Canola AgriScience Cluster

Sustainable, Reliable Supply for a Changing World (2018-2023)

The Canola AgriScience Cluster, under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, is a partnership between Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the canola industry. Over a 5-year period commencing in 2018, this initiative will channel $20 million in public/private funding into six areas of research aimed at sustainably growing the canola industry. By helping to reduce production risk, improve yields, enhance sustainability and increase market demand, the findings are expected to greatly expand the economic value of this $26.7 billion industry and propel it towards the 2025 strategic goals.

You can jump to a theme or project using the links below. 

THEME 1: Differentiated quality and enhanced environmental performance in food processing

THEME 2: Differentiated quality and sustainable livestock production using canola meal

THEME 3: Increased production – yield and quality optimization for sustainable supply

THEME 4: Sustainability and climate change – improving nutrient and water use efficiency

THEME 5: Sustainability and climate change – integrated pest management

THEME 6: Putting innovation into action – knowledge and technology transfer


Theme 1: Differentiated quality and enhanced environmental performance in food processing

Theme 1 projects will advance canola processing techniques and build on previous ground-breaking research demonstrating canola oil’s positive impact on heart health, diabetes and obesity.

1. Nutrigenetics, canola oil, and glucose tolerance: Does SCD1 genotype modulate a person’s response to canola oil?
David Mutch (University of Guelph), Peter Jones (University of Manitoba)

Increased consumption of canola oil has been linked to various health benefits that includes improved blood lipids, reduced platelet aggregation, and increased glucose tolerance. However, not everyone experiences these benefits to the same extent. The overall objective of this project is to investigate if the health benefits associated with canola oil are influenced by a person's genotype. For this initial proof-of-principle study, the research group will use samples previously collected during the “Canola Oil Multi-center Intervention Trial II” (COMIT II) to examine if differences in the stearoyl-CoA desaturase (SCD1) gene influences blood glucose regulation following the consumption of canola oil. It is anticipated that the outputs of this novel research will help to reconcile some of the discrepancy in the scientific literature regarding the effects of canola oil on blood glucose regulation, as well as provide strong support for future whole-genome studies to more broadly investigate how genetic variation influences the various health benefits associated with canola oil

2. Novel  extraction of oil and antioxidants from canola seed
Martin Scanlon (University of Manitoba), John Shi (AAFC Guelph), John Lu (AAFC Lethbridge), Yachaun Zhang (AAFC Lethbridge), Jim House (University of Manitoba), Usha Thiyam (University of Manitoba), Rick Green (POS BioSciences)

This project examines a number of cutting-edge pre-processing techniques for oilseed extraction, and couples them with an examination of the performance of two very promising non-organic solvent technologies – supercritical carbon dioxide extraction, and microemulsion extraction. As well as evaluating process efficiency, the multidisciplinary team will comprehensively evaluate oil and meal quality, with a particular focus on the healthful nature of the novel processing techniques. Workshops will be held in years 3 to 5, with emphasis on trainees interacting with personnel in the canola value chain to share research results. A robust technical evaluation, including pilot-scale trials, of the process and the finished products will provide industry with guidance for conducting further evaluation and cost/benefit analyses.

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Theme 2: Differentiated quality and sustainable livestock production using canola meal

Theme 2 projects will further demonstrate the value of canola meal as a livestock feed ingredient. This research will build on previous studies, which have demonstrated that using canola meal as protein source can significantly increase the profitability of milk and meat production while also looking at its sustainability in livestock production.

New projects will expand understanding of these findings while exploring other advantages of using canola meal in livestock feed – for example, the potential to improve gut health, reduce antibiotic use, and improve reproductive performance. These studies will involve dairy herds, nursery pigs, broiler chickens and hog operations in Canada and the U.S.

