Research Roundup

FIND OUT WHAT’S NEW IN THE WORLD OF RESEARCH

MORE SPOT-ON READINGS FOR SPROUTING DAMAGE
Joey Sabljic
Ontario’s typically damp fall seasons and growing conditions lead to wheat sprouting prematurely in the head before harvest. The sprouting releases enzymes called alpha amylase and proteases, which break down starch and protein in the wheat grain. This can result in a downgrading, and lower prices for farmers.

Dr. Gregory Penner, President and CEO of NeoVentures Biotechnology Inc. in London, Ontario is developing a strip test that analyzes sprouting damage by directly measuring the amount of protein-damaging protease enzymes within the grains.

The strips operate similarly to a human pregnancy test. Extracts from grain samples are wicked across the strips to rapidly and objectively determine the amount of alpha-amylase and protease they contain. The team at NeoVentures have already successfully purified and identified several proteases from sprouted wheat grain.

“For the growers, it’s a much fairer measurement of sprouting damage in their grain,” says Penner.

Also involved is Dr. Duane Falk from the Department of Plant Agriculture at the University of Guelph.

This research project receives funding from the CanAdvance Program and the Grain Farmers of Ontario. •

BREEDING TOXIN RESISTANCE INTO CORN
Nicole Yada
A breeding method originally used in canola is being adopted to arm corn with resistance to the toxic Fusarium fungus.

Dr. Laima Kott at the University of Guelph is using a technique she developed in the 1980s for canola plants, called microspore culture.

By exposing corn pollen to ultraviolet light pulses that cause spores to mutate, this procedure can alter the genes to produce Fusarium resistance. The same acid that the fungus emits when it kills a plant is applied to these spores in vitro (or in culture), and the ones that survive are expected to be resistant.

“We’ve had success using this technique with canola for decades, but corn is much more difficult and complicated to work with, so it’s exciting to have made this progress,” says Kott.

After determining the genetics of the surviving spores, Kott can breed Fusarium-resistant corn plants. She has successfully grown these plants and is breeding additional generations to be certain of their resistance.

Kott conducts her research on the Guelph campus, and works with technician Ecaterina Simion.

Her work is funded by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ New Directions and Farm Innovation Programs, Grain Farmers of Ontario, Ontario Pork and Hyland Seeds. •

ontario soybeans are thirsty for water
Nicole Yada
Drought has greater implications for Ontario soybeans than was previously thought, says University of Guelph plant agriculture scientist, Dr. Hugh Earl.

Currently, there’s little data about the importance of water stress as a yield limitation to soybean crops in Ontario. That’s largely due to the fact that soybean plants can be suffering from inadequate rainfall amounts without showing any visual symptoms.

Without symptoms, there would be no reason to suspect drought.

“We found soybean crops can use more water than they’re getting during the Ontario growing season,” says Earl.

This Grain Farmers of Ontario supported project compared soybean plots exposed to natural weather conditions with other plots that were irrigated sufficiently throughout the season to fully replace all the water the crop was using. Even though Ontario experienced normal rainfall last year, Earl found that the irrigated soybean plants had an extended growing season, and significantly higher yield.

That led him to conclude Ontario rainfall amounts may not be adequate, and that water availability limits soybean yields in the province even when outward signs of water stress are not apparent.

This project was funded in part through Growing Forward, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of several Growing Forward programs in Ontario. •

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