UofG logo Plant Ag logo

Department of Plant Agriculture


Plant Agriculture


View current news

News Archive - Fall 2008

M. RaizadaRaziada Lab on CBC's The National

From a UofG Campus Bulletin:

On Wednesday, December 10, Plant Agriculture Prof. Manish Raizada and his research team were featured on CBC TV's The National. They were part of a larger feature story on the global food crisis. The segment featuring Raizada and his team looked at how they are using science to find permanent solutions to feeding the world's poor.

Part of Raizada's research is focused on helping farmers in developing countries create new plants and more intensive practices so that they can produce food with fewer resources such as land and water. In addition, Raizada has used his own funds to set up the Raizada Foundation, a charitable organization that involves Guelph students in finding inexpensive prize-worthy ideas and tools to help poor people in developing countries. Read more.

The National is CBC's national evening television news program.

M. MisraFrom Crops to Car Parts

Prof aims to help rebuild our world using biobased materials


That wooden lectern looks lonely. Its blond wood stands out in the School of Engineering (SOE) boardroom, surrounded by painted cement block walls, glass windowpanes and a carpet, table and chairs made of various synthetic products. One day soon, if Prof. Manju Misra's ideas pan out, that lectern in the corner will be a little less lonely.

Newly arrived at Guelph this year, Misra hopes to help supplant our petroleum-based economy with more biobased materials. She plans to bring together engineering and structural know-how with ideas and new materials from a fast-growing bioproducts sector to re-engineer much of our world.

Cross-appointed between SOE and the Department of Plant Agriculture, she is something of a composite herself. Misra spends most of her time teaching and researching in SOE; about one-quarter of her time is devoted to plant agriculture.

Continue reading - AtGuelph

U of G Crop Named Seed of the Year

November 14, 2008 - Campus Bulletin

An Ontario soybean variety developed by a University of Guelph professor and a technician was the winner at the 2008 Seed of the Year competition. Another crop developed by U of G researchers also received accolades. The results were announced at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto.

OAC Kent, a soybean variety developed by plant agriculture professor Istvan Rajcan and technician Wade Montminty, took first prize. In the last five years, it has realized more than 8,000 tonnes of recorded seed sales, and has been a consistent soybean in yield and agronomics for many growers over the last seven years. OAC Kent was developed with support from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).

Three other finalists were also recognized during the Seed of the Year event, including OAC Rex, a white bean variety developed by Prof. Peter Pauls, Plant Agriculture, former professor Tom Michaels and technician Tom Smith.

Continue reading - UofG Campus Bulletin

Guelph Team wins medal at MIT iGEM

November 13, 2008 - News Release

Heading off blindness in children, especially in the world's poorer countries, is the goal of a University of Guelph student project that recently won a medal at an international science competition.

The U of G team used genes taken from common soil bacteria that make lots of carotenoids, including beta-carotene, an essential nutrient found in carrots, potatoes and squash that the body converts to vitamin A. Stitching those genes into the gut microbe E. coli causes the latter to produce beta carotene.

Other researchers have modified laboratory strains of E. coli in this way but this is the first time anyone has used microbes found in the human gut, according to team leader David Johnston Monje, a PhD student in the Department of Plant Agriculture.

The team showed their project at a genetic engineering contest this week at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, capturing the bronze medal. This is the first time a Guelph team entered the annual International Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) competition. The contest challenges university students to use biotechnology, including a standard toolkit containing bits of DNA, to make cells with new and unusual properties.

Continue reading - UofG Campus Bulletin

Postcards From the College

Vintage campus postcards capture views, words from another era

Professor Al SullivanBY ANDREW VOWLES, AtGuelph

“Wish you were here” wasn't good enough for May. All the long-ago student had to send from Guelph was a postcard depicting two hand-coloured photos — Macdonald Hall on top, Macdonald Institute on the bottom. But on that April day in 1907, she had a lot to tell her correspondent, a Mrs. M.H. Johnson of Little Rock, Ark.

May started writing in the front margin beside a hand-drawn line pointing to a second-storey window in the top photo.

