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Genesis Unlocks Wrightson Secrets

Genesis Unlocks Wrightson Secrets In Forage Grasses

Auckland, May 23, 2001 -- Genesis Research and Development Corporation Limited (NZSE/ASX: GEN) and Wrightson Limited (NZSE: WRI) today announced that they have completed the first phase of their genomic discovery programme in pasture grasses.

Last year the two organisations formed a strategic alliance to build on Wrightson’s successful programme in breeding high productivity forage grasses, by applying the new technologies of genomic research and bioinfomatics utilised extensively by Genesis.

“The first phase of the research which has been building a forage grass EST database has been very successful. It has achieved our objectives with some excellent results,” says Genesis Chief Executive, Dr Jim Watson.

“We are in the unique position of having an extensive body of information in our forestry database which we can apply to enhance our understanding of grasses,” he says. “Building on the information we have in our grass database we have gone on to identify many of the genes we believe are key to Wrightson’s forage grass breeding programme.”

For the past 15 years Wrightson has been breeding pasture grasses for enhanced animal performance in terms of liveweight gain or other output traits. Independent research has indicated that these grasses can increase animal performance by up to 50 percent.

This is contrary to conventional thinking around pasture grasses being based on dry matter production and has resulted in a unique library of germplasm being developed.

Wrightson Managing Director, Dr Allan Freeth, says, “The power of the Genesis alliance is that it allows us to look inside the plant, right at the genetic and protein structure of the grasses to determine how these productivity traits are determined and controlled.
“Using this information we will be able to more effectively tailor our conventional breeding programmes to develop new commercial varieties for New Zealand farmers, and fully understand the interactions between the plant and animal in terms of energy, live weight, milk and wool production and reproduction.”

“By targeting improvements in grasses there is also scope for reducing methane gas emission from livestock,” he adds. “This has the potential to materially assist New Zealand to meet its carbon emission goals.”

“This is a significant first step towards new agricultural discoveries that can make a contribution to the New Zealand economy, both directly in terms of increased agricultural productivity, and indirectly thorough the export of pasture grasses with traits sought by international markets,” says Dr Freeth.

Dr Watson says that Genesis and Wrightson jointly own the intellectual property developed through the partnership, and are protecting this by working through the process of patenting the research findings.

“By working together we have the full range of capabilities required to make our discoveries commercially successful, from primary science through to international marketing and distribution of forage grasses with desired characteristics,” he says.

Genesis and Wrightson have now agreed to enter Phase II of the collaboration, identifying which pathways to investigate in order to pursue commercial targets.


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