Growing Forward 1 & 2 - Research Impact

Growing Forward 1 and 2 - Research Impact

In Growing Forward (2009-2013) and Growing Forward 2 (2013-2018), the canola industry partnered with AAFC on close to $50 million worth of research through the Canadian AgriScience Clusters, Developing Innovative Agri-Products, and Agri-Science Programs. This research was instrumental in helping the industry achieve its 2015 goals, and continues to play a strong role in working towards the 2025 goals set by the industry.

Much of the impact of this research will continue to develop over the next few years, but key highlights listed by research theme may be seen below.


You can jump to a theme using the links below.

Canola Production – Innovation for Sustainable Reliable Supply

Canola Meal

Canola Oil


Canola Production – Innovation for Sustainable Reliable Supply


Stand Establishment

Research on stand establishment has been critical to successful canola production since the introduction of canola in western Canada. While innovation in planting equipment and technology continues to advance, these are for broad acre planting of large seeded crops – cereal, soybean and corn. Canola is a very small seeded crop and growers and agronomists are continually adapting large seed equipment in order to successfully plant and establish a canola crop. Much of the genetic yield potential of the crop can be lost with improper planting and suboptimal stand establishment. This research targeted the following:

  • Plant density: Understanding the relationship between yield and plant density, and developing best management practices (BMP) for growers for targeting plant density based upon field condition and risk tolerance.
  • Factors which impact canola emergence and optimizing canola emergence: Optimizing seeding date, depth, speed, residue management, seedbed tilth and other factors. Reduced planting speed and shallow seeding depth resulted in improved seed placement and stand establishment.
  • Understanding average emergence % across prairies: This was instrumental in fostering discussion about emergence and need for improved practices. Planting recommendations have moved from general “lb/acre” to targeted plant populations per square foot factoring in seed weight and planting equipment type.

Together these have resulted in increased uniformity in stand establishment and this has led to uniform maturation and better utilization of genetic yield potential. This research can also result in improved farm profitability due to rational selection of seeding rate.

Key Knowledge and Technology Transfer (KTT) tools resulting from stand establishment research funding include:

  • helps growers understand how their individual appetite for risk interacts with field-level conditions to give them individual plant density targets and seeding rates. The tool was released in the spring of 2017 and in April and May alone it had 5,400 total site visits.
  • Stand Establishment Video: good overview of factors affecting canola emergence, plant density targets, and BMPs. This informative agronomic video has over 3,400 views on YouTube to date.


Fertility Management

  • Nitrogen stabilizers, timed release formulations targeted to canola. These prevent loss of nitrogen into waterways and result in increased yield, protein and oil due to increased plant utilization.
  • Increased Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE) through understanding of nitrogen fertilizer placement and timing.
  • Improved Carbon sequestration – reduced tillage and better fertility recommendations using 4 R principles.
  • Root phenotyping capacity for improved nutrient and water uptake. Increased drought tolerance and adaptability to changing climate.
  • Key KTT tools for demonstrating science based evidence of the importance of 4R nutrient management include the Ultimate Canola Challenge and CanoLab.


Integrated Pest Management (Disease Management)



Since the discovery of clubroot in Alberta, this soilborne disease is spreading across the prairies and is rapidly becoming one of the most significant threats to canola production. This research will have a significant impact in reducing spread of and losses due to this disease. Key outcomes include:

  • Development of a rapid qPCR test for identifying clubroot that is now being offered by at least 4 commercial labs so that growers can accurately determine the presence of clubroot in their fields and can determine if management practices are reducing the field disease over time.
  • Fostering an understanding of the value of crop rotation and number of break crops between canola crops to reduce spore numbers (to be validated with further research). Studies on the impact of crop rotations on clubroot spore levels in the soil revealed that large numbers of resting spores die or disappear in the first 1 to 2 years after a susceptible crop.
  • Identification of new resistance genes for canola. Genetic resistance is a very effective way of managing clubroot, but current resistance genes are becoming ineffective. Elite clubroot resistant breeding lines of B. napus carrying clubroot resistance gene Rcr1, Rcr2, Rcr3 and Rcr4 have been transferred to 7 breeding companies for clubroot resistance diversity. Also, new canola genetics were developed with resistance to pathotype 5X which is an emerging pathotype or variant of clubroot in parts of the prairies.
  • BMP practices for “clubroot patch management” in order to reduce clubroot disease. This includes use of ryegrass and other grass species to reduce spore survival, fumigation/solarization for disease eradication and other BMP.
  • Disease surveillance has been critical to identify new clubroot areas, establish warning systems for regions and most critically, detection of new pathotypes. Without Growing Forward 2 surveillance funding we may not have found many of these new pathotypes. This research has allowed the industry to stay on top of the situation, especially by providing critical information regarding the distribution and pathotype structure of clubroot populations. This information has been used by both public and private breeders to evaluate and select for clubroot resistance and was also used to develop the Canadian Clubroot Differential Set (CCD).

Based on the current spread of clubroot and the yield losses incurred to date, this research combined with ongoing research has the potential to protect canola acres and yield and has an economic value of hundreds of millions of dollars over the next decade.



Sclerotinia is an ongoing challenge for canola producers as it is inherently difficult to predict.  To date, control of this disease has focused on fungicide application.  Work to develop genetic resistance is advantageous as truly resistant varieties will avoid unpredictable yield losses and costly fungicide applications with uncertain returns on investment. 

  • Sclerotinia resistance was detected in four Brassica napus germplasm lines, including two lines from Pakistan, one from South Korea and one from Japan.  These lines identified as part of this project are the best sources of sclerotinia resistance available to plant breeders both in Canada and internationally.  Further work will be required to incorporate these resistance genes into canola quality germplasm.
  • A standard protocol for testing of canola varieties with a claim of sclerotinia resistance was developed and adopted by the Western Canadian Canola/Rapeseed Recommending Committee.  This protocol will help ensure minimum requirements are met for the canola demonstrating sclerotinia resistance claims.
  • The work on Sclerotinia necrosis inducing proteins contributed to an international consortium that sequenced the Sclerotinia sclerotiorum genome. Researchers catalogued the entire suite of genes expressed during each stage of the infection of canola leading to an in-depth understanding of the sclerotinia pathogen.  Proteins secreted by sclerotinia were identified, providing important information to develop plants impervious to these proteins.
  • Overall, the work completed provides an in-depth understanding of sclerotinia resistance and will move the industry toward developing sclerotinia resistant varieties with the potential to decrease costly fungicide applications and maintain yields.



Surveillance monitoring has shown that blackleg is again increasing in incidence and severity in western Canada, in part due to breakdown of a widely used major resistance gene. Blackleg historically has caused significant economic loss in Canada and recently has been a trade issue between China and Canada as China is concerned that imported infected seed and dockage from Canada will transmit the disease to oilseed rape in China. This research has directly addressed China’s phytosanitary concern by mitigating risk of introduction of blackleg from Canadian canola by reducing disease in Canada’s canola crop. Furthermore, this research will provide significant economic return to Canada’s canola industry by reducing crop loss. The outcomes are as follows:

