Research roundup

FIND OUT WHAT’S NEW IN THE WORLD OF RESEARCH

Groundwater models target nitrate levels
Maritza Vatta
Extreme weather and climate trends are being analyzed to determine their impact on nitrate levels in groundwater. University of Guelph professor Jana Levison is using groundwater modelling software to create scenarios that will offer insight into how weather and climate influence nitrate levels. Using data graduate students will collect during field work — such as land use and nitrate concentrations – they will construct models to quantify how extreme weather and long-term climate trends will affect the quantity of nitrate transported through the soil and into wells.

“We will be using climate projections, produced from climate change models, for temperature and precipitation predictions,” says Levison. “This will help us forecast how fertilizers may be transported during future conditions with an aim to reduce high nitrate levels in drinking water.”

Collaborators include University of Guelph students Shoaib Saleem, Nishant Mistry, and Elisha Persaud, as well as project collaborators Beth Parker, Ralph Martin, David Armitage, and Hugh Simpson.

This research is funded by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Grain Farmers of Ontario, Dairy Famers of Ontario, Ontario Federation of Agriculture, Canadian Fertilizer Institute, and the Loblaw Chair in Sustainable Food Production.

Innovative research will enhance quantity, quality of Ontario soybeans
Alexandra Sawatzky
New support for soybean breeding techniques at the University of Guelph will improve growers’ access to novel varieties with higher yields and value-added traits.

Dr. Istvan Rajcan, professor in the Department of Plant Agriculture, has received more than $500,000 in government and industry funding to enhance the genetic potential of soybean cultivars for niche markets.

His research team includes research associate Chris Grainger and PhD candidate Robert Bruce, as well as collaborators Dr. Milad Eskandar, University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus, and Dr. François Belzile, Université Laval. Together, they will be examining the genetic sequences of 300 different soybean lines developed through the Guelph and Ridgetown breeding programs over the past century.

Results will be incorporated into a database, to be used as a frame of reference for breeders to make comparisons between individual cultivars based on their genetic constitution and breeding potential.

Essentially, this will help to identify preferentially selected regions on chromosomes that have made elite soybean varieties — such as OAC Bayfield — so successful.

Rajcan says this database will be useful when soybean breeders are deciding which parents to select, depending on qualities such as yield, nutritional composition and disease resistance.

Breeders will also be able to more precisely manipulate genetic contributions from different crosses toward expression of desired traits in new varieties. Overall, this will balance the benefits of elite soybean genetics with the diversity required for their many food and industrial applications.

“A more selective, efficient approach to breeding will lead to even higher quality soybeans for Ontario growers than currently possible using traditional methods,” says Rajcan.

Funding for this research is provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council’s Collaborative Research and Development program, which includes matching funds from Grain Farmers of Ontario, SeCan, and Huron Commodities Inc. •


Research Roundup is provided by members of SPARK (Students Promoting Awareness of Research Knowledge) at the University of Guelph’s Office of Research. For more information, contact a SPARK writer at 519-824-4120, ext. 52667.

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