Wheat research not forgotten

ARDROSSAN, Alta. — Millions of acres of wheat on the Prairies haven’t gone unnoticed at Pioneer DuPont’s new Edmonton Research Center.

“Spring wheat is a 25 million acre crop out here, so anytime there’s 25 million acres of crop it attracts interest and attention,” said Ian Grant, Pioneer DuPont president, whose company is only working on winter wheat research for Eastern Canada.

“If you could find a way to hybridize wheat and make it a hybrid crop and find a way of putting biotech traits in it, herbicide resistance, disease resistance, then you could have lot more private sector interest.

“It’s on the radar,” said Grant, during the grant opening of the Edmonton Research Facility.

John Soper, vice-president of crop genetics research and development, said they are continually looking at wheat research.

“The two key issues to get companies involved in wheat and have it be a successful venture, we have to produce a product that growers will come back (to) each year to buy new seed. That for us means we have to provide a hybrid product and to provide a hybrid wheat product we have to have a product that yields more than the varietal products today,” said Soper.

New hybrid technology used in corn may be a possibility to allow hybrid wheat seed production, he said.

“Overcoming that barrier is the key.

“We need to evolve hybrids that are high enough yielding so growers will select them instead of saving seed from their varieties.”

While science may find a breakthrough for developing hybrid wheat through genetically modified technology, consumers, especially in Europe, have been hesitant to accept GMO traits in their food products, said Soper.

“I don’t know how that will play out. I’ve made a lot of guesses over the years and have always been wrong. They are pretty firm in their stance against GMOs at this point. Ultimately that could change.”

Soper believes adoption of GMO wheat would likely occur first in China, with Russia and Ukraine leading the wave that will enable GMO adoption around the world.

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