plant breeding

Prudent regulation, national registry sought for gene-edited products

With gene-edited products nearing the marketplace, six major consumer and conservation groups called on Wednesday for "effective, science-based government regulation" of the sector, including a national registry of gene-edited plants and animals. By contrast, they said, the USDA has "substantially deregulated gene-edited plants and proposed a similarly minimal oversight system for gene-edited animals."

‘On-off switch’ would allow plants to grow well and tolerate stress

Plants that grow well often fare poorly in heat or drought, while those that seem to shrug off hot or dry weather often grow slowly; neither type is ideal for crops. Now a Purdue plant scientist “has found the switch that creates that antagonism, opening opportunities to develop plants that exhibit both characteristics,” said the university.

Independent brewers to fund USDA research on disease-resistant hops

To assure a "truly local pint," a trade group for small and independent brewers announced an agreement with USDA's Agricultural Research Service to fund the breeding of a disease-resistant hop cultivar that will be freely available. The trade group Brewers Association says the goal is to ensure "all growers have access to high quality, disease-resistant cultivars they need to sustain production at levels required by brewers."

UC-Davis wins court fight with strawberry stars

A jury ruled that two former stars of the strawberry breeding program at UC-Davis violated an agreement with the university over control of the plants they developed while at the school.

Plant breeders aim for crops that waste less fertilizer

The world's most widely grown crop, wheat, could become "a super nitrogen-efficient crop" if plant researchers succeed in cross-breeding a trait called biological nitrification inhibition into the staple grain, says the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). Wheat plants use about 30 percent of nitrogen fertilizer applied to fields at present, but if the trait can be introduced into the plants they will become more efficient users and suppress loss of nitrogen from the soil.

Petunias with colors that nature never intended

Years ago, Tropicana used the slogan "Flavors Mother Nature never intended" to sell mixed juices to Americans. In a moden-day version, the USDA is tracking down petunias with colors that nature never intended — they're genetically engineered to produce blooms of orange, red and purple with names such as African Sunset, Trilogy Mango and Sweetunia Orange Flash.

Researchers, UC-Davis go to court over the fruit of labor on fruit

Strawberry researcher Douglas Shaw "found himself in a legal jam," says The Associated Press in covering a dispute in which UC-Davis is suing Shaw and his research partner, "alleging they stole the school's intellectual property by taking some of the fruits of their research with them" when they left the school. The scientists have filed a $45-million countersuit that says UC-Davis is sitting on their advances.

Washington growers launch Cosmic Crisp apple

Washington state farmers grow 70 percent of the country’s apples, but this year there’s a new apple on the tree, says NPR. For the first time anywhere, growers are planting a variety known as Cosmic Crisp, named after the yellow, star-like flecks in its flesh.

Scientists try to create kale 2.0

Scientists are asking consumers to help them develop a new variety of kale customized for American tastes, says NPR. But the same traits that make kale hearty against drought and disease, also give it its characteristic bitterness and tough texture. The study, which was developed by …

Crowdfunding drive for international germplasm bank

Plant breeding company KWS, of Germany, has pledged $10,000 in a crowdfunding initiative to help maintain the world's largest corn and wheat germplasm bank, says the international research center that owns the bank. The "Save a Seed" drive was launched at the 50th anniversary celebration for the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), based in Mexico.

Gene editing may not be as fool-proof as thought

There is an emerging concern among scientists that the gene-editing technique CRISPR "might inadvertently alter regions of the genome other than the intended one," says STAT, the health and medicine site. Dr. J. Keith Joung of Massachusetts General Hospital says that algorithms used to predict off-target effects of gene editing "miss a fair number" of them.

Farm groups seek to exempt gene editing from biotech rules

Two decades into the era of agricultural biotechnology, the United States is updating its regulatory system, in which USDA, EPA and FDA are the gatekeepers for commercialization of genetically modified crops and livestock.

Caution in Britain as U.S. greenlights CRISPR crops

Two gene-edited crops -- white button mushrooms and "waxy" hybrid corn -- are years from the market yet they already are creating turmoil in Britain over the use of gene-editing technology and the propriety of importing foods created with it, says The Guardian.

You say potato, I say eggplant

A year after "Ketchup 'n' Fries" aka TomTato - a plant that produces tomatoes and potatoes - became available to gardeners in the United States and Europe, the same seed and plant company in England is offering "Egg and Chips," "after a favorite English dish of fried eggs and French fries. Although in this case, the eggs are eggplants," says Modern Farmer. "The chips part is dead on, since the plant produces potatoes as well."

Work on wheat genome sequencing speeds along

Researchers may complete a sequencing of the notoriously complex genome of bread wheat in two years, rather than the four or five years that was expected, says Country Guide.

Prolific wheat breeder is named AAAS Fellow

Ravi Singh, a world expert in wheat, has been named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in recognition of his work on wheat genetics, pathology and breeding, says the international research center where he works. The awards will be announced formally in the journal Science at the end of this week.

Plant breeders aim for more flavorful strawberry

"On the agronomical trip to market, strawberries have lost some of their flavor," says Wired, noting the adjustments made over the decades to produce a bright-colored, slick-skinned, large-sized berry that is easy to pick and stays in condition.

Wheat gets a haplotype map of differences worldwide

An international team of scientists has created the first haplotype map of wheat that gives a detailed description of genetic differences among 62 wheat lines from around the world, says

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