Plant Genetics
June 15, 2017, New Zealand - Potatoes are an integral part of a Kiwi diet, whether mashed up or sliced into chips, but there's always been a very distinct issue with them: they're not particularly healthy.

But now some New Zealand farmers have invented a new kind of potato they claim has 40 percent less carbs.

Farmer Andrew Keeney told Three's The Project that the Lotato, as it's been called, is grown in Pukekohe and Ohakune, and created by cross-breeding other varieties. READ MORE
Published in Vegetables
June 9, 2017, Fredericton, N.B. - Housed in Canada’s centre of excellence for potato research along the Saint John River Valley in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s scientists maintain a living library of nearly 180 potentially high-value potato gene resources.

Canada’s potato gene bank, or Canadian Potato Genetic Resources, is part of an international commitment to global food security.

If disease or a natural disaster strikes and potato crops are devastated, researchers from anywhere in the world can turn to the gene bank to rebuild the stock.

Researchers can also call on the gene bank for resources to help them develop stronger, more disease-resistant and environmentally-resilient varieties.

"We preserve some potato varieties that are of unique value to northern latitude climates, varieties that are adapted to shorter seasons with longer daylight hours. Only certain star varieties are grown by the potato industry so in the interest of preserving genetic diversity, an important part of our role as gene bank curators is to back up our genetic resources," said Dr. Benoit Bizimungu, Gene Resources Curator, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Unlike other gene banks that preserve seed-propagated crops like grains, the potato gene bank is made up of live tissue cultures or tubers which are perishable and require- constant maintenance.

Plantlets are grown in aseptic conditions in test tubes that are stored in temperature-controlled growth chambers for six to eight weeks at a time. The collection is then refreshed,continuously monitored and periodically tested for contaminations.

Microtubers, or tiny potatoes about the size of a raisin, are also produced in test-tubes and preserved for up to a year as a backup. A duplicate collection of microtubers is kept at AAFC's Saskatoon Research and Development Centre.

"It's well worth it," says Dr. Bizimungu of the work involved in conserving high-value potato genetic diversity. "There are many potato varieties that aren't grown today that have traits that are of current or future interest to researchers and educators. Preserving these varieties ensures valuable attributes, and even those with known susceptibility to certain diseases, are kept for the development of future, better varieties."

The collection is comprised of heritage varieties, modern Canadian-bred varieties, as well as strains known to show differential reactions to certain diseases and breeding lines with specific traits scientists are interested in studying.

In addition to Canadian varieties, the collection also includes varieties from the U.S., Peru and many European countries including Ireland, the Netherlands and Estonia.

Canadian Potato Genetic Resource is part of Plant Gene Resources Canada (PRGC). The mandate of PGRC is to acquire, preserve and evaluate the genetic diversity of crops and their wild relatives with focus on germplasm of economic importance or potential for Canada.
Published in Vegetables
May 25, 2017, P.E.I. - There will be no commercially grown GMO potatoes on Prince Edward Island this year, according to Simplot Plant Sciences, the company that developed the Innate potato.

Innate potatoes bruise less and have less black spots than conventional potatoes.

Doug Cole, director of marketing and communications, said the company is holding off allowing commercial growth of Innate potatoes in Canada until there's a proven market for them. READ MORE
Published in Vegetables
May 15, 2017, Augusta, ME – With little fanfare, the Maine Board of Pesticides Control recently approved the registration of three new types of genetically engineered potatoes that have been developed by a major Idaho agribusiness company.

The move means that the J.R. Simplot Co.’s Russet Burbank, Ranger Russet and Atlantic potatoes could be planted in Maine fields at any time. These potatoes were created by adding genes from a wild potato plant and are designed to be resistant to late blight. READ MORE
Published in Vegetables
April 21, 2017, Morgantown, WV - Gallegly, West Virginia University professor emeritus of plant pathology, has made it his mission to develop a disease-free tomato.

Gallegly and his research partner, Mahfuz Rahman, released two new varieties of tomato.

The tomatoes, identified as West Virginia ’17A and West Virginia ’17B, were obtained by breeding the tomatoes known as the West Virginia ’63 and the Iron Lady.

Gallegly developed the W.Va. ’63 tomato in the 1960s as a tomato resistant to late blight, a plant disease usually caused by fungi. The Iron Lady tomato, developed by Martha Mutschler-Chu of Cornell University, also resists late blight but also Septoria lycopersici, a fungus that causes spotting on leaves.