1. Gut health and digestive physiology of nursery pigs and broiler chicken fed canola coproducts-based diets.
Tofuko Woyengo (South Dakota State University), Joy Scaria (South Dakota State University)

The use of antibiotics to improve gut health of pigs is being discouraged because antibiotics can contribute to antibiotic resistant microorganisms. Hence, there is a need for alternative feeding strategies to manage gut health. The overall objective of this project is to determine the effects of including canola meal in diets for nursery pigs on gut health and digestive physiology.  It is hypothesized that dietary canola meal will improve gut health and digestive physiology of nursery pigs because canola meal contains: (1) insoluble fiber that reduces post-weaning diarrhea of pigs; and (2) glucosinolates that have exhibited anti-microbial activity against pig gut pathogens, and antioxidant activity. The specific objectives will be to determine the effects of: (1) dietary level of canola meal on growth performance, organ weights, gut health, and small intestinal nutrient absorptive capacity of nursery pigs; (2) dietary canola meal on growth performance and gut health of Escherichia coli-challenged nursery pigs; and (3) hulls or dehulled components of canola meal on growth performance and gut health of nursery pigs. This will reduce gut infections in pigs and economic losses associated with gut infections, leading to increased efficiency and sustainability of producing pigs.

2. Canola meal to improve efficiency and sustainability of dairy production: Filling knowledge gaps.
Chaouki Benchaar (AAFC Sherbrooke), Karen Beauchemin (AAFC Lethbridge), Fadi Hassanat (AAFC Sherbrooke)

Because of its high protein quality (i.e., higher rumen undegradable protein content, more balanced amino acid profile), canola meal (solvent-extracted) is being increasingly used in dairy cow diets as an alternative to soybean meal. A number of studies provide evidence that canola meal can successfully replace (partially or completely) soybean meal in dairy cow diets. Most of the studies published to date on canola meal have been limited to its effect on efficiency of protein utilization and performance of dairy cows. Compared to soybean meal, canola meal has been shown to increase dry matter intake and milk performance (production and efficiency). However, little is known about the effects of feeding canola meal to dairy cows on greenhouse gas emissions, particularly enteric methane emissions. Furthermore, to the best of our knowledge, no information is currently available on the carbon footprint (i.e., amount of CO2 equivalent emitted/kg of milk) of milk produced from cows fed canola meal (versus soybean meal) under Canadian confinement dairy production systems. The objective of the proposed research is to fill knowledge gaps by: 1) determining the optimal inclusion level of solvent-extracted canola meal in dairy cow diets (versus soybean meal) to mitigate enteric methane emissions, reduce nitrogen excretion and enhance milk performance (production and efficiency); and 2) establishing the carbon footprint (cradle to farm-gate life cycle analysis) of milk produced using canola meal (versus soybean meal) under typical Eastern and Western dairy confinement farming systems. Ultimately, the research aims to demonstrate whether sustainability (environmental and economic) of dairy production can be improved by using canola meal as the main protein source in dairy cow diets.

3.  Understanding the impacts of canola meal on gut microbiota and potential pre-biotic effect of enzymatically-released bioactive fiber components and the long term effects of high levels of canola meal inclusion on sow and litter performance.
Bogdan Slominski (University of Manitoba), Martin Nyachoti (University of Manitoba), Anna Rogiewicz (University of Manitoba)

Research completed to date has clearly demonstrated that when diets are properly formulated (i.e. on the basis of net energy and standardized ileal digestible amino acids), high inclusion levels of canola meal in poultry and pig diets are possible without compromising growth performance. The overall objective of this research is to further optimize the use of high inclusion levels of canola meal in poultry and swine diets. The specific objectives would include: 1) The impact of high dietary levels of canola meal on gut microbiota and potential pre-biotic effect of enzymatically-released bioactive fiber components, 2) The impacts of high levels of canola meal in diets of broilers and pigs from modern genetic lines, 3) The potential for canola meal and value-added canola meal co-products to be used in pig creep diets, and 4) Optimizing high inclusion levels of canola meal in sow diets. The outcomes of this research would optimise the utilization of canola meal in poultry and swine diets. More precise formulation of diets would result in reduced feed cost and environmental pollution, while achieving optimal animal performance. This research would also demonstrate that the benefits to be gained from enzyme supplementation are not only from improved nutrient digestion and feed efficiency but also from improved gut health. Specifically, improved gut health as a result of prebiotics formed from the hydrolysis of canola meal fibre components, including non-starch polysaccharides (NSP), would benefit the poultry and swine industries by controlling enteric infections, and therefore obviating the need for in-feed antibiotics. Developing and adopting antibiotic-free feeding programs is a major goal of the poultry and livestock industries.

