Canadian canola researchers have dozens of ongoing projects. Some are funded by canola growers through their levy payments to SaskCanola, Alberta Canola and Manitoba Canola Growers. Some are funded through the Canola AgriScience Cluster, a partnership between Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and the canola industry under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP). Over a five-year period, this initiative will invest $25.5 million in research to optimize yield and quality, improve nutrient and water use efficiency, and enhance integrated pest management practices. Here are short descriptions and updates for these projects.

Short Updates for Ongoing Research

Plant establishment

An on-farm approach to monitor and evaluate the interaction of management and environment on canola stand establishment and disease development

Principal investigator: Christiane Catellier, Indian Head Agricultural Research Foundation (IHARF)

Funding: SaskCanola

Purpose/Objectives: This observational study, using data collected directly from producers’ fields, is examining how management decisions and environmental conditions interact to affect (1) canola emergence and seedling development and (2) disease (sclerotinia and blackleg) development. This approach will allow researchers to examine several intercorrelated factors simultaneously. This will better show how field conditions can affect the outcome of management decisions.

Progress: Field data collection has been completed for three growing seasons. Preliminary data exploration has shown interesting trends, and full statistical analysis will only be completed once the full data set has been assembled.

Effect of cereal crop residue distribution on the following year’s canola emergence and yield

IHARF summer student Logan Fahlman measures soil temperature and soil moisture content as part of the canola emergence study.

Principal investigator: Katelyn Gaetz, Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI)

Funding: SaskCanola and others

Purpose: This three-year project analyzes the effect of poor versus good cereal crop residue distribution and the effects on the following year’s canola emergence and yield. The study also observes two post-harvest treatments: harrowing and high-speed discing. Field-scale equipment was used to represent meaningful results that can be related directly to producers.

Progress: Field work finished this fall but the final data set is yet to be analyzed. Some key difficulties to note during the data acquisition was the growing conditions by year. Each growing season observed (2018, 2019, 2020) displayed unique conditions that at times were not ideal for accurate data acquisition. This included extreme differences in weather (very dry to very wet).

Fertility Management Improving Nitrogen Use Efficiency And Soil Sustainability In Canola Production Across Canada

Principal investigator: Bao-Luo Ma, AAFC Ottawa

Funding: Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP)

Purpose: The study includes two field experiments at eight locations across Canada and laboratory analysis. Objectives are to (1) assess agronomic and economic responses of canola to nitrogen (N) fertilizer management in terms of nitrogen use efficiency (NUE), yield and crop standabilty, (2) improve NUE, crop productivity and lodging resistance through management practices under different soil and cropping system conditions, (3) identify root architecture traits for efficient N acquisition and strong anchorage strength, and (4) investigate the taxonomic and functional response of the soil microbiome to N management.

Progress: The project goes until 2023, but early results showed, at most sites, a positive response of canola yields to N application rates, and at some site-years, a better response to the split (base fertilizer plus top dress at the four- to six-leaf stage) compared to the same amount of N applied only at preplant. The estimated most economic rate of nitrogen (MERN) appears to indicate the need for region-specific recommendations.

Enhancing The Saskatchewan Soil Information System

Principal investigator: Angela Bedard-Haughn, University of Saskatchewan

Funding: SaskCanola, Western Grains Research Foundation, Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) and others

Purpose: This project aims to enhance Saskatchewan Soil Information System (SKSIS) by developing and integrating predictive soil mapping (PSM) tools into SKSIS, and by creating a standalone SKSIS feature for efficient use of SKSIS in internet-deficient areas.

Progress: The beta version of the SKSIS standalone app has been developed and has undergone internal testing. The app will enable producers to access soil data digitally even when they are in an internet-deficient area. Development and testing of PSM tools has led to refining of the PSM approach to adapt it to Saskatchewan landscapes and conditions. Further testing is ongoing at nine sites across Saskatchewan and is expected to be completed in the first half of 2021. Data-sharing models are currently in development, specifically focused on the use of blockchain tools to ensure data ownership and control will be completely maintained and tracked when data is uploaded into the SKSIS PSM system. Beta testing of the data sharing management system and producer partnered PSM tools is expected to be undertaken in the second half of 2021.

Developing a Soil Health Assessment Protocol For Saskatchewan Producers

Principal investigator: Kate Congreves, University of Saskatchewan

Funding: SaskCanola, Western Grains Research Foundation and others

Purpose: Soil health can be defined as the capacity of a soil to function, which reflects sustained biological productivity, environmental quality and plant health. This project will assess soil health across Saskatchewan, which will contribute to developing a standard Saskatchewan soil health assessment protocol.

Progress: Soil samples from 0-15, 15-30 and 30-60cm depths were collected from 55 fields across 26 sites in fall 2018. The sites are representative of Saskatchewan agriculture. Some native prairie samples were also collected. Lab-work was conducted to characterize soil health attributes, such as organic carbon, total nitrogen, active carbon, soil protein, mineralizable nitrogen, nutrient composition, wet aggregate stability, texture, pH, electrical conductivity and more. Descriptive statistics for each soil health attribute have been computed, and we have developed preliminary scoring functions.

