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News Article | April 26, 2017
Site: www.nature.com

Plant biologist Krishna Niyogi opens the doors of growing cabinets in his lab at the University of California, Berkeley, revealing rows of tobacco and Arabidopsis plants. Under the warm solar lamps, vibrant green algae thrives in rotating flasks and streaked on petri dishes. For the past 20 years or so, Niyogi has been using these plants to study photosynthesis, mutating one gene at a time to uncover the molecular mechanisms behind plants' responses to shifting light levels. The green world inside the cabinets may seem distant from the reality of growing maize (corn) in Iowa or rice in Cambodia, but think again. Last November, Niyogi and his colleagues showed that engineering photosynthesis can improve crop yields in field-grown tobacco plants (Nicotiana tabacum). The researchers are now translating their modifications to food crops. Mindful of the growing global population, non-profit organizations and governments around the world are investing in research to optimize photosynthesis in the hope of improving the yield of crops such as rice, wheat and cowpeas. “Photosynthesis is a bit of an underachiever,” says Jeremy Harbinson, a plant scientist at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. Photosynthesis is inefficient and, despite it being one of the best understood processes in plants, it hasn't been exploited by agronomists to boost crop production, Harbinson explains. While researchers, such as Niyogi, are engineering plants to use sunlight more efficiently, others are working to improve the reactions that capture carbon dioxide or, even more ambitiously, reinvent a plant's metabolism and anatomy. During the middle of the last century, amid warnings of famines, scientists made a concerted effort to modernize agriculture. As part of the green revolution, agronomists used conventional breeding techniques to improve yields, producing plants with shorter stalks, for example, that focus their energy on making more seeds instead. They also encouraged the use of fertilization, irrigation and pest-control methods. These advances meant global production of wheat, rice and maize doubled from around 1 billion tonnes of grain in 1960 to 2 billion tonnes in 2000. A food-supply crisis was averted. The prospect of world hunger looms again, however. To feed 2050's expected population of 9.7 billion people, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations estimates that global agricultural production will have to rise by about 50%, and double in developing countries, assuming levels of food loss and waste do not change. But the techniques that have increased yields since the 1960s may have hit a ceiling. In wheat and rice in particular, plant biologists are seeing limited improvements. “We've been living off those gains for 50 years,” says Robert Furbank, director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis in Acton. “We have to look at radical solutions.” Reducing food loss and waste (see page S6), and making more-sustainable dietary choices (see page S18) will help. But increasing the potential yield of crops to produce more food without using extra land, water or fertilizer would be a powerful boost to ensuring people have access to enough food. The hope is that with genetic modification of photosynthesis we will enter a new era of yield improvements. Photosynthesis is the chain of metabolic reactions through which plants convert energy from the Sun, CO and water into the molecules they need. The process converts only about 5% of the energy that plants receive into biomass. “You would think a billion years of evolution would have optimized photosynthesis by now,” says Niyogi, but things aren't so simple. For one thing, cultivated crops face different limiting factors to wild plants. “In nature, plants are usually limited by drought stress, nutrients and pathogens,” he says. But modern farming methods and tools such as irrigation, fertilizer and pesticides have lessened these challenges, affording cultivated crops the luxury of bumping up against the inefficiencies of light absorption. Niyogi's research centres on a fundamental process called photoprotection. High levels of sunlight can damage plant cells, so to protect themselves they make pigments that temporarily deflect excess energy when sunlight is too bright — a botanical sunscreen. When the light levels shift, perhaps because of the movement of leaves that shade others or a change in cloud cover, plant cells ramp photosynthesis back up — but it takes a few minutes. In densely planted crops, where a canopy of leaves creates dynamic patterns of light and shade, a lot of productive time is lost to this photoprotection lag. Niyogi's research focuses on a photoprotection mechanism called non-photochemical quenching (NPQ), which reduces yield by an estimated 20%. His group has had promising results from the upregulation of three genes in tobacco involved in two forms of NPQ that include the protective pigment zeaxanthin. But positive results in the lab are no guarantee of success in a field crop. It can be difficult to get plants to stably express new genes over multiple generations. And of course, field conditions can vary widely from the controlled environment inside growth