A blog maintained by Tevita Kete, PGR Officer

Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Suva, Fiji Islands



This weblog documents the activities of Pacific Agricultural Genetic Resources Network (PAPGREN), along with other information on plant genetic resources (PGR) in the Pacific.

The myriad varieties found within cultivated plants are fundamental to the present and future productivity of agriculture. PAPGREN, which is coordinated by the Land Resources Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), helps Pacific countries and territories to conserve their crop genetic diversity sustainably, with technical assistance from the Bioversity International (BI) and support from NZAID and ACIAR.

SPC also hosts the Centre of Pacific Crops and Trees (CEPaCT). The CEPaCT maintains regional in vitro collections of crops important to the Pacific and carries out research on tissue culture technology. The CEPaCT Adviser is Dr Mary Taylor (MaryT@spc.int), the CEPaCT Curator is Ms Valerie Tuia (ValerieT@spc.int).




PAPGREN coordination and support

  • CTA
  • SPC
  • CEPaCT

     genebank locations
    Click on the thumbnail to see a map of the locations of Pacific genebanks. Click here to download a regional directory of genebanks in the Pacific, including information on their location, contact details and holdings.

    PAPGREN partners

    Mr William Wigmore
    Director of Research
    Ministry of Agriculture
    Department of Resources & Development
    P.O. Box 96
    Cook Islands
    Tel: (682) 28711-29720
    Fax: (682) 21881
    Email: cimoa@oyster.net.ck

    Mr Adelino S. Lorens
    Agriculture Pohnpei
    Office of Economic Affairs
    P.O. Box 1028
    Pohnpei 96941
    Federated States of Micronesia
    Tel: (691) 3202400
    Fax: (691) 3202127
    Email: pniagriculture@mail.fm

    Dr Lois Englberger
    Island Food Community of Pohnpei
    Research Advisor
    P.O. Box 2299
    Pohnpei 96941
    Federated States of Micronesia
    Email: nutrition@mail.fm

    Mr Apisai Ucuboi
    Director of Research
    Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forest
    Koronivia Research Station
    P.O. Box 77
    Fiji Islands
    Tel: (679) 3477044
    Fax: (679) 3477546-400262
    Email: apisainu@yahoo.com

    Dr Maurice Wong
    Service du Developpement Rural
    B.P. 100
    Tahiti 98713
    French Polynesia
    Tel: (689) 42 81 44
    Fax: (689) 42 08 31
    Email: maurice.wong@rural.gov.pf

    Mr Tianeti Beenna Ioane
    Head, Research Section
    Division of Agriculture
    Ministry of Environment, Lands and Agricultural Development
    P.O. Box 267
    Tel: (686) 28096-28108-28080
    Fax: (686) 28121
    Email : agriculture@tskl.net.ki; Beenna_ti@yahoo.com

    Mr Frederick Muller
    Ministry of Resources & Development
    P.O. Box 1727
    Majuro 96960
    Marshall Islands
    Tel: (692) 6253206
    Fax: (692) 6257471
    Email: rndsec@ntamar.net

    Mr Herman Francisco
    Bureau of Agriculture
    Ministry of Resources & Development
    P.O. Box 460
    Koror 96940
    Tel: (680) 4881517
    Fax: (680) 4881725
    Email: bnrd@pnccwg.palaunet.com

    Ms Rosa Kambuou
    Principal Scientist PGR
    NARI Dry Lowlands Programme
    Laloki Agricultural Research Station
    P.O. Box 1828
    National Capital District
    Papua New Guinea
    Tel: (675) 3235511
    Fax: (675) 3234733
    Email: kambuou@global.net.pg

    Ms Laisene Samuelu
    Principal Crop Development Officer
    Crops Division
    Ministry of Agriculture, Forests, Fisheries & Meteorology
    P.O. Box 1874
    Tel: (685) 23416-20605
    Fax: (685) 20607-23996
    Email: lsamuelu@lesamoa.net

    Mr Jimi Saelea
    Director of Research
    Department of Agriculture and Livestock
    P.O. Box G13
    Solomon Islands
    Tel: (677) 27987

