Bioceres’ seed biotechnology segment develops integrated products that combine three distinct and complementary components: seed traits, germplasms and seed treatments, in order to deliver superior yielding products.
Note: Graphic and yield % for illustrative purposes only
Our seed biotechnology activities concentrate primarily on the development of technologies that increase yield per acre, with a secondary focus on providing crop protection technologies, designed to control weeds and insects, and enhancing quality traits, to improve nutritional value and other benefits.
We are developing integrated products that combine three distinct and complementary components,: seed traits, germplasms and seed treatments, in order to enhance value for our customers. While each component can increase yield independently, through our integrated approach of delivering traits, germplasms and seed treatments complement each other when combined to produce higher crop yields. We have the ability to customize our package of different products to perform for specific environments and customer preferences.
Each trait technology component can be combined to create seeds with varying degrees of benefit and yield increases.
The following table summarizes our current products and our pipeline of products in development, including those under development by our joint ventures. It does not include products that are being developed by third party collaborators.
Current Seed Biotechnology Product Pipeline
We are investing significant resources to advance our elite germplasms to allow us to deliver our technologies using proprietary channels. We currently breed germplasms for soybean and wheat. In 2009, we began a soybean breeding program through our subsidiary, Bioceres Semillas, which has produced soybean varieties that are now being registered in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and South Africa. The program initially focused on short maturity groups, or MGs, ranging between MG III and MG V, with recent expansion into longer maturity varieties, ranging between MG VI and MG IX. With respect to wheat, we hold exclusive rights to all wheat varieties developed between 2003 and 2013 by the Argentine national breeding program at the National Agricultural Technological Institute (Instituto Nacional de Technologia Agropecuaria) or INTA. In 2009, we initiated our own wheat breeding program through Bioceres Semillas, which is now operated through Trigall Genetics. Our joint venture, Trigall Genetics, has exclusive rights to the breeding program of Florimond Desprez in South America, which has produced successful germplasms, such as the Nogal variety, in its catalogue.
Our seed trait effort is focused on improving plant yields by increasing plant tolerance to abiotic stress, such as drought or salinity. We began our stress tolerance research in 2003 in collaboration with CONICET scientists specialized in the study of transcription factors. We create seed traits through the use of plant transformation and gene editing technologies, or the genetic modification of plants, which involves the direct manipulation of a plant’s genome by inserting a gene into the plant’s DNA, or modification of an existing gene. These methods of plant improvement provide for a wider range of traits in a plant and usually result in more substantial seed trait improvement as compared to those obtained by breeding alone. These methods also allow us to add traits not readily feasible through conventional breeding methods. In many cases, the same trait can be added to multiple crops with similar effect. For example, our HB4 technology can be used across many plant species, including soybean and wheat.
Our most advanced technology in the seed trait area, HB4, is a result of this collaboration and is in advanced stages of regulatory approval, with full regulatory submissions completed in Argentina and Uruguay for soybean and wheat, and biosafety regulatory approval received in Argentina in respect of HB4 in soybeans. HB4 has been shown to increase yield in multiple crops and growing seasons in normal growing conditions with sporadic drought episodes by an average of 7% to 15% without adversely impacting yields in optimal growing conditions, which is not often seen with some other stress tolerance technologies. Normal growing conditions may experience periodic drought episodes. We have since expanded our efforts in yield improvement by working on other transcription factors, such as HB10, and water and nutrient use efficiency technology. Through our technology sourcing collaborations, we are also pursuing a variety of additional novel approaches to yield improvement.
Crop Protection Traits
We have a secondary focus on crop protection traits designed to control insects and weeds that we can develop by seeking off-patent events or technologies that can be efficiently integrated into our products. We are developing selected technologies to involve tolerance to herbicides such as glyphosate, glufosinate, and sulfunylureas. We gain access to these technologies by collaborating with the original developers of the technologies or through developing new events with our partners. In collaboration with the University of Illinois, we are also developing proprietary herbicide resistance technologies in soybeans and alfalfa based on tolerance to protoporphyrinogen oxidase, or PPO, inhibitors.
Through our seed trait efforts we are also able to enhance quality traits to improve nutritional value and achieve other downstream benefits, particularly in soybean and alfalfa. In the case of soybean, we can generate opportunities for developing quality traits with a limited investment using the TILLING platform available through Arcadia Biosciences, our JV partner in Verdeca. TILLING is a non-GM method in molecular biology that allows directed identification of mutations in a specific gene. Using this technique, we have created a library of soybean mutants that we use to source genes with altered function for our quality trait projects, such as modified oil content products in soybean. In alfalfa, we are collaborating with Forage Genetics International and Monsanto Company in the deregulation of the Genuity-HarvXstra product for the Argentine market. This product has been shown to significantly improve alfalfa quality through the combination of the Genuity ghyphosate tolerance platform with a reduced lignin trait referred to as HarvXstra. We are also collaborating with Phytogene Pty Ltd., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Agriculture Victoria Services Pty Ltd. of Australia, to develop LXR alfalfa which uses a delayed-senescence technology to improve quality and forage productivity in alfalfa.
Since our inception, we have been focused on the importance of soil biology in driving crop productivity. We lead SoilGene, a multidisciplinary research effort with several research groups and scientific institutions dedicated to the use of environmental genomics to explore soil biodiversity to identify biological indicators associated with crop productivity in different agricultural environments. As a result of this effort, we have generated two unique databases, Pampa I and II, to be used to correlate microbial DNA from different cross sections of soil with crop productivity parameters. SoilGene results are the foundational basis for our attempt to design customized seed treatments for different agricultural environments.