Biotech Crops

Biotech Crops

The conception some consumers have of biotech crops as “Frankenfoods” is not going to be easy to change. But researchers are making headway with developments that could be the key to increased consumer acceptance of genetically modified (GM) potatoes.

While biotech potatoes haven’t been grown in the U.S. since 2001, in 2008, growers in 25 countries planted 310 million acres of other biotech crops, according to Walter De Jong, associate professor in the department of plant breeding and genetics at Cornell University. Potatoes could be added to that acreage in the near future.

SolCAP’s Objectives
SolCAP, or Solanaceae Coordinated Agricultural Project is designed to bring together researchers from various disciplines. Researchers are currently working to develop molecular markers that can be used for applied potato and tomato breeding. Some of the group’s objectives include:

- Create an education program to train graduate students in genome-based breeding. This will result in a standardized database of phenotypes for key traits across 480 accessions of each commodity, accessible through the SolCAP and Solanaceae Genome Network (SGN) websites.

- Amplify outreach efforts by developing an eXtension Plant Breeding and Genomics Community of Practice (PBGCoP) to develop continuing education material aimed at practicing plant breeders, their staff, and seed industry professionals. SolCAP is creating a Web community (PBGCoP) and is providing leadership to foster cross-disciplinary and cross-commodity networking and collaboration to generate outreach materials for publication on eXtension.org.

- Collect standardized phenotypic data across multiple environments for tomato and potato. A standardized database of phenotypes for key traits across core collections of each crop will be linked to the genotypic data, accessible through the Solanaceae Genome Network website (SGN; URL 7).

- Develop extensive sequence data of expressed genes, and identify Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) markers distributed across the genome and associated with specific candidate genes for sugar, carbohydrate, and vitamin biosynthetic pathways.

- Establish centralized facilities for genotyping a core set of SNP markers in standard germplasm panels in tomato and potato. Develop a database of integrated and mapped markers and genotypes for at least 480 accessions for each crop.

- Address regional, individual program, and emerging needs within the Solanaceae community through a small grants program.

- Create integrated, breeder-focused resources for genotypic and phenotypic analysis by leveraging existing databases and resources.
 

Marker-Assisted Selection

De Jong is quick to note that even if biotech potatoes become more accepted, the expense ($5 to $10 million per cultivar) of bringing them to market under the current regulations likely will hinder wide-scale production.

“Only the cultivars with large acreage will ever be transformed under the current regulatory framework, and so there’s only a handful that you could ever recoup your investment on,” he says. “For niche markets, or even in the Northeast where I’m a breeder, that just isn’t going to fly.”

Marker-assisted selection (MAS), however, is a new, promising technology that is becoming more affordable, even for public sector potato breeders, according to De Jong. DNA markers make it possible to identify the offspring with the most potential by evaluating the genes they carry.

One of the most recent developments that bodes well for MAS is a draft of the potato genome sequence, which was just released last year. “To a first approximation, this allows us to know what genes potato has, and how many copies of each gene it carries,” De Jong says. “Pinpointing genes of interest is now a lot easier than it used to be.”

SolCAP

De Jong also is working on a project called SolCAP (Solanaceae Coordinated Agricultural Project), funded by USDA. The goal of the project is to bring researchers from a wide variety of disciplines together to tackle larger agricultural problems. “SolCAP is working to develop a very large number of molecular markers that are useful for both applied potato as well as tomato breeding,” De Jong says.

As of mid-September, SolCAP had tested approximately 8,000 markers. “A big problem in developing markers that are useful for potato breeding is that potato has four copies of every chromosome, and that complicates the genetics a lot,” he explains. “Having 8,000 markers means even if you have to throw away a lot — which we will given the material — we’ll still have plenty to work with.”

De Jong is confident that biotech potato research and development will grow exponentially in the next decade. With the markers SolCAP has developed, along with the draft sequence of the potato genome released last year, potato geneticists and breeders are excited about the promise of using modern tools to identify genes that can be manipulated more efficiently. “I expect over the next five to 10 years, we’ll be able to discern a lot of relationships between markers and important traits in potato, like ability to make potato chips or french fries, or resistance to various diseases, which we’ve never been able to do before,” De Jong says.

 
“In an attempt to allay consumer concern about the presence of foreign DNA in GM potato, over the past 10 years methods have been developed that allow potato to be engineered without introducing any non-potato DNA,” De Jong says. Most notable, he adds, is research under way at the JR Simplot Company, one of the largest privately held international food processing companies in the world. Researchers there are focusing on modifying potatoes by adding just potato DNA back into potatoes, rather than taking genes from other species.
 
According to De Jong, the number of genes available to use as payload is increasing rapidly, as more genes are characterized and isolated in potato. “Perhaps the most interesting potato gene is from a wild potato species (Solanum bulbocastanum) that is resistant to late blight,” he says. While he doesn’t know how the new all-native potatoes will be received by consumers, De Jong does suspect that even if GM crops’ most strident opponents still won’t accept them, some consumers, once they know that the vegetables aren’t crossed with any foreign species, might warm up to the idea.

