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Chilean scientists making progress in the development of kiwis and tomatoes resistant to extreme weather conditions

In 2020, a group of scientists from the University of Chile launched a project called PlantaConCiencia. The goal was to use biotechnological gene editing tools to develop varieties resistant to the extreme conditions caused by climate change, focusing on kiwifruit and tomato.

"These tools make it possible to develop new plant varieties in half the time, compared to the non-biotechnological techniques commonly used. With the support of the Ministry of Science and Technology and hand in hand with the Ministry of Agriculture, we hope to obtain crops that can withstand the adverse weather conditions caused by climate change for the benefit of both large companies and small producers," said Claudia Stange, a researcher at the Center for Plant Molecular Biology of the Faculty of Science of the University of Chile and director of the project.

The first stage of the project was successfully completed in August 2023 after achieving remarkable progress in the study of specific genes of the tomato variety Poncho Negro, endemic to the Lluta Valley (Arica and Parinacota Region), as well as of a commercial variety of Hayward kiwifruit. After successfully obtaining the plants in laboratory conditions, an acclimatization process and field trials are still required. These are expected to be carried out over the next two years.

"Our objective is to combine three features: tolerance to salinity or drought; being non-transgenic, and for the selected genes to be edited," thus facilitating the prospect of having Chilean crops that are more resistant to climate change, said Stange.


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