Canada’s first fusarium head-blight resistant wheat variety survived a baptism by fire this summer, which explains why demand for its seed exceeds the available supply.
Emerson winter wheat is the first variety to achieve the “R” rating for resistance to fusarium.
The level of fusarium head blight infection affecting winter wheat crops in Manitoba in 2014 was more than three times higher than the 10-year average, a survey by Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (MAFRD) found.
“What we’re seeing so far this year it does look like it (Emerson) has less visual symptoms than in some of the other fields we’ve been in,” said Pam de Rocquigny, MAFRD’s cereal with specialist. “Obviously that’s going to be one more tool for producers in terms of managing or mitigating fusarium head blight. The other benefit is it has higher protein as well.”
Farmers are anxious to give it a try.
“What we’re hearing is right now the demand is far exceeding the supply,” Brent Derkatch, Canterra Seeds’ director of operations and business development, said in an interview Aug. 28.
Farmers who want to plant Emerson this fall should contact their local Canterra Seed supplier or check the company’s website.
“If at the end of the day farmers can’t access seed this year they need to get on a list for next year because seed growers need to plan in advance,” Derkatch said. “That helps both the seed grower and the farmer-customer ensure there are good supplies going into next year.”
Based on early samples, Canterra Seeds is happy with how Emerson performed this year, Derkatch said.
“It’s sort of being in the right place at the right time for this variety because you have (CDC) Falcon moving to the general purpose class a few weeks ago and you have a high fusarium pressure year so it’s getting a lot of attention, which is very positive,” he said. “I think we’ll have enough seed for around 200,000 acres this year.”
Manitoba farmers enrolled in crop insurance said they seeded 380,000 acres of winter wheat last fall. Of those 210,512 acres was seeded to Flourish and 94,562 to CDC Falcon.
CDC Falcon accounted for 30.5 per cent of Manitoba’s winter wheat acres in 2013-14. It once held 70 per cent of the market.
Flourish, which was commercialized last year, and now Emerson, are seen as CDC Falcon replacements.
AAC Gateway, which will be commercialized next fall, is also a potential CDC Falcon replacement, de Rocquigny said. It’s rated “I” or Intermediate for fusarium head blight tolerance.
Both Derkatch and de Rocquigny stressed Emerson’s “R” rating doesn’t mean the variety is totally resistant to fusarium. In years of heavy infestations, some plants could be infected.
“It is a very dramatic improvement over a lot of varieties but it’s not bullet proof,” Derkatch said. “We’re certainly encouraging best management practices as it relates to controlling fusarium in Emerson just like any other wheat variety.”
Those include higher seeding rates to encourage even maturity making it easier to time a fungicide application to protect the crop, and planting treated seed.
Emerson yields as much as CDC Falcon but produces one per cent more protein, making it better for milling, de Rocquigny said.
Emerson is about four inches taller, but is rated high for lodging tolerance.
“I haven’t heard of any push back, or limited uptake, as a result of it being eight to 10 cm taller,” Derkatch said. “We’ve had a couple of weeks of winter wheat harvest, particularly in eastern Manitoba, and the samples are starting to speak for themselves.”
Farmers who buy Emerson seed will be required to sign a ‘Seed Purchase Commitment’ form, Derkatch said. All it does is re-state existing Plant Breeders’ Rights rules. Farmers can save seed from the crop they grow for their own use, but cannot sell it for seed.
Farmers help pay for new varieties through checkoffs, but it’s not enough to get the innovation required, he added.
“That’s why the royalties built into seed prices today are very important so we can bring more Emersons forward,” Derkatch said.