AAFC is developing the crop as one of Canada’s new premium-quality commodities
By Kate Ayers
Researchers are working to improve producers’ returns by developing winter wheat varieties that have qualities similar to those of premium-quality spring wheat.
The Canada Western Red Spring (CWRS) wheat class is the most popular type of the crop grown in Canada. It has stellar milling and baking qualities, which attracts a premium price in world markets, an Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) release said yesterday.
However, winter wheat has many environmental benefits, including reducing wind and water-based soil erosion and smothering weeds. The crop also conserves energy as it requires fewer field operations.
Dr. Robert Graf, an AAFC research scientist, wants to advance the production benefits of the Canada Western Red Winter (CWRW) wheat class even further, the release said.
And the crop certainly has some strengths. For example, in Western Canada, winter wheat yields 25 per cent more grain than spring wheat. Winter wheat also has excellent milling qualities that produce high amounts of bright white and low ash flour.
While these qualities are desirable in the marketplace, the baking quality of winter wheat is not up to par with CWRS. As a result, winter wheat receives a lower market price than CWRS, the release said.
So, Graf and his team aim to improve farmers’ returns by reducing the price gap between winter and spring wheat.
“The hope is that we’ll be able to have winter wheat, at some point in the future, that would have the same or similar quality profile as CWRS and would garner a much higher price in the marketplace,” Graf said to Farms.com today.
“With the higher yields and the better price, it will provide better return to farmers and would make winter wheat more attractive for them to grow.”
To do this, he wants to develop winter wheat varieties that have some of the features that bakers and millers desire in premium quality spring wheat.
Graf and his team are working to increase winter wheat’s protein concentration, gluten strength and flour water absorption.
The team has its first prototype in registration trials, the release said. Graf projects that producers could cultivate a “CWRS-like” winter wheat variety within the next 10 years.
“Amongst the lines that we have been screening, we do see some lines that have a much-improved quality profile,” Graf said to Farms.com.
Graf hopes these improved varieties will encourage farmers to grow more winter wheat acreage.
The crop is “harvested three weeks earlier than spring wheat … so it provides greater flexibility for the farmer. It would be another tool in their toolbox that they may want to consider.”