can this situation be changed?":
I think the application of biotechnological tools in agriculture should be a gradual process and it is not wise to apply it to many crops at once. Considering the factors (financial, socio-cultural, ethical etc) and input required for biotechnology research, it is only reasonable to go one step at a time. The species referred to as major economic crops have become so through conventional breeding research techniques over a long period of time and as such application of biotechnology to these crops is relatively easy. There is a dearth of information on many so-called orphan crops, neither has any research been conducted on some of them.

5. "What role and relevance do biotechnologies currently have in wastewater treatment in developing countries? And in the future?":
Biotechnology is playing and will play the role of efficient management of water resources in general and wastewater treatment in particular.

6. "Is the rapidly-accumulating molecular information on micro-organisms involved in wastewater treatment processes likely to result in the better design and operation of wastewater plants in developing countries?":
Definitely, yes!

7. "What role do biotechnologies have for the removal of heavy metals, such as arsenic, from irrigation water in developing countries?":
A key role. In fact there are many organisms that are able to degrade toxic materials and the application of biotechnology to improve their efficiencies holds a very promising future for water resources management and agricultural biotechnology.

8. "How important is application of mycorrhizal fungi as a biofertiliser in helping developing countries to cope with water scarcity?":
Hypothetically, very important but I believe a lot more still needs to be done to confirm and prove this beyond reasonable doubt. I know a few scientists who have done some work in this regard, but some of the findings seem to show that mycorrhizal fungi alone is not as efficient as believed, but that in combination with other factors and techniques, it will be very good.

M.O. Edema, PhD
Department of Microbiology,
University of Agriculture, Abeokuta,
PMB 2240, 11001,
Nigeria.
http://www.unaab.edu.ng
Tel: 234-39-245291-2(Office)
Tel:234-8037119671(Mobile),234-39-773252
moedemao (at) yahoo.co.uk

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 22 March 2007 08:48
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 44: Resurrection plants and water scarcity

I am Dr Richard Mundembe, lecturer (Molecular Genetics and Biotechnology) at the Bindura University of Science Education in Zimbabwe. I have interests in plant molecular biology.

I am greatly encouraged by Dr B. Venkateswarlu‘s message (42) on transgenic plants and drought tolerance. I have had an interest in resurrection plants for some time even though I do not have an active research programme in that area at this point in time. Resurrection plants have the ability to tolerate near-total water loss in their vegetative tissues, and revive to full physiological activity on re-hydration. Resurrection plants are represented in most classes of plants. I believe that if we could develop crops with some of the traits of this group of plants, we would be able to reduce crop loss due to water deficiency, and subsequent hunger. Zimbabwe’s rainy season stretches from late November to March, with some dry spells in between. The dry spell in January, if prolonged, results in total failure of the rain-fed crop. Resource poor farmers helplessly watch their whole crop wilt and die! If we could convey the ability to resurrect to some of these crops, the farmer would harvest something to live on for part of the year, and maybe a little bit of seed for the subsequent season.

Is the dream for such a crop worth pursuing? I wish to get in touch with fellow researchers with similar interest and make a contribution towards such a goal, despite all the complexities.

Richard Mundembe
Department of Biological Sciences
Bindura University of Science Education
P.Bag 1020
Bindura,
Zimbabwe
rmundembe (at) buse.ac.zw, rmunde01 (at) yahoo.com
Phone: 263-91-2422861

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 22 March 2007 11:50
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 45: Marker assisted selection for yield under water stress

I am Eugene Agbicodo, a PhD Research Fellow University of Wageningen presently at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, Nigeria. I appreciate indeed the initiative of FAO in organizing such a conference. I would like to contribute to the theme of marker assisted selection (MAS) for yield under water stress. I agreed with all other participants on the importance of MAS for yield under drought conditions. Particularly, I appreciate the development of P.K. Gupta (Messages 14 and 25) and P. Sathish Kumar (Messages 18 and 23).

In my intervention, I would like to focus on two main problems:

The first is the phenotyping method. Drought resistance as a highly quantitative trait, the bottleneck here is to select a trait that must be possible to measure with reasonable accuracy to first establish the linkage with specific molecular markers. Researchers on water stress have proposed two approaches for screening and breeding for drought resistance. The first is the empirical or performance approach which utilizes grain yield and its component as the main criteria, since yield is the integrated expression of the entire array of traits related to productivity under stress. The second is the analytical or physiological approach which identifies a specific physiological or morphological trait that will contribute significantly to the growth and yield in the event of drought. However, these two approaches should be seen as complementary. Nowadays, there are number of papers showing quantitative trait loci (QTLs) relating to morphological/physiological traits with effect on drought resistance in rice, barley and grain sorghum, etc.

The second is the type of molecular marker to be used for genotyping: The traits can then be genetically dissected using linkage maps that are based on molecular markers. Numbers of molecular markers (Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphisms (AFLPs), simple sequence repeats (SSRs), single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), etc.) are now available for tagging and mapping genes/QTLs related to yield under water stress conditions. In order to enhance the discovery of genes/QTLs and identify functional markers that would be more efficient for MAS under drought stress, in addition to the general molecular marker techniques, a molecular marker technique targeting protein kinases (PK profiling), transcription factor genes family in the APETALA2 (AP2) domain, enzymes in proline, abscisic acid (ABA) biosynthesis, etc can be used. These profilings will produce markers in the domain of a specific gene families which may increase the chance of finding markers related to drought stress tolerance. Another advantage of this profiling techniques is that it can help for comparative genomic studies.

Eugene Agbicodo
IITA
Ibadan,
Nigeria
E.AGBICODO (at) CGIAR.ORG

[A recent review containing information on the gene families mentioned in the last paragraph is by Valliyodan, B. and Nguyen, H.T. 2006. Understanding regulatory networks and engineering for enhanced drought tolerance in plants. Current Opinion in Plant Biology, 9:1–7 http://www.plantstress.com/Articles/up_drought_files/Nguyen_Engineering%20for%20drought.pdf ...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 22 March 2007 14:16
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 46: What are biotechnologies and how will they solve water scarcity

I am Sarbeswara Sahoo, associated with an NGO known as Kalpataru located at Kishorenagar Block of Angul District Orissa, India. We are working for the management of indigenous water resources in our region. We are specifically looking after the indigenous water bodies that you will find in every villages may be more than one. But these resources once managed by the village community themselves before 1947, are now in a very ruinous condition. As the water crisis is increasing year by year where people are travelling to far off places to take bath during the summer. Human beings somehow manage this water crisis, but the livestock and other animals suffer the most as they can't use man-made devices like tube well and dug well for drinking and bathing purposes. Degradation of these traditional resources has far-reaching implications for the wild animals who die in search of water. Water crisis in rural Orissa is acute and anyone who stays in the rural areas can understand the water woes

Today, I had the opportunity to attend the World Water Day observed by UNESCO Delhi and a number of international and national organisations, including India head of FAO, were present and there I come to know that this year FAO has been given the chairmanship of looking at the scarcity of water and I therefore congratulate you to have this e-conference on coping with water scarcity and the role of Biotechnology. In this regard, I want to raise some fundamental questions to all the members of this conference;

1. Besides a few participants I hope, a large scale of the targetted group that are in the developing country don't understand what biotechnologies are and what their role is. I myself do not know much about this. Given this ignorance, how to spread this message.

2. How can biotechnology be made popular among the farmers in developing countries where they are still guided by traditional customs and norms? Without addressing this fundamental issue, if some external agency intervenes with the biotechnologies in a country like India and imposes them, then the successfulness is questionable. I therefore request you all to suggest.

Sarbeswara Sahoo
Indian Institute of Dalit Studies
D/25/D-South Extension,Ph-II,
New Delhi-110049
India
09213721490
E-mail:mitusarbe (at) gmail.com
www.dalitstudies.org.in

[Firstly, the point raised by Sarbeswara at the end supports that of Gian Nicolay (Message 41) who argued that the focus should be on the practicability of any solution envisaged and designed. "Research and development (R&D) working on solutions which will never be accepted by the relevant society would add hardly any value. Breeders not cooperating with biotechnologists and GMO specialists will lead to missed opportunities. Farmers, consumers and local politicians not being involved in the design of the solution might refuse its application (see more in Conference 12 and 8). The bottom-line should be the delivery of sustainable and widely accepted services, products and approaches, always in their concrete context".

Secondly, as mentioned by Sarbeswara, 22 March is World Water Day and indeed, as you probably know, this e-mail conference was organised by FAO to coincide with World Water Day. International observance of World Water Day is an initiative that grew out of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro. This year the World Water Day theme is "Coping with water scarcity', a theme that was decided among all members of UN Water at the World Water Week in Stockholm in August 2006. UN Water is made up of the UN agencies, programmes and funds that have a significant role in tackling global water concerns. It also includes major non-UN partners who cooperate with them in advancing progress towards the water-related goals of the Decade Water for Life and Millennium Declaration. FAO acts as coordinator, on behalf of all the UN Agencies and Programmes members of UN-Water for the celebration of World Water Day 2007. At the World Water Day celebration ceremony held this morning at FAO Headquarters, the opening address by the FAO Director-General Dr. Jacques Diouf was dedicated to 'Coping with water scarcity'. The corresponding FAO press release is reproduced below and is available at http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2007/1000520/index.html (in Arabic, English, French, Italian and Spanish)...Moderator]

FAO urges action to cope with increasing water scarcity: Improving agricultural practices key

Rome, 22 March 2007 -- As the number-one user of water worldwide, the agriculture sector must be in the lead in addressing the rising global demand for water and its potential drain on the earth’s natural resources, FAO said today on the occasion of World Water Day.

Agriculture accounts for about 70 percent of all freshwater withdrawn from lakes, waterways and aquifers around the world. The figure is closer to 95 percent in several developing countries, where roughly three-quarters of the world’s irrigated farmlands are located.

However, food is water. It takes 1 000 to 2 000 litres of water to produce one kilogram of wheat and 13 000 to 15 000 litres to produce the same quantity of grain-fed beef. Without water, we cannot produce; and without, it we simply cannot eat.

FAO is the coordinating agency within the UN system for World Water Day 2007. This year’s theme, "Coping with Water Scarcity", highlights the need for increased cooperation at international and local levels to protect global water resources.

Challenge of the century

Speaking at the World Water Day celebration at FAO Headquarters in Rome, FAO Director-General Dr Jacques Diouf called coping with water scarcity the "challenge of the 21st century".

The bulk of that challenge lies in finding more effective ways to conserve, use and protect the world’s water resources. Global population is expected to reach 8.1 billion by 2030. To keep pace with the growing demand for food, 14 percent more freshwater will need to be withdrawn for agricultural purposes in the next 30 years.

"As population grows and development needs call for increased allocations of water for cities, agriculture and industries, the pressure on water resources intensifies, leading to tensions, conflicts among users, and excessive strain on the environment," said Dr Diouf.

Climate change has raised the stakes. Global warming has been blamed for more frequent droughts. Climate change has also intensified storms and flooding, which destroy crops, contaminate freshwater and damage the facilities used to store and carry that water.

Smallholder farmers, who make up the majority of the world’s rural poor, often occupy marginal lands and rely on rainfall to sustain their livelihoods, making them particularly vulnerable to climate variability.

Opportunities

Still, according to FAO, opportunities exist to improve the ability of poor people to lift themselves out of poverty under conditions of greater water security and sustainability.

"With the right incentives and investments to mitigate risks for individual farmers, improving water control in agriculture holds considerable potential to increase food production and reduce poverty, while ensuring the maintaining of ecosystem services," said Dr Diouf.

While most agriculture is rainfed, irrigation has made an unquestionable difference in easing hunger and improving livelihoods - accounting for only 20 percent of total cropland but for 40 percent of all food produced.

Interventions need to be tailored to local, national and regional conditions, according to FAO. Effective pilot projects and programmes in countries as diverse as Tanzania, Bolivia and Sri Lanka have included small-scale irrigation schemes or community-based systems for harvesting rainfall and protecting catchments that feed into main waterways.

But better agricultural practices can also lead to substantial increases in productivity in large-scale irrigation schemes, releasing pressure on water resources. At the same time, FAO advocates support for interregional and river-basin programmes that coordinate the responses of several governments or agencies, as in the countries that share the Nile River and Lake Chad basins in Africa, both of which have been compromised by drought and human activity.

"The potential exists to provide an adequate and sustainable supply of quality water for all, today and in the future," said Dr Diouf. "But there is no room for complacency. It is our common responsibility to take the challenge of today’s global water crisis and address it in all of its aspects and dimensions."

