Beck’s and Benson Hill Biosystems have joined forces to bring to market the first photosynthetic efficiency trait, enabling corn farmers to increase the yield, sustainability and profitability of their farms.
Sunlight is the critical natural input for food production, capturing and storing carbon as a source for all energy, but photosynthesis is highly inefficient. Increasing carbon capture by improving photosynthesis efficiency is recognized as an important opportunity to improve crop productivity and sustainability.
“For years, trait innovation has been largely limited to only the largest multinational companies. The goal of our product development and testing programs has always been to help farmers succeed by bringing them more choice and profitability,” said Kevin Cavanaugh, Director of Research at Beck’s. “We have been working with Benson Hill now for years and are convinced that this collaboration will allow us to open new channels for innovation and greater opportunity for our customers.”
Benson Hill has developed a robust pipeline of trait product candidates that improve crop photosynthetic efficiency, one of which has demonstrated significant yield increases in hybrid corn across three years of field trials in a broad range of environments and genetic backgrounds. Through its co-development and commercialization agreement, Beck’s and Benson Hill will advance a trait product candidate through the final stages of development and anticipate filing a regulatory dossier with the USDA by 2021.
“It’s encouraging to see companies tackling some of the most critical and challenging areas of crop improvement such as photosynthesis,” said David Ertl, Technology Commercialization Manager at the Iowa Corn Promotion Board. “Novel trait development research is important, but it is equally important that these trait developers partner with others in the seed industry to commercialize these traits and get them into the hands of farmers.”
The partnership is particularly timely given the unprecedented level of consolidation underway in the agriculture industry. Through true collaboration, the companies will combine their expertise in product development, testing, and commercialization to bring greater choice to farmers in the marketplace. The companies plan to broadly license this exciting technology to many seed corn companies so that all farmers will have the opportunity to increase corn yields.
“When we started Benson Hill, we envisioned that the intersection of disciplines known as cloud biology could help address major challenges like improving photosynthesis,” said Matthew Crisp, CEO and co-founder of Benson Hill. “This outcome has since been demonstrated, and dedicated partners like Beck’s are now helping us define new channels to market for the resulting product opportunities.”