Below are some frequently asked questions about the activities of the CSTA and the Canadian seed industry. We hope that these answers will help answer any questions you may have. If not, please feel free to contact CSTA directly.

What does the seed industry mean to the Canadian economy?

The Canadian seed industry contributed $3.95 billion to the Canadian economy in 2007, and employed over 14,000 Canadians.

The Canadian seed industry generates over $700 million in combined domestic and export sales every year. Canadian seed is exported to approximately 70 countries, generating $373 million in 2008.

What does research and development do to help the
seed industry?

Ongoing research and development in the area of plant breeding has meant a huge increase in productivity. In the last 50 years a 30-60% productivity increase has been realised as a result of genetic improvement made by plant breeders.

What is plant breeding?

Plant breeding became a scientific endeavour after Gregor Mendel formulated his laws on inheritance in 1866. Mendel’s basic discovery was that each heritable property in any living organism is determined by a physical factor contained within the cell of the organism. These factors of heredity are referred to as genes.

The genes pre-existing within a species are brought together in new combinations by making sexual crosses. The purpose of crossing, or mating, is to increase the odds of developing an offspring that carries the most desirable traits of the parents – whether that be higher yield, greater disease resistance or higher quality seed composition.

How does plant breeding work?

Many crosses are necessary before the “right” recombination of genes occurs in the plant. The application of modern techniques like biotechnology have speed up the process of developing new varieties. The creation of new plant varieties requires a long development time as long as 10 to 15 years, depending on the length of the growing cycle for the crop.

How has plant breeding affected agriculture? 

Plant breeding helps to develop crop varieties that mature faster, are more resistant to pest and disease outbreaks, and produce higher yields, breeders help make the most of the world’s cultivated land to feed the greatest number of people. In fact, the utilization of improved plant varieties is recognized as having been responsible for 50 per cent of the increase in productivity of the major agricultural crops during the last 30 years.

What are some recent plant breeding accomplishments? 

Canola was developed by Canadian plant breeders. Dr. Baldur Stefansson developed the first canola variety in 1974. Today, canola oil is a world leading consumption oil, known for its health characteristics.

The efforts of plant breeding in North America have resulted in

  • a 27% increase in canola yields in 15 years
  • a 59% increase in Ontario corn yields in 15%
  • an increase in Ontario wheat wheat yields of 62% in just 15 years

New varieties offer improved disease and pest resistance – midge tolerant wheat available in 2010 has the potential to prevent annual losses estimated at $40 million.

Want to learn more about plant breeding?

Read the following backgrounders for more information on plant

International Seed Federation (ISF) Frequently Asked Questions – links go to ISF website