1999 Winner: Innovation in Agricultural Sciences
Dr. Gary Rice Stringam’s innovative research on plant breeding has helped to turn canola into Western Canada’s second largest cash crop, after wheat, with an estimated value of $5 billion per year to the Canadian economy. He developed a technology called the Doubled Haploid System that shortens the breeding time to develop a new strain of canola plant by 25 to 50 percent. Using this technology, he went on to develop several superior canola varieties in a relatively short period of time.
QUANTUM was the first line to be developed in Western Canada that was resistant to Blackleg disease, a disease that was seriously damaging canola fields in Saskatchewan and was threatening the crop in Alberta and Manitoba. It also produced a high yield. In its first year of production, four Alberta producers more than tripled their yields using this variety. The next year, QUANTUM captured nearly 30 percent of the total canola acres in Western Canada. Returns to Alberta producers for this strain alone have been estimated conservatively at $285 million from 1995 to 1998.
Dr. Stringam has built on the success of QUANTUM with the recent introduction of Q2 and Hi-Q, which contain the same level of Blackleg tolerance as QUANTUM, but have a higher yield and oil percentage. The success of the Doubled Haploid System in producing superior plant varieties is attracting considerable international interest. Dr. Stringam has hosted visitors from 13 countries and four continents with several of these visitors studying in his laboratory for up to six months. QUANTUM, Q-2 and Hi-Q are currently being tested for adaptability in Europe, Africa and South America, and QUANTUM has been grown commercially in both Poland and Romania. An international collaboration to develop hybrid strains has been established between a German consortium, Saaten Union, and Alberta-based Agricore, which has collaborative arrangements with the University of Alberta for canola breeding.