Scientists prepare to replace CDC Falcon

Plant breeders’ efforts to develop new winter wheat varieties similar to CDC Falcon are bearing fruit.

Rob Graf, a winter wheat breeder from Agriculture Canada’s Lethbridge Research Centre, told cereal growers at Crop Production Week in Saskatoon that new varieties being touted as potential replacements for CDC Falcon will soon be available to commercial growers.

Potential substitutes include Flourish (formerly W434), AC Emerson (formerly W454) and AAC Gateway (formerly W478).

Emerson, registered in November 2012, looks particularly promising.

It is resistant to leaf, stripe and stem rust and has arguably the best disease package available in the Canada Western Red Winter wheat class.

“It’s the first variety that has gone through the registration system that’s ever been rated as resistant to fusarium,” Graf said.

“It’s not immunity by any means, but it’s certainly an improvement.”

CDC Falcon is slated to be moved from the CWRW class to the Canada Western General Purpose class effective Aug. 1, 2014.

The variety was grown widely throughout the eastern Prairies and was easily the most popular winter wheat in Manitoba.

It accounted for 75 percent of the province’s total winter wheat acres in 2010 and 2011, according to the CWB’s annual variety survey.

Graf said efforts to develop Falcon replacements began several years ago, even before grading changes to the CWRW class were proposed.

The Canadian Grain Commission has also announced that other CWRW varieties will be moved to the general purpose wheat class this year, including CDC Clair, CDC Harrier, CDC Kestrel and CDC Raptor.

“Certainly … we identified that (finding a Falcon replacement) was something that needed to be addressed far earlier than the changes in grading,” Graf said.

Falcon, by virtue of its straw strength and lodging resistance, is generally favoured by growers in areas with higher moisture levels.

The first varieties touted as suitable replacements have been moving through the variety registration system over the past few years.

The earliest, Flourish, was registered in 2010, and certified seed supplies should be available in the fall of 2013.

Distributed through SeCan, Flourish has yield potential similar to Falcon, similar maturity and higher protein.

“Protein content … is quite a bit higher,” said Graf.

“We’re talking almost a percent higher than Falcon and about a quarter of a percent higher than Buteo.”

Also, like Falcon, it has very good resistance to lodging but very poor resistance to fusarium head blight.

Emerson is slightly lower yielding than Falcon but has a much better disease package.

On a prairie-wide basis, its yields were five percent lower than Falcon but resistance to lodging is rated very good and resistance to fusarium is also rated very good.

Emerson will be distributed by Canterra Seeds with commercial seed supplies anticipated next year.

AAC Gateway, another Agriculture Canada variety, was also registered last November.

It has yield potential roughly two percent higher than CDC Falcon, protein levels higher than Emerson and Flourish and maturity slightly earlier than CDC Buteo.

It has good resistance to stem and stripe rust and is rated fair for resistance fusarium head blight.

Gateway will be distributed by Seed Depot.

Graf said Buteo, which offers good resistance to fusarium head blight, is likely to remain popular among prairie growers for several years.

Moats, a variety developed by University of Saskatchewan wheat breeder Brian Fowler, is expected to gain popularity, particularly in Alberta and Saskatchewan, he added.

Moats has a five percent yield advantage over Buteo and slightly higher protein levels.

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