 

Leave a Reply

Featured Stories
Biocontrols 2015 Conference
CitrusGrowers Go In-Depth At Biocontrols 2015 Conference & Tradeshow
March 9, 2015
The first-of-its-kind event brought growers, researchers, regulators, and suppliers together for a two-day discussion on the latest biocontrols tools and technologies. Read More
Crop ProtectionAt Paramount Farming, Mating Disruption Pays Off
February 10, 2015
To say Brad Higbee is an expert in mating disruption, the use of pheromones to confuse target pests and reduce Read More
Crop ProtectionGrower Experienced In Biocontrols Says: Be Patient
February 4, 2015
The use of biocontrols in all aspects of agriculture is becoming more widespread. But incorporating biocontrols in a vegetable farming Read More
FruitsSounding Off On GMOs: The Arctic Apple Decision
March 27, 2015
Industry leaders share their feelings on the recently approved genetically modified apples. Read More
BerriesBuilding A Better Black Raspberry
March 27, 2015
Studies focusing on consumer preference, aphid resistance, heat tolerance, and genetics aim to capitalize on an expanding market. Read More
CitrusMore California Citrus Placed Under Psyllid Quarantine
March 27, 2015
Asian citrus psyllid is found in Madera County – the heart of the San Joaquin Valley. Read More
FruitsAhead Of The Curve, Part 2
March 27, 2015
Get educated with great resources in the tree fruit industry available at your fingertips. Read More
Apples & PearsMeet USApple’s Class of 2015 Young Apple Leaders
March 27, 2015
Young decision-makers see trip as an opportunity make sure the voice of the apple industry is heard by representatives. Read More
GrapesGlassy-Winged Sharpshooter Found In Marin County
March 26, 2015
This pest, known to spread Pierce’s Disease, could devastate California winegrapes. Read More
GrapesFirst Raisin Grape That Dries Naturally On Vine Developed
March 26, 2015
The new Sunpreme variety eliminates the need for growers to cut into woody canes before harvest. Read More
Fresh From Florida Strawberry Parfait recipe
BerriesNew Partnership Sends Florida Strawberries To Puerto Rico
March 26, 2015
Latest addition extends Sunshine State’s agricultural export reach in the Caribbean. Read More
drought management; irrigation; water management
FruitsHow To Become A Soil Sleuth
March 26, 2015
To correctly apply the proper nutrients at the right rates, you need to know where your fields are deficient and how to correctly diagnose a disorder. Read More
NutsWhy You Should Use Low-Rate Applications Of Potassium
March 26, 2015
These rates provide growers a low-cost method comparable to conventional applications. Read More
The Latest
FruitsSounding Off On GMOs: The Arctic Apple Decision
March 27, 2015
Industry leaders share their feelings on the recently approved genetically modified apples. Read More
BerriesBuilding A Better Black Raspberry
March 27, 2015
Studies focusing on consumer preference, aphid resistance, heat tolerance, and genetics aim to capitalize on an expanding market. Read More
CitrusMore California Citrus Placed Under Psyllid Quarantine
March 27, 2015
Asian citrus psyllid is found in Madera County – the heart of the San Joaquin Valley. Read More
FruitsAhead Of The Curve, Part 2
March 27, 2015
Get educated with great resources in the tree fruit industry available at your fingertips. Read More
Apples & PearsMeet USApple’s Class of 2015 Young Apple Leaders
March 27, 2015
Young decision-makers see trip as an opportunity make sure the voice of the apple industry is heard by representatives. Read More
GrapesGlassy-Winged Sharpshooter Found In Marin County
March 26, 2015
This pest, known to spread Pierce’s Disease, could devastate California winegrapes. Read More
GrapesFirst Raisin Grape That Dries Naturally On Vine Develop…
March 26, 2015
The new Sunpreme variety eliminates the need for growers to cut into woody canes before harvest. Read More
Fresh From Florida Strawberry Parfait recipe
BerriesNew Partnership Sends Florida Strawberries To Puerto Ri…
March 26, 2015
Latest addition extends Sunshine State’s agricultural export reach in the Caribbean. Read More
drought management; irrigation; water management
FruitsHow To Become A Soil Sleuth
March 26, 2015
To correctly apply the proper nutrients at the right rates, you need to know where your fields are deficient and how to correctly diagnose a disorder. Read More
NutsWhy You Should Use Low-Rate Applications Of Potassium
March 26, 2015
These rates provide growers a low-cost method comparable to conventional applications. Read More
Cold ProtectionWind Machine, Electric Pruners Donated To MSU Research …
March 25, 2015
New equipment to help protect research blocks from frost damage and provide center with latest technology. Read More
CitrusProposed Farm Bill Provision To Limit Payments To Non-F…
March 25, 2015
USDA has proposed a new rule which would limit payment to those who are only actively engaged in farming. Read More
Pennsylvania hard cider guild logo
Apples & PearsPennsylvania Hard Cider Producers Founded Independent T…
March 25, 2015
The Pennsylvania Cider Guild is designed to help promote and educate members and consumers. Read More
FruitsHow To Get Started With Partnerships And Sponsorships
March 25, 2015
Mark Saunders of Saunders Farm says your business is never too small or too big to get more value for what you do on your farm. Read More
FruitsValue Through Partnerships And Sponsorships [Opinion]
March 25, 2015
Mark Saunders of Saunders Farms says admission is one way to get value for what you do, but sponsorships and partnerships are the next level. Read More
chateau hough urban vineyard Cleveland Ohio
GrapesFrom Riots To Vineyard — A Story of Urban Revival
March 25, 2015
Ex-convict’s inner-city vineyard in the Hough neighborhood in Cleveland an opportunity for those leaving incarceration for a bright future in viticulture. Read More
FruitsWorld Ag Expo 2015: New Tools For Fruit Growers
March 24, 2015
From wind machines to solar-powered pumps, here is some of the new equipment on display this year's edition of the nation's largest farm show. Read More
Apples & PearsNeedles Found In Honeycrisp Sold At Grocery Store
March 24, 2015
Apples were believed to be tampered with; initial surveillance footage was inconclusive. Read More