News in March 2012
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2012-04-04

Global - General

Bucks carry pathogenic E. coli
http://www.agronavigator.cz/default.asp?ids=0&ch=1&typ=1&val=117875

Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich and detected in 83% of wild ruminants E. coli strains producing shiga resp. verotoxins causing haemolytic syndrome.

At the veterinary school they analysed 120 samples of excrements, lymphatic nodes and glands of 30 hunted deers and 30 living bucks. Neither of these animals showed symptoms of disease.

Books & Articles

Confronting the Gordian knot
http://www.ask-force.org/web/Regulation/Giddings-Confronting-Gordian-Knot-2012.pdf
L Val Giddings, Ingo Potrykus, Klaus Ammann & Nina V Fedoroff

Galvanizing plant science in Europe will depend on an overhaul of the tangle of indefensible regulations themselves, not on the advent of new plant breeding technologies that may escape existing rules.

The economic and environmental impacts of biotech crops have been overwhelmingly positive. “In 2009, the direct global farm income benefit from biotech crops was $10.8 billion. This is equivalent to having added 5.8% to the value of global production of the four main crops of soybeans, maize, canola and cotton. Since 1996, farm incomes have increased by $64.7 billion…in 2009, 53.1% of the farm income benefits have been earned by developing country farmers…. Over the fourteen years, 1996 to 2009, the cumulative farm income gain derived by developing country farmers was also 49.2% ($31.85 billion). Since 1996, the use of pesticides on the biotech crop area was reduced by 393 million kg of active ingredient (8.7% reduction) and the environmental impact associated with herbicide and insecticide use on these crops, as measured by the EIQ (environmental impact quotient) indicator, has fallen by 17.1% . (Brookes, G. & Barfoot, P. GM crops: global socioeconomic and environmental impacts 1996–2009; PG Economics, UK, 2011 http://www.pgeconomics.co.uk/publications.php)

Instruct:
Instruct is a dynamic, integrated research infrastructure for structural biology. Initiated in 2008, it has evolved into a prominent platform where cutting-edge technology, leading expertise and pioneering training combine in support of outstanding science. Instruct champions an integrated approach to structural biology. It strives to refine the quality of structural biology research in Europe by contributing to and promoting new developments and methodologies. It also provides strategic leadership for structural biology policy in Europe.
Instruct is raising the quality, the accessibility and the impact of structural biology research in Europe. An online hub enables structural and cell biologists from industry and academia to apply for access to top-flight research facilities, subject to a simple, transparent, peer-reviewed process that allocates available opportunities based on merit and scientific priorities.

Instruct has secured the full membership of seven countries: Germany, France, Israel, Italy, Portugal, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom. An Operations Team based in the United Kingdom coordinates scientific activities currently run through 16 Instruct Centres and 4 Affiliate Centres. The Centres provide access to state-of-the-art technology and know-how, encouraging correlative approaches to crucial research.

Access is offered through Instruct by several large European research centres with a distinguished reputation for scientific excellence and able to offer large scale or innovative technologies that might not be available through national or collaborative routes. This removes some of the obstacles for researchers whose work could produce high-impact outcomes, but who may need access to specific facilities located in another Member State to take their projects forward. Individual researchers can access all the facilities offered by Instruct by registering on the Instruct online Hub. Only scientists from Member states can apply for access to technology.

Instruct is part of the European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) Roadmap. The preparatory phase, implemented through the 'Integrated structural biology infrastructure' (INSTRUCT) project, benefited from €4.5 million of EU funding under FP7. This backing enabled the partners to formulate the strategic objectives, establish the governance and the operational structure, and secure commitment and funding from Member States. Instruct is now independently financed through member subscriptions.

For more information Visit www.structuralbiology.eu or contact Professor Dave Stuart, Instruct Director, coordinator@structuralbiology.eu

Events

Greener Aeronautics International Networking (GRAIN)
26-28 March 2012, Beijing, China
http://ec.europa.eu/research/index.cfm?pg=conferences&eventcode=BE9FB357-0C71-C03A-324290E1EC05880E

The Chinese aviation industry has seen two digit growth rates in the past 30 years and this will remain increasing, making environmentally friendly air transportation and advanced technology for greener aircraft development all the more important.

The main objective of this workshop is to identify key technology areas for greening that have the potential for 'win-win' co-operation between Europe and China. The workshop will be of interest to engineers and researchers involved in areas of greening technologies for aviation as well as for experts, managers and officials interested in aeronautics co-operation between China and Europe.

