New eastern wheat class proposed for specialty varieties

The Canadian Grain Commission is creating a new wheat class for Eastern Canada designed to provide more flexibility for specialty wheat varieties.

Grower organizations, however, are skeptical that the class is necessary.

“Having an extra class, without looking at the whole system we have in place, is difficult to justify in our minds,” said Todd Austin, wheat marketing manager with Grain Farmers of Ontario.

There are 10 classes of Ontario wheat, with about five used for most wheat produced.

“If there is going to be a change we want to add value for producers,” said Austin.

The new class will be called the Canada Eastern Special Purposes and follows on significant changes made to Canadian wheat classes nationally in 2016.

The changes addressed concerns with red spring wheat classes in the West. At the time, there was little call for changes for Eastern Canada.

However, since then, the grain commission said in its consultation document that “a number of wheat varieties currently being brought forward for registration do not meet the quality criteria for the existing eastern wheat classes.

However, there are market opportunities for these varieties which do not meet current wheat class criteria but exhibit special or unique characteristics.”

There is already a Western Special Purposes class for similar use as the proposed eastern class.

The new class would have no quality parameters, but would require disease and agronomic data and include varieties that do not fit within the parameters of any other Canadian eastern wheat class.

The goal is to have the class implemented by July 1, 2018.

Joanna Follings, cereals specialist with the Ontario agriculture ministry, used the example of purple wheat. If at some point someone wanted to grow purple wheat in Ontario and there was an end user interested, then it would fit within this new class.

“It will not have a huge impact on Ontario wheat production,” said Follings.

Grain Farmers of Ontario is concerned that the new class could be a dumping ground for wheat that doesn’t meet other classifications, said Austin.

“The last thing we want is a number of new varieties that aren’t marketable,” he said, adding that it is important that there are end users for new varieties.

Austin said he can see where the requests for a new class originate. There are some varieties that don’t fit within the current quality parameters of the 10 classes.

“Seed companies spend time coming up with new varieties of wheat,” said Austin. “If they don’t fit in the pigeon holes we have now, where will they fit?

The industry has some concerns around logistics of how a specialty wheat would fit into the elevator system, for example.

Some of the specialty wheat crops will need to be segregated.

“Elevators don’t have unlimited segregation abilities,” said Austin.

The situation could call for the development of identity preservation systems for specialty wheat similar to IP systems for soybeans.

The grain commission is consulting with the wheat industry in Eastern Canada until May 20. It is accepting input at www.grainscanada.gc.ca/consultations /2017/ewcm-en-17.htm.

Grain Farmers of Ontario is planning to make a submission before the May 20 deadline.

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