Newsletter – Year II – Number II – December, 2023

Nuseed Brasil is part of the global growth of Nuseed. Founded in 2006, Nuseed® now has over 400 employees dedicated to research and development (R&D) and commercial sales of canola, carinata, sorghum, and sunflower in Australia, Europe, North America, and South America. Globally, Nuseed offers VALUE BEYOND YIELD™ through dedicated customer service.
In 2022, Nuseed acquired the commercial and breeding assets of energy cane from GranBio and the R&D program with the aim of improving the value of energy produced through innovation in bioenergy cane.
To understand the importance of public-private partnerships in sugarcane research, such as the one established between Nuseed and IAC, we spoke with Dr. José Antônio Bressiani, Director of Research and Development of new sugarcane varieties at Nuseed.

1. The project for the development of new technologies that address the main issues in sugarcane, citrus, and coffee cultivation at the agronomic institute (CCD-CROP-IAC) is quite innovative in the state of São Paulo, and we are pleased to have Nuseed as a partner for advances in sugarcane research. Could you tell us a bit about Nuseed and the advances, particularly regarding sugarcane, that can be achieved through this important partnership with IAC?
Nuseed is a seed technology company from the Australian Nufarm, which, in 2022, acquired the energy cane germplasm from Granbio. Nuseed aims to establish itself as a provider of biotechnological solutions for the production of economically competitive and highly sustainable biofuels, biochemicals, and nanoproducts using energy cane germplasm. The goal is to develop new energy cane cultivars that can be planted in restrictive environments (due to soil fertility or water deficit or both) and produce fiber and sugars in high quantities economically, contributing to environmental improvement in the medium and long term. To achieve these goals, the new cultivars need to be robust, and the partnership with IAC is crucial as it seeks to increase the tolerance of future cultivars to water deficit through genes and promoters.
Currently, commercial sugarcane cultivars have economically satisfactory productivity when annual precipitation exceeds 1200 millimeters and water deficit is less than 350 millimeters. Conventional energy cane cultivars can produce satisfactorily when precipitation is above 1000 mm and water deficit is less than 500 mm. With the IAC partnership, we hope to obtain genetically modified (GM) cultivars capable of being economically cultivated with annual precipitation above 900 mm and/or water deficit below 700 mm.
This slight variation in tolerance ranges opens cultivation possibilities on more than 30 million hectares of degraded pasture areas in Brazil alone and over 1 billion hectares globally. This is the area planned for bioenergy production without competing with areas for food production, contributing to the production of low-cost and highly sustainable biofuels.

2. How does the company view this interaction of a public-private partnership? What are the advantages/benefits for the company of working together with IAC?
For us at Nuseed, this partnership is of utmost importance because the technology’s development stage is still far from having a commercial product. However, we understand that only through public-private partnership can we advance towards this high-risk development with significant economic and social impact in case of success. Therefore, we have a shared risk and shared success in obtaining a commercial product, which in this case would be a new energy cane cultivar better adapted to restrictive environments.

3. How can the IAC and Nuseed partnership bring sustainability to sugarcane research? Are there specific initiatives to reduce environmental impact or promote sustainable agricultural practices?
I’ve mentioned this before, but the primary focus of energy cane production is to be a low-cost raw material to produce biofuels, biochemicals, and nanocompounds. These products have a neutral and/or even negative carbon footprint and can economically replace fossil equivalents. On one hand, we are replacing fossil fuels, and on the other hand, we are reclaiming degraded pasture areas, improving their fertility in the medium and long term, and contributing to the socioeconomic evolution of the regions where these productive projects will be installed.

4. In the company’s view, what are the main future challenges in sugarcane research? Are there specific areas that offer significant opportunities for advances and innovations?
In Nuseed’s view, the future challenge of sugarcane/energy cane research is to increase productivity sustainably in restrictive environments, leaving higher-fertility environments for food production.

An article published in 2023 by the CCD-CROP-IAC team in the international journal Frontiers in Plant Science presented significant advances in understanding the mechanism of water efficiency – the better use of water in two sugarcane varieties: ‘IACSP97-7065’ and ‘IACSP94-2094,’ known for their sensitivity and tolerance to drought, respectively.
The work, led by researcher Dr. Silvana Creste, aimed to identify the transcriptional signatures (genes that are “turned on” and “turned off”) of the two cultivars in question. For this, sugarcane plants were cultivated for 6 months in a greenhouse and then subjected to drought stress until photosynthesis was completely halted, at which point genetic material was collected for the study. Global gene expression analysis identified a total of 1585 differentially expressed genes – turned on or off. Of these, 617 genes were exclusively identified in the drought-tolerant cultivar, associated with various biological processes such as solute transport, photosynthesis, oxidative stress, among others. These genes are now key candidates for further studies, acting as pieces of a puzzle, providing valuable information for the development of new, more sustainable, and climate-resilient sugarcane varieties.

The research involved the contributions of highly qualified professionals in the fields of genetics, plant breeding, plant physiology, and even international collaboration with Prof. Dr. Ray Ming (University of Illinois, USA), a bioinformatics expert.