European Algae Biomass 2012
25 Apr 2012 - 26 Apr 2012 - London, UK
http://v11.vuturevx.com/exchange-sites/Whitmore%20Group/59/events-pdfs-eu/eal2-mktg-agenda.pdf

Following last year’s successful European Algae Biomass Conference (27th – 28th April 2011) we are delighted to confirm the dates and venue of this year’s event as 25th – 26th April 2012 in London, UK. The 2012 European Algae Biomass Conference will include opportunities to hear from leading industry executives and experts, including; Algae Producers, Green Energy and Biotech Investors, Biodiesel Manufacturers, Cultivation, Harvesting and Oil Extraction Process Technology Providers, Government Representatives and other Industry Professionals.

South-East European Forum
28 Mar 2012 - 30 Mar 2012, Sofia, Bulgaria

SEE Forum on Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Waste Management, Recycling and Environment. From 28 until 30 March 2012, the will gather key industry players on a global scale in Sofia, Bulgaria. Strong international presence, excellent opportunities for how-how transfer and networking, vast promotional support by 100 international and local media and branch associations – that all features the event, organized by Via Expo. It includes in its format a Congress and Exhibition on Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EE & RES), SEE Solar Exhibition and ‘Save the Planet’ - Conference and Exhibition on Waste Management, Recycling and Environment.

Europe - EU

Innovation Partnerships: new proposals on raw materials, agriculture and healthy ageing to boost European competitiveness
Brussels, 29 February 2012 – The European Commission has today proposed decisive action to meet three key challenges facing our society. The Commission has therefore launched two new European Innovation Partnerships (EIPs) - on Raw Materials and on Agricultural Sustainability and Productivity. The President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, said: "We need to innovate to get Europe back on the path to growth and jobs, and to tackle major challenges such as access to raw materials, sustainable agriculture and our ageing society. European Innovation Partnerships will break down silos, remove bottlenecks and focus our efforts on results that matter to our citizens and our

The European Innovation Partnership (EIP) is a new concept that was introduced in the Europe 2020 flagship Innovation Union. The aim is to address weaknesses, bottlenecks and obstacles in the European research and innovation system that prevent or slow down good ideas being developed and brought to market. These include under-investment, outdated regulation, lack of standards, and fragmentation of markets. Each Partnership is led by a Steering Group chaired by the European Commissioner or Commissioners with responsibility for the policy area or areas concerned.businesses."

European Innovation Partnership for agriculture

Food security is one of the major challenges worldwide in the years ahead, with global food demand forecast to rise by 70% by 2050 (FAO), accompanied by a steep increase in the demand for feed, fibre, biomass, and biomaterial. However, this challenge is accompanied by a slow down in productivity growth – in good part because of a reduction in investment in agricultural research – and increased pressure on the environment and our natural resources. For example, 45% of European soils face problems of soil quality. Around 40% of agricultural land is vulnerable to nitrate pollution and, over the last 20 years, farmland birds have declined by 20-25%.

In short, the key challenge for agriculture in future is not only to produce more, but also to do this in a sustainable manner. These challenges will not be resolved without a major push towards embracing research and innovation – and in particular in bringing researchers, farmers and other players closer together so that we can accelerate the speed of technological transfer from science to farming practice, and provide more systematic feedback about practice needs from farming to science.

The European Innovation Partnership (EIP) "Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability" aims to provide a working interface between agriculture, bioeconomy, science, and others at EU, national and regional level. It will also serve as a catalyst to enhance the effectiveness of innovation-related actions supported by Rural Development Policy as well as the Union Research and Innovation. Two headline targets have been identified for this EIP - promoting productivity and efficiency of the agricultural sector (reversing the recent trend of diminishing productivity gains by 2020); and the sustainability of agriculture (securing soil unctionality* at a satisfactory level by 2020). EU Agriculture and rural development Commissioner Dacian Cioloş stated: "The key challenge for agriculture in future is not only how to produce more, but also how to produce better. Embracing demand driven research and innovation, as well as improved dissemination of best practices will be essential to this end."

Archive of FP Programme Evaluation and Monitoring Documents
http://ec.europa.eu/research/evaluations/index_en.cfm?pg=archive

This archive contains the evaluation and monitoring reports of successive Framework Programmes, as well as the individual evaluation studies on thematic and other research activities within these Framework Programmes which were carried out by the Directorate-General for Research at the European Commission. In addition the archive contains key background documents on the creation and development of the Framework Programme and on the European Commission's research evaluation system. Further information including evaluation studies can be obtained from the respective evaluation services of the other Directorates-General involved in the management of the Framework Programme, links for which are found here.

