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Canadian wheat farmers now have more options

Alberta researchers have developed two new varieties of wheat that fit with shorter growing seasons, offer higher yield and better disease resistance


Calgary, Alta. – Thanks to researchers at the University of Alberta, farmers will have more choices of wheat to plant in the coming years.

The researchers, from the university’s wheat breeding program, successfully developed two new varieties that were recently approved by the Prairie Grain Development Committee, a federally regulated body.

Two new varieties

Dean Spaner, an ALES researcher, and his research team developed BW947 and PT765, two high yielding Canada Western Red Spring (CWRS) wheat lines with good resistance to stripe rust, a serious, new disease affecting wheat crops in Western Canada, especially Alberta.

PT765 also has improved resistance to Fusarium Head Blight, a disease of consequence for animal and human health in the harvested grain.

Both lines mature early, a significant characteristic for wheat growing in Alberta, especially north of Red Deer where the growing season is shorter, says the university.

“We only have 99 days (in our growing season in Alberta). Early maturity means you can harvest faster, you have less downgrading of the crop, less frost damage and less pre-harvest sprouting,” says Spaner.

CWRS wheat could be the highest quality wheat in the world because of its high protein content, kernel size and the ability of its dough to rise.

It is often used to supplement lower quality grains of wheat in industrial purposes. To be approved for registration, CWRS wheat must pass extremely stringent bread-making quality tests over a number of years.

Breakthrough

The registration of the two new lines is a breakthrough for the university’s wheat breeding program as they are the first two lines developed in Alberta and approved for release since 1997, when U of A wheat breeder Keith Briggs developed Alikat.

Previously, the U of A had developed and released three varieties since the faculty’s inception in 1915.

Canada has one of the most stringent regulatory systems in the world when it comes to releasing wheat varieties. It takes between eight and 12 years to develop a wheat cultivar. It must be field tested in roughly 50 environments in over five years and tested for many agronomic traits, including yield and maturity, as well as disease resistance and quality traits.

The lines are in the process of being commercialized and will likely be made available to prairie farmers in two to three years.