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NBRI into its biggest tech transfer deal

02 December 2010

LUCKNOW: A Bt-gene discovery might be on its way to seal the biggest deal for NBRI, a CSIR laboratory. The institute might earn some Rs 1.3 crore by transferring the technology of Bt-genes which makes cotton resistant to pests like bollworms to private companies. The technology has been transferred to some companies and with others the negotiations are on. The picture on the deal will be clear in a month’s time.

“This is the best technology for cotton plants,” said PK Singh, senior scientist, plant molecular biology, NBRI. The National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI) has developed a Bt-gene Cry1EC and made it toxic to certain pests and insects which damage plant varieties like cotton and legumes. The plants transformed by the gene are resistant to insects like common cutworms (Spodoptera) and cotton bollworms (Helicoverpa) which are `omnipresent’ types of insects damaging crops in several parts of the country.

The cotton bollworm is known to damage at least 680 plant varieties and common cutworm is slightly more damaging than the earlier one. The institute took four plant varieties for the research — cotton, groundnut, castor and pigeonpea. “We have got positive results for cotton, groundnut and castor but for pigeonpea we need to work more,” said Singh.

This apart, the institute is also working on other Bt-genes like Cry1AC, Cry2Ax1 and ASAL. “We wish to introduce cotton with these genes now,” he said. The research on Cry1AC began in 2000 and is in an advanced stage. The technology might be developed by middle of next year for it. NBRI is collaborating with institutes like directorate of oilseed research, Hyderabad to work more on the technology.

The gene combination might make the plan resistant to mutating pests. On the safety front of genes, ASAL has been derived from garlic and that makes it safe. Cry1EC and Cry1AC are safe to environment whereas safety tests for Cry2Ax1 is to be done. “We are to conduct more studies on how the genes will affect yield of crops,” said Singh. The Bt-genes are derived from bacteria — Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).

NBRI has been working on Cry1EC for the past 15 years. The gene was patented by the institute in 2004 and a year later the institute won the CSIR technology award for developing it. A team of 25 scientists and technicians and research scholars are working on the project.

There is also a reason why scientists took cotton for the research. Cotton is a non-edible and a cash crop. “Besides, insects attack it like anything,” said Singh. The cultivators of cotton spray pesticides at least 15 times during the crop’s life cycle of six months. Since the crop is very vulnerable to attacks by pests and insects, technology tested on cotton might work on other crops also.

The crops — food crops, non-food crops and fruits and vegetables have to be protected against abiotic stress (temperature, humidity, water excess or deficiency and others) and biotic stress (insects, fungi, bacteria, virus, rodents etc).

The institute has been working on making plants resistant to pre-harvest insects. The two insects common cutworm and cotton bollworm come under `chewing’ insects. The institute is also working on `sucking’ insects like aphids and whiteflies.

“Whiteflies are carriers of viruses and they severely affect tomatoes,” said Singh. The project is only three-years old. The research on aphids, also known as plant lice, is because they are the most destructive insect pests on cultivated plants. Whiteflies, on the other hand, are small sap sucking insects.

Read more: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/lucknow/NBRI-into-its-biggest-tech-transfer-deal/articleshow/7025881.cms#ixzz16v4Kvg3I

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Written by csirindia

December 2, 2010 at 8:29 am

Posted in NBRI

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