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 oil of a higher quality will have a large payoff for Canadian farmers and processors.
That’s the goal for 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.
This project will combine Dr. Weselake’s findings with Dow AgroSciences’ results to add value to canola seeds. Their objective is to use genomic approaches to enhance the seed’s oil content and its protein levels while also reducing saturated fatty acid content. Success will ensure that Canadian canola growers and associated sectors continue to play a leading role in capturing global markets.