University of Saskatchewan

September 20, 2014   

A Century of Innovation on Campus

Fields of Dreams

In Canada’s breadbasket it’s not surprising to find a tradition of innovation in agriculture. As we move toward new ways of thinking about bioresources, these generations of expertise will serve us well.

Harrington Barley

1981: Bryan Harvey and his team develop the world’s most successful malting barley variety – Harrington. Still a favourite of many world brewers, from the 1980s until 2002, it covered more than half the barley acreage in Western Canada and up to 40 per cent in the U.S.

Then and Now: Canola, the Cinderella Crop

1954: Golden, the first variety of rapeseed is licensed in Canada. Over the next two decades, Keith Downey from the U of S, Baldur Stefansson from the University of Manitoba and Burton Craig from the NRC Plant Biotechnology Institute transform the inedible industrial oilseed crop into a source of premium vegetable oil lauded around the world for its heart-healthy qualities.

Keith Downey, one of the fathers of canola Keith Downey, one of the fathers of canola

2000: MCN Bioproducts, a U of S spinoff company, commercializes a fractionation process to produce value-added feed products from canola meal, one of the highest quality sources of plant protein. In 2007, CanPro announces plans to build an $18-million plant based on the technology to produce products for the growing international fish farming industry.

Crop Development Centre (CDC)

Established in 1971, the Crop Development Centre is birthplace to more than 160 crop varieties. Notable examples include Harrington malting barley, Brier feed barley, Derby oat, Teal wheat, Sceptre durum, and Laird lentil. Developed by researcher Al Slinkard, Laird helped make Saskatchewan a major world exporter of the crop. One of the CDC’s most recent developments is low-phytate barley, which lowers the amount of environmentally harmful phosphorous in animal waste by 20 to 45 per cent.

Prairie Fruits and Forests

Since settlement began, plant breeders have worked to produce robust and hardy fruit strains to survive and thrive on the Prairies. This century-old tradition could soon be big business. Horticulturalist Brian Bors heads the fruit development program, best known for fruits such as apples and sour cherries and more recently, blue honeysuckle for the Japanese market.

Agroforestry researcher Ken van Rees Agroforestry researcher Ken van Rees

In addition to grains, oilseeds, fruit, and flowers, researchers are exploring the potential of silviculture. Ken van Rees is looking at fast-growing poplars as an alternative crop to produce fuel and fibre.