Mustard genes could be key to new blackleg-resistant canola

More than one gene is needed to create 
blackleg resistance in canola, says a researcher at the University of Alberta

Ethiopian mustard could hold the key to blackleg resistance in Canadian canola crops, says a University of Alberta researcher.

“Almost all varieties (of canola) are susceptible to blackleg,” said Habibur Rahman. “But now, the pathogen has shifted, and it’s become a new pathogen that’s more resilient and more aggressive.

“The resistance cannot protect the plant. We have resistance breakdown.”

Across Western Canada, blackleg in canola is on the rise, hitting canola yields and creating trade barriers for Canadian canola destined for Asia. Rahman and his team are working on identifying new resistant genes from brassica carinata — commonly grown as an oilseed in Ethiopia — to introduce into brassica napus, better known as canola.

“Carinata shows strong resistance to all the new pathotypes,” he said. “If there’s single gene resistance, it’s relatively easy to introduce. If it is more than one gene resistance, it’s more difficult.

“We’re at the stage of determining how many genes there are, while at the same time trying to introduce the genes from brassica carinata.”

So far, his research has shown at least three resistant genes of a brassica carinata chromosome that could make it easier for researchers to introduce into canola.

“We’re studying further whether a single gene is enough to give resistance to this more severe pathotype or if it needs more than one gene.”

But his preliminary findings suggest that one gene is not enough to create resistance to the more virulent strains of blackleg that can devastate canola fields.

“It seems that more than one gene is required for resistance. In the meantime, we have introduced one gene from the brassica carinata, and we have also mapped another gene in another chromosome.

“We have a ways to go.”

About the author

Reporter

Jennifer Blair is a Red Deer-based reporter with a post-secondary education in professional writing and nearly 10 years of experience in corporate communications, policy development, and journalism. She's spent half of her career telling stories about an industry she loves for an audience she admires--the farmers who work every day to build a better agriculture industry in Alberta.

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