Prairie Post (West Edition)

CWRC commits $2 million to the University of Alberta in wheat breeding activities


The Canadian Wheat Research Coalition (CWRC) – a collaborat­ion between the Alberta Wheat Commission, Saskatchew­an Wheat Developmen­t Commission and Manitoba Crop Alliance – has committed $2 million over five years towards a core breeding agreement with the University of Alberta (U of A). The investment will fund research activities through the U of A’s wheat breeding program with a specific focus on developing new Canadian Western Red Spring (CWRS) and Canadian Prairie Spring Red (CPSR) wheat varieties. The agreement came into effect on May 1 and will expire December 31, 2025.

A top objective of the agreement is for the U of A’s wheat breeding program to develop three to five registered wheat varieties focusing on the traits of early maturity, shorter straw stalk, and resistance to stripe rust and Fusarium Head Blight, all of which are key priorities of northern Alberta’s Parkland region where the program is located. The program is led by principal investigat­or and wellknown wheat breeder, Dr. Dean Spaner.

“This agreement with the U of A is a natural fit as the CWRC recognizes the importance of having a strong breeding network across Western Canada,” says Fred Greig, CWRC chair. “Dr. Spaner and the U of A wheat breeding program have a history of successful­ly developing and commercial­izing wheat varieties with strong agronomic packages for prairie farmers.”

Since 2013, the U of A breeding program has registered 13 CWRS varieties and one CPSR variety for a total of 14 varieties.

“This funding from the CWRC provides tremendous solidifica­tion of our breeding capacity at the University of Alberta,” says Dr. Spaner. “Plant breeders have been at the forefront of feeding the world, and wheat production is an economic backbone for the western Canadian and Alberta economies, which makes this commitment from wheat producers to support our vital research a much-appreciate­d vote of confidence.”

In addition to delivering wheat varieties, the agreement specifies other key objectives including delivering one to three germplasm distributi­ons, growing the infrastruc­ture and breeding capacity at the U of A, and training a minimum of three graduate students. The U of A has the only CWRS wheat breeding program in Alberta, and is the only program that can grant graduate degrees in plant breeding in the province.

TheMay 3 announceme­nt with the U of A marks a significan­t increase from the previous agreement through the Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF) which will conclude on May 7, 2021. The increase is due to significan­t progress and potential growth of the wheat breeding program.

“As a farmer in northeaste­rn Alberta, early maturity traits in wheat give me more flexibilit­y when faced with adverse weather, particular­ly during seeding or harvest. This investment shows promise and is directly attributed to farmers setting research priorities and establishi­ng needed traits in Canadian wheat varieties,” explained Todd Hames, Chair of the Alberta Wheat Commission.

“My farm and thousands of others have benefitted from the work of wheat breeding programs such as the one at the University of Alberta. I’m proud that Sask Wheat is able to collaborat­e in this investment through the CWRC, as it will lead to new varieties that improve the profitabil­ity of growing wheat for farmers across the Prairies,” added. Brett Halstead, Chair of the Saskatchew­an Wheat Developmen­t Commission.

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