March 2014 Issue
From a maize development program in France to the unlocking of the pigeonpea genome in India.
There’s no fair sport without proper and clear rules. The same is true for international trade. The seed trade met in 1924 to draft a set of internationally-approved trade rules at the first congress of the International Seed Trade Federation. But as in sports, from time to time the rules need to be revised in the seed trade. The International Seed Federation has been revising these rules each time a need to do so is expressed from the professional seed trade.
Last year, the ISF Trade and Arbitration Rules Committee began a major overhaul of the trade rules. The committee held another constructive meeting last October in Budapest, Hungary. The re-drafted trade rules will now be sent to the entire ISF membership for their review. All members are encouraged to send in their comments to ensure the trade rules fit their needs. The next meeting of the committee was in February 2012 in Rome, Italy. It is expected that the revised trade rules will be adopted at the ISF World Seed Congress at the end of June in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
ISF also maintains a set of internationally-approved rules for dispute settlement between seed companies, its so-called arbitration rules. Each year, between five and 10 international disputes are resolved through the ISF arbitration rules. Work has begun on a revision of the arbitration rules, which is expected to be finalized at the 2013 ISF World Seed Congress in Athens, Greece.
—Marcel Bruins, secretary general of the International Seed Federation
DuPont has signed a multi-year lease agreement with Beijing International Flower Port to build a state-of-the-art Technology Hub for its Pioneer seed business in Beijing, China. The new facility is slated to open later this year and will employ nearly 50 researchers. The Technology Hub will use Pioneer’s global capabilities in molecular breeding to develop new high-yielding maize hybrids which will improve the sustainability of farming in China, while enhancing food security.
The Technology Hub is the latest addition to DuPont’s growing research and development network in China. For example, Pioneer has seven other research locations and a research joint venture established in 2007 with Sino Bioway Group Co., Ltd., a Peking University bio-agriculture company, known as Beijing Kaituo DNA Biotech Research Center Co., Ltd.
The Technology Hub will leverage Pioneer’s proprietary matrix of molecular breeding technologies called the Accelerated Yield Technology system. The AYT system uses doubled haploids, laser assisted seed selection, precision phenotyping methods and other leading technologies to identify superior gene combinations earlier in the breeding process compared to traditional methods alone.
“This is a further extension of how DuPont is investing in global science to identify solutions locally,” said William Niebur, DuPont vice-president and Pioneer China general manager in a press release. “Our vision is to work side-by-side with our Chinese collaborators to bring the AYT system together with other cutting-edge molecular breeding technologies to enhance and accelerate maize breeding in China.”
Amaizing, a French Stimulus Initiative project, has officially launched in Versailles, France. The project is coordinated by the National Institute for Agricultural Research and led by Alain Charcosset, research director at INRA Versailles-Grignon.
Amaizing will bring together 24 key players of the French maize industry in a long-term partnership, including seven breeding companies and two biotechnology companies, and has a total operating budget of €30 million over eight years. Amaizing, according to INRA, will “establish tools and methods to produce plant material based upon association mapping and ecophysiological studies of maize under abiotic stresses,” while also contributing to international efforts to characterize variations in the maize genome.
Amaizing is one of five winners of the “Biotechnology and Bioresources” call for proposals within the Investments for the Future program. Along with Breedwheat, INRA’s wheat breeding program, Amaizing aims to use advanced research and technology to boost the competitiveness of French agriculture.
A group of 31 Indian scientists from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and Indian state agricultural universities, as well as Banaras Hindu University, have cracked the pigeonpea (arhar) genome.
Within days of this breakthrough, a team of international researchers led by the International Crops Research Institute of the Semi-Arid Tropics also claimed to have sequenced the genome in an entirely separate effort. Their partnership, called the International Initiative for Pigeon pea Genomics includes researchers from BGI–Shenzhen in China, the University of Georgia, the University of California—Davis, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and the National Centre for Genome Resources.
ICRISAT’s research, including all the details of the completed genome sequence, has been published in the online journal of Nature Biotechnology.
Pigeonpea is India’s second most important pulse crop, and an important staple food for semi-arid regions of Asia, Africa and South America. The breakthrough is anticipated to lead to the development of improved varieties which may triple production. According to ICRISAT researchers, the sequencing of the genome will also significantly shorten the time it takes to breed new varieties.
“The mapping of the pigeonpea genome is a breakthrough that could not have come at a better time,” said ICRISAT director general William Dar in a press release. “Now that the world is faced with hunger and famine, particularly in the Horn of Africa, brought about by the worst drought of the decades, science-based, sustainable agricultural development solutions are vital in extricating vulnerable dryland communities out of poverty and hunger for good.”
In response to ICRISAT’s announcement, Nagender Kumar Singh, a senior scientist with ICAR, said the team welcomed ICRISAT’s research. “In the future, the two sequences should merge to improve the quality of pigeon pea (arhar),” he said.
Agri-biotechnology company, Rosetta Green, based in Rehovot, Israel, has successfully tested a microRNA gene in tobacco plants under irrigation with seawater. The gene, which is also found in corn and soybean, contains a key trait which helps create resistance to harsh climatic conditions such as drought and extreme salinity.
The experiment involved both a control set of plants and a set of plants genetically modified to include the microRNA gene. Both sets were irrigated with salt water with an extremely high level of salinity and then returned to normal irrigation. Only the genetically modified plants were able to recover from the harsh conditions.
“The frequent droughts afflicting the world in recent years, and the motivation to expand to arid lands containing brackish water, require the development of plant varieties resistant to drought and irrigation with salt water,” said the company’s CEO, Amir Avniel in a press release. “This experiment is another step in the company’s progress towards [the] production of improved plants that will provide farmers with excellent yield even in drought conditions.”