JANUARY 2019: Following is a collection of news summaries and links to stories about the latest happenings in the seed industry of Asia and beyond. Here you can find the news on everything from germination experiments on the moon and new gene-editing breakthroughs in tomato and rice, to GMO approvals in China, Asia Pacific international phytosanitary developments, as well as wandering cow and elephant threats to South and Southeast Asia crops. Scroll down to read the news, which has been organized by region, and country.
Past NSAI Secretary General Passes
India and Asia have lost a senior seed industry professional in the death of Mr. M. Harish Reddy, Managing Director of Ganga Kaveri Seeds, who left this world on 3 January. A past member of APSA, Mr. Reddy was General Secretary of the National Seed Association of India for four years and President of the Seedmen Association, Hyderabad (largest regional seed association in India), also for four years. He graciously hosted the APSA delegation during their Hybrid Rice Study Tour in India September-October 2016. Former APSA Technical Director, Dr. Nerendra Dadlani mourned the news, writing “In his death I have lost a very good friend and guide in this sector. The Indian seed industry will miss his drive for the sector’s growth. RIP.”
Indian scientists identify viral and heat stress response genes in tomato
A team of researchers at the National Institute of Plant Genome Research in New Delhi say they have identified two genes – SIDEAD23 and SIDEAD23 – in tomato that appear to control the plant’s response to abiotic and biotic stresses. According to their findings, which were published in the Environmental and Experimental Botany journal, as reported by DownToEarth, when expressed, the SIDEAD 35 gene specifically controls responses to heat stress and viral infection. The discovery was made while examining transcriptome dynamics of tomato varieties with varying degrees of resistance to Tomato lef Curl New Delhi virus.
Telangana poised to be world’s ‘seed bowl’ as Hyderabad prepares for 44th ISTA Congress
Reps from the International Seed Testing Association (ISTA) met with Indian partners on January 9 to review preparations for ISTA’s 44th Seed Congress expo and symposium, which will be held in Hyderabad, 26 June to July 3. Telangana Today reports that the ISTA team visited with the Telangana State Seed and Organic Certification Authority, lauding efforts by local authorities and industry players to raise the bar of seed production and testing to international standards. Seed scientists from 50 countries, as well as ISTA members from as many as 180 countries, are expected to attend the annual ISTA meeting. Stay tuned for more details.
Madhya Pradesh crops affected by frost
Government officials inspected farms in several locales in Ujjain which were apparently damaged by ‘severe frost’ on January 3, reports Free Press Journal India. Though specific crop loss assessments had yet to be disclosed, officials urged farmers to secure adequate crop insurance.
Space tech employed to expand rice cultivation in NE India
The Meghalaya government has teamed up with the North Eastern Space Applications Centre to bolster rice cultivation by employing satellite imaging mapping tools to determine the most suitable cultivation plots. Mongabay India reports on the cooperation, results of which were published in November 2018 edition of Current Science journal. Based on satellite mapping, combined with ground-level surveys of soil and other relevant factors, the exercise identified 6.3 m 2 of land most suitable for rice cultivation, out of a total surveyed area of 5,000 m2. Such methodologies may prove to save a lot of time and money as the Indian state aims to increase productivity under the Meghalaya State Rice Mission .
Pakistan rabi crop planting reduced in face of low vegetation, water supplies
The Food and Agriculture Organization reports that planting area for winter wheat in Pakistan at the end of 2018 was about 8 million hectares, or 9% less than the previous year. According to the FAO’s latest Global Information and Early Warning System Country Brief for Pakistan, published on January 9, reduced planting is linked to low water reserves, and persistently low rainfall, especially in parts of Sindh and Balochistan provinces. According to data from the Indus river System Authority cited in the report, irrigation water supplies for rabi or winter crops back in October were estimated to be 40% lower than the previous ten year average. In 2018, there was estimated to be 5% year-on-year reduction in cereal production in the South Asian country to about 42 million tonnes, including about 25.4mn t of wheat; 10.3mn t of paddy and 5.7mn t of maize. Harvesting of winter barley, which was sowed in November, is scheduled to begin in March, while that for wheat should commence early April.
Weeding out pink bollworm cotton threat in Punjab
The Punjab Agriculture Department in Pakistan will send out extension teams to engage cotton farmers throughout Punjab with regards to mitigating the threat of pink bollworm on next year’s cotton harvest. One of their suggestions, as reported by The News International, is to remove cotton weeds and plants post-harvest using a new machine developed by Muhammad Nawaz Sharif University and Agriculture and Agriculture Mechanization and Research Institute, which kills and traces of pink bollworm from the uprooted plants by shredding them, while increasing organic material in the soil.
