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Advanced insights on canola genome

Advanced insights on canola genome

Scientists can use the findings to improve breeding programs for the crop

by Michelle Jones

A team of global researchers cracked the canola genome earlier this year.

Participants included scientists from the Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS) at the University of Saskatchewan (USask), along with academic and global seed company leaders from Canada, the United States, Europe and Israel. The researchers announced their accomplishment in January.

In under two years, the team has successfully sequenced 12 genomes to a reference quality, which will allow scientists to perform a detailed analysis of the genomes.

The researchers are also collaborating with NRGene, a bioinformatics specialist company, to speed up the process of assembling and comparing the genomes.

Globally, producers grow canola on about 35 million acres. Researchers will associate the variation they discovered with important traits, which can then be used as selection tools in breeding programs. This knowledge will speed up the process of getting new varieties with improved trait combinations to farmers.

“The variation we discover will be available to researchers worldwide via publications. The different genomes represent diversity from across the globe and thus will have benefits worldwide,” Dr. Andrew Sharpe, the director of genomics and bioinformatics at GIFS, told 

The results will advance breeding for rapeseed and canola, benefiting researchers, the industry, producers and consumers, he said. This progress also has immense economic value for Canada, which is one of the world’s leading producers and exporters of canola.

This discovery will help scientists to make canola varieties more resistant to adverse weather and other threats.

“Many agronomically important traits, including disease resistance and yield traits, are controlled by small changes in the genome, which have been traditionally very difficult to catalogue,” Dr. Isobel Parkin, a research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-food Canada, told Parkin is also an adjunct professor at USask.

“This project was truly an international effort, and is a good example of how collaboration between diverse groups around the globe can lead to significant strides in our field and others,” said Sharpe.

Photo credit: David Stobbe

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