April 17, 2020 – In the past six months, the US Patent Office has issued two foundational patents for our breakthrough technology that has the potential to become game-changers for how corn and other row crops are produced around the world. In September 2019, PowerPollen® received its first patent, US 10,398,099, granted by the US Patent Office that covers technology of pollinating grain fields by intentionally using pollen from a different genetic background. This March, PowerPollen received patent number US 10,575,517 that allows for long-term preservation of corn pollen using a controlled environment.
Rooted in Invention
From our start in 2015, PowerPollen has focused on inventing new technologies to help growers improve the productivity and value of their crops in a sustainable manner by addressing one of the most difficult, yet most critical areas of plant reproduction in corn—pollination.
We determined that pollen could be collected and preserved in ways that make the pollen stay viable for a long period of time. This discovery has enabled the ability to collect and store large volumes of pollen—enough to use on large commercial fields. In addition, PowerPollen developed multiple types of machinery that can be used to apply the pollen when pollination is optimal for the female.
After several years of intensive research and experimentation, PowerPollen’s team of scientists and engineers developed technology that permits careful control of the pollen moisture content, along with other storage parameters, such as temperature and humidity. The research also identified that pollen can be subjected to a quick conditioning process in the field, immediately after it is collected. This field conditioning process improves the pollen’s health and viability even further.
New Tools for Seed Producers and Growers
There could be many reasons why a grower might need to rely on intentional pollination, rather than relying on traditional wind-based pollination to complete the task. For example, in a grain field where pollination is not performing well, such as during water stress conditions, this technology allows the application of previously preserved or fresh pollen, thus rescuing the field and ensuring a good yield. Conversely, using the technology on fields that are already performing well can further improve productivity and profitability.
In another aspect of the patented invention, the characteristics of the grain can be altered by using pollen from a different variety. For example, a field of corn could be pollinated using pollen from a corn variety that has a higher starch or oil content thereby producing a crop with potentially higher value.
The pollen used in the technology doesn’t have to be preserved from a previous generation of plants. It can also be fresh pollen that has been collected and conditioned from another field and quickly dispersed into the target field. The patented method and technology have broad application across all types of grain crops.
Solving the Challenging Issue of Pollen Preservation in Corn
Preservation of pollen is more complex in self-pollinating or recalcitrant crops, like corn, rice and wheat, compared to other commodity crops, such as nut and fruit varieties. Many types of pollen die very quickly after being released from the parent plant. Corn pollen, for example, loses viability after just an hour or two. In the past, pollen from certain species has been successfully stored using deep freezing techniques, but such methods were not scalable or financially viable for use on an entire field. Using PowerPollen’s patented technology, pollen can be collected, conditioned and stored in mass quantities. Once conditioning is complete, we believe it’s possible that pollen can be stored for long periods of time in a controlled environment, which would enable many opportunities including transportation of pollen across geographies and growing cycles.
As our company continues to develop additional technologies in pollen preservation and application, we remain dedicated to bringing this technology to growers to improve their crop productivity. Our intellectual property strategy is just one of many business strategies that will further enable our innovation and growth in the future. And, I’m proud to work along side our many scientists and engineers to create new solutions together.