Dear Julia: This is my room facing SE and overlooking main road and streetcar line, Agri. College (where men students live), Massey Hall Library, Biological Building, campus and fields in distance. There are 71 Domestic Science and 10 Nature students in the Hall now. I am a Nature S. Classrooms of both are in the Institute, but our class goes to other buildings for manual training, drawing, literature, horticulture, agriculture, etc. The whole property consists of 550 acres, some of it for experimental purposes, some divided into plots for the students to learn on, while some is used to grow supplies for the College and Hall, 6 acres given up to vegetables for this purpose alone, so you see we have good appetites. We are a mile from the city of Guelph and have our own water plant and electric light. Water comes from two artesian wells, 1,010 and 550 ft. deep. The Nature students have to work hard but enjoy it. Yours with love, May.

A century later, Prof. Al Sullivan, Plant Agriculture, has added May's epistle to his growing collection of old-time campus postcards. After reading aloud the mini-essay covering front and back of the postcard, he glances up and smiles.

“That's endearing,” he says, pointing out the line marking her room and another line inked on the card to indicate the main-floor dining room in Macdonald Hall.

Continue reading - AtGuelph

‘World's smallest research station' supports Ontario's vegetable-growing powerhouse

Muck Crops Research StationBY ANDREW VOWLES, AtGuelph

That rich black soil in southern Ontario's Holland Marsh sprouts more than carrots and onions. Research grows here, too. This year, Carrot Country magazine based in Washington, D.C., featured a report co-authored by Prof. Mary Ruth McDonald, Plant Agriculture, on diseases and insect pests afflicting the fourth most valuable field vegetable in Ontario.

The report made the publication's spring 2008 cover, not bad for the carrot crew working at what's been called “the world's smallest research station,” located only an onion's throw from one of the busiest highways in the Toronto area.

Welcome to the Muck Crops Research Station, a science and field-testing lifeline for a multi-million-dollar industry whose roots trace back to U of G.

It probably goes overlooked by most of the motorists barrelling along Highway 400, about 15 minutes north of Canada's Wonderland. But this research station supports local growers who produce one-quarter of Canada's multi-million-dollar crop of carrots and onions. In those neat green rows on the marsh's signature black soil, U of G researchers test vegetable varieties, assess crop protection tools and monitor weather conditions to help local growers plan their field maintenance schedules.

Continue reading - AtGuelph

New Study Proves Red Grapes Help Fight Off Cancer

Gopi PaliyathOctober 21, 2008 - News Release

It's long been known that drinking red grape juice or wine has the potential to help fight off breast cancer. But a new University of Guelph study is the first to pinpoint one of the reasons why.

Profs. Gopi Paliyath and Kelly Meckling have discovered that the polyphenols found in red grapes can inhibit the establishment of cancer cells by suppressing the expression of certain genes that lead to tumour development.

"Our results support the disease-preventive role of fruits in the diet," said Paliyath. "When people consume red grapes or juice, the concentration of polyphenols in the body can increase. Maintaining a certain level of polyphenols may lead to the destruction of mutated or abnormal cells, preventing their establishment and the development of cancer."

The study, set to be published in the Journal of Nutrition Research, involved orally feeding mice polyphenols extracted from Merlot grapes and red wine. The mice were then injected with estrogen-receptor negative breast cancer cells. Continue reading - UofG News Release

This Spud's for You

Vanessa CurrieBY ANDREW VOWLES, AtGuelph

Enjoying that creamy baked potato on your dinner plate? What about that handful of potato chips or that golden fry snared on your fork? You might have U of G's Potato Queen and “her” Elora potato patch to thank.

As a research technician in the Department of Plant Agriculture for almost 20 years, Vanessa Currie has made a life of spuds. The Guelph graduate oversees annual potato trials conducted by the University under a research program involving the Ontario Potato Board and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC).

By growing and testing potato cultivars here, she helps growers and breeders elsewhere decide which ones might be a good bet for this part of the world. Which varieties tolerate drought and heat? What pesticides work best in the field? Can the plants resist disease and insects?

Her field site is a 2½-acre patch at U of G's Elora Research Station, sandwiched between canola maintained by another researcher and ornamentals grown by her faculty supervisor, Prof. Al Sullivan.

Every year Currie grows about 120 kinds of potatoes, enlisting students to help sow the seeds during two weeks in May. She digs up the first tubers in August and, depending on the variety, will still be turning up spuds through November.

A U of G biology graduate, Currie had worked on the Colorado potato beetle with Prof. Mark Sears, Environmental Biology. In 1990, she was hired to help run the University's former potato breeding program with Gary Johnston, who developed Guelph's signature Yukon Gold potato.

