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Protecting canola from frost

Protecting canola from frost

Alberta researchers have found a way to produce canola plants that can withstand late-season frost

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Alberta scientists may have discovered how to protect canola crops from Old Man Winter.

Dr. Marcus Samuel, an associate integrative cell biology professor at the University of Calgary, leads the research team tthat did this work. They produced a gene-based technology that can create plants capable of withstanding late-season frosts and still produce high-quality seed.

“We’ve been able to create canola lines that can degreen properly,” Samuel said in a statement.

The team reduced the amount of chlorophyll in genetically modified canola by up to 60 per cent after the plants spent six hours at -4 C (24.8 F).

Late-season frosts can prevent the chlorophyll in the canola from breaking down, resulting in green seeds.

Grade No. 1 canola can contain up to 2 per cent, or about 20 seeds per 1,000 of “distinctly green seed,” the Canadian Canola Growers Association says. Grade No. 2 canola can have up to 6 per cent and No. 3 canola can have up to 20 per cent of “distinctly green seed.”

Producers could earn less if their canola has higher amounts of green seeds, so reducing the volume of these seeds is important.

“If our research was integrated into canola-breeding programs, it would serve like crop insurance for the farmers, who ultimately take the financial burden for frost-damaged canola,” Logan Skori, a farmer and member of Samuel’s research team, said in a release.

This recent discovery builds on research the team conducted in 2013, which laid out the degreening process in Arabidopsis, small flowering plants related to canola, mustard and other crops. has reached out to the research team and agronomists for comment on the discovery and how frost can affect canola yields.

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