Investments in USask livestock research fuels innovation, protects animal health – News
Andrew Sharpe, Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS) at USask ($764,130 in total, plus SCA co-funding): In the first project, awarded $392,391 by ADF, Sharpe and co-principal investigator Sampath Perumal of GIFS propose to develop new genomic resources to better understand salt and drought tolerance mechanisms in alfalfa, an important legume forage crop.
“Alfalfa cultivation is not only economically important in North America, it also offers the potential to use marginal lands affected by salinity, and improve the quality soil by fixing nitrogen,” said Sharpe.
Researchers will use new sequencing technologies to develop high-quality genome assemblies currently unavailable in Saskatchewan-adapted germplasm. These new reference assemblies will be used as a foundation for genomic analysis of alfalfa and for application in plant scientist Bill Biligetu’s alfalfa breeding program at USask’s Crop Development Centre.
The second project, awarded $371,739 by ADF, has Sharpe, co-principal investigator Biligetu and their team developing new foundational genomic resources for hybrid wheatgrass, a palatable, perennial grass forage crop.
“We will use state-of-the-art applied genomics to create the first extensive molecular breeding resources for hybrid wheatgrass and its parental ancestors,” said Sharpe. “This project will generate genome assemblies, identify markers to assist breeding, develop accurate predictive models for the breeding process, and explore the wealth of genetic diversity available in gene banks to introduce new gene variants that combat abiotic and biotic stresses.”
Suresh Tikoo, Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) has been awarded $140,000 by ADF to develop a continuous porcine cell line to grow African swine fever virus, a devastating viral disease that causes nearly 100 per cent mortality in pigs.
Currently there is no effective vaccine or treatment for ASF.
“The lack of porcine cell lines is a barrier to the development and commercialization of ASF vaccines,” said Tikoo. “This cell line could be used to evaluate virus-host cell interactions and support the commercial production of ASF vaccines to help protect the world swine population.”
ASF is endemic in Africa and spreading through parts of Asia and Europe. It also has recently been found in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, causing heavy economic losses to the pig industry.
Although ASF has not been detected in Canada, it is a significant threat to Canada’s pork industry—for both pig health and for the devastating impact a positive case could have on international market access.