Friday, March 08, 2019

Future Farming in Singapore. Can it Be Done in Darwin Too?

SINGAPORE - With global warming heralding new threats, resource scarcity will be the new normal.
So the Government is throwing its weight behind efforts to protect and provide for the country's survival - in the areas of water, making the most of waste, food and climate change research - Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said on Thursday (March 7).
"Climate change is bringing new and wicked problems," he said in Parliament.
And just like the country's water success story, the same can be done in other areas, through long-term planning decades before a problem surfaces, he said, pointing out that Newater was more than two decades in the making.
"Faced with a challenge, we start small, learn from others, harness technology, invest in R&D. Keep on trying, until we get it right.
"Then we take our solutions and scale up to benefit the whole nation."
In terms of food, this means decreasing the dependence on the global food market, which accounts for over 90 per cent of Singapore's current food supply.
Announcing an ambitious target of producing 30 per cent of the country's food needs by 2030 - or 30 by 30 - Mr Masagos said that this would call for new paradigms in the sector, with a focus on state-of-the-art indoor farms.
They would incorporate climate control and automation, for instance, and in terms of fish - closed containment systems that keep algae blooms and oil spills at bay.
"Farmers of the future will operate computerised control systems in a pleasant environment."
It was time to break away from the "take, make, use and toss" mentality and embrace the circular economy instead, Mr Masagos added.
Promising technologies dealing with waste include Singapore Polytechnic's green chemistry technology to recover precious metals in e-waste, and Nanyang Technological University's method of turning food waste into high-grade fertilisers.
In addition, the National Environment Agency is working on turning incineration ash into construction material, called NEWSand, and has developed draft standards for using treated ash for building roads, for example.
When it comes to climate change, science will be key in guiding policies, he added, with the opportunity for Singapore to be a leader in the tropics, since there is limited knowledge on its effects there.
To this end, there will be more investment to build capability in the Centre for Climate Research Singapore, set up in 2013, and the local scientific community. This year, the centre will embark on the National Sea Level Programme to better understand sea levels around Singapore, so that robust projections and plans can be made for the long term.
Solar power will be stepped up. It could be harnessed at reservoirs, coastal areas and building facades to potentially power 40,000 four-room flats each year, an area half the size of Tampines.
At the same time, the water story is also not over.
The Research Innovation and Enterprise Council has allocated $200 million to national water agency PUB for research, and the Government has posed "Big Hairy Audacious Goals" to the scientists, he said, such as producing desalinated water with much less energy than currently needed.
Already, new technology which could potentially halve the energy required for desalination is set to be scaled up and deployed in the Tuas Desalination plant from 2020.
At the same time, people are saving more water, with domestic consumption falling from 148 litres per person per day in 2016 to 141 litres in 2018, with a target of further shaving it to 130 litres by 2030.
In all, the Government will spend almost $400 million on research and innovation in water, the circular economy, climate change and food, under the Research, Innovation, Enterprise Plan 2020 (RIE2020).
The challenges also bring with them opportunities, Mr Masagos stressed.
Pointing to Singapore's thriving water industry - with over 200 companies and more than 25 R&D centres, he said that investments in the sector in the past decade had created 14,400 good jobs and economic value-add of over $2.2 billion annually.
And plans for the water, food and environmental sectors would open up a variety of exciting opportunities for enterprises and jobs.
"We must do as our forefathers did, stay alert and nimble, and continue to plan and prepare for the long term," he said.
"We have ambitious plans for our water, waste and food sectors, but the road ahead is long and winding. We will persevere, for we are not done building a sustainable Singapore."

Thursday, March 07, 2019

NEW - Requirements to Spray 2,4-D: Reduce the Risk of Damage.

Spray application and spray drift management is critical in using herbicide and pesticide products effectively and safely – for you as operator,  and both target areas being sprayed and non-target areas.   

As well, awareness of current or new label instructions for some products really mean users must up their performance to use best practice to reduce the risk of off-target spray drift and to incorporate the new label instructions for the use of 2,4-D.

