German chemical giant Bayer has teamed up with gene-editing company Pairwise to develop short-stature corn.

The collaboration’s aim was to offer farmers more sustainable and resilient corn varieties, Bayer said on 29 August.

Building on an earlier gene-editing partnership between the two companies for canola, corn, cotton and soyabeans, Bayer said the new five-year agreement would focus on CRISPR applications for its Preceon Smart Corn System using Pairwise’s Fulcrum platform.

“Pairwise’s proprietary base editing tools allow for specific changes at virtually any location in the genome, which has the potential to make targeted … improvements in agriculture,” Bob Reiter, head of R&D at Bayer’s Crop Science Division, said.

With a targeted height of 30-40% less than traditional corn, short-stature corn offered a number of sustainability benefits, including protection from crop loss due to increasingly severe weather events and extreme winds brought about by climate change, Bayer said.

In addition, short-stature also allowed for more precise application of inputs throughout the growing season, the company added.

Pairwise gene-editing tools, including REDRAW - a precise templated editing toolbox that could make any type of small edit at CRISPR-targeted sites - would be used in the new collaboration.

The earlier five-year collaboration between the two companies – which concluded in June – focused on corn, soyabeans, wheat, cotton and canola and resulted in 27 novel traits being transferred into Bayer’s testing programmes, the company said.

In addition, the programme led to the development of edited corn phenotypes with a 20% increase in kernel row numbers.

Another outcome had been edited soya that reduced the severity of Asian soyabean rust, potentially reducing the need for fungicides to combat the disease and protecting potential for higher yields, Bayer said.