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Ongoing project

A platform for gene editing vegetative propagated crops (AS20000)

Key research provider: Queensland University of Technology

What’s it all about?

This investment is using gene editing technology to develop two new banana cultivars that will contribute to improved production and biosecurity outcomes for industry. In Australia, there is concern that the banana industry is too dependent on the Cavendish banana which is susceptible to Panama Disease tropical race 4 (TR4). There is a need to create greater cultivar diversity, as well as disease-resistant varieties.

Gene editing provides the ability to alter single traits within highly desirable cultivars and will be used to (a) improve varietal diversity and (b) improve disease-resistance. Importantly, these gene editing technologies are deemed to be essentially equivalent to natural processes and do not require any additional regulation other than for conventionally bred cultivars and will not require any specific labelling.

Specifically, the project aims to develop:

  • Cavendish banana lines that have high-level resistance to Panama disease tropical race 4
  • Goldfinger banana lines with enhanced levels of fruit quality.

This research will benefit growers across the industry, such as:

  • Growers already affected by TR4 or who are growing susceptible bananas adjacent or close to previous outbreaks
  • Growers considering the future threat of TR4 spread
  • Growers interested in expanding the diversity of bananas that they produce without the concern of disease threats.

These new varieties will also benefit consumers looking for great choice and diversity in the bananas that are available to them.

A key component for gene editing in bananas is to have a method to edit a banana cell without the introduction of new DNA into the banana DNA. The research team have now developed a platform technology to generate gene edited Cavendish plants that contain no additional or foreign DNA. The edits have been generated using CRISPR/Cas9 and are classified as SDN-1 or Site-Directed Nuclease-1.

This is the first major step towards developing edited Cavendish bananas for Australia and will be particularly applied to developing Panama disease tropical race 4 resistance.

The project is progressing well and is close to discovering embryogenic cell suspicion of Goldfinger, which will act as the platform for developing gene edited Goldfinger. This is the first stage of developing gene editing of bananas, where cells are edited and regenerated to improve a variety. These can be embryogenic cells or protoplasts (cells without cell walls) derived from those cells. The second stage of the generation of embryogenic cell suspicion is predicted to occur soon.