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) suspended the labels of all products containing the active ingredient 2,4-D from October 4, 2018, replacing them with a permit.

Key changes for using 2,4-D under the permit include: applicators must now use at least a Very Coarse (VC) spray quality; when using a boom sprayer, boom heights must be 0.5 metres (or lower) above the target canopy; and downwind buffers now apply (typically less than 50 metres, subject to rate and product being applied) between application sites, and downwind of sensitive crops and environmentally sensitive aquatic areas.

While new procedures are focused on 2,4-D, common sense would indicate that related products also may need more appropriate care during spraying.   It might also lead to better overall outcomes and improved success for the target plants.

Six videos have been developed and are worth looking at to help users adapt to the changes.
Presented by respected spray consultant Bill Gordon, the new series of six videos cover the topics :
             2,4-D label changes
             A spray contractor’s experience
             Nozzle selection for larger droplets
             Weather conditions and the 2,4-D label
             Maximising spray coverage
             Maximising spray efficiency 

More information and links to the media are on a few web sites; this link should find the videos –

they are listed sequentially.

Useful for growers and spray users across many field crop species, horticulture, pastures and turf to help effective spraying and prevent problems – which could come back to hit you!

While specific to 2,4-D the principles really have wider ramifications and should improve overall herbicide spray operations.  Good sensible operational practice pays off with better outcomes.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

How Do Trees Fare in Major Cyclones / Hurricanes?

If you are in those areas both a little north and south of the equator you probably experience major tropical storms variously called cyclones, hurricanes or typhoons, depending on where you are located.

In Australia we get cyclones while in the USA they are named hurricanes, and typhoons in much of East Asia.  All are powerful, destructive storms and it seems, getting stronger.

Loss of the local vegetation is common - with lots of leaves shredded as an initial effect of the wind damage and often massive loss of tree cover, plus broken branches and destroyed and fallen trees.

The question is do trees cope in these massive storms?  What happens to them, and why are some much better survivors?  Following Cyclone Marcus in 2018, the Darwin local government council, no stranger to these massive storms, sought to try and detail what trees fared best and why and to develop an improved list of suitable resilient trees, and to detail those of  much lesser stability and resilience.  Earlier work detailed outcomes of the major Cyclone Tracy in December 1974 in relation to tree resilience.

More recently, the February 2019 edition of The Scientist journal has explored this much more, even experimenting with "pseudo hurricane" damage to explore redevelopment of natural forest cover.

explore the link - some good graphics and information as well.  Hyper link below. 

Friday, February 22, 2019

Soil Moisture Monitoring by Drone

Australian stuff from Monash University.  Very neat and very useful.

Autonomous Drones for Soil Moisture Mapping Help Farmers Use Water More Efficiently (Video)

Monash ​University ​engineers are ​working with ​Australian ​farmers to help ​them improve ​irrigation ​practices, ​reduce water ​use and ​maximise crop ​harvest by ​using ​autonomous ​drone ​technology. ​
As severe ​drought ​continues to ​devastate ​farmland and ​impact food ​supply across ​Australia, a ​Monash ​University ​research team, ​led by ​Professor Jeff ​Walker, has ​spent the past ​two years ​developing a ​drone-based ​autonomous soil ​moisture ​mapping system ​for irrigated ​paddocks. ​
Monash ​University ​engineers are ​working with ​Australian ​farmers to help ​them improve ​irrigation ​practices by ​using ​autonomous ​drone ​technology. (​Image source: ​Monash )
The team has ​recently ​completed field ​experiments ​using optical ​mapping which ​can determine ​soil moisture ​levels in the ​near-surface. ​The data taken ​from the drone ​can be ​downloaded and ​used to produce ​a map of ground ​soil moisture ​levels to ​inform the ​farmer on how ​best to ​irrigate the ​paddock. ​
While equipped ​with optical ​mapping as a ​proof-of-​concept, the ​drone has now ​advanced to ​passive ​microwave ​sensing ​technology ​using L-Band ​waves, with ​further ​research being ​conducted on ​the potential ​for using P-​band waves. P-​Band waves are ​expected to be ​able to measure ​up to 15cm into ​the soil ​unimpeded by ​vegetation and ​tillage ​features. ​
Drones have ​the capacity to ​analyse soil ​moisture at ​metre-level ​scales within a ​paddock, ​allowing ​farmers to ​focus on ​specific crop ​irrigation, and ​overcomes the ​challenges of ​aircraft or ​satellite ​mapping. ​
Testing has ​taken place ​across two ​farms in ​regional ​Victoria and ​Tasmania. One ​was at a dairy ​farm using a ​centre pivot ​irrigator and ​the other was a ​crop farm using ​a linear shift ​irrigator. ​
“We need ​to produce 60% ​more food with ​the same amount ​of land and ​water, and we ​can only ​achieve this by ​being more ​efficient with ​the water we ​use through ​irrigation,​” ​Professor ​Walker, Head of ​Civil ​Engineering at ​Monash ​University, ​said. ​
“We need ​to know how ​much the crop ​needs, how much ​moisture is ​already there ​and apply just ​the right ​amounts of ​water in the ​correct places ​to avoid ​wastage while ​keeping the ​crop at its ​peak growth.​” ​
Good soil ​moisture allows ​for the optimal ​growth and ​yield of crops, ​while at ​broader spatial ​scales also ​regulates ​weather, ​climate and ​flooding. The ​water levels in ​the soil ​controls ​evaporation ​over land and ​thus the energy ​fluxes into the ​atmosphere. ​This drives the ​atmospheric ​circulation, ​which drives ​climate. ​
“If the ​soil is too dry,​ crops can fail ​due to a lack ​of water. But ​if the soil is ​too wet, crops ​can not only ​fail but pests ​and diseases ​can flourish,​” ​Professor ​Walker said. ​
Professor ​Walker said the ​farming ​industry has ​welcomed ​smarter and ​more automated ​practices, but ​there are few ​tools available ​to make the ​already ​difficult ​workloads of ​farmers more ​manageable. ​
“At best,​ farmers might ​have a single ​soil moisture ​sensor in a ​paddock, but ​this doesn’​t allow for the ​optimal ​application of ​water, ​especially as ​this resource ​becomes scarcer.​ Plus it ​won’t ​take into ​account ​moisture ​variation ​levels across ​the individual ​paddocks,”​ Professor ​Walker said. ​
As crop ​failures due to ​a lack of water ​have enormous ​human and ​financial ​consequences, ​Professor ​Walker said ​Australian ​farmers need to ​become more ​efficient in ​soil moisture ​mapping by ​using ‘​precision ​agriculture’​ methods such ​as autonomous ​soil moisture ​mapping using ​drones. ​
“Farmers ​also need to ​cooperate; ​water ​conservation ​and efficiency ​is a collective ​responsibility. ​Everyone needs ​to do their ​part to use ​water more ​effectively or ​we’re at ​risk of running ​out completely,​” ​Professor ​Walker said. ​
“As the ​world’s ​driest ​continent ​facing climate ​change, a ​growing ​population and ​a greater ​demand for food,​ water ​conservation ​should be one ​of Australia’​s top ​priorities.​” ​
This project ​is part of ​Monash ​University’​s expanding ​interdisciplinary​ ​focus on the ​use of data and ​technology to ​solve real-​world problems ​for today and ​in the future. ​
The Autonomous ​Drones for Soil ​Moisture ​Mapping project ​was funded by ​Monash ​Infrastructure ​through a seed ​funding scheme. ​This project ​forms part of ​Professor ​Walker’s ​wider research ​into soil ​moisture ​mapping and ​autonomous ​farming.  ​
News source: Monash University  
Video source:​ Posterboy ​Media on Vimeo 

To download, click ‘Download’ button on the right (on a computer) and download ‘Original’ format - this is the best format for redistribution…

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Sulfate Boosts Ability of Plants to Handle Dry Conditions

Plants absorb the mineral sulfate from soil water. An international research team led by scientists from Heidelberg University has uncovered how sulfate controls the production of the drought stress hormone ABA in plants and thus contributes to their drought-resistance. These findings improve scientists' understanding of how the drought-stress signal travels from the roots to the leaves. The studies in Heidelberg were carried out at the Centre for Organismal Studies (COS).
Plants take in carbon dioxide for photosynthesis through pores in their leaves. When rainfall is low, however, these openings spell disaster for the plants because strong sunlight and active photosynthesis draw a lot of water through the open pores. Without fresh water from the roots, the plants wither and ultimately die. The hormone ABA [abscisic acid] controls how far the pores open in order to regulate the water loss of the plant.
Last year the researchers uncovered that the nutrient sulfate accumulates in the water transport pathways of the plants when the soil begins to dry out. Now the team led by Dr Markus Wirtz and Prof. Dr RĂ¼diger Hell has shown that the mineral actually known as sulfate plays a critical signalling role in supplying water to the plant. “Even we were surprised how efficiently sulfate triggers the synthesis of ABA and thus controls closure of the pores,” states Prof. Hell.
“The extremely dry European summer of 2018 was a preview of the imminent effects of global warming on the growth of plants and nutrient production,” stresses Dr Wirtz. “To be able to cultivate food crops that are more resilient during periods of water scarcity and drought, we need to understand how environmental factors regulate the formation of the hormone ABA”.
The results of the study were published in the journals “The Plant Cell” and “Plant Physiology” in late 2018.
The implications for turf could be most intriguing too and if your also add in the known effects of potassium on cell wall strengthening under dry conditions, could this explain or partially suggest an improved role for use of potassium sulfate as a summer fertiliser, or use of more complex mixes including slow release nitrogen?
Potassium sulfate is an often favoured means of supplying potassium and considered much superior to some alternate and cheaper forms, but is the real benefit the potassium or the sulfate in boosting drought resilience in many summer growing warm season turf grasses, especially in water deficit and /or hot stress conditions?  Do similar issues arise if using potassium sulfate in hydroponics in hot conditions [ it is commonly used in hydroponic cultivation] ?
It is an intriguing outcome of the research.......with no doubt more to come.

[ some material used from a press release by COS]

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

SURPRISE - the Earth is Getting Greener!!

It seems there is always doom and gloom environment news - so here is some good news, as reported by CNN.

NASA satellite imagery reveals that China and India are leading the world in adding volumes of green foliage. 

Also, since 2000, the Earth's overall green acreage has grown by 5%, an area equivalent to the Amazon's rainforests.

So.......maybe some positive news.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Banana Streak Disease May be Disabled

Bananas continue to be a target plant for breeding using new technologies.

The latest is a development that eliminates banana streak virus disease from the plant as well as preventing reinfection, using various gene editing options.  This disease is a major problem in parts of west Africa.

Read the full story here -

Developments like this continue to be implemented and offer significant potential for food crops especially in areas where some crops are staple foods.......and lowered production can be devasting to the local population.

Yes, there are some scientific and policy issues to be considered but there seems to be a better understanding that maybe these approaches with genetic engineering [as a broad approach] offer a real way forward in better plant production.

We are likely to see expanded use of the CRISPR gene technology across many crops or even less well developed or unexploited species to develop newer varieties for modern agriculture and improve overall crop productivity.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Trichoderma for Disease Control in Zoysia Turf

Disease control in turf can be a tricky process and is often commenced well before the disease appears or is expected to arrive – on a seasonal basis, as is often the situation.

That might be okay for major sport areas – from golf and bowling greens to major sport stadia and similar larger venues.  But what about the backyard lawn?   Or the neighbourhood oval?

Cost and lack of information often mean these types of programs never are used.  It also often means no disease management occurs at all with resulting significant loss of amenity, and significant remedial cost – after the disease event.

There are other options that might be worth considering.

A recent paper on disease issues in high quality new turf ovals using zoysia has highlighted a role for root colonizing fungi that can elicit a plant immune response in the roots and may have significant potential for bio-control of a few different turf diseases.

The concept is not a “flash in the pan” radical new idea at all and has been investigated and researched for some years.  There are commercial materials now sold that even use the materials and so they can be bought commercially in some countries, including Australia. Details available on request.

