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Genetic Research Key to Controlling Blackleg

09 May 2011
University of Manitoba

CANADA - A plant pathologist with the University of Manitoba suggests the development of canola varieties resistant to new strains of blackleg holds the most promise for controlling the disease in canola.

Blackleg is the most economically important disease affecting canola around the world. The fungal infection has spread to all three major canola-growing provinces, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, and it's present in the winter canola-growing regions of southern Ontario.

Dr. Dilantha Fernando, a professor in the University of Manitoba's Department of Plant Science and a canola and cereal pathologist, says researchers have been successful in controlling blackleg through the development of canola that's resistant to the disease.

Dr. Dilantha Fernando, University of Manitoba:

Since the mid-1970s when the pathogen was first isolated from a region in Saskatchewan there was a lot of good research to develop resistance to the strains that were around at that time.

Since then, for the last three decades, we have been able to control the disease through very good resistance that has been in our cultivars that have been grown.

But around 2003, my lab reported for the first time the occurrence of new races in Canada and since then it has been that the whole disease situation has changed.

Slowly but steadily some of these new races are gaining ground and making it difficult for the farmers because even the resistant varieties are now showing some breakdown of their resistance.

Dr. Fernando notes canola growers can minimize the amount of inoculum present in their fields by rotating their canola with non-host crops such as cereals, tilling their fields once every three years or so or by applying fungicides.

However he believes the best chance of controlling this disease is through the breeding of canola cultivars that are resistant to these new strains of blackleg.

TheCropSite News Desk

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