Horizon Ag, Israeli firm team to develop high-performing varieties

horizon-agMemphis, Tenn.-based Horizon Ag has announced a partnership with the Israeli firm, Kaiima Bio-Agritech Ltd., to develop high-performing rice varieties. The two began the multi-year project, which involves using Kaiima’s proprietary EP technology platform, in 2015.

EP technology, short for enhanced ploidy technology, is a way to speed the multiplication of genomes in crops without changing their DNA or genetic fingerprint. As a result, the crops are not considered GMOs or genetically modified organisms.

Plants, such as rice, are diploid with two sets of chromosomes. Ancient wheat also was diploid. Through centuries of breeding and hybridization, durum wheat used in pasta is now a tetraploid with four sets of chromosomes and bread wheat is a hexaploid with six sets of chromosomes.

Think of the sets of chromosomes as a piece of string. By adding more of the same material, it becomes a rope, which is stronger and more durable.

The same can be said about plants developed using the EP technology. They have greater genetic diversity, improved tolerance to biotic and abiotic stress, can be developed more efficiently and have improved seed production, according to a news release. Crops developed using the technology also yield up to 10 percent more.

Horizon Ag and Kaiima recently completed the development phase and plan to enter new EP rice varieties in first-year yield trials in 2017 in select locations across the U.S. rice belt. The companies are considering possibly adding additional germplasm conversion projects in the future.