Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada: Government of Canada invests over $12 million to advance innovation and sustainability in Canada’s canola sector

The Faculty of Science, at the University of Manitoba is pleased to announce that Dr. Steve Whyard and Dr. Mark Belmonte are among the successful recipients at the University of Manitoba to receive critically important funding to support sustainable canola research. Additional recipients at the University of Manitoba include researchers from the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences.

The Government of Canada announcement, made on September 4, 2018 at the University of Manitoba, Bruce Campbell Centre, in Glenlea, is part of a larger initiative, the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a five-year $3 billion investment by federal, provincial and territorial governments to strengthen the agriculture and agri-food sector, through leading edge discovery and applied science, and innovation driven by industry research priorities.

Dr. Mark Belmonte examines the cellular and molecular functions of plant production and pathogenesis, using next generation sequencing and laser microdissection to better predict cell response to disease or environmental change.

Dr. Steve Whyard studies the molecular genetics of insects, and is developing novel biotechnologies to control disease-vectoring insects such as mosquitoes and pest insects of crops. He has been using RNA interference techniques to produce species-specific pesticides, and together with Dr. Belmonte, they are now working on developing RNA interference technologies to protect canola from Sclerotinia, otherwise known as white mold.

RNA interference is a method of selectively reducing a targeted gene’s expression using double-stranded RNA. Drs. Whyard and Belmonte and their research teams have identified double-stranded RNAs that can suppress Sclerotinia growth on canola leaves and stems. Over the next three years, they will explore the utility of this technology to protect canola crops in greenhouse and controlled field trials. If successful, a new generation of species specific fungicides may be available to protect canola and other crops from this serious plant fungal pathogen.

As Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada reports:

Canada’s canola sector is strong and growing. In 2016, Canadian canola seed and oil exports accounted for almost 15 per cent of total agriculture and food exports, valued at $9.2 billion. Canola has also been the largest crop in Canada in terms of market receipts since 2010, and accounts for more than one-fifth of all Canadian cropland. The Government of Canada knows that research and innovation are vital to ensuring Canadian canola farmers have a sustainable and profitable future….

Building on the work of two previous clusters, this research investment includes an additional industry contribution of up to $8.1 million. The cluster will focus on advancing the growth and profitability of the sector through innovative and sustainable approaches to creating new and improved products. Activities will include adapting food processing techniques, exploring uses for canola meal in livestock production, examining practices to optimize yields, protect crops from pests, and share lessons learned with stakeholders.

Research at the University of Manitoba is partially supported by funding from the Government of Canada Research Support Fund.

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