One of the strategies to expedite the development of new citrus cultivars is applying biotechnological tools for the insertion or modification of specific genes related to the plant’s defense response against the bacterium Candidatus Liberibacter spp., which causes Greening. In this regard, researchers from CCD-CROP-IAC have successfully achieved, through genetic transformation, events of transgenic plants tolerant to Greening. While some events are in the testing phase in a greenhouse, others are at a more advanced stage and are being evaluated in the field.
The researchers have been working with genes related to different functions, such as activating the plant’s systemic resistance response, interfering with communication between cells of the citrus pathogenic bacteria, and exhibiting inhibitory activity against bacterial growth (antimicrobial action), among others.

In the greenhouse, transgenic orange plants (Hamlin and Pineapple) developed by MSc. Bruno Thomaz Rampim are undergoing evaluation. These plants were inoculated with the Greening-causing bacterium, and after one year of assessment, some transgenic events showed a reduction in bacterial concentration and symptoms. One transgenic plant remained asymptomatic for 12 months. This work was part of the master’s dissertation presented at the Faculty of Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences – Unesp Jaboticabal. In the next stage of the research, this event will be evaluated in the field with different pre-selected rootstocks in another study, aiming to achieve greater tolerance to HLB.
In the field, after approval from CTNBio (National Biosafety Technical Commission), more than 300 transgenic plants are being evaluated and monitored for disease response, development, and fruit quality compared to control plants of the same untransformed variety. Regarding HLB, evaluations conducted so far show very promising results of disease tolerance in six distinct events of oranges from the Hamlin, Valencia, Pera, and Pineapple varieties. It was observed that these plants maintained low levels of disease severity over time and a significant reduction in the quantity of bacteria in the phloem vessels.
The research from CCD-CROP-IAC has demonstrated that transgenic plants can be considered a viable technology for obtaining cultivars with increased tolerance to Greening, with the plants exhibiting stable genetic characteristics over the years and no morphological or fruit quality changes.

Tangerines are among the fruits that have experienced a significant price increase, primarily due to a reduction in cultivated area and plant productivity. Tangerine producers have faced challenges in maintaining production due to many plants affected by the Greening-causing bacterium and the fungus responsible for Alternaria Brown Spot (MMA).

To assist tangerine producers, researchers from CCD-CROP-IAC, led by Dr. Marines Bastianel from the Agronomic Institute (IAC), are evaluating the agronomic performance of three varieties—Murcott IAC 221, Ponkan IAC 172, and IAC 2019Maria—grafted onto different citrus rootstocks in the field. The rootstocks under evaluation are new Citrandarins from the Citrus Center Breeding Program.

The new rootstocks being assessed belong to the Poncirus trifoliata species and its hybrids. These rootstocks are expected to impart good physicochemical qualities to the fruits, and recent studies have identified varying levels of resistance to Greening.

The initial results of this research already show significant differences among the three tangerine plants grafted onto the evaluated rootstocks, particularly in terms of plant size, productivity, and physicochemical fruit characteristics.

Tolerance to Alternaria Brown Spot has been observed for IAC2019-Maria, and although the same has not been observed for Greening, researchers continue to work towards achieving this goal. They highlight significant differences in symptom severity caused by the bacterium depending on the rootstock used. Partial results of this study were presented at the Brazilian Congress of Fruit Growing held from November 6 to 10 in Pelotas, RS.

To expand work on in vitro cultivation and genetic transformation of coffee, the CCD-CROP-IAC-Coffee team has established collaboration with Professor Dr. Alessandra F. Ribas from the Department of Crop Science and Plant Health at the Federal University of Paraná (UFPR).
Dr. Alessandra’s research group has extensive experience in coffee cell culture and has developed the most widely used protocol for the transformation of embryogenic calli via Agrobacterium tumefaciens in coffee.
As part of this collaboration, Thais Vanz Peixoto, a student in the agronomy program at UFPR and a recipient of a scholarship from the Coffee Research Consortium, is dedicated to the gene editing project. She will work on standardizing the conditions for the transformation of embryogenic calli using vectors developed for editing coffee genes. In addition to this role, Dr. Alessandra will directly act as a consultant in tissue culture for the CCD-CROP-IAC-Citrus team. An initial training session was conducted with Dr. Raquel Boscariol Camargo in the Tissue Culture Laboratory at UFPR, focusing on understanding advanced strategies for the selection of embryogenic calli.
Recently, the UFPR team visited the Coffee Center/IAC for an immersion in the studied accessions preserved in the germplasm bank. During this visit, they actively participated in the 3rd CCD-CROP-IAC Workshop, where the scholarship recipient Thais presented the results achieved so far. This partnership not only enriches our research practices, fostering a collaborative and enriching environment, but also opens new possibilities for funding for CCD-CROP-IAC.

