Diagnostic Testing for Canola Plants and Seeds
The team led by Ralph Lange looks to control and find solutions
to blackleg disease in canola. The canola industry contributes more
than $13 billion annually to the Canadian economy. The R&D
also supports Alberta's ability to access the highly lucrative
Chinese market.


Canola Council of Canada, Government of Canada, Alberta Innovates Voucher Program, 20/20 Seed Labs Inc., Canadian-China cooperative studies program.


When China imported $1.3 billion worth of canola seed in 2008-2009, access to the Chinese market became a priority for Alberta and its farmers. Shortly afterwards however, China limited imports over concerns with blackleg contamination in canola seed exported from Canada.

Blackleg is a fungal disease affecting canola. While blackleg resistant canola varieties have been developed, with time the fungus has adapted. Canola producers are unable to predict which strains of canola will survive blackleg attacks in the field, and there is demand for companies such as 20/20 Seed Labs Inc. to quickly identify whether canola seed received or distributed is infected.

Blackleg is a fungal disease affecting canola. Symptoms of the
disease include lesions, weakening of plant stems, premature
drying of the plant, and lodging (plants fall into each other).


Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures’ scientists are leading a comprehensive Canada-wide survey gathering data on Canadian canola, in response to a request by China. The survey will establish a baseline against which future blackleg surveillance can be compared and studied. The project is part of a Canada-China cooperative studies initiative to prevent the transfer of blackleg in canola crops. In April 2011, AITF shared the Alberta component of the survey results with industries and governments involved in canola production.

AITF is also demonstrating feasibility for a predictive test designed to ensure growers only plant disease-resistant canola varieties. Growers will be able to compare different canola varieties to determine whether or not the fungus in their crop residue would infect that particular variety. Growers could then determine which seed varieties to buy and plant.

20/20 Seed Labs Inc. approached AITF with an idea and vision for commercializing a test to quickly identify infected seed. The two organizations co-developed a diagnostic test that determines the amount of blackleg fungus present in canola seed.

The test is a significant improvement over previous technologies creating a real-time polymerase chain reaction that “photocopies” DNA in amounts sufficient to identify and quantify the disease. The test is now being commercially used.

AITF’s work is part of a national effort that is paying off. In July 2011, China granted Canadian canola producers and exporters continued market access while research efforts continue to resolve blackleg disease.


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Related links:

Ralph Lange   Canola Council of Canada
Program Leader   Government of Canada
Microbial Bioproducts & Phytochemicals Bioresource Technologies   Alberta Innovates Voucher Program
780-632-8226   20/20 Seed Labs Inc.
ralph.lange@albertainnovates.ca   More about Tech Futures' work in this area