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Digitizing Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's biological collections

February 15, 2017

Changing climates and growing international trade drive up the risk of new and invasive species endangering Canadian crops. Recognizing this, the federal government announced $30 million in Budget 2016 to support Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's (AAFC) biological collections consisting of insects, plants and other organisms. These funds will be used to inventory and digitize the collections, and to add DNA fingerprint and genomic sequences for hard-to-identify, high-impact organisms—such as those that provide an essential ecosystem function or that could decimate a crop.

AAFC's reference collection will allow scientists to correctly identify species and provides a recording of its life history. This helps create an action plan to mitigate the threat and save Canada's multibillion-dollar crops industry.

Supporting science-based decisions

By 2022, 17 million specimens will have been inventoried and 7.6 million high-priority specimens will have been enhanced with state-of-the-art digital, DNA or genomic records. This will enhance Canada's capacity for science-based decision-making by helping scientists predict new potential threats, better understand the origin, movement and migration patterns of pests and pathogens, and predict new potential pest threats that could emerge.

This valuable information will also be shared on open-data platforms so scientists around the world can access it and increase the security of their agricultural systems. These national collections will also catalogue and showcase Canada's biological diversity for the general public.

For more information on this initiative, read Federal Budget Supports Genomics Research to Benefit Agriculture.

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