Israel’s Evogene to develop insect-resistant cotton with Brazilian seed-grower
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Israel’s Evogene to develop insect-resistant cotton with Brazilian seed-grower

Two invasive pests that pose threat to cotton producers, of which Brazil is 4th-largest globally, will be targeted by gene modification

Cotton field (CC BY Mike Beauregard, Flickr)
Cotton field (CC BY Mike Beauregard, Flickr)

Israel’s Evogene Ltd., a plant genomics company that uses gene modification to improve crop quality and productivity, has reached an accord with Brazil’s Instituto Mato-grossense do Algodão (IMAmt), a developer and marketer of cotton seeds, to work together on the development of insect-resistant seeds.

As part of the accord, Evogene will identify genes that are effective against the cotton boll weevil and the fall armyworm, Evogene said in a filing to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange on Tuesday. IMAmt will validate the findings in its lab, and if they are found to be correct, the parties will enter negotiations for a commercial license agreement, the statement said.

Cotton is among the most significant commodity crops. Global production is estimated at $30 billion, with Brazil being the fourth-largest producer of cotton in the world, the filing said.

The cotton boll weevil and the fall armyworm are among the most devastating pests threatening the cotton industry. It is estimated that the former, which feeds on cottons buds and flowers, inflicts annual costs of $468 million in Brazil alone, with insecticides being only marginally effective.

The fall armyworm can cause significant damage to crops including rice, sorghum, millet, sugarcane, vegetable crops and cotton, the filing said.

As part of the agreement, Evogene will screen its extensive insecticidal gene database and select genes that can resist the two pests. IMAmt will validate these genes in the lab against the target pests, the statement said.

“When visiting Evogene, we saw great potential for a collaboration between our two companies,” Alvaro Lourenco Ortolan Salles, IMAmt director, said in the filing. “We are confident that together we will be able to respond to the various challenges that tropical agriculture imposes on us.”

Arnon Heyman, VP Evogene and general manager of the Ag-Seeds division, said there is “increased interest” in the company’s unique genetic database, and it could be “leveraged for targeting additional insects.”

Making the next generation of insect-resistant seeds has been identified by Rehovot, Israel-based Evogene as one of its main growth engines.

The company applies mathematical algorithms to plant biology to seek out genes that make seeds more resistant, enabling farmers to produce higher-yielding crops for a world that is being forced to produce more with less resources, as populations grow and the quantity of arable land declines.

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