Bidding to market four new Pakistani varieties domestically
The Ayub Agriculture Research Institute (AARI) has developed four new, high-yield and disease-resistant seed varieties, which will be marketed by a private company in accordance with the country’s Plant Breeders Rights Act of 2016, the Tribune Pakistan reports. The new varieties, which include on Bt cotton, one tomato and two maize, were approved for mass cultivation by the Punjab Seed Council. Only out of 26 bidding companies will be granted license after January 15 to market the new seeds, which will be subject to royalties.
Snow storm threatens Iranian winter greenhouse crops
Iranian agriculturalists are being urged to take necessary precautions to protect their produce from extreme winter weather. More than 4,100 persons needed relief assistance after getting stuck in snow after wet and cold stormy weather affected 17 Iranian provinces early in the New Year, reports Tehran Times. In Gilan province, where cucumbers, tomatoes and flowers are cultivated in glasshouses during winter months, a meteorological official urged locals to ensure that their greenhouses had sufficient supplemental heat, reported Mehrnews . In related news, the Malyia Sun reports that scientists at Iran’s Yazd University have been successful in seeding clouds using nanotechnology. By employing nanoparticles in the air, the scientists claim they can not only seed clouds for rain, but defog cloudy, cold areas and thus improve visibility in mountain passes, for example.
China approves five new GM crops for import, renews safety licenses for 26 more
Chinese regulators have given the green light for importation of five new transgenic agriculture products, including two soya, two canola and one maize variety. The approvals are for DowDuPont Inc’s DP4114 Qrome maize and DAS-44406-6 soya (known as Enlist E3); BASF’s SYHT0H2 soybean (initially developed by Syngenta and Bayer) and RF3 canola (InVigor™) as well as Bayer-owned Monsanto’s MON 88302 (TruFlex™ Roundup Ready) canola.
According to the ISAAA GM database, DP4114 traits include Glufosinate herbicide tolerance, Coleopteran insect resistance and Lepidopteran insect resistance; DAS-44406-6 traits are Glufosinate herbicide tolerance, Glyphosate herbicide tolerance, 2,4-D herbicide tolerance; SYHTOH2 traits are Glufosinate herbicide tolerance, Mesotrione Herbicide Tolerance; RF3 traits are Glufosinate herbicide tolerance , Fertility restoration and MON 88302 trait is Glyphosate herbicide tolerance.
An announcement by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs on January 8 listed the five new approved biotech products, as well as validity renewals for safety certificates of 26 more GM-products that had previously been approved for import.
The announcement specifically clarified that GM crops can only be imported into China as raw materials for the purpose of processing oil, sugar and (animal) feed, and could not be marketed directly as agricultural products. Moreover, any GM products imported into China must comply with the country’s labeling law, which is covered by a label management catalog. More details in the next issue of Asian Seed Magazine.
China moon potatoes: landing on moon’s ‘dark side’ success
Chinese authorities have reported a successful unmanned landing on the so-called dark side of the moon (the side not visible to Earth), reportedly the first in history, and the second soft landing on the moon for China since 2015. Launched on 7 December 2018, the Chang’e 4 – named after the Chinese Lunar goddess – entered the moon’s orbit on 12 December, and finally landed on the moon on 3 January, 2019, many sources report. The mission comprises a robotic lander and a rover named Yutu 2, or Jade Rabbit 2. The rover has been tasked with various missions, including collecting and analyzing soil samples, as well as collecting atmospheric chemistry data with respect to lunar, earth and solar factors. As reported one year ago by Asian Seed, the rover also contains a plant-growing container, which contains silkworm eggs and seeds. According to Scientific American, the objective of the lunar experiment is to autonomously germinate seeds from potatoes and Arabidopsis, a small flowering plant related to cabbage and mustard.
Zheijing seed bank secures melliodendron seeds as 2,000th specie
The Hangzhou Botanical Garden in east Zhejiang, east China, has secured a sample melliodendron seeds in its seed bank for rare and endangered species. ECNS.cn reports that the seeds were first dried before being being temporarily kept in cold storage at 4 degrees Celsius. Finally, the seeds will be stored in minus 20 degrees C. The seeds are of an undisclosed woody-fruit species of Melliodendron genus, which is part of the Styracaceae family.
