All the contracted seed will be delivered to Richardson Pioneer, which is selling it to British baker Warburtons
Richardson Pioneer, in co-operation with Seed Depot, expects to contract around 10,000 acres of Faller, an unregistered, American wheat, through a new identity-preserved (IP) program this spring, says Peter Entz, Richardson International’s assistant vice-president of seed and traits.
“It’s going to work like any other identity-preserved program,” Entz said in an interview Feb. 27 on the sidelines of the Prairie Grain Development Committee’s annual meeting. “The farmer will buy certified seed from Seed Depot and then they will enter into a contract with Richardson Pioneer. You have to have a contract to get the seed. You can’t grow it on spec.”
All the contracted Faller wheat will be delivered to Richardson Pioneer, and then shipped to British baker Warburtons, which for years has purchased specific varieties of Canadian Western Red Spring (CWRS) wheat through IP programs.
Growers will be paid the equivalent of the CWRS price for Faller, which normally would receive a feed grade price at the elevator. In addition those in the program will have an assured market.
Richardson Pioneer and Seed Depot will hand pick the farmers who get a contract, Entz added. “The thing with any IP program is you just have to make sure you have the right guy who respects what he’s doing, and knows if there’s leakage, it’s not good,” he said.
Containment is even more critical in this case because Faller, a Dark Northern Spring wheat developed by the North Dakota State University Research Foundation, is not registered in Western Canada. Its presence could downgrade other shipments, costing exporters money and hurt their reputation as reliable suppliers.
Faller will enter the co-op variety registration trials this spring to see if it qualifies to be in the Canada Prairie Spring wheat class. That makes it eligible under Canadian Food Inspection Agency rules for an IP program, so sufficient supplies are available for test processing and marketing.
Seed Depot, which is based in Pilot Mound, has the Canadian distribution rights for Faller, company president and CEO John Smith said in a recent interview.
A lot of people, including Entz, are anxious to see how Faller performs in Manitoba.
“We’re going to do some (yield) comparisons at Kelburn farm this summer and see what this spread is between DNS (U.S. Dark Northern Spring wheats) and our top CWRS products,” he said. “We’re just really curious to see what the spread is under Manitoba conditions. It might be different.”
Smith said U.S. data shows Faller yields 15 to 20 per cent more than Glenn, another American wheat, which is registered in Canada as a CWRS wheat. Faller has less protein than Glenn, but still makes good bread.
“This is what the motivation is to try and get some of this germplasm into the Canadian system because if it does in fact add 10, 15, 20 per cent more yield we’ve got to make room for it,” Entz said.
Smith cautions however, that while Faller has greater yield potential than Canadian CWRS wheats, some years’ discounts for low protein could wipe the yield advantage.
Normally it takes three years of trials before a new wheat is considered for registration and then there are no guarantees since it must meet specific agronomic, disease and quality standards. If Faller is registered it could have a good run in the Manitoba market, building slowly from the Warburtons market, Entz said.
The new open market for wheat and possible reforms to the wheat variety registration system could offer new opportunities for farmers, he said. But it remains important for farmers to know what wheat variety they’re growing and be sure there’s a market for it, he said. Canada’s wheat customers expect a consistent product.
“Once it drops into the elevator pit it doesn’t magically disappear,” Entz said. “It is going to a destination, and whether we like it or not customers have high expectations of Canadian wheat. As grain companies we’re competing against everyone else growing wheat and you want to make sure you maintain your competitive advantage.”
The current wheat registration process is about finding varieties farmers want to grow and ones that customers want to buy.
“And you can’t have a disconnect there,” Entz said. “At the end of the day those are the two big stakeholders in this whole thing and Faller is an example of how that can work.”