Genome Prairie


Maximizing the Utility of Flax

Flax in Saskatoon

Field of Flax, Saskatoon

Canada is the world’s largest producer of flax. Over the past decade flax has become an important multi-purpose crop with increasing demand for flax oil, seed and fibre. Flax oil is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and plant estrogens, which have been shown to reduce levels of bad cholesterol and mitigate the risk of heart disease and breast, colon and prostate cancer. Flax has been used for millennia to produce durable fibres and fine linens. Today, flax seeds and fibres are used for an increasing array of industrial products such as durable linoleum floorings, car panels, industrial oils and solvents, and a myriad of other composite materials.

The goal of the Total Utilization Flax GENomics (TUFGEN) project is to increase the benefits and versatility of flax by developing genomic-based tools to assist in crop breeding, to improve field performance and to enhance seed and fibre traits.

Research ResultsResearch Results

With the public release of the flax genome sequence, researchers across Canada and around the world are now using this valuable resource to identify new genes and gene variants that will allow flax breeders to design new varieties with greater value-added opportunities for flax producers and processors. To date the TUFGEN project represents the largest single contribution to genome sequencing by a Canadian research team. The TUFGEN team has also created a high density flax gene array that is being used by many research teams, including our partners at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute who are studying salt and drought tolerance in flax.

Notable OutcomesNotable Outcomes

  • Flax lignans fed to mice reduced body weight gain and improved blood glucose levels.
  • Using advanced biochemical analytical techniques combined with analysis of the flax genomic information, the project team has discovered six new cyclolinopeptides (CLPs) and their corresponding putative gene sequences.
  • A new company, Prairie Tides Inc., has been created to exploit this discovery of new CLPs and is currently developing new products for the pharmaceutical industry.
  • The TUFGEN research team is developing new “genotype by sequencing” techniques to rapidly evaluate breeding lines and identify new markers for important phenotypes.
  • Analysis of the flax genome data is also revealing new details about the evolution of modern flax including evidence of a whole genome duplication some five to nine million years ago.

Quick Facts

Project Leaders:

Gordon Rowland, University of Saskatchewan
Sylvie Cloutier, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Project Manager:

Chris Barker, Genome Prairie

Project Value:

$11.8 Million

Genome Canada Contribution:

$5.6 Million

Provincial Funding (SK):

$1.7 Million

Provincial Funding (MB):


Other Funding Partners:

$4 Million

Project Status:

Ongoing (2009-2014)


Genome Canada Applied Genomics Research in Bioproducts or Crops (2008-2009)

Project Website: