Sclerotinia resistant genetics for non-GM canola crop

Cibus field trials indicate the company has successfully used its gene-editing technology to create a sclerotinia resistant canola trait.  |  Cibus photo

Cibus has developed what it hopes is significant resistance to the disease using its own tools to add the genes

North of San Diego in the Cibus gene-editing facility, excitement is brewing within the 120-person-strong research team.

Cibus edits the genes of commercial food crops and it just hit another milestone.

Field trials confirmed greenhouse trial results of a new canola trait that’s sclerotinia resistant.

Cibus is an independent trait developer that focuses on disease resistance, herbicide tolerance and nitrogen-use efficiency in canola, rice, corn, wheat and soybeans.

Peter Beetham, president and chief executive officer at Cibus, said the rapid-rate-development system the company uses is a family of technologies that enables it to edit genes yet keep the crops’ non-GM designation.

“Fundamentally, what we do is we make a spelling change in a gene and so by doing that we use the natural processes in cells of plants and then bring those cells back to a whole plant. We then take it to the greenhouse and it enters into a normal plant-breeding program,” Beetham said.

He said the outcomes are indistinguishable from what can occur in nature, and very similar to what occurs in a traditional breeding program.

However, the new phenotype this process creates provides plant breeders and seed companies quick access to coveted traits that take much longer to get into commercial varieties when using traditional breeding techniques.

Beetham said the initial introductions of this sclerotinia-resistance gene will reduce the amount of fungicide farmers need to apply.

“It won’t do it completely but we think by the time we get to the next generation product, we could maybe eradicate the use of fungicide for sclerotinia or white mould completely,”

He said the new trait is scheduled to undergo more trials this year as they work toward its registration in Canada. It is expected to take about four years until seed companies integrate this gene into their commercial canola varieties in Canada.

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