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Veteran AAFC barley breeder Bill Legge retiring

AC Metcalfe was a huge hit with farmers, maltsters and brewers and one of his best-known career achievements

Bill Legge, the plant breeder who developed AC Metcalfe, Western Canada’s most popular two-row malting barley for around 15 years, is retiring.

Legge has been breeding barley at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) Brandon Research Centre for 30 years, Tom Fetch, an AAFC plant pathologist and chair of the Prairie Grain Development Committee (PGDC), said at the committee’s recognition luncheon in Winnipeg Mar. 1.

“Because of its improved agronomic, disease-resistance, and malting-quality characteristics, AC Metcalfe surpassed Harrington to become the dominant Canadian malting barley and continues to hold significant acres to this day,” Fetch said. “Bill’s development of AC Metcalfe helped establish the strong reputation for high quality of Canadian barley, resulting in significant prosperity to barley farmers and industry members.”

Legge focused on developing disease-resistant varieties with appropriate quality for domestic and global malting and brewing markets. Germplasm from his program has been recognized internationally and used as parents to improve resistance in barley for production in many countries, Fetch said.

“Over his career, Bill has employed large disease nurseries at Brandon to improve resistance to leaf diseases, QCC and Ug99 stem rust, and more recently a large collaborative effort to improve fusarium head blight resistance,” Fetch said. “Bill’s first variety was from line TR232, a cross between AC Oxbow and Manley originally made by his predecessor Dr. Dick Metcalfe. This line received full registration in 1997 and was named AC Metcalfe.”

Legge released a total of 11 varieties, including the two-row malting varieties Newdale, Taylor (hulless), Major, Cerveza, AAC Synergy, and AAC Connect.

Legge grew up on a mixed farm near Willmar, Sask. He attended the University of Saskatchewan where he studied crop science, obtaining a BSA degree in 1974 and an M.Sc. degree in 1979, Fetch said.

After leaving university Legge held several positions, including research analyst, agronomist and research officer. After a few years in the workforce, Legge attended the University of Manitoba where he studied plant breeding for selection of protein content in durum wheat under supervision of David Leisle.

Legge earned a PhD in 1987 and shortly thereafter accepted a research scientist position at AAFC in Brandon in charge of the barley-breeding and genetics program.

“On behalf of the Prairie Grain Development Committee executive, we wish to congratulate Bill for his outstanding career as a barley breeder and extend our best wishes for a happy retirement,” Fetch said.

About the author


Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.


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