Canada is inching closer to the kind of wheat quality that could give it an edge in the lucrative Asian noodle markets.
The Wheat, Rye and Triticale Registration Recommending Committee granted approval for an interim registration Feb. 24 to a Hard White Spring wheat line developed by Gavin Humphreys, a wheat breeder with the federal Cereal Research Centre in Winnipeg.
The one-year interim registration would allow Humphreys to produce pedigreed seed from the variety, even though it needs to go through one more year of co-op testing before receiving final approval.
Backed by strong support from quality evaluators, Humphreys asked the committee to set aside the usual protocols to allow pedigreed seed production to begin for the line HW-024, so test marketing can occur with potential customers.
“In May I was approached by the Canadian Wheat Board to advance this line in a more aggressive fashion,” Humphreys told the committee. “It’s not even out yet, but the Japanese millers are getting quite excited about it.”
A decade ago, CWHRS plant breeders ran afoul of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency by ramping up seed production before the variety was registered. That contravened the Canada Seeds Act, which says a variety must be registered before it can be sold by name or for anything other than animal feed. An entire year’s seed production had to be sold into the livestock market, a debacle Humphreys wants to avoid.
Humphreys acknowledged concerns expressed about the variety’s agronomic and disease resistance. It’s yield isn’t as good as Snowstar, particularly in Manitoba, although it outyielded the other variety in Saskatchewan.
“The real advantage of this variety is that it has much, much stronger gluten than its predecessor Snowstar,” Humphreys said.
WORK IN PROGRESS
Graham Worden, the Canadian Wheat Board’s senior manager of technical services, and member of the committee’s quality evaluation team, said the Hard White Spring wheat class is a work in progress and can’t be expected in its early stages to achieve the same degree of resistance as Canada Western Red Spring wheat.
The CWRS class is turning 40 years old August 1 and it was able to piggyback on the Hard Red Spring class that came before it.
“There is 70 years of breeding gone into improving the CWRS class,” Worden said. “We are developing a new class of wheat here. It’s going to take a few generations to get up to the full agronomic and disease package that we’ve seen in the CWRS class.”
There are only three varieties of CWHWS grown less than 200,000 acres in Western Canada, compared to about 60 CWRS varieties produced on about 15 million acres. The long list of Red Spring wheat varieties allows farmers to choose the ones that are best suited to their local environments, while ensuring the standard quality for the class is maintained.
“We have so few white wheats that we’re trying to force some of these white wheats into regions that perhaps they are not well adapted for,” Worden said. “We need that fundamental core of varieties in our system of white wheats.”
As the market develops, the list of available varieties will grow, and so will the genetics that make those varieties more attractive to a wide base of acres.
“But quality is a key thing because if customers don’t want it, then farmers aren’t going to get the price that they want for it,” he said.
The new variety addresses many of the concerns customers have had with the existing registered varieties, such as Snowbird and Kanata. “We’ve been desperate for the past few years to try and get some improvements into the Hard White class,” Worden said.
It has a superior dough strength, which not only will improve its usefulness in producing multi-grain breads, but in producing the type of noodle used in key Asian markets, including Taiwan, parts of Japan and Indonesia. “This line seems to have those properties as well.”
OODLES OF NOODLES
David Hatcher, a research scientist with the Canadian Grain Commission, said Hard White Spring wheats varieties are of particular interest in countries such as that prefer what are known as yellow alkaline noodles as opposed to the Udon noodles favoured in parts of Japan and North America.
“Gluten strength is important to the overall texture of the noodle,” he said.
Hatcher noted 50 per cent of Canadian wheat exports go to Asia, and of that, 40 per cent are used for noodle production. Processors would prefer to be able to use the same type of wheat for both bread and noodle production, a flexibility Hard White Spring wheat can provide.
“It’snoteven outyet,butthe Japanesemillers aregettingquite excitedaboutit.”
– GAVIN HUMPHREYS, AAFC