An identity-preserved production contract a Manitoba company is offering for the U.S. wheat variety Faller this spring could be a sign of things to come as Canada’s variety registration system faces unprecedented pressures for change.
Farmers selling Faller, a high-yielding, lower-protein, unregistered American spring milling wheat, would normally get a feed wheat price.
But those who grow it this spring under an identity-preserved (IP) program offered by the Seed Depot in Pilot Mound will earn the same top dollar as wheat in the premier Canada Western Red Spring (CWRS) class, says Seed Depot president John Smith.
At least one grain company will offer a Faller IP program in 2013 with seed coming exclusively from Seed Depot and there could be more, Smith, who owns the Canadian distribution rights for the variety, said in an interview Feb. 22.
“This is the only legal way to sell certified Faller seed prior to Canadian registration. We are pleased that there is enough flexibility within the current system to allow this,” he said.
Faller yields 15 to 20 per cent more than Glenn, an American milling wheat registered in Western Canada’s CWRS class.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has approved the Faller IP program because Seed Depot will enter the variety into Western Canada’s variety registration trials this spring, Smith said.
It’s illegal to import Faller wheat seed from United States into Western Canada for the purpose of growing it, an official from the Canadian Food Inspection agency said in an email.
It’s also illegal for American seed growers, or ordinary farmers, to sell Faller seed to Canadian farmers who want to grow it, said Dale Zetocha, executive director of the NDSU Research Foundation, which developed Faller.
The Faller IP program is a harbinger of changes expected for Western Canada’s wheat variety registration system. Some of them, including making it easier to register American wheats while protecting Canada’s reputation for having the world’s highest-quality milling wheat, were on the Prairie Grain Development Committee’s (PGDC) agenda in Saskatoon this week. Observers predicted it would be a watershed event.
The PGDC consists of experts in plant diseases, agronomy and end-use quality who recommend whether new varieties of wheat, and a number of other crops, should be registered.
The contention is around milling wheat. Some western Canadian farmers say they should be able to grow, without penalty, what they believe to be higher-yielding wheats from the United States. But others warn that could undermine Canada’s brand.
It’s not illegal to grow or sell an unregistered wheat but farmers must declare the variety when they deliver to an elevator. Unregistered varieties receive the lowest grade.
Only a couple of American wheats — the most recent being Glenn — are registered in Western Canada. Often rejected varieties fail to meet the strict Canadian milling and baking standards.
Pressure for reform has been building, but came into sharper focus after the Canadian Wheat Board’s sales monopoly ended last Aug. 1.
Last spring the grain industry reached a consensus that Canada’s premier wheat classes — CWRS and Canada Western Amber durum — should be preserved, but also agreed quality standards in the Canada Prairie Spring (CPS) class should be broadened making it easier to register American milling wheats. The PGDC was expected to discuss the idea, along with other reforms, including possibly cutting the number of years to two from three before a new wheat is considered for registration.
Smith said he’s counting on changes to the CPS class to get Faller registered.
“But we need to remember a certain percentage of the market still wants the higher quality,” he said.
“It’s important to keep our higher classes of wheat because if we lose that we will lose some of the best markets for Canadian wheat.”
Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation data show Faller averaged 65.6 bushels on 12,901 acres last year. That’s 26 per cent higher than the 52 bushels an acre Glenn averaged across the province. Glenn was Manitoba’s most popular wheat in 2012 insured on more than 398,000 acres.
The highest-yielding registered CWRS wheat in Manitoba last year was CDC GO at 56 bushels an acre.
Yield potential is Faller’s main advantage, but it also has less protein than most CRWS wheats, something potential growers need to consider, Smith stressed.
“For sure if traditional protein premiums came back into play there’s less of an advantage to the variety,” he said.