Entering a new decade for pulse research

Originally published in PulsePoint magazine, April 2018

Over the past eight years, the pulse industry and the Federal Government have partnered to jointly invest more than $30 million into pulse research through the Pulse Science Cluster program.

And now as it heads into the third phase of the program, known as the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP), the knowledge gained from the past two phases has sharpened the focus of the Canadian pulse industry’s goals for the next decade, says Dr. Lisette Mascarenhas, Director of Research and Development for Saskatchewan Pulse Growers (SPG) …

Read the entire article

How Saskatchewan crops could help treat some of our biggest health problems

Flax food

Saskatchewan-grown crops are high quality and in demand all over the world.

But did you know they also might have the potential to help treat some of North America’s leading health problems such as heart disease, childhood obesity, infertility and more?

There is some incredibly interesting research going on right now within our province’s provincial agricultural sector. I’m lucky that I get to write about this type of research for my job but I don’t often do a good enough job of sharing this information with people who work outside the ag industry.

So here are some highlights of seven research projects funded by Saskatchewan agriculture organizations.

Can flaxseed replace your heart medication?

One researcher thinks so!

Dr. Grant Pierce of Manitoba’s St. Boniface Hospital has already completed a study that showed that eating flaxseed regularly can decrease your diastolic and systolic blood pressure more, or as effectively, as hypertensive medication can.

Isn’t that amazing!

Dr. Pierce is currently completing follow-up research that aims to determine if people can actually replace their heart medications with flaxseed and if yes, how much they would need to eat every day in order for it to be effective.

Learn more about Dr. Grant Pierce’s research.

Can flax play a role in treating/reversing multiple sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis affects a disproportionately high number of people in our province, which is partially why one neuroscience researcher at the University of Saskatchewan, Dr. Adil Nazarali, was interested in researching treatments for it.

Dr. Nazarli began a project to test whether a very controlled diet of flaxseed oil could help treat/reverse symptoms of multiple sclerosis. His hypothesis was that a diet with a 1:1 ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids could lead to better brain health. (Currently the average human diet in Western countries contains 10 to 25 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3s.).

This research is ongoing and there is hopes it will ramp up in coming years.

Note: In very sad news, Dr. Nazarali passed away in April of last year. Read about his remarkable career here.

Can lentils treat infertility in women?

Infertility is a heartbreaking problem that is believed to affect up to 15% of Canadian couples. And in many cases, the cause is unknown.

But one researcher is exploring whether pulses could help treat this growing problem!

In 2011, University of Saskatchewan Nutrition Professor Dr. Gordon Zello started testing whether pulse consumption could help treat polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disorder that affects women and can cause infertility. (It’s thought to affect about one in ten women.)

Dr. Zello tested this by measuring the effects of a pulse-based diet (including lentils, chickpeas and beans) on women affected by PCOS versus a regular healthy diet.

The research just wrapped up last year and the results showed that the pulse-based diet was more effective in improving the overall health of women with PCOS, which means that a diet containing regular amounts of lentils could help women fight infertility. Amazing!

Can peas help treat childhood obesity?

One researcher at the University of Florida, Dr. Wendy Dahl, was interested in exploring the role that pea hull fibre could play in treating childhood obesity, the rates of which have nearly tripled in the last three decades, according to the Canadian government.

Dr. Dahl’s study is examining how effective a tool pea hull fibre, which is a more effective laxative than other fibres on the market, can be in treating constipation and suppressing appetite in obese and overweight children.

This study will wrap up this spring and could lead to big breakthroughs in treating this growing problem.

Learn more about the research here.

Oats … in your coffee!

Want to feel a little better about what you’re putting in your coffee each morning? One University of Alberta researcher, Dr. Lingyun Chen, wants to help. She is currently working on developing a coffee creamer made with … wait for it … OATS.

The oat-based coffee additive will contain protein, beta-glucan and probiotics and will also be lactose-free.

Sound original? It is – this would be the first product of its kind on the market.

If everything goes according to plan you can expect to see this product on the market in coming years!

Can oats help increase quality of life for radiation patients?

Dr. Chen must really love oats because she is also exploring the role that they can play in helping to improve the quality of life for people undergoing radiation therapy. To do this, she is developing an oat-based drink specifically for cancer patients.

Why oats? Because they are high in beta-glucan and protein – both of which are recommended for cancer patients.

Why a liquid? Because a ready-to-drink formula is easier to consume for cancer patients who have difficulty swallowing foods.

