Development of disease-resistant pennycress as a novel cover crop
Award last edited on: 6/3/22

Sponsored Program
Awarding Agency
Total Award Amount
Award Phase
Solicitation Topic Code
Principal Investigator
Tim Ulmasov

Company Information

CoverCress Inc (AKA: Arvegenix LLC)

1100 Corporate Square Drive Suite 135
St Louis, MO 63132
   (636) 891-5588
Location: Single
Congr. District: 01
County: St. Louis

Phase I

Contract Number: 2021-01569
Start Date: 3/18/21    Completed: 11/30/21
Phase I year
Phase I Amount
The goal of this Phase I effort is to demonstrate CoverCress as a new source of protein for the plant- based protein market. CoverCress is a winter covercrop that is targeted towards corn-soy rotation farmers in the American Midwest. The unique feature of CoverCress is that it doubles as a cash crop providing $50-70/acre in net returns to the farmer. This gives farmers a financial incentive to adopt a cover crop strategy because it more than offsets the cost of planting and harvesting the cover crop while providing environmental benefits" • cover crops prevent soilerosion and nutrient runoff reduce pesticide use and disease emergence and sequester carbon from the atmosphere. Additionally CoverCress is ready to harvest in late May prior to soybean planting and can be done using a standard soybean combine. We estimate that CoverCress can bring a potential $275/acre in economic value to the US economy from the 35 million acres of corn-soy farmland in the Midwest about $9.6 billion overall. We expect this value to grow through improved CoverCress varieties with greater yields and climate hardiness. CoverCress was initially developed from field pennycress as a winter oilseed crop with enhanced yields low fiber low glucosinolates and low erucic acid content (similar to the rapeseed- canola transition). This allows for CoverCress oil to find applications in both biofuel and culinary markets while the meal co-product from oil extraction can be used as a source of animal feed. To improve the economic value of the meal this Phase I effort will test the suitability of CoverCress protein in the emerging plant-based protein market. This market estimated to be $20 billion by 2023includes products such as dairy and meat substitutes baking ingredients dips and whipped toppings. Each one of these products requires a protein input with a different functionality. For example dairy substitutes require exceptional protein solubility to make a smooth beverage while dips may require good protein emulsification properties. Prior encouraging results on pennycress protein revealed high solubility and emulsifiability and we expect CoverCress protein to perform similarly. Our Phase I objectives are to analyze the functionality of CoverCress protein in order to determine which end-products can be best served by the product. We will examine meal proximate composition protein solubility emulsification foaming ability and water holding capacity. This will set the groundwork for food development testing in Phase II. Additionally we plan to use robust genetic tools to develop CoverCress lines with the potential to alter protein functionality and target additional products in the plant-based protein market. These experimental transgenic lines will be tested for functionality and re-created using non-transgenic means (gene editing) in a subsequent Phase II effort. We expect CoverCress to yield a high protein content from the initial feedstock and perform well in at least one functionality test (solubility emulsification foaming ability water holding capacity). This will enable the commercialization of CoverCress protein as competitive alternative to other plant-derived protein sources such as soy pea and canola. In addition we expect to generate at least one transgenic CoverCress line with altered protein functionalities. This should serve as a starting point for creating a functionally diverse portfolio of CoverCress protein sources each one useful for a different plant-based protein product. Overall we are excited to introduce CoverCress as an added value for corn-soy farmers in the American Midwest a source of potentially new plant-based protein products and a means to mitigate the environmental impacts of large-scale agriculture

Phase II

Contract Number: 2021-06450
Start Date: 9/10/21    Completed: 9/29/23
Phase II year
Phase II Amount
Field pennycress a plant in the mustard family is emerging as a commercially viable winter covercrop for biofuel and edible oil production for the Midwestern agricultural rotation system becauseof its winter hardiness and high oil content.However pennycress is susceptible to fungal diseases.Under intensive cultivation fungal diseases will be more frequent and pose a major threat topennycress production. Durable disease resistance which overcomes the limits imposed byconventional breeding and replaces unsustainable chemical fungicides is urgently needed foradoption of pennycress as a commercially viable winter oilseed crop in the USA.During COVID-19 abbreviated Phase I funding CoverCress made significant progress towarddevelopment of two classes of plant defense peptides with entirely different modes of action forengineering broad-spectrum disease resistance in pennycress. Antifungal peptides with fungicidalactivity and small elicitor peptides capable of activating and amplifying pennycress' own defenseresponses were identified. Several chimeric genes for constitutive tissue-specific and pathogen-