Government of Canada

Government of Canada
Government of Saskatchewan

Government of Saskatchewan
University of Saskatchewan

University of Saskatchewan

May 16, 2013 15:30 ET

Canada to Improve the Yield, Sustainability and Profitability of Canadian Wheat

Canadian Wheat Alliance to support R&D projects to develop new wheat varieties

SASKATOON, SASKATCHEWAN--(Marketwired - May 16, 2013) - The Government of Canada, the Government of Saskatchewan and the University of Saskatchewan today announced the creation of a new Canadian Wheat Alliance (CWA). This initiative will coordinate research and development projects to improve the yield of Canadian wheat by reducing losses under extreme weather conditions such as drought, heat, cold and diseases.

"The Canadian Wheat Alliance will improve the quality of Canadian wheat, and enhance Canada's competitive position in the growing world market," said Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, on behalf of the Honorable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology). "The benefits of this Alliance will flow throughout the entire value chain, strengthening our producers' bottom lines and our overall economy."

The Canadian Wheat Alliance will invest approximately $97 million over the first five years of this initiative to support research to improve the profitability of the Canadian wheat industry, advance the development of Canada's wheat crops, and help ensure the global competitiveness of Canadian farmers. The Alliance will also study ways to more efficiently use chemical fertilizers to help improve the environmental sustainability of Canadian wheat.

"Saskatchewan is a leader in agriculture research and production, and this initiative will help to grow our industry and entire provincial economy," said Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart. "Our government remains committed to agriculture and this research will help to increase wheat production, open up new opportunities to promote and market Saskatchewan wheat, and provide long-term benefits for our producers."

"With renowned plant breeding expertise available in areas such as our Crop Development Centre, the University of Saskatchewan is a recognized leader in agricultural and food production research," said Dr. Ilene Busch-Vishniac, University of Saskatchewan President. "Through this alliance, we will continue to work with our partners to further strengthen the knowledge and tools needed to improve wheat, a crop that brings nearly $4 billion annually to the farm gate in Canada."

This important network combines the expertise of the National Research Council of Canada (NRC), Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Government of Saskatchewan and the University of Saskatchewan. The Government of Canada will invest nearly $85 million in funding and in-kind contributions toward the Alliance. The Government of Saskatchewan has committed an additional $10 million to support wheat research in the province over the next five years, of which $5 million is dedicated to support the CWA activities and leverage contributions from other stakeholders. The University of Saskatchewan is contributing $1.4 million per year in in-kind contributions. The CWA brings together federal, provincial and academic expertise and welcomes the engagement of both public and private sector organizations.

On May 7th, the Government of Canada announced the refocused NRC and outlined how its new structure would bridge the gap between knowledge and discoveries, and industrial innovation The Canadian Wheat Alliance is an example of the kind of research and technology development that NRC will pursue in order to benefit Canadians.

The National Research Council of Canada is a research and technology organization focused on real-world applications contributing to a stronger and more prosperous Canada. NRC provides access to strategic research and development, technical services and specialized scientific infrastructure.

BACKGROUNDER

About the Canadian Wheat Alliance

Wheat is one of the world's most favoured staple foods, currently only second to rice as a main human food crop. With the world's population expected to exceed nine billion by 2050, there is an increased demand for food, which places a responsibility on, and creates an opportunity for, the Canadian agriculture and food sector.

The Alliance aims to develop new and improved varieties of wheat that are resistant to disease; have increased tolerance to drought, heat and cold stresses; require less nitrogen fertilizer; and produce increased yields. By working in an integrated fashion, and bringing in additional collaborators and contributors, the Alliance is striving to ensure the global competitiveness of Canadian wheat farmers and increase the value at the Canadian farm gate by a cumulative total of $4.5 billion by 2031.

About the Alliance Partners

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the University of Saskatchewan have distinguished records in wheat research and variety development, and have word-class wheat breeding, genomics, pathology and grain quality programs. For example, to identify the genes that wheat breeders can use to develop the next generation of wheat cultivars, scientists at the renowned Crop Development Centre at the University of Saskatchewan are leading a large-scale international wheat genomics sequencing project. Marketed wheat varieties from the research undertaken by these two organizations currently account for 86 per cent of the Canadian Prairie wheat acreage.

The National Research Council of Canada (NRC), which has significant genomics, biotechnology and crop research capabilities, develops research infrastructure for the benefit of Canada's agriculture industries. NRC has recently identified Canadian wheat as one of its priority areas, which is also in line with its mandate to improve conditions in agriculture, as outlined in the National Research Council Act.

The Saskatchewan government has committed $10 million to support wheat research in the Province of Saskatchewan over the next five years, $5 million of which is dedicated specifically to support the Canadian Wheat Alliance. Saskatchewan is a leader in wheat production, cultivating 84 per cent of Canada's durum wheat crop and exporting 37 per cent of the world's durum.

Current Situation in Canada

  • Wheat is a major commodity crop in Canada's agriculture sector, annually contributing nearly $4 billion to the farm gate.

  • Fluctuating climatic conditions are putting increased pressure on wheat crops globally, leading to variable commodity prices and food scarcities. Climate change will likely affect agricultural production in Canada in the future. Climate prediction models suggest that Western Canada could become drier, and that winters are likely to be less severe, so that pests may over-winter and attack crops earlier in the growing season.

  • Currently, in the Prairies, wheat is not as profitable a crop as other widely-known crops. It is clear that a significant consolidated effort is required to improve the yield of wheat to make it a more viable option for Canadian farmers.

Sector/Industry Growth Potential

The rate of world wheat trade, one of the most important cereal grains, is expected to grow at a much faster rate than overall consumption, doubling to 240 million tons or more by 2050. This demand should have a positive impact on prices. Canada, as one of the world's primary wheat exporters, will have to significantly increase production over the next four decades to take advantage of those global demands. With our ability to produce agricultural products at a scale that significantly exceeds our domestic consumption, we are in an ideal position to produce wheat for both our own and global consumption.

Scientific research can contribute to economic benefits through a multi-pronged approach directed at achieving increased yield, increased resistance to abiotic (environmental) and biotic (disease) stresses such as drought, heat and cold, disease and insect pests; achievement of efficiencies through development of new breeding tools; and more efficient use of chemical fertilizers.

Farmers will see a greater return on their crops, and domestic and international consumers will have access to affordable high-quality food products in the face of increasing population and climate variability.

Contact Information

  • Media Relations Team
    National Research Council of Canada
    613-991-1431
    1-855-282-1637 (24/7)
    media@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca
    Twitter: @nrc_cnrc

    Michael Robin
    University of Saskatchewan
    306-966-1425
    michael.robin@usask.ca

    Media Relations
    Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
    613-773-7972
    1-866-345-7972
    mediar@agr.gc.ca

    Michele-Jamali Paquette
    Director of Communications
    Office of the Honourable Gary Goodyear
    Minister of State (Science and Technology)
    613-947-2956

    Cory Kolt
    Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture, Regina
    306-787-2359
    306-527-0521 (cell)
    cory.kolt@gov.sk.ca