Plant Breeding & Genetics

Gene Editing

The Technology

Gene editing is a group of technologies that allow genetic material to be added, removed or altered at very specific locations in the organism’s DNA. The technology has been used to improve crop yield, drought tolerance and nutritional properties.

How it works

An exciting recent technology is called CRISPR-Cas9 (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats and CRISPR-associated protein 9) which is faster, cheaper, more accurate and more efficient than any other gene editing method. In simple terms CRISPR-Cas9 inserts a cut or break in the target DNA and tricks the cells natural DNA repair mechanisms to fill the break with a prescribed DNA template. The aim is to improve yield characteristics of important crop plants such as cereals.

Although cereals are much more difficult to work with in the lab than dicots because of their tough cell wall, Syngenta-funded researchers have developed a CRISPR-carrying corn pollen system known as HI-Editâ„¢ which is able to edit wheat DNA by a process called haploid induction.

Farmer / Agronomist Benefits

CRISPR technology is hoped to introduce gene edits that will increase crop yield, introducing resistance to disease and pests and tolerance of different environmental conditions. Subtle modifications to the grain or oil quality could lead to advances in industrial biotechnology i.e. biofuels, producing chemicals, materials and pharmaceuticals from wheat and OSR.

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