World Status

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STATUS Australia

The University of Queensland and Meat & Livestock Australia have developed a new psyllid-resistant Leucaena variety and are seeking interest from potential licensees. Leucaena is a tree legume that produces high-quality forage for cattle.

The new high-quality variety has excellent psyllid resistance, high-forage yield and good-branching structure for grazing. This new variety will overcome the significant impacts of psyllids experienced by existing Leucaena varieties, and permit high productivity Leucaena-based pastures in higher rainfall regions. The new variety is undergoing trials for distinctness, uniformity and stability for Plant Breeders’ Rights registration.

Ideally, any partner will be able to demonstrate suitable seed production, marketing and distribution capacity in Australia. More information is available by emailing amcalpine@mla.com.au.

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STATUS Canada

Officials from the Province of Ontario are considering a ban on neonicotinoids, which have been blamed for the decreasing number of pollinators. The province wants to “move away from widespread, indiscriminate use of neonicotinoid-based pesticides,” says Jeff Leal, Ontario Agriculture minister. “Over the coming months, I want to first consult with industry, farmers and environmental stakeholders on options that are practical, including the consideration of a license system.”

Leal says he is committed to finding a balanced approach, based in science, that addresses the important role pollinators and growers play in the province’s food industry. However, there is conflicting evidence. A study done by a researcher at the University of Guelph shows that bees exposed to neonicotinoids become worse at pollinating as they become more familiar with their environment — the opposite of what should happen. Yet another field study by a different researcher from the University of Guelph found no link between insecticidal seed treatments and bee health.

So what’s a government to do when there is conflicting credible evidence that supports two different positions? The minister doesn’t have the authority to ban neonicotinoids, but he can ban the sale of this class of pesticides in Ontario.

CropLife Canada acknowledges that its important to reduce the exposure of bees to seed treatment dust and farmers are encouraged to follow best management practices to help protect pollinators. To help further reduce dust emissions, this year the Pest Management Regulatory Agency mandated farmers use Bayer CropScience’s Fluency Agent when planting treated seed.

Meanwhile, Canada’s National Farmers Union sent Health Canada a letter asking the Minister of Health, the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of the Environment to act in the public interest by invoking a precautionary principle and implementing a five-year moratorium on the use of neonicotinoid-treated seed in field crops.

On the other hand, Grain Farmers of Ontario, repre-senting the province’s 28,000 corn, soybean and wheat farmers, released a statement that expresses disappointment in the govern-ment’s direction. “The effort and leadership grain farmers have demonstrated on this issue has been second to none, and to have this discounted with such a rash move and announcement through media, is frankly insulting,” says Henry Van Ankum, chair of the Grain Farmers of Ontario. “Farmers across the countryside have modified their equipment, are participating in field trials, are using the new mandatory fluency agent, which has proven successful and have forged good, open communications with many beekeepers.”

This is an evolving issue around the world and Seed World will continue to follow it. — Julie Deering

STATUS China

A team of researchers from The Chinese University of Hong Kong, BGI and other institutes have identified a gene of wild soybean linked to salt tolerance. This study, published online in Nature Communications, provides an effective strategy to unveil novel genomic information for crop improvement.

Soybeans are an important crop for the world. Due to domestication and human selection, cultivated soybeans have less genetic diversity than their wild counterparts. Among the lost genes, some might play important roles for the adaptation to different environments. In this study, scientists used wild soybean as a resource for investigating the valuable genes that adapt to certain environmental conditions.

They sequenced and assembled a draft genome of wild soybean W05, and developed a recombinant inbred population for genotyping-by-sequencing and phenotypic analyses to identify multiple quantitative trait loci (QTLs) relevant to traits of interest in agriculture. Using the de novo sequencing data from this work and their previous germplasm resequencing data, the team discovered a novel ion transporter gene, GmCHX1, and suggested it might be related with salt tolerance.

During the following rapid gain-of-function tests, the GmCHX1 gene was conferred its function on salt tolerance. The authors assumed that the elimination of GmCHX1 in salt-sensitive germplasms might be an example of negative selection against a stress tolerance gene in unstressed environments. The expression of stress tolerance genes might be an energy burden on the plant if the functions of these genes are not required.

Through this study, researchers developed an efficient strategy using the combination of whole-genome de novo sequencing, high-density-marker QTL mapping by re-sequencing and functional analyses, which could enhance the efficiency of uncovering QTLs and genes for beneficial traits in crop breeding. — Source BGI

STATUS Spain

The European Seed Association’s quality assurance scheme for seed treatments and treated seed, known as the European Seed Treatment Assurance (ESTA), further establishes its position in the European Union by accrediting the Asociatión Nacional de Obtentores Vegetales (ANOVE) as a fourth national agent.

“This project shows the professionalism and commitment of the seed industry to the quality and traceabilty of our food from its origins,” explains Antonio Villaroel, secretary general of ANOVE, a private, non-profit association that represents Spanish companies involved in research, development and exploitation of new plant varieties and other biotech-nological inventions involving plants and vegetable matter.

ESTA combines a number of elements to guarantee professional, high quality seed treatment applications, such as independent certification of treatment sites by accredited auditors, defined quality reference values with a uniform testing protocol and safe use of information and respective labeling for users.

ANOVE’s expertise will guarantee a successful roll out of ESTA in Spain. “We are very happy to welcome ANOVE, our Spanish member association, as a national agent for the implementation of our European Seed Treat-ment Assurance scheme,” says Garlich von Essen, ESA secretary general. “ESTA is a key instrument to assure quality and safety for our customers and the environ-ment and to maintain seed treatment as the most modern and most sustainable way of seed and crop protection in Europe.” — Source ESA

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