    Mr Tony Jansen
    Planting Materials Network
    Kastom Gaden Association
    Burns Creek, Honiara
    P.O. Box 742
    Solomon Islands
    Tel: (677) 39551
    Email: kastomgaden@solomon.com.sb

    Mr Finao Pole
    Head of Research
    Ministry of Agriculture & Forests
    P.O. Box 14
    Tel: (676) 23038
    Fax: (676) 24271
    Email: thaangana@hotmail.com

    Mr Frazer Bule Lehi
    Head of Research
    Department of Agriculture & Rural Development
    Private Mail Bag 040
    Port Vila
    Tel: (678) 22525
    Fax: (678) 25265
    Email: flehi@hotmail.com

    Other links

    Other CROP agencies
    Forum Secretariat
    University of the South Pacific

    Pacific biodiversity
    Biodiversity hotspots
    Breadfruit Institute
    Hawaiian native plants
    Intellectual property rights
    Nature Conservancy
    WWF South Pacific Program

    Other Pacific organizations
    Foundation of the Peoples of the South Pacific
    Micronesian Seminar
    Te Puna web directory

    Pacific news
    Cafe Pacific
    CocoNET Wireless
    Island Directory
    Pacific Islands News
    Pacific Islands Report
    Pacific Islands Travel
    Pacific Time
    South Pacific travel
    Time Pacific

    Interested in GIS?



    Sunday, November 22, 2009

    The impact of the European Novel Food Regulation on trade and food innovation based on traditional plant foods from developing countries

    From : ScienceDirect

    Michael Hermann, a,

    aBioversity International, c/o Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, 413 St Jacques, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H2Y1N9

    Received 29 January 2009; revised 10 August 2009; accepted 15 August 2009. Available online 9 September 2009.

    The stringent food safety assessment for novel foods required by the European Union’s Novel Food Regulation (NFR) places a high burden of proof on those bringing traditional food products to the EU market not consumed in the EU prior 1997. The regulation has emerged as a non-tariff trade barrier for heritage foods from developing countries that are viewed as “exotic” from the EU perspective. We show how the regulation has discouraged investment in supply chains and market development, and how this negatively affects income generation and rural poverty alleviation in developing countries. Focusing on plant-derived foods, this paper proposes to recognize traditional exotic foods in current EU law as a food category sui generis with food safety evidence requirements being proportionate to the risks they may pose. We argue that development activities promoting export food chains must increasingly accommodate legitimate food safety concerns about neglected food species in project design and seek to generate data to enhance regulatory acceptance in target markets.

    Keywords: Market access barriers; Traditional foods; Food safety; EU Novel Food Regulation; Neglected crops; Export supply chains

    Article Outline
    New income opportunities for poor countries from traditional food products
    The relevance of trade in traditional exotic foods to development and poverty alleviation
    The EU Novel Food Regulation
    Procedures and implementation since 1997
    Implementation of the Novel Food Regulation from 1997 to 2008
    Authorized applications
    Noni juice and leaves
    Baobab fruit pulp
    Denied applications of traditional foods under the NFR
    Other traditional foods challenged by the NFR
    Adverse impact of the Novel Food Regulation on trade in biodiversity products
    Need for the recognition of exotic traditional foods as a food category sui generis
    Evidence requirements for traditional exotic foods
    The need for enhanced scientific documentation of traditional foods

    * Comments:

    It is very important to develop an organic agriculture. The production should be based on an agriculture based on agricultural practices near nature. Only in this way we managed to save the earth.masini
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    USDA Highlights Specialty Crop Research and Extension

    Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

    Posted on: 19th November 2009

    Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA has awarded more than $46 million through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) to solve critical specialty crop agriculture issues, address priorities and solve problems through multifunctional research and extension.

    “Specialty crops are an important part of American agriculture, valued at nearly $50 billion every year,” Vilsack said. “This significant investment into research, education and extension will enable specialty crop producers to improve their products and increase their profitability.”

    The Specialty Crop Research Initiative was established by the 2008 Farm Bill to support the specialty crop industry by developing and disseminating science-based tools to address the needs of specific crops in five focus areas: 1) improve crop characteristics through plant breeding, genetics and genomics; 2) address threats from pests and diseases; 3) improve production efficiency, productivity and profitability; 4) develop new innovations and technologies and 5) develop methods to improve food safety. Each of the focus areas received at least 10 percent of the available funds. The majority of the funded projects address two or more focus areas.

