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Corteva takes another stab at boosting protein in canolaqrcode

Feb. 3, 2020

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Feb. 3, 2020
Corteva Agriscience thinks the new high-protein canola hybrids would help narrow the gap with U.S. soybean meal. | File photo

Corteva Agriscience is taking a second crack at increasing the protein content in canola seed and this time it is enlisting the help of other private and public breeders.

A consortium led by Corteva, including processors Bunge and Botaneco, is investing $27.65 million in a project designed to make canola hybrids that will produce more valuable canola meal.

The project includes $13.6 million in funding from Protein Industries Canada.

“This opportunity is sitting on us right now. We’ve got to get on it,” said Bill Greuel, chief executive officer of Protein Industries Canada.

He believes the project could double the value of canola meal. Canola meal prices have averaged $358.56 per tonne in 2019-20, according to the Canola Council of Canada.

Greuel said plant protein isolates are selling for as much as $1,200 per tonne in human consumption markets.

Tyler Groeneveld, Corteva’s commercial grains and oils leader for North America, was more conservative in his price outlook.

He believes the new high-protein hybrids would help narrow the gap with U.S. soybean meal, which was selling for about $460 per tonne at the end of December.

This is Corteva’s second attempt at cracking the protein nut. Dow, which became Corteva after merging with DuPont, had an enhanced canola meal project that was generating excitement in the company about four years ago.

The company’s ProPound trait was supposed to create meal with 44 percent protein compared to 37 percent in commodity canola and 46 percent in soybean meal.

Dow had conducted feed trials with the product and was gearing up for commercial release of the trait in 2017. But that didn’t happen.

“The project was discontinued because it was a much more complex trait than we had expected,” said Groeneveld.

They were unable to get stable protein levels across different geographies and environmental conditions.

But plant-breeding techniques have changed since the ProPound days and Corteva has enlisted help from public and private breeding partners in the private and public sectors and has more money to throw at the project.

“Being able to do that with an investment like this will increase the probability of project success,” he said.

There hasn’t been much effort devoted to boosting protein levels in canola. Breeding has been focused on boosting yields, developing herbicide tolerance and reducing disease and pod shatter damage.

The team will build on some of the knowledge gained from the ProPound project. In addition to elevating protein levels, researchers will be reducing fibre levels and anti-nutritionals in canola seed.

“In no way do we anticipate that the quality and-or the quantity of the oil in the seed will be affected,” said Groeneveld.

Greuel said this is the third investment out of Protein Industries Canada’s $153 million pot of funds.

Botaneco was the first company to receive money. It got $4 million from Protein Industries Canada to commercialize an innovative oilseed processing technology that creates protein isolates for the aquaculture and human consumption markets.

The other was Merit Functional Foods, which received $9.5 million to build a canola and pea protein processing facility near Winnipeg.

There is plenty of money remaining to be doled out and it will be dispersed quickly.

“We aim to commit a significant portion of our funds early on in the lifecycle of Protein Industries Canada,” said Greuel.

The group is already in consultations with the federal government to try and secure a second round of funding.

Greuel hopes the canola protein project will make Canada less reliant on unpredictable export markets.

He believes it will result in more domestic processing of the crop.

“Ideally what I’d like to see is no seed shipped whole,” said Greuel.

“I truly believe we will get there.”

Groeneveld also thinks the end result will be increased domestic crush of the crop.

Processors like Bunge will continue to ship meal by train to dairy farms in California and Texas but they will also be able to meet nearby demand from the swine and poultry sectors.

That should add value for the entire canola value chain and provide farmers with increased delivery opportunities.

Groeneveld expects commercialization of high-protein canola hybrids within the next four years.

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