Chinese scientists develop hybrid rice ‘clonal seeds’ from gene-editing trials
A team of scientists from the China National Rice Research Institute and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences have published the results of an apparent breakthrough in hybrid rice seed cloning. Xinhuanet.com reported on the breakthrough, which was published in Nature Biotechnology journal on 4 January. With such clonal seeds, that were developed from genome-engineering of meiosis and fertilization genes, heterosis or hybrid vigor can be passed on through seeds without the apparent need for back-crossing to retain desired phenotypes linked to increased yield.
WorldVeg to host conference on key brassica pests in March
The World Vegetable Center (WorldVeg) in association with Cornell University (USA) will organize the Eighth International Conference on Management of the Diamondback Moth and Other Crucifer Insect Pests on 4-8 March 2019 at WorldVeg HQ at Shanhua, Tainan. The conference is designed to provide a common forum for the researchers to share their findings in bio-ecology of insect pests, host plant resistance, biological control, pesticides and insect resistance management for crops in the Cruciferae or Brassicaceae family, which includes a number of important vegetables in the mustard or cabbage group, including broccoli, cauliflower and kale. Organizers are expecting 150 researchers from throughout the world to present and discuss papers. Emphasis will be on the Diamondback Moth, Plutella xylostella (L.) but also cover other key pests. All APSA and APSA-WorldVeg Vegetable Breeding Consortium members are invited to to register for the conference. Registration is US$750 for individuals and $500 for students. Registration deadline is 31 January. Accompanying person registration is $400, but does not include conference materials and admission to scientific sessions. For more information and to register see this link.
Japan has room to grow as key player in gene-edited crops
As countries like the US and China surge forward in the field of plant breeding innovation, Japan’s respective capacity and capability have lagged. According to The Japan News Yomiuri Shimbun, the East Asian countries biotechnology sector has fell short due to the lack of open discussion and a clear strategy. Instead of leading the world in biotechnology innovation, the article points out that Japan has actually become a leading importer of genetically-modified crops from abroad. Nonetheless, PBI progress in recent years has been realized with results in genome-edited rice, while other biotechnology crops are in the pipeline, including tomatoes enriched with blood pressure suppressing substance. Biotech researchers in the country are also working on other ‘high-value’ crops such as strawberries
Borneo farmers praise intensive organic rice cultivation method
Farmers in Sarawak have reported significant increases in rice harvest yields thanks to the implementation of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), reports the Borneo Post. The method involves organic methods of farming, seeding, cultivation, fertilization, irrigation and pest and disease management. One farmer reportedly was able to increase his yields by 75% in one year. The SRI was implemented with funding and support from the World Wildlife Fund Malaysia and CIMB Islamic Bank Berhad under a three year program from 2017 to 2019.
Myanmar melon farmers distribute their harvest for free in border protest
After authorities closed the Jin San Jiao Gate in the Muse border trade zone at the Myanmar and China border, trucks full of recently harvested Myanmar melons were left with slowly rotting fruit earlier in January. The border gate had reportedly been closed by the Myanmar Army for undisclosed security reasons on December 26, just at the height of harvest, leaving farmers, who usually sell the fruits in China by the truckload, with excess produce and no customers, reports the Irawaddy.
Not enough fruit pickers to harvest anticipated record apple harvests
Hawke’s Bay Fruitgrowers Association president Ben James told the New Zealand Herald that this year’s apple harvest could reach a record 600,000 tonnes; however, much of that fruit might not even make it to the market due to a shortage of seasonal workers as local unemployment rates are low. With high expectations for apple and grape yields this year, industry reps say their could be a perfect storm if the seasonal worker shortage is not addressed. One suggestion is for the government to allow in more Recognized Season Workers from other countries.
Bounty proposed for invasive toad
Australian Senator Pauline Hanson has proposed for the government to pay AU$0.10 bounty for each cane toad collected by locals for extermination purposes. The proposal is meant to control surging populations in Northern Territory (NT), Queensland, Western Australia (WA) of the once “beneficial predator” introduced in the 1930s to control cane beetles. It is estimated that since then, the Australian cane toads numbers have bulged to 200 million, causing problems for local wildlife and spread of disease. Senator Pauline suggest that the bounty would be good incentive for school children on summer break to earn income.
Lemon prices in Australia more than double
Low lemon stocks blamed on heat waves last year were cited in an article by the Daily Mail for lemon prices at supermarkets surging to AU$9 / kg, up from normal retail prices of between $4 to $5 / kg. Lemons supplies in Australia peak during the country’s winter period from March to October. Meanwhile, importers have been urged to import higher-quality quality fruits from the US instead of lower-quality fruits from Spain and Egypt.
