Canola CachetPosted in: Global Ag By Tracy Tjaden June 23 2015
The world’s leading experts in canola will descend on Saskatoon this summer, and what’s discussed could be pivotal for farmers.
The International Rapeseed Congress will be held July 5 to 9 in Saskatoon. It takes place every four years and includes keynotes, concurrent sessions and crop tours.
Topics of this year’s conference, which is expected to draw 850 participants, include:
• Discovery sciences (genomics, molecular biology)
• Plant breeding strategies
• Crop protection (diseases, insects, weeds)
• Climatic stress (drought, heat)
• Seed quality and utilization
• Nutritional value of oil and meal
• Crop management
• Economic and policy issues (regulatory systems and international trade)
When asked what will be of most interest to canola growers in Canada and the U.S., keynote speaker Richard Phillips, who teaches public policy at the University of Saskatchewan, points to the latest innovations in crop breeding simulation.
“We are now at the point where scientists are putting together the final piece, where they could simulate a virtual cell, a virtual plant and then the whole breeding and production cycle,” he says. “They can take plants from 50-100 lines, see how well the plant does under all different conditions and then narrow selection down to the ones that perform the best.”
This type of simulation process would knock years off canola research, he says.
“Today, once you have a candidate, you are looking at seven growing seasons to satisfy the regulators before you get to market,” Phillips notes. “Time is money in breeding programs — so this could massively change the future of crop development.”
Phillips says the conference started as a group of scientists working to advance the future of canola, but now it includes experts involved in all stages of the crop’s life.
Key discussions will be how regulators around the world are responding to new breeding techniques, as well as uptake by growers.
Canola is primarily valued as a healthy oil for humans, while canola meals is sold (slightly undervalued, says Phillips) to the livestock market.
In addition to the discussion around advances in breeding, Phillips says he’ll be watching who attends. In the past, this conference was primarily attended by Canadian, and then U.S. canola scientists started to attend. Now China represents one of the largest contingents at this Saskatoon conference, with Eastern Europe coming in a close second.
“From this you can see that now there must be a global interest in using this crop for a variety of markets,” says Phillips, noting that China may intend to ramp up its domestic production of canola. “The Chinese are the single largest importer of soy, so possibly they see canola balancing the risk they face in that market.”
The market will certainly be watching.
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