Canola Frequency Effects On Nutrient Turnover And Root-microbe Interactions

Principal investigators: Bobbi Helgason, University of Saskatchewan; Tim Dumonceaux, AAFC Saskatoon

Purpose: Crop rotation is a well known management practice that aids in sustainable and healthy agroecosystems and can mitigate risks associated with crop disease and soil nutrient depletion. To better understand the effects of short canola rotations on soil nutrients and microbiology, this project examines root nutrient fluxes and plant, soil, and root-associated microbes using herbicide-resistant commercial varieties of canola.

Progress: Nutrient fluxes during plant growth were examined using plant root simulator (PRS) probes. Analysis of the bacterial and fungal microbial communities revealed that crop rotation had a significant effect on the composition of the soil microbiome. The data from both 2018 and 2019 revealed an extreme abundance of a fungus, Olpidium brassicae, in root samples at all sampling locations, with one strain unique to samples from Lacombe. While O. brassicae is not known to cause disease in canola, related organisms can vector viruses that affect canola productivity. The microbiome data is currently being analyzed in the context of cultivar, locality, nutrient fluxes, and agronomic traits to better resolve microbiome-mediated effects of rotation on crop performance.

Understanding Canola Root Morphology And Microbiomes In Response To Soil Phosphorus Fertility

Principal investigator: Bobbi Helgason, University of Saskatchewan

Funding: SaskCanola

Purpose: The objective is to determine how canola root architecture and the root-associated microbiome impact the plant’s ability to forage for phosphorus. This research combines field and laboratory experiments to see how soil phosphorus fertility affects canola roots and their microbiome in order to develop strategies for overcoming phosphorus deficiency in canola production.

Progress: Canola plants including roots, rhizosphere and bulk soil were collected from the field where the effects of phosphorus rate and opener width were tested. Researchers measured plant growth and nutrient uptake, and are using DNA sequencing to examine the response of bacteria and fungi to different phosphorus applications. COVID-19 has delayed the more mechanistic aspects of this work in the greenhouse and laboratory, but results from two years in the field will guide ongoing project objectives imaging root growth and profiling microbiome development in rhizoboxes.

Reducing Toxicity Of Seed-placed Phosphorus Fertilizer In Oilseed Crops

Principal investigator: Patrick Mooleki, AAFC Saskatoon

Funding: SaskCanola, Alberta Canola

Purpose: Objectives are to determine the maximum safe rate of seed-placed phosphorus fertilizer with different row spacing and opener widths, and to develop guidelines.

Progress: This two-year field study was conducted in 2018 and 2019 at five locations across Saskatchewan and Alberta. Results from year one showed more plants per square metre at 9” row spacing than at 12”. As well, plant density increased with opener width. However, plant density decreased with increasing P rate. No significant effect on grain yield and grain quality characteristics were observed for all the three factors. Results from year two show that increasing seed-placed phosphorus rate can cause significant reduction in plant population. Combined statistical analysis and summaries are underway.

Enhancing The Beneficial Root Microbiome In Canola

Principal investigator: Mohamed Hijri, Université de Montréal

Funding: Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP), Alberta Canola, SaskCanola, Manitoba Canola Growers, WGRF, NSERC

Purpose: This project will identify the prokaryotic community within the canola-specific root rhizosphere, and follow up to see how beneficial associative microorganisms could help to improve crop yield.

Progress: This long-term field experiment conducted at three locations on the Prairies found that the prokaryotic community of the canola rhizosphere has a stable core of organisms. This could be important for future enhancement of canola production through microbiota manipulation or development of new cohorts for bio-inoculants-associative microorganisms.

Integrated Pest Management

Identification And Assessment Of The Role Of Natural Enemies In Pest Suppression In Canola, With Specific Reference To Diamondback Moth Management

Principal investigator: Maya Evenden, University of Alberta

Funding: Alberta Canola, SaskCanola

Purpose: Objectives are (1) to monitor natural enemies associated with diamondback moth (DBM) in canola, with a focus on larval parasitoid, (2) understand relationships between DBM and its natural enemies and to develop dynamic action thresholds and (3) understand factors to enhance foraging and parasitism of parasitoids associated with DBM.

Progress: Commercial fields of canola in southern Alberta were surveyed in 2020, but high rainfall resulted in low DBM populations and overall low infestation levels. A similar survey will be conducted in the summer of 2021. Laboratory studies were conducted to determine functional response of predator insects. Field cage and laboratory studies were continued in 2020 to calculate economic thresholds of DBM in canola fields.

Surveillance Networks For Beneficial Insects: Can Natural Habitats Serve As Insect Reservoirs, And Do They Contribute To Canola Yield?

Principal investigator: Paul Galpern, University of Calgary

Funding: Alberta Canola, Manitoba Canola Growers, SaskCanola

Purpose: This project examined the relationship between the diversity and abundance of beneficial insects and canola production in Western Canada. Specifically, it addressed the role of natural habitats near canola fields provide as reservoirs for pollinators and natural enemies of canola pests, and the effect on canola yield.

