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Washington State University News
September 15, 2014
By Eric Sorensen, WSU science writer
PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University researchers have found “the most famous wheat gene,” a reproductive traffic cop of sorts that can be used to transfer valuable genes from other plants to wheat.
The discovery clears the way for breeders to develop wheat varieties with the disease- and pest-resistance traits of other grasses, using a legion of genetic tools that can reduce crop losses and pesticide use while foregoing the cost, regulatory hurdles and controversy of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.
“The real exciting part of this gene is that it has tremendous potential for application,” said Kulvinder Gill, a WSU professor, who reports his findings in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
For some 35 million years, the wild ancestors of wheat routinely traded genes as they accidentally cross-bred with each other. But with the rise of agriculture and cultivated wheat 10,000 years ago, the plant’s genetic structure changed. Instead of being diploid, with two sets of chromosomes like humans and most other living things, it became polyploid, with, in the case of bread wheat, seven sets of six related chromosomes.
Starting in 1958, just five years after the discovery of DNA’s double-helix structure, researchers suspected that a specific gene controls the orderly pairing of wheat chromosomes during reproduction.
“If this gene was not present, there would be chaos in the nucleus,” said Gill. “Six chromosomes would pair with each other and sometimes five chromosomes would go to one cell and one to the other, resulting in a sterile plant. Because of this gene, wheat can be fertile. Without this gene, it would be more like sugar cane, where it is a mess in the nucleus and it can only be vegetatively propagated.”
But the gene also prevents wheat from breeding with related ancestors that can contain a vast array of traits preferred by growers.
“This gene would not allow rye chromosomes to pair with wheat,” said Gill. “We cannot get a single gene transfer into wheat as long as this gene is present.”
Interest in the gene, called Ph1, has spawned scores of research papers, making it what Gill called, “the most famous wheat gene.”
In 2006, British researchers writing in the journal Nature said they identified the gene.
“In this paper,” said Gill, “we show that their gene is not the Ph1.”
Knowing their findings would be controversial, Gill and his colleagues spent a year repeating the experiments that led to their conclusion. They are now moving on.
“Now that we have the gene, we can actually use that gene sequence to temporarily silence the gene and make rye and other chromosomes pair with wheat and transfer genes by a natural method into wheat without calling it GMO,” Gill said.
Their first effort involves transferring a gene from jointed goatgrass, a wild relative of wheat, to confer resistance to stripe rust. The fungus is considered the world’s most economically damaging wheat pathogen, costing U.S. farmers alone some $500 million in lost productivity in 2012.
While facilitated by technology, the actual exchange of genetic material is similar to what has long taken place in nature, only faster. Incorporating the gene transfer into the overall breeding process, researchers can develop a new variety in five years, said Gill.
“If we let wheat evolve for another few millions years in the wild, maybe it will develop enough variation, but we don’t have that kind of time,” said Gill. “We need to solve this problem today.”
Funding for the research came from WSU’s Vogel Endowment Fund. Other researchers were Ramanjot Bhullar, a WSU doctoral student and the paper’s lead author; Ragupathi Nagarajan, a WSU doctoral student; Harvinder Bennypaul of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency; Gaganpreet K. Sidhu, a WSU master’s graduate now at Columbia University; WSU doctoral student Gaganjot Sidhu; WSU assistant research professor Sachin Rustgi; and R.A. Nilan Distinguished Professor Diter von Wettstein.

Contact:
Kulvinder Gill, WSU professor, ksgill@wsu.edu, 509-335-4666

 

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Trichoderma_fertile

 

08.19.2014:

At a Virginia Tech-led conference in Nepal, agriculture experts learn that employing Trichoderma can save millions of people from disease, save billions of dollars in crop loss, and safeguard the environment by reducing toxic pesticide use.

See video at:

http://www.vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2014/08/081914-outreach-nepalworkshop.html

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The Economist
Jul 26th 2014 | CHINCHINÁ | From the print edition
Timekeeper

coffee rust20140726_AMP001_0

How Colombia fought the fungus

WHEN Jesús María Aguirre saw his coffee bushes wither away, he knew that he had lost the sole source of income for his family. “We would go to collect coffee and would come back with our baskets nearly empty,” says the Colombian grower, recalling the pernicious effects of the “coffee rust” fungus, or roya.

