CGC’s new wheat class reform proposals not carved in stone

Officials explained the reasons for proposed changes and unveiled some 
revisions made after meeting with wheat breeders in Banff last week

The Canadian Grain Commission’s (CGC) proposed overhaul of Canada’s wheat class system is truly a work in progress.

The CGC released its proposal in a discussion paper Feb. 20 but just last week revised the check varieties it wants used in CWRS and CPS registration trials and in the proposed new class for weaker gluten strength milling wheats. The change came after in-camera meetings with wheat breeders and the Prairie Recommending Committee for Wheat, Rye and Triticale’s (PRCWRT) wheat quality evaluation team during the committee’s annual meeting here. There could be more revisions before the April 20 deadline the CGC has set for comments on the proposals.

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Recent customer complaints about weaker gluten strength wheat in the CWRS class, as well as increased interest in high-yielding, unregistered American milling wheats, motivated the CGC to make changes to serve customers and farmers better.

“Our first key element of course is we want to improve and protect the quality and consistency of CWRS,” Dave Hatcher, the CGC’s program manager for wheat enzymes and Asian products told the PRCWRT.

“One, we listened and heard very clearly from producers saying they wanted other opportunities. Two, we heard from marketers saying, ‘well, yes we want new opportunities as well and a new milling class will provide for that.’ So, I know it’s kind of hard to believe but the government does listen and this is exactly what we are proposing.”

Bakers want consistency in gluten strength so they don’t have to adjust their equipment to get the same loaf batch after batch.

Weaker varieties

The CGC blames a combination of factors for weaker gluten strength in the CWRS class, including increased production of three varieties at the bottom end of acceptable strength — Unity, Lillian and Harvest — which several years ago accounted for about 33 per cent of the class (now 22 per cent) and poor weather.

Even though some customers complain about weaker CWRS gluten strength, there are markets for those milling wheats. And some, including the American wheats Faller and Prosper, which last week were recommended for a three-year interim registration, are high yielding and popular with farmers.

“The folks who we have spoken to want to legitimize this so they can market their product,” Randy Dennis, the CGC’s chief grain inspector told the meeting.

“The CGC is responsible for quality assurance (for grain) in Canada,” he said. “We take that responsibility very seriously. We want to ensure Canadian grain that is used domestically and exported is safe, it’s usable for the product that’s expected and there’s a continued demand in the market for it.”

New specs

The proposed new class doesn’t have a name, but the CGC has proposed the specifications.

“The cultivars will have good milling quality,” Hatcher said. “That’s critical. They will have good water absorption, but the key attribute which will differentiate them is the lower gluten strength from both CPS red and CWRS.”

The CGC’s proposal aims to address the demand for more variety flexibility, while preserving and improving the integrity of the existing CWRS class.

The CGC proposes the tighter specifications for wheats in the CWRS and CPS (Red) classes apply not only to new varieties coming through the registration process but also retroactively, Hatcher said. That means varieties currently in those classes could get moved to other classes, including the proposed new class.

The CGC will review existing varieties and if it suspects they don’t fit based on the new parameters the CGC will write the variety’s owner explaining they have the option, at their own expense, to put the variety in quality evaluation trials at six sites for two years, Hatcher said. The CGC will cover the cost of the quality analysis. The data will be reviewed after the first year giving the owner the option to drop the second year of testing if the variety isn’t meeting the specifications. If the data supports it that variety can be moved to a different class.

“The transition of existing varieties into a different class will be managed very carefully,” Hatcher stressed.

About the author

Reporter

Allan Dawson

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.

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