Progress: For this final year of the project, researchers focused on ground-dwelling beneficial arthropods, which may be important predators of crop pests. Species examined included two wolf spiders, a carabid beetle, and a harvestman. Natural habitats within and near fields appear to function as reservoirs, and therefore may help maintain populations of natural enemies. A second phase of the network has begun. It advances the yield-related objectives piloted in this project and aims to measure the contribution of natural habitats that support beneficial arthropods to canola yields in the surrounding fields.

Verticillium Stripe Management

Principal investigators: Sheau-Fang Hwang and Stephen Strelkov, University of Alberta

Funding: Alberta Canola, SaskCanola, Manitoba Canola Growers

Purpose: To determine the effects of growth stage and inoculation techniques on host infection, and to evaluate the effects of disease severity on plant growth and yield at different inoculum concentrations.

Progress: Greenhouse experiments on the effect of different inoculum densities on plants at different growth stages are being evaluated. Despite COVID-19, field experiments on the effect of different inoculum densities on disease severity and yield were seeded and are being collected.

Impact of Drought and Heat During Flowering on Canola Yield

Principal investigator: Raju Soolanayakanahally, AAFC Saskatoon

Funding: SaskCanola, Saskatchewan’s Agriculture Development Fund (ADF)

Purpose: The main objective is to see how drought, heat and a combination of the two can affect canola seed yield, oil composition and carbon assimilation.

Progress: Researchers used a drought-tolerant (DT) and a drought-susceptible (DS) canola cultivar to compare day- and night-transpirational water loss under optimal watering and water deficit conditions. Results showed that the DS canola cultivar had higher rates of day- and night-transpirational water losses. Stomatal conductance in particular was always higher in the DS canola cultivar under control and drought conditions. Further investigation is needed to disentangle the role of leaf waxes and their chemical composition in reducing non-stomatal transpirational water loss and increasing crop water-use efficiency.

Evaluating The Effect Of Canola Seeding Rate And Seed Size Seeded Into Wheat Stubble In Flea Beetle Damage And Population

Principal investigator: Maria Angelica Ouellette, North Peace Applied Research Association

Funding: Alberta Canola

Purpose: Cultural methods for flea beetle include high seeding densities, larger seed size (up to 2.2mm), as well as higher soil temperatures at seeding, but there is limited research showing how these three recommendations, acting in conjunction, affect flea beetle damage. This study will evaluate these recommendations.

Progress: The summer and fall of 2019 was unseasonable wet, which made for difficult spring seeding condition in 2020. Early and late seeding dates ended up being close to each other. Precipitation in early June also had a negative impact on seedling vigour and emergence. Despite cold wet conditions this spring, all the data was collected on flea beetle seedling damage. Data will be processed in the upcoming months.

Biopesticides as a Novel Management Strategy for Sclerotinia in Canola

Principal investigator: Susan Boyetchko, AAFC Saskatoon

Funding: SaskCanola, Manitoba Canola Growers

Purpose: The main objective is to screen and evaluate the biopesticide potential of selected bacterial strains that are indigenous to the Canadian Prairies and determine their ability to control disease development and growth of Sclerotinia sclerotiorum in canola.

Progress: Five bacterial strains were found to inhibit ascospore germination, mycelial growth and sclerotial formation ofS. sclerotiorum. All plants sprayed with bacterial strain PENSV20 in the presence of the pathogen had no symptoms of the disease and plant defense genes were triggered when sprayed 24 hours before and 24 hours after the pathogen. A canola petal bioassay was conducted that revealed spraying the ascospores onto petals along with the bacterial biopesticide reduced ascospore germination. The canola petal bioassay and the results from the plant defense genes corroborate the results that one of the mechanisms is the induction of host plant defense genes. The second mechanism appears to be the production of bacterial secondary metabolites that possess antifungal activity against the pathogen. The full genome of the leading bacterial biopesticide strain was sequenced. The use of genomic databases will be used to conduct comparative genomics in order to identify genes that help determine biopesticidal properties responsible for antagonism against S. sclerotiorum.

Effect of hairiness in brassica lines on the abundance, feeding and oviposition behaviour of flea beetles, diamondback moths and aster leafhopper

Principal investigator: Chrystel Olivier, AAFC Saskatoon

Funding: SaskCanola, Alberta Canola

Purpose: The project aims to determine the effects of trichomes (hairs) on the feeding and/or egg-laying behaviour of three canola pests: striped flea beetles, diamondback moths (DBM) and aster leafhoppers.

Progress: Lab bioassays and field trials were conducted with a hairy Brassica napus line and a very hairy Brassica species, B. villosa. Lab bioassays with aster leafhoppers were started in 2020 but remain unfinished because of COVID-19. Lab bioassays and a reduced field trial demonstrated that striped flea beetles tend to avoid hairy leaves and move to feed on the less hairy stems or petioles. The low level of aster yellows and absence of DBM in the field trails did not allow confirmation of the lab bioassay results.

Monitoring the race dynamics of Leptosphaeria maculans for effective use of R genes to control blackleg in Western Canada

Donald David, AAFC Outlook, and Noryne Rauhala, AAFC Lacombe, check plots for an AAFC fungicide trial.

