Our monthly newsletter features a variety of information, highlighting
current domestic and international issues concerning bioresources.

BioResource Newsletter  Vol.4 No.9

 Information on
     Resource-related EventsF


 Hot News from Abroad

EInvestigation of Wheat Genetic in Resources
  "Azerbaijan" and "Armenia"




  "Azerbaijan": Kazuhiro Sato (Okayama Univ.)
  "Armenia": Hisashi Tsujimoto (Tottori Univ.)

 Ongoing Column No.35:

E"Link Evaluator": A Firefox Add on



Download the PDF version of this newsletter at


Bioresources information is available at the following URLs

NBRP http://www.nbrp.jp/index.jsp
SHIGEN  http://www.shigen.nig.ac.jp/
WGR http://www.shigen.nig.ac.jp/wgr/
JGR http://www.shigen.nig.ac.jp/wgr/jgr/jgrUrlList.jsp

  Information on Resource-related Events

 BMB2008 (Joint Meeting of the 31st Annual Meeting of the Molecular
    Biology Society of Japan & the 81st Annual Meeting of the Japanese
    Biochemical Society)

   "Exhibitions of the National Bioresource Project (NBRP) are scheduled."
     Date: Tuesday, December 9, to Friday, December 12, 2008
     Place: Kobe Port Island

Details are available at: http://www.nbrp.jp/


  Hot News from Abroad  No.23


 Investigation of Wheat Genetic Resources in
      Azerbaijan and Armenia

   "Azerbaijan":  Kazuhiro SATO, Associate Professor
    (Research Institute for Bioresources, Okayama University)
   "Armenia": Hisashi TSUJIMOTO, Professor
    (Faculty of Agriculture, Tottori University)




   The region that lies between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea is known as Caucasus. The Caucasus Mountains are over 5,000 m high and span the middle of the region from east to west. The southern side is known as the Trans-Caucasus region. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, which lie in this region (from west to east), attained independence, although territorial skirmishes continue even to date (Fig. 1). The region is close to the place of origin of wheat and barley, because of which highly mutated families of wheat are presumably cultivated here even now. Studying the wheat cultivars grown in this region was difficult when these countries were under the Soviet regime. From June to July, 2008, we investigated the genetic resources of wheat strains in Armenia and Azerbaijan in collaboration with the Vavilov Research Institute of Plant Industry in Russia (VIR), with support from a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (representative: Kazuyoshi Takeda, Professor, Okayama University). Since these countries had been involved in territorial disputes until recently, separate teams were organized for the investigation.

            Greater Caucasus

Fig. 1: Map of the Trans-Caucasus region



center "Azerbaijan":  Kazuhiro SATO, Associate Professor
       (Research Institute for Bioresources, Okayama University)

   Azerbaijan lies at the edge of the region in which barley and wheat originated; therefore, ancestral strains of wheat are cultivated here, and it is an important region from the viewpoint of a genetic resource study. The region is bordered by the Caspian Sea in the east, the Greater Caucasus Mountains in the north, and the Lesser Caucasus Mountains in the west. The altitude varies greatly, from -28 to 4,485 m; 18% of the country lies below sea level, and the annual precipitation in the low-altitude area varies from 150 to 200 mm. Therefore, the region is extremely arid, and irrigation is necessary for agriculture. On the other hand, the region at the base of the Caucasus Mountains is a high-altitude area of cropland covered with greenery, and the annual precipitation ranges from 1,600 to 1,700 mm. The Silk Road connecting China and Georgia passes through Azerbaijan and, therefore, trade in this country has been flourishing for long. Recently, because of the discovery of oilfields in the Caspian Sea, the capital Baku is prospering with an unprecedented inflow of oil money, and this city has become a massive construction field, with numerous ongoing constructions.
   The research group is comprised of Hiroyuki Tanaka, an associate professor from the Faculty of Agriculture, Tottori University, and I from Japan, 2 specialists from VIR and 2 researchers and a driver from Azerbaijan. We traveled by road and collected barley and wheat strains for 10 days from June 28 to July 7, focusing on the northern region of the country, which is approximately one-fifth the size of Japan. We collected approximately 300 samples including a variety of cultivated and related species of barley and wheat at a total of 68 locations where the altitude varies from -24 to 951 m. The specialists from VIR and researchers from Azerbaijan contributed greatly to the sample collection. Thanks to the full support from VIR, we were allowed to carry all the samples out of the country and even distribute them to other researchers and research institutes. The diversity of the indigenous strains of cultivated wheat is small because of the influence of the Soviet style of extensive farming; however, as researchers of wheat families, we were highly impressed by the widespread distribution of barley and wheat species including Hordeum spontaneum, a subspecies of ancestral wild-type barley; Hordeum bulbosum, a perennial and self-incompatible species harboring bulbs; and Aegilops tauschii, a species carrying the D genome of wheat.
   In contrast to Armenia, which is largely Christian, its neighboring country Azerbaijan is an Islamist country that has strong ties with Iran, a country with which it shares both ethnic and cultural borders. However, the religious laws are slightly relaxed in Azerbaijan, and every night, we drank vodka in Russian style. The staple food of Azerbaijan is a slightly stiff, flat bread made from bread wheat, whereas the bread baked by sticking it on the inside of a tandoor (an open clay oven) was made from macaroni (durum) wheat. The locals have cultivated diverse species of wheat over the last several thousand years. We greatly appreciate that they kindly shared these wheat and their ancestral strains with us. The local people are very friendly, and they bade us a fond farewell when we left. Our aim when we set out to Azerbaijan, i.e., sample collection for academic purposes, was successfully accomplished.


Dr. Sato
Picture taken in front of a wheat field, with the scenic Greater Caucasus Mountains at the back. (Dr. Sato is the third from the right)


Bread made from macaroni (durum)
wheat baked in a tandoor (clay oven)


center  "Armenia":  Hisashi TSUJIMOTO, Professor
       (Faculty of Agriculture, Tottori University)

   Armenia lies in the mid-southern region of the Trans-Caucasus region; it occupies 29,800 km², and most of the country is covered by mountains. Armenia shares borders with Georgia and Azerbaijan in the north and Turkey and Iran in the south; an enclave of Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh, an unapproved country (former autonomous region), also exists. Accordingly, Armenia is a politically complex country. Moreover, most of the population of 3.21 million comprises Christian Armenians, who use their own alphabets . Hence, Armenia is an unusual country, considering that all its neighbors except Georgia are Islamic.B
   The research team included Hidetaka Nishida, assistant professor, Faculty of Agriculture, Okayama University; 2 researchers from VIR; and wheat researchers from Armenia. We were based in the capital Yerevan and Ashtarak, and we went out on several day trips to conduct the investigation. Since the southern region of the Ararat basin is extremely arid in summer, the autumn-sown wheat and barley cultivated here require irrigation. In contrast, the northern and eastern regions are highlands, where we observed grazing and spring-sown wheat and barley cultivation. Scheduling a visit according to the harvest seasons is important when investigating genetic resources of wheat varieties. This time, the harvest season and our research schedule matched perfectly and, therefore, we could collect a variety of species of wheat, barley, rye, and related wild-type species (Fig. 2). However, we could not collect the seeds of the wheat species in the mountainous region because most of the plants here were still before or in blossom.
   We collected the seeds of bread wheat, Emmer wheat (cultivated); Armenian wheat (wild type); wild-type einkorn wheat, which belong to the genus Aegilops (4 species); barley of the genus Hordeum; its direct ancestral wild-type subspecies H. spontaneum; and Secale (3 species). We collected 180 items in total; however, some seeds were immature and needed to be grown to maturity for use as genetic resources in research.
   Below, we list some of our observations during this investigation. First, wild-type wheat species related to cultivated wheat and barley, such as Armenian wheat, wild-type einkorn wheat, and wild-type subspecies of barley, were poorly distributed, though this observation differed from what was previously reported by Armenian researchers. These wild-type wheat species share their optimal growth area with the cultivated wheat and barley species; therefore, niches of these wild-type species have been deprived by cultivated species as a result of cultivation. In particular, the deterioration of social conditions has apparently resulted in the loss of the land on which wild-type species grew. Second, only a few indigenous strains of bread wheat remain, and they are mostly species cultivated in the former Soviet era. Forced supervision of agricultural practices and the introduction of irrigation during the Soviet era probably led to the extinction of the indigenous strains, which were suitable for traditional cultivation. In some extremely arid and non-irrigated fields, the cultivation of indigenous Emmer wheat was observed. This strain is a crucial genetic resource for research on drought resistance. Furthermore, we found the ecology of a wild-type rye interesting. While examining the rye plants growing in wheat fields, we found that the ears of only some plants had dropped. We inferred that rye adopts 2 survival strategies: self-replication as a weed and replication by cultivation with wheat. Domestication of wild-type rye in this area is still under progress.
    Niche: Environmental factors in a certain area exploited by a species



Fig. 2: Scenery in Armenia
Mt. Ararat can be seen in the distance (5,165 m; Turkey) ; Noahfs ark is believed to have drifted here.
Many varieties of wild-type wheat plants grow in the arid area in the front of the mountains.

In front of a wheat field ;
photograph taken by Hidetaka Nishida.
(Dr. Tsujimoto is on the far left)


  Ongoing Column No. 35

   "Link Evaluator": A Firefox Add-on

   Have you ever encountered broken links on your website? If your website has many links, then it will be difficult to click on each of them and check that they are not broken. I am introducing "Link Evaluator", a Firefox extension that helps users determine if there are any broken links on the webpage that they are viewing. In order to use "Link Evaluator," you must first install Firefox.



  Let's install "Link Evaluator" !

   "Link Evaluator" is compatible with Mozilla Firefox version 1.5 or more advanced versions. If Firefox version 3 is installed on your computer, "Link Evaluator" can be installed by following these steps.

@ Go to your browser's "Tools" menu and select "Add-ons".
A In the "Add-ons" window, select "Get Add-ons", type "Link Evaluator" in the textbox and press Enter.
B Select "Link Evaluator" from the list of add-ons and click the "add to Firefox" button.
C Install the software by clicking "Install now".
D Once the installation has completed, restart Firefox by clicking on the "Restart Firefox" button which will appear in the Add-ons window.



  Let's use "Link Evaluator" !

   I will use the "Link Evaluator Examples" webpage as an example.

@ Open the website that you want check for broken links with Firefox.
A Go to your browser's "Tools" menu, select "Link Evaluator", and then select "Evaluate Links" from the sub-menu iFig. 1j.
B Each link will be checked. Valid links will be highlighted in green, broken links or links with authentication failure will be highlighted in red and timed-out links in orange (Fig. 2). Since "Link Evaluator" will check all the links on a webpage, you should be careful with web pages that have pay per click ads.

 Pay per click advertising : Ads are displayed for free and advertisers only pay when a user actually clicks on the ad.

Fig. 1: Screen showing the   
      view during application

Fig. 2: Screen showing the results

(Yuka TAKAHASHI, Genetic Informatics Laboratory, Center for Genetic Resource Information)  

Editor's NoteF  It is surprising that such rich diverse wheat genetic resources can be found in the Caucasus region where warning is occasionally issued for visitors. We are so accustomed to the plentiful crop provided by an improved homogeneous species that this different kind of richness overwhelms us. It must be due to the trusting relationship between the researchers that the collected plants were allowed to be carried out of the country and redistributed. (Y.Y.)

Contact AddressF
1111 Yata, Mishima-shi, Shizuoka 411-8540, Japan
Center for Genetic Resource Information, National Institute of Genetics
Tel: 055-981-6885 (Yamazaki)@
E-mail brnews@chanko.lab.nig.ac.jp

"translated by ASL translation service and proofread by Sharoh Yip"