cabinets. Niyogi's team is part of a multi-institution project — called Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) — to increase the yield of food crops in developing countries through photosynthesis. As part of the programme, the Berkeley researchers worked with plant biologist Stephen Long, who directs the wider RIPE project, and his team at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign to do field tests of the engineered light-handling mechanism in tobacco. Tobacco is a good model for studying photoprotection because it has a dense canopy of leaves, like maize. RIPE's computer models, which simulate the reactions of photosynthesis, predicted a 20% improvement in yield for tobacco plants with genetically altered NPQ pathways. That's a big change — an improvement of just a few per cent achieved without upping the pressure on land, water or fertilizer would make a significant difference to farmers. Because this kind of research can be difficult to translate to field trials, when the researchers measured the dry weight, and saw the tobacco yield had been boosted by 15%1, they were delighted. “Yes! We got more!” Long says. They are now planning to test whether the photoprotection boost works in cowpea (Vigna unguiculata), a major source of protein in sub-Saharan Africa, in partnership with researchers at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Australia and cowpea breeders in West Africa. And in Illinois, the researchers are translating the work to rice. Tinkering with photoprotection is not the only way to improve plants' use of light energy. Anastasios Melis, a plant biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, is working on reducing the amount of the pigment chlorophyll inside chloroplasts, plants' photosynthetic organelles. Melis knows that this sounds counter-intuitive. But consider the way in which a canopy of densely planted crops shades many of the leaves below, he says. More-transparent leaves with less chlorophyll will allow more light to pass through to lower leaves — improving the productivity of the plant as a whole. Researchers are also studying the infrared-absorbing chlorophylls made by some types of photosynthetic cyanobacteria2. Infrared radiation is normally considered to be outside the range that can be used by plants for photosynthesis. If scientists can map out the details of how bacterial chlorophylls are produced, and integrate them into crops, the number of available photons could increase by about 19%, allowing the modified plants to capture more solar energy. “We cannot change the intensity of the sunlight,” says Melis. “We just have to make better use of it.” The solar energy that plants capture is used to make chemical energy inside the cell. This is then used to fix CO and make sugars. This second stage, called the Calvin cycle, could also be made more efficient. Rubisco is one of the most important enzymes in the Calvin cycle, but the CO fixing enzyme is prone to errors. “Every fourth turnover, it fixes an oxygen molecule instead of CO ,” explains Donald Ort, a plant biologist for the US Department of Agriculture who is based at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. This chemical error, known as photorespiration, generates a toxic compound called glycolate that plants must break down. When photosynthetic cells first evolved, there was very little oxygen in the atmosphere, so the fact that rubisco couldn't always distinguish oxygen from CO wasn't a problem. Researchers think that by the time oxygen levels were high enough to be a problem, the enzyme was too established and complex to be improved through evolution. Instead, plants make rubisco in large quantities so there is always enough to fix the CO needed. The enzyme is thought to be the most abundant on Earth. Although higher levels of CO in the atmosphere boost photosynthesis, human activities that increase the level of CO will not improve rubisco's odds. The enzyme makes more mistakes at higher temperatures, and plant scientists expect that photorespiration will increase as a result of rising global temperatures — to the detriment of crop yields. For many years, researchers were uncertain whether there was much variation in rubisco, says Elizabete Carmo-Silva, a plant scientist at Lancaster University, UK. But improvements in technology that allows photosynthetic phenotypes to be measured in the field have shown that this isn't true. Carmo-Silva's group is studying rubisco and rubisco activase (which helps restore the carbon-fixing enzyme after it makes a mistake) in wheat strains. The work is ongoing, but the team has already found variants of these enzymes that recover more quickly than typical rubisco after fixing oxygen. These variants could be bred into the germplasm, the genetic material that's used to develop seeds, she says (see page S8). Ort is focused on streamlining the reactions that plants use to break down glycolate. These type of reactions use a lot of energy and require chemical intermediates to be shuttled between chloroplasts, mitochondria and organelles called peroxisomes. “This lowers the efficiency of photosynthesis by about 30 or 40% — it's huge,” says Ort. Organisms, such as the bacterium Escherichia coli, have more-efficient reaction pathways for metabolizing glycolate than the complex pathways