More non-GM success stories
Subject: GMO-FREE PRODUCTS & SEEDS: Recent advances in non-GE breeding
From: GENET - news&information
Date: 9 Oct 2007
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TITLE: PINOY BREEDS NEW, DROUGHT-RESISTANT CORN
SOURCE: Minda News, Philippines
AUTHOR: Allen V. Estabillo
BANGA, South Cotabato (MindaNews/3 Oct) For an ordinary farmer, only a miracle can make a corn plant survive for almost a month under an unusually intense heat and without a single drop of water.
But a scientific breakthrough practically made that history after local farmers here witnessed for themselves how a new corn variety developed by a local biotechnology company was able to survive a drought for 29 straight days.
”It’s both a miracle and a genetic breakthrough. It’s just timely to have this new weapon when our worst fears about global warming are unfolding before us,” said plant scientist Dr. Antonio Mercado.
Mercado, a University of Philippines Los Banos (UPLB)-trained plant breeder, spent almost five decades collecting various corn varieties available in the planet on his quest of a perfect genetic base for his pet project.
After 10 years of continuous research, Mercado finally cracked the right genetic make-up for probably the first drought-resistant corn variety in the world. Mercado’s own biotechnology firm ACM genetics eventually launched Gloria I Socialized Hybrid Corn Seed, which has been dubbed as ”the answer” to the worsening effects of global warming in the country.
Mercado personally named the new corn variety ”Gloria” in honor of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Despite lacking enough financial backup and working by himself, Mercado still managed to launch his project a decade ago at his farm in barangay Reyes here. He squeezed his own savings in order to put up his own corn gene bank and a small research station.
Mercado said he started his research by studying the genetic traits of some of the corn genes that he had collected from his travels to various parts of the world. He eventually developed Gloria variety out of a broad genetic base, primarily from corn varieties in Mexico, Thailand and UPLB.
”Its parent gene is from diverse origins and I carefully selected them out of the traits that are needed for a heat-tolerant variety,” he said.
Mercado has tested the Gloria variety in Bukidnon, Wao in Lanao del Sur, North Cotabato, Sarangani and Isabela and the results turned out favorable.
”It’s tested and proven to thrive in both wet and dry seasons in any part of the country,” he said.
Early this year, ACM Genetics started the commercial distribution of the product at a price much lower to other branded hybrid varieties.
A bag of the Gloria corn variety, which is just enough for a hectare of farmland, has approximately 65,000 seeds and costs at least P1,700 only.
Owing to Mercado’s successful research, the local government has invested on establishing its own gene bank in a bid to develop more hybrid corn varieties in the future.
The investment is in line with the efforts of Banga Mayor Isidro Janita to develop this once sleepy municipality into a ”corn-based agri-industrial center in the south” and eventually the country’s corncapital.
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TITLE: BODY BLOW TO GRAIN BORER
SOURCE: CIMMYT E-News
The larger grain borer is taking a beating from CIMMYT breeders in Kenya as new African maize withstands the onslaught of one of the most damaging pests.
Scientists from CIMMYT, working with the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), have developed maize with significantly increased resistance to attack in storage bins from a pest called the larger grain borer. In just six months this small beetle can destroy more than a third of the maize farmers have stored. The new maize varieties, which dramatically decrease the damage and increase the storability of the grain, will be nominated by KARI maize breeders to the Kenya national maize performance trials run by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS). The same varieties will also be distributed for evaluation by interested parties in other countries through the CIMMYT international maize testing program in 2008.
”This is a major achievement and will be of great help to farmers in Kenya and more than 20 African countries, who have had few options to control this pest for nearly 30 years” says Stephen Mugo, the CIMMYT maize breeder who headed the CIMMYT-KARI collaboration, which has been funded in part by the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture.
The larger grain borer, native to Central America, was first observed in Africa in Tanzania in the late 1970s and early 1980s. A particularly severe drought struck eastern Africa in 1979 and there was little local maize. The world responded with large shipments of maize as aid. The borer may well have been an uninvited guest in a food aid shipment.
Even in Latin America, where it has co-evolved with natural predators, losses are significant. In Africa, where there are no similar predators to control the insect, its spread has been most dramatic. Attempts to introduce some of those predators to Africa to control the borer (a technique called biological control) have met with limited success and regionally concerted action is essential if biological control is to be effective across borer-infested areas. Researchers also studied the habits of the borer, hoping to find ways to reduce the damage it does. They discovered that it needs a solid platform, such as that provided by maize kernels still on the cob, before it will bore into a kernel. Unfortunately African farmers often store maize on the cob, increasing the potential for borer damage. By shelling the maize and storing the kernels off the cob, the damage can be reduced by small amounts, but losses are still very high. This is what makes the development of new varieties, where the resistance lies in the seed, so exciting.
”Having the solution in the seed itself makes adoption much easier for farmers,” says Marianne Banziger, the director of CIMMYT’s Global Maize Program. ”There is no added workload or expense to the farmer, no longstanding practices or habits to change.” But Banziger cautions that resistant maize is not a silver bullet solution to the grain borer problem. ”We strongly encourage the use of the new varieties in combination with other measures,” she says. ”The varieties are more resistant but as time progresses there will still be some damage, though much less than before.”
CIMMYT researchers found resistance to the borer in the Center’s germplasm bank, in maize seed originally from the Caribbean. The bank holds 25,000 unique collections of native maize races. By using conventional plant breeding techniques, crossing those plants with maize already adapted to the conditions found in eastern Africa, Mugo and the breeding team were able to combine the resistance of the Caribbean maize with the key traits valued by Kenyan maize farmers. The maize was tested for resistance at the KARI research station in Kiboko, Kenya. Larger grain borers were placed in glass jars with a known weight of maize. Weight changes to the maize and a visual assessment of damage were recorded, allowing researchers to select the best lines. The result is new maize varieties that will benefit farmers in Kenya and help reduce Kenya’s dependence on imported maize for national food security.
Testing by Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services and by national seed authorities in other countries is expected to take 1-3 years, after which seed of the new maize hybrids and open pollinated varieties will be available to seed companies for seed production and sale to farmers.