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"PodGuard – A game-changing canola technology"

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Thursday 02 March 2017, 11:00 - 12:30


Canola is a relatively young commercial oilseed crop and a major source of vegetable oil. The first conventional variety was launched in 1974 in Canada. The first hybrid canola varieties came on the market in the early nineties. They out-yielded conventional varieties and were quickly adopted. Plant Genetic Systems N.V., based in Gent and acquired by Bayer in 2002, played a major role in this hybrid conversion in North-America with its InVigor hybridization technology.

But there was still a major productivity and harvesting issue: pod shattering. The mature and brittle seed-carrying fruits or pods easily break open and scatter their seeds when winds and hailstorms at the end of the season or mechanical forces during harvesting hit the plants. Seed losses can amount up to 25% depending on the weather conditions. So far, this productivity issue was managed by harvesting canola in two stages involving first swathing, followed by threshing. Three weeks before full maturity, the canola plants are cut, packed in dense rows and left on the ground to further mature and dry. The crop is threshed three weeks later. However, while swathing helps to reduce shattering, it also leads to uneven and incomplete seed maturation affecting seed quality. This two-stage harvesting process is a demanding and stressful operation for the farmer as it requires a lot of guesswork.

So, that's why a Bayer research team in Gent started to explore a genetic solution to abolish shattering. The story started with the discovery of a key gene involved in shattering in the model plant Arabidopsis (an ancestor of canola) in collaboration with the University of California, San Diego. Its potential to abolish shattering in canola was successfully demonstrated by the team in Gent using a transgenic approach. Unfortunately, the transgenic pods turned out to be too shatterproof and could even not be harvested. The team then designed a new strategy and applied a chemical mutagenesis-based reverse genetics approach to discover a unique mutation in a critical domain of the gene. Plants carrying the mutation produced pods that were tightly sealed yet harvestable. A first hybrid was launched in Canada and Australia in 2014. The trait was marketed under the brand name PodGuard in Australia. Hybrids with the non-GM PodGuard technology are underway for Europe. The benefits and significance of PodGuard turn out to be more diverse and significant than envisaged. The technology is revolutionizing canola cultivation.

The team that developed PodGuard was awarded with the prestigious 2016 Otto Bayer medal, the first time that a Bayer plant biotech trait has received this prestigious award.

Benjamin Laga, Dr. Bart Den Boer, Stuart Brandt and Dr. Bart Lambert



Location Jozef Schell Seminar Room
Contact Dr. Bart Lambert and Benjamin Laga
Bayer: Science For A Better Life
Crop Science Division
Trait Research