Midge Tolerant Wheat Stewardship Goes Online

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New system simplifies process for protecting midge tolerance.

Growers of midge tolerant wheat are accustomed to putting pen to paper and signing a stewardship agreement with their seed retailers every year. All of that changes this growing season as the Midge Tolerant Wheat Stewardship Team has launched a digital platform and evergreen agreement. The move online is expected to improve the process for growers and retailers, and help ensure continued protection of the midge tolerance gene.

The Midge Tolerant Wheat Stewardship Assurance Site (MTWSAS) is a secure, web-based tool for use by seed distributors, seed retailers and seed growers that makes the process of documenting the movement of certified midge tolerant wheat seed more efficient. It allows users to create electronically signed stewardship agreements and to post sales transactions.

Digital Agreement is Evergreen

“The new system creates a state-of-the-art means of managing midge tolerant wheat stewardship while also making the process very efficient for everyone who utilizes this valuable technology,” says Rod Merryweather, CEO of FP Genetics, one of the six official distributors of midge tolerant wheat in Western Canada. “It is a big step forward in protecting this valuable trait so resistance does not develop,” he adds, noting that midge tolerant wheat continues to deliver “$36 per acre of value to those who use it each and every year.”

All midge tolerant wheat is sold to farmers under an agreement in order to ensure proper stewardship of the technology, which limits the use of farm-saved seed to one generation past certified seed. With MTWSAS, the stewardship principles do not change, but the process becomes a lot easier.

“This online agreement replaces the paper-based version and manual process that we’ve used since the launch of midge tolerant wheat in 2009,” explains Mike Espeseth, communications manager for the Western Grains Research Foundation and co-chair of the Midge Tolerant Wheat Stewardship Committee.

“The online stewardship agreements are evergreen, which really simplifies things for everyone. Agreements are now signed digitally and farmers will only need to sign once, no matter where they buy their seed,” he says.

System Provides Savings for Retailers

While stewardship agreements have been a vital part of protecting midge tolerant wheat technology for the past eight years, Espeseth and the team knew the process could be improved.

“The new MTWSAS is simple and technologically advanced,” says Ed Mazurkewich, a business development consultant with AgCall, the developer and host of the new retailer-driven platform.

“All wholesale and retail movement of certified midge tolerant wheat seed is posted to the MTWSAS by seed growers and retailers with a user-friendly interface,” he says.

Merryweather anticipates the new process will save time and money for retailers. It will eliminate the nuisance of duplicate agreements and add report-generating capabilities for their specific varieties.

“MTWSAS enables them to manage their customer base and create reports that will help them to manage current and future sales of products,” he says. “It will also eliminate the onerous task of accumulating data for each farmer.”

Merryweather adds that distributors can expect to benefit as well. “We will have access to complete information on the sale of all of our products, along with the absolute confidentiality we need in our business and for our farm and seed grower customers,” he says. MTWSAS is administered and managed by AgCall with oversight by the Canadian Plant Technology Agency to ensure privacy and confidentiality.

Shining a Light on Stewardship

An added bonus of the new system is that it serves as a good reminder to growers and retailers on the vital need for stewardship.

In a survey conducted in spring 2017 with more than 1,000 wheat growers in Western Canada, 94.1 per cent of Alberta growers agreed that “it is critical to have a stewardship program in place to ensure that the effective life of the midge tolerance gene is protected.” The survey also found that 95.1 per cent are familiar with the stewardship agreement for midge tolerant wheat. However, results showed new growers are less familiar with the agreement than existing growers.

“The new system enables us to identify any grower who may be out of compliance so we can follow up,” says Merryweather. “The key is we have the tools to protect this valuable technology and to keep it working for farmers for many years to come.”

Accessing the New System

Mazurkewich explains that in order for distributors, retailers and seed growers to access the new system, they require a new authorized retailer number. This is obtained by successfully passing the updated retailer training located at midgetolerantwheat.ca and by signing a new retailer stewardship agreement at MTWSA.ca.

“New processes incur new actions and perhaps new questions,” says Mazurkewich, adding AgCall is committed to providing ongoing support. “Users will have access to four videos outlining how to use MTWSAS once they receive their login information.”