Avian Influenza remains the most important threat of poultry production worldwide. After disastrous outbreaks in the US in 2014/15, Europe was hit in 2016 by a modified type of HPAI virus. Franz J. Conrads describes the dynamics of the recent problem in Europe and measures in Germany to minimize the spread of the disease. We will continue to provide up-to-date information on the development of HPAI.
While focusing on serious problems of the present time, we should not forget historical aspects of natural sciences without which the development of efficient plant and animal production and food security for a growing world population would have been impossible.
The introductory article of Gottfried Brem recalls the publication of “Mendel`s laws” 150 years ago. The history of Mendel`s research reflects the problems of scientists who trespass frontiers of established theories. Resistance against new developments in genetics and the application in animal and plant breeding persists especially in Western societies, and some creationists even deny the principles of evolution.
As reported in the article of Kay-Uwe Götz and Malena Erbe, genomic information from large volumes of data in different countries is being used to assure that regional producers can keep up with global progress in the efficiency of meat and milk production, taking into account regional production conditions and preferences.
Feather pecking and cannibalism are a major issue in poultry production, especially in countries where beak treatment is no longer permitted. Jörn Bennewitz and co-authors review motivations of feather pecking and relationships with other behaviors. This information is important for genomic studies on feather pecking.
Wiebke Icken and co-authors studied the question to what extent beak shape varies and may be changed by selection. Beak shape can be measured in large flocks of pedigreed hens, and genetic changes may help in the long run to lower the risk of feather pecking. The control of feather pecking in commercial poultry flocks will remain a challenge.
Double-yolk eggs in chickens are rare and only of interest for niche markets. They are commonly observed at the beginning of the laying period, and the frequency depends on lighting programs during sexual maturation. Dietmar Flock and co-authors review earlier work and add new information from commercial white-egg and brown-egg layers.