The field pea (Pisum sativum L.) is a valuable, leguminous crop that is cultivated worldwide and is mainly harvested for protein. Field peas grow well in temperate regions, including Northern Quebec and Western Canada. Notably, the pea fixes its own nitrogen; therefore, it eliminates the need for nitrogen fertilizer and demonstrates potential as a energy-efficient biomass source in which its oil may be extracted for biodiesel. The aim of this proposal is to extend our research into, and the development of, a field pea crop with enhanced oil (lipid) synthesis for biodiesel production, by exploring natural genetic variation and augmentation of fatty acid accumulation in this plant.
Few studies have focused on the genetic factors that influence lipid content in the field pea. In a collaborative effort spanning the last eight years, our data indicate that we are closer to determining how pea genetics may be manipulated to improve lipid expression. We have detected putative molecular markers associated with pea lipid content, and we have made significant headway towards the development of a non-destructive technique that assesses lipid content in pea populations. Further research is now needed to better understand lipid synthesis in this plant. Led by Dr. Mark Lefsrud, this project involves a multidisciplinary team of experts in agriculture, bioresource engineering, genetics and plant sciences from McGill University, as well as industrial collaborators in the provinces of Quebec and Alberta. Planned experiments will be performed in the growth chamber, greenhouse, and in the field, to fully comprehend how genetic and environmental factors dually influence lipid production in this crop on a commercial scale. To improve lipid content and fatty acid composition, novel constructs will be used to genetically transform pea plants. Genetics and conventional breeding will be used to improve varieties, while innovative gene-editing techniques will also be explored. Specific objectives include: 1) Standardization of a non-destructive technique, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), that reliably estimates lipid content (g lipid/g fresh biomass) in pea seeds/leaves and other crops (e.g. oats) before extraction; 2) Identification and enhancement of molecular markers associated with lipid content in pea; 3) A genomic comparison of field pea with other pulse crops (e.g. soybean) to identify the evolutionary divergence that resulted in differences in lipid content between species; 4) Evaluation of the Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) gene-editing technique in the pea for lipid synthesis; 5) Development of desirable breeding lines/cultivars with improved lipid traits; 6) Conduct field studies of plants with the improved lipid traits. The longterm objective of this research is to establish novel field pea cultivars suitable for growth in Canada, and to develop the infrastructure required to harvest, handle and process this crop.
132 876 $