New wheat class a mixed bag

Looming changes to the CNHR class will likely dilute some of the current 
benefits of the varieties that currently call it home

The Canadian Northern Hard Red (CNHR) wheat class is poised to expand Aug. 1, 2018 — but no one is exactly sure how the change is going to play out.

The new CNHR class is already home to U.S. dark northern varieties, such as Faller, Prosper and Elgin ND. Next summer they’ll be joined by an additional 25 CWRS varieties and four CPSR varieties to round out the new class. Popular varieties like Harvest and Kane are included in this shuffle.

  • Read more: New Canada Northern Hard Red wheat class took effect Aug.1 

A panel discussion last month at Ag Days highlighted more questions than answers and a growing sense the move may come with some growing pains as CNHR finds its markets.

Developing

Lynne Sweeney, Richardson International’s assistant vice-president — quality assurance and food safety, told farmers during her presentation that the expansion of the class raises a few questions.

She worries that the boundaries of the new class are so broad they will dilute the value.

“It’s going to be all over the map, quite frankly,” she said. “Nobody knows if we’re going to get any value after it becomes this melting pot.”

While admitting she has no crystal ball to say exactly how the new class will develop, she did say she sees some areas it may be a good fit. It could be used in a blend with CWRS when selling to customer specification, rather than formal grade. It could be used as a single hold in a larger shipment of a different class such as CWRS. They could be sold as a single variety, such as selling Prosper only to a single end-use customer, though that is vulnerable to that customer changing their mind. What’s harder to see is whether a market for the entire class will evolve.

“There are lots of places buyers can get their arms around a mid-protein wheat at a freight advantage over Canada,” she said.

She said the creation of the new class arose from the need to tighten up standards in Canada’s premier CWRS milling wheat class, which had become more pressing as varieties towards the lower end of the protein spectrum became more popular.

“It didn’t just pop up out of nowhere,” Sweeney said. “From this need to protect Canada’s reputation, a desire to realign the varieties/classes grew. The varieties in this new class are better than general purpose, but are not CWRS quality.”

For wheat buyers, consistency is king, Sweeney said, making taking action important for the sector.

“Buyers want and expect consistent functionality,” Sweeney said. “They want it to behave the same way each time we sell them a shipment and they take a portion of that shipment into their mills and other production facilities.”

They also value a consistent year-round and year-to-year supply, she said.

“They don’t want ebbs and flows,” she said.

Takes time

Fred Grieg, a seed grower from Reston, Man. and chair of the Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers Association, said he’s expecting to see some opportunities emerge over time. But in the end, it will be individual farmers making the choice to grow the varieties. He sees some headwinds that will have to be overcome.

“We’ll need to evaluate their FHB susceptibility, DON production and standability,” Grieg said. “After harvest there will be a smaller pool to blend into, so lower grades will go into feed, at about a nine per cent discount.”

Grieg also said he expects to see market share grow for some of the CNHR varieties but possibly through an identity-preserved (IP) system.

“There are some IP contracts available for Faller and Prosper,” Grieg said. “Warburtons is one example.”

Farmers will have to figure out what the advantage may be on their farm to grow the varieties in this class, Grieg said, but he suspects differential pricing opportunities, balanced off against higher expected production, will be the subject of some serious pencilling by producers.

“Faller or Prosper have a 20 per cent yield advantage, but one per cent of protein is about a 16 per cent price discount,” Grieg said.

One of the biggest challenges will be making sure some of the other varieties have markets, he said, and added that Faller and Prospect both seem to have the best market potential right now.

“We can grow others, but we better make darned sure we have a market,” he said.

Agronomy

Jason Voogt, a certified crop adviser with Field 2 Field Agronomy out of Carman, said the varieties perform very differently in the field, and that farmers need to understand these differences to grow them successfully.

“Faller uses plant nitrogen more efficiently to produce more grain yield than Glenn,” he said. “Glenn uses plant nitrogen more efficiently to produce grain protein. There are actually genetic-agronomic interactions that are causing these differences.”

Voogt says farmers are using various strategies to address these differences, including split nitrogen applications to reduce lodging, environmentally safe nitrogen to increase nutrient efficiency and post-anthesis nitrogen to increase grain protein.

“Spraying three pounds of UAN just after flowering will likely see them get an additional .5 to one per cent protein,” he said.

He also warned growers to be mindful that fusarium resistance levels can vary a lot. That disease has been a major issue in the Red River Valley for years, and is a growing problem in other locations in the province.

“That safe haven of western Manitoba is no longer as safe, I think,” he said.

He said growers need to be aware of what resistance levels the individual varieties can offer.

“This is not a class issue, it is variety specific,” he said. “You can find both good and bad resistance in any class.”

About the author

Editor

Gord Gilmour is Editor of the Manitoba Co-operator.

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