Friday, July 1, 2022

Seed product on cusp of commercialisation

In the second part of a look at the Seed and Nutritional Technology Development PGP programme, we look at the products in various states of progress.

Crown research institute AgResearch is involved in three projects developing new endophytes and cultivars with a range of attributes.

Grasslanz is the world leader in novel research into endophytes, winning awards for one it developed that helps reduce bird strike at airports. Endophytes are a naturally occurring fungus that grows between the cells of its host plant, such as perennial ryegrass. They draw nutrients from the plant but, in return, provide attributes such as resistance to pests and tolerance to drought.

The first endophyte ARX is on the cusp of commercialisation after showing improved environmental and performance benefits without adverse effects on the animals in agronomic trials involving perennial ryegrass.

PGG Wrightson Seeds research and development manager Derek Woodfield says they overcame a “bit of a hiccup” last year in the research and should know before the end of this summer if it’s viable to commercialise for sheep and beef farms. Another product from the same endophyte can be developed for dairy farms.

A third endophyte that helps control facial eczema is already showing good results but is unlikely to be fully proven until 2018. There have been technical challenges but early trials have shown a 30% reduction in the facial eczema toxin.

Woodfield’s reluctant to disclose much about the fourth project which involves developing a new white clover plant with novel attributes including reducing methane from ruminants which are a major contributor to New Zealand’s greenhouse gases and improving nitrogen use efficiency by up to 60% which would help reduce waterway pollution.

“They’re attributes that focus on having a social licence to farm,” he says.

Work on a new brassica with similar attributes could follow if the technology stacks up.

The fifth project involving Crown Research Institute Plant & Food is developing two supplementary food crops.

The first is a hybrid brassica, Pallaton Raphno, a cross between a radish and a cabbage. Several hundred hectares have been planted on New Zealand sheep and beef farms this year.

Results from cattle grazing trials resulted in around 30% higher liveweight gain per hectare, and studies have also shown strong improvements in lamb finishing systems with $2,000 per hectare profitability gains compared to forage rape and grass pasture. Other gains compared to Goliath rape include 38% more water efficiency, 32% higher aphid tolerance, and 80% lower glucosinolate levels which cause animal health issues. It’s also bullet-proof against three infectious strains of clubroot, a common brassica disease and can be grazed several times a year compared to once for other brassicas. Further seed will be allocated next year and more work is being done for it to be used on dairy farms.

The second new crop is a herbicide-resistant kale that the industry partners struggled to develop before cracking it in the first year of the PGP. The kale resolves weed problems around the crop for sheep, beef and dairy farmers. Woodfield said it’s in the early stages of commercialisation with larger trials being planted out before the seeds likely go on sale next spring.

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