The Need for Second Generation Crops

Despite the advances made to date, there is tremendous interest in the second generation of agricultural-biotech traits that will address some of the serious factors limiting crop yields as well as improving other "productivity" traits. These limitations include seed and biomass yield, resistance to environmental stress factors such as heat, drought and restricted water, and the appropriate use of crops to produce desirable chemicals or replace existing energy sources (petroleum and coal). A growing human population, changing demographics and diet preferences, and factors relating to climate change all call for a greater effort to increase agricultural productivity on the available farmland.

The rate of discovery in this arena has accelerated dramatically in recent years with the availability of large amounts of genomic information for many crop species. This information, coupled with powerful bioinformatics tools and an ever improving molecular biology toolbox, makes it faster and easier to identify genes associated with particular traits.

While the first generation of new (biotech/transgenic) crops contained novel genes of bacterial or insect origins, the focus of most of the current R&D efforts is to identify new plant genes/SNPs/markers or modified versions of existing plant genes that will change a key characteristic in the desired way (e.g., make the plant more tolerant to heat stress during flowering).

Frontier's core expertise is in the area of plant molecular genetics, both in forward and reverse genetic screens to identify key genes for the second generation of crops.

Some of the traits we are working on include: