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New research supports plant breeding

New research supports plant breeding

Scientists hope their work can lead to getting improved crops varieties to farmers faster

Staff Writer

Decoding the full genome of the black mustard plant, which is closely related to canola, may lead to improved crop varieties for Western Canadian producers.

A research team led by the Plant Phenotyping and Imaging Research Centre (P2IRC) at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) and scientists at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) recently published their findings on new technology to decode the genome of the black mustard plant.

“What we produced is essentially an assembly of the genome. Before, we used to have assemblies, which essentially were 1,000- or 2,000-piece jigsaw puzzles. With this new technology, it reduces it down to a 100-piece jigsaw puzzle. So, it's a lot easier to actually put things together to give you a full representation of the genome,” said Dr. Andrew Sharpe.

He is the director for genomics and bioinformatics at the Global Institute for Food Security at USask. Sharpe, along with other researchers, now have a technique that’s more accurate in decoding genomes.

“This means we get a better connection between the genes and their impacts on traits in the crop,” he told

This new genome sequencing technology, called nanopore, will open doors for crop breeders, said Sharpe.

Now, “we have a better ability to really identify the particular genes that are important in controlling traits. Ultimately, this is another tool in the toolbox that breeders need to increase the speed at which they can generate new and better-performing varieties,” said Sharpe.

The team is sequencing other crops, such as canola, wheat and lentils, that are common to Western Canada.

This research is funded by a Mitacs Elevate post-doctoral fellowship, the AAFC Canadian Crops Genomic Initiative and P2IRC.

Photo creidt: Dave Stobbe photo


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