A consortium of leading academic and commercial companies from the USA, Canada, Europe and Israel, together with NRGene, has announced the successful completion and results of the canola/rapeseed pan-genome. The International Canola Pan-genome Consortium was established in 2019 to advance the rapeseed agricultural industry by capturing this crop's broad genetic diversity.
The global consortium was led jointly by Dr. Isobel Parkin from the Government of Canada’s Agriculture & Agri-food Canada (AAFC), Dr. Andrew Sharpe from the Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS) at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, and NRGene, a leading genomic Artificial Intelligence (AI) company based in Israel. The consortium included key players in the canola industry, among them Bayer, Corteva Agriscience, Nutrien Ag Solutions and Nuseed. Each contributed their own canola lines to the research and received the full pangenome comparison results.
“We are thrilled to be part of this consortium, leading the charge to expand canola productivity,” Corteva Agriscience Canola Breeding Leader, Steve King, said. “The pan-genome will allow us to create higher-performing canola seed products, boosting productivity and enabling farmers and their communities to thrive."
Rapeseed is a major oil seed crop considered to be a high-quality vegetable oil and commonly used in food production and various industrial applications, including biofuel. According to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, rapeseed is farmed on approximately 35 million acres globally and produced 85 million tons in 2019. Canola is the brand name for Canadian rapeseed varieties. Extensive breeding is done globally, focusing on developing higher yielding and more nutritional rapeseed varieties that can naturally resist plant diseases. The use of DNA markers already enhanced canola breeding over the past three decades. Yet, due to canola’s genome complexity, diversity, and instability, the need for a whole genome understanding became a bottleneck in canola breeding. Building a pan-genome database to unravel the broad genomic diversity in canola is the key to expanding the crop’s productivity.
“Working with industry to build a pan-genome database, and understanding the whole genome is a key advancement in our ability to unlock the full potential of canola for improved agronomics, healthier oil profiles, and developing entirely new canola plant-based solutions,” said Dr. Leon Streit, Nuseed Global R&D Leader.
The consortium generated a full genome sequence of 12 rapeseed varieties that were assembled using NRGene’s DeNovoMAGIC™ software. Each genome was built from about 1 billion DNA chemical elements and on average differ from other genomes in 40% of the DNA elements. These differences in the genetic content are responsible for the unique field performance of each variety. In order to identify all of the unique DNA elements in each variety, NRGene performed an all-to-all comparison on the dozen chromosome-level genome sequences and built the pan-genome database.
“The completion of the sequencing of all the genomes and the delivery of the comparative pan-genome analysis has revealed the scope of genetic diversity that exists within the crop and is truly the final satisfying step of this rewarding initiative,” said Dr. Andrew Sharpe.
“This is the first time that a project puts 12 Brassica genome sequences together allowing canola breeders the opportunity to examine and compare variations among multiple varieties at the genomic level. Advancements like this match with our innovation strategy and our Purpose at Nutrien. To grow the world from the ground up,” said Bruce Harrison, Senior Director, Seed Breeding & Innovation, Nutrien Ag Solutions.
The pan-genome will be used by the consortium members, and following scientific publication, will be available to the entire canola breeding and research community to accelerate the genetic understanding of this important crop. Elite lines harboring key commercial traits will be developed rapidly and bring better quality products to the market.
“The pan-genome is already revealing previously hidden novel structural variation that will prove invaluable in characterizing economically important traits,” said Dr. Isobel Parkin.
“We are pleased that NRGene’s genomic AI tools were chosen by the leading canola research teams to build an accurate pan-genome,” said Dr. Gil Ronen, NRGene’s CEO. “With the great help of our consortium partners, we successfully created a valuable asset that will be used for the coming decades towards overcoming canola’s key breeding challenges.”