Mapping the Genome of Sainfoin to Improve Future Breeding Efforts

Project Title

Advancing Canadian Sainfoin Breeding for Profitability, Animal Health, and a Future of Sustainable Beef and Forage Production Systems


Stacy Singer (AAFC Lethbridge)

Surya Acharya (AAFC Lethbridge), Raja Ragupathy (AAFC Lethbridge), Rodrigo Ortega Polo (AAFC Lethbridge), Hari Poudel (AAFC Lethbridge), Athan Zovoilis (University of Lethbridge), Abdelali Hannoufa (AAFC London), Wubishet Bekele (AAFC Ottawa), Charitha Jayasinghege (AAFC Agassiz), Basudev Ghoshal (AAFC Summerland), Bill Biligetu (University of Saskatchewan), and Shaun Curtin (USDA-ARS)

Status Project Code
In progress. Results expected in March, 2028 FRG.06.21C


Sainfoin is one of few legumes that contain condensed tannins which protect against bloat, reduce nitrogen loss, and decrease methane emissions in cattle. But sainfoin breeding advancements have been slow, which is largely due to a lack of genetic tools. Due to advancements in technology and reductions in cost it is now possible to develop reference genomes and molecular tools for crops like sainfoin.


  • To provide a solid foundation for Canadian forage breeders by delivering critical genetic and phenotypic information, as well as a suite of breeding tools and materials, for sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia Scop.) as a means of facilitating Canadian forage breeding for years to come.

What they will do

This group of researchers wants to sequence the genome of sainfoin and make it freely available to all Canadian forage breeders. Transformation and gene editing platforms will also be established in sainfoin to accelerate functional genetic and breeding efforts. Researchers will then screen cultivars and pre-breeding material that they already have on hand for traits that are of interest to producers. They will not be developing new varieties but the screening will help point them in the right direction in the future.


Making the sainfoin genome freely available to all Canadian forage breeders will help speed up new variety development and may encourage private investment into sainfoin breeding as well.