Funding deal will speed research into disease, pest resistant durum

The University of Saskatchewan’s Crop Development Centre has announced another major funding agreement to support its plant breeding programs.

CDC has signed a multi-year funding agreement with the Sask-atchewan Wheat Development Commission and SeCan.

The deal will see SaskWheat and SeCan commit as much as $3.5 million in cash and in-kind contributions over 10 years.

The funding will support durum breeding efforts at the CDC and be aimed at improving early screening and selection activities, ex-panding varietal testing capacity, enhancing genomics capacity and speeding the development of new durum varieties that offer better yields, improved disease packages and pest resistance.

A key component of the funding will focus on developing and commercializing new durum varieties with improved fusarium resistance.

It is expected that the deal will result in expanded testing capacity for promising new durum lines and the establishment of additional fusarium nursery capacity in the province.

In exchange, SaskWheat and SeCan will secure a portion of royalties on an undetermined number of yet-to-be-registered CDC durum varieties.

The deal will involve no more than 50 percent of the new durum varieties produced by the CDC during the term of the deal.

SaskWheat has committed $200,000 per year for the first five years of the deal and has an option to renew the deal for an additional five years. That translates into a total commitment of $1 to $2 million over the next five to 10 years.

Details of SeCan’s commitment are still being finalized, but general manager Jeff Reid said it will involve in-kind support.

“Some of the exact details in terms of financial contributions versus in-kind are still to be worked out, and a lot of that will be based on the needs of the program itself,” said Reid.

“One thing we want to do at SeCan is provide some additional research capacity on the Regina Plains, where  a good portion of the durum is grown in Saskatchewan. There probably has been less testing capacity there than what’s really required so … certainly a good portion SeCan’s contribution is going to be involved in developing that testing capacity.”

SaskWheat chair Bill Gehl said the CDC deal is important for Sask-atchewan producers, who normally produce 80 to 90 percent of the country’s durum.

He said fusarium is a huge issue affecting durum growers, along with pest related losses caused by the wheat stem sawfly and the orange blossom wheat midge.

The development of fusarium resistant durum varieties is still a few years away, but varieties with improved pest resistance are already in the pipeline and could be among the new cultivars in-volved in the deal.

New varieties with improved pest tolerance should be available very quickly, he added.

“It’s kind of nice to be part of something that’s going to be so close to producers’ bottom lines,” he said.

“There’s been a lot of projects that we’ve invested in that are 10, 15, 20 years out, but this is going to pay fruits in less the five years.”

SaskWheat’s funding commitment comes as producer groups across Western Canada look for ways to maximize their returns on research aimed at plant breeding and varietal development.

Wheat and barley commissions recently commissioned a report that looked at different investment models to determine how farmers could get the best return for their investment dollars.

One of the models being discussed is a farmer funded and directed cereal breeding program.

Another is a continuation of the status quo with greater co-ordination between provincial cereal grain commissions.

Under the terms of the deal, SeCan and SaskWheat will share 20 percent of the royalties from the varieties involved in the deal.

SaskWheat will secure an additional 10 percent of royalties on all CDC durum varieties developed during the deal.

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