Disease Resistance in Greenhouse Vegetables

Canada’s greenhouse vegetable industry generates more than $1 billion from retail sales and exports. It is an extremely competitive market, and plant diseases are an enormous burden on growers, causing up to 20 per cent crop loss. There is a strong demand for genomics-based technologies to mitigate these losses.

Led by Dr. David Guttman, a team at the University of Toronto have discovered a previously uncharacterized family of genes that allow plants to show broad-range disease resistance against bacteria and fungi, which is extremely difficult for pathogens to overcome. This team is working with the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre and its reverse genetics platform (developed with earlier Genome Canada funding) to optimize these Broad Range Resistance genes for uptake by growers. Their innovative solutions will protect crops against multiple pathogens, reduce losses and increase yield. The result will be new varieties of vegetables that give Canadian growers a competitive advantage.

Vineland will take this gene technology from its translation through to the commercial release of new plant varieties with improved disease resistance, within five years of the end of this project. Annual benefits of approximately $26 million will start to accrue to the Canadian greenhouse industry within the same timeframe.

The enhanced competitiveness of Canadian growers will lead to sustained growth, expansion of operations and further job creation.

Quick facts about Vineland Research and Innovation Centre:
  • Located in Ontario’s Niagara Region, Vineland is a world-class research centre dedicated to enhancing Canadian growers’ commercial success through results-oriented innovation.
  • Vineland’s platform technology used to develop new tomato and pepper varieties with traits such as disease resistance and enhanced flavour has attracted the attention of major seed companies and researchers from around the world.
  • To-date, Vineland has undertaken six contracts with other plant breeding organizations to use this technology. These contracts have established important research collaborations and have already generated new revenue for Vineland.
  • Vineland plans to re-invest its licensing revenue from the new vegetable varieties into further research, driving innovation, global competiveness, job creation and additional benefits throughout the entire horticultural sector.

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