Seed World

Seed of the Year Selects AAC Brandon as its 2018-19 Winner

Ron DePauw is the man behind AAC Brandon.

Seed of the Year West has selected AAC Brandon as its 2018-19 winner. AAC Brandon was developed by Dr. Ron DePauw and the wheat breeding team at AAFC Swift Current along with collaborators at a number of research stations across the Prairies.

AAC Brandon was introduced in the fall of 2014 to provide growers with a wheat that could provide high yields and high protein levels in a strong strawed semidwarf with moderate resistance to Fusarium head blight. It gave growers a quality CWRS wheat that delivered on many fronts. The variety has since become the No. 1 wheat variety in its class, claiming 36 per cent of all CWRS acreage in Canada. It was the most widely grown wheat in Canada in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

“AAC Brandon is a testament to the producer checkoff implemented in 1995 and strong engagement from producers which helped to set goals for our research. We were extremely fortunate at the time to be able to build a very good team of scientists and technicians and give them a clear mandate on what producers were looking for,” says DePauw, who is now science adviser for SeCan. “AAC Brandon was very much a team effort. It wasn’t just me.”

The variety is marketed by SeCan and has been a variety that has not only performed well agronomically but raised the bar for what Canadian wheat can do.

“When it was first released we were in a cycle of wet, high lodging and fusarium pressure on the eastern Prairies. Growers were looking for short, strong straw and an MR to fusarium. AAC Brandon performed really well in those wet years where lodging was a big issue,” says Todd Hyra, western business manager for SeCan.

But that wasn’t the end of the story, he emphasizes.

“In 2017 and 2018 the weather was hot and dry, and the yields growers were seeing from AAC Brandon kept going up. We had areas with only a few inches of rainfall and we were hearing stories of 80-plus bushels per acre, which you didn’t see or hear of in hot dry conditions at the time. So that gave seed growers the confidence to grow AAC Brandon year-in and year-out.

We’re heading into year five now and it’s been a massive success for SeCan and for farmers.”

Hyra says it’s DePauw’s uncompromising approach to breeding that led to the success of AAC Brandon.

“Ron is ruthless with his breeding material. He can spot the faults that end up costing farmers down the line, and he gets rid of that material in an early stage before it causes someone grief. That kind of foresight is so crucial to developing a variety like this.”

Seed of the Year is designed to provide recognition to varieties that have made a significant contribution to the economy, agriculture and the Canadian public in general.

Scholarship Winners Announced

Seed of the Year believes it is important to recognize the value of public plant breeding programs, as well as encourage the entry of new plant breeders to the industry.

Seed of the Year was once again able to offer three scholarships (two in the West and one in the East) to students enrolled in university and currently completing a Masters or PhD in plant breeding/genetics.

“Thanks to you, I’m one step closer to my dream. Your generosity has inspired me to help others and I hope one day I could give back to the community,” says scholarship recipient Longfei Wu, a PhD student at the University Alberta studying genetics in breeding.

Ana Vargas Palacios, graduate student in the University of Saskatchewan’s plant science program, says the scholarship will help her continue her important work in improving pulse crops. “My work has given me the opportunity to be part of amazing research projects led by top scientists. It is a privilege to work in this research area at a time when more people are exploring and recognizing the benefits of pulses.”

“I will be forever thankful to my adviser Dr. Alireza Navabi who gave me an opportunity to join his lab and learn about wheat breeding,” says scholarship recipient Harwinder Sidhu, graduate student in the University of Guelph’s Plant Agriculture program. Navabi passed away earlier this year. “This scholarship encourages me to be ever more involved in the breeding industry’s efforts to improve Ontario wheat production and quality.”

Seed of the Year would like to acknowledge its sponsors: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Alberta Barley Commission, Alberta Wheat, Canterra Seeds, Canadian Seed Growers’ Association, Canadian Seed Trade Association, FP Genetics, Nutrien Ag Solutions, Richardson International, Sask Wheat, SeCan and Western Grains Research Foundation.