With $37 million coming from Ottawa, the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) looks to build a one-stop shop for famers looking for ways to improve their crop and ensure global food security.
Announced on Wednesday, the federal government granted five Canadian universities $350 million for crop and plant-breeding research. Of the $350 million, the U of S is slated to receive $37.2 million over seven years.
Karen Chad, vice president of research at the U of S, said the grant funding will be used to develop an online digital database that will strive to improve how crop and plant-breeding is done worldwide.
“We’re going to use powerful imaging to create a database and it will have a whole base of desired crop traits — the physical characteristics, shape of the leaf, it’s resistance to drought … so any food grower with internet access will be able to design crops to grow in their specific climate from Saskatchewan to Africa,” Chad said.
The end result is to have stronger crops growing quicker meaning farmers will supply food faster, he added.
The digital database may also serve as a resource for farmers dealing with diseased plants. Chad said farmers will eventually be able to take a picture of a sick leaf, and upload it. Then, much like an FBI database, it will scan the image, identify the disease and offer evidence-based advice on how to cure the plant.
Launched in December 2014 by the federal government, the Canada First Research Excellence Fund is investing $1.5 billion over seven years to allow Canadian colleges and universities to embark globally in research areas that create long-term economic advantages for Canadians.
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