Dr. Baldur Rosmund Stefansson

Baldur Rosmund Stefansson, often referred to as the Father of Canola, recognized the potential of rapeseed as an edible oilseed crop for temperate climates early in his remarkable, lifetime career as an oilseed plant breeder at the University of Manitoba. However, the future of the crop was threatened when it was determined that high erucic acid content in its oil was a probable health risk in humans. It was already an industrial oilseed crop grown on limited acreage.

Enlisting collaboration of others from several fields, Baldur Stefansson delved into further study of rapeseed, measuring, assessing and understanding erucic acid in the crop. After surveying 4000 lines accessed from many places, Dr. Stefansson found a rapeseed variety with wide variability in erucic acid content. He and Agriculture Canada colleague Keith Downey manipulated erucic acid in rapeseed oil, including its elimination through breeding new varieties. Cultivars with low erucic acid replaced millions of acres of regular rapeseed.

After further work to elaborate on glucosinolates, another anti-nutritional factor, Drs. Stefansson and Downey found breeding could improve rapeseed meal nutritionally, by virtually eliminating that factor too, producing cultivars low in both erucic acid and glucosinolates.

Baldur Stefansson is credited with producing the first “double zero” variety, Tower, one low in both erucic acid and glucosinolates. Rapeseed with the significant improvements in both oil and meal quality was assigned the new term “canola,” a word combining Canada and oil. Canola oil is recognized as one of the world’s healthiest vegetable oils and the crop from which it comes has developed as the world’s second most important and fastest expanding oilseed crop.

Dr. Stefansson also developed cultivars of the rapeseed crop for specialized uses, such as the world’s first low linolenic acid canola variety and high erucic acid rapeseed cultivars for special industrial applications. Baldur Stefansson released seven cultivars of Rapeseed, two cultivars of Soybeans and one cultivar of Turnip Rape.

Baldur belonged to many professional organizations and produced many publications including chapters in books and articles in conference proceedings.

Among the many awards bestowed on Baldur Stefansson for his contributions to Canadian agriculture are: the Queen’s Jubilee Medal, Order of Manitoba and Officer of the Order of Canada.

Dr. Baldur Stefansson has earned his place in the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame.

Nominated By:
  • Canola Council of Canada