University of Saskatchewan

September 20, 2014   

U of S Researcher Awarded $3.8 Million to Improve Canada’s Lentil Production

Dr. Bert Vandenberg
January 12, 2010

SASKATOON, SK—A pulse crop researcher from the University of Saskatchewan has won a prestigious national research position to conduct studies on lentil genetics that could lead to more resilient and nutritious varieties.

More than 30 per cent of the global lentil supply originates from lentil varieties developed by U of S plant scientist Bert Vandenberg. Today, Vandenberg was awarded a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Industrial Research Chair.

This position, intended to support applied industrial research, comes with a total of $3.8 million from NSERC and the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers (SPG).

Over the next five years, Vandenberg will investigate lentil genetics to increase disease resistance and add nutritional value. His research program will also use new genetic technologies to assist in breeding lentil varieties.

“It took the Canadian industry 15 to 20 years to get into first place globally with lentils,” said Vandenberg. “This funding and research program will help guarantee that Saskatchewan pulse producers will stay on top.”

Vandenberg’s appointment is based on his leadership of the world’s most successful lentil genetic research program at the U of S Crop Development Centre.

“This research record and an extensive network in the agriculture industry make Vandenberg ideally suited to take one of the largest single investments made to date in lentil research and produce results that will directly benefit pulse producers,” said U of S vice-president research Karen Chad.

“The Industrial Research Chair program invests in researchers who are redefining the possibilities within their field and who exemplify the culture of discovery and innovation at the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, ” said NSERC President Suzanne Fortier. “Chair holders also cultivate the critically important links between academic institutions and industry that enable both to address and solve difficult problems.”

Though lentils are one of Canada’s newest crops, they are becoming more important to Canada’s pulse crop industry. Canada is now one of the world’s leading lentil producers, with Saskatchewan producing 99 per cent of the Canadian lentil crop.

“Pulses are truly a Canadian success story and have really contributed to the growth of the Saskatchewan economy with a record $1.6 billion in pulse exports in 2008,” said SPG’s executive director Garth Patterson.

To support this growing industry, Vandenberg will study lentil genetics to improve the crop’s ability to resist emerging diseases. More resilient lentil varieties will allow producers to use fewer pesticides and fungicides on their crops.

In addition, he will conduct genetic research to breed lentils with higher nutritional value. Lentils are already known for being low in fat and high in protein, folate, fibre, potassium, zinc, and iron. Fortifying lentils’ nutritional value will help the Canadian pulse industry sell to more consumers around the world by offering a nutritious whole food product.

The Industrial Research Chair will also use new genotyping technologies to look at the lentil’s genetic makeup. This will give pulse growers access to “designer” lentil varieties that are tailored to meet the requirements of our major markets and customers, in the areas of nutrition, seed colour and size, and overall cooking and processing quality.

Over the research chair’s five-year term, Vandenberg plans to train up to 15 graduate students in plant genetics and breeding.

NSERC is a federal agency whose vision is to help make Canada a country of discoverers and innovators to the benefit of all Canadians. The agency supports some 28,000 students and postdoctoral fellows in their advanced studies. NSERC promotes discovery by funding more than 11,800 professors every year and fosters innovation by encouraging more than 1,500 Canadian companies to participate and invest in post-secondary research projects.

About SPG
SPG represents over 18,000 pulse crop producers in Saskatchewan. Accountable to growers and funded through a mandatory, non-refundable check-off, SPG has a producer-elected board of directors comprised of seven pulse growers. SPG has a legislated mandate to build a prosperous pulse industry in Saskatchewan and promote sustainable innovation, growth, and success through leadership, collaboration, and support.

About U of S
Located in the heart of Saskatoon, the U of S is one of Canada’s leading medical-doctoral universities. The university is uniquely positioned in the areas of human, animal and plant studies. The International Vaccine Centre, now under construction, will be Canada’s largest Containment Level III facility for emerging disease vaccine research when the centre opens in 2011. World-class research facilities, renowned faculty and award-winning students make the U of S a leader in post-secondary education.


Note to editors: Professor Vandenberg will be available for a media scrum on Jan. 12 at 10:20 a.m. to 10:40 a.m. in Room 234 at the Saskatoon Inn during the 2010 Pulse Days event hosted by the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers. A photo of Prof. Vandenberg is also available upon request.

For more information, please contact:

Kathryn Warden
U of S Research Communications
(306) 966-2506

Amanda Olekson
Communications Manager
Saskatchewan Pulse Growers
(306) 668-0032
Cell: (306) 230-6606

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