Optionally, you can use the selection lists below to find specific documents by Year, Framework Programme and Topic. You can use any or all of the lists; if you use more than one, then only documents matching all the selection criteria will be displayed.

In the chapter 2.2.11 Environmental risks we can read:

Several success stories can be drawn from the Environment and Health Key Action of FP5 (Quality of Life), such as GMOCARE (New methodologies for assessing the potential of unintended effects in genetically modifi ed food crops) and HEPMEAP (Health effects of particles from motor engine exhaust and ambient pollution).In general, research on the future perspective of GMOs has direct impact on the health of humans, through its effects on the food chain and on the avoidance of risks associated to currently unknown consequences of GMO practice and use.

Europe

France seeks new cultivation ban
http://www.gmo-safety.eu/news/1407.genetic-engineering-maize-mon810-france-cultivation-ban.html

The French government has applied to the European Commission to suspend the reauthorisation of genetically modified MON810 Bt maize. It claims that an EFSA report on another Bt maize variety casts new scientific doubts on the environmental safety of MON810. In September the European Court of Justice declared that the French ban on cultivating MON810 was unlawful. If the Commission does not comply with the request, France can invoke the safeguard clause and declare another cultivation ban.

The EFSA report points out that when Bt11 and other Bt plants are grown, there is always a risk of resistant subpopulations of pests emerging. For the cultivation of Bt11, EFSA therefore recommends carrying out resistance management measures like those that should be implemented when growing MON810. According to this model, the most sensitive butterfly species could be harmed by MON810 in a worst case scenario, but only 0.3 to 0.8 per cent of the population would be affected. If all the recommended measures are complied with, EFSA regards the cultivation of Bt11 to be safe.

GM maize and the two-spot ladybird: The scientific debate continues
http://www.gmo-safety.eu/news/1408.mon810-ban-ladybird.html

In 2009, Angelika Hilbeck’s team at ETH Zurich published laboratory findings that showed that larvae of the two-spot ladybird can be harmed by Bt protein. This publication played a key role in justifying the cultivation ban for Bt maize MON810 in Germany, which was imposed by Germany’s Environment Minister Ilse Aigner in April 2009.

The research findings of Hilbeck’s group contradict a number of other results from the laboratory and field, which found that Bt maize is not likely to have negative effects on ladybirds. These results were also cited by Germany’s Central Commission for Biological Safety in a statement it issued in 2011. In 2010 a paper was published by Jörg Romeis and his team at Switzerland’s public Agroscope research station in Zurich, which assessed the findings of Hilbeck’s group and presented new research. According to this, the quantities of Bt protein that ladybird larvae are exposed to in the field are not expected to have any negative impacts on the larvae.

See the paper http://www.ask-force.org/web/Bt1/Hilbeck-Controversy-Re-visited-Adalia-2012.pdf

Rapeseed harvest will be high
http://www.agrarheute.com/eu-groessere-rapsernte-erwartet

The area of rapeseed is about 6.7 millions ha in the EU. It will not grow, but the harvest in 2012 is expected to increase by almost 5 % reaching 20.2 mil. tonnes. Thus the import will drop to 2.5 mil. tonnes. Anyway the import may be problem as Ukraine is expecting harvest decrease by 30 to 40 %.

Sunflower area remains stable at 4.2 mil. ha and 7.67 mil. tonnes is expected. Soy bean planting will decrease to 350 000 ha. Import of 12.8 mil. tonnes will be needed.

News in Science

Poplar drought tolerance induced
http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0032925;jsessionid=CC0E82D1060F90FE38C6062DB0D77F04

A GT-2 family trihelix transcription factor that is a determinant of water use efficiency (WUE), PtaGTL1 (GT-2 like 1), was identified in Populus tremula × P. alba (clone 717-IB4). Like other GT-2 family members, PtaGTL1 contains both N- and C-terminal trihelix DNA binding domains. PtaGTL1 expression, driven by the Arabidopsis thaliana AtGTL1 promoter, suppressed the higher WUE and drought tolerance phenotypes of an Arabidopsis GTL1 loss-of-function mutation (gtl1-4). Genetic suppression of gtl1-4 was associated with increased stomatal density due to repression of Arabidopsis STOMATAL DENSITY AND DISTRIBUTION1 (AtSDD1), a negative regulator of stomatal development. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays (EMSA) indicated that a PtaGTL1 C-terminal DNA trihelix binding fragment (PtaGTL1-C) interacted with an AtSDD1 promoter fragment containing the GT3 box (GGTAAA), and this GT3 box was necessary for binding. PtaGTL1-C also interacted with a PtaSDD1 promoter fragment via the GT2 box (GGTAAT). PtaSDD1 encodes a protein with 60% primary sequence identity with AtSDD1. In vitro molecular interaction assays were used to determine that Ca2+-loaded calmodulin (CaM) binds to PtaGTL1-C, which was predicted to have a CaM-interaction domain in the first helix of the C-terminal trihelix DNA binding domain. These results indicate that, in Arabidopsis and poplar, GTL1 and SDD1 are fundamental components of stomatal lineage. In addition, PtaGTL1 is a Ca2+-CaM binding protein, which infers a mechanism by which environmental stimuli can induce Ca2+ signatures that would modulate stomatal development and regulate plant water use.

