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No, GMOs won't harm your health

No, GMOs won't harm your health | Crop Sciences | Scoop.it
Dr. Steven Novella argues that many of the fears surrounding genetically modified crops are unsupported.
Victoria Auyeung's insight:

Genetic modification methods of the 21st century are not new phenomena; rather, they are better targeted ways of modifying crops to increase food production compared to the blind guessing based on sometimes misleading visible characteristics in artificial breeding.

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Building the crops of tomorrow: advantages of symbiont-based approaches to improving abiotic stress tolerance

The exponential growth in world population is feeding a steadily increasing global need for arable farmland, a resource that is already in high demand. This trend has led to increased farming on subprime arid and semi-arid lands, where limited availability of water and a host of environmental stresses often severely reduce crop productivity. The conventional approach to mitigating the abiotic stresses associated with arid climes is to breed for stress-tolerant cultivars, a time and labor intensive venture that often neglects the complex ecological context of the soil environment in which the crop is grown. In recent years, studies have attempted to identify microbial symbionts capable of conferring the same stress-tolerance to their plant hosts, and new developments in genomic technologies have greatly facilitated such research. Here, we highlight many of the advantages of these symbiont-based approaches and argue in favor of the broader recognition of crop species as ecological niches for a diverse community of microorganisms that function in concert with their plant hosts and each other to thrive under fluctuating environmental conditions.

 

Front. Microbiol., 06 June 2014 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2014.00283

Building the crops of tomorrow: advantages of symbiont-based approaches to improving abiotic stress tolerance
Devin Coleman-Derr and Susannah G. Truing


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Lab to Farm: Applying Research on Plant Genetics and Genomics to Crop Improvement - Ronald (2014) - PLoS Biol

Over the last 300 years, plant science research has provided important knowledge and technologies for advancing the sustainability of agriculture... potential for current and future contribution of plant genetic improvement technologies to continue to enhance food security and agricultural sustainability.

 

The Earth's human population is expected to increase from the current 6.7 billion to 9 billion by 2050. To feed the growing population, and the 70% increase in the demand for agricultural production that is expected to accompany this increase, a broad range of improvements in the global food supply chain is needed.

 

There are significant opportunities in plant science research. For example, sustainable agricultural intensification will be important because maintaining current per capita food consumption with no increase in yield, and no decrease in post-harvest and food waste, would necessitate a near doubling of the world's cropland area by 2050. However, because most of the Earth's arable land is already in production and what remains is being lost to urbanization, salinization, desertification, and environmental degradation, cropland expansion is not a viable approach to food security.

 

Furthermore, because substantial greenhouse gases are emitted from agricultural systems... the development and deployment of high-yielding crop varieties will make a vital future contribution to sustainable agriculture because it does not rely on expanding cropland.

 

Water systems are also under severe strain across the world... Of the water that is available for use, about 70% is already used for agriculture. Many rivers no longer flow all the way to the sea; 50% of the world's wetlands have disappeared and major groundwater aquifers are being mined unsustainably... Thus, increased food production must largely take place on the same land area while using less water...

 

Compounding the challenges facing agricultural production are the predicted effects of climate change. As the sea level rises and glaciers melt, low lying croplands will be submerged and river systems will experience shorter and more intense seasonal flows. Yields of our most important food, feed, and fiber crops decline precipitously at temperatures much above 30°C, so heat and drought will also increasingly limit crop production.

 

In addition to these environmental stresses, losses to pests and diseases are also expected to increase. Much of the loss caused by these abiotic and biotic stresses, which already result in 30%–60% yield reductions globally each year, occur after the plants are fully grown; a point at which most or all of the land and water required to grow a crop has been invested. For this reason, a reduction in losses to pests, pathogens, and environmental stresses is equivalent to creating more land and more water.

 

Another important opportunity for increasing food availability is to reduce the amount of food wasted before and after it reaches the consumer (estimated at 30%–50% of total global production)... A reduction in meat consumption would contribute to increasing the food supply, because 1 hectare of land can produce rice or potatoes for 19-22 people per year whereas the same area will produce enough meat for only 1-2 people.

