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Bayer CropScience, KeyGene Collaborate to Improve Crop Varieties

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Bayer CropScience and KeyGene today announced a multiyear deal aimed at improving traits in several major agricultural crops.

The deal will first take aim at wheat in an effort to improve the efficiency and sustainability of wheat production. Other crops that may be addressed include oilseed rape, rice, and cotton, the partners said.

Bayer will access KeyGene's KeySeeQ discovery pipeline to identify genes associated with traits such as drought tolerance. KeyGene's high-throughput mutagenesis method, called KeyPoint Mutation Breeding, will then be used to improve the genes, and Bayer will introduce new wheat varieties based on the results to seed markets globally.

The partners noted that in 2011, 704 million tons of wheat was consumed, and by 2030 the demand for the crop is expected to increase by 40 percent worldwide. "Therefore, new varieties need to provide farmers with important agricultural innovations, which help them to sustainability increase yield and profitability," Bayer and KeyGene said.

"Bayer has the goal to offer farmers tailor-made wheat varieties with improved yield and other agronomically important traits, such as, but not limited to, drought tolerance and nitrogen-use efficiency," David Nicholson, global head of R&D at Bayer CropScience, said in a statement. "Collaborating with KeyGene and having access to their technologies and traits will aid us in achieving this goal."

Financial and other terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Bayer and KeyGene announced a collaboration to develop novel traits for crop improvement in 2011. The two companies, along with BGI and the University of Queensland, partnered in 2009 to sequence the entire genome of rapeseed/canola in 2009.