Lab Canada

Canola genomics research gets $600,000 in funding

Winnipeg, MB – A genomics research team led by University of Manitoba plant scientist Dr Genyi Li is receiving $600,000 in new funding from the Manitoba government. The team is examining ways to improve canola seed for animal feed applications.

Oilseeds like rapeseed and mustard seed contain natural compounds called glucosinolates, which are also found in vegetables like cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. By definition, canola contains lower levels of glucosinolates than other Brassica crops, and the research team is using genomics tools to investigate ways to reduce these levels even further.

“There are many kinds of glucosinolates, but we’re looking at a specific one, called progoitrin, which can have some undesirable effects when it is present in animal meal in high levels,” says Dr Li, who holds the associate NSERC industrial research chair in high erucic acid rapeseed.

“About 60% of canola seed is used for animal meal, because it is a good source of protein, while about 40% is used for its oil. Our research will not affect oil in any way, but by reducing the level of these glucosinolates, we hope to improve its effectiveness even more for animal meal,” he adds.

Dr Li’s team includes fellow plant science department members Rachael Scarth and Peter McVetty, NSERC senior industrial research chair in high erucic acid rapeseed. They have narrowed their research down to a specific family of genes that is involved in progoitrin production, and their goal is to identify the single gene responsible.

“Once we know the gene, the next step would be to use genomics tools to silence it or knock it out,” says Dr Li. “There are different ways we can manipulate the gene pathway or change the gene expression that would result in lower levels of these glucosinolates in the seed.”

Also announced was a new Winnipeg office for Genome Prairie. A not-for-profit corporation, Genome Prairie works in partnership with Genome Canada to fund and manage large-scale genomics research.