The fungus stunts the growth of the fruit of arabica coffee plants. It infected about 40% of Colombia’s crop between 2008 and 2012. Production plunged from a high of 12.6m 60kg bags a year in 2007 to just 7.7m bags in 2012. As supply from Colombia shrank, international buyers turned to growers elsewhere.

What Mr Aguirre went through then is now the lot of farmers throughout Central America, the Dominican Republic, southern Mexico and Jamaica. Production there fell by 30% between 2011 and 2013 because of roya, reckons the International Coffee Organisation. USAID thinks it has caused $1 billion of economic damage in Latin America since 2012. This time Colombians are the ones taking advantage.

On his farm on the slopes of the country’s central mountain range, Mr Aguirre today presides over 1.5 hectares (4 acres) of healthy bushes plump with red berries. For yields to recover, he had to yank up fungus-prone bushes and plant a new variety that promised to fight off the blight. He was one of thousands of farmers who joined in a countrywide scheme run by the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation, which represents more than 500,000 independent growers. By June 2014 more than 3 billion bushes had been replanted.

Three-quarters of them were replaced with a roya-resistant variety known as Castillo, which had been developed in the labs of Cenicafé, the coffee federation’s research arm, after 13 years of selective breeding. Lindsey Bolger, head coffee buyer for Keurig Green Mountain, a roaster in the United States, said the industry was “on pins and needles” about whether the Castillo would work. It has. Colombia produced 11.5m bags in the 12 months to June 2014, up by 31% on the previous 12-month period, according to the coffee federation. Buyers are coming back.

Fernando Gast, Cenicafé’s director, says seeds of the Castillo coffee plants have been sent to Mexico, El Salvador and Costa Rica for evaluation. But he warns that Colombia’s success story is not directly transferable to Central America. The Castillo variety was created for Colombia’s needs and may not adapt to Central America’s soil and climate, he says.

Cenicafé’s 89 researchers cannot rest easy, either. They are working on a project to map the coffee genome. That should help them develop new varieties that will not only resist roya, which is continuously evolving, but will also be less susceptible to erratic weather. The search for a stronger brew is never over.

From the print edition: The Americas

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Environmental News Network

 

coffee-beans

July 30, 2013 06:05 AM

As if there were a need for even more evidence that global warming is a real, verifiable and evidenced threat, new research is showing Central and South American coffee production is drastically dropping because of higher global temperatures.
Add extreme rainfall totals to the mix and the result is rampant insects and damaged plants. If economics won’t convince people the earth is warming, perhaps interrupting their coffee supply will.

A traditionally reliable and adequate income, coffee farming is becoming a more challenging option. Where entire communities once depended on coffee to perpetuate their economies, farming families need to find alternative sources of income.
Last year, production dropped 70%. A fungus called Coffee Rust is killing of coffee plants quickly where lower temperatures once prevented the spread of the fungus. If ever there was a clear connection between global warming and the declining of production and community stability.
Beans from the area that is seeing the most dramatic trouble produce 16% of Columbian coffee, and command high prices in specialty coffees. Don’t think that insulates you generic brand coffee drinkers. The entire supply chain is cross-pollinated (no pun intended) and will result in higher prices across the spectrum of quality.
Article continues: http://globalwarmingisreal.com/2011/04/05/coffee-production-and-climate-change/

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http://www.enn.com/top_stories/article/342

From: Melinda Deslatte, Associated Press
Published November 11, 2004 12:00 AM

BATON ROUGE, La. − The first U.S. cases of the fungus soybean rust, which hinders plant growth and drastically cuts crop production, were found at two research sites in Louisiana, officials said Wednesday.

The fungus is primarily spread by wind-borne spores, which are suspected to have blown in from South America during the hurricane season and were found after the bulk of the state’s soybeans had been harvested, Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom said.

Though agriculture officials said the effect of the fungus should be minimal this year because it appeared after much of the harvest, Odom said he was worried that Louisiana’s soybeans wouldn’t sell as well.

