University of Saskatchewan

July 23, 2014   

Joint Research Project to Develop Pest-Resistant Canola

March 09, 1999 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, December 10, 1998

A University of Saskatchewan-led research team will get almost $750,000 from the federal government and industry over four years to develop canola that is resistant to all major insect pests that damage this economically important crop.

Funding will come from a recently approved Strategic Grant of $441,100 from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) plus $308,000 from industry and the federal Agriculture and Agri-Food Matching Investments Initiative Program.

"The products of this research will be a major advantage to our farmers," said Dwayne Hegedus, a U of S adjunct professor in applied microbiology and food science who heads Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's (AAFC) Molecular Plant Protection Laboratory.

He noted researchers elsewhere are working on pest-resistant, genetically engineered canola, but no varieties have been released as yet and their approach is only effective against one pest -- the diamondback moth.

In contrast, the U of S-led project will be effective against the diamondback moth, flea beetle, root maggot, and Bertha armyworm. Despite intensive chemical spraying, these insect pests create hundreds of millions of dollars worth of damage to canola crops annually, he noted.

The technology, which involves inserting a gene into canola plants to prevent insects from utilizing plant nutrients, would lessen the need for costly spraying and chemical treatment of canola seed. It is also applicable to insect pests that damage other important crops, he said.

However, pest-resistant canola based on this new biotechnology is five to 10 years off, he cautioned. The project brings together and builds on work that's been going on at three research centres located on the U of S campus -- the U of S College of Agriculture, the federal Agriculture and Agri-Food Research Centre, and the National Research Council's Plant Biotechnology Institute (PBI). Without this collaboration, the project would never have come about, Hegedus stressed.

The team includes U of S applied microbiology and food science professor George Khachatourians, Lorraine Braun of AAFC, and Sean Hemmingsen of PBI.

As well, four to six graduate students will be involved in the project. "They will gain training in leading-edge biotechnology," said Khachatourians.

He stressed the project will enhance the U of S's reputation as a world centre in agricultural biotechnology. "This project and the training it will provide will strengthen the programs of the Bioinsecticide Research Lab which will move to the sixth floor of the Agriculture Building when the addition is completed by the fall of 2000," he added.

Bryan Harvey, U of S Co-ordinator of Agricultural Research, said, "This research project exemplifies the kind of co-operative effort we encourage at the U of S. Such co-operation allows us to take full advantage of the expertise we have in the campus community."

For further information, contact:

Dr. George Khachatourians
Applied Microbiology and Food Science
College of Agriculture
Ph: (306) 966-5032

Dr. Dwayne Hegedus
Group Leader, Molecular Plant Protection Laboratory
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Ph: (306) 956-7200

Kathryn Warden
Research Communications Officer
Office of Vice-President Research
Ph: (306) 966-2506
Fax: (306) 066-8597

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