Farmers’ Research Dollars Paying Off

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An unprecedented nine new wheats eligible for the top Canada Western Red Spring (CWRS) class were recommended for registration during this year’s Prairie Grain Development Committee’s annual meeting, thanks in part to farmer-funded research.

“It was a pretty strong showing (this year) for CWRS wheat,” said Graham Worden, the Canadian Wheat Board’s senior manager of technical services and member of the Prairie Recommending Committee for Wheat, Rye and Triticale (WRT) that votes on whether new wheats should be registered for commercial production in Western Canada. “What we’re seeing now is the WGRF (Western Grain Research Foundation) checkoff really kicking in. It takes a few years for the positives to start showing and this is where we’re at.”

“It was a pretty strong showing (this year) for

CWRS wheat. What we’re seeing now is the WGRF (Western Grain Research Foundation) checkoff really kicking in.”

– Graham Worden

Usually only two or three new CWRS wheats are recommended for registration. Last year there were three.

WGRF chair Keith Degenhardt, who farms near Hughenden, Alta., says the $3.2 million a year farmers have invested in plant breeding the past 14 years through the WGRF is paying off. It normally takes 10 to 13 years to develop a new variety and have it commercially available.

WGRF funding, which comes from a 50-cent per tonne voluntary checkoff on wheat, triggers almost four times as much funding from the federal government, Degenhardt said. More money means plant breeders can make more crosses and assess their potential.

“You’re limited (as a breeder) by how much land you have, and how much equipment and people you have in order to run your plots and do your work,” he said. “That’s where the difference is. When our money came in they had more dollars to work with, which allowed them to do a lot more crossing.”

Fusarium tolerance

Most of the new varieties won’t be available for three years because it takes that long to build up enough pedigreed seed.

BW406 (Glenn) is an exception. It’s a Dark Northern Spring already in production in North Dakota. Canterra Seeds, which holds the Canadian rights to Glenn, will import seed so farmers can plant it this spring.

Twenty-five new wheats and one spelt were up for review, including 11 in the CWRS class. The committee rejected Syngenta Seeds Canada’s BW879 because of its poor disease rankings. Syngenta withdrew its PT613 because of poor milling and baking quality.

A couple of Clearfield herbicide-tolerant CWRS wheats were recommended for registration.

The first midge-tolerant Canada Prairie Spring (CPS red) was also recommended, as was a new Canada Western Amber Durum wheat with improved tolerance to fusarium head blight.

There were nine entries in the new Canada Western General Purpose class designed for high yielding wheats aimed at the ethanol and livestock markets, but only five were recommended for registration and none out-yielded the checks. (See related story below)

Pros and cons

Glenn’s main attributes include leaf rust resistance, a ‘fair’ rating for tolerance to fusarium head blight (the same as the popular AC Barrie), but Glenn has lower levels of DON (deoxynivalenol), the toxin produced by fusarium.

Glenn’s weaknesses include mixed milling and baking quality and susceptibility to sprouting, which can result in lower grades and lower returns.

BW874, developed by Ron DePauw at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Swift Current station, shows even higher fusarium tolerance. Committee members voted unanimously – 55 in support, 0 objected, 0 abstained – to recommend BW874.

It is an awned, semi-dwarf wheat with improved tolerance to fusarium that yielded higher than the mean of the checks. It was shorter than the checks, had better lodging resistance and had significantly higher test weight than the best check, AC Barrie. BW874 is later maturing similar than Superb.

Other highlights

The committee recommended that BW875, another DePauw variety, be registered. It yields even more than BW874, but is not as tolerant to FHB.

BW394, another midge-tolerant CWRS wheat developed by Stephen Fox at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Winnipeg station, was recommended. It’s even more resistant to midge damage than existing varieties, but susceptible to FHB.

BW883 is also wheat midge tolerant and high yielding. Developed by Pierre Hucl at the University of Saskatchewan’s Crop Development Centre, BW883 matures as early as Katepwa, but yields 19 per cent more. Hucl said it’s the highest-yielding CWRS wheat he has ever released and could be the highest ever released by the CDC. However it is susceptible to FHB.

Agriculture and Agri-Food plant pathologist Andy Tekauz cautioned committee members that by approving varieties susceptible to FHB to be grown in areas where the disease is less common, they are in fact helping the disease become more prevalent in those areas.

BW881 is another high-yielding wheat from Hucl. It competes well with weeds and might fit into an organic operation.

HY682 is the first Canada Prairie Spring (CPS) with wheat midge tolerance and was developed by Doug Brown, an Agriculture and Agri-Food breeder based in Winnipeg.

Three CWRS wheats tolerant to the herbicide imidazolinone (Clearfield) were recommended. Two belong to Syngenta Seeds Canada and one is Hucl’s.

BW315a (Snowstar), which had an interim registration, was recommended for full registration. Snowstar is a Canada Western Hard White Spring wheat developed by Gavin Humphreys, a breeder at agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Winnipeg station.

The committee voted to extend the interim registration on HY475 and HY476 (CPS white) for two years to assist farmers and grain elevators flush the system of the two wheats that will then be deregistered. [email protected]

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