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Alberta Wheat decries pending loss of two popular wheat varieties

AC Muchmore and AAC Redwater will suffer from a price drop when they move to the northern red class

Five wheat varieties will be moving out of the Canadian Western Red Spring class, much to the disappointment of Alberta Wheat — and many farmers in the province.

Gary Stanford.
photo: Supplied

“We were surprised when it was announced that these varieties were coming out of the class. We were trying to look at all the farmers’ needs,” said Alberta Wheat Commission vice-chair Gary Stanford.

AC Muchmore, AAC Redwater, AC Domain, Vesper, and 5605 HR CL will all be moving to the Canada Northern Hard Red class effective Aug. 1, 2021.

AC Muchmore and AAC Redwater are very popular in Alberta. The former is a very short semi-dwarf with a reputation for exceptional yield and standability, while Redwater is a particularly early-maturing variety, which makes it attractive for later seeding.

“That’s a variety that growers would like to have that maybe isn’t going to be worth growing,” said Kevin Bender, Alberta Wheat chair. “They say that you can still market it, but it will be a discount in the CNHR class.”

While Stettler and CDC Go are the reigning CWRS champions in Alberta, both Muchmore and Redwater have been literally gaining ground. Muchmore has gone from 271,000 insured acres in Alberta in 2015 to more than 398,000 acres last year, moving from the fourth most popular CWRS variety to the No. 3 spot.

Redwater was way back in the pack in 2015 with just over 22,000 insured acres in Alberta. But it has doubled and then doubled again to more than 123,000 acres last year (making it one of the Top 10 varieties).

Neither varieties are very popular in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Both are being taken out of the CWRS class over concerns about gluten strength, which has been a source of complaints from some buyers in recent years.

CNHR varieties are expected to have a lower price than CWRS.

“We don’t know how much yet,” said Bender, who farms near Sylvan Lake and Bentley. “We’ve talked to exporters and they said it kind of depends on how they can get exported and how much they can get for it. They aren’t even sure what price they can offer for it.”

But the price will definitely go down, added Stanford.

“I know that the Canadian Grain Commission is worried about the gluten strength for export markets, but we feel that there should be more process than just worrying about gluten strength,” said the Magrath-area farmer. “We think the gluten strength is very good and we need to look after all aspects of grain production for farmers.

“From a farmer’s point of view, now they’ve got to find other varieties to replace them that will work well for their area and that’s a major concern for the commission.

“It’s mainly to do with the gluten strength. It’s not to do with the agronomics or the yield potential or the overall protein that the farmers need to make a living.”

However, it’s important to “address customer concerns about inconsistent gluten strength,” the Canadian Grain Commission (CGC) says on its website. It also said it is giving grain growers lots of notice.

“Throughout the wheat class modernization process, the CGC has communicated extensively with the sector about the reassignment of varieties to the CNHR class and the creation of new classes. For each reassignment, the CGC provided over two years’ public notice before changes came into effect, giving producers time to clear their existing stocks and the opportunity to market these varieties while they were still assigned to the CWRS and CPSR classes.”

But there should have been an economic analysis done on the whole value chain before these changes were announced, said Bender, who is chair of the Canadian International Grains Institute (Cigi) and has participated in ‘Team Canada’ trade missions.

“I know that farmers are one part of it, but what does this look like for exporters and for our customers? We hadn’t heard any complaints from our customers on these varieties so we were wondering if it was really necessary to move these varieties out.

“We were concerned too about seed growers who have switched from the 29 varieties that have been moved out earlier.”

Bender cited the example of a seed grower he knows who has propagated Redwater.

“Now that’s on the list and so growers are not going to be as prone to grow that because it’s going to be moved,” he said. “He could end up being stuck with a bunch of certified seed.

“We grew Redwater last year for the first time and we were going to grow it again this year, but now we’re having second thoughts, so we’re going back to an older variety that is still in the CWRS class.”

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, she has also published two collections of poetry and a biography about a Sikh civil rights activist. Her freelance work has appeared in numerous publications across Canada.

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