Gallegly said the stink bug, specifically the marmorated stink bug, is the likely cause of Septoria increasing on tomatoes.

“We just crossed the two tomatoes and in the second generation in the field, we made selections for fruit type, yield, taste and so on,” Gallegly said. “So we came up with two new varieties.”

Through their evaluation, the two tomatoes should have a higher tolerance to Septoria leaf spot and better fruit quality.Tomatoes are a specialty of Gallegly, who turns 94 this month.

He came to the University in 1949 as an assistant professor and was hired to become the vegetable plant pathologist for the state.

He spent his first fall and winter at the university collecting varieties of tomatoes and potatoes. The next year, he planted varieties of the two vegetables and discovered late blight was severe that year. So much so that he had zero tomato yield.

“That told me I had to go to work on trying to control this disease,” he said.

After 13 years of screening the vegetables and research, he came up a new tomato in 1963 — the West Virginia ’63.

Gallegly officially retired from the University in 1986 but earned emeritus status and kept a presence at the college to continue research and teaching.

On March 24, the two new tomatoes were unveiled during the annual Potomac Division of the American Phytopathological Society meeting in Morgantown. READ MORE
Published in Research
April 10, 2017, Scottsdale, AZ – Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc. (OSF) was honoured with a Fruits & Veggies – More Matters Industry Role Model award at the Produce for Better Health’s annual conference, held last week. This represents the third consecutive year of Fruits & Veggies – More Matters recognition, with OSF’s designation as an industry champion in each of the previous two years. 

Jessica Brady of OSF accepted the award on behalf of the company.

Okanagan Specialty Fruits is proud to be a long-time supporter of Fruits and Veggies – More Matters, and we look forward to continuing this support in years to come,” she said. “OSF has always been committed to promoting produce consumption for all ages, and we look forward to our flagship products, nonbrowning Arctic apples, helping support healthy lifestyles.”

Recipients of the Fruits & Veggies – More Matters Industry Role Model awards are recognized for the ongoing support and promotion of the health based mission and messaging efforts associated with the program.
Published in Companies
Sweet potato consumption is on the rise across the nation and Canadian horticultural growers will soon have the chance to get more of the action.
Published in Research
February 22, 2017 – Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s potato breeders saw remarkable results with their 2016 red-skinned selections. In fact, red-skinned varieties made up half of the total selections AAFC breeders released to industry during the annual Potato Selection Release Open House.

From adaptability to the processing market and high yields to disease resistance, these potential new varieties have it all. For the first time, the breeding program unveiled a multi-purpose red-skinned selection showing promise for processing as wedges, and as a traditional table potato. Breeders have also developed Russet selections that have a longer shelf life in cold storage while maintaining stable sugars, making them attractive new selections to French fry processors. These were among 15 new potato selections that AAFC’s breeding team unveiled this year.

The selections were narrowed down from more than 100,000 hybrid seedlings grown and tested and measured over six years in AAFC greenhouses, laboratories and fields across the country. The selections are the result of continuing technological advances that are allowing AAFC researchers to probe the complicated DNA of potatoes to identify genes and strands of DNA linked to favourable traits. This will lead to the development of germplasm with the potential for better yields, nutritional value and cooking and processing qualities.

The selections also featured disease and pest resistance that make them less demanding on the environment and offer alternative choices for organic growers. With each genetic marker that is identified, researchers are able to more quickly and accurately search through hundreds of different kinds of potatoes, including centuries-old heritage varieties and wild species, for potential breeding lines that will produce new hybrids with the desired traits.
Published in Research
Over the past few decades and, more specifically, the past five years, there has been a resurgence of interest in hard cider in North America. Many Canadian cider makers have distinguished themselves among top producers and, because of increasing consumer demand for cider products, there are growing market opportunities both nationally and overseas.
Published in Research
February 7, 2017, Presque Ilse, ME – Potato seed tubers harboring Dickeya dianthicola and Pectobacterium wasabiae are the only confirmed source of these pathogens.

At this point, there is no evidence that either of the two pathogens overwinter in the soil. The generally accepted length of survival time in the soil for these pathogens is one week to six months, climate dependent. Longer survival is possible on plant matter in the soil. With that, the source of the inoculum, and hence the source of the disease, is seed. Therefore, any best management practices efforts on Dickeya dianthicola or Pectobacterium wasabiae must start with the seed.

Select seed from farms where Dickeya dianthicola or Pectobacterium wasabiae have not been detected and seed marketed in previous years has not been associated with Dickeya dianthicola or Pectobacterium wasabiae.

