Seed World

Pick of the Crop | March 2013



The Prairie Grain Development Committee and the Western Canada Canola/Rapeseed Recommending Committee’s newly-approved varieties showcase the growth and innovation taking place in the industry.

Each February, the Prairie Grain Development Committee facilitates a forum on the development of improved crop cultivars for the Canadian Prairies. At the meeting, scientific discussions, research priorities, the status of co-op testing sites, committee happenings and the 2013 new varieties selections took place.

The PGDC consists of four independent recommending committees for Wheat, Rye and Triticale (PRCWRT), Pulses and Special Crops (PRCPSC), Oat and Barley (PRCOB), and Oilseeds (PRCO), which are responsible for overseeing the testing, evaluation and recommending of candidate cultivars for registration.

Vigilance in selecting the best candidates for Canadian growers and fostering the industry’s evolution were the themes of the opening address by PGDC chair, Erin Armstrong. “The theme for this year’s session is the evolution of variety evaluation and registration. The reason that this topic was chosen this year is because of all the change that is happening around us—changes in agriculture, definitely in Western Canada, but it also extends beyond that. We’ve got changes happening in the marketing system, within the commercial world, regulatory changes, changes in public relations, in Agriculture [and Agri-Food] Canada, the Grain Commission and changes in the private market as well,” said Armstrong.

“Our main objective is to ensure that the varieties that are released don’t cause harm. Right now, we are at a time where everything is changing. With respect to what we are doing here this week, no change is not an option. With everything changing around us we need to take a look at what we are doing and how we do it and how to keep it relevant to what we need to accomplish.”

High Yield and Improved Resistance: Wheat, Rye and Triticale

The PRCWRT approved 18 cultivars for registration including the following:

• four Canada Western Red Spring varieties;
• one Canada Western Hard White Wheat variety;
• four Canada Prairie Spring Red;
• three Canada Western General Purpose; and
• two spring triticales.

In addition, one winter wheat cultivar was supported for the Canada Western Red Winter milling class. A Canada Western Amber Durum, DT570, expressing a solid-stem, which provides resistance to the wheat stem sawfly, was supported for interim registration.

Highlights of the newly-approved varieties include increased yield potential, improved quality, early maturity, improved disease resistance and resistance to the orange wheat blossom midge.

DT833, a CWAD cultivar, carries Sm1, which confers resistance against orange wheat blossom midge. This is the first supported durum wheat cultivar expressing this trait.

The majority of the recommended CPS cultivars have improved yield and fusarium head blight resistance. PT584 was supported for the CWRS class, combining high yield with FHB and stripe rust resistance.

“If I speak in general, and not just what I am looking for specifically, then the biggest thing is milling extraction or yield—we want to make money,” said Sheilagh Arney, Canadian technical director for ADM Milling Co. and PRCWRT committee member.

The PRCWRT also discussed the co-ordination of its co-op trials and the difficulties managing some led by the AAFC’s Cereal Research Centre as budget reductions have diminished the capacity to co-ordinate some co-op trials moving forward. Alternatives to an AAFC-led co-op, such as fee-for-service private co-op testing, transitioning affected co-ops to universities or private companies to co-ordinate, or combining test regions, were considered. “At the conclusion of the meetings, we had enough options on the table. We are currently facilitating those now to ensure that participants requiring generation of merit data will have a solution prior to spring seeding,” said Brian Beres, PRCWRT committee chair.

“The theme for this year’s session is the evolution of variety evaluation and registration. The reason that this topic was chosen this year is because of all the change that is happening around us—changes in agriculture, definitely in Western Canada, but it also extends beyond that.” —Erin Armstrong

Top-Notch Tolerance: Pulses and Special Crops
The PRCPSC recommended 16 varieties for registration. Among them were four dry bean varieties, five field peas, one faba bean, five new lentil varieties and an annual canary grass developed by the Crop Development Centre at the University of Saskatchewan.

Of the four dry beans developed, two were high-yielding varieties presented by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and best adapted for growing areas in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan. The other two approved varieties were also high-yielding varieties developed by the University of Saskatchewan and best for the growing regions of eastern Saskatchewan and western Manitoba.

Four of the five recommended field pea varieties are yellow cotyledon, the fifth a green cotyledon. The University of Saskatchewan and AAFC each developed two of these varieties, while one of the yellow cotyledon field peas,
LN 4228, featuring good lodging resistance and protein content, was developed by Limagrain Nederland BV, based in the Netherlands. All varieties are resistant to powdery mildew.

