The Plant Sciences Group has entered into a licensing agreement with the French biotechnology firm Biogemma. The French are going to use a gene patented by PSG to increase drought tolerance in wheat.
There are two options for developing wheat varieties that need less water. The first option is to incorporate the sequence of genes found in Arabidopsis in wheat. 'However, we can also look for homologues - comparable sequences of genes in wheat', says Den Nijs. 'Then you screen various wheat varieties in gene banks to determine whether they have the sequence of genes for this trait.'
Biogemma is a French research institute founded partly by Limagrain, one of the biggest plant breeders in the world. The climate changes, population growth and increasing water shortages in large parts of the world have lead such companies to search for crops that require little water and still give good yields. Besides wheat varieties, Biogemma's research covers maize, sunflowers and rapeseed.