What’s happening on the cutting edge of plant science?

Image credit nancy nismo

Robot Plants that’s what!

Latest research out of MIT Sloan has revealed the ability of nanotechnology to work in conjunction with plant molecular biology. This breakthrough science is being pioneered by the work of Michael Strano, the Carbon P. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering and postdoc plant biologist Juan Pablo Giraldo.

The research team “envision turning plants into self-powered, photonic devices such as detectors for explosives or chemical weapons. The researchers are also working on incorporating electronic devices into plants. “The potential is really endless,” Strano says.”

The idea began with a project in Strano’s lab to build self-repairing solar cells modelled on plant cells. Over time it became something even more intriguing. They demonstrated the ability to turn plants into chemical sensors by delivering carbon nanotubes that detect the gas nitric oxide, an environmental pollutant produced by combustion.

Strano’s lab has previously developed carbon nanotube sensors for many different chemicals, including hydrogen peroxide, the explosive TNT, and the nerve gas sarin.

“We could someday use these carbon nanotubes to make sensors that detect in real time, at the single-particle level, free radicals or signalling molecules that are at very low-concentration and difficult to detect,” Giraldo says.

While the idea of “robot plants” might not be appealing to everyone it is certainly an exciting breakthrough in the worlds of nanotechnology and plant biology, and an interesting space to keep an eye on.

Often people become fearful of new discoveries and technological advances before taking the opportunity to understand the intent and possible implications for future development. We here at PolyGenomX have experienced this first hand when we talk to people about our cutting edge plant epigenetics technology. “So it’s GMO.” Is usually the first response to which we answer with a resounding NO!

Trying to explain to someone that we can induce biotic and abiotic stress resistance in plants without the use of genetic modification, and all its associated negative connotations, implications and press, can be a long conversation, which why we went to the lengths of getting legal confirmation.

In a recent conversation with genetic mapping researchers at QUT whilst discussing PGX’s current project of inducing inherent disease resistance in food crops, one department head described it as “being right on the cutting edge of science”, a wonderful place to be in our opinion and one that we are honoured to share with the others in this space.

A doff of the cap to you Strano & Giraldo.

For more information on their work go to http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2014/bionic-plants

For more on the work PolyGenomX is currently undertaking in disease resistance https://www.polygenomx.com/solutions/disease-resistance

Can PGX Change the World?

Every entrepreneur has the vision they can change the world.  We at PGX believe we can change the world, for the better, one plant at a time!

Globally, every single day, Mankind strips away 35,000ha of forest.  Every day our remaining forests process 35,000,000 less tonnes of CO2; and every day the world’s remaining forests generate 93,000,000 less tonnes oxygen than they did the day before.

We’re destroying the lungs of our Earth.  (This is a key thesis in our headline PolyGenomX Video.)

To reverse this we must plant more trees than we cut down, but without the promise of short term gains humans are generally slow to act – even when that is in our own long-term interests.

Fortunately, PGX plants come with a promise of significant, short-term gains for anyone engaged in a plant-based enterprise.  30% increase in yield, or three harvests in place of two – all for no increase in inputs – promises huge increases in profits.  Strong incentives to use more of our plants.

Fortunately, they also come with incidental short-term gains for our environment.  An exponential 30%-50% increase in biomass means a 30%-50% increase in carbon dioxide extracted from our atmosphere, and a 30%-50% increase in oxygen, water vapour, and rain-forming nuclei.  This translates to increased cloud cover, increased rainfall, and decreased temperatures and, because they offer a more profitable alternative, may also reduce the destruction of old growth forests and native habitat.

Regardless of how sophisticated we are, at base we eat either plants or animals that eat plants. In the absence of plants neither coal, nor iron ore nor gold will sustain us.  Using more of our plants can.

How PGX’s Plants Reduce GHG (Greenhouse Gas) Emissions

Each hectare of polygenomic plants uses an average 100 tonnes more CO2 each year than the equivalent area of standard (diploid) plants.  Accordingly, we estimate that 10 million hectares of our plants will use 1 billion tonnes EXTRA CO2 every year.

If those plants are used for renewable energy, they prevent the release of a TOTAL 6 billion tonnes of “old fossil fuel carbon” into our atmosphere, or 1 billion tonnes MORE than can be hoped from the next best currently available renewable feed stocks.

Why?

Most plants grow by cycling CO2 into their leaves where sunlight powers chemical reactions that crack the CO2 into Carbon (which becomes plant sugars, the basic building blocks for all growth) and Oxygen (which is expelled as waste).

Standard plants are not 100% “carbon efficient”. One cycle in three or four they expend energy but fail to crack a CO2 molecule.  These energy-wasting cycles are called “photo-respiration”.

Our plants all but eliminate photo-respiration and so use up to 50% more atmospheric carbon for the same expenditure of time, energy, water and nutrients, accelerating growth and so using more-on-more carbon.

Faster-growing stress-tolerant disease-resistant plants which yield more in less time for no increase in inputs are more profitable and so many agricultural and silvicultural enterprises will progressively adopt polygenomic plants as their standard.

As fields and forests transition to our plants, more and more CO2 will be drawn from the atmosphere and locked into plant growth while more oxygen and moisture will be recycled into the atmosphere.

Working with PGX – An Overview

Following is a summary of how we at PGX work with our clients…

Essentially, we develop new plant varieties, guaranteeing our clients a 20% or better yield increase.

We charge a low up-front Development Fee, allow an initial one million plants to be propagated and planted without royalty (to provide a quick Fee recoupment) and apply a modest royalty (of around 4%) thereafter.

With plantation and forestry profits typically in the range of 15%-20% (and less, in many cases) our plants are most likely to double our clients’ profits.

Using our plants increases yields and decreases losses without requiring any change in training, inputs, operational processes, equipment or infrastructure while reducing the need for fertiliser and chemicals in some situations. They may also make profitable marginal (low cost) lands or anchor the remediation of degraded ecosystems.

Each plant we develop is a new item of intellectual property (IP). When Clients pay us to enhance their elite plant genetics, we grant them exclusive rights to that new IP.  Typically, we supply 150 newly-enhanced PolyGenomX (PGX) Specimens in tissue culture from which our Clients propagate whatever they require.  All plants bred or cloned from PGX Specimens carry the induced performance traits and are subject to royalty.

Each PGX Plant has a unique genetic fingerprint and performance characteristics which can be identified remotely through automated analysis of agricultural and weather satellite data and matched against GPS license locations.  Plants detected outside of a licensed location can be sampled and traced to their original Development Project and License Agreement.

We view compliance as important for our Clients as it protects their investment in a unique, improved species as well as the business it supports.

Healing Japan – using PGX Plants

We were recently asked by a potential partner: “What is the current relevance of PolyGenomX technology for Japan?

By way of at least opening discussion on the topic, the following three applications suggest themselves to us:

1. Salt-tolerant rice: Given the impact of seawater inundation on coastal rice growing areas in Japan (and other countries), there is an obvious need for the development of deeply salt-tolerant rice varieties as a key component to returning these areas to agriculture, to production and to prosperity as a foundation for the restoration and healing of affected communities. PolyGenomX (PGX) has the demonstrated capacity to develop deeply salt-tolerant varieties of any plant and is now documenting a recent project based on Arundo donax (Giant Reed which, like rice, is a monocotyledon). The plants developed in that project are capable of thriving in salt concentrations half that of seawater, breaking the salt down into its component elements and leaving no waste salt in their environment.

2. Bioremediation of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster zone:  The failure of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear powerplant contaminated ground and ocean waters within a radius of 30-50 km with significant amounts of radioactive material including caesium-137, resulting in a ban on the sale of food grown in the area.  In the case of Chernobyl (estimated to have had 10 times the fall out of Fukushima) efforts have been applied to using Industrial Hemp as a “bio sponge” to take up the radioactive dust lying on and in the top couple of millimetres of ground in the fallout zone.  PGX believes that there may be greater value in using salt tolerant Giant Reed to desalinate the soil, simultaneously providing an immediate income from abundant biomass and/or biofuel in the process. The reed is the idea renewable energy feedstock for cellulosic digestion to ethanol, or for gasification to syngas and will concentrate radioactive waste for extraction during the energy generation processes.

3. Polygenomic Paulownia  as a valued timber stock: Paulownia tomentosa (also known as kiri, Empress Tree or Princess Tree) is a versatile, fast-growing tree particularly suited to Japan’s environment and culture, and offers a range valuable applications from furniture, carved artefacts and stringed instruments to renewable energy in the form of biomass, syngas and ethanol, and its large leaves hold sufficient protein as to provide high quality cattle fodder. PGX has developed uniquely salt-tolerant varieties of this species (though at lower tolerance levels than Giant Reed – 5g/L for Paulownia Reed vs 16g/L for reed before yield quality and quantity are affected). PGX has developed polygenomic varieties of Paulownia designed to suit various environments and applications and this tree may form a valuable diversification element for an integrated bioremediation strategy of the tsunami zone to bring those lands back into production immediately – and into normality within a relatively short timeframe.

We  would welcome the opportunity to apply our technology and know-how to these large challenges… which aren’t isolated to Japan!

PGX is not GMO

Here at PolyGenomX (PGX) we apply epigenetic science to enhance plant performance naturally, producing earlier-maturing, higher-yielding, stress-tolerant, climate-tough varieties of any species. We do not employ genetic engineering, and our new varieties are not genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

We recently asked a leading Australian IP firm to formally assess this claim. Following assessment of our technology and processes, they formed the opinion that because PGX’ technology does not make use of gene modification technology (or other genetic engineering techniques) or give rise to genetically modified plants, it should not be at risk of falling within the legislative framework governing generation, use and release of GMOs.

What PolyGenomX’s technology involves is more akin to conventional cross-breeding and use of environmental stresses to obtain advantageous characteristics in plants. The plants alter their own genome in response to the environment rather than there being any external genetic intervention or manipulation, similar to what would normally happen from time to time in nature.

If you would like to learn more, or receive a copy of our formal advice on GMO clearance, please contact us.