What zebra stripes are good for?
http://ec.europa.eu/research/infocentre/article_en.cfm?id=/research/headlines/news/article_12_02_27_en.html&item=Infocentre&artid=24053

Horseflies (tabanids) are nasty little insects, biting and carrying disease, and distracting grazing animals from feeding. Dr Gábor Horváth from the Department of Biological Physics, Physical Institute, Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary, along with colleagues, investigated whether these blood-sucking insects are drawn to the black and white striped patterns of the zebra.

Dr Horváth says the bugs are attracted to horizontally polarised light because reflections from water are horizontally polarised, and aquatic insects use this phenomenon to determine the sites of where they can mate and lay eggs.

But female horseflies are also drawn to animals because of the linearly polarised light reflected from their hides. When looking at horses, researchers say horseflies favour dark hides over white ones. The developing zebra embryos start out with a dark skin, but go on to develop white stripes before birth.The researchers postulate that the zebra's stripy hide could have evolved to alter the appearance of their attractive dark skins and make them less interesting to bloodsuckers like tabanids.

In their study, the researchers used a sample at a horsefly-infected horse farm in Budapest. They varied the width, density and angle of stripes, as well as the direction of polarisation of the light that they reflected. The team used oil and glue to trap the insects. They found that the narrower the stripe, the less attractive it is to the horseflies.

They also tested the attractiveness of white, dark and striped horse models, and found that the striped horse was the least attractive of all three types. They later measured the stripe widths and polarisation patterns of light reflected from real zebra hides, and discovered that the zebra's pattern correlated well with the patterns that were least attractive to horseflies.

Plant root tomography
Researchers from the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom have designed an innovative technique to study the underground world of plants. Presented in the journal Plant Physiology, the results of this study will lead to improved breeding techniques for crop varieties, as well as better yields. The novel approach is based on the same X-ray technology used in hospital computed tomography (CT) scans. It integrates new image analysis software that can automatically distinguish the roots of plants from other soil-based materials.

They studied the architecture, what experts refer to as the shape and branching pattern, of roots in soil by using X-ray micro computed tomography (micro CT). The team then entered the information into the new RooTrak software, which enabled them to differentiate between roots and other soil elements.

The innovative software works by obtaining a stack of virtual slices through the root-bearing soil. According to the researchers, RooTrak treats each slice as a movie frame. The slice's static roots are treated as moving objects that can be tracked. So the software can tell the difference between root and water or organic elements in the soil, doing away with any glitches resulting from other techniques. This latest technique offers a three-dimensional (3D) detailed and accurate root architecture.

A Novel Biochemical Route for Fuels and Chemicals Production from Cellulosic Biomass
Last Updated: Thursday, March 08, 2012

This study proposes an alternative route for fuels and chemical production, which combines cellulase production and enzymatic hydrolysis into a single biological step and produces sugar aldonates instead of sugars as the reactive intermediates

Abstract

The conventional biochemical platform featuring enzymatic hydrolysis involves five key steps: pretreatment, cellulase production, enzymatic hydrolysis, fermentation, and product recovery. Sugars are produced as reactive intermediates for subsequent fermentation to fuels and chemicals. Herein, an alternative biochemical route is proposed. Pretreatment, enzymatic hydrolysis and cellulase production is consolidated into one single step, referred to as consolidated aerobic processing, and sugar aldonates are produced as the reactive intermediates for biofuels production by fermentation. In this study, we demonstrate the viability of consolidation of the enzymatic hydrolysis and cellulase production steps in the new route using Neurospora crassa as the model microorganism and the conversion of cellulose to ethanol as the model system. We intended to prove the two hypotheses: 1) cellulose can be directed to produce cellobionate by reducing β-glucosidase production and by enhancing cellobiose dehydrogenase production; and 2) both of the two hydrolysis products of cellobionate-glucose and gluconate-can be used as carbon sources for ethanol and other chemical production. Our results showed that knocking out multiple copies of β-glucosidase genes led to cellobionate production from cellulose, without jeopardizing the cellulose hydrolysis rate. Simulating cellobiose dehydrogenase over-expression by addition of exogenous cellobiose dehydrogenase led to more cellobionate production. Both of the two hydrolysis products of cellobionate: glucose and gluconate can be used by Escherichia coli KO 11 for efficient ethanol production. They were utilized simultaneously in glucose and gluconate co-fermentation. Gluconate was used even faster than glucose. The results support the viability of the two hypotheses that lay the foundation for the proposed new route.

