BASF Plant Science and Monsanto have jointly announced the discovery of a naturally occurring gene that will be used in drought-tolerant corn. They say producers could see products containing the cspB gene as early as 2012.

The drought-tolerant corn contains the cspB gene, from Bacillus subtilis. CspB codes for and is responsible for an RNA chaperone, which is a commonly occurring protein molecule that binds to RNAs and facilitates their function. The gene was first identified in bacteria subjected to cold stress conditions, and further research has demonstrated that cspB helps plants cope with drought stress. In corn, cspB works by helping the plant maintain growth and development during times of inadequate water supply.

The drought-tolerant corn product is targeted for as early as 2012 pending appropriate regulatory approvals. Both companies have completed regulatory submissions for cultivation in the United States and Canada and for import to Mexico, the European Union and Colombia.

This first-generation product is part of several biotech drought-tolerant products the companies are working to bring to market in the next decade. Already, the companies are conducting laboratory and field tests of a second-generation drought-tolerant corn, currently in Phase 2.

BASF Plant Science and Monsanto entered into a research and development and commercialization collaboration in plant biotechnology in March 2007.