Ph.D. student Danyel Fernandes Contilliani has been awarded a FAPESP Overseas Researcher Fellowship (BEPE-FAPESP) for a professional training period of up to 12 months outside the country.
Danyel is currently at the University of Maryland (USA), working with the Qi Lab (image) under the supervision of Dr. Yiping Qi—a researcher whose outstanding work includes over 70 publications in high-impact journals such as Nature Plants, Genome Biology, and Molecular Plant.
During this period, Danyel will develop novel CRISPR-based tools, including new base editors, gene insertion technologies, and strategies for transcriptional gene activation. To achieve this, the student will learn various plant genetic transformation methodologies, as well as advanced molecular cloning techniques and DNA vector construction.
Ultimately, the outcomes of this international experience will be translated into innovative technological applications for the Agronomic Institute, aiming to develop sustainable high-performance cultivars for the State of São Paulo.

Researchers from CCD-CROP-IAC welcomed a select group of national and international award-winning baristas to the “Alcides Carvalho” Coffee Center. Among them, Boram Júnior Um stands out as the current Brazilian and world champion. The meeting between researchers and baristas was made possible by the partner company Daterra Atividades Agrícolas Ltda, whose technical team was also present during the visit.

As discerning experts and deep connoisseurs of coffee’s sensory characteristics, the baristas had the opportunity to explore the extensive collection of coffee plants maintained by IAC. They also learned about the institutional coffee genetic improvement program, responsible for developing cultivars that represent the majority of Arabica coffee cultivated in Brazil—likely used in the competitions they participate in.

In addition to a brief history of varietal development, IAC presented its current research lines related to coffee quality. This included the selection of exotic varietal coffees, naturally caffeine-free coffee, high-oil-content coffees, and the development, in partnership with Embrapa Café, of molecular techniques for varietal identification.

In September, researchers from CCD-CROP-IAC welcomed George Arvanitis from Nestlé Greece, Marcel Cutrona Júnior and Rogério dos Santos from Nestlé Brazil, along with Beatriz Filipov, trade, and marketing advisor from Daterra Atividades Rurais Ltda, to the “Alcides Carvalho” Coffee Center. The group of experts in quality coffees had the opportunity to explore selected coffees within the IAC’s Special Coffees Program. They also learned about the germplasm bank and the main research lines of the current institutional breeding program. This includes the development of coffee cultivars with low caffeine content through genomic editing, a project developed in partnership with Daterra and with financial support from Fapesp.

On October 27, 2023, the CCD-CROP-IAC held its third workshop at the auditorium of the Alcides Carvalho Coffee Center of the Agronomic Institute (IAC) in Campinas, SP.
The event showcased results obtained in the last twelve months within the project ‘Biotechnological and Genomic Strategies for Quality, Productivity, and Sustainable Management of Coffee, Sugarcane, and Citrus.’ The project is financially supported by FAPESP and partner companies.
Researchers from IAC and partner institutions, along with participation from undergraduate and graduate students, post-doctoral professionals, and representatives from partner companies, discussed advances and strategies adopted in research related to in vitro cultivation and plant transformation, gene editing, genomics, transcriptomics, and plant phenotyping. Governance and project management actions were also addressed.

Partner companies such as Citrosuco, Agroterenas, and Daterra were present at the event. Daterra Atividades Rurais Ltda presented economic, environmental, and social indicators of its activities in agriculture and provided a summary of its extensive history of research with coffee, in partnership with IAC.
The presence of various stakeholders involved in the project demonstrates CCD-CROP-IAC’s commitment to the triple helix model of technological innovation—a set of interactions among research, the productive sector, and the government to promote sustainable economic development in key areas of agribusiness.

Natacha Cassiano Rocha, an undergraduate student in Biological Sciences at UNICAMP and a Pibic/CNPq/IAC scientific initiation scholarship holder, presented results from the project ‘Isolation and cultivation of coffee protoplasts aiming at the CRISPR-CAS9 technique’ at the 17th Interinstitutional Congress of Scientific Initiation – CIIC 2023, held at the Agronomic Institute (IAC) in August 2023.
The research was conducted under the guidance of research scientist Dr.Rodrigo Rocha Latado and is an integral part of the project ‘Biotechnological and Genomic Strategies for Quality, Productivity, and Sustainable Management of Coffee, Sugarcane, and Citrus,’ which is financially supported by FAPESP and partner companies.
Nicholas Minomi, an undergraduate student in Biotechnology at UFSCAR and a Pibic/CNPQ/IAC scientific initiation scholarship holder, presented results from the project ‘Overexpression of a Poncirus trifoliata endochitinase in Citrus sinensis for obtaining a novel HLB-resistant GM Variety’ at the 68th Brazilian Congress of Genetics, held in Ouro Preto (MG) in September 2023. The work was awarded as the best poster in Genetics and Plant Breeding area.
The research was conducted under the guidance of research scientist Guilherme Souza Prado and is part of the project ‘Biotechnological and Genomic Strategies for Quality, Productivity, and Sustainable Management of Coffee, Sugarcane, and Citrus,’ financially supported by FAPESP and partner companies.

Consolidated excellence in research! Our sincere congratulations to each scientist who represented our center as a speaker at renowned events. We express our pride in a team of researchers that stands out and shines on national and international stages, reaffirming our unwavering commitment to the progress of agronomic science.


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