Volume 20. Number 6. 2015

Scientists Sequence Resurrection Grass Genome

Nature reports the virtually complete genome of Oropetium thomaeum, which is known as the resurrection grass because of its ability to regrow after extreme drought when water becomes available. The sequencing was made possible by Donald Danforth Plant Science Center researchers and Pacific Biosciences' grant program, "Most Interesting Genome in the World."

The resurrection grass has 245 Mb genome, grows on rock outcrops in Africa and India, and is closely related to major food, feed, and bioenergy crops. The genome sequence will help researchers understand the novel drought tolerance mechanisms for efficient and productive agricultural land use. Crop Biotech Update. 25 Nov 2015

Application of Light-Emitting Diodes in Food Production, Postharvest
Preservation, and Microbiological Food Safety


Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) possess unique properties that are highly suitable for several operations in the food industry. Such properties include low radiant heat emissions; high emissions of monochromatic light; electrical, luminous, and photon efficiency; long life expectancy, flexibility, and mechanical robustness. Therefore, they reduce thermal damage and degradation in crops and foods and are suitable in cold-storage applications. Control over spectral composition of emitted light results in increased yields and nutritive content of horticultural or agricultural produce. Recently, LEDs have been shown to preserve or enhance the nutritive quality of foods in the postharvest stage, as well as manipulate the ripening of fruits, and reduce fungal infections. LEDs can be used together with photosensitizers or photocatalysts to inactivate pathogenic bacteria in food. UV LEDs, which are rapidly being developed, can also effectively inactivate pathogens and preserve food in postharvest stages. Therefore, LEDs provide a nonthermal means of keeping food safe without using chemical sanitizers or additives, and do not accelerate bacterial resistance. This article provides a review of the technology of LEDs and their role in food production, postharvest preservation, and in microbiological safety. Several challenges and limitations are identified for further investigation, including the difficulty in optimizing LED lighting regimens for plant growth and postharvest storage, as well as the sensory quality and acceptability of foods stored or processed under LED lighting. Nevertheless, LED technology presents a worthy alternative to current norms in lighting for the growth and storage of safe and nutritious food.

Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety. Volume 14, Issue 6, pages 719740, November 2015

Australia Court Rules in Favour of GE Crop Farmers

The Australian Court of Appeal ruled that GE crop farmers should not be limited in their operations to accommodate nearby organic farmers. This ruling was made after an organic farmer filed a case against his neighbour who was planting GE canola, leading to his loss of organic certification. According to the Court, organic farmers are not entitled to extend their rights on neighbouring farms.

The American Council on Science and Health applauds the court's decision. "It would be untenable for farmers who want to use the latest in agricultural technology to be restricted by the wishes of their neighbours. No one would advocate for conventional farmers to spray their insecticides or fertilizers on their neighbours' organic crops, but to expect them to control wind drift is totally unreasonable," said Dr. Ruth Kava, ACSH senior nutrition fellow.

Read more details from ASCH. Crop Biotech update. 23 Sep. 2015

Syrian War Prompts First Withdrawal of Seeds from Svalbard Global Seed Vault

The International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) has requested to withdraw the backup seeds that they deposited in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault to restart their collection away from the ongoing conflict in their previous home in Aleppo, Syria. ICARDA is currently based in Beirut, Lebanon, and requesting seeds from their gene bank in Aleppo is getting more and more difficult.

Brian Lainoff, spokesperson of The Crop Trust, the foundation that oversees the Global Seed Vault, explained that ICARDA has worked hard and duplicated 80 percent of what is in their gene bank in Aleppo, in Svalbard. The vault, also called the Doomsday Vault, was established in 2008, can hold 4.5 million varieties, and built to survive rising sea levels, power outages and other calamities that could affect the seeds.

According to Lainoff, around 500 seeds of each variety are contained within the vault, and they are key to genetic resistance against potential diseases that could affect the world's major crops. Crop Biotech Update September 30, 2015.

For more details, read the news article at The Crop Trust website.

Snippets - contributions are welcome. Edited and produced by Dr. B Cole. - / Fax 011 660 6444 with the help of the Northern Branch Committee.