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Agricultural Biotechnology

Excellence in Breeding: developing breeding programs in Africa and South Asia

Kelly Robbins is Assistant Professor at Cornell University. He started his career in animal breeding and later went on to work as a quantitative geneticist at a large private seed company. We spoke to him ahead of his presentation at the 7th Plant Genomics and Gene Editing Congress: USA.

I came to Cornell University as director of a large project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation called the Genomic Open-Source Breeding Informatics Initiative (GOBII for short).

With the cost of sequencing rapidly declining, it seems inevitable that routine of genomic information in breeding programs in Africa and South Asia will become more prevalent. However, there are certain capabilities, tools, and technologies that need to be in place to be able to exploit this type of information effectively and use it to drive higher rates of genetic gains.

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Improving crop production through understanding the soil microbiome

Sarah Strauss is a soil microbial ecologist at the University of Florida. Her interests lie in understanding the interactions between soil microbes and crops, with the hope that improved understanding will benefit crop production.

We spoke to her about her work ahead of her presentation at the 4th Partnerships in Biocontrol, Biostimulants & Microbiome Congress: USA.

The interactions between soil microbes and plants are still very much uncharted territory, which makes it an exciting area of study. This is especially the case for the interactions between soil microbes and crops in agricultural systems. For example, we know that there are bacteria and fungi that can influence plant growth or soil nutrient availability, but most of those studies have been done with only a few plant species or under very specific growing conditions. Much of my research is looking at what interactions are occurring between specific crops in field conditions – and how those interactions might differ based on specific conditions or crops in a farmer’s field.

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The Plant Genomics and Gene Editing Congress Presentation Slides

Following the Plant Genomics and Gene Editing Congress: Europe, we have made the following presentation slides from Ana Atanassova, Ian Bancroft, Nigel Halford and Kim Hammond-Kossack available.

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Enhancing Photosynthesis: a Big Deal

The PhotoSeed Technology

Enhancing photosynthesis is a critical step to increasing crop yields. This complex 156 step biochemical process has been the subject of many studies in multiple crops. While some step wise gains have been made, the true potential for increasing photosynthesis has not been realized potentially due to the negative feedback mechanisms that exist within plants to regulate this process.

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Positive Regulatory Developments for the U.S. Ag Tech Industry

2019 may prove to be propitious in terms of meaningful improvements to the regulatory strictures facing agricultural biotech and biologically based products.

In a move that will hopefully lead to positive changes in the regulatory situation facing ag biotech products, on June 11, 2019, President Trump signed an Executive Order directing the heads of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take specific steps to streamline and improve the regulatory processes applicable to the products of agricultural biotechnology.

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A global perspective on the developments in biotech regulations

The ECJ ruling on GMOs has raised pertinent issues. How will it impact on current and future research? What are the optimum routes to progressing plant research?

In light of the ruling, it was a good time to welcome experts in policy and regulatory affairs to the recent 7th Plant Genomics & Gene Editing Congress: Europe to explore these issues. We’re lucky to be able to share this presentation from the event for those that weren’t able to make it. Watch it here.

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Assessment of the European Court of Justice ruling on gene editing for crop improvement

Anyone involved in the field of agriculture and biotechnology would have been unable to ignore the ECJ ruling on case C-528/16 in July 2018. The ruling confirmed that all plants obtained by any form of mutagenesis are GMOs as defined by Directive (EC) no. 2001/18 and rejected an annulment of mutagenesis exemption (Annex IB of Directive 2001/18. With significant ramifications across the industry, the ECJ stance on gene edited crops and GMOs was a major focus of the 7th Plant Genomics & Gene Editing Congress: Europe.

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A novel fungal endophyte confers fitness benefits to crops

Researchers at the Polytechnic University of Madrid (UPM) in Spain, in collaboration with scientists with PlantResponse Biotech, S.L., are conducting research on a novel fungal endophyte that confers crop fitness benefits, particularly in alkaline soils.

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