The Canadian Wheat Research Coalition (CWRC) has committed $2 million over five years towards a core breeding agreement with the University of Alberta (U of A).

The investment will fund research activities through the U of A’s wheat breeding program with a specific focus on developing new Canadian Western Red Spring (CWRS) and Canadian Prairie Spring Red (CPSR) wheat varieties.

The agreement came into effect on May 1, 2021 and will expire December 31, 2025.

A top objective of the agreement is for the U of A’s wheat breeding program to develop three to five registered wheat varieties focusing on the traits of early maturity, shorter straw stalk, and resistance to stripe rust and Fusarium Head Blight.

The program is led by principal investigator and well-known wheat breeder, Dr. Dean Spaner.

“This agreement with the U of A is a natural fit as the CWRC recognizes the importance of having a strong breeding network across Western Canada,” said Fred Greig, CWRC chair. “Dr. Spaner and the U of A wheat breeding program have a history of successfully developing and commercializing wheat varieties with strong agronomic packages for prairie farmers.”

Since 2013, the U of A breeding program has registered 13 CWRS varieties and one CPSR variety for a total of 14 varieties.

“This funding from the CWRC provides tremendous solidification of our breeding capacity at the University of Alberta,” says Dr. Spaner. "Plant breeders have been at the forefront of feeding the world, and wheat production is an economic backbone for the western Canadian and Alberta economies, which makes this commitment from wheat producers to support our vital research a much-appreciated vote of confidence."

In addition to delivering wheat varieties, the agreement specifies other key objectives including delivering one to three germplasm distributions, growing the infrastructure and breeding capacity at the U of A, and training a minimum of three graduate students. The U of A has the only CWRS wheat breeding program in Alberta, and is the only program that can grant graduate degrees in plant breeding in the province.

The announcement with the U of A marks a significant increase from the previous agreement through the Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF) which will conclude on May 7, 2021.

The increase is due to significant progress and potential growth of the wheat breeding program.

The Canadian Wheat Research Coalition is a collaboration between the Alberta Wheat Commission, Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission and Manitoba Crop Alliance.