SU-tolerant canola from Cibus

Cibus’ sulfonylurea-tolerant

Cibus, a U.S. company, is bringing a new sulfonylurea-tolerant canola to the market.

Cibus developed SU-tolerant canola using non-transgenic breeding technologies. That is, breeding, without introducing foreign genetic material. As Dr. Jim Radtke, Cibus’ senior vice president, product development, says, we are “making changes in plants without incorporating foreign DNA and thus the plants are non-GM.”

The breeding system used in the Cibus labs is called RTDS (Rapid Trait Development System). Radtke says RTDS allows researchers to make targeted, precise changes to plant DNA. “This separates us from GMO technology, which basically tosses a piece of DNA into the plant that wasn’t there before.”

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The changes that result from RTDS are changes that could feasibly happen in the natural environment without intervention, though they probably wouldn’t happen quite as quickly. For example, the DNA of a plant can change in the natural environment due to weather, chemicals and other factors. “Our technology is a little more precise,” says Radtke, “and there’s not a lot of collateral damage, which can happen when mutations occur in nature.”

Gene editing technology has its detractors and its controversies, of course, (when people “don’t quite understand” the process, says Radtke) but given that GMO technology is becoming more and more controversial globally, gene edited products may fill voids created in the food system.

Jumping through the hoops

Cibus’ new variety has been approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Health Canada for sale in Canada in 2017. “The Canadian regulatory system is one of the best in the world,” says Radtke. Our system has a “plants with novel traits” designation and Cibus’s canola fits into that category.

Now, Cibus needs to get a particular variety registered. To date, their varieties didn’t pass the canola quality standards due to being slightly low on oil content. However, new hybrids have passed the first year of canola quality standards and are expected to pass the second year as well, Radtke says. Because Cibus’ hybrids are not yet registered, they can’t actively sell them in the Canadian market. The hybrids don’t yet have brand names.

When varieties are ready for registration, Radtke says , they’ll focus on Manitoba first, but will expand beyond that. Radtke says Cibus has found retailers interested in selling their new varieties.

Trials were done in Canada and North Dakota last year. Radtke says the new hybrids that will be coming to Canada performed better than the older ones. There were both small and large trials done and the new product “performed really well” in North Dakota.

North Dakota farmers growing the product on commercial fields, says Radtke, reported back very positive views on “performance of the product, but also, more importantly, the performance of the SU chemistry. It has controlled the weeds, and fits nicely into their rotations. That’s a good, in-field validation of the trait.”

The agronomy

The major benefit that comes with SU-tolerant canola is the ability to fit into rotations. Soybeans are moving into more and more areas of the Canadian Prairies, and, Radtke points out, “all of them are Roundup Ready. And Roundup Ready soybeans and Roundup Ready canola do not work well on a rotation.” (Bayer is selling a new LibertyLink soybean in Western Canada for the spring of 2017.)

SU-tolerant canola “controls the Roundup Ready soybeans that would be in the field as potential weeds. The SU herbicide is able to take out weeds that are tolerant to Roundup, and that’s a very good thing.” (In the U.S., sulfonylurea-tolerant soybeans are marketed as SR soybeans.)

Good rotational strategy is important and depending on only one product is a fast way to develop herbicide resistant weeds.

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