On paper that new wheat or barley variety looks like a winner — but how’s it actually going to perform under real-life conditions?
That’s the question federal and provincial crop researchers working at the Brandon Research and Development Centre (BRDC) are hoping to contribute to with a host of ongoing variety trials at their 2,500-acre facility, part of the national testing program for crop varieties.
On August 3 they opened their doors to producers and the public to give a first-hand view of their work.
“By the time we are done our three years of testing entries, we normally run between 30 and 40 site years of data for each variety, so that usually gives a good idea to seed growers and producers how the varieties will perform in Manitoba,” said Patti Rothenburger, manager of research with Manitoba Agriculture.
The BRDC is one of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s national network of 20 research and development centres and is home to a cereals quality lab that provides end-use quality testing for cereal breeders.
“Our oat-breeding program is funded by a consortium of millers and seed growers and they are mainly interested in milling oat cultivars, so that is what the main focus of our breeding program is here,” said Jennifer Mitchell Fetch, oat breeder with BRCD.
Currently there are five different oat programs at the centre: the Western Cooperative Oat Registration Trial (WCORT), the Eastern Cooperative Oat Registration Trial (ECORT), Manitoba Crop Variety Evaluation Trials (MCVET), Northern Collaborative Oat Research Enterprise trials and the Quaker International Oat Nursery.
Mitchell Fetch, who conducts the WCORT, explains that every oat in Western Canada has to go through this trial in order to be registered with CFIA and commercially marketed.
“We grow these in about 19 locations across Canada. The eastern locations are more for the seed marketers to have observation sites but we report the data at the Prairie Grain Development Committee meeting in February every year,” Mitchell Fetch said. “All of the evaluation teams look at the data and decide which cultivars can be moved forward to request registration from CFIA.”
The WCORT runs for two years and also conducts disease and quality evaluations.
Mitchell Fetch says producers are generally most interested in the MCVET trials as these are varieties that are currently available to them.
“The MCVET trials are the commercially available cultivars. They are available and something that producers could purchase from the seed marketers and use on their farm immediately,” Mitchell Fetch said.
She adds that over the past few years, researchers are seeing more lines coming out of Eastern Canada.
The MCVET Oat Trial includes six varieties that were seeded on May 19, CS Camden, CDC Norseman, Leggett, Kara, Akina, and AAC Nicholas.
“CS Camden is high yielding, a bit shorter and stands quite nicely. It is susceptible to stem rust and moderately susceptible to crown rust, which is a concern in Manitoba because of our humid environment,” Mitchell Fetch said.
She notes that researchers currently don’t know a lot about the Kara and Akina varieties but are monitoring adaptation and are hopeful they have good milling potential.
“AAC Nicholas is from the Ottawa breeding program and it is a very high yielder in the Ontario growing environment, so we are interested to see if it will do well here in Western Canada as well.”
BRDC has five wheat trials on the go this summer: the Central Bread Wheat Co-op Trial, the Canada Northern Hard Wheat Registration Trial, the Hard White Wheat Western Co-op Trial and two MCVET wheat trials.
Andrew Burt, wheat breeder with BRDC, says in the Hard White Wheat Registration trial researchers are focusing on getting plant height down and improving standability and threshability.
“This market class is still a developing one, but I think that we are making a lot of gains in it,” Burt said. “The highlight in this program right now is that there are several lines in the second year that have carrying midge resistance, which if those proceed, will be the first hard white wheat lines to be registered with that trait.”
There are currently three breeders contributing to this project and, including checks, the trial consists of 25 lines.
In the first set of MCVET wheat trials, there are 14 varieties being tested, including Glenn, Carberry, AAC Prevail, AAC Cameron VB, AAC Jatharia VB, AAC Tradition, SY479 VB, CDC Bradwell, AAC W1876, AAC Connery, Thorsby, AAC Viewfield, BW496, and AAC Redberry.
Santosh Kumar, bread wheat breeder with BRDC says if you are looking for quality, the quality committee has marked the Glenn variety as the highest standard for gluten strength.
“Glenn is the highest standard for gluten strength in the class. It is an excellent line, still widely grown, with very good fusarium resistance,” Kumar said.
He notes that the Carberry variety is the most widely grown line and holds good resistance to fusarium but is at the lower end of the quality class, according to the grain commission.
For those looking for straw for cattle, Kumar suggests AAC Cameron VB.
“AAC Cameron VB is a BRDC line and it has good leaf rust resistance. It is a bit taller but very good for those who want to have some straw for cattle,” Kumar said.
Rothenburger points out that none of the MCVET trials are sprayed with a fungicide.
“We are really wanting to test the genetic potential and genetic resistance of varieties throughout the environments that they are grown in over the years,” Rothenburger said. “We want to know how they will perform before additional protection is added. Then anything the producer wants to apply will be an added layer of protection.”