Evogene Ltd. (TASE: EVGN), a leader in plant genomics underlying crop productivity for the food, feed and biofuel industries, and Rahan Meristem (1998) Ltd. (Rahan), a leading fruit biotechnology and breeding company, announced today successful field trial results in their joint program to develop banana varieties expressing tolerance to Black Sigatoka (also known as Black Leaf Streak Disease), the most damaging disease threatening commercial banana plantations.
The joint collaboration focuses on the discovery and validation of genes with the potential to demonstrate resistance for Black Sigatoka. As part of the field trials which were conducted by Rahan, banana crops consisting genes discovered by Evogene, demonstrated a lower infection rate than banana crops which did not contain the selected genes.
“With banana constituting the world’s fourth most valuable food staple, Black Sigatoka is particularly devastating, affecting over 50% of this $2.5 billion crop,” explained Ron Dinar, CEO of Rahan. “The disease has the capacity to reduce yields by 35-50%, causing tremendous impact to growers in major producing countries of Central America, the Caribbean Islands, Africa and the Far East.”
Current methods to control Black Sigatoka include fungicide applications, the annual cost of which is estimated at 30% of a typical grower’s total production cost and adding an estimated 15-20% to the final retail price of bananas. In addition to this substantial cost, the high frequency of applications has shown significant adverse environmental and health effects.
“Although initial, the field trial results from our joint work with Evogene are very encouraging and have the potential to combat one of the world’s most devastating crop diseases,” added Mr. Dinar.
Ofer Haviv, Evogene’s President and CEO added: “Our joint work with Rahan is one of our first collaborations in the biotic field. We are very pleased with these results which reinforce our confidence in the applicability of our unique discovery capabilities with respect to plant diseases and other biotic threats.”
“We enthusiastically look forward to continuing and expanding our collaboration with Rahan as we move forward in pursuing our joint objective of providing a more effective, healthier and economically viable alternative to the application of fungicides in banana cultivation,” concluded Mr. Haviv.
The joint program focuses on the discovery and validation of genes identified by Evogene’s ATHLETE(TM) computational technology. Transformation to banana plants and further validation in heavily infected areas is then conducted by Rahan.
About Rahan Meristem (1998) Ltd.
Rahan is a plant biotechnology and propagation company specializing in tissue culture, molecular genetics and breeding. Established in 1974, Rahan is currently the world’s largest producer of banana plantlet by tissue culture. Rahan’s selected clones are currently in demand in all tropical regions where desert banana fruit are produced for the export markets. The selection lines “Gal” , “Jaffa”, FF17 and Adi have gained a demand in tropical and subtropical regions of Latin America, Middle East, Africa, and the Far East.
Evogene is a leading plant genomics company, utilizing a proprietary integrated technology infrastructure to enhance seed traits underlying crop productivity. Evogene offers a complete solution for crop productivity improvement through biotechnology and advanced breeding using a unique technology infrastructure that is based on deep scientific understandings of plant genomics and proprietary computational capabilities. The Company has strategic collaborations with world-leading agricultural companies to develop improved seed traits in relation to yield and a-biotic stress (such as tolerance to drought), and biotic stress (such as resistance to disease), in key crops as corn, soybean, wheat and rice. In addition, Evogene has earlier stage operations in agriculture chemicals, and seeds focusing on second generation feedstock for biodiesel. The Company’s headquarters are located in Rehovot, Israel and is listed for trading on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE: EVGN). For additional information, please visit Evogene.
This press release contains “forward-looking statements” relating to future events. These statements may be identified by words such as “may”, “expects”, “intends”, “anticipates”, “plans”, “believes”, “scheduled”, “estimates” or words of similar meaning. Such statements are based on current expectations, estimates, projections and assumptions, describe opinions about future events, involve certain risks and uncertainties which are difficult to predict and are not guarantees of future performance. Therefore, actual future results, performance or achievements of Evogene may differ materially from what is expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements due to a variety of factors, many of which beyond Evogene’s control, including, without limitation, those risk factors contained in Evogene’s reports filed with the Israeli Securities Authority. Evogene disclaims any obligation or commitment to update these forward-looking statements to reflect future events or developments or changes in expectations, estimates, projections and assumptions.
Article originally appeared in the WSJ