Canola School: Blackleg Resistance Gene Labels On the Way

Assessing stems for blackleg.

Canola seed in Canada could soon come with a label describing the variety’s blackleg disease resistance package, similar to the labeling system used in Australia.

After around four years of discussions between seed companies, researchers, and growers, an agreement-in-principle has been reached on blackleg resistance labeling, says Clint Jurke, agronomy director with the Canola Council of Canada, in this episode of the Canola School.

“The industry is now at a point where they feel we have enough diversity in our resistance that we can develop a new resistance labeling system,” he says.

Clint Jurke at CropSphere in Saskatoon last week.

The details are still being worked out, but Jurke says they expect to have the labeling system finalized shortly after the annual canola registration meetings in February.

“When we actually start to see those labels applied, it’ll be up to the seed companies themselves,” he says.

Blackleg was largely a cosmetic disease from 2000 to around 2010, when genetic resistance started breaking down. Seed companies have since incorporated different sources of resistance, but that information has not been made available to growers.

As Jurke explains, the labels themselves will likely have two components: a letter (or multiple letters) describing the variety’s major resistance gene(s) — probably A, B, C, D, etc — and a number rating for what’s called adult plant resistance or quantitative resistance.

“Looking back, if you’ve used resistance group A, chances are the pathogen has been developing ammunition to overcome A, so then you have to go to B, C or D,” he explains. “That’s essentially what Australia’s been using with a lot of success over the last five, six years.”

Researchers with Agriculture Canada in Saskatoon are also close to finalizing a test for identifying different blackleg pathogen races present on a canola plant.

“That’s the ultimate solution, if you can take in a couple of pieces of old canola stubble, send that to a lab, and they’ll tell you you have these avirulence genes and so therefore you should be using this type of resistance.”

Jurke notes the new labeling system is just one component of the blackleg management strategy that’s been developed by canola industry groups and government to mitigate the impact the disease has on yields and trade.

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