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 24 March 2007 09:15
To: biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org
Subject: 47: Re: What are biotechnologies and how will they solve water scarcity

After the World Water Day, once again, I would like to bring my contribution to Sarbeswara Sahoo's second question in Message 46 "How can biotechnology be made popular among the farmers in developing countries where they are still guided by traditional customs and norms?": Among our traditional communities, we have leaders or local authorities (as regulator) who can intervene for the due course, sometimes NGOs can play a key role in technology transfer. Coming to our topic, the UN Millennium Development Goals aim at reducing by half the number of persons that do not have access to safe water nor to basic sanitation. Beside, the technologies we can address to solve water scarcity in developing country can be built up from a sustainable management model which encompasses all the stakeholders, basically the partnership between public and private sectors that would be both efficient and economically viable, but also socially acceptable.

Norbert Tchouaffé
Agricultural engineer
Technology and sustainable development specialist
Plant stress member
Ministry of Environment and Nature Protection (MINEP)
Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MINADER)
Cameroonian association of rural development (ACADER)
Box. 876 Yaounde,
Cameroon
Phone:(237)563-09-22
ntchoua (at) yahoo.fr

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 24 March 2007 09:23
To: biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org
Subject: 48: Re: Marker assisted selection for yield under water stress

This is Professor R. Chandra Babu, with experience in phenotyping crop plants for drought tolerance traits including field level screening in target ecosystem and in QTL mapping of drought tolerance in rice.

Phenotyping is key in evaluating lines developed through any techniques, conventional/biotechnology approaches, for drought tolerance. Large scale field based phenotyping under target ecosystem for drought stress is critical in transfering these lines to farmers' fields. Published literature in this area seems very scanty.

R. Chandra Babu
Tamil Nadu Agricultural University
Coimbatore,
India
chandrarc2000 (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 26 March 2007 11:05
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 49: Wastewater treatment in agriculture

This is Heidy Rivasplata Maldonado, a Peruvian microbiologist and biotechnologist. Actual student at Environmental Assessment-UNEP Master's Program at McGill University in Canada.

I would like to comment about wastewater treatment in agriculture. As has been mentioned, the use of wastewater without treatment is a serious risk for the health of farmers and consumers, as well as for the deterioration of soil and water receptors.

There are different technologies for treating wastewater which can be used by agrofood industries without damaging the environment and all its components. It is known that the agrofood industry uses high amounts of water in its different processes and it is important to save water.

The anaerobic biotechnology can be applied in developing countries since it is relatively cheap and easy to manipulate. UASB (up-flow anaerobic sludge blanket) bioreactor help to reduce the organic load, the chemical oxygen demand and it is well adapted to tropical, warm weathers. It does not require investing in big amounts of energy (not use of aeration) and generates biogas that can be used in different ways (heating, cooking). It also produces small amounts of sludge which can be used for reinoculation or fertilizer. The treated wasterwater then can be used to irrigate crops surrounding the agroindustry or transported to irrigate others. It also can generate incomes if it is sold.

I consider the use of biotechnologies in agriculture very important since these can help to reduce the use of water, improve yield of crops and efficiency of the agriculture. It also can be translated in improvement of the farmer`s quality of life, most of whom are poor people, and at the same time, as increment of the production capacity of a country to feed its people.

On the other hand, the use of biotechnologies for dealing with water scarcity should be considered in a country's policy. If it is well established, it would be possible to do more things. If it has the government's support it should be easier to deal with different constraints. Universities, research centers, and organizations like FAO play an important role in that challenge. Capacity building and integrated assessment are the basis or tools which should be used for dealing with water scarcity.

Finally, I want to thank FAO for this strategy in the way of sustainability. The sum of efforts will bring good results.

Heidy Rivasplata Maldonado
McGill University
Montreal
Quebec
Canada
heidy.rivasplata (at) gmail.com

[Some recent news relevant to the theme of this e-mail conference, as well as to this specific message, is that on 22 March (World Water Day) the prestigious Stockholm Water Prize was awarded to Professor Perry L. McCarty from Stanford University, United States, for "pioneering work in developing the scientific approach for design and operation of water and wastewater systems. He has established the role of fundamental microbiology and chemistry in the design of bioreactors. Professor McCarty has defined the field of environmental biotechnology that is the basis for small-scale and large-scale pollution control and safe drinking water systems"; also he "has made landmark contributions towards understanding the microbiology and chemistry of anaerobic wastewater treatment systems. He has discovered the fundamental bases for the complex processes that now can be used in the design and operation of treatment systems. He has also tackled the important problem of organic compounds and pollutants in waste water and underground aquifer systems. His pioneering research has allowed the development of more effective treatment practices. His recent work on microbial biofilms has wide-ranging implications for the design of treatment systems. The landmark studies on biofilms provide useful tools for understanding the performance of microbial processes and scaling the results to large systems. Professor McCarty has defined the field of environmental biotechnology. He has laid the corner stones of what are certainly the fundamentals of future water supply and treatment systems. He has integrated microbiology, aquatic chemistry, and water science and technology into a coherent and complementary discipline. He has influenced the education, research and practice of water science and technology as no other individual has before" (http://www.siwi.org/swp/swplaureates.html). The Stockholm Water Prize is a global award founded in 1990 and presented annually by the Stockholm Water Foundation to an individual, organization or institution for outstanding water-related activities...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 26 March 2007 11:53
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 50: Re: Resurrection plants and water scarcity

In message 44, Richard Mundembe mentions resurrection plants as a possible source for stress tolerance genes. Worldwide, there are many groups working on this ultra drought tolerant plant group but I would like to mention the Environmental Stress Tolerance Research Group at the University of Cape Town (http://web.uct.ac.za/depts/plantstress/index.htm) as being the most relevant for Southern Africa. The plant of interest is Xerophyta viscosa, native of Southern Africa. Several genes of interest to drought tolerance have been isolated and transformation of maize plants is underway by inserting the ALDRXV4 gene which showed, in model plants, to transfer significant tolerance to severe osmotic and NaCl stresses.

At the same time, I would like to draw participants' attention to a useful website on plant stress (www.plantstress.com), where you will find a lot of information on various plant stresses (drought, heat, salinity, oxidative etc etc). A special section is devoted to biotechnology and plant stresses and contains several documents for downloading. Equally useful is the page that links to the personal websites of more than 100 scientists working in the field of plant stress.

Edo Lin
309 rue de Bombon
77720 Breau
France
tel and fax: +33 164387844
e-mail: lin.edo (at) free.fr

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 26 March 2007 13:03
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 51: Inoculant products

Although not generally known as a mycorrhizal fungus, our experience is that the beneficial fungus, Trichoderma harzianum, can have many mycorrhizal traits including improved nutrient and water uptake by plants. Inoculation of crop roots (either by seed treatment or drenching) with selected strains of the fungus can result in significantly larger root systems, many more root hairs and thereby very much more efficient nutrient and water uptake. This results in crops with greater drought tolerance (or tolerance to excessive water) and more tolerant to other environmental stresses including transplanting, recovery after hail damage, nutrient stress etc.

This technology is being used more and more by larger commercial farmers with access to relatively short product distribution chains. How to pass these benefits on to small-scale farmers in more rural areas is more difficult, as many of the inoculant products have a relatively short shelf life or require stringent storage conditions. However, new technological developments in production and packaging are showing that it may be possible to increase the shelf life and the product tolerance to adverse storage conditions, thereby making it more feasible to distribute small packs of inoculant into rural areas, or to include them in seed packs.

Dr Mike Morris
Managing Director
Plant Health Products (Pty) Ltd
PO Box 207
Nottingham Road 3280
South Africa
Tel/Fax 27 33 2666130
e-mail: mike (at) plant-health.co.za

[Trichoderma harzianum is a biocontrol agent that is commercially produced to prevent development of several soil pathogenic fungi. Harman (2006) gives a recent update on some research regarding Trichoderma fungi. The abstract reads: "Fungi in the genus Trichoderma have been known since at least the 1920s for their ability to act as biocontrol agents against plant pathogens. Until recently, the principal mechanisms for control have been assumed to be those primarily acting upon the pathogens and included mycoparasitism, antibiosis, and competition for resources and space. Recent advances demonstrate that the effects of Trichoderma on plants, including induced systemic or localized resistance, are also very important. These fungi colonize the root epidermis and outer cortical layers and release bioactive molecules that cause walling off of the Trichoderma thallus. At the same time, the transcriptome and the proteome of plants are substantially altered. As a consequence, in addition to induction of pathways for resistance in plants, increased plant growth and nutrient uptake occur. However, at least in maize, the increased growth response is genotype specific, and some maize inbreds respond negatively to some strains. Trichoderma spp. are beginning to be used in reasonably large quantities in plant agriculture, both for disease control and yield increases. The studies of mycoparasitism also have demonstrated that these fungi produce a rich mixture of antifungal enzymes, including chitinases and beta-1,3 glucanases. These enzymes are synergistic with each other, with other antifungal enzymes, and with other materials. The genes encoding the enzymes appear useful for producing transgenic plants resistant to diseases and the enzymes themselves are beneficial for biological control and other processes" (Harman, G. E. 2006. Overview of mechanisms and uses of Trichoderma spp. Phytopathology 96:190-194, http://www.nysaes.cornell.edu/hort/faculty/harman//06APSsymp.pdf) ...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 26 March 2007 16:58
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 52: Re: Wastewater treatment in agriculture

This is from Dr. J.H. Agarwal, retired Professor of the Jawaharlal Nehru Agricultural University, India. My field of work has been application of electronics, computer and information technology (IT) to agriculture. My knowledge in agriculture, biosciences and biotechnology is by virtue of my long association with agricultural scientists and my participation in various inter-disciplinary scientific fora.

My observation is: First to treat the wastes and wastewater and then to use it for application in agricultural fields is not possible for small-scale farmers (at least in India). They might have used this resource for limited production, such as small kitchen gardens for growing vegetables or forest-based plants/trees, but certainly not for major crop production. Are some biotechnology-based solutions available that can be employed to treat (or partly treat, and then mix and dilute it with good quality water) the wastes and then use it for agriculture? Small-scale farmers would very much like to make use of this resource, provided they can cost-wise afford the practice.

If the biotechnology scientists work out cost-effective solution(s), it will be a great service to small-scale farmers and a positive step towards environment protection.

Dr. J.H. Agarwal
Former University Professor, Director and Project Coordinator UNDP-GOI-MAEP,
Jawaharlal Nehru Agricultural University (JNAU)
G-83 Krishi Nagar, Adhartal P. O.
Jabalpur 482004
India
Email: jhagarwal (at) sancharnet.in ; jhagarwal (at) gmail.com
Phone: + 91 (0761) 2680400

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 27 March 2007 09:49
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 53: Use of microorganisms in abiotic stress management

This is Dr. B. Venkateswarlu, India, again. Following a request by a participant for more information on the 2nd part of my previous message (nr. 42), I can add that the following is our approach on the use of microorganisms in abiotic stress management:

Though soil microorganisms are generally known to be involved in nutrient transformations, their role in improving the fitness of plants to stress situations is coming to light. The well-known examples are Paenibacillus Polymyxa and Pantoa agglomerans, bacteria which improve soil aggregation in the rhizosphere due to production of exopolysaccharides (EPS) and thereby improve water status in the Rhizosphere soil. There are other organisms too which have this ability being investigated, mostly in the Bacillus genus. The role of mycorrhiza in improving drought tolerance of plants is well known. The current approaches are to manipulate the cropping systems in such a way that one of the crops in the sequence may be highly mycorrhizal dependent so that naturally the arbuscular mycorrhizae (AM) population in the field increases substantially without any inoculation and subsequent crops benefits from better colonization and also improved tolerance to mild to moderate levels of soil moisture deficits. Ultimately, we need simple low cost approaches based on microbes, which small farmers in developing countries can adopt. Microbial approach of stress management is also an ideal component of organic production systems in tropical areas.

Dr. B. Venkateswarlu,
Head and Principal Scientist
Division of Crop Sciences
Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA)
Santoshnagar, Saidabad P.O.
Hyderabad - 500 059
A.P.
India
Telefax +91-40-24535336
e-mail: vbandi (at) crida.ernet.in vbandi_1953 (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 27 March 2007 10:06
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 54: Re: Wastewater treatment in agriculture

I am Dr. S. Seshadri, associated with the Shri AMM Murugappa Chettiar Research Center (MCRC), Chennai, India.

