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Western Feed Grain Development Co-Op Strikes Out

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“I thought probably they would let the market decide whether or not that should go ahead.”

– David Rourke


David Rourke was surprised and disappointed two spring wheats proposed for the Canada Western General Purpose (CWGP) class by the Western Feed Grain Development Co-op (WFGDC) weren’t supported for registration here Feb. 25.

“I’m not sure what to say at this point,” Rourke, a WFGC director from Minto, Man. said after the Prairie Recommending Committee for Wheat, Rye and Triticale (PRCWRT) released the results of its secret ballot. “It’s a little difficult. I thought probably they would let the market decide whether or not that should go ahead.”

A mixup in data last year prevented Rourke from making his pitch to the PRCWRT, whose membership includes agronomists, seed growers, farmers, plant breeders, pathologists, cereal chemists and experts from the Canadian Wheat Board and Canadian Grain Commission.

The PRCWRT reviews three years of agronomy, disease and if appropriate to the class, milling and baking quality data, then votes on whether to support the registration of the variety.

It’s customary for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to follow the committee’s recommendation.

Only registered varieties can be sold for seed as a named variety, although so-called common seed, which has no pedigree, can be sold legally.

Farmers can grow unregistered varieties, but when delivered to an elevator they are only eligible for the lowest grade in the class, which is often feed.

This year Rourke, who is also a committee member, got his chance.

“What I really wanted to present to you was something that was (yielding) 120 per cent of Andrew and was earlier, but I don’t think any of us have that yet,” Rourke told committee members, associate members and guests.

Niche varieties?

Rourke acknowledged WFT409 and WFT411, two spring wheats discarded by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, are far from perfect, but said they would find a small niche among WFGDC members looking for wheats suited for livestock feed or ethanol production.

Although WFT409 yielded less than the checks in the GP class, it outyielded Unity, a Canada Western Red Spring (CWRS) variety, by six per cent, Rourke said. That’s why WFGDC members farming where it’s difficult to grow high-quality CWRS wheat will want it. If they can grow a higher yield, even though it returns less per bushel, they could be better off, he said.

In cooler areas of the Prairies, WFT409 yielded 95 per cent of AC Andrew, which is in the Soft White Spring wheat class, but often grown for feed or ethanol because of its high yield potential, Rourke said.

WFT409 matures earlier than AC Andrew, has short, strong straw and doesn’t shatter easily in the fall.

In an interview, Rourke said Manitoba farmers are dropping AC Andrew because “under stress it can be a real dog.”

The vote on WFT409 wasn’t even close with 14 members voting to support registration, 44 objecting and zero abstaining.

The result was closer for WFT411 with 21 voting in support and 33 objecting. While it yields less than WFT409, WFT411 is more disease tolerant.

Despite his disappointment, Rourke said he learned a lot, which will help in future attempts. Screening varieties that Agriculture Canada has dropped is just the start, he said.

“We’ve got crosses with more exotic and novel things that have been made four and five years ago that we think will give us that much higher yield and that better disease package and hopefully (will mature) early,” he said.

Rourke, who is also president of Ag-Quest, a private agricultural research company, has hired plant breeder Sajjad Rao, who will also be developing new varieties for WFGDC

WFGDC was created in 2005 so members could grow unregistered feed wheats within a closed-loop framework.

Some members will grow WFT409 and WFT411 anyway, Rourke said.

“We have growers in Saskatchewan who are like me that own their feed mills, they own hogs and they’re close to an ethanol plant if they grow more than they need. I know they’ll go ahead with it.” [email protected]

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