 

Augmentation of the nutritional quality of crops is also critical for global food security... Currently, there are 925 million people who are undernourished... The long-term effects of malnutrition include stunted growth, learning disabilities, poor health, and chronic disease in later life... Discoveries in plant genetic and genomics research can be translated to create new crops and cropping systems that more efficiently use finite resources and that can enhance the quality and quantity of food production...

 

For 10,000 years, we have altered the genetic makeup of our crops, first through primitive domestication and, in the last 300 years, using more sophisticated approaches... Mutagenesis—the introduction of random mutations by chemical treatment or radiation, and the interbreeding of related species... Today virtually everything we eat is produced from seeds that have been genetically altered in one way or another using these well-established approaches of genetic improvement... 

 

Over the last 20 years, scientists and breeders have used new genetic technologies to develop modern crop varieties. These include marker assisted selection (MAS) and genetic engineering (GE), which have both already led to the development of new crop varieties... 

 

To understand why some farmers have embraced GE crops and how they benefit the environment, consider Bt cotton, which contains a bacterial protein called Bt that kills pests, such as the cotton bollworm, without harming beneficial insects and spiders. Bt is benign to humans, which is why organic farmers have used Bt sprays and other formulations as their primary method of pest control for 50 years. Although Bt insecticides are permitted in organic farming, Bt crops are not, because the National Organic Program standards in the US and other countries prohibit the use of GE crops in organic agriculture.

 

In 2012, 70%–90% of American, Indian, and Chinese farmers grew Bt cotton... Widespread planting of Bt cotton in China drastically reduced the use of synthetic insecticides, increased the abundance of beneficial organisms on farms, and decreased populations of crop-damaging insects. Its cultivation in China has also reduced pesticide poisoning in farmers and their families. US farms that have cultivated Bt cotton have twice the insect biodiversity relative to neighboring conventional farms. In India, farmers growing Bt cotton increased their yields by 24%, their profits by 50%, and raised their living standards by 18%... The economic benefits of planting Bt cotton extend beyond the farm and into the community... 

 

Despite the considerable and continuing breakthroughs in plant genetic and genomic technologies, there has been relatively little global government investment into funding basic plant science and in translating these discoveries into food crops beneficial to farmers in less developed countries. To fill the gap, some foundations and public–private partnerships have launched programs. For example, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is supporting a large program, called Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia... 

 

The Rockefeller Foundation was instrumental in funding the development of Golden Rice, a genetically engineered rice enriched for provitamin A that is expected to be released soon. Worldwide, over 124 million children are vitamin A-deficient; many go blind or become ill from diarrhea, and nearly 8 million preschool-age children die each year as the result of this deficiency... Eating vitamin A rice could prevent the deaths of thousands of young children each year. The positive effects of Golden Rice are predicted to be most pronounced in the lowest income groups at a fraction of the cost of the current supplementation programs...

 

The Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project is another important public-private partnership, which aims to develop drought-tolerant and insect-protected maize... The introduction of drought-tolerant maize to Africa, where three-quarters of the world's severe droughts have occurred over the past ten years, is predicted to dramatically increase yields of this staple food crop for local farmers.

 

Another exciting development is... Bt eggplant that is resistant to fruit and shoot borers. Bt eggplant was recently made available on a royalty-free basis to smallholder farmers in Bangladesh. Researchers estimate that farmers growing the new Bt eggplant varieties could obtain yield increases of 30%-45% while reducing insecticide use... 

 

These examples demonstrate the success of non-profit and public–private partnerships in translating basic research discoveries into benefits at the farm. Well-funded, long-term, multinational, multidisciplinary collaborations are vital if we are to continue making significant progress in developing new crop varieties to enhance food security in the developing world... 

