Prairie wheat commissions invest $1.9 million in 4D-Wheat research project

Dr. Sylvia Cloutier
Dr. Curtis Pozniak

Tom Henihan
Express Staff

Wheat commissions from the three Prairie Provinces announced a combined investment in excess of $1.9 million over four years for frontline research into the development of high yielding, stress resistant wheat varieties that can flourish in the Canadian environment.

The funding by Alberta Wheat Commission, Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission and Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers Association is part of a larger investment of $11.2 million that includes contributions from Genome Canada, Agriculture and Agri- Food Canada, the Western Grains Research Foundation and a number of industry partners.

Genome Prairie in Saskatoon is the administrator of the project.

The investment will support important research conducted by Dr. Curtis Pozniak of the University of Saskatchewan and Dr. Sylvie Cloutier of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, who are using genomics to advance the breeding and production of wheat.

A July 23, Alberta Wheat Commission press release announcing the investment in the research project, called 4D-Wheat will “utilize wild-wheat relatives and elite germplasm along with industry-leading genomic techniques to better understand wheat’s genetic potential.”

The project name, 4D-Wheat is in reference to the projects key objectives: diversity, domestication, discovery and delivery.

The research will also examine the economics and policies of using wild-wheat germplasm sources and germplasm from international sources.”

Germplasm are living genetic resources such as seeds or tissue preserved for the purpose of plant and animal breeding and other research uses.

Germplasm collections can range from wild species to elite, domesticated breeding lines that have undergone extensive human selection.

Dr. Pozniak will lead the 4D-Wheat research from the Crop Development Centre at the University of Saskatchewan and Dr. Cloutier from the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Ottawa Research and Development Centre.

In the press release, Alberta Wheat Commission research chair, Janine Paly said, “The outcomes of Dr. Pozniak’s work will result in diversified resources being available to wheat breeders. By delivering new and useful genetic material for breeders to work with, this project could be the catalyst for subsequent high yielding and stress resistant varieties.”

The research is a next step in creating wheat varieties that are genetically superior, adapted to delivering higher yields and able to thrive in the stresses of the Canadian environment.

Saskatchewan Wheat Chair, Laura Reiter said, “Sask Wheat is excited to invest $1 million of producer money in this project, as it is cutting-edge research that will bring higher returns for producers.”

Alberta Wheat Commission’s contribution is $$690,000 and Manitoba contributes the balance of $240,000.

In a telephone conversation with Alberta Wheat Commission’s General Manager, Tom Steve, he explained how the three provinces decide the amount that each contributes.

“Generally, when we fund these kinds of things, jointly with the three Prairie Provinces, our proportionate share is roughly equivalent to wheat acres or wheat production,” he says. “And so Saskatchewan is higher in wheat production so they have a higher share. It is not an exact science but on a lot of the projects we co-fund with them we will use that rough formula.”

Saskatchewan usually represents around forty-nine to fifty percent of Canadian wheat production, Alberta is usually at the thirty-eight to thirty-nine percent mark, and Manitoba produces around eleven to twelve percent.

Tom Steve also addressed the question of when the 4D-Wheat research project may result in new varieties coming on the market.

“The time horizons on this research, well, it is discovery research so it may not be commercialized for a considerable length of time. But the intent is to speed up the process of bringing new varieties to market.”

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