Wheat breeding at U of M gets $3.5-million boost

Core funding agreement comes from a number of Prairie producer groups

The five-year agreement will ensure the continuation of the fusarium head blight nursery program.

A consortium of producer groups have made a $3.5-million funding commitment to a ‘core’ wheat-breeding program at the University of Manitoba.

The groups include the Canadian Wheat Research Coalition (CWRC), the Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF) and the Saskatchewan Winter Cereals Development Commission (SWCDC).

The five-year agreement will ensure the continuation of the fusarium head blight (FHB) nursery program, and the winter wheat-breeding program.

The screening nursery will continue evaluating breeding lines for their reaction to Fusarium graminearum – the most common causal agent of FHB. As one of few FHB screening nurseries in Canada, the UM program returns information to the network of western Canadian breeding efforts, and is the key to developing future wheat varieties with FHB resistance. The focus for winter wheat research will be the delivery of field-ready cultivars, and development of new genetic tools to help improve winter wheat quality will feature heavily.

The CWRC is a collaboration between the Alberta Wheat Commission, Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission and the Manitoba Crop Alliance with a focus on funding genetic and agronomic wheat research for western Canadian farmers.

The UM agreement represents the fourth and final core funding agreement with the public wheat-breeding programs in Western Canada.

Fred Grieg. photo: File

“FHB is a growing concern across the Prairies as it not only compromises yield, but also end-use quality and food safety. As a farmer, my best line of defence starts at variety selection, so having access to FHB-resistant wheat varieties is key for my farming operation,” said Fred Greig, the Reston, Man. farmer who chairs the CWRC.

“The University of Manitoba is an important piece of the western Canadian wheat-breeding network,” Keigh Degenhardt, WGRF chair said. “Renewing this long-term agreement creates stability for the winter wheat-breeding program and ensures access to a co-ordinated FHB screening nursery that will continue to provide benefits for the wheat-breeding programs across Western Canada.”

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