Getting more from less – Enhancing nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) and carbon sequestration in canola

Key Result

This project is still in progress and aims to develop and identify canola germplasm and traits that will reduce the environmental footprint of canola through reduction of nitrous oxide emissions and increasing carbon sequestration potential.

Project Summary

The overarching goal of this project is to develop and identify canola germplasm and traits that will reduce the environmental footprint of the crop through reduction of nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions using a range of approaches, while increasing carbon sequestration potential.

Field grown plants with desirable phenotypes will be characterized for microbial communities of the rhizosphere, and molecular assays will be used to characterize the abundance and diversity of nitrogen cycling genes in the microbial community. Controlled environment studies on lines with desirable root phenotypes will be screened for carbon and soil organic matter content. Select lines will be supplied with labeled urea and carbon to be traced throughout the soil microbial community and crop residues will be incubated in soils under controlled conditions to determine nitrogen and carbon dynamics during decomposition, while quantifying fluxes in N2O and CO2.


More specifically, the objectives are:

1: Field studies on variation in nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) and plant architecture (NAM lines will be grown under contrasting fertilizer conditions and multiple locations, and phenotyped for NUE along with yield and seed quality traits).
2a: Phenotyping natural and new variation in NUE, PA, and RSA using gene editing (Root structure and biomass in NAM population will be phenotyped while under nutrient limiting conditions, and new variation will be generated by targeting root architecture genes using CRISPR/Cas9).
2b: Screening modern hybrids for NH3 tolerance levels and trade-offs between water-use efficiency and NUE (nitrogen isotope mass balance will be used to understand nitrogen movement in roots and shoots in old and new commercial canola varieties).
3: Genomics and genetics of NUE, PA, and RSA through QTL analysis and use of genomics resources of NAM population (using data from objective 1 and 2a, genome association studies will be carried out to map QTL underlying variation amongst NUE-related traits).

4a: Identification of the relationships between RSA, NUE, the composition of the root and rhizosphere microbiome and nitrogen cycling capacity

4b: Quantification of the canola crop residue and root contribution to soil microbial activity, stable soil organic carbon stocks, and greenhouse gas emissions across diverse genotypes and contrasting nitrogen fertility.