Posted March 31, 2021 

In our industry, helping to manage the variety of diseases that may affect our grower’s crops is essential. One of those diseases, clubroot, affects canola crops and is a tough nut to crack.

Lucky for us, we have Nutrien Ag Solutions Pathology Research Manager, Coreen Franke, leading the field in research and education on the disease, which arrived in Canada in the early 2000s.

And we’re not the only ones grateful for her contribution. Coreen was recognized for her work in this area by the Canadian Phytopathological Society with the 2020 Achievements in Plant Disease Management award.

“It feels good to be recognized,” says Coreen, “I feel I’ve made a difference and had an impact in agriculture.”

She was nominated by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada research scientists, as well as her supervisor Bruce Harrison, Senior Director, Seed Breeding & Innovation.

“I wasn’t surprised she won,” says Bruce. “Coreen is a very deserving candidate and we’re all proud of her. She’s a strong contributor on our breeding management team.”

Her tireless work on the problem of clubroot in Western Canada includes working to educate fellow employees and other industry stakeholders, as well as breeding resistance into Nutrien Ag Solutions’ proprietary Proven Seed canola lines.

“We make sure that world-class disease resistance is built into every Proven Seed canola hybrid that we make,” she says.

But more than just disease resistance is needed.

“With clubroot, the genetics are extremely complex and the only way you’re going to manage it properly is to have an integrated management plan, which includes lengthened crop rotations as well as growing resistant varieties,” she says. “It’s a highly lucrative crop and rotations tend to get tightened. This is one of the reasons why the disease has become such a problem.”

Coreen and the canola breeding team at Research Development and Innovation, have made significant progress on clubroot resistance. There are more than 30 pathotypes of clubroot and Coreen and her team developed and released the first multi-genic clubroot cultivar in Canada, which provides resistance to multiple clubroot pathotypes.

“Multi-genic cultivars are integral to better management of the disease,” says Coreen.

She has also worked extensively with her peers in both the private and public sectors. Collaboration and involvement with third-party organizations including the federal government and universities, is one of the reasons Nutrien Ag Solutions has a world-class plant breeding program.

“I’m a strong advocate for industry collaborations to tackle tough challenges and Coreen is very good at pulling them together,” says Bruce. “You never really know where your next good idea is going to come from.”

Coreen’s work on clubroot takes her out of the lab as well – she participates in webinars, field tours and agronomy meetings, and has developed printed materials including fact sheets and a comprehensive internal Nutrien Ag Solutions document, Guidelines for the Prevention of Spreading Clubroot in Canola.

Coreen hopes that the integrated approach of education and breeding resistance into Proven Seed canola will continue to have an impact on the fight against clubroot.

“Clubroot doesn’t have to be as much of a threat to canola in Western Canada if we can get the education and understanding on how to properly manage it.”


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