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New Research Offers Hope for the Registration of Higher Yielding Wheats

by 5m Editor
4 September 2006, at 10:13am

CANADA - Farm-Scape: Episode 2236. Farm-Scape is a Wonderworks Canada production and is distributed courtesy of Manitoba Pork Council and Sask Pork.

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Farm-Scape, Episode 2236

Canadian agriculture industry stakeholders are hopeful that low cost alternatives to kernel visual distinction (KVD) for variety identification of wheat delivered to elevators will open the door to the registration of new higher yielding varieties better suited to livestock and biofuel production.

KVD requirements are intended to ensure wheat varieties that look like high quality milling wheats don’t enter the Canadian delivery system where they could be mixed with the milling quality grain and risk high value export markets.

CGC Unveils Plans to Restructure Wheat Classes

In June the Canadian Grain Commission (CGC) announced plans to restructure western Canadian wheat classes to facilitate the development and registration of non-milling wheat varieties. Key changes, which are intended to take effect August 1, 2008, will include the creation of a new classification of wheat and the elimination of KVD requirements for the minor classes. However, KVD requirements for red spring and durum wheats would remain in place.

The proposed modifications are outlined in a report entitled The Future of Western Canadian Wheat Quality Assurance. The report is the result of extensive consultations with producer organizations, industry and various government departments.

KVD Handcuffs Researchers

KVD requirements have not only restricted the ability of livestock producers and industrial processors to access wheat varieties specifically suited to their needs, they have also impacted the ability of plant breeders to register new varieties.

Dr. Brian Fowler is a winter wheat breeder with the department of plant science at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon and the coordinator of the Central Hard Red Winter Wheat Coop Test. He complains, “Since 2002 we have not had a single entry that has survived the registration process in winter wheat. They’ve all been eliminated because of apparent KVD problems which are mixing red winter and hard red spring wheat kernel types. KVD has essentially negated all plant breeding efforts in the hard red winter wheat area for at least four years.“

He explains, “As soon as the line that is in the cooperative test is evaluated and the judgment comes down that it doesn’t meet KVD standards then there is no other testing for quality or anything else which is done by the official testing procedure that we have in this country.“

Interest in Winter Wheat Continues to Build

Dr. Fowler notes, “There is considerable interest in winter wheat right now from the ethanol standpoint and also from the feed industry.“

“The hog market is a big potential user of winter wheat because of its high yield potential and it also works well from an environmental standpoint when you’re trying to eliminate nitrate leaching from the manure application.“

He admits, “I have been so frustrated over the years that I have been releasing varieties in the U.S. where they have been accepted without any penalty in the market place there. These same varieties are being penalized in Canada and in some cases we couldn’t even register them in Canada. So the big winners in the winter wheat area right now have been outside of this country.“

He stresses, “If I’m going to run a breeding program I have to be able to finance it and one of the ways that I finance it right now is through royalties. Given the choices, right now, I either dump all the genetic material that has taken years to develop or I look at marketing it out side and at least collecting the royalties from outside of this country.“

New Research Initiatives Seek Alternative Identification Methods

In an effort to help minimize the risk of having grain registered under the proposed new general purpose classification ending up becoming mixed with stocks destined for the milling market several organizations are undertaking research initiatives aimed at developing cost effective alternatives to visual variety identification.

Last month the Manitoba Rural Adaptation Council (MRAC) announced funding for two initiatives aimed at developing alternative identification methods to KVD.

“Some of the members figured the current registration system and licensing of grains using KVD to maintain our export quality was hampering the development of higher yielding fusarium resistant varieties that could be used for the ethanol and feed industry,“ states MRAC Chairman Neil Van Rysel.

