The Co-op is focusing on two areas, quality varieties and a dependable feed stock for end users. WFGD is not only trying to develop varieties that are beneficial for farmers by having disease resistance and high yield to achieve higher returns on farm, the program is also focused on providing end users with a dependable feed stock. Very few breeding programs/companies are focused on primary producers as well as domestic feed end users but WFGD that it is important to address the concerns of both parties and attempt to breed lines that meet their needs.
The size of this breeding program allows for the flexibility of realigning priorities as the needs of primary producers and end users change. WFGD feels that this is another characteristic that provides an advantage over larger competing breeding programs as modifications to the breeding activities can be made in a timely manner to adapt to the needs of the industries. The Co-op program is unlike other wheat breeding programs as it is not limited by class and quality. The Co-op is combining materials that “class-specific breeders” would not consider as parents and is conducting germplasm development in a traditional, cost effective manner. The advantage to the traditional approach taken by the Co-op is that funds are spent on large nurseries instead of spending dollars on expensive technologies such as double haploid thus creating a greater chance of finding unique individuals within the nurseries.
WFGD Co-op has recently assessed the breeding objectives of the program and has concluded that a breeding program focused on a short term objective of developing high yielding (40% higher than the best Hard Red Spring varieties), fusarium head blight resistant general purpose wheat varieties is still needed in Western Canada to compete with corn, as a lower risk, lower production cost alternative for feed in the Canadian Prairies. The long term objective of the Co-op is to increase yield to 10 MT/hectare by 2020. This objective will be achieved through breeding and the addition of agronomic optimization trials which will test agronomic interactions of advanced lines by various fertilizer rates, seeding rates, seeding dates, and fungicide applications.
Small adjustments to the program have been made, increasing the emphasis on yield, while still emphasizing disease resistance levels required by the PGDC for variety registration.The program’s emphasis shifts from stringent disease screening to screening for yield and disease equally, meeting the requirement for registration for disease with an optimum yield on new varieties. The WFGD Co-op is also screening lines in numerous trial locations throughout the Prairies to gain agronomic data to assist the Co-op in selecting wheat lines adapted to specific areas. This will allow WFGD to identify varieties that are high yield in different environments, with different maturity levels, to provide varieties to more farmers. Starch content will also be screened for. Combining this approach could result in high starch wheat lines that can be grown in the areas around ethanol production facilities, as starch content is an important factor in ethanol production and would be attractive for contracting by ethanol production facilities.
The WFGD Co-op is developing general purpose spring wheat lines to directly benefit Western Canadian Grain Producers and the Canadian Grain and Feed Industries. The Co-op has made significant gains to yield and disease resistance in the past eight years and will continue to in the future.
What sets the Co-op apart from other breeding programs is that the WFGD has been able to achieve the genetic advancement to date on a very modest budget by optimizing resources much like our farmer members. The Co-op’s breeding program may be a small program in size but the accomplishments to date can match some larger competing companies in that support from the PRCWRT was received on one general purpose wheat class variety in February 2013. WFT 603 Breeder seed is currently being multiplied in a winter nursery in the USA and will be available for distribution to Seed Growers in 2014 and commercial distribution in the Spring of 2015. The WFGD Coop has two more advanced lines, WFT 736 and WFT 805 in second year General Coop Testing trials and a request for support will be submitted to the PRCWRT in February 2015 with distribution of seed to Seed Growers in 2015 and commercial distribution in the Spring of 2016.
The research and development for this project will be conducted by Ag-Quest Inc ( www.agquest.com ) . Ag-Quest Inc., a contract agricultural research company, will be hired to conduct all research for this wheat breeding project. Ag-Quest will be subcontracted to lower costs, eliminating the need for full-time R&D employees and purchasing specialized equipment for this project. Ag-Quest has completed all research and development to date for WFGD Co-op to date and their experience and expertise will prove to be beneficial throughout this project. Ag-Quest has four research stations across Canada, Minto and Elm Creek Manitoba, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and Taber, Alberta. Research trials can be conducted at these four locations with additional sites locally at each station. Ag-Quest is contracted by the WFGD Board of Directors. No long term contract exists between WFGD Co-op and Ag-Quest and it is at the Board’s discretion how best to conduct the research in the most cost-effective manner.