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CTC and BASF Partner to Develop Genetically Modified Sugarcane with Drought Tolerance and 25% Higher Yields

CTC—Centro de Tecnologia Canavieira, the largest and leading sugarcane research center in Brazil—and BASF entered a plant biotechnology cooperation agreement with the goal of bringing sugarcane varieties that are drought-tolerant and with yield increases of 25% to the market within about the next decade. This would result in an almost unprecedented jump in productivity for any crop.

This type of yield increase would mean that the average quantity of sugarcane harvested could rise from 80 to 100 tons per hectare, said Marc Ehrhardt, Group Vice President, BASF Plant Science.

The yield increase that the partners are targeting will create significant additional value that will be shared among sugarcane, ethanol and energy producers, as well as CTC and BASF. The agreement also provides the possibility for both companies to evaluate the development of sugarcane varieties with herbicide-tolerant characteristics in the future.

With this agreement, BASF is launching its biotechnology activities in the sugarcane sector. In the partnership, BASF provides plant biotech knowhow as well as its most promising genes, and CTC, in turn, brings its broad expertise in sugarcane and adds selected genes to its most promising sugarcane varieties.

CTC has 182 members producing sugar, ethanol and energy. CTC serves about 12,000 sugarcane growers and maintains experimental stations and regional units in strategic areas of the Southeast, South and the Midwest in Brazil. The main objective of the center is to develop and transfer cutting-edge technology to its members. These together account for 60% of cane processed in Brazil, or a total of 450 million tons during the 2008-09 season.

With the largest germplasm sugarcane bank in the world, CTC carries out research in the industrial, logistics and agronomic areas: varieties of sugar cane, planting and mechanized harvest, biotechnology, biological pests control, healthy plants, geoprocessing, satellite images, location of production environment, sugar production, energy generation and ethanol production (first- and second-generation).



Currently, the best average sugarcane crops produce up to 8000 L (or about 6.32 MT) of ethanol/ha. Increasing yield by 25% could get up to about 8 MT of ethanol/ha.

Autralian engineered palms can produce up to 38 MT of oil or diesel fuel/ha

Could Brazil gain by switching from ethanol from sugarcane to fuel from palms in areas where palms grow well?

Of course other by-products, labour cost, processing cost, relative energy content etc would have to be considered for both crops.

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