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Primary Industries Combine In $25 Million Search


MEDIA STATEMENT
Thursday 12 December 2002

PRIMARY INDUSTRIES COMBINE IN $25 MILLION SEARCH FOR A BETTER CLOVER

The dairy, meat and deer industries are combining in the use of modern biotechnology techniques to improve pasture performance and extend the growing season.

Pastoral Genomics, a joint venture of Fonterra subsidiary ViaLactia Biosciences (NZ) Ltd, Meat NZ subsidiary Agritech Investments, DEEResearch and Crown Research Institute AgResearch, will seek to discover how white clover genes influence pasture performance, with a view to lifting the productivity of the farming sector.

The joint venture will receive funding from Government worth $12.5 million spread over the next five years, and the four partners will together contribute at least this much.

Pastoral Genomics is one of four research consortia launched today by Minister of Research, Science and Technology, Pete Hodgson.

Colin South, CEO of joint venture member ViaLactia, says the move has been driven by industry recognition of the need to improve New Zealand's farming productivity and secure the country's low-cost advantage in the pasture-based production of dairy and meat.

"Producing a better clover will help keep New Zealand agriculture sustainable and ahead of its competitors."

Agritech Chairman John Baird says the joint venture marks a significant milestone in primary industry research.

"For the first time the dairy, meat and deer industries have combined with a leading Crown Research Institute to fund and direct research into one of the most important biological resources."

AgResearch Chief Executive Officer, Dr Keith Steele, said that as a Crown Research Institute, AgResearch is committed towards assisting the Government in the achievement of its Growth and Innovation Strategy.

"The consortium is an example of how science and innovation in New Zealand can be strengthened through joint collaboration," he said.

Pastoral Genomics will use the latest biotechnology to speed the development of new and improved species of white clover, a pasture plant essential to the dairy, meat and deer industries, which together contribute $10 billion to the economy.

The programme is based on a novel gene and market discovery technology GeneThresher(tm) developed by US biotechnology company Orion Genomics.

Pastoral Genomics, through ViaLactia, has worldwide exclusive access to the technology in clover, to exploit the untapped segments/information of the clover genome. These very areas may house the key tools to promote step changes in the agricultural efficiency of clover. The technology supercedes the existing Expressed Sequence Tag (EST) approach, currently being used by Pastoral Genomics' international competitors. ViaLactia is already using the technology successfully in its proprietary ryegrass programme funded by its parent, Fonterra.

White clover has widespread adaptability and can withstand grazing stress and interspecies competition better than other legumes. Increased available nitrogen directly influences the level of pasture yield, reducing the need for nitrogenous fertilisers, and improving animal performance.

Pastoral Genomics also wishes to encourage further academic research into the enhancement of clover by making the tools and databases freely available to the New Zealand academic research community.

-ENDS-


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