Richard Cuthbert hopes HW388, his new Canada Western Hard White Spring (CWHWS) wheat will stimulate renewed interest in the class among western Canadian farmers.
The Prairie Recommending Committee for Wheat, Rye and Triticale (PRCWRT) recommended HW388 for registration at its annual meeting in Winnipeg Mar. 2.
“It is an improvement in all aspects for a hard white cultivar,” Cuthbert, an Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada wheat breeder at Swift Current, Sask. said in an interview following the meeting. “It is kind of a Carberry type for height and straw strength.”
(Carberry is a red spring wheat in the Canada Western Red Spring class.)
“It has lower DON (mycotoxin) accumulation in the grain based on FHB (fusarium head blight) nursery data. It is probably an intermediate level of resistance so farmers are still going to need to manage it with fungicides in Manitoba and the more susceptible areas. But it is definitely better than the old hard whites that have been available so far.”
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That includes hard white spring wheats such as Whitehawk and Iceberg, Cuthbert said.
“That might be why farmers haven’t been attracted to them,” he added. “This is a little better plant type — higher yielding. The disease package is quite good for the hard whites. The only negative there, is common bunt — it is a little bit on the susceptible side. You can deal with that with the seed treatment.
“The (PRCWRT) quality evaluation team really liked it and supported the line. I think HW388, as a package, could be a major improvement for the hard white class and it may lead to better uptake and market access for farmers.”
CWHWS is a minor western Canadian wheat class, accounting for just 48,417 crop-insured acres across all of Western Canada in 2013, according to statistics gathered by the Canadian Grain Commission. (See the full data here)
That represented just 0.2 per cent of the 19.8 million insured wheat acres planted that year.
Hard white spring wheat production peaked in the 1990s, but dropped dramatically following two low-quality crops in a row.
Some bread and noodle makers like hard white spring wheat because it yields more white flour, without removing the bran, making it well suited to making whole wheat products.
“You’re getting a lot of the nutrients from the bran still in that product so it is a healthier product,” Cuthbert said. “The other requirement in the hard white class is to have quite strong gluten strength to be able to carry all that extra bran and things from the whole mill product.”
Gluten, a mixture of proteins found in wheat, is what helps bread to rise.
Australia is a major producer and exporter of hard white spring wheat.
Canada would like to get a piece of that market, but farmers are reluctant to grow a crop with uncertain market demand and customers want assured supplies before buying.