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Pioneer says 'gene shuffling' is key to next generation seeds

Agriculture.com Staff 01/06/2006 @ 10:33am

Researchers at Pioneer Hi-Bred International say they are developing the next generation of herbicide resistant seed using "gene shuffling" technology. The new technology offers an alternative to current glyphosate-resistant technology, and could introduce a range of desirable traits to Pioneer seed, the company says.

Gene shuffling is based on the principle of transforming genes with poor trait properties into genes with high value. The sophisticated process begins with identifying genes with potentially valuable traits - glyphosate tolerance for example.

Company researchers initially found a few genes with a weak enzyme that inactivated glyphosate. Through a repetitive process similar to traditional plant breeding, researchers began to improve this trait. Finally, at about a 2,000-fold improvement level, they had a gene that provided plants with a sufficient level of herbicide resistance.

This improved gene is being incorporated into Pioneer elite germplasm for further testing. Although commercial introduction is several years away, the technology will offer a number of benefits for growers using glyphosate-resistant production systems, Pioneer says.

"The introduction of this proprietary glyphosate-resistant trait will give growers expanded options to choose among the glyphosate-resistant traits," Linda Castle, research coordinator at the Pioneer Research campus in Redwood City, California, said in a company release.

"It will allow companies like Pioneer to offer expanded choices, including stacked traits, to growers in a variety of different seed products. The glyphosate-resistant trait will be stacked with sulfonylurea herbicide resistance to provide additional options for sound weed resistance management and to fill key weed gaps," she said.

Gene-shuffling technology may lead to a wider application window and greater range of rates, which will give growers more application flexibility without having to change their management programs, Pioneer says.

"Growers experienced with glyphosate-resistant crops should see a seamless transition in management practices when changing to the glyphosate-resistant trait," says Castle. "In addition, they will be able to apply one or a custom blend of DuPont sulfonylurea herbicides over the top of the crop for added weed control and resistance-management options."

The new technology can be applied to any crop, the company says.

"(It) should help Pioneer identify and develop a number of next-generation traits to help plants survive and perform better against agronomic and environmental stresses, including numerous diseases, plant pests and drought," says Castle.

Researchers at Pioneer Hi-Bred International say they are developing the next generation of herbicide resistant seed using "gene shuffling" technology. The new technology offers an alternative to current glyphosate-resistant technology, and could introduce a range of desirable traits to Pioneer seed, the company says.

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