NuPlant has launched SmartClone – a plant tissue culture propagation system that promises to rapidly deliver significantly improved plants from breeding programs for multiple species. SmartClone uses precision robotics to deliver robust clones from parent material using customizable conditions for each growth phase.
The system promises stronger, more uniform plantlets, reduced labor, and lower costs per plant. NuPlant CEO Bob Teasdale sees significant opportunities for SmartClone in multiple applications. "Cloning through tissue culture has been around for many years, and it remains an important technology for plant improvement," he says.
"But the cloning processes used are manual and inconsistent. Our automated processes increase the speed and consistency of tissue culture, making it more viable for plant breeders globally and allowing faster production of healthier plants with less labor." The SmartClone system reduces labor costs by a five-fold factor across several plant species when compared to conventional tissue culture methods. Even traditionally difficult species can be cloned in a controlled, large-scale environment at an economically viable price point with a high rate of survivability.
In a sample study for grapevines, SmartClone had a total cost savings of 19 cents per plantlet (86% less) compared to conventional clonal propagation accounting for container, media, labor, nursery transfer, residence time, and attrition. In the case of potatoes, the corresponding saving was estimated at 28 cents per plantlet (58% less). Plantlets developed in the SmartClone system significantly outperform those produced from conventional tissue culture because they have up to 10 times greater biomass, better root systems, and normal physiology.
Total time in the nursery is reduced from the typical 14 to 16 weeks to just eight weeks, and 95% of the plants typically finish, compared to as low as 70% with conventional tissue culture. SmartClone can create the most value in intensive crop production, including potatoes, grapes, berries, and hemp, where efficient tissue culture is critical for high-health, high-yielding plants. It also can play an important role in the production of healthier tree planting stock and the supply of many ornamental plant species which have been difficult to propagate using conventional tissue culture methods.