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2-Plants: Indian news on Bt cotton and Bt / hybrid chickpeas



                                 PART I
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Scientists produce new hybrid of chickpea
SOURCE: The Financial Express, India, by Ashok B. Sharma
        http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=104241
DATE:   30 Sep 2005

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Scientists produce new hybrid of chickpea

NEW DELHI, SEPT 30: Scientists at the International Crops Research
Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Andhra Pradesh have
succeeded in obtaining healthy hybrids of chickpea by crossing a
cultivated variety called Cicer-arietinum with the wild species Cicer-bijugum.

The development of this hybrid, achieved through embryo rescue and tissue
culture methods, has the potential for improving disease resistance,
thereby boosting crop yields. Producing such hybrids in the past had
proved to be highly illusive.

According to William Dar, director general, ICRISAT, the breakthrough can
result in the cultivation of improved chickpea, a crop that benefits the
poor and marginal farmers of the semi-arid tropics.

One of the proven means to broaden the genetic base of the crop and
introduce newer sources of resistance is to create inter-specific hybrids
of the plant and utilise wild species of chickpea for the purpose.

Chickpea, however, is not easily given to hybridisation. But with the
development of embryo rescue and tissue culture techniques at Icrisat, it
was possible to cross C. arietinum with C. bijugum and obtain healthy
hybrids. C. bijugum has many desirable characters, such as resistance to
pests and fungus. These good characteristics are expected to occur in the
hybrids as well.

ICRISAT has developed varieties of transgenic chickpeas with the
insertion of cry1A and cry1Ab genes. It has also developed transgenic
groundnut with the insertion of IPCVip and IPCV replicase.

These transgenic chickpeas and groundnut contained limited field trials.
After satisfactory completion of limited field trials, large-scale multi-
locational field trials will be taken up before the final approval is
given for commercial cultivation.


                                 PART II
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Homespun Bt here at last
SOURCE: The Indian Express, by Vivek Deshpande
        http://www.indianexpress.com/full_story.php?content_id=79091
DATE:   29 Sep 2005

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Homespun Bt here at last
Nagpur institute throws up challenge to Monsanto spinoffs, to hit fields
in two years

NAGPUR, SEPTEMBER 29: After facing criticism for years of failure in
developing its own Bt cotton, the Central Institute for Cotton Research
(CICR) now has something concrete to claim. It has been able to introduce
the Cry1 Ac gene in an Indian cotton variety and, if all goes well, the
institute's Bt will hit the market in another two years.

Director B M Khadi is confident the breed will be a success. ''The CICR
Bt will be an independent variety, which the farmers won't have to buy
every year from the market like the Bt hybrids available currently.

"Moreover, it will be much, much cheaper than those now available,'' he said.

CICR has been trying to develop India's own Bt since the early 1990s.

''At long last, we have standardised our own protocol (method) for a
primary transgenic variety. We call it meristem culture. Using this
method, we have put the Cry1 Ac Bt gene in the famous Rajasthan variety,
Bikaner Narma, and are currently testing it under different environmental
conditions across the country. The results are very encouraging and there
is little doubt that we'll be able to introduce our Bt in the market in
two years,'' Khadi, who lad the research team at the University of
Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad, said.

Incidentally, primary transgenic is the original variety of the seed,
like the one developed and marketed by Monsanto. Secondary transgenic
varieties (hybrids), were developed under licence from Monsanto by
companies like Mahyco, Rasi, Ankur and Nuzeweedu. While hybrid seeds have
to be bought anew every year, the primary variety can be preserved and
used by the farmer in successive years.

CICR scientists have also introduced the gene in three other varieties--
LRA 1566, LRK 516 and RG 8 (Desi cotton)--and the initial trials are
underway on the CICR campus. But their efficacy is yet to be established,
unlike the Bikaner Narma modifications.

''We were always interested in the primary transgenic variety. Initially,
we tried to use Monsanto's somatic embryogenesis method on Indian
varieties, but we failed. Cotton is acknowledged to be a very tough crop
from the bio-technological point of view. Even the Monsanto method was
successful on only two American varieties, Coker 312 and Coker 310.
Similar efforts have failed in China too,'' Khadi said.

According to the CICR director, besides his own institute, only China has
succeeded in developing its own protocol, Pollen 2 Pathway. ''After an
open field trial at the CICR, the Bikaner Narma is currently under trial
at nine select stations in south and central India. One year later, we
will subject it to multi-locational trials (on select plots) and large-
scale trials (on farmer's fields),'' Khadi said.

''We hope the final results will be good and our Bt will be ready to hit
the fields in two years,'' he added.


Bet on Bt
- CICR Bt will be much cheaper than hybrid varieties currently available
- Farmers can preserve seeds for use in next season
- Field trials on under varied environmental conditions



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