I find the topic interesting but wonder how to link biotechnology and water scarcity. I could read the mails written by people on the use of genetically modified plants for drought tolerance. I find these are nothing but enrouting the agricultural community to a greater problems. Nobody knows the consequences on the happening especially GMOs.

As far as my knowledge is concerned, I would prefer recommending the following:

1) Selection of suitable plant / crops / resistant varieties for different soil/area/agro-climatic regimes.
2) There is no point in growing rice in a desert environment
3) There are a lot of crops available that are alternatives to rice, corn, wheat and barley.
4) Most of the cereals viz. sorghum, millets are less water consuming crops and we may find some good drought tolerant varieties in them.
5) A good attempt could be made on the selection of varieties based on breeding methods
6) Use of organic agriculture and the use of on-farm composting in less water available areas will be a boon for conserving the soil moisture.
7) Use of short term green manure plants and mulching them in the fields will be an addition to the conservation of soil moisture
8) Use of biofertilizers/microbes that aid plants to tolerate water stress would be another choice
9) As pointed out by J.H. Agarwal (Message 52) it is also good to think about the use of wastewater, that is enormously available in India and other countries. Only thing is it requires cleaning up or effective treatment to reduce the pollutants. It requires quicker action from the municipal corporations and swift methods of cleansing to recover the water and the biosolids that could be used as manure.
10) Vermicomposting is a good technology for dry and marginal lands
11) So far nobody has worked on the use of soil fauna in soil nutrient and conservation of water. This needs further study.
12) It is also good to recommend more diverse cereals and pulses as staple crops than the above mentioned rice, wheat, sorghum, barley, etc.
13) Crop rotation with legumes could be tried for conservation and biomass generation that would in turn conserve water in the agricultural soil

I would be happy if scientists look for alternatives through benign technologies in agriculture.

Dr. S. Seshadri
Director
Shri AMM Murugappa Chettiar Research Center (MCRC)
Tarmani
Chennai 600113
India
Ph: 91-44-22430937
Fax: 91-44-22430369
tsvisesh (at) yahoo.co.in
web: www.amm-mcrc.org

[This message is relevant to a couple of the kinds of messages listed in Section 6 of the Background Document that we wished to see discussed in the conference i.e. "A number of major strategies have been briefly described for coping with water scarcity (Section 3). Compared to them, how important is improving the efficiency of water use in crops through biotechnology in developing countries?" or "How important are biotechnology tools compared to conventional breeding for improving the efficiency of water use in crops in developing countries". However, note that biotechnology, as defined in this FAO Biotechnology Forum is not synonymous with GMOs and includes use of marker assisted selection, of microorganisms in wastewater treatment and as biofertilisers etc. (see Introduction section of the background document for more details)...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 27 March 2007 14:01
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 55: Drought resistance - No molecular mapping

This message from Dr Hubert Dulieu, Emeritus Professor of Plant Genetics and Population Genetics, University of Burgundy, France. My initial experience was in agriculture engineering in tropical regions. During 28 years, I was interested by plant genetics, mutagenesis, molecular polymorphism, and finally by genomics of endomycorrhizal fungi.

Many messages in the conference concern the problem of using agricultural techniques protecting the soil. This is really important in regions where the scarcity of water becomes crucial. Of course, these practices are to be strongly encouraged. The subject for debate here is however the biotechnologies, as pointed out by the moderator.

My message refers only to messages on the problem of selecting drought resistant varieties of many food plants when almost no molecular mapping is available.

Plant breeding can be made with or without the help of molecular markers (see Message 2, by N. Manikanda Boopathi; Messages 14 and 25, by P.K. Gupta; Messages 18 and 23, by P. Sathish Kumar; Message 34, by Edo Lin; Message 35, by Janaki Krishna). The physiological adaptation of metapopulations of many species to water stress must have required thousands of years of adaptive evolution. Our goal is to assemble within cultivars, natural characters which seem highly polygenic, because there are several functions and biochemical pathways used by ecotypes adapted to dry conditions.

Quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping and marker-assisted selection (MAS) can reduce the number of individuals under selection, while the number of generations required to incorporate genes in reconstructed new varieties, with yield just maintained, remains high, due to the complexity of the adaptation. However, important programs are to be pursued in crops where molecular mapping is well advanced, as in rice cultivars adapted to dry lands (Message 40, by Baboucarr Manneh).

I doubt, however, that the large number of species used for human food in arid and semi-arid regions can be rapidly improved with the help of molecular mapping. We have no time nor financial support to achieve the goal by this way (see Message 43, by Mojisola Edema). I think then that the first step should be to define a global strategy for rapidly selecting varieties able to survive and produce yield. In three or four points, this involves:

1. Choosing a physiological character which can be easily measured on a large number of accessions. As an example, the ability to rapidly regulate the stomata closure on leaf fragments submitted to artificial water stress.
2. Obtaining data on the genetic diversity of the character within the species. This illustrates the importance of germplasm collections which must be recognized as our common heritage (see Message 37, by Ahmed Abdel-Mawgood).
3. If the character chosen is simple and highly dominant (unexpected case!), F1 can be performed and the back-cross generations can then be submitted to selection, using the test.
4. If the character is highly polygenic (there are several evolutionary strategies and several pathways), high numbers of F2 individuals must be submitted to the test and to field trials. The number is not a limiting factor. (In many cases of species that are important for survival of local populations, molecular testing as a criteria of QTL selection seems to me source of errors by losses of unexpected selectable genotypes and seems unrealistic by lack of mapping data).

Biotechnology must then be developed mainly around the fine phenotypic characterization of the variability more than by intensive use of molecular markers. This approach implies research of advanced systems able to measure the physiological state of the plant, then requires more physiologists than geneticists. If you define the criteria, you will be able to select what you want!

There have been no messages in the conference concerning the enlargement of variability by mutagenesis: large M2 populations can be screened at a low cost with a test-system detecting fine differences among individuals; this method must not be forgotten.

I appreciated particularly Messages 45 (by Eugene Agbicodo) and 48 (R. Chandra Babu) who seem to be on the same line as myself.

Prof. Hubert Dulieu,
Emeritus Professor of Plant Genetics and Population Genetics,
University of Burgundy,
France
hubert.dulieu (at) wanadoo.fr

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 27 March 2007 14:55
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 56: Alternatives to genetic modification in solving water scarcity

I'm Friderike Oehler, former soil scientist (see message 8), now working on biosafety.

I would like to congratulate Dr. S. Seshadri (Message 54) on his very good explanation of alternatives to genetic modification with regard to solving water scarcity. I fully agree with Dr. S. Seshadri in this point of view. I strongly believe that genetic modification is an extremely expensive means to deal with the problem of water scarcity. Genetically modified (GM) crops are unlikely to be affordable by small-scale farmers in developing countries where water scarcity is most important. At the same time, the attempt of introducing GM crops on a large scale risks displacing many native plants which are well adapted to the dry regions. There is definitely no point in planting rice in the desert! If the same amount of effort and resources that is spent on the development of GM plants for drought resistance were to be spent on developing alternative solutions (selection of suitable plants/ mulching/ water saving irrigation systems/ use of beneficial microorganisms) and fighting water mismanagement, the issue of water scarcity would improve considerably with most people feeling more comfortable with it than with the production of GM foods, which still encounter market restrictions.

Friderike Oehler
Plant Protection Service (AGPP), B605b
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
00153 Rome
Italy
Phone +39 06 570 55545
Web Sites: http://www.ipfsaph.org ; http://www.fao.org
e-mail: Friderike.Oehler (at) fao.org

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 28 March 2007 10:32
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 57: Re: Alternatives to genetic modification in solving water scarcity

I am Ossama El-Tayeb, Professor Emeritus of Industrial Biotechnology at Cairo University, Egpyt.

I read with interest and respect Friderike Oehler's message (nr. 56) and fully appreciate her concerns and am similarly convinced of the potential of "alternatives". I wish to add that transgenicity for drought tolerance and other environmental stresses (or, for that matter, biological nitrogen fixation) are too complex to be attainable in the foreseeable future, taking into consideration our extremely limited knowledge of biological systems and how genetic/metabolic functions operate. Those who propagate the ideas that any biological function could be genetically manipulated are optimists who are probably victims of a consortium of "arrogant" scientists and greedy business who have strong control on policy making and the media. Having said that, I feel we should not lose hope of reaching such noble goals and should continue to fund such research whose fruits may be reaped by a future generation. These goals have been used by the proponents of currently available genetically modified organisms (GMOs) under the control of big business, who propose that GM crops will alleviate poverty soon while in fact currently available ones mostly contribute negatively to poverty alleviation and food security and positively to the stock market. The holders of intellectual property rights for present day GM crops keep teasing us about the potential of GMOs resistant to abiotic stresses and the like while doing nothing about developing such crops for this generation. These are simply not easily exploitable in a business market and are accordingly not on their agenda. Basic research in this area is being funded almost exclusively by public funds.

Ossama El-Tayeb, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus of Industrial Biotechnology
Cairo University
Cairo
Egypt
omtayeb (at) link.net

[Relevant to the point made here about the potential development of GM crops that are resistant to abiotic stresses: In 2003, FAO launched FAO-BioDeC, a searchable database which aims to providing information on biotechnology (GMO and non-GMO) products and techniques which are in use, or in the pipeline, in developing countries (http://www.fao.org/biotech/inventory_admin/dep/default.asp). A first analysis of about 2,000 crop-sector entries from 71 developing countries contained in the database as of 31 August 2004 was published in an FAO report entitled "Status of research and application of crop biotechnologies in developing countries – Preliminary assessment" (http://www.fao.org/docrep/008/y5800e/y5800e00.htm). While noting that the data was was still largely incomplete, the report indicates that some general conclusions can nevertheless be made about the state of plant biotechnology research and development in developing countries. In relation to the traits introduced in the transgenic crop varieties (with activities combined for the research, field trial or commercialisation phases), the report says "they include resistance to pathogens and pests, herbicide tolerance, abiotic stress tolerance, or modifications to quality traits. Table 12 shows that 168 (35%) of the 479 total GM activities undertaken were for transgenic crops resistant to some pathogen, followed by those resistant to some pest, 97 activities (20%) and by those showing modification to some quality traits, 78 activities (16%), or resistance to some herbicide, 76 activities (about 16%). Far less numerous, 40 activities (8% of the total GMOs) were transgenic varieties resistant to abiotic stresses and 20 activities (4%) being GMOs with multiple resistances". Of the 40 activities reported for abiotic stress, only 8 were for drought resistance. Note, these figures exclude GM activities carried out by international agricultural research centres based in developing countries and or carried out by institutions in developed countries that may have relevance to developing countries...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 28 March 2007 10:37
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 58: Re: Drought resistance - No molecular mapping

I agree with the points mentioned in Message 55 (by Hubert Dulieu). Precise phenotyping and correct genotyping is the key factor that determine marker-assisted selection (MAS). Though there are different marker types available, a phenotype which is true representation of the drought resistance is still under discussion.

I would appreciate getting more information on which mapping populations should be evaluated for drought resistance both under greenhouse and field conditions.

Dr. N. Manikanda Boopathi
Assistant Professor (Bio-Tech)
Department of Plant Molecular Biology and Biotechnology
Centre for Plant Molecular Biology
Tamil Nadu Agricultural University
Coimbatore 641 003
Tamil Nadu,
India
Mobile phone: +91 98425 09611
biotechboopathi (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 28 March 2007 10:44
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 59: Re: Use of microorganisms in abiotic stress management

First, an introduction: I am a professor of Integrative Biology at the University of Texas, Austin, USA. My background is plant genetics and agroecology. My current research focus is soil ecology and grazing systems in management of semiarid rangeland. I work with Holistic Management International (Albuquerque, NM, USA) as a certified educator. My family remains active in agricultural production in central Texas. I teach graduate and undergraduate courses in Natural Resource Management and in Genetics.

My former office mate and long time friend, Wes Jackson, received the 2000 Right Livelihood Award for his work at The Land Institute in Salina, Kansas, USA. A major focus of their work is development of perennial grain cultivars in several species. The benefits are diverse, beginning with the perennials developing deeper root systems, reduce labor and manipulation/cultivating, are compatible with "cropping" multiple species with seasonal diversity of production from interplanted in a "polyculture" with a greater productivity per unit area, with greater drought resistance, lower labor and energy input, etc.

