Province Invests $7.2 Million in U of G Research

February 24, 2010 - News Release

Two research projects that will enhance the University of Guelph's reputation for revolutionizing agriculture and facilitating the transition to a bioeconomy received more than $7.2 million in provincial support today.

The funding is part of a $69.5-million provincial investment being rolled out this week by the Ministry of Research and Innovation for 21 projects involving 214 researchers across Ontario.

The U of G funding will support the creation of new bean varieties and the engineering of new products from non-food crops for use in the packaging, manufacturing and automotive sectors.

“This shows the faith the provincial government has in our ability to play a leadership role in enhancing Canada’s ever-important agri-food industry, especially as we move towards a more sustainable future,” said president Alastair Summerlee.

He added U of G is renowned in the agricultural and life sciences and for creating a culture of innovation in this field. “This funding will allow us to further explore new research areas such as the engineering of new bioproducts and crop varieties that have enhanced disease resistance and healthful qualities.”

Both projects are based in the Department of Plant Agriculture. Prof. Peter Pauls will lead a $3.7-million initiative to produce a draft genomic sequence of dry beans and develop genetic markers for improved varieties. Nine researchers are involved in the project.

Currently, there is a lack of genomic information for the dry bean, unusual for such an important crop, Pauls said. About 18 million tons of beans are harvested globally, making it an $11-billion-a-year industry. In Ontario, it generates more than $100 million annually.

The research will provide information about genes involved in resistance to a problematic bacterial pathogen, as well as genes that would allow for nutraceutical production, increased antioxidant content and seed storage proteins.

Researchers will also develop molecular markers to select new bean varieties that incorporate enhanced disease resistance, higher levels of beneficial antioxidants and novel protein profiles for biofilm and biofibre production.

“This represents an important opportunity for an Ontario genomics effort to have major international impact and will put Canadian bean researchers at the forefront,” Pauls said.

Prof. Amar Mohanty will head a seven-member team of researchers from four Ontario universities making new industrial bioproducts from bio-resources. With their $3.5-million grant, the researchers hope to improve the utilization of co-products (lignin, hemicelluloses and crude glycerol) that are created during the production of second-generation biofuels (ones made from non-food crops).

Food-versus-fuel concerns are prompting greater focus on second-generation biofuels, but co-products are currently undervalued and underused, said Mohanty, director of U of G's Bioproducts and Development Centre and holder of the Ontario Premier's Research Chair in Biomaterials and Transportation.

Mohanty’s research team will develop new “green” technology to use co-products, as well as switchgrass and miscanthus, to create new bioplastics, bio-based blends, composites and nanocomposites for use in various sectors.

“The project has been formulated based on current needs of industries and involves a new approach of manufacturing. It also offers strategic value for the province,” Mohanty said. “It could transform Ontario into a bio-refinery hub and open up new markets for Ontario’s agricultural, biofuel, pulp and paper industries.”

He added the research activities aim to produce substitutes for existing petroleum-based counterparts. “This means a strong potential for a tremendous reduction of greenhouse gas emissions through new industrial biomaterials uses.”

Guelph’s funding was announced by Liz Sandals, MPP for Guelph. “We’re proud of the work that our researchers do and the wealth and jobs they create in Guelph. New discoveries will continue to be made and we want those people, those ideas and those jobs right here in our community.”

For media questions, Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, Ext. 53338,, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982,

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