GERMANY- German multinational biotech and pharmaceutical giant Bayer has joined forces with gene-editing company Pairwise to usher in a new era of short-stature corn, providing farmers across the globe with more resilient and sustainable corn varieties.

Short-stature corn reduces the height of corn plants by 30% to 40% compared to conventional corn and this reduction makes the corn plants more resilient in the face of extreme weather events and strong winds, reducing crop losses caused by lodging or tipping over. 

Additionally, short-stature corn enables farmers to apply essential resources like water, fertilizer, and pesticides with greater precision and efficiency throughout the growing season.

This collaboration follows a previous partnership that concluded in June 2023, which yielded 27 new traits that Bayer is currently assessing for their potential to enhance crop yields and reduce resource inputs. 

Notable outcomes include corn plants with 20% more kernel rows, a potential harbinger of increased yields.

In this collaboration, the two companies have inked a new multi-million-dollar deal, spanning five years, to leverage Pairwise’s Fulcrum platform within Bayer’s Preceon Smart Corn System.

Bob Reiter, head of R&D at Bayer’s Crop Science Division, underscores the potential of Pairwise’s genomic editing techniques, emphasizing their precision and efficiency compared to traditional breeding methods.

Pairwise’s proprietary base editing tools allow for specific changes at virtually any location in the genome, which has the potential to make targeted and much-needed improvements in agriculture,” says Bob Reiter, head of R&D at Bayer’s Crop Science Division.

He added that these kinds of new genomic techniques are extraordinarily focused and produce results much more quickly and precisely than the conventional breeding process, ensuring that we can accelerate the delivery of solutions that growers need.

In this collaboration, Pairwise’s toolkit includes the Redraw technology, a CRISPR-based approach that enables precise templated editing at targeted genomic sites. 

This method allows for small but crucial edits, mirroring the capabilities of traditional crossbreeding in a significantly shorter timeframe.

Another essential tool in Pairwise’s arsenal is Sharc, a proprietary enzyme suitable for cutting, base editing, and Redraw editing. 

Both tools will play a pivotal role in advancing the development of short-stature corn.

Working closely with Bayer on furthering this revolution in corn gives us the market reach to enable our technology innovations to adjust to the biggest challenge of our time more quickly: the changing climate,” says Tom Adams, co-founder and CEO at Pairwise. 

Prospective investment in soybeans 

Additionally, Bayer has unveiled its plans to have between 10% and 15% of Brazil’s total soybean cultivation area utilize its genetically modified biotech seed, Intacta2 Xtend, in the upcoming 2023/2024 season, set to commence in mid-September.

A preliminary trial involving Intacta2 Xtend demonstrated that farmers who adopted it and achieved 100 bags per hectare tripled their yields, a remarkable feat given that the national average in Brazil hovers around 60 bags per hectare.

Moreover, the edited soy is less affected by Asian soybean rust, potentially reducing the need to use fungicides, according to Bayer.

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