To the point made by Dr. B. Venkateswarlu (Message 53), soil organisms on grasslands applied as "compost tea" have shown remarkable improvement on expansive grey clay soils, increasing friability, water intake, and productivity of many species of perennial grasses. These "teas" are high in bacteria and fungi, and can be derived by digging up healthy plants with soil around roots, and culturing the microbes in an aerated solution of dilute molasses. Application requires a low pressure large orifice spraying system to minimize disruption of fungi. If the soil is degraded by erosion or poor management, several applications over several seasons may be needed before the system becomes self maintaining.

Much of this technology has been calibrated with improved quality monitoring from the work of Dr. Elaine Ingham, who has an international reputation from research, lectures and informal classes she has taught in the US, Africa, New Zealand and elsewhere. Further information can be found in the literature.

This is an inexpensive approach that maintains a perennial and annual sward of diversity, both monocot and dicot plants. This enhances productivity of native and "improved" cultivars from selection and hybridization.

Dick Richardson
Professor
The University of Texas at Austin
Integrative
Biology
Biology Labs, 114A
1 University Station, Bio 404
205 W. 24th Street
Austin, Texas 78712-0253
United States
Phone 512-471-4128
FAX 512-232-3402
d.richardson (at) mail.utexas.edu

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 28 March 2007 10:54
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 60: A landscape perspective required with traditional methods

I am E.M. Muralidharan from the Kerala Forest Research Institute in India. I work on different aspects of biotechnology of forestry species for conservation and improvement of planting stock.

I tend to agree with the thoughts put forth in Messages 54 (by S. Seshadri) and 56 (by Friderike Oehler). I think it will be a sound strategy to tackle problems of drought in developing countries using the proven traditional biotechnologies that complement water conservation methods, rather than put the major share of the burden on modern biotechnology and expect miracles to happen in the form of plants bred or genetically transformed for drought or salinity tolerance. Traditional methods like biofertilisers and water conservation and watershed management measures have a lot to offer and are easier and more cost-effective to implement in developing countries. Since water for non-agricultural purposes also has to be considered, the strategy should be from a total landscape perspective and not just for agriculture.

One of the ways in which modern biotechnology could be put to use to tackle the problem in drought prone areas is in the deployment of drought tolerant clones of multipurpose trees and other woody perennials through mass clonal propagation. The clones could be either selections or those obtained through breeding and planted in non agricultural lands or as agroforestry crops. The tree cover, in conjunction with other traditional water conservation measures, will ensure that the land will sustain itself and make do with whatever precipitation that is available. Water that eventually charges the aquifers after the natural filteration process is free from most of the problems that were discussed in Messages 38 (by Bosibori Bett) and 39 (by C Kameswara Rao) viz. that of unclean water.

Dr. E.M. Muralidharan
Kerala Forest Research Insititute
Peechi, Thrissur, Kerala 680653,
India
emmurali (at) gmail.com

[For a brief introduction to biotechnologies in forestry, see e.g. the Background Document to Conference 2 of this Forum (http://www.fao.org/biotech/C2doc.htm) or "Preliminary review of biotechnology in forestry, including genetic modification" (http://www.fao.org/docrep/008/ae574e/ae574e00.htm) ...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 28 March 2007 11:17
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 61: From knowledge to the practical problem solving process

It's Gian Nicolay again, coming back to the question of how biotechnologies could best be implemented for practical solutions (see my earlier Message 41).

Messages 46 (by Sarbeswara Sahoo), 54 (S. Seshadri) and 56 (Friderike Oehler) indicate the need to consider existing knowledge, technologies and institutions in order to mitigate water scarcity. What I captured so far, is that we have solutions in the areas of crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) plants, plant breeding (with or without markers), best choice of varieties/crops ("No rice in the desert") and more variety in cereal and pulses, organic agriculture and crop rotation, composting (including soil improvement, green manure and vermiculture), biofertilizers, wastewater treatment, desalination and I guess many more. Now water scarcity is always concrete and locally contextual. It builds a holistic problem (water scarcity for specific users), which has to be understood as such. Biotechnology could best play a role if it accepts the need to serve as a part of the solution. (Bio)Technology and its knowledge is only a part of the solution. Another part is the institutions and people involved, and here we have to be aware about the deterioration of social capital, manifested in impoverished villages, disempowered rural areas and increased social conflicts amongst rural poor (see also Message 46, by Sarbeswara Sahoo, about India). I think most land areas are affected, but more seriously in non-industrialized countries.

I believe that the fragmentation amongst the sciences, and between science and practice, has become a major problem itself. How can this be solved? More people and institutions should focus more on practical problem solving and less on pure provision of (fragmented) knowledge. The first step in problem solving is in understanding the problem and its complexity (water scarcity problems are often highly complex). This can not be done in isolation, but only inside a systematic social process (see my message 41). Water problems are, in first line, local problems. The locality - village, commune, district, ev. national departments or civil society organizations has to design a participative plan of solution, including all relevant parameters of the "knowledge" part, of the stakeholders (or members), the "power" dimension (who decides on what) and the "values" (what do we want). These dimensions are all interlinked with the solution, which is mitigation of water scarcity.

The famous mathematician G. Polya once said: 'The open secret of real success is to throw your whole personality into your problem'. Are we all passionate enough to contribute to sustainable solutions concerning water scarcity and biotechnology? Are we open enough to start discussing problems and solutions with people outside our professional 'habitat'?

Gian L. Nicolay
Program Director Helvetas Ethiopia (NGO)
Addis Abeba
Ethiopia
helvetas (at) ethionet.et

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 28 March 2007 14:12
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 62: CGIAR breeding for drought tolerance

Further to the remarks made in message 57 by Ossama El-Tayeb and the moderator, there are alternatives to GMOs.

The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) has 22 mandated crops (including 6 cereals, 6 food legumes, 4 forages and 4 tuber crops). Increased drought resistance is a breeding goal in all these crops. Most of the drought tolerance traits are derived from wild relatives. For most of these crops, sources of enhanced drought tolerance have been identified and several varieties have been released for evaluation by researchers and farmers. Examples of releases are rice (IRRI and WARDA), maize (CIMMYT) wheat (CIMMYT and ICARDA), barley (ICARDA), common bean (CIAT), groundnut (ICRISAT), lentil (ICARDA), sweet potato (CIP), grass pea (ICARDA) and cowpea (IITA). Work is ongoing on faba beans, sorghum, millet, chickpea and pigeon pea.

The question is how to get these released varieties to the farmers. CGIAR centres have no mandate to produce basic or certified seed for distribution and in most countries in Africa and elsewhere state actors are unable to provide these services effectively. Instead of heaping scorn on the private industry, public-private partnerships are the only alternative to make sure that improved varieties reach the farmers that need them. Recent initiatives such as the Sustainable Commercialisation of Seeds in Africa (SCOSA) and the Program for Africa's Seed Systems (PASS) (supported by new funding mechanisms such as the Rockefeller and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations) are trying to address this situation by stimulating the production of basic and certified seed as a commercial opportunity for farmers and farmer groups and the training of small agro input dealers in further spreading the adoption.

For more information on drought resistance breeding by CGIAR centres (including an overview of QTL mapping) see 'Opportunities for increased water productivity of CGIAR crops through plant breeding and molecular biology' by John Bennett (IRRI), 2003 - Chapter 7 of http://www.iwmi.cgiar.org/pubs/Book/CA_CABI_Series/Water_Productivity/unprotected/0851996698toc.htm

Edo Lin
309 rue de Bombon
77720 Breau
France
e-mail: lin.edo (at) free.fr

[The CGIAR is an informal association of 64 members that supports agricultural research and related activities of an international public goods nature carried out by 15 autonomous research centres. The CGIAR partnership includes 25 developing and 22 industrialised countries, 4 private foundations and 13 regional and international organisations that provide financing, technical support and strategic direction. FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank serve as cosponsors of the CGIAR. The 15 CGIAR research centres are Bioversity International, CIAT, CIFOR, CIMMYT, CIP, ICARDA, ICRISAT, IFPRI, IITA, ILRI, IRRI, IWMI, Africa Rice Center (WARDA), World Agroforestry Centre and WorldFish Center - see http://www.cgiar.org/ for more information...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 28 March 2007 14:25
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 63: Re: Wastewater treatment in agriculture

This is Professor Hubert Dulieu, again.

I agree with practically all the recommendations of S. Seshadri (Message 54). I congratulate him for his clear-sightedness!

First, GMOs appear to me to lead certainly to confiscation of the genetic resources and seeds by international financial corporations. Moreover, GMOs will lead, after the dispersion of their culture in arid or semi-arid zones to insurmountable difficulties, notably to control their GM characters in order to avoid the transgene flows both towards classical varieties and wild ecotypes.

Then, the points 1 to 5 developed by S. Seshadri on selecting drought-resistant varieties are in accordance with my suggestions (Message 55). My opinion is, however, still more restrictive about the use of MAS/QTL in many species where almost no molecular data exist because they are of no interest for financers.

All the 8 following points (6 to 13) can be accepted as a guide of good practices in agriculture in every region of the world, particularly point 7 (permanent covering of soils, either by mulch, in arid regions, or by plants, in semi-arid or tropical regions, could be added).

I appreciate particularly the sentence: 'look for alternatives through benign technologies'. Nature has proven its enormous capacity to change and adapt species (notably plants) and ecosystems. Fine observation of living materials in their changing environment must be the first attitude of the scientist, just before to decide how to intervene. It is just why this FAO conference appears as so welcome. "On ne commande à la Nature qu'en lui obéissant", i.e. :"One orders Nature only in obeying to it", said Buffon (1788).

Hubert Dulieu,
Emeritus Professor of Plant Genetics and Population Genetics,
University of Burgundy,
France.
hubert.dulieu (at) wanadoo.fr

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 28 March 2007 16:14
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 64: Re: Alternatives to genetic modification in solving water scarcity

I am Michel Ferry in charge of the Date palm and oasis agriculture research station of Elche in Spain.

Various participants have formulated in this conference doubts and criticisms about the real interest of plant genetic modification research to address the huge problem of water scarcity in an increasing number of countries. I fully agree with their arguments. Many other methods exist to improve greatly water efficiency and the use of limited water resources. The advantages of these other possibilities are multiple: poor and small farmers full control and research participation; more know-how than inputs needs; many techniques already available; better integration in a global farming sustainable strategy. Genetic modification to introduce genes to improve drought resistance seems to me much more another hype for the biotechnology sector to get funds. These promises of miraculous and rapid solutions to save humanity are not only simplistic and perhaps dangerous but also a deceit by the simple fact that it is not serious to claim that such complex research could give results, if any, in the short place of time necessary to answer to this urgent challenge. With a lot of arrogance, hype and insincerity, the biotechnology sector has used compassion for the poor to justify socially its activity. The fight to face the water crisis represents, according to me, a new theme of propaganda for this sector.

Michel Ferry
Scientific Director
Research Station on Date Palm and Oasis Farming Systems
Apartado 996
03201 Elche
Spain
tel: 34.965421551
fax: 34.965423706
Mobil: 34.628038938
Email: m.ferry (at) telefonica.net

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 29 March 2007 09:54
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 65: Conventional breeding vs. new tools for drought tolerance

This is Dr. S.K. Samanta, India.

The question of breeding crop plants for drought tolerance, the major issue, has raised many points and many views. However, in my opinion, message 62 (by Edo Lin) is very important: "For most of these crops, sources of enhanced drought tolerance have been identified and several varieties have been released for evaluation by researchers and farmers". I think this is the central point where we should concentrate.

Marker assisted selection (MAS) or horizontal gene transfer or molecular breeding are the latest tools of crop improvement and most promising without any doubt. Before these tools were available, the above quoted sentence clearly reveals that simply by selection even farmers have developed drought tolerant genotypes. It is true. BhutMuri, a local rice variety of the Bankura district in West Bengal, is an excellent example. This genotype has been used for improving drought tolerance in many other varieties by breeders. All of us know that enormous number of genotypes for any crop are available now, maybe within the breeder's country or abroad. Instead of going for such expensive tools and inviting problems of GM pro- and anti-lobby, why are people not considering simple screening of genotypes for the environment specific for such type? As a student of plant breeding and with long experience of handling and maintaining large numbers of genotypes of different crops, my experience says that screening large numbers of genotypes against the specific condition for which we want the genotype, is the best answer. It would be easiest in my understanding without running behind high-tech molecular breeding which is costly for developing countries. Evaluation of the existing diversity within the crop will definitely lead to achieving the goal without any failure.

