Producer investment drives wheat and barley success

The WGRF is celebrating 35 years of supporting research

If you like the fact you have a lot of wheat and barley varieties to choose from when you plan out a cropping season, give yourself a pat on the back – you helped make it happen.

Since 1995, the WGRF has invested over $90 million in wheat and barley variety development through partnerships with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) institutions and the three Prairie universities: University of Saskatchewan, University of Manitoba, University of Alberta, and Alberta Agricul­ture and Forestry.

The results speak for themselves with over 88 per cent of CWRS acres, and a whopping 94 per cent of CWAD acres, seeded to WGRF-supported varieties.

“In all, over 200 new varieties of wheat and barley have come out of WGRF-supported programs, offering greater yield gains, better pest and disease resistance, stress tolerance and higher-quality characteristics… and farmers’ bottom lines have benefited,” says WGRF board chair Dave Sefton of Broadview, Saskatchewan.

A return-on-investment study commissioned by WGRF estimated that investment in wheat varietal research is providing producers with a very high return on their investment.

This study calculates that, on average, every producer checkoff dollar invested into wheat varietal research has returned $20.40 in value to the producer. The importance of stable long-term funding, particularly from producers, cannot be overestimated.

“The WGRF is a fantastic supporter of the breeding programs here at CDC,” says Curtis Pozniak, head of the Crop Development Centre’s (CDC) wheat- and durum-breeding program.

“They provide what I think of as the foundation of funding for our breeding programs and that’s allowed us to leverage additional dollars from different levels of government as well as our industry partners.”

He adds that feedback from the industry stakeholders — including farmers and end-users of western Canadian grain — is extremely important because it ensures that plant breeders are developing varieties that address the needs of growers and processors.

Producer-led board helps set breeding priorities “That’s the other nice thing about our relationship with the WGRF,” says Pozniak. “We meet on a yearly basis to discuss breeding targets.

The WGRF board consists of producers from all across Western Canada who can provide input and guidance in terms of setting breeding priorities, so that’s an important role that WGRF plays beyond the funding.”

Approximately $56 million is invested annually in wheat and barley variety development, with taxpayers providing 72 per cent of the funding and producers and the private sector investing the remainder in similar amounts. WGRF is working closely with provincial wheat and barley commissions (associations) to map out a future for continuing producers’ investments.

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