 

Despite the scientific consensus that the genetically engineered crops on the market are safe to eat, have massively reduced the use of sprayed insecticides, and have benefited the environment, they are still viewed with skepticism by some consumers. Without public support for genetic technologies, regulatory costs will continue to climb. The end result may be that only multinational corporations can afford to develop and license such crops. This exclusivity places constraints on broad access to genetic technologies because large corporations have little incentive to develop subsistence (e.g., cassava and banana) and specialty crops (e.g., strawberries, apples, lettuce)—for poor farmers that need them. Costly regulations also hinder the creation of small businesses that wish to translate discoveries in plant genetics into commercially viable enterprises...

 

A related issue, which applies to most seed developed by corporations (conventional or genetically engineered), is that intellectual property rights constrain sharing of genetic resources. Whereas seeds protected by the plant variety protection act include exemptions for farmers to save seed for next year's planting and for breeders to include the variety in breeding programs, certain plant varieties, including GE crops, can be protected by patents, which are much more restrictive and prohibit seed saving by farmers and breeders...

 

Although ~25% of the patented inventions in agricultural biotechnology were made by public sector researchers (e.g., public universities), many of these inventions are exclusively licensed to private companies. Five firms... produce the majority of the world's seeds and control many of the older technologies such as Bt and transformation. Fortunately, the business landscape is changing as many of the earlier patents expire or as alternatives to enabling technologies controlled by corporations emerge in the public sector and as more countries use genetic engineering to create a greater variety of crops...

 

University scientists have also been active in reversing the trend of exclusively licensing genetic technologies... Establish the Public Intellectual Property Resource for Agriculture (PIPRA). PIPRA helps universities to retain rights of their technologies for humanitarian purposes and for crops that are vital to small-acreage farmers...

 

Ultimately, the continued translation of basic research into tangible crop improvement will rely not only on the research itself but also in communicating the vital role that agriculture and plant genetics plays in all of our lives. In the developed world where less than 2% of the population are farmers, the challenges of producing food in a sustainable manner is far removed from the average consumer... Plant biologists can promote agricultural literacy through... highlight the social, economic, biological, environmental, and ethical aspects of food production.

 

We can more fully engage with the policy makers, non-governmental organizations, and journalists by providing science-based information in more creative ways... An engaged, informed public will help us to attain an agricultural system that can produce safe food in a secure, sustainable, and equitable manner.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1001878

 


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The Genomic Signature of Crop-Wild Introgression in Maize

The Genomic Signature of Crop-Wild Introgression in Maize | Crop Sciences | Scoop.it
PLOS Genetics is an open-access
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Rothamsted and Syngenta partnership to develop wheat

Rothamsted and Syngenta partnership to develop wheat | Crop Sciences | Scoop.it
Rothamsted and Syngenta have agreed to form a scientific research partnership to develop high yielding, environmentally sustainable wheat.
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Food, Fuel, and Plant Nutrient Use in the Future - Council for Agricultural Science and Technology

Food, Fuel, and Plant Nutrient Use in the Future - Council for Agricultural Science and Technology | Crop Sciences | Scoop.it

"The use of genetics to improve crop productivity, promote soil conservation and management, and use nutrients efficiently is necessary. The key lies in supporting research and development in these areas. This CAST Issue Paper looks at the background leading to the current situation and addresses the resulting requirements as world food production develops during the next 40 years."


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Border Patrol on the Extrahaustorial Membrane: Arabidopsis Resistance Protein RPW8.2 Activates Targeted, Postpenetration Defenses

Border Patrol on the Extrahaustorial Membrane: Arabidopsis Resistance Protein RPW8.2 Activates Targeted, Postpenetration Defenses | Crop Sciences | Scoop.it
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Multiple Exocytotic Markers Accumulate at the Sites of Perifungal Membrane Biogenesis in Arbuscular Mycorrhizas

Multiple Exocytotic Markers Accumulate at the Sites of Perifungal Membrane Biogenesis in Arbuscular Mycorrhizas | Crop Sciences | Scoop.it

