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article imageStartup announces breakthrough in drought-resistant crops

By Karen Graham     Jul 9, 2018 in Technology
Israel’s PlantArcBio has isolated the genes that help desert organisms survive. Now, the University of Wisconsin-Madison will test the genes’ impact on soybean yields.
Israel-based PlantArcBio is a plant biotech startup company with an innovative and patent protected Direct In Plant platform for improving plants' performance. The entrepreneurs believe the area around the Dead Sea holds the key to extending the life of plants during periods of drought.
Founder and CEO Dror Shalitin says the company's aim is to improve the characteristics of plants through genetic research. PlantArcBio doesn't rely on computers to find genes and apply them to nature - They go directly to nature to find the genes that give plants their resistance to drought.
The company says it has identified a "few dozen drought-resistance genes" extracted from the Dead Sea region’s well-known desiccated soil and from its rare stores of fresh water, according to CTech.
A soybean harvest
A soybean harvest
United Soybean Board
PlantArcBio teams with U.S. University
The company announced on Monday a $3 million financing round and cooperation with the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The University will begin testing the commercial potential of PlantArcBio's desert genes by introducing them into soybean varieties planted at in U.S. greenhouses and fields.
“Working together to improve soybean drought tolerance could lead to major breakthroughs in the agricultural realm that would also benefit farmers in the U.S,” Michael Petersen of the university’s Wisconsin Crop Innovation Center, said in a statement.
Shalitin explains the company's patent-pending process allowed them to take samples of undifferentiated genetic material from the desert back to the laboratory where they began experimenting - splicing up the DNA and adding genes randomly into the seeds of about a million model plants.
They grew their plants in greenhouses where they controlled the temperature and water intake of the plants and kept track of which of them grew to maturity and survived the longest. Using this process, they were able to come up with three dozen or so genes that contributed to a plant's ability to survive drought-like conditions.
“It’s as if we actually managed to find the needle in the haystack,” Shalitin said.
More about startups, Genes, desiccation, PlantArcBio, Biotechnology
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