One of the world’s pre-eminent wheat breeders has retired, sort of.
Ron DePauw, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s senior principal wheat breeder at the Semi Arid Prairie Agricultural Research Centre (SPARC) in Swift Current, retired from the department March 20.
Last year DePauw was dubbed the “billion-dollar man” in recognition of the close to 60 wheat cultivars he and his colleagues developed since 1973, including AC Barrie and AC Lillian.
“I will continue to be available to further genetic enhancement as a mentor, adviser, and consultant,” he said in an email.
“The fruits of our labours at SPARC have been the uptake and adoption of high-value traits and performance of ‘field-ready’ cultivars.”
That’s an understatement.
“You could call him the billion-dollar man,” SeCan’s Jeff Reid said in a news release last year announcing DePauw as winner of the annual Canadian Plant Breeding and Genetics Award, from the Canadian Seed Trade Association (CSTA) and Germination Magazine. “That’s the value of grain produced annually from wheat cultivars developed by Ron DePauw.”
DePauw is a co-developer of AC Lillian — the first solid-stem Canadian Western Red Spring (CWRS) wheat variety widely grown across the Prairies and the most popular the last four years.
But according to the CSTA, DePauw’s most notable contribution to Canadian agriculture was the development of AC Barrie, which it says “literally changed the face of wheat production in Canada.” Registered in 1994, by 2000 AC Barrie accounted for almost half of the CWRS acres in Canada.
“It was the most widely grown variety between 1998 and 2005,” the release said. “All new wheat cultivars that have come along since are measured against the new standard set by AC Barrie.”
Not only was AC Barrie substantially higher yielding than other CWRS wheats, but had higher protein.
DePauw’s work has been widely recognized. He was made a member of the Order of Canada in 2003 and received the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada’s Gold Medal for Excellence in Public Service in 2011.
As of 2011 DePauw’s cultivars had earned the Canadian government $8.8 million in royalties.