Kyle durum wheat, the most popular durum grown in the West between 1988 and 2005, was named Seed of the Year for Western Canada at the recent Prairie Grain Development Committee annual meeting.
Kyle and its developer, Fred Townley-Smith, a retired Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) plant breeder, were recognized Feb. 25.
The first crosses for Kyle were made at AAFC’s Swift Current Research Station in 1974, it was registered in 1984 and commercial seed sales started in 1987.
“It very quickly became the most popular variety in market share or acreage,” said Jim Downey, SeCan’s research and development manager. “It was known for yield and quality.”
By 1999, at its peak of popularity, Kyle accounted for 78 per cent of the durum acres in Western Canada. Kyle was grown on 54.4 million acres and earned farmers more than $300 million in additional farm income through higher yield and market grade, according to a news release.
Townley-Smith gave credit to his team of fellow breeders at Swift Current, as well as AAFC pathologists and cereal chemists working across the West. He also thanked Ted Hurd, a retired AAFC plant breeder who recently passed away. Hurd developed Kyle’s parents, and also mentored Townley-Smith.
Townley-Smith joined AAFC in 1968 and retired from its Winnipeg Research Station in 2001.
The Seed of the Year program began in Eastern Canada in 2005 to recognize the contribution of publicly funded plant breeding. The program was extended to Western Canada in 2008.
While the program recognizes past achievements it hopes to help future plant breeders by providing a $2,000 scholarship, said SeCan’s western manager Todd Hyra. The winning plant breeder selects the recipient – someone working on a masters or PhD in breeding or genetics at the universities of Manitoba, Saskatchewan or Alberta.
Townley-Smith chose Meghan Rose from the University of Manitoba.
Program sponsors are the Alberta Barley Commission, Canterra, Canadian Seed Growers Association, Richardson International, Parrish & Heimbecker, Viterra, Western Grains Research Foundation, Canadian Wheat Board, Cargill and SeCan.