Crop Biotech Update

VIB Conducts Three Field Trials of Genome-Edited Maize

January 12, 2022

VIB, in collaboration with the Flanders Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (ILVO) has submitted applications for the conduct of three field trials of genome-edited maize after greenhouse observations showed that the modified plants are more resistant to climate stress or easier to digest.

Using CRISPR-Cas9 technology, the scientists at the VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems Biology were able to understand the molecular processes driving plant growth and development. Prof. Hilde Nelissen's research group aims to make maize resistant to prolonged drought. The team found that turning off a structural component that helps the folding of DNA leads to less compact and therefore more active DNA. As a result, maize plants show improved growth in the greenhouse when they experience drought. Field trial number 1 will shed light on whether this genetic modification also benefits growth and yield under varying weather conditions.

Prolonged periods of heat, increased exposure to UV rays and polluting metals cause DNA damage to plants. Field trial number 2 will be led by the team of Prof. Lieven De Veylder and will test if the lack of a negative regulator of the cell cycle makes maize plants more resistant to DNA damage related to environmental stress. Prof. Wout Boerjan will lead field trial number 3 which will investigate whether plants with lower amounts of lignin will also perform well in the field and whether the lowering coincides with negative effects such as higher sensitivity to strong winds.

For more details about these field trials, read the article in VIB News.

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