Q&A with Murray Hartman

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Recently, a member of the public asked Farming Smarter,

A friend believes there is a strain of canola that was infused with DNA of Arctic Char to make it more resistant to frost. Is this true?

Farming Smarter reached out to Murray Hartman, Oilseed Specialist with Alberta Agriculture & Forestry Food and Bio-Industrial Crops Section for the answer.  

A pollinator visits flowering canola.

Here is his reply.

“There was an experiment that physically put antifreeze proteins from a flounder in Brassica napus using vacuum infiltration and then measured differences in cold tolerance. Experimental plants that were genetically engineered with fish genes for antifreeze proteins occurred with tomato, potato, tobacco and the model plant Arabidopsis, but not canola.  Read this paper.

Antifreeze proteins from insects have been found with higher activity and more recent research has focused on these with Arabidopsis.  However, cold tolerance has only been marginally improved.  I am not aware of any such transgenic crops being commercially developed. There have been other approaches of genetic engineering (recombinant technology or even old fashioned mutagenesis) that also have produced plants with marginal increases in cold tolerance.  Again, no commercial development took place as far as I know.”

He also supplied us with this paper:

Duman antifreeze proteins for frost in crops 2014

Open seed pod of a canola plant