Arbuscular mycorrhizas (AMs) are symbiotic interactions established within the roots of most plants by soil fungi belonging to the Glomeromycota. The extensive accommodation of the fungus in the root tissues largely takes place intracellularly, within a specialized interface compartment surrounded by the so-called perifungal membrane, an extension of the host plasmalemma. By combining live confocal imaging of green fluorescent protein (GFP)-tagged proteins and transmission electron microscopy (TEM), we have investigated the mechanisms leading to the biogenesis of this membrane. Our results show that pre-penetration responses and symbiotic interface construction are associated with extensive membrane dynamics. They involve the main components of the exocytotic machinery, with a major participation of the Golgi apparatus, as revealed by both TEM and in vivo GFP imaging. The labeling of known exocytosis markers, such as v-SNARE proteins of the VAMP72 family and the EXO84b subunit of the exocyst complex, allowed live imaging of the cell components involved in perifungal membrane construction, clarifying how this takes place ahead of the growing intracellular hypha. Lastly, our novel data are used to illustrate a model of membrane dynamics within the pre-penetration apparatus during AM fungal penetration.


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PLOS ONE: Carbohydrate-Active Enzymes in Pythium and Their Role in Plant Cell Wall and Storage Polysaccharide Degradation (2013)

PLOS ONE: Carbohydrate-Active Enzymes in Pythium and Their Role in Plant Cell Wall and Storage Polysaccharide Degradation (2013) | Crop Sciences | Scoop.it

Carbohydrate-active enzymes (CAZymes) are involved in the metabolism of glycoconjugates, oligosaccharides, and polysaccharides and, in the case of plant pathogens, in the degradation of the host cell wall and storage compounds. We performed an in silico analysis of CAZymes predicted from the genomes of seven Pythium species (Py. aphanidermatum, Py. arrhenomanes, Py. irregulare, Py. iwayamai, Py. ultimum var. ultimum,Py. ultimum var. sporangiiferum and Py. vexans) using the “CAZymes Analysis Toolkit” and “Database for Automated Carbohydrate-active Enzyme Annotation” and compared them to previously published oomycete genomes. Growth of Pythium spp. was assessed in a minimal medium containing selected carbon sources that are usually present in plants. Thein silico analyses, coupled with our in vitro growth assays, suggest that most of the predicted CAZymes are involved in the metabolism of the oomycete cell wall with starch and sucrose serving as the main carbohydrate sources for growth of these plant pathogens. The genomes of Pythium spp. also encode pectinases and cellulases that facilitate degradation of the plant cell wall and are important in hyphal penetration; however, the species examined in this study lack the requisite genes for the complete saccharification of these carbohydrates for use as a carbon source. Genes encoding for xylan, xyloglucan, (galacto)(gluco)mannan and cutin degradation were absent or infrequent in Pythium spp.. Comparative analyses of predicted CAZymes in oomycetes indicated distinct evolutionary histories. Furthermore, CAZyme gene families among Pythium spp. were not uniformly distributed in the genomes, suggesting independent gene loss events, reflective of the polyphyletic relationships among some of the species.


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MPMI: A Bacterial Type III Secretion Assay for Delivery of Fungal Effector Proteins into Wheat (2013)

MPMI: A Bacterial Type III Secretion Assay for Delivery of Fungal Effector Proteins into Wheat (2013) | Crop Sciences | Scoop.it

