Barley growers agree to fund U of S research

The Canadian Barley Research Coalition has signed a new $2.7 million breeding agreement with the University of Saskatchewan’s Crop Development Centre.

Under the new deal, the CRBC will invest $2.7 million worth of producer funding to the CDC over five years, with the money going toward the development of new barley varieties with improved agronomic, disease resistance and end-use quality characteristics.

The CBRC is a prairie-wide coalition that supports barley research and breeding initiatives. The CBRC consists of the Saskatchewan Barley Development Commission (SaskBarley), Alberta Barley and Manitoba Crop Alliance, formerly known as the Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers Association.

CBRC interim chair Jason Skotheim, who also serves as chair of SaskBarley, said the CBRC was formed so that provincial barley commissions could negotiate breeding agreements collectively and manage producer check-off dollars more efficiently.

The collective approach eliminates the need for the CDC to meet with the three provincial barley commissions individually. It also supports a more collaborative approach to identifying barley breeding and research priorities.

“When we initially brought forward the CBRC, this was one of the fundamental reasons — to have one organization that looked after the core (barley) breeding agreements with the CDC and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada,” Skotheim said.

Over the past few decades, CDC barley breeders have developed several outstanding barley varieties for the malting, feed and forage sectors.

Promising malt barley varieties developed by the CDC such as CDC Bow and CDC Fraser are gaining traction among brewers, but large-scale uptake on new varieties is typically a slow process.

“They (the CDC) have been putting out fantastic new varieties and we need to make sure that they don’t lose that capacity…,” said Skotheim.

“As an industry, we’re going to continue working on that other end of the supply chain to see if we can get a faster turn on varieties and hopefully get things to the point where the new varieties they are producing have greater adoption.”

The last round of producer funding provided to the CDC barley breeding program resulted in the registration of two new malting barley varieties, one new feed variety and one new hulless variety.

CBRC funding over the next five years is expected to result in the registration of three additional varieties that will deliver major benefits to western Canadian farmers, the organization said.

CDC barley breeder Aaron Beattie said producer investments in CDC plant breeding activities have helped create new markets and opportunities for barley growers in Saskatchewan and across Western Canada.

“We are very pleased with the long-term funding from the CBRC and appreciate the confidence they have in our program,” he said.

Beattie said the new funding agreement with the CBRC represents a significant portion of the barley breeding program’s overall budget.

“This is long-term funding for us, so it gives us some breathing room and some flexibility to make plans going out a little bit further, which is really key to a breeding program.”

Beattie and Skotheim said Western Canada’s new malt barley crop is expected to come off in good shape this year with ample supplies.

Domestic maltsters should have no problem finding top-quality barley to meeting their domestic processing needs.

“Quality should be quite good this year,” said Beattie.

“In terms of domestic use and even exports to China, I think we’ll probably have quite a nice crop for both of those markets.”

The CBRC has yet to finalize a new core barley breeding agreement with Agriculture Canada.

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