GFM Network News


Ward Middleton, an organic grain and oilseed farmer from Morinville, was one of the farmers who joined the participatory plant-breeding trials, selecting wheat grown on his farm for breeding.

Hands-on plant breeding: Farmers help select new plant lines

Since 2011, organic farmers from across Canada have been making their own breeding selections

You might call it DIY cereal breeding. Since 2011, plant-breeding researchers have collaborated with organic farmers in a breeding program in which the producers select lines from trials on their own farms. Normally, a breeder goes through a plot, and selects the best spikes, heads or plants according to their breeding goals. “The participatory plant-breeding […] Read more

Cereal breeding is pretty much entirely done by public researchers, with the Crop Development Centre at the University of Saskatchewan.

Alberta Wheat and Barley cool to latest seed royalty scheme

There are now three options on the table but all offer ‘more questions than answers,’ says groups’ GM

A third option has been thrust into the seed royalty review fray — but whether it will be the answer farmers are looking for remains to be seen. “At this stage, there are still more questions than answers about all of the models that have been put forward,” said Tom Steve, general manager of Alberta […] Read more


Canadian plant approval process lengthy but worthwhile

In Canada, plant varieties with traits that are new to the environment and have the potential to impact human and environmental health are called “novel traits” and are regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. They must be approved by the CFIA as well as Health Canada (in the case of food products) prior to […] Read more

Many farmers don’t want to pay royalties on cereal seed, but the seed sector and groups like Alberta Wheat say more funding is needed to boost variety development.

Seed royalties:  We need to talk — some more

Speakers say more funding is needed for cereal breeding, but how to do that is up in the air

Something needs to be done to boost funding for cereal breeding, but kicking the contentious issue of seed royalties down the road seems to be the preferred option at the moment. That was the message coming out of a discussion on a pair of controversial royalty schemes at the recent Alberta Federation of Agriculture AGM. […] Read more


Wheat breeder Curtis Pozniak is on a quest to figure out what makes wheat wheat.

Wheat breeders get a cheat sheet

‘Breeder chip’ doesn’t make the process faster but ups the odds of hitting pay dirt

Plant breeding is strictly a numbers game — but researchers have found a way to improve the odds with help from a new tool called a ‘breeder chip.’ “Breeding is like a lottery. The more tickets you buy, the greater the chance of success,” said Curtis Pozniak, a professor of plant sciences and wheat breeder […] Read more

The two proposed seed royalty models have come with many questions from producers.

Cereal seed royalty gets thumbs down at consultations

Government is asking farmers what they think about seed royalties — and the answer is ‘not much’

The idea of charging royalties on cereal seed didn’t go over well with many Alberta farmers who attended a federal government consultation on proposed royalties. “The overarching thing is that control would be imposed and that would be my concern,” Trochu farmer Kevin Niemi said in an interview. “A royalty is like a seed tax […] Read more


Crop Commissions to fund wheat research

The Alberta Wheat Commission and its Saskatchewan counterpart will spend $1.6 million over three years on seven wheat research projects. These include stripe rust surveillance to improve resistance in regional wheat varieties, developing a reliable method of gene editing in wheat to simplify the breeding process, and improving nitrogen use efficiency. Other research will look […] Read more

Genome editing will not only revolutionize plant breeding, it will offer advances with wide public benefits such as making crops more resilient in the face of climate change, says Stacy Singer, a forage breeder and biotechnologist at the Lethbridge Research and Development Centre. Singer is shown here with sainfoin plants, a bloat-free type of alfalfa. Her colleague, Surya Acharya, bred a more hardy variety of the forage using conventional methods but the breeding process took many years.

The next frontier of plant breeding

Advocates say game-changing genome editing is completely different from genetic engineering — but will the public agree?

Farmers need to get in front of the messaging about genome editing technology — or risk seeing it suffer the same fate as GMOs in the court of public opinion. That’s the warning from the chair of Alberta Wheat’s research committee, who is one of many who fears genome editing is going to get lumped […] Read more


The rules are still being written for genome editing

Researchers are excited about genomic editing’s potential to develop new crop varieties without the controversial genetically modified label. However, the regulation of genome edited crop varieties is still up for debate. In March, the U.S. agriculture secretary said his officials won’t regulate plants that could otherwise have been developed through traditional breeding techniques. “With this […] Read more

In this video from the Canola Council of Canada, Angela Barnes, the council’s agronomist for southern Alberta, 
holds what appears — from the ground up — to be a fairly healthy canola plant. But the roots of the same plant 
(inset photo) show it is heavily infected with clubroot galls. This hidden spread of clubroot illustrates why a breakdown in resistance may not be immediately obvious in a canola field.

Key source of clubroot resistance goes AWOL

‘Grandparent’ can defeat new mutated clubroot strains but somehow it doesn’t get passed down

The ‘grandparent’ of clubroot resistance in most Canadian canola varieties is resistant to new virulent strains of clubroot — but its offspring aren’t. “It’s possible that, in the course of breeding, some of the resistant genes were lost,” said provincial research scientist Rudolph Fredua-Agyeman. European clubroot differential (ECD) 04 is a key source of clubroot […] Read more