4. Accurate determination of the contribution of canola meal to metabolizable protein supply in dairy cows.
Daniel Ouellet (AAFC Sherbrooke), Hélène Lapierre (AAFC Sherbrooke), Édith Charbonneau (Université Laval)

Canola meal (CM) is an excellent protein supplement which is now frequently included in dairy rations. In two meta-analyses and in recent studies, milk (mean response = +1.4 kg/d) and milk protein (+45 g/d) yields increased when canola meal was substituted for other protein sources as soybean meal (SBM), corn or wheat dried distillers grains in dairy rations. The positive milk protein response to CM inclusion in dairy rations happened despite the fact that, generally, inclusion of CM was predicted to decrease the supply in metabolizable protein (MP). This indicates an inappropriate description of the “protein behavior” of CM when fed to dairy cows by actual dietary programs. It is the purpose of this research to decipher where this positive impact of CM is coming from and why the predicted MP supply is under-estimated with CM-based diets. The impact of rumen metabolism on protein flowing to the duodenum and available for digestion and amino acid absorption is determinant. If the contribution of the true protein from this fraction to the duodenal protein flow is under-estimated in CM, this may explain the greater than predicted performances observed. The aim of this research is to elucidate the behavior of the soluble N and small particles (SP) of the CM, these being the N sources during rumen incubation. With “correct” N kinetics of CM into the rumen, formulation models will harmonize predicted and estimated cow performances favoring the inclusion of canola meal in dairy rations.

5.  Evaluation of Canola Meal as compared to Soybean meal in Practical California Rations: Effects upon long term lactational performance, reproductive performance and metabolic disease.
Peter Robinson (University of California, Davis), William Van Die (Cloverdale Dairy), Nadia Swanepoel (University of California, Davis)

Carefully executed large herd studies provide high confidence in the accuracy of results provided to dairy farmers and nutritionists, as they better emulate real-life situations. Cloverdale Dairy is a typical California dairy facility that has been modified to capture data required to assess the impact of feeding on a great number of performance aspects. Studies conducted at this dairy farm showed that the optimal level of canola meal inclusion with corn-distillers’ dried grains and solubles (DDGS) was about 13% of diet dry matter. This feeding level allows dairy cows to produce the highest level of milk production, milk components and sustained body condition compared to diets containing no canola meal as well as diets containing all canola meal as the main protein ingredient in the diet. This research has been adopted by many dairy farms in California and has also solidified observations of other dairy nutritionists who have experienced this ideal level of canola meal inclusion in their day to day work. While the California dairy industry typically feeds canola meal and corn-based distillers dried grain (DDGS) as the main protein ingredient, varying pricing schemes now allow soybean meal to enter the California dairy market – and thus into diet formulations – and this may influence the California protein meal market. A large body of research exists which clearly shows a milk production advantage of feeding dairy cows canola meal vs. soybean meal, but no data exists to demonstrate effects of inclusion of canola meal and soybean meal, or even canola meal with both corn-DDGS and soybean meal.  This study will provide information regarding use of canola meal and soybean meal in this unique market with respect to milk production, health and reproduction of dairy cows.

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Theme 3: Increased production – yield and quality optimization for sustainable supply

Theme 3 projects will address opportunities to dramatically increase the yield and positive environmental impact of canola production. These studies will increase the economic returns from every acre while improving the efficiency of nutrient use and the crop’s value for carbon capture and pollinator health.

1. Manipulating agronomic factors for optimum canola harvest timing, productivity and crop sequencing.
Brian Beres (AAFC Lethbridge), Charles Geddes (AAFC Lethbridge), Breanne Tidemann (AAFC Lacombe), William May (AAFC Indian Head), Ramona Mohr (AAFC Brandon) 

There is a movement toward straight-cutting at harvest in order to improve operational logistics and costs by removing the swathing operation.  Not only would cultivar selection potentially interact with harvest method, it is plausible that sowing density and the presence of greater or fewer branches would also influence straight-cutting efficiency. Lastly, sowing density by harvest methods could potentially interact with crop sequencing from the canola phase to the succeeding crop, particularly if it was a wheat phase with a winter growth habit.  This project will employ a sound agronomic and cross-disciplinary approach that will deliver science-based solutions to overcome canola harvest and production issues for use by the canola value chain including stakeholders, producers and policy-makers.  The project will be able to establish the risks and benefits associated with an integrated system when manipulations are made to sowing density and cultivar selections, and the impact those decisions have on straight-cut and swathing harvest systems.

