Plant Biosystems research crosses many disciplines in the areas of plant physiology, biochemistry, plant breeding, pest biology and management, weed management, plant pathology, and rangeland management. Research programs cover both traditional and new crops including canola, triticale, barley, wheat, peas, potato, forage crops, and saskatoon berries and address issues of crop improvement and production efficiency, sustainable agriculture and environmental health, and development of new plant-derived products for health and industrial applications.
Significant contributions are being made in the areas of:
Rangeland Ecology and Management: Improving the productivity and long-term sustainability of rangeland plant communities and ecosystems with studies in rangeland management and planning, monitoring and assessment, and rangeland improvement and restoration.
Plant Breeding and Genetics: Development of canola germplasm for increased seed/oil yield, better agronomy, disease resistance and improved seed oil and meal quality using conventional breeding methods and biotechnology techniques. Conventional breeding of wheat and agronomy and breeding of wheat for organic agricultural environments.
Crop Biotechnology: Application of proteomic and genomic techniques to identify, characterize and validate novel genes for crop improvement through genetic engineering with particular emphasis on canola and other crops of economic importance to Alberta and Canada.
Oilseed Biotechnology: Understanding biochemical and genetic regulation of lipid synthesis in oilseeds including understanding the molecular mechanisms accounting for the preferences of oil building enzymes for different fatty acid chains. This information serves as a basis for modifying seed oil formation to produce value-added speciality oils for better health and industrial applications.
Biosafety of Transgenic Crops: Understanding how genes can be transferred from transgenic crops to non transgenic crops and identifying measures to prevent transfer from happening.
Agricultural Entomology: Understanding the ecological patterns and processes among insects inhabiting various Canadian agroecosystems. Development of integrated management strategies for managing infestations of insect pests in Canola and other crops. A major outcome has been the development of new crop cultivars resistant to attack by some insect species and improved understanding of the mechanisms of host plant resistance in crop plants.
Plant Pathology: Understanding host-parasite interactions, particularly on the role of host-specific toxins in fungal pathogenicity and plant disease development. Investigations on clubroot of crucifers, an emerging disease of canola in Alberta, including development of integrated management strategies for control of clubroot on Canola.
Weed Ecology: Understanding the biological and ecological constraints on weed population and community dynamics, competitive interactions between crop and weed populations, and using the acquired knowledge in the design and development of sustainable weed management strategies.
Research is well supported by the Crop and Land Resource Unit on the Edmonton Research Station (ERS) as well as the Central Laboratories and plant growth facilities (including 15 greenhouses, 32 growth cabinets, 3 walk-in growth chambers and 15 cold frames on the roof) located in the Agriculture / Forestry Centre on the main campus.