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Israeli computational biology company Evogene has announced that its Ag-Seed division has been awarded a €1.2M (US$1.3M) grant to develop oilseed crops with high CO₂ assimilation and drought tolerance.

With an overall budget of €2.5M (US$2.7M), the Crop4Clima project, was expected to be conducted over 32 months, the company said on 9 May.

The programme’s goal was to develop crops, initially focusing on canola and rapeseed seeds, able to assimilate 60% more CO₂ from the air while requiring 20% less water intake when compared to crops grown using standard agricultural practices, Evogene said.

Expected to have an improved biomass yield/ha, the company said the crops would also retain a high oil content in line with demand by producers of canola-derived products and the biofuel industry.

Crop4Clima is part of Horizon Europe’s EIC Transition programme, which is aimed at establishing businesses to address climate challenges and developing resilient and environmentally sustainable crops.

Other partners in the project include German research institution the Max Planck Society, Italian not-for-profit the IN Society, that analyses the impact of emerging technologies on society, and the Agrobioinstitute, Agricultural Academy, in Bulgaria.

“Our research on basic design principles of microbial metabolism enabled us to engineer improved carbon dioxide uptake mechanisms. The joint project with Evogene is an important part of our efforts to create a sustainable future with synthetic biology,” Prof Dr Tobias Erb, director of the Department of Biochemistry and Synthetic Metabolism at Max Planck said.

“By engineering novel metabolic pathways, we aim to enable plants to make better use of cellular resources, …saving fertiliser and water and reducing the release of carbon dioxide in agriculture.”