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Milestone in salmon research: Genome fully sequenced

Fully sequencing the Atlantic salmon genome is a landmark achievement — and provides a wellspring of new opportunities for scientists and the aquaculture industry worldwide.

The detailed overview of the salmon’s genetic material provides the framework for new research and development that may solve many longstanding riddles.

“We now have the complete sequence of the Atlantic salmon genome, every letter and code.

This is a powerful tool for understanding the connection between the salmon’s genetic codes and its biology,” says Steinar Bergseth, Special Adviser at the Research Council of Norway.

As chair of the international project, Dr Bergseth made the genetic code public at a scientific conference in Vancouver, Canada, on 10 June 2014.

Help streamline the industry

The new knowledge will be useful in efforts to develop new vaccines, improve feeding and understand more about what happens when escaped farmed fish mix with their wild counterparts. Selective breeding of salmon will be more targeted and efficient.

In the longer term, the genomic knowledge will help to streamline the aquaculture industry while providing consumers with healthier farmed salmon, produced with as little environmental impact as possible.

Petter Arnesen, Breeding Director at the fish farming company Marine Harvest, agrees that 10 June is a milestone for anyone involved in aquaculture. Marine Harvest is one of the industrial partners in the genome project and has contributed to its funding.

Better breeding tools

“The sequence will make it possible to develop new, more effective selective breeding tools that will make us even better at choosing parent fish with desired traits for the next generation of salmon,” says Mr Arnesen.

“Enhanced knowledge about the genetic material allows us to utilise more of the genetic variation from within the stocks that farmed salmon are produced from. Furthermore, the sequence opens up new prospects for studying biological and physiological processes.”

Healthier fish

Mr Arnesen emphasises that selective breeding practices in no way involve gene modification, but rather are a means to finding the right individuals to select as parent fish — individuals that naturally have desired traits that producers want to pass on to coming generations of production salmon.

He is convinced that the salmon genome sequence will help to promote a healthier aquaculture industry.

“We are seeking to produce fish that are as healthy as possible,” continues Mr Arnesen, “and among other traits that entails better disease resistance. Salmon lice are currently our biggest challenge, along with other parasites and viruses.”

Solving environmental challenges

Using the salmon genome as a tool, salmon producers hope to raise fish that grow faster, which means less time spent at sea.

The sequence, he asserts, “is also going to play a major role in solving our environmental challenges, if we can for instance select for individuals that are more resistant to disease and parasites and that can adapt well to new feed types. For many consumers, environmental soundness is an integral part of product quality. The conscientious consumer will not buy salmon if its production is harmful to the environment.”

Fighting disease

Improved vaccines have eliminated most of the bacterial diseases that were causing substantial losses at fish farms into the 1990s. These vaccines, however, are not effective against viruses — so one solution is selecting parent fish with virus-resistant traits to use as broodstock for salmon egg production.

AquaGen is another industrial partner in the genome project that is looking forward to utilising the sequenced genome. A major supplier of salmon eggs, the company invests heavily in research and development.

One project that AquaGen started up in 2005 was a collaboration with the Centre for Integrative Genetics (CIGENE), at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, and the Norwegian Institute of Food, Fisheries and Aquaculture Research (Nofima) to make a precise map of the genetic markers that make certain salmon individuals resistant to the IPN (infectious pancreatic necrosis) virus.

Success

Over the years this virus has been the cause of major disease outbreaks at fish farms around the world, leading to significant economic losses. The research project has paid off.

“The IPN project has been a huge success,” says Nina Santi, head of R&D at AquaGen. “Since we started using eggs from fish with the desired traits, the number of IPN outbreaks in Norway has dropped from 200 per year to 50.”

Could have saved years of work

The project also illustrates the progress to be gained from knowing the complete salmon genome.

First step

“After the IPN markers were identified in 2007,” continues Dr Santi, “we have been working for seven years on mapping the mechanism for resistance to the IPN virus. Had we had access to the genome sequence now being made public, it would have saved us several years.”

She stresses that the sequence is only the first step.

“Now we know the genome of one individual, which the scientists named Sally, but we are more interested in understanding the variations between individuals. Our next step is to sequence different generations in order to find out, for example, which of them is most resistant to disease and exhibits good growth and red fillet colour.”

Extraordinary potential to create value

Survival rates just a few per cent higher translate into major earnings for the Norwegian aquaculture industry, where the annual turnover is NOK 45 billion (approximately 5,6 billion Euro/7,6 billion Dollars), according to Odd Magne Rødseth, Chairman of the Board at AquaGen.

