A partnership between the University of Guelph and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to protect Canada’s plants, animals and people from invasive pests and diseases has received $320,000 in Federal Innovation Partnership funding.

Scientists from U of G’s Biodiversity Institute of Ontario and CFIA will create genomics and DNA barcoding tools to improve diagnostic testing, and to help industry tackle emerging pest threats and continue to meet trade requirements.

Robert Hanner, principal investigator (left); Malcolm Campbell, vice-president (research); Lloyd Longfield, MP for Guelph; Amanda Naaum, researcher
Robert Hanner, principal investigator (left); Malcolm Campbell, vice-president (research); Lloyd Longfield, MP for Guelph; Amanda Naaum, researcher

The announcement was made today by Lloyd Longfield, MP for Guelph. “Safe and accessible food, and the protection of Canada’s plant and animal resources, are essential to the health of Canadians,” Longfield said.

“This partnership builds on Canada’s world leadership in genomics and DNA barcoding for detecting and identifying species, and will further integrate innovative science into the regulatory world.”

Malcolm Campbell, U of G’s vice-president (research), said: “Our partnership with the CFIA will leverage our expertise in genomics to further Canada’s reputation as a producer and provider of safe, healthy, nutritious, sustainable and accessible food. We look forward to the exciting outcomes of this world-class scientific collaboration.”

The new funding builds on a $323,000 federal investment announced in 2016. The funding will support multiple projects with research and training components, including enhanced opportunities for post-doctoral researchers and new learning modules.

“This partnership with CFIA, Canada’s largest scientific regulator, provides exceptional opportunities,” said lead investigator Robert Hanner, an integrative biology professor.

“Young researchers at U of G gain real-world experience in the use of cutting-edge research tools,” Hanner said.

Research project highlights are as follows:

  • Using genomics and bioinformatics to identify viruses infecting grapevines and fruit trees, researchers will give Canadian growers ready access to clean propagative plant material and will help in developing a National Clean Plant Network.
  • Using DNA technology to rapidly test soil samples for invasive weed seeds will help farmers develop weed mitigation strategies early in the growing season.
  • Developing molecular markers to identify infection-causing insects will lead to new software tools to track and monitor diseases, including livestock infections.
  • New molecular methods will help support biosurveillance programs, improving monitoring of insect pest outbreaks and invasive alien species.

“This U of G technology will help protect the world’s biodiversity and help sustain Canada’s resources and food supply by controlling pests and monitoring invasive species,” Campbell said.