Dr. S.K. Samanta
Joint Director of Research,
B.C. Krishi Vishwavidyalya (BCKV)
State Agriculture University
Kalyani 741235, Nadia,
West Bengal
India
91 33 25823948 (telefax)
91 9433022021 (Mobile)
drsamanta (at) gmail.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 29 March 2007 11:06
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 66: Re: Alternatives to genetic modification in solving water scarcity

Greetings to all, and thanks to FAO for hosting the conference. To introduce myself, I am Shiney Varghese, a senior policy analyst (working on the global water crisis) with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, based in Minneapolis, United States. I appreciate Message 56 from Friderike Oehler. This message has brought forth many concerns that arise in the context of biotechnology.

From the exchanges so far it is clear that participants recognize that dry land/ rain fed agriculture is an important sector to focus on, not only to help address water scarcity issues but also poverty. From my understanding of the world food and water situation, I agree with that position completely. It is clear that today's water crisis is caused by mismanagement and abuse of water rather than absolute scarcity. There are many ways of addressing the crisis, most important being looking at traditional low cost technologies of water conservation and combining it with modern low cost technologies for purification for domestic use. While biotechnology has been suggested by many as an option, that is not amongst the first 10 things, I would suggest, as policy options, but I will not go into that discussion here. Having said that, biotechnology is indeed a tool that humanity has developed and different techniques need to be assessed for its possible contributions/costs.

I recollect one of the participants speculating that one of the possible reasons for inadequate attention to dry land agriculture (when it comes to research and development) is because they are not as remunerative as the irrigated areas. This leads me to assume that many in the group are also in favour of public funded research on agricultural biotechnological tools that are relevant to dry land agriculture. [Janaki Krishna, in Message 3, wrote "Though there are institutes working on rainfed agriculture, globally the thrust [of biotechnologies research] on rainfed agriculture is not in relation to its share in agriculture probably because these areas are not as remunerative as the irrigated areas. Hence if we wish to cope with water scarcity in developing countries by using agricultural biotechnological tools, major attention should be given to dryland agriculture"...Moderator].

I also presume that many of the participants would agree that such knowledge should be in the public domain. (If we think of biotechnology as a market restricted technology then the discussion would take a different turn and I do not want to raise those issues in this conference).

Proceeding from this shared understanding, then, my question is related to the safety of biotechnology. Are there types of biotechnology that could be categorised as safe, and others that could be categorised as unsafe?

Can it be ensured that the result of a particular biotechnology can be contained within a generation of the crop? (to ensure that the modified organism does not spread 1. to other species (one of the greatest fears from the biodiversity point of view) and 2. to other generations of the same crop without any control by humans (though I am not sure this will be appreciated by the farmers, since this goes against the predominant practice among subsistence farming cultures of keeping the best part of the crop as seeds for future).

My concern with biotechnology and nanotechnology is that we are tampering with complex organisms, particles, and we may not be aware of what we as humanity is going to unleash. Hence my questions about 'safe' biotechnology . I look forward to hearing others' thoughts on this issue of safety, as the world seem to hurtle forward to technological solutions not only in the context of water crisis but also for enhancing the oil content or starch content of respective crops in the context of bio-fuels.

We need to be aware that most farmers who have the option of using the GMO seeds may use it if drought resistant varieties are available in the public domain or are available at affordable prices, when faced with the alternative of crop failure. (Currently they use it in situations where pirated seeds are available as in the case of Bt Cotton in India).

This brings me to the most important concern I have: it needs to be ensured that 'the research and technologies promoted in the public domain' meets precautionary principles, become the responsibility of public research institutions and institutions concerned with global governance, such as FAO. (Precautionary principle has been most commonly understood as 'a moral and political principle', which states that "if an action or policy might cause severe or irreversible harm to the public, in the absence of a scientific consensus that harm would not ensue, the burden of proof falls on those who would advocate taking the action"). The precautionary principle is most often applied in the context of the impact of human actions on the environment and human health, as both involve complex systems where the consequences of actions may be unpredictable. Thus when trying to address the water crisis through biotechnology I think it is important that precautionary principle is applied.

Shiney Varghese
Senior Policy Analyst,
Trade and Global Governance,
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP),
Minneapolis,
USA.
svarghese (at) iatp.org

[Note, as written in the Introduction of the Background Document, this conference is not just about GMOs and "discussions in this conference will not consider the issues of whether GMOs should or should not be used per se or the attributes, positive or negative, of GMOs themselves. Instead, the goal is to discuss the potential role that applications of biotechnology tools (including genetic modification) can play in helping developing countries cope with growing water scarcity". People wishing to take up the general issues of the safety of GMOs and/or application of the precautionary principle to GMOs, should contact Shiney Varghese directly...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 29 March 2007 11:13
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 67: Re: Alternatives to genetic modification in solving water scarcity

I am Glenn Ashton, independent researcher on environmental sustainability from Cape Town, South Africa, with a background in Geography.

I must commend the sensible comments made to this conference particularly those by S. Seshadri (Message 54), with his points made about practical water saving technologies, and also those posted by Hubert Dulieu (Message 63), Michel Ferry (Message 64) and others, highlighting both the shortcomings of genetic modification as juxtaposed to the urgency of the situation in conserving water whilst maximising production.

While breeding using advanced techniques (including marker assisted selection (MAS)) may offer some solutions, it seems that more readily affordable and available methods such as compost/ microbial teas, innoculants and the like should be shared as widely as possible between zones experiencing similar climatic challenges and having similar soil characteristics/shortcomings.

Like the more cautious commentators of this conference, I agree that concentrating on genetic modification is a questionable option offering limited immediate relevant technological solutions, that at the same time risks alienating scarce research resources that could be far more fruitfully applied. Moreover, the problems related to loss of heritage seed resources, patenting and intellectual property all outweigh any benefits that may accrue over the medium and long term.

It is clear that many of the problems of agricultural production faced emanate from an overt reliance on technical solutions, particularly those promoted during the time of the so-called green revolution that had unforeseen consequences such as pollution of groundwater, overuse of pesticides and high water use and that often resulted in serious impacts to soil microbial activity and other concomitant problems. Whilst technical solutions are useful, I must concur with Hubert Dulieu's (message 63) quote of Buffon about obeying natural systems. I would suggest that all agronomists endeavor to examine the work of Bill Mollison, the so called father of Permaculture, an agricultural production system that works in concert with natural systems and which is eminently flexible according to observed needs and resources.

I think the use of innoculants to increase the microbal activity of soil, enhancing the breakdown of cellulose and other plant wastes, while making nutrients available to plants is perhaps one of the most exciting possibilities offered by microbiology towards reducing drought impacts on plants, but this, like all natural solutions, cannot ever be analysed in isolation. Cover cropping, mulching and study of the mechanisms of how companion planting enhance both soil moisture retention and crop growth all offer possibilities for research.

I thank all of those who have contributed and the good offices of the UN for facilitating this most interesting exchange of ideas. I hope this exchange of ideas can evolve into open exchanges of simple, replicable technologies that can enhance food production and security for those most in need.

Glenn Ashton
Noordhoek
Cape Town
South Africa
ekogaia (at) iafrica.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 29 March 2007 11:29
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 68: The future in drought stress research

This is Arun K. Shanker, Senior Scientist (Plant Physiology) at the Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture, India. As the conference is approaching its end, I would like to sum up as to what are my views on the future direction in this area of research.

There has been a lack of systems approach in developing strategies for evolving plants tolerant to water stress. This is mainly because adaptation to water stress is quite complex, involving interactions with unpredictable environment and hence developing strategies for evolving plants with stress tolerance requires a systems approach. More so because mechanisms accounting for genotypic differences in stress adaptation within a crop species are less thoroughly understood and lesser still their genetic basis.

A number of factors have contributed to this lack of understanding. Firstly, much of the pure research effort in the area of plant stress focuses either on comparisons between species or the response of a single genotype to stress treatments. Secondly, the predominance of an upstream focus in plant stress research has led to a greater emphasis on traits associated with survival under extreme stress than those associated with agronomic productivity under resource-limited conditions. Finally, a crop that experiences moisture deficit, for example, may simultaneously experience a number of additional stress factors that exacerbate drought stress, such as micronutrient deficiency associated with low transpiration rates, soil problems associated with dry land cultural practices such as salinity and soil compaction, as well as biotic stresses that are specific to dry soils such as nematodes and certain fungal pathogens.

The functional basis of water stress tolerance has been explained from both mechanistic and energetic perspectives. The mechanistic viewpoint has largely emerged from studies focusing on plant model systems, in which similarities between cellular responses to stress have been explained in terms of the shared effects of stress treatments on cellular water potential. This common effect has frequently been cited to explain associations found among cold, drought, and salinity stress responses in Arabidopsis and other plant species. The energetic viewpoint has attempted to account for cross-tolerance mechanisms more broadly in terms of the common effect that different stress conditions have on energy allocation. In stressful environments, organisms must free energetic resources that enable mechanisms promoting tolerance and survival. Many mechanisms are likely to be stress-specific, but metabolic shifts that re-allocate energy to these stress-specific mechanisms represent a general response that may occur under many types of adverse conditions. The mechanistic and energetic perspectives suggest the existence of stress resistance mechanisms that confer tolerance to a wide range of adverse conditions. Evidence in support of such mechanisms has been obtained at both the quantitative genetic and molecular levels.

The host of genomics tools has provided a wealth of data and, already, a better understanding of the changes in cellular metabolism that are induced by abiotic stresses, but fewer results have been forthcoming with respect to the functioning of the whole plant. The conversion of the many data points into understanding is still incomplete. Integration and filtering of data and confirmation by independent means in combination with advanced bioinformatics tools will alleviate this deficit. An understanding of plants as a system of interacting functions will emerge, but a more immediate problem seems to be finding applications for all this knowledge. Searching for and recording quantitative traits has the advantage of an unbiased approach.

Also, one important lesson from comparative, functional genomics studies is the recognition by molecular means of enormous adaptive functional diversity in many characters, including stress tolerance. 'Allele mining', as it may be termed, can focus on close relatives of the established models for which sufficient genomic resources are available. Such strategies appear possible with several species combinations, and should provide a way to harness the existing evolutionary adaptive diversity to develop stress-protected crops in which growth and yield are less compromised by abiotic stresses. The search for stress-tolerance alleles that retain growth and yield and the provision of the knowledge to breeding programs present the real challenge for plant genomics. A comprehensive screening of metabolites during drought stress will advance our fundamental understanding of major metabolic pathways and provide direction for future metabolic engineering for drought-stress tolerance in crop plants.

In the end, the value of any genes or pathways for drought tolerance in crop plants can only be judged by evidence of solid field performance. Approaches with proteomics will be necessary to clarify the structural predictions of genome sequence information and to assess the protein modifications and protein–ligand interactions that are relevant to stress tolerant phenotypes. Ultimately, the functional determination of all genes that participate in stress adaptation or tolerance reactions are expected to provide an integrated understanding of the biochemical and physiological basis of stress responses in plants. Armed with such information from established models, it will be possible to rationally manipulate and optimize tolerance traits for improved crop productivity well into the twenty-first century.

Dr. Arun K. Shanker
Senior Scientist (Plant Physiology)
Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA)
Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR),
Santoshnagar, Hyderabad - 500 059
India
CELL PHONE 919441857375
website: http://www.geocities.com/arunshank
e-mail: arunshank (at) gmail.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 29 March 2007 12:55
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 69: Re: A landscape perspective required with traditional methods

I am Dr IC Okoli from the Dept of Animal Science, Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Nigeria. I research animal production and health issues in the tropics. This is my second contribution to this ongoing e-mail conference.

I wish to again support the views of EM Muralidharan (Message 60) and the thoughts put forth in Messages 54 (by S. Seshadri) and 56 (by Friderike Oehler). I have always advocated that the logical strategy to use in tackling most agricultural and environmental issues in developing countries is to target proven traditional biotechnologies which are usually nature mimicking. In many instances, including the current issue of water conservation methods, there is the need to thoroughly understand the methods already developed by indigenous peoples rather than put the major share of the strategies on modern biotechnology and expect miracles to happen.

In south eastern Nigeria that receives up to 2500mm of rain yearly and has only 4 months of dry season, most communities located far from natural streams sustain their water needs during the dry periods through simple indigenous technologies. This is usually centered on harvesting enough rain run-offs in wells or surface dishes. I feel that the biotech need for most of such people will be to improve ease of harvesting, the quality of the water and to increase the volume.

