Wheat research aims to develop high yield varieties

A new program aimed at improving wheat yields and developing more robust wheat varieties has been launched in Saskatchewan.

The Canadian Wheat Alliance, announced May 16 in Saskatoon, will involve wheat researchers from Agriculture Canada, the University of Saskatchewan and the National Research Council.

The program will see an additional $97 million spent on upstream wheat research over the next five years and will result in new tools and breeding technologies.

Once developed, those tools will be commercialized and used by wheat breeders to develop varieties with improved tolerance to drought, heat, cold and disease, and reduced nitrogen fertilizer requirements.

Federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz called the alliance an unprecedented, long-term, collaborative effort aimed at improving the profitability of producers and the wheat sector as a whole.

Ottawa’s contribution is set at $85 million over the next five years.

Ritz said the federal contribution will consist of new money, over and above what Agriculture Canada now spends on wheat breeding programs.

The Saskatchewan government will contribute $5 million, much of which will be used to hire additional staff at the U of S.

“Meeting the new global demand for wheat will take partnerships to pool our expertise and leverage our resources,” Ritz said.

“Our common goal is to support and advance research that will improve the profitability of Canadian wheat producers as well as the sector as a whole.”

New technologies that come out of the project are expected to boost Canadian wheat yields by as much as 10 bushels per acre and generate additional farmgate revenues of nearly $5 billion over the next two decades, Ritz said.

It has yet to be determined who will use the new technologies, but Ottawa has already indicated it intends to scale back funding for downstream wheat breeding activities as private sector companies increase investments.

Work conducted within the alliance is expected to result in new wheat varieties in about a decade.

“These robust new varieties will better withstand what Mother Nature throws at them from drought to heat to cold to disease,” Ritz said.

“Over the next 10 to 15 years, the alliance is aiming for improvements of 20 to 30 percent in yields.”

Faouzi Bekkaoui, executive director of the Wheat Improvement Flagship Program, said 100 to 150 researchers will be involved in the alliance, including experts at the NRC, the 
U of S and Agriculture Canada.

“It’s a national program, but most of them are based in Saskatoon and Saskatchewan,” Bekkaoui said.

Work funded through the alliance will be divided into six areas:

  • Genomics assisted breeding will improve genomic resources allowing for faster gene discovery and the identification and validation of key traits.
  • Wheat improvement through cell technologies is aimed at improving the efficiency of doubled haploid systems, which allow breeders to cut two to four years off the time needed to develop a wheat line.
  • Researchers will focus on en-hanced fusarium and rust tolerance characterizing disease resistant genes and breeding new varieties with durable fusarium and rust resistance.
  • Abiotic stress experts will be tasked with improving the crop’s tolerance to drought, heat and cold temperatures.
  • The alliance’s development project will identify and deploy genes associated with plant performance and seed yield.
  • The beneficial biotic interaction module will enhance nutrient use efficiency and improve plant health through modified microbial communities.

Bekkaoui said much of the research funded through the alliance will augment work that is already taking place at research institutions.

The program will ensure a more co-ordinated and collaborative approach to conducting wheat research, he added.

For example, work conducted under the alliance’s genomics assisted breeding stream will involve the same researchers that are now involved in Genome Canada’s Canadian Triticum Advancement through Genomics project.

The additional funding will allow DNA sequencing experts to broaden the scope of their work and gain a better insight into the genetic resources available to wheat breeders.

U of S president Ilene Busch Vishniac said the alliance’s research will complement work that is already taking place at the university, including plant breeding efforts at its Crop Development Centre.

Wheat research aims to develop high yield varieties Agriculture  Saskatchewan Crops   via The Western Producer http://www.producer.com/2013/05/wheat-research-aims-to-develop-high-yield-varieties/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+westernproducer+%28The+Western+Producer%29

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