2. Enhancing yield and biomass in canola by modifying carbohydrate metabolism.
Michael Emes (University of Guelph), Ian Tetlow (University of Guelph)

This program is focused on achieving a significant increase in canola productivity. Canola is an oilseed but, as is true for all plants, the energy currency which is derived from photosynthesis is carbohydrate. This research group has previously shown that by selectively modifying particular reactions in the pathway of starch biosynthesis, known as starch branching enzymes, a 400% increase in seed production was achieved in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, brought about by a parallel increase in flower and silique production.  Arabidopsis is closely related genetically to canola and the DNA coding sequences for starch branching enzymes are identical. We therefore aim to transfer this approach to canola using a combination of genome editing and genetic manipulation. Even if a tenth of the effect seen in Arabidopsis was obtained in canola, this would constitute a massive gain in productivity, made more attractive by the observation that oil quality remained unchanged and no additional inputs were required. The project will also bring environmental benefits through increased carbon capture, and help sustain and increase the pollinator population with the concomitant increase in flower production.

3. Weeding Out Secondary Dormancy Potential From Volunteer Canola.
Sally Vail (AAFC Saskatoon), Rob Gulden (University of Manitoba), Isobel Parkin (AAFC Saskatoon), Steve Robi nson (AAFC Saskatoon), Steve Shirtliffe (University of Saskatchewan)

Volunteer canola is becoming an ever-increasing issue in rotational crops and in-crop across the Canadian prairies. This is especially so with increasingly tight rotations, shifting crop species (ie. corn and soybean) in rotation with similar herbicide resistance packages to canola and shifting to direct cutting of canola which could result in larger contribution to the weed seed banks. Underlying the persistence of volunteer canola in weed seed banks is the secondary dormancy potential of the species. Secondary dormancy is a heritable trait that can be selected against in breeding programs using marker assisted selection. This can be accomplished by establishing the genomic regions containing genes for the trait (ie. mapping Quantitative Trait Loci, or QTL). In addition, recent results have found that expression of a particular gene (DOG1; which stands for ‘Delay of Germination’) is correlated with dormancy induction. In addition to using molecular markers to select against secondary dormancy potential in canola breeding programs, these tools could be useful in monitoring and studying the secondary dormancy potential of volunteer weed populations. Changes or shifts in the genes for dormancy potential could describe, quantify and facilitate understanding volunteer canola populations across the prairies.

4. Advancing the functional, nutritional and economic value of canola protein in Canada
Rob Duncan (University of Manitoba), Jim House (University of Manitoba), Janitha Wanusundara (AAFC Saskatoon), Isobel Parkin (AAFC Saskatoon), Rotimi Aluko (University of Manitoba), Lee Anne Murphy (MAHRN)

Canola meal has historically been a by-product and utilized only for animal feed. This provides an immense opportunity to expand the utilization of Canada’s most important crop. The value of canola production could grow significantly if high-quality protein products were developed for use in human food products. To accomplish this, a better understanding of how the protein quality and digestibility varies within diverse Brassica germplasm must be developed. Furthermore, we need to determine how this genetic variation interacts with different processing methods.  The research will examine the variation for multiple seed quality traits that directly and indirectly relate to protein quality and include protein content, amino acid profile, in vitro protein digestibility, protein composition (e.g. cruciferin and napin content), oil content, fatty acid profile, glucosinolate content, phytate levels, fibre content and free sugar content. The diverse set of germplasm characterized for these traits will also be genotyped to identify genetic regions that are impacting these traits. Finally, we will explore how this genetic variation interacts with multiple processing methods in order to identify the best combination of germplasm and processing methods for developing food products with improved protein quality and digestibility.

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Theme 4: Sustainability and climate change – improving nutrient and water use efficiency

Nitrogen is by far the biggest operating cost of Canadian canola growers and one of the key factors determining oil and protein content. One of the top priorities of the industry is to ensure that a high percentage of applied nitrogen is used by the plant, instead of being lost through leaching and volatilization. 

Theme 4 projects focused on this goal are multidisciplinary and will involve genomics, plant physiology, root architecture, microbiology, soil sciences and agronomy. This research will be overseen by a steering committee composed of public and private sector scientists and agronomy specialists.

