Wheat boosting phosphorus availability gets patent

by Laura Lloyd
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HIGHPHY wheat
 HIGHPHY wheat has shown increased activity of the enzyme phytase.

AARHUS, DENMARK — A new type of wheat that boosts farm animals’ availability and absorption of phosphorus and other important minerals has been patented by scientists from Aarhus University’s department of molecular biology and genetics, in cooperation with Bioscience Ltd. in the United Kingdom.

Among the benefits scientists see in the new variety of wheat is help overcoming iron and zinc deficiencies in large populations of the developing world and offering organic farmers, who aren’t allowed to add enzymes to their feed, the ability to deliver benefits of phosphorus to their animals through their regular diet. The health and growth of animals can be compromised if they don’t utilize phosphorous well, and the surplus that can’t be digested is excreted into the environment.

The name of the new wheat is HIGHPHY. Using ordinary breeding techniques, it has shown increased activity of the enzyme phytase, which may lead to enhanced ability to release phosphorus available in animal feed. A recent study at Aarhus University indicated the HIGHPHY wheat was well digested by poultry. Aarhus scientists said pigs and humans will be tested soon to evaluate their ability to digest HIGHPHY wheat.

Henrik Brinch-Pedersen, Aarhus University
Henrik Brinch-Pedersen, an associate professor and molecular biologist and geneticist at Aarhus University

The new wheat includes a mutation in which phytase genes are expressed more powerfully than in conventional grains, which results in increased phytase activity, said Henrik Brinch-Pedersen, an associate professor and molecular biologist and geneticist at Aarhus University.

“For many years, our aim has been to develop a high phytase activity wheat, and we have now reached that milestone,” he said. “Demonstrating that it is also efficient in animal feed is extremely satisfying.”  
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