Seed traits: What are the standards?

This list covers the options available for canola seed traits and describes official standards (if any) for each trait. 

Western Canada Rapeseed and Canola Recommending Committee (WCC/RRC) is the industry body that recommends to the CFIA which canola cultivars get registered. The CFIA collects a lot of information from the WCC/RRC as well as company trial data to approve cultivars for registration, but ultimately the recommendation for registration is based on quality traits for oil (including erucic acid and saturated fats), protein and glucosinolate levels to ensure it meets the canola quality definition. 

Raymond Gadoua, the WCC/RRC coordinator, says that while WCC/RRC does track yield, lodging, disease resistance and more, there is no registration standard for these traits. Gadoua does keep unpublished short descriptions for each cultivar that goes through the WCC/RRC, but he says post-registration information from company trials and third-party comparisons, like the Canola Performance Trials are probably more relevant to the grower. 

Herbicide resistance 

  • Liberty Link – BASF. Resistant to group-10 glufosinate 
  • Roundup Ready – Bayer. Resistant to group-9 glyphosate 
  • Clearfield – Corteva. Resistant to group-2 IMI products, including Ares 
  • Truflex – Bayer. Resistant to group-9 glyphosate 
  • Falco – Cibus. Resistant to group-2 sulfonyl-urea 

These traits and their labeling are maintained by the gene-developer. Stacked traits are now available, specifically for Truflex and Liberty Link. 

Standards: The WCC/RRC no longer requires any data to support herbicide tolerance claims, but herbicide tolerant candidates require disclosure regarding their herbicide tolerant nature. 

Blackleg resistance 

  • Major gene resistance – industry developed labels using molecular tests 
  • Quantitative resistance – no standardized testing for claims on this resistance 

Standards: WCC/RRC trials determine the overall level of blackleg resistance, with ratings based on a comparison to blackleg levels in the highly-susceptible Westar cultivar, which is grown as a blackleg check at blackleg trial nursery. Cultivars with a severity index less than 30 per cent of Westar are considered resistant “R”, but WCC/RRC does not have a minimum standard for blackleg. Susceptible cultivars can be approved for registration, but this is rare. These trials do not determine which resistance genes are in a cultivar or how much quantitative resistance is present; they only average field performance at these locations. Canola growers will often discover that cultivars with an R rating can show fairly high levels of blackleg when grown in a situation where resistance is overcome by the particular blackleg races prevalent in a field. As a result of this, an R-gene labeling model as designated by Canola Council’s Blackleg Steering Group is included in the WCC/RRC procedures for use on a voluntary basis by canola variety developers. Research is underway to develop  a standard evaluation for adult plant or quantitative resistance. 

Clubroot resistance 

Commercial canola cultivars often make specific claims for clubroot resistance.  

Standards: WCC/RRC has protocols for greenhouse or field testing to determine a level of resistance, but these are not published and there is no WCC/RRC standard to determine the level of clubroot resistance and the genetic source of resistance. However, the industry has agreed on this standard: Clubroot-resistant cultivars have 70 per cent less clubroot than non-resistant checks.

Sclerotinia stem rot resistance 

Sclerotinia resistance labels are used, often based on company interpretations of WCC/RRC approved protocols for field testing. 

Standards: WCC/RRC has a protocol for evaluating sclerotinia stem rot resistance in the field, but companies can use their own methodology. There is no industry standard to compare the levels of sclerotinia resistance. Gadoua says standards have been proposed over the years, but there has been no agreement. 


Seed companies promote cultivars as having a pod-shatter trait or a heightened level of pod integrity. This is used to promote them as suitable for straight combining or late swathing. 

Standards. There is no industry standard for the level of pod shatter tolerance. Gadoua says a sub-committee is looking into it, but WCC/RRC doesn’t have a protocol yet. 

Verticillium stripe 

Currently there is no disease rating scale or screening process to determine cultivar susceptibility to this pathogen. Protocols will be presented at the WCC/RRC pathology sub-committee meeting this winter to help develop an industry standard. 

End-use traits 

  • Nexera – Corteva. High oleic low linolenic fatty acid oils 
  • Victory and Invigor Health – Cargill. High oleic low linolenic fatty acid oils  
  • High Erucic Acid Rapeseed (HEAR)  

Standards: For these specialty crops grown under identity-preserved (IP) programs, companies are responsible to maintain the quality standards they require from their end users. However, cultivars with a high oleic and/or low linolenic acid profile still have to meet the same WCC/RRC standards for erucic acid and glucosinolates. HEAR is an exception. It goes through the specialty sub-committee for unusual oils that don’t meet the canola definition. These must follow strict IP to keep them out of the canola market channels. 

Other traits 

  • Yield is measured against WCC/RRC checks in inspected small-plot trials. Once commercial, these can be compared to any product in any trial type (no standards). 
  • Lodging resistance is tested for, and candidate cultivars often come with lodging scores, but not always. The standard protocol is a rating scale from 1 (standing straight) to 5 (flat). Gadoua notes that a variety that consistently lodges likely won’t come to market. 
  • Maturity is no longer a WCC/RRC requirement, and there is no standard to determine short-, medium- or long-season cultivars. It often comes down to company promotions based on their own data. Gadoua notes that maturity tends to be getting later since the season is getting a little longer.  
  • Height is tracked by the WCC/RRC, but there is no standard labelling. Companies may provide their own data, particularly if the height is notable (short size with high yield, for example). 
  • Swathability/harvestability has no WCC/RRC standard, so a company that claims “good harvestability” for a cultivar may be basing it on their own internal trials. 
  • Oil and protein content is tracked by the WCC/RRC (as percentages and compared to check cultivars), with minimum standards for oil content. Protein content below industry standards can eliminate a cultivar from commercialization, Gadoua notes. Oil and protein content is important for buyers and end-users of canola, but these are not factors in a grower’s seed decision with no monetary implications at the farm-level. 

Canola Performance Trial data provides third party comparisons for yield, lodging, height and days to maturity. These rates are based on protocols agreed to by the CPT committee, which includes growers and industry representatives.