1.Success for plants' pest control
2.Non-GM approaches to breed micronutrient rich crops
3.No GM Required to Improve Tea
4.Non-GM approaches to breeding and growing chilis

EXTRACTS: They have successfully developed [non-GM] biofortified varieties that meet 90% of the iron target and have superior agronomic traits. (ITEM 2)

Good results were also obtained on maize, where caterpillar damage was reduced by 38%, sweet pepper where aphid attacks were reduced by 70%, and caterpillar damage to wheat was reduced by 65%. (ITEM 1)

Chili yields are expected to increase by 20% and the area under production by 10%. Most importantly, pesticide inputs will be lowered significantly... reducing the environmental impact, and providing safer, lower cost chilies for all consumers. (ITEM 4)
1.Success for plants' pest control
BBC News, 7 October 2008

Researchers have developed a potential new method of making plants significantly more resistant to pests.

Scientists from Lancaster University, who have conducted early trials, say their method could greatly reduce pesticide use.

Until now attempts at creating pest-resistant crops involved GM technology.

This method uses a chemical that is naturally produced by plants - jasmonic acid. Large-scale trials of the technology are expected this year.

Researchers have found that plants grown from seeds first dipped in the acid are considerably more resistant to pests.

The effect is to boost the plant's own defences.

The best results were on tomato plants, where attacks by Red Spider Mites were reduced by 80%, aphid attack was reduced by 60% and caterpillar damage was down by a third.

Good results were also obtained on maize, where caterpillar damage was reduced by 38%, sweet pepper where aphid attacks were reduced by 70%, and caterpillar damage to wheat was reduced by 65%.

BBC science correspondent Pallab Ghosh said these early results are promising, but that the true test will be large scale trials of the technology which are expected before the end of the year.

The work was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council.
2.Iron Age for Millet and Bean
CGIAR News, September 2008

Progress in breeding some staple crops with high iron content advances the fight against micronutrient malnutrition in tropical Africa and Asia.

As the food crisis threatens to worsen micronutrient malnutrition, iron-biofortified pearl millet and bean are on the fast track for release in Asia and Africa. Rising food prices mean that poor people are able to afford fewer nutritious foods like leafy vegetables, fruits and animal products. As a result, micronutrient malnutrition is likely to increase.

"Poor people depend mostly on micronutrient-poor staples to begin with," says Howarth Bouis, director of the HarvestPlus Challenge Program. "It's not just the quantity of food intake, but also the quality of that food, that's important for food security."

Iron is one of the critical micronutrients that HarvestPlus is breeding into staple food crops to improve their nutritional quality. More than 2 billion people worldwide suffer from anemia, mostly due to dietary iron deficiency, which can impair physical growth and mental development and increases the risk of women dying in childbirth. It has been estimated that more than half of all pregnant women in developing countries are anemic. The problem is especially acute in South and Southeast Asia and tropical Africa, where anemia is linked to poverty.

Bouis, who has done extensive research in the Philippines, has calculated that, without biofortification and assuming an overall food price increase of 50%, iron intake among Philippino women would decline by about 30%. This would mean that only 5% of Filipino women would meet their daily iron requirements and that 25% more women would no longer receive the required iron intake. For more information, see the IFPRI Blog World Hunger.

“Because of the food crisis, s imilar scenarios will play out throughout the developing world with dire consequences,” says Bouis.

Biofortifying staple food crops consumed by the poor can help reduce micronutrient malnutrition by providing a basic “nutritional floor” upon which other interventions, such as conventional fortification and supplementation, can build upon.

As the food crisis shows no signs of abating, the HarvestPlus strategy to develop “fast- to-market” biofortified crops is especially timely. These staples can be fast-tracked largely because ,while screening germplasm, plant breeders opportunely discovered varieties that already contained sufficient quantities of micronutrients. This means they will not have to breed specifically for higher nutrient content but can focus instead on incorporating existing high-nutrient traits into popular breeding lines. High-iron pearl millet and common bean are currently being fast-tracked in India and tropical Africa.

Despite many attempts to provide micronutrients in India, severe micronutrient malnutrition persists among impoverished Indians. More than 80% of pregnant Indian women are iron deficient. In western India, where 50 million people commonly grow and eat pearl millet as a staple, the prevalence of anemia among children is 66%. HarvestPlus research partners at the International Centre for Research in the Semi Arid Tropics screened almost 2,000 pearl millet germplasm accessions and found varieties with iron levels that well exceeded the target. Cultivars meeting more than 75% of the iron target are now in final product development, and the first biofortified varieties should be in farmers’ fields by 2011. HarvestPlus anticipates spillover effects in Niger, a West African nation where pearl millet is an important food crop.