1. Improving nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) and soil sustainability in canola production across Canada.
Bao-Luo Ma (AAFC Ottawa), Mervin St. Luce (AAFC Swift Current), Yantai Gan (AAFC Swift Current), Paul Tiege (Olds College), Rob Gulden (University of Manitoba), Luke Bainard (AAFC Swift Current), Gary Peng (AAFC Saskatoon), Ramona Mohr (AAFC Brandon), Cindy Gampe (AAFC Scott), Greg Semach (AAFC Beaverlodge)

Canola producers face numerous challenges with increasing seed yield and improving nitrogen use efficiency (NUE), while reducing production cost and minimizing environmental impacts. This project is designed to address these challenges by developing nitrogen (N) management technologies and advancing knowledge of soil nutrient cycling and plant nutrient uptake mechanisms. Field studies will be conducted at eight ecosites, and site-specific N management guides will be developed for the main and potential canola production regions, with the specific conditions in climate, soil and cropping systems at each ecosite taken into account. A unique feature of this project  will investigate the critical roles of root architecture in nutrient absorption, root anchorage strength (involved in lodging resistance) and genotypic variations. Soil and plant diagnostic tools will be identified and employed to improve NUE and yields of canola as well as promote soil and environmental sustainability. The overall goal of the proposed project is to achieve concurrent improvements in NUE, canola yield, lodging resistance, and soil sustainability across different ecoregions. This study will provide canola producers with a complete information guide of site-specific N management practices for each agroecozone. Advancing knowledge and developing technologies for more efficient use of plant nutrients can benefit the environment by significantly decreasing N loss to the soil and protecting water quality.

2. Making of a more sustainable canola: Using genetic diversity to improve NUE.
Sally Vail (AAFC Saskatoon), Isobel Parkin (AAFC Saskatoon), Rosalind Bueckert (University of Saskatchewan), Raju Soolanayakanahally (AAFC Saskatoon), Melissa Arcand (University of Saskatchewan), Steve Robinson (AAFC Saskatoon), Andrew Sharpe (GIFS), Leon Kochian (GIFS), Robert Guy (UBC), Reynald Lemke (AAFC Saskatoon), Bobbi Helgason (University of Saskatchewan)

Canola is the major oilseed crop grown on the Canadian prairies. Nitrogen is the most expensive operating cost when growing this multi-billion dollar crop. Furthermore, rates of nitrogen application the previous fall and/or at seeding are increasing to match ever- increasing yield potential in modern hybrids. This research, along with parallel agronomic research, will advance the Canadian body of understanding within and beyond that of the international community. This project will determine what makes a spring canola plant N-use efficient by characterizing the above-ground and root components of the plant, the correlation of shoot vs root components, the overall growth parameters and flowering patterns in response to N. In addition, this project will examine how to improve N- capture (NUpE) and repartitioning within the plant (NUtE) by testing different root types in response to N availability. Through characterization of these phenotypes and by correlating these phenotypes with the genetic make-up of the lines, we will eventually provide the industry with methods to predict the N-response for new lines, without having to test individual lines and hybrids. In the longer term, this research program will pair whole-plant phenotypes with suitable N-fertilization agronomic practices that will result in reduction of N-losses from the system.

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Theme 5: Sustainability and climate change – integrated pest management

As climate, insect populations and pathogens change, so do the pest management challenges faced by Canadian canola growers. Theme 5 research will study the best methods of controlling major pests and pathogens in this changing environment, while protecting pollinators, beneficial insects and biodiversity within the canola canopy.

1. Feasibility of using Trichomalus perfectus for biological control of cabbage seedpod weevil in the prairies.
Héctor Cárcamo (AAFC Lethbridge), éric Lucas (UQAM), Luc Belzile (Institut de recherche et développement en agroenvironnement), Dan Johnson (University of Lethbridge), Scott Meers (Alberta Agriculture & Forestry), Meghan Vankosky (AAFC Saskatoon), Boyd Mori (AAFC Saskatoon), Kevin Floate (AAFC Lethbridge), Tara Gariepy (AAFC London), Patrice Bouchard (AAFC Ottawa), Peter Mason (AAFC Ottawa), Meghan Vankosky (AAFC Saskatoon), Tyler Wist (AAFC Saskatoon)

