BrightWorld

Dreams, Optimism, Wisdom

SCREENING CROPS FOR CLIMATE TRAITS October 3, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

 

Good morning!

 

Adapting food to climate change has been among the raging challenges of the times. This challenge is now being met head on by screening some specific crops for that purpose.

 

See the good news below.

 

[Writ 03 October 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to SciDev database news.

 

 

 

World’s crops to be screened for climate traits

Katherine Nightingale

22 September 2008 | EN | 中文

A taro plantation. Crops will be screened for adaptable traits to climate change.

Flickr\Richard sihamau

An international foundation is funding a drive to screen thousands of crops for traits that will be useful in adapting food production to climate change.

The Global Crop Diversity Trust is providing around US$300,000 of funding this year for researchers in 21 agricultural institutions in 15 countries across the developing world. Around US$200,000 will be spent next year with a continued commitment in the long term.

Crops from banana to sweet potato will be screened to identify material that plant breeders can use to produce varieties adapted to conditions associated with climate change.

Crop diversity is the biological foundation of agriculture, says Cary Fowler, executive director of the trust.

“Without it agriculture cannot adapt to anything: pests, disease, climate change, drought, energy constraints … nothing. With crop diversity we can have an agricultural system that — if we’re smart — is sustainable and productive, can feed people and fuel development.”

Researchers will screen the crops by growing them in different stress conditions — such as high salinity or high temperature — and assessing how well they grow.

Varieties with positive traits will be put into an open access database, says Fowler.

Some will also be entered into a ‘pre-breeding’ programme. Integrating one or two genes from an old or wild variety into a modern variety is costly and difficult, says Fowler, and pre-breeding produces early-stage, new varieties with the desired traits, so that plant breeders can get a ‘head start’ on producing varieties for farmers’ fields.

“Plant breeders often have to make quick progress so they’re loathe to get involved in the kind of cutting edge research to put exotic traits in [a crop]. So the pre-breeding at least gets that first set of genes into some kind of form that is easier for a plant breeder.”

Funded projects include a scheme in Papua New Guinea to screen over 20 varieties of the root crop taro for drought and salinity resistance. Taro is particularly important to the poor island communities of the Pacific region, as it need not be harvested for a number of years, making for a sustainable source of food and an ‘insurance policy’ at times when the prices of other staple crops become too high.

A programme in Bangladesh will screen varieties of the grass pea, a hardy crop that is often the only crop left in times of environmental stress and grown by the poorest communities.

Long-term consumption of grass pea can lead to paralysis, as the plant produces a neurotoxin — giving people a choice between starvation or paralysis. Researchers will search for varieties with low levels of this neurotoxin. 

 

BRAZIL’S GM SOYA RESISTANT TO PEST August 26, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

We may as well dance a lot of samba today as many news about new breeds of agri-products that are resistant to pests and drought have been filtering in.

From down south comes the Brazilian news that invites samba dances in the streets, regarding new breeds of soya that are resistant to pests and related diseases.

Happy reading!

[04 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

Brasil lanza dos variedades de soja transgénica

Catarina Chagas

22 junio 2008 | ES

La soya es el cultivo genéticamente modificado más cultivado en Brasil

USDA

Después de diez años de investigación, la Empresa Brasileña de Investigación Agropecuaria (Embrapa) lanzó dos variedades de soja genéticamente mejoradas para adaptarse a plantaciones en el norte y noreste del país, regiones de gran importancia en la producción agrícola.

Embrapa está vinculada al Ministerio de Agricultura, Ganadería y Abastecimiento y a la Fundación de Apoyo a la Investigación del Corredor de Exportación Norte.

Las variedades de soja BRS 278RR y BRS 279RR, además de presentar alta productividad y estar adaptadas a las condiciones climáticas locales, son especialmente recomendadas para áreas que tienen dificultad con las malezas, pues presentan alta tolerancia al herbicida glifosato.

Los investigadores afirman que la BRS 278RR es estable en varios ambientes, lo que permitiría plantarla en áreas de distinta altitud. A su vez, la BRS 279RR es especialmente resistente a plagas que causan problemas en la región.

Los investigadores crearon ambas semillas después del cruzamiento sucesivo de especies de soja, hasta alcanzar las características deseadas. Luego, hicieron pruebas para estudiar el desempeño de las semillas una vez plantadas en lugares con condiciones como las del norte y noreste de Brasil.

“Esta diversificación de semillas permite al agricultor elegir cómo manejar o diversificar sus modos de producción, permitiendo optimizar el uso de máquinas e implementos, tanto en la plantación como en la cosecha”, explicó a SciDev.Net el ingeniero agrónomo José Ubirajara Vieira Moreira, de Embrapa.

Lo anterior se debe a que ambas variedades tienen ciclos de crecimiento distintos y si el productor desea usar diferentes tipos de semillas, podrá sembrar y cosechar en tiempos diferenciados cada sector de su plantación.

Para otro especialista de Embrapa, José Francisco Ferraz de Toledo, el lanzamiento refuerza las nuevas e interesantes posibilidades de mercado de la soja transgénica.

“Con las nuevas tecnologías hay formas de introducir en la soja cualidades deseables de otras especies, abriendo nuevas oportunidades de avance de la agricultura”, dijo.

La soya genéticamente modificada está permitida en Brasil desde el año 2005, a pesar de las controversias alrededor del tema (ver Brazil delays GM crops and cloning bill  y Brazil says ‘yes’to GM crops and stem cell research).