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BUSINESS & SEEDS: Bayer CropScience and VIB-UGent scientists start collaboration on ”epigenetic control” of agricultural crops





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TITLE:   BAYER CROPSCIENCE AND VIB-UGENT SCIENTISTS START COLLABORATION TO ACCELERATE IMPROVEMENT OF AGRICULTURAL CROPS

SOURCE:  Bayer CropScience, Germany

AUTHOR:  Press Release

URL:     http://www.bayercropscience.com/bcsweb/cropprotection.nsf/id/EN_20110921?open&l=EN&ccm=500020

DATE:    21.09.2011

SUMMARY: "Scientists from Bayer CropScience and the research institute VIB-UGent, Belgium, have started a collaboration to develop crops with higher yields and improved tolerance to stresses such as drought or soil salinity. In a first project, researchers will look at epigenetic differences between different crop varieties as a basis for selection of new characteristics. [...] ?With the new joint-research project, we aim to develop epigenetic control as a new molecular tool for the improvement of agricultural crops?, said Dr Johan Botterman, head of BioScience Product Research at Bayer CropScience."

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BAYER CROPSCIENCE AND VIB-UGENT SCIENTISTS START COLLABORATION TO ACCELERATE IMPROVEMENT OF AGRICULTURAL CROPS

Monheim, September 21, 2011 ? Scientists from Bayer CropScience and the research institute VIB-UGent, Belgium, have started a collaboration to develop crops with higher yields and improved tolerance to stresses such as drought or soil salinity. In a first project, researchers will look at epigenetic differences between different crop varieties as a basis for selection of new characteristics. In a second project, scientists will computationally analyze the genes that are involved in the response of plants to high-stress situations such as drought. Both research projects are supported financially by the IWT ? the national agency for the promotion of innovation by science and technology in Flanders, Belgium. The study results will be published in leading scientific journals.

Epigenetics: no difference in DNA, but in the way it is read

Epigenetics is a natural phenomenon that is used by plants and animals to regulate how hereditary material is read and used, for example as a response to drought. Depending on external factors, such as long periods of drought, genes causing the plant response are activated to a greater or lesser extent from the DNA. These changes are passed on to progeny, even though they are not stored in the DNA sequence. ?With the new joint-research project, we aim to develop epigenetic control as a new molecular tool for the improvement of agricultural crops?, said Dr Johan Botterman, head of BioScience Product Research at Bayer CropScience.

Increased yield stability

The researchers are also using computer applications in the study of plant stress tolerance. This project will focus on systems biology, the science that studies biological systems as the interactions between many components such as genes, proteins and metabolites. This approach is necessary in the study of stress tolerance because the plant?s reaction to drought or salinity is often controlled by complex networks of genes. ?The aim is to identify the genes and their networks involved in stress tolerance and to validate them experimentally. This should lead to plants with increased yield stability?, said Frank Van Breusegem, Project Leader at VIB-UGent.

The study will initially be conducted on the model crop Arabidopsis thaliana, mouse-ear cress, to accelerate the effects of individual genes and networks of genes. In a later phase, promising genes will be tested in different crops including oilseeds and cereals.

About Bayer CropScience

Bayer is a global enterprise with core competencies in the fields of health care, nutrition and high-tech materials. Bayer CropScience, a subgroup of Bayer AG with annual sales of EUR 6.830 billion (2010), is one of the world?s leading innovative crop science companies in the areas of crop protection, non-agricultural pest control, seeds and traits. The company offers an outstanding range of products and extensive service backup for modern, sustainable agriculture and for non-agricultural applications. Bayer CropScience has a global workforce of 20,700 and is represented in more than 120 countries. This and further news is available at: www.press.bayercropscience.com.

About VIB

VIB is a non-profit life sciences research institute based in Flanders, Belgium. 1,200 scientists conduct strategic basic research on the molecular basis of the human body, plants and microorganisms. Through a partnership with four Flemish universities ? UGent, K. U. Leuven, University of Antwerp and Vrije Universiteit Brussel ? and a sound investment program, VIB bundles the forces of 72 research groups into one institute. Their research is leading to better knowledge about life. With its technology transfer, VIB strives to translate research results into new economic activity and into products to serve consumers and patients. VIB is developing and distributing a wide range of scientifically supported information about all aspects of biotechnology. For more info, visit www.vib.be.

More information on IWT is available at www.iwt.be