43 www.seed.ab.ca | spring.2019 Office: 403-556-2890 Cell: 403-994-0290 OLDS, ALBERTA [email protected] Twitter: @BrianEllisSeed AAC Synergy Barley Sirish Barley—NEW AAC Connect Barley—NEW CDC Copeland Barley Canterra Canola Seed AAC Redberry CWRS—NEW AAC Elie CWRS AAC Brandon CWRS AAC Crossfield CPSR—NEW SY Rowyn CPSR—NEW AAC Penhold CPSR AAC Lacombe Yellow Peas AAC Carver Yellow Peas—NEW CDC Amarillo Yellow Peas CDC Limerick Green Peas with the public and private sectors, to create improved CPSR wheat varieties for farmers. Breeding for this partnership is being led by Randhawa. “We’ve entered into a new era for developing and collaborating with industry as a public, private and producer partnership,” he notes. “AAC Crossfield will be in farmer’s fields this year and another one we just registered is AAC Castle; and there’s a new one in the pipeline we’re very excited about.” Plant breeding isn’t without its challenges, and according to Randhawa, one of the largest he sees is production challenges. “We face different stresses, such as Fusarium head blight for example. It’s moving big time. And although the last two years were okay, we know we’ll see more of this disease.” Randhawa says one of the challenges associated with breeding for Fusarium head blight resistance is lack of a disease screening nursery in Alberta and limited access to nurseries in Manitoba. “If you can start screening early on, then you have a higher chance of selecting good material and discarding the ‘junk.’ But there are only so many breeding lines that can be screened in the nursery — and that’s my number one challenge.” Another challenge, he notes, is free access to germplasm. “We are all in the public sector, and we’d like to have a reciprocal transfer of material,” he says. “Plant breeding is all based on diversity — if there’s no diversity and no germplasm, or if I can only use my own germplasm, then I’m going to have a bottleneck, I’m going to stagnate in my gene pool. We need to bring in new genetics and new traits to keep building diversity.” A third challenge, says Randhawa, is within the minor classes of wheat, such as SWS and CPS. “Whether it’s winter wheat or CPS or soft wheat, we have maybe one million acres for each, more or less. Big classes such as CWRS (Canada Western Red Spring) or durum, they get a lot more attention. This translates over to more marketing attention as well, and that’s hurting the minor classes.” It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Cereals Canada, Alberta Wheat Commission and Canadian International Grains Institute certainly are doing their part to find consistent markets for the minor classes of wheat. And for his part, Randhawa continues pushing ahead to develop better cultivars for western Canadian growers. He believes new and improved technologies will help in that regard, but having “boots on the ground” on a day-by-day basis is still highly important in the plant breeding field. “New technologies certainly offer some advantages, such as grains in efficiencies, new genomics tools and artificial intelligence,” he says. “Some of those things will tweak and change and help us, but it won’t happen overnight. There are many things we have to do the hard way, there’s no easy way or shortcut. “Plant breeding is an interaction with everything — the growing environment, the diseases, the climate, the drought, rain, fertilizer. You can predict things with your computer models, but you can’t predict everything, and you can miss something you never thought of. “We have to face these challenges and tackle them one at a time, to understand how it works. There is no magic bullet in plant breeding.” Janet Kanters