Famed wheat breeder Barrie Campbell passes

Namesake AC Barrie named in honour of breeder 
who developed Neepawa and eight others

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Barrie Campbell, whose namesake variety AC Barrie still makes up an important part of Prairie wheat acreage, passed away in Winnipeg July 16 at age 89.

When Campbell retired in 1988 after 39 years as a wheat breeder at the Agriculture Canada research station in Winnipeg, his varieties accounted for more than 70 per cent of the red spring wheat acres in Western Canada.

During his career, Campbell registered nine wheat varieties, including Manitou, Pembina, Benito, Canthatch, Columbus, Napayo, Katepwa, Roblin, and Neepawa, the latter one of the most successful varieties ever. In 1987, it replaced the long-standing Marquis as the quality standard for all new varieties to meet for registration in Western Canada.

In an interview in 1993, Campbell said that he came close to throwing out Neepawa before it reached the co-op testing trials. “I thought it might be too good to throw away and took another look. It was borderline. Sometimes there is only one chance, and if it didn’t make it, it’s dead.”

Ron DePauw, the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada wheat breeder who developed AC Barrie, has high praise for Campbell. “It was an outstanding contribution that Barrie made over the years,” he said from the Swift Current research station. “He contributed tremendously to benefit western Canadian agriculture. To this day Neepawa is still resistant to stem rust.”

AC Barrie, registered in 1993, was named to not only honour Campbell’s work, but also to recognize that three of Campbell’s varieties — Neepawa, Columbus and BW90 — are part of AC Barrie’s lineage.

Campbell and his Agriculture Canada colleagues also helped western farmers by developing wheats resistant to stem rust, DePauw said. “There has not been any significant stem rust losses on wheat in Canada and that’s really the function of the work that people like Barrie Campbell and (others) did way back in the ‘50s and ‘60s. We’ve been able to maintain it but the foundation was really laid by those scientists during that time period.”

Campbell was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1989 and received an honorary degree of doctor of science from the University of Manitoba in 1992.

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