UBC researching powdery mildew-resistant cannabis

Researchers at the University of British Columbia are looking at ways to breed a powdery mildew-resistant variety of cannabis.

The research, in conjunction with Aurora Cannabis and Genome BC, will look at identifying and isolating desirable breeding traits such as resistance to powdery mildew infection. The results would then be introduced into Aurora’s cannabis breeding program.

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

Our plan is to develop a genomics-enabled breeding pipeline that will increase the speed and precision of cannabis improvement and bridge the gap in genetic knowledge and breeding resources that currently separates cannabis from other modern crops.

Loren Rieseberg, University of British Columbia

The project, dubbed Fast-Track Breeding of Powdery Mildew-Resistant Cannabis, is part of a $10 million project that also includes genomic testing to monitoring domestically bred grape crops, is being led by Loren Rieseberg and Marco Todesco (University of British Columbia) and Greg Baute (Aurora Cannabis). 

“Our plan is to develop a genomics-enabled breeding pipeline that will increase the speed and precision of cannabis improvement and bridge the gap in genetic knowledge and breeding resources that currently separates cannabis from other modern crops,” says Rieseberg, an evolutionary biologist with the department of Botany and UBC’s Biodiversity Research Centre. “In collaboration with Aurora Cannabis, we’ll apply this pipeline to solving a major limiting factor to large-scale cannabis production, susceptibility to powdery mildew.”

The project is part of a larger $56.4 million in funding from the federal and provincial government, as well as private industry and is part of 10 new genomics research projects funded through Genome Canada, in conjunction with Genome BC. Genome Canada is a non-profit organization funded by the Government of Canada that seeks to use genomics-based technologies to improve the lives of Canadians. Genome BC is a not-for-profit organization undertaking similar research in BC.


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