Harmful viruses cause millions of dollars damage to the world’s crops.

To address this problem, Syngenta, Ltd and Nexgen Plants Pty Ltd have entered into a collaboration to develop resistance in leading crops for three key viruses.

Nexgen Plants is commercialising a cutting edge virus resistance technology, developed by Professor Peer Schenk’s group at The University of Queensland.

The Nexgen Plants technology is based on the identification of a new class of small plant virus RNA molecules (miRNA) involved in modulating a plant’s defence response to virus attack. This discovery and its associated propagation methods allow selective breeding from germplasm collections, or the introduction of, virus resistance traits into key crops. This offers farmers the potential for improved yields and plant breeding companies a unique competitive advantage for boosting seed and/or plant productivity and sales.

“Crop losses from viral infections are a multi-billion dollar global problem. The Nexgen Plants technology provides plant breeding companies with a range of virus resistance strategies covering transgenic, cisgenic and marker-assisted approaches,” said Nexgen Plant’s CEO, Mr Brian Ruddle.

“The Nexgen technology can confer virus resistance into existing commercial varieties or in parent lines as part of hybrid seed production. Plant viruses would have to develop an extremely unlikely mutation for the resistance to be broken,” Professor Schenk explained.

As part of its commitment to improving crop production, Syngenta is actively working with organizations around the world to improve pest and disease resistance.

“Syngenta was attracted to the Nexgen technology due to the compelling commercially focused science, and the potential to dramatically improve virus resistance characteristics across our breeding programs. The collaboration will further strengthen Syngenta’s position as a leading developer of crop solutions based on cutting-edge innovations such as RNAi,” said Moshe Bar, head of External Collaborations at Syngenta.