that evolved in plants. When researchers tried to introduce this bacterial mechanism into Arabidopsis, they found that photosynthesis was boosted only modestly3. Ort suspects that this is because plant cells were still shipping glycolate out of the chloroplast even with the introduction of the improved chemical pathway. Ort has developed tobacco plants with chloroplasts that lack glycolate transporters, and so are forced to metabolize the compound in that organelle using the more-efficient pathway. Preliminary results suggest that these plants had a 20–30% increase in biomass. Before submitting the work for publication, Ort plans to replicate the results in a second field experiment this year. Although plants haven't developed an alternative to rubisco, a more-efficient form of photosynthesis has independently evolved more than 60 times. C photosynthesis, in which the first step involves producing a four-carbon compound instead of a three-carbon one, is about 50% more efficient than the C process because it uses a more-effective enzyme to capture CO . This is especially true for plants living in dry, hot conditions, says Jane Langdale, a plant biologist at the University of Oxford, UK. Langdale is part of the C Rice Project, which aims to transform rice from a C into a C plant. The project was conceived in 1999 by John Sheehy, a plant physiologist at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Baños, Philippines, and the project's scientists would be the first to admit that their goal is ambitious. To make rice into a C plant, researchers must endow it not only with new metabolic networks, but also with a new anatomy. During the initial phases of the project, scientists focused on finding the genes responsible for C metabolism. They then added these genes to a strain of rice one at a time. In the modified rice, only about 5% of CO enters the more-efficient C pathway, says plant biologist Paul Quick at the IRRI, who led this phase of work. “We won't be able to get the benefit of the C pathway until we have the anatomy,” he says. Understanding how to build the leaf anatomy is the current phase of the project. Photosynthetic cells in the leaves of C plants are arranged around the veins in a circular pattern called Kranz anatomy (see 'Shape of things to come'). Instead of using rubisco, bundle sheath cells in this ring use the enzyme phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase, which doesn't bind oxygen, to capture CO in a four-carbon compound. The compound is then shuttled into a second type of cell, called a mesophyll, where it is converted back to CO and fixed by rubisco. The CO concentration is much higher in C mesophyll cells, and so the rate of photorespiration is much lower. Despite the additional conversion steps and the need to move compounds between cells, this process is more efficient than C photosynthesis. To build Kranz anatomy into rice leaves, plant biologists need a developmental map. They don't know what sets a plant cell on the path to becoming part of a vein, a mesophyll or bundle sheath cell, and they don't know how these cells form the spatial patterns typical of C plants. Langdale has been studying development in maize, because it's one of only a few plants with both C leaves (the blades around the corn cob) and C leaves (all the rest). By examining the differences in gene-expression patterns between these leaf types, Langdale has found about 280 genes that seem to be involved in the formation of this Kranz anatomy. After whittling down the list to 70, based on function, her group “took each gene and put it into rice with a promoter to switch it on all the time”, she explains. Not all of the genes seemed to have an effect. Langdale is now doing further studies of ten or so of the genes that seem the most promising. Genetic engineering has advanced substantially since the C Rice Project started. Researchers used to have to transform rice one gene at a time, now they can do two or three genes at once. Eventually, they expect to be able to build a C shuttle — a set of genes required for C photosynthesis that can be inserted into various plants in one go. But first they must work out what changes to make. Langdale estimates that, realistically, C rice won't make an appearance in farmers' fields until at least 2039. In the past, improving yields through photosynthetic interventions was not a practical research focus — these were “intellectual questions”, says Christine Raines, a plant scientist at the University of Essex in Colchester, UK. Now the idea is in vogue, and researchers have the funding to test their ideas. “We will begin to see a lot of papers coming out in the next 18 months,” she says. But significant challenges lie ahead. “Organisms resist attempts to reprogram them,” says Melis, and these projects seek to alter the very heart of a plant's chemistry. Before they can make such unprecedented changes, scientists will need, for example, to better understand how resources such as sugars and lipids are routed to certain places in plant cells. Although this will be difficult, many plant biologists think that engineering photosynthesis could be the best hope for feeding a growing population and combating food insecurity. “Photosynthesis is the last big unexplored route to improving yields,” says Harbinson.


