UQ scientists crack canola code

THE future incidence and impact of fungal diseases on canola crops will be drastically reduced after scientists from The University of Queensland helped to crack the genetic code of a close canola relative.

The discovery has major ramifications for Australia's export trade as the world's second largest canola exporter and opens the door for Australian breeders to improve crop quality and create disease resistant varieties.

Dr David Edwards and Dr Jacqueline Batley from the university's School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, are part of an international team - the Multinational Brassica Genome Sequencing Project Consortium that has mapped the genome sequence of the Chinese cabbage (Brassica rapa), which is a vegetable in the same family as canola.

Dr Edwards said unravelling the genetic code was a "big leap forward" because it would now allow scientists to rapidly identify the genes responsible for disease resistance.

As part of the international team, Dr Jacqueline Batley identified genetic markers for the fungal disease blackleg, which affects canola yield and quality and is highly prevalent in Australia and Canada.

"Blackleg wiped out most of Australia's canola crops in the 1970s and the disease continues to threaten the viability of the Australian canola industry," Dr Batley said.

"Now we can breed for resistance to it."

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