Check North American Certified Seed Potato Health Certificates before purchasing seed and select seed that had not been increased on a farm associated with Dickeya dianthicola or Pectobacterium wasabiae.

Select seed with zero blackleg levels reported on the North American Certified Seed Potato Health Certificate.
 
Select seed that has been PCR tested by an independent laboratory and confirmed to be free of Dickeya dianthicola and Pectobacterium wasabiae.

Select seed from farms where a zero tolerance approach to Dickeya dianthicola and Pectobacterium wasabiae is being implemented.

Seed lots with field readings of blackleg present should have reports that suspect plant samples were taken for testing and found to be Dickeya dianthicola and Pectobacterium wasabiae free.

Avoid seed from fields where symptoms of Dickeya dianthicola or Pectobacterium wasabiae were observed, even if affected plants were rogued out.

Where possible, avoid irrigated seed crops.

Where possible, avoid planting whole-seed lots that were stripped from multiple lots.
Published in Research
January 9, 2017, Harrow, Ont – A blushing pear developed in Harrow is the newest variety expected to help push a pear revival in Canada.

By 2020 or 2021, consumers can expect to be biting into two new pears developed at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Harrow and Vineland research station in the Niagara region. One of the varieties, HW624, is a medium- to large-sized, juicy pear with eye appeal – a red blush from the sun at harvest. READ MORE
Published in Research

Cold Spring Harbor, NY — Using a simple genetic method to tweak genes native to two popular varieties of tomato plants, a team at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) has devised a rapid method to make them flower and produce ripe fruit more than two weeks faster than commercial breeders are currently able to do.

This means more plantings per growing season and thus higher yield. In this case, it also means that the plant can be grown in latitudes more northerly than currently possible – an important attribute as the earth’s climate warms.

“Our work is a compelling demonstration of the power of gene editing – CRISPR technology – to rapidly improve yield traits in crop breeding,” said CSHL Associate Professor Zachary Lippman, who led the research.

Applications can go far beyond the tomato family, he added, to include many major food crops like maize, soybean, and wheat that so much of the world depends upon.

Lippman clarified that the technique his team published in Nature Genetics is about more than simply increasing yield.

“It’s really about creating a genetic toolkit that enables growers and breeders in a single generation to tweak the timing of flower production and thus yield, to help adapt our best varieties to grow in parts of the world where they don’t currently thrive.”

At the heart of the method are insights obtained by Lippman and colleagues, including plant scientists at the Boyce Thompson Institute in Ithaca, NY, and in France led by Dr. José Jiménez-Gómez, about the evolution of the flowering process in many crops and their wild relatives as it relates to the length of the light period in a day. Genetic research revealed why today’s cultivated tomato plant is not very sensitive to this variable compared to wild relatives from South America. Somehow, it does not much matter to domesticated plants whether they have 12 hours of daylight or 16 hours; they flower at virtually the same point after planting.

A well-known hormonal system regulates flowering time – and hence the time when the plant will generate its first ripe fruit. The hormone florigen and a counteracting “anti-florigen” hormone called SP (for self pruning) act together, in yin-yang fashion, to, respectively, promote or delay flowering. In one phase of the newly reported research, the investigators studied a wild tomato species native to the Galapagos Islands – near the equator, with days and nights close to 12 hours year-round. They wanted to learn why, when grown in northern latitudes with very long summer days, this plant flowered very late in the season and produced few fruits.

The wild equatorial tomato, they learned, was extremely sensitive to daylight length. The longer the day, the longer the time to flowering, whereas “when you have a shorter light period, as in the plant’s native habitat, they flower faster,” Lippman said. This suggested there was a genetic change in tomato plants that occurred at some point before or during the domestication of wild tomato plants. Lippman suspected these changes likely had already occurred when the Spanish conquistador Cortez brought tomatoes to Europe from Mexico in the early 16th century, beginning the era of the plant’s widespread adoption in mid-northern latitudes.

Lippman and colleagues traced the loss of day-length sensitivity in domesticated tomatoes to mutations in a gene called SP5G (SELF PRUNING 5G). It’s a member of the same family of florigen and anti-florigen genes that were already known to regulate flowering time in tomato.

Growing the wild tomato plant from the Galapagos in greenhouses and fields in New York, Lippman and colleagues observed a sharp spike in the expression and activity of the anti-florigen hormone encoded by the SP5G gene, causing flowering to occur much later. In domesticated tomato plants, in contrast, that surge of anti-florigen is much weaker.

