Thursday, November 30, 2023

Second GMO trait in Alfalfa, Low Lignin Approved by USDA


by Cheryl Anderson DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has granted non-regulatory status to HarvXtra, a genetically engineered low-lignin alfalfa variety.

The new alfalfa was developed in a collaborative effort between the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center, Forage Genetics International (FGI) and Monsanto. The trait is still pending regulatory approvals from key export markets and is not yet available for sale.

The low-lignin trait was designed to help solve a common harvest tradeoff alfalfa producers face between yield and quality. Low-lignin alfalfa varieties allow growers to lengthen the harvest window to maximize yield potential without sacrificing hay quality.

Lignin is an important part of plant stems, conferring strength and upright growth habit. However, lignin is essentially indigestible by ruminants, and lignin concentration is relatively high in alfalfa compared with other forages. It also increases as the plant matures from vegetative to bloom stage.

Current harvest recommendations for dairy-quality alfalfa typically recommend cutting alfalfa in the late-bud stage. Reduced-lignin alfalfa could reduce the number of harvests per season in some regions. It could also improve second-cutting alfalfa, which is often harvested during hotter months and is of lower feed quality. Other benefits include the potential for increased digestibility that leads to improved feed efficiency and less manure production.

Scientists identified and suppressed several genes to reduce the production of lignin in alfalfa, according to a FGI white paper on the new technology. The project has been in the development stages since 2002.

The white paper indicated that while developing the new trait, scientists from FGI found that plants containing the HarvXtra trait had 10{28d451f77a4de8a52cd2586be6cc1800527fe70ea84e8b3f90098495d088e086}-15{28d451f77a4de8a52cd2586be6cc1800527fe70ea84e8b3f90098495d088e086} less lignin content and 10{28d451f77a4de8a52cd2586be6cc1800527fe70ea84e8b3f90098495d088e086}-15{28d451f77a4de8a52cd2586be6cc1800527fe70ea84e8b3f90098495d088e086} more neutral detergent fiber digestibility (NDFD) and relative forage quality (RFQ) compared to alfalfa without the trait. Testing showed that when harvest of HarvXtra alfalfa was delayed by seven days, it had about the same NDFD as conventional alfalfa harvest on schedule.

The HarvXtra alfalfa is the first biotech alfalfa developed for forage quality. A FGI spokesperson told DTN a limited number of growers are scheduled to plant the seed on a trial basis in 2015.

Seed companies also informed DTN that the low-lignin trait will be broadly licensed once further regulatory approvals are obtained. Monsanto and its seed brands anticipate a limited launch in 2016 followed by a broader commercial launch in 2017. DuPont Pioneer spokesperson Jane Slusark confirmed that Pioneer is also working with HarvXtra and expects a similar launch sequence, pending further approvals. HarvXtra is expected to be stacked with the Roundup Ready trait to tolerate glyphosate herbicide.

A low-lignin alfalfa line called Hi-Gest, developed through traditional plant breeding, is also new to the market from Alforex Seeds, a subsidiary of Dow AgroSciences. A limited number of dormancies were offered in select regions during 2014 with an expanded portfolio and growing area planned for 2015.

Read the APHIS Notice of Determination of Nonregulated Status on HarvXtra here:…

Read the HarvXtra white paper here:…

Read about Hi-Gest here:…

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Posted by Jami Howell

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