In northern Nigeria, for example, most streams dry up during the 7 months of dry season. An improved method similar to that done in the south, especially to meet the needs of the livestock pastoralists, will be of benefit to this important sector.

This type of intervention may best be approached on a regional basis and will require strong political will.

Dr IC Okoli
Dept Of Animal Science,
Federal University of Technology,
Owerri,
Nigeria.
dr_charleso (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 30 March 2007 10:05
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 70: Biotech tools vs. conventional breeding for efficiency of water use

I am Xavier Rakotonjanahary, plant breeder at the National Center of Applied Research for Rural Development, Madagascar. First, I would like to thank the FAO for organizing this conference and the participants for their valuable information and exchange of experiences about agricultural biotechnologies coping with growing water scarcity.

To respond to the important question 'How important are biotechnology tools compared to conventional breeding for improving the efficiency of water use in crops in developing countries?', my overall view is that agricultural biotechnologies are more efficient than conventional breeding because they are faster and some of them can detect variability which was not revealed by conventional breeding. As stated by Manikanda Boopathi (message 2), it is thought that most genes involved in a particular pathway reside in one location and that allows identification of quantitative trait loci (QTL) and to use mapping approach. So, biotechnology tools should be applied, even routinely applied in developing countries for increasing agricultural productivity, mainly for the dry or drought prone areas. With conventional breeding alone and with a fast growing population, there is very restricted issue and less chance to overcome food insufficiency and poverty.

Which biotechnology tools have greatest potential for improving the efficiency of water use in crops in developing countries? Many solutions and alternatives were given in the previous messages to mitigate drought effect by plant adaptation and to maximize water use efficiency in better ways. According to the present available information and expertise, marker assisted selection (MAS) and QTL tools seem to have greatest potential for improving the efficiency of water use in crops. However, as it was stated in many messages, drought tolerance is a very complex trait and application of MAS in developing countries has many bottlenecks, both in scientific process such as selection of the best segments to be used in MAS (Manikanda Boopathi, Message 2) and on practical level such as the costs, infrastructure and expertise (Mojisola Edema, Message 43). Even, it was reported that not much success has been achieved in developing drought tolerant rice cultivars through MAS since most QTL detection software can only be used in populations developed from two parents (Baboucarr Manneh, Message 40). And last but not least, public funds for molecular techniques in developing countries are not available because these are not a research priority area and the private sector is not interested to financially support research activities.

Regarding the message on mutagenesis (Hubert Dulieu, Message 55), mutation breeding could result in drought resistant lines. We are working on rice, on groundnut and bambaranut, this latter being a neglected crop, with the support of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Induction and enlargement of variability is usually obtained by gamma irradiation; then, new genotypes of rice are currently obtained by use of anther culture. Drought tolerant genotypes are then identified by screening with low cost techniques, e.g. plantlet or root box screening by visual recording on morphological and physiological traits.

Hybrid vigour in crops by use of hybrid lines or hybrid seeds is equally an alternative which should not be forgotten for improving the efficiency of water use.

Xavier Rakotonjanahary
Plant breeder and Rice breeding coordinator
National Center of Applied Research for Rural Development
BP1690, Antananarivo 101,
Madagascar
e-mail: r.xavier (at) simicro.mg

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 30 March 2007 17:19
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 71: The water issue and possible roles for agbiotech

This overview is from Denis Murphy, Head of Biotechnology Unit, University of Glamorgan, UK and an international agricultural advisor/consultant specializing in oil crops (http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/abstract/114188082/ABSTRACT).

To my mind the water issue and the possible roles for agbiotech are some of the most serious challenges that agriculture will face over the next 50 years. I have recently researched these topics in some depth for two books respectively on modern biotechnology and the history of crops and human societies. (Plant Breeding and Biotechnology: Societal Context and the Future of Agriculture, Cambridge University Press, UK, http://www.cambridge.org/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521823890; and People, Plants, and Genes: The Story of Crops and Humanity, Oxford University Press, http://www.oup.com/uk/catalogue/?ci=9780199207145).

Firstly, it is important to stress that water availability is at the heart of the evolution of agriculture. The first cereal crops were domesticated in northern Mesopotamia and the Levant about 11,000 years ago under rainfed conditions and for over 3,000 years farming was only possible above 200-300-millimetre isohyet and was not highly productive. The major breakthrough came after about 8000 years Before Present (BP) when the Samarrans and their neighbours invented crop irrigation which led to the settlement of southern Mesopotamia, the cultivation of higher yielding crops, and the foundation of the first agro-urban cultures in Sumer by 5000BP. Similar sequences of events occurred in east/south Asia, Africa and the Americas. Throughout the history of agriculture, episodes of aridification have had devastating effects on civilisations, from the Maya in Yucatan to the Harappans of the Indus Valley. [An isohyet is a line joining areas of equal rainfall on a map...Moderator].

The challenges we face today are therefore nothing new, except that there are about 20-times more people today than in Mayan times and, if anything, our highly complex technological, urbanised cultures are even more fragile in the face of environmental change than those of our ancestors. The one advantage that we have is our vastly increased scientific knowledge of crop breeding and agronomy, including agricultural management in the broadest sense. The wise and selective application of such knowledge will largely determine whether our agricultural systems can weather future episodes of widespread and prolonged aridity.

Today, only about 20% of farmland is irrigated, but this provides 40% of our global food supply. It is estimated that by 2050, as much as two-thirds of the global population will live in water scarce areas (Wallace, 2000). One of the major future challenges will be to maintain the supply of water to agriculture in the face of depleted groundwater supplies, increasing salinisation, alterations in river flow, and changing rainfall patterns across the world. During the next few decades, population growth will probably continue to level off, possibly reaching about nine billion by 2050. The prognosis for the capacity of agriculture to feed this additional 40% of people is cautiously optimistic. The major unknown is the magnitude and effect on crop productivity of short-medium term climate change associated mainly with increased atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, which are predicted to increase global temperatures and alter rainfall patterns. Warmer weather and higher CO2 levels might even favour higher crop yields, although localised aridification due to reduced rainfall could severely affect output in affected regions. Therefore, the overall effect of short-term CO2–related climate change on global agriculture will largely depend on whether any of the key producer regions, such as Chinese rice-growing areas or the US Midwest, suffers serious and sustained drought.

The key issue of water scarcity in agriculture has been highlighted in a recent report from the International Water Management Institute (2006). Increasing aridification of cropland will probably occur in the short-medium-term due to a combination of human and climatic factors, including population increases in regions of water deficit as noted by Wallace, 2000; Pereira et al, 2006. So it seems that in both the short-medium-term and the long-term, by far the most serious threat to food production will come from aridification, rather than temperature change.

We should therefore prepare ourselves for more arid climates in the future. We can do this by developing new food resources, including newly domesticated crops and genetically improved cultivars of existing crops that can tolerate a wider range of climates than we have experienced hitherto. Our present methods of genetic engineering are still too primitive to contribute significantly in this direction. This is mainly because traits like drought tolerance are highly complex and regulated by many genes, which makes it difficult to manipulate them by the kinds of simple transgenic approaches in use today. However, other high-tech methods like marker-assisted selection may enable us to develop new such crops in the next few decades. (The prospects for high-tech genomic approaches to improve breeding for drought tolerance are reviewed by Tuberosa and Salvi (2006), who append this important caveat: "Harnessing the full potential of genomics-assisted breeding will require a multidisciplinary approach and an integrated knowledge of the molecular and physiological processes influencing tolerance to drought."). Given the rapid progress of research over the past few years, it cannot be ruled out that radical forms of genetic engineering will be invented during the present century but they are not necessarily imminent.

One further drawback of most transgenic technologies is their ownership by the private sector, which can seriously limit public-good applications. Here there is potentially good news with the development of ‘open access technologies’ (such as transgenesis) that are owned by the global commons. One example is CAMBIA, which states that: "Our institutional ethos is built around an awareness of the need and opportunity for local commitment to achieving lasting solutions to food security, agricultural, public health and environmental problems. We envision a situation in which the broadest community of researchers and farmers are empowered with dramatic new technologies to become innovators in developing their own solutions to the challenges they face - solutions for which they feel ownership." (http://www.cambia.org/daisy/cambia/about_cambia/590.html).

But in the meantime, we should focus the scarce resources of bodies like the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) on the proven approaches of conventional breeding, supplemented by all available modern technologies providing the latter are both appropriate and cost effective for the crop/region in question.

Denis Murphy,
Biotechnology Unit,
Division of Biology,
University of Glamorgan,
Treforest CF37 1DL,
United Kingdom
Phone: +44 1443 483747, Fax: +44 1443 482285
e-mail: dmurphy2 (at) glam.ac.uk

References:

Wallace JS (2000) Increasing agricultural water use efficiency to meet future food production, Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 82, 105-119

Pereira JS, Chaves MM, Caldeira MC and Correia AV (2006) Water availability and productivity, In: Morison JIL and Morecroft MD, editors, Plant Growth and Climate Change, pp118-145, Blackwell, Oxford, UK, available online at: www.isa.utl.pt/files/pub/ensino/cdocente/Water_availability_productivity.pdf

Tuberosa, R. and Salvi, S. 2006. Genomics-based approaches to improve drought tolerance of crops. Trends in Plant Science, 11, 405-412. http://www.plantstress.com/files/Genomics_approaches.pdf

International Water Management Institute (2006) Insights from the Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture, International Water Management Institute, Colombo, Sri Lanka. August 2006. http://www.iwmi.cgiar.org/assessment/files_new/publications/Discussion%20Paper/InsightsBook_Stockholm2006.pdf

[Note, the full report from the Comprehensive Assessment has just been published in the past few days, entitled "Water for Food, Water for Life: A Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture", see http://www.iwmi.cgiar.org/assessment/index.htm for all the background and publications for this key initiative and http://www.iwmi.cgiar.org/assessment/files_new/synthesis/Summary_SynthesisBook.pdf (4.7 MB) for the report summary. Contact comp.assessment@cgiar.org for more information...Moderator]

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 02 April 2007 16:28
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 72: How can biotechnology help in addressing water scarcity?

This is from Professor C.S. Prakash, Tuskegee University, United States. I have followed with interest and appreciate the comments made to date on the FAO e-mail Conference 14 on Water Scarcity and Agricultural Biotechnologies. The discussion has raised four points that should be addressed.

First, the track record of plant biotechnology providing benefits to farmers in developing countries is good. Although it is true that most of the current biotechnology products were developed in industrialized countries by the private sector, ninety percent of the farmers using biotech products today are in developing countries, and this technology brought them more than US$2.5 billion in increased net income in 2005 alone. We could consider this as some indication of how a drought-tolerant biotech product might further benefit these farmers, especially in places where drought steals away entire harvests every seven or eight years.

Second, I agree that the various plant science disciplines should be working together (Message 55, by Hubert Dulieu). I'd like to point out that marker assisted breeding has been successfully used in agriculture for many years. The key advantage to this technology is the time savings to introgress traits from one genetic background to another - important indeed given the urgency with which we all want to make advances in this area. This is a powerful technology that helps bring plant breeding even closer to plant biotechnology.

Third, the private sector is actively developing technology to deliver drought tolerance in crop plants and making great progress. This is not intended to result in crop plants grown under extreme desert conditions. But several years of field trials are now complete showing a yield advantage with this biotech drought tolerant trait under both water adequate and water stress conditions. It seems likely that such a trait will be available to farmers in the US in the next few years. The advanced state of work in this area leads me to believe it should have some priority among technologies being developed or adapted to mitigate drought conditions in developing countries.

Finally, plant biotechnology is one of many approaches to address water scarcity, and we should be pursuing these different approaches together according to our strengths. We should be thinking of these approaches as complementary, rather than 'alternatives'. To exclude biotechnology -- or any other approach that has been mentioned here -- as part of the solution for water scarcity could either result in slower progress or outright inability to find an adequate solution to this problem. Once we do find solutions that work, we have a responsibility to partner together to evaluate them for different local contexts and ensure that they are accessible, affordable and appropriately used (as mentioned by Gian Nicolay in Messages 41 and 61, and Edo Lin in Message 62). As water demands escalate, this problem will only become more profound if all technological and institutional resources are not used to find this solution.

C.S. Prakash
Professor, Tuskegee University
Tuskegee, AL 36088,
USA
Prakash (at) tuskegee.edu
http://www.agbioworld.org/

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 02 April 2007 16:29
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 73: Biotech approaches to water stress in developing country crops

From Denis Murphy, University of Glamorgan, Wales, UK (1).

