WGRF Renews Funding for U of A Wheat Breeding

Wheat breeder and professor Dean Spanner, front, with members of the wheat breeding research team at the U of A (courtesy WGRF)

The producer-funded Western Grains Research Foundation has renewed its wheat breeding partnership with the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Agricultural, life & Environmental Sciences, committing $811,587 to the program over the next five years.

“The wheat breeding program at the U of A’s Faculty of ALES is an important piece of the western Canadian wheat breeding network,” said Dave Sefton, WGRF chair in a statement on Wednesday. “WGRF has been investing in wheat research at the U of A since 2005 and, over this time we have seen the program take some significant strides towards the development of new wheat varieties and germplasm for the parkland zone.”

“WGRF’s support has been integral to the success we’ve enjoyed,” noted Dean Spanner, wheat breeder and professor. “This continued long-term investment demonstrates the value the wheat producers of western Canada place on our work, and is the base that attracts other investors. This announcement is a tremendous boost in confidence and responsibility, for which we are deeply grateful.”

wheat_mature_headsThe investment more than doubles WGRF’s previous five year commitment with the U of A, said WGRF executive director Garth Patterson: “Over the last five years alone, the U of A Wheat Breeding Program has registered five improved CWRS varieties, released one germplasm line, and graduated five PhD and four MSc students. This exemplifies the great work being done at the U of A.”

The U of A program focuses on Canada Western Red Spring, Canada Prairie Spring Red and the Canada Western General Purpose classes, with a goal of developing higher yielding varieties that are earlier maturing, having increased straw strength, while protecting the quality traits of CPS and CWRS wheat.

The announcement comes two months after WGRF announced more than $7 million in funding for public wheat breeding at the Universities of Saskatchewan and Manitoba. $5.2 million in producer check-off funding was committed to the wheat breeding program at the U of S Crop Development Centre over the next five years. Another $1.9 million over five years was directed to Dr. Anita Brûlé-Babel’s winter wheat breeding program and the fusarium head blight (FHB) nursery at the University of Manitoba.

WGRF also renewed its agreement with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in February, committing $21.4 million over five years to AAFC’s wheat and barley breeding programs — the largest-ever industry investment in AAFC research.

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