Home » Business News/Analysis, Farming/Growing, Feedstock, Feedstocks, Funding/Financing/Investing, Infrastructure, R & D Focus
Express Yourself: The Coming Revolution in Crop Yields via Epigenetics
by Jim Lane (Biofuels Digest) ... For now, let’s visit briefly the story of epigenetics. If you are concerned that a) the world doesn’t want genetic modification and b) the world needs crops with more stress tolerance and yield if we are to produce all the food, feed, fiber, and fuel that the next generation will require —then you’ll be delighted to know that epigenetics as a commercial technology just took this vital step forward.
Specifically, the Lincoln, Neb.-based startup co-founded by Dr. Sally Mackenzie, a pioneer in epigenetics in agriculture, has been able to epigenetically improved plants—including soybeans, tomatoes and sorghum—which have shown increased yields and stress tolerance.
Think of your genetic code as a light switch, and gene expression is the act of turning the light on or off — you haven’t changed the electrical system, but you have changed the room when you flip the switch. And, think of epigenetics, to use a crude illustration, as a piece of masking tape you have applied over the switch to hold it permanently in one place.
In that example, you haven’t altered the genetics — the wiring system — but you have permanently altered the gene expression.
In the world of crops, gene expression is intensively related to crop yield and stress tolerance. “Increasing yield and stress tolerance are key goals of most seed companies,” said Epicrop CEO Dr. Michael Fromm. “Epicrop’s method has the potential to provide these traits” he added, “by adding epigenetic information directly to the seeds of commercial varieties without adding any genetic material. The unique features of this method readily fit into traditional commercial breeding and seed production methods to facilitate company adoption of this system.” READ MORE