Global Seed Watch   

STATUS AUSTRALIA

Barley is particularly susceptible to waterlogging, which in wet seasons can cause yield losses of 20 to 50 per cent and quality penalties, such as small grain. The fieldwork comes after researchers from the Western Barley Genetics Alliance identified a major contributing gene to waterlogging tolerance. The Alliance is a partnership between the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development and Murdoch University, assisted by funds from the Grains Research and Development Corporation, and Tasmanian and Chinese partners. The team then used molecular marker-assisted technology to identify four genes that control tolerance to waterlogging, including one major gene. Using the recently completed Barley Reference Genome Sequence, to which the Alliance contributed, new molecular markers were developed to target the waterlogging tolerance genes.

This gene was then incorporated into five barley varieties to compare their performance to the benchmark variety, Hindmarsh. The new lines were tested in a restricted field trial at Katanning in 2016 under natural waterlogged conditions. The waterlogging tolerance field trials will continue this year at locations near Albany and west of Williams. The information from the research is provided to the commercial sector to develop new, improved barley varieties – a process that takes five to 10 years.

STATUS INDIA

With the new amendment issued by Protection of plant varieties and farmers’ rights authority (PPV&FR Authority), now the plant breeders will not be required to seek ‘No-Objection-Certificate’ (NoC) from the patentee/licensee to work on its patented genetically modified traits.

Ordinarily, a transgenic plant variety is registrable under the PPVFR Act so long as it satisfies the NDUS criteria (i.e. Novelty, Distinctiveness, Uniformity and Stability). In addition to NDUS, until now there was a procedural requirement to take No objection Certificate (NOC) from the patentee/ licensee of a particular genetically modified trait for further development of a new plant variety which was based on the genetically modified trait and its registration under the PPVFRA.

This requirement was challenged before the High Court of Hyderabad by seed companies. The High Court further directed the Authority to hear the matter on merits and pass an order in accordance with law. Consequently, the Authority decided to remove the NOC requirement. The ‘for’ argument extended by Additional Solicitor-General for the deletion of requirement had important point that the “PPVFR Act only required a declaration from the applicant seeking registration of a plant variety or hybrid that they had “lawfully acquired” the genetic material or parental material for breeding, evolving or developing it and this requirement of declaration cannot be stretched to mean the requirement of seeking NOC from the patentee/licensee of any plant trait.”

The decision carries great relevance in the context of Bt Cotton plant varieties where Monsanto has a patent on bollworm-resistant GM trait and the plant breeders working on to develop plant varieties based on these GM traits had to obtain an NOC from Monsanto for the protection of the developed plant variety. Most of the times, the NOC permission from Monsanto came along with “conditions” to plant breeders, which were not appreciated by the plant breeders.

The removal of the requirement is set to bring a great change for the domestic seed companies. This change was long awaited and has come as a major relief for plant breeders and farmers, who will be able to freely use GM trait for developing and registering new varieties under PPVFR.

STATUS PHILIPINES

To increase public hybrid rice seed and commercial production in the Philippines, PhilRice conducted its first consultative meeting and planning workshop with seed growers and rice focal persons from Central Luzon, August 8.

Richard Romanillos, science research specialist, urged the participants to engage in hybrid rice seed production to make hybrid seeds more available in the region in response to farmers’ public hybrid seed requirements, such as Mestiso 19 and 20 that have average seed yields of 1-2t/ha and 1.5-18t/ha. This activity is in support to the Public Hybrid Rice Commercialization Program of PhilRice. Leylani Juliano, program lead, said the Institute aims to increase the use of hybrids for higher grain yield and produce labour opportunities in the rural rice-growing communities.

According to studies, every hectare of commercial hybrid rice production needs more workers, roughly 270 man-days of farm labour.

Henry Lim, chairman of Seed to Rice Cooperative, shared that hybrid rice seed production today is better because the solutions are now available to cope with production-related problems.

STATUS USA

U.S. farmers are expected to produce a record-high soybean crop this year, according to the Crop Production report issued today by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Up 2 per cent from 2016, soybean production is forecast at 4.38 billion bushels, while corn growers are expected to decrease their production by 7 per cent from last year, forecast at 14.2 billion bushels.

Area for soybean harvest is forecast at a record 88.7 million acres with planted area for the nation estimated at a record-high 89.5 million acres, unchanged from the June estimate. Soybean yields are expected to average 49.4 bushels per acre, down 2.7 bushels from last year. Record soybean yields are expected in Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.

Average corn yield is forecast at 169.5 bushels per acre, down 5.1 bushels from last year. If realized, this will be the third highest yield and production on record for the United States. NASS forecasts record-high yields in Alabama, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina. Acres planted to corn, at 90.9 million, remain unchanged from NASS’ previous estimate. As of July 30, 61 percent of this year’s corn crop was reported in good or excellent condition, 15 percentage points below the same time last year.

 

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