    The projects funded in 2009 address research and extension needs for crops that span the entire spectrum of specialty crops production, from studying invasive mealy bug pests in west coast vineyards to developing biodegradable mulches for specialty crops produced under protective covers. Major projects were also funded to protect important specialty crops from invasive pests and to develop improved varieties.

    Although 20 institutions will manage the research/extension grant funds from this program, each award includes an average of 8 principal investigators from three other states who will work together in a multi-disciplinary approach to solve problems. All of the awards required 100 percent matching funds from non-federal sources which will double the impact of the award dollars.

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    From : http://www.agrobiodiversity-diversitas.org

    Biodiversity loss in agricultural landscapes affects not just the production of food, fuel, and fiber, but also a range of ecological services supporting clean water supplies, habitats for wild species, and human health. The world’s population of 6.3 billion people is projected to grow to 9 billion by 2050. To meet the increased demand for food, more land will be converted to agriculture, and agricultural intensification will increase, thereby increasing the pressure on biodiversity in natural ecosystems. Given the expected growth in human population and predicted environmental change, research is needed predicted effects on environmental change, research is needed that shows how the utilization and conservation of biodiversity can provide ecosystem services to satisfy both current
    and future needs. The goal of the agroBIODIVERSITY science plan and implementation strategy is to establish the scientific basis needed to address the trade-offs between food production, biodiversity conservation, ecosystem services,
    and human well being in agricultural landscapes. Three key research foci of the agroBIODIVERSITY Science Plan integrate the biological and social sciences:
    (1) To assess biodiversity in agricultural landscapes and the anthropogenic drivers of biodiversity change; (2) To identify the goods and services provided by agrobiodiversity at various levels of biological organization, e.g., genes, species, communities, ecosystems, and landscapes; (3) To evaluate the socioeconomic options for the sustainable use of biodiversity in agricultural landscapes. Innovative biodiversity-rich farming systems can potentially be high-yielding and sustainable, and thus support persistence of wild species by limiting the adverse effects
    of agriculture on habitats. Adoption of farming practices that utilize and conserve biodiversity may ultimately improve environmental quality and limit agricultural
    expansion. Conservation of biodiversity and human knowledge from traditional agroecosystems is an urgent priority, to support human societies that rely on its cultural services, and for its potential for solving agricultural problems, now and in the future. Implementation of the agroBIODIVERSITY Science Plan will involve collaboration between geneticists, ecologists, anthropologists, and economists, to cross ecosystem boundaries to understand the environmental and social drivers of biodiversity change, ecosystem services provided by biodiversity in agricultural landscapes, and how to use this information for policy-relevant strategies to meet
    human needs. Innovative methods for data handling and analysis across disciplines are required, as are protocols for integrating formal and informal knowledge. Workshops, publications, and projects by international networks of scientists will result in various scientific products that will increase useful knowledge for a variety of stakeholder groups.

    Examples of activities will include:

     Assemble and synthesize current knowledge,

     Develop new approaches, methods, and models for
    assessing biodiversity in agricultural landscapes, and for
    determining issues that affect the sustainable use and
    conservation of biodiversity in agriculture
     Establish international networks that promote research
    and capacity building among researchers involved in biodiversity
    science in agricultural landscapes

     Conduct research linking the biophysical and socioeconomic
    sciences to develop new knowledge that will support
    decisions for biodiversity utilization and conservation
    in agricultural landscapes

     Produce synthetic outcomes of research activities and
    promote the development of policy-relevant materials related
    to sustainable use of biodiversity

     Lead outreach efforts to show the successful outcomes
    of approaches that link biophysical and socioeconomic
    sciences for sustainable use of biodiversity in

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    Thursday, November 05, 2009

