Research

There are a number of projects currently in progress in the CDC Flax Program. We are always interested in talking to other flax breeders, researchers and plant scientists. Contact the Flax Breeder, Dr Helen Booker, for more details on our research, to discuss potential research projects or collaborations or to exchange germplasm.

Flax genome database

We are currently working in conjunction with Dr Frank You (AAFC, Morden) to develop a database that links the genomic information (SNPs, SSRs, whole genome sequence, genic data) developed in the TUFGEN project with pedigrees, agronomic performance and phenotypic data for all Canadian cultivars and the World Flax Core Collection. This database, when complete, will help flax breeders identify cultivars with useful traits and provide guidance for the identification of genes associated with particular traits. Dr Gaofeng Jia has been employed to develop the database. This project is funded by the ADF and SaskFlax.

Early flowering flax

Currently flax is not grown at latitudes higher than Saskatoon (52.1°N) as the growing season is too short. We are working to develop Northern Adapted Flax that requires fewer days to flower and mature. Earlier flowering flax typically matures earlier and so is better suited for the more northern parts of the grainbelt. Two sources of variation (early flowering accessions from the World Core Collection and 5-azacytidine mutagenized CDC varieties) are being developed and assessed for their adaptation to Northern latitudes. We are also using molecular and genomic approaches to understand the mechanisms that induce earlier flowering in these lines. Drs Raja Ragupathy and Megan House, as well as MSc student Akshaya Vasudevan are working on this NSERC and SECAN funded project.

 

Flax flowers

Seed coat color

Seed coat colour requires the expression of at least five different genes. We are collaborated with Dr. Goplan Selvaraj (NRC-Saskatoon) to develop molecular markers and gain a better understanding of the function of the genes involved in seed coat colour. This project was funded by Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture through the Agriculture Development Fund. Three of the genes required for seed coat colour have been identified and clues to the identity of a fourth discovered. We are also using molecular markers to map the location of the other gene.

Seed colours

 

Fusarium wilt resistance

Flax, along with many other crops, is affected by Fusarium wilt, a fungal disease. The CDC Flax Breeding Program is working with Dr. Randy Kutcher to identify resistant lines of flax. This project makes use of traditional plant pathology techniques, including using a wilt nursery belonging to the University of Saskatchewan, and was collaborating with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to use next-generation sequencing technolgy to identify regions of the flax genome that provide resistance to this disease. Identifying regions of the flax genome that provide resistance to Fusarium wilt remains difficult due to the number of different races of the fungus and the complex mechanisms of resistance.

Wilted flax, from Pree

 

Genome Prairie TUFGEN project (2009-2014)

CDC was also an important partner in Genome Prairie's Total Utilization Flax GENomics (TUFGEN) project. Dr. Gordan Rowland (CDC) and Dr. Sylvie Cloutier (AAFC) were the Co-Leads of this project, which aimed to characterize the genome of flax. CDC Bethune was used as reference variety for the whole genome sequencing of flax. The reference genome has already been used to develop a genetic map (using SNP and EST-SSR markers) and to identify genes involved with various traits of interest.

TUFGEN logo