As farmers look to get more out of each acre of farmland, St. Louis-based Monsanto is exploring unique ways to discover and deliver more desirable traits through the seed. Monsanto's new collaboration with GrassRoots Biotechnology Inc. is expected to do just that by expanding the benefits of Monsanto's research and product portfolio for its farmer customer.
Monsanto has announced that it has established a three-year collaboration with GrassRoots Biotechnology Inc. to source novel genetic elements, including promoters and genes, which can enable crops to express traits that enhance and protect yield.
Promoters are segments of DNA that determine when and where a trait is expressed within a plant. Monsanto will use the promoters sourced from GrassRoots in a broad range of crops, including corn, soy, cotton and canola, to optimize an array of biotechnology traits.
GrassRoots is a start-up company co-founded by Duke University professor, Philip Benfey, a leader in plant biology research. GrassRoots uses a variety of methods, including computational approaches, to identify promoter candidates. Once specific promoter sequences are identified, the information can be further used to design novel promoters for the expression of desirable traits in plants.
"The availability of high-quality promoters with specific expression patterns for use in commercial products is limited, so there is value in developing novel promoters to drive new traits," said Steve Padgette, vice president of biotechnology for Monsanto.
"A robust promoter toolbox can further leverage Monsanto's extensive gene library and lead to the development of more biotechnology-based crop products with a greater number of characteristics such as higher yield, and tolerance to insects, weeds and other stresses."
Such tools will be critical in helping Monsanto meet its sustainability goal of doubling yields in core crops by 2030, he said.
"We will need to use the best technologies available to maximize the potential of these crops," Padgette said.
Another goal of the collaboration is to identify genes that help plants fight environmental stresses such as nitrogen deficiency. The collaboration is expected to build upon Monsanto's research philosophy of developing valuable families of technologies for the challenges farmers routinely face on farm.
"We are excited to form an alliance with Monsanto," said Philip Benfey, president and chief executive of GrassRoots. "Our technologies and expertise combined with Monsanto's commercialization pipeline will provide a means of rapidly moving new genes and promoters into the field."