U of G, OMAFRA Partnership Pays Off for Ontario

June 11, 2012 - News Release

Disease monitoring and prevention, new food products and improved health and well-being for seniors – these are just some of the ways the University of Guelph-Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) partnership is paying off for Ontario.

“When research and innovation come together, good things happen: new products are developed and our economy gets stronger – which means better jobs for our families,” said Ted McMeekin, minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs “That’s why continued partnerships such as this one, with the University of Guelph, are so important.”

In the latest round of partnership projects, the ministry will invest more than $6.3 million in research at the University of Guelph and partner universities. The grants involve researchers at the Guelph, Ridgetown and Kemptville campuses, Laboratory Services, 13 research stations, the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, and other Ontario universities.

Prof. Rich Moccia, University of Guelph’s associate vice-president (research), said OMAFRA support is crucial for University researchers in furthering explorations and discoveries that make a difference in Canadians’ lives and help define U of G as Canada’s leader in agri-food research.

“This investment will allow us to engage researchers at other universities and foster innovations and breakthroughs that will better protect our health, the economy and the environment,” he said.

Research projects supported by this recent $6.3 million allocation include:

  • Monitoring and managing Ontario crop pests is the goal of two projects headed by environmental sciences professor Rebecca Hallett. She received $277,000 to develop trapping methods and identification tools for the spotted-wing Drosophila, known to destroy 30 to 80 per cent of a fruit crop. The other $135,400 grant will focus on curbing swede midge, an invasive pest that damages canola.
  • Plant agriculture professor Dave Wolyn received $94,700 to study growth and breeding of Russian dandelion plants to develop a Canadian rubber industry. Rubber formed naturally in the plant roots is chemically suited for use in tires and as latex for gloves. Unlike other rubber-bearing plants, this dandelion species also contains inulin, a food additive and feedstock for biofuels that might also benefit growers.
  • A team headed by food science professor Shai Barbut received $360,000 to continue studies of replacing fat with health-promoting substances in meat products such as hot dogs.
  • Developing a tool to help decision-makers address new or re-emerging zoonotic diseases passed between animals and humans is the goal of an $80,000 project headed by Jan Sargent, director of Guelph’s Centre for Public Health and Zoonoses and a professor in the Department of Population Medicine at Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College.
  • Food science professor Lisa Duizer aims to improve nutrition and eating habits, particularly in older adults. Using a $109,700 grant, she’s studying the addition of nutrients to foods served in retirement and long-term care facilities. She will use a second grant worth $155,124 to develop ways to help consumers make healthier food choices.

Moccia said the agricultural sector is vital to Ontario’s health and prosperity. It’s one of the province’s leading industry sectors, generating more than $30 billion a year to the economy and employing more than 700,000 people.

“Ontario’s agri-food needs could not be met without the expertise, physical capacity and technology development provided via the University of Guelph-OMAFRA partnership,” he said.

The U of G-OMAFRA enhanced partnership began in 1997 and was renewed in 2008 for 10 years. Besides its social, environmental and health benefits for agriculture and the province, the partnership’s economic impact exceeds $1.15 billion a year.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or lhunt@uoguelph.ca, or Shiona Mackenzie, Ext. 56982, or shiona@uoguelph.ca.

University of Guelph
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Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1