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News Canola Genetics/Traits
University of Saskatchewan researchers help crack canola genome

“The broad genomic database we produced provides the fundamental infrastructure needed by every breeding program.”


January 10, 2020
By University of Saskatchewan

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The genome for canola was successfully sequenced by an international group of academic and global seed company leaders from Canada, the United States, Europe and Israel, including Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS) researchers at the University of Saskatchewan.

The canola consortium is led by Isobel Parkin, research scientist from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), and Andrew Sharpe, director of genomics and bioinformatics from GIFS at University of Saskatchewan. GIFS works with various partners to discover, develop and deliver innovative solutions for the production of globally sustainable food.

The genome research is essential to enhancing the quality and yield of the major oil crop. The more that is known about the genome, the more ability plant breeders have in creating better canola in the future. The project completed the full assembly and mapping the genomes of 10 diverse canola varieties, cultivated in Canada, U.S. and Europe. The genome assembly and complete mapping was done using Israeli-based NRGene’s DeNovoMAGIC technology.

Canola is a major vegetable oil crop farmed on approximately 35 million acres around the world. Increasing the productivity of the plant will expand its use for a range of applications, replacing lower quality vegetable oils and diesel fuels.

“Having top quality genomes of rapeseed and canola is crucial for identifying the genes responsible for key commercial traits,” said Parkin. “This will be a foundational resource for basic research that’s required to increase yield and nutritional values of rapeseed and canola.”

In the upcoming weeks, the project will also include the comparative mapping of the full genome sequences into a pangenome. A pangenome is the entire gene set of all strains of a species – which in this case is canola ­– including genes present in all strains and genes present only in some strains of the species. Subsequently, the genomes of other varieties will be incorporated to reveal the broad genetic diversity of canola that is grown around the world. This will enable plant breeders to access to the full range of canola genes in looking for improvements, resistances, and problematic genes to avoid. This work will be done using NRGene’s GenoMAGIC big data toolkit, which is already in use commercially for other key crops such as maize, soybean, cotton, tomato and wheat.

“This was truly a combined effort, made possible with the support and contributions from various parties,” said Sharpe. “The results will advance breeding for rapeseed and canola, benefitting research, industry, producers and consumers. This progress also has immense economic value for Canada, which is one of the world’s leading producers and exporters of canola.”

“The broad genomic database we produced provides the fundamental infrastructure needed by every breeding program,” said Dr. Gil Ronen, chief executive officer of NRGene. “Sharing funding resources between multiple commercial and academic entities enables us to build the largest global database of rapeseed and canola to be shared among consortium members and revealing strategic paths in the breeding of elite seeds.”