PubMed | Tamil Nadu Rice Research Institute, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, University of Hohenheim and 9 more.
Type: Journal Article | Journal: Global change biology | Year: 2016

South Asian countries will have to double their food production by 2050 while using resources more efficiently and minimizing environmental problems. Transformative management approaches and technology solutions will be required in the major grain-producing areas that provide the basis for future food and nutrition security. This study was conducted in four locations representing major food production systems of densely populated regions of South Asia. Novel production-scale research platforms were established to assess and optimize three futuristic cropping systems and management scenarios (S2, S3, S4) in comparison with current management (S1). With best agronomic management practices (BMPs), including conservation agriculture (CA) and cropping system diversification, the productivity of rice- and wheat-based cropping systems of South Asia increased substantially, whereas the global warming potential intensity (GWPi) decreased. Positive economic returns and less use of water, labor, nitrogen, and fossil fuel energy per unit food produced were achieved. In comparison with S1, S4, in which BMPs, CA and crop diversification were implemented in the most integrated manner, achieved 54% higher grain energy yield with a 104% increase in economic returns, 35% lower total water input, and a 43% lower GWPi. Conservation agriculture practices were most suitable for intensifying as well as diversifying wheat-rice rotations, but less so for rice-rice systems. This finding also highlights the need for characterizing areas suitable for CA and subsequent technology targeting. A comprehensive baseline dataset generated in this study will allow the prediction of extending benefits to a larger scale.


Led by scientists at Oxford University, this phase of the project will build on the work carried out in the first two stages, with the ultimate aim being to 'supercharge' photosynthesis in rice by introducing more efficient traits found in other crops. Rice uses the C3 photosynthetic pathway, which in hot dry environments is much less efficient than the C4 pathway used in plants such as maize and sorghum. If rice could be 'switched' to use C4 photosynthesis, it would theoretically increase productivity by 50%. As well as an increase in photosynthetic efficiency, the introduction of C4 traits into rice is predicted to improve nitrogen use efficiency, double water use efficiency, and increase tolerance to high temperatures. And with almost a billion people around the world living in hunger, boosting rice productivity is crucial to achieving long-term food security—particularly in areas such as South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where 80% of the food supply is provided by smallholder farmers. Professor Jane Langdale, Professor of Plant Development in the Department of Plant Sciences at Oxford University, and Principal Investigator on Phase III of the C4 Rice Project, said: 'Over 3 billion people depend on rice for survival, and, owing to predicted population increases and a general trend towards urbanization, land that currently provides enough rice to feed 27 people will need to support 43 by 2050. 'In this context, rice yields need to increase by 50% over the next 35 years. Given that traditional breeding programmes currently achieve around a 1% increase in yield per annum, the world is facing an unprecedented level of food shortages.' Professor Langdale added: 'The intrinsic yield of rice, a C3-type grass, is limited by the inherent inefficiency of C3 photosynthesis. Notably, evolution surmounted this inefficiency through the establishment of the C4 photosynthetic pathway, and importantly it did so on multiple independent occasions. This suggests that the switch from C3 to C4 is relatively straightforward. As such, the C4 programme is one of the most plausible approaches to enhancing crop yield and increasing resilience in the face of reduced land area, decreased use of fertilizers, and less predictable supplies of water'. Phases I and II of the programme were focused on identifying new components of the C4 pathway—both biochemical and morphological—as well as validating the functionality of known C4 enzymes in rice. Phase III will refine the genetic toolkit that has been assembled and will focus both on understanding the regulatory mechanisms that establish the pathway in C4 plants and on engineering the pathway in rice. Robert Zeigler of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) described the project as 'one of the great undertakings in plant sciences of the early 21st century'. He said: 'Unless we can translate our work into meaningful products adopted by rice farmers worldwide, this will remain simply an academic pursuit. The unique partnerships that characterise this programme should make sure this happens.' Explore further: New, higher-yielding rice plant could ease threat of hunger for poor