“What we’re scared of is that the market may drop in Louisiana because of the rust aspect of it, and I don’t see any reason for it because most of the beans have already been harvested,” he said.

“The market may say, ‘We don’t want your soybeans,'” Odom said.

Soybean prices rose about 3 percent Wednesday on the Chicago Board of Trade, largely due to news of the disease. The January contract for soybeans rose 14 1/2 cents to $5.25 a bushel.

“If it happened during the growing season, it would have had a much bigger effect,” said Dale Gustafson, a grains analyst for Smith Barney in Chicago. “But the impact of that news on this year’s crop is negligible.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture was sending a team of scientists and regulators to Louisiana to help identify the fungus and determine if it’s spread beyond the LSU research sites in St. Gabriel and Baton Rouge, where the samples of the fungal disease were taken Saturday.

“Soybean rust has never been detected in the United States before,” said Richard Dunkle, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Dunkle said of the two rust species, Louisiana’s cases are known as the Asian species, or “the more aggressive of the two species, causing more damage to the soybean plants.”

Soybean rust can be treated with fungicides, but that adds increased costs to the production of soybeans. USDA officials said the fungicide treatment costs an average of about $25 per acre, increasing the cost of soybean production about 20 percent in affected areas.

The fungus creates tan and reddish-brown blotches on the under-side of growing leaves, weakening the plant and reducing yields. The infections can spread quickly and has been found in Australia, South America, Asia and Africa.

Keith Collins, chief economist for the USDA, said he didn’t believe the fungus would have any effect on exports, noting the United States was the only major soybean producer in the world without soybean rust and the other countries have been exporting despite the presence of the fungus.

Source: Associated Press

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From: Carrie Khan, NPR
Published July 28, 2014 07:32 AM

Outside the northern Guatemalan town of Olopa, near the Honduran border, farmer Edwin Fernando Diaz Viera stands in the middle of his tiny coffee field. He says it was his lifelong dream to own a farm here. The area is renowned for producing some of the world’s richest Arabica, the smooth-tasting beans beloved by specialty coffee brewers.

“My farm was beautiful, it was big,” he says.

But then, a plant fungus called coffee rust, or roya in Spanish, hit his crop.

“Coffee rust appeared and wiped out everything,” he says.

But then, a plant fungus called coffee rust, or roya in Spanish, hit his crop.
“Coffee rust appeared and wiped out everything,” he says.
That was in 2012, and it was Diaz Viera’s first crop. The rust took it all. The fungus roared over the hillsides, covered the valleys and clung to the slopes of Guatemala’s shady volcanoes.
The fungus has spread through Central America at an alarming rate, causing crop losses of more than a billion dollars. And it is leaving hundreds of thousands unemployed in its wake.
In El Salvador, nearly three quarters of all coffee trees are infected with the fungus; in Costa Rica more than 60 percent are infected. And in Guatemala, coffee rust now covers 70 percent of the crop, resulting in the loss of at least 100,000 jobs and a 15 percent drop in coffee output over the last two years.

Read more at NPR.

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Logo for IPM CRSP

Annual Report 2013
Posted on May 27, 2014 by Kelly Izlar
The IPM Innovation Labs’s FY 2013 (October 1, 2012–September 30, 2013) annual report is now available. Click below to download the document.

http://www.oired.vt.edu/ipmcrsp/publications/annual-reports/annual-report-2013/

For users with lower bandwidth and/or with interest in only certain specific topic areas, we will split individual chapters and major sections out of the Annual Report for you to view individually. Check back in the coming weeks for a list of individual chapters and sections for download. For more information contact: rmuni@vt.edu

Table of Contents

Management Entity Message
Highlights and Achievements in 2012–2013

Regional Programs
Latin America and the Caribbean
East Africa
West Africa
South Asia
Southeast Asia
Central Asia

Global Programs
Parthenium
International Plant Diagnostic Network (IPDN)
International Plant Virus Disease Network (IPVDN)
Impact Assessment
Gender Equity, Knowledge, and Capacity Building

Associate & Buy-In Awards
Indonesia
Nepal
Bangladesh

Training and Publications
Short- and Long-Term Training
Publications

Appendices: Collaborating Institutions and Acronyms

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