Higher canola yields without additional farmland: Gene editing could make it happen

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Credit: GM Watch
Credit: GM Watch

What if it were possible to modify the height and shape of canola, so more plants could be grown in the same amount of space — potentially increasing crop yield?

In a new study, a team of biologists in the Faculty of Science at the University of Calgary used gene editing to modify canola’s own genes, producing shorter plants with many more branches and flowers.

“We showed that gene editing actually works in canola, and simultaneously improved agronomic traits in canola by changing the plant’s architecture,” says study co-author Dr. Marcus Samuel, PhD, professor and Director of Greenhouse Operations in the Department of Biological Sciences, whose research group did the study.

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“We were able to effectively induce such dramatic architectural changes in canola with one single gene,” says study lead author Matija Stanic, who did the research for his master’s degree. He is now doing a PhD, supported by a Max Planck Fellowship, at the University of Potsdam in Germany.

The “green revolution” that began in the 1960s used plant-breeding techniques to produce elite lines of crop plants, including rice and wheat, which were shorter, more compact, and thus able to better utilize nutrients and other inputs. But little work had been done on canola.

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