Much has been made of the potential for genetic engineering for the improvement of drought tolerance in crops and this prospect is a major aspect of the biotech industry case for more extensive use of agbiotech in developing countries (2). However, as many researchers in the field have pointed out, our limited knowledge of stress-associated metabolism in plants still constitutes a major handicap to effect such manipulations in practice (3). Another problem that farmers and breeders have long been aware of is the synergistic effect of different stresses on crop performance. It is often the combination of such stresses that is so deleterious to the crop in an agronomic context, rather than effect of any single type of stress. However, molecular biologists have tended to focus (for understandable reasons) on single stresses. Unfortunately for this piecemeal approach, recent studies have shown that simultaneous application of several stresses gives rise to unique responses that cannot be predicted by extrapolating from the effects of stresses given individually (4). Because the co-presence of several stresses is the norm in the open environment, the success of a molecular approach to stress remediation in crops will require a broader and more holistic approach than we have seen hitherto.

Salt tolerance (which is closely related to water stress) has been a particular focus of claims for significant results from transgenic approaches. One of the key prerequisites for the success of a gene insertion strategy to combat salt tolerance is that it should be regulated as a simple genetic trait, i.e. one involving a very small number of genes. Although such simple genetic regulation has been claimed in some cases in experimental studies (5), it seems more likely that salt tolerance in most crops in the field is in fact a rather complex multi-gene trait (6). Meanwhile there have been some successes at engineering salt tolerance in laboratory situations. One example is a transgenic tobacco line, expressing an E coli mannitol-1-phosphate dehydrogenase gene that accumulates elevated levels of mannitol, and can withstand high salinity (7). Laboratory and small-scale field studies have also shown that the accumulation of other compounds, including betaine or trehalose, in transgenic plants may enhance salt tolerance (8). In a University of California (UC) Davis study, rapeseed plants expressing an Arabidopsis vacuolar transport protein tolerated as much as 250 mM sodium chloride (about half the concentration of sea water and enough to kill most crops) without significant impact on seed yield or composition (9).

However, it is not clear whether such relatively simple modifications will lead to a sustained effect on crop yields in the much more complex real-world cropping systems, where osmotic stress is often linked with a combination of other factors such as periodic aridity, mineral/salt build up and/or erosion. This means that the jury is still very much out on the amenability of salt tolerance in the field (which is the only type of interest to breeders) to modification by genetic engineering (10). Unfortunately, attempts to improve salt tolerance through conventional breeding have also met with very limited success, largely due to the complexity of the trait. In the meantime, we know that salt tolerance must be an especially complex trait, physiologically speaking, because there are so many naturally occurring tolerance mechanisms in salt-adapted plants in the wild. This should lead to some caution when interpreting claims in the scientific literature that the transfer of one or a few genes can increase the tolerance of field crops to saline conditions (11). The way forward here is to investigate as many realistically promising strategies as possible, but if I were a practical field breeder with limited resources, and our present state of knowledge, I would probably focus most of my resources on non-transgenic approaches to salt tolerance.

Drought tolerance, like salt tolerance, seems to be controlled by complex sets of traits that may have evolved as separate mechanisms in different groups of plants. In the near future, it is likely that aridity will increase around the world. This will be caused by factors such as lower rainfall due to climate change, and the diversion of upstream water supplies from rivers, e.g. for dams or irrigation, leaving farmers in downstream regions bereft. It is surprising therefore that there have been relatively few attempts to produce transgenic drought-tolerant crops, even by publicly funded organisations. An Australian group has recently reported that a single gene, called erecta, might regulate much of the genetic variation for drought tolerance in the model plant, Arabidopsis (12). This approach merits further attention, but as with salt tolerance, it may turn out that in a practical field situation many other genes are involved in addition to erecta or its equivalents.

Instead of transgenesis it is now possible to use advanced breeding methods to improve the agronomic performance of existing drought tolerant crops in arid regions. One of the most important such crops is pearl millet, which is grown on over 40 million hectares in Africa. The similarity in gene order, or synteny, between the pearl millet genome and that of the other major cereals (13) means that drought-tolerance traits could be introduced into local varieties via marker-assisted conventional breeding. Another option is to use wide crossing and tissue culture methods to cross millet with one of the other high-yielding cereal crop species to create a new drought-tolerant, high-yielding hybrid species. Indeed, breeders have already used such a strategy to create the new rye/wheat hybrid species called Triticale. A further approach is to investigate the possibility of domesticating potential food crops that are already drought tolerant. Once again, knowledge gained from genomics can be applied using molecular markers to accelerate the selection of agronomically suitable varieties of such plants. The timescale of all these approaches will be in decades but surely such research is worthy of more attention by public sector bodies – possibly with the assistance of far-sighted philanthropic donors such as the Gates Foundation?

1. Some of the material in this message is based on concepts developed in more detail in a book I have written that will be published shortly (Murphy DJ, 2007. Plant Breeding and Biotechnology: Societal Context and the Future of Agriculture, Cambridge University Press, UK, http://www.cambridge.org/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521823890).

2. A useful overview of abiotic stress tolerance and its possible amelioration via genetic engineering is the review by Wang W, Vinocur B and Altman A (2003) Plant responses to drought, salinity and extreme temperatures: towards genetic engineering for stress tolerance, Planta 218, 1-14

3. Vinocur B and Altman A (2005) Recent advances in engineering plant tolerance to abiotic stress: achievements and limitations, Current Opinion in Biotechnology 16, 123-132

4. Mittler R (2005) Abiotic stress, the field environment and stress combination, Trends in Plant Science 11, 15-19

5. Yamaguchi-Shinozaki K, Shinozaki K (2001) Improving plant drought, salt and freezing tolerance by gene transfer of a single stress-inducible transcription factor, Novartis Foundation Symposium 236, 176-186

6. Flowers TJ (2004) Improving crop salt tolerance, Journal of Experimental Botany 55, 307-319

7. Tarczynski MC, Jensen RG and Bonhert HJ (1992) Expression of a bacterial mtlD gene in transgenic tobacco leads to production and accumulation of mannitol, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 89, 2600–2604

8. Nuccio ML, Rhodes D, McNeil SD and Hanson AD (1999) Metabolic engineering for osmotic stress resistance, Current Opinion in Plant Biology 2, 128–134

9. Zhang HX, Hodson JN, Williams JP and Blumwald E (2001) Engineering salt-tolerant Brassica plants: characterization of yield and seed oil quality in transgenic plants with increased vacuolar sodium accumulation, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U S A 98, 12832-12836

10. Yamaguchi T and Blumwald E (2005) Developing salt-tolerant crop plants: challenges and opportunities, Trends in Plant Science 10, 615-620

11. As stated in Flowers (2004): "It is surprising that, in spite of the complexity of salt tolerance, there are commonly claims in the literature that the transfer of a single or a few genes can increase the tolerance of plants to saline conditions. Evaluation of such claims reveals that, of the 68 papers produced between 1993 and early 2003, only 19 report quantitative estimates of plant growth. Of these, four papers contain quantitative data on the response of transformants and wild-type of six species without and with salinity applied in an appropriate manner. About half of all the papers report data on experiments conducted under conditions where there is little or no transpiration: such experiments may provide insights into components of tolerance, but are not grounds for claims of enhanced tolerance at the whole plant level. ... After ten years of research using transgenic plants to alter salt tolerance, the value of this approach has yet to be established in the field."

12. Masle J, Gilmore SR and Farquhar GD (2005) The ERECTA gene regulates plant transpiration efficiency in Arabidopsis, Nature 436, 866-870

13. Moore G, Devos KM, Wang Z, and Gale MD (1995) Cereal genome evolution. Grasses, line up and form a circle, Current Biology 5, 737-9

Denis Murphy,
Biotechnology Unit,
Division of Biology,
University of Glamorgan,
Treforest CF37 1DL,
United Kingdom
Phone: +44 1443 483747, Fax: +44 1443 482285
e-mail: dmurphy2 (at) glam.ac.uk

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 02 April 2007 16:30
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 74: The role of aquatic weeds in cleansing water

This is Prof KV Peter, again.

I come from a village called Kumbalangi, Cochin, Kerala. There was no tap water system in the village till 1975. Women from the neighbourhood came to my house and collected water in earthern pots from an open pond. Many times the women entered the pond barefoot. On my insistance, a bamboo bridge was made over the pond at one end and the women were requested to collect water standing on the bridge. The pond was full of floating aquatic weeds like pistia and salvenia. As the drinking water was collected in earthen pots, the water was cool enough to drink during summer. No serious incidence of water-borne diseases was reported. Near to my house, there is an island called Kallancherry surrounded by brackish water. But water from open ponds were potable. It is worthwhile to study the role of aquatic weeds in cleansing water.

Prof KV Peter Ph D
Professor of Horticulture
Kerala Agricultural University
KAU -PO, Vellanikkara,
Thrissur, Kerala State
India - 680656
kvptr (at) yahoo.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 02 April 2007 16:31
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 75: Arsenic contamination in agriculture water

This is Professor S.K.T. Nasar, India, coming back to the arsenic contamination issue I addressed in Message 1.

Sanyal and Nasar (2002, 2003 and 2005) showed that arsenic contamination in agriculture is a water-related disaster jointly with droughts, floods or other unwanted conditions. Nasar et al. (2003) indicated how arsenic-contaminated hazardous agricultural products lose marketability under Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures. (References to these articles are given below). Developing countries oblivious of the consequences focus chiefly on additional rather than on clean food in the face of the globalised open market economy and their rising populations. We firmly believe that both the quantity and quality of irrigation water-to-food continuum warrant equal importance.

The widespread arsenic (mainly As III) contamination of groundwater-irrigation water-soil-crop-animal-human continuum is a global concern. Soil is an effective sink and absorbs arsenic thereby reducing its entry into the food web. A number of weedy flowering and nonflowering plant species, crop varieties, bacteria and cyanobacteria that absorb high amounts of As III are recorded. Published work and our experience propose that arsenic contamination of soil is reduced by hyperaccumulator species of plants. Pteris vittata, a fern, is a well known example. Developing countries can and should identify location-specific hyperaccumulators as we are doing in West Bengal, India, for use in phytoremediation options for contaminated soils.

We recommend the use of green water for irrigation purposes. Where there is no alternative to using As-contaminated ground water for irrigation, it is recommended that this blue water should first be ponded for 24-72 hours before use in irrigation. Arsenic sinks to the benthos during ponding. The mechanism is unclear. Empirical evidence indicates that suspended soil particles, organic matter, phytoplankton and zooplankton hyperaccumulate arsenic from the ponded water thereby leaving it with substantially reduced contaminant load. Suspended particles and dead plankton settle to the bottom taking along the absorbed or adsorbed arsenic compounds. [The term 'benthos' refers to the organisms that live on or in the bottom of a body of water...Moderator].

There are, however, pitfalls in such non-rDNA (recombinant DNA) technologies. The toxic arsenite species is very slowly, if at all, converted into the less toxic arsenate compounds or to the least toxic volatile arsine forms. Most developing countries lack adequate resources of infrastructure and expertise for large scale monitoring of arsenic species in ecosystem components. Dumping of the after-use hyperaccumulating organisms or the filtrates where arsenic filters have been used is another predicament. Toxic arsenic is thrown back to the ecosystem if not dumped properly. Dumping by deep burial of after-use hyperaccumulating organisms in steel capsules is too costly for developing countries. Other protocols are required.

Large scale affordable rDNA technology application for remediation of arsenic contamination is not available. Genes and genetic systems vis-a-vis arsenic resistance and conversion in bacterial species are well documented. Sporadic reports on higher plants and humans are appearing with a rising frequency. It is now noticeably possible that large scale application protocols of gene construct, transformant and transgenic plant for conversion of toxic arsenic compounds will soon become globally available. At present, developing countries should opt for collection, identification and large scale use of organisms that hyperaccumulate and convert arsenic species. More efficient microbes should be selected and put back together into arsenic-contaminated ecosystems for horizontal gene transfers (HGT; equivalent to naturally occurring rDNA processes) to work. A gene hunt for desirable genomes of reharvested microbes from time to time will yield gene reconstructs that will be location specific and in the public domain. It is well documented that different bacterial species contain genes for resistance to arsenic while some are also known to convert arsenic species, say from As 3 to As 5. I believe that if these (species) genomes are placed together in high-arsenic environments, HGT will naturally create over time new genomes harboring both resistance and conversion genes together. This may not appear to be much of a science but has been happening in nature throughout evolutionary history of organisms. HGT happens among bacterial species in just hundred to thousand generations. Dhankher et al. 2002 reported rDNA engineered Arabidopsis thalliana for arsenic phytoremediation (http://www.genetics.uga.edu/rbmlab/pubs.html). This opens up the possibility of producing plant species for a similar purpose. However, in the present context, I recommend current non-rDNA options for developing countries and that they should simultaneously create infrastructure and expertise in rDNA technology options.