“Currently over half the wheat we produce is not being exported. It’s used domestically. Basically we were in a system that was doing a fine job of maintaining Canada’s high standard of export quality but we weren’t addressing the domestic need for feed and other uses like ethanol and so on.“

Abundant Feed Critical to Canadian Livestock Industry's Competitive Ability

Van Rysel suggests, “If we’re going to remain competitive as a low cost place to feed cattle or hogs we need an abundant supply of feed grains that are relatively cheap to produce and disease free.“

He notes, “Fusarium head blight is a huge problem in the feed industry and you put it in ethanol and it magnifies the problem that much more and it’s also a problem in the export market. It downgrades samples.“

He is convinced, “If we do have another mechanism to ensure our export mechanism, to ensure that our export quality is maintained, like a driveway test that says yes this is high protein high gluten bread wheat, then it doesn’t matter how many other varieties are out there that are low protein high starch and high yielding for the feed industry.“

DNA Technology Offers Potential Solution

One of the MRAC supported projects, being undertaken by DNA LandMarks, in partnership with the Canadian Grain Commission (CGC) looks at DNA marker analysis in individual kernels.

DNA LandMarks business development manager Charles Pick explains, “Everything has its own unique genetic fingerprint and people are most aware of this in things like forensics and stuff like that but it’s used a lot in plant breeding and plant research distinguishing one variety from another.“

“We have a library of genetic markers for wheat that have been developed. These are publicly available genetic markers and we’ll run the same set of markers on all of the commercially available wheat varieties in western Canada. Each one will generate a unique fingerprint and that will go into a database so it correlates back to the varieties.“

“Going forward, in order to determine which variety the kernel belongs to, you can extract DNA from it and compare it to the database and you'd be able to come up with exactly what variety it is.“

That project is about to get underway and is expected to continue until March of next year.

The second MRAC Council funded project is being spearheaded by the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) in collaboration with NeoVentures Biotechnology and uses aptamer technology for testing molecules in wheat varieties.

Canadian Wheat Board vice president of product development and market support Earl Geddes notes the wheat board has been involved for some time in research looking at alternative approaches for identifying wheat varieties.

He explains, “There’s a number of reasons. Certainly, when we’re looking at potential introductions of GM (genetically modified) wheat, at some point in our future we need to be able to identify those varieties that are produced or not produced and make sure that customers are getting what they want so varietal ID on the driveway of an elevator is very important to us.“

“As we look forward to introducing this general purpose wheat class part of the monitoring process will be ensuring the wheat that is delivered to us either does or doesn’t contain the varieties in the general purpose wheat class. Clearly from a milling standpoint these new general purpose varieties with low protein and low protein functionality aren’t going to be acceptable in a flour mill or in a bakery anywhere in the world so we’re going to need to be able to keep them separate.“

He continues, “Conversely the malting and feed industries are going to be wanting to make sure that varieties that they're buying specifically for their processes have the feed milling and ethanol characteristics that they're looking for so very important technologies for everybody in the industry.“

Feed Security to Top Western Nutrition Conference Agenda

The grain commission's plan to introduce a new general purpose class of wheat and to relax KVD requirements is expected to be a key topic of discussion later this month (September 19-20) when scientists from North America and Europe gather in Winnipeg for the 27th Western Nutrition Conference.

A pre-conference session scheduled for the morning of day one, and sponsored by the Manitoba Rural Adaptation Council and Manitoba Pork Council, will focus on ensuring feed security for the Canadian Prairies.

That session will examine Feed Security in Western Canada-Challenges and Opportunities, Growth in Canadian and U.S. Biofuels Production and Effects on Livestock Production, How are Cereal Grain Breeding Programs Working to Ensure a Secure Feed Grain Supply in the Future and What Impact Will Biodiesel Production Have on the Prairie Feed Industry.

Biofuel Production Expected to Result in Abundance of Cheap Protein

Van Rysel believes, “With the push for biodiesel there’s going to be a lot of protein crushed. There’s going to be a lot of high protein meal available from the ethanol industry, whether it be in Canada or the States, that will be available at a relatively nominal cost.“

He concludes, “I think we’re starting into an era where there will be an availability of cheap protein so we don't have to grow it in a feed variety of wheat. We can probably supplement it. Just give us the energy and that energy will service the ethanol and the feed industry.“

Staff Farmscape.Ca

5m Editor