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[genet-news] GMO-FREE PRODUCTS & SEEDS: U.S. researchers develop non-GE pest-resistant potato, soy and salad



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:  SCIENTISTS USE OLD, NEW TOOLS TO DEVELOP PEST-RESISTANT POTATO

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Agriculture, USA

AUTHOR: Agricultural Research, by Jan Suszkiw

URL:    http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/apr09/potato0409.htm

DATE:   01.04.2009

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SCIENTISTS USE OLD, NEW TOOLS TO DEVELOP PEST-RESISTANT POTATO

Despite their microscopic size, Columbia root-knot nematodes (CRN) have potential to inflict huge losses?about $40 million annually?by tunneling into potatoes to feed. But this level of loss isn?t likely to happen, thanks to fumigants growers now use?at a cost of $20 million annually.

In seeking alternatives to using chemical fumigants, ARS and collaborating scientists are field-testing a new russet potato breeding line that naturally resists the pests.

Commercial varieties bred from line PA99N82-4 would be the first with resistance not only to CRN, but also to northern and southern root-knot nematodes, says geneticist Chuck Brown. He?s in ARS?s Vegetable and Forage Crops Research Unit at Prosser, Washington. ?PA99N82-4 also resists the viral disease corky ringspot, which is transmitted by nematodes and causes unsightly blemishes in tubers,? he adds. ?Corky ringspot is also controlled by soil fumigation.?

CRN is problematic in the Pacific Northwest, where two-thirds of America?s potatoes are grown, and in Florida. Though fumigating the soil before planting suppresses CRN numbers, the practice isn?t cheap, with some chemicals costing $300 per acre. It can also harm nontarget organisms, including beneficial soil-dwelling insects.

Genetic resistance, however, confines the fight to the potato?s roots and tubers. But putting that resistance to work hasn?t been easy.

Because resistance is absent from U.S. cultivated potatoes, Brown and colleagues used the wild species collection at ARS?s U.S. Potato Genebank in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Painstaking screening of the material at Prosser showed Solanum bulbocastanum to be the most resistant.

The problem is, wild and cultivated potatoes are chromosomally incompatible. So the researchers resorted to ?bridging,? a technique that fused S. bulbocastanum and cultivated potato cells together, forcing the DNA of both to combine. Stimulants were then added to induce cells to become plantlets. Over several years, the researchers used backcrossing to eliminate unwanted traits?like tiny tubers and poor taste?from resistant plants they had created.

Besides conventional plant-breeding techniques, they used biotechnology methods, including DNA markers linked to S. bulbocastanum?s gene for resistance, RMc1(blb). Normally, resistance levels are determined by inoculating potted plants with nematodes, waiting 7 weeks, and removing and washing the roots so the pests? eggs can be counted.

?It?s a laborious, time-consuming process,? says Brown. But with marker technology, leaf tissue can be quickly analyzed for genetic evidence of RMc1(blb). ?Being able to determine in 1 day?s time which plants are resistant is very helpful,? he adds.

Still, the entire process to date has taken 20 years and the close collaboration of many scientists, including ARS postdoctoral researcher Lin-Hai Zhang, at Prosser; Washington State University scientist Hassan Mojtahedi; and John Helgersen, now retired from ARS.

PA99N82-4, the top pick of this intensive effort, is in its third year of field trials. Besides tests in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho under the Tri-State Potato Breeding Program, it?s also being evaluated in California and Texas. Two more years of testing will follow before the line is released for development into commercial varieties.

This research is part of Plant Biological and Molecular Processes, an ARS national program (#302) described on the World Wide Web at www.nps.ars.usda.gov.

?Scientists Use Old, New Tools To Develop Pest-Resistant Potato? was published in the April 2009 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:  USDA SCIENTISTS TO RELEASE DROUGHT-TOLERANT SOYBEAN LINE

SOURCE: USAgNet, USA

AUTHOR: 

URL:    http://www.wisconsinagconnection.com/story-national.php?Id=808&yr=2009

DATE:   13.04.2009

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USDA SCIENTISTS TO RELEASE DROUGHT-TOLERANT SOYBEAN LINE

U.S. Department of Agriculture?s Agricultural Research Service plant geneticist Tommy Carter, Ph.D., and his team of researchers plan to soon release a soybean breeding line offering drought-tolerant traits.

Funded in part by the soybean checkoff, Carter?s crew -- dubbed Team Drought -- narrowed down an original supply of over 5,000 varieties to five. These varieties display the slow-wilting trait and good yield potential under normal rainfall conditions. According to Carter, his slow-wilting lines yield four to eight bushels better than conventional varieties under drought conditions Carter began his quest for drought-tolerant soybeans 25 years ago. Over the past 11 years, the soybean checkoff has expanded this work, providing Carter and his team more than $7 million.

?In 1980, when I started this type of research, we all knew drought-tolerance was important to farmers. But from the research side, we didn?t know anything about drought-tolerance or if we could do anything about it genetically,? Carter said. ?Because of climate change, there?s been more awareness recently in the scientific community that drought research is a priority. The United Soybean Board [through soybean checkoff research programs] has been the one who was there the whole time, starting in 1998.?

Following a final round of testing, Carter hopes to publicly release his drought-tolerant lines soon. Some southern breeding companies have already begun to use the materials.



                                  PART 3

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TITLE:  ARS RELEASES ICEBERG LETTUCE BREEDING LINES RESISTANT TO BACTERIAL LEAF SPOT

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Agriculture, USA

AUTHOR: Press Release, by Stephanie Yao

URL:    http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2009/090413.htm

DATE:   13.04.2009

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ARS RELEASES ICEBERG LETTUCE BREEDING LINES RESISTANT TO BACTERIAL LEAF SPOT

Seven new iceberg lettuce breeding lines with resistance to bacterial leaf spot (BLS) have been released by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists.

BLS, caused by the pathogen Xanthomonas campestris pv. vitians, is an important disease of lettuce in California. Iceberg lettuce is the most popular type of lettuce eaten in America. Nearly all of the lettuce consumed in the United States is produced domestically. Two states, California and Arizona, produce more than 90 percent of the country?s commercial lettuce.

Occurring on both leaf and head lettuce varieties, BLS thrives in wet, cool conditions. It is most serious in early spring and late fall, when it is most likely to rain in California. BLS causes black spots to form on lettuce leaves. These black spots can merge and create papery, brown-to-black patches on the head. Upon harvest, farmers must peel and discard the leaves to remove the patches, resulting in smaller heads that command less money.

BLS is difficult to prevent because the disease is highly dependent on weather conditions. Farmers can spray their lettuce crops with pesticides, but the chemicals have to be applied before symptoms develop, which is impractical. Because BLS is sporadic and unpredictable, these preemptive sprayings would be unnecessary in most seasons and lead to increased production costs. Therefore, according to ARS geneticist Ryan Hayes, creating disease-resistant breeding lines is the most efficient and cost-effective tool to manage BLS in lettuce.

Hayes, along with geneticist Edward Ryder (now retired) and plant pathologist Carolee Bull, developed the seven new breeding lines at the ARS Crop Improvement and Protection Research Unit in Salinas, Calif. Similar in appearance to the famous ?Salinas? variety created by Ryder, these lines are the first western shipping-type icebergs with commercially useful levels of resistance to BLS. ARS provides these lines to seed companies, which in turn use them to develop new iceberg varieties for commercial use.

Limited samples of seed from these breeding lines are available from the ARS unit in Salinas to researchers and seed companies.

ARS is the principal intramural scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


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