Principal investigator: Gary Peng, AAFC Saskatoon

Funding: SaskCanola, Alberta Canola, Manitoba Canola Growers

Purpose: This study is part of the continued efforts to provide industry and producers with up-to-date pictures of L. maculans race profile, which can be used to guide the deployment or rotation of canola cultivars carrying different R genes. It can also gain important insights into pathogen race changes in response to resistant cultivars used over the years, allowing industry to be proactive before the erosion of specific resistance R genes.

Progress: Monitoring has continued since 2010. Isolates from 2018 have been analyzed, and samples from 2019 and 2020 are being tested and collected. COVID-19 affected progress, but researchers hope to complete 2019 samples by end of this fiscal year. Annual information on the avirulence-gene profile in L. maculans population allows breeders to pick effective R genes for blackleg resistance breeding, and helps agronomists and growers to select cultivars that carry effective R genes on a regional basis.

Validation Of Lygus And Other Insect Pest Thresholds In Commercial Farms Throughout Alberta

Principal investigator: Hector Carcamo, AAFC Lethbridge

Funding: Alberta Canola, SaskCanola

Purpose: Economic thresholds for lygus were developed for open pollinated cultivars. Recent cage and plot data suggest that the threshold should be raised to two or three lygus per sweep for new hybrids. This study will try to validate economic thresholds for lygus using commercial canola fields.

Progress: From 2016 to 2019, 28 farm site-year combinations have been studied. Results have been variable but data support increasing the threshold. Landscape analysis of current and previous surrounding land cover has been added as extra value to get the most of the data. Data analysis and synthesis for all years to validate thresholds remains on target to produce a final report by the end of 2020.

Investigating The Role Of Plant Hosts In The Outbreaks Of The Aster Leafhopper Vectored Aster Yellows

Principal investigator: Sean Prager, University of Saskatchewan

Funding: SaskCanola, WGRF

Purpose: The objective is evaluate several crop and non-crop species commonly found in the Canadian Prairies as possible hosts for aster leafhopper development and/or phytoplasma infection.

Progress: Oviposition behaviour and nymph development of aster leafhoppers was examined on wheat, oat, barley, canola, spiny annual sowthistle, dandelion, fleabane, marigold and Arabidopsis thaliana. To examine possible differences due to phytoplasma infection, experiments were repeated with infected aster leafhoppers. Additionally, two-choice bioassays with these plant species were carried out, in order to examine host choice selection in uninfected and infected aster leafhoppers. These bioassays have been complemented with egg and probing event counts to examine whether host choice selection is associated with feeding activity and/or oviposition.

Feasibility Of Using Trichomalus Perfectus For Biological Control Of Cabbage Seedpod Weevil In The Prairies

Principal investigator: Hector Carcamo, AAFC Lethbridge

Funding: Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP)

Purpose: To assess the efficacy of T. perfectus in managing seedpod weevil in Quebec and its non-target effects in Eastern Canada. To document the species of weevils and parasitoids in cultivated and uncultivated habitats that could be affected directly or indirectly in the Prairies.

Progress: In 2020, staff from the University of Lethbridge, Canola Council, Alberta Agriculture and Saskatchewan Agriculture sampled around 28 canola fields to determine effect of landscape structure on cabbage seedpod weevil, and to search for potential non-target weevils in canola. Potential predators of cabbage seedpod weevils were investigated using simple container tests at home or field observations. Effects of previous year distance to canola fields was investigated using an AAFC digital repository for about 76 canola sites dating from 2015 to 2020, with more to come from past studies.

Improving the Management of Sclerotinia Stem rot of Canola Using Fungicides and Better Risk Assessment Tools

Principal investigator: Kelly Turkington, AAFC Lacombe

Funding: Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP)

Purpose: The main objective is to improve management practices for Sclerotinia sclerotiorum by developing a better understanding of the relationship between inoculum availability and environmental conditions before and during flowering, and how this impacts stem rot risk and fungicide response. Researchers are looking at factors (seeding rate) that influence crop development, as well as variability in flowering and the resulting fungicide efficacy at different canola growth stages. They will also evaluate fungicide efficacy when applied as a single early application or as dual applications at different flowering stages, and will refine the use of qPCR analysis and investigate the use of spore traps to assess inoculum load before and during flowering.

Progress: Conditions in 2019 were favourable for stem rot. In general, final stem rot levels generally reflected spore loads as well as relative humidity and temperature conditions. Where fungicide responses occurred, better efficacy generally reflected peak spore loads and the occurrence of favourable weather conditions. Unfortunately, in 2020 the fungicide trial experiments were postponed due to COVID-19 and will be conducted during the summer of 2022, while the 2021 field season should progress as normal. However, Eleanor McBain was able to continue her M.Sc. project work in the Fort Saskatchewan and Legal region of Alberta in 2020. Preliminary results indicated lower spore loads and lower disease levels, which contrasted with higher spore loads and disease in 2019.

