SeCan to Mark 40 Years at CSGA Meeting


SeCan will celebrate its 40th anniversary as part of the Canadian seed industry next week at the Canadian Seed Growers’ Association annual meeting in Clear Lake, Man.

SeCan was formed in 1976 and has been able to bring new varieties with improved features into commercial production more quickly. This is a benefit to everyone in the business, including farmers, millers and other processors, consumers and exporters.

SeCan continues to be a major supporter of plant breeding in Canada. To date, the organization has returned more than $90 million in royalties and research funding.

The 40th anniversary gala will take place July 6. Visit CSGA’s website for more info about the three-day CSGA event:

What’s Eating Alberta Crops?


Here’s what’s eating Alberta crops, according to Scott Meers, insect management specialist with Alberta Agriculture. He starts with pea aphid in lentils.

Audio file here:$Department/newslett.nsf/all/cotl25338/$FILE/16_182_Scott_Meers.mp3

Listen Now: As Canola Flowers, Insect Pressure Looms


In the latest Call of the Land podcast, Scott Meers,Alberta Agriculture’s insect management specialist, notes that canola is starting to come into flower in southern Alberta. What are the implications when it comes to insects?

Audio available here:$Department/newslett.nsf/all/cotl25282/$FILE/16_168_Scott_Meers.mp3

Alberta Wheat Commission Applauds Investment in Agri-food Industry


Wheat, canola and other crops get far less attention than the dairy industry, which is protected by supply management policies.

The Alberta Wheat Commission (AWC) is pleased to hear of a major investment in the value added agri-food industry in Alberta. The $10 million capital investment from the Government of Alberta for Agriculture and Forestry’s Agrivalue Processing Business Incubator and the Food Processing Development Centre at Leduc is a great advancement for wheat producers and the agriculture industry as a whole.

“As farmers in this province we are growing high quality food ingredients for international markets, so it is great to see this type of investment to further advance value here at home,” said Kevin Auch, Chairman of AWC. “Alberta’s agricultural products are a $13 billion industry and seeing the crops we grow being used as ingredients to make new and innovative products is exciting to growers.”

Value-added processing provides farmers with local market alternatives and thus greater competition for the crops they grow.

The Food Processing Development Centre is a fully equipped product development facility that provides equipment and services to help new and established companies research new product ideas, develop their products and grow their business. They have a team focused on looking at new and innovative products using Alberta grown crops, particularly for bakery products.

“This expansion and investment in the Food Centre will help diversify our industry and promote economic growth, as well as provide consumers a perspective on the quality of Alberta-sourced grain as an important food ingredient,” added Auch.

This investment will help to increase capacity in value added processing of cereal grains, including fractionation to produce high value ingredients such as proteins and fibre.

Alberta’s Crop Commissions to Survey Sustainability Practices of Farmers


Alberta’s four major crop commissions are addressing a growing need for the grain sector to meet high sustainability standards needed to maintain and expand international market competitiveness. The crop commissions contracted Ipsos Reid to conduct a phone survey of Alberta growers in late June to gain a better understanding of farmers’ readiness to benefit from internationally recognized sustainability standards and beneficial management practices.

Jolene Noble, Extension Coordinator for the newly formed Farm Sustainability Extension Working Group (FSEWG) says, “Canadian agriculture has a very positive image in the global market place and Alberta growers are progressive, innovative, and dedicated to the stewardship of their land.” This reputation positions the Alberta farmers to be leaders in the sustainable agriculture movement and capitalize on emerging market opportunities.

“We are living in a world where fewer and fewer people have a connection to agriculture. At the same time there is a growing interest by consumers as to where their food comes from,” says Jason Lenz, Vice Chairman with Alberta Barley. “Sustainability is increasingly important to consumers, restaurants, and food retailers, so we need to be able to demonstrate that we are producing a sustainable product and dedicated to continued improvement on this front.”

In mid to late June, growers will be receiving phone calls from Ipsos Reid to answer questions regarding their production practices. Results from this survey will enable the industry to quantify the great work that Alberta growers are already doing on farm sustainability. Building on the work from the Alberta Crops Sustainability Certification Pilot Project from spring of 2015, the working group will assess the results and provide resources and extension support to continue advancing on farm sustainability production practices in Alberta.

Listen Now: Canola Crops Take a Beating


Some canola crops took a beating from the dry conditions, insects, and frost. Murray Hartman, provincial oilseed specialist with Alberta Agriculture, says producers should be checking their crops to see if reseeding might be an option.

Listen here:$Department/newslett.nsf/all/cotl25223/$FILE/16_154_Murray_Hartman.mp3

Wheat Genome Sequencing Soon to be Released Across the Globe


Curtis Pozniak (Courtesy College of Agriculture and Bioresources - Stobbe Photography / David Stobbe)

Wheat accounts for over 20 per cent of all calories consumed in the world. The rising global population is demanding a sustainable and secure source of wheat, pressuring major wheat exporting countries like Canada to be at the cutting edge of varietal development.

Variety development across the world took a major leap forward in early 2016 when, at the annual Plant and Animal Genome Conference, it was announced that a Canadian-led team had sequenced 90 per cent of the highly-complex genome for bread wheat.

This breakthrough in genomic sequencing was accomplished, in part, through the Canadian Triticum Applied Genomics (CTAG2) project, which is co-led by plant scientist Curtis Pozniak of the University of Saskatchewan’s Crop Development Centre.

Wheat researchers across the globe will now have a resource that will allow them to better identify genes responsible for adaptation, pest resistance, stress response and improved yield.

“Think of the sequence as the blueprint,” explains Pozniak. “So now we can see the genes and we can see the genomic structure. What we need to be able to do now is associate each of those genes with phenotypes that are important in the field. That’s really where the hard work begins.”

With the blueprint in place, years earlier than anticipated, researchers and breeders will begin work linking genotype and phenotype. Phenotype is the observable characteristics of the plant that result from the interaction between the genotype and the environment.

Pozniak is quick to emphasize that while sequencing the genome strengthens the foundation of varietal development and provides an important tool for breeders to improve selection efficiency, it is only the first step in a complex process.

“What we’re looking at with any kind of genomic resource is being able to improve the efficiency of selection in the long run,” he says. “If you can identify and understand the package of genes that result in a phenotype that has economic value, then it is quite easy to track in the breeding program as we’re trying to improve other traits such as yield.”

Since the announcement in January, Pozniak and his team of researchers have been working diligently to ensure the entire genome of the test variety, Chinese Spring, is mapped completely and accurately before taking the next step.

“The intent is to release the sequence into the public domain for breeders and researchers to use however they see fit,” he says. “That will happen in the next few weeks and months as we finish up some quality control on the data. We don’t want to release any data that could lead anyone astray. So we’re checking and double-checking that the data is fine and then we will make the data available on a website for anyone to download.”

The CTAG2 project, which includes researchers from the University of Regina, the University of Guelph, the National Research Council and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, received funding from the Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission, the Alberta Wheat Commission, the Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers Association, and the Western Grains Research Foundation, along with several other organizations. It is part of a larger collaboration involving researchers in Canada and from across the globe, who have been collaborating as part of the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium.

Pozniak says the excitement in the international crop research community about the release of the wheat sequence is unmistakable. Wheat researchers are now ready to put this tool to use in breeding varieties that will meet the needs of farmers and end users throughout the world.

“Completing the sequencing really allows us the opportunity to concentrate on how we can use the sequence, especially the biology and breeding behind it. Most of the effort was around generating the sequence and now we’re at the stage where we can actually take it to the field and do biological research on wheat in a way that we haven’t been able to do before.”