Dr. Christine Baes of UofG and Ben Wood of Hybrid Turkeys will be collaborating to adapt and apply genomic tools to improve the health, welfare and productivity of Canadian turkeys. Hybrid Turkeys’ parent company, Hendrix Genetics, has already implemented genomic selection in chickens and pigs, and will now adapt and apply the technology to achieve improvements in feed efficiency, bodyweight, yield, egg production and livability in commercial turkeys. This will lead to estimated economic gains of $39 million over the next five years for the Canadian turkey industry, and will result in environmental benefits due to improved feed efficiency as well as reduced manure and greenhouse gas production.
Dr. Peter Pauls, Michael Emes, and Ian Tetlow of the UofG are working with Benson Hill Biosystems and its Canadian subsidiary, CanolaCo to produce more efficient varieties of canola for Canadian producers. Using a portfolio of trait candidates to improve photosynthesis-one of the most complex systems in plants-and developing these in canola, the project will enhance crop productivity by increasing photosynthetic capacity without negatively impacting seed quality. This will enable commercialization of the improved plants, with the enhanced yields of the canola crop enabling the industry to meet its goal of increasing yield by 53 percent in the next 10 years, growing industry revenues by an estimated $3-$4 billion per year.
Dr. Gisele LaPointe of UofG is working with Maria Pepe of Parmalat Canada, the number one producer of premium aged cheddar in Canada, to increase Parmalat’s manufacturing capacity, and thereby gain efficiency and protect market share. To achieve this, the team will validate and implement metagenomic, metaproteomic and metabolomics tools modified to meet the technical requirements of cheese production. By improving manufacturing processes and controls, the project will overcome current bottlenecks and significantly increase the production capacity of high-quality, competitive, aged cheddar cheese –ultimately increasing the demand for and utilization of Canadian milk.
Drs. David Edgell and Gregory Gloor of the University of Western Ontario are working to develop and test a CRISPR/Cas9 conjugative plasmid system to enable precise user-defined manipulation of the composition of microbial communities. This novel microbial control system aims to enable the selective elimination of individual bacteria from a mixed population. If successful, the microbial control system has broad-ranging applications in basic biomedical research, industrial food-related process, and human health, bringing the scientific community one step further in the quest to harness the power of microorganisms to overcome humanity’s challenges.
Manish N. Raizada of the University of Guelph is working to discover probiotic microbes inhabiting the hollow channels of Ontario corn silks. This investigation of the pollen tube microbiome aims to lead to the identification of probiotics which can be applied to silks to combat crop diseases afflicting grain. This has the potential to decrease the requirement for and reliance on pesticides, resulting in more sustainable and effective industry practices – with exciting implications for Ontario corn farmers, grain processors, and local consumers.
Boreal Agrominerals Inc. is collaborating with researchers from Wilfrid Laurier and Algoma University to identify soil that contains beneficial naturally-occurring microorganisms to enhance the benefits in amended soils. This academic-industry partnership will work to characterize the distribution of microorganisms naturally found at various mining sites from the SRC deposit near Sudbury, Ontario, and investigate the effects of mining and site characteristics on soil microbial communities based on nutrient solubilisation and plant nutrient availability.
Frontier Agri-Science Inc. and Dr. Dario Bonetta of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology are developing a unique model for both prediction of candidate genes and the validation of effectiveness to improve traits in crops such as wheat, corn and rice. This academic-industry partnership is developing and refining Brachypodium as a highly efficient and novel monocot model system for crop development, with the potential to lead to the development of plant traits with herbicidal tolerance in key food crops.
Generally, plant breeding programs focus on production traits, such as yield or disease resistance. Vineland Research and Innovation Centre is working with Dr. Charles Goulet of Université Laval to ensure new tomato varieties possess these traits, in addition to something more important to the consumer – flavour. Because aroma is defined by more than 30 volatile chemicals and dozens of genes, genomics can greatly facilitate breeding with much greater precision than ever before. This project will use variation in aroma-related genes to develop new tomatoes with differentiated flavour. The resulting plant lines will be used to breed tasty tomatoes at Vineland, and will be made available to other tomato breeders. The first varieties should be commercially available within three years of the project’s completion.
Synthetic chemical libraries are a common source of drug discovery molecules. The challenge is that these libraries adhere to synthetic structures and biological activities. With the help of Ontario Genomics’ SPARK program, Drs. Nambara, McCourt and Bonetta are exposing synthesized chemical libraries to a plethora of plant enzymes using plant genomics resources to increase the diversity of these compounds exponentially, and find new functions. This will create libraries of chemical compounds for industrial uses, and increase their diversity.
Forestry and agriculture together contribute close to eight per cent of GDP in Canada, but insect pests pose a continual threat. Functional genomics has long promised to bring new solutions to recurrent and new pest problems. Dr. Peter J. Krell of the University of Guelph, in collaboration with Drs. Daniel Doucet and Jeremy Allison (NRCan), is improving the surveillance and mitigation of pest management through the creation of highly sensitive surveillance and mitigation systems targeting insects using a family of insect genes known as odorant receptors (ORs).