Kyle durum recognized with award

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A program to recognize public seed breeders’ contributions has expanded west and named the durum variety Kyle as its 2008 western honouree.

Seed of the Year was developed in 2005 by the University of Guelph and SeCan with support from the Ontario and federal agriculture departments. The Western Grains Research Foundation and SeCan have brought the program west this year to specifically recognize Western varieties, and to provide a scholarship for a student of the winning breeder’s choice.

Kyle, developed by seed breeder Fred Townley-Smith at the federal Semiarid Prairie Agricultural Research Centre (SPARC) at Swift Current, Sask., was registered in 1984 and became Canada’s most widely grown durum cultivar by 1988. It reached peak acreage share of about 78 per cent in 1999 and dominated the market until about 2005, program organizers said.

“An important ingredient in pasta, it helped Canadian farmers capture 70 per cent of the world durum market,” SPARC said in a separate release.

The western award also includes a scholarship for $2,000, awarded to a student enrolled in a western Canadian university and currently completing a masters or Ph. D. in plant breeding or genetics.

Meghan Rose, a second-year M. Sc. student at the University of Manitoba, is this year’s winner. Rose is working on evaluating yield and yield components in winter and spring wheat.

As part of the honour for his work on Kyle, Townley-Smith was asked to pick the scholarship winner. “I think awarding a scholarship is a great way to keep the research process moving forward; things have really come full circle for me,” he said in a release from the Seed of the Year program, noting he also received a scholarship while finishing his own doctorate at Guelph.

Soybean variety OAC Kent, developed by plant scientist Istvan Rajcan of the University of Guelph, was named Seed of the Year for the East on Nov. 12 during the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto.

AC Barrie, a hard red spring wheat variety also developed at SPARC, was the eastern program’s honouree in 2007.

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