The cabbage seedpod weevil (Ceutorhynchus obstrictus Marsham) is a serious pest of canola and related brassicaceous seed crops in North America and Europe The weevil continues to spread north and east towards the key canola growing regions. Practical alternatives to insecticides are not available; however biological control with a parasitoid wasp (Trichomalus perfectus) has high potential to provide a permanent solution. This wasp parasitizes the pest at high levels in Europe and has invaded eastern Canada on its own. In parts of Quebec where it occurs at high populations, it appears to be managing the weevil to levels that no longer require insecticide spraying. The host range of the parasitoid may include non-target weevils that are native or have been introduced for biological control of weeds. Therefore, before relocation, a comprehensive environmental and economic study is required. The research team assembled to conduct the work described in this proposal will complete an efficacy and economic analysis of the impact of the parasitoid on the pest in Quebec. In addition, a team of entomologists throughout Canada will conduct extensive surveys and ecological studies to collect the information required to make a recommendation in favour of relocations or against it.Insecticide use has economic and environmental costs. The potential impact of insecticides on beneficial insect species including predators and pollinators is of particular concern. In addition to the direct benefits of protecting yields, establishment of the parasitoid would help producers avoid insecticide use, thus helping to conserve pollinators and natural enemies of other pests. In conducting this research, due diligence will be exercised to ensure that the biocontrol agents for seedpod weevil will not influence the outcome of biocontrol programs for weed pests or have serious impacts on native non-target insect species.

2. Integrated approaches for flea beetle control II: incorporating the impacts of plant density, ground predators, and landscape-scale predictive models in the management of flea beetles in the Canadian prairies.
Alejandro Costamagna (University of Manitoba), Héctor Cárcamo (AAFC Lethbridge), Jennifer Otani (AAFC Beaverlodge) Tharshinidevy Nagalingam (University of Manitoba), John Gavlovski (Manitoba Agriculture), Rob Duncan (University of Manitoba)

Flea beetles are one of the major pests of canola in Western Canada. Currently, preventative seed treatments are used to protect canola seeds from flea beetle damage. Canola growers are in need of strategies to improve the efficiency of seed treatments and need improved methods to control flea beetles efficiently. This research will study the effects of seeding rates on the efficiency of canola crops in recovering from flea beetle damage and on economic thresholds for high yielding canola varieties. In addition, conditions conducive to stem feeding by different flea beetle species and the impact of stem feeding on canola yield will be determined. The effect of ground and foliar predators and landscape structure on canola defoliation, flea beetle abundance, and species composition in different regions of western Canada will be evaluated. Finally, the group will refine predictive models for flea beetle abundance and damage to canola, incorporating predators, landscape effects and abiotic factors. This project will be conducted in four eco- regions of the Prairie provinces, incorporating a variety of canola growing conditions, and in collaboration with research scientists, extension specialists, and crop specialists from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Manitoba Agriculture, and the University of Manitoba. This project will add new management options to develop sustainable strategies to mitigate flea beetle damage in canola.

3. Genetic resources for flea beetle resistance in canola.
Dwayne Hegedus (AAFC Saskatoon), Sally Vail (AAFC Saskatoon), Isobel Parkin (AAFC Saskatoon), Chrystel Olivier (AAFC Saskatoon)

Flea beetles are the most economically damaging pest of canola.  Currently, there are no canola (Brassica napus) varieties with any level of natural resistance to flea beetles. This project builds on work begun by researchers at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the University of Saskatchewan which identified lines of B. napus, and the related Brassica villosa species, exhibiting natural resistance to flea beetles by producing hairs on their leaves and stems.  The presence of these hairs deters the beetles by disrupting their normal feeding behavior.  This 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.

4. Improving the management of sclerotinia stem rot of canola using fungicides and better risk assessment tools.
Kelly Turkington (AAFC Lacombe), Steve Strelkov (University of Alberta), Mike Harding (Alberta Agriculture & Forestry), Henry Klein-Gebbinck (AAFC Beaverlodge), Breanne Tidemann (AAFC Lacombe), Greg Semach (AAFC Beaverlodge), Charles Geddes (AAFC Lethbridge), Henry de Gooijer (AAFC Indian Head), Gary Peng (AAFC Saskatoon), William May (AAFC Indian Head), Dale Tomasiewicz (AAFC Outlook), Ramona Mohr (AAFC Brandon), Debbie McLaren (AAFC Brandon), Denis Pageau (AAFC Normandin), Barb Ziesman (Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture), Syama Chatterton (AAFC Lethbridge)

