Waxy corn is an important part of the food supply chain; the commodity is used for a number of specialty food and non-food items, like adhesives and high-gloss paper. However, lower yields means growers rely on contracts through a closed-loop production system, known as an “identity-preserved”. Now DuPont Pioneer believes they have the solution to lower-yielding waxy corn hybrids. A new generation of elite waxy corn hybrids could be available in the U.S. within the next five years, depending upon field trials and the regulatory process.
“We’re applying our 90 years of knowledge of corn biology to develop the next generation of high-quality waxy corn hybrids for the benefit of the entire value chain from growers to processors and end users,” said Neal Gutterson, vice president, research and development for DuPont Pioneer. “Starting with an identity-preserved product as our initial CRISPR-Cas offering allows us to lay a solid foundation for success of future larger volume products from this plant breeding innovation.”
Pioneer is the leading supplier for the half-million acres of waxy corn grown in the U.S. The specialty crop produces a high amylopectin starch content, making it useful in creating unique forms of corn starch.
“The next generation of waxy hybrids developed with CRISPR-Cas will represent a step-change in how efficiently we bring elite genetic platforms of high-yielding waxy corn to our customers,” Gutterson said.
Pioneer is establishing a CRISPR-Cas enabled advanced breeding platform to develop seed products for greater environmental resiliency with characteristics like disease resistance and drought tolerance, in addition to advancing the development of improved hybrid systems. The technology has applicability for all Pioneer crops of interest.
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently published its response to Pioneer’s “Regulated Article Letter of Inquiry” stating that it does not consider next-generation waxy corn developed with CRISPR-Cas enabled advanced breeding technology as regulated by USDA Biotechnology Regulatory Services.
The USDA’s confirmation is an important first step in developing this technology, Gutterson explains. “This is just the beginning: We believe the true value of this important innovation in plant breeding will be achieved through active engagement with customers, academia, governments, NGOs and public research institutes to develop new solutions to the toughest agricultural challenges,” he added. “Pioneer has a long history of collaboration and broadly advancing science and is open to entering further collaborations which would contribute to developing CRISPR-Cas technology across all crops and geographies for the greater good.”