Carlsberg Invent Ultrafast Breeding Tech to Develop Crops

A non-GMO breeding method which helps find variants that better tolerate heat, drought or other climatic challenges has been invented by scientists at Carlsberg Research Laboratory.

The obvious application of the ‘FIND-IT’ method for the brewer is barley for beer, though Carlsberg states the application of the tech extends across cereal crops and other plants and bacteria that are fundamental for food production and many industrial processes. 

In the face of changing climatic conditions, the new FIND-IT method represents a wide-reaching and ground-breaking step towards meeting the food requirements for an expanding global population.

The Carlsberg Research Laboratory primarily focuses on brewing-oriented research, covering topics ranging from crop breeding to the dynamics of end product. There is urgent demand to find ways to sustainably optimise the way we produce crops, as rising temperatures and a projection that the current yield increase rates of crops will not accommodate the food requirement of a population of 9-10 billion by 2050. 

FIND-IT technology (Fast Identification of Nucleotide variants by droplet DigITal PCR) enables ultrafast improvement of many different types of plants, such as cereal crops, but also microbes. This includes barley, yeasts and bacterial strains that are fundamental for brewing, food production and many other industrial processes. The technology also accelerates the development process from lab to field evaluation and product development. There is great potential for sustainable agriculture even outside of the world of brewing.

The resource provides ultrafast identification and isolation of predetermined, targeted genetic variants in a screening cycle of less than 10 days. Using large-scale sample pooling in combination with droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) greatly increases the size of low-mutation density and screenable variant libraries and the probability of identifying the variant of interest. 

The tech minimises time-consuming technical steps to accelerate the evolution of germplasm. 

The insertion of complete genes, gene replacement, or the alteration of sections of genomes is not used with FIND-IT, in contrast to transgenesis and CRISPR-Cas9 technologies which in several jurisdictions fall under GM guidelines and are therefore subject to the regulatory and financial barriers associated with releasing GM crops.

Plant genome editing by CRISPR-Cas9 and transgenesis technologies remain of central importance for the long-term future of crop adaptation but have technical drawbacks that have so far precluded their widespread application in commercial plant breeding. 

The new method was tested by screening variant libraries totalling 500,000 barley individuals and isolating more than 125 targeted barley gene knockout lines and miRNA or promoter variants enabling functional gene analysis.