Sclerotinia stem rot is an important factor influencing long-term production and economic stability for canola producers. However, outbreaks of stem rot can be variable and as a consequence fungicide application decisions are often difficult to make. Recent research investigating quantitative (q)PCR assessment of petals and assessment of other factors related to stem rot outbreaks in Alberta have shown that assessment of pathogen levels via qPCR analysis, while accounting for the impact of weather factors such as relative humidity (RH) in relation to crop development, holds promise in terms of stem rot risk assessment.  The proposed research will refine the use of qPCR analysis for assessing inoculum levels during the growing season, while improving the ability to manage stem rot using fungicides. The fungicide and crop development components of the research will improve knowledge regarding factors (e.g. seeding rate) that influence canopy development and fungicide penetration/coverage, and will help to improve the level of canopy coverage including that of leaf axils and bases, thus potentially providing improved management of stem rot. Finally, the integration of weather and pathogen inoculum assessments with revised recommendations for fungicide timing has the potential to better identify field specific disease risk just prior to and over the critical flowering period, and thus the need and optimum timing for fungicide application.

5. Development of a biosensor for Sclerotinia stem rot disease forecasting in canola.
Susie Li (Innotech Alberta), Kelly Turkington (AAFC Lacombe), Jian Yang (Innotech Alberta), Jie Chen (University of Alberta)

Sclerotinia stem rot is still the number one concern for canola producers. It causes significant crop yield loss and decreased farm income. Current plant disease forecasting measures are based on field scouting and/or plant survey conducted in the previous year(s), as well as lab testing which is often not accurate and/or cannot be done in a timely fashion to prevent disease outbreak and yield loss. An accurate mechanism to monitor pathogen level before disease outbreak is urgently needed. The goal of this project is to develop an in-field biosensor for the detection of the Sclerotinia sclerotiorum ascospore level in the air for disease forecasting and disease prevention. The research group has been working on the design of a nano-biosensor for S. sclerotiorum spore testing and a Bluetooth technology that can transmit the results to an electronic device (cell phone), which has demonstrated promising results in a laboratory setting. In this project, this device will be tested in the greenhouse for spore trapping under near-field conditions and correlate it to the disease (petal infection), set up a threshold for the nano-biosensor signal for disease forecasting and conduct field experiments to verify the device and make it fit for field conditions.

6. Protection of canola from pathogenic fungi using RNA interference technologies.
Steve Whyard (University of Manitoba), Mark Belmonte (University of Manitoba), Mazdak Khajehpour  (University of Manitoba), Dwayne Hegedus (AAFC Saskatoon)

Canola crops are threatened by a variety of fungal pathogens, but one of the most damaging is Sclerotinia sclerotiorum. With no available Sclerotinia-resistant cultivars available, damage from this fungus is mitigated primarily by crop rotations and foliar fungicides. Unfortunately, under damp climatic conditions, such methods are insufficient to control the disease. In addition, there is increasing public concern over the risk that chemicals pose to the environment and human health. Together, these present compelling reasons to find (fungal or species-specific) alternatives to control this costly fungal pathogen. This research aims to develop and field-test a new generation of dsRNA-based, species-specific foliar fungicides that can be designed to target Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, to reduce reliance on broad-spectrum fungicides and provide canola growers with alternatives to existing conventional chemistries.

7. Resistance to Sclerotinia sclerotiorum effectors in canola.
Dwayne Hegedus (AAFC Saskatoon), Hossein Borhan (AAFC Saskatoon), Yangdou Wei (University of Saskatchewan)

The fungus Sclerotinia sclerotiorum causes sclerotinia stem rot in canola which leads to severe yield losses. While the timely use of fungicides in combination with new tolerant (though not resistant) canola varieties can reduce the impact of this disease, genuine and durable resistance has not yet been achieved.  This project will attempt to simplify the identification of Brassica napus (canola) lines with tolerance to this disease.  Substances produced by the fungus which cause the characteristic brown, necrotic (dead) lesions on the plant or which compromise the ability of the plant to defend itself against attack by the fungus will be identified.  These substances will be used to identify B. napus lines from collections at plant genetic resources centers to find those that are most tolerant or resistant to individual substances.  Combining the resistance traits through traditional breeding will accelerate the development of canola varieties with better tolerance or resistance to stem rot.

