Texas A&M AgriLife is collaborating on a new approach to improve vegetable and fruit crops.

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High-value food crops that face various impediments in breeding new varieties are getting some attention from a collaboration of researchers using the CRISPR-Combo gene-editing technology.

While gene-editing technology has improved crop breeding and adaptation, the process of regrowing a plant from edited cells is costly, lengthy and unpredictable. Furthermore, this process, referred to as regeneration, is difficult to achieve with existing methods for many popular crops.

Texas A&M AgriLife will be among those participating in a Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) grant of $664,000 to develop a technology that can both edit a crop’s genes and speed up crop regeneration.

The grant, primarily awarded to the University of Maryland through the FFAR Crops of the Future Collaborative, also includes Texas A&M AgriLife and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Matched funds bring the total project investment to $739,000.

This grant was awarded as part of the Accelerated Crop Breeding program, designed to speed up the development of diverse crop species suited to sustainable agriculture and improved human nutrition.

Researchers are developing a CRISPR-Combo system that will use CRISPR gene-editing technology to kick-start the regeneration process. The team is led by Yiping Qi at UMD; Kranthi Mandadi, Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientist and associate professor in the Texas A&M University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences‘ Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology; and Randall Niedz, a USDA research geneticist at Fort Pierce, Florida,

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