Performance Plants Inc. is a global leader in discovery and development of second-generation agricultural biotechnologies. The company's patented technologies enhance plant productivity (including seed yield and plant biomass) and weatherproof food and non-food biofuel crops through periods of drought and heat stresses resulting in a more abundant, consistent and cost-effective harvests for farmers. The company has a robust gene-discovery & technology evaluation pipeline, and has licensed multiple breakthrough technologies to many worlds’ leading seed companies. The privately-held Canadian company is headquartered with commercial and R&D facilities in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.
PPI’s starts crop improvement by thoroughly understanding the roles played by key plant genes in normal plant growth and development. PPI looks for individual plants that exhibit improved traits like drought tolerance or increased biomass. These traits are usually found to result from the increased or reduced expression of normal plant genes. PPI uses this genetic information to reproduce the same improved trait in a variety of crops using marker assisted breeding or genetic modification.
The company has licensed its breakthrough Yield Protection Technology® to many of the world’s leading seed companies such as Syngenta Biotechnology, Stine Seeds (Eden Enterprise and Mertec), RiceTec and Scotts Miracle Gro. The company also develops customized biofuel solutions, as it has with leading cement producer Lafarge North America, the first biofuel crop development agreement in North America.
There are many ways that PPI stands out, but two key factors are: we have a robust and proven portfolio of plant-based traits and because we field test our crops, we have the ability to develop commercially valuable crop traits and bring them to market quickly. Another significant difference in our view is the fact that our Efficient Conversion Technology™ (ECT™) is the world’s first known feedstock improvement technology for reducing cellulosic ethanol or butanol production costs by up to 25%. Performance Plants has based its discovery program on the fact that small changes in plant metabolism can have profound positive impacts on crop productivity and quality. This concept has allowed plant breeders over the millennia to turn weeds like teosinte into useful crops like corn. The successful application of biotechnology and modern breeding methods can rapidly enhance these desirable traits to make next generation crops with improved yields and quality. With our technology, we have produced crop plants that have greater tolerance to growing environmental stresses such as drought and heat. We have crop plants that need less water to grow. We have produced crops that have either greater seed yield for enhanced food production or increased cellulosic biomass yield for biofuel production.
PPI’s proprietary non-food biofuels crops offer three significant benefits:
Biomass is the non-food part of plants (mostly stems and branches) primarily made up of lignin, cellulose and hemicellulose (lignocellulose). Not only does plant biomass remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but it’s the earth’s most abundant reserve of renewable energy. Each year the planet grows sufficient new biomass to power the USA 60,000 times - renewable energy that is practically carbon-neutral.
The great thing about PPI technology is that it improves yields for both food and non-food biofuel crops. Only 30% of US farmland is actively used for corn, soybean and wheat production. PPI’s non-food biofuel grasses can thrive on the remaining 70% underutilized farmland and will provide many farmers with new markets and crop rotation choices. The company focuses its biofuel trait development in such non-food crops as switch grass, Miscanthus, sorghum and hemp.
DNA is the heritable set of instructions found in most cells of all organisms; plants, animals, microbes and even viruses. Genes are small regions of DNA that produce a specific characteristic or trait. As required, individual genes can be expressed to varying levels or not expressed depending on many factors. Differences within a species can often be attributed to different gene expression levels. Breeders enhance such heritable differences as they develop new plant varieties or animal breeds.
Genetic modification (GM) and genetic engineering (GE) all refer to the same thing – the use of modern biotechnology techniques to change the genes of an organism. A genetically modified organism (GMO) is a plant, animal or other organism that has been changed using genetic modification.
Traditional plant breeding aims to improve the plant by selectively breeding for favourable traits such as increased seed yield or disease tolerance. Each year, seed companies and university breeding programs introduce crop varieties with slightly improved characteristics. Such incremental improvements can deliver huge benefits like the 5 fold increase in corn yields over the last century (30 to 150 bushels per acre).
When a gene for producing a favourable trait is known (gene of interest), plants can be precisely and rapidly improved through GM techniques. The gene of interest can involve a change made to the organism’s own gene or it can be based on a gene from another species. The modified gene is introduced into the plant’s DNA using the natural recombinant DNA mechanism of a soil bacterium or using the plant’s own DNA repair mechanism.
The resulting GMO are rigorously tested for safety and quality before entering breeding programs for commercial crop development. In fact, GMO crops have been deemed as being safe as their non-GMO counterparts by top scientific and regulatory organizations such as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, World Health Organization, American Medical Association, US Food and Drug Administration and EU Food Safety Authority.