“In the past 15 to 20 years,” Dr Rødseth explains, “viruses have been the primary cause of mortality. What we are seeing now is the result of better selective breeding programmes focused on disease resistance. Mortality has dropped four to five per cent for the latest year-class of salmon. This is due to what is in effect the elimination of IPN, thanks to practical application of new knowledge about the salmon genome. This increase in survival means an additional profit of NOK 2.6 billion (approximately 320 million Euro/440 million Dollars) .”

Now that the entire salmon genome has been sequenced and made available, Dr Rødseth is certain that it will become cheaper and faster to find other significant genes in the future.

“In the next three to five years,” he predicts, “we will probably be hearing more success stories like the IPN achievement.”

Complex genetic material

The international genome project has revealed the salmon’s genetic material as very complex.

Whereas most species (including humans) have two copies of each chromosome, salmon have four, which posed special challenges during the already painstaking work of sequencing.

The five-year project is the largest research collaboration ever carried out between the salmon-producing countries of Canada, Chile and Norway. The sequence is now being made available to the global research community and industry alike.

“This will strengthen salmon-related research in many fields, from physiology and genetics to nutrition and reproduction,” says Kjell Maroni of the Norwegian Seafood Research Fund (FHF). “It will also open up more possibilities for international cooperation, which will benefit the entire aquaculture industry.”

Researchers and industry involved with other salmonids such as rainbow trout, char and Pacific salmon will also find useful applications for this new tool.

Continued international work

Participants at the 10 June conference in Canada will be discussing possibilities for continued international collaboration based on the reference sequence.

Countries other than Norway, Canada and Chile are also invited to take part.

“These efforts, if successful, will yield great returns in the form of future understanding of salmonids and their environment,” says Dr Bergseth, emphasising how crucial it is to use the sequence now that it has been obtained:

“Now we have a new textbook at our disposal, but it won’t help if we don’t consult it. Salmon is Norway’s most important production animal, and we have invested a great deal in the genome project. Now we need to continue to invest in R&D to translate that knowledge into products of value.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Milestone in salmon research: Genome fully sequenced

Fully sequencing the Atlantic salmon genome is a landmark achievement — and provides a wellspring of new opportunities for scientists and the aquaculture industry worldwide.

The detailed overview of the salmon’s genetic material provides the framework for new research and development that may solve many longstanding riddles.

“We now have the complete sequence of the Atlantic salmon genome, every letter and code.

This is a powerful tool for understanding the connection between the salmon’s genetic codes and its biology,” says Steinar Bergseth, Special Adviser at the Research Council of Norway.

As chair of the international project, Dr Bergseth made the genetic code public at a scientific conference in Vancouver, Canada, on 10 June 2014.

Help streamline the industry

The new knowledge will be useful in efforts to develop new vaccines, improve feeding and understand more about what happens when escaped farmed fish mix with their wild counterparts. Selective breeding of salmon will be more targeted and efficient.

In the longer term, the genomic knowledge will help to streamline the aquaculture industry while providing consumers with healthier farmed salmon, produced with as little environmental impact as possible.

Petter Arnesen, Breeding Director at the fish farming company Marine Harvest, agrees that 10 June is a milestone for anyone involved in aquaculture. Marine Harvest is one of the industrial partners in the genome project and has contributed to its funding.

Better breeding tools

“The sequence will make it possible to develop new, more effective selective breeding tools that will make us even better at choosing parent fish with desired traits for the next generation of salmon,” says Mr Arnesen.

“Enhanced knowledge about the genetic material allows us to utilise more of the genetic variation from within the stocks that farmed salmon are produced from. Furthermore, the sequence opens up new prospects for studying biological and physiological processes.”

Healthier fish

Mr Arnesen emphasises that selective breeding practices in no way involve gene modification, but rather are a means to finding the right individuals to select as parent fish — individuals that naturally have desired traits that producers want to pass on to coming generations of production salmon.

He is convinced that the salmon genome sequence will help to promote a healthier aquaculture industry.

“We are seeking to produce fish that are as healthy as possible,” continues Mr Arnesen, “and among other traits that entails better disease resistance. Salmon lice are currently our biggest challenge, along with other parasites and viruses.”

Solving environmental challenges

Using the salmon genome as a tool, salmon producers hope to raise fish that grow faster, which means less time spent at sea.

The sequence, he asserts, “is also going to play a major role in solving our environmental challenges, if we can for instance select for individuals that are more resistant to disease and parasites and that can adapt well to new feed types. For many consumers, environmental soundness is an integral part of product quality. The conscientious consumer will not buy salmon if its production is harmful to the environment.”

Fighting disease

Improved vaccines have eliminated most of the bacterial diseases that were causing substantial losses at fish farms into the 1990s. These vaccines, however, are not effective against viruses — so one solution is selecting parent fish with virus-resistant traits to use as broodstock for salmon egg production.

AquaGen is another industrial partner in the genome project that is looking forward to utilising the sequenced genome. A major supplier of salmon eggs, the company invests heavily in research and development.

One project that AquaGen started up in 2005 was a collaboration with the Centre for Integrative Genetics (CIGENE), at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, and the Norwegian Institute of Food, Fisheries and Aquaculture Research (Nofima) to make a precise map of the genetic markers that make certain salmon individuals resistant to the IPN (infectious pancreatic necrosis) virus.

Success

Over the years this virus has been the cause of major disease outbreaks at fish farms around the world, leading to significant economic losses. The research project has paid off.

“The IPN project has been a huge success,” says Nina Santi, head of R&D at AquaGen. “Since we started using eggs from fish with the desired traits, the number of IPN outbreaks in Norway has dropped from 200 per year to 50.”

Could have saved years of work

The project also illustrates the progress to be gained from knowing the complete salmon genome.

First step

“After the IPN markers were identified in 2007,” continues Dr Santi, “we have been working for seven years on mapping the mechanism for resistance to the IPN virus. Had we had access to the genome sequence now being made public, it would have saved us several years.”

She stresses that the sequence is only the first step.

“Now we know the genome of one individual, which the scientists named Sally, but we are more interested in understanding the variations between individuals. Our next step is to sequence different generations in order to find out, for example, which of them is most resistant to disease and exhibits good growth and red fillet colour.”

Extraordinary potential to create value

Survival rates just a few per cent higher translate into major earnings for the Norwegian aquaculture industry, where the annual turnover is NOK 45 billion (approximately 5,6 billion Euro/7,6 billion Dollars), according to Odd Magne Rødseth, Chairman of the Board at AquaGen.

“In the past 15 to 20 years,” Dr Rødseth explains, “viruses have been the primary cause of mortality. What we are seeing now is the result of better selective breeding programmes focused on disease resistance. Mortality has dropped four to five per cent for the latest year-class of salmon. This is due to what is in effect the elimination of IPN, thanks to practical application of new knowledge about the salmon genome. This increase in survival means an additional profit of NOK 2.6 billion (approximately 320 million Euro/440 million Dollars) .”

Now that the entire salmon genome has been sequenced and made available, Dr Rødseth is certain that it will become cheaper and faster to find other significant genes in the future.

“In the next three to five years,” he predicts, “we will probably be hearing more success stories like the IPN achievement.”

Complex genetic material

The international genome project has revealed the salmon’s genetic material as very complex.

Whereas most species (including humans) have two copies of each chromosome, salmon have four, which posed special challenges during the already painstaking work of sequencing.

The five-year project is the largest research collaboration ever carried out between the salmon-producing countries of Canada, Chile and Norway. The sequence is now being made available to the global research community and industry alike.

“This will strengthen salmon-related research in many fields, from physiology and genetics to nutrition and reproduction,” says Kjell Maroni of the Norwegian Seafood Research Fund (FHF). “It will also open up more possibilities for international cooperation, which will benefit the entire aquaculture industry.”

Researchers and industry involved with other salmonids such as rainbow trout, char and Pacific salmon will also find useful applications for this new tool.

Continued international work

Participants at the 10 June conference in Canada will be discussing possibilities for continued international collaboration based on the reference sequence.

Countries other than Norway, Canada and Chile are also invited to take part.

“These efforts, if successful, will yield great returns in the form of future understanding of salmonids and their environment,” says Dr Bergseth, emphasising how crucial it is to use the sequence now that it has been obtained:

“Now we have a new textbook at our disposal, but it won’t help if we don’t consult it. Salmon is Norway’s most important production animal, and we have invested a great deal in the genome project. Now we need to continue to invest in R&D to translate that knowledge into products of value.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Envy apples reach volume milestone

The latest apple from Enza has a following any new fruit would Envy. The aptly named apple will surpass the 100,000-carton mark out of Washington this season for the first time ever, as growers endeavor to feed the demand that continues to outpace supply.

