Industry sets research priorities

The Canadian wheat industry has released a new report that sets out a list of goals and research priorities that are aimed at ensuring a more profitable and sustainable future for growers, processors and exporters.

The 20-page report, entitled Canadian Wheat Research Priorities 2017, identifies wheat research priorities under five broadly defined themes that call for higher wheat yields, improved wheat yield reliability, more sustainable cropping systems, continuous improvements in the area of food safety and the production and delivery of wheat products that consistently meet customers’ quality needs.

The report sets out a variety of ambitious goals and measures within those five themes.

Among other things, the report calls for:

  • average Canadian wheat yields to increase by two bushels per acre every five years
  • a 10 percent increase in net returns to farmers that grow wheat
  • a 50 percent reduction in the number of Canadian wheat samples that exceed industry limits for harmful mycotoxins such as deoxynivalenol (DON) and ochratoxin
  • expanded use of wheat varieties that offer moderate resistance to high priority diseases such as fusarium
  • more varieties that offer enhanced nutrient use efficiency
  • development of wheat cultivars that offer improved resistance to insects, drought, heat, cold and excess moisture
  • a 15 percent increase in the number of rotations that include wheat

The report was developed by the Canadian Wheat Research Task Force and released jointly by Cereals Canada and Agriculture Canada.

“The report is the path forward to ensuring that wheat is going to be a profitable crop for all parts of the value chain, from farmers and seed developers up through end users and processors,” said Cam Dahl, executive director of Cereals Canada.

The goals and measures are objectives that “we feel, right now, need to be accomplished in order to have that profitability.”

Dahl said the report and the process used to develop it were unique in that it included representation from across the wheat value chain.

Approximately 40 individuals representing producers, government, wheat industry researchers and private-sector organizations participated in the process.

Broad participation presented challenges in terms of reaching a consensus on priority issues, Dahl said.

However, it also ensured a report that was inclusive and comprehensive, touching all the issues that are key to the industry’s success, he said.

“I’m not going to say that if every objective contained in the report is not met, then all bets are off for wheat in Canada. That’s of course not the case, “ Dahl said.

“But what we wanted to do as an industry was reach a little bit further and help to ensure that Canada is a centre for investment in wheat research and development.”

The report identifies wheat as a critically important crop to Canadian farmers.

Total wheat production in Canada averaged more than 30 million tonnes per year between 2012 and 2016.

During the same period, the crop generated gross farm receipts of approximately $7 billion per year.

At the same time, the industry continues to face challenges.

Although average Canadian wheat yields have increased by 1.4 percent per year since the mid-1990s, domestic acreage has declined by close to 15 percent over the past two decades, largely because of global wheat surpluses, lower prices for high quality wheat and declining farm profits relative to other crops.

The report also cites studies that link a one degree increase in global temperatures with a six percent drop in global wheat production.

Dahl said expanded production in other wheat producing regions has had a significant impact on the economics of producing wheat in Canada.

For that reason, the Canadian industry must use innovation and research to differentiate Canadian wheat.

“It’s not that long ago that (the Black Sea region) only exported about six million tonnes of wheat per year … and now they’re exporting 50 million.”

Ron DePauw, a renowned Canadian wheat breeder, said it is important to assess priorities and identify the steps that are needed to ensure a healthy industry.

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