Isabel Vales, a potato expert at Oregon State University, is using both molecular and conventional methods to breed pest and disease resistance, and evaluating thousands of traditional and specialty potato lines, including weirdly coloured ones, for their potential under organic conditions.
The London Times reports a new effort to preserve British livestock breeds. Sperm and egg banks will be created to preserve roughly 100 of Britain’s 130 or so rare breeds of cattle, sheep, horses, goats, poultry and pigs. A database will record the location of rare breeds so that in the event of a disease outbreak, like the foot and mouth epidemic of 2001 in which four threatened sheep lost more than a third of their numbers each, steps can be taken to preserve rare breeds.
“The move is not only about the historic importance of keeping traditional breeds with their genetic diversity, but also because of the enormous contribution these animals make to the national economy,” says the article.
Dutch Belted cows are also called “Oreo cookie cows” because of their three stripes. Introduced to the United States from Holland in 1840 by P.T. Barnum for use in his circus, they are now endangered, with a global herd of less than 1,000. So the SVF Foundation is collecting sperm, fertilized embryos, blood and tissue. You can read about it here: “Campbell’s Soup heiress Dorrance Hamilton established the foundation in 1998 on a property in Newport that includes the Swiss Village, a restored turn-of-the-century dairy farm, and part of Hammersmith Farm, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ childhood home.”
Jacques Diouf, Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), today signed agreements with the centres supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), putting the centres’ genebank holdings under the control of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. The agreements ensure that some of the world’s largest collections of plant genetic resources, which are especially rich in farmers’ varieties and wild relatives, are available to all, and at the same time guarantee that commercial users will share the benefits with the global community. Signatories hope that this will ease access and improve plant breeding.
The International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI), which represented the CGIAR in the Treaty negotiations, posted a summary of the outcome of the first meeting of the Governing Body of the Treaty, which links to a series of background features about the Treaty.
Typhoon Xangsane (known locally as Milenyo) damaged almost all of the material stored at the National Plant Genetic Resources Laboratory in the Philippines, according to a report in the Philippine Daily Enquirer. All of the root crops were buried in mud. The International Rice Research Institute has temporarily allowed the Phillipine national system to use its facilities while it assesses the damage. IRRI genebank head Ruaraidh Sackville Hamilton said:
We are committed to doing everything we can to help our local colleagues get through this difficult period.
IRRI’s facilities were also extensively damaged by the typhoon, although the genebank emerged unscathed. Jose E. Hernandez, of the Institute of Plant Breeding at the University of the Philippines, Los Baños, said that he expected the Philippine facilities to be back to normal within about six weeks.