Large numbers of candidate effectors from fungal pathogens are being identified through whole genome sequencing and in planta expression studies. AlthoughAgrobacterium-mediated transient expression has enabled high-throughput functional analysis of effectors in dicot plants, this assay is not effective in cereal leaves. Here we show that a non-pathogenic Pseudomonas fluorescens(Pf) engineered to express the T3SS of Pseudomonas syringae and the wheat pathogen Xanthomonas translucens (Xt) deliver fusion proteins containing T3SS signals from P. syringae (AvrRpm1) and X. campestris (AvrBs2) Avr proteins, respectively, into wheat leaf cells. A calmodulin-dependent adenylate cyclase (Cya) reporter protein was delivered effectively into wheat and barley by both bacteria. Absence of any disease symptoms with Pf, makes it more suitable than Xt) for detecting hypersensitive cell death (HR) induced by effector protein with avirulence activity. We further modified the delivery system by removal of the myristoylation site from the AvrRpm1 fusion to prevent its localisation to the PM which could inhibit recognition of an Avr protein. Delivery of the flax rust AvrM protein by the modified delivery system into transgenic tobacco leaves expressing the corresponding M resistance protein induced a strong HR indicating that the system is capable of delivering a functional rust Avr protein. In a preliminary screen of effectors from the stem rust fungus Puccinia graminisf. sp. tritici, we identified one effector that induced a host genotype-specific HR in wheat. Thus the modified AvrRpm1:effector/Pf system is an effective tool for large scale screening of pathogen effectors for recognition in wheat.


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245732's curator insight, November 19, 2013 11:53 AM

Another cool article I think. I find all walks of life interesting, even microbial plant diseases. I believe that studying these and how they work is always cool.

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QTL analysis reveals the genetic architecture of domestication traits in Crisphead lettuce

The genetic architecture of crop domestication is generally characterized by three trends: relatively few genomic regions with major QTL effects are involved, QTL are often clustered, and alleles derived from the crop do not always contribute to the crop phenotype. We have investigated the genetic architecture of lettuce using a recombinant inbred line population from a cross between a crop Lactuca sativa (`Salinas') and its wild relative L. serriola. Few genomic regions with major QTL, plus various intermediate QTL, largely control the transition from wild to cultivated Crisphead lettuce. Allelic effects of all major QTL were in the expected direction, but there were intermediate QTL where the crop contributed to the wild phenotype and vice versa. We found two main regions with clusters of QTL, one on linkage group 3, where the crop allele induced lower seed output, another on linkage group 7, where the crop allele caused a delay in flowering time. Potentially, knowledge of genetic changes due to the domestication could be relevant for the chance that a transgene inserted in a crop genome will spread to wild relatives due to hitchhiking effects. If a transgene would be inserted in one of these regions, background selection on the crop alleles may lead to a reduced fitness of hybrids with the transgene. QTL research on the effects of domestication genes can thus indicate regions in the crop genome that are less likely to introgress, although these still need to be verified under field conditions.  


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Cellectis Plant Sciences and Bayer CropScience Extend Their Partnership to Improve Crops by Gene Editing

Cellectis plant sciences, the plant genome engineering company and subsidiary of Cellectis SA (Paris:ALCLS), has signed two new agreements with Bayer CropScience, a subsidiary of Bayer AG and a leader in the areas of seeds, crop protection and non-agricultural pest control, on gene editing in plants. The agreements extend the companies’ existing partnership to introduce targeted modifications to selected plant genes and genomes. The financial terms of these agreements are not disclosed.

 

 


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Genetics and Consequences of Crop Domestication - Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (ACS Publications)

Phenotypic variation has been manipulated by humans during crop domestication, which occurred primarily between 3,000 and 10,000 years ago in the various centers of origin around the world. The process of domestication has profound consequences on crops, where the domesticate has moderately reduced genetic diversity relative to the wild ancestor across the genome, and severely reduced diversity for genes targeted by domestication. The question that remains is whether reduction in genetic diversity has impacted crop production today. A case study in maize (Zea mays) demonstrates the application of understanding relationships between genetic diversity and phenotypic diversity in the wild ancestor and the domesticate. As an outcrossing species, maize has tremendous genetic variation. The complementary combination of genome-wide association mapping (GWAS) approaches, large HapMap datasets, and germplasm resources are leading to important discoveries of the relationship between genetic diversity and phenotypic variation, and the impact of domestication on trait variation.


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Green acres: The soaring value of Canada’s farmland

Green acres: The soaring value of Canada’s farmland | Crop Sciences | Scoop.it

In a lifetime of farming, Dwight Foster has never seen anything grow like the value of his land over the past five years. The price of a plot in and around North Gower, Ont., south of Ottawa, where he has 6,000 acres, has more than tripled since the height of the Great Recession.

