Prairie grain growers will soon have access to new winter wheat varieties that offer higher yield potential, better disease resistance and improved end-use quality.
Rob Graf, a winter wheat breeder with Agriculture Canada in Lethbridge, told farmers in Saskatoon during Crop Production Week that new varieties are working their way through the pipeline and will soon be available to commercial producers.
Five new varieties have been registered in Western Canada since 2008, including three from Graf’s program in Lethbridge and two from Brian Fowler’s program at the University of Saskatchewan.
Those varieties — Moats, Flourish, Emerson, Chase and AAC Gateway — produce select quality grain and are targeted at high-quality milling markets.
A sixth variety, AAC Elevate, is expected to be registered within the next few weeks.
Graf said newer varieties usually have improved yield potential, higher protein content, reduced straw height and improved standability.
Major gains have also been made in terms of disease resistance.
“There’s no doubt that across the board, we have improved disease resistance,” he said.
Only three of the five new varieties — Moats, Flourish and Emerson — are available to commercial growers.
The others are in various stages of multiplication but should become available within the next year or two.
Certified supplies of AAC Gateway, a replacement for Falcon, should be available this fall, Graf said.
Gateway yields are equal to Falcon or slightly higher, with better straw strength, slightly larger seed size and intermediate resistance to fusarium headblight.
“Where this line really excelled was in its protein content,” said Graf.
“We’re seeing a big bump in protein content, about a percent higher (than Falcon).”
Winter wheat acreage has dropped significantly in Western Canada over the past two years.
Disease pressure and difficult growing conditions, including an extremely cold winter in 2013-14 and an extremely late, wet harvest last fall, have affected production.
Fusarium was widespread in winter wheat crops last year in almost all growing areas.
Some of the newer Canada Western Red Winter varieties did not stand up well against fusarium, but new varieties with improved resistance are working their way through the system, Graf said.
Emerson is the variety by which all others are currently measured for fusarium resistance. It became available as certified seed last fall, while Gateway is expected to offer an improvement over other varieties.
“If you’re looking for a variety (with improved resistance) and much the same stature as a Falcon or a Flourish, then Gateway will probably be the one,” Graf said.
“It’s not as good as Emerson (for FHB resistance), but it is certainly … a step forward.”
CDC Chase, developed by Fowler and distributed by Canterra, is another new variety soon to enter the marketplace. It is considered a potential replacement for CDC Buteo and Radiant.
Limited quantities of certified seed should be available next year.
CDC Chase showed a six percent yield advantage over Buteo in controlled trials, and yielded 109 percent of Buteo in Saskatchewan trials.
Graf’s newest variety, AAC Elevate, also shows a significant yield advantage over Buteo, which is the CWRW check.
Prairie-wide yields for Elevate were nine percent higher than Buteo in pre-registration trials.
The variety offers moderate resistance to stem rust and bunt and intermediate resistance to leaf rust stripe rust and fusarium.
Seed size is large at 37 to 39 grams per 1,000 seeds.
“It’s big,” Graf said. “The hope is that this will also translate to better and bigger in the field and better establishment. It is bigger so you will have to bump up (seeding rates).”
Elevate is licensed to SeCan, but certified supplies will not be available for a few years.
Graf said other promising new lines are making their way through the pre-registration trial system, although difficult growing conditions have taken their toll on seed production in the co-op system.
Winter kill affected production at several trial sites last winter. In addition, some of the trial sites that survived the winter and produced a crop were affected by wet harvest conditions, which resulted in sprouting and other seed quality problems.
Graf said the loss of trial data and reduced seed production could delay registration of some promising lines, although he is hoping the best material can still be brought forward for registration support this year.
Lisa Nemeth, a market development specialist with the Canadian International Grains Institute, said end-users already recognize the outstanding milling quality of select CWRW varieties.
Stability of supplies is a more pressing marketing concern, she added.
End-use quality could be improved by increasing water absorption of CWRW varieties.
“When a bakery can add water, they’re adding a free ingredient,” Nemeth said.
“They look at that as a real bonus.”