CWRC Gives $2 Million for U of A Wheat Breeding Program

by | May 3, 2021 | Cereals, Funding, Industry News

A field of CS Jake, which is an ultra-early maturing variety with excellent stripe rust protection and higher protein content, that is being released commercially this year through Canterra Seeds. Photo: Dean Spaner

The University of Alberta (U of A) has received $2 million in funding over the next five years for their wheat breeding program from the Canadian Wheat Research Coalition (CWRC), the group says in a news release on May 3. The funding will allow the wheat breeding program to focus on developing new Canadian Western Red Spring (CWRS) and Canadian Prairie Spring Red (CPSR) wheat varieties.

The CWRC investment will see the U of A wheat breeding program 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, the release notes. These are key priorities of northern Alberta’s Parkland region where the program is located. The program is lead by principal investigator and wheat breeder Dean Spaner.

“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,” Fred Greig, CWRC chair says in the release. “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.”

The agreement also specifies other key objectives including delivering one to three germplasm distributions, growing the infrastructure and breeding capacity at the U of A, and training a minimum of three graduate students, the release says. This funding is a significant increase from the previous agreement through the Western Grains Research Foundation which concludes on May 7, 2021 — the increase is due to significant progress and potential growth of the wheat breeding program.

Since 2013, the U of A breeding program has registered 13 CWRS varieties and one CPSR variety for a total of 14 varieties. They are the only CWRS wheat breeding program in Alberta, and is the only program which can grant graduate degrees in plant breeding in the province. The agreement came into effect on May 1, 2021 and will expire Dec. 31, 2025, the release notes.

The CWRC is a collaboration between the Alberta Wheat Commission, Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission and Manitoba Crop Alliance.

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