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CropTalk: The Next Revolution in Plant Breeding

June 2022

Published on Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Gene Editing – the next revolution in plant breeding is underway! Although the ability for gene editing has been around for many years, recent advances in technology have democratized this tool. Fueled by this, many companies, from startups to established multinationals, are starting their edits. Our team at Beck’s is involved as well.

At a basic level, this technology is nothing more than a way to speed up plant breeding. The base pairs (biology 101 – A, T, C, G) are literally edited. A letter change, A to G, or the addition/removal of a a set of letters, to enhance the plant. What could take years through classical breeding efforts now can happen in a few short months. Such is the power of this technology that one of its developers recently received a Nobel Prize.

Targets for gene edits range from basic to quite complex. Clear targets would include disease resistance, nitrogen use efficiency, increased kernel rows, or drought tolerance. This technology can also be used to improve complex systems such as the photosynthetic pathway, allowing for more production of sugars which can then be stored in the grain. Any gene in the plant can be edited; the trick is to find the edits that give the desired outcome without negatively interfering with other plant systems. Extensive statistical effort on the front end, with significant testing on the finished product, ensure the most successful product in the field.

 

 

Beck’s is a player in this new arena. With our research focus on elite proprietary genetics, we are pairing with companies who are experts in the gene editing field. If this technology pans out, Beck’s is at the front of the market through our partners. Regardless, we will not lose our focus on breeding improved genetics as editing has the potential to revolutionize this breeding effort. Our relationship with one such partner, Inari, was recently announced. Beck’s genetics combined with Inari edits are currently in development, and our first view of the plants will be in Beck’s trials this summer.

Although not yet ready for commercialization, we will have a demo plot of Inari edits for seed size in soybeans. Seed size in soybeans accounts for 10% of yield. Even a small, stable change in seed size can dramatically improve yield. As this technology develops, expect to see announcements of the potential impact of this new technology.

 

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Tom Koch
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Tom Koch

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