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EUROPEAN-SEED.COM I EUROPEAN SEED I 15 and becoming a market leader or missing out. Our highly competitive business is driven to a large extent by innovation through innovation companies can obtain and maintain a market share. ES What are some of the most ground-breaking breeding innovations of the past decade MvE Next generation sequencing NGS technology is one of the most ground-breaking innovations of the past decade. NGS was introduced in 2005 during the drive to sequence the human genome at a competitive cost. The crop industry immediately recognised the advantages of this fundamentally different approach to sequencing and has been able to utilise NGS technologies to advance molecular breeding research in crops. NGS technology represents in my mind a true revolution in genomic science. It became possible to sequence the genomes of a large variety of vegetable and field crops and it has really accelerated the pace at which the genetic basis of complex traits can be understood. Good examples of complex traits are yield and flavourthey have at least a dozen if not many dozens of underlying genes which all together are responsible for crop performance. In order to improve yield flavour or any other complex trait detailed information is needed from as many genes involved as possible. Without the developments in NGS research of these complex traits traits that are influenced by variations within several genes was nearly impossible. Up to that point research had focused mainly on simple traits so much has changed in the field of crop breeding. If you go back in time 10 years it took one year or sometimes much longer to identify the genetic basis of a simple trait. Now with a genome sequence at hand we have the ability to unravel complex traits in a short time span. It has changed the way plant breeding is taking place today. ES What have these developments in the field of NGS brought the breeding industry and seed sector so far MvE It is clear in the field of marker-assisted breeding crop breeding with the help of DNA markers which make selection of the correct plants possible at a very early breeding stagethere has been a sea of change. Not only have breeders and researchers gained access to the genetic codes of most important vegetable and field crops but at the same time there are no more limitations with respect to the number of molecular markers to use in their breeding programs. Whereas a decade ago for some crops it was very difficult to identify varieties and genetically differentiate between themtoday enough natural genetic information has been uncovered in most commercial crops for that no longer to be an issue. Thats a tremendous advantage for breeders. It really accelerates their breeding process and makes it more cost-effective at the same time. NGS technology has drastically changed the way we innovate our crops. ES Do you have any other examples of how crop breeding work has changed MvE Im really impressed by the way molecular mutagenesis technolo- gies have changed our work. With molecular mutagenesis technologies new variations can be introduced into crops essentially creating new traits. This can be done very precisely in a pre-selected location or it can be done randomly. It is too early to speak about concrete products or revenues as this is very recent technology however the prospects are very promising with regard to introducing new crop variations. For example due to the large size of oilseed rape Brassica napus plants they are at risk for lodging. This makes harvesting of the seeds more difficult with seed loss as a major consequence. We have solved this problem by using plants with a dwarf character and shortened stems. Having identified the genetic basis of the dwarf character variation was introduced in the large oilseed rape plants. This could be done without the loss of specific traits such as oil composition and seed yield. As a result the seeds of the newly developed plants could be harvested easier with less or even without seed loss. A big advantage of this method is this technology can be applied in a companys own breeding material. Another important aspect is crops developed with molecular mutagenesis can be brought to market faster compared with traditionally developed crops in addition its faster and much more cost-effective than GM crops. I strongly believe that this is a particularly important development for all breeding companies. ES What did KeyGene contribute to innovation for breeding MvE KeyGene is active in both areas of innovation mentioned above. With respect to sequencing activities we are an inventor of sequence- based breeding and a strong believer in using NGS technologies to advance crop species. In fact we were the first to sequence the melon genome. Using NGS technologies we contributed to unravelling the genome of several vegetable and field crops such as tomato and cottonall agronomically important crops. We continue to work at the forefront of these developments. Although the production of genetic data is no longer an issue extracting relevant information from it still is. We are also developing dedicated software tools for working with these enormous amounts of sequencing data. FIGURE 1. The wild-type oilseed rape plant left and the lodging-resistant oilseed rape plant right. MOLECULAR MUTAGENESIS TECHNOLOGIES Molecular mutagenesis is the increase of natural genetic variety by creating DNA mutations. The difference between molecular mutagenesis and genetic modification is the formers lack of cutting and pasting DNA. Moreover no alien DNA is introduced but instead the crops own DNA is used. Key to molecular mutagenesis is the introduction of mutationthe basis of biological evolution and hence the origin of new species. It means mutation can be used to improve crops. Treating seeds with chemicals will introduce mutations in random DNA locations. Using NGS technologies its possible to select plants with desirable trait mutations. By cross-pollinating these plants with the original specimens and selecting them for their mutations you end up with the original plants containing the desired mutated traits. This is random molecular mutagenesis technology. There are other technologies however which can introduce a site-directed single mutation. Both methods aim to introduce new crop varieties.