This article was published online in PLoS ONE and is free to access

An ice age flower 30,000 year old revived - resurrection of seed from permafrost
Last Updated: Tuesday, February 21, 2012
http://www.technologynetworks.com/AgriGenomics/news.aspx?id=136766
By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV | Associated Press

MOSCOW (AP) — It was an Ice Age squirrel's treasure chamber, a burrow containing fruit and seeds that had been stuck in the Siberian permafrost for over 30,000 years. From the fruit tissues, a team of Russian scientists managed to resurrect an entire plant in a pioneering experiment that paves the way for the revival of other species.

The Silene stenophylla is the oldest plant ever to be regenerated, the researchers said, and it is fertile, producing white flowers and viable seeds. Svetlana Yashina of the Institute of Cell Biophysics of the Russian Academy Of Sciences, who led the regeneration effort, said the revived plant looked very similar to its modern version, which still grows in the same area in northeastern Siberia.

The experiment proves that permafrost serves as a natural depository for ancient life forms, said the Russian researchers, who published their findings in Tuesday's issue of "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" of the United States.

Ancient Algae: Genetically Engineering a Path to New Energy Sources?
ScienceDaily (July 11, 2011)

Researchers are making a connection between prehistoric times and the present -- ancient algae that can produce their own biofuel -- that could result in genetically creating a replacement for oil and coal shale deposits. Their discovery could have fundamental implications for the future of Earth's energy supplies.

— A team of researchers led by University of Kentucky College of Agriculture Professor Joe Chappell is making a connection between prehistoric times and the present -- ancient algae that can produce their own biofuel -- that could result in genetically creating a replacement for oil and coal shale deposits. They report their latest research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The findings go well beyond the basic science dealing with the origins of oil and coal.

While scientists previously established that oil and coal have their roots in the organisms that lived on the planet over 500 million years ago, one micro-organism directly contributed to these natural resources. That organism is a species of algae called Botryococcus braunii, which left behind its chemical fingerprints -- an oil that over geological time has turned into oil and coal shale deposits. . Their discovery could have fundamental implications for the future of Earth's energy supplies.

'Mini-Cellulose' Molecule Unlocks Biofuel Chemistry
Last Updated: Monday, February 20, 2012
http://www.technologynetworks.com/AgriGenomics/news.aspx?id=136761

A team of chemical engineers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has discovered a small molecule that behaves the same as cellulose when it is converted to biofuel.

Studying this 'mini-cellulose' molecule reveals for the first time the chemical reactions that take place in wood and prairie grasses during high-temperature conversion to biofuel.

The new technical discovery was reported in the January 2012 issue of the journal Energy & Environmental Science and highlighted in Nature Chemistry.

The "mini-cellulose" molecule, called α-cyclodextrin, solves one of the major roadblocks confronting high-temperature biofuels processes such as pyrolysis or gasification. The complex chemical reactions that take place as wood is rapidly heated and breaks down to vapors are unknown. And current technology doesn't allow the use of computer models to track the chemical reactions taking place, because the molecules in wood are too large and the reactions far too complicated.

Paul Dauenhauer, assistant professor of chemical engineering and leader of the UMass Amherst research team, says the breakthrough achieved by studying the smaller surrogate molecule opens up the possibility of using computer simulations to study biomass. He says, "We calculated that it would take about 10,000 years to simulate the chemical reactions in real cellulose. The same biofuel reactions with 'mini-cellulose' can be done in a month!"

Already his team has used insight from studying the "mini-cellulose" to make significant progress in understanding wood chemistry, Dauenhauer says. Using the faster computer simulations, they can track the conversion of wood all the way to the chemical vapor products. These reactions include creating furans, molecules that are important for the production of biofuels.

The discovered reactions occurring within wood will serve as the basis for designing advanced biofuel reactors, Dauenhauer says. By creating reaction models of wood conversion, the scientists can design biomass reactors to optimize the specific reactions that are ideal for production of biofuels. For biofuels production, "We want to maximize our new pathway to produce furans and minimize the formation of gases such as CO2," says Dauenhauer.

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