A spray to protect crop yields in drought- and heat-stressed plants may be available in two years

AgroFresh and Swiss-based firm Syngenta are to market a spray to protect crop yields in drought- and heat-stressed plants within two years. 

US-based AgroFresh, a wholly-owned subsidiary of speciality chemicals company Rohm and Haas, say Invinsa can be used on a variety of crops from corn to rice to cotton. On 17 January 2008, the company announced they will partner with Syngenta in the final push to bring the product to market worldwide. 

’I think there’s a lot to be gained in terms of sharing capabilities to further characterise Invinsa in field research across diverse environments,’ said Trent Leopold, vice-president of agronomics business development at AgroFresh, about the Syngenta deal. ’As we enter the sales window, we looked to work with Syngenta to leverage their global presence in bringing Invinsa to the market - they’ll play an important role in leading the marketing and distribution.’ 


Crops treated with Invinsa (left) and untreated crops (right)

Invinsa’s active ingredient is 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP), a compound known to interfere with ethylene signalling in plants. Crops produce ethylene when they’re stressed, triggering a cascade of responses that include pods and flowers aborting in soybeans, flowers and bolls being shed in cotton plants, and abortion of kernels in the ears of cereal crops. But applying 1-MCP to the plant blocks the ethylene receptors, repressing the stress response. 

’In most cases, the plant overreacts [to a heatwave], when relief is in sight with cooler weather arriving in a week or so,’ Tim Malefyt, AgroFresh’s vice president of product development, told Chemistry World. It is during such periods of short stress that Invinsa can protect the yield. ’If relief doesn’t come and you have an extended drought, even Invinsa can’t do a miracle,’ adds Malefyt. 

1-MCP was originally developed by Ed Sisler, a chemist who studies ethylene signalling in plants at North Caroline State University, US, and was looking to develop an ethylene inhibitor. Rohm and Haas first licensed the compound in the late 1990s, and subsequently developed a formulation to suppress ethylene’s ripening action in harvested fruit, vegetables and flowers, which keeps them fresher for longer. 

The company’s own research scientists subsequently developed Invinsa, based on the known role of ethylene in stressed plants.

’There’s nothing like Invinsa out there at the moment - and with climate change, there’s currently a lot of discussion over what we’ll do when summers get warmer’ Paul Chambers, Plant Health Advisor at the National Union of Farmers, UK, told Chemistry World. ’In the UK, it wouldn’t be used every year, but as a back-up in certain situations. It’s something we’d support as it provides more options for farmers.’ 

James Mitchell Crow 

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