One advantage they have is that the “good” fungal material can be applied once disease is noticed [also used before if required] and that it can develop and spread and be active in the soil in effect becoming a possible long term solution to the suppression of turf diseases by effectively moving the balance back towards a positive fungal colony in the soil, not a disease causing collection of fungal species – these are suppressed.

I thought the recent scientific paper based on work on Zoysia japonica turf in Guangzhou [ southern China] to be most interesting even if conducted in a greenhouse.

The pathogenic fungi [ which included a range of known disease vectors] were all significantly inhibited by an isolate of Trichoderma viride and this organism had positive effects on zoysia turf growth.

The reference is: Urban Forestry & Urban Greening Volume 37, January 2019, Pages 168-172
Root zone mixture affects the population of root-invading fungi in zoysia grass - by Tianzeng Liu, Jialing Li and Juming Zhang from -

College of Forestry and Landscape Architecture, South China Agricultural University, Guangzhou, Guangdong 510642, China Guangdong Engineering Research Center for Grassland Science, China

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Is Turf Still Relevant ?

A brief article in the December edition of Scientific American by a scientist from the University of WA here in Australia makes the case for abandoning the use of turf / lawn in urban areas, arguing it is too intensive in its use of almost everything in resources, although there are some benefits.

Is this really the case for many modern varieties of warm season turf lines?

We like to think that zoysia does not fit many of the criteria used to knock the use of turf in modern gardens in urban areas.

It does not require a lot of mowing nor does it require much in the way of nitrogen fertiliser, and as well, it is also relatively light on irrigation demand in dry periods.  Yes, it does semi shut down when moisture stressed, but zoysia turf can thrive on much less resources than many other warm season turf species.

Should it be included in the hit list proposed in the article?

I would submit NO.

Read the article and come to your own conclusions.  Scientific American December 2018.

Monday, January 21, 2019

A hottie and will there be more?

Last week was the hottest night ever in Australia.

Maybe not in Darwin........but see the site and ponder.

Would you like a 35.6C night?

One relevant item is that zoysia turf does handle hot weather very well.  And it requires less water to grow.

Please consider!

Friday, October 19, 2018

Compadre Zoysia - Buying and Sowing Seed

Compadre zoysia seed offers an alternative option to create a great zoysia turf area, and you do not need to purchase expensive sod of other similar alternative varieties.

While there are some zoysia varieties that only exist as vegetative sod areas, once you need to move sod any distance especially in our warm Australian climate it can be expensive and a bit tricky, as it is also if larger areas are required on a site.

Seed of Compadre [or even Zenith if available] offer an alternate and similar quality turf, once established.  Yes, a longer period to establish to a suitable standard for use, but at considerable $$ savings in comparison to using sod.

With sod costing $10 - 20 per sq m at the production site, and a delivery charge often added, seed offers a real alternative, and is much cheaper per unit area. the time to seriously consider Compadre zoysia for your lawn.   If in areas of Australia, say Brisbane and south, soil is about warm enough for prompt establishment [average soil temperature 18-20C desirable] and the longer days ensure adequate light to invigorate seedling growth.

Remember you need a clean seed bed and it is worth taking the time to remove as many weed seedlings as possible.  We offer services and advice to ensure you can establish an area successfully, and can advise on appropriate herbicides for weed control within a developing zoysia lawn, including zoysia sod areas [ unfortunately not all sod finishes up weed free including from a weedy sub soil].

We consign any seed purchased promptly via air express - with a normal 2-3 business day delivery around Australia, including outside capital cities. 

Ask for our information sheets, after reading the many articles on this blog.

Remember that Compadre zoysia is a great warm season lawn needing less mowing, less water, less fertiliser and mostly disease will not be disappointed once the lawn is established.
Young partially shaded area of zoysia turf area sown from seed, on a school oval.

Friday, August 10, 2018

New Light on Seed Germination Genetics

Scientists have identified a key gene that helps seeds decide whether to germinate.

