Wetenschap - 19 maart 1998

International Page

International Page

International Page
Pomato helps potato to fight cold
Tomato genes may be able to make potatoes more resistant to frost. Despite the fact that introducing pieces of tomato chromosome is proving more difficult than expected, PhD candidate Caldere believes that, if tomato and potato cells can be fused, the way will be open fot transferring genetic information from tomatoes to potatoes
Implanting tomato chromosomes in a potato is more complicated than scientists originally thought it would be. This is one of the conclusions of Spanish PhD student Fracesc Garriga Caldere, who graduates Wednesday March 18. Garriga's supervisor is Professor Evert Jacobsen
As long ago as 1978 researchers managed to combine tomato and potato cells, producing a pomato which was capable of growing. However, it was not until 1994 that researchers were able to breed from the hybrid by crossing it with an ordinary potato
Tomato chromosomes do not have an easy time in potato cells. Each time sex cells are made through a process of division, some of the chromosomes disappear in the hybrid. This results in a situation where single tomato chromosomes end up pairing with a potato partner. The two partner chromosomes then exchange parts, says Caldere. In this way parts of a tomato chromosome become permanently built into a potato chromosome. However, this transfer of tomato chromosome parts to the potato does not happen as frequently as the researchers had expected
Nevertheless Caldere believes the technique is worth pursuing. It should be possible to use the tomato chromosomes to make the potato more resistant to cold temperatures. Tomato is better able to withstand frost than potato. Dutch potato growers sow seed potatoes in April. If there is frost at night the leaves freeze and wither. The potato survives but yields are considerably reduced. Farmers who produce seed potatoes are most troubled by this problem. They want to sow as early as possible so that they can also harvest early in order to avoid viruses. It may be possible to use the tomato to introduce resistance to certain potato diseases
According to Caldere genetic manipulation of plants is more complex than expected. For many plant types there are not yet suitable methods available. Genetic manipulation is often used to introduce a gene which makes the crop resistant to an antibiotic. Researchers need to do this in order to be able to recognize the manipulated cells. Environmental groups are worried that resistance to antibiotics may be transferred from a plant to dangerous bacteria
The new technique does not have these disadvantages. Caldere believes that the transfer of tomato chromosome parts to potato may be an effective way of transferring resistance to cold. A similar crossing of wheat and rye has been successful. Over half of the new wheat varieties coming onto the market contain a rye chromosome part which protects the wheat against various diseases
The technique is also useful for genetic mapping as it is easier to determine the location of genes on the different chromosomes. If a single tomato chromosome is implanted in a potato cell it is easier to determine which functions the chromosome fulfils than when all 11 tomato chromosomes are present as in a normal tomato
Caldere returns to Spain in a few weeks. He will carry out post-doctoral research on peach and almond in the area around Barcelona. I won't be starting with chromosomes. That will come once I've convinced them of the value of this technique.
Executive Board wants representation for international students
The Executive Board wants to create a Foreign Student Consultation Group (FSC) with which it can have regular contact to discuss international education. The Board made this decision during its meeting last week on March 12. The FSC will be made up of at least three international students from the ISP, a representative from the Dutch student union (WSO) and a secretary. They will meet six times a year with the Rector or the Vice Rector
The administrative structure of Dutch universities was changed at the beginning of this year. The University Council, which had far-reaching powers, has been replaced by a Student Council and a Works Council for personnel. The ISP also wanted a seat on the new student council, but this was opposed by the Dutch students. The latter did not like the idea of having to hold meetings in English. In addition, international students do not usually spend enough time in Holland to sit on the council for a whole term of election. According to Vice Rector Bert Speelman the creation of a Consultation Group is an acceptable compromise for all parties involved. A secretary will also made available to the FSC for one day a week. It will be the secretary's job to translate important items from the Student Council and to prepare meetings
The Dutch Student Council has a number of legal powers. The Executive Board has to obtain approval from the Council if it wants to make changes to education or examination regulations. According to Speelman the FSC will have no formal powers. It will function mainly as a communication channel for international students who wish to discuss problems directly with the Executive Board. Speelman is also in favour of a Dutch representative in the FSC who can act as a delegate for the group in the Student Council meetings. A member of the Student Council will also be present at FSC meetings so that information can be exchanged and solidarity built up
MSc students WAU finish third at Sports Day
The Wageningen team came third at the international Sports Day in Delft last Saturday March 14. The Delft team was the winner. Some two hundred students from 8 institutions took part in a largely indoors sports day, playing volley ball, table tennis and badminton. The Wageningen team numbered fifteen students
Team captain Khalid Shah was very pleased with the team's performance. We won prizes in almost all sports except table tennis and basketball. According to Shah the team managed to come third because of it enthusiasm rather than the fact that it had practised a lot. Some teams had practised for a month, but in Wageningen most students were to busy with their study.
Argo Oranje-Groen rowing tournament
Each year on the Queen's official birthday (April 30), Argo (the Wageningen Students Rowing Club) organises a rowing tournament. The competition is open to teams from the University, DLO institutions, companies based in Wageningen and international MSc students. If you want to join in the event, you can register as a team of four (men and women are allowed), or as an individual (in which case we will try to place you in a team). You need to fill in a form, which you can find at the ISOW, sport centre De Bongerd or by sending an e-mail to: marc.bonczalgemeen.mt.wau.nl Deadline for registration is March 25. Cost: fl.110,- for a team of four, including lunch. In the evening there will be a barbecue (not included in the registration fee). For more information contact: Jojanneke Jukes (0317 424056) or Marc Boncz (026 4450630)

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