Canola is Winning the Fight Against the Flea Beetle

Canada is one of the world's largest producers and exporters of canola, a plant that is not only used to make healthy cooking oil, but is also found in products like suntan oils and lubricants, as well as renewable, clean-burning biodiesel fuel.

While golden canola fields are an iconic vista across the Canadian prairies, canola farmers are faced with a threat that they need to fight: the flea beetle – a small but destructive insect that causes more than $250 million in crop damage in Canada annually.

But the team at the Saskatoon Research and Development Centre is looking at several options to help farmers grow canola with fewer interventions. One option involves fighting the battle with flea beetles and other pests with a "hairy" canola plant. This innovation is resistant to flea beetles, thanks to the tougher hairs on leaf and stem surfaces that act as a natural barrier to these pests. The research teams are also testing how this "hairy" approach may work on other plants, such as mustard.

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