With all that potato expertise behind her, it's not surprising to learn that Currie contributed a potato recipe to Anita Stewart's Canada, a newly published cookbook by culinary activist and gastronomer Anita Stewart. Currie's dish is shepherd's pie with buttermilk.

For more information about U of G's potato research program, visit www.plant.uoguelph.ca/research/potato/index.html.

Continue reading - AtGuelph

Posted: October 14, 2008

AtGuelph: Bioproducts Centre Opens

New facility will position Guelph as a world leader in the field, says director

Amar Mohanty, Director of the BDDCBY ANDREW VOWLES, AtGuelph

Making car parts out of corn, soybean, wheat and other crops is just one way U of G research will help fuel the bioeconomy in the newly opened Bioproducts Discovery and Development Centre (BDDC). Last week, dignitaries, students, faculty, staff, alumni and supporters attended the opening of the new 2,700-square-foot facility, located at the south end of the Crop Science Building.

Organizers unveiled labs and greenhouses expected to allow scientists from Guelph and other universities and industry to grow crops and explore their uses, especially for new materials and sustainable fuels.

Products made from plants and plant wastes are expected to substitute for more conventional petroleum-based materials, says Prof. Amar Mohanty, Plant Agriculture, director of the new centre. He says the BDDC will help in investigating renewable materials, growing Canada's bioeconomy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from oil-based fuels and products, especially those used in the automotive, packaging and building industries.

About 50 researchers will use the centre for their studies, including a core of 10 faculty members and 20 other researchers in the School of Engineering and the departments of Plant Agriculture, Cellular and Molecular Biology, Environmental Biology, Food Science, Physics and Chemistry. The centre will hire staff to run the equipment and the facility.

Besides U of G users, the facility will draw researchers from other universities and from industry. For instance, Guelph leads the $6-million BioCar project that involves researchers here and at three other campuses — the University of Toronto, the University of Waterloo and the University of Windsor — in studying ways to use crops for car parts.

Continue reading - AtGuelph

Posted: October 14, 2008

Harvesting Food and Ideas

Manish RaizadaProf opens wallet - and students' minds - in project to help combat hunger in developing world


A U of G faculty member is digging into his own pocket and into his students' minds to fight world hunger. Prof. Manish Raizada, Plant Agriculture, has set up the Raizada Foundation as a charitable organization to involve Guelph students in finding cheap prize-worthy ideas and tools to help poor people in developing countries.

This year's inaugural Raizada Prize will be awarded to GrainPro Inc., a Massachusetts-based company whose products — from 10-kilogram grain sacks to 5,000-tonne plastic bunkers — allow individual farmers or co-ops in developing nations to store grains, food and feed. Raizada will pay for $1,000 worth of the company's storage bags to be sent to farmers in Ghana.

In subsequent years, he plans to offer up to three $1,000 prizes for entrepreneurs or organizations involved in developing nations.

The dual goal of the classroom-based initiative is to engage his students in international development and to highlight worthwhile projects around the world for much larger funding agencies such as the Bill and Melinda Gates and Rockefeller foundations.

“Young people have good ideas, and we don't harvest them enough,” says Raizada. “I'm so excited about this.”

Continue reading - AtGuelph

Posted: October 14, 2008

New U of G Centre Will 'Revolutionize Agriculture'

Bioproducts Discovery and Development Centre Opens at the University of Guelph

BDDCThe University of Guelph today officially opened the Bioproducts Discovery and Development Centre. Here researchers will revolutionize the use of agricultural products, turning soy, wheat, corn and other crops into everything from car parts and furniture to fuel.

"This discovery centre is a nexus where physical and engineering scientists and plant biologists will work together on viable solutions to some of today's most pressing problems," said president Alastair Summerlee.

"Our reality now is global warming, growing environmental threats and depleting petroleum resources, and we must develop sustainable alternatives. Just as we have so many times in our 132-year history, Guelph has once again broken the trail and is leading the way."

The Bioproducts Discovery and Development Centre will produce greener bioproducts to substitute non-renewable materials in many manufacturing sectors, consumer goods and services. This includes turning crops into renewable biofuels to run vehicles and into resins, polymers and tough fibres for the production of biobased materials, which will reduce dependency on petroleum materials.

Posted: October 3, 2008