    Recent Publications from UH-CTAHR's Office of Communication Services

    From : CTAHR

    *** Free Publications ***
    The publications listed below by their subject category are now available for downloading from the CTAHR free publications webpage. http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/freepubs
    The economics of cacao production in Kona (with spreadsheet)
    Kent Fleming, Virginia Easton Smith, Skip Bittenbender, AB-17 12 p.
    Entrepreneur’s Toolbox
    A profile of minority business owners
    Diane Masuo, Y.L. Malroutu, ET-10 6 p.
    Livestock Management
    Swine health management for Hawaii
    Halina Zaleski, R.D. Willer, E.S. Terway, LM-21 5 p.
    Soil and Crop Management
    Benefits and costs of using perennial peanut as living mulch for fruit trees in Hawaii
    Ted Radovich, Linda Cox, Jari Sugano, Travis Idol, SCM-27 10 p.
    Maximizing yields of corn for silage and bioethanol in Hawaii by increasing plant density
    Jim Brewbaker, SCM-28 7 p.
    Sustainable Agriculture
    Small-scale lettuce production with hydroponics or aquaponics
    Harry Ako, Adam Baker, SA-2 7 p.
    Overview of organic food crop systems in Hawaii
    Ted Radovich, Linda Cox, Jim Hollyer, SA-3 14 p.
    *** Finding CTAHR Publications ***
    Three databases are searchable by words in title, authors’ names, publication date, or publication series:
    CTAHR Publications (1901 to present)
    CTAHR Theses and Dissertations (current to 2001)
    CTAHR Journal Series (faculty journal articles, book chapters; current to 2001)
    ScholarSpace is a joint project with the UH Hamilton Library. It contains all the titles available at www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/freepubs that have been issued since about 1996, excluding some for-sale publications), plus some previously out-of-print publications that have been scanned for the project. These latter were published before our publications began to be made available in PDF digital format (see, for example, the Bulletin series, or the Research Extension Series).
    To begin a ScholarSpace search, go to the CTAHR community home page. The search opportunity is far more robust than that available in the CTAHR databases listed above. Searches probe the entire text of all the documents in the collections. New CTAHR publications will be added to ScholarSpace as they are issued.

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    Managing genetic variation in tropical trees: linking knowledge with action in agroforestry ecosystems for improved conservation and enhanced livelihoods
    Ian K. Dawson • Ard Lengkeek • John C. Weber •Ramni Jamnadass

    From : CropWildRelativesGroup@yahoogroups.com

    Tree species in agroforestry ecosystems contribute to the livelihoods of rural
    communities and play an important role in the conservation of biodiversity. Unless agroforestry landscapes are productive, however, farmers will not maintain or enhance the range and quality of tree species in them, and both income opportunities and biodiversity will be lost.
    Productivity depends on both tree species diversity and genetic (intra-speciWc) variation, but research on the latter has until recently not received the recognition it deserves. Worse, when knowledge on tree genetic variation in agroforestry systems has become available, it has not generally been linked in any systematic way with management, indicating a disjunction between research and Weld-level practice. In this essay, we attempt to bridge this gap by considering three questions: why is genetic diversity important in tree species? What is our current state of knowledge about intra-speciWc variation in trees in agroforestry systems? And, Wnally, what practical interventions are possible to support the conservation of this diversity in agricultural landscapes, while enhancing farmers’ livelihoods? A wide genetic base in agroforestry trees is essential to prevent inbreeding depression and allow adaptation to changing environmental conditions and to altering markets for tree products. Recent evidence shows, however, that many species are subject to poor germplasm collection practice, occur at low densities in farmland, and are found in highly aggregated distributions, all of which observations raise concerns about productivity and sustainability. A range of germplasmaccess
    based interventions is necessary to improve current management, including the
    enhancement of community seed- and seedling-exchange networks, and the development of locally based tree domestication activities. Equally necessary, but more diYcult to address, isthe development of markets that support genetic diversity in tropical tree species; we discuss approaches by which this may be undertaken.

    Keywords Agroforestry ecosystems • Biodiversity management • Genetic variation •
    Tropical trees

    Best regards

    Dr. Nelli Hovhannisyan, PhD
    Research Scientist, Lecturer
    Department of Ecology and Nature Protection
    Faculty of Biology
    Yerevan State University
    1 Alex Manoogian str., Yerevan, Armenia, 0025
    Tel: (+37410) 57 21 19
    Mob: (+37493) 30 82 18
    E-mail: bionellibiotech@yahoo.com

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    Clean technology as a public good

    From : SciDev Net

    Clean technology to meet poor communities' needs must lie at the heart of any sustainable strategy to combat climate change.