Explore Seed Treatment Options To Mitigate The Impact Of Blackleg On Canola

Principal investigator: Gary Peng, AAFC Saskatoon

Funding: Alberta Canola, Manitoba Canola Growers

Purpose: This study assesses the importance of infection from soil. It also investigates the conditions that affect the success of infection, especially under the influence of quantitative resistance (QR) and fungicide seed treatment. The information will help understand how relevant this infection route is to blackleg incidence and whether a fungicide seed treatment can mitigate this.

Progress: Experiments conducted under controlled conditions showed that blackleg can be caused by soil inoculum at levels higher than 1,000 spores per gram of soil. Wounding roots exacerbated the infection, and this indicates that root injuries by other factors (diseases or insects) may increase the infection from soil inoculum. Current seed treatments did not control the infection from soil but a newly registered seed-treatment product appeared effective. Our next step is to develop a PCR-based protocol to quantify the inoculum level in commercial fields to better understand the risk for infection from soil on the prairies.

Understand The Critical Window For Blackleg Infection On Canola

Principal investigator: Gary Peng, AAFC Saskatoon

Funding: Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP)

Purpose: The study investigates the relative importance of cotyledons vs. lower true leaves for blackleg infection. It is also be of interest to understand how quantitative resistance (QR) affects the success of stem infection via cotyledons or lower true leaves. The information may help fine tune the timing of fungicide, including use of seed treatment as a new option.

Progress: Early results showed that on a susceptible cultivar, infection via cotyledon resulted in >80 per cent blackleg, whereas true-leaf (tested at one- to six-leaf stages) infection caused only five to 15 per cent disease. On resistant cultivars based on the QR trait only, the disease incidence was much lower, especially via the true-leaf infection. The results are being validated in field trials, in combination also with fungicide seed treatment.

Fine-tuning Of The Blackleg Yield Loss Model In Canola

Principal investigators: Sheau-Fang Hwang and Stephen Strelkov, University of Alberta

Funding: Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP)

Purpose: To refine and improve on an earlier yield loss model by using modern hybrid cultivars

Progress: Despite COVID-19, field experiments were conducted at two sites. Two canola hybrids, rated as moderately resistant to blackleg, were seeded in the field. The stem cross-sections are currently being rated for blackleg disease severity and the plants will be harvested to collect the yield data.

Improving Management Of Blackleg On Canola Via Better Flea Beetle Control And Effective Fungicide Seed Treatment In Western Canada

Principal investigator: Gary Peng, AAFC Saskatoon

Funding: Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP)

Purpose: The study assesses potential connection between flea beetle feeding and blackleg infection. The study also investigates whether controlling flea beetles with foliar insecticide, using a resistant cultivar and protecting seedlings with a fungicide seed treatment can alleviate the blackleg infection under different flea beetle feeding pressure.

Progress: Under controlled conditions without added moisture, cotyledons were given mechanical wounds and then exposed to the pathogen at various times – zero, two, four, eight, 12 and 24 hours – post wounding. Wounds older than eight hours showed much lower disease incidence than younger wounds, and the pattern was similar on both susceptible and resistant cultivars. This shows that L. maculans infects through fresh wounds more readily than through older wounds or intact cotyledons when there is a lack of leaf-surface wetness. Field trial data are still being analyzed.

Managing Small Patches Of Clubroot Infestation In Canola Fields

Principal investigator: Bruce Gossen, AAFC Saskatoon

Funding: Alberta Canola, SaskCanola, Manitoba Canola Growers

Purpose: The main objective is to develop practical recommendations for managing small patches of clubroot in commercial canola fields. The project includes lab studies of rotation crops and grass cover crops, field studies of the efficacy of liming and grasses, and identification of improved techniques for estimating resting spore numbers in soil.

Progress: In the second year of the project, several studies to examine the effect of grass crops and rotation crops on resting spore concentration under controlled conditions have been completed but analysis has been delayed because of the COVID-19 shutdown. Soil samples have been collected from four field sites to assess efficacy of grass crops and liming on reducing spore numbers in fields. An improved (more reliable) molecular test for spore concentration in soil was validated and described in a scientific paper that was published in 2020.

Influence Of Ph On The Clubroot Pathogen: Are There pH-insensitive Strains?

Principal investigator: Stephen Strelkov, University of Alberta

Funding: Alberta Canola, SaskCanola and the Manitoba Canola Growers

Purpose: To determine whether strains of the clubroot pathogen respond differentially to soil pH and whether pathogen strains can become adapted to high pH conditions.

Progress: At present, isolates of the pathogen representing different pathotypes are being evaluated for pH sensitivity, including isolates recovered from fields with a higher pH. Work was temporarily suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but has now resumed.

Harvest Management Manipulating Agronomic Factors For Optimum Canola Harvest Timing, Productivity And Crop Sequencing

Principal investigator: Brian Beres, AAFC Lethbridge

Funding: Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP)

Purpose: The project is looking at the canola yield effect of seeding rates, hybrid maturity and harvest method.

Progress: The trial was suspended for the 2020 growing season, but results from 2018 and 2019 indicate a connection between a cultivar’s maturity and its ideal harvest method. Based on these results, early- or medium-maturing hybrids could produce higher yields when straight combined while later-maturing hybrids could produce greater yield stability if swathed. The study used hybrids with the pod-shatter reduction trait and observed no seed losses, irrespective of harvest method.


