The 2012 International Seed Federation World Seed Congress, held June 26 to 28 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was a great success, according to ISF secretary general Marcel Bruins. This year’s congress, hosted by ISF and the Brazilian Association of Seeds and Seedlings, provided the international seed trade with interesting presentations and discussions. “I think we can all agree that this has been an excellent edition of the ISF World Seed Congress,” said Bruins. The ISF Secretariat has been working for the past couple of years on the 2013 congress, to be held in May 2013 in Athens, Greece. “I expect a very high participation once again. We have selected a great main congress venue and some marvellous locations for the social events,” added Bruins.
Saaten-Union, the German group of family-run plant breeders, and Israel-based seed and breeding technology company Kaiima have announced a joint research and development cooperation agreement for the development of two new winter wheat varieties. The varieties combine Saaten–Union’s Croisor hybridization technology and the Enhanced Ploidy polyploidization technology developed by Kaiima. The first polyploid hybrids adapted to Europe will be submitted for registration in France within three years, with commercial seed projected to become available in 2017.
According to the press release, the two polyploid hybrids have several tens of percent more DNA in their cells than ordinary hexaploid wheat varieties, resulting in a significant increase in biomass, both in terms of grain and straw yield. Saaten-Union and Kaiima also aim to improve grain protein content and quality.
“We are delighted to have the opportunity to apply our innovative technology to the seedstock of Saaten Union, the world leader in hybrid wheat, and to partner with them to increase the yield and quality of such an important global crop,” said Doron Gal, CEO of Kaiima.
The Government of Mexico has approved three pilot permits for genetically enhanced corn to be grown on over 1,000 acres in the state of Tamaulipas, according to a GAIN report published through the United States Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service.
The approved corn events include MON-00603-6, which offers tolerance to glyphosate, MON-89034-3 x MON-00603-6, which offers combined protection against some Lepidoptera and tolerance to glyphosate, and MON-88017-3 x MON-89034-3, which offers some Lepidoptera and Coleoptera protection and tolerance to glyphosate.
Due to Mexico’s Biosafety Law, all transgenic seed must go through three testing phases—experimental, pilot and commercial. “While this represents an important process step, it is important to note that Mexico has yet to approve a biotech corn variety for commercial production,” reads the report.
FAS/Mexico’s official comment is that “the recent approval of three pilot GE corn events is another step in Mexico’s cautious approach towards biotechnology policy. The recent controversy regarding soybeans and honey is an example of the overall sensitivity surrounding the development of biotechnology in Mexico.”
Researchers at CORACLE, a project run by the John Innes Centre in Norfolk, as well as the Scottish Agricultural College and The James Hutton Institute, are attempting to produce barley varieties resistant to ramularia leaf spot, a widespread fungal disease threatening the crop across northern Europe.
“Over the last 10 years it has become an increasing problem, particularly in the North where we have a late season and longer periods of leaf wetness which in conducive to the spread of the disease,” said Neil Havis, plant pathology researcher at the SAC, in a Farmers Weekly article. “With the wet season we are having there has been significant infection right across the U.K., in untreated trials and also commercially where growers struggled with fungicide timings.”
The new varieties will achieve a resistance level of at least seven, according to CORACLE members. Genetic lines have been identified, and if the crosses are successful in upcoming field and greenhouse trials, commercial varieties should soon become available.
Status WEST AFRICA
This spring, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the European Union successfully completed the €20 million Food Facility Programme in West Africa. The project, which ran over a period of 18 months, took place in the West African countries of Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali and Senegal, and improved access to quality seed for smallholder farmers.
Agricultural research and biotechnology were deployed to help generate new certified planting materials that were healthy and productive. The project also trained farmers in seed production and helped support producer organizations.
“The project helped to increase the availability of high quality seeds in the participating countries,” says Adriane Del Torto, IFAD’s project coordinator for the EUFF in West Africa. “With these quality seeds, farmers were able to significantly increase their yields so that they have not only enough to feed themselves and their families but also to sell and generate income.
“In Mali, for example, a farmer planted millet on 10 hectares and sorghum on three hectares. With the quality seed he increased his sorghum yields from about 1000 kilogram/hectare to two tons/hectare, and is expecting similar results for the millet field. With the profit he made, he could improve his living conditions and send his children to school,” adds Del Torto.
Del Torto says IFAD will continue to monitor and supervise the program, as the activities of the EU Food Facility were built into existing IFAD projects, and aims to seek new funding to continue the project’s success. “The new programme would also receive EU funding for the production of certified seeds under the tenth European Development Fund,” says Del Torto. “It will finance mainly the rice and cassava value chains. Expected financing is approximately EURO 18 million.”