The National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and Corteva Agriscience are collaborating on a research project to increase the quantity and quality of protein in canola. With consumer demand growing globally for sustainable, high-protein plant sources, Canadian researchers are teaming up to find ways for canola, an already important crop, to expand its uses to meet that demand.
After extracting the oil from canola seeds, a by-product with a desirable amino acid and nutritional profile is created. Until now, that by-product, called “meal,” has been used primarily as a component in animal feed. However, there is significant potential for expanding livestock and poultry use of canola meal, as well as higher-value applications such as human nutrition.
The overall goal of the project is to develop improved varieties of canola that optimize seed composition, specifically focussing on increasing protein, reducing fibre and increasing energy content in the seed and meal.
The project supports the Protein Industries Canada (PIC) supercluster co-funded consortium project led by Corteva Agriscience. It aims to create higher-value applications and new markets for canola and increase export opportunities that already inject billions of dollars into Canada’s economy. This is the first commercial breeding project to focus on protein quality improvement and reflects PIC’s mandate to develop canola as a protein crop, rather than focussing only on oil.
The NRC’s Sustainable Protein Production program will apply its genomics tools, technologies and expertise to identify novel genetic variants that optimize canola’s oil seed composition. Beyond this research collaboration, the program aims to increase the value of plant-based proteins and co-products (e.g. oil extraction), and move products up the value chain.
“We have a proven history in supporting canola breeding and our proprietary methods for predicting canola seed properties complement the National Research Council of Canada’s extensive expertise. Together, our research groups and consortium partners want to realize an improved canola line to benefit Canadian producers, their profitability, and the plant protein sector in Canada as a whole.”
– Tyler Groeneveld, Commercial Leader, Grains and Oils North America, Corteva Agriscience
“Through this collaboration, we have the potential to further increase the value of canola, expand its use to new markets and provide another quality source of plant-based protein to meet growing consumer needs. The National Research Council of Canada’s contributions are critical to the success of this project, from our long-standing and in-depth knowledge of canola to our expertise in genetics and genomics, including a catalogue of canola germplasm.
– Pierre Fobert, Program Director, Sustainable Protein Production
Canada’s canola sector contributes over $26 billion to the economy and employs a quarter-million Canadians. Canola makes up $11 billion of Canadian exports each year to 50 countries worldwide.
The NRC was part of the national, cooperative effort that began in the 1950s and resulted in developing canola. In 2017, our nation celebrated the 50th anniversary of canola as a made-in-Canada crop.
Hosted by the NRC’s Aquatic and Crop Resource Development Research Centre, the Sustainable Protein Production program accesses expertise from across the NRC to support and drive food innovation and aligns with broader Government of Canada priorities such as: sustainable production (e.g. climate change), new protein sources (e.g. food security), and value-added product innovation (e.g. economic growth).