News Article | December 2, 2016
Site: www.eurekalert.org

ITHACA, NY--Crop breeders in developing countries can now access free tools to accelerate the breeding of improved crops varieties, thanks to a collaboration between the GOBII project at Cornell University and the Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI), and the James Hutton Institute in Scotland. The collaboration works with breeding centers around the world to identify unmet needs and has developed tools to make the process of adding a trait into an existing, high-yield crop variety more efficient. Researchers at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) are using the tools to develop corn varieties with greater resistance to viruses. Researchers at GOBII, the Genomic and Open-source Breeding Informatics Initiative, worked with developers from the Hutton Institute to build upon the existing data visualization application, Flapjack. Its new tools enable breeders to select the best possible parental lines and help users to perform marker-assisted backcrossing (MABC)--a process that involves repeated breeding with the high-yield parent to ensure that only the desired genes are transferred. Researchers estimate that they can cut a year or two from the four or five years required to develop a new variety. "We have been delighted with this early success of our joint work with the GOBII team at Cornell and anticipate it will form the foundation of a mutually valuable partnership," said David Marshall of the Hutton Institute. Previously, these types of molecular breeding tools only existed within biotech companies. But GOBII, a Cornell-led project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is tailoring these free tools for breeders in developing countries. They are building data management software in collaboration with the international crops research centers ICRISAT in India, CIMMYT in Mexico and IRRI in the Philippines. "Having the right data management systems and analysis tools can have a huge impact on crop improvement. Breeders can manage their programs more efficiently, make better selection decisions, and potentially reduce labor and land costs," said Elizabeth Jones, project manager of GOBII. Michael Olsen, a molecular geneticist at CIMMYT, is test-driving the tools in his work to develop lines of corn that are resistant to maize lethal necrosis, a disease that has devastated corn crops in Kenya. Olsen's research involves 43 separate breeding crosses, bred over five generations.The new tools help him to visualize the relevant genes and identify donor strains that are most likely to successfully interbreed. "The recently released MABC tool developed by JHI with input from the GOBII project was a tremendous time saver this past cycle," said Olsen. "The tool is very well designed for an applied breeding program conducting MABC projects." Next, GOBII will conduct training sessions for the tools at breeding centers in India, Africa, Mexico, the Philippines and at Cornell. The tools can be used to improve any trait in any crop plant. Anyone interested in attending training for these tools or who has questions regarding their use can contact project manager Elizabeth Jones at ej245@cornell.edu. To learn more about Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) research, visit the BTI website at http://bti. . Connect online with BTI at http://www. and http://www. . Boyce Thompson Institute is a premier life sciences research institution located in Ithaca, New York on the Cornell University campus. BTI scientists conduct investigations into fundamental plant and life sciences research with the goals of increasing food security, improving environmental sustainability in agriculture and making basic discoveries that will enhance human health. BTI employs 150 staff, with scientists from 40 countries around the world and has twice been named as one of the Best Companies in New York State. Its 15 principal investigators are leading minds in plant development, chemical ecology, microbiology and plant pathology, and have access to the institute's state-of-the-art greenhouse facilities with computerized controls and a system of integrated pest management. BTI has one of the largest concentrations of plant bioinformaticists in the U.S., with researchers who work across the entire spectrum of "omics" fields. BTI researchers consistently receive funding from NSF, NIH, USDA and DOE and publish in top tier journals. Throughout its work, BTI is committed to inspiring and educating students and to providing advanced training for the next generation of scientists. For more information, visit http://www. .


