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DuPont Discovery Improves Livestock Feed, Environmental Quality


Scientists Identify and Silence Plant Gene That Controls Phytic Acid

A team of DuPont scientists has identified a gene that, when silenced, can help increase the feed value of grain, improve breeding programs for corn and other crops and reduce phosphorous in animal waste. Results of this research were published online in Nature Biotechnology on August 5.

The gene controls production of phytic acid, a compound in grain and oilseeds that is not digestible by monogastric animals, such as swine and poultry, and reduces the availability of essential minerals. Through genetic manipulation, researchers at DuPont business Pioneer Hi-Bred were able to silence the gene in corn, greatly reducing the amount of phytic acid in the seed.

“This research is a major advancement in our effort to improve the quality of grain used for animal feed and brings more value to producers,” said Jinrui Shi, research scientist at Pioneer. “For years, seed and biotech companies have been trying, with little success, to bring a low-phytic acid offering to market. This is the first time an institution has successfully produced a transgenic low-phytic acid trait without impacting germination or plant growth. In the past, this has precluded successful commercialization of this trait.”

Low-phytic acid seed is beneficial because it increases the amount of nutritionally available phosphorus and the bioavailability of essential minerals, which reduces the need for producers to add more costly feed supplements. In addition, lowering the amount of phosphorus from undigested phytic acid in manure can help reduce the environmental impacts of livestock production.

“Pioneer has developed a great example of a technology application that will directly benefit pork producers,” said Jill Appell, president of the National Pork Producers Council and a pork producer from Altona, Ill. “Low-phytic acid grains will not only allow pigs to better digest feed grains, which comprise 75 percent of their diets, and absorb nutrients, but they’ll also reduce the phosphorus content of manure. That’s good for the environment.”

“The low-phytic acid trait will become part of our portfolio of traits to be integrated into our high-yielding, agronomically superior corn hybrids over a wide range of maturities,” Shi said. “We have also demonstrated that this can be used in other crops such as soybeans.”

Pioneer plans to introduce low-phytic acid seed during the next decade with a package of traits for improved feed quality. It is part of the DuPont strategy to improve the productivity of grain and livestock producers to meet the growing demand for feed, fuel, food and materials.


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