    A widely-held myth among climate change activists is that discussing the need for improved technology to mitigate or adapt to climate change detracts from political debates on who is to blame for unsustainable lifestyles — and who should pay for their consequences.

    Like many myths, this one contains an element of truth. Purely technological responses to climate change have, on occasion, been proposed to avoid difficult political choices.

    The United States' approach to the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate four years ago (see Asia-Pacific climate pact launched) is a notable example.

    But the myth is also a dangerous one. It ignores the fact that any effort to combat climate change will only succeed if it can draw on technologies that do not, in the long run, add to the global burden of carbon emissions (see Climate change's technology transfer challenge).

    The first political challenge — due to emerge at next month's UN Climate Change Convention (COP-15) in Copenhagen — is to ensure sufficient funding to urgently develop clean technologies.

    The second is to guarantee that equal effort is devoted to ensuring that such technologies do not hinder the world's poorest communities from improving their standards of living through economic development.

    Money matters

    The good news is that the first of these challenges seems to have been taken seriously. Climate negotiators have long realised that developing clean technology and transferring it to developing nations are fundamentals of any global strategy to combat climate change.

    But some assessments of the technological challenge ahead are sobering. A European Commission report emerging from pre-Copenhagen discussions, for example, estimates that the developing world will need up to US$150 billion over the next decade to cope with climate change.

    One of the more ambitious, yet convincing solutions on the table next month is the G-77 plus China's idea of a UN-operated multilateral climate technology fund (MCTF).

    Using a multilateral system to identify technological needs and priorities avoids the type of political trading that too frequently accompanies bilateral funding programmes, where donor's interests can be as influential as those of the recipient.

    A free resource

    But neither more money alone, nor an international mechanism to collect and distribute such funding, will be sufficient.

    It is equally important to guarantee that a large part of the funded projects are directed at meeting the needs of the poor who are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

    This will require political concessions from the developed world that are unlikely to be easily conceded at Copenhagen. In particular, the idea that clean technology should be a 'public good' — a resource free for everyone.

    Such a commitment would significantly improve access to clean technology by those who need it most but are least able to pay. Similar to the thinking behind 'open access' to scientific research, the idea is that the easier it is to access clean technologies, the more widely the benefits will be felt.

    But patents increasingly cover clean technologies — whether developed in the public or the private sector. And, despite calls for loosening patent protection, in practice the reverse is likely to happen as corporations and countries view the sale and export of green technology as a path to economic growth.

    Markets not the answer

    This is true for the developed and developing world alike. Countries such as China and India are already producing new technologies within a market perspective, developing them as a major future source of revenue rather than a free gift.

    But, as long-argued by economists such as Nicholas Stern and increasingly accepted by governments around the world, climate change represents one of the biggest market failures of all time.

    If, as with the financial crisis, it was the failure of global markets to stem excessive greed (in this case for energy) that triggered the current climate crisis, markets are unlikely to get us out of it. We need a massive public bail-out of precisely the type that the proposed MCTF represents and that governments have already provided for their financial institutions.

    But those excluded from markets in the first place, including most of the world's poorest communities, need a different approach. It is here that the 'public good' approach to clean technology is most urgent.

    If next month's climate talks in Copenhagen can enshrine such a commitment, it would be one of its most significant and long-lasting achievements.

    David Dickson
    Director, SciDev.Net

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    Extinction crisis continues apace

    From : Birdlife International

    BirdLife International is the Red List Authority for birds and released the 2009 update for birds earlier in the year, listing 192 species of bird as Critically Endangered, the highest threat category, a total of two more than in the 2008 update. But the update did highlight some successes, including the downlisting of Lear's Macaw Anodorhynchus leari, from Critically Endangered to Endangered, as a direct result of targeted conservation action.

    "In global terms, things continue to get worse – but there are some real conservation success stories this year to give us hope and point the way forward", said Dr Leon Bennun, BirdLife's Director of Science and Policy.