  • Rapid field diagnostics test for blackleg disease. China requested that Canada develop a rapid “in-field” test to identify blackleg races present on the canola stubble. The PCR biomarkers which were developed as part of this project were shared with public and private pathology labs across western Canada. Four labs now have the markers for commercial evaluation. When growers detect significant amounts of blackleg in their field they may now send stubble samples to pathology labs for genetic testing. The pathology lab will then provide the grower with information on the specific races of blackleg in their field. This will enable canola growers to make informed decisions about choosing the appropriate blackleg resistance in their canola variety that best matches the profile of the blackleg strain in the field. This is an important tool for managing blackleg in the field and addresses a concern of a major trading partner.
  • Surveillance and identification of blackleg pathogen population in Western Canada. A stronger understanding of blackleg pathogen population across Western Canada was gained which will help determine where to deploy specific varieties and R-genes to match the population. This will help to increase the durability of resistance genes and better manage the disease.
  • Identification of new sources and genes for blackleg resistance. More than 1,100 B. napus and B. rapa accessions are characterized for the profile of known Rlm genes (resistance to blackleg). Several novel blackleg resistance genes were identified which can be used by private seed companies to improve their genetic base. Preliminary mapping conducted on one of these lines support presence of a novel broad spectrum R gene against blackleg disease. 58 lines with quantitative (adult plant) resistance to blackleg disease were identified and presence of adult plant resistance (APR) was confirmed. APR against blackleg disease of canola is a durable form of resistance and protects canola against the blackleg infection.
  • Development of blackleg resistance gene labels. The durability of some R genes used within commercial cultivars is now understood.  This helped form the foundation for major gene resistance labels now used in blackleg resistance identification. Producers can now choose varieties with R genes that are durable to the specific blackleg races. Australia and Europe have used these labels to enable producers to choose the best gene that is most effective against the blackleg race present in their field. China has recognized that this was a gap in our risk mitigation plan and this research has provided background to develop the gene labelling model and provide the information to producers in an easy to use fashion. This will also play a significant role in reducing blackleg in the field in Canada.
  • Development of a blackleg yield loss model. Producers can now estimate the amount of yield lost from blackleg in their canola fields. This is a key model that highlights the negative impacts of the disease and the economic constraints it can place on a crop.  Being able to show the economic and agronomic impact of the disease to producers helps further showcase why blackleg is an important disease to manage on farm.

Using the yield loss model on the blackleg infested canola acres in western Canada shows that producers and industry have lost $500 million in revenue annually in the past several years. Return on investment for this research is significant if you consider direct loss to industry and potential economic impact to Canada if canola trade with China is halted.

Key KTT tools include the western Canadian blackleg survey, the Blackleg Scouting Video,, and the development of the Blackleg Steering Group.


Integrated Pest Management (Insect Management)

  • Growing Forward 2 research was instrumental in determining the life cycle relationship and impact of the newly discovered parasitic wasp, D. insulare, for biocontrol of diamondback moth, a major insect pest of canola.
    • Parasitism levels reached 45% indicating that biological control can have a considerable effect on diamondback moth populations. High rates of natural parasitism of diamondback moth by D. insulare were a surprise to researchers and canola producers.
    • Research also determined that lower temperature thresholds exist for diamondback moth development than previously thought.
    • Refined diamondback moth thresholds and a better understanding of its parasitoid D. insulare combined with timely KTT prevented hundreds of thousands to millions of acres of canola being sprayed needlessly in the past several years.
    • Finally, this research discovered that expression of a heat shock protein in both diamondback moth and biological control wasp D. insulare allow for a rapid method of tracking response to changing climate on the prairies.
    • Research is ongoing to update Lygus bug action thresholds, which may also result in a significant reduction in pesticide use.
    • Research was also instrumental in determining Swede or “Canola” midge identification and adaptation to changing climate on the prairies as well as identification and modeling of potential beneficial insects which could be used for biocontrol.
    • Key KTT tools include “Spray to Swath” tools and provincial insect surveys to ensure accurate information for action thresholds and pesticide use decisions.


Integrated Pest Management (Pollinator health, Beneficial Insects & Biodiversity)

  • Canola seeded acres and honeybee colonies (& honey production) share a linear increase in numbers.  Over 70% of Canada's bees are placed in close proximity to canola.
  •  Crucifer and striped flea beetles are devastating pests of canola production in the prairies. Even with widespread use of seed treatments, typically 15% of planted canola acres require 2 -3 foliar applications of insecticides as rescue treatments which adds significant cost and has environmental consequences.
    • Research is underway to develop predictive models in order to accurately determine in which regions and fields crucifer and striped flea beetles will emerge prior to canola planting.
    • Development of a flea beetle prediction model will help to guide growers to purchase/forego seed treated with neonicotinoid seed treatment or apply foliar insecticides only when appropriate. This serves to protect pollinator and beneficial insect health.
  • Biodiversity is recognized as a being critical to sustainability and health of the planet, and promoting biodiversity is becoming top of mind for canola producers. The canola crop provides an excellent habitat for a wide range of insect species, many of which are beneficial to the environment.
    • Research has identified nearly 400 species of ground beetles (carabidae), over 800 species of spiders, and over 1400 species of parasitoid wasps which make their homes or utilize a healthy canola crop as a habitat. Many of these insects perform beneficial functions including parasitizing or eating insect pests of canola.
    • Research shows that the canola canopy and flowers are habitat and food source for nearly 400 species of wild bees – solitary, mason, carpenter, bumblebee, etc - in addition to managed honeybees.
    • GF2 research was instrumental in developing or updating action or economic thresholds which provide accurate decision making tools to maximize profitability and sustainability for the canola producer. Using insecticides only when there is an economic need is part of a sound Integrated Pest Management strategy and allows beneficial insects and managed and wild pollinators to flourish.
    • The research conducted under GF2 has provided scientific evidence that underpins key Canola Council of Canada knowledge and technology transfer (KTT) tools including pollinator health videos, and has been instrumental in highlighting Integrated Pest Management strategies for a number of partnerships or coalitions promoting pollinator health including Bees Matter, the Bee Health Coalition and canola producer / beekeeper working relationships.


Harvest Management

  • Straight cutting acres are increasing each year.  Industry surveys estimate that the percentage of Western Canadian growers that straight cut all or some of their canola acres in 2017 was 28%. A 2009 survey found that 14.6 percent of growers straight cut all/some of their acres.
  • New storage guidelines are now available for large bin storage that is now commonplace in western Canada.
  • Bag storage is now a safe and consistent activity for producers.
  • Perfecting swathing timing has increased yield and oil content.
  • Key KTT tools include straight cutting BMP’s, harvest management video, preventing harvest loss video, and the Combine Seed Loss Guide.


Canola Meal

  • Recent innovation has been successful in demonstrating that today’s canola meal can be fed at much higher levels to swine and poultry then were previously recommended.
  • Targeted research has made canola meal the #1 preferred ingredient for dairy cattle. Research repeatedly shows that when cows are fed canola meal they produce approximately 1 litre more milk per day then when fed other protein sources, like soybean meal.  New research out of Growing Forward 2 demonstrated that cows can produce upwards of 4 litres more milk when fed canola meal in the beginning stages of lactation after calving.
  • The canola meal quality survey provides benchmark information back to processors which has resulted in greater uniformity of canola meal across Canada.
  • The canola meal quality survey is utilized in Asia to differentiate Canadian canola meal from rapeseed/canola meal from all other origins.
  • Innovation is the cornerstone to all Canola Council of Canada technical market development work around the world.


Canola Oil

  • Canola Oil Multi-Centre Intervention Trial (COMIT)  key findings:
    • High oleic canola oil is equally as effective as canola oil in reducing blood cholesterol.
    • DHA-enriched canola oil shows comparable efficacy to fish oils.
    • Canola oil and high oleic canola oil reduce abdominal fat in comparison with a flax/safflower blend oil.
  • Canola oil-enriched diet shown to have benefit for people with type 2 diabetes for both blood glucose control and heart health parameters. These findings are particularly important at a time when diabetes rates in Canada are estimated to increase 44% from 2015-2025 and diabetes health care costs are estimated to increase 25% over the same time period.
  • All canola oil innovation (clinical data) used as scientific basis for CanolaInfo promotions around the world.