SOURCE: Government of Victoria Australia

May 07, 2007 09:00 ET

Victoria, Australia Researchers Develop Technology That Could Lead to Doubled Crop Yields

Technology Delays Leaf Ageing Process

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA and BOSTON, MA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- May 7, 2007 -- Research scientists from Victoria, Australia have developed a technology that could lead to doubled crop yields, and improved environmental and health outcomes, the Minister for Innovation, John Brumby, announced today at the BIO 2007 Conference in Boston. The new technology delays the leaf ageing process, enhances biomass production, increases seed yield and also has potential molecular farming applications.

"The modification of plant ageing, referred to as plant leaf senescence, has important agricultural consequences and leads to a wide range of potential applications," said John Brumby. "It will mean farmers can get the same crop yield from half the land being used."

Agriculture Minister Joe Helper said the delayed leaf senescence leads to increased carbon fixation and thus to enhanced seed yields, increased herbage production and quality. "Scientists from the Department of Primary Industries, in collaboration with La Trobe University, have developed this delayed senescence technology based on the targeted modification of cytokinin levels in plants," Mr. Helper said.

"Cytokinins are natural plant hormones that influence plant growth and development, including control of shoot and root formation, inhibition of leaf senescence, and mediation of stress responses," Mr. Helper added. "This research has huge potential for farmers all around the world."

DPI Research Director German Spangenberg said cytokinin levels are increased in plants under the control of a highly developmentally regulated plant gene promoter. This technology has been given the name LXR™.

"The LXR™ delayed senescence technology also offers significant opportunities for applications in molecular farming which in turn could result in high value products for health, bioenergy and environmental outcomes," Prof. Spangenberg said. "We would be able to test the LXR™ technology combined with the production of plant-based antibodies for animal health, productivity and environmental outcomes, such as targeting approaches to mitigate methane production from livestock -- an important source of greenhouse gas emission."

Prof. Spangenberg said initial proof of the success of LXR™ technology under laboratory and glasshouse conditions has been demonstrated in white clover, a key temperate pasture legume.

"Results of the field evaluation of LXR™ white clover have shown a doubling of seed yields, thus demonstrating the potential of the LXR™ technology to enhance seed production," Prof. Spangenberg said. "The LXR™ technology is being further developed and commercialized through the Australian agricultural biotechnology company, Phytogene, a wholly owned subsidiary of Agriculture Victoria Services Pty Ltd."

Prof. Spangenberg said that the LXR™ delayed senescence technology is currently being evaluated in a range of crops including wheat, canola and lucerne (alfalfa) under laboratory, and glasshouse conditions prior to field trials.

Victoria's ability to make these important scientific discoveries will be further enhanced through the Bracks Government's $180 million investment in a new biosciences research centre. To be located in Melbourne, the centre will build on Victoria's international reputation in plant and animal molecular genetics, and its application for productivity, quality improvement, adaptation to climate change and biosecurity preparedness. Other science agencies, both national and international, with complementary objectives are invited to partner or link in to the new centre.

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