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CWRC commits $2 million to University of Alberta in core breeding agreement


May 3, 2021
By Top Crop Manager

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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. The investment will fund research activities through the university’s wheat breeding program, with a specific focus on developing new Canada Western Red Spring (CWRS) and Canada Prairie Spring Red (CPSR) wheat varieties. The agreement came into effect on May 1 and will expire Dec. 31, 2025.

“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.”
– Todd Hames, Alberta Wheat Commission chair

A key objective of the agreement is for the university’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 (FHB). These are key priorities for northern Alberta’s Parkland region, where the program is located. The program is led by principal investigator and well-known wheat breeder Dean Spaner.

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“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 University of Alberta’s breeding program has registered 13 CWRS varieties and one CPSR variety.

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 university, and training a minimum of three graduate students. The University of Alberta has the only CWRS wheat breeding program in the province, and is the only program that can grant graduate degrees in plant breeding in Alberta.

“Not only are new wheat varieties important for Manitoba producers, but growing the infrastructure and breeding capacity at the U of A is a significant step in the continued growth and success of wheat breeding for Canadian farmers.”
– Robert Misko, vice-chair of the Manitoba Crop Alliance

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