Crop Biotech Update

Genetic Information Unleashes Gene Editing Potential of Grass Pea

July 12, 2023

New genome sequence information of grass peas revealed key biochemical steps on how the plant produces toxins. The data can aid researchers in potentially applying genome editing tools on grass pea to make it less or non-toxic and become an alternative crop with natural resilience to flood and drought for farmers.

Grass pea has been used for centuries as an insurance crop because it can survive drought and flood when other crops fail. It is nutritious and high in protein. However, its pea contains the neurotoxin B-L-ODAP (ODAP), which can cause neurolathyrism that can lead to irreversible paralysis when eaten by malnourished people.

The newly available genome sequence of the plant makes it possible for breeders and researchers to develop varieties of grass peas with low or zero ODAP. By understanding the plant's mechanism that enables it to produce the neurotoxin, scientists can use gene editing and other modern breeding methods to alter or eliminate genome pathways and prevent the plant's neurotoxin production. This can render the crop safe for consumption. Along with its natural resilience to drought and flood, non-toxic grass pea can be considered a climate-smart crop for future generations to plant.

Read the original article from John Innes Centre to learn more about grass peas.

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