In East Africa, anemia affects more than half of the children in Rwanda, where 33% of women of reproductive age are anemic. Both bush and climbing beans are prime sources of protein and micronutrients in the Rwandan diet. Bean research began in the first phase of HarvestPlus (2003-2007), with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture and its national research partners assaying more than 4,000 bean genotypes. They found varieties with more than twice the iron content of popular cultivars. Plant breeders have used these naturally iron-rich varieties to systematically elevate the iron content of bean cultivars with each breeding cycle, while maintaining or enhancing important agronomic traits. They have successfully developed biofortified varieties that meet 90% of the iron target and have superior agronomic traits. These varieties will be field tested next year.

The goal is to provide at least one third of the recommended daily iron intake for Rwandan women through beans. Pending the results of nutrition studies that are underway in Rwanda, HarvestPlus plans to release high-iron beans in 2010 in collaboration with national partners. While the initial release will be in Rwanda, at least 10 other African countries stand to benefit from these new iron-rich bean varieties as they become more widely available and adapted to different environments.

In just a few years, biofortified varieties of pearl millet and common bean are expected to provide additional iron to millions of malnourished people in India and tropical Africa. Early success with these crops should help pave the way for acceptance of biofortified “mega-staples” such as maize and rice, which are already under development and could improve nutrition for billions more people.
3.No Genetic Modification Required to Improve Tea Plants
Russia I-C, 29 September 2008

Russian scientists work for making tea plants more resistant to drought and definitely have some success.

Tea plants love water and evaporate it quite actively. Russia has the only site, suitable for growing tea the Black sea coast, Krasnodar region; however, the climate there is hot and dry. Scientists recommend growing right kinds of tea plants.

Scientists spent over 10 years comparing various kinds of tea plants and found the one, which survived dry times best of all - it is the "Kartum" sort.

Researchers discovered that plant adaptability can be increased by proper fertilizing. Tea plants were sprayed with copper, zinc, manganese and iron sulfates. Two of mentioned sulfates (zinc and manganese) appeared to improve plant moisture status and eliminate water deficiency leaves accumulated water and evaporated less moisture. Soil dressing by same salts improved productivity and quality of tea leaves, and metal concentrations in tea never exceeded maximum allowable concentrations.

Russian source: Science & Technology
4.Multi-disease resistant chili lines for higher yields and income
Source: The World Vegetable Center Newsletter, September 2008

Taiwan - Almost half of the world's 28.41 million tonnes* of chilies are produced in China, India, Indonesia and Thailand. Chili is a good source of cash for subsistence farmers, generating up to four times the income of cereal crops
under optimal conditions and providing a major source of employment for women. However, average chili yields in the Asian tropics are generally low (about 5-10 t/ha) and unstable due to preand post-harvest diseases.

Severe yield losses are caused by insect-transmitted Cucumber mosaic virus (CMV), Chili veinal mottle virus (ChiVMV) and Chili leafcurl virus (CLCV) as well as fungal diseases such as anthracnose and Phytophthora blight and also bacterial wilt. Smallholder farmers often try to minimize yield losses by applying pesticide cocktails every 3-7 days. Improving the resistance of the crop to diseases is a more sustainable option. If supplemented by improved crop management practices this can improve yields, reduce risks to farmers and produce a crop that is also safer for consumers.

"Understanding the diversity of the pathogens and their virulence is a prerequisite to developing stable multi-disease resistant lines," says Dr. Sylvia Green, the virologist at AVRDC - The World Vegetable Center. In a German-funded project, pathogen isolates were collected in all participating countries, and tested against a
broad array of lines with different resistance genes. Efficient specific diagnostic methods for all six pathogens, including molecular markers were developed and shared with the national partners.

The results evoke optimism. Multiple distinct strains of virus and pathogen species causing the diseases have been identified, and several sources of resistance have been detected. These resistant lines have been crossed by participating national agricultural research and extension systems with their preferred local chili cultivars. Advanced selections displaying resistance to as many as four of the target pathogens have been identified, and are currently being multiplied and tested in farmers' fields, using improved management practices such as drip irrigation and starter solutions to further increase yields.

"Sources of resistance and multiple-disease resistant chili lines will be freely distributed as international public goods," says Sylvia Green. "We hope that more than 30% of farmers will adopt the improved chili cultivars and
management practices."

Chili yields are expected to increase by 20% and the area under production by 10%. Most importantly, pesticide inputs will be lowered significantly, improving the safety of chili farmers and their communities, reducing the environmental impact, and providing safer, lower cost chilies for all consumers.

* Source: FAO Statistics Division 2008, 26 September 2008