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Canadian effort will bring new tools for crop breeding

January 15, 2018

Saskatoon, SK – Rapid population growth, a changing climate, and increasing constraints on land, water, and nutrients threaten global food security. Canada must dramatically expand agricultural production to meet increased demand and to offset predicted declines in crop yields in tropical and subtropical countries. This will require that plant breeding be accelerated in Canada, with the goal of developing high yielding, climate-adapted and “planet friendly” varieties.

Currently crop genomic data are rapidly growing in quantity but the ability of crop breeders to easily utilize the data for the benefit of developing new crop varieties is lagging. DivSeek is an international initiative that aims to accelerate plant breeding by leveraging the genetic diversity in the world’s live collections and seed banks (“genebanks”). To be effective, a unified, coordinated and cohesive database is necessary to allow breeders and farmers to access this important information.

Genome Canada, Genome British Columbia and Genome Prairie are collaborating to support the development of an online DivSeek Canada bioinformatics resource on Compute Canada’s state-of-the-art advanced research computing system.

“This investment holds international significance and is the culmination of years of collaboration,” says Dr. Catalina Lopez-Correa, Chief Scientific Officer and Vice President, Sectors, at Genome BC. “DivSeek Canada will ensure that these resources are available and accessible so that people from around the world can make use of this information to develop better and more resilient crops.”

Led by the University of British Columbia’s Dr. Loren Rieseberg, and involving a team with members from BC, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario, the project will deliver integrated, user-friendly tools tailored to the sunflower, flax and lentil breeding communities initially as a demonstration, that can then be extended in the future to other Canadian crops with significant genomic resources.

“The value of this project for the Canadian agricultural industry cannot be underestimated. The project will develop key resources needed by Canadian crop breeders and farmers,” said Marc LePage, Genome Canada’s President and CEO.

“This investment in the Canadian team is intended to trigger additional international support for coordinated efforts that will facilitate equitable global access and benefit sharing of digital sequence information,” said Genome Prairie President and CEO Dr. Reno Pontarollo.

This collaboration is valued at close to $800,000 and was funded through Genome Canada’s Emerging Issues Program. Genome BC and the Global Institute for Food Security have provided substantial funding along with other partners.



About Genome Prairie

Genome Prairie is a non-profit organization that supports stakeholders across Manitoba and Saskatchewan in capturing and maximizing the benefits of advanced research in genomics and related biosciences.


About Genome British Columbia:

Genome British Columbia leads genomics innovation on Canada’s West Coast and facilitates the integration of genomics into society. A recognized catalyst for government and industry, Genome BC invests in research, entrepreneurship and commercialization in life sciences to address challenges in key sectors such as health, forestry, fisheries, aquaculture, agri-food, energy, mining and environment. Genome BC partners with many national and international public and private funding organizations to drive BC’s bioeconomy. In addition to research, entrepreneurship and commercialization programs, Genome BC is committed to fostering an understanding and appreciation of the life sciences among teachers, students and the general public.


About Genome Canada:

Genome Canada is a not-for-profit organization that aims to harness the transformative power of genomics for the benefit of all Canadians. We connect ideas and people across public and private sectors to find new uses for genomics, invest in large-scale science and technology to fuel innovation, and translate discoveries into solutions across key sectors of national importance, including health, agriculture, forestry, fisheries & aquaculture, energy, mining, and the environment.

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