WHEAT’S NEXT FIVE YEARS
BY ELLEN PRUDEN • GRAPHIC COURTESY OF CEREALS CANADA
Canada is a world leader in the production of safe, high-quality, nutritious wheat and its value-added products. Continued investment in wheat research by the value chain helps to increase farm gate profitability and competitiveness as well as maintain a secure domestic and global food supply.
To provide a sharp vision and clear targets to guide research in the Canadian wheat sector for the next five years, Cereals Canada released the 2023-28 National Wheat Research Priorities report in October of 2022 in partnership with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC). Its creation was led by co-chairs Krista Zuzak, Cereals Canada director of crop protection and production, and Felicitas Katepa-Mupondwa, AAFC director of research, development and technology.
The report was developed with input from more than 70 researchers as well as industry and value chain members. Six interconnected theme areas are highlighted—wheat yield improvement, crop environment interactions, cropping system sustainability, continuous improvement of food safety, customer quality and wheat nutrition.
“This initiative brings together the value chain and research institutions to share knowledge, build networks and create synergies,” said Zuzak. “We saw more than 75 research projects completed under the last set of priorities, which was released in 2020.”
Though it can be a challenge to track the overall progress of agricultural research, the success of the report’s objectives, desired outcomes and targets will be measured in terms of wheat yield increase, wheat production trends and uptake of best management practices (BMP) that build on past research.
Each of the report’s theme areas is overseen by a working group that represents various research specialties and areas of the value chain. This is intended to ensure wheat research is in line with industry needs. The groups have made theme-specific recommendations on how communication and feedback can be better shared with the Canadian wheat value chain, industry stakeholders and the global wheat research community.
For example, the Crop Environment Interactions Working Group identified the development of BMP guides as a tool to help farmers adapt to climate change and increasingly unpredictable weather. The Customer Quality Working Group has recommended increased communication pertaining to wheat class attributes, particularly new classes, throughout the value chain from breeders and farmers to end-users.
This iteration of the initiative marks the first time the category of wheat nutrition has been included. Its working group prioritized identification and communication of the important role wheat plays in nutrition and health. To help meet this goal, wheat nutrition information will be disseminated to dietitians and consumers through the What About Wheat? platform (whataboutwheat.ca) and the participation of nutrition researchers in wheat variety registration meetings will be encouraged.
“The addition of nutrition puts focus on the importance of wheat—the original plant-based protein—in one’s diet,” said Zuzak. “The addition of nutrition research in the priorities report really showcases the vision and leadership of the working groups.”
Guided by the targets set out in the report, continued investment in research will ensure Canada continues to be a globally competitive and highly regarded producer of wheat and wheat products. This will also see wheat remain a robust option for sustainable cropping systems across the country.
To download the National Wheat Research Priorities report, visit cerealscanada.ca.