    Of the world's 9,998 birds, 137 are Extinct or Extinct in the Wild, with 192 Critically Endangered, 362 Endangered and 669 Vulnerable.

    The results of the full Red List update reveal 21% of mammals, 30% of amphibians, 12% of birds, and 28% of reptiles, 37% of freshwater fishes, 70% of plants, 35% of invertebrates assessed so far are under threat.

    "The scientific evidence of a serious extinction crisis is mounting", says Jane Smart, Director of IUCN's Biodiversity Conservation Group. "January sees the launch of the International Year of Biodiversity. The latest analysis of the IUCN Red List shows the 2010 target to reduce biodiversity loss will not be met. It's time for governments to start getting serious about saving species and make sure it’s high on their agendas for next year, as we're rapidly running out of time."

    Of the world's 5,490 mammals, 79 are Extinct or Extinct in the Wild, with 188 Critically Endangered, 449 Endangered and 505 Vulnerable. Eastern Voalavo Voalavo antsahabensis appears on the IUCN Red List for the first time in the Endangered category. This rodent, endemic to Madagascar, is confined to montane tropical forest and is under threat from slash-and-burn farming.

    There are now 1,677 reptiles on the IUCN Red List, with 293 added this year. In total, 469 are threatened with extinction and 22 are already Extinct or Extinct in the Wild. The 165 endemic Philippine species new to the IUCN Red List include Panay Monitor Lizard Varanus mabitang, which is Endangered. This highly-specialized monitor lizard is threatened by habitat loss due to agriculture and logging and is hunted by humans for food. Sail-fin Water Lizard Hydrosaurus pustulatus enters in the Vulnerable category and is also threatened by habitat loss. Hatchlings are heavily collected both for the pet trade and for local consumption.

    "The world's reptiles are undoubtedly suffering, but the picture may be much worse than it currently looks", says Simon Stuart, Chair of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission. "We need an assessment of all reptiles to understand the severity of the situation but we don’t have the $2-3 million to carry it out."

    The IUCN Red List shows that 1,895 of the planet's 6,285 amphibians are in danger of extinction, making them the most threatened group of species known to date. Of these, 39 are already Extinct or Extinct in the Wild, 484 are Critically Endangered, 754 are Endangered and 657 are Vulnerable.

    Kihansi Spray Toad Nectophrynoides asperginis has moved from Critically Endangered to Extinct in the Wild. The species was only known from the Kihansi Falls in Tanzania, where it was formerly abundant with a population of at least 17,000. Its decline is due to the construction of a dam upstream of the Kihansi Falls that removed 90 percent of the original water flow to the gorge. The fungal disease chytridiomycosis was probably responsible for the toad’s final population crash.

    The fungus also affected Rabb's Fringe-limbed Treefrog Ecnomiohyla rabborum, which enters the Red List as Critically Endangered. It is known only from central Panama. In 2006, the chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis was reported in its habitat and only a single male has been heard calling since. This species has been collected for captive breeding efforts but all attempts have so far failed.

    Of the 12,151 plants on the IUCN Red List, 8,500 are threatened with extinction, with 114 already Extinct or Extinct in the Wild. The Queen of the Andes Puya raimondii has been reassessed and remains in the Endangered category. Found in the Andes of Peru and Bolivia, it only produces seeds once in 80 years before dying. Climate change may already be impairing its ability to flower and cattle roam freely among many colonies, trampling or eating young plants.

    But it's not all doom and gloom, conservation does work and there are some great examples in this year's Red List. In Brazil, Lear's Macaw Anodorhynchus leari has been downlisted from Critically Endangered. Named after the English poet, this spectacular blue parrot has increased four-fold in numbers as a result of a joint effort of many national and international non-governmental organisations, the Brazilian government and local landowners.