The team’s principal innovation – generating varieties of cherry and roma tomatoes that flower much earlier than the domesticated varieties on which they are based – arised from the observation that while domesticated plants are notably insensitive to day length, “there was some residual expression of the anti-florigen SP5G gene,” Lippman said.

This led the team to employ the gene-editing tool CRISPR to induce tiny mutations in the SP5G gene. The aim was to inactivate the gene entirely such that it did not generate any anti-florigen protein at all.

When this tweaked version of SP5G was introduced to popular roma and cherry tomato varieties, the plants flowered earlier, and thus made fruits that ripened earlier. Tweaking another anti-florigen gene that makes tomato plants grow in a dense, compact, shrub-like manner made the early flowering varieties even more compact and early yielding – a trait the team calls “double-determinate.”

“What we’ve demonstrated here is fast-forward breeding,” Lippman said. “Now we have a simple strategy to completely eliminate daylight sensitivity in elite inbred and hybrid plants that are already being cultivated. This could enable growers to expand their geographical range of cultivation, simply by using CRISPR to rapidly ‘adapt’ tomato and other crops to more northern latitudes, where summers have very long days and very short growing seasons.”

Variation in the flowering gene SELF PRUNING 5G promotes day-neutrality and early yield in tomato” appeared online December 5, 2016, in Nature Genetics. The authors are: Sebastian Soyk, Niels A. Müller, Soon Ju Park, Inga Schmalenbach, Ke Jiang, Ryosuke Hayama, Lei Zhang, Joyce Van Eck, José M. Jiménez-Gómez and Zachary B. Lippman. The apper can be accessed at: http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/vaop/ncurrent/index.html.

CUTLINE

 

Published in Research

December 1, 2016, Lowell, OR – Fall Creek Farm & Nursery, Inc., a global blueberry breeding and nursery stock company, has named Dr. Paul Sandefur as manager of its U.S. breeding program.

Published in Companies

November 21, 2016, Ithaca, NY – A Cornell University program is reimagining kale – its colour, shape and even flavour – in a bid to breed the naturally biodiverse vegetable for consumer satisfaction.

Published in Vegetables

“One of the largest costs to a producer is getting the crop harvested from the trees,” says Dr. Suzanne Blatt, a scientist at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) in Kentville, Nova Scotia. “Climbing up and down ladders takes time and care to ensure the workers are safe and the trees are not damaged in the harvesting process. A shorter tree with fruit that is easily accessible from the ground means faster harvest, better tree care and less risks for harvesters.”

Published in Fruit

“Vineland is scouting the world for new fresh grape varieties suited to the Canadian climate with consumer appeal.”

Published in Food Safety

The Vineland Research and Innovation Centre is receiving a $920,000 federal investment from the federal government to develop new disease-resistant apple and greenhouse tomato varieties that will contribute to the long-term growth and profitability of these two sectors.

Published in Federal

October 18, 2016, Davis, CA – A new sequencing technology, combined with a new computer algorithm that can yield detailed information about complex genomes of various organisms, has been used to produce a high-quality draft genome sequence of cabernet sauvignon, the world’s most popular red wine grape variety, reports a University of California-Davis genomics expert.

Success of the new genome assembly, which allows researchers to assemble large segments of an organism’s DNA, also was demonstrated on the common research plant Arabidopsis thaliana and the coral mushroom (Clavicorona pyxidata). The findings were reported recently in the journal, Nature Methods.

The three-pronged, proof-of-concept study used an open-source genome assembly process called FALCON-unzip, developed by Pacific Biosciences of Menlo Park, California. The study was led by Chen-Shan Chin, the firm’s leading bioinformatician. Lead researcher on the cabernet sauvignon sequencing effort was Dario Cantu, a plant geneticist specializing in plant and microbial genomics in the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology.

“For grapevine genomics, this new technology solves a problem that has limited the development of genomic resources for wine grape varieties,” Cantu said. “It’s like finally being able to uncork a wine bottle that we have wanted to drink for a long time.

“The new process provides rapid access to genetic information that cabernet sauvignon has inherited from both its parents, enabling us to identify genetic markers to use in breeding new vines with improved traits,” he said.

The first genome sequence for the common grapevine, Vitis vinifera, was completed in 2007. Because it was based on a grapevine variety that was generated to simplify the genome assembly procedure, rather than a cultivated variety, that sequence lacks many of the genomic details that economically important wine grape varieties possess, Cantu said.