“For years and years, the price of land never really changed. In the past five years, it’s done huge things,” said Mr. Foster, 47, who cultivates corn, wheat and soybeans on his land.

 

In a lifetime of farming, Dwight Foster has never seen anything grow like the value of his land over the past five years. The price of a plot in and around North Gower, Ont., south of Ottawa, where he has 6,000 acres, has more than tripled since the height of the Great Recession.

“For years and years, the price of land never really changed. In the past five years, it’s done huge things,” said Mr. Foster, 47, who cultivates corn, wheat and soybeans on his land.

 

While irrepressible strength in housing prices has drawn attention in recent years, home values look tame next to the dramatic run-up in farm-country real estate in North Gower – and right across the country – where a confluence of economic factors is pitting farmers against their neighbours and sometimes hedge fund managers in a race to gather arable land.

Driving the rise are record-low interest rates, improved crop yields and high global commodity prices, inflated by rapidly expanding demand for food in the developing world. New crops and better farming techniques are allowing farmers to do much more than ever, so they’re buying up their neighbours to create larger, more efficient and ultimately more profitable farms.

Taking advantage of plentiful credit and the swelling value of his land, Mr. Foster has nearly doubled the size of his own farm in the past two to three years, betting that the prospects for farming are too good to abandon the livelihood that has sustained his family for generations. Improved crop genetics and vastly better equipment mean he can farm more land, and produce more corn, wheat and soybeans, with less manpower.

“You can sell your land. You can get out right now, but you can never get back in again. You’re done,” said Mr. Foster, who hopes to eventually leave his farm to his now-teenaged children.

Farm prices nationally have risen an average of 12 per cent a year since 2008, according to Farm Credit Canada (FCC), a federal Crown Corporation and the largest lender to Canadian farmers. That’s more than twice the average of the five years from 2003 through 2007, and several times faster than the corresponding rise in home prices over the same period.

Other factors driving farmland prices are purely Canadian. The virtual absence of new quota to produce milk is prompting many dairy farmers to plow their profits back into land – an unintended market distortion caused by the country’s tightly regulated supply management system.

“Farmers who have money can’t buy quota. So they buy land,” explained David Sparling, a business professor and agri-food policy expert at the University of Western Ontario’s Ivey Business School.

Committed farmers know land better than most other types of investments. They live it, breathe it and accumulate it. Larger equipment and better crops make those larger farms viable.

“My father, he farmed 150 acres and made a living,” Mr. Foster said. “We farm 6,000 acres, and that’s what we depend on to make a living.”

And the pace is picking up. In the six months to Dec. 31 of last year, farmland prices rose 10 per cent – the fastest six-month clip since the FCC began tracking prices in 1985.

“The market is really being driven by producers interested in expanding their current land base,” said Corinna Mitchell-Beaudin, FCC’s vice-president of credit risk. “When a nearby land parcel becomes available, farmers can get quite assertive in wanting to buy it.”

Prices are shooting up even faster in the most productive farming areas in the country. In Southwestern Ontario, prices have jumped 30 to 50 per cent a year in some counties, according to a recent report by real estate appraiser Valco of London, Ont. The average annual increase since 2010 is 25 per cent across a region where the long-term average is just 3 to 5 per cent.

Average land values in 2012 ranged from $6,000 per acre to more than $14,000 across the 10 counties of Southwestern Ontario, Valco said. A few farms near Woodstock and Stratford, Ont., are now fetching $20,000 or more per acre – three or four times the going rate just five years ago. By comparison, single-family home prices are up a combined 20.5 per cent in the five years since 2008 (and 32 per cent in Toronto), according to the Canadian Real Estate Association’s home price index.

To be sure, bullish sentiment towards farmland won’t halt urban sprawl because returns available on homes and condos still outpace produce, Western’s Prof. Sparling said, adding that zoning laws are the main deterrent to property development. But the recent spikes in farmland prices could slow the push for land conversion.

