|Keith Downey, 1950 (Photograph Collection, B-286)|
Convocation date: May 24, 1994
Discipline / contribution: botany - plant breeding
Citation / biographical information:
Eminent Chancellor, on behalf of the Council and Senate, I present to you Richard KeithDegree received: Doctor of Science
Keith Downey is truly an outstanding Canadian. He is known around the world as "Mr. Canola" for his leadership role in the development of this crop.
Dr. Downey was born and took his early education in Saskatoon. He and his wife Edna have five children and a number of grandchildren. Keith's BSA and MSc degrees were obtained from the University of Saskatchewan. He has spent his entire career as a scientist with Agriculture Canada, initially as an alfalfa breeder at Lethbridge and since 1957 as a rapeseed/canola breeder at Saskatoon.
Forty years ago oilseed rape was an insignificant crop in Canada. It was cultivated in Europe for industrial oil and in Asia as a low quality oilseed crop. Through the efforts of Dr. Downey and his colleagues it is now the third most important field crop in Canada, surpassed only by wheat and barley. Often it is the most profitable crop which can be legally grown in western Canada. It is the third most important edible oil crop in the world. The economic impact is huge.
Keith Downey is best characterized as an excellent scientist, a leader and a collaborator. The major steps in the development of canola have been team efforts. In collaboration with Burton Craig and students, Bryan Harvey and Gordon Dorell, his team put together the first step in the transformation of rapeseed. The inheritance of erucic acid content in napus and campestris rape was worked out as was the biosynthetic pathway of erucic acid. The half seed technique was developed as a tool in these studies and was quickly adopted for a wide range of species around the globe. Low erucic varieties were soon bred for commercial production based on this knowledge.
The second step in the transformation of rapeseed from household drudge to Cinderella resulted from Dr. Downey's collaboration with Milton Bell and the Polish scientist Jan Kryzmanski. They discovered genotypes with low glucosinolate content in the meal and demonstrated the nutritional value of this meal. In the style of those times the information and germplasm was made freely available. Another collaborator, Baldur Stefansson produced the first canola (low erucic, low glucosinolate) variety from this germplasm.
Under development in his laboratory is canola quality juncea mustard which will greatly extend the growing area for canola. Also under development are ultra-low glucosinolate types and a low cost hybrid production system for Brassicas. Dr. Downey and his team have developed 18 varieties many of which have been grown extensively. They have made improvements in seed yield, higher oil content, lower fibre content, disease resistance and earlier maturity. He has authored or coauthored over 200 scientific publications ranging from journal articles to books.
Dr. Downey's leadership is evident in many areas. He is an effective communicator with farmers, crushers and food companies. He has trained a large number of graduate students and visiting scholars in his laboratory. He has freely provided knowledge and germplasm to colleagues in countries such as France, Germany, Poland, Sweden, Great Britain, Chile, Pakistan, Japan, China, India, Australia, United States, Argentina, Egypt and Ethiopia. He has been on numerous trade and technical missions throughout the world for agencies such as the FAO, CIDA, IDRC and OAS. He manages oilseed development projects in China and India and the Brassica projects in an oilseed network of 10 East African and Asian countries. Dr. Downey's accomplishments have been recognized by a number of honors and awards including: Bond Gold Medal, American Oil Chemists Society; Public Service Merit Award, Government of Canada; Memorial Lecturer, OAC; Honorary Life Member, CSGA; Grindley Medal, AIC; Honorary Life Member, Saskatchewan Rapeseed Growers Association; Royal Bank Award; International Lecture, Society of Chemical Industry, England; Officer, Order of Canada; Fellow, AIC; Queen's Silver Jubilee Medal; Fellow, Royal Society of Canada; Century Saskatoon Award; Distinguished Graduate, University of Saskatchewan, College of Agriculture; Gold Medal, Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada and the Clark-Newman Award from the CSGA to be awarded in July.
Eminent Chancellor, I present to you Richard Keith Downey and ask that you will confer on him the degree of Doctor of Science honoris causa.
Degree presented by: Bryan L. Harvey
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