Wheat, lentils and livestock will be the focus of a $24.2-million investment over four years by Genome Canada and its partners in three University of Saskatchewan-led research projects.
More than half the funding—about $14.22 million—comes from co-funders such as the Saskatchewan government, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), the Western Grains Research Foundation, Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission, the Alberta government, Alberta Wheat Commission, Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, USask, and partners in the beef industry.
The three USask-led projects, administered by Genome Prairie, are part of a $76.7-million investment, including partner funding, in eight new projects across the country announced July 23 by Canada’s Science and Sport Minister Kirsty Duncan to advance sustainability and productivity of Canadian agriculture, agri-food and fisheries.
$11.2 million – 4DWheat: Diversity, Discovery, Design and Delivery
In a collaboration between USask and AAFC, USask wheat breeder Curtis Pozniak and AAFC molecular geneticist Sylvie Cloutier will use genomics to improve the breeding and production of wheat.
“Meeting the challenge of increasing wheat production to match the growing demand for food over the next 20 to 30 years is of paramount importance,” said Pozniak. “We will apply cutting-edge genomics to fully access diversity in wheat breeding and to enable new sources of diversity for enhancing yield and managing producer risk to important diseases.”
$7.4 million – Enhancing the Value of Lentil Variation for Ecosystem Survival (EVOLVES)
USask plant scientists Kirstin Bett and Bert Vandenberg will aim to improve lentil productivity through genomics.
“The industry is seeking to enter the high-value food and ingredients sector and expects future lentil varieties will support this new venture,” said Bett. “We aim to accelerate incorporation of specific quality traits in breeding through strategic use of genetic variability.”
As the largest lentil producer and exporter in the world, the Canadian economy already benefits from $2.5 billion in export revenue.
$5.6 million – Genomic Antimicrobial Stewardship Systems from Evidence-based Treatment Strategies (ASSETS) for Livestock
A multidisciplinary team led by Cheryl Waldner, USask professor of large animal clinical sciences, and Simon Otto, University of Alberta assistant professor of public health and a USask alumnus, will study diagnostic testing for antimicrobial resistance in livestock management, a growing challenge to human and animal health around the world.
“The idea for this project comes from an increasing need to ensure the safe use of antimicrobials as the world faces the growing global threat of antimicrobial resistance,” Waldner said. “Disease-causing bacteria are increasingly able to resist the antibiotics used to treat them, and the agriculture industry is being called upon to improve antibiotic stewardship in livestock.”
Integrating genomic technology (such as hand-held devices to sequence samples) into diagnostic strategies will revolutionize livestock production, she said. The research team will work closely with beef industry partners, including feedlots and veterinarians, to ensure that the diagnostic testing methods are optimized.