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Researchers Eye Wheat DNA Test

ASaskatoon research lab plans to see if it can make a prototype rapid wheat DNA test roadworthy for grain industry use by this fall.

SRC GenServe Laboratories, operated by the Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC), has signed an agreement with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to see if the technology, developed by AAFC and other research partners, can be made into a “viable commercial test” to identify wheat classes and varieties by way of DNA analysis.

SRC GenServe said it aims to complete that “validation phase” for wheat class DNA testing by June.

And if its research validates the testing process, then SRC plans to see if the technology could be ready to offer to clients in the grain industry by as early as this fall.

“Provided AAFC’s science is validated, SRC GenServe Laboratories plans to develop a rapid wheat DNA test for wheat varieties in the future,” the SRC said in a release. “There is more work to be done on the science behind this offering, but it is anticipated to be ready no later than 2010.

“A commercial DNA test for wheat varieties may be developed in the future, but that is not the focus of our current work,” the council said.

“If SRC GenServe Laboratories is confident that rapid wheat DNA testing can be carried out on a high-volume commercial scale and meet industry expectations, they will provide more information on the process and procedures to all interested parties.”

SRC noted the “significant interest” in developing an alternate wheat ID system because of changes to wheat seed identification regulations and the federal government’s plans to eliminate the kernel visual distinguishability (KVD) system for seed ID.

If the prototype test can be put into use, it could reduce liability in the grain-handling system by preventing costly last-minute class downgrades on large grain shipments, SRC said. If successful, the test would help ensure grain shipments are graded correctly and farmers and grain companies are paid appropriately.

SRC couldn’t yet say how much such a test would cost, since it’s still developing a costing model. It also said the process and science are still in the development stage, thus it’s not yet known how quickly the prototype process would yield a reliable result.

Under its agreement with AAFC, SRC GenServe said, it will also use DNA analysis to test up to 150,000 seeds for wheat midge resistance.

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