CALGARY, ALBERTA, CANADA — The Canadian Wheat Research Coalition (CWRC) — a collaboration between the Alberta Wheat Commission, Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission and Manitoba Crop Alliance — has pledged $2 million over the next five years as part of a breeding agreement with the University of Alberta.

The $2 million investment is expected to be used to fund research activities through the university’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 took effect on May 1, 2021, and will expire Dec. 31, 2025.

According to the CWRC, a key focus of the agreement is for the University of Alberta’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 Dean Spaner, PhD, principal investigator and wheat breeder.

“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,” said Fred Greig, chair of the CWRC. “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.”

The University of Alberta’s breeding program has registered 13 CWRS varieties and one CPSR variety for a total of 14 varieties since 2013.

“This funding from the CWRC provides tremendous solidification of our breeding capacity at the University of Alberta,” Spaner said. “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.”

The CWRC said the agreement with the university also will seek to deliver one to three germplasm distributions, grow the infrastructure and breeding capacity at the university, and training a minimum of three graduate students. The university 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, according to the CWRC.