SASKATOON, SASKATCHEWAN, CANADA — The Canadian Wheat Research Coalition (CWRC), a collaboration of the Alberta Wheat Commission, the Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission, and the Manitoba Crop Alliance, has pledged more than $22.6 million over five years to a core breeding agreement with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) for the development of wheat varieties. As part of the agreement, Canadian farmers are expected to benefit from new premium wheat varieties and associated genetics from the AAFC’s breeding program for many years to come.

The $22.6 million commitment is up from the coalition’s earlier pledge of $20 million. Funds will be used to provide further support for plant breeders, technicians, and specialists who are working to deliver field-ready wheat varieties to western Canadian farmers, the coalition said.

“The activities being conducted by Canadian researchers and wheat breeders such as those at AAFC have led to major innovations over the past few decades, including the development of several new wheat varieties with improved genetics and more desirable traits,” said Fred Greig, CWRC board chair and a director with the Manitoba Crop Alliance. “Building on the work funded by farmers through organizations such as the Western Grains Research Foundation, this investment will ensure Canadian farmers benefit from new wheat varieties that improve and enhance the competitiveness of their farming operations while maintaining Canada’s reputation for providing quality wheat for markets around the globe.”

The CWRC said it expects the new agreement will contribute to the development of wheat cultivars that provide farmers with greater yield potential, resistance to priority diseases such as fusarium head blight, rusts, and common bunt, and resistance to pests such as the orange wheat blossom midge and wheat stem sawfly. As part of the collaborative effort, the AAFC will be concentrating on the development of wheat varieties in the Canadian Western Red Spring, Canadian Western Amber Durum, Canadian Prairie Spring Red, Canada Western Soft White Spring, and Canada Western Red Winter classes, the CWRC said.

The CWRC said its core breeding agreements are funded proportionally by province based on the previous year’s production with 53% coming from Saskatchewan, 32% from Alberta, and 15% from Manitoba based on the 2018-19 production year.

“The research and plant breeding conducted by AAFC over the past few decades brought needed innovation and economic benefits to Canadian grain farmers,” said Brett Halstead, chair of the Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission. “Farmer funding committed by Sask Wheat and our fellow commissions in Alberta and Manitoba through the core breeding agreement will help support AAFC’s ability to bolster their technology and attract and retain top researchers and breeders. Public wheat breeding is crucial to Canada’s agriculture sector and the wheat varieties AAFC has produced are a tremendous return to the farmer investment in this program.”

Todd Hames, chair of the Alberta Wheat Commission, said the effort “is an exciting and historic investment by Prairie wheat farmers.”

“Investing collaboratively in this core breeding agreement ensures that farmers will continue to have access to wheat varieties with desirable traits, higher yields and strong disease packages, further enhancing our long-term profitability,” Hames said.