Flea beetle resistance in canola

Key Result

This project is still in progress and aims to develop new B. napus lines that produce hairs on their leaves and stems to act as a natural resistance to flea beetles to replace the use of neonicotinoids and other insecticides.

Project Summary

Flea beetles are the most economically-damaging pest of canola. They feed voraciously on young canola seedlings as they emerge from the soil in spring making it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to grow canola without the use of insecticides. The most commonly used type of insecticide to control flea beetles are the neonicotinoids; however, these have come under intense scrutiny as they have been linked to bee death and are now banned in many European countries and Canadian jurisdictions. Further restrictions on the use of this insecticide class will leave canola producers with few or no options to control flea beetles.

Currently, there are no canola (Brassica napus) varieties with any level of natural resistance to flea beetles. This project builds on the Genetic resources for flea beetle resistance in canola work at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada that identified lines of B. napus, and the related B. villosa species, that produced hairs (trichomes) on their leaves and stems. The presence of these hairs deters the beetles by disrupting their normal feeding behavior.

The current research will provide canola breeders with B. napus lines that produce hairs, as well as genetic markers to allow this trait to be introduced into next generation varieties. more specifically, this project aims to:

1) Identify the genomic regions controlling the production of hairs in Brassica species.

2) Develop genetic markers to allow introgression of the trait into elite breeding material.

3) Test the impact of increased hair density on flea beetle resistance and crop performance.