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Bayer plans wheat facility

Construction is expected to begin this year on a new wheat breeding facility near Saskatoon.

Marcus Weidler, head of cereals seeds and traits at Bayer CropScience, says construction of Bayer’s new Canadian wheat breeding facility will begin this year on a 480-acre parcel of land near Pike Lake, Sask., southwest of Saskatoon.

Engineers are in the final stages of planning the facility, which will be a fully equipped breeding station that includes lab facilities for testing wheat quality.

Bayer is already operating a wheat breeding program at Innovation Place in Saskatoon. It was launched 18 months ago and employs eight full-time workers and seasonal staff.

Weidler said the company has one Canadian wheat breeder on staff and is looking to add a senior breeder in the near future.

Bayer has used the program to test germplasm from its other wheat breeding facilities.

“It’s now of course too early to say when we will be able to launch (our first Canadian varieties), but we are bringing in material from our other programs around the world so we have material that’s in different stages,” he said.

“What we have seen are very interesting results so far and the results that we have seen … (support) the strategy that we are pursuing at the moment, (which involves) bringing in material from other places and crossing it with material here in Canada and using this as a starting point (for bringing) new robust lines … here to Canadian

Weidler said investment in wheat breeding programs in Canada must be increased to ensure that wheat production and wheat quality are improved and that Canada remains competitive in global markets.

He said wheat yields must be increased and stabilized to ensure that wheat is a more profitable crop for producers and other industry participants.

Weidler did not attach a dollar figure on Bayer’s new Canadian breeding facility near Saskatoon.

However, he applauded Ottawa’s recent announcement that it intends to update plant breeders’ rights legislation, which will give seed companies more opportunities to collect revenues on new seed varieties.

“We are not giving specific information in an unconsolidated manner, on programs like (this one) in Canada,” Weidler said.

“Companies like ours are investing significantly higher funds into wheat improvement (in Canada) than we would ever be able to get back through the current (PBR) system.”

Weidler said he would like to see a scenario in which Canadian investments in wheat research and varietal development are similar to investments in canola.

Ideally, that situation would see producers, seed companies, academia and government working together to ensure greater gains for all groups.

“We need to find a model to share, ultimately, the … revenues that are generated from (wheat),” he said.

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