Ceres Technology Platforms
Ceres uses a combination of advanced plant breeding, biotechnology and bioinformatics to develop seed products and biotech traits that address the current limitations and future challenges facing agriculture. These technology platforms, which can increase crop productivity, improve quality, reduce crop inputs and improve cultivation on marginal land, have broad application across multiple end markets.
With a track record of over 18 years and 1.6 billion acres, plant biotechnology has proven its effectiveness and reliability in food, feed and fiber crops, and promises much more.
Biotech tools allow us to precisely add traits in ways not feasible through other plant breeding methods. Here, our genomics capabilities and proprietary gene-expression systems have expanded biotechnology’s application from single genes to groups of genes. We also have greater control over how, when and where specific genes are expressed in plants. Our work includes use of recombinant DNA, cell culture, and related technologies needed to optimize gene-trait combinations identified by our genomics platform, as well as gene transfer systems needed to transform plants.
After we identify a useful gene, we optimize its performance, including identifying the places and conditions when the gene should be turned on or off. Traits may also require a combination of genes to be commercially useful. For example, a gene conferring prolonged, mild drought tolerance may need to be combined with a gene conferring improved recovery from severe drought in order to produce a commercially useful drought-tolerant plant.
A Unique Approach to Trait Development
We were one of the first companies to implement the practice of developing biotech traits using two test species, rather than just one, which allows us to more successfully select gene-trait combinations that enhance commercial crops. We have also developed and utilized more sophisticated, non-constitutive promoters (the on-off switches for genes) and combined genes together to generate high impact traits.
Genomics and Bioinformatics
Genomics involves the large-scale, simultaneous study of vast numbers of genes. In addition to DNA sequencing and gene identification, we focus our efforts on determining gene function, how genes are regulated and how the activity of one gene affects others.
This is making biotechnology and plant breeding even more effective. In addition to identifying novel, uncommon gene-trait combinations, our genomics tools allow us to evaluate larger families of genes and complex biological processes controlled by multiple genes. For plant breeders, genomics also allows us to create detailed maps to guide product selections. Historically, biotechnologists and plant breeders have worked with only single gene-trait combinations. Genomics has opened vast new possibilities.
Ceres has established major seed collections — called germplasm — for sorghum and other crops. Our germplasm collection includes thousands of specimens and breeding lines, as well as multiple pools of regionally adapted germplasm spanning multiple climates. Germplasm basis of our product improvement activities, including the development of new hybrid seed products.
Traditionally, breeders developed new plant varieties by repeatedly crossing, growing and selecting the best performers within their germplasm collection. The age-old process is effective, but not efficient, predictable or timely.
Today, with our collaborators, we are using marker-assisted breeding (MAB), which is much more efficient at many steps in this process. MAB utilizes molecular biology and information systems to “flag” important genetic sequences so that preferred forms can be readily detected without evaluating the plants themselves. This is especially useful when seeking to combine multiple traits into elite commercial lines.
The performance of plant varieties and traits is influenced by the growing environment, which includes climate, day length, soil quality, pests, length of the growing season and crop management practices. Our network of field trials extends across numerous hardiness zones and regions. This network provides regional performance data and market fit information to support our research and commercialization efforts.