The study was conducted on Arabidopsis, a very close relative of oilseed rape.
The MFT gene stops seeds germinating in the dark or under shady conditions, where their chances of survival would be poor, according to new research from the University of York.
The study, conducted on Arabidopsis, a very close relative of oilseed rape, increases our understanding of one of the most important stages in the life cycle of a plant and may help to improve the seed quality of agricultural crops in the future.
Scientists have known for some time that two plant hormones play an important role in regulating if and when a seed will germinate - “Abscissic Acid” or ABA blocks germination and “Gibberelins” or GA promotes it.
However, in a breakthrough in our understanding of the mechanism by which these hormones control germination in response to light quality, the researchers have discovered that MFT is the key component that integrates and interprets signals coming from both ABA and GA.
The MFT gene is regulated by light quality and receives signals from both ABA and GA. In dark or shady conditions, it then directs the production of the MFT protein, which regulates germination by switching on a block of genes that prevent growth and switching off another block of genes that promote growth.
Sophisticated mechanism
This prevents a plant from germinating under the wrong conditions such as when there is not enough light to grow.
Professor Ian Graham, corresponding author, from the Centre for Novel Agricultural Products in the Department of Biology at the University of York, said: “This is another great example of how plants have evolved very sophisticated molecular mechanisms to stay in tune with their environment. This allows seeds to survive in the soil for many years so that when the time is right, such as when a tree falls in a forest or soil is turned over, seeds can suddenly spring into action.”
For many plant species the ability of a seed to sense the quality of light can inform it if it is located in direct sunlight, under a canopy of other plants that only allow a certain quality of light to pass through or in the dark, which is often the case when seeds are buried in the soil.
In wild plant species the ability for seeds to remain dormant even under conditions that would allow them to germinate is important for survival. For crops species, eliminating this dormancy is one of the first traits that has to be dealt with in a plant breeding programme.
Lead author of the work, Dr Fabian Vaistij, from the Department of Biology at the University of York added: “Understanding the molecular genetic basis of how seed germination is controlled will provide new tools to improve seed quality and seedling vigour in developing new crops for the future.” 
This work provides some ideas about how light interacts with seeds and germination.  Especially where species are known to respond to light during germination.  Zoysia turf grass is one of the species that does require light to germinate - if buried, even at shallow depth, germination and subsequent establishment is greatly impaired.
[ adapted from University of York press release 7 August 2018]

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Mosquito Control with Sterile Insects

The world's most dangerous animal isn't a lion, shark, snake or croc: it's the menacing mosquito. 

While many mosquitos are harmless to humans and ecologically important, three groups of mozzies, the Aedes, Anopheles and Culex, are found almost all over the world and are responsible for around 17 per cent of infectious disease transmissions globally. 

In a landmark trial working with international partners, CSIRO were able to suppress the invasive and disease spreading Aedes aegypti mosquito by 80 per cent along the Cassowary Coast, Queensland. 

Millions of non-biting male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes were reared, sterilised using a natural bacteria and re-released into the area.

Click through on the link to read the story - Australian science at work - for good! Read more by clicking through below.

Very sharp, smart science!

Our infertile mozzies are now wiping out the invasive irritants.

Click here

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Innovative Methodology For Multiple Gene Insertion Into Plants - Easier Plant Improvement