The lone approved faba bean is small-seeded, offers some shattering resistance, was developed for a green manure and/or bird feed market, and has some ascochyta resistance. It was developed by the University of Saskatchewan.

Five lentil varieties were recommended, four of the red cotyledon variety and one green cotyledon, all developed by the University of Saskatchewan. IBC 597 is the world’s first large red cotyledon lentil with imidazolinone tolerance and IBC 586 is the world’s first green cotyledon with imidazolinone tolerance.

Focus on Resistance: Oats and Barley
The PRCOB approved nine different varieties: three oat milling, one six-row general purpose barley, four two-row malt barley and one two-row hull-less barley. Many of these newly-approved varieties possess similar attributes including plump kernels and resistance to root rot, spot blot, stem rust and smut.

Highly-Valued Varieties: Oilseeds
The PRCO approved five new varieties for recommendation including two flax varieties developed by Viterra and a third flax variety developed by the Crop Development Centre at the University of Saskatchewan.

Two yellow mustard varieties developed by AAFC were also approved. One of them, YM08-YCMO, has high mucilage content, required by the wet miller. “This is of special value to the industry. It is anticipated that new market opportunities will be created for Canadian mustard since major customers have expressed keen interest in the level of mucilage,” said Bifang Cheng, condiment mustard breeder at AAFC.


Committee chair, Brian Beres, discusses the co-ordination of the PRCWRT’s co-op trials.

New Technologies: Canola
The Western Canada Canola/Rapeseed Recommending Committee is a separate entity from the PGDC, but also held its meeting in February. A total of 61 Brassica napus candidate canola cultivars were recommended. Fifty-four full recommendations (35 Roundup Ready, 15 LibertyLink and four Clearfield cultivars) and seven interim recommendations (Roundup Ready) were made.

“Over the past two years, we have had a 20 per cent drop in the number of entries into co-op testing, but this does not necessarily translate into the number of canola varieties marketed,” said Raymond Gadoua, co-ordinator and secretary of the WCC/RRC committee. “Significantly, this year we will see the entry of Pioneer Hi-Bred’s new glyphosate technology cultivars into the WCC/RRC system as closed-loop public co-op trials.”

The WCC/RRC members also decided to continue the funding of a project to standardize a methodology for sclerotinia ratings for the third year. In addition, new blackleg checks (isolines) will continue to be evaluated for the purposes of determining the type of blackleg infection at blackleg disease evaluation sites. Finally, a subcommittee to consider and advise on issues relating to canola quality was reconstituted with Brittany Dyck, CCC canola meal manager, as chair.

Letter Signals Changes Coming
Upon arrival at the PGDC conference, committee chairs received a letter from Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz asking the committees to consider “all aspects of the workings of the committee to ensure an approach going forward that encourages innovation and variety development and balances the interest of producers and the entire value chain.”

The minister referred to Prairie grain handlers and how they’ve long complained the variety registration system is “slow and unable to adapt to the changing needs of the marketplace.” Committees were asked to reassess and, if possible, reduce the “data requirements, number of years of pre-registration field trials and acceptability of foreign data if applicable,” for the candidate cultivars they recommend.

Ritz has pledged to hold both formal and informal industry consultations over the next several months to “gather views on the current process and potential areas for regulatory change.” “I would appreciate hearing back from members about the ideas and reforms that your committee is expecting to implement over the next year,” said Ritz.

Conference leaders were unprepared for this call to action from the minister. “We were anticipating it based on the attention it had received [at the] CSTA meeting [in April 2012] that the PRCWRT participated in. It was the timing that was unexpected,” said Beres.

More questions than answers were posed during committee discussions after the letter was received.

“Post-[Canadian] Wheat Board brought the focus [on] the variety registration system. There was a perception that with the wheat board gone there would be free movement of grains. And that’s maybe why, in part, the minister sent his letter and why there is so much focus on the procedures,” said Brian Lemon, CFIA’s field crops division director.

With the impending overhaul of the variety registration process, only one thing is certain—this will be a time of change for the industry. However, the industry is ready to meet and overcome any challenges those changes may bring. “I can’t comment for the other committees, but PRCWRT is up for the challenge, and it times nicely with our mandate to review our operating procedures, which is performed every three years and was due for review this year. I don’t think anyone wants a system laden with layers of bureaucracy or regulations, but that also doesn’t mean we should forego all checks and balances,” says Beres.

Jen Golletz