Crop Biotech Update

Gene Editing and Genetic Modification Technologies to Enhance NZ Pasture

November 29, 2023

AgResearch, one of New Zealand's seven Crown Research Institutes working on pastoral, agri-food, and agri-technology sectors, released its Pasture Biotechnology Update providing details of their work using genetic modification and gene editing technologies to enhance pasture in the country.

According to the Update, pasture forms the foundation of livestock farming industries in New Zealand. Opportunities from these technologies include greater farm productivity, better animal health, and improved environmental results that may include reduced greenhouse gas emissions and less nitrogen loss that has the potential to contaminate waterways. The Update provides details on the three pasture programs led by AgResearch.

AgResearch and partners, supported by the government, have now identified targeted changes to the DNA of selected endophytes via gene editing. The addition of selected fungi called EpichloĆ« endophytes to ryegrass has saved New Zealand billions of dollars over the past 30 years, and now gene editing technology could provide even greater benefits through targeted changes to these endophytes. Endophytes live inside ryegrass, forming a mutually beneficial relationship with the grass. AgResearch scientists have also been working to develop the High Metabolisable Energy (HME) ryegrass with increased nutritional quality to drive greater productivity. HME ryegrass has environmental benefits such as reduced nitrogen loss that can contribute to waterway contamination, and reduced emissions of greenhouse gases, methane, and nitrous oxide.

AgResearch is also working on High Condensed Tannin (HiCT) white clover to boost the level of condensed tannins present. White clover is an important component of pastures in New Zealand, and the HiCT white clover will have a gene from another species of clover to enable the expression of condensed tannins in its leaves.

For more details, read the Pasture Biotechnology Update.

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