Seed World

J.R. Simplot Company and Plant Sciences Inc. Collaborate on Gene Editing of Strawberries

Source: Simplot

The J.R. Simplot Company announced today it has entered a strategic alliance with Plant Sciences Inc. (PSI), a Watsonville, CA-based plant breeding company, to drive new breeding techniques for strawberries, including gene editing.

Simplot and PSI have been collaborating since 2011 on multiple new breeding technologies and expect to launch the first commercially available, gene edited strawberry in the coming years. The partnership provides both companies with the increased ability to bring improved strawberries to market with Simplot’s technology and PSI’s germplasm and leadership.

The strawberry market is prime for innovation. Each year, approximately 35 percent of fresh strawberries are discarded by consumers because of waste from poor storage or short shelf life (Yuwei Qin and Arpad Horvath 2021 Environ. Res. Lett. 16 014024). Using new breeding techniques like CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing tools in strawberry development is anticipated to improve shelf life and significantly reduce such waste.

Under the Simplot-PSI strategic alliance, Simplot will use pioneering gene editing technologies to advance strawberry characteristics. PSI will provide its proprietary strawberry germplasm, plant growing expertise, and lead the commercialization of successful varieties.  

“At Simplot, we’re excited to participate in a project that may help growers achieve higher yields on less land, resulting in fewer pesticides and reduced water and labor needs, all while extending the quality of a consumer’s favorite foods,” said Susan Collinge PhD, Vice President of Simplot Plant Sciences.  

CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing tools can be used to introduce modest changes to a plant’s own genome. In 2020, the USDA clarified certain regulatory exemptions with plants produced through innovative, new breeding techniques, including genome editing techniques.

“We are highly motivated to build on our learnings with the J.R. Simplot Company and fully expect to make a profound impact on the strawberry industry by offering better varieties with qualities that both growers and consumers will celebrate,” said Steve Nelson, President and CEO of PSI. 

In 2018, Simplot executed a joint intellectual property licensing agreement with Corteva Agriscience, and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard for foundational CRISPR-Cas9 and related gene editing tools.

Simplot previously brought to market two generations of its Innate¬®- branded potato varieties by adapting genes from wild and cultivated potatoes featuring reduced black spots, reduced asparagine, lower sugars, and protection from late blight pathogens.