Understanding The New Pathogen Verticillium Longisporum And Its Interactions With Canola

Principal investigators: Dilantha Fernando and Mario Tenuta, University of Manitoba

Funding: Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP)

Purpose: The main objective is to identify and characterize Verticillium longisporum isolates from across the Prairies. The researchers will also investigate the longevity of microsclerotia produced by this fungus in canola stems, monitor the pathogen movement in soil or through space, and test canola and rapeseed lines for their resistance to the pathogen and to identify new R-genes.

Progress: Researchers studied two field locations in Manitoba in 2020 and are analysing all field experimental data now. To test the survival rate of Verticillium microsclerotia in soil, stubble with microsclerotia were placed in a miracloth bag and placed at various depths. After intervals of one to 36 months, stubble from the bags will be analyzed for survival of V. longisporum. All the bags were buried at the beginning of June 2020. The dispersal study was performed in two locations in Manitoba. Stubble residues were placed in a one by one metre square centre of a 10×10m square region. Plants in the outside edges (up to four metres away) had infection rates of 32.5 per cent for one site and 52.5 per cent for the other site. For the resistance assay of canola varieties, 78 lines were planted for determining resistance to V. longisporum at two farms with three replicates. Researchers identified some lines showing high resistance to V. longisporum and some displaying high susceptibility to this pathogen.

Genetics And Genomics Of Brassica-verticillium Interaction

Principal investigator: Hossein Borhan, AAFC Saskatoon

Funding: Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP)

Purpose: Verticillium stripe cause by the fungus Verticillim longisporum (Vl) is a challenging disease to control due to the long-term persistence (up to 14 years) of the pathogen spores (microsclerotia) in soil. Being a soil-borne disease, the best control measures are deployment of verticillium resistant cultivars and monitoring the pathogen spread using V. longisporum specific molecular markers. Objectives of this research is to identify verticillium-resistantB. napus(canola) lines and to develop pathogen diagnostic tools.

Progress: AB. napusline with the highest quantitative resistance against Vl was crossed with aB. napussusceptible line. A doubled-haploid (DH) mapping population was developed to identify the quantitative resistance genetic location. Phenotyping and genotyping of the progenies of this population had to be postponed due to COVID-19. Work on this project is expected to resume upon gradual re-opening of the research labs at AAFC.

Genetic Dissection Of The Rlm3-4-7-9 Blackleg R gene Cluster And Kasp Marker Improvement

Principal investigator: Hossein Borhan, AAFC Saskatoon

Funding: Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP)

Purpose: The objective of this research project is to identify the Rlm3, 4, 7, 9 genes for resistance against blackleg, develop allele specific markersB. napusdonor lines for canola breeding and understand the function of these genes.

Progress: Researchers have cloned the Rlm9 gene. Rlm9 encodes a wall associated kinase like (WAKL) protein. WAKLs are a new emerging class of R genes and Rlm9 is the first WAKL to be reported from Brassica. Rlm9 was intorgressed into theB. napuscultivar Topas and provided to the industry as a donor line to be used in canola breeding against blackleg disease.

Developing Tools For The Rapid Screening Of Canola Germplasm For Quantitative Resistance To Blackleg Disease

Principal investigator: Hossein Borhan, AAFC Saskatoon

Funding: Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP)

Purpose: Adult plant resistance (APR), also called quantitative resistance, is the most favourable form of genetic resistance against blackleg disease, since it is controlled by several genes, hence being more durable. Despite its importance, it is very challenging to identify and introduce APR into canola cultivars. The goal is to optimize a protocol for identifying APR to blackleg disease under controlled conditions (growth chamber) and validate results in the field. Molecular markers associated with the APR genes will be developed and offered as a diagnostic and breeding tool.

Progress: A growth chamber assay identified 47 lines with APR. A population that consisted of 36 of these lines were tested for their response to blackleg disease in a field trial conducted in Morden, MB. Presence of APR was confirmed under the field conditions, which indicates the validity of the growth-chamber-based assay. Further confirmation tests will be conducted.

Towards Better Understanding Of Genetics In Leptosphaeria-brassica Interactions

Principal investigator: Hossein Borhan, AAFC Saskatoon

Funding: Alberta Canola, SaskCanola

Purpose: To help in the international effort to locate new blackleg resistance genes, researchers need a universal protocol so they’re not finding the same gene multiple times but giving it different names – which is happening. Borhan will coordinate efforts with the international blackleg research community to expand the current set of host differentials for new R genes and define a common set of Leptosphaeria maculans differential isolates.

Progress: Collaboration between AAFC and INRA (France) has led to the cloning of AvrLep2/AvrLmS. Coordination of research activities and exchange of materials had little progress due to COVID-19.

From Field To The Genome, Application Of Third Generation Sequencing To Direct Genotyping Of Canola Pathogens

Principal investigator: Hossein Borhan, AAFC Saskatoon

Funding: Alberta Canola, SaskCanola

Purpose: To help canola growers with management of clubroot disease, researchers propose to develop a sensitive and rapid diagnostic tool to detect the presence of pathogen and determine the pathotypes present and the relative abundance.