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    Tuesday, November 03, 2009

    Woody plants adapted to past climate change more slowly than herbs

    Source: ScienceDaily, 27 September 2009

    Can we predict which species will be most vulnerable to climate change by studying how they responded in the past? A new study of flowering plants provides a clue. An analysis of more than 5000 plant species reveals that woody plants — such as trees and shrubs — adapted to past climate change much more slowly than herbaceous plants did. If the past is any indicator of the future, woody plants may have a harder time than other plants keeping pace with global warming, researchers say.
    In a new study, biologists at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (USA) and Yale University (USA) teamed up to find out how flowering plants adapted to new climates over the course of their evolution. By integrating previously published genealogies for several plant groups with temperature and rainfall data for each species, they were able to measure how fast each lineage filled new climate niches over time.
    When they compared woody and herbaceous groups, they found that woody plants adapted to new climates two to ten times slower than herbs. "Woody plants eventually evolved to occupy about the same range of climates that herbaceous plants did, but woody plants took a lot longer to get there," said lead author Stephen Smith, a postdoctoral researcher at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, NC.
    The researchers trace the disparity to differences in generation time between the two groups. Longer-lived plants like trees and shrubs typically take longer to reach reproductive age than fast-growing herbaceous plants, they explained. "Some woody plants take many years to produce their first flower, whereas for herbs it could take just a couple months," said co-author Jeremy Beaulieu, a graduate student at Yale University.
    Because woody plants have longer reproductive cycles, they also tend to accumulate genetic changes at slower rates, prior research shows. "If genetic mutations build up every generation, then in 1000 years you would expect plants with longer generation times to accumulate fewer mutations per unit time," said Smith. This could explain why woody plants were slower to adapt to new environments. If genetic mutations provide the raw material for evolution, then woody plants simply didn't accumulate mutations fast enough to keep up. "If woody and herbaceous plants were running a race, the herbs would be the hares and the woody plants would be the tortoises," said Beaulieu.
    By understanding how plants responded to climate change in the past, scientists may be better able to predict which groups will be hardest hit by global warming in the future. Unlike the tortoise and the hare, however, in this case slow and steady may not win the race. "Woody groups are obviously at a disadvantage as the climate changes," Beaulieu explained.
    Does this mean that ecosystems dominated by trees — such as rainforests — will be more likely to disappear? Possibly, "If we look to the past for our clues, chances are trees will continue to respond much slower than herbs — as much as 10 times slower," Smith said. "But if the rate of climate change is 100 times faster, then they could all be in trouble. The kind of change we're experiencing now is so unprecedented," he added. While this study focused on long-term change over the last 100 million years, most climate models predict significant warming in the next century, the researchers explained. "That time frame may be too quick for any plant," Beaulieu said.
    For full story, please see: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090923121441.htm

    Dr Danny Hunter

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    Study on plant breeding education to be conducted at the University of California, Davis

    From : Danny Hunter (Crop Wild Relative Group)

    Plant breeding is currently under stress – the global demand for breeders is greater than the current educational system has been producing. Companies are having difficulty finding well trained plant breeders, slowing the progress of
    agricultural research. The need to strengthen public plant breeding programs and educate more professional plant breeders is critical if we are to continue producing improved crop varieties to provide food for an increasing population.
    Researchers at UC Davis are initiating a study aimed at gaining consensus on the most essential curriculum components for educating plant breeders. Through an iterative process, a diverse group of experts with highly specialized knowledge of plant breeding will be surveyed to elicit ideas and suggestions for educational program content. Over 250 participants from all over the world will be asked to complete the three rounds of this survey, with each round building on the responses gleaned through the prior round. This consensus-based approach will lead to a comprehensive analysis of content and practical experiences that will guide the design of modern plant breeding curricula. Following conclusion of the analysis, all results will be publically available to the international community.
    "Plant breeders continually provide the world with necessary advances in crop varieties; however, their numbers are diminishing due to retirements and fewer educational programs offering plant breeding degrees," says Dr. Allen Van Deynze, Director of Research at the Seed Biotechnology Center and co-founder of the Plant Breeding Academysm. "The scope of this study provides every participant an equal voice to help improve the training experiences of future breeders and will result in a clear understanding of how to focus educational programs to get the best results."
    Dr. Cary Trexler, a professor in the College of Education at UC Davis will lead this study in cooperation with the Seed Biotechnology Center. Funding for this study is being provided through the generous support of private companies, university departments, and individual contributors.

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    Agrobiodiversity Weblog: For discussions of conservation and sustainable use of the genetic resources of crops, livestock and their wild relatives.  

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