8. Canadian Canola Clubroot Cluster (C1) Pillar 1: Integrated Disease Management
Sheau-Fang Hwang (Alberta Agriculture & Forestry), Steve Strelkov (University of Alberta), Rudolph Fredua-Agyeman (Alberta Agriculture & Forestry), Bruce Gossen (AAFC Saskatoon), Mary-Ruth McDonald (University of Guelph)

By 2016, clubroot infestations were confirmed in 2443 canola fields in Alberta, up from just 12 fields when surveys started in 2003. Clubroot-resistant hybrids were released in response to the rapid spread of the disease and dramatically reduced the incidence and severity of clubroot. The entire zone infested by clubroot is susceptible to resistance breakdown and every commercially available clubroot-resistant genotype of canola is susceptible to the novel clubroot strains. It is becoming clear that the deployment of resistant canola varieties must be combined with other clubroot management strategies.  This project will investigate the etiology of novel clubroot strains that can overcome resistance, explore and refine methods of soil modification and fertilization to prevent clubroot establishment at field entrances (where the disease typically establishes itself first), model the relationship between yield loss and clubroot severity, monitor spore buildup in the soil by resistance-defeating clubroot pathotypes, and develop strategies to rotate clubroot resistant host genotypes to avoid resistance breakdown. Information on soil properties will help to predict and develop methods to reduce the rate of dissemination of both the original strains and of new pathotypes of clubroot.

9. Developing novel resistance resources and strategies to address the new threat of clubroot canola production on the prairies.
Gary Peng (AAFC Saskatoon), Habibur Rahman (University of Alberta), Rudolph Fredua-Agyeman (Alberta Agriculture & Forestry)

Variety resistance is the cornerstone for managing clubroot on canola. The changing pathogen population, however, presents a big challenge as using the single-gene resistance has been overcome at many field sites. The current resistant cultivars likely have low diversity on clubroot resistance (CR), and almost any of the newly identified pathotypes/variants and capable of causing severe infection on these cultivars. New CR genes, especially those with broad-based resistance, will help enhance the efficacy and durability of resistance. This proposed study will focus on identifying novel CR genes from both existing and new CR germplasm pools against ‘new’ pathotypes/variants identified recently in Alberta and on developing CR canola germplasm and SNP markers to assist resistance selection during introgression of novel CR genes. Multi-gene strategies will be explored to enhance the efficacy and durability of resistance. Next-generation sequencing will be used to conduct mapping by sequencing analysis to locate CR genes and develop SNP markers tightly linked to these CR genes efficiently. The key outcome of the research is to help increase the diversity of CR genes in our canola cultivars and durability of cultivar resistance, and address the threat from not only the current pathogen population, but also from future pathotypes/variants.

10. Canadian Canola Clubroot Cluster Pillar 3: Host-pathogen biology and interaction
Bruce Gossen (AAFC Saskatoon), Mary-Ruth McDonald (University of Guelph), Gary Peng (AAFC Saskatoon), Fengqun Yu (AAFC Saskatoon), Sheau-Fang Hwang (Alberta Agriculture & Forestry), Steve Strelkov (University of Alberta)

The goal of this research is to develop and validate best management practices for producers to manage clubroot in canola fields when no single source of resistance effectively manages all of the pathotypes of clubroot in the region. The study will examine factors that affect resting spore survival, germination and infection in both field and controlled environment trials. This knowledge will be used to evaluate and validate integrated pest management strategies for use by producers to reduce clubroot inoculum in fields and slow its spread into new areas. The study will also evaluate strategies for effective deployment of clubroot resistance genes, with the aim of identifying approaches that will maximize the durability of resistance. Also, studies of intermediate resistance, which has not previously been studied in detail, to determine if sources of quantitative (non-pathotype specific) resistance might be used to increase the durability of resistance. Finally, studies of changes in plant hormones in canola caused by clubroot will be examined to identify the potential to disrupt pathogen infection and development with pesticides or plant breeding.

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Theme 6: Putting innovation into action – knowledge and technology transfer

Theme 6 activities will increase the value of all Science Cluster research by assisting scientists and sharing their findings with growers and other industry stakeholders. The Canola Council’s agronomy specialists will translate research results into tangible practices that can be applied on farms. The information will also be widely available through the Canola Research Hub, a state-of-the-art online information resource maintained by the Council.

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