Monday, June 29, 2009

Gene Stacks, Cassettes, and Artificial Chromosomes: Giving Plants New Abilities

Chromatin is in the business of transforming plants with "gene stacks", to make crops hardier and more productive. Sugar cane is the latest plant to experience transformative change from Chromatin's gene stacking technology.
Chromatin has developed a novel approach to gene stacking, using the plant’s own DNA to deliver several genes. Under this agreement, Syngenta has obtained exclusive rights to use Chromatin’s stacking technology for trait genes in all plants from the genus Saccharum which includes commercial sugar cane varieties as well as energy cane, and crosses between Saccharum and other plant species. Syngenta obtained non-exclusive rights for use of this stacking technology in corn and soybean in 2007.

“Sugar cane growers and processors will benefit economically and environmentally from access to a combination of advanced traits that this technology could make,” said Ian Jepson, Global R&D sugar cane crop lead. “This new stacking technology, combined with the advanced plant varieties, crop protection choices, and our revolutionary new Plene technology will ensure our customers will have the best solutions in sugar cane and will give us a leading position especially in the large Brazilian market.”

Sugar cane is among the top crops grown today for use in sugar production and biofuels. Syngenta offers a broad range of crop protection products for sugar cane growers and is developing a novel planting technology planned for launch in 2010 under the brand name Plene that will help reduce production costs. New trait combinations in sugar cane could offer growers additional improvements in production efficiency and yield increases. _BiofuelsDigest
The technology to transform a plant by introducing new "gene sets" is in its infancy. It will be a few years yet before new strains of sugar cane will have the ability to grow in cold, dry high deserts, or on subarctic tundra.

But researchers are already introducing new genes into maize plants which will facilitate the conversion of cellulose in stover to simple sugars, for fermentation into fuels and high value chemicals.

As Al Fin always says, it's not nice to bet against Mother Nature. She knows where you live.

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