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Despite the encouragement of crop groups and conservation outfits, winter wheat acreage in Western Canada has decreased sharply to 2.7 million tonnes in 2022 from the record high of 4.8 million in 2008. A sign this trend may reverse, acreage has increased slightly in Manitoba where farmers have struggled to seed spring wheat in wet fields.

Drought conditions over multiple years has stirred interest among Alberta and Saskatchewan farmers as well, said Harwinder Sidhu, head of the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Lethbridge Research and Development Centre winter wheat breeding program. Part of the crop’s inherent appeal, its water-use pattern is more efficient than that of spring wheat. Because it is already in the ground come spring, winter wheat can utilize soil moisture that is present early in the season.

The Centre’s new, high-yielding varieties with excellent disease resistance packages should further enhance the appeal of winter wheat. Sidhu receives regular inquiries from farmers about these varieties, but admitted greater adoption may take time.

The newest such variety is AAC Overdrive. Marketed by SeCan, it will be available in limited quantities to farmers in Western Canada this fall. The byproduct of three elite breeding lines, it is well suited to growing conditions across the region. It also carries the highest-ever disease rating for CWRW wheat. Rated resistant to stripe rust, bunt and stem rust, it is moderately resistant for FHB and leaf rust. Overdrive also yields eight per cent greater than Radiant, the regional check variety, and matures two days earlier. Desirable for end-users, its protein is high and milling qualities are excellent.

“If you focus on the full package, it speaks volumes to the kind of work that was done in this program on building our disease resistant germplasm,” said Sidhu. “A lot of work went into this—the good deal of a decade.”

While the certification of Overdrive is a banner occasion for the Lethbridge winter wheat program, it has produced similar farmer charmers now on the market. “Farmers should pay attention to recent varieties that have been released by this program starting with AAC Network, AAC Vortex and AAC Coldfront,” said Sidhu. Coldfront, which will also come to market in the fall, yields even higher than Overdrive. While he hopes Overdrive will make converts on the eastern Prairies, he believes Coldfront may prove a better fit to the West. “I hope these new varieties can bring the winter wheat acreage up across the Prairies.”

SeCan western business manager Todd Hyra emphasized a trio of reasons the seed business picked up Overdrive. “People don’t often think of maturity being important with winter wheat. But it’s a full five days earlier than a variety like AAC Wildfire. That extra five days provides the opportunity to be done or well into the harvest of one crop before the rest of your spring crops come along. It really helps widen that window. And this is one of those rare products that has that combination of very short, strong straw and early maturity, like CDC Falcon a variety that was big for us 15 years ago. The third reason is the disease package.”

 Weather remains a factor in the general uptake of CWRW, added Hyra. In the past, dry fall conditions have not encouraged the sowing of winter wheat. Though not always welcome, harvest moisture in recent years has been ideal for sowing winter wheat. “I have high hopes that it’s going to be a big product.”  

For more information on CWRW varieties, contact Harwinder Sidhu at


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