News Article | December 14, 2016
Site: globenewswire.com

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands, Dec. 14, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Sustainalytics, a leading global provider of ESG and corporate governance research and ratings, today launched ESG Signals, an innovative quantitative tool that provides securities-level financial risk and opportunity signals based on environmental, social and governance (ESG), trading and financial data. ESG Signals analyzes thousands of correlations between variables over time and applies machine learning to extract meaningfully predictive risk/opportunity signals. Sustainalytics developed ESG Signals in collaboration with Advestis, a FinTech company that specializes in machine learning and big data techniques for asset management firms. ESG Signals combines seven years of Sustainalytics’ ESG research on more than 1,600 companies with trading and financial data from Advestis to provide heads of research and portfolio managers with a portfolio monitoring, alerting and investment decision support tool.  In addition, asset managers and index providers can use ESG Signals to develop new products. For every portfolio security, ESG Signals delivers either an opportunity, neutral or risk signal output. To test the findings, Sustainalytics and Advestis applied ESG Signals to a large cap, market weighted index. The index was adjusted to apply three ESG strategies: normative exclusion, best-in-class selection and a combination of the two. The reweighted indices outperformed the benchmark between 110 and 430 basis points annually, depending on the frequency of rebalancing adopted. “For almost 25 years, Sustainalytics has been at the forefront of supporting ESG-related investment strategies,” said Sustainalytics’ President and Chief Operating Officer, Bob Mann. “ESG Signals further underscores our commitment to innovation by exploiting big data techniques, quantitative modeling and machine learning to examine the links between ESG and financial performance factors. Our goal is to help investment managers identify and leverage ESG indicators with the most meaningful predictive value.” To date, ESG integration strategies have been largely qualitative in nature, primarily implemented as part of a qualitative process for risk mitigation.  As ESG factors become increasingly important considerations among mainstream investors, asset managers are looking for investment tools that have the ability to consistently and algorithmically analyze performance-based correlations to identify the most influent variables and in what circumstances they are most influent. “ESG variables provide additional information not fully captured by today’s financial or trading variables,” said Advestis’ CEO Christoph Geissler. “Leveraging Sustainalytics’ high quality research and extensive ESG experience provides investors with a more comprehensive picture of a portfolio company’s risks and opportunities. We are glad to be partnering with  Sustainalytics to develop ESG Signals and applaud them for their commitment to product innovation.” For more information on ESG Signals, please visit here. About Sustainalytics Sustainalytics is an independent ESG and corporate governance research, ratings and analysis firm supporting investors around the world with the development and implementation of responsible investment strategies. With 14 offices globally, Sustainalytics partners with institutional investors who integrate environmental, social and governance information and assessments into their investment processes. Today, the firm has more than 300 staff members, including 170 analysts with varied multidisciplinary expertise of more than 40 sectors. Through the IRRI survey, investors selected Sustainalytics as the best independent responsible investment research firm for three consecutive years, 2012 through 2014 and in 2015, Sustainalytics was named among the top three firms for both ESG and Corporate Governance research.  For more information, visit www.sustainalytics.com. About Advestis Advestis is a Paris-based FinTech that specializes in machine learning and big data techniques for asset management firms. Founded in 2011 by Christopher Geissler, Advestis employs four full-time professionals and is backed by three senior members of its Scientific Advisory board. Geissler is a financial data scientist with more than 30 years of experience in quantitative finance and machine learning. The firm invests more than 75 percent of its revenues in research and development, and has been awarded the ‘Innovating Fintech’ label by Finance Innovation for its work with Sustainalytics on ESG Signals. Advestis’ capital is owned primarily by the founder, members of its Scientific Board, and Quinten, a Paris-based data science company operating primarily in the healthcare and insurance sectors. For more information, visit www.advestis.com/en/. Disclaimer Nothing contained in this press release and tool shall be construed as to make a representation or warranty, express or implied, regarding the advisability to invest in or include companies in investable universes and/or portfolios. The performance represented is historical; past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results and results and the information provided in this press release and tool is not intended to be relied upon as, nor to be a substitute for specific professional advice and in particular financial advice. The information is provided “as is” and, therefore Sustainalytics assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions. Sustainalytics accepts no liability for damage arising from the use of press release, tool or information contained herein in any manner whatsoever.