The root cause of the brisk run-up in farmland prices is low interest rates, according to Valco analyst Ryan Parker. “Interest rates are the vehicle which is allowing land values to climb so rapidly,” he concluded.

The boom has caught the attention of lenders and investors. Pension funds, hedge funds and farmland trusts are piling in, scooping up land and renting it back to farmers. There’s even growing interest from foreign investors, who realize that arable farmland is scarce in populous markets such as Europe, Brazil and China.

“It’s not just farmers buying land. It’s investors as well,” Prof. Sparling said.

The Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec and British Columbia Investment Management Corp. joined U.S. pension fund giant TIAA-CREF this year in creating a $2-billion global farmland investing company.

So does all this suggest a price bubble is forming down on the farm?

Worried about its exposure to FCC, Ottawa recently directed the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions to review whether the federal lender and insurer might be exposed to too much risk. Since 1997, FCC’s loan portfolio has more than quadrupled to $25-billion, sparking complaints from banks and credit unions that the Crown lender is tapping the government’s credit rating to unfairly target their business.

Experts say a farmland price crash, like the one that occured in the 1980s, is unlikely. Nor will prices continue to climb at 20 per cent a year, particularly if interest rates move back up and commodity prices level off.

As an indication of the direction for interest rates, the yield on Canada’s 10-year government bond soared more than a full percentage point from its low for 2013, set on May 13, to mid-August. That was the biggest 15-week move in Canadian bonds in nearly two decades, BMO Nesbitt Burns chief economist Doug Porter said in a research note.

And yet the future still looks bright for farmers and farmland prices mainly because prices of key commodities corn, canola and soybean are expected to remain high for years.

“Canada is positioned to do very well in agriculture and people have noticed,” explained Sylvain Charlebois, associate dean and professor at the University of Guelph’s college of management and economics. “It’s a phenomenon that’s linked to the whole global food security agenda. Prices will only continue to go up.”

The most recent crash in farmland prices was in the mid-1980s, when interest rates shot up to near 20 per cent. That sent shock waves through the banking industry as thousands of heavily indebted farmers defaulted.

Lenders are more cautious than they were in the 1980s and farmers generally have less leverage, said Alfons Weersink, a University of Guelph professor and expert in farm economics.

“Financial institutions learned their lessons,” said Prof. Weersink, who was raised on a dairy farm. “They’re less willing to lend on equity. They want to see cash flow.”

 

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Research Calls for U.S. to Triple Agricultural Research Budget: Scientific American

Research Calls for U.S. to Triple Agricultural Research Budget: Scientific American | Crop Sciences | Scoop.it
To cope with a changing climate and increased food demand, innovation in crop genetics, including genetically modified foods, will be required according to a new report

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Monica S Mcfeeters's curator insight, April 10, 2013 2:08 PM

Just think they can use our tax dollars to make food that they keep secrets about (trade secrets) and don't label so we will not know to avoid it if we don't want it. .

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Plant Cell: Effector-Mediated Suppression of Chitin-Triggered Immunity by Magnaporthe oryzae Is Necessary for Rice Blast Disease

Plant Cell: Effector-Mediated Suppression of Chitin-Triggered Immunity by Magnaporthe oryzae Is Necessary for Rice Blast Disease | Crop Sciences | Scoop.it

Plants use pattern recognition receptors to defend themselves from microbial pathogens. These receptors recognize pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) and activate signaling pathways that lead to immunity. In rice (Oryza sativa), the chitin elicitor binding protein (CEBiP) recognizes chitin oligosaccharides released from the cell walls of fungal pathogens. Here, we show that the rice blast fungus Magnaporthe oryzae overcomes this first line of plant defense by secreting an effector protein, Secreted LysM Protein1 (Slp1), during invasion of new rice cells. We demonstrate that Slp1 accumulates at the interface between the fungal cell wall and the rice plasma membrane, can bind to chitin, and is able to suppress chitin-induced plant immune responses, including generation of reactive oxygen species and plant defense gene expression. Furthermore, we show that Slp1 competes with CEBiP for binding of chitin oligosaccharides. Slp1 is required by M. oryzae for full virulence and exerts a significant effect on tissue invasion and disease lesion expansion. By contrast, gene silencing of CEBiP in rice allows M. oryzae to cause rice blast disease in the absence of Slp1. We propose that Slp1 sequesters chitin oligosaccharides to prevent PAMP-triggered immunity in rice, thereby facilitating rapid spread of the fungus within host tissue.


