Biotech Updates

First Gene-Edited Cowpea Designed for Mechanized Harvesting

February 8, 2023

Israeli agritech company BetterSeeds, using its unique genome editing technology, EDGETM (Efficient Delivery of Gene Editing) that enables the broad application of CRISPR across crops, has developed the world's first cowpea plant that is suitable for mechanized harvesting.

Cowpea, also known as black-eyed peas, is a sustainable crop valued for its nutritional and agronomic value. Its high protein content, heat tolerance, and highly efficient water and fertilizer consumption make it an excellent protein source and a possible legume candidate to fill gaps in soybean yields due to the effects of climate change. Before the successful genome editing conducted by BetterSeeds, cowpea's architecture and fruit appearance did not fit mechanized harvesting and, therefore could not be grown at scale.

Cowpea is an indeterminate plant that sprawls on the ground with the gradual appearance of pods and can only be harvested by hand. BetterSeeds redesigned cowpea by targeting the gene which alters the plant's architecture into a determinate and erect plant with simultaneous pod appearance, fitting cowpea for mechanized harvesting using a combine. With the redesigned cowpea, farmers can increase legume cultivation, use their land all year round, and also ensure the market supply of plant-based protein.

For more details, read the news release from BetterSeeds.

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