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in Albany, California, have found a way to streamline the process that scientists use to insert multiple genes into a crop plant, developing a reliable method that will make it easier to breed a variety of crops with vastly improved traits.
The technology is expected to speed up the process for developing new varieties of potatoes, rice, citrus and other crops that are better equipped to tolerate heat and drought, produce higher yields and resist a myriad of diseases and pests. Crops with greater resistance to pathogens and insects could greatly reduce pesticide use and prevent billions of dollars in crop losses.
“Making genetic improvements that were difficult or impossible before will be much easier because we can now insert not just one or two genes, but multiple genes, into a plant in a way that will lead to predictable outcomes,” said Roger Thilmony, an ARS molecular biologist in Albany.
A paper describing the achievement by Thilmony, James Thomson, an ARS geneticist in Albany, and Ray Collier, a former ARS postdoctoral researcher, was published recently in the August issue of The Plant Journal.
The GAANTRY gene stacking technology will be freely available to anyone interested, and a commercial firm in the US is planning to use it to introduce multiple genes into potatoes to make them more resistant to late blight, which is caused by a fungus-like organism. Late blight can destroy entire fields and force some farmers to spray fungicides up to 15 times a year.
“We have struggled to put multiple late blight resistance genes into potatoes for years. They are very long, complex genes, and with existing technologies it’s been extremely difficult. But the GAANTRY technology will help us tremendously,” said Craig Richael, a director of research and development for J.R. Simplot Co., an Idaho-based company that produces French fries, frozen vegetables, fertilizer, turf grass seed and other products.
Scientists over the years have modified the genetics of soybeans, corn, canola and other crop plants to develop varieties that tolerate specific herbicides and resist insect pests. But those traits were controlled by one or two genes, and in most crop plants, important traits such as cold and drought tolerance, yield and seed production are almost always controlled by multiple genes. Inserting more than two or three genes into the same site on a plant chromosome has been notoriously difficult.
The researchers’ unique platform stabilizes large “stacks” of DNA needed for conferring key traits, allowing researchers to insert suites of genes “so precisely that no unintended DNA is added or lost during the process,” says Thomson.
“Before this, assembling 10 genes to insert into a new line would be difficult or impossible, but this technology basically stabilizes the stack and makes for results that are more stable and much easier to predict,” Thilmony said.
Read the report in The Plant Journal.
This technology offers some very smart options for plant improvement, and is potentially likely to be assessed similarly as the CRSPR system whereby derived plant lines are not assessed as GM plants, easing regulatory approvals. 
The Agricultural Research Service is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific in-house research agency. Daily, ARS focuses on solutions to agricultural problems affecting America. 

Each dollar invested in agricultural research through the ARS results in $20 of economic impact.

That is a very good return on the investment.   I wonder if those returns are achieved in Australian institutions?

[ modified from publicly available press release of ARS ]

Friday, July 27, 2018

EU Court of Justice Ruling on Plant Breeding Innovation

EU Court of Justice Ruling on Plant Breeding Innovation

On July 25 the European Union (EU) Court of Justice ruled that plants resulting from some of the latest plant breeding innovations, including targeted mutagenesis (i.e. gene editing) such as CRISPR, are considered genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

It is important to note that the ruling is an interpretation of existing EU law. It is not a scientific assessment, nor an expression or statement of policy by the EU’s political bodies.

This interpretation is at odds with decisions and interpretations made elsewhere in the world, including here in Australia, US, South America and Israel.



The EU Court of Justice has issued its long-awaited decision on the regulatory status of plants resulting from some of the latest plant breeding innovations. This determines whether they can practically be taken up by researchers, universities, breeders and farmers in the EU.

The ruling’s line of argument is based almost entirely on the breeding process (technology involved) and does not differentiate between product categories based on the outcome of these processes.

The ruling puts forward a purely process-based approach after an EU specific point in time (2001; the time of adoption of the EU GMO Directive). Organisms obtained by means of mutagenesis which have “conventionally” been used and have a long safety record will continue to be exempt. This exemption would apply to the “classical”, random mutagenesis breeding methods using chemicals or radiation.

In Australia, the current review of the Gene Technology Regulations and the National Gene Technology Scheme will provide regulatory clarity on plants and animals derived from the latest breeding methods for Australian industry and public-sector researchers.

ABCA’s Statement of Principles on Regulatory Oversight of New Breeding Techniques is available on the ABCA website.


Further information:

The Court of Justice of the EU Ruling on Case  C-528/16 and associated Press Release.

Media releases from CropLife Australia, EuropaBio and the European Seed Association are also available.

Links to some of the media coverage overnight on the EU decision on gene editing techniques:

Probably unexpected, and does not reflect on the science, but rather a legal interpretation.

The media links above would say it all - most if not all are a bit stunned at the decision.

No doubt the anti GM urgers will  applaud the decision, but it will have wide implications - or will it?