Novel Genomic Techniques Help Researchers Develop Better Crops with Precision and Speed

Expert Insights
NGT Thumbnail

Today’s greatest challenges in agriculture require growers to do more with less. There is a greater demand for efficiency and sustainability while producing the same delicious products that consumers love and by using Novel Genomic Techniques (NGTs), researchers can do that.

“It’s important to understand what NGTs are, because they’re different than conventional breeding in speed and process, but different from bioengineering,” said Eleni Bachlava, Syngenta Vegetable Seeds. “Each breeding technique needs to be matched to the demands of growers and consumers around the world, and that means understanding what these options are.”

NGTs allow Syngenta researchers to take the principles of traditional breeding techniques by selecting the desirable characteristics like resistance to pests, taste and yield potential, and cross them into modern plants on a much shorter timeline. In fact, it reduces the time to get a healthier crop from more than 10 years to just a few years.

How Novel Genomic Techniques Work  

CRISPR is a genome editing tool where scientists can add, remove, or alter DNA at specific locations in the genome. When this science is applied to plants, it can recreate the same process of conventional breeding when using the plant’s own biological processes and DNA. By deleting, replacing or adding genetic information into plants, researchers have a more precise and efficient way to create new products that address challenges growers may face.  

This works because every crop contains a genetic code. This code defines is properties. These properties may be helpful to the plant, like drought tolerance. On the other hand, they may also be a disadvantage to the plant, like being susceptible to a disease.  

With gene editing, scientists can identify DNA sequences that may be hurtful to a crop, like vulnerability to a particular disease, disorder, or some other defect we’d like to avoid or minimize. Then we can use this existing mechanism to repair or alter the exact location to improve the plant’s genetics.

The result is identical to what is obtained in conventional breeding, but more exact and much faster. This allows researchers to respond to challenges faster, giving growers the potential for more consistent crops every year.

Faster, More Precise Solutions  

One example of how NGTs can benefit growers is products with improved resistance. As researchers with Syngenta Vegetable Seeds track new races of diseases that can destroy yield potential, new products with improved resistance can come to market faster with the use of gene editing.  

“We’re staying on top of advancements in plant breeding, including the potential of NGTs around the world,” said Eleni Bachlava, Syngenta Vegetable Seeds. “They have great potential, and we’ll continue to follow regulatory decisions globally to see where and if this technique can be used.”  

This type of precision gene editing can be used to create new products with improved taste, plant health, resilience to stress, and more. NGTs could also help create a more sustainable food production system for both growers and consumers.