Faller and sister variety Prosper, both high-yielding American Dark Northern Spring wheats, have been recommended for a three-year interim registration, marking a seismic shift in Western Canada’s wheat registration system.
Faller has been grown under identify preserved (IP) contracts in Manitoba for two years.
The Prairie Recommending Committee for Wheat, Rye and Triticale, a panel of experts that assesses new wheats and advises the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) on whether to register them, endorsed Faller and Prosper at its annual meeting here Feb. 26.
It’s the system flexibility Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz has pushed for since farmers called for access to higher-yielding wheats after the Canadian Wheat Board’s monopoly ended. It comes just as the Canadian Grain Commission (CGC), which has a statutory mandate to protect Canadian wheat quality, starts to review the system which segregates wheats by end-use quality.
CFIA is expected to grant interim registration. If so, starting this spring it will be easier for Manitoba farmers to grow the popular varieties that outyield Canada Western Red Spring (CWRS) wheats by 20 to 25 per cent. However, it’s not clear yet whether farmers will still need IP contracts.
“We’ll have to discuss what the CGC would like to do with that,” John Smith, owner of Seed Depot, the company that holds distribution rights to the varieties developed at North Dakota State University, said in an interview.
Interim registration will also make it easier for Richardson Pioneer and Paterson GlobalFoods — the two companies that buy Faller under contract — to handle surplus production and test new markets, Smith said.
“We want the market to grow ahead of the production so that there’s always a bit of pull there,” he added. “We don’t want to get into a situation where there’s more product than what the market can handle.”
Interim registration bestows the same rights as full registration — a prerequisite to commercialization.
Smith and the CGC assured the recommending committee interim registrations for Faller and Prosper wouldn’t threaten western Canadian milling wheat quality. Faller often earns growers as much or more than CWRS wheat so there’s no incentive to illegally pass it off as CWRS.
“We are not thinking there will be a substantial risk to the quality assurance system as a whole,” Randy Dennis, the CGC’s chief grain inspector, told the committee.
Farmers are obliged to declare the wheat they deliver is eligible for the class it’s being delivered.
Currently, Faller and Prosper don’t fit any of Western Canada’s eight milling wheat classes, making the recommendation for interim registration all the more remarkable. Other American wheats have received interim and full registrations, but fit a class. However, the CGC is proposing a new class be created for Faller, Prosper and other milling wheats with weaker gluten.
CFIA registers new wheats, but it’s up to the CGC to decide which class they belong in.
In the meantime grain companies can buy the wheats on specifications, Dennis said in an interview. The CGC is confident elevators will continue to segregate the varieties because they have markets for them and because the companies are on the financial hook if the wheats downgrade other cargoes, he said.
Obviously pleased, Smith said his efforts to bring Faller and Prosper to Western Canada went better than expected.
“If a farmer from Pilot Mound can make this happen others can too,” he said.
“We figured we’d take a stab at it in the freedom created by the wheat board not being there anymore.
“If you would’ve told me when we obtained the rights to these varieties that there would be a whole new class and the CGC, CFIA and the registration committee would all get together to make it happen — that there was that much flexibility in the system — I wouldn’t have believed you. I would’ve bet the farm against that one.”
The wheat board was seen by some as a roadblock to variety flexibility, but during its existence several U.S. wheats, including Glenn, were registered. But Glenn fit the CWRS mould; Faller and Prosper don’t.
Over the past three years, Faller averaged 72 bushels an acre, or 31 per cent more than the CWRS wheats Kane, Carberry, Glenn and Harvest, according to crop insurance data.
In 2013 there were 41,000 acres of Faller seeded in Manitoba and triple that — 128,000 — last year.
With such high yield potential farmers have to up their fertilizer rates, especially if they want to produce high-protein wheat, Smith said.
Faller often earns CWRS prices, but farmers can expect discounts when protein is lacking in their Faller or Prosper and high protein is in demand.
Even though Faller and Prosper have lower gluten strength than the CWRS wheat, they produce more flour and have “functional” protein producing excellent bread, making them popular with British bakery Warburtons, Smith said.
“The Warburtons program this year with JRI and Paterson (is) paying on average a $10 (a tonne) premium over what a hard red spring, CWRS class value is,” he said.
Certified Faller and Prosper seed is available only through Seed Depot. Certified seed is a requirement when growing the varieties under IP contracts.