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How DNA is an Agronomic Game-Changer

Next week on Seed Speaks, we talk to three experts about how DNA and its associated technologies are changing the face of agronomy. Our guests all work with companies who were recently featured on Germination magazine’s Top 10 Innovative Products listing for 2022.

Geneviève Arsenault-Labrecque, Co-Founder, AYOS Technologies —  Phytophthora root rot is one of the most prevalent diseases affecting soybean crops. In North America alone, it causes annual yield losses of nearly $500 million. The use of resistant soybean varieties is recognized as the most effective method of combating this disease. However, new variants of the pathogen can rapidly overcome resistance genes, so it’s essential to know which variety to choose, based on a precise knowledge of the variants present in a given field.

From a simple field sample, the AYOS molecular test uses genetic markers to identify quickly and precisely which variants (pathotypes) of Phytophthora root rot are present in a growers field, so that proper resistant varieties can be used in the following year to fight the disease.

This choice of a resistant variety will allow a producer cultivating 200 ha of soybeans to avoid yield losses averaging $30,000 each year. The technology will further eliminate the dependence on chemicals used in seed treatment as selection of the proper resistant variety will protect the plant from the seedling stage to full maturity.

Kim Kenward, R&D Manager, 20/20 Seed Labs — Be wary of yellow patches in your soybean field. If caused by soybean cyst nematode (SCN), up to 30% yield loss may have occurred before these visible symptoms even appear. Although relatively new in Canada, SCN poses a significant threat to our growing soybean industry. Endemic in the U.S., SCN causes an estimated $1.5 billion in losses annually. Now is the time to monitor for and contain SCN spread.

Traditional SCN detection methods are limited in detecting different nematode life stages and work best in situations of known or high infestation. 20/20 Seed Labs is the first commercial lab in Canada to offer a DNA-based diagnostic test able to detect SCN in soil, plant roots and seeds. This testing method provides an absolute identification of SCN and detection of even low levels of egg, cyst and motile forms.

Early detection and containment are key to minimizing current and future losses to SCN. This test provides a needed tool for Canadian seed growers and producers to avoid SCN transfer between fields with planting seed or machinery and monitor the effectiveness of resistant varieties. Its applicability to root tissues is also helpful for breeders involved in developing SCN-resistant varieties.

Gil Ronen, Founder, NRGene — Optimizing a genotyping strategy for genomic selection and implementing it successfully in a crop-breeding program requires extensive resources and constant attention to detail. NRGene thus developed SNPer as a customized genotyping solution in which genotyping and imputation are optimized within an individual breeding program to maximize the genetic data gained from a minimal number of SNPs genotyped.

The informativeness of the genetic data translates into higher prediction accuracy while the cost is greatly reduced. This technology is critical to the industry as many companies perform genotyping as part of their breeding program, and by using NRGene’s technology, such companies can develop and release new elite varieties faster to the market.

NRGene has launched a product called SNPro, featuring a pre-designed, complete genotyping solution that combines low-density genotyping with high-density imputation to an industry-standard panel. SNPro products were developed for soybean and canola and are available for immediate use. Together, these two innovations are generating an impact on seed companies by reducing their costs and thus boosting corporate earnings.

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