New Issue of Asian Seed Magazine
Issue number 6 (Volume 24) of Asian Seed & Planting Material, the official publication of APSA, has been published and is available online. The latest issue features comprehensive coverage from the 25th Asian Seed Congress, which was held in Manila, the Philippines from 12-16 November. The issue also has a report from the Fresh Vegetable Production & Seed Operations Study Tour, organized October 2018 by APSA’s Special Interest Group for Vegetables & Ornamentals, and hosted by Beijing-based Haidian Seed Chamber of Commerce. Moreover, there’s coverage from the 2nd Korea Seed Expo and much more featured content from the region and world. Download the pdf now
India, Pakistan, West and Central Asia ready for seed expo in Dubai
The Indus Seed Expo 2019 is scheduled to take place 23-24 February in Dubai, U.A.E.. Organized by Delhi-based Northern Seed Association, with strong support from seed industry reps from Pakistan, the event aims to promote seed business in the Indus Valley and West Asia regions, a vast and lucrative geography that encompasses India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, Iran, Jordan, U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia, among others.
To be held at the Hotel Millennium Airport in Dubai, the expo is backed by a number leading seed companies from throughout the region, including many APSA member companies. Among the sponsors include Namdhari Seeds, Maharashtra Hybrid, Noble Seeds, Ascen Hyveg, Anseme, Rachna Agri Business, BASF, Advanta and I&B Seeds.
For more information, see event website.
Pakistan and China look to boost potato and hybrid rice seed trade
The Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan recently met with Pakistan Minister for National Food Security and Research to discuss areas of mutual trade interest, especially stable agriculture goods. Specifically, Ambassador Yao Jing said that China is interested in importing more Pakistani potatoes, as well as cherries, mangoes, citrus, rice, wheat and cotton, while Pakistan Minister for National Food Security and Research Sahibzada Mehboob Sultan said his country was looking to import Chinese hybrid rice seeds for domestic breeding. According to an article by Dawn, Pakisitan’s current potato output is about 4.2 million tonnes, 3,75 million tonnes of which is consumed locally. A large majority of these potatoes are grown in Punjab. Meanwhile, the Pakistan Agriculture Research Council recently tested 29 Chinese hybrid rice varieties supplied by the Hubei Provincial Seed Group. Of these, eight varieties were deemed promising in terms of yield. The South Asian country’s Rice Research Programme has acquired more than 22,500 lines from the International Rice Research Institute in Philippines.
Pakistan looks to bolster agro trade with Canada
The Tribune Pakistan reports optimistically for bilateral trade of agricultural products between the South Asian country and Canada. Commenting on a January 9 meeting with the Canadian High Commisioner to Pakistan Wendy Gilmour, Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Sahibzada Mehboob Sultan revealed ambitions for his country to increase exports of Pakistani rice and mangoes to Canada, noting that Pakistan currently already imports a significant quantity of pulses and canola seeds. During the meeting the two officials addressed developments in phytosanitary measures requirements such as Pest Risk Analysis.
India renews fumigation exemption for Canadian pulses, maintains 5x port inspection fees
On December 27, 2018, India renewed a six-month exemption to allow the importation of Canadian pulses that have not been fumigated with methyl bromide at origin. The Western Producer reports that the requirement, which was mandated by Indian National Plant Protection Office (NPPO) since 2004 to eradicate the threat of stem and bulb nematodes in grain shipments. However, Canadian NPPOs, who noted cold weather as an obstacle for fumigation during the winter, argue that their Systems Approach has been sufficient, citing data from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency that showed 2,000 samples of Indian-bound pea shipments free of the ditylenchus dipsaci nematode on India’s pest list. Though the exemption waives the fumigation requirement, it subjects Canadian pulses to Indian port inspection rates of five times the normal fees.
Devastating maize-consuming pest spreads to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, possibly SE Asia
The UN FAO has confirmed that the Fall Armyworm or Spodoptera frugiperda – which originated in the Americas and cost millions of damage to crops in Africa since being detected there in 2016 and spreading to India by last year – has now been detected in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The Telegraph reports that the moth-caterpillar pest which prefers to feed on maize may have reached Nepal, Thailand, and Myanmar, putting it in close reach to China, a leading global maize producer. To keep tabs on the pest, the FAO launched a mobile app for farmers to report detection.
Indian seed firm setting up multi-million dollar seed processing facility in Zambia
Prasad Seeds, one of India’s largest seed firms, has registered an arm in the African country of Zambia as part of its plans to set up a large-scale seed processing facility, a report by the Lusaka Times on bilateral trade confirms. The development follows Zambia’s High Commissioner to India Judith Kapijimpanga touring Prasad Seeds processing plant in Telengana early last year. Prasad Seeds reportedly supplies 70% of domestic Indian seed needs, according to one report.
Rwanda and China ag trade looks bright
Imports of Rwandan goods to China in the first 11 months of 2018 rose 66.4% year-on-year to $37.8 million, while export of Chinese goods to Rwanda rose by 35.8% during the same period, reports The Global Times China. Much of the Rwandan goods were agricultural products including premium coffee and moringa seeds, and there is a lot of room for growth in exports from the Central/Eastern African country to China, especially for higher-value products such as avocados, which China currently sources a large amount from the Americas. Rwanda particularly stands out to China for farm goods due to lower labor costs, vast farming land and high product quality.
Taiwanese ambassador signs agreement with Haitian govt to bolster rice seed production
Haiti Libre reports that the governments of Haiti and the Chinese Taipei have signed a US$22 million cooperation agreement to increase rice seed production capacity in the Caribbean nation. The agreement underlines a goal for Haiti to produce 20,000 tons of rice seed by establishing a modern Rice Seed Treatment Center with the help of Taiwanese technical expertise in quality control equipment procurement, operation and maintenance. The project aims to increase supplies in Haiti’s Artibonite Valley and in the plains of the north and northeast part of the island nation over a three year period.
Top ‘natural’ disasters in 2018 cost Asia-Pacific countries lives, $40 million + damage
India, Chna, Australia, Japan and the Philippines were among the countries adversely affected by the top 10 disasters of 2018 according to a report by the The Weather Network Pelmorex Weather Networks. Specifically, drought conditions during the first 10 months Australia reportedly cost as much $11 million. And though record rains were reported in December, many parts of Queensland are still suffering from dry conditions. Floods in Sichuan and Gansu provinces in southeast China back in July reportedly caused $5.2mn in damage in addition to typhoon Rambia taxing the north central part of the country an estimated $7.2million in damage; Worse than the $5mn lost from summer floods in Kerala, India was the loss of no less than 500 lives; Likewise hundreds were killed by flooding, landslides and hurricanes in Japan, with damages evaluated at $13mn. Another 140 met their peril in the Philippines and China from the September wrath of typhoon Mankhut, which cost as much as $2.4mn in damage. The report also highlighted disasters that impacted in Honduras, El Salvador, USA,South Africa, Argentina and Europe.
Crops at threat from stray cattle, elephants in India, Nepal and Thailand
In an effort to protect winter-season (Rabi) crops from surplus populations of wandering, hungry cattle, the Uttar Pradesh government has proposed levying a tax on citizens in order to fund the construction of 104 cattle shelters, which would add to 514 existing shelters there. According to calculations in an editorial by the Indian Express, the efforts may not be statistically-sufficient to solve the issue in a region where slaughterhouses are banned. According to estimates, there could be an annual cattle surplus of as many as a million animals being abandoned in India, which ultimately pose threats to open-field crops. Past their prime, these cattle are reportedly abandoned after being deemed uneconomical for dairy production. In related news, solar fences will be installed around private land near Bhubaneswar of the east Indian state of Odisha, reports the New Indian Express. The fences, which will provide a small electric shock to wandering elephants, are intended to protect farmers’ crops by scaring off – but not killing – the elephants; conventional electric fences have been known to kill the large animals. In Rayagada, farmers were reportedly panicking as herds of elephants trampled cotton and paddy crops. Meanwhile, to stop migration of Nepalese elephants to India, where they had reportedly been eating border farmers crops, officials planned to plant more fodder and provide more water resources to encourage the pachyderms to stay on the Nepal side. Elephants aren’t just helping themselves to crops in India, an elephant was captured on video ‘stealing’ sugarcane from cargo trucks on a highway in Thailand’s chachoengsao province.
Chinese, Filipino and Sri Lankan investors partner in fertilizer factory
Daily News Sri Lanka reports on tirparty investment in establishing a fertilizer factory in Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka. The factory is slated to open in 2020 and represents an investment of 360 million Sri Lankan Rupee (US$19.7 million). The three investing companies are Laizhou City Laiyu Chemical Col. Lted (China), Zetryl Chem.Phils (Philippines) and Araliya Agro Oldings Pvt Ltds (Sri Lanka). According to the report fertilizer would be processed from paddy husk, vegetable waste and other local materials, with some enzymes imported. Most of it would be intended for Sri Lanka, with about 35% slated for export.
This page may be updated throughout the month of January, 2019 as new story leads come in. Do you have an interesting story lead that should be covered by Asian Seed? If so, please email Steven (at) apsaseed.org