This research is currently ongoing and is expected to wrap up next June.

Barley CAN help lower your cholesterol

Several studies have been done in the past testing the link between barley consumption and heart health.

These studies produced enough evidence to satisfy Health Canada that there is a positive relationship between the two, which is why it approved a health claim for barley in 2016.

Now in Canada, foods that contain at least one gram of beta-glucan from barley grain products per serving (which equals 35% of the recommended daily serving) can indicate on their labels that they are heart healthy.

Unfortunately that claim is not good for our favourite use of barley – the kind that comes on tap at your local pub.

Learn more about Health Canada’s claim


You can learn more about all the research being funded by local agriculture organizations by visiting their respective websites.



Crafting a brand new industry

Originally published in Grainews, October 2017

People in Saskatchewan are thirsty for a new kind of beer. Saskatchewan’s craft beer sector has been growing steadily in recent years and one brewer says the future continues to looks bright. “We just view it as nothing but untapped potential, especially for Saskatchewan,” says Mark Heise, president and CEO of Regina’s Rebellion Brewery, one …

Read the entire article

Get on board

Originally published in PulsePoint June 2016

Two years ago, Trent Richards felt that southern Saskatchewan pulse farmers were dealing with emerging issues related to pulse and soybean production, and that Saskatchewan Pulse Growers (SPG) could benefit from input from growers in his area. And he decided to do something about it.

“There are a lot of people who talk but are  not willing to do anything about it,” says Richards, who farms in the Assiniboia area. “My theory is to get active.” Richards put his name forward as a candidate for SPG’s 2015 elections and officially became a Board member in January 2016.

Read the entire article

New research aims to find control methods for Japanese Brome in barley

Originally published in the SaskBarley November 2016 newsletter
In 2005, Troy LaForge, an agronomist with Ultimate Yield Management, began noticing a new weed sprouting up in southern Saskatchewan.
It turned out to be Japanese Brome, a cool season, annual grass that can reach one metre in height and is thought to have moved north from the United States.

Researcher passionate about fighting flax disease

Originally published in the SaskFlax Fall 2016 newsletter
Khalid Rashid has spent nearly 30 years studying flax in his role as a Research
Scientist at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) Morden Research and
Development Centre.
At this stage of his career, he is still focused on making as many improvements
to Canadian flax varieties as possible before he’s done.

Transporting a bumper crop – are we prepared?

Originally published in PulsePoint Magazine October 2016
Analysts have been forecasting another record crop for Western Canadian growers this year.
But while these estimates are good news for some, they are also a cause for concern for many industry stakeholders who remember all too well the transportation issues that erupted after the 2013 crop hit a record 76 million tonnes, causing an estimated billions
of dollars of losses for growers over the next couple years.

Help wanted

Originally published in PulsePoint Magazine March 2016

The agriculture sector has the potential to solve many food-related problems the world will face in coming years.
But in order to be able to do that, the sector must first address its own challenges, including a significant shortage of manpower.
The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC), a non-profit organization focused on addressing human resource issues facing agricultural businesses across Canada, has named labour shortage as one of the biggest business risk management issues for the agriculture industry in Canada.

Canada poised to be big exporter to UAE

Originally published in the Western Producer, March 2016

Arab & India Spices, a United Arab Emirates company that imports and processes commodities, recently celebrated its 30th anniversary on a rooftop overlooking the bright lights of Dubai’s skyline.

The company has become Dubai’s largest pulse processor with a capacity of more than 15,000 tonnes a month. It is also the biggest importer of Canadian pulse crops into the UAE at 60,000 to 70,000 tonnes a year.

Managing director Harish Tahiliani said this important relationship with Canada has been critical in the company’s success and underscores the growing importance of Dubai as an emerging market for Canadian agriculture exports.

Read entire article

Ag troubles to keep India as major Canadian pulse exporter

Originally published in the Western Producer, February 2016

Canadian pulse exports to India have increased over the past two years because of a decline in the Asian country’s domestic production.

India had taken 53 percent of Canada’s red lentil exports and 25 percent of its green lentil exports in the first five months of the crop year, according to Statistics Canada. It took 51 percent of its pea exports.

Chandrashekhar, economic adviser to the Indian Merchants Chamber and former commodities editor of the Hindu Business Line, said the gap between the country’s production and consumption will continue to increase unless it addresses the short- and long-term issues at play within its broken agriculture system, which isn’t likely to happen soon.

Read the entire article