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Ghent University enters R&D collaboration on drought tolerance

By David Schwartz
Published: May 9th, 2017

Belgium’s Ghent University has signed an R&D collaboration agreement with Plant Impact to develop novel compounds designed to improve drought tolerance in crops.

Drought and extreme heat cause production reductions for growers by an estimated 10% annually, and the dollar impact is huge. Among wheat growers alone in the year 2007, losses due to these weather conditions totaled an estimated $16 billion. The impact is expected to be even worse in the coming decades for cereal crops like wheat, corn, and rice.

The new research collaboration grants Plant Impact exclusive development access and a licensing option to a novel group of phosphonamide pyrabactin analogues, identified by prominent biologist Dr. Danny Geelen. Geelen is a director in the Department of Plant Production and board member of CropFit, a consortium of Ghent researchers with expertise in biostimulants and biocontrol.

The patent-pending molecules were designed and synthesized in the laboratory of Dr. Christian Stevens, who leads the Synthesis, Bioresources and Bioorganic Chemistry Research Group (SynBioC) in Ghent’s Department of Sustainable Organic Chemistry and Technology.

Pyrabactin analogues have been found to water loss from plant leaves, which can improve the plant’s water use efficiency and increase yield in drought conditions. The novel compounds elicit many of the same responses as natural plant hormone abscisic acid (ABA) but are more suited to be used by growers in spray form.

With the new agreement in hand, Plant Impact’s R&D team will conduct glasshouse and field trials with the patent pending pyrabactin analogues, with an end goal of introducing significant new crop enhancement technologies to the marketplace.

Source:  Ghent University

Posted under: Industry-Sponsored Research Week

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