Yissum, the research and development company of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, North Carolina State University, Raleigh , N.C., and Dow AgroFresh, a business unit of Rohm and Haas Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Company, signed a license agreement for the development and commercialization of a novel water-soluble ethylene-antagonist for agricultural applications.

Ethylene is a gas that functions as a plant hormone. It is produced in all higher plants and is usually associated with stimulation of fruit ripening, leaf and fruit abscission, flower opening and flower and leaf senescence. Inhibition of the effects of ethylene may therefore prolong the shelf life of fruits and vegetables, prolong the vase-life of cut flowers and more.

Ethylene antagonists, compounds that inhibit its action, are routinely used for these purposes, mainly in closed systems, with the gaseous form of cyclopropene derivative, 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP), or with wettable powder form, that upon hydration in the field releases 1-MCP. However, existing solutions have very limited use in open spaces, such fields or greenhouses.

In a joint research project, which was supported by a research grant from the United States - Israel Bi-national Agriculture Research and Development Fund (BARD), Prof. Edward C. Sisler, at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C., contributed to the invention by synthesizing the novel 3-cyclopropyl propanoic acid (CPA), a derivative of cyclopropene, which is a gaseous ethylene antagonist.

In the frame of the same research project, Professor R. Goren and his associates Professors E E. Goldschmidt, J. Riov, A. Apelbaum and Dr. M. Huberman, from the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food, and Environment of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel chose to use Prof. Sisler's CPA as a basis for the synthesis of 3-Cyclopropyl-1-enyl-propanoic acid sodium salt (CPAS), a novel water-soluble ethylene antagonist. Unlike gaseous ethylene antagonists, it can be sprayed as a water solution in the field, plantation, or green house, or dip-loaded into cut flowers, and is effective as both a pre- and post-harvest treatment. 1

The efficacy of the new cyclopropene derivative was tested, among others, on wheat, one of the most important field crops worldwide. Prof. Goren's and his associates' invention extended the rain-fed wheat grain-filling phase and delayed crop senescence, resulting already at this stage in a measurable yield increase without any further treatment. The compound was also effective in delaying ethylene-induced senescence of other plants such as tomatoes, cotton and tobacco, as well as increasing the life span of cut flowers.

"This is yet another example of the Hebrew University's leadership in cutting-edge science in the field of agriculture," said Yaacov Michlin, CEO of Yissum.

"We are extremely pleased to collaborate with Rohm and Haas' AgroFresh business in further developing this very exciting invention which has the promises of multiple far-reaching implications. In particular, it is exciting to note that Prof. Goren and his associates' invention allow the significant increase in rain-fed wheat yield, without resorting to controversial approaches such as genetic modifications."

José Pina, President of AgroFresh, confirms that the licensing agreement is an important milestone to further develop the technology, "It will allow us to join forces in fully validating the potential of this new compound and if warranted bring it to the marketplace. We are very happy to partner with such renowned institute and look forward to our future close cooperation."