Bayer hails milestone in wheat research

by Josh Sosland
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MONHEIM, GERMANY — Bayer Crop Science said Sept. 26 it is making great progress in a high tech collaboration looking to pave the way for the introduction of desirable traits in wheat.

According to Bayer, it has reached a milestone with Israel-based Evogene Ltd. in a joint research collaboration. Using Evogene technology, more than 200,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms have been identified across the wheat genome. S.N.P.s “are single-nucleotide substitutions of one base in the genome and a powerful type of molecular marker for traits improvement,” Bayer said.

Noting that the wheat genome is five times larger than the human genome, Bayer said this complexity creates a major hurdle for wheat breeders looking to improve wheat quality.

“The identification of a significant number of S.N.P. markers improves the overall understanding of the wheat genome, and therefore facilitates the utilization of this knowledge to deliver desirable improvements in wheat,” Bayer said.

Bayer’s collaboration with Evogene was established last December. Bayer said the five-year pact is “aimed at accelerating the development and introduction of improved wheat varieties. The collaboration is focusing on improving wheat yield, drought tolerance and fertilizer use efficiency.”

Elaborating on the work, Bayer said Evogene's proprietary assembly tools and algorithms for S.N.P. identification, designed specifically for the wheat genome, were used in the research. The dataset was obtained from a broad collection of wheat lines from multiple locations worldwide.

“We want to improve wheat to tackle issues like climate change and the decline of mineral resources used for fertilizer,” said Mathias Kremer, head of the bioscience business group of Bayer CropScience. “This research milestone is an important step toward that goal, and will enable Bayer CropScience to deliver improved wheat varieties to growers sooner.”

Based in Rehovot near Tel Aviv, Evogene is focused on developing improved traits across a range of crops. The company focuses on utilizing proprietary computational genomic technologies for breeding, both bioengineered and advanced breeding technologies.

“We are very proud of this technological breakthrough, which we achieved in a relatively short period,” said Ofer Haviv, president and chief executive officer. “The identification of the S.N.P.s is a key to enhancing native traits utilizing genomics-guided, efficient and precise breeding tools. Our newly-discovered S.N.P. dataset significantly expands our understanding of the wheat genome, which we anticipate will facilitate our joint work with Bayer CropScience to introduce improved wheat varieties.”

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