Improving Crop Quality
Crop quality is a dynamic concept, primarily determined by consumer demands. Rapid improvement in the global economy has increased the middle-income group worldwide, resulting in more consumers being more demanding about the food they consume. Canadian researchers must respond to changing customer specifications, in order for Canadian growers to maintain their global competitiveness.
Carbohydrates and proteins are the two major components that determine the quality of cereal grains and pulse crops and their end-use. In the past, Dr. Ravindra Chibbar has focused his research on the carbohydrate component of cereal grains. He has made bio-molecular discoveries that have opened the way to biotechnological improvement of crops through means other than "genetic modification," as it is widely understood.
Dr. Chibbar has characterized and studied the regulation of genes responsible for starch biosynthesis in cereal grains. Collaborators in the Crop Development Centre at the University of Saskatchewan have used this knowledge to produce waxy (amylose free) wheat, soon to be released for commercial production. In addition, wheat lines with other designer starch profiles are being developed.
As a Canada Research Chair in Molecular Biology for Crop Quality, Dr. Chibbar is continuing to develop "designer" crops. He is now expanding his research into pulse crops, fast becoming important components of prairie agriculture. Pulse crops contain a variety of carbohydrates, which are both beneficial and harmful to the consumers. A basic understanding of the gene structure and regulation will help design molecular strategies to develop pulse crops with desired quality components.
Dr. Chibbar's innovative interdisciplinary program involves the collaborative efforts of molecular biologists, biochemists, cereal chemists, plant breeders, and food scientists. Implementation of the research program requires the use of genomics, molecular mapping, genetic transformation, and close interaction with plant breeding programs, which will make this biotechnological crop improvement program unique and will attract students and researchers from Canada and abroad.