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Famed wheat breeder Barrie Campbell passes

Barrie Campbell, whose namesake variety AC Barrie still makes up an important part of Prairie wheat acreage, passed away in Winnipeg July 16 at age 89.

When Campbell retired in 1988 after 39 years as a wheat breeder at the Agriculture Canada research station in Winnipeg, his varieties accounted for more than 70 per cent of the red spring wheat acres in Western Canada.

During his career, Campbell registered nine wheat varieties, including Pembina, Benito, Canthatch, Columbus, Napayo, Katepwa, Manitou, Roblin and Neepawa, the latter one of the most successful varieties ever. In 1987, it replaced the long-standing Marquis as the quality standard for all new varieties to meet for registration in Western Canada.

In an interview with the Co-operator’s Allan Dawson in 1993, Campbell said that he came close to throwing out Neepawa before it reached the co-op testing trials. “I thought it might be too good to throw away and took another look. It was borderline. Sometimes there is only one chance, and if it doesn’t make it, it’s dead.”

The son of a Court of Queen’s Bench judge in Winnipeg, Campbell said he had no driving ambition to be a plant breeder. “I sort of drifted into it,” he said.

Campbell graduated in agriculture at the University of Manitoba in 1944, earning a master’s degree from the same university in 1948 and a PhD from the University of Minnesota in 1954. He was appointed senior plant breeder the same year, holding the position until his retirement.

Campbell was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1989 and received an honorary degree of doctor of science from the University of Manitoba in 1992.

He is survived by his wife Mavis, daughter Pat MacCrimmon and granddaughters Penny and Andrea. At his request, no service was held.

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