News Article | December 2, 2016
Site: phys.org

The collaboration works with breeding centers around the world to identify unmet needs and has developed tools to make the process of adding a trait into an existing, high-yield crop variety more efficient. Researchers at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) are using the tools to develop corn varieties with greater resistance to viruses. Researchers at GOBII, the Genomic and Open-source Breeding Informatics Initiative, worked with developers from the Hutton Institute to build upon the existing data visualization application, Flapjack. Its new tools enable breeders to select the best possible parental lines and help users to perform marker-assisted backcrossing (MABC)—a process that involves repeated breeding with the high-yield parent to ensure that only the desired genes are transferred. Researchers estimate that they can cut a year or two from the four or five years required to develop a new variety. "We have been delighted with this early success of our joint work with the GOBII team at Cornell and anticipate it will form the foundation of a mutually valuable partnership," said David Marshall of the Hutton Institute. Previously, these types of molecular breeding tools only existed within biotech companies. But GOBII, a Cornell-led project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is tailoring these free tools for breeders in developing countries. They are building data management software in collaboration with the international crops research centers ICRISAT in India, CIMMYT in Mexico and IRRI in the Philippines. "Having the right data management systems and analysis tools can have a huge impact on crop improvement. Breeders can manage their programs more efficiently, make better selection decisions, and potentially reduce labor and land costs," said Elizabeth Jones, project manager of GOBII. Michael Olsen, a molecular geneticist at CIMMYT, is test-driving the tools in his work to develop lines of corn that are resistant to maize lethal necrosis, a disease that has devastated corn crops in Kenya. Olsen's research involves 43 separate breeding crosses, bred over five generations.The new tools help him to visualize the relevant genes and identify donor strains that are most likely to successfully interbreed. "The recently released MABC tool developed by JHI with input from the GOBII project was a tremendous time saver this past cycle," said Olsen. "The tool is very well designed for an applied breeding program conducting MABC projects." Next, GOBII will conduct training sessions for the tools at breeding centers in India, Africa, Mexico, the Philippines and at Cornell. The tools can be used to improve any trait in any crop plant. Explore further: Plant breeders take cues from consumers to improve kale


Verma K.C.,Lovely Professional University | Singh U.S.,IRRI | Verma S.K.,Govind Ballabh Pant University of Agriculture & Technology | Gaur A.K.,University of the Humanities
International Journal of Ambient Energy | Year: 2016

The present study surveys the morphological, biochemical and molecular diversity in 30 accessions of Jatropha collected from different states of India by using random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD), sodium dodecyl sulfate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) and isozyme analysis. The genotyping data were used to understand the relationships among accessions and to identify genetic diversity as a means for genetic improvement of Jatropha. Out of 37 decamer primers used, 18 yielded polymorphic banding pattern. In total, 126 different DNA bands were reproducibly obtained, out of which 81 were polymorphic. SDS-PAGE of seed, leaf and callus resolved into 18, 12 and 7 bands, while no biotype-specific band was found in leaf and callus protein profile. Cluster analysis of both RAPD and SDS-PAGE data produced two major clusters. © 2013 Taylor & Francis.


Rao A.N.,Indian International Crops Research Institute for the Semi Arid Tropics | Wani S.P.,Indian International Crops Research Institute for the Semi Arid Tropics | Ramesha M.,Indian International Crops Research Institute for the Semi Arid Tropics | Ladha J.K.,IRRI
Weed Technology | Year: 2015

