Ceres, Inc., an agricultural biotechnology and seed company, is expanding its current research activities in Mexico. The company’s northern hemisphere plant breeding sites complement its product development activities in Brazil, where the company is commercializing sweet and high-biomass sorghum hybrids for use in renewable fuel and electricity production.

In Mexico, the availability of up to three crop cycles each year speeds development of new sorghum hybrids and can lead to hybrids adapted to a wider range of growing conditions. The similarity of conditions between sugarcane production regions in Mexico and Brazil also allows Ceres product developers to utilize shuttle testing and breeding. This technique involves growing multiple plantings each year by following growing seasons, in this case, between the northern and southern hemisphere. In effect, Ceres can complete two continuous summer evaluations each year, with results from one location informing product selections and advancement decisions in the other hemisphere.

Timothy Swaller, Ceres vice president of genomic technologies, said that the company’s sorghum research site, located in the Mexican state of Jalisco, will be used to develop new parental breeding lines as well as evaluate numerous hybrid combinations. Plant scientists will also use this location to conduct support research, such as genetic mapping and genomics studies that improve the speed and efficiency of Ceres’ breeding and selection process in Brazil. Previously, the company performed the bulk of this field work in Texas, which was originally selected to develop high biomass sorghum and switchgrass for the U.S. market.

“Our plant breeding activities in Mexico play an important role in our product development pipeline and we are confident that the greater efficiency offered here from both a cost and product development perspective will lead to better hybrids faster,” said Swaller.

Walter Nelson, Ceres vice president of product development, notes that the sub-tropical growing locations in Mexico share a similar latitude as major sugarcane production areas in Brazil and elsewhere and have comparable ranges of rainfall, temperature and geographical conditions.

“The similarities allow us to more effectively correlate field data and provide greater certainty that breeding materials moving forward in our pipeline will result in hybrids that perform well for our mill customers,” said Nelson.