Progress: Target capture enrichment and re-sequencing of soil spiked with various concentration of clubroot spores was successful in recovering close to 580 predicted effectoR genes. Collection of soil samples and application of this approach to naturally infected samples from canola fields awaits lifting restriction for travel and lab activities imposed by COVID-19.

Improving Heat And Drought Resistance In Canola (Brassica Napus) Through Regulating Diacylglycerol Acyltransferase Activity

Gavin Chen, researcher at the University of Alberta, is studying how one specific enzyme might increase tolerance to drought, heat or freezing stress in canola.

Principal investigator: Gavin Chen, University of Alberta

Funding: AlbertaCanola

Purpose: Heat and drought stress can cause a severe negative impact on canola seed yield and quality. The over expression of diacylglycerol acyltransferase 1(DGAT1), an enzyme catalyzing the last commitment step of seed oil biosynthesis, can increase tolerance to drought, heat or freezing stress in the model plant Arabidopsis. This study will generate and evaluate canola lines with distinct modifications of DGAT1 under heat and drought stress and to identify additional candidate genes related to heat and drought stress via transcriptomic analysis of the canola lines.

Progress: Researchers are in the process of generating DGAT1 constitutive over-expression canola lines. In addition to the native B. napusDGAT1, two high-performance DGAT1s are being identified via directed evolution are also used in the experiments. Researchers are making constructors with the DGAT1 genes, which will be used to transform a wild-type canola line.

Introgression Of Clubroot Resistance From B. rapa Into B. napus Canola And Identification Of Molecular Markers For Resistance

Principal investigator: Habibur Rahman, University of Alberta

Funding: Alberta Canola, SaskCanola

Purpose: The study will introgress clubroot resistance (CR) from B. rapa to canola. The B. rapa germplasm used in this research
carries resistance to pathotypes 3 and 3A. This resistance is not strongly associated with the two well-known sources, so could be a new source of resistance.

Progress: Introgression of resistance from B. rapa var. rapifera (radish) and B. rapa var. chinensis (Chinese cabbage) into B. napusis completed. A few hundred reconstituted B. napuslines carrying resistance to pathotype 3/3A were tested in a clubroot diseases infested field which carry pathotype 5X.
Several lines showed resistance to the pathotypes present in this field.
Marker development for these resistances is in progress. Some research has been delayed due to COVID-19.

Defining populations of P. brassicae with near isogenicB. napuslines

Principal investigator: Fengqun Yu, AAFC Saskatoon

Funding: SaskCanola, Saskatchewan Agriculture Development Fund

Purpose: This study aims to develop a set of near isogenicB. napuslines containing single clubroot-resistance genes, and to define the populations of P. brassicae with the newly developed near isogenic lines.

Progress: Six near isogenic lines have been obtained, and further selection from other double-haploid lines will be resumed. Major pathotypes of P. brassicae have been classified into five clades.

Genome wide functional analysis of Plasmodiophora brassicae effectors and the management of clubroot disease.

Principal investigator: Peta Bonham-Smith, University of Saskatchewan

Funding: SaskCanola, Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture

Purpose: The main objective is to profile Plasmodiophora brassicae candidate effector proteins. Using the RNA-Seq data from clubroot-infected Arabidopsis, previously generated by the same research group, the researchers have identified candidate effector proteins secreted by the clubroot pathogen during secondary infection. A number of these effectors have been characterized and researchers are currently identifying their target plant proteins. Levels of clubroot resistance of the plant target protein mutants is also being explored as potential sources of resistance to clubroot disease.

Progress: A number of candidate effector proteins have been characterized and their role in plant effector-triggered immunity is being established. Characterization of more effector proteins continues.

Enhancing yield and biomass in canola by modifying carbohydrate metabolism

Principal investigator: Michael Emes, University of Guelph

Funding: Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP)

Purpose: These researchers found that when the endogenous leaf starch branching enzymes (SBEs) in Arabidopsis are replaced with maize endosperm homologues, the result was a 250 per cent increase in total seed oil produced per plant. Because canola (Brassica napus) is genetically close to Arabidopsis, this study will look into a transfer of the above technology to canola.

Progress: Six SBEs were identified in the canola cultivar DH12075 and a range of mutants in up to six canola starch branching enzyme genes have been obtained using the CRISPR-Cas9 system. The polyploidy genetic background added a complexity and prolonged the timeline for characterizing a completely null mutant. Overexpression of maize endosperm homolog of SBE I in a quadruple-mutant canola background has generated some lines showing promising traits. A small-scale field trial is under way. Further evaluation of the impact on yield is in progress.

Developing A Robust System For Efficient Assessmentof Quantitative Resistance In Commercial Canola Lines And Varieties For Blackleg Management

Principal investigator: Gary Peng, AAFC Saskatoon

Funding: Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP)

Purpose: This study explores a ddPCR-based protocol to measure quantitative resistance (QR) to blackleg in canola. Once developed and validated, the method will be used to quantify QR in canola cultivars and help screen QR traits in commercial canola breeding lines.

