Canterra expands research program to include independent registration trials

Variety development Company says its new program will allow it to test five times as many crop varieties in 2014 as it did last year

Canterra Seeds is undergoing a major expansion of its research and development program in 2014, including conducting its own variety registration trials for the first time.

The company has discovered its screening program is generating more promising lines than can be tested in the public co-op trials, so it plans to run its own registration trials using an approved protocol.

“We can’t only test a handful of varieties in the traditional co-op trials because we’d be leaving so much on the side,” said Erin Armstrong, Canterra’s director of research and product development.

Canterra works with international crop breeding companies to screen their lines and find out which ones are suitable for Western Canada.

Armstrong said the company has 10 wheat breeding partners. She declined to name the companies except for Limagrain, the world’s fourth largest seed company, which signed an agreement with Canterra in July 2012.

Canterra plans to test more material and broaden the scope of its prairie-wide trials by working with earlier generation material in addition to varieties that are at or near the finish line.

“We are set for some dramatic changes in our research program in both scope and depth,” said Armstrong.

“In 2014, we will be testing five times as many potential varieties as in 2013, including a significant amount of material from the very early stages of varietal development.”

The screening program that has been running since 2007 will evaluate thousands of lines this year versus hundreds only a couple of years ago.

Canterra focuses on cereals, primarily spring and winter wheat, but it also evaluates other crops like dry beans and flax.

Six registered varieties have come through Canterra’s program, comprising one wheat, two oat and three dry bean varieties.

The next one to hit the market will be CS Camden, an oat variety due out in the fall of 2015 followed by new wheat lines in 2016.

Armstrong said the varieties are screened for agronomic performance and disease packages but also quality attributes.

“We always consider that we have two sets of customers — we have farmers but we also have end users,” she said.

The company doesn’t do its own breeding. The material for the screening program comes from international breeding programs.

“That’s what we feel is our advantage is that we have this additional stream and this additional source of extreme diversity that we can look at to find the best varieties for the growers in Western Canada,” said Armstrong.

The company also licenses the rights to varieties from governments and universities that have already gone through the registration process.

Those public program varieties are sold to growers and used as comparisons along with check varieties when testing lines from the private breeding companies.

Armstrong said Canterra will soon have a robust pipeline of new varieties for growers. She is particularly excited about upcoming spring and winter wheat varieties.

“We’ve seen some very, very promising material,” said Armstrong.

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