Selenium contamination together with arsenic contamination in groundwater is reported. Multiple contaminations are fast appearing as the rule rather than the exception. This creates complexity for rDNA technology application in this context. Reduced quantity of irrigation water, selection of varieties containing lesser amounts of embedded water and the combined use of traditional and rDNA biotechnologies form the current option for developing countries. We believe that similar strategies are applicable for different contaminants and locations.

Prof. S.K.T. Nasar,
Visiting Professor (Genetics),
Department of Environmental Science,
University of Burdwan
West Bengal
India
sktnasar (at) hotmail.com

References:

S.K. Sanyal and S.K.T. Nasar. 2002. Arsenic contamination of groundwater in West Bengal (India): Build-up in soil-crop systems. Paper presented to the International Conference on Water Related Disasters held in Kolkata on 5-6 December 2002.

S.K. Sanyal and S.K.T. Nasar. 2002. Arsenic contamination of groundwater in West Bengal (India): Build-up in soil-crop systems. In Analysis and Practice in Water Resource Engineering for Disaster Mitigation, New Age (P) Publishers, New Delhi, pp. 216-222.

S.K. Sanyal and S.K.T. Nasar. 2002. Arsenic contamination of groundwater in West Bengal (India): build-up in soil-crop systems. Jalvigyan Sameeksha (Hydrology Review), Volume 17, Number 1-2, pp. 49-63.

Nasar, S.K.T., Sanyal, S.K. and Bagchi, B. 2003. Negation of marketable quality and rice by arsenic contamination: mitigation options for Bengal-Delta Basin; Paper presented: International Symposium on Emerging Strategies for Reliability; December 12-14, 2003; Organised by Indian Association for Productivity, Quality and Reliability, Kolkata, India

S.K. Sanyal and S.K.T. Nasar. 2005. Arsenic Contamination in Groundwater of the Bengal Delta Basin: Implications in Agricultural Systems. In arsenic pollution in west Bengal; 5-6 August 2005, Organised by Srikrishna College Bagula. Nadia

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 02 April 2007 16:32
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 76: Use of mycorrhizal fungi

This is S.K.T. Nasar, India, again with comments on the issue of mycorrhizal fungi addressed in my message 1.

Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus (AMF; formerly VAM) association with the roots of terrestrial plants is known for a long time. The practice of transferring saplings along with rhizosphere soil is age old. The method, in effect, relocates AMF and other soil biota. Endo- or ecto-mycorrhizal association of AMF (Phycomycetes; Glomaceae family) with the roots is universal but contrary to common belief is non-specific or very loosely specific. AMF actually extends the reach of the roots and acts as tiny conduits for the availability of phosphate, other minerals and water. In drier soils the fungal hyphae extend beyond the root zone.

Our simple protocol to monitor AMF includes: digging out the rhizosphere soil with intact undamaged roots; putting them in a bucket with slow flowing water to remove soil to the maximum extent; roots are carefully taken out and cautiously washed; mycorrhizae (root + fungus) are immersed in 0.5% acetic acid solution to loosen tightly attached soil particles; fixing mycorrhizae cut into smaller pieces in a 1:1 acetic ethanol solution; and observing unstained or stained mycorrhizae under a microscope. Our experiments with litchi (lychee), cereals, vegetables and weeds showed that different AMF genera and species may simultaneously infest different roots of the same plant. We also found in an unpublished observation that one fungal hypha interconnected roots of two different species. These data lead us to the non-specific association of fungus and root. Mycorrhizal fungus always grows in association with actinomycete fungi. The relevance of this fungus-fungus association is not understood by us.

Quantification of water made available to the host roots is absent. Scientists claiming to increase water availability by infusing selected mycorrhizal fungal strains into the rhizosphere have not traced its growth in cropped soils. Experimenters need to 'see' AMF in action.

Our study on the cytology of mycorrhizal fungi of lychee and sweet potato did not lead us far. Molecular biology of specific relationship between AMF and plant roots is not fully understood. At present, recombinant DNA (rDNA) biotechnology of mycorrhizal fungal association needs more ground work. The present option is to refine the age old protocol and use them to advantage. Developing countries need rDNA expertise to embark upon mycorrhizal biotechnology to use AMF on a mass scale for growing water-requiring plants within a defined range of dry soils. A beginning must be made now.

Prof. S.K.T. Nasar,
Visiting Professor (Genetics),
Department of Environmental Science,
University of Burdwan
West Bengal
India
sktnasar (at) hotmail.com

[Specificity of the plant-fungus association seems to vary with the type of mycorrhizal fungi. As written in Section 5b) of the background document: "Mycorrhizae are symbiotic associations that form between the roots of plant species and fungi (see e.g. Sylvia et al, 2005). The hyphae (thread-like structures that are part of the body of the fungi) spread through the soil, taking up nutrients such as phosphorus and absorbing water, and transporting them to the plant root, and in return the fungi receive sugars from the plant. Almost all plant species form mycorrhizae. A number of different types of associations exist, of which arbuscular mycorrhizae (AM, also called vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizae [VAM]) and ectomycorrhizae (EM) are the most widespread and economically important. In AM, the hyphae penetrate and grow within the plant root cells. The fungi that form AM are part of the Glomeromycota fungi, involving less than 200 described species, and most crops and forest trees form AM with these fungi which tend to have a broad host plant range. In EM, the hyphae of the fungi do not penetrate the plant root cells and the external surface of the roots is covered by a characteristic sheath of hyphae. Compared to AM, the fungi that form EM are more diverse, involving over 4,000 fungal species (including e.g. truffles), although the range of plant species that form EM is more limited, involving trees from just a few families, including the fir, oak and pine" (http://www.fao.org/biotech/C14doc.htm) ...Moderator].

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 02 April 2007 16:33
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 77: Using GMO and non-GMO biotechnologies

This is S.K.T. Nasar, India, with a rejoinder on the issue related to organic agriculture to combat water scarcity raised in my message 1.

All crops can be grown during all seasons anywhere in the world under fully protected and automated protocols of precision agriculture. The production cost will, however, be much too prohibitive. Varied agro-ecologies in combination with minimal input for precision agriculture such as irrigation and high yielding varieties provide a comparative advantage to struggling agricultural economy of developing countries. This situation creates, maintains and augments agrodiversity, agricultural biodiversity and biological diversity. Exploitative intellectual property rights (IPR)-protected recombinant DNA (rDNA) biotechnologies will create uniformity and destroy diversity. Upscaled non-rDNA biotechnologies combined with location-specific rDNA biotechnologies are the right strategy for developing countries.

rDNA biotechnologies are certainly an option for enhancement of water use efficiency and for providing uncontaminated irrigation water at the stages of crop husbandry and at post-harvest value addition. Such rDNA biotechnologies are not available for the present. The need to speed up naturally occurring biological processes should receive due consideration.

In trying to revitalise bio-organic agricultural practices to be globally competitive, developing countries are confused about strategies more than they were at the launch of the Green Revolution over fifty years ago.

Microbial fertilisers in conjunction with organic manure/compost in place of substantially reduced or nil doses of chemical NPK fertilisers reduce the amount of irrigation water yet improve crop productivity and quality. Water holding capacity of the soil improves. Interestingly, the seed-to-harvest time is reduced by up to fifteen days for some crops. Informal experiments indicate reduction of embedded water in crop and its products. The lessons learned are: biofertiliser-cum-organic manuring cuts the amount of irrigation water and cuts seed-to-harvest time thereby decreasing the number of irrigations, depending upon the crop, cropping system and agro-ecology. Intercropping, continuous cropping and no tillage cropping systems with well researched combinations are well known agronomic methods to minimise evapotranspiration losses of water. Live mulching with carefully chosen weed or crop species help retain water in agrosystems. The option for developing countries now is to make all-out efforts to simultaneously use speeded up non-rDNA natural processes and develop location specific rDNA biotechnologies as public good.

Prof. S.K.T. Nasar,
Visiting Professor (Genetics),
Department of Environmental Science,
University of Burdwan
West Bengal
India
sktnasar (at) hotmail.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 02 April 2007 16:33
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: 78: Re: Conventional breeding vs. new tools for drought tolerance

I am Dr A.K. Gupta from India.

I have read many messages like 62 (by Edo Lin), 65 (by S.K. Samanta) and I am convinced that expensive techniques of molecular biology should be used only when there is no substitute. There is a need for giving more emphasis to biochemical mapping along with physical traits of diverse genetic material avaialable. I am convinced that it is possible to develop a model on the basis of biochemical mapping wherein if 15-20 biochemical parameters, selected carefully, are studied in diverse germplasm, then on the basis of diversity of these parameters it should be possible to propose a model wherein it should be possible to predict if a specific germplasm is going to behave in a specific manner under certain abiotic stress conditions (say drought) with 80-90% certainty without actually going for the field trials.

Dr A K Gupta
Professor of Biochemistry
Punjab Agricultural University
Ludhiana-141 004
India
e-mail: anilkgupta (at) sify.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Biotech-Mod2
Sent: 02 April 2007 16:36
To: 'biotech-room2@mailserv.fao.org'
Subject: End of FAO conference on water scarcity and biotechnology

Dear Colleagues,

The last message, (number 78, from A.K. Gupta), has now been posted so Conference 14 of the FAO Biotechnology Forum, entitled "Coping with water scarcity in developing countries: What role for agricultural biotechnologies?", is now officially closed.

FAO established this Biotechnology Forum in 2000 with the aim of providing quality balanced information on agricultural biotechnology in developing countries and to make a neutral platform available for people to exchange views and experiences on this subject. We hope that this conference has lived up to these aims and that you found it informative, interesting and of value. The Background Document to the conference is available at http://www.fao.org/biotech/c14doc.htm and all the messages posted will remain on the Forum website for people to read in the future, at http://www.fao.org/biotech/logs/c14logs.htm. I will put the remaining messages on the web, in addition to putting all the 78 messages into a single webpage, and will send you a message providing the weblink in the next couple of days. We strongly encourage you, as Forum Members, to widely disseminate information from this conference. As is standard practice with conferences in this Forum, we will also prepare a Summary Document in the future to provide a summary of the main issues discussed during the conference, based on the messages posted and circulate it widely.

For your interest, we can provide some figures about participation in the conference. It ran for four weeks, from Monday 5 March to Sunday 1 April 2007. The number of subscribers rose from 362, when the first message was posted, to 431 when the conference ended. Of the 431 people, 50 (i.e. 12%) submitted at least one message. Almost half of the messages (37, i.e. 47%) came from Asia, mostly from India, with 19 of the 78 messages (i.e. 24%) from people living in Africa; 14 (18%) from Europe, 6 (8%) from North America and one each from Latin America and the Caribbean and from people living in Oceania. The messages came from people living in 24 different countries, the greatest numbers by far coming from India, followed by France, the United States and Nigeria. A total of 58 messages (i.e. 75%) were posted by participants living in developing countries.

The greatest proportion of messages came from people working in universities (42%) followed by those (28%) in research centres, including CGIAR centres; in private companies or non-governmental organisations (8% each); or people working as private consultants (6%), for government ministries (4%) or UN organisations/projects (4%).

In one of the last messages, Xavier Rakotonjanahary from Madagascar, thanked the participants for "their valuable information and exchange of experiences about agricultural biotechnologies coping with growing water scarcity" . We support this fully and wish to thank him and the other 49 people who sat down and invested their time and effort in sharing their views and experiences on the many diverse issues raised in this conference, such as the development of drought tolerant crops, through marker-assisted selection or conventional breeding; the use of genetic modification and alternatives to genetic modification in solving water scarcity; use of bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi inoculants; and use of biotechnologies for treating wastewater to be used in agriculture. etc. etc. To each one of you, a special thanks.

John

John Ruane, PhD
Agricultural Officer (Biotechnology)
FAO Working Group on Biotechnology
Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO)
Room C-685,
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla,
00100 Rome,
FAO Biotechnology Website: http://www.fao.org/biotech/index.asp (in Arabic, Chinese, English, French and Spanish)
FAO website http://www.fao.org
E-mail address: Biotech-Admin@fao.org


Return to Archives of Conference 14 or go to the main Forum pages.