WINNIPEG, MANITOBA, CANADA — The Canadian Wheat Research Coalition (CWRC) has partnered with the Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF) and the Saskatchewan Winter Cereals Development Commission (SWCDC) to commit more than $3.5 million over the next five years to fund a core breeding agreement with the University of Manitoba. The funds are expected to be used to ensure the continuation of the university’s Fusarium head blight nursery program, along with the winter wheat breeding program.

The University of Manitoba maintains one of the only Fusarium head blight screening nurseries in Canada, and its main objective is to continue evaluating breeding lines for their reaction to Fusarium graminearum – the most common causal agent of Fusarium head blight. For its part, the University of Manitoba’s program provides information to the network of western Canadian breeding efforts and is considered the key to developing future wheat varieties with Fusarium head blight resistance.

Meanwhile, the university’s winter wheat research is focused on the delivery of field ready cultivars, with a specific focus on the development of new genetic tools to help improve winter wheat quality.

The groups previously had a $1.9 million breeding agreement in place. The new agreement includes the training of students as future scientists in wheat research, the groups said.

“This foundational funding of UM’s wheat breeding program ensures the continued evaluation of FHB resistance of breeding lines from across the Prairies,” said Curt McCartney, who is set to take over for the retiring Anita Brûlé-Babel as the university’s winter wheat breeder in December. McCartney most recently was a research scientist at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Morden, Manitoba, Canada. “Dr. Brûlé-Babel’s research has been critically important for developing varieties with improved FHB resistance and has provided excellent training for graduate students. With this new agreement, I plan to build upon her successes through the development and implementation of genomics-assisted breeding techniques.”

The CWRC is a collaboration between the Alberta Wheat Commission, Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission and the Manitoba Crop Alliance with a focus on funding genetic and agronomic wheat research for western Canadian farmers.

The CWRC’s agreement with the University of Manitoba represents the fourth and final core funding agreement with the public wheat breeding programs in Western Canada. Previously announced agreements include $22.6 million to AAFC, $9.6 million to the University of Saskatchewan’s Crop Development Centre, and$2 million to the University of Alberta.These core agreements provide support to key capacity in the breeding programs. In recognition of the winter wheat and FHB focus of the University of Manitoba program, WGRF and SWCDC are providing $935,000 and $50,000, respectively, over the term of the agreement.