Mile­stones for ge­net­ics com­pany

In­no­va­tive Dutch plant ge­netic com­pany NSure saw two sig­nif­i­cant mile­stones in 2016. Firstly, they cel­e­brated 10 years since in­cep­tion as a start-up com­pany. They fol­lowed that up with the com­mer­cial re­lease through Farm­lands of the BreakNSure test for gr

The Orchardist - - What’s New -

Af­ter 2 years of col­lab­o­ra­tion with Ze­spri, sci­en­tists from NSure iden­ti­fied spe­cific gene se­quenc­ing in green ki­wifruit that in­di­cated the gene switches for the start of bud break. At the molec­u­lar level, plant genes are the first to re­spond to changes in their en­vi­ron­ments, long be­fore the plants trans­form vis­i­bly. What this means for or­chardists is an abil­ity to mea­sure the ge­netic ac­tiv­ity of buds within their or­chards long be­fore bud break, to es­tab­lish whether the plant is “wak­ing up”. By ac­cu­rately de­ter­min­ing the phys­i­o­log­i­cal sta­tus of their fe­male vines grow­ers now have the abil­ity to “be on time” with bud break en­hancers, to max­imise their or­chard po­ten­tial.

The BreakNSure test for green ki­wifruit was launched un­der tough con­di­tions when the Bay of Plenty ex­pe­ri­enced a year with low win­ter chill. The chal­leng­ing cir­cum­stances of the sea­son gave the test a real “bap­tism of fire”. The re­sults that came through showed in many in­stances what grow­ers thought would be the ideal time for ap­pli­ca­tion of bud en­hancers were sig­nif­i­cantly ear­lier than where the plants were ge­net­i­cally for the sea­son. This gave grow­ers a co­nun­drum – to either fol­low a “gut feel based on years of growing and shift slightly” ap­proach, or put their faith in science. A lot of grow­ers ran with gut feel although a num­ber used the science – some even hedged their bets and split ap­plied hy­dro­gen cya­n­imide, us­ing both the test and ex­pe­ri­ence pro­vid­ing quasi trial sit­u­a­tions. What was ev­i­dent was those that fol­lowed the test or split ap­plied hy­dro­gen cya­n­imide re­ported sig­nif­i­cant gains in the uni­for­mity of bud break and an in­crease in the amount of king sin­gle flow­ers this sea­son be­cause of the test. Go­ing for­ward there is now the po­ten­tial for a par­a­digm shift to when dor­mancy break­ers are ap­plied through gene test­ing. With BreakNSure sam­pling buds for the trig­gers that de­ter­mine the start of bud break, a test will be­come sim­i­lar to soil and leaf test­ing for nutri­tion that are per­formed an­nu­ally. With an­a­lyt­i­cal ser­vices pro­vided by Hill Lab­o­ra­to­ries and in­ter­pre­ta­tion by NSure, there is an ex­tremely short turn­around time from the test be­ing taken and re­sults re­ceived. This al­lows grow­ers to make de­ci­sions with their or­chards quickly.

NSure was formed in 2006 by molec­u­lar bi­ol­o­gists Monique van Wor­dra­gen and Peter Balk out of one of the re­search in­sti­tutes of Wa­genin­gen Univer­sity. The com­pany has been able to com­mer­cialise re­search work in next gen­er­a­tion se­quenc­ing (the abil­ity to ex­am­ine the ac­tiv­ity of all genes present in a plant at the same time) to pro­vide added value to the agri­cul­ture pro­duc­tion chain. These tests are aimed at sup­port­ing cru­cial de­ci­sions dur­ing cul­ti­va­tion and stor­age of var­i­ous crops.

As well as the BreakNSure test for green ki­wifruit, the com­pany has de­vel­oped tests such as StoreNSure for straw­ber­ries, to test whether young run­ner plants are ready for lift­ing and long-term stor­age. NSure is also cur­rently pur­su­ing the de­vel­op­ment of BreakNSure tests for cher­ries, grapes and ap­ples and in 2017 is of­fer­ing a test for Sun gold (G3) ki­wifruit.

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