Increased crop yield through better insight in molecular networks

7 February 2012
> VIB and BASF Plant Science jointly develop TopYield Technology
> Largest collaboration VIB has entered in the field of plant biotechnology
> Cooperation supported by Flemish government agency IWT

Ghent, Belgium and Ludwigshafen, Germany
VIB and BASF Plant Science announced today a cooperation agreement in plant biotechnology. Together they will develop a novel technology to identify genes and gene networks that control crop yield. The project, designated TopYield, will explore and unravel the large natural variability of plant growth under different conditions, including drought stress.

The TopYield project will run for several years. It involves about 20 full-time researchers of VIB at Ghent University and is the largest collaboration that has ever been entered into by VIB in the field of plant biotechnology. The BASF Plant Science activities for this project will focus on testing and validating the research results in its laboratory, greenhouse and screening facilities and will be mainly handled by the company’s research site at Ghent, Belgium.

The research project is supported financially by IWT – the Flemish government agency for innovation by science and technology. This collaboration will help strengthen both the competencies of VIB and the BASF Plant Science site at Ghent in the highly innovative research area of agricultural productivity.

We urgently need a new revolution in agriculture. The world population is expected to rise up to 9 billion people by 2050,” said Dirk Inzé, project leader and director at the VIB Department for Plant Systems Biology at Ghent University. “With TopYield, we hope to contribute to the improvement of agricultural crops through advanced breeding and biotechnology.”

“This highly innovative and very exciting project will help us strengthen our efforts in developing first class yield traits,” said Dr. Jürgen Schweden, Senior Vice President Research & Development of BASF Plant Science. “We see the improvement of yield as imperative for a sustainable agriculture. VIB has an outstanding research expertise in the area of plant biotechnology and is therefore an ideal partner for BASF Plant Science.”

Currently, plant scientists are able to identify single genes that have an impact on yield. With the innovative TopYield approach, BASF Plant Science and VIB aim to further develop and validate a new technology that allows researchers to understand and predict the synergistic effect of gene networks on crop characteristics such as yield or drought tolerance.


 Arabidopsis in greenhouse (c) VIB