Research to make better cannabis, wine

Published on October 27, 2020 by oz. staff

Improved cannabis cultivars will result in reduced losses to pathogen contamination and increase product quality. Photo: Genome British Columbia

A pair of BC-led teams are working toward designs to harness the power and potential of bio-innovation to help the cannabis and wine industries, respectively.

The two projects are jointly valued at more than $10 million.

One of them will address a need to identify the desirable breeding traits, including resistance to powdery mildew infection, that current cannabis cultivars don’t have.

Called Fast-Track Breeding of Powdery Mildew-Resistant Cannabis, it’s led by Loren Rieseberg and Marco Todesco from the University of British Columbia, along with industry partner Greg Baute from Aurora Cannabis. Genomic resources will be created that will allow the project team to characterize sources of genetic resistance to powdery mildew and begin to introduce them into Aurora’s cannabis breeding program.

Improved cannabis cultivars would result in reduced losses and increased quality. The breeding pipeline itself would be used in the future to identify other important production and high-value traits, and to create superior cannabis cultivars, says Genome BC.

A second project, by researchers from Brock University and the University of Victoria, is to develop a rapid, cost effective genomic solution to replace the over 30 molecular and biological tests currently performed on grapevines to look for disease.

Grapevine disease management has been identified by the grape grower and wine industries as a top priority for long-term sector sustainability. Estimated losses of over $23 million are currently incurred annually by Canadian grape growers due to reduced yield of infected grapes and increased fruit rejection by wineries.

“It is an honour to invest in this work and we congratulate all of the successful teams,” says Dr. Pascal Spothelfer, president and CEO of Genome BC.

“We are realizing the power of genomic science in both of these BC-led projects; for the grapevine industry there is a huge unmet need for rapid disease testing and in the cannabis industry we are supporting the important science behind this growing industry.”

These projects were part of an announcement made Monday by William Amos, Parliamentary Secretary (Science) on behalf of the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry Navdeep Bains.