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One of the few studies I've seen that focuses on the characterisation of an apoplastic effector.

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A Comprehensive Mutational Analysis of the Arabidopsis Resistance Protein RPW8.2 Reveals Key Amino Acids for Defense Activation and Protein Targeting

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Annual Review of Microbiology: Fusarium Pathogenomics (2013)

Annual Review of Microbiology: Fusarium Pathogenomics (2013) | Crop Sciences | Scoop.it

Comparative analyses have revealed that the Fusarium genome is compartmentalized into regions responsible for primary metabolism and reproduction (core genome), and pathogen virulence, host specialization, and possibly other functions (adaptive genome). Genes involved in virulence and host specialization are located on pathogenicity chromosomes within strains pathogenic to tomato (Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. lycopersici) and pea (Fusarium ‘solani’ f. sp.pisi). The experimental transfer of pathogenicity chromosomes from F. oxysporum f. sp. lycopersici into a nonpathogen transformed the latter into a tomato pathogen. Thus, horizontal transfer may explain the polyphyletic origins of host specificity within the genus. Additional genome-scale comparative and functional studies are needed to elucidate the evolution and diversity of pathogenicity mechanisms, which may help inform novel disease management strategies against fusarial pathogens.


Via Bradford Condon, Niklaus Grunwald, Alejandro Rojas, Kamoun Lab @ TSL
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Rescooped by Victoria Auyeung from Plant Pathogenomics
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PLOS ONE: Comparative Genomics Reveals Insight into Virulence Strategies of Plant Pathogenic Oomycetes (2013)

PLOS ONE: Comparative Genomics Reveals Insight into Virulence Strategies of Plant Pathogenic Oomycetes (2013) | Crop Sciences | Scoop.it

The kingdom Stramenopile includes diatoms, brown algae, and oomycetes. Plant pathogenic oomycetes, including Phytophthora, Pythium and downy mildew species, cause devastating diseases on a wide range of host species and have a significant impact on agriculture. Here, we report comparative analyses on the genomes of thirteen straminipilous species, including eleven plant pathogenic oomycetes, to explore common features linked to their pathogenic lifestyle. We report the sequencing, assembly, and annotation of six Pythium genomes and comparison with other stramenopiles including photosynthetic diatoms, and other plant pathogenic oomycetes such as Phytophthora species, Hyaloperonospora arabidopsidis, andPythium ultimum var. ultimum. Novel features of the oomycete genomes include an expansion of genes encoding secreted effectors and plant cell wall degrading enzymes in Phytophthoraspecies and an over-representation of genes involved in proteolytic degradation and signal transduction in Pythium species. A complete lack of classical RxLR effectors was observed in the seven surveyed Pythium genomes along with an overall reduction of pathogenesis-related gene families in H. arabidopsidis. Comparative analyses revealed fewer genes encoding enzymes involved in carbohydrate metabolism in Pythium species and H. arabidopsidis as compared to Phytophthora species, suggesting variation in virulence mechanisms within plant pathogenic oomycete species. Shared features between the oomycetes and diatoms revealed common mechanisms of intracellular signaling and transportation. Our analyses demonstrate the value of comparative genome analyses for exploring the evolution of pathogenesis and survival mechanisms in the oomycetes. The comparative analyses of seven Pythium species with the closely related oomycetes, Phytophthora species and H. arabidopsidis, and distantly related diatoms provide insight into genes that underlie virulence.


Via Kamoun Lab @ TSL
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