Wheat is Canada’S major commodity crop, and one of the most popular food crops in the world—yet for the last 20 years, research has lagged and production has decreased. A new research alliance is bringing together some of the superpowers in Canadian genetic research and cereal development to fill the gap and ensure future competitiveness of Canadian wheat farmers.
More than 100 years ago, the Alberta Department of Agriculture recognized that the many new settlers living in the province needed agricultural education. In 1911, it created seven demonstration farms throughout the province. People were encouraged to visit these farms for short courses so they could develop hands-on skills while learning about the scientific side of farming.
After a dozen years of research, University of Alberta wheat breeder Dean Spaner, PhD, has scored two major wins for prairie wheat producers. For now, they are known as BW947 and PT765, two newly registered Canadian Western Red Spring (CWRS) wheat cultivars notable for their combination of high-yield, early-maturation, good protein and improved disease tolerance. When they become available to commercial producers two to three years from now, these two cultivars may become known as something else entirely.
In Canada, it is a national sport to claim that our country is trailing our competitors in innovation. There is no doubt that both government and industry spend a great deal on research—and there are serious questions about whether Canadians reap the economic benefit from these investments. However, it is my opinion that investments in agriculture have resulted in rapid adoption and tremendous returns both to producers and society.