Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Safe seed: Researchers yielding good results on food cotton in field

08.09.2009
Field trials of a new cotton are verifying previous lab and greenhouse studies indicating the crop could become a source of protein for millions of malnourished people in the world.

The cotton was engineered so that the toxic gossypol is reduced to tolerable levels in the high-protein seed but remain at higher levels in the rest of the plant to ward off pests and disease.

"The results look very promising." said Dr. Keerti Rathore, the Texas AgriLife Research plant biotechnologist in whose lab the cotton was developed.

Gossypol has long been a block for cotton farmers trying to make cotton seed available for human or animal consumption. Cotton fibers have been spun into fabric for more than 7,000 years, but generally only cattle have been able to eat the fuzzy seeds that are separated from the fiber. Cattle can tolerate the gossypol because it is gradually digested through their unique four-part stomach.

But less than three years ago, Rathore's paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences announced that cotton plants had been successfully altered in the lab to "silence" gossypol in the seed.

Five generations of cotton plants produced in greenhouses and the small test plot in the field this year are showing similar findings, Rathore said, though the results have not yet been published in scholarly journals.

"We have analyzed the plant leaves, flower organs and seeds," Rathore said of the first plant grown under normal farm conditions. "The levels of gossypol and related defense chemicals are similar to that of regular cotton plants in the buds, leaves and flowers. But the seed is still showing the ultra-low levels of gossypol."

Rathore and his team used a scientific method called RNAi, a process also being used to explore cancer and HIV cures. This technology, discovered by Nobel laureates Andrew Z. Fire and Craig C. Mello, can silence specific genes. That enabled the team to target the gossypol gene in the cottonseed but let the gene express itself in the rest of the plant.

The "beauty of this project," Rathore said, is that the high-protein seed could be a new food source - especially in developing countries.

As reported in his original paper, the cottonseed from these plants meet World Health Organization and U.S. Food and Drug Administration standards for food consumption, potentially making a new, high-protein food available to 500 million people a year.

Rathore noted that for every pound of cotton fiber, the plant produces about 1.6 pounds of seed. The annual world cottonseed production equals about 44 million metric tons, and studies have shown the seed to be about 22 percent protein.

He said kernels from the safe seed could be ground into a flour-like powder and used as a protein additive in food preparations or perhaps roasted and seasoned as a nutritious snack.

Cotton Inc., which helps fund the research, is enthusiastic about the results.

"The entire cotton industry has a vested interest in expanding the uses of the cotton plant," said J. Berrye Worsham, Cotton Inc. president and CEO. "The success Dr. Rathore and his team have had with the field trial gets us one step closer to cotton being viewed as a fiber and a food source for future generations."

Previous attempts to breed cotton varieties without gossypol were not commercially successful because the toxin was removed from the seed as well as the rest of the plant. That left the plants vulnerable to insects and disease – a risk and a cost that farmers weren't willing to accept.

A way to extract gossypol out of the oil was developed years ago, Rathore noted, but at a cost. Plus, the meal left after the oil was extracted still contained the toxin so could not be consumed by humans, or as feed for pigs, chickens or turkeys.

Rathore plans to continue field trial studies to assure the stability of the gossypol-free cotton variety, and he has additional lines that he expects have even lower levels of the substance. But, he adds, the greatest obstacle for seeing the variety grown in fields and ultimately feeding the world's hungry may be legalities.

Because the variety is "genetically modified," the scientist and AgriLife Research will have to negotiate with others who hold patent rights to some of the basic technologies used to develop this "ultra-low seed-gossypol" cotton. He will also have to seek approval through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Food and Drug Administration and perhaps other agencies to make it commercially available as seed to farmers. That process could take years, he said.

Kathleen Phillips | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.tamu.edu

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht New 3-D model predicts best planting practices for farmers
26.06.2017 | Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

nachricht Fighting a destructive crop disease with mathematics
21.06.2017 | University of Cambridge

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Carbon Nanotubes Turn Electrical Current into Light-emitting Quasi-particles

Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers

Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...

Im Focus: Flexible proximity sensor creates smart surfaces

Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.

At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...

Im Focus: 3-D scanning with water

3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects

A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

CCNY physicists master unexplored electron property

26.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Molecular microscopy illuminates molecular motor motion

26.07.2017 | Life Sciences

Large-Mouthed Fish Was Top Predator After Mass Extinction

26.07.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>