Corteva Agriscience and consortium members Bunge, Botaneco and Protein Industries Canada announced Jan. 15 a joint investment of more than $27 million to improve the protein content of Canadian canola.
This is the first commercial plant breeding project focused specifically on canola protein quality improvement and is part of the government of Canada's Supercluster Initiative. Consortium members will invest $14.05 million, while Protein Industries Canada will provide $13.6 million, the announcement said.
"We're pleased to announce our significant investment to revolutionize Canadian canola, which will open new higher-value markets and create economic benefits across the entire canola value chain and agriculture industry," said Bryce Eger, president of Corteva Agriscience Canada. "In addition to our focus on important agronomic input traits for farmers, high-protein seed genetics will transform Canadian canola to be both a high-value oil and a high-value meal crop."
"It is great to see the Protein Industries Supercluster build further momentum through new projects and even more investments. This project especially will help produce canola that commands premium value — both at home and in international markets. This will help growers become more profitable and create more jobs in the agri-food sector," Navdeep Bains, Canada's minister of innovation, science and industry, added.
"Canola is one of Canada's most important crops, and this project has the potential to take it to the next level," Protein Industries Canada chief executive officer Bill Greuel said. "By investing in breeding to improve protein and reduce fiber, we will increase the value of Canadian canola — especially the meal for use in livestock feed — resulting in higher prices for the meal, which is traditionally sold at a discount."
"The industry should be able to generate more value from high-protein canola meal, ultimately creating new opportunities for growers as the high-protein/reduced-fiber meal will allow us to sell into local feed markets where we currently struggle to compete," said Ryan Law, North America canola commercial manager at Bunge.
"Development of high-protein canola hybrids will change the future of canola," Botaneco chief operating officer David Dzisiak said. "This is an important project that will create new value for the entire Canadian canola industry and provide new companies like Botaneco the ability to better create novel, downstream, end-use products, opening significant new markets."
"Continued innovation in Canadian canola by enhancing the protein in the seed will help us create more sustainable growth and opportunity for the canola value chain," Jim Everson, president of the Canola Council of Canada, said. "The federal government's support for research in plant proteins through Protein Industries Canada is very important for Canadian canola growers."
The announcement was delivered at Corteva's research and development facility in Saskatoon, Sask. Canola research and development efforts have currently been focused on yield and traits like pod shatter and disease resistance, which are critical to profitable and sustainable production. Through this project, Corteva will fill a gap with a new commercial breeding program focused on quality improvement and, in doing so, will place Canadian canola researchers in a global leadership position and create an entirely new canola ecosystem.
Canola genome sequence
Meanwhile, the University of Saskatchewan recently announced that an international consortium has successfully sequenced the canola genome.
The university said researchers with its Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS) joined with key academic and global seed company leaders from Canada, the U.S., Europe and Israel on the canola genome project.
Led by Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada research scientist Dr. Isobel Parkin and GIFS director of genomics and bioinformatics Dr. Andrew Sharpe, the project reached a key milestone in completing the full assembly and mapping the genomes of 10 diverse canola varieties cultivated in Canada, the U.S. and Europe. The genome assembly and complete mapping were done using DeNovoMAGIC technology from Israel-based genomic big data company NRGene.
Canola is a major vegetable oil crop farmed on approximately 35 million acres around the world.
“Having top-quality genomes of rapeseed/canola is crucial for identifying the genes responsible for key commercial traits,” Parkin said. “This will be a foundational resource for basic research that’s required to increase yield and nutritional values of rapeseed/canola.”
In the upcoming weeks, the project will also include the comparative mapping of the full genome sequences into a pangenome. Subsequently, the genomes of other varieties will be incorporated to reveal the broad genetic diversity of canola that is grown around the world, the university said.