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Total Utilization of Flax Genomics (TUFGEN)

Total Utilization of Flax Genomics (TUFGEN)

  • Start date: 2009
  • Project Length: 2009-2012
  • Project Status: Complete


In the last decade, the popularity of flax as a food ingredient has increased tremendously. Flax seeds and oil are now available in supermarkets and health food stores alike. Flax offers the benefits of omega-3 oils for health. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for human brain functions, have been shown to reduce bad cholesterol, and they mitigate the risk of heart disease. Flax is also a rich source of plant-estrogens which are associated with reduced risks of breast, prostate and colon cancer. Flax seeds are impressive bio-factories, making a number of specialized products such as gums that can be used in industrial processes. Durable linoleum floorings, manufactured from flax oil, are used in office buildings, hospitals and schools. Flax is used in the fabrication of a myriad of products: solvents, paints, car panels and composites to name a few.

Flax is an unusual crop in producing two distinct products – seeds and fibres – from which value can be extracted, making it a total utilization crop. The straw produces a strong and long lasting fibre that is praised for its quality. Linen is the most well known form of flax fibres but these fibres can also replace fibreglass in composites. Flax straw components have also been used in the manufacture of fire logs, paper and other similar products.

The project “Total Utilization Flax GENomics” (TUFGEN) aims at enhancing flax’s usefulness, benefits and versatility by developing a strong genomics research base to assist flax breeding and improvement. Canada is the world’s largest producer of flax, which places the onus on us to lead flax research and development. The project’s goal is to help develop flax as a dual-purpose crop providing seeds and straw derivatives of unmatched quality and high value.

This TUFGEN project will develop a suite of genomic resources that will be used to address targeted biology-based questions. In 2000, the sequence of the human genome was published. Only eight years later, genetic tests for the early detection and diagnosis of numerous diseases are being used as a result of this large international effort. In the same time period, the genome sequences of several other organisms including economically important plants such as rice, corn, soybean, grapevine and poplar, to name a few, have been revealed.

The time and cost needed to sequence an entire genome is a mere fraction of what it was a decade ago. As part of this project, the flax genome will be sequenced. This ambitious endeavour will be an invaluable contribution to flax research. In genome sequencing, this will be the largest-ever single contribution by a Canadian team.

Other resources such as genetic and physical maps outlining the position and relationship of genes on chromosomes will be developed and made available to the research community to foster and stimulate flax research. Gene discovery targeted at the improvement of flax properties will be conducted by a team of experts located across Canada. A second team will perform data analysis and management, and will develop software to preserve and present the new data. The available resources will propel flax research forward and create opportunities for advancements that were undreamt of only a short while ago.

Total Funding Approved:

$25,000 annually for a total of $100,000