He noted that the new sequencing technology will enable his research group to conduct comparative studies between cabernet sauvignon and other historically and economically important wine grape varieties.

“This will help us understand what makes cabernet sauvignon cabernet sauvignon,” he said.

“The new genomic information that will be generated with this new genomics approach will accelerate the development of new disease-resistant wine grape varieties that produce high-quality, flavorful grapes and are better suited to environmental changes,” Cantu said.

Warmer temperatures attributed to climate change are already being recorded in many prime grape-growing regions of the world.

“In a worsening climate, drought and heat stress will be particularly relevant for high-quality viticultural areas such as Napa and Sonoma,” Cantu said.

The new sequencing effort may also answer some of the questions that have surrounded the ancestry of cabernet sauvignon for centuries, Cantu said.

“Having access to this genomic information is historically fascinating,” Cantu said, noting that the cabernet sauvignon grape variety is thought to date no later than the 17th century.

He added that in 1997 UC Davis plant geneticist Carole Meredith used DNA fingerprinting techniques to identify cabernet franc and sauvignon blanc as the two varieties that had crossed to produce cabernet sauvignon.

“Today, you can find cabernet sauvignon growing on every continent except Antarctica,” Cantu said. “And because grape vines have been propagated by plant cuttings rather than grown from seed, all of the cabernet sauvignon vines are genetically identical, with the exception of some spontaneous, clonal mutations.”

“Using this new genome sequencing process, we can now develop the genetic markers necessary to combine important traits into new varieties,” Cantu said. “It’s been 400 years since that was last done for cabernet sauvignon; we can do better than that.”

Published in Research

October 11, 2016 – The idea that a red apple is a delicious apple is one of the greatest frauds ever perpetrated against Americans.

The apples we’re supposed to eat to keep doctors away, the apples we’re supposed to give to teachers to show our appreciation, the apples we compare to oranges — all of them are a deep, predictable red, and none of them are delicious. READ MORE

Published in Fruit

September 7, 2016, Vineland, Ont – It’s no secret that there’s a growing ethnic population of Canadians who have preferences for foods from their home countries. That fact brings with it unique opportunities for farmers to produce crops that haven’t traditionally been grown locally.

Okra is one such crop.

More than six million kilograms of okra is imported into Canada every year and the demand climbs annually. India is the top producer of the world’s okra, growing more than 70 per cent of the global crop. Other big producers are Nigeria, Sudan, Iraq and Pakistan.

The United States is the 20th largest producer, accounting for only 0.1 per cent of the world’s production. In the U.S, okra is grown in southern states like Florida, Texas and Louisiana, where the vegetable is used in the popular gumbo dish. It’s a subtropical crop that thrives in a hot and dry environment, so Canada hasn’t always been the most logical place for production.

Dr. Viliam Zvalo is a research scientist in the area of vegetable production at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre. A native of Slovakia, he joined the team in 2014 with a mandate to investigate opportunities for world crop production for Canadian farmers.

The biggest challenges in growing okra in Canada are the shorter growing season and the labour requirements. During the harvest season, plants need to be harvested daily to give the immature pods time and space to grow, which requires a big staffing commitment.

To help boost the crop’s potential and maximize growing time, seeds are started in greenhouses and then transplanted into fields covered in black plastic mulch to increase heat to the plants. Spacing of the plants is critical – the further apart, the higher their yields.

To date, crop trials have shown that three particular varieties – Lucky Green, Elisa and Jambalaya – do the best in Canada.

Last year, 22 farmers grew small trials across Canada from Nova Scotia to British Columbia and have had similar results in all areas. This year the number will increase to about 30 growers.

The crops are planted into fields in late May and bloom a month later. Peak production is between the middle of July and the end of September. Each plant (which can grow seven feet high) can generate 60 to 70 okra pods. Pods are light though – between seven and 10 grams each – so the entire harvest per plant is about 0.6 to 0.7 kilograms.

Growers, researchers and retailers are all optimistic about the results to date and the work is garnering international attention.

Recently, an Indian company contacted Zvalo to see about providing seeds from a late season variety for Vineland to test in Canada.

“Attention like this will help us continue to look for better varieties.”

“Okra’s an interesting crop. It can be quite finicky but there’s great potential,” Zvalo said.

He concluded, “It’s a matter of finding the right varieties, the right location and the right buyers.”

The project is funded in part through Growing Forward 2 (GF2), a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of GF2 in Ontario.

Published in Vegetables
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