Rice is one of the staple food crops of India, and Karnataka is one of the major rice-producing states. The primary method of rice establishment in Karnataka is transplanting, but farmers are opting to shift to direct-seeding of rice. Weed management is critical for realizing optimal yield of direct-seeded rice (DSR). The objective of this review was to synthesize the published literature on weeds and weed management in rice in Karnataka, identify improved weed-management technologies for delivery to farmers, and suggest research needs. Some 98 weed species are reported to be associated with rice in Karnataka. Weed control to date in Karnataka has mostly been based on herbicides. Hand-weeding was found to be effective in all methods of rice establishment. However, it is time-consuming, tedious, and costly because labor is becoming scarce and unavailable, and labor wages are higher. Several PRE and POST herbicides that were effective in other Asian countries were also found to be effective in managing weeds in rice established by different methods in Karnataka. Bensulfuron plus pretilachlor and pyrazosulfuron in aerobic rice and pendimethalin, thiobencarb, bispyribac-sodium, cyhalofop, fenoxaprop plus chlorimuron plus metsulfuron, and fenoxaprop plus ethoxysulfuron in dry-DSR were found effective in managing weeds. In wet-DSR, butachlor plus safener and pretilachlor plus safener were effective. Thiobencarb, pendimethalin, pretilachlor, azimsulfuron plus metsulfuron, bispyribac-sodium, butachlor, cinosulfuron, oxadiazon, and quinclorac were found promising for weed management in transplanted rice. Integration of herbicides with hand-weeding or intercultivation was found to be effective in rice established by different methods. Options that were found economical in managing weeds varied across the different rice-establishment methods. The need for developing location-specific, sustainable, integrated weed management and extension of available technologies for the farming community in Karnataka is emphasized. Nomenclature: Azimsulfuron; bensulfuron; bispyribac-sodium; butachlor; chlorimuron; cinosulfuron; cyhalofop; ethoxysulfuron; fenoxaprop; metsulfuron; oxadiazon; pendimethalin; pretilachlor; pyrazosulfuron; quinclorac; thiobencarb; rice, Oryza sativa L.


Sharma K.K.,Govind Ballabh Pant University of Agriculture & Technology | Zaidi N.W.,IRRI | Singh U.S.,IRRI
Vegetos | Year: 2012

Species of Trichoderma are being widely used in agriculture as biological agent of plant disease control and biofertilizer for boosting plant growth. In our study, thirty isolates of Trichoderma (T. harzianum and T. virens) obtained from rhizospheric soil samples of different plants and locations of Uttarakhand were evaluated for enhancement of seed germination of paddy, tomato and mustard and their plant growth promotion activity. Maximum seeds germination was recorded with isolates PB 3, 6, 7, 15, 18, 23 & 28 (96.7%) for paddy, PB 23 & 28 (100%) for tomato and PB 28 (100%) for mustard seeds treated with Trichoderma respectively as compare to control in towel paper test. Maximum root length was recorded with isolate PB 15 (80.3%), PB 6 & 30 (60%) and PB 2 & 4 (59.7%) in rice, tomato and mustard respectively. Maximum shoot length was achieved with Isolate PB 8 (38.5%) in rice whereas PB16 promoted maximum shoot growth in both tomato and mustard by 32.1% and 28.7%.


PubMed | Chinese Academy of Sciences, CIRAD - Agricultural Research for Development, IBRIEC, RRI and IRRI
Type: Journal Article | Journal: PloS one | Year: 2015

Tolerance of recurrent mechanical wounding and exogenous ethylene is a feature of the rubber tree. Latex harvesting involves tapping of the tree bark and ethephon is applied to increase latex flow. Ethylene is an essential element in controlling latex production. The ethylene signalling pathway leads to the activation of Ethylene Response Factor (ERF) transcription factors. This family has been identified in Hevea brasiliensis. This study set out to understand the regulation of ERF genes during latex harvesting in relation to abiotic stress and hormonal treatments. Analyses of the relative transcript abundance were carried out for 35 HbERF genes in latex, in bark from mature trees and in leaves from juvenile plants under multiple abiotic stresses. Twenty-one HbERF genes were regulated by harvesting stress in laticifers, revealing an overrepresentation of genes in group IX. Transcripts of three HbERF-IX genes from HbERF-IXc4, HbERF-IXc5 and HbERF-IXc6 were dramatically accumulated by combining wounding, methyl jasmonate and ethylene treatments. When an ethylene inhibitor was used, the transcript accumulation for these three genes was halted, showing ethylene-dependent induction. Subcellular localization and transactivation experiments confirmed that several members of HbERF-IX are activator-type transcription factors. This study suggested that latex harvesting induces mechanisms developed for the response to abiotic stress. These mechanisms probably depend on various hormonal signalling pathways. Several members of HbERF-IX could be essential integrators of complex hormonal signalling pathways in Hevea.

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