Progress: More than 50 canola hybrids/inbred lines with varied blackleg resistance in multi-year field trials were gathered from seed companies. Initial experiments identified a relationship between the level of QR and the amount of pathogen DNA detected in infected canola tissues. This relationship is being validated using petiole and cotyledon inoculations under greenhouse and field conditions. The results showed a high correlation between disease levels observed in both conditions and QR based on ddPCR measurement. The next step is to test more commercial breeding lines/cultivars for QR screening/identification/quantification.

Identification And Genetic Mapping Of Novel Genes For Resistance To Blackleg In Chinese And Canadian Brassica Napus Varieties/lines/germplasm

Principal investigator: Dilantha Fernando, University of Manitoba

Funding: SaskCanola, Alberta Canola

Purpose: This study will identify and maps new sources of blackleg resistance.

Progress: Through screening Chinese B. napus lines, researchers discovered one line containing unknown R genes. The inheritance model analysis indicated that the resistance was controlled by a single gene. Research is identifying markers, which will be useful for marker-assisted selection as well as fine-mapping of this locus.

Improving blackleg resistance durability through R-gene rotation in commercial fields on the Canadian prairies

Principal investigator: Dilantha Fernando, University of Manitoba

Funding: Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP)

Purpose: This study will monitor blackleg incidence and severity in selected commercial fields with different R-gene rotations. This will develop empirical data of blackleg avirulence gene changes in the growers’ fields in response to R-gene rotations.

Progress: Westar (No R gene), var (E1 (Rlm4)), 6090RR (AC (LepR3/Rlm3), and CS2400 (CX (Rlm3/RlmX) were set as non-rotation control in year 2020. A new variety with Rlm2 was introduced to the rotation with the canola varieties CS2400 and 74-44BL from year 2019. Susceptible canola variety Westar showed the highest disease incidence (99.3 per cent) and severity (4.13) in Manitoba. The new introduced Rlm2 showed the lowest disease incidence (36.5 per cent) when rotated with the canola variety 74-44BL (2019). Also, it showed lower disease incidence (64.5 per cent) when rotated with the canola variety CS2400 (2019). Similarly, the Rlm2 plots displayed lower disease severity values (1.44-1.78). Plots seeded to the same canola variety without R gene rotations showed both higher disease incidence and severity.

Genetic Resources For Flea Beetle Resistance In Canola

Principal investigator: Dwayne Hegedus, AAFC Saskatoon

Funding: Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP)

Purpose: Researchers at AAFC and the University of Saskatchewan previously identified Brassica species that produced hairs (trichomes) that deter flee beetle feeding. This project is investigating the complexity of the “hairy” trait and will provide canola breeders with hairy lines, and associated genetic markers, to allow its introduction into canola varieties.

Progress: TwoB. napuslines with bristly/coarse hairs and a single Brassica villosa line that is densely covered with short/soft hairs are being investigated. Genetic analysis of crosses between hairy and non-hairyB. napuslines revealed that the presence/absence of hairs is controlled by a single gene and that trichome abundance is controlled by additional genes. Crosses between Brassica villosa and Brassica oleraceae were successful in bringing the short/soft hair trait into a background that is more amenable to crossing with B. napus.

Weeding Out Secondary Dormancy Potential From Volunteer Canola

Principal investigators: Sally Vail, AAFC Saskatoon; Rob Gulden, University of Manitoba

Funding: Canadian Agricultural Program (CAP)

Purpose: Underlying the persistence of volunteer canola in weed seed banks is the secondary dormancy potential of the species. The objective of this project is to develop molecular breeding tools to eventually be used in commercial breeding programs to reduce the secondary dormancy potential of canola.

Progress: The spring Brassica napus Nested Association Mapping population is the germplasm and genomic resource that is being used to used to study the genetics of secondary dormancy potential in this project. Seed of select recombinant lines was produced in contrasting environments for assessing the likelihood of induction into secondary dormancy. For this, an established screening method under controlled conditions is being used. Screening was interrupted due to COVID-19 and will resume in the fall of 2020.

Making Of A More Sustainable Canola: Using Genetic Diversity To Improve Nitrogen Use Efficiency.

Principal investigators: Sally Vail, AAFC Saskatoon

Funding: Canadian Agricultural Program (CAP)

Purpose: This project will determine what makes a spring canola plant nitrogen-use efficient by characterizing the above-ground and root components of the plant, the correlation of shoot vs root components, the overall growth parameters and flowering patterns in response to nitrogen (N). In addition, this project will examine how to improve N-capture (NUpE) and repartitioning within the plant (NUtE). Through characterization of these phenotypes and by correlating these phenotypes with the genetic make-up of the lines, we will eventually provide the industry with methods to predict the N-response for new lines, without having to test individual lines and hybrids.

Progress: Successful field trials evaluating a historical series of rapeseed and canola cultivars under high and low nitrogen fertilization levels were conducted at Saskatoon and Melfort in 2019 and 2020. Thousands of data points and samples were collected from the trials. Due to COVID-19, greenhouse and laboratory components of this project have been delayed.