Enhancing Canola Seeds
Canola is more than big agribusiness — it’s huge. It is Canada’s fastest growing crop and generates one-quarter of all farm cash receipts. Canola oil has high levels of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids making it a favorite among health-conscious consumers. The oil is also light and tasty making it the oil of choice for many chefs and food processors. Once crushed for its oil the remaining seed provides a high protein feed supplement for animals. The sector contributes $19.3 billion to the Canadian economy annually; it also supports some 250,000 jobs and $12.5 billion in wages.
As the world’s need for healthy oil continues to rise, global demand over the next decade is expected to require a 40 percent increase in Canadian canola production. Exports are already worth nearly $3 billion annually. Clearly, any measures that make canola seeds produce more and higher quality oil and meal will have a large payoff for Canadian farmers and processors.
That’s the goal for the CUC project, the formal title of which is the Enhancement of Commercial Utilization of Canola Oil and Meal by Manipulation of Cellular and Sub-Cellular Metabolism project. The project is being led by Dow AgroSciences and Dr. Randall Weselake. Dow AgroSciences has done pioneering work in developing canola hybrids for healthy oil production, while Dr. Weselake heads the University of Alberta Phytola Centre, a research body dedicated to providing market-responsive, oilseed biotechnology products and technology solutions in partnership with industry. His work has led to genomic tools that can help further improvement of canola seeds for production of even higher quality oil and meal.
Dr. Weselake and Dow AgroSciences’ objective is to use genomic approaches to enhance the seed’s oil content and its protein levels while also reducing fibre and saturated fatty acid content. Success will ensure that Canadian canola growers and associated sectors continue to play a leading role in capturing global markets.