Trial volumes of Envy apples from New Zealand were introduced in North America by The Oppenheimer Group in 2009, but it wasn’t until 2012 that Enza harvested the first small commercial volumes in Washington state. Envy2lbUS-front lrgGrown for this market in New Zealand, Chile and Washington, consumers will soon have access to bright red, sweet, crisp Envy year-round. Meanwhile, Enza and Oppy are preparing for the anticipated 2 million cartons that will be harvested in Washington by 2020 by laying some important groundwork now.

“We’re in the midst of extensive consumer research into attitudes and purchasing behavior surrounding premium apples,” said David Nelley, apple and pear category director for The Oppenheimer Group. “We’re seeking key learnings that will enable us to design campaigns based on sound research. The goal is to sustain Envy’s return to the grower and sales velocity at retail as its volume grows.”

Indicators thus far are promising. “Faithful following and meaningful conversations over social media have been part of Envy’s character since the beginning. Even while distribution has been limited by our modest volumes, people constantly comment on the intense flavor of the apple and want to know where they can find it,” Nelley said. “If an apple is your go-to snack of the day, you want to make it really tasty. What is really telling, however, is that Envy is the favorite apple of several retail buyers.”

He noted that pricing is several dollars per box ahead of last year despite the uptick in volume, and the apple is performing beautifully in a range of channels, from club, to large-format national retail, to gourmet niche. Envy is also in high demand for exports to Asia.

“Envy was bred specifically with the attributes of sweetness, intense flavor and crispness. As luck has it, it wants to grow large, red and is very slow to brown when sliced. This variety has a lot of good things going for it,” Nelley said.

Another export sweetheart for Enza and Oppy during the Washington season is Pacific Rose. The large, pink, crisp-sweet apple is currently shipping overseas at high rates to meet Chinese New Year orders. However, in the last few seasons it has also been successfully re-established with domestic retail, Nelley said. Organic Pacific Rose is already sold out for the season.

Rounding out the Enza threesome from Washington is JAZZ, which is also enjoying excellent demand, particularly for size 100 and larger fruit, according to Nelley,

“The year’s crop is predominantly smaller-sized apples,” he said. “This gave us the opportunity to bring our two-pound ‘pouch’ bags to the forefront of our marketing efforts. It’s a vehicle that worked very well for our cherry program, so we are translating ‘grab and go’ success to apples.”

While continuing to strategically market the domestic program, Oppy, the exclusive marketer of imported JAZZ apples, is actively planning for the New Zealand season, which begins in May.

“While there was a little hail in Hawke’s Bay before Christmas, the subsequent weather pattern in the growing regions is helping to tee up an excellent fresh crop,” Nelley said. “We were able to translate a very strong 2013 New Zealand JAZZ season, which is predominantly large-sizing, into a solid Washington campaign. We are now setting up the transition into fresh crop in May, as JAZZ is now among the top 10 preferred apples at retail and continues to grow in gross sales.”

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

Railex hits milestone, set to open new Florida facility

NEW ORLEANS — Railex, which operates weekly unit trains that offer express five-day coast-to-coast service, recently shipped its 1,000th eastbound train and is celebrating its seventh year in business, according to Paul Esposito, executive vice president of network planning and government relations.

Esposito said that 1,000 trains is the equivalent of 142,000 truckloads, and the use of Railex’s service helped save over 63 million gallons of diesel fuel and prevented more than 1.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from being pumped into the atmosphere.

“It’s a tremendous savings on the environment,” he told The Produce News.

Esposito and other Railex officials were on hand at the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit convention, here, to promote the planned opening of its new facility in Jacksonville, FL, which is expected to be operational by May or June.

Railex identified the location in Jacksonville in September 2012, said Esposito, and the company has been going through the permitting and scheduling process for the past year, he said.

“It’s really an ideal location,” said Esposito. “It is on Phillips Avenue at the junction of FEC Railroad, which provides easy accessibility and gives us a rail option to South Florida as well as increases our distribution radius.”

Railex began operating in 2006 with service between its headquarters in the Albany, NY, area and a facility in Wallula, WA. In 2008, it added a facility in Delano, CA. The Jacksonville facility is its fourth and will facilitate express shipments to all major Southeast markets, including Atlanta and Miami.

Each of the four facilities offers refrigerated storage space with distinct custom temperature zones that enables it to properly handle the various perishable products, such as produce, seafood, wine, nursery and frozen items.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines