Farmers have been given the go-ahead to plant American Dark Northern Spring wheats Faller and Prosper this spring after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency granted the varieties three-year interim registrations April 2.
But it’s not yet clear which quality class they’ll be placed in. The Canadian Grain Commission expects to announce that before harvest.
Western Canada currently has eight milling wheat classes used to segregate wheat varieties based on their milling and baking attributes.
“The CGC will not assign Prosper and Faller to a wheat class until such time as the consultation on our wheat class modernization proposal is complete and that feedback received has been assessed, reviewed and considered,” Rémi Gosselin, the CGC’s director of corporate services said in an email April 13.
April 20 is the deadline to submit comments on the CGC’s proposal to create a new class for wheats such as Faller and Prosper, which have lower gluten strength.
Industry observers are betting the CGC will create the proposed new class. While there’s a remote chance Faller and Prosper will be “classless” come fall, growers will be subjected to more market risk than those who were growing them in the past when still unregistered.
“With a 25 per cent yield advantage (over Canada Western Red Spring (CWRS) varieties) growers are almost in the driver’s seat when it comes to marketing because you’re ahead so much (on yield),” said John Smith president of Seed Depot, the company with the Canadian distribution rights to both varieties developed at North Dakota State University.
Interim registration gives a variety the same benefits as full registration for a set period of time. In the meantime, varieties with interim registration continue to be tested to see if they meet the end-use, agronomic and disease standards required for registration.
Faller and Prosper have been grown in Western Canada for British Baker Warburtons the past two years under identity-preserved contracts and will be again this year, Smith said.
But now farmers can buy certified seed and grow the varieties for any buyer without an identity-preserved contract. Still, Smith advises farmers to go slowly.
“The enthusiasm for low-protein wheat is not as high as a year ago,” Smith warned. “The marketplace has more discount in there this year so I don’t think the acres will grow at all from last year — at the most 10 per cent.”
Years when high-protein wheat is in short supply, lower protein wheat prices can be heavily discounted.
“I spent the last five years trying to talk people out of growing Faller,” Smith said. “I was thinking now that it’s registered I can turn the other way, yet I find myself being so conservative in nature I’m telling guys ‘go slow. What’s the right amount of this stuff? If you throw your whole farm into it and there’s a huge protein discount in the fall (it could hurt you). Be cautious here. Don’t go crazy with it.’”
One Manitoba grain company is offering new-crop Faller (12 per cent protein) prices at a 40-cent-a-bushel discount to 13.5 per cent CWRS wheat, he said.
Last year there were 128,423 crop insured acres of Faller — three times more than in 2013 — making it Manitoba’s fifth most popular spring wheat, based on Management Plus data from the Manitoba Agricultural Service Corporation.
Faller averaged 72 bushels an acre in 2014 compared to CWRS at 50. That’s a difference of 22 bushels or 44 per cent.
And last year doesn’t appear to have been a fluke. The last three years Faller averaged 72 bushels an acre compared to CWRS at 51.
The yield gap was narrowed to 31 per cent for Faller when compared to the last three years against the popular CWRS wheats Kane, Carberry, Glenn and Harvest.
While Faller competes with CWRS in world milling wheat markets, Faller and most CWRS wheats are different — the latter usually has more protein. And as Smith noted, there’s a direct correlation between higher protein content and lower yield.
But if the CGC does create a new wheat class for Faller and other lower-gluten-strength- milling wheats, Canadian plant breeders are sure to develop new varieties that meet and beat Faller yields, Smith predicted.
“If it happens, it will be the first time a new class has come up and not been guided from birth and loved and cared for by the CWB (Canadian Wheat Board),” he said. “It just made sure it all worked. Now… it’s the private trade that’s got to nurture it and try and help it along.”
